A Moment of Truth by Lizzie
Summary:

Two Alpine crossings converge in an Alpine Crossover. Set before and during Exile.


Categories: St Scholastika's House Characters: Jack Maynard, Jem Russell, Jo (Bettany) Maynard, Madge (Bettany) Russell, OC
School Period: Tyrol
School Name: Chalet School
Genre: Adventure, Crossover, Romance, War
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 12 Completed: No Word count: 36931 Read: 31923 Published: 03 Feb 2012 Updated: 04 Feb 2012

1. Part I: Beginnings by Lizzie

2. A Knowing Look by Lizzie

3. Retribution and Plans by Lizzie

4. Talking about the weather by Lizzie

5. Edelweiss by Lizzie

6. Friends by Lizzie

7. A difficult road by Lizzie

8. Part II: A solid lump of comfort by Lizzie

9. A Wedding by Lizzie

10. And so it begins by Lizzie

11. The Madness by Lizzie

12. Tenacity by Lizzie

Part I: Beginnings by Lizzie
Author's Notes:

I thought it was time I transferred this across to the SDL!

“Oh you wretched girl, why do you insist on doing everything I tell you not to?”

Jo Bettany stared for a moment at her page and finally put down her pen with a sigh of frustration. Turning in her chair slightly, she leant back and gazed out of the window at the snowy garden as if for inspiration.

“Writer’s block, Joey?” The aspiring author turned as she heard herself addressed and grinned at her brother-in-law who stood in the doorway.

“It’s no use Jem, I’ve tried and tried and I can’t make this girl say what I want her to say. Every time I try to include her in a scene, she ends up doing something truly awful that would practically warrant expulsion!” She yawned and stretched, looking at the little clock on her desk. “Ouf, it feels later than that! I was just about to come down for Frühstück, is it ready?”

Jem smiled at her, noting with practiced eyes the slightly weary air with which she talked and moved. “Yes, Madge sent me up to get you. Now listen Jo, I don’t like this new regime of yours. I know you want to get started when the inspiration hits you but I really think you should wait until a civilised hour before getting up and covering yourself in ink.”

Jo paused in the act of smoothing her hair to pull a face at him in the mirror. “I don’t get up so dreadfully early you know, it’s just this girl, Angelique. I’m trying so hard to make her believable and she keeps on rebelling!”

Jem looked at his young sister-in-law and was startled by how grown-up she seemed all of a sudden. He remembered the gangly little person he had first met in the train crash all those years ago, the horror with which she has accepted the idea of growing her hair, the reluctance with which she had become Head Girl. Reluctant she had been, but she had taken life on at every stage and had made a success of each one. Like it or not, Jo was growing up and she was beginning to do it gracefully too. 

What will be next for you, Jo? he asked himself silently before remembering the mission he had been sent on by his wife, “Come back to it after Frühstück old thing, I’m sure you will see a way round it.” Jem left the room but seconds later, his voice floated up to reach his indignant sister-in-law, “Although with a name like Angelique, what do you expect?”

Arriving in the Speisesaal a few minutes later, Jo found the offending brother-in-law safely ensconced behind a newspaper, and her sister pouring her first cup of coffee. Madge smiled as she entered and reached for another cup.

“Coffee, Joey? How are you faring with the terrible Angelique?”

Jo grimaced. “Dreadful. Her latest has been to turn a harmless prank involving hairbrushes in beds into another expellable offence. I know it sounds strange,” she said, reaching for a roll and liberally spreading it with butter, “but sometimes I just find that characters write themselves. It’s most annoying because I actually quite like her. She reminded me of Elizaveta at her most Middleish.”

Madge put down her coffee cup and looked thoughtfully at her sister, realising, as her husband had only minutes previously how far Jo was from being the wicked Middle she had once vowed to remain.

“Maybe you need to think about Angelique as a Head Girl, and not as a writer. When you were Head Girl and you came across a girl who was difficult, you didn’t just dismiss her as awkward, did you? You would try to discover what made her want to behave in that way and then try and help her. Maybe it is no different with your characters, maybe that’s what Angelique needs. Of course,” she added, trying to keep a straight face, “change her name to something half normal and you might find she changes into a girl who can set a good example to Robin and Daisy!”

Jo laughed at her sister’s final suggestion, but a shadow crossed her face at the mention of Robin and she turned to her other breakfast companion, who had emerged from behind his newspaper, and was now sorting through the post that had arrived that morning.

“Jem, how is my Robin?”

Jem smiled reassuringly at the worried face across the table, “She is doing very well, Jo. Quarantine will be over on Wednesday and she has shown no signs of a head cold, let alone mumps. I haven’t spoken to Juliet yet, but I should think that the school will open again in a few weeks so Rob will be home for a little while after quarantine ends, and you can fuss over her all you like.”

Jo, relieved that her beloved little adopted sister had avoided infection from the mumps outbreak that had recently afflicted The Annexe, finished her meal and left the Speisesaal to try and write some sense into the stubbornly naughty Angelique. Madge was finishing her coffee when her attention was drawn by the first few flakes of another snow shower. 

“Bother, it has started to snow again and I had told Gisela I’d lend her those tablecloths.”

Jem looked up from the letter he was reading. “I’m going to do rounds with Jack in fifteen minutes, I can drop the tablecloths in at Das Pferd on my way. Besides, you’re only just getting over that cold, I’d like you to have another day in the warm.”

Madge smiled at her husband. “Thanks, I’d feel better knowing that Gisela has got them, I’ve been meaning to send them over for days.” She got up from the table, “Anything interesting in the post today?”

Jem nodded. “I’ve had a letter from a friend I haven’t seen in years. I met him in Vienna when his wife was very ill but unfortunately, the illness was too far advanced and we didn’t have the knowledge then that we have now. She died and I have never seen a man take it worse.” He paused for a second, and Madge saw a flicker of sadness in his eyes. She always forgot how hard he took it when he lost a patient. Turning back to the letter he held in his hand, he continued, “However, he writes that he very recently re-married and would love to come and visit the Tiernsee in a few weeks as he hasn’t been here since he was a child. Do you think we could put them up, Madge? It would be splendid to see him again, and I can’t really think of any hotels or guesthouses that will be open at this time of year.”

“Of course we can,” Madge tucked her hand through her husband’s arm as they left the Speisesaal, “Rob will be out of quarantine and hopefully, Joey will have got Angelique to toe the line by then!”

“Angelique…” Jem looked thoughtful. He looked down at his wife. “If we have more additions in the future Madge, remind me that Angelique is definitely on the vetoed list!”


With a hiss and a squeak of ancient brakes, the mountain train pulled into Spärtz in the early evening sunshine. In the summer, the little station bustled with tourists but at this time of year, the tourists did not throng to the area in the same numbers and the train often ran up the mountainside with only a handful of passengers. A few locals, returning from shopping trips or dental appointments in Innsbruck stepped from the train, and the porters began to unload deliveries for the various shops in the villages around the Tiernsee. In the middle of this quiet, everyday activity, two people did, however, draw some attention. A tall, dark man alighted the platform, looked about him for a second and then turned to give a hand to another person descending from the train. As the locals remaining on the platform noted to each other, this couple were not from these parts, they did not seem familiar with their surroundings and had entirely too much luggage to be returning from a day’s shopping.

The man made sure all their bags were off the train before, with a quick word to his companion, going to check the steamer timetable posted on a board just outside the station. His companion, a slender woman in her late twenties, pulled her coat tighter around her and smiled amusedly at the curious onlookers who, having been caught staring, dispersed rather sheepishly. In a few moments, the man returned. “The next steamer is due any time now darling, I’ll just go and see if there’s a porter who could give  us a hand getting everything to the landing stage.”

She smiled. “All right, I’ll keep guard here. Oh…” she broke off suddenly, “Is your friend not meeting us here? I thought he said in his letter that he would meet us at the station.”

“That was what we had agreed but I telegraphed him from Innsbruck and told him not to bother coming all the way to Spärtz, it’s no trouble for us to take the steamer and meet him at the landing at Briesau instead. Besides,” he smiled cryptically, “there’s something I want to show you, something I remember from my childhood holidays here.”

Five minutes later, they were boarding the steamer which, like the train from Innsbruck, was practically empty. They would have had no trouble finding seats inside but once they had stacked their luggage and tipped the young porter from the station, the man took his companion by the hand and lead her to the deck. It was a perfect winter afternoon. The sky was cloudless, save for a few  pinkish wisps, and although the Spärtz landing stage was now in shadow, stripes of sunshine still fell on pastures and rock faces on the other side of the valley. 

The woman leant on the rail and breathed deeply. “The air is incredible here. I know it must be something to do with the altitude but there’s something else about it that feels almost medicinal.” She laughed, “That sounds so silly!”

He shook his head, “Not at all, that is exactly the reason why Russell has his Sanatorium out here. I sometimes wonder…” he broke off suddenly and stared at the sparkling water rolling against the bow of the steamer. Confused, she turned to look at him and understood as soon as she saw his face.

“You wonder if Agathe might still be alive if you had brought her here.” He nodded without tearing gaze from the water. For a moment, neither of them said anything but just as he opened his mouth to ask her something, she slid her hand under his on the rail, answering his question.

At this moment, the steamer reached the centre of the lake and the mountains to the West fell away to bathe them in a flaming red and gold sunset. The chilly breeze did not lessen but somehow, standing with their faces upturned to the fading light, a warmth spread through them both. The woman turned to her husband. “How old were you when you saw a sunset out on this lake?”

He smiled. “Nine, and I’ve never forgotten it. That’s why when I realised that we would be arriving here at sunset, I telegraphed Russell so we could cross the Tiernsee. I wanted to show you.”

He took her hands, pulled her close and kissed her. For a few moments, they stood and watched as the sky went from red and gold to pink and purple, when she pulled back a little and looked up at him, her eyes full of tears.

“Oh my love,” he took her face in his hands, “what’s wrong?”

She focussed on the buttons of his coat, trying to find the words.

“A year ago, I had my future all mapped out. I thought I knew where I was supposed to be, what I was supposed to do with my life. Even thought I sometimes felt like I didn’t belong, I liked the fact that I had everything planned, it was comfortable. And then…” she paused, straightening the pin on his lapel, “there was you. And everything changed. And for a while, my life certainly was not comfortable, but,” she finally met his eyes, “this feels right. This is where I belong.”

“Oh Maria,” he looked down at his wife, smiling up at him through her tears, “I’m glad this is where you are supposed to be.”


Jem’s car skidded slightly through the last bend, flew into the forecourt at the Briesau landing stage and came to a shuddering halt. Jo climbed out of the car rather unsteadily and, leaning against the door, checked her wristwatch.

“Great snakes Jem! I think you broke your own record! There’s a bright future for you in driving racing cars, my friend.”

Jem gave her a brief, somewhat sardonic smile and prodded her in the back, “Come on, funny girl, the steamer must be about to come in.”

The sun had gone behind the mountains and, although it was still relatively early in the evening, the lamps were being lit as Jo and Jem waited at the moorings while the steamer docked and the passengers disembarked. The chilly breeze from the water had grown stronger and Jem, with a sharp glance at his companion, began to regret bringing her to meet their house guests. Over the years, she had grown out of the extreme delicacy of her childhood, but every now and then, Jo succumbed to a cold that most people would have thrown off. Jem had never forgotten those terrible days when, after she had fallen through the ice on the Tiernsee, they had come so close to losing her. 

Now, there was no doubt that she was very much his sister-in-law, but she had been so young when he married Madge, the stark difference in their ages had often led him to feel more like a step-father. No matter how he thought of her as an adult, there would always be a part of him that thought of her as one of his children, and he realised with a kind of sadness that there would come a time when she would no longer need him to worry about her. Standing in the lamp light, her cheeks a little flushed with the cold, and her eyes sparkling with the excitement of making new friends, Jo looked almost beautiful. There was something very compelling about the young Miss Bettany, something about her fierce independence, her reluctance to change into someone she was not. In that respect, he thought, she was very much like her sister. One day, someone would look past the inky fingers and school girl slang and see the woman that they wanted to spend the rest of their life with. In that moment, Jem admitted to himself that he was very interested to know who that person might be.

A second glance at her, however, allayed his fears. Clad in a thick scarf and the beret that Robin had knitted her for Christmas, and with her coat buttoned up as high as it would go, there was no chance of Jo catching a chill in the few minutes that they would be standing on the landing stage. A moment later, she was shaking him out of his reverie, pulling at the sleeve of his coat.

“Jem! Is that your friend over there? The tall man with the red scarf? I’m fairly certain he just looked over here and waved.”

Jem turned to look in the direction in which she was pointing, and a minute later was making his way to the spot where his house guests were standing, surrounded by trunks and bags.

“Russell! It is so good to see you again!”

“Likewise old chap, it’s been far too long.” Jem shook his friend warmly by the hand and turned to smile welcomingly at the woman who stood by her husband’s side. She returned the smile with interest, stepping forward to shake first his hand and then Jo’s.

“It’s lovely to finally meet you Dr Russell, I’ve heard so much about you and this wonderful place.”

Jo, who had been uncharacteristically quiet while these first exchanges took place then chimed in. “It is pretty gorgeous isn’t it? We’ll get a lovely view of the valley as we drive up to the Sonnalpe. Should just make it before the light completely goes I should think. I’m Jo by the way” she added, almost as an afterthought, “Jem’s sister-in-law.”

“And while we’re on the subject of names, let’s start as we mean to go on,” said Jem. “I know your name is Maria, please call me Jem or this fortnight is going to feel terribly official! Now,” he clapped his hands together briskly, “let’s get the formalities over and done with and get out of this cold. This is my wife’s sister Josephine. Joey,” he said, with a smile for the scowl that Jo’s full name had produced, “these are Georg and Maria von Trapp.”

A Knowing Look by Lizzie

“Good evening Mrs Mueller,”

The old lady looked up from her book with a smile as Jack entered. “Oh Doctor Maynard, I’m glad it’s you. I wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying the book you recommended.”

He smiled at the frail little woman, dwarfed by the piles of pillows behind her, sitting up in bed with a huge book open across her lap.

“I’m glad you are enjoying it, although to be strictly honest, it was a friend of mine who said you might enjoy it.”

“Well please thank your friend for me. I thought I’d read all the biographies of Napoleon, but this is by the far the best. Oh, I’ve just remembered,” she held up her hand as if to interrupt herself, “Marta and Josef came to visit me this morning. They asked to be remembered to you.”

“I’m sorry I missed them. How is Mathilde?”

Mrs Mueller’s face lit up at the mention of her little granddaughter. “Beautiful. She smiled at me for the first time this morning. I had forgotten what a special moment that is.” 

“I remember David Russell’s first smile. I don’t think Doctor Russell stopped grinning for days.” He took her pulse, reviewed her medication and added his notes to the chart that hung at the foot of the bed.

The old lady regarded him shrewdly. “I don’t think you can truly understand it until your own little one smiles at you. I hope that one day you’ll experience that, Doctor Maynard.”

Jack tucked his pen back in his breast pocket. “Thank you, Mrs Mueller. It has been, as always, a pleasure.” He was in the doorway when she looked up again from her book.

“Oh Doctor Maynard, please don’t forget to thank your friend for me!”

“No.” Jack closed the door behind him. “No, I won’t.”

“Yes, Doctor Russell. Yes, I’ll tell him. Thank you sir, good bye.” Miss Bedford was just replacing the telephone receiver as Jack walked in.

“Good evening Doctor Maynard, that was Doctor Russell on the phone. He asked if you would telephone him at your earliest convenience.”

“Did he say it was an emergency?” Jack tried to keep the strain out of his voice, but was reassured by the motherly smile of the Sanitorium secretary.

“I rather think he was calling to ascertain your dinner plans for this evening, Doctor Maynard, there’s no need for alarm.”

“Oh. Yes, of course, he said he would ‘phone some time this evening.” Jack passed a weary hand through his hair and tried to conceal the fact that for a second, he had yet again jumped to the conclusion that Jo had been in an accident or contracted some fatal illness. Months ago, when he had first started to worry about her, he had dismissed it as a brotherly instinct, the product of spending so much time with the Russells. Now, however, he was not so sure. What was worse, he was fairly certain that observant people round him were beginning to notice the tension in his voice whenever anything to do with Jo was mentioned, and people did not come much more observant than the efficient woman sitting at the desk before him, fixing him with what his mother would have called a Knowing Look.

“Was there anything else you needed, Doctor?” 

Jack managed a smile and checked the clock. “No, thank you Miss Bedford, I have already kept you past your normal time. See you tomorrow.”

“Good evening Doctor.”

“Good evening Miss Bedford.”

Jack slid into the nearest chair and, reaching for the telephone, was soon put through to Die Rosen.

“Jem? It’s Jack.”

“Evening, Maynard, everything all right at the San?”

“Yes, I’ve just finished rounds and Miss Bedford was in the office today, so all the paperwork is up to date.”

“Excellent. That woman is a treasure, I cannot think what we did without her. Now look here, the von Trapps arrived this afternoon, and Madge just reminded me that we had never confirmed whether or not you were still coming for dinner tonight. “

Jack rested his elbows on the desk and loosened his tie with one hand. Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to avoid contact with Jo and her family, to distance himself and assess his true feelings.

“Thanks Jem,” he shrugged off his white coat and reached for his jacket. “I’d love to.”

 


 

“Well?”

Maria, curled up in a basket chair next to the big picture window, looked round and laughed.

“Well? You weren’t sure whether I would love this place? I can lay your mind to rest on that score. It’s beautiful. I’m so glad you suggested coming here. Of course, I would never be so disloyal as to prefer these mountains and lakes to our own, but they run a close second, don’t they?”

He nodded. “I have only spent a handful of holidays here, but there has always been something about this place that makes visiting it feel like coming home.” He crossed to the window and sat down on the arm of his wife’s chair. “You know, anyone seeing you and Jo at dinner would think that you were best friends! I don’t think anyone would be able to tell that you two had only just met.”

Maria smiled, recalling their lively evening. “I really like her, Georg, she reminds me of myself at that age. Not that she’s actually much younger than me,” she added thoughtfully, “I would never wish my years at the Abbey away but I do think that I started to grow up the day that I…”

“…met the handsome Captain Von Trapp and his seven adorable children?”

She laughed and elbowed him in the ribs. “I was going to say that I started to grow up the day that I started taking responsibility for my life, but in a way, I suppose you’re right. For many people, that day is the day that they enter the Abbey, but for me…” she turned for a minute to look out of the window where a blaze of stars and a full moon were lighting the sky, “I remember my journey from the Abbey to your house as if it were yesterday. I had always longed for adventure and there I was, looking adventure square in the face, and I realised that I was terrified. As I thought about it though, I realised that although I had no idea why Reverend Mother had sent me away, it was a chance to prove that I was capable of making a success of something.”

“And then you met me,” He put a hand on her shoulder, his face full of regret. “and I was vile to you, wasn’t I?”

She smiled up at him and took his hand. “Well, I would be lying if I said that the first few weeks were plain sailing, but I soon realised that you were still trying to cope with Agathe’s death whilst feeling terrible for not being there for the children.”

“Don’t forget that I had started falling in love with you that first night at dinner,” he said, slipping an arm around her shoulders, “Don’t forget that, my love.”

They sat together in silence for a few moments, looking out at the night sky, until Maria spoke.

“You know, these next few years might just be the making of Jo. I think she will surprise everyone one of these days when she becomes a woman. Then we’ll see where her life takes her.”

Georg looked sceptical. “But she’s such a schoolgirl.”

Maria shook her head. “There’s a measure of girlishness that will always be a part of her, but there’s so much of myself that I recognise in Jo. You see if she doesn’t change the day that she starts taking responsibility for her life. Of course,” she added with a smile, “that change might be imminent. Did you see the way that young doctor was looking at her this evening?”

“The one who dropped his coffee cup?”

“Mmm. And had a coughing fit when Jo talked about travelling to Russia. I don’t know, I might be imagining it but somehow, I doubt it…”


“Good night Jack,”

“Good night Madge, thank you for a lovely evening. ‘Night Jem.”

“‘Night Jack. See you tomorrow.”

Jem closed the front door and turned to his wife. “You go on up Madge, there are a few papers in my study that I must deal with before I forget. I’ll turn the lights off on my way up.”

Madge yawned. “All right darling. I’ll just go and check on the children.”

“No need, Jo said she’d look in on them just now. I’d leave her to it if I were you, you look all in.”

Appearing at the top of the stairs on the way from the nursery, Jo caught the last of this conversation, whispered her good nights and entered her bedroom. Once inside, she dismissed the idea of editing the chapters she had written that morning as too risky, should her tired eyes give her away over breakfast. Besides, though she rued the day she had reluctantly promised Jem that she would only attempt to write at what he called a ‘civilised hour’, one glance at the clock hanging above her desk confirmed her suspicion that she had best be getting to bed. She crossed to the window, and was in the act of drawing the curtains, when her attention was caught by Jack Maynard, who had just come round the corner of the house, and was making his way back to his rooms at the Sanitorium. He was walking carefully to avoid the icy patches on the path, with the collar of his coat turned up against the wind and his hands rammed deep in his pockets.

Jo’s immediate impulse was to knock on the window and wave good night, since he had left while she had been checking on the children. It was odd, she thought, that although Jack seemed to be spending exactly the same amount of time at Die Rosen as he always had, they had hardly exchanged a conversation in the last two weeks. She thought back, searching her mind for any event where she might have offended him, but short of the evening when she had beaten him at chess, she could think of nothing. She raised her hand to tap on the window…and stopped. Placing her hand flat on the glass, she shifted her gaze from the figure on the path to her own reflection. She stared at herself for a minute and frowned. Then, she drew the curtains and started getting ready for bed.

