The wind shifted slightly to the south, and all along the front, as far as the eye could see, people began to adjust their boats and their sails. I spent my summers at Northeast Harbor where there are certainly plenty of boats, but I had never seen anything like the wide part of the Havel River on a Sunday morning in June. I managed to find some open water just north of the island, but on the other side, toward the Wannsee public beaches and the distant wooded hills of the Grunewald, you could hardly see the shoreline. I wondered how they could all keep out of each other's way.
(They didn't, I learned later. We saw several collisions: dull thumps, angry shouts, fluttering sails dragged down .... )
The little sloop handled nicely, considering everything; the fittings had been carefully greased, but they were grimy, the woodwork was sticky, and the sail was stained and mildewed. As we tacked hard against the breeze, Lili sat beside me on the gunwhale and held the sheet, her bare brown legs braced against the centerboard housing, her black hair blowing, her black eyes shining.
"Oh this is so wonderful, Peter. Can we make it tip more? Can we go faster?"
I smiled at her. "Aren't you the motorboat queen of the Wannsee? ?"
"That's because Bobby taught me. Nobody ever taught me this. Will you?"
It happened by chance. I had come out on an early train, grateful that I had an invitation and didn't have to hang around Christoph Keith, who was apparently going somewhere with Helena. When I arrived at the Nikolassee station, Lili was on the platform, and the coachman Schmitz had his landau at the door.
"Oh, you have such a nice suit," Lili said. "You did not bring a bathing suit?"
"I thought we were having lunch with your family."
"Oh yes, but first we will go on the water."
When the landau deposited us in front of the Schloss, she led me around the outside and down through the woods to the Tea House, where, after some minutes of rummaging through cluttered dressing rooms, she produced an old- fashioned man's bathing suit. I regarded it without enthusiasm.
"You go in there and put it on. I will go into the other room to change."
"Do we really need bathing suits? I thought we're 'just going for a ride."
"Too cold for you?"
"No, I'm used to cold water."
She reappeared in the same costume I had seen the first time: tight black bathing suit, black cardigan. She looked splendid. I looked like a clown in a knitted garment of broad horizontal stripes that covered me from my elbows to my knees.
She giggled when she saw me. "The very height of fashion, 1914. Here is a nice warm swimming robe to wrap around you," and she led me across the flagstone terrace to the boathouse.
It was dark inside and cool, greenish water clunking against cement walls, the dim shape of the launch moving gently against padded mooring posts ...
"Do you see that thing there, that handle? Will you turn that handle, please, to open the door?"
The hand crank wasn't easy to turn. It operated a series of gears connected to a chain mechanism. With a tremendous clanking clatter, I gradually rolled the big metal garage door into the ceiling, and now the sunshine on the water made shimmering patterns on the damp green walls of the boathouse and the white hull of the launch.
Lili skampered down the stone steps. jumped barefoot into the cockpit and began to fasten the aquaplane ropes, but my eyes were attracted by something else.
A wooden shelf, or platform, had been attached to the opposite wall of the boathouse, just a few feet above the water, and this supported what looked to me like the hull of a sailboat - completely wrapped in brown tarpaulin. Then I saw that the mast was there too. It had been taken down and wrapped right in with the hull; the masthead stuck out through the tarpaulin over the stern.
I reached the platform by stepping carefully along a narrow ledge that crossed the back wall of the boathouse.
Lili looked up and stopped what she was doing.
"Whose boat is this?" My voice echoed.
"Nobody uses it." Her voice echoed too, and it sounded so different that I turned around. She was looking down again, occupied with the rope.
"Why not? Why doesn't anybody use it?"
"Nobody knows how to sail." She didn't look up.
"Well, why have you got a sailboat if nobody knows how to sail? "
Now she looked up. "That was Max's boat. He was the only one who sailed."
Max? I had to think for a second. "Oh, your brother ... ?
She nodded. "I was twelve years old and Alfred was at the Front and Bobby wasn't interested, so they took it out of the water and wrapped it in those cloths and it has been there ever since."
