The Secret of the Gypsy Horse (The Rowdy Stories Book 2)
View all 3 comments. Nov 14, Rebecca McNutt rated it liked it Shelves: comics-graphic-novels , fiction , thriller , cold-war , spy. I've yet to see the film Atomic Blonde. I keep spending my theater cash, of which I don't have much of, on books. Either way, I really enjoyed The Coldest City , and I liked the Soviet era setting, but it was just your average run-of-the-mill graphic novel, not particularly memorable or special.
Beautiful artwork, though. I'd definitely look for more work by the illustrator again. View 1 comment. Jun 16, Christine rated it it was amazing Shelves: comic-books , mystery-spies , netgalley-and-arcs. There is an idea that spy stories are male stories. Even excellent ones like Wish Me Luck have a good, strong dosing of romance. The women in such spy movie tend to be helpless, evil until they met the good guy and then they either repent or get dumb, or to be in charge like M in James Bond.
There are exceptions, Wish Me Luck had tough women in it, but overall you have to wonder how th There is an idea that spy stories are male stories. There are exceptions, Wish Me Luck had tough women in it, but overall you have to wonder how the woman got into the spy business to begin with if she was going to break so quickly.
This is why it is nice to read this graphic novel. This is very much like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, but with more twists, excellent well done twists. But if you are looking for a cerebral story set in the waning days of the Cold War, this is fits the prescription. The central character is Lorraine, a woman sent to Berlin to discover what has happened to a missing list. You know those list that if it gets into the wrong hands, everyone dies. The great thing is that it works well in this graphic novel because Johnston brings freshness to it.
Even in graphic novel format, the characters are well shaded and far from flat. Lorraine is an interesting, a tough as nails woman she is not a girl , very much like the spies that tend to show up in the British drama. Supporting characters are also very believable. This is a nicely done and thrilling mystery in terms of plot. At first, I got frustrated at the panels where the faces are blank ovals such panels are not the majority, but there are enough to notice , then I realized that the style, especially the blank faces really suits a spy story.
The artwork, therefore, re-enforces the theme of the graphic novel as well as being a representation of the action. This is very cool. Even though the story is based in the real world, in some ways it reminded me of Watchmen in terms of theme. This is a graphic novel worth reading. View all 7 comments. My immediate reaction post-read: FYI: I am not even going to deny the fact that I am probably in the high percentage of people that purchased this only because I wanted to read the novel before seeing the movie.
The art style was bland for such an action-packed story, and often times, the art appeared half-finished. And while I enjoyed the story being told through flashbacks, the main plot just wasn't enough to consistently hold my attention. Perhaps this is one of those novels that translates better on film? Would I recommend this? Aug 06, Mladen rated it liked it Shelves: comics. I thought this was a very good engaging spy, mystery, thriller, from a decent start, to a great conclusion. My only 2 nitpicks with this one is:First in some panels the art looked good, and in the other ones didn't.
Second one is: the non English dialogue,because i don't speak German, or Russian so could not understand what they were saying. May 22, Caitlin rated it it was ok Shelves: comment-kickass-women , format-gn , comment-has-a-movie , graphic-reviews , fic-historical , nf-history-cold-war. To that end, they send in veteran agent Lorraine Broughton to figure out who killed him and to get her hands on that list at all costs. Lorraine must navigate a world of double and triple The Coldest City is a tense, spy thriller set in Cold War era Berlin right as the Berlin Wall comes down.
Lorraine must navigate a world of double and triple agents, Western and Communist governments and many more dangers to get to her goal but she is not a woman used to failure. The Coldest City is a bit difficult to rate. Particularly at the beginning, the pacing of the story is tense and it's impossible to know who's really out to help Lorraine and who just wants to gain her trust in order to remove her from the picture.
The minimalist style of Sam Hart's illustration does a fantastic job of using light and shadow to create an aura of mystery, cold and intense danger that immediately drew me in. Unfortunately, that same style made the last half of the book confusing as hell. The story relies upon remembering which character is which, a task made much more difficult by the lack of detail in the artwork.
It took reading the ending several times to get even a vague idea of what the hell happened. The story reminded me very much of one of my favorite movies view spoiler [The Usual Suspects hide spoiler ] , so much so that I think naming the movie counts as a spoiler since you'll be expecting that twist. The story is well written but I definitely got frustrated with the handling of the ending because the confusion of it made it hard to feel satisfied at the end. The fact that I read Velvet on the same evening probably didn't help since I enjoyed that story significantly more.
Overall, Coldest City is worth reading and the mood of it is skillfully done in both writing and illustrations but I wouldn't count it as a personal favorite. Jul 04, Mike rated it liked it. This story starts off great, is suitably cryptic and suspicious of everyone and everything. My problem with this book is twofold: One, some of the secondary characters are hard to recognize or keep straight, as there's not enou This story starts off great, is suitably cryptic and suspicious of everyone and everything.
My problem with this book is twofold: One, some of the secondary characters are hard to recognize or keep straight, as there's not enough distinguishing them amongst each other. Clearer facial compositions, additional "costume" details, different fonts for their dialogue, or gods forbid judicious use of colour. In a story of intrigue, double-cross and veiled meanings, this is a near-fatal flaw or maybe I'm just too damned lazy to go back and re-read to piece them all together.
Two, the ending blew it for me. Everything was pretty sparse throughout, teasing us with foreshadowing and conflicting knowledge of who an what. Then Johnston decides to a throw a whole dogpile of poorly-explained details together that explain his point of view on what "truly" happened. Yawn - saw that coming half a book away, and prayed that Johnston would just play our expectations against us.
A decent potboiler, good enough to pass a quiet Sunday afternoon. Dec 01, Lauren rated it liked it Shelves: mystery-thrillers , graphic-sequential-art. I loved Atomic Blonde , so I rewinded to go back to the source material. If I hadn't been familiar with the film, I would have gotten lost in the spycraft, the double agents, and the locations solely in the graphic novel. Of course, the source material had to be there for the screenplay to be written in the first place, and I prefer the changes in the film: casting Charlize Theron and James McAvoy, the fantastic soundtrack, the filming locations and general "feel" of Berlin at this time.
