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Black Knights of the Hudson Book VI: Pershing's Eagles

Black Knights of the Hudson Book VI: Pershing's Eagles

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Black Knights of the Hudson Book VI: Pershing's Eagles

Lunghezza:
508 pagine
6 ore
Pubblicato:
Dec 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781301769735
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

PERSHING’S EAGLES is the sixth book in the story of the MacKendrick Army family; who live by West Point’s motto of Duty, Honor, Country. The war in Europe is over three years old and the MacKendricks stand ready to serve when their country throws its youthful might to the support of the Allies.

At odds with his own senior generals and out of step with his West Point classmates, Fitzjames struggles to find a path back to his own army from the murky shadows of British intelligence. Oliver continues his storied career with the RFC; in spite of German air supremacy and the short-survival rate for Allied pilots. Jackson Lee, favored by subordinate and superior alike, is one of the first to accompany the American Expeditionary Force to France. While Philip and John follow the events in the uniforms of war correspondents, Chloe serves in her own fashion as a VAD in a London hospital. Elsa holds the fort at the country house in Gloucestershire where she tries to provide a tranquil base for the rest of the family. In Washington, Timothy has been recalled to active service. Adria, worried that he too will hear the sweet call of the bugles even at his age, tries to make sense of a war that has pulled sons, grandchildren, and husband into its greedy maw; a war not even fought on U.S. soil but in far-off Europe.

In PERSHING’S EAGLES, the MacKendricks participate in the first great war of the Twentieth Century. Swept up in the struggle along the Western Front, each of them must find a way to master a new kind of warfare waged with staggering numbers and terrible innovations of weaponry.

Pubblicato:
Dec 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781301769735
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Beverly Gray is the youngest child of a career Army officer and his wife. Born in Paris, raised in Hawaii, she received her degrees in History from Western Washington University; with a concentration in U.S. and British cultural history, military history, and the history of technology. After a brief stint as a teacher, she has earned her livelihood as a technical writer for most of her adult career.

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Black Knights of the Hudson Book VI - Beverly C Gray

Black Knights of the Hudson

Book VI: Pershing’s Eagles

By Beverly C. Gray

Published by Beverly C. Gray at Smashwords

Copyright 2012 Beverly C. Gray

This eBook is a work of historical fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Author’s Note: This work of historical fiction is intended for mature audiences and contains adult language, graphic scenes of battle, and adult situations.

For those who also serve as they stand and wait

Chapter 1

Washington, February 1917

Colonel Fitzjames Henry MacKendrick paused at the door of his father’s office at the War Department. Confronting him were two majors; Jackson Lee MacKendrick and Douglas MacArthur. Arrayed behind the pair were the West Point graduates of the classes 1901 through 1905 stationed currently at the War Department; the men who had accompanied Fitzjames through his own four years at the Academy. Jack and Doug had graduated two years ahead of him in ‘03 and the rest were either his own classmates or representatives of the Firsties, Cows, and Yearlings who had ushered him through his Plebe year. His face alight with his radiant grin, Fitz started forward to embrace the cousin he had not seen in over a year. Jack’s dark gray eyes held no gleam of humor or affection. His gaze, like MacArthur’s and the rest, was riveted on the bright silver eagles that Fitz had pinned to his great coat not ten minutes before. Silently, all fourteen men placed heels smartly together, braced to attention, and saluted him.

As warm blood flooded his face, Fitz’s grin died and he snapped a return salute in brusque embarrassment. Jack and Doug stepped back and the officers formed a double column in which they left a small space in the center row. Before Fitzjames moved, he sensed a second tall presence that loomed just off his left shoulder. He turned his head and met the gray eyes he had inherited from his father. Lieutenant General Timothy MacKendrick’s hair glinted bright silver now instead of the light golden brown that it had been in his youth and that his son still possessed.

Timothy’s smile of affection showed none of the constraint that had shadowed it for the past few months. Have a pleasant dinner, Gentlemen, Timothy said as he dropped a hand on his long-legged son’s shoulder. Fitzjames has been in a few scrapes recently so an evening with the brethren will be most welcome, I’m sure.

