Lusitania World War I Female Spies 5
Chapter Eight - Becoming a Spy
Tillie stood in the doorway of her dressing room again wearing her school girl clothes, changed from glamorous to vulnerable. The wide hallway was crowded with musicians and stage workers as well as family members waiting for husbands, wives, children, or parents. At first Tillie did not see Robert. She saw men in uniform directing people to empty the hallway. To these directions there was little protest except for a few women who needed to change.
Robert appeared in her doorway. He stood facing her for a second and then turned his back to her. The commotion outside of her room stopped. The hallway was suddenly silent. Tillie noted that Robert was in an official capacity. His expression carried no warmth, no smile. When he turned again to her his eyes were hard. “Please come with us, Miss Lucas.” He said the words while refusing to meet her eyes.
No fear touched Tillie. Nothing touched her as she watched herself step into the hallway. When she glanced back into her dressing room she saw herself in the oval shaped standing mirror. A brief shiver ran down her arms as she saw the school girl, pale as her white blouse. She wore her school shoes. Neither Mr. Steinburg nor Judith were in the hallway. Her guards had vanished.
Tillie could not speak so she stepped forward behind Robert and between two soldiers, she thought them navy soldiers by the deep blue of their pressed pants. The soldiers had pistols at their waist and walked on each side of her in step. Tillie did not wonder what they wanted. Instead she wondered if she could die now that the concert was over. But Rose was alive and she had to find her.
Armed soldiers were nothing new in Frankfurt and did not elicit fear. But somehow in the corridor of the concert hall with a young woman in tow, it was frightening. She saw it all, the whole scene from someplace above her, from the ceiling. Everyone disappeared behind nearly closed doors and stepped into crevices to watch the star of the performance being escorted in a decidedly official capacity from the premises. She was not a Jew, that they knew, and she was not a Socialist. This could happen to anyone. And as that realization entered into the thoughts of the cast and crew, they vaporized into dark places.
The military Mercedes moved quickly through the streets because the only other vehicles on the streets were also military of one type or another. This time Robert had a driver. So, Robert sat in the front passenger seat while Tillie sat in the back seat between two soldiers. No one spoke, but Tillie recognized the route. She came to herself as she understood they were headed to the building in Romerberg Square.
Calmness settled onto Tillie, a void of calmness as she became the other Tillie, the glamorous untouchable Tillie. She thought about her birthday. She had turned eighteen and no one noticed. Did Jarvis know that she had continued to sleep in the house? The electricity remained on.
She felt no fear. Even as the four of them waited for the elevator and then rode to the fourth floor with the only sound being the squeaks of the pulleys, she did not look at Robert. He could not help her. The hallway from the window seat to the stairs was filled with clusters of military men, different uniforms and different gold braid and paraphernalia. This frightened Tillie. Her heart began to race. This was not about missing work at the munitions factory.
They marched in quick step passed everyone lining the hallway without any type of exchange. They walked straight to her stepfather’s office door. Robert opened the door for her and motioned her inside. She felt the heat of silent stares from the men in the hallway as she disappeared behind the door.
Six men including her stepfather sat on soft chairs in an easy semicircle around her stepfather’s desk. Jarvis sat on a chair at the end of one wing of chairs and behind his desk sat a familiar face but a man Tillie never met. Jarvis had taken to wearing a military uniform with various important insignia on breast and shoulder. She kept a sneer from her lips.
Robert moved quietly to stand at the wall behind the desk where the pictures once hung. He looked out of place and Tillie realized it was because the fireplace was in the anteroom when the large, sliding doors were closed. Robert had no fireplace.
The air hung close with cigar smoke and tension. Tillie took shallow breaths and was not invited to sit. She stood facing the man behind the desk who slowly rose to a standing position. The others rose with him. Tillie offered her hand – stiff and cold though her fingers might be - and the man took it. He looked in person exactly as he looked in his pictures. However the pictures could not show the power that radiated from his person in a palatable aura.
