When Meier served my coffee and rolls, he asked if I wanted a taxi.

"A taxi all the way to Neukölln? Certainly not. But I want your advice, Meier."

"My advice, Mister Ellis?"

"Herr Oberleutnant and I are going to the theatre tonight, with friends. Kleines Schauspielhaus in the High School for Music, Fasanenstrasse 1."

"Yes, sir. I am aware of the arrangements. Her Highness has -"

"There will be six of us, and I want to make reservations for dinner. Where should we go?"

"But Mister Ellis, Her Highness has made the arrangements -"

"That's for the tickets. I want to give the dinner afterwards."

"With respect, sir. I am certain that everything has been arranged, you are the guest -"

"Meier, I'm tired of always being the guest! What's the best place to take a table? "

"The best? There are so many places -"

"Recommend one."

The old man lifted his shoulders. "It all depends.... You will wish to dance?"

"Yes. Eat dinner - an excellent dinner - and dance. And not in a Diele! What's the best place?"

"The best place..." Meier considered. "Ach, from what one hears, perhaps the Hotel Adlon? Very expensive, Mister Ellis."

"Unter den Linden? "

"Yes, sir. No. 1, right on the Pariser Platz."

"All right. I want you to call and reserve a table for six. For what time? After the theatre."

"They will know the time, but I must repeat, sir. Her Highness will have made all the arrangements."

"The Princess Hohenstein has a maid?"

"Certainly, sir."

"And a telephone?"

"Of course."

"You call the Princess's maid, and you tell her that Mister Ellis has taken a table at the Hotel Adlon." I stood up. "Take care of it, Meier."

The old man actually clicked his heels. "Wird gemacht, Mister Ellis!" He was smiling a little. Meier liked direct orders, and I was learning to give them.


The painting went badly that day.

The little boy let me into the apartment. Mutti was out somewhere, Baby was in school, and Falke had left me a note saying that he had to meet a dealer who was interested in one of his large oils. Bärbel was asleep.

Rain beat against the windows. A leak in the sagging ceiling plunked with maddening regularity into a pot they had placed in the middle of the floor. I was supposed to be finishing a still life, an oil painting of a glass of water and a blue plate with dried herring bones. I hate painting inanimate objects, but Falke had developed some notion that he should teach me "painting" in academic style, that I needed the "discipline" to create a photographic reproduction of a glass of water and some fish bones.

I worked as long as I could. I was bored and listless. The boy came in, sat on a stool, and watched me in silence. He had been trained to keep quiet. I was thinking about Lili - or rather I thought I was thinking about Lili, but I was really thinking about Bärbel asleep in the next room, and her sleeping presence distracted me. I still didn't know if she suspected something about me and Baby; or if she cared. I still didn't know if she knew about Falke and her mother. But how could she not know, living in such close quarters for years? Maybe she didn't care about that either. Yes, she cared: I remembered the way Baby had hurtled out of bed....

The water dripped into the pot. The boy sat on his stool and stared at me. My hands grew cold. I knew that pretty soon Bärbel would wake up and saunter into the studio, probably wearing the slip that stuck to her body. ... I didn't want to see Bärbel in her slip. I stood up, put my paints away, and cleaned my brushes with turpentine.

"Tell your father I just remembered an appointment," I told the boy." I hope to see him on Friday at the regular time." I fled through the bedroom. Bärbel sighed, turned over heavily, and rearranged her naked arms. I put on my hat and my raincoat and walked down the five flights, walked through the rain-streaked tenement streets, walked past a line of grim-faced women in front of a shabby grocery, walked through the streaming rain to the Hermannplatz, climbed into a crowded sweat- smelling trolley that slowly trundled me all the way up to the Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, and from there I found my way back to the pointed island in the river Spree and the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum.

For the rest of the afternoon I just wandered around that magnificent portrait gallery, hypnotized by the beauty of work I knew I could never come close to, actually forgetting everything else. They had to wake me at closing time.