Fitz stood immobile as his elderly father remained beside him. Even at seventy-six, Timothy bore himself with the pride of West Point and remained perennially youthful. Only a few lines and a slight stoop, that marred his own tall carriage, indicated the age of the living legend of the United States Army; recently called from retirement to resume his sixty years of service to the Army. Timothy’s hand shifted to the nape of Fitzjames’ neck and closed comfortingly as he breathed in his son’s ear. Even though I’m not overly pleased about this career path you have taken, Fitz, I’m still proud of you.

Fitz exhaled softly as his father’s warm voice flowed into him and sustained him as it had done all his life. Thank you, Daddy, Fitz murmured as he retreated thankfully back into his father’s good graces. I was so sure that he was angry with me, disappointed. Reckon he does understand after all why I had to pursue intelligence work with the British to the extent that I have.

Where are we going? Fitz demanded as his fellow officers escorted him through the sacred corridors of the War Department.

Quiet you, MacArthur barked. You’ve been AWOL for months and we’re going to find out where you have been and why you have suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

I haven’t been AWOL.

Shut up, Jack growled. You’re under arrest.

Fitzjames’ eyes turned steely. First of all, Cousin, I outrank everyone in this detachment of yours and secondly...

His protests were ignored by kinsman and fellow graduates alike as he was marched briskly out of the State, War, and Navy building, along Pennsylvania Avenue, and then into the Willard Hotel. Fitzjames’ guard turned smartly up the stairs and into a private dining room.

With a little ceremony, Jackson Lee MacKendrick divested Fitz of his overcoat. His fingers brushed the eagles that graced the shoulder loops on Fitzjames’ uniform. Hmm, pretty.

What I want to know, grumbled MacArthur as he sat on Fitz’s other side. Is how this infant, who was two years behind us, managed to get a two-rank jump on us after missing for over eighteen months?

I wasn’t missing.

Sure you were, Doug retorted. No one knew your whereabouts. One minute you were a modest instructor at the Cavalry School at Fort Riley, as befitted someone of your tender years and rank, the next you were gone; vanished from the ranks of the United States Army.

Captain Horace Billings, who had been a year ahead of Fitzjames at West Point, leaned across MacArthur and nodded. We checked every cavalry regiment from here to the Philippines. No sign of Captain Fitzjames MacKendrick anywhere.

We thought at first you’d gotten mislaid along the Border during General Pershing’s hunt for Pancho Villa. Old Black Jack denied all knowledge of you, Lieutenant Aaron Hamilton sighed.

Lieutenant Francis Garret chimed in. There was a rumor MacKendrick had joined the Royal Flying Corps. But that MacKendrick turned out to be your nephew, Oliver.

Thompson heard that you’d started a charter fishing service in south Florida. We discounted that idea since it is a known fact that Captain Fitzjames MacKendrick has no love for the Navy; as proven time and again on the gallant field of football.

Captain Dillard shrugged. I heard that you decided to ride race horses but was reminded that your legs, while admirable for the cavalry, are far too long to be suitable as a jockey.

Lieutenant Ferguson declared. Fleming decided you had sailed to the South Pacific in order to paint naked women. We reminded him that, while you are a skilled draftsman at engineering schematics, you have no sense of color or line for the human anatomy.

"Then there was the tale that you were attempting to drive around the world in the spirit of Verne’s AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS. The Fox’s interest in mechanical devices is well known. However, there was no report in the newspapers to back up such a claim and the theory was also unlikely due to the current war abroad," Lieutenant Danton added.

Fitz fiddled with his class ring. Jack knew where I was.

MacArthur snorted. The usually dependable Jackson Lee claimed our intrepid Fox was in England inspecting coastal artillery. We didn’t believe such nonsense. Why would the cavalry be off inspecting anything in England? Indeed, we...when did that happen?

Frostily, Fitzjames returned MacArthur’s stare as the castles on his uniform appeared to register for the first time.

Doug, what is it?

What’s going on, MacArthur?

Eager heads craned across the tables as their owners tried to get a closer look.

Our Fox is an engineer, Billings informed the rest as his eyes got big.

An engineer!?

Like hell he is!

He’s abandoned the cavalry?

Impossible!

He was always set for the cavalry like General MacKendrick, protested Captain Jeremiah Wallingham. Even with our valiant Fox’s high class standing there was never any question about that!

Jack, did you know about this?

Jackson Lee peered at Fitzjames’ chest. What are those?

Never mind, Fitz tried to cover his chest. Damn, I forgot to take off the blasted things when I dressed this morning.

