The question was addressed to the staffroom at large.
"And where, pray, is Nancy Wilmot?"
Clad in her tennis gear, Peggy Burnett stood at the entrance of the room, idly bouncing a tennis ball, and peering suspiciously at her colleagues in case any of them did, in fact, happen to be Nancy Wilmot.
Most of Peggy's colleagues contrived to ignore her question. It was, as usual, a bright and sunny late afternoon but with the end of term just around the corner the staffroom was a hive of focused activity as mistresses battled to reach the bottom of tottering piles of reports and marking.
The bouncing of Peggy's tennis ball did draw one or two annoyed glances, but it was not until the ball - accidentally, one assumes - escaped from her control and bounced rather dangerously towards the pile of essays that Biddy o'Ryan was trying to make sense of, that anyone felt moved to answer her.
"Peggy! We're trying to work here! Can you please go and do that somewhere else?"
Not noticably perturbed by the irritation on Biddy's face, Peggy smiled sweetly.
"And that, my dear, is exactly what I'm trying to do. I was meant to be playing a game with Nancy, only she has disappeared - vanished - vamoosed - evaporated - dissolved - dissipated - "
"My, what a vocabulary you have," Ruth Derwent muttered under her breath, reaching for another excercise book with which to adorn with red pen.
"- in sum, she is no where to be found, and so I have come to draw on your collective wisdom. Has anyone seen her?"
Deciding the best way to get rid of Peggy was to help her in her quest - or at the least, to send her on a wild goose chase somewhere else - Biddy reluctantly put down Lala Winterton's essay on the suffrage movement. "Not since Mittagessen," she ruminated. "What about you Kathie? Have you seen her?"
Kathie Ferrars looked up, startled. She had, surreptitiously, been writing a letter to an old college friend, rather than - as she was probably supposed to be doing - marking the last of Inter V's most recent geography essays. So absorbed in this illicit task had she been that she'd managed to shut out much of Peggy's commotion, and Biddy's question to her had come as something of a surprise.
"Nancy - have you seen her?"
"Oh - erm - I think she was at Kaffee und Kuchen...." Kathie, suddenly assailed by that shyness which still crept up on her occasionally, blushed. She knew very well that Nancy had been at Kaffee und Kuchen, having sat next to her and enjoyed a very pleasant chat, but for some reason that she was not quite willing to confess to, she felt too awkward to state this. "Why?"
"Peggy's lost her."
Kathie, her blush subsiding, looked intrigued.
"She's stood me up! That's twice this week she's agreed to play tennis, and twice she's not turned up. Something's going on with that girl, I tell you!"
"Odd," mused Biddy. "She went missing on Sunday too, when we'd arranged an afternoon in Interlaken."
"Perhaps she's been with Hilary and the new baby?" Kathie suggested.
"Ye-s - that might be it!" Peggy replied, a little appeased. The whole school was rather taken with the new arrival. "But you think she might have said that's where she was going instead of leaving me waiting on the tennis court like a - a - lemon!"
Biddy was shaking her head. "I don't think that's right, actually. I spoke to Hilary this morning and she said she's seen nothing of Nancy this last week, and wasn't expecting her until next Sunday."
"Well! What on earth is going on, then?" Peggy exclaimed. "Do you think - I mean, I wonder - perhaps..."
"Spit it out, Peg!"
"I wonder if there's - you know - if she's - if she's met someone."
"Someone?" Biddy teased.
"A man, I mean," Peggy replied, in hushed and possibly rather reverent tones.
Nancy - and a man! Somehow Kathie couldn't quite credit it - though she wasn't sure how much of that was based on an accurate appraisal of Nancy's character, and how much of it was her own wishful thinking. Nancy - and a man! It was something she didn't particularly want to dwell on, and so, when Peggy scouted round for a volunteer to take up Nancy's place on the tennis courts, she quickly put herself forward. For the next hour or so, she endeavoured through the means of hard exercise to put the staffroom gossip about her friend's possible liaisons out of her head.
But when Nancy returned to the staffroom that evening, decidedly evasive about her afternoon whereabouts, Kathie couldn't help but wonder whether there was some truth in the speculation. And two days later that speculation seemed to solidify into something approaching fact. Returning home from a ramble with her form, Kathie was shepherding her flock of schoolgirls along the path that ran behind the Sanatorium when out of the corner of her eye she spotted a couple of people stood on one of the balconies that wrapped around the large hospital building. Recognizing one of those people as a very familiar figure, Kathie turned her head to look at the scene more clearly, and in doing so, she had to suppress a gasp.
To her rather reluctant eye, it seemed that Peggy Burnett was right: Nancy Wilmot had a man!