Ardeth's Quest: The Liberation of London

BOOK TWO: The Liberation of London--Part Two  

Liberation, Book One: Shifting Saharan Sands (Chapters 1-7) & Intermission I 
Liberation: Book Two, Part One (Chapters 8-12) & Intermission II 


The Afterlife: The Myth of the Restorer of Ma'at   

"Gather round and I'll tell you the story of how Ardeth Bey stopped the Destruction of the Pyramids and saved mankind from destruction," Taita told the assembled children, who were new to the Afterlife, having just arrived in the Afterlife. Taita always had had a soft spot for children, especially children killed as a result of war.  

"Ardeth saved my mother," whispered one girl--a four year old, blond with Egyptian sky blue eyes. Taita smiled at her gently before beginning his tale:  

    "In the time of the Age of Taurus, the Great God Imhotep, Architect of the Step Pyramid, received a vision from Nuit: "You are to build a Temple to me in the village of Djeba, in Upper Egypt." 

    Imhotep replied, "I will do so, Goddess."  

    "There is a block of lapis lazuli buried in the sands around Djeba. That block of lapis lazuli is my earthly body. You are to find my earthly body and construct a Ring and line the Ring with silver. Place my earthly body in my Temple."  

    Again, Imhotep replied, "I will do as you command, Goddess."  

    Then Nuit delivered horrifying news: her Temple would be ransacked by Hyksos a thousand years in Imhotep's future as the pastoral tribe ransacked Egypt and topple the Pharoahs for two hundred and fifty years.  

    The Goddess informed Imhotep that the Hyksos would steal the Ring and travel with the Ring to the Delta of the Nile, along the shores of the Great Green. Late in the first half of the Age of Pisces, the Ring would be buried in the muddy bed of the Great Green when a terrible earthquake would strike the Delta region.  

    Imhotep was horrified at the Goddess' words and told the Goddess he would ensure the Ring of Nuit would not be stolen from the Temple and taken to the Delta.  

    But the Goddess told Imhotep the Temple of Nuit would be toppled by an aftershock of the Delta earthquake. If the Ring of Nuit was in the Temple, the Ring would be crushed under the stone pillars and the Restorer of Ma'at would not be able to use its power to save the Pyramids from destruction. 

    Imhotep was saddened at the knowledge his architecture would be toppled, but he obeyed the Goddess and built her Temple soundly.  

    The Temple survived the millennia, survived the invasion of the Hyksos (and the invasions of many foreign peoples). The Temple was only toppled by the earthquake late in the first half of the Age of Pisces.  

    Near the end of the Age of Pisces, Ardeth Bey, Commander of the Medjai, had been awakened one dawn by the soft breath of Nuit kissing his forehead.  

    She revealed to him that he was her Earthly Son and he had been chosen to return her own earthly body to her Temple in Djeba by the ninth day before the full moon or else the Pyramids would be destroyed along with all humankind.  

    Ardeth travelled across the searing desert towards the Nile, rarely stopping to eat or rest. Sprouting wings of silver, he flew to the mouth of the Nile and dove under the waters of the Great Green. Under the waters of the Great Green, the Great Imhotep and Queen Lostris appeared to Ardeth. Imhotep and Lostris told Ardeth he would have their protection and help.  

    The Great Imhotep used his powers to help Ardeth locate the Ring of Nuit and Queen Lostris cleared the waters under the Great Green and provided a dolphin to help Ardeth return to the surface. Retrieving the silver lined lapis lazuli ring from the muddy bed of the Great Green, Ardeth, with the help of his earthly priest Martin, again sprouted wings of silver and flew to Djeba. Once again, the Great Imhotep assisted Ardeth by showing Ardeth the location of the Temple ruins.  

    Ardeth located the shrine to Nuit, buried in the sands by a dedicated priest. Placing the Ring of Nuit in the shrine, Nuit was able to resurrect her Powers. She dispelled the silver winged invader who was planning on destroying the Pyramids and humankind, depositing the invader directly in the Underworld. In gratitude, the Egyptian Gods granted Ardeth Bey the title "Restorer of Ma'at." 

"Ardeth Bey was the man who helped save my mother!" the four year old piped up.  

"He did! I watched him!" her brother, a six year old boy said as their companions started to get up and wander off. Story time was over for now. The two children had arrived together in the Afterlife, confused and upset and Taita had seen them standing forlornly along with hordes of other children.  

As the children dispersed, following Lostris as she danced and sang, Taita stood up, then turned--and stopped short. For there, standing in front of him, the Great Imhotep himself was materializing.  

"Greetings, Taita," Imhotep said when he had attained the Afterlife."I only caught the last part of the myth but you constructed the myth of Ardeth skillfully," Imhotep said, inclining his head. A golden light suffused Imhotep and also surrounded Taita in a warm glow.  

"And greetings to you, Great Imhotep," Taita replied. His mind was a whirl: for here was Imhotep, whose architecture and medicine Taita had studied all his life. Taita was about to continue his greeting to the Great God, then remembered the shimmering golden light meant that Imhotep had travelled to the Crossroads of Time. Taita had so many questions for Imhotep: architecture, the medical treatises Imhotep had written, poetry.  

He debated as to whether or not he should relate events from a future time--his own time--to Imhotep, then decided to compliment the Great Architect. "I was--or from your timeframe, will be--one of the travelers to your Pyramid who will leave graffito on the unused stones lying around the Pyramid," he told Imhotep.  

"Great," Taita thought to himself. "You finally get to meet the Great Imhotep--a very popular figure even in his own time--and all you can say is that you were one of the people who left--or will leave--graffito about him. Ask him something about medicine next time."  

Imhotep smiled, his white teeth showing fully. "The graffito has already started, Taita. It seems that the Step Pyramid is the only stone building in the world. People are coming from Palestine, Sumeria and from beyond the Tigris River to see the Pyramid. Traders from everywhere are bringing accounts of the Pyramid to their own Kings, and the traders return to Egypt, laden with gifts for Her."  

"The first stone building of its size in the world is an achievement that all the world should see," Taita said, his mind whirling, trying to figure out exactly what to ask the Great Imhotep.  

Imhotep's face looked strained for a moment and Taita realized that Imhotep was using a mixture of mushrooms to get to the Crossroads of Time. The fact that Imhotep was in the Crossroads of Time finally dawned on Taita. He himself had used the essence of the Red Sheppen flower while he worked the Mazes of Ra and the ordeal tired him beyond belief.  

"There is much I'd like to ask you, but I gather this is not a social call," Taita commented, the physician in him noting Imhotep's somewhat pale skin, telling Taita that Imhotep had been attempting to gain access to the Crossroads of Time for many nights--and the strain was showing.  

"You are correct in your deduction, and you are also correct in thinking that I have been trying to gain access to the Crossroads for many nights. There is something I need to ask of you and Lostris."  

"Of course."  

"The Restorer of Ma'at needs your help in expelling the forces of the Dark One from a great city far north and to the west of the Great Green. Can you help? I am afraid if that city falls, then Egypt herself will fall to the Dark One's forces."  

Taita nodded. "Lostris and I will do anything to help the Restorer of Ma'at. We know he has the Bracelet of Lostris, which was made to help repel foreign armies. It didn't work too well," he said sadly. "For Egypt was invaded many times after the Hyksos." Then he bit his lip, wondering if he revealed too much about the future.  

Imhotep smiled wanly. "The Gods told me that Egypt fell to the Hyksos. And the wealth of Egypt is too great for foreign armies to resist. It would be folly to think Egypt will be immune from foreign conquest."  

"We will help in any way possible. I will have Lostris contact the Keeper of the Bracelet and let him know what to do."  

Imhotep thought a moment, then his curiosity got the better of him. He had been a student of the Book of Thoth and he wanted to know what magic Taita had instilled in the Bracelet. "How does the Bracelet work?"  

Taita smiled. Magic never ceased to amaze him--invisibility spells, demon-repelling spells, cure spells--all the spells from the Book of Thoth, of which he was a student and he rather suspected that Imhotep was also a student of the Book.  

But Taita's studying of the Book had been surreptious, for he had discovered a torn copy in a ransacked Temple and had taken the Book. "Invisibility, for one. When someone is in great peril from an enemy, and is wearing the Bracelet, the spell kicks in without any incantation. All the Bracelet needs is the feeling of fear throbbing in the veins for the spell to be activated."  

Imhotep was impressed. Taita's feat with the invisibility spell from the Book of Thoth had improved upon the spell. "You improved upon the spell?"  

Taita nodded. "When the Hyksos invaded, I needed to have a spell to make myself invisible so that I might move about Thebes during the day, copying scrolls that you wrote, and that I wrote, then hiding them. I was afraid the knowledge would be lost. I nearly failed many times and once I was chased through the streets of Thebes by an entire squadron of enemy soldiers until I was able to jump in the Nile and hide amongst the papyrus reeds."  

"Rats are hard to avoid and spells take time to perfect," Imhotep replied, noting Taita's nod at his mention of rats. The two men shared a smile, knowing who the rats were, then Imhotep added, "You copied my scrolls?" He couldn't help but ask.  

"Yes. Your medical treatise was the one that I learned from, and I copied that scroll first, even before copying the scrolls I authored. I hid my copy of your treatise well, and I am rather hoping that the copy remains intact."  

Imhotep nodded, Taita's reply had confirmed that he too was a physician. "Since you are already in the Afterlife, you can have Lostris ask the Keeper if he has heard of a surviving copy of the medical treatise has been found," he observed.  

"You're right. Martin might know the outcome. Or Ardeth. Martin can ask Ardeth. I hid my copies very well...actually," Taita grinned. "I hid my copies in your Pyramid."  

"How?" Imhotep asked, surprised.  

"In the upper reaches. I caused smaller blocks to be carved out of the larger stones. Then, I cut the smaller stones in half and partly hollowed them out."  

"And that would create a niche in which you could hide something," Imhotep said, grinning. "It seems that my medical treatises are not all you read."  

"Guilty as charged," Taita responded, smiling broadly. "Engineering, architecture, medicine, poetry are all required reading in my time. I can recite chapter and verse from each of your scrolls, my memory is that good."  

"The scholars have decreed the same thing in time," Imhotep observed. "I see the young boys carving mud bricks and building mud pyramids while being supervised by their older brothers who are studying to be architects. What other spells did you have instilled in the Bracelet?"  