What are what? MacArthur inquired as Jack pried Fitzjames’ fingers away from his chest. Anyone recognize these bits of fluff?

No idea, Billings shook his head.

What fluff?

What are you talking about, Doug?

Oh, those ribbons?

Ribbons! You mean as in citations?

He’s not eligible for any of the campaign medals.

Who says he isn’t?

I do. He didn’t serve in the Civil War, Indian Campaigns, or the war in Cuba. He’s too young like the rest of us.

Another round of cacophony sped through the seated officers.

Captain Wallace Temple, Class of ‘02, was considered one of the brainier of the brethren and an acknowledged expert on the military traditions of other countries. He took out his handkerchief and polished the lenses of his spectacles. Then, he rose to his full height of five-foot four and ambled over to study the two ribbons on Fitzjames’ uniform. He exhaled slowly as he straightened. It appears that our Fox has been in Britannia’s chicken house after all. Those citations are from the British Army.

They are?

Are you sure, Temple?

"Not just any citations. That blue one is the Distinguished Service Order. It falls just below Britain’s Victoria Cross and is awarded ‘for distinguished services during active operations against the enemy’."

What enemy?

WE aren’t at war.

No, Mr. Dumbjohn, we aren’t, but the British are.

I understand that but what is our Fox doing with such a thing?

Temple continued as the muttering subsided. "The other is the Military Cross which is below the D.S.O. It is received for ‘gallantry during active operations against the enemy’. In other words, someone has decorated our Fox with medals that are given for valor in the greatest tradition of soldiering; usually for doing something quite dangerous at the risk of your own neck."

Several low whistles reverberated through the room as the group stared at Fitz with awe.

Jack grinned. I told you he was in England.

Well, MacArthur mused. It appears that we owe Jackson Lee an apology for doubting his explanation.

Fitzjames refused to meet any of their gazes.

A ring rapped firmly on the table and the rest fell quiet. Major William Graham, Class of ‘01, was considered the senior man present; regardless of Fitzjames’ shiny new insignia. I don’t question the gallantry of our noble Fox. He proved that many times in our battles on the field of football against Harvard, Princeton, Carlisle and the blasted Navy. What I want to know is why the British saw fit to decorate our Fox with such miscellany.

It makes no sense to me, agreed Captain Benjamin Rosenvelt, also of the Class of ‘01; whose family prided itself on retaining the original Dutch spelling of the surname unlike the political branch of the clan.

Lieutenant Matthew Clanton nodded. It makes no sense to me either.

Are you SURE they are British citations, Temple? Billings eyed the silent Fitzjames with concern.

Perhaps he stole them.

Nonsense, our Fox has no call to steal from anyone.

Unless it’s Navy’s ball and he’s trying to get it for Daly.

Montgomery, this is not about football. Our Fox has been graduated for over ten years.

Maybe he was playing Rugby while he was inspecting the coastal artillery, Montgomery persisted.

Rugby!

Well, his prowess on the field is well-known. Maybe Temple is wrong. Maybe those aren’t British military medals but are for playing Rugby, Lieutenant Montgomery argued. He was the closest thing to a dullard the Academy had ever produced and tended to hold on for dear life to any idea that seized his brain.

As the discussion devolved into a confusing hash of multiple conversations, several waiters entered the dining room and began to serve the hungry officers the dinner that Billings and Garret had arranged hastily upon learning of Fitzjames’ arrival.

So, what noble and daring deed did our Fox do to earn such trifles? Hamilton inquired as he took a bite of rare, roast beef.

The British Army never discusses their citations, Fitz said as he finally lifted his head to face his inquisition.

You’re not British, Billings snickered.

No, but the citations are, Fitz retorted.

Ha, at least you admit that much, Captain Ronald Fleming chortled.

Maybe I just bought them, only the coin that’s spent on the Western Front is never in gold or silver but demands the sacrifice of a man’s own blood.

Do you know how our daring Fox acquired them, Jack? Fleming asked.

No idea. He never mentioned them to me, Jack put his head next to his cousin’s ear so that only Fitz could hear him. But I plan to find out as soon as we’re alone. I’m just annoyed with myself that I didn’t notice them sooner. Come to think of it, you and Uncle Timothy both arrived from England in mufti and I was gone before you got up this morning.

I haven’t told Daddy so don’t expect me to tell you, Jack, Fitzjames murmured and colored under Jack’s thoughtful scrutiny.

