Bill Todd -- Two Aviators
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 Chapter 15


One fine morning when Liz opened the paper, there was, spread out in front of her, the Munich agreement. Knowing that Ivan followed things closely, she asked him what to make of it. He replied over the breakfast table,

“The English and French are certainly abandoning Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Churchill just said that, being given a choice between war and dishonor, the English have chosen dishonor, and will have war.”

“Is that true?”

“Probably. I hardly care about dishonor, but the war is certainly coming. We already know what we have to do.”

     Soon after Ivan had moved off in a burst of energy, David came rumbling down, ready to eat. When shown the news, he replied, “Rotten luck for the Czechs! Hitler may have a go at Russia next. Would you mind?”

That set Liz back a little. After a moment, she said, “I’m certainly not thrilled with the Soviets. Among other things, they let loose the people who murdered the mother I can hardly remember. On the other hand, I don’t want Hitler to have the power he’d have if he conquered Russia.”

“No. I think most of us here would like to see Hitler and Stalin destroy one another. Unfortunately, Stalin knows that, and isn’t likely to help us contain Hitler.”

     Later in the day, Liz took the train to London to meet Olivia. Olivia did care about dishonor. She thought Prime Minister Chamberlain’s capitulation was shameful. She also said that the French were even worse. They, at least, had a large army on Germany’s border, and could have done something.

     Liz and Olivia were having lunch in a little Indian restaurant near Earls Court. Liz had a weakness for spiced papadums, and was trying not to eat more than her share from the pile between them when Olivia said, “It’s really fear, of course.”

“Of Hitler and Germany?”

“It’s affected even my father. He points out that it’s a round trip of less than six hundred and fifty miles between western Germany and London. The German bombers are capable of more than that with a heavy bomb load, and, if they came at night, they’d be virtually unopposed. It’s easy to find London by just following the Thames in moonlight.”

“Viv says that it’s virtually impossible for a fighter to intercept a bomber at night.”

“It’s claimed that, in one night, they could burn half the city with incendiaries and poison a million people with gas.”

“Is that really possible?”

“It may be a bit exaggerated, but it’s real enough to cause a silent panic.”

Liz sensed that Olivia was herself somewhat nervous, as any reasonable person living in London would be. She replied, “Since America is so far out of the range of a German attack, we don’t have that worry. We’re here, prepared to do moderately dangerous things, but we aren’t likely to get caught in an attack on London.”

“As far as I can make out, I’ve myself been unconsciously seeking security in odd and rather unfortunate ways.”

Liz had a feeling that another revelation was coming from Olivia, and it was. “I’ve drifted into something with a wealthy man in his forties, a friend of my father’s, who has a country estate. He’s rather paternal, and it’s been easy to feel safe there, not just from bombing, but from financial worries, and from every kind of petty problem. But, now, because of Ian, I’m getting out.”

“Did your father want you to marry his friend?”

“Certainly because of the money, and because he was suitable in other ways. But Mary doesn’t like him, and wouldn’t accept him as a legitimate suitor. Yet another cause of marital conflict.”

“What do you do, decline politely and send back gifts and letters?”

“The unfortunate part is that I let things go too far and compromised myself. The man, Roger, is extremely tenacious and persistent. Letters and gifts arrive all the time for me on the boat. Robert’s set up a special area for them.”

“Won’t Roger have to give it up eventually?”

“The problem is that I haven’t told Ian about Roger. I don’t know how he might react.”

“And he might find out if Roger makes a big enough fuss?”


Liz was conscious of being the last person anyone should turn to for advice in such matters. All she could suggest was, “Ian is already helping us with our project. Why don’t you and Ian just come in with us and make it even more of a family affair?”

“Would that allow me to more or less disappear?”

“If you and Ian take up residence in a tent in Bridport, no one’s going to find you.”


“That’s what Viv and I are doing. It might also be a good test of marital intentions.”

     On returning to Southampton and seeing Viv, Liz, having received permission from Olivia, explained the situation. Viv said, “It’s remarkable that she reveals all these things to people like us that she hardly knows.”

“I think it’s because her friends and relations are so closely connected and gossipy that she can’t trust them.”

“Are we not gossipy?”

“We can be, but she knows we wouldn’t suddenly tell Ian that she’s been sleeping with this other man.”

“She didn’t tell you that, did she?”

“I think it’s what she means by being compromised.”

“Okay. That’s safe with us. But, it is awkward for her to start up something serious with Ian with this big secret in the background. Not that it’s any of our business.”

“Not exactly, but we don’t want any ructions, particularly if Ian is helping us with our work.”


Liz concluded, “She really doesn’t want to deceive Ian, but has no idea how he might react.”

Viv replied, “Some men are obsessed with virginity, and go way beyond that. Once, when I was visiting a married couple in their apartment in Boston, the wife was getting dressed when there was a knock on the door. We were expecting another man, and I opened the door. It turned out that the wife was in plain sight in her petticoat and bra. We didn’t make a big thing of it, and she ducked around the corner. However, the husband was there, and, while he didn’t say anything, it turned out later that he was furious.”

“Was he angry at you?”

“Probably to some extent, but he was just terribly bothered that it had happened. I’m sure it spoiled his whole day.”

 “Ian certainly doesn’t seem to be crazy.”

“Neither did the husband in that case. I’d never have guessed.”

 “Some people probably think that one shouldn’t have secrets in marriage.”

Viv laughed and replied, “Looking in from the outside, I’d guess that it’s inevitable.”

“If Olivia, besotted as she is with Ian, has to keep secrets from him, I won’t worry about having secrets from David.”

“Are you going to go the whole way and have affairs?”

“I hadn’t thought about that. No present plans.”    

Bill Todd -- Two Aviators
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