Authors: Murray Pura
“No, it was too busy here at the London airstrip. But Libby and Jane are doing great.”
“I couldn’t believe it when you rang me up last month about Kipp and Caroline. I thought that flame had died out years ago.”
Michael smiled as he admired the airplane. “I guess it never did.
We came back from May Day celebrations in London, and Lord and Lady Scarborough were already there, along with an Anglican priest. Thank goodness Lord Preston had tagged along with us and traveled down from London! Lady Preston is still in Germany with Vic and Catherine, so she’ll be sorry she missed it. Anyway, away we went right there and then to the swan pond. I stood with Kipp, and Libby was Caroline’s matron of honor. They honeymooned in France before he returned to the Foreign Legion. Now he’s back tangling with Berber guerrillas in the Rif. And Charles and Matthew are now brothers, not just best friends.”
“Will Kipp ever come back to our airline, do you think?” asked Ben.
“He can’t muster out until sometime in ’28. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he comes back in one piece. He told me he misses the flying, especially the races. How are you holding up without Vic and the kids?”
“Pretty good, but I miss them. I do miss them.” Ben slapped the fuselage with the heavy pair of leather gloves he’d just pulled off. “Speaking of racing, there’s an endurance contest being set up to honor Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic. Wasn’t that something? You must be proud, Mike! He’s a fellow American.”
Michael nodded. “It took a lot of guts. So many others went into the drink or crashed and burned up.”
“So that’s what this race is—a way to honor what Lindbergh’s done. Orkneys to Gibraltar nonstop for the first leg. Second leg is Gibraltar to Freetown, Sierra Leone, nonstop. Then it’s straight to Cape Town, South Africa. That’s the tough part. Fastest time wins. Race is in August. I’m signed up. Do you think you’ll have a go?”
“Crewing with you?”
“That’s what I had in mind.”
“Won’t our girls have a fit?”
Ben put his arm around Michael’s shoulders. “I always tell Vic, as another Yank pilot put it, ‘
There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots
“I’m sure that gives her a great deal of comfort.”
Ben shrugged. “When your time’s up, it’s up whether you’re in the air or on the ground.”
Hartmann Castle, the Rhine River, Germany
Well, my dear, you had your bit of excitement with Caroline and Kipp up and tying the knot on May Day out of the clear blue, as they say. Mum is so disappointed for not being present at the wedding of her son. But she’s gotten her revenge. I expect you got wind of the cable we sent to Dad in London. Imagine our surprise when a week after we received your telegram in Heidelberg we had no sooner docked at Hartmann Castle on the Rhine then Catherine and Albrecht announced their engagement!
Mum was floored, I can tell you. On top of that, Catherine insisted they be married at the castle. Dad couldn’t get free of his commitments in time, as you know, so that’s how everything worked out, didn’t it? Father at Kipp’s wedding and mother at Catherine’s. You acting as Caroline’s matron of honor, I doing my bit as Catherine’s. Michael standing for Kipp, and one of Albrecht’s brothers standing for him.
The wedding was amazing. Picture a spectacular hall hung with old tapestries that have been cleaned and dusted for the occasion, a ceiling as high as the sky, stained-glass windows like in a cathedral, torches burning in brackets on the stone walls. My goodness, Lib, I thought we’d gone back to 1000 AD in H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. And they did the wedding service right through twice—first of all by a Lutheran minister who only spoke German and then in English by an Anglican priest. Heaven knows where they hauled him out from since they only had ten days to prepare.
That’s really nothing compared to what our sister was wearing. They had this gown for Catherine that must have belonged to one of Charlemagne’s wives or daughters. Do you remember how we were taught about Amaudru, his first child and girl? It was royal purple and scarlet studded with diamonds and rubies. Albrecht looked like a German prince in his outfit.
Honestly, what with its sash and medallions. You can imagine how ecstatic Mum was when the parents admitted they could trace their line back to emperors and empresses.
So despite all the snubbing from the British nobility, Mum and dad have almost got all they wanted now. You’re married to a Woodhaven, Kipp is married to a Scarborough. Robbie’s married to a Dungarvan and Irish aristocracy, Emma’s husband is practically a bishop, and now Catherine’s wed into German wealth and a royal bloodline. It’s just Edward and I who have spoiled things by wedding commoners.
As if Catherine and Albrecht haven’t had pleasure enough bobbing along the Rhine all spring, the pair of them are off honeymooning in Austria. Well, I don’t begrudge Cathy that or her fairy-tale marriage. She’s had a tough life the past few years. God bless her! I hope she never has to grieve over a lost husband again. I don’t know how I’d hold up if I ever lost Ben.
I’ll drop a line again soon. I have no idea when we’re coming home now.
