|"I'm going for a walk, dear." Mollie MacDonald, née Maynard, kissed her husband and donned her brown fur coat and flowery hat and stepped outside the door of their new house, Das Haus Rot, on the shores of the Tiernsee.|
She breathed in the dry, fresh air of the Tyrolean Alps and began to walk briskly, her heels making a business-like clipping sound on the frosted grass.
She sat down on a bench and deliberated as to what to do first. She could head up to the Sonnalpe and visit the Russells, or her little brother, Jack, in the house which she had had built for him. Or, she could visit the Chalet School, and see how it was getting on after all these years.
Well, it wouldn't be fair to visit the Russells before Jack, and her brother would probably be at work at the big Sanatorium. She had no particular desire to go home and help Alistair unpack, she had already helped him get through all of the boxes bar two, and she had finished exploring their new house and deciding what should go where, so that just left the School. Yes, she would visit the School.
On her way, she found her seven children, Matthew, Peter, Ermintrude, Oliver, Betty, George and Jane, all now in their twenties, walking primly along the lake-path like the well brought-up young people they were. She waved to them, and Ermintrude called to her.
"You were right, Mother. The lake really IS bluer than anything we've ever seen!" Then, she remembered that a lady does not raise her voice, and dried up.
Mrs. MacDonald kept on walking until she reached the familiar old Chalet. She opened the gate in the fence and walked briskly up the lawn.
A group of girls were sitting, well muffled up, on the lawn, painting the frosted grass.
A young woman sat at an easel facing them, teaching them about adding effect to their paintings. She had a well-modulated voice, a familiar sounding voice which she couldn't quite place, and when the teacher turned her face towards her, she saw that her face was the same - it tugged at her memory, but she couldn't quite place it.
So instead, she admired it, for it certainly was pretty. She had a slightly tip-tilted nose with a sprinkling of freckles across it, and a small mouth with well-cut, ruby-red lips, but her most prominent feature was her smoky grey eyes, which were soft and gentle at the moment, but Mrs. MacDonald guessed that their stare could turn piercing if you dared disobey her. She had chestnut hair tied back loosely with a yellow ribbon, and she wore a yellow trench coat and a matching hat with a small brim - one of those hats that look like bowlers, only with flat tops. Her scarf was also yellow, and she wore nailed boots over thick yellow socks and stockings. So, she was experienced in the Alps.
"Excuse me, do you have an appointment with Miss Annersley?"
"Miss Annersley?" Mrs. MacDonald was taken aback.
"Yes, the Head. Take that as a 'no', then." Without realising, the woman had dropped into the speech pattern she used at home.
"What about Mademoiselle LePâttre?"
The woman's face clouded over. "She died."
"When the School moved to Guernsey during the war. The year we were born."
"Yes, she's a triplet!" said one of the girls impressively. Her face was similarly nice to look at, with big black eyes and curly black hair down to her hips.
"A triplet?" asked Mrs. MacDonald.
"Shut it, Cecil!" called the teacher over her shoulder. "Sorry, I don't speak to all of them like that, she's my sister. Yes, I'm a triplet. That's not important right now. Miss Maynard." She held her hand out for the visitor to shake.
"Mrs. MacDonald. I used to teach here. I was also Miss Maynard!"
She failed to register the young woman's thoughtful expression as she turned to walk into the Chalet, thinking identical thoughts, but coming to a different conclusion.
After all, Maynard is a common surname, isn't it?