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Part 151
PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 16, 1915 - New York, New York! - Part IVa Evening Engagements

---- 12:30 PM, Bermuda

Sydney certainly presented an inspiring sight, the commander thought, as she edged away from the pier. Though, he did not envy Captain Dedmundee, her CO, not one tittle. Vice-Admiral Patey was hot to take charge of the forces off New York, and the crew had gotten no liberty after their hard run up from Jamaica. Instead, they had spent much of the night helping re-coal their cruiser. Some had cautioned a bit of delay, with the notion that adroit timing of merchant departures could, with The Hague provisions, immure a belligerent warship indefinitely. Others had observed that adequate forces were already on station outside the New York harbor and that there would be ample warning of any departures.

Patey, however, had been adamant. Pressures were mounting on the Americans, and he had no confidence that they could keep Strassburg ported for more than another day, and it was about 650 miles to the off-shore station. The vice-admiral had no idea what decision might need to be made on the spot if the liners came out, and he felt compelled to be on the scene to deal with the tensions he perceived to be growing between his ships and the Americans.

Also, the Germans seemed to be gaining sympathy. This kind of potential political capital was dismaying. It had to be nipped in the bud. And the best way would be to sink Strassburg convincingly or, even better, obtain her internment. Neither could take place, however, as long as the Hun could remain snidely sheltered by The Hague in New York, speechifying on every set of church steps in the city.

---- 1:00 PM, New York, telephone conversation

"... and, by the way, George, the Germans have accepted, just as you said."

"Excellent! Thank you, again, Thomas, and please extend my thanks to Ida, as well. As I mentioned previously, The Professor asked me to get a good look at these foreigners. When I suggested you might be interested, he waxed quite enthusiastic."

"I'm always ready to help The Professor, he knows that, and not just money, either."

Both men knew The Professor would hardly be where he was today, without the active support of the two of them.

"Both the general and the navy fellow could be useful tonight, Thomas. Likes take to likes, I've always said, and military types always seem to be good at sizing each other up. Some business opportunities, too. My daughter's friendly with the wife of Thompson's son, that's how I got a line on him. He's just retired, fancies himself an inventor, and is looking for some backing, or so she tells me." 1

"I'm always looking for opportunities, George, you know that. Inventors like Hess, especially." 2

"Well, the invention he's got in mind is a machine, too, but it's nothing to do with typewriters. Some kind of new gun. The navy man's also quite an inventor, already holds several patents, and may soon be retiring himself. I drummed him up because his wife has written for rags I own before.3 I used The Professor's name to pry him loose from my old 'friend' Daniels. And the Count?"

"Lesseps is still in France, I was told."

"Too bad. Oh, well. Thanks, again, Thomas. I look forward to seeing you and Ida tonight."

"Until tonight, then."

---- 5:50 PM, Scapa Flow

Captains Dave and Hawke exchanged glances. The last time the Commander, Grand Fleet, had met with his senior officers and dreadnought captains, they had filled this room. Now, they would hardly fill one table. Captain Swafford stood with the others but felt quite alone, nonetheless. The other six captains had all been at the battle two weeks ago. Except for Marlborough, every dreadnought had taken damage and casualties. All of them, without exception, had seen thousands of British die fiery deaths or get dashed into the cold North Sea. Swafford sometimes caught the others staring off into the distance, as though still trying to pick out distant forms shrouded in the mist.

The new Commander, Grand Fleet, was due any moment. Swafford sipped at his tea, and found that only cool dregs remained. He decided against refilling his cup again, and looked down the doorway.

There! Admiral De Robeck had met first with his other flag officers, and the group coming into sight could only be them.

De Robeck was duly announced, and entered with no attempt at pomp. With him were Admirals Burney, Napier, and Keyes, and Commodores Nott and Le Mesurier.

"Gentlemen," said De Robeck, after the introductions, "there is much to be done and we cannot count on the Hun giving us any luxury of time. Admiral Burney will continue to fly his flag from Marlborough and will command her division. Benbow has been delayed so, at present, I will fly my flag on Warspite, with Colossus and Vanguard. St. Vincent will be along shortly to round out the division, within the week, I expect."

Swafford carefully hid his sigh as he returned De Robeck's nod at him. Another admiral underfoot. It made sense, though. Marlborough's division mates were familiar with each other and with Burney, while the newly formed division would be directly under De Robeck's supervision. J[ellic]oe had organized it identically, for the same reasons. It said a lot, Swafford thought, that De Robeck was not making changes for changes sake.

