25 JANUARY 1935, Page 12



IN the light from his window the old man could see that it was still snowing. He was glad ; snow would help the vote, if anything. After all, they knew they were going to win, and snow might keep some of them at home, reckoning that one vote couldn't Make much odds. With his- own side it was different ; they wouldn't stop at a snowdrift after all they had been through—Tthe spying and the threatening and the " after 1935."

He heard the outer door open and switched on the wireless. As likely as not it was the Block-wart again, come to see if Franz was still with him, and he liked to play a German programme whenever the Blockvcart was listening, to- give him something out of keeping with the rest of the record to report at Headquarters. Then he recognized his grandson's step, and at once switched off again ; one couldn't talk above the music, anyway not at his age, and especially not tonight, when they were playing all the old tunes that ran in one's head, and when he wanted to hear about the eleventh-hour doings.

The young man came into the doorway carrying a bundle of green branches.

" What's that for ? "

" Decorations," said the Youth.- " You should see the show they've got upstairs. No flags, of course, but a flagstaff out of their middle window with a wreath all down it, and more in the windows at each side."

" Let 'em," said the old man, " but don't you go copy-. ing that Nazi clap-trap."

" Must," said the other. " Orders for tomorrow are that our people are to do the same as they do. I'm going to hang this stuff out after supper."

He opened the stove door and held his boots, one after the other, to the grill inside the shutter. The lumps of muddy snow between the nails at the heels thawed and dripped into a pool. He spread this into a swastika with his toe as he said : " Why were you listening to Germany when I came in ?"

" I was having my bit of fun," said the old man; 0 one needs to, these days. It was to keep the Blodzcart guessing. He's had his eye on me all day ;. he's called upstairs three times, and twice when he must' have knoWn they were all out." " Why ? "

" Maybe because Franz was round earlier, but more likely because upstairs said something to hini again ; she's always talking to him. I thought you were him again, and turned on. Frankfurt so as he could. enjoy it."

" I don't know how you can do it," said the young one, " even to have him on, though it sounds funny all right, now you tell it. I reckon you're the one to ride down to the poll tomorrow in a Nazi' van just for the joke of voting the other way. . . ."

" I'd like fine . . ."

" While I'd spit, and worse, on their perishing paint rather than get. into one. Heard about last night.? 7 • " Yes, Franz told me."

" They did what they liked while the police nosed round inspecting driving licences and pretending. not to see, and today nine or ten chaps at the works got notes—typewritten things, not signed—saying for all they may be members of the Deutsche Front they're known for Separatist swine who'll soon be seeing the inside of a concentration camp. God, I get mad. ."

He kicked the watery swastika into a' puddle and turned his heel in it.

" Don't," said the old man, " t'isn't no good. They're going to win, and Franz says the best. turn we can do the Party is to stop all our good men from crossing into France next week. They must stay, he says, and keep up a skeleton organization in touch with the ones in Germany. He says Berlin wilt try and frighten us out early ; it will suit their new game of making up to France; he says, if their hotheads find no one left to .beat up when they take over.. He knows what he's 'talking about, Franz does, so don't you go losing your head and doing anything silly, young fellow, see ? "

The outer door opened ; the old man switched on the wireless. "Deutsch ist die Saar," it roared with a thousand voices ; the visitor stopped to .listen in the passage before climbing to call on the upper floor.

* * * * . .

The old man drew his chair closer to the stove.

" I can't get warm," he said. " Where have you been ? You can't have been voting till this hour. I've been waiting for you to make this thing up to warm me." The young man raked the stove.

The old one went on " Cold as charity it was getting back from away over there. I had to change trains twice, too. Going wasn't so bad ; I was quite warm then. But I was two hours waiting outside the poll ; it was enough to freeze anyone's marrow. Some must have caught their death of cold."

" See anyone you knew ? "

" Not many. I never go over that side now. But some I hadn't seen since the War ; one froth Westphalia and two more from Berlin."

" Nazis ? "

" Yes."

" Any of our fellows ? "

" Don't know," said the old man., " Don't know the folks over that way now, so I couldn't tell."

" Must have been able to tell a bit, surely ? "

" No," said the old man, " I couldn't. I was in a queue, and I haven't got eyes in the back of my head, have I ? And if I had, I was too cold to use 'em."

" All right, all right," said the other ; " I was only asking."

" There's one thing I can tell you, though ; and it's that they're going to get far more votes than you think, or than Franz thinks, for that matter. Shouldn't wonder if they get a hundred per cent. in some parts."

" Not where you were, anyway," said the youth, out to soothe.

" That's just it," said the other, unappeased. " You may as well know now. You and Franz'll have to know sometime. I got into that place at last, and they gave me my paper to make my cross, and then I saw " France ". written against one square. That made me think. I thought of those French soldiers lording it round here all those years, and of the way they used to France this and France that to make me send you to their school, and then I remembered that French swine who ran the Governing Commission his own way, year in, year out, at the beginning. And when I thought of his ugly face, I just knew I had to vote against it, so I put my cross for Germany." After a moment he went on : " And now I can't stop thinking what's coming to some of our chaps, and I can't get warm nohow."

" Funny your thinking that," said the young man, slowly. " I hadn't thought of that, and I was a long time in the booth, thinking. What got me was those Swedes and Swiss and Luxemburgers sitting behind that table giving out the papers and checking us up. , A row of sour-faced neutrals running our show, I thought, and that's what I've come to vote for. Neutral and international, we'll be, and run by committees and Danes and Dutchmen and Greeks and the like. And I couldn't stick it. Suddenly I wanted a country at any price ; so I voted German too, you see ? "

For a while neither spoke. Then : " You weren't any way intimidated, were you ? " said the youth.

" No."

" Neither was I."