Authors: Elinor Brent-Dyer
‘Charlie’s neat, and Charlie’s sweet, and Charlie is a dandy;
Charlie, he’s a nice young man, and feeds the girls on candy.’
‘Oh, Jo! Do stop that awful thing! I’m sick of it!’
Joey Bettany kicked her heels against the fence on which she was sitting, and gave a chuckle. ‘I think it’s jolly nice.’
don’t; and I just wish you’d stop it!’ retorted Grizel Cochrane, frowning. ‘And don’t start “The Tottenham Toad” or “Go and Tell Aunt Nancy” instead, ‘cos I’m tired to death of them
‘Poor old thing! You
in a bad way!’ laughed Joey teasingly.
‘I just wish term would begin and the others come back!’ declared Grizel. ‘I do think some of them might be up by now!’
She looked round at the lake beside which she was standing. Ringed in by big mountains, with a long, narrow valley stretching away to the west, and water-meadows at its southern extremity, the Tiern See in the North Tyrol is surely one of the loveliest places in the world, and an ideal spot for such a school as the Chalet School. Here Joey Bettany’s sister, Madge, had established herself at the end of the previous April, beginning with nine pupils – Joey, Grizel, and Simone Lecoutier (niece of the French lady who had joined in the enterprise), and six Tyrolean girls who came from the summer chalets which have grown up round the lake – and ending the first term with just twice that number.
The new term would begin in ten days’ time. Meanwhile, Joey, Grizel, and one other pupil, Juliet Carrick, an orphan and the ward of Miss Bettany, were finding time hang rather heavily on their hands. They missed their other friends, especially Grizel, who was a gregarious little soul, and, unlike the other two, had no resources of her own. Juliet and Joey were perfectly happy as long as they had books, and, besides that, the elder girl was fond of needlework, and at the moment was busy with some embroidery destined for her guardian’s Christmas gift.
Grizel was not overfond of reading, and she hated the very sight of a needle. She was an active tomboyish person, who was happiest when she was rushing about, climbing the steep mountain-paths, or rowing over he blue lake in one of the clumsy but serviceable boats which were kept there, largely for the use of the many tourists who cam there during the summer months.
To make matters worse, Miss Maynard, the mathematics mistress, had brought back for Joey a copy of
Appalachian Nursery Song-Book
, and Joey had sung them in season and out of season, till even the donor of the gift was beginning to regret that she had ever brought it. Grizel, in spite of many enforced hours at the piano, was not musical – Herr Anserl, the music-master who came very week to the Chalet from Spärtz, the little town at the foot of the mountains, declared that she had as much soul as a machine, and played like one
– and before many days were over, she hated those nursery songs with an astonishing vehemence, a fact of which naughty Jo was not slow to take advantage.
Now, the songstress swung herself down from her precarious position on the top of the fence that divided Briesau, the little village where the Chalet School was, from the rough pathway that leads round the lake to Geisalm, the next hamlet – if you can call it a hamlet when there is only a hotel and three small wooden huts, more like sheds than anything else – and demanded briskly, ‘What are you so humpy about?’
‘It’s all so slow,’ returned Grizel. ‘You and Juliet are always reading – unless you’re reading, and she’s working. I wish we could have an expedition somewhere!’
‘P’r'aps we can.’ Joey considered for a moment with her head on one side. ‘Where’d you like to go?’
‘D’you think Miss Bettany would take us into Innsbruck the next time she goes? If we wrote to the Maranis they might meet us. Gisela said in her last letter that she and Maria would be staying there till term began.’
‘That’s rather an idea. I’d love to see Gisela again; I think she’s a splendid girl.’
‘Some of the others might be there too!’ Grizel was growing enthusiastic over her own plan. ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all meet and do something together?’
‘Splendiferous!’ Joey gave a little leap into the air. ‘Let’s go and hunt up my sister, and ask her at once!’
‘We can’t this minute. She’s gone down to Spärtz to see Herr Anserl about the new people, and to buy some more china.’
‘How do you know?’ demanded Joey, her face falling.
‘I went as far as the top of the mountain-path with her and Miss Maynard. Never mind! Let’s go as far as Seespitz and see the train come in. We can get some apples from old Grete, too.’
‘All right,’ agreed Joey. ‘But it’s no fun meeting the trains now; everyone’s going – not coming. Herr Braun told me he was going to shut up the Kron Prinz Karl next week, and go to his chalet over at Buchau for the winter. The Furstenhaus and the Stephanie have been closed for days now, and soon there’ll only be the Post and the Adalbert open – they stay open all the year round.’
‘It does seem lonely, now all the visitors are going,’ sighed Grizel.
Joey glanced at her. ‘It’ll be all right when the others come back,’ she said as she slipped an arm through her friend’s. ‘What crowds of us there’ll be! All the old girls, and Wanda and Marie, and their cousin Paula, and Rosalie Dene, and that American girl Evadne Lannis, and Vanna di Ricci, and – ‘
‘Oh, do stop!’ implored Grizel. ‘We’ve been over the list about a hundred and fifty times, I should think, and I’m bored with it!’
‘All right,’ said Jo amiably. ‘But, all the same, it’s gorgeous to think we’re growing like this. Why, Madge thinks we may get up to thirty by Christmas – and it’s only our second term!’
‘I know. And I thought your sister said you weren’t to use her Christian name in school,’ put in Grizel a trifle maliciously.
‘I know she did; and I don’t! ‘Tisn’t term yet!’ retorted Jo triumphantly. – ‘I say, there’s the smoke of the train! We’ll have to hurry!’
They set off running at their best pace, but the train with its procession of funny little open cars got there before them, and, when they had reached it, its small load of passengers were already making their way to the boat-landing where the little white steamer awaited them. There were only ten visitors, as the girls quickly saw. The remainder were dwellers in the valleys round about. Some might even have come from Tiernkirche, a large village some four or five miles away from Scholastika, the hamlet at the head of the lake.