I was examining the thing more closely, unlacing the dusty mildewed cover just a bit, to see if I could get a look at the wood and at the fittings.. - it seemed to be a racing sloop, maybe sixteen or eighteen feet, unusually narrow beam. The brass pulley at the masthead was discolored but well greased, and it turned all right....
I felt the platform move and Lili stood beside me. "You know how to sail?"
"Sure," I said. "I knew how to sail when I was six. Got my first boat when I was twelve."
She took a deep breath. "Would you like to sail this boat?"
"You think you know how to ... put it back together?"
"Sure, if all the parts are here. I might need a hand to get it into the water without scratching the paint -"
Lili was gone, running like a deer across the ledge and then out of the boathouse.
It was easy enough to unwrap the hull, which must have been painted and caulked after they had taken it out of the water. The centerboard and the rudder assembly were lying on the floor planks. The removable fittings were gone, and so of course were the sails and the sail sheets and the stays for the mast -all put away indoors, presumably.
By the time I had the tarpaulins off Lili was back, accompanied by Schmitz, the coachman, an old gardener with a white walrus moustache, and a younger man I took to be an undergrardener. They all greeted me politely, but they were dubious about doing what Lili was telling them to do. There was a lot of worried headshaking, a lot of muttering about "Herr Baron," and I began to feel that maybe there was more to this than just putting a sloop into the water.
The men were reluctant but Lili, clearly used to getting her own way, began to talk with a certain ring in her voice. It was a different voice. She was not polite now, she was issuing orders -and the orders were obeyed.
I saw that the water was only up to my shoulders here, so I jumped in, stood barefoot on cold slimy gravel, and took the weight of the bow as the others carefully slid the hull off the platform. When it was floating free, I sort of walked and swam it out of the boathouse, across the front of the Tea House terrace and up against the floating dock, where Lili was waiting to tie it fast. She had already found the sail bag and another bag containing a lot of carefully oiled brass fittings.
The sun was high now, warming the planks of the dock, warming the varnished deck of the sloop, warming my back as I worked. I needed help in mounting the mast, but I managed everything else myself. It was like putting together a new jigsaw puzzle: you know the general idea but you've got to find the right piece for each place, and some of the German pieces didn't look like ours.
I guess it took me over an hour. I was completely absorbed in what I was doing, so it was only when I had the mainsail properly fastened and was ready to raise it that I looked around and saw all the people.
The gravel path leading from the Tea House up to the Schloss was filled with people watching me. It looked as if the entire staff had collected there: kitchen help in white; waitresses and parlor maids in blue dresses, white aprons and white caps; a stable boy; the butler in his striped vest standing above and behind the others; the three men who had helped me standing in a tight group by the ramp to the floating dock - and the old nurse from the Spreewald, dressed in her long black peasant costume and her enormous white lace bonnet, standing all alone on the terrace of the Tea House, her face buried in her handkerchief.
Up at the Schloss, something glittered, catching the sun. One of the french doors was opening. Lili's father stepped onto the terrace, put his hands on the balustrade, and looked down at us. I could not see his expression; he was too far away.
I turned to Lili, who was biting her lips.
"We shouldn't have done this, should we?"
"Yes, we should have done it. This is a boat and not a gravestone! But now are we ready?"
"We're ready. You sit over there, hold the tiller in that direction until I tell you to move it."
When she was in place I released the painter, stepped into the boat, kicked us clear of the dock, and hauled up the fluttering mainsail just as fast as I could do it. The wind grabbed us, the boom ran out and we swept past the weeping willows. I held the main sheet in one hand and reached out the other for the tiller.
My hand was over Lili's. I saw the reeds in front of us now, the little beach, shallow water. I moved the tiller, pointing us away from the beach, but as we passed I saw Lili wave so I turned around and looked over my shoulder.
Behind the reeds, Alfred von Waldstein and Sigrid were sitting on black horses. sitting still and gravely watching us. As Lili waved, Alfred took off his scarf, a pale blue scarf, and held it high above his head, letting it stream in the wind.
"I think we are late," said Lili.
