It's December 1941. Caroline, Cyril, Edward, and Leslie are home from their recent exploits on the Isle of Man and are now happily ensconced in their cottage in Kent. Feeling safe from the ongoing horrors of war, if only temporarily, Caroline finds herself surrounded by people she loves and who love her, so she counts her blessings and immerses herself in the spirit of the season. She trims the holiday tree with her newly wedded spouse and makes a last minute shopping trip into London.
Other family members are busy, as well. Samson and Delilah -- the group’s adopted pair of shelties -- are running amok in The Peasant’s Revenge and causing the pub’s patrons no end of displeasure. Leslie and Edward have a chance encounter with a child who is separated from her parents in Germany and lives nearby with a foster family. Then there’s that something bothering Caroline that simply can’t be ignored much longer. Christmas in Kent will indeed be full of surprises.
Caroline had gone into London by morning train ostensibly to do some last minute Christmas shopping. Yet what she’d found in Central London almost destroyed her holiday spirit. She’d been into town many times during the Blitz, but this trip affected her differently. She wasn’t prepared for the aftermath of the bombings, and, try as she might, nothing could erase from her memory the scene upon scene of devastation: the irreparable damage to historic buildings; the rubble and debris that littered sidewalks and streets; the empty blocks where neighborhood flats once flourished.
In addition, what she’d been worried about for days was now officially confirmed. What the hell am I going to do? For the trip home, Caroline tried to shut that part of her mind down -- the worrying part -- but the endless wreckage and accompanying feelings of despair were difficult to shake and followed her right into the train compartment she now shared with Robert.
“Unusually pensive, aren’t we?” Robert asked, sitting across from her and peering over the top of his copy of the London Times.
“Not inordinately so,” she said.
“My, such a big word.” He laughed.
“Shall I define it for you?”
“All right, Caro, what the hell’s the matter? You’ve barely said two words since we left the station. You may be able to hide your moods from others, but it’s not working with me.” He folded the newspaper in half and set it aside. “Come on, love. Spill.”
“Didn’t know priests could read minds. Something you learned early on or at one of your recent silent retreats?”
“Since the war, those have all gone by the wayside. No frills apparently. Not even for the clergy.”
“Well, if you must know,” she said, “it’s this damn war. In the country it’s different. Of course, for all of us, life is more difficult than before the Blitz, but we don’t see the devastation and poverty you Londoners must experience on a regular basis. How do you deal with it?”
“We just do. It’s who we are I expect.”
Caroline reached into her handbag. She flipped open her compact, took a quick glance at herself in the mirror and feeling his eyes upon her, quickly snapped it shut, and dropped it back in her bag. “All right. You’re not giving up are you?”
“Not anytime in the immediate present,” he said and flashed a smile she assumed made his female parishioners swoon.
“What do you want to know?”
“Nothing particular just what you’re willing to tell me. Obviously it’s a private matter and I don’t want to pry --”
“Pull the other one, will you?”
“Listen, Caro, I’m concerned and I am family last I checked. You’re still Edward’s cousin, if somewhat removed, and he’s currently living in sin with my brother so I think that makes me part of the whole goddamned package.” He reached out and took her hand in his. “Just tell me.”