|Around the same time – Chalet School|
‘Have we got time for a coffee, Violet?’ Cornelia asked as they finished their inspection of the dormitories.
Violet checked her watch. ‘We should have. There are no Middles to haul out of prep to tidy their dormitories. This lot are just too good to be true!’
Cornelia agreed. ‘I know. Yvette has been supervising them at prep all week and they’ve never put a foot wrong. I don’t know what Middles are coming to these days. We were never like that.’
They went along to the Prefects’ Room, which was now used by all the older girls, and made themselves some coffee.
‘Thank goodness we don’t have to take it with all those featherbeds of whipped cream like when we were in Austria,’ Cornelia said. ‘My parents were getting worried about my weight.’
‘Mine too. But I’ve slimmed down a lot since we’re on ordinary food and working hard.’ Violet thought for a moment. ‘I bet the staff aren’t losing any weight with all the G&T they’re having. Just think of the calories!’
Polly arrived from her duties in the kitchen. ‘Oh, coffee. Good. I’m ready for a break after chopping all those veg.’
‘Never mind, Polly. I’m on kitchens next week and you’ve got prep with the Middles. They’ve turned into saints so you should have an easy week.’
‘I know. Little prigs. Elizabeth Arnett even said to me the other day that it was unpatriotic to complain about having to do the garden, harvest the vegetables and then cook them!’
The Sixth Formers shook their heads over such unacceptable behaviour and turned their attention to more important matters.
‘Are you going to Café René tonight? There’ll be a lot of soldiers in there,’ Violet asked.
‘But Violet, they’re German soldiers!’ Polly was shocked.
‘They’re also the only guys around here under fifty,’ Violet pointed out. ‘How else are we going to get any practice talking to young men? You know how cloistered they always kept us at school.’
‘Probably a good thing the way you two dress now,’ Cornelia said. ‘And we aren’t supposed to go to Café René without one of the mistresses.’
‘Do stop being all Head Girlish,’ Polly said. ‘You’re as bad as the Middles.’
Cornelia was about to respond with a vehement denial when Michelle appeared through the window.
‘Listen very carefully, I will say this only once.’
The girls groaned.
‘I need your help. We have four British soldiers staying at the farm. They are becoming very restless – one of them has already gone walkabout but we are bringing him back later. You girls could go across to the farm this evening and keep them company for a while.’
The girls brightened. ‘Soldiers? What are they doing here?’ Cornelia asked.
‘Any decent male totty?’ Violet wanted to know.
Michelle made an impatient gesture. ‘I don’t have time to stand here making small talk with you. I have bombs to set.’ She disappeared through the window again, leaving the girls to discuss the latest happenings.
‘Do we need to ask the Abbess if we can go?’ Polly said.
‘You mean if we MAY go,’ Cornelia corrected.
Violet threw a cushion at her.
‘I suppose we had better ask her,’ Cornelia went on. ‘We aren’t leaving the school grounds but she still likes to think of us as schoolgirls.’
‘Well we are still minors and her responsibility,’ Violet pointed out.
‘Yes isn't it reassuring having someone in loco parentis who’s practically dependent on G&T,’ Cornelia said sarcastically.
A little while later
Robin cycled back to the café, happy after her visits. Much as she preferred working at the café to being a dutiful Chalet School girl, it was nice to see the people who had been in her life for so long and whom she regarded as her family.
She walked into a scene of chaos in the café kitchen. Madame Edith was in tears, René was wringing his hands and Jones was looking very puzzled. It took some time for Robin to get the tale from them.
‘It’s ok, René, don’t panic,’ Robin said.
‘Does Miss Annersley allow you to say “ok”?’ René asked disapprovingly.
‘Is this the time to be worrying about that?’ Robin was exasperated. ‘I’m trying to tell you not to panic about the painting.’
‘Not panic? When this silly old fool has mashed it up for sausages?’
‘It’s not the original painting,’ Robin said.
‘It must be!’ René said. ‘The first fake went to Colonel von Strohm who gave it to Herr Flick who believed it was a fake. Then we left the second fake for Herr Flick to find and he thought it was the original. Only it was the original because Madame Matey had switched the labels. When Herr Flick went to send the original to Hitler, we swopped our fake for it. But it was another fake because Herr Flick is a cheating b*****d. But then Miss Annersley swopped our fake for the original in Herr Flick’s office.’
‘I know all that, René. But what was in that sausage wasn’t the painting Miss Annersley rescued from Herr Flick’s office.’
‘It wasn’t?’ René asked, relieved. ‘What was it?’
‘Just some plain canvas rolled up to seem like a painting. In case the Germans came to call,’ Robin explained.
She translated the conversation for Jones’ benefit and explained the background to him. ‘What a relief I didn’t put the original painting in.’ he said. ‘The paint would have ruined the flavour.’
Author's Chapter Notes:
The Sixth Formers feel overworked and Robin returns to the cafe