When Viv and Barbara finally got home, they found the house in perfect order, being run by other young people whom Henry had hired. The sky was bright and empty, and the water in the lake was so warm that Barbara joined Viv in swimming. It wasn’t much like swimming with Liz, but Barbara paddled along fairly effectively, and didn’t seem likely to drown.
They avoided newspapers, and didn’t listen to the radio. Barbara invited over apolitical people to civilized teas and dinners. Viv kept her language clean, easily parried questions about her experiences, and found that she rather enjoyed conversations about food and golf. However, their guests were not the sorts of people who wanted to watch golfers having difficulties through telescopes.
They did hear from the others frequently, first about the sinking of the two U-boats, and then of David’s death on HMS Courageous. There was then more news of a mixed character. In public, there was huge adulation for the accomplishment of the Bolskys, not only for the two subs, but for finding an extremely efficient and low-cost method of countering the submarine menace.
More privately, the Admiralty had become aware that much of the air crew was underage, and, most notably, that one of Liz’ observers, the one responsible for the first sighting of the second sub, was, not fourteen, as claimed, but twelve!
The solution was simply for the Bolsky group to return to America quickly with the thanks of a grateful nation.
Barbara was also informed that Ivan had adopted a number of young refugees, and that they would be arriving with him, along with Henry, Rick, and Laura. The rest of the refugee children were to be put in boarding schools.
It took a while to absorb this news. Barbara said,
“I do think that Ivan might have consulted me before adopting these children. Have I automatically become their mother?”
“Sheila’s a bit of a wild child, but Liz and I’ll see to her, and her brother Mickey. Albert is a nice intelligent boy whom you’ll like.”
“What about the twelve year old?”
“I left before he came on board. But, Henry, Rick, and Laura are all used to him. I think we do owe these young people a lot, and it was apparently necessary to get them out of England before there was a scandal. Ivan probably couldn’t think what else to do.”
“I bet it was Henry’s idea.”
“That could well be.”
“Which is good. Henry will see to it that everything goes well.”
It seemed to Viv that Barbara assumed that Ivan wouldn’t do much fathering, which was probably true. She might also be denying any intention of doing much mothering, but, based on past experience, Viv thought that she would end up doing much more than she intended.
Another communication from Ivan, a day later, indicated that he had hired Ian as an assistant to help himself, Eye-Eye, and others build up the American aircraft industry and prepare it for war. A country that still had the Curtiss Hawk as its first-line fighter had to do a lot of that.
Reacting to the last item, Barbara said, “Olivia will certainly come with Ian, and we might be the ones to put on the wedding. Of course, I’ll invite her parents.”
“They can certainly come now. But, unless they go back quickly, the war might keep them from getting back at all.”
“I think Lady Mary will like it here. Ralph may have to get back quickly for government work.”
Viv guessed that Barbara and Mary might manage to get a de facto divorce for Mary without even a breath of scandal. After all, with one son dead, another a prisoner, a husband she hated, and her daughter in America, it made no sense for her to stay in England.
The party of nine persons arrived in New York on a Cunard ship, and Viv was there to greet them. Ivan, looking rather like a Pied Piper, led them off. Liz came last, and Viv did her enthusiastic sisterly routine with her. She was, in fact, very happy that Ivan had not led Liz into some sort of death track.
Liz didn’t say anything about David, and Viv wasn’t terribly surprised. All that would have to be worked through later.
On the train, the four young people, euphoric about being in America, scattered. Rick and Laura managed to keep them somewhat in check, and Henry sat down with Viv, Liz, and Ivan in facing seats. Ivan was also euphoric, but, Liz, judged, some distance from tipping out of control. However, he wasn’t at his calm and discursive best, and he nodded to Henry to lay out something which he had apparently concealed up to this point. Henry began, “The English are very grateful for the contributions of Ivan and Liz, and the French, in their different way, to those of Viv. However, the principle of putting women and children into combat is so alien to their cultures that we really couldn’t have continued our operation.”
There was then a pause. Viv knew a preamble when she heard one, and waited. Henry continued, “However, in their desperation to survive, they’d like us, even including my humble self, to do more.”
Viv replied, “Ivan sent word that he’s hired Ian. We assumed that they’re going to put an amazing amount of energy into aircraft design and production.”
“Certainly. But they also have you and Liz in mind.”
That made Viv uneasy. She replied, “There aren’t so many non-combatant things I can imagine myself doing.”
Henry nodded, “I’ve been aware of that in the discussions with the British. However, the fact is that they need money even more than they need enemy airplanes shot down or U-boats sunk. It’s the money that allows them to buy arms in America.”
That sounded even worse. Were they to capitalize on their new fame by going around America on a speaking tour to sell British war bonds?
Henry was quick to anticipate such a reaction and dismiss it, saying, “I was pretty sure that neither of you wanted to give speeches. There are some quite different possibilities.”
No one said anything for a moment, and Henry said, it seemed to Viv, more to herself than to Liz, “It struck me that it might be nice to organize a series of local athletic competitions for girls and women across the country. Nothing at all professional or over-serious. Any woman any age or condition could enter, but there would be prizes, perhaps for different age groups. Viv and Liz could participate in these events, and that, in itself, would attract people who might want to meet them in an informal setting.”
Viv had to laugh. Henry was acting as if it were a sudden thought, but she was pretty sure that it was the result of some pretty intensive thinking, not to mention discussion with others, Ivan among them. She asked, “How would this raise money for the British?”
“The events would be held in localities that had raised a certain amount of money, relative to their size.”
Ivan then broke in, “These wouldn’t be donations. They’d be bonds, payable in ten years, and denominated in sums as little as twenty five dollars. For example, a schoolchild would get a card, and could buy stamps to paste on it for a quarter each. Once the card is filled, she gets her bond.”
The deep thinking was beginning to come out. It went without saying that people with more money than schoolchildren would be able to buy much larger bonds. The rate of interest would be modest, but Americans weren’t used to getting much on their savings accounts. Liz asked, “What sports would be covered?”
Henry replied, “Up to you in each place. Track and field events, swimming where available, Nordic skiing in cold places. Perhaps team sports such as soccer and field hockey with the winning team sharing the prize.”
Viv looked at Liz, who was sitting diagonally opposite her. Liz smiled and said, “Okay.”