An old-fashioned carriage drawn by two horses picked up Harald Olufsen and Tik Duchwitz at the railway station in Tik's home village of Kirstenslot. Tik explained that the carriage had been rotting in a barn for years, then had been resurrected when the Germans imposed petrol restrictions. The coachwork gleamed with fresh paint, but the team were obviously ordinary carthorses borrowed from a farm. The coachman looked as if he might have been more comfortable behind a plow.
Harald was not sure why Tik had invited him for the weekend. The Three Stooges had never visited each other's homes, even though they had been close friends at school for seven years. Perhaps the invitation was a consequence of Harald's anti-Nazi outburst in class. Maybe Tik's parents were curious to meet the pastor's son who was so concerned about the persecution of Jews.
They drove from the station through a small village with a church and a tavern. Beyond the village they turned off the road and passed between a pair of massive stone lions. At the far end of a half-mile drive Harald saw a fairy-tale castle with battlements and turrets.
There were hundreds of castles in Denmark. Harald sometimes took comfort from that fact. Although it was a small country, it had not always surrendered abjectly to its belligerent neighbors. There might be something of the Viking spirit left.
Some castles were historic monuments, maintained as museums and visited by tourists. Many were little more than country manor houses occupied by prosperous farming families. In between were a number of spectacular homes owned by the wealthiest people in the land. Kirstenslot - the house had the same name as the village - was one of those.
Harald was intimidated. He had known the Duchwitz family were wealthy - Tik's father and uncle were bankers - but he was not prepared for this. He wondered anxiously if he would know the right ways to behave. Nothing about life at the parsonage had prepared him for a place such as this.
It was late on Saturday afternoon when the carriage dropped them at the cathedral-like front entrance. Harald walked in, carrying his small suitcase. The marbled hall was crammed with antique furniture, decorated vases, small statues, and large oil paintings. Harald's family were inclined to take literally the Second Commandment, which forbade the making of a likeness of anything in heaven or on earth, so there were no pictures in the parsonage (though Harald knew that he and Arne had been secretly photographed as babies, for he had found the pictures hidden in his mother's stocking drawer). The wealth of art in the Duchwitz home made him mildly uncomfortable.
Tik led him up a grand staircase into a bedroom. "This is my room," he said. There were no old masters or Chinese vases here, just the kind of stuff an eighteen-year-old collected: a football, a picture of Marlene Dietrich looking sultry, a clarinet, and a framed advertisement for a Lancia Aprilla sports car designed by Pininfarina.
Harald picked up a framed photo. It showed Tik about four years ago with a girl about the same age. "Who's the girlfriend?"
"My twin sister, Karen."
"Oh." Harald knew, vaguely, that Tik had a twin. She was taller than Tik in the picture. It was a black-and-white photo, but she seemed to have lighter coloring. "Obviously not an identical twin, she's too good-looking."
"Identical twins have to be the same sex, idiot."
"Where does she go to school?"
"The Danish Royal Ballet."
"I didn't know they ran a school."
"If you want to be in the corps you have to go to the school. Some girls start at the age of five. They do all the usual lessons, and dancing as well."
"Does she like it?"
Tik shrugged. "It's hard work, she says." He opened a door and went along a short corridor to a bathroom and a second, smaller bedroom. Harald followed him. "You'll be in here, if it's all right," Tik said. "We'll share the bathroom."
"Great," said Harald, dropping his case on the bed.
"You could have a grander room, but you'd be miles away."
"This is better."
"Come and say hello to my mother."
Harald followed Tik along the main first-floor corridor. Tik tapped on a door, opened it a little, and said, "Are you receiving gentlemen callers, Mother?"
A voice replied, "Come in, Josef."
Harald followed Tik into Mrs. Duchwitz's boudoir, a pretty room with framed photographs on every level surface. Tik's mother looked like him. She was very short, though dumpy where Tik was slim, and she had the same dark eyes. She was about forty, but her black hair was already touched with gray.
Tik presented Harald, who shook her hand with a little bow. Mrs. Duchwitz made them sit down and asked them about school. She was amiable and easy to talk to, and Harald began to feel less apprehensive about the weekend.