Her stepfather relinquished his chair and slid it behind Tillie for her to sit. She had to admit gratitude as her knees were weak beneath her, but she made no attempt to acknowledge either the gratitude or her stepfather. Everyone sat except Jarvis remained standing to one side and Robert.
“I am General Paul von Hindenburg,” the man said. “You do not look the same person as you did on stage. The change is astounding.” He looked at her face as he talked. She waited, speechless. “It has come to our attention that you are an American citizen. Is this correct?” His hair and mustache and slightly square face with the prominent forehead and nose felt familiar to Tillie, as they were to every German.
“I am, sir,” she answered. Was that her calm voice?
“We have made arrangements for you to do a concert in Washington DC,” he told her. It was not a question. Hindenburg looked to his right, indicating with the gesture that his subordinate should explain further. She was one item on a long agenda.
“It is imperative that America does not enter the war on the side of the British. In America their congress will soon break for a Thanksgiving Holiday and then Christmas. However, an important Senate committee that deals with the military defense of their own borders will be in Washington through the rest of this year for sure. This is due to some unfortunate intrigue with Mexico.” The subordinate was diminutive in stature with narrow shoulders and a long thin neck. However, he spoke with authority and directed his full attention upon Tillie.
From the corner of her eye, Tillie saw smiles and nods among the men and understood that the unfortunate intrigue with Mexico had some German design. She did not interrupt.
“Three of the men on this Senate committee are of German ancestry, sympathetic to the German defensive cause.” Here the man produced a brown envelope and withdrew photographs. Then he quickly returned them to the envelope. That would be for later.
“We want you in Washington by October 25th to coincide with the final committee meetings. Our embassy will ensure that the committee members are invited to a post concert dinner where you will begin your real work of pressing the German cause and finding out any information.” His words left no room for discussion.
Tillie could not speak. She, in fact, could not think. What had the man said? Finally, she managed to say one word, quietly but calmly enough, “Alone?”
As she said this she glanced past his shoulder and saw a newspaper folded on the sideboard. The newspaper was folded open to the front page which showed a picture of a stunningly beautiful woman. Tillie looked at the picture from a distance of eight feet for several seconds before realizing the picture was her, or rather, the other Tillie. She returned her eyes to the man beside Hindenburg.
“Who would you suggest to travel with you?” The man looked at the papers on the desk in front of him. No one in the room really cared too much on her answer. It would be arranged.
“Walter,” she said. “He is an extraordinary talent.” To this the man nodded.
For some unknown reason, Hindenburg stood up and walked about. Everyone began casual side conversations. She felt her stepfather staring at her. She could not resist a quick glance that met his look.
Ahh, she thought, he is worried that I will wreck his new prestige by tattling that he set me adrift. He has already checked and re-checked the attendance logs at the factory. How did I do it? He wonders how. His new, glittering prestige is due to me. Let him worry. He can not do anything harmful to Mrs. Schulton.
Tillie’s thoughts were interrupted as she heard a name whispered between the men at her left. Apparently everyone around her was taking a break and chatting about other issues. She was completely ignored. So she listened. She did not know the name Edith Cavel but from the conversation she understood the woman to be under arrest and a nurse. This unknown woman was to be shot for helping enemy soldiers escape. This single fact of the war frightened Tillie more than anything said regarding her. That a nurse was to be shot for helping soldiers chilled her to the bone.
Hindenburg returned from his brief walk about the room and silence returned about them. Some few minutes were spent in a general discussion of travel arrangements and finding Walter. “This is a naval operation, Captain Lundgren. You will see to it.” Then Robert came to her and offered his hand. It was time for her to leave.
As Tillie stood from her chair, her legs wobbled beneath her skirt. She grasped more firmly to Robert than she intended. Jarvis stood at her elbow to reclaim his chair. Then because all eyes were upon him he kissed Tillie on the cheek. Without thinking Tillie gaped at the man and then reached to wipe her cheek. She saw the flash of cold hatred in his eyes and knew she returned the look. The moment was so brief as to be nearly non-existent. But it had happened and Tillie knew to wish it had not. In front of the most influential men in the military, she had insulted Jarvis. He would not forget.
