Lieutenant Gruber entered Café René and looked around furtively. To his relief, only Robin was in the café, polishing glasses.
‘I need a Schnapps, Maria Cecile,’ he said, still looking over his shoulder. ‘Oh, I forgot, you are too young to serve alcohol.’
Robin got the Schnapps bottle and poured a glass. ‘There’s a war on, Lieutenant Gruber.’
Lieutenant Gruber drained the glass in one gulp and asked for another, which Robin poured.
‘Is there something wrong, Lieutenant? You don’t usually drink as much as this in the afternoon. Well, unless Madame Edith is going to do a lunch-time spot.’
‘It’s the paintings,’ the Lieutenant whispered. ‘I’ve finished them but I don’t know where to hide the spare forgery.’
‘Don’t worry about that, I’ve got it all planned,’ Robin told him. ‘When you go back to the school, go and see Matey and ask her to get the original sewn between two white sheets, one of the forgeries sewn between the pink sheets she keeps for the staff and the other between the blue ones she gives out to the domestic staff for their rooms.’
‘I do not know if I can do that, Maria Cecile. I am scared of the Matey.’
‘Everyone’s scared of Matey, that’s what Mateys are for,’ Robin explained. ‘Just don’t look poorly when you go to see her or you’ll end up confined to the San.’
Lieutenant Gruber left, looking even more hunted and Robin went through to the back room. Maria Marani came through the window.
‘You’re not going to start that “Listen very carefully” rubbish, are you?’ Robin said. ‘I’ve heard enough of that to last a lifetime.’
‘There’s a war on, you know Robin,’ Maria said crossly. ‘Security is important.’
‘So is survival,’ Robin retorted. ‘And planning for after the war. Now I’ve got something I need you to do.’ She explained.
‘No problem, Robin,’ Maria said when Robin had finished. ‘I’ll pop over to the school now.’
Robin collected some more glasses and returned to the café. René had returned and he was looking askance at the Schnapps bottle and glass. ‘Maria Cecile, have you been drinking?’
‘No, René, though this place would drive you to drink at times. Lieutenant Gruber was in.’
‘You are too young to serve alcohol,’ René told her. ‘You could cost me my licence.’
‘There’s a war on, René. And Lieutenant Gruber isn’t going to grass us up.’
‘I am sure your Headmistress would not like to hear you being so rude nor using such slang, Maria Cecile,’ René said severely. ‘Now you may go and sweep the back room. It will teach you not to behave irresponsibly and not to answer back your elders.’
Robin, trained to instant obedience, collected the broom from the broom cupboard and went to the back room. As she entered, she saw the sleeve of a Resistance raincoat as someone was preparing to come in via the window.
‘Bloody Hell, not another one,’ Robin exclaimed.
‘Robin! Such language!’ Madge emerged through the window.
‘You’re going to have to get in and out of the window faster than that,’ Robin told her, unperturbed. ‘That is, if you want to get more work with the Resistance. And that old raincoat of Joey’s isn’t nearly as good as the ones the real Resistance girls wear.’
‘Never mind that,’ Madge said. ‘What do you mean by using such language? You are a disgrace to the Chalet School.’
‘Oh, get a life, Madge. There’s a war on. What do you want anyway?’
‘The first thing I want is you returned to school, immediately. You are becoming out of hand. A few days in solitary confinement and some sewing with Matey might put you back on the right track. Go and change out of those dreadful clothes and ask René to step in here so I can speak to him please.’
‘I’ve got to sweep the back room first,’ Robin said sulkily. ‘I have to do it because I served Lieutenant Gruber with alcohol and I cheeked René.’
‘All the more reason for you to be sent back to school. Now finish your task and then go and change.’
Robin complied and in a few minutes René entered the back room. ‘Good afternoon, Madame Russell. Maria Cecile tells me you wanted to speak to me.’
Madge explained her concerns about Robin.
‘It is true she has become very naughty lately,’ René agreed. ‘But I think a day or two back at school should be enough. She has given Michelle a lot of useful information from eavesdropping on the Germans. They might not talk so freely if there was someone new around.’
‘I will allow her to return if she behaves,’ Madge said. ‘Though I don’t intend to tell her that yet.’
Robin returned, now demurely attired as a Chalet School girl and, after insisting Robin apologise to René for her behaviour, Madge told Robin to go back to school and report to Miss Annersley.
‘You are a real nuisance,’ Madge told her. ‘I get little enough time for my Resistance work as it is. I’m not going to break into it to drag you back to school.’
Miss Annersley, when Robin reported to her, was scornful of Madge’s actions. ‘For Heaven’s sake, there’s a war on! What does some cheek and bad language matter when you’re eavesdropping on the Germans? Has Madge taken leave of her senses?’
‘I think escaping from Jem and being in the Resistance has gone to her head,’ Robin said.
‘More than likely,’ Miss Annersley agreed. ‘But she does own the school so I can’t be seen to undermine her by sending you straight back to the café. We’ll need to keep you here for a couple of days at least.’
‘It’s no problem, Miss Annersley,’ Robin assured her headmistress. ‘I’ve got some things I need to do in Matey’s quarters.’
‘You’re actually volunteering to stay with Matey?’ Hilda was incredulous.
‘I know it sounds mad, but I need to sew some sheets.’
‘You dear, brave child,’ Miss Annersley said, patting Robin on the shoulder.
Author's Chapter Notes:
It's a busy day at Cafe Rene....