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Authors: Murray Pura

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BOOK: Beneath the Dover Sky
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Fairburn bit into a heel of dark bread. “I haven’t had decent help in years. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity.”

“Which fence is that?” asked Sally.

“We’re bounding the property. East, south, and north are done. So this is to the west.”

Tavy wiped the corners of his mouth clear of gravy. “What family is that? To the west?”

“The Knights.”

“Short chap? Striking daughters twice his height?”

“That’s the one.”

“Have they been to Dover Sky for tea? Lady Preston wants me to put together a guest list. She finds the manor altogether too quiet without the other family members.”

Fairburn dug into his pie. “Hmm. Years ago they’ve been, but not recently. It wouldn’t be a bad idea. And the Gillans should be invited over as well. It pays to cultivate good neighbors in the country.”

“Will there be a ball?” asked Norah. “I’ve never been to one here.”

Fairburn grunted. “There are balls and balls. Servants can’t attend all of them. But if they have a servants’ ball, well then you’re in.”

“Certainly. It’s the same up north.”

Sally grinned and swayed back and forth in her seat. “I’d love that.”

“Can I suggest it to his lord?” asked Norah.

“Oh no.” Tavy shook his head. “It wouldn’t be proper.”

“Isn’t anyone allowed to put a bug in his ear?”

Mrs. Longstaff got up and fetched another pie to the table, putting it down in front of Skitt. “There you go.” She wiped her hands on her apron. “I’ll drop a hint, if you like, to her ladyship. She’s so lonely down here this summer I’m sure she’ll agree to it.”

Norah’s face gleamed. “Now wouldn’t that be something, Sally? A grand ball and us dolled up in the latest fashions from London and Paris.”

Sally cocked her head to one side and fluttered her eyelids, striking a pose. “Rahlly, my dahling, I should find that enchanting.”

Norah had forgotten her food. “Neighbors from north, south, east, and west.
Men
from north, south, east, and west.”

“Never from the north,” rumbled Fairburn. “Never any men from the north, my dear.”

“Why not?”

“The McPhails are ugly as rubbish bins. Brute beasts. And they
cannot dance.” He looked at Norah, who was staring at him in surprise. “Depend upon it, Miss Cole. They would trample you into marmalade with their monstrous great feet.”

“So do you honestly want brandy, Gerard?”

“I do.”

Lord Preston placed a short, fat bottle on the table in the library with a thump. “There you are.”

“Excellent.” The baron brought out a cigar from the inside pocket of his suit jacket. “I know you don’t indulge, Vilhelm, but may I?”

Lord Preston waved his hand and took a seat in a white wicker chair. “Be my guest. I opened all four windows in preparation.”


Danke
.” Gerard slipped a cutter out of his pocket, snipped off the end of his cigar, placed the cigar in his mouth, and lit it. He sat near a window and across the room from Lord Preston. “Let me say that your daughter looks wonderful, Vilhelm. It is good to see her recovering so well.”

Lord Preston nodded. “It will be two years this December. Her mother and I are anxious she begin to develop a new life for herself. Physically she seems to be doing better, but in her spirit? She covers up well, but she has a long way to go. We pray without ceasing for her, of course. If only one decent man would catch her interest…but we have yet to see it.” He drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. “Do you have that book for me? The one written by your friend?”

“It is in my room. I will drop it off at your door at bedtime.”

“Very good. What is his theme?”

“The suffering Savior. He relates how Christ’s sufferings establish a unique bond between the human race and God. That He has embodied the pain of His creation, not only of men and women, but of everything God has made. Because of this, He can never be distant or aloof to our struggles because they are in Him too.”

“I should very much like to read that. When will your friend be joining us?”

“I wired him to join us Friday night or Saturday. He has his own car, and I’m confident he’ll be able to find the estate.”

“How did you get the telegram out?”

The baron turned his head and blew a stream of smoke out the window. “My chauffeur took it into Dover.”

“Has your man eaten?”

“Your cook put a plate together for him, and he ate in his room. He’s a bit of a loner, so he was quite happy with that.” He got up. “I’ve forgotten my brandy.” He went to the table, turned a brandy snifter right side up, and poured several ounces from the bottle into the glass. “Albrecht is at Oxford today. He’s already been to Cambridge. He has guest lectures at Manchester and Liverpool as well.” The baron took his glass to his seat. “I think I mentioned he teaches at Tubingen?”

“Yes.”

“Professor of Protestant Theology.”

“And you a good Catholic, Gerard.”

“Appearances and history to the contrary, the two are not mutually exclusive.”

“Hmm. How are things in Germany?”

The baron shrugged. “Not as bad as 1919 or last year. Inflation has been high. So has unemployment. We see some signs of improvement now, but the terms of the treaty were too harsh, Vilhelm.”

“I know it. You’ve read my speeches in
Hansard
. I felt the same way about Ireland in 1916. I argued for magnanimity then, and I argued it for Germany after the armistice. Each time I was ignored.”

“The reparation payments are absurd. When we asked for a reprieve, the French refused and sent their troops to occupy the Ruhr in ’22. The German workers went on strike so that Paris could not make money off them. Berlin supported the workers while they were on strike. You remember?”

“Yes.”

“The new chancellor of Germany came into power last summer. He agreed to resume the reparation payments to France and ordered the workers in the Ruhr to end their strike. There was a great deal of anger at this. He had to declare a state of emergency. Bavaria in particular refused to obey his orders.”