Many of those who lived on the lakeside recognised the girls in their short brown gym tunics and brown blazers, and called out a friendly ‘
‘ as they passed, walking with the long, purposeful stride of the mountaineer. They made no attempt to join the steamer. The peasant of the Tiern See valley is generally poor, and are all good walkers.
The strangers looked curiously at the two children, so obviously not Tyrolean, and commented on them.
Grizel, with floating brown curls, tanned rosy cheeks, and dancing eyes, was typically English; and Jo Bettany of the pointed face with straight black hair, neatly bobbed, and eyes like pools of ink, as apt to attract notice wherever she went. Years of delicacy had let her with hollowed cheeks which had not yet filled out; and even a summer spent in the life-giving atmosphere of the mountains had not altogether taken away the fragility of her appearance, though she was stronger and healthier than she had been since she was a very small child.
Of these inquisitive visitors, none showed greater interest than two Italian girls of fifteen and twelve. They turned and stared at the pair with such concentration that the younger one tripped over some wood that happened to be lying in the path and went backwards over. Joey and Grizel promptly made a rush, and hauled her to her feet, Joey chattering the whole time.
‘Are you hurt? –
‘ she demanded, dropping rapidly from English into French as the other child looked at her blankly. ‘Oh, bother! She doesn’t understand!
Haben Sie sich weh getan?
The little Italian shook her head and smiled prettily. She had no idea what Joey was saying, as she spoke her native language only. Her sister, however, understood French, and caught at the word
‘She asks if you are hurt,’ she said to the younger child in their own tongue.
At the sound of the musical syllables Jo’s face lightened. She knew very little Italian, although her French and German were both fluent. She hastily recast her sentence.
?’ she demanded.
The two girls laughed; and at the moment a gentleman, obviously their father, called them imperatively,
Venite – adesso!
They went immediately, the elder pausing to say, ‘
Addio; e grazie!
‘Goodbye; and thank you,’ translated Joey for the benefit of the less learned Grizel.
‘They’re rather jolly, aren’t they?’
‘Yes. But isn’t their father a bossy old thing?’ commented Grizel.
‘He is! And if my sister heard you she would be – cross,’ replied Jo.
‘Oh, well, it doesn’t matter talking slang to you! Madame wouldn’t mind that!’
‘She would. She says that every time we use it it’s making it harder for us to remember not to; and I suppose she
right when she says that the people here won’t thank us for teaching the girls English slang,’
replied her friend. ‘You know how angry she was with Simone for teaching French slang to Margia and Amy!’
‘Yes, I know. All right; I’ll remember. But don’t start preaching at me, Joey Bettany! You use quite as much as I do!’
‘I know!’ Joey sounded rueful. ‘It’s a nuisance sometimes. I say! Won’t Evadne have a time of it when she comes? Americans always speak such quantities of slang!’
‘Oh, she’ll get over it,’ answered Grizel easily. ‘Look at
. I’m sure the High School folk at home would think our English was the limit, nowadays! I never say half the things I used to; and neither do you.’
‘I never did use as much as you,’ said Joey as the turned and went along the lake road. ‘My brother and sister used to object so. Here’s Grete.
Grete, an old shrivelled apple woman, greeted them with an outburst of Tyrolean German, to which Jo responded with much fluency, and Grizel with a few somewhat halting sentences. She was very slow at picking up languages, and often had to think before she got the word she wanted. Jo, on the other hand, never had the smallest difficulty, and chattered away as rapidly and as gaily as the old woman.
‘There is snow on the mountains,’ she remarked presently, as old Grete picked out her best apples for them.’
. The winter will come quickly now. Soon the snow will descend from the skies; the lake will freeze; and then we shall sit all day by the stove, and shiver – shiver, and long for the spring to come again.’
‘I sha’n't,’ observed Grizel in her own language after she had got the sense of this. ‘I shall go for walks, and skate.’
‘Rather! Heaps of skating here, I should think!’ agreed Joey. She turned to the old woman. ‘One skates,
‘Oh, yes; one skates. But it is not always safe. There are springs in the lake, and the ice is thin, there.
Then, one day, someone more daring or more foolish rushes over, and – there is a crack – a cry! And it is finished! One recovers the bodies in the spring!’
‘B-r-r-r-r!’ shivered Grizel. ‘How horrid!’
‘We sha’n't smash in,’ said Joey confidently. ‘Herr Mensch and Herr Marani will show us where to go, and they will take care of us!’
‘They won’t be here all the time,’ Grizel reminded her.
‘Oh well! Herr Braun will, and he will show us where the springs are. – How much,
Grete told here; and when they had paid, they strolled slowly homewards, eating the apples, and wrangling amicably about the skating. At the little gate they were met by Juliet, who had got tired of her sewing, and come to find them.
‘You mean creatures! How dare you go off like that and leave me!’ she demanded, laughing. ‘What have you got? Apples?’
Jo nodded and held out the big paper poke with an indistinct ‘Have one?’ Juliet accepted the invitation, and they went on to the Chalet, munching happily.
The Chalet was a very large wooden building which had been designed for a hotel. Miss Bettany had rented it from Herr Braun, the proprietor of the big white-washed hotel which stood near the boat-landing, and had converted it into her school. Up to the present it had proved quite large enough; but now, with the prospect of additional pupils and another mistress, she had been obliged to take the smaller chalet that stood a little way from it, and was making it into a junior house, with a couple of class-rooms, so that she could keep the little ones entirely by themselves. There had been six of them in the previous term, but now their numbers were to be enlarged by four, and the young head-mistress had decided to let the ‘babies’ have their own department this term.