As we rounded the point we could see the floating dock, and it was full of people - not servants now, but lunch guests: cloche hats, silk dresses fluttering in the wind, white flannel suits, blazers, everybody was watching us, and I didn't like that. I passed the dock and came about against the wind and told Lili exactly what I wanted her to do. Somehow everything worked. I was afraid the mainsail would stick, but I got it down in time to lose our headway just yards below the dock, and that allowed me to slide in close enough for Lili to jump off the bow and tie us up.
I began to fasten the boom and wrap the sail but Lili said: 'Please, Peter, we can do all that later, you must be introduced and then we must dress for lunch," so I stepped out of the boat in my idiotic striped bathing suit and there was the Baroness von Waldstein, Lili's mother, who had barely been conscious of me before - just an American friend of Christoph Keith's - and she walked across the planks in her high heels, a short stout handsome woman with pearls and no hat but a net to protect her gray hair from the wind, and she took my arm and turned me away from the people, toward the water, and she said: "Mr. Ellis, when my husband saw that sail go up, when he saw that little boat move out beyond the willows ... Mr. Ellis, I think he cried."
"Baroness, I didn't understand -"
She pressed my elbow. "No, it's all right, it's time we all got over it, and Lili knew it, and we all hope you will come back often and teach her to sail. That is what I wanted to tell you. Now please come over here and meet someone who has been asking for you."
We turned around and walked toward the people surrounding Lili and the boat, and the next face I saw was the face of Miss Susan Boatwright.
She smiled. "Good afternoon, Peter Ellis. One does find thee in interesting places!"
How can I describe Miss Susan Boatwright?
I guess she's over forty. She never married. Her family owns the Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. She has lots of money. She spends it to help other people. She supports a magazine that publishes the poems of unknown poets; she established a nursery to care for Negro children in the slums of Philadelphia while their mothers are at work; and she spent most of the War years with a Quaker mission in France, trying to help the people whose towns had been destroyed.
I don't think she is actually related to me, but she grew up in the same neighborhood and comes from the same background as my mother and my father, so she has known me all my life. However, I came to know her in the Hospital. Her niece, Joanne, was in the Hospital too. Joanne is skeletally thin, about my age, a girl with long blonde hair she never washes, a girl who had terrible problems with her father, a girl who had withdrawn, a girl who would sit and look out the window for hours at a time, a girl who took a liking to me, asked me to tell her stories, allowed me to paint her picture.
Miss Boatwright was the only person who ever came to see Joanne, but Joanne would hardly talk to her, and somehow I began telling Miss Boatwright my problems - to the extent I could understand what they were - while painting Joanne's portrait. We would sit in the azalea gardens and Joanne would dream into the distance, and Miss Boatwright would question me - not the way the doctors did, but in a cheerful rather bluff manner. We didn't talk about the War. We didn't talk about that last evacuation on he Chemin des Dames, where a shell hit Douglas Pratt's ambulance a hundred feet in front of mine and buried me under an avalanche of bleeding corpses. We talked about painting, about pictures we had both seen in Paris, about famous painters she had met.
Why, are some perfectly good draftsmen not really painters? Why would anybody wish to become an artist? Is it -or isn't it - a frivolous occupation?
We talked about all sorts of things, twice a week for over a year, until she told me that she was going to Germany for the American Friends Service Committee because conditions we're desperate, the War was over but the British blockade was still in force, and children were starving.
By the time she returned from that trip I had been released from the Hospital, had served out my banking year at Drexel, and had escaped to Paris.
Joanne was still gazing out of the windows.
A long table was set in the sparkling white dining room of the Schloss. Linen and silver and crystal glasses, enormous vases filled with clouds of yellow tulips, sunshine blazing through the open french doors, a view of water and sails and sky.
Except for some bankers and their wives, most of the guests seemed to be relatives. I was introduced to a bewildering collection of Lili's aunts and cousins and the people they had married, but fortunately I was seated beside Miss Boatwright - or rather Lili's mother advised me, when I reported to her, fully dressed, that I was taking Miss Boatwright in.