Darkness. A few dim lights in the orchestra pit, a few musicians playing softly, playing a Viennese ballad. The little theatre is packed full and smells of bodies and perfume and wet clothing.

Then just one violin, playing at such a high pitch that it sounds like someone whistling, and the curtain rises. A soldier ambles across the stage, and as the violin stops we hear he is whistling the same song. The stage is dark, a dim streetlight, in the background the impression of a river, a bridge looming overhead.

A heavily painted young woman - pretty but hard - is leaning against the lamp post. "Come along, my beautiful angel."

The soldier doesn't want to. He has to get back to the barracks. He teases her a little. "Am I such a beautiful angel?"

"Can you understand their dialect?" asked Helena. "This one's not from Vienna at all, but he's trying."

As a matter of fact, I was having trouble with the dialect, but I understood the idea. She wants him to come to her room, but he hasn't got time and he hasn't got money.

"Ich brauch' kein Geld," she says.

"What did she say?" I whispered into Lili's car.

"She doesn't need money."

"She doesn't want money?"

"That's what she said."

The soldier doesn't believe it either. Only civilians have to pay, she tells him.

Oh! Now he's heard of her, now he wants to do it, but it's too late, he's due back at the barracks. More talk about a date tomorrow, I couldn't quite understand, she says he won't show up anyway, she wants it now, she points to the river: "It's nice and quiet, there isn't a soul down there now."

"Oh, that's not right!" He's shocked.

"With me it's always right," she says. "Stay with me now. Who knows if we'll be alive tomorrow."

They disappear into the darkness. We hear their voices. Lili's arm brushed mine as she leaned forward in her seat. Not seeing the actors, I had more trouble understanding.

"Watch out," the girl says. "If you slip, you're lying in the Danube." Then I can't understand, she seems to be protesting. "What did she say?"

Lili put her hands in front of her face.

"I can't understand them!" I whispered.

Helena's mouth was at my ear. "He makes her do it standing, right at the edge, she's afraid they'll fall in, she begs him to hold on to the wall ......

Darkness. Absolute silence. Stunned silence.

They reappear in the circle of light.

"It would have been better on the bench," she says.

He wants to go. He won't tell her his name, but she tells him hers: Leocadia. She touches his arm: "What's the rush?"

"I told you. I'm late. What do you want now?"

"Oh, how about some change for the house porter?"

"What do you take me for? A sucker? Servus, Leocadia!" He disappears.

She shouts curses. The curtain falls. Silence.



A cheerful polka fills the air, and in the distance we see the huge Ferris wheel of the Vienna Prater. Offstage people are dancing. The same soldier appears, walking arm-in-arm with a different girl, a carefully dressed girl, a chambermaid on her evening out.

This actress was really from Vienna and I had some trouble understanding her, but again the story was clear enough: she wants to dance but he has other plans. She teases him about the other girls he's danced with, he grabs her, she protests - not very hard. He pulls her into the bushes, but we can hear their voices....

When we see them again he is standing up and lighting a cigar. She is still lying on the grass. She asks him to take her home, but he wants to go back to the dance. She doesn't want to walk home alone. He doesn't care anymore. If she will come back to the dance and wait, then he'll walk her home. She says she'll wait, they go back in, we hear him order a beer -and ask another girl to dance. Curtain. Darkness.

"Oh!" Lili exclaimed. "What a terrible man!"

"That's the way they are," said Helena.

"Well, I've never met a man like that," said Sigrid.

"That's because you've restricted yourself to the officer class," said Alfred.

"You think they're any better?" asked Helena.

"I don't like this play," said Lili in the darkness.

If Helena had objections to my change in her arrangements, I didn't hear about them. Her maid and Meier had negotiated a compromise: Mister Ellis would be the host for dinner at the Adlon if the Princess Hohenstein could invite everyone to meet for tea at Cafe' KranzIer. Christoph and I would pick her up at the apartment. Alfred would bring in Sigrid and Lili on the train.

