The Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum was a massive triangular structure of imitation baroque, built on the tip of an island in the river Spree, right in the middle of Berlin.

I didn't particularly want to go there that afternoon; I wanted to go down to Neukölln and do my own work in Fritz Falke's studio, but Christoph Keith was quite insistent: "You absolutely must see it.... One of the finest collections in the world..." Not only that, but it was most important for me to be in the second floor Picture Gallery, Early Netherlands Section, Cabinet 68, at four o'clock. "Because of the sunlight on the pictures. You will find it a very pleasant place, Peter. Please be there."

So I went. I stopped in a book store, bought Baedeker's Guide to Berlin like any other tourist, and using the excellent maps, I made my way from the Gendarmenmarkt right through the center of the city, down Unter den Linden and across the wide bridge to the island occupied by the Kaiser's Palace, the Cathedral, and one museum after another.

The sun was glistening on the water, the horse chestnuts were in bloom, and despite the coffee and the strawberry tart, my nerves were still glowing a little from the Moselle. Watching a long black canal boat chugging along beside me, I suddenly realized that I felt almost at home in this strange and complicated city - a feeling I never had in Paris.

Herr Baedeker obviously agreed with Christoph Keith's opinion of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum: he devoted 26 pages of solid type and diagrams to its contents, and 18 of those pages dealt with the collections in the Picture Gallery.

I've heard it said that novelists don't enjoy reading novels because they automatically try to solve the other writer's problems, so reading a novel is work instead of relaxation. The same thing applies to painters. Of course I still spend hours and hours at the Fogg Museum and Fenway Court and our museums in Philadelphia and the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume, but it takes me a long time to look at pictures. That afternoon in the spring of 1922 I made slow progress through eighteen pages of Baedeker's.

As a matter of fact, I forgot all about Cabinet 68: I was still in Cabinet 67, examining Albrecht Dürer ** 557e. Hieronymus Holzschuber, patrician and senator of Nuremberg, the finest of Dürer portraits, painted in 1526 (purchased in 1884 for 17,500 1.) when a voice beside me murmured, "Such a serious student of German portraiture!" and breathing a cloud of perfume I turned to face Helena ... and Lili von Waldstein, both giggling.



"Don't you have tea dancing in America?" asked Helena in the taxi.

"Yes, I think we have it, but somehow I've never done it."

"I have never done it either," said Lili. She wore a simple blue dress that might have been a school uniform - which is what it turned out to be - and a gray toque with a black veil. The hat and the veil had been provided by Helena, whose idea this operation seemed to be. Helena had called Lili's mother to ask if Lili could go to the museum with her, and had received permission to pick up Lili at her school. Did the Baroness question Helena's sudden interest in the Kaiser-Friedrich- Museum? I didn't ask. I just felt their silken legs pressed against me and listened to the chatter about whether Christoph and Helena had selected the best of the "Dielen" for my introduction to the Berlin dancing craze. Although Lili had never been allowed to visit these places, some of her classmates apparently spent their evenings in them, so she had all the latest information. We were not going to the best one. We should be going to the Adlon, or the roof garden of the Eden.

"But those are luxury hotels, Lili. Christoph wants to show Peter the real thing."

Even "the real thing" was going to be expensive for Christoph, I had a feeling, and began to wonder how I could pick up the check without embarrassing him. And then I thought of something else.

"Christoph can't dance. Why are we going to a dance hall if -"

"Because he enjoys it anyway." Helena put a warm hand on my knee. "In the first place, he wants to show it to you. In the second place, he wants - we both want - Lili to go out into the town a little. And in the third place, I like to dance, and he does not mind if other people dance with me. All right?"

Tonndorf? Imperator? Traube? I forget which one they showed me that first time. I think it was right on Unter den Linden. Perfume, cigarette smoke, potted palms, marble-topped tables, an American-style bar, and a black American band in tuxedos, tootling "After You've Gone" (and Left Me Crying ... ) on saxophones, trumpets and drums. People were already dancing. The rouged and plucked and mascaraed women at the bar stroked their shingled hair and stared coldly as Helena marched us past, toward a center table where the captain and another waiter were already pulling back wicker chairs, bowing.