"These people like thee," said Miss Boatwright, as she began her soup. "The Baroness has told me about the man thee pulled out of an airplane. I never heard that story."
"Miss Boatwright, they worship you! They told me about the feeding of the children, after the War- "
She nodded. "It was a successful Mission, but of course it wasn't me, it's just that I'm the person they met, by chance. And the Mission is by no means over, Peter. Sitting in this . . . this palace, you can't imagine the misery of the working people -"
"I've seen a little bit of it." I told her about Fritz Falke's tenement in Neukölln.
"Yes, I've been with people in those neighborhoods all along," said Miss Boatwright. She leaned closer. "I confess that I feel ... somewhat awkward amidst all this grandeur, but the Waldsteins have been of enormous help to our Mission - in many ways. You see, they were the first ... what shall I say? magnates? capitalists? that I met when I came to Berlin."
"How did you meet them?"
"A strange story," said Miss Boatwright. She covered her glass with her hand as the butler leaned forward with the wine. "When we first came to Germany, we began our work in a modest way. During the War, in France, we had German prisoners working for us. They did most of the physical labor at our feeding depots, they loaded trucks, did all the dirty work ... and the French army would not permit us to pay them. So we put their wages aside. We took their names and their home addresses and we simply credited them with whatever sums we felt they had earned by their work. And we took their photographs.
"In the summer of 1919 when we were finally allowed to enter Germany, we made a special effort to locate the families of these men-wherever they might be. We traveled to the most remote places-in Saxony and Thuringia and Bavaria ... and we usually found old parents or wives and children in the most pathetic circumstances."
The waitress removed the soup bowls and new plates arrived. Miss Boatwright asked for a glass of water. The water was brought on a silver tray. Miss Boatwright took a sip and continued her story.
"After we established our administrative office here in Berlin, I was asked to go on a similar trip to a village in the Spreewald, the headwaters of the river Spree, east of Berlin: dark gloomy swamps, dark gloomy forests, impenetrable mazes of little rivers and canals, immaculate villages, storks on the rooftops, Wendish peasants still wearing their traditional costumes....Well, I took a train to this little town, made inquiries, wound up at the home of the Biirgermeister, where my presence caused the usual excitement. Of course the Biirgermeister knew all about the family, but in this case the nearest relative was the soldier's mother, and the mother wasn't here, the mother was in Berlin, employed in the house of the Baron von Waldstein. As if of course I knew who that was. Well, of course I didn't.
"The Biirgermeister had a telephone - the only one in the village. He called Berlin, the townhouse on the Pariser Platz. Tremendous shouting and excitement. A woman came on the line and of course I couldn't understand a word she said and she couldn't understand a word I said. More shouting and excitement. Finally a man came on and said in perfect English: 'Hallo, here is Baron Waldstein, will you kindly explain your business?' and I did, and he said, 'Madam, will you be good enough to remain exactly where you are until my car arrives?' and I about an hour later - maybe more than that - an enormous limousine drove up, the chauffeur opened the door and out sprang the lady you have seen here, the old children's nurse they've kept since their first son was born, and she was absolutely frantic with excitement, her son had been reported missing, she'd had no news of him, she'd lost her other son in Russia.... Well, she insisted that I drive back to the Pariser Platz to meet the Herr Baron, the Frau Baronin and the children, as she called them ... and that's how I met the Waldsteins.
"They were not only overwhelmingly hospitable to me; they were amazed to hear about the work of our Mission, asked lots of questions, pitched right in to help us. For instance, the Baron called somebody high up in the railroad service, who expedited our first shipment of powdered milk from Hamburg.... I can't begin to tell you all the other things they've done for us. . ."
The waitresses were passing platters of veal cutlets. The table turned.
"Do you remember that play they were talking about?" asked Lili. "That play by Arthur Schnitzler?"
"Sure, I even remember the name. It's called Reigen."
"Yes, and Helena has got us cards for the opening. Next Wednesday evening. Would you be free to go?"
"Oh good! Just the six of us: Helena and Christoph, Sigrid and Alfred."
