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The room remained silent, staring at him with five pairs of eyes.

 

A slight young woman, small in stature and with a lovely face and curling dark hair came forward and shook his hand warmly. “Good evening, sir. I am Mrs. Russell, the owner of the Chalet School. This,” she swept her hand around the room, “is my family and some very close family friends who are staying with us.”

 

For the first time Mr. Goodwin looked at the other occupants of the room, and his stomach gave a little lurch, remembering his first words. By the window sat a young girl in a wheelchair, slender, with ash-blonde hair and a deep cut fringe. Next to her, sat a very young girl who looked somewhat frail, who had been reading a book to the invalid, until he entered.

 

There were two older girls sitting on the sofa drinking coffee, one with pretty, dark curls and the other with very straight hair (that looked as if it was tugged into its pins, but, being a man, he did not notice) and laughing black eyes. Carl began to feel quite uncomfortable, until one of the girls spoke up, saying, “Rosalie Dene is our secretary. She has been at the Chalet School for many years and here it is a general display of respect to curtsey to a headmistress.”

 

Madge, who had been lost for words at the stranger’s scared look, shot a look of warning at Joey and continued, “This is my sister Josephine, who is head-girl at the Chalet, and with her is Grizel Cochrane, also recently a head-girl, but now spending a holiday with us. By the window is Stacie Benson, who is staying with us for a while, and that is Robin Humphries,” at Mr. Goodwin’s surprised look she added, “Robin’s real name is Cecelia Marya, but who could call her anything but that?” she laughed, and Carl gave an exceedingly restrained chuckle.

 

The tension in the air was thickening when the door on the other side of the Saal opened and Dr. Jem Russell appeared. With a quick, curious glance around the room, his eye fell on their guest.

 

“Carl Goodwin!” he exclaimed. “You, here?”

 

“James Russell! I never thought – how are you here?”

 

“I live here, with my wife Madge and I work up at the Sanatorium. And you are a school inspector!”

 

“I am indeed…it’s good to see you, James.”

 

Jo decided it was high time to interfere. “So…you two know each other?”

 

“Yes,” replied Jem, “We were at school together. A very long time ago. Come, Goodwin, I shall take you to your hotel and you can catch up with the school later.” And, with a sigh a relief from Jo and a cough that sounded a lot like a laugh from Madge, Dr. Jem escorted the inspector out. They heard Jem say, “You wait here, and Marie will fetch your hat and coat.”

 

---

 

Joey looked around at them all, her mouth open to speak. But before she could say a word, Madge clamped a hand over her mouth. Shocked, Jo turned round, her eyes wide and questioning. Madge let go, and put a finger to her lips. Jo face maintained the expression of a stranded codfish. This was not the Madge she knew! Then, silently and quickly, Madge went to the closed door and wrenched it open – in a most unladylike fashion, it is to be feared. What they all saw was surprising to all but Grizel.

 

That man, Carl Goodwin, was stooped, with his ear to the door.

 

He straightened up sharply, narrowly missing the door-frame with his head, and backed away, saying rather loudly, “I am quite sorry madam, next time I lean on a door I will make sure that no-one decides immediately to open…” he wilted under Madge’s cold gaze.

“Good bye, Mr. Goodwin. I hope you like der Goldener Apfel Hotel.”

 

---

 

Joey looked at her elder sister (Madge was in fact twelve years older than Jo) with round eyes. They waited in silence for Madge to speak.

 

She waited a while and then laughed. “Fire at will.”

 

“Madame,” asked Grizel, “How could he!”

 

“What an outrage!” exclaimed Joey.

 

“He is a very naughty man,” added Robin, too primly to be serious.

 

The room erupted with laughter and the tension eased off.

 

But the Chalet girls were not to forget so soon that this man seemed determined to ruin them. He was a threat to the Chalet school.

 

---

 

Goodwin lay on his bed, thinking of all that had happened that day. He was not ashamed of listening at the door – he was only ashamed of having been caught at it. But the image of Mrs. Russells’ furious face was stilled in his mind, and her words, not unkind, but polite hatred etched in every tone. They were not soon to be forgotten.

 

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Madge Bettany was sitting on the sofa in the Saal when her husband came in. David was gurgling happily in his cot and the girls were reading or sewing (Jo definitely reading) in hammocks on the lawn.

 

Madge looked up as the door opened. “Hello, dear. I’ve been meaning to ask you – what do you think of that old pal of yours, Carl Goodwin?”

 

“He is very changed from how I knew him at school,” Jem acknowledged.

 

Madge looked at him in despair, commanding, “Enlarge, Jem Russell, or else!”

 

“Fine. His mother had died in childbirth, and his father used to keep him away from school quite often because he needed help with his firm. I can’t remember exactly what it was – some manufacturing company – but Goodwin despised it. He was more the type who wanted to study. But when he was around sixteen, his father took him out of school to be a partner in the firm. Old Mr. Goodwin believed that his son actually wanted to work there, but when he died and left all his possessions to his son, Goodwin left the firm in good hands and got a job as a businessman.”

