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"I have got to get out of here!"  the fifteen year old girl exclaimed, stomping into the room in a decidedly unladylike fashion.

"What is it now?" asked the other girl, looking up from her letter.

She flopped down on the bed in defiance of all dormitory rules. "Nothing new, just the same old stuff, over and over again.  I feel like I'm being nibbled to death by ducks.  Mamma and Papa seems to think that locking me up on the Platz and keeping me away from any undesirable influences will turn me into some sort of sweet little nineteenth century maiden.  It's not like it worked for any of the others."

"It's not that bad."

"Come on, your mother is safely tucked away in another country, and she doesn't seem to be stuck in another century. Your mother doesn't wander over the school every time she's bored to chat with the headmistress and check up on your morals and manners. Your mother isn't trying to convince you to grow out your hair so you can put it up like a proper young lady.  Your mother isn't dropping hints about nice young doctors at the San.  Like I want some old goat making eyes at me and commenting on what a good housekeeper I am." Cecilia Maynard leaned back on the bed with her curly head on her linked hands as she contemplated life with a disgruntled expression.

"True," replied Daphne Bettany with a laugh.  "But I have this aunt who keeps sending detailed reports about absolutely everything I do to my mother, with commentary, mind you.  And keeps buying me sweet little frocks for my birthday.  And giving me little inspirational chats about how I should dig in and study harder. And if she doesn't stop fussing over me every time I so much as get caught in the rain and trying to get me to drink hot milk I may scream.  I loathe hot milk. "

"Well, yes, I suppose.  At least you get out in the holidays. I'm stuck here year round. The girls sunk into a glum reflection which was interrupted by the sounds of a clear, bell like voice floating up from the lower reaches of the house.  "Cecelia, it's time to supervise your sisters' packing!"

Cecilia rolled her eyes and hauled herself up off the bed.  "I swear, I'm never having kids.  I've had enough of it to last me the rest of my life. Come on, you're not getting out of it either."  Daphne put down her letter with a laugh and the two girls headed downwstairs.

*******

Physically, Daphne and Cecilia were so alike they were often mistaken for twins by strangers. A few months apart in age, both were of average height with slender builds, and both were extremely pretty young women.  They shared dark brown hair, bobbed in a halo of loose curls, eyes so deep a brown they were almost black, and clear, fair skin with pink cheeks and delicate features. The only significant difference was their voices; Daphne a light, clear soprano and Cecilia a clear, deep alto.

However, while there may have been two girls in the school with more different personalities and talents, you would have had to work hard to find them.  It was a source of continued surprise to both their peers and elders that they were such good friends.

Daphne was a cheerful, bubbly, featherheaded young girl, rather spoiled, but fairly easy going over all.  By far the youngest of her large family, born after her mother's serious illness, she had grow up essentially as a much petted only child.  When she was six, a bad cold after a wetting had developed into pneumonia, and she had been frail for years afterwards. Not strong enough for school, she had been taught at home and cosseted carefully until she had finally been deemed old enough to join the school in the clear air of Switzerland at the age of thirteen.  She had remained remarkably sweet tempered, but still expected to be the centre of attention, and to have things go her way.  She was charming and persusasive enough that things usually did.  Daphne was a friendly, caring girl, but had no particularly deep insight into other people's motives and actions, and was inclined to enjoy life as it came.

Although no dunce Daphne was not academically gifted.  Her childhood illness, combined with years of home tutoring, had left her a fair way behind her peers in school work, and the struggle of adapting to the school's enforced trilingualism while dealing with being away from home for the first time had set her back further.  Consequently, at the age of not quite sixteen she was still only just starting Vb. She was, however, both musical and artistic, and sang and played the violin and piano.

Cecilia, on the other hand, was near the end of a long family, sandwiched between sets of twins, and with a frail younger sister.  As a child her care had been parcelled out between Anna and Rosli, her parents and her various older sisters, and she had been packed off to the neighbours whenever Phil was poorly. As she got older, she was expected to be responsible for the five younger children when necessary.  Cecilia lacked Daphne's cheerful good natured friendliness: she was an intense, stubborn girl.  As a child she had driven her parents and mistresses up the wall with her continued queries of "But why?" when faced with seemingly meaningless rules and restrictions.  She wasn't unfriendly, but she was a self contained, rather private girl and made few close friends.  She had learned to keep her keen perception and talent for seeing beyond the surface of things to herself, however, particularly when her insights involved her family or the mistresses.

Cecilia was far and away the brightest of what was in general a very bright family.  She soaked up knowledge like a sponge, with a nearly photographic memory and a quick grasp of ideas. At the same time, she followed her own path.  If a topic interested her she performed brilliantly at it, producing work that wouldn't shame a university student. If it didn't catch her fancy the resultant work was competently done, but without any spark or creativity to it.  No amount of lectures or punishment could convince her to pay attention in class: when she was fourteen the mistresses had taken to frisking her when she entered class, to remove any other books she could read during the lecture. However, whenever a question was directed at her, she inevitably answered correctly.