Jack bent even closer. If you haven’t confided in Uncle Timothy, it means you haven’t told a soul. It also means you probably need to talk to someone. When we get home tonight, Cousin, we will have that discussion.

More questions, more demands, more speculations. As the chafe went around the tables, Fitzjames relaxed into the teasing camaraderie. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to just sit and talk with the fellows like this. They seem so young to me, even Doug and Jack. Most of them haven’t experienced war; not even those isolated actions along the Mexican border. It’s a relief after so many months of dealing with old-young men like Arthur Shenstone or hardened veterans like Neddy Fenton.

By the time they’d reached the brandy and cigar stage, the discussion had moved from Fitz to the war in Europe. The Germans had just resumed unlimited submarine warfare. President Wilson was finally annoyed enough with Germany to slip one arm out of his white robes of world peacemaker to break off diplomatic relations. It was not a declaration of war and there appeared to be every indication that the United States would continue her isolationist stance. Still, to the trained elite of the United States Army, they had moved a bit closer to taking an active interest in the conflict that had consumed Europe for the past two and a half years.

Did you make it over to France during those months of your tour of inspection? MacArthur inquired as he lit one of the superior Romeo y Julieta cigars Rosenvelt had furnished for the occasion.

Fitz turned his brandy glass slowly against the brocaded pattern of the table cloth. Yes.

Well? Doug prodded.

Well what? Fitzjames glanced up.

What was it like?

Yes, what was it like, Fox?

Did you see any battles?

Their questions came eagerly, one on top of another. The cream of the Army’s younger officers who, very soon, might be asked to take their own men over there to Europe and fight on the terrain they had studied in their classes at West Point. Level terrain on which Napoleon, Wellington, and hundreds of other generals had fought in the long ranks of classical Eighteenth century warfare.

Fitz recoiled slightly from the fusillade of their questions.

Quiet! Billings yelled into the noise. Give him a chance. He can’t hear your questions let alone answer them.

Fitz passed his hand wearily across his eyes. That telegram from Germany’s foreign minister will do it once the British inform us officially. The President won’t be able to gloss this one over. The newspapers and public opinion will finally force his hand. The United States will be coming into it soon. The least I can do is give this group of my brothers some concept of what they’ll be in for when they do reach France. What is it you want to know?

What’s it like?

Did you see any of the new aeroplanes?

Do you know why it’s taken so long for either side to achieve victory?

Finally, their voices stilled.

Petersburg, Fitzjames said softly. It’s like the ‘64-‘65 campaign of Petersburg near Richmond but on a much greater scale. The Western Front extends over four hundred miles along the length of France and Belgium. It’s trench-warfare of the worst kind. Conditions are indescribable; barbed wire and mines strewn all through no man’s land. When either side tries an assault, someone blows a whistle and the troops crawl over the top where they’re met by artillery and machine-gun fire from the opposing side. Due to wire, shell craters, and mines, it’s impossible to mount any sort of cohesive charge. Cavalry is completely worthless.

But how can they advance? demanded Clanton.

They don’t, Fitz drained his glass. That’s why it’s a stalemate. No one has been able to achieve any kind of decisive victory. So, they just sit there and engage in nasty little bits of action. Occasionally, one side or the other will launch a major offensive. Last year, the Germans tried at Verdun but the French held. Then the British tried at the Somme and the Germans held. The losses on both sides have been staggering. The British Army was destroyed completely in the first year and a half which means that most of the veteran officers and enlisted men are long gone. Kitchener’s New Army has replaced it and it’s taken a hell of a beating already.

Then, the newspaper accounts are accurate? MacArthur tilted onto the back legs of his chair.

For the most part, Fitz nodded.

What about the aeroplane? Are they really using it for more than scouting now?

They’ve become quite effective. The Allies have caught up with the equipment so the Germans no longer control the air space the way they did last year. Synchronized machine-guns make all the difference.

Does the poison gas really exist? Temple murmured.

Yes and it’s used by both sides. The gas can disable entire units. It can also kill. Masks help but the troops don’t always get them on in time. There is also the danger that the wind will shift and blow it right back into an army’s own lines, Fitzjames launched into a concise lecture with regard to their craft as it was now practiced on the Western Front. Almost everything they had learned at West Point, with regard to classical strategy and tactics, was ineffective in the reality of the trenches.

