Cincinnati, Ohio, August 28, 1935
Mr. Klaus Seydlitz stood, in a state of great but largely concealed excitement, at a railway grade crossing in an industrial suburb.
Elmwood Place stood astride the aptly named Mill Creek. The creek, only a foot or so deep in late summer, mingled the by-products of the local factories with those of the citizens. Both were added to the Ohio River a dozen miles to the south. Closer at hand, and almost directly behind Klaus, was the garbage and trash dump for the whole metropolitan area.
The seemingly endless mounds and hillocks of decaying matter were leveled and churned by large tractors which might have sunken out of sight but for their ten foot spiked steel wheels. Roaring and screaming, they crawled over the garbage like giant red cockroaches, occasionally pausing as if to devour a tempting morsel. The associated smells, particularly striking in the heat of August, wafted right over and past Klaus without visibly affecting him.
From a couple of chemical factories, each capable of producing its own smells, there lifted against the searing white-yellow brightness of the midday sun a prodigious quantity of smoke and industrial gas. The resulting cloud, hanging in the airless valley, had a light magenta color, the sort of thing that might have been produced by rose-colored spectacles. But it was unlikely that it produced much optimism in Elmwood Place.
In addition to its chemical and garbage assets, the town was a railway center. Crowded around and between two major railways running parallel were modest homes, shabby little stores, and bars with tattered signs. From the bars emerged the more respectable members of the community.
The lower elements waited outside to beg or steal the price of a drink. Often with obscene and insulting tattoos on their bare arms and chests, most were better at threatening than supplicating.
Klaus was now speaking casually to the gateman, who was telling him how he happened to be stationed there. Waving the stump of an arm in an empty sleeve, the man said,
"I was away from Cincinnata when I lost it."
Klaus nodded gravely, and the other continued,
"Never woulda happened here in Riverside Yard. It was the system they had up in Columbus, allowing an engine to drift back like that. Whoever heard of a one per cent grade on throat tracks anyhow?"
Anyone who knew the gateman had heard the story many times, but Klaus nodded sympathetically. The loss of a limb between the couplers of two freight cars was an event which required many recountings. It also necessitated a job which consisted merely in dropping the road gates when a train came, and raising them afterwards. Then came the inevitable refrain,
"At least I got it better than Billy Gaines. Two cars coupled right through his belly, and he was still alive when they got to him."
Such tales, generally true, were part of the daily commerce of the railway. They were, indeed, an essential part of the humdrum stylized romance which inspired the most loyal of all industrial workers.
Oddly, the image of a shattered man impaled on a pair of couplers impressed Klaus less than it would have most people. As a former German infantry officer in the Great War, he had known such things and worse. It was, perhaps, those experiences from his youth which allowed him to talk so easily with these men about their own lives. Then, too, never having any urgent business, he found natural a conversational pace and tone which suggested that the past wasn't to be dismissed.
Someone watching the two men might have taken them for a stereotype of the capitalist and the working man. Klaus, dressed in a white suit which had miraculously escaped smudges and stains, stood massively and solidly erect with his hands folded in front of him. He lacked only a gold watch and chain to complete the picture. The gateman, by contrast, had on a none-too-clean white shirt with suspenders holding up trousers that looked too large. He would have looked disreputable but for an alertness which suggested devotion to duty. He may have dreamed of intervening heroically in a train wreck and using his one good arm to pull women and children out of a burning passenger car.
If, then, the gateman was a little more than a gateman, Klaus was a little less than a captain of industry. Apart from his having no connection with the railroad other than owning a large block of its stock, he didn't look the man to lay off a thousand workers to improve the operating ratio by a single percentage point. Like many other men of his size and strength, he looked rather gentle, not least in his consideration for a man who, from a strictly economic point of view, wasn't worth noticing.
The gateman, scratching himself indelicately and stretching at the same time, swung his gaze to include, as it were, the whole railroad. He then allowed,
"Ah loves railroadin. It must get inta tha blood."
Klaus replied in one of his characteristic ways, not speaking very distinctly, but re-affirming what the other had said. The gateman looked pleased. While he was used to Klaus' elaborate courtesy, he seemed to realize that something more was involved in this case.
