City of Lights...
Posted on Wednesday, 24 June 1998
The Dutch were on the way,
A Norman did it
And a Dane or Two
Some sailor-King may follow
One fine day;
But not, I think
A low land-rat like you.
Sunday, July 14, 1940
London, England Meesh listened to Churchill's speech unofficially titled "Unknown Warriors" broadcasted by the BBC. Once again it stirred her blood and she prayed that it would move the Londoners too. The attack on the French Fleet was indeed something shocking and the French outrage was very loud and damning. Tonight Meesh was sorting out the various bits of information that was trickling in with great speed from the occupied countries. And the news were indeed dire but sprinkled among the sad bits of news there was ever increasing frequency of hopeful and hilarious bits of information.
One from Holland caught her eye and she read it with more care. A chuckle escaped from the tired assistant that was followed by uncontrollable laughter. It was too precious to not enjoy out loud in her quiet floor. Her door swung open and thinking that she roused the night guard she looked to dismiss the man. In front of her was Winston Churchill looking puzzled at the woman. Meesh had the grace to blush but silently handed him the missive from their agent in Holland. He glanced at the note then a broad smile broke through. Shaking his head in rueful admiration he gave it back to her. "Keep it mademoiselle. I think you should frame it and use it to remember the power of the human spirit in the darkest of days." He left her small office with that parting present and Meesh felt tears of gratitude bloom in her eyes.
The note was a translation of an occurrence on the day of June 29th. The Nazi regime geared for trouble forbade the Dutch to wear white carnations and marigolds because they symbolized the former Dutch government and ideals. However on June 29th on the birthday of Prince Bernhard of Netherlands the Dutch as a collective outright defied the ban. On many lapels were the forbidden flowers to show their defiance. The Nazi thugs in anger tried to rip those delicate things from their owners only to find underneath the fragile show of defiance sharp razor blades. The Dutch like many other occupied countries were fighting back silently, slowly but with absolute determination.
Leah and Lisa-Michelle were frantically running to their apartments. Dodging the Nazi patrolling on their beloved streets the two young women climbed through their apartment windows and began laughing. It was Bastille Day and many in show of their pride defiled the German posters that were plastered all over the walls. Hitler now sported a cigar, a toilet and other various things that the young and brave women would like to smack him with.
Actually they were two of hundreds all over the city that systematically went through the Nazi campaign posters and slogans mocking their conquerors with every language possible. One daring French student wrote out the whole verse to the English WWI song "It's A Long Way to Tipperary," needling the Germans on the difficulties of ever conquering that island. This civilian assault will be ceaseless and Goebbel's propaganda will not succeed as the Nazis hoped. In fact as days passed they would just get worse. Leah and Lisa-Michelle formed the Map Brigade for their whole female class whose main objective was to get the Germans hopelessly lost in the crowded streets of the capital. Should any poor German soldier ask them directions they would invariably point the wrong way giving complex routes guaranteed to lose the unwelcomed visitors for at least an hour. It was a small act of revenge and rebellion but it helped the defiant ones greatly.
Marie Lallier was able to finally contact London via network set up by French soldiers who were still hiding in the hills. London was also quickly setting up networks of underground agents and disseminating real information via BBC's radio broadcasting. This night of the French Revolution she smuggled in two British agents to help them transition themselves into sleepers. She knew whom to contact to give them French identities. A woman named Marguerite down south had created a method that was simple but brilliant.
St. Michelle, France
Marguerite received another note that another small town's main building was burnt to ashes. That would make it 3 in 3 weeks and would supply more than enough for what she needed. These small towns kept their own birth and death records. The main office in Paris would probably have the birth records on file but death records were usually kept at the church where the deceased was buried or at the local town hall. So if one has no town building then there's a good chance that there are no death records of anyone. This gave the underground the ability to create solid new identities for anyone needing to change their names in order to survive. The local churches would not miss their death records and even if they did they would either dismiss it as some bizarre form of vandalism or turn a blind eye. From these small but significant ideas and acts the complex and incredibly efficient Resistance was born.
Wednesday, July 24, 1940
Biggin Hill, England
Darcy, Bingley and Pyro scrambled like the devils and hit their planes in full run. Suddenly Biggin Hill came alive with the music of the roaring Spitfires' Merlin engines as Darcy's Lost Boys and Squadron 610 were scrambled to intercept enemy planes. The adrenaline rush was incredible and Bingley gave a loud shout as the ground faded underneath them. Darcy knew that the taste of battle was not the only reason why Bingley was shining like tracer bullets. His relationship with Jane Bennet was now the talk of the squadron if not the whole damn base. It didn't bother him that Bingley liked the girl, it was the fact that Bingley seemed to prefer her to all others that ever crossed their paths. She was indeed a very sweet girl but her charms were limited to her person for they had the bad luck of meeting Jane Bennet's mother. Darcy also had the unfortunate experience of finding out Elizabeth Bennet was in Biggin with him when he ran into her in the administrative building.
She looked amused at his discomfort because both remembered his less than tactful description of her in the tavern. But she just gave a crooked smile, said a polite hello then walked away from him with swift determination. Since then he saw her almost every day as if Fate has determined to make him look a fool on a daily basis. But on each occasion she improved upon acquaintance. She was very intelligent as he suspected and possessed a witty personality to boot. Mercifully Caroline left two weeks ago to return to London and shake off the rural dirt of Biggin so Darcy was free to think and voice what he wanted. On several occasions he accompanied Bingley to Hart's Tavern to dine and Elizabeth joined them every single time. After the second meeting Bingley offered to drive her there and soon there was a trio or often a group of 4 with Pyro joining in. Her company was something new to Darcy for she had no desire to please the rich and famous Squadron Leader. He knew that she asked around about him because Pyro teased him one afternoon about Miss Elizabeth Bennet's unending curiosity regarding his superior officer. It made Darcy uncomfortable but at the same time pleased him somewhat that he got Miss Bennet's eye.
However Pyro immediately burst that bubble by saying that Miss Bennet thought him the most cold and reserved man she had ever come across. Darcy would not forget the barb anytime soon and was determined to exact his pound of flesh from the young man. Suddenly the Squadron Leader saw the Channel and dropped into his fighting mode. They were waiting to meet some retreating Germans and Goering did not disappoint.
Galland's JG26 and JG52 were returning to France and were low on fuel when Darcy's squadron and 610 swooped down like hungry bird of prey. They met in the air and con trails were visible to the spectators on ground below. Pyro rolled closely to his victim, so close that he could almost see the pilot frantically struggling to outdistance the Spitfire but no avail. Pyro got even closer and aimed all his 8 Browning guns to converge on the one ME-109. It responded by exploding and one German pilot would never return home.
Darcy fired his brand new De Wilde bullets especially requested by him for his squadron. He heard Sailor Malan swear that these bullets made the difference between damaging the enemy's fighters and blowing them up. The bullets did indeed do their jobs and the German escort returned to Calais badly mangled. The lore of the Spitfires increased as each of these air combat situations erupted over the Channel.
Darcy admired Sailor Malan, a handsome Afrikaner located in Hornchurch. His friendly attitude towards his compatriots hid a real hatred against the Nazis. His one quote that chilled even Darcy's blood was that it was better to send a German bomber filled with the bleeding and the dying. The morale damage such a sight would cause would be great and very beneficial to the RAF. And Darcy found out that as cold-blooded as it was the tactic was indeed very effective.
The Spitfires returned to base and waited for another scramble but none came. The July weather was pretty miserable for both sides and there was quite a bit of rain grounding both air forces. Today was just an anomaly really to actually meet in full air combat. The following day the troupe found themselves with Miss Bennet safely tucked in the backseat trudging to the tavern. Pyro was showing the deft movements of Bingley's Spitfire as he once again protected Darcy's back. Bingley had developed a keen sense of defensive maneuvers that made him ideal as Darcy's wingman. However when push came to shove the friendly youth could be as fierce and reckless as Darcy could. Sometimes Darcy suspected that Lieutenant Bingley was a better pilot than he was. The man had the instinct to fly offensively but the calmness to hold back until the last moment. He was the first to adopt the motto "Beware of the Hun in the Sun" into his own flying tactics by frequently dropping on his prey with the sun behind his plane. The enemy pilot unable to stare into the sun could not calculate the position of Bingley's Spitfire and thus end up doomed from the start of the engagement.
The four entered the establishment and was ushered to their table. Jane and Lydia waved their friendly hellos. "Hilary's in the OR tonight," explained Jane, "The nurse on duty was pulled to another case so Hil was stuck holding the bag. But I promised her a slice of the sweet pie so Lizzie please remind me to get her a piece." Lizzie gave a nod and the group made themselves comfortable. It was so much better without Bingley's sisters and brother-in-law mused Lizzie. No one was complaining or being rude. Of course Darcy could stand to improve some of his manners but at least he wasn't abrasive like Caroline. And Lizzie did pity him because he was the object of Caroline's marital goals. Any mortal that ends up being her husband either deserves to get shot or knighted! Lizzie wasn't quite sure which fate was appropriate for Darcy. Darcy as usual sank into quiet reverie. Bingley was in love he thought, really in love. I was so sure that it was just some fancy but this isn't one of those quick things. He critically stared at Jane Bennet and tried to find faults with her. But it was a useless quest and he knew it. Bingley you are a lucky fool! Stumbling along in this miserable and mean world you happen to bump into a woman worth your love and admiration while I...I seemed to be destined to spend it alone. Darcy was this pessimistic about his personal life because of the simple fact he has too much money, too much prestige, a damn title and now some fame as a Spitfire pilot. He was always suspicious of women introducing themselves into his private life because he knew more often than not it was the scent of his money that brought them to his door. But from the looks of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet there might actually be exceptions to his cynical belief.
