Rachel Tests the Chalet School - The second part of term by Squirrel
Summary:

Rachel's continuing adventures at the Chalet School, from Half Term on...  How will everyone cope with what's coming now?


Categories: Ste Therese's House Characters: None
School Period: Future
School Name: Chalet School
Genre: Friendship, School Story
Challenges:
Series: Rachel Tests the Chalet School
Chapters: 7 Completed: No Word count: 13841 Read: 13599 Published: 11 Feb 2012 Updated: 06 Mar 2012

1. Chapter 1 - The Start of Half Term by Squirrel

2. Chapter 2 - The "Heidihütte" by Squirrel

3. Chapter 3 - Rachel Versus the Staff by Squirrel

4. Chapter 4 - Len and Kathy by Squirrel

5. Chapter 5 - The Glacier Express by Squirrel

6. Chapter 6 - Zermatt by Squirrel

7. Chapter 7 - The end of half term by Squirrel

Chapter 1 - The Start of Half Term by Squirrel
Author's Notes:

Thank you once again all for the comments and likes on the last part of the story.  I hope you enjoy the continuing saga! :)

 

The next thing which happened was half term.  Joanne and co had been wildly excited to find that this time they were to start in St Moritz-Bad for a few days, visiting the Dorf end while they were there, before heading to Zermatt in Valais.  This information had not meant much to Rachel, but she had told them that it was hard for her to get excited about going anywhere without knowing anything about it.

Sally went for the big book on Swiss canton’s and looked out the picture of the Matterhorn.  “Look Rachel, this is the best way I can explain why we are so excited at going to Zermatt.  Look at her.  She is the best part of the scenery in Zermatt.  I can’t tell you how close we will get to her, but if we had the right weather I’d love to ski on her!”

Then Joanne chipped in “I doubt we will manage that Sally” And then she turned the conversation a little further “St Moritz is a lovely place as well Rachel, for the most part anyhow.”

Rachel understood at least a little about what they were getting at.  The mountain was indeed lovely.

They were even more pleased when the mistresses told them that the journey from St Moritz to Zermatt would be using the Glacier express.  It was a long journey, and expensive, but it would give them some stunning views.

The staff had taken over a small Chalet in each place for the girls to stay in, and as they were slightly older than the middles, and could be trusted a reasonable extent they were allotted groups to stay in the apartments in.

The number of girls per apartment depended on the size – one of them was for one person, another held up to six at a time.  “We shall be within walking distance of the village of Zermatt, and the station which leads to the Matterhorn expeditions” Miss Darleigh told them while they were travelling to St Moritz.

“Not that we will be doing anything other than looking at it” Mrs Entwhistle put in quickly.  “We couldn’t take anyone up it.  No one is experienced enough a climber.  “And I wouldn’t like to attempt it if it’s snowing either” Miss Darleigh put in. 

Kathy Ferrars, who had asked if she could tag on to their party, in the knowledge that with Nancy and co retiring she would have to get to know many of her juniors quite a bit better than she did already, agreed with this statement.

After looking around their first destination a little the girls worked out a programme for their first few days.  There would be no sightseeing on Sunday, they were all too tired, after their long journey, and barring church they would be taking life easily.

Rachel looked around her in disgust.  “I thought you said Swiss houses were pretty.  I can see something of it of course, but what about those awful block buildings?” she remarked in an undertone.

Joanne smiled at her, “I guess that even the prettiest of places has some buildings which are less attractive than others” she responded quietly, “Anyhow; there are plenty of prettier things about the place.” 

They were settled in the lakeside area, very close to the entrance, and more or less next to the Olympic jump which was built in 1926.  The mistresses were pleased that it was closed most of the year, but some of the sporty girls, such as Sally, spent a fair amount of time there.

They had plans over the next 2 days to try and visit 3 of the different sights which the staff thought would be of interest to the girls.  These were the Mili Weber House, the Slanting tower, and Heidi’s hut.

The greater majority of these were on the hillside, in St Moritz-Dorf.  Miss Ferrars was outlining how they were going to make their trip to the Mili Weber house on Monday morning when Rachel decided, quite unintentionally, to give the others a shock.

Kathy was saying “We leave and walk to the bus station then we have to catch the bus to Dorf, it won’t take that long, but with the weather we have been having recently I think it’s a bit safer all round if we use public transport rather than walking!”

A few minutes later Rachel suddenly asked.  “May I be excused from this trip please?”   The girls all looked up in astonishment; this trip was one they had been waiting for.  “Why do you want to miss it out Rachel?” The question came from Tamara Darleigh who was standing behind her.

“Well, she just said we have to catch a bus.  I’d be sorry for my poor hands doing that, if I wasn’t squashed altogether!”  She told the mistress, a funny glint in her eye.  The girls looked at her blankly until Tamara responded with “And I’d be sorry for the one throwing it!”

At that the others laughed, and they joined in knowing that their little bit of fun had come together nicely. 

A few minutes later Sally turned to Rachel and said.  “I really don’t get how you pair understand each other so well.  You only met just over a month ago, and yet you get on as if you have known each other all your lives.  How come?”

Rachel responded without thinking.  “Oh that’s easy, she’s like me!”  The other girls looked up at this, each one knowing what she was referring to.  Suddenly she gasped.  “Oh I shouldn’t have said that.  I’m so sorry Miss Darleigh.”  She looked very upset, and Tamara hastened to reassure her. 

“It’s alright Rachel, no harm done this time.”  She spoke lightly, never letting anyone suspect her fears as to what this revelation might mean for her relationship with Sally, for she was aware that this new reform had only gone so deep and a mistress with the disorder was rather different to a playmate having it.

A few minutes later when they had managed to withdraw from the other girls for a minute she continued.  “Rachel, you are going to have to think before you speak though.  It’s something which you will need to be able to do as an adult.  Think about it ok?”  Rachel was standing as close to the mistress as she possibly could at this time, but having been given this challenge she agreed that she would try.  Then, having received a reassuring squeeze to the shoulders she slipped off to her room to try and recover her equilibrium again.

It took her a good few minutes to do this, and she was only just coming to terms with what she had done, and what the mistress had said when Joanne banged on her door and told her they were about to leave.

“I think I might just stay here” Rachel told her.  “Why on earth?” Gasped Joanne “I know that you were only having a laugh earlier on, and you were looking forwards to the trip.  Come on Rach, what’s the matter?”

Rachel laughed shakily “I guess I’m not yet used to making silly mistakes.  I shouldn’t have said what I did.  It’s none of my business.”

Joanne looked at her seriously.  How was she supposed to respond to this one?  “Rachel, I know that you will be upset about it, anyone would be.  I know you are probably feeling worse about it – you couldn’t tell me that with the way you get stressed out, this hasn’t affected your stress levels.  Well, you could, but I wouldn’t believe you!” 

She stopped, and decided to go on a little bit more gently.  “Honey, you can react in this in the same way you have to every other stressor.  I can see how it helps you to hide away for a bit.  Did you ever think though, about how much you would miss if you did?

“I don’t know that our crowd will ever come here again.  I know we haven’t repeated any of our other expeditions, and this is possibly the only opportunity you will have to go to the house, to see the tower, or to visit the hut.”

Then as Rachel still seemed hesitant, “Come on Rach, if you stay behind not only will Sally, Tan and the rest of our crowd miss you, but Miss Darleigh or Mrs Entwistle will have to stay behind with you and that would spoil it for them and for the rest.  Please.”