"The Cafe KranzIer?" Christoph was amused to hear about it when he came into my room in his dinner jacket. "That used to be the hangout for Guards officers. The talk was all thoroughbred horses, thoroughbred dogs, thoroughbred ballet dancers -more or less in that order. Rather sentimental that Helena still wants to be seen there."

I was still in my shirt, tying my tie. "Christoph, why isn't Bobby going to the play with us?"

"Bobby? Why should he go with us?"

"Well ... I mean, he's their brother, he's your friend, you work with him ... I mean, aren't we sort of leaving him out? I asked Lili why he wasn't going with us, and she - it seemed somehow to make her angry."

Christoph leaned back in the wicker armchair, watching me struggle with my bow tie. He didn't say anything for a moment. I glanced at him in the mirror. "Am I prying into something that's none of my business?"

He rubbed his chin. "No. It is a natural question. I should have explained before. As you know, Bobby likes girls. Bobby has lots of girls. Unfortunately, most of them - and one of them in particular - are not girls that his family approves of. In other words, he can't bring them home. Lili would not be allowed to meet them. Isn't it the same in America?"

Is it? I thought about that.



It happened in the fourth scene.

At the beginning, the orchestra is playing the first ballad. A young man, alone, is fussing around in a furnished bedroom apartment. He closes the curtains, he sets up a bottle of Cognac and two small glasses, he sprays the air with perfume, he checks the drawer of the bedside table and discovers a tortoiseshell barrette which he slips into his pocket.... The music stops, there is a faint knock at the door, he opens it, the woman who sweeps in is so heavily veiled that we can't see her face at all, but behind the veils she chatters: she is frightened, somebody might have seen her, she can only stay five minutes, her sister is expecting her, she's kept her promise and now she has to go - but as she talks she gradually removes the veils, and then her coat, and then she pulls out her hairpins and removes her hat, looks around the apartment.... He's never had anyone else in here, has he? She accepts a glass of Cognac, she bites into a pear and presents it in her mouth ...

and not long after that they are in the bedroom, in wild excitement as he helps her to undress and discovers that she doesn't wear a corset... . .

Darkness, but we hear their voices.

Again, I had trouble with the dialect when I couldn't see their faces, but clearly something is wrong . 

His voice: "I think I love you too much."


"All these days I've been crazy with anticipation. I knew this would happen!"

Her voice: "Oh, don't worry about it."

"Of course not. It's perfectly natural."

"Don't dear. Don't do that, just relax, you're nervous -" and then he tells her a long story by Stendhal, about a group of cavalry officers discussing their love affairs, who all confess that they have been impotent at times-

- and I turned to Helena because she was laughing softly into her hand. I really couldn't understand what they were saying in the darkness.

"He can't ... you know -"

"I know, but what are they saying?"

"Oh, she is teasing him a little, and he is getting angry, it is very well done! He is telling her a story about a couple who went to bed for six nights and did nothing but cry, because they were so happy, you see, and she -" Helena giggled. "- and she says, 'But there must be many who don't cry'.. and he says, 'Of course! That's an exceptional case,' and she says, 'Oh, I thought Stendhal means that all cavalry officers cry on these occasions.' She is really teasing the poor fellow -"

And suddenly a man's voice from the audience. "Schweinerei!" and then immediately another voice, from the same direction, down in front of us and to the right: "This is a Jewish insult to German womanhood!" and on my other side I felt Lili gasp and jerk back in her seat as if she had received an electric shock. Then she leaned across me:

"Helena, are these people Jewish?"

"No," said Helena, "but the author is," and then she shouted, "Quiet! Get out!" so loud that people turned to look at us.

A lot of people were shouting in the darkness now, and some were whistling. Down in front, a group that included women was chanting in unison: "Schweinerei! Schweinerei! Schweinerei!" Other voices from all over the auditorium: "Quiet! Shut up! Throw them out!"

Then there was a loud popping sound, a small explosion, in the right aisle, and a sulfurous rotten-egg smell filled the air. A woman screamed. As the lights went on, we saw that the curtain was down and all over the theatre people were standing up and looking around, trying to decide what to do.

