“Course, it’s rather a shame,” she admitted to a select coterie of her best friend, and three of the visiting prefects, as they lounged under a tree in a corner of the school’s garden. “It’s fab here, obviously, but summer on the lake is always something special.”
“It is,” replied Liddy complacently. “And it was gorgeous last week. Almost a shame having to come over here.” At that, Meg Maynard sat upright, and looked accusingly at Ceridwen.
“I knew I was going to ask you something! You e-mailed me at the beginning of the month to say you weren’t coming, and I know you weren’t going to come last week because Miss Hever mentioned that you were hostessing for Trev. So how come you’re here?” Rachel Shirley, who was a shining light in the Austrian branch’s Upper VI, propped herself up on one elbow and looked at Ceridwen with interest.
“I was wondering the same thing,” she confessed. “Trev posted the list on Monday and you were definitely on it then.” Ceridwen shrugged.
“Oh, Dad changed his mind about coming, so Trev said I might as well come along. About four-fifths of the Lower VI seemed to be staying, so it didn’t make much difference one way or another.” The others accepted this explanation, and Meg went so far as to say that it was just as well, really. She had spent her senior schooldays in Austria until the age of nearly fifteen, when her mother’s illness had necessitated a move to Switzerland, in order to be near the large sanatorium which was a medical pioneer. Although keen to be with her family, Meg had always missed her old friends to a certain extent and, despite a year’s difference, she and Ceridwen had always been close.
“Actually,” said Ceridwen slowly, rolling onto her back and thence sitting up, “I’ve been meaning to ask you something, Meg.” She made a long arm for her bag, and pulled out two sheets of paper. With considerable foresight, she had made scans of Carey Howard’s photographs. She showed them now to Meg and Alex. “That’s Freudesheim, isn’t it?”
Meg nodded. “It is indeed. Although from ages ago, obviously. Grandad had an extension put in on the side, in the 60s, I think. The part Dr Lewis used for his surgery.”
“We thought it was,” put in Liddy. “*My* people have various photos of it hanging around. What about the other one? The girl?” Meg looked at it, a frown on her face.
“I’m not sure,” she said slowly. “I can tell you where it was taken, though: it’s Freudesheim, all right. Round the back, where the rose garden was. I don’t remember it much, cuz the grandparents moved out of it ages ago, when I was just a kid. We’ve got loads of pictures taken there, though, because that’s where they used to take most of them, specially at the start of term. There’s one of me there, my first term at St Nick’s. I don’t know who she is, though.” Ceridwen and Liddy both looked rather taken aback.
“Well, isn’t she family or something? I mean, if she had her pic taken there.” Meg laughed.
“Oh, come on! You *know* what Grandma’s like! *All* the girls at the school were there one time or another; it doesn’t mean anything.”
“But she’s not a girl,” said Ceridwen, considering the photo more closely. “I mean, when you look at it properly. I reckon she’s at least twenty, and that’s not school age, but too young for a mistress.” Meg shrugged.
“Old girl, then. It’s not like there aren’t a million of them. Thing is, she does look a *bit* familiar. But probably I’ve just seen a photo of her before.”
“What *is* this all about, anyway?” demanded Rachel suddenly. “Where did you get the pics from, Kerry?”
“Scanned them,” replied Ceridwen, deliberately obtuse. For some reason, she didn’t want to go around sharing Carey’s story. Rachel rolled her eyes, and held out a hand.
“Let’s have a look,” she said briefly. Meg handed them over, and Rachel inspected the two pictures. Putting aside the one of Freudesheim – “Well, since I didn’t arrive until the Lower IV, I never even saw it” – she concentrated on the girl, and gave a shout of surprise. “Oh, I know her!” The others looked at her in astonishment – Rachel had, as she said, only arrived at the age of thirteen, and, unusually, had no previous connections to the school.
“Who is she?” asked Ceridwen. Rachel grimaced.
“Well, when I said I know her, that was a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve seen her before, in one of my ballet mags, I think. She’s a dancer. Or, more likely, she was a dancer. Oh, if only I could remember her name!”