|Rosalie spluttered as her Haig Dimple on the rocks went down the wrong way and looked at Frieda with a stunned expression.|
“Joey know about The Project? Frieda, are you mad? What in the name of goodness makes you think that I would tell Joey, of all people, anything about it? Leaving aside the fact that she is to discretion what Attila the Hun was to peace and universal brotherhood, the dear woman is financially hopeless. I will never forget the day she came to wail on my shoulder about the state of the Plas Gwyn foundations. When I tried to console her by saying the buildings insurance should cover most of it she looked at me as if I was speaking Sanskrit! As we know, to our considerable cost, neither she nor Jack had thought of insuring the place. Heaven knows what would have happened if we hadn't been able to lend them the cash for the repairs!”
“I do like the way you said 'lend'” laughed Frieda, looking a bit more cheerful. “Do you think we’ll ever get it all back?”
“Maybe when we are old and grey but at the rate we're going I can see Louis and Gerard having to discuss it with the Trips and Steve", said Rosalie, with a rueful grin. “I paid off a fair amount after my Canada visit – it seemed the right thing to do in return for their hospitality - but we have to keep reducing their repayments as their family grows. My blood runs cold every time Joey starts talking about quads! But, tell me, what brought on this panic?”
"It was this afternoon when we took Marie to Interlaken to catch the train. We were talking about the Chapels' Fund - you know Madame announced it stood at around £7600 - and Joey was telling us about the donations from Corney, Evvy and the Hopes. Then she said ‘Actually, we got our first twenty thousand pounds in one fell swoop, more or less.’ I nearly did a Joey-type fainting clean away act! And Simone has been giving Joey the odd quizzical look ever since. Of course, it all went over Marie's head. She's a dear sweet beautiful girl but.... "
"When they said 'brains' she thought they said "drains" and asked them to clear hers out!” added Rosalie, with a chuckle. "Simone, though, is a very different proposition and it could have been difficult. Fortunately, this is the one transaction in the entire Coming-of-Age affair where I am the completely blameless clergyman's daughter - and Joey was almost right!"
"How so?" Frieda enquired, as Rosalie topped up both their drinks. "Thank you, I needed that! I've had enough of that light country wine that Joey serves which is only one step up from water. Do you know, I've been reduced to drinking Anna's lemonade?"
"You poor hard done by soul" laughed Rosalie. "I don't know where Jo got the £20,000 figure but there is more money in the Chapels' Fund than Madge announced. I managed to persuade her that we should have some contingency funds in case the building work cost more than the estimate. I also suggested setting up an endowment for their maintenance and to let us pay a modest honorarium to the chaplains. The Heads thought it was a good idea but it took a bit of work to get Joey to understand what I meant. I think she imagines that men of the cloth live off communion wine and the odd fruit loaf donated by grateful parishioners. My father had a few like that in all of his parishes."
Frieda gave her a sympathetic glance. She knew how much Rosalie would have loved the University education that could not be afforded. She also knew how happy it made her friend that The Project had helped her provide a comfortable home for her father and stepmother and a good education for her young half-brothers.
"Anyhow" said Rosalie crisply. "I don't want Simone mulling things over - she might feel moved to investigate and she is more than clever enough to make life very awkward if she gets wind of the arrangement with Herr Braun or one of the other little ploys which enabled us, among other things, to ensure that every pupil was able to go to the Tiernsee whether their parents could afford it or not. Why don't you bring her over with you tomorrow morning for coffee? I'll explain the scheme, ask her to check my figures and cost projections, and, with a bit of luck, disarm any suspicions she might have. Tell Bruno that I should be able to transfer the spare funds by the end of the week. Herr Kensinger did say that he could have the photographs ready by Friday so that will give me a good excuse to nip down to Interlaken.”
"I'll do that" returned Frieda, "but I must get back before they send out search parties. I told Jo I was a bit head-achy and wanted some fresh air and quiet. I don't want her thinking I've slipped off a shelf!"
By the time she had shown Frieda out and returned to her quarters Rosalie was ready for bed.
She was just drifting off to sleep when the irony suddenly struck her. "Good grief, The Project could have been destroyed by a perfectly legitimate scheme! And they have the cheek to say honesty is the best policy!"