“The post, Hilda” said Rosalie Dene, entering the Head’s study in her usual quiet way. It was the middle of the afternoon, but dark came early by the end of October and the secretary switched on the electric light, startling the lady who had scarcely noticed her entrance.
Miss Annersley, Head of the Chalet School in Switzerland, looked up over a desk heaped with correspondence. “What’s that Rosalie? The mail? I am beginning to wish for a long, hard, winter which prevents post reaching the Platz for at least three weeks!”
The secretary laughed sympathetically. “Miss Wilson telephoned to say that she was inviting herself to kaffee with you, and wondered whether you would invite Jeanne de Lachennais and Matey – oh, and me too.”
Miss Annersley laughed back at her secretary. “What a select group! I wonder that she didn’t dictate the refreshments I was to offer too.”
“Oh, she murmured sweet nothings about Karen’s honey and nut cakes,” acknowledged the secretary. “Shall I speak to Jeanne and Matey?”
“Yes, please dear, and let Karen know too, would you? I have a lecture with the Sixth when the bell goes and I must finish this before my class.”
Miss Dene smiled and left the room, running lightly down to intercede with Karen and plead for the cakes for which she alone knew the secret. Rosalie meet Matron as she left the kitchen regions and delivered the Head’s message. The domestic tyrant accepted the invitation and the secretary went on to the staff room where she knew, from a glance at the school timetable in her office, Mlle was to be found at that hour. The doyenne of the Chalet School staff agreed with quiet alacrity to come for kaffee with the Heads and the secretary returned to her office and gave herself up to her work until the ringing of a bell and low hum of noise as the school finished work for the day brought her to the realisation that she was ready for her coffee.
Miss Dene crossed the corridor into the Head’s pleasant drawing room and switched on the lights. She was joined a few moments later by the Head and Mlle and the three gossiped lightly about various school affairs until Matey and Miss Wilson arrived together.
Karen followed shortly on their heels, bringing with her coffee and little cakes. “Thank you Karen” said Rosalie, springing forward to help with the tray. Karen saw that the ladies had all they needed and left the drawing room and the Head served the delicious coffee and saw all her guest supplied with cakes.
“So why have we been favoured with your company, Nell?” asked the Head.
Her friend grimaced at her. “What a kind, hospitable sentiment! I’ve a good mind to enjoy this nectar Karen calls coffee and then go back home to my own little house and not tell you.”
“Don’t be aggravating, Nell” returned Miss Annersley. “I rather suppose that I know the answer, although I am puzzled as to quite how the news has reached you so quickly.”
“Indeed, I have no idea why this meeting has been called” said little Mlle de Lachennais. “Pray, Hilda, explain.”
“I don’t know why Nell wanted to see us, but I have had a letter from Miss Alton with a proposal for us – is that it Nell?”
“My goddaughter has written to me, but tell me what you have heard from Miss Alton first.”
“Well, what is it?” asked Matron with practical common sense.
Hilda Annersley smiled, “Len has proposed a scheme – she calls it an exchange – whereby the Glendower House Fourth form spend two or three weeks here next term and some of our Upper IV and Inter V spend two or three weeks at the school in England. Miss Alton writes that the scheme was originally proposed by Len primarily to help her students with their French and German, which Miss Alton says are weaker than they should be at that stage. Madge Russell has approved the plan, and Miss Alton writes that Madge sees it as an excellent way to strengthen links between the two branches of the school. I have had a letter from Madge, as well, to say that she is very supportive of the plan and suggests that in the early part of the term the girls should be asked to write to one another – that is, our continental girls should write in English, and the girls at Glendower House write in German, so that they ‘sheepdog’ each other but have corresponded first.”
Mlle de Lachannais was quick to express approval “I think it is a very good idea, Hilda,” she said. “Madge is right that it would be of great assistance in creating unity between the two schools, and it would be very good for their languages as well.”
“You leave my English alone and keep to the subject” said Miss Wilson with mock severity. “Len suggests that it would help my girls at St Mildred’s if the people from here and the Glendower House girls had some sense of being one school, and she is right, I think.”
“I rather wonder Len did not write to Hilda” said Matron, thoughtfully.
The Head nodded “I wondered too, but you notice she did not write to Joey either. Madge says in her letter that whilst she was at Glendower House she and Len had some long talks out of school, but in school Len was clearly conscious of establishing herself as herself, not as Joey’s daughter or Madame’s niece. If she were simply a junior mistress at Glendower House it would not be quite the thing for her to write to me. I think she is wise” added the Head. “The Glendower House staff are very good but there are very few of them who have the long relationship with the school that many of us have. It would be very easy for Len to create resentment amongst her colleagues if she were seen to be taking advantage of her relationship with Madame – or with us.”
Bill agreed. “That is more or less what she says to me.” She shuffled through the letter she was holding. “I’ll read you what she says ‘auntie Nell, I haven’t written to Mamma about this and asked auntie Madge not to because I would not want auntie Hilda to think that I was counting on Mamma’s support to sway her if she doesn’t think it’s a good scheme for the school. I suppose it’s a cheek writing to you, but you are my godmother, and you are not in school in the same way as auntie Hilda, although I know of course she will consult you. Anyway, it would be frightfully rude to Miss Alton and to Anna Schmit to write to auntie Hilda as Head over their heads – no pun intended.”
“Sensible girl” said Matron, approvingly. Jeanne de Lachennais nodded her agreement with this.
The four continued to discuss the scheme Len had advocated and, as the clock on the wall chimed the hour, Miss Annersley summarised their feelings. “I will write to Miss Alton tomorrow and tell her that we are delighted with her proposal, and that we look forward to welcoming Glendower House girls to Switzerland next term!”
Author's Chapter Notes:
Thank you for reading and for your kind comments - and for not pointing out that I had wrapped poor old Jemima in a blanket twice - the poor child must have been smothered as well as miserable!