Chalet book #4 forms this week's discussion: The Head Girl of the Chalet School,
first published in 1928. We have another gap in the series in that the winter term following Princess
is skipped, with Head Girl
opening during the Christmas holidays and covering the Easter and summer terms. This book follows Grizel Cochrane's tenure as Head Girl, and features a swathe of incidents and characters that go on to be referred to throughout the series. Some of the main points include:
The encounter with the Stuffer and Maria, who share a carriage with Miss Maynard, Grizel, Jo and the Robin from Paris to Wien, and come to blows with them - and open-air fanatic Professor von der Witt - over whether to have the window open or not.
Grizel disobeys Miss Maynard and heads off to see the Falls of Rhine on her own, an act which nearly costs her the position of Head Girl, to which she had been newly promoted following the departure of Bette Rincini at the end of the previous term.
Gisela Marani and Wanda von Eschenau are both revealed to be engaged.
Having been pardoned by Madge, Grizel's first prefects' meeting as Head Girl ends on a sour note when she has a bust-up with Deira O'Hagan over distribution of the duties.
Deira takes her revenge by burning Grizel's harmony book, which also contained the last letter Grizel received from her now-deceased and much-loved grandmother. She continues to hold on to her grievance even after Miss Maynard, Mademoiselle and even Madge on a visit from the Sonnalpe all tackle her.
The deadlock only ends when, during a snowball fight, Deira picks up a stone instead of a snowball in a blind rage and throws it at Grizel, knocking her unconscious (but not still, grey and to all appearances dead - EBD missed a trick there!
After an industrious evening at Hobbies making goods for the Sale, the Middles make apple-pie beds for the Seniors, who take their revenge by sewing up their cubicle curtains and tacking them to the floor.
Marie returns from Wanda's betrothal feast full of information about some caves rumoured to be hidden beneath the Tiernsee. Jo takes an immediate interest in them.
Jo, Grizel and the Robin spend half-term at the Sonnalpe, during which one of the San patients dies and Madge counsels them that death is "Just falling asleep with God - to awake in His presence".
The Robin goes missing, and is tracked by Grizel, Jo and Rufus up the Barenbad Alpe to a fissure in the mountain wall, where they find her with Herr Arnolfi, an old man convinced that she is a fairy queen. The four of them escape shaken but unharmed.
The Sale is held, and the girls raise enough money for the San to fund a free bed for a year (complete with plaque), establishing another tradition for the school.
Mollie Bettany writes to Madge to say that she, Dick, the twins and the newborn Bride will be coming to the Tiernsee in the summer for a visit.
Grizel, Jo and the Robin join Evadne, Mr Lannis and Mrs Lannis' maid Suzette on a trip to Salzburg, where their hotel catches fire during the night and they only just manage to get down the fire escape in time. Frau Berlin from School At
makes a reappearance, and nearly endangers the girls by trying to shove past them on the fire escape.
Series stalwart Cornelia Flower joins the CS for the new term, and makes an immediate impression with her mischief and impudence.
Marie Pfeiffen and Andreas Monier are married in a traditional Tyrolean ceremony. Later that day, Jack Maynard arrives with the news that Madge has given birth to a son, and rushes Joey up to the Sonnalpe to see them, implying that Madge is in a bad way after the birth.
Cornelia, banished to bed after Matey catches her pinching Simone, overhears several Middles voicing their less-than-favourable opinions of her, and decides to get her revenge by going off to explore the hidden caves which the girls have come to believe are hidden behind the fissure where Herr Arnolfi and the Robin were found.
Wanda and Friedel come to visit the school, along with Gisela, Bernhilda, Bette and Stephanie, and Bernhilda reveals her engagement to Wanda and Marie's older brother Kurt.
Cornelia sneaks off to find the caves, and runs into Herr Arnolfi, who has been using them as his hideout. She tries to escape from him, but knocks herself out while he is chasing her.
Jo, Grizel and Friedel deduce that she has gone to the caves and follow her. They find that Herr Arnolfi broke his leg and hit his head chasing Cornelia, and the shock kills him. Cornelia is rescued, and reforms somewhat as a result of her adventure.
The Bettanys arrive at the Tiernsee for the summer.
Gisela and Gottfried Mensch are married.
David's christening is held on Madge's birthday, and forms the celebrations for that year.
Wanda and Friedel are married.
The caves are opened up to the public, and the remains of an ancient city are found amongst them.
The school holds an end-of-term garden party, with guests including Professor von der Witt and the Stuffer and Maria.
So, plenty of material in this book! What do you think of Grizel as Head Girl? Was Madge justified in her decision not to demote her after the Falls of Rhine episode? What about her row with Deira and the events that follow? Did you enjoy the Salzburg trip? Thoughts on Cornelia's dodgy start at the school? Did you like all the caves stuff?