Chapter 49

Image Source: Roelli, P. (2005) The Thanka Wall overlooking Tasilhunpo. Retrieved online
June 9, 2018 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tashi_Lhunpo_Monastery

 

Hamburg, British Zone of Occupation.
Thursday 20 May, 1948.

She is seventy-one: thin, quietly drained; a pale feat of a woman. Her expression is sour. Time has pressed her cheeks inward, clamped her mouth shut. She might have been happy, but that time has passed. They all knew he would meet a bitter destiny. Margarethe pours the pan’s boiling water into the teapot and replaces the cover. Margarethe Lincoln: always faithful to him.

Sun light fades and then bursts through the windows in the kitchen and the lounge. Indifferent, it pushes through the blind onto the brown chairs and carpet. Margarethe’s home is a simple two-up, two-down; her brother-in-law in the guest bedroom. Her youngest, Clifford, stokes the fire. His Uncle Simon’s face is in the paper. Simon is sixty-eight. He resembles his brother with balding thin black hair. The pot is wrapped in an oven glove and set on the table. Margarethe is glad Simon will spend another few days here.

Deep black coal smokes in the lounge. Clifford pours the tea, and they talk about his Uncle Lajos, now Louis. Still living in Cleveland, reading his socialist papers, but too ill to travel. Simon’s step-brother, Julius, at fifty-five is still serving in the army. There is an unspoken agreement between the men to avoid talking about ‘their famous one’.

The Abbot Chaokung was reported to have died in Shanghai on October 6th, 1943. They said it was an intestinal virus. In death there are as many stories of him: that he spent his remaining days with drug dealers and white slavers; that the FBI knew he was operating as a Nazi spy; that he was interred in Shanghai’s Hongkou Ghetto. There were reports that he had been poisoned. That he had written a letter to Hitler full of demands and threats. A friend saw him in hospital, but the next day she found a different man in his bed. In her search for him, she was repeatedly turned away until she learned he was in a private suite and private meant private. There was a funeral but no one saw a body. The German National Observer claimed he died in Vienna. American troops allegedly found his grave but the coffin was empty. Since then he has been sighted at his home-town Paks, in New York, and in Argentina. Simon wanted to write a book about his brother fifteen years ago. The British consulate in New York were cold to him and it put an end to the idea. Ignacz and he quarrelled but Simon thought he could put the hate behind him. Coal crackles and splashes cinders over the hearth which disappear in the mesh fireguard.

When Margarethe returns they are talking about Sandor. He never left the Budapest family home, and so Clifford never met him. The sun glares through the living room blind and subsides again. Margarethe recalls Sandor. They met once or twice. He appeared shy, but likeable. Then she thinks of his fate: taken to Auschwitz, never to return. She is shaking. The good son helps her to her seat. Simon bows his head. The fire provides some heat now and his eyes are watering too. He knows his sister-in-law’s tears are not over Sandor. He is here because news reached them a week ago that John is dead. His mother, who left him on Java, struggles to work past the fault line, and to grieve properly. When the Japanese occupied Indonesia, John was interred in Lapas Sukamiskin prison. After years of torture, he moved to Western Australia. He struggled to adapt. His restaurant crashed and John took his own life. opened up a restaurant. Sorrow drips from Margarethe’s chin as she goes for fresh bedding.

Simon listens for her reaching the top of the stairs before picking up his paper. He removes a sheet, stands and pulls out the fireguard. Clifford takes the paper out of his hands. Simon shakes his head but the nephew is already reading. The sun light expands, from the kitchen and the lounge, coalescing in the doorway between them. It is faded, like a spectre of something here long ago. A void: an outward expression of an inward fear. Clifford is reading that his father, Trebitsch Lincoln, has been sighted at a monastery in Darjeeling. The journalist suggests perhaps it is a stop-off on his journey toward Tibet. The off-white light creeps towards the dimpled edges of the tabloid. It is a near humanoid shape, a no-detail silhouette, fluctuating. Trebitsch Lincoln has passed on. He is no longer alive: on this earth, this plane; certainly, not in this room.

Lies! Lies!” the void shouts. “Do not listen to them, son. They will print everything and anything about me if it serves their own devilish ways!”

The rest of the column is the usual potted biography: Canadian preacher; British MP; double agent; military advisor and Buddhist monk.

Don’t bother reading that,” says Simon.

Simon?” says the void, “What is he doing? Here in my home? This is not your family, robber!”

Your father treated me appallingly,” said Simon. “He took money from me. When the FBI were looking for him, they arrested me.”

He compromised my security! Scoundrel! How dare you???” asks the void, throwing it’s hand in the air, holding its head with the other.

But, Clifford, I forgave him long ago,” said Simon.

He takes the news-sheet back. The fireplace gives out a coughing fit sending white coal dust into the ray of light. Simon tears the newspaper into strips while the void stamps: fury without sound.

I was a Christian minister and a Buddhist monk. I am completely sure I practised forgiveness before you knew the meaning of the word!”

He tried his best with you, and your brothers. The notion of him in Tibet,” says Simon, “Well, it is just newspaper lies. You don’t want your mother to see that.” He scrunches the paper into balls.

Tibet, yes! That is the place I will go to now. I will guide it, help it build railways to other realms, and reclaim my status ushering in a future universe of equal rights for all people!!”

In the stomach of the fireplace, the newspaper flickers slowly into flakes of rising ash which fall at the big feet of the void creature.

T o T i b e t!!” it exclaims.

The void disperses into silver grey molecules, floating between sun-ray and dust, and then settling on the carpet.

Four thousand, two hundred and fifty two miles away above the city of Shigatse, monks walk the walls of Tashi Lhunpo. The gilded turrets and canopies are charged by the sun. The delicately painted Thanka wall stands on a hill over the temple, in blue sky. A moment later, there is a black dot in the heavens, a lone aeroplane shaped dot.

#

 

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Chapter 47

Image Source: Map of China, from the CIA Factbook. Public domain. Retrieved online at

The Bund, Shanghai.
Saturday 18 January, 1936.

Under the tower clock and telephone wires Jacintha watched the ships come and go. Sweat trickled on her neck. Maurice borrowed a trolley from the Cathay to move the boxes. Jiahao, who had not left with Willem and Adeline, pushed it along the Bund. Left onto Nanking Road, left again: away from the Bird Market and Great World amusement centre. He swerved the cart from criss-crossing trams and rampaging rickshaws. They waited for the bus outside Park Hotel. All human life was in this city. Indian policemen watched mah-jong players for ivory gambling. Vietnamese in straw pointed hats spoke with French dealers of silk and cotton. An Italian merchant sat high behind household goods, his radio blaring Rudolf Hess’s speech. There were so many stations to choose from and the city seemed to sound them all. In minutes, the Thomas Cook motor bus arrived and they heaved the trolley on board. The ride quickly passed Jing’An Temple. It went far out to Avenue Joffre and further, through the Badlands. The driver stopped for them on Yu Yuen Road: hamburger and corn beef smells from the Hungaria. The restaurant’s aged proprietor, Stella Szirmay, stood at the entrance in a low cut top, greeting ugly Dr. Miorini and his spouse, Ruby Edwards. Jacintha led the monks on into the Book Mart next door. It was a shop full of new age literature and nazi tracts. The ‘Countess’ thumbed the League of Truth books and prepared their receipt. While Jacintha waited, she made the decision to return home to Singapore.

Chaokung glanced to the upper floors of the Glen Line Building: the German embassy. Only twice since Lincoln M.P.’s appendix was removed did the pain hit: on learning of Stephani’s assassination plot, and when incarcerated in Vienna. Quickly, he looked back to the twenty-five miles of wharf. Back to smoke-stacks of bobbing steamers on the Whangpoo’s brown-blue water. The pain subsided, was soon forgotten as he and Margot walked the harbour. Each day he took a different acolyte and they’d look over the boats for sale. It was six months since Hertha’s suicide. His plan was to take them for a leisurely getaway to Madeira Island, south-west of Portugal. He’d read of breathtaking sea cliffs and tiny villages by mouths of ravines. The Mediterranean climate would be good for their health. A hundred foot floating monastery, would manifest his dreams so perfectly: at least until they reached Tibet. He could see it all, beyond the Yellow Sea. All the opportunity. In South Africa, the largest diamonds. Mexico’s revolutionary new President. America’s tribes self-governing their reservations. The sellers were interested in his idea: he’d already found a captain for ‘The Ark’. Margot was silent during each conversation about credit lines and financial backers. They wanted several hundred dollars in advance; money she knew they didn’t have.

He turned his back on the harbour that let the world pollute China. A world of Donald Duck and Monopoly; of Shirley Temple On The Good Ship Lollipop. Bauer’s legacy was a Germany re-arming, growling at it’s own tail. Himmler and Heydrich’s SS murdered their own: Kapp Putschist Gustav von Kahr; White Internationalist Ernst Rohm. Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, and infuriated MacDonald and Laval. Bonnie and Clyde were dead, Elgar too. There was nothing out there anyway, thought Chaokung.

