Sometimes, Rosalie Dene thought crossly as she worked through the pile of letters on her desk, she felt more like a cryptographer than a school secretary. Why couldn’t people write legibly on envelopes? The letter she was currently holding, which she had finally decided was for Frankie Richardson, looked more like being addressed to ‘Pronhe Picnorelson’, whoever that might be! She breathed a sigh of relief as she picked up the next letter, bearing Len Maynard’s name in Madame’s clear hand. The next few were also easy to read, and Rosalie hoped she’d be finished before too long. She hoped too soon, however, for one of the letters seemed to baffle all her powers.
“Hand delivered, it seems... It’s probably from the San with this scrawl. Why must all doctors have incomprehensible writing?” she mused aloud. Of course the sender hadn’t bothered with a full name, either; just an initial and surname, with something that presumably stood for ‘Chalet School’ beneath. “That looks like a U, but I don’t think we have anyone with that initial,” she pondered. “What about the surname? M - e or i - l - Mel-something? Mil-something? Oh, that’s not an M at all, is it? It must be for Nancy Wilmot. The thing I thought was a U must be an N...” Glancing at her watch, she started in horror at the time, and hurriedly placed the letter on the Staff pile. As an afterthought, she pencilled in ‘Nancy, I think this must be yours’ on the envelope. No point in putting the Staff through the same process of decryption she’d just suffered.
“Good morning, Rosalie!” Peggy Burnett said cheerfully some minutes later, looking in at the door to the office. “Heavens, are you still working on the post?”
“Good morning, Peggy,” Rosalie replied, putting the last letter into its appropriate pile. “Just finished. This has been one of the days when I wish we could make it a rule that all letters must be addressed in block capitals!”
“Poor you!” Peggy sympathized. “Shall I take it through for you, and save you some time?”
“Thanks, but I’ll do it. I rather want to stretch a bit after sorting that lot. Could you give me a hand carrying it?”
Peggy willingly agreed, and the pair quickly distributed the morning’s correspondence, finishing at the staff room. Pouncing joyfully on their letters, the mistresses settled to read them, and a few minutes passed quietly. Then the silence was broken by a smothered gasp from Nancy Wilmot. Everyone looked up, and Kathie Ferrars, sitting next to her, exclaimed in horror at the pallor of her friend’s face. For a second, indeed, she thought that Nancy might faint, and was already getting to her feet to support her. Before she could rise, though, Nancy leapt up and nearly ran out of the room. Shoving her own letter hastily into her blazer pocket, Kathie gave chase.
“Whatever’s wrong?” Peggy exclaimed, also on her feet. “Should we go after them?”
Mlle de Lachenais shook her head firmly. “No, I think not. I expect Nancy has had some bad news, and she will not want us all crowding around her. Kathie will comfort her if she needs it, but the rest of us had better let them be.”
“Yes, you’re right,” Peggy nodded. “Poor Nancy! I hope it’s nothing too awful.”
Recognising the wisdom of Mlle’s words, the rest resumed their seats, still rather shaken by the scene.