Klaus often talked of railways, even when he wasn't with railwaymen. Railroads, he observed to his wife and friends, should be judged by the little things - the punctuality of local passenger trains and way freights, the number of leaky steam pipes on locomotives, and the condition of track and roadbed. Of course, the morale of the work force was a big thing, the biggest of all. But it could be measured only by talking with the little people who ran the system, one at a time. He consequently went out every weekday to one or another of his many railroads and made his investment decisions on the basis of what he saw and heard.
The mounting tension could be observed in the postures of both men. It wasn't long before Klaus, stepping up on the end of a tie to see as far down the line as possible, pulled out his watch. It was a steel railroad model, and he held it as far away as his arm would allow in order to read it. The gateman, muttering softly, also looked down the track.
The early afternoon freight to Columbus, which should have reached the grade crossing at 1:27 PM, was already three minutes late. It was, in Klaus' mind, a small but significant test. It was so easy for railwaymen to think that a few minutes here and there in freight operations hardly mattered. But, if they did think that, they would eventually be beaten out by competing railwaymen who were time fanatics. He was intensely curious to see how the New York Central Railway, on whose rail he had one foot, was doing these days.
As if to answer Klaus, a steam locomotive whistle detached itself from the many other sounds, some violent and horrid, of the area. The gateman moved swiftly to his position, ready to lower the gates. Klaus climbed carefully down from the embankment, staring at the point at which the line disappeared behind a warehouse. Then, suddenly, smoke burst out into the open.
The engine, which was most likely a good-sized 2-8-2 Mikado, appeared small under that immense outpouring of smoke and steam. It all looked dangerously out of control. There was something of the thrill that one might have in watching an industrial explosion, or even a fire that had broken out in a neighboring home. In this case, it was the blast pipe of exhaust steam, located right under the smokestack, which sucked such volumes of smoke out of the firebox and flung them high.
Next could be heard the sound of the locomotive, an urgent beat of the two cylinders accelerating a heavy train. There was a sudden slippage of drivers on an oily spot, producing an alarming succession of quick exhausts, but the wheels then caught. Gradually, the exhaust became sharper and more explosive, bouncing off the factory walls as it approached.
The engineer, attempting to make up lost time, obviously had the throttle wide open. Amid ringing bells, flashing lights, and a series of hoarse bellows from the engine, the gateman acted. Twisting his body cleverly to make up for his missing arm, he lowered the gates against their counterweights, leaving them lightly bouncing and swaying. He then stepped back beside Klaus to watch. Both men were keeping time to the engine, Klaus with his foot and the gateman with his clenched fist. The latter shouted to Klaus.
"Bam, bam, bam! Wouldn't ya like to fuck ya wife like that, Mr. Seydlitz?"
The noise made it unnecessary to reply, and Klaus nodded sagely, as if acquiescing in a remark about the weather. Now that the locomotive was almost on top of them, a different set of sounds took over. There was a general whoosh of smoke and steam, and then the cyclical thump of the side rods rising and falling.
It was almost anti-climactic when the engine, towering far above them, swept by surprisingly smoothly and easily. While the good roller bearings of the locomotive allowed it to run comparatively quietly, there then came the train of freight cars equipped with the primitive old bearings which so often produced hot boxes when the packing caught fire. These set up an appalling roar and series of wild crashes, not to mention the steel screaming against steel.
Despite the fact that the wheels bounced several inches above the track, Klaus stepped close and put his walking stick against the rail. In this way he could feel the shocks and vibrations, and he fancied that he could determine the condition of the roadbed and track. Not entirely satisfied with what he had felt, he looked to the gateman, who was now raising the gates. The latter, finishing, caught his eye and made an uncharacteristic gesture of helplessness with his hand.
After speaking briefly to his waiting chauffeur, Klaus bid a rather formal good-bye to the gateman. He then mounted the embankment and walked south along the line.
Anyone else would have found the heat brutal, but Klaus, adjusting his straw hat, gave no sign of being bothered by it. He mostly walked between the rails, stepping rythmically on every second tie. However, when no one seemed to be watching, he stepped up on to the rail itself, balancing his bulk with surprising agility as he walked briskly along it.