"... dispatching Admiral Keyes to oversee directly the conduct of repairs," De Robeck was continuing. "Frankly, I am less than satisfied with the progress to date ...."

Trying not to blink at some glare reflected off a mirror from the setting sun, Hawke was quite glad not to be on the receiving end of Admiral Keyes' pointed inquiries at Rosyth, Devonport, and Portsmouth. Hawke agreed, though, that the GF Commander's concern was an apt one; there were more dreadnoughts under repair than underway.

Dave, who had hoped that Warspite and Queen Elizabeth would operate independently, concealed his disappointment. Barham was not so far away from completion, he thought. Perhaps when she joins ....

"... and on the matter of fleet scouting and screening forces, we must retrench. The Germans have been flagrantly aggressive with their battlecruisers, and our operations must take that more into account. If they get a bit too forward, however, we must be prepared to deal sharply with them."

Dave caught a slight wince from Admiral Napier. The earlier Flag meeting must have been far from uneventful!

"I will be meeting with each of you in the next few days to discuss your command ...."

All the COs kept their expressions neutral. This was not unexpected, but their new commander had put it quite bluntly.

De Robeck continued without pause. There would be written instructions, but the admiral had no intention of letting paper limit his command. The captains, commodores, and admirals all began to realize ever more fully that a new laird held the manor house.

---- 5:55 PM, Strassburg's quarterdeck, HAPAG Terminal, New York

The Germans were waiting somewhat patiently for their promised transport. They had been invited to many social exhibitions, but this was the first one that they had been instructed to accept. The invitation, inked on elegant stationery, had been simple: "Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Fortune Ryan ...," the translation of polite idiomatic form was never precise, but it was clear they had been invited to dinner. The consular officer had sounded awed when he had arrived to inform von Hoban of the imminent invitation and the importance of accepting it. The call notifying the consulate of the invitation had come from the embassy in Washington, DC, where the first copy had been delivered, addressed to the German Ambassador himself. In fact, the First Secretary was already on a train for New York to attend it himself. A messenger had waited for their "RSVP" and provided details. A car would arrive at 6:00 PM to pick them up, they had been told, and would return them later.

As he waited, Kommodore von Hoban's eyes once again were drawn to that enormous statue out in the harbor of this country's largest city. A gift from France, dedicated hardly two dozen years ago, in full view of the USN base, and his nation was at war with France. It was a daunting sight.

LT Lionel watched the uniformed armed men at the base of the pier area. He could not see that colonel with the savage look, but he did not for a moment doubt he was there, somewhere. He had been surprised that von Hoban had wanted him along, since a consular officer would be meeting them there. He suspected that the commodore had wanted someone to give him state, by appearing to be his aide, opening and shutting doors for him.

Captain Siegmund hated the prospect of leaving his command, even if it were just for a few hours. This was no friendly port. In fact, he had objected most strenuously to being included in the evening's plans. Von Hoban claimed that neither the embassy not the Americans had given him any real choice in the matter. The invitation had been addressed to Kommodore von Hoban and the Commanding Officer of Strassburg, with provision for an aide and/or interpreter.

Ballin was already walking down the pier from Imperator, deep in conversation with Heinrich. He had been mystified to receive a similar invitation, but had not hesitated to accept it. Its source was of impeccable financial standing, and the possible business opportunities were literally incalculable. More than money, however, it promised possible acceptance of him and HAPAG at an unprecedented level. Six months ago, he had faced the loss of his ships, through war or decay, and personal ruin, with only the enthusiasm of a long-time, highly-connected friend to give him hope. Two weeks ago, his earlier decision to throw in with his friend had required this fresh gamble. Tonight, it seemed the stakes might be raised far beyond any previous imaginings.

"Sir, lookouts report a limousine has just been passed through by the Americans."

"Very well."

As they started down the gangway, Siegmund began to refresh his admonitions to his XO.

"... and I want the boat watch doubled ..."

"Captain," von Hoban said mildly, from halfway down.

"Aye, aye, sir," said the XO.

"Aye, aye, sir," said Siegmund.

Lionel admired the gleaming black vehicle gliding up the pier. Siegmund looked back at his cruiser, fearful that he might never see her again. His command of English was minimal, and his trust of those that spoke it far, far less.

---- 6:30 PM, 5th Avenue, New York City

Lionel had had a start, when there had been two police cars waiting for them as the limousine passed through the soldiers. Now, the lead car disgorged four uniformed gendarmes who somehow cleared the area for the limousine to approach and let them out. The trail car blocked traffic from the rear, so they emerged in a space empty of strangers. This was no minor matter, as there were more cars and trucks and trolleys on the streets of this city than Lionel would ever have imagined. And so many looked alike, as though they had been cast from a mold! He looked over the outside of the limousine as the others got out. What, he wondered, was a "Locomobile?" And why "48" - did it have 47 predecessors?