If you li I loved Atomic Blonde , so I rewinded to go back to the source material. If you like spy thrillers, give this a glance I am a big fan of graphic novels and as they are a rare commodity these days, I thought I was in for a treat when this book came along, but it was a tad disappointing as the story didn't deliver the tension that is required in any spy novel. Some of the portions just dragged on and weren't in proportion with the story though some parts were appealing. All in all it was a good novel but it could have been much better. Actual Rating: 3.
After watching Atomic Blonde on it's opening weekend, it had made me curious to pick up it's source material. After taking it out and reading it almost straight away, here are my thoughts: - The movie faithful to it's source material for the most part. Instead of feeling like I was gained additional information, I felt like I was revisiting the film in a way Actual Rating: 3.
Instead of feeling like I was gained additional information, I felt like I was revisiting the film in a way which I don't mind because I loved the film! In a way, the movie is an extended version of the story. I love this story! It's the official story that has gotten me into spy thrillers. I couldn't thank it enough for that. Jun 14, Jim rated it liked it Shelves: Loved the spare black and white illustrations but the story left me a little, well, cold.
It's a spy story so obfuscation is part of the game but I didn't feel like I got to know the characters. That said I am all in on the film Atomic Blonde. Shelves: historical-fiction , mystery. It really helped that I am so fluent in French,German and 'murican,otherwise I would be even more confused. Aug 19, CD rated it really liked it Shelves: film , espionage , graphic-novel , read-in , language-other-than-english.
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Sprechen Sie Deutsch, Ja? This is a subtle cold war story told in dark cold tones. Nuance plays an important role in the storytelling both visual and dialogue driven. They compliment each other in most cases. While not an action packed graphic novel, it is a fast moving and rich story if a bit predictable. This is not a superhero story and certainly for other than a young adult audience.
History of the cold war and familiarity with cold war literature, fiction and non, are both prerequisites to a Sprechen Sie Deutsch, Ja? History of the cold war and familiarity with cold war literature, fiction and non, are both prerequisites to a fuller understanding of this story. The connection to the film Atomic Blonde had brought many readers to this work.
They are different in many ways. The main character is radically redrawn for the movie, the visuals are altered to a reverse polarity, and the story is rooted in a different premise with the ending twists also changed. This is intriguing as they, the film and the original story, compliment one another not unlike the storytelling technique previously mentioned. Liest du Deutsch? That is a better question. The Coldest City is partially told via German dialogue. Not entirely 'good' German in places, but mostly effective German. Some of it borders on modern colloquial urban German, some is idiomatic, and places there's a bit of DiploDeutsch that squeaks into the story.
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I'm more than a bit critical having learned various forms of German as a youth including formal instruction by Northern and Southern read Austrian teachers simultaneously. Aug 09, Doug rated it it was ok. I rarely read graphic novels, and - as with most people who have read it in the past month - I only did so with this one since it was the basis of the new film, Atomic Blonde which I have yet to see - I wanted to read it first.
Although a very quick read it can be consumed in under an hour , the story is so convoluted - and to be honest - NOT that interesting, that my enthusiasm for the film has somewhat waned. This was a guilty pleasure. The Coldest City is the graphic novel behind the movie Atomic Blonde. I loved the movie and after watching it a few times, I wanted to see how different the novel was from the movie.
It is different in the details but overall much more similar than I expected. I have also had mixed feelings about graphic novels but this one worked well. Lots of deception, violence, murder, and the like in Cold War Berlin just at the end of the Cold War. I can see why Charlize Theron f This was a guilty pleasure.
I can see why Charlize Theron found the story so attractive. I hope there is a sequel. Shelves: comic-reviews , comics , reviewed. Illustrated with a decidedly minimalist style that is almost harsh in its lo-fi application, details never reach a point of saturation and neither do lines coalesce unto anything eye-catching. Without irises popped and no oracular candy to be savored, grimy angulations never amount to anything memorable nor fantastic. While certainly inching away from anything on the bleak and nihilist side of things, the drawings within remain unbodied and thin in their lack of atmosphere.
Denuded of visible energy, each and every action seems to be perforated with shivs of a stiletto. Part flashback, part-present-time interrogation, our story moves at the speed of a snail and never develops into any significant drama or thrills until at least half-way through it. Disappointingly enough, this turgid intro never evolves a meaningful atmosphere let alone ripens strong characters that are memorable nor emotionally investible. Nope, less Kabuki acting and more automaton-like action unfurls across a narrative draped in an uncompromisingly harsh hue of jet black.
All in all, as I read more and more, I never understood what the buzz was ever about. From boring action to the ever present German while adding a nice period piece feel to it, is kinda lame to be left untranslated for the less linguistically knowledgeable amongst us the Coldest City certainly gave me a cold shoulder that only got frostier that more I read into it. By the time got to the last page, I felt like my mind had been tossed into a freezer and my sensory apparatus chilled off.
None of the Buenos here. Jul 18, Rebecca Watson rated it it was ok Shelves: read-in Like I assume many people, I saw the trailer for Atomic Blonde and wanted to read the book first. While I can see how the story has the bones for what could be a good movie, I wasn't blown away by the book though I have the next volume and will still give it a shot at some point.
My main issue was with the art style, which was high-contrast and sketchy. The art style should serve the story, and while it may have added to the feel of the era, it actually detracted from the story by making it n Like I assume many people, I saw the trailer for Atomic Blonde and wanted to read the book first.
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The art style should serve the story, and while it may have added to the feel of the era, it actually detracted from the story by making it nearly impossible for me to figure out what was going on. There are a lot of characters, all of which look pretty much exactly the same, so at several points there were "reveals" that were just confusing. Who is that guy? Am I supposed to know who that is? The other downside was an end reveal that was telegraphed from the first page. It was obvious, and even worse it was overkill after the previous twists and turns. Finally, it was unearned -- the writing just wasn't strong enough to make me care about it.