Thank God for President Wilson, remarked Captain Humphrey Morris. I don’t like the idea of fighting in Europe. We’ve always stayed out of their wars except when they bring them here.

Fleming nodded. There’s not much difference between the Allies and Germans when you get right down to it. They are all competing to annex and control vast colonial empires. George Washington had it right when he warned us to keep clear of foreign entanglements.

Clanton chimed in. Look at how they’ve built up their armies and navies. Supposedly, they are to be used for defense but sooner or later, you have to start using all that power. The Russo-Japanese War back in ‘04 and ‘05 is a good example of what happens when a nation has built up its military too far and is expanding beyond its natural boundaries.

Dillard sighed. Germany is only doing what the others have done in the past. She’s encircled by potential enemies and has just as much right to defend herself.

But Germany invaded Belgium. Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg called the 1839 Treaty of London a mere scrap of paper. However, that treaty was never rescinded so England had to defend Belgium’s neutrality, argued Billings.

Yes, that’s true. England certainly was not an aggressor, Major Graham agreed.

Except she stuck her nose in other people’s business, Morris countered.

MacArthur puffed thoughtfully on his cigar. In point of fact, we’re already supporting the Allies. Our business men have no compunction in selling supplies to Europe. The British Naval blockade makes it impractical to ship materials to Germany and Austria so we are providing substantial support to England and France. When Germany suspended submarine warfare, she was unable to stop it. Of course, now that unrestricted submarine warfare has resumed, that puts her at odds with President Wilson; which, I suppose, is why he returned the German Ambassador’s papers.

On the other hand, Doug, we also let the Germans use our transatlantic cable to communicate with their embassy here in Washington. I know because my brother is at our Embassy in Berlin where they bring the messages to be forwarded to our Embassy in Denmark for transmittal. He says the Germans have to submit clear messages though, nothing coded, Ferguson observed.

Fitz grunted and Jack leaned close again. What?

Nothing, except the Germans broke that little agreement when their foreign minister, Zimmerman, sent his little telegram in code. Oh yes, let’s just incite Mexico to attack the United States. Can’t send that in a clear message, now can we? It apparently didn’t occur to the man that the British are snooping on our transatlantic cable while they are so kindly boosting the signal for us.

Oh good, something else you’ll share with me later. I may have to start making a list.

What makes you think I’ll share anything with you, Cousin? Fitz murmured almost without moving his lips.

You always have, Fitzjames. Unlike the rest of our brethren, I have a fairly clear picture of what you’ve been doing the past two years. Allenby tried to recruit me, too.

He did? Fitz blinked.

Yes, he did. I’m probably the only person you can talk to safely about all of this.

That still doesn’t mean I should or will, Fitz retorted.

You will, Jack smiled. You look a little haunted, old son, and it might help to get some of it off your chest.

Fitz sighed. It might at that, Jack. I’ve only told a few bits and pieces to Elsa, Daddy, and Philip. I can’t go into full details with any of them for a variety of reasons.

The discussion as to the United States’ place in the conflict overseas was in full cry. Morris, who never liked to be derailed when he was declaiming, was showing signs of temper. I don’t believe all those atrocity stories about the Germans either. The Rape of Belgium, for God’s sake! If that isn’t hyperbole conjured up by British propaganda, I’ll eat my hat. It’s no different than the Yellow Press stories that came out of Cuba back in the ‘90s. It’s just a means to sensationalize and gain our sympathy. The pro-British element in this country always has an axe to grind against anyone who stands up to England’s imperialism so you can be sure they are going to characterize the German soldiers as inhuman monsters. Why aren’t we hearing about the English and French atrocities against the enlightened and good people of Germany?

You’ve been there, Fitzjames. You’ve seen what’s going on, Rosenvelt cut across Morris.

Fitz traced a grape vine on the table cloth. Initially, the Rape of Belgium was a metaphor; Germany ‘raped’ her historic neutrality by invading her to get at France. There were atrocities; my brother Philip is over there as a war correspondent and witnessed some despicable acts. He did say that some of the German soldiers suspected the Belgian guerilla fighters were as dangerous as the French military opposition. They considered such fighters as fair game which explains some of their actions in burning homes and executing civilians to flush out those fighters.

Thought as much, Morris said.