The structure before them was a handsome one, though hardly a palace in size. For a street crammed with generally similar structures butting up against each other, this one stood out for an unusual reason. There was no building occupying the lot beside it. Instead, there appeared to be a garden there, an elaborate garden, even partially enclosed. The young officer wondered why no one had built a house there. Surely, this was a desirable location?

"Herren," came a polite voice. "Kommen Sie bitte hierher?"

"Jawohl," Lionel replied for them, playing the aide, "danke." They all followed the German-speaking greeter up the walk. As they drew closer, the house seemed to grow larger and larger. There were stone lions, prominently placed on both sides.

As they mounted the tall steps, Siegmund made a gesture of surprise towards the garden plot. Lionel followed the captain's eyes and saw a marble staircase on the lot. There was no second floor at the top of the stairs, in fact, there was no building there at all, just the staircase. Where was it supposed to lead? Flowers adorned some of the white marble steps and there appeared to be some marble columns in there, as well. The latter were only partially in view due to the luxuriant greenery adorning several trellises. Lionel looked through the gap in the building line and into the sky at a distant object as they were led. Zeppelin? Cloud? Other than the stairway to heaven, he realized looking at the lot again, there was no sign of any permanent structure. Had there ever been one there? If so, what had happened to it? When he looked back up, the object had passed from view. Mysteries everywhere, he thought.

Lionel's first impressions as he passed through the opened door, were ones consistent with a great estate. There were persons he took for servants everywhere, several standing in corners or other low profile locations, some in a hallway further in back could be seen walking with trays of glasses. Lionel tried to peer around without gawking. This was a difficult task, as the stamp of wealth was everywhere. Leather, marble, polished woods, baroque clocks, bronze sculptures, oil paintings, heavy brocade curtains, lace fringes, exotic curios ....

"Guten Abend," said a wiry, white-haired gentleman as they stepped fully into the foyer. He had piercing eyes and his suit was superb in cloth and cut, but the deference he was being shown by those around were what really gave him away. This was their host, and his air of command was unmistakable. He gave a glance back and a pair of younger men came forward; others hovered near and watched the man intently, for any sign they were wanted, perhaps.

"Guten Abend," Lionel and the others replied.

"Ah'm afraid I don't speak any German," the man began. The older of the pair proceeded immediately to translate their host's words into crisp and fluent Deutsch. Lionel had begun to tense as Ryan's first words revealed apparently still another version of English. At the sound of the interpreter's voice, he relaxed a fraction.

"Thomas Ryan," he announced to his guests. "Pleased to meet you. I was so grateful that you could come tonight. I regret the short notice, but your scheduled arrival here was not well announced." Lionel could not be sure from the English but, if the translation had been correct, this man had a very dry sense of humor. If so, his interpreting duties tonight were going to be debilitating, in the extreme.

The German officers and Ballin introduced themselves.

"Dear," called Ryan. "Ida, let me present our latest guests ...." Introductions followed, as they were introduced to Ryan's wife. She was a lady perhaps a decade younger than Ryan's 60-ish. She was not gaudily attired, but her jewels, if authentic, could have bought a light cruiser. Somehow, Lionel had no doubt they were real.

"Gentlemen, please, make yourselves at home. Refreshments are currently being served in the garden. I've taken the liberty of arranging for an interpreter for each of you." Ryan hardly had to turn his head before several men came forward, were introduced by Ryan's interpreter, and essentially attached themselves to each of them. Lionel relaxed a bit more. Von Hoban was impressed. Siegmund hid a scowl, realizing first that they now would have no opportunity to confer in private. Ballin just smiled and began to ask his about the weather as they were led deeper into the house.

---- 6:40 PM, Scapa Flow

".... enjoyed overwhelming force," de Robeck continued. "We have become accustomed to it. Our enemies also have become accustomed to it. They adapted, as we have learned. They engaged us in circumstances to their advantage and, with our faith in our overwhelming force, we obliged them, entering into a meeting engagement with such poor visibility that we could not bring our full strength to bear.

"No longer, gentlemen. Superior force, yes. We still have it, if properly employed, and I shall endeavor to do so. But not overwhelming force. Not now. But we shall regain it. Until then, we will simply do without it. We'll see if the Hun can adapt half as well.

