She pulled off the white bathing cap and shook out her long black hair- the blackest hair I'd ever seen, long and straight and almost blue. I had to stop looking at her, because Bobby was shaking my hand, smiling, at the same time guiding Christoph Keith and me around the old woman who was still shouting at the girl on the dock.
He spoke sharply . 

"Will you stop that noise, Ma, you're disturbing the guests!"

'Es ist zu kalt! . . ." The rest was in some dialect; I couldn't understand a word.

"She's not going in, Ma. Go find Frau Alfred and help her with the baby. Go along now!" and quietly he moved her away from the ramp in the direction we had just come. "My God, what a nuisance. Have you seen a Spreewald-Amme before?" he asked me. "Before the War everybody had them as wet nurses, peasant girls from the forests on the Spree, they always wear these costumes, this one came to us thirty years ago to care for Alfred. . . ."

"And nobody ever leaves the Waldsteins' employ," said Christoph, but I was looking at the girl, who was stepping up the ramp, wrapping a white towel around her throat. She had brown legs and black eyes and long black eyelashes.

"Hallee-Hallo, Christophero," she said. "Will you drive the boat for me?"

"My sister Elizabeth," said Bobby. "Mr. Ellis, aus Amerika."

"We call her Lili," said Christoph.

She gave me a cold slim hand. "Good afternoon, Mr. Ellis. I am so pleased to meet you, " she said in perfect English. "Do you know how to drive a motorboat?"

"Bobby!" called a lady from the pavilion. "Bring Christoph and his friend up here." Christoph advanced, bent over the lady's hand.  

"Frau Baronin, may I present Mr. Peter Ellis..."

From then on it was a kaleidoscope of faces and names as Christoph and Bobby took turns introducing me. A few faces stood out: Bobby's father, a tall thin old man with white hair, a white moustache, a white flannel suit and the same eyes I had seen on his daughter; Bobby's older brother AIfred: black hair and a trim black moustache and a blue English blazer- every inch the retired cavalry officer, the successful novelist.

"That's Minister Rathenau, over there," said Christoph.

The foreign minister stood beside the wrought-iron railing, gazing out across the water. Tall and bald; gray moustache; gray goatee. Two people were competing for his attention: an exceptionally beautiful woman in a black dress and a black straw hat that did not quite conceal her platinum hair, and a short stout man with short blond hair and a short blond moustache.

"Want to meet him?" asked Christoph.

"Well, I don't know why he would want to meet me..." but I was already being propelled forward.

The lady turned first, and I realized she had been watching us the whole time. "Hallo," she said; "how was Paris?" and smiled and extended her hand and Christoph kissed it, and I noticed that the only other hand he had kissed was that of Bobby's mother.

"Prinzessin Hohenstein-Rofrano," said Christoph, after introducing me.

"How very formal we are today! My name is Helena."

"Die Schöne Helena, we call her," said Walther Rathenau, who had also turned. "Been in Paris, Keith?," and for the first time I heard Christoph click his heels.

"Exzellenz! Darf ich vorstellen ..."

Rathenau shook hands and looked down at me with dark intelligent eyes. "Good afternoon, sir," he said. "From what part of the States do you come?"

I told him, and then the other man had to be introduced: Geheimrat Dr. Strassburger, a partner in Waldstein & Co., who immediately inquired if I knew Mr. Mitchell Morris of Drexel & Co.  

'Yes, sir, I worked for him - for a while."

"Ist das wahr? Is that really so?" Dr. Strassburger seemed delighted, took a deep breath, and launched into a story about a meeting he had with Mitchell Morris at Baring's in London in 1913, but his English was not very good, the story was not very interesting. Walther Rathenau began to look across the water again, Christoph Keith stared fixedly at the Princess, and the Princess examined her fingernails as if she had never seen them before. Then Rathenau produced a heavy gold watch, opened it, snapped it shut again and put it back into his vest pocket. "Helena, I believe -"

"The Minister has an appointment in town."  

He shook hands politely. She did not, but simply turned to move into the crowd. He followed her.

Dr. Strassburger said: "I understand that you have opened a dollar." account in Amsterdam -"

Christoph Keith cut in: "Dr. Strassburger is managing partner of the Bank

Leaning closer to me, Dr. Strassburger said, "I think it may be possible for us to recommend some interesting investments for you. Perhaps you will allow Leutnant Keith to bring you in to see me when it is convenient?"

"Dr. Strassburger, it's a very small account -" 

"I know the size of the account, Mr. Ellis. You see, it is in dollars, and dollars increase in value here every day, so a person with access to even a small dollar account has ... unusual opportunity."

