The Hohenzollerns in America
Part 1 out of 4
This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan
THE HOHENZOLLERNS IN AMERICA
WITH THE BOLSHEVIKS IN BERLIN AND OTHER IMPOSSIBILITIES
By Stephen Leacock
I. THE HOHENZOLLERNS IN AMERICA
II. WITH THE BOLSHEVIKS IN BERLIN
III. AFTERNOON TEA WITH THE SULTAN
IV. ECHOES OF THE WAR
1. The Boy Who Came Back
2. The War Sacrifices of Mr. Spugg
3. If Germany Had Won
4. War and Peace at the Galaxy Club
5. The War News as I Remember It
6. Some Just Complaints About the War
7. Some Startling Side Effects of the War
V. OTHER IMPOSSIBILITIES
1. The Art of Conversation
2. Heroes and Heroines
3. The Discovery of America
4. Politics from Within
5. The Lost Illusions of Mr. Sims
6. Fetching the Doctor
I.--The Hohenzollerns in America
The proper punishment for the Hohenzollerns, and the
Hapsburgs, and the Mecklenburgs, and the Muckendorfs,
and all such puppets and princelings, is that they should
be made to work; and not made to work in the glittering
and glorious sense, as generals and chiefs of staff, and
legislators, and land-barons, but in the plain and humble
part of laborers looking for a job; that they should
carry a hod and wield a trowel and swing a pick and, at
the day's end, be glad of a humble supper and a night's
rest; that they should work, in short, as millions of
poor emigrants out of Germany have worked for generations
past; that there should be about them none of the prestige
of fallen grandeur; that, if it were possible, by some
trick of magic, or change of circumstance, the world
should know them only as laboring men, with the dignity
and divinity of kingship departed out of them; that, as
such, they should stand or fall, live or starve, as best
they might by the work of their own hands and brains.
Could this be done, the world would have a better idea
of the thin stuff out of which autocratic kingship is
It is a favourite fancy of mine to imagine this
transformation actually brought about; and to picture
the Hohenzollerns as an immigrant family departing for
America, their trunks and boxes on their backs, their
bundles in their hands.
The fragments of a diary that here follow present the
details of such a picture. It is written, or imagined to
be written, by the (former) Princess Frederica of
Hohenzollern. I do not find her name in the Almanach de
Gotha. Perhaps she does not exist. But from the text
below she is to be presumed to be one of the innumerable
nieces of the German Emperor.
On Board the S.S. America. Wednesday
At last our embarkation is over, and we are at sea. I am
so glad it is done. It was dreadful to see poor Uncle
William and Uncle Henry and Cousin Willie and Cousin
Ferdinand of Bulgaria, coming up the gang-plank into the
steerage, with their boxes on their backs. They looked
so different in their rough clothes. Uncle William is
wearing an old blue shirt and a red handkerchief round
his neck, and his hair looks thin and unkempt, and his
moustache draggled and his face unshaved. His eyes seem
watery and wandering, and his little withered arm so
pathetic. Is it possible he was always really like that?
At the top of the gang-plank he stood still a minute,
his box still on his back, and said, "This then is the
pathway to Saint Helena." I heard an officer down on the
dock call up, "Now then, my man, move on there smartly,
please." And I saw some young roughs pointing at Uncle
and laughing and saying, "Look at the old guy with the
red handkerchief. Is he batty, eh?"
The forward deck of the steamer, the steerage deck, which
is the only place that we are allowed to go, was crowded
with people, all poor and with their trunks and boxes
and paper bags all round them. When Uncle set down his
box, there was soon quite a little crowd around him, so
that I could hardly see him. But I could hear them
laughing, and I knew that they were "taking a rise out
of him," as they call it,--just as they did in the
emigration sheds on shore. I heard Uncle say, "Let wine
be brought: I am faint;" and some one else said, "Yes,
let it," and there arose a big shout of laughter.
Cousin Willie had sneaked away with his box down to the
lower deck. I thought it mean of him not to stay with
his father. I never noticed till now what a sneaking face
Cousin Willie has. In his uniform, as Crown Prince, it
was different. But in his shabby clothes, among these
rough people, he seems so changed. He walks with a mean
stoop, and his eyes look about in such a furtive way,
never still. I saw one of the ship's officers watching
him, very closely and sternly.
Cousin Karl of Austria, and Cousin Ruprecht of Bavaria,
are not here. We thought they were to come on this ship,
but they are not here. We could hardly believe that the
ship would sail without them.
I managed to get Uncle William out of the crowd and down
below. He was glad to get off the deck. He seemed afraid
to look at the sea, and when we got into the big cabin,
he clutched at the cover of the port and said, "Shut it,
help me shut it, shut out the sound of the sea;" and then
for a little time he sat on one of the bunks all hunched
up, and muttering, "Don't let me hear the sea, don't let
me hear it." His eyes looked so queer and fixed, that I
thought he must be in a sort of fit, or seizure. But
Uncle Henry and Cousin Willie and Cousin Ferdinand came
into the cabin and he got better again.
Cousin Ferdinand has got hold of a queer long overcoat
with the sleeves turned up, and a little round hat, and
looks exactly like a Jew. He says he traded one of our
empty boxes for the coat and hat. I never noticed before
how queer and thick Cousin Ferdinand's speech is, and
how much he gesticulates with his hands when he talks.
I am sure that when I visited at Sofia nobody ever
noticed it. And he called Uncle William and Uncle Henry
"Mister," and said that on the deck he had met two "fine
gentlemen," (that's what he called them), who are in the
clothing trade in New York. It was with them he traded
for the coat.
Cousin Ferdinand, who is very clever at figures, is going
to look after all our money, because the American money
is too difficult for Uncle William and Cousin Willie to
understand. We have only a little money, but Cousin
Ferdinand said that we would put it all together and make
it a pool. But when Uncle Henry laughed, and turned his
pockets out and had no money at all, Cousin Ferdinand
said that it would NOT be a pool. He said he would make
it "on shares" and explained it, but I couldn't understand
what it meant.
While he was talking I saw Cousin Willie slip one of the
pieces of money out of the pile into his pocket: at least
I think I saw it; but he did it so quickly that I was
not sure, and didn't like to say anything.
Then a bell rang and we went to eat in a big saloon, all
crowded with common people, and very stuffy. The food
was wretched, and I could not eat. I suppose Uncle was
famished from the long waiting and the bad food in the
emigrant shed. It was dreadful to see the hungry way that
he ate the greasy stew they gave us, with his head down
almost in his plate and his moustache all unkempt. "This
ragout is admirable," he said. "Let the chef be informed
that I said it."
Cousin Ferdinand didn't sit with us. He sat beside his
two new friends and they had their heads all close together
and talked with great excitement. I never knew before
that Cousin Ferdinand talked Yiddish. I remember him at
Sofia, on horseback addressing his army, and I don't
think he talked to his troops in Yiddish. He was telling
them, I remember, how sorry he was that he couldn't
accompany them to the front. But for "business in Sofia,"
he said, he would like to be in the very front trenches,
the foremost of all. It was thought very brave of him.
When we got up from supper, the ship was heaving and
rolling quite a bit. A young man, a steward, told us that
we were now out of the harbor and in the open sea. Uncle
William told him to convey his compliments to the captain
on his proper navigation of the channel. The young man
looked very closely at Uncle and said, "Sure, I'll tell
him right away," but he said it kindly. Then he said to
me, when Uncle couldn't hear, "Your pa ain't quite right,
is he, Miss Hohen?" I didn't know what he meant, but, of
course, I said that Uncle William was only my uncle.
Hohen is, I should explain, the name by which we are
known now. The young man said that he wasn't really a
steward, only just for the trip. He said that, because
I had a strange feeling that I had met him before, and
asked him if I hadn't seen him at one of the courts. But
he said he had never been "up before one" in his life.
He said he lives in New York, and drives an ice-wagon
and is an ice-man. He said he was glad to have the pleasure
of our acquaintance. He is, I think, the first ice-man
I have ever met. He reminds me very much of the Romanoffs,
the Grand Dukes of the younger branch, I mean. But he
says he is not connected with them, so far as he knows.
He said his name is Peters. We have no Almanach de Gotha
here on board the steamer, so I cannot look up his name.
S.S. America. Thursday
We had a dreadful experience last night. In the middle
of the night Uncle Henry came and called me and said that
Uncle William was ill. So I put on an old shawl and went
with him. The ship was pitching and heaving with a dreadful
straining and creaking noise. A dim light burned in the
cabin, and outside there was a great roaring of the wind
and the wild sound of the sea surging against the ship.
Uncle William was half sitting up in his rough bunk, with
the tattered gray blankets over him, one hand was clutched
on the side of the bed and there was a great horror in
his eyes. "The sea; the sea," he kept saying, "don't let
me hear it. It's THEIR voices. Listen! They're beating
at the sides of the ship. Keep them from me, keep them
He was quiet for a minute, until there came another great
rush of the sea against the sides of the ship, and a roar
of water against the port. Then he broke out, almost
screaming--"Henry, brother Henry, keep them back! Don't
let them drag me down. I never willed it. I never wanted
it. Their death is not at my door. It was necessity.
Henry! Brother Henry! Tell them not to drag me below the
Like that he raved for perhaps an hour and we tried to
quiet him. Cousin Willie had slipped away, I don't know
where. Cousin Ferdinand was in his bunk with his back
"Do I slip to-night, at all," he kept growling "or do I
not? Say, mister, do I get any slip at all?"