"Their near-parity in numbers is a chimera. They cannot possibly defeat us on a clear and open sea. They may not realize it, however. If they sortie again, gentlemen, we shall instruct them.

"Until then, vigilance! See to your commands! Attention to detail, gentlemen. That and planning are the answers to whatever the enemy may try. And, indeed, the Hun will try something, as this cruiser - liner affair in New York clearly shows."

A few more minutes of that and they were dismissed. As the officers began to make their way out, Swafford tarried to get a word with the admiral's flag LT, whom he knew somewhat from before.


"Yes, sir?" Hereford responded. Michael shifted position to keep De Robeck in his field of vision. The admiral was listening to something Commodore Nott had to offer.

" 'Attention to detail' is laudable, of course," Swafford offered. "I demand much the same on Warspite." He was fishing, and knew the junior officer would understand.

"Perhaps his favorite instruction to me, sir, is 'Nothing is too small.' "

"Ah, quite," said Swafford, a bit nonplused.

"Sir, he's certain that if we'd made our landings and assaulted when planned, our troops would have swept the Turks aside and today we'd be in Istanbul. But someone had the guns and ammo loaded onto different ships than the men who'd use them. So, instead of landing them when planned, we had to put into Egypt to set it right. When we did the landings a month later, it was terrible. The Turks had laid barbed wire out of sight, just below the surface of the water, all along the beach. For hours, the wave crests were pink with our blood, and he saw it. All of it."

"Ah, I see. Thank you, lieutenant." That explained a great deal, including why De Robeck's look resembled so much the stares of the others.

"You're quite welcome, sir."

---- 6:45 PM, Ryan's mansion, 5th Avenue, New York City

The first guest they met was Herr Schmidt, from the embassy in Washington, who had been waiting for them.

"If you gentlemen will excuse us for a moment?" Schmidt asked.

The interpreters' expressions were pained, but they stepped away.

"I regret that I could not brief you before arriving," said Schmidt in a low voice, "but I only just got here myself. You must beware. This man Ryan is a power in this country. He is one of their wealthiest; he controls an entire railroad, for example. He was the crucial backer of their current president. Without his money, gentlemen, Wilson would still be teaching at some college. This invitation is no coincidence, not at all! It was by design, and not luck, that it came first to our embassy. We do not know their intent but, truly, we had no real option but to attend." 4

In the background, there had been gentle chimes. Now the sound of the front door opening could be heard, and the street noise grew slightly louder for a few moments.


"Oh, yes, here. Thank you, Jefferson. Sorry to be late, Thomas, Ida, that is a lovely dress! But that fool Roosevelt has whipped traffic into more of a frenzy than a mob of his Progressives."

"What's that, you say?"

"He's been leading some sort of a march through the streets. Heaven only knows what he's up to. I'll get the story, tonight, of course. Thompson'll be along any minute. He was just behind me. Have ...?"

"Yes, they're ...."

The Germans concluded their brief discussion and headed for the garden, their translator shadows falling back in with them. The appointments in the house were extravagant and heavy, but in good taste. Ballin noted that the glass in several windows had the French Fleur-de-Lis leaded into them. In certain other rooms, a cross or crucifix occupied a position of honor. There were other signs, as well. Their hosts were Catholics, and quite conspicuous about it. Well, that wouldn't bother him and, upon reflection, Ballin decided that Mr. Ryan could hardly be ignorant of the faith of the owner of HAPAG. He wanted to relax, but could not. He turned and smiled at his shadower.

"Do you know when or where we will be eating?"

"Sir, I was told that dinner would be served at 8:00 PM, in the grand hall. Until then, most will probably be in the garden, or perhaps the Renaissance Room - that's on the fourth floor."

"Thank you."

There was a beautiful fountain burbling in the garden and, as they approached it, two couples and a third man paused their conversation and turned towards them. Their translators hastened to make introductions. The youngest of them was the unaccompanied gentleman. He was very tall and had the most intense eyes that Lionel had ever seen. They seemed almost to glow in their sockets. This man was Nik Tesla, if he got the name right. The others were Josephine Fiske and her husband, whose name Lionel missed as he marveled at Tesla's spark, and the Browns - he missed both of their names, as well.

"We were just listening to Nikola, here, how electricity should be able to be transmitted without wires, or even bounced off distant objects," Mr. Fiske described, with might have been a touch of skepticism.

"Perhaps not electricity," Tesla corrected, "but energy, yes. I can do it now, but money, always it is money that holds me back."