The people shouting "Schweinerei!" seemed to be clustered in two groups: one in front of us, to the right; the other in the balcony. The ones in front of us looked young. They were not in evening dress.

"Students," said Helena. "Call the police Throw them out." Her voice carried.

"For heaven's sake, Helena!" Both Christoph and Alfred leaned toward her, Sigrid sat frozen in embarrassment, and in front of us everybody turned again. One of the shouting students stepped into the aisle and moved toward us. Blond crewcut, chalky pimpled beardless face, faintly bulging blue eyes magnified by heavy spectacles. He may have been twenty. As he neared us Alfred, who was on the aisle, suddenly stood up, so Christoph and I stood up too.

"You find this a suitable play for ladies?" the student asked Alfred in a quiet voice. Behind him, his companions were still yelling "Schweinerei!" toward the curtain. Up on the balcony there was a crash of breaking chairs as somebody fell. Another scream.

"I don't believe our ladies are your responsibility," said Alfred icily. "And I don't believe we know each other."

"Müller," announced the student. "Candidate in Jurisprudence!"

Alfred looked down at him. "Waldstein," he said. "Writer."

An insolent smile appeared on the student's face. He let his glasses slide down a bit and looked over them. "Oh, I see. Baron von Waldstein, one of our great new literary figures. No doubt you have a highly developed taste for this type of entertainment. Perhaps the author is a relative?"

- and Christoph was squeezing past Sigrid's knees to stand beside Alfred, who began to say: "Doctor SchnitzIer is not a relative, but it would bean honor -" as Christoph emitted an earsplitting parade-ground bellow: "KANDIDAT MÜLLER, DISAPPEAR! " and the student literally jumped. Every face turned. Müller's companions stopped shouting and began to crowd into the aisle, but they could not reach us because the aisle was packed with people trying to get out. Christoph brought his walking stick into sight and Müller tried to retreat a few steps, but the crowd was pressing from behind.

More noise from the balcony: more crashing and shouting, everybody standing to watch a fistfight in progress ... then the doors at the back of the hall flew open, we heard a piercing whistle, and the place was filling with policemen - gleaming black leather shakos, green uniforms with silver buttons, gleaming leather boots: Berlin Schutzpolizei, masses of them, pushing slowly and efficiently into the crowd ...

Another whistle and a loud police voice: "Everybody will be seated!"

Christoph moved so fast that I only saw the lunge out of the corner of my eye, saw him push past Alfred into the aisle, saw the reversed cane flashing through the air, heard Alfred shout: "Herr Wachtmeister! Over here!" and then I saw the student Müller grasping at his own neck as Christoph pulled him forward with the handle of the cane.

Two policemen were instantly between them, and as Alfred explained that this was one of the demonstrators, they handcuffed Müller and hustled him up the aisle. He looked at us as they passed. His glasses had been knocked off and he couldn't see us very well, but the hatred in his face burned with such intensity that I turned instinctively toward Lili. She had closed her eyes and was biting her lips. I didn't know what to do, so I didn't do anything. I just sat there.

The whole thing only lasted a few minutes. Ushers and people in the audience pointed out the demonstrators, the police dragged them out, the noise subsided, and only the smell of rotten eggs remained.

"You're pretty handy with that walking stick," I said to Christoph as we settled into our seats, but nobody smiled.

"The management was expecting trouble," said Christoph, still out of breath. "The police got here fast."

Alfred shook his head. He looked pale. "I think we'd better get the girls out of here," he said to Christoph.

"Absolutely not! " said Helena. "If the audience runs away, those swine have won the battle," and just then the theatre manager appeared on the stage. The talking stopped. He was small and completely bald. He looked unutterably sad.

"Meine Damen und Herren..." The management regretted the incident, a reflection of the instability of the times, the intolerance of certain elements in our society. If the spectators will permit, the actors will continue. He held out his hands: What shall it be?

Helena began to applaud, some people in the balcony began to applaud, and then the entire house was applauding.

