|Later the same day|
Robin cycled furiously to school to find the Sixth Formers sitting in the staff room, smoking.
‘What do you want, Robin? We’re busy,’ Cornelia asked crossly.
‘Looks like it,’ Robin retorted. ‘What happened to the sheets you’re supposed to be hemming?’
‘We’ve got the British airmen doing them for us,’ Violet explained. ‘We’re taking them some beer and cigarettes by way of payment.’
‘I need your help in the village,’ Robin said. She explained what was going on at the café. ‘So get your coats, hats, gloves, boots and cold remedies and follow me now,’ she finished.
‘We can’t go out on pain of being sent to Joey’s for a month,’ Polly told her. ‘We’re not risking it.’
‘We all have to make sacrifices in war time,’ Robin responded, losing patience. ‘This is yours. Now get a move on before the whole scheme goes tits-up.’
‘It’s not fair, we were just going to raid the gin supply,’ Ruth grumbled. ‘They’ve got enough here to keep the whole of the German army going for a month. They’d never have missed it.’
‘For goodness’ sake, what’s happened to your patriotism?’ Robin asked. ‘Do you think about nothing but fags and booze these days?’
‘No,’ Ruth answered with dignity. ‘There’s clothes, make-up and men as well.’
Robin wasted no further words on them but headed back to the café, where the Middles were singing to drown out Madame Edith whilst the Fifth Form had got the German soldiers up to dance. Even Herr Flick was dancing, after a fashion, as Biddy O’Ryan had him in a stranglehold and was forcing him to shuffle round the floor. Colonel von Strohm and Captain Geering were more enthusiastic than skilful, but the girls dancing with them accepted the occasional crushed toe as the fortunes of war. The school staff were snoozing in the corner and Miss Annersley and René were nowhere to be seen. ‘Brilliant,’ Robin said to Lorenz, who was behind the bar. ‘It’s going like clockwork so far.’
The Sixth Form had arrived and Robin went back outside to tell them the diversion was under way. ‘I thought they would have started a riot, or thrown food at each other,’ Robin said. ‘However this more peaceful diversion seems to be working for the moment.’
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with Middles these days,’ Cornelia said. ‘They’ve completely forgotten how to be naughty.’
They went round the corner to Gestapo headquarters and got past the guard on the door easily with the gift of cigarettes and the promise of future sexual favours. The guards at the cells proved more difficult to crack.
‘We just want to visit Matey,’ Violet told them. ‘She’s been here a long time now and she’ll be pining for the school.’
‘I don’t think so, miss. She seems perfectly happy. But Herr Flick doesn’t allow prisoners to have visitors.’
‘He’s at the café. Couldn’t you let us in for five minutes?’ Cornelia wheedled.
‘Sorry miss. Herr Flick would have our guts for garters.’
‘I never knew it was the same expression in French,’ Ruth whispered to Polly. ‘Why do we never learn any useful French slang?’
Assuming the question to be rhetorical, Polly didn’t answer but concentrated on getting past the guards. She whispered in the ear of one, then the other. They both blushed but went along the corridor with her and disappeared into a room on the left of the corridor.
The rest of the girls watched them open-mouthed. ‘No time to worry about Polly, let’s get Matey first,’ Cornelia said.
They raced along the corridor to find Matey sitting in a cell with the door open. ‘Hello, girls. You’re all looking a bit peaky. You’d better help yourselves to a dose of medicine when you get back to school. What are you doing here?’
‘Rescuing you, Matey. Polly has distracted the guards. We need to be quick!’
Matey looked at her rescuers in surprise. ‘But I don’t want to be rescued. I’m perfectly happy here.’
‘You can’t stay in a Gestapo prison!’ Violet exclaimed. ‘They could torture you or anything!’
Matey snorted in disgust. ‘Herr Flick hasn’t got the nerve. Why do you think I’m not locked in!’
‘Look, Matey we need to get going. Polly could be in danger!’
‘Well go and rescue her then,’ Matey said. ‘I don’t want rescuing. I’m having too much fun here with all these nice guards.’
Nothing the girls could say would persuade her so they soon gave up and went back to the entrance where Polly was waiting for them, alone.
‘How did you get away from them?’
‘Where are the guards?’
‘What was all that about?’
The questions came thick and fast but Polly brushed them aside. ‘Never mind all that. Where’s Matey?’
‘She wouldn’t come with us. She wants to stay here.’
‘You mean we’ve risked getting caught breaking bounds and the silly old bag won’t move?’ Polly was incredulous. ‘Just wait till I get my hands on Robin!’
‘Let’s get back to school before the party breaks up at the café and we get caught,’ Cornelia said.
Once back at school, sitting in the San pretending to hem sheets, the others demanded an explanation from Polly. ‘How on earth did you persuade the guards to go with you?’
‘Well I don’t know why it worked, but I just whispered “wet celery” and “egg whisk” to them and they went with me. I got them into the room and then told them I’d have to go and get the celery and the whisk. They’re probably still waiting for me to return!
Miss Annersley had returned to school with a very satisfied smile on her face and she sent for the Sixth Form. They arrived at her study looking apprehensive.
‘What’s this I hear about you being in the village this afternoon?’ she asked.
‘That little beast, Robin!’ Cornelia burst out. ‘She’s for the high jump!’
‘It wasn’t Robin who told me, it was René,’ Miss Annersley said. ‘And I understand why you were there. But where’s Matey?’
The girls explained.
‘Oh really, she’s so selfish,’ Miss Annersley exclaimed. ‘She’s got all those young soldiers to herself and she won’t let anyone else have a turn!’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Matey's rescue doesn't go quite according to plan.