A bone-chilling November rain had been falling since dawn, so I asked Meier to call me a taxi. The financial negotiations began as soon as we turned into the Koenigsallee, because the driver noticed that I carried no bulging briefcase.

"Gendarmenmarkt, mein Herr? The regular fare - I mean the fare on the old meter - would be about one mark .... " The Kurs last night had been 2,000,000,000,000 marks to the dollar. As we passed the corner where Walther Rathenau was killed -- Sixteen month ago? It seemed like a lifetime- we agreed that since I didn't have four of the new 1oo,ooo,ooo,ooo mark notes an American quarter would cover the fare and the tip.

I had been summoned to meet with Dr. Strassburger to discuss my investments. I had not bothered much about them. My German stocks were rising. Occasionally I sold some to raise the few dollars I needed to live; occasionally I bought more by increasing my debt to Waldstein & Co. I felt I was in good hands -- but suddenly, yesterday, a message came through Christoph to Meier: Herr Geheimrat desired my presence at ten o'clock.

The Kurfürstendamm was jammed with cars, with pedestrians carrying glistening umbrellas. Despite the rain, some workmen with a ladder and long brushes were trying to affix a placard to a Litfasssäule. (I don't know what we call those things because we don't have them. They are fat round pillars, maybe fifteen feet high, erected on the sidewalks and plastered all over with commercial advertising and official announcements.) The sign going up on this one seemed to be a newspaper headline, hugely magnified, black gothic letter on white paper:


"What's all that about?" I asked the driver, who shrugged his shoulders.

"They don't know nothing. The Nazis cut the telephone lines and the telegraph lines, and all they know is what the people who came up on the night train say, and they don't know nothing except there was a riot in a beer hall. Those damn Bavarians, they do everything in their beer halls."

That was the first time I had heard the word "Nazi."

As we entered the financial district of the inner city, a policeman stopped the cab to let a line of trucks pull out of a courtyard into the Jägerstrasse.

"Look at them," shouted the driver. "Trucks full of money. Trucks full of banknotes with nine zeros behind the number! Last spring they carried the money out of there in baskets, they had hundreds of porters from every bank and every business crowding in there with great big wicker baskets on their backs to lug the money away -but now they send trucks! A truck a day to pay their people, and by the time the people get to the store tonight, all that money won't buy their supper!"

The last truck emerged from the courtyard, the policeman waved us through and a moment later we stopped again, at No. 4, Gendarmenmarkt.

"Ask Baron von Waldstein how this is going to end," said the driver as I gave him his quarter.

"I'll do that," I said.

"Because it's got to end, you know. It's got to end somehow."

I slammed the door and the taxi drove off in the rain.

The lobby at Waldstein & Co. was full of people. They were well-dressed people. They were important people. They said so. They all had appointments, with one of the Barons or with Dr. Strassburger or with one of the other partners.

The butler had lost some of his glacial aplomb. "Jawohl, Herr Kommerzienrat, Herr Geheimrat knows that you are waiting, he will see you just the moment he is free.... Jawohl, Excellency, Herr Baron's secretary has carried your message into the meeting, if you will be kind enough to follow me -"

The double-doored consultation rooms were filling up when Christoph appeared.

"I'm sorry, old man, Dr. Strassburger sends his apologies, he just cannot-"

"That's all right, I understand -"

"He asked me to receive you."

Christoph had his own office now, a small white room with a rolltop desk against the wall, a telephone, two chairs, a window looking out onto the back street, and a bare-shouldered actressy professional photograph of Helena gazing soulfully toward the ceiling. We sat down.

"Well," said Christoph, swiveling toward me. "How do the English say it? The balloon has gone up."

I told him about the poster I had seen and asked what was going on.

"That is the problem. Nobody knows what's going on. Most of the lines have been cut. We can't get through to Munich. You know the general picture in Bavaria?"

"Not really. Gustav von Kahr is sort of a dictator, appointed by the Bavarian cabinet?"