But no one minded him.
Then daylight came and Uncle fell asleep. His face looked
drawn and gray and the cords stood out on his withered
hand, which was clutched against his shirt.
So he slept. It seemed so strange. There was no court
physician, no bulletins to reassure the world that he
was sleeping quietly.
Later in the morning I saw the ship's doctor and the
captain, all in uniform, with gold braid, walking on
their inspection round.
"You had some trouble here last night," I heard the
"No, nothing," the doctor answered, "only one of the
steerage passengers delirious in the night."
Later in the morning the storm had gone down and the sea
was calm as glass, and Uncle Henry and I got Uncle William
up on deck. Mr. Peters, the steward that I think I spoke
about before, got us a steamer chair from the first class
that had been thrown away--quite good except for one
leg,--and Uncle William sat in it with his face away from
the sea. He seemed much shaken and looked gray and tired,
but he talked quite quietly and rationally about our
going to America, and how we must all work, because work
is man's lot. He himself, he says, will take up the
presidency of Harvard University in New York, and Uncle
Henry, who, of course, was our own Grand Admiral and is
a sailor, will enter as Admiral of the navy of one of
the states, probably, Uncle says, the navy of Missouri,
or else that of Colorado.
It was pleasant to hear Uncle William talk in this way,
just as quietly and rationally as at Berlin, and with
the same grasp of political things. He only got excited
once, and that was when he was telling Uncle Henry that
it was his particular wish that Uncle should go to the
captain and offer to take over the navigation of the
vessel. Uncle Henry is a splendid sailor, and in all our
cruises in the Baltic he used to work out all the navigation
of the vessel, except, of course, the arithmetic--which
was beneath him.
Uncle Henry laughed (he is always so good natured) and
said that he had had enough of being Admiral to last him
all his life. But when Uncle William insisted, he said
he would see what he could do.
S.S. America. Friday
All yesterday and to-day the sea was quite calm, and we
could sit on deck. I was glad because, in the cabin where
I am, there are three other women, and it is below the
water-line, and is very close and horrid. So when it is
rough, I can only sit in the alley-way with my knitting.
There the light is very dim and the air bad. But I do
not complain. It is woman's lot. Uncle William and Cousin
Willie have both told me this--that it is woman's lot to
bear and to suffer; and they said it with such complete
resignation that I feel I ought to imitate their attitude.
Cousin Ferdinand, too, is very brave about the dirt and
the discomfort of being on board the ship. He doesn't
seem to mind the dirt at all, and his new friends (Mr.
Sheehan and Mr. Mosenhammer) seem to bear it so well,
too. Uncle Henry goes and washes his hands and face at
one of the ship's pumps before every meal, with a great
noise and splashing, but Cousin Ferdinand says, "For me
the pump, no." He says that nothing like that matters
now, and that his only regret is that he did not fall at
the head of his troops, as he would have done if he had
not been detained by business.
I caught sight of Cousin Karl of Austria! So it seems he
is on the ship after all. He was up on the promenade deck
where the first class passengers are, and of which you
can just see one end from down here in the steerage.
Cousin Karl had on a waiter's suit and was bringing
something to drink to two men who were in steamer chairs
on the deck. I don't know whether he saw me or not, but
if he did he didn't give any sign of recognizing me. One
of the men gave Cousin Karl a piece of money and I was
sure it was he, from the peculiar, cringing way in which
he bowed. It was just the manner that he used to have at
Vienna with his cousin, Franz Ferdinand, and with dear
old Uncle Franz Joseph.
We always thought, we girls I mean, that it was Cousin
Karl who had Cousin Franz Ferdinand blown up at Serajevo.
I remember once we dared Cousin Zita, Karl's wife, to
ask Uncle William if it really was Karl. But Uncle William
spoke very gravely, and said that it was not a thing for
us to discuss, and that if Karl did it, it was an "act
of State," and no doubt very painful to Cousin Karl to
have to do. Zita asked Uncle if Karl poisoned dear old
Uncle Franz Joseph, because some of Karl's best and most
intimate friends said that he did. But Uncle said very
positively, "No," that dear old Uncle Franz Joseph had
not needed any poison, but had died, very naturally,
under the hands of Uncle William's own physician, who
was feeling his wind-pipe at the time.
Of course, all these things seem very far away now. But
seeing Cousin Karl on the upper deck, reminded me of all
the harmless gossip and tattle that used to go on among
us girls in the old days.
I saw Cousin Willie on the deck this afternoon. I had
not seen him all day yesterday as he seems to keep out
of sight. His eyes looked bloodshot and I was sure that
he had been drinking.
I asked him where he had been in the storm while Uncle
William was ill. He gave a queer sort of leering chuckle
and said, "Over there," and pointed backwards with his
thumb towards the first class part of the ship. Then he
said, "Come here a minute," and he led me round a corner
to where no one could see, and showed me a gold brooch
and two diamond rings. He told me not to tell the others,
and then he tried to squeeze my hand and to pull me
towards him, in such a horrid way, but I broke away and
went back. Since then I have been trying to think how he
could have got the brooch and the rings. But I cannot
S.S. America. Saturday
To-day when I went up on deck, the first thing I saw was
Uncle Henry. I hardly recognized him. He had on an old
blue sailor's jersey, and was cleaning up a brass rail
with a rag. I asked him why he was dressed like that and
Uncle Henry laughed and said he had become an admiral.
I couldn't think what he meant, as I never guess things
with a double meaning, so he explained that he has got
work as a sailor for the voyage across. I thought he
looked very nice in his sailor's jersey, much nicer than
in the coat with gold facings, when he was our High
Admiral. He reminded me very much of those big fair-haired
Norwegian sailors that we used to see when we went on
the Meteor to Flekkefyord and Gildeskaale. I am sure that
he will be of great service to this English captain, in
helping to work the ship across.
When Cousin Ferdinand came up on deck with his two friends,
Mr. Mosenhammer and Mr. Sheehan, he was very much interested
in Uncle Henry's having got work. He made an arrangement
right away that he would borrow Uncle Henry's wages, and
that Mr. Sheehan would advance them, and he would then
add it to our capital, and then he would take it and keep
it. Uncle Henry is to get what is called, in the new
money, one seventy-five a day, and to get it for four
days, and Cousin Ferdinand says that comes to four dollars
and a quarter. Cousin Ferdinand is very quick with figures.
He says that he will have to take out a small commission
for managing the money for Uncle Henry, and that later
on he will tell Uncle Henry how much will be left after
taking it out. Uncle Henry said all right and went on
with his brass work. It is strange how his clothes seem
to change him. He looks now just like a rough, common
S.S. America. Tuesday
To-day our voyage is to end. I am so glad. When we came
on deck Mr. Peters told me that we were in sight of land.
He told me the names of the places, but they were hard
and difficult to remember, like Long Island and Sandy
Hook; not a bit like our dear old simple German names.
So we were all told to put our things together and get
ready to land. I got, out of one of our boxes, an old
frock coat for Uncle William. It is frayed at the ends
of the sleeves and it shines a little, but I had stitched
it here and there and it looked quite nice. He put it on
with a pair of gray trousers that are quite good, and
not very much bagged, and I had knitted for him a red
necktie that he wears over his blue shirt with a collar,
called a celluloid collar, that American gentlemen wear.
The sea is so calm that Uncle doesn't mind being on deck
now, and he even came close to the bulwarks, which he
wouldn't do all the way across. He stood there in quite
an attitude with his imperfect hand folded into his coat.
He looked something, but not quite, as he used to look
on the deck of the Meteor in the Baltic.
Presently he said, "Henry, your arm!" and walked up and
down with Uncle Henry. I could see that the other passengers
were quite impressed with the way Uncle looked, and it
pleased him. I heard some rough young loafers saying,
"Catch on to the old Dutch, will you? Eh, what?"
Uncle Henry is going ashore just as he is, in his blue
jersey. But Cousin Ferdinand has put on a bright red tie
that Mr. Mosenhammer has loaned to him for three hours.
Cousin Willie only came on deck at the very last minute,
and he seemed anxious to slink behind the other passengers
and to keep out of sight. I think it must have something
to do with the brooch that he showed me, and the rings.
His eyes looked very red and bloodshot and his face more
crooked and furtive than ever. I am sure that he had been
I have written the last lines of this diary sitting on
the deck. We have just passed a huge statue that rises
out of the water, the name of which they mentioned but
I can't remember, as it was not anything I ever heard of
Just think--in a little while we shall land in America!
City New York. 2nd Avenue
We came off the steamer late yesterday afternoon and came
across the city to a pension on Second Avenue where we
are now. Only here they don't call it a pension but a
boarding house. Cousin Ferdinand and Cousin Willie drove
across in the cart with our boxes, and Uncle William and
Uncle Henry and I came on a street car. It cost us fifteen
cents. A cent is four and one-sixth pfennigs. We tried
to reckon what it came to, but we couldn't; but Uncle
Henry thinks it could be done.
This house is a tall house in a mean street, crowded and
noisy with carts and street-sellers. I think it would be
better to have all the boarding houses stand far back
from the street with elm trees and fountains and lawns
where peacocks could walk up and down. I am sure it would
be MUCH better.
We have taken a room for Uncle William and Uncle Henry
on the third floor at the back and a small room in the
front for me of the kind called a hall bedroom, which I
don't ever remember seeing before. There were none at
Sans Souci and none, I think, at any of the palaces.