Sighing Rachel agreed that she would come, and knowing that it wouldn’t do to do it half heartedly she managed to cover up the way she was feeling and look like she was enjoying life.

 

Chapter 2 - The "Heidihütte" by Squirrel
Author's Notes:

Thanks once again to those who reviewed. :)

 

The trips around St Moritz came off well.  Rachel had enjoyed it all as much as everyone else, apart from the time when they had congregated in the little hut where Heidi had been filmed.  It was found half way along the Schellenursli Trail, and the party had ended up sheltering in it for a few hours when there was some unexpected heavy rain.

Len and Kathy had shared a glance and laughed before commenting that it was good to have some weather that was unlikely to keep them trapped for longer than a few hours.  There had of course been some singing while they were there, but when this died down chatter arose in its place.

Rachel had been finding the rather cramped conditions hard enough to deal with anyway.  With this added noise, which was made all the louder for the absence of any floor covering, she decided that even the torrential rain was by far preferable, and moving quietly she managed to reach the door before anyone else noticed what she was doing.

Tamara was particularly engrossed in what she was doing on this occasion, for she was finding the noisy situation difficult to deal with, and she was doing her best to keep herself distracted from it.

It was Kathy who looked up as the door opened and a cooling breeze came into the hut.  Len was engaged with keeping the nerves of some of the other girls cool, as some were prone to be excitable, and someone had suggested that they might end up staying in the hut over night.

Kathy was not able to get up as quickly as she might have done because Sally had been lying against her, and as she rose she felt her skirt tug as it slowly pulled out from beneath the weight which had been pinning it to the floor.  It would have simply been a matter of getting the girl to move, if she had not now fallen asleep as well.  Sally had been the instigator of a prank the night before which had had her and one or two of the others up rather later than was good for any of them.

While she was struggling and getting Joanne to help her free herself, Rachel was making headway.  It would be wrong to say that she didn’t notice the downpour – it didn’t bother her.  In fact, it gave her rather more energy than she had had previously and she walked along at an astonishing rate.

It was not as safe a trip as it could have been, as the path was slippery, but it was safe enough, as this was a walk which was thought to be suitable for children.  Thus thought Kathy as she steadily followed the girl, well wrapped up in her waterproof, and bearing the girl’s which she had left behind her in her instinct to get out.

Eventually Rachel spotted a place where she could shelter from the worst of the rain.  She had finally come to her senses and was beginning to panic about what the mistresses would say about her walking off like that.  She knew it was something which she shouldn’t have done, and she was rather nervous about how they would react to her disappearing in such weather.

As she sheltered she also began to feel rather cold.  She shivered, she loved walking in that kind of rain because of the energy it provided her, but she had forgotten that she usually had a hot bath when she got home again.  She wasn’t home just now, and she would have to wait until they got there before she could change.  She began to realise just how silly she had been.

Just as she was beginning to get upset, she saw a familiar figure striding past her chosen refuge.  She sprang out of it with a cry “Miss Ferrars!”  Kathy looked round in relief.  “Why there you are Rachel.  How cold you must be, come with me and we shall get you out of those wet things at once.”  Kathy was quick enough to see how miserable the girl was looking and decided to lay aside the needed retribution for the time being.

Kathy had told Len just before she left that she would take the girl to the hotel where she could have a hot bath, and her clothing could be dried for her while she did so.  Of course, clothes taking a lot longer than people to dry she would also have a relatively lengthy time of incarceration while that dried. 

Kathy was going to suggest that she take the chance for a nap, there being little else she could do with herself.  The others would go on to their next excursion, and the three mistresses could talk to Rachel when they were all back at the chalet.  And this, barring one or two minor chances, such as Rachel’s filching one of the hotel’s books for reading on the grounds that if she slept then she wouldn’t sleep at night, was what happened.

 

Chapter 3 - Rachel Versus the Staff by Squirrel
Author's Notes:

Thank you once again all...  Seems the time for a telling off has arrived...  Oooops!!!

13/2/12

Kathy, Len and Tamara were rather sorry when the time came for them to talk to Rachel.  Tamara especially felt that she had had excuse for her actions, and while she knew that the girl would have to be told about it, she regretted that this was the case.  Len and Kathy being rather more experienced and having faced other pupils in this position were less moved.

“No” Kathy said firmly when Tamara mentioned something about it to her, “I know that she did have some excuse, but there was plenty of other things she could have done about it.  I know all about the stress factor Tamara, don’t get me wrong on that, but she could have hurt herself badly, and she is a liability on expeditions if she is just going to wander off like that.  She is lucky that we cannot send her back to the school, because if we could I would be strongly tempted to do that.

“She has to learn, What if she were to wander off the glacier express while it was at one of the stations?  That is going to be very crowded as well you know.”

By the time Rachel arrived, Tamara had got herself under control, and though she couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor kiddy, she was able to uphold her part in the interview with dignity.

Kathy started it.  “Well then Rachel, tell us your reasoning for creating that disturbance earlier on today.”

Upset as Rachel was, she was able to explain herself well.  “I’m sorry now of course, I didn’t think about how worried you would be, nor how silly it was of me to go.”  She stopped, and the severity on the mistresses’ faces relaxed a little.  “Go on” Kathy commented, rather more gently. 

“It was the noise level” Rachel burst out.  “It was too loud for me and I just couldn’t cope with it.  I had to get out of it.”  She was talking rather wildly, and the emphasis on the word ‘had’ was exceptionally strong.  Here Len created a diversion.
“Oh, Rachel, I don’t think that you had to.”  Rachel looked up at her, wondering what was coming.  “You could have spoken to one of us and we would have got the girls to quieten down.  I accept that the situation was intolerable, but running away from it wasn’t the right thing to be doing.”

Then Kathy joined in again.  “Of course, you do know that I cannot take you on any more expeditions.”  Rachel looked up at that.  “What?”  She asked, stunned.  “Well how can I?  Not only do you make a nuisance of yourself, but you talk about it as if it is the most natural thing in the world and make it clear that in another, similar situation you would do the same.” 

Kathy spoke gently although the words were harsh, not that this made much difference to Rachel who had been on the verge of tears from the start of this interview.  Despite all her efforts to stop them they began to fall. 

Feeling that it was the best way to avoid drawing attention to them, as she had grown up in the school that you didn’t cry, she just let them fall without doing anything about it.  “I’ll just pretend they are not there” she thought to herself.  When she spoke however it was with a vehemence which spoke of a turmoil she hadn’t even realized existed within her at that moment.

“OH none of you understand!”  This was where Tamara came in.  “Oh don’t we now?  Can you tell me Rachel, what was I doing while we were in the hut?”  Rachel looked at her, and when she spoke again it was rather more quietly.  “You were reading Tamara” The question had taken quite a lot of the wind out of her sails.

“Yes, I was reading” the mistress returned just as quietly, ignoring the shocked sounds coming from Kathy and Len at Rachel’s use of her Christian name.  “Now, why would I be reading while the other mistresses were dealing with the other girls?  I’m sure there was plenty to do!”  Rachel looked thoughtful at this.  “You mean that you were bothered by the noise levels as well?”

Tamara looked straight at her and spoke gently this time.  “Rachel, I was so bothered by it that I couldn’t even loose myself in my job.  Normally I can do so, but on this occasion I just couldn’t.  I turned to a book as being the only way for me to cope with it.”  She laughed after this admission, involving as it did the opening up of things she hadn’t said to anyone before, and continued, “Indeed, I must have been badly affected, because I didn’t even think that you might have a problem with it.  And it was something I knew to watch for.”

