The Watch Thief. Chapter Nine.

The British embassy in Budapest was on Harminad, where Ignacz Trebitsch was booked to meet the ambassador. The street had little else to it. Across the way, Erzsébet Square boasted a hotels and outdoor cafe, where the brothers Trebitsch sat.  Lajos balked at the prices. Ignacz assured him he could cover the bill on business expenses. They were joined by Simon, now seventeen, and Alexander Krausz, their cousin. There was much excitement over Lajos’s role as secretary of Hungary’s Socialist Democratic Party.
Krausz said, “I have been helping too. They are Budapest’s true opposition.”
“Yes, I read of this. It is part of my work to stay abreast of political developments while helping to inform the policy of the British Empire. Alexander, have you ever considered working abroad?”
“I can’t be in Budapest forever. Jozsef told me some good stories.”
“You’ll find rich and expanding cities all over Europe. There are wonders in Denmark and the ports along the Danube in Berlin and Vienna,” said Ignacz.
“That sounds wonderful,” said Simon.
“Ignacz, you should call and see Jean, your niece?” said Lajos. “You know, Mary’s expecting again.”
He was roundly congratulated. However, Ignacz had hoped the eldest, Vilmos, would be there for he’d advice on banking matters to pursue. The eldest brother was looking after their ill father, and Lajos added, would make himself just as ill. Jozsef, well, no one was sure if Jozsef was in the country.
“And Sandor? He never leaves the house!” said Simon.
Behind Simon two figures walked towards them. Ignacz studied them intently until he made out they were police officers.
“You are too young,” said Lajos.
“I’ll think about it,” said Krausz.
“Excuse me; rest room,” said Ignacz.
He got up, went into the hall. In the dark, he pressed his head against the door frame. The police were asking Lajos if he was who they thought he was. Lajos was protesting that his political rights were being infringed upon.
“We have no wish to do that. The man inside: is he your brother, Ignacz?”
Ignacz flung himself softly on to the street and began walking away.
“Excuse me, sir. A word? Sir, please stop, sir. I order you to stop.”
Jogging in sunlight, he looked back with glee; then turned onto British soil.
“Ambassador, delighted to meet you. I hope you can spare some time…”
John was three and oblivious to Cambridge and Calais, only caring for the vast sea. High-velocity Belgium mesmerised him outside choo-choo windows.  Maragarethe was thirty, years which fell away when her love met them at the station. They rode out by taxi, a Model T Ford automobile, to the Hotel de la Poste on Port Avenue.
They lay on the bed, father bouncing John above his head, until room service arrived. In the afternoon he took them to the Saint Hubert Royal Galleries, long prestigious covered markets and department stores where they bought clothes and toys. Later, the hotel staff brought a bed for the child. Margarethe studied her husband reading John the stories of Hans Christian Andersen.
The second morning a letter arrived from England. Rowntree felt the study was too broad and was confining it to Belgium for the foreseeable future. Trebitsch told Margaret that he was relieved. They ate sea bass at the Cafe Metropole and the father carried his son around Brouckere square on his shoulder, the boy reaching out to catch the spray from the stairway fountain.
On Wednesday a private cab was to show the city. The driver asked if they’d come from Luxembourg or Gay Paree, and how did they know Mr. Lincoln, who in turn decided the man was too nosey and cut the journey short. They explored the paths and trees of Brussels Park were the sun lit up the leaves. At benches they met Nicolas Hotermans from the Belgian embassy. He shook their hands and made small talk about embassy matters and they wished one another a good afternoon.
On the fourth day, Trebitsch bought Margarethe beautiful clothes as well as gifts for Julius, Ignatius and Mrs. Kahlor. They stopped at kerbs for passing traffic and in the afternoon a tram carriage bearing a blond haired lady in Summer dress looked out at them. She had crème skin and full pert tits when she was sure no one was watching rapped the window and blew Trebitsch a kiss. He didn’t react and Margarethe pretended not to notice.
On the fifth morning he told her it was perhaps not good to leave her mother alone with the children so long. He booked passage that afternoon for wife and youngest son to return to York.
The train carried him between Habsburg and France. To Luxemburg’s last little castles of Rome, of Siegfried the First. He called on Saarbrücken Ironworks and the high furnace and forging mills of Dudelange, then rode out over Alzette and Pétrusse rivers which cut the deep gorge.
Passing through Namur, green country and rock houses; evergreens lined the Sambre. A grand sweeping path ran through the wall by Château des comtes. He went to Hainaut, were wet grass and green spawn gravitated to moored boats. He watched the brick buildings sail, reflected in dark water, and sometimes conquered by the sun.
