2 Winter’s Grace

How long? How long will the old, blood-stained Earth be oppressed by the vain, megalomaniac tribe of Napoleons? These are sociopaths, so obsessed with lost Titanic glory that they are willing to sacrifice countless lives for crowns to set upon their inflated heads. The latest in this train--having learned nothing from the sorry calvalcade of would-be world rulers turned bloody, insanely egotistic tyrants--Adolf Shickelgruber, the failed student of the Vienna Art Museum school, the ne’er-do-well, selfish son of a well-to-do minor official, turned demogogue and self-appointed savior to the German people!

The “chance” encounter with a strange red entity above the war-torn Western Front of the Great War has propelled him onto center stage. If only he had been wounded and removed from the field, the world might have been spared? No, his natal star would have found him wherever he was, indoors or out. The star’s perfect puppet, it is his hour to strut and play with the destinies of many nations as if they were mere child’s toys for his own gratification. Good, decent men proved weak and limp-wristed, when the world desperately needed strong leaders who could stand up to Shickelgruber. He learned early that he could overawe better, more civilized men by sheer force of Teutonic bluster and bad manners--the “iron fist” of Frederick the Great of Prussia and Bismarckian geopolitics Later, he turned to Panzer tanks, V-2 rockets, goose-stepping armies, the Luftwaffe--whatever he thought would achieve his dream of a Thousand Year Reich with himself as the immortal Founder.

The day after the White Dragon of the freezing ice storm had passed, the town of Abbotsbury struggled to dig itself out of the wreckage. Solitary shut-ins had frozen to death during the power outage. People venturing out to rescue others became victims too. Dr. Evesham was one, found lying in the street, completely encased in ice, his eyes open and staring. Evidently, he had fallen backwards into a pool in the street and been frozen before he could climb out.

Abbotsbury was consumed with grief over losing the beloved doctor. Suddenly, the parish church was flooded with flowers, and the vicar found himself busy with preparations for the funeral services, the doctor’s being the chief among them.

Miss Davies escaped from her own cross just enough to take a card to the widow, and she was kindly received.

“Now don’t you go blaming yourself,” Mrs. Evesham told her, her face showing a well-bred possession and endurance. “He was determined to go, even against my advice, and so no one could have stopped him. His patients always came first! I knew that when we were first engaged to be married.”

It was Miss Davies who broke down, weeping unreservedly in front of the mortified widow.

Mrs. Evesham went to her, laying her hand on the older woman’s trembling, shabbily gloved hand. “There, there, don’t take it as your doing, when it wasn’t at all. And if you still think so, I forgive you!”

Miss Davies eyes opened slowly, the agony showing like great glowing coals in her dark haunted eyes, but gradually a light seemed to dawn in their depths. She rose slowly, nodding.

At the door, Miss Davies burst out with something she hadn’t even been thinking of to say. “My mother! She’s losing her wits, I’m sure of it. Always singing and chanting things. The same things. One is a foreign language. The other is English, but strange in its expressions. When I couldn’t bear hearing it so often, I demanded to know more about it, and she said it was the ‘Abbot’s Blessing,’ but we have no abbot, nor has there been one here in the town.”

Not a live one, in any case, for hundreds of years!

Mrs. Evesham, a leader in Abbotsbury culture preservation society, thought a moment. “I believe there was, my dear. Your mother is correct. Bishop Bertulfus, a native Christian leader--some say a Celt, but that couldn’t be, they were all dirty, unmannerly pagans and heathen. Then Joseph of Arimathea, after which your street is named--he was here in the First Century, some say for embarking on a ship to Cadiz and thence to Caesarea. After that we can’t be sure. Perhaps his health failed before the ship could take him away--ports being dirty places in those days, with plague and such always being brought in on foreign vessels. Some accounts hold that the bishop was acting as apostle to this land, bringing the first news of the Resurrection, and converted whole heathen peoples that he found here, and later died a very old man on departing Britain, and was buried near the Banks, down where your house lies. And he gave some sort of blessing, to guard the approaches to Christian Britain, though the words have been lost. Could your mother--?”

