Until the Day Break
Tura asked herself why she must leave Canada for a phantom Europe.As the fog rolled back she found the answer beside her
BELOW the bastions of the Citadel the turgid, green tide in the St. Lawrence carried ice floes out toward the Atlantic. Huge grey slabs a gull might land on for a moment’s rest.
And it rained. Penetrating spring rain which would awaken the pine forests of Quebec to pungent freshness. The pine forests of Quebec and the spruce lands of Finland. The oaks of England would burgeon, and the willows by the Vistula would show pregnant branches. The birch of Norway would soon blossom, and the linden trees in the German provincial towns would fling a fuller silhouette against the spring sky. In Vienna in a dusty café a cracked machine would wheeze out a tired waltz— Spring will come to all of us here, Tura thought. It will come to us as we go home. But is it home any longer? Where is home? What is home?
She watched the tall man with sleek, grey hair bend over the desk and speak to the room clerk. In her mind’s ear she could hear bis familiar clipped English voice and the French-Canadian softness of the clerk’s answer.
Not the best spokesman topick in French Canada, Tura thought. I might have done better myself. And then she turned her head slightly. Her green eyes under heavy lids flicked across the small group. Johanna Ferenczy, taut on the edge of the chair,
her thin, beautiful face pale through the make-up, her hands nervous with a cigarette. The Pole, Adam Janusz, uneasy in civilian clothes, his dark face sombre. The good-looking Norwegian, still in Air Force uniform, Tor Valen, utterly satisfied with himself. And the old couple, Saul and Rachel Rabinovich, sitting close together, Saul’s clawlike, bony hand on the yellowing parchment of Rachel’s wrist. And Henri Delvaux, who might have moved the room clerk to sympathy, Tura thought, not that he seemed at all concerned with the present predicament, his lusty eyes on the passing legs, his tonguetip moistening his lips.
“Well, m’lord?” Tura said as the tall man walked toward her.
“No luck,” Lord Chelsea answered.
He bowed slightly to Madame Ferenczy and walked to the leaded-glass window that looked over the cobbled court.
A thoroughly rum spot to be in. More or less in charge of an assortment of repatriates— not that he wasn't one himself. Yet he couldn't say no when Sancroft of the Empire Lines called him, “—Chelsea, old man, do you mind? They're a group of people from all over, who've had reservations for some time. Finally we've got space. We haven't a man in Quebec yet, and since you were sailing yourself I hoped you might help. I'm not even sure they all speak English.” Sancroft had done him favors time and again, and yet he might have said no until he heard the list of
names. It included Tura Petri, and at the sound he had had the familiar, hot jolt. He hadn't seen her since she refused to marry him, the time they got into an argument about Britain's promised aid to Finland. Lord Chelsea turned back to the room.
THEY have no rooms at all,” he said. “A long waiting list. We can use the lobby on the terrace level—it’s a little more private than this—” he shrugged. “I have no better suggestion.”
“No room at the inn,” Tura said smoothly and then was sorry for her flippancy, for Mrs. Rabinovich looked so tragic.
“We shall stay, yes?” Johanna Ferenczy said in her fluting voice. As she spoke Tura thought with amusement that all of them, the Englishman included, spoke the language of this country with different accents. To an American it might have sounded like the folk at the Tower of Babel trying Esperanto.
“It rains so,” Rachel Rabinovich shivered a little. Her movements were those of a scared, wet bird, her voice a thin harplike sound.
The Pole climbed with an effort out of the depth of the easy chair and bowed slowly to the old Jewess. “Madame, may I assist you downstairs?” His weary smile did not touch his eyes at all.
Lord Chelsea looked at Tura Petri and a slight flush crept over his face.
“An entertaining situation, m’lord,” Tura said softly. “An unofficial guardian to the lesser breeds. Or perhaps more embarrassing than entertaining, m’lord?”
“Don’t keep m’lording me, for God’s sake,” Chelsea snapped. “Oh, Tura.”
“But you are m’lord, aren’t you, m’lord?” she said.
She laughed. Unexpectedly her sullen face seemed lovely. “Don’t look so morose. I might write another feature about you and not speak of your British imperturbability.”
They turned and followed the Pole and Mrs. Rabinovich. Saul Rabinovich carrying a bulging, worn brief case came behind them, then Madame Ferenczy between the Norwegian and the Frenchman-down the lobby, down the carpeted stairs to the terrace sitting room. Here the rain seemed closer, scratching sharp fingers against the French windows.