"I only hope they don't try to start at the place they stopped," said Helena, loudly clapping her hands.


They didn't. They started with the next scene: the young woman who had been teasing her lover is now with her husband. Again, a bedroom and a bedroom conversation, a very different one. The husband boasts about his experience with other women, other women of a type his wife couldn't even imagine; he makes her promise that if she ever hears that one of her girlfriends has had an affair, she'll drop her - but let's not talk about such things or such people, my child ... I love one person, and that's you. One can only love where there is purity and truth! He gets into bed, the lights go out, and when they go on again, this same husband is just finishing a sumptuous dinner in the private room of an elegant restaurant - and he is not alone, he is sitting on the couch beside a girl he has picked up on the street. She likes the food, she tells him about her widowed mother, about the little brothers and sisters she takes care of at home - and about the boy who jilted her. He tells her that he loves her, he fills her with wine ... now only one candle is burning...."Oh, but what if a waiter should come in?"

"No waiter would come in here now if his life depended on it!"

When the lights go on again he emphasizes that he lives in Graz, he only comes to Vienna occasionally -.

"Oh, then you must be married!" announces the girl.

He is shocked. What an idea! Wouldn't she be ashamed to lead a married man astray?

"Come off it," says the girl. "Your wife is certainly doing the same thing."

He explodes.

She laughs. "I thought you weren't married!"

He blusters, but she is a nice girl, she's been around, she didn't expect anything better - and they agree that they'll find a more private place the next time.


"He's really the worst of the lot," said Helena.

"Typical middle class Spiesser," said Sigrid. Lili said nothing.

I don't remember much about the next scenes:
the girl from the restaurant visits a young playwright in his apartment; 

the playwright spends the night with a famous actress;

the actress receives the Count, an elegant, graying captain of dragoons, in her flower-filled bedroom.... She teases him about another woman....He wants to make an appointment, dinner after tonight's performance, but the actress doesn't want to wait that long. Just like the girl in the restaurant, the Count is afraid that somebody might come in.

"That door won't open from the outside," she assures him.

He still holds back: Love by daylight?

"Just close your eyes, she suggests: pretend it's night.... These two casually fencing debauchees delighted Helena and Christoph, who chuckled at every line. Sigrid and Alfred looked amused. Lili glanced across me at Helena, just for an instant, and then she looked back at the stage without changing her expression.

The lights go on again, the Count, buttoning up his uniform and buckling on his sword, still wants his dinner date - day after tomorrow!

Christoph and Helena roared.

"Did you really think you could play all these women?" asked Christoph.,

"Why not?" replied Helena.

"You're conceited," murmured Christoph. "But I love you."

"Shut up, Herr Oberleutnant!"

That was the first time either of them expressed affection in front of me.

In the last scene the circle is closed. It is six o'clock in the morning in the small shabby bedroom of Leocadia, the whore from the first scene. Her clothes are strewn all over the floor and she is sound asleep in bed with only her head and naked arms exposed.

On the sofa is the Count, fully dressed in his greatcoat, boots crossed, also asleep. Half-empty glasses. A pitcher of stale beer.

The Count sits up, stretches and groans, tries to understand where he is and what happened. Hangover. He talks to himself, admires the sleeping girl: "It seems to me that sleep makes all of us equal, just like sleep's brother, death . . ." but he can't remember whether he did anything. First it bothers him, but then he rather likes the idea that he didn't. He puts some coins on the nightstand and begins to leave.

The girl moves. Who does that remind me of? A girl moving in her sleep, easily moving her arms, stretching her naked arms, her eyes still shut. Who? The girl is awake. They chat casually, he asks the usual how-did-a-nice-girl-like-you? questions, he thinks she reminds him of someone.

Who? She reminds me, too!

He kisses her eyes, he wonders if anybody else has left her without.. . No, she says proudly, that's never happened to her.

"Well, did you think I didn't like you?" asks the Count.

"You liked me fine last night" - and now he seems a little disappointed to learn that, drunk as he was, he performed on the sofa. He gets up to go, a chambermaid opens the door for him, he gives her a tip and says: "Good evening."

