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Authors: Murray Pura

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BOOK: Beneath the Dover Sky
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“Your voice is sweeter than those shouts,” Robbie said, opening his eyes and looking at Shannon.

“Only because I’m not selling anything. If I were, then the Dublin fishmonger in me would come out soon enough.”

“Do you think so?” Robbie ran a finger over both sides of his dark moustache. “You look splendid. How are you feeling?”

“As splendid as I look, kind sir.” She placed a hand over the roundness of her stomach. “I think it’s time you wrote your mother and father.”


“Come! I am almost four months along. Doctor Schultz says I am as healthy as a horse—a Connemara horse at that.”

“Still I worry.”

She closed the Bible and smiled at him. “My silly British soldier. What happened to me happened so many years ago. Yes, back then they were worried about a miscarriage. Not anymore.”

“You were badly hurt.”

She reached across the space between them and ran a hand down the side of his face. “I was. Now I’m healed. And the man who beat me so badly is dead and gone. Write your mother and father. Heaven knows they could use some good news.”

“Very well.”

She pinched his cheek gently. “That’s not the only thing that’s worrying you, is it? What happened today?”

“What happens every day. This time it was a group from the Grand
Mufti. They are concerned that the Jews are planning to take over the Temple Mount. You know, where the Dome of the Rock is. They fear they’ll rebuild a temple like Solomon’s.”

“What do you think?”

“Really, I can’t see it. But every now and then one of the Jewish leaders spouts off about a Jewish nation that extends from Dan to Beersheba and about erecting a new temple on Mount Moriah—the site of the Dome of the Rock. And then the Muslims get agitated, and their mullahs whip them into a frenzy. There’s bound to be trouble.”

“So did you talk to any of the Jewish leaders about this?”

Robbie stared at the Dome of the Rock. “Of course. But what can they do? They can’t control every Jew in Palestine anymore than the Grand Mufti can control every Muslim. I’m constantly getting reports of imams ranting about wiping out all the Jews in Jerusalem, and not only Jerusalem, but the entire length and breadth of Palestine. So the Jews smuggle in more guns to defend themselves. And the Muslims smuggle in more guns to defend themselves. I only have a hundred British soldiers, Shan. I can’t stop a war. If they want another Belfast, I expect they are going to get it.”

“Surely things aren’t as bad as all that, love. We have many Muslim and Jewish friends, and we all get along well together at our dinner parties.”

Robbie drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. “Yes, because we’re all moderates, aren’t we? But moderates never run revolutions or uprisings. And when the day of trouble comes, they are swept away by the fanatics and hotheads who will murder anyone or blow up anything for their great cause. Moderates never kill like fanatics do. That’s why they never last, and the position they take for peace and goodwill vanishes with them.”

Shannon took his hand. “So what’s your next step?”

He sighed. “Just housekeeping chores. I’ve asked the Jewish leadership to remember the ruling in ’25 that forbids the use of chairs and benches and prayer screens at the Western Wall of the Second Temple where the Jews gather to pray.

“The Muslims are anxious that nothing be left there on a permanent basis. They’re afraid it will become the start of a synagogue, and a synagogue will be followed by a full-blown temple going up.”

Shannon laughed. “That sounds rather ridiculous.”

“Yes, well, what sounds ridiculous in another country or up here on our terrace makes complete sense on the streets of Jerusalem. And it usually ends up with someone getting beaten or shot.”

Tubingen, Germany

Catherine stood by the window with the letter in her hand. “The big news is that Shannon is five months along now.”

“What!” Libby turned away from her bedroom mirror. “Five months? That’s wonderful! But why are we only hearing about it now?”

“I don’t know. She’s due in September.”

Libby waited another moment before going back to applying her lipstick. “Boy or girl? Do they say?”

“They don’t say.”

“What’s your guess?”

“Heaven knows we have enough boys to populate a private school in Oxfordshire. I say we need a girl to be a proper cousin to Jane.”

“That’s sweet, but Jane will be in university by the time this little one is six.”

“No matter. They can catch up to each other when they’re in their twenties and thirties.”

“Maybe.” Libby gazed into the mirror and puckered her lips. “We need to send Shannon a card.”

“We do.” Catherine picked up another letter. “Ben is coming along better than hoped, Vic says. He’s gotten the hang of those artificial legs and can move about on his own pretty well, though he still uses a cane.”

Libby stepped back from the vanity and slipped her arms through the sleeves of a long, blue woolen coat. “That’s marvelous. It really is.”

“Jeremy and Emma swing by every Friday night. The children have
a grand muck up together, Vic and Em and Caroline have a terrific chat, and Jeremy closets himself with Ben. No one knows what those two go on about since they’ve never been that close.”

Libby wrapped a dark-blue scarf about her neck. “Mmm.”

“Oh dear. Papa’s lost the dogs.”


“Gladstone in January and Wellington at the beginning of March. What a shame. Vic says he’s absolutely devastated.”

Libby came to the window and peered over her sister’s shoulder at the letter. “I feel so bad for him. He loved them so much. Well, we all did. Does the baron know?”

“I doubt it. Unless someone wrote him or cabled him separately.”

“He gave Papa those German shepherds.”

Catherine nodded. “I remember.” She kept reading, her lips moving.

Libby craned her neck. “What’s the rest of it about?”