They took the train along the coast seven hundred miles northeast, to Tientsin. The League of Truth worshipped at Dabei Temple on Tianwei Road. Like Shanghai there were European settlements and an Anglo-American concession. In the Japanese area they found Shoukei Chogen, a calligrapher who brought new funds but was antagonistic with Jiahao. Chogen regarded the Chinese as a sub-species. At sunrise, they gathered around the Future Buddha in Dabei’s Grand Hall, the statues of the Four Heavenly Kings on each side. They prayed by ancient statues of bronze, iron, wood and stone. In the afternoons Chao led them on walks through the Jewish Cemetery, or to the hilltops for mountain views; teasers for Tibet. Or they sat at the benches on the waterfront and watched the ships. In the evenings they returned to the Buddhist House on the corner of Poppe Road and Romanoff Avenue. They were watched by British agents who scrutinised Chaokung’s meetings with Soviets, and reported back to Whitehall. Meanwhile, Chaokung wrote a new book, ‘Dawn or Doom of Humanity’. Over two hundred and fifty pages he expounded the principles of good government, free press, education, national defence and foreign politics. In each case man had a choice to make: embrace the ultimate potential of humankind; or sink into a deep, degrading abyss which threatened all life on Earth. He appealed to readers to cast off false labels of nationality. Yet he failed to intervene in the bullying of Jiahao. Failed to tell Chogen to recognise their shared humanity.

Mid-May 1937, and the dark prophecies of ‘Dawn or Doom’ appear in bookstores. Early June, the Second Sino-Japanese War begins. At the end of the month, the Japanese navy takes out Tientsin’s forts and aircraft. The city falls quickly to three thousand soldiers, though the foreign concessions are left alone. In August, the occupying forces travel seventy miles to suppress Chinese militia, leaving a skeleton staff of a hundred. From the cornfields, rebels machine gun the barracks. Their bodies are burned by four Japanese bomber planes, first of the vicious reinforcements. Chaokung keeps his monks indoors. Jiahao, ready to abscond, finds he is penned in. Reports have come from Shanghai: unbelievable stories of thousands massacred in city-wide bombardment. He’s sceptical, until he sees the photo. The lone baby crying in the smoking debris of Shanghai Station, ‘Bloody Saturday’, is printed in papers around the world. Weeks later a typhoon, among the worst in Hong Kong’s history, claims eleven thousand lives.

William, the First Baron Tyrrell, signs the visitors book. His Foreign Office replacement, Vansittart, meets him in the hall. Socialising usually takes place at the club, but Vansittart is up to his eyes in it. Tyrrell, now seventy-one, is confident he isn’t going to be put to work. Behind the door they hear loud cursing. The impossible man! Cause of all migraines! Vansittart opens up quickly and dresses down his civil servant. Andrew Scott apologises, but Trebitsch Lincoln; again! Tyrrell empathises; chuckles; feels an anger of three decades here. After Whitehall, Tyrrell went to Paris as their Ambassador, and found Trebitsch staring out at him from a Buddhist lecture poster. No sooner had he returned to Britain than Trebitsch arrived at Liverpool docks. He’d assumed, three years later, he was free of the annoyance.

You’re William Tyrrell aren’t you?” asked Andrew. “Look at this. Jan 7th, 1934: Telegram to George V. ‘Wholly wanton imprisonment in provocative insult challenge to China!’ What?? 28th June, Alexander Cadogan in Peking: ‘Please, I hope the British Empire and I will reconcile.’ Miles Lampson in Shanghai the following year: more nonsense!”

I hardly see what I can do about any of it,” quipped Tyrrell.

This Summer: to the P.M. ‘I am a victim of a diabolical vendetta waged by your government’s machinations. I demand honourable amends for all the wrongs perpetrated against me.’”

Mr. Scott, that is enough,” said Vansittart. “Baron Tyrrell doesn’t want to hear any of this!”

From Scott’s desk, Tyrrell picked up, ‘Anti-Japanese Propaganda’, a new pamphlet from The League of Truth. “I quite understand Mr. Scott’s exasperation… Listen to this. ‘As a resident of Tientsin I declare: I have never seen a better behaved Army of Occupation than the Japanese. They molest nobody, interfere with no lawful occupation…’” Tyrrell dropped the pamphlet back onto the desk.

Japanese propaganda, more like,” said Vansittart. “Let’s get out of here, William. I’ll buy lunch.”

They were gone, without Andrew Scott gleaning any advice from Tyrrell. He read on: of Chaokung’s description of the New Japanese Empire: just, tolerant, and peaceful. Then, he recorded his last minute on the last page of the Trebitsch Lincoln file.

I think the only comment I can make on this is !!!’

Weeks after the fall of Shanghai, reports came from the West the Panchen Lama had died. The leader of Tibetan Buddhism had gone. The same day the aggressors set out for Nanking on killing competitions, transmitting plagues of death-by-rape, two to three hundred thousand people murdered in six weeks. A month later the heartless Japanese warriors bombed Chongqing, turning the brown Yangtze red. From America, Roosevelt excuses Hirohito over Americans killed in Shanghai. Chamberlain appeases Hitler over Czechoslovakia. Global forces converge in Spain as Franco leads massacres in Guernica and Brunete. In Hungary, Regent Miklós Horthy tries to distance his government from pro-German co-operation, set up by his late Prime Minister, Gyula Gömbös. Joachim von Ribbentrop and Martin Luther of the German Foreign Office notify Horthy they are not happy about this. At the end of May 1938, Gömbös’s successor passes The First Jewish Law: millions of Jews are restricted from marriage and employment. Sandor Trebitsch has every reason to be worried when a few weeks later a skinhead in black cloak shows up at his door. She introduces herself as Tao Lo, Margot Markuse, a disciple of Chaokung. Sandor has no idea who she’s talking about. When he reads her letter of introduction he’s less pleased. Krausz comes around that evening and Sandor warms to her. They subject her to such quizzing, allowing her to stay seems only polite.

The following day she walks to the Royal Palace, and again twice that week. Unable to get a meeting she leaves a signed copy of ‘Dawn or Doom’, dedicated to Regent Horthy, and a note from Tientsin.

Tortured by nostalgia, broken of body and soul, a tired wanderer on this earth returns to his native soil. The path of glory and success is paved but with sorrow and grief until one rests at the place of his birth.’

Local and international papers want to learn Margot’s story and she impresses many readers with her intelligence. Still, the weeks pass without word from the Royal Court. Sandor tires of her love for Chaokung and tells her all about Ignacz Trebitsch. Finally, Regent Horthy sends a man to fetch her. At that moment, she’s on a train pulling out of Budapest-Keleti. Margot Markuse does not return to China.

The Tientsin escalation drives Chaokung, Maurice and Chogun back to Shanghai, port of last resort. Labourers fill craters were once stood the Palace Hotel; the Wing On department store; the Great World amusement centre. Sassoon House is boarded up and the Cathay Hotel lobby is only boards. A bomb had frozen the hands on her clock tower at 4:27. The rising violence does not spare the respectable Cathay. One day, they see a gun battle break out in front, spitting balls of blood. In the past year, say members of the Buddhist Benevolent Society, they picked eighteen thousand cadavers from the streets. Chinese gangsters still move the opium, but a nastier Japanese strain that boils into blood. On Chaokung’s sixtieth birthday, everywhere he walks he sees beggars with festering sores and eye infections. The monks are anomalies: fixed stoic features in a stream of diverse identities; almost. Chaokung claims to be the tenth Panchen Lama; to another, the reincarnated (fourteenth) Dalai Lama; to another, the Lama Dorji Den.

Shanghai feels the coming war and defies it, taking in boat-loads of Jews Canada and Cuba will not. Japanese barricades are around each foreign concession; checkpoints everywhere. The Germans, once slow to Nazism, are pushed to become fully fledged party members. Consul Martin Fischer strongly resents Goebbels’ new posting, Louis Siefkin. From the consulate, Siefkin transmits the speeches of Hitler and Hess to six Shanghai public radio frequencies. Above the houses of the International Settlement, national flags rise like some great pissing contest. Chaokung has Maurice deliver a press release: a universal appeal for world peace. A few days later the Abbot’s bowels are a disaster zone. Through the night he burns on the toilet in excremeditation. In the morning he learns the Third Reich have invaded Poland. After sleep his pain has gone, but the problem has not. Shanghai sees little evidence of the war in the months coming up to Christmas. The New York Times publish his second appeal: all governments of warring European countries must resign at once. On New Year’s Day Franklin D. Roosevelt pleads for world peace. The Abbot tells the United Press he is going to America to meet with him. He says goodbye to Chogen, to Maurice; to Baron Collenberg and Walter Fuchs; to Baroness Soucanton and Lo Chia-Ling. He says goodbye to Dr. Miorini and Two-Gun Cohen; Mickey Hahn and Stella Szirmay. He says goodbye to Shanghai, whose light is dying. The press gather around as he tells them he has been denied a visa, and that the American bureaucrats are stupid, stupid people, but they are tired. Tired of his old rants of turncoats and treachery. Tired with Trebitsch Lincoln, whose international vaudeville act has had its day.

 

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Chapter 44

Image Source: Pacific Press Ltd / Wasserstein, B. (1989) The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, Penguin.
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Great Western Road, Shanghai.
Friday 25 August, 1933.

The north-west suffered a devastating earthquake and armed conflict, but Shanghai had returned to a state of relative peace and sunny serenity. The door opened at Buddhist House, 131 Great Western Road. Martin Steinke, Marie Chauve and Hertha Henschel left, walking fifteen minutes to Jing’an Temple.

The Italians, Anthony and Giotto, studied under Adeline, a small stern Belgian nun with a fat head. Her icy exterior only breaks when Chaokung enters. He looks the manuscript over. Thirty years in the civil service has made her a polished communicator.

