China Boat

Chapter 57


Both Exports and Imports for April Were Highest Since Hitler Attained Power



Wireless to the New York Times

BERLIN, May 21. — Germany's foreign trade drive, made possible by the international armaments race, was able to score a new success during April, when it rolled up record figures for both exports and imports for the entire four years since Adolf Hitler came into power.

British exports declined in April compared with March, French exports — measured quantitatively to exclude the devaluation of the franc — declined for the first four months of the year compared with last year … 

* * *

Tuesday, May 25th, 1937
8:15 p.m.
The Cathay Hotel
Sassoon House
The Bund
Shanghai, China


And so, the world shifted beneath my feet.


Father told me the whole story of what had happened, for the first time. He was clear, concise, and complete.


He told me how his Bank had been contacted by the Japanese Government, through the agency of a Japanese bank — not the Yokohama Specie Bank, but that hardly mattered — with a proposal to establish a discreet, private and exclusive relationship, whose purpose was clearly to evade possible future legal sanctions … 

And he related how his Bank had tasked him with the assignment; as was only logical, as Father was far and away the Bank's leading expert on international, inter-bank settlements. And that had led, of course, to Father's appointment as a provisional Director, pending the next shareholder meeting, but his ultimate election was virtually assured … 

He told me about the initial preparations for the trip to Shanghai; using the shipment of gold, as a plausible cover. As with any cover story, the element of truth was essential. The gold had needed to be shipped, and an escort had been necessary … 


And then he told me how he'd slipped out of town, taking the train to Washington, D.C., for a private dinner with his friend, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Junior; to whom he had revealed, everything.


I'd blinked, at that part. He'd looked at me, impatiently.

"Of course I would inform Morgenthau. Do you really think I would willingly take part in anything even remotely so sordid? Or even, possibly, criminal — ?"

"Of course not, sir."

In truth, I hadn't known what to think.

And I was still stunned, still trying to come to grips with this new view of Father … 

I realized, how out-of-touch we'd grown, since our return from Europe.


His tale continued.


Things had gotten a lot more complicated, very quickly.

Mister Morgenthau, as it turned out, had spoken to the President, and to Harry Hopkins; and Mister Hopkins had made a suggestion, which the President had endorsed … 

And so Father had found himself called back to Washington, in the second week of March, for consultations.


"The President asked you to come to Washington — ?" I asked. A feeling of unreality, growing around me.

"It was Morgenthau who cabled me … but it was the President's direct request, yes." He finished filling the bowl of his pipe with tobacco, tamping it down, just slightly; then, he struck a match, and, drawing on his pipe stem, he lit it. "And when the President — any President, regardless of party affiliation — makes such a request, one answers it." He puffed, a few times, and looked at me. "It may happen to you, someday. If it does, I hope you will do your duty."

"Yes, sir … "


In Washington, Father had met with a number of officials. Mister Morgenthau, again. Harry Hopkins. General Craig, the Army Chief of Staff — albeit briefly — and several of his subordinates. Admiral Leahy, the Chief of Naval Operations, and with his subordinates.

The President; twice, over cocktails, and dinner.


Father was asked to become involved in something much more important, than a case of potential and theoretical evasion of banking regulations.


He grew quiet, when he came to this part of his tale. The dinner-trays — we'd had dinner sent up; the first meal we'd shared, in, well, days — the dinner trays were pushed aside. Father took a few more, contemplative puffs on his pipe, before continuing.


"You may know … or, you certainly will know, someday … that Americans who go abroad, can sometimes be asked to perform certain favors, on behalf of the government. On a strictly informal and voluntary basis, you understand. A letter, conveyed; a meeting, with a person nominated by the State Department; that sort of thing." He puffed, twice, on his pipe. "It is a phenomenon, a kind of arrangement, much older than our Republic; it goes back to the Renaissance, certainly, if not back to Classical times."

I blinked at him.

He puffed on his pipe.

"I, myself, performed a few such small favors, for the Treasury Department, when we first went to Switzerland, in '27 … In fact, that is what led, indirectly, to my friendship with Morgenthau, in the first place." A small smile, around his pipe stem, as he looked into the middle distance, remembering it.

"I see, sir," I said; although I did not.

"Hmmm," from him, neutrally; as he puffed. A quick flick of his eyes; and he resumed.

"As it happens … I was asked to perform another favor, another service, here. In Shanghai."

I said nothing.

