Blocked in her effort to relieve human poverty by the discovery that its existence was not recognized, Marguerite's next adventure in doing good in the world was to take up the battle against ignorance by contributing to the School for the Education of Servants.
The Servant problem in Berlin, and particularly on the Royal Level, had been solved so far as male servants were concerned, for these were a well recognized strain eugenically bred as a division of the intellectual caste. I had once taken Dr. Zimmern to task on this classification of the servant as an intellectual.
"The servant is not intellectual creatively," the Eugenist replied, "yet it would never do to class him as Labour since he produces nothing. Moreover, the servant's mind reveals the most specialized development of the most highly prized of all German intellectual characteristics —obedience.
"It might interest you to know," continued Zimmern, "that we use this servant strain in outcrossing with other strains when they show a tendency to decline in the virtue of obedience. If I had not chosen to exempt you from paternity when your rebellious instincts were reported to me, and the matter had been turned over to our Remating Board they might have reassigned you to mothers of the servant class. This practice of out-crossing, though rare, is occasionally essential in all scientific breeding."
"Then do you mean," I asked in amazement, "that the highest intellectual strains have servant blood in them?"
"Certainly. And why not, since obedience is the crowning glory of the German mind? Even Royal blood has a dash of the servant strain."
"You mean, I suppose, from illegitimate children?"
"Not at all; that sort of illegitimacy is not recognized. I mean from the admission of servants into Royal Society, just as you have been admitted."
"And why impossible, since obedience is our supreme racial virtue? Go consult your social register. The present Emperor, I believe, has admitted none, but his father admitted several and gave them princely incomes. They married well and their children are respected, though I understand they are not very much invited out for the reason that they are poor conversationalists. They only speak when spoken to and then answer, 'Ja, Mein Herr.' I hear they are very miserable; since no one commands them they must be very bored with life, as they are unable to think of anything to do to amuse themselves. In time the trait will be modified, of course, since the Royal blood will soon predominate, and the strongest inherent trait of Royalty is to seek amusement."
This specialized class of men servants needed little education, for, as I took more interest in observing after this talk with Zimmern, they were the most perfectly fitted to their function of any class in Berlin. But there was also a much more numerous class of women servants on the Royal Level. These, as a matter of economy, were not specially bred to the office, but were selected from the mothers who had been rejected for further maternity after the birth of one or two children. Be it said to the credit of the Germans that no women who had once borne a child was ever permitted to take up the profession of Delilah—a statement which unfortunately cannot be made of the rest of the world. These mothers together with those who had passed the child bearing age more than supplied the need for nurses on the maternity levels and teachers in girls' schools.
As a result they swarmed the Royal Level in all capacities of service for which women are fitted. Originally educated for maternity they had to be re-educated for service. Not satisfied with the official education provided by the masculine-ordered state, the women of the Royal Level maintained a continuation school in the fine art of obedience and the kindred virtues of the perfect servant.
So again it was that Marguerite became involved in a movement that in no wise expressed the needs of her spirit, and from which she speedily withdrew.
The next time she came to me for advice. "I want to do something," she cried. "I want to be of some use in the world. You saved me from that awful life—for you know what it would have been for me if Dr. Zimmern had died or his disloyalty had been discovered—and you have brought me here where I have riches and position but am useless. I tried to be charitable, to relieve poverty, but they say there is no poverty to be relieved. I tried to relieve ignorance, but they will not allow that either. What else is there that needs to be relieved? Is there no good I can do?"
"Your problem is not a new one," I replied, thinking of the world-old experience of the good women yoked to idleness by wealth and position. "You have tried to relieve poverty and ignorance and find your efforts futile. There is one thing more I believe that is considered a classic remedy for your trouble. You can devote yourself to the elimination of ugliness, to the increase of beauty. Is there no organization devoted to that work?"
"There is," returned Marguerite, "and I was about to join it, but I thought this time I had better ask advice. There is the League to Beautify Berlin."
"Then by all means join," I advised. "It is the safest of all such efforts, for though poverty may not exist and ignorance may not be relieved, yet surely Berlin can be more beautiful. But of course your efforts must be confined to the Royal Level as you do not see the rest of the city."
So Marguerite joined the League to Beautify Berlin and I became an auxiliary member much appreciated because of my liberal contributions. It proved an excellent source of amusement. The League met weekly and discussed the impersonal aspects of the beauty of the level in open meetings, while a secret complaint box was maintained into which all were invited to deposit criticisms of more personal matters. It was forbidden even in this manner to criticize irremedial ugliness such as the matter of one's personal form or features, but dress and manners came within the permitted range and the complaints were regularly mailed to the offenders. This surprised me a little as I would have thought that such a practice would have made the League unpopular, but on the contrary, it was considered the mainstay of the organization, for the recipient of the complaint, if a non-member, very often joined the League immediately, hoping thereby to gain sweet revenge.
But aside from this safety valve for the desire to make personal criticism, the League was a very creditable institution and it was there that we met the great critics to whose untiring efforts the rare development of German art was due.
Cut off from the opportunity to appropriate by purchase or capture the works of other peoples, German art had suffered a severe decline in the first few generations of the isolation, but in time they had developed an art of their own. A great abundance of cast statues of white crystal adorned the plazas and gardens and, being unexposed to dust or rain, they preserved their pristine freshness so that it appeared they had all been made the day before. Mural paintings also flourished abundantly and in some sections the endless facade of the apartments was a continuous pageant.
But it was in landscape gardening that German art had made its most wonderful advancement. Having small opportunity for true architecture because of the narrow engineering limitations of the city's construction, talent for architecture had been turned to landscape gardening. I use the term advisedly for the very absence of natural landscape within a roofed-in city had resulted in greater development of the artificial product.
The earlier efforts, few of which remained unaltered, were more inclined toward imitation of Nature as it exists in the world of sun and rocks and rain. But, as the original models were forgotten and new generations of gardeners arose, new sorts of nature were created. Artificial rocks, artificial soil, artificially bred and cultured plants, were combined in new designs, unrealistic it is true, but still a very wonderful development of what might be called synthetic or romantic nature. The water alone was real and even in some cases that was altered as in the beautifully dyed rivulets and in the truly remarkable "Fountain of Blood," dedicated to one of the sons of William the Great—I have forgotten his name—in honour of his attack upon Verdun in the First World War.