The other mistresses were looking at her sharply after this frank revelation.  They had received another insight into Tamara which they knew they would not have got but for them all being present at this disciplinary meeting, and Len decided yet again that she needed to have it out with Tamara the next time she got the chance.

That being the case, they talked to Rachel a bit further, and told her that her punishment would be to always have a mistress with her, indoors or not, apart from bedtime, and that when they got back to school Miss Darleigh would be taking time out of her free time to go over some coping strategies. 

Tamara had already decided to get Rachel to copy them out as an aid to her memory, as some of them would be repeats of one’s she had given to her in other scenarios.  When she had gone the other two mistresses turned to look at Tamara.

“Now Tamara” Kathy said with a warning note in her voice, “Tell us why you kept the reason for your reading at times like that to yourself?  Your needs are just as important as those of the pupils in that kind of scenario!”

Tamara gulped, and seeing no way out, for Len looked ready to hold her down by force if she tried to escape from the room, she thought desperately for some words which would distract them.

As she knew there was nothing else she could do about it, Tamara faced her questioners.  Inwardly she was telling herself off for letting so much out, but she knew that there had been no other option.  Len decided to try and take some of the strain out of the atmosphere to see if that would make things easier for Tamara.

“Tamara, you know that we are not telling you off, though it might seem like it.  We are concerned that you don’t seem to have trusted us.  We care about you, and we feel that there is something we could have done which we didn’t because we didn’t know about it.”

Tamara looked at them.  It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them; it was just that there were things she just got on with.  It hadn’t occurred to her that she should tell them about this difficulty.  She laughed, her mind going back to her time at the Uni.  They had come across this problem there. 

June had found out about one or two things which horrified her in the way others reacted to Tamara, and it wasn’t even Tamara herself who had told her about them.  Tamara looked at it as part of life and hadn’t thought about mentioning it.

Len was immediately on to her.  “What’s the story now then Tamara?” she asked her, feeling sure that it was something she had been reminded about that had caused this.

“I’m sorry Len” she responded.  “I was just thinking about how many times I have ended up in this kind of situation with June.”  Kathy looked at her.  “You have been told about this in the past Tamara?”

With a sigh Tamara gave her the outline of her thoughts, before going on to say, “The thing is that I count less than pleasant things as part of a day’s work.  Anything directed at me personally hurts, but it just wouldn’t occur to me to tell anyone about it. 

“I think about the situation of course, more so if a person has been partly responsible for it, but if they have, my thoughts will be along the lines to help me cope with the situation, giving vindication to the person in general, though not in particular.  And that is hardly going to lead to my purposefully telling someone!

“It sometimes comes out in conversation, though not normally in the way it did today.  So please don’t tell me you think I don’t trust you, of course I trust you.  When things get bad enough that they are not counted as part of the day’s work then I will come and tell you – though generally I find that it is only the knowledge of what you will say if I have not sought the support I’ve needed that brings me to it!

“The problem with today in particular is that this is a coping strategy I developed years ago to deal with noisy situations I couldn’t escape.  I always do that first – implement any coping strategies I have, and then look at other ways of alleviating things if that hasn’t helped any.  I’d not think to say anything on that level to anyone about it – it’s never been part of my makeup. ” She grinned at them...  “I’m just too independent to go asking people to make things easier for me.”

She laughed again, but this time there was rather more of stress or strain in the laughter, and Kathy thanked her and left the room.  There was no point in making the girl feel that it was being strung out, and though she would have liked to have done something to make sure that Tamara did not feel that her presence meant judgement.  That would come in time, she decided, at the moment she was too stressed for anything to be done about it.  That being the case she left the young mistress in Len’s capable hands.

Chapter 4 - Len and Kathy by Squirrel
Author's Notes:

Thank you once again to everyone for the reviews - it's been really interesting to see what people think about how they have handled the situation...  Last wee bit before we move on into the next part of the trip...

14/2/12

 

That evening Len and Kathy met up to talk about what had been said earlier on.  They both felt this to be a very serious matter, and they didn’t quite know how they could tackle it.  “She feels that being so stressed out she couldn’t concentrate on her work was all ‘part of the day’s work’.  I don’t understand the way her mind works!”  Thus Kathy as they met up with each other.

“Yes” Len agreed, “And she seems to recon that when it reaches the stage of being too much she will tell us that she has a problem.  I wish I knew how far she let it go while she was in University so we had some guide as to how far we should let it go.”

Kathy looked at her quietly.  “What I wish is that she would tell us how they responded in the university, and the way they went forwards.  After all, I’m sure that they wanted her to be as independent as possible without making herself ill.  I mean, she may well have been taught that something like reading is a good way to distract herself if there is nothing else to be done about it.”

Len smiled at her and looked up.  “I’m sure that may well have been the case.  What she needs to know now is that here we prefer it if she just mentions that something of the sort makes life difficult for her.

Kathy smiled at her gently.  “I’m sure that we will be able to sort something out with her at some point.  But I don’t think either of us are qualified to hunt up too many solutions without talking to her.  After all, she is an adult. It’s not as if we were talking about one of our pupils.  If it were Rachel, then that might be a different matter.”

Len looked at her in distress.  “You know I’d forgotten that.  I’ve been getting so concerned about her I’ve forgotten that she is actually an adult and a staff member.  She might well resent my interfering.”

Kathy laughed at that and hugged the younger mistress gently.  “Don’t even consider it Len.  I have a feeling that Tamara views you in very much the same way that Hilda views Nell, or the way that Nancy and I view each other.  She has said that you have more or less made her a part of your family.  Now you have to realize that while she is a good few or many years younger than you are, she is not young enough to be your daughter, and she would probably hate you to treat her like that.”

She stopped and breathed a prayer for help finding the best words to say.  Then she began to open up, with some degree of difficulty evident in her tones.  “Len, you must know that there are 10 years between Nancy and I.  Now I’m not suggesting that you will ever have the kind of relationship we do, but you do see that we couldn’t be as close as we are if we had not become equal partners to some extent.

“You have developed a friendship with Tamara, and there is a little give and take in it, or Tamara would not have had anything to give you when you were in such need.  For your friendship to last, you will have to come to realize that you need Tamara just as much as she needs you.

“You are doing your best to support her, and that is great, but remember she has lived her whole life with this thing.  Perhaps it was a little arrogant for us to assume that she should come to us any time there is a problem.  We both need to remember that she is not a little child, she is a highly independent young woman who may need a little support, but who, ultimately needs to be trusted to know when she needs to get that support.

“What I suggest we do is have a meeting with her; where we ask her what support she needs when, and we tell her the times we would prefer her to get support from us.  For example I don’t think I’m going to change my mind on the reading on expedition’s thing.  All that needed done there was to ask the girls to quieten down, which would have helped Rachel as well as Tamara.”

Len looked up at her, and there was something which showed Kathy she would have to do some thinking about this before she could accept it fully.  However she still had something to add to this discussion.

“Kathy, you are right, I need to be careful to make sure that I don’t baby Tamara too much.  I think it’s going to be difficult to make sure that it doesn’t go too far to the extreme.”  She paused, before continuing. 

“And I think that for Tamara, saying what she did to Rachel, in front of us, was as hard as it was for you to tell me about you and Nancy.  She seems to class her emotions in general, not only as something that is difficult for her to interpret, but as private as the way you feel about Nancy.”

Then she said something which surprised the elder mistress considerably.  “You know I’ll enjoy teaching under you.”  She smiled at her quietly, “I was rather worried, because there is no one quite like Auntie Hilda, but you have shown just how understanding you can be, and I think that you are the best person to take over in her stead.” 

