One Hundred Thousand Bastards
In fact she had been a popular young woman then and in the later days of World War II when the Americans joined in the festivities. Her popularity was based on her willingness to share her affections for small personal rewards. Her notoriety became so great among the Americans from a nearby airfield that the chaplain was asked to intervene. Taking her for a walk one evening he advised her, in a fatherly way. His conversation about economic theory floored her right there in the woods.
He told her of the laws of supply and demand. Limited supply and unrestricted demand led to rising prices, he explained. After a minimum of such economic lessons, for she was a fast woman learner, he created a monopoly for her. This exclusive rights agreement proved to be both lucrative and productive. Thom was the padre's second product in that small village. Fortunately for the good reverend, D-Day came just in time to save him from embarrassment.
Forty-five years after the war, Thom's mother was reminiscing loudly one evening in the public bar of the Rose and Crown and Sarah Witherick, the school mistress, was sitting in the quieter saloon bar listening intently to Thom's mother through the glass partition. If what Thom's mother was saying was true, it was likely, Sarah felt, that she and Thom were half-brother and half-sister. She went around to the public bar.
"I could not help overhearing your conversation," began Sarah. She explained the significance of a clipping she had in her purse from the Daily Telegraph of November 20, 1990. Sarah agreed to write a letter.
"Dear Mr. Ambassador;
Kindly inform me of the proper procedure, forms or methods
required by your Department of Defense and National Archives
which will allow me to discover my father. I know that his name
was Gregor Pugilovich and that he was a chaplain in the U.S.
Army stationed in Wiltshire during World War II.
Six thousand miles away, Tilde Pugilovich sat on the veranda of her secluded cottage just outside Mendocino, California quietly reading the morning paper. She had followed her brotherís career since he had been discharged from the U.S. Army and assigned to a parish in a small Central Valley town. The bishop of the diocese liked his charm and intelligence. He was witty, articulate and persuasive, ardent without being strident. He could also hold his wine. It was some time before the bishop discovered that Gregor succumbed to those women, as often as not married women, who wanted to know what was under his cassock. When one of Father Pugilovich's early indiscretions came to the bishop's attention, he moved his friend from the valley to an urban center. Gregor and Tilde had thrown themselves with vigor into the service of the parishioners, especially the impoverished veterans. The more adventuresome of the volunteer workers, all complete strangers to poverty, threw themselves with equal vigor at Gregor.
This pattern had repeated itself regularly throughout his service to the church and its parishioners. When his friend the bishop passed away the new bishop explained to Gregor that being father to a flock was somewhat different from being father of a flock. Gregor retired with his sister, Tilde, to the arty town of Mendocino where people are more open minded about such fine distinctions. There he died leaving Tilde all his worldly goods.
On November 20, 1990, she sat reading a filler article in the Chronicle.
BRITISH WAR BABIES GET O.K. TO FIND DADS.
Washington - a U.S. District Court settlement announced Monday
will allow British children of U.S. servicemen from World War II
to get information about their fathers from the Department of Defense
and the National Archives. The agreement reversed a longstanding
federal policy of withholding such information to protect the
servicemen's privacy. Up to 100,000 sons and daughters of U.S.
GIS who had been stationed in England during World War II could
be affected by the settlement.
At seventy, there was little left in the world to shock Tilde but certainly she was surprised. There were one hundred thousand British bastards of American men. How many of them were Gregor's? She had known for years of two pregnancies. A vicar's daughter in a small village in Wiltshire by Salisbury Plain and the butcher's girl he had had in the ancient circle of Stonehenge. There might have been others, undoubtedly there were. She wondered if there were more in France and Germany, too. He had been there as a chaplain, passing cigarettes to soldiers for four years. The old sadness passed over her.
The arrogance of the government action, denying access to the fathers of so many people for forty five years appalled her. Could these war-babies now make claim to their fathersí estates?
Sarah Witherick had grown up in post war England living through the years of rationing with her mother and spending her summers with her grandfather, the vicar of Newbury, a small village in Wiltshire. It was this reverend gentleman who told Sarah that regrettably her father was an American clergyman.
Eighteen months and as many letters after she wrote to the American Ambassador, Sarah turned the rented car off Highway 1 onto an inconspicuous lane. To her left was the Pacific Ocean, where she intended to wet her toes before she left. To her right were a few meadows with protecting hills around them. At the end of a short lane was a white house.
"Miss Pugilovich, it is so good of you to see me, I am Sarah Witherick from England."
"It is such a lovely day, Miss Witherick, I thought we could sit on the veranda."
"You have kindly told me a little of Mr. Pugilovich's life, his good works and, of course, I am cognizant of his weakness. I should like to hear more about his passing if that will not trouble too much."
"Oh Dear! Not at all. ď
In his delirium, her brother had shocked her with graphic descriptions of his war conquests in shop doorways.
"My dilemma, you see Miss Witherick, is that Gregor was a prolific man. I must tell you that he may have other children in other parts of Europe. ď
"I see," said Sarah, "What concerns me now, is the difficulty of discovering a man's life after he has gone."
Tilde suggested a visit to the cemetery. The old woman led her niece to a large granite marker. "The Reverend Gregor Pugilovich 1921-1989." Tilde had been the only relative at his funeral. Finally, Sarah had some knowledge of the man who fathered her. She also had an admirable American aunt. The sun was setting into the Pacific as they walked arm-in-arm back to the auntís nest.