Retribution and Plans by Lizzie

“Where is that girl?” Jem sighed impatiently and checked his watch. 

“Jo!”

“Yes?”

“Where are you? We’re all ready.”

“Coming!”

The shout from upstairs was followed by a loud slam, and Jo thundered down the stairs, wrapping a scarf round her neck.

“Sorry all, the little ones begged a story and I got distracted. Oh gosh, I haven’t made you late for your train, have I?”

“No, I think we should be fine,” Jem checked the piece of paper in his hand. “The next train leaves at eleven, and if we leave right now, we shall be in plenty of time. Got everything, Madge? Good, then let’s be off.”

Pulling up in Briesau fifteen minutes later, Jem turned in the front seat to speak to his passengers.

“We shall be back to pick you up at half past fifteen, Professor Aarden is expecting us after Mitagessen but isn’t in much of a condition to be having visitors for very long.” He looked over at Mrs Von Trapp, “I hope you have a lovely day Maria, but make sure you don’t get talked to death, it’s an occupational hazard around here!”

Maria laughed. “Thank you Jem, but you don’t have to worry about me. I’ve been so looking forward to seeing the famous Chalet School, Joey and Madge will probably get bored with my endless questions!”

Georg and Jem bid their farewells, and continued on their way to the station at Spärtz, while Madge, Jo and Maria buttoned their coats against the icy wind and began the short walk to the front entrance of the School.

At the same time as they were sinking gratefully into chairs in the staff room, not so far away in the prefects’ room, four small girls were realising that they had vastly underestimated the leniency of their new Head Girl. Hilary Burn leant her chin on her hand and regarded them dispassionately.

“I don’t suppose that you even understand what makes your actions this morning so serious?” 

There was a silence, and then Betty Wynne-Davies ventured an answer.

“Because we didn’t stay in ‘croc’?” she suggested nonchalantly.

There was another silence. She tried again, this time perhaps a shade less confidently.

“Because we cheeked Jeanne?”

“No, Betty, that is not the worst of it, although staying in line and being polite are things that I would expect you to have learnt when you were considerably younger.” Hilary’s voice, normally so warm and friendly, had taken on an icy edge. Biddy O’Ryan and Nicole de Saumerez squirmed visibly, while Elizabeth Arnett and Betty exchanged looks. They had known Hilary since their early days at St Scholastika’s, and they had never heard her speak like that.

Glancing around at the prefects who sat in grim silence next to her, Hilary continued. “It’s a shame, really, that these children” she emphasized the word and even Betty winced, “are so wrapped up in their own affairs that they fail to see how their actions affect others.” She eyed them severely. “Breaking away from the group during a walk is not only dangerous but it also makes the school look careless. What kind of reputation do you think the Chalet School would receive if people saw girls running around on their own without any teachers present? You would not want to be responsible for making people think badly of this school, would you? Especially if it was that reputation that made your parents decide to take you away…” she trailed off into silence, and four horrified girls looked from one to another. They had most decidedly not thought of that.

She gave them a minute to let that idea sink in before continuing. “No, I didn’t think so. So first, you can apologise to Jeanne for your rudeness this morning. After prep this evening, you can each write me an essay on why it is important to obey the school rules, and after break,” her mouth twitched, “you can all report to Matron. I’m sure she will be anxious to make sure that none of you catches cold after your exploits by the lake.”

Their fates sealed, Biddy, Nicole, Elizabeth and Betty mumbled their apologies to Jeanne, and were dismissed by Hilary to enjoy the last half of their break, before going to meet their fate in the form of Matron’s cold-preventing medicine. The prefects managed to keep their faces under control until the door was shut by Ilonka Barkocz, whereupon they gave in and fell about with laughter.

“Did you see Betty’s face?” said Giovanna Rincini mopping her eyes, “You would have thought she was being led to the gallows!”

Hilary smiled. “I confess that my choice of punishment was largely influenced by Betty’s hatred of taking medicine. They’re all getting too old for these scrapes, but Betty’s arrogance has to stop before she begins to make a real habit of it. It’s a small victory,” she added, reaching for the cups to make coffee, “but if she goes away today feeling remotely penitent, it will be for the first time in months.”

After this, coffee-making began in earnest as, like Betty and Co, they tried to make the most of the remainder of their break. Giovanna passed round the twists of bread, and when they were all comfortably seated, Cornelia remembered a piece of news that she had meant to share earlier.

“Oh, I forgot, Joey and Madame are here.”

Her remark was met with considerable interest, and over the next few minutes, she told them everything that she had managed to extract from Jo in their briefest of conversations in the corridor.

“So do you know why Captain Von Trapp and his wife are staying at Die Rosen?” Hilary questioned.

“Jo said that they’re on their honeymoon and are spending a few weeks here before going somewhere else.” said Cornelia vaguely.

Maria Marani joined the conversation. “Gisela told me that Captain Von Trapp’s first wife died, and that the new Mrs Von Trapp met him when she became the governess to his children.”

“Children?” Hilary looked up from her coffee cup. “Any girls, do you know? Do you think Mrs Von Trapp might be thinking of sending them here? Did you meet Mrs Von Trapp, Corney?”

Cornelia nodded. “She seemed very nice, hardly older than Jo I should think. She didn’t say anything about sending the children here though.”

At that moment, the door opened, and Jo appeared. She laughed, and waved aside their offers of coffee and bread twists.

“Thanks, but I was amply supplied with chocolate biscuits in the staff room. I wanted to come and see you all as soon as I arrived, but Bill told me that you were dealing with Betty and co, so I put aside my urges to come and sit sternly at the prefects’ table, and left you to it. What had they been up to this time?”

In as few words as possible, for break was nearing a close, Hilary described the events of the morning, and gave her a brief summary of the punishment. Jo grinned and nodded. “Excellent. There’s nothing to like Matey to strike fear into the hearts of offenders! Now, I must be getting back to the staff room, break’s nearly over, and I told Maria I would give her a tour of the school while you’re all in lessons…oh, not you, Maria, our house guest, Maria Von Trapp. Didn’t Corney tell you? Oh, no matter, you’ll meet her at Mittagessen. Right, see you!”

 


 

“Tell me about your children.”

It was late afternoon, and having returned to Die Rosen from their various pursuits, everyone was relaxing and filling the hour or so before Abendessen. Jo was upstairs, grappling with another chapter of her novel, Georg and Jem were each nursing a sherry in the Salon, and Madge and Maria had just joined them from the nursery, where they had assisted at the children’s tea-time. Maria glanced at Georg and smiled, before answering Madge’s question.

“Well, there’s Liesl, she’s about to be seventeen, and then Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and little Gretl, who is five.”

Jem raised his eyebrows. “That’s quite a clan you have there!”

“You certainly do!” Madge laughed. “Do they enjoy each other’s company? The little ones in our nursery are fairly close in age, and they do get on well, except for the odd dispute as this tea-time has shown us!” That afternoon, Sybil had goaded Rix into such a rage that he had jumped up from the tea table, upsetting the milk jug and smashing a jar of jam. 

Georg smiled, remembering the story that Maria and Madge had recounted. “There is a large gap between Liesl and Gretl, but they do all get on well with each other. That wasn’t always the case, though, they used to fight all the time, Liesl and Louisa, and Friedrich and Kurt especially. After their mother died, they seemed to start looking after each other a little more, but before they had Maria as their governess, they were…well…a little wild. No governess stayed for longer than a couple of weeks, and one memorable employee stayed for half an hour. Things were getting out of hand and I knew that some people considered boarding school to be exactly what my children needed to bring them back into line. I was nearing the end of my tether and I began to wonder if they were right. They were wrong,” he glanced across at Maria and smiled, “I was wrong. All they needed was a mother. Since then, we haven’t had any problems at all.”

Madge smiled. “I’m glad to hear that,” she said, “and I’m glad that you resisted sending them away when they would have seen it as a punishment. We have had a few girls sent to us in those circumstances, and the damage that it does is long lasting.”

Georg nodded. “I was sent away to school when I was very young, and hated it. My parents would never have considered any other option, and certainly never took my feelings into account. Since then, I have always associated boarding school with harsh rules, harsher punishments and an intense feeling of loneliness. That is,” he smiled at his host, “ until we visited the Chalet School. I was surprised when I met Jo, that she talked so lovingly of her time at the school, but seeing it today…”

“Oh Madge, it’s a wonderful place” Maria broke in. “There’s such lovely atmosphere, and the girls seem so happy and settled. We’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, and…well…”

“You’d like to send your girls here?”

Georg laughed. “We were trying to construct a rather better way of asking you, especially seeing as I have just insulted the institution of sending your children away to school, but yes, yes we would.”

Georg continued. “We are only enquiring about places for Liesl, Louisa and Brigitta at present, I don’t know how young you accept girls, Madge, but even if you would take them, I think that Maria and I would like to keep Marta and Gretl with us for a little longer. Of course, we would only send the girls if they were happy with the idea, but circumstances are so different now, being sent to boarding school wouldn’t be a punishment any more.”

“I also think it would be beneficial for them to meet girls of their own ages,” said Maria, “They get on well and look after each other but it would be lovely for them to make some real friendships with girls outside of the family.”

Madge looked thoughtful. “In special circumstances, we have taken girls younger than Marta, but if there’s no real need for it, I think you are right to keep the youngest ones at home. I can’t see any difficulties with finding places for the other three, though. I shall ‘phone Hilda in the morning and check with her, of course, but I’m fairly certain that we can fit them in.”

“And don’t forget you’re always welcome here if the rest of you should want to come and visit the girls,” Jem stood up as Marie came out into the hall and rang the gong for Abendessen, “Salzburg isn’t really so far from here by train.”

Georg shook his old friend warmly by the hand, and turned to Madge, as they started to make their way to the Speisesaal. “Thank you so much, both of you. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your kindness.”

Jo joined them a moment later, having reluctantly put aside her work for the evening. Maria smiled as she entered. “How’s the great work coming along, Joey?”

Jo opened her mouth to answer, but Jem interrupted with a grin. “Look at her fingers, Maria. The more productive Jo’s literary attempts, the greater her propensity for ink slinging.”

For a second, it seemed that Jo might hurl the basket of bread rolls at her brother-in-law’s head, but she thought the better of it and instead gave a somewhat sheepish smile, displaying her greyish fingers.

After their meal, during which Jo had quizzed the Von Trapps on every possible subject to do with their eldest daughters, the party returned to the Salon. After a while, conversation fell once again to the subject of the Chalet School, and Georg expressed an interest in going to visit it properly, as he and Jem had only stopped there briefly on their way back from the station.

Madge nodded. “Yes, that would be a good idea. When I speak to Hilda tomorrow, I will ask her when would be best to visit.”

“Madge! I’ve just had a brilliant idea!” Jo sat up straight in her chair.

“Yes Joey?”

“We were going to have some girls to stay next weekend weren’t we? Why not ask Miss Annersley if we could have them this weekend instead, that way they could meet Maria and Georg, and answer any questions they might have.” She sat back in her chair with a satisfied smile on her face.

Jem glanced across at Madge, who nodded. He looked back at Jo. “That’s a good idea, as long as Maria and Georg don’t mind having their last weekend here overrun by schoolgirls!”

Georg laughed. “Not at all, it would be lovely to meet some of the girls who might become friends to my daughters.”

Madge went to her bureau in the corner of the room, and returned with a notebook. “Let’s try and make a list of girls to invite, Joey, then I can give it to Hilda in the morning.” She laughed. “I am amassing quite a list of things to ask her tomorrow!”

“Let’s see…” Jo scribbled a few names. “We will have Daisy and Rob of course, and a few of their friends, so…Emmie, Lorenz and Amy?”

Madge nodded. “Yes, and they are of similar ages to Brigitta and Louisa too.”

“I know Corney was going to come up to visit Mademoiselle that weekend,” said Jo, “and she’s the same age as Liesl, so let’s add her to the list with Evadne, Maria, Gio and Polly. That’s,” she counted up on her fingers, “ten, including me. Will that be all right?”

Madge, laughing at Jo’s automatic inclusion of herself as a Chalet girl, nodded again. The list-maker continued. “Then there’s you, Jem, Maria, Georg, Jack…” she stopped suddenly. Madge, pouring herself another cup of coffee, did not see the sudden colour in her sister’s face, but Maria did, glanced at Georg and smiled.

Talking about the weather by Lizzie

 

“Doctor Russell, I…Doctor Russell?”

Jem, who had been staring out of the window and tapping his fountain pen on the corner of his desk came to with a start to find the efficient Miss Bedford standing in the door of his office. He smiled genially, “Sorry Miss Bedford, I was miles away, can I help you?”

“I was just bringing the rest of the reports from yesterday for you to sign, Doctor, and to remind you that you are doing rounds with Doctor Weller an hour earlier this morning.”

Jem sighed. “You’re absolutely right, I had completely forgotten that we had changed the schedule for today. Thank you very much.”

“You’re welcome sir. I’ll be in my office if you need me.” She deposited a large stack of files on his desk and left the room, closing the door behind her.

Jem started working his way through the pile of paperwork, but was interrupted a moment later when there was a knock at the door.

“Come in!”

Miss Bedford smiled apologetically. “Sorry to disturb you again, Doctor, but Mrs Russell is on the telephone.”

“Not at all, put her through.” He reached for the telephone on his desk, “Hello, Madge?...Oh yes, yes of course….all right, I’ll ask him directly….yes, I will….goodbye,” he hung up the earpiece, finished the report he had been writing, and left the room.

On his way to the second floor of the Sanatorium, he bumped into Jack outside the latter’s office.

“Oh, Jack, I thought you might be upstairs. Listen, I wanted to ask if you had any plans for the weekend. Georg and Maria are leaving on Monday, and since they’re thinking of sending their daughters to the School, Madge is inviting some girls up for the weekend to meet them. I know Georg would like to see you before you leave, what do you say? Bear in mind that Jo has added you to her list already in advance!” he laughed.

To say that a look of panic spread across the young doctor’s face would be an overstatement, but a certain note of tension did creep into his voice, as he coloured slightly and replied.

“Oh…um…er…well…”

Thinking he had isolated the cause of Jack’s hesitation, Jem clapped him warmly on the back.

“Don’t feel that you are intruding, you know that Madge and Jo and I quite think of you as family.”

This did not have the desired effect of immediately convincing Jack to spend the weekend at Die Rosen, but he did accept the invitation after a lot more hesitation. Leaving him to his work, Jem set off to meet Doctor Weller for rounds, thinking as he did so that unless he was mistaken, Jack’s eventual acceptance had less to do with a desire to join them all, and more to do with the fact that he obviously hadn’t been able to think of a suitable excuse.

He was still puzzling about this several hours later, when he returned to the mounds of paperwork on his desk. As far as he was aware, he had not done or said anything to offend his friend, and knowing how fond of Jack she was, he found it hard to believe that Madge had upset him either. Jo, he thought. I wonder if Jo’s said anything to him. True, he could be stubborn, and she was impulsive and often tactless, but they had known each other for years and had always seemed to be good friends. What could have changed recently to make Jack dislike Jo? Unless it wasn’t that he hated her at all…Jack’s excuses, his clumsiness, his concern for her safety, his recent studious avoidance of being left alone with her…Jem’s eyes widened as all of a sudden, things began to make sense.

“So that’s it” he murmured. Now that he thought about it, it was hard to see how he could have missed it, but there it was. Jack was falling in love with Jo. He thought about his sister-in-law for a moment. For all her protests about not growing up and never settling down, he had always suspected that it would only take the right man, and Jo would become a completely different person. If only there’s some way of knowing how she might feel about Jack he thought, and then unbidden, a scene from the previous evening crept into his mind: Maria and Georg sitting next to each other on the divan, Madge pouring coffee, Jo with a notebook on her knee, making a list…

“Then there’s you, Jem, Maria, Georg, Jack…”

He remembered the unexpected flush of colour in her cheeks that yesterday, he had attributed to the warmth of the room.

“Oh.” He sat, staring unseeingly at the report in front of him. “Oh, Joey.”

 


 

Come Saturday morning, Die Rosen was a hive of activity. Having made sure that all the beds were in order, Madge came downstairs to the Speisesaal to help Jo in setting the dining table.

“Has Jem left to pick up the girls?”

Jo nodded. “Georg went with him, and I think Maria went up to lend a hand in the nursery.”

“They were a little wild,” Madge laughed, “It’s the excitement at having all the ‘big girls’ to play with. Maria’s so good with them, I’m sure Rob and Daisy will appreciate her help.”

Jo stood back to make sure that the table cloth was straight. “How many places are we setting?” she asked, and paused for a moment as she counted in her head. “Fourteen?”

Madge did a similar mental check and shook her head slowly. “No, I think you’re missing someone. You, Rob, Daisy, eight more Chalet girls, Maria, Georg, Jack, Jem and me. That’s fifteen isn’t it?”

“Oh yes, right you are. Fifteen.” Jo turned quickly to start arranging the cutlery so her sister wouldn’t see the heat in her cheeks. She had been so intent on not thinking about Jack that, for a moment, she had succeeded in forgetting that he was joining them for the weekend. She shook herself slightly. If only she wasn’t so cowardly, she could talk to him about why he was avoiding her, find out what she had done to ruin their friendship. With a sigh of frustration, she turned to the dresser where the glasses were kept. In times gone by, she would have had no qualms about going and sorting out their differences, but something had happened to her in the last few days and now, she wasn’t sure what she would say to him. 

Maybe it would make things easier if she tried to avoid him in the way he was avoiding her. She paused in the act of arranging glasses and for a second, considered developing a headache and spending the evening in her room. No, she shook herself again, that would not do. She was not a coward, and she would either have to work out what to say to Jack or accept the fact that he didn’t want to be friends with her any more. Then she could try and work out why that idea bothered her so much.

 


 

Silently, Jo entered the Salon and stood for a moment in the open doorway. Everything was still, but her quick ears had detected a scuffle coming from the far end of the room. As quietly as she had entered, she crossed to where a slight hitch in the floor length curtains revealed a pair of shoes.  

“AHA!”

She whipped them back and pounced on the occupant, who fell back with a yell of surprise, knocking over a little table and a collection of photo frames.

“Jo!”

That young lady looked up rather shame-facedly, and helped a similarly sheepish Evadne to her feet.

“Sorry Madge, I didn’t mean to make her jump quite like that. Well…” she paused as her conscience gave a twinge, “…not quite that much.”

“I think I was the last person Jo was looking for, Madame.” Evadne smoothed her hair and skirt.

“I know,” Madge smiled, “I found everyone else upstairs looking for you. I’m glad that Jo found you Evvy, it’s time to get ready for Abendessen. Of course,” she attempted to look stern but failed, “You could have found her a little more gracefully, Jo!” She laughed as the two girls fled to join the others, who were already changing their dresses and making themselves look respectable, and then climbed the stairs to follow their example.

 


 

Jack added the final items to his overnight bag and snapped it closed. He had resisted the idea of staying at Die Rosen and adding to its already full guest list, but one look at the sky had been enough to make him agree with Madge, who had telephoned that afternoon. If the clouds hanging low over the Sonnalpe lived up to their appearance, there could be quite a storm in store, and Jack had too much respect for the quick-tempered Austrian weather to risk anything.

A glance at the clock told him that he would be late for Abendessen if he didn’t hurry. He shrugged on his thickest coat and pushed his hands deep in the pockets to search for his gloves. Drawing a blank on that search, he did, however, produce a collection of other items, smiling at the memory of his mother, who had despaired at his tendency to hoard things in his pockets. He set everything down on his desk to deal with later: a penknife, a small piece of whittled wood, a handful of change, a key to a padlock he had long since lost, a piece of string, two folded postcards and a crumpled photograph.

The last item, he picked up and smoothed out. Taken a year or so ago, it had been among a set of photographs that hadn’t developed very well and had therefore not been framed or included in an album. The clock and his normal punctuality forgotten, Jack sat down on the nearest chair and studied the laughing face that looked back at him. Sitting cross-legged on a stretch of grass, Jo held a half-eaten apple and was in the middle of a wide sweep of her hand. It was a blurry picture and the mistake in development had contributed to a strange quality of light, but he had kept it, loving the way the sunshine fell on her, loving the expression on her face.

“This is ridiculous.” He stood up and buttoned his coat, slipping the photograph back into his pocket. Picking up his bag, he opened the door, switched off the light and turned to speak to the now darkened room. “I’m going to tell her. I am.”

 


 

“I’m ready Joey, do I look all right?”

Jo, who had been standing at her mirror and gazing at an indeterminate point on the wall, turned with a start and smiled at the girl who stood in the doorway.

“You look lovely, Rob. I’m nearly ready, would you tell Madge I’ll be down in a minute?”

“Very well Joey,” Robin gave her adopted sister a grin and raced off downstairs to join her friends. 

Jo turned back to the mirror and started to brush her hair, trying not to keep glancing at the clock. It was ten minutes until Abendessen. She succeeded in making her hair at least presentable and went to the window to draw the curtains again, after Polly had hidden behind them during their last game of hide-and-seek. Of course, she thought, it will make it easier to avoid him if he doesn’t come this weekend. Maybe he telephoned Jem while we were playing this afternoon. Maybe…

Her thoughts were interrupted by the clanging of the doorbell. Hurriedly, she drew the curtains and left her room with one final glance in the mirror, as outside, the first few flakes of snow began to fall.