The pillars of a narrow hallway hold up two floors to blue sky. Adeline strolls the square by gargoyles the size of fingernails, and gryphons, big as houses. The shade of curving roofs and emerald lotus leaves give her pause to interrogate the self. From the kitchen there is a vegetable aroma and Maurice from Munich taking dishes from bamboo drainers. Adeline barks his name. Suddenly Juliet Escoffier flies past, pulling bowls from Maurice, putting them back. The mother sauces must be prepared first, she says. She comes from a family of gourmet chefs. Escoffier looks at Adeline as if she is responsible. Maurice apologises, and Escoffier suggests he brush the square.

Maurice C. Braus is thirty, with a ball shaped chin and dazed black eyebrows. The Latvian, Margot Markuse, wipes the steps in circular motions and does not see him passing. The married couple from Cannes bow. Henri and Marie rake the allotment soil on this, Henri’s fiftieth birthday. The expedition is much harder than they pictured yet gardening around the stone lions makes it all worthwhile. Marie is twelve years younger than Henri. They met after the war, when she became his first hire at the perfumery. Marie wooed him with her eye for art and renditions of show-tunes. Marie notices the Abbot watching them. Between the black cloak his face is thin, all bone and bulbous head. Marie’s friend, Hertha, the youngest, is at his side. There is to be no talk now for Chaokung sends Marie away.

He puts the tool in Hertha’s hands and guides her in direction and posture. A slow rake can make sure soil is not pushed onto the path, he says, taking her hands in his.

The summer furnace recedes, transforming into purple clouds at dusk.

Three months and three hundred kilometres by Tientsin-Pukow railway, they toil above Nanking. Damp Yangtze River rain sprinkles on the frost: on red maples at cave entrances; sixth century rock-cut shrines; golden gingkoes with fan shaped leaves.

Willem Jansen, the railway planner from Holland, knocks on the Abbot’s office. When called, he sees Martin Steinke counting the last donations. Chaokung puts his pen down and asks Willem to approach. The invite to the Confucian monks of Fuzimiao to come there, to Ch’i-hsia Chan Monastery, on Sunday, was positively received. The Soviet and French ambassadors will also be there, helped by their familiarity with Steinke’s writings. Steinke has protruding angular ears but does not seem to hear Willem. He’s fixed on the accounts. Their land is owned in perpetuity and so temple finances should be stable.

Willem is dismissed, and the Abbot and Steinke exchange books. Chaokung’s draft sermon uses Steinke’s writings on breathing and healing. It is barely in Steinke’s hands when Escoffier enters. She gives the Abbot an envelope bursting with yuan banknotes. Steinke is pleased his work will be shared however, it may not be appropriate to lecture the crowd on sexual desire. Escoffier agrees. The people do not want to hear all that. They do not want to be told what they can’t do, for their life is not for everyone. Very well, said Chao. He will bow to her wisdom in this matter.

Escoffier steps out to the path were the rain is now only an echo. She makes her way to the bathroom. On nearing the partitions anguished sobbing fills the air. Young Hertha’s face streams with blood from cut hair, razor trembling in her hand.

At Ch’i-hsia Chan they rose before the dawn, sitting cross-legged reciting vows. At seven they washed, then ate. Before lunch they studied The Sublime One’s holy texts, and after, attended a lecture. Adeline took strength from the sermons on avoiding the pleasures of the flesh. Chao said he was legally married, but in all things he was married to God, and looked at Henri and Marie as he spoke. In doing so, he saw Hertha’s mouth dip in sadness.

Abbot,” she asked, “nothing will stand between myself and God. Should I not share him with others?”

He thought for a moment. “Of course you must. You live with God, day and night. He is with us not just in prayer. We do eat with Him and do sleep with Him; do all in His Presence.”

On Sunday Hertha was ordained ‘Tao Ta’, which means ‘Our Right Path’. Steinke was also anointed as ‘Tao Chun’, and Margot Markuse as ‘Tao Lo’. The Bodhisattva led the ceremony before a crowd of two hundred people. Afterwards, Adeline and Jiaho politely turned away reporters. Chao and Hertha spoke with Walter Fuchs, and a Chinese official. Steinke was with Lo Chia-Ling and Baroness Soucanton. They were the monastery’s two biggest funders. Chao saw them and excused himself. Steinke was caught off guard by the interruption. Ladies, he said, our mission starts under favourable signs. We will propagate the Buddha’s doctrine in the West with His Holiness The Panchen Lama at our side. Steinke briefly registered the lie; his thoughts raced to Chao’s role in this successful day.

In December they returned to Shanghai, and mourned the death of the thirteenth Dalai Lama. The Italians, Anthony and Giotto, left then, and Chao did not seem to care. He was quite happy to hear of The New Life Movement, a moral reform program led by Kai-shek and his wife. Chao said it reflected their own principles.

Marie preferred Nanking: she missed the deer; the goats; gibbons; the coveted sightings of big cats. Initially reluctant about their early retirement, now she enjoyed sitting in one space for many hours. Except, Shanghai was noisier, and with it, the Abbot was harsher. He doled out extra work and punishments. She wanted to discuss it with Henri but Chao made sure she saw him less and less.

In January, Chao took Marie to the German embassy. His friends, Collenberg and Fuchs, had been replaced by Richard Behrend, and his request for a visa would have to go to Munich. Marie sensed Behrend had no interest in helping them. Two weeks later, she took down Chao’s dictated letter to the Fuhrer. He said he had once judged him wrongly and now, was full of praise for his role in the rise of Indo-Aryan civilisation, of which the foundations were the universal truth of the Buddha.

Hertha, twenty-four years young, thought the monastic life suited her. Where-ever they practised she could pray and paint, and find balance. She got on especially well with Escoffier, Marie and Willem, but not Adeline. She sensed she was not alone in this. Only The Venerable One considered Adeline a favourite. When he asked Hertha to join him in applying for a visa at the Belgian consulate, she was surprised. On Nanking Road, the Chinese turned Hertha’s head. She examined the women’s faces and postures. Hertha wanted to be one of them and could not understand why they held low status: women, and the Chinese generally.

A month later, Hertha looked over the edge of the SS Empress of Russia, the North Pacific Ocean long kissing her lungs, that vast face of God. She grappled with the door and found the Frenchwoman laughing at her on the other side. Escoffier had magnetism: she was sensible but also exuberant, and forever chirping on about colour. Hertha sneezed as old Adeline walked past and she stared disapprovingly from black raisin eyes. Escoffier, looking to cheer her up, took her to one side. Abbot Chaokung, she said, was once known by another name. He was a British spy! Hertha laughed at the idea of it. She did not believe Escoffier’s stories; until they reached Vancouver.

At first they thought it was related to Jiahao, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. They waited patiently forty five minutes. Then word came the Abbot would not be admitted on Canadian soil. Chao raised his voice. They had planned to go to Ontario to set up a Buddhist colony!

The group were returned to the ship and Adeline arranged for a telegram appeal to be sent to the Prime Minister. Journalists from the Vancouver Sun, The Courier and The Province gathered with cameras and tape recorders. Immigration were swamped with enquiries. The next morning, a telephone call came in from Ottawa. It was the Prime Minister, R. B. Bennett. He told the head official that Chaokung was to be allowed into Canada for thirty days.

They stayed at a skid row hostel between Gastown and Chinatown. Most other buildings they walked by in the afternoons were extravagant: Birks on Georgia Street with terracotta friezes; the Hotel Vancouver, where Babe Ruth and Sarah Bernhardt lodged; the Eastside Majestic picture house, and the Army and Navy Shoe Department claiming, ‘We Undersell Everybody’. The people were crushed by the Great Depression. ‘Willing to Work’ lay in laps of men sleeping in the streets. Rats ran around spilled soup and beans in a Government relief camp. Man, wife and child fought with police, who charged them with vagrancy. Chaokung’s protégés offered an intriguing distraction, and they discussed which were men and which were women. Reporters followed them, and the locals took advantage of this. Why did the papers not talk about Eton’s Clothing, who exploited crisis laws to pay half the minimum wage? The reporters brushed them off, and Chaokung in turn brushed them off. The acolytes formed a protective circle around him, but a few slipped through.

I am pleased at being officially on British soil for the first time since the war,” one heard.

I will speak at leading cities throughout England this summer,” another learned.

He told a third, “You can write a story without seeing me or talking to me,” before a door was slammed in his face.

Hertha was there only for show when he agreed to be interviewed by The Sun at Vancouver Hotel. When the journalist said he was in court for the trial of the Abbot’s son, he was gripped by sadness. Hertha was sent out, as Chao demanded the man recall every detail.

The attention from the press made sure the public lecture sold out quickly. Martin Steinke opened with a reminder how Siddhārtha Buddha was but a man living two thousand years ago. Modern culture was quite different. No one could stick to finding enlightenment in Buddha’s old ways. The modern disciple should embrace relevancy, be open to new teachings and new revelations.

At the interval, the Abbot was short and cold with him. He said it was him they came to see.

Rising above the restless soul is the only way to banish impatience. Politics is a dangerous game. It makes the heart heavy, but is necessary as a mechanism for Truth to be birthed across nations. Government, the armed forces, big business, these things cannot be entered into for ego. Or profiteering. Or power. Those traits must be removed by abstinence and fasting. The binding power of the universe is energy. Responsibility stands in the flesh. For too long men think in terms of greed and we deceive ourselves into loss.”

