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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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."
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 ...."
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.
"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
"Do you think your way is clear?" Fiske asked. "After
all, the British have had four or five days since you appeared off the
"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
"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
"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
"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."
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"Damn, damn, damn," repeated Harvey, in a muffled voice, his
head in his hands. "The Professor's gonna' have kittens."
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:
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: www.jackburden.com
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
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: www.oakridgeestate.com/oa...tory2.html
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!