After I had removed to my new quarters I was requested to call at the office of the Chemical Staff to discuss the line of research I should next take up. My adviser in this matter was the venerable Herr von Uhl, a white haired old patriarch whose jacket was a mass of decorations. The insignia on the left breast indicating the achievements in chemical science were already familiar to me, but those on the right breast were strange.
Perhaps I stared at them a little, for the old man, noting my interest, remarked proudly, "Yes, I have contributed much glory to the race and our group,—one hundred and forty-seven children,—one hundred and four of them sons, fifty-eight already of a captain's rank, and twenty-nine of them colonels—my children of the second and third generation number above two thousand. Only three men living in Berlin have more total descendants—and I am but seventy-eight years of age. If I live to be ninety I shall break all records of the Eugenic Office. It all comes of good breeding and good work. I won my paternity right, when I was but twenty-eight, just about your age. If you pass the physical test, perhaps you can duplicate my record. For this early promotion you have won qualifies you mentally."
Astonished and alarmed beyond measure I could find no reply and sat staring dumbly, while Herr von Uhl, beginning to speak of chemical matters, inquired if I had any preference as to the problem I should now take up. Incapable of any clear thinking I could only ask if he had any to suggest.
Immediately the old man's face brightened. "A man of your genius," he said, "should be permitted to try his brain with the greatest problems on which the life of Germany depends. The Staff discussed this and has assigned you to original research for the finding of a better method of the extraction of protium from the ore. To work on this assignment you must of necessity share grave secrets, which, should they be disclosed, might create profound fears, but your professional honour is a sufficient guarantee of secrecy. In this research you will compete with some of the most distinguished chemists in Berlin. If you should be successful you will be decorated by His Majesty and you will receive a liberal pension commensurate with the value of your discovery."
I was profoundly impressed. Evidently I had stumbled upon something of vital importance, the real nature of which I did not in the least comprehend, and happily was not supposed to. The interview was ended by my being entrusted with voluminous unpublished documents which I was told to take home and study. Two armed men were ordered to accompany me and to stand alternate guard outside my apartment while I had the documents in my possession.
In the quiet of my new abode I unsealed the package. The first sheet contained the official offer of the rewards in store for success with the research. The further papers explained the occasion for the gravity and secrecy, and outlined the problem.
The colossal consequence of the matter with which I was dealing gripped and thrilled me. Protium, it seemed, was the German name for a rare element of the radium group, which, from its atomic weight and other properties, I recognized as being known to the outside world only as a laboratory curiosity of no industrial significance.
But, as used by the Germans, this element was the essence of life itself, for by the influence of its emanations, they had achieved the synthesis of protein capable of completely nourishing the human body—a thing that could be accomplished in the outside world only through the aid of natural protein derived from plants and animals.
How I wished, as I read, that my uncle could have shared with me this revelation of a secret that he had spent his life in a fruitless effort to unravel. We had long since discovered how the Germans had synthesized the carbohydrate molecule from carbon dioxide and water and built therefrom the sugars, starches and fat needed for human nutrition. We knew quite as well how they had created the simpler nitrogen compounds, that this last step of synthesizing complete food proteins—a step absolutely essential to the support of human life wholly from synthetic foods—the chemists of the outer world had never mastered.
But no less interesting than the mere chemistry of all this was the history of it all, and the light it threw on the larger story of how Germany had survived when the scientists of the world had predicted her speedy annihiliation. The original use of protium had, I found, been discovered late in the Twentieth Century when the protium ores of the Ural Mountains were still available to the German chemists. After Russia had been won by the World Armies, the Germans for a time suffered chronic nitrogen starvation, as they depended on the protium derived from what remained of their agriculture and from the fisheries in the Baltic. As the increasing bombardment from the air herded them within their fast building armoured city, and drove them beneath the soil in all other German territory and from the surface of the sea in the Baltic; they must have perished miserably but for the discovery of a new source of protium.
This source they had found in the uninhabited islands of the Arctic, where the formation of the Ural Mountains extends beneath the sea. Sending their submarines thence in search of platinum ores they had not found platinum but a limited supply of ore containing the even more valuable protium. By this traffic Germany had survived for a century and a half. The quantity of the rare element needed was small, for its effect, like that of radium, was out of all proportion to its bulk. But this little they must have, and it seems that the supply of ore was failing.
Nor was that all to interest me. How did the German submarine get to the Arctic since the World State had succeeded, after half a century of effort, in damming the Baltic by closing up several passes among the Danish Islands and the main pass of the sound between Zealand and Sweden? I remember, as a youngster, the great Jubilee that celebrated the completion of that monumental task, and the joy that hailed from the announcement that the world's shipping would at last be freed from an ancient scourge.
But little had we of the world known the magnitude of the German fears as the Baltic dam neared completion. We had thought merely to protect our commerce from German piracy and perhaps to stop them from getting a little copper and rubber in some remote corner of the earth. But we did not realize that we were about to cut them off from an essential element without which that conceited and defiant race must have speedily run up the white flag of absolute surrender or have died to the last man, like rats in a neglected trap.
But the completion of the Baltic dam evidently had not shut off the supply of Arctic ore, for the annual importation of ore was given right up to date though the Baltic had been closed for nearly a score of years. Eagerly I searched my papers for an item that would give some hint as to how the submarines got out of the dammed-up Baltic. But on that point the documents before me were silent. They referred to the Arctic ore, gave elaborate details as to mineralogy and geology of the strata from which it came, but as to the ways of its coming into Berlin there was not the slightest suggestion. That this ore must come by submarine was obvious. If so, the submarine must be at large in the Atlantic and Arctic seas, and those occasional reports of periscopes sighted off the coast of Norway, which have never been credited, were really true. The submarines, or at least their cargoes, must reach Berlin by some secret passage. Here indeed was a master mystery, a secret which, could I unravel it and escape to the outer world with the knowledge, would put unconditionally within the power of the World State the very life of the three hundred millions of this unholy race that was bred and fed by science in the armoured City of Berlin, or that, working like blind moles of the earth, held the world at bay from off the sterile and pock-marked soil of all that was left of the one-time German Empire.
That night I did not sleep till near the waking hour, and when the breakfast container bumped into the receiving cupboard I was nodding over the chemical papers amid strange and wonderful dreams.
Next day with three assistants, themselves chemists of no mean rank, I set to work to prepare apparatus for repeating all the known processes in the extraction and use of the rare and vital element. This work absorbed me for many weeks, during which time I went nowhere and saw no one and slept scarce one hour out of four.
But the steady application told upon me, and, by way of recreation, I decided to spend an evening on the Level of Free Women, a place to which, much though it fascinated me, I had not yet mustered the courage to go.
My impression, as I stepped from the elevator, was much as that of a man who alights from a train in a strange city on a carnival night. Before me, instead of the narrow, quiet streets of the working and living quarters of the city, there spread a broad and seemingly endless hall of revelry, broken only by the massive grey pillars that held up the multi-floored city. The place was thronged with men of varied ranks and professions. But more numerous and conspicuous were the women, the first and only women that I had seen among the Germans—the Free Women of Berlin, dressed in gorgeous and daring costumes; women of whom but few were beautiful, yet in whose tinted cheeks and sparkling eyes was all the lure of parasitic love.
The multi-hued apparel of the throng dazzled and astonished me. Elsewhere I had found a sterile monotony of dress and even of stature and features. But here was resplendent variety and display. Men from all the professional and military classes mingled indiscriminately, their divers uniforms and decorations suggesting a dress ball in the capital of the world. But the motley costumes of the women, who dressed with the license of unrestrained individuality, were even more startling and bizarre—a kaleidoscopic fantastic masquerade.
I wondered if the rule of convention and tyranny of style had lost all hold upon these women. And yet I decided, as I watched more closely, that there was not an absence of style but rather a warfare of styles. The costumes varied from the veiled and beruffled displays, that left one confounded as to what manner of creature dwelt therein, to the other extreme of mere gaudily ornamented nudity. I smiled as I recalled the world-old argument on the relative modesty of much or little clothing, for here immodesty was competing side by side in both extremes, both seemingly equally successful.
But it was not alone in the matter of dress that the women of the Free Level varied. They differed even more strikingly in form and feature, for, as I was later more fully to comprehend, these women were drawn from all the artificially specialized breeds into which German science had wrought the human species. Most striking and most numerous were those whom I rightly guessed to be of the labour strain. Proportionally not quite so large as the males of the breed, yet they were huge, full-formed, fleshly creatures, with milky white skin for the most part crudely painted with splashes of vermilion and with blued or blackened brows. The garishness of their dress and ornament clearly bespoke the poorer quality of their intellect, yet to my disgust they seemed fully as popular with the men as the smaller and more refined types, evidently from the intellectual strains of the race.
