Meanwhile Gisel Mensch was sitting on the window seat listening to her older sister Natalie practicing. Natalie Mensch had finished at Welsen the previous term and was about to head off to the Royal College of Music when the new term started. Intensely musical, she had decided to train as a Piano mistress, though a small part of her hoped to become good enough to be a concert pianist and as a consequence worked hard on her music. Gisel wasn’t particularly musical though she did enjoy playing the flute like her father before her. Gottfried taught his daughter the beginnings and Plato a flautist himself had continued when Gisel started at school.
“Are you nearly finished?” Gisel asked her sister. “You do realise Maria Ileana and everyone have arrived.”
“What?” shrieked Natalie, and the lid of the Piano closed with a bang. “Why didn’t you tell me, and what are you doing still sitting there?”
Gisel chuckled, “Papa has just pulled into the driveway.”
“Gisel,” wailed Natalie.
Gisel chuckled again and leant out the window, waving madly to Maria Ileana and the others. Natalie joined her at the window.
“Have a good trip Maria Ileana,” she called down through the window, “Emilia, Josefa, it’s so good to see you, and you Kurt, and Wolfram.”
Gottfried shook his head at his daughters, “why don’t you come down?” he asked mildly, “instead of calling from the window.”
Gisel slammed the window shut and the two hurried outside along with their younger sisters Gretchen, and Jacquetta.
There was noisy chatter as everyone was talking all at once.
Quiet Gottfried shook his head again, while Marie just laughed. “Where is Gisela?” she asked.
“Mamma’s inside with Toni and Hilda,” said Gretchen quietly. “Come on Jo,” and the two along with Emilia and Jacquetta disappeared.
“I’ll take you to Mamma, Tante Marie,” said Natalie.
Gottfried nodded. “Marie, I will take your luggage to the rooms. The girls can show you where everyone is sleeping.”
“Thank you Gottfried,” said Marie with a smile and Gisel, Natalie, Maria Ileana and Marie walked inside talking and laughing, while the boys remained to help with Gottfried.
“Mamma, Tante Marie is here,” called out Gisel.
“Marie,” said Gisela appearing through the drawing room doorway, “it’s so lovely to see you. Yes Toni,” she said to her son, “you may help Papa with the luggage and see Kurt and Wolfram.” Toni scampered off, while Gisela looked after him fondly. “He’s been so excited about having Wolfram and Kurt to stay even if it is only for the night.”
Marie smiled wearily. “It’s so nice not to be travelling,” she said, “though they have all been so good. Sir Jem met us at the station and Margot, Steven and Tessa are staying with them until school starts. It was lovely seeing him again.”
“I’m glad the children were good for you,” said Gisela. Would you like something to drink or eat?”
“That would be lovely, Gisela,” said Marie thankfully.
“Coming Maria Ileana,” asked Gisel and the three girls moved off to prepare a tray.
“Oh Gisela you don’t know how thankful I am to have arrived,” said Marie. “I know the children were good, but it’s such a long journey.”
Gisela nodded understandingly. “You can have an early night tonight,” she said. “But how is Wanda and have you heard from Bernhilda and Kurt lately?”
Marie laughed softly. “I knew you would ask. I have a letter from Bernhilda with me to show you. They’re all doing well and Bernhilda thinks they will be in America for another two years at least but they should be returning after that.”
“Oh, how wonderful,” said Gisela glowing. Bernhilda and Wanda were her two closest friends, besides which, Bernhilda was also her husband’s sister.
“I’ll let you read her letter,” said Marie generously handing it over. “Wanda said I may tell you but none of the girls know yet; they’re talking of sending Friedel to America to work with Kurt, and then take over what he’s doing for the next three years after that. Wanda isn’t sure she wants to go, but she said it would be wonderful seeing Kurt and Bernhilda again and going to America. She did enjoy it when we were there before the War, but the children don’t know and she doesn’t want to say anything until she knows that it is definitely going ahead.”
“It would be a wonderful opportunity for them all but oh it’s so far away,” said Gisela, some of the glow dimming.