Within moments, scientific and technical details had the interpreters sweating. Lionel was immensely glad not to be the one attempting it. Tesla was quite enthusiastic and the Fiske gentleman was probing at him quite shrewdly. The tall younger man's hands traced bizarre patterns in the air with Tesla alternating current and past experimental findings with mathematical theories. Lionel wanted to get a close look at the mystery staircase, but felt obliged to stay near von Hoban, as an aide would be expected. He tried not to laugh when it seemed that Tesla was claiming he could transmit electricity through the earth itself, and then claimed actually to have done it!

"Where do you think the lightning goes? Tesla posed to the group. "It bursts from the heavens and strikes the ground. Then what? Earth is alive! Energy flows everywhere in waves of power ...."

Fiske remained unconvinced, and ventured opinions of his own. "When we use the wireless between ships at sea," he said, "we are on water, and are not in contact with the earth. How does Marconi's invention compare with your theories?"

"Marconi! But that is okay; he is using 17 of my patents ...." 5

For von Hoban, one element of the scene soon achieved the clarity of the spraying water. The elegant man with the thinning silver hair and mustache was some senior USN officer, probably an admiral, though he was not in uniform. What, he wondered, were the Americans' objectives here?

Ballin lost interest and wandered off to self-tour the garden. Either Ryan, or more likely his wife, was an avid gardener. Or employed avid gardeners. There was such great wealth, conspicuously on display here, that anything was possible. He had recognized the heavy Florentine style in the house. And there had been a bust of Mr. Ryan himself that he had carefully not stared at. That had been difficult, however, because Ballin was almost positive that it was a piece by Rodin himself. His assigned translator could not tell him the names of most of the flowers. Pity. 6

"Ladies, Gentlemen," said Ryan as he came upon the group near the fountain, "I see you've discovered one of my favorite hang outs out here. Let me present Mr. Thompson ...."

This new individual also looked to be military, thought von Hoban.

"And this is my friend and business associate, George Harvey. George publishes 'Harpers' and one or two other things and probably sees more of my house than I do."

"Droll, Thomas," rejoined Harvey, genially. "Very droll."

"George was telling me that one of our former Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, was leading some sort of march this afternoon through New York. Frankly, my German guests, if I've got it right, he wants us to throw you and your cruiser out, and not allow any of your warships in ever again."

"That is," Von Hoban retorted, "to use Mr. Harvey's words, 'very droll.' "

"Yes?" Harvey asked, with a gleam in his eye.

"Yes, it was your Mr. Roosevelt who signed 'The Hague' that permits us to port here, and it is your navy that will not let us leave."

"Ha!" Ryan exclaimed. "That is a bit of a muddle!"

"Yes," said Fiske, "more bull than moose, if you ask me."

The Americans laughed, but the Germans missed the allusion. Nor did the interpreters offer clarification.

"So, you'd leave if you could?" Thompson asked, after a moment.

"But of course. I said that to your Admiral Stennis. And more than once, I would like to add."

"He's not my admiral," Thompson protested, smiling. "I'll admit to having been in the army, but that's it. You're not pinning him on me."

"Do you think your way is clear?" Fiske asked. "After all, the British have had four or five days since you appeared off the coast."

"I am under no such illusion," von Hoban replied. "Not at all. Your great country, it spans the width of your continent, but your two-ocean navy has docilely allowed yourselves to be blockaded by the country you fought to be independent from."

The man Fiske seemed to bristle at that, when it was translated, thought Lionel, but the American naval man remained silent.

"I beg to differ!" Harvey said. "Blockaded? We have merchants coming and going every hour of the day."

"Not to Germany. You can't get our beer, and we can't get your nickel."

"Yes," agreed Ryan, "that's true enough. They stop your ships, sink 'em or seize 'em. You do the same, you know. In fact, your ships stopped the one I was on, off Belgium. Detained me, personally! Kept me twiddling my thumbs while you searched the entire ship." Ryan obviously did not recall the incident with any amusement.

"It would seem we let you go," spoke up Herr Schmidt, to von Hoban's welcome surprise. "The British do not let the Germans go. They shot at Imperator. Just as well you were not on her, yes?"

"I wasn't on a British ship," Ryan said. "And you've invaded Belgium. King Leopold was a personal friend of mine, and I know what's been going on over there. The American people are going to lose patience, the way you're going."

"We are occupying Belgium as part of this war," agreed von Hoban when Schmidt did not immediately answer. "That is the army's doing," he said with a significant look at Thompson, "but it is true."

"You are occupying part of Mexico," noted Schmidt, belatedly, "yes? And you are not even at war with her."

"And one of my recent passengers," Ballin added, as the Americans all drew deep breaths, probably to object, "Countess Marina, says the British have occupied her Ireland for generations."