Fitz moved his empty glass aside when it impinged the path of his forefinger. Many of those killed were women and children. Women were brutalized. Even the nuns weren’t protected by their habits. Entire towns were burned to the ground and citizens shot if they didn’t move quickly enough. We all know that troops, particularly in a combat situation, can get out of hand. Our own military history has examples of looting and rapine; even as recently as the Civil War. Much of what was done in Belgium was premeditated and not just young soldiers reacting violently on the spur of a moment. Some of the atrocities were without provocation on the part of the Belgians.

All right, Morris said. "The German atrocity stories may have some validity. That still doesn’t justify our support of England over Germany. Look at that damned naval blockade the British have used to cordon off the North Sea. They’ve cut off food supplies to Germany which affects their civilian population as well as the troops. The British are even interfering with neutral shipping and seizing cargos from them such as grain impounded from Dutch ships. I met some of the officers from the submarine, Deutschland, when they arrived in Baltimore last year. I must say, I was impressed with them. Slipping that little boat past the might of the British blockade took courage and ingenuity. I don’t see how you can claim that the British hold some sort of moral ground when they cut off the North Sea to all shipping."

The British didn’t invade a neutral country. They didn’t sink a civilian liner, Fitz answered quietly. The British haven’t bombed a city full of non-combatants, either.

"Oh come now, MacKendrick. Everyone knows the Lusitania wasn’t entirely innocent. The Germans said only one torpedo was fired but that there were several explosions. She must have been carrying war materials and the torpedo touched them off. Nice practice for the English to try to camouflage a warship with women and children. To my mind, smuggling munitions on a so-called civilian vessel and risking innocent lives is a far greater crime than a U-Boat attack on a legitimate military target, Morris scoffed. I don’t believe those tales of Zeppelins dropping bombs on English cities, either. That’s just more fiction from a country that wants our support."

Fitz’s voice chilled a few degrees. "My sister-in-law, Margaret, was killed last fall when a Zeppelin dropped a bomb on the outskirts of London. As for the Lusitania, she was not a warship or even a freighter. She was a civilian liner, Morris, regardless of her cargo. Besides, the second explosion came right on the heels of the first which lends credibility to the idea that there was a second torpedo."

So a few papers claimed, Morris waved his hand in dismissal.

I was sitting aft on the starboard side. I felt two distinct impacts. The lookout called out at least one torpedo.

MacArthur froze with his cigar halfway to his mouth. "You were on the Lusitania?"

Yes.

Then they did manage to get off the lifeboats? Fleming asked.

Five or six; she was listing so badly they couldn’t launch the ones on the starboard side. The ones on port swung too far inboard and it was next to impossible to launch them. Christ, she went down in eighteen minutes, there just wasn’t time. I spent a few hours in the Irish Sea, holding onto a deck chair, until a fishing boat picked me up. Remember Will Dorman? He and his wife drowned. Their bodies were never recovered.

Fitz swept the table with a level gaze. Some of the men met his eyes while the others stared at the table or fiddled with snifters and cigars.

Do you hate the Germans, Fitzjames? Graham asked into the silence.

No, I don’t hate the German people. I hate what the German government is doing. They have to be stopped, Gentlemen. War is no longer between grand armies facing each other across a wide sweep of battlefield. Thanks to modern weapons and the willingness of the Germans to use them, war now targets non-combatants as well as military forces. If Germany is allowed to win, it will send a clear message to other nations that the biggest bully with the best weapons only has to flex his muscles to get what he wants.

Even if Britain and France win, what’s to prevent another nation from doing the same thing that Germany has done? You can’t pretend the weapons don’t exist once they’ve been used, MacArthur observed through the smoke that curled up around his face.

There will have to be some sort of international accord, I reckon, Fitz answered. Perhaps something along the lines of the Geneva accords but stronger and more encompassing.

And how would the nations enforce such an accord? MacArthur pressed.

I don’t know, Doug, I’m not a statesman. I just know the mutual support treaties only added to the mess instead of keeping it to a small conflict between the two initial antagonists. We’re entering a new era of three-dimensional warfare with attacks coming from the air as well as land and sea. Nations that were historically safe, due to geographical features, will no longer be so. Look at England. For centuries, the Channel kept her secure from invasion. She only had to fortify her beaches and keep a sufficient Navy at hand to repel the enemy. Not even Napoleon, at the height of his power, was able to prevail against the might of the British Navy. Now, German Zeppelins and aeroplanes are bombing cities and carrying war to non-combative citizens. Women and children have been blown to bits from a single pass by a winged attacker. How many years before aircraft will be able to reach us across our own protective oceans? Some believe fifty or never. I give it no more than ten or twenty before someone will have the potential to attack us on our own soil.

