The musicians were playing an old fashion waltz when Robert, Duke of Brynelleth, escorted Mona Moon down the staircase. It was five minutes before nine in the evening and they were to join the Viscountess at the receiving line. Guests were arriving early and asking Thelma where the American upstart was. Hearing comments about herself, Mona plastered on a smile, knowing she was going to have to win these aristocrats over.
Robert squeezed her hand and shot her a winsome smile.
“Now I know how the early Christians felt,” Mona murmured.
“Shall we face the lions together, my dear?”
A pool of photographers rushed the couple making their way down the staircase. “Look here, Miss Moon. Duke, smile. Over here, Miss. Hold it. Fine. That’s tickity-boo.”
Robert and Mona paused and posed for the photographers. After several minutes, Robert said, “Wrap it up, boys. Thank you.”
Gobsmacked at the dress Mona was wearing, the Viscountess walked over and grabbed Mona’s hands. “My dear. You look absolutely stunning. Every man here tonight is going to fall in love with you. Robert, have you ever seen a woman look so magnificent?”
“Mona always has appeared like a goddess to me.”
“Mona, you are a glittering delight.”
“Thank you, Thelma. I’ve been saving this dress for our engagement announcement. You have given me a grand occasion to wear it.” Mona was wearing a silvery chiffon dress with pleated lines of crystals in parallel with each other the entire length of the dress. The Grecian design of the sleeveless dress was a simple front and back panels sewn up both sides allowing a neck and arm holes. It was cinched at the waist with a crystal encrusted belt. When Mona walked, light shimmered from the dress.
“My goodness, Mona, you look like a twinkling silver torch,” greeted Professor Ogden Nithercott, kissing her cheek.
Lady Alice elbowed her husband out of the way. “What my charming husband means to say is that you look stunning, my dear.”
“I said that, didn’t I?” Ogden replied, confused.
Mona gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you, Ogden. I accept the compliment.”
Robert slapped his great friend on the back. “I’ve never understood women either, Ogden.”
The Viscountess said, “Let’s take our places, please.”
Robert and Mona stood to the left of the Viscountess. As people were announced by the head butler, Thelma greeted them, introduced them to Robert who then introduced Mona to them. Fortunately, Robert knew most of the guests and greeted them heartily. He hadn’t seen many of them since before the Great War and enjoyed seeing his old friends and comrades again.
Mona loved observing Robert so jovial and relaxed. She saw a glimpse of what Robert was like before the War. He must have been a dashing youth—handsome, chivalrous, charming, and unsullied. Everything so desired in English manhood—a Dorian Gray before he meets Lord Henry Wotton.
After standing and greeting people for fifteen minutes, Mona heard, “Well, Miss Moon, we meet again.”
Mona looked away from Robert and stared into the face of William Donovan, President Roosevelt’s gentleman spy. “Mr. Donovan, I didn’t see you enter.”
Ignoring Mona’s remark, he said, “You look very stunning, Miss Moon.”
Leaning in close as if to give her a peck on the cheek, Donovan whispered, “Meet me in the garden about an hour from now.” He pulled away and gave Mona a big smile. “I understand congratulations are in order.”
Mona murmured, “I don’t know if I can get away.”
Smiling, Donovan lowered his voice again. “His Grace and you are in grave danger. Must speak with you.”
Grabbing Donovan’s hand and shaking it warmly, Mona said out loud, “Thank you for coming. Hope to speak with you later.” Mona returned to greeting the Viscountess’ guests until ten. Exhausted from shaking hands and smiling, Mona begged off, saying she needed some air.
“We’re finished here anyway,” Thelma replied. “I think everyone has arrived that is going to come. Let’s join our guests.”
Robert asked the Viscountess, “May I have this dance?”
Pleased, Thelma smiled and held out her hand for Robert to escort her to the dance floor.
That gave Mona the chance to slip out into the garden. Motioning to Lady Alice to join her, the two sauntered arm-in-arm into the garden—just two friends enjoying the evening air. They passed the British fascist Oswald Mosley heatedly arguing with a fat, bald man about politics. Behind the two, stood gentlemen of all ilks and persuasions, listening to the discussion. The older man, smoking a foul cigar, looked up briefly as the ladies walked past and gave Mona a hard look.
His stare gave Mona the willies as he seemed to be taking great note of her. Mona asked, “Who is the man with Mosley? I forgot his name.”
“That is Winston Churchill. His mother was American, you know. He wants to be Prime Minister, but he won’t be voted in. He’s had too many failures in his career and he’s a blowhard. Besides, he’s too old.”
“I don’t know why, but it seemed Mr. Churchill took a picture of me, but that is ridiculous as he didn’t possess a camera. It was a foolish feeling on my part of being looked at and looked through.”
“He claims to have a photographic memory. Next time he meets you, Mona, he will recollect you. I think he is a fool, but it is remarkable what the man remembers.”
“What makes you think he is a fool?”
“Churchill keeps claiming that we will soon be at war with Germany if we don’t stop placating Hitler. I can’t think of any politician who would want to start another European war after the devastation of the last one—even Hitler. Everyone in Europe is anti-war and pro-peace.”
Mona made a note to herself to remember Churchill. Something told her that she would run into him again.
Murder under a british moon
Series: A Mona Moon Mystery, Book 9
Publisher: Worker Bee Press
Length: 225 pages
Amazon ISBN: 9798836058180
Lightning Source ISBN: 9781953478092
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