"The demon-repelling spell, modified and improved upon a bit. To repel the invaders, the Bracelet would be activated by being broken into three parts, then placed in a triangle. Like the Pyramids. Then the Spell of Osiris would be incanted."  

Imhotep smiled, highly impressed with Taita's improvement of the magic spells from the Book of Thoth. "Smart. Using the power of the Pyramids to repel invaders instead of the spell repelling demons."  

"With Egypt being invaded, invaders are demons," Taita commented and Imhotep nodded.  

"You are a man I would have liked to have known in my time," Imhotep said, a bit confused at his grammar in the Crossroads but he shrugged it off.  

Taita debated his answer a moment. "I, a former slave, would have been honored to be in your presence," he replied, deciding not to hide his roots. Even in the Afterlife, all he could remember about the place he originated from was that it was a mountainous region north of the Great Green.  

The four year old child from London most resembled him in looks and eye color, and he secretly wondered if the woman who birthed him had birthed other children who had migrated to London--the great city north and west of the Great Green.  

"A former slave," Imhotep observed. "I presume your former owner educated you?" Imhotep asked.  

Taita nodded again. "Lord Intef was my first owner. I was eight when I arrived in Egypt. Seeing that I had aptitude, he educated me. When I became old enough, I sought out other things to do: learn the languages of the slaves from the interior of Africa, learn anatomy by dissecting cadavers. When Lostris married the Pharoah and her father was required to give her a wedding present, she asked for me instead."  

Imhotep was intrigued. "Instead of what?"  

"Instead of one hundred feddans of prime irrigable land land and the five thousand gold rings Lord Intef had offered her."  

"She saw your worth as far more than land or gold."  

"But I am worried that it was me who brought the Hyksos to Egypt," Taita said, then bit his lip again. He wondered if he had said too much and if that knowledge would harm the flow of time.  

"I made a promise to the Gods not to reveal anything I learn about the future. I already know the Hyksos invade Egypt and bring her down. I also know the Temple I built to Nuit will topple late in the first half of the Age of Pisces." A promise made to the Gods was not done lightly and Imhotep greatly feared retribution if he revealed anything he learned. What he feared most was that his heart would be judged unworthy and would be eaten by Ammit.  

"It was I who informed Pharoah about Lord Intef's deception by evading his tax collectors," Taita responded, now realizing what Imhotep had realized: a broken promise to the Gods meant the heart being eaten by Ammit. "But Intef had already been fingered as the leader of the Shrikes, who had been maurading the countryside."  

"Then he was already guilty of betraying Egypt."  

"But he left in exile after I revealed to Pharoah the location of the hidden wealth."  

"He would have been in exile anyways, for he had already waged a war against Egypt by leading those who mauraded the countryside. Did the Pharoah have knowledge of Intef's leadership of the Shrikes before he gained knowledge of the deception from the tax collectors?"  

Taita breathed a sigh of relief. In the back of his mind, he had always thought during the long days of exile in Kush that Egypt's downfall had been his own doing. "Yes. Pharoah had learned about the Shrikes just before learning of Intef's deception." But another thought nagged Taita: if Lostris had chosen her father's wedding present of land and gold, he could have been kept Intef in check.  

"I see something else is on your mind," Imhotep observed. "Are you worried that if Lostris had chosen the land and gold offered by her father, Lord Intef's actions could have been kept in check?"  

Taita was startled. "How did you know that?"  

"An Egyptian physician is trained in all aspects of bodily health: the mind as well as the body. And," he smiled broadly at Taita. "I was thinking the same thing. My next question is simple: did the mauraders start pillaging Egypt before or after Lostris was married to Pharoah?"  

"Before," was Taita's instant reply. Then Taita breathed another sigh of relief. There was nothing he could have done to prevent the invasion of the Hyksos. When Tanus revealed Intef to be the leader of the Shrikes--the Akh-Seth--Intef would have already planned to exile himself. Decades of worry fell from his shoulders. "Thank you, Imhotep."  

"It is I who should thank you, Taita. For copying my medical treatise when Egypt was invaded and then hiding it in my own Pyramid. Next to the Pyramid, I am most proud of my medical treatise."  

"Then I prescribe this treatment: one flooding season along the shores of the Great Green," Taita said, smiling. "Even the Great Imhotep needs time to contemplate."  

"Prescription noted, and accepted," Imhotep responded. "I must leave now."  

Taita inclined his head. "It was an honor to meet you. May the rest of your days be blessed by the Gods."  

"That I am hoping. I will meet up with you again when it is my turn to enter the Afterlife. I suspect we will have much to talk about."  

"That we will," Taita said and Imhotep faded out, the golden light lingering just a moment longer. He didn't know why he had told Imhotep about his fears that Egypt's invasion had been his fault or why he had started the conversation. Perhaps that was the way of things: the rise and fall of nations over millenia. Perhaps Egypt had been meant to fall in his lifetime so that she might arise again, like a benu rising from the ashes of its own immolition.  

Was that the reason Egypt fell? To make her stronger? Taita had known many travelers from far-flung lands, and he knew many cultures told similar stories of long lived birds whose lives were ended in flames--a metaphor, perhaps, for explaining the rise and fall of a nation's fortunes.  

Taita decided to go look for one of the later Pharoahs of Egypt. Perhaps one of the Pharaohs could inform Taita if Egypt had experienced her second set of Golden Days--the first such set being in the time of the Great Imhotep and the Pyramid Age. He smiled to himself and hummed a tune as he went off in search of answers, in search of the benu that was Egypt.  

Temple of Nuit, Djeba, Egypt, in the Age of Taurus, dawn  

Standing up, Imhotep arched his back. A temple servant brought him fresh water to drink. As the life of the Nile slipped down his throat, the golden rays of Ra peeked over the edge of the horizon. Dawn was always his favorite time of the day hours, for Ra's rays signified life was still strong along the Nile.  

He had been impressed with Taita. Impressed with the knowledge Taita had learned, impressed with the magic Taita had been able to work.  

Imhotep had also seen one thing he had never seen before: blue eyes. Although one of the Traders from the islands in the Great Green had been said to have blue eyes--and his daughter was said to have dark green eyes--blue eyes were unheard of in Egypt during his time and Taita's eyes were the color of the Egyptian sky.  

The depth of knowledge Imhotep had learned about the future astounded him. And he knew he would never reveal that knowledge. Imhotep was an honest man, and an honorable man. Once he gave his word, he would never break his promise. He supposed the Gods knew that and had entrusted him with certain knowledge.  

Finishing the cup of water, he handed the cup back to the waiting servant. Today would be a great day along the Nile. He had performed his duties well and his soul was infused with good feelings.  

"Your bath is ready," the servant said before nodding and walking silently towards the bathhouse adjacent to the Temple. Imhotep followed him, wondering if he would be willing to be educated like Taita had been educated by Lord Intef.  


Carnahan O'Connell Estate, October 1, 1940, mid-afternoon   

Weary was an excellent adjective to use these past days. Daily and nightly the Luftwaffe kept bombing: the Docklands were destroyed, homes had vanished, families dispersed.  

The unextinguishable fires resulting from the Docklands bombings had an unfortunate side effect: the fires made excellent beacons for the Luftwaffe pilots. And the pilots had unerringly targeted schools, train stations and railroad lines. London was running short of food supplies.  

Time and again, there was one train which managed to slip into London: Puffing Billy brought food and fresh military recruits to London. By unspoken mutual consent, foreign journalists vowed to keep the train's origination and termination points a secret, just in case the Nazis read the foreign newspapers.  

Most heartbreaking were the radio reports concerning London's children. The three O'Connell's wept openly when the BBC broadcast interviews with the children of London.  

Most of the villagers had either courageously returned to their homes, or had deserted London for safer environs in the country. Excepting Alex, the village's children were sent to the Irish countryside at the O'Connell's expense.  

And tonight the O'Connell's would shelter a dozen or so villagers whose homes were destroyed.  

But there was one incongruity which perplexed both the adult O'Connells: despite the intense nightly destruction of London and the high loss of human life, London's nightlife had, in the past few weeks, seemed to intensify. It had been Alex who had proffered an explanation.  

"See, mum and dad, my mates think we'll be the next to die. Tallulah died from shrapnel on her way to donate blood. It's like that; people think they're going to die, so they want to go out and have fun while they are still alive," he'd said with all his seventeen year old authority.  

The explanation about London's burgeoning nightlife from Alex didn't make sense to either of the adult O'Connell's but apparently the explanation made perfect sense to the rest of the world. Every day, the BBC broadcast reports about the foreign press commenting on "how the courageous young people of London went about their daily activities as if thumbing their noses at the Luftwaffe and the horrible destruction being wrought by the bombs. What spirit!"  

Radio reports were filled with news about how the two Princessess were buying yarn and knitting for the soldiers. England was especially proud of how Queen Elizabeth had decided to turn Windsor Castle into a farm to grow crops. Taking up the Queen's suggestion, Rick had thought the Queen's idea a splendid one and he decided to grow vegetables on the vast Carnahan O'Connell estate to supplement the meagre war rations.  

Evie heard footsteps thundering up the stairs. "Alex! Stop running! You'll wake the dead!" Evie called out as she tried to shoo the duck from the bathtub. "Ducky! You know water is being rationed," Evie told the duck. Ducky, for his part, ignored Evie's statements to him.  

The footsteps were now thudding down the hallway towards Rick and Evie's bedroom suite.  

"Mum! Ardeth's made the news!" he thrust a newspaper at Evie. "Besides, I already woke the dead!" he said, remembering how he'd used the Book of the Dead to resurrect his mother eight years ago.  

"Where did you get this? Did you go off the estate?" Evie asked at once, concerned for Alex's safety. The O'Connells had decided that it was necessary for someone to refresh supplies and to see to the villagers' needs, and although Rick had volunteered, Alex sometimes went in Rick's place.  

Evie had been concerned at first, for Nuit had told the O'Connells that they should stay on their estate, but as the O'Connell's and the villagers had quickly learned, it was safe to go about the village when the bombers weren't in the sky; Nuit would rumble whenever a Luftwaffe raid was imminent and warn the villagers to return to the O'Connell estate.  

However, the rule at the O'Connell's was that at least one of the three family members remain on the estate at all times.  

Now as Evie looked at the headlines on the front page of The New York Times, she felt her heart flutter. "Oh my! He's made it to England?"  