The name of his talk was ‘How I Killed Trebitsch Lincoln’.

On the train to Ottawa, he and Steinke looked out into scenes of white hillsides and gold rivers, brown countrysides and tiny houses. Chaokung saw the waterway to St. Lawrence River, and recognised sites of Presbyterian pilgrimages. He got up and passed his silent followers, to send the telegram.

TO RAMSAY MACDONALD, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM

FROM BRITISH TERRITORY WHERE HAVE BEEN KINDLY PERMITTED TO LAND I SEND YOU FOR BRITISH GOVERNMENT FOR BRITISH PEOPLE MY ASSURANCE THAT I AM THEIR FRIEND NOT THEIR ENEMY STOP PLEASE ACCEPT MY SINCERE WISHES FOR THEIR WELFARE PROSPERITY AND PEACE.

Escoffier, Adeline, Hertha and Jiahao sat together, the lenses of Jiahao’s spectacles smiling permanently, and he was, of all of them happiest to be there. With his head shaved he looked much older than thirty-six, due in part to his poor upbringing. Hertha scrutinised him for any clue to the Chinese mindset. Tutelage under Cleather and Chaokung meant Jiahao had a good grasp on sacrifice, divinity and enquiry.

You should stop staring at him, Tao Ta,” said Adeline.

Pardon?” asked Hertha.

Perhaps if you spent more time affirming your vows,” said Adeline.

Now wait just a minute,” snapped Hertha.

Oh. Don’t think I don’t see you and Tao Lo.” Adeline shook her head. There was a glimpse of disgust and she turned to the window. “Lusting after the Abbot. Why, it’s unseemly,” she said.

I did not!” cried Hertha. “I did not!”

How about you cease bullying her?” said Escoffier. “Looking over that poor child’s shoulder every hour, like nothing is ever good enough. And she dare not say boo to you, no one dare.”

Everyone but Adeline, whose face was white, looked at the Frenchwoman with timid pride.

We do not make inappropriate remarks about you and the Abbot. Yet you get preferential treatment, you get anything you want!”

That is simply not true,” snapped Adeline. “How dare you, you harlot! Swanning about like you’re better than me!” Adeline didn’t know where to look. Finally she looked up and saw Chaokung.

He said nothing for a moment, and then, “This will not do. It is not for one sister to turn on another. It is a futile waste of the energies of the Buddha. You are all to remain silent until I say otherwise. Only I will talk during our week in Ottawa. Adeline, you will spend that time in solitary meditation. I hope you will learn to transcend your folly.”

That night they hear Sutton on sax, Gillespie’s trumpet, Ellington’s piano. On Friday morning they see linen mill workers going to risk their lives for a cheque. ‘Closed’ signs are hammered out by alleys brimming with the guts of store rubbish. They see a soup kitchen and ragged malnourished dockers and bawling babies with buckets. It is the third week of April and food rations have run out.

On Monday they return across Wellington Street bridge, above Rideau Canal. Across from the station is the magnificent Château Laurier. The hotel windows are Tiffany stained-glass. A diplomat crosses the lobby’s Belgian marble floor to meet them. They pass carved gables of scrolls and flowers to the new East Wing. The panelling is dark oak, like a British baron’s home, with trophies of the hunt overlooking the gallery. The elevator rises above the Jasper Tea Room, the two floors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, to Bennett’s seventeen room suite. They line up before the Prime Minister, who greets each in turn. He offers refreshments, only to be told they are fasting.

They stand silently for an hour. In another room, Chaokung and Bennett talk about Buddhism and money.

Chapter 43

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Cologne, Germany.
November, 1919.

Something about him troubled Olga Nieuwkamp. Not at first, when he’d come to them from the Prince’s residence at Wieringen. He was charming, knowledgeable, and well connected. He had done some favour for Elsa, Olga’s secretary, at the American embassy. Elsa von Nagelein undertook charity work with Austrian and German P.O.Ws, one of many jobs she did brilliantly. Given how they felt, it seemed fitting to bring him to their home at The Hague. Olga opened up about her father and first husband, both consuls in Singapore; and her second husband, Thomas, the Dutch Consul in Cologne. When Trebitsch asked for a loan of two thousand florins, he had sounded embarrassed, and that endeared him to her.

Four days only,” he’d said, but the weeks went by. He returned to Berlin, and took Elsa with him. It was she who responded, once, to the letters demanding repayment. Her darling, T.L., was getting it organised. He just needed another month. After the Kapp Putsch, Lincoln was reported walking up and down Wilhelmstrasse in defiance of the authorities. That was when Olga lost patience. She talked the matter over with Thomas, and they set his lawyer on Lincoln’s trail. Summons went to Vienna, were the Czechs already had him in the courts. Then he escaped: to America, to China. Thomas continued working at the embassy and related any sightings, but a decade of legal action was going nowhere. He had disappeared entirely when the Great Depression hit. Olga and Thomas dropped the case, sold the house in The Hague, and moved to Cologne permanently.

Berlin Philharmonic Hall.
Tuesday 25 October, 1932.

A line slowly moved on Bernburger, the street home to Germany’s largest newspapers. They paid their admission fee and waited in the lobby, glimpsed Martin Steinke, moving through the crowd. An unmistakeably serious intellectual, he’d tight cheekbones and dark cropped hair. Then into the darkness of Schwechten’s converted ice rink, a thousand seater grand auditorium. Rows Door A, stalls and balconies Door B. The lights simmered low and then the hush. Steinke took the stage and introduced himself, leader of ‘Gemeinde unm Buddha’. For ten years he’s published ‘Community Around Buddha’. Devoted as they were to fellowship and study it was the group’s great honour that evening to present to Berlin a man in keeping with those practices; the Abbot Chaokung.

Good evening. Wǎnshàng hǎo. Yi’n shui’ si yuan: when you drink the water, remember the spring.”

My Way to Buddha’ drew on the teachings of Madame Escoffier, Dr. Grimm and the Brahmavihara bhvana: the four virtues which were love, compassion, empathic joy and an even mind. What could be accomplished in a year’s devotion, he said.

The audience delighted in the descriptions of the Pao-hua-Shan Monastery: how every monk worked in co-operation for the temple’s up-keep. Each were rotated around different jobs: cook, cleaner, gardener, barber, each role like the taking on of a different identity, an identity fluid like the water of life. Some chores were only performed in days ending in ‘4’ or ‘9’. The monastery was cleaned daily, even areas that were spotless. That was how to assure a clean mind and a clear heart. He spoke of Shanghai, were conflict was lessened after the Ceasefire Agreement. Yet “heian shije”, a dark world, was coming. So Buddhism was on the rise. Asia could not contain it. There was a need for it in Berlin, Stockholm, Budapest, anywhere man breathes.

The curtains closed, black on house light, to applause. The newspaper presses rolled, sending Chaokung’s words across Berlin by tram. Night and day, Kung prayed with Steinke and Hertha Henschel. Cymbals chimed and Hertha’s pretty eyes fluttered. Steinke counted out Deutsch-marks, gifted to the Abbot for his train to Brussels.

He looked into the box of silver and would think back wondering if that was the moment everything went wrong.

The window delivered a fast reel of grainy snapshots. Leipzig: tall evergreens of triangular trinities. Frankfurt: mountain ranges rolling and bobbing, yellow and red steel bridges. Cologne, and rain clouds gathered over the locomotive. Then, like sudden revolution, the sun stretched out and breathed into the carriage. The man in black suit and trilby was a British secret agent. He just knew it. He stopped in Liege, where two men seemed to follow him in October’s callous weather. Damp robed he arrived in Brussels. He watched life speed up, contemplated all the people through the intersecting steel bars.

Before Steinke even arranged the lecture he’d wanted to prove he could be in Berlin: capitalising on a successful market; a cooler climate than Munich. Brussels was another return to another country, toward another coast. The prison bars sub-divided the dimensions of the universe, like the mesh of the train carriage. The sound of the train carriage was the encore and omen of applause. He remembered thinking he would go to where he was safe, appreciated, powerful.

From Brussels back to Liege, because he was in no hurry. He’d hustled another speaking lecture. From there, across the German border. Not far, for he was not quite ready to retreat.. He would go back to Cologne, back, back the way he came like some worker ant. There were passengers with newspaper faces talking of Gyula Gömbös, who had become Prime Minister of Hungary. The opening of the San Francisco Opera House. They pass viaducts and transmitter towers, enter the Rhineland. Die Transportgewerkschaften streiken. Shénme? On Thursday. Donderdag. Het is waar. Współpraca nazistowsko-komunistyczna. Ilekshanz zenen vayter vokh. Je vais changer mon vote. Du bist ein dreckiger Verräter!

The police car mesh window broke down all the buildings of the twenties: Cologne Butzweilerhof Airport, the University; disassembled them for his study. Then it was fogged over from his sweat. The door to his dirty cell rolled back like the carriages of the trapped. He was in prison in Brussels. He was in prison in Cologne. The two seemed to blur together:: with Parkhurst and Pentonville and Vienna. At night he dreamed of Cologne’s auditorium, rows and rows of metal seats filled with monks and nuns in black and white. From darkness, he illuminated. Then he remembered curtains backstage, and the sudden flash of the policeman’s torch on his eyes. They poked and prodded him and he screamed at the Belgian officer.