The odd, unmarried Miss Davies shook her whole body with a furious, convulsive movement that was most startling for a more social person like Mrs. Evesham to witness, it so seemed the action of a domestic dog and not that of a human being. “No, it’s all nonsense! All nonsense, I can assure you. But I must be going. Mother will be missing me--”

Mrs. Evesham’s eyes filled with tears she had held back all during the visit after Miss Davies had gone. She stood looking at the doctor’s picture hung over the fireplace mantel, the one that showed his magnificent, young promise as a newly graduated doctor of medicine.

She quite forgot about the things Miss Davis had told her, took her card and added it to the rest on the mantel. She turned round, saw the piano at which she played for countless teas and charity gatherings, and went over and gently closed the lid.

Struggling back to life, Abbotsbury appeared utterly forsaken a place. Radios and also telephone communications had also been disrupted. Cut off from the world, Abbotsbury hardly knew its own hurts, but gradually the roads were cleared sufficiently so that aid cars and trucks could get in with supplies of Salvation Army food and medicines and warm blankets.

Engrossed with developments over on the Continent, Britain had more important things to be thinking about than little Abbotsbury’s woes. Shickelgruber’s legions were massed on the French side, mainly at Cherbourg just across from Dover, with additional forces stationed in adjacent Breton ports. Meanwhile, Reich Marshal Goering’s armada in the air, the Luftwaffe, began massive daytime attacks on Britain’s industrial centers, shipping and major ports, aerodromes and railways, seeking to paralyze Britain’s economy and war-making ability before launching a full-scale invasion.

Swansea, headquarters of a Bible College founded by Ian Dahl in 1912 for purposes of national prayer and intercession, was a little too much out of the way to draw initial Nazi bombing, yet it was a substantial port, and could expect it sooner or later. Welsh papers filled with pictures and articles of the damage being down to England’s chief industrial and shipping centers. Then the bombing of the administrative capital began, and it was now London’s turn to be strafed, bombed, rocketed. Day after day, the papers and government broadcasts told of nothing else. Fortunately, the city was well-supplied with subways, so the people could take shelter, but many chose stubbornly to remain in their homes, and casualties mounted into the thousands with each day’s raid.

British morale remained strong, despite devastating losses with the defeat of the Anglo-French armies, and the disorderly retreat to Dunkirk. There, facing Britain across a stretch of water they could not swim, over 300,000 troops had to be evacuated from the lion’s jaw before the Luftwaffe could make evacuation impossible. But the impossible was done--somehow thousands of British craft of all sizes and descriptions were mustered, and the Army at Dunkirk was safely removed back to Britain. It was heralded a victory by Britain, but Goering remained unimpressed--he challenged the British to stand and fight, not flee like cowards. If his Luftwaffe wasn’t so heavily engaged in bombing Britain, he might not have paid so little attention to Dunkirk and let the army escape. Why? This was but one question of many concerning Nazi strategy that would puzzle military analysts for decades to come. With the British army preserved, there remained a core upon which to build a more formidable fighting array for future conflict. It was an incredible gaffe. The German Luftwaffe supreme commander and founder of the Gestapo, a most cunning man who had well earned fame as a war ace, should not have let it happen right under his raptor’s nose--yet he did, despite the fact that he could have easily diverted squadrons from the daytime raids on metropolitan London and completely smashed the evacuation effort at Dunkirk and stripped Britain of her small but professional army.

Shickelgruber? He swallowed the embarrassment of Britain’s army escaping from Dunkirk by pinning his hopes to the airborne armada of the Luftwaffe. He had good reason to think Britain, despite Dunkirk, was still in the bag. After all, the Luftwaffe was the greatest air force in the world., the Wehrmacht was the best army, and his navy--if not able to boast rivals to Britain’s capital ships other than the Bismarck and the Scharnhorst, pride of the German fleet--held the vital sea lanes of the North Atlantic in a death grip with a vast undersea armada of U-Boats.

