“Well, that answers that,” said Meg, finally. “She definitely knew who you were, Miss Howard!” The others had filled her in by this point, and Meg proclaimed herself deathlessly interested in the outcome.
“Except she didn’t,” said Liddy, with inarguable logic. “She called her Marie, didn’t she? That’s not Carey’s name. It’s not, is it?” she added suddenly. “I mean, sometimes it’s difficult to tell – I’m Elizabeth, myself.” Carey shook her head.
“No, it’s just Caroline. Do you think she has me confused with someone else?”
“You probably just reminded her of someone,” said Ceridwen gently, seeing that her new-found friend was getting rather anxious about the whole thing. “And she’s quite old, you know. I wouldn’t worry about it, myself. I’m sure she’ll explain who the girl in the photo is after she feels better.”
“Won’t she just!” put in Meg, knowing her grandmother of old. “There’s nothing she likes as much as a captive audience! She’s a dear, of course, but she doesn’t half like trotting out all the old stories! And you’ve no idea how much worse it is when she gets together with some of her old cronies!”
“Oh, trust me, I know!” Liddy’s words were heartfelt. “My grandmother and her friends are unbelievable when they get going! My great-grandmother was one of the very first pupils here, you know, but by all accounts she wasn’t too bad – old school Austrian, you know, so not like Aunt Jo at all, but Grandma’s always been into the endless stories. It’s amazing, when you think about it, that most of us descendants-of-old-girls actually like it so much here, when any self-respecting person would be slitting her wrists rather than coming.”
“I think I must have come out pretty lucky, all things considered,” observed Ceridwen. “My grandmother – Gwensi – was a pupil during the war, but Mother went to a day school near where she lived. And I got the odd tale from Grandma, but not that many.”
Commiserating with each other’s woes, the Chalet School seniors ushered Carey out of the Headmistress’s study and made their way to the gardens, where they annexed a summerhouse from a group from Upper IV who, though disgruntled, took care to say nothing in front of the stranger in their midst. What they said about this peremptory treatment when out of earshot, however, is anyone’s guess!
“Who was Marie?” asked Carey when they had disposed themselves amongst the available chairs. “Does anyone know?” She was treated to a row of blank faces. Meg shrugged.
“Search me! I’ve never heard of her, at any rate.”
“Well, there was Tante Marie,” said Liddy, rather hesitantly. “She was Marie von Eschenau, and was best friends with Aunt Jo.” The others perked up at this possibility, but Liddy shook her head. “Oh, I wouldn’t get overly excited. Carey doesn’t look a thing like her, and that girl in the picture has nothing to do with my family, I think. Tante Marie lives in America now; I know she and Aunt Jo still write occasionally.”
“Seems pretty unlikely,” admitted Ceridwen, leaning her chin on one hand. “I reckon she’s someone none of us will have heard of. This whole thing has a very cloak-and-dagger feel about it. I mean, why would anyone send Carey those pictures in the way they did, anyway?”
“Maybe it’s all a complete mistake,” suggested Carey, half-hoping it was the case. “Like you say, it’s all so weird! Surely it makes more sense for it to be a mistake?” But the others were already shaking their heads.
“Not after how Grandma reacted,” said Meg. “Sorry, Carey, but that theory’s gone out of the window now.”
“At least it means we’ll probably get some kind of explanation,” said Liddy encouragingly.
They had perforce to wait till the following day, but at last, after breakfast, Carey, who had stayed at the school after Alex inveigled an extra room out of Frau Schmidt, the housekeeper, was summoned to the Headmistress’s study.