Thank you for coming back to FLIGHT AT PEENEMŰNDE. It's a true vote of confidence.
Please let me know if I'm succeeding in entertaining you at vichowel (that's one 'L') at aol.com.
Like chapter 10 and 11, this chapter plays exclusively in London (I've got to set up the problem that has to solved, you know?). The lovers, however, have each come to terms with their love for each other and have accepted the commitment that love places on them. At least one fly has crashed landed in the soup and Elizabeth is busy stirring in as she convinces Barry that they should bring in Aunt Alice...
Lord Molloy's propositioning of Barry has been rejected and, even more insulting, his position has been compromised. One moment of indiscretion and his world is now in threat; he'd had to accept the American's imposition. What he doesn't know is that he's far more lost than he thought he was. Elizabeth has overheard them and convinces Barry that they need to bring Aunt Alice into anything they plan. Please remember how absolutely stupid one or the other lover (or the antagonist) in a romance novel behaves to show that s/he is in fact in love even as s/he does her best to show that s/he isn't (Makes a world of sense, doesn't it? Still, romance is the genre that has the loyalty of 65% of all fiction readers). I do hope that I'm not too obvious playing with the formulae of the genre.
The story is being told in rotation from London to Germany and back. The atmosphere of the story will be considerably darker in those parts of the story that has his Lordship in Germany.
The copyright to Flight belongs to me. It cannot be reprinted in any medium without my express permission. If you're under 16-18 yos, you shouldn't be reading stories from the Nifty archives -- however, this story will not lead you into orgasmic prurience (mum and dad can read it over your shoulder, in other words). If you enjoy reading stories stored at Nifty and are delirious that they are free, donate a couple of bucks to Nifty so that those stories will continue being free to you.
Barry Alexander jerked as he felt the hand come to rest gently on his shoulder. He pivoted around and was facing Elizabeth standing behind him in Petershome's study.
His jaw dropped as he came out of his shock and recognised her. "You didn't hear that?" he groaned.
She nodded slowly.
"Oh God!" he mewled, feeling his face flame. "You shouldn't have."
"Barry, I'm sorry but I did. I slipped in behind Roger when he brought you tea and hid within the cupboard while you and Molloy were speaking." He stared at her blankly. "I'd heard you raise your voice, I didn't know what to think. I couldn't imagine what Molloy would say or do to set you off, and I wanted to help."
"You heard it all?" he groaned.
She smiled brightly. "I really do think there is something to this old-fashioned notion you men have about keeping women from overhearing your changing room conversations. But I must say I was more than slightly embarrassed by the gist of your conversation." She looked into his eyes. "Do you men insist upon talking to each in that manner when women aren't about?"
In the hall, Barry could hear the door closing and knew that Roger had shown Molloy out. "You must..." he began. "You must really think me awful, Elizabeth -- speaking to him like that."
She watched him closely for several moments before continuing. "I understood your motive," she said softly. "I think I even understood what you were trying to do." She smiled tightly. "I think I might even agree with your assessment of Lord Molloy. But, Barry, no Englishman would ever say such a thing to another Englishman that you did." She shook her head slowly. "I'm amazed that the two of you are not both dead -- like a couple of ancient Roman gladiators who fought to the death."
"Lord Molloy is a -- uh..." He searched his mind for an appropriate comment.
"He's a rutting pig, Barry. That's what Max Molloy is. To think that he would actually come over here and try to use you -- his best friend's ... Oh!" Her eyes met his. "I just don't know the words. Women aren't taught such language."
Barry reached out and took her hand in his. He looked into her eyes. "Will you forgive me?" He paused to think through his next words. "Please, Elizabeth, forgive me that sort of language."
"You didn't know I was listening to your conversation."
"It doesn't matter. I was brought up better than that."
"But Molloy propositioned you, Barry. You had to defend yourself and convince him of his place."
"With words like you'd expect from a whore?" he groaned. "I think not. I would have been better if we had fought."
"And have Robbie come back from the continent and find his best friend beaten up by the man he's come to accept that he loves? No, you handled Molloy correctly, as you would anyone of his sort who did the same thing."