Nonsense, aeroplanes and Zeppelins could never cross the Atlantic. They’ll never have the range, Morris waved his hand in dismissal.

Of course they will and far sooner than most people expect. The technical differences between the Wright Brothers first machine and Fokker’s most recent design are almost incomprehensible and it’s been less than fifteen years since Kitty Hawk. Once an initial concept has been engineered successfully, it takes no time at all to make innovations to that concept.

But why should we concern ourselves in what, historically, is not any of our business? persisted Graham.

I’ve seen the results of stalemated troops trapped in trenches. I’ve seen the damage a single bomb dropped from a Zeppelin or an aeroplane can incur. I’ve witnessed the agony a man endures when his wife is killed in a manor house when she should have been safe across the Channel in a city far from the actual conflict. We can’t sit on our complacent, isolationist backsides any longer. We have to take our place with the rest of the world and try to find a better means for settling the differences between nations than the old method of trial by combat.

Chapter 2

Washington, February 1917

Fitzjames and Jackson Lee returned to the mansion in Georgetown around eleven o’clock. The house had been built by their great-uncle, Lafayette Randolph, and their fathers had inherited it jointly. When James MacKendrick had been killed on a patrol in Arizona a few months after Jack’s birth, James’ widow and infant son had taken possession. Gwyneth had spent her long widowhood in the gracious old house and had become a fixture in Washington. A single light flickered in an upstairs window.

Hmm, Jack craned his neck. That’s the nursery.

Fitz opened the front door. Colic?

Or measles, or mumps, or...

A bad dream.

Hmm, Jack repeated. You mean your perfect daughter has nightmares?

Aurora has a vivid imagination and it gets away from us sometimes.

I’d better see what’s afoot. Dee may need some help if it’s more than the baby.

Serves you right for having four children, Fitz chuckled. Of course, you and Dee cheated with a set of twins.

I’ll join you in a bit so we can have that discussion, Jack retorted.

Fitz paused with one foot on the wide staircase. It isn’t necessary, Jack. I’m fine, really.

I’m curious, Fitzjames. You’ll be off for Norfolk to catch that destroyer for England. This may be our last time to talk in quite a while.

For a few months anyway; I expect you’ll be in the first deployment. I can’t see you sitting it out over here. You have enough clout with the senior officers to wangle some sort of command.

Jack started up the stairs. You really believe we’ll be in this thing, don’t you.

I know for certain. We’ll declare war on Germany within the next month or so.

Fitz turned down the hall on the second landing while Jack continued another flight. Light spilled from the nursery where he had spent his own early years until he had graduated to a grownup bedroom on the second floor at the age of nine. His youngest daughter, Rosalind Lee MacKendrick, slept in profound slumber in the crib that had been his own.

Eden MacKendrick, her thick dark hair in two girlish plaits, sat in a high-backed, cherry rocker that generations of Randolph nurses had used from before the Revolutionary War. Their three-year old daughter, Jennie, clung to her neck and whimpered.

I see it’s not colic, Jack observed.

Gwyneth Adria MacKendrick, named for her grandmother and great-aunt, turned her curly red-head. Was lion, she sniffed tearfully at her father.

A lion! Jack said. Why, Jennie! What was it doing?

Looking at me, Jennie said. It had big yelbow eyes.

Jack knelt by the rocker and brushed a soothing hand over the copper ringlets Jennie had inherited from his mother.

Eden continued to rock the little girl. I’m surprised you’re home, Jack. I assumed they’d keep you and Fitz out late.

Jack tugged one of Dee’s braids. Most of us are responsible husbands and fathers now, your Ladyship. The era of carousing all night is behind us. Besides, things got a little grim at the end and the atmosphere was not conducive to staying out until the wee hours.

Oh?

The guest of honor provided a few bare facts that some of the brethren really don’t want to hear; particularly those with a sympathetic view of Germany.