"How about Bobby?"
She looked surprised, then shook her head. "Bobby makes his own plans."
"I thought he said he wanted to see it."
"Perhaps. But not with us."
I didn't understand. "Why doesn't Bobby want to come with us? "
A flash of irritation. "Does it matter so much to you?"
Chastened, I shut up and ate my lunch.
Across the table, Geheimrat Dr. Strassburger caught my eye. He smiled and leaned forward. "Mr. Ellis, you are pleased with the operation, I hope?"
"The operation?", I must have looked puzzled.
Dr. Strassburger stopped smiling. "Keith has not reported to you? "
"Sir, I haven't seen him for a couple of days. Bankers and art students keep different hours, you know. He's gone to the office by the time I get up ..."
Dr. Strassburger's expression indicated that he did not find that explanation convincing. "Perhaps we have a little talk after lunch."
Fresh strawberries, right out of the garden.
"Who is that gentlemen across the table?" asked Miss Boatwright. "We were introduced but I didn't quite understand who he is."
I explained who Dr. Strassburger was.
"He questioned me most thoroughly about the Locomotive Works, so he clearly knows who I am, but I disgraced myself, I fear. I've always left those matters to Cousin Francis and I don't know a thing about his plans for selling locomotives in Turkey."
"Selling locomotives in Turkey?"
"That's what he wanted to discuss. I told him to write to Cousin Francis. Peter, when may I see some new paintings?"
"Well, anytime, of course, Miss Boatwright, but they are ... ah, the place where I work is down in Neukölln -"
"Oh, I've been there often, most dreadful conditions in the city ..."
I couldn't visualize Miss Boatwright in Falke's establishment, but she had already opened her purse and produced a pencil and a small address book. I tried to change the subject.
"Miss Boatwright, have you seen my parents?"
"Peter Ellis, of course I've seen them, don't toy with me!" so I gave her Falke's address and we agreed that she would come on Thursday afternoon. Then she told me about my parents, and about Joanne.
Although the ladies and gentlemen did not separate the formal way they would have at home, when the coffee was served on the terrace all of the men seemed to drift over to one side. Clouds of cigar smoke and earnest political conversations.
Dr. Strassburger was at my elbow. "I regret that Keith has not informed you, but your investment in Holland has been quite successful."
"Oh, I'm glad to hear that, Dr. Strassburger."
"Yes, I thought you would be interested." He moved me away from the others, and I thought again of the double doors at Waldstein & Co. "The Reichsbank did enter the market, they made heavy purchases of marks- perhaps a little too heavy, in my opinion -so the mark went up and we sold out your position Friday afternoon. We have also repaid the loan from our Dutch affiliate and restored the balance to your dollar account. I will see that you receive a statement in the morning." He stopped and looked at me.
"Well ... that's very nice, Dr. Strassburger, do you recall about how much -"
"We doubled your money!"
"You doubled my money?"
He nodded, fairly bursting with pleasure. "Of course, you understand it was an unusual situation, and in such a short time, I could not expect these results for every transaction. But we are happy to have been of service."
"You seem to have the magic touch, Dr. Strassburger. Should I invest what I won?"
An enigmatic smile. "I did not take you for a gambler, Mr. Ellis. No, I think we wait a little now, and then I am very much afraid we will have to invest the other way. The pressure on the mark is too great, we don't believe the Reichsbank alone can support it, we will need assistance from the Allies, some relief from the demands for reparations in gold, and if we do not get that -"
Dr. Strassburger shrugged.
When we rejoined the others, they were talking about Walther Rathenau. More specifically, they were arguing about him. They were settled in a comfortable group, sitting on wicker furniture, smoking cigars, drinking coffee, debating.
"You don't need to explain Walther Rathenau to me," said a handsome old man with a white beard. "I've known him all my life. I went to school with him. All this is simply arrogance!"
Lili's father was clearly shocked. "Really, Paul, that's an incredible thing to say! He refuses police protection because he's arrogant?"
