Chapter 22: Wall Street Swastika: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
“My word!” the art director exclaimed. “What the times are coming to!” he shook his head as he continued forward up the stairs towards Dora’s cabin. “First you have the stock market crash in New York. Then everything else starts falling apart like a domino effect. It seems like the social order is breaking down if you ask me.”
The art director did not know how close he was to putting his finger on what was really going on. Adolf Hitler who was sailing aboard this ship was definitely a sign of the decline and fall of the social order. She, Edward, and Churchill were trying to set it right again sometimes all by themselves.
The art director carrying the painting knocked on the door of the suite. Immediately Edward opened it. He saw Dora and grabbed her into his arms and shut the door. The art director knocked again. Churchill took the painting and quickly thanked the man.
Dora whispered to Churchill to say something to the director to get rid of him. Churchill forced a smile onto his face and spat, “It is definitely NOT a Monet.”
“I thought not!” the art director said.
They slammed the door for the final time that night. They ordered room service and did not go down to the dining room while Churchill put the unwanted painting aside in a closet.
“Did you shoot the thugs?” Dora asked Edward horrified.
Edward nodded. “We had to let them know we meant business. They were after you, weren’t they?”
After all, Edward, Colonel Sir Edward Ware, was a crack shot. He had been so since his days in the Great War serving under Lawrence of Arabia in the Middle East.
She nodded. “They already threw me in an empty cabin. It was beginning to remind me of the Lusitania all over again. But I threw my purse at the thug and escaped. They followed me to the ship’s art gallery. I had to think of something so I bought the painting.”
Churchill nodded. “We got your notes. That alerted us to figure out what was going on.”
“One of them was carrying a knife,” Edward said. “They were following you upstairs. Who knows what they would have done? So I shot them in self-defense.”
The next evening which was the last night of the voyage to Hamburg, Churchill, Dora, and Edward occupied their table in the dining room by the window to make a statement and show Hitler that they were not easily cowed. Hitler was seated opposite them in the center of the dining room gaily greeting waiters and waving at guests. Lots of people stopped by to shake his hand and meet the up and coming star of the National Socialist Party in Germany.
“So goes the British upper class!” groaned Churchill, shaking his head in disapproval.
Of course the real attention-getter was the Prince of Wales sitting at the same table next to the gaudily adorned Helga von Wessel and her husband in tuxedo, Herr von Wessel. The Prince was gazing intently into Frau von Wessel’s eyes as she used her hands and talked, describing the wonders of National Socialism and what it could do for Germany in the next few years. She was dressed in a black sequined gown all the way down to her ankles. The dress featured black puffy sleeves made of lace and a lace sheath that covered the rest of the dress.
But suddenly the Prince caught sight of Dora seated there near the window in the gown she had bought at such a cost yesterday in the shop on the ship. He waved at her, smiled, and rose from his seat.
Frau von Wessel grabbed for his arm. “Your Highness, you don’t want anything to do with Mrs. Byrne. She is an American divorcee or about to be one! That would never do. And besides, she doesn’t see things the way we do.”
“Nonsense!” His Majesty proclaimed. “It doesn’t matter. I have always admired Americans and divorcees are a more independent thinking kind of woman. I admire that, too.” He headed towards their table by the window.
Frau von Wessel scowled at Dora in envy that the Prince of Wales, the new benefactor of the Nazi Party, should think anything about Mrs. Byrne was interesting at all.
Dora was scandalized. She looked towards Churchill, then Edward, pleading with them to help her. But apparently neither of them could do anything at all about the actions of the Prince of Wales as he plopped down in a chair at the same table right beside them. He moved his chair closer to Dora who was so flabbergasted she did not know what to do except to gape at His Majesty.
“So you are the heiress from America!” the Prince exclaimed. “At least that is what Frau and Herr von Wessel tell me.”
He glanced back at his other recently met friends. The von Wessels plastered artificlal smiles on their faces. Hitler himself broke off his conversation to wave. Dora nodded woodenly. She swallowed hard. She had to sit here and listen to this.
“You and your millions could make the biggest difference to Herr Hitler and his friends and associates,” the Prince expounded.
Hitler again flashed them a winning smile.
Winston glared at the upstart.
Edward motioned to Dora to go on. She had to answer the Prince.
Dora wet her lips. “I am sure lots of people like charity, Your Highness, but I am inclined to keep charity at home which means the United States and not give it out to dangerous foreign types. That is what my father taught me.”
The Prince pointed at her and wagged his finger. “My parents the King and Queen of England taught me much the same thing. But I have learned to think for myself.”
Winston rolled his eyes. He leaned toward Edward and hissed, “That is the understatement of the year.”
“Your Highness,” Winston broke in. “Your parents the King and Queen would be much grieved to see you handing money to foreigners with whom they have no diplomatic relations.”
“Well, they should, and I intend to be the first to say so!” the Prince said stubbornly. “He is better than the Weimar government any day.”
Dora thought he sounded like a spoiled twelve year old, but a dangerous spoiled twelve year old.
After a few more minutes of unendurable behavior, the shadow of Frau von Wessel loomed over the table. She took the Prince’s arm. “Enough fun for now, Your Majesty,” she urged him to go, “it is time for Herr Hitler to practice one of his speeches. He is going to introduce you to the crowd at Nuremberg, remember? Don’t you want to hear what he is going to say?”
The Prince of Wales leaped up. “I certainly don’t want to miss one of Herr Hitler’s speeches even if he is only practicing. Would you like to come, too, Mrs. Byrne?” he asked Dora.
Edward rose and took Dora’s arm. “Sorry, Your Highness, but Mrs. Byrne would not be attending a Herr Hitler speech if it were the last available entertainment aboard this ship.”
With that rejoinder Edward led Dora away out the entrance to the restaurant and up the stairs to their cabin just as Frau von Wessel led the Prince of Wales away. Dora hoped never to have to confront him again this side of Hamburg.