Kathy then slipped out of the room, leaving Len to her thoughts.

 

Chapter 5 - The Glacier Express by Squirrel
Author's Notes:

As I said yesterday, it has been really interesting to see the different points of view as to the actions the staff have taken.  I think in pretty well any situation, there is a mix of bad and good in what has been done...

This is a rather lengthy post, as I decided to put the whole journey together, rather as several little installments

15.2.12

 

 

When they were discussing the trip the staff had considered the decision to take the girls on the glacier express carefully.  They had looked at the information available to them – Tamara gladly taking on the task of researching the trip all she could, had come up with about 16 pages of information.

The price of the journey had been the first concern.  It was going to work out at about £56 per head, though they hoped to get a discount for the number of people they were taking.  The Swiss travel passes offered to tourists covered the cost of this as well.  They had decided that the expense of a travel pass was not worth it for the length of time they would be using it for, as it was just about double the price of the train journey. 

“Ok what information have we got?”  Kathy had asked – what tips have you got from other travellers Tamara?”

Tamara flicked through her first 8 pages of information to see what was held in them.  “Well, there is one train per day during the winter timetable and half term falls firmly in that category.  That is possibly just as well due to the numbers of visitors they get on the trains during the summer months. 

“I found a page which suggested it might have been better if we could have gone in November rather than October as it was a good deal quieter.  However October is better than the month before it, and I would imagine that as we are later on in the month it might be a good deal quieter then as well.”

She paused and flicked to another page quickly.  “They suggest that if you travel with a friend you would prefer to have your friend facing you so that you can avoid “bumping knees with a stranger” they laughed, with the number of girls who would be going they would book up most of a carriage!

“Hmmm, apparently it’s not the trip to take if you want to avoid crowds.  Is there any chance that Rachel and I would be able to slip off somewhere for a bit of quiet time if we need it?”  The mistresses considered this one carefully for a while, and then shelved it. 

They couldn’t do much about it now, and they didn’t want to make life harder for the school secretaries by having them book on different trains.  The reason for this trip was the Glacier Express experience anyway, and when truth came down to it, the girl would have to accustom herself to crowded scenarios sooner or later.

Thinking back to that bit of the discussion now, Kathy regretted that she hadn’t taken that far more seriously than she had at the time.  She had thought that Tamara wasn’t as serious about this issue as she now appeared to be, and it was only this incident with Rachel, and Tamara’s admitting how difficult she found things like this to be that had brought it to her attention again.  They couldn’t do much about it now though.

The meeting had gone on instead, with Tamara stating that the next suggestion was that they avoid the dining car if it was at all possible, and to go first class to avoid the crowds.  The first was a precaution they had already decided to take, while the second was counted as ‘unnecessary expense’. 

And as for cutting the journey, well it might be nice, and would probably be a good break, but when it came down to it, that would take up 2 of the days they were away for rather than one.  “I’d rather have a bit more time in Zermatt rather than spending longer on the journey to get there” Len stated firmly.  To which the others agreed.

The last comment which had sprung out at Tamara was equally useless as far as they were concerned.  “It also suggests that it might be less crowded, and therefore more comfortable, if we were to go from Zermatt to St Moritz.”  As they had already decided that it would be far better to start out with the longer trip across to St Moritz, and to take the train from there to Zermatt, this was something else they scratched.

“After all, I would far rather have them excited and chattering amongst themselves on the way there than grouching and tired on the way back home.”  Matron had pointed out firmly when she had joined them for the pre booking discussions.  “It’s going to mean early bed for the lot of you anyway without adding in that kind of journey back!”  The mistresses had agreed with that and they were not making any changes that way at this stage.

Tamara then took out her extra 8 pages as well as the first lot and handed copies of them to each of her fellow mistresses.  “I would suggest that you read these well” She commented.  “I’ve heard what the girls are like for asking questions, and it will be one way to keep them amused for 7 and a half hours sitting on a train!”

They glanced over the information she was handing them.  A lot of it was quite repetitive, for all that it would prove to be very useful as they found themselves in possession of several pages of history about the train from its first journey in 1930 right up to date, and even on into the future with information about the plans the officials had to make the transport even better.

Tamara had taken Rachel aside and told her that the train journey looked like being busy and that it might be a very good idea for her to stay close to one of the mistresses.  Rachel, still feeling closer to her than to any of the others, asked if it would be alright if she stayed with her.  Due to her exploit at the Heidihutte this decision was backed up by way of her punishment as well.

Tamara agreed with this, but told her that due to the length of the journey she might ask Len to take over for a bit.  Rachel sighed but agreed to this.  They were provided with packed lunches, and with some extra food for snacks they were prepared even for a 7 hour train journey.

While they were alone Tamara also took the chance to remind Rachel about her use of her Christian name.  Rachel accepted the fact that she had been wrong to use it in the meeting, and Tamara didn’t say all that much about it anyway.  Rachel had just used the name which had made her more comfortable. 

This was another area where Rachel knew she was in the wrong, and she didn’t really need disciplining; just a slight reminder that it didn’t do to call your teachers by their first name.

The packing was done quickly and they left for the station.  Soon they were on the train.  Rachel stayed close to Tamara, and though Joanne looked after them wistfully, she knew that this arrangement was best for Rachel.  Miss Darleigh had told her that she hoped Rachel would be able to cope better with just her friends about her as time went on.

It wasn’t good for Rachel to develop a dependency on the teaching staff, but if Rachel needed something extra then it was up to the staff to provide that extra rather than the pupils, though Joanne did a good job when it became necessary for someone to support Rachel when the members of staff were not available.

Not even with the best will in the world could the staff sit in the common room.  The girls had always been allowed a great deal of freedom, and both staff and pupils would resent this extra supervision.  And while they could give Rachel more space, they could not countenance her being in her room the whole time.  One of the reasons she was at this school was to learn how to cope with these kinds of situations, and she could not run away from the community completely.

At this moment however she was allowed to stay with the mistress, simply because this was the only way in which they could be assured she would not get left behind at one of the stations they passed through.

Seven and a half hours of train travel stretched before them. The girls were used to long journeys for the most part with the length of their trip to and from the school each term.  They were soon settled in.  Their carriage, which held 56, had few others in it – with their party consisting of about 26 members it was less than half full for a wonder.

The girls chatted quietly as they viewed the fantastic scenery.  They passed this kind of thing each time they went to school and back again, but this was their first time on a train which went at a pace to allow them to savour what they were passing.  One or two of them lapsed into silence as they went, awed by the beauty of it all.

They were glad of the serious way they studied languages at the school, for the train had a running commentary about the different places they were passing and they found that they were able to understand what was being said, even when it was not in their own language.

Joanne sat with her group surveying the passing scenery.  She was accustomed to beauty spots, but this was one of the few times when she had been on a trip which was dedicated to it.  She was silenced by the majesty displayed in the peaks and valleys she saw. 

Kathy who happened to take a glance round was reminded of her first real hike out with the school, when Mary-Lou had saved her life.  Earlier on during that trip she had seen such a panorama as this, peaks stretching before her like a never ending snowfield.  

The way Kathy had felt then would have shown a similar look of absorption on her face as she could see on Joanne’s now, and it reminded her of just how much growing up the girl had done over the last term.  Rachel’s need had set her thinking far more deeply about things than she had thought in the past.  Her parents were going to get a shock when she next returned home.

Just then Joanne roused up for a moment.  “I can’t help but feel how big God must be when I see this.  These giants are no more than anthills in his sight.  How small we are in comparison.”