"What other reason would he have? My God, he's been warned over and over again.... A man came to see me from New York last week; in Wall Street people are saying the Nationalists are going to kill Rathenau. All his life he's wanted public attention, it wasn't enough to run the AEG his father built, it wasn't enough to sit on fifty or a hundred company boards -no, he's got to write books on philosophy, books on how the future is going to work - and pretty damned dull books, if you ask me -"
I turned to Bobby. "Who is that gentleman?" "That's Uncle Paul. He's Helena's father."
"Helena's father? But she worships Rathenau!"
Bobby smiled his charming smile. "Well, we are a complicated family, you see."
In the meantime, Alfred had walked into the house, and he now returned with a book, leafing around in the book, looking for something.
"Uncle Paul, with respect. here is one of those books he wrote that you find dull, To the Youth of Germany. May I just read you one short passage, which I believe explains his present behavior a little better than your diagnosis of arrogance?"
Alfred sat down in one of the wicker chairs and read us Rathenau's words:
I am a German of the Jewish Race. My people is the German people, my home is Germany, my faith is the German faith which stands above all creeds. Yet nature, in mocking perversity and arbitrary liberality has brought the two springs of my ancient blood into tempestuous opposition: the urge to actuality and the yearning for the spiritual. My youth was passed in doubt and strife, for I was conscious of the contradictory character of my gifts. My action was fruitless and my thinking false and I often wished, when the horses bolted with the bit between their teeth, that the cart might dash itself to pieces.
For a moment there was silence. Then Helena's father said: "You don't find that arrogant?"
"I find it sad," said Alfred.
"In other words, he wants to die?" asked another man, a man I hadn't met.
"He accepts that he may have to die," said Alfred. "For Germany."
"What drama! " exclaimed Helena's father, clapping his hands together. "Who asked him to die for Germany? In fact, who asked him to speak for Germany? Who asked him to make a treaty of friendship with the Bolsheviks? Why must a German of the Jewish race - as he chooses to describe himself - step forward as leader of the policy to accommodate the Allies and their outrageous demands?"
Alfred said quietly: "In the first place, Uncle Paul, I believe it was Chancellor Wirth who asked him to speak for Germany in these matters, by inviting him to become foreign minister. And in the second place, he believes that we have to accommodate the Allies - at least for a while - because if we don't, they will simply occupy the Ruhr, if not all of Germany."
"It's true, Wirth offered him the post. Did he have to take it?"
"There was no one else to take it."
The old man snorted. "Yes, that's what he told his mother. In all of Germany, there was no one else qualified to serve as foreign minister."
"No one else qualified was willing, Uncle Paul. I think that was the problem." Alfred was getting angry.
The old man leaned back in his chair and blew out a cloud of cigar smoke. "No one else was willing, so Walther offered himself as a sacrifice. For the German people. 'My people is the German people.' Is that what you just read us? And are his German people grateful for Walther's sacrifice? Have you been reading the speeches in the Reichstag? Helfferich's, for example? Have you heard the songs they're singing in the streets?"
"Yes, he's obviously being made a scapegoat."
"But why did he let himself be made a scapegoat? That's what I'm trying to explain. He did it for the same reason he wrote all those boring, pretentious books. Here is a man who inherited everything he has, advocating that we eliminate the right of inheritance. Here is a man who lives in the greatest luxury, advocating that we do away with private property above a minimum level. ... Have you heard Ernie's story about Genoa? ... Ernst von Simson, he was on Rathenau's staff at the Genoa Conference, and they had to go out to dinner and Ernie went up to Rathenau's suite and Rathenau wasn't dressed, and why wasn't he dressed? Because his valet had disappeared or was late or something, and Rathenau couldn't get the studs into his dress shirt! So Ernie had to help him. This is the Foreign Minister of the Republic. Wants to abolish inherited wealth, wants to abolish private property, can't get dressed without -"
Alfred interrupted. "Uncle Paul, may one ask what your point is? ',
"Dear boy, the point is that Rathenau does what he does, takes the positions he takes, just to make people pay attention to him!"
