FW1-2: The White Feather

Detailed summaries. Some to be revised.

FW1-2: The White Feather

Postby Lynnedean » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:13 pm

FW1-2: The White Feather detailed summary

May 1940

On a country lane a young woman dismounts from her bicycle, climbs a telegraph pole and snips the cables with a pair of wire cutters.

In London, British soldiers are among those going into a building outside of which is a sign advertising a meeting of the Friday Club. Detective Sergeant Paul Milner meets the speaker Guy Spencer as he is walking past, and queries his proposed subject. "Whose War?" Spencer, noting Milner's crutches, asks if he is a casualty, and when Milner answers yes, says, "Well it clearly wasn't yours."

Milner is persuaded to go in, and as Spencer lectures, finds himself used as an illustration. "Here's a young soldier just back from Norway, a true hero who served his country and has been crippled and cast aside. Has he benefited, or has he been used as canon fodder in a war that we should never have begun?"

Outside the building a young man shouts at two of Spencer's men that they should find somewhere else for their filthy rabble-rousing. As Spencer assures his audience that the Friday Club does not believe in violence, his men beat up the protester in a nearby alley.

Spencer concludes his talk by saying that this is an unnecessary war but the British Government is determined to hide the truth. Milner looks thoughtful.

In the Hastings police station, Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle comments to his uniformed colleague Chief Superintendent Hugh Reid that the Germans being on the coast south of Boulogne puts them only thirty miles away. He adds that it's a bit worrying that the King has felt it necessary to call people to a national day of prayer.

A short while later, he questions Edith Johnstone, a timid girl who has been arrested for cutting telegraph wires near a military camp. She tells Foyle that the Germans will soon invade and conquer England, and that when it happens he will be in jail and she will be laughing. Nervously, she gives a heil Hitler salute.

After the interview, Foyle goes to the room Milner is settling into as his office, and asks the sergeant to find out what he can about Edith and the hotel called the White Feather.

As Sam drives Foyle to the White Feather she enthusiastically asks a string of questions about his investigation until he silences her with a stern "Sam!"

In the hotel Foyle speaks with the proprietors Margaret and Arthur Ellis, and learns that Edith used to work in the Crescent hotel near Hastings.

When Foyle has gone, Ellis expresses concern that the police should be around at that time, reminding his wife that they are breaking the law. She tells him that in a week there will be no law.

Foyle and Sam have tea at the Crescent. Sam expresses delight as she tucks into a plate of sandwiches. Foyle asks her how Milner is settling in. Sam replies that he seems to be all right and is glad to have his new leg, although he wasn't supposed to use it for another six weeks. She says he seemed very determined.

When a waitress brings more sandwiches, Foyle asks her about Edith Johnstone. The young woman is obviously unwilling to say much. She says that Edith had been seeing a young man, but that she doesn't know anything about him. She is about to walk away when Sam makes a casual remark about boyfriends that prompts her to say a little more and give the boy's name as David Lane. As the waitress leaves, Foyle gives his driver an appreciative look and says, "Well done, Sam!"

At the White Feather, Margaret mingles with guests who have come to attend a meeting in the hotel next day, among whom is Miss Rosemary Harwood, who works in Whitehall.

In reception, Arthur Ellis checks a man called Robert Woolton into the hotel. Margaret appears and points out that they do not take Jewish guests, but Woolton assures her that he is not of the Hebrew faith.

In the kitchen of their home, Paul and Jane Milner have a strained conversation. Jane cannot come to terms with the fact that her husband is maimed and has a prosthesis.

In his hotel room, Woolton fires an empty gun three times at an imaginary target.

On Sunday morning while the people of Hastings, including Foyle and Sam, are gathering in church to pray for peace, Margaret Ellis reads aloud from a newspaper to her guests at breakfast, smiling as she recounts the story of the fall of Boulogne.

At home Milner reads a Friday Club booklet entitled "The Jewish World Problem". His wife is getting ready to go to church, and remarks that it will take a while to get to there, adding pointedly, "It's not as if you can drive."

In church, the congregation listens intently as the vicar speaks words of encouragement: "… on this National Day of Prayer, I do not think we congregate simply to ask God to help us to win but to help us to find the courage to face whatever the future may bring, because it is in that courage, that determination, that we will find the strength to overcome."