More contemplative puffs, from Father. He regarded me, over the bowl of his pipe, for some seconds.

"You will, unfortunately, not be surprised, that the Army and Navy Staffs — and the President — believe that a new Great War in Europe is inevitable. That it is coming, in fact, far too soon … The real reasons for thinking so go far beyond the German renunciation of Versailles and Locarno, and the re-occupation of the Rhineland; and all the other things we read in the newspapers; no."

He stopped, for another puff; gathering his thoughts.

"In Washington, I was shown the numbers, which summarize German armament production … these numbers are astonishing, and profoundly depressing. It is not so much that they are building airplanes, and tanks, and guns — although they are doing that. It is that they are building the production capacity, the dedicated production capacity to build so very much more."

A short pause, at that.

"I can't say that I'm surprised, sir," I ventured.

Not after our automobile trip through Germany. Not after our nightmare experience in Berlin; I did not need to add.

"Ah. But what I did not know — what surprised me — is that modern weapons have finite, limited life-spans. Airplanes, and their engines, wear out, or become obsolete. Tank engines, in particular, wear out; and they are very difficult, and un-economic, to replace … and the new German Army is very reliant on the use of tanks, according to the staff officers who briefed me; it is a thing they learned from us, the Entente, in the War … "

Another puff.

"The point is; that our military staff can look at these numbers, these tables and columns of figures, and they can — they say — devise a very reasonable estimate, for the time of optimal use, of such a force. A time beyond which, the age of such a force starts to become an increasing liability. It is, apparently, a recognized discipline, in military intelligence circles."

"Sir," from me; after a short silence. Dreading the next part.

Father regarded me. "If they are correct — and their arguments are cogent — we have a few years. Nineteen forty-two, or -three, at the latest. Nineteen forty-one would be possible for them. Nineteen forty-two, seems optimal."

As news, it really did not come as that much of a surprise … and, after all, it was just one estimate. The world is a complicated place; anything can happen. Or so I told myself.

But it felt right. In my bones, it felt like the truth; it felt like the future. It matched everything I'd experienced, in Germany, and everything I'd read about Germany, since; and I'd followed news from and about Germany, closely enough.

I remembered the battlefields we'd toured, in France and Belgium. I remembered the maimed poilus, in particular.

I thought of Jack; and I ruthlessly thrust that connection, Jack and the maimed soldiers, aside. I felt a little sick.


Father smoked in silence, for a moment.


"Under the circumstances, it is the thinking of our military Staffs that our best chance of avoiding entanglement in what is to come, it to have a very strong Navy. A very much stronger Navy." He grimaced, slightly. "We can hardly rely upon our Army; I was told in Washington, that it is currently smaller than that of Belgium, and less well-equipped … and, that our plans to modernize, and expand, the Army are very modest … Still. There is no denying the logic of their approach." He looked at me, gravely, for a moment. "There are serious studies underway, which contemplate building a Navy powerful enough to deter any movements or aggressions against the Atlantic coasts of both North and South America; simultaneously. It would be a very major expansion. And that, in turn, leads to why we are here."

I blinked at him.

"Sir," I said, neutrally.

A lifted eyebrow from him; and a just-barely-perceptible quirk, on one corner of his mouth. Possibly an ironic half-smile; not a happy one.

"Your reaction matches mine, before it was explained to me … Simply put; warships — whole, integrated Fleets, in fact — take a long time to design, and to build. Years and years. At best. And in the meantime, one must consider the reactions of one's neighbors … and rivals."

Another few puffs, on his pipe.

"One of the other, depressing things I learned in Washington, is that there exists a universal presumption that Japan and the United States will at some point in the future go to war with one another. In the Army Staff appreciation, in the Naval Staff estimates, it is not even questioned … only the timing of the event, is speculated upon. I have been told, that this belief goes back to the Treaty of Versailles, in 1919, if not before." Another few, thoughtful puffs. "And in all the relevant conversations I have had, in the course of this trip, I have not found a single, well-informed person, who thought otherwise … "


I thought of Mister Nieuwenhuis, again. Of his certainty, in that regard. I thought of what we'd just heard, from Mister Hashiwara.


"As soon as the money is appropriated for the expansion of our naval forces, as soon as the contracts are signed, the Japanese will know of our plans — or so I was told, in Washington. Our enlarged Fleet will place them in great, potential peril, even though it is not aimed at them; they simply lack the industrial capacity to build a large enough fleet, to answer ours. And so, the question becomes: When will they attack — ? It does not seem to be a question of If, anymore; or even of, Where; the Philippines are presumed. It merely seems to be a question of, When."