Christoph nodded. "Von Kahr calls himself the commissioner-general. He would like best of all to bring Bavaria out of the Republic, return the crown to the Wittelsbachs, make Prince Rupprecht King of Bavaria. But his power depends on the Reichswehr and the Bavarian Landespolizel. The Reichswehr commander in Bavaria was General von Lossow, another Bavarian. Seeckt has just replaced him because Lossow refused an order to close down Hitler's newspaper. So Seeckt sent down General Kress von Kressenstein to take over the Reichswehr in Bavaria, but Kahr refused to permit that change. Are you following all this?"

"Not entirely."

"I don't blame you. It's a complete mess. In any event, Bavaria is -or was as of last night - being ruled by a triumvirate: Kahr, as commissioner-general; Lossow, as de facto Reichswehr commandant; and a Colonel von Seisser, commander of the Landespolizei. All three of those gentlemen unquestionably want to cut loose from Berlin and establish their Bavarian monarchy.

"On the other hand, the place is loaded with extreme Nationalists under Ludendorff, Hitler, Göring, Röhm, Rossbach - all combined now into something they call the Kampfbund, thousands of armed men: S.A., Freikorps Oberland, Reichskriegsflagge - different names, same people. But those fellows are not interested in cutting loose from Berlin. They want to capture Berlin, destroy the Republic, hang Ebert and Stresemann and even Seeckt from the lampposts at Unter den Linden. Not to mention everybody who signed the Versailles Treaty and every Socialist deputy in the Reichstag. They've been pressing and pressing Kahr to lead their march on Berlin, but so far he hasn't marched."

"And what happened last night?"

"All we know is that Kahr held a huge banquet in the Biirgerbräukeller, one of the biggest beer halls in Munich - it's on the other side of the Isar - they had all the Right Wing politicians there, all the top police and army officers in Bavaria, they had Lossow up on the stage, they had Seisser up on the stage, they had bands playing patriotic songs.... Apparently they were going to announce something, but nobody knows what."

"Was Hitler there?"

"I suppose he must have gotten in because something happened. There was shooting -"

A knock on the door interrupted him, the door opened and Bobby von Waldstein appeared. He was frowning. "Heard anything? Oh, good morning, Peter."

"Good morning -"

"No, not a word more, Bobby."

"Well, Father wants to know, Christoph! Certainly the Reichswehr wireless must be functioning-"

"Bobby, I can't just call the Bendlerstrasse radio room."

"In the past your connections have always -"

"Tell your father I'll report to him the moment I hear something, Bobby-"

"Herr Baron?" A secretary stood behind Bobby.

"What is it?"

"Dr. Strassburger's office says the Disconto-Gesellschaft has a line open to Munich now. He asks if you will go over to Dr. Salomonsohn's office-"

Bobby withdrew and closed the door.

Christoph sighed, stood up and walked over to the window, his hands in his pockets. "You think they want me for a banker here - or for an intelligence officer?"

"Maybe a little of both," I said. "Bankers have to know what's going on. Don't you remember how the Rothschild carrier pigeons brought the first news about who won the battle of Waterloo?"

Christoph turned and smiled for the first time.

"If I may return a compliment you made to me: for an artist, you know a lot of history. At any rate that makes me feel better. Look here, my instructions from Strassburger are to explain about the Rentenmark. You've read about the plan in the newspapers?"

"I've read something but I don't understand a word of it."

"Then you have lots of company because nobody really understands it, but I will tell you what we think the theory is." He sat down in his swivel chair, leaned back and put his fingertips together. "Everybody agrees the government must do something to stabilize the mark, but what? You remember Karl Helfferich from the Deutsche Bank, the man who made those terrible speeches against Rathenau?"

"Yes, of course I do. They hissed at him in the Reichstag-"

"Yes, they hissed at him. But he is quite a brilliant banker, and last summer he came up with an idea of a Roggenmark, a rye mark, a new currency tied to the value of a certain amount of rye. Something like that has been done a lot over the last year. The province of Oldenburg did it. Private companies have done it. They have issued bonds that are payable in so many tons of rye, of wheat, of corn, of nitrate fertilizer, so many barrels of wine - at some future date. Of course the price of these bonds will go up and down depending on the price of the rye or the wheat or the corn, but at least you know it's going to be worth something. So people have been willing to buy this paper, the farmers have been willing to deliver their crops, factories have been willing to sell their goods, some speculators have even paid foreign currencies - in other words the rye bonds, the wheat bonds, the wine bonds have worked - on a small scale. You understand that?"