In these wondrous gardens, with the Princess Marguerite strolling by my side, I spent the happiest hours of my sojourn in Berlin. But my joy was tangled with a thread of sadness for the more I gazed upon this synthetic nature of German creation the more I hungered to tell her of, and to take her to see, the real Nature of the outside world—upon which, in my opinion, with all due respect to their achievements, the Germans had not been able to improve.
While the women of the Royal House were not permitted of their own volition to stray from the Royal Level, excursions were occasionally arranged, with proper permits and guards. These were social events of consequence and the invitations were highly prized. Noteworthy among them was an excursion to the highest levels of the city and to the roof itself.
The affair was planned by Admiral von Kufner in Marguerite's honour; for, having spent her childhood elsewhere, she had never experienced the wonder of this roof excursion so highly prized by Royalty, and for ever forbidden to all other women and to all but a few men of the teeming millions who swarmed like larvae in this vast concrete cheese.
The formal invitations set no hour for the excursion as it was understood that the exact time depended upon weather conditions of which we would later be notified. When this notice came the hour set was in the conventional evening of the Royal Level, but corresponding to about three A.M. by solar time. The party gathered at the suite of the Countess Luise and numbered some forty people, for whom a half dozen guides were provided in the form of officers of the Roof Guard. The journey to our romantic destination took us up some hundred metres in an elevator, a trip which required but two minutes, but would lead to a world as different as Mount Olympus from Erebus.
But we did not go directly to the roof, for the hour preferred for that visit had not yet arrived and our first stop was at the swine levels, which had so aroused my curiosity and strained belief when I had first discovered their existence from the chart of my atlas.
As the door of the elevator shaft slid open, a vast squealing and grunting assaulted our ears. The hours of the swine, like those of their masters, were not reckoned by either solar or sidereal time, but had been altered, as experiment had demonstrated, to a more efficient cycle. The time of our trip was chosen so that we might have this earthly music of the feeding time as a fitting prelude to the visioning of the silent heavens.
On the visitors' gangway we walked just above the reach of the jostling bristly backs, and our own heads all but grazed the low ceiling of the level. To economize power the lights were dim. Despite the masterful achievement of German cleanliness and sanitation there was a permeating odour, a mingling of natural and synthetic smells, which added to the gloom of semi-darkness and the pandemonium of swinish sound produced a totality of infernal effect that thwarts description.
But relief was on the way for the automatic feed conveyors were rapidly moving across our section. First we heard a diminution of sound from one direction, then a hasty scuffling and a happy grunting beneath us and, as the conveyors moved swiftly on, the squealing receded into the distance like the dying roar of a retreating storm.
The Chief Swineherd, immaculately dressed and wearing his full quota of decorations and medals, honoured us with his personal presence. With the excusable pride that every worthy man takes in his work, he expounded the scientific achievements and economic efficiency of the swinish world over which he reigned. The men of the party listened with respect to his explanations of the accomplishments of sanitation and of the economy of the cycle of chemical transformation by which these swine were maintained without decreasing the capacity of the city for human support. Lastly the Swineherd spoke of the protection that the swine levels provided against the effects of an occasional penetrating bomb that chanced to fall in the crater of its predecessor before the damage could be repaired.
Pursuant to this fact the uppermost swine level housed those unfortunate animals that were nearest the sausage stage. On the next lower level, to which we now descended by a spiral stair through a ventilating opening, were brutes of less advanced ages. On the lowest of the three levels where special lights were available for our benefit even the women ceased to shudder and gave expression to ecstatic cries of rapture, as all the world has ever done when seeing baby beasts pawing contentedly at maternal founts.
"Is it not all wonderful?" effused Admiral von Kufner, with a sweeping gesture; "so efficient, so sanitary, so automatic, such a fine example of obedience to system and order. This is what I call real science and beauty; one might almost say Germanic beauty."
"But I do not like it," replied Marguerite with her usual candour. "I wish they would abolish these horrid levels."
"But surely," said the Countess, "you would not wish to condemn us to a diet of total mineralism?"
"But the Herr Chemist here could surely invent for us a synthetic sausage," remarked Count Rudolph. "I have eaten vegetarian kraut made of real cabbage from the Botanical Garden, but it was inferior to the synthetic article."
"Do not make light, young people," spoke up the most venerable member of our party, the eminent Herr Dr. von Brausmorganwetter, the historian laureate of the House of Hohenzollern. "It is not as a producer of sausages alone that we Germans are indebted to this worthy animal. I am now engaged in writing a book upon the influence of the swine upon German Kultur. In the first part I shall treat of the Semitic question. The Jews were very troublesome among us in the days before the isolation. They were a conceited race. As capitalists, they amassed fortunes; as socialists they stirred up rebellion; they objected to war; they would never have submitted to eugenics; they even insisted that we Germans had stolen their God!
"We tried many schemes to be rid of these troublesome people, and all failed. Therefore I say that Germany owes a great debt to the noble animal who rid us of the disturbing presence of the Jews, for when pork was made compulsory in the diet they fled the country of their own accord.
"In the second part of my book I shall tell the story of the founding of the New Berlin, for our noble city was modelled on the fortified piggeries of the private estates of William III. In those days of the open war the enemy bombed the stock farms. Synthetic foods were as yet imperfectly developed. Protein was at a premium; the emperor did not like fish, so he built a vast concrete structure with a roof heavily armoured with sand that he might preserve his swine from the murderous attacks of the enemy planes.
"It was during the retreat from Peking. The German armies were being crowded back on every side. The Ray had been invented, but William the III knew that it could not be used to protect so vast a domain and that Germany would be penned into narrow borders and be in danger of extermination by aerial bombardment. In those days he went for rest and consolation to his estates, for he took great pleasure in his thoroughbred swine. Some traitorous spy reported his move to the enemy and a bombing squadron attacked the estates. The Emperor took refuge in his fortified piggery. And so the great vision came to him.
"I have read the exact words of this thoughts as recorded in his diary which is preserved in the archives of the Royal Palace: 'As are these happy brutes, so shall my people be. In safety from the terrors of the sky—protected from the vicissitudes of nature and the enmity of men, so shall I preserve them.'