Cousin Willie has a room at the top of the house, and
Cousin Ferdinand in the basement.
The landlady of this house is very stout and reminds me
very much of the Grand Duchess of Sondersburg-Augustenburg:
her manner when she showed us the rooms was very like
that of the Grand Duchess; only perhaps a little firmer
and more authoritative. But it appears that they are
probably not related, as the landlady's name is Mrs.
O'Halloran, which is, I think, Scotch.
When we arrived it was already time for dinner so we went
downstairs to it at once. The dining-room was underground
in the basement. It was very crowded and stuffy, and
there was a great clatter of dishes and a heavy smell of
food. Most of the people were already seated, but there
was an empty place at the head of one of the tables and
Uncle William moved straight towards that. Uncle was
wearing, as I said, his frock coat and his celluloid
collar and he walked into the room with quite an air, in
something of the way that he used to come into the great
hall of the Neues Palais at Potsdam, only that in these
clothes it looked different. As Uncle entered the room
he waved his hand and said, "Let no one rise!" I remember
that when Uncle said this at the big naval dinner at Kiel
it made a great sensation as an example of his ready
tact. He realised that if they had once risen there would
have been great difficulty in their order of procedure
for sitting down again. He was afraid that the same
difficulty might have been felt here in the boarding
house. But I don't think it would, and I don't think that
they were going to stand up, anyway. They just went on
eating. I noticed one cheap-looking young man watching
Uncle with a sort of half smile as he moved towards his
seat. I heard him say to his neighbour, "Some scout, eh?"
The food was so plain and so greasy that I could hardly
eat it. But I have noticed that it is a strange thing
about Uncle that he doesn't seem to know what he eats at
all. He takes all this poor stuff that they put before
him to be the same delicacies that we had at the Neues
Palais and Sans Souci. "Is this a pheasant?" he asked
when the servant maid passed him his dish of meat. I
heard the mean young man whisper, "I guess not." Presently
some hash was brought in and Uncle said, "Ha! A Salmi!
Ha! excellent!" I could see that Mrs. O'Halloran, the
landlady, who sat at the other end of the table, was
I was surprised to find--because it is so hard to get
used to the change of things in our new life--that all
the people went on talking just the same after Uncle sat
down. At the palace at Potsdam nobody ever spoke at dinner
unless Uncle William first addressed him, and then he
was supposed to give a sort of bow and answer as briefly
as possible so as not to interrupt the flow of Uncle
William's conversation. Generally Uncle talked and all
the rest listened. His conversation was agreed by everybody
to be wonderful. Princes, admirals, bishops, artists,
scholars and everybody united in declaring that Uncle
William showed a range of knowledge and a brilliance of
language that was little short of marvellous. So naturally
it was a little disappointing at first to find that these
people just went on talking to one another and didn't
listen to Uncle William at all, or merely looked at him
in an inquisitive sort of way and whispered remarks to
one another. But presently, I don't just know how, Uncle
began to get the attention of the table and one after
the other the people stopped talking to listen to him.
I was very glad of this because Uncle was talking about
America and I was sure that it would interest them, as
what he said was very much the same as the wonderful
speech that he made to the American residents of Berlin
at the time when the first exchange professor was sent
over to the University. I remember that all the Americans
who heard it said that Uncle told them things about their
own country that they had never known, or even suspected,
before. So I was glad when I heard Uncle explaining to
these people the wonderful possibilities of their country.
He talked of the great plains of Connecticut and the huge
seaports of Pittsburg and Colorado Springs, and the
tobacco forests of Idaho till one could just see it all.
He said that the Mississippi, which is a great river here
as large as the Weser, should be dammed back and held
while a war of extermination was carried on against the
Indians on the other side of it with a view to
Christianizing them. The people listened, their faces
flushed with eating and with the close air. Here and
there some of them laughed or nudged one another and
said, "Get on to this, will you?" But I remember that
when Uncle William made this speech in Berlin the Turkish
ambassador said after it that he now knew so much about
America that he wanted to die, and that the Shah of Persia
wrote a letter to Uncle, all in his own writing, except
the longest words, and said that he had ordered Uncle's
speech on America to be printed and read aloud by all
the schoolmasters in Persia under penalty of decapitation.
Nearly all of them read it.
This morning we had a great disappointment. It had been
pretty well arranged on board the ship that Uncle would
take over the presidency of Harvard University. Uncle
Henry and Cousin Ferdinand and Cousin Willie had all
consented to it, and we looked upon it as done. Now it
seems there is a mistake. First of all Harvard University
is not in New York, as we had always thought in Germany
that it was. I remember that when Uncle Henry came home
from his great tour in America, in which he studied
American institutions so profoundly, and made his report
he said that Harvard University was in New York. Uncle
had this information filed away in our Secret Service
But it seems that it is somewhere else. The University
here is called Columbia, so Uncle decided that he would
be president of that. In the old days all the great men
of learning used to assure Uncle that if fate had not
made him an emperor he would have been better fitted than
any living man to be the head of a great university.
Uncle admitted this himself, though he resented being
compared only to the living ones.
So it was a great disappointment to-day when they refused
to give him the presidency. I went with him to the college,
but I cannot quite understand what happened or why they
won't give it to him. We walked all the way up and I
carried a handbag filled with Uncle's degrees and diplomas
from Oxford and all over the world. All the way up Uncle
talked about the majesty and the freedom of learning and
what he would do to the college when he was made president,
and how all the professors should sit up and obey him.
At times he got so excited that he would stop on the
street and wave his hands and gesticulate so that people
turned and looked at him. At Potsdam we never realized
that Uncle was excited all the time, and, in any case,
with his uniform on and his sabre clattering as he walked,
it all seemed different. But here in the street, in his
faded frock coat and knitted tie, and with his face
flushed and his eyes rambling, people seemed to mistake
it and thought that his mind was not quite right.
So I think he made a wrong impression when we went into
the offices of the college. Uncle was still quite excited
from his talking. "Let the trustees be brought," he said
in a peremptory way to the two young men in black frock
coats, secretaries of some sort, I suppose, who received
us. Then he turned to me. "Princess," he said, "my
diplomas!" He began pulling them out of the bag and
throwing them on the table in a wild sort of way. The
other people waiting in the room were all staring at him.
Then the young men took Uncle by the arm and led him into
an inner room and I went out into the corridor and waited.
Presently one of the young men came out and told me not
to wait, as Uncle had been sent home in a cab. He was
very civil and showed me where to go to get the elevated
railroad. But while I was waiting I had overheard some
of the people talking about Uncle. One said, "That's that
same old German that was on board our ship last week in
the steerage--has megalomania or something of the sort,
they say, and thinks he's the former Emperor: I saw the
Kaiser once at a review in Berlin,--not much resemblance,
For weeks and weeks I have written nothing in my diary
because it has been so discouraging. After Uncle William's
offer to take over the presidency of Columbia University
had been refused, he debated with Uncle Henry and with
Cousin Ferdinand of Bulgaria (who is not living in our
boarding house now but who comes over quite often in the
evenings) whether he would accept the presidency of
Harvard. Cousin Ferdinand looked up the salary in a book
and told him not to take it. Cousin Ferdinand has little
books with all the salaries of people in America and he
says that these books are fine and much better than the
Almanach de Gotha which we used to use in Europe to hunt
people up. He says that if he ever goes back to be King
of Bulgaria again he is going to introduce books like
these. Cousin Ferdinand is getting very full of American
ideas and he says that what you want to know about a man
is not his line of descent but his line of credit. And
he says that the whole King business in Europe has been
mismanaged. He says that there should have been millions
in it. I forgot to say in my diary sooner that Cousin
Ferdinand's two friends, Mr. Mosenhammer and Mr. Sheehan,
took him into their clothing business at once as a sort
of partner. The reason was that they found that he could
wear clothes; the effect on the customers when they see
Cousin Ferdinand walking up and down in front of the
store is wonderful. Of course all kings can wear clothes
and in the old days in the Potsdam palace we thought
nothing of it. But Cousin Ferdinand says that the kings
should have known enough to stop trying to be soldiers
and to put themselves at the head of the export clothing
trade. He wishes, he says, that he had some of his
Bulgarian generals here now in their blue coats trimmed
with black fur; he says that with a little alteration,
which he showed us how to do, he could have sent them
out "on the road," wherever that is, and have made the
biggest boom in gentlemen's winter fur trimmings that
the trade ever saw.
Cousin Ferdinand, when he comes over in the evenings now,
is always beautifully dressed and I can notice that Mrs.
O'Halloran, the landlady, is much impressed with him. I
am glad of this because we have not yet been able to pay
her any money and I was afraid she might say something
about it. But what is stranger is that now that Cousin
Ferdinand has good clothes, Uncle William and Uncle Henry
seem much impressed too. Uncle Henry looks so plain and
common in his sailor's jersey, and Uncle William in his
old frock coat looks faded and shabby and his face always
vacant and wondering. So now when Cousin Ferdinand comes
in they stand up and get a chair for him and listen to
his advice on everything.