After a while she said, "Go along and get ready for dinner, now." The boys returned to Tik's room. Harald said anxiously, "You don't wear anything special for dinner, do you?"
"Your blazer and tie are fine."
It was all Harald had. The school blazer, trousers, overcoat, and cap, plus sports kit, were a major expense for the Olufsen family, and they had to be replaced constantly as he grew a couple of inches every year. He had no other clothes, apart from sweaters for the winter and shorts for the summer. "What are you going to wear?" he asked Tik.
"A black jacket and gray flannels."
Harald was glad he had brought a clean white shirt.
"Would you like to bathe first?" Tik said.
"Sure." The idea that you had to have a bath before dinner seemed odd to Harald, but he told himself he was learning the ways of the rich.
He washed his hair in the bath, and Tik shaved at the same time. "You don't shave twice a day at school," Harald said.
"Mother's so fussy. And my beard is dark. She says I look like a coal miner if I don't shave in the evening."
Harald put on his clean shirt and school trousers, then went into the bedroom to comb his damp hair in the mirror over the dressing table. While he was doing so, a girl walked in without knocking. "Hello," she said. "You must be Harald."
It was the girl in the photograph, but the monochrome picture had not done her justice. She had white skin and green eyes, and her curly hair was a vivid shade of coppery red. A tall figure in a long dark-green dress, she glided across the room like a ghost. With the easy strength of an athlete, she picked up a heavy chair by its back and turned it around to sit on it. She crossed her long legs and said, "Well? Are you Harald?"
He managed to speak. "Yes, I am." He felt conscious of his bare feet. "You're Tik's sister."
"That's what we call Josef at school."
"Well, I'm Karen, and I don't have a nickname. I heard about your eruption at school. I think you're absolutely right. I hate the Nazis - who do they think they are?"
Tik emerged from the bathroom wrapped in a towel. "Have you no regard for a gentleman's privacy?" he said.
"No, I don't," she retorted. "I want a cocktail, and they won't serve them until there's at least one male in the room. I believe servants make up these rules themselves, you know."
"Well, just look the other way for a minute," Tik said, and to Harald's surprise he dropped the towel.
Karen was unperturbed by her brother's nakedness and did not bother to look away. "How are you, anyway, you black-eyed dwarf?" she said amiably as he pulled on clean white undershorts.
"I'm fine, though I'll be finer when the exams are over."
"What will you do if you fail?"
"I suppose I'll work at the bank. Father will probably make me start at the bottom, filling the inkwells of the junior clerks."
Harald said to Karen, "He won't fail the exams."
She replied, "I suppose you're clever, like Josef."
Tik said, "Much cleverer, actually."
Harald could not honestly deny it. Feeling bashful, he asked, "What's it like at ballet school?"
"A cross between serving in the army and being in jail."
Harald stared at Karen in fascination. He did not know whether to regard her as one of the boys or one of the gods. She bantered with her brother like a kid. Nevertheless she was extraordinarily graceful. Just sitting in the chair, waving an arm or pointing or resting her chin on her hand, she seemed to be dancing. All her movements were harmonious. Yet her poise did not restrain her, and Harald watched the changing expressions of her face like one mesmerized. She had a full-lipped mouth and a wide smile that was slightly lopsided. In fact her whole face was a little irregular - her nose was not quite straight and her chin was uneven - but the overall effect was beautiful. In fact, he thought, she was the most beautiful girl he had ever met.
"You'd better put some shoes on," Tik said to Harald.
Harald retreated to his room and finished dressing. When he returned, Tik was looking spiffy in a black jacket, white shirt, and plain dark tie. Harald felt very much the schoolboy in his blazer.
Karen led the way downstairs. They entered a long, untidy room with several large sofas, a grand piano, and an elderly dog on a rug in front of the fireplace. The relaxed air contrasted with the stuffy formality of the hall, although here, too, the walls were crowded with oil paintings.
A young woman in a black dress and a white apron asked Harald what he would like to drink. "Whatever Josef is having," he replied. There was no alcohol at the parsonage. At school, in the final year, the boys were allowed to drink one glass of beer each at the Friday night get-together. Harald had never drunk a cocktail and was not quite sure what one was.
