Authors: Murray Pura
“Most of it.”
“It’s the same sort of thing we have heard at his street rallies since 1920. Germany for Germans. Purebloods only. No immigration. Death to the Jews. Secure boundaries against the Russians. Down with communism. Open the east for German settlement. It’s all there, just more polished and refined. A friend is editing it for him.”
“We can’t stop the publication?”
“No, Baron. We can only prepare ourselves to argue against his arguments in print.” The man turned to Albrecht. “Which is where you come in, Herr Professor. We need a book from you to coincide with the release of Hitler’s propaganda.”
“I am a theologian,” protested Albrecht, “not a politician.”
“And Germany remains very religious with its mix of Lutherans and Catholics and Evangelicals. I am not asking you to pen rubbish. Counter Hitler’s ideology from the Bible, from your own personal
convictions, from the history of the Christian faith, whatever you wish, but write as well and as deeply as you have ever done.”
“I have a full course load this coming term.”
“Will you or won’t you help us? The baron was sure you could be relied upon.”
“It’s a question of time.”
The man leaned towards Albrecht. “Hitler has an uncanny ability to draw the German people into his sphere. You saw that at his street rallies. Forty thousand people at one.”
“So now his ideas will go from one end of Germany to the other with this book. Suppose instead of 40,000 he rallies 40 million to his beliefs? Can you not try to rally those same 40 million to the Christian point of view instead? Is there any possibility you can bring Germany closer to the teachings of Jesus Christ than Herr Hitler’s book brings them to the teachings of the Nazi Party?”
“Lady Catherine! Lady Catherine!”
Catherine stood up. She looked beautiful in her white summer dress. “Yes? Sean and I are down here with the swans. Whatever is the matter, Skitt?”
Skitt came running down to the pond, and the swans quickly sailed away from shore.
“A letter just came for you by special post. I didn’t want it to sit by your place setting until tea.”
“A letter? Who is it from?”
Skitt handed it to her, yanking his cap from his head, his face scarlet from his run. “Doesn’t say. It’s not from England, that’s all I know.”
“Oh!” Her face turned as white as her dress when she glanced at the envelope. “Germany!”
“Is everything all right?”
“I hope so. Yes, yes, I expect so. Thank you, Skitt. I shall see you up at the manor.”
“May I be of further help, m’lady?”
“Oh no. You’re a dear for running it down to me. Bless you.”
Skitt turned and headed back as Catherine sat down on the grass by Sean. He was playing with a long, white swan feather that had been shed near a tree. She held the letter in her hand, debated about opening it now or waiting. She decided to open it. With one hand on Sean’s small back, she read Albrecht’s note:
Dear Lady Catherine,
My sincere apologies. The baron and I had every intention of attending services with you and your family until the telegram arrived early Sunday morning. It was rude of me not to leave you with some sort of message, but it was all I could do to get packed, grab a bite to eat from the kitchen, and jump into my car. Will you forgive me? I very much wanted to speak with you further.
There is something about you. I must say it—I think of you constantly. Here I am at this fancy hotel in Munich, and the baron is snoring like a trumpet in the other room. At any rate, I can’t sleep. On the one hand there is the mystery of Lady Catherine to ponder. Why am I caught up with you? On the other hand there is Adolph Hitler to ponder. Why is Germany caught up with him?
I have been asked to write a book to counter Hitler’s book that is due out next year. His will be a memoir, and a political rant against the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war, and an attack on the Jews, the communists, and the socialists. Mine will be a volume of theology—but what I call “embodied theology”—a true orthodoxy that is a “lived out” orthodoxy. And it must be alive. The last thing I need to produce right now is a dry, academic treatise on the existence of God.
I’ve read some of Hitler’s book. The Brotherhood I’m involved with has obtained some early drafts. Hitler writes with passion
about something he believes in. People will pick up on this. I must write with equal passion about what I believe in. Good must have as much fire and heat as hate because it’s to a better end.
I share this in strictest confidence. I wish I could share it with you in person. I fear it will be a long time before we see each other. Am I content with the time I’ve had with you? No. But I thank God for it just the same.
The blessings of Christ on your lovely head.
Catherine read it through twice. The color returned to her face—more color than had been in it all day. She gazed at the swans as they floated slowly back and forth on the green and silver water. “What is going on, God?” she whispered. “What are You doing in my life now? I have no idea how I feel about Albrecht Hartmann or what he’s involved in. How am I supposed to respond to this?”
“You needn’t be so ceremonial, William. This isn’t the Magna Carta. Open the letter. It’s already sat for a week after Skitt put it in your hand and you misplaced it.”
“I merely set it aside, Elizabeth. I was quite conscious of its whereabouts the entire time.”
“Yes, yes, dear. Save your speeches for Parliament, please. Just read me Robbie and Shannon’s letter.”