I'm hoping the next book is better but I'm saving most of my hopes for the movie, because Charlize Theron murdering people is my jam. Mar 27, Julie rated it really liked it Shelves: cold-war , graphic-novel. Fast-paced and easy to follow despite the twists and turns. The illustrations convey the secretive atmosphere in Berlin at the end of the Cold War. Looking forward to the film version Atomic Blonde of this spy thriller that will be released this summer. Jun 21, Megan Anderson rated it really liked it Shelves: my-library , formystudents , The art was interesting, I liked the framing, and I loved the end.
Since they are connected by this character of my invention I have thought it well, notwithstanding their great length, to put them all together. They are founded on experiences of my own during that war, but I should like to impress upon the reader that they are not what the French call reportage , but works of fiction. Fact, as I said in the preface to the volume in which these stories appeared, is a poor story-teller.
It starts a story at haphazard, generally long before the beginning, rambles on inconsequently and tails off, leaving loose ends hanging about, without a conclusion. The work of an agent in the Intelligence Department is on the whole monotonous. A lot of it is uncommonly useless. The material it offers for stories is scrappy and pointless; the author has himself to make it coherent, dramatic and probable.
That is what I have tried to do in this particular series. There is one more point I want to make. The reader will notice that many of my stories are written in the first person singular. That is a literary convention which is as old as the hills. Its object is of course to achieve credibility, for when someone tells you what he states happened to himself you are more likely to believe that he is telling the truth than when he tells you what happened to somebody else.
It has besides the merit from the story-teller's point of view that he need only tell you what he knows for a fact and can leave to your imagination what he doesn't or couldn't know. Some of the older novelists who wrote in the first person were in this respect very careless. They would narrate long conversations that they couldn't possibly have heard and incidents which in the nature of things they couldn't possibly have witnessed.
Thus they lost the great advantage of verisimilitude which writing in the first person singular offers. But the I who writes is just as much a character in the story as the other persons with whom it is concerned. He may be the hero or he may be an onlooker or a confidant. But he is a character. The writer who uses this device is writing fiction and if he makes the I of his story a little quicker on the uptake, a little more level-headed, a little shrewder, a little braver, a little more ingenious, a little wittier, a little wiser than he, the writer, really is, the reader must show indulgence.
He must remember that the author is not drawing a faithful portrait of himself, but creating a character for the particular purposes of his story. I had known the Blands a long time before I discovered that they had any connection with Ferdy Rabenstein. Ferdy must have been nearly fifty when I first knew him and at the time of which I write he was well over seventy. He had altered little. His hair, coarse but abundant and curly, was white, but he had kept his figure and held himself as gallantly as ever.
It was not hard to believe that in youth he had been as beautiful as people said. He had still his fine Semitic profile and the lustrous black eyes that had caused havoc in so many a Gentile breast. He was very tall, lean, with an oval face and a clear skin.
He wore his clothes very well and in evening dress, even now, he was one of the handsomest men I had ever seen. He wore then large black pearls in his shirt-front and platinum and sapphire rings on his fingers. Perhaps he was rather flashy, but you felt it was so much in character that it would have ill become him to be anything else. I have often thought that Ferdy Rabenstein would make an admirable subject for a biography.
He was not a great man, but within the limits he set himself he made of his life a work of art. It was a masterpiece in little, like a Persian miniature, and derived its interest from its perfection. Unfortunately the materials are scanty. They would consist of letters that may very well have been destroyed and the recollections of people who are old now and will soon be dead. His memory is extraordinary, but he would never write his memoirs, for he looks upon his past as a source of purely private entertainment; and he is a man of the most perfect discretion.
Nor do I know anyone who could do justice to the subject but Max Beerbohm. There is no one else in this hard world of to-day who can look upon the trivial with such tender sympathy and wring such a delicate pathos from futility. I wonder that Max, who must have known Ferdy much better than I, and long before, was never tempted to exercise his exquisite fancy on such a theme.
He was born for Max to write about. And who should have illustrated the elegant book that I see in my mind's eye but Aubrey Beardsley? Thus would have been erected a monument of triple brass and the ephemera imprisoned to succeeding ages in the amber's translucency. Ferdy's conquests were social and his venue was the great world.
He was born in South Africa and did not come to England till he was twenty. For some time he was on the Stock Exchange, but on the death of his father he inherited a considerable fortune, and retiring from business devoted himself to the life of a man about town.
At that period English society was still a closed body and it was not easy for a Jew to force its barriers, but to Ferdy they fell like the walls of Jericho. He was handsome, he was rich, he was a sportsman and he was good company. He had a house in Curzon Street, furnished with the most beautiful French furniture, and a French chef, and a brougham.
It would be interesting to know the first steps in his wonderful career: they are lost in the dark abysm of time. When I first met him he had been long established as one of the smartest men in London: this was at a very grand house in Norfolk to which I had been asked as a promising young novelist by the hostess who took an interest in letters, but the company was very distinguished and I was overawed.
We were sixteen, and I felt shy and alone among these Cabinet Ministers, great ladies and peers of the realm who talked of people and things of which I knew nothing. They were civil to me, but indifferent, and I was conscious that I was somewhat of a burden to my hostess. Ferdy saved me. He sat with me, walked with me and talked with me.
He discovered that I was a writer and we discussed the drama and the novel; he learnt that I had lived much on the Continent and he talked to me pleasantly of France, Germany and Spain. He seemed really to seek my society. He gave me the flattering impression that he and I stood apart from the other members of the company and by our conversation upon affairs of the spirit made that of the rest of them, the political situation, the scandal of somebody's divorce and the growing disinclination of pheasants to be killed, seem a little ridiculous.
But if Ferdy had at the bottom of his heart a feeling of ever so faint a contempt for the hearty British gentry that surrounded us I am sure that it was only to me that he allowed an inkling of it to appear, and looking back I cannot but wonder whether it was not after all a suave and very delicate compliment that he paid me. I think of course that he liked to exercise his charm and I dare say the obvious pleasure his conversation gave me gratified him, but he could have had no motive for taking so much trouble over an obscure novelist other than his real interest in art and letters.
I felt that he and I at bottom were equally alien in that company, I because I was a writer and he because he was a Jew, but I envied the ease with which he bore himself. He was completely at home. Everyone called him Ferdy. He seemed to be always in good spirits. He was never at a loss for a quip, a jest or a repartee. They liked him in that house because he made them laugh, but never made them uncomfortable by talking over their heads.
