“Failure to fire a twenty-one-gun salute to the American flag?” fumes Mr. K. “After all the damage to property owned by American interests in Mexico? After all the seized assets?”
The Colonel interrupts. “After the continuous transgressions all along the border from Brownsville to El Paso? Governor Colquitt has begged and begged Washington to let him take action. Secretary Bryan kept telling him to turn the other cheek.”
Mr. K strides back and forth, back and forth. “Now President Wilson,” is using the flimsy excuse of the Tampico incident, tantamount to nothing, to invade Vera Cruz. The seven seized sailors were released as soon as the Mexican commander realized the error of his subordinates. He sent a formal written apology to Admiral Mayo. But the war-hungry admiral demanded the American flag be raised and a twenty-one-gun salute.”
“Sophie,” asks Bettie Stevens, “however did you manage to return your house to normal in time for this beautiful wedding? We still don’t have the mud cleared out of the first floor.”
“Many hired hands. The Colonel posted a notice at the brewery offering double pay to any worker willing to shovel, scrub and paint by lamplight after their shifts ended. I cried myself to sleep every night thinking that, after all the planning, we would have to ask Otto and Emma to host the celebration at their house.”
“And, of course,” says Emma, “you know we would have been more than happy to have Jennie wed there. But I understand the sentimental reasons for holding the wedding in your own home.”
John shakes his head. “Eight inches of rain. It was the most frightening night of my life. One day people were whining about not enough water in the river. The next night our whole household is huddled in the attic, hoping not to get washed away.”
“Missus Hatzenbuehler?” A voice calls out. “Hilda, are you ready?
Peter rises from his desk and unlatches the door.
“Oh, I apologize for disturbing you, Doctor Herff,” says Hedda. “Missus Hatzenbuehler said you would be out this afternoon. We were hoping to see the Edison Talking Pictures at the Grand tonight. Amazing. He takes words—words we can hear—and makes them appear to emerge from someone’s mouth on the screen. It sounds so much more exciting than viewing Little Mary Pickford in In the Bishop’s Carriage.”
“It’s quite alright, Miss Burgemeister. I was supposed to be away from the office. Missus Hatzenbuehler went home to prepare dinner for her husband. Please have a seat. She should return shortly. Missus Hatzenbuehler’s as excited as you are over witnessing Mister Edison’s newest achievement.
“Instead of one of man’s great accomplishments, I, on the other hand, witnessed one of his basest deeds. I’m supposed to be a protector of life, yet I was called upon to oversee an execution. And I wasn’t alone.”