However without turning back Tillie strode from the area desperately trying not to cling to Robert’s arm. Robert stopped and faced her when they reached the anteroom but before he could say a word Jarvis called him back to the conference room. Jarvis then sent him to the hallway for a new visitor among the waiting officers.
This left Tillie alone. She milled slowly about, her mind buzzing with what just happened. Her hands trembled and mouth was too dry to spit. She noticed the small roll top desk that stood along the far, narrow wall. On all previous visits the desk was closed and unnoticed, but now stood open. Tillie walked over to it, admiring with half an eye the beautiful mahogany wood.
From the corner of her eye she saw a familiar name, her name. Gasping, she reached into one cubbyhole and withdrew a stack of letters addressed to her. She grasped the letters in a fist, five letters. Barely able to breathe, she searched in the matching cubbyhole on the other side of the desk. These letters were addressed to Jarvis, but the top one had an interesting scrawled handwriting in smeared black ink. Tillie grabbed that stack as well and then closed the desk lid in black fuzzed panic. She presumed it should be closed and would not be noticed closed.
She heard Robert opening the door from the hallway and moved her glance to the window. While Robert showed the new men into the inner office, Tillie slid the letters under her blouse and into the band of her skirt. She stood stiff as a poker and fought to calm her heart beat and regain a normal breath. She stared toward the window until her cold hands hung limp at her sides, no tremble.
Robert stepped beside her and touched her elbow, so she walked stiffly ahead of him to the hallway. Only with determination did she resist clutching her stomach, or looking where the letters bulged in her skirt band. Immediately the two stone faced soldiers stepped beside her. Again the four of them rode the lift. Tilly knew she was to live, but wondered what that was worth. Had Robert betrayed her?
Minutes later on the street, Robert dismissed the guards and the driver. He escorted Tillie to her door and once she sat inside the Mercedes he firmly shut the door. Only now the light was fading. The government buildings were shadowed along the street and touched with sunlight at the top. To Tillie the time was a lie. Days had gone, not hours. Robert pulled into the street and did not speak until he had turned from the square.
“You found your letters?” He looked straight ahead.
“Yes.” Tillie gasped. Why the subterfuge? Couldn’t he just hand them to her?
He smiled in profile. “You can remove them from your skirt.” He glanced at the stack of letters that Tillie pulled from under her blouse. His eyes hardened. “You took more than the letters addressed to you.” His fists tightened on the wheel.
“Yes.” The dusk no longer allowed Tilly to read the envelopes, but she clutched them all the tighter because he was angry. Turning to the window she watched the Maine River slide beneath them. The water reflected the gas lamp lights along the park walk. Robert continued to drive into the forest. Robert knew the letters she carried. He had read them and knew what she carried. What had she taken that angered him? Not likely he sat stiff as a rod, his face stone for the principle of taking someone’s mail. She held a secret.
“Hand the letters to me, Tillie.” So stern her heart stopped. She shook her head.
He drove too fast over a rut in the deteriorating road, and they both bounced hard on the seat. The jarring forced words from him. Words he spoke with passion held tight like a violin string.
“Tillie, Germany is at war. Do you forget that? Our boys die by the thousands along the trenches in France. The tactics employed by our Generals, and perhaps fortunately, the enemy generals as well do not take account of the grisly new weapons. Our soldiers cannot charge machine guns. The generals are crazy, all crazy. A war of attrition can’t be won and certainly will be lost if America enters to fight with Britain and France. You must try to prevent that. You must. I believe it is already too late for America to join us against Russia. In the least they must not join our enemies. You must set aside your heart’s desire until this war is won.”
“Rose? You found something about Rose?” She could not see even his profile as he drove deeper inside the forest. He slowed the car to accommodate what was no more than a dirt track unraveling from the night. He would not answer.
Tillie turned her face to the window. Tears tasted on her dry lips. She had always known there was something missing in her. She possessed emotion only for her music and lacked what others felt for their country. Even Walter. She hated the war and desired for the death to stop. Would do anything she could to make the death stop. If soldiers marched toward Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA she would dig a trench and hold a gun to stop them. But this war felt so contrived, that she, like everyone, thought the fighting would end if not by Christmas then most certainly by Easter. She would do what she could, but not ahead of finding Rose.