He brought a faint savour of Oriental romance into their lives, but so cleverly that they only felt more English. You could never be dull when he was by and with him present you were safe from the fear of the devastating silences that sometimes overwhelm a British company. A pause looked inevitable and Ferdy Rabenstein had broken into a topic that interested everyone. An invaluable asset to any party. He had an inexhaustible fund of Jewish stories. He was a very good mimic and he assumed the Yiddish accent and reproduced the Jewish gestures to perfection; his head sank into his body, his face grew cunning, his voice oily, and he was a rabbi or an old clothes merchant or a smart commercial traveller or a fat procuress in Frankfort.
It was as good as a play. Because he was himself a Jew and insisted on it you laughed without reserve, but for my own part not without an under-current of discomfort. I was not quite sure of a sense of humour that made such cruel fun of his own race. I discovered afterwards that Jewish stories were his speciality and I seldom met him anywhere without hearing him tell sooner or later the last he had heard.
But the best story he told me on this occasion was not a Jewish one. It struck me so that I have never forgotten it, but for one reason or another I have never had occasion to tell it again. I give it here because it is a curious little incident concerning persons whose names at least will live in the social history of the Victorian Era and I think it would be a pity if it were lost. He told me then that once when quite a young man he was staying in the country in a house where Mrs.
Langtry, at that time at the height of her beauty and astounding reputation, was also a guest. It happened to be within driving distance of that in which lived the Duchess of Somerset, who had been Queen of Beauty at the Eglinton Tournament, and knowing her slightly, it occurred to him that it would be interesting to bring the two women together.
He suggested it to Mrs. Langtry, who was willing, and forthwith wrote to the Duchess asking if he might bring the celebrated beauty to call on her. It was fitting, he said, that the loveliest woman of this generation this was in the 'eighties should pay her respects to the loveliest woman of the last.
Langtry in a close-fitting blue bonnet with long satin strings, which showed the fine shape of her head and made her blue eyes even bluer, and were received by a little ugly old hag who looked with irony out of her beady eyes at the radiant beauty who had come to see her. They had tea, they talked and they drove home again.
Langtry was very silent and when Ferdy looked at her he saw that she was quietly weeping. When they got back to the house she went to her room and would not come down to dinner that night. For the first time she had realised that beauty dies. Ferdy asked me for my address and a few days after I got back to London invited me to dinner.
There were only six of us, an American woman married to an English peer, a Swedish painter, an actress and a well-known critic. We ate very good food and drank excellent wine. The conversation was easy and intelligent. After dinner Ferdy was persuaded to play the piano. He only played Viennese waltzes, I discovered later that they were his speciality, and the light, tuneful and sensual music seemed to accord well with his discreet flamboyance. He played without affectation, with a lilt, and he had a graceful touch. This was the first of a good many dinners I had with him, he would ask me two or three times a year, and as time passed I met him more and more frequently at other people's houses.
I rose in the world and perhaps he came down a little. Of late years I had sometimes found him at parties where other Jews were and I fancied that I read in his shining liquid eyes, resting for a moment on these members of his race, a certain good-natured amusement at the thought of what the world was coming to. There were people who said he was a snob, but I do not think he was; it just happened that in his early days he had never met any but the great. He had a real passion for art and in his commerce with those that produced it was at his best.
With them he had never that faint air of persiflage which when he was with very grand persons made you suspect that he was never quite the dupe of their grandeur. His taste was perfect and many of his friends were glad to avail themselves of his knowledge. He was one of the first to value old furniture and he rescued many a priceless piece from the attics of ancestral mansions and gave it an honourable place in the drawing-room.
It amused him to saunter round the auction rooms and he was always willing to give his advice to great ladies who desired at once to acquire a beautiful thing and make a profitable investment. He was rich and good-natured. He liked to patronise the arts and would take a great deal of trouble to get commissions for some young painter whose talent he admired or an engagement to play at a rich man's house for a violinist who could in no other way get a hearing. But he never let his rich man down.
His taste was too good to deceive and civil though he might be to the mediocre he would not lift a finger to help them. His own musical parties, very small and carefully chosen, were a treat. There's no harm in going to the opera in a dinner jacket, but it just would never occur to me to do so. I did not hear this conversation, but the lively and audacious creature who thus tackled him told me of it.
I could not bear the thought of peopling the world with a little Ikey and a little Jacob and a little Rebecca and a little Leah and a little Rachel. But he had had affairs of note and the glamour of past romance still clung to him. He was in his youth of an amorous complexion. I have met old ladies who told me that he was irresistible, and when in reminiscent mood they talked to me of this woman and that who had completely lost her head over him, I divined that, such was his beauty, they could not find it in their hearts to blame them.
It was interesting to hear of great ladies that I had read of in the memoirs of the day or had met as respectable dowagers garrulous over their grandsons at Eton or making a mess of a hand at bridge and bethink myself that they had been consumed with sinful passion for the handsome Jew. Ferdy's most notorious amour was with the Duchess of Hereford, the loveliest, the most gallant and dashing of the beauties of the end of Queen Victoria's reign. It lasted for twenty years. He had doubtless flirtations meanwhile, but their relations were stable and recognised.
It was proof of his marvellous tact that when at last they ended he exchanged an ageing mistress for a loyal friend. I remember meeting the pair not so very long ago at luncheon.
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She was an old woman, tall and of a commanding presence, but with a mask of paint on a ravaged face. We were lunching at the Carlton and Ferdy, our host, came a few minutes late. He offered us a cocktail and the Duchess told him we had already had one. My youth passed, I grew middle-aged, I wondered how soon I must begin to describe myself as elderly; I wrote books and plays, I travelled, I underwent experiences, I fell in love and out of it; and still I kept meeting Ferdy at parties. War broke out and was waged, millions of men were killed and the face of the world was changed.
Ferdy did not like the war. He was too old to take part in it, and his German name was awkward, but he was discreet and took care not to expose himself to humiliation. His old friends were faithful to him and he lived in a dignified but not too strict seclusion. But then peace came and with courage he set himself to making the best of changed conditions. Society was mixed now, parties were rowdy, but Ferdy fitted himself to the new life. He still told his funny Jewish stories, he still played charmingly the waltzes of Strauss, he still went round auction rooms and told the new rich what they ought to buy.
