It was a wet, miserable day in the middle of the Easter holidays. Daisy Venables sat curled up in a big armchair beside the fire in the Round House, where she had been dispatched to spend the day. The faint sound of Peggy Bettany organising her sister and cousins in some complicated imaginary game drifted down from the nursery, competing with the blood-curdling yells issuing from the dining room where Rix, David, John and Stephen (considering themselves too big to play with the girls) were indulging in a game of their own.
Chased out of Plas Gwyn to allow Joey to catch up on her sleep after three broken nights with baby Charles, with her best friends both away for the holidays, the rain coming down in sheets, her Aunt at a W.I. meeting and her uncle at work and to top it all off, a holiday reading book that she didn't have the slightest interest in, Daisy was not in a good mood.
"I could have been quiet just as well as Robin!" she informed the china dog on the mantelpiece indignantly. The dog stared back, saying nothing. "I could have been helpful to Anna!" she continued, addressing a potted plant. The plant didn't respond. With a sigh, Daisy picked up her book again, opened it, closed it, and put it back on the table. It was no use. She had to find something more interesting to do. Leaving the book behind, she wandered upstairs to the nursery.
"Now, this is the boat, and that's the sea," she heard Peggy say clearly as she approached. With the distinct feeling that she would become a sea-monster if she stepped inside, Daisy turned up the stairs to the attic instead. She liked attics. The attic at Plas Gwyn was full of things that people had forgotten about that she had great fun rediscovering. She'd been into the attics at Plas Howell with Gwensi as well and explored in there. To her great delight, the Round House was just as interesting.
A lamp and a box of matches were sitting just inside the door, and Daisy vaguely remembered Uncle Jem complaining that there was no electric light in the attic. For a while a good electric torch had been there, but after three in succession had disappeared in the trunks of either Rix or David on their way back to school an old fashioned lamp had been rooted out and left there instead. After a few tries, she managed to get the lamp lit and set off across the room.
The first few piles looked to be things that had been packed up recently. Her own old bicycle - too small for her now - leaned Neat labels, saying things like 'Baby Clothes (Josette)' and 'Chalet School Uniforms, too small' appeared on the boxes in Marie's careful handwriting. Daisy passed them by - she wasn't interested in them. Behind them were piled more boxes and trunks, mostly unlabelled and fasted as though they'd come from Guernsey, if not Tirol. Daisy put her lamp down on a solitary box, sat down on a handy trunk, and opened the nearest one. To her surprise, it contained piles of guide things. Lying neatly folded on the top were the flags of the 1st and 2nd Tiernsee Guide Companies, and Daisy remembered that they'd ordered a new flag when, on leaving Austria, they had become the 1st Chalet School Guide Company instead. Beneath them were her Aunt Madge's Captain's uniform, and her Aunt Joey's Guide Uniform - the sleeve still covered in badges painstakingly sewn on. Daisy examined them, identifying them by their similarity to her own, and then eventually tucked the items away again.
The next few things she opened contained piles of books, and these got no more than a cursory glance - her tussle with her holiday reading task having put her off books for the day. The first pile thus exhausted, Daisy turned her attention to her 'seat'.
This trunk was dusty, and she pulled out her handkerchief to wipe it clean. As she did so, to her surprise the letters V-E-N-A-B-L-E-S appeared on the top. They looked as though they had been burnt into the wood with something and Daisy spent a second running her fingers over them and wondering who had done it before she realised what she must have in front of her.
"Mummy's things!" she whispered, almost reverently, as she lifted the lid. She had never questioned what had happened to her mother's belonging when she and Primula had returned to Guernsey to find only a grave and the comforting arms of their aunts. At first she'd been too upset, and later she hadn't thought about it. As she got older she presumed that Uncle Jem had dealt with them, but here they were, tucked away in the attic of the Round House. Eagerly, Daisy pulled out the first thing - a green cardigan that she remembered her mother knitting on the boat from Australia. She and Primula had had smaller ones of the same wool. As she pulled it around she shoulders, she caught a faint, tiny whiff of her mother's perfume and her eyes filled with tears. Wiping them firmly with her handkerchief (and leaving, in the process, streaks of dust down her cheeks) she pushed aside some more clothes and came to bundles of letters, each one tied with a piece of ribbon and labelled with a date.
The earliest one was labelled '1924' in a firm hand that didn't belong to her mother. Daisy leafed through the letters and realised that the letters her mother had written to her Uncle Jem, and to other members of her family were here as well as the ones her mother had received. Uncle Jem must have sorted these, she thought, after Mummy died, and put them all together. She stacked the bundles to one side of the trunk, and pulled out a framed picture. Turning it over, she gasped out loud. There was her beloved mother, sitting in a rocking chair on a tumbledown porch that Daisy knew all too well. In her arms was a bundle that could only have been Primula Mary, while Daisy and her older brother stood on each side of the chair. Her younger brothers were sitting on the step in front, while at the back with one hand on the rocking chair and one resting on Jimmy's shoulder, beaming proudly, stood her father. Daisy stared at it for a few minutes, tears flowing freely down her cheeks and adding further streaks to those already there, and then stood it carefully beside the lamp and picked up the first packet of letters.