"Yeah, but to the wrong end. He's in Land's End. Read it, mum."  

    Penzance Ferry sinks off the Cornwall Coast in Surprise Storm   
    Land's End, September 25, 1940. The government-contracted supply ferry, Gilgamesh, sank in storm waters off Land's End two days ago. The ferry was on its way back from France to Penzance on an authorized supply run when the storm caught them unawares. "A freak wave nearly capsized the ferry," said the Captain Roger Wiltshire of Penzance. The captain and first mate Harry Blanch were found alive in the water, clinging to a piece of wood.  

    One other survivor, a deckhand hailing from Cairo, Egypt, was rescued from the notorious Wolf's Rock, site of the sinking of the submarine SS Joshua Nicholson on March 18, 1917.  

    Four year old David Dunlop, looking through a telescope from Zawn Reeth, had insisted to his mother that a man was shipwrecked on Wolf Rock, a treacherous rock outcrop 1.2 kilometres from Land's End. A sympathetic sailor, Thomas Wheaton of Savannah, Georgia, USA, in the true spirit of a seaman, went to investigate David's claim and found the shipwrecked deckhand clinging to life on Wolf's Rock. The deckhand's name was not immediately known. 

"It's Seth again. But Ardeth outwitted him. Let's show this to dad. He can wire down to Land's End and see what we can do to get Ardeth here," Alex suggested after his mother had read the article.  

"Is he really here? The paper says a deckhand hailing from Egypt was rescued." Evie didn't want to get her hopes up but hope flared in her heart and she wasn't sure if she could keep her face from betraying her feelings. She looked at article again, then at the name of the paper.  

"Where did you get this paper? It's from New York!" she exclaimed.  

"From a Canadian who got to town this morning," Alex said.  

"How did he get here? Air and sea routes are closed!"  

"He came via Toronto to Dublin, ferried to Cardiff, then came on the supply trains that are still running," Alex replied.  

"Not the Canadian, dear. Ardeth! How did Ardeth get to England?" Evie asked, a frown creasing her brow.  

"I suppose he'll tell us when he gets here," Alex replied.  

"Why hasn't he at least sent a telegram? He must have been in England for nearly a week," Evie stated, her eyebrows knitting in confusion.  

Alex stroked his chin. "That is strange. I'll go ask dad if he's received any telegrams," he said as he sprinted out of the bedroom and down the hallway. Evie's voice floated after him,  

"Alex! Be careful!" she called, then she addressed the duck.  

"I'm going to leave the bathtub to you, Ducky," she told the duck. Since the 7th, the male duck had made himself quite at home in the O'Connell residence, going so far as to make a morning ritual of flying up and down the stairwell each day--quacking loudly--as his way of ensuring the O'Connell household greeted the new sunrise.  

"Quack, quaaaaccck, quack, QUACK!" Ducky said to no one in particular, as he swam serenely in the bathtub.  

Evie left the bedroom and went to find Rick. As she went, she began reading the accounts that Londoners gave to the foreign press.  

    Danni, Age 6, Stepney, London   
    The bombs were terrible when they fell. I was having high tea with mummy when I heard a loud explosion. She motioned for me to get down under the table but another explosion turned the table onto its side. Mummy and me hid.  

    And we fell asleep during the second bombardment. The next morning my mummy went outside to see the neighborhood. She came back and told me that my best friend's house was destroyed. And mummy told me my best friend Carol and her mum were lying dead in the grass of her front lawn.  

    Mummy covered her up with a tablecloth. Then she did something unusual: mummy rummaged around the remains of the home and took all the food. She brought these items back to our house. Then she went back and took all their silverware. She told me she was going to keep the silverware safe until Carol's relatives can send for it. They live overseas and are glad to know their family valuables are safe.  

    I heard on the beeb that people were looting destroyed homes for the valuables. Mummy says that's not what we did: we're safekeeping Carol's silverware. Her relatives know we have it for Mummy got word to them. Later we found out that Carol's dad and Carol's little sister Michelle were wounded but they left the country.  

    Now we have to go to bomb shelters every night. My seventh birthday is in November. I hope the war is over then. I don't want to spend my birthday in a bomb shelter. I hate war.  

    Paul Perlman, 41, South London   
    He's got us where he wants us, all right. With the shape of the Thames, London is a no-miss target. But blitz or no blitz, the nightlife of London goes on. One would think that nightlife would stop, all the entertainment would shut down, with the Luftwaffe dropping bombs every night.  

    But the young Londoners think they might not have a long life and you know how the young think: they might as well enjoy themselves for they might not be alive tomorrow night. So the young Londoners head out to their favorite pubs in Central London. The local council looks the other way when the pub owners stretch the licensing hours.  

    Sometimes the hours are stretched all night. I usually like to go to the mess hall when I'm off duty--I'm a quartermaster--where a LACW will serve bacon, eggs and hot coffee. I know what you're thinking: an Englishman drinking coffee when you thought all English people drank tea. I like coffee better than tea and I met my new girlfriend while drinking coffee in a shop down in Piccadilly.  

    Bad conclusion to draw, I know, but this is war and I'll take meeting a new girlfriend while drinking coffee over watching a bomb destroy a London neighborhood any day.  

    Linda Burns, Watford   
    My childhood semi-detached was bombed back in '18, when I was fourteen. I had been in the basement when the bombs fell and I was the only survivor from my family. My mum, dad, two sisters and my brother were outside in the garden when the bomb dropped on our neighbors.  

    My family was killed instantly. Physically, I lost my right eye and three fingers from my right hand from '18. That didn't stop me from going to work though. I was fourteen and had no other family to take me in. The social people tried to place me with different families but I ran away from every home. So they finally put me into a gardening job.  

    That was good work for my mangled right hand. That's what I do now for England: growing a garden. The Queen had a most wonderful idea of using Windsor Castle to grow crops for the war effort. The two Princesses come round to the estates to help with the work sometimes. Good patriotic spirit in Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.  

    When I heard about the gardens, I went down and applied to be a gardener. Now I go around to the various Estates and oversee the planting of the crops. That's good work for me, because the homes on my street were destroyed on the 7th. Actually, our street seemed to be overlooked when the bombs first started dropping at high tea time. But during the overnight onslaught, my house was destroyed.  

    So I like the fact that I can get lodging in the Royal Estates as I oversee the planting of the war gardens. It seems like I'm destined to be homeless every twenty years or so, so it looks like I'll be in my mid fifties when I lose another of my homes.  

    Hettie Williams, Chauffeur, Piccadilly   
    I don't like to talk about the 7th. Karen can do that. In my off hours, me and the Brylcreem Boys go around to the coffeeshops when they come off duty. My regular job is to pick up the airmen coming in on Puffing Billy. Puffing Billy's the name is the name of the transport that brings in food and airmen.  

    I won't tell you where Puffing Billy originates or terminates because the SS might have their eye on this newspaper and then bomb Puffing Billy.  

    The Brylcreem Boys' CO gives a day off every four or five days. So the Brylcreem Boys come to London and I drive them around, seeing the sights like Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. They're young and war or not, they need to unwind.  

    The Brylcreem Boys keep me in nylons, lipstick and cigarettes, so I would like to say thank you their families in America for sending those items. I picked up the term cigarettes from the Americans.  

    It's a wonder that my own street has escaped a lot of the damage but with the daily bombings, I suppose that will become a thing of the past. There are areas of London that the British soldiers won't let us drive through because of the fires, especially at the docklands, and the debris from the destroyed homes. The bombed out homes are still smoking.  

    Karen Wilson, South Ealing   
    Hettie might not like to talk about the 7th but she's just too shaken. I'm shaken too. Four hundred eighty eight people died on the 7th.  

    When the planes first moved towards London, I thought it was a huge thunderstorm coming. I remember feeling a bit let down when I saw the thick line of black in the sky moving towards London at high tea time. English weather is wet and rotten on an ordinary day, and although the 7th was a nice, sunny day, English weather is known to turn in a heartbeat. So I thought: a squall.  

    Then I went about setting out the silver for high tea. As I was pouring the tea, I thought: we're inland! That's when I knew the war had come to London.  

    August 24th had seen a lot of heavy Luftwaffe activity. Portsmouth, Dover, Ramsgate, South Wales, Birmingham, most of the north-east coast and a lot of airfields were targeted with bombs. A few bombs dropped over Central London but the papers the next day reported that the bombs were inadvertant.  

    We learned later that England retaliated for the 24th by bombing Germany. Apparently, Hitler didn't like our actions. Nobody in my family really believed that the bombs over London on the 24th were inadvertant.  

    It seemed we were just existing in kind of a daze, waiting day after day for the bombs to start dropping over London. Hitler seems like the "take it all" kind of person--I don't really want to call him a man and I'm being kind when I say person--and he seems to be methodically taking over Europe. But he won't win. London will never fall.  

    I have faith in our country. And I have faith in mysterious things, you know, those ethereal kind of things. Magic, some people call it for I've Egyptian blood running in my veins from my grandmother's side. And I just have a feeling that we'll beat Hitler and send him packing back to where he belongs.  

Evie, having managed to get nearly all the way down the stairs while reading the newspaper accounts, slipped on something left on the stairs. "Aaaaaahhhhhh!" she said as she fell rather hard down the remaining stairs.  

"I'm okay! It's just my rotten luck!" she called out to no one in particular. Taking stock of herself, she found that all she had bruised was her ego.  

Twisting around to see what she had tripped on, she saw a most unwelcome sight: Ducky had left a calling card on the stair.  

"Either he wears diapers or he will have to find a nice pond somewheres," Evie said halfheartedly. But she really didn't have the heart to displace Ducky.  

Article in The London Times  

    London, October 2.  Carrying six survivors, the derelict supply ferry, Gilgamesh, was found a kilometer offshore from Plymouth. The Gilgamesh was thought to have sunk in storm waters off Wolf Rock (Land's End) on September 23. The captain, Roger Wiltshire, had thought the ferry sunk when a freak wave nearly capsized the boat with six lives lost. The six survivors, all crew hands of the Gilgamesh, after a medical exam, were found to be healthy, if a bit hungry and thirsty.  

    The cargo of the Gilgamesh was found intact. It is not known how the ferry's crew survived without food for over a week, although the crew related the same strange dream of being surrounded in a golden light. The six survivors did express surprise upon learning the date, for they had thought just a few hours had passed. The captain expressed profound relief at the survival of his entire crew, whom he thought perished in last week's storm.  