 


 

“Evening, Maynard.”

“Hello Jem, I’m sorry I’m so late.”

“Not a bit of it, Marie hasn’t even rung the gong yet. Got your bag? I’ll run that upstairs for you, I think Madge has put you in the room you had last time. Leave your coat anywhere in the cloak room.”

Not at all fazed by his friend’s brand of brusque hospitality, Jack left the hall to hang his coat up, and was passing the foot of the stairs on his way to the salon, when a thundering of feet caused him to look up.

“Hello Jo.”

The thundering stopped, and with an entirely unreadable expression on her face, Jo descended the rest of the stairs in as lady-like a manner as she could muster. Face to face with him, she smiled and stuck out her hand.

“Hello Jack. I see you managed to arrive just before the snow.”

He shook her hand, trying not to sound as confused as he felt. “Er, yes. It looks like it might go on all night.”

They were saved from further polite conversation by the sound of the gong. Jo, with what Jack could only describe as a look of relief on her face, excused herself most graciously and went to check that all the Chalet girls were ready and assembled in the Speisesaal, leaving Jack to follow.

“She shook my hand.” He looked about him as if hoping that someone else had just witnessed his conversation with Jo. “She talked about the weather and she shook my hand?”

“Good evening, Jack.” He turned to see Maria von Trapp.

“Maria. I was…I was just going through to join the others.”

For a second, it looked as if Maria might have been about to say something, but instead, she offered him an arm, and together, they went through to dinner.

 

Edelweiss by Lizzie

“…Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever, Edelweiss, Edelweiss, bless my homeland forever.”

These words reached Jo as she left her bedroom with the book for which she had been hunting. Passing the night nursery, she found the door ajar, and stopped for a moment to listen.


The residents of the Die Rosen nursery were normally fast asleep before Abendessen, but in the last few months, Peggy had been having trouble getting to sleep. As a result of this, Madge made sure that either she or Jo went upstairs when the evening meal was finished, to check that everyone was sleeping peacefully. Earlier that evening, however, a polite request had come from the nursery that “Aunt Maria” should be the one to come up and check on them, a request to which Maria had been more than happy to agree. It was wonderful to spend so much time with Georg, but becoming involved with the young people at Die Rosen had made her miss the children more than she would ever have expected.

On arrival at the nursery, she discovered a very wide awake and rather tearful Peggy, and spent the next fifteen minutes telling her one of the stories that Louisa had invented for Gretl. Re-telling the story made Maria miss her girls even more, but she realised as she sat in the dark that it was more than that. She never used the expression ‘step-children’, she loved, scolded and worried for them as if they were her own, but that as if was the problem. Try as she might, she could not shake the nagging questions that persisted in bothering her. What would it be like to have a baby of my own? Would the other children resent another sibling? Would Georg want another child? Why am I not satisfied with what God has given me? 

At the present time, however, another factor loomed more pressing than any of the others. Change was coming to Austria, and bringing a baby into the world in the midst of the turmoil that she felt sure was coming was unthinkable. She shivered slightly. She tried not to dwell on this subject too much, but in quiet moments, it had begun to take on nightmarish proportions. Georg. What will I do if he has to go away? The idea made her stomach lurch, and her voice wavered.

“Aunt Maria?” Peggy was looking up at her.

“Sorry sweetheart, my mind wandered. Where was I?” At the conclusion of the tale of an elf princess, whose silver horse could ride as fast as the wind and fly higher than the clouds, Maria looked down at the sleepy little girl next to her, and began to sing softly.

Downstairs in the salon a while later, the whirling snowflakes at the window and the warmth from the stove only contributed to the cosy, post-meal hush. Karen had brought the coffee through from the kitchen, and everyone was comfortably seated in the long, low room, reading or talking quietly. Jo looked up from her book as Maria entered the salon, having left all the occupants of the nursery sleeping soundly.

“I say, Maria, what was what lovely song you were singing upstairs?”

Maria flushed a little. “I hadn’t realised anyone could hear me down here, was I really singing that loud?”

“Oh no, I went up to my room a moment ago to find a book for Gio, and heard you as I passed the door of the nursery. I’m terribly sorry if I’ve embarrassed you,” Jo looked worried, “I didn’t mean to.”

“Don’t worry Jo,” said Georg, “Frankly, given the amount that she sings at home, I’m surprised that Maria has managed to spend the last two weeks not being overheard! You’d have to try harder than that to embarrass her about her singing!”

His wife smiled sweetly at him as he moved up to make room for her on the settee, waiting until she was comfortably seated before elbowing him in the ribs. Laughing at his pantomimed agony, she turned to Jo.

“I’m sorry, you asked me a question…oh yes, the song I was singing Peggy is called Edelweiss.”

Madge put down her coffee cup and got up from her seat. “Do you know, I think we have that song somewhere. I’m sure Gisela and Gotffried gave us a book of Austrian folk songs for Christmas a few years ago.” She went to the piano that stood at the far end of the room, and began looking through the pile of sheet music on its lid.

“Can I help you, Madge?” Maria went to join her hostess at the piano.

“It doesn’t seem to be here, I’m afraid, I think it must be in one of the boxes of music up in the attic. I’ll look it out for you tomorrow, it’s a while since we had a musical evening. Oh but you might have a quick look in that box, Maria,” she pointed to a highly polished wooden box that stood on a little table next to the gramophone, “I suppose it’s possible that we have it on a record.”

Maria went slowly through the box. The eclectic collection contained records owned by many of the inhabitants of Die Rosen, so music by Mozart, Schubert and Elgar could be found mixed up amongst old English madrigals, Tzigane band recordings, nursery rhymes and children’s stories. Suddenly, she gave a cry, and pulled out a battered old record.

“Oh! Oh Georg, look!”

Georg turned in his seat as she darted across the room and handed it to him.

“Have you found it?” said Cornelia eagerly.

Maria shook her head. “No, sorry Corney. I haven’t found Edelweiss, this is just a piece of music that Georg and I haven’t heard for a while.”

Jo glanced over Georg’s shoulder. “Is that yours, Jem? I don’t think I’ve ever listened it.”

“Which is it?” Jem took the record as Georg passed it to him, and looked carefully at the worn cover. “You have listened to it actually Jo,” he said, “I remember you were very disappointed that none of us could show you how the dance went.”

“Oh that’s right! Gosh, that was years ago.” Jo looked hopefully over at Maria. “I don’t suppose you know it do you?”

“Yes, I do know the dance. Would you like us to teach it to you?” Maria glanced across to her husband, who smiled and nodded.

There was a chorus of approval from the Chalet girls, broken only by Madge, who got up from her seat, laughing at all the animated faces.

“Why don’t we push back the furniture and all learn?” she said.

Ten minutes later, the chairs and settees were pushed against the book shelves that lined the room and the floor was cleared of coffee cups and books. The younger girls, who had spent the afternoon running around outside, and then playing hide-and-seek with the rest, were beginning to wilt somewhat, but tried desperately not to show it. They were thrilled, therefore, to be allowed to stay up for a little while, and all climbed onto one small settee to watch the fun. Once everyone was ready, Maria looked around at the expectant faces.

“The dance that Georg and I are about to teach you is called a ländler.”

“Excuse me Maria, but isn’t that an traditional Austrian folk dance?” Polly piped up from her seat on the arm of Jo’s chair. Maria nodded.

“Yes, you’re right. It’s also one of the dances that is thought to have contributed to the development of the waltz.” She paused and gave a little laugh. “I could give you the potted history of the ländler through the ages, but shall we save that for when we’re all exhausted?”

“Yes my love, I think that would be best, fascinating though it surely would be.” Georg dodged another elbow in the ribs and continued. “Would it be easiest if Maria and I show you how it goes? Then we can start the record again and you can all have a try.”

Jem went to the gramophone and set the record going as the von Trapps moved to the centre of the room.

As the record began, Cornelia sat back with a little sigh. One of the things she had discovered at the Chalet School was a love of music, and though realistic enough to know that she wasn’t destined for a career like her friend Margia Stevens, she revelled in every opportunity she got to sing. She found herself harmonising with the tune under her breath, imagining words to the simple melody that wove in and out of itself. She glanced across at Joey with the idea of catching her eye and sharing their appreciation of the music, but instead looked away again, puzzled by the look on her friend’s face.

Madge was not in a position to see Jo properly, but did see the change in Cornelia’s expression and resolved to speak to her later. She knew that earlier in the day, Jem had taken Miss Flower over to the San to visit Mademoiselle Leppatre and wondered vaguely if it was playing on her mind. With a smile for Corney, she turned her attention to Maria and Georg. It seemed as if the couple had forgotten that they were dancing in front of a roomful of people, they were only dancing for themselves. The ländler wasn’t a dance that required the man to hold his partner in his arms, but at one point, Maria moved across the floor with Georg directly behind her, and at exactly the time she reached for his hand, he placed it on her shoulder. Normally matter-of-fact when it came to these things, Madge found herself incredibly moved at the way in which Maria demonstrated that without a second’s hesitation, she knew that her husband would be there for her. At the same time, she found herself thinking about Jem, thinking about how lucky she was to have met him. She looked down at her lap for a second, went to reach for his hand and found him already seeking hers.

Jack took a breath and shakily, let it out. He ached. He hadn’t slept well for weeks. In anyone else, he would have found it fascinating that a person could be so physically affected by emotions. Remembering to breathe again, he silently vowed to have a new sympathy for his patients suffering from non-physical symptoms, and tried to clear his mind for a few minutes to watch the ländler. It was a lovely dance, he admitted, and Maria and Georg danced it beautifully. There was, however, the worrying fact that in a few minutes they would all be learning it. He was fairly certain that he and Jo would have to dance together, and aside from the fact that he wasn’t completely sure that his legs would actually work, the thought that worried him was that it would be the first time they had stood so close together. Their conversation in the hall had illustrated quite clearly how uncomfortable his behaviour over the last few weeks had made her, and he had long since doubted their ability to convince their friends that everything was normal. He glanced over at her. Cross-legged in her armchair, she was wearing another of her unreadable expressions, clearly dreading the next fifteen minutes or so. What if I have to dance with her? A wave of panic hit him, quickly followed by another. What if I don’t?

Across the room, Jem winced at Jack’s discomfort and, for the hundredth time in the last few days, rebuked himself for not having seen it in time to spare him the awkwardness of a weekend in Jo’s company. Aside from inventing some urgent work at the San, all his other plans had involved telling Jack that he knew how he felt, and close friends as they were, Jem did not yet feel equal to that conversation. He looked at Jo. Like Madge, he wasn’t in a position to see her face properly, but one glance at her cross-legged figure told him that she was tense. So far, he had seen little evidence that she returned Jack’s feelings exactly, but there was undoubtedly something between them. 

What Jo needed, he decided, was time. Her entire experience of men as anything other than brother or father figures had been wrapped up in the unwanted presence of Dr Hunter, and Jem knew how much that gentleman had shaken his young sister-in-law. If any man could convince her that was more to love than saccharin sentiment and melodramatic proposals, he thought, it was Jack Maynard. He looked at his wife. Jo had not been the only one upset by Dr Hunter’s attentions, and until he had completely thought it through, he was hesitant to discuss this situation with her. She was watching Georg and Maria dance, a curious far-off expression on her face that reminded him of the day he had stood beside her and, looking down over the Tiern Valley, had slipped a slender sapphire ring onto her finger. He moved to take her hand and found, with a smile, that she met him half way.

The music drew to a close, and the von Trapps finished dancing to the rapturous applause of the assembled party. Georg looked down at his wife and pulled her close for a moment.

“So much has changed since we last danced that,” he said quietly. She said nothing, but smiled up at him, her blue eyes misty. The next moment, however, she sprang into action and began organising everyone into partners, only pausing to mutter a hasty instruction to her husband, “You take Jo. I’ll take Jack”.

For the next half an hour, there was an air of studied concentration in the Salon as the von Trapps explained the different steps making up the ländler and showed their pupils how to link them together. Finally, after a few disjointed attempts, they succeeded in completing the dance with only a few stumbles and stepped-on toes. All in all, Maria, who was dancing with Jack, was very pleased with the progress they had all made. She was also relieved that the young doctor was now looking more relaxed, less likely to jump out of his skin at the slightest provocation. She smiled over at her husband and then looked round the room.

“That was excellent, I’m really very impressed. Shall we dance it one more time?”

Madge glanced at the clock and then at the sleepy girls on the settee.

“Yes, that’s fine by me as long as everyone else is willing. I’d like you girls to go straight up to bed afterwards though.”

Georg set the record again, but instead of returning to Jo, his partner from the previous dance, he approached Jack and Maria.

“Jack, old man, I don’t suppose I could steal your partner could I?”

Jack flushed slightly. “Oh, er, no. Not at all, Georg.” He smiled at Maria, opened his mouth to thank her for the dance, but found that instead of his smile being returned, she was looking at him very intently. Was it his imagination, or had her eyes flicked for a second over to where Jo was standing? Suddenly, he realised what she and Georg had done, but instead of the familiar panic, he realised that he felt nothing but a strange kind of relief. Finally. His smile broadened and he nodded at her.

“Thank you Maria.”

She returned his smile with interest. “You’re welcome, Jack.”

Turning away from the von Trapps, and feeling rather as if he was starting school for the first time, he walked over to Jo.

“May I have this dance, Miss Bettany?”

Never one to shrink from a potentially difficult situation, Jo straightened up and looked him square in the face. 

“Of course you may, Jack.” 

Her eyes were slightly defiant, responding as if he had issued her a challenge, but her voice was quiet. More than anything, the emotion that coursed through her at that moment was relief; relief at the idea that maybe he did not hate her, relief that their friendship could stand a chance of returning to normal.

He reached for her hand in readiness as the little introduction played, and a little shiver ran up her arm. This is the first time he’s held my hand. Except of course, she realised, it was nothing like the first time. He had helped her up the steep, scrambly places on walks, he had taken her temperature on several occasions, he had shaken her hand only that evening. Why then, did this moment feel so different? She turned her attention to remembering the steps and not stepping on his toes, something that was surprisingly easy to achieve. Georg and Maria must have taught them both very well, she thought.

Jack was similarly surprised at how easy he was finding the dance. It was a good few minutes into the dance that he also realised how easy it was to dance with Jo, which confused him. He had thought he knew how she felt about him, which, even though painful, had been strangely comforting. There was no way, he had thought, that Jo Bettany would have even looked at him in that way, especially not given the obvious fact that she had long since regarded him as an older brother. However, the defiant glimmer had faded from her eyes, and the ease of their current situation began to suggest possible outcomes other than his pining for her whilst watching her fall in love with another man.

The dance neared its conclusion, and at the point of the dance where couples faced each other, with their joined hands forming an arc, Jo stopped. Her earlier relief at the idea that Jack might not dislike her had turned into a need to know for certain. One of the childish things that growing up had attempted to quell was her impulsive nature, but all the lectures and remonstrations were forgotten as she took another step forward.

“Jack, do you hate me?” 

Her voice was almost inaudible, and for a second, he was not sure that he had heard her correctly. Resisting the urge to pull her closer and answer her question once and for all in front of everybody, he shook his head slowly.

“Jo, I…that is to say…”

“It’s stopped snowing!” Robin, Lorenz and Amy danced excitedly around the settee, their tiredness forgotten. Through the gap they had left in the curtains, the moon lit a white, frozen world. 

Jack closed his eyes momentarily. When he opened them, he half expected Jo to have sprung to the window, but she still stood in front of him.

“Jack…” He was astonished to see tears in her eyes, and the next moment, all the instincts he had previously dismissed as brotherly came back. He had rarely seen Jo cry, but he could remember that it hurt him more than anything. Aching as he was to have this conversation with her, it was not the time. With a tiny smile, he squeezed her hands tightly before releasing them and turned to the group at the window.

“Will it be fine for a walk tomorrow, do you suppose Jem?”

Friends by Lizzie

Maria woke up the next morning to an unusual brightness in the room. Confused until she remembered the snowfall of the previous day, she sat up in bed and watched flecks of light dancing on the wall as blueish winter sunshine winked through the gaps in the curtains. A glance at her little travel clock revealed that it was at least an hour and a half until Frühstück, but by this time, she was fully awake. Being careful not to wake her sleeping husband, she climbed out of bed and crept across the room to the window, where she parted the curtains and blinked at the bright, sparkly world below her. Last night’s blizzard had been extremely heavy, and now no surface remained unadorned with a white blanket of snow.

Wrapping herself in her dressing gown and tucking her feet under a quilt, she curled up on the window seat with her bible in her lap. She had meant to sit and read a little, inspired by the majesty of the mountains and the silent snowfall, but the next thing she knew was Georg kissing the top of her head.

“Good morning sweetheart.” He sat down next to her and she returned his kiss.

“It really is a good morning. I’m not sure there’s anything more beautiful than a fresh fall of snow and early sunshine. I wanted to sit here and watch everything waking up, but it seems I was a little less awake than I thought I was. What’s the time?”

“Half past seven. Frühstück will be in about half an hour, I think. Are you cold?” He slipped an arm round her shoulders as she shivered slightly. 

“Only a little, just from sitting so still.”

“It was lovely dancing with you last night.”

She looked up at his words and smiled. “It was lovely, wasn’t it? Do you think Jack will forgive us for what we did?”

Georg laughed. “I certainly hope so. He seemed fairly resigned to his fate, don’t you think?”

Maria nodded. “I have to say, I was expecting to be hated and reviled at the time, not thanked.”

“I was as surprised as you were.” He turned from the window to look at his wife, “Do you think there’s a chance for them?”

She nodded again. “I really do. They’re made for each other, Georg, I’m not even sure Jack realises how much. But,” she yawned and uncurled her legs, “that’s as far as our meddling had better go. It’s up to them now.”

On her way downstairs to the Speisesaal , Maria met her hostess crossing the hall from the Salon.

“Good morning Madge!”

“Good morning Maria, I hope you slept well?”

“Very well thank you, isn’t it a glorious day? It makes me want to go out and breathe it all in.”

Madge laughed. “You sound like Jo. Beautiful weather always heightens her dramatic instincts.”

“I can’t blame her.” Maria glanced out of the window where the sun, now fully risen, was shining with all its winter intensity on the snowy garden. “I expect the girls will be itching to get outside.”

“I know. In a way, it’s a shame that this weather didn’t come yesterday, as I suspect that there’s nothing they’d like more than a snowball fight. Never mind, I’ve asked Marie to make Mittagessen a little earlier than normal to leave time for a walk this afternoon.”

“If this weather holds, they could have a snow fight tomorrow. Georg and I were really impressed with the way religious observances are kept at the school, I’m sure none of the girls will be expecting to be allowed to dash about on a Sunday.”

Madge smiled. “Thank you Maria. Oh,” she broke off, suddenly remembering, “I was going to ask you if you would mind taking our Catholic girls this morning for prayers. Normally, we’d have a quiet morning reading, but there are so many girls up here this weekend, we thought we would split them up for a little while as we do at school. Would you mind very much?”

“Not at all. I’m sure Georg would come and help me. Which are the Catholic girls?”

“You will have Robin, Emmie, Lorenz, Maria and Giovanna. Jo and Jem will help me with the Protestant girls, and Jack has said that he’d be happy to come and help you and Georg.”

“Jack?” Maria looked startled. “I’d forgotten he said he was a Catholic. Would she…I wonder…” Maria trailed off until she noticed Madge looking confused. “Sorry Madge, I was miles away. Will we be splitting them up straight after Frühstück?”

Madge nodded. “I think that would be best. And now,” she started towards the Speisesaal, as the sound of feet upstairs indicated that her house guests were on their way down, “we had best make sure that Marie has everything ready.

The morning passed quietly, and by the time Mittagessen was finished, the girls were looking forward to getting out in the fresh air and stretching their legs. None of them had resented their inactivity, but the sun had continued to shine all morning in a cloudless sky, and there had been a few longing glances cast out of the window. Finally though, when the last cups of coffee had been drained, everybody rushed to get ready and were soon standing outside the front door of Die Rosen.

“Do we need snow goggles, Jem?” asked Jo.

Her brother-in-law shook his head. “I don’t think so. The sun has lost a lot of its strength during the day. It’ll be a good few hours before it sets but I don’t think we have to worry about sun blindness. What do you think, Maynard?” He turned to his friend, who was looking out across the valley.

Jack turned to join them. “Sorry, what was that, Jem? Oh, snow blindness. No, I think we could leave the goggles behind.”

Thus reassured, the elder girls took the lead and the party made their way to the wooded end of the garden, where in summer, the smooth lawns gave to longer grass. Several members of the party eyed the trees wistfully, while others made mental notes of the best places for a snow ball fight should they be delayed in returning to school the next day. Presently, they reached a gate in the hedge that led out onto meadowland, and at this point, Jem came up to join them.

“I’ll take the lead here girls, it looks beautifully smooth now, but remember it has over a foot of snow on top of it. I’m not going to risk any of you breaking an ankle today so we’ll go round the edge, please.”

“Where are we going, Doctor Jem?” asked Polly, her cheeks pink from the cold.

“Since we have Robin and Amy with us, we won’t be going terribly far. I thought we’d head up the side of the meadows and loop round through the woods up there on the slopes.”

“Ooh, good!” piped up Evadne, “I love those woods, they always look like a Christmas card in the snow.”

Jem smiled. “Let’s keep moving then. I don’t want to have to dose you all tonight for cold prevention!”