In Wales, Abbotsbury’s travail went unreported, but there a storm of a different kind, though not spirit, raged, particularly fierce on the grounds of the Swansea Bible College of Prayer and Intercession where the other half of the “Bishop’s Blessing” remained to be activated. As things were going there, however, it seemed that inner dealings would always be foremost on the College’s agenda, and the outer world’s welfare was almost entirely neglected. This program did not meet with approval in every heart, particularly Willy Second Horse’s.

But why should the College be mobilized for the world’s sake? Another war was declared, yet nothing happened despite the initial shock, for after Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s frantic policy of appeasing the ever-increasing demands of Germany’s leader, Adolf Shickelgruber, seemed content to let his demands simmer on the back burner. Uneasy but bearable, 1939 passed into 1940. January, February, March came and went. April spread warming breezes across the frozen south of Britain. Then May and June came and passed, and still nothing. August! Still no actual fighting! But, catching the world’s attention by surprise, the so-called Phony War turned into a very hot Second World War. Germany’s Blitzkrieg “lightning warfare, was unleashed, as Nazi legions, smashed into Poland, a treaty ally to France and Britain. From that moment on, the disasters piled up for Britain and her allies. Schickelgruber’s juggernaut seemed unstoppable, pummeling the ill-equipped, smaller forces of the allies. The neutral countries of Belgium and Netherlands were overwhelmed, Leopold putting up less fight than the Dutch, the king making peace with Schickegruber even before his army wanted to quit. How the Fuhrer, Schickelgruber, rejoiced at France’s overthrow, dancing a little jig before thousands of cheering Nazis in the giant Berlin stadium! Now he could turn his full attention to pulverizing the island fortress of free Britain, his arch-foe.

Meanwhile, out of sight, out of mind where the major power brokers were concerned, the tiny, unaccredited Pentecostal Bible College of Wales! Twenty six years of concentrated self-denial and faith-building, not to mention the trial Ian had endured having to deal with the total enigma of Willy Second Horse’s long tenure on campus, were producing results at last at Winter’s Grace. Ian’s cadre of trained Holy Ghost prayer warriors and intercessors, standing on the might of the first eight verses of Psalm 44, were primed for front line action, whether by land, sea, or air.

Though Ian did not notice it, their eyes all gleamed with the same fire that lit Willy Second Horse’s eyes. A bluish, set expression, grim and determined, made them all look like Willy Second Horse had trained them from first to last, and Ian had had nothing to do with it.

Astonishing Ian, his colleague suddenly sprang to action. It was if he had emerged from like the Tarnnarsuk of the Inuit from a long sleep in the ice, for Willy Second Horse moved about as if he were a twenty year old brave. He vanished into town, then returned with every paper covering the unfolding events on the Continent.

The College was having dinner, and they were swept aside like leaves as Willy Second Horse began spreading the papers across the long war room table, where once upon a time the former lord of Winter’s Grace, Admiral Weemyss, had commanded his version of the world’s greatest navy....

August, before Anno 1912, would normally have gripped Swansea in sweltering, humid temperatures, with relief afforded from the cool sea breezes off the Bristol Strait. Old timers could remember such a climate, Ian Dahl among them. Now he wore at least a thick wool sweater and tweed jacket to morning classes, for the school hadn’t the funds to heat the classrooms and the living quarters. Besides, central heating was virtually unknown in Wales. People made do with coal-burning stoves, electric insets in fireplaces, and hot water bottles. Winter Grace’s coal furnaces and steam heating were just too expensive, even in a coal-rich country, to “waste” heat on rooms that, for over twelve hours of the day were unoccupied. The glassed-in garden received most of the estate’s warmth, and what was left went to the living quarters.

