GAMES AT DEAUVILLE is the sequel of FLIGHT AT PEENEMŰNDE. Hopefully, you'll find it as appealing.
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Willi sat at the window, his face pressed against the glass, and watched as the boot of the Rolls was filled with everybody's bags. Tears welled in his eyes as he saw Elizabeth finally come into view and got into the car. Barry followed immediately after her - then Uncle Robert. He watched them closely through his tears, his hands fists against his cheeks. "Don't go," he mumbled. He wished that, somehow, he could stop them from leaving.
He did not hear the door of his room open behind him or hear it close slowly. "You love the Baron, mein kleiner Graf," Dagold said in German as he sat on the ledge beside the boy, his arm going around Willi's shoulders. "That is good. A boy should love the man who teaches him to be a man."
The boy turned and Dagold saw his tears. "But you are sad - why?" he asked.
Willi sniffed and hugged the man beside him, burying his face in his pullover. "They won't come back," he sobbed and the dam inside him burst. "I know it!" He began to cry and Dagold pulled him onto his lap, allowing the boy to cry himself out. Outside, the Rolls followed the drive out to the roadway.
When the sobs had subsided, Dagold took a handkerchief from his pocket and pulled the child's face from his chest. He dried Willi's cheeks and held his chin in the crook of his hand. Smiling, he asked: "Why do you think that they won't come back, Graf?"
"Mutti will get revenge, Dagi. I know it. That's the way she is. I should have stayed in the Fatherland, then she would be happy. She would leave Uncle Robert alone then."
"She won't bother the Baron. She can't. Barry travels with his Lordship to keep him safe. He meets with government officials, so there will be security there. And France is a safe place; it is a strong power. It is a strong country, as strong as Germany - and it's a democracy. It's as safe for his Lordship as England is for you."
Willi sniffed. Sitting in Dagold's lap, he looked up. His gaze locked on the man's, holding his. "Really, Dagi? Or are you just telling me that?"
"Really. Baron Petersholme and Barry are as safe there as we are here." He grinned and bounced the boy he now knew was his nephew on his knee. "Now that you have me all to yourself the rest of this week, what do you want to do first?"
* * *
Reality teased my thoughts as I settled into the back of the Rolls with Elizabeth and Barry.
Churchill had visited me on Saturday and, two days later, I was on my way to Paris to meet the French Minister of Justice. I was travelling in a car that belonged to the Royal Navy and I was to be flown to Paris in one of their aeroplanes. It was more than passingly strange. Winston Churchill was a Tory backbencher whose loyalty to his party was often questioned.
How could a backbencher of questionable party loyalty dash around the country with my friend Maximillian Molloy in tow? How were a Rolls Royce, an aeroplane, and a naval officer to escort us possible?
We began to pick up speed and the young, dark-haired officer sitting beside the driver turned to face us as our car turned into the roadway. "I'm Sub-lieutenant John Pettigrew at your service, my Lord," he said, "The Fleet Air Arm has an aeroplane waiting for you at Coventry. It's fuelled and ready; and I can even vouch for your pilot, sir."
So, this was the young man Winston Churchill had warned me about. He was definitely a good looking lad; he would quite likely have the ladies lined up.
Pettigrew's smile broadened. "The lad was a classmate of mine at flying school - quite an aviator too. Flew rings around me, I must say - and that was nearly impossible." He paused for the moment it took for that to settle in and then grinned broadly. "Besides, I'm going to be right there looking over his shoulder to make sure he does it right."
I chuckled. This Sub-lieutenant John Pettigrew was full of himself and he knew it. His enthusiasm was infectious, however. "What does the Navy intend to fly us in?" I asked.
"The Fleet's very latest acquisition - a HP42, sir-"
"The Handley Page aeroplane?" I asked, my interest piqued. Like most people, I travelled by railway - or ship if going to the continent. But I had read about the HP42. It was reputed to be on the cutting edge of technology, and its manufacturer promised that it would change the way Englishmen travelled. Even the farthest outpost of the Empire was now but eleven days away from London.
"Right, my Lord. Four Bristol Jupiter engines, 550 horsepower each. Fast and quite comfortable too. The Heracles class HP42-" He grinned. "With the modifications that we required, of course. The Fleet Air Arm only began acquiring them a year ago - they've still not made it out to the whole fleet. Budgetary restraints, I suspect. At least, that's what we keep hearing."
