|A layer of ice glittered on the surface of the Tiernsee in the December sunshine, and Jem turned to his wife and grinned. “Remember the ice carnival?” he asked.|
Madge shuddered. “I’d rather not, thank you. When I saw you carrying Joey into the school, and she wasn’t moving, I thought for a moment …” She shook her head, as if to banish the memory. She had so many fond memories of her days in Tyrol, but there’d been times, in Tyrol and before then in Taverton, when she’d feared that her younger sister would never live to adulthood. Still, those times were gone now. Joey was a fit, strong woman, her physical delicacy long since a thing of the past. And not just Joey either – Robin, Peggy, Primula, Josette and Margot had all given those who loved them cause for concern about their health when they’d been children, and look them now.
Still, none of the others had ever asked to be ill in the way that it had sometimes seemed that Joey had done! “I should have punished her a lot more thoroughly than I did, the naughty girl!” she said, thinking out loud. “I’d made it quite clear that none of them were to go to the ice carnival, and a group of them blatantly disobeyed me and Joey was quite obviously the ringleader. I was just so relieved that she was all right, though.” She smiled reminiscently. “Still, I suppose everything happens for a reason. If they hadn’t gone against my express orders, then you and I would never have met again, and Marie would never have met Andreas, and none of our children would ever have been born.”
She found it hard to imagine, now, a world in which she and Jem had never fallen in love, never married, and never had their children. But back then, she’d begun to think that her destiny in life was to be headmistress of the Chalet School until she was an old lady. Her brother Dick had just announced his engagement, but there’d been no potential suitor in her life and not really any opportunity to meet one. Not that she’d have been unhappy, had fate led her to remain at the helm of her beloved school, but she wouldn’t swap the life she’d had, and hoped to have for many years to come, God willing, for anything.
Being the wife of one of the world’s leading tuberculosis specialists had had its challenges, but the decision to accept Jem’s proposal of marriage had been the best one she’d ever made. And, if her heart had been in her mouth when she’d seen Joey lying there so still, maybe it had also leapt a little at re-encountering the man she’d thought of often since encountering him in the midst a railway accident, of all things, the previous year. And the days when Jem had spent most of his time at work or at medical conferences were over now: he retained an interest in his sanatoria, as indeed she did in her school, but he’d retired from working day in day out; and they were free to enjoy their lives in Llan-y-Penllan and, financially very comfortably off, to travel to visit their scattered family and friends.
In addition to being parents to six, and aunt and uncle to many more, she and Jem were now grandparents to four. And that number would rise to five the following spring, when David and Gretchen’s second child was born. Sybil had two boys and Josette a little girl. And, if their family was dispersed across the globe, it was hardly like the days when her brother Dick had been working in India and she hadn’t seen him for years at a time. Travel was becoming easier all the time. She and Jem were able to see David and Gretchen and little Daniel at least once a year, and they’d been out to Australia several times and were able to visit Joey and Jack in Switzerland far more often than they’d ever done before Jem had retired. Ailie was only a couple of hours away, a PT mistress at a grammar school in the Midlands, and Dick and Mollie not much further. Kevin and Kester were at home during the holidays, and Daisy was only in Armishire and Primula near the Bettanys in Devon.
She’d been very happy as a young headmistress, wife and mother here in Tyrol, where she’d set up the Chalet School and a young, ambitious Jem had set up his sanatorium, where they’d married and set up home and where their two eldest children had been born, but she was happy now as well. Time moved on and brought with it its inevitable changes, some of them easy to foresee and others a huge surprise to all involved – who would have thought, twenty years ago, that one day she, Jem, David and Sybil would all be walking along the banks of the Tiernsee again - but she’d had a lot to be thankful for in the days when Tyrol had been her home and she had a lot to be thankful for now.