In fact these two women from the "wild country" as Caroline once put it have clear view of what are the true values and treasures in their personal lives. They were honest and friendly to a fault. While Lizzie might sharpen her tongue on people, especially on him he could never describe her as catty. Usually their verbal sparring ended with a rather attractive smile on her face and an astonished blush on his. But after a tense day and nerve-wrecking moments in the air meeting Elizabeth Bennet in Biggin became something of a need for the young Squadron Leader. She was sane, constantly amusing and mercilessly witty always goading him to either say something astonishing or funny. He never realized that he had a sense of humor until he met Elizabeth but after the discovery he was pleased to find that he could actually make others laugh. And with Elizabeth around there was always the guarantee of laughter. He needed that desperately and knew that he would need even more of it as the days passed for the Luftwaffe hadn't shown their full might yet and it would only be a matter of time before the very air darkened with their planes.
"I loved Paris," whispered Lizzie and Jane gave a sad nod of agreement.
"You were in Paris?' Asked Darcy surprised that they could afford such an expensive city.
Lizzie arched her eyebrows indicating that she knew exactly why that question came about. "Yes Squadron Leader and we had a grand time in spite of being poor students didn't we Jane?"
The older sister nodded, "We stayed in this pension near Rue Hugo and heaven knows the plumbing left something to be desired. But the place was so charming and there was this café down the block that had the most divine breads…"
"And in the mornings if you woke up early enough you could get the best hot chocolate in the whole city!" Ended Lizzie with some passion. The table erupted in laughter at the last sentence and Lizzie gave a good-natured smile.
"But it's true," added Jane, "That was the best summer Lizzie and I ever spent together. We were there right after we finished our studies. Our aunt, Mrs. Gardener gave us the trip as a present for us. Of course we had to be economical but…"
"It was the best time in my life," whispered Lizzie with tears in her eyes thinking about the lovely city now under the tyranny of Hitler. "The people there were so kind to us. They told us the best places to eat that we could afford and the museums we visited...I remember Jane staring at this one painting for almost an hour. It was so beautiful wasn't it Jane?" Her older sister now also drowning in memories nodded her head.
"And at night all the streets light up you know and it cools down quite a bit from day time. We walked the streets and the bridges over Seine just because it was so beautiful. There was music too, always. Some street performer or a record being played but there was always music. Jane and I promised each other that we would go back someday. I hope we do, I really do."
Darcy stared at her mesmerized. He spent weeks in Paris and usually rented out one of the most opulent houses in the city but somehow he suspected he never enjoyed nor appreciated the city as much as these two vagabonds did. "I presume you must have met some gentlemen over there…" he teased slightly and was rewarded with two blushing faces.
Charles stared at Jane as she refused to meet his eyes. "We met some nice gentlemen yes but it wasn't anything really. We just had fun walking around the city and dancing in the evenings. They were after all French and we were in France," Smartly quipped Lizzie and Pyro had to smile at the excuse.
"And the buildings, oh those old and graceful churches with the spirals. I know Notre Dame is suppose to be superb but there were so many on those narrow streets! I don't think we saw half of them Lizzie!" Exclaimed Jane and her younger sister had to laugh. Jane was so enthused about the diverse architecture of the city that they spent hours visiting and exploring them. More often than not by 3 P.M. both were too tired to move for about an hour and took leisurely tea by a café admiring the handsome men and the beautiful women.
Lizzie went into a detail description of the Louvre for the benefit of Charles and Pyro who never set one foot in France save to fight in the war and her stories were very charming and descriptive. The old and worn stairs were in total contrast with the opulent paintings and even more so with the elegantly dressed visitors. Both women did feel out of place with their canvas pants and summer blouses but they were a very pretty group and such loveliness would open doors for them anywhere in a city such as Paris. The meal ended with Jane telling them about a jazz club situated right next to the river and whose dance floor usually spilled out into the street. So by midnight the dancers were whirling and stepping right next to the river under the moon-bright heaven and winking stars. Wine was ever plentiful and so was good company on such nights as those and the two always ended up returning to their room exhausted but exhilarated and looking forward to another night. They spent nearly 8 weeks in this blissful state and when they returned the Bennet sisters had stories to tell for everyone in their family. Mrs. Gardiner was rewarded with thousands of kisses and a gorgeous book that the two discovered in an antique shop. But the best present she received was the happy, smiling and glowing faces belonging to her two favorite nieces.
It was indeed a good thing that neither Bennets saw Paris now. The jazz club they loved was shut down and the owner was arrested because he was a Jew. The musicians were summarily fined for playing "Negroid music" and there was a curfew. More drastic was the darkness for Paris now had no lights to brighten herself at night and was forced into shameful darkness.
Quite Ready To Make A Foolish Match...
Posted on Friday, 26 June 1998
August 10, 1940
Captain Wentworth was finally given a week's leave when his HMS Avalanche was sideswiped by a U-boat bent on torpedoing his destroyer to the bottom of the Channel. However in swerving to avoid the oncoming death he slammed into the U-boat damaging both vessels. Crippled, he managed to bring port his ship and found that it would take at least 10 days for the damn thing to be put into fair shape. After Mers-el-Kebir this was the first instance he was able to actually walk on solid ground for more than two hours. Lij being abandoned by both family and country followed him faithfully to Oxford where memories of Anne waited with claws.
His sister now has situated herself in Oxford because she found the place to be lovely, intriguing and stylish. He smirked a little at the words but was actually glad to see the ancient and venerated buildings of the University, which in a million years would never accept the likes of Frederick Wentworth to its domain. He entered Sophy's small but elegant flat and found the Musgrove sisters waiting with smiles and flowers. He was taken back but was pleased with their welcoming presents. Lij just had to chuckle a little at the emotional ruckus his handsome captain was causing among the female population in the area.
"Anne is of course in London as we speak and was sorry that she could not come to greet you. Her master beckoned her with his bony finger and off she went pencil, paper and all. Lady Russell joined her of course so Anne shouldn't feel too alone in London," Informed Henrietta and Frederick stiffened. Lij saw those familiar shoulders tighten in distaste and wondered why. Neither man knew that Mary informed Anne after Frederick left that both she and Captain Wentworth saw great changes in her and not to her benefit. The words stung Anne so greatly that when she knew he was coming she ran away not wanting him to gaze at the ruined creature she has become.
Frederick dined with the Musgroves that evening and was indeed charmed by both sisters. However in his eye, at the corner just out of his full gaze sat Anne sitting in front her desk scribbling away madly looking for answers to questions he could not even begin to fathom. Suddenly the door brushed open and Anne came in with all smiles and holding wrapped presents! Everyone was surprised but very glad to have her again. She laughed a little and said, "I know I've been unpardonable in my behavior to the people I love but I hope to make it up. My task is done for now at least or until the War Department drops another Gordian Knot on my lap. So to apologize here are some truly humble gifts from London! And Dr. Hanson says hello and gives his apologies that he could not drop by. Lady Russell was fatigued from the trip so she decided to turn in early."
Anne created a crypto that the Royal Navy could use. It was brilliant, simple but to those poor fools without the Key incomprehensible in its mathematical logic. She was heaped with praises from all sides; Dr. Hanson actually took her out to a grand place for an opulent dinner and the two celebrated her success. She shook the boxes for her nephews in a very teasing manner and the two actually had to chase her around the room twice before she gave them their gifts. Both Musgrove sisters received silk handkerchiefs with beautiful embroidery and Mary a grand music box. Charles was given a sturdy pair of hunting boots and even Mrs. Croft received a present! Sophy stared at her box filled with rare chocolates and could not say a thing. She could not comprehend how such a sweet and intelligent girl like Anne Elliot could spurn her brother and break his heart.
Lij could not help it, "Nothing for me Miss Elliot? I am after all a poor and orphaned sailor and deserve some token of affection after such a long journey away from the comforts of home." He could have ripped those words right out of Frederick's mind and the Captain paled to hear his younger officer voice his thoughts. She turned to the Dutch officer and smiled secretively, "Oh but I have given you your present sir and I may say it is the grandest gift of them all!" The young sailor frowned a little but she only laughed at his face and turned her attention to the children again. Frederick sat there confused at her changed attitude wondering what brought on all this newly rediscovered gaiety and blamed it rightly on Dr. Hanson. While he could only raise reserve and distance from Anne this man could fairly make her dance!