I understood vaguely. "Sort of what we call commodity futures?"

"Yes, I suppose so. Now HeIfferich wants to issue a whole new currency on this basis, a Roggenmark. And to give additional security, he wants to place first mortgages on all the agricultural property and all the industrial property in Germany. These mortgages - they call them Rentenbriefe - will form the capital of the new currency bank, separate from the Reichsbank. Well, the government didn't want the rye marks. I'm not sure why, perhaps it's too exotic, perhaps there just isn't that much rye in Germany - frankly, I don't know exactly why they didn't do it, but they modified his idea, they've come up with a very strange animal, the Rentenmark. First they have adopted Helfferich's idea and organized a new bank of issue called the Rentenbank, completely independent of the Reichsbank, and this Rentenbank is capitalized with a first mortgage on all the farms and all the factories in Germany."

"That doesn't make any sense," I said. "How can you place a first mortgage on all the property in the whole country? How could you ever enforce -"

"Of course it doesn't make sense! The real question is will it work?"

"So this Rentenbank is going to issue its own Rentenmarks?"

"That's right."

"Convertible into rye?"

"No! Forget about the rye. Convertible - someday - into gold marks."

"At what rate?"

"That's the question. Nobody knows yet. The decision will be made by an independent Reichswährungscommissar - I suppose you would say currency commissioner - who hasn't been appointed yet."

"And who is that going to be?

Christoph looked down at his fingertips. I only know who it's not going to be."

Silence. Our eyes met.

"They asked Strassburger?"

Christoph nodded.

"Who asked him?"

"Dr. Luther, Minister of Finance, former mayor of Essen, an excellent man who is taking a terrible beating because the Reichsbank seems to have gone crazy and he has no power over the Reichsbank - "

The telephone rang and Christoph grabbed the receiver. "Yes, of course, put him through immediately.... Keith here! Morning.... Yes, of course, we're biting our fingernails, as you can imagine.... Well, any news would be gratefully received.... Aha .... Aha .... What? ... A machine gun? ...How many men? ... Aha .... Aha. . .."

The voice at the other end reported and Christoph listened, looking at me, looking right through me, looking into another country. "Let them go? ... Oh, on parole - well! So we don't know what the situation is this morning? Donnerwetter! ... Yes, will you be good enough? I don't have to tell you how grateful we are. Many thanks, old boy." He hung up, and instantly the telephone rang again.

"Good morning, Herr Baron. just this moment, sir. Just hung up.... Unclear.... I said the situation is unclear. Shall I come over and explain? ...Dining room?" Christoph glanced at his wristwatch. "All right, sir....Herr Baron, I've got Peter Ellis here

with me, I was trying to explain the Rentenmark - May I bring him down?"

"So Kahr was making a long speech and all of a sudden Hitler and Göring burst in with a troop of S.A. in steel helmets. With pistols. Pandemonium. Shouting and beer steins overturned and women fainting and Hitler climbed up on a table and fired at the ceiling and the whole place was silent."

The partners' dining room at Waldstein & Co. was silent too. Pale worried faces were fixed on Christoph as he repeated what he had just heard from the Bendlerstrasse, headquarters of the Reichswehr.

"The S.A. set up a machine gun in the vestibule. Hitler said the Biirgerbräu was surrounded, he said that Wehrkreiskommando VII had raised the swastika, he said that the Republic was abolished, he said that Ludendorff would head the new government and then he took Kahr and Lossow and Seisser into another room, and Ludendorff appeared and they made some sort of a deal where they apparently would all be ministers in the new government, would ask Prince Rupprecht to become King of Bavaria - and then they would all march on Berlin together."

Pause. Baron Eduard took his heavy gold watch from a vest pocket, then turned to Baron Fritz. "Might as well let them serve lunch. Gentlemen?"

"You want the servants to hear this?" asked Baron Fritz.

"They're going to hear it anyway," said Dr. Strassburger. Somebody opened the door and gave an order, waiters began to carry in trays with steaming soup bowls, and Bobby appeared, still wearing a soaking trench coat.

"The situation is in total confusion down there," he began, as he handed the coat to a waiter and sat down. "Nobody seems to know what's going on."

