The Watch Thief, Chapter 10.

Budapest, 23rd September, 1909.

Esme Howard led him through the foyer while the man went on and on about an Anglo-Hungarian Bank, Mister Rowntree’s expansion plans and Howard promised he‘d “look into it,” though the damned fool didn’t seem to grasp what he was really saying was,  “get out of my building now.” Prattling on about his visit to the embassy in Belgrade and an Anglo-Serbian bank! At that point it was all just noise. Howard wondered how if the Prime Minister intended to force through such bold social reform, he needed all the friends overseas he could get.

While Howard wrote to the Foreign Office, Trebitsch met his nephew at the cafe in Erzsébet Square. It went very well, he said. The next morning, they left early for the station. Once aboard, Alexander Krausz scrutinised the proposals, or tried to. Trebitsch opened his briefcase and put a carbon copy of Sir Grey’s letter to Belgrade in Krausz’s face. Krausz nodded, smiled, and Trebitsch said, “Ah, but also this,” and there was one for Sofia too. Like a stage magician with knotted handkerchiefs he showed off introductions for Bucharest, Constantinople and Vienna. Each time Krausz returned to the brief Trebitsch had provided there was some new point to be made about capital funding for Lincoln & Co. and the shares soon to be floated, the proposed bank’s insurance programme and the continental oil-drilling operation, which wasn’t written down, “and don’t nod off because there is much to do and plan for.”

Krausz carried the bags with difficulty. His uncle said he’d never been to Belgrade and they walked along the Danube a while. He gave a running commentary of all the sights, during which Krausz learned he hadn’t even booked accommodation. Trebitsch found his way to deciding any hotel would be good and settled on the most prominent and expensive, Hotel Moskva.

They were early to the consulate. At reception, everything was a chore. Krausz bore it though feared his uncle would throw a tantrum.. Then, Trebitsch introduced him to Mr. Whitehead as his private secretary, so Krausz reckoned he might actually get paid. Whitehead didn’t seem to embrace the pitch but Krausz was to send him further details. Back at Hotel Moskva, Trebitsch dictated for an hour and instructed his nephew to summarise while he, “attended to matters.”

Three hours later when Krausz was nearly done, the door clattered open. An election had been called in England. They must go immediately. Trebitsch circled the room like a frenzied hornet, his hands flapping until Krausz was seen packing, and then he was in the hall, cursing at a rattling door-knob.

Darlington was blanketed in placards: Darlington, Union Jack, Pike Pease, Unionist. Pease’s photo bound to lamp-posts looked in on bedrooms, greeted Trebitsch and Krausz at the station. ‘He’ was outside the colliery and the corner-shop.

“No Jews here!” yelled one man, and his chum mimed drinking.

“Cocoa! Cocoa!”

“Yes, I like a mug of cocoa,” Trebitsch called back. “Do you not?”

John’s arms rounded his father’s legs at the door and Ignatius piled in too. Margarethe, four months pregnant, rose and kissed him.

“You made it back in time for the birthdays,” said Julius.

“I’m five! No, four. I’m four…” said John.

“Five soon though! First your brother Julius is twelve. Look how tall he is? He’ll be able to help Father get elected. Now, Alexander and I have to go to the study. Do not disturb us.”

They were not to be disturbed.

 

“A letter from Edward Grey, requesting an appointment: a fabulous idea! Krausz, fetch the party list. There are endorsements to be had.”

He dictated the request and left Krausz with a dozen likely names. Then he was out, a thirty year old man jumping down three or four stairs at a time. On Grange Road he greeted his constituency, got their names and occupations. He had something for the burdened mother and the leisurely aristocrat each: the love of Reverend I.T.T. Lincoln, whose tongue saved and relieved man from the causes of poverty and sin. Mr. Lincoln, adult school-teacher of Budapest, Montreal and York, that learned gentleman of letters! He was recognised! He was unafraid to illuminate in detail from his experience. The social investigator listened to people. At the Drill Hall on Larchfield Street he found the attendant. They walked upon the stage where he committed to booking the space.

“I am a Jew,” he told the packed assembly. “I am proud to belong to that race. I am a Jew with all the ability of a Jew. I have will power, I have lofty ideas, and I.T.T. Lincoln, though a Jew, will show the Tories of Darlington that I can fight!”

Applause filled the hall, blew into the streets. The North Star editorial accused him of self-conceit, ‘a gay peacock’, the tool of ‘Socialistic Radicals’.

There were eight weeks until the election. He rose at six every morning and was in bed by ten. He spoke with the temperance man and the butcher, the farmer and alcoholics. He found the theatre manager and Baptist preacher, Krausz found him a printer and an artist.

On the train to London, a man asked him, “If you care so much about Darlington why are you always nipping off to the continent?”

He explained. “You know Darlington birthed George Stephenson and with his son they created the first steam locomotive? It’s railway, a world’s first too?”

“Yes, I am aware of this.”

“Well then you’ll know it is better to capitalise upon our home-town’s gifts to the world. Capitalise, or stagnate. “Darlington’s right is trade deals with Paris and Brussels and more. Our value must be recognised in Westminster. I’m on my way now to alert them!”