Happily these ungainly women of the labour strain were inclined to herd by themselves and I hastened to direct my steps to avoid as much as possible their overwhelming presence.
The smaller women, who seemed to be more nearly human, were even more variegated in their features and make-up. They were not all blondes, for some of them were distinctively dark of hair and skin, though I was puzzled to tell how much of this was inborn and how much the work of art. Another thing that astonished me was the wide range of bodily form, as evidently determined by nutrition. Clearly there was no weight-control here, for the figures varied from extreme slenderness to waddling fatness. The most common type was that of mild obesity which men call "plumpness," a quality so prized since the world began that the women of all races by natural selection become relatively fatter than men.
For the most part I found these women unattractive and even repellent, and yet as I walked about the level I occasionally caught fleeting glimpses of genuine beauty of face and form, and more rarely expressions of a seeming high order of intelligence.
This revelling multitude of men and girls was uproariously engaged in the obvious business of enjoying themselves by means of every art known to appeal to the mind of man—when intelligence is abandoned and moral restraint thrown to the winds.
I wended my way among the multitude, gay with colour, noisy with chatter and mingled music, redolent with a hundred varieties of sensuous perfume. I came upon a dancing floor. Whirling and twisting about the columns, circling around a gorgeous scented and iridescent fountain, officers and scientists, chemists and physicians, each clasping in his arms a laughing girl, danced with abandon to languorous music.
As I watched the dance I overheard two girls commenting upon the appearance of the dancers. Whirling by in the arms of a be-medalled officer, was a girl whose frizzled yellow hair fell about a dun-brown face.
"Did you see that, Fedora, tanned as a roof guard and with that hair!"
"Well, you know," said the other, "it's becoming quite the fashion again."
"Why don't you try it? Three baths would tan you adorably and you do have the proper hair."
"Oh, yes, I have the hair, all right, but my skin won't stand it. I tried it three years ago and I blistered outrageously."
The talk drifted to less informing topics and I moved on and came to other groups lounging at their ease on rugs and divans as they watched more skilful girls squirming through some intricate ballet on an exhibition platform.
Seeing me stand apart, a milk-white girl with hair dyed pink came tugging at my arm. Her opalescent eyes looked from out her chalky countenance; but they were not hard eyes, indeed they seemed the eyes of innocence. As I shook my head and rebuffed her cordial advance I felt, not that I was refusing the proffered love of a painted woman, but rather that I was meanly declining a child's invitation to join her play. In haste I edged away and wandered on past endless gaming tables where men in feverish eagerness whirled wheels of chance, while garishly dressed girls leaned on their shoulders and hung about their necks.
Announced by shouts and shrieking laughter I came upon a noisy jumble of mechanical amusement devices where men and girls in whirling upholstered boxes were being pitched and tumbled about.
Beyond the noise of the childish whirligigs I came into a space where the white ceiling lights were dimmed by crimson globes and picture screens were in operation. It did not take long for me to grasp the essential difference between these pictured stories and those I had seen in the workmen's level. There love of woman was entirely absent from the screen. Here it was the sole substance of the pictures. But unlike the love romances of the outer world, there were no engagement rings, no wedding bells, and never once did the face or form of a child appear.
In seating myself to see the pictures I had carefully chosen a place where there was only room for myself between a man and one of the supporting columns. At an interlude the man arose to go. The girl who had been with him arose also, but he pushed her back upon the bench, saying that he had other engagements, and did not wish her company. The moment he was gone the girl moved over and proceeded to crowd caressingly against my shoulder. She was a huge girl, obviously of the labour strain. She leaned over me as if I had been a lonely child and she a lonelier woman. Crowded against the pillar I could not escape and so tried to appear unconcerned.
"Did you like that story?" I asked, referring to the picture that had just ended.
"No," she replied, "the girl was too timid. She could never have won a roof guard captain in that fashion. They are very difficult men, those roof guard officers."
"And what kind of pictures do you prefer?" I asked.
"Quartettes," she answered promptly. "Two men and two girls when both girls want the other man, and both men want the girl they have. That makes a jolly plot. Or else the ones where there are two perfect lovers and the man is elected to paternity and leaves her. I had a man like that once and it makes me sad to see such a picture."
"Perhaps," I said, speaking in a timorous voice, "you wanted to go with him and be the mother of his children?"
She turned her face toward me in the dim light. "He talked like that," she said, "and then, I hated him. I knew then that he wanted to go and leave me. That he hadn't tried to avoid the paternity draft. Yes, he wanted to sire children. And he knew that he would have to leave me. And so I hated him for ever loving me."
A strange thrill crept over me at the girl's words. I tried to fathom her nature, to separate the tangle of reality from the artificial ideas ingrained by deliberate mis-education. "Did you ever see children? Here, I mean. Pictures of them, perhaps, on the screen?"
"Never," said the girl, drawing away from me and straightening up till my head scarce reached her shoulder. "And I never want to. I hate the thought of them. I wish I never had been one. Why can't we—forget them?"
I did not answer, and the labour girl, who, for some technical flaw in her physique had been rejected for motherhood, arose and walked ponderously away.
After this baffling revelation of the struggle of human souls caught in the maw of machine-made science, I found the picture screen a dull dead thing, and I left the hall and wandered for miles, it seemed, past endless confusion of meaningless revelry. Everywhere was music and gaming and laughter. Men and girls lounged and danced, or spun the wheels of fortune or sat at tables drinking from massive steins, a highly flavoured variety of rather ineffectual synthetic beer. Older women served and waited on the men and girls, and for every man was at least one girl and sometimes as many as could crowd about him. And so they sang, and banged their mugs and sloshed their frothy beverage.
A lonely stranger amidst the jostling throngs, I wandered on through the carnival of Berlin's Level of Free Women. Despite my longing for human companionship I found it difficult to join in this strange recrudescent paganism with any ease or grace.
Girls, alone or in groups, fluttered about me with many a covert or open invitation to join in their merry-making, but something in my halting manner and constrained speech seemed to repulse them, for they would soon turn away as if condemning me as a man without appreciation of the value of human enjoyment.
My constraint and embarrassment were increased by a certain sense of guilt, a feeling which no one in this vast throng, either man or woman, seemed to share. The place had its own standard of ethics, and they were shocking enough to a man nurtured in a human society founded on the sanctification of monogamous marriage. But merely to condemn this recreational life of Germany, by likening it to the licentious freedom that exists in occasional unrestrained amusement places in the outer world, would be to give a very incorrect interpretation of Berlin's Level of Free Women. As we know such places elsewhere in the world there is always about them some tacit confession of moral delinquency, some pretence of apology on the part of the participants. The women who so revel in the outer world consider themselves under a ban of social disapproval, while the men are either of a type who have no sense of moral restraint or men who have for the time abandoned it.
But for this life in Berlin no guilt was felt, no apology offered. The men considered it as quite a normal and proper part of their life, while the women looked upon it as their whole life, to which they had been trained and educated and set apart by the Government; they accepted the role quite as did the scientist, labourer, soldier, or professional mother. The state had decreed it to be. They did not question its morality. Hence the life here was licentious and yet unashamed, much, as I fancy was the life in the groves of Athens or the baths of ancient Rome.
I AM DRAFTED FOR PATERNITY AND MAKE EXTRAORDINARY PETITION TO THE CHIEF OF THE EUGENIC STAFF
My research was progressing nicely and I had discovered that in this field of chemistry also my knowledge of the outer world would give me tremendous advantages over all competitors. Eagerly I worked at the laboratory, spending most of my evenings in study. Occasionally I attended the educational pictures or dined on the Level of Free Women with my chemical associates and spent an hour or so at dancing or at cards. My life had settled into routine unbroken by adventure. Then I received a notice to report for the annual examination at the Physical Efficiency Laboratory. I went with some misgivings, but the ordeal proved uneventful. A week later I received a most disturbing communication, a bulky and official looking packet bearing the imprint of the Eugenic Office. I nervously slit the envelope and drew forth a letter:
"You are hereby notified that you have reached a stage of advancement in your professional work that marks you a man of superior gifts, and, having been reported as physically perfect you are hereby honoured with the high privilege and sacred duties of election to paternity. Full instructions for your conduct in this duty to the State will be found in the enclosed folder."
In nervous haste I scanned the printed folder:
"Your first duty will be to visit the boys' school for which passport is here enclosed. The purpose of this is to awaken the paternal instincts that you may better appreciate and feel the holy obligation and privilege conferred upon you. You will also find enclosed cards of introduction to three women whom the Eugenic Office finds to be fitted as mothers of your children. That natural selection may have a limited play you are permitted to select only one woman from each three assigned. Such selection must be made and reported within thirty days, after which a second trio will be assigned you. Until such final selection has been recorded you are expressly forbidden to conduct yourself toward these women in an amorous manner."