"Let Christoph finish his report," said Dr. Strassburger.

"So Hitler and Ludendorff` brought Kahr and Lossow and Seisser back into the room, and the whole mood was 'On to Berlin,' speeches, oaths of allegiance, military band, everybody singing 'Deutschland über alles'-and then Hitler was called away. Apparently the Reichswehr garrisons were not coming over, nor the Landespolizei. The minute Hitler was gone, Kahr and Lossow and Seisser said they had to leave too. The S.A. commanders didn't want to let them go, but they gave their parole to Ludendorff and Ludendorff overruled the S.A. If you can't trust the word of a German officer, then what can you trust?"

We were eating our soup now and the waiters were pouring the Moselle.

"Is that the end of the report?" asked Dr. Strassburger.

"No, sir," replied Christoph. "Two hours later General von Lossow was at the Headquarters Nineteenth Infantry Regiment, reporting to the Bendlerstrasse by radio, reporting the Reichswehr in Munich is on the streets in combat formation, against Hitler. So is the Landespolizei. More troops are being rushed into the city from Augsburg, from Landsberg, from Kempten. Kahr has moved the government of Bavaria to Regensburg. On the other hand, cadets of the Infantry School have mutinied and gone over to Ernst Röhm's Reichskriegsflagge, and they've occupied the old War Ministry on the Odeonsplatz-"

"This is all still General Lossow reporting to Berlin?" asked Dr. Strassburger.

"Yes, sir. The Reichswehr and the Landespolizel have closed the bridges over the Isar, barricaded the entrances to the Odeonsplatz, and surrounded Röhm in the old War Ministry."

"And so far only the ceiling of the Biirgerbräu has been shot?" asked Baron Eduard.

Nervous laughter.

"That's my report," Christoph concluded.

The soup plates were removed and something else was served. I don't remember what it was.

"All right, what's the word from the Disconto?" Baron Fritz asked Bobby.

"We spoke with Dr. Sippell, who is down in Munich working on a dollar loan for BMW, and for some reason they had an open line. He says the streets are full of soldiers and police, swastika flags are hanging from balconies all over the city. The brokerage firm of Abraham Bleibtreu and Co. in the Kaufingerstrasse had its windows smashed. Julius Streicher is telling crowds in the Marienplatz that Jewish bankers invented the inflation. BMW truck drivers say thousands of Kampfbund people are massing between the Bürgerbräu and the Isar."

Bobby stopped to catch his breath. "Dr. Sippell says the atmosphere is nasty. If the S.A. and Freikorps Oberland try to cross the bridges into the city - will the Reichswehr shoot? Will the Landespolizei shoot? Nobody seems to know."

"What was it Seeckt said in the Kapp Putsch?" asked Dr. Strassburger. "German soldiers don't shoot German soldiers!"

"No, sir," said Christoph. "What he said was 'Reichswehr doesn't shoot Reichswehr.' These Hitler people aren't Reichswehr." He paused to drink some wine. I watched the others watching him. "I think the army will hold the town."

Dr. Strassburger nodded thoughtfully. "We'll soon know, won't we? Gentlemen, perhaps we should return to work and communicate these comforting thoughts to our clients."

"I don't think I should take up your whole day," I said to Christoph.

"There's not much work being done today. In any event, I was told to advise you on your investments."

"All right, advise me."

Christoph looked at me for a moment. Then he said: "Go home!"

"Go home? What kind of investment advice is that?"

"That is the only honest advice I can give you. What do they say in your country? Cash in your chips and go home."

"Is that Dr. Strassburger's advice?"

"No. It's my advice."

"Why, Christoph?"

"Because nobody knows what's going to happen here. Nobody! The French are still in the Ruhr, nobody knows even now what reparations we will have to pay, the German mark is literally not worth the paper it is printed on, and now Hitler has driven the Bavarians to revolt."

"But you just told them the Reichswehr would hold Munich."

"Yes. I told them."

"You don't believe it?"

"I believe they'll carry out their orders. Question is: who's giving the orders down there? I don't like this story about the infantry cadets going over to Röhm. And suppose the Reichswehr does put down this Putsch? There are thousands and thousands of people marching for Hitler, thousands more hanging his flags from their windows. Is the Reichswehr going to shoot them all? Is Stresemann's government going to put them all in jail?"