"Walther Rathenau needs attention? The chairman of the largest electric combine -"
"I mean attention as a thinker, a philosopher, a statesman! Of course everybody recognizes him as a business leader in Germany, all over Europe.... "
Now Baron Fritz von Waldstein leaned forward: "Paul, he did very important work for the country. You must admit it. Just as the War began, he persuaded the General Staff to stockpile raw materials. Nobody had thought of it! For example we would have been out of nitrates by 1916 and you can't make explosives without nitrates. He thought of the problem, he convinced the army ... and then he administered the program and kept us fighting years longer!!"
Helena's father raised his hand. "Agreed! Absolutely agreed! He is a brilliant industrialist, a brilliant organizer. But that's not enough for him! Alfred just read it in his own words, from one of those expensively printed volumes nobody paid any attention to -"
"Uncle Paul, do you know how many copies of To the Youth of Germany sold?"
"Alfred, my dear boy, I don't know and I don't care how many were sold. My point is that the people running this country didn't pay any attention to them. Kaiser didn't, General Staff didn't, universities didn't, financial community didn't - am I right, Eduard? Fritz? Am I right, Strassburger? Considered him a dilettante. Remember what they called him? Christus im Frack!" The old man leaned toward me and winked. "Christ in tails."
"Uncle Paul!" Alfred was outraged.
"I didn't invent the name, did I? But then we had the collapse, the revolution, the Republic; new men, new ideas ... and his chance comes. He gives speeches. He writes a constant stream of newspaper articles, a constant stream of good advice. Unsolicited good advice, so far as I am aware. The Republic is shaky, the Right tries a Putsch, the Left shuts down the country with strikes, governments fall and new ones are formed, and here is Dr. Rathenau, industrial genius, millionaire, philosopher of the future, willing to serve the German people, willing to speak for his German people to the rest of the world. Wonderful. Finally everybody pays attention!"
The men were looking up. I turned around. Lili was standing behind my chair.
"Excuse me please, Uncle Paul ... Father, the sailboat will not fit into the boathouse when the mast is up, we must arrange for some kind of buoy so the boat can float free -"
"Well, we always had one, didn't we? The men will find it -"
"They don't know how to do it, Father. I need Peter to help, before the evening wind -"
Baron von Waldstein smiled at me. "You see who gives the orders here. You are excused, Mr. Ellis. And now you know more about Walther Rathenau than you care to know!"
I didn't get back to the Villa Keith until late Tuesday night.
The house was dark and silent, but there was a light showing under Christoph's door. I knocked and he shouted to come in. He was dressed in striped pajamas, smoking a cigarette and reading a book.
"You have a nice suntan," he said. "Will you join me -what do you call it? Drink a nightcap with me?" He indicated some beer bottles and glasses on a tray.
"Is the house empty?" I asked. "Where is everybody?"
"The Meiers are asleep, I suppose, and Kaspar is out as usual, and my parents have gone to the seashore for a few weeks. My aunt - my mother's sister - is married to a big landowner up in Kolberg on the Pomeranian coast, and my parents usually go there in August, but this year there is some problem about August - well, it doesn't matter, my parents could just as well go now.... I'm happy they have a place to go that doesn't cost anything. . .
"I hear you doubled my money in Holland."
He nodded, but he didn't smile and he didn't congratulate me. I poured myself a glass of beer and sat down in the other chair.
"Strassburger was surprised I hadn't heard about it."
Christoph nodded again. "Yes. I have been reprimanded. I should have left a statement on the table for you. I apologize." But he didn't sound apologetic.
"Christoph, wasn't that unusual, to double one's money so quickly? "
"But not often?"
"Christoph, was there something illegal about this transaction? I just did what you and Strassburger advised -"
"There was nothing illegal about the transaction, but it was not I who advised it."
"Well, your boss."
"Yes. My boss."
"Well then, what's the matter?"
"You are complaining that we doubled your money?"
"I'm complaining that you obviously don't like what happened, but you won't tell me why. If there was some law against it -"
"We have the best lawyers in Berlin. There is no law against it. But there should be."
