Having written so much, Jack Maynard paused and sucked the end of his pen. That was the worst thing about having a school mistress for a sister – he always felt like the letters he wrote to her were going to be returned to him with all his errors underlined in red. And while that might only be his own fancy, she was perfectly capable of making caustic remarks about his handwriting, and writing in the round, boyish hand that was somewhat more legible than his usual scrawl slowed down the entire process.
Yes, I did make those ‘idiotic’ remarks to Miss Wilson, although I’m not sure you need to have spent an entire letter scolding me about it. I mostly only did it to get her dander up – she reminds me of old Hogs. You know how we always used to say he was like a hedgehog – all pricks on the outside and soft underneath if you treated him right. Your Miss Wilson is as sarcastic as Hogs ever was (although rather prettier), and seeing her rage at Joey for mucking round with her oars was worth it – although you needn’t tell either of them that. I’ve just made my peace with Wilson, and I doubt Jo would forgive me if she knew I was enjoying her suffering, especially as I took the opportunity to have a few words with her myself. She’s probably still too young to realise my sage advice comes purely from experience. I suppose you do remember that summer we spent at the Lake District, when you had to row out and rescue Bob and me?
Jack chuckled. It had been over ten years ago now that he and his elder brother had proclaimed that boats were no places for girls, and had left his twin fuming in their family’s rented cottage while he and Bob “borrowed” a small sailboat and went for an illicit trip. The wind and their own inexperience had seen them capsize before an hour was out, and Molly had coolly taken it upon herself to row out to their rescue before their parents could realise there was anything wrong. The Maynards were all good-humoured as a rule, but Bob had been less than impressed some years later when Jack had happily passed on the story to his then-fiancée, Lydia.
Since you remembered to ask in your postscript, yes, I am enjoying my work. Between you and me, I’m still somewhat shocked that I landed it. When
Dr Russell Jem agreed to an interview, I thought it was just a courtesy granted because of you, and expected a polite, perfunctory letter of the “It was delightful to meet you but…” kind. Graduating two years early looks good on paper, but most people are awfully suspicious of young doctors – think we’re going to prescribe all the wrong drugs, I expect. There’s one or two old biddies like that here, actually – will send one of the nurses for a doctor in a panic, and when I’m the one who’s fetched they give me a doubtful look and decide they’ll wait until “that nice Dr Russell” is free. Of course, some of them are just as suspicious of Gottfried Mensch; I’ve heard one or two of them whisper about “foreign” doctors. Never mind that they’re technically the foreigners!
Gottfried’s a good sort, anyway. You know, I suppose, he’s engaged to one of your former pupils? I was staggered when Madge told me that, but Gisela seems a lot older than she really is. Not in an Old Maid sort of way – I mean she just knows what she wants, and she’s happy with the life she’s chosen. I don’t think I’ve ever met any British girls like that. I certainly don’t know many who’d be happy to marry straight out of school – you wouldn’t have, even if you’d been able. I know you, Moll! You want to get all that teaching out of your system before you have to give it up and spend your days darning Ralph’s socks.
Jack chuckled again. Molly had never planned to teach, rather falling into it as something to do while waiting for Ralph to settle into his own career and enjoying the ability to travel that working at the Chalet School gave her. And she had earlier confided in her twin that the thought of running her own household worried her; in his brotherly, caring way, he’d decided that that meant he should tease her as much as he possibly could.
Give my love to Mother and Father and all the rest. I hope Rolf’s on his best behaviour – judging by the stories I’ve been hearing from Jo, you get quite enough trouble from your students during term-time. You shouldn’t be spending your hols disciplining tiresome kids!
Jack skimmed back over the few sheets he’d managed to fill and shrugged. There was no point going into detail about his work – not that Molly was uninterested, but the letter was as much for the rest of the family as for her, and his mother was wont to complain that all he did was talk about ‘those medical things’. Besides, he’d see Moll once her holiday was over and they both had a spare weekend to see each other. The important things he wanted to tell her could easily wait until then.
He gingerly tested the ink to make sure it was dry, then carefully folded it and shoved it into a spare envelope. The postman, a slow moving and wisened Tyrolean peasant, was unlikely to arrive until lunch, so now that the letter was done Jack could use his morning off to relax.
He was three pages in to the book Jem had loaned him when a familiar wooden smacking sound, followed by a yell of triumph, made him toss it aside and head to Die Rosen’s spacious gardens instead. What he saw made him grin – Jo, dancing madly around the garden; the Robin, clapping her hands together; that pretty kid, Juliet Carrick, expertly holding a cricket bat with a look on her face that suggested she was trying to hold back a grin; and Jem, red-faced, facing her.
“Juliet, you’re brilliant!” Jo was crowing. “Smashing! Topping! Fabulou- oh, hello,” and she suddenly ran down as she saw Jack was watching. Jem, noticing Joey had calmed down, also turned and saw Jack, and grimaced.
“I was supposed to be demonstrating my never fail spin,” he explained, “I may be a little out of practice. Jo, stop acting the fool and find the ball, won’t you?” Jo opened her mouth, and for a moment Jack saw a flash of rebellion in her face at Jem’s peremptory tone; but the Robin tucking her hand into Joey’s and offering to help seemed to dissuade her.
“I thought you were supposed to be making an early start of it today?” Jack asked.
“I may have let myself get a little distracted,” Jem replied with a rueful grin.
“So have I,” Juliet added. “I really ought to be at my books – but the weather’s so nice this morning, and I don’t get much time for Games, these days.” Her tone was light, but she breathed a little sigh as she spoke, and Jack remembered his first impression of her – that she was on the skinny side, and had probably been overdoing it at Oxford. Oh, well, she was Jem’s ward – he’d probably have a talk with her before she returned to England.
“Here it is!” Jo called. “Oh, are you going, Jem?”
“I am,” Jem told her, “but Jack has the morning off and was in his school’s First Eleven – weren’t you, old man? I’m sure he’s got a trick or two to show you.”
So much for my morning off, Jack scribbled in a hasty postscript later, but I’ll admit it – I had fun. Jo’s a nice kid, and a decent bowler when she’s not dreaming. I’m going to try and talk Jem into getting up an eleven at the San – and then we’ll send a polite challenge around to your staff. What do you think?