"That was the conception of the armoured city of Berlin. But that was not all. For the bombardment kept up for days and the Emperor could not escape. On the fourth day came the second idea—two new ideas in less than a week! William III was a great thinker.
"Thus he recorded the second inspiration: 'And even as I have bred these swine, some for bacon and some for lard, so shall the German Blond Brutes be bred the super-men, some specialized for labour and some for brains.'
"These two ideas are the foundation of the kultur of our Imperial Socialism, the one idea to preserve us and the other to re-create us as the super-race. And both of these ideas we owe to this noble animal. The swine should be emblazoned with the eagle upon our flag."
As the Historian finished his eulogy, I glanced surreptitiously at the faces of his listeners, and caught a twinkle in Marguerite's eyes; but the faces of the others were as serious as graven images.
Finally the Countess spoke: "Do I understand, then, that you consider the swine the model of the German race?"
"Only of the lower classes," said the aged historian, "but not the House of Hohenzollern. We are exalted above the necessities of breeding, for we are divine."
Eyes were now turned upon me, for I was the only one of the company not of Hohenzollern blood. Unrelieved by laughter the situation was painful.
"But," said Count Rudolph, coming to my rescue, "we also seek safety in the fortified piggeries."
"Exactly," said the Historian; "so did our noble ancestor."
From the piggeries, we went to the green level where, growing beneath eye-paining lights, was a matted mass of solid vegetation from which came those rare sprigs of green which garnished our synthetic dishes. But this was too monotonous to be interesting and we soon went above to the Defence Level where were housed vast military and rebuilding mechanisms and stores. After our guides had shown us briefly about among these paraphernalia, we were conducted to one of the sloping ramps which led through a heavily arched tunnel to the roof above.
Marguerite clung close to my arm, quivering with expectancy and excitement, as we climbed up the sloping passage-way and felt on our faces the breath of the crisp air of the May night.
The sky came into vision with startling suddenness as we walked out upon the soft sand blanket of the roof. The night was absolutely clear and my first impression was that every star of the heavens had miraculously waxed in brilliancy. The moon, in the last quarter, hung midway between the zenith and the western horizon. The milky way seemed a floating band of whitish flame. About us, in the form of a wide crescent, for we were near the eastern edge of the city, swung the encircling band of searchlights, but the air was so clear that this stockade of artificial light beams was too pale to dim the points of light in the blue-black vault.
In anticipating this visit to the roof I had supposed it would seem commonplace to me, and had discussed it very little with Marguerite, lest I might reveal an undue lack of wonder. But now as I thrilled once more beneath their holy light, the miracle of unnumbered far-flung flaming suns stifled again the vanity of human conceit and I stood with soul unbared and worshipful beneath the vista of incommensurate space wherein the birth and death of worlds marks the unending roll of time. And at my side a silent gazing woman stood, contrite and humble and the thrill and quiver of her body filled me with a joy of wordless delight.
A blundering guide began lecturing on astronomy and pointing out with pompous gestures the constellations and planets. But Marguerite led me beyond the sound of his voice. "It is not the time for listening to talk," she said. "I only want to see."
When the astronomer had finished his speech-making, our party moved slowly toward the East, where we could just discern the first faint light of the coming dawn. When we reached the parapet of the eastern edge of the city's roof, the stars had faded and pale pink streaked the eastern sky. The guides brought folding chairs from a nearby tunnel way and most of the party sat down on a hillock of sand, very much as men might seat themselves in the grandstand of a race course. But I was so interested in what the dawn would reveal beneath the changing colours of the sky, that I led Marguerite to the rail of the parapet where we could look down into the yawning depths upon the surface of German soil.
My first vision over the parapet revealed but a mottled grey. But as the light brightened the grey land took form, and I discerned a few scraggly patches of green between the torn masses of distorted soil.
The stars had faded now and only the pale moon remained in the bluing sky, while below the land disclosed a sad monotony of ruin and waste, utterly devoid of any constructive work of man.
Marguerite, her gaze fixed on the dawn, was beginning to complain of the light paining her eyes, when one of the guides hurried by with an open satchel swung from his shoulders. "Here are your glasses," he said; "put them on at once. You must be very careful now, or you will injure your eyes."
We accepted the darkened protecting lenses, but I found I did not need mine until the sun itself had appeared above the horizon.
"Did you see it so in your vision?" questioned Marguerite, as the first beams glistened on the surface of the sanded roof.
"This," I replied, "is a very ordinary sunrise with a perfectly cloudless sky. Some day, perhaps, when the gates of this prison of Berlin are opened, we will be able to see all the sunrises of my visions, and even more wonderful ones."
"Karl," she whispered, "how do you know of all these things? Sometimes I believe you are something more than human, that you of a truth possess the blood of divinity which the House of Hohenzollern claims."
"No," I answered; "not divinity,—just a little larger humanity, and some day very soon I am going to tell you more of the source of my visions."
She looked at me through her darkened glasses. "I only know," she said, "that you are wonderful, and very different from other men."
Had we been alone on the roof of Berlin, I could not have resisted the temptation to tell her then that stars and sun were familiar friends to me and that the devastated soil that stretched beneath us was but the wasted skeleton of a fairer earth I knew and loved. But we were surrounded by a host of babbling sightseers and so the moment passed and I remained to Marguerite a man of mystery and a seer of visions.
The sun fully risen now, we were led to a protruding observation platform that permitted us to view the wall of the city below. It was merely one vast grey wall without interruption or opening in the monotonous surface.
Amid the more troubled chaos of the ground immediately below we could see fragments of concrete blown from the parapet of the roof. The wall beneath us, we were told, was only of sufficient thickness to withstand fire of the aircraft guns. The havoc that might be wrought, should the defence mines ever be forced back and permit the walls of Berlin to come within range of larger field pieces, was easily imagined. But so long as the Ray defence held, the massive fort of Berlin was quite impervious to attacks of the world forces of land and air and the stalemate of war might continue for other centuries.
With the coming of daylight we had heard the rumbling of trucks as the roof repairing force emerged to their task. Now that our party had become tired of gazing through their goggles at the sun, our guides led us in the direction where this work was in progress. On the way we passed a single unfilled crater, a deep pit in the flinty quartz sand that spread a protecting blanket over the solid structure of the roof. These craters in the sand proved quite harmless except for the labour involved in their refilling. Further on we came to another, now half-filled from a spouting pipe with ground quartz blown from some remote subterranean mine, so to keep up the wastage from wind and bombing.
