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Author's Chapter Notes:
Set in the early days of the Chalet School

The Chalet School
Briesau
Tiern See
Austria
1er Decembre 192*

Félicitations à tous le monde

I have had one of the strangest and most wonderful years of my life! You will remember that last Christmas I was very unhappy in my post as governess to the Withers family in Taverton. I was neither suited to the damp winters of the English South-West, nor did I feel supported in my methods by the parents, so when Miss Bettany – you will remember I mentioned in last year’s letter the neighbour who was so helpful in her telling-off young Miss Jean for her perpetual rudeness; in front of the parents, too! – decided in the spring that she wished to start a school; and in the beautiful Tyrol, too, I was very happy to support her. So here I am in Austria, where it is cold, yes, but with clear crisp days, and snow on the ground, joint headmistress with Miss Marguérite Bettany, whom the girls and staff all now call Madame (and I am Mademoiselle!)

We started in a small way, with Marguérite’s sister Joséphine, Grizel Cochrane, the child of another neighbour – who was wilting under the regime of a reluctant stepmother – and my young cousine Simone. So April saw us making arrangements – I went ahead with young Mr Bettany, Marguérite’s brother, who was on furlough from India, to oversee the alterations to the school buildings. Before the first day, some of the families staying on the lake for the summer decided to send their daughters to us, and so our first term began with 9 pupils. Within a week our numbers had swollen to seventeen, and the whole neighbourhood was talking about our venture. We then had need of another mistress, and Miss Maynard came to us with high recommendations for her mathematics – a subject in which both Marguérite and I felt a less than adequacy for our older girls.

But we were not without excitement, as the girls tried various tricks and escapades, some things mere thoughtlessness, others attempts at trying the limits of our discipline, but all in all the first term was a success, and we boasted eighteen pupils when we separated for the summer holidays, during which we learned that Juliet, who was beginning to be a very useful member of our senior group of girls, had lost her parents to a motor accident.

Through word-of-mouth recommendations we started the autumn term with thirty-three pupils, from all over Europe as well as one young lady from America. Consequently another mistress, Miss Durrant, had joined us. Now we also have an English singing-master, and boast a hobbies club and a school magazine!

Marguérite, Josephine and the Robin are going to Innsbruck for Christmas, to stay with the Mensches and the Maranis, whose daughters have been with us from the start; and I will be in Vienna with Simone and her sister Renée, and two other little French girls, by the time you receive this.

And so I send you the greetings of the season, and wish you Bonne Nouvelle Année.
Your very good friend

Elise La Pâttre



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