FW 1946 UXB Chapter 41
Disclaimer: Foyle's War was created by Anthony Horowitz, and the characters of Foyle and Samantha jointly created by Mr. Horowitz, Mr. Michael Kitchen and Ms. Honeysuckle Weeks. No infringement is intended. Merely a fan tribute.
A/N: Sorry, still no M-rated version for this chapter. (They're with company, for god's sake!) ;oD However, there are footnotes.
Also: I've changed the menu for Elaine's dinner, so I've had to go back and change what she was preparing in Chapter 40. Rationing made meals tricky back then!
If you're interested in the recipes, see the footnote below this chapter.
End of Chapter 40:
"Humh. Did you, er…, succeed...in what you'd set out to do?"
Foyle shifted his jaw, bit the inside corner of his lower lip, and took a breath.
And just then there was a rap at the door and he shut his mouth, more relieved than vexed.
Elaine put her head in to say brightly,
"Dinner's on the table, boys!"
Dinner had proceeded pleasantly. Elaine served a cream of parsnip soup to start, for the main course a modified Boeuf Bourguignon, with side dishes of carrot roll, glazed swedes and the selection of cold pickled vegetables. The wine had proved a brilliant addition to the table. Sam enthused over the main dish and requested the recipe. She noticed that Mr. Reid had a partiality for anything pickled. Christopher also complimented the dessert - apple crumble with custard - which he'd accepted graciously and eaten for form's sake, knowing that many ration coupons and points must have been expended in the preparation of the dinner. Conversation flowed easily, although the three older friends avoided reminiscing beyond the present decade.
Over dessert the men had drifted into an exchange discussing post-war reconstruction and the likely success of the policies of the Labour government, until Elaine, noticing Sam's sad focus on her plate, put an end to that topic, interrupting her husband,
"How did you find things in America, Christopher? Was there much evidence of wartime hardship over there?"
The two old comrades, reminded of the sensitivity of the topic for Samantha, looked momentarily shamefaced at each other. Foyle straightened up in his chair and answered earnestly,
"Nnot that I could find. Flourishing. Well, comparatively. The War has been very good for some. Problems there are less to do with shortages, more to do with pricing - controls have been removed, prices have gone up, wages haven't. Few have the money to pay, ...resulting in steel strikes, coal strikes, rail strikes."
Seeing that this news wasn't particularly cheering to the ladies, he changed gears and added, "...However, the G.I. Bill of Rights is allowing for a very successful transition from military to civilian life - college fees, housing loans, monthly benefits. There's a general sense of optimism for the future."
Smiling at Samantha, he took up the bottle and poured a little more wine into her glass,
"...And some effort towards desegregation, of the Armed Forces, at least." He set down the bottle, then offered a personal observation, "I will say...it was very odd, at first, to walk down streets of perfectly intact buildings. ...Aand it was a rather depressing contrast to return to the devastation in London."
"I can imagine." Hugh remarked, "Or rather - I can't, not having been abroad." Reid aimed a sidelong look at his former colleague,
"Your...departure was rather sudden."
"From the Station?" Foyle raised his brows, deliberately misunderstanding. "...Had tried to get out of it for years, Hugh." He quirked his mouth to one side.
"Yes, well." Hugh laughed. "No, I meant from Hastings - from Southampton."
Swirling the wine around the bowl of his glass, he arched a doubtful eyebrow,
"The story going about was that you were on a 'sponsored lecture tour'..."
Feeling unable to avoid the matter any longer, Foyle shifted forward in his seat and frowned as he formulated a response.
Samantha, watching him solicitously, murmured,
Reid glanced at Sam, saw his friend's clear reluctance, but his curiosity drove him to press a little further. He lifted his chin,
"I...suspected it might be related to an old case. ...A satisfactory result?" He asked cautiously.
"Nnot entirely." Foyle looked away with a small grimace of regret.
Sam sent a silent appeal to Elaine, who gave Hugh a look of mild warning, which he received and acknowledged.
"Hm. ...Well, er, another time, then." He prudently, and kindly, changed topics, asking brightly,
"Abroad for a year - you must've taken in some of the sights...?"