Over the terrace and beyond the pointed steeples of the churches a ferry beat its way through the rain to Levis. Tura tried to distinguish the shapes of the white houses, but the gathering dusk was collaborating with the rain. The dark river alone was firmly etched in the evening.
“Why can we not get on board the ship as the understanding was? This I cannot understand?” Henri Delvaux shrugged his shoulders with an exasperated air. “Come to Quebec for the ship they say. It is ready. But where is it ready?”
“I had much business to finish in New York,” Johanna Ferenczy’s voice joined his. “It is of extreme inconvenience for me to leave so quickly. And then it is not such a hurry after all!”
“The Empress was held up at Father Point because of the ice floes,” Chelsea said. “That’s all I
know. We’ll get on board as soon as possible. They’ll send word to us here.”
“Ah, Vienna again!” Johanna Ferenczy said brightly. To Tura her voice rang hollow. Ah, Vienna again, she thought, ah, Viipuri again, Oslo again, Krakow again, London again, Paris again, Stuttgart again. What are you going back for and why am I?
nnHE birds return in the spring. From the rich JL fruitful lands of Egypt they fly to the hare skerries and the bright penury of Finland; from the southern islands to the wild forests of the Canadian north. Perhaps it’s an instinct. Perhaps a direct physical heritage of the elder ages, perhaps a hark back to the pilgrimages. From the abundant tables of America to starveling fare. What’s the matter with us? Perhaps we’re all mad.
She sat down at the corner of the deep couch, pulling her feet under her. Tor Valen moved to sit beside her but for once the Englishman was quick.
“Well,” he said with a sigh, “here we are, perhaps for the night. Not very comfortable, is it?” “It is time for us to get unaccustomed to ease,” Tura said.
Chelsea moved uneasily. He lifted his chin, seemed about to speak and changed his mind. Then briskly, raising his voice, he said: “We might as well try to make ourselves comfortable. Shall I call for some tea?”
Tor Valen laughed and tried to catch Turn’s eye but Rachel Rabinovich said quickly: “I’d like some tea and little cakes.”
“I would like a magic gift,” Tura said under her breath. “I do not care for your tea. I will have an amber nectar which will give me the power to wander through a mind at will, to find the reason behind the act and the substance behind the shadow.”
“Whose mind now?” Chelsea said.
“Everyone’s. Down the maze of Madame Ferenczy’s thought process, in the echoing halls of Adam Janusz’ mind, by the footlights of Delvauz’ burlesque house of a brain, in the clean ghetto of the Rabinovichs’ hearts, and in the room of mirrors that reflects Tor Valen to Tor Valen.”
“Not into my mind?” Chelsea asked. “Perhaps yours too, though yours doesn’t interest me so much. You know, you English with your centuries of reserve have washed yourselves colorless. You might have all the pent-up passions of the world inside your well-bred exteriors but who suspects it?”
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“What if I should tell you?”
“If you should tell me you’d probably speak of your excellent club, and collection of Oscar Wilde, and Empire extension schemes—but you would never mention your brother who died at Dieppe, or your mother who uncomplainingly moved from a ruined house to a bombed flat and changed her embroidery to munition work, nor your own blitzed house in Cornwall, nor the
fear you yourself have of going back to England’s 2,000 days of terror which you didn’t share.”
Chelsea shot her a sharp look. “I’ll order tea,” he said.
“You see,” Tura called after him.
Johanna Ferenczy took Chelsea’s seat, adjusting her short fur cape with nervous grace. “Most distingue, the Lord Chelsea,” she remarked. “What did he do on this continent?”
Tura glanced at her with amusement. “Lectured. I believe he is some sort of an unofficial diplomat. He covered the entire continent making friends for Britain by matter-of-fact, off-hand speeches. He did a very good job of it.”
“You know him then before?”
“I’ve covered, that is, written up, some of his speeches for my paper.” “Ah, you are a journalist? You go íe write of the tragic Europe!”
“No,” Tura said softly, “I go home.” But Madame Ferenczy was not listening to her. She was speaking with earnestness, her hands ushering her words onward.