As the night wore on it was very obvious to everyone that both Musgrove sisters adored Captain Wentworth and hung onto his every word. And Anne as painful as it was to watch them could not blame him and deprive him of their company. Both were chirping about "Dear Frederick" the whole time he was absent and she expected no less show of affection when he returned. But what made all this bearable was her silent present to him via the Royal Navy. Her crypto would make the German Navy's Intelligence Sector a very miserable group indeed! And Frederick would benefit from it whether he liked it or not.
The next day the whole group was invited per Anne's influence to tour the University. However Charles went to visit his Aunt Mrs. Hayter as he promised to do. This family's social standing was lower than the Musgrove's so Mary refused to go and instead joined Anne's touring party. As Anne suspected Mary gave up after only half-hour and sat down to rest keeping Anne behind as company. The others separated and Mary sat off to look for Mrs. Croft after a while leaving Anne in peace. The older sister silently strolled by the ivy-clad buildings when she heard Frederick and Louisa approach. Not wanting to disturb them she hid behind a door.
"Mary has her good points don't mistake me Captain but I do wish that Anne married Charles instead! Mary has too much of that infamous Elliot pride. I suppose you knew that he proposed to Anne first?"
Frederick was shocked but replied softly, "No, I had no idea. Then she refused him?"
"Oh yes she did. And Henrietta and I liked her so much! But we love her even more the poor dear. My parents think it was Lady Russell's doing you know. That woman has taken place of Anne's mother and confidant for years now. And mum says that Charles just wasn't educated enough to suit Lady Russell's taste. But we adore her really, such fine figure and wit of a woman!" The two drifted away into another hall and Anne came out from her sanctuary. Well if Frederick thought badly of her for refusing him then this ought to just harden his opinion of her even more. Pale and dejected she returned to the bench and found Mary in even a fouler mood for failing to find Mrs. Croft.
The group was leaving the campus when they spotted the Admiral's car! Sophy ran to him in full speed and embraced her much-loved husband. He gave her a kiss and the two began chatting quietly. Frederick was staring at Anne and noticed her pale and worn countenance. Something had disturbed her while they were touring and he wondered if Anne and not Mary had some real ailments to complain of. He approached Admiral Croft and gave the man a hardy handshake and asked for a favor. Sophy turned to face Anne and also saw what her brother noticed.
"Miss Elliot please come with us and let us see to your home. Your neighbors insist!" Anne was indeed glad to be separated from her group and the pressure of all the past weeks were dissipating from her blood leaving her drained and weak. She knew that it was Frederick's doing and was more than grateful. She joined the Crofts and settled herself in the car wedged between the Admiral and his vivacious wife. Frederick even underneath the resentment and unforgiving manner could not see her suffer so. It was indeed an honest tribute to the man's inner goodness and Anne was a bit grateful to see it still flickering like a living flame within that hard-breasted man. Throughout the whole drive back the two older couple talked about which Musgrove sisters Frederick preferred. But Anne noted that Mrs. Croft's voice did not carry the enthusiasm that her husband had.
She knew then Mrs. Croft suspected the same thing. Frederick was of a deeper strain and needed a wife that understood all his darker moods and accepts him as a whole rather than by sections. He can not always be a charming and dashing man of the sea and that was what those two sisters were in love with if one could even call it that. What they felt was passion strummed by desire for this handsome and most eligible bachelor. But behind that facade was the real Frederick Wentworth and to accept the man and love him as he needed to be loved one had to embrace the whole. And she suspected that neither sister could succeed in doing so.
The next day Captain Wentworth accidentally bumped into an old navy friends of his; Captain Harville, his wife and another captain who was a lieutenant on Avalanche before Lij came, a Captain Benwick. Harville was injured by the Luftwaffe bombing in Narvik and suffered a permanent injury to his leg making it impossible for the man to serve the Navy. But his small place that he shared with his wife and Captain Benwick for the present was a great testimony to the man's excellent mind and energy. There were hand-made items scattered everywhere. The book collection was great made even greater by Benwick's own collection and Harville's own hands manufactured all the bookshelves in his comfortable home.
When they left his home Louisa was praising to the skies the good manners and greater characters of the men in the Navy. Anne smiled a little at the litany of praises when Lij asked her, "I see by the smile you have on your face that you don't agree with Miss Musgrove?"
Anne softly laughed, "I do not see a need to praise when Louisa covered the ground in such an excellent manner. And yes I do indeed see where the praises come from but I would say it in a more laconic manner. After all my specialty is math not the English language." The young man tipped his head and waited for her description.
"That the man, wherever he may be, if his character is such good and temperate nature it doesn't matter what uniform he is wearing, for he will bring praises on his head that any affiliation connected with him will benefit. The Royal Navy is just lucky to have you gentlemen under their auspices that is all." Lij laughed at her backhanded compliment and even Frederick gave a crooked smile.
"I think that would dearly upset Admiral Croft. What do you think Frederick?"
"I think it most unfair Miss Elliot to belittle the Royal Navy's influence upon her men. I think it is actually the opposite. The Navy is quite capable of creating good and brave officers and crew. After all if that was not we wouldn't have had such great history." His voice was serious in its reflection of his thoughts.
"But Captain, the material from which this most excellent crew and officers were made from is an admirable source of men."
Mrs. Croft smiled a little, "So it's not the Royal Navy that has your sole affection then?"
"No, I have seen the RAF and they are indeed a magnificent lot. Our survival depends on them you know,"
She whispered and Frederick barked back, "No it does not! On those flying glory boys you must be joking!"
Anne winced under his harsh voice but gently fought back, "No it does captain. Without them the Luftwaffe would have total air superiority and it will only be a matter of time before they bomb the Royal Navy into submission. Those glory boys as you so put it hold the fate of this country and the free world in their youthful hands. Perhaps your personal preference towards the Navy might blind you to this fact but the German Wehrmacht is not suffering under the same handicap." With that quiet parting shot she left the men in blue looking at her back.
Mrs. Croft could not miss the tension in her brother's cheeks as Anne left his side and joined Henrietta and Louisa's quicker pace. He could not even bear it that she thought so highly of the RAF! Oh Frederick what are you doing to yourself and to Anne?
That evening the Harvilles and Captain Benwick joined the them for dinner. Anne found herself next to the captain and the two exchanged great opinions and discussions about literature. She knew that Benwick was once engaged to Fanny Harville, Captain Harville's sister. The much-loved woman died while he was fighting in Norway and the captain regretted every single day that he didn't at least marry her while she was still alive. His melancholy disposition rose a tender pity from Anne and she specifically sought his company out for the rest of the evening and the two had lively discussions about the merits of Tennyson against the likes of Poe and Hardy. She noticed his taste towards the sadder works and recommended him more humorous and lighter works written by Austen, Twain and Coward.
However both found themselves great admirers of the American poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe. She thought the poet was incredibly clever with his words and rhythm and Benwick loved the sad and tragic style of the man's poems. Benwick somehow convinced Anne to recite a poem with him. Thinking that no one was paying attention to their solitary corner Anne agreed with some misgivings. He began,
"It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs
of heaven Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea."
Benwick stopped there and Anne carried away by the poem continued it.
"The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason
(as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide,
I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea."
The two looked at each other and knew that they shared a common sorrow of loss and grief. Anne smiled sweetly but sadly and gently took hold of Benwick's hands as tears formed in the grieving man's eyes. Frederick could barely contain himself as he heard her continue Annabel Lee. He remembered reading it years ago in his youth but had forgotten it until now. How it hurt him to hear her speak those words. It was unforgivable Anne. You left me, abandoned me proving that your love wasn't stronger than those older and wiser than us. Anne why did you leave me? Why did you turn your back from me that day? And when will I ever dissever my soul from my memories of you?
The Crofts left with Captain Wentworth and Lij. When Frederick bent to kiss his sister goodnight he had a request for her. "Find me a wife Sophy. I am alone and ready now to settle down with a woman. I want her sweet but intelligent. Someone who won't be timid before myself and my many moods. She doesn't have to be stunning for I've been in the service too long to know what real beauty is. And I am willing to put up with some faults though not too many. G-d knows I've been thinking about this subject for a long time now. Good night Sophy." She saw her brother run down the stairs and felt real pain for him. Oh Frederick don't you realize that you just described Anne Elliot?
The night of August 12th ended quietly for this group but others were not so lucky. Luftwaffe was planning their all-out air attack against the RAF the next day planning to wipe out the British air force in one huge strike. Hauptmann Walter Rubensdrffer was charged on this day to knock out those tall things that were so prominently displayed all over the southern coast of England. The Germans knew it was some sort of a detection system but had no real definite idea what it was. The tall metallic towers were radars that the RAF used to detect invading Luftwaffe planes. The man leading his experimental 210 squadron did one amazing job bombing the stations but by the end of the day there was only disappointment. Every station save one was back in functioning mode. While it was easy to bomb the flat buildings, outright destroying the tall and thin towers was a very difficult feat and the Hauptmann's raids failed. So radar was available to show the RAF the beginning of Luftwaffe's plans to annihilate them from existence starting on August 13th named Adler Tag by the Nazis, Eagle Day.
Plucking Eagle Feathers...