As a result, at not yet sixteen Cecilia was already in Upper Sixth. An attempt, three years earlier, to keep her in Inter V for a term until she was old enough to be a senior had backfired when she flared into outright rebellion, stubbornly refusing to spend a year reviewing work she had found too easy the first time.  The school had been forced to pass her up to the next level when she had demonstrated that she could take the Inter V exams at the beginning of the year and pass with top marks.


*******


Cecilia and Daphne came down the stairs to the usual scene of pre-term chaos.  Thirteen year old Phil was contientiously working on her packing, surrounded by a sea of school frocks and other official outfits. After suffering polio as a child Phil was still rather frail, and would probably limp slightly for the rest of her life.  She was a shy, quiet, bookish girl, content to stay in the background and hating to be fussed over.  Tall and lanky, she was not particularly pretty but had striking features; wavy auburn hair and big blue eyes in a narrow, high cheekboned face.


Twelve year old Claire was nowhere to be seen, but her voice could be heard in the background, wailing about the apparent disappearance of her winter coat.  Claire was a very pretty girl, with thick, dark hair, dark, heavy lidded eyes and lithe, graceful build.  She was also a confirmed tomboy who was happiest running around outside, and hated having to sit still in a classroom.


Thirteen year old Geoff and eight year old Rob had already gone off to school in England, but Rob's twin Rowena was preparing for her first term as a full boarder, her chin length straight hair in fiery red confusion as she dumped armloads of possessions in the middle of the floor, her grey eyes wide with excitement.  Rowena was an imp of mischief, full of energy and enthusiasm bursting out in all directions, if not necessarily the most constructive ones.


Cecilia stared at the confusion and looked at Daphne in resignation. "You want to take Claire and I'll take Ro?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.


"Sure, why not."  Daphne headed towards the wails in the back room, while Cecilia approached her youngest sister.


"Come on, Ro, you can't take everything with you, let's sort out some of those toys.  Remember, you can come back later if you miss something."  She faced the excitedly bouncing young girl and the pile of toys with a rueful expression.


*******


Later that evening in the quiet of her own room, Cecilia contemplated the coming year, her final one at school.  Being a student at the Chalet School hadn't been easy: at times she felt weighed down by the mass of history preceding her.


The illustrious list of older cousins and sisters who had preceded her was daunting: her Aunt had founded the school, her mother was the first pupil and one of the early Head Girls.  Her oldest sister and six of her cousins had been Head Girls, and all the others (with the exception of Primula) had been prefects in their last two years of school, as had both her older foster sisters.  To the younger Cecilia it had seemed like no matter what she did, she could never do something that was entirely hers; it was always met by a story or reminiscence about some older relative in a similar situation. The situation wasn't helped by the large number of old girls as mistresses who actually remembered the rest of her family in detail. 


Cecilia thought ruefully of the mixed legacy her older sisters had left her with.  At school she was burdened with stories of her talented, well behaved, popular older sisters and cousins and the continual feeling that she could never live up to their reputation, which seemed to be only be growing with time.
At home, however, the story was very different.  All her sisters and girl-cousins were leading interesting, independent lives, and seemed well content, but few of them had followed the plans that their older relatives had set out for them.  Mother and Auntie Madge had grown increasingly discontented (with occasional lapses into shocked and appalled) with the paths their offspring had taken.


Her reflections were interrupted with by a whispered "Psst!" from the doorway.  She looked up to see her cousin waiting at the door, wrapped in an overly large red dressing gown.  "I can't sleep, want to talk?"


"Sure, we'll be back to 9 pm bedtimes and dormy rules soon enough," Cecilia scrunched up on the bed, leaving room for the other girl. "What's up?"


Daphne shrugged. "Just thinking about another year at the nunnery.  I really wish they could move into the twentieth century.  Seriously, where else are girls expected to embroider in their spare time and spend their evenings doing country dancing with other girls and playing paper games."


"Tell me about it. While we're at it, why don't we kick my parents out of the Victorian age too. Nobody seems to have told them that girls no longer put their hair up at eighteen, wear twinsets and pearls, and demurely submit to all their parent's wishes. I really wish I knew where they got this obsession with instant, unquestioning obedience. You'd think by almost sixteen I'd be allowed to go to a movie occasionally or something like that. I keep expecting them to dig out petticoats and hoop skirts for me."


Daphne giggled, hurriedly hushing the noise.  "Well, it's your last year at least. I'm stuck there for another three at least. I may die of boredom. What are you going to do after you leave, anyways."
Cecilia shrugged.  "I have absolutely no idea.  Mamma and Papa were muttering about St Mildred's, but really, could you see me in a finishing school learning proper deportment and studying appropriately ladylike subjects with that bunch of overbred nitwits?"


"Umm, I suppose not. What about uni?"


"Not yet.  I'll still be sixteen when I graduate, and that's too young to be in university.  Besides, I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I don't know enough about life to choose what I want to do with my life. I don't even know enough about life to know how to go about finding out about life. I've spent almost sixteen years stuck on the Platz where everyone we meet is either with the school or with the San, and it's like being stuck in some sort of time warp. I'm bored stiff!"


"You think they'll let you leave, after Len, and Con, and Margot, and Felicity?"


"Not to mention Sybil and Josette.  You're right, they'll probably chain me in my bedroom until I'm thirty and safely married off to some doctor, ready to produce some grandchildren."

 




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