So, as I said, Cousin Ferdinand looked up the salary of
the President of Harvard in a book and he was strongly
against Uncle William's taking the position. But Uncle
William says this kind of position is the nearest thing
in this country to what he had in Germany. He thinks that
he could do for Harvard what he did for Germany. He has
written out on a big sheet of paper all the things that
he calls the Chief Needs of America, because he is always
busy like this and never still. I forget the whole list,
especially as he changes it every day according to the
way that people treat Uncle William on the street, but
the things that he always puts first are Culture, Religion,
and Light. These he says he can supply, and he thought
that the presidency of Harvard would be the best place
to do it from. In the end he accepted the position against
Cousin Ferdinand's advice, or at least I mean he said
that he would be willing to take it and he told Uncle
Henry to pack up all his degrees and diplomas and to send
them to Harvard and say that he was coming.
So it was dreadfully disappointing when all the diplomas
came back again by the next post. There was a letter with
them but I didn't see it, as Uncle William tore it into
fragments and stamped on it. He said he was done with
American universities for ever: I have never seen him so
furious: he named over on his fingers all the American
professors that he had fed at Berlin, one meal each and
sometimes even two,--Uncle has a wonderful memory for
things like that,--and yet this was their gratitude. He
walked up and down his room and talked so wildly and
incoherently that if I had not known and been told so
often by our greatest authorities in Germany how beautifully
balanced Uncle William's brain is, I should have feared
that he was wandering.
But presently he quieted down and said with deep earnestness
that the American universities must now go to ruin in
their own way. He was done with them. He said he would
go into a cloister and spend his life in quiet adoration,
provided that he could find anything to adore, which, he
said, in his station was very doubtful. But half an hour
later he was quite cheerful again,--it is wonderful how
quickly Uncle William's brain recovers itself,--and said
that a cloister was too quiet and that he would take a
position as Governor of a State; there are a great many
of these in this country and Uncle spent days and days
writing letters to them and when the answers came in--
though some never answered at all--Uncle William got into
the same state of fury as about the Presidency of Harvard.
So, naturally, each day seemed more disappointing than
the last, especially with the trouble that we have been
having with Cousin Willie, of which I have not spoken
yet, and I was getting quite disheartened until last
evening, when everything seemed to change.
We all knew, of course, that Uncle William is the greatest
artist in the world, but no one liked to suggest that he
should sell his pictures for money, a thing that no prince
was ever capable of doing. Yet I could not but feel glad
when Uncle decided yesterday that he would stoop to make
his living by art. It cost him a great struggle to make
this decision, but he talked it over very fully last
night with Uncle Henry, after Uncle Henry came home from
work, and the resolution is taken.
Of course, Uncle always had a wonderful genius for
painting. I remember how much his pictures used to be
admired at the court at Berlin. I have seen some of the
best painters stand absolutely entranced,--they said so
themselves,--in front of Uncle's canvasses. I remember
one of the greatest of our artists saying one day to
Uncle in the Potsdam Gallery, "Now, which of these two
pictures is yours and which is Michel Angelo's: I never
can tell you two apart." Uncle gave him the order of the
Red Swan. Another painter once said that if Uncle's genius
had been developed he would have been the greatest painter
of modern times. Uncle William, I remember, was dreadfully
angry. He said it WAS developed.
So it seemed only natural that Uncle should turn to Art
to make our living. But he hesitated because there is
some doubt whether a person of noble birth can sell
anything for money. But Uncle says Tintoretto the great
Italian artist had two quarterings of nobility, and
Velasquez had two and a half.
Luckily we have with us among our things Uncle's easel
and his paints that he used in Berlin. He had always to
have special things because he doesn't use little brushes
and tubes of colour as ordinary artists do, but had a
big brush and his paint in a tin can, so that he can work
more quickly. Fortunately we have with us three of Uncle's
pictures rolled up in the bottom of our boxes. He is
going to sell these first and after that he says that he
will paint one or two every day. One of the three canvasses
that we have is an allegorical picture called "Progress"
in which Progress is seen coming out of a cloud in the
background with Uncle William standing in the foreground.
Another is called "Modern Science" and in this Science
is seen crouched in the dark in the background and Uncle
William standing in the light in the foreground. The
other is called "Midnight in the Black Forest." Uncle
William did it in five minutes with a pot of black paint.
They say it is impressionistic.
So all the evening Uncle William and Uncle Henry talked
about the new plan. It is wonderful how Uncle William
enters into a thing. He got me to fetch him his old blue
blouse, which was with the painting things, and he put
it on over his clothes and walked up and down the room
with a long paint-brush in his hand. "We painters, my
dear Henry," he said, "must not be proud. America needs
Art. Very good. She shall have it."
I could see, of course, that Uncle William did not like
the idea of selling pictures for money. But he is going
to make that side of it less objectionable by painting
a picture, a very large picture, for nothing and giving
it to the big Metropolitan Art Gallery which is here.
Uncle has already partly thought it out. It is to be
called the "Spirit of America" and in it the Spirit of
America will be seen doubled up in the background: Uncle
has not yet fully thought out the foreground, but he says
he has an idea.
In any case he is going to refuse to take anything more
than a modest price for his pictures. Beyond that, he
says, not one pfennig.
So this morning Uncle rolled up his three canvasses under
his arm and has gone away to sell them.
I am very glad, as we have but little money, indeed hardly
any except Uncle Henry's wages. And I have been so worried,
too, and surprised since we came here about Cousin Willie.
He hardly is with the rest of us at all. He is out all
night and sleeps in the day time, and often I am sure
that he has been drinking. One morning when he came back
to the house at about breakfast time he showed me quite
a handful of money, but wouldn't say where he got it. He
said there was lots more where it came from. I asked him
to give me some to pay Mrs. O'Halloran, but he only
laughed in his leering way and said that he needed it
all. At another time when I went up to Cousin Willie's
room one day when he was out, I saw quite a lot of silver
things hidden in a corner of the cupboard. They looked
like goblets and silver dinner things, and there was a
revolver and a sheath-knife hidden with them. I began to
think that he must have stolen all these things, though
it seemed impossible for a prince. I have spoken to Uncle
William several times about Cousin Willie, but he gets
impatient and does not seem to care. Uncle never desires
very much to talk of people other than himself. I think
it fatigues his mind. In any case, he says that he has
done for Willie already all that he could. He says he
had him confined to a fortress three times and that four
times he refused to have him in his sight for a month,
and that twice he banished him to a country estate for
six weeks. His duty, he says, is done. I said that I was
afraid that Cousin Willie had been stealing and told him
about the silver things hidden in the cupboard. But Uncle
got very serious and read me a very severe lecture. No
prince, he said, ever stole. His son, he explained, might
very well be collecting souvenirs as memorials of his
residence in America: all the Hohenzollerns collected
souvenirs: some of our most beautiful art things at
Potsdam and Sans Souci were souvenirs collected by our
ancestors in France fifty years ago. Uncle said that if
the Great War had turned out as it should and if his
soldiers had not betrayed him by getting killed, we should
have had more souvenirs than ever. After that he dismissed
the subject from his mind. Uncle William can dismiss
things from his mind more quickly than anybody I ever
The Same Day. Later
I was so surprised this afternoon, when I happened to go
down to the door, to see Mr. Peters, the ice gentleman
that was on the ship, with his ice cart delivering ice
into the basement. I knew that he delivered ice in this
part of the city because he said so, and I think he had
mentioned this street, and two or three times I thought
I had seen him from the window. But it did seem surprising
to happen to go down to the door (I forget what I went
for) at the moment that he was there. He looked very fine
in his big rough suit of overalls. It is not quite like
a military uniform, but I think it looks better. Mr.
Peters knew me at once. "Good afternoon, Miss Hohen," he
said (that is the name, as I think I said, that we have
here), "how are all the folks?"
So we talked for quite a little time, and I told him
about Uncle trying to get work and how hard it was and
how at last he had got work, or at least had gone out to
get it, as a painter. Mr. Peters said that that was fine.
He said that painters do well here: he has a lot of
friends who are painters and they get all the way from
sixty to seventy-five cents an hour. It seems so odd to
think of them being paid by the hour. I don't think the
court artists at home were paid like that. It will be
very nice if Uncle William can mingle with Mr. Peters's
artist friends. Mr. Peters asked if he might take me out
some Sunday, and I said that I would ask Uncle William
and Uncle Henry and Cousin Ferdinand and Cousin Willie
and if they all consented to come I would go. I hope it
was not a forward thing to do.
I forgot when I was talking of work to say that Uncle
Henry got work the very second day that we were here. He
works down at the docks where the ships are. I think he
supervises the incoming and outgoing of the American
navy. It is called being a stevedore, and no doubt his
being an Admiral helped him to get it. He hopes to get
a certificate presently to be a Barge Master, which will
put him in charge of the canals. But there is a very
difficult examination to go through and Uncle Henry is
working for it at night out of a book. He has to take up
Vulgar Fractions which, of course, none of our High Seas
Command were asked to learn. But Uncle Henry is stooping
So now, I think, everything will go well.
Uncle's art has failed. It was only yesterday that I was
writing in my memoirs of how cheerful and glad I felt to
think that Uncle William was going to be able to make
his living by art, and now everything is changed again.
All the time that Uncle was out on his visit to the
picture dealers, I was making plans and thinking what we
would do with the money when it came in, so it is very
disappointing to have it all come to nothing. I don't
know just what happened because Uncle William never gives
any details of things. His mind moves too rapidly for
that. But he came home with his pictures still under his
arm in a perfect fury and raged up and down his room,
using very dreadful language.