    The cargo of the ferry will be delivered to its destinations. Although the ferry did not suffer external damage, the captain thought it best to decommision the ferry, sell it, and purchase another. "I can't have the name of my ferry being bantered around the newspapers. You never know who is reading," he said. 

The Afterlife, Sometime in Eternity 

Taita had found Lostris dancing with the four year old girl Taita had noticed earlier. Lostris had immediately agreed to The Great Imhotep's request (she had, as a child, been as fascinated with the Architect as Taita himself was) and she was now off in a trance, attempting to communicate with the Keeper of the Bracelet.  

While she was off in her trance--and Taita didn't know how long she would need to contact the Keeper--he decided he would use the spare time to get some of his questions answered.  

Spotting a young boy-King sporting the Double Crown of Egypt, Taita turned his steps towards the young King. Taita was familiar with Egypt's List of Kings and this young man didn't figure in Taita's knowledge of Egypt at the time of Taita's death..  

Then a thought struck him and he paused in mid-step: Lord Intef had given him--a slave--the opportunity for education, and he had used that knowledge to create the Bracelet of Lostris. By being one of the very few Egyptians to attain literacy, Taita had been able to gain access to the Book of Thoth--heavily guarded even in his own day but a ransacked Theben Temple had given Taita the opportunity to save a copy. 

And using the magic contained in the Book was going to help the Restorer repel the invaders of London, and thus prevent the Dark One's forces from re-gaining Egypt.  

Taita smiled. How strange things were, interlocking in circles. Lord Intef appeared, to Taita's mind, as a pivotal figure in history. First Lord Intef had purchased the eight year old Taita in the slave market, and then gave him the gift of education. An adult Taita had become Intef's right hand man, running the Grand Vizier Intef's business on his behalf.  

Later on, after Lostris had married Pharoah and requested Taita as her wedding gift, Lord Intef had betrayed Egypt twice before going into exile. Taita had given the knowledge to the Pharaoh of Intef's second betrayal of Egypt.  

Egypt was further betrayed a third time by Intef. And it came to pass that after ten days of waiting on the plain near Abnub, and nearly a thousand years after its invention, the chariot, wheeled with a solid disk and drawn by the Russian steppe horse, was introduced into Egypt by way of warfare.  

And Egypt had fallen quickly to the invaders. But during the occupation and pillaging of Egypt, Taita had sought to improve upon--successfully, by creating the six spoke wheel--the design of the chariot. And with his literacy, he had sought to create improved magical spells to preserve the ancient knowledge.  

A few of those improved spells had been instilled in the Bracelet of Lostris. Now the Bracelet that he had created would be used to expel the invaders of London--and the potential invaders of Egypt. 

Circles within circles. Was Lord Intef a curse? A blessing in disguise? Taita would never know, for Lord Intef was in the Underworld.  

He started to resume his walk to see the young boy-King but excited caws, meows and yips came faintly behind him. Turning, he saw running and flying towards him, his beloved puppies, cats and birds that had been poisoned by Lord Intef...well, Lord Intef had caused poison to be put into the sour milk that Taita had fed his beloved animals. He'd had the dead animals mummified and they had been waiting for him in the fields of the Afterlife.  

He was bowled over by his menagerie. The young boy-King noticed the commotion and soon Taita heard a cheerful royal summons: "Come! Tell Pharaoh Tutanhkamen what you have there!"  

Suspecting what the young king was wanting, Taita whistled to his animals and they followed him obediently as he walked over to Pharaoh Tut and made his obesiences.  

"You aided my predecessor, Pharaoh Mamose," the young Pharaoh observed after Taita had risen from his obesiance. 

"What you have heard is true, my King." 

"Tell me, may I have this puppy?" King Tut said, making a sorry attempt to avoid the wet kisses of one of Taita's puppies--a female aged just two months when she had been given the poisoned milk. 

"Yes, my King. She is yours. Her name is Lanata. She is a very lovable personality and enjoys sleeping with humans. Althought you might want to watch out for unwelcome presents in your bed upon awakening," he added drily.  

"Lanata was the baby-name of Queen Lostris," King Tut observed wryly as Lanata successfully covered the young King's face with sloppy doggy kisses. The two men laughed, and King Tut motioned for Taita to step along with him as they went off to find somewhere they could talk.  

Horse hooves galloped fast over the countryside just outside of Windsor Castle. His mount was fresh. Ardeth had assessed the situation and had come to the same conclusion that Rick had: riding a horse was much faster than trying to catch a train which ran sporadically.  

He had found his journey through the mists of Cornwall to be rapid, and Cornwallian hospitality was the best on this side of the Mediterranean. Only his native Tuareg provided the same level of hospitality, for in the Sahara, when one came upon a tribe of Tuareg, one was welcomed for three days. The dessicating Sahara sapped the strength of even the strongest person, and the strongest beast. Three days was enough to rest and rejuvenate.  

The one anomaly that perplexed Ardeth was the Cornwallian natives' tendency to refer to him as "King Arthur."  

The "Arthur" he understood; David's referral to him as "Arder" was natural for a four year old for even the young children in his own tribe often mispronounced words. Martha's interpretation of "Arder" as "Arthur" didn't bother him; Ardeth was well aware of the differences in pronunciations by speakers of different languages.  

Nor did the moniker of King Arthur bother Ardeth. Conversely, he had discovered that upon hearing the gallop of the horse he was riding, the natives of Cornwall had been quick to saddle up fresh horses, provide a hot bath, hot meals, fresh clothes while his own were being washed, and a warm bed. All these were offered, even before he'd dismounted from his sweaty horse.  

"Ay, call down to the dairy and fetch King Arthur a fresh pail of milk!" someone would call as Ardeth's mount, sweating and tired, galloped up to a farm house.  

"Ay, call upon Mary to fetch King Arthur a hot bath and a hot meal!" came the call from a farmhand to someone in the house as Ardeth swung over the side of the panting horse.  

"Ready and saddle up a fresh horse for King Arthur!" came another cry as Ardeth's feet came into contact with the ground.  

Farmhands and stable boys would come running to tend to the horse and make ready a stable. And, as always, when possible, the Cornwallians drove Ardeth to his next destination, or as far as they were able, given the blackout restrictions.  

There were dark shadows underneath Ardeth's eyes, for he was sleeping less and travelling more. A bombing of some of the coastal ports meant that Ardeth had been delayed a few days, but he'd spent those days in relative comfort, regaining some of the sleep he'd lost, but the worry about his arriving in London weighed heavy on his heart.  

And for some reason, he had been unable to find out Martin's whereabouts. He knew Martin was alive, for somehow the Bracelet had formed a tenuous link between the two men. He rather suspected that knowledge of Martin's whereabouts were being kept from him by Seth.  


Cafe car in a rattling passenger train, English Countryside, early October, 1940 

"Are we there yet?" the winsome nearly breathless seven year old boy asked Jonathan.  

Jonathan, for his part, paused with a cup of tea halfway to his mouth. He smiled at the child. Ah, youth! David McClure reminded Jonathan of Alex at seven. And at eight, at nine and at eighteen years old. 

He sipped his tea, heavily laden with sugar, and set his tea cup down on the table. The train rattled on the tracks but the sturdy white ceramic cup remained solidly steady. "We'll be in Cardiff in about an hour." He adjusted his thick plaid winter coat. The train's heating wasn't working well and there was a chill in the cafe car.  

"Are you going to come with us to Ireland?" David asked, brushing his dark hair out of his brown eyes.  

"Part of the way, yes." 

"How much is part way?"  

"I'll be introducing each group of children to the farmers you'll be living with." 

"Who am I going to be living with?" 

"You, Irene Dunne, Charles Whiting and Ada Ableson will be lodging with the Cashmans." 

"What do they do?" 

"They farm the land." 

"What do they farm?"  

Now Jonathan was sure that Evie had had a secret pregnancy and produced this child so strikingly in temperament like a young Alex. "They farm things," Jonathan waved his hand in the air, trying to stall for time, then picked up his tea cup and sipping again.  

"What kind of things? Things like shoelaces and sugar?" 

"Mmmm, more like potatoes and wheat. Carrots and cows," he sipped his tea again before setting his cup down. The tea inside the cup swirled around as the train wheels clanged against the tracks.  

"Cows are farmed?" 

Jonathan chuckled. "No, cows are raised. I meant the farm will have cows." 

"And dogs? I lost my dog on the 7th," David said, crawling up on the seat across from Jonathan. 

"What was your dog's name?" 



David nodded sadly. "Cuppy. When she was a puppy, my little sister named her Buttercup. We called her Cuppy for short." 

Jonathan noticed the verb tense and said gently, "They might have more than a few dogs on the farm. Cows need to be herded and border collies are bred to herd animals." 

David brightened considerably. "Can I have some tea?" 

Jonathan nodded, and reached to his side. Opening up the picnic basket, he took out a large metal flask which contained his store of tea. Pulling out a clean cup and setting it on the table, he opened the flask. David's eyes watched as the hot golden brown liquid poured into the cup. 

"Can I have some sugar?" the boy asked hopefully, his tongue coming out involuntarily and licking his lips. 

Jonathan smiled and held his finger to his lips. "Shhhhh. As a matter of fact, I do have some sugar. Just a bit here, you see, to make the tea sweet. No milk though. Don't tell the others." 

"I don't like my tea with milk. I'd rather have sugar, please," David said, smiling in anticipation as Jonathan lifted out a small metal lidded container. Sugar was being rationed. Unscrewing the lid, Jonathan poured a bit of sugar in the tea.  

"Will that be enough sugar?" he asked David, and the boy nodded as Jonathan picked up a spoon.  

"You don't need to stir it. The jolting of the train will do that," David said as he pulled the warm cup towards him and watched the liquid swirl around the cup.  

Jonathan smiled as David picked up the cup and sipped. "This is good tea! Did your mummy make this?" David asked. 

"Oh no. My sister made my tea."  

"My sister died," David responded, and imitated Jonathan by sipping his tea again. 

"I'm sorry to hear your sister died. How old was she?" 

"Five. She died in July." David sipped his tea again. "She had a brain tumour." 

"Not a very nice thing to have in the brain." 

"No. She didn't like the tumour at all. It made her go blind the last few months of her life," David said, sounding very much like a grown up. 

"Blind is no good," Jonathan replied, also sipping his tea. 