He saw where Walloonia, Flanders and the Netherlands met. On Limburg’s promenade, the weekend watchers, the idlers and chatting cliques. In bonnet and cap they glided over tram-lines and push-bikes. He walked above the spires, above the lake, were young boys scrambled on top grassy hills. Away from the town-houses they were in small brick-houses with thatch roofs; farmers in dungarees steadied horses, their wives taught children of cows and chickens.
In Brussels he resided in the Northern Quarter and idled by the galleries and Fontainasplein, a wide open shopping place of five storey buildings, automobiles and a rare horse bus turning the roundabout. Towards the embassy, barrow pushers bumped across cobblestones and a boy rescued a tree-stranded cat. There were pubs aplenty. Englebirt advertised on the railway bridge with the birds and the magnificent brush of trees rising above it.
Antwerp was old farms, cheap labour, new roads of an agricultural economu. He sat at Cafe Neptune and watched a woman selling milk from a dog cart, two hounds pulling her in wheel wagon. Then he walked to Antwerp Central Station fronted by a semi-circle divinity of windows, celestial angels of glass around an ascending portcullis.
Back in the capital he walked by the Palace of Justice and the Stock Exchange or took in a show at La Monnaie. He had transformed these views into data and back at his city study he looked over his work, his grand re-design.
In England, he’d built an impressive library, moved to his office at the Cocoa Works next to Rowntree’s study. Newspapers, journals and books on politics joined those from his European studies, including Funch’s treasured Denmark volumes, two and a half years overdue. He weakened the chair screws sifting between volumes, fetching numbers between page dividers and collating statistics.
Rowntree joined him frequently to discuss the work. Asquith had replaced the previous Prime Minister and their supporters, Lloyd-George and Churchill, had found themselves promoted. Rowntree and Lincoln sifted through data on plots mortgaged or not and found themselves explaining to one another conditions of leases and tariffs. It was November 1908 and with a complete work in their hands, Rowntree expected the re-drafting to be done by the following summer. “What do you foresee yourself doing then?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said Trebitsch. “The relationships I struck up in Europe should be good for some Anglo-European business venture. Do you think so?”
Rowntree nodded. “We have both learned a lot here. It should be put to use. It will be several years before publication. If any policy is to be taken from this…we could do with support at home and abroad.”
“What if I could represent our cause in some official capacity?” asked Trebitsch. “There is no one answer, but many, as you said yourself.”
“That’s intriguing. Go on?”
“If I was representing the British people through the progressive Liberal political party…”
“Such a thing would be possible.”
“What are the mechanisms for this?”
“You would first apply for naturalisation. Once you were a British citizen, a a seat would have to be found to contest, then the association would have to approve your candidacy.”
“I very much like the idea of this.”
Rowntree liked how it sounded as well. They talked it over another hour, with Rowntree double-checking various registries, pamphlets and addresses.
Herbert Pike Pease jogged below Darlington’s town centre clock, iconic, donated by his father. Morning workers walked to the steelworks and the station. He waved in a smile at the employees he knew.
His head beat as if he wore his heart on it. He jogged onto Grange Road, over cracked pavement, by the Baptist Church were Rowntree’s man had been sighted. Then, Park View, the large house which was his challenger’s abode. He rushed past there too. The sweat lodging on his right eyebrow for the last quarter of a mile fell onto his cheek with a peculiar stinging. He took a left along South Park, another of his family’s gifts to the residents, and the site were Timothy Lincoln had spoken a month ago. Herbert had listened to him talk of charitable work in Montreal and investigations into free trade on the continent. He hadn’t been worried, neither then or six months back when the Liberals announced the candidate. Darlington’s M.P. had been a Pease for fifteen years.
He came to slow by the newsagent boards: Peary Reaches North Pole and French Pilot Dies In Crash. He stepped into the darkness and picked up the locals, the Northern Echo and Star.
“Out of breath, Mr. Pease? At least you’re running; other fella might not be out of bed yet! That’ll be tupenny.”
“Thank you, Richard.”
He reached home ready for a shower, and slapped the papers down on his desk; picked them up again on his way to the station. When the clock hit one, Herbert Pease opened the Echo. The lead article told of a packed-out public meeting were Liberal candidate Timothy Lincoln announced his departure to the Balkan states. He was leaving on an investigative mission for British manufacturing and free trade. Sir Edward Grey himself had issued a letter of commendation to accompany him. The clock ticked a mark and caught Herbert’s eye. He looked out to the sunlight and thought of Lincoln’s summer of publicity talks now at an end.

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