The skipper dropped the words out of one corner of his mouth
without disturbing the cigarette in the other corner. He disposed
of some three thousand miles of atmosphere as nonchalantly as you
would toss a peanut shell over your shoulder.
I blinked. But only once. After all, the past two days had been
so fantastic that this ultimate scene and conversation on the
brilliantly lighted airfield outside a city in one of the
Southern states, beside the big airliner which was to take me to
England in a scheduled thirty-six hours, seemed part and parcel
of the events that had been happening thick and fast ever since
the telephone woke me at seven o'clock one morning.
The telephone had summoned me from a dream in which Richard and I
were running, hand in hand, down our own narrow strip of Cape Cod
beach into the ocean. Sleepily, unwilling to let go of that
dream, I reached for the receiver and held it to my ear. New York
calling. At Dennis, Cape Cod, at seven o'clock of a May morning,
New York seems as far away as London or Timbuktu.
"Are you up?" the voice of my lawyer demanded crisply.
Knowing me as she does, this was purely a rhetorical question
which, I felt, did not rate an answer. She went on: "Get up!
Right away! Get yourself onto the first plane, or the first
train, into New York. I've just had word from the Air Ministry in
Washington that there is space for you on the British Airways
plane leaving at midnight tomorrow. You're on your way."
After weeks of more or less patient waiting, repeated timid,
pleading, urgent, and finally importunate requests to the
authorities who rule such matters in Washington and London, and a
rapid-fire barrage of telegrams, cables, and telephone calls, it
had happened. At last I had permission to do what I had been
wanting desperately to do for four years--go to England and do my
bit on a tour for E.N.S.A. Though no one knew just when, everyone
was aware that the invasion of Europe was imminent. More than
anything in the world I wanted the opportunity to entertain the
British and American troops who would soon be fighting in France.
Basil Dean, founder and director of E.N.S.A.--the British
equivalent of the U.S.O.--had cabled, asking me to come; but
getting a priority to make the crossing and getting a place
aboard a plane had taken a lot of wire-pulling at the American
end. Now, I was really on my way home to London which I had not
seen in six years. I would see my old friends, or at least those
who remained of that gay company after the Battle of
Britain--those who weren't fighting in Italy or the Near and Far
East, or on any one of the seven seas.