Next followed a set of exacting rules for the proper deportment, in the carrying out of these duties to which the State had assigned me.
A crushing sense of revulsion, a feeling of loathing and uncleanliness overwhelmed me as I pushed aside the papers. Coming from a world where the right of the individual to freedom and privacy in the matrimonial and paternal relations was recognized as a fundamental right of man, I found this officious communication, with its detailed instruction, appalling and revolting.
A man cravenly clings to life and yet there are instincts in his soul which will cause him to sell life defiantly for a mere conception of a moral principle. To become by official mandate a father of a numerous German progeny was a thing to which I could not and would not submit. Many times that day as I automatically pursued my work, I resolved to go to some one in authority and give myself up to be sent to the mines as a prisoner of war, or more likely to be executed as a spy. Cold reason showed me the futility of neglecting or attempting to avoid an assigned duty. It was a military civilization and I had already seen enough of this ordered life of Berlin to know that there was no middle ground of choice between explicit obedience and open rebellion. Nor need I concern myself with what punishment might be provided for this particular disobedience for I saw that rebellion for me would mean an investigation that would result in complete tearing away of the protecting mask of my German identity.
But after my first tumultuous feeling subsided I realized that something more than my own life was at stake. Already possessed of much intimate knowledge of the life within Berlin I believed that I was in a way to come into possession of secrets of vast and vital importance to the world. To gain these secrets, to escape from the walls of Berlin, was a more than personal ambition; it was an ambition for mankind.
After a day or two of deliberation I therefore decided against any rash rebellion. Moreover, as nothing compromising was immediately required of me, I detached and mailed the four coupons provided, having duly filled in the time at which I should make the preliminary calls.
On the day and hour appointed I presented the school card to the elevator operator, who punched it after the manner of his kind, and duly deposited me on the level of schools for boys of the professional groups. A lad of about sixteen met me at the elevator and conducted me to the school designated.
The master greeted me with obsequious gravity, and waved me to the visitor's seat on a raised platform. "You will be asked to speak," he said, "and I beg that you will tell the boys of the wonderful chemical discoveries that won you the honours of election to paternity."
"But," I protested, as I glanced at the boys who were being put through their morning drill in the gymnasium, "I fear the boys of such age will not comprehend the nature of my work."
"Certainly not," he replied, "and I would rather you did not try to simplify it for their undeveloped minds, merely speak learnedly of your work as if you were addressing a body of your colleagues. The less the boys understand of it the more they will be impressed with its importance, and the more ambitious they will be to become great chemists."
This strange philosophy of education annoyed me, but I did not have time to argue further for the bell had rung and the boys were filing in with strict military precision. There were about fifty of them, all in their twelfth year, and of remarkable uniformity in size and development. The blanched skin, which marked the adult faces of Berlin, was, in the pasty countenance of those German boys, a more horrifying spectacle. Yet they stood erect and, despite their lack of colour, were evidently a well nourished, well exercised group of youngsters.
As the last boy reached his place the master motioned with his hand and fifty arms moved in unison in a mechanical salute.
"We have with us this morning," said the master, "a chemist who has won the honours of paternity with his original thought. He will tell you about his work which you cannot understand—you should therefore listen attentively."
After a few more sentences of these paradoxical axioms on education, the master nodded, and, as I had been instructed, I proceeded to talk of the chemical lore of poison gases.
"And now," said the master, when I resumed my seat, "we will have a review lesson. You will first recite in unison the creed of your caste."
"We are youth of the super-race," began the boys in a sing-song and well timed chorus. "We belong to the chemical group of the intellectual levels, being born of sires who were great chemists, born of great chemists for many generations. It is our duty to learn while we are yet young all that we may ever need to know, to keep our minds free from forbidden knowledge and to resist the temptation to think on unnecessary things. So we may be good Germans, loyal to the House of Hohenzollern and to the worship of the old German God and the divine blood of William the Great."
The schoolmaster, who had nodded his head in unison with the rhythm of the recitation, now smiled in satisfaction. "That was very good," he said. "I did not hear one faltering voice. Now you may recite individually in your alphabetical order.
"Anton, you may describe the stages in the evolution of the super-man."
Anton, a flaxen-haired youngster, arose, saluted like a wooden soldier, and intoned the following monologue:
"Man is an animal in the process of evolving into a god. The method of this evolution is a struggle in which the weak perish and the strong survive. First in this process of man's evolution came the savage, who lived with the lions and the apes. In the second stage came the dark races who built the so-called ancient civilizations, and fought among themselves to possess private property and women and children. Third came the barbarian Blond Brutes, who were destined to sire the super-race, but the day had not yet come, and they mixed with the dark races and produced the mongrel peoples, which make the fourth. The fifth stage is the pure bred Blond Brutes, uncontaminated by inferior races, which are the men, who under God's direction, built the Armoured City of Berlin in which to breed the Supermen who are to conquer the mongrel peoples. The sixth, last and culminating stage of the evolution of man is the Divinity in human form which is our noble House of Hohenzollern, descended physically from William the Great, and spiritually from the soul of God Himself, whose statue stands with that of the Mighty William at the portals of the Emperor's palace."
It had been a noble effort for so young a memory and as the proud master looked at me expectantly I could do nothing less than nod my appreciation.
The master now gave Bruno the following cue:
"Name the four kinds of government and explain each."
From the sad-eyed youth of twelve came this flow of wisdom:
"The first form of government is monarchy, in which the people are ruled by a man who calls himself a king but who has no divine authority so that the people sometimes failed to respect him and made revolutions and tried to govern themselves. The second form of government is a republic, sometimes called a democracy. It is usually co-existent with the lawyer, the priest, the family and the greed for gold. But in reality this government is by the rich men, who let the poor men vote and think they have a share in the government, thus to keep them contented with their poverty. The third form of government is proletariat socialism in which the people, having abolished kings and rich men, attempt to govern themselves; but this they cannot do for the same reason that a man cannot lift himself by his shoestraps—"
At this point Bruno faltered and his face went chalky white. The teacher being directly in front of the standing pupil did not see what had happened, while I, with fleeting memory of my own school days, suppressed my mirth behind a formal countenance, as the stoic Bruno resumed his seat.
The master marked zero on the roll and called upon Conrad, next in line, to finish the recitation.
"The fourth and last form of government," recited Conrad, "is autocratic socialism, the perfect government that we Germans have evolved from proletariat socialism which had destroyed the greed for private property and private family life, so that the people ceased to struggle individually and were ready to accept the Royal House, divinely appointed by God to govern them perfectly and prepare them to make war for the conquest of the world."
The recitations now turned to repetitions of the pedigree and ranking of the various branches of the Royal House. But it was a mere list of names like the begats of Genesis and I was not able to profit much by this opportunity to improve my own neglected education. As the morning wore on the parrot-like monologues shifted to elementary chemistry.
The master had gone entirely through the alphabet of names and now called again the apt Anton for a more brilliant demonstration of his system of teaching. "Since we have with us a chemist who has achieved powers of original thought, I will permit you, Anton, to demonstrate that even at the tender age of twelve you are capable of original thought."
Anton rose gravely and stood at attention. "And what shall I think about?" he asked.
"About anything you like," responded the liberal minded schoolmaster, "provided it is limited to your permitted field of psychic activity."
Anton tilted back his head and gazed raptly at a portrait of the Mighty William. "I think," he said, "that the water molecule is made of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen."
A number of the boys shook their heads in disapproval, evidently recognizing the thought as not being original, but the teacher waited in respectful silence for the founts of originality to burst forth in Anton's mind.
"And I think," continued Anton, "that if the water molecule were made of four atoms of nitrogen and one of oxygen, it would be a great economy, for after we had bathed in the water we could evaporate it and make air and breath it, and after we had breathed it we could condense it again and use it to drink—"
"But that would be unsanitary," piped a voice from the back of the room.
To this interruption Anton, without taking his gaze from the face of William, replied, "Of course it would if we didn't sterilize it, but I was coming to that. We would sterilize it each time."
The master now designated two boys to take to the guardhouse of the school the lad who had spoken without permission. He then produced a red cardboard cross adorned with the imperial eagle and crossed test-tubes of the chemists' insignia and I was honoured by being asked to decorate Anton for his brilliant exploit in original thought.
"Our intellectual work of the day is over," resumed the master, "but in honour of our guest we will have, a day in advance, our weekly exercises in emotion. Heinrich, you may recite for us the category of emotions."
