Oscar van den Boogaard – Child Soldier
Dear Uncle Frans,
On my way home I thought some more about your plea to have the family toys restored to you in your old age. Instead of the Humpty Dumpty circus, the Märklin train and the Prussian soldier, I now present you with the manuscript of our shared family history. No doubt it explains the anger that still sends you on the warpath at eighty.
Since we may never meet again, I would like you to know that as an artist (‘artiste’, as your mother and sister say) and the dissident of the family, you have always been a shining example to me. That’s why I forgive you for not having been in touch for over fifty years after my christening, even though you are technically my godfather. That a man needs to distance himself from the house of pain is something I understand only too well, but by drawing on all the imagination I can muster I would like to show you – and myself in the process – that it is also the house of love.
Tout à vous,
Let us begin with the spring that, for inexplicable reasons, formed right here – and not somewhere else – among the oak and beech covered hills in the north of Dutch Limburg, in the marshland between the Meuse and a higher river terrace. The spring was so perfectly embedded between three rocks that its location seemed vital.
The rocks, which could never be moved by mortal hands, were known locally, that is to say by the villagers who had no business on the estate, as cyclops stones. In a distant past, it was said, a one-eyed giant had hurled them from the Alps in a fit of anger. Some had ended up at the mouth of the Geul near Aachen, but an excess of fury had sent these three a further one hundred kilometres to land in this perfect composition around the bubbling water.
What’s disconcerting about the story of One Eye is the idea that rage put the finishing touches to paradise, as you might describe this place. Deer, wild boar, squirrels, birds and rabbits all shared the spring harmoniously with the residents of Metternich Castle, who had been having their bottles filled with the spring water for hundreds of years and who credited it with beneficial properties. They all seemed to belong to one and the same divine nature.
Because Metternich was situated in the border region between the Netherlands and Germany, it boasted both a Limburg and a Prussian gate. In their hearts the residents, who had only been officially on the Dutch side since the French period, still felt just as closely connected to the German hinterland.
And so it happened that one summer afternoon in 1884, the Prussian general Maximilian, who lived at a country estate just across the border, thought he would try his luck and bring his daughter along when he came to hunt at Metternich and introduce her to the lord of the castle’s only son.
While the coach carried Hermine along the steep embankment through the marshes, her father’s hand rested in her slender neck. She briefly allowed herself to lean her head back without a care, but at the boundary post her father withdrew his hand.
As they entered the Prussian gate and the corner turrets of Metternich came into view, she straightened up and tied her hair together.
‘Two kindred spirits,’ Arnold remarked as his son Edmond and Hermine shook hands in the castle yard. It sounded less like an observation than an order.
‘Our young ones are far too sensitive for the hunt,’ Maximilian noted.
The fathers slapped each other on the shoulder and walked across the castle moat with their rifles at the ready.
‘Weidmannheil!’ the son shouted after them, and received a two-part Weidmannheil in response.
‘Why don’t we go for a stroll,’ Edmond proposed. ‘But let’s take a look at the swans in the moat first.’
In a language that hovered between Dutch and German, Hermine talked about her previous visit to Metternich some years previously. On the Feast of the Assumption, the Virgin Mary was taken out of the private chapel and carried in procession around the estate under a blue velvet canopy. ‘I was one of the hundred girls in white dresses with flowers in their hair,’ she said modestly.
‘And I was one of the hundred boys holding up a candle.’
‘We didn’t notice each other.’
‘I did see you,’ Edmond said. ‘All these years I’ve been thinking: when will the Prussian girl with the reddish-blonde hair come back?’
Hermine laughed shyly.
‘Then he asked: ‘What do you do with your life?’
‘My life,’ she said in surprise. ‘My life hasn’t even started yet.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’m still at school with the nuns in Maastricht. How about you’
‘I’m studying law in Leiden.’
‘So you don’t have much time either.’
‘But wait,’ she said as she came to a halt. ‘If I don’t have time and you don’t have time, what are we doing here?’
Edmond looked at her mysterious smile.
‘This must be the most foolish conversation two people have ever had,’ she exclaimed.
‘In that case we deserve a prize,’ Edmond chuckled.
‘The gold cup for most foolish conversation.’
They walked through the English garden and by the water mill they took the path up.
‘What’s black-and-white, black-and-white, black-and-white, black-and-white?’ Edmond asked.