Christopher curiously scanned the faces of the two women, who dissembled innocence, then he answered, "...Well, it wasn't a pleasure trip, but, em,...yes, some."
He smiled, settled back in his chair, crossed his legs and took up his glass of wine, in what passed for an expansive mood by Foyle standards,
"Majority of the time I spent in Washington. Very grand city, streets laid out under the direction of a Frenchman. The National Mall, very impressive - the famous Capitol, at the east end, creates a sort of bookend with the Lincoln Memorial at the west end of the Mall. The Washington Monument, at the centre point, is...awe-inspiring - nearly three times the height of Nelson's Column." The ladies made impressed sounds. "And, er, their new Jefferson Memorial, across the tidal basin, is tremendous." He squinted one eye closed, "...For a people so dedicated to egalitarianism, they, er, certainly like to exalt their past leaders."
The others smiled in amusement.
"Did you meet any of their present leaders?" Hugh queried, only partly joking, as he would never underestimate his colleague's faculty for gaining access to those who could best aid his cause.
"Well, um, not 'met,' but did visit the Senate Chamber several times, and, er, on Pennsylvania Avenue saw the presidential motorcade pass by. Oh," he registered a sudden recollection, and gave a half-grin, "Nnearly got in the way of one of Mr. Truman's very brisk morning walks around the neighbourhood of the White House. He's generally accompanied by a corps of security and press photographers, all tripping over each other to keep up."
His listeners were suitably impressed, and Hugh suggested,
"You might have asked him for an extension of the Lend-Lease scheme..."
Foyle shrugged, "I'm not that influential. Believe it or not." And smiled affably.
Then Hugh and Elaine were rather surprised, having assumed the two had had plenty of time to discuss his travels, when Sam asked,
"Did you see any other part of the country?"
Christopher hesitated, not only because he had noticed his friends' reaction, but also a little uncomfortable at continuing to be made the centre of attention.
"...Well, em, crossed the river and saw parts of Virginia... Very pretty - you'd like it, Sam. Erm, of course a little of New York...on arrival and departure. And...the countryside in between, from the train."
The others exchanged looks, and Samantha said affectionately,
"You needed a companion, Christopher. To help take your mind off the work. To travel about with. At least part of the time." She remarked to the Reids, "I did ask him to take me along, but no such luck."
"Wwasn't really possible, Sam." He replied almost defensively.
"Oh, I know it. But one could dream." She said with a smile and a pretended wistful sigh. Then tilted her head and added more seriously,
"Besides, the year away...allowed you the time and distance to sort of 'lay down the burden of authority,' with regard to me. On your return, we were able to meet again...simply as good friends." Sam finished with a happy look at the Reids.
Foyle blinked in surprise, and then several times more, staring down at the wineglass he held on his knee, quite affected by her analysis of the matter. Samantha, seeing his emotion, smiled softly, and resisted the urge to reach across the table to take his hand.
Elaine, with eyes shining fondly, studied the current of feeling between her two guests, and Hugh, rather taken with the remark as well, offered quietly,
"...A very discerning observation, Samantha-."
But he was interrupted when, from the hallway came the unexpected ring of the telephone. The moment broke as they all turned their heads toward the sound.
"Damn." Hugh commented evenly, rolled his eyes, and got up to answer it.
Alone with the two women, Foyle glanced at Samantha, gave a crooked smile, and addressed a remark to Elaine,
"Wull, em, you can imagine the sort of suitor I'd've made. Sseveral times, last summer when Sam worked at the guest house, tried courting her with trout - a completely ineffective technique."
Elaine stared at him, astonished, but before she could respond to the jest, Sam asked in a shocked, quiet voice,
Christopher's wry smile instantly faded as he and Elaine both, to their consternation, saw Sam turn her head away, eyes filling with sudden tears. Her normally firm chin quivered with emotion. They traded alarmed and, in Christopher's case, distressed glances.
Elaine rose from her chair, head bowed, murmuring,
"I'll just see what's keeping Hugh…" And she aimed a look of understanding encouragement at Foyle, tipping her head towards the younger woman.
