I discovered too late after uploading the first story that, while I definitely have at least one Chalet School book to hand with "Kathy Ferrars", in The New Mistress at the Chalet School, the setting of these stories, she's rather decidedly "Kathie Ferrars." Please forgive me for inadvertently making an EBDism of my own!
Kathie and Nancy were soon fast friends, as inseparable as Middles with the worst of bad cases on each other. Kathie was dimly aware that the rest of the mistresses were amused, but it was a benign amusement, happy that the staff baby had found someone to keep her feet on the ground. Nancy, it was generally agreed, had her own plump and pretty feet solidly planted on rock.
Despite the trials and tribulations of the school pageant, Kathie found the next few days quite the happiest she had spent at the Chalet School. None of her mistakes and stumbles seemed quite so overwhelming as they had to her solitary self. Having a friend rather than merely someone friendly on the school staff, for in fairness they had all been friendly, but a real friend, made all the difference in the world. Kathie had had many friends in her own school days, but there was something different about her friendship with Nancy. It was, she supposed, that she was no longer a girl herself, and had more to give to a real, grownup friendship.
There was some other reason, she sometimes suspected, beneath the surface, but the fact was that someone's face lighting up when she entered a room was a very rare, and cherished, thing. She had almost forgotten the easy assurance of being loved and wanted that she had felt while living with a doting aunt. Under Nancy's influence, she felt it surging warmly back. Her shyness and unnatural austerity retreated as her happiness and friendship with Nancy gained strength; more even than her once unthinkable alliance with Mary-Lou, and peace with her own Middles, the recalcitrant Yseult aside, Nancy's friendship brought back Kathie's natural spirit and sparkle.
It felt, she thought one morning as they stole out for a walk in the early hours in which the world was still bright and fresh and unpopulated by schoolgirls, as though between the Chalet School and Nancy she had found the life for which she had always been longing. She mentioned as much to Nancy, who smiled and tightened her grasp on her hand, eyes glowing. Later that morning, turning over a pretty carved wooden Alpine rose in her hands, a surprise present from Nancy who informed her that in the absence of wildflowers it would have to do, Kathie positively glowed herself.
That weekend brought Kathie back to the house adjoining the school, no longer timidly walking around by the road, but boldly crossing the gardens, arm-in-arm with her new friend. Her new other half, she had joked, and had been touched to see Nancy's cheeks turn a shade pinker. She never would have expected such shyness, from Nancy, of all people!
On arrival, she was pleasantly surprised to find the Maynard triplets home and playing hostess, evidently extremely proud to be in such a position of authority with their own mistress. Kathie was solemnly conveyed to the chair of honour by Margot, of all people, and had Len and Con press delicious sandwiches and coffee on her. The impressive effect was only slightly disturbed by Bruno bounding into the room and giving her face a thorough washing
"Oh, dear!" Kathie protested, fighting him off, but she met Nancy's anxious glance smilingly. Reassured, the older mistress chose for a seat to perch on the arm of Kathie's chair, an arm cast protectively over the back of the chair.
The triplets burst into peals of musical laughter. Kathie was not, to be sure, entirely certain why they were laughing, but she had noted before that Chalet School girls laughed frequently, seemingly sometimes without the remotest of causes. She thought it was probably something in the health-giving Swiss air that made the Chaletians slightly prone to inappropriate merriment and warned herself to guard against it. She supposed that the dog entering the room had just been too much for the girls, and beamed kindly on them. They were rather nice girls, after all - even Margot.
Jo burst into the room at that point, eyes sparking beneath the deep fringe so like Con's, and before Kathie knew it, her sandwiches and coffee had been replaced by a warm, adorable bundle of babiness. She snuggled the sweet-scented Cecil to herself and watched Nancy greet the twins, taken by the grave sweetness with which her friend regarded the children. Even Felix consented to kiss her - quite understandable, given the kindness of Nancy's voice!
Suddenly, all felt well in Kathie's world. She had been wrong to fret about the triplets. Something in the pride with which they played hostess convinced her that they were genuinely grateful to her for her understanding and leniency, not at all inclined to play the fool because of it. She was surrounded by people she liked, and who liked her, and had a baby to cuddle. She beamed with pleasure and wellbeing, and felt Nancy's arm tighten briefly across her shoulders, as if in approval.
