To prove this I slathered on my thickest southern accent. Even if they did know some English it would be difficult for them to discern one word out of twenty I should think. Much like listening to a man with a thick molasses sticking his lips and constricting his tongue. I could have laughed, Hildebrand, but I did not. One can never be sure of Germans temperaments, unless that German in question is you.
Our train trundled north, flitting past any number of small towns. I must say these German trains aren’t really up to the job of creating luxury, are they? I suppose you have us to thank for that, as well as the French. But the train seemed to lurch at times and nearly come off its tracks, don’t know whether this was the truth about it, but sure felt that way–gave me a lurch of the stomach each time it happened.
I asked Walt Whitman what a man from York should be doing in Germany of all places.
Told me he had been writer in residence at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munchen.
In Bavaria? I aske him.
That was, he said, where Munchen was, yes.
But that was where. . . I trialed off.
I did not want to draw attention to myself, Hildebrand. I know you do not hold it against me, but one cannot be too careful when in my position. Not all Germans are as speculative concerning the chancellor as you, and if the mutterings among my people are bear more than an ounce of truth I did will to keep my mouth shut.
Despite my discretion Walt Whitman seemed to know what I was going to say, for he nodded, his white beard flouncing suddenly for one of the officers had simultaneously opened a window to let a continuous stream of fresh air in.
That is why I have chosen to leave, the old man told me.
I wasn’t completely sure what he meant, and told him so.
He informed me that just some weeks ago the chancellor, as well as all of Germany, had prohibited all but writers of the Arian persuasion from publishing.
A shock to me, I assure you. And even though you know me to by a pessimistic man, I still don’t quite believe what I say until it happens. An odd quality of mine, to be sure.
But surely, I said, this would not harm his own chances.
Walt Whitman never gave a look such as this man gave me. It was half cold and aggravated and half sympathetic. It made me feel as if I’d just fallen from the storks grip and didn’t know a thing about the world, Hildebrand. Yes, I may be young, but still, I am a wise man for my years.
The old man who was surely not Walt Whitman told me his conscience would not permit him to stay in a country heading in such a direction.
I told him my situation was similar and that I was catching a White Star steamer to the Americas. Wished me luck, but he’d be stopping in Liverpool.
The train swept into Hamburg and grinded to a halt. The station was dirty, which, in after thought was indicative of the city as a whole. Ship builders, Hildebrand, are not a pleasant bunch. Crude in the extreme–though that might just be they way they speak German, a language that sounds crude much of the time be default.
I exited the train and scattering pigeons about I walked out of the station my trench billowing up in spring wind, not quite warm.
I made my way onto Klosterwall and headed south enough to aim toward the river. I asked a woman carrying a babe–in my broken German, of course–where the ships might be leaving from. She pointed me in what she believe to be the right direction, though with the awkward exchange I couldn’t be certain.
I came to a path along the river in time. My God, Hildebrand, the number of boats the Elbe can hold is nothing short of astonishing. The industry the chancellor has inspired is not to be underestimated. If his social views are misguided, and indeed, they are, let it not be said that his talents for industrialization were lacking.
The sounds of grinding and welding and the shouts of working men filled my ears. The smell water and adventure mixed with the choke of the working.