Again we approached the edge of the city and this time found more of interest, for here an addition to the city was under construction. It was but a single prism, not a hundred metres across, which when completed would add but another block to the city's area. Already the outer pillars reached the full height and supported the temporary roof that offered at least a partial protection to the work in progress beneath. Though I watched but a few minutes I was awed with the evident rapidity of the building. Dimly I could see the forms below being swung into place with a clock-like regularity and from numerous spouts great streams of concrete poured like flowing lava.
It is at these building sections that the bombs were aimed and here alone that any effectual damage could be done, but the target was a small one for a plane flying above the reach of the German guns. The officer who guided our group explained this to us: these bombing raids were conducted only at times of particular cloud formations, when the veil of mist hung thick and low in an even stratum above which the air was clear. When such formation threatened, the roof of Berlin was cleared and the expected bombs fell and spent their fury blowing up the sand. It had been a futile warfare, for the means of defence were equal to the means of offence.
Our visit to the roof of Berlin was cut short as the sun rose higher, because the women, though they had donned gloves and veils, were fearful of sunburn. So we were led back to the covered ramp into the endless night of the city.
"Have we seen it all?" sighed Marguerite, as she removed her veil and glasses and gazed back blinkingly into the last light of day.
"Hardly," I said; "we have not seen a cloud, nor a drop of rain nor a flake of snow, nor a flash of lightning, nor heard a peal of thunder."
Again she looked at me with worshipful adoration. "I forget," she whispered; "and can you vision those things also?"
But I only smiled and did not answer, for I saw Admiral von Kufner glaring at me. I had monopolized Marguerite's company for the entire occasion, and I was well aware that his only reason for arranging this, to him a meaningless excursion, had been in the hopes of being with her.
But Admiral von Kufner, contending fairly for that share of Marguerite's time which she deigned to grant him, seemed to bear me no malice; and, as the months slipped by, I was gratified to find him becoming more cordial toward me. We frequently met at the informal gatherings in the salon of the Countess Luise. More rarely Dr. Zimmern came there also, for by virtue of his office he was permitted the social rights of the Royal Level. I surmised, however, that this privilege, in his case, had not included the right to marry on the level, for though the head of the Eugenic Staff, he had, so far as I could learn, neither wife nor children.
But Dr. Zimmern did not seem to relish royal society, for when he chanced to be caught with me among the members of the Royal House the flow of his brilliant conversations was checked like a spring in a drought, and he usually took his departure as soon as it was seemly.
On one of these occasions Admiral von Kufner came in as Zimmern sat chatting over cups and incense with Marguerite and me, and the Countess and her son. The doctor dropped quietly out of the conversation, and for a time the youthful Count Ulrich entertained us with a technical elaboration of the importance of the love passion as the dominant appeal of the picture. Then the Countess broke in with a spirited exposition of the relation of soul harmony to ardent passion.
Admiral von Kufner listened with ill-disguised impatience. "But all this erotic passion," he interrupted, "will soon again be swept away by the revival of the greater race passion for world rule."
"My dear Admiral," said the Countess Luise, "your ideas of race passion are quite proper for the classes who must be denied the free play of the love element in their psychic life, but your notion of introducing these ideas into the life of the Royal Level is wholly antiquated."
"It is you who are antiquated," returned the Admiral, "for now the day is at hand when we shall again taste of danger. His Majesty has—"
"Of course His Majesty has told us that the day is at hand," interrupted the Countess. "Has not His Majesty always preserved this allegorical fable? It is part of the formal kultur."
"But His Majesty now speaks the truth," replied the Admiral gravely, "and I say to you who are so absorbed with the light passions of art and love that we shall not only taste of danger but will fight again in the sea and air and on the ground in the outer world. We shall conquer and rule the world."
"And do you think, Admiral," inquired Marguerite, "that the German people will then be free in the outer world?"
"They will be free to rule the outer world," replied the Admiral.
"But I mean," said Marguerite calmly, "to ask if they will be free again to love and marry and rear their own children."
At this naive question the others exchanged significant glances.
"My dear child," said the Countess, blushing with embarrassment, "your defective training makes it extremely difficult for you to understand these things."
"Of course it is all forbidden," spoke up the young Count, "but now, if it were not, the Princess Marguerite's unique idea would certainly make capital picture material."
"How clever!" cried the Countess, beaming on her intellectual son. "Nothing is forbidden for plot material for the Royal Level. You shall make a picture showing those great beasts of labour again liberated for unrestricted love."
"There is one difficulty," Count Rudolph considered. "How could we get actors for the parts? Our thoroughbred actors are all too light of bone, too delicate of motion, and our actresses bred for dainty beauty would hardly caste well for those great hulking round-faced labour mothers."
"Then," remarked the Admiral, "if you must make picture plays why not one of the mating of German soldiers with the women of the inferior races?"
"Wonderful!" exclaimed the plot maker; "and practical also. Our actresses are the exact counterpart of those passionate French beauties. I often study their portraits in the old galleries. They have had no Eugenics, hence they would be unchanged. Is it not so, Doctor?"
"Without Eugenics, a race changes with exceeding slowness," answered Zimmern in a voice devoid of expression. "I should say that the French women of today would much resemble their ancestral types."
"But picturing such matings of military necessity would be very disgusting," reprimanded the Countess.
"It will be a very necessary part of the coming day of German dominion," stated the Admiral. "How else can we expect to rule the world? It is, indeed, part of the ordained plan."
"But how," I questioned, "is such a plan to be executed? Would the men of the World State tolerate it?"
"We will oblige them to tolerate it; the children of the next generation of the inferior races must be born of German sires."
"But the Germans are outnumbered ten to one," I replied.
"Polygamy will take care of that, among the white races; the coloured races must be eliminated. All breeding of the coloured races must cease. That, also, is part of the ordained plan."
The conversation was getting on rather dangerous ground for me as I realized that I dare not show too great surprise at this talk, which of all things I had heard in Germany was the most preposterous.
But Marguerite made no effort to disguise her astonishment. "I thought," she said, "that the German rule of the world was only a plan for military victory and the conquering of the World Government. I supposed the people would be left free to live their personal lives as they desired."