"Chamberlain's putting in a supplemental budget for the military," I told him. "It should reach Parliament in January."
"About time, I'd say!" Lieutenant Pettigrew grumbled, grimacing.
"We're only three years behind Jerry," I said, knowing full well that I was off by two years. "But with Stanhope at the Admiralty, we've made a good start."
His smile returned, boyish - even impish, I thought. "I'd understood that you were with us, Lord Petersholme. At least, that's one vote for sanity in the House of Lords. If nothing else, you'll offset my father's vote."
"The Earl of Lancashire, sir."
"I know him!" I groaned, instantly remembering the fatarse who had become the major apologist for Hitler's Germany behind the Duke of Windsor in the year since Edward abdicated. "He's in Windsor's camp in the Lords." I could not imagine this man coming from his loins.
The sub-lieutenant's face flushed and he glanced down to his hands. "Please don't remind me, my Lord. It's a bit embarrassing with me being in the Navy." He raised his head and looked back at me. "My brother and I have attempted to talk to him. I don't think that he's one of Oswald Moseley's goosesteppers or anything. He's more like that aviator Charles Lindbergh in America, and his America First crowd."
"Oh?" Barry asked, becoming interested now that his country had entered our conversation.
"Right," the sub-lieutenant said, turning to look at Barry as well as myself. "Jerry has this thing against the Bolshies. And he's at least three years ahead of us in developing his war materiel, as his Lordship said. So, leave him an open road to Moscow they say; and Anglo-American culture won't be touched. There won't be a communist left when it's over and Jerry will be stretched so far he wouldn't dare do anything. If we stand in his way, however, we're going to take a real blow. We might even lose-"
"That argument does have a logical symmetry," I offered, trying not to sound vicious towards Pettigrew's father. "The problem I have with it is that, once Hitler has Russia, the British Empire lies open to his threat. He will control the geopolitical heartland." I thought it best not to mention what I knew of at least one new addition to the German armoury that I had seen up close. The thought of that raining down on London had become my worst nightmare.
"Right, sir." The young officer snorted derisively. "Only, dear old dad refuses to see past the tip of his nose."
I smiled back at him. "I hope there are enough of us to help keep things on an even keel, now that Chamberlain is finally waking up." I glanced to Elizabeth then, deciding that she'd been a remarkably good sport about not being included in our conversation. "My cousin has never flown, Pettigrew - and I got the impression earlier that you're an aviator yourself - perhaps you could tell her what she can expect."
The sub-lieutenant turned to Elizabeth and nodded. "Ma'am, you'll be in very good hands as the Earl of Stanhope personally put me in charge of your comfort until we have you safely on French soil."
"I would hope so then," Elizabeth answered, arching her brow. I caught the merriment in her voice and knew the poor lad was in for it, regardless of his reputation. I hoped for his sake that the Royal Navy trained its fledgling officers to repartee with young ladies. Either that or he had a sister from whom he had learnt something. "How long will we be in the air?" she asked.
He grinned - thinking that he had an innocent damsel to impress, I suspected. I had seen that same male appraisal during my years at Oxford. From everything that I'd heard of my cousin's first two months of university, she was not impressionable. The twinkle in Barry's eyes told me that he was prepared for an interesting ride to Coventry. I sat back and tried to do the same thing.
My only distraction was wondering how Winston Churchill had managed to commandeer the Royal Navy.
Elizabeth had played with young Pettigrew on the drive to Coventry and the lad had alternated between seeming on top of the world when he thought he had captured her interest and sinking to the bottom of the sea each time she pulled back and showed her intelligence. It had been a good show - simple word play between young people who were becoming comfortable with each other, one step removed from sexual innuendo with the line never crossed. It was all in good fun - even Aunt Alice would approve of their tête-à-tête.
I was only seven years older than these two - I wondered when I had ceased to be young.
I was quite happy that Aunt Alice's plans over the past several years for marrying me off had come to naught - and not simply because I had Barry as a result of my successful escape. I figured Pettigrew to be Elizabeth's and Barry's age. He would learn, or his mother would have him safely married before he did.
