Way down yonder in the Indian Nation
Ride my Pony on the Reservation,
In those Oklahoma Hills
The audience screamed and whistled and applauded wildly. Porter Lamason, Louis D. Brandeis Professor at the Harvard Law School, wearing a huge gray Stetson, a checked shirt and faded Levis, one cowboy boot propped up on the piano bench, strummed his guitar and bellowed the second verse out across the crowd assembled in the big dark entrance hall. A lot of beer had already been consumed at dinner, and now big foaming pitchers which Aschauer was filling from kegs at the back of the hall were being passed among the audience. The Germans had started the program with their mournful ringing folk songs; then Onderdonk, the master of ceremonies, changed the mood with a short, funny speech introducing the first skit: An Italian, two Dutchmen and a Belgian sitting around a table, pretending to be Justice Steinberg and Professors Lamason, Bergstrasser and Minto, meeting to plan their courses. It wasn't professional stuff, but their satire was surprisingly accurate and pointed; in our closed society, it seemed hilariously funny.

At one side of the room, the Rasmussens and Brockaw and the other members of the permanent staff were sitting with a group of visiting dignitaries who had been guests at dinner: well-dressed important-looking people, Americans who had contributed money to the Academy or would, it was hoped, make contributions in the future. They watched the show, smiling and applauding politely, bending over occasionally to hear words of explanation from their hosts.

Onderdonk varied the program expertly. After the professors' skit, we had more folk songs; this time the four Yugoslavs. They came forward, dressed in identical blue business suits, looking embarrassed. One sat down at the piano and the others lined up beside him. A few notes on the keyboard: "We sing you now a song from Montenegro. Is a very sad song, about a girl who dies." They sang the song, poker-faced. We applauded loudly. "We sing you now a song from Croatia. Is a funny song, about a horse and a donkey." They sang the funny song, still poker-faced. We applauded loudly. They bowed and marched back to their seats, looking relieved and pleased with themselves.

And so it went. Songs, folk dances, skits. It was dark outside, a wet unpleasant evening. Inside, beer, laughter and music, cigarette smoke and candlelight. Freddie and I sat just inside the open doorway into the Rasmussens' apartment, because the others were not supposed to see our costumes. We were halfway through our second pitcher of beer, and Freddie had been tapping his private Scotch supply before dinner. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, wig pushed back, face glistening, pulling on his cigar and watching the show. He didn't laugh or applaud; he watched the show with a popeyed concentration, and he seemed to be breathing heavily.

Mrs. Clinton Bergstrasser sat on the piano in a short black cocktail dress, crossed her legs, and sang "Blues in the Night" (2) in a surprisingly professional manner, belting out the lyrics in a 100-proof Kentucky-bourbon voice that perfectly suited the song. At the keyboard, Justice Steinberg, in shirt sleeves, an open vest and a black derby (where had he found a black derby?), played the accompaniment with heavy-thumping barrelhouse flourishes. The audience demanded an encore. Showing a stretch of white thigh, Mrs. Bergstrasser leaned back to confer with the judge; they launched into "Frankie and Johnny" (3). She knew all the verses, and by the time she got the twelve men going to the graveyard (and eleven coming back!) all the Americans were singing along, and the audience was on its feet, clapping along in beat with the music. Then she seemed to collapse, letting her husband and Porter Lamason lift her from the piano.

It was a hard act to follow, but the Finnish-Danish-Swedish-Norwegian-Italian team had cooked up something special. When the room quieted down, Onderdonk announced that we would now have a performance in the manner of the commedia dell'arte, the improvised street theatre that began in sixteenth century Italy. When they pulled apart the curtains -bedsheets strung along a wire- I saw at once that they had gotten the idea from the paintings in the Venetian Room. It was a terrific idea. The actors wore masks, small domino masks or big papier-mache false faces which they must have made themselves, stylized to represent the stock commedia characters: Pantalone, the miserly old Venetian; Il Dottore, the double-talking crooked lawyer; Il Capitano, the red-faced mustachioed bragging foreign officer; the two clownish servants, Arlecchino and Punchinella; and a couple of pretty girls. They had worked out a loose scenario, but they seemed to be making up the lines as they went along - an impressive feat since they were doing it entirely in English.

It didn't take long to figure out where they had gotten the plot. The Doctor and the Captain go to a hotel by the sea. They meet two girls who are sailing a boat. They all sail the boat together. The boat is shipwrecked on an island. The island belongs to Pantalone, who invites the travelers to a feast in his castle. The Captain drinks wine and tells war stories. Harlequin, one of Pantalone's servants, puts a sleeping potion in the Captain's wine. One of the girls plays the guitar -the new guitar Freddie had just given her. The Captain falls under the table. The audience roared with laughter and the Doctor begins to chase the girls around the room . . . and suddenly beside me Freddie stood up.

"Hey, what are you doing?" I asked.

"Time for us to go on."

"No it's not, Freddie, they're in the middle of their skit!" I clutched at his apron but it was too late, he was out of the doorway, swaying toward the stage, dressed in Frau Aschauer's best dirndl, shouting in atrocious German. "Rosalinda, schenk' mir Dein Herz und Dein Glück!" hairy legs and padded bosom, a yellow wig on his head and the cigar still clamped in his teeth, and when the audience saw him they screamed. They screamed!

