|29 December 1940 - the School San.|
After a morning’s fussing over Robin, Matey sat down in the corner of the San. for a well-earned rest. Robin lay in bed, coughing occasionally and planning how to get Matey talking.
‘Was it very terrible, in the Gestapo jail?’ Robin asked, between coughs.
Matey smiled. ‘It was quite enjoyable actually. The food was very good and the break from school routine was very restful.’
‘Weren’t you worried that they would torture you to find out where the painting was?’
‘What do you call making me unpick all those sheets?’ Matey said indignantly. ‘That was torture. Especially when I think of the hundreds of schoolgirls who sewed those sheets sides-to-middle over the years. It was heart-breaking having to undo it all.’
‘Weren’t you worried about thumbscrews and pulling out nails?’ Robin persisted.
‘Not at all, dear. You see Herr Flick would never have dared to let them torture me.’
Robin nearly forgot to cough in her excitement. ‘Really, Matey?’
‘Haven’t you ever wondered how I’m trilingual, Robin? After all, I didn’t go to the Chalet School.’
‘I thought you’d picked it up over the years, Matey, if I thought about it at all,’ Robin admitted.
‘I was at Matron-school in Switzerland,’ Matey announced proudly. ‘It’s like finishing school but for girls who want to do something useful with their lives.’
Robin reflected that Matron would probably have snagged a doctor if she’d got the chance but with her face and figure chance would have been a fine thing. However she managed to sound fascinated, in between bouts of coughing and looking wan.
‘One of the German girls at the school became a real friend and we’ve corresponded over the years,’ Matey went on. ‘Of course we can’t write to each other now, because of the war, but I remembered that she went to be Matron at a Hitler Youth school. She used to tell me all about the children and I have a very retentive memory.’
Selective, Robin thought, but didn’t voice her opinion. Witness Matey’s convenient forgetting who had made Joey such a hypochondriac.
‘So when Herr Flick came in to see me and started all that “Ve haf vays of making you tok,” nonsense, I asked him if he still needed Snookums with him so he could sleep.’
‘A rather battered teddy bear, by all accounts,’ Matron said. ‘Herr Flick went as red as a beetroot and left abruptly.’
‘How did you manage to get away without unpicking the pink sheets I sewed the painting into?’ Robin asked.
‘It wasn’t there,’ Matron said. She seemed about to expand on this remark when the door opened and Jem came in, carrying Joey.
‘What’s the matter, Dr Russell?’ Matron asked, bustling over to the bed next to Robin’s and turning it back so he could lay Joey on it.
‘Joey’s had an asthma attack,’ Jem said. ‘We need to organise a steam tent.’
More likely Joey was jealous because I’m in the San. getting all Matron’s attention, Robin thought, so she’s made herself ill. There’s no chance of a nice cosy chat with Matron on the where-the-hell-have-you-hidden-the-painting subject now. I might as well get better quickly.
‘What about the children?’ Matey wanted to know.
‘I’ve left them playing in the nursery. Madge is on one of her Resistance days,’ Jem said. ‘If Robin is feeling better, maybe she could look after them.’
Not on your nelly, Robin thought, lying back and coughing.
‘Oh, I don’t think that will be possible for a while yet, Dr Russell,’ Matron told him. ‘Little Robin is very delicate and if we let her up too soon she could have a relapse.’
Defeated, Jem left to look after his children and Joey’s trips. He was not a happy bunny when Madge came back, full of helping to blow up a bridge needed by the Germans for transporting goods.
‘You’ll have to give up all that girly Resistance stuff until Joey’s better,’ Jem said. ‘Someone has to look after the children.’
‘They’re your children and your nieces as well, Jem,’ Madge pointed out. ‘You can look after them. I’m doing vital war work.’
‘My dear girl, I’m a doctor with important responsibilities,’ Jem retorted.
‘Responsibility for an empty Sanatorium with no doctors except you.’ Madge realised the “no nookie” approach wouldn’t work, so she played her trump card. Crossing over to the window she looked out. Michelle appeared through the window wielding her gun.
‘Madge is needed by the Resistance to help us stop the Germans in their work,’ Michelle said, pointing her gun at Jem. ‘If you do anything to stop her, I will shoot you.’
Jem sulked all evening and would not even be pacified with the offer of the flying helmet. Finally Madge lost patience. ‘Look Jem. I’m working, you’re staying at home with the brats. Grow up. Deal with it.’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Robin's plan to get Matey talking goes awry.