Chapter 1: Courtship
Early in 1942, in the dark days before the Germany army arrived in England on the South Coast and Lincolnshire simultaneously, Jane Edson was laying the table for tea, assisted by the one remaining domestic servant her parents had managed to retain when there was an unexpected ringing at the door.
"Go and see who that is, Mary, please," she ordered.
The maid had not actually left the room when Jane heard her mother answer the door and she gathered that it was a neighbour of theirs, Sir Henry Johnson, a childless widower of her father's generation. He had lost his wife in an early air raid while she was in London shopping.
The two men went into her father's study and the door was closed.
Half an hour later her mother came to see Jane and gave her some news which turned her whole world upside down. "Sir Henry has asked you father for your hand in marriage, and your father has agreed."
"But ... but ... I hardly know Sir Henry; and he is so old," Jane protested.
"Nonsense," her mother replied, "At twenty-five you are coming perilously close to being an old maid now. Sir Henry cannot be above forty years old, and the older a husband, the less demanding he is likely to be. As to hardly knowing him, you can start by going to the dinner with him at the Houses of Parliament tonight."
"But, mother, that would mean staying in London overnight?"
"Yes, and that would be perfectly respectable as his fiancée," her mother said triumphantly, "There. It's all settled."
Jane had never had a job, and had rather expected to stay at home and look after her parents as she had for the last eleven years since leaving school. She knew her mother had hoped to 'marry her off' in her younger days, but the number of suitors had tailed off over the years, partly because Jane had never encouraged any of them, and partly because her family had little money and even less property. Over time she had bloomed into a very attractive young woman and with a little make-up she would be a very presentable young wife for an up-and-coming politician such as Sir Henry.
Beatrice ushered her daughter into the study where Sir Henry quickly knelt and proposed to her.
After a brief silence Jane muttered, "I suppose so, if my parents allow it."
Two hours later, wearing her best evening frock and with her left hand adorned by a large diamond engagement ring, Jane was being whisked to London in the back of a Rolls-Royce sedanca-de-ville with her new fiancé in close attendance.
She had feared that this closeness, behind a screen separating them from the driver, might encourage some attempt at familiarity, even possibly kissing, but what she got was a lecture on the current state of politics. It transpired that her husband-to-be was one of the strongest advocates of reaching a swift agreement with Germany to end a war with which he had no sympathy, and which he was convinced Britain had no chance of winning.