Treading carefully, they worked their way along the side of the meadow, and onto the mountain slopes, where they joined the path that Jem had chosen. The trees grew quite densely here and the snow was not so thick but it was slippery underfoot, causing Madge to send up a silent prayer of thanks that Matron had seen to the packing of the girls’ walking shoes. It was not a steep climb, but the snow made progress slower, and it was a good half an hour before they emerged once again into the dying sunshine. There was silence for a few minutes as the party caught their breath and admired the view to be seen between the trees.

“Look! You can see Die Rosen!” Robin pointed excitedly.

“Yes, Rob, and that roof far away to the left is part of the San,” said Madge. “If we were higher up the mountain, we might be able to see a little of the Tiernsee as well.”

“I love this country.”

Georg’s words were spoken quietly, but seemed somehow to ring across the clearing. They turned to look at him, standing with his arm wrapped tightly around his wife’s waist, and there was quiet again.

“We should really be getting back to the house soon,” said Madge, “The light is beginning to fade.” Reluctantly, they crossed the clearing and Jem found the path that would carry them back to the meadow. Inspired by the snow laden trees and pinkish light, and with the idea of having a moment to herself, Jo hung back at the end of the procession, only to find Jack doing the same thing. There was an embarrassed silence. Beyond politeness at the dinner table, they had not spoken to each other since the previous night, and they both felt only too keenly the need to clear the air. Jo was first to speak.

“Jack, I…I wanted to apologise for my childishness last night. I don’t know what’s been the matter with me this last week or so but I’m just so glad that we can be friends again.” She smiled slightly uncertainly.

Friends. It felt rather as if someone had punched him in the stomach as the foolish hope that he had allowed himself to feel in the last twelve or so hours died abruptly. He returned the smile as best he could, and tried to form a sentence.

“There was no childishness, and it should be me apologising to you if I have made you feel uncomfortable.”

“I’m not sure how you could have done that really, but if you feel the need, then I accept your apology.” Together, they turned to follow the others down the path. Just as they entered the trees once more, Jo paused and, uncharacteristically, could not look him quite in the face.

“I don’t think I realised until yesterday, until we danced, just how important your friendship is to me, Jack.”

He would always remember that moment. It was as if a tiny light had been lit in a darkened room, as his hope flooded back. He didn’t care any longer whether or not the hope was unfounded, all that mattered to him was that the woman he loved was standing opposite him, and she was smiling. He took a step forward, and another, until he was standing closer to her than he ever had before. She opened her mouth as if to say something, and then closed it.

“Jo.”

“Yes?”

He took her hands. “There was never a time when I hated you. There never will be. I…I want you to know that.”

He studied her face anxiously. There was confusion in her eyes, and something like fear, but as she met his gaze again, they disappeared, leaving the clear, steady gaze that he knew so well. 

“Thank you, Jack.”

There was quiet again, and they stood as if frozen in time, the steam from their breath rising around them.

A difficult road by Lizzie

Georg stood on the front porch of his house, a frown on his face. As much as they had relished the weeks spent together, he and Maria had been looking forward to the day when they returned to the children, and yet their very first moments on the sweeping gravel drive had been marred by the sight of the huge red, black and white flag hung above the door. Maria glanced up at her husband, and saw his jaw tighten in anger.

“Detweiler...” He muttered.

“Surely Max hasn’t had anything to do with this?”

“We’ll see.”

“I’ll go and see if Frau Schmidt needs a hand with the unpacking.” Maria tried to keep the tremble out of her voice, but Georg heard it and pulled her close, kissing her on the forehead.

“I’m sorry darling, this is just not the welcome I had hoped for. Do go and see Frau Schmidt if you want, but don’t be long, the children will be home any moment now.”

She smiled up at him and started inside. “All right. Oh, Georg…” she turned on the top step.

“Yes?”

“Take it down before they see it.”

It was while he was ripping up the swastika that the car containing his children swung through the gates. Hurriedly, he bundled it up and went to meet them, hearing footsteps behind him that indicated that Maria had heard the car too. The children were ecstatic to see their father and new mother again, and crowded around them, all talking at once. When they gone off to the veranda in search of their presents, Georg went inside with Max, Maria and Liesl, where Max continued in his quest to let the von Trapp children sing at the Salzburg Folk Festival that night.

“Georg, this is for Austria.”

“For Austria?” Georg looked hard at his friend and turned to go into his study. “There is no Austria!”

“But the Anschluss was peaceful, let’s at least be grateful for that.”

Grateful?” Georg spun round. “You know, Max…sometimes I don’t believe I know you.”

Maria was frozen with panic. She had never seen such a look of anger on her husband’s face, and wasn’t completely sure that he wasn’t about to strike his old friend. She was therefore incredibly relieved when Liesl remembered the letter that Rolf had given her earlier that day and ran forward.

“Father, I forgot, this is for you.”

With one last glance at Max, Georg went into his study to read the letter. A few minutes later, he reappeared and went to find his wife. She knew before he opened his mouth that he had calmed down over his dispute with Max, but that something else was wrong.

“What is it?” She asked tentatively.

“Berlin.” He could hardly look at her. “They’ve offered me a commission in their Navy. I’ve been requested to accept immediately and report to their naval base at Bremerhaven tomorrow.”

Maria took a deep breath, and once again, concentrated on keeping the fear out of her voice. “I knew something like this would happen. I didn’t think it would be so soon.”

“To refuse them would be fatal for all of us…and joining them would be…unthinkable.” He pulled her close again and kissed her, searching for a way out of this dilemma which threatened to engulf them completely. Making up his mind about it was the hardest thing he had ever had to do, but with an almost visible shudder, he spoke again.

“Get the children together. Don’t say anything to make them worry, just get them ready. We’ve got to get out of Austria…and this house…tonight.”

The seconds they stood there in silence felt like years, but suddenly Maria gasped.

“Oh Georg! The Chalet School! We must let them know that we won’t be able to send the girls now. Madge will be expecting a message in the next few days.”

Georg shook his head. “No. Telegrams can be intercepted, and the same goes for letters. No, we mustn’t give anyone the idea that we are leaving. Maybe once we are safely over the border, we can send them word. Don’t worry darling,” Maria had finally given in to tears, and he wrapped his arms around her, “It’s not going to be an easy few weeks, but we’ll get through it. Together.”

Maria wiped her eyes. “It just seems so wrong, Georg. The Chalet School felt so perfect for the girls, I can’t believe that our plans have gone awry so soon.”

“I know.” They started towards the veranda, where whoops and shrieks indicated that the children had found their presents. “But if it goes the way I fear it will, Austria will become an extremely unsafe place to have such a multi-national school. Even the Tyrol will no longer be such a safe haven, and I can’t believe that Jem and Madge won’t be considering moving the school at some point soon.”

“Do you really think so?” Maria turned startled eyes to her husband.

He nodded, gravely. “I do. We have a difficult road ahead of us, darling, but so does the Chalet School, and we must just pray to God that they get out in time…”


There was a knock on Jem’s office door. Engrossed in the pile of paperwork on his desk, he didn’t hear it until it was repeated a few moments later.

“Come in!”

The door opened to reveal Jack, who took one look at his friend and laughed.

“I was wondering why you hadn’t returned my phone call. Is there anything I can do?”

Jem looked stricken. “Why? What time is it?” He checked the clock and started. “Goodness, I can’t believe how fast the afternoon has flown! I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you, Jack, I assume that you can come to dinner this evening?”

Jack nodded. “I was coming to tell you that I had finished for the day and could walk across with you, but it looks like you might be some time.”

“No, I’ve been struggling with it all afternoon. I’ll take some of it home and have another look tomorrow morning.” As he spoke, Jem stood and began sorting the mess on his desk into piles, the thickest of which he placed in his briefcase.

The sun had not long set, but the first stars were appearing high over head in the darkening sky when they left the Sanatorium ten minutes later. 

“Have you heard from the von Trapps?” asked Jack as they set off in the direction of Die Rosen.

Jem shook his head grimly. “No.”

“Really?” Jack was surprised. “Aren’t they thinking of sending their daughters to the Chalet School?”

“They are. Or were. Obviously, they weren’t going to make any definite decisions without speaking to the girls, but when they left, Maria said that they would be in touch within days of their arrival home. On Monday, it will be three weeks since they were expected home.”

“Three weeks? And absolutely no word?”

Jem shook his head again. “No. And I can’t believe that they’ve forgotten, either. Those children are so precious to them, and it was obvious how excited they were to find a school where they could see the girls thriving.”

“What do you think has happened?”

“I’m not sure. Georg was a very prominent Captain in the Imperial Navy before his retirement, and I suppose it’s possible that he’s been called up. He is, however, a very proud Austrian, and I know how violently he opposes the change going on in this country. If that is the case, his decision, whatever it is, will have enormous repercussions.”

There was silence for a moment, as they remembered the snowy walk and the Captain’s quiet words about his country. Then Jack spoke.

“Does Madge know about this?”

“Yes, I’ve discussed it with her. She agrees with me that it must be more than a simple case of forgetting to get in touch, but we’ve agreed to keep it from the children, and from the girls at the school. What with the move up to the Sonnalpe, the staff have more than enough to contend with without having to deal with hysteria brought on by over-imaginative little girls. You know what some of them are like.”

Jack nodded his agreement. “And Jo? Does she know?”

Jem glanced at his friend. Since the von Trapps’ visit, he had noticed that awkward and tense atmospheres no longer characterised family meals at which Dr Maynard was present. He was glad of that, and might have come to the conclusion that he had been wrong about his friend’s feelings for his sister-in-law if he did not know both Jack and Jo so very well. It was precisely this fact that spurred him on to finally broach the subject.

“Are you going tell her?”

“Jo? Tell her about Georg and Maria?” His mind still on the subject of the von Trapps, Jack looked confused.

“No, I meant are you going to tell her how you feel about her?”

Jack stopped dead in his tracks, a look of utter horror on his face, and Jem instantly regretted putting his question so bluntly.

“I’m sorry, Jack, that was unfair. It’s none of my business.”

“How…I mean…how did you…did I…Jo…does she…” Jack stammered.

“I started wondering about it a few months ago, when you seemed so distant and started making excuses to avoid spending time with her. I haven’t spoken to anyone about it, Jack, least of all Jo. I wouldn’t do that to you.”

Jack found his voice. “I’m so sorry, Jem.”

“Sorry? Why on earth would you be sorry?”

Jack breathed out shakily. “I was so worried that you’d remember all the times you left me alone with Jo, and think that I engineered it that way. I haven’t talked to her about how I feel and I won’t. Not if you don’t want me to.”

They had reached a point in the path which afforded a view of the Tiernsee, sparkling in the light of the full moon that now appeared  as the sky grew darker. They stopped for a moment and looked at the view in silence. Then Jem spoke.

“So you do…I mean, you do feel something for her?”

“I’m in love with her.” Jack’s answer was quiet, but definite. “I wasn’t always, and I don’t know when it changed, I think I just started noticing her in a different way, not as a friend…” He paused, “I’m not making any sense.”

“No, I understand. To be honest, Jack, I’m not surprised that you feel the way you do about her. I’ve had a while to think about it and I can’t imagine that anyone could make her happier than you.” Jack turned to him in astonishment as Jem continued. “I can also see how difficult it must have been for you to reconcile the woman you know now with the school girl you knew before.”

Jack nodded slowly. This was not the conversation that he would have expected on a walk home from the San, and yet it was so good to finally say the things he’d been feeling for so long. Uncomfortable though it was, he was so grateful to Jem for broaching the subject, but was still taken aback by the next question.

“So what are you going to do?”

Jack opened his mouth, preparing to say something stumblingly non-committal when he caught Jem’s eye. Although he had never said as much, Jack knew that his friend had come to think of Jo as a daughter as well as a sister-in-law, and only slightly less than his fear of losing Jo’s friendship over this had been his fear of losing Jem’s. In his nightmares, he had imagined Jem lashing out at him, furiously engineering his redundancy. Now, in his friend’s eyes, all Jack saw was genuine curiosity. He really wanted to know. He really cared.

He took a deep breath. “I want to ask her to marry me.”

Jem frowned. “You say that as if something is stopping you. Why don’t you ask her?”

“Well…” Jack began slowly, “I don’t think that now is the right time. There is so much change in the air, so much to worry about. That’s one thing that is stopping me. The other thing…” he looked uncertainly at his companion, “…is you.”

“Me?” It was Jem’s turn to stop dead in the middle of the road.

“Yes, you. I know she’s a grown woman now, but I also know that you are the closest thing that Jo has had to a father since her parents died. Asking her to marry me wouldn’t feel right unless I had your permission.”

They continued walking in silence for a few more minutes, both deep in thought. Soon, Die Rosen could be seen among the trees, and at the gate, Jem stopped and turned to his friend.

“Jack, Jo’s not my daughter, and you don’t need my permission to ask her to marry you.” Jack started to protest, but he interrupted him, “…but I’ve worried for her, and bandaged her, and scolded her and loved her since she was twelve. She’s no more my daughter than you are my brother, and you don’t need my permission but I’m giving it to you anyway.”

Jack smiled and let out another shaky breath. He held out his hand, and Jem shook it warmly.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” They went through the gate and up towards the house, where it was warm, and where Abendessen would be almost ready.

“Look after her.”

Standing in the light of the front porch, with his hand outstretched to knock on the door, Jack turned to look at his friend and smiled.

“I will, Jem.”

Part II: A solid lump of comfort by Lizzie
Author's Notes:

This is where the story begins to fill in the gaps in Exile. Any text in bold is EBD's just so you can see where it fits in case it's not immediately obvious. For any people not overly familiar with Exile (Hard to imagine, I know, but humour me), the first section comes after Hilary and Robin have disappeared while playing a game of hide and seek for the benefit of a watching German spy when they were really hiding the Chalet School Peace League in a cave, and the second comes a few hours later, after they have returned to Die Rosen...

 

“Then – then – oh, where are Robin and Hilary? Jack, I can’t bear it!” And half-fainting, Jo collapsed in the strong arms holding her, with tearless sobs.

Cornelia and Evadne looked at their friend in horror. They had seen Jo frustrated, seen her furious, even seen her sad. This girl in the arms of Doctor Maynard was a Jo they had not yet met, and the distress and despair in her voice frightened them. As if the situation were not already urgent enough, this last act of Jo’s galvanised Jack into action. Tightening his grip on Jo, and turning slightly to shield her from view, he addressed the girls who stood, motionless beside the stone cairn.

“Evvy, Corney, go back through the cave and find Jeanne. Is her torch still working?”

Evadne nodded, producing it from her pocket and switching it on.

Jack smiled weakly. “Good. Walk slowly and carefully, and don’t forget that the passage slopes downwards.”

With a last, anxious glance at Jo, the girls obeyed Jack, and carefully made their way back to the mouth of the cave, where Jeanne was keeping a stern eye on a very sleepy Hermann.

As their footsteps echoed through the passage, Jack turned his attention to Jo, who still clung to him. His immediate instinct was to pick her up and carry her back to where the rest of the party were waiting, but having seen Cornelia and Evadne’s reaction to Jo’s outburst, he was reluctant to upset them further.

“Jo?” Glancing down at what he could see of her face, he was relieved to see that her shaking had ceased, but was still privately alarmed by her lack of colour. She turned her head to look at him as he said her name, but did not pull away.

“What am I going to tell Madge?” Her voice was dull, and she closed her eyes as a look of intense pain crossed her face.

This was too much for Jack. Releasing her from his grip, he instead took her face in both hands. Her eyes flew open and met his as spoke urgently to her.

“Jo, you must stop this. I know…I know how the situation looks. I know it looks bad but you must calm down. I don’t know what has happened to Hilary and Rob, and I can’t promise you that everything is going to be all right, but I’m not leaving you and we’re going to find out together. Do you understand me, Joey?”

Silently, she stared up at him. He placed his hands on her shoulders and brought his face level with hers.

“Do you understand, sweetheart? I’m not leaving you until we know where they are. I’m not going anywhere.”

She nodded, her eyes never leaving his. 

“Good.” Wrapping his arms round her, he pulled her close again.

After a moment, he spoke again. “It’s getting cold, Jo, we must go and find the others. Can you walk with me?”

At that exact moment, the only thought in Jo’s mind was how strong she felt in Jack’s arms. Mustering her renewed strength, she nodded.

“I think so.”

Relieved, he smiled. “I’m glad. I didn’t really want to appear at the mouth of the cave carrying you, not that I’m especially worried about that little wretch Hermann, but Corney and Evvy are frightened enough already.”

He let go of her and, switching on his torch again, was about to lead her back through the cave when she spoke again.

“Jack…I…”

He spun round, anxiously checking for signs of her faintness returning. “Yes?”

“I never realised…I mean, I didn’t know…”

She stood looking up at him uncertainly in the dim light, but to Jack it seemed that the tiny spark that had been lit in him on that snowy walk all those months ago was flooding the whole cave. Smiling down at her again, he drew her close for a second, and, kissing her forehead, interrupted her.

“Sshh…It’s all right, sweetheart. We’ll talk about this later. Right now,” He kept his arm around her shoulder as they started to make their way back through the passage, “We must concentrate on finding Hilary and Rob.”


So it was that, when a distraught Jo was nearly carried into the house by Jack Maynard two hours later, she was greeted with the news that the Robin was fast asleep in her own bed. The shock was too much for Joey. She gave a funny little gasp, and would have fallen but for the young doctor’s arm which was still encircling her. He lifted her, laid her on a couch, and speedily brought her round.

Jo came to herself, to find that she was lying on the settee in the salon at Die Rosen, with Madge hovering anxiously round, and Jack Maynard holding her closely to him. For no particular reason she buried her head on his shoulder, and began to weep even more bitterly than a terrified Hermann was doing at the other side of the room. Madge would have tried to console her; but Jack Maynard gave her a shock. 

Holding Joey very tightly to him, he said in tones there was no mistaking, “Never mind, my darling. It’s all over, and Robin is safe. Just cry it all out and you’ll feel better.”

And before the stunned Madge could gasp out any ejaculation, Joey sobbed, “Oh Jack – what a – solid lump – of comfort – you are!”

Given what had just happened, given what she had just said to Jack in front of her sister, the silence that followed Madge’s closing of the salon door should have been, Jo reflected, extremely awkward. She thought of all the uncomfortable silences she and Jack had endured and, as she now realised, created. She remembered the unnecessarily formal greetings, the overly polite exchanges over the breakfast table, the stilted conversation for conversation’s sake when placed next to each other at dinner. She had been at a loss to explain why their friendship had changed, or indeed, why it had changed again in the weeks after the von Trapps’ departure, and yet that afternoon, she had discovered the real cause. Standing in the cave, terrified for Robin and Hilary, and with Jack’s arms round her, she had begun to realise how she felt about him. 

How did this happen? She had not the faintest idea of how to answer that question. Until that moment on the hillside, she had thought of Jack as a chess partner, a walking companion, a perfect substitute brother in Dick’s absence, and yet she had clung to him, she had fainted into his arms, and then, without finding out for sure what he felt about her, she had blurted out the phrase that had been going round and round in her head all afternoon. And if the situation were not already fraught with potential embarrassment, she had done all of this in front of Madge. Yes, thought Jo, this silence should be extremely uncomfortable, and yet…

“It’s not awkward, is it?” Jack interrupted her train of thought, effectively reading her mind. Startled out of her reverie, she sat up, shifting on the settee cushions so she could look him in the eye. He looked back at her gravely, but there was a smile in the corner of his mouth.

“Jack, what are we…I mean…”

“Jo.” His voice had a different, more purposeful tone.

“Yes?”

“I’m in love with you.”

Her eyes widened, but she stayed silent, so he continued, sliding his arm further round her and pulling her to him. “I’ve loved being your friend, Jo, I really have, but this last year or so, I’ve realised that that’s not good enough for me. I know that this may not be the right time, and I know that you may not feel the same way, but I want more than walks and games of chess and discussions about books. I want you, Joey.” His voice caught as he spoke these last words, and her eyes slowly filled with tears.

“Really?” Her voice was so soft that, close as he was, he had to lean in even further to hear her. “Do you really?”

For answer, he lowered his head and kissed her.

Self-possessed and stoical as she was, this did nothing for Jo’s already emotional state. As Jack ended the kiss and pulled back a little, he was aghast to see tears running down her cheeks. 

“Sweetheart,” With great self control, he removed his hands from her hair, placing them instead on her shoulders, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong? Please don’t cry.”

She shook her head, laughing through her tears. “I’m fine. Really. You just took me by surprise.”

“So…you weren’t objecting to being kissed?” 

His concern was swept away by the smile that she gave him and her next words. “No, Jack. I wasn’t.” She paused, searching for words she had never used. “I…I think I love you too.”

“In that case,” He took her face gently in both hands. “I’d like to kiss you again, please.”

A few minutes later, Jack spoke again.

“Jo?”

“Mmm?” 

“Marry me?”

How did this happen? She was no nearer to answering this question, but there were arms around her, arms that had been waiting for her for longer than even their owner realised. And now, she was being offered a chance to stay with them forever. How it happened suddenly didn’t seem very important.

“I…Jack, I…”

“Jo.”

He interrupted her again, brushing her hair away from her face, wiping away a tear with his thumb.

“Yes?”

“For a writer, you don’t finish many of your sentences, do you?” He laughed at her outraged expression, drawing a shaky breath as he felt her arms tighten around him.

“Ask me again.”

“All right,” He shifted slightly so he could look her in the eye. “Will you marry me, Jo?”

“Yes.” Her answer came immediately, her smile acknowledging his surprise at what they had just decided.