"The permitted emotions," said Heinrich, "are: First, anger, which we should feel when a weak enemy offends us. Second, hate, which is a higher form of anger, which we should feel when a powerful enemy offends us. Third, sadness, which we should feel when we suffer. Fourth, mirth, which we should feel when our enemy suffers. Fifth, courage, which we feel at all times because we believe in our strength. Sixth, humility, which we should feel only before our superiors. Seventh, and greatest, is pride, which we should feel at all times because we are Germans.
"The forbidden emotions are very numerous. The chief ones which we must guard against are: First, pity, which is a sadness when our enemy suffers; to feel this is exceedingly wicked. Second, envy, which is a feeling that some one else is better than we are, which we must not feel at all because it is destructive of pride. Third, fear, which is a lack of courage. Fourth, love, which is a confession of weakness, and is permissible only to women and dogs."
"Very good," said the master, "I will now grant you permission to feel some of the permitted emotions. We will first conduct a chemical experiment. I have in this bottle a dangerous explosive and as I drop in this pellet it may explode and kill us all, but you must show courage and not fear." He held the pellet above the mouth of the bottle, but his eyes were on his pupils. As he dropped the pellet into the bottle, he knocked over with his foot a slab of concrete, which fell to the floor with a resounding crash. A few of the boys jumped in their seats, and the master gravely marked them as deficient in courage.
"You now imagine that you are adult chemists and that the enemy has produced a new form of gas bomb, a gas against which we have no protection. They are dropping the gas bombs into our ventilating shafts and are killing our soldiers in the mines. You hate the enemy—hate hard—make your faces black with hate and rage. Adolph, you are expressing mere anger. There, that is better. You never can be a good German until you learn to hate.
"And now we will have a permitted emotion that you all enjoy; the privilege to feel mirth is a thing for which you should be grateful.
"An enemy came flying over Berlin—and this is a true story. I can remember when it happened. The roof guard shot at him and winged his plane, and he came down in his parachute, which missed the roof of the city and fell to the earth outside the walls but within the first ring of the ray defences. He knew that he could not pass beyond this and he wandered about for many days within range of the glasses of the roof guards. When he was nearly starved he came near the wall and waved his white kerchief, which meant he wished to surrender and be taken into the city."
At this point one of the boys tittered, and the master stopped his story long enough to mark a credit for this first laugh.
"As the enemy aviator continued to walk about waving his cowardly flag another enemy plane saw him and let down a line, but the roof guards shelled and destroyed the plane. Then other planes came and attempted to pick up the man with lines. In all seven planes were destroyed in attempting to rescue one man. It was very foolish and very comical. At last the eighth plane came and succeeded in reaching the man a line without being winged. The roof batteries shot at the plane in vain—then the roof gunners became filled with good German hate, and one of them aimed, not at the plane, but at the man swinging on the unstable wire line two thousand metres beneath. The shell exploded so near that the man disappeared as by magic, and the plane flew off with the empty dangling line."
As the story was finished the boys who had listened with varying degrees of mechanical smiles now broke out into a chorus of raucous laughter. It was a forced unnatural laughter such as one hears from a bad actor attempting to express mirth he does not feel.
When the boys had ceased their crude guffaws the master asked, "Why did you laugh?"
"Because," answered Conrad, "the enemy were so stupid as to waste seven planes trying to save one man."
"That is fine," said the master; "we should always laugh when our enemy is stupid, because then he suffers without knowing why he suffers. If the enemy were not stupid they would cease fighting and permit us to rule them and breed the stupidity out of them, as it has been bred out of the Germans by our good old God and the divine mind of the House of Hohenzollern."
The boys were now dismissed for a recess and went into the gymnasium to play leap frog. But the sad-eyed Bruno promptly returned and saluted.
"You may speak," said the master.
"I wish, Herr Teacher," said Bruno, "to petition you for permission to fight with Conrad."
"But you must not begin a fight," admonished the master, "unless you can attach to your opponent the odium of causing the strife."
"But he did cause the odium," said Bruno; "he stuck it into my leg with a pin while I was reciting. The Herr Father saw him do it, "—and the boy turned his eyes towards me in sad and serious appeal.
The schoolmaster glanced at me inquiringly and I corroborated the lad's accusation.
"Then," said the master, "you have a casus belli that is actually true, and if you can make Conrad admit his guilt I will exchange your mark for his."
Bruno saluted again and started to leave. Then he turned back and said, "But Conrad is two kilograms heavier than I am, and he may not admit it."
"Then," said the teacher, "you must know that I cannot exchange the marks, for victory in a fight compensates for the fault that caused it. But if you wish I will change the marks now, but then you cannot fight."
"But I wish to fight," said Bruno, "and so does Conrad. We arranged it before recitation that he was to stick me with the pin."
"Such diplomacy!" exulted the master when the lad had gone, "and to think that they can only be chemists!"
As the evening hour drew near which I had set for my call on the first of the potential mothers assigned me by the Eugenic Staff, I re-read the rules for my conduct:
"On the occasion of this visit you must wear a full dress uniform, including all orders, decorations and badges of rank and service to which you are entitled. This is very important and you should call attention thereto and explain the full dignity and importance of your rank and decorations.
"When you call you will first present the card of authorization. You will then present your identification folder and extol the worth and character of your pedigree.
"Then you will ask to see the pedigree of the woman, and will not fail to comment favourably thereon. If she be already a mother you will inquire in regard to her children. If she be not a mother, you will supplicate her to speak of her potential children. You will extol the virtue of her offspring—or her visions thereof,—and will not fail to speak favourably of their promise of becoming great chemists whose service will redound to the honour of the German race and the Royal House.
"After the above mentioned matters have been properly spoken of, you may compliment the mother upon her own intelligence and fitness as a mother of scientists. But you will refrain from all reference to her beauty of person, lest her thoughts be diverted from her higher purpose to matters of personal amours.
"You will not prolong your call beyond the hours consistent with dignity and propriety, nor permit the mother to perceive your disposition toward her."
Surely nothing in such formal procedure could be incompatible with my own ideals of propriety. Taking with me my card of authorization bearing the name "Frau Karoline, daughter of Ernest Pfeiffer, Director of the Perfume Works," I now ventured to the Level of Maternity.
Countless women passed me as I walked along. They were erect of form and plain of feature, with expressions devoid of either intelligence or passion. Garbed in formless robes of sombre grey, like saints of song and story, they went their way with solemn resignation. Some of them led small children by the hand; others pushed perambulators containing white robed infants being taken to or from the nurseries for their scheduled stays in the mothers' individual apartments.
The actions of the mothers were as methodical as well trained nurses. In their faces was the cold, pallid light of the mother love of the madonnas of art, uncontaminated by the fretful excitement of the mother love in a freer and more uncertain world.
Even the children seemed wooden cherubim. They were physically healthy beyond all blemish, but they cooed and smiled in a subdued manner. Already the ever present "verboten" of an ordered life seemed to have crept into the small souls and repressed the instincts of anarchy and the aspirations of individualism. As I walked among these madonnas of science and their angelic offspring, I felt as I imagined a man of earthly passions would feel if suddenly loosed in a mediaeval and orthodox heaven; for everything about me breathed peace, goodness, and coldness.
At the door of her apartment Frau Karoline greeted me with formal gravity. She was a young woman of twenty years, with a high forehead and piercing eyes. Her face was mobile but her manner possessed the dignity of the matron assured of her importance in the world. Her only child was at the nursery at the time, in accordance with the rules of the level that forbids a man to see his step-children. But a large photograph, aided by Frau Karoline's fulsome description and eulogies, gave me a very clear picture of the high order of the young chemist's intelligence though that worthy had but recently passed his first birthday.
The necessary matters of the inspection of pedigrees and the signing of my card of authorization had been conducted by the young mother with the cool self-possession of a well disciplined school-mistress. Her attitude and manner revealed the thoroughness of her education and training for her duties and functions in life. And yet, though she relieved me so skilfully of what I feared would be an embarrassing situation, I conceived an intense dislike for this most exemplary young mother, for she made me feel that a man was a most useless and insignificant creature to be tolerated as a necessary evil in this maternal world.
"Surely," said Frau Karoline, as I returned her pedigree, "you could not do better for your first born child than to honour me with his motherhood. Not only is my pedigree of the purest of chemical lines, reaching back to the establishment of the eugenic control, but I myself have taken the highest honours in the training for motherhood."
"Yes," I acknowledged, "you seem very well trained."
"I am particularly well versed," she continued, "in maternal psychology; and I have successfully cultivated calmness. In the final tests before my confirmation for maternity I was found to be entirely free from erotic and sentimental emotions."
"But," I ventured, "is not maternal love a sentimental emotion?"