After the service, as Foyle and Sam leave the church they meet the Milners, and Foyle is introduced to Jane. The sergeant gives Foyle the information he has collected on Edith, and tells him that David Lane is a fisherman in Hastings.

Foyle goes to the beach and finds David Lane and his father Ian tending their fishing boat the Lady Rose at the water's edge. When he explains that Edith is under arrest for sabotage, David becomes angry and goes for him. He is restrained by his father, and Foyle explains that he is trying to help and needs information. Resentfully, David tells him that Edith had at first been fun to be with but that she had changed, seeming to be fearful. He says that she had talked about the war but that the words were not hers, and that she had been seeing him less frequently, for which he blamed Mrs Ellis. He says that he would have gone to the hotel and sorted the woman out if his father hadn't stopped him. "Maybe I still should!"

Spencer arrives at the White Feather. His assistant Alan Fleming tells him that among the guests are local MP Sir Ernest Bannerman and the Honourable John Mowbray. Spencer asks about Rosemary Harwood. Fleming says she has arrived, and queries the interest, but Spencer doesn't reply. When Margaret greets Spencer with delight, her son Stanley looks on with displeasure.

Over lunch Margaret asks Spencer about London. He replies that it is full of refugees and has become too cosmopolitan. She says he will soon put that right, and he replies that he will, with her help.

On Sunday afternoon, Foyle goes fishing with his colleague Hugh Reid. He tells him that he has been to the White Feather and had come away "feeling distinctly unclean". He says he wants to help Edith Johnstone. "I mean, if they hang her it's a complete waste of a life."

David Lane kicks up a rumpus in the police station when his demands to see Edith are refused. He leaves, saying threateningly, "I'll show you!"

In the White Feather, Woolton is told by Fleming that the public room is closed for an evening lecture. Woolton inquires as to the subject and is told "The war effort".

In her study Margaret signs documents under the supervision of Spencer, who tells her that she is a true patriot.

Stanley Ellis tells his father that he has found something in Woolton's room.

From an upstairs window Fleming observes a young man trying to see through the shutters of the windows on the ground floor.

Rosemary Harwood takes a piece of paper from a metal box on her dressing table.

Woolton goes into his room.

While Stanley Ellis reads a book at the reception desk, the invited guests chatter over drinks in the function room close by, making disparaging remarks and insulting jokes about the Jewish people.

A little later as Spencer addresses the gathering, the lights flicker and shortly afterwards go out. A door opens and three pistol shots are heard. When the lights come on again, Ellis is on his feet and the first thing he sees is his wife lying dead on the sofa next to where he had been sitting.

Foyle returns to the White Feather. Spencer advises him to get on with the investigation as he could be out of a job in a week, a German invasion being a possibility. Foyle asks if he is right in thinking that would be something of which Spencer would approve. Spencer says he doesn't care what the other man thinks of him or his politics. With regard to the shooting, he points out where people were situated in the room. Foyle asks about Ellis, and Spencer says that he didn't think he was entirely in sympathy with his views. "He was fiddling with his pipe all the time I was talking."

Spencer names the distinguished guests. Foyle, unimpressed, remarks dryly, "An elevated association." Spencer points out that the Duke of Westminster is one of their supporters and it could be said that their influence extends as far as the palace.

Foyle is told that it was pitch black when the lights went out but that Fleming heard the door open just before the shots were fired.

Spencer says that he would like to be gone from the hotel by lunch, but Foyle replies that he needs everybody to stay. Spencer has taken against Foyle and asks him if he is by any chance Jewish. Foyle looks back at him blankly for a long moment without speaking, then walks out of the room.

Outside the hotel Sam is rudely accosted by several guests who want to leave the premises. Bannerman demands that Sam drive him home and Miss Harwood to the station. When she says that she will have to ask her boss, the MP protests. "Are you defying me?"
Sam replies, "Yes, it looks as if I am."

Foyle questions Ellis, asking if he shared his wife's political opinions. Stanley Ellis interjects that neither of them did, they just did what they were told. Foyle learns that when the lights went out, Arthur got up to leave the room in order to mend the fuse, but it was too dark to find the door. Stanley says he knows it was Rosemary Harwood who left the room, because he was just outside and recognised her strong perfume.