But after a little while when he grew calmer he explained
to me that the Americans are merely swineheads and that
art, especially art such as his, is wasted on them. Uncle
says that he has no wish to speak harshly of the Americans,
but they are pig-dogs. He bears them no ill-will, he
says, for what they have done and his heart is free of
any spirit of vengeance, but he wishes he had his heel
on their necks for about half a minute. He said this with
such a strange dreadful snarl that for the moment his
face seemed quite changed. But presently when he recovered
himself he got quite cheerful again, and said that it
was perhaps unseemly in him, as the guest of the American
people, to say anything against them. It is strange how
Uncle always refers to himself as the guest of the American
people. Living in this poor place, in these cheap
surroundings, it seems so odd. Often at our meals in the
noisy dining-room down in the basement, in the speeches
that he makes to the boarders, he talks of himself as
the guest of America and he says, "What does America ask
in return? Nothing." I can see that Mrs. O'Halloran, the
landlady, doesn't like this, because we have not paid
her anything for quite a long time, and she has spoken
to me about it in the corridor several times.
But when Uncle William makes speeches in the dining-room
I think the whole room becomes transformed for him into
the banquet room of a palace, and the cheap bracket lamps
against the wall turn into a blaze of light and the
boarders are all courtiers, and he becomes more and more
grandiloquent. He waves his hand towards Uncle Henry and
refers to him as "my brother the Admiral," and to me as
"the Princess at my side." Some of the people, the meaner
ones, begin to laugh and to whisper, and others look
uncomfortable and sorry. And it is always on these
occasions that Uncle William refers to himself as America's
guest, and refers to the Americans as the hospitable
nation who have taken him to their heart. I think that
when Uncle says this he really believes it; Uncle can
believe practically anything if he says it himself.
So, as I say, when he came home yesterday, after failing
to sell his pictures, he was at first furious and then
he fell into his other mood and he said that, as the
guest of a great people, he had found out at last the
return he could make to them. He said that he would
organise a School of Art, and as soon as he had got the
idea he was carried away with it at once and seized a
pencil and paper and began making plans for the school
and drawing up a list of the instructors needed. He asked
first who could be Principal, or President, of the School,
and decided that he would have to be that himself as he
knew of no one but himself who had the peculiar power of
organisation needed for it. All the technical instructors,
he said, must be absolutely the best, each one a master
in his own line. So he wrote down at the top of his list,
Instructor in Oils, and reflected a little, with his head
in his hand, as to who could do that. Presently he sighed
and said that as far as he knew there was no one; he'd
have to do that himself. Then he wrote down Instructor
in Water Colour, and as soon as he had written it he said
right off that he would have to take that over too; there
was no one else that he could trust it to. Then he said,
"Now, let me see, Perspective, Freehand, and Crayon Work.
I need three men: three men of the first class. Can I
get them? I doubt it. Let me think what can be done."
He walked up and down the room a little with his hands
behind his back and his head sunk in thought while he
murmured, "Three men? Three men? But Ha! why THREE? Why
not, if sufficiently gifted, ONE man?"
But just when he was saying this there was a knock at
the door and Mrs. O'Halloran came in. I knew at once what
she had come for, because she had been threatening to do
it, and so I felt dreadfully nervous when she began to
say that our bill at the house had gone unpaid too long
and that we must pay her at once what we owed her. It
took some time before Uncle William understood what she
was talking about, but when he did he became dreadfully
frigid and polite. He said, "Let me understand clearly,
madame, just what it is that you wish to say: do I
apprehend that you are saying that my account here for
our maintenance is now due and payable?" Mrs. O'Halloran
said yes, she was. And Uncle said, "Let me endeavour to
grasp your meaning exactly: am I correct in thinking that
you mean I owe you money?" Mrs. O'Halloran said that was
what she meant. Uncle said, "Let me try to apprehend just
as accurately as possible what it is that you are trying
to tell me: is my surmise correct that you are implying
that it is time that I settled up my bill?"
Mrs. O'Halloran said, "Yes," but I could see that by this
time she was getting quite flustered because there was
something so dreadfully chilling in Uncle's manner: his
tone in a way was courtesy itself, but there was something
in it calculated to make Mrs. O'Halloran feel that she
had committed a dreadful breach in what she had done.
Uncle William told me afterwards that to mention money
to a prince is not a permissible thing, and that no true
Hohenzollern has ever allowed the word "bill" to be said
in his presence, and that for this reason he had tried,
out of courtesy, to give the woman every chance to withdraw
her words and had only administered a reprimand to her
when she failed to do so. Certainly it was a dreadful
rebuke that he gave her. He told her that he must insist
on this topic being dismissed and never raised again:
that he could allow no such discussion: the subject was
one, he said, that he must absolutely refuse to entertain:
he did not wish, he said, to speak with undue severity,
but he had better make it plain that if there were any
renewal of this discussion he should feel it impossible
to remain in the house.
While Uncle William was saying all this Mrs. O'Halloran
was getting more and more confused and angry, and when
Uncle finally opened the door for her with cold dignity,
she backed out of it and found herself outside the room
without seeming to know what she was doing. Presently I
could hear her down in the scullery below, rattling dishes
and saying that she was just as good as anybody.
But Uncle William seemed to be wonderfully calmed and
elevated after this scene, and said, "Princess, bring me
my flute." I brought it to him and he sat by the window
and leaned his head out over the back lane and played
our dear old German melodies, till somebody threw a boot
at him. The people about here are not musical. But meantime
Uncle William had forgotten all about the School of Art,
and he said no more about it.
To-day a dreadful thing has happened. The police have
come into the house and have taken Cousin Willie away.
He is now in a place called The Tombs, and Mr. Peters
says that he will be sent to the great prison at Sing-Sing.
He is to be tried for robbery and for stabbing with intent
It was very dreadful when they came to take him. I was
so glad that Uncle William was not here to see it all.
But it was in the morning and he had gone out to see a
steamship company about being president of it, and I was
tidying up our rooms, because Mrs. O'Halloran won't tidy
them up any more or let the coloured servant tidy them
up until we pay her more money. She said that to me, but
I think she is afraid to say it to Uncle William. So I
mean to do the work now while Uncle is out and not let
This morning, in the middle of the morning, while I was
working, all of a sudden I heard the street door open
and slam and some one rushing up the stairway: and then
Cousin Willie broke into the room, all panting and excited,
and his face grey with fright and gasping out, "Hide me,
hide me!" He ran from room to room whining and hysterical,
and his breath coming in a sort of sob, but he seemed
incapable of deciding what to do. I would have hidden
him if I could, but at the very next moment I heard the
policemen coming in below, and the voice of the landlady.
Then they came upstairs, big strong-looking men in blue,
any one of whom could have choked Cousin Willie with one
hand. Cousin Willie ran to and fro like a cornered rat,
and two of the men seized him and then I think he must
have been beside himself with fear for I saw his teeth
bite into the man's hand that held him, and one of the
policemen struck him hard with his wooden club across
the head and he fell limp to the floor. They dragged him
down the stairway like that and I followed them down,
but there was nothing that I could do. I saw them lift
Cousin Willie into a closed black wagon that stood at
the street door with quite a little crowd of people
gathered about it already, all excited and leering as if
it were a show. And then they drove away with him and I
came in and went upstairs and sat down in Uncle's room
but I could not work any more. A little later on Mr.
Peters came to the house,--I don't know why, because it
was not for the ice as he had his other clothes on,--and
he came upstairs and sat down and told me about what had
happened. It seemed a strange thing to receive him upstairs
in Uncle's bedroom like that, but I was so upset that I
did not think about it at the time. Mr. Peters had been
on our street with his ice wagon when the police came,
though I did not see him. But he saw me, he said, standing
at the door. And I think he must have gone home and
changed his things and come back again, but I did not
He told me that Cousin Willie had stabbed a man, or at
least a boy, that was in charge of a jewelry shop, and
that the boy might die. Cousin Willie, Mr. Peters says,
has been stealing jewelry nearly ever since we came here
and the police have been watching him but he did not know
this and so he had grown quite foolhardy, and this morning
in broad daylight he went into some sort of jewelry or
pawn shop where there was only a boy watching the shop,
and the boy was a cripple. Cousin Willie had planned to
hide the things under his coat and to sneak out but the
boy saw what he was doing and cried out, and when Cousin
Willie tried to break out of the shop he hobbled to the
door and threw himself in the way. And then it was that
Cousin Willie stabbed him with his sheath-knife,--the
one that I had seen in his room,--and ran. But already
there was a great outcry and the people followed on his
tracks and shouted to the police, and so they easily ran
All of this Mr. Peters told me, but he couldn't stay very
long and had to go again. He says he is going to see what
can be done for Cousin Willie but I am afraid that he
doesn't feel very sorry for him; but after Mr. Peters
had gone I could not help going on thinking about it all
and it seemed to me as if Cousin Willie had not altogether
had a fair chance in life. Common people are brought up
in fear of prison and punishment and they learn to do
what they should. But Cousin Willie was brought up as a
prince and was above imprisonment and things like that.
And in any case he seemed, when the big men seized hold
of him, such a paltry and miserable thing.
Later on in the day Uncle William came home and I had to
tell him all about Cousin Willie. I had feared that he
would be dreadfully upset, but he was much less disturbed
than I had thought. Indeed it is quite wonderful the way
in which Uncle can detach his mind from things.
I told him that Mr. Peters had said that Cousin Willie
must go to Sing-Sing, and Uncle said, "Ha! a fortress?"