At the piano Justice Steinberg thought he had missed a cue and launched into the "Beer-Barrel Polka" (4) so there was nothing for me to do but follow Freddie to the front, in my Lederhosen and my Tyrolean hat, to grab Freddie around the waist, and to dance the polka with him right in the middle of the commedia deIl'arte scene.


The audience was on its feet again, cheering and applauding. Astrid Königsmark, still wearing her black domino, stood on the table, doubled up with laughter, shrieking with laughter; Harald von Liss wrenched the Pantalone mask from his face, lifted Astrid from the table and swung into the polka with her. Onderdonk shouted, "Ladies and gentlemen, I think we will have general dancing now," and Freddie Minto said to me, "Waita minute, for Christ's sake, my head is spinning," and slumped down into a chair and the chair collapsed, and people were all around us, laughing and shouting and clapping us on the back and picking up Freddie from the floor, Rosanna Lombardi was dancing with the Harlequin, Justice Steinberg was still playing the "Beer-Barrel Polka"(5).  . . . I heard Nora Rasmussen apologizing, "You understand, it doesn't usually get this rowdy," and somebody touched my arm.

"Mr. Anders?"

I turned away from the uproar and found myself looking down at a broad-shouldered little man in an expensive gray suit. Obviously one of Rasmussen's guests. He was in his fifties; well barbered gray hair, dark intelligent eyes behind black-rimmed spectacles, and a nose that gave him a faintly parroty look.

"Mr. Anders from Conyers and Dean?"


"You don't remember me, do you?"

I hate it when people begin that way. "No, sir, I'm afraid I don't."

"Well, I tell you." He had a strong accent of some kind. "I have heard quite a lot about you, but I only realized - just now, this evening- that we have met before. But a long time ago."

"Oh really?

"Yes. We have met here, in this Schloss. In 1947, in a snowstorm. I was with some people, we came across the Untersberg in a snowstorm. You remember now?"

I expelled my breath. "Yes, sir, I certainly do remember that."

I was beginning to feel dizzy too. Around us, everybody was dancing the polka.

"But you still don't know who I am, do you?" he asked, peering up at me.

I shook my head, and this time he smiled just a little.

"I'm Boris Fleischer."

Sources of music samples
  1. "Way down yonder" from The Cotton Pickers
  2. Blues in the Night by Sachmo and Oscar Peterson on "Living Blues"
  3. "Frankie and Johnny" on "Handpicked" by Floyd Lovins,
  4. "Beer Barrel Polka" by Jo Ann Castle
  5. "Beer Barrel Polka" by Tropical Steel Drum Band, OD-TAPO-IMI Steel Drum Band
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1961 - A Point of View
[1] The annual meeting of the stockholders of the Boatwright Corporation
[2] What are you going to do about Boatwright and what are you going to do about yourself?
[3] Have we learned anything this evening, Doctor?
[4] Producing results?
[5] Alexander's Feast
[6] How'd you like to go over to Salzburg for a month with me?

1947 - An Island
[7] You're not going to Berlin. You're staying here.
[8] All right, we're the Military Government.
[9] The Americans are teaching us to be democratic instead of fascistic.
[10] Well, this is Fasching.
[11] Letters after Ash Wednesday
[12] Say Boris is at Schloss Fyrmian.
[13] THE AMERICAN ACADEMY IN EUROPE - Prospectus for the First Session
[14] Learn to think of people as individuals.
[15] Parlez-moi d'amour, redites-moi des choses tendres.
[16] Not one thing left to show that you've ever been on earth? - "Sources of Soviet Conduct"
[17] A Countess, a Prussian Officer and a Ländler
[18] Now this part of your life is over and I'm sending you home.
[19] A father who's too busy to watch his son die. - The Spring of 1961
[20] I cannot sell Schloss Fyrmian to the Academy.

1961 - A Change of Air
[21] The first thing I saw was the Festung Hohensalzburg far in the distance, silhouetted against the shadowy curtain of the high mountains.
[22] Next day at the Academy we got to work - Graham, you know what Fleischer did?
[23] Im weißen Rößl am Wolfgangsee
[24] Brockaw writing a thesis on Austrian baroque architecture? - Boatwright Corporation and Boris Fleischer, plaintiffs
[25] You know there a Mr. Devereaux? Mr. Armistead Devereaux?
[26] I think always of Peter Devereaux.
[27] It sounds like an act of desperation, and it won't hold up in court.
>[28] In those Oklahoma Hills WHERE AH WAS BOW-AHHHN!
[29] ... that we should meet again like this . . . I think perhaps there is a reason.
[30] "Is there here an American by name of Brockaw?"
[31] This is Boris Fleischer!
[32] "Does Hans work for Gehlen?" Paola shook her head. "More the other way around."
[33] Won't you please come home? Everybody needs you, I most of all.
[34] With this Waffenstillstand you have time now.
[35] You're going to regret this for the rest of your life!
[36] We Europeans would not do it. None of us. - People think you need medical attention.
[37] Will they trust you?
[38] Some things about the U.S.A. are perhaps rather important, and to us impressive.
[39] You're going to need a good lawyer.

version: March 2, 2004
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Arthur R.G. Solmssen, Joachim Gruber