He didn't look over forty, but he wore a pince-nez. Frosty magnified eyes. Blue eyes. I said I would be happy to have his advice on investments, and he said he would be much interested in re-establishing contact with Drexel & Co. Recently they had been working mostly with New York firms, but . . . He stopped abruptly, his expression changed, he bowed. "Fräulein Elizabeth!"

I turned to find that Lili von Waldstein had joined us -in a short white summer dress, black silk sash, white stockings and flat black patent-leather shoes, with straps. She was transformed: in the bathing suit she had been a grown-up woman; now she was a child-even her black hair was braided into pigtails, tied with black silk bows.

"Good afternoon, Dr. Strassburger. Bobby has told me that Mr. Ellis is a painter, so we want him to meet Professor Liebermann. Will you excuse us?" and she simply took my elbow and moved me away.

A moment later Christoph Keith was beside her.

"Lili, what are you doing? You can't just walk away from Dr. Strassburger!"

"Dr. Scheissburger, I call him."

"Lili, for God's sake -"

"You know what he did? He asked Mama if he could take me to the theatre... and he didn't even ask me!"

"Well, I think that's quite correct, he should ask your mother first!"

"Are you absolutely crazy? You think I would go anywhere with . . .",

"Is that why you've put on this costume?"

"What costume?"

"This ... er ... costume, to make yourself look twelve years old. I mean it hardly fits anymore.. . ."

"You wish to advise me how to dress, Leutnant Keith?"

"All right, let us stop this.... How are we going to get the Professor away from those people?"

Another circle of wicker armchairs had been assembled on the lawn just outside the pavilion, in the shade of an enormous horse chestnut. In the center of the group, the Baron von Waldstein and another man were drinking tea and swapping remarks, and while the other people were talking among themselves, it seemed to me that they were mostly listening to the Baron and his friend, another old man, quite bald, thin, with a prominent nose, a strong, clipped moustache, and a mischievous look about his face.

Lili marched right into the circle and dropped on the grass between her father and the other man, who stopped talking and leaned down toward her. She said something into his ear. He looked up at Christoph and at me. His expression changed twice: for an instant his eyebrows rose: Oh my God, another one? but then he smiled and gestured with his arm. We were to come over.

Again Christoph led the way, shook hands. "Herr Professor, darf ich vorstellen?"

Professor Liebermann gave me a firm handshake and said, "Good afternoon, sir," and that turned out to be all the English he wanted to attempt. Christoph began to explain about Verdun, and that I had come to Berlin to study painting, and might it be possible to find a student who would be willing to give lessons ...

Professor Liebermann nodded, looking even more dubious. Was I interested in any particular kind of painting?

I said I liked to paint faces.

"Ja, ja," he said, nodding and looking into the grass. "Hmmm . . ." 

Suddenly Christoph reached into the side pocket of his jacket, pulled something out and handed it Professor Liebermann: the cardboard beer coaster with the advertisement for Spatenbräu on one side.

The old man held the thing at arm's length, handed it to Lili, put on his spectacles, took it back, studied it, then looked at me over the tops of his glasses: "Hauptmann Ring, eh? He's made some nice friends in Berlin!" and then he began to roar with laughter, while Christoph launched into the explanation: Romanisches Cafe ... alter Kriegskamerad ... came over and sat down ... Ellis never heard of him ... but the old man was still laughing, and Lili and her father were looking at the sketch.

"Tell him it is quite good," said Professor Liebermann as he took off his glasses. "Really quite good! Know why? Because with just a few strokes he captures the inner man, the inner man inside the flesh and the bones of the face. The inner man -in this case the essential Schweinehund!" and he began to laugh again.

Everybody was looking at us now. I had scored a success. The cardboard disk was being passed from one wicker chair to another.

"He wants to take lessons?"

Both of us nodded eagerly.

"And of course he will pay in dollars?""

"Of course, Herr Professor," said Christoph.

"Hmm ... Ja . . ." Professor Liebermann rubbed his moustache and stared into the manicured grass. "I will think about it, perhaps I have a young man ..." Again, a long pause, a cigar was taken out, the cigar end was snipped with an ivory cutter, the cigar was lighted, a blue cloud surrounded the thoughtful face. "I will speak with him, see if he is interested."

"Herr Professor, that's very kind of you," said Christoph, taking a visiting card from a slim leather case. "Ellis is living with me for the moment ..." .

The old man took the card, put it into his vest pocket, nodded. "It has been a pleasure. " He reached out his hand, I shook it, Lili was instantly on her feet, Christoph shook hands, we were dismissed.


