Lesson 3 – Dialogue and Summary

The next day was Sunday, and Jordana went to church. Adela went off with the Catholic girls, who were mostly in the majority, but Jordana waited for the dozen or so who walked down to the protestant chapel, very small, almost dollhouse size, where the service was conducted entirely in French.

Once again, sitting in the cold, dimly lit little church, Jordana felt lost. She couldn’t understand a word the minister was saying, so she simply curled her toes inside her shoes and shivered, wishing he would hurry. Yet through her despair flickered one ray of hope. If she and Adela had been able to communicate, even meagerly, there was promise for the future. If it was necessary to speak French in order to make friends, there was no use trying to put the cart before the horse.

Gradually, in the following week, Jordana became acclimated to the many different languages which echoed down the hall. She learned to say guten morgen in response to Hulda Smit, a German girl who lived next door, and change swiftly to god morgen for Hulda’s Norwegian roommates. But it was French with which one asked the price when buying chocolate in Mont Claire, and French in which Jordana was painfully trying to learn to think.

Monique ridiculed her efforts. “What good’s it going to do you when you get back home?” she asked. “Why tax your brain is my attitude. I don’t care what kind of grades I get in this crummy school.”

Monique managed to surround herself with a crowd who reacted the same way, a small set of American girls who felt that they were serving time, that they were being virtually imprisoned. Despairingly, they called the school, “The Roaches,” and longed for the freedom they had left behind.

“What gets me,” Monique complained one rainy Thursday afternoon when a group was gathered listlessly in the salon, “is this chaperone stuff. I can’t see why we need nursemaids. I can’t see why, when we have an afternoon off, we can’t go into Lausanne alone.”

Sonja looked up from her book. “Oh, stop griping,” she advised, looking at her peer rather impatiently. “You’re lucky you don’t go to Florissant. That’s even stricter.”

“She couldn’t,” mentioned Brune Hilda, sounding superior. “They won’t take American girls.”

“Why not?” Jordana wanted to know. Do they have wee brains?

Brune Hilda laughed. “Because they expect too many privileges.”

“Like what?” Jordana persisted.

“Like dances and free weekends. Schools aren’t run that way in Switzerland.” Passing off the situation, Brune Hilda shrugged.

“In the United States,” said Monique, “schools are run by people with some sense, not by a bunch of prudes and wee brains.”

“Hey there, Monique…you’d better be careful,” objected Francine. “Madame Clavel just might walk in any minute.”

“The heck with Clavel,” muttered Monique. She was growing more truculent by the moment.

Jordana looked at her with concern, and wondered why she persisted in hanging around and listening in on discussions in which the older crowd was always involved. The answer, of course, was self-evident. It was easy to understand them, while to struggle along in French with Adela or any of the others in the foreign group became very exhausting.

Meanwhile, the dispute between Monique and Brune Hilda, who spoke quite adequate English, was continuing. “You Americans!” Brune Hilda was saying. “Always right, always so sure your way is the best.”

“Well, isn’t it?” asked Monique with raised eyebrows.

“Hah!” retorted Brune Hilda.

“Who won the war?” snapped Monique, really belligerent now.

Brune Hilda pressed the palms of her hands against her temples. “You are such fools! Wee brains!” she cried. “You and your cliches…your stupid arguments. Sometimes I think you are just a bunch of sheep, like the Russians. You American girls are not even trained to think!”

Most of this went over Monique’s head, but Sonja lowered her book and Jordana sat with her hands clenched in her lap. “Who wants to think?” asked Monique, crossed up and soured in a foul mood. “What I want, in this wretched hole, is a date.”

“There you see!” Brune Hilda, her large nose red with excitement, waved a hand descriptively.

Monique turned on her. “I’ll bet you’ve never had a date,” she told Brune Hilda with all the disdain and fury she could unleash for the moment.

Chagrinned, Brune Hilda placed one hand on a hip and looked Monique squarely in the eye.” And if I haven’t?”

Monique sneered. “Oh, you dumb…dumb bunny! You kids haven’t lived!”

This insult was too much for Brune Hilda to take. Jumping to her feet she screamed, “You people–you–you dirty American! That’s what you are.” She whirled around to face Jordana, who gasped audibly. “Dirty Americans–all of you!” she cried. Then, as though she did not trust her ability to keep her hands off Monique, Brune Hilda ran out of the room.

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