"But I didn't have to be so explicit."
"Why not?" She nodded to herself. "He was explicit in what he wanted. He ripped down the veil between the classes himself. You had to come back at him on the same explicit level or he would continue being such a -- an animal." She frowned. "Even if he couldn't get what he wanted from you, he would have done so with another man. An Englishman probably, one who would have been hard-pressed to defend himself against someone like Molloy. You made that ill-mannered buffoon wake up and realise what he was doing. You whipped him soundly. There's hope that Lord Molloy shall remember that he was born a gentleman after this."
Barry remembered the tea service then. "Would you have a cup with me, Elizabeth?"
"Please." She entered the study, seated herself beside the service, and quickly poured two cups. "Do you think your scheme shall work?" she asked as Barry took the cup she offered him.
"You mean putting Molloy together with this Dudding guy?" She nodded. "I'm still not sure this guy's a -- a homosexual. I've got a better idea that he is, though -- after talking with Molloy just then. He'd have said something if Dudding wasn't into it."
"How will you set it up for them?"
He sat in the chair across from her. "I don't know. I guess I'll just telephone Dudding and invite him over?"
"I think this is a case where Aunt Alice could be helpful, Barry. May I telephone her?"
He stared in shock at the woman seated before him. "Your aunt?" he managed finally. Elizabeth nodded. "She'll hate me even more than she already does."
"She'll be inflamed that a member of our set would be so base as to do what Molloy did to you -- and to Robert. You must realise that she dotes on my cousin." She smiled at Barry. "In addition, she does have a sense of what is right -- that's why we're here a month ahead of classes. She didn't want you placed in an untenable situation at Bellingham Hall after your encounter with those boys."
"But would she help put my plan to work?"
"Either that or develop a new scheme that we can put into operation. Shall I call her?"
He collapsed back into his chair. "Call her, Elizabeth. Let's get this show on the road -- and see if we can't get Molloy off it."
Silence enveloped them for several moments and, pulling himself from his own thoughts, Barry looked up. "Is something the matter?" he asked.
She smiled and shook her head. "I think we've finally become friends, Barry."
"We're plotting together."
* * *
Roger and Barry stood before Euston Station Monday morning at nine o'clock to meet Alice Adshead's train. Barry still was not sure that he believed the old woman would be on-board. She'd have had to leave Bellingham Hall by four to catch it in the little village near the Hall. She had to be really bored out on the farm or else she was madder than a wet hen.
"Before you get all embroiled with the Petersholme women and their scheming, I just want to tell you that I'm quite proud of what you said and did yesterday. That guttersnipe may be an Earl's son but he needed his ears smartly boxed which you did."
Barry turned to face Roger and studied him. "Thank you. I think I needed that. I've been so afraid that you and Grandma Murray were going to hate me for being a homosexual and for insulting a Lord..."
"Lad, we've never had an invert in our family but your mum explained about you before you came. We'd got used to it -- as best we could, I suppose." He looked down at his hands. "I didn't give you a proper greeting -- not like a Murray should expect from his flesh and blood. I can admit that now. It was just that I didn't know what to expect or how I should behave. I just wanted to get you out of London and all the temptations you'd have found here." He tried a smile at the man standing beside him. "Didn't want to embarrass the Mrs, you know?"
"What made you change your mind?"
"His Lordship is a good man, a strong man -- and a good judge of character for one so young." He looked away, unwilling to meet his grandson's gaze. "I had imagined you as a bit less manly -- I admit it. But Baron Petersholme accepted you as a friend, even as an equal." He coughed. "Then, he was so happy after you two had become closer. Barry, that man has had the world riding on his shoulders these past two years. He alone has made Petersholme survive, fulfilling his family's obligation even to the lowliest scullery maid at Bellingham Hall. He's needed somebody standing there beside him, helping him. We'd thought it would be a wife, of course."
He faced Barry squarely then. "After yesterday, lad, there's no doubt in my mind that you're the one he needs. You both are strong men, good men." Roger smiled tightly. "It gives me pride that it is a Murray standing beside this Lord Petersholme, Barry."