Opening a door to a small classroom just around the corner from the hall of the war room, he walked in, set down his books and his Bible on thedesk, went to stove set in the fireplace, and began to poke around. Students came, some with wood and paper in their arms, and a fire was lit. While the room began to feel as it could support human life, Ian prepared his papers for morning lecture and Bible study. As usual, he had been up for several hours, praying and seeking the Lord’s guidance and word for the day. He had to keep current, as he had learned years before, because the Lord could shift from one thing to the next with little or no advance warning. It was highly embarrassing to assume anything and be caught wanting, when, for example, he had entered the classroom and thought the subject of the day was a bird in hand, only suddenly, when he opened his mouth to speak, he found the bird had flown! He had to stop right in mid-sentence, and it took a half hour of urgent prayer before he found what the Lord had actually scheduled for that day’s instruction. Later, to rub the salt in, a student had come up to speak to him, and in a chance remark Ian learned that the class had all known what the Spirit was saying, and Ian had been the last to hear of it!

After that shameful experience, Ian was determined not to be slack in wisdom-getting. He was supposed to be the instructor, after all! That’s what the students had come to Swansea, often at great sacrifice and inconvenience, with not a few parents hindering them, to get.

Well prepared, he thought, Ian prayed, then started off on seventeen principles of his subject, “Death to Self as a Prerequisite to Effective Discipleship, ” all drawn from the first chapter of I Timothy, and was warming up to the task when he noticed, with a jolt, the solid wall of blank, uncomprehending faces staring at him. Usually, his classes were more demonstrative, since his students were primarily working-class Australian, American, Asian, Irish, fellow Welshmen and Welshwomen--all more enthusiastic sons and daughters of Noah than the average Anglo-Saxon.

It sometimes happened that words were not enough, and a student would rise up--Norwegians were, surprisingly, the best of the lot, if any happened to be available--and dance before the Lord. But minutes passed and he heard not a single “Amen!” or “Glory to God!”

“Is something wrong?” “Break Eggs,” his heart sinking, had to reflect as he continued speaking from his notes. “Have I missed the Spirit again?”

The door swung open, and Willy Second Horse came in.

Ian should have known better and stepped back and watched the events unfold with more composure. But nothing of the sort had happened for quite some time, and he reacted with all the old shock and repulsion.

Second Horse, ignoring everybody, lay outstretched on the floor, and pulled his blanket up over himself like a mortuary shroud, leaving only his bare feet sticking out.

A Belgian student, Gabrielle Van Noy, crept forward. Her widowed mother had just died, but she had told no one, reserving her broken heart for her Lord. Wearing her neat but odd costume, a boxlike hat on her head, with a mannish-looking brown uniform to go with it, she hadn’t put herself forward before, and Ian was surprised. The frail stick of a woman, formerly a nun, who suffered from numerous ailments both physical and spiritual that she seemed not to be able to shake, laid her hand on the chief’s brow.

“Oh, Lord of hosts!” she prayed fervently. “Have mercy on this great nation! Do not allow us to be cast into the pit with the the wicked. We have sinned greatly, but we confess our iniquity and abominations and plead your mercy to be shown to us in this dark hour!”

Her prayer continued on in this vein, and Ian stared, not knowing what next to do. Finally, she began coughing, her body wracked with hacking coughs as she bent over, and vertebrae showing through her thin jacket, so that she had to break off praying.

Watching and praying along with her, the whole class seemed galvanized. Others rushed forward, until all stood round the prostrate figure. “Come forth!” the twanging voice of Viney Bowles, a sheepman from Woona-mugga-mugga Station in Western Australia, commanded. “Come forth like Lazarus from the tomb of dead religion and hypocrisy and pride! Come forth!”

Up to this point, Willy Second Horse had appeared dead, but now he began to convulse beneath his blanket-shroud.

Albert Kamid Singh in his bright red turban, a new convert from India spoke in tongues, and Joy Luck Yoo, a Chinese woman from Kuala Lampur, interpreted.

Fast and pray, that you will not be taken! I have loosed the wolf in the sheepfold of the world, and he will destroy and devour for forty days. If you will be faithful to fast and pray forty days, I will shorten his hour before he can seize and take you all away to his dens in the East. Many will not escape his wrath. But you must all fast and pray, lest the chain is broken and the prayer and blessing end with you.