There soon appeared the smokestacks of Ivorydale. This improbably named community contained, and was largely constituted by, the largest soap-works in the world. It was also a center of railway interest. On the right, across Vine Street, was the northbound main line of the Baltimore and Ohio, connecting with Toledo, Chicago, and points west. Just visible were the throat tracks opening into the B&O's Ivorydale Yard, which took the soap from Proctor and Gamble to the world. Straight ahead, on the east side of Vine Street, was the New York Central yard, smaller but still busy enough to occupy two switching engines.
To complicate matters still further, the Norfolk and Western crossed the New York Central and Vine Street on a single-tracked rather delicate curved overpass, and then dropped gracefully into the B&O yard. At the moment, one of the N&W's heavy eight-wheeled switchers was slowly dragging a long string of empty coal cars out of the B&O yard up on to the overpass. Moving extremely slowly with its small drivers, the busy exhausts from the stack contrasted oddly with its almost stationary aspect.
Klaus had just reached the overpass, with the engine pounding and swaying directly above him, when he heard a familiar voice. Approaching him, he saw a man of roughly his own age, but with a somewhat disreputable mien. It was Frank Scrutt, better known as Fearless Frankie, the yardmaster of the B&O Ivorydale Yard. Scrutt called out,
"Holy shit, Klaus! You work harder inspecting the line than anyone who's paid to do it."
Klaus smiled and shamefacedly acknowledged the truth of the other's observation. Then, with no more than a gesture, Scrutt invited him to the tavern a short distance away. As they moved off, Scrutt pointed up to the trestle and engine, and, raising his voice to be heard, said,
"I wouldn't stand under this trestle. It needs repair, but we can't spare it long enough to work on it. One of these days, a fucking engine is going to drop right on the street."
It was hard to know whether Scrutt was exaggerating. In any case, he gave a dismissive wave and headed for the tavern.
The dark interior looked like that of any similar establishment, but there was an important difference. The proprietor had rigged up a fan blowing across a great tub of water in which he placed large blocks of ice. It really worked, and the few people in the tavern looked as if they might spend the rest of the day there.
Klaus and Scrutt, seating themselves at a strategically placed table, luxuriated in the cool breeze. The table was also placed so that, out of the corners of their eyes, they could keep in view the empty cars clanking over the trestle.
Scrutt was a man who often substituted gesture for speech, and a wave to the knowing waitress brought beer and sandwiches. In every way, he seemed the absolute epitome of the elite of working class Cincinnati. Looking at him, one could almost see his past: the beginning as a grimy apprentice, the rapid rise, and then the final emergence as a highly skilled and experienced man on whom a great deal depended.
As very few people beside Klaus knew, this appearance was an illusion. Scrutt was a former German naval cadet who had deserted his ship at Pernambuco in 1908, and had eventually made his way to the United States.
The two men had discovered, each rather cautiously, that their backgrounds were similar. Scrutt's family was an East Prussian one, and was even more militaristic than that of Klaus. Being a talented person with no taste for military or naval discipline, Scrutt considered that he had had little option. However, his crime was, from the East Prussian point of view, an unspeakable one. He had never since attempted to communicate with his family, and had no regrets on that score.
On arriving illegally in the United States, Scrutt had adopted a name bearing only the vaguest resemblence to his original one. He began as a hobo, bouncing around the country in empty box cars, but, having taken naturally to the railways, he managed to get a job on one of them. From then on, railways had become the objects of a devotion which has always been strong in East Prussians, even though normally directed toward king and country.
Scrutt's English, while colloquial and decidedly inelegant, was actually better than that of Klaus, just a touch of accent remaining. Cincinnati Germans, most of them of the third generation, accepted as one of their own this earthy and often obscene man who could seemingly untangle any mess a railroad could get itself into.