“The story I could tell you! I escape from my Vienna as the forces of the house painter approach. I hide, I run. Then Paris! The chic Paris! And the ship that brings me to my beloved New York. You have perhaps heard of my success in New York? I play on Broadway in three good successes these past two years? But always I miss my Vienna, The parks, the woods, the cafés and the singing! Ah, mademoiselle, how the Viennese sing. Of this I speak to my friends. So the news comes last week that we may repatriate ourselves. Do you know what it is that happens? My friends, my dear Broadway friends, they give me a big surprise banquet. There is champagne, and flowers and gifts. Ah, gifts—-you have not the imagination to conceive the flowers and the gifts! This, they say, is the farewell party for our little Hansi, who can go home to Vienna, to her beloved city. But come back soon, Hansi, they say, come back for we miss you—the bright lights of Broadway are not so bright without you. Poetry, that is, no? They arrange for everything, Perhaps I do not leave so fast if it is not that everything they get ready for me—this is their present, you see? For they know, as I have told them, that Vienna is my heart.”
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“Will you return to the stage in Austria?” Tura felt the need to say something to this thin, beautiful woman. She waited for her answer for long moments while Hansi Ferenczy remained staring at the rain, her eyes wide. She did not know that in the Austrian’s mind the question was ringing with loud irony.
IF ill you return to the stage in Austria, Hansi Ferenczy? —Hannah Schmidt? How you have talked yourself out of a good berth, good money, such food. Back to obscurity, my little Hannah Schmidt, back to trying to get parts in shoddy theatres from scared producers. Ah, the stupidity of it! My beautiful New York, if I held on to the many things you had to offer. If I had not tried to build myself a background out of the back streets, the third-rate roles in the third-rate theatres, if I had taken the generosity of the Americans and kept my mouth shut. Hannah Schmidt, my imbecile, now you must return to your Vienna and the brilliant Austrian actress Hansi Ferenczy will fade into vague memory for all but you, Hannah. Then as you grow old and arc a little hungry, you may remember these war years as heaven. The poor, sad Vienna—there will be spring in the old woods, and the sun will slant, after the rain, and a peasant girl will sing in the meadow, and in the. café perhaps one will order a pastry and coffee. Vienna! After all, I love you, my sad city.
Madame Ferenczy looked up quickly at Tura Petri, her eyes scared for a moment. But surely this green-eyed woman couldn’t read thoughts?
“You ask me? Ah, yes, whether I return to the stage. That I shall see. First I rest,” she laughed brightly. “An artiste, she grows most tired.”
Chelsea came in. “I thought we might have a fire?” he said.
'Por Valen leaned over the back of the couch and smiled. “The British organize us.” he whispered to Madame Ferenczy and Tura.
THEY gathered hungrily around the rising blaze, turning their backs to the windows. A waiter came with the tea things and Chelsea looked at the three women.
“Perhaps you will pour, Mrs. Rabinovitch?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” the little woman said hastily, but her eyes brightened, “The madame? She would most beautifully do it!”
Johanna Ferenczy took the chair behind the low table and ease settled over the party. It was as though the fact of having tea blocked out the looming shapes ahead, filling completely the window into the future.
“Do 1 understand you are returning to Germany, Rabinovitch?” the Norwegian asked, stirring his tea.
“That is so, Lieutenant,” Saul
Rabinovich said. “We return to Stuttgart.”
“Don’t you think it is perhaps unwise—or do you not believe in these persecution stories?” Valen continued.
“Oh, yes, sir,” the Jew said. “We believe. We know. It is but two years since we leave Lisbon.” He put down his cup and reached for his wife’s hand. He looked into the fire thoughtfully; “It is like this; we go home. We are old. Sixty years we live in our house under the linden trees. I am a publisher, a small firm, yes. But I have friends. We get together in the evenings and read and sing. My wife, she has plants. Our life is full to us. We are too old to start a new life. We know that in our lifetime the bitterness—the hatred of the Jew—-will not die in Germany. It has been too well nurtured for too long. There will be that, always. But do you see, it is home. We cannot help—we too are Germans.”
Adam Janusz leaned over the edge of his chair and pressed Saul Rabinovich’s hand. “It is so,” he said. “Truly, it is so.”
“A little more tea, Mrs. Rabinovich?” Johanna Ferenczy asked.
“Little more, please.”
Henri Delvaux said: “I have the
contact with a publishing house of Paris. Perhaps we will do business, yes?”
Tura watched him as he and Saul Rabinovich began to talk; his wellcared hands gesticulating, his smooth face expressive. The wizened face of the Jew brightened and his sunken eyes shone with grateful interest. Henri Delvaux was thinking less of Rabinovich’s welfare than he was of his own as he talked. He had always been able to drive his mind on two tracks.