I went to live abroad, but whenever I was in London I saw Ferdy and now there was something a little uncanny in him. He did not give in. He had never known a day's illness. He seemed never to grow tired. He still dressed beautifully. He was interested in everybody. His mind was alert and people asked him to dinner, not for old times' sake, but because he was worth his salt. He still gave charming little concerts at his house in Curzon Street. It was when he invited me to one of these that I made the discovery that started the recollections of him I have here set down. We were dining at a house in Hill Street, a large party, and the women having gone upstairs Ferdy and I found ourselves side by side.
He told me that Lea Makart was coming to play for him on the following Friday evening and he would be glad if I would come. But I will not conceal from you that he was named Adolf. She was the eldest of the family. She's eighty, but in full possession of her faculties and a remarkable woman.
She has never lost her German accent. I am such a Jew and they are so English. I used to come out with an Adolf or a Miriam at awkward moments. And they didn't like my stories. It was better that we should not meet. When the war broke out and I would not change my name it was the last straw. It was too late, I could never have accustomed my friends to think of me as anything but Ferdy Rabenstein; I was quite content.
I was not ambitious to be a Smith, a Brown or a Robinson. Though he spoke facetiously, there was in his tone the faintest possible derision and I felt, hardly felt even, the sensation was so shadowy, that, as it had often vaguely seemed to me before, there was in the depth of his impenetrable heart a cynical contempt for the Gentiles he had conquered. I don't think he's so clever as Harry, the other one, but he's an engaging youth. I think you'd like him. He wouldn't go into the army, which is what they wanted.
They rather fancied the Guards. And so he went to Oxford instead. He didn't work and he spent a great deal of money and he painted the town red. It was all quite normal. At that moment our host rose and we went upstairs. When Ferdy bade me good-night he asked me not to forget about his great-nephew. Next day I went down to Tilby. It was an Elizabethan mansion standing in a spacious park, in which roamed fallow deer, and from its windows you had wide views of rolling downs.
It seemed to me that as far as the eye could reach the land belonged to the Blands. His tenants must have found Sir Adolphus a wonderful landlord, for I never saw farms kept in such order, the barns and cow-sheds were spick and span and the pigsties were a picture; the public-houses looked like old English water-colours and the cottages he had built on the estate combined admirably picturesqueness and convenience.
It must have cost him a pot of money to run the place on these lines. Fortunately he had it. The park with its grand old trees and its nine-hole golf course was tended like a garden, and the wide-stretching gardens were the pride of the neighbourhood. The magnificent house, with its steep roofs and mullioned windows, had been restored by the most celebrated architect in England and furnished by Lady Bland, with taste and knowledge, in a style that perfectly fitted it.
The dining-room was adorned with old English sporting pictures and the Chippendale chairs were of incredible value. Even in my bedroom with its four-post bed were water-colours by Birket Foster. It was very beautiful and a treat to stay there, but though it would have distressed Muriel Bland beyond anything to know it, it entirely missed oddly enough the effect she had sought. It did not give you for a moment the impression of an English house.
You had the feeling that every object had been bought with a careful eye to the general scheme.
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You missed the dull Academy portraits that hung in the dining-room beside a Carlo Dolci that an ancestor had brought back from the grand tour, and the water-colours painted by a great-aunt that cluttered up the drawing-room so engagingly. There was no ugly Victorian sofa that had always been there and that it never occurred to anybody to take away and no needlework chairs that an unmarried daughter had so painstakingly worked at about the time of the Great Exhibition. There was beauty but no sentiment. And yet how comfortable it was and how well looked after you were!
And what a cordial greeting the Blands gave you! They seemed really to like people. They were generous and kindly. They were never happier than when they were entertaining the county, and though they had not owned the property for more than twenty years they had established themselves firmly in the favour of their neighbours. Except perhaps in their splendour and the competent way in which the estate was run there was nothing to suggest that they had not been settled there for centuries.
Freddy had been at Eton and Oxford. He was now in the early fifties. He was quiet in manner, courtly, very clever, I imagine, but a trifle reserved. He had great elegance, but it was not an English elegance; he had grey hair and a short pointed grey beard, fine dark eyes and an aquiline nose. He was just above middle height; I don't think you would have taken him for a Jew, but rather for a foreign diplomat of some distinction. He was a man of character, but gave you, strangely enough, notwithstanding the success he had had in life, an impression of faint melancholy. His successes had been financial and political; in the world of sport, for all his perseverance, he had never shone.
For many years he had followed hounds, but he was a bad rider and I think it must have been a relief to him when he could persuade himself that middle age and pressure of business forced him to give up hunting. He had excellent shooting and gave grand parties for it, but he was a poor shot; and despite the course in his park he never succeeded in being more than an indifferent golfer. He knew only too well how much these things meant in England and his incapacity was a bitter disappointment to him.
However George would make up for it. George was scratch at golf, and though tennis was not his game he played much better than the average; the Blands had had him taught to shoot as soon as he was old enough to hold a gun and he was a fine shot; they had put him on a pony when he was two and Freddy, watching him mount his horse, knew that out hunting when the boy came to a fence he felt exhilaration and not that sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach which, though he had chased the fox with such grim determination, had always made the sport a torture to him.
George was so tall and slim, his curly hair, of a palish brown, was so fine, his eyes were so blue, he was the perfect type of the young Englishman. He had the engaging candour of the breed. His nose was straight, though perhaps a trifle fleshy, and his lips were perhaps a little full and sensual, but he had beautiful teeth, and his smooth skin was like ivory. George was the apple of his father's eye. He did not like Harry, his second son, so well. He was rather stocky, broad-shouldered and strong for his age, but his black eyes, shining with cleverness, his coarse dark hair and his big nose revealed his race.
Freddy was severe with him, and often impatient, but with George he was all indulgence. Harry would go into the business, he had brains and push, but George was the heir. George would be an English gentleman. George had offered to motor me down in the roadster his father had given him as a birthday present. He drove very fast and we arrived before the rest of the guests. The Blands were sitting on the lawn and tea was laid out under a magnificent cedar. I had not mentioned the invitation to George on the way because I thought that if there had been a family coldness I had better address his parents as well.