Pettigrew had entered the cockpit after he ensured that the three of us were strapped in and ready for take-off. While entertaining us appeared to be his primary assignment, he had proudly admitted to being the co-pilot on our flight to Paris. He would not return to Elizabeth's tender mercies until we were airborne.
Elizabeth was strapped into her seat beside Barry. I sat across the aisle from them as we bumped along the track and picked up speed. I felt the Handley Page jerk as it gained speed and left the ground. We quickly began to climb. I glanced over at my companions and saw that Barry was squeezing Elizabeth's hand tightly. I smiled and looked away before either of them could see that I'd noticed.
So, Barry had a fear of flying. Interesting. I remembered then that he had already flown. He had come with Molloy, Dudding, and the chaps from MI-6 after I was in Warsaw.
I smiled as I remembered flying von Kys' de Havilland Dragonfly out of Schloß Kys. I would have felt more protected with the metal skin of this aeroplane. But I knew that we'd have been too heavy and would never have made it above the trees. All of us would have died there on the flat plains of northern Germany.
The passenger cabin was spacious. I could well believe that the civilian version would seat up to 38 passengers. And I'd been surprised to see a small kitchenette as we entered. What was the world coming to? The aeroplane I was sitting in was as nicely appointed as one of those blimps the Germans had introduced for international flights. I supposed that I might even find a toilet if I looked. It seemed the articles I'd read on this aeroplane were accurate enough - it did appear to have all the comforts of home.
Barry had stood and Elizabeth was stepping out into the aisle. He followed and stood aside as she slipped back in and peered out of the window. He saw that I was watching them. "She wants to look out of the window, my Lord."
I beckoned him to me. "Do we have to keep up this pretense, Barry?" I asked quietly when he stood beside me, his hand resting on the back of the seat. "It's quite unnecessary." I wanted the comfortable equality we had worked ourselves into over the summer, before I had gone to Germany. My life had seemed sublime back in September. It had become perfect when this man and I had consummated our love for each other.
He stood in the aisle and studied me for long moments. "Robbie, if you guys are right and we do have this damned war, you're going to be involved - up to your eyebrows," he said quietly and stepped over my legs to take the other seat. "Your nose has to be cleaner than clean. Mine too - because I'm going to be right there beside you every step you take." He took a deep breath, his face becoming a grimace. "I've thought about this a lot the past couple of months. Unless we're alone, I'm going to be formal - we both are. You can't afford a scandal." His lip curled towards a smile. "And I sure can't afford one that got back to America."
"No buts, Robert Adshead. Here in England and in public, you're always Lord Petersholme for me and I'm always going to be your housekeeper's nephew. That's just the way it is, and we're going to accept it because it isn't worth fighting the system to change it."
I looked into the pale face covered so improbably with freckles. He was right of course. He so often saw things more clearly than I did. "I love you, Barry," I told him quietly.
Elizabeth cleared her throat and I blushed, realising that she had almost certainly overheard my profession of love. My gaze did not waver, however. My eyes still held his. My hand came up to find his. He smiled as I squeezed his hand. "Me too," he mouthed.
His hand was sweaty and I remembered his earlier fear. "You're not afraid of flying, are you?" I asked. "Didn't you fly over to meet me in Poland in October?"
His ears turned the colour of beetroot, then his face. "I didn't have a chance to think about it. I came home worried about not hearing from you, I found Lord Molloy pacing a hole in the carpet - and, before I knew it, he had me packed, in his car, and getting into the damned aeroplane. I kept my mind on you so that I didn't have to think about thousands of feet of just air between me and very solid ground."
I smiled reassuringly. "You're going to love flying," I told him.
"I'm not convinced yet," he admitted, allowing me a glimpse of the degree of control he had brought to bear.
Pettigrew entered the cabin from the cockpit. He came down the aisle to Elizabeth's seat and glanced to me. I nodded and he slipped in beside her. He bent close to her, looked out of the window, and began to explain what she was seeing.
Barry glanced out his window before turning back to me. "Seems those two are going to be preoccupied for a while," he whispered. "Want to tell me what it is down there that I'm seeing?"
I grinned. "At the moment, you're seeing me," I whispered.
"I suppose that I deserved that one." He chuckled. "But don't think for a minute that I won't get you back for that, my Lord." He turned back to the window and peered out. "Everything's so small - even the trees!"