‘A nun tumbling down the stairs.’
Hermine’s body went limp with laughter. ‘I’d like to push them all down the stairs.’
Edmond jokingly threw himself to the ground, as though she had just shoved him. While letting the sand run through his fingers, he said, ‘This is old soil, truly old soil.’
‘Older than our family trees, you mean?’ she asked.
‘And older than the country borders.’
‘Even older than the Old Testament?’
Edmond explained that in the clay pits researchers had discovered fossils of animals and plants that had lived here in a warm and humid climate two million years ago. Prints of large deer, mammoths, mastodons, rhinoceroses, hyenas, bears and panthers. ‘Not far from the spring, they even found the lower mandible of a monkey,’ Edmond said.
‘Must be one of your ancestors,’ she teased him.
Edmond walked down the hillock and Hermine followed. They sat down on the rocks and watched the bubbling water.
‘Did you know that this water travels for a hundred years before it rises to the surface?’ Edmond asked.
She found his sense of wonder endearing.
‘Why does a spring emerge?’ she asked dreamily.
‘Sheer enthusiasm,’ Edmond exclaimed. ‘Because it doesn’t know how else to express its joy.’
Edmond leaned forward and cupped his hands together. Hermine drank from them like a thirsty roe deer.
At that moment a shot rang out in the distance, echoing among the hills. Edmond placed his hand on her back.
‘Edmond,’ she said. ‘You’re der Mond.’
‘Yes, you’re soft and gentle,’ she said, ‘and you have a side you’re not showing.’
Later, during the hunt dinner, they both sat staring at their napkins.
They had been so far away together.
‘Attaquer,’ Hermine heard her father shout as though he was on the battlefield.
As the talking, rattling of glassware and clanging of cutlery faded into the background, they fell in love – it was the force of gravity.
Excited and exhausted, they arrived in front of Uncle Eugène’s house on a large boulevard with plane trees. As he pressed the doorbell, Nol said, ‘Want to bet nobody’s home?’
Perhaps all three of them were entertaining this hope, so they could stay out. Paris was one big living room.
A butler answered the door and performed a deep bow with a hand on his heart. On behalf of the envoy he apologised that nobody had met them at the station. Given the political situation, Eugène had had to rush to the Netherlands to convene with the cabinet and the Queen. ‘But he has instructed us to give you a royal welcome.’
A servant took their suitcases and carried them upstairs in a lift.
‘It’s first-class spick-and-span,’ Nora said as they checked out each other’s rooms.
‘What do you mean by that?’ Nol asked.
‘That’s what my mother always says when everything’s very posh.’
Having freshened up, they went downstairs. A table had been set for three. Wine was poured into coloured glasses. There was a telephone call for Nora.
‘I’m not amused,’ her mother yelled. ‘Leaving such young people to their own devices.’
‘He had to speak with the Queen.’
‘Who matters more, for heaven’s sake? No wonder his wife left him. And for a racing driver, too!’
To be honest, Nora was pleased that Uncle Eugène was away. She’d met him once. A morose old man with a beard. Page of honour to the Queen, but deeply unhappy.
On the mantelpiece in the salon, beside a small vase with anemones, stood a photo of a blonde girl. Her eyes seemed to contain all the suffering in the world.
‘Do you think she’s beautiful? Nol asked Max, who was looking at her closely, but didn’t seem to hear the question.
‘That means he thinks she’s gorgeous,’ Nora concluded.
A chambermaid entered and changed the vase on the mantel for a new one, with fresh anemones, before crossing herself.
‘But they’re still fine,’ Max said in surprise.
‘I’ve been instructed to replace them every day,’ she said and left the room.
‘She’s dead,’ Max said.
‘Children die too,’ Nora said, stoically.
‘Oh bright flowering anemones,’ Nol sang in a broken voice. ‘The stars sink down into the waves, dousing in my heart the ling’ring strains.’
Nora walked over to the drinks cabinet and poured sherry into three glasses. ‘When the cat’s away,’ she said laughing.
Nol took three cigarettes from the silver case and lit them one by one with the table lighter.
‘Where did you pick that up? Nora asked.
‘Same place you two picked it up,’ Nol replied.
Nora asked the boys to stand in front of the large mirror. Side by side. To look into their own eyes first, then at each other in the mirror.
‘What are you getting at?’ Nol asked.
‘I’m curious to see how twins look at themselves,’ Nora said. ‘I’m always alone.’