Posted on Saturday, 27 June 1998
The Battle of Britain is reaching its heights and the RAF has to reach even higher to guarantee that England will survive.
August 13, 1940
All over Southern England
If there was a mistake that could've been made, the Germans did it on this day. To begin with the morning was not fit for flying. So Goering decided to postpone the strike until the afternoon. It would've been wise if someone told Fink's bomber units that there was no fighter protection because of this delay but no one did. So Fink flew out on what he thought was the scheduled time of attack. Their first strike on Eastchurch base was fortunate but soon RAFs rose to meet them and found them unprotected by MEs. It was a massacre and Fink returned to France ready to rip the high command for what seemed to him a willing sacrifice of his men.
However, by the afternoon the mighty Luftwaffe was beginning to take shape of the fearsome fighting machine they were in Europe. Annie, a supply pilot was in Detling, one of the non-active bases for the RAF. It was almost dinnertime and she just flew in the supplies for the base. Suddenly the air roared above her head and she looked up to hear the fearful screams of the Stuka dive-bombers. This raid was textbook perfect. There was no cover and no help coming to rescue Detling from its attackers. The host of bombs landed all around Annie and panic spread on the ground. Few of the pilots were determined to get their birds up in the air and Annie without thinking ran to a Hurricane.
Her trusty carrier was already blown to bits and she was determined to save at least one expensive fighter plane. Jumping into the cockpit she stared at the controls trying to make an educated guess on how to fly a war bird. She knew how to fly most planes by hobby and very quickly the Hurricane's engine made contact. Without any ground support her Hurricane took to the skies. Now the problem was how to get the plane to safety without being blown away. Suddenly a yellow-nosed plane swung by her. Oh G-d that was a German Ace she thought. A yellow-nosed German ME-109 was mistakenly believed to be flown by German Aces but in her case that wasn't a mistake.
She violently curbed her Hurricane to the right crossing path with another German 109 that was trying to get in close to shoot. The pilot taken by total surprise at the violent move of the plane had to dive losing sight of his prey. The British Hurricane began a quick climb into the clouds frustrating her chasers. Galland was not prepared for a Hurricane to act in such a manner. The plane was huge compared to a Spitfire and was known for its durability not acrobatics. However this pilot obviously was not hankered down by those facts. Annie broke through the clouds and continued to travel West hoping to either hit Croydon or Biggin.
Suddenly she saw a glint of bullets to her right and Annie dove down realizing she was just bounced. Brogand, a fighter pilot from Saxony dropped his bird to continue diving after her and broke through the clouds only to find his prey absent. Suddenly a strafing hit and severed his right wing making his plane spin totally out of control. Annie almost cheered but kept silent in case someone from base could hear a woman cheering in middle of air combat! She quickly took her position in and soon Biggin was spotted with its war birds hastily taking the air meeting the oncoming attacks.
Her Hurricane touched down with some grace and glided into a stop. She popped out of the cockpit to the total amazement of every witness and walked to the field officer. The poor man's moustache couldn't cover his gaping mouth and asked her for identification and rank.
"Annie sir, and I am a supply pilot with the WAAF. This is my identification paper and that is a Hurricane from Detling. I think the base was hit rather badly but there were few birds that escaped."
"Anything else that I should know about Miss?"
She gazed at him with some thought, "No sir. Just some brushes with the ME's. I was wondering where's the powder room?" He pointed towards a small building to his left. She gave a smart salute then strode towards the building barely containing her laughter. Now that was a piece of English understatement.
Darcy's squadron was already up and flying about the coast waiting for HQ to tell them where to intercept the enemy planes. Suddenly to their left they saw black dots and knew that it was no friendly force. The Stukas saw the Spitfires and signaled their escorts ME-110s, the Zerstorers to alert. It was an unequal fight. These 110s are a far cry from the 109s and Darcy already knocked one down within the first minute of engagement. He didn't know it but with that count he had become an Ace for the RAF. Bingley went after the Stukas and by the end of the combat the German anger was plain. "They ripped our backs open right up to the collar!" Was the furious shout of a Stuka wing commander. At the end of the day one fact was certain, even Eagles could get their feathers plucked and the Eagles knew it.
Both sides made exaggerated claims of success but it was the British RAF pilots that tasted victory that day. Darcy came down and was soon surrounded by others congratulating him on his new status as an Ace. Surprised and a bit chagrined he looked around for Bingley but couldn't find his wingman. Pyro just smiled with great amusement as the press took pictures of "Lord Darcy, now also the Master of the Air." After all the frenzy subsided the newly honored pilot quickly sought out Miss Bennet. He found her coming out of the infirmary building with Bingley in tow.
She looked up and smiled, "Ah, here is the new war hero of the RAF. Congratulations Squadron Leader."
"Thank you Miss Bennet. I was wondering where you were Bingley. You can't keep ducking away from the paperwork. Your stack is waiting for you at HQ."
His friend gave a mock groan and quickly kissed Elizabeth good-bye. His lanky form disappeared around the corner and suddenly Darcy felt embarrassed. With Bingley he was relaxed and friendly, without the man it was very difficult to continue any normal strain of conversation with Miss Bennet. Mostly because he knew he would lose the verbal sparring that was sure to crop up with her around.
She turned her face at him and asked, "So now we will see your pictures besides the society columns!"
"I do not like my pictures in any column Miss Bennet, mostly because they are attached to horrendous works of fiction. If I was to marry every single female who was with me in a picture, I would have a harem by now." His voice was sarcastic but she caught the humor underneath it.
"Well I know if there's anyone who could afford it it would be you. Good night Lord Ace." With that pert comment she left him standing there once again the loser in the conversation. He didn't want a harem, just one lady would do and it seemed more and more that Miss Bennet should apply for the position. But with his luck and her opinions she wouldn't even fill out the first line of the application.
Kicking himself that he didn't ask her to join him for a drink Darcy strolled to Officer's Mess (every sense of that word) and ate numbly. If this attack that the RAF repelled today was the best by the Luftwaffe then there is a chance that the Union Jack will continue to fly here in this isle. Miles away Hugh Dowding was thinking the same bloody thing.
August 15, 1940
All over England
The Luftwaffe named this day as Black Thursday. Once again with the same type of confusion that made such a mess of Adler Tag the weather changed in mid-day. So despite cancellation of certain attacks the Luftwaffe flew anyway. And soon England was being ferociously bombed. However the price that the Germans had to pay was high, too high. Darcy and his boys took to the air, refueled, went up to the heavens no less than 6 times to repel bombers and attack escorting fighters. Elizabeth watched that squadron with a heavy heart. She knew Jane thought more of Bingley than she would say but Lizzie knew how much she cared for that toussled-haired man with the easy grin. It was so hard to imagine Charles killing another but today she saw that side displayed.
The pilot's faces were getting thinner as the day went on and their silence even more meaningful. And the bombs kept coming still. Darcy was truly a frightening man she thought to herself, such an imperial and commanding nature it was easy to see him lead his squadron into the sky. And that was why she was grateful; underneath that hawk's wing his men were safer compared to some other squadrons whose leaders were woefully lacking in many ways.
Benton Hospital, England
Jane never made it to Hart's Tavern. She was swamped with cases in Benton Hospital. All the victims of the bombings that were within the hospital's district were being rushed in and there were too many. Even Lydia lost her giddiness and Hilary was missing the whole day because she was in the OR. Lisa was downstairs trying to divide the incoming wounded into certain groups in order to make sure the most wounded received treatments first. But they were coming in too fast and to her almost all of the incoming patients needed immediate care. The incendiary bombs caused the worst damages; designed to start fires it could lay waste city blocks. And burns were always the worst wounds, making the victims open to many other problems and future ailments. Lisa had to make sure they were treated with extreme care. By midnight there was an uneasy quiet over the hospital. Lisa fell asleep on the steps to the second floor. Jane had to lead her to her office to finish her rest, all the beds were filled and patients flowed out into the hallways.
The oldest Bennet made sure Lydia was asleep too. The young girl found an empty sofa and claimed it for her bed. Jane adjusted the blankets over her unusually somber sister and went to the small garden out in the back. Hilary was there too unable to sleep after what she witnessed today. "Oh hello, do you mind if I join you?" Hilary shook her head and silently invited Jane to sit next to her.
"How are you Hil? I haven't seen you all day. Was the OR..."
"It was a bloodbath Jane. I didn't think I could ever hate a man enough to murder him but right now if Hitler was in front of me I think I could cheerfully throttle the maniac." Her voice though light reflected the truth in the words.
"I think the RAF has preference over you, and so does France, Holland, Finland, Norway, Belgium..." Hil had to laugh at that silly remark. And her laughter released the tension in her back and mind soon leading the young woman to tears. Jane quietly comforted the young nurse as the girl sobbed on her shoulders. She lost her first patient today, and the second, and the third and fourth. It would've been hard enough to lose one but 4 died of various wounds received by the Luftwaffe bombings. Hilary stood by watching them fade away as their chests stopped moving and eyes lost their focus on the living world. It was so hard, so damn difficult to bear. What Hilary never told the OR staff was that one of the patients was someone she knew from the North Country. A young and likeable lad she had something of a crush on him when she was a young girl. Then he moved away and she grew up. The boy joined the RAF two weeks ago and today was his first time in combat. It lasted for 4 minutes and that was including the take-off. He recognized her she thought for his eyes never left hers and there was a smile of recognition in them even as they closed for the last time.
