Kathie had been dreading telling her story, but she never got a chance just then. As she closed the door behind her, Joey leapt up from her chair.
“Oh good! Here’s someone else I can tell!”
“Joey, do sit down and be sensible!” Miss Annersley said, laughing.
“Sensible! And me with such news! Sensible yourself, Hilda Annersley! Kathie! What do you think is the very latest?”
Kathie gaped at her, blinking like an owl. Then in a voice that simply clanged with triumph, she announced, “I’m a great-aunt – by marriage! My niece-by-marriage, Daisy Rosomon, had a son early this morning! How’s that for news?” (New Mistress at the Chalet School by Elinor M Brent Dyer)
Kathie simply stood staring blankly at Joey as this news was delivered. She had no idea what to say. It was the last thing she had expected to be greeted with and, on top of everything that had happened, she had reached the end of her tether. She realised all three occupants were looking at her, puzzled and waiting for a reaction and she felt her lips suddenly quiver uncontrollably. The two Heads had had time to realise she was looking white and strained and even as Kathie bit her lips and tried to pull herself together, Miss Annersley left her seat.
“Come and tell me what’s happened in my sitting room,” she said gently. She slipped a hand through Kathie’s arm, her left, fortunately, and drawing her out of the room. She installed Kathie on the sofa and left her for a moment whilst she made the girl a cup of coffee. She returned to her two or three minutes later and held out the cup.
“Drink this, Kathie, it’ll do you good,” she said briskly but Kathie simply looked at the cup and burst into tears. The Head hastily set the cup down and came to sit down by her. “Kathie, what is it?” she asked anxiously. “The girls are all right aren’t they?”
“I don’t know,” Kathie sobbed. “Mary-Lou’s hurt her back again and I don’t know if the others are all right. They got a fright. It’s all my fault.”
“Why?” the Head queried gently. She listened in growing horror as Kathie sobbed out her story. When it was over, she drew Kathie gently into her arms. “You poor girl!” she said, deep sympathy in her voice. “You can’t tell me the girls have had a fright! You’ve had just as bad a fright yourself and all the responsibility of looking after the girls!”
“Don’t you blame me?” Kathie asked, in muffled tones.
The Head gently held her away from her for a moment. “Blame you?! Kathie, how could I possibly blame you?!” she exclaimed. “It was a freak of nature; that is all! There was nothing you could have done to have changed what happened! I’m so very sorry it happened and I’m more than glad Mary-Lou managed to grab you in time! Don’t worry about her back. Matron will see to her and I don’t suppose she’s done more than wrench a muscle. It certainly can’t be bad if she’s been able to walk so please don’t upset yourself. It’s over now; you’re all safe and that’s all that matters.” she ended soothingly. She drew Kathie back into her arms and holding her as she sobbed.
Kathie for her part, forgot she was supposed to be a grown up, dignified person of twenty two and clung to the Head as though she were a little girl of twelve. It had been a huge shock and her nerves were anything but steady and Miss Annersley knew this as she held Kathie tightly, stroking the brown hair comfortingly.
Kathie had always fought shy of her so far and she was determined to show the girl she had no need to be shy or frightened around her. She liked what she had seen of Kathie so far and unless anything untoward happened in the next half term, had every intention of keeping her. Eventually, the sobs quietened and Kathie sat up, looking very shame faced.
“Don’t even think it,” the Head said firmly, correctly interpreting her expression. “I’d have been very surprised if you weren’t upset after what you’ve been through. Lean your head against my shoulder and don’t worry! I’ve had plenty of people crying on my shoulder – staff as well as girls! You’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last!” She ended on a laugh and then turned as the door opened and Nell Wilson appeared. She had gone to see the Prefects and find out what had happened for herself once she had sent Joey away.
“Don’t upset yourself, Kathie.” She came to join the pair. “The girls are all perfectly all right! They’re shocked, naturally, but Mary-Lou is only slightly hurt and she’ll be all right if she takes the next two or three days quietly. They’re all very concerned for you, however and Mary-Lou informs me she has no intention of going to Matron until you’re ready to accompany her!” She laughed. “I gather she almost wrenched your arm out of its socket!”
“You’re hurt!” Miss Annersley exclaimed in consternation. “Oh Kathie! You poor girl! Why didn’t you say?! It’s no wonder you’ve been so upset!”
“I don’t suppose it was at the forefront of her mind,” Nell remarked cheerfully. “Never mind! I’ve sent for coffee and once we’ve all had a cup, we’ll take you up to Matron, Kathie and collect Mary-Lou on the way. And you needn’t worry,” she added, twinkling as she saw Kathie’s face fall, “we’ll not let her eat you!” She ended on a laugh in which the other two joined, albeit somewhat shakily on Kathie’s part.
The coffee arrived just then and Nell intercepted it at the door, changing the subject once it had been handed out and keeping the conversation light until they had finished, when she saw to clearing it away whilst Hilda led Kathie to her own private bathroom and waited whilst Kathie sponged her face and tidied herself. After that, the two Heads escorted Kathie to Matron, collecting Mary-Lou on the way.