"That was the old idea," replied the Admiral, "in the days of open war, before the possibilities of eugenic science were fully realized. But the ordained plan revealed to His Majesty requires not only the military and political rule by the Germans, but the biologic conquest of the inferior races by German blood."
"I think our German system of scientific breeding is very brutal," spoke up Marguerite with an intensity of feeling quite out of keeping with the calloused manner in which the older members of the Royal House discussed the subject.
The Admiral turned to her with a gracious air. "My lovely maiden," he said, "your youth quite excuses your idealistic sentiments. You need only to remember that you are a daughter of the House of Hohenzollern. The women of this House are privileged always to cultivate and cherish the beautiful sentiments of romantic love and individual maternity. The protected seclusion of the Royal Level exists that such love may bloom untarnished by the grosser affairs of world necessity. It was so ordained."
"It was so ordained by men," replied Marguerite defiantly, "and what are these privileges while the German women are prostituted on the Free Level or forced to bear children only to lose them—and while you plan to enforce other women of the world into polygamous union with a conquering race?"
"My dear child," said the Countess, "you must not speak in this wild fashion. We women of the Royal House must fully realize our privileges—and as for the Admiral's wonderful tale of world conquest—that is only his latest hobby. It is talked, of course, in military circles, but the defensive war is so dull, you know, especially for the Royal officers, that they must have something to occupy their minds."
"When the day arrives," snapped the Admiral, "you will find the Royal officers leading the Germans to victory like Atilla and William the Great himself."
"Then why," twitted the Countess, "do you not board one of your submarines and go forth to battle in the sea?"
"I am not courting unnecessary danger," retorted the Admiral; "but I am not dead to the realities of war. My apartments are directly connected with the roof."
"So you can hear the bomb explosions," suggested the Countess.
"And why not?" snapped the Admiral; "we must prepare for danger."
"But you have not been bred for danger," scoffed the Countess. "Perhaps you would do well to have your reactions to fear tested out in the psychic laboratories; if you should pass the test you might be elected as a father of soldiers; it would surely set a good example to our impecunious Hohenzollern bachelors for whom there are no wives."
The young Count evidently did not comprehend his mother's spirit of raillery. "Has that not been tried?" he asked, turning toward Dr. Zimmern.
"It has," stated the Eugenist, "more than a hundred years ago. There was once an entire regiment of such Hohenzollern soldiers in the Bavarian mines."
"And how did they turn out?" I asked, my curiosity tempting me into indiscretion.
"They mutinied and murdered their officers and then held an election—" Zimmern paused and I caught his eye which seemed to say, "We have gone too far with this."
"Yes, and what happened?" queried the Countess.
"They all voted for themselves as Colonel," replied the Doctor drily.
At this I looked for an outburst of indignation from the orthodox Admiral, but instead he seemed greatly elated. "Of course," he enthused; "the blood breeds true. It verily has the quality of true divinity. No wonder we super-men repudiated that spineless conception of the soft Christian God and the servile Jewish Jesus."
"But Jesus was not a coward," spoke up Marguerite. "I have read the story of his life; it is very wonderful; he was a brave man, who met his death unflinchingly."
"But where did you read it?" asked the Countess. "It must be very new. I try to keep up on the late novels but I never heard of this 'Story of Jesus.'"
"What you say is true," said the Admiral, turning to Marguerite, "but since you like to read so well, you should get Prof. Ohlenslagger's book and learn the explanation of the fact that you have just stated. We have long known that all those great men whom the inferior races claim as their geniuses are of truth of German blood, and that the fighting quality of the outer races is due to the German blood that was scattered by our early emigrations.
"But the distinctive contribution that Prof. Ohlenslagger makes to these long established facts is in regard to the parentage of this man Jesus. In the Jewish accounts, which the Christians accepted, the truth was crudely covered up with a most unscientific fable, which credited the paternity of Jesus to miraculous interference with the laws of nature.
"But now the truth comes out by Prof. Ohlenslagger's erudite reasoning. This unknown father of Jesus was an adventurer from Central Asia, a man of Teutonic blood. On no other conception can the mixed elements in the character of Jesus be explained. His was the case of a dual personality of conflicting inheritance. One day he would say: 'Lay up for yourself treasures'—that was the Jewish blood speaking. The next day he would say: 'I come to bring a sword'—that was the noble German blood of a Teutonic ancestor. It is logical, it must be true, for it was reasoned out by one of our most rational professors."
The Countess yawned; Marguerite sat silent with troubled brows; Dr. Ludwig Zimmern gazed abstractedly toward the cold electric imitation of a fire, above which on a mantle stood two casts, diminutive reproductions of the figures beside the door of the Emperor's palace, the one the likeness of William the Great, the other the Statue of the German God. But I was thinking of the news I had heard that afternoon from my Ore Chief—that Captain Grauble's vessel had returned to Berlin.
IN WHICH A WOMAN ACCUSES ME OF MURDER AND I PLACE A RUBY NECKLACE ABOUT HER THROAT
Anxious to renew my acquaintance with Captain Grauble at the earliest opportunity, I sent my social secretary to invite him to meet me for a dinner engagement in one of the popular halls of the Free Level.
When I reached the dining hall I found Captain Grauble awaiting me. But he was not alone. Seated with him were two girls and so strange a picture of contrast I had never seen. The girl on his right was an extreme example of the prevailing blonde type. Her pinkish white skin seemed transparent, her eyes were the palest blue and her hair was bright yet pale gold. About her neck was a chain of blue stones linked with platinum. She was dressed in a mottled gown of light blue and gold, and so subtly blended were the colours that she and her gown seemed to be part of the same created thing. But on Grauble's left sat a woman whose gown was flashing crimson slashed with jetty black. Her skin was white with a positive whiteness of rare marble and her cheeks and lips flamed with blood's own red. The sheen of her hair was that of a raven's wing, and her eyes scintillated with the blackness of polished jade.
The pale girl, whom Grauble introduced as Elsa, languidly reached up her pink fingers for me to kiss and then sank back, eyeing me with mild curiosity. But as I now turned to be presented to the other, I saw the black-eyed beauty shrink and cower in an uncanny terror. Grauble again repeated my name and then the name of the girl, and I, too, started in fear, for the name he pronounced was "Katrina" and there flashed before my vision the page from the diary that I had first read in the dank chamber of the potash mine. In my memory's vision the words flamed and shouted: "In no other woman have I seen such a blackness of hair and eyes, combined with such a whiteness of skin."
