would it?” Tudsbury said.
Grobke hesitated, then laughed. “Why not? Come along, Tudsbury. The more the British know about what we’ve got, the less likely anybody is to make a hasty mistake.”
“Well, here may be an important little step for peace,” said the captain, “transacted at my table! I feel honored, and we will have more champagne on it at once.”
And so the diners at the captain’s table on the Bremen all drank to peace a few minutes before midnight, as the great liner slowed, approaching the shore lights of Nazi Germany.
* * *
In bright sunshine, the Bremen moved like a train between low green banks of a wide river. Pug was at the rail of the sun deck, taking his old pleasure in the sight of land after a voyage. Rhoda was below in her usual fit of the snarls and the snaps. When they travelled together, Rhoda in deep martyrdom did the packing. Pug was an old hand at packing for himself, but Rhoda claimed she could never find anything he put away.
“Oh, yes, the country is charming to look at,” said Tudsbury, who had sauntered up and commenced a discourse on the scenery. “You’ll see many a pretty north German town between Bremerhaven and Berlin. The heavy half-timbered kind of thing, that looks so much like English Tudor. The fact is Germany and England have strong resemblances and links. You know of course that the Kaiser was Queen Victoria’s grandson, that our royal family for a long time spoke only German? And yet on the whole the Jerries are stranger to us than Eskimos.” He boomed a laugh and went on, sweeping a fat hand toward the shore: “Yes, here the Germans sit at the heart of Europe, Henry, these perplexing first cousins of ours simmering and grumbling away, and every now and then they spill over in all directions, with a hideous roar. Out they pour from these lovely little towns, these fairy-tale landscapes, these clean handsome cities - wait till you see Cologne, Nuremberg, Munich, even Berlin and Hamburg – out they bubble, I say, these polite blue-eyed music lovers, ravening for blood. It gets a bit unnerving. And now here’s Hitler, bringing them to a boil again. You Americans may have to lend more of a hand than you did last time. We’re fairly worn out with them, you know, we and the French.”
It had not escaped Henry that Tudsbury’s talk, one way or another, usually came back to the theme of the United States fighting Germany.
“That might not be in the cards, Tudsbury. We’ve got the Japanese on our hands. They’re carving up China and they’ve got a first-class fighting navy, growing every month. If they make the Pacific a Japanese lake and proceed to do what they want on the Asian mainland, the world will be theirs in fifty years.”
Tudsbury said, sticking his tongue out of a corner of his smiling mouth, “The Yellow Peril.”
“It’s a question of facts and numbers,” Henry said. “How many people are there in all of Europe? Couple of hundred million? Japan is now well on the way to ruling one billion people. They’re as industrious as the Germans or more so. They came out of paper houses and silk kimonos in a couple of generations to defeat Russia. They’re amazing. Compared to what faces us in Asia, this Hitler strikes us as just more of the same old runty cat-dog fight in the back yard.”
Tudsbury peered at him, with a reluctant nod. “Possibly you underestimate the Germans.”
“Maybe you overestimate them. Why the devil didn’t you and the French go in when they occupied the Rhineland? They broke a treaty. You could have walked in there at that point and hung Hitler, with not much more trouble than raiding a girls’ dormitory.”
“Ah, the wisdom of hindsight,” Tudsbury said. “Don’t ask me to defend our politicians. It’s been a radical breakdown, a total failure of sense and nerve. I was talking and writing in 1936 the way you are now. At Munich I was close to suicide. I covered the whole thing. Czechoslovakia!