Barry's arm went around his grandfather's arm. "Thanks, Gramps. Thanks for being honest about how you felt in the spring as well as now." He sniffled and wiped his eyes with his free hand. "I'll do my damnedest to be everything he needs."
"Me and your grandmother will help in anyway we can." He glanced towards the station. "Right now, though, we'd better get inside Euston Station and meet Miss Alice properly or we'll both feel like dead men after she's through with us."
Roger snorted and started up the steps to the station with Barry in step beside him. "That woman can be nastier than a fire-breathing dragon if all's not well in her world."
Stepping down from the railway carriage, Alice Adshead smiled as she saw Barry. Her face immediately became sombre the instant she made out Roger beside him.
She was the first to admit that it made no sense how she had come to see the American. After all, he was a damnable invert. A sinner in the eyes of Church and man. He had, however, immediately won over poor Elizabeth and soon had Robert liking him as well. Alice had managed to hold out against his charms far longer than those two. But he was a charmer. And she had followed her nephew and niece into his captivity.
Well, not as Robert had, of course. More like Elizabeth, she supposed as she watched him start towards her almost in step with his grandfather. He really was a graceful thing -- in addition to being handsome and even intelligent. And, now that he had access to good English clothing, he showed his taste as well -- simple but solid, and with a bit of flair. Yes, tasteful. And Robert seemed happier than she had seen him since his father died.
How had that fool Maximillian Molloy made such a mistake as to suggest something? The boy was committed to Robert after all, and Molloy was supposed to be Robert's friend. She would learn every single detail now that she was in London. Then, she would devise a scheme that would put that guttersnipe in his place.
"M'lady," Roger greeted her.
"Roger, it's good to see you again," she said, keeping her voice calm. "And you too, Barry." She turned back to Roger. "Is your wife well?"
"The Mrs is fine, ma'am. She's looking forward to your visit. Did you bring much?"
"My trunks are coming by a later train." She looked at the station suspiciously. "I suppose they'll call around when they arrive."
"They've been quite good about it in the past, ma'am. The porter'll be careful when he loads it all in the guard's van and brings it to the house."
"Of course," she answered, firmly leaving the matter of retrieving her things to Roger. "Shall we go home then? I would like to freshen up as soon as possible." She smiled slightly. "Perhaps, I'll be able to find time to take a nap as well."
Mrs. Murray had a tray of sandwiches set out when they arrived back from Euston Station. Alice smiled at her as she entered the dining room. "Good to see you again," she told the woman. "It took a long time to get used to you not being at the Hall." She smiled. "But your daughter, Jane, has become my mainstay."
"Jane's a good woman, m'Lady."
"Yes. A wonderful woman." She glanced over her shoulder at Barry standing with Elizabeth. "You must be proud of both of your daughters, Mrs. Murray. The one who immigrated after the Great War has done well in her marriage and given you a grandson you must be proud of."
"Thank you, ma'am." The woman beamed. "Jane had such nice words to say about him; and, now that he's in London, we've found him to be a comfort."
Alice turned to the young people and stiffened with the same resolve Barry had seen at the train station. "We have need to discuss this matter from yesterday," she told them. "Have your snack and we'll find the study." She turned to Roger. "You'll see that we aren't disturbed, won't you?" she said.
Barry pulled the doors together and turned to face the two women already in the study. Elizabeth had promised him that Alice would be on his side, their side. But he still didn't know how the older woman was going to treat Lord Molloy's indiscretion and his own outburst in response. He expected a tongue-lashing but hoped for less.
Alice stood before the desk, watching him. "Come, Barry," she called to him. "Sit down with Elizabeth here and let's get on with sorting this thing out."
Barry sat facing her, waiting for her to tear into him. Elizabeth patted his hand and he forced himself to lessen his grip of the chair arm.
"From what little Elizabeth could tell me over the telephone yesterday," Alice began. "I want you to understand that Lord Molloy's behaviour is not the accepted norm for an English gentlemen." She allowed herself to smile. "You didn't physically abuse him as you did that Clive, did you?"
Barry blushed. He felt the heat spread over his face and down into his shirt. "Is he all right, Miss Alice?" he croaked.
