With a swift, inward prayer for help, Len walked to the classroom door. As she opened it quietly, she received another shock. Jemima had disappeared. Len had expected to find the Fourth former waiting to face the mistress and this calm disappearance almost took her breath away. Turning to the end of the corridor, she caught a junior and sent her to find Jemima and send her to the mistress.
In the middles' common room, the Fourth were vehement in their disapproval. "I don't know how you had the cheek to act up like that in Maynie's class" said Amy, a conscientious girl who generally enjoyed school and had absorbed thoroughly the respect which attached to any mistress at the Chalet School. "It was just kiddish" added Robyn, who as form prefect felt responsibility for Jemima's behaviour. "Maynie is really decent and puts up with more from you than Frau Schmit ever would."
"I don't really see that its anyone's business" said Jemima. "Keen on her, you two? Grammar is dull as anything - it was all I could do not to yawn. Some people were grateful that I livened it up a bit!"
The door was pushed timidly open and Caroline Parkinson, a timid junior came into the room. "Please, Jemima, Miss Maynard said you were to go to her in the Fourth, please."
"If she wants me why can't she come here?" asked Jemima.
"Please, she just told me that" said the small girl, growing more timid by the second - Jemima was a "big girl" in Caroline's eyes.
"Here, stop bullying the kid" interposed Robyn. "We don't do that in this school. If Maynie's sent for you I'd go now, she's going to have enough to say to you anyway. All right Caroline, she's going, you run along now."
Jemima stalked from the room. Arrived in the Fourth, she stood silently in front of the mistress.
"Is something wrong with you Jemima?" asked Len. "Have you a headache or a toothache?"
"No - I'm fine" said the culprit, startled by the question.
"In that case, please explain why you chose to behave badly in my lesson?" asked the mistress. Jemima was silent.
There was a further silence. Len gave the girl a full minute to respond.
"Very well." she said. "You have been rude to me and disrupted the rest of your form. After break, you may apologise to me and to them. Then you can take yourself to the punishment table for the rest of the morning and we will see if a little solitude helps you remember that bad manners are not acceptable here."
The punishment table was generally used for juniors who behaved badly and this punishment told. Jemima's head dropped and kind-hearted Len waited. If the girl had apologised fully then she would have remitted the rest of the punishment, but no apology was forthcoming. Len waited another minute, but the girl stood in silence.
"You have a few minutes before the end of break. You had better go and have your elevenses".
When the bell rang for the end of break the girls returned to their formroom to find Miss Maynard awaiting them. Len had murmured a blushing account to Miss Edwards who had readily agreed to let her have the form for a few minutes at the beginning of the lesson and to begin German Diktat with the Third on Len's behalf.
"Girls!" said Len, with more dignity than she felt. "Jemima has something to say".
The girl rose, red faced and said to the mistress as if repeating a lesson "Sorry I was rude to you Miss Maynard. Sorry I disrupted the lesson."
"I accept your apology" said Len. "You may go now".
Seizing her books, Jemima left the room. "Please wait quietly for Miss Edwards" said Len, and followed her most troublesome pupil from the room.
After supper, the staff gathered for Staff Meeting. Len, who had continued to worry about Jemima's attitude, was tired and shy about putting forward the proposal she and Anna Schmit had worked out. The meeting began with the usual review of the early part of the term and allocation of half term duties. Len found, to her delight, that she was free for a long weekend. She had an invitation to visite her parents' friends, Commander and Mrs Christie and their daughter, Dickie, great friend of Len's cousin Peggy, would also be there for the weekend. After a difficult day, and tired with a month crowded with new experiences, Len looked forward to a real rest.
The meeting moved to discussion of the pupils and Len, prompted by Teddy, gave an account of the morning's contremps. "I think you dealt with it correctly, Len" said Miss Alton. "This is only Jemima's second term, but everyone who teaches her has noticed her poor attitude this term. Her parents have not let me know that anything is wrong at home. When we have the half term reports, I am going to send for her and tell her that there must be an improvement in her work and her general behaviour or I shall involve her parents. We cannot have this sort of thing in a girl who will be a senior next year."
"Now, to move onto a more pleasant matter. I know that Len and Anna have a suggestion for us to discuss."
Anna Schmit smiled. "It is Len's idea, and I wonder that we have not done it before," she explained.
"Well, what is it!" asked Teddy. "Don't keep us hanging in suspense."
"I know that languages are not first priority now" explained Len, "but the girls need more exposure to French and German than we can give them in lesson time and to hear a language all around them if they are to develop confidence and fluency. That is what we had in Switzerland so I thought that, perhaps, we could arrange for the Fourth to spend some time there, and perhaps for some of the Fourth - those who don't have fluent English - to spend some time at the Gornetz Platz. Its a German speaking Canton, of course, so I thought that perhaps we could spend some days in Paris on the way there and that would help the French. Even two or three weeks at the Swiss branch would help them if they worked at it."
"So how would we manage with exam syllabuses?" asked Miss Gray, practically.
"Well, the Swiss branch still sit GCE so they should be doing more or less the same work and be quite level for most things" said Len. "If they went in the Fourth, they are still a year away from public exams. And of course, the parents may not agree if they were worried but when Anna and I discussed it we thought if we worked out with the Swiss branch what is usually covered that term, perhaps the subject mistresses might not mind working around each other."
"I think that it is a good idea" said Miss Edwards. "Its a pity that we don't have more to do with the Swiss branch, especially when the Millies take girls from both. Bill might let our Fourth go and see the Millies, so they had more of an idea of it when the time came for chosing?"
After that, ideas came thick and fast and Len and Anna were sure that the idea was popular with the staff. The staff at the Chalet were proud of their school and its reputation, and it had worried many of them that their excellence in languages seemed to be wanning.
"Very well" said Miss Alton, noticing that it was getting late. "I like the idea too, and I am sure it will be popular with the girls. I will write to Hilda Annersley and ask her views - and to Madame, too."
"Madame!" it came as a collective gasp.
"Yes, she is finally back in England with Sir James and has written to me to say that she was coming to visit us shortly. It has been a long time" agreed the Head.
Author's Chapter Notes:
thanks for the kind feedback - this seems to be taking on something of a life of its own.