What might have happened if the school had returned to Plas Howell? I think this is only going to be short.
St Clare's House Characters:
Alternate Universe, School Story
26 Mar 2015 Updated:
31 Jul 2017
1. The Bet by Katharine
2. The Dares by Katharine
3. Getting Caught by Katharine
4. Consequences by Katharine
5. A New Face by Katharine
6. Ruth's Temper by Katharine
It was an overcast Saturday afternoon in late September, which threatened rain. While the Chalet School's finishing branch was getting under way at Welsen in Switzerland, the main part of the school had finally returned to Plas Howell, which they now owned, after a massive overhaul of the drains. Madge had also taken the opportunity to carry out several other repairs and/or improvements, like replacing very old and dangerous wiring in some parts of the house. Most notably, they had dug an outdoor swimming pool which was fed by a channel from the nearby river and heated by turbines. She had considered having the school's badge set into the bottom, but thought it would look a bit silly. So the pool just had plain blue tiles.
Ruth Barnes and Lesley Malcolm were sitting in their freshly painted and refurbished common room just as the rain began to tip down. There were a lot of girls in there, getting increasingly bored with their various activities like board games and somewhat fractious. Katharine Lucy, the form prefect, had gone to the splashery, for a slow crap and book read in the cubicle. So the duet rushed off before she came back, determined to do something daring.
Both had been there before the St Briavel's move, and remembered the way through the rather confusing corridors. Fortunately they met no-one else and after a stop at a cloakroom to get their raincoats, went outside through a side door.
"What are you up for?" said Ruth.
"Whatever it is, I bet you a shilling you won't do it" said Lesley skeptically.
"If you wimp out, I won't be your friend anymore and will spread it around. I'll bet you too" Ruth said more aggressively.
"Ok let's shake hands and swear on guides honour (which they did). What are we going to do?" Lesley said, looking anxious.
"Well, I've always wanted to roll all the way down the hill, preferably avoiding any of the shelters. You?"
"I'll dive into the swimming pool fully clothed if you do that, perhaps can finally master the technique. Swimming in open water is different and I've never been allowed to visit the public pool at home in the holidays because of the polio risk"
"So let's do it"
Ruth continued straight on, while Lesley went left.
The extensive grounds of the estate sloped gradually upwards until Ruth reached a five-bar gate set into the white-painted iron fence and slipped out past the notice that said "Chalet School, Private". Beyond that there were no more trees and the ground sloped much more sleeply towards the summit of Rumsford Hill, which rose to 1148 feet.
Ruth set off up the path, which took a fairly direct route up the open grassy slopes. There were three rustic wooden shelters, at about each third of the way to the top. The rain was still pouring down, and initially she took care climbing on the slippery muddy path. It was a longish way though, and she began to worry about getting back in time for tea, therefore hurrying a bit more. Too much in fact, for about half way up the girl fell flat on her face in the mud. After swearing profusely, she picked herself up and eventually reached the summit which was a largish plateau with a prehistoric earthwork at the centre. She was completely soaked with chattering teeth, it would obviously be quite insane to roll anywhere so Ruth just placed a stone in the small cairn. On a clear day, the view was quite extensive, but there was far too much cloud and she rapidly set off downwards. The rain seemed to have set in for the day, so her progress was rather slow, in order to avoid any more slips.
Meanwhile Lesley had quickly reached the swimming pool, which was surrounded only with some paving stones and a locked changing room. It would soon be drained for the winter, there was no cover at all. She considering chickening out, but was a bit scared of Ruth even though no-one was there to verify anything. Therefore she walked to the end of the springy diving board which was quite high above the water, hesitating a while before launching off it.
Unfortunately in her anxiety, Lesley only managed a painful belly flop into the chilly water, and was briefly winded before swimming and climbing out, even more sodden than Ruth. She rushed back towards the house.
Getting Caught by Katharine
However Ruth was actually the first to get back inside. She walked very carefully, whereas Lesley slipped halfway and further grazed her knees on wet grass. Ruth got as far as the foot of the narrow back staircase that most pupils were only allowed to use before literally running into Katharine Lucy, who was wearing a brown school cape (much thinner than the full coat), and also wanted some fresh air.
"Honestly Ruth, can't you look where you're going. Why are you so soaking wet anyway?" she said irritably.