Do you work for the British Secret Service?” Chaokung said. “Ou étes-vous des agents de la France? Je suis un moine bouddhiste et aucun crime n’a été commis!!”

Vous avez été identifié comme un personnage indésirable,” said the Belgian officer.

The heat had boiled over in him as he listened to the demeaning tone. He put it at a distance, watched the events unfold before him, as the other prisoners swore, howled, laughed at the Nosferatu jail-bird.

Vous êtes expulsé. Vous ne devez pas retourner en Belgique,” said the officer.

Ihre Haftbefehl ist vom niederländischen Konsulat. Ihnen wurde der Diebstahl von zweitausend Gulden vorgeworfen,” said the German, and left.

Here he was again, trapped in the world’s dark time, the “heian shije”. When would it end? Might he slip through the bars, aided by the spirits of the Wise Ones? Chaokung thought deeply, silently. He practised his breathing exercises. He had to take his time. When he was released, for he would be, he would savour the successes, just like Steinke said. He’d do what he needed to do: be the victor, the advisor, the leader. This current state was just a part. He remembered the Belgian returning his personal artefacts: telegram from Collenberg, a book of prayer, his journal and the German visa. As he clung to this, something slipped through the cracks.

Frau Nieuwkamp,” seethed Trebitsch.

Chaokung looked past the apparition. To speak with it was to engage with it.

I have no money to give! I have only just gotten out of jail. Imprisoned because I am an enemy of the people!” said Trebitsch.

It was moustached, thirteen years younger and frail. This Trebitsch spoke in English, smelled of the sea air around Harwich A temporary autonomous state, released from Pentonville, he thought he could hear the radio orders demanding his recall.

Chaokung had accepted the truth of these words, of all things. He had no possessions worth any money. His only assets were owed fees from various concert halls. He was just a poor Buddhist monk.

I am already declared bankrupt!” shouted Trebitsch.

Footsteps approached. “Mr. Lincoln, ich bin Ihr Anwalt”

Chaokung raised his head and smiled. “Gut. Gut. Ich möchte eine Insolvenz anmelden.”

Chaokung drank his green tea then set the cup upon the saucer. He was barely in Cologne prison a week, he said. All part of some elaborate intimidation tactic, again!! Hermann Erben laughed. He asked what didn’t Trebitsch do to annoy the German government. Chaokung said that he was no longer that person. Neither was he the man Erben met in Shanghai in 1928.

The three of them sat in the lobby of the Hong Kong Hotel. Erben was an Austrian physicist, now in his mid thirties. His friend, twelve years younger was a handsome bit-part actor from Australia. They listened with wonder as the monk spoke of Cologne, and his return to Berlin. The new government there refused to give him a new visa. The British said the same, so he returned to Nice. Errol Flynn asked about Shanghai and Chaokung talked of birdsong and bountiful fauna along the Yangtze’s mammoth cliffs. Flynn, who had come from filming ‘In the Wake of the Bounty’ in Sydney, didn’t talk of himself much. He was keener to hear about the twelve star tattoos on the Abbot’s forehead, which he learned were spokes on ‘The ‘Wheel of Becoming’. Their talk was cut short by Margot Markuse, arriving in flowing brown robes.

Excuse me, Master,” she said. “You asked me to inform you when the time was right.”

Chaokung bowed. Flynn and Erben shook his hand and he walked with Margot along Victoria Harbour to the ferry. Henri and Marie Chauve followed behind them, then Madame Escoffier, Martin Steinke and Hertha Henschel, each robed, looking out at the South China Sea anticipating their voyage to fantastic Shanghai.

Chapter 42 (Series 5×1)

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Shanghai.
Wednesday 27 January, 1932.

Three and a half million people, a tenth of them foreigners, milled around the free-market gateway to the East. Harbour improvements in the twenties brought in more ships, more businessmen and opium. The largest of the immigrants were from Japan, and the least popular with the Chinese. At the Versailles conference they’d delivered China a humiliating ‘Twenty-One Demands’, and held on to territory on the Southern peninsula: Port Arthur and Dairen. Every few years anti-Japan demonstrations resulted in student fatalities. National strikes would follow, shut downs of shops, factories and shipping. In reprisal, the Municipal Council cut the electric to Chinese owned businesses. Generalissimo Kai-shek took a passive approach to these and threats. His armies focussed on the Communists. Ten thousand were butchered, along with Northern warlords, and bystanders.

The International Settlement had extra-territorial rights for twenty-five thousand and was run by the wealthiest. These were British, who made up nearly half the colony, as did White Russians. Nearly half were Japanese. Life in the settlement was good for it was largely safe from Shanghai’s woes. A state of emergency occurred every few years, usually bringing warships from America, Europe, Japan and the British Empire to protect the municipality. The smaller French Concession housed ten thousand residents: only a tenth were French. Two fifths were Americans and a quarter British. Chao Kung lived in ‘French-town’, on Route Admiral Courbet. Those who knew him as Trebitsch suspected his attraction to Shanghai was linked to his desire to return to Britain. He’d dedicated Autobiography’ “to the Prime Ministers of His Majesty” and ended it pondering his folly of hate for “one of the great bulwarks of civilisation.”

The summer prior, catastrophic flooding struck Central China and four million lives were lost in a week. In September the Japanese bombed a railway line in Mukden: a false flag pretext for their invasion of the North-East. They took Manchuria, and this caused the Chinese bond market to collapse. Though these woes came on top of the Great Depression, the dollar and rouble went far in Shanghai and it entered a uniquely prosperous era. Parties in the Cathay Hotel were hosted by owner Victor Sassoon, a Baghdad Jew, who shaped his signature V.S. onto the roads he had built. Sassoon received diplomats and dignitaries such as Einstein and the Roosevelts: there was Emily ‘Micky’ Hahn, the journalist who introduced China to America; Zau Sinmay, the romantic poet; Morris ‘Two Gun’ Cohen, a Whitechapel Jew and boxer whose life of adventure mirrored Trebitsch’s. He’d travelled through Europe, Russia and America before settling down as Chiang Kai-shek’s bodyguard. There was Walter Fuchs of the German Consulate, known to British Intelligence, and Chao Kung. Much of his day was spent in meditation and study, but the afternoons he’d kept free for meetings. Chao wore a black robe with close fitting white trousers and carpet slippers, a skull cap on his closely shaven head, and a string of beads. Chao and Fuchs worried about the attack on five Japanese monks, and that the soldiers would use the incident to exact retribution.

On January 28th, the city’s optimism was ground to dust as three thousand Japanese troops marched through Chinese Shanghai. From the Cathay’s windows, guests saw thirty warships sail into the bay. Forty of Japan’s planes took to the skies. In the weeks ahead mortars blew holes in the city’s streets. Thousands of Chinese civilians were gutted and corpses piled up. Travellers brought tales of other Japanese invasions in the North: Hongkew and Suzhou Creek.

On February 9th, five days after the battle of Harbin, Chao Kung walked into the offices of the North China Daily News. ‘Can China be saved?’ he asked their English readers the following day. This bloodshed, he wrote, had been foretold by him through his ten year history with China. As ‘the first foreigner to be admitted into an age-old Buddhist order’, he had ‘Twenty-One Points’ for national regeneration. These included an end to opium dens and criminality, and more foreign advisors in key administrative positions.

The fighting continued until early March: hundreds were killed and thousands were made homeless. The occupation of the northern train station further closed Shanghai off from the world. ‘French-town’ was relatively safe. From there the Venerable Chao Kung wrote: to Margarethe, whom he asked not to call him Ignacz. He was no longer her husband. If she was willing to accept that he, as a monk of the Supremely Enlightened One, was her teacher, they could correspond further. To Kreitner he wrote angrily that he was disowning ‘Autobiography’. Kreitner protested that edits were made by the publisher without his knowledge. Chao decided to write his own book, free of editorial meddling. He incorporated details of correspondence with other Buddhists: Walter Persian in Hamburg; Dr. Grimm in Munich; and Madame Escoffier in Nice. The stars gashed on his forehead had not blocked his need for travel. The desire to get away, to be in transit, was only exacerbated by Shanghai’s volatility.

When the fighting came to an end he left the flat to give public lectures and was heckled by Christians. He met with Fuchs, who was enticed by his talk of forming a European Buddhist community. It would be a great centre of learning, and so Fuchs made regular donations to the cause. The widow of the richest man in Asia, Lo Chia-Ling, also contributed. Like Victor Sassoon, she was a Baghdad Jew, but Shanghai had made ‘Liza’ a devout Buddhist. She gave regularly to the monks and was an admirer of the Bodhisattva.

Fuchs got Chao an appointment with German ambassador Baron Collenberg at the German consulate. Fuchs’ assurances meant by the time June came and he sat in front of Collenberg, Chao’s new book was on his desk. ‘Can War Be Abolished?’ was a self published work which took advantage of Shanghai’s cheap printing and high quality calligraphy. On the cover was a photo of Abbot Kung, cross-legged on a cushion in deep reflection. Collenberg lifted a hundred page hardback from his desk.

I found it urgently touching,” he said. “I drew much hope for the future while reading it.”

I am grateful for your support, and that of the wider German community here,” said Chao.

You are no longer involved in politics?” asked Collenberg.

I am out of it. I fled, into the void,” said Chao.

From Saul to Paul. I understand you wish to visit Germany for literary and religious activities?”

I wish to study, and perhaps set up a monastery there. A man in Hamburg wishes to do likewise, but I do not think him fit to do so,” said Chao.

