“So, she turned out to be Mrs M’s long-lost granddaughter,” mused Ceridwen, licking up a drip of Wall’s best strawberry.
“Sounds about par for the course,” said Liddy, lying back on the grass. “She’s got a bit of a reputation for that sort of thing, Aunt Jo. Picking up family left, right and centre, that is.”
“Still sounds a bit havey cavey to me,” objected Ceridwen. “What’s with the long-lost part, for a start? How do you lose a granddaughter?”
“Well, she’s not a granddaughter *exactly*,” Liddy pointed out, in the interest of fairness. “I telephoned Gran yesterday evening, and got the lowdown. More or less, anyway. Well, Gran was at school with a girl called Erica, and Marie was Erica’s special kid. You know how some of the older girls sort of adopt-a-KG-baby? Well, like that, except more so. Aunt Jo rescued this Marie kid from a train wreck, brought her home, brought her up, all that lot. So not her actual daughter, see? Gran didn’t know what had happened, though; she’d never been particularly pally with Erica and hadn’t kept up with the news.”
“Well, if you ask me…”
“Oh, Kerry! Stop obsessing! Look, I’m sure we’ll find out about it on Saturday. Pretty decent of Carey to invite us to tea.”
“She’s a pretty decent person.” There was nothing unusual about Ceridwen’s tone, but Liddy shot her a perceptive glance.
“Absolutely. And now, have you heard that…”
“Speaking of, that’s her!” Ceridwen jumped to her feet, and pointed at the steamer, which had been making its stately way round the lake, now passing between Seespitz and Briesau. She waved violently, then lowered her hand. “Damn! She didn’t see me. Come on!” She pulled Liddy to her feet.
“Where are we…?”
“Down to the jetty.” The two girls ran down the path along the lake towards the jetty that served Briesau. It was still busy, despite being after seven o’clock, and Ceridwen had to push to get near the front. Liddy hung back. As the passengers disembarked, they watched for Carey, and eventually she descended, wearing a green silk frock which, unbeknownst to them, was a loan from Con Richardson’s wardrobe. She looked surprised to see them, and why shouldn’t she, thought Liddy wryly.
“Hello Ceridwen, Liddy,” Carey said shyly, smoothing down the folds of her dress. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“Prefects’ privilege,” said Ceridwen airily. “After all, we’re old enough to be trusted now.”
“We came out for a walk,” added Liddy. “And,” with a glance at her watch, “we should probably be getting back.” Ceridwen glanced at her, irritated.
“We don’t need to be back until nearly ten,” she pointed out. Liddy smothered a smile.
“No. Usually. But have you forgotten? Lower IV? Can’t be trusted without supervision? Sic the prees on them?” She heaved a sigh at Ceridwen’s blank expression. “We’re on duty, idiot! Remember?”
“Oh, *bollocks*!” said Ceridwen, then turned to Carey. “Sorry! I thought we could…”
“Carey! You’re early!” A man hurried through the diminishing crowd and came up to Carey, smiling in apology. “Did you have to wait long?” Carey smiled back, then indicated Ceridwen and Liddy.
“I met some old friends,” she explained, “but no, the steamer just arrived. Ceridwen Lytton, Liddy von Eschenau, this is Peter—“
“How do you do,” said Peter, shaking hands with both girls. “Look, Carey, sorry to hurry you, but this place is heaving at the moment, and I don’t want the people at the hotel the chance to palm our table off on someone else. Shall we?” He held out his arm, crooked at the elbow, and Carey flushed with pleasure, lightly placing her arm on his.
“All right. En avant!” She turned back briefly to the two Seniors. “It was nice to see you both. I’ll see you again on Saturday!” And then she was gone.
Liddy chanced a quick look at Ceridwen’s face, and was unsurprised to see the thundery expression. She nudged her affectionately in the ribs. “Come on, you! We’d better get back.” They walked slowly along the lake path, and managed to get back to school before they were due in the Middles’ Common Room, and though Ceridwen’s expression did not lighten one iota, Liddy knew better than to say anything.