Trebitsch took from his briefcase the letter from the Foreign Office, requesting his presence that day to meet and discuss matters of international trade. He noted it was signed by Edward Grey and didn’t feel he could argue that.

Grey was not in attendance (again!) and he was met by William Tyrrell and new man, Eyre Crowe. Tyrrell was at his desk, with a broad upright posture and seriousness about him. “You have recently upset Sir Esme Howard, a matter which in turn has disturbed The Foreign Secretary.”

“I am sorry he is displeased,” said Trebitsch. “I was making honest enquiries.”

Crowe stroked his broad moustache. He’d a thin face, mostly cheekbones and piercing angry eyes.“When receiving an introduction for official business, it is not a good course to blur the matter with one of private enterprise.”

“You will forgive me. I merely thought as Darlington’s prospective candidate I had more leeway.”

Tyrrell looked to Crowe and back again.

“Yes, of course,”

“Try to be more sensitive next time,” said Tyrrell. “And good luck with your campaign, Mr. Lincoln?”

With time to kill, Trebitsch visited the National Liberal Club on Whitehall Court and strode the spiral staircase. He signed Krausz’s dozen requests for endorsements and placed them in member’s pigeon-holes. He went to the reading room and looked over the periodicals. He opened his case and set down several of ‘Powder and Shot’, a pamphlet he’d produced for Darlington people on the issue of free trade.

Julius and Ignatius put them through doors, an after-school pursuit where they felt as working men. Their father watched to engage his neighbours. The windows proclaimed, ‘VOTE X PIKE PEASE’.

At halls festooned with tinselled trees Krausz handed out the pamphlets, folded by Margarethe. Trebitsch stood among hecklers and converts on a stage with blackboard and chalk. The words ‘FREE TRADE’ scrape-whitened over with an X, and then boxed around. He grafted PEASE above it, and,

  • TARRIFFS

The percentages required by these, the figures in pounds of lost revenue.

  • POVERTY

Aim of Pease and the Unionists in the Commons and Lords, to deny British workers health-care and unemployment coverage.

“Or pensions!” he called out. And shouts of ‘cocoa’ and ‘Jew’ disappeared under boos and cries of ‘Tory murderers!’

“They cannot think for themselves. Away with them! Why are they still here? They should be gone the way of the Whigs. Better yet, the dinosaur, for that is what they are!”

The hall applauded, but Trebitsch was at the blackboard again, furiously chalking out animals.

“A horse?”

“Dogs!”

“They shoot them and bait them!”

“Get off the stage you damned foreigner!”

“Industrial free trade in Britain is greater than in Germany. There are higher levels of illiteracy and unemployment. The working German man had to eat…”

135, 239, he chalked. “One hundred and thirty-five thousand horses, slaughtered for human consumption!”

698, he chalked. “Seven hundred dogs killed in the city of Chemnitz in 1906 alone! If the Unionists with their tariff plans won, the people of Darlington would also have to eat dog meat to survive!”

He was pelted with banana skins.

It happened in the days ahead too as he knocked on doors with pregnant Margarethe by his side: splattering eggs and paper balls hiding stones or stools.

“I’ll stick you with a hairpin!”

Christmas brought a letter from Winston Churchill, praising him for a fine fight in land reform and popular government. Herbert Samuel, a respected Jewish Liberal, visited from Cleveland, where he had unseated a Pease.

“You, the electorate, are fortunate enough in having so active and able a champion!”

Hundreds applauded and threw their hats. They quieted as Trebitsch read aloud from the morning’s post. “I feel confident the vigour with which you have conducted your campaign and the excellence of your cause will combine to defeat the forces of reaction and Protectionism. Yours sincerely, David Lloyd George.”

He stepped onto the stage with Pease on election night, boos and calls for him to return to the plantation. Safe Liberal seats had already been lost nearby.

“No pest will take British jobs!”

“The results of the election in the constituency of Darlington are as follows: Mr. I.T.T. Lincoln, Liberal, four thousand, eight hundred and fifteen votes. Pease, H. Pike, Unionist, four thousand, seven hundred and eighty-six votes: a Liberal majority of twenty-nine to Mr. Lincoln, who it is declared is the winner of this seat in Darlington.”

Whistles and cheers and he kissed Margarethe, threw his arms around Rowntree, Krausz and Julius. Ignatius and John were lifted onto folk’s shoulders. The crowd congratulated one another, relieved: or drew daggers in their eyes.

“We have won at Darlington the greatest victory of the General Election. The Tories had the strongest local hold in my opponent, Pike Pease, and his father before him. The people have shown principles count more than names. The Tories have a poster, ‘the foreigner’s got my job’. Well he has got it!”

They hollered yeah, for Lincoln and some swore, cursed the foreign scum.

“I am the foreigner. I have got Pike Pease’s job! The racists will make no impression on me, shout as hard as they like. There are four thousand, eight hundred and fifteen Darlingtonians behind me. That will not be upset by any amount of shouting!”

In the weeks ahead he visited Thirsk and Stockton. He told the provocateurs there the same, and showed them his congratulatory telegram from Sir Edward Grey.

 

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