Drinking and smoking, they sat on the sofa together as if they were grownups. And strangely enough they were, except they weren’t used to it yet.
‘So you’re the ambassador,’ Nol said to Max. ‘And you’re his wife,’ he said to Nora.
‘No, I’m his girlfriend. The ambassador got divorced recently.’
‘That almost sounds like he’s a widower, don’t you think?’ Nol said.
‘A widower with a girlfriend is only half as sad,’ Max observed.
Nora got up and sat on Max’s lap.
‘We met at a dance hall,’ she said.
‘So you can dance,’ Nol exclaimed. ‘That means it’s time for music.’ He walked over to the gramophone and lowered the needle onto the record. It was marching music.
‘Venez danser,’ Nol shouted and clapped his hands.
And Max and Nora started dancing. What Max was doing looked more like marching, while Nora fluttered in and among his lumbering steps like a butterfly.
‘Loosen up, Max,’ Nol yelled as he lit another cigarette.
‘Aren’t you smoking too much?’ Nora wondered.
‘In Paris people smoke constantly,’ he said, still slumped on the sofa.
Nora refilled their glasses. Meanwhile, Max lit two cigarettes.
‘And now the married couple kiss on the mouth,’ Nol said.
‘We’re boyfriend and girlfriend!’ Max noted.
Nora fleetingly pressed her mouth on Max’s.
‘More passion, please,’ Nol said.
Max let go.
‘Kiss!’ Nol yelled indignantly.
Max marched around the coffee table. Still smoking and drinking, a giggly Nora followed suit.
‘You two must kiss!’ Nol shouted.
Nora chased Max around the table. Predator Nora grabbed his waist. She pressed her mouth on his, and then that was their first proper kiss.
Max asked Nol, ‘Don’t you want to dance?’
‘No, I’ve got a good view from where I’m sitting.’
‘Come, dance with me,’ Nora begged.
But Nol didn’t want to.
Afterwards they went for an evening stroll along the boulevards. They ended up in a café where they ordered red wine. Max fell asleep with his head in his arms, while Nol sat dozing, slumped in his seat. Nora lit a cigarette and began her game.
‘And who are you? asked a young man who sat with friends at the neighbouring table.
‘What beautiful eyes Nora has,’ he said. ‘And who are they?’
‘They’re my brothers,’ she replied.
He offered her a glass and drew her portrait on a notepad. Her face seemed to come alive under his pencil. When he tried to take her hand, Nora woke the two boys. Nol wrapped a protective arm around her.
The young man ordered glasses for the boys before returning to his friends. Nora slipped the drawing into her Baedeker to keep it for the rest of her life.
Next to them, there was talk of the war. The young man was busy sketching Europe. Animatedly, he drew a few arrows pointing in each other’s direction. He crosshatched Holland and Belgium.
When Nora appeared washed and dressed at the breakfast table the following morning, Nol said, ‘Here’s Juillet looking shipshape. Did you sleep well?’
‘Juillet had a terrible dream,’ Nora replied. ‘She had to resit all of her exams.’
‘Have an egg,’ Max said, as he decapitated his own with a knife.
‘I don’t have much of an appetite, actually,’ Nora said.
‘You should eat properly, because it’s going to be a long day,’ Max said.
All three were nervous, because how do you tackle a metropolis?
They were standing in front of the Hôtel des Invalides with their travel guide open. The Sun King’s military complex was so big it made their heads spin.
‘I want to see Napoleon’s grave,’ Max said impatiently.
‘We can go there tomorrow,’ Nol said. ‘We’ve got all the time in the world.’
That was just the thing Nol would say, Nora thought to herself. All the time in the world. What exactly did that mean?
Perhaps he meant: pretend as though you’ve got all the time in the world, because knowing that you don’t would make you feel rushed. You’d run rather than walk and end up seeing nothing.
‘Rousseau thought horses were too fast, which is why he preferred to walk,’ Nol said, as if he had read Nora’s mind.
They were not used to having time. Unlike in the old days, when they were children and would wander endlessly around Metternich.
Max wanted to see the boats in the park. They hired three toy sailboats and put them in the pond. There was something soothing about the way they bobbed up and down. The wait for a breath of wind.