“I know,” said Marie. “I’ve never had Wanda live so far away from me before and…”
“I’m so sorry Marie, it will affect you more than me,” said Gisela sympathetically.
“Thank you, but I think you will feel it just as much as I do,” said Marie with a sigh, “but I think I’ll worry about it when it happens.”
Gisela’s quick ears heard the girl’s footsteps and she quickly changed the subject.
Gisel, Natalie and Maria Ileana didn’t stay long with the grown ups but soon moved upstairs to their bedroom.
“You’re in with us Maria Ileana,” said Gisel dropping onto her bed, “the boys are across the hall and Josefa and Emilia are in with Jacquetta and Gretchen. Tante Marie has her own room. It’s so nice to see you. How were the holidays?”
“Good,” said Maria Ileana with a sigh, “though I’m glad to be starting school again. We stayed with Tante Marie and Mamma and Tante Marie showed us the old school and all around the Tiernsee. They even showed us Tante Gisela and Onkel Gottfried’s first home when they were married.”
Natalie and Gisel sat up at this. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to see it again,” said Natalie longingly.
“So have I,” agreed Gisel. “We’ll have to make a trip after we’ve finished school.”
“I know,” said Natalie. “I had always hoped we would go on a trip there when I was at Welsen for half term but they never seemed to think of it. Anyway,” she said changing the topic, “how do you feel about the changes to the school, Maria Ileana?”
“I don’t know,” said Maria Ileana slowly. “I’m glad a few of my friends are staying though I will miss some of the others and,” she continued with a wicked look at Gisel, “Emilia and Josefa have their hearts set on you being Head Girl.”
“Oh no,” said Gisel looking horrified at the thought, “couldn’t you think of someone better than me, I would hate to be all official and formal like a Head Girl should.”
Natalie gazed at her sister. “It wouldn’t be that bad-remember what Mama said.”
“I know,” said Gisel going red, “and I know I could be chosen, but it is awfully up front and centre, and I much prefer to be back in the crowd with everyone else. As Head Girl I would always have to take the lead in everything especially this term when half the senior school has moved to Switzerland.”
“Yes, but it would be nice to have one of us be Head Girl like Mama and Tante Maria both were,” said Natalie. “I know I needed to start specialising with my Piano earlier than I expected but it would have been nice to be a Prefect like they were at least,” finished Natalie a little sadly, for although she had said little, she had always been disappointed she had never become a prefect.
“I know,” said Gisel with a sigh, knowing her sister’s thoughts on the subject. She said no more but changed the subject. “You’ll never guess Maria Ileana, who is joining the school as a mistress.”
“Who?” asked Maria Ileana eagerly.
“Tante Maria is. She’s teaching German and Latin. Mamma and Gossmutter are thrilled,” said Gisel her words tumbling over each other in her excitement.
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” breathed Maria Ileana. “I wonder who she’ll be Form Mistress for.”
“I don’t know,” said Gisel, “but Mamma did say we won’t have her as ours as it would be fair for her or us.”
“Then I doubt I’ll have her either for the same reason,” said Maria Ileana a little sadly for Maria Marani was popular amongst the younger generation of the Marani, Von Eschenau and Mensch clans.
“And Miss Margia Stevens will be teaching Piano,” added Natalie impressively.
“Margia who?” asked Maria Ileana blankly while Gisel laughed outright. “I’m afraid you’re the only one impressed by that, Nat,” said Gisel cheerfully, while Natalie pulled a face at them both.
“Come on Maria Ileana,” exclaimed Natalie. “She’s a world renowned concert pianist. I would love to have her teach me piano. Miss Cochrane was good, but she certainly isn’t in the same class as Miss Stevens.”
“I hope she’s more patient than Miss Cochrane was,” murmured Maria Ileana devoutly to Gisel, while Gisel grinned.
“You will have to visit us at school, Nat and maybe, just maybe one of us will deign to introduce you,” Gisel said tantalisingly.
Her condescension left Natalie breathless, and she threw a pillow at her sister. “You should respect your elders,” retorted Natalie.
“I will oh ancient one,” teased Gisel and the three girls collapsed laughing.