"I have a Foreboding."
The words were spoken by a tall woman with short blonde hair, artificially waved, who sat in the backwards facing window seat of the Basle train. Her companion, a boy of about seventeen, with an untidy mop of dark brown hair, sighed impatiently.
"Don't be silly," he said. "Forebodings are the mind's way of telling you to relax, so why don't you try?"
The woman hit him on the side of the head with the newspaper she held rolled in her fist, and the boy, as if quite familiar with the abuse, barely flinched.
"Well!" he said. "You're always worrying over nothing. Forget about it and read your paper, or something."
So-saying, he hid himself behind the cover of his own book, leaving the woman to frown over her foreboding in silence. She tried to follow the boy's example and bury herself in her newspaper, but the current affairs pages, usually so fascinating to her political mind, did not hold her attention, and she returned to her idle, yet persistent, anxiety.
"I wonder if the train is going to crash, or something," she said aloud, but she did not hear the boy's frustrated tut, for just at that moment a young woman walked past the door of their compartment and she leapt to her feet with a cry of astonishment.
The young woman heard and came back to the door, her pale eyes starting out in surprise.
"Auntie Susie! It can't be you!"
"My dear girl!" An enthusiastic embrace, which drew the attention of the cynical boy from his reading, and then Susie was holding Evelyn by the shoulders, casting a critical glance over her slight figure and tutting slightly.
"How are you, my dear?" she asked and then, without waiting for an answer, "You look tired."
Evelyn gave an uncertain laugh.
"I am tired," she said. "Truth to tell, I've not been well. That's why I'm here - Sarah and Tristan said I should take a break from work and come up to the mountains for the summer. I'm going to the Görnetz Platz."
"What a not-so curious coincidence," said Susie in amusement. "That's where we're going. Have you met Tom yet? Evelyn, Tom. Tom, this is Evelyn, one of my first pupils, back in…"
"Back in Tyrol days," finished Tom in sing-song fashion, but his manner had changed and he smiled in a disconcertingly flirtatious manner, and rose to his feet to give the young woman a little bow. "Hullo, Evelyn. How d'you do?"
"How do you do?" returned Evelyn politely. He held out a hand and she shook it, and as their hands met a certain expression, almost carnivorous, flickered into her eye, like a fish dipping up to the surface of a pool, but the expression was gone in a flash, before Tom could quite identify it. "And Tom is…?" she asked with unusual frankness.
"I'm her son," he said, and gestured gracefully for Evelyn to take his seat by the window. She acknowledged the gesture with a grave nod and sat down, and Tom took the seat beside her, while his mother resumed her seat opposite and leaned forward eagerly.
"What has been the matter, then?" she asked of the young girl. "I hope it's not serious? Though I suppose it must have been to drag you from your music."
Evelyn shrugged, and there was a certain evasiveness of manner as she replied.
"Oh, nothing much. I've not been sleeping well, and it's been bringing me down. I had a cold last winter that dragged on and on, and when I saw Sarah a month or so ago, she said I must come out to Switzerland if I didn't feel better soon. Did you know she's teaching again, at the Chalet School?"
"I didn't," said Susie, easily distracted by this news. "I'm afraid we rather fell out of touch."
"Cal's in her final year," said Evelyn, "and the boys have all left home, and Sarah got sick of being just a housewife and Ted said she should go back and teach again, if that's what she wanted to do. She will have to retire soon, though, I expect - she's not exactly young any more."
"None of us are," said Susie. Evelyn laughed suddenly.
"No need to sound so rueful," she said. "I suppose we all have to grow up, eventually."
Her eyes rested on Tom for a moment, and it seemed to the boy that he saw that flicker of hunger in her again and, though it passed over in a moment, he could still sense it. His eyebrows dipped briefly in a frown but Evelyn smiled, apparently unconscious of the expression that had flashed in her eyes.
"But you haven't told me what you are doing, coming to Switzerland," she said to Susie, though she kept her eyes on Tom. "Is it just a holiday?"
"Oh, no," said Susie, brightening again, her eyes suddenly brimming with the joke. "No, I wrote to Nell Wilson the other week and happened to mention that I was rather bored and had no projects lined up for the summer - which is unusual for me, as well you know - and she said in her reply that I was always welcome at the Chalet School, and I took her at her word and packed my trunk and came trotting out here. I rather think she means to offer me some teaching. Won't that be a lark? I haven't taught for years, and I do like it."
Her enthusiasm made Evelyn laugh.
"No! Really? You don't mean to take her up on it, do you? What will Miss Annersley say?"
"She will probably be very gracious and welcoming, and then she'll see Tom and wonder what on earth I mean bringing him with me," said Susie, grinning like a demon. Evelyn chuckled.
"And what do you mean by it?" she asked. "I'm sorry, Tom - but shouldn't you be in school?"
"Ah," said Tom, rather apologetically, and then he grinned too. He had a most engaging grin, and Evelyn smiled in easy response.
"That sounds like an interesting sort of 'Ah'," she said. "Will you tell me, or leave me to guess?"
"I was expelled," Tom said, briefly.
"Expelled? What for?"
"For being too damned handsome!" Tom was recovering his balance, and he ran a hand through his hair in mockery of the manner of movie stars and grinned a white-toothed smile. He was handsome, more so than his mother, whose beauty was as much charm as it was bone structure. Tom had certainly inherited her charisma, but his features, though far from perfect, were strong and maturing into an interesting and firm masculinity. His brown hair and dark eyes presented a Celtic contrast to his mother's Viking colouring, and Evelyn was moved to wonder about his parentage.
"I never knew you'd married," she said.
Susie smiled, and took out a cigarette case.
"I didn't," she said, and offered Evelyn a cigarette. Evelyn took one in an automatic, shocked gesture, her pale eyes bulging at Susie, and Tom laughed.
"You can legitimately call me a bastard, if you want to," he said, and mother and son were grinning as if at some private joke. Evelyn gaped and blushed.
"Oh, don't be embarrassed, Evelyn," said Susie, coming to the rescue. "You know I was never one to live within the rules. It happens to more women than you might think."
"I suppose so." Evelyn accepted a light from Susie, inhaled, and coughed. She took the cigarette from her mouth, coughed some more, and hastily stubbed it out.
"Sorry," she said, vaguely. "I forgot I don't smoke."
Susie and Tom looked at each other and laughed again. Their laughter, as with so much about them, was very alike, in its light tones and gay abandon, and Evelyn blushed away her pallor.
"Sorry," she mumbled again.
"Ignore us," said Susie, patting Evelyn's knee. "Now, tell me…how is Tristan?"
She spoke hesitantly for the first time since the conversation had started, but Evelyn noticed nothing, for she gasped and said,
"Oh, Susie, hadn't you heard? He's dead!"