Foyle and Stanley go to the lobby. Foyle remarks that he does not appear to be very moved by his mother's death, to which Stanley replies that he believes in honesty. He tells how, when the lights went out, he went to replace the fuse, and explains that fuses often blow because the electrics can't take the load. He says heard gunshots and assumed that someone had fired at Spencer. He takes Foyle to Woolton's room and explains how he had found a gun in there yesterday. He reports that Woolton appears to have left the hotel during the night, and that there is no record of his home address. Foyle asks who turns down the beds, and Stanley replies that he usually does, but that his father did it last night. Foyle queries why Stanley has not been called up, and the young man explains that his eyesight is the cause.

As Foyle is about to get into the Wolesely, Fleming seeks a word with him. After apologising for Spencer's attitude he tells him about the prowler he saw, describing him as about twenty, well built, with fair hair and looking like a labourer. Fleming says there is something else he ought to know, but Spencer appears at the door of the hotel and calls to him before he can continue, and Fleming goes back inside without saying more.

In the station Foyle, discusses the case with Milner and Sam. They are uncertain as to the intended victim of the shooting, but of the two bullets that did not hit Margaret, one hit the wall behind her and the other her chair, suggesting she was the target. Milner reports that a check on Rosemary Harwood has revealed that she is in a very senior position with the Foreign Office, reporting directly to Lord Halifax. The sergeant apologises for not having mentioned something before - the fact that he had met Spencer when he was in London. He admits to having "wandered" into one of Spencer's meetings. "He's got some very original ideas." Foyle makes no response, but looks wary.

After a short, uncomfortable silence, Milner reports that the London address Woolton gave doesn't exist, but that he is looking into telephone calls the man made from the hotel. As David Lane fits Fleming's description of the prowler, Foyle decides to question him. In the meantime he wants the hotel searched to see if the gun can be found.

Spencer and Rosemary Harwood watch from a window as the hotel grounds are searched. Spencer complains that it is irritating being pushed around by a provincial policeman with ideas above his station. Rosemary asks if the police are looking for the letter, but Spencer assures her that they know nothing about it.

A police constable finds a gun lying in the shrubbery in the hotel grounds.

Foyle and Milner interview David Lane near his father's boat on the beach. Lane will not admit to being at the house and says he would never have hurt Mrs Ellis. When told he will have to go with them, he runs away. Foyle and Sam make chase in the Wolseley but lose him at the top of a flight of steps.

The next morning, in his home in Steep Lane, Foyle sits down to read his post, and opens a letter from his son. The letter closes with: "Strange to think of you so far away and on your own, but hopefully I'll get a bit of leave before my wings exam and we can go out and catch a trout or two. Look after yourself, Dad. As always, Andrew." Foyle sighs.

In the kitchen of their home Milner tries to assure his wife that things are going to be how they were, but she is unconvinced.

Sam pulls the Wolseley to a stop across the road from a shop called Wolf's Electricals. As Foyle opens his door, Sam starts to ask if she can go with him, but she is given short shrift. "I just thought I'd ask." She picks up a newspaper, and Foyle heads for the shop. Neither is aware that they are being watched from another car.

Woolton is the owner of the shop, but his real name is Wolf. Foyle explains to him that he was traced through his phone calls. Wolf admits intending to kill Guy Spencer, but says he couldn't do it. He says he was in his room when the shots were fired and that when the lights came back on he realised that his gun had gone. As to why he himself had thought of murder, he explains by taking Foyle upstairs to meet his nephew Isaac, who has been left badly injured after being given a severe beating by Spencer's henchmen. He says that Isaac's family is in a concentration camp in Germany, and that if he had shot Spencer, he wouldn't have done it in the dark because he would have wanted to see the man's eyes.

Milner interviews Spencer. While doing so, the sergeant is asked about the booklet he was given, and he says he does not know what to think of it. Spencer lends him a book about "the Jewish conspiracy", saying that he can return it personally or through the post. He tells Milner that when the war is over it will be very important to have the right friends.