I leaned over him, trying to see out the window as well. The feel of his back against me was comforting. I could almost forget Elizabeth and Pettigrew across the aisle behind us. I told myself that I was going to enjoy simply being with Barry.
Barry watched the sub-lieutenant as he left Elizabeth's side, walked up the aisle, and let himself into the cockpit. The grin on his face warned of devilment on its way. Beneath us, England had given way to the waves of the Channel.
I wanted to be invited to join Pettigrew in the cockpit. I wanted to see this aeroplane, even be invited to fly the thing. I wanted to see the technological advances Handley Page had made to aviation. After all, the HP42 was a world-class flying machine. Imperial Airways had used it to open routes as far away as Suez and India. They had even linked up with Australia in the past year.
"You have an admirer, Eliza," Barry told her.
Elizabeth looked over at us startled, her face flushing slightly. A smile tugged at her lips almost immediately, however, as she brought her thoughts around to parry with him. "John is a good-looking boy," she admitted, the smile spreading. "Perhaps you two could show him a thing or two."
Barry's face whitened, brown freckles standing out on suddenly milky alabaster skin. I wished I was anywhere else than sitting between them. "He might like that," he answered slowly, "but his mama would probably prefer that a lady like you save him for posterity." He leaned forward, going on the attack. "Just think of all the little Pettigrews that you and he could give the world."
"Barry!" I gasped.
"She started it."
"I suppose I did," she chuckled. "Lighten up, Robbie. We're just having some fun."
"So, what do you think, Eliza? Should Robbie here invite John to Bellingham Hall for a weekend so that Miss Alice can meet Lieutenant Pettigrew?"
"I think not," she answered.
"Oh?" I asked, weighing in. "He did seem smitten, Eliza-"
"I'm not interested," she said. "I'll admit that he appears to be a lot more interesting than that Louis D'Archer Aunt Alice was going to put me with several months ago."
"But-?" Barry asked.
"Pettigrew is but a boy, like you, Barry. He is charming, witty, and quite fun; but he's young still - not at all marriage material yet. Another ten years or so and he'll be ready."
"Ouch!" Barry groaned.
"So, Eliza-" I said. "How are you liking your maiden flight? Think you're ready to become another Amelia Earhart?"
"She'd better stay away from the Empire of Japan if she is," Barry opined and glanced away quickly.
I wondered about that. Did the Yanks know something about the loss of their aviatrix that I was unaware of? Even The Times had followed her last flight.
He might be right, I thought. Her aeroplane had last made contact with the world from within Japanese territory. There was, of course, the nasty war in Manchuria. But Earhart's flight path had been considerably south of all that and well out from the Asian mainland.
The American public would not have had any more information than we had from the Times. I wondered if he might have overheard something his father had said. The man was, after all, some sort of official in their government.
* * *
Louis-Philippe d'Orléans stood beside the black Stella and looked out along the macadamised runway that the English aeroplane was to land upon. Dirty snow rose on either side of the runway, an ugly scar that marred the smooth pristine beauty of the winter French countryside. He frowned.
Le Bourget had grown large in the two years since he'd been here last. He remembered it as much smaller - two hard-packed dirt runways and a small building for passengers arriving in Paris. It was amazing what installing radios in aeroplanes had done to aviation. In the buildings behind him there was now a radio room from which pilots were directed to land and even a small bar. And a customs building for new arrivals to France.
Le Bourget had grown and aviation had changed in the four years since he had learnt to fly in his final year at university. He wasn't sure that what the aerodrome had become was better.
He reached into his uniform greatcoat and pulled out his cigarette case, the gold shining in the sunlight. Opening it, he took out a Dunhill and brought it to his lips. Returning the case to his pocket, he removed his glove and reached into the other pocket for his lighter.
He leaned against the car, pulled his glove back on, and drew deeply of his cigarette. The chill seemed to deepen and he pulled his greatcoat tighter around him. He doubted he would ever grow accustomed to the cold. Even after three years at university in Belgium and another three in the army, stationed on the Rhine, he still hated the northern winter. He exhaled and watched the smoke and breath condense and become a fog in the cold air.