"And New Orleans," stuck in Lionel with more boldness than good sense, "did not the British try to occupy your New Orleans?"

The arrival of Mrs. Ryan effectively ended the discussion.

"We were getting a bit boisterous, weren't we, dear?" Ryan said, as she slipped her arm through his. The other Americans looked to their host.

"New Orleans was 101 years ago," Ryan commented. "And I don't know about Ireland. But I do know that Ida will skin me alive if I keep you out here while the food gets cold."

Mrs. Ryan smiled, but did not contradict her husband.

---- 8:05 PM, Ryan's mansion, 5th Avenue, New York

Ballin had found himself seated near the end of the table, between Mr. Brown and another whose last name was Marmon, an historian and biographer. The latter individual had the earmarks of a boon dinner partner and his enthusiasm was clear even filtered through the interpreter who remained at Ballin's elbow.

"Isn't this house magnificent?" Marmon asked. "It has been my dearest wish to visit here."

Ballin agreed the house was grand. Indeed, it reminded him of a baron's manse, or that of a duke. He had been in the ancestral home of Letters many times, and Ryan's did not suffer in the comparison. The most impressive aspect, though, was that Letters and the other British and European mansions represented an accumulation of wealth by a family over many generations. Ryan, however, had started as an orphan and pauper. These were his own, personal assets that he had amassed in less than one life span.

"... must get up to the Renaissance Room."

"What is there?"

"He has a wonderful collection of 16th Century Liomoges, and art from France, Italy ...."

The dining room, table, chairs, and even the cabinetry were mahogany, gleaming as if they had been oiled daily for years, thought Lionel. Perhaps they had been, the young officer belatedly realized, taking in afresh the number of servants.

"How many rooms are in this building?" Siegmund asked his interpreter, in a low voice. There seemed to be corridors leading out to the horizon, with doorways along the entire lengths.

The interpreter asked one of the servants, who shrugged, but offered an answer.

"She's not sure, sir."


Another servant made a comment.

"It seems to depend on what you'd consider a "room" and if you mean just the one building."

There were others?

"A guess would suffice."

"She thinks it's about a hundred." The man said a number. "His estimate is 104."

A hundred rooms!


"Ladies, gentleman," announced their host, "I wish to propose a toast. To world peace."

"Here, here," that was one they could all agree on. Waiters and waitresses took it as their signal, as indeed it had been.

"Mr. Ryan," began von Hoban, "Mrs. Ryan, I want to thank you for inviting us here, tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to our host and his lovely lady."

"Hear, hear!"

"Mrs. Ryan," continued Kommodore von Hoban, after the toast, "I was most impressed with your garden."

"Thank you," she said. "But it's mostly Thomas' doing. He loves gardening."

"Yes," Mr. Ryan said. "I admit it. Most kind of you. See, I always wanted a good garden. The ones down at my cottage in Lovingston are much more extensive, of course. That's down in Virginia, where I grew up. I found I really missed it up here. So, when the Yerkes place came available ...."

Lionel realized, with a shock, that there HAD been a building there! He numbly retrieved the forkfull that had just landed at the edge of his plate. The conversation drifted into the flowers and other vegetation that their host and hostess favored, some of which had been unable to flourish in New York. Some that were in Germany that might do well here. Lionel, however, missed all that. He was struggling with his realization that Ryan had bought a building grand enough to boast a marble staircase just so he could tear it down to provide himself with a garden! Who WAS this man?

"You mentioned your association with Belgium," Schmidt said. "Are you involved with the Belgium Relief, then?"

"Yes," Ryan replied. "That fool Hoover's a thorn in my side, but, well, we can discuss that later. It's not a fit subject for the table."

"Yes, of course," Schmidt acknowledged, and they all went back to safer topics.

---- 9:25 PM, Ryan's mansion, 5th Avenue, New York

The food had been wonderful, of course, by then the Germans had expected no less. There had been more than enough variety even for Ballin's needs. At last, they had stood as the ladies departed, and adjourned to a study lined with shelves and glassed cases. Humidors were conveniently at hand on two of the small, leather-topped tables.

Fiske, Thompson, and Harvey soon were deep in discussion with Schmidt, von Hoban, and Siegmund, with Lionel lingering at the fringes with the hard-working interpreters. Ballin soon grew tired of it and began to study the contents of the glassed shelves. The first one was mostly a display of rifles and shotguns, on polished wood racks.

"Ah, Mr. Ballin, are you a collector?" Ryan had left the other gathering and joined him.