A name and a face hung in the air between us. I avoided his eyes.

"But if they win! " Christoph pulled a slim alligator case from an inside pocket and offered me a cigarette, struck a match, lighted mine, lighted his... "if they win, you're going to see a blood bath."

I didn't know what to say. We smoked in silence for a minute. "Christoph, I'm not ready to cash in my chips. I like it here. I'm painting. I'm in love with Lili. I feel ... I don't know, I feel involved somehow."

A grim smile. "Oh, you're involved, my friend. No question about it."

"Well, what should I do about my investments? Should I hold my stocks?"

"The market was off sharply when we went to lunch, because of the Hitler thing, the uncertainty about the Rentenmark -"

"Well, what about this Rentenmark business? Will it work?"

"Who knows? As you saw immediately, it's nothing but a confidence game, a game with mirrors. It will work only if the people believe it will work. It might work, it should be attempted, it all depends who runs for it, if he's tough enough."

"Well, certainly Strassburger's tough enough. Why didn't he take the job?"

Christoph got out of his chair and began to walk around the room.

"He told the Minister of Finance that Waldstein and Co. could not spare his services at this time of crisis, that the Barons had given him the opportunity to reach his present position and that he cannot leave them now because they need him to bring the firm through."

"That sounds sensible enough," I said.

"Very sensible." He had stopped to look out the window again.

"But not convincing to you?"

"No." He continued to stare out into the rain.

I said: "Be Rathenau all over again."

Christoph turned. "Of course. That's the real reason."

"You think he's afraid of getting shot?"

"Oh no, I don't think that's it. In any case, he would not court assassination the way Rathenau did. The reason is that if a Jewish partner in a Jewish banking firm becomes the Reichswährungscommissar, then to many, many people the whole program immediately becomes a Jewish plot, some scheme for the Jews to make more money, and they won't believe the thing will work, and as we've said if they don't believe it will work, then it can't work. And whatever happens the people who have been wiped out by the inflation will stay wiped out, most likely more people will be wiped out by these corrective measures - and then of course the whole mess becomes the fault of -"

The telephone rang.

"Yes? Yes, Bobby.... Aha.... Aha. ..." The corners of Christoph's mouth pulled down into a kind of grimace as he listened. "Hmm.... Does the market know this yet? .. . Hmm.... What did Strassburger say? ... Well, is he selling or is he buying, or what? ... Military advice? How can I give anybody military advice on the basis of this kind of information? No, I will not call them! What would happen if every bank in town calls up ... Yes, I agree with you, I'm coming over this minute." His face was flushed as he slammed the receiver into the cradle. "Disconto-Gesellschaft just heard from their man again. He says the S.A. and Oberland corps have disarmed the police on one of the bridges and they are marching toward the War Ministry to join up with Röhm. General Ludendorff is leading the march, with Hitler and Göring right beside him. The stock market is in turmoil and Strassburger wants me to call the Bendlerstrasse again. You'll please excuse me, Peter. . . ."

"Of course. I'll come back when you have time -"

"No, stay here, I won't be long." He stopped in the doorway. "Shall we sell your stocks?"

"Ask Strassburger."

Christoph nodded and was gone.

It was almost time for Lili to come home from school, so I could have gone to the Pariser Platz. Or I could have visited one of the museums and lost myself - as I often did - in work of men whose results I could never hope to equal. But I didn't. I sat there, watched the rain, wondered whether it was raining in Munich, wondered why it should matter so much to me whether Hans von Seeckt or Adolf Hitler governs Germany. I remembered Whitney Wood accusing Miss Boatwright and me of "going native." How do I cash in my chips and go home if Lili can't go with me? I don't want to go home. I never felt very much at home at home. I haven't had one letter since I've been here. Written me off.

Suppose Hitler wins? Could he do anything to the Waldsteins? What could he do to them? They're just buying Hitler's voice is the way Whitney Wood explained it. "They": big industrialists, coal barons, steel barons ...need Hitler to crush the Communists and the Socialists, to keep the workers in line. "They" are not going to let an Austrian corporal run anything once the hated Republic has been overthrown....