"By no means," replied Frau Karoline. "Maternal love of the highest order, such as I possess, is purely intellectual; it recognizes only the passions for the greatness of race and the glory of the Royal House. Such love must be born of the intellect; that is why we women of the scientific group are the best of all mothers. Thus, were I not wholly free from weak sentimentality, I might desire that my second child be sired by the father of my first, but the Eugenic Office has determined that I would bear a stronger child from a younger father, therefore I acquiesced to their change of assignment without emotion, as becomes a proper mother of our well bred race. My first child is extremely intellectual but he is not quite perfect physically, and a mother such as I should bear only perfect children. That alone is the supreme purpose of motherhood. Do you not see that I am fitted for perfect motherhood?"
"Yes," I replied, as I recalled that my instructions were to pay compliments, "you seem to be a perfect mother."
But the cold and logical perfection of Frau Karoline dampened my curiosity and oppressed my spirit of adventure, and I closed the interview with all possible speed and fled headlong to the nearest elevator that would carry me from the level.
In my first experience I had suffered nothing worse than an embarrassing half hour, so, with more confidence I pressed the bell the second evening, at the apartment of Frau Augusta, daughter of Gustave Schnorr, Authority on Synthetic Nicotine.
Frau Augusta was a woman of thirty-five. She was well-preserved, more handsome and less coldly inhuman than the younger woman.
"We will get the formalities over since you have been told they are necessary," said Frau Augusta, as she reached for my card and folder and, at the same time, handing me her own pedigree.
Peering over the top of the chart that recorded the antecedents of Gustave Schnorr, I saw his daughter going through my own folder with the business-like dispatch of a society dowager examining the "character" of a new housemaid.
"Ah, yes," she said, raising her brows. "I thought I knew the family. Your Uncle Otto was my second mate. He is the father of my third son and my twin girls. I have no more promising children. Have you ever met him? He is in the aluminum tempering laboratories."
I could only stare stupidly, struck dumb with embarrassment.
"No, I suppose not," went on Frau Augusta, "it is hardly to be expected since you have upwards of a hundred uncles." She arose and, going toward a shelf where half a dozen pictures of half a dozen men reposed in an orderly row, took the second one of the group and handed it to me.
"He is a fine man," she said, with a very full degree of pride for a past and partial possession. "I fear the Staff erred in transferring him, but then of course the twin girls were most unexpected and unfortunate since the Armstadt line is supposed to sire seventy-five per cent, male offspring.
"What do you think? Isn't the Eugenic Office a little unfair at times? My fifth man thought so. He said it was a case of politics. I don't know. I thought politics was something ancient that they had in old books like churches and families."
"I am sure I do not know," I murmured, as I fumbled the portrait of my putative uncle.
"Of course," continued the voluble Fran Augusta, "you must not think I am criticizing the authorities. It is all very necessary. And for the most part I think they have done very well by me. My ten children have six fathers. All of them but the first were men of most gracious manner and superior intelligence. The first one had his paternity right revoked, so I feel satisfied on that score, even if his son is not gifted—and yet the boy has beautiful hair—I think he would make an excellent violinist. But then perhaps he wouldn't have been able to play, so maybe it is all right, though I would think music would be more easily learned than chemistry. But then since I cannot read either I ought not to judge. I will show you his picture. I may as well show you all their pictures. I don't see why you elected fathers should not see our children—but then I suppose it might produce quarrels. Some women are so foolish and insist on talking about the children they have already borne in a way that makes a man feel that his own children could never come up to them. Now I never do that. Why should one? The future is always more interesting than the past. I haven't a single child that has not won the porcelain cross for obedience. Even my youngest—he is only fourteen months—obeys as if he were a full grown man. Some say mental and physical excellence are not correlated—but that is a prejudice because of those great labour beasts. There isn't one of my children that has fallen below the minimum growth standards, except my third daughter, and her father was undersized, so it is no fault of mine."
As the loquacious mother chattered on, she produced an album, through which I now turned, inspecting the annual photographs of her blond brood, each of which was labelled with the statistics of physical growth and the tests of psychic development.
Strive as I might I could think of no comments to make, but the mother came to the rescue. Unfastening the binding of the loose leaf album she hastily shuffled the sheets and brought into an orderly array on the table before me ten photographs all taken at the age of one year. "That is the only fair way to view them," she said, "for of course one cannot compare the picture of a boy of fifteen with an infant of one year. But at an equal age the comparison is fair to all and now you can surely tell me which is the most intelligent."
I gazed hopelessly at the infantile portraits which, despite their varied paternity, looked as alike as a row of peas in a pod.
"Oh, well," said Frau Augusta, "after all is it fair to ask you, since the twins are your cousins?"
Desperately I wondered which were the twins.
"They resemble you quite remarkably, don't you think so? Except that your hair is quite dark for an Armstadt." Frau Augusta turned and glanced furtively at my identification folder. "Of course! your mother. I had almost forgotten who your mother was, but now I remember, she had most remarkably dark hair. It will probably prove a dominant characteristic and your children will also be dark haired. Now I should like that by way of a change."
I became alarmed at this turn of the conversation toward the more specific function of my visit, and resolved to make my exit with all possible speed "consistent with dignity and propriety."
Meanwhile, as she reassembled the scattered sheets of the portrait album, the official mother chattered on concerning her children's attributes, while I shifted uneasily in my chair and looked about the room for my hat—forgetting in my embarrassment that I was dwelling in a sunless, rainless city and possessed no hat.
At last there was a lull in the monologue and I arose and said I must be going.
Frau Augusta looked pained and I recalled that I had not yet complimented her upon her intelligence and fitness to be the mother of coming generations of chemical scientists, but I stubbornly resolved not to resume my seat.
"You are young," said Frau Augusta, who had risen and shifted her position till she stood between me and the door. "Surely you have not yet made many calls on the maternity level." Then she sighed, "I do not see why they assign a man only three names to select from. Surely they could be more liberal." She paused and her face hardened. "And to think that you men are permitted to call as often as you like upon those degenerate hussies who have been forbidden the sacred duties of motherhood. It is a very wicked institution, that level of lust—some day we women—we mothers of Berlin—will rise in our wrath and see that they are banished to the mines, for they produce nothing but sin and misery in this man-made world."
"Yes," I said, "the system is very wrong, but—"
"But the authorities, you need not say it, I have heard it all before, the authorities, always the authorities. Why should men always be the authorities? Why do we mothers of Berlin have no rights? Why are we not consulted in these matters? Why must we always submit?"
Then suddenly, and very much to my surprise, she placed her hands upon my shoulders and said hoarsely: "Tell me about the Free Level. Are the women there more beautiful than I?"
"No," I said, "very few of them are beautiful, and those of the labour groups are most gross and stupid."
"Then why," wailed Frau Augusta, "was I not allowed to go? Why was I penned up here and made to bear children when others revel in the delights of love and song and laughter?"
"But," I said, shocked at this unexpected revelation of character, "yours is the more honourable, more virtuous life. You were chosen for motherhood because you are a woman of superior intelligence."
"It's a lie," cried Frau Augusta. "I have no intelligence. I want none. But I am as beautiful as they. But no, they would not let me go. They penned me up here with these saintly mothers and these angelic children. Children, children everywhere, millions and millions of them, and not a man but doctors, and you elected fathers who are sent here to bring us pain and sorrow. You say nothing of love—your eyes are cold. The last one said he loved me—the brute! He came but thrice, when my child was born he sent me a flower. But that is the official rule. And I hate him, and hate his child that has his lying eyes."
The distraught woman covered her face with her hands and burst into violent weeping.
When she had ceased her sobs I tried to explain to her the philosophy of contentment with life's lot. I told her of the seamy side of the gown that cloaks licentiousness and of the sorrows and bitterness of the ashes of burned out love. With the most iridescent words at my command I painted for her the halo of the madonna's glory, and translated for her the English verse that informs us that there is not a flower in any land, nor a pearl in any sea, that is as beautiful and lovely as any child on any mother's knee.
But I do not think I altogether consoled Frau Augusta for my German vocabulary was essentially scientific, not poetic. But I made a noble effort and when I left her I felt very much the preacher, for the function of the preacher, not unlike death, is to make us cling to those ills we have when we would fly to others that we know not of.
There remained but one card unsigned of the three given me.
Frau Matilda, daughter of Siegfried Oberwinder, Analine Analyst, was registered as eighteen and evidently an inexperienced mother-elect as I was a father-elect. The nature of the man is to hold the virgin above the madonna, and in starting on my third journey to the maternity level, I found hitherto inexperienced feelings tugging at my heartstrings and resolved that whatever she might be, I would be dignified and formal yet most courteous and kind.
My ring was answered by a slender, frightened girl. She was so shy that she could only nod for me to enter. I offered my card and folder, smiling to reassure her, but she retreated precipitously into a far corner and sat staring at me beseechingly with big grey eyes that seemed the only striking feature of her small pinched face.
