All the girls at the school were unpacked well before assembly and more than one wanted to explore the school. Josefa and Gretchen were glad to be in the same dorm together, but both were surprised to see Cherry Christy in with them.
“Cherry Christy, what are you doing here!” exclaimed Josefa hurrying up to the girl.
Cherry looked up with a sad smile, “Mummy had an accident over the holidays she explained and I didn’t want to go so far from home with her in Hospital. Dickie is staying home this tem to help care for Blinkie.”
“I’m so sorry,” murmured kind hearted Josefa, while Gretchen smiled at her sympathetically. “That’s rotten luck,” and Josefa said tucking a companionable arm into hers.
“Do you have any idea who our dorm prefect is?” she asked.
“I’m afraid you’re stuck with me,” said Armine Brown smiling at the trio.
“Oh goody,” said Josefa giving a skip of joy.
“Hi Josefa, is Maria Ileana here or did she go to Switzerland?” asked Armine hiding a grin at Josefa’s antics.
“Ria’s here,” said Josefa, “Tante Wanda didn’t want to send Emmie here unless Ria was coming, so she’s here.”
Armine chuckled at Josefa’s use of Ria. Only Josefa could get away with shortening Maria Ileana’s name, anyone else got a polite but firm reply of, ‘my name is Maria Ileana,’ and then a polite and adamant refusal to answer if the shortened version of her name continued.
“Thanks,” was all she said, “I’ll catch up with her later. Now, where are Angela Carter, Rosamund Williams, Lydia Sackett, and Celia James?” Asked Armine, not noticing Josefa and Gretchen’s’ face’s drop at the mention of the last girl. No one like sharing a dorm with Celia James, as Vi Lucy once complained she cries at the drop of a hat and everyone thinks we’ve been bullying her. The four girls mentioned, came out of their cubicles.
“Hi girls,” said Armine smiling pleasantly, “my name is Armine Brown, and I’m you’re dorm prefect. If anyone has any problems, please let me know.”
Armine hurriedly unpacked her case and trunk which had been placed by her bed. She kept an ear for her lambs in case anyone was having any problems, but to her relief, everyone managed to get unpacked with the minimum of fuss and were soon sent to their common room before Abendessen.
Meanwhile, Maria Ileana was finding a very different problem with the First Form, who was all excitedly chattering like magpies and weren’t doing much unpacking, the worst culprits being Lucy Maxwell and Hilda Mensch. They seemed to have a third girl drawn into their conversation, which Maria Ileana noticed, looked a little shy and nervous, called Jocelyn. Maria Ileana was kept busy with twin six-year olds called Natalie and Crystal Carr. She also had Clare Kynaston, Astrid Anderson and Gaynor Christy in her dorm and had one of the largest dorms with eight girls in it but no one despite the policy to separate sisters, wanted to separate the twin six year olds so both were allowed to be together for their first year at least.
“Now,” she said at last. “I think that’s your entire trunk done,” she said to the two girls. “How about you sit on the bed and I’ll check on the other girls.”
Natalie Carr, who was shyer than her sister, clutched Maria Ileana’s hand and looked at her beseechingly, “all right, if you want,” she said smiling at the little girl while concealing a sigh of her own.
Crystal stayed where she was gazing at the dorm with wide-eyed wonder, while clutching her teddy bear.
“Lucy and Hilda, you need to talk less and unpacked more,” Maria Ileana said firmly.
Both girls gazed wide eyed at her. “Isn’t this so exciting,” bubbled Lucy giving a little skip and nearly crashing into her trunk. Maria Ileana grabbed her to stop her from falling and opened her mouth to say something. She saw Lucy looking up looking a little scared and upset.
“Lucy,” she said gently, knowing the girl was so excited; she would be in tears by bedtime if she didn’t settle down. “This is Natalie Carr. She’s in Kindergarten this term and this is her very first time at school.”
“It’s mine too,” said Lucy, bubbling up with excitement, “but I’m in First form,” she added importantly.