There was a silence in the carriage as those who had heard her absorbed what she was saying.  The mountains they were looking at were made by the God whose son had died upon a roman cross. 

Some of her hearers may have disagreed with what she said, and they were silenced at this moment, by the simplistic faith she showed.  Some of them may well have gone on to question the reasons they disagreed with her.  To all of this, Joanne herself, and her friends were oblivious as they viewed the awesome scenery.

The day wore on with few incidents of note.  The girls were relatively quiet as they allowed the atmosphere to touch them, and the mistresses were pleased that they had happened to hit upon a train which was quite quiet.  The normal chatter of children and tourists was far more absent than it would have been if they had taken the trip in the summer time.

However, even the awe which had descended on the party had to come to an end at some point.  It started when they were going through one of the tunnels.  The train was rushing on at a fair rate, and Sally was the first to notice it.  “Oh, my ears are popping!” she said in surprise.  “I thought that was only supposed to happen on planes.”

The mistresses smiled at her, and Len, who had happened to come prepared for this kind of thing threw her over a barley sugar.  “I don’t know what Matey would say about this Sally, but suck that for a bit.  It’s supposed to help.”

Of course this began the girls on having some of their snacks, and while some of them started by following Sally’s example by sucking a sweet while they were going through the tunnel – and having some extra sweets set aside for some of the others they were going to come across as the journey went on.

The mention of the tunnels had set the girls thinking and they began to ask questions, firstly about the journey, then about the history of the train.  The mistresses were indeed grateful for the pages they had read over the few days before the holiday, and when the noise began to get a bit too much Tamara, who had brought the information with her, handed them to the girls and they read the information for themselves.

This calm handling of the situation caused the other mistresses to laugh. “What’s that for” Tamara asked them quietly.  “You” Len replied.  “First you request us to learn and digest the information on your fact sheet, then you bring a copy with you, and rather than spending your time telling the girls what you have learned, you hand over a copy to them.  I think it’s priceless.”

Tamara chuckled with her, and then turned her attention to Rachel.  She had been pretty quiet for most of the journey, spending it either looking out of the window, or reading one of her books.  Now she was more or less asleep, as she was tired from all of the new experiences. 

Tamara smiled at the girl, sometimes it seemed that life was so hard, at others it was easy, and then there were the times you just wanted to sleep, no matter what was going on around you.

“At least you learned about it while you were still at school” she murmured quietly, thinking about all that she would have been saved if she had known about such a thing as Aspergers Syndrome when she was younger.  Then she smiled, well, that depended upon the situation of course. 

Tamara had met people who had known about having this early on in life who had found life very difficult – even those at the ‘high functioning’ end of the spectrum.  Then there were those who went through life without a diagnosis, and managed to cover up any issues well right the way through life.

Far more common were those who were diagnosed because of social difficulties developed at some point as they grew older.  Sometimes it was in the workplace, but sometimes it was marriage difficulties which had people searching.  Tamara didn’t want to think about how many families split up because of this thing going undiagnosed.  There was at least a chance, if both partners were willing to work at it, when they found out about the diagnosis.

Some of Tamara’s friends at university had said that they did not plan on marrying, not because of this, but because of the extra stress which being in a relationship of that kind caused.  One of them Chris, had been particularly sure about this.  “It’s not that I’m saying for definite.” He had said to her one day, “After all, I don’t know what the future holds, or what God may want of me.  But in as far as I can judge it’s not going to happen.  I find that kind of situation too stressful, and I don’t want to put myself through it.

“I’ll be happy in a people orientated workplace, which is what I want, if I can go home at night to my own place and do what I want to do, without having to bother without other people.”  That was precisely what Chris had done, after the first faltering start.

Amy had been almost the opposite.  “I know I find that kind of thing stressful, but it’s something I want.”  She had explained to the group one day.  “I’m not quite as obsessive about it as my brother.  I sometimes think he would do anything to have a girlfriend” she stated sadly.  “But for me, having a partner is important, and it’s something I want, when the chance comes.”

Tamara thought that the majority of the group was uncertain about what they wanted in that way, though they were probably more leaning towards the dating side than the non dating side.  She was with this majority, but she knew that the lifestyle she lived at present was not going to bring her into contact with many of the opposite sex, and she was quite happy with things being left like that for the moment.

She smiled again, other than a few complications there was very little that she could say that others who were not on the spectrum could not also say.  She had once been told that everyone finds relationships of that kind stressful, so even some of that was little different as well.  Though she admitted to herself that the person she was talking to at the time didn’t even know about her diagnosis, never mind what it meant for her and others.

Soon Rachel roused again and stared blankly out of the window again.  Some of the time Tamara wasn’t convinced that she took anything in, but it did at least give her something to think on.

It was while Tamara was allowing her mind to drift that Rachel suddenly turned to her and asked a question which startled her.

 “What did you ask Rachel?  I’m sorry I didn’t hear you properly.”  Tamara decided it would be best to make sure she had heard correctly.

“I said how do you know for certain that God is here?  I look at this, and I see stunning scenery, and I don’t see God.  I have grown up in a family where I have learned about God all my life, but now I have been told I have this thing called Aspergers Syndrome, and I ask how I can have something which makes every day life difficult, and yet there is still a God.  There is still a God who chose to make me this way, and I don’t want it.  I’ve not seen this God, I’ve never met him.  How do I know He even exists?”

Rachel’s voice was getting louder, and Tamara touched her to quieten her.  She knew that they would have to go into these issues with her.  It needed to be done then, and in such a way that they could talk it over without disturbing any of the other passengers if it was at all possible.

She thought about how she could respond to this.  “Rachel, I’m sorry that you are finding things so difficult at the moment.  Of course it is hard for you.  You only got the diagnosis, is it 4 months ago?”  She waited and when Rachel confirmed this she continued.  “Well, firstly, that is not a long time when it comes to something like this.  Getting a diagnosis of this kind is very much like losing yourself.  You are the same, and yet you are so different.  I was still finding it hard to deal with a year later, though I’d gone through a process up to that time.

“In some ways I still find it hard now, though I don’t tend to get the ‘why me’ feeling so often.  I have come to a place where I accept it.  No one is trying to say it is easy Rachel, but the first thing you need to remember is that you are not the only one with the diagnosis.  You have been diagnosed far earlier on in life than I was, and in some ways that makes it easier for you.”

She stopped for a minute, and Kathy and Len waited to hear what she had to say.  They were more than willing to help, but they had the feeling that Tamara was the best person to answer at least some of Rachel’s questions before they pitched in.  At least she could respond from fellow feeling, while they could chip in with their common sense views later on.

“Now, on to the question about God, I think when I was your age my personal experience of God was nil, and it was just the way I had grown up which gave me my conviction that He existed.  I never was one for giving up on the old things.  Even now I sometimes call aunts by names I used when I was a small child. 

More recently I have had what I would call experiences of God, but it started with changes I made to my life.  For example I started a discipleship group shortly after I received my diagnosis, and I went into that believing that I needed God more than ever.  If I needed help in coping with even the normal aspects of day to day life I needed God about 24/7.

“Sadly, I don’t always manage this, but I know of my need for him.  The group I attended challenged us to spend time with Him.  In your situation I would simply ask God to tell you that he is there, and then expect him to respond.

“In my quiet times I would start with a quick prayer and then I would wait.  Most mornings a picture would come into my head of me, sitting on a person’s shoulder.  Somehow I knew that the person was God, and he was telling me that I was His child and that He loved me.