The girl before me gave no sign of recognition, but only gripped the table and pierced me with the stare of her beady eyes. Nervously I sank into a seat. Grauble, standing over the girl, looked down at her in angry amazement. "What ails you?" he said roughly, shaking her by the shoulder.
But the girl did not answer him and annoyed and bewildered, he sat down. For some moments no one spoke, and even the pale Elsa leaned forward and seemed to quiver with excitement.
Then the girl, Katrina, slowly rose from her chair. "Who are you?" she demanded, in a hoarse, guttural voice, still gazing at me with terrified eyes.
I did not answer, and Grauble again reached over and gripped the girl's arm. "I told you who he was," he said. "He is Herr Karl von Armstadt of the Chemical Staff."
But, the girl did not sit down and continued to stare at me. Then she raised a trembling hand and, pointing an accusing finger at me, she cried in a piercing voice:
"You are not Karl Armstadt, but an impostor posing as Karl Armstadt!"
We were located in a well-filled dancing cafe, and the tragic voice of the accuser brought a crowd of curious people about our table. Captain Grauble waved them back. As they pushed forward again, a street guard elbowed in, brandishing his aluminum club and asking the cause of the commotion. The bystanders indicated Katrina and the guard, edging up, gripped her arm and demanded an explanation.
Katrina repeated her accusation.
"Evidently," suggested Grauble, "she has known another man of the same name, and meeting Herr von Armstadt has recalled some tragic memory."
"Perhaps," said the guard politely, "if the gentleman would show the young lady his identification folder, she would be convinced of her error."
For a moment I hesitated, realizing full well what an inquiry might reveal.
"No," I said, "I do not feel that it is necessary."
"He is afraid to show it," screamed the girl. "I tell you he is trying to pass for Armstadt but he is some one else. He looks like Karl Armstadt and at first I thought he was Karl Armstadt, but I know he is not."
I looked swiftly at the surrounding faces, and saw upon them suspicion and accusation. "There may be something wrong," said a man in a military uniform, "otherwise why should the gentleman of the staff hesitate to show his folder?"
"Very well," I said, pulling out my folder.
The guard glanced at it. "It seems to be all right," he said, addressing the group about the table; "now will you kindly resume your seats and not embarrass these gentlemen with your idle curiosity?"
"Let me see the folder!" cried Katrina.
"Pardon," said the guard to me, "but I see no harm," and he handed her the folder.
She glanced over it with feverish haste.
"Are you satisfied now?" questioned the guard.
"Yes," hissed the black-eyed girl; "I am satisfied that this is Karl Armstadt's folder. I know every word of it, but I tell you that the man who carries it now is not the real Karl Armstadt." And then she wheeled upon me and screamed, "You are not Karl Armstadt, Karl Armstadt is dead, and you have murdered him!"
In an instant the cafe was in an uproar. Men in a hundred types of uniform crowded forward; small women, rainbow-garbed, stood on the chairs and peered over taller heads of ponderous sisters of the labour caste. Grauble again waved back the crowd and the guard brandished his club threateningly toward some of the more inquisitive daughters of labour.
When the crowd had fallen back to a more respectful distance, the guard recovered my identification folder from Katrina and returned it to me. "Perhaps," he said, "you have known the young lady and do not again care to renew the acquaintance? If so, with your permission, I shall take her where she will not trouble you again this evening."
"That may be best," I replied, wondering how I could explain the affair to Captain Grauble.
"The incident is most unfortunate," said the Captain, evidently a little nettled, "but I think this rude force unnecessary. I know Katrina well, but I did not know she had previously known Herr von Armstadt. This being the case, and he seeming not to wish to renew the acquaintance, I suggest that she leave of her own accord."
But Katrina was not to be so easily dismissed. "No," she retorted, "I will not leave until this man tells me how he came by that identification folder and what became of the man I loved, whom he now represents himself to be."
At these words the guard, who had been about to leave, turned back.
I glanced apprehensively at Grauble who, seeing that I was grievously wrought up over the affair, said quietly to the officer, "You had best take her away."
Katrina, with a black look of hatred at Grauble, went without further words, and the curious crowd quickly melted away. The three of us who remained at the table resumed our seats and I ordered dinner.
"My, how Katrina frightened me!" exclaimed the fragile Elsa.
"She does have temper," admitted Grauble. "Odd, though, that she would conceive that idea that you were some one else. I have heard of all sorts of plans of revenge for disappointments in love, but that is a new one."
"You really know her?" questioned Elsa, turning her pale eyes upon me.
"Oh, yes, I once knew her," I replied, trying to seem unconcerned; "but I did not recognize her at first."
"You mean you didn't care to," smiled Grauble. "Once a man had known that woman he would hardly forget her."
"But you must have had a very emotional affair with her," said Elsa, "to make her take on like that. Do tell us about it."
"I would rather not; there are some things one wishes to forget."
Grauble chided his dainty companion for her prying curiosity and tried to turn the conversation into less personal channels. But Elsa's appetite for romance had been whetted and she kept reverting to the subject while I worried along trying to dismiss the matter. But the ending of the affair was not to be left in my hands; as we were sitting about our empty cups, we saw Katrina re-enter the cafe in company with a high official of the level and the guard who had taken her away.
"I am sorry to disturb you," said the official, addressing me courteously, "but this girl is very insistent in her accusation, and perhaps, if you will aid us in the matter, it may prevent her making further charges that might annoy you."
"And what do you wish me to do?"
"I suggest only that you should come to my office. I have telephoned to have the records looked up and that should satisfy all and so end the matter."
"You might come also," added the official, turning to Grauble, but he waved back the curious Elsa who was eager to follow.
When we reached his office in the Place of Records, the official who had brought us thither turned to a man at a desk. "You have received the data on missing men?" he inquired.
The other handed him a sheet of paper.
The official turned to Katrina. "Will you state again, please, the time that you say the Karl Armstadt you knew disappeared?"
Katrina quite accurately named the date at which the man whose identity I had assumed had been called to the potash mines.