As Foyle emerges from Wolf's Electricals, a car pulls up and a man asks him to accompany him. Sam is nowhere to be seen. Foyle is taken to a man called Lawson, who tells him that his murder investigation has got tangled up with a Military Intelligence operation involving the Friday Club. An undercover agent has told them about Foyle. The DCS assumes the agent is Alan Fleming because he was "a little too helpful". Lawson says he does not want Fleming's cover blown, and that he needs Foyle's help with something. He discloses that a letter written by a senior member of Lord Halifax's staff to the Italian Ambassador in London, suggesting the Italian Government mediate between Britain and Hitler, has disappeared from the Foreign Office, and explains that as the British Government is intent on fighting on, the contents of the letter would have a seriously demoralising effect.

Lawson says it is believed that Rosemary Harwood took the letter and gave it to Spencer to pass to the German authorities, and that as the letter is also evidence, she can't be arrested without it. He says that if Military Intelligence searched the hotel it would compromise Fleming, but that Foyle's men could do it and he's sure that Foyle can find a reason to conduct another search.

Foyle's men return to the White Feather. Sam walks with Foyle from the car to the door, firing a stream of questions. When she asks if the Italian Ambassador is a suspect, Foyle gives her a pained look and walks on. Sam mutters to herself.

During the second search, Foyle asks Rosemary Harwood about leaving the room before the shots were fired, and she explains that she becomes claustrophobic in the dark, so when the lights went out she had to get back to her room. He queries, "In the dark?" She replies that she wasn't thinking, she just had to get out.

When he returns to the lobby, Foyle is accosted by Spencer and Fleming, who complain about the search. Fleming loses his temper, saying he has had enough and will not be pushed around. "I want to leave!" Foyle brushes past him, saying that it is not possible. Fleming grabs him by the lapels and handles him roughly, whereupon Foyle has him arrested.

In the police station, Fleming thanks Foyle for bringing him away so he can talk. Foyle tells him the search yielded nothing. About the murder, Fleming comments that the only people he thinks would have had motive would be Ellis and his son, but that he does not think the father has it in him and the son would not have been able to see to take aim. He then tells Foyle that Margaret Ellis changed her will hours before she died, leaving a lot of money and half the hotel to the Friday Club. She was probably persuaded by Spencer as he has done it before and was arrested five years ago for intimidation and embezzlement. "He's got his hooks into your sergeant, too, for that matter. I'd watch out if I were you." Foyle says he knows Milner met Spencer in London, but Fleming tells him they also had dinner together after the meeting. "Spencer's taken him very much under his wing." Foyle is not happy with the information.

Foyle goes to the beach to speak with Ian Lane, who complains that his son is now being held by the police. Foyle says that David will have to stay where he is for the time being, but Lane tells him that he is needed. A flotilla of small craft of all kinds is being put together to rescue thousands of British soldiers who are trapped and under constant fire on the beach at Dunkirk. Every boat is needed and Lane is taking his trawler the Lady Rose, but he can't handle her on his own. He promises faithfully to bring his son back and not let him run away.

A while later, as the Lady Rose puts to sea, Foyle, Milner and Sam look on. Sam salutes the little trawler as she starts off on her heroic mission with David on board.

In the White Feather, Spencer tells Ellis that they need to talk about his late wife's affairs, saying that the Germans will be able to use the hotel when they arrive. Stanley Ellis snaps that if the Germans were going to invade they would have been here days ago. Spencer points out that Belgium has capitulated, but Stanley says that Britain will fight on as Mr Churchill says and that his father must be insane to believe otherwise.

In his office, Foyle looks over Milner's case notes and compliments his sergeant on his thoroughness. He puzzles as to why the murderer should act when others were around and not wait until Spencer was away from the hotel or asleep in his room. And how would he or she know where to aim in the dark? He does not believe Woolton is responsible, as he would have taken the gun away with him. If David Lane had taken the gun and gone to the door just before the lights went out Stanley Ellis would have seen him. As for Stanley, he was not fond of his mother, but Foyle doubts it was matricide.

He looks back at Milner's notes on Spencer, and queries no mention of criminal convictions. Milner says he found none. Foyle asks what he makes of the man and Milner replies that he has to be brave to hold the opinions he does. Foyle asks if he has read the medical report on Isaac Wolf. Milner says Spencer told him he knew nothing about the beating and that he believed him. Foyle asks about Spencer's possible involvement in the change made to Margaret Ellis's will, saying that he had the most to gain from it. Milner replies that he still thinks Spencer was the likely target. While saying this, he closes the file on his desk and in doing so, uncovers the book Spencer has lent him. Foyle notes the title and gives his sergeant a pointed look, but says only "Right" before leaving the room.