After the door to the hall closed softly behind their hostess, Christopher swallowed hard, set down his wineglass, and then came around the table in some haste, placing a chair next to Sam's and taking her hand.
"Darling, what've …?"
"Is it true? Did you really…? Over a year ago?" She searched his eyes, on the verge of weeping outright.
Christopher could only shake his head in faint protest, mouth slightly open as he sought the words to explain himself.
Sam's tears spilled over and he anxiously offered his handkerchief.
"Was-was I really so woefully thick as to not understand...?"
"No!" His voice was low, but he shook his head vehemently.
"Then how-. How could you say-?" she asked in a whisper.
He laid his arm along the back of her chair, moving in close to encircle her with protective concern,
"Darling, it - it was plain to see...how things were developing between you and Adam. ...And you...seemed...happy. With him. Committed. I'd've expected no less - you've always shown... utter loyalty once you've made your decision."
"But I hadn't. If I'd known, then, that you…"
He countered softly,
"Sweetheart..., didn't know, myself." He rolled his bottom lip between his teeth,
"Our work...had forbidden it. Your age had forbidden it. ...The end of the War, we were all…finding our footing again." He squeezed her hand,
"It's only with hindsight that I've...now realised...what I ...mmust've intended - visiting you there. Look, Sam, if anyone had questioned me at the time, quite sure I would've categorically denied it."
"...Even if... I had questioned you?" She sniffed back her tears, watching him.
"...Afraid so. I would've, yes." He hung his head, until Sam asked softly,
"'Steady on, Miss Stewart'...?"
He raised his eyes to look into hers, and with a self-conscious, lateral shift of his jaw, nodded.
She nearly smiled,
"Yes. I do understand. I'm sorry, it's just the thought that we might've…" She scanned the ceiling, brows bent in dismay, "You're generally so very certain of yourself."
"Convinced I was." He muttered, with another glance up at her, "...Uncharted territory."
Nodding, she dried the tears from her eyes and cheeks,
"Would...would you still have gone to America, if I...?"
Foyle frowned, deeply discomfited at the question. "Ddon't think I can answer that, Sam."
"No. You needn't really. It's all in the past. And would serve no purpose."
She took in a shaky breath, then seemed to brighten, "I'll appreciate you...all the more, by the contrast."
Foyle shut his eyes in remorse a moment, then gathered her closer, kissed her forehead, unable to respond to her remark. They held each other, both contemplating, not for the first time, that lost year, the time they'd missed.
Eventually a murmur of hushed conversation reached them through the hall door, and they drew back. Christopher took both her hands in his, the crumpled handkerchief between them, still troubled that he'd rather badly upset Sam.
But she smiled sheepishly at her display of emotion,
"I'm all right, darling. Rather took me by surprise, that's all." She nodded her head towards the door, "We mustn't..."
Foyle sought assurance in her eyes that he was forgiven. His expression was so contrite that Sam's heart melted and she leant in to kiss him tenderly, her hand on his cheek. And that he did respond to, deepening and prolonging the kiss in grateful appreciation of her understanding.
After a discreet interval, and tapping softly on the door, the Reids returned to find everyone restored to good spirits, their guests gamely gathering the dessert plates. Chin down, Sam smiled shyly at them both, and asked again, "That was delicious, Elaine - you will share the recipe, I hope?"
"Of course, Samantha. But really, the secret is simply stewing the beef to within an inch of its life." She laughed lightly.
The others joined in, and Hugh said, "Don't sell yourself short, darling. You're a wonder in the kitchen." He turned to their friends, "I don't know how she does it, and still on the ration, too."
# # #
As the women tended to the washing up, the men returned to the study for a second splash of whisky.
Hugh poured their drinks at the far side of the room, and looked back over his shoulder, "...Everything all right?" He'd asked lightly but cautiously, and was surprised when Christopher shut his eyes in mild turmoil.
"...Thiss... I'm a bit rusty. The nuances. Too many years - as you well know - handling rather blunt emotions from others. The...finer feelings require a more...careful touch."