To give himself something to do, he bent down and patted the dog. It was a long, lean red setter with a sprinkling of gray in its gingery fur. It opened an eye and wagged its tail once in polite acknowledgment of Harald's attentions.
Karen said, "That's Thor."
"The god of thunder," Harald said with a smile.
"Silly, I agree, but Josef named him."
Tik protested, "You wanted to call him Buttercup!"
"I was only eight years old at the time."
"So was I. Besides, Thor isn't so silly. He sounds like thunder when he farts."
At that moment Tik's father came in, and he looked so like the dog that Harald almost laughed. A tall, thin man, he was elegantly dressed in a velvet jacket and a black bow tie, and his curly red hair was turning gray. Harald stood up and shook hands.
Mr. Duchwitz addressed him with the same languid courtesy the dog had shown. "I'm so glad to meet you," he said in a lazy drawl. "Josef is always talking about you."
Tik said, "So now you know the whole family."
Mr. Duchwitz said to Harald, "How are things at school, after your outburst?"
"I wasn't punished, oddly enough," Harald answered. "In the past, I've had to cut the grass with nail scissors just for saying 'Rubbish' when some teacher made a stupid statement. I was much ruder than that to Mr. Agger. But Heis, that's the head, just gave me a quiet lecture about how much more effectively I would have made my point if I had kept my temper."
"Setting an example himself by not being angry with you," Mr. Duchwitz said with a smile, and Harald realized that was exactly what Heis had been doing.
Karen said, "I think Heis is wrong. Sometimes you have to make a stink to get people to listen."
That struck Harald as true, and he wished he had thought to say it to Heis. Karen was smart as well as beautiful. But he had a question for Mr. Duchwitz and had been looking forward to the chance of asking it. "Sir, aren't you worried about what the Nazis might do to you? We know how badly Jews are treated in Germany and Poland."
"I do worry. But Denmark is not Germany, and the Germans seem to regard us as Danes first and Jews second."
"So far, anyway," Tik put in.
"True. But then there's the question of what options are open to us. I suppose I could make a business trip to Sweden, then apply for a visa to the United States. Getting the whole family out would be more difficult. And think what we would be leaving behind: a business that was started by my great-grandfather, this house where my children were born, a collection of paintings it has taken me a lifetime to put together . . . When you look at it that way, it seems simplest to sit tight and hope for the best."
"Anyway, it's not as if we're shopkeepers, for heaven's sake," Karen said airily. "I hate the Nazis, but what are they going to do to the family that owns the largest bank in the country?"
Harald thought that was stupid. "The Nazis can do anything they like, you should know that by now," he said scornfully.
"Oh, should I?" Karen said coldly, and he realized he had offended her.
He was about to explain how Uncle Joachim had been persecuted but, at that moment, Mrs. Duchwitz joined them, and they started talking about the Royal Danish Ballet's current production, which was Les Sylphides.
"I love the music," Harald said. He had heard it on the radio and could play snatches of it on the piano.
"Have you seen the ballet?" Mrs. Duchwitz asked him.
"No." He felt the urge to give the impression that he had seen many ballets, but had happened to miss this one. Then he realized just how risky it would be to fake it in front of this highly knowledgeable family. "To be honest, I've never been to the theater," he confessed.
"How dreadful," Karen said with a supercilious air.
Mrs. Duchwitz shot her a look of disapproval. "Then Karen must take you," she said.
"Mother, I'm terribly busy," Karen protested. "I'm understudying a principal role!"
Harald felt hurt by her rejection, but guessed he was being punished for speaking dismissively to her about the Nazis.
He drained his glass. He had enjoyed the bittersweet taste of the cocktail, and it had given him a relaxed sense of well-being, but perhaps it had also made him careless of what he said. He regretted affronting Karen. Now that she had suddenly cooled, he realized how much he had come to like her.
The maid who had been serving drinks announced that dinner was ready, and opened a pair of doors that led to the dining room. They walked through and sat at one end of a long table. The maid offered wine, but Harald declined.
They had vegetable soup, cod in white sauce, and lamb chops with gravy. There was plenty of food, despite rationing, and Mrs. Duchwitz explained that much of what they ate came from the estate.