"Do you think we'll go to school in Ireland?" the child asked, changing the subject.  

"Yes. It's a small village, but they have a school." 

"How big is the school?" 

"Not very big. There's about sixty children attending." 

"That's the size of my class in my school. Our school is much bigger than theirs." 

"The Cashmans live in a small village." 

"That's true. Small villages wouldn't have big schools. Will we have to live there long?" 

"I'm not sure. War is unpredictable." 

"Will I be able to send letters to my parents?" 

"Every week. Someone will pick up the letters and bring them over to England."  

"Goody!" David said as the train lurched to a sudden stop. "What's wrong?" the child's voice, full of terror, asked.  

"Stay here," Jonathan said and started to get up but a train conductor passing through the cafe car waved for Jonathan to sit back down.  

"There's a cow in the middle of the tracks up ahead and we're trying to move it off. No worries," the conductor said, tipping his hat, moving between the tables in the cafe car and trying to reassure the other passengers.  

"Whew! I thought it was a bomber plane." 

"I wouldn't like to see any more bomber planes," Jonathan commented.. 

"Bomber planes are bad," David agreed. "You're going to go back for more kids to bring to Ireland?" 

"Yes. My sister and brother in law are helping to organize the evacuation. This is my third time accompanying kids to the countryside." 

"Are you going to accompany Michael Hall to America?" 

Jonathan looked surprised. "I don't believe so. Who is Michael?" 

"My neighbor. His parents were killed on the 7th but he has an aunt who lives in California." 

"California is sunny, and warm." 

"He said he'll be living in a place called Santa Barbara." 

"Don't believe I've heard of that city." 

"It's on the coast. I looked it up in the world atlas." 

"You're a smart kid. Would you like a bit more tea?" 

"Yes, please. And sugar?" he asked, and Jonathan nodded. "The others don't know what they're missing!" David exclaimed as he sipped his second cup of tea laced with sugar.  

"Where are the other children who are with you?" Jonathan asked David, filling his own cup with more hot tea. 

David put his cup down on the table and tried to look serious but his twinkling eyes gave him away. "We're playing a game of hide and seek. Irene's "it". I'm hiding in the cafe car." 

Jonathan laughed as the train engineer chose that moment to start the train. "Here we go!" David said. "You know, I've never been on a train ride before." The train lurching forward suddenly gave the tea a reason to spill over the sides of the two cups on the table. 

"Never?" Jonathan asked as he took a napkin and dabbed the spilled tea up. 

"Never. I'm kind of sad to be leaving my parents. But I am riding on a train!" David said, being excited on his first train ride despite his losses: the losses of his parents, his sister and Cuppy. David looked up at Jonathan, picked up his tea cup, sipped his tea, then said, "My parents are going to be spies." 

Jonathan was surprised. "Really?" 

"Really. They're going off and gather information and use spy gadgets." 

"You mustn't tell other people. That could get your parents in trouble," Jonathan observed.  And David's mouth pursed. "But I won't tell," he promised David. 

"Promise? I want to go home to my parents after the war." 

"I promise."  

When he was finished wiping up the spilled tea, he put the napkin on the table and said, "Do you know what I have for you and your friends?" 

"Yes I do. You're going to give us a present." When Jonathan looked surprised, David explained, "Word's already gone around London about the Carnahan O'Connells giving presents to the kids who are going to the country: games and clothes and chocolates and books." 

"Well, you have one up on me then." 

"What are you going to give us?" David asked slyly.  

"You'll have to wait and see but you'll like your presents," Jonathan's white teeth flashed at David. 

"Really? Truly?" David was excited, like all children expecting a gift, despite knowing what he and his friends would be receiving. "Can I see them?" 

"Sure thing. Why don't we finish up our tea and I'll show you." 

"Yippee!" David slurped the last of his tea before handing his cup to Jonathan. "I'll meet you at our seats!" he called over his shoulder as he slid off the chair and dashed down the aisle. Other passengers smiled at the young boy, knowing that despite his pain, a child's enthusiasm can be refueled for a short time.  

Wiping the inside of the cups with the napkin, Jonathan placed the cups in the picnic basket and picked up the picnic basket, and followed David.  

By the time he returned to the seats where he and the four children who were going to be foster siblings for the duration of the war were already gathered around Jonathan's luggage, jumping in their shoes and smiling.  

"We didn't want to open your luggage, sir," a red-haired Irene told Jonathan as he put the picnic basket on the overhead rack.  

"We thought that would be rather rude," Charles and Ada said together. They looked at each other and giggled.  

"Now, let's see what we got for you here," Jonathan said as he opened the suitcase containing the presents for the Cashman's foster kids. "You weren't supposed to get these until you arrive at the farm but I don't see any problem giving them now. Here, Irene. This is for you, and Ada, this one's for you. Charles, you get this one and for you, David, this one here." Jonathan smiled as the kids opened their presents.  

"Chocolates!" Ada cried, her eyes tearing up. "I haven't had chocolates in such a long time!" 

"I got chocolates, and a game!" Charles said, his eyes lighting up.  

"I got card games and chocolates too!" Irene said. At nine, she was the oldest of the dozen children whom Jonathan was escorting to various farms in Ireland this time around.  

"I got the same thing!" David said, then added, "and I got socks! Dig deeper," he instructed the other kids who followed his instruction and there, nestled in the bottom of the boxes, were six pairs of thick heavy socks for each child.  

"We're going to be the most popular kids in the village!" eight year old Ada said, swinging her blonde braids and twirling around so her pleated plaid skirt flared and showed a bit of her knickers. Irene blushed a bit and giggled behind her hand. 

"No! The most popular kids in the county!" Charles put in. He was a sturdy child, small for his age, which was seven, like David, but with dark blue eyes and dark brown hair. He had a sturdy tweed coat about three sizes too big for him, but with clothes already being rationed, people were purchasing or trading for children's clothes.  

"In Ireland!" David said authoritatively said. "We have games and chocolates and new socks. I'm going to save my chocolates," he indicated with a nod of his head as Irene started to unwrap one of her chocolate bars. She looked guilty, then nodded her head and put her chocolates back into the box.  

"Chocolate keeps well, even if it goes a little gray after a few months," Jonathan informed the kids.  

"Grey chocolate won't hurt us?" David wanted to know.  
"Not at all," Jonathan replied. "Now why don't you put your presents away and go find the other kids so they may have their presents?"  

"All right!" David said as the four kids put their presents into their own suitcases but leaving out one of the card games. The four of them went off to find the other children, which shouldn't be hard to do as there were only six passenger cars.  

Jonathan sat down. Then he stood up again, and took down two other pieces of luggage from the overhead rack. He could hear the rest of the children running through the train. Evidently David and the others had done what children naturally do: tattle. 

He smiled as a dozen children raced up the aisle towards him. Soon, he found himself surrounded by a giggling bunch of children who oohed and ahhhed over their presents. Their joy at receiving presents, despite their leaving London and being transported to a foreign country, helped him with his own grief. He missed Tallulah greatly.  

When the children were settled down with their presents, playing what looked to become an intense card game of Old Maid, Jonathan went back to the cafe car with his writing supplies.  

He wanted to write his sister again. He hadn't seen his sister or her family many times since late August. He'd been on a combination holiday and antique buying expedition to Liverpool with Tallulah. The two had holed up in Manchester the day the blitzkreig started.  

After making their way from Manchester to London by car, Jonathan had immediately volunteered to chaperone the children who were going to safer environs in Ireland. He'd left London the very day he'd arrived from Manchester with Tallulah and had perhaps an hour at most with his sister. Most of the children were true city children, having never seen a farm, or a cow, for that matter.  

The train rattled on its tracks and Jonathan hoped a bomb hadn't been dropped somewhere on the tracks behind them. He sat down at the same table he and David had vacated a short time ago, took out his writing supplies and laid out a small stack of writing paper. A woman came by and placed a cup of tea on the table in front of him.  

"Here you go, a cuppa. It's English Breakfast," she said, smiling. "We'd like to thank you and your sister for the food donations."  

"Thank you. It's never a problem," Jonathan looked up and smiled back. The woman moved on to the next table, where an elderly gentlemen wearing a well made tweed coat was sitting.  

He tried to start his latest letter to his sister, knowing she'd receive the letters in odd order; the three previous letters he'd sent hadn't yet arrived in London. Or maybe they had and hadn't made their way to the Carnahan O'Connells.  

Jonathan had some big news to relay to his sister. But he found himself staring out the window at the English countryside rolling along, smiling to himself at the big news he'd received just before the train had left the train station.  


Carnahan O'Connell estate, October 6, early afternoon 

"Mum! Here's a pile of letters from Jonathan!" Alex called out as he put down his heavy load. Evie and Rick had decided to take Tallulah's idea and try to rescue the valuables from the ruined homes in the bombed out neighborhoods. Rick and Alex had been going from house to house, carefully noting the street and location, and noting each home's valuables. 

Thus far, several paintings, crystal, antique furniture--sideboards were a special favorite, along with writing tables and antique writing utensils--English bone china, Dresden figurines (usually located in the basement or hidden in a niche in the floor of the fireplace), Turkish rugs, silver, jewelry and other items of potential value were identified, photographed, and were given over to the police for safekeeping.  

"Where?" Evie said, running from the kitchen. "Tallulah!" she called, stopping at the day room Tallulah used during the day to save herself some steps. "Used to use," Evie said aloud, a tear falling from her eye. "Every time I turn, I expect her to be there, or to answer my call. I can't get used to the idea we'll never share a laugh over a cup of tea." 

"It's okay, mum," Alex said, coming over and hugging her. Evie hugged him back hard. She pulled back from her son and wiped her eyes. 

"Here, let's see what Jonathan has to say," Alex said, going back to the pile of letters on top of the bundle he had brought inside. "Let's get a cup of tea. It's a bit chilly out," he said as he led his mother back to the kitchen. 

"You pour, I read," he instructed his mother as he sat at a writing table and taking up a letter opener. Evie nodded and starting gathering the tea things as Alex read the first of Jonathan's letters.  

    Dear Sis: 

    Well, here I am, on the train, rolling through the English countryside towards Wales and the Irish ferries which await me and my charges. It's a Tuesday afternoon, rain clouds are in the sky (when aren't rain clouds in the sky here in merry England?), hot Earl Grey is in the mug, scones with jam are on a plate. Train personnel are becoming quite accustomed to our donation of jam and sugar to bolster their food rations, so be sure to thank Tallulah a million times over for her foresight! 