As often when they were alone together, they spoke of Germany. Klaus was the only person Scrutt knew who had any real idea of his origins, and, together, they had worked out what Scrutt's life would have been if he hadn't deserted. In contrast to Klaus' wartime service as an infantry officer, it seemed most likely that Scrutt would have served in a submarine. While Klaus had been badly wounded in 1918, the odds were that Scrutt would have been drowned in his sub.
It was in this context that Klaus remarked playfully,
"You know, my old colonel and your old captain would now expect us to be quite active. In view of the possibility of war between Germany and America, they'd expect us, in the dark of the night, to conceal explosive charges under that trestle. Then, on the outbreak of hostilities, we'd blow them."
Scrutt clutched his head at the thought of the problems that would be created for the yardmaster. He replied,
"Your old colonel might expect that of you, but I doubt that my old captain would be under any illusions. He must've had to report my desertion to my father."
"Wouldn't they have listed you as missing, probably drowned?"
"They might've if I hadn't sent the captain a rude postcard. What a stupid bunch of bastards they were!"
Klaus nodded in agreement. He then asked,
"Does it ever bother you when you hear someone saying horrible things about Germany that you know aren't true?"
The other considered a moment and answered,
"I think it makes me feel good. It shows me how right I was. If they exaggerate a little, I don't mind that. How about you?"
"It occasionally bothers me a little, but not much. Only a very little more than it would if they were talking about some other country. It would bother me a great deal more if they were talking about America."
"Me too. After all, we're both American citizens."
Klaus paused and added,
"It's as well, really, that my father's no longer alive. He was brought here, practically struggling, by my mother. If there were a war, I suppose he'd still be for Germany."
"You mean, he was as stupid as the other bastards?"
"Yes. Well, I suppose he was, really. He wasn't an intelligent man, and he would've thought of himself as a loyal German. If he'd outlived my mother, he might have tried to go back."
"What would you have done? Let him go?"
"It would've been difficult. I might have felt that my father was better off here, where I could look out for him. To what extent I might have felt it necessary to respect his loyalty to Germany I don't know."
"You're too complicated, Klaus. I had a horrible life until I went over the rail at Pernambuco. It's been pretty good ever since. I don't mind hard work, and I've had lots of fun. I don't think I've any use for loyalty."
"If there's war and a crisis in the yards here, you'll do whatever needs to be done at whatever cost to yourself."
"That's not loyalty. That's just not knowing anything else to do."
A silence then passed between them. After a minute, Klaus asked,
"How are things over in the yard?"
"As usual. Too much traffic. Nowhere to put some of the cars, and nowhere to expand the yard."
"That's always the trouble in Cincinnati. The yards were designed for the eighties. You can't add a single extra track without knocking down a factory wall."
"It'd be better if we did knock down some fucking factory walls, but they won't take my advice. They tell me I'm managing all right as it is. They don't know that things wouldn't go at all if they didn't have a smart son of a bitch like me to run them."
It was only after Klaus had devoured his sausage sandwich that he remembered that his wife was having a large dinner party that evening.
Scrutt gave Klaus a sardonic look and wave as the chauffeur, who had been following, picked him up. Klaus got into the front seat beside his driver, and adjusted his hat at an angle suitable for motoring.
Their route took them up into the hills of Cincinnati. It all seemed as German as Germany. There were twisted little streets with three-storey red brick houses wedged between corner grocery stores. Each house was only one room wide, and each had a pressed-tin cornice with a design, often one inspired by religion. The houses fronted directly on to the slanting sidewalks with only a step or two up to the front door. Many were also equipped with house-wives sweeping the steps and the areas of sidewalk for which they felt responsible.
Near the top of one hill, they passed a small church whose steeple was topped with a brass hand pointing one finger to heaven. Neither Klaus nor his chauffeur made any comment on it.
The Seydlitz home, on a different sort of hill in the Tusculum district of the city, was of an entirely different, and much less German, sort. It wasn't terribly large or imposing because Klaus' mother, on their arrival in America, had thought it impolitic to be too ostentatious. Indeed, sitting in the middle of a large piece of land, most of it wooded, the house wasn't even visible from the road.
On her arrival in Cincinnati in the late summer of 1930, Klaus' young wife, Charlotte, had exclaimed to her new husband,
"All this growth is so luxuriant, I feel as if I've come to a tropical jungle!"
