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Author's Chapter Notes:

Many thanks for all your lovely reviews.  It's so nice to know that people are glad to have this back & want to read more...

A week after Jo had been for pneumothorax, she was sitting in the lounge with Stephen when the telephone rang. The girls had gone out for a walk and Jack wasn’t home from the Sanatorium, yet. Jo heard Anna answering, then her footsteps as she came to fetch Jo to the telephone. She made her way into the hall and picked up the receiver.

“Jo? It’s Madge. May I come over for tea? I’ve just had some rather shocking news and I need to discuss it with someone.”

“What’s happened?”

“I’ll tell you when I get there, Jo. I’ll be half an hour, as Jem’s at the Sanatorium and I’ll have to cycle. I’ll see you soon.” Madge put the phone down on her sister and Jo was left listening to the dialling tone and wondering what on earth had happened. She went back to Stephen and picked him up from the rug.

“Something’s got into your Auntie Madge, though I haven’t the foggiest idea what it could be. Maybe you could have a guess.” Stephen just gurgled in reply and Jo continued her one sided conversation. “I hope none of the family has come down with something unthinkable. It’s bad enough with me being on the sick-list without adding anyone else to it. It can’t be anything contagious, or she wouldn’t be coming for tea. She knows that Jack and Jem would have fifty fits if she brought anything here since we’d both be guaranteed to catch whatever it is. Oh, well, I’ll just have to be patient and wait until she arrives with whatever the news is.” Jo carried him across to the kitchen to ask Anna to make tea for when her sister arrived. Anna was more than happy to agree and offered to look after Stephen whilst Jo entertained her. Jo declined the offer, knowing that Stephen would be ready for a nap by that time.

The time dragged until Jo finally spotted her sister coming down the lane on her bicycle. Jo went to greet Madge at the door, telling her to leave her cycle round the side of the house where it would be out of sight from the road. Once this had been done, Jo ushered her into the lounge and deposited Stephen on her lap whilst she went to ask Anna to bring the tea through.

After they were both sitting with a cup of tea each, and Stephen had fallen asleep in his aunt’s arms, Jo demanded to know the reason for the visit.

“What’s happened, Madge?”

“There’s been a bus crash in Cornwall. Hilda, Nell, Jeanne Lachennis and Dollie Edwards have all been involved.”

“That’s awful news! Are they all okay?”

“Jeanne and Nell have broken limbs and are in shock, but, Dolly has a severe leg injury and Hilda is in a bad way.”

“How bad?”

“It’s touch and go at the moment. We don’t know whether she will survive.”

“Oh, Madge! How awful! Is there anything that can be done?”

“I don’t know. She’s been taken to the nearest large hospital but, until she regains consciousness, the doctors can’t say.”

“Term starts in a few days as well. What are you going to do about a headmistress?”

“I shall have to take it on short term, Jo. It’s not an ideal situation, but there’s no way I can hope to find a temporary replacement in time. If I can manage until half term, hopefully, Nell will be well enough to return and take over.”

“You’ll still need some help though. There’s all the classes to cover somehow.”

“I know. We have a staff meeting tomorrow so I shall see what can be done between us before I look to external help.”

“I could come and help out too.”

“I don’t think Jack and Jem would agree to you helping, Jo, though it’s lovely of you to offer. You have enough with Stephen at the moment.” Madge saw Jo’s expression change. She hastened to think of another way her sister could help out. “If you could have Josette for a couple of hours when Rosa is needed elsewhere, it would be a burden less for me to deal with, though.”

“Of course. It’ll be lovely to have her.” Jo managed to smile and turned the conversation onto other things. Madge allowed herself to be drawn in and before long, they were discussing a new knitting project in aid of the war effort.

Eventually, Madge rose to leave and Jo accompanied her to the door. Waving her sister off, Jo heard a car engine and saw Jack pull up outside the cottage. She remained at the door, Stephen in her arms, until Jack came up the step and ushered them back inside. He kissed Jo and, once he’d removed his coat and shoes, took Stephen from her and led her back into the lounge.

“Why were you at the door, Jo?”

“I’d just waved Madge off when I heard the car. She came to tea and gave us some bad news about Hilda, Nell, Dollie and Jeanne.”

“Yes, Jem told me just as I was leaving. That’s why I’m a little later than normal.”

“I wish I could help out more. I’m sure I could assist with some teaching.”

“You’ve only just been allowed eight hours’ time up and you still have to save some of that time for feeding Stephen at night. There’s no way you’d manage to help out with teaching as well. I know you’d like to be able to help, but, you aren’t strong enough to deal with all the extra work it’d entail.”

“I need to help. I can’t leave everyone else to deal with it and not do anything.”

“What did Madge say she was going to do?”

“She’s going to speak to the staff tomorrow. She asked if I would have Josette for a couple of hours when Rosa was needed for other things.”

“As long as it is only for a short period, I don’t see why not. I’ll speak to Jem and sort out arrangements.” Jack realised that Madge had offered this to appease her sister and resolved to make sure that it only happened once a week at most. He was concerned that Jo would try to do too much in her efforts to help out and he was determined that this wouldn’t happen.

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