"I am sorry if I frighten you," I said, "but of course you know that I am sent by the eugenic authorities. I will not detain you long. All that is really necessary is for you to sign this card."
She timidly signed the card and returned it to the corner of the table.
I felt extremely sorry for the fluttering creature; and, knowing that I could not alter her lot, I sought to speak words of encouragement. "If you find it hard now," I said, "it is only because you are young and a stranger to life, but you will be recompensed when you know the joys of motherhood."
At my words a look of consecrated purpose glowed in the girl's white face. "Oh, yes," she said eagerly. "I wish very much to be a mother. I have studied so hard to learn. I wish only to give myself to the holy duties of maternity. But I am so afraid."
"But you need not be afraid of me," I said. "This is only a formal call which I have made because the Eugenic Staff ordered it so. But it seems to me that some better plan might be made for these meetings. Some social life might be arranged so that you would become acquainted with the men who are to be the fathers of your children under less embarrassing circumstances."
"I try so hard not to be afraid of men, for I know they are necessary to eugenics."
"Yes," I said dryly, "I suppose they are, though I think I would prefer to put it that the love of man and woman is necessary to parenthood."
"Oh, no," she said in a frightened voice, "not that, that is very wicked."
"So you were taught that you should not love men? No wonder you are afraid of them."
"I was taught to respect men for they are the fathers of children," she replied.
"Then," I asked, deciding to probe the philosophy of the education for maternity, "why are not the fathers permitted to enjoy their fatherhood and live with the mother and the children?"
Frau Matilda now gazed at me with open-mouthed astonishment. "What a beautiful idea!" she exclaimed with rapture.
"Yes, I rather like it myself—the family—"
"The family!" cried the girl in horror.
"That is what we were talking about."
"But the family is forbidden. It is very wrong, very uneugenic. You must be a wicked man to speak to me of that."
"You have been taught some very foolish ideas," I replied.
"How dare you!" she cried, in alarm. "I have been taught what is right, and I want to do what is right and loyal. I passed all my examinations. I am a good mother-elect, and you say these forbidden things to me. You talk of love and families. You insult me. And if you select me, I shall—I shall claim exemption,—" and with that she rose and darted through the inner door.
I waited for a time and then gently approached the door, which I saw had swung to with springs and had neither latch nor lock. My gentle rap upon the hollow panel was answered by a muffled sob. I realized the hopelessness of further words and silently turned from the door and left the apartment.
The streets of the level were almost deserted for the curfew had rung and the lights glowed dim as in a hospital ward at night. I hurried silently along, shut in by enclosing walls and the lowering ceiling of the street. From everywhere I seemed to feel upon me the beseeching, haunting grey eyes of Frau Matilda. My soul was troubled, for it seemed to stagger beneath the burden of its realization of a lost humanity. And with me walked grey shadows of other men, felt-footed through the gloom, and they walked hurriedly as men fleeing from a house of death.
My next duty as a German father-elect was to report to the Eugenic Office. There at least I could deal with men; and there I went, nursing rebellion yet trying my utmost to appear outwardly calm.
To the clerk I offered my three signed cards by way of introduction.
"And which do you select?" asked the oldish man over his rimless glasses.
"Ah, but you must."
"But what if I refuse to do so?"
"That is most unusual."
"But does it ever happen?"
"Well, yes," admitted the clerk, "but only by Petition Extraordinary to the Chief of the Staff. But it is most unusual, and if he refuses to grant it you may be dishonoured even to the extent of having your election to paternity suspended, may be even permanently cancelled."
"You mean"—I stammered.
"Exactly—you refuse to accept any one of the three women when all are most scientifically selected for you. Does it not throw some doubts upon your own psychic fitness for mating at all? If I may suggest, Herr Colonel—it would be wiser for you to select some one of the three—you have yet plenty of time."
"No," I said, trying to hide my elation. "I will not do so. I will make the Petition Extraordinary to your chief."
"Now?" stammered the clerk.
"Yes, now; how do I go about it?"
"You must first consult the Investigator."
After a few formalities I was conducted to that official.
"You refuse to make selection?" inquired the Investigator.
"Because," I replied, "I am engaged upon some chemical research of most unusual nature—"
"Yes," nodded the Investigator, "I have just looked that up. The more reason you should be honoured with paternity."
"Perhaps," I said, "you are not informed of the grave importance of the research. If you will consult Herr von Uhl of the Chemical Staff—"
"Entirely unnecessary," he retorted; "paternity is also important. Besides it takes but little time. No more than you need for recreation."
"But I do not find it recreation. I have not been able to concentrate my mind on my work since I received notice of my election to paternity."
"But you were warned against this," he said; "you have no right to permit the development of disturbing romantic emotions. They may be bad for your work, but they are worse for eugenics. So, if you have made romantic love to the mothers of Berlin, your case must be investigated."
"But I have not."
"Then why has this disturbed you?"
"Because," I replied, "this system of scientific paternity offends my instincts."
The investigator ogled me craftily. "What system would you prefer instead?" he asked.
I saw he was trying to trap me into disloyal admissions. "I have nothing to propose," I stated. "I only know that I find the paternity system offensive to me, and that the position I am placed in incapacitates me for my work."
The investigator made some notes on a pad.
"That is all for the present," he said. "I will refer your case to the Chief."
Two days later I received an order to report at once to Dr. Ludwig Zimmern, Chief of the Eugenic Staff.
The Chief, with whom I was soon cloistered, was a man of about sixty years. His face revealed a greater degree of intelligence than I had yet observed among the Germans, nor was his demeanour that of haughty officiousness, for a kindly warmth glowed in his soft dark eyes.
"I have a report here," said Dr. Zimmern, "from my Investigator. He recommends that your rights of paternity be revoked on the grounds that he believes yours to be a case of atavistic radicalism. In short he thinks you are rebellious by instinct, and that you are therefore unsafe to father the coming generation. It is part of the function of this office to breed the rebellious instinct out of the German race. What have you to say in answer to these charges?"
"I do not want to seem rebellious," I stammered, "but I wish to be relieved of this duty."
"Very well," said Zimmern, "you may be relieved. If you have no objection I will sign the recommendation as it stands."
Surely, I thought, this man does not seem very bitter toward my traitorous instincts.
Zimmern smiled and eyed me curiously. "You know," he said, "that to possess a thought and to speak of it indiscreetly are two different things."
"Certainly," I replied, emboldened by his words. "A man cannot do original work in science if he possesses a mind that never thinks contrary to the established order of things."
The clerks in the outer office must have thought my case a grievous one for I was closeted with their chief for nearly an hour. Though our conversation was vague and guarded, I knew that I had discovered in Dr. Ludwig Zimmern, Chief of the Eugenic Staff, a man guilty himself of the very crime of possessing rebellious instincts for which he had decided me unfit to sire German children. And when I finally took my leave I carried with me his private card and an invitation to call at his apartment to continue our conversation.
In the weeks that followed, my acquaintance with the Chief of the Eugenic Staff ripened rapidly into a warm friendship. The frank manner in which he revealed his dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in Germany pleased me greatly. Zimmern was interested in my chemical researches and quickly comprehended their importance.
"I know so little of chemistry," he deplored, "yet on it our whole life hangs. That is why I am so glad of an opportunity to talk to you. I do not approve of so much ignorance of each other's work on the part of our scientists. Our old university system was better. Then a scientist in any field knew something of the science in all fields. But now we are specialized from childhood. Take, for example, yourself. You are at work on a great problem by which all of our labour stands to be undone if you chemists do not solve it, and yet you do not understand how we will all be undone. I think you should know more of what it means, then you will work better. Is it not so?"
"Perhaps," I said, "but I have little time. I am working too hard now."
"Then," said Zimmern, "you should spend more time in pleasure on the Free Level. Two days ago I conferred with the Emperor's Advisory Staff, and I learned that grave changes are threatened. That is one reason I am so interested in this protium on which you chemists are working. If you do not solve this problem and replenish the food supply, the Emperor has decided that the whole Free Level with its five million women must be abolished. His Majesty will have no half-way measures. He is afraid to take part of these women away, lest the intellectual workers rebel like the labourers did in the last century when their women were taken away piecemeal."
"But what will His Majesty do with these five million women?" I inquired, eagerly desirous to learn more.
"Do? What can he do with the women?" exclaimed Dr. Zimmern in a low pitched but vibrant voice. "He thinks he will make workers of them. He does not seem to appreciate how specialized they are for pleasure. He will make machine tenders of them to relieve the workmen, who are to be made soldiers. He would make surface soldiers out of these blind moles of the earth, put amber glasses on them and train them to run on the open ground and carry the war again into the sunlight. It is folly, sheer folly, and madness. His Majesty, I fear, reads too much of old books. He always was historically inclined."