The conversation was broken off by the arrival of other guests and in a little while George went off to play golf with one of his Oxford friends. It was not till next day that the matter was referred to again. I had played an unsatisfactory round with Freddy Bland in the morning and several sets of what is known as country-house tennis in the afternoon and was sitting alone with Muriel on the terrace. In England we have so much bad weather that it is only fair that a beautiful day should be more beautiful than anywhere in the world and this June evening was perfect.
The blue sky was cloudless and the air was balmy; before us stretched green rolling downs, and woods, and in the distance you saw the red roofs of a little village church. It was a day when to be alive was sufficient happiness. Detached lines of poetry hovered vaguely in my memory. Muriel and I had been chatting desultorily. Freddy never forgave him for his behaviour during the war. So unpatriotic, I thought, and one really must draw the line somewhere. You know, he absolutely refused to drop his horrible German name. With Freddy in Parliament and running munitions and all that sort of thing it was quite impossible.
I don't know why he should want to see George. He can't mean anything to him. Of course I didn't care a row of pins whether George went to lunch with Ferdy Rabenstein, and I was quite willing to let the matter drop, but evidently the Elands had talked it over and Muriel felt that some explanation was due to me. She looked at me sharply. Muriel was rather a big blonde woman and she spent a great deal of time trying to keep down the corpulence to which she was predisposed. She had been very pretty when young and even now was a comely person; but her round blue eyes, slightly prominent, her fleshy nose, the shape of her face and the back of her neck, her exuberant manner, betrayed her race.
No Englishwoman, however fair-haired, ever looked like that. And yet her observation was designed to make me take it for granted that she was a Gentile. I answered discreetly:. But there's no reason to dwell on it, is there? After all, we're absolutely English; no one could be more English than George, in appearance and manner and everything; I mean, he's such a fine sportsman and all that sort of thing, I can't see any object in his knowing Jews just because they happen to be distant connections of his.
They're so artistic. I don't go so far as to say that Freddy and I deliberately avoid them, of course I wouldn't do that, but it just happens that we don't really know any of them very well. And down here, there simply aren't any to know. I could not but admire the convincing manner in which she spoke. It would not have surprised me to be told that she really believed every word she said.
Well, I don't believe it's so very much anyway; it was quite a comfortable fortune before the war, but that's nothing nowadays. Besides we're hoping that George will go in for politics when he's a little older, and I don't think it would do him any good in the constituency to inherit money from a Mr. After all, there's the family constituency waiting for him. It's a safe Conservative seat and one can't expect Freddy to go on with the grind of the House of Commons indefinitely.
Muriel was grand. She talked already of the constituency as though twenty generations of Elands had sat for it. Her remark, however, was my first intimation that Freddy's ambition was not satisfied. Muriel was a Catholic and she often told you that she had been educated in a convent--"Such sweet women, those nuns, I always said that if I had a daughter I should have sent her to a convent too"--but she liked her servants to be Church of England, and on Sunday evenings we had what was called supper because the fish was cold and there was ice-cream, so that they could go to church, and we were waited on by two footmen instead of four.
It was still light when we finished and Freddy and I, smoking our cigars, walked up and down the terrace in the gloaming. I suppose Muriel had told him of her conversation with me, and it may be that his refusal to let George see his great-uncle still troubled him, but being subtler than she he attacked the question more indirectly. He told me that he had been very much worried about George.
It had been a great disappointment that he had refused to go into the army. He had been completely idle at Oxford; although his father had given him a very large allowance, he had got monstrously into debt; and now he had been sent down. But though he spoke so tartly I could see that he was not a little proud of his scapegrace son, he loved him with oh, such an un-English love, and in his heart it flattered him that George had cut such a dash.
I always think the only important thing about Oxford is that people know you were there, and I dare say that George isn't any wilder than the other young men in his set. It's the future I'm thinking of. He's so damned idle. He doesn't seem to want to do anything but have a good time. He seems to spend most of his time strumming the piano. You see, all this will be his one day. His mother is very ambitious for him, but I only want him to be an English gentleman. Freddy gave me a sidelong glance as though he wanted to say something but hesitated in case I thought it ridiculous; but there is one advantage in being a writer that, since people look upon you as of no account, they will often say things to you that they would not to their equals.
He thought he would risk it. I think his life has the beauty of a work of art. I could not but smile when I reflected that it was impossible for the English country gentleman in these days to do anything of the sort without a packet of money safely invested in American Bonds, but I smiled with sympathy. I thought it rather touching that this Jewish financier should cherish so romantic a dream. I want him to take his part in the affairs of the country.
I want him to be a thorough sportsman. He's suggested going to Germany to learn the language. So on Wednesday at half-past one I strolled round to Curzon Street. Ferdy received me with the somewhat elaborate graciousness that he cultivated. He made no reference to the Blands. We sat in the drawing-room and I could not help reflecting what an eye for beautiful objects that family had. The room was more crowded than the fashion of to-day approves and the gold snuffboxes in vitrines, the French china, appealed to a taste that was not mine; but they were no doubt choice pieces; and the Louis XV suite, with its beautiful petit point , must have been worth an enormous lot of money.
The pictures on the walls by Lancret, Pater and Watteau did not greatly interest me, but I recognised their intrinsic excellence. It was a proper setting for this aged man of the world. It fitted his period. Suddenly the door opened and George was announced. Ferdy saw my surprise and gave me a little smile of triumph. I saw him in a glance take in his great-nephew whom he saw to-day for the first time. George was very well dressed. He wore a short black coat, striped trousers and the grey double-breasted waistcoat which at that time was the mode.
You could only wear it with elegance if you were tall and thin and your belly was slightly concave. I felt sure that Ferdy knew exactly who George's tailor was and what haberdasher he went to and approved of them. George, so smart and trim, wearing his clothes so beautifully, certainly looked very handsome. We went down to luncheon. Ferdy had the social graces at his fingers' ends and he put the boy at his ease, but I saw that he was carefully appraising him; then, I do not know why, he began to tell some of his Jewish stories.