I see,” said Collenberg. “Then, your holiness, I am happy to recommend to Wilhelmstrasse you be allowed to return.”

He walked a Shanghai in recovery. The orphans cried and Chao Kung shook in the reverb-storm. Though he was heartened meeting Collenberg, his mind moved faster: to Germany; to France; Canada. He soon found himself on the SS Trianon sailing for Antwerp. It was the slow sail: nearly two months over the Pacific, past Java, around the Atlantic. He made what sociable sport he could with the passengers, and wired ahead to Madame Escoffier. He and the Buddhist leader could reunite during his stop off at Marseilles. The sea air lifted his mood, the boat bobbing as he sunk and rose in meditation. He sailed through a world which heard jazz and talked peace, saw talkies Battleship Potemkin and Metropolis, and new stars Marlene Dietrich and Mickey Mouse. In America, the Chrysler and Empire State buildings competed for skyline, above which his friend, Karl Weigand, travelled on the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin years before. It was a pleasant trip. In blue sky birds flew and in evenings became luminous wonders in electric light.

The clean air and soft light warmed Chao’s robes as he lay back on the purple cushioned lounger, to the sound of excited holiday makers and the smell of fresh baked baguettes, olives and ratatouille. A coloured glass was put in his hand, cool water trickling a ring around his finger. He looked at Madame Escoffier with her suntanned skin, golden hair and curves. He acknowledged her with his signature nod that was not a nod: a subtle lowering of the eyelids. Escoffier sat by Henri and Marie, who eased out of their daydreams to give the same silent nod. He looked out to the descending houses of the Riviera, shapes of buildings competing for character: the cathedrals; Nice Opera House; the Masséna Casino; the restaurant terraces and the old town. The cannon, firing midday since the Sixteenth century, was unlike the terrible bombs of Shanghai. It was a simple call, reminding citizens to lunch. He’d grown to expect it. Somewhere down there, Chagall and Matisse painted glories on canvasses. Palms and citrus trees stood assured of serenity. The Promenade des Anglais and flat beach curved around the Bay of Angels and the cool Mediterranean.

Then a sudden, flaring alertness. Inside, throat to root chakras screamed, demanding everything. Chao blinked, twice, and saw a ray of orange heat binding Escoffier and her disciples. As she moved across the patio, watering can in hand, their shared consciousness seemed to follow. He could hear the plants, gently replenished. Deep in these ruminations it was a moment before he realised Henri was speaking to him.

Bodhisattva, will you talk more of this monastery you want to establish?”

Chao’s eyes silver-sparkled. He waited for Escoffier to join them and he began to speak.

 

Chapter 41

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Kowloon, Hong Kong, South China.
Monday 16 April, 1928

Rain sloshed by the glass, fall shelves of transparencies, damp seeping into the crammed apartment. He moved, skinned head above ochre robes. His identity: kitchen cleaner. The moments of surface wiping, cloth folding and dusting re-energised his space and his health. Then he became tenzuo, cook. He arranged two carrots, a potato, parsley, as knock bang knock reverberated at the door.

Trebitsch Lincoln? I’m from the South China Daily News.”

The voice was male, British with a hint of American, forty-something.

There is no one here of that name,” said Trebitsch.

Are you plotting more intrigue against the British Empire?” he asked.

Breathing calmly, Trebitsch opened the door. The man was five foot and forty-something. He’d a full head of grey-red hair, slits of blue eyes and was clean shaven.

Now listen. My time in politics has ended. I simply wish to be left alone,” said Trebitsch. And they talked.

Peking, North China.
Three Weeks Later: May, 1928.

At her temple, Alice Cleather raked sand in n gentle geometric motions. Her moves reflected the changes of the city: new streets and public parks, changing attitudes to food, waste and water. Though replaced by Nanking as the capital, she was not done yet. For a half hour the woman in her mid-eighties had forgotten this and forgotten the burden of leadership. The once graceful round curves of her body has become thin, sharp and jagged. She hears the detective’s approach, and quieter, Basil’s steps. She didn’t look, just carried on marking out the furrow.

You’d do well to keep your people close,” said Doyle. “Thirty dead in Jinan last night. The Japanese and Kai-shek’s forces each converge on Peking.”

Yes we heard,” said Basil. “Where is Trebitsch Lincoln?”

I spoke with him in Kowloon,” said Doyle. “Pretended to be a journalist. Didn’t get much; the authorities deported him two weeks later.”

Good,” said Basil.

They deported him by sea,” Doyle said. “I have a contact that puts him in Dalian.”

Cleather slowed her rake down to a vibration near stillness. For the first time she looked up, into the chubby face and grey-red hair of her sleuth. Her calm fell into distress, mouth and eyes knocked wide open. Tall Basil Crump was usually unflappable. The news of their competitor reflected Cleather’s panic in his tired dark eyes.

He’s in Manchuria?” asked Cleather. Though English she’d grown a Chinese accent, a venomous one, and the words came out like a spit.

Possibly Manchuria. Rumours grow easily round this fellow,” said Doyle.

What did he say to you in Kowloon?” asked Basil.

Very little. That he devotes his life to spiritualism. He intends to reach Tibet.”

Dalian is three days by foot from Mudken…” said Cleather.

The Panchen Lama is in Inner Mongolia,” said Basil.

Far from persecutors and pretenders. As it should be,” said Cleather.

We need to address the bill,” said Doyle, taking a sheet from his jacket.

Cleather waved it away. “Basil will pay you on the way out.”

She watched them leave and then turned back to work. A monk behind her threw a seed out in slow motion.

Jiahao, come here,” she said.

The Foreign Office, London
One Year Later: June 1929

William Tyrrell took Lincoln’s file and slapped it on his desk. Each time there was a new Minister, especially a Labour minister, he was required to train them up. Official policy stated Lincoln was to be ignored. Reports on his activities were also discouraged. The existence of his file was a paradox-fuelled headache emblematic of the man himself.

There were many reports the previous year, most from friends of Buddhists and Theosophists in Peking. They were international, of course, right down to a Croydon bank manager. Tyrrell turned the pages faster. April: Shanghai, Hangchow; Mid-May: Tientsin, Manchuria, and then Tientsin again in August. There, Vice-Consul George had ignored orders, and listened to Lincoln’s paranoid tales. Lincoln had stalkers and George wanted to know if he should be offered police protection.

Tyrrell remembered this was when he’d tired rebuking officials with bothersome sightings. George’s superior, Jamieson had written the next day, of Lincoln’s sell-out public lecture to the Tientsin Rotary Club. Jamieson had written them a strongly worded letter. Then the same from Ambassador Lampson in Shanghai the very next day! The previous Autumn Tyrrell had reprimanded Lampson’s second, Steptoe, on the Lincoln matter.

William Tyrrell wondered why they had so much intel on a man supposedly dead to them. Today’s entry was a plea from Lincoln, asking to be let into England to see his sons. It came through the PM’s office, wired on a boat from Shanghai to Hamburg. Before Tyrrell put it with the others he flipped the next page forward and back and found a strange thing. Six months before, an official statement from the Indian government denying Lincoln (nor T.E. Lawrence) were in Afghanistan.

Other than the report of no report, and the PM’s message, there were, well, no reports. For a year, Lincoln had seemingly disappeared.

Shanghai, East China Coast.
One Year Later: May 1930.

The central waterfront strip, The Bund, was home to the five floor Cathay Hotel. Completed only a year before, it was a luxurious sanctuary from the world’s cares. Noel Coward and Emily Hahn stayed here. Charlie Chaplin called by. Brawls erupted in the streets outside but arrangements between police and crime gangs kept the parties in swing. It was a magical time in a magical city with an edge to it: the storm that was about to break.

Walking through the ground floor brasserie, property magnate Silas Hardoon waved to his tenants: the shaven-headed monk and the silver haired ex-politician. They waved back as Hardoon passed. It was eight years since Lincoln waited for Bauer in Vienna, and enlisted Kreitner to ghost write his autobiography.

I missed his funeral. He had me on a job in Berlin,” said Kreitner.

Energy is the true matter of the universe. Bauer is still at work. After I was barred from entering Germany I made it to Rotterdam, and crossed the Netherlands into Belgium. I worked on the book on the train and when I arrived in Paris. It is ready.”

Did you change those names?” asked Kreitner.

Trebitsch bent over for his satchel. In the space behind him Cleather’s monk, Jiahao, faced Kreitner. Trebitsch raised his head. In his hands were two hundred typed and marked pages. He ran his fingers across ‘his’ first chapter, liquid metal flapping from beneath his nails. He repeated the motion on chapter two as the silver formed tiny spheres. A dozen floating pearls circled Trebitsch’s field of vision. As he spoke they seemed to spark.

There are people who have wronged me. While I have a platform, I will not be idle while they wrong others.”

Kreitner lifted a chapter from the pile and flicked through to the second page. “They won’t print this. And if they do, we’ll be sued in court!” he said.

Trebitsch countered, “We name names or foist obsolete negativity upon the world.”

We’ll be open to libel,” said Kreitner as he put a pen through two lines.

Trebitsch sunk his head and Jiahao watched.

Peking, North China.
One Year Later: May 1931.

