The sun was sinking over the beautiful lake, casting brilliant colours of red and orange over the still water. Juliet and Carl walked on in silence, for Juliet was drinking in the beauty of the scene, trying to forget the presence of the man beside her, and Carl was wondering desperately how to start a conversation that did not mention the School.
“Are you staying here for long, Miss Carrick?”
“Juliet,” she corrected him, and then added, “Yes, I am. I teach at the annex on the Alp, but at the present they have a holiday because the weather has become too dangerous.”
“Dangerous?” Carl glanced up at the sky, wondering what on earth could be dangerous during such lovely weather.
“Yes,” she nodded, “Mudslides. They are quite common at this time of year. Especially after the heavy rain that there has been.”
“Heavy rain?” repeated Carl, feeling like an idiot as he did so.
“Yes,” she suddenly laughed merrily, “You see, it rains far more often up there than here, for they are at a different altitude. Generally they do get nicer weather though,” she added ruefully.
He found himself joining her laugh. “So have you been at the School for a long time?” he asked, and then realised that he did not want to talk about the School.
“Yes, since I was thirteen or fourteen. My parents left me there, and then they died in a car accident.” There was a trace of sadness in her voice. “Mrs. Russell has raised me as her ward, and I could honestly say that without the School I would be struggling in some dingy backstreet in a bakery or something of the sort.”
Mr. Goodwin was too shocked to reply. She had been raised by the School? And if he closed the School, she would be alone and unaided? His mind was in a whirl. Finally he asked, “Couldn’t you marry?”
He mistook her blush for modesty as she answered, “Apparently not.”
Carl frowned. “What do you mean by that?”
She turned her face to the rising moon so that he could not see the lie written plainly on her miserable features. “I have not been asked.”
“Someone will, have no fear.”
It was meant to be a reassurance , but she stopped in her tracks and turned around to face him.
“I am not afraid,” she said quietly. “Perhaps you do not know it, but a woman’s hardships do not necessarily end when she is married. And besides, I may want to do something with my life. All girls are not trained to go to school, learn to cook, and then get married.”
“I agree,” It was true, although he had not known it before. “I suppose nobody wants to sit around and have other people do everything for them.”
“Quite right,” she agreed, and they fell into step once more, while the silence overcame them.
Donal was on the train from Innsbruck to Buchau when he thought of the last letter that Juliet had written. It had ended:
I miss you a lot, Donal, and I can’t wait until you are back among us. But please remember that if I will have to make a sacrifice for the School, I will put it above everything else. You yourself know how much I owe the Chalet School, and that I would do anything for the pupils and the teachers.
He folded the letter and disembarked as the train stopped, and began to walk towards the ferry. It was a beautiful night, for the moon was high in the sky and the stars were twinkling in the black velvet blanket that smothered the earth. What did she mean?
The ferry chugged along gently, and soon they were making their way over to the little landing on the opposite side of the lake. From here he could see the blazing lights of the school, and felt glad that he would soon see Juliet.
The shadows flickered in the silvery light. The rocks on the shore looked dark and menacing, while the water lapped gently at their edge. A couple were walking slowly down the lake path, and the woman’s fair hair was glistening with tints of silver that reflected the ripples on the surface of the calm lake.
The ferry pulled in at the landing and Donal disembarked and began to make his way to the School.
He was welcomed at the door by a slightly flustered Jo, who barely spoke before looking quickly around the area and bundling him inside.
“Where is Juliet?” he smiled warmly.
The look on her face told him all there was to know. His mind juddered back to the picturesque pair of lovers by the lake and his eyes suddenly darkened as realisation struck him.