|(Elsie was a character in a drabble I wrote a few years ago. In "my" universe :-), she took over as head of the domestic staff after Karen left to get married and open a hotel in Tyrol.) |
The grounds of the Chalet School rang with the merry sound of girlish laughter as groups of Middles danced around the beribboned maypole, rescued from the cupboard in which it had been languishing since the Olde English fair some three years earlier and set up in all its splendour for this May Day celebration. The Juniors had had their turn already and, later in the day, it would be that of the Seniors, followed by a Morris Dancing display by the school's best dancers, with the festivities culminating in the crowning of lovely Josette Russell, the school's Head Girl and, fittingly, one of the daughters of its founder, Lady Russell, as the May Queen.
A few enterprising souls, after reading up on May Day traditions, had even rushed out before Fruhstuck to wash their faces in the May Day dew, said to guarantee a flawless complexion for the year to come. Whether or not it would do so remained to be seen, but it had earned them a stern ticking off from Matron Lloyd, together with a lecture on the evils of vanity. However, she'd forborne to administer any further punishment, as Miss Annersley had decreed that today was to be a holiday for everyone. The weather forecast, which the Chalet School staff did listen to from time to time, had promised a week of fine weather and, with Matey having expressed some concerns that the small amount of preparation being done for the forthcoming exams might be having an adversarial effect on the girls' health, it had been decided to put on a May Day celebration. The merrymaking was in full swing, with a number of guests from around the Platz amongst those enjoying the fun.
In a quiet corner of the Chalet School garden, well away from the main revelry, the school's domestic staff sat in deckchairs, enjoying large mugs of coffee, or, for those who preferred it, tea – Elsie Bradshaw, the head of the department, didn't hold with the school's obsession with coffee, as she often remarked -, and passing round an enormous box of delicious Swiss chocolates obtained by Gaudenz whilst on a visit to Interlaken to buy some janitorial supplies a few days earlier. Elsie herself was laughing and joking with Lisa and Mechtilde, two of the longer-serving members of the group, but several anxious glances at watches could be observed as the time for Mittagessen drew ever nearer.
"All right, that's enough!" Elsie proclaimed eventually. "Stop looking at your watches, will you? It's doing my head in. Relax! It's a holiday! Now, anyone else for another brew? I'm gasping: I'm off to stick the kettle on. And get them chocolates eaten, else they'll be melting in the heat and a right waste that'd be. And mind what I said – there's no need for anyone to be looking at their watches every two minutes unless they've somewhere to be, and none of us have got anywhere to be as far as I'm aware!"
"Bitte ... it is just that we are a little worried that Fraulein Annersley and the others may be angry when they find that there is nothing prepared for Mittagessen," Miggi, one of the younger maids, said doubtfully. "Nor for Kaffee und Kuchen. Nor for Abendessen."
"Angry? What've they to be angry about?" Elsie demanded, with a broad grin. "Did Miss Annersley or did she not say yesterday that today was to be a day's holiday, and she didn't want to catch anyone doing any work. In fact, she said that anyone caught doing any work would be sent straight to Matron. Want to be sent to Matron, do you? Dose of castor oil? Sewing sheets? Whatever else it is she does up there?"
A few of the other maids giggled. "She definitely said that no-one was to do any work today," Mechtilde confirmed, winking. "And it would be very bad of us to work when we've been told not to. Fraulein Annersley and Fraulein Wilson and the rest of them are always talking about the importance of obedience."
Miggi looked unsure for a moment, but then she began to smile. "Well, I suppose it would," she agreed. "And, if anyone were to say anything ... well, we'll all be standing together, won't we."
Elsie's grin broadened. "That's exactly what we'll be doing, Miggi, my lass! And they can't very well do owt to all of us, can they? Anyway, no-one'll be doing anything to anyone, because we're only having ourselves a day's holiday, when we've been told that today's a holiday."
"And that it certainly is," she murmured to herself as she set the kettle boiling. "May Day. International Workers' Day!"