“Little things.” Catherine paused. “She mentions a letter from Kipp. He’s well. Sent Matt and Charles a couple of Foreign Legion caps in the mail. Y’know—with those flappy things at the back. Caroline’s stuffed the sweatbands with newspaper, and the boys are marching up and down the estate with wooden rifles Harrison carved for them.”

“No. Before that.”

“Nothing, I told you.”

Libby’s eyes snapped to indigo blue. “I can read, thank you. I didn’t know Dad and Mom were having a big row over me.”

“I tried to spare you the news. Why carry that around in your head?”

Libby took the letter from her sister. “It actually does help to know he’s taken my side. No, I’m not happy about them having a long drawn-out fight. But yes, it is nice to know one of them thinks enough of Jane to fight for her.” She kept reading. “Ben is determined to fly again. You skipped that part too.”

“Look, you told me all this reminded you of how you helped Michael get back on his feet and back in the air after his crash during the war. I didn’t see the point of making the comparison even sharper.”

“I’m a big girl, Cathy, I can handle it. I cried myself dry in America.”

“Mum! What’s taking you so long?” Jane stepped through the doorway, her arm linked through another girl’s. “The sun is going to go behind a bunch of clouds. You said we could shop in the old part of Tubingen before we go to Switzerland this weekend.” She half sang, “It’s a beautiful day in May…”

Libby handed the letter back to her sister. “If Uncle Albrecht has finished all his marking and all his student interviews, we can go.”

“The students are gone, Mum. The streets are empty. There’s never been a better time to go to the shops.”

“Yes, I’m ready then.” Libby put a hat on her head and looked in the mirror. She smiled at the reflection of Jane and her friend. “Good afternoon, Eva. You look exceptional.”

Eva was the same height as Jane. She had dark skin similar to Jane’s. Eva’s flaxen hair was separated into two braids that framed her face, and her blue eyes shone like suns out of dusky cheeks. She grinned. “Thank you, Mrs. Woodhaven.” She glanced down at her black coat and black leather boots. “Papa said he would spoil me because I did so well at school this spring.” She pouted, her lower lip pushing out from her mouth. “But I cannot come up to Pura with him for another four weeks.”

“We shall have your rooms perfectly ready for you and the baron and be counting the days,” Catherine announced.

Jane bounced up and down on the balls of her feet. “Montgomery is waiting at the front door, Mama.”

“Good. So we’re all ready to walk by the riverfront and those colorful old houses?”

“More than ready.”

“Downstairs to Montgomery then.” Jane and Eva were gone in a flash, giggling as they raced down the steps to the front door.

“Girls!” Libby called after them, “A herd of wild elephants couldn’t make more noise than the pair of you!” She glanced at Catherine. “We’ll be back in a few hours but not in time for tea.”

Catherine nodded. “Don’t rush. You’ve never enjoyed the city without the mob of university students. You’ll have Eva here in time to attend mass with the baron? At St. Joannes Evangelist?”

“Of course. I promised Jane and I would join them.”

“That’s splendid.” Catherine held up an envelope. “There is a letter for you when you find the time.”

Libby stopped in the doorway. “For me? Not for both of us?”

“Certainly not for both of us.”

“Who’s it from?”

“A secret admirer, I believe.”

Libby came back into her room. “What rot. I’ll be ready for a man in my life when the clock strikes midnight for 1941.” She took the envelope from her sister’s hand and read the return address. “I don’t know anyone in the Royal Navy. Oh!” Her cheeks flamed immediately. “It’s not what you think it is.”

“Isn’t it? And what do I think it is?”

“Terry. Terry Fordyce. He quite adores Jane. And the feeling is mutual. Even Michael remarked on how the two of them hit it off from the first.”

“So why isn’t the letter addressed to Jane?” Catherine asked.

“Why, he—he naturally…she being so young…he obviously thought it best to correspond with her through her mother so there would be no hint of any sort of impropriety.”

“Impropriety? She’s a child.” Catherine folded her arms over her chest. “Why don’t you open it and read the first page aloud?”

Libby’s face reddened. “Why would you ask such a thing?”

“I don’t really care to hear the first page, Lib. I just want you to be honest with me. You know very well to whom Terry is writing. My guess is this isn’t the first letter you’ve received from Terry Fordyce, is it?”


“But you didn’t think to mention it to me?”

Libby’s temper flared and her blue eyes suddenly sparked with color and heat. “Well, why would I? The two of you used to be…well, an item, as the columnists would say. I didn’t want you to get the impression I was going around with him behind your back.”

“Is that what you’re doing?”

“We’re friends, that’s all. Just friends. How on earth could I go behind your back with him anyway? You’re married to Albrecht, and
you haven’t seen Terry in a year and a half. You’re not interested in him anymore, right? He’s out of your life. I don’t need your permission to post him letters or receive them from him.”

“I am married—happily married. But Terry was and is very dear to me. It could have been him in my life. You know that.”

“I do. That’s why I haven’t talked about the letters.”

“I wouldn’t want him coming for a visit, Lib.”

“He’s not going to come for a visit. He just got back from the Med on the eighth of May.”

“How do you know?”

Libby licked her lips and kept her eyes on Catherine’s. “He sent a telegram the other day.”

“I see.”

Libby suddenly thrust the envelope at her sister. “Go ahead, read it then.”

“I won’t.”

“You want to know what he’s saying to me? You think you still own him?”

“I don’t think that.”

BOOK: Beneath the Dover Sky
4.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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