On a later occasion Zimmern gave me the broad outlines of the history of German Eugenics.
"Our science of applied Eugenics," he said, "began during the Second World War. Our scientists had long known that the same laws of heredity by which plants and animals had been bred held true with man, but they had been afraid to apply those laws to man because the religion of that day taught that men had souls and that human life was something too sacred to be supervised by science. But William III was a very fearless man, and he called the scientists together and asked them to outline a plan for the perfection of the German race.
"At first all they advocated was that paternity be restricted to the superior men. This broke up the old-fashioned family where every man chose his own wife and sired as many children as he liked. There were great mutterings about that, and if we had not been at war, there would have been rebellion. The Emperor told the people it was a military necessity. The death toll of war then was great and there was urgent need to increase the birth rate, so the people submitted and women soon ceased to complain because they could no longer have individual husbands. The children were supported by the state, and if they had legitimate fathers of the approved class they were left in the mothers' care. As all women who were normal and healthy were encouraged to bear children, there was a great increase in the birth rate, which came near resulting in the destruction of the race by starvation.
"As soon as a sufficient number of the older generation that had believed in the religious significance of the family and marriage system had died out, the ambitious eugenists set about to make other reforms. The birth rate was cut down by restricting the privilege of motherhood to a selected class of women. The other women were instructed in the arts of pleasing man and avoiding maternity, and that is where we have the origin of our free women. In those days they were free to associate with men of all classes. Indeed any other plan would at first have been impossible.
"A second fault was that the superior men for whom paternity was permitted were selected from the official and intellectual classes. The result was that the quality of the labourers deteriorated. So two strains were established, the one for the production of the intellectual workers, and the other for producing manual workers. From time to time this specialization has increased until now we have as many strains of inheritance as there are groups of useful characteristics known to be hereditary.
"We have produced some effects," mused Zimmern, "which were not anticipated, and which have been calling forth considerable criticism. His Majesty sends me memorandums nearly every year, after he reviews the maternity levels, insisting that the feminine beauty of the race is, as a whole, deteriorating. And yet this is logical enough. With the exception of our small actor-model strain, the characteristics for which we breed have only the most incidental relation to feminine beauty. The type of the labour female is, as you have seen, a buxom, fleshly beauty; youth and full nutrition are essential to its display, and it soon fades. In the scientific strains it seems that the power of original thought correlates with a feminine type that is certainly not beautiful. Doubtless not understanding this you may have felt that you were discriminated against in your assignment. But the clerical mind with its passion for monotonous repetition of petty mental processes seems to correlate with the most exquisite and refined feminine features. Those scintillating beauties on the Free Level who have ever at their beck our wisest men are from our clerical strain,—but of course they are only the rejects. It is unfortunate that you cannot see the more privileged specimens in the clerical maternity level.
"But I digress to that which is of no consequence. The beauty of women is unimportant but the number of women is very important. When some women were specialized for motherhood then there were surplus women. At first they made workers of them. The war was then conducted on a larger scale than now. We had not yet fully specialized the soldier class. All the young men went to war; and, when they came back and went to work, they became bitterly jealous of the women workers and made an outcry that those who could not fight should not work. The men workers drove the women from industry, hoping thereby each to possess a mistress. As a result the great number of unproductive women was a drain upon the state. All sorts of schemes were proposed to reduce the number of female births but most of these were unscientific. In studying the records it was found that the offspring of certain men were predominantly males. By applying this principle of selection we have, with successive generations, been able to reduce the proportion of female births to less than half the old rate.
"But the sexual impulse of the labourers made them restless and rebellious, and the support of the free women for these millions of workers was a great economic waste. When animals had been bred to large size and great strength their sexuality had decreased, while their power as beasts of burden increased. The same principle applied to man has resulted in more docile workers. By beginning with the soldiers and mine workers, who were kept away from women, and by combining proper training with the hereditary selection, we solved that problem and removed all knowledge of women from the minds of the workmen."
"But how about paternity among the workers?" I asked.
"Those who are selected are removed to special isolated quarters. They are told they are being taken to serve as His Majesty's body guard; and they never go back to mingle with their fellows."
I then related for the doctor my conversation with the workman who asked me about women.
"So," said Zimmern, "there has been a leak somewhere; knowledge is hard to bottle. Still we have bottled most of it and the labourer accepts his loveless lot. But it could not be done with the intellectual worker."
Dr. Zimmern smiled cynically. "At least," he added, "we don't propose to admit that it can be done. And that, Col. Armstadt, is what I was remarking about the other evening. Unless you chemists can solve the protium problem, Germany must cut her population swiftly, if we do not starve out altogether. His Majesty's plan to turn the workmen into soldiers and make workers of the free women will not solve it. It is too serious for that. The Emperor's talk about the day being at hand is all nonsense. He knows and we know that these mongrel herds, as he calls the outside enemy, are not so degenerate.
"We may have improved the German stock in some ways by our scientific breeding, but science cannot do much in six generations, and what we have accomplished, I as a member of the Eugenist Staff, can assure you has really been attained as much by training as by breeding, though the breeding is given the credit. Our men are highly specialized, and once outside the walls of Berlin they will find things so different that this very specialization will prove a handicap. The mongrel peoples are more adaptable. Our workmen and soldiers are large in physique, but dwarfed of intellect. The enemy will beat us in open war, and, even if we should be victorious in war, we could not rule them. Either we solve this food business or we all turn soldiers and go out into the blinding sunlight and die fighting."
I ventured as a wild remark: "At least, if we get outside there will be plenty of women."
The older man looked at me with the superiority of age towards youth. "Young man," he said, "you have not read history; you do not understand this love and family doctrine; it exists in the outside world today just as it did two centuries ago. The Germans in the days of the old surface wars made too free with the enemy's women, and that is why they ran us into cover here and penned us up. These mongrel people will fight for their women when they will fight for nothing else. We have not bred all the lust out of our workmen either. It is merely dormant. Once they are loosed in the outer world they will not understand this thing and they will again make free with the enemy's women, and then we shall all be exterminated."
Dr. Zimmern got up and filled a pipe with synthetic tobacco and puffed energetically as he walked about the room. "What do you say about this protium ore?" he asked; "will you be able to solve the problem?"
"Yes," I said, "I think I shall."
"I hope so," replied my host, "and yet sometimes I do not care; somehow I want this thing to come to an end. I want to see what is outside there. I think, perhaps, I would like to fly.
"What troubles me is that I do not see how we can ever do it. We have bred and trained our race into specialization and stupidity. We wouldn't know how to go out and join this World State if they would let us."
Dr. Zimmern paced the room in silence for a time. "Do you know," he said, "I should like to see a negro, a black man with kinky hair—it must be queer."
"Yes," I answered, "there must be many queer things out there."
IN WHICH I LEARN THAT COMPETITION IS STILL THE LIFE OF THE OLDEST TRADE IN THE WORLD
When I told Dr. Zimmern that I should solve the problem of the increase of the supply of protium I may have been guilty of speaking of hopes as if they were certainties. My optimism was based on the discovery that the exact chemical state of the protium in the ore was unknown, and that it did not exist equally in all samples of the ore.
After some further months of labour I succeeded in determining the exact chemical ingredients of the ore, and from this I worked rapidly toward a new process of extraction that would greatly increase the total yield of the precious element. But this fact I kept from my assistants whose work I directed to futile researches while I worked alone after hours in following up the lead I had discovered.
During the progress of this work I was not always in the laboratory. I had become a not infrequent visitor to the Level of the Free Women. The continuous carnival of amusement had an attraction for me, as it must have had for any tired and lonely man. But it was not merely the lure of sensuous pleasures that appealed to me, for I was also fascinated with the deeper and more tragic aspect of life beneath the gaudy surface of hectic joy.
Some generalities I had picked up from observation and chance conversations. As a primary essential to life on the level I had quickly learned that money was needed, and my check book was in frequent demand. The bank provided an aluminum currency for the pettier needs of the recreational life, but neither the checks nor the currency had had value on other levels, since there all necessities were supplied without cost and luxuries were unobtainable. This strange retention of money circulation and general freedom of personal conduct exclusively on the Free Level puzzled me. Thus I found that food and drink were here available for a price, a seeming contradiction to the strict limitations of the diet served me at my own quarters. At first it seemed I had discovered a way to defeat that limitation—but there was the weigher to be considered.