Throughout the meal, Karen said nothing directly to Harald, but addressed her conversation to the company in general. Even when he asked her a question, she looked at the others as she answered. Harald was dismayed. She was the most enchanting girl he had ever met, and he had got on the wrong side of her within a couple of hours.
Afterward, they returned to the drawing room and had real coffee. Harald wondered where Mrs. Duchwitz had bought it. Coffee was like gold dust, and she certainly had not grown it in a Danish garden.
Karen went out onto the terrace for a cigarette, and Tik explained that their old-fashioned parents did not like to see girls smoking. Harald was awestruck at the sophistication of a girl who drank cocktails and smoked.
When Karen came back in, Mr. Duchwitz sat at the piano and began turning over the pages on the music stand. Mrs. Duchwitz stood behind him. "Beethoven?" he said, and she nodded. He played a few notes, and she began to sing a song in German. Harald was impressed, and at the end he applauded.
Tik said, "Sing another one, Mother."
"All right," she said. "But then you have to play something."
The parents performed another song, then Tik fetched his clarinet and played a simple Mozart lullaby. Mr. Duchwitz returned to the piano and played a Chopin waltz, from Les Sylphides, and Karen kicked off her shoes and showed them one of the dances she was understudying.
Then they all looked expectantly at Harald.
He realized he was supposed to perform. He could not sing, except for roaring out Danish folk songs, so he would have to play. "I'm not very good at classical music," he said.
"Rubbish," Tik said. "You play the piano in your father's church, you told me."
Harald sat at the keyboard. He really could not inflict inspirational Lutheran hymns on a cultured Jewish family. He hesitated, then began to play "Pine Top's Boogie-Woogie." It started with a melodic trill played by the right hand. Then the left hand began the insistently rhythmic bass pattern, and the right played the blues discords that were so seductive. After a few moments, he lost his self-consciousness and began to feel the music. He played louder and more emphatically, calling out in English at the high points: "Everybody, boogie-woogie!" just like Pine Top. The tune came to its climax and he said: "That's what I'm talkin' about!"
When he finished, there was silence in the room. Mr. Duchwitz wore the pained expression of a man who has accidentally swallowed something rotten. Even Tik looked embarrassed. Mrs. Duchwitz said, "Well, I must say, I don't think anything quite like that has ever been heard in this room."
Harald realized he had made a mistake. The highbrow Duchwitz family disapproved of jazz as much as his own parents. They were cultured, but that did not make them open-minded. "Oh, dear," he said. "I see that was not the right sort of thing."
"Indeed not," said Mr. Duchwitz.
From behind the sofa, Karen caught Harald's eye. He expected to see a supercilious smile on her face but, to his surprise and delight, she gave him a broad wink.
That made it worthwhile.
On Sunday morning, he woke up thinking about Karen.
He hoped she might come into the boys' room to chat, as she had yesterday, but they did not see her. She did not appear at breakfast. Trying hard to sound casual, Harald asked Tik where she was. Uninterested, Tik said she was probably doing her exercises.
After breakfast, Harald and Tik did two hours of exam revision. They both expected to pass easily, but they were not taking any chances, as the results would decide whether they could go to university. At eleven o'clock they went for a walk around the estate.
Near the end of the long drive, partly hidden from view by a stand of trees, was a ruined monastery. "It was taken over by the King after the Reformation, and used as a home for a hundred years," Tik said. "Then Kirstenslot was built, and the old place fell into disuse."
They explored the cloisters where the monks had walked. The cells were now storerooms for garden equipment. "Some of this stuff hasn't been looked at for decades," Tik said, poking a rusty iron wheel with the toe of his shoe. He opened a door into a large, well-lit room. There was no glass in the narrow windows, but the place was clean and dry. "This used to be the dormitory," Tik said. "It's still used in summer, by seasonal workers on the farm."
They entered the disused church, now a junk room. There was a musty smell. A thin black-and-white cat stared at them as if to ask what right they had to walk in like that, then it escaped through a glassless window.
Harald lifted a canvas sheet to reveal a gleaming Rolls-Royce sedan mounted on blocks. "Your father's?" Harald said.
"Yes - put away until petrol goes on sale again."