Earlier that evening Churchill witnessed the battle from H.Q. Fighter Command with Dowding who was not his favorite person in the world. It was incredible, the amount of fighters and bombers that occupied the skies over England. He left the room bent in deep thought and snarled at his aide when the man tried to talk to him. Ismay heard him mutter "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few…" as the Prime Minister's car drove away.
"The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by the devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day; but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with the deliberate careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power. On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers, who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain...."
--Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons
Darcy would see and hear those words with thousands of other RAF pilots and servicemen in the coming days. This was his England the young Lord thought and no one shall trespass that glorious phrase with the name of another country. So Darcy and his squadron began every day ready for the scheduled onslaught risking all and receiving very little in return. Under these circumstances it would be very little surprise to anyone that the usually distant and arrogant man started to lose his carefully hidden heart to one very real and vivacious woman.
One Night In Oxford...
Posted on Monday, 29 June 1998
August 17, 1940
The resting men had only 3 days now before returning to their ships. HMS Avalanche was being repaired dutifully and with utmost speed. The U-boat activity in the Channel increased dramatically signaling to all those who care to hear that the day of the German Invasion was close at hand. Now by habit the whole entourage would gather into the Musgroves' parlor and listen to the wireless report the attacks on the British Isles. The news was such that even Wentworth had to admit to admiring the RAF's courage. It was a begrudging tribute however Anne felt a small satisfaction for being such a faithful believer of the fighter pilots.
When the group was assembled it was Captain Benwick who always sought out Anne's gentle and thoughtful company. In her wisdom he found solace of understanding and commiseration. She always had a way with words, Frederick thought as he stared at the two sitting by themselves playing some card game and chatting rather brightly. Of course under Anne's care, he thought, Lazarus would fare well. Suddenly he saw her bend her head nearer to Benwick as the man whispered something to her in secret. It brought on a healthy flush of embarrassment and amusement as Anne tried her best not to laugh out loud.
Lij was having a grand time observing his captain looking at Miss Anne Elliot. He might be young but he was far from naive. And like Anne the young officer was quite aware of his captain's many tempers and moods. He was guessing that right about now his great commanding officer was about to pop a blood vessel on his forehead out of sheer frustration of not knowing what was discussed between the lady and Captain Benwick. Lij decided to be kind. You owe me a big one Captain, "Miss Elliot and Captain Benwick what are you two conspiring about? I swear I'm about to go mad because I'm kept out of the conversation!"
Anne blushed and wouldn't say a thing. Even Benwick looked lost but then confessed, "I was telling her about Shanghai. Sorry Frederick but she was so curious about the Exotic East that I..."
Wentworth went red, oh dear L-rd, he told Anne about Shanghai? "Benwick seriously that city is not fit to be discussed in polite company! What did you tell..."
Benwick looked innocent then broke into a wide grin and finally fell into a heap of laughter. Anne joined in and Frederick knew Benwick had told her about that particular incident. Shocked, lost and totally embarrassed the poor man could only sit in dignified outrage as both Anne and Benwick lost themselves in their shared amusement. Lij heard the story from the cook in Avalanche and managed to feel sorry for Wentworth. Oh well, perhaps that will take the Captain's arrogance down a notch or two.
"Why are you two laughing so hard? Come Benwick tell us too."
Benwick shook his head and Anne agreed but could not keep herself in check and soon was laughing again. Lij finally decided to tell knowing he'll rue the day when they return to Avalanche. "From what I hear it was in the beginning a very innocent excursion to the streets of Shanghai."
"Lij, my dear Dutchman think twice," Was the suave and lethal threat from Frederick but the younger man blithely ignored it.
"The captain here who was a lieutenant then decided to form a touring party from Avalanche and go exploring the infamous and decadent streets of Shanghai. They were told that there was a famous parade that very afternoon and thinking they would be greatly entertained the officers led by Captain Wentworth went ashore. They were expecting music, and dancers and other more traditional ornaments of a parade. However this particular parade has a history older than the Christian church. It was a parade of courtesans my dear ladies and gentlemen."
Henrietta let out a gasp of shock and Louisa burst into a peel of laughter. Charles' eyes widened and Mary was indignant, "Why you must be joking. No prostitute would..."
"Oh but this was Shanghai Mrs. Musgrove and yes they did. In all their glory, some totally in their most natural state of existence I might add. The crowd cheered for these promiscuous beauties as they always have done. Of course the parade was limited to a certain section of the city but the crowd must have been immense right Captain?"
Frederick refused to comment so Harville added with some malicious humor, "Oh yes there was barely a room to breathe in there. Poor Wentworth, thought it was going to be some trifle and sedate English affair and ended up with something totally different."
Louisa turned to him, "So did you approve Captain? Of the parade and their participants?"
The man shook his head, harrumphed his disapproval and voiced only this, "Beauty is a personal judgment Miss Musgrove and no I didn't approve. What I saw was far from my taste. I prefer as Harville called it a more sedate and English version. Lij you'll pay for this." The threat was voiced with great humor and the room broke into a relaxing laughter. But the Dutchman knew that it was no idle threat and wondered if he would be relegated to kitchen duties for the next 5 years.
Anne stared at Frederick's sharp profile for a while longer but returned to the card game with Benwick. It was good to see Frederick as a person capable of faults. He was so cold and proper around her that sometimes she could not bear it. Around 9 PM some of the group decided to form a walking party to take the night air. Anne went with Benwick as they continued their conversation, Louisa was paired with Wentworth and the Musgroves followed. Mrs. Croft excused herself and went home with her husband. The crowd turned the corner from their house when Anne bumped into a gentleman. He lost his grip on the package and it dropped to the sidewalk with a resounding thud.
"I am so sorry, that was very clumsy of me," Anne apologized immediately and bent down to retrieve the wrapped parcel at the same time as the stranger. She looked at the man to hand him his belonging and the two set eyes on each other. Anne still blooming in laughter and enjoyment of Benwick's good company did indeed look like Anne of old. And underneath that misty street lights surrounded by the magnificent monumental buildings of Oxford she also took on a very mysterious air.
Dear G-d she's a beauty, thought Colonel Elliot. She had the largest and most beautiful brown eyes he had ever seen. Filled with nothing but compassion and intelligence they could easily drown a man into submission. It took him a second to realize who she was but when he did a small smile spread on his face. Of course she wouldn't recognize him, they've never met before. Definitely not like her father judged the Colonel and he stood up holding her hand to give her unsolicited aid. She blushed even more at their contact and he gave a elegant tip of his military hat. "You might apologize Miss but I consider it a sweet ending to a rather miserable day. Good night." With that genuine compliment he left the whole group and smartly walked off to one of the buildings of the University.
Louisa gently commented, "Why Anne I think you have an admirer and a handsome devil too." Anne just smiled a little and continued to take her walk with the group. He was indeed handsome thought Anne. Blond hair that shone like spun gold with eyes that were cornflower blue just like her father the man had a very elegant figure and regal bearing in his uniform. But what pleased her the most was the truly appreciative gaze he bestowed upon her face as the two stared at each other for that split moment. He saw her like a woman wanted to be seen and it has been a long time since Anne ever thought about that little desire. The rest of the night's walk was uneventful and the group said their good-nights with contentment.
The next day Anne was returning to Uppercross from work when she remembered she had to buy some tins of milk. She entered the local corner shop and made her purchase. Walking out the store someone held the door for her and she looked to say thank-you. It was the same man as the night before and flashes of recognition dawned on each other's faces. He corrected himself; she looked even finer in daylight. And it delighted him to no end that as she walked across the street she gave his figure one more curious glance. He was determined to contrive another such meeting with her and under far more agreeable circumstances. He knew when her next trip to London was. It was his job as part of MI to know exactly what she and every other Boffin in his dossiers were doing these days.
When she entered the house Mary called her to come to the parlor with some excitement. "I knew I recognized that face. No one but an Elliot could have those eyes Anne. Look at this photograph." Anne took the picture and there she saw the handsome countenance of the man she saw only minutes before. "He is our cousin! Do you not think he's handsome? I mean I never thought he would turn out in such a manner but I saw him when we were still children! Those eyes were the first clue. I knew that he had to be related in order to have that particular shade of blue. Oh I wish I recognized him then! Why we could have him sitting here right now and talking to us!" Frederick was surprised that Anne wasn't saying anything as Mary rattled on. She was totally enveloped by that single picture of her cousin and he was feeling unsettled by the intensity of her gaze.
"Then it must have been just plain fate to have not recognized him Mary," Was his comment and it was delivered with some speed. "Mary I think you ought to remember that cousin Elliot and our father drifted apart years ago. It would hardly do for us to go after him and renew an acquaintance that must be at least to him painful if not embarrassing. Not to mention what father would think of such actions." With that admonishment she handed the picture to Mary who was amply chastised by her older sister. However privately Anne was glad that Kellynch would have an heir like the man. He was not only handsome but comfortable with himself and seemed to be genuinely kind. She fervently hoped that he would be a vast improvement from her father's current reign on the estate.