Klaus had replied,
"I hope you don't find it oppressive."
"Not in the least. I think all the trees and shrubs should be encouraged to grow like crazy and intertwine their branches."
Of course, the old couple were still living then, and Hilde had thought that America expected her to employ gardeners to trim any aspiring tendrils, and to keep order generally. It was only two years later, when both Klaus' parents were dead, that Charlotte had felt free to promote uninhibited growth in all directions.
The result wasn't really a jungle but a thickly wooded area surrounding the house which, in summer, was a good ten degrees cooler than elsewhere. The house itself was open and airy with many French windows opening on to paths through the woods. Even the big stone fireplace which supplemented the heating system in the winter was now cool to the touch and soothing to the nerves of anyone who might be over-wrought by the heat and tension of the city below.
Charlotte herself, after an hour or two of tennis on their private court, liked to lie on the marble floor in front of the fireplace, propped up with one elbow on a pillow and a cool drink in her hand. She would then engage her erstwhile opponent, who might have been Klaus, in conversation.
Charlotte was also disposed to give dinner parties, and, on this evening, she had invited one of her "dull" groups. She made no secret of the fact that she found these people less than fascinating, but she had other motives for ranging them around her table. Some were influential and likely to support one or another of the civic projects and programs, some of them controversial, which Charlotte always seemed to be organizing. Others were people who were owed hospitality, and yet others were people "who can't help being dull, but are needed to carry the world on their shoulders."
One of Charlotte's friends had once asked her why she needed to have the world's pallbearers at her dinner table, and hadn't received a satisfactory answer. The impression gained was only that Charlotte believed it important to keep in touch with reality, and that interesting people were likely to be unrepresentative of it.
Charlotte also made no secret of the fact that she considered Klaus the ideal host for such dinners. She therefore let him take the lead on those occasions, talked less than usual, smiled more, and tried to look as sweetly pretty as possible. Even when she joked in this vein with Klaus, he would indulge her pleasantly and admit that he often did feel more comfortable at the dull dinners than at the interesting ones.
That is, he usually did. On this evening, even Charlotte might have admitted that dinner was anything but dull. After it was over, Klaus gently pointed out to her that one couldn't depend on dull people to get along just because they were dull, and that it might be important to take some other factors into account. But, really, she had rejoined, who could have sensed such depths in Mr. Sunderman?
It was only afterward that anyone noticed that the elderly banker had strange hollow eyes and a piercing stare. One had been much more likely to see only a stooped rather frail figure with thick glasses and a tendency to look nervously downward as he adjusted his costume. Indeed, when Charlotte once made fun of Mr. Sunderman in those terms, Klaus had replied,
"It's unfair that elderly people aren't allowed to fuss and dither to the degree that younger people are."
"But it's true. If you're old and can't hold your head up, look clearly at people, and speak in reasonably measured tones, you'll be consigned to the social dung-heap."
This was the trap Mr. Sunderman ordinarily fell into. If he wasn't adjusting his tie, he was poking at his glasses or indulging himself in a characteristic half grimace or twist of the mouth. When he spoke, his tone was often plaintive, as if he thought no one was really listening to him. Even if he had had the wisdom of Solomon, these characteristics alone would have put him in Charlotte's dull group. She invited him even then only because she liked his wife, and because he gave consistently to her charities.
Charlotte had put Klaus at one end of the table with a Mrs. Livingston on his right, Mrs. Sunderman on his left, and Mr. Sunderman next to her. Mrs. Sunderman was reasonably amiable and gregarious, and Charlotte must have thought that she would carry the conversation, making up for Mr. Sunderman and the rather quiet Mrs. Livingston.
Klaus had known Mr. Sunderman slightly for some years, and had at one time decided not to invest in his chain of little savings and loan associations. They were located all over the poorer areas of the city, and most were open only on one night of the week. Their clientele consisted chiefly of elderly Germans who were extremely fearful about the loss of their savings.