"Very well," said the official, taking up the sheet of paper, "here we have the list of missing men for four years compiled from the weighers' records. There is not recorded here the disappearance of a single chemist during the whole period. If another man than a chemist should try to step into a chemist's shoes, he would have a rather difficult time of it." The official laughed as if he thought himself very clever.
"But that man is not Karl Armstadt," cried Katrina in a wavering voice. "Do you think I would not know him when every night for—"
"Shut up," said the official, "and get out of here, and if I hear anything more of this matter I shall subtract your credit."
Katrina, now whimpering, was led from the room. The official beamed upon Capt. Grauble and myself. "Do you see," he said, "how perfectly our records take care of these crazy accusations? The black haired one is evidently touched in the head with jealousy, and now that she has chanced upon you, she makes up this preposterous story, which might cause you no end of annoyance, but here we have the absolute refutation of the charge. Before a man can step into another's shoes, he must step out of his own. Murdered bodies can be destroyed, although that is difficult, but one man cannot be two men!"
We left the official chuckling over his cleverness.
"The Keeper of Records was wise after his kind," mused Grauble, "but it never occurred to him that there might be chemists in the world who are not registered in the card files of Berlin."
Grauble's voice sounded a note of aloofness and suspicion. Had he penetrated my secret? Did I dare make full confession? Had Grauble given me the least encouragement I should have done so, but he seemed to wish to avoid further discussion and I feared to risk it.
My hope of a fuller understanding with Grauble seemed destroyed, and we soon separated without further confidences.
When I returned home from my offices one evening some days later, my secretary announced that a visitor was awaiting me.
I entered the reception-room and found Holknecht, who had been my chemical assistant in the early days of my work in Berlin. Holknecht had seemed to me a servile fawning fellow and when I received my first promotion I had deserted him quite brutally for the very excellent reason that he had known the other Armstadt and I feared that his dulled intelligence might at any time be aroused to penetrate my disguise. That he should look me up in my advancement and prosperity, doubtless to beg some favour, seemed plausible enough, and therefore with an air of condescending patronage, I asked what I could do for him.
"It is about Katrina," he said haltingly, as he eyed me curiously.
"Well, what about her?"
"She wants me to bring you to her."
"But suppose I do not choose to go?"
"Then there may be trouble."
"She has already tried to make trouble," I said, "but nothing came of it."
"But that," said Holknecht, "was before she saw me."
"And what have you told her?"
"I told her about Armstadt's going to the mines and you coming back to the hospital wearing his clothes and possessed of his folder and of your being out of your memory."
"You mean," I replied, determined not to acknowledge his assumption of my other identity, "that you explained to her how the illness had changed me; and did that not make clear to her why she did not recognize me at first?"
"There is no use," insisted Holknecht, "of your talking like that. I never could quite make up my mind about you, though I always knew there was something wrong. At first I believed the doctor's story, and that you were really Armstadt, though it did seem like a sort of magic, the way you were changed. But when you came to the laboratory and I saw you work, I decided that you were somebody else and that the Chemical Staff was working on some great secret and had a reason for putting some one else in Armstadt's place. And now, of course, I know very well that that was so, for the other Karl Armstadt would never have become a von of the Royal Level. He didn't have that much brains."
As Holknecht was speaking I had been thinking rapidly. The thing I feared was that the affair of the mine and hospital should be investigated by some one with intelligence and authority. Since Katrina had learned of that, and this Holknecht was also aware that I was a man of unknown identity, it was very evident that they might set some serious investigation going. But the man's own remarks suggested a way out.
"You are quite right, Holknecht," I said; "I am not Karl Armstadt; and, just as you have surmised, there were grave reasons why I should have been put into his place under those peculiar circumstances. But this matter is a state secret of the Chemical Staff and you will do well to say nothing about it. Now is there anything I can do for you? A promotion, perhaps, to a good position in the Protium Works?"
"No," said Holknecht, "I would rather stay where I am, but I could use a little extra money."
"Of course; a check, perhaps; a little gift from an old friend who has risen to power; there would be no difficulty in that, would there?"
"I think it would go through all right."
"I will make it now; say five thousand marks, and if nothing more is said of this matter by you or Katrina, there will be another one like it a year later."
The young man's eyes gloated as I wrote the check, which he pocketed with greedy satisfaction. "Now," I said, "will this end the affair for the present?"
"This makes it all right with me," replied Holknecht, "but what about Katrina?"
"But you are to take care of her. She can only accept two hundred marks a month and I have given you enough for that four times over."
"But she doesn't want money; she already has a full list."
"Then what does she want?"
"Jewels, of course; they all want them; jewels from the Royal Level, and she knows you can get them for her."
"Oh, I see. Well, what would please her?"
"A necklace of rubies, the best they have, one that will cost at least twenty thousand marks."
"That's rather expensive, is it not?"
"But her favourite lover disappeared," fenced Holknecht, "and his death was never entered on the records. It may be the Chemical Staff knows what became of him and maybe they do not; whatever happened, you seem to want it kept still, so you had best get the necklace."
After a little further arguing that revealed nothing, I went to the Royal Level, and searching out a jewelry shop, I purchased a necklace of very beautiful synthetic rubies, for which I gave my check for twenty thousand marks.
Returning to my apartment, I found Holknecht still waiting. He insisted on taking the necklace to Katrina, but I feared to trust a man who accepted bribes so shamelessly, and decided to go with him and deliver it in person.
Sullenly, Holknecht led the way to her apartment.
Katrina sensuously gowned in flaming red was awaiting the outcome of her blackmailing venture. She motioned me to a chair near her, while Holknecht, utterly ignored, sank obscurely into a corner.
"So you came," said the lady of black and scarlet, leaning back among her pillows and gazing at me through half closed eyes.
"Yes," I said, "since you have looked up Holknecht and he has explained to you the reason for the disappearance of the man you knew, I thought best to see you and have an understanding."
"But that dumb fellow explained nothing," declared Katrina, "except that he told me that Armstadt went to the mines and you came back and took his place. He wasn't even sure you were not the other Karl Armstadt until I convinced him, and then he claimed that he had known it all the time; and yet he had never told it. Some men are as dull as books."
"On the contrary, Holknecht is very sensible," I replied. "It is a grave affair of state and one that it is best not to probe into."
"And just what did become of the other Armstadt?" asked Katrina, and in her voice was only a curiosity, with no real concern.