"It's none of your business!"
"I'm your form prefect you know, what have you been up to?"
Lesley approached them, also making the pretty floral carpet sopping wet, and Katharine said:
"We just felt like going outside and messing about a bit, so what?"
"You are both so cheeky, please explain more"
"Oh it was just a stupid bet for money, I suggested that but Ruth started it"
"You've been gambling? Then I'll have to report you to the head immediately, come on" She looked shocked at something the Chalet School had always considered a serious offence.
It being a Saturday, Miss Annersley was not in the library so Kat lead the offenders to her sitting-room on the top floor, and knocked on the door. The head was having a relaxed tea with Miss Wilson and looked surprised, it was pretty unusual to see mere form prefects bringing misbehaving girls to her, and being interrupted like that was annoying. Bill spoke first, looking up from her cup of milky coffee and sponge cake.
"You two had better go and have hot baths, get dry clothes, then come back here. Thanks Katharine, you can go"
After doing that, the two eventually returned.
"What on earth have you two been doing?", said Hilda, sounding heavily irritated, but not cold.
"Oh we were just messing about really" said Ruth.
"That's not good enough, girls"
"Well Ruth has been intimidating me in various ways for a while, she's threatened to spread around the fact that my father was heavily involved in the black market during the war"
"That's very shameful Ruth, but Lesley you really should just try and ignore her if she's being an idiot" Bill cut in.
The girl looked shamefaced.
Consequences by Katharine
The school had grown large enough that the staff could no longer always automatically remember which dormitory pupils lived in, as remembering names and forms was taxing enough. Therefore the head asked Ruth, who replied:
"We're both in Carnation"
"I see, then Matron will be asked to separate you. Who started it?" said the head, now in a more exasperated tone.
"I did really, though the bet was Lesley's idea" said Ruth.
"Oh, honestly" exclaimed Hilda before recovering her usual headmistress personality.
"You can both hem sheets during all games for a week, apart from the PE sessions in the gym. If you wish to go outdoors otherwise for any reason, you must ask a prefect or staff"
With that, she picked up her coffee again, leaving it to Bill to say:
"That's it, you can both go now"
The staff turned the tabletop radio back on to let the valves heat up, and began chatting again, while the girls headed for the boiler room, which was located down a flight of stairs next to the locked door to the rest of the cellars. It was naturally warm in there, as they sat on the pipes and wondered what to say while glaring at each other.
"It's your fault Ruth, you should have known that would get us into trouble"
"You egged me on with your silly bet, though who cares really. Katharine is an idiot, the staff can get lost"
"You may not like them but don't be stupid"
"You're bloody stupid as well"
"Where on earth did you learn that kind of language, it should result in an order mark"
"If that's your attitude, then it's probably good that we're moving dorms" said Ruth, before storming out and leaving Lesley alone apart from a mouse that ran across the concrete floor, ignoring the trap in the corner.
Lesley was shaken and tearful, feeling a mix of anger and sadness. She decided to stay in the large room with the boilers steaming loudly in the background for a little while, and learn some poetry for English from her book of verse. She was just thumbing through the heavy hardback volume when the door suddenly opened and a strikingly tall girl entered with a very self-confident air. She had her chestnut hair tied back in two prominent bunches, and even wore clip-on silver hoop earrings. It being a Saturday, she was also wearing a long black skirt and white blouse instead of normal uniform.
She and Lesley looked very surprised to see each other, though the girl recognised Lesley's face (the reverse was not true). She said in a thick Welsh accent, opening her mouth to reveal the most unusual feature of a brace:
"Hi, I'm Teegan Blevins, in your form but a different stream. What's wrong, you don't look happy?"
"Oh, me and my friend just had a disagreement about something, that's all. She was being a right bitch. Why did you come here, this room is empty most of the time?"
"To revise for my maths test on Tuesday. Looks like we had the same idea" she said, seeing Lesley's poetry book.
"Yeah, I like poetry but hate maths and I'm pretty terrible at it. Is it one of your strong points?"
"Suppose so, my dad is a mathematician at the University of Wales in Bangor. I'm dyslexic unfortunately but much as I like it here in general so far, the Chalet School really doesn't handle that very well, this is my first term here. How long have you been here?"
"For quite a while. We were previously located on the island for several terms before moving back here again"
"An island? How exciting!"