Her head pounded from a lack of food. She had no appetite before the performance and had missed the supper party afterward. Vaguely she wondered if that had been today. The silence inside the dark car did not oppress Tillie. She was glad for it. She rested her mind. For the first time in weeks she did not play the keys in her imagination. She rested her head against the uncomfortable seat and looked out the small oval-shaped window.
Tillie thought they traveled about two miles into the forest until the car could go no further. Robert walked around the front of the car and opened her door, offered his hand. She did not ask where they were going. She did not trust him to answer and refused to risk the exposure of showing her own fear. She would know soon enough.
She counted twenty steps on a rock path until she saw the vague outline of a brick cottage in a clearing. Lights shone through the two front windows. She inhaled sharply because it was so lovely. The peaked shape of the roof showed only as a darker shadow against black trees.
Robert took her hand and led her carefully around a row of spike shapes in the dirt forming a protective perimeter. He unlocked the door and led her inside. A small table was set for dinner and she smelled fresh bread. Forgetting all else, Tillie walked to the table and picked a warm bun from a basket and ate it. She did not know how it was warm, perhaps gnomes lived here. She laughed out loud at that thought, and knew she was approaching some line she did not want to cross.
Her left hand hurt from squeezing the letters. She slid the stack of ten envelopes under a napkin. Of course Robert could see the bulge and knew what was beneath, but, Tillie thought, out of sight out of mind. For this time she did not want to anger him.
Robert pulled a chair out for her and sat on the opposite chair. “Of course you are hungry.” He said the first words spoken since his tirade. He appeared once again to possess utter control.
A stout German woman served them perfect pasta and a white sauce with scallops. The housekeeper poured beer with supper. She set apple crisp with whipped cream beside their plates. She poured rich, dark coffee with dessert.
Robert thanked her, paid her and went outside with her to a horse and cart that Tillie had not noticed. Tillie, no longer hungry, sipped her coffee. It was not fear that circled about her, it was wonder. While Robert stoked the fireplace in the large single room that made up the entire living space, Tillie studied each detail of the simple, but well furnished room. When Robert was satisfied with the fire and turned toward her she asked him, “Who is Edith Cavel?” The strength of her voice surprised her. Was she shouting?
He stopped and looked at her, “An English nurse who helped prisoners of war escape. She will be executed after her court martial.”
“Germans will shoot a nurse?” Tillie asked, shocked, ashamed.
“It is war. Far worse happens.” His voice was gentle. This gentleness alarmed her.
“I want to go home.” she said.
“This is your home for the next few weeks until I know where to take you for your departure to America. There is a bathroom down those stairs complete with a bathtub. There are more suitable clothes in the bedroom beside it.” He paused, studied her closely and made some decision. Tillie watched the process cross his features.
“I bought you something to wear tonight. I planned to be with you.” He looked at her. Tillie did not answer but she knew what he was saying and her stomach tightened. He had more to say so she waited, holding her breath. What would she do for him? Perhaps not anything.
“However I have errands of some urgency so I will leave you alone to read your letters, and those addressed to Jarvis as well. I intended to take care of the matter when the situation allowed.” He strode to the door followed by her eyes. She thirsted for him, but she could not ask him to stay. Her hand went without her will to cover the stack of letters, and he saw her gesture. “I don’t know when I will be back.” He bowed his head to her and left.
Tillie picked up the letters but did not read them. She held them. The thought crossed her mind that she had not thought about the wife in Berlin. There was something missing in her. She stood and moved in the direction he indicated to be the bathroom. The squat tub on curved spindly legs nearly filled the room. A wash basin on a stand with a long framed mirror beside it and a water closet allowed about two feet of floor space.
She turned on the water and felt it grow warm on her fingers and then hot. She breathed the steam until the water stopped. A shelf above the tub held pretty bottles of fragrance and lotion, soap and shampoo. Who knew such luxurious places existed? Exhaustion burning her eyes, she picked up the letters, sat in the bathtub and read them.