"No, not particularly. Your entire house is a wonder, though, and I've enjoyed all that I've seen here."

"Have you been in my art gallery yet? The one on the fourth floor?"

"No, not yet."

"I'd be pleased to show you."

Ballin assented, and so they left the military men to their own devices.

"I was most interested in the response to your auction a couple days back," mentioned Ryan as they walked, an interpreter close behind. "There really does seem to be something of an opportunity there. Quite surprising, actually. Shouldn't have been, though. German products are a rarity right now."

"The British blockade," Ballin remarked.

"Yes, yes, but would they stop an American ship?"

"Definitely, but would they let her go on? Maybe not. Who knows what they'd claim was contraband."

"Almost all your liners are over here now, aren't they?"

"Most, but not all," Ballin admitted.

"Would you consider selling them?" Ryan said. "After all, you're hardly going to be able to get them back - oh, you may pull it off, once, but you're not going to be able to make any money at it. Almost no one will book passage, from this direction anyway, and trying to make freighters out of them won't work. But I don't have to tell you that."

"I've never considered selling my liners. Ever."

"Maybe you should. Look, if you lose this war, the British will take them, sure as God makes little green apples."

The interpreter struggled to find an equivalent idiom. At last Ballin nodded at the interpreter's efforts.

"And," Ryan continued, "if the US ends up getting dragged into the war, all German hulls here will get be seized so fast it'd make your Kaiser's head spin." The interpreter frowned again, but tried his best.

"Hell, Ballin, we're both simple businessmen, you and I. If Germany wins, it sure won't be anytime soon. Meanwhile your ships rot and they'll end up not worth a damn. You lose, and someone'll take them flat out. If America gets into it, you're never going to get them back, no matter how the war goes. So, sell them to me, and you get cash for after the war, no matter how it goes. You get rid of some white elephants and I get something I might be able to make money with. Interested?"

"Wer schnell nach oben will, fällt auch schnell herunter."

"Hasty climbers have sudden falls," the interpreter translated, this time struggling with the idiom going the other way.

"Yes, well we have a saying, too. It's: 'Opportunity knocks but once.' "

Ballin shrugged.

"Well, think about it. We can always work out the details later. Ah, my 'Renaissance Room.' The fireplace there is one of my favorites. It's from an old abbey in Lorraine."

Ryan continued to describe his items on display. Ballin was impressed at first by the carvings in the ceiling. The walls were an enamel and gold combination. Mr. Marmon was already there examining an exquisite faience on the mantel. Ballin leaned over to look at a very old bronze.

"Rodin is my favorite, but those Etruscan bronzes are quite nice."

"Is the bust I saw a Rodin?"

"The one of me? Yes."

Ballin's heart was still racing. Some of it was doubtless from the climb up three flights of stairs, but mostly it was Ryan's abrupt offer to buy his liner fleet. Was it an honest offer? Or was it a ploy of some sort?

Ryan liked to show off his treasures, and Ballin was an appreciative audience. However, the German did not mention the offer again, despite Ryan's stretching out the tour precisely to give him opportunities to do so.

"I like that window," remarked Ballin, finally. The saying leaded into the splendid pane, translated from its Latin, was, "Fraud is the Enemy of Light."

"Yes," said Mr. Thomas Fortune Ryan, squarely meeting the eyes of the owner of HAPAG. "I liked it, too. That's why it's here."

---- 9:55 PM, Ryan's mansion, 5th Avenue, New York

Most of Ryan's guests had left. Mrs. Ryan was talking with Josephine Fiske, out in the hall. The remaining men were standing in the Library, nursing "stirrup cups."

"... I'd defer to Brad, here," Thompson was saying, "but I think they'll fight."

"Yes," said Fiske, with a bit of a sigh. "That Hoban fellow really wants to put out to sea, the quicker the better. Now, he may just be wanting to go off and start raiding, and leave the liners behind. I doubt it, but I wouldn't put it past him."

"Hell," muttered Thompson, "I wouldn't put anything past him. That is one tough hombre, and the others'll back his play."

"What makes you think he's so tough?" Harvey asked, seriously. In his experience, many men talked tough, but turned out to be blow-hards or four-flushers.

"Well," answered Fiske, nodding at Thompson, "he's been in battle, that much I know. I asked some of my British contacts about him. They said he'd been the captain of Blucher. She was an armored cruiser and was in the thick of battle, both last January and the one a couple weeks ago. You can bet they didn't promote him to Commodore unless he earned it."

"That's a fact!" Thompson echoed.

There was more, but mostly along the same vein.