They spent hours walking along the Seine, and when Nora was ready to drop she sat down against the embankment in the shade. Nol sat beside her, his legs outstretched. He pulled a baguette out of a bag, peeled some greaseproof paper off a chunk of cheese and then took out the bottle of wine they’d had uncorked in the shop. Max was sitting nearby, with his feet in the water.
Nol handed the bottle to Nora, who took a sip and passed it back to Nol. She closed her eyes, dozing off for a bit, and when she opened them again Nol was watching her with a tender look in his eyes. Max was still sitting by the water, stripped to the waist, with his back to them, dangling his legs.
Max uttered a cry and pointed up. A zeppelin floated over Paris. The first zeppelin of their lives. Patiently they watched it drifting past, infinitely slowly.
They sauntered along the grand boulevards, like seasoned flâneurs. Nol said, ‘We’re reading the city.’ Nora found it a beautiful thought. Reading the city like a book. A love story. At times all three of them giggled like young girls. Kissing Max was getting easier and easier. And Nol didn’t mind. ‘It stays in the family,’ he said. Max also plucked up the courage to place his hands on her breasts.
One evening Nol exclaimed, ‘You two are so childish!’
Nora looked at him, shocked, even though it was the encouragement she really craved. They’d been kissing so much that lying on top of each other would be the obvious next step in the near future.
‘This is a meeting at the highest level,’ Bernhard said with a serious look on his face as he came and stood next to her.
‘A Gipfeltreffen,’ Elsie said. ‘A summit between two strangers.’
‘A Herrschertreffen,’ he said.
Elsie laughed. ‘I’m not a ruler.’
‘But you’re strict.’
‘What makes you think that?’
‘Because you didn’t wait for me down below.’
‘I thought you were already at the top.’
‘I’ve only just met you and I already miss you,’ he said. ‘I’d wanted to take the lift with you.’
‘We’ll be taking lots of lifts,’ Elsie said.
The prince looked at her in surprise.
‘I mean, we came here to ski, right?’ Elsie replied.
‘I’m glad you look at it that way.’
‘Do you have a cigarette for me?’ Elsie asked.
The prince opened his jacket, pulled his pipe from his inside pocket and held it up in front of her.
‘I always carry my Dunhill with me.
‘It’s better than nothing.’
‘Are you a pipe smoker?’
‘I’ll smoke anything.’
The prince handed her the pipe and pulled a tin from his pocket. ‘Hold it carefully,’ he said.
He screwed open the tin and filled the pipe with tobacco. He tamped it down with his thumb. He put the pipe in his mouth and tucked the tin away.
He produced a matchbox, struck a match and skilfully lit the pipe. When he drew on it with his pursed mouth, his face disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
He took a Swiss army knife from his pocket and tamped the pipe again. After a few drags he handed the pipe to Elsie. She took a puff.
‘Does your fiancé smoke?’ Bernhard asked.
‘I don’t have a fiancé,’ Elsie replied.
‘How’s it possible that you don’t have a fiancé?’
‘I’ve had a few in the past.’
‘A few. Are you that demanding?’
Elsie took another puff and handed the pipe back to Bernhard.
‘Look at us standing here.’
‘On top of the black piste,’ Elsie said.
‘Lula told me you had a Swiss lover who had his own mountain.’
‘Do you share everything with each other?’
‘She does with me.’
‘But not the other way around.’
He laughed to himself.
‘I taste chocolate,’ she said.
‘Liquorice for me,’ Bernhard said.
‘Chocolate,’ Elsie shouted with her hands around her mouth.
‘Liquorice,’ Bernhard yelled.
‘I used to have a photo of you above my bed,’ Elsie said.
‘It wasn’t a photo.’
‘Yes it was.’
‘I was me. I was watching you.’
‘And when you were asleep, I stepped out of the frame and snuggled up against you.’
What a lovely man, Elsie thought to herself. She was missing him already, even though the pipe was still far from finished.
‘Why did you remove the photo?’
‘I didn’t remove it.’
‘What did your fiancés say?’
‘They never set foot in my bedroom.’
‘How chaste you are.’
‘Who says I didn’t set foot in theirs?’
‘The idea alone is making me jealous,’ he said.
Look at me, papa, Elsie thought. Your daughter is standing on top of the mountain, next to the prince. Like a couple on a wedding cake.
‘Did your father smoke?’ Bernhard asked.
‘No,’ Elsie answered, ‘but how kind of you to ask after my father. I was just thinking about him.’
‘Is he no longer with us?’
