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Robin finds the complications multiplying as she tries to get the paintings safely hidden away.

October 1940

Matey looked up in relief as Robin came into the San. ‘It’s lovely to see you back here, Robin. And in uniform again! Has Miss Annersley sent you to me because you’re ill?’ she asked hopefully.

‘No, Matey. I volunteered to come and sew some sheets.’

‘Volunteered? Really? Or has Miss Annersley sent you to sew sheets for being naughty?’

‘No, Matey. Well, Madge thinks I was naughty but Miss Annersley doesn’t agree.’ Robin told her tale.

‘I don’t know what’s got into Madame,’ Matey said. ‘Joining that silly Resistance movement has done her no good at all. And what a time I had letting out Joey’s old raincoat to fit her.’

That explained why the coat was such a mess, Robin realised. Matey had always been useless at sewing. Letting her loose on sewing the paintings into their nests would be far too dangerous.

‘Has Lieutenant Gruber been in?’ Robin asked.

Matey beamed. ‘Yes, such a nice boy. What a credit to his mother. I was asking him why he wasn’t married with lots of children. He’ll make a lovely daddy one day.’

Robin sighed. Sometimes Matey just didn’t get it.

‘Are the paintings in the linen cupboard, Matey? Shall I start sewing them into the sheets?’

‘Yes, dear. And they have paper labels attached to them “original”, “fake 1” and “fake 2”.’

Robin collected the painting with the label proclaiming it to be the original and settled herself with some white sheets.

‘Lieutenant Gruber told me to use the pink sheets for the original,’ Matey said.

He would, Robin thought. ‘No problem, Matey. I’ll let him know the code has changed. Robin sewed happily the whole afternoon, listening to Matey’s chat with half an ear. When she had done them all, she rolled up the one in the pink sheets and put it back in the linen cupboard.

‘That’s for Herr Flick to find when he raids the school,’ Robin told Matey.

Matey paled. ‘He’s going to raid the school! How do you know?’

‘I overheard him telling Helga in the café. They don’t know I can speak German.’

‘But that’s the fake!’ Matey protested.

‘Yes, but Herr Flick won’t know that. He’s a Philistine.’

‘That’s so clever, Robin. Of course it would normally be wrong to be so deceitful, but as it’s against the Gestapo it doesn’t matter at all.’

‘Exactly, Matey. Just what I was thinking.’

‘Where are you taking the other ones, Robin?’

‘I’m not saying. It’s on a “need to know” basis, Matey.’ Robin rolled up the other two, which she had sewn sides-to middle with the painting in between and left.

Down in the kitchen, two sausages were ready, as Robin had asked Maria Marani to arrange. Robin put the paintings into the sausages and sewed them up. She went outside and gave a piercing whistle.

Joey, passing with the triplets, stopped and stared at her adopted sister in dismay. ‘Robin, that’s not ladylike.’

‘Go and boil your head, Joey. I’ve got more important things to do that listen to you.’

Joey gasped and clutched at her heart. ‘I think I’m going to faint!’

Robin was unsympathetic. ‘Get on with it then and I’ll get Matey when I have a minute.’

Joey sank on to a nearby garden bench, breathing heavily. ‘I’m going to have an asthma attack.’

‘Fine,’ said Robin. ‘I’ll see to the trips in a minute.’

Maria Marani emerged from the woods, still in her Resistance uniform. ‘What’s up with Joey?’

‘Faking illness again. Just attention-seeking as usual. Take no notice of her.’ Robin handed Maria one of the sausages. ‘Take that to the café for Colonel von Strohm.’

‘I can’t go up to Colonel von Strohm in this outfit!’ Maria said, shocked.

‘No, dimbo,’ Robin agreed. ‘Give the sausage to René. He’ll get Yvette to pretend it’s one of her props for when she’s with the Colonel upstairs and she can get it to the Colonel that way.’

‘What are you going to do with the other one?’ Maria asked.

‘Best I don’t tell you,’ Robin said. ‘Need to know basis only.’

Robin stepped over Joey’s now-prone form and went off to secrete the final sausage. When she returned, Joey was still out cold and the trips were screaming blue murder.

‘As if I haven’t got enough to do,’ Robin muttered. She took the trips into the empty kitchen and sat them on the floor with a fairy cake each. Then she went in search of Matey.

Matey was beside herself with glee at the idea of having someone to look after. ‘Not that she’ll really be ill,’ she told Robin. ‘She always does this when she can’t get her own way. Coddled too much as a child in my opinion.’

Since Matey had been one of the chief culprits for wrapping Joey in cotton-wool, Robin thought this was a bit rich. However she didn’t want to fall out with Matey over it as she wanted to get back to the café.

Leaving Matey to deal with Joey, Robin went back to the headmistress’s study, where Hilda was enjoying a pre-supper gin and tonic.

‘I’ve sorted out all the paintings, Miss Annersley,’ Robin said, giving the regulation curtsey.

‘Good stuff, Rob,’ Miss Annersley said, slurring her words slightly. ‘Off you go back to the caff. I’ll box it off with Madge. And tell René I’ll be in to pay for the latest case of gin tomorrow.’

Robin left, seriously worried. A headmistress with a drink problem was all they needed.

The café was full when Robin, now changed into her maid’s outfit, entered from the back room.

‘Ah, Maria Cecile, thank goodness you are here,’ René exclaimed. ‘It is so busy and I have no help. Yvette is upstairs with Colonel von Strohm and Maria is with Captain Geering.’

‘I suppose that means we’re out of celery again,’ Robin said, picking up a tray and going off to collect some glasses.

Later, when the number in the café had thinned out a bit, mainly due to Madame Edith doing her singing spot, René asked Robin where she had hidden the other paintings.

‘Best not to tell you, René. Need to know basis.’



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