“Rachel, I cannot tell you how you will come to know something you cannot see, touch, or feel in the normal way.  One thing I do know though is that God will show you, if you ask him.”

She stopped there, feeling that she had said enough for the moment.  Len and Kathy sat back as well.  It was obvious that Rachel had heard enough for the moment.  Perhaps they would have their time to talk with her later on, if that was what they felt God wanted them to do.  And still the train moved on towards their final destination.

This incident past the girls who had also been listening to this conversation about what Tamara believed, some from pure nosiness, some because they couldn’t help it and some because they knew that at some point they may well be answering questions like these themselves, returned to their own interests.  Sally brought out some cards, and having played a few games of patience invited Tan and Joanne to join her.

Joanne played one game before excusing herself, but the other 3 said that if Sally would have them they would make up numbers.  Sally gladly agreed to this, leaving Joanne to slip off and think for a while.  After a few minutes Len joined her.  “Hi Jo; you alright?”  She asked quietly.

Joanne turned to the young mistress.  Len had been her first contact from within the school, and Joanne had always felt grateful to her for smoothing the path for her to actually become a pupil.  “I guess Mrs Entwhistle.  I’m just thinking.”

Len wasn’t to be put off like that however, she knew that some thinking was alright, but something told her that this kind of thinking might need someone in the background to give a hand when it came down to the difficult stuff.

“Would you like to share it with me?”  She asked eventually.  “It might help you know.”  Joanne smiled, in some ways Len was to her what Tamara was to Rachel.  It was just that she didn’t get as close to Len in school.  As Joanne couldn’t go home for most of her holidays, Len and her extended family often had her visit them.  The summer had been split between her friends this time so she had been in England when term began. 

After pausing a little Joanne decided it would be alright to tell her.  “It was just hearing Rachel’s question like that.  I firmly believe in God and I have experienced him, but how do I talk to someone like Rachel about him, someone who needs physical knowledge of something, for whom faith is difficult in the extreme.  

“I was amazed at the way Miss Darleigh handled it.  I couldn’t have done it like that.  And if it wasn’t Rachel – who could come to me later on at some point, it could be anyone who has not heard the truth about Christ, or who has not believed it, an agnostic or an atheist for example.  How could I explain my beliefs to them?”

Len smiled at her, as she in her turn paused and thought about what she was going to say.  Then she pitched in, starting with the question of Rachel.

“I think that one thing you are going to have to accept Joanne, is the fact that Tamara is a fair amount older than you are; and therefore she knows better how to go about some of these things than you do. 

“I think that she was answering Rachel out of her own experience as well.  She has obviously had the same questions that Rachel has now, but she has come to a place where she can be at peace about them.  She may not have vocalised those concerns, or even admitted them to herself, but she had thought the issues through and was therefore ready with an answer.

“Now, sticking with the question about Rachel, if she was to come to you, and I only say if, because we cannot be sure that she actually will, then a good place to start is by looking at the positive things.  What if she had come to the school and Tamara hadn’t been here, what if she hadn’t come to the school in the first place.  You could then say that God is the one who provided those good things for us.

“As to the AS itself, well, is AS all bad?  I know that there are some things which are undesirable – for example the way she gets stressed.  If I could find some way to eliminate her stress levels then I assure you I would do it – and for Tamara too, but while there are some things that seem to have no good bits, like the stress, most bad things have a flip-side which is good. 

“I would suggest that you look for them, and have Rachel help you with that, even if it is a case of her saying that this thing is bad, start off by suggesting that this side to it could also be counted as being good, and later on ask her if she can see anything good about it.  Remind her that “all things work together for good for those who love God”, and see what she says.

“you can only take it a step at a time, and I wouldn’t try anything until you have made some of my suggestions your own, by thinking about it, but I would imagine that it is through this sort of thing that you will be able to help Rachel with the most.”

Then Len decided that she had said enough, and squeezing the girls shoulder, she left the corridor where they had been standing to go back to her own table, while Joanne took a few minutes more to think through what had been said before following her example.

The girls had been occupied with their books and other occupations for some time when Sally, looking up from her patience cards for a moment, called out “The Matterhorn!”  The others looked up for their first view of this stunning mountain which was not from a book.

“Glo-ri-ous”

 “Am-ay-zing”

 “Won-der-ful”

“Mir-ac-u-lous”

  The epitaphs came one after the other, with that sense of awe that only natural creation can inspire.  This was not done by hand of man; this was nature at its most beautiful. 

At the last one, Len turned with a mischievous smile to Kathy.  Neither said anything, they didn’t need to.  Both knew what the other was thinking of.  “Ancient history” Len murmured after a while.  “Thanks” Kathy told her with a grin, “I wasn’t that much younger than you are now when that took place.”

The low tones carried enough for Tamara to look up enquiringly.  “Tell you later”.  Len said with a grin.  Kathy decided that now would be a good time to tease Len a little more by saying.  “You could also tell her what happened the last time I came here with you!”  At which Len laughed before saying “You pig Kathy!”

 She managed to keep her tones low so that it was only Tamara who heard what she was saying.  “All right, I’ll play ball, but if you had been a pupil here as well as a teacher I’d think back and find some sin of yours that you could have told Tamara about!” 

“You mean there’s not enough for you to tell her about me as a mistress” Kathy returned in equally quiet, but shocked tones.  With that they turned their attention back to the scenery.

The girls watched as the Matterhorn slowly came towards them.  “She is such an amazing shape, she has been well named.”  Joanne said quietly.  Sally plunged in with reference to the Jungfrau.  “Do you prefer Matterhorn to Jungfrau?”  She asked.

Joanne shook her head.  “No, the horn is lovely of course, but she just doesn’t compare to Jungfrau.  Jungfrau is like a sea on a wild night, especially when she has just received some more snowfall.  Matterhorn is amazing, but while her majesty is awe striking, it just doesn’t compare.”

Sally smiled in relief.  Neither of the two mountains belonged to her of course, so she couldn’t call it a personal affront, but she did feel that to prefer the Matterhorn over the Jungfrau was treachery.  Especially considering the fact their school was within sight of the Jungfrau.

Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish the Jungfrau from the Eiger and the Monch because of how close they were to each other from certain perspectives.  However the school looked on her from such an angle that it wasn’t difficult to see her apart from her close neighbours.

“Of course it is nice to see what is almost a natural pyramid” Joanne continued after a little while.  “That she is so perfectly shaped is something that I can only put down to the way that God works in the world of nature.”  She said, voicing her faith again. 

Later on she was to remember this and wonder.  She was not usually one to talk about her beliefs, strong though they were.  “I guess it’s just the majesty of the mountains” she thought to herself, putting aside the thought that she saw the Jungfrau many times during the school year, and it rarely had such an effect on her.

“If she is the shape of a pyramid, how come the word Horn is part of her name?” asked Rachel quietly.  “Well, she is almost a pyramid” Kathy Ferrars admitted quietly, “But from another angle you can see that the top of her actually curves round to give her a horn, so it makes perfect sense really.” 

She smiled at the girls as she continued.  “You shall all see that when we are in Zermatt of course.  You will have to be thinking of what you would like to do there.”

Now the discussion dropped and the girls became absorbed in watching her drawing ever closer, right until they passed her.  Once that happened, the mistresses called them all to make sure that they were packed up and ready to leave the train. 

So they sighed for the end of the trip, but glad of the chance to stretch their legs they went out into the open air and when they had all gathered together they walked to their pension.