The tea party was ending. One couple departed in a large beautifully polished motor launch, manned by sailors in white uniforms. People shook hands with each other and with their host and hostess, moved slowly up the steep graveled path. I examined the house for the first time; it was not really white, but more of an eggshell off-white, built along classic lines in a deceptively simple style, a cool uncluttered style; straight lines, square corners, and many tall windows overlooking the sweeping lawns, the horse chestnuts, the willows dipping into the water, the broad expanse of the Havel River and the dim blue hills on the distant shores.

"Quite a place, isn't it?" asked Christoph, following my gaze.

"Did they build it? It's beautiful."

"Oh my God, no. It is called Schloss Havelblick. Schinkel built it, one of our greatest architects, for one of the Brühls. I think about a hundred years ago, but AIfred will know.... Hallo, see who has returned!"

The Princess was coming down the gravel path walking slowly and carefully in her high heels, shaking hands with people passing her on the way up. I watched Christoph watching her until she stood in front of us.

"Gentlemen ... who will give me a cigarette?"

Christoph produced one in an instant, lighted it, and asked: "What happened to His Excellency?"

"Dinner and reception at Frau Deutsch. I am not invited. What are your plans, if I may ask?"

"We are to have supper with AIfred and Sigrid."

"In the Schloss?"

"Oh no, im Kleinen Haus."

"Just you two? No other ladies?"

"I don't know, my dear."

"Well, I think I shall find out about this." She turned and walked through the pavilion, where Lili von Waldstein and her brothers were still talking to groups of departing guests. She calmly detached Lili from the others and they disappeared, arm in arm, along one of the paths.

"That's the first princess I've ever met," I said to Christoph, who was still staring at the place where the girls had been. "Is she really a princess?"

"Oh, unquestionably. She is the widow of a prince, Austrian, the youngest son of a very ancient house. Very ancient but not very prosperous. They had land, but the land is all in Bohemia and Galicia, in other words it is gone, and he was the youngest son anyway, and he is gone too. They married in September 1914 and he was killed before Christmas, somewhere in Poland."

"And what's she got to do with the Waldsteins?"

"She is one."

"She is one?"

"Yes.- You don't believe it?"

"Well sure, but -"

"But she doesn't look the part, eh?" Christoph grinned in a rather nasty way. "My friend, you had better forget some of your ... I'm sorry, I don't know the word -"

"The word is 'stereotypes,' and I'm sorry."

"It is all right, I should not have said that, I am sorry too."

"Well anyway," I said to make the moment pass, "what is she doing now?"

"What is she doing now? I think she is trying to be invited."

"No, damn it, what is she doing with her life? She's been a widow for eight years? A girl like that?"

"Oh, she has done different things. In the main, she has tried to be an actress. She has had a few roles, perhaps it helped that her uncles give money for the productions, but on the other hand it's not so easy for a princess to become an actress. She calls herself Helena Waldstein and at the moment, as you see, I think she tries to become Frau Aussenminister Rathenau."

"What? You must he joking."

"No, not at all. Such a handsome man, such a successful, intelligent, famous man, such a rich man ... and he has never married. Can you imagine how the ladies pursue him?"

"I don't see it."

"What does that mean, you don't see it?"

"That was not the impression I got."

"Oh no? What impression did you get, Mr. Ellis?"

Should I tell him? "I got the impression she likes being seen with the Foreign Minister, but that she was very happy that you're back from Paris. And that you were very happy to meet her, although you knew she'd be here."

Christoph had been looking over my shoulder at the sailboats.

He took out a cigarette, lighted it, and let his eyes return to the sailboats.

Finally he said: "You watch people carefully." He still wouldn't look at me. "As a matter of fact, I did not know she would be here, I understood she was still in Vienna trying for a part. But the rest of it ... You are quite right. A princess and a penniless bank trainee? It was different during the War. I had my black Husaren uniform, then I was a flying officer, I think we looked good together, but as you know-better than anyone else,-the War was over for me on the eleventh day of April, nineteen hundred and sixteen. I told you when the French let me come back: first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty. Four years gone. What was she to do, knit socks?"

We had wandered up to the iron railing of the pavilion now. The water was lapping at the seawall beneath our feet. An excursion steamer, loaded with Sunday trippers, had just passed the island; the floating dock and the Waldstein motorboat rode gently up and down as the steamer's wave reached the shore.

I didn't say a word and Christoph smoked his cigarette.

"Are you gentlemen ready for cocktails?" Bobby had changed into tails.