Wentworth had to be satisfied with that but he could not forget the deep gaze she bestowed on that one photograph. "How did he become so disfavored?" Asked Charles.
It was Mary who answered, "William, that's his name went off to the army after Cambridge and refused to have to do anything with his family. As a youth he was hotheaded and known to do things on a whim. Unfortunately one of those whims was getting a woman pregnant out of wedlock. He married her of course and she was an heiress to a huge fortune but the shame he brought to his family's doorsteps was too much for the Elliots. They disowned him right then and there. I think his wife passed away a while ago but I'm not sure."
"At least he married the poor woman", commented Harville, "That shows some character."
Anne raised her face to him and argued otherwise, "Getting a woman with a child outside of marriage is hardly a testimony of good character Captain Harville. I just hoped the marriage while it lasted was a comfortable union for both, especially for the wife." The men in the room wisely decided to not pick issue with her on that point.
The marriage between the Colonel and his wife was an indeed a comfortable one. She loved him faithfully and devotedly, so much that she never questioned the man in any of his words or actions. She should have, if not for her sake then for her child's. Rebecca was Jewish and that was why the Elliots were so dead set against William marrying her. But he did marry her and she followed her husband wherever he went. They were in Austria in 1938 when the Nazis "reabsorbed" the country. William had to leave for London on business and left his family there with his faithful officer, Major Smith to take care of them. Their situation worsened everyday and she dispatched many letters asking him to give them the necessary papers to leave the country. He ignored her requests as his duties in London called all his attention. One night, much like the infamous night now named Kristalnacht a frenzied mob attacked their home. The next day Colonel Elliot was childless and a widower, and Mrs. Smith a widow.
The whole affair was hushed down by both Whitehall and MI. Colonel Elliot's job was far too important to ever risking his exposure to the public. But even the most dedicated members of his division could not but help judge this man to be the most cold-blooded human being to ever work with them. Mrs. Smith was refused any information and was summarily threatened with dire consequences if she was to ever talk about the death of her husband. Of course she knew very little but was intelligent enough to guess some truths. However she had two children to feed and the pension money kept them from poverty so she kept her tongue in check out of fear. Colonel Elliot was a very thorough man indeed.
The War Comes Home...
Posted on Wednesday, 1 July 1998
What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; th'unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield.
August 24, 1940
Rachel stood shocked at what she was witnessing. London was being bombed! She was scrambling to safety from the roaring flames of the burning buildings as East End was on fire. She couldn't believe the absolute audacity of those friggin' Jerrys. They're bombing us! Well then, she thought with some ire, tit for tat Hitler, you'll see! As the ambulances came screaming in she ran to help anyone that needed a guiding hand. She wasn't afraid to work; after all she just finished the dugout on her backyard all by herself. And from the looks of it she'll get her money's worth. A staggering man holding his children in each of his arms took her attention as she helped him to safety. His wife never made it out of the inferno.
Churchill was incensed, Goering was furious. London was not to be touched! Hitler was still hoping to contract peace with the English until this stupid error. The bomber pilots who were guilty of violating his orders did it by pure mistake. Navigational error compounded by flying at night mixed with fatigue and fear started something that no one could control. Churchill seeking reprisal responded by sending RAF bombers to take its toll on Berlin. They missed the majority of the time but the Germans got the message. For the first time they were vulnerable to enemy air attacks and this shook them a great deal.
August 30, 1940
Biggin Hill, England
Lizzie looked at Darcy's squadron as they took to the air. Her face was becoming thin with worry as the planes left their stamp of con trail in the air. Charles' presence has become indispensable even for her nowadays. In spite of the hell he was going through he always managed to find time almost every single day to either ring or see Jane. And even Darcy began to wear better on Lizzie, as it was his car that delivered Bingley to her most beloved sister. The man remained dour and reticent but he spent great deal of petrol and money to see his best friend happy. There has to be something to be said about that type of loyalty.
Afternoon came and went while Lizzie furiously translated the conversations she was eavesdropping in. Suddenly something clicked inside her head and she ran to the RAF map in the main hall. Her face turned white and she began running furiously to the Command Center. She then saw the figures in the sky and knew it was too late. She just translated a message between two bomber pilots, and they were heading for Biggin. The airmen's mess was hit first then Lizzie saw something even more horrifying. A bomb landed squarely on a WAAF trench where she knew her fellow female officers had taken shelter. The next salvo hit a depot behind her and flung her forward at least 15 feet. As she landed the ground took away her consciousness but not before she thought about her friends in that torn dugout.
Jane saw the German bombers heading towards Biggin. Then she saw the billowing smoke rise above the treeline and tears began to fall as she shook helplessly knowing where the origin of those fires must be. Lizzie, oh Lizzie! Lydia came running to her sister when she heard the bombers drone over her and saw the same scene. The lively and bright face lost its usual petulant look as understanding began to dawn on Lydia. Wordlessly she snuggled up to her oldest sister and began to pray in earnest.
"We are being attacked! We are being attacked!" Was the desperate cry from Biggin's Control and Darcy for a split second felt pure panic. Oh G-d, it was a trick. They led us away from our base so the real attack force could sneak in.
"We're returning to base!" He roared in undisguised anguish and vectored his plane towards Biggin. Bingley felt the same frisson of panic and followed his leader wordlessly. Pyro's jaws were taut with anger and fear of what he would see. The whole squadron saw the Junker dive bombers in the horizon but didn't care to engage. They all saw the same smoke that Jane saw from the windows of the hospital.
The mess was horrific from the air. A hangar was totally blown open and there were unmoving figures of human beings on the ground. The whole airstrip was bombed so that the planes had to land on a different area altogether. As the fighter pilots entered into the fray they realized the air was filled with alarmed voices yet there was little panic and fear. Urgency and cries for supplies rang through but everyone seemed to be oblivious to their own state of shock and was busy helping others. Suddenly Darcy saw what he didn't want to see. There was a row of figures, women in uniform covered with blankets to hide their mangled remains. Darcy blinked rapidly trying to recognize Lizzie by those sensible brown shoes of hers. He didn't realize that those were issued pairs and that every corpse was wearing the same shoes. So for the first 4 figures his heart stopped beating because he thought the woman was Lizzie. This is impossible he cried out silently, I can't do this, not this. He turned away trying to catch some air into his choked lungs.
Bingley stared at the same casualties and wondered in anguish. How the hell was he going to tell this to Jane should Lizzie be lying underneath one of those blankets? Darcy slowly approached the rows and examined their hands. Lizzie wasn't here he thought after the examination. Feeling elated and frustrated he turned towards a large group that was formed around a caved-in trench. They were digging out people who were buried alive and Darcy saw a flash of that beautiful hair. He started to trot then broke into a full run as those long legs carried him towards the mound. Lizzie was digging with all her might but her grip on the shovel was very weak. The headache was getting worse and she could barely see straight but her friends were in there! The rescuers could hear the women cry out for help underneath the rubble.
A pair of strong and pale hands grasped hers and she raised her eyes to stare into Darcy's imperial ones. He didn't say anything to her but threw all sorts of thank-yous to heaven above. Her face was so drawn and half of it looked like she ran into the wall going 30. Bingley saw the tired woman and whooped loudly in happiness. Pyro led Elizabeth away from the mess and asked her to sit down and stay put otherwise he would be forced to tie her to a tree. She had to give a good chuckle at that imagery and the young fighter pilot joined the others as they furiously dug the WAAF from their graves. The devastation was horrific; the death toll reached 39 and they were without gas, electricity and water.
August 31, 1940
Lisa and Hilary were looking at the smoke coming from Biggin again. Another raid successfully put Biggin out of commission. It was a pretty well known fact that the fighter planes had a better chance surviving while they were in the air than on their base. It was Lisa who saw the plane first. A stray bomber separated from its group saw Benton and mistook it for his target. Lisa threw herself over Hilary as the bomber released its destructive load on Benton. Fortunately the majority of the bombs landed in front of the hospital demolishing the parked cars and driveway. Everyone felt the ground shake and windows blast its deadly glass inwards. Lydia screamed in fear until another nurse took hold of the hysterical girl to calm her down. Jane was covering her patient with her own body as they were next to the windows. Her patient was a pilot who shattered his wrist while baling from his plane. He made a muffled comment, "Gee, I wish the buggers came more." Jane started to laugh uncontrollably at the innocent but lascivious comment from the young pilot. The attack was over in minutes and any staff who wasn't currently engaged with a patient swiftly cleaned the mess so the incoming transport carrying the patients could enter without hindrance. The medical staff was shaken but somehow felt better. Now they were in the front lines too and felt a common bond to their patients who already suffered from Goering's young Turks.
