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"Ermintrude!"

Ermintrude looked up at the sound of the voice calling her name and she saw Len waving.

"Len!"

"You bored?"

Ermintrude was reluctant to critisise the activity her mother had picked out for her - a quiet stroll -, but she was forced to admit that her friend was right.

"Yes."

"Come to ours!" offered Len readily. "You can meet Mamma!"


"Oh, that would be lovely, thank you." smiled Ermintrude. "I am not accquainted with your mother."

"Oh, you might have heard of her!" called Len. "Lots of girls have read her books and you'd be the right age."

"Her books." said Ermintrude primly. "Expound."

"She's Josephine M. Bettany!" shrieked Len, who was immensely proud of this fact.

"Oh, yes." Ermintrude nodded. "Mother wished we girls to read them. She taught her mathematics."

Len frowned. It looked as though things were beginning to fall into place.

"But I found them unsuitable, as did Mother, and she stopped us reading them." continued Ermintrude and Len was stunned. "She said that she was very disappointed that a Chalet Old Girl could write such sinful rubbish."

"Whyever did she say that?!" demanded Len.

"Well, what we read was Tessa in Tyrol, and it promoted bad and ungainly behaviour."

"How?"

"Well, Tessa runs down the stairs with such grea regularity, and not once is she reprimanded for lack of decorum!"

"Well, maybe you'll change your mind once you've met her." Len caught Ermintrude by her arm and dragged her off, allowing her, though, to collect her siblings, who had patched up their quarrel, but Oliver and Matthew still had their doubts about the Maynards.

Len led them up the mountain-path and along a shelf to a lovely white chalet with a blue roof. There was a white palisade fence running round it and screwed to one panel to the left of the gate was a ceramic sign with an Art Nouveau design and curly writing which read "Die Blumen". The MacDonalds gave up on counting storeys and windows, as there were many, of the sash kind, painted white like the walls. There were no frescos, as there were on Das Haus Rot, but it was still very nice to look at. A generously sized garden, one side of which was edged by forest, surrounded the house.

"This is the place." smiled Len. "The door's always unlocked during the day when there's someone in the house. We're like cats, we come and go as and when we please."

She pushed open the door, and called, at the top of healthy lungs "MAMMA! WE HAVE VISITORS!"

A call floated back down the stairs. "Oh, good! Anyone we know?"

"They're my new friends!" returned Len. "The MacDonalds!"

"Oh, good!" came back the call.

It was followed by a woman who certainly did not look her fifty years - so much so, in fact, that Ermintrude wondered if she really was old enough to be Len's mother - and her face showed openness, and a fluttering manner, slightly hectic, and feverish in her actions. She struck such a contrast from Ermintrude's own mother that she wondered if this strange woman really was a mother, with a successful writing career to boot.

"Pleased to meet you, Mrs...?" Matthew drew out the end of the greeting so that it became a question.

"Maynard." supplied the woman. "And it's Joey. You might as well start as you're bound to finish!" She shook the MacDonalds' proffered hands with equanimity.

"Are you, then," asked Betsy of Len "the second Miss Maynard who my mother met on our first day here?"

Len nodded thoughtfully. "Yes." she said slowly after a while.

"So!" smiled Joey suddenly. "What're we going to do?"

Everyone thought for a minute.

"Come on!" interrupted Jo, leading the crowd into the sitting room.

"Could we ask the Bettanys and Russells to come?" asked a girl with very pale skin and hair that was dark to an equal measure. The MacDonalds had not met her before, as she disliked going outside during the Winter months and had, when her siblings were outside, stayed indoors, attempting to get through the enormous pile of holiday homework that the teacher at the small day school that she and Cecil attended had set her unfortunate class. (Cecil herself was procrastinating doing it.) She had, however, been mentioned in conversation, and the MacDonalds knew her to be Maidlin Sanders.



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