‘He died in a bombing raid during the war.’
‘The Allied Forces.’
‘Their aim wasn’t always very precise.’
‘But they liberated us.’
‘What about your mother?’
‘Let’s talk about us,’ Elsie said and took another puff.
‘Anything we say will stay between you and me,’ the prince said, ‘in our tunnel for two.’
‘A tunnel for two,’ Elsie repeated.
‘Above the tree line and below freezing, different laws apply,’ Bernhard whispered.
‘Those of enchantment?’ Elsie suggested.
‘The word ‘enchantment’ lingered around them as they stared at the mountain tops in silence.
Bernhard pointed. ‘The Parseierspitze is over three thousand metres high. And that one there is the Eisenspitze. That’s the Dawinkopf. Do you like hiking?’
Elsie shrugged her shoulders, laughing.
‘There’s a lovely trail across a glacier that takes you to the top of the mountain. It’s a long and strenuous route, but halfway up the Parseierscharte is an old emergency shelter with two beds. We could spend the night together there.’
‘Are we allowed to stay away that long?’ Elsie asked.
‘I’m in control of my own life; I hope you are too.’
‘Of your life?’
‘No, your own.’
‘Yes, of course I am.’
Elsie loved his German accent. It reminded her of her Uncle Max, but Bernhard had stopped talking and was now looking at her.
‘You’re a truly remarkable woman, do you know that?’
‘I am, but for an entirely different reason than you think.’
‘Now I’m curious.’
‘Let’s go ski.’
He knocked out the pipe in the snow. The smouldering tobacco bored a deep black hole. Below them, the slopes stretched out, steep and hazardous.
‘Shall we do it or not?’ Bernhard asked.
‘Let’s do it.’
‘There’ll be no way back.’
She put on her ski goggles, bent her knees and stabbed her poles in the snow. She’d surrender to the force of gravity, in graceful twists and turns, or was it the force of attraction?
‘You go first,’ she shouted.
Bernhard pushed off and whizzed down. She followed his slaloming moves, which with each bend broke loose from his regular duties – and in doing so cut herself loose from her own duties too. Together they’d ski themselves free, while his wife had opted for a slope that was less steep, less black, less a matter gravity or attraction.
Elsie was already sad because she knew that for the rest of her life she’d be bored with any other man.
Down below the village loomed up. The duties. The separate rooms. The place where they’d have to say goodbye. But not yet.
On a cloudless day he came to pick her up, in a shiny American car. First, he pulled over in front of the church to kiss and caress her. Then they drove out of town.
“Three guesses where we’re going,” PB said.
“To Mutti’s,” Elsie whispered.
“Oh, if that’s what you’d like,” he said with a mysterious smile.
They drove east across the rolling hills of the Veluwe, sunlight flickering through the trees. Elsie didn’t really feel like going to Mutti, she wanted PB all to herself. But close to Apeldoorn they left the main road and halted at the edge of an airfield.
His arrival here, to fetch his wife and daughters when they set foot again on Dutch soil a few months after the war, that was a part of collective memory. His free and easy life had been over then, no, he went on gaily living that free and easy life.
A little plane was standing ready for them. He hadn’t even asked whether she was afraid of flying. At this moment, Elsie wanted nothing more than to crash to earth, together with him.
A man who can fly, she rhapsodized as they lifted off the ground. He was handsome in his dark aviator glasses and headphones. She had the map of the Netherlands on her lap. Would anyone believe her when she told them about it this evening? Maybe she wouldn’t even believe it herself.
“First we’ll swing past the ice palace,” the prince shouted, “give my mother-in-law a little fright,” and within minutes they were flowing low over Het Loo palace.
“She’s cold and lonely, but she’s not alone!” the prince shouted.
“Have you read Lonely But Not Alone?” Elsie asked.
“I pretended to once,” he shouted back.
“I actually did.”
“And what did Wilhelmina have to say about me?”
“I know for a fact that that was the first thing you checked yourself, you vain thing,” Elsie shouted, and kissed him on the side of the neck.
“Look, her convertible’s parked at the door,” PB shouted, “maybe she’s going out for a spin. Let’s beat it!”