Love to all, and hugs and kisses to Jane and Michael.
“You miss him, don’t you?”
“Very much, Holly. It seems like all my life I’ve wanted to be married to the blonde, green-eyed Kipp Danforth. But something always happened to prevent it. Now that we’re actually married, I have so much lost ground to make up. I can’t bear that he’s out in Morocco again with the French Foreign Legion.”
Holly was sitting next to Caroline on a swing on the back porch. “Would you really have gone ahead with Lord Buchanan’s scheme?”
Caroline glanced at her. “The plan where I was supposed to yell that I was being attacked after I enticed Kipp to my room?”
“Something like that.”
“That was why Tanner beat me. It wasn’t just because I wouldn’t clean the blood off the cane or polish the silver handle. I told him his plan was mad, and I had no intention of trying to destroy a family who cared for me as much as the Danforths did. I confessed all this to Kipp on our honeymoon in France.” With a brief laugh, Caroline looked down at her hands. “It seems we spent half our time apologizing to one another for things that have happened over the years.”
“I can see your love for him.”
“I adore him. He’s every dream come true.”
“Do you think Tanner still has a plan against the Danforths?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Do you have any idea what he intends to do?” asked Holly.
“I don’t. For all I know, he means to get back at me as well.”
Holly smiled and put her arm around Caroline. “Fear not. We’re in this together. We shall fend off his assaults.”
“Truthfully, I’d scarcely think of him from one day to the next except for Charles. When I look at my son I can see he’s already a brighter soul than his father ever was.” She bit her lip. “It’s Kipp I worry about. If anything happens to him in that dreadful desert, I shall go to pieces. I know I shall.”
“Ah…” Holly took one of Caroline’s hands and gripped it. “I may be a lapsed Anglican, but I still know a bit about talking to the Almighty. May I? On your behalf?”
Caroline’s smile was timid. “I should like that.”
Libby looked up from the rosebush she was fertilizing. She saw a tall man in a dark-blue naval uniform. “Yes?”
“I came by to see if Lady Catherine was back from the Continent. She expected me to call. I’m Leftenant Commander Terrence Fordyce.” He smiled and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “I asked your butler, but he wasn’t a wealth of information. He sent me ’round back here and told me to speak to Lady Elizabeth Woodhaven.”
Libby stared at him for a full second before moving. “Ah, yes.” She
got to her feet and brushed dirt off her dress. Removing a gardening glove, she extended her hand. “I’m Catherine’s sister Elizabeth, but please call me Libby, Leftenant Commander. How do you do?”
He took her hand. “A pleasure. A beautiful day for working on roses.”
“It is. I must get this done while I can. My daughter is having a birthday party in a week, and my schedule will be an absolute shambles once I start to organize that in earnest.”
“How old will she be?”
“Ten—and she’s making sure everyone knows it. It makes her the eldest child among the Danforth brood.”
He laughed. “She’ll rule, will she? Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth?”
“Either one, so long as it’s not Bloody Mary.” Libby removed her wide-brimmed straw hat. “My husband and I were in America for several years. That’s why you and I have never met, but Catherine wrote me about you.”
“Did she? Good things, I hope.”
“Very good. Have you not heard from her lately?”
“No, nothing at all. I realize she was on a journey along the Rhine and may not have been free to post a note or send a cable.”
“Yes.” Libby glanced about her. “Will you take a short stroll with me, Leftenant Commander?”
She led him west towards the Knight property and the oak trees. He fell in step beside her.
“Unquestionably, Catherine would have tried to send you a message,” Libby began. “But you’re quite right. She has been in locations that are out of the way, which would make sending telegrams and letters awkward. As soon as she is able, I know she’ll write you. Unfortunately, that could be weeks.”
“Is everything all right?”
“Well, it is and it isn’t.” Libby took in a deep breath. “Really, she should be telling you this, but it can’t be helped. And it wouldn’t be fair to keep you in the dark. My sister Catherine has married. I believe
you know of Albrecht Hartmann, a German theologian? He is now her husband.”
Fordyce stopped walking as if he’d been caught and held. “Married! For how long?”
“Just this month.”
“I see.” He remained motionless. “I admit this is a lot to take in.”
“I’m sure it is. I’m so sorry. I know you and Catherine had a marvelous relationship.”
Fordyce looked at the oaks in the distance and then the stone fence beyond them. “Married to Hartmann. Well, bless him, the lucky dog.” He forced a smile. “Will Lady Catherine be returning to Dover Sky, Lady Elizabeth?”
“Libby,” she reminded him. Then she shook her head. “Not to live. They’ll be living in Tubingen, where Albrecht lectures at the university. Summers will probably be spent in Switzerland or at Hartmann Castle on the Rhine.”