Political power and wealth are leaving Peking. Bank capital disappears to nothing. It becomes the old world again, in narrow dusty streets. Yet the people continue. There are street kitchens, barbers, cloth shoe cobblers, and one man theatres. Men walk their birds. Cigarette stubs are turned to new rollies by coolies. Cleather’s monks stroll along Wangfujing with it’s many shops. The cool air stirs their consciousness. On a bench, a balding old Westerner with a full grey-red beard reads a hardback.

Cleather said, “I like the beard, Mr. Doyle. Three years has made all the difference.”

He stared up at her and the two acolytes. “Speak of the devil. I guess you’ve seen this?”

Doyle raised the book. Cleather’s acolyte, Basil Crump took it. The cover title was ‘Die Autobiographie eines Abenteurers’, authored by I.T. Trebitsch-Lincoln.

Autobiography of An Adventurer,” said Doyle. “Berliners can’t get enough of it. Have you had dealings with him lately?”

We have not,” said Cleather.

Doyle told her, “He’s in Nanking. His latest nom de plume is Chao Kung.”

Yes, we are aware of this,” said Basil. He passed the book to Cleather who waved it off.

Yes, you’re watching him,” said Doyle. “How many updates has Jiahao sent in the last year?”

Our decision has been made,” said Basil.

We do not require your services, Mr. Doyle,” said Cleather.

He leafed back through to his place in the book. “The British employed me to track him. I thought you might appreciate some of the benefits of that at a discount.”

We have no need of rude outsiders,” said Basil.

Good day, Doyle,” said Cleather.

An hour later, Basil remarked to Cleather that Doyle must have faith in his sources. If Trebitsch was in the South, in Nanking, what was Doyle doing there in Peking, a thousand kilometres away?

At the same moment Doyle was sat aboard a train, across from the Venerable Master. He rolled in and out of sleep eight hours to Nanking, eyeing the monk occasionally. The carriages paused at Tientsin then carried on twenty minutes to the new capital.

Nanking still rebuilt from Kai-shek’s power grab four years before. Then raided embassies and mass looting drew reprisals from the international community. The British had sent heavy and light cruisers, destroyers, explosive rounds and bomb craters, Snipers returned fire and forty people died, mostly the Chinese, until one of Kai-shek’s commanders reigned his men in. Deserters and communists were blamed. Now Nanking was home to a fast growing population. The Kuomintang party hosted national conferences and outlined progress toward a constitutional government.

The next day two birds winged by as Doyle followed the bells toward the laurel trees. The brick building he sought was at the heart of Pao-hua Shan temple. Inside, public observers of the ceremony were sat on chairs around the edges. He joined Prop-Moller, a Dane expert in Buddhism, as twelve monks read the twelve precepts of the Bodhisattva.

Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Don’t engage in sexual misconduct. Don’t lie or engage in wrong speech. Don’t sell or consume alcoholic beverages or other recreational drugs.

The Venerable Master’s palms were together in prayer and Trebitsch Lincoln a.k.a.‘Chao Kung’ kneeled to the left of him. A triangle chimed between the chanting of each commandment.

Don’t discuss the faults of the Buddhist assembly. Don’t praise oneself and speak ill of others. Don’t be stingy or hostile to others who are less fortunate.

Doyle got that this was a big deal. The initiation of the Bodhisattva, the one who stays behind; he who delays reaching nirvana out of compassion for all.

Don’t harbour anger or resentment. Don’t slander the triple Jewel of the Buddha, the Dharma or the Sangha.

Then, the Venerable Master said there were forty-eight other precepts and the monks began to chant each in turn. Doyle stifled a sigh. He wasn’t one for sitting around, hence checking on the Master in Peking. Twelve candles smoked, and would have warmed his heart but they had first been dipped in India ink and the fumes stank. Cleather’s man Jiahao was there, knelt on floor cushions with other monks. Among the guests he spied a monk he saw with Cleather and Basil Crump before leaving Peking. Doyle was sure of it. Perhaps they, or ‘Chao Kung’, would recognise him. He’d have an excuse to leave. He wondered how many pages there were to the ordination booklets.

The monks rose and Master spoke and they chanted more and he didn’t understand much of it. Then, one stepped forward and covered the head of ‘Chao Kung’ with a shawl. ‘Kung’ was led to the foot of the Master, literally, taking the ankle in both hands. The first candle was brought forward. The Master dipped a pen into it and scribed a star into Kung’s forehead. He gripped the Master’s leg tight as the pen seared his flesh. A second star was tattooed on the initiate’s head, then, a slow third carving and Doyle’s face was pale. The initiate’s face contorted. He trembled and squeezed the Master’s leg through the fourth and fifth. There were twelve stars in all and the pain was immense. He resisted screams that would have been heard throughout Nanking.

Peking, North China.
Six Weeks Later: June 1931.

On her walk through Tianamen Square Alice Cleather tried not to think about the second man she’d sent to follow Lincoln, or the news he’d brought back. It was the morning Lincoln’s book had been reviewed in the London Times. ‘Short and summary, makes amazing reading.’ As she turned onto Dongjiaomin Alley she saw the English edition in the window of a book-store. Cleather breathed in cold morning air to keep anger at bay. She approached the Grand Hôtel des Wagons-Lits on Qianmen East. On the hotel wall, Lincoln’s face looked sombrely down on her.

The poster read, ‘The Abbot Chao Kung in Three Public Lectures: The Mysteries of The World, Of Life, Of The Self.’

The fire gathered in Cleather’s breath. She whirled her head around and saw two monks walk the pavement opposite.

You see this??” she screamed. “They have taken this ‘creature’ into their confidence!! The Europeans think he is some holy one!”

As blood mist evaporated from her face, she recognised the monks. The first was Chao Kung, the second was disloyal Jiahao. Disappointed, Jiahao shook his head before returning to the noble eightfold path.

The Watch Thief: Chapter 39

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Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
Wednesday 23 December, 1925.

The silence was tangible. The houses at night barricaded by wall and leaf were remote and vulnerable. The Triumph bike stood still on the tarmacadam at the front Edward Richards’ home. Ignatius ‘John’ Lincoln was looking from open door into the unlit kitchen. On an overcast morning at Trowbridge Barracks, a soldier devoid of passion stood fixed outside the armoury, his eyes far away. No one spoke their names. Nothing stirred at night in the prison grounds. Wings A through C where silent. William Tyrrell, like many other men and women all across Britain, slept quietly. In Sussex the Home Secretary, Joynson-Hicks, laid back in his easy chair. He did not go to see the King. The rope hung from the ceiling. Margarethe prayed. The silence came from the mouths of those who did not know what they could offer, minds scraping for perfect words to bridge reality with a better state.

The hush was concentrating into pockets. Their first foot-falls in Edward’s home in Victoria Avenue. Clifford Lincoln in the visitors room at HMP Shepton Mallet, Julius next to him, Margarethe’s eyes welling up with tears. In the office of his mirror Tom Pierrepoint buttons his white shirt. The calm was a brief gap in the passage from the basement generator to the upper court. The noise squashed the word on Lord Hewart’s lips and the public gallery. It struck the moments between the nine bells that Tuesday morning.

Ian Stewart’s motorcycle growled out of the barracks and tore the night open. Ignatius held tight as they wound with Victoria Road. The wind was like a barrage of tiny pellets. The cylinder was a vague echo when Ian parked it. The two off-duty bombardiers entered through unlocked back door with less grace. They knew Edward had a gun and it turned up in minutes, Ignatius scraped it by a cupboard door and put in his coat so both sides weighed even. Ian brought out the brandy and glasses. They had their breath warmed and rummaged some more. Bitter and pale ale. They clinked a toast to their prizes, and sunk to the floor. They approved of Edward Richards’ decor. The conservative and modern layout. The comfortable linoleum.

Ian said, “Put the empties back in the crate like they never went anywhere!”

Upstairs was a-creaking. The drunken soldiers raised themselves as steps crossed the landing.

It’s Edward. John, the bike!” Ian pointed to the lounge and broke ahead. The armchair arm pushed him on the way in. Ignatius, beer sloshing, avoided it. Ian swung at the front door lock, shook it left and right.

Edward shouted, “Who’s down there?”

Ignatius pulled out his automatic. “Get back,” he shouted, and fired a bullet into the stairs.

As the bullet thumped dully, Ian defied the urge to wince, his face screwed up from the loud retort of the pistol however and he yelled against the front door – “We are warning you!”

Ignatius blasted twice into the bannister. Ian gave the lock a final shove and then doubled back into the lounge. Ignatius followed. In his haste his foot caught in the folds of the rug, tumbling towards the ground, the darkened room spun before his eyes. In desperation he reached out for support – his hands finding a table, searing pain in sprained wrist. Someone else entered the room with him. He felt the breeze of the open back door. A pistol flashed. A bullet whizzed by and pounded the plaster wall. The pistons hammered on Ian’s bike as he revved it up. Ignatius raised his automatic and fired and fired. He fired until Edward screamed out.

Four officers marched them into Shepton Mallet. The prison housed just fifty; seven per cent of its capacity. Christmas Day was their first day. Acoustics made the carol singing sound like a haunting. But unsettling festivities settled in to something more hopeful, genuinely happy inmates and guards. His sweetheart Lily Morgan visited. She knew him as John. He used the name to avoid the stigma of association. Seeing her took his mind from the depression. At nine o’clock, the lights went out.