"Indeed. Samantha's...pulled through, though?"
Foyle gave an amused huff at the turn of phrase, "She has. Remarkably forgiving." As Hugh approached, drinks in hand, Christopher dared to add, "...for one so young."
With a neutral expression Reid passed him a glass, then took the other chair, pursing his lips, "Have you...often felt you needed Samantha's forgiveness, lately?"
Foyle muttered, "Christ, straight to the point." And examined his drink, "Wull...won't say...there isn't a part of me that feels I'm...um..."
Hugh waved a hand, "No-no. 'Course there is. She is young... But you're getting along well, the two of you?"
Christopher looked his friend in the eye, "Very well." After a pause, added, "Wwonderfully well." And tentatively smiled with genuine happiness.
"That's all that matters." Hugh sipped his scotch, then ventured carefully, "...Occurs to me, Samantha is near the age Rosalind was..."
"Humh." He left it at that, but asked, "Are we...Elaine and I, the first you've told?"
Foyle sat up, "No, not at all, em, nnot keeping it a secret. The fact is, Hugh," he moved his head side to side, working the confession forward onto his lips, "...proposed to Sam only yesterday."
"Oh." Hugh exclaimed, surprised.
"And...friends we met at the charity auction...are now aware of our plans."
"Of course. Well, er." He was at a loss for words momentarily.
"Wwe expect to travel to Lyminster to speak to Sam's parents later in the week."
Reid nodded with a lift of the brow,
"I don't envy you that interview. And, em, Andrew...? How will he take the news?"
Foyle flashed a brief smile, "Andrew...has, em, played matchmaker, actually."
He explained the little deception his son had played on him to contrive the invitation that brought Sam down from London. "Think he'll be pleased. Been going on at me for years, y'know, to, em..."
Still enjoying the anecdote, Reid wore a broad grin as he nodded his head, "And by 'going on at you,' you mean he's mentioned it three times in ten years."
"P'rhaps." Christopher admitted, raised his glass and took a sip.
"Well, if he's arranged the means to put an end to his 'badgering...' That's fair."
Hugh sipped his whisky, "Everything seems in order on the home front. What about the, um, foreign battlefield, then, hm?"
Foyle ran two fingers slowly over his temple, "Mmm, yes, all right." He gave his friend a steady look, "Least I can do, after you sent along my old Warrant Card, no questions asked. Appreciate that."
Reid merely blinked in acknowledgement.
Christopher inhaled a long slow breath, and Hugh asked him, "Matter concluded? Or not?"
"I...don't expect there's anything further to come of it."
Then Foyle explained the background information of the U.S. Senator, who'd come to England in 1940 to help with negotiations for vital American assistance with the War effort. He outlined Howard Paige's early association with Richard Hunter at Oxford, his betrayal of his friend, his theft of the man's invention and the wealth he'd gained from it, and the effects on Hunter and his family. He explained what had happened between the two men when Paige had returned, mentioned that it was Sam, recognizing the synchromesh gear ring, who had given him the information he needed to solve the murder case, and finally, how he'd been prevented from arresting the man by agents of the British Government.
"Good god. And you went to Washington to find him."
"Not difficult. Congress was in session, the Senate Chamber has a public gallery." Foyle, never one to boast of his triumphs, did twist his mouth in suppressed satisfaction at the remembered moment,
"...There was a speech going on. Senator Paige was at his desk in the right hand front row of the semicircular arrangement they use. He looked up, idly scanning the faces in the gallery. ...Nnever seen a living man turn quite that colour before."
He downed the remains of his drink. "Of course he wouldn't meet with me - in his Senate office, or anywhere else. But I'd already made a connection with a chap in the press."
"Oh? You're never one to avail yourself of the powers of that organ of free speech. How'd you manage it?"
"Well," Christopher gave another small amused huff, "he was one of the reporters following Mr. Truman on his walk. Fellow...actually...tripped over a photographer who'd crouched down for a more striking angle. Fell at my feet, so...helped him up, dusted him off, and asked him for a moment of his time. Truman was half a city block away by then, so he listened. And was interested enough in the little I told him to agree to meet me for a drink later that day. Turned out to be a decent chap, who had the sense to call in a more senior correspondent - one a bit past chasing politicians in the street."