It was a very pleasant evening. Kathie quite wholeheartedly Nancy's decision to bring her. It had, in fact, been just what she required.
"I've had a letter," Jo remarked some time later, drawing some folded paper from her pocket. There was an expectant silence before Kathie realised that, as guest of honour, it fell to herself to ask about Jo's correspondent. She had been slightly distracted by the twitch at the corner of Nancy's mouth. Later on, she was to ask what had amused her so much, and was given to understand that Jo had a constant stream of letters which she was only too glad to reprise to anyone willing to listen.
"Betty Wynne-Davies," Jo announced. As far as Kathie was concerned, the answer may well have been pure gibberish, but the amused twitch in Nancy's mouth was replaced by a slight hardening.
"Indeed? What has she to say for herself, then?" Nancy's voice was as crisp as if she had discovered some unfortunate Junior babe with inferior tobacco. Kathie gathered that the unfortunate Betty had not been one of the Chalet School's successes.
"Well, it's rather confusing. She seems to have settled down quite a bit: became an ambulance driver in the War after she - well, since she 'left' the Chalet School. She also says she wrote to tell us that she's sure we won't approve, but she puts it down to her Chalet School upbringing that she's decided never to marry, but to settle in Worcestershire and write French novels with a girl named Stephen." Jo folded up the letter with a laugh. "I'm sure that can't be right."
"Of course not. I was only a schoolgirl myself when I knew her, but from what I remember, Betty couldn't write a decent essay in English, let alone French." Nancy's voice seemed somewhat odd, although Kathie couldn't quite pick up what was wrong.
"It seems she's as set on being a bachelor girl as I was." Jo's bell-like laugh rang out. "I suppose she'll end up with a long family like mine instead!"
"Not quite so long, perhaps." Nancy lifted her tea and gulped it, rather too fast, it seemed, because her cheeks grew pink with the heat. Kathie stared curiously at her
Later that evening, as the mistresses wended their way home through the snow-sparkled darkness, arms wound around each other's waists - Jo had begged permission of Miss Annersley to keep her girls home for the night - Kathie asked, curiously, what was the fuss about Betty Wynne-Davies.
"Oh - she was at St Scholastika's with me, but we weren't close. She was much younger, of course, and a real troublemaker. She wasn't one of the Chalet School's greatest successes; as a matter of fact, she was asked to leave. For aiding the cause of the Enemy."
"Oh!" Kathie said, shocked. She thought a moment. "But if she became an ambulance driver, then she redeemed herself, surely."
Nancy smiled. "I'm very glad of that. One thing you will learn is that sometimes, the worst of girls can surprise one. I always hoped Betty would make good - for the honour of St. Scholastika's, as well as the Chalet School." There was a silence broken only by the crunching of the snow under their feet, before Nancy added, "But I will be surprised if Jo is right about the long family. Women who are happily married tend to think that no woman is truly happy without a man."
"I suppose that's true. I can't imagine myself married, after all," Kathie confessed. "I like men well enough but they don't really seem to have much to do with me. I suppose I'm stay a teacher always - I'm much happier with a real friend like you."
"Kathie!" Nancy's voice seemed a little strangled. "But would you always live without love?"
"It doesn't feel like I am," Kathie said thoughtfully. "After all - it may seem silly - but we love each other, don't we?" Her cheeks felt a little hot, despite the wind, as she said it. Perhaps she was exaggerating, and Nancy was only kind to her; but somehow it felt that if Nancy brushed away her declaration, it would be a very terrible thing.
Nancy stopped walking. Kathie stopped and turned questioningly towards her.
"You dear thing," Nancy said softly, bringing a mitten-clad hand up to brush Kathie's cheek. Her eyes were very soft and shining, even in the dim light; Kathie was somehow unsurprised when Nancy bent to gently kiss her lips, although she was surprised by the flood of warmth that went through her, as if her heart was trying to melt the snow.
They smiled at each other in the kind darkness for a long moment then, hand-in-hand, traced back their steps to their own School.
Kathie was not entirely sure what had happened. What she was sure of was that she was very happy; and that it was a kind star indeed that had led her to Switzerland and the Chalet School.