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Authors: Murray Pura

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BOOK: Beneath the Dover Sky
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“Of course you do. You may be married to Albrecht, but you still think of Terry as your property. Is that just in case things don’t work out with Albrecht?”

Catherine’s face stiffened like granite. “How dare you.”

“Terry and I are friends, no more. I have no intention of taking him out of Jane’s life just because you can’t let go. And if he should want to visit one day, why can’t he?”

“It would be very awkward. I don’t want him here.”

“Then if he comes you can throw me out. Throw Jane and me out into the street. We’ll find lodgings somewhere else in Tubingen. Or we could head for Stuttgart or Heidelberg…even take the train east for Munich and be out of your life completely. Father will see us properly set up.”

“I don’t want you out of my life.”

“Then you will have to let me have my own friends, including males…even old men friends of yours.”

Catherine’s face was pale. The light in the window whitened as the sun moved into a cloudbank. “I don’t know if I can do it, Libby. I think it’s too much to ask of me.”

Libby stared before she whispered, “You still love him.”

Dover Sky

Edward smacked his fist into the palm of his hand.

“It was a scurrilous attack directed at me and my alleged pro-German sympathies.”

His father looked up from his newspaper. “Labor attacks the government for what it considers our pro-French stance. Lord Buchanan would have found a way to go after you even if your sister hadn’t married Professor Hartmann. Besides, Hartmann is well respected at our universities. You must ignore Buchanan.”

Edward paced back and forth in the parlor. “How can I ignore him? Did you catch his snide remark about my ties to the Orient and the Boxer Rebellion in Peking in 1901? About the massacre of missionaries and Chinese Christians?”

“I did.”

“First he lays Germany and its problems at my feet because of Catherine’s marriage to Hartmann. Then he smears me with the Boxer Rebellion because Libby is rearing an Oriental girl as her own. My own family is working against me.”

“For heaven’s sakes, Edward.” Lady Preston set her cup in the saucer in her hand. “Your father and I come to Dover Sky for the summer to get away from politics. Must you go on and on?”

“There will be an election next year, Mother. Suppose I lose my seat due to the antics of my sisters?”

“You are not going to lose your seat. What that vagabond from the Hebrides has to say is of no consequence, especially when it comes to matters of the family. We will decide what is right and wrong among us. The voters will respect that. Catherine has married a prince—there
is no other word for Albrecht. And we have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in terms of her conduct.”

Lord Preston was back to reading his newspaper. “In any case, the German economy is doing very well indeed.”

“And the Chinese economy? How well is it doing?”

Lady Preston’s eyes flamed. “If anyone is going to take Libby to task for her choices, it will be your father and me. Not you, Edward, and certainly not the Labor Party. I am not in agreement with what Libby has done. I pray she may still change her mind, but the poor girl has been through more than her share of tragedy and grief. Imagine losing her husband in a plane crash!”

“I know, Mother.”

Lady Preston lifted the teacup to her mouth, her face still cut by lines and wrinkles of rage simmering just under her skin. “Your father and I are having our own row about Libby and Jane. We don’t see eye to eye on this issue, but I will say that Jane is a beautiful girl who deserves every opportunity to develop into a lady. I simply hope it happens somewhere else and with a different family—preferably American.”

The pop of a cricket bat striking a ball came through the open window. Edward bent and looked out, keeping his hands in the pockets of his striped trousers. “Ben’s just made a hit. Ramsay is running for him.”

Lady Preston’s sharp lines smoothed and rounded into a full smile. “Ben is exceptional. All week I’ve watched him when he didn’t think anyone was about. Working on climbing stairs. Walking on the grass and falling a dozen times. I understand it’s much more difficult than getting about on concrete walkways. But he climbs to his feet and carries on no matter what. I could see the sweat on his face. And how it must hurt! He went back to London twice in the past fortnight, Victoria tells me, to get his artificial limbs adjusted. He never quits, does he? A good lesson for our family. And for you, Edward.”

“Yes, yes, all for England, tallyho, Mum.”

She glared at him over the rim of her cup before changing the subject. “How is Charlotte feeling?”

Edward finally smiled. “She’s a great beauty, isn’t she? Three months
along and such color in her eyes and cheeks. I’ve fallen head over heels with her all over again.” He glanced out the window again. “She’s chatting with Victoria, Emma, and Holly. Ben’s still at the bat. Harrison’s bowling. Owen’s doing very well for himself fielding.” He let out a lungful of air and nodded. “Quite right, Mum. The fight must go on. Our family’s worth fighting for, isn’t it? And our country, of course.”

“I should hope so, dear.” She set her cup and saucer on the white wicker table beside her. “That’s more like the Danforth spirit.”

Lord Preston glanced up from his newspaper again. “I’d like to take
Pluck
out to blue water tomorrow morning. Are you game?”

Edward scooped a handful of cashews from a glass dish. “I’d like that, Dad. Can I bring Owen?”

“By all means. Short rations and weak grog, but I hope the salt air and enemy action will make up for it.”

Edward popped a large cashew into his mouth. “I’m absolutely certain it will.”

Jeremy and Ben stood under the willow trees in the dusk. The lights of Dover Sky could not be seen from where they stood.

“One of the stumps had shrunk a bit more. They had to make some changes in London.”

“How do your legs feel now?”

