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Authors: Belva Plain

Legacy of Silence

BOOK: Legacy of Silence
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San Francisco Chronicle

“Plain follows the long road to the sisters’ reconciliation through several generations, demonstrating, along the way, her talent for effortlessly moving a plot along, and illuminating the complex bonds of love, resentment, and need that shape and define families.”

Kirkus Reviews

—The New York Times



“A SUPERB STORYTELLER … Mrs. Plain’s novels are good stories well told.”
—The Star-Ledger
(Newark, NJ.)

“Ms. Plain has the ability to bring characters as real as your neighbors into your heart.”
—St. Clair County Courier





















Published by
Dell Publishing
a division of
Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1998 by Bar-Nan Creations, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. For information address: Delacorte Press, New York, New York.

The trademark Dell
is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

eISBN: 978-0-307-80539-3

Reprinted by arrangement with Delacorte Press



My mother’s lover said, “How beautiful you are! You look like Rebecca at the well.”

Did I dream that, she asked herself. My mother, Caroline, died before I was old enough to know her. And Eve almost never talked about Caroline’s lover. More likely, as I think back, it was Lore who told it to me.

She told me how alike they were, Eve and Caroline, with their black exotic eyes, and only twenty years between them, so that although they were mother and daughter, they were often thought to be sisters.

The worlds in which they began their lives could not have been farther apart. One was a stolid, dependable town near the shores of Lake Erie, while the other was Europe, bleeding its way toward war. In the end, these worlds with their secrets came together, woven into a coat of many colors, as my mother’s lover might also have said.


he house, built of creamy stone, was square and substantial, made, as in all of Berlin’s prosperous suburbs, to endure forever. Its tall, narrow windows overlooked in various directions a sloping park across the avenue, elms, horse chestnuts, houses, hedges, and gardens; in its own garden, at the center, a rose bed had a sundial on a marble pedestal.

Here Caroline, while her poodle, Peter, lay under her chair, had often used to read or do her lessons. Now though, in 1938, there were to be no more lessons and no more examinations, for the university was closed to her, and her sole present problem was simply to decide what skill would be most practical for an emigrant. She was eighteen, but she felt much older, and she was much older because people age in times of fear and danger.

“For you, it’s easy,” said her father, who was a doctor. “You can tutor, in English or French. There’s always a demand. But for me, all those licensing examinations in another language! And at my age.”

The vision of their radical departure from everything they had known, everything that had been normal, house, friends, and their very language, was sometimes too hard to bear, especially on a shimmering, mild afternoon. She stood up, closed her book, fastened Peter’s leash onto his collar, and crossed the avenue to the park.

Dry leaves, amber and faded red, lay on the walk. A windstorm earlier in the week had piled heaps of them beneath the trees, and into these Peter leaped and scrabbled with great yelps of joy. She stood and watched the scene: a girl and a dog in sunlight; change the girl’s costume and she could be a subject for Vermeer, who had painted in the seventeenth century, or for any painter in any century. It was all so
, she thought again. And it was just this naturalness that made the heart ache. How was it possible, while so many terrible, unbelievable things were happening every day, perhaps at this moment, somewhere in this city? Somewhere.

“That’s a fine poodle you have.”

She had not heard anyone approach. He was a young man holding a German pointer on a leash.

“Don’t worry. Siggy’s gentle. He doesn’t fight with other dogs.”

“Peter doesn’t, either.”

Indeed, the two dogs had begun to sniff at each other, entangling the leashes.

“Funny creatures,” the young man said. “And yet some of us can’t do without them.”

“That’s true. We’ve had Peter for three years. He’s Peter the Second. We got him after the first one died.”

“I like his natural haircut. I always think there’s something pathetic about poodles who are decked out like clowns.”

“Oh, I agree.”

People said that the best way to start a flirtation—although she had never experienced anything like a flirtation—was to go walking with a charming child or a dog. In ordinary circumstances, this would have been a delightful little adventure. He was a very attractive person, well built, well spoken, with fine features, and only a few years older than she. But the circumstances were not ordinary. All this went through Caroline’s mind.