That's what Whitney Wood's been told, and he believes it.

Does Christoph Keith believe it?

Does Oberverwaltungsgerichtsrat Dr. von Winterfeldt believe it?

Does Sigrid von Waldstein believe it?

Does Lieutenant Count Brühl believe it?

For that matter, do the partners of Waldstein & Co. believe it? Remembering the faces in the dining room just now ...

And yet, is anybody going to tell those gentlemen to cash in their chips? The very idea made me smile - in that silent room on Friday afternoon, the ninth of November, 1923, so I was smiling when the door burst open and Helena - looking magnificent in a black beret and a black glistening raincoat - shouted, "Oh, you've heard the news!"

"No, what news?"

One of the footmen was carrying a wicker basket, which he put on the floor in front of me.

"Get another glass," she told him. I didn't know Mr. Ellis was here. Where is my great banker?"

"He's with Dr. Strassburger," I said. "What news do you have?"

"The Putsch is over. Herr Hitler ran away!"

"Are you sure? We just heard that General Ludendorff was leading a march through the city, they overran the police -"

"Well they didn't overrun them when they got to the Odeonsplatz." She put her head out of the door. "Fräulein Schmidt, will you be so good as to fetch my husband?"

"Oh Your Highness - pardon... Gnädige Frau - Herr Oberleutnant is with Geheimrat Dr. Strassburger -"

"Tell Dr. Strassburger he shall come too, and tell my uncles, and perhaps a few more glasses should be brought. . . ."

By the time I got the corks out of the champagne bottles the little room had filled with bankers, all silently listening to Helena, who sat with her legs crossed on the edge of Christoph's open desk and told them what she had heard.

Nobody asked her from whom she had heard of these events, less than an hour after they happened. They watched and they listened and they looked at her legs with various degrees of disapproval. The partners of Waldstein & Co. were not accustomed to wives on the premises - and certainly not as the center of attention - but of course in this as in everything else, Helena was special. And they wanted to hear what she had to report.

"The reason they got across the bridge was that the police had been told to unload their rifles, so the S.A. and the Oberland just swarmed over them. Captured the police and marched into the town. They were singing. Crowds of people marched along. Ludendorff` and Hitler and Göring and some others marched in the front. They marched toward the Odeonsplatz, because that's where Röhm was, holed up in the Wehrkreiskommando. The Odeonsplatz was blocked off, some entrances by Reichswehr, some entrances by Landespolizel. Ludendorff turned into the Residenzstrasse, which is so narrow that they could only march six abreast, but they had to follow Ludendorff, because no German soldier will shoot at Ludendorff, he is their talisman. So the Residenzstrasse comes into the Odeonsplatz at the Feldherrnhalle, a little war monument, sort of a pavilion there, you know, and this was guarded by a troop of Landespolizei, with rifles, and their lieutenant called upon the marchers to stop but they kept on marching, and somebody yelled, 'Don't shoot, it's Excellency Ludendorff!' but somebody did shoot, nobody knows who shot first, and then the police fired a volley and the marchers in the front rank dropped to the pavement -- all except Ludendorff. He kept right on walking toward the police with his hands in his pockets, walking right through the police into the Odeonsplatz. And finally they decided to invite him to the police station, and when they got to the police station, the duty sergeant asked him what his name was!"

A burst of laughter broke the tension.

"But what happened to Hitler?" asked Bobby von Waldstein.

"He got up from the pile of people in the street and he ran, and there was a car parked at the corner, and Hitler jumped into the car and was driven away."

"Was he shot?" somebody asked.

"They don't know. But Göring was shot. He was seen leaning in a doorway. Blood all over his trousers. And then he disappeared too. But not with Hitler."

"Was anybody killed?" asked Baron Fritz.

"Yes, one man who was marching beside Hitler, and they think a dozen more in the rear ranks, and two policemen."

Silence. Then a voice in the back: "Donnerwetter!"

"Well, what is happening now?" asked Christoph.

"Just complete confusion, apparently. The Nazis are going home. Röhm has surrendered the War Ministry but nobody knows what to do about him. He had infantry cadets in there, and they've been ordered back to their school. Crowds of people ran into the Odeonsplatz after the shooting, but they are being cleared out with lancers. Mounted lancers."

