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Author's Chapter Notes:
The war is having its effect at the school..........

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Health warning: Please park your illusions about the Chalet School and its pupils/staff here or alternatively don't read on!

July 1940
Lieutenant Gruber was not enjoying his part-time teaching at the Chalet School. The Middles didn’t worry him too much as they were still very young but being anywhere near the Seniors terrified him. The older girls knew this and took every opportunity to terrorise him by hitching up their skirts to produce handkerchiefs from their stockings, getting close to him when he was marking their work and asking embarrassing questions in class.

When he tried to discipline them by sending them to Miss Annersley, she pretended to give them order marks but fed them coffee and cakes as a reward. Consequently the whole of the Sixth Form was becoming rather plump.

Helga was supposed to be teaching them physical education and she pretended to take them out on cross country runs twice a week. As soon as they were out of sight of the school, they sat round sun-bathing with Helga telling them how to attract men and teaching them to put on make-up. She had soon discovered that they spoke German but she had agreed not to let Herr Flick know, in exchange for them not letting on that she couldn’t be bothered to teach them physical education or indoctrinate them about the supremacy of the Vaterland.

Maria Mariani wasn’t allowed to go into Helga’s class, as her father’s death meant that she couldn’t even pretend to tolerate anyone in Hitler’s service. Miss Annersley found her other things to do on the two lessons a week which Helga had with Maria’s form. Maria did attend Lieutenant Gruber’s lessons. As she pointed out to Miss Annersley, “Lieutenant Gruber couldn’t knock the skin off a rice pudding. Anything less like an enemy soldier I can’t imagine. Toy soldier is more like it.’
One afternoon when Helga and some of the Sixth Form were lying about in a meadow playing Dirty Scrabble in German – Helga was teaching them new words – the girls spotted the British airmen in the woods. They tried to divert Helga’s attention but she had spotted them.

‘Is that the British airmen you’re hiding?’ Helga asked.

The girls gaped. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘It’s okay, I won’t tell Herr Flick,’ Helga assured them. ‘I don’t tell him anything important, he’d only keep me here longer. I quite enjoy the two days a week with you girls but it means I see less of Herr Flick.’

‘Do you actually like him, Helga?’ Yvette Mercier asked, voicing what several of them were thinking.

‘Power is a great aphrodisiac, as you’ll find out when you’re a bit older,’ Helga told them. ‘And he may seem like a cold fish to you but the sex is wild when I can get him to forget all this secret police nonsense.’

Unnoticed they had been joined by a newcomer. ‘I don’t think Miss Annersley would approve of this conversation.’

‘Oh sod off, Joey, you’re not Head Girl now.’ Cornelia Flower told her.

‘You’re Games Prefect, Cornelia,’ Joey pointed out. ‘You should be more concerned with physical education classes than lazing around.’

‘None of your business what we do,’ Cornelia retorted. ‘What do you want anyway?’

‘I was just out for a walk and I thought you’d like to see the triplets,’ Joey said huffily. ‘But if you’re too busy I’ll go back to the school.’

‘Good idea, Joey.’ Polly Heriot said. ‘We don’t want to be bothered with squalling babies. Helga is telling us about her sex life.’

‘Really!’ Joey exclaimed. ‘I don’t know what this school is coming to! I’m going to see Miss Annersley.’

‘She always was a meddler,’ Violet Allison said as Joey stalked off. ‘But it’s probably an empty threat. Go on, Helga. Tell us about the underwear you got in Berlin.’

The Sixth Form all agreed it was one of the most fun afternoons they had ever spent at the Chalet School. ‘To think we used to get excited by going skiing and having the Sale,’ Polly exclaimed. ‘What innocent babes we were!’ But the fun was about to turn sour. They tumbled into the school to be met by Miss Annersley at her most forbidding. ‘You are late for Café et Gateaux. Go along to the Splashery now and tidy yourselves. You are a disgrace to the Chalet School. Then straight to the Salle a Manger please. And no talking! You will sit in silence at your table and I will see you all afterwards in my office.’

The girls looked at each other, dismayed. ‘That beast Joey has grassed us up,’ Cornelia said. ‘As if she was such an angel.’

‘Not when she was a Middle. But she turned into a real prig by the time she got to the Sixth Form,’ Violet pointed out. ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan. Let me do the talking when we go and see the old bat.’

It was obvious at Café et Gateaux that the Sixth Form were in trouble and the Middles sat giggling about it. Their elders gave them glares which promised revenge in due course. After the meal they duly presented themselves at Miss Annersley’s office.

‘Girls, I am very disappointed to hear from Mrs Maynard that you were skiving lessons.’

‘We weren’t skiving, Miss Annersley,’ Violet told her mendaciously, without batting an eyelid. ‘We were out cross-country running with Helga when we saw the airmen in the woods ahead of us. We had to divert Helga’s attention so I pretended to turn my ankle and then we encouraged her to talk about her work with Herr Flick. We thought we might hear something we could pass on to Robin to tell Michelle.’

The other girls looked at her in astonishment. The previously quiet Violet had turned into a first-class liar overnight! Was this what being at war did?

‘And Mrs Maynard said you were very rude to her when she tackled you about not being at lessons,’ Miss Annersley went on, apparently satisfied with Violet’s explanation.

‘That was just for Helga’s benefit,’ Violet said. ‘We’re trying to get her to think that we are undermining the traditional values of the School.’

‘You seem to be doing that in spades,’ Miss Annersley said, smiling faintly. ‘However I will have to be seen to punish you for being late for a meal, or it will be a bad example to the younger ones. You will stay in on Saturday afternoon and do extra code-breaking practice.’

As the alternative was to go to Joey’s apartment for tea and play with the trips, the Sixth was pretty pleased with this as a punishment, but they knew better than to display this to Miss Annersley. Murmuring apologies for being late for the meal – though not for anything else – the girls left, seemingly downcast by being in trouble.

‘Lying through their teeth they were,’ Miss Annersley said ungrammatically to Bill later that evening. ‘Who would have thought it? I thought they were completely brain-washed into being Chalet School girls. I wonder where I went wrong with this batch of girls.’

‘Why didn’t you get the truth out of them?’ Bill refreshed her gin and tonic and came back to lounge by the fire. ‘You’ve never had problems with prising confessions out of girls before.’

‘Didn’t have the energy,’ Hilda said. ‘And I couldn’t really blame them for being rude to Joey. She’s such a prig. I’ve got them out of going to tea with her on Saturday so they owe me a favour. Get me another G&T would you please dear?’

Bill got up and poured a gin for her colleague. ‘We’ll have to go easy on this. Not a lot left.’

‘It’s no problem,’ Hilda told her. ‘René has promised me as many bottles as I need. He gets them from the Germans by offering them unlimited access to Yvette and Maria.’

Bill was shocked. ‘And what are you able to trade for the gin?’

Hilda smirked. ‘Don’t go there, dear. But it has a lot to do with a flying helmet and wet celery.’



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