There was a scarred wooden workbench with a vise, and a collection of tools that had presumably been used to maintain the car when it was running. In the corner was a washbasin with a single tap. Up against the wall were stacks of wooden boxes that had once held soap and oranges. Harald looked inside one and found a jumble of toy cars made of painted tin. He picked one up. A driver was depicted on the windows, in profile on the side window, full face on the windshield. He remembered when such toys had been infinitely desirable to him. He put the car back carefully.
In the far corner was a single-engined airplane with no wings.
Harald looked at it with interest. "What's this?"
"A Hornet Moth, made by de Havilland, the English company. Father bought it five years ago, but he never learned to fly it."
"Have you been up in it?"
"Oh, yes, we had great rides when it was new."
Harald touched the great propeller, at least six feet long. The mathematically precise curves made it a work of art in his eyes. The aircraft leaned slightly to one side, and he saw that the undercarriage was damaged and one tire was flat.
He felt the fuselage and was surprised to find it was made of some kind of fabric, stretched taut over a frame, with small rips and wrinkles in places. It was painted light blue with a black coachline edged in white, but the paintwork that might once have been cheerful was now dull, dusty, and streaked with oil. It did have wings, he now saw - biplane wings, painted silver - but they were hinged, and had been swung around to point backward.
He looked through the side window into the cabin. It was much like the front of a car. There were two seats side by side and a varnished wooden instrument panel with an assortment of dials. The upholstery of one seat had burst, and the stuffing was coming out. It looked as if mice had nested there.
He found the door handle and clambered inside, ignoring the soft scuttling sounds he heard. He sat on the one intact seat. The controls appeared simple. In the middle was a Y-shaped joystick that could be operated from either seat. He put his hand on the stick and his feet on the pedals. He thought flying would be even more thrilling than driving a motorcycle. He imagined himself soaring over the castle like a giant bird, with the roar of the engine in his ears.
"Did you ever fly it yourself?" he asked Tik.
"No. Karen took lessons, though."
"She wasn't old enough to qualify, but she was very good."
Harald experimented with the controls. He saw a pair of "On/Off" switches and flicked them both, but nothing happened. The stick and the pedals seemed loose, as if they were not connected to anything. Seeing what he was doing, Tik said, "Some of the cables were taken out last year - they were needed to repair one of the farm machines. Let's go."
Harald could have spent another hour fiddling with the aircraft, but Tik was impatient, so he climbed out.
They left from the back of the monastery and followed a cart track through a wood. Attached to Kirstenslot was a large farm. "It's been rented to the Nielsen family since before I was born," Tik said. "They raise pigs for bacon, they keep a dairy herd that wins prizes, and they have several hundred acres under cereal crops."
They tramped around a broad wheat field, crossed a pasture full of black-and-white cows, and smelled the pigs from a distance. On the dirt road leading to the farmhouse, they came across a tractor and trailer. A young man in overalls was peering at the engine. Tik shook hands with the man and said, "Hello, Frederik, what's wrong?"
"Engine died on me in the middle of the road. I was taking Mr. Nielsen and the family to church in the trailer." Harald looked again at the trailer and saw that it contained two benches. "Now the grown-ups are walking to church and the kiddies have been took home."
"My friend Harald here is a wizard with all kinds of engines."
"I wouldn't mind if he'd take a look."
The tractor was an up-to-date model, with a diesel engine, and rubber tires rather than steel wheels. Harald bent down to study the innards. "What happens when you turn her over?"
"I'll show you." Frederik pulled a handle. The started motor whined, but the engine would not catch. "She needs a new fuel pump, I think." Frederik shook his head despairingly. "We can't get spare parts for none of our machines."
Harald frowned skeptically. He could smell fuel, which suggested to him that the pump was working, but the diesel was not reaching the cylinders. "Would you try the starter once more?"
Frederik pulled the handle. Harald thought he saw the fuel filter outlet pipe move. Looking more closely, he saw that diesel was leaking from the release valve. He reached in and wiggled the nut. The entire valve assembly came away from the filter. "There's the problem," he said. "The screw thread inside this nut has worn down, for some reason, and it's letting the fuel escape. Have you got a piece of wire?"
Frederik reached into the pockets of his tweed trousers. "I've got a stout bit of string here."