Helena ordered sherry for herself and for Lili - "But you must have whiskey," so I asked for a highball.

"And now you must dance with Lili."

Like obedient children we stood up, walked to the dance floor and faced each other. I took her right hand in my left hand, she put her left hand on my shoulder, we stepped off ...

When was the last time I danced with anybody? On the Mauretania, coming over, a year ago. Girls from Vassar and Bryn Mawr, off for their year in Paris, being aggressively nice to an "older man" who had been in the War. Many were too tall for me. Most had loud voices. I never saw any of them again.

Lili was the kind of dancer who follows so instinctively that she knows what you're going to do before you do it. Behind the veil her eyes waited politely for me to start the conversation. The well- brought-up European girl on her first date. Certainly not her first date. Why am I so awkward?

"You've really never been here before?"

"No, never."

"You've done a lot of dancing somewhere."

"Oh yes, we all were sent to dancing school, and there are many parties, you know."

"You go to many parties?"

"Oh yes, many."

"Somebody is asking Helena to dance," I said.

Her veil touched my cheek as she turned. "Oh yes, she is a famous beauty. The gentlemen know her."

"Do you know him?"

"No, but he's an officer."

"He's not in uniform. How can you tell?"

"Oh, you can always tell. In Germany."

I'm the Sheik of Araby, played the band, Your Heart Belongs to Me. A tango? I learned the tango in Paris, that first time in Paris. 1916. I still remembered vaguely how to do it and watched the other dancers. If you listen to the beat it's not so hard.

Sliding against me Lili asked: "You were injured in the War?"

I didn't know what to say, because I didn't know how much Christoph had told her. So I said Yes. She nodded and said nothing for a few bars; then suddenly she reached up and threw the silly veil back over her hat.

And looked at me with her coal-black eyes: "You are all right now?"

It hurt. It really hurt.

"No? You are not?"

Nobody had gotten this close to me since I was fourteen. Mortified, I felt my face and my hands begin to sweat.

"Do I look wounded?" I asked.

"Not in the same way as Christoph."

"What way, then?" I felt that Christoph had told her nothing.

"Inside? "

"Are you really only seventeen?"

"Only seventeen! " She rolled her eyes dramatically. "You were wounded in the soul?"

In the soul? I must have looked puzzled.

"We say, you know, Seelenkrankheit, a sickness of the soul."

"You say that when a person has a nervous collapse? Shell shock?"

She nodded. "Shell shock. That is an interesting word. Yes, we have many cases of that." She was perfectly matter-of-fact, as if it was something like a piece of shrapnel in your shoulder.

"Well, you're quite right," I said. "That's what happened to me."

"Will you talk to me about it?" Lili asked. "Not here, of course."

"Can you read my mind?"

She smiled. "Yes, I think maybe."

The band broke into a Charleston, and I saw Christoph Keith limping past the bar, his eyes on Helena dancing with the other fellow. I took Lili's hand and moved back toward our table. We sat down with Christoph, who also ordered "a whiskey."

"Peter cannot dance the Charleston," announced Lili.

"But I can tell you the name of the one they're playing. It's called 'Would You Rather Be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Shoulder or a Private with a Chicken on Your Knee?'"

"It is called what?"

They laughed as I explained, but I was thinking about how we had played that record over and over on the Victrola in the common-room at Friends Hospital. Ziegfeld Follies of 1918.

The Charleston ended and the other man brought Helena back to the table. Christoph knew him. I rose to be introduced. Rittmeister Graf von Something. He wore a monocle. He clearly wanted to join us. I saw Helena cast a questioning glance at Christoph - and get her answer. I did not believe that Christoph really liked to watch her dancing with other men.

"Thank you so much, Rudi, and adieu. I must dance with our guest now." He bent over her hand and disappeared.

The band was playing "Avalon." "Oh, aren't they black!" said Helena, pressing her breasts against me. She danced differently from Lili; while her feet moved exactly in response to my feet and the music, her body hung in my arms so that I could feel her weight and smell her golden hair. "We have almost never seen negroes in Germany. The French have African soldiers on the Rhine." She began to whistle the music softly in my ear.