Another few puffs, on his pipe. His face was back to looking ill, and grave.

"That is the question to which Washington very much wants the answer. And that is why I — we — were sent here."


A full stop. A silence, that almost echoed, between us.


"And Mister Hashiwara just told us,"' I said; quietly.

"He did. Very openly."

"Father … who is he? Not a banker, I think."

Another, humor-less quirk of his mouth, around his pipe-stem. "Not in the ordinary sense. Neither is his real name Hashiwara. He is a Viscount, of one of the oldest and most prestigious noble families of Japan. He does not precisely run the Finance Ministry; rather, he hovers over it, like a cloud, a gray eminence … He is said to be very close to the Imperial Family."

Silence between us, again, for a moment.

"And you knew this; all along."

Father set his pipe aside, for a moment.

"Yes. I was sent to learn as much as I could, to talk to as many knowledgable people, here, as possible … but a conversation with the Viscount was considered the primary goal, of the trip; the prize. It is largely why I was chosen for this effort, the other, unusual circumstances aside. He and I have known of each other, and of each other's work, for years … " He picked up his pipe again, and absent-mindedly knocked out the tobacco-ash into the heavy crystal ashtray. "I must say," he went on, musingly, looking at nothing, "it is a very odd experience, finally meeting him, in person."

I blinked, at this. Another, minor feeling of disorientation. Father, as someone both relatively-powerful, and famous, in his own field … 


Father began to re-fill his pipe; it would be his third — or fourth? — bowl.

I looked at the remains of his dinner, on his tray. A few uneaten slices of dry toast, in a toast-rack, of all things; an empty egg-shell, in an egg cup. A glass of milk; almost empty.

I opened my mouth, to speak; but Father beat me to it, not-quite-looking at me, as he tamped down the tobacco in his pipe.

"Son … I hope you can understand, now, why your assistance on this trip was so essential."

A pause. He extracted a match from his silver match-box, and lit it; and with a few draws, lit the contents of his pipe-bowl.

"I have been engaged in something of a juggling act; on the one hand, conspiring with the Bank, to perhaps perpetrate something which might well be illegal … and, at the same time, reporting the whole matter, and much else, beside, to the State Department. And, by extension, the Treasury Department. And, the White House."

He finally looked up at me; holding his pipe in his hand. His face was drawn.

"What I told you, about the importance of sons, of family, in Eastern business concerns, in Chinese banks, was quite true; as you have seen, in our first few meetings … But the truth is — I needed help, on this trip; and there was no-one at the Bank, in whom I could completely trust. Not in matters such as these. Not in any matters such as these." He paused, a moment. "I hope you understand," he said, quietly.


Another thundering silence, between us.


You could have trusted me, I thought; but I did not say it aloud. You could have told me, before now … 


I did not need to say it aloud. It hung there, between us, an almost physical, tangible thing. A sorrowful thing.


"So the five-letter-code messages are going to Washington, and the seven-letter-code messages are going to the Bank — ?"

I shouldn't have said it; but part of me, wanted to.

His eyes widened, slightly.

"How did you know they were in seven-letter-code groups — ?"

"One of the ship's radio officers mentioned it to me, in passing. He thought we were working together."

It just came out that way. I hadn't intended it to sound quite so accusatory. I almost winced.


Another few seconds, of unhappy silence, between us.

I thought, fast and hard, for a moment. Thinking of all of the implications, of what I'd just heard. The world, still shifting, beneath my feet.


"Father — there is something you need to know," I said at last.

The burden of if had been growing in me, in the back of my mind, in the minutes since reading his official letters. It was the worst possible time to raise the issue, under the circumstances; but I had to.

Well, I thought; there will be a certain symmetry, to it.


He cocked an interrogatory eyebrow, puffing on his pipe.

I took a deep breath.

"Two of our acquaintances, on the President Hoover, and here in Shanghai — Mister Grey, and Mister Sayles — well." I swallowed. "They are agents of the British government … and they are interested in your business, here. In our business," I corrected myself, lamely.

An astonished look from him. He removed his pipe from his mouth.

"And you know this — how?"

It was my turn, to look profoundly uncomfortable.

"Well — Mister Grey all but openly admitted it to me, at the garden party for the Coronation — "

A wordless, skeptical look, from him. I'd been on the receiving end of it countless times before, and it made me feel about nine years old, again.

