“Marry me, Louisa” he pleaded.
On home on leave in July nineteen thirty-nine, Lord Spencer Courtenay-Hooper appeared to have aged several years in the intervening months since he had last been home. Due to a whole raft of new orders and directives he was unable to discuss with his sister and Louisa as much about his work as was previously able to.
In addition, much of the boyish charm and jocularity that had been his stock-in-trade for so long had been replaced by a new seriousness and maturity that Louisa found herself increasingly attracted to.
“It is just not possible, Spencer” she told him, allowing him to hold her closely in the near dark of the library. The dying embers of a fire provided scant illumination, but enough for Louisa to see the pain of rejection writ all over Lord Spencer’s handsome face.
“Please don’t look so. You know that there will be uproar should you and I wed. Leave aside all the fuss your family and friends will create, what about the society press, the gossip columnists and the like? You will be the laughing-stock of your social set” Louisa told the besotted young man.
“Darling, the world is going to hell in a hand-cart, everyone knows it. All those fusty old rule books are being torn-up and thrown away. In what could be a matter of days we could all be blown up or shot dead in our beds, so what is the point of worrying about whether the society pages of the press castigate me for supposedly marrying ‘beneath’ myself? I love you and that is all there is to it!”
“I’m sorry, Spencer. I love you too, you know that I do. I cannot – I will not – allow you to sacrifice your future on someone like me. It is just not right or proper. There is a Lady Someone out there somewhere waiting for you to fall in love with her and to give her the fairy-tale wedding she has been brought up to expect to have. I am not – nor will I ever be – that girl for you!”
Sobbing, Louisa broke away from her would-be lover’s embrace and ran from the room. His plaintive cries of her name tore into her breaking heart as she shut herself in her private quarters and cried piteous tears. Never had she felt so keenly the disadvantages of where she was born and to whom.
On September third, nineteen thirty-nine Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister, announced to the nation that Britain was once again at war with Germany.
Part Six 1939 – 1945
The war raged on. Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave inspirational speeches on the wireless, which galvanised the people of Britain into self-helping activities. Women, as they had in the Great War, became the backbone of industry back home while their men fought the war overseas. Few areas of industry were denied to them and hundreds of thousands of unskilled women toiled in factories, on farms and even in the armed services as non-combatants. Lady Adeline Courtenay-Hooper, along with many other aristocratic ladies, found herself in the unheard-of position of being asked to work for the greater good of the community at large.
“Really, darling Louisa, what have I to offer the world? I am a Lady, a spoilt child truth be told and have no other skills, really” she said as her assistant laid out her clothes for the coming day. “It is an absurd idea!”
Louisa Tavistock had come to love her employer and had the utmost respect for her intelligence, sense of style and the manner in which she deported herself in society circles. Lady Adeline, unlike many of her peers, treated her domestic staff with respect and courtesy at all times, even when things, as they occasionally did, went wrong. However, the one aspect of Lady Adeline’s character that Louisa often had problems with was her naivety at times. For someone so educated, well-travelled and apparently so sophisticated, Lady Adeline could be quite childishly innocent at times.
“If I may be permitted to speak openly, Lady Adeline?” Louisa asked.
“Well, yes, of course, Louisa. Goodness me, but you know we have no need to stand on ceremony here” Lady Adeline laughed affectionately.
Louisa had always maintained an air of deference towards her employer, never allowing herself to forget where she came from and that the bald truth of her relationship with Lady Adeline was as employee and employer. It would always remain so no matter how friendly and affectionate they became.
“I hear that the local hospital is urgently seeking volunteer help. You know that the Blitz has caused untold harm and damage. Every hospital in London is overburdened with the sick and injured.”
“Yes, I hear on the wireless that the Germans are killing many, many Londoners every night” Lady Adeline replied softly.
In a bid to break the spirit and will of the British people the German Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, had initiated a blitzkrieg aerial bombing assault on the people of London and various other strategic cities across the Kingdom. The raids had started almost a year to the day from Britain’s declaration of war and had continued sporadically for almost six months. The death toll in London alone was estimated at more than forty-thousand innocent souls along with uncounted numbers injured.
“I believe that you and I and others of the Household could make ourselves helpful to those who have been injured by volunteering as nursing aides” Louisa said earnestly.
“Oh, really, Louisa!” Lady Adeline exclaimed. “You know I am really not very good with that sort of thing. I would be utterly hopeless and a burden, I’m sure” she disclaimed.
Largely due to her experiences working in Deschamps Du Paris Louisa Tavistock had learned how to keep a civil tongue in her head even when put under the greatest of duress. As her conversation with her employer progressed she felt those familiar tensions begin to tighten her facial muscles.
“With all due respect, Lady Adeline,” she said stiffly, “even Princess Elizabeth is ‘doing her bit’ for the war effort. She has, I hear, has qualified as a mechanic.”
“Yes, well, she’s a remarkable young woman. Extraordinary really” Lady Adeline commented.
“I shall be visiting Saint Thomas the Apostle hospital this morning” Louisa told Lady Adeline, “and I shall be offering my services as a volunteer.”
“And, I, my dear Louisa, will accompany you on your venture, which is what you want me to say, am I correct? Lady Adeline retorted with a smile.
“I am certain that Sister will be glad to see you” Louisa answered with a broad grin on her pretty face.
To be continued...