"You don't like me dancing with other men, do you?"

"Why do you say that?"

"Because it shows in your eyes. You think I'm a very bad woman."

"No! "

"Yes. But you will learn. I am not. And it is so good for Christoph that you are here. A man needs a friend. He always had friends. But you know, they're all dead. All of them." She threw back her head over my arm and looked into my face. "All his friends are dead."

Now they were playing a German song I didn't know. I was dancing with Lili again.

"I had lunch at your father's table today. At the Bank."

"Yes, I heard you would be there. I have never been there, in the dining room. They do not permit women."

"Dr. Strassburger was there."

"I'm sure.".

"Why don't you like him?"

"Why is it necessary that I like him? He is a very intelligent man."

"I invested some money on his advice."

"I'm sure about money his advice will be very good." She looked at me. "We will have to leave in a few minutes. Helena promised to bring me home for dinner, so we must take the train to Nikolassee."

"I thought we were all going to have dinner together."

"No. This was all we could manage, and Helena had to tell a lie to arrange it. Can you come out on Sunday? There is a big lunch, but if you come early, we can ride in the motorboat, or something. Would you like that?"

We took a short taxi ride up to the big Friedrichstrasse Station, Lili made a telephone call to the island so that the coach would be sent to meet them at Nikolassee, and then we got on the Stadtbahn together. People were going home from work and the train was crowded. Helena and Lili looked luminously beautiful in contrast to the tired gray faces around us. None of us had much to say as the train swayed and clattered through the city. Lili and I pretended not to stare at each other. Christoph looked out of the window and Helena put her arm through his. When the train reached Grunewald Station, we shook hands with the girls and got off.

I was pleased to see how the cuisine at Villa Keith had improved in the last few days. When Meier let us in, he said something to Christoph about "English high tea" and about Herr Fähnrich's guest, and when we came into the living room we saw that Christoph's mother was indeed pouring tea and Frau Meier had just brought a tray with buttered rolls, sliced ham, sliced hard-boiled eggs and glass jars containing honey and jam. The General sat in his wheelchair, covered by what looked like a horse blanket, trying hard to keep his cup from clattering in its saucer.

Kaspar and the other man stood up for introductions.

"May I present ... my brother ... his guest Mr. Ellis, from America... Lieutenant Tillessen. . ."

Handshaking. Bowing. The faint sound of heels coming together.

"Tillessen?" asked Christoph, pronouncing the name very carefully.

"Jawohl, Herr Oberleutnant." He was a tall blond man with a smooth handsome face, close-cropped hair, pale blue eyes. He wore a shiny blue suit, white shirt, black tie, some kind of a military ribbon in his lapel.

The General was trying to say something. He pointed to Tillessen with one hand, while the teacup clattered in the other. The words came out with terrific effort: "Leutnant. . . zur See", a naval lieutenant.

Christoph nodded.

Frau Keith told us to sit down and join in the meal. We did. As I ate my roll I saw Christoph's mood had changed. Kaspar talked and Christoph regarded Tillessen in silence.

Tillessen brought news of old comrades, Kaspar explained. Two were coming to Berlin for political conferences, they had very little money, the question was whether beds could be found for them here...

"Oh, I'll just go to a hotel," I said.

"Certainly not, Mr. Ellis," said Frau Keith. "We have another room on the third floor, it's only a question -"

"Mother, we can get another bed from -"

"Just a minute, please," said Christoph, and he said it in a tone of voice that silenced the rest of us. Everybody looked at him.

"Lieutenant, are you related to Heinrich Tillessen, presently reported to be in Budapest?"

"I have the honor to be his brother, Herr Oberleutnant."

"I see. And these old comrades who are to stay in our house, may we assume they are old comrades from the Ehrhardt Brigade?"

Tillessen looked over at Kaspar.

"Of course they are," said Kaspar defiantly.

"And now members of the O.C.?"

Tillessen stood up. "Herr Oberleutnant, you forget yourself!" he said, very quietly. The pale blue eyes looked dangerous now.

The Keith brothers were up too.