I had to confess. There was no other way.

I took another breath.

"My friend Jack's brother, Tony, is an attorney, who is very well-connected, on Wall Street. I was worried that Mister Grey might have some sort of blackmail scheme in mind. So, I cabled Jack, to ask Tony about Mister Grey's company, Imperial Mining and Metals, Limited. I thought it might not be legitimate — "

"You sent this in an open cable — ?" Father interrupted. He looked shocked.

"No, sir. We used the Vigenère cypher; we passed it off, as a school project … We used keys that were unguessable, they were known only to us."

He looked at me, blinking, for several, long, seconds. Then — 

"Go on."

I swallowed, again.

"It took quite a while … but Tony apparently found out — "

Father interrupted, again. "You don't still have the cable — ?"

"No, sir. I burned the decryption. Of course. But I memorized it."

I was not likely to ever forget it, I thought.

Father stared at me for another long moment. Then, he nodded to me. I proceeded to recite Jack's words, exactly — 

"'Tony was told in confidence, Imperial Mining and Metals Limited front for British government, British foreign intelligence service, was told very dangerous, stay away … !'"

I omitted the expressions of love and worry, from Jack, that followed.

I looked at Father.

"The pauses are mine. But they are the reasonable places, for commas." I said this, drily, referencing his first lesson to me, on cyphers — 

Father puffed on his pipe, again; and it struck me that he looked more drawn, more ill, than ever … 


And just then, I had a moment of clarity. A kind of breakthrough-moment.


"I suppose it was inevitable," he said at last; with a depth of bleak weariness, in his voice. "Someone talked; in Tokyo, or Shanghai, or Washington … "


The world shifting, again, beneath my feet.

Father is a formidable figure, a masterful one.

For my whole life, he has been a figure of strength; a force to be reckoned with. He does not much suffer from self-doubt. And for most of my life, my primary concern, when it came to Father, has been managing him; relating to him in such a way, that I get enough of the freedom I need, while adequately meeting his expectations … 

All of which plays out, in the context of the love we share, of course. That is a constant.

But the man facing me was far from the self-assured figure of my childhood certainty … no. No. The Father I saw before me — perhaps clearly, perhaps for the first time — was a man who was ill, very far from home, uncertain, and trying to carry out his difficult, given assignment, as best he could — 

Without much help from his son.

Without much in the way of sympathy, or understanding, or loving support, from his surly, and self-absorbed teenage son.

Oh, Father; I thought to myself, again. In an entirely different way. Oh, Father. I didn't understand. You didn't tell me.

And in another part of my mind, the old realization, revisited; the world does not revolve around me. It just, doesn't … 

I sighed. I was actually blinking, now.


"There's more, Father."

I hated having to say it. But he had to know.

He looked at me, wordlessly, over the bowl of his pipe.

"My cabin was searched, on the President Hoover, rather thoroughly; a few days out from Shanghai. All of my papers were gone through … Of course, I didn't have anything relating to your — our — work … " I swallowed. "Mister Grey has since obliquely admitted to having done it."

An expressionless silence from him, for long heartbeats.

"And yet, you didn't mention anything about it, to me." He said it, very quietly.

Another, excruciating pause.

"At first, I couldn't be sure it wasn't you who conducted the search, sir. For reasons I could not understand."

I felt miserable, saying it, But it was the truth.

Another long and fraught silence, between us.

"My cabin was searched, as well," he said at last; holding his pipe low. Then; "I thought it might have been a member of the crew, looking for something pertaining to the gold shipment … Or, I thought it might possibly have been you."

I stared at him; dumfounded.

Father took a long breath.

"Well," he said; and the ghost of a bleak, and unhappy smile, appeared at one corner of his mouth. "We make quite the pair, don't we — ?"

"Father, I — "

He held up his hand, to interrupt me.

"No … no, son; the fault is entirely mine." He said it quietly; and he regarded me, gravely, and sadly. "I am very sorry, Rhys, to have gotten you mixed up in this business. I regret it, deeply … All I can say, in my defense, is that I didn't understand that things would be like this; with gunboats following our ship, with foreign operatives intruding in our private affairs, our — your — family business, perhaps opening us up to the threat of blackmail … " He shook his head, slowly. Then, he looked at me, directly. "I am sorry."

I could find nothing to say, for several seconds. Then — 

"I am sorry that I haven't been of more use to you, Father."