"Good morning, sir!"

"Oh yes, of course, good morning. Good morning!"


Loud, strong applause.

The play is over, and I know who.



It was still pouring rain, and we were lucky to get one of the taxis in front of the theatre. Christoph sat up with the driver, Alfred between Helena and Sigrid in back, Lili and I sat on the jump seats.

"Peter, what did you think?" asked Alfred.

What did I think? "Well -" I began, but Helena interrupted.

"You can't really understand the best part, because the best part is the patois, the expressions they all use, it's pure Vienna. All the different levels of society, from the little prostitute all the way up to the Count, they are all exactly right, each person speaks differently but they all are Vienna. My idea was to rewrite it all for Berlin accents, but then of course it wouldn't have been SchnitzIer."

"I had some trouble with the dialect," I admitted, "but I think I understood the general idea."

"But did you like the play?" asked Alfred. I sensed that they were all watching me. Should I be polite or honest?

"Well ... I guess not so much." Lili's cold little hand clasped mine in the darkness.

"I hated it!" she said. "They all use each other, like animals! Every single person lies to the other person, every single person cheats, the men say anything at all to make the women do it, and when they're finished they don't care anymore -"

"But sometimes it's the women," Alfred reminded her. "The actress, the streetwalker -"

"I thought they were horrible," said Sigrid. "I agree with Lili. Why write a play about such awful people?"

"Because that's how people are," said Helena.

"Is that how people are?" asked Lili. "Really?" but before anyone could answer we were distracted.

The taxi was stopped in the heavy traffic around the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial-Church- cars, crowds of people with umbrellas, the blazing lights of the Kurfürstendamm.

"What are we doing over here?" demanded Helena. "Why didn't he go straight through the Tiergarten?" and we heard voices singing, a sizeable group of young men just emerging from a beer hall, sort of marching in step or trying to, marching bareheaded through the crowded sidewalks, brushing past the people with umbrellas, pouring across the street directly in front of our taxi, all singing - bellowing - sonic song. I could not understand the words except something about "Walther Rathenau ". . . Lili dropped my hand ...and then they were gone, their voices gone too, the traffic began to move, and nobody in the taxi said a word for what seemed like several minutes.

I guess it was only a few seconds. Lili had covered her face with her hands and Sigrid leaned forward to put her arms around Lili. "It's just nonsense, dear. Just politics."

"They are swine!" said Christoph from the front seat. "Exactly the same as the ones in the theatre."

"You didn't understand, did you?" asked Helena.

I shook my head.

"A nice new marching song, invented by the Freikorps people. All the things that should be done to Chancellor Wirth and his cabinet. And the last lines are:

Knallt ab den Walter Rathenau
Die gottverdammte Judensau!

which means

Knock off Walther Rathenau
The god-damned Jewish sow!

"Is that really necessary, Helena?" Sigrid still had her arms around Lili.

The taxi driver and Christoph and Alfred were all staring straight ahead.

"Yes," said Helena. "I think he should understand."

Nobody said anything until the doorman of the Hotel Adlon came running out from under the big canopy with his umbrella.


My dinner party was a disaster.

We were kept waiting for a moment because the headwaiter seemed confused when he saw that Alfred and Helena were in my party and then I noticed them all looking into the huge glittering room, white tablecloths and chandeliers and the tailcoated orchestra softly playing dance music and then Helena turned to me, said, "The ladies will retire for a few minutes," and all three of them swept away.

Couldn't they wait until we ordered? But then, as we followed the headwaiter into the room, I saw that Bobby von Waldstein, in white tie and tails, was sitting in a distant corner table with a perfectly beautiful young woman.

The headwaiter indicated our table. "If you please, gentlemen?" but 1 was looking at Christoph, who was looking at Alfred.

"What do we do?"

"We will go over now." Alfred said something to the headwaiter, then grasped my elbow and led me across the room, where Bobby was already standing up.