"Christoph, have you gone completely crazy?" Kaspar's face was flushed. "You are speaking in front of ... a foreigner! "

"Lieutenant Tillessen," said Christoph, also very quietly, "I must ask you to leave this house immediately."

"This isn't your house! " shouted Kaspar. "Who are you to ask my guest to leave our father's house."

In the excitement we had not heard the General's cup fall to the carpet. Now he was leaning forward, clutching his wife's sleeve, drooling slightly, asking "What's the matter? What are they saying? Tell me what they're saying!" and she was white faced, gasping, "Christoph! Kaspar! What's the matter with you?" and Christoph was limping to the doorway, shouting "Meier! Meier!" and Meier appeared instantly and Christoph told him to take the General to his apartment. "Please go with them, Mother, I think this excitement is bad for him."

"Mother, are you going to let him give the orders here?"

Apparently she was. She turned to Tillessen and extended her hand. "Herr Leutnant, you will forgive me, I must look after my husband. It was a great pleasure."

He bowed over her hand. "Frau General!" He tried to shake hands with the General as Meier wheeled him out, but the old man was too confused by what was happening, and kept turning around to look at his wife.

Tillessen was already out in the hall when Frau Keith turned back: "I wish you boys would not quarrel over politics. You were brought up to be officers, and officers should not be interested in politics. Leave that dirty business to the politicians." Then she was gone.

"We're not quarreling about politics," said Christoph, to no one in particular. "We're quarreling about murder."

"Traitor!" shouted Kaspar.

"Be quiet! You're acting like a spoiled child."

"You're a traitor to our country, and you're a traitor to our class, which has always put service to the nation first above all other things."

Christoph sat down in one of the leather club chairs and put his fingertips together and said nothing.

"You've gone over to the Jews," said Kaspar, more quietly now. "Of course they want to carry out the terms of Versailles. It's good for business, for making money, and that's all they're interested in."

"If you think the terms of Versailles are good for business ... all I can say is you know very little about business."

"They're making money out of Germany's humiliation!"

"Was Matthias Erzberger a Jew?"

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"Ask your old comrade," said Christoph, motioning with his head. Tillessen's shadow was visible in the hall. "Leutnant zur See."

"What are you talking about?"

"You don't know? His brother and another man killed Erzberger last summer. n the Black Forest. On his holiday, in August. He was taking a walk in the woods and they shot him down like a dog! "

Did Kaspar know? I couldn't tell. "Erzberger deserved to die. Erzberger signed the Armistice at Compiegne. Erzberger campaigned in the Reichstag for acceptance of the Versailles Treaty. Erzberger is as responsible as anybody for what's happened to us!"

"So therefore we shoot him? That's your answer to everything, isn't it? What do you think the choices were, in 'eighteen, in 'nineteen? The sailors in revolt, the children starving ... What the hell were they supposed to do? We didn't have any ammunition left, we didn't have any men left, the Americans were pouring in fresh troops ... ask anybody who was in France! Hindenburg and Ludendorff calmly announced they couldn't hold the line any longer. The Allies would be right here in Berlin if somebody didn't sign. Would Hindenburg sign? Would Ludendorff sign? Certainly not! That's politics. You heard what Mother just said. Officers leave politics to the dirty politicians. Like Erzberger!"



Christoph and I sat amid the remnants of the High Tea. He was still slumped back into the leather club chair.

I thought it wiser to keep quiet.

The argument with Kaspar had continued until Lieutenant Tillessen, presumably tired of waiting, had appeared in the doorway again.

"Herr Oberleutnant ... I find it hard to address you by that title -"

"Then don't! I was released in the spring of 1920."

"He's a banker now," said Kaspar.

"You were not released from your duty to the German people," said Tillessen.

"Correct," said Christoph. "And I don't require a former navy lieutenant to show me how to perform that duty! "

Tillessen pursed his lips. "I am not alone," he said, very quietly.

"I'm well aware of that," said Christoph, even more quietly.

Tillessen turned to Kaspar. "I must go. Are you coming?"

Without another word, Kaspar followed him into the hall, and then we heard Meier letting them out the front door.