Always landed on my feet, he thought, why not this time Perhaps I could help the man. What is this Rabinovich saying? Ah, yes, books. Now, Balzac, why not publish him again? That is what will humanize even the Germans—or will anything humanize the Germans? Mon Dieu, I shall try to help this little man. He deserves it for he is the brave man to go back to that den of wolves. He is of different timbre from our little Hannah Schmidt. I shall not let out her secret, she is a good-looking woman and women, like their secrets. Perhaps one day she may return to America. The happy ending, ah, that is the best thing. I will tell this Rabinovich never to publish masterpieces with sad endings. Now he asks me why I go home, why I go home . . .
“Monsieur, do you know Paris in the spring?” Delvaux saw that the entire group was listening to him now. “Do you know the garden of Luxembourg when the chestnuts point up their white candles? Do you lean across the bridge in the evening as the barges go back to the country, down the Seine? Do you walk under the trees along the Seine and speak to the old men who sell the prints of great paintings—ha, they are the true lovers of art—and the river is there flowing by, and the pigeons chatter under the trees? And then you cross the bridge to the L’île de la Cité and you go down the stone stairs and you find the only bar in the world. And as you drink you talk to your friends. Do you see? And you argue and perhaps you have a little fight? And then it is dawn when you walk back, and for a moment you go in to the Notre Dame, and when you come out the sun has risen—and it is morning in Paris, and it is spring. So that is why I go. You see?”
“It gives me a queer feeling to listen to them,” Tor Valen said in a low voice to Adam Janusz “I keep thinking that perhaps I have destroyed their homes.
I bombed Paris—and Stuttgart, and Bremen and Berlin—-”
“Sometimes I think of that too,”
Jahusz said. His Polish accent sounded abrupt, juxtaposed with the singing intonation of the Norwegian.
“I flew with a British squadron for a while,” Tor Valen continued. “Two tours. Then I came here to Canada to train boys who had escaped. I spoke for the ‘Wings for Norway Fund’ in the States. That was something! The food, the drink, the speed—the girls!” He laughed shortly. “Then back to England, but I got it in the leg and was sent to instruct again. I didn’t mind. I had a car. Good time.”
HE FELL silent. The swarthy Pole looked at the firelight on his blond hair, on his handsome, regular features. There was a distinctive air of health and arrogance about the boy, but in this unwary moment his eyes seemed naked as he stared into the fire.
I’d have done better by myself if I’d married her, Tor Valen was thinking. Rich—Judas how rich! Of course I didn’t love her, but that didn’t matter anyway. Her father was willing to set me up in business, too. What do I go back to? A small town, brother who is a quisling, strict father, opportunities nil. I’ll never have enough money again to own a car, speed down highways with a beautiful girl beside me, the radio blaring, bottle of good whisky and a week end at a luxury hotel at the end of the trip. Wings on my breast. Uniform that lets you belong anywhere — not only belong, makes you a hero. A Norwegian flier, escaped across the North Sea by fishing boat, handsome as a god—that’s how they used to speak of me, I heard them. Tell me how you were shot down, Tor? She was beautiful, too. I am a fool to give it up. What if I never leave this country, never go back to that cold grey house on the bluff above the harbor, take off my uniform, never have to take my chance with thousands of other halfeducated, small-town boys like myself? You can’t make money in Norway, not the ■money you make here. I’ll probably live and die as a clerk In Arendal bank, walking to work by the inner harbor where the'fishing boats rub against one another, taking my ordinary family out to the sand dunes with the grey North Sea rolling up and the dry yellow grass bending in the west wind. Arendal— and perhaps a couple of times a year at Osló, ftr a holiday. And when I’m almost too old to enjoy it I’ll be able to afford a small sailboat and on summer evenings I’ll take it out among the islands in the Oslo fiord, and I’ll wonder why I was such a fool. What is there for a young man in the old world, Tor Valen, my fine fellow?
He realized that the Pole was speaking to him and turned blinded eyes at the shadowy figure in the next chair. Night had crept into the room but no one had thought to turn on the lights. The fire flared with uneven leaps, lighting up now one, now another figure.
“. . . but you Norwegians can build again, plan again,” the Pole was saying. “There is future left in your land. And each man may share in the country’s future, in the reconstruction. We Poles go back because we must. Because the black soil of the Vistula is our heart and the high hills of Tatras our soul. We go back to our destroyed cities, deserted squares, and a land that is no longer ours—because we must. Myself, I have nothing left. My home is in the seceded area. I was of the Army so I may not even be permitted to enter my country. If it is so, on a moonless night I shall cross the border into the Tatras. In the hills it is simple to hide and wait.
