‘You stupid woman,’ René said contemptuously. ‘Can you not see that she has been hiding in there instead of going to bed as she was told? She was in a sulk because she was not allowed to join the party.’ He turned to Robin. ‘Now go to bed, Maria Cecile.’
‘Let her join the party, René,’ Madame Edith said. ‘It is New Year and she doesn’t get a lot of fun, working in a café when she should still be a little girl at school.’
‘Very well,’ René said, feigning reluctance. Madame Edith caught hold of Robin and put her at the head of the conga, which set off again and eventually snaked its way upstairs to the café.
In amongst the revelry, Robin snatched a moment to speak to René. ‘Maybe we should tell Madame Edith. She knew I was trying to get the secret from Matey.’
‘It’s as you said, Maria Cecile. A “need to know” basis. Knowing too much is dangerous at the moment. Let us leave her in blissful ignorance.’ He scratched his head. ‘Though it is odd that she believed the story of the Matey about the recipes for medicines. Edith may not be a pretty face, and she sings like a dustbin, but she is very clever.’
‘I wondered about that too,’ Robin agreed, but there was no time for more as she was swept off again, this time to dance with Captain Geering.
It was after three in the morning before the party broke up and Robin went wearily to bed, deciding that half-sewn sausages would have to wait until daytime.
Everyone was tired and irritable as they prepared to open the café for lunch. ‘Maria Cecile as you were so disobedient last night, you may go and clean and tidy the pantry,’ René said, sounding just like Miss Annersley, albeit with a deeper voice, Robin thought.
She hurried down to the pantry and retrieved the sausage, cutting the stitches open carefully. It was the one in the white sheet, so Robin stitched it up again as quickly as she could and made a small mark on the outside so she could tell which sausage was which. The other one had to be the pink sheet, and therefore the fake, so she only needed to work out how to get Herr Flick to discover it.
The café was busy but after all the customers had left, Robin had a chance to speak to René. ‘I know which is the sausage with the pink sheet in it. It’s the one I haven’t marked.’
‘Ok,’ René said. ‘Now we just have to get it to Herr Flick without him thinking it’s a plant.’
Madame Edith appeared in the café. ‘That’s a delivery from Colonel von Strohm. A thank you for last night’s party.’
‘That was good of him,’ René said absently. ‘What did he send?’
‘A case of gin, which will give us plenty for Miss A--,’ Madame Edith broke off when she remembered Robin’s presence. ‘And lots of German sausages.’
The latter comment caught René’s attention. ‘And where are the sausages now?’
‘All hung up in the pantry,’ Madame Edith said with satisfaction.
Robin excused herself and fled down to the pantry. Sausages, identical to the ones containing the paintings hung everywhere!
René followed her a moment later. ‘This is a disaster,’ he wailed. ‘How will we find the sausage with the fake painting now?’
‘It has very fine stitching in it,’ Robin said. ‘Real sausages don’t. But it will take me time to go through them all to check for stitching.’
Madame Edith’s footsteps could be heard in the corridor.
‘You naughty child,’ René said to Robin. ‘You have not cleaned this pantry properly. You will stay here until it has been done to my satisfaction.’
René left the pantry to be greeted by reproachful looks from Madame Edith. When they were out of Robin’s earshot, she said, ‘You are too harsh with that child, René. She is a good girl compared to Yvette and Maria, who spend all their time with the German officers!’
‘They have to keep the Colonel and the Captain sweet,’ René pointed out. ‘And Maria Cecile has been brought up to instant obedience. I am simply ensuring that she does not grow too wild now that she is away from school.’
Madame Edith went off, muttering. After a while, Robin reappeared and announced that she had identified the sausage and had hung both of the fake sausages along the top shelf, with all the others lower.
‘I have an idea how to get the fake painting discovered by Herr Flick,’ Robin said. ‘We could put it in a tree near the school and get Helga to discover it when she’s out with the hell-cats.’
‘Hell-cats?’ René queried.
‘It’s an English term for Sixth Formers,’ Robin explained. ‘Helga isn’t doing Matron duty any more but she still teaches PT. The Sixth Form can lead her to it when they’re supposed to be doing cross country running.’
‘Who can you trust to make sure Helga finds the painting without arousing suspicion?’ René asked.
‘For preference I wouldn’t trust any of them,’ Robin said. ‘But I’ll get Miss A to speak to Violet. Violet’s the cleverest of the lot of them and she’ll realise it’s important to get it right.’
‘We need to find a reason to send you to the school,’ René said.
‘Miss Annersley will be running out of gin,’ Robin said. ‘I could take a couple of bottles up to the school for her. That way you won’t be knackered by her paying you for them.’
‘While you are there you can report yourself to Miss Annersley for using deplorable slang and lacking in respect for your elders,’ René told her with dignity.
Robin put some bottles of gin in a rucksack and cycled over to the school. Miss Annersley greeted her arrival with relief – and a good deal of pleasure when she discovered what was in the rucksack.
‘I’m glad to see you, Robin. There’s so much happening here I can scarcely cope with it all. Joey is nearly well so I’m going to have to broach the subject of Matey going to the farm. Then I’ve got to get the farm up and running to give us a cover for hiding the airmen – it’s too cold for them to stay in the henhouse much longer. The Sixth Form are still being impossible and the Middles are so well-behaved it’s frightening. And add to all that the fact that lessons start again in a few days!’
‘No sweat, Miss A. Nothing there that can’t be sorted.’
‘And that reminds me, Robin. What’s this I hear about you using slang and showing a lack of respect for René?’
‘Bloody Hell, how did you know about that?’ Robin exclaimed. ‘It’s only just happened and he told me to report it to you. This place is leakier than a sieve!’
‘Michelle was lurking outside the window of the café,’ Miss Annersley explained. ‘She was on her way here to collect Madame for grenade-throwing classes and she popped in to let me know you would arrive soon.’
Miss Annersley took a swig of her gin and tonic to fortify herself. ‘I am prepared to tolerate a certain amount of slang, Robin, but Chalet School girls should always show respect. If I have any further reports of bad behaviour, you will go and stay with Joey for a week.’
Robin knew this was no empty threat. ‘I understand, Miss Annersley. I will apologise to René for my behaviour when I return to the café.’
‘Now then, what did you come to see me about, dear? Michelle only overheard the last part of your conversation with René.’
Robin explained about the sausages.
‘You want to put a sausage in a tree?’ Miss Annersley asked.
‘No, I’ll take it out of the sausage and roll it in something waterproof,’ Robin explained. ‘I need Helga to find it when she’s out on a run with the Sixth Formers.’
‘Leave it to me, Robin. I’ll ensure she finds it. But I don’t think I’ll use Violet. I have a much better plan, and one the Sixth Form won’t like at all!’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Robin and Rene are still plagued by sausage