He told them with gusto and with his wonderful mimicry. I saw George flush, and though he laughed at them, I could see that it was with embarrassment. I wondered what on earth had induced Ferdy to be so tactless. But he was watching George and he told story after story. It looked as though he would never stop. I wondered if for some reason I could not grasp he was taking a malicious pleasure in the boy's obvious discomfiture.
At last we went upstairs and to make things easier I asked Ferdy to play the piano. He played us three or four little waltzes. He had lost none of his exquisite lightness nor his sense of their lilting rhythm. Then he turned to George. Ferdy smiled slightly, but did not insist. I said it was time for me to go and George accompanied me. He chuckled. He was a light-hearted creature, with a sense of humour, and he shook off the slight irritation his great-uncle had caused him. Granny said I was to go to lunch with great-uncle Ferdy and what Granny says goes.
A week or two later George went to Munich to learn German. I happened then to go on a journey and it was not till the following spring that I was again in London. Soon after my arrival I found myself sitting next to Muriel Bland at dinner. I asked after George. She was less exuberant than usual, but I did not pay much attention to the fact. She led a strenuous life and it might be that she was tired.
I knew she liked to talk of her son, so I continued. She did not answer for a moment and I gave her a glance. I was surprised to see that her eyes were filled with tears. I don't know what we're going to do. Of course it immediately occurred to me that George, who, I supposed, like most young Englishmen sent to learn the language, had been put with a German family, had fallen in love with the daughter of the house and wanted to marry her.
I had a pretty strong suspicion that the Blands were intent on his making a very grand marriage. We didn't know anything about it. We thought he was working for his exam. I went out to see him. I thought I'd like to know that he was getting on all right. Oh, my dear. He looks like nothing on earth. And he used to be so smart; I could have cried.
He told me he wasn't going in for the exam, and had never had any intention of doing so; he'd only suggested the diplomatic service so that we'd let him go to Germany and he'd be able to study music. Even if he had the genius of Paderewski we couldn't have George traipsing around the country playing at concerts. No one can deny that I'm very artistic, and so is Freddy, we love music and we've always known a lot of artists, but George will have a very great position, it's out of the question. We've set our hearts on his going into Parliament.
He'll be very rich one day. There's nothing he can't aspire to. He laughed at me. I told him he'd break his father's heart. He said his father could always fall back on Harry. Of course I'm devoted to Harry, and he's as clever as a monkey, but it was always understood that he was to go into the business; even though I am his mother I can see that he hasn't got the advantages that George has. Do you know what he said to me?
He said that if his father would settle five pounds a week on him he would resign everything in Harry's favour and Harry could be his father's heir and succeed to the baronetcy and everything. It's too ridiculous. He said that if the Crown Prince of Roumania could abdicate a throne he didn't see why he couldn't abdicate a baronetcy. But you can't do that. Nothing can prevent him from being third baronet and if Freddy should be granted a peerage from succeeding to it at Freddy's death.
Do you know, he even wants to drop the name of Bland and take some horrible German name. That was a name I recognised. It was all very strange. I wondered what had happened to the charming and so typically English boy whom I had seen only a few months before. I've never seen him so angry.
He foamed at the mouth. He wired to George to come back immediately and George wired back to say he couldn't on account of his work. That's the maddening part of it. He never did a stroke of work in his life. Freddy used to say he was born idle. You don't know what Freddy can be when his back is up. I knew that Freddy had inherited a large fortune, but I knew also that he had immensely increased it, and I could well imagine that behind the courteous and amiable Squire of Tilby there was a ruthless man of affairs. He had been used to having his own way and I could believe that when crossed he would be hard and cruel.
We didn't think he'd be able to hold out long and in point of fact within a month he wrote to Ferdy and asked him to lend him a hundred pounds. Ferdy went to my mother-in-law, she's his sister, you know, and asked her what it meant. Though they hadn't spoken for twenty years Freddy went to see him and begged him not to send George a penny, and he promised he wouldn't. I don't know how George has been making both ends meet.
I'm sure Freddy's right, but I can't help being rather worried. If I hadn't given Freddy my word of honour that I wouldn't send him anything I think I'd have slipped a few notes in a letter in case of accident. I mean, it's awful to think that perhaps he hasn't got enough to eat. We'd made all sorts of preparations for his coming of age, and I'd issued hundreds of invitations. Suddenly George said he wouldn't come. I was simply frantic. I wrote and wired. I would have gone over to Germany only Freddy wouldn't let me.
I practically went down on my bended knees to George. I begged him not to put us in such a humiliating position. I mean, it's the sort of thing it's so difficult to explain. Then my mother-in-law stepped in. You don't know her, do you? She's an extraordinary old woman. You'd never think she was Freddy's mother. She was German originally, but of very good family. She tackled Freddy and then she wrote to George herself. She said that if he'd come home for his twenty-first birthday she'd pay any debts he had in Munich and we'd all give a patient hearing to anything he had to say.
He agreed to that and we're expecting him one day next week. But I'm not looking forward to it, I can tell you. The damned fool! I have no patience with him. Fancy wanting to be a pianist. It's so ungentlemanly. I've been much too indulgent. There's never been a thing he wanted that I haven't given him. I'll learn him. The Blands had a discreet apprehension of the uses of advertisement and I gathered from the papers that the celebrations at Tilby of George's twenty-first birthday were conducted in accordance with the usage of English county families.
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There was a dinner-party and a ball for the gentry and a collation and a dance in marquees on the lawn for the tenants. Expensive bands were brought down from London. In the illustrated papers were pictures of George surrounded by his family being presented with a solid silver tea-set by the tenantry. They had subscribed to have his portrait painted, but since his absence from the country had made it impossible for him to sit, the tea-service had been substituted. I could not help observing that these gifts were bulky and not readily convertible into cash.
From Ferdy's presence at the festivities I concluded that George's unaccountable vagary had effected a reconciliation between uncle and nephew. I was right. Ferdy did not at all like the notion of his great-nephew becoming a professional pianist. At the first hint of danger to its prestige the family drew together and a united front was presented to oppose George's designs.