“Now girls, don’t be surprised at the lack of traffic, remember this is a traffic free zone, which means that we need to get to the majority of places under our own steam!”  Len commented quietly as they picked up their baggage and started to walk off chatting.

 

 

End Notes:

Please Note...  All information pertaining to the Glacier Express was as complete and up to date as I could make it at the time of 'Rachel' being written.  The source of the information I had was this webpage:  http://www.glacierexpress.ch/en/Pages/default.aspx

Chapter 6 - Zermatt by Squirrel
Author's Notes:

Thanks once again, to those who reviewed...  This chapter isn't quite so long...  16/2/12

 

They were to spend 3 full days in Zermatt, arriving late on the Tuesday evening, and leaving again on the Saturday morning.  While they were there they were considering perhaps taking a stroll along one or two of the more easy hikes, and visiting the Alpine Museum amongst other places.

As they left the train station they passed a meadow, where there was a small farmhouse.  Len looked at it, before turning away with a curious smile on her face.  Kathy who knew all about it smiled and commented quietly “we could do with Nancy here now!”  Len agreed with her and laughed again.  This time their group demanded to know what was so funny, so Len had to agree to tell the story.

“Only not here and now” she commented quickly.  “It’s well past time for us to be making tracks for our chalet.  Come on girls, we don’t want to arrive too late you know.”  The other mistresses agreed with this dictum, and they quickly formed up into lines and moved off.

When they were all settled and managed to meet up again, Len had a proposal for them.  “Right girls, there is no point in us going out again now, it’s rather late, and I’m sure you could all be doing with a break.  So I’m going to suggest that we have our evening meal and then spend the rest of the day quietly.

“Then tomorrow, why don’t we form into parties and wander round the village in the morning – those of you who do not know the place can explore it thoroughly.  And in the afternoon we have our trip to the museum.  That ought to be enough for one day.

“On Thursday we have our trip up the Gornergrat, though be warned that altitude sickness is common, so you will have to be prepared for the chance that you will need to come back down again.  We shall split into two groups, with Miss Darliegh taking those who need to leave the area back down again and Miss Ferrars and I showing the others around the place.”

The mistresses had decided this last one since Tamara had not been tested at altitude yet, and the others had been up before so knew what to do when they got up there.  “Later on, if you stay here for one of the holidays we can go back and I’ll show you anything you have had to miss” Len had offered later on, and Tamara had agreed that this might be a good idea.

Then Kathy cut in.  “We shall be leaving too early on Saturday for you to spend any time in the village that day, so on Friday morning I suggest that we might want to go up to the meadows we just passed to have a wander round there, and in the afternoon you can do as you like to explore the surrounding area. 

“Then we shall all need to begin packing so we are ready to head out to where the coaches will be meeting us to take us back to the school.”  She laughed quietly to herself.  “And I think that the staff will be quite busy on Saturday afternoon, so if you don’t want to miss out on a treat, you had better behave yourselves!”  She ended with a smile, but leaving the girls with the knowledge that teasing or not she was also perfectly serious about this.

Only Rachel was asking, “But is there any reason that we would choose to misbehave?”  Kathy looked at her pointedly, remembering that Rachel had been in trouble herself not all that long ago.  Rachel looked at her quietly, she was rather uncertain what that look might mean. 

“That means no wandering off Rachel” Len reminded her quietly.  Rachel looked at her, remembering now.  Of course she wouldn’t be wandering off.  She had been told about it, hadn’t she?

Tamara decided that enough was enough.  “Alright Len, how about you tell us what was so funny about passing the meadows?”

Len laughed again before responding.  “When I visited here as a pupil, it must be something more than 20 years ago now of course, we came up towards the meadow on our second last day.  We had enjoyed ourselves and were just having a good time.  I was with my close friends, plus my sisters and their friends as well.”  Here a shadow passed over her face as she remembered the other things which had occurred during the course of that trip.

“We were wandering along with Miss Wilmot, when we suddenly spotted a young boy rushing along with a piglet who was making the most awful noise.  The young thing’s mother was also following him at quite a pace.

“Miss Wilmot straddled the path in an attempt to catch the boy, who somehow changed direction and ran right at me and my sisters.  One of my friends grabbed the young thing in an attempt to give it back to its mother.

“She, poor thing, didn’t realize that the boy had changed direction and went on regardless.  She passed under Miss Wilmot and pushed so hard that she ended up with a passenger – which was just as well, because she was heading straight towards the stream.

“The look on Miss Wilmot’s face as she rode the pig backwards is something I shall never forget.  Luckily her extra weight brought the poor animal up short and she was deposited on the ground before they reached the river.

“But the thing I will always count as the funniest of all happened after the piglet was back with its brothers and sisters, and its mother was back on her way to join them.

“Young Ian, for that was the boy’s name, was asked what he had thought he was doing.  His response was something along the lines that he had liked the look of the piglet and wanted to take it to bed with him!  He was only a young boy of course, but that finished us all.”

With the story told the mistresses reminded the girls that it was getting late and that it was really heading on for bedtime, so the party broke up as the girls sought their various sleeping quarters.

“Well that was one way to liven up an evening” Tamara remarked quietly.  “When would be the best time to tell me the rest of what happened here?”  She asked out of ignorance of how serious the situation actually had been.

“If you don’t mind Tamara, I’ll leave it until we are not on holiday any more.  It’s not the most pleasant of memories, and it’s one I’d rather forget.”  Len returned.  “There are some other stories of the time we were here of course, which I will gladly tell you, but the one Kathy was referring to was not fun.”  She concluded.

Tamara agreed that in that case it was probably better to leave it there, and the three of them then decided to follow the example of the girls.  And if any of the girls emulated Ted Grantley by dreaming about the story they had been told she was lucky enough not to wake anyone up.They were to spend 3 full days in Zermatt, arriving late on the Tuesday evening, and leaving again on the Saturday morning.  While they were there they were considering perhaps taking a stroll along one or two of the more easy hikes, and visiting the Alpine Museum amongst other places.

As they left the train station they passed a meadow, where there was a small farmhouse.  Len looked at it, before turning away with a curious smile on her face.  Kathy who knew all about it smiled and commented quietly “we could do with Nancy here now!”  Len agreed with her and laughed again.  This time their group demanded to know what was so funny, so Len had to agree to tell the story.

“Only not here and now” she commented quickly.  “It’s well past time for us to be making tracks for our chalet.  Come on girls, we don’t want to arrive too late you know.”  The other mistresses agreed with this dictum, and they quickly formed up into lines and moved off.

When they were all settled and managed to meet up again, Len had a proposal for them.  “Right girls, there is no point in us going out again now, it’s rather late, and I’m sure you could all be doing with a break.  So I’m going to suggest that we have our evening meal and then spend the rest of the day quietly.

“Then tomorrow, why don’t we form into parties and wander round the village in the morning – those of you who do not know the place can explore it thoroughly.  And in the afternoon we have our trip to the museum.  That ought to be enough for one day.

“On Thursday we have our trip up the Gornergrat, though be warned that altitude sickness is common, so you will have to be prepared for the chance that you will need to come back down again.  We shall split into two groups, with Miss Darliegh taking those who need to leave the area back down again and Miss Ferrars and I showing the others around the place.”

The mistresses had decided this last one since Tamara had not been tested at altitude yet, and the others had been up before so knew what to do when they got up there.  “Later on, if you stay here for one of the holidays we can go back and I’ll show you anything you have had to miss” Len had offered later on, and Tamara had agreed that this might be a good idea.