I hoped — I thought — that he could feel the sense, behind the words. The true meaning.

The bleak gravity of his expression softened, very slightly.

"You have been of inestimable use, Rhys; believe me. Although I have not given you the slightest reason to trust me, in the process … "

* * *

Words came more easily, between us, after that.


I asked more questions … about Father's time in Washington; about what the military intelligence officers had told him.

About the President.

At this last, Father's expression had turned slightly ironic.

"Cocktail-hour at the White House is something of a sacred tradition," he'd said, while refilling his pipe, yet again. "The President enjoys mixing the drinks, himself." He'd paused, to tamp down the tobacco, slightly. "Let us just say, that his skill as a bartender leaves something to be desired. None of the guests dares look at another, when taking a first sip. It's apparently become something of an inside joke, a very quiet one, in his circle of friends … "


Father's report on what the military advisors had told him, was less amusing.


I'd asked about the French Army, and the British Navy; and why, given their great power, our view of the European military situation was so pessimistic … 

"It is true," he'd told me, "that the French Army is still, far and away, the most powerful in Europe. And the Czechoslovakians, their allies, are very formidable in their own right. But as I said, Germany is building up her armaments industry very, very quickly, while the French are not … And, there is more."

He'd made a resigned expression, as he puffed twice, on his pipe.

"Our military Staffs believe — as do I — that France is very bitterly divided, internally, at the moment. The country goes from political crisis to political crisis. The memories of the War are very strong, and there is no appetite to repeat the experience, soon … The prospect of French participation in a new Great War is questionable. Assuming, of course, she is given a choice."

I felt a chill.

I follow the news from France; and I felt, in my own, amateur's way, something of the same apprehension … There had been a massive strike near Paris, recently, and an ugly riot in Clichy, involving Fascists — or the French version of them, anyway — and Communists — 

I love Paris. Part of my soul lives there, I think, and I don't know what I would do, if something happened to it, if I couldn't go there, anymore.

"And as for the British — I was told that they, too, are dragging their feet on rearmament. Apparently, almost their entire foreign policy is based on persuading Germany to strike East, rather than West; which was the point of the Locarno Treaty, after all." A dry, eyebrow-twitch, from him. "They are in any case much more afraid of Soviet Communism, than they are of German or Italian Fascism. The military experts with whom I spoke, the ones with access to German military production numbers, found this to be, shortsighted … "

This, again, drily.

"So, no. Our own government, including the President, is fearful that the coming new, Great War, may go badly for Britain and France. And our best hope for remaining out of it all, is to begin building a strong enough Navy to discourage the Fascist Powers from any ambitions they may have in the Western Hemisphere … "


In the end, our long discussion was about more than just exchanging information; about briefing me, on the nature of Father's task.


Very slowly, and very gradually — tendrils of trust began to grow, between us. Or re-grow, between us.


It would take, I thought, more than a single evening; regardless of the stunning nature of Father's revelations to me … I still had a great deal, to think about. And the fact that neither of us had really trusted the other, stayed between us, unspoken.

We really had grown apart, since Europe … 

Still. It was a start.

And so it was, with a little trepidation, that I asked a question that had begun to bother me, during the course of our talk.


"Father — ? If I may ask — and perhaps, I may not — precisely how does Monsieur Simonov fit into … all of this — ? With what we are doing, I mean."


The effect of my question was striking. Father's face closed down; there was really no other way to put it, it was like seeing windows shuttered, on a house-front — 

And then, as I watched … a remarkable thing happened.

I saw him pause, and think; and then, after some moments, come to a conclusion.

He removed the pipe from his mouth; and then he took a deep breath, and exhaled, slowly.

He looked at me. The shutters, slowly, began to withdraw.

"Actually, son, our business with Monsieur Simonov is a private matter, completely unrelated to our efforts on behalf of the government … " He paused, and looked off to one side, a little; " … or at least, so I think — "

I blinked, at that.

He looked back at me, directly; and the closed, shuttered look was gone, from his eyes. Instead I saw weariness, and illness, and perhaps a degree of — yearning?

"I have been sworn to absolute secrecy, in the matter involving ourselves and Monsieur Simonov. I can tell you, that if the business with him were to become known, the resulting scandal would ruin a close friend, and a lady … "

I blinked at that, again. I almost gaped.

Could he be referring to his friend, Mrs. F_____?

Father paused, to take a slow puff of his pipe. Then he looked at me, very directly.

