Benjamin stared through the window. England was a very beautiful country.
Under different circumstances he would have been excited to be embarking on a new adventure in another land. Now he was alone and afraid.
“Now, you do remember everything I have told you, don’t you…?”
Lady Celia asked.
“...We are almost at Mulhearn now, you and I must have our stories straight…”
“Do not worry Lady Celia…” Benjamin’s voice was emotionless.
Benjamin had travelled with Lady Celia from his German homeland at his parents’ insistence and great expense
“We are lucky that Her
Ladyship is our friend, and has offered to help us.” his father had told him. “You must go, while it is safe, she has promised to make sure you are well cared for…war is just days away. Who knows what will happen to people like us?”
Benjamin knew that his parents were most concerned about ‘The other thing’; the thing that must not be spoken about; although he was sure that Lady Celia knew. His father, a prominent professor, had met Lady Celia and her husband, Sir
Richard, at an Embassy soiree in 1937. Sir Richard was a Diplomat at the British
Embassy in Berlin.
“If you need money, you must sell these jewels .” his mother had told him.” Give them to Lady Celia. She will make sure you have a good price … Who knows how long it will be until we meet again? You are our son, what good are jewels to us if you have no food?”
The last he had seen of his parents was at the station as he had boarded the train with
Celia in Berlin. Foreign office and Embassy officials, their wives and children were herded onto the waiting trains. Noone had given a second glance to the tall, elegant English women, and the thin, dark, young man with the sad eyes in the first class compartment. “Why can’t I stay with you?” Benjamin asked Celia.
“Because, if it does all kick off, then London will be right in the thick of it.Try not to fret dear. My sisterinlaw, Lady Martha, really is a poppet. Did I say, she is terribly rich?”
Benjamin smiled. He had read about rich Americans, marrying their daughters to the impoverished English aristocracy. Though a break in the distant trees, Benjamin saw what was to be his new home. The Countess of Mulhearn, Lady Martha Harley was rather reserved. Benjamin was fascinated by her soft American drawl as opposed to the elongated King’s English spoken by her sisterinlaw Celia.
“My daughter, Elenora has a friend, MarieChristine, who is Austrian. They met at
finishing school in 1937. MarieChristine, married an American senator’s son, Mr
Randall P. Leader in April of this year …” The countess looked her son, Charles, and smiled. Celia broke in “MarieChristine had previously stayed here as a guest of Miss
Eleanora’s, we decided it would make a good cover story.”
“I see…” Benjamin was not quite sure he did, but the two women were very decisive.
“Sadly…” Martha continued, “ MarieChristine’s father died in June and Mr Leader has taken her mother to live with them in New Hampshire.”
“As there are no other family members of the Van Laar's in Austria that we are aware of, we decided that you are to be MarieChristine's orphaned cousin. You have become our ward due to the friendship between the two families. Quite simple really!” Celia smiled.
“But if the family are Austrian, what about my appearance?” He asked, puzzled.
“Ah your ‘Jewish’ looks!” Celia nodded “We have covered that aspect also!”
“MarieChristine's mother, Luciana, was a minor Italian royal. You have inherited your dark, mediterranean looks from them!”
“I do not really understand the word ‘ward’...” Benjamin admitted
Martha nodded. “ We really cannot arouse too many suspicions. If we said you were a
‘guest’, your stay here would be for a definite time period and an ‘evacuee’ would mean you would be placed with the servants or on the…