It was a queer ensemble, this life in the Black Utopia of Berlin, a combination of a world of rigid mechanistic automatism in the regular routine of living with rioting individual license in recreational pleasure. The Free Level seemed some ancient Bagdad, some Bourbon Court, some Monte Carlo set here, an oasis of flourishing vice in a desert of sterile law-made, machine-executed efficiency and puritanically ordered life. Aided by a hundred ingenious wheels and games of chance, men and women gambled with the coin and credit of the level. These games were presided over by crafty women whose years were too advanced to permit of a more personal means of extracting a living from the grosser passions of man. Some of these aged dames were, I found, quite highly regarded and their establishments had become the rendezvous for many younger women who by some arrangement that I could not fathom plied their traffic in commercialized love under the guidance of these subtler women who had graduated from the school of long experience in preying upon man.
But only the more brilliant women could so establish themselves for the years of their decline. There were others, many others, whose beauty had faded without an increase in wit, and these seemed to be serving their more fortunate sisters, both old and young, in various menial capacities. It was a strange anachronism in this world where men's more weighty affairs had been so perfectly socialized, to find woman retaining, evidently by men's permission, the individualistic right to exploit her weaker sister.
The thing confounded me, and yet I recalled the well known views of our sociological historians who held that it was woman's greater individualism that had checked the socialistic tendencies of the world. Had the Germans then achieved and maintained their rigid socialistic order by retaining this incongruous vestige of feminine commercialism as a safety valve for the individualistic instincts of the race?
They called it the Free Level, and I marvelled at the nature of this freedom. Freedom for licentiousness, for the getting and losing of money at the wheels of fortune, freedom for temporary gluttony and the mild intoxication of their flat, ill-flavoured synthetic beer. A tragic symbol it seemed to me of the ignobility of man's nature, that he will be a slave in all the loftier aspects of living if he can but retain his freedom for his vices and corruptions. Had the Germans then, like the villain of the moral play, a necessary part in the tragedy of man; did they exist to show the other races of the earth the way they should not go? But the philosophy of this conception collapsed when I recalled that for more than a century the world had lost all sight of the villain and yet had not in the least deteriorated from a lack of the horrible example.
From these vaguer speculations concerning the Free Level of Berlin that existed like a malformed vestigial organ in the body of that socialized state, my mind came back to the more human, more personal side of the problem thus presented me. I wanted to know more of the lives of these women who maintained Germany's remnant of individualism.
To what extent, I asked myself, have the true instincts of womanhood and the normal love of man and child been smothered out of the lives of these girls? What secret rebellions are they nursing in their hearts? I wondered, too, from what source they came, and why they were selected for this life, for Zimmern had not adequately enlightened me on this point.
Pondering thus on the secret workings in the hearts of these girls, I sat one evening amid the sensuous beauty of the Hall of Flowers. I marvelled at how little the Germans seemed to appreciate it, for it was far less crowded than were the more tawdry places of revelry. Here within glass encircling walls, preserved through centuries of artificial existence, feeding from pots of synthetic soil and stimulated by perpetual light, marvellous botanical creations flourished and flowered in prodigal profusion. Ponderous warm-hued lilies floated on the sprinkled surface of the fountain pool. Orchids, dangling from the metal lattice, hung their sensuous blossoms in vapour-laden air. Luxurious vines, climatized to this unreal world, clambered over cosy arbours, or clung with gripping fingers to the mossy concrete pillars.
I was sitting thus in moody silence watching the play of the fountain, when, through the mist, I saw the lonely figure of a girl standing in the shadows of a viny bower. She was toying idly with the swaying tendrils. Her hair was the unfaded gold of youth. Her pale dress of silvery grey, unmarred by any clash of colour, hung closely about a form of wraith-like slenderness.
I arose and walked slowly toward her. As I approached she turned toward me a face of flawless girlish beauty, and then as quickly turned away as if seeking a means of escape.
"I did not mean to intrude," I said.
She did not answer, but when I turned to go, to my surprise, she stepped forward and walked at my side.
"Why do you come here alone?" she asked shyly, lifting a pensive questioning face.
"Because I am tired of all this tawdry noise. But you," I said, "surely you are not tired of it? You cannot have been here long."
"No," she replied, "I have not. Only thirty days"; and her blue eyes gleamed with childish pride.
"And that is why you seem so different from them all?"
Timidly she placed her hand upon my arm. "So you," she said gratefully, "you understand that I am not like them-that is, not yet."
"You do not act like them," I replied, "and what is more, you act as if you did not want to be like them. It surely cannot be merely that you are new here. The other girls when they come seem so eager for this life, to which they have long been trained. Were you not trained for it also?"
"Yes," she admitted, "they tried to train me for it, but they could not kill my artist's soul, for I was not like these others, born of a strain wherein women can only be mothers, or, if rejected for that, come here. I was born to be a musician, a group where women may be something more than mere females."
"Then why are you here?" I asked.
"Because," she faltered, "my voice was imperfect. I have, you see, the soul of an artist but lack the physical means to give that soul expression. And so they transferred me to the school for free women, where I have been courted by the young men of the Royal House. But of course you understand all that."
"Yes," I said, "I know something of it; but my work has always so absorbed me that I have not had time to think of these matters. In fact, I come to the Free Level much less than most men."
For a moment, it seemed, her eyes hardened in cunning suspicion, but as I returned her intent gaze I could fathom only the doubts and fears of childish innocence.
"Please let us sit down," I said; "it is so beautiful here; and then tell me all about yourself, how you have lived your childhood, and what your problems are. It may be that I can help you."
"There is not much to tell," she sighed, as she seated herself beside me. "I was only eight years old when the musical examiners condemned my voice and so I do not remember much about the music school. In the other school where they train girls for the life on the Free Level, they taught us dancing, and how to be beautiful, and always they told us that we must learn these things so that the men would love us. But the only men we ever saw were the doctors. They were always old and serious and I could not understand how I could ever love men. But our teachers would tell us that the other men would be different. They would be handsome and young and would dance with us and bring us fine presents. If we were pleasing in their sight they would take us away, and we should each have an apartment of our own, and many dresses with beautiful colours, and there would be a whole level full of wonderful things and we could go about as we pleased, and dance and feast and all life would be love and joy and laughter.
"Then, on the 'Great Day,' when we had our first individual dresses—for before we had always worn uniforms—the men came. They were young military officers and members of the Royal House who are permitted to select girls for their own exclusive love. We were all very shy at first, but many of the girls made friends with the men and some of them went away that first day. And after that the men came as often as they liked and I learned to dance with them, and they made love to me and told me I was very beautiful. Yet somehow I did not want to go with them. We had been told that we would love the men who loved us. I don't know why, but I didn't love any of them. And so the two years passed and they told me I must come here alone. And so here I am."
"And now that you are here," I said, "have you not, among all these men found one that you could love?"
"No," she said, with a tremor in her voice, "but they say I must."
"And how," I asked, "do they enforce that rule? Does any one require you—to accept the men?"
"Yes," she replied. "I must do that—or starve."
"And how do you live now?" I asked.
"They gave me money when I came here, a hundred marks. And they make me pay to eat and when my money is gone I cannot eat unless I get more. And the men have all the money, and they pay. They have offered to pay me, but I refused to take their checks, and they think me stupid."
The child-like explanation of her lot touched the strings of my heart. "And how long," I asked, "is this money that is given you when you come here supposed to last?"
"Not more than twenty days," she answered.
"But you," I said, "have been here thirty days!"
She looked at me and smiled proudly. "But I," she said, "only eat one meal a day. Do you not see how thin I am?"
The realization that any one in this scientifically fed city could be hungry was to me appalling. Yet here was a girl living amidst luxurious beauty, upon whom society was using the old argument of hunger to force her acceptance of the love of man.
I rose and held out my hand. "You shall eat again today," I said.
"I would rather not," she demurred. "I have not yet accepted favours from any man."
"But you must. You are hungry," I protested. "The problem of your existence here cannot be put off much longer. We will go eat and then we will try and find some solution."
Without further objection she walked with me. We found a secluded booth in a dining hall. I ordered the best dinner that Berlin had to offer.
During the intervals of silence in our rather halting dinner conversation, I wrestled with the situation. I had desired to gain insight into the lives of these girls. Yet now that the opportunity was presented I did not altogether relish the role in which it placed me. The apparent innocence of the confiding girl seemed to open an easy way for a personal conquest—and yet, perhaps because it was so obvious and easy, I rebelled at the unfairness of it. To rescue her, to aid her to escape—in a free world one might have considered these more obvious moves, but here there was no place for her to escape to, no higher social justice to which appeal could be made. Either I must accept her as a personal responsibility, with what that might involve, or desert her to her fate. Both seemed cowardly—yet such were the horns of the dilemma and a choice must be made. Here at least was an opportunity to make use of the funds that lay in the bank to the credit of the name I bore, and for which I had found so little use. So I decided to offer her money, and to insist that it was not offered as the purchase price of love.