"However. What I can do, is give you my solemn word, that if you knew the details of the business — if I am ever permitted to tell you — you would not disapprove. In point of fact, I am quite sure that you would, or will be, quite proud of your role in it."

Only a moment's pause. A brief one; although it seemed to echo, somehow.

"I accept that, sir."

I said it firmly, and without reservation, and he could see it. I watched an expression of relief wash over his face, before he hid it with another few puffs from his pipe. Then, he put it aside, cleared his throat, and went on.

"Actually, since you have raised the issue of Monsieur Simonov … you should know, that we will need to accelerate the pace of our deliveries to him." Another few puffs, on his pipe. "Given the nature of all of the conversations I've had in Shanghai, and given today's — definitive — conversation with the Viscount Kō, our main task here is nearly complete. We will be leaving for home in two or three weeks — "


It hit me like a thunderclap.

I could feel myself keeping my face still, out of long habit; but it hit me, like a thunderclap.


" — and, I will need to go meet Monsieur Simonov myself, fairly soon, now — " He broke off, and looked at me closely. "Son — ?"


A pause. A few breaths. It was like surf, roaring about me.


"Excuse me, sir … We are to leave, to go home, in three week's time — ?"

"Two or three weeks. As soon as is practicable, as as soon as we can sign — or not explicitly sign, as discretion dictates — a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese. I need to make my reports in person in Washington. Coded wires, or even letters sent by diplomatic pouch, are no substitute; and in any event, I have my orders … " A pause. I could feel him looking at me, closely. "You are surprised — ?"


I said nothing, for a moment. Then, because — I don't know; because of the confessional nature of the evening; because of the few steps we'd taken, towards rebuilding trust between us — I told him the truth. All at once. In a rush.


"You were very vague about your plans, Father … I thought it might be like Switzerland. I thought it might be, well, many months, or perhaps years, before you intended us to go home … "


A long pause. He stared at me.


"You are a young man, now," he said at last, "with a life, and a future, of his own." Another pause. He took a deep breath, and then let it out. "Did you truly think me capable of doing such a thing — ?"


I said nothing.

I could say nothing; because, clearly, I had thought him so capable.


Father could read that much, in my face.

Another deep breath; and then, his eyes slid away from mine, as if he wished to look anywhere else, but at me, for a moment. He looked down, at his pipe; his eyes, blinking.

"I am sorry, son," he said at last; very gently.

And whether he meant it in the sense, that he was sorry for having imposed this trip upon me; or, that he was sorry for having caused me pain and worry; or, that he was sorry that his son could have so little faith in his own father's character — was completely unclear.

Perhaps, all three, at once.

"I am sorry, Father," I said; in a tone that matched his.

And I meant it.

* * *

Our evening together did not last long, after that.

We both had too much, far too much, to think about; and, there were still the notes from our meeting with Mister Hashiwara, the absolutely-crucial meeting with Mister Hashiwara, to draw up. Father insisted that we do so, right away; and I agreed with him, wholeheartedly. We would compare them as usual, the next day.

It helped knowing what our business was really about. It helped a great deal.


But before returning to my own room, I raised a last issue. An urgent one.


"Father … am I correct in thinking, that you are not currently under a doctor's care — ?"

Father is not very fond of doctors, of the medical professions, under even the best of circumstances.

"Son — " he began; and the look on his face was a warning.

I dared to interrupt him.

"Father. I knew you were ill again; but I did not know you were like this." I gestured at the remains of his pathetic dinner. "This is worse than you were in Switzerland. Sir, I think you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. We can start with the hotel doctor, tomorrow."

He gave me a stony look.

"I will be perfectly fine, as soon as this business of ours is concluded. I can rest on the boat, on the way back. In the meantime, I am far too busy to spend time at doctors' offices, or in convalescing at a sanitarium."

"Father," I said, evenly. "You told me that you narrowly avoided having a stomach resection in Switzerland. I have read about such operations, at the Library, since. Even if you survived, it would change your life drastically, for the worse." I paused, and gave him a direct look. "Sir. I can make my way back home by myself, if necessary. Or more likely, Grandfather would hire someone to accompany me. But I would very strongly prefer to go home with you."

He stared at me, in the way he has, when he is exerting his will. I gave him my own direct look, back.

Finally — miracle of miracles — I saw something change, in his face; and he blinked, several times, in succession.

He reached for his pipe, with a sigh.

"Perhaps you are right," he said.

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