"You look as if you are going to serve them," said Christoph.

"I am going to serve them, because my brother does not understand the American martini. But then I must leave you, I am expected back in town. Shall we go up to the Kleine Haus now? I think Lili and Helena are going to have dinner with you."

I followed them out of the pavilion where two maids were collecting cups and saucers and plates, across the lawn and up the winding path.

"Where's Strassburger?" asked Christoph.

'We finally got rid of him."

"He wasn't intending to take her out tonight, was he?"

"No, next week. But if he discovered that you and Peter are invited to AIfred's ... The whole idea is impossible! She has never been allowed out alone with a man, here is somebody old enough to be her father -"

"How old is your sister, Bobby?"

He looked at me. "She is seventeen. So you wonder, how old is my father? He is sixty-four. The answer is my mother, Lili's mother, is his second wife. AIfred and Max had a different mother. She died when Max was born."

"I told him Max was killed in France," said Christoph.

"Yes, another airplane pilot. Had nobody to pull him out."

"I'm terribly sorry."

"Thank you. But why are we talking about such subjects?"

"I was wondering about Dr. Strassburger."

"Oh God, yes, Strassburger. Geheimrat Dr. Erich Strassburger. What shall we tell you?"

By this time we had reached the top of the hill and were walking around the front of the Schloss - broad flagstone terraces and tall french doors.

"Strassburger came to the Bank as a young lawyer. My father and my uncle, they thought it would be good to have a lawyer in the house. Extremely clever. Works very, very hard. He has not married. He made himself an expert in foreign trade transactions. Also selling German securities in England and America. For example, before the War, he managed a syndicate to sell the bonds for Rathenau's electric companies, for the AEG, in London. That sort of thing ... complicated big things, and a great deal of money for our Bank. In the War he was not in the army, he was in the Ministry of Finance for a while, he spent much time working with the Dutch, I think. And then he came back to the Bank, most of the younger men had been in the War, my father and my uncle and the other partners were getting older-"

"Dr. Strassburger is a very important partner," said Christoph.

"He is the most important partner," said Bobby.

"Oh, I would not go that far," said Christoph."  

"I would go that far," said Bobby. We were entering the maze of yew hedges as we rounded the northern end of the Schloss.  

"We are always a little careful what we say in here, because you don't know who else might be in here."

And then he was gone. He had turned right into an opening between two hedges and I followed him, and when I was in the narrow tunnel, he was gone.

"Hey," I said, walking along the tunnel.

"Dr. Strassburger has decided it is time for him to marry, " said Bobby, very quietly, his voice just inches from my ear.

The tunnel was coming to an end. There was a gap in the hedges to my right and another to my left. I stopped, waiting to hear his voice, but he didn't say anything. I turned left and found myself looking down another, shorter passage.

"When you learn German better, you will notice Dr. Strassburger's accent," said Bobby. His voice seemed farther away- "He comes from Dresden, and he has what we call a Saxon accent. We don't think it is very elegant."

I looked up and tried to figure out which way the sun was setting. I had a feeling that the Tea House had been in the shadow of the hill and the Schloss, so I should be headed toward the sun, to the west. When I came to the next opening, I turned left, because the sky looked a little brighter up ahead.

"Strassburger comes from a nice Jewish family in Dresden!'

Bobby's voice was right beside me again. "They own a jewelry store. The father's dead, the old mother is so proud of her successful son, Geheimrat Doctor Strassburger - but it's time for him to find a wife! And who would be a suitable wife for Geheimrat Doctor Strassburger, the most important partner of the second-oldest bank in Berlin?"

I reached another dead end, and this time there was no exit. I had to turn around and retrace my steps, but then I saw an opening to the left. Had I just come through that? No, I didn't think I'd made a turn here. Maybe I didn't see this hole as I went by. I stepped through and found myself face to face with Lili. She put her finger to her lips. Her black eyes sparkled.

"How about a direct descendant of the founder?" Bobby's voice was off to the right somewhere. "Rich, pretty, seventeen years old, presumably a virgin - and a baroness as well! "

Lili took my hand and led me along the passage. We turned right into another one, a wider straighter one. Beams of sunlight slanted through the tall hedges. We came to an opening at the left but she pulled me past. We came to a second opening, she pulled me through that one, then dashed about ten steps to the right, let go of my hand and shoved me through another opening. I was outside, at the edge of a field of strawberries, and on the other side of the strawberries. Christoph Keith was leaning against the wall of a greenhouse, hands in his pockets, grinning.

I put my head back into the maze, but there was no trace of her.


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