"Clive? Of course, he's fine. His nose is bent a bit and the foreman tells me he can shovel more manure than any man on the farm -- but what of Lord Molloy?"
"I didn't touch him, Miss Alice."
She chuckled. "I do wish you had. That beast needs to be taught a lesson. But it's just as well you didn't, Barry. Assaulting a gentlemen probably would not have been received well by the Metropolitan Police."
"I said some things I probably shouldn't have."
"He needed to be taken down a peg or two, lad -- a verbal lashing probably did him some good." She glanced to Elizabeth who nodded her agreement. "Elizabeth thinks we need to make plans to ensure that his Lordship doesn't forget the lashing you gave him."
"Aunt Alice, Barry set up a scheme with Lord Molloy." She grinned widely. "One his Lordship was unhappy with."
"I like it already," the older woman answered, smiling slightly. "But, first, I'd like to know why you two think the man remains a threat to Barry -- and to Robert as well."
"They've been friends forever," Barry offered. "They went to school together and -- and they're the same class."
"Aunt Alice, Lord Molloy was one of Robert's..." Elizabeth searched for a word that would not offend the older woman. "Don't you remember? They were close friends even back at Rugby. Didn't Uncle almost not let Robbie go to his wedding?"
Alice nodded. "There was talk that the Earl had caught Maximillian in a most compromised position. My brother-in-law didn't want any scandal to visit Petersholme, although he suspected..." She shook her head. "Yes, I can see that Maximillian is certainly not going to change, even after his marriage and the birth of his son."
"He admitted that he had suggested something when Robert met him Wednesday," Elizabeth told her.
"He did," Barry told her. "Rob -- um -- Lord Petersholme told me he had met with Lord Molloy and I remembered that Elizabeth had suggested that there had been something between them when they were at Oxford. I figured the guy he was going to see Thursday was the same way."
"The man he saw Thursday?"
"Someone named Alan Dudding. Lord Molloy said he was a commoner but pretty well agreed that this Dudding and Lord Petersholme had done things too. He also didn't seem to like him much."
Alice sighed. "Barry, I need to explain myself perhaps. I am not happy that Robert is an invert -- whether that is with you or someone else. I have to accept it, just as I have to accept that he has been an excellent Baron these past two years. He's probably done better than his father. In accepting it about him, I have come to accept you. You're a man, a gentleman I should say. And you're quite endearing. As long as you are good for Robert and pose no threat to Petersholme I shall stand beside you -- and even be your friend.
"Maximillian does pose a threat, however. He did something with a servant boy five years ago that caused his father to force him into marriage, one below his station. Yet, he seems not to have learned from that. He opened a similar situation when he approached you, but he also went behind Robert's back. If he had succeeded with you, he would have hurt Robert to the quick." She smiled at him. "Because my nephew has come to care for you very much."
There were tears in his eyes when Barry smiled at the older woman. "Thank you, ma'am," he told her, trying to swallow the lump in his throat. "It can't be easy for you to accept me, to accept us; and I really appreciate that you do."
"I'm not as old-fashioned as some people would make me, lad," she answered him and glanced sharply at her niece to make sure the younger woman understood.
"Barry came up with a scheme that should work out well for him and Robert," Elizabeth said. "And it's devilish -- just what Lord Molloy deserves."
"Well, let's hear it then," Alice Adshead told Barry.
"I don't know how good my idea is. But I was really ticked off that he'd presumed that I was available -- that was part of what went into my scheme."
"Go on, Barry," Elizabeth told him.
"I made him give me this Alan Dudding's telephone number at work. And I told him that he was going to go out with this guy."
"You didn't!" Alice yelped, her hand flying to her mouth to cover it as she stared at him.
"I did. I invited him over to supper Wednesday night and planned on inviting this Dudding guy too. I was thinking of shoving them together."
"If they were to become friends, Aunt Alice, neither of them would be likely to approach Robert -- or Barry."
"It would certainly make for a nasty little mess, wouldn't it?" She pursed her lips and her brow furrowed as she thought the idea through. "This Dudding..." She looked to Barry. "He's a commoner, you said?"