Since I was not there I only know from hearsay what happened when the birthday celebrations were over. Ferdy told me something and so did Muriel, and later George gave me his version. The Blands had very much the impression that when George came home and found himself occupying the centre of the stage, when, surrounded by splendour, he saw for himself once more how much it meant to be the heir of a great estate, he would weaken. They surrounded him with love. They flattered him. They hung on his words. They counted on the goodness of his heart and thought that if they were very kind to him he would not have the courage to cause them pain.
They seemed to take it for granted that he had no intention of going back to Germany and in conversation included him in all their plans. George did not say very much. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He did not open a piano. Things looked as though they were going very well. Peace descended on the troubled house. Then one day at luncheon when they were discussing a garden-party to which they had all been asked for one day of the following week, George said pleasantly:. There was an awful pause.
Everyone looked for something to say, but was afraid of saying the wrong thing, and at last it seemed impossible to break it. Luncheon was finished in silence. There was a family council. Muriel wept. Freddy flew into a temper. Presently from the drawing-room they heard the sound of someone playing a nocturne of Chopin. It was George. It was as though now he had announced his decision he had gone for comfort, rest and strength to the instrument he loved. Freddy sprang to his feet. Bland that her ladyship has a bad headache and would he mind not playing the piano.
Ferdy, the man of the world, was deputed to have a talk with George. He was authorised to make him certain promises if he would give up the idea of becoming a pianist. If he did not wish to go into the diplomatic service his father would not insist, but if he would stand for Parliament he was prepared to pay his election expenses, give him a flat in London and make him an allowance of five thousand a year.
I must say it was a handsome offer. I do not know what Ferdy said to the boy. I suppose he painted to him the life that a young man could lead in London on such an income. I am sure he made it very alluring. It availed nothing. All George asked was five pounds a week to be able to continue his studies and to be left alone. He was indifferent to the position that he might some day enjoy. He didn't want to hunt. He didn't want to shoot. He didn't want to be a Member of Parliament.
He didn't want to be a millionaire. He didn't want to be a baronet. He didn't want to be a peer. Ferdy left him defeated and in a state of considerable exasperation. After dinner that evening there was a battle royal. Freddy was a quick-tempered man, unused to opposition, and he gave George the rough side of his tongue. I gather that it was very rough indeed. The women who sought to restrain his violence were sternly silenced. Perhaps for the first time in his life Freddy would not listen to his mother. George was obstinate and sullen. He had made up his mind and if his father didn't like it he could lump it.
Freddy was peremptory. He forbade George to go back to Germany. George answered that he was twenty-one and his own master.
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He would go where he chose. Freddy swore he would not give him a penny. And aren't you a Jewess and isn't daddy a Jew? We're all Jews, the whole gang of us, and everyone knows it and what the hell's the good of pretending we're not? Then a very dreadful thing happened. Freddy burst suddenly into tears. I'm afraid he didn't behave very much like Sir Adolphus Bland, Bart.
He cried noisily with great loud sobs and pulled his beard and beat his breast and rocked to and fro. Then they all began to cry, old Lady Bland and Muriel, and Ferdy, who sniffed and blew his nose and wiped the tears streaming down his face, and even George cried. Of course it was very painful, but to our rough Anglo-Saxon temperament I am afraid it must seem also a trifle ridiculous. No one tried to console anybody else. They just sobbed and sobbed. It broke up the party. But it had no result on the situation. George remained obdurate.
His father would not speak to him. There were more scenes. Muriel sought to excite his pity; he was deaf to her piteous entreaties, he did not seem to mind if he broke her heart, he did not care two hoots if he killed his father. Ferdy appealed to him as a sportsman and a man of the world. George was flippant and indeed personally offensive. Old Lady Bland with her guttural German accent and strong common-sense argued with him, but he would not listen to reason.
It was she, however, who at last found a way out. She made George acknowledge that it was no use to throw away all the beautiful things the world laid at his feet unless he had talent. Of course he thought he had, but he might be mistaken. It was not worth while to be a second-rate pianist.
His only excuse, his only justification, was genius. If he had genius his family had no right to stand in his way. This was the proposition she made. His father was determined to give him nothing and obviously they could not let the boy starve. He had mentioned five pounds a week. Well, she was willing to give him that herself. He could go back to Germany and study for two years. At the end of that time he must come back and they would get some competent and disinterested person to hear him play, and if then that person said he showed promise of becoming a first-rate pianist no further obstacles would be placed in his way.
He would be given every advantage, help and encouragement. If on the other hand that person decided that his natural gifts were not such as to ensure ultimate success he must promise faithfully to give up all thoughts of making music his profession and in every way accede to his father's wishes. George could hardly believe his ears. He gave her his solemn word of honour that he would faithfully abide-by the terms of the arrangement.
Two days later he went back to Germany. Though his father consented unwillingly to his going, and indeed could not help doing so, he would not be reconciled to him and when he left refused to say good-bye to him. I imagine that in no manner could he have caused himself such pain. I permit myself a trite remark. It is strange that men, inhabitants for so short a while of an alien and inhuman world should go out of their way to cause themselves so much unhappiness.
George had stipulated that during his two years of study his family should not visit him, so that when Muriel heard some months before he was due to come home that I was passing through Munich on my way to Vienna, whither business called me, it was not unnatural that she should ask me to look him up. She was anxious to have first-hand information about him. She gave me George's address and I wrote ahead, telling him I was spending a day in Munich, and asked him to lunch with me. His answer awaited me at the hotel.
He said he worked all day and could not spare the time to lunch with me, but if I would come to his studio about six he would like so show me that and if I had nothing better to do would love to spend the evening with me. So soon after six I went to the address he gave me. He lived on the second floor of a large block of flats and when I came to his door I heard the sound of piano-playing. It stopped when I rang and George opened the door for me.
I hardly recognised him. He had grown very fat. His hair was extremely long, it curled all over his head in picturesque confusion; and he had certainly not shaved for three days. He wore a grimy pair of Oxford bags, a tennis shirt and slippers. He was not very clean and his finger-nails were rimmed with black. It was a startling change from the spruce, slim youth so elegantly dressed in such beautiful clothes that I had last seen.