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The same evening

‘The sneaky b*****d,’ Robin continued. ‘He was sending the fake to Hitler and keeping the original for himself!’

‘Exactly,’ Madge said. ‘And now our fake is going to Hitler and we’ve got his fake instead.’

‘What are we going to do now?’ Miss Annersley asked. ‘We’ve failed in our mission after all.’

‘Not necessarily,’ Violet responded. ‘It depends on who knows what we have is a fake.’

‘Only we know, obviously,’ Madge said. ‘I don’t see how that helps.’

‘The only reason we were after the original was because the Resistance weren’t happy with the Germans having possession of it,’ Violet said.

‘Ok,’ Hilda said as Violet paused. ‘How does that affect the matter?’

But poor Violet was so shocked at her headmistress using a forbidden word, she was struck dumb. It was left to Robin to come to her rescue.

‘I see what you mean, Violet. Michelle knows we put on an operation to get the original. She doesn’t know we’ve got another fake instead. She doesn’t need to know and we can all get back to normal.’

All heads turned to look at Madge.

‘What are you looking at me for?’ Madge asked. ‘I’m not going to tell her and put us through another operation to get the painting.’

‘We understand it’s difficult for you, what with being in the Resistance and all,’ Robin said.

‘Grammar, Robin!’ Hilda put in.

‘Sorry, Miss A. I forgot myself in the excitement.’

‘Are all the windows closed, René?’ Miss Annersley asked. ‘That sneaky little cow couldn’t have got in, could she?’

‘No, Miss Annersley,’ René said, being formal as they were in company. I locked the doors and windows earlier and checked behind all the curtains.’

‘So we’re home and dry,’ Madge said with satisfaction. ‘Now we only have to get rid of the airmen, not let the Germans find out we’re British, keep reporting back to Michelle what they’re saying in the café, stop the Sixth Form totally undermining our school and get the Middles to start being normally naughty again. Simples.’

‘It’s amazing Helga didn’t work out that we’re not a French school,’ Madge continued. ‘She was teaching for quite a few weeks before Herr Flick recalled her.’

‘That was because we skived PT,’ Violet put in, still smarting about the comment on the Sixth Form. ‘She thinks British schoolgirls are all “jolly hockey sticks” so she was completely fooled by us.’

‘Yes, that was very well done,’ her headmistress put in soothingly. ‘You played a blinder there, girls.’

Violet, now mollified, suggested to Polly that they had better get back to school to help with the younger children, Matey having moved to the farmhouse.

‘Have one for the road,’ René suggested, pouring them another glass of wine each. ‘You did very well today. Your teachers should be proud of you.’

‘We are,’ Madge confirmed. ‘Who would have thought that Chalet School girls could look just like cheap tarts?’

The Chalet School party decided to walk back to school together, to be back before curfew and they all went through to the back room to collect their coats, hats, boots, scarves and cold remedies. They were on the point of leaving when Michelle stepped out from behind the curtains. René did not even allow her to utter her opening remark.

‘How the Hell did you get in here?’ he burst out furiously. ‘I locked the place up tighter than Madame Edith’s purse!’

Michelle looked at him coldly. ‘I am Michelle of the Resistance. I bomb German bridges. I throw grenades into German gatherings. Breaking into your little café is a teddy bear’s picnic in comparison.’

‘What do you want this time?’ René asked, fearing he knew the answer.

‘I hear you have failed to obtain the original,’ Michelle said. ‘You must do better than this. You have two weeks to obtain it.’

‘Or?’ Miss Annersley asked.

‘Or you will be shot!’

Michelle left via the window and the rest looked at each other.

‘No point worrying about it now,’ Robin said. ‘The school contingent better get back there before curfew. And we need to get the café open. How about meeting here tomorrow morning to discuss it?’

‘After assembly,’ Miss Annersley suggested. ‘Polly and Violet, I’ll arrange for you to be excused Matron duties.’

‘I’ve got Advanced Code-Breaking then,’ Madge pointed out.

‘Just skive,’ Robin suggested.

Madge considered this. ‘Good thinking, Batman.’

‘I’m Robin,’ Robin objected.



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