Christoph Keith finished his beer, put the glass down and lit another cigarette, all the time looking past me at the wall, but he had made up his mind.
"You understand why the price of the German mark suddenly went up, when it had been going down steadily? I mean in the Amsterdam market?"
"Yes, because the Reichsbank began to buy, to stabilize -"
"Yes, they tried to stabilize. They spent a lot of gold in Amsterdam to buy marks, so the mark went up, then it cost them too much, they had to stop, and the mark began to fall again. But for a few days people who had bought marks cheap -like you - were able to sell them at a good profit."
"Yes, I understand that."
"All right, then how do you suppose some people -such as Geheimrat Dr. Strassburger - know exactly when the Reichsbank is coming in to stabilize the price, exactly to what extent they will stabilize, and exactly at what point they will stop stabilizing?"
I just looked at Christoph. "He knew that ahead of time?"
A chilly smile. "Since our Amsterdam affiliate bank is the Reichsbank's agent in the Netherlands, actually carries out the Reichsbank's stabilization operations in Amsterdam, a cynical observer might suspect that somebody at the Gendarmenmarkt hears about the Reichsbank's instructions before they are carried out."
"And you mean to tell me that's not illegal?"
"According to the most expensive advice in Berlin and Amsterdam, there are no laws or regulations forbidding it."
"But ... why aren't there?"
Christoph drank some beer before he answered. "Apparently the partners of Waldstein and Co. don't consider it their business to suggest regulations to the Reichsbank or the Ministry of Finance."
"Well, if it's that easy, why doesn't everybody do it?"
"Because it isn't really that easy. In the first place, not everybody has a dollar account that's always been outside of Germany. You have such an account. In the second place, if Strassburger and the others like him- there are a few others like him - made their inside information available to everybody, it would become useless, wouldn't it? You are benefiting from the fact that Strassburger thinks you have important connections in America, and he wants to impress you. He told you that in his office."
"But you don't like it, do you?"
"But not business that appeals to cavalry officers. Or to fighter pilots."
Another smile. "I think quite a few cavalry officers and fighter pilots would be glad to have my job today. There is not much demand for their skills." He opened another bottle of beer and poured it slowly into his glass. "I apologize for my behavior, Peter. I must not bite the hand that feeds me. The Waldsteins have been good to me. And I think they will be good to you." He took a long drink and wiped his moustache with his fingers.
"What have you been doing on the island all this time?
PROLOGUE - THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 1922
I. HOW I GOT THERE
1. PARIS 1922
2. VERDUN 1916
3. IT'S STEALING MONEY, ISN'T IT
4. WHERE WERE YOU IN 1919?
5. RELIABLE TROOPS
6. AN ISLAND
7. BISMARCK FOUND THEM USEFUL
9. THE LITTLE HOUSE
10. INDIAN CROSSES
11. ANOTHER PART OF TOWN
12. A VIEW OF THE GENDARMENMARKT
13. TWO FOR TEA
14. ON THE TOWN
>15. A VIEW OF THE HAVEL
II. WHAT HAPPENED
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
22. WHAT HAPPENED?
III. THE WITCHES' SABBATH
23. SILENCE WITH VOICES
24. THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS
25. SAME SONGS, DIFFERENT SINGERS
26. THEY'RE ONLY GOING TO HIRE HIS VOICE
27. INFLATION WORKS IN DIFFERENT WAYS
28. SMALL CHANGE
29. WHY NOT PAINT LILI?
30. COLD WIND IN MAY
31. ROLLING THUNDER
32. WALDSTEIN'S VOICE
33. THE MATTER OF A DOWRY
34. A RUSSIAN WORD AND A GERMAN WORD
35. THE MARCH ON BERLIN
36. A PIG LOSES MONEY ALL THE TIME
37. THE ARTISTS' BALL
IV. STRIKE TWELVE ZEROs
38. AMYTAL DREAMS
40. PROFESSOR JAFFA'S PROGNOSIS
41. THE OTHER SUBJECT
42. ROLLING HOME