“How did this happen?” The question was voiced almost at the exact moment he thought it. Jo smiled again.

“I’m not sure, exactly.”

“I don’t have a ring to give you.”

Jo sighed distractedly. “Yes, that is a problem. We shall have to call it all off…” Her words were cut off as he caught her in his arms again and laughing, she submitted to another kiss.


“But what are we to do, Jem? It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just our own children to worry about, but there’s the school to consider as well.”

“I know.” Jem looked at his wife, who was pacing distractedly before the window in his study. “Yesterday’s exploits on the mountain have complicated things further as well. At least everyone’s safely up here on the Platz. I feel a lot better for that, at any rate.” He paused. “Do come and sit down, you’ll tire yourself out and wear a hole in the carpet.” So saying, he caught her hand as she passed, pulling her down to sit next to him on the window seat.

Madge sighed and leaned against her husband, who looked down at her with a frown. Concern for her charges was part of her job and was entirely understandable, but anxious as she was about them, he was just as anxious about her. Jo had always been the more delicate of the sisters but recently, it had been her older sister who had blueish smudges under her eyes and a diminished appetite.

“Are you all right darling?”

“I’m fine.” She looked up at him and smiled. “Really, Jem, I am. Honestly, when I think of what some of our friends are going through, our situation just pales in comparison, doesn’t it?”

Jem looked down at her thoughtfully. “I know what you mean, but that doesn’t mean that you should run yourself ragged. I know you want to help Hilda and the staff as much as possible, but you’ll be no help to anyone if you carry on like this.” Reaching for her wrist, he felt her pulse. Madge watched him for a moment, smiling at his concentration.

“Everything all right?” She asked a minute later.

“Fine.” He slipped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m just going to be keeping an eye on you, Mrs Russell.”

The telephone rang, and Jem crossed the room to his desk and answered it.

“Hello?...fine, thanks, and you?...good, good…yes…” He listened for a moment, a smile slowly creeping across his face. “Right, will do, I’ll just go and summon her.” He placed the receiver on the table and went out into the hall.

“Jo!”

“Yes?” 

“Telephone for you in my study.”

“Coming!”

Puzzled, Madge waited until they had left Jo in the study before turning to her husband.

“Who is it on the ‘phone?”

Jem grinned. “Maynard, of course, who else?”

 “Jo and Jack.” Madge laughed, shaking her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. It’s wonderful, of course, but it’s going to take some getting used to…”

“Is Jack able to come for Abendessen this evening?” Madge looked up from her book as Jo entered the salon a few minutes later. Jo coloured ever so slightly, and straightened the photograph frames on the mantelpiece, frustrated at the lack of nonchalance she was able to muster at the mention of her fiancé.

“Er, no, he has work to finish at the San that will take him until at least twenty o’clock.” She paused, seeming to choose her words carefully before continuing. “I might go and meet him for a little walk later though. If that doesn’t disrupt anyone’s plans for the evening” she added quickly.

Madge smiled. “No, seeing as my plans consist of finishing that dress for Sybs, and maybe reading a few chapters of my new book, I see no reason why your going for a walk with Jack should affect that. Except…” she stopped.

“Except…” Jo prompted her, eyebrows raised questioningly.

Madge looked slightly sheepish. “I was going to remind you to take a warmer jacket than the one you were wearing earlier. Don’t listen to me though, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Jo looked hard at her for a minute. Then, she crossed the room and perched on the arm of Madge’s chair. “You’re a dear.” She murmured, slipping an arm round her sister’s neck and dropping a kiss on the top of her head.


“Jack…Jack?” Receiving no answer from her fiancé for a second time, Jo sighed loudly and nudged him. “Hey.”

Jack started, and almost fell off the log they were sitting on. For a moment, he stared at her, and looked down to where he held her hand, then back up to her face which was, by now, expressing extreme bemusement. Righting himself in time to prevent an ungraceful descent into a bush, he laughed and tightened his grip on her hand.

“I have to stop doing that.”

“Doing what?”

“Forgetting about yesterday afternoon.”

Jo drew herself up. “Was it that memorable?” she asked, fixing him with her best Middle-quelling glare.

“Now that you mention it, it was, fairly.” He grinned, and letting go of her hand, slid his arm round her shoulders. “I couldn’t forget something as important as that and I hope I never do. I just keep thinking that I’m about to wake up and find that yesterday never happened.”

“So I suppose it must be rather a shock to find that it did, and that you did ask me, and that I said yes.”

“A shock?” He looked down at her thoughtfully, before lowering his head towards hers, “Not exactly.”

“How did Madge take the news?” Jack asked a little while later, as they started to walk slowly back towards Die Rosen. 

Jo looked confused. “You were there, if I recall. She’s very happy for us both, Jem and Rob too.”

“I know what she said then, I was just worried that given time to think about it, she might come to the conclusion that I’m not good enough for her little sister OW!” he jumped away from her, rubbing his ribs, “What was that for?”

Jo laughed. “You worry too much, Maynard. Given the fact that I always swore I’d never marry, I think she was a little surprised to learn of our engagement, but she really is happy for both of us.”

“I knew she would be really, but there are elements of this last twenty-four hours which are still a little surreal to me, and telling your sister I’d just asked you to marry me was definitely one of them. So,” he squeezed her hand and she looked up at him, “We’ve told Jem, Madge and Rob. Who are we going to tell next?”

“Well,” said Jo slowly, “I was thinking about this earlier, and I don’t think we should tell anyone until Juliet has married Donal. They’ve had such a long engagement, and it wouldn’t be fair to cause a stir just before their wedding. Do you mind?” she looked anxiously at him.

Jack smiled and shook his head. “I understand. You’re right, it would be hard on Juliet, given the outcry that I’m fairly sure is going to follow our announcement. We’ll wait until after the wedding then, and I’ll hold off giving you your ring, too. It would be just like Corney or Evvy to spot it on your finger and then it’d be round the school in a matter of hours.”

“Hours? Minutes would be more accurate!” Jo laughed, and then stopped. “Wait, my ring? You already have it?”

“Maybe.”

Jack was saved from further interrogation by a helpful break in the trees, affording a magnificent view of the valley in the twilight. The sky was clear and still pinkish, although the sun was long set, and the moon was reflected perfectly in the Tiernsee. They drew a collective breath at its loveliness, and were quiet for a few minutes.

Jo gave a little laugh. “Standing here with you reminds me of that walk we all took when Maria and Georg were visiting. It seems like an age ago, doesn’t it?”

“In some ways, it feels like just yesterday.”

“Really? Why?”

He paused, not sure how to answer her question, and cast his mind back to that moment and remembered his cold feet, the fading light, the steam from their breath, the tiny spark of hope. “It was the first time, the first real time I realised that I might have a chance with you.” He said simply.

Jo said nothing, but took his face in her hands, and smiling at his surprise, kissed him.

 

A Wedding by Lizzie

 

“Botheration!”

Juliet Carrick stood before the full length mirror, wearing her wedding dress. Simply cut, with a wide neck and flared sleeves, it clung to her gently, falling away at the hip. Her fair hair was gathered in a loose knot with a circlet of dark greenery, and at her throat she wore a string of tiny pearls. In the soft morning light flooding through the windows, she looked quite a picture, or would have done if she had not been craning over backwards in an attempt to see the back of the dress. She was still engaged in this activity when she was interrupted.

“Ah, the ever elegant Miss Carrick prepares for her wedding day.”

Juliet started, and then grimaced in the direction of the door, where one of her bridesmaids stood, leaning against the wall and grinning in a maddening fashion.

“Don’t just stand there, Josephine, come and help me! There’s something wrong at the back and I can’t see properly.”

Jo crossed the room, and stood behind her friend. “It’s all right, there’s just a ribbon twisted. There,” she said, smoothing it back into place, “Better?”

Juliet breathed a sigh of relief and nodded. “Yes, thank you. Was that all that was wrong? It felt like there was a piece missing, or sewn on upside down or something.” She took another deep breath and stepped forward to the mirror to look at her reflection. After a moment’s pause, her eyes moved from her hair and dress to the steady gaze of her adopted sister, who still stood behind her. Jo knew that look, and wrapping her arms around Juliet’s waist, kissed her on the cheek, resting her chin on her shoulder.

“You look beautiful, Ju. Really.”

Juliet laughed. “You always did know what I needed to hear.” Gently breaking free from Jo’s clasp, she moved to the window and looked down at the garden at Die Rosen. “It’s not that I’m worried about marrying Donal, because I’ve been looking forward to this day for months and months. It’s just…” she trailed off vaguely.

“…so important?” suggested Jo.

Juliet turned to her, a slightly confused expression on her face. “Yes,” she said slowly, “That’s exactly what I was going to say. I don’t want to forget any of it, and I don’t want to make a mess of it. I just want it to be…”

“…perfect?”

Juliet’s expression went from mystification to down-right suspicion. “Yes. Perfect.” She checked the clock on the dressing table and, her face still registering confusion, changed the subject. “We have a good twenty minutes before the cars will be here. Take my mind off things, Joey, tell me again how uncomfortable your dress is, and how I’ll never catch you wearing one like mine!”

Jo flushed at the memory of the dress fitting almost a year previously, where she had reduced Juliet and Madge to hysterical giggles by railing against the unfairness of being forced into a bridesmaids dress and being required to stay in it all day. She crossed to the chair by the door to check that the fastenings on Juliet’s suitcase were secure.

“I was a silly kid then.” She said, once her back was safely turned.

Juliet turned and directed a look of frank astonishment at her adopted sister’s back. Something had changed in that young lady in the months since the speech that had been fairly representative of her views on feminine elegance and, though she hadn’t said so in so many words of the institution of marriage. Juliet knew better than to interrogate, but as Jo found something else on the other side of the room with which to busy herself, her mind was racing.

If only I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the mumps outbreak at the Annexe, and then the wedding, I might have seen it. What can have happened? Lost in thoughts, she didn’t hear the feet racing up the stairs and was startled by a knock on the door.

“Come in!”

Jem entered, looking very much the part of stand-in father in his dark morning suit. At the same time, Jo, standing at the window gave a shout.

“Oh, the cars are here! They’re a bit early, aren’t they?”

“Only by ten minutes or so.” Jem crossed the room and, taking Juliet’s hands, kissed her on the cheek. “Juliet, my dear, you look lovely.” He turned to glance at Jo. “Are you two ready? Madge will go in the first car with the children, and Robin will go with her to make sure that everyone arrives at the church looking as respectable as possible.”

Juliet nodded. “That makes sense. Will Grizel be coming with us, then?”

“Yes, she’s downstairs keeping a beady eye on young Rix until departure. He was found in the kitchen making eyes at a plate of cakes and isn’t to be trusted for the rest of the day. Would you run down and make sure that everyone’s absolutely ready, Jo?”

Jo nodded, and with a fleeting grin at the pair of them, dashed from the room and was soon heard thundering downstairs.

Juliet laughed. “Poor Rix! He never can resist cake, can he?” She glanced at herself in the mirror once more, smoothing her dress. Then, she turned and spoke impulsively. “Jem, thank you for doing this today. And…and…thank you for everything you and Madge have done for me. For giving me a home and a family and…” She trailed off.

Jem smiled, and gave her a careful hug. “It has been our pleasure, and as for my role today, it is an honour. Now, let’s go down and see if Rix has wilted under the combined gaze of Grizel and Jo!”

At the mention of her friend, Juliet remembered. “Oh, before we get downstairs, I wanted to ask you if you’ve noticed Jo acting strangely. I can’t put my finger on it, but something is different.”

Jem smiled. Jo’s engagement wasn’t exactly a secret, but he approved of her reluctance to tell anyone until after Juliet’s wedding. He knew too, that Jo didn’t want her friend to return from honeymoon to find it old news, and was planning to tell her quietly at the end of the day.

“She’s fine, Juliet, don’t worry about her.”

Any further response to this cryptic statement was cut short by Robin, who came to bring the message that the first car was about to leave. Juliet took up her bouquet of orange blossom and shining greenery and, taking a last glance around the room, went downstairs arm-in-arm with Jem.


“Elizabeth Arnett, if you do not want to be taken straight back to the school, I suggest you stop wriggling around like a monkey and sit quietly.” So saying, Hilary Burn leant forwards in her pew and placed a hand on that young lady’s shoulder, making her start guiltily.

“We’ve been waiting ever such a long time, Hilary, has something happened do you think?”

“Ooh, yes,” Biddy O’Ryan turned round, “Maybe they’ve had a flat tyre and Juliet is having to walk from Die Rosen with Dr Russell.”

Hilary regarded their cheeky faces with scorn. “Don’t be ridiculous, you two. How would it look if the bride arrived to walk down the aisle while everyone was still finding their seats? We have been in the church for precisely…” Hilary checked her watch, “…twelve minutes, and the wedding isn’t even supposed to be starting for another ten. Turn around and sit still. You may talk quietly if you like, but for goodness sake stop that fidgeting.”

Thus admonished, the pair turned back in their pew just as the first car arrived containing Madge, Robin and the members of the Die Rosen nursery considered old enough to witness their Aunt Juliet getting ‘weddinged’, as Rix had pronounced that morning to great effect.

Madge took the children to find their seats between Nell Wilson and Hilda Annersley, and by the time she had returned to join Robin in the vestibule of the church, the second car had pulled up, and the passengers were carefully disembarking. Madge sprang forward to help Juliet with her dress, and Grizel, as chief bridesmaid, turned to Jo and Robin to make sure that their dresses had survived the car journey, and that they all had their bouquets. At the same time, Jack Maynard came through from the church.

“Everyone is seated, so we can start when you’re all ready.”

“Jack?” Juliet laughed in her confusion. “What ever are you doing? I didn’t know you were an Usher!”

“I had the job thrust upon me about two hours ago, when Donal learnt that one of his cousins…Fergal, is it?...had sprained his ankle and wasn’t going to be able to perform his duties adequately. Not,” he said with a little bow, “that it is anything but a great pleasure to be a part of your wedding, Miss Carrick.”

“Thank you Jack,” Juliet bestowed a kiss on Dr Maynard’s cheek, “I’m glad you’re part of this too.”

“If you’re ready, I’ll go and take my seat.” Madge gave Juliet a kiss. “All the happiness in the world, darling.”

“Thank you Madge,” Juliet’s eyes grew a little misty, “and thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I hope you’ll all come and visit us when we’re settled.”

Madge went through to take her seat, and Jack followed her to give the word to the organist. On his way, he brushed his hand against Jo’s, who, while looking elegant in her white dress, was standing with her hands characteristically clasped behind her back. She started and gave a funny noise somewhere between a cough and a laugh, causing Robin to enquire if she had hiccups, and Grizel to search for a handkerchief for her. Only Juliet, standing next to the now rather sheepish Miss Bettany had seen what had happened, and her eyes widened. She glanced across at Jem, who smiled back at her and nodded his head ever so slightly. She had no time to digest this information, however, for the next moment, he was organising everyone into their places as the music swelled from within the church, and she took his arm to walk up the aisle, where Donal O’Hara was waiting for her.

As the music rose, there was a stir of anticipation in the congregation as everyone stood, some craning to see Juliet’s entrance. Standing in his place with the other ushers, Jack’s outwardly calm appearance belied his frustration. Quite simply, he was furious with himself. In the last week or so, it had been pretty near impossible for him to spend any time alone with Jo, due to the wedding preparations and the influx of people who didn’t know about their engagement. They had seen each other, of course, but on those occasions, had been obliged to reinstate their old brother-and-sister relationship, a state of affairs that neither relished very much at all.  Unless he was very much mistaken, Juliet had seen him touch Jo’s hand, had seen her reaction and, being an intelligent girl, had made the appropriate conclusions. If she was unable to concentrate on her own wedding because of his stupidity…he clenched his hands into tight fists and stared straight ahead.

Happily, he needn’t have worried. It is true that the revelation had momentarily robbed Juliet of breath, but seeing this, Jem waited until Grizel, Robin and Jo had started making their way up the aisle and took advantage for the thirty seconds they were alone in the vestibule.

“Speak to Jo about this later, she was going to tell you later this afternoon anyway. Seriously, Juliet,” he interrupted her as she opened her mouth to speak, “She will never forgive herself if you give this anything less than your full concentration because of her, she and Jack haven't told anyone yet because they don't want to take any attention from you and Donal today.”

Juliet smiled. “How lovely. And how like Jo! But...Jem!...Jo and Jack!!” She gave him one last astonished look, and shook herself. “You're right, this is too important to give it half a mind, I'll speak to her later.”

“I'm glad,” Jem smiled, “because we really should be going, or they'll be mustering a search party.” With that, he stepped from the vestibule and escorted his ward up the aisle, past the smiling faces of friends and family. At the front of the church, he relinquished her arm, and any lingering thoughts of Jo and Jack vanished as she met the gaze of her fiancé. From that moment, the ceremony seemed to fly by, and though her mind had been entirely focussed, it was with only the vaguest recollection of vows and registers that Juliet O'Hara stepped into the sunshine with her husband to meet a positive hail of rose petals.


“I simply can't believe it, Joey!” Juliet paused in the act of brushing her hair, and turned at her dressing table to look at her friend, who was perched on the window seat.

Jo flushed a little, but smiled. “It is a fairly strange idea,” she admitted, “I know I've always been fairly vehemently against change. I think I always thought that my life would somehow be over when I left school, but I was wrong. Maria von Trapp had her future all planned out, and it took her a while to see that there was another life that she was made for. She didn't give up anything of herself when she married Georg, but she gained such a tremendous amount. I didn't realise that she'd taught me that until a few weeks ago, but now that I think about it, I can see that it's been staring me in the face for years. Madge and Jem, Frieda and Bruno, Marie and Eugen, you and Donal...” she paused, and went to stand behind her adopted sister, “It's a new beginning, isn't it? A new chapter.”

“Yes,” Juliet gripped Jo's hand, “you're right, Joey.” She stood up and hugged her friend. “I'm so glad that you've discovered that, and I wish you and Jack nothing but the very greatest happiness, darling.”

There was knock on the door, and the groom entered, now attired in grey flannel.

“You look more comfortable,” said his wife, turning to Jo, “Honestly Jo, you should have heard him complain about the collar on his morning suit. It was not dissimilar to the argument you put forward about your bridesmaid’s dress last year!”

Donal grinned, rolled his eyes in Jo’s direction, kissed Juliet and dextrously changed the subject. 

“Nearly ready?” he enquired, “I don’t want to pull up at the station just as the train leaves, especially as the next one isn’t for another hour and a half.”

“Yes,” Juliet glanced quickly round the room, “I think I have everything, and I’ve said goodbye to everyone except Grizel, Rob, Madge and Jem.”

“Fine. I’ll take your bags down to the car while you make your goodbyes. Well Joey,” he crossed to where that young lady was standing, and gave her a kiss, “You make sure you come and visit us soon.”

“I will, Donal,” Jo smiled up him, “and you take care of my Juliet, won’t you?”

He smiled his beautiful smile and slipped an arm round his wife’s shoulders. “I can do that.”

The happy couple left Die Rosen in another flurry of rose petals, and waving madly at the assembled crowds on the front lawn, climbed into the car. As it drove out of sight, the wedding guests began to make their way round the side of the house to the big, shady garden, where Kaffee und Küchen was being served, until only Jo remained. She glanced down the road after Juliet and Donal’s car, and then turned slightly to lean on the gate post, staring unseeingly at the valley bathed in afternoon sunshine. After a few minutes, roused by the chatter and clink of cups from the garden, she decided to go and seek a cup of coffee, and swinging around, walked straight into her fiancé.

“Oh, sorry Jack, I didn’t see you!”

“Obviously.” He grinned for a second, his face changing as he saw her expression. “Hey,” he tipped her chin up so her could look her in the eye, “What’s up?”

“Oh,” Jo dashed the back of her hand across her eyes, “I’m fine.”

He had known her too long to accept that answer. Jack looked at her thoughtfully.

“You’re really going to miss Juliet, aren’t you?”

She nodded slowly. “These last few weeks have been so busy, I haven’t really had time recently to think about it, and seeing her drive away just made me realise how far away Ireland is.” Her voice cracked, and Jack fought the urge to take her in his arms. Now that Juliet was married, there was no reason why they shouldn’t tell people about their engagement, but there were, he decided, more dignified ways of informing people of the change in their relationship than being caught kissing on the front doorstep.

“Come on.” He took her hand.

She looked surprised. “Where are we going?”

“Some place where we can talk. On our own.” He looked down at her and smiled. “I’ve missed you these last few weeks, Joey.”


“I remember when Mollie told me she was going to marry Ken.”

“Really?”

“I almost broke my toe.”

They were walking along the path that led round the side of the meadows behind Die Rosen. Jo stopped in her tracks.

“Jack!”

He laughed. “I told her I was couldn’t have been happier for her. I shook Ken’s hand. I promised to be his best man. And then, when they’d gone, I kicked a chair.”

“You were angry with her?”

“Yes. No. Not exactly.” He shrugged slightly. “She was one of my best friends, and she was moving to the other side of the world. I just felt like nothing would ever be the same, and for a moment, I hated Ken for taking her away and making everything change.” He laughed, suddenly surprised. “I’ve never told anyone this. Of course, I hated myself then for being so unfair to them both. When I stopped to think about it, I realised that I wanted what was best for Mollie, and it was fairly obvious, even to her stubborn twin brother, that becoming Mrs Mackenzie would make her terrifically happy. It was hard to say goodbye and see things change, but it has honestly worked out for the best.” He paused, glancing at Jo. “You know you’ll never lose Juliet, don’t you? You couldn’t, no matter how far away Ireland is.”