Prison’s threat only nibbled at the edges: the Governor’s approval of him; Lily’s visits; New Years Eve. Ignatius had seen the light flicker in Edward’s eyes. He was afraid the feeling of asylum would last the three weeks to his trial. The officer who found the vomit in his cell pressed his nose in it. Later, in mad thought, he was grateful. Each day he followed the bell to inspection and the canteen. On one occasion he recognised Tom Pierrepoint, walking with the Governor. Both were well dressed, large aristocratic figures. He’d heard Pierrepoint didn’t like the American method. He preferred to get the inmate out quickly. They were on their way to the brick building forty-three metres from the prison wall. In the exercise yard, speckled dry concrete led to a metal fence mounting barbed wire, and an enclosure of mottled stone framed portcullises. The steps and walls were cold. There were only stone corners. In A-Wing less people meant guards could watch the walk-way slips and stop any jumpers. The other levels revealed a mirror image of the hive. Ignatius was in a cell on his own. Sat on his bunk, he thought about Edward Richards: his voice; how he knew Ian. What did he do in his twenty-five years? The final shot had lit up the lad’s face with the bullet hole in his skull and the blood streaming out of his eyes. Edward Richards was looking into him. He didn’t know much about Edward, but he knew he killed him. Neither man could lie about that.

In Cologne, Julius Lincoln took his bag from the hall. He closed the door of his house and walked the streets to Trankgasse. At Köln Hauptbahnhof, he bought his ticket for Hamburg and waited. In Hamburg, Margarethe wailed and flung clothes into her case. Four times she checked their passports and emergency certificates. ‘Mother is in dire straits’, Clifford wrote in a letter to John. ‘We all are. Can you get to England?’

The lawyer said they had a good case. The evidence was inconclusive: he should plead not guilty. He nodded obediently to make Lily happy. Edward’s dying cry was with him every moment. Lily seized on the notion he might be released. He asked her not to call for a week. He slept, knowing it was not enough. He slept contented, forgetting what he had done. In the night, the grounds of Shepton Mallet were quiet. Lily wrote to him. He wrote back, even when a jailer warned him not to. In the visitor’s room, Julius said they would get him out of there. Margarethe assured him anyone could see it was an accident. They were praying for him. Clifford said he would be there at the trial, they all would.

The criminal law courts were in Devizes, central Wiltshire, a four-column Grecian building. Custodians led the charges past the chugging generator and stink breath of the boiler. Out of the tunnel, they found the steps into the court. A hundred jarring threads of conversation clustered around their fates. Amid the babble-storm he saw his family and Lily, who smiled with dewy eyes.

“Unfortunate parentage,” said one of the gawkers.

“All rise,” said the clerk.

“Edward was my neighbour,” said Walter.

“You found him, Mr. Stouton?” asked the prosecutor.

“I held his head in my hands an’ went with him to the hospital. Fifteen minutes after we got there, they said he was dead.”

The arresting officer said, “I found them later that morning. The captain at barracks did not release them to us easily.”

The prosecutor told them, “There is an indication joint enterprise might be applied here. Each man went to Mr. Richards home armed, and must face the penalty.”

A reporter called out, “Mr. Lincoln! Mr. Lincoln. Can we have a word? Mrs. Lincoln. Just a moment?”

He saw the family disappear in newsmen before he and Ian stepped down dark stairs to the dust swirling by the flatulent generator at tunnel’s end. The next day was Wednesday 20th January, when court heard from the defence.

“An investigation of the crime scene has shown Mr. Richards fired at Mr. Lincoln at close range.”

Ignatius said, “It was only to protect myself.”

“Objection! Being drunk is no excuse.”

The judge said, “A distinction should be made for Mr. Stewart. Since he did not discharge his firearm, the jury should consider acquittal in the charge of murder.”

The prosecutor said, “Your honour, new evidence has surfaced in a letter from Mr. Lincoln to his friend, Miss Morgan. Obtained by the staff at HMP Shepton Mallet, it contains a full confession.”

On Thursday morning, after the clock struck nine times, the jury met. They did not retire long. Stewart would serve a long sentence for burglary. For Lincoln came the black cloth.

“Ignatius Emanuel Napthali Trebitsch Lincoln, I pronounce the only sentence that can be passed for the crime of wilful murder.”

Margarethe sunk her mouth into her handkerchief.

“You will be taken to a place of execution to suffer death by hanging.”

Julius froze as their mother clung to his chest. Clifford gasped. They took Ignatius down.

His father sent a letter nineteen pages long. A friend was bringing money so he expected to set sail from Ceylon within days. The German-Lloyd steamer, SS Coblenz, would take him to Marseilles and he’d fly to England if he had to. He asked forgiveness. There was a terrible regret for the past, for if he had been a better father, none of this might have happened. His sins seem to have been visited upon the head of his favourite son. ‘Nat’ stood by him when they were arrested at the Hotel Viktoria in Vienna; and before that, when in Prague he told his father Czech spies were trailing them. Ignatius remembered them board the train and watch the Czechs get into the next carriage. As the doors were closing, father and son leapt back onto the platform.

Julius raised funds from the public for an appeal the following week. The man from The Times watched him, impressed. The coroner’s jury refused to return a guilty verdict. Lord Chief Justice Hewart rejected that motion and set March 2nd for the date of Lincoln’s execution.

There were echoes in Shepton Mallet. Ignatius saw him still: Edward Richards, his hair matting with blood, looking at his attacker. Ignatius smashed the cut bottle down on his face clawing the tissue. A cold wave spread over him as he did so, and Edward’s head slumped. Twenty-five years old, a representative for a brewery, a hard-working honest man wrenched out of his sleep. Ignatius could feel the weight of his head in his hand: the warmth; the wet. His eyes flickered. The louder cough of the motorbike engine was at the back. He set down Edward. Out to the back yard, out, out, Walter the neighbour shouting, “Hey! You there!”

Ignatius looked right past the open door of his cell. He could still hear the captain and constable bicker. Still Ian Stewart telling him he gets a high from risk. Ian was on a different wing and he tended to avoid him, tactfully. Margarethe rarely got in a visit without crying. His father telegraphed the both of them from the Coblenz each week. Meanwhile, Julius wrote to the Home Secretary to make sure he could come onto British soil. There was a lot of public support, he said. The telegram from Java expressed regret. John hoped to see him in the Summer.

Four weeks later, Thursday 24th, thousands swarmed Trafalgar Square. Placard carrying bodies close to one another sang and prayed. They clustered in lines to sign the petition and talked of what was to be done: activist Quakers and Anglican clergy; miners and dockworkers; a whole spectrum of society. Margarethe was over-whelmed and receptive to journalists’ whys, where’s and hows. One-time manager for Houdini, Colonel Harry Day, found Julius near the steps.

We’ve all been moved by his plight,” said Day. “I will pursue this in the Commons.”

We’ve seen him every day this week,” said Margarethe.

This is murder for manslaughter. Where’s the Edward Richard’s say in this?” said Clifford.

Is it true the boy’s father entered a monastery?”

A paper earlier this week ran an interview from Victoria Station. Can you confirm that?”

Attention! Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming. My name is Julius Lincoln. John Ignatius is my half-brother. He would appreciate this show of protest and solidarity. A man of good nature and humour, your support is getting him through tough times. Like all of us, John served this country in the war. Unfortunately the judge was out to make an example. Out to make an example of my father’s son. The verdict was decided before he set foot in court. The appeals jury disagreed. It is my hope another will grant his reprieve. Please sign the petition which tomorrow, I will present to the Home Secretary.”

Julius took the petition by St. James Park to the Home and Foreign Office building. Over four weeks he’d collected fifty thousand signatures. William Joynson-Hicks was well acquainted with the case. It was he whose constitutional function it was to advise their monarch whether to exercise the prerogative of mercy. The P.M., Baldwin, was a close friend and reacted by praising the Home Secretary’s expertise regarding British prisons. Archbishop Randall Davidson, back from an anti-theosophy conference, said he would pray for him. A telegram from the SS Coblenz begged for a stay of execution.

In another room, Foreign Secretary Austen Chamberlain asked Tyrrell for a report on Trebitsch Lincoln. The file hadn’t been updated since the incident with Mr. Davidson. Basil Thomson had only written of Trebitsch in a stock article he sold to the Northern Whig and Belfast Post. Workaholic Eyre Crowe sailed the Foreign Office through three governments in four years. A vacuum was left after his death the previous April. It was Tyrrell’s opinion Trebitsch should be allowed to see his son. Chamberlain told the House he’d be under guard for three days and leave immediately afterwards.

In the Liberal Club, on-off friends Lloyd George and Asquith spoke of Lincoln. In Piccadilly, the solicitor John Goldstein listened to the report on the radio. At Savoy Hill House BBC Director Jack Pease peered through the glass at his newscaster. Seventy-two year old Conyngham Greene, once minister to Roumania, listened in his Plymouth home until the weather flickered the signal into absence. Basil Thomson read the paragraphs in his parlour, curtains drawn.

In a comfortable bed in Trowbridge, Tom Pierrepoint fancied an early night and loosened his tie. Lily Morgan returned from prison early evening to her home. She was exhausted and asleep within minutes, but woke a few hours later. In Sussex, Joynson-Hicks turned the page of his newspaper. He ignored the nine chimes of the grandfather clock. Through the night he slept without interruption, oblivious to the world.

Ignatius walked to the scaffold without visible emotion, standing rigidly to attention as the noose was adjusted. Until late last night he had waited in the death cell for his father’s promised visit, and when told that it was impossible for him to arrive he broke down and wept.”

– New York Times, 3 March 1926