We sat in silence for what seemed a long time. One of the windows was open, and a cool breeze from the darkening garden stirred the heavy drapes. Swallows flew across the patch of sky I could see from my chair. I smoked a cigarette and waited.

When Christoph began to talk, I didn't at first understand what he was talking about.

"I told you the French kept me a prisoner until the spring of 1920.I arrived in Berlin just before the Kapp-Putsch began. I was home in my own bed for the first time in four years. A good deal lighter, one leg a little shorter than the other, but lucky to be alive -thanks to you.

"That was before my father had his stroke, he could still get around, he could telephone with his friends and hear the generals gossip, he came into my room one morning and told me, 'Your brother's korps has captured Berlin, they have made a revolution!' But nobody really knew anything, no newspapers, the general strike began, there was shooting in parts of the city, and I was curious, so I put on some old clothes, a suit and an overcoat and a hat, the first time in civilian clothes, and I walked -rather slowly - up toward the center of the city, feeling strange in the loose old clothes that were now too big for me, walking through empty streets I had not seen for a long time. I walked all the way up to the Hubertusallee, to the Kurfürstendamm and there I met a patrol of Schutzpolizei, city police. They wanted my papers and when they saw I was an officer just back from France they were very nice and they said the Putsch is over, they're moving out this afternoon, von Seeckt has taken over the army and has allowed the Ehrhardt Brigade to march out with their banners. So I told them about my little brother, I had not seen my brother since 1916 and they let me in their car and drove me around the Tiergarten, right into the Pariser Platz, in front of the Brandenburg Gate. But now the streets began to fill with people, the police had their hands full keeping the crowds under control, and then I saw troops coming down Unter den Linden, trucks and armored cars with skulls painted on them and soldiers marching. I pressed through the crowds to see if I could find my brother, but they all wore helmets, they all looked alike, and they all looked furious. Because of course they had lost, and everybody knew they had lost. The crowd was very quiet. You could only hear the sound of boots.

"You know what happened then? A little boy - he was quite near me, right in the first rank of the crowd - this little boy shouted something. I didn't even hear what he said - but they heard it! The men in the ranks heard it, and two of them stepped out of the column and they grabbed this little boy - not more than six years old, a little boy in short pants - and they hit him with their rifle butts and knocked him to the pavement and kept on hitting him ... He screamed ... His blood was all over the curbstone ... They hit him and hit him and they kept on hitting him until he stopped screaming and lay still.

And everybody watched, nobody did a thing - until somebody began to hiss. And then we all hissed. And you should see the eyes under those helmets! The eyes, when they heard the hissing. And then a captain came running along the rank, he was pulling his pistol out and shouting, 'Strasse frei!' Clear the street! and one of their armored cars with the skull and crossbones began to back up, and the machine gun turned. I dropped to the ground. People ran over me, people fell over me, it was a panic, and then the tak-tak-tak-tak-tak ... well, you know the sound. They only fired a few seconds, but they hit some people who didn't drop fast enough, and there was screaming, people calling for help, the whole side of the Platz was black with men and women lying on the pavement, people crawled behind trees and streetlights and advertising columns - anything to get a little protection.

"And I thought here I am back from the War in one piece - Cossacks and airplane crashes and prison hospitals - and now I'm going to get shot by my own brother right in front of the Brandenburg Gate! And then I thought if he is with these murderous swine I don't even want to see him - because that's what they were - and still are. They are murderers, not soldiers!

"You know, it really hurt. Lying on my face in the Pariser Platz! Pariser Platz - we used to fill it with our horses and our music and our flags, people cheering - and here are German soldiers clubbing a German boy to death, firing a machine gun into the crowd, firing a machine gun at their brothers. I wanted to cry for my country."

Christoph stopped to catch his breath. He looked terrible.

"Kaspar told me this story," I said. "1t sounded different the way he told it."

"I'm sure. Well, the armored car drove away. The Brigade formed ranks again and marched out through the Gate. The Putsch was over, and later that year the government managed to disband the Freikorps. Including Ehrhardt's. Some of the men were taken into the army, but very few. Most of them went into the streets."

"Kaspar came home."