“I know.”

“We’re going to be all right, you know.”

Smiling, she looked up at him and nodded, her eyes filling with tears again.

“I know.”

“Sweetheart,” Jack stopped walking, and pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her.

In the weeks after his proposal, Jo had been preoccupied, needing to think everything through. Of course, on one hand, she was blissfully happy at the idea of spending the rest of her life with Jack, but there had still been a part of her that wondered how she would change when she became Mrs Maynard. She was comfortable as Jo the sister, the friend, the author and the teacher, but Jo the wife was a person she had never imagined being. Things never seemed so terrifying when she and Jack were together, but in the last week or so, they hadn’t been able to spend any time together, and her concerns had begun to take on a completely unrealistic importance. She had woken up early that morning, and unable to go back to sleep, had sat in her window, worrying. It’s all right when I’m with Jack, but I’m not going to be able to spend all my time with him. What if I always feel this way?

She had been extremely glad to talk about it, in a round-about-way, with Juliet earlier that afternoon, and to discover that the new Mrs O’Hara was similarly nervous about changing her life so drastically. Her inability to imagine herself as someone’s wife was not, she discovered, due to the fact that she refused to entertain the possibility for so long, and in the short conversation with her adopted sister, she had been relieved to feel some of the weight lifting from her shoulders. Now, standing in the late afternoon sunshine, with her fiancé’s arms round her, all her doubts vanished, and this time, she was sure they wouldn’t be returning. For approximately the hundredth time since she had stood with him in the mountainside cave, Jo wondered at how safe she felt with Jack, at how well he understood her. Afraid he would think her silly, she hadn’t told him about the thoughts that had plagued her those last weeks, and yet it seemed that he already understood. More than that, he wasn’t worried about it. 

He doesn’t want me to change. The realisation came in a flash, and instinctively, she looked up at him in surprise. He loves me the way I am.

“I love you, Jack.”

He smiled, and loosening his grip, smoothed her hair away from her face. “I’m glad. Because I love you too. Very much.”

Taking her face in his hands, he kissed her and then pulled her close again. After a few minutes, he spoke.

“Better?”

Jo sighed happily. “Yes. Thank you.”

“Not at all.” Laughing, he let her go and feeling in the inside pocket of his jacket, drew out a little blue box. “I was going to give this to you tomorrow, but I can’t seem to go anywhere without it at the moment. Do you mind if I give it to you now?”

Jo said nothing, but took the box from his hand and opened it.

“Oh.” The word came more as a breath.

A look of concern crossed Jack’s face. “Do you like it? I can find you another…”

“Jack,” Jo interrupted, tearing her eyes from the emerald which seemed to glow in the sunshine, “It’s beautiful.”

He breathed a sigh of relief, took the ring from its box, and reached for her hand. Just as he was about to place the ring on her finger, he stopped, looking at her incredulously.

“We’re going to get married, Jo.”

She nodded, smiling. “We’re going to get married.”

He slid the ring onto her finger. Jo grinned, holding up her hand.

“A perfect fit.”

“You’re right,” He slipped his arm round her waist. “A perfect fit.”

 

And so it begins by Lizzie
Author's Notes:

This has a teeny bit of EBD text in it too, again, in bold.

ItThe telephone rang in Jack’s office, and casting a vengeful look at the state of his desk, he answered.

“Dr. Maynard speaking.”

“Jack? It’s Jem.”

“Afternoon, Jem, glad you ‘phoned. Miss Bedford has just delivered a huge stack of files to me and I’m not sure where you wanted them. Shall I…”

“Jack.” The grimness in Jem’s voice halted the speaker in full flood.

“Yes?”

“You need to come round to the house.”

“Now? I’ve got rounds in ten minutes, but…”

“Now, Jack.”

Fifteen minutes, Jack knocked on the front door of Die Rosen and was admitted by Marie. 

“Doctor Maynard!” The expression on her face was not encouraging. Nor was the tone of her voice. “I shall go and let Doctor Russell know that you are here.”

She made as if to leave, but Jack stopped her. “It’s no trouble, Marie, I’ll go and find him myself. Where is he?”

“Here.” Jem entered the hall from the salon. He shut the door behind him, but not before Jack had heard the murmur of voices, and seen an unfamiliar figure in a long brown coat. Smiling his thanks at Marie, Jem turned to his friend, his face quickly registering the same grimness that his voice had conveyed earlier on the telephone. “Shall we go into my study for a moment?”


“You’re not serious.” Jack stared at his friend. “No, you can’t be. No,” He held up a hand as Jem tried to interject, “No.” Shaking his head, he got up from his seat on the edge of the desk and walked to the window. There was silence for a moment, until Jem spoke.

“The international consuls will deal with their own, and Hanson’s got things in hand for the British girls. It’s just…”

“Me. It’s just me who’s got to be taken away and questioned like a criminal.” There was a bitterness in Jack’s voice, which vanished the next second as he turned and sat on the window seat, passing a weary hand across his eyes. “I’m sorry, Jem, I’m not helping. I’m very glad that the girls are out of this, I just can’t believe this is happening.”

“I know. I’m sorry for dragging you out of the San with no explanation, but if the Gestapo are interested enough in us to cart a load of schoolgirls off for questioning on charges of espionage, I couldn’t take the chance that they wouldn’t be listening to the phones as well.”

Despite himself, Jack smiled slightly. “You mean you couldn’t trust me not to say something insulting or potentially libellous? You make a good point. Thanks for saving me from that particular pitfall.” He got up, and reached for his jacket. “Shall we get this over with, then?”

The man from the Gestapo looked up as the salon door opened and, with a glance at the paper in his hand, came forward to meet them.

“Herr Doktor Maynard? I have here an order…”

“I am aware of the reason for your visit,” Jack’s voice was clipped and icily polite, perfectly conveying his feelings without resorting to the language that would have sealed his fate with the Nazi secret police, “and I shall accompany you back to Innsbruck this afternoon.”

“Jack, no!” Jo, who had been sitting on the arm of Madge’s chair, sprang forward, and might have rounded once again on the unfortunate man had Grizel not caught her arm in time. Jack glanced in her direction and then continued speaking to their visitor, “You must be terribly busy, so I shan’t hold you up for much longer, but if I could be permitted to have a moment with my fiancée, I’d be very grateful.”

Obviously about to say something about compromised evidence, the man opened his mouth and, under the combined gaze of every person in the room, closed it again.

“Yes,” he muttered “you may speak with her.”

Catching Jo’s hand, Jack led her through the open French doors, and out into the garden. Once out of earshot of the house, Jo could contain her anger no longer.

“This is absurd!”

“I know, Joey.” Wearily, he sat down on a garden seat. Jo remained standing or, to be more accurate, pacing.

“Mr Hanson has said he’ll sort things out for us, why can’t he do the same for you?”

Jack shook his head. “I’m not sure, exactly. It’s complicated.”

“When Hilary and Robin went missing, I don’t know how I would have coped without you. I won’t let them take you away, Jack. I can’t.” Her voice broke, and the tears that had been threatening to fall for the last few minutes came at last. Reaching for her hand, Jack drew her down next to him on the seat and held her tightly.

“It’s going to be all right, darling. My British citizenship still counts for something out here, and I don’t think it’ll be for very long. You never know,” he tried to smile, “I could be home by this evening.”

“But you don’t know.” Jo broke free from his grasp, and sat back a little. “Jack, these people have lost their senses. How can we know anything?”

There was no adequate response to that. Swallowing his own fears, Jack kissed her, and offered her his shirt sleeve to wipe her eyes. Then, with a glance at his watch, he stood up.

“We should go in, I don’t want to give that man the satisfaction of hurrying me up.” Pulling her up from the seat, he rested his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye. “You know I can’t promise that everything’s going to be all right, Jo, but I can promise you that I love you, and that I will do my utmost to get back to you as soon as possible.”

“I know.” Smiling through her tears, Jo kissed her fiancé once more, and then, holding his hand tightly, crossed the lawn with him towards the house.


“There you are, Joey! We were about to send out a search party!” Grizel, who had been staying at Die Rosen since Juliet’s wedding, looked up as that young lady entered the Speisesaal. “Would you like some coffee?”

Jo looked blank for a second. Then, shaking herself as if to clear her head, she gave something approaching a smile and nodded, sitting down in her place and holding out her cup.

“Yes, please.”

“How did you sleep?” Madge enquired.

It was not a difficult question, but Jo seemed to have trouble answering it. Diving hurriedly behind Jem’s discarded newspaper, she answered. “Oh, I went to bed very early, so I’m quite rested, thank you.”

Madge and Grizel exchanged glances. Then, tentatively, Madge asked again.

“But how did you sleep, Jo?”

Truthful to the last, that question was entirely too direct. Putting down the paper, she reached for a roll and the dish of butter, and looked from her sister to her friend and back again.

“Not very well, to tell the truth. I expect I caught the sun yesterday.” With that, she determinedly changed the topic of conversation to the school’s imminent departure from Austria, and the three of them talked steadily about packing boxes and the lists that needed to be made until the end of Frühstück, whereupon Jo departed to work on the next chapter of her book.

Grizel, finishing the last of her coffee, looked after the departing form of her friend with a doubtful look and, turning in her seat, saw that Madge was wearing an almost identical expression.

“I don’t know what to say to her, Grizel.” Madge said at last, “She’s not sleeping well, she’s not eating properly…” she trailed off worriedly.

“I know.” Grizel nodded. “And this is the second day that she hasn’t asked if there’s any news from Innsbruck. I rather pitied Jem the first morning after Jack left, but now, I think we’d all rather she was bombarding us with questions. She’s surely not given up on hearing good news about him?”

Madge shook her head. “She wants to know, but I don’t think she can bring herself to ask. I think she’s decided that the longer he’s away, the more likely it is that he won’t come back. That’s not to say that that’s the case,” she added, seeing Grizel’s horrified expression, “But I think that’s why she’s not asking for news.”

“What do you think?”

Madge shrugged slightly. “If you’d asked me this as a purely hypothetical case, I’d have said that he would be fine, but when it’s one of your friends who is being detained, it becomes more personal, doesn’t it?” She sighed. “I don’t know, Grizel. Jem says that Hitler doesn’t want trouble with the British Empire at present, but it’s been almost five days now, and there’s still no news. Mr Hanson’s been down in Innsbruck since that man came for Jack, and Jem’s been on the ‘phone to the British Consulate almost constantly. I can’t help wondering if…”

“…if Joey might be right?”

Madge nodded slowly. “We must just pray that we’re wrong.”


“Jo! Where is the girl? JO!”

Bellowing at the top of his voice, Jem strode out of his study and met his wife coming out of the salon, a look of bemusement on her face.

“Jo’s gone across to the school with Grizel to help pack up the library. Why?” she added anxiously, “Whatever is the matter, Jem?”

Her husband grinned, and caught her in his arms. “George Hanson was just on the ‘phone, my love, Jack’s being released this morning. I’m going to drive down now and pick him up.”

Madge gasped. “Oh! Oh Jem, that’s wonderful news! Shall I go across and tell Joey now?”

Jem shook his head. “I wouldn’t, actually. I expect there’ll be a ton of paperwork to trawl through before he’s actually free to go, and I’ve no way of knowing how long we’re likely to be. If you told her now that he was coming back and then we didn’t arrive until the afternoon, she’d have had time to work herself into a state of frenzy, and that’s the last thing she needs. Tell her when she comes home, by all means, but I wouldn’t do it before.”

Madge nodded her agreement. “All right. Oh,” she sighed, “I’m so glad. It feels like an enormous weight has been lifted from our shoulders.”

“I know what you mean.” Jem hugged his wife tightly to him for a moment, before releasing her somewhat reluctantly. He checked his watch and grimaced. “I must go.”

“Of course.” Madge smiled. “Do you have everything you need?”

“Yes, Hanson’s told me everything that I need to bring. See you later, sweetheart.” He bent and kissed her and then, snatching up his case from beside the front door, headed to the car.

If Jem had thought that the journey back to the Platz would be a joyful affair, he would have been wrong. When he arrived in Innsbruck, he found to his relief that though he had been right in suspecting that there would be an inordinate amount of paperwork, Mr Hanson had sorted through most of it. The rest was dispensed with very quickly, and shortly, they were able to leave the British Consulate, much to Jem’s relief, for by this time, he was becoming increasingly alarmed at Jack’s silent demeanour. Once in the car, Jem glanced at his friend. Aside from a rather pale face and tired eyes, there seemed to be nothing physically wrong with him, but he had barely uttered two words together in the last hour. Moreover, he had completely ignored his good friend George Hanson, who had tried to shake his hand as they left, stalking ahead and leaving Jem to make his rather hurried farewells.

Switching on the engine, Jem leant back in his seat for a minute, letting out a deep breath. “Jack, old chap, I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’re coming home with me. It has not been a good week.”

Jack turned and looked at him. “No,” he said icily, “I’m sure it’s been very difficult for you.”

Jem’s eyes widened slightly as he recognised the same tone with which his friend had addressed the man from the Gestapo, and silently, he put the car into gear and set off through the streets of Innsbruck. They left the town fifteen minutes or so later, and by the time his third topic of conversation had been given extremely short shrift by his normally chatty friend, Jem had formed the opinion that something was badly wrong. He had expected Jack to be tired, maybe indignant at his detention, but he had not expected such anger, such a terrible unspoken atmosphere. Something would have to be done, for he doubted that this was simply going to blow over, but the car was not the place for such a discussion. Bracing himself for what was to come, he shifted the car into a lower gear as they began to climb.

Arriving on the Platz, Jem did not drive straight to Jack’s rooms at the Sanatorium, but instead headed for Die Rosen. As they were walking up the front steps, Jack spoke for the first time in over an hour.

“Where’s Jo?”

Jem paused with his key almost at the door. “She and Grizel might be home from the school by now, I suppose, but Jack, don’t you think you had better…”

“I want to see her.” Seeing his friend’s surprise at being interrupted, Jack continued. “I haven’t seen her in almost a week, and…”

“No.” Jem shook his head, and opened the door, leaving Jack standing on the doorstep.

“I beg your pardon.” His voice, icier than ever, echoed round the hall, and Jem hoped above all things that there was no one in earshot who would come running to welcome the returning Doctor Maynard. He crossed the hall to open the door to his study.

“Come in here first, please.”

He had barely closed the door, when Jack turned to him.

“So? What have you against me seeing my fiancée?”

Jem took a deep breath, preparing himself for a furious reaction. “I don’t want you to see her while you’re like this, Jack. She’s been pretty on edge this last week, and you’ll upset her.”

Jack stared at him for a moment as if he couldn’t believe his ears, and then he spoke, quietly at first.

“How dare you?” He got up from his seat on the arm of a chair, and walked slowly towards his friend. “How dare you stand there and tell me what to do? I’ve been treated like a criminal for a week, and I’ve slept six nights in a cell. In the meantime, I can imagine that you have had my rounds to fill, and all the extra work caused by my inconvenient detention, but really, I’d like to know what Hanson’s been doing all this last week, because he’s clearly not been trying to get me out. I’ve missed Jo so much it hurts, and I’ve been asked the same questions every day by a group of increasingly stupid men, all of whom have implied at some point or another that I would not be returning to her, so don’t you dare lecture me, Jem, don’t you…”

“Damn it, Jack!” The slam of Jem’s hand on his desk that accompanied his rare outburst of anger silenced the speaker, who sat back down, his mouth drawn into a tight line. 

Jem sat down in his desk chair and looked across at his friend.

“I know I couldn’t begin to understand what you’ve been through this last week, but let me set you straight on a few points. What with the school to close and the San to run, there has been plenty to occupy our minds, but let me assure you that you have been rarely out of our thoughts and always in our prayers. What’s more, if you’ve been given the impression that everything,” he emphasised the word, “was not being done to secure your release, then I must also enlighten you in that respect. George Hanson arrived in Innsbruck about an hour after you, and has not been back since. His team have been working non-stop, and have kept me posted on the situation every few hours or so since you left. It is, frankly, outrageous that you should have been held for so long, but before you fling any more accusations my way, I should tell you that you were very nearly not released at all.”

“Really?” All the anger had left Jack during his friend’s speech, and tiredness and shock came rushing to fill its place. He sat back in his chair, the colour draining from his face.

Jem nodded wearily. “Hanson was told yesterday that you were going to be taken away and they wouldn’t tell him where. I have no idea how he managed to reverse their decision, but I think it very likely that he didn’t sleep at all last night. He was certainly awake at four this morning, because that’s when I rang him.” A wave of tiredness washed over him too, and he leant his chin on one hand, loosening his tie with the other. “It’s such a delicate situation, Jack. The Gestapo are convinced that something other than a game of hide-and-seek was going on that afternoon, and although what you were doing wasn’t espionage, there would be enormous repercussions for many of the girls if the Peace League was found.”

Jack nodded. “So while we could make a big fuss about them detaining me, we should really keep quiet about it. I understand.” He sat forward in his chair and rested his hands on the desk. “Jem, I…I’m so sorry. It’s been a horrible week but I had no right to treat George and you the way I did. Please forgive me.”

Jem smiled. “Of course I do.” He left his seat and sat on the edge of the desk nearest to Jack’s chair. “You’re family, Maynard, you know that, don’t you? I’m just sorry that there was no way for me to get a message to you.”

“Thank you Jem.” Jack reached forward to shake his friend’s hand, and then sat back again. “So what now?” he asked.

“For everyone’s sake, I think you’re right, we need to keep quiet about your week in Innsbruck, but also…” Jem trailed off, looking thoughtful.

“Also…”

“I think you need to leave the country. Not immediately,” he held up his hand as Jack began to protest, “but soon. In fact, if you’ll take my advice, you’ll marry Jo out of hand, and take her and Robin out of this country. You and Jo can take a honeymoon in France, and be ready to welcome us when we all come.”

There was silence as his suggestion sank in, and then Jack nodded slowly. “You’re right,” he said, “I think that would probably be best.”

“Excellent.” Jem stood up. “Shall we go and see if they’re all home from the school? There’s been a frenzy of packing over there these last few days.”

“If you don’t mind, Jem, I think I’ll go home first.” Jack got to his feet as well, and reached for his jacket. “I’d like to wash and shave and change my clothes, and I think I’ll feel more human after I’ve done that.” He stepped forward and gripped his friend’s hand again. “Thank you, Jem. Thank you for being so understanding about all of this, but most of all, thank you for not letting me go and find Jo when we first got home. If I had upset her…” he stopped, and passed a weary hand across his eyes. “I’ll be over for Abendessen, if I may?”

 

The Madness by Lizzie
Author's Notes:

This contains more EBD text and provides an answer to the question that has plagued most readers of Exile for years: What did Jem say to Jo in the cave?

 

“Jem!”

Dr Russell, who had been sitting staring at the telephone, looked up with a start as his wife appeared in the door to his study.

“Hello darling, did you sleep well?”

Madge nodded distractedly, running a hand through her hair. “Yes, but why did you let me sleep for so long? It must be nearly time for Abendessen.”

Jem nodded, glancing at his wrist watch. “It’s just gone eighteen. I’ve…” He paused, taking a deep breath, “I’ve asked Marie to serve it a little later tonight though.”

“Why?” Madge perched on the arm of the chair opposite the desk. “Are you expecting an important phone call?”

He nodded slowly. “Yes, yes I suppose I am. Listen, darling…”

Madge interrupted him. “Before I forget, we must make sure that all the cases with the children’s things are put in the hall with the rest of the luggage, it would be awful if something vital got left behind. Oh, and I must take down the hem of that blue dress Daisy’s, Margot’s got enough to be thinking about at the moment.” She got up, smoothing her skirt. “I’ll do it while I think of it. Are the girls up in the nursery?” She faltered as she glanced at her husband’s face. “Jem? What’s wrong?”

“Sit down darling.” There was no getting away from it, she would have to be informed of this fresh crisis. Jem sighed, and tried to keep the tension out of his voice as he looked across at his wife. I’m not sure how much more of this we can take.

“What’s happened?”

“Well…it’s…”

“Jem. Tell me.”

“The girls aren’t back from Spärtz yet.”

Madge sat down heavily, the colour draining rapidly from her face.

“What do you mean?”

Jem took another deep breath, and leaving his seat, went to his wife’s chair. “I mean that they are over two hours late, and I haven’t heard anything from them.”

Madge shook her head disbelievingly. “It’s so unlike Nell to be late for anything, but even if something had happened, surely she’d have found a way to let us know?”

“I know. I put a call through to Josef Mueller’s office in Spärtz, we’ve been treating his mother at the San and he’s become good friends with Jack. Anyway, he was out when I phoned, but his secretary said that she’d ask him to ring as soon as he got back.”

“And that’s who you’re waiting to hear from?”

Jem nodded, and took his wife’s hands in his own to reassure her, but was distracted by his medical instincts. “Madge, your hands are freezing, are you feeling all right?”

She nodded, numbly. “Yes, fine, I expect it’s because I’ve been still so long this afterno… oh!” she was interrupted by the shrill of the telephone.

Jem left his place by Madge’s side, and went to answer it. “Russell…ah, Josef, thank you so much for returning my call. I expect your secretary told you why I was ‘phoning…yes, that’s right…yes…so have you…Goldmann, you say?...Oh…oh, really?...And she…yes, that sounds like her…They were at the Gasthaus?...Herr Borkel? I see…Yes, well, thank you, Josef…Yes, if you hear anything else, please do contact me at any time…I will do. Thank you, Good night.” He put down the ‘phone and turned to Madge.