And then they were flying over the hulking Juliana Tower, “the highest point in Gelderland province,” he shouted. She saw the little motorboats and the haunted house where she’d played as a child, “and there, at the bottom of that hummock, is the Prince Bernhard Valley.” Amid the pine trees lay the restaurant and the playground with the whirligig. She remembered how sinister she’d found the place. Maybe because her father wasn’t allowed on any of the rides. He was the one who taught her that these were pine trees.
“Where are we going now?” Elsie shouted.
“Now it’s Mammie’s turn,” he shouted as they banked and flew west across outstretched forests and heaths.
“She’s not your mammie,” Elsie shouted back.
“Die heisse Zitrone!” he shrieked with laughter.
They flew over Soestdijk Palace, where the poodles pranced on the lawn and the gardeners were doing their mowing.
“Where’s Mammie?” he shouted, peering down.
“Don’t you have a bomb on board?” Elsie asked.
“You want me to use it?”
“I was only kidding.”
“Bombs away!” he shouted. He placed a hand on her knee, made a tight turn around the palace and banked up sharply.
For a few minutes, as they drilled their way into the sky, Elsie was intensely happy. The bird had lifted her on its wings, and showed her that life could be of a different order. A higher order, far above the happy people down there, waving their Dutch tricolors at roadside as the queen and the crown prince rode past. Grateful that they, as subjects, could be a part of their happiness. But couldn’t they see that this family wasn’t happy at all? They were a part of its misery.
“Do you still have a few left?” Elsie shouted. “Then drop them, fast!”
“I’m pushing my button right now!” the prince shouted.
Elsie screamed with excitement.
“We’re perverse!” PB shouted.
She loved that word, even though she couldn’t exactly define it. It bore the scent of freedom.
The freedom that had to be wrested back from everything that was honorable, chaste, moral, obedient and “correct”.
That’s the way PB had always been. His elusiveness was the perfect uniform in which to preserve his freedom, and that body beneath it was freedom itself.
“One more bomb?” he shouted.
“No, that’s enough,” Elsie said.
“If you act like such a goody-goody, you’re going to start boring me.”
Elsie closed her eyes and felt his hand on her breasts.
“We’ve got the time,” PB shouted, “where do you want to go?”
Elsie kept her finger on a spot on the map.
And suddenly they were above the clouds and everything was gentle and sweet, his hand lay quietly in her lap, and it was good that way.
They dove through a cloud and there beneath them writhed the Meuse and to the west of that lay Venlo, and further south was Villa Flora and a little further along Metternich, she recognized it by the two big archways, the old mineral water plant.
“That’s where it all started,” she said. “And there, at the end of that little road is the hunting lodge where my great-grandfather lived with his children’s governess, when he was an old man. And over there, to the east, close to that lake, is where Maximilian lived, the general who actually held the banner for the first German emperor in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.”
“Let’s go and say hello to him.”
“But you’re flying over Germany, are you allowed to do that?”
“I’m a German.”
“Won’t they send fighter planes to stop us?”
“Of course not, I’m the prince.”
“Then can’t we just fly on to the house where you were born? Show me your playroom.”
“You’re the one who wanted to go to Mutti,” the prince shouted and swung north in a heavenly curve that made the pit of her stomach tingle. They followed the Meuse to Nijmegen and flew over Arnhem.
“Operation Market Garden!” the prince shouted when they passed the bridge the Allies had been unable to take during their offensive.
The plane lost altitude and there, below them, amid the geometrical gardens, lay Mutti’s castle. When the plane buzzed over, she rushed outside and waved her arms.
“How does she know it’s you?”
“Mothers always know that kind of thing,” he shouted as he waved.
Alexis came out too, crossed the little bridge and waved.
“What a darling couple,” Elsie said.
“Not nearly as darling as we are,” PB shouted fervently as they headed straight into the setting sun. The cockpit looked like it was on fire. On our way to hell, Elsie thought.
They landed at the spot where they had taken off. To have both feet on the ground again was a disillusionment.
PB was hurried and tense. He drove fast, holding her hand in his. They did not stop at some quiet spot. She didn’t ask when they would see each other again. Because she didn’t want to encroach on his freedom.
- And one last thing Uncle Frans, this manuscript is wrapped in the standard that I’ve fished out for you from the dress-up box. Maximilian, your Prussian great-grandfather, bore it in 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors in the palace of Versailles when Wilhelm I was proclaimed emperor of the German empire. You can wrap yourself in it when you’re cold, even if the gruesome battles of the French-German war and the later generations of playing children have worn it thin. Maxwell.