---- 10:15 PM, Ryan's mansion, 5th Avenue, New York

Last to leave was George Harvey. Even the exhausted interpreters had departed, though they would be at Harvey's offices in the morning for the rest of their pay, and for each to draft a summary of his discussions.

"So, what do I tell The Professor, Thomas?"

Ryan was slow to respond.

"I offered to buy his liners, George," he said finally.

"You what?"

"It seemed a simple solution."

The elegance and sheer effrontery of it had Harvey's mouth agape.

"Only you, Thomas. Only you."

"Well, not just me, George. Hell, JP would snap them up in a second, if he thought about it. The secret's just thinking of it before he does, then doing something about it."

"Damn, but that'd be perfect!" Harvey marveled at it. "No liners, no trouble. They go out and either get slaughtered or get away. Either way, problem solved."

"Uh-huh, that's how I saw it."

"Could you really make money with them?"

"Probably. But that doesn't matter. They'd certainly get me a leg up in the Belgium Relief effort."

"What did he say?"

"Turned me down. I looked him right in the eye, George, and I saw nothing but 'No.' "

"Oh, damn," Harvey said, hunching over in weary despair. The conclusion was inescapable.

"Right," agreed Ryan, sadly. "They'll sail, no matter what."

"Damn, damn, damn," repeated Harvey, in a muffled voice, his head in his hands. "The Professor's gonna' have kittens."

jim (Letterstime)

Author's Notes

1. Believe it or not, but Ryan's involvement with General Thompson and his investment in the venture that would result in the Tommy Gun began precisely as described in the text. That is, Harvey approached Ryan, after Harvey's daughter, who was friendly with the wife of Thompson's son, brought the newly-retired general's search for a financial backer to the attention of her father.

2. Edward B. Hess had an idea how to improve the typewriter. At the last minute, just before his venture failed, Ryan offered him the needed financial backing - in this case, Ryan handed him a check in 1906 for $220,000. Thus began Royal Typewriter."

3. Maid of Athens in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 65, issue 386 (July 1882). The text of Josephine Harper Fiske's story can be found here:

Cornell University Library

Sadly, there is no record that Rear-Admiral Bradley Allen Fiske, a noted naval scientist and inventor, ever met Harvey (who did own/publish Harper's) or Thomas Fortune Ryan. Given how Thompson got his lead to Harvey and then to Ryan, this is not so much a stretch as it might otherwise appear!

4. Even before the election of Woodrow Wilson, Ryan had previously made his mark in politics with his financial backing. An excerpt from one site:

SENATE HEARINGS ON 1904 ELECTION. Senate hearings reveal that during the 1904 presidential campaign, the Republican party received nearly 75 percent of its money from corporate sources (approximately $2 million) while the Democratic party raised practically all of its $1 million fund from two men, Thomas Fortune Ryan and August Belmont.

The above from:

George Harvey's relationship with Thomas Fortune Ryan and Harvey's role in Wilson's political career are both well documented. Harvey used some of the money he made (in public utilities mostly) as an associate of Ryan's to become a power in the publishing business. Basically, Harvey was so impressed by Wilson's inaugural speech as Princeton University president that he researched the man and later would put him up to running for and becoming governor of New Jersey. Harvey's influence and Ryan's money were critical in Wilson's run for the US Presidency, and Harvey remained at Wilson's elbow throughout his presidency. In 1921, a grateful President Wilson would make Harvey US Ambassador to England.

5. Ryan invested in many men and enterprises, including several with novel notions and breadth of vision. Nikola Tesla was one of them. The dialogue in this story attributed to Tesla, who once generously ripped up a royalty agreement for every watt of generator capacity that Westinghouse would build, is almost word-for-word from some of his publicly reported conversations.

6. The 5th Avenue mansion of Mr. Ryan and all the items this story mentions as being in it, were all precisely as described. I am indebted to Mr. Lee Marmon, Oak Ridge Historian and a biographer of Mr. Ryan, for many of these details, including the stone lions, Liomoges, faiences, the crystal, the leaded windows (including "Fraud is the Enemy of Light"), and even the Renaissance Room fireplace (later in the story). A few other decor details were added based on my visit to his Lovingston, Virginia residence (Oak Ridge). Mr. Ryan had a noted collection of Rodin, including the bust of himself. See the following url for its current location:

Readers are recommended also to:


It should also be mentioned that Ryan was indeed detained off Belgium, as described in Ein Geleitzug, and contended with Hoover for primacy in the Belgium Relief. Hoover eventually won out, historically, but might not have if only Ryan had had a few large liners!

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