Bethany Stapleton, now fourteen and getting older by the minute (by a minute), and her sister, Alice, now twelve and a beacon of Lower IV, both Chalet School students, were travelling to the station in London where they were to meet the rest of the Chalet School girls, and with them travel to the school itself in Switzerland. More specifically, they were on a train by themselves for the first time, in the past having been driven by their father, and they were chatting merrily about school matters.
"I can't wait to get to the School," Alice said. "Then I'll get to see Cecily and ask her how the marriage went,"
The marriage Alice was referring to was that of Reginald Entwistle to Mary Helena Maynard. Lena had stuck an extra 'a' to her nickname while at university, and had spent a few years after university teaching at a school in England. She had kept up her correspondence to Reg and about a year ago Reg had moved into the same area. Over the past few years, he had had some doubts about doing everything a bit too soon, but Lena wouldn't hear of it; she knew what she wanted, and it was cake. And a nice big one too, so all of the wedding guests could have a slice or two. (This is saying: she wanted to get married.)
"Yeah, I'd love to know too," Bethany said. "But I reckon Fliss will bore us for months about it. Lucy may have been there too, so they'll be yabbering away at it. But me and Jean will leave them to it, probably, and chat with some of the others,"
"Well, I'm not doing that to Cecily," Alice declared.
"Of course not," Bethany smiled. "Your form are very clannish as a rule, and your clan consists of you and Cecily. While everyone is friendly with each other they wouldn't take too kindly to you dumping yourself on their mercy. You'll just space out and let her words tumble into thin air, like the rest of the world does,"
"Yeah," Alice agreed. "We do tend to have our groups. I wish Daphne would join me and Cecy, though, I don't like Leanne and Primrose very much, particularly Primrose,"
"Oh?" asked Bethany. "Also, you call Cecily Cecy? That's a nickname of a nickname!"
"Yes, and?" Alice asked.
"Just pointing it out," Bethany said. "Next you'll be calling her 'Cee.' Anyway, tell us about Daphne, Leanne and Primrose, and why you think Daphne should be with you and Cecily,"
"Well, Daphne is a nice girl, and she and Cecy get on very well - they're cousins, you know,"
"Yes, I did know," Bethany confirmed.
"Yes, and while Daphne is a great person, she can't see that Leanne and Primrose aren't," Alice said. "Primrose is rude to just about everyone and pugnacious to boot, and she puts down everyone who disagrees with her. And Leanne follows her every word,"
"Have you swallowed a dictionary?" asked Bethany. "What on earth does 'pugnacious' even mean? I swear your vocabulary is supposed to be more limited than mine - you've had two years less in this world,"
"It's 'fewer,' not 'less,'" Alice corrected her sister's grammar. "And pugnacious means that she's quick to argue, you know. It's a pet word of the hand that writes us. Ooh, look, it's practically time to get off,"
"Yes, Miss Already-An-English-Professor," Bethany muttered.
The train came to a stop and the two sisters left it. It was a simple matter of changing platforms before they collided with the rest of the Chalet Girls, who were busy gabbling away about their holidays, and in general just saying 'Hi' to each other. As soon as the two girls arrived on the platform, one of the escort mistresses called out "Alice!" while beckoning her.
"You must have got into trouble already," Bethany teased. "That must be a record, Al - in trouble before even setting foot on the platform. Honestly, kids these days!"
Alice stuck her tongue out at her sister. "See you around, Beth - duty calls, and I bet Marjorie Graves could make a fool of you, again, and I won't need to lift a finger!"
"Cheek!" Bethany grinned. Marjorie Graves was in the year between them, and she and her gang had spent many a worthy hour messing with Bethany's form.
Alice approached Miss Gladstone, one of the escort mistresses and a Geography teacher, being a replacement for Miss Moore who had married a lawyer a few years ago. Plenty of the mistresses had left to marry or to further a career, leaving still a nice number of the older mistresses, while a fair few new ones had joined the school also.
"Alice, this is Clarissa Tunbridge, a new girl in your form," Miss Gladstone got straight into business. "Clarissa, this is Alice Stapleton, and she'll be sheepdogging you,"
Alice smiled at Clarissa. Clarissa did not smile back.