Mr. Sunderman seemed the perfect man to trust. Absolutely conservative and a little sour, he could make a simple transaction last half an hour. His customers, who thought preserving money was mostly a matter of keeping accurate records, didn't mind waiting while Sunderman and his tellers fussed over books and painstakingly copied entries. The fact that he always paid a low rate of interest and loaned money only to people who had never done anything imaginative didn't seem to discourage his customers. Most likely, these policies constituted, in their minds, yet another evidence of his trustworthiness.
Surprisingly for such a cautious man, Sunderman had made some rather speculative investments, and had almost lost everything in 1929. It was when the little empire of little banks was struggling back to solvency that Klaus could have bought in at highly favorable terms. Apart from the fact that the whole thing was rather small potatoes, he refused because of a vague distaste for the proprietor. Sunderman might well have learned his lesson, but there was something else, some combination of mean-spiritedness and old fogyism, that put Klaus off.
Since his maximally tactful refusal to invest in the Sunderman empire, Klaus had hardly seen its leader. Now, however, he sensed a change in the man. For one thing, Mr. Sunderman seemed to have more energy. But he hardly looked healthier. Instead of a gray pallor, his cheeks were unnaturally red, as if he had a fever. His erstwhile nervous gestures were still there, but they had speeded up to a point where they were distracting. He need no longer worry whether he was noticed.
The soup was hardly served before Mr. Sunderman leaned across his wife and asked Klaus about his war experiences. It seemed that he had only recently heard of Klaus' past, and he wanted details. Klaus didn't conceal the fact that he had fought against the Americans, but he would have preferred to talk about almost anything else.
It gradually emerged, against every probability, that Mr. Sunderman regarded himself as a soldier. Of German-Danish origin, he had grown up near the border of Schleswig- Holstein, and had served rather briefly in a reserve division in the Kaiser's army in the nineties. As he talked about marching on the parade ground, there was a bright manic look in his eyes. He had entirely put aside the querulous tones of the past, and he was now nothing if not consistent in voice, manner, and expression.
There was, however, something unnerving in witnessing, so-to-speak, the coming to life of a corpse. No one knew what to say when Mr. Sunderman declared emphatically that he should never have left Germany, and that he should have remained in the army. Even his wife looked surprised at these revelations. As far as the others were concerned, the image of this rather insignificant man as a conquering hero was simply absurd.
For Klaus it was even more embarrassing. He knew precisely the limitations of the kind of barracks-square mentality that Mr. Sunderman was championing. It would have led, not to the modest wealth that had been achieved, but to retirement as something less than a sergeant-major. It was Klaus, however, who had to respond. He was the brother soldier to whom all this was directed. He tried to be soothing:
"I suppose there were good things about the old German army, but I never enjoyed it. Neither the marching nor the war that came later."
Mr. Sunderman either missed the subtle element of levity in what Klaus said, or was irritated by it. He responded abruptly,
"A man doesn't enjoy military service. It's an honorable sacrifice. For the glory of the fatherland!"
"However, we are now American citizens, and I don't believe that we should think in quite those terms. One defends the country, of course, but there are none of those dreams of conquest that used to animate the German army, even in peacetime."
"If one believes in one's country, one naturally hopes that it will conquer. Surely you wanted Germany to win the last war."
"No soldier wishes to be defeated, but the attitudes I had then are hardly my present ones."
This was said in a tone that should have closed the discussion. Unfortunately, Mr. Sunderman, now even more agitated, thrust himself further toward Klaus. He would have upset his wife's water glass if she hadn't moved it. Similarly, her feeble attempt to deflect her husband was brushed aside as he addressed his remarks, not only to Klaus, but also to Mrs. Livingston. He seemed to be appealing to her, as an impartial arbiter, in his struggle to set right this German officer who, unlike himself, had gone soft.
"It's Germany's turn to be great! England has stood in the way for too long. It's now time to dispatch her for good."
It was Klaus who answered softly, as if he were reminding his guest of an important fact which had been inadvertently and temporarily overlooked.
"But, now, it's not the Kaiser. It would be Hitler."
At this, Mr. Sunderman jerked upright in his chair, and, with chin elevated in a contemptuous and challenging manner, rejoined:
"It makes no difference. Deutschland uber alles."
