Ah, what better antidote to a crappy Monday at work than a dose of CS?
This week's book is Chalet #5: The Rivals of the Chalet School,
published in 1929. Fiona Mc has also very kindly volunteered to start discussion threads on the fill-in books to go alongside these canon book threads, so look out for those starting up!
The main plot of Rivals
concerns the CS's dealings with St Scholastika's, a newly-opened school at Buchau on the other side of the Tiernsee, the feud that divides them and the near-tragedy that eventually (almost) reconciles them. The book covers the winter term following the end of Head Girl
, and there are no more gaps in the series until after Jo Returns.
Mary Burnett takes over from Grizel Cochrane as Head Girl, and the Quartette, now in the Fifth, are sub-prefects. Notable events in this book include:
Miss Browne, also known as The Fawn, the headmistress of St Scholastika's, gets off to an immediate bad start with the CS crowd when she attempts to poach Jo from the CS for her own school.
Two new mistresses arrive at the CS: Miss Stewart, replacing Miss Carthew as history mistress, and Mlle de Lachenais, who goes on to become one of the longest-serving members of staff.
The Seniors use a morning walk to have a nosey at the new school as they walk past, and are left seething when they overhear the Saints looking down their noses at them.
The Middles, led by Margia Stevens, declare war on the new school, and borrow Jo's Elsie
books and read up on the Ku-Klux-Klan, looking for ideas for their feud.
On a walk shortly after, the Middles meet the Saints and spread themselves out across the path, forcing the Saints to walk on sodden grass, soaking their feet. They also covertly trade insults with each other in French. The incident prompts the Fawn to complain to Mademoiselle, word of which gets back to the Middles and does nothing to improve the situation.
The Seniors, out on a walk with hockey sticks, encounter the Saints once again and build some bridges with them, although school captain Elaine Gilling continues to look down her nose at the Chaletians. Miss Maynard also discovers that the St Scholastika's matron is an old friend, Gertrude Rider, and advises her to get the Saints wearing nailed boots on the icy terrain.
The Seniors and Middles, on yet another walk, head off to Geisalm and the Dripping Rock, and end up stranded with about half of the Saints when the path cracks in two, leaving the Fawn and the other half of the Saints on the other side. A long walk up to the alm of Mechthau and then down to the Tiern Pass follows, during which some more friendly overtures are made between the schools, but Elaine continues to annoy people, particularly Mary Burnett.
Elaine and the vast majority of the Saints, smarting from the stiffness of the long walk, decide to completely cut the Chalet girls, and take the opportunity to do so when they are invited to a Sunday Protestant service at the Chalet taken by Mr Eastley, a chaplain whose dying wife is in the San.
Upon discovering the the CS has Guides when they themselves don't, the bitter Saints have a row among themselves, resulting in the Fawn docking them of the chance to skate that day.
Maureen Donovan and certain others decide to disobey, and sneak out onto the (unbeknownst to them) dangerous ice nearby to skate. Jo and Frieda skate across the lake to warn them, resulting in Jo and Maureen falling through the ice when it breaks. They are rescued by Gottfried Mensch, who carries them (on his skates!) to St Scholastika's. Maureen develops rheumatic fever, and Jo pleuro-pneumonia.
Jo nearly dies from her illness, but is saved by the arrival of the Robin, who brings her back from the pearly gates with a rendition of The Red Sarafan.
Six weeks later, Jo is back at the Chalet, and Grizel sends a letter announcing that she is coming back to the CS for the last couple of weeks of term as her lessons in Florence have finished for Christmas. She intends to bring with her a new friend, Gerry Challoner.
The Middles prank the Seniors by sewing up and hiding sundry belongings, and the Quartette get revenge by powdering cornflour in the hair of several Middles, tying together the bedclothes of some of the others, and putting powder in their baths to make the water fizz (a trick which had been played earlier in the series on Bette Rincini in School At
Elaine earns herself yet another black mark when she argues with Mary and Jo about where the church collection money should go, and shakes off the Robin when she gets involved.
Chicken pox strikes at both schools, and Grizel and Gerry arrive right in the middle of it. Those Middles who have already had it are sent out on a walk and get involved in another bust-up and snow fight with the Saints, stirred up by Elaine.
Jo receives a letter from Elisaveta, and Madge one from King Carol, informing them that they have received anonymous letters from someone at the Tiernsee. They are eventually traced to the snobbish Vera Smithers of St Scholastika's. The Fawn expels her, and Elaine is punished for coming up with the idea in the first place, and also for all the trouble she has stirred up during the term.
Thoughts on this book? Do you think EBD does a good job of showing both sides of the feud, or does she favour one side over another? I never actually realised until doing my skim-read just how many of the alterations between the schools are either instigated by, or encouraged by, the St Scholastika's school captain/head girl Elaine Gilling; do you think the feud would have grown as bad as it did without her involvement? Do you think Mary Burnett could have done anything more to defuse the situation? What did you think of the falling through the ice and Jo brought back from the brink of death by the Robin chapters? Do you think the anonymous letters idea was a good way of wrapping up the book? Share your thoughts below!