“Well,” said Maria Ileana kneeling beside her, “Natalie is finished unpacking, so could she help you with yours please?” Lucy gazed at her unsure of what to say. “Natalie, how about you start helping Lucy for me please?” continued Maria Ileana. “Lucy,” she said in undertone when Natalie had walked over to Lucy’s trunk, “I think Natalie is really shy and it would be lovely if you could take her under your wing a little. And if she help’s you unpack then it would be a good way of getting to know each other. Would you do that for me, please?”
Lucy nodded, swelling with importance at the job she had been asked to do and started chattering to Natalie. Maria Ileana looked at them with a sigh and wondered how much faster Lucy would really be.
“That was lovely,” said a voice in her ear and Maria Ileana turned to see Miss Alton the Kindergarten Mistress standing there. “I’m sorry Maria Ileana, but I was held up next door. Who needs help the most?”
“The twins are unpacked and Natalie is helping Lucy unpack. I do need to check on Clare, Astrid, Gaynor, Jocelyn and Hilda,” replied Maria Ileana thinking through the girls in her dorm.
“How about I check on Clare Astrid and Gaynor, while you check on the others?” suggested Miss Alton, “now have you unpacked yourself?”
“I haven’t even started,” said Maria Ileana frankly.
“Then, you do yours,” said Miss Alton firmly, “I think you’ve done well to finish the twins.”
Maria Ileana, hurriedly unpacked to find most her dorm had finished. Astrid and Clare were quiet well behaved girls, who had finished long before the others, while both Jocelyn and Gaynor both seemed to be gazing wide eyed and confusedly at the others.
“Gaynor,” said Maria Ileana gently, “we need to get your trunk unpacked before Abendessen.”
Gaynor nodded and Maria Ileana wondered at the sad confused look in her eyes. She worked with Gaynor encouraging her to get her own things out of the trunk, while she checked the requirement list. “Well done,” Gaynor she said encouragingly.
Gaynor nodded, her bottom lip trembling.
“Is everything all right?” she queried kneeling beside the little girl, while Gaynor burst into tears. Maria Ileana gathered her into her arms and let her cry it out while Jocelyn who was in the bed next door looked like she was about cry in sympathy.
“It’s all right liebling,” she crooned.
“What’s that mean,” sniffed Gaynor valiantly trying to stop crying something which was foreign to her.
Maria Ileana smiled, “it’s German for darling or dear. I live in Austria so I speak German at home. Are you missing home?” she asked delicately.
Gaynor shook her head. “I miss Mummy, she’s in hospital, and I haven’t seen her for ages. They say I’m too little.”
Maria Ileana hugged the little girl to her, “we’ll have to write to her and tell her all about this. I’m sure she would love to know and is thinking about you right now. Now,” said Maria Ileana standing up and holding Gaynor by the hand, “I think it’s time to go to the common room before Abendessen, if that is all right Miss Alton?” asked Maria Ileana.
Miss Alton nodded, with a smile. “I will check on the girls next door,” she said, “but Abendessen will be another half an hour. Would you mind staying with them Maria Ileana please?”
Maria Ileana nodded, though part of her was feeling exhausted by the chattering six and seven year olds and she was longing to catch up with her friends.
“Girls you need to line up in a line, please.”
She march her dorm downstairs to the First form and Kindergarten Common room and was soon joined but the dorm prefect who was in charge of the rest of the first formers.
“Lesceline,” she said in delight looking at her best friend.
Lesceline laughed. “I’m glad you’re here. The girls are so excited.”
“Mine are too,” agreed Maria Ileana. “I hope they settle down soon, I’ve already had a few in tears or close to it. Perhaps we should read to them or play a quiet game to settle them down.”
Leceline sent Lisa Jones, a girl from her dorm to choose a book and Maria Ileana started reading. Many of the girls curled up close to their dormitory prefects and Maria Ileana soon had Natalie in her lap and Gaynor and Jocelyn on either side of her. All too soon the bell went for Abendessen and the girls quietly lined up to go to Abendessen. Lesceline smiled at her friend.
“Peace at last,” she said in an undertone.