Mrs. Livingston next broke in, apparently feeling that her host could use some help in dealing with this choleric old soldier.
"I believe Mr. Seydlitz has made it clear where his allegiances lie. And there's no possibility whatever of our being allied with Germany against England."
Anyone who heard her speak would wonder why Mrs. Livingston had been included in the dull group. White-haired and handsome, she spoke with precision and force. Perhaps Mrs. Livingston had been invited because Charlotte sensed disapproval in her, and wanted her present only when she, Charlotte, was on her best behavior.
Mr. Sunderman wasn't used to direct confrontation, albeit of a civilized sort. He had always been able to run his little banks any way he wanted, and he had a wife who always gave in. His reaction was immediate. Turning almost purple, he shot a shaking finger at Mrs. Livingston.
"You are a fool!"
Mrs. Sunderman covered her face with her hands. Klaus stood up. Mrs. Livingston looked curiously at Mr. Sunderman, who was still shaking, and remarked coolly.
"I think that you aren't able to discuss these matters without losing control of your feelings."
Klaus was now behind Mr. Sunderman and touched him lightly on the arm.
"You are ill, sir. If you will allow me, I will assist you to your car."
Mr. Sunderman showed momentary signs of remaining rooted in his chair, but the pressure on his arm was unobtrusively powerful. Meanwhile, his wife, thankful for a chance to escape, had grabbed his other arm. As they together propelled the flustered Mr. Sunderman toward the front door, Klaus was full of solicitude as to whether the older man felt well enough to drive. The latter protested vehemently at this suggestion, but Klaus, perhaps thinking that he might take out his aggressions behind the wheel, waved to his chauffeur and ordered him to drive the Sunderman car.
Klaus then apologized to Mrs. Sunderman, as if he thought something in the soup had made her husband ill, and asked her to call a taxi for his chauffeur when she got home. As Klaus went back into the house, Mr. Sunderman was shouting at the chaffeur. However, the latter was a big man, and it looked as if he would use force if necessary. While her husband was arguing, Mrs. Sunderman fished the ignition key out of his pocket and handed it to the chaffeur.
Charlotte, at the other end of the long table, was out of earshot of the little fracas. However, when she saw Mr. Sunderman being virtually dragged along, she rushed up. Klaus, with his free hand, waved her away. Waiting just long enough to see the Sundermans headed out the front door, she was able to have a brief word with Klaus.
There was, of course, the problem of an unbalanced table. With hardly a moment lost, Charlotte spoke briefly and humorously with the men adjoining her at the end of the table, and had her place moved to that vacated by Mrs. Sunderman. Klaus moved over to the place formerly occupied by the upholder of German nationalism, and, all essential positions manned, the dinner party proceeded with hardly a hitch. The only difference was that there was a good deal more to talk about.
Klaus, while talking somewhat guardedly with the lady on his left, was aware that his wife was making a considerable effort with Mrs. Livingston. Probably Charlotte felt that the incident was partly her fault for having invited the Sundermans, and hoped that her reputation as a hostess hadn't suffered a blemish. As far as Mrs. Livingston was concerned, the effort wasn't needed. It turned out that she had always been intrigued by Mr. Sunderman, and was interested to finally find out what was wrong with him. She remarked finally,
"He'll be mortified tomorrow morning, at least with some help from his wife. If he calls me to apologize, I'll extract from him a healthy contribution to the Fine Arts fund."
The next morning, it was Klaus who got on the telephone. He first made some calls to ascertain the financial standing of Mr. Sunderman and his savings and loan associations. He discovered that, in the last few months, Sunderman had been lucky again, to a surprising extent. Perhaps this was what had puffed him up and occasioned his outburst of arrogance.
Klaus next called Mr. Sunderman. Instead of demanding that he apologize to Mrs. Livingston, he inquired after his health. Sunderman was flabbergasted and seemed very appreciative. Klaus then remarked that he had a project of a quasi-military nature in which the other might be interested, and which might also turn out to be profitable. Sunderman immediately said that he would take a substantial interest, even before learning the particulars.