“Will do.” Lord Preston carefully slit the thin envelope with a letter opener that bore the Danforth coat of arms. Setting the opener down, he brought out a sheet of paper thinner than the envelope. “There are no photographs, Elizabeth.”
“Well, I didn’t think there would be. Oh, read it to me! Is Shannon with child?”
He unfolded the letter and cleared his throat as if he were about to say, “Mr. Speaker…”
Dear Mum & Dad,
Cheers! I’m sending this as quickly as I can. Shannon and I were planning to surprise the two of you by showing up for Dad’s sixtieth birthday celebration. We were promised a month’s leave from my post here so we were busy packing. On
the last day of June I was waiting to speak with an important member of the Jewish community. My adjutant burst into my office with the news the man had just been assassinated. I went to the scene immediately. It was a grim sight. At first we thought Arabs were the assassins, but further investigation made it clear it was one of the Jewish militant groups—the Haganah. Why did they kill one of their own? Simply put, Jacob Israel de Haan wanted a state that included secular and religious Jews in the government, as well as Arab Muslims and Arab Christians, but the Haganah want a Jewish state, period.
I’m used to the Arabs and Jews being at each other’s throats. Yet I knew this region had shades of Ireland to it, where Jew might turn on Jew or Arab on Arab just as Irishman had turned on Irishman. However I confess I did not expect the cold-blooded murder of a Jew by other Jews. It has given me a bit of a jolt. Not least because I knew de Haan personally and he was one of my brightest hopes for Palestine’s future. Really, the only way we can keep Jerusalem from spiraling down into a cycle of constant violence is to establish a nation that is inclusive of Muslims and Jews and Christians. That is the spirit de Haan epitomized, and he was having successful talks with Arab leaders. Obviously too successful in the eyes of the Haganah and the Zionists.
Well, it could just as easily have been the Arabs who had done it. They too have their hotheads who don’t want a Palestinian state that includes Jews in its government. How will the moderates prevail when there are so many with their fingers on the trigger on both sides? And here we British are in the middle. How can I possibly sort all this out when the leaders I have most counted on to bring peace to this region are cut down in their prime?
I’ll get this in the mailbag for England straightaway. I am so very sorry we can’t make it up for your birthday, Dad, but you see how things are. Perhaps we’ll be able to get away next year.
Meanwhile, despite all this, Shannon and I enjoy good health
and relish this wonderful climate. God bless you and please pray for us here.
Love to all,
Lady Preston was fingering her necklace and staring out the parlor window at the apple trees. “I should like to live to see peace in Jerusalem.”
“It has been this way from time immemorial, Elizabeth. One group fighting another. Several Danforths went on Crusades, you know.”
“I just don’t want them turning on our British troops for lack of something else to do. There’s a viciousness in Palestine I had not counted on. I fear Robbie is in harm’s way again.”
“Nonsense.” Lord Preston folded the letter and tucked it back in its envelope. “They have no reason to go after our army. We’re there to help.”
“Now you settle in here behind this bush,” ordered Fairburn.
the bush,” complained Skitt, “I’m in it.”
“All the better. The poachers won’t be able to tell you from a thatch of brambles.”
The sun had gone down, but there was still enough twilight to see clearly when Skitt crouched down in the brush. Fairburn handed him a cricket bat.
“Now if you spot ’em, holler like the dickens and I shall come running from my hut. Whack them about a bit with the bat and soften ’em up for the constables. Remember, the poachers are on our land so they’re trespassing. And if they’ve come for the swans, they’re poaching as well. And they’re not just taking anyone’s swans.”
“I know, I know. They’re poaching the swans of the Marquess of Preston.”
Fairburn made a sour face. “They’re not just the Marquess of Preston’s swans, lad. They’re the king’s birds.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have I not told you? The swans of this estate have been under royal protection by edict since 1789. Twenty years back, they were Queen Victoria’s swans. Today they’re King George the Fifth’s. All the more reason to knock the poachers about a bit and give them what for.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“We’ll spell each other. You have tonight and tomorrow night. Then it’s my go. Have you got your flask of tea?”
“Aye. Mrs. Longstaff fixed me two great ham sandwiches as well.”
“Good enough. We’ll see you at dawn then, unless you catch ’em. Don’t forget to make a great racket that will bring me on the run. Cheers.”
Skitt hunkered down further into the bush, opened his leather flask, sipped some tea, screwed the cap back on, and began to hum “Abide with Me” while he watched the swans glide around the pond.
They look like vessels with all sails set, so they do
, he thought. The great birds settled down as it became fully dark, tucking their bills back under their wings, some remaining in the water, others coming up on land. The July night was warm so Skitt felt no discomfort. He gripped his cricket bat firmly and flicked his eyes from one side of the pond to the other. He thought about the summer ball that was only three nights away. The great hall at Dover Sky was already decorated with white lights and streamers. He almost closed his eyes as he imagined that night…