Foyle scratched his forehead, "They were very helpful. Surprisingly discreet. And...it was a very long process. Had to step back and let local authorities handle it. The theft - patent fraud - was dealt with first, eventually resulting in compensation for Richard Hunter's widow and son."
"Had you told these reporters - or anyone else - of the murder...?" Hugh asked with rising suspicion.
"Nnot yet. Held that card close to my chest - well, not a card I could play...with any degree of success. The only witness was a German spy who'd already been hanged."
Hugh regarded his friend with a puzzled frown, but waited patiently.
"Paige...eventually...cooperated with the Patent Office investigation..." Foyle admitted reluctantly.
Hugh raised his head, "He thought you wouldn't pursue the murder charge."
Foyle gave a slow nod of acknowledgement.
"Did you ever speak to Paige?"
"Nnnope, couldn't get near him. Just as well. After the Patent case concluded - with no mention in the press, I might add - I...went back to the public gallery in the Senate Chamber."
Foyle sighed heavily and cocked an eyebrow.
"...Exert moral pressure...? By then I'd put all the facts, all the information I had, in the hands of their Justice Department. They were about to arrange interviews with him. Then, em, I found I'd overstayed my welcome. I was asked to leave. Very officially."
"And Paige? Did the investigation continue?"
"...Em, after I had embarked at New York...," he looked away, studying the ceiling, "Apparently something came out in the newspapers..., and...Paige took his own life."
Reid sat back, deliberated on the unspoken elements of the narrative a moment, then said, more in disgust at the man than shocked at the turn of events, "A coward's way out. Escaping justice. Can certainly see why you're displeased with the result, Christopher."
Foyle nicked his head to one side with a dissatisfied frown and nothing further to say on the matter.
# # #
As Elaine finished clearing up in the kitchen, and the two chatted as the kettle boiled for a pot of tea, Sam saw an opportunity to learn something more about her fiance's past.
"So you've known Christopher quite a long time?"
"Yes. Many years. Soon after we were married Hugh came to Hastings as a constable. Christopher was Detective Inspector. They got along well. ...Christopher would often request Hugh to accompany him to crime scenes. Said he had a quick eye for detail."
"...And you both knew...Mrs. Foyle?"
Elaine settled back against the counter, arms crossed, "Yes, ...dear Rosalind." She gave a sad sigh, "We were good friends."
With a troubled frown Sam said quietly, "...He won't talk about her."
She offered an encouraging smile, "Samantha, you're closer to him now than anyone has been...since her passing. He will...in time."
"Yes. But...I don't know anything about her. I wish I had an idea of what she was like. You knew her well?"
The kettle had come to the boil, so she turned away to attend to it and made the tea while continuing, "...They were well suited, even though Rosalind was...younger."
Turning back she said pensively, "I suppose I'd say...she had an 'old soul,' kind and caring and so thoughtful of others. And yet...," her face brightened at the recollection, "She had such a sense of fun, a playful sense of humour - she could always make Christopher laugh."
"My goodness." Sam murmured in wonder.
Elaine pressed her lips together and offered,
"Tell you what - stop in yourself for a cup of tea one day soon. I'll show you a photo album. We chummed around a lot, the four of us. And then with the children." She smiled fondly, "Hugh had a Box Brownie he'd carry whenever we were on holiday. You'll see a rather...different Christopher in those pictures."
"I'd like that very much. Thank-you, Elaine."
The older woman stepped across and put a gentle hand on Sam's upper arm,
"But, you know, Samantha, ...Rosalind has been gone now...more years than they were married." She sighed, "...Her passing was...a tragedy for Christopher. And a terrible blow for all of us. It changed everything."
She stood back and folded her arms again, then with an air of plunging in she gave Sam an earnest look,
"We'd be so pleased to...well...to spend time with you both. It would be wonderful to have the two of you as…" Sam was surprised to see her brush at a tear with the back of her wrist, "Oh! I'm sorry; I shouldn't presume."