So I told him that I thought it was. After that he asked
if Cousin Willie was in his uniform at the time, and when
I said that he was not, Uncle said "That may make it more
difficult." Of course Cousin Willie has no uniform here
in America and doesn't wear any, but I notice that Uncle
William begins to mix up our old life with our life here
and seems sometimes quite confused and wandering; at
least other people would think him so. He went on talking
quite a long time about what had happened and he said
that there is an almost exact precedent for the "incident"
(that's what he calls it) in the Zabern Case. I don't
remember much about that, as it was years ago, before
the war, but Uncle William said that it was a similar
case of an officer finding himself compelled to pass his
sword once through a cripple (only once, Uncle says) in
order to clear himself a way on the sidewalk. Uncle quoted
a good many other precedents for passing swords through
civilians, but he says that this is the best one.
In the evening Cousin Ferdinand and Uncle Henry came
over. Uncle Henry seemed very gloomy and depressed about
what had happened and said very little, but Cousin
Ferdinand was very much excited and angry. He said what
is the good of all his honesty and his industry if he is
to be disgraced like this: he asked of what use is his
uprightness and business integrity if he is to have a
first cousin in Sing-Sing. He said that if it was known
that he had a cousin there it would damage him with his
best trade to an incalculable extent. But later on he
quieted down and said that perhaps with a certain part
of his trade it would work the other way. Uncle Ferdinand
has grown to be much interested in what is called here
"advertising,"--a thing that he says all kings ought to
study--and he decided, after he had got over his first
indignation, that Cousin Willie being in Sing-Sing would
be a very good advertisement for him. It might bring him,
he said, quite a lot of new business; especially if it
was known that he refused to help Cousin Willie in any
way or to have anything more to do with any of the rest
of us, and not to give us any money. He said that this
was a point of view which people could respect and admire.
So before he went home he said that we must not expect
to see or hear from him any more, unless, of course,
things should in some way brighten up, in which case he
would come back.
It is a long time--nearly three months--since I have
added anything to my memoirs. The truth is I find it very
hard to write memoirs here. For one thing nobody else
seems to do it. Mrs. O'Halloran tells me that she never
thinks of writing memoirs at all. At the Potsdam palace
it was different. We all wrote memoirs. Eugenia of Pless
did, and Cecilia did, and I did, and all of us. We all
had our memoir books with little silver padlocks and
keys. We were brought up to do it because it helped us
to realise how important everything was that we did
and how important all the people about us were. It was
wonderful to realise that in the old life one met every
day great world figures like Prince Rasselwitz-Windischkopf,
the Grand Falconer of Reuss, and the Grand Duke of
Schlitzin-Mein, and Field Marshall Topoff, General-in-Chief
of the army of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. There are no such
figures as these in America.
But another reason for not writing has been that things
have been going so badly with us. Uncle William still
has no work and he seems to be getting older and more
broken and stranger in his talk every day. He is very
shabby now in spite of all I can do with my needle, but
he becomes more grandiloquent and consequential all the
time. Some of the mean looking young men at this boarding
house have christened him "The Emperor"--which seems a
strange thing for them to have picked upon, and they draw
him out in his talk, and when they meet him they make
mock salutes to him which Uncle returns with very great
dignity. Quite a lot of the people on the nearby streets
have taken it up and when they see Uncle come along they
make him military salutes. Uncle gets quite pleased and
flushed as he goes along the street and answers the
salutes with a sort of military bow.
He is quite happy when he is out of doors explaining to
me with his stick the plans he has for rebuilding New
York and turning the Hudson River to make it run the
other way. But when he comes in he falls into the most
dreadful depression and sometimes at night I hear him
walking up and down in his room far into the night. Two
or three times he has had the same dreadful kind of
seizures that he had on board the ship when we came over,
and this is always when there is a great wind blowing
from the ocean and a storm raging out at sea.
Of course as Uncle has not any work or any position, we
are getting poorer and poorer. Cousin Willie has been
sent to the fortress at Sing-Sing and Cousin Ferdinand
of Bulgaria refuses to know us any more, though, from
what we hear, he is getting on wonderfully well in the
clothing business and is very soon to open a big new
store of which he is to be the general manager. Cousin
Karl is now the Third Assistant Head-Waiter at the King
George Hotel, and in the sphere in which he moves it is
impossible for him to acknowledge any relationship with
us. I don't know what we should do but that Uncle Henry
manages to give us enough of his wages to pay for our
board and lodging. Uncle Henry has passed his Naval
Examination and is now appointed to a quite high command.
It is called a Barge Master. They refused to accept his
certificate of a German Admiral, so he had to study very
hard, but at last he got his qualification and is now in
charge of long voyages on the canals.
I am very glad that Uncle Henry's command turned out to
be on canals instead of on the high seas, as it makes it
so much more German. Of course Uncle Henry had splendid
experience in the Kiel Canal all through the four years
of the war, and it is bound to come in. So he goes away
now on quite long voyages, often of two or three weeks
at a time, and for all this time he is in chief charge
of his barge and has to work out all the navigation.
Sometimes Uncle Henry takes bricks and sometimes sand.
He says it is a great responsibility to feel oneself
answerable for the safety of a whole barge-full of bricks
or sand. It is quite different from what he did in the
German navy, because there it was only a question of the
sailors and for most of the time, as I have heard Uncle
William and Uncle Henry say, we had plenty of them, but
here with bricks and sand it is different. Uncle Henry
says that if his barge was wrecked he would lose his job.
This makes it a very different thing from being a royal
But Uncle William all through the last three months has
failed first at one thing and then at another. After all
his plans for selling pictures had come to nothing he
decided, very reluctantly that he would go into business.
He only reached this decision after a great deal of
anxious thought because, of course, business is a
degradation. It involves taking money for doing things
and this, Uncle William says, no prince can consent to
do. But at last, after deep thought, Uncle said, "The
die is cast," and sat down and wrote a letter offering
to take over the presidency of the United States Steel
Corporation. We spent two or three anxious days waiting
for the answer. Uncle was very firm and kept repeating,
"I have set my hand to it, and I will do it," but I was
certain that he was sorry about it and it was a great
relief when the answer came at last--it took days and
days, evidently, for them to decide about it--in which
the corporation said that they would "worry along" as
they were. Uncle explained to me what "worrying along"
meant and he said that he admired their spirit. But that
ended all talk of his going into business and I am sure
that we were both glad.
After that Uncle William decided that it was necessary
for me to marry in a way to restore our fortunes and he
decided to offer me to a State Governor. He asked me if
I had any choice of States, and I said no. Of course I
should not have wished to marry a state governor, but I
knew my duty towards Uncle William and I said nothing.
So Uncle got a map of the United States and he decided
to marry me to the Governor of Texas. He told me that I
could have two weeks to arrange my supply of household
linen and my trousseau to take to Texas, and he wrote at
once to the Governor. He showed me what he wrote and it
was a very formal letter. I think that Uncle's mind gets
more and more confused as to where he is and what he is
and he wrote in quite the old strain and I noticed that
he signed himself, "Your brother, William." Perhaps it
was on that account that we had no answer to the letter.
Uncle seemed to forget all about it very soon and I was
glad that it was so, and that I had escaped going to the
court of Texas.
All this time Mr. Peters has been very kind. He comes
to the house with his ice every day and sometimes when
Uncle Henry is here he comes in with him and smokes in
the evenings. One day he brought a beautiful bunch of
chrysanthemums for Uncle William, and another day a lovely
nosegay of violets for Uncle Henry. And one Sunday he
took us out for a beautiful drive with one of his ice-horses
in a carriage called a buggy, with three seats. Uncle
William sat with Mr. Peters in the front seat, and Uncle
Henry and Cousin Ferdinand (it was the last time he came
to see us) sat behind them and there was a little seat
at the back in which I sat. It was a lovely drive and
Uncle William pointed out to Mr. Peters all the things
of interest, and Cousin Ferdinand smoked big cigars and
told Uncle Henry all about the clothing trade, and I
listened to them all and enjoyed it very much indeed.
But I was afraid afterwards that it was a very bold and
unconventional thing to do, and perhaps Mr. Peters felt
that he had asked too much because he did not invite me
to drive again.
But he is always very kind and thoughtful.
One Sunday afternoon he came to see us, thinking by
mistake that Uncle William and Uncle Henry were there,
but they weren't, and his manner seemed so strange and
constrained that I was certain that there was something
that he was trying to say and it made me dreadfully
nervous and confused. And at last quite suddenly he said
that there was something that he wanted to ask me if I
wouldn't think it a liberty. My breath stopped and I
couldn't speak, and then he went on to ask if he might
lend us twenty-five dollars. He got very red in the face
when he said it and he began counting out the money on
the sofa, and somehow I hadn't expected that it was money
and began to cry. But I told Mr. Peters that of course
we couldn't think of taking any money, and I begged him
to pick it up again and then I began to try to tell him
about how hard it was to get along and to ask him to get
work for Uncle William, but I started to cry again. Mr.
Peters came over to my chair and took hold of the arm of
it and told me not to cry. Somehow his touch on the arm
of the chair thrilled all through me and though I knew
that it was wrong I let him keep it there and even let
him stroke the upholstery and I don't know just what
would have happened but at that very minute Uncle William
came in. He was most courteous to Mr. Peters and expressed
his apologies for having been out and said that it must
have been extremely depressing for Mr. Peters to find
that he was not at home, and he thanked him for putting
himself to the inconvenience of waiting. And a little
while after that Mr. Peters left.