“Never better. I can’t say I’m pain-free, but it’s much improved from a few months ago.”

Jeremy smiled. “You’ve made a lot of progress.”

“I’m doing it for Vic, Ramsay, and Tim. But I’m doing it for Michael as well.”

“I understand that.”

“So it’s time for the next big step, Jeremy. I’ve got to go up.”

Jeremy squatted by the thin stream of water and took up some pebbles with his left hand. “When?”

“This summer.” Ben gazed west through the willows at the last line of red light where field and sky met. “Look, I’ve got to do it on the day we crashed in August. Not before and not after. In one of our Fokkers. I have to be ready on that day.”

Jeremy tossed the pebbles in his palm. “How will Victoria feel about it? Or your mum and dad?”

“They’re bound not to like it. They’ll be superstitious about the date and say I’m tempting fate. But you don’t believe that, do you, Jeremy? You’re a Christian minister. God’s bigger than our doubts and fears, isn’t He?”

Jeremy kept tossing the pebbles.

Ben glanced at him. “Or are we prisoners of fate?”

Jeremy shook his head. “Not in Christ.” He dropped the pebbles and stood up, brushing off his pants. “You have a destiny that’s in God’s hands. We all do. So how do we go about getting you up?”

“It’s mostly hand movements. I just need a few run-throughs with the rudder while I’m on the ground because that’s what is operated with my feet. The chaps we have managing the airline are going to drop in with one of the Fokkers on that day. Then they’ll take it back to London because we have a lot of business these days.”

“Will that be enough time for you to get a feel for the controls?”

“More than enough. I’m thinking it will be far easier for me to fly than to walk or run.”

“All right.”

“Jeremy, will you go up with me? I need a copilot.”

Jeremy looked at him in surprise. “I’ve never flown. Why are you asking me? Get one of your flying chaps to crew with you.”

“You’ve helped me get this far. I want you up with me. Nothing’s going to go wrong. My hands are steady as rocks. All I need is to walk through the basics with you in case I need your help with the stick. I want Jeremy Sweet up there with me.” Ben grinned. “You’re my good luck charm.”

Jeremy smiled. “An Anglican good luck charm? What happens when they take the Fokkers away? How do you keep up your flying skills then?”

“Our SPAD S.XXs have been mothballed. They’re bringing in one of those as well and leaving it here at Dover Sky. I’ll keep flying with it.” He paused. “So what do you say, Jeremy? Will you go up with me? Will you fly?”

Jeremy nodded. “I will, Ben. Why not?”

The English Channel, near the Port of Dover

“What do you think, Owen? How d’ya like it?”

“I love the sea, Grandpa. Dad says he misses being a sailor on a battle cruiser.”

“Does he indeed?”

Edward laughed and wrapped a line tightly around a cleat on the mast. “I don’t like going into the drink. I like it best when I’m on top of the waves and not underneath them.”

Owen smiled and closed his eyes as spray broke over
Pluck
’s bow. “I like the wind and the water, Dad.”

“I see that. I expect you’re a bit of a sea dog. Likely in your blood. What say, Father? Didn’t we have seamen on Mum’s side as well as the Danforth side?”

Lord Preston, in a dark-blue peacoat like the ones Owen and Edward had on, had both hands on the spokes of the wooden wheel and an eye on the mainsail as he steered. “We did. Sailed with Drake and Nelson—officers, privateers, explorers.”

“Who, Grandpa?”

“Too many to mention. Your grandmother is a Cornwall, and they have as many sea dogs as the Danforths.”

The yacht slit through the Channel waters and chop, the waves like cold iron, the sky a mix of gray and blue and white, gulls turning in wide circles above their sail. The boat was trimmed in navy blue, burgundy, and white like the Union Jack that flapped at its stern.

“You must tell me one story.” Owen tugged on a line slick with salt water. “I am your crew.”

Lord Preston barked a short laugh. “Indeed you are. I have one tale then. I can tell you more when we’re ashore. This is from your grandmother’s side, mind. A Cornwall. A midshipman. Perhaps five years older than you are now. On board a British frigate right in this Channel.
Got into a fight with a French warship with more guns. After a lot of smoke and flame and noise, Cornwall’s ship only had two working cannon, while the French had more than a dozen still in play. So what to do, Owen? Two guns, powder and shot running low, the Frenchmen bearing down on you. Do you turn tail and head for England or strike your colors and go to a French prison?”

Owen puzzled this out. His blue eyes were so much like his mother’s as they remained motionless even as his dark-red hair, just like his father’s, was whipped about by the wind. “I wouldn’t want to do either, Grandpa.”

“Ha! Duck your heads. Coming about.” The boom swung across the boat, and Edward and Owen stooped. “Spoken true like our brave Cornwall midshipman. Sheet her home, if you please, Master Edward.” Edward sprang to secure the line for the mainsail. “They surprised the French, Master Owen, by coming right on and ramming them, bowsprit to bowsprit. The French cannon were useless to inflict harm. Then they boarded her, screaming like devils, cutlasses slicing the air, pistols flashing, and after ten minutes they had her! Indeed, sir, they had her. They kept a prize crew on board, and sailed both side by side back to an English port. Might have even been Dover. In the great hall at Dover Sky you will see a painting of this very thing. When we are back and have our tea and jam I shall point it out to you.”

BOOK: Beneath the Dover Sky
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