Sam drives Foyle to the White Feather where Stanley has found his father unconscious on his bed. A doctor tells Foyle that Ellis appears to have taken a sleeping draught with his whisky. In Ellis's room, Foyle picks up a pipe and, sniffing at the contents of the bowl, asks Stanley if it belongs to his father. Stanley says it does but that he does not smoke it often. As Foyle is looking at sheets of hotel writing paper spread on Arthur's desk, Stanley confirms that he has not touched anything. Foyle remarks again that he appears unmoved by events. Stanley explains that he never liked his parents: his mother was cruel and stupid, and his father was dominated by her. He had wanted to go to university, but they had not allowed it.

Foyle visits Ellis in hospital and asks what happened. Ellis seems puzzled that he does not know, so Foyle explains, "Well, you didn't leave a note." Ellis pauses and looks thoughtful before saying, "No."

Foyle asks why he would try to take his own life. Ellis says he thinks it is obvious. His wife was everything to him. He admits they were courting when Margaret fell pregnant, but he loved her and would have married her anyway. He had tried to talk her out of changing her will, but she wouldn't listen. How could he be expected to go on living when everything he cared about had been taken away from him?

As a parting question Foyle asks if meat is cured at the hotel. Ellis says it is.

Back at the station Foyle discovers that Bannerman has pulled strings and the guests have been allowed to leave the White Feather. Milner accompanies Foyle to an interview room where Spencer is waiting to talk with the DCS.

Spencer demands Fleming be released. Foyle says he can have him and turns to leave, but Spencer calls him back to warn him that he will be making an official complaint. Milner makes an immediate apology and Foyle looks at him with displeasure before asking Spencer coldly if he is finished now. Spencer rounds on him with suppressed anger, saying that he holds legitimate views and is as much a patriot as Foyle. He speaks at length and closes with a question. "You have a son serving with the RAF. Are you prepared to lose him, to see him slaughtered simply because Hitler invaded Poland?" Foyle takes something about the remark to heart and remains silent.

As Spencer leaves he reminds Milner to return the book he has borrowed when he has finished it.

The little boats are returning from Dunkirk and hundreds of wounded soldiers are being tended on the Hastings beach and taken to hospital as quickly as possible. Sam goes to help while Foyle talks to Ian Lane beside the Lady Rose. He tells Lane that he has come to say that he knows David had nothing to do with the murder. Lane appears to ignore the news. Full of what he has just been through, he recounts his terrible ordeal, saying that he managed to bring back only fifteen soldiers. Foyle asks where David is. Lane walks to where a blanket covers a body on the beach and pulling it back reveals the face of his dead son. "They made it home but he took a bullet… Well I said I'd bring him back. Here he is." Grief overcomes him.

In the station, Foyle breaks the news of David's death to Edith, and tells her that a German invasion is not imminent and may never happen. He assumes that Margaret Ellis knew that Edith's grandmother was Jewish, and asks the girl what she was told would happen when the Germans came. Through her grief, Edith explains that she was told she would be put in a camp unless she could show which side she was on. She knew cutting the wires was wrong, but thought someone would find and mend them. She didn't think she was being a traitor, she was just scared. "Will they hang me? Will I go to prison? "

Gently, Foyle tells her that she does not have a case to answer and is free to go.

Foyle returns to the White Feather to speak with Stanley Ellis. He tells him that he has lied to a police officer and obstructed the course of justice. When Stanley protests, Foyle says he had lied about not having touched anything when he went into his father's room, as he had taken his father's suicide note. When Stanley again denies, Foyle says he saw pen and paper on Ellis's desk, and Ellis's somewhat puzzled reaction to being told there was no note indicated there had been one to be found. Stanley admits there was a note that he destroyed, but will not say what was in it.