"I feel I have rather a lot to live up to." Sam said softly, a little wide-eyed.
"Not at all - you wouldn't be taking Rosalind's place; you'd be a new friend." Elaine's face lit with a hopeful smile, "And...if Christopher, and Andrew, come as part of the package, so much the better."
Sam blinked back her own tears, reached across and pressed a hand on Elaine's forearm.
# # #
Their conversation took a different turn in the sitting room, where they carried their cups of tea.
Elaine had described her War work with the WVS, as well as the experiences of several of her other friends who had been in the WAAF, ATS and the ATA. She had rather surprised Sam by concluding,
"I really just...don't see why we have to stop. I mean, yes, the men have all returned and need work, but...isn't there room for us, too?"
"I feel the same way." Sam gazed interestedly across at her new friend.
"Real work, like so many of us did during the War - and not just voluntary - paid work. Factories are changing over, retooling for civilian production - that can be expanded with a larger workforce. It will take time, but...if the intention, the will, is there, to include women who want to work..."
"I wish you could have spoken to Adam - you'd have convinced him better than I could."
"And not only jobs on the factory floor. Women held important management posts. All their organizational, managerial experience - cast aside! Now they're expected to manage children's nap schedules, or the ladies' auxiliary to...whatever. It's so short-sighted."
But Elaine had seen Samantha lower her head and pick at a speck on her knee. Realizing she didn't know what this younger woman's hopes were regarding children, she hastily added,
"...Well, of course, all that is very important, too. Especially having children - and women are the only people who can. But we've proven we can do more, contribute more, haven't we."
Sam looked up, "We certainly have!"
Then with a sunny smile, she leant forward and asked teasingly, "How does Mr. Reid feel about it?"
Elaine grinned, "Well, we've had some 'lively discussions,' but... As a matter of fact, Hugh has been urging the recruitment of women police officers. He's mentioned you - not by name of course - as an example of a calming, friendly female presence during investigations and interviews. He knows there are times, in keeping the peace, when a woman's presence could be very helpful..."
Sam was flattered, and keen to know more about this, however at that moment they were rejoined by the men. Elaine was in Hugh's chair, and Sam on the settee, so Mr. Reid took the other chair without the slightest hesitation. Samantha noted this with interest - as her father, her uncles, Adam and Christopher all had their preferred chairs when at home, and it had been an unwritten rule, in her experience, that they never expected to have to give them up to anyone else.
"Set the world to rights, have you, boys?" Elaine asked, and Sam widened her eyes, thinking her tone a little saucy, but her husband took no offence and answered evenly,
"A small corner of it. Is there tea in the pot, darling? Will you have a cup, Christopher?" Hugh stood again as he made the offer.
"Thanks, I will."
Sam couldn't help a small smile at his response.
As he moved around her to sit down, he said quietly by her ear,
"Something amusing, Miss Stewart...?" and once seated, quirked a shrewd look at her. She broke into a grin, knowing he understood and shared the private joke.
Elaine asked them, "Well, what are your plans -? Staying in Hastings, I hope?"
The affianced couple turned to each other and answered in unison, "...Absolutely!"
The promised Footnote: Elaine's dinner menu comes from a selection of authentic WWII wartime ration recipes, all of which I found on a well-illustrated Wordpress blog called The 1940s Experiment. The Carrot Roll looks quite nice for a winter side-dish!
Other footnote: A newsreel video of 'Truman's Walk with Press (1946)' can be found on YouTube. He was very brisk, indeed. I'm picturing Foyle strolling along the sidewalk, minding his own business, and being overtaken by the president and his entourage, having to flatten himself against a building to get out of their way.
From Fifty Ships:
"Precisely, Mr Paige, 'It's the war'. And no war has lasted forever, and neither will this one. A year, maybe ten, but it will end. And when it does, Mr Paige, you will still be a thief, a liar, and a murderer, and I will not have forgotten. And wherever you are, I will find you. You're not escaping justice, merely postponing it. Au revoir."