The American nodded.
"An Englishman too, I presume. Their class consciousness could make it difficult for this to work."
"Alan Dudding was at Oxford, Aunt Alice," Elizabeth said quickly. "He's no fishmonger's boy."
"Well, yes. That is in his favour, I suppose."
"He's employed at the Admiralty, ma'am. Robert said he was meeting him to get briefed on whatever Lord Molloy was getting him to do in Germany. Could they both have the same politics perhaps?"
"Politics?" Alice mumbled.
Barry noticed both women were watching him. "The same world outlook then? I mean, there's some strong pacifist feelings here in England from what I've seen; back home, it's called isolationism."
"Yes, I see," Alice nodded. "That could perhaps work to bring them together," she mused. "It's at least one more thing they would have in common -- in addition to be able to converse in the same language. Do you know this for a fact, Barry?"
"Not yet." He grinned. "But I can find out when I telephone Mr. Dudding this afternoon."
"If we are going to neutralise young Maximillian..."
"Neutralise?" Barry asked.
"Yes. Make it extremely unlikely that he would again set his sights on either you or Robert."
"If we intend to neutralise him with your scheme then," she continued, "I would suggest we involve Mr. Dudding in our plans from the beginning."
"What?" Elizabeth demanded, sitting straight up and gripping the arms of her chair tightly.
"Wouldn't this Mr. Dudding wonder at being invited to this house whilst Robert is out of country? He might even come to the wrong conclusions about Barry here."
"But what if he's uninterested in Lord Molloy?" Barry growled. "The man is a bit plump."
"He shall be an Earl one day, lad. He already has several of his father's lesser titles which he'll hold unless Earl Molloy disinherits him which is almost impossible as he's produced a son. This Alan Dudding should be quite aware of what having access to Maximillian would mean -- if nothing else, he'd have doors unknown to most commoners opened to him."
"He's employed, ma'am. Why would he want Lord Molloy's money? Why would his Lordship pay for him?"
"Barry!" Alice shuddered. "I wasn't suggesting that this Mr. Dudding would be a -- a prostitute. No. Not at all." She shook her head emphatically. "Certainly not."
"This young man would be conscious of Maximillian's position, his holdings -- they would almost certainly make his life more comfortable than it is now. A relationship with the heir to an Earldom would guarantee that. Just a discreet word from Lord Molloy could well help him to be promoted to a position higher than he currently holds. This boy is English, he would understand the advantages of having a peer by his side."
"So, you're saying we should let Alan know exactly what we're planning?" Barry asked.
"I'm saying that we must involve him in order to have any but the remotest chance of this scheme working. You don't really think that Cupid is going to start unleashing his arrows at Wednesday's supper, do you?"
"I didn't even think..."
"Exactly. You were rightfully angry at his Lordship and pressured him into dining here with young Alan. But he would have arrived with every defence in position. And Mr. Dudding would have no chance, even if he had been struck by Cupid's arrow. You would have had both of them ready to come to blows. Your scheme would have collapsed at your feet." She smiled wry and glanced at Elizabeth. "Just as all of mine have concerning this young lady's matrimony -- because I failed to enlist her aid, or that of Robert."
"What happens if Mr. Dudding is uninterested, Aunt Alice?"
Alice Adshead snorted. "My dear, Barry here will simply have to ensure that doesn't happen, won't he?" She turned to Barry and studied him carefully for a moment. "You are quite handsome with that ginger-hair and those freckles. I can understand why Robert would be captivated by you. But, with this lad, you're going to need to use your intelligence and your wiles -- every one of them -- if you intend to win him over to this plan."
"I suppose I shall at that."
"Just remember that no-one would want a person as you perceive Lord Molloy to be," she continued. "You shall need to find every positive attribute you can about the man -- and use them to entice Mr. Dudding."
"I'd better telephone him and set up a meeting for tomorrow then."
Alice smiled at him. "Good idea, Barry. You do that. I think I shall lie down for a while. I am far too old to be waking up before dawn." She stepped around Elizabeth and Barry rose and hurried to open the doors for her.
"Sleep well, Miss Alice," he told her as she passed him.