Eden, daughter of an English marquess, wrinkled her nose. I never understood the sympathy, Jack, and not just because I’m English, either. Your countrymen were quick enough to dash down to Cuba to aid them against the tyranny of Spain. Surely, the German invasion of Belgium is as bad, if not worse, than Spain administering her own colony; no matter how brutal they were.

Ah, but Spain was administering a colony here in the Western Hemisphere, Dee. We have a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of this nation not to interfere in European matters on European soil. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that I share some of that view. Our involvement overseas makes for a dangerous precedence. If we assist this time, we’ll be expected to help England and France the next time they get into a war. We run the risk of being embroiled in wars that have nothing to do with our national interest.

But Jack, the atrocities! Maggie killed like that and...

Jack leaned over Jennie’s bright head to kiss his wife’s brow. I said I was sympathetic to the isolationist view, Dee, I didn’t say I supported it entirely. I’m a soldier, Honey, I go where I’m sent. If the United States enters this war, I’ll do my part as I’m commanded. That’s one reason I’m glad Fitzjames came home; even for a couple of days. I want to talk to him. Get more details and facts. I suspect he’s seen a great deal these last two years. He’ll give me chapter and verse without political slants or hysteria. He’s pro-British, that’s very obvious. But, knowing Fitzjames, it’s not just because he’s been working with them. He’s always been honest in his assessments.

Isn’t he leaving tomorrow for Norfolk?

He is. We’ll probably talk all night, Jack grinned. It won’t be the first time.

But you have to work tomorrow, Dee’s vivid blue eyes were concerned.

Oh, I can manage one day at the War Department without a full night’s sleep. I’m more concerned about you getting enough rest. How you managed to start nesting again is beyond me.

Eden emitted the fat chuckle that had enraptured him from the beginning of their love affair. I could explain it to you, Major, but after four children, I assumed you already knew how this all worked.

It can’t be a good idea to keep you in this state, Jack fretted.

Eden, in the mid-bloom of another pregnancy, snorted. Oh stuff, I’m as healthy as a horse. My Mother had four daughters and a son within a few years of each other. Not all of us do it the way your Aunt Adria did by having her children so far apart. Look at Philip and Fitz, for example. Fifteen years difference so that Fitz is closer in age to his nephews than to his own brother.

I reckon. I mean it, Dee, this is the last one.

Or two, Eden smiled mischievously.

Jack’s eyes widened. What do you mean two?

We may have a set again instead of a single. I seem to be expanding just like I did when I was carrying Jennie and Lafe.

Oh, Lordy, Jack sat back on his heels. I’ll never hear the end of it. We’re going to run out of godfathers.

Eden, knowing in what esteem her husband was held by the rest of the Army, just smiled. Jack?

Hmm?

When you talk to Fitz, will you try to find out what the trouble is?

Trouble?

He’s so serious. He’s more like you now. Like he’s...he’s...

Grown up?

At dinner last night you both made me feel so frivolous.

Aren’t you? Jack snickered.

Yes, but so was he. He doesn’t seem to be very light-hearted now.

Jack rested his head against her shoulder. No, he’s not but I don’t think it’s permanent. He’s too much like Uncle Timothy for war to change him entirely.

War?

He’s been in the thick of it, Dee.

But wasn’t he just inspecting things as an observer?

No, he’s been involved in something far more serious. I can’t tell you, Dee, but don’t worry. He’s been through some ordeal. That’s one of the things I need to talk to him about. It’s obvious he’s kept some things hidden deep inside; things he hasn’t even told Uncle Timothy. It’s just like before when he was married to Louise. He never would tell anyone how bad it was with her. I was at West Point with them the last few months of their marriage; before typhoid put a merciful end to it. I assure you, he’s nowhere near the state he was then. This time it’s more that Fitz is preoccupied, concentrating on things. I promise you, we haven’t lost him. He’ll be just as light-hearted and heedless as ever once he’s finished with...the work he’s doing. You haven’t lost your playmate.

Eden wrinkled her nose. You’re my playmate, Jack. Fitz is just...

Honey, I love him too. I know what you mean to each other. I’ve always known. It takes nothing away from me and our marriage to have you count on Fitz the way you do. You’re closer than a lot of siblings.

Eden shifted Jennie so that she wasn’t pressing on the large mound that had started to form under her waistline. Yes, we are. I’m closer to Fitz than even to my sisters and brother. How do you understand about that, Jack?

"Because, my Darling, I grew up in a household where

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