|The end of March saw Jo packing the last of her belongings into boxes, ready to be transported to her new home. Jem had been lucky enough to find premises for the Sanatorium near to the border between England and Wales. He had been busy transporting equipment and patients over there during the past month. He had located a house for himself and had also taken a cottage in Jack’s name a few miles away in Howells village. Her sister had already left Guernsey and the school was to follow in two weeks. Jo was departing today, along with Miss Wilson, who had also had to flee Austria. Jem would cross with the last of his patients the following day. Robin and Daisy were boarding at school for the last week of term and would cross with the staff. |
Jo checked around the cottage to make sure nothing had been left behind, before heading down to wait for Jem in the lounge. He was to take her to the Sea Witch, the yacht in which she would be crossing the English Channel. Suddenly, she heard the sound of a car horn outside. She grabbed the few belongings she was taking with her and opened the door. Jem came to take the small case from her and carried it out to the car. Jo locked the door and handed Jem the key as he would oversee the removal of the boxes later that day.
“Thank you. Is everything ready for the men?”
“Yes. I’ve labelled all the boxes in each room for you.”
“Good. Hurry up and get in. Willoughby wants to get off as soon as possible.”
“There are U-boats about.”
“Why are we going today, then? Surely we should wait till it’s safer?”
“You can’t stay here any longer, Jo. You need to get to the mainland and U-boats will be about whether you cross today or tomorrow.” Jo remained silent as she digested this information. Jem concentrated on getting the car down to the small bay where the Sea Witch was moored. Eventually, he pulled up and Jo saw a steam yacht out in the bay. A small dinghy was waiting at the shore to take her across to it. Jem helped her with her luggage. Nigel Willoughby, the yacht’s owner, took Jo’s belongings and placed them in the dinghy. Jo turned to Jem and gave him a hug.
“Look after yourself and I’ll see you in a couple of days, Jo.”
“I will. Bye.” Jo gave him a final hug, then she was being helped into the dinghy and they were pulling out to the yacht. Once there, Jo was instructed into her life jacket and shown to the cabin. She found Miss Wilson waiting for her there. They talked quietly as they listened to the shouts and orders going on around them and felt the swell of the waves passing under the yacht.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash and the yacht veered violently, causing them both to hang onto their seats in an effort to stay upright.
“What’s happening?” Jo asked. In answer to her question, Nigel Willoughby appeared at the door of the cabin.
“There’s a U-boat about. You need to come up on deck.” What little colour Jo had drained from her face at this news. They followed him up onto deck, and he left them near one of the lifeboats. Both women waited silently, crouched down, ready to get into it at a moment’s notice. There was a loud banging from the bows of the yacht. A German fighter plane had spotted the yacht and was shooting at them from above. More gunfire sounded, as a British fighter joined in the battle.
“Surely, this can’t be happening to us? Not after everything else.” Jo cried, her distress evident. Miss Wilson had no reply. She grimly thought about all they had already gone through and silently prayed for their safety.
“Go back to the cabin. You’ll have more shelter there.” Nigel suddenly appeared alongside them. He didn’t wait to see them there, he needed to get back to the wheel. Miss Wilson put her arm around Jo and they stumbled back to the relative safety of the cabin. Jo’s face was flushed and when Miss Wilson felt her hand, it was abnormally hot.
“Lay down, Jo. You need to try and keep calm.” Jo didn’t answer. She felt light-headed and the room was looking decidedly odd. Miss Wilson busied herself in making Jo as comfortable as possible. She fell into an uneasy slumber, muttering all the while. Miss Wilson was concerned, but could do nothing else for her. She looked up with relief when Nigel came into the cabin.
“We’re using the engines, now, so we should hopefully make port late tonight.” He heard the muttering and saw Jo asleep, but very flushed. “Is she all right?”
“The stress of this journey, on top of everything she’s been through, isn’t helping her.”
“We’re going as fast as we can, now. Hopefully, we won’t have any more incidents.”
“Thank you.” Nigel left them alone once more and went back to the wheel house. A little while later, a British Naval destroyer signalled him to stop. Upon discovering that he had women on board and that one of them was ill, he was told that the destroyer would take them to the mainland and he could aim for port in his own time.
Jo barely registered that she was being moved. The destroyer arrived at Plymouth and Jo was quickly taken to a small boarding house. Miss Wilson stayed with her until Jem could come.
Jem finally arrived two days later. Jo’s fever hadn’t broken in that time and she still lay in bed, occasionally muttering to herself. Miss Wilson was thankful to see him.
“How is she, Nell?”
“Not good. She hasn’t roused yet. The local doctor is rather worried about her.”
“Let me take a look at her.” She led the way up to Jo’s room and left Jem at the door.
“I’ll wait down in the lounge.” Jem just nodded and entered. Jo lay on the bed, her head propped up a little by pillows. She was muttering to herself, but he couldn’t make out any words. He felt her forehead and was alarmed by how hot she was. He realised that he could not move her anywhere until the fever broke.
“Oh, Joey. You are having a time of it, aren’t you?” He spoke out loud, hoping his voice might reach her. There was no response. He sighed. All he could do was wait, as he knew he couldn’t return home without her. Madge was worried as it was, and if he left Jo alone in this state, she would never forgive him. She had wanted to come with him, but he knew she was needed at home with the children. He stayed with Jo until tea time, when he went to speak with Miss Wilson.
“The fever must break soon. She can’t stay like that for much longer. If you could sit with her this evening, I’ll watch her overnight.”
“Of course. The local doctor said he would come and check on her about six o’clock.”
“I’ll speak to him when he gets here. I can’t move her until this fever breaks, though I want to get her to the Sanatorium as soon as I can.”
“She won’t like that.”
“I know, but she can’t stay alone when she does come round, and our house is far too noisy for her.” Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the local doctor. Jem went off to Jo’s room with him and Miss Wilson collected her book to read whilst she sat with Jo for the evening.
When the two doctors came back downstairs, she headed up to sit with Jo. The muttering had stopped for the moment, so she settled down to read. Jem appeared to relieve her at ten o’clock. She left him with Jo and went off to her own room, where she was quickly asleep.
Meanwhile, Jem was watching Jo. He saw she looked a little less flushed than earlier, and her eyelids were fluttering slightly. He waited, and was eventually rewarded by seeing her eyes slowly open.
“Hello, Jo. How are you feeling?” Jo blinked a few times as her eyes adjusted to the lamplight.
“That U-boat! Did it get us? What’s happened? Where am I?”
“Shhh, Jo. You’re safe, now. The U-boat didn’t get you. You’re in Plymouth.”
“Jem?” Tears flowed as she realised he was sitting with her.
“Don’t cry, Joey. I’m here and I’m taking you back with me. I promise. Get some sleep, now, and we’ll see how you are in the morning.” Jo closed her eyes and was soon sleeping once more, though this time she slept properly.