I was eight years old and thoroughly spoiled.
I had two nursery maids, a nanny and a governess all to myself. I had a room for just my toys and more dresses than I could hope to grow out of. Most of all I had a loving mother and father. Father was an important naval captain and not often at home but mother was always home. Not that I had her undivided attention, she was a lady of society and many of my memories are of her writing letters, holding meetings or being off at parties.
Sometimes she would hold one of the grand parties in our ballroom.
I would be dressed up for the occasion and allowed downstairs to meet the guests and Mother would get the chance to show me off to all her friends before I was sent up to bed.
I used to try to catch snatches through the banisters on the stairs and when I was finally ordered to bed I used to lie awake listing to the sounds of music and merriment below.
My story starts in late autumn when Father was home on a few weeks leave.
After having spent a pleasant day in the nursery playing princess and having my own way with everything, Elen came with a message that Father wished to see me in the office.
“What for?” I asked.
“I don’t know Miss Bobbie but he said now. Nanny is waiting outside to escort you.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“I don’t know, are you?” Elen winked and I giggled.
“Well, I better find out!”
“That’s the spirit, a bit of Highland courage!”
I quickly changed into my day clothes then I went, as dutifully as any daughter could but wondering at the reason for the summons all the same.
Nanny escorted me to Father’s office where I found him sitting behind his desk and my mother in a small chair beside it.
“You sent for me Papa?” I said
“Yes my daughter, take a seat.” Father indicated to the only remaining seat and I sat down on the edge. ‘My daughter’ meant serious, what could this be about?
“Nanny,” Mother held out a letter and I glimpsed the address on the front, Mr and Mrs Cooper. My parents talked about the Coopers a great deal but I’d never met them. “Would you please ensure this makes the next post?”
“Certainly Madam.” Nanny took the letter and… did her eyebrow just shoot up a fraction? I looked closely as she left but her face had returned to its usual composure.
“Bobbie?” My father indicated to the seat again and I tentatively sat down.
“Next spring,” Father continued, and I turned my attention back to him “my duties take me around the coast of Palai.”
At this I look up in interest. Palai was THE country for… for anything. Fashion, culture, food, they had the lot. Fraitessa was the capital city and I had heard wonderful stories about it.
“It has been a long time since your mother had some time away and I will be taking her with me. We shall be away six months.” At this my mood dropped. Six months without Mother! “Your mother and I have been talking, and you are a big girl now and we thought it time to expand your education, there is little more Miss Brown can teach you.
“You’re taking me with you?” I blurted out, I couldn’t hold it in much longer! Was he or wasn’t he? Father chuckled.
“Well, yes and no. You will be coming as far as Fraitessa and you shall be boarding at your mother’s old school.”
“School? A real school? Me? In Fraitessa?” This was better than being on a ship for six months, only it still meant being apart from mother, but still. How many girls got to go to school in Fraitessa? I knew Mother’s old school was the crème de la crème as far as schools in Fraitessa went.
“Yes my dear, a real school!”
“Carolina went off to a school in Fraitessa, not as good as my old dear school and remember how much of a lady she had become when she returned? And my old school WAS a dear, you will love it, I am sure!”
“Oh, I am sure I will mother! Will you or you and father be able to visit me at all?”
“No dear.” My father answered. “I’m sorry to say we will not be able to. I have a few days leave to settle you in but then we won’t see you until it is time to set of home. But never fear, Mother and I shall have a special surprise for you for the journey home.”
“Oh, what is it?” I asked eagerly.
“Now, if I told you that, would it still be a surprise?”
“There we go then, something to look forward to!”
Father dismissed me from his office and I left with my mind in a whirlwind! I didn’t know where to concentrate my thoughts first. On leaving home? On six months without my wonderful mother? On how wonderful school In Fraitessa would be? I decided the situation had far more positives than negatives so it was with a happy heart and an excited voice that I ran into the nursery to give Elen the news.
“You weren’t long!” Elen said as the nursery door closed behind me. “Where’s Nanny? Didn’t she come back with you?”
“Oh, no, she had to dash to post a letter to the Coopers, but—”
“What another one?”
“I— but— what do you mean? But never mind, I’ve got such great news! I’m going off to school!”
“You don’t say?”
“Yes, I am. Only for six months, never fear, I shall be back by Christmas and what a Jolly one it shall all be!” I spilled out all the details and spent the rest of the afternoon talking excitedly about my future with Elen.