“There are no buts, Arthur. Our island is no longer protection against the enemy as it was in the days of the Armada. This enemy will come from the sky, as H.G. Wells said it would in The War in the Air. Have you read it? Well, you must. The bombs will come, Arthur. Their air force is much stronger than ours. The RAF is inadequate. We don’t have enough aircraft, fighters or bombers, and not enough pilots. We aren’t ready for it…”
Arthur was astounded. His admiration shone in his eyes. He had not known she possessed such eloquence.
“You’re tremendous when you get roused. You’re a regular Queen Boadicea!”
“That is her Victorian name. Her real name was probably ‘Budug’: so much uglier.” She sighed. “I’m no queen, Arthur, just a patriot. What are you?”
Five days later, Gracie made a momentous decision. She made two decisions, really, although the second was less dramatic, and was acted on first. The hour had come. She went upstairs to the buyers’ office, and told Arthur that her young man, Andrew, had joined the Royal Air Force, and was training to be a fighter pilot. She then told him she had become engaged to Andrew the day before. She valued Arthur as a friend, and was grateful for his kindnesses to her, and wished him well. She then told him she had decided to confront Anstruther’s managing director, Mr. Shadwell, in his office over his complaint to her that her brother had not answered his letters regarding non-payment of some small outstanding debt the firm had incurred on her behalf. She then marched down the corridor, walked in unannounced, and said,
“I am sorry my brother has not paid you, Mr. Shadwell. I hope he will. But this is no concern of mine, and never was. Today is my last day here. I have joined up. I am now enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and am in training. My duty is now to my country, currently under threat of invasion and the imposition of alien tyranny. I intend to fulfill that duty. God save the King, and good day.” She then walked out, never to return, leaving Mr. Shadwell speechless at his desk.
It was her finest hour.