    The kids are finally napping after having having mobbed me with pleas, wanting to open their presents. Did you ever notice children seem to know instinctively when they are going to receive presents? Ha, ha. I remember how you used to be as a tot of four when our parents would come home from a short trip to the countryside and laden with presents. How you jumped up and down, clapping your hands! 

    Some of the children expressed the thought that since they were going away, people were being nice and giving presents. How could I explain the presents were not meant as a consolation prize but as nice memory to hold onto while they were living in Ireland, waiting for the war to end? 

    I did stammer out an explanation, but Ian Mathewson didn't believe me, for he responded that when people want you to remember them in a nice way, they always give you presents.  

    The poor child! He was a foster child of nine years of age, flitting from one home to another and the family he was living with was killed on the 7th when their home near the Docklands was destroyed. Now he finds himself going to yet another home, and this home is in a foreign country. Does that explain his reaction? Would it be possible for Ian to live with us? Could we retrieve him from Ireland at some point and bring him home to live with us permanently?  

    Tallulah had a most wonderful idea of sending ahead by post to Ireland large boxes chock full of everyday items: soap, shampoo, garden seeds, tinned meat, bolts of raw cloth and so many pre-worn clothes I think the children won't have a problem with their wardrobes--even if the war lasts until 1945.  

    I know there are customs restrictions on what food items can be brought into Ireland, but that wily Tallulah! She stuffed the pockets of the winter coats with the restricted items, ensuring the pockets didn't bulge.  

    And on the coats, both girls' and boys, she sewed thick collars of fake fur, stuffing the collars with the money she found in the streets after the Luftwaffe dropped their silver 'presents' on us Londoners.  

    She told me there was no way of knowing to whom the strewn money once belonged, but the transplanted kids needed some kind of dowry, some kind of future while they are in Ireland and a hundred pounds to each child certainly would help. 

    I was instructed by Tallulah to inform each of the children what is in the collars of the coats only upon arrival at their respective farmsteads. I further instructed the children to not mention their windfall to any other child in the village, to which the children readily agreed for they didn't want their new foster parents' farms robbed for the extra cash.  

    It's to be their allowance, and I am thinking it would be an excellent idea to send along every few months a small sum of pocket money to each of the children I escort. What do you think of that idea, sis? 

    Tallulah is so smart at getting around the restrictions, sometimes I think she might have been a spy in one of her past lives.  

    Give Tallulah my love and many thanks for the help she's provided. She certainly is a busy person, helping with the Red Cross blood drive, organizing the shopping expeditions on behalf of the children, and that idea of hers to organize Operation Take Out for the retrieval of valuables from the bombed out homes sounds marvelous!  

    And speaking of Operation Take Out, I've been asked by our government to travel to Scotland to arrange for the usage of the vaults for the duration of the war. I'm afraid I can't give away too much information about where in our northern neighbor I am to temporarily reside for a few nights, for I think some information should be refrained from floating around--just in case this letter is opened and read before it reaches its destination to you. 

    I do have one idea: and that is the usage of the small islands off the west coast.  

    I am hoping this letter finds you well. Give my love to Rick and Alex and I shall see you shortly. 


"He didn't know Tallulah had died when he wrote this letter," Alex stated sadly as his mother nodded in agreement and swallowed her tea. "It was posted on the 15th."  

"We only saw him for an hour while the latest evacuees were boarding the train. Is there any way to contact him?" 

"I don't think so," Ardeth said from the doorway. He'd been cleaned up and barbered quite well: his beard and hair were well trimmed and freshly washed. And his black clothes were well repaired and hung on him, fresh and clean. Dark shadows remained under his eyes, despite his sound night's sleep.  

"Ardeth! Could I offer you some tea?" Evie asked, jumping up when Ardeth nodded and made his way to the kitchen table. She was a bit worried about Ardeth. He seemed a bit, well, a bit deflated. Was deflated the word she was looking for? Something heavy was bothering Ardeth and Evie couldn't get him to talk about it although she suspected it had something to do with his arduous trip to London.  

Sitting down, Ardeth picked up a scone smeared with raspberry jam and looked at it a moment before tasting it. "Mmmm," he commented around his mouthful of scone.  

"You know, Ardeth, with the Bracelet and Nuit and the Gods, I thought your arrival in London would have been, well, I don't know, more exciting, I guess," Alex told him, copying Ardeth and picking up his own fresh made scone and taking a bite. 

Evie returned to the table with a large steaming mug of tea. "I would have thought that as well. But in the end, you just rode into London city limits on Thunder Sky," Evie told Ardeth as she too sat down. 

"It was kind of anti-climatic," Alex said, finding the right word to express himself. "You being Nuit's earthly son and all." 

"She did turn golden and rumble a lot," Evie noted. "When are you going to tell us about your travelling from Egypt to London?" 

Ardeth looked puzzled but smiled at remembering how Nuit had sent a breath of wind when he'd ridden onto the O'Connell's estate. "I will relay details about my trip later on. How did you know I merely rode into the city limits?" 

"The window showed us," Alex said around another bite of his scone.  

"Nuit's been showing us a lot of things through the windows," Evie explained, taking a sip of her Earl Grey. "Tallulah's been--did, was--gathered up a large quantity of food supplies." 

Ardeth nodded, a sip of tea in his mouth preventing him from speaking. 

"Apparently she'd been stocking up the basement store rooms since '36," Alex said. 

Evie looked at him. "How do you know that?" 

"I found a receipt in one of the bags and the clerk had hand dated it June 12, 1936." 

"Whatever could have possessed her to start stocking up on food and other supplies since '36? That's four years ago! She couldn't have possibly known what was coming down the line...unless she was prophetic." 

"She read Black Elk Speaks," Alex told his mother but his mother merely looked confused.  

"She had a copy of Black Elk? I found a copy in Kahn's the year after its printing. My people respect his Vision. And we, too, started storing supplies out in the desert," Ardeth said, wiping the corners of his mouth with a napkin. 

"Who's Black Elk?" Evie wanted to know. 

"An American Indian prophet, now living in the Spirit World with his grandfathers," Ardeth replied.  

"He had a Vision that foretold this war," Alex explained.  

"Apparently, few people heeded his word," Ardeth commented, borrowing Alex's word, then putting his napkin down and taking up another scone.  

"He foresaw this war?" and both Ardeth and Alex nodded. Evie continued, "When was the book published?" 

"1932," Alex supplied.  

"Seven years. He would have been held in high esteem by my father, I mean, by Seti," Evie commented. 

"Actually, Black Elk spoke his prophecy in May of 1931 to the man he chose to give his Vision to the world. He waited over sixty years to find the right person to whom to tell his Vision," Ardeth replied. "And that man was John Neihardt." 

Evie looked stunned. "Eight years. And few people heeded Black Elk's word?" 

"Few people bought the book, which went out of print shortly after its debut," Ardeth told her, swirling a bit of sugar into his Earl Grey.  

"How did you get a copy then?" Alex wanted to know. 

"Kahn's has everything," Evie and Ardeth said together. Evie smiled and Ardeth's mouth curled up of its own accord. 

Evie said, "Kahn's Bazaar was around during Neferteri's lifetime." 

"It's the oldest bazaar in the world," Ardeth commented, picking up his tea cup.  

"What's the oldest bazaar in the world?" Rick wanted to know, coming in the kitchen. "Ah, Kahn's! You're talking about Kahn's! Lovely place, full of things: old things, new things, fake things. So this is where we're hanging out now." 

"Yes. Tea, darling?" Evie asked, getting up and hugging her husband.  

Sitting down, Rick asked Ardeth, "Do you know where Martin washed up? You know the Gilgamesh was found with their crew intact?" 

Ardeth shook his head. "I know he is alive, for the Bracelet thrums. I did not know about the crew of the Gilgamesh. I am relieved to know they are all safe." 

"Who made the Bracelet?" Rick now asked, reaching over for a still warm scone.  

"Taita. He was the man Queen Lostris trusted most. She reigned in exile when the Hyksos first invaded Egypt, guarding the Double Crown of Egypt for her son, Prince Memnon," Ardeth replied, holding out his cup so Evie could refill it. She also refilled the rest of the tea cups, then stood up and went to refill the teapot and have another pot of tea.  

"Good thing Tallulah filled an entire storeroom with tea," she commented softly as Alex said, "See? I said the Bracelet could have been a relic from the time of the Hyksos."  

"He fashioned the Bracelet just before he died, and imbued the Bracelet with the ability to expel foreign invaders." 

"Magic?" Rick asked, sipping his own cup of tea.  

Ardeth nodded. "Yes. Taita appointed a Keeper, who was reincarnated as Martin Wilkes." 

"It seems like the Gods reincarnated everyone who could help stop this war," Alex commented. He felt very much a grown up, despite the fact he was 17 and very nearly so.  

His comment made Ardeth smile. "Yes, it does seem that way, doesn't it?" 

Evie, having finished filling the teapot with water and leaving it to boil, came back to the table. Sitting down, she said "There is one question I'd like answered, Ardeth." 

"Just ask," Ardeth said. 

"How come you didn't take a train or hitch a lift with the soldiers?" 

"Truth is, Cornwall natives did help me across Cornwall when they could drive. Most of the farmers didn't own cars. There were only a few trains, and they were headed towards the western coast," Ardeth told her. "I thought it much faster to get here on horseback."  

"With things the way they are, horseback was probably better," commented Alex as he refilled his tea mug for the third time. 

"Eleven days is not a bad travel time by horseback, considering I was delayed by heavy bombing for several days," Ardeth commented. "Besides, the Bracelet needs Martin to incant a spell." 

"We had talked about that. Would the Book of the Dead help?" Alex asked Ardeth, knowing how many spells the Book contained.  

"I am not sure. We shall have to await his arrival," Ardeth replied. "In the meantime, what can I do to assist?" 

"Operation Take Out?" Alex asked. "We could use a helping hand." 

"Operation Take Out?" Ardeth repeated, inquiring of Alex with his dark eyes.  

"It's a home valuables rescue operation that our late housemaid Tallulah thought up," Evie said, her eyes filling with tears for Tallulah, for London, for all those who have been killed by this war. 

"What does this Operation comprise?" Ardeth wanted to know as the teapot chose that moment to announce its readiness to accept loose tea leaves in its interior.  

