Va were spending the afternoon in their common room, whiling the time away with books, magazines and puzzles, and trying their best not to repine on the fact that heavy snow had spoiled their chances of a walk. As befitted members of a senior form of the Chalet School, they were not making an undue amount of noise, but this did not stop them looking up guiltily when their common room door opened to reveal Miss Annersley.
‘Well, don’t you look like you’ve been caught in the act?’ she teased, her grey eyes twinkling with good humour. ‘Don’t worry girls, I’m not here to scold you. I’ve come to bring you some news.’
Characteristically, Mary-Lou Trelawney was the first to recover.
‘Have a seat, Miss Annersley,’ she urged, unceremoniously turfing Vi Lucy off the wicker chair they had been sharing. ‘There’s a box of humbugs going round too, if this greedy bunch haven’t eaten the lot.'
‘Thank you my dear, but I fear my digestion is not up to sweets at this time of day,’ Miss Annersley responded with a chuckle. She sat down in the indicated chair and smiled round at the eager faces.
‘Girls, I have some news for you, which I hope you will find exciting. The Chalet School has been chosen to be part of a new exchange scheme, where pupils from different boarding schools spend a month studying at another school. They learn about the differences between teaching styles and individual school ethea, and it is hoped they bring back some new ideas for their own school. Next month, a group of students from Malory Towers on the south coast of England will be joining us. They are of a similar age to yourselves, and will be learning and studying beside you. I hope you will make them feel welcome and included as part of the school during their visit, and that through you they will learn a great deal about what it means to be a Chalet School girl.’ She paused for breath, and then threw up her hands in horror as a babel of questions immediately broke out.
‘Girls, girls, have mercy on my poor ears! I haven’t much time, but I’ll try and answer some of your questions. One at a time, please. Hilda, you begin.’
Hilda Jukes blushed red at being thus singled out. ‘Please Miss Annersley, I just wanted to know how many were coming.’
‘There will be eight in total, and next year we will be choosing eight girls for a return trip. Yes, Lesley?’
‘Where will they be sleeping?’ Lesley asked.
‘We will be opening the additional dormitory above Cornflower, and four girls from Cornflower and four from Carnation will be sleeping in there, so that our visitors are sharing with our own girls.’
Cue looks of horror from various members of the two dormitories, which Miss Annersley wisely ignored. ‘Mary-Lou, you had a question?’
‘Yes, what’s an ethea?’ Mary-Lou asked, while her friends shot her withering looks. Fancy wasting a question on a point of vocabulary!
‘Ethea is from the Greek, and is the plural of ethos,’ Miss Annersley told her. ‘If you intend to continue with Classics, I expect you will encounter the phrase in your university studies.’
‘Thank you,’ Mary-Lou said demurely, clearly making a mental note of the word for future use.
‘Rosemary, you wished to ask something?’
‘Yes Miss Annersley,’ stammered Rosemary Lamb, one of the more feather-headed members of the class. ‘Is it boys and girls, or both?’
A close observer would have seen Miss Annersley’s lips twitch, but years of practice allowed her to swallow her laughter, and answer this question with her usual sedateness. ‘All our visitors will be girls, dear. Well, I must run, since I think Matron is waiting for me.’
She left the room with rather more haste than usual, and had any of the girls though to follow her, they would have been treated to the sight of their dignified headmistress half collapsed against the opposite wall, helpless with giggles.
Fortunately for Miss Annersley’s reputation Va were too busy howling down their unfortunate class mate.
‘Oh Rosemary, how could you? You nit wit!’
‘As if we’d be sharing dormitories with boys!’
‘Honestly Baa Lamb, do use your loaf!’
Rosemary subsided under this onslaught with scarlet cheeks. ‘I was just wondering!’ she protested feebly.
‘Well, next time wonder in silence,’ Mary-Lou told her trenchantly. ‘A nice view Miss Annersley will have of us all, thinking we have boys on the brain!’
‘I really didn’t mean it like that!’ poor Rosemary said, going even redder at this.
‘I don’t think Miss Annersley took it that way,’ Lesley interjected peaceably. ‘You leave her alone Mary-Lou, and focus on the important bit. Eight new girls! I wonder what they’ll be like?’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Having a nightmare with formatting, so please excuse any egregious spacing errors until I can fix them at leisure!