"I wonder if His Excellency the Commissioner-General Ritter von Kahr finds it safe to return the government of Bavaria to Munich," said Baron Eduard. He sounded sarcastic.

Helena didn't know anything about von Kahr.

"Well, in any event," said Baron Eduard, "it seems that the March on Berlin did not make it beyond the Odeonsplatz in Munich."

"This time," said Dr. Strassburger, and then the telephone on Christoph's desk rang. Helena handed him the receiver.

"Keith here.... I see.... Good. Yes, I'll tell them. Thank you." He hung up. "Our switchboard reports that all of you have many telephone inquiries. Both Dr. Strassburger and Baron Fritz have calls from Munich so apparently the lines are open .... " The room emptied quickly.

Dr. Strassburger said: "Your Highness ... forgive me, Frau Keith, we are all in your debt for so quickly providing this vital information -"

"Yes, my dear," said Baron Eduard. "Our house has always prided itself on being well informed, but this must be a new record."

Helena lowered her eyelashes demurely. "At any rate, it is a pleasure to bring good news." She held out her hand. When Baron Eduard and Dr. Strassburger had gone, she turned to me. "Peter, will you take me home now?"

Take her home now? I looked at Christoph, who seemed very busy with the papers on his desk, and then his telephone rang again.

"Keith here...

Yes, of course, put him through.... Afternoon. What's the word from the Front? ... Really? ... Ran away? Was he hurt ... Bavarian Landespolizei? That's damned impressive, isn't it? And then what happened?" Christoph put his hand over the mouthpiece and looked at us. "Same story, essentially. Will you take Helena home, Peter? I 'll be along as soon as I can." Then back into the telephone: "Are they just letting them go home or are they arresting them?"

In the taxi Helena was very quiet. "Is something wrong?" I asked.

She expelled her breath. "I did a stupid thing." She turned toward me, and I saw that her eyes were brimming. "But I meant it so well, Peter! I was happy, I was relieved, I thought he would be proud of me for bringing such important news so quickly, so very quickly, it can make all the difference to them in their financial matters -"

(Had they sold my stocks?j

"He is proud of you, Helena. They were all enormously impressed, I could see it. . . ."

"What I could see is them thinking, 'She must have heard all this in bed' and 'Does he really go to bed with a woman at lunchtime in the middle of a national crisis?' That's what they were thinking!"

"Oh no, Helena, I'm sure that never entered anybody's mind!"

"Oh yes, it entered everybody's mind." She blew her nose vigorously. "So stupid! So unnecessary! I'm too old to make such an ass of myself. And of Christoph!"

We rode along in silence. I noticed for the first time that the city teemed with soldiers. Truckloads of Reichswehr infantry were parked in front of the main telephone exchange in the Leipziger Strasse. An armored car and a squad of infantry filled one whole sidewalk in the Potsdamer Platz - rifles and bandoliers and hard eyes under the dripping helmets. When our taxi driver tried to reach the canal by taking a shortcut through the Bendlerstrasse, traffic police waved him away. Behind the police was a barbed wire barricade, and behind the barricade a helmeted machine-gun crew watched us over their gun barrel. Down at the other end of the street, in front of the Reichswehr Headquarters, another armored car glistened in the rain. It did not look to me as if the man in charge of this mobilization had spent his lunch hour in bed.

When we got to the Lützowufer the driver wanted 500,000,000,000 marks.

"Now wait a minute," I protested. "I came in all the way from Grunewald this morning for the equivalent of 400,000,000,000 marks -"

"But that was this morning, sir. The Kurs has changed three times since then, and we've had one revolution!"

Of course I had forgotten to get German money at the Bank and I didn't have any more American coins, so I was about to give him a dollar bill, but Helena grabbed my hand. "Are you crazy? Here, give him this.,, She opened her purse and peeled off five of the new 1oo,ooo,ooo,ooo mark notes. They were only printed on one side, and the ink, still damp, left stains on her gloves.

Helena told her maid to bring us a bottle of champagne.

"More champagne?"

"I'm afraid I need it. Will you drink with me?"

"All right. But why do you need it?"

"To finish the story."

"Finish the story? Why didn't you finish it at the Bank?"