 

“So that’s why he detests our school so much,” Madge realised aloud.

 

“Hates the school? I shouldn’t think so!” He sounded surprised.

 

“Oh, but he does. It is quite obvious – for he seems determined to ruin us.”

 

“What are you talking of, dear? Why do you say that?” Jem glanced out of the window at the girls.

 

“We caught him listening at the door for us to say something about his manner…” and Madge told him of the whole short introduction. Jem gaped at her.

 

“I suppose we shall have to make allowances,” she continued. “He may think that because he does not merit a real education, no one else should.”

 

“But that is ridiculous!” exclaimed a voice from the door. They both turned sharply, to see a well-known figure standing by the door.

 

With a cry of “Juliet!” Madge flung herself on her.

 

 

With a cry of “Juliet!” Madge flung herself on her.

 

---

 

Joey and Grizel both dropped their books simultaneously, Jo letting out a deep sigh and Grizel yawning.

 

Joey and Grizel both dropped their books simultaneously, Jo letting out a deep sigh and Grizel yawning.

 

“Don’t eat me,” Jo remarked.

 

“I’m just so tiyayay…” Grizel’s voice trailed off into another deep yawn. She suddenly closed her mouth with a snap. “Tired.”

 

Joey raised her brows. “I gathered.”

 

“Come walk with me, Joey. I’ll be off soon and then we’ll hardly ever see each other.”

 

A shadow flitted across Joey’s face, and she acknowledged, “I will miss you, Griselda my dear.”

 

“Yes, yes, but that’s not exactly what I wanted to talk to you about…”

 

Always jumping to extraordinary conclusions, Joey shouted, “You’ve found a man!”

 

Joey! How could you! I have certainly not!”

 

“Sorry. It just seemed like the obvious answer. So what is it?” she demanded.

 

“It’s about that inspector – Mr. Goodwin.” Grizel’s pretty face creased into a frown.

 

“Horrible pig.”

 

“Josephine!”

 

“Oops, sorry Madge, but he is!”

 

Madge scolded, “Joey, whether or not he is a pig gives you no reason to rude about him.”

 

Joey felt a little rebellious. “Yes, Madge,” she agreed sweetly, “We all know he is a pig, but we shall not say anything about it.”

 

Her sister refused to rise. “We shall certainly not. What I’m worried about is you.” And she stalked off.

 

Jo looked after her, transfixed to the spot. “I say! What’s got into her?”

 

“She is worried about the school’s reputation. We all are.”

 

“I suppose. But really, there is nothing we can do about it!” Jo sighed. If this was all part of growing up, she should have stopped at fourteen.

 

“There is, though, Joey. We can all do our best to make the school presentable for the inspector.” Grizel sighed. Although she had left the school the year before, she would remain on campus for a while, helping her friend Rosalie as a secretary for Mlle LePattre.

 

“How do you suggest we do that?” Jo began to walk faster, irritated at this new Grizel. It was not the girl she had known before…before Grizel became head girl. Honestly, she thought, if this was what being head girl turned you into; she’d better keep a sharp lookout.

 

“We have to warn the girls.”

 

Joey stopped short. “Warn them? How? That beastly man will be here from the word go – and he is beastly, whether you like it or not – or Madge,” she added as Grizel opened her mouth.

 

She snapped it shut, keeping silence until her still easily sparked temper was tamed. Then she continued. “That’s why I’m asking you.”

 

“You what?”

 

“Oh, Joey, Madame would have strangled you – or herself – if she had heard that.”

 

“Never mind that, but what were you saying beforehand?” Jo demanded.

 

“Only that I need help with figuring out something. But of course, it is of no importance to you, of course.”

 

Joey faced her, serious for once, “I’m not a baby anymore, Grizel.” In an aside she added, “More’s the pity.” To Grizel again she said, “I will listen, but don’t do that to me again, please.”

 

Grizel was, naturally, quite shocked at this, but merely replied, “Sorry, Jo. I won’t do it again,” before she commenced.

 

“We need to find a way of warning the girls. And I need you to help me figure out how.”

 

Joey resisted the urge to say, “Is that all?” and instead thought hard (grimacing terribly, as was her custom.)

 

“I can’t think of…hang on!”

 

“What is it Jo!” Grizel urged.

 

“How about during prayers.”

 

“But wouldn’t he be there?”

 

“I don’t think so…” she suddenly looked up, “He couldn’t very well sit at the back and take notes during prayers, could he. And he won’t know that we do notices then as well.

 

“It’s frightfully underhand, Joey.” Grizel was not exactly one to talk, here, but she continued, “I suppose it’s an idea, all the same. We shall ask Madame.”

 

And with that, they had to be satisfied.


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Chapter End Notes:

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