Chapter Nine - Rose is Alive
All five of her letters were from Antonius. She read them in order of time and discovered how much he had grown. The censers cut from the page the names of the airplanes, the description of the wings and the guns and the cameras. They did not cut out enough words for the pages to fall apart.
Up at five in the morning. Had to take a plane apart and put it back together. First mission flying over Since you turned me down I asked out a girl from Chestnut hair The fellows gamble. I will show you a game of cards that will make you blush. Congratulations on the solo. Sorry it came by way of Walter Don’t worry about me. I can fly. I wear a red scarf. Lost two men today training in our new A mission over Enemy planes are Lucky you said no. Not the same world we knew. I’ve seen too much to return. Saw your picture in a newspaper. Didn’t recognize you. Goodbye Love Pray
Hands trembling and heart pounding painfully in her chest, Tillie tucked the letters in the bottom of the long soap box. She carefully lifted the paper wrap holding the balls of scented soap and placed the letters beneath it. The water was cold. Quickly she removed the countless pins from her chignon hair due and washed her hair and then stepped from the tub. A white ribbed robe hung from a hook on the door. She wrapped the robe tight, shivering.
The stone floor bruised her feet with sharp cold. The electric lamp beside the bed provided a circle of light and Tillie gravitated toward it. Covering herself with a quilt and leaning on the steel frame headboard, Tillie looked at the envelopes addressed to Mr. Jarvis Kapaun.
The envelope posted from Liverpool, England lay on the quilt. Her hands trembled. She could no longer postpone reading what the envelope contained. Robert would have told her if Rose was dead. Judith said the child lived. With the ink so smeared Tilly wondered how the letter was delivered to the name printed on the front. No choice remained but to remove the paper from the open envelope.
A grainy photograph dropped to the quilt as Tillie unfolded the single sheet. Three sentences printed in block letters. We have the girl says her name be Rose. Bring 5000 pounds to the docks and ask for Sean. You can have her back. Looking at the photograph face up on the quilt Tillie saw Rose sitting on a rough wood chair in a back yard.
First only relief lifted Tillie from head to toe like a wind. Then her fist clenched in anger. Surely Jarvis could have his spies bring Rose home. She could be home now. Robert intended to rescue Rose after the war. He couldn’t be distracted before the war was won. She would do it. She would find a way to Liverpool and bring her sister home to Frankfurt.
Quickly Tillie scanned the remaining letters from Cunard Shipping lines. She cared nothing for explanations, apologies or blame. She brushed ruthlessly through her hair until it hung smooth and thick and blond about her shoulders. The brushing helped to settle her nerves. Then she walked barefoot up the stone steps and into the living area of the cottage.
Tillie could not sleep, not before she wrote two letters. She knew to look in the kitchen and went directly there. Her previous housekeeper kept a thin notepad in the recipe drawer. Perhaps it was the same in all kitchens. A small area in the back corner of the room almost behind the stairs represented the kitchen. It was a modern kitchen with a small gas stove, sink with running water and a refrigerator. A white, narrow cupboard stood nearly floor to ceiling beside the sink and a small fold down table was squeezed between the stove and the wall. Three drawers existed in the whole place.
In the first drawer she opened, Tillie found writing paper and a pencil. She wrote an answer to the kidnapper. Tillie had full understanding that this kidnapper had saved Rose from drowning. That he did the rescue for money was so heinous as to disgust her. I am coming for Rose was all she had to say.
She wanted to include something Rose would recognize. She wanted Rose to understand that she was not abandoned. She decided to include the crayon picture Rose colored for her. Then she wrote a longer letter to her aunt in Milwaukee. She folded the letters and returned to her bedroom. The return address on the ransom note allowed her to see the word corner. So Tillie addressed her envelope as Sean, Corner, The docks, Liverpool, England.