“Well?”

“According to Mueller, there was something of a fracas this afternoon in Spärtz. The jeweller, Herr Goldmann was having a bit of bother from some men in the town, and it seems that our girls might have got themselves caught up in it.”

“Caught up? What do you mean?”

 “I mean that Jo and Cornelia were seen…” Jem paused, choosing his words carefully, “haranguing Goldmann’s pursuers.”

Madge groaned. “Those two! Well, that explains their lateness I suppose, although it’s unlike Nell not to ring and let us know, isn’t it? Poor Herr Goldmann, I hope that someone thought to take him home and make sure that he’s all right, he must be terribly shaken up.”

Jem said nothing for a moment, but left his chair and once more sought his wife’s hands.

“Madge, Herr Goldmann was killed this afternoon.”

“Oh. Oh, no. Not really?” Madge eyes filled with tears.

Jem nodded, sitting on the arm of her chair and wrapping an arm round her shoulders. “I think Jo and the girls may have stopped it from happening in public, but after it was all over, they went to his house and…” He paused, shaking his head in disbelief, “…and they shot him. They shot him and his wife.”

“Is she…?”

“Not yet, but I don’t think it’ll be long.” He sighed wearily, and tightened his grip on Madge’s hands. “Apparently, Herr Borkel was seen a little later with a little girl that sounds remarkably like Rob, so I don’t think we have much to worry about as far as she’s concerned. If the fracas was as serious as it sounds, then I don’t think we should be expecting him to attempt bringing her up here before nightfall, but Borkel will do his all to make sure she’s safe. It’s the others that…” he trailed off, as various horrific scenarios flashed before his eyes.

“This is absurd, Jem. These people have lost their senses. Have you tried the police?” Madge twisted a little in her seat to look her husband in the face.

“Yes, but they weren’t much help. Not nearly as helpful as Josef, at any rate.”

“But someone must have seen them!”

Jem passed his hands once more across his eyes. “Well, Josef spoke to a lot of the shop keepers and stall holders in the street where it all happened, and as you can imagine, a group of Chalet girls wading into a brawl has stuck in their minds. The…the last that anyone can remember seeing them, they were being ushered inside the parish church by Vater Johann.”

“Well then!” Madge sat up, hope springing into her eyes. “What does he have to say? Did Josef speak to him?”

She looked up as she asked her question, but the expression on Jem’s face more than answered it.

“He’s…he’s not…”

“The police found his body in the church a little while ago…darling, are you all right?” He broke off, as Madge rose from her chair, and made her way unsteadily to the cloakroom, where she was very thoroughly sick.

When the sickness had passed, Jem helped her into the salon, where he made her comfortable on a sofa, before going to the kitchen to fetch her a glass of water. As she sipped it, a little colour returned to her cheeks, colour that promptly drained again as she remembered her sister-in-law.

“Margot! Oh Jem, does she know?”

He nodded. “She knows that they were expected back a good two hours ago.”

“She doesn’t know about…about…”

“Herr Goldmann and Vater Johann? Not unless someone at the school has made enquiries in the town like I did.”

“Is she over at the school?”

“Yes, she went over again at about thirteen o’clock, and said she’d be back for Abendessen.” He paused thoughtfully. “I think she was glad to have something to take her mind off Daisy, actually. I was hoping to have good news for her when she came back this evening, but…” he broke off as Madge’s eyes filled with tears, and he with a sigh, he pulled her into his arms. “I’m sorry sweetheart. We’ll get to the bottom of this, you know, it’ll be a slightly more delicate business than it ordinarily might, but we’ll find them.”

“I hope so, Jem.” Madge let out a shaky breath, “It just seems to be one thing after the other at the moment, doesn’t it?”

“I know what you mean.” He loosened his grip on her slightly, and looked down at her with a little smile. “Which reminds me, what’s all this sickness business about, eh?”

Madge shrugged. “I’m sure it’s nothing, I just haven’t really been feeling quite myself lately.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed these,” he took her face in his hands and brushed the blueish smudges under her eyes with his thumb, “but I put it down to all the upheaval we’ve had recently. Have you had sickness like that before?”

“A little. Nothing too bad, though. Why? Do you think it’s something I should get looked at before we leave for Guernsey?”

He nodded cautiously. “Maybe. Except…” he paused for a moment, with another little smile, “Do you think it’s possible, darling, that you’re…”

Whatever he might have been about to ask was interrupted in that moment by a commotion coming from the direction of the kitchen. Leaving Madge in the salon, Jem was half-way across the hall, when he was met by Marie, accompanied by a very bedraggled young person, who jumped forward and threw herself into his arms with a cry of “Uncle Jem!”

Jem returned his niece’s hug, and then held her at arms length. “Let me look at you, Daisy-girl. Are you all right?”

Daisy nodded tearfully. “Some horrid men were chasing Herr Goldmann, and Robin and Joey and Cornelia shouted at them, and so Vater Johann showed us a special passage that we could hide in, and we had to walk for ever such a long time, but it comes out on the mountain near Rob’s cave, and that’s where they all are.”

“No one’s hurt, are they?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders, Jem dropped a kiss on the top of her head, and sent her through to the salon to see Madge. Then he turned to Marie with a smile.

“She looks all right now, but in ten minutes or so, I think she’ll be half asleep. Would you organise her meal so that it can be eaten from a tray, please? And I think we’ll be ready to eat once Mrs Venables arrives home.”

“Very good sir.” Marie turned to leave the hall, but Jem stopped her.

“Oh, and Marie?”

“Sir?”

“I assume one of the herdsmen brought her down the mountain?”

“Yes sir, Otto.”

“Is he still here?”

“Yes sir, he’s in the kitchen.”

“Would you make sure he has something to eat? I’ll be through to see him in a few minutes, I’d like to thank him for looking after Daisy.”

 

Once Abendessen was finished, Jem saw his wife safely upstairs into bed, and after checking on the occupants of the night nursery, went back down stairs, where he found his sister and Grizel in the salon.

“Shall I pour you some coffee, Jem?” Margot looked up as he came in, a weary smile on her face. He nodded gratefully.

“Please. Although,” he turned, suddenly remembering something, “I’ll take it with me to the study. I must ‘phone Jack.”

Sitting down at his desk, he dialled, and was answered almost immediately. 

“Maynard speaking.”

“Jack, it’s Jem. Listen, would you mind coming over to the house?”

“Now?”

“Yes.”

There was a pause, and then in a different tone of voice, Jack answered. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Nine minutes later, Dr Maynard practically threw himself up the steps to the front door of Die Rosen, and found Jem waiting for him. Jack took one look at him, and seeing the tiredness and the worry in his friend’s face, waited until they were both comfortably seated in the study before beginning his interrogation.

“Now. What’s this about?”

Jem took a deep breath and began.

He had a tough job convincing his friend that it would not be a good idea to rush up the mountainside to see the girls, nor would it be prudent to drive down to the police station in Spärtz and give them a piece of his mind. Truth to tell, his emotions were scarcely different, but after a solid twenty minutes of talking, and a goodly amount of pacing, they began to evolve a plan.

“You can’t be seen anywhere near Robin’s cave, Jack, not after all the fuss that ensued last time you were there.”

Jack nodded. “I know. So you’ll go to them, then?”

“I think that would probably be best. I want to make sure that Rob’s safely home, but once she is, I’ll go up and find them. It was becoming increasingly unsafe for them to be in Austria anyway, but after today’s adventure…” He paused, searching for the words. “They have to leave tonight.”

There was silence for a moment, broken by Jack, who leant forward in his chair. “What can I do, then? While you’re seeing Miss Wilson and the girls off, I mean…” His voice broke, and Jem remembered who his friend was engaged to.

“I want you to go with them. You and Gottfried. No,” he held up a hand as Jack started to protest, “It’s not because of you and Jo, although that’s part of it. The Gestapo let you go, but extremely unwillingly, and after today, I should imagine that their interest in you will have redoubled. You need to leave the country as much as the girls do, and Gottfried too. Not that I wouldn’t give a great deal to have everyone safely out.” He gave a wry smile. “Margot and the children are leaving tomorrow, and I’ll be sending Robin with them too, but the school’s not properly packed up yet, and there’s Madge…”

The next half an hour was spent in assembling the supplies that the group sheltering the cave would need, and packing them in as unobtrusive a way as possible. Jem had left Jack rooting round the store cupboard, and was crossing the hall in search of matches when there was a cautious knock on the front door. Anticipating Herr Borkel and Robin’s arrival, he had extinguished the lamps that hung on either side of the front steps, and as he opened the door, was incredibly relieved to see the pair, their faces lit only by the glow of light from the hall.

“Come in, come in! How was your journey?”

Herr Borkel shook his head. “I think we have remained unseen. There’s a thick mist coming down, and we took the most circuitous route I could think of, but all the same…” He shuddered.

Jem took the innkeeper by the hand, and shook it warmly. “Borkel, I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for my family this evening.”

Herr Borkel waved away his thanks. “It is nothing, Herr Doktor. You brought my little Greta back to us, and for that, I will be eternally in your debt. Oh,” he suddenly looked concerned, “but the other young ladies, are they safe?”

Jem nodded. “Vater Johann helped them to escape from the town, and they’re sheltering up on the mountain. I’m going to take them supplies tonight, and they must leave the country as soon as humanly possible.”

At the mention of the priest’s name, Herr Borkel’s face clouded over. “These are evil times, Herr Doktor. I could not believe it when I heard what had happened to him, and the poor Goldmanns…” he trailed off, his kind eyes filling with tears.

Jem clasped his hand again. “Can I offer you some food? Or at least a drink to warm you for your journey back? I would offer you a bed for the night, but I imagine you must be eager to return to Ingrid and Greta.”

Herr Borkel nodded. “Yes, thank you, you are very kind, but I must return to Spärtz. My wife saw to it that we were well prepared for the journey, so I have everything I need. I shall bid you farewell, and pray to our lady for a safe passage for your family and the rest of the ladies at the school.” He placed an affectionate hand on Robin’s shoulder. “Goodbye, leibling, I hope that one day when all this madness has ceased, we shall meet again.”

Robin smiled up at the innkeeper, and kissed his cheek. “Goodbye, Herr Borkel, and thank you.”

When the door closed behind Herr Borkel, Jem turned to Robin and, much in the way as he had with Daisy a few hours before, held her at arms length.

“Are you all right, Rob?”

She nodded. “Yes, Frau Borkel looked after me very well, and told me to sleep for most of the afternoon, so I am not tired at all.”

Jem breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad. You must get to bed as soon as you can though, I want you to leave tomorrow with my sister and the children if it’s at all possible.”

”But Jem, I was going to…”

“I know.” He interrupted her firmly. “But the situation has changed since we made that plan. I want to know that you’re safely out of the country, Rob, things are getting too dangerous.”

Half an hour later, after a hurried and largely fruitless telephone consultation with Gottfried Mensch about the girls’ passports and papers, Jem left Die Rosen, and disappeared into the mist. As she heard the front door close, Madge picked up her book, and tried to read. She had been glad when Jem had suggested that she should go up to bed, but had never intended to sleep. Aside from the fact that she had slept for most of the afternoon, there was too much to think about. Jem had never finished what he had been about to say earlier, but his meaning had been clear. With a sigh, she put down the book. Pregnant? She would be lying if she said that it wasn’t what they’d been hoping for, but…she shook her head a little. Pregnant? With everything else to worry about? With Jo and Nell and the girls in a cave on the mountainside, with Jem on his way to meet them and send them off across Europe, with Jack worried sick about his fiancée, with the school closed down by the Gestapo, with the San under threat of new management…

A thundering on the front door interrupted her thoughts. Jumping out of bed, she switched off her bedroom light, and stole to the window, where she parted the curtains and tried to see who was standing at the front door. For a moment, her view was obscured by the roof of the porch, but then a man in a long, brown coat stepped down onto the second step, flashing his wrist watch with a torch. Dropping the curtains back down, Madge put on her robe, and went out onto the landing, where she met Margot and Grizel, similarly attired in robes and slippers.

“Who on earth is knocking at this time of night?” demanded Grizel in an angry whisper. “Anyone who knows this family knows how many kids are likely to be asleep.”

“Could it be Jem?” Margot looked hopeful. “Maybe he’s forgotten something.”

Madge shook her head. “It’s not Jem. I saw them out of the window.”

“Them?”

“I think…” Madge swallowed hard. “I think they’re from the Gestapo.”

“Well who…do they want Jack, do you think?”

“Maybe. Except they don’t know that he’s here tonight. As far as they’re concerned, he has rooms at the San. No, after today, I have a horrible idea that they’re after Robin.”

Margot and Grizel’s eyes widened in horror, and for a second, they were all silent until a second bout of thunderous knocking erupted from the front porch.

“Wait a second.” Grizel was thinking hard. “If we let them in now, telling them that Rob isn’t here will just provoke them to search her room. Margot, go and get her up, make her bed look like it hasn’t been slept in and take her down to Marie’s rooms. I know that Marie has a spare bed because I helped her fix the leg of it the other day. Tuck her into bed, and tell her that if anyone barges in and asks questions, she’s to answer in German. If they’ve done their homework on her, they’ll know that she’s Polish-French, and hopefully, also wouldn’t expect her to be sleeping in rooms off the kitchen.”

Madge nodded. “Good, Grizel, that’s brilliant. I’ll go and wake Marie and tell her what’s happened.”

“Keep the lights switched off,” suggested Margot, “and when you’re ready to answer the door, just make it look like you’ve just woken up. They really can’t blame you for taking so long to answer the door in the middle of the night.”

“I’ll go and tell Jack,” Grizel headed along the landing towards the spare room, “I should imagine he’s going to want to make himself scarce for a little while.”

A few minutes later, a very sleepy Robin had been taken down to Marie’s rooms, given her instructions, and tucked up in bed. Jack had been warned of the visitors and was keeping a low profile, and Madge, Margot and Grizel headed to the front door, yawning and tousling their hair to give the impression of having been rudely awakened from their sleep.

“Not here?” The man standing imposingly in the doorway frowned and checked his list.

Madge pulled her robe tighter around her and nodded briefly. “That’s right.”

“But you and your husband are,” he glanced at his list again, “her legal guardians, are you not?”

“That’s correct, but in light of everything that’s happened in the last few weeks, my husband and I decided that it would be best for her to go to stay with relatives of ours in England. She’s delicate, you know, and we would never forgive ourselves,” she fixed him with a piercing stare, “if anything happened to her.”

“And when did you send her away, mein Frau?”

“Four days ago.”

“That interests me, mein Frau.” A second, taller man, stepped out of the shadowy porch and into the hall. “That interests me because we have reports that a Miss Robin Humphries was seen in Spärtz only this morning, aiding and abetting a troublemaker.”

At the mention of Herr Goldmann, Grizel flushed, and opened her mouth to something, but was halted by Margot, who placed a hand meaningfully on her arm. Madge glanced at them, and turned back to her questioner.

“That’s very odd, mein Herr, what led you to believe that she was in Spärtz today?” she asked in what she hoped was a breezy, conversational tone.

The man coloured, and he looked at the list that he, like his colleague, carried. Apparently, he had reached the outside limit of his knowledge. “We were told that she was seen in the town,” he muttered, “by several very reliable sources.”

Margot stepped forward. “May I ask how the girl seen in Spärtz was described to you, mein Herr?”

Once again, the pair studied the papers in their hands. Then, as if making up his mind as to the best way to deal with these difficult women, the first man met Margot’s gaze. “She was positively identified, mein Frau, that is all you need to know.”

Standing a little back from the group, Grizel let out a silent breath of relief. They had tried to hide it, but it was obvious that neither of these men knew what Robin looked like, and had simply been sent up to the Sonnalpe to surprise the family in the middle of the night.

Seemingly undeterred by the combined efforts of the three women, the second man placed his list in the inside pocket of his coat and folded his arms. “I must ask you to show me the young lady’s bedroom.”

“It’s the middle of the night!” For the first time in their exchange, Madge let her frustration show. “Come back at a civilised hour, and you can go over all the bedrooms you like.”

“I’m afraid that simply won’t do, mein Frau, you must show us her bedroom now.”

For a moment, it looked as if Madge was going to hit him, but she pulled herself together. “Very well.”

To anyone unaware of the whispered conversation at the top of the stairs, Robin’s bedroom looked like it had not been used for several days, so much so that Madge and Grizel had to work very hard to conceal their admiration at Margot’s thoroughness. A few of Robin’s books and picture frames were still standing about on the mantelpiece and chest of drawers, but these had been left in order to convince the men that this had been her room. The discarded clothes that had been folded on the chest at the end of the bed had been removed, all shoes had been placed out of sight, and her hairbrush, bible and rosary had been relegated to the wardrobe. The bed had been remade with new sheets, and had been turned down as if eagerly awaiting the young lady’s return. All in all, standing in the rather startling brightness from the ceiling light, Madge breathed a silent prayer of thanks for her sister-in-law.

Afterwards, Madge, Grizel and Margot agreed that Robin, and indeed Jack, had been saved that night by the attitude of their two visitors. They weren’t discourteous, and didn’t threaten them, but obviously considered it extremely unlikely that three women would have been had the intelligence or cunning to come up with any scheme, whether it be at midnight or not. Consequently, they simply glanced into every bedroom in the house, ascertained that the rest of the children in the nursery were of the wrong age to be the Polish-French fourteen year old on their list, and didn’t even bother with the rooms off the kitchen.

Standing once more on the doorstep, they donned their coats and hats, looking with dismay at the mist that had descended even further in the time they had spent at Die Rosen. “We will be coming back tomorrow, mein Frau, I hope to speak to your husband.”

Madge nodded curtly. “I shall certainly inform him of your visit, and I’m sure he will make every effort to make himself available to you. I’m sorry that he’s not here this evening to meet with you both, but he was called away earlier this evening to attend to a very sick patient, and I don’t expect him to return for a few hours.”

If the men detected the sarcasm in her tone, they did not show it. They simply nodded and left through the swirling mist, flashing their torches on the ground as they went. 

Grizel watched them go, and then closed the door, leaning up against it with a sigh of relief.

“Is it entirely wrong to hope that they lose their footing and fall down the mountain?”

Madge laughed. “Not entirely. I wouldn’t recommend that you publicise your feelings too widely though, not just at the moment!”

“No fear! I shall just loathe them from a distance.”

“What are we going to do about Robin?” Margot’s voice interrupted them, and they turned to look at her, their faces regaining their seriousness. “If those men come back as early as I think they will, we must find a way of getting her out of the way as soon as possible. Maybe I could still take her with me, but set off earlier than planned?”

Madge shook her head. “No, I don’t want to add any more to your burden. You are already doing us an enormous service in taking the children ahead to Guernsey, and if Rob is of such interest to them, crossing the border with her might be difficult. We’ll wait for Jem to come home to make the final decision, but I rather think that he’ll be anxious to send her off with Jack and Gottfried when they leave to join Miss Wilson and the girls.”

There was silence for a moment as the reality of the situation made itself ever more known to the three women. Then, resigning themselves to at least a few more hours without sleep, Madge went to find Jack, while Margot and Grizel went to the kitchen to make some coffee.


At almost precisely the same moment, Jem, who had maintained a steady pace on the slopes behind the Sonnalpe, stopped for a moment to regain his breath. He had reached a point in the path where it forked, one way continuing to climb steeply, and another levelling out. The heaviness of the mist made it very difficult for him to pinpoint his exact position, but from the time it had taken him, and the condition of the path, he knew he must be only just over half way to the cave where the fugitives were hiding. There were at least twenty minutes more of climbing to do. Turning up his collar against the cold and damp, he set off again, taking the steeper path and wishing that he was in better shape.

The night was completely silent, the mist deadening even his own footfalls, and as he walked, his mind wandered from the tasks of putting one foot safely in front of the other, and not taking the wrong path. If someone had told him that on this night, he would be climbing the mountainside prior to sending his young sister-in-law off to cross Europe in the company of her fiancé and his colleague, her old teacher, and a handful of schoolgirls, he simply would not have believed it. Striding along through the mist, Jem shook his head in disbelief at the chain of events that had made his mission that night so desperate, and for what seemed the fiftieth time, ran through all the scenarios he had imagined, checking that he really had discounted every other course of action. 

He had, of course, and he knew it. It was far from his idea of a fool-proof plan, but there was no other option. They had to leave the country, and it had to be tonight. He sighed, and tried to focus on the positives. It would, after all, be of no help to anyone if he arrived at the cave, firmly convinced that there was nothing to be done. Nell Wilson was extremely capable, and they had been very lucky in the girls that had become entangled in this ridiculous situation. Hilary, Jeanne and Maria were steady, reliable girls, Lorenz would follow wherever they led, and although they had had problems with Evadne and Cornelia in the past, Jem had no doubt that they would prove to be of invaluable assistance to their elders on the journey ahead. 

He did a quick mental head-count, and realised with a little laugh that he had forgotten his own sister-in-law, but as he thought of her, his smile turned to a frown, and he slowed his pace a little. In the past few months, she had changed such a lot from the rather awkward teenager he had known, and what with the visit from the von Trapps, her relationship with Jack, and the worsening situation in Austria, he had seen her begin to become the self-possessed young woman that he had always known she could be. However, she was still, in many ways, more delicate and highly-strung than any of the girls with whom she would be travelling, and though he hated the thought if it, he rather doubted her ability to reach a safe destination without complete collapse. 