I know. 1 did it before, coming out, that September in 1939. Then there was hope . . .”
He looked at the boy beside him. Tor Valen’s face seemed open and friendly. In his eyes was hope. Adam
Janusz sighed. It is always easier to bear one’s cross if someone else's is heavier, he thought. It is little to give— one’s cross. Perhaps I will find a heavier one to contemplate—in Poland—
Poland—if I close my eyes I can smell the lilacs in the old gardens of Krakow, that comes of all this talk of spring. A nd someone playing a Chopin nocturne, softly, above the street, and white curtains swaying out of an open window. And I can feel the earth under my feet, and the path to the peak, and smell the good food from the log chalet just behind the clump of pines. And in the mountain meadow the peasant’s voice rises above the sound of the violin, and there for a while in the wild grass we rest, listening — Krysia, my Krysia, where are you -— “It doesn’t look as though we can get on board tonight,” Chelsea said into the silence.
¿Rachel Rabinovich shivered and Saul got up and spread his overcoat over her knees.
“Please, to have this,” Johanna Ferenczy said, pulling off her fur cape with a quick gesture and holding it out. As no one took it she got up and carefully threw it around Rachel Rabinovich’s shoulders and tucked it in about her waist. “I am hot, there by the fire,” she said apologetically. Then she went back to her deep, high-backed chair and shrugging herself into a comfortable position, closed her eyes.
TOR VALEN stretched his legs out and twisted his arm behind his head. He looked very young as he slept. The Pole still sat forward in his chair, his eyes beyond the fire, oblivious to the room. Henri Delvaux had closed his eyes long ago, leaning back with odd frigidity, his ankles crossed, his finger tips touching with precision.
Tura Petri turned to the Englishman beside her on the couch and answered him, softly, so as not to disturb the others:
“No, it doesn’t seem very likely we will leave the new world tonight, does it, my Cecil?”
“What is it to you, Tura?” Chelsea asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know at all. You know, it is an odd feeling, needing to get back. There is nothing for me at home, yet I feel I must go. They didn’t like it at the paper, but I couldn’t help it. If I must talk about spring, too—as all of us seem to have done—I want to hear the foghorns call in the Uuras Straits, that is the outer harbor at Viipuri. But I won’t be able to go there. And I want to see the gulls rise from the low grey skerries. And hear the liquid Finnish tongue on the streets, and see with my own eyes whether my people have changed. I want to know the worst if there is a worst. I want to know the truth, whatever it is. There is nothing I can do, nothing I own. I won’t belong there now, after all these years here. I am more an American than anything else, but I must go back. Now.”
“I know,” Chelsea said in a low voice. “You know they kept me here through the blitz, through the worst of it. I know that that will always be between me and my people. They will not speak of it and I will not speak of it, but all of us will know. And I asked to go back. I begged them to let me come home. They kept saying, you are doing a good job there, stick to it. It’s queer, you know, but I envy the Rabinoviches their years in Europe. I envy Janusz the terror, and hopelessness, and battles he must know. I even envy that young pup Valen.” He turned and looked at the girl beside him. “But not you, my love,” he said.
Tura leaned against his shoulder. “Well,” she said drowsily. “We’re going back. We’re going back as soon as the Empress gets Itere. I wish you British didn’t always try to muddle through. I wish you’d have a ship arrive on time.”
“There is fog, too,” Chelsea said.
“Oh, was that the reason?” Tura settled herself more comfortably and closed her eyes.
The Englishman turned his shoulder to cushion her head. He still sat very straight, staring into the dying embers. It had been a long day and a rainy one.
It wasn’t surprising that everyone was tired, he thought.
IT WAS four in the morning when the sleepy-looking bellhop clicked on a dim light by the doorway and told the Englishman that word had come from the ship. The Empress was ready, would they leave now?
Chelsea looked around the room, and then at the sleeping girl against his shoulder.
“In the morning,” he replied quietly. The bellhop nodded approval. And Chelsea, bending his head to brush Tura’s cheek, found her. watching him.
“In the morning,” she said softly, then sighed drowsily and settled herself more firmly against his shoulder.
“Anyhow,” she said, “I love you. I always have.” She closed her eyes before he could answer, ir