Lord Preston nodded. “Certainly we were preoccupied with our own family matters in 1923, but I read the newspapers.”

The baron leaned forward in his chair, brandy in one hand, cigar in the other. “When a situation becomes black as night—a night that has little or no hope of dawn—people become desperate for a savior. One they can see in front of them with their own eyes. They look for a man who will take control and fix everything. They don’t care how. They just want light at the end of the tunnel regardless of how it is provided.”

Lord Preston drummed his fingers again. “Like Mussolini marching on Rome and taking over in ’22?”

The baron lifted his glass. “Exactly like that. You’ve heard of this Hitler fellow?”

“No.”

“He tried to take over the government last fall. He and a group of thugs now called the Nazi Party. There was a great deal of furor over ending the Ruhr strike and resuming payments to France, and Adolph Hitler took advantage of that. He attempted to kidnap the rulers in Bavaria because he felt they were weakening in their opposition to the French and to the German chancellor. He stormed into a beer hall where they were meeting, waved a gun, and demanded they join his revolution to overthrow the chancellor, defy France, and march on Berlin as Mussolini had marched on Rome.”

“What happened to him?”

“He was arrested and sentenced to prison for five years. We should not see him out again until 1928. But I don’t think Germany will be much better off in five years. That worries me because I’m sure he’ll try to take advantage of a black situation in ’28 just as he did in ’23.”

“He may change, Gerard. Men change in prison.”

“Or become even more fanatical and hard-hearted. I have discovered he is dictating a book while he is behind bars. The first volume is due to be published early next year.”

“What is it about?”

The German inhaled on his cigar. “His ideology, his beliefs, his politics. I’m afraid he will gain a great following if the book touches on any of Germany’s raw nerves. Others dismiss him, but I don’t. A few of your people in Westminster don’t either.”

“Who are you seeing in London?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

Lord Preston nodded. “What do you want of me?”

“I am hoping you will become directly involved in keeping Herr Hitler in prison. Or directly involved in preventing him from trying to seize power again. We must have your help.”

“There is little I can do about the internal affairs of another country.”

“We must figure out together what we can or cannot do.”

“Baron—”

“Lord Preston.” The baron’s eyes were an icy-gray that cut through the haze of cigar smoke. “Are you willing to risk another war if this man gains control of Berlin just as Mussolini has gained control over Rome?”

2

June, 1924

Catherine noticed that the sporty red car had come up the drive to their house a second time, stopped, and was sitting there. The wide brim of her sunbonnet shielded her eyes from the afternoon sun so she could see the driver clearly since he had the top of the car down. He was young and clean-shaven. He had light-brown hair, a red woolen scarf about his neck, and brown leather gloves on his hands. He was wearing a brown leather jacket and dark sunglasses. The man gazed in her direction. Then he turned the car around and headed back to the main road. It was easy to spot him speeding south to Dover because all the other cars were dark in color.

I wonder what he’s looking for?
Catherine thought as she bent down and continued to pinch dead roses off their stalks. The manor was surrounded by white roses of different varieties. While Sean had his nap, she’d decided to pull on gloves and get rid of the brown-edged blossoms that detracted from the overall appearance of the bushes. She placed the dead ones in a basket that hung off her arm. The basket was almost full.

In what seemed like only moments later, she heard the roar of an engine. She turned quickly when a man’s voice called out, “Hello? Hello?”

The red car was almost at the house again, and the driver was waving
to her and calling as the car slowed to a stop by the rosebush she was working on.

“I’m terribly sorry.”

His English was accented in a similar fashion to the baron’s—not exactly, she noticed, but very close.

“You must think it odd to see me approach your house and then drive away again. I apologize for that. It appears I’m lost. Can you help?”

Catherine set down her basket and pulled off her white cotton gardening gloves. “I’ll certainly try.” She walked up to the car, tugging at the bow that held her sunbonnet in place. “What or who are you looking for?” Her bonnet finally came off, and her long, black hair, unpinned, came tumbling down over her shoulders as she shook her head to free it.

The driver stared at her and stumbled over his words. “I’m…well…I’m not sure…”

She was puzzled. “You’re not sure what or who you’re looking for?”

“I–I didn’t think—I didn’t think a young woman like yourself—I–I didn’t know you were young, you see…”

“What?”

He took off his sunglasses. His brown eyes were almost golden in the sunlight. “Excuse me. I’m babbling. I thought you were an older woman, that’s all.”

Catherine felt a sudden rush of heat as his eyes remained on her. It astonished her. “Oh. Is the person you’re looking for older?”

“An older woman? Not at all. I’m much happier to have found you.” He put up his gloved hands. “Forgive me. I’m sure I’m making little sense. If you could direct me to Dover Sky, I’ll be on my way and leave you to your rosebushes. They’re lovely, by the way.”

“You’re looking for Dover Sky?”

“Have I got the name right? Isn’t there a summer estate roundabouts that goes by that? It belongs to the Danforth family. You must have heard of the Danforth family. Lord and Lady Preston?”

Catherine stared at him and began to laugh. “Why, this is Dover Sky. This is the Danforth summer home.”

“It is? You mean this is the right place and you’re part of it?”

BOOK: Beneath the Dover Sky
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