"Kaspar came home, but he's found nothing to do either. Nothing to do but get into trouble with these 'old comrades.' Lots of them have congregated in Munich. The Bavarians hate the Republic, they hate Berlin - and they help these fellows. Tillessen's brother, the one who shot Erzberger, he fled to Munich and the police president, for God's sake, got him a visa to Hungary. That's where he's hiding now. So Munich has become the White capital, the contra-capital, the place where all kinds of Nationalist groups are trying to organize themselves - students, landowners, shopkeepers, unemployed officers, and of course these Freikorps people."

"What is it they want?" I asked. "I had a talk with Kaspar about all this, and he didn't seem to know what he wanted. They don't want the Kaiser back?"

"Oh my God, what do they want? Who know? Maybe a few of them do want the Kaiser back. The Bavarians, some of them, want their own king back. But most of them really don't know what they want - as you say. They just know what they don't want: they hate the Republic because the Republic agreed to the Versailles Treaty, they want to destroy the Republic and break the treaty; they are deathly afraid of communism, they would gladly shoot every Communist in Germany; and of course they hate the Jews, they blame the Jews for everything that's gone wrong. On one hand they say that Marx was a Jew and most of the Communist leaders are Jews. On the other hand they complain that so many bankers and stockbrokers and lawyers are Jews, and the Jews own so many newspapers, they own the theatres and the department stores ... in other words, there are not so many Jews, but they have done very well in the things they were allowed to do, and so they have become powerful, and they have become conspicuous - and people simply envy them.

"What do the Nationalists really want? What would they do if they got control? Look at the Kapp-Putsch. What did they do? Nothing. They did nothing. They sat there until they lost the initiative. The Nationalist movement is purely negative, purely destructive. The Nationalists are looking for a program - and a leader."

"What about this O.C.?" I asked him. "You said something about Tillessen's friends being members of the O.C. and he nearly had an attack. Kaspar called you a traitor. What's the O.C.?"

He didn't answer immediately. He got up, walked to the window and looked into the garden.

Finally he turned around. "You did not come here to be mixed up in our problems."

"But I'm interested, I want to understand what's going on."

He nodded. "Yes, you are interested, you are here in our family, and you have heard and seen ... he paused... some things that might endanger you. I don't believe they will touch an American ... but still, I think maybe it is best if you try to forget what you heard this evening. It's not your problem, and I don't want you involved. You understand?"

"You still claim I saved your life?"

"Of course you saved my life."

"Then I'm responsible for it."

"You are responsible for my life?"

"That's an ancient Chinese law. I heard about it in France, from a captain who'd been stationed in Indochina. If you save a person's life, you owe that life to the Gods, and you've got to guarantee it - with your own life. Forever. So I want you to know that if you're in some kind of trouble now, some kind of danger, then I want to know about it, I want to help you, because I'm responsible for you. To the Gods."

Christoph smiled. "I never thought of you as a philosopher. Especially not a Chinese philosopher. But I do thank you for saying that. And if I need your help, I will call you." He looked at his watch. "It's too early for bed. Shall we go back into town and have a beer?"

"Christoph, Fritz Falke asked me to come to a party. . ." I had written the address on the back of an envelope, and I pulled it out of my pocket.

"I think it's a big party - mostly artists - and everybody is supposed to bring a bottle, so I'm sure it would be all right -"

Christoph smiled again. "Different milieu, old boy. This is not America. Your artists won't want me. Herr Falke hates officers. I have seen his pictures."

"No," I said. "You've got him wrong. Those officers in his pictures are the very people you've been telling me about, the people who made the Kapp-Putsch, the Freikorps people, Kaspar's friends -"

Christoph shook his head. "They don't make such fine distinctions -"

"Oh, come along and see. You're not afraid of them, are you?" I looked at the envelope. "The man who's giving the party is called Kowalski, he's a sculptor -"

"A sculptor called Kowalski? I don't believe it. May I see that address?"

previous chapter, next chapter

1. PARIS 1922
2. VERDUN 1916
17. THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 1922
18. MONDAY, JUNE 19, 1922
19. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 1922
20. FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 1922
21. SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 1922