Darcy was now angry, truly, deeply and viciously put out. He was made vulnerable that evening on the 30th and by no other than Miss Elizabeth Bennet. But he knew better than to direct his anger at her. It was the Luftwaffe that would pay and they would pay dearly for what they were doing to Biggin and its inhabitants. The squadron flew at least 8 times a day and each time they found themselves in a scrap. Fortunately they usually spotted the bogies and would bounce on the truly unwelcomed intruders. The exhaustion took its toll on all the fighter pilots in England. One of the flyboys in Darcy's squadron actually landed the plane and then fell asleep inside his cockpit. Bingley nodded off holding fork and knife sitting in front of his dinner. Darcy gave up eating meals altogether and survived on tea and cigarettes. Pyro was able to whistle the whole Ninth Symphony by good ol' Ludwig and do it with total ease.
September 2, 1940
Over the Channel
Darcy was furiously engaged in a dogfight and Bingley was involved with his own mess. Pyro was taking evasive action from his own hunter when he saw his wingman go up in flames. The pilot was not even 21 thought Pyro as the burning Spitfire hit the drink. He pulled his Spitfire to engage the Hun who just took out young Jack and succeeded in shooting the bird down. The MEs realizing they were running out of gas turned and headed back to Calais. Darcy's squadron now minus 3 of its fighter boys also returned to base. Suddenly Darcy's right wing went up in flames as they were approaching Biggin. Bingley saw with horror as Georgiana flipped upside down while Darcy was approaching the runway. Pyro stared shocked, as the inverted plane landed and skidded into a stop still upside down! The rest of the squadron landed around the crashed mess and began running towards the plane heedless of the dangers. Bingley smashed the cockpit window and Darcy miraculously crawled out of the plane with some serious abrasions on his head and hands.
The field officer immediately deactivated the Squadron Leader and sent him off to the infirmary. Bingley escorted the dazed and injured Darcy to an empty bed. Lizzie came with Pyro who astutely told the young woman what happened. Lizzie was horrified when she saw the plane still resting on the runway and could not believe anyone could walk away from such a severe crash.
She saw Darcy as he was being bandaged up. "So Squadron Leader you have 9 lives." He turned his face to her and she was amazed at the look of vulnerability in that handsome and pale face.
"I am using them up Miss Bennet. If this keeps up I'll have none by the end of the week."
"Don't say such a horrible thing Darcy! Why you must have at least 8 more and some in reserve knowing what kind of man you are." He smiled weakly and for the first time Lizzie felt fear for the man. He couldn't die, she thought, a man like that lives forever! He must, for if he doesn't what chance do we mortals have?
"Miss Bennet, next time we are at Hart's may I have a dance?" His question surprised her but she dismissed it as some delusional talk.
"Of course Squadron Leader, we'll have a spin, even two if you are a good dancer. But first please get some rest!"
He gave a soft smile then and nodded a little. Bingley led her out, "He scraped his head badly Lizzie so don't mind his talk."
She gave the worried man a quick peck on the cheek. "I could see the bandages Charles. I hope he recovers quickly for your sake. I have to go back to my desk now. Call Jane after 9, she'll be waiting for you." He nodded and let her go.
Darcy was like many other lucky fighter boys of the RAF. Al Deere a veteran of two crash landings, a bale-out in the middle of Dunkirk and a survivor of almost-failed parachute escape from his flaming Spitfire, like Darcy landed his plane upside down in the middle of a bombing raid on his base. One pilot's parachute failed to even open but snagged on the tree branches and saved the pilot's life. However the poor fellow was left unceremoniously dangling upside down for over an hour. Another landed his Hurricane minus its tail and most of its controls. Peter Townsend, a beloved squadron leader of Hurricanes from Croydon was shot head-on by the enemy. Yet he was able to guide his plane to safety minus his toe. But there were more unlucky RAF pilots than lucky ones and it was getting to be obvious even to the most optimistic members of the RAF.
Air Chief Marshal Dowding knew Goering was winning the war of attrition. He did not have enough pilots left to rotate the RAF and relieve the more exhausted ones from battle. And the ratio between the losses of RAF and the Luftwaffe was shrinking to the RAF's disadvantage. He was losing more pilots, both veterans and new ones. In less than two weeks Luftwaffe just might win the air war over England and claim total victory if the current attrition rates continued for the RAF. However fate interfered. After England's reprisals against Germany, Hitler changed his battle tactics. Now he wanted London flattened. Nothing less than total annihilation would satisfy the madman and he instructed the Luftwaffe to succeed in this one huge goal. It was one of the greatest tactical errors made by the Nazi High Command. Their current attack on the RAF would have guaranteed them victory by autumn. Now the focus had changed and the attacks would be concentrated on the civilian population of London leaving the RAF's beleaguered bases in relative peace. Peace to recuperate and rebuild their forces. London would pay dearly for this chance but Hitler and the Luftwaffe would pay a higher price.
September 4, 1940
Massachusetts, United States
Michael Tenby just finished listening to the broadcast by Edward Murrows who was currently located in London. It was certainly stirring and even hopeful. Unlike his buddies he had faith that the RAF would hold the Luftwaffe at bay. And it looked like they were succeeding! Finishing his juice the young man sat out on the porch staring at the darkening sky. Storm's coming, he thought, a mighty big one too by the feel of the wind and the dampness in the air. But he knew that there was even a bigger one coming. Blowing from Europe and Asia this maelstrom was destroying everything in its path. Could that small island survive what rest of Europe could not?
The City Is On Fire...
Posted on Thursday, 2 July 1998
August 18, 1940
Anne Elliot left Oxford the afternoon before the Navy officers took leave of their newly discovered friends and company. She was dining with the group with Lady Russell who joined them. Captain Wentworth stiffened when he saw her enter and she gazed at him with some amusement laced with contempt. He could be an Admiral for all she cared; he could never be good enough for her Anne. And Frederick felt the slight. However he watched her like a hawk and realized that indeed she was a very well educated and finely opinionated woman. Every person in the room save Anne was under her spell. Her opinions were always expressed with minimal amount of words and maximum amount of impact. Her personality was shaped and developed to win the conversation and if that wasn't possible, the person she was conversing with.
Mrs. Croft saw the open and honest affection between the older woman and Anne. It was a relationship similar to that of mother and daughter yet this particular lady held even more sway. Anne also thought of her as her best friend and confidante. A position which must be very dear to both Lady Russell and Anne Elliot. Sophy saw the intense dislike emanating from Frederick towards Lady Russell and guessed correctly that this woman had something to do with the break-up between her brother and Anne. Anne couldn't have been more than 19 when this whole mess began so it was little wonder that she turned to the older woman for guidance. And being totally logical and unable to calculate the feelings of the young couple Lady Russell convinced Anne to reject Frederick's love suit. Sophy tsked-tsked inside her head; sometimes people put their noses into things that they have no right to!
The phone rang and Henrietta ran to get it. "Anne, it's for you from London!" Frederick saw her face tighten a little as she took the receiver from Henrietta. Lady Russell watched her talk quietly then hang up.
She returned with a grim look, "I'm sorry but I am called to London tomorrow afternoon. I must pack now so I'll say good-night."
"Anne, must you go? Can you not stay for one more day?" Frederick stared at Benwick, shocked as the man asked her in such intimate terms.
She bestowed on the young officer a beatific smile but shook her head. "No captain I must obey my commanding officer as you do. Good night everyone! Lady Russell may I ask for your help?"
Sabine smiled sweetly and followed Anne to help her pack. Anne never told her what she did but Sabine had a pretty well threaded idea about Anne's current position as an advisor to the War Department. With her usual ease Lady Russell packed Anne's clothes as Anne took care of her papers. They were always enclosed in a steel briefcase with lock combinations that Anne changed every week without fail. But in reality stealing that case would help no one. The only way to ever extract information out was to pick Anne's mind apart.
They were almost done when a soft knock interrupted them. Anne opened the door and saw Captain Benwick. Lady Russell pretended not to notice as Anne slipped into the hallway. "I want to thank you Miss Elliot for being such a caring and thoughtful friend. I know that sometimes my words and actions are very depressing but I could not for the life of me force myself out of my grief. That was until I met you dear Anne. You feel the same pain as I do yet you move onwards carrying the burdens of many on your back. Your behavior and kindness shamed me into trying harder and believe it or not I am succeeding. I am leaving with Frederick to Dover and back to the sea tomorrow evening. Only G-d knows if I will survive this war so I thought I'd say this before I leave. Thank you for listening, thank you for being understanding. But most of all thank you for sharing your grief with me. It was good to know that I wasn't alone in my pain. My only regret is that you had to share it. Here, this is a gift for you."
Anne wiped away her tears and opened the present. It was an exquisite volume of Poe's poems. The book was very small and thin with onion parchment pages. The lettering was stamped in gold and its satin ribbon bookmark had her initials. Benwick stared at her face as she shed tears over such a trifling gift. If it weren't for Frederick he would have let himself fall in love with Anne. But he saw the glimpses of pain, longing and desire on both their faces and decided that he could not interfere. He buried his beloved but Anne and Frederick had a chance. How could he deny either that opportunity? He gave a gentle kiss on her forehead and smiled at her face. With that sweet farewell he left her in the hall with the book. As he walked down the stairs he saw Frederick's shadow pass by. The fool listened to their conversation!