His thoughts were interrupted by a change in the path, and he entered the densely wooded part of the slope which told him that he would be arriving at his destination within minutes. As he arrived at the mouth of the cave, Miss Wilson, who had been keeping watch there, jumped up to welcome him.

“Jem!” She shook his hand, and then checked her wrist watch. “You’ve made good time, I didn’t really expect you for another half an hour at least.”

“I had Jack to help me get everything together, and I walked fairly fast.” He returned with a grin, stooping for a second to rub the backs of his legs. “I’ll feel it tomorrow, I suppose, isn’t that what Matron always tells the girls?”

Despite the severity of the situation, Nell laughed. “Yes, I believe it is. You’ll have to apply to her for some of her liniment.” She turned to lead him down the passageway and into the cave, but Jem caught her arm.

“Before we go in Nell, I must ask you. Is everyone all right?”

She nodded. “I think so. Daisy was the worst affected, I think. I trust she and the Robin arrived safely at the Sonnalpe?”

“Yes, Daisy arrived just before Abendessen, and Herr Borkel brought Rob up just past midnight. They’re both fine, both asleep, none the worse for their adventure.”

“Good.” Nell sighed with relief. “As for the girls up here, I don’t think there’s much wrong that some food couldn’t cure.”

Jem patted his pockets. “Let me get inside, and I’ll unpack everything I’ve brought with me.”

Fifteen minutes later, with their meal consumed, the subject of conversation turned to the methods by which they were to leave Austria. In his earlier phone conversation with Gottfried, Jem had discovered to his frustration that the passports that they all carried would not be in sufficient order for them to cross into Switzerland or Italy. Heading to either border would pose quite a substantial journey for the group, but he had imagined that it would just be a case of getting there unscathed. Now, sitting in the gloom of the cave, Gottfried’s words came back to him. Their papers are not correct, Jem, we’ll be turned away at the frontier if we try it or, what’s more likely, taken into custody. I just don’t know what to suggest.

“Jem! What about Belsornia?” Jo’s voice broke through what was rapidly turning to despair in his mind, and he gratefully turned his mind to her idea.

“Belsornia? I hadn’t thought of that. If only we could get word to the King, it could be done. Otherwise, I’m afraid the passport difficulty would be the same as elsewhere.”

“If we could manage to hide somewhere for the next day or two, could you get word to him, do you think?”

“Where do you propose to hide?”

He listened as Jo elaborated on her idea. They could hide at Umfert until Jack and Gottfried came to meet them, and then make for the Vierfesthütte, where she had spent the previous summer with Frieda, and knew of a place that would be perfect for them. They would quietly shelter there until word could reach Veta or her father, and then hopefully, the Belsornians would be able to find a way of getting them across the border. It was a good idea, calling on resources that Jem had forgotten they had. Princess Elisaveta and her father would do everything that they could to ensure the safe passage of the travellers, not just across the border, but on the journey to England as well. More important to Jem than Jo’s idea, however, was the manner in which she delivered it. He had never doubted her ability to lead, but what he saw in her plan was a maturity that had been missing in many of her previous schemes and misadventures. She had always been a courageous young girl, but this she now combined with a foresight and a measured approach that suddenly gave him a clearer picture of the woman she was becoming.

The rations and supplies he had brought were unpacked, and the final details of their plan were gone over. Then, buttoning his now rather lighter coat, Jem made his goodbyes.

“Now, as soon as I’ve gone, you must clear up here, and get off. I’ll tell Jack and Gottfried to meet you at Umfert. Then you must manage for yourselves. Here’s a couple of torches, and two spare batteries. Don’t use them if you can help it. And for mercy’s sake be careful how you get down the mountain. Goodbye, Miss Wilson. Goodbye, girls. Joey-baba, take care of yourself.” He pulled her close for a moment, talking in a tone so quiet that no-one else could hear. “I’m not saying this now because I believe it’s the last chance I’m going to get, but I want you to know it before you start this journey. I’m proud of the woman you’re becoming, Joey, Madge and I both are. We’ve pigeon-holed you as the complete schoolgirl for too long, but the truth is…” His voice cracked a little, but he continued. “The truth is, you are going to make a wonderful wife and mother.”

With that, he kissed her swiftly on the cheek, and blinking unaccustomed tears from his eyes, walked out of the cave, leaving a party of school girls about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives, an apprehensive and newly white-haired teacher, and a rather surprised young woman.

 

Tenacity by Lizzie

“Any post for me, Dad?” Princess Elisaveta sat down at the breakfast table in the chair next to her husband, and reached for the coffee pot. Her father, deeply immersed in his letters, waved his piece of toast at her vaguely, so she helped herself to a roll and butter, and waited for him to finish. Eventually, with a sigh, he put down the closely written pages, and smiled wearily at his daughter.

“I’m sorry, darling, if I’d put that letter down half-way through reading it, I would have to start all over again next time. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that I won’t have to anyway. Did you ask me a question?”

Elisaveta nodded. “Is there any post for me?”

He sifted through the pile beside his plate, before shaking his head. “Not today, ‘Veta, were you expecting any?”

“Not really, it’s just been a while since I heard from any of the Chalet girls.”

“That’s unlike Jo.” Raphael looked at his wife in surprise. “She’s normally one of your most regular correspondents. How long has it been since you heard from her?”

 ‘Veta shrugged. “Three, four weeks? We’ve been so busy recently, and what with Frédéric's baptism to organise on top of everything else, I only realised yesterday that it’s been over a month since I heard from anyone at the school. I don’t know,” she took a sip of coffee, “maybe they’ve been as busy there as we have here. I know Madame had Juliet’s wedding to organise, and they moved the school up onto the Sonnalpe to be closer to the San.”

Raphael frowned slightly, and glanced at the King. “I wonder if it’s more than that, ‘Veta. You know that Austria is now under new control.”

“You don’t think that Hitler would be remotely interested in them do you?” Elisaveta looked incredulous. “Why on earth would the Nazis make trouble for the Chalet School?”

The King shook his head. “The situation in Austria is incredibly volatile. I don’t think it would take much for such a multi-national school to make Herr Hitler extremely uneasy.” He sighed, and picking up his letter, prepared to do battle once more. “I shall make enquiries for you, ‘Veta, but I don’t want you to write to Jo just yet. Letters can be intercepted, and I have no wish to make things worse.”

Ten minutes later, breakfast finished, Elisaveta accompanied her father and husband out of the sunny breakfast room and into the courtyard, which was gradually filling with morning sunshine. As the double doors at the opposite side swung open for them, they parted ways, the King on his way to his study, and Elisaveta and Raphael on their way to the stables. It was as grooms were leading Trio and Leda out onto the cobbles that ‘Veta heard herself hailed from the door that led back to the palace. She turned to see Alette walking towards her, a letter in her hand and a curious expression on her face.

“What is it, Alette?”

“This letter arrived for me this morning, except…except I do not think it is for me, Madame, I think it is for you.”

“For me?” Elisaveta frowned. “Why would it have been sent to you, then? Was it addressed correctly?”

“Oh yes, Madame. Please,” She handed it to her mistress, “read it. I really think it is for you.”

‘Veta took the letter, and removed it from the envelope. Unlike the lengthy screeds she was accustomed to receiving from her old school friends, the letter comprised one sheet of notepaper, and she exclaimed as she recognised it.

“Oh! It’s from Die Rosen! I’d know that paper anywhere…” she trailed off as she read it, her face becoming clouded with more and more confusion. Eventually, she passed it to Raphael saying “You read it, Raph, I can’t understand it.”

Raphael took it, and read it out loud.

Dearest V,

Was remembering last summer when you came and stayed with us. Bill and I are on a walking holiday and have taken a house there, it reminded us rather of the time you and I crossed the Tiern Pass with Rufus. Would be wonderful if you could visit as soon as possible.

JB

He passed it back to his wife with a shrug. “Sorry ‘Veta, apart from the fact that Jo seems to have sent it to Alette instead of you, it seems fairly unremarkable to me. She and her friend Bill are on a holiday, and would like you to go and visit them.”

Elisaveta shook her head. “Nothing makes sense in this letter, Raph. Bill’s the name we gave to one of our old teachers, and although Miss Wilson is close to Jo, it makes no sense that they should be on a walking holiday together. Also,” she scanned the letter again, “the only time that Joey and I came close to crossing the Tiern Pass was when I was taken from school by Cosimo and she saved me.”

“Really?” Raphael’s face changed. “Do you think she’s trying to send you a message?”

“Someone is.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that’s not Jo’s handwriting.”

“Not Jo’s? Then whose is it?”

Elisaveta looked doubtful. “It’s been a while since she wrote to me, but I’m almost sure that that’s her sister’s handwriting.”

“Mrs Russell? Why on earth would she send you such a cryptic letter pretending to be her sister?”

“I can’t think.” Elisaveta turned with a smile to the grooms who were standing a little distance away. “Matteo, Luca, I’m afraid we must postpone our ride. If you’ll have the horses ready again after lunch, we’ll try again. If we don’t have time, I shall send word, and then maybe you would find someone to take them out for us? Trio, I know, gets especially restless when he doesn’t get his daily exercise.”

The two men nodded, and led the horses away. ‘Veta turned again to her husband. “Now. Dad should have finished his correspondence by now. Come with us, Alette, let’s go and get to the bottom of this…”

Raphael took his wife’s arm, and the three of them made their way back up to the palace in search of the King. With the aid of a few footmen and attendants, they found him a few minutes later in the library, poring over a pile of papers.

‘Veta cleared her throat. “Dad?”

He looked up as she spoke, and smiled at the little party, removing his reading glasses and sitting back in his chair. “Weren’t you two going for a ride? Or have I really been in here for that long?”

Raphael spoke. “We were, but something has come to our attention, and we wondered if we could speak with you. Do you have a moment to spare?”

“Of course,” Carol pushed the pile in front of him aside, and turned to face them properly.

Raphael and Elisaveta pulled up chairs next to the King’s table, ‘Veta gesturing for her maid to do the same. “No, Alette, please do sit for a moment, you might be able to tell us more about the letter.”

“Letter?”

“Yes Dad, Alette received this letter today, and she brought it for me to look at.” She spread it in front her father and waited while he put on his glasses again and read it a couple of times. Then, putting it on the table, he looked up.

“Alette, you received this letter this morning?”

“Yes, Sire.”

The King frowned, “And yet the letter itself is addressed to Elisaveta.” He turned to his daughter. “‘Veta, you were saying at breakfast that it had been a while since you heard from Jo, weren’t you?”

“That’s right, I think the last letter I had from her was just after Frédéric’s baptism, and that was over a month ago. The strange thing, Dad, is that Jo didn’t write that letter, it’s in her sister’s handwriting.”

“Really?” The King’s eyes narrowed, and he took up the letter once more. “That’s certainly very strange.”

“That’s why I had to bring it straight to you,” explained ‘Veta, “What’s going on, Dad? What do you think that Madame is trying to tell us? And why did she send it to Alette instead of straight to me?”

“My guess,” put in Raphael, “is that for some reason, Mrs Russell didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that the Crown Princess of Belsornia was receiving post from Austria, but also knew that Alette would know enough of ‘Veta’s friendship with Jo to pass it on.”

The King nodded, and was about to reply, when there was a crash from the other side of the bookcases, and his private secretary appeared, an enormous pile of folders in his arms.

“I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, sir, here are the documents you asked for.”

“Not at all,” Carol waved his hand genially at the young Englishman, “If you’d put them all down on that table over there, I’ll get back to approving candidates for Archbishop in a while. While you’re here though, Jon, and now relieved of your document hunting, would you mind making a few enquires for me with the Foreign Office?”

An hour later, Raphael found his wife under a tree in the garden, playing with their three month old son on cushion-scattered rugs. ‘Veta waved as he made his way across the lawn, and made room for him to sit down.

“Hello darling, I think there are probably a couple of cups of coffee left in the pot, would you like one?”

“Please. I’ll take Freddie though, so you can finish yours first.” He took his son from ‘Veta’s arms, and made sure he was comfortable amongst the cushions. “Good morning, young man, are you being a good boy for your Mama?”

His Royal Highness Prince Frédéric Raphael Florian Teo of Belsornia blinked up at his father, gave him a benevolent smile, and closed his eyes. Raphael laughed. “This is the life, eh Freddie? Lots of smiles, lots of milk, and you can just drift off when it all gets a bit dull for you.” 

Busy with the coffee pot, Elisaveta glanced across at her husband and smiled. “Is he going to sleep?”

Raphael nodded. “Just drifting off.” He gently slid his hand out from under his son’s head, tracing one tiny ear with a careful finger. ‘Veta passed him his coffee, and for a few minutes, there was silence as they drank, looking down at their sleeping son. Then, putting down her cup with a clatter that almost awoke the baby, ‘Veta exclaimed “Oh! Did Jon find anything out from the Foreign Office?”

Raphael’s face grew a little darker as he nodded. “Yes. Information from Austria is hard to come by at the moment, at least from official sources, but in the last few days, it sounds as if the Nazis have ordered the closing of the Chalet School.”

“Oh no.” ‘Veta’s eyes widened. “And the San?”

“No, not yet, but I would imagine that that Dr Russell will be asked to leave in the next week or so.”

“I don’t suppose the information was specific enough to give us an idea why Madame might have sent the letter pretending to be Jo?” Elisaveta looked hopeful.

“Well, nothing absolutely definite, but it sounds as if some Chalet girls were involved in an…” he paused, searching for the word, “…incident in the centre of Spärtz a few days ago.”

“What kind of incident?”

“The information Jon managed to unearth is all very unclear, but it sounds as if there was a sort of riot, and…” he glanced doubtfully at his wife, “at least two Jews were shot.”

“Shot? Oh Raph…” ‘Veta reached out and grasped his hand. “What can have happened to them?”

“Well,” said Raphael slowly, “If Jo and some other Chalet girls had got themselves into trouble with the Gestapo, I should imagine that they would be trying to leave Austria as soon as possible.”

“And unless they were going to cross without being seen, their papers might not be in order for most of the frontiers,” continued ‘Veta, thinking hard. “Madame and her husband would know that we’d try to help Jo in any way we possibly could, so maybe…” she broke off, a thought occurring to her. “Have you still got the letter?”

Raphael removed it from his shirt pocket and gave it to her. She unfolded it, and read it again, before looking up at him, a smile on her face.

“I think I know what to do.”


“Madge, I…Madge?”

Madge looked up with a start to see Grizel standing next to her, a sheaf of lists in her hand and a concerned expression on her face.

“Sorry Grizel, I was miles away. How is it going upstairs?”

“We’re almost finished, I think. We’ve kept out all the things that we’re going to need whilst we’re travelling, and Marie is helping us pack them into the smaller trunks.” She perched on the arm of the settee where Madge was sitting. “I just wondered if you’d mind looking over the list of the things that are coming with us, and seeing if there’s anything I’ve missed.”

“Of course.” Madge took the lists and there was silence for a few minutes as she ran her eyes over it. Then, with a nod, she handed it back. “I can’t think of anything else, although you might like to show it to Jem if he’s handy. There might be papers or documents that we’re going to need to hunt out.” She sighed. “I wish I could help you, I feel so lazy sitting here while the rest of you run yourselves ragged. Maybe if I was very careful…”

“No.” Grizel shook her head firmly. “You were exhausted before we had to start packing, and you’re going to need all your energy for the next week or so. Jem’s right, you really must try and rest as much as possible, especially after that scare you gave us yesterday.”

“Oh, that.” Madge waved her hand dismissively. “I just stood up too quickly. I’m feeling fine, Grizel, I wish you’d tell Jem that when you see him. He really is making the most dreadful fuss.”

Grizel opened her mouth to say something but thought the better of it, and gathering her lists, started to leave the room. At the door, she paused, irresolute, and turned back towards her friend. 

“He’s worried about you Madge, and…and the baby. He can’t be with Margot and the children in Guernsey, the School and San are being taken over, and Jo and Jack are somewhere between here and Belsornia, but you’re here, and you’re pregnant, and you’re exhausted. Let him help.”


“Oh no.”

Jem shut his eyes and leant forward in his chair, resting his elbows on the desk and pressing his fingers hard against his temples. For several minutes he sat motionless, a living statue, willing the telegram lying in front of him to be from a different person, to contain different news. Finally, he sat back, and took up the piece of paper once more.

NOT THERE STOP DAD SAYS WILL LEAVE PEOPLE THERE IN CASE STOP SO SORRY STOP PRAYING FOR YOU ALL STOP V

He read it again, and then once more, this time out loud. Then, with something like a groan, he crumpled it into his jacket pocket. It was no use fighting it, Elisaveta’s message was clear. She and her Father had received and understood Madge’s message, and covertly, had sent troops to patrol the Vierfesthütte, where it had been Jo’s plan to hide whilst waiting for help from Belsornia. In that respect, the plan had worked perfectly, but the troops, equipped as they were with the exact location of Jo’s proposed hiding place, had failed in their task of finding the refugees, and Jem knew too much of the efficiency and skill of the Belsornian Guard to arrive at any other conclusion than the one he now had to convey to his wife. They had never reached the Vierfesthütte. Something had happened.

Marie had bought the tea through to the Salon, and Madge was reading her book, teacup in hand when Jem entered. She looked up with a smile.

“Hello darling, how’s the packing going?”

He managed to return her smile. “Fine, thanks. Almost done, I think.”

“Oh, well done.” She motioned to the tray set up on the little table next to the settee. “Tea?”

“Please.”

She poured him a cup, and waited until he was comfortably settled in the armchair next to the settee before speaking again.

“Has Grizel come to find you with the lists?”

He looked blankly at her. “Lists?”

Madge nodded. “She came down a while ago and showed me the lists of things that she and Marie have kept out of the big trunks, the luggage that we’ll travel with. I couldn’t see anything they’d missed, but told her to run it past you in case there was anything you could think of.”

He shook his head. “No, I haven’t seen her since Mittagessen.”

“I expect she didn’t want to disturb you while you were packing up the study. She’s gone over to the school now, but left the lists with me in case inspiration struck while I was drinking my tea. Here,” she passed them to him, “I wasn’t sure if there were other documents that we’re going to need to have with us.”

Jem took the lists and tried to give them his full attention, but the lines of print swam before his eyes, and nothing seemed to register. At last, with a shake of his head, he put them down and poured them both some more tea.

“I can’t think.” 

Madge glanced at him, unused to his flat tone. “You mean you can’t think of anything Grizel has forgotten?”

He shook his head. “No…well, yes…what I mean is…”

“You can’t think at all.” She leant forward and placed a hand on his arm. “Darling, I’m sorry that I have been so reluctant to sit and rest these last few days. I’m sorry if I’ve sounded ungrateful, because I know that you’re thinking of me and the baby, but I can see how worried you’ve been lately, and I just wish there was something I could do.”

Jem glanced at her and gave her the ghost of a smile but didn’t answer, so she continued.

“I know you’re right that I should rest until we travel, but if there’s anything I can do to make these last few days easier for you, you will tell me, won’t you? Of course, once we hear from ‘Veta, it will lessen our burden considera…” she stopped as Jem suddenly left his chair, and crossed to the window.

Confused, and wondering what had made him so angry, she left her seat and went to stand beside him. There, however, one glance at his face convinced her that it was not anger that had prompted his abrupt departure. Sitting down on the window seat, she reached up and took his hand.

“Jem, darling, tell me what’s happened.” 

In the years since they had met, Jem could remember several times when, knowing he had bad news for Madge, he had delayed telling her until he knew she was best able to bear it. He had never, however, shrunk away from telling her if she asked directly, but neither had he ever been so in danger of breaking down in front of her, and now, with his throat constricted, and his eyes filling with tears, it was all he could do to reach into his pocket and produce the telegram.

She took it in silence and read it, still holding onto his hand. When she had read it twice, she put it down on the seat cushion next to her, and looked up at him. It had been for that silence, the silence following her reading ‘Veta’s message, that Jem had been trying to prepare. He had readied himself for numbness, for tears, maybe even for fainting, but he was not ready for what she actually did, which was to take his other hand, and gently pull him down so that he was sitting next to her on the window seat. She took his face in her hands, kissed him, and then wrapped her arms around him. In that moment of intense relief and comfort, all the worry and tension of the last few months came crashing over him, and he buried his face in her shoulder and cried as he hadn’t done since was a boy.

A little while later, with refreshed cups of tea, they were sitting together in the open French windows of the Salon, where the late afternoon sunshine was bathing them in warmth. 

“I’m so sorry Madge.” Jem broke the silence, his voice somehow smaller than usual. “That was not at all how I wanted to tell you about ‘Veta’s telegram. I’m sorry.”

“No, Jem,” Madge turned to him, her eyes full of tears. “Don’t apologise to me, please don’t. It should be me saying sorry, darling, not you, you have been an absolute rock to me these last months, and I’ve let you shoulder far too much on your own.”

“I’ve been fine, really.” He smiled properly for the first time in days, “It was just ‘Veta’s telegram that felt rather like the last straw.”

“I know.” Madge nodded. “But you know, I think that we both know enough of the combined tenacity of that band of travellers to give up hope entirely. Something must have happened to prevent them from heading for the Vierfesthütte, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it has been something that will prevent them from finding another way. They were headed for Guernsey when you last saw them, and at the moment, there’s no reason why that should have changed.” She drained her teacup and stood up. “Until we hear any different, we have to be waiting for them there.”

This story archived at http://www.sallydennylibrary.co.uk/viewstory.php?sid=465