The Chalet School series was originally written by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer and is currently owned by Girls Gone By Publications. I make no money from this dabbling; it's just for fun and because this was too good to resist...
Sister Mary Margaret paused at the gate of Plas Gwyn and smiled. The house was little changed from the place she remembered growing up. The plants might be a little more over grown, but it was still the wonderful old house with so many memories. A laugh bubbled up as she recalled her younger brother pushing her into the duck pond. Happy days. The laughter died away as she remembered the other two people who'd been in the meadow that afternoon. Con was off on yet another book tour, but Len...
Mary Margaret sighed in a most un-nun-like fashion. Len's death was nearly twelve years ago and yet the pain of her passing was still as fresh as ever. Well, standing here at the gate would not get her visit underway -- and the person she'd come to see wouldn't have asked her to come if he didn't need to see her. So with a swallow, she set foot on the path that led up towards the front door.
Barely two steps along it and she found herself being all but sent flying by a small, whirling, sobbing dervish.
"Aunty Nun!" it sobbed. "It's not fair!"
The title made Mary Margaret smile. "And good afternoon, Maddy."
"It's not fair," Maddy repeated. "He doesn't love me any more!"
"And what is it that's not fair?" Mary Margaret asked.
"Was climbing the apple-trees," Maddy admitted.
"I see," said Mary Margaret, stifling a smile. Maddy sniffed, heaved a gusty sigh and hung her head. "Your father only tells you off when you do something naughty," she continued gently. "And he cares about that because he loves you very much. And the apple-trees aren't safe. Imagine what would happen if you fell and hurt yourself?" Maddy sniffed again. "So is it really unfair of him to be cross?"
Maddy gulped. "I s'pose not."
"So, how about we go inside? I expect you'd like to give your face a rub," at that Maddy nodded, sniffing still, "and then we ought to see your father and see if the two of you can't make amends."
Maddy heaved another gusty sigh. "All right."
Mary Margaret held out a hand and Maddy grasped it in a sticky paw. "I expect," she said, as they walked along the path towards the house, "that your father's probably just as upset for having to tell you off as you are for being told off."
"Really?" Maddy queried, the incredulity of her tone coming through even despite the sniffs.
"Truly." Sister Mary Margaret offered a conspiratorial smile. "I know my parents were unhappy whenever they had to tell me off."
"You were naughty?" Even more incredulous this time.
"I certainly was. In fact," she added as they reached the door, "if you remind me over tea, I'll tell you about the time I pulled your uncle into the duck pond." Mary Margaret pushed the door open. "Now off you pop and wash up -- then come and join your father and me in the den."
She watched for a minute as her niece stumped off up the wide, shallow stairs, before turning and heading for the den. She didn't get that far, however, as her quarry appeared from the kitchen, carrying a tea tray.
"I saw you talking to Little Miss," said Reg, offering a faint smile. "So I went and put the kettle on. Thought you'd be able to use a cup."
"Or two," she agreed, following Reg into the den. "How are you?"
"Getting by," Reg answered. "The work's rewarding enough -- and it's good for Maddy to have some of her family nearby."
"You know you could have stayed at the Platz," Mary Margaret reminded him gently.
"Too many memories, Margot -- you know that. Here...I feel close to her without..." He stopped, perhaps unsure of what else to say. More likely, Mary Margaret realised, he didn't wish her to see the tears.
She'd always been surprised by Len's relationship with Reg. She'd thought that Len was far too young and inexperienced when they'd become engaged, and yet as the time had passed, it had become increasingly apparent that -- as young and inexperienced as she was -- Len truly did love Reg. And there was no denying he had loved her.
"I understand," was all she said. And she did.
"So -- did Little Miss tell you what was wrong?"
Mary Margaret smiled, partly at the question, partly at the subject change. "She did -- between sobs. What on earth did you say to her to provoke such a response?"
Reg looked sheepish as he set the tea tray down. "She scared the dickens out of me -- right in the top of the apple-tree, she was. I probably said more than I should have done. I just kept thinking 'if she'd fallen, I'd have lost her'."
Mary Margaret offered him a smile. "I understand. I think she understands too. Some of it, at least."
"Tea?" he offered.
She put a hand out to stop him. "She's a perceptive child, Reg. I know you promised you'd tell her about her mother..."
"That's why I needed you here," Reg cut in. "I...I've been thinking. She's been offered a place at the high school in Hereford for next term, but it's only a day school and it's a long journey." Mary Margaret nodded slowly. "And then there's this."
So saying, he produced a letter on headed paper that Mary Margaret instantly recognised. It was from the Sanatorium in Switzerland. As she unfolded it to read, he poured the tea.
Just so as you know ahead of time, there are things afoot here. This is far from official, but I know that they're considering you for a position that's just come up here -- Graves retires in August and as our next best specialist in rheumatics, you're an obvious candidate for the post. Of course, they'll have to go through the official rigmarole -- adverts, interviews and the like -- but you know our ways, and you're already part of the family. I think the Old Man wants you back, too. He knows that you left on not exactly speaking terms with his wife, but I think you'll find that things are better now. You were both grieving. And it isn't fair to Maddy for her not to know her mother's family. Which I think you already know -- at least based on your last letter."
At this point, Mary Margaret paused to look up. "I didn't know you and mum argued."
Reg shrugged awkwardly. "She didn't think I could bring up Maddy on my own."
"Aah." Mary Margaret nodded knowingly. She could well imagine her mother on the subject. "So how did you end up with Plas Gwyn?"
"That was your dad's doing. He suggested that since I didn't have anywhere else to go, or anyone else I could go to, Plas Gwyn would be as good a place as any to go and better than some."
"Somewhere you could go but still be a part of the family," Mary Margaret finished. Reg nodded. "That sounds like something dad would do." She returned her attention to the letter, but there was little else to read, just a couple of polite enquiries from the writer, Neil Sheppard, so she handed the page back. "And have they offered you the post?"
"The letter came this morning -- inviting me to go for interview. With a note from your dad saying there's always a set of rooms waiting for Maddy and me at Freudesheim."
Mary Margaret took up her cup of tea. "What are you going to do?"
Reg sighed. "I don't know. Oh, I shall attend the interview all right, but beyond that..."
"And what of Maddy while you do?"
Reg looked down at the tea tray. "It's the summer holidays now -- she finished on Thursday. So...I did think I might make it our holiday this year."
"And if you take the post in Switzerland?"
"I was thinking -- if the Chalet School would take her -- she might go there."
Mary Margaret nodded. "If she passed the eleven plus for the local high school, I'm sure they will. But, she'll have to know about her mother if she goes there. Though I doubt there are any girls still there who knew Len, the staff certainly do -- and she does look like her."
"Would you help me?" Reg asked. "I know it's time..."
"Are you going to tell me about mummy?" asked a little voice from the doorway. "Is that why Auntie Nun is here?"