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Author's Chapter Notes:
Robin comes out of her shell, much to Rene's dismay. And at the Chalet School, some of the girls are looking forward to resuming lessons.

mid-July 1940, at Café René

‘You see, in me, a very tired man,’ René announced to an invisible audience in his empty café. ‘I have Yvette and Maria constantly wanting my body, which is pleasant but exhausting. Even Madame Edith sometimes wants me to tickle her fancy. And then there is Michelle appearing through windows every five minutes expecting me to send messages to the parents of those brats up at the school. The radio is not in a very convenient place, in the bedroom of the mother of my wife. And it is dangerous using the radio with the Germans in and out of the café all day, not to mention being in rooms upstairs.’

René picked up a glass and started polishing it. ‘Colonel von Strohm wants to be sure his painting is safe and Lieutenant Gruber uses this as an excuse to call in here every day that he is not at the school, as he fancies me. And then Miss Annersley insists on paying me in kind for her gin, though I have told her I will make it a gift. She is a nice lady, and quite inventive I find, but I am so very tired…..’

Robin came into the café from the back room.

‘Ah, my little Maria Cecile,’ René said in relief. ‘At least there is one person who gives me no trouble at all.’

‘Oh, R-r-r-r- René,’ Robin exclaimed, advancing on the startled café owner. ‘C-r-rush me in your arms, fasten your lips on my lips, let us hear each other’s hearts beating wildly….’

René held her away from him. ‘Maria Cecile, have you taken leave of your senses? You are a little girl from an English boarding school. Girls from expensive schools like yours do not behave like this.’

‘What makes you think that?’ Robin asked, trying to wriggle into his arms and being firmly held away from him. ‘R-r-r- René…….’

‘Madame Edith has read all the English boarding school books,’ René told her. ‘Now stop this at once Maria Cecile.’

‘If you don’t do to me what you did to Maria in the broom cupboard, I will tell Madame Edith what is going on,’ Robin told him. ‘I am not an innocent little boarding school girl any more. I am doing war work and I want to be treated as a grown-up.’

‘This is what comes of letting Michelle organise things,’ René said to no-one in particular.

He sat Robin down firmly on a café chair and retreated to the other side of the table. ‘You may not be innocent any more but you are still officially at boarding school. If you so much as hint to Madame Edith what you know, I will tell Miss Annersley about your behaviour and have her recall you to school. Permanently.’

‘How do you know Miss Annersley?’

‘Never you mind, little girls should be seen and not heard. And instantly obedient.’

‘Anyway you could not send me back to school, René,’ Robin said sulkily. ‘I would be in danger now that the Germans have seen me here.’

‘Miss Annersley can keep you in solitary confinement in the quarters of the Matey, sewing sheets,’ René told her. ‘It happens all the time in the books of Madame Edith. In any case, it is nearly the summer holidays and the Germans will not be doing lessons – you can go back until school starts again.’

The entrance door opened and Colonel von Strohm entered, in a state of agitation. ‘René, disaster has struck! Herr Flick has found out about the painting! Vhat will you do?’

‘Me? What will I do? It’s your painting, Coll-on-ell.’

‘But it is in your café, René,’ the Colonel said, clutching at René’s arm.

‘Calm yourself, Colonel,’ Robin put in. ‘It is not in the café, but in a safe hiding place.’

‘Vhat do you know about it?’ Colonel von Strohm demanded. ‘Little girls should be seen and not heard. And instantly obedient.’

‘So hop it,’ René told her. ‘Leave us to our concerns. Go and wash some dishes, even if they’re clean.’

Robin pouted. ‘You will regret sending me to the kitchen. I have an idea to get you out of the mess you’re in.’ She flounced towards the door.

‘Might as vell hear vhat the child has to say, René,’ the Colonel suggested. ‘Out of the mouths of babes and little French maids, as it says in the Bible…..’

René cast his eyes to the ceiling in despair. ‘You will regret encouraging her, Colonel.’

Robin paused for effect.

‘Get on with it, child, do. We don’t have all day,’ René said impatiently.

‘Make a forgery and give Herr Flick the forgery,’ Robin announced.

‘Brilliant!’ René said sarcastically. ‘And where are we going to find a forger?’

‘Lieutenant Gruber,’ Robin said triumphantly. ‘He is good enough to forge the painting.’

The two men stared at each other.

‘Are you sure, Maria Cecile? Lieutenant Gruber can paint to forger standard?’

In reply, Robin whisked off her underskirt and reversed it to show, carefully sewn to the waistband, a painting of a vase of yellow flowers. René and the Colonel gaped.

‘Lieutenant Gruber painted it for me while he was teaching art at the school,’ Robin announced. ‘He is supposed to be giving Nazi propaganda – er, teaching the history of the Glorious Reich – but he is better as an art teacher. Don’t tell Herr Flick as he will be cross.’

‘Great idea, Maria Cecile,’ Colonel von Strohm said, patting her on the head. ‘See to it René.’ He left.

René looked at Robin crossly. ‘It is all very well for you to come up with these brilliant ideas but then I have to execute them. It’s not as if I will get anything out of them.’

‘But you could, René. I have an even better idea.’

‘What is it?’

Robin smiled. ‘I will only tell you if you promise to fix it so I don’t have to go to stay with Joey for the summer.’

‘I will fix it if you stop coming on to me.’

‘Ok, deal,’ Robin said, shaking hands with René. ‘Get Lieutenant Gruber to do two copies, one for Herr Flick and one to give Colonel von Strohm after the war. You keep the original.’

‘You are not as green as much as you look like the chou,’ René told her. ‘But how do I keep Lieutenant Gruber from grassing me up?’

Robin sighed. ‘Cut him in on the deal of course!’

mid-September 1940

‘I can’t believe lessons start again tomorrow,’ Polly said to Violet as they strolled through the school grounds. ‘The summer holidays have just flown past. It was strange having to stay at school.’

‘I know,’ Violet agreed. ‘It’s a good thing Madame arranged to get messages to our parents that we are okay. We aren’t allowed to know where the radio is but it’s something to do with the café where Robin is working.’

‘It was strange she didn’t come back to stay with Madame or Joey for the holidays, with Lieutenant Gruber and Helga not doing lessons.’

Violet sighed. ‘I’ve really missed our physical education lessons with Helga. I’ve learned such a lot.’

‘I know. Who would have thought you could actually use an egg whisk like that?’ Polly said. ‘Still, she’s back tomorrow and we’ll learn more. I really like the German swear words she’s teaching us – they’re so expressive.’

‘It’s been great fun going to Café René when we wanted,’ Violet added. ‘It was strange seeing Robin in her maid’s uniform. I really envy her those black silk stockings.’

‘I wonder who will be Head Girl, now that Maria has left to join the Resistance?’ Polly wondered.

‘Did you see Maria in her Resistance outfit? Those ankle socks look really juvenile.’

‘I know,’ Polly agreed. ‘But they have to wear them so that members of the Resistance can recognise each other.’

‘Oh, that explains it,’ Violet said. ‘Did you hear that Madame is working with the Resistance part-time?’

‘No, really? What did Dr Russell have to say about that?’

‘Well from what I heard he wasn’t too pleased. But Madame told him it was her patriotic duty, and if it wasn’t for the children she would be doing it full-time.’

‘I can’t imagine Dr Russell liking that!’

‘He didn’t,’ Violet said. ‘But according to the person who was eaves-, I mean accidentally overheard the conversation, Madame told him if he made any more objections there would be no more egg whisk.’

‘Egg whisk? Is that some kind of Resistance code?’

‘Must be,’ Violet said, linking her arm through Polly’s as they sauntered back towards the school.

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