There fell a dead silence, the sense of finality, when these words were spoken. The students could no longer stand, and they fell to their knees, weeping and groaning before the Lord. Second Horse, when Ian looked, had vanished!

At that moment, Ian wasn’t really thinking of Second Horse at all. In his mind and spirit a voice boomed, “How have I missed the Lord’s leading? What is he saying now? What am I to do? Fast and pray--but fast and pray for what exactly?”

The major offensive began with a sound not louder than a whisper, and it came from the most humble and contrite, afflicted soul in the room--the bereaved daughter of a mother who had prayed long and faithfully for the spiritual rebirth of Europe. Gabrielle van Noy was whispering, then she began to sing in a strange, choked, halting manner, almost as if the words were pulled and wrenched from her.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord. Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord--"

Stunned at first, the class listened, then slowly one here and another there picked up the gauntlet, and gradually the whole class joined in.

"--Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord! These mountains shall be removed, these mountains shall be removed, these mountains shall be removed, but by My Spirit, says the Lord!

Now this song was the beginning of a class that continued non-stop until shortly before the official end of World War II. Participants varied from hour to hour, day to day, but the same people stayed the course. The number, including Ian, was fourteen--the numerical value of “DAVID,” and since David the Giant-Slayer and Warrior King of Israel was the namesake of Wales’s patron saint, there was some special meaning to the size of the class, if Ian had been in the frame of mind to appreciate it, which he never was.

This absolutely unique and spontaneous fighting class of war commanders, or Davids male and female, would prove faithful to the close. But at the start of the forty day fasting and praying session, no one knew what was going to happen, and the prophecies and tongues that came, spurred them to action but shed no light on the whole strategy of the coming months and years.

No one could recall later how the class shifted its operations from the cloakroom to the Great Hall of Warcraft. This room, without the stove in the far more cosy cloakroom, was horribly chilling to the bone, but there was ample space to move about and, most significantly, the means to portray the maneuvers and individuals that their prayers and prophecies identified.

Ian took his place as chief of operations in the Dress Circle box, and his delegate was Willy Second Horse, though this delegate happened to be outside Ian’s appointment, and there was nothing Ian could think to do about it.

Dunkirk’s peril had already passed, but Reich Marshal Goering’s full-scale air attack was now being waged. To represent Goering on the war table, a porcelain figurine of a tiger attacking a mahout in the Indian subcontinent was used. His master, Shickelgruber, was another figurine that nobody liked--a Mayan snake, entangled in its own coils and devouring its tail. These two players dominated the table’s strategy.

Two Welsh girls, Twylla Cahill and Isadora Cuyddrumll began to pray and prophesy, launching a vigorous counter-attack. Nevertheless, city after city in Britain were rained upon with incendiary and high-explosive bombs. Sometimes praying out-loud, often silently, the two sisters led the war theater group for hours, until they finally sank from the leadership role out of sheer exhaustion. Two Americans took their places, Hildegard Cunningham, a retired postal inspector from Apache Hills, New Mexico, and a former cabbie from Chicago, Sam Copeland.

Ian, observing more than taking an active part, watched the proceedings, as prophecies came from not only the Americans but the rest of the class, directing placement of other pieces on the board, as well as moving the ones that were already there. A RAF squadron commander’s name, "Francis Cecil of the Mount of Michael" came up in a prayer, and he was put on the board, represented by a bronze bulldog doorstopper. The praying continued, and no one left to take the evening meal that had been prepared. Gil O’Derry, a farmer, with Bjorn Sogn a dancing Norwegian, took over when the Americans faded. From then on into the wee hours, the whole group prayed, and fasted, and prayed. Some went off to sleep, while others held to their post, and when people returned, then those on watch left their vigil to go and rest in turn.

Somehow the first day and night passed, showing Ian that the Holy Spirit was firmly in control, orchestrating every move of the war group.

For Shickelgruber and his grand strategy for world domination and enslavement, it was the beginning of his end, and he would have bombed Swansea to the level of the ground if he had known what was stirring there among fourteen prayer warriors at Winter’s Grace.

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