|The next day – Chalet School|
Miss Annersley was looking distinctly down-in-the-mouth when Robin visited her the next day to find out if it was time to be ill yet.
‘What’s up, Miss A? You look as though you’ve lost a shilling and found a farthing.’
‘Colonel von Strohm gave me the information about the General’s departure. He’s leaving in two days’ time.’
Robin was puzzled. ‘But you wanted to know when the Gen. was slinging his hook, didn’t you?’
‘Yes,’ her headmistress answered gloomily. ‘But he didn’t take any persuading. He just gave me the information.’
Only a few months ago, Robin reflected, she would have wondered what her headmistress was talking about. And her headmistress would have been horrified at the idea of collaborating with the Germans. It showed what depths of depravity the school had sunk to. Still, this was the price of survival, Robin thought, wondering how to cheer Miss Annersley up.
‘How about I get you a nice G&T?’ she suggested.
The suggestion worked its usual magic and Miss Annersley was once more in a frame of mind to make plans.
‘I suggest you start complaining of illness tomorrow evening,’ she said. ‘Madame Edith can pretend to look after you and as soon as Matey gets back I’ll send her over. All you need to do is to get her to talk.’
‘No sweat, Miss A. She’ll be as high as a kite at having someone to boss around, it’ll knock her off her guard.’
The following evening – Café René
‘I don’t feel at all well, Madame Edith,’ Robin said.
‘You don’t look well, Maria Cecile. Perhaps you should go up to bed now.’
Maria and Yvette looked at each other in astonishment. There had been no indication of anything wrong with their youngest waitress.
Yvette followed Robin into the corridor. ‘Is this a ruse to get out of listening to Madame Edith?’
‘No, Yvette, I really don’t feel well.’
‘I don’t believe you,’ Yvette hissed. ‘You knew I had an assignation arranged with René and you’re trying to ruin it by not being around to cover the café. You’re just jealous because he wouldn’t be interested in a little kid like you.’
‘Now listen here, Yvette. I don’t give a monkey’s what you and René get up to. But if you don’t back off, I’ll stop diverting Madame Edith when she’s about to discover you in the broom cupboard, the wine cellar or the hen house.’
‘The hen house was a bit of a mistake,’ Yvette acknowledged. ‘The feathers were very prickly.’
Robin went upstairs and got ready for bed. Madame Edith appeared a little later with a hot water bottle and a thermometer.
‘But my temperature will be normal, Madame Edith!’
‘Don’t you read any girls’ stories, Maria Cecile? You need to put the thermometer in the hot water bottle when your nurse isn’t looking. I brought it tonight so you can practise.’
Robin thought again that she was learning a whole new set of skills, and not ones of which Madge and Joey would approve. Still, her days being babied and conforming to their values were at an end. Now she had to survive on her own wits.
The next morning – Chalet School
Matey was personally escorted back to school by Colonel von Strohm.
‘Ever get the idea that he wants to be certain she’s off his hands?’ Miss Wilson said out of the side of her mouth to Mademoiselle Lachenais.
‘He looks like he just got out of jail,’ Mademoiselle giggled.
Matey received the news that her darling Robin was ill, with sorrow tinged with delight at having someone in her clutches. However she flatly refused to go to Café René to nurse her.
‘I will not stay in that house of ill-repute,’ she announced. ‘We must wrap Robin up and bring her here.’
It wasn’t quite what Miss Annersley had had in mind, but Matey would probably be too busy to undertake her normal duties. Letting her know about the farm could wait.
Miss Annersley organised the collection of Robin, with all the criteria about wrapping up, equipment and driving without bumping her nurseling set by Matey, then headed off to placate the Sixth Form.
‘Being a headmistress was never like this in the Tyrol,’ she muttered to herself. ‘It’s a whole new ball-game.’
Robin submitted heroically to being brought home, wrapped up like a turkey, bathed and put to bed by Matey and generally fussed over. The only point of conflict was Robin’s refusal to give up the hot water bottle bestowed on her by Madame Edith.
‘The San. is perfectly warm and your bed has been warmed too,’ Matey said firmly. ‘You don’t need a stone bottle from that terrible place.’
‘Madame Edith was very kind to me and I want to keep it,’ Robin insisted, remembering to cough part way through the sentence.
Matey seemed determined but not for nothing had Robin observed Joey’s method of getting her own way over the years. She summoned up a convincing wracking cough and then lay listlessly back on her pillows, looking melancholy.
Matey bridled. ‘I will go and refill it then, since you’re so keen to keep it. And I’ll phone for Dr Russell.’
This was an unwelcome development but Robin simply nodded listlessly. There was no way of getting a message to Miss Annersley, as Matey had banned visitors. Luckily Madge appeared, concerned at the news that her ward was apparently ill.
Robin explained the situation rapidly, while Matey was out of earshot.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Jem doesn’t say anything to Matey,’ Madge promised.
Unfortunately, Matey reappeared with Jem in tow. ‘Wasn’t that lucky? I happened to bump into Dr Russell in the corridor.’
Madge and Matey withdrew to a discreet distance whilst Jem examined Robin. Madge kept Matey in conversation about her recent incarceration so that Robin could speak to Jem.
‘It must have been a terrible experience for you, Matey,’ Madge said sympathetically. ‘Are you sure you’re fit to be on duty.’
‘Well of course I must be here when Robin needs me,’ Matey told her. ‘And actually it wasn’t so bad. I did a lot of mending for those nice boys who were guarding me, which passed the time.’
Madge dreaded to think what sort of state the guards’ clothes must be in now, after Matey’s somewhat haphazard ministrations.
Jem joined them, looking puzzled. ‘I can’t find any real signs of illness. Though Robin is complaining of headaches and being generally achy.’
‘Madame Edith said her temperature was very high yesterday,’ Madge put in.
‘That’s the odd thing….’ Jem started but stopped when he felt a kick on his ankle.
‘Hmm, high temperature, achiness – looks like being pretty serious,’ Matey said with satisfaction.
‘And yet….’ Jem tried again but stopped at another kick.
‘Perhaps we ought to leave Robin to rest now,’ Madge suggested. ‘You could look in on her again tomorrow, Jem.’
Somewhat reluctantly, Jem allowed himself to be dragged away. As Matron went off to fill the hot water bottle, Robin overheard Madge’s threat to Jem.
‘If you say a word to suggest she’s not ill, there’ll be no flying helmet for a week.’
Author's Chapter Notes:
Matey is released from jail just in time to look after Robin