Foyle returns to the hospital to arrest Arthur Ellis for the murder of his wife, and outlines the circumstances... He says that Arthur had hated her but hadn't had the nerve to kill her until he began to believe that a German invasion was imminent. In the aftermath of such, there would be no police force to investigate an insignificant little murder in a country hotel. When Stanley told him about the gun, Arthur thought he could make it look as if Spencer was the real target. As he turned down the beds he left all the lights on in the rooms, which overloaded the fuse box. During Spencer's speech he had fiddled with his pipe, but Stanley said he rarely smoked. He used it that night to hold potassium nitrate, a supply of which was in the hotel for the purpose of curing meat. The chemical acts as an oxidising agent and when added to tobacco, makes a glow. When the lights went out Ellis placed the pipe on the table in front of Margaret to mark where she was sitting. Afterwards, all he had to do was wait. But the invasion didn't come, so he decided to kill himself. Stanley destroyed the suicide note because not only did he have a Fascist for a mother, the note revealed that he also had a murderer for a father.

Foyle has called Milner to his office. It is evident that he is not pleased. He asks why his sergeant did not tell him that he had dinner with Spencer in London. Milner replies he thought it irrelevant. Foyle retorts, "Principal suspect in a murder inquiry? Of course it was relevant." The DCS then points out that Milner also made no mention of the embezzlement charge in his written report, saying that the man's acquittal was no excuse for omitting it. Milner is uncomfortable and becomes more so when Foyle continues: "But more than this, more even than your apology to him in front of me, and something I take to be a personal betrayal, is that you talked to him about me. He knew that I had a son in the RAF and he could only have got that from you, isn't that right?"

Milner apologises for betraying any confidences, but assures his superior that he never said anything lacking in respect. Foyle is quietly angry and tells his sergeant that speaking to Spencer at all was a lack of respect and a lack of judgement. He asks if he really believes what Spencer has to say. Milner replies that he has been confused since Norway. "I don't understand why it happened and I don't understand what it was for. At least Spencer made me feel like he was on my side and that I'm not to blame for it all." Foyle states that Spencer had a reason, and Milner responds sharply, "What do you mean? I don't agree with his views, but Guy Spencer is a good man!"

Foyle holds up the book Spencer lent to Milner about how the Jews plan to overthrow Christianity and conquer the world, asking, "Have you read it? Are you anti-Semitic? Is Hitler right doing what he's doing to the Jews?" Milner answers an emphatic no to each question, becoming increasingly alarmed as he does so.

Foyle then explains that his sergeant has been used. He tells him that Rosemary Harwood gave Spencer the letter she had smuggled out of Whitehall, but that after the murder he did not know what to do with it. Foyle opens the front cover of the book and with a pair of tweezers eases open a slit that has been made from top to bottom near the binding, and pulls out the letter. "He gave it to you because you were the one person at the hotel we wouldn't dream of searching. After the investigation, you'd send it back to him, he'd pass it on to the Germans."

Milner is horrified, and crushed. "Do you want my resignation?"

To the sergeant's surprise, Foyle replies that his resignation is the last thing he wants. He says he can't do the job on his own; what he wants is to forget all that has happened, and, more importantly, that Milner be with him one hundred per cent. "In spite of whatever problems you're going through, it is important that you and me and Sam are able to trust each other, and we're on the same side. Is that understood?"

Milner is moved by Foyle's willingness to keep him working alongside him.

"Yes, sir. Understood."

"Good." Foyle reaches over his desk and proffers a handshake to his sergeant, who accepts with gratitude.

Rosemary Harwood is arrested in Whitehall. Elsewhere, Spencer is bundled into the back of a Black Mariah, glowering in anger at Foyle, who looks on, unmoved.

At home in steep Lane, Foyle drinks tea while he listens to a BBC radio broadcast by the novelist J B Priestley. In emotional tones, Priestley describes how, included in the flotilla that went to Dunkirk, there were little boats more used to ferrying happy holidaymakers than wounded and dispirited soldiers. "And our great-grandchildren, when they learn how we began this war by snatching glory out of defeat and then swept on to victory, may also learn how the little holiday steamers made an excursion to hell and came back glorious."

A little later, Foyle joins the mourners walking behind David Lane's coffin as it is carried into church. Lane sees him and goes to him. Foyle explains his presence simply: "I've got a son the same age." The grieving father nods briefly, silently acknowledging compassion born of understanding, and returns to the procession. Foyle removes his trilby, and follows.

"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long." ~ Ogden Nash
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