Lidja, who has been on holiday with her husband, is still away a week past the appointed date for her return. One evening, Sister Penny announces sadly that Lidja has drowned in a freak sailing accident. She doesn’t pray or tell the children Lidja is in Heaven, because she doesn’t want to preach about things in which she doesn’t believe.
In its sudden senselessness, Lidja’s drowning is much like the onset of polio or the war in Europe. It’s a reminder to the children that although they’ve made it through one crisis, challenges to survival are manifold and can crop up at any time.
Elsa and Frank stay on the verandah later than the others, holding hands. While they’re brushing their teeth together, Frank asks if a shark might eat Lidja’s body, and Elsa says it’s possible.
Moira, the new therapist arrives. She’s good-tempered and kind, but everyone misses Lidja’s ferocity and her constant injunctions to “think” their muscles back into action. Her death serves as a reminder that no matter how many people want to help them, the children are ultimately alone in defeating or succumbing to polio.
When Lidja was alive, the children noticed that she was more helpful to them than their own mothers, untrained in nursing, were. Now that two sources of protection have been abruptly stripped away, the children are again reminded of how isolating polio can be.