The Next Day
Mr. Peters came back this morning and said that he had
got work for Uncle William. So I was delighted. He said
that Uncle will make a first class "street man," and that
he has arranged for a line of goods for him and that he
has a "territory" that Uncle can occupy. He showed me a
flat cardboard box filled with lead pencils and shoe-strings
and little badges and buttons with inscriptions on them,
and he says these are what is called a "line," and that
Uncle can take out this line and do splendidly. I don't
quite understand yet who makes the appointment to be a
street man or what influence it takes or what it means
to have a territory, but Mr. Peters explained that there
is a man who is retiring from being a street man and that
Uncle can take his place and can have both sides of the
Bowery, which sounds very pretty indeed.
At first I didn't understand--because Mr. Peters hesitated
a good deal in telling me about it--that if Uncle gets
this appointment, it will mean that he will sell things
in the street. But as soon as I understood this I felt
that Uncle William would scorn to do anything like this,
as the degradation would be the same as being President
of the Steel Corporation. So I was much surprised to find
that when Uncle came in he didn't look at it that way at
all. He looked at the box of badges and buttons and
things, and he said at once, "Ha! Orders of Distinction!
An excellent idea." He picked up a silly little white
button with the motto "Welcome to New York," and he said
"Admirable! That shall be the first class." And there
was a little lead spoon with "Souvenir of the Bowery"
that he made the second class. He started arranging and
rearranging all the things in the box, just as he used
to arrange the orders and decorations at the Palace. Only
those were REAL things such as the Order of the Red
Feather, and The Insignia of the Black Duck, and these
were only poor tin baubles. But I could see that Uncle
no longer knows the difference, and as his fingers fumbled
among these silly things he was quite trembling and eager
to begin, like a child waiting for to-morrow.
It is a year or nearly a year since I wrote in my memoirs,
and I only add to them now because things have happened
which mean that I shall never write any more.
Mr. Peters and I were married last autumn. He asked me
if I would marry him the day that he held the arm of my
chair in the boarding house where we used to live. At
first I never thought that Uncle William would permit
it, because of the hopeless difference of birth. But it
turned out that there was no difficulty at all. Uncle's
mind was always so wonderful that he could find a way
out of anything provided that he wanted to. So he conferred
on Mr. Peters an Order that raised him right up in birth
so that he came level with me. Uncle said that he could
have lifted him higher still if need be but that as I
was only, in our old life, of a younger branch of the
family, it was not necessary to lift Mr. Peters to the
very top. He takes precedence, Uncle said, just below
Uncle Henry of Prussia and just above an Archbishop.
It is so pleasant to think--now that poor Uncle William
is gone--that my marriage was with his full consent.
But even after Uncle William had given his formal consent,
I didn't want to get married till I could leave him
safely. Only he got along so well in his "territory" of
the Bowery from the very start that he was soon quite
all right. He used to go out every morning with his
trayful of badges and pencils and shoe-strings and he
was a success at once. All the people got to know him by
sight and they would say when they saw him, "Here comes
the Emperor," or "Here comes Old Dutch," and very often
there would be quite a little crowd round him buying his
things. Uncle regarded himself always as conferring a
great dignity on any one that he sold a badge to, but he
was very capricious and he had certain buttons and badges
that he would only part with as a very special favour
and honour. Uncle got on so fast that presently Cousin
Ferdinand decided that it would be all right to know him
again and so he came over and made a reconciliation and
took away Uncle's money,--it was all in small coins,--in
a bag to invest for him.
So when everything was all right with Uncle William, Mr.
Peters and I were married and it was on our wedding
morning that Uncle conferred the Order on my husband
which made me very proud. That was a year ago, and since
then we have lived in a very fine place of our own with
four rooms, all to ourselves, and a gallery at the back.
I have cooked all the meals and done all the work of our
apartment, except just at the time when our little boy
was born. We both think he is a very wonderful child. At
first I wanted to call him after the Hohenzollerns and
to name him William Frederick Charles Mary Augustus
Francis Felix, but somehow it seemed out of place and so
we have called him simply Joe Peters. I think it sounds
better. Uncle William drew up an act of abnegation of
Joe, whereby he gives up all claim to a reversion of the
throne of Prussia, Brunswick and Waldeck. I was sorry
for this at first but Uncle said that all the Hohenzollerns
had done it and had made just as great a sacrifice as
Joe has in doing it. But my husband says that under the
constitution of the United States, Joe can be President,
which I think I will like better.
It was one day last week that Uncle William met with the
accident that caused his death. He had walked far away
from his "territory" up to where the Great Park is,
because in this lovely spring weather he liked to wander
about. And he came to where there was a great crowd of
people gathered to see the unveiling of a new monument.
It is called the Lusitania Monument and it is put up in
memory of the people that were lost when one of our war
boats fought the English cruiser Lusitania. There were
a lot of soldiers lining the streets and regiments of
cavalry riding between. And it seems that when Uncle
William saw the crowd and the soldiers he was drawn nearer
and nearer by a sort of curiosity, and when he saw the
great white veil drawn away from the monument, and read
the word "Lusitania" that is carved in large letters
across the base, he screamed out in a sudden fear, and
clashed among the horses of the cavalry and was ridden
They carried him to the hospital, but he never spoke
again, and died on the next day but one. My husband would
not let me go to see him, as he was not conscious and it
could do no good, but after Uncle William was dead they
let me see him in his coffin.
Lying there he seemed such a pitiful and ghastly lump of
clay that it seemed strange that he could, in his old
life, have vexed the world as he did.
I had thought that when Uncle William died there would
have been long accounts of him in the papers; at least
I couldn't help thinking so, by a sort of confusion of
mind, as it is hard to get used to things as they are
and to remember that our other life is unknown here and
that we are known only as ourselves.
But though I looked in all the papers I could find nothing
except one little notice, which I cut out of an evening
paper and which I put in here as a conclusion to my
THE "EMPEROR" DEAD
Unique Character of the East Side Passes Away
A unique and interesting character, a familiar figure
of the East Side of the City, has been lost from our
streets with the death of William Hohen lost Thursday
in the Pauper Hospital, to which he had been brought
as the result of injuries sustained in a street accident
at the Lusitania celebration. Hohen, who was about
sixty-five years of age, was an immigrant out of
Germany after the troubles of the Great War. He had
been for a year or more a street pedler on the Bowery,
where he sold souvenir buttons and various little
trinkets. The old man appears to have been the victim
of a harmless hallucination whereby he thought himself
a person of Royal distinction and in his fancy converted
the box of wares that he carried into Orders of Chivalry
and decorations of Knighthood. The effect of this
strange fancy was heightened by an attempt at military
bearing which, comic though it was in so old and ragged
a figure, was not without a touch of pathos. Some
fancied resemblance to the former Kaiser had earned
for Hohen the designation of the "Emperor," of which
he appeared inordinately proud. But those who knew
Hohen by sight assure us that the resemblance to the
former ruler of Germany, who with all his faults made
a splendid and imposing appearance, was of a purely
superficial character. It would, alas! have been well
for the world if the lot of William Hohenzollern had
fallen on the lines of the simple and pathetic "Emperor"
of the Bowery.
II.--With the Bolsheviks in Berlin
Two years ago as my readers will remember,--but of course
they don't,--I made a secret visit to Germany during the
height of the war. It was obviously quite impossible at
that time to disclose the means whereby I made my way
across the frontier. I therefore adopted the familiar
literary device of professing to have been transported
to Germany in a dream. In that state I was supposed to
be conducted about the country by my friend Count Boob
von Boobenstein, whom I had known years before as a waiter
in Toronto, to see GERMANY FROM WITHIN, and to report
upon it in the Allied press.
What I wrote attracted some attention. So the German
Government--feeling, perhaps, that the prestige of their
own spy system was at stake--published a white paper,
--or a green paper,--I forget which,--in denial of all
my adventures and disclosures. In this they proved (1)
that all entry into Germany by dreams had been expressly
forbidden of the High General Command; (2) that astral
bodies were prohibited and (3) that nobody else but the
Kaiser was allowed to have visions. They claimed therefore
(1) that my article was a fabrication and (2) that for
all they knew it was humorous. There the matter ended
until it can be taken up at the General Peace Table.
But as soon as I heard that the People's Revolution had
taken place in Berlin I determined to make a second visit.
This time I had no difficulty about the frontier whatever.
I simply put on the costume of a British admiral and
"Three Cheers for the British Navy!" said the first
official whom I met. He threw his hat in the air and the
peasants standing about raised a cheer. It was my first
view of the marvellous adaptability of this great people.
I noticed that many of them were wearing little buttons
with pictures of Jellicoe and Beatty.
At my own request I was conducted at once to the nearest
"So your Excellency wishes to go to Berlin?" said the
"Yes," I replied, "I want to see something of the people's
The stationmaster looked at his watch.
"That Revolution is over," he said.
"Too bad!" I exclaimed.
"Not at all. A much better one is in progress, quite the
best Revolution that we have had. It is called--Johann,
hand me that proclamation of yesterday--the Workmen and
"What's it about?" I asked.
"The basis of it," said the stationmaster, "or what we
Germans call the Fundamental Ground Foundation, is
universal love. They hanged all the leaders of the Old
"When can I get a train?" I inquired.