"Because I don't want Christoph to hear this part. But I've got to tell somebody."

The maid carried in a silver tray with a bottle of German Sekt and two glasses. Helena stood by the french window and looked out into the darkening afternoon. "Never mind the fire, Clara. Mr. Ellis can light it."

The maid went out and closed the door. I popped the cork, poured the Sekt (Sekt?.. von Seeckt? My mind stupidly focused on the words for the first time) and brought Helena her glass.

"It's Kaspar, isn't it?"

She nodded, sipping her wine, still looking out at the street lights and the rain falling into the Landwehr Canal.

"Is he dead?"

"You know something? I honestly hope so. Isn't that terrible? They have not identified the bodies at the Feldherrnhalle. I might get a call any moment."

"But you think he was there?"

"Yes." She finished her glass. "When the S.A. attacked the Biirgerbräukeller last night, a new formation made its debut, so to speak."

"What kind of formation?"

"Elite guards, personal bodyguards, Stosstrupp Adolf Hitler, if you please. Black ski caps to distinguish them. And what do you suppose they wear on the front of their ski caps?"

"A swastika."

"Swastika is on the armband. On the ski cap is a little silver death's head!"

I didn't say anything. I drank my wine, feeling it now, feeling also that the room seemed dark and clammy, so I put my glass back on the tray and busied myself lighting the fire. It caught quickly. The room looked warm and beautiful again.

I turned around. "Helena, that doesn't necessarily mean he was there-"

"He was there. The only question is whether he's dead or whether he's hiding someplace - possibly wounded, like Göring - burning up inside, choking on his rage. Still another defeat! They must have felt so close to victory. One minute they're marching through the streets singing their songs, flags are flying, people are cheering, they are marching on Berlin... and the next minute they are flat on the cobblestones, Adolf Hitler is running away, another coup is kaput, another march is over. Can you imagine how he feels this moment -if he's alive?"

"Helena, you've got to tell Christoph about this!"

She shook her head. "Can't."

"Why not? He'll hear about it anyway. He's talking to the Bendlerstrasse right now, he'll be talking to others, there will be newspaper stories-"

She walked over to the tray, refilled both glasses, handed me mine, sat down on the sofa and stared into the flames.

"Helena, suppose I could arrange for a job in New York ... suppose I could find Christoph a temporary job with a bank or an investment house in New York.... Would you like to live in New York for a year or two?"

She looked at me. "He won't run away. He will not believe his brother would do anything to him, and he will not run away."

I was drinking the champagne. I might not have said it if I had not drunk so much champagne. "Did he tell you about Göring?"

Her eyes narrowed. "Did he tell me what about Göring?"

"Göring warned him that Kaspar was making threats, that Kaspar is still seething about the Rathenau thing, that we kept him out of the Rathenau thing. Kaspar says we betrayed Kern and Fischer"

"Herman Göring told this to Christoph? When?"

"I don't know, last summer."

"Peter, I just can't believe that!"

"You think I invented it?" And to prove I had not invented it ( Why?Why did I have to prove anything to Helena?) I told her the whole story.

She listened with her head thrown back against the pillows, her eyes closed. The fire crackled.

When I finished the story she opened her eyes again. "You know, that Hermann Göring is really a swine."

"Maybe so, but in this case -"

In this case, he just wanted to get Christoph away from the Jews, that's what he wanted, so he tells him that Kaspar is out of control-"

I suppose I was a little out of control myself now. "It wasn't just Göring who has warned about Kaspar."

"What do you mean?"

"He's said the same things to Sigrid."

"Sigrid?" Helena's voice rose. "Are you telling me that Sigrid has been seeing Kaspar?"

"Just once, Helena, and it was an accident, a coincidence," and I told her more or less what Sigrid had told me, and Helena began to cry. She put her head in her hands and cried, and somewhere the telephone began to ring, and the maid knocked and opened the door and said, "Fräulein Elizabeth für Mister Ellis," and then her face dropped and she backed out of the room leaving the door ajar and Helena said: "You're being summoned to the Pariser Platz," and I started to say something but there was nothing left to say, so I went to answer the telephone.

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
>35. THE MARCH ON BERLIN - Der Marsch auf Berlin