"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.