If Lucy hadn't known Rothermere as one of the richest people in Britain, she would’ve suspected him of receiving some kind of incentive from the new German government. But a man so well-known on the French Riviera and in the casinos of Monte-Carlo certainly required none of that. No, Rothermere’s enthusiasm was genuine. He wrote with an unapologetic passion. He painted magnificent pictures with broad strokes. He wrote about the future alliance of two great empires; he reminded them of their common blood and common past; he warned about enemies, that can tear these cousin-nations apart. He envisaged a glorious future, where their two countries stood side by side like beacons of light, the mighty guardians of the peace in Europe.

The Pearl and the Carnelian

The Pearl and the Carnelian

Peace in Europe.

But wouldn't peace in Europe hold in any case? Lucy thought uneasily.

After all, the wound of calamities of the Great War was still fresh, and even their government wouldn't be stupid enough to enmesh the country in another conflict. And the League of Nations would surely do its job in the end of the day, wouldn't it?

The Great War. Lucy was too small to remember anything herself, of course. However, she couldn’t escape the others’ reminiscences of the dreadful Zeppelin nights, of the nightmare of Somme. Their own house had been temporarily converted into a hospital; her mother, only a young wife back then, took much of the work on herself. She was always so anxious to get everything right, her mother. So anxious for everything and everyone to be right.

The bells of peace tolled almost two decades ago, but the city still bore the marks - some of them more visible, than the others. The celebrated mediums, who promised to converse with your dead son or brother for a little fee, were as popular as ever. Thousands of séance circles have sprung all over the capital, new ones forming every year. Even the most innocent pastimes now glared with bloody paw prints; Michelin, for instance, published a guidebook, dedicated to the battlefields of France.

The majestic sphinx on the Embankment also bore the memory - its paws and pedestal remained forever scarred by the German bomb. Lucy remembered looking at these marks, nondescript and pale.

She thought at that moment, a sudden fear dimming the sunlight: if that bomb could shatter stone, which survived the fall of ancient civilizations, then what would it do to a human flesh?...

Never before did she feel so conscious of her own body, her own fragility. A thin layer of skin over fine bones. It could be ripped open so easily, destroyed and twisted in the calamity of red. And so can many, many others.

She spent that afternoon gripping Hester's hand.

And what was the result? What was the point of these millions of deaths? An ample demonstration, that Britannia no longer ruled the waves - and even if it did, the new war was waged in the sky. The feather-bedding of businesses, who made so well from governmental orders. The new wealth for food speculators, who later bought themselves titles under the government of Lloyd-George.

That's for the winning side. That's for the glorious victors.

And on the other coast? An empire brought to its knees, a nation degraded by the disastrous reparations and a scandalous treaty. Another empire broken up, fresh states now rife with discontent. The balance of Europe upset so far, that they might all come tumbling down now.

And, of course, a new enemy growing in the East, a red inflammation on the map.

No one won at war. No one ever does.

The summer sunlight was now engulfing her whole, illuminating her, bathing her in warmth. However, despite that, Lucy found herself shivering.

Was it true? Was the threat of another conflict looming on the horizon, and they all just failed to see it?

Her fingers were now drumming on the windowsill, the rhythm of an unknown march. If Sir Mosley comes to power, if Sir Mosley becomes the Prime Minister, then the future will be secure.

He would surely be able to lead the country to the advantageous alliance with Germany. He would be able to solve the crisis, which seemed to be growing direr year after year (a Hunger March in Edinburgh, protesters camping out by the gentlemen's clubs of Prince’s Street...). He would be able the bring the country back from the edge of collapse".

The Pearl and the Carnelian by Annabel Fielding is out now, priced £12.30 in paperback and £4.61 as an eBook.  Visit www.historygeekintown.com/the-pearl-and-the-carnelian/