In the small room down the stone steps, half of which was now the bathroom, all of her things from both the school and her stepfather’s house lay piled haphazardly along the walls. The picture Rose colored for her was not among her things, nor were there stamps. She shoved everything to the floor, clearing again the patchwork quilt that covered the full size, soft bed. Putting the letters into her light blue drawstring bag that lay underneath her few clothes, she covered herself with the quilt. Before she could complete the thought about her bicycle, she slept.
Tillie awoke to the sound of angry voices, loud enough and angry enough to wake her where she slept in the back of the cottage. Quickly she pulled on a skirt from the pile on the floor and a blouse and her black boots. She ran up the stairs, across the room and out of the front door.
The voices stopped as she burst from the house. Down the slight slope of patchy lawn stood her stout, commanding housekeeper, and facing her were two soldiers, armed, their feet apart and their expressions grim.
“They are not allowing me passage to do my work, Miss,” shouted the housekeeper, her hands on her hips, her work shoes protruding from a gray skirt. Tillie walked over to the group. Aware that her hair was a tangled mess about her head, she did not allow herself to touch it. Show no concern about anything other than the woman, she told herself.
“How did you get here?” She asked the first man. He nodded toward a military jeep parked down the road by the trees.
“Why are you here?” She asked, very calm, very quiet, in direct contrast to their own angry shouting.
“We are to guard you, Miss, from any visitors,” he answered. And Tillie could see that neither of these men should be messed with. They had the intelligent, cold blue-green eyes of trained military men who did not question, just executed their orders.
“Very well,” she said. “Then I need you to drive me to the school while my good housekeeper does her work.” She thought, keep your eyes level, do not look away.
After a full minute of thought, the young Corporal nodded. He said to the housekeeper, “You have until we return.” Then he started for the jeep. Tillie did not know what to do. Did she dare order him to bring the jeep to the door? Did she even dare to comb her hair? She had to have the letters. She turned and ran for the house. They waited for her.
A half hour later, she stood before the public entrance to the Frankfort Conservatory of Music. Without hesitation, she strode up the wide stone steps and pulled open the heavy wood slat door. Inside the marble foyer was dark and cold. Tillie knew the school was on break, but in past years that meant only a break from regular schedule. The practice rooms and study rooms were never empty and dark.
As her eyes adjusted to the dim light allowed through the high, sparse windows, Tillie felt her way. She moved cautiously through the narrow, back hallways and up the stairs to the inside door to the Steinburg residence. From behind the door came a scraping sound like furniture being moved. She knocked, and it was as though everything held its breath. Then the door opened a crack and Judith’s long, narrow, dark features appeared. Upon seeing Tillie, she opened the door for Tillie to step inside.
“Where are you going?” Tillie asked, astonished at the sight of packing crates, boxes and general upheaval in the scrupulously kept quarters.
“Do you know Rosa Luxemburg?” Judith asked in return.
Still staring about her, Tillie mumbled, “I have heard of her. She is a Socialist journalist, I believe. My stepfather hates her.”
“She is brilliant, courageous and stupid all in one dynamic person,” Judith looked up from the crate she had filled too full of books and now could not lift it. When Tillie nodded, Judith continued. “I told her of the trouble coming if the workers strike in war time. I warned her and warned her that she is in danger. Now she is in jail. From jail she made arrangements for Mr. Steinburg, myself and our two small grandsons to leave Germany. We leave in two days.”
Judith sighed and looked down at the book in her hand. “It is not easy to leave Germany. The western front extends across the continent from Belgium to Switzerland. It is called a race to the sea. The British are more and more successful at their blockade of the ports. Still, we will travel by train with what we can carry. We go through Belgium and then to Amsterdam.”
Tillie felt her knees go a little weak and she leaned on the back of a wood chair. “What of the school?” she gasped.
“A new equally brilliant professor will run it. We have resigned effective today, Sunday. We have sold the whole thing, the structure, the instruments and the students.” She paused and looked at Tillie through the constant lurking suspicion in her eyes. “Why are you here? You look pitiful. Where did the soldiers take you?”