"We go to the damaged areas, and house by house, we retrieve what we can, photographing and taking down on paper the valuables the owners possessed," Rick replied as Evie went to attend the whistling teapot.  

"And Jonathan's been up to Scotland arranging for vaults to store those people's belongings until either the owners can reclaim them or the government can locate the heirs," Evie called as she opened the oven door and a delicious scent exited the oven. She brought the teapot over to the kitchen table "Lunch will be ready shortly," she said, noting the expectant expressions on the men's faces.  

"I'd be glad to assist in any way I can," Ardeth replied.  

"How about I read another letter from Jonathan?" Alex suggested, and Evie nodded. Alex went to the writing table and returned with the remaining two letters.  

Using the letter opener, he slit the envelopes open, chose a letter and began to read as the rest as Ardeth, Evie and Rick sipped their tea, ready to listen Alex reading Jonathan's words.  

"This one's dated the 17th," he said and began to read the rather thick stack of paper. 

    Dear Sis: 

    What a battle to get through Irish Customs! The agents are checking everybody and everything--well, nearly everything. I thought for sure they'd find the forbidden food Tallulah had hidden but the agents never caught on. Good thing I distracted the nosy dog belonging to one of the Customs Agents with a bit of leftover meat I'd saved from dinner.  

    The boxes Tallulah had shipped ahead were in the postal office, safe and sound, their contents undisturbed. I did turn over some of the clothing and a bolt of raw cloth to the postal clerk when her eyes narrowed suspiciously at the children's squeals. When I handed the items to her, how her eyes shined!  

    She relishes the idea of helping out clandestinely and so has agreed to help me in future endeavors. You'd like her, Sis, she reminds me of Grandmother. Besides, we need a friend in the postal office, for someone might get a tad suspicious about the extra boxes coming through on a regular basis.  

    I also provided our new friend with a kilogram of tea and a kilogram of sugar. I do believe, sister dear, that we've made a life-long friend and confidant, for the price of tea and sugar is rising fast, both here in Ireland and in England and the Irish like their tea nearly as much as we do.  

    After hours of tramping through the hilly Irish countryside, the children have been settled on their respective farms. The government, in its infinite wisdom, failed to provide transportation to the farms, so we ended up walking to the closest farm, about twenty kilometers from the village the ferry dropped us off in.  

    The children were so brave! They each carried huge boxes full of clothes and food and such items as Tallulah sent along and not once did the children complain about the heavy load. I rigged up a kind of sledge and dragged the heaviest load, but still, after several hours, I was silently cursing the government. The one bright spot in the day literally was the sun: how the sun shines here in Ireland! 

    And naturally, Tallulah and I didn't inform the government we were sending ahead a large quantity of necessary items--some of them on the list of 'forbidden foods': the tinned meats and bottles of wine for each of the farm owners. Why Ireland doesn't want tinned meat and wine to cross its borders is beyond me. Perhaps they are trying to control price gouging from people trying to make fast money.  

    I know you're asking the question: Why didn't your brother Jonathan ask someone for a ride? Well, Sis, I could hardly ask for a ride from one of the Customs Agents, for the government, again in its heady wisdom, wants as few people as possible to know to where the children are being re-located, even though we are providing the necessary funds to evacuate the children.  

    Apparently, the government deems its Customs employees too trivial for such knowledge but with the many hours of reflection provided by our unexpected walking tour of Ireland, I have come to the conclusion that an invading army would want to interrogate the Customs agents.  

    I certainly would want to interrogate a Customs agent, were I a member of an invading army. Customs agents are the guardians of the Irish economy and the CO of an army might suppose Customs would know to where shipments of items, including human cargo, would be shipped throughout Ireland.  

    Upon reaching the first farm, where Ian is to be living for the present time, the owners nearly fainted when they saw us at the top of the hill leading down to their expansive farm. They immediately despatched their lorry to haul the boxes and children to the farm, but the children--bless them!--refused the help, and with a stiff upper lip, they walked up to the front door of the farmhouse burdened as they were with Tallulah's boxes.  

    At the door to the farmhouse, the children did allow themselves to be relieved of their heavy burdens, and after a loo break and a snack, they were soon happily exploring the farm, with its cows, pigs, horses, and vegetable gardens. Ian, too, liked the prospect of living on a farm for a while, for he's never been outside the city limits of London, not even to see Windsor Castle--a trip every British schoolchild should take during their tenure in the educational system. 

    The children were quite excited to be given an 'allowance'--especially an allowance so big, and the farm owners agreed to dole out the cash on a bit by bit basis. At the children's requests (and all of them were in on this, mind you. What mannered children they are!), I did turn over to the farm owners--a nice young Irish couple--an extra thirty pounds from the money Tallulah found so that they may provide extra treats to their own children.  

    And, sister dear, I've some news, some big news! I've decided to apply to Children's Services so that I may become a foster father to Ian. I've grown quite attached to the stoic, though skeptical, little guy over the past few days, and frankly, I can't envision my future without having Ian in that future as my child--my son.  

    I'm not sure how CS will like the fact that I'm unmarried, but seeing as how it's War, and with fewer foster homes and more children needing foster care--especially when the war ends--I am of the opinion the shortly I will have the approval of CS and that either I will visit Ian here in Ireland every so often until the war ends and then bring him home, or Ian will come to live with me back in London.  

    To move on in my narration, I was granted use of the farm owner's lorry to drive the other children to their destinations. Too late, I realized that I didn't pack a map but I well remember Mister Duckworth in geography class at primary school, slapping our desks with his long ruler whenever he expected an answer to his questions about the geography of Britain, Scotland and Ireland. How Mister Duckworth trained us in geography and how I hated his geography lessons! 

    Well, Mister Duckworth's geography training has served me admirably, for I seem to know the Irish roads like the back of my hand. Not once did I get lost or need to ask for directions, and not once did I ever need to look at a map. 

    Sis, would you do me the favor of trying to see if Mister Duckworth is still alive? I know it's a bit difficult with the blitzkreig, but I'd like to thank Mister Duckworth for his dedication in teaching such an obstinate student such as I. 

    I am unsure of just when I will arrive back in London. I said I would be off to Scotland on that errand I mentioned in my earlier letter (I am on the ferry to Scotland as I write this letter). Thinking about my sorry lack of foreplanning, I will have to rely again upon Mister Duckworths geography training to wend my way around our northern neighbor.  

    I have been reading the accounts of the daily bombings in London. The foreign papers are full of commentary and the papers also say Hitler is not going to stop until he controls all of Europe. Over my bloody arse will he take London! Sorry, sis. It's the war, and my hatred for that ugly man coming out in my letter.  

    Oh, one other interesting item the foreign papers carried, a blurb, really. It seems a small plane crashed in the Mediterranean sea. You don't suppose that plane was heading towards Cairo, would you? For I had the strangest dream that the Pyramids exploded but that Ardeth stopped the army in time.  

    Give my love to Tallulah, Rick and Alex.  

    As always,  

When Alex finished reading Jonathan's long letter, he looked up at the silent adults sitting around the table. Their tea had grown cold in their mugs, and tears were in their eyes.  

"A foster father! My brother!" 

"Can it happen that quick?" Alex wanted to know. "Will I have a...a...foster cousin?"  

"Apparently so, if Jonathan gets his way," Rick said.  

Evie sniffed a bit, and wiped her nose. Then she jumped up. "Food's beginning to burn!" She went to attend lunch: a steaming tray of fish, potatoes and vegetables. The O'Connell's were eating quite heartily, on occasion of Ardeth's safe arrival in London, but soon they would be rationing the supplies of food Tallulah had laid in, for who knew how long the war would last? 

"We didn't have much time to relay just what happened with Nuit and you," Rick told Ardeth. "He arrived from Manchester and left that same day to escort children to the Irish countryside." 

"He saw mum for about an hour before the train left," Alex now told Ardeth. "Each time he's popped back in London for a short time to pick up another set of evacuee children. He went to Scotland in between" 

"He only found out Tallulah died just before he went off on his third trip to Ireland, after arranging for the vaults up in Scotland" Evie said, then added, "Alex, could you help me carry dinner ot the table?" 

"Sure mum!" he responded as he got up and carried a huge bowl of steaming mashed potatoes and a plate of hot bread to the table. Evie carried the fish and vegetables and the four sat down to lunch, alone for the first time in their home since the 7th.  

The villagers had felt they were imposing upon the Carnahan O'Connells--which the O'Connells vehemently denied--but the villagers insisted they wanted to dine in their own homes whenever possible. "To maintain some semblance of a normal life, whatever normal means in this strange new world," one of the villagers had told Rick.  

Over Evie's agitated protests, the villagers returned to their own homes during mealtimes. Those villagers whose homes were destroyed were taking turns dining with the others. A few of the villagers had signed up with the Red Cross and were awaiting their overseas assignments. "Seeing as we have no homes, we might as well use the time to help others," they'd explained.  

Evie had been mollified knowing that Nuit would send warning whenever the bomber planes appeared on the horizon. Nuit seemed to hum merrily all the time, now that Ardeth was here and she occasionally would send golden threads of light down to whereever Ardeth was located, and the threads of light would entwine themselves through Ardeth's hair. 

The foursome ate their lunch in relative silence, each lost in their own thoughts.  


Carnahan O'Connell estate, October 6, early afternoon, after lunch 

"Alex, while your father and I do the dishes, why not read the third letter from Jonathan?" Evie said to Alex. "I'm anxious to hear from him." 

"Is there anything I can help with?" Ardeth asked but Evie shook her head.  

"No, you've done more than enough already and I'm sure my menfolk will have you running to and fro with Operation Take Out," Evie replied.  

Rick faked being offended. "Why do I have to do dishes then?" 

"Because I want to stand next to you," his wife whispered to him, which caused a huge grin to play on Rick's face as he willingly followed his wife to the kitchen sink.  

Alex picked up the third letter from Jonathan. "It's postmarked Edinburgh and posted on the 23rd of September," he said as he started reading the rather thick stack of paper.  

    Dear Sis, 

    Continuing from my last letter, after the relatively smooth ferry ride across the Irish Sea, I landed upon the shores of western Scotland, in a tiny fishing village located in the Solway Firth, my legs barely able to support my weight on land. It appears that I have developed sea legs and a taste for the salt air on my face (and in my hair and permeating my clothes).  