"Well, it had it's upsides and downsides. On balance, I'd rather be here"
Lesley explained all about St Briavel's and so on, and they chatted for a bit longer. Then she noticed "Oh, it's getting very near supper time, we'd better be going"
They turned off the light and left the room. On the way to the dining room together, they unfortunately happened to pass Ruth again, who looked surprised and still annoyed. Katharine was just surprised, though she'd already got to know Teegan a bit and liked her.
Ruth's Temper by Katharine
Still chatting and giggling, Lesley and Teegan entered the large and airy dining room with it's ornate ceiling a bit late, partly because they had taken a detour to look at some things on the school's main notice boards. Both were allocated to different tables, but they promised to meet up again later. The prefect on duty at the door sharply rebuked them, and gave both an order mark for talking in the corridors [i]and[/i] being late. Teegan (who had removed her earrings), was certainly not a big fan of authority, but didn't wish to get in further trouble by answering back.
Unfortunately, Lesley was seated on the same table as Ruth. Just occasionally, the kitchen staff would prepare an unannounced random treat for the pupils, which generally took the form of some kind of special baked goods. Last time it had been cheese scones, and this time it was the arguably more delicous thing of scones with raspberry (not strawberry) jam and whipped cream.
When Lesley sat down (to further rebukes from the girl at the head of the table), the others had already very nearly finished eating their mutton stew with broccoli, baked potatoes, scones, and apples, except Ruth who always ate slowly and was still half-way through her stew. There were only two scones left, and one was prepared in approximately the Devon fashion with jam first. The other resembled the way a cream tea was typically made in Cornwall (there were a few kitchen staff from both counties). Lesley ate her main course, and just as Ruth finished hers, both girls tried to take the Cornish scone, being especially attracted by the cream on top. Lesley just got it first. Ruth knew she was being incredibly petty and childish, but did tend to bear grudges. So she took the jug of lemon squash on the table and, to the shock and amazement of everyone else, poured it over poor Lesley. Teegan was passing by and saw it as well. The soaked Lesley immediately blurted out
"That's it Ruth, if you're going to behave like that, then just grow up and get lost!".
The girl at the head of the table was none other than Mary-Lou, now another form prefect. She looked furiously at Ruth,
"What on earth are you playing at, stay here! You had better stay for now as well, Lesley"
Mary-Lou marched them out of the dining room, but they didn't get very far before running into Miss Alton, head of the lower school.
"What has been going on here, you had both better come to my room. Sorry Lesley, you'll have to stay in your soaked clothes for a bit because I want to sort this out"
It was a small room with light-blue flock wallpaper, and a single-bar electric fire. Despite the situation, the mistress would have let them sit on her sofa, but didn't want it getting wet and sticky, so both girls had to sit on hard chairs.
"I have already heard all about your tiresome feud, and the actions that the other staff have taken. You're both already in trouble, so, Ruth, I am rather astonished that you want to add to it. What brought this idiocy on anyway?"
"Please accept my apologies, I am firmly to blame here, just lost my temper" said Ruth
"At least you're being honest" said Miss Alton
"I think our friendship is over, regardless" said Lesley, also mentioning Teegan and the order marks
"Yes I just don't think we can really get on with each other" agreed Ruth
"I was going to ask you to stay away from each other anyway, so that shouldn't be a problem. But this is utterly unacceptable Ruth, and I'm afraid requires a harsh punishment. From today, in addition to your existing sanctions, you will be placed in solitary confinement for two weeks starting today. You are forbidden to speak to all other girls unless neccessary, will sleep alone, and have your meals bought to you. Given all that and because you happened to run into me, there's no need for you to report to the prefects' room, though" said Miss Alton, privately thinking that sometimes certain Chalet School prefects, too, could be a bit too bossy, pompous, and arrogant. She would never say so to the other staff, but thought that their huge power was both potentially bad for themselves and the school, while the prefects' numerous duties seemed excessive on top of all their schoolwork
"Oh well, fair enough" said Ruth
"And given your existing sanctions, Lesley, it was very silly to get an order mark on top of that. You should never be late for meals without good reason" The mistress understood the reasoning behind the silence rule, but (also privately) thought it was ridiculous, so she left it at that.
"Now come with me to see Matey so we can arrange Ruth's confinement and get you cleaned up, Lesley"
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