It was almost 10 when the Harvilles, Captain Benwick, Sophy and Frederick left Uppercross Cottage. Benwick maneuvered himself next to his friend as they were walking.
"Lovely night isn't it?" Frederick gave a short nod.
"Made for lovers I think. Look at the heavens and the stars Frederick, don't you agree?" His friend just jerked another nod.
"Of course someone like you could never see that. How could you under all that anger and hurt? You know when I compare myself to you I am lucky in a way. I lost my love but at least I didn't bury my heart along with Fanny. Your love still lives yet you would deny yourself and her happiness because of your silly and arrogant pride. Shameful isn't it?" Frederick whirled to face Benwick but the man left his side and joined the Harvilles.
He felt his heart pound louder and louder until he felt physical pain. His pride, his pride, was that why he felt so miserable around Anne? Is that why he could not face her time after time? Anne may be guilty of many faults but arrogant pride was never one of them. However can the same be true about him? Benwick's accusation pinged inside his head and he could not sleep until nearly dawn. And when he finally woke up it was past noon and Anne was gone.
He dined with the whole group the following evening in a restaurant. Louisa was looking lovely but he knew that he felt nothing but amusement and kindness towards the girl. She was too young, too immature for him. She could never understand the swaying of his many moods and the tempests that sometimes followed. Anne would sway under the roar of his wind but Louisa would snap in half and fall apart. He closed his eyes as realization finally dawned above his unforgiving pride and unbending pain of rejection. It was Anne he always compared every woman to. It was Anne who was the measuring stick of everything good and decent in his life. It was Anne's kindness towards Benwick that softened his heart. Anne's care towards her silly sister Mary, her love for her nephews and his sister Sophy that beckoned him again and again to the Musgroves' door.
It was Anne's unfailing loyalty to another man that made him so jealous and hot-tempered. It was Anne's incredibly brave actions in Dunkirk for this Dr. Hanson that made the green-eyed serpent rise and lash out at her for he wanted that very thing that she gave to another. And this denial was as unbearable as the one she handed to him over 8 years ago. Now she left him to go to London and be with the one man that Frederick could not compete against. How could he? While Dr. Hanson had so much in common with Anne all Frederick had was their past and that he himself destroyed these last few weeks. Frederick could not even eat as those thoughts blasted through his pride and left him bereft of any emotional stronghold. Only if Anne was here could he try, try somehow to repair the damage he had caused. At least he could beg for her forgiveness! And knowing his Anne she would forgive him in a moment.
Benwick saw his friend's face reflect fleetingly all those thoughts and felt true pity. But this was best, for the pain will go away and knowing Frederick he will somehow try to win Anne back to his side. He gave a glance at Lij and the Dutch officer returned the gaze with knowledge twinkling in his eyes. Good, at least Lij could keep a lookout for Frederick, thought Benwick and the two conspirators exchanged knowing smiles. The Navy officers left their families and friends that evening to go to Dover where their ships waited anxiously for their arrival. It would be a while before any of them touch earth again.
September 7, 1940
Anne was once again involved in the messy affairs of counter-intelligence in London. The information was so new that she could not even begin to plan to transfer the data to Oxford until everyone had a shot. She survived the surprise attack by the Germans couple of weeks ago but her nerves were badly damaged by the bombing. She was not prepared mentally for the raid and found herself shaking uncontrollably in the basement. Richard held her and after a while she did stop. Feeling embarrassed and self-conscious she steeled herself for the raids again. When there's one, more were sure to follow.
It was late afternoon when the Luftwaffe, obeying Hitler's orders, began bombing London. East End was hit the heaviest. Considered to be a slum area by most of the well to-do it was still home to many families. The blazes began to grow out of control into the night signaling like beacons to more Luftwaffe bombers and their attacks were indeed continuous. Anne watched from her flat, as the sky was orange-red with flames from the East End and the docks of London. The city was on fire! So great was the blaze that evening there were two sunsets, one by the sun and the other the fires of the city. The bombing stopped at 5 in the morning and Anne finally went to sleep.
Rachel woke herself from her dugout and took a cold bath. Making the usual insipid tea for herself she got ready for work. She heard the bombings the night before but fell asleep in the middle of it because she was so tired from her daily routine. Even when Caroline entered her store Rachel didn't say diddle. She didn't even see how pale and disturbed Caroline was as the woman bought her usual pack of cigarettes and morning edition. Caroline was frightened and couldn't sleep the whole night. She was debating whether to go to Scotland or not the previous night as she heard the roar of the bombers above her head. Their block was spared but she knew that it would only be a matter of time before they were flattened like those cheap and dirty houses in the East End. Perhaps she should rent a small place down south, near Biggin? But that base was being bombed too! And Charles was more than adamant that she not come visit him until the threat of bombing was over. Caroline sighed in frustration, only heaven knows when that would be!
Mr. Hurst was driving to his office when his car drove over something. Then it stopped as he heard one of his tires blow up. He stuck his head out to see what the hell just did the damage. It was an unexploded bomb the size of Louisa's desk with its front end buried into the road. However its fins were exposed and those sharp ends ripped his right front tire so that his whole car was currently resting on the bomb. He sat there with his mouth hanging open. Oh my L-rd…
It was about 30 minutes later he saw a handsome car drive then stop half way down the street. The whole area was cordoned off, as the bomb was liable to go up any minute. Captain Spring and his driver Jeremy St. John stepped out of their car. Spring gave a great sigh, of course there would be a car resting on the damn bomb and complete with the driver! Corporal St. John was driving his superior all over London today as the Captain was defusing the UXBs – UneXploded Bombs. The Luftwaffe dropped quite a few around the area and they had to be diffused before being moved from the populated city. Both the captain and the corporal belonged to a special unit created and trained to do exactly this and Spring could not help but appreciate the irony of it all. For less than 4 months ago he was running amuck in France blowing everything up.
Lighting a cigarette he carried his case over to the bomb and stared at it for a while, "St John, better clear 5 blocks instead of one." Mr. Hurst fainted dead after hearing that. Spring had to smile; good the idiot won't get in the way now. He found the fuse noiselessly and cleared the debris surrounding the delicate and temperamental piece. Without a single sound he took out his tools from the soft chamois bag and began to practice what he trained for. With the chisel and hammer he began to hammer away at the fuse in order to dislodge it from the bomb. St. John began to read the latest detective novel from America as he heard the chink chink sound from behind the car. It was going to either take a while or none at all.
Anne was unable to work the whole morning. She was tormented by the thought that she could die this very night and never be able to resolve the chasm between herself and Frederick. She finally made up her mind and decided to leave something for Frederick should anything happen to her. She returned to her flat and opened her personal bag. She fished out an enormous book of poems that her mother gave her and discovered the envelope that she never mailed all those years ago. She opened the envelope and saw the yellowed pages. It was a poem she copied from the tome after Frederick left. She never addressed it because she never found out where he was but now she could at least put Sophy's address on the envelope to ensure its delivery to Frederick. Carefully writing Mrs Croft's address on the envelope she also left strict instructions for this to be delivered only if she was no longer living. It took her almost an hour before she had enough courage to read the poem again.
"It was the autumn of the year;
The strawberry leaves were red and sear;
October's airs were fresh and chill,
When, pausing on the windy hill,
The hill that overlooks the sea,
You talked confidingly to me,-
Me whom your keen, artistic sight
Has not yet learned to read aright,
Since I have veiled my heart from you,
And loved you better than you knew.
You told me of your toilsome past;
The tardy honors won at last,
The trials borne, the conquests gained,
The longed-for boon of Fame attained;
I knew that every victory
But lifted you away from me,
That every step of high emprise,
But left me lowlier in your eyes;
I watched the distance as it grew,
And loved you better than you knew…
You walk the sunny side of fate;
The wise world smiles, and calls you great;
The golden fruitage of success
Drops at your feet in plenteousness;
And you have blessings manifold:
Renown and power and friends and gold,
They build a wall between us twain,
Which may not be thrown down again,
Alas! For I, the long years through,
Have loved you better than you knew.
I used to dream in all these years
Of patient faith and silent tears,
That Love's strong hand would put aside
The barriers of place and pride,
Would reach the pathless darkness through,
And draw me softly up to you;
But that is past. If you should stray
Besides my grave, some future day,
Perchance the violets o'er my dust
Will half betray their trust,
And say, their blue eyes full of dew,
"She loved you better than you knew."
The words by Florence Percy still struck her heart and made it bleed but Anne didn't shed any tears. Let this be the final peace offering from her to the one man she had loved and loved still. Let him know how much she regretted turning her back on him that afternoon and hopefully this will finally calm his angered and rejected soul. She sealed the envelope and put it inside her bag. The War Department could carry out the rest for her should the need ever arise.
Outside her flat a young man was waiting for her to come down and return to her office. Hauptmann Johann Mahler, a graduate of the Royal Officer Cadet School of Danzig, was one of Canaris' finest. He was sent to England over 5 years ago but was only activated last week. His job was very simple; follow and send information about two people. One was Dr. Hanson and the other was the woman who took an unexpected lunch break. And if the orders come through to kill both.