There was nothing like late summer railway travel to make you feel unpresentably sticky and dirty. Hilda Annersley had tried to take precautions against this by breaking the long journey from Yorkshire to the Tiernsee in Innsbruck, but making the last leg of the journey on a sultry mid-September day had left her almost as uncomfortable as the day before as she stepped off the ferry outside the school which was to be her home for the next few years.
It would be lovely, she thought, if she could have a wash and brush up before she met any of her colleagues, but it was not to be. A young woman awaited her at the landing, tall and dark haired, with a pleasant, amiable face.
“Miss Annersley?” she asked as Hilda stepped near, and Hilda nodded. “Welcome to the Chalet School and the Tiernsee! I’m Mollie Maynard, the Senior Mistress.” She chuckled suddenly and shook her head. “Goodness, that sounds strange! Sorry, it’s my first term in the position, and I’ve not yet had cause to use the title.”
Hilda smiled, warming already to this charming openness. “It sounds grand, and I’m sure you’ll do very well with it.”
Miss Maynard returned the smile, turning to lead Hilda towards a cluster of buildings about a quarter of a mile from the landing. “Well, I can but try.” She waved a hand at their immediate surroundings. “This is Briesau. Over there,” she pointed across the lake, and Hilda dutifully followed her gaze, “is Buchau, and you’ll have come through Seespitz already, of course. Those are the main settlements at the lake, though there are plenty more tiny hamlets. You’ll soon get to know the area through walks with the girls, especially if we get a late winter this year. Last year was early, so let us hope that’s the case.”
In an Alpine winter, Hilda thought, the girls probably get tied to the house a good deal, and grow fractious as a result.
“Let us hope so,” she agreed. “What is it that you teach?”
Not that it mattered, really, but Hilda wanted to get the positions and subjects of her new colleagues straightened out in her head, and it was about the only level of conversation she could rise to whilst feeling so clammy from the journey.
“Mathematics,” Miss Maynard said with a smile which showed she enjoyed her subject, and Hilda glanced at her with a new respect. Mathematics had never been her strong point, and she’d always admired anyone who even understood them, never mind had the ability to teach them.
Miss Maynard caught the look, and laughed. “Not keen on maths yourself?”
“My arithmetic is passable,” Hilda returned frankly, “but I view algebra as one of the cruellest tortures ever devised, and let’s not even mention geometry.”
“I’ll try not to hold that against you,” her guide told her cheerfully, and Hilda smiled dutifully as they passed through the gates of the school and up to the doors of the building itself.
“I imagine you’d like a wash and brush up before you meet anyone else,” Miss Maynard said when they were standing in the front hall.
Hilda nodded gratefully. “That would be wonderful, thank you.”
Her companion nodded understandingly. “I’ll take you up to your room and show you the staff bathroom, then when you’re ready I’ll give you a tour of the school, taking in introductions on the way.”
She was as good as her word, and once alone in the bathroom, Hilda decided that she was going to like Miss Mollie Maynard with her frank openness and helpful manner. Two or three years younger, she thought, and good fun, when the occasion doesn’t call for seriousness. Altogether a very pleasant woman.
Not much to go on so far, Mollie Maynard thought as she waited in her own room for Miss Annersley to finish washing. Quite reserved, I should think, and hard to get to know. Prefers to listen than to speak; I’ll have to wait until she does to make any fair kind of judgement on her character. We’ll see how she responds to everyone else.