Then Kathy cut in.  “We shall be leaving too early on Saturday for you to spend any time in the village that day, so on Friday morning I suggest that we might want to go up to the meadows we just passed to have a wander round there, and in the afternoon you can do as you like to explore the surrounding area. 

“Then we shall all need to begin packing so we are ready to head out to where the coaches will be meeting us to take us back to the school.”  She laughed quietly to herself.  “And I think that the staff will be quite busy on Saturday afternoon, so if you don’t want to miss out on a treat, you had better behave yourselves!”  She ended with a smile, but leaving the girls with the knowledge that teasing or not she was also perfectly serious about this.

Only Rachel was asking, “But is there any reason that we would choose to misbehave?”  Kathy looked at her pointedly, remembering that Rachel had been in trouble herself not all that long ago.  Rachel looked at her quietly, she was rather uncertain what that look might mean. 

“That means no wandering off Rachel” Len reminded her quietly.  Rachel looked at her, remembering now.  Of course she wouldn’t be wandering off.  She had been told about it, hadn’t she?

Tamara decided that enough was enough.  “Alright Len, how about you tell us what was so funny about passing the meadows?”

Len laughed again before responding.  “When I visited here as a pupil, it must be something more than 20 years ago now of course, we came up towards the meadow on our second last day.  We had enjoyed ourselves and were just having a good time.  I was with my close friends, plus my sisters and their friends as well.”  Here a shadow passed over her face as she remembered the other things which had occurred during the course of that trip.

“We were wandering along with Miss Wilmot, when we suddenly spotted a young boy rushing along with a piglet who was making the most awful noise.  The young thing’s mother was also following him at quite a pace.

“Miss Wilmot straddled the path in an attempt to catch the boy, who somehow changed direction and ran right at me and my sisters.  One of my friends grabbed the young thing in an attempt to give it back to its mother.

“She, poor thing, didn’t realize that the boy had changed direction and went on regardless.  She passed under Miss Wilmot and pushed so hard that she ended up with a passenger – which was just as well, because she was heading straight towards the stream.

“The look on Miss Wilmot’s face as she rode the pig backwards is something I shall never forget.  Luckily her extra weight brought the poor animal up short and she was deposited on the ground before they reached the river.

“But the thing I will always count as the funniest of all happened after the piglet was back with its brothers and sisters, and its mother was back on her way to join them.

“Young Ian, for that was the boy’s name, was asked what he had thought he was doing.  His response was something along the lines that he had liked the look of the piglet and wanted to take it to bed with him!  He was only a young boy of course, but that finished us all.”

With the story told the mistresses reminded the girls that it was getting late and that it was really heading on for bedtime, so the party broke up as the girls sought their various sleeping quarters.

“Well that was one way to liven up an evening” Tamara remarked quietly.  “When would be the best time to tell me the rest of what happened here?”  She asked out of ignorance of how serious the situation actually had been.

“If you don’t mind Tamara, I’ll leave it until we are not on holiday any more.  It’s not the most pleasant of memories, and it’s one I’d rather forget.”  Len returned.  “There are some other stories of the time we were here of course, which I will gladly tell you, but the one Kathy was referring to was not fun.”  She concluded.

Tamara agreed that in that case it was probably better to leave it there, and the three of them then decided to follow the example of the girls.  And if any of the girls emulated Ted Grantley by dreaming about the story they had been told she was lucky enough not to wake anyone up.

 

Chapter 7 - The end of half term by Squirrel
Author's Notes:

Thanks to everyone for your patience.  Only a small update here.

 

 

Joanne wandered around the little village once more.  She was on her own at present as she had asked the others who normally went around with for a bit of space.  She had informed Miss Ferrars about this and had been given a boundary line so that she should be safe enough to be on her own.  If she wanted to go out into the country again she would need to join up with one or two of the others.

It had been a good experience overall, but rather thought provoking at the same time.  She was still rather troubled by some of her questions, although Len had helped her both on the train to Zermatt, and on the other occasions when Joanne had approached her.

Joanne realized though that this was one thing she would have to come to her own conclusions about, however much she talked it over with others.  “I’ve just accepted my faith” she thought to herself.  “We have never really been encouraged to question it here, and it is a rather sheltered existence we have at boarding school.”  She looked at the buildings which surrounded her.

They were strong and had survived many years.  They were built in such a way that the flood waters might not touch them.  Was her faith like that, or would it crumble when she came upon a hard time?

Her thoughts then turned to the inspection which had passed just before the start of Half term.  Len had never said anything to her about it, but she knew that no teacher likes being inspected.   All that without mentioning the reason why the inspection had taken place, and the horrible slanders against her beloved teacher, something which must have made the whole ordeal so many times worse.  And having to support Miss Darleigh through the various hoops she’d had to jump through to make sure that the history department was in a reasonable position in the brief space of time they had had to prepare for it.

Len had gone through all of that without Joanne even suspecting that there was something wrong, and now she made up her mind to talk to the teacher about it.  Up until this point, even her knowing Mrs Entwhistle out of school had not prepared her for the thought that she might get upset and stressed by different things.  Now she wanted to find out how Len coped, and how she managed when life got difficult for her.

Joanne knew that until she was tested – presumably once she had left school – she would not know how she herself would cope, but if she could talk to Mrs Entwhistle about it she would be guided as to how someone she admired managed when life got difficult.

She turned her head and smiled, feeling a little happier about things.  She was not much further on in her musings, but she knew she would get there sooner or later.  Then she wandered over to the group which she saw in front of her.

Rachel was there, with Miss Ferrars as the staff had indeed stuck to their word that unless she was getting ready for bed one of them would remain with her.  Rachel had found this quite difficult, but she did admit to Joanne that it would act as a reminder the next time she felt she absolutely had to get out of a situation.

“Ah Joanne we were wondering if we would see you.” Kathy said to her with a smile.  Rachel said nothing, she didn’t feel she belonged to this conversation and she had been in a bit of a quiet mood recently.  “I just don’t feel like talking” was all she would say.

Tamara had shot a look at her at that, but had refrained from saying anything.  Joanne had followed her lead, but wanted to talk to the teacher if she would let her, to find out why she was leaving Rachel to it.  There had to be a reason for Rachel looking like that; and it was rare in Joanne’s experiences at least, for Miss Darleigh to leave Rachel feeling as she was, without talking things through with her.

What Tamara would have said to her had she been challenged on the matter is another matter.  She did not check out with her immediately and soon forgot about it. 

Having been invited to join the pair she did so happily, and chatted with the mistress.  As she was indeed thinking even more deeply than before she recognised that it was hard on Kathy to have a girl like Rachel with her, and to be without the companionship of the other teachers as well.

Joanne admitted to herself that at this precise moment she just did not understand Rachel, and this did not help her when it came to sympathising with her.  Sometimes the girl seemed quite grown up, at others she seemed to think in the same ways the juniors thought.  She was reasonable on occasions, but still wanted her own way, even when she knew that others points of view were valid.

Joanne smiled, at least at that she did recognise the validity of others opinions, going so far as to accede to what they said, however reluctantly.  She had her own sense of right and wrong, as had come out on several occasions, yet she seemed to value herself far too much.

That was it, there were times that no matter how empathic she might manage to be, or how astute, she still had areas which were firmly in control of the ‘I want’ monster.  She could be so loving and affectionate, but cross the line, and she became very much like a small child. 

Joanne filed these things away to talk over with Len, or someone else, later on.  Then she exerted herself and not only did she manage to get Kathy laughing, she also managed to pull Rachel out of her reverie and get her talking a little as well.

 

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