This week we head into Jo's final year at the CS with book number 9: The Exploits of the Chalet Girls,
first published in 1933, and covering the winter term immediately after Camp.
The school has seventeen new girls this term, including Alixe von Elsen and the Linders sisters, as well as Marie von Eschenau's cousin, Thekla von Stift, who later in the series gains notoriety as one of only two girls ever to be publicly expelled from the school. I also spotted a few more delightful EBDisms - when I've finished this mammoth task I might go back to the beginning and make a full list of them.
The term opens with the prefects discussing the new girls, and Jo and Frieda go down to meet them and hand them over to sheepdogs in their various forms. At first it is believed there are sixteen new girls, but Margia Stevens and Elsie Carr later burst into the prefects' room with the news that there is a seventeenth, who is the most appalling snob.
Simone receives a letter from Deira with the news that she has been to visit Bernhilda and Kurt in Lyons, and that they will soon be moving back to Innsbruck.
At assembly on the first evening, Mademoiselle Lepâttre announces that the Annexe is now open, with Juliet and Grizel at the helm. A new motor road has been built up to the Sonnalpe, and the girls are to go up to the Annexe in groups in the charabancs to see it.
Mademoiselle looks in on a prefects' meeting to tell the girls that as the school has grown so much (105 pupils this term), the Second form will be going over to Le Petit Chalet, the Fifth has been divided into two forms, and two new mistresses, Miss Norman and Miss Edwards, have been hired to take on the Juniors and Junior maths respectively. Matey's surname is given here as Gowland, while the new Matron at Le Petit Chalet is Matron Lloyd!
Eva von Heiling also mysteriously joins the prefect ranks halfway through this meeting despite having not been mentioned at all until this point.
We learn from Jo that Rosalie Dene, another series stalwart, will be coming out to the Sonnalpe after Christmas to be assistant secretary at the San. Bianca di Ferrara also reveals that Bette Rincini will be married at Christmas, and that her own sister Luigia has just joined the Poor Clares as a novice.
Thekla makes an immediate bad start when she insults her classmates in Lower Fifth while on a walk. When they return, Jo spots Evadne and Maria looking livid, and on hearing why, sends for Thekla to the common room so that she can see for herself. Marie recognises Thekla as her cousin, and they have a heated debate about the class of girls at the school.
Thekla next runs across Miss Wilson when she refuses to sit in the seat allocated to her between Anne Seymour and Evadne, but Miss Wilson soon gives her short shrift. We learn that she was sent to school because her mother was beginning to find her too much to handle, and was also anxious that she not be infected with the spirit of Young Germany which her older brother has imbibed.
She next gets across Bianca di Ferrara when the latter refuses to give her an exercise book from Stationery without a note from a mistress. Thekla flies into a temper tantrum that brings various staff and prefects to the spot, and is whisked away by Matey to cool down. The staff decide to organise so many games and walks for the girls that they will be too exhausted to squabble with Thekla until she has had a chance to settle in, and an expedition up the Bärenbad Alpe to the village above the Dripping Rock visited back in Rivals
is arranged for that weekend.
On the expedition, Marie, Frieda, Vanna and Sophie attempt to talk with Thekla, but she gravely insults Sophie and snubs the others. They are interrupted by Cornelia, who, with three others, had attempted to sneak off the path to gather blackberries and fallen down a hole. Frieda and Marie hurry ahead to fetch a mountaineer from the chalet they are making for, and he rescues Corney with the help of Miss Wilson and Miss Annersley. When they safely reach the chalet, Corney faints, and is sent back to the school with Frieda when she recovers.
When the girls reach a narrow part of the path, Thekla refuses to cross despite the coaxing of the others until Sophie, still fuming over the earlier insult, speaks to her so contemptuously that she is goaded into it. On the other side, they discover a dell full of flowers which everyone starts to gather. Thekla's refusal to join in finally causes Marie to lose her temper, and she shouts at her and shakes her.
The prefects hold a meeting to choose what they will be doing for Staff Evening, and Sophie proposes a Hallowe'en party, which the others agree to with gusto.
The school clock starts to lose time, and the Fifth forms, led by the Quintette, grow so fed up of the shortened Break times and elongated lesson times that they sneak it into their prep one evening, take it to pieces, boil, dust and polish the parts, then put it back together again. The result is that when it begins to strike the hour the next morning, it goes on to strike two hundred and seven times, startling all the girls and Mademoiselle into coming to look. Thekla in her surprise gives Margia away to the authorities, and the Fifths send her to Coventry, not realising that she had not told tales deliberately.
About half of the school goes up to the Sonnalpe for half-term to see the Annexe, and the long hot autumn is finally brought to an end by a massive thunderstorm, followed by snow which keeps them at Die Rosen for a day. They amuse themselves with hide and seek, playing with Jem's billiards. In the evening they stage some tableaux using everything they can pinch from around Die Rosen, from Madge's best curtains and bridge coat to Jem's fencing foil(!).
After a quiet Sunday snowed in, the girls and Staff have a snowball fight, then finish up half-term with a walk along the Sonnalpe.
After a grumpy day in which Evadne and Cornelia get into trouble for kicking each other under the table and the Fourth earn the wrath of Mlle de Lachenais during a French lesson, Evadne decides to liven up a science lesson by experimenting with some unknown chemicals, blowing up the chemistry lab and only escaping serious injury by a miracle.
The Sixths hold their Staff Evening, and the school enjoys the various Hallowe'en games set up, but the evening end abruptly when Thekla, who has disobeyed Matey and put on a long frilly petticoat, accidentally sets herself on fire while playing the jumping over the candle game. Miss Wilson and Miss Stewart beat the flames out, and Jo throws a tub of water over them all. Thekla is impressed enough with their quick action that she resolves to ask to join the Guides next term.
The term ends with a Christmas Pageant penned by Madge, and including the Annexe people who come down to spend the last fortnight of term at Briesau.
So, thoughts on this book? What do you think of Thekla and her behaviour? Did you like the half-term chapters? What about the Staff Evening? Discuss below!