The girl was very blonde and very young, not much older than Lili. Her pale blue eyes regarded us calmly, perhaps a little suspiciously, but then she smiled as both Alfred and Christoph moved forward to bow over her hand and to introduce me: Countess something Russian, I didn't understand the name. They called her Kyra.

Alfred explained where we had been, that I had kindly invited them to have supper ... and Bobby smiled his gentle little smile and said what a pity (looking at his watch) they had to leave and could not join us because they were late for another engagement, and Kyra's lovely smile disappeared, she turned red, she bit her lip and looked at the almost-full bottle of champagne in the bucket by the table and rose without another word and made for the door, with Bobby carrying her cape, smiling and nodding goodbye to us and hurrying to catch up.

The band was playing and people were moving past us to the dance floor. We returned to our table in silence. Then I said: "I do apologize, but 1 didn't know -"

Alfred: "How could you know? Our problems are our problems. You seem to be getting a heavy dose of them tonight!"

Christoph: "All the same, please let Helena make the social arrangements."

"May I ask one question? Is that girl really a countess? She's lovely! What's wrong with her?"

A moment of silence.

"You know who the White Russians are?" asked Alfred. "Berlin is full of them, and most of them have lost everything. Kyra's father was a colonel in Denikin's cavalry. He was killed by the Reds, 1 think in the Ukraine, in 1919. She lives alone with her mother. They haven't got a penny. When Bobby met her she was singing folksongs in a Russian nightclub - but that is not all she was doing. She is completely dependent now on Bobby, and so is her mother."

"But -"

"But in Russia, in the time of the Czars, that young lady and her mother would not speak to a Herr Waldstein from a bank. You understand what 1 mean?"

I nodded.

"So my family ... we are not exactly enthusiastic about this little countess although, as you say, she is beautiful, she is charming ... but we are not quite ready to embrace her."

And then he looked up and rose. The ladies had returned.

It was a disaster. As host, I should have set the tone, told jokes, told stories, cheered everybody up but I don't know how to do that.

Christoph and Helena did their best, insisting that everybody start with some champagne, then supervising the orders. Everybody ordered something "small" - smoked salmon, or soup, or an omelet, and then I asked Lili to dance.

"You have your answer about Bobby?" asked Lili, moving with her practiced grace to the sound of Marek Weber's foxtrot beat.

"She looks like a beautiful girl," I said.

"Yes. She sleeps with men for money. She could be another scene for Reigen."

"I've apologized to Alfred, now I'll apologize to you, but 1 didn't know -"

"Of course not, how could you know ... Peter, I think after we eat we'll go right home. You will not mind, will you? It has nothing to do with you, but it has been ... not a nice evening. Will you understand?"

"Of course. I hope the next one will be better."

She looked up at me with those coal-black eyes, and then she smiled.

"Yes," she said. "The next one will be better. Will you come out early on Saturday?"

We separated in the rain in front of the Adlon with the doorman and two bellboys holding umbrellas as we moved toward the waiting taxis. Alfred was taking Sigrid and Lili around the corner to the Friedrichstrasse Station. Christoph was taking Helena home. They made quite a fuss about the fact that I should come with them - "just one more glass" - but I didn't feel like it and I didn't think they really felt like it, so I said goodbye and ran toward the third taxi in the row.

When I let myself into the Villa Keith only the downstairs hall light was on. Kaspar was obviously out and everybody else was asleep. I felt rotten, and tried to figure out exactly why I felt that way. Was it the play? Was it Lili's reaction to the play? Was it the fury of the nationalist students, or the song they were singing about Rathenau, or was it the look on the Russian girl's face when she got up and left the table?

I went to the bathroom, then came back to my room and washed my face, put on my pajamas, got into bed and turned out the light, but I didn't go to sleep. It would have been better if I had.

I lay there in the darkness for twenty minutes or so, and then I heard the deep purring motor of a powerful car. The car seemed to be moving around the back of the house, right under my window. I had never seen a car down there before. I got out of bed and peered through the curtains.

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