Tillie pulled from her pocket the photograph enclosed in the ransom note. She handed it to Judith who studied the little girl sitting on a homemade chair inside a scraggly lawn. “Ah,” Judith said, “Exactly as I saw her. Where did you get this?”
Tillie handed her the letter which she had to translate as Judith did not read English. “We have no money to give you, if that is what you are after,” Judith said, her tone suddenly shrill.
“No, I can’t take any money. I already owe everything in the black accounting book. I need you, please, to mail two letters for me. But I did not know you were so busy packing. I thought you would be here for a long time. I am sorry for you to leave.” Tillie ignored Judith’s previously harsh tone of voice. She understood both the harshness and the suspicion as she looked at the upheaval about her.
“Forget the accounting book. Are you under arrest?” Judith suddenly turned very still, frozen.
Tillie explained her new situation. At least what she knew of it. Judith nodded. “I will mail the letters for you.” She was very quiet, possibly regretting her previous rudeness.
Quickly Tillie explained the second letter was to family in the United States, and laid them on the empty desk top. “I do not have postage, and there is one more thing. I left a coloring that Rose did for me. I need to include that in the letter. It feels essential that I send it with the letter. Rose will recognize it.” Tillie felt she could not explain the urgency of this request. But Judith nodded.
“Where is the picture?” Judith asked. “The men from the War Office took everything from your closet. At first we were sure you were in grave danger, but then I saw you in my dream, very beautiful, and understood the danger was not for your life, not yet.”
“I taped it to the inside page of the sheet music. It is on the grand piano on the practice stage.” Tillie’s heart raced. “I remembered only this morning.” The soldiers would soon come for her.
“Hurry then,” Judith said. They raced quickly through the hallways and down narrow stairs to the stage entrance. Quickly Tillie found the colored paper, folded it with her hands shaking and handed it to Judith.
Just as Judith tucked the paper into her apron pocket the doors at the far end opened with a surprising bang. The two soldiers strolled down the aisle between the seats and to the edge of the orchestra pit. As Tillie still held the sheet music, she pretended to study it and show Judith some passage. Then, slowly, she lowered her arm and looked at the men. They had entered through the public entrance to the practice area and so could not have been to the residence or the classrooms.
“Miss, it is past our agreed time,” the soldier’s voice both stern and calm. He was so frightening in his aspect that Tillie felt Judith cringe away, as though she could make herself too tiny to be seen.
Surprised at the cool haughtiness of her own voice, Tillie straightened her shoulders and answered. “I apologize. I lost track of time.” She strode with all of her stage presence gathered about her to such effect that the men did not as much as glance toward Judith. She wore her black school skirt and boots but it did not matter what she wore, on the stage she looked a goddess. One of the combs quickly pushed into her hair to hold it back, began to loosen and she allowed it to fall as she followed the walkway around the orchestra pit and into the aisle.
Neither soldier changed their stance nor did they change their hard expression as she strode passed them. They followed her along the rows of seats and into the lobby. She stopped only to wait for one of them to open the door for her. Unlike the student entrance to the conservatory, this lobby was well lit by the succession of windows on each side of the wide door and above it.
Sometimes this stage was open to the public for student concerts. Only now did she realize the lobby was a small duplicate of the Frankfurt Concert Hall. Even as her nerves stretched to near breaking, she gasped at the beauty of the marble pillars, the Greek statues and the flawless design by Lucae. In Germany music was nearly as important as politics.
The September sunlight caused her to blink and stand still on the sidewalk outside the door for a minute. Then without another word, she stepped up to enter the backseat of the clumsy jeep while one of the soldiers helped her over the side.
This time crossing the River Maine was not so pleasant as it had been the previous night. The jeep bounced and jolted even on smooth road. By the time they reached the forest, her teeth rattled. Tillie tried to focus her thoughts on Antonius and his planes. She tried to dwell on the excitement coming from the words in his letters.
She thought of Rose and Judith. She did not know when Judith had ceased to frighten her and then became a friend, but she felt her friendship. She trusted her friendship. She disciplined her thoughts to anything that could distract her from the acid taste of fear in her mouth.