“Were you planning to walk farther?” he asked.

Yes, she had been. Usually, she went as far as the pond, circled it, and started home. Sometimes she even went twice around the pond.

“Well then, do you mind if we go together?”

“Not at all.”

She had poise. She was known to have it. So no one could have guessed at her sudden excitement. He had such a beautiful face! His light eyes, under dark brows, were friendly, while his mouth was serious, as
a man’s mouth ought to be. Yet she was at the same time aware that she was being foolish, schoolgirlish and absurd.

“Walter Litzhauser,” he said with a bow and extended hand.

“Caroline Hartzinger,” she answered, shaking the hand. And they walked on with the dogs on either side.

“This dog-walking is a new experience for me. My parents are away and I’ve been made responsible to take Siggy out for his exercise. I usually don’t have much time at home. I’m at the university.”

“I take Peter every day. He’s my own dog. He lives in my room.”

There seemed, then, nothing to say. She was thinking how odd it was that human beings, no matter how casually met, have to keep talking in order not to appear rude or indifferent.

“May I ask,” he inquired, “are you studying for the university, or are you perhaps already there? I am not very good at judging how old people are, so forgive me if I—”

So he, too, was self-conscious. And she answered quietly, “I have not yet decided whether I want to go or not.”

There was, after all, no reason why she should tell the truth to this stranger.
We are going to leave the country

He nodded. “Yes, it is hard to know what to do with one’s life. I have only a few more months before
I’ll be finished with my courses. Then I’ll be at a crossroads. What I want is to go on further in art history and eventually become a curator, but my father wants me to enter his firm.” He made a small grimace. “They manufacture ball bearings.”

“You have quite a problem,” she said ruefully.

“I do.” He picked up a pinecone and threw it for the dog to retrieve. “Well, on a more pleasant note, do you go to the opera? The Ring Cycle starts again soon.”

“Yes, it’s wonderful, isn’t it?” She could have explained,
We are not allowed to go. That is, my mother is not allowed because she is Jewish, and of course my father would never go anywhere without her

But she did not say so. What use would it be?

So they walked, managing all the while to produce more desultory conversation until they had made the circuit back to the starting point.

“I live here,” Caroline said, indicating the house across the avenue.

“Oh, not far from me. I’m down that way, left, only five minutes’ walk. Shall we meet again tomorrow? My parents will not relieve me of Siggy until next week.”

“Perhaps. I’m not sure,” she answered.

Her mood had reverted to the somber gray that had enveloped her before their walk. Unready just yet to enter the house and its inevitable daily anxieties, she sat down again in the garden. And those
same anxieties came flooding.… She had been twelve years old in 1933, when the Party took power with its red banners flying, its thousands cheering and thousands marching. Always the endless marching. Suddenly everything was organized: children’s groups, student groups, veterans’ groups, everyone, even the physicians—except her father.

Because of Mama, he had been removed from the state medical plan and had lost his post as lecturer in the medical college. Uncomplaining, he continued to serve whoever among his old patients still wanted to consult him. Often he took payment in kind: a carpenter replaced a door, or a plumber repaired the pipes. Often he took no payment at all, so that they were rapidly using up their savings.

Mama said that his profession was one of the two things that kept him from leaving the country. The other was his conviction, with which she did not agree at all, that this regime could not last. Only after Crystal Night, two weeks ago, had he lost that hope. Mass arrests of the innocent, thugs rampaging through the streets while the police stood watching, fires, broken glass and broken heads, weeping women and children, all had finally put an end to his now admittedly foolish hope.

So they were leaving. Or, to be exact, trying to leave. It was not such a simple matter. It was, in fact, a very complicated matter of quotas and transit visas, of affidavits and money.

“What are you doing out there with your daydreams?” called Lore, coming down the rear steps.

“You’re off early today.”

“I switched with someone. I had to go to the dentist. My aching teeth, as usual.”

BOOK: Legacy of Silence
13.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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