The Lower IV were talking excitedly amongst themselves. They were off on a trip to a nearby town, and the programme encompassed a fair few activities designed for excited twelve and thirteen year old girls to enjoy. Felicity, Lucy, Jean and Bethany were chattering their mouths off as they boarded the coach.
"I do love coach journeys," Bethany said to Jean as they took adjacent seats. "There's nothing better than a good coach journey,"
"Easy for you to say - you've got the window seat!" Jean grinned as she sat down.
As soon as the coach of girls arrived in the town, they headed to a patisserie where a featherbed of cream and cake awaited them. They gasped in delight at the luscious treats available and instantly started to beg the mistresses for some. The mistresses themselves talked to some of the staff in the patisserie and the girls were allowed to have two treats each, and were also instructed to file in alphabetical order (the mistresses were sure that a few of the girls would battle for first in line otherwise!). Felicity bagged the quartet a table. Bethany was the last to appear at said table, and Felicity eyed the cream-less plate suspiciously.
"On a diet or something?" she asked casually.
"Got amnesia or something?" Bethany was quick to reply. "I don't like cream,"
The four of them let their minds meander back to a scene at the beginning of term. The Prefects had been helping out in the dining hall, and Celia Everett had taken up the task of handing out drinks. Most of the girls took coffee with cream, but those who didn't had to request for milk or water that day. There was a list in the kitchens of who took milk and who took water, but Celia had ignored it almost completely (which had led to some hyperactivity to girls whose parents had placed them on those lists because they knew their daughters, and said daughters found that they liked coffee!). Bethany had placed herself on the list for water as soon as she had arrived at the Chalet School, having heard a description of Chalet School coffee and objecting particularly to the cream on top. When presented with said coffee, Bethany had said, "Err, and what am I supposed to do with this?"
"Err, drink it, genius," Celia had replied.
"I'm pretty sure I put myself down on the water list," Bethany replied. "Is there any chance you'd give me that instead?"
Celia flushed violently, but she didn't want to let a Junior Middle - and a new one at that! - get the better of her. "Why?" she asked, coolly.
"I dislike cream immensely," Bethany said. "And I've never had coffee,"
"Oh, stop being so fussy," Celia retorted. "Just scrape it off,"
The cream of the cake (bad metaphor, but you get the idea) came when everyone was helping to clean up, and a number of Prefects were collecting cups while the rest of the girls were waiting to take their plates and cutlery to the hatchery and then leave the hall, or were already doing so. Wanda Von Eschenau was surprised to see the drink untouched, and Bethany had explained the situation to her with a calm accuracy (and later got told by Jean that even if Wanda was still a student, she was a Prefect and so telling her what happened may well have been construed as sneaking by some of the other girls, and would most definitely be seen that way by Celia). Ever since then, Wanda herself had volunteered to give out drinks as required, Val Gardiner had told her friend what an abject idiot she'd been, and Celia herself had kept an eye out for an opportunity to be able to tell off the new girl. But as she expected that speaking the wrong language on German day would be all that was needed, and Bethany was far more fluent in the language than Celia herself, the opportunity did not avail itself. (It is to be said that Bethany revelled in this and got increasingly and annoyingly good in Celia's presence!)
Back to the patisserie and most of the girls had finished their treats. Much of the rest of the day was spent touring the town, seeing the famous sights and generally enjoying themselves. They had a late Mittagessen and debated what to do with the remaining few hours before they had to go back to the school. By popular demand, it was decided that they'd go to the local zoo.
The girls were given free reign over the zoo, as long as they were with at least one other person and that they promised to be back at the gate in time.
The quartet walked around the zoo, discussing the exhibits. They passed Anastasia Mucci on the way, and exchanged light greetings. Then, Lucy squealed.
"Elephants!" she said. "Oh, I do love elephants,"
"They're alright, I suppose," Jean replied.
"When I'm older I'm going to have one as a pet," Lucy said, determinedly.
"How are you going to find the space to keep one?" Jean asked.
"I'm sure I'll think of something," Lucy said.
Felicity quickly joined Carlotta von Ahlen and Lise Leitner, while Bethany witnessed Lucy and Jean's conversation, having taken no notice of Felicity's warning nudge. Jean queried everything related to elephant care while Lucy either gave a concise answer or a hand-wave, each time being more certain that she would have an elephant as a pet. Bethany quickly tired of this and joined Henriette Beaumont and Win Everett, the latter either not knowing or not caring about her sister's vendetta against Bethany. They had a good time and were amongst the last back to the meeting-point.
"Hurry up, please, girls," Miss Ferrars said.
She started a head-count, but before she'd got very far Bethany had noticed that Lucy and Jean were still missing. She moved towards Felicity and told her of this. Unfortunately she had dislodged two of the other girls in the process, and no-one else had noticed anything, so the head count gave a false positive and the crowd moved off. Felicity and Bethany managed to slip behind and go back. Before they got to the elephant enclosure, however, they spotted Anastasia. She had a face of complete bewilderment, and she was walking aimlessly down one of the smaller pathways. She spotted them, and her demeanour instantly changed to one of relief.
"I got lost - my partner disappeared," she said. "A - Are they terribly angry?"
"They don't know about it," Bethany said. "We went back looking for Lucy and Jean. You'd better join us,"
Lucy and Jean were still arguing about pet elephants when the others found them. "Stop arguing, we need to go join the others now!" Felicity said, emphasising every word.
Lucy and Jean stared at her for a second, and then snapped out of it. "Better get a move on," Jean said.
They ran. Jean and Anastasia were far and away the best runners, and got out of the zoo before any of the others were even close. However, none of them had accounted for the fact that the zoo was closing, and the gate was locked right behind the pair. Their chorus of "Wait!" being in two languages (English and Italian) did not help. Bethany slammed into the gate two moments later, and it was an additional four moments before the other two got there.
"I hate running," Felicity declared, panting slightly. "We're locked in!"
"Nice observation, Holmes," replied Lucy.
Felicity looked at the gates. "If I just go through here," she said, squeezing through the limited gap between the two gates. "How are we going to get you two out? Neither of you can fit that gap,"
Bethany had been surveying the wall. "This wall is quite climbable," she said. "I'll climb it first, and then I can tell you the best hand- and foot-holes,"
Bethany herself was quickly over the wall. Lucy, relying on Bethany's spoken orders, was far slower and kept on stumbling. Bethany did not notice a new presence in their midst until Lucy was over the wall.
"Miss Gladstone!" Bethany cried, spotting the Geography mistress who'd joined the school at the same time as she did. "I didn't see you there,"
"I dare say," Miss Gladstone replied coolly. She had had her suspicions something that was awry when Miss Ferrars had been counting heads, but having been unable to put her finger on it she'd just ignored it. They had done a more conclusive count back at the coach and had noticed the disappearance of those five girls, along with Miss Ferrars. She was glad she had managed to find them, and now told them about how foolish they'd been. As she'd not got the full story out of them, she had made a few errors, which had subsequently been corrected by Bethany. After a good ticking-off, she took them back to the coach, and no further action was taken against them.
"It was still quite a fun trip, though," Jean said. "Even with that conclusion,"