He was the Comte de Paris. He was a son of France. France was his blood. Even if he had lived most of his life in Moroccan Larache. He had been raised from his earliest memories to be the future King of France, if France ever called him or his father to the throne. It did not matter that no d'Orléans had sat on that throne for nearly a hundred years. He accepted his duty to his people, even if they had not yet called him to it.
He snorted and dropped the cigarette. France had definitely not called him to his duty. He ground the cigarette out. No. He had had to beg just to be allowed into France, to serve his people. Because of the law of exile.
The Third Republic had proven to be afraid of royalty, of his family. Fifty years ago, still in its infancy, it had been even more afraid. Less than twenty years after the last Bonapartist debacle, the republicans had exiled the man who would be King of France and his heirs for all time.
The Republic had decreed that no heir to the throne would live in France or be allowed to serve the Republic. It had been blind fear, of course. What could his father - or he himself - do? Exiled or not, if the people of France called either of them to serve them, no law of the Republic would prevent it.
His father had been forced to leave France when his uncle died heirless. His whole family and him as an infant with it were forced to leave everything they knew, the moment his father became the Dauphin. As the Duc de Guise, his father had even been stopped at the Spanish border when he sought to join the army at the beginning of the Great War, when France called upon all of her sons to defend her. Stopped and turned away, like a common criminal.
The d'Orléans were not allowed to set foot in la belle France under the law of the Third Republic. But the Bonapartes could. Who had lost the war with the Boche in 1870? No King of France had. Napoleon the Third had. Prussian troops had occupied Paris because of him and his family. He had lost France, serving it up like a roast pig to Bismarck's Prussians and giving them all of Germany for their empire.
Admittedly there were no direct descendants of that Corsican left alive. And France had had its fill of Bonapartist dreams of conquest. But it still grated that the Republic would discriminate against the d'Orléans but not the Bonapartes.
He had begun to petition Paris when he was still only sixteen. He'd wanted to return. He'd wanted to attend St. Cyr and serve France in her army. Again, he snorted as he shivered in the cold.
An idealistic boy, that was what he had been. And Louis-Philippe still was idealistic, he understood that about himself. He would never be able to divorce himself from France, whether it remained a republic or again became a kingdom.
It had been Paul Reynaud who had managed the private bill through the legislature that permitted Louis-Philippe to return to France and join the army. Only he had been allowed to return, not his father. Not his family.
France's greatest hero from the Great War had breached the loi d'exil for him. In his last year at university, Louis-Philippe had finally been allowed to return home. To defend it against any who would seek to destroy it. And to be a man of honour in his own eyes and those about him.
He held his arm out and inspected the three gold galons on his sleeve that proved he was a captain in the Army of the Republic of France. He smiled and fingered each stripe.
He was grateful to Paul Reynaud. He would always owe his allegiance to the man who was now the Minister of Justice for his help. He was also grateful to France's greatest military mind in the twentieth century who had accepted him into his command. Charles de Gaulle.
Despite his fascination with aviation, Louis-Philippe had immersed himself in tanks and how to use them in warfare. Finally allowed to enter the land of his birth, he was unable to conceive of himself being under the tutelage of anyone other than Colonel de Gaulle.
He still could not believe the man who was his division's commanding officer. De Gaulle was a giant in military thinking, even if the tired old marshals and generals did not think so. He was also a real giant. A little more than 147 centimetres tall, Louis-Philippe still found it difficult to imagine the Colonel's height of more than 203 centimetres - even after the nearly two years that he had served under the man. And how he ever managed to fit himself into a tank! Impossible! But he did it.
Yet, here he stood on a deserted runway at Le Bourget, waiting for a minor English nobleman. Waiting to chauffeur the Englishman to Deauville and a meeting with Reynaud. To escort him and his party around the small town, like a common corporal.
It was an insult. The only good thing he could see coming from it was that he was to be de Gaulle's eyes and ears at this meeting between Reynaud and the Englishman. The idea of making rockets weapons of war excited him, however - even as it frightened him. It was the only thing that made the insult even remotely bearable.
The driver wound down the glass of the Stella and suggested that he sit in the car where it was warm, pulling Louis-Philippe from his thoughts. He realised that he was shivering.
He chuckled and nodded to the man as he opened the door to the car and returned to the warmth. That was the thing about the French people, they were so eminently practical.