"Your Excellency shall have a special train at once,
Sir," he continued with a sudden burst of feeling, while
a tear swelled in his eye. "The sight of your uniform
calls forth all our gratitude. My three sons enlisted in
our German Navy. For four years they have been at Kiel,
comfortably fed, playing dominos. They are now at home
all safe and happy. Had your brave navy relaxed its
vigilance for a moment those boys might have had to go
out on the sea, a thing they had never done. Please God,"
concluded the good old man, removing his hat a moment,
"no German sailor now will ever have to go to sea."
I pass over my journey to Berlin. Interesting and varied
as were the scenes through which I passed they gave me
but little light upon the true situation of the country:
indeed I may say without exaggeration that they gave me
as little--or even more so--as the press reports of our
talented newspaper correspondents. The food situation
seemed particularly perplexing. A well-to-do merchant
from Bremen who travelled for some distance in my train
assured me that there was plenty of food in Germany,
except of course for the poor. Distress, he said, was
confined entirely to these. Similarly a Prussian gentleman
who looked very like a soldier, but who assured me with
some heat that he was a commercial traveller, told me
the same thing: There were no cases of starvation, he
said, except among the very poor.
The aspect of the people too, at the stations and in the
towns we passed, puzzled me. There were no uniforms, no
soldiers. But I was amazed at the number of commercial
travellers, Lutheran ministers, photographers, and so
forth, and the odd resemblance they presented, in spite
of their innocent costumes, to the arrogant and ubiquitous
military officers whom I had observed on my former visit.
But I was too anxious to reach Berlin to pay much attention
to the details of my journey.
Even when I at last reached the capital, I arrived as I
had feared, too late.
"Your Excellency," said a courteous official at the
railway station, to whom my naval uniform acted as a
sufficient passport. "The Revolution of which you speak
is over. Its leaders were arrested yesterday. But you
shall not be disappointed. There is a better one. It is
called the Comrades' Revolution of the Bolsheviks. The
chief Executive was installed yesterday."
"Would it be possible for me to see him?" I asked.
"Nothing simpler, Excellency," he continued as a tear
rose in his eye. "My four sons,--"
"I know," I said; "your four sons are in the German Navy.
It is enough. Can you take me to the Leader?"
"I can and will," said the official. "He is sitting now
in the Free Palace of all the German People, once usurped
by the Hohenzollern Tyrant. The doors are guarded by
machine guns. But I can take you direct from here through
a back way. Come."
We passed out from the station, across a street and
through a maze of little stairways, and passages into
the heart of the great building that had been the offices
of the Imperial Government.
"Enter this room. Do not knock," said my guide. "Good bye."
In another moment I found myself face to face with the
chief comrade of the Bolsheviks.
He gave a sudden start as he looked at me, but instantly
He was sitting with his big boots up on the mahogany
desk, a cigar at an edgeways angle in his mouth. His hair
under his sheepskin cap was shaggy, and his beard stubbly
and unshaven. His dress was slovenly and there was a big
knife in his belt. A revolver lay on the desk beside him.
I had never seen a Bolshevik before but I knew at sight
that he must be one.
"You say you were here in Berlin once before?" he
questioned, and he added before I had time to answer:
"When you speak don't call me 'Excellency' or 'Sereneness'
or anything of that sort; just call me 'brother' or
'comrade.' This is the era of freedom. You're as good as
I am, or nearly."
"Thank you," I said.
"Don't be so damn polite," he snarled. "No good comrade
ever says 'thank you.' So you were here in Berlin before?"
"Yes," I answered, "I was here writing up Germany from
Within in the middle of the war."
"The war, the war!" he murmured, in a sort of wail or
whine. "Take notice, comrade, that I weep when I speak
of it. If you write anything about me be sure to say that
I cried when the war was mentioned. We Germans have been
so misjudged. When I think of the devastation of France
and Belgium I weep."
He drew a greasy, red handkerchief from his pocket and
began to sob. "To think of the loss of all those English
"Oh, you needn't worry," I said, "it's all going to be
"Oh I hope so, I do hope so," said the Bolshevik chief.
"What a regret it is to us Germans to think that
unfortunately we are not able to help pay for it; but
you English--you are so generous--how much we have admired
your noble hearts--so kind, so generous to the
His voice had subsided into a sort of whine.
But at this moment there was a loud knocking at the door.
The Bolshevik hastily wiped the tears from his face and
put away his handkerchief.
"How do I look?" he asked anxiously. "Not humane, I hope?
"Oh, no," I said, "quite tough."
"That's good," he answered. "That's good. But am I tough
He hastily shoved his hands through his hair.
"Quick," he said, "hand me that piece of chewing tobacco.
Now then. Come in!"
The door swung open.
A man in a costume much like the leader's swaggered into
the room. He had a bundle of papers in his hands, and
seemed to be some sort of military secretary.
"Ha! comrade!" he said, with easy familiarity. "Here are
the death warrants!"
"Death warrants!" said the Bolshevik. "Of the leaders of
the late Revolution? Excellent! And a good bundle of
them! One moment while I sign them."
He began rapidly signing the warrants, one after the
"Comrade," said the secretary in a surly tone, "you are
not chewing tobacco!"
"Yes I am, yes I am," said the leader, "or, at least, I
was just going to."
He bit a huge piece out of his plug, with what seemed to
me an evident distaste, and began to chew furiously.
"It is well," said the other. "Remember comrade, that
you are watched. It was reported last night to the
Executive Committee of the Circle of the Brothers that
you chewed no tobacco all day yesterday. Be warned,
comrade. This is a free and independent republic. We will
stand for no aristocratic nonsense. But whom have you
here?" he added, breaking off in his speech, as if he
noticed me for the first time. "What dog is this?"
"Hush," said the leader, "he is a representative of the
foreign press, a newspaper reporter."
"Your pardon," said the secretary. "I took you by your
dress for a prince. A representative of the great and
enlightened press of the Allies, I presume. How deeply
we admire in Germany the press of England! Let me kiss
"Oh, don't trouble," I said, "it's not worth while."
"Say, at least, when you write to your paper, that I
offered to kiss you, will you not?"
Meantime, the leader had finished signing the papers.
The secretary took them and swung on his heels with
something between a military bow and a drunken swagger.
"Remember, comrade," he said in a threatening tone as he
passed out, "you are watched."
The Bolshevik leader looked after him with something of
"Excuse me a moment," he said, "while I go and get rid
of this tobacco."
He got up from his chair and walked away towards the door
of an inner room. As he did so, there struck me something
strangely familiar in his gait and figure. Conceal it as
he might, there was still the stiff wooden movement of
a Prussian general beneath his assumed swagger. The poise
of his head still seemed to suggest the pointed helmet
of the Prussian. I could without effort imagine a military
cloak about his shoulders instead of his Bolshevik
Then, all in a moment, as he re-entered the room, I
recalled exactly who he was.
"My friend," I said, reaching out my hand, "pardon me
for not knowing you at once. I recognize you now..."
"Hush," said the Bolshevik. "Don't speak! I never saw
you in my life."
"Nonsense," I said, "I knew you years ago in Canada when
you were disguised as a waiter. And you it was who
conducted me through Germany two years ago when I made
my war visit. You are no more a Bolshevik than I am. You
are General Count Boob von Boobenstein."
The general sank down in his chair, his face pale beneath
its plaster of rouge.
"Hush!" he said. "If they learn it, it is death."
"My dear Boob," I said, "not a word shall pass my lips."
The general grasped my hand. "The true spirit," he said,
"the true English comradeship; how deeply we admire it
"I am sure you do," I answered. "But tell me, what is
the meaning of all this? Why are you a Bolshevik?"
"We all are," said the count, dropping his assumed rough
voice, and speaking in a tone of quiet melancholy. "It's
the only thing to be. But come," he added, getting up
from his chair, "I took you once through Berlin in war
time. Let me take you out again and show you Berlin under
"I shall be only too happy," I said.
"I shall leave my pistols and knives here," said
Boobenstein, "and if you will excuse me I shall change
my costume a little. To appear as I am would excite too
much enthusiasm. I shall walk out with you in the simple
costume of a gentleman. It's a risky thing to do in
Berlin, but I'll chance it."
The count retired, and presently returned dressed in the
quiet bell-shaped purple coat, the simple scarlet tie,
the pea-green hat and the white spats that mark the German
gentleman all the world over.
"Bless me, Count," I said, "you look just like Bernstorff."
"Hush," said the count. "Don't mention him. He's here in
"What's he doing?" I asked.
"He's a Bolshevik; one of our leaders; he's just been
elected president of the Scavengers Union. They say he's
the very man for it. But come along, and, by the way,
when we get into the street talk English and only English.
There's getting to be a prejudice here against German."
We passed out of the door and through the spacious
corridors and down the stairways of the great building.
All about were little groups of ferocious looking men,
dressed like stage Russians, all chewing tobacco and
redolent of alcohol.
"Who are all these people?" I said to the count in a low
"Bolsheviks," he whispered. "At least they aren't really.
You see that group in the corner?
"The ones with the long knives," I said.
"Yes. They are, or at least they were, the orchestra of
the Berlin Opera. They are now the Bolshevik Music
Commission. They are here this morning to see about
getting their second violinist hanged."
"Why not the first?" I asked.
"They had him hanged yesterday. Both cases are quite
clear. The men undoubtedly favoured the war: one, at
least, of them openly spoke in disparagement of President
Wilson. But come along. Let me show you our new city."
We stepped out upon the great square which faced the
building. How completely it was changed from the Berlin
that I had known! My attention was at once arrested by
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