"That will do temporarily." Harald put the valve back in position and tied it to the filter with the string so that it could not wobble. "Try the starter now."
Frederik pulled the handle, and the engine started. "Well, I'm damned," he said. "You've mended it."
"When you get a chance, replace the string with wire. Then you won't need a spare part."
"I don't suppose you're going to be here for a week or two?" Frederik said. "This farm has got broken machinery all over the place."
"No, sorry - I have to go back to school."
"Well, good luck." Frederik climbed on his tractor. "I can get to the church in time to bring the Nielsens back home, anyhow, thanks to you." He drove off.
Harald and Tik strolled back toward the castle. "That was impressive," Tik said.
Harald shrugged. For as long as he could remember, he had been able to fix machines.
"Old Nielsen is keen on all the latest inventions," Tik added. "Machines for sowing, reaping, even milking."
"Can he get fuel for them?"
"Yes. You can if it's for food production. But no one can find spare parts for anything."
Harald checked his watch: he was looking forward to seeing Karen at lunch. He would ask her about her flying lessons.
In the village they stopped at the tavern. Tik bought two glasses of beer and they sat outside to enjoy the sunshine. Across the street, people were coming out of the small redbrick church. Frederik drove by on the tractor and waved. Seated in the trailer behind him were five people. The big man with white hair and a ruddy outdoor face must be Farmer Nielsen, Harald thought.
A man in black police uniform came out with a mousy woman and two small children. He gave Tik a hostile glare as he approached.
One of the children, a girl of about seven, said in a loud voice, "Why don't they go to church, Daddy?"
"Because they're Jews," the man said. "They don't believe in Our Lord."
Harald looked at Tik.
"The village policeman, Per Hansen," Tik said quietly. "And local representative of the Danish National Socialist Workers Party."
Harald nodded. The Danish Nazis were a weak party. In the last general election, two years ago, they had won only three seats in the Rigsdag. But the occupation had raised their hopes and, sure enough, the Germans had pressed the Danish government to give a ministerial post to the Nazi leader, Fritz Clausen. However, King Christian had dug in his heels and blocked the move, and the Germans had backed off. Party members such as Hansen were disappointed, but appeared to be waiting for a change of mood. They seemed confident that their time would come. Harald was afraid they might be right.
Tik drained his glass. "Time for lunch."
They returned to the castle. In the front courtyard Harald was surprised to see Poul Kirke, the cousin of their classmate Mads and friend of Harald's brother Arne. Poul was wearing shorts, and a bicycle was propped against the grand brick portico. Harald had met him several times, and now he stopped to talk while Tik went inside.
"Are you working here?" Poul asked him.
"No, visiting. School isn't over yet."
"The farm hires students for the harvest, I know. What are you planning to do this summer?"
"I'm not sure. Last year I worked as a laborer at a building site on Sande." He grimaced. "Turned out to be a German base, although they didn't say so until later."
Poul seemed interested. "Oh? What sort of base?"
"Some kind of radio station, I think. They fired all the Danes before they installed the equipment. I'll probably work on the fishing boats this summer, and do the preliminary reading for my university course. I'm hoping to study physics under Niels Bohr."
"Good for you. Mads always says you're a genius."
Harald was about to ask what Poul was doing here at Kirstenslot, when the answer became obvious. Karen came around the side of the house pushing a bicycle.
She looked ravishing in khaki shorts that showed off her long legs.
"Good morning, Harald," she said. She went up to Poul and kissed him. Harald noted enviously that it was a kiss on the lips, though a brief one. "Hi," she said.
Harald was dismayed. He had been counting on an hour with Karen at the lunch table. But she was off on a bicycle ride with Poul, who was obviously her boyfriend, even though he was ten years older. Harald now saw, for the first time, that Poul was very good-looking, with regular features and a movie-star smile that showed perfect teeth.
Poul held Karen's hands and looked her up and down. "You are completely delectable," he said. "I wish I had a photo of you like this."
She smiled graciously. "Thank you."
"Ready to go?"
They climbed on their bikes.
Harald felt sick. He watched them set off side by side down the half-mile drive in the sunshine. "Have a nice ride!" he called.
Karen waved without turning around.