    Once again, despite their arranging this part of my extensive travels around our mother land, our government failed to provide adequate transportation and instead relied upon a graduate of their esteemed educational system to wend his way around Scotland on foot or by thumbing a ride. 

    Having landed near Hadrian's Wall, I finagled a ride with a lorry driver for about thirteen kilometers along the Wall before we turned northwards through Gretna Green. There are advantages to traveling along the backroads, for I stayed the night in the village where William Wallace is rumoured to have been born, although the exact date and place of his birth are yet unknown.  

    From the village, I was able to take a small private supply plane to my next destination and I will be able to catch a return ride all the way to Liverpool, thereby cutting my travel time back to London drastically. 

    I was able to get these plane rides because the pilots needed not only the supplies I was willing to barter (the tea, all my books, all my extra clean and dry socks, my leather bomber jacket, my thick tweed coat and remaining chocolates came in quite handy and not to mention cut way down on the weight of my luggage!) but they also needed the conversation. So, willingly, I bartered my supplies for the plane ride. 

    Nevertheless, I did manage to acquire my target relatively safely and without major hassle. The vaults are being readied and the transport of the goods to our northern neighbors is arranged.  

    The owners of the vaults expressed surprise at the northern location our two governments chose for the storage, but I pointed out that even with permanent British Summer Time, night time in our northern neighbor comes early and anyone flying in to raid the goods would have precious little daylight in which to carry out their operations.  

    Of course, we are now approaching winter and in anticipation of next summer's double British Summer Time, there is a greater opportunity for the goods to be discovered and ransacked should Hitler be successful in his endeavor to take down England.  

    Whereever did our esteemed Parliament get come up with 'double British Summer Time?' Summer time itself confuses me and the double summer time order absolutely confounded my mind! Now, with fall in the air, we are back on permanent summer time. I have had ample time to wonder about Parliament--it seems that food rationing has affected their analytical abilities. 

    I mentioned in my last letter that I was applying to Children's Services to become Ian Mathewson's foster father and I am pleased my application was accepted. The CS worker looked rather skeptical that an unmarried man of my 'years' would want to become a foster father but I assured her that I was quite willing, after having helped raise Alex.

    And I am not so old, am I? I certainly don't think so, but when one approaches the age at which one expects to live as many years in the future that they have lived in the past, one tends to reflect more upon their mortality.  

    As soon as I've posted this letter, I shall be off in a private plane towards that industrial city of Liverpool, the pilot wearing my bomber jacket. It looks rather striking on him, if I say so myself.  

    I am expecting, barring extreme circumstances, to be back in London by the end of September, in time for the next transport of children to the Irish countryside. I apologize if there isn't much time to spend with you in between trips to evacuate the children, sister dear, and that is the reason for my rather extensive letters.  

    I am running short on writing paper, and I shall have need of you to purchase several reams of writing paper for me, and if you would so kindly arrange it, you would please me greatly. But as I am nearing the end of this round of traveling, I can make do with a greatly reduced stack of writing paper. It does lighten my load a lot, and my weary arms are thanking me greatly! 

    As I hear the pilot--another Jonathan by name, Jonathan Wilkes-- shouting at me to 'get my arse in gear' I shall end this letter with my usual words,  

    Always much love,  

"He really means to become a foster father," Alex commented as he put down Jonathan's letter on the table.  

"I suppose so. He didn't say anything about it during his brief--very brief--time in London before he went out with the children again," Evie said. "But I rather like the idea of his being a foster father." 

"As do I. I've never had a sibling before," Alex commeted. 

"Did you ever want a sibling?" Rick asked his son. 

"I never much thought about it," Alex replied.  

"Ardeth, while we're finishing up, do we get to hear your story now?" Evie asked. 

"You are an insistent one, aren't you? I shall tell you all my story later on, as I've replied before," Ardeth said. "Now, Rick, Alex, tell me about Operation Take Out." 

"Well, today we're going to the neighborhood near the Docklands. We'll go house by house, rummage around to see if there are any valuables worth salvaging. Those items we find, we photograph, take a note of the location and item, then put the item in our lorry," Alex told Ardeth.  

"I shall do the rummaging," Ardeth said. "I don't think I'm very good with photographs," he finished, sipping a fresh cup of tea.  

"Then I'll do the photographing, and dad can do the inventory. His handwriting's much better than mine," Alex said. 

"Ok, men. Let's go. Evie, you sure you'll be all right here?"  

"Of course, dear. Take care," Evie said, hugging her husband and son. 

"Nuit will rumble to let us know when the Luftwaffe is on the horizon," Alex said. 

"The Docklands are a bit far for Nuit to rumble," Evie noted. 

"Not with Ardeth here. She'll protect him," Alex replied as the men filed out the door, Ardeth silent and very preoccupied.  

"I wonder what happened to rattle him like that?" Evie said to herself as she went to sit down for an after lunch cup of tea, then thought better and went to the loo instead.  

Early October. Letter from Jonathan, lying on the table at the farmhouse where Ian Mathewson is staying. Jonathan is preparing an envelope to post to his sister 

    Dear Sis, 

    The English folk never cease to amaze me. As I traveled for the third time across rainy England to relatively sunny Ireland (and I've big news later on in this letter), the children and I were watching from the train windows the English country folk prepare an amazingly large load of supplies. 

    Several people who boarded the now-infrequent passenger train to Wales told us the legend is going around western England that King Arthur would be arriving in London to liberate the beseiged city, and that King Arthur would be the recipient of all the supplies he would need: food as well as young men and women ready to help with paper work, Red Cross, whatever needs to be done. 

    I presume the English countryfolk are meaning Ardeth, who apparently has arrived in England safely, and that Arthur is the English pronunciation of his name. I have to comment that I am rather pleased to know King Arthur will be assisting us--I will try to avoid having him move stones this time around!  

    You will be pleased to know that our compatriots in the countryside are sending along fresh vegetables, fresh chickens (keep some on the estate!), eggs, and something we've not had in a long time: cheddar cheese. Yes, the small town of Cheddar will be sending along to London thousands of wheels of cheese (both ripe and unripe; and the unripened wheels can be stored in your wine cellar until they are ready)--all by horse power provided for by the Cornish natives.  

    To move on, Irish Customs was its usual pleasant self. Missing their dogs, and bringing man's best friend to work with them, more of the Agents' dogs are sniffing the arriving luggage, much to the dismay of the owners. The Agents don't seem to understand that the dogs' noses can smell food hidden in secret compartments and that the dogs' insistent pawing and barking at luggage which has already been inspected means that there is something edible hidden in a secret compartment.  

    Leave it to the dogs to sniff out something edible! I suppose they are hungry too, for with food rationing, the dogs also get less to eat. I had thought of that, and brought along a few dozen bags of dried dog food, which I gave to the Customs agents. Surprised, and pleased, they opened a bag and fed the dogs, who left my luggage alone! 

    The last shipment of boxes that our beloved Tallulah sent ahead before she passed on was awaiting me at the post office. Our newest friend was more than pleased to hide the boxes for us. It appears that my earlier worries that someone might nose around at a large quantity of boxes being shipped to the same postal office and grow suspicious were bang on.  

    Five kilograms of tea this time around has more than bought the eternal gratitude of our lady friend. I tallied up the amount of tea Tallulah has stored in one of the old wine cellars. 

    Over three hundred kilograms of tea! For how long was she purchasing tea? With that quantity, Tallulah must have been going to and fro to the tea merchants for several years. She must have thought we would need to feed an army, but with the blitz and the depressed economy, I suppose if necessary, we could barter the tea for whatever other supplies we need. 

    This time around to Ireland, I was prepared and had a lorry waiting for me to drive the children and their boxes full of necessities to their various destinations. Despite being separated from their parents, the children seem to be happy to be in Ireland--away from the daily bombings, the air raid drills, the long nights packed tighter in the bomb shelters than they would be had they been packed into a sardine can.  

    The fresh air, the smells of the farm, and passing hour after hour without hearing the squeal as bombs drop from the underbelly of a Messerschmitt seem to have improved the dispositions of even the most irascible of the children. 

    And naturally, word going around London that the children Jonathan Carnahan escorts to the countryside will receive presents of chocolate, socks, and games had my latest charges pestering me for their presents even before the train left the station. I do hope, sister dear, that we will not run out of games, or socks, or chocolates, for the transported children would be sorely disappointed! 

    After I had seen the last of the children to their foster parents, I returned back to the farm where I had left Ian Mathewson on my first trip to Ireland. Sister dear, this is the big news I alluded to at the beginning of my letter! 

    Children's Services has approved me as a foster father to Ian, with the very potential possibilty of my becoming his adoptive parent! I was to relay the official letter to Ian in person, to gauge his reaction. I admit, I was at a loss for words when the CS worker informed me I was to be a foster father. Their turnaround time on my application was absolutely astounding! 

    I am sorry, sis, that I didn't tell you the news before I left London this last time around. I was afraid that, somehow, the news wasn't true and I sorely needed time to digest the news.  

    During the train ride, and between being amazed at the industrious English country folk and the children, I was distracted a lot and tried to figure out a way to let Ian know he is to have me as a foster father. But I had no need to worry, Ian was more than pleased to know that I was to be his foster father but, in his words, "Dad, can I stay here at the farm for a while longer? I don't like the sound of the bombs over London." 

    He called me 'dad' straight away. Ian told me that the time I spent talking with him on the trip over to Ireland was the most time anyone had ever spent with him in his entire life. He'd been sorely wanting to stay on with me. He showed me a letter he had written to me but hadn't sent because he was scared of being rejected. And in his letter, he told me he wished I could be his foster father.  

    His wish--and mine--came true.  

    Ian wants to remain on the farm and I think that's a splendid idea. The owners have two children of their own but not nearly enough farm help, for with the war, most of the young men have left their villages to sign up. 

    The work isn't too strenuous, for CS sees to it the children are not turned into free farm help, but there are farm chores that the children can do (milking and mucking and such), and knowing that the vegetables they're picking, washing and packing are going to London cheers the children and gives them self-confidence..  

    The sun, and the extra food have transformed my new foster son--and the three other foster kids--into healthy, happy children inside of a few short weeks, and I want Ian--and the other kids--to remain that way.  

    I shall be staying on the farm a few  weeks, to get the most time with Ian; I was only scheduled for three trips but should the need arise to evacuate more children, I am only a telegram away. 

    And as always, I remain, 
    Your loving brother,