"To tell you the truth, your lover was killed in the mine explosion," I replied, for I thought it unwise to state that he was still alive lest she pursue her inquiries for him and so make further trouble.
"That is too bad," said Katrina. "You see, when I knew him he was only a chemical captain. And when he deserted me I didn't really care much. But when the Royal Captain Grauble asked me to meet a Karl von Armstadt of the Chemical Staff, at first I could not believe that it was the same man I had known, but I made inquiries and learned of your rapid rise and traced it back and I thought you really were my old Karl. And when I saw you, you seemed to be he, but when I looked again I knew that you were another and I was so disappointed and angry that I lost control of my temper. I am sorry I made a scene, and that official was so stupid—as if I would not know one man from another! How I should like to tell him that I knew more than his stupid records."
"But that is not best," I said; "your former lover is dead and there are grave reasons why that death should not be investigated further—" The argument was becoming a little difficult for me and I hastened to add: "Since you were so discourteously treated by the official, I feel that I owe you some little token of reparation."
I now drew out the necklace and held it out to the girl.
Her black eyes gleamed with triumph at the sight of the bauble. Greedily she grasped it and held it up between her and the light, turning it about and watching the red rays gleaming through the stones. "And now," she gloated, "that faded Elsa will cease to lord it over me—and to think that another Karl Armstadt has brought me this—why that stingy fellow would never have bought me a blue-stone ring, if he had been made the Emperor's Minister."
Katrina now rose and preened before her mirror. "Won't you place it round my neck?" she asked, holding out the necklace.
Nor daring to give offence, I took the chain of rubies and attempted to fasten it round her neck. The mechanism of the fastening was strange to me and I was some time in getting the thing adjusted. Just as I had succeeded in hooking the clasp, I heard a curdled oath and the neglected Holknecht hurled himself upon us, striking me on the temple with one fist and clutching at the throat of the girl with the other hand.
The blow sent me reeling to the floor but in another instant I was up and had collared him and dragged him away.
"Damn you both," he whimpered; "where do I come in?"
"Put him out," said Katrina, with a glance of disdain at the cowering man.
"I will go," snarled Holknecht, and he wrenched from my grasp and darted toward the door. I followed, but he was fairly running down the passage and pursuit was too undignified a thing to consider.
"You should have paid him," said Katrina, "for delivering my message."
"I have paid him," I replied. "I paid him very well."
"I wonder if he thought," she laughed, "that I would pay any attention to a man of his petty rank. Why, I snubbed him unmercifully years ago when the other Armstadt had the audacity to introduce me."
"Of course," I replied, "he does not understand."
And now, as I resumed my seat, I began puzzling my brain as to how I could get away without giving offence to the second member of my pair of blackmailers. But a little later I managed it, as it has been managed for centuries, by looking suddenly at my watch and recalling a forgotten appointment.
"You will come again?" purred Katrina.
"Of course," I said, "I must come again, for you are very charming, but I am afraid it will not be for some time as I have very important duties and just at present my leisure is exceedingly limited."
And so I made my escape, and hastened home. After debating the question pro and con I typed a note to Holknecht in which I assured him that I had not the least interest in Katrina. "Perhaps," I wrote, "when she has tired a bit of the necklace, she would appreciate something else. But it would not be wise to hurry this; but if you will call around in a month or so, I think I can arrange for you to get her something and present it yourself, as I do not care to see her again."
THE BLACK SPOT IS ERASED FROM THE MAP OF THE WORLD AND THERE IS DANCING IN THE SUNLIGHT ON THE ROOF OF BERLIN
The relative ease with which I had so long passed for the real Karl Armstadt had lulled me into a feeling of security. But now that my disguise had been penetrated, my old fears were renewed. True, the weigher's records had seemingly cleared me, but I knew that Grauble had seen the weak spot in the German logic of the stupid official, who had so lightly dismissed Katrina's accusations. Moreover, I fancied that Grauble had guessed the full truth and connected this uncertainty of my identity with the seditious tenor of the suggestions I had made to him. Even though he might be willing to discuss rebellious plans with a German, could I count on him to consider the treasonable urging coming from a man of another and an enemy race?
So fearing either to confess to him my identity or to proceed without confessing, I postponed doing anything. The sailing date of his fifth trip to the Arctic was fast approaching; if I was ever to board a vessel leaving Berlin I would need von Kufner's permission. Marguerite reported the growing cordiality of the Admiral. Although I realized that his infatuation for her was becoming rather serious, with the confidence of an accepted lover, I never imagined that he could really come between Marguerite and myself.
But one evening when I went to call upon Marguerite she was "not at home." I repeated the call with the same result. When I called her up by telephone, her secretary bluntly told me that the Princess Marguerite did not care to speak to me. I hastened to write an impassioned note, pleading to see her at once, for the days were passing and there was now but a week before Grauble's vessel was due to depart.
In desperation I waited two more days, and still no word came. My letters of pleading, like my calls and telephone efforts, were still ignored.
Then a messenger came bearing a note from Admiral von Kufner, asking me to call upon him at once.
"I have been considering," began von Kufner, when I entered his office, "the request you made of me some time ago to be permitted to go in person to make a survey of the ore deposits. At first I opposed this, as the trip is dangerous, but more recently I have reconsidered the importance of it. As others are now fully able to continue your work here, I can quite conceive that your risking the trip to the mines in person would be a very courageous and noble sacrifice. So I have taken the matter up with His Majesty."
With mocking politeness von Kufner now handed me a document bearing the imperial seal.
I held it with a trembling hand as I glanced over the fateful words that commissioned me to go at once to the Arctic.
My smouldering jealousy of the oily von Kufner now flamed into expression. "You have done this thing from personal motives," I cried. "You have revoked your previous decision because you want me out of your way. You know I will be gone for six months at least. You hope in your cowardly heart that I will never come back."
Von Kufner's lips curled. "You see fit," he answered, "to impugn my motives in suggesting that the order be issued, although it is the granting of your own request. But the commission you hold in your hand bears the Imperial signature, and the Emperor of the Germans never revokes his orders."
"Very well," I said, controlling my rage, "I will go."
Upon leaving the Admiral's office my first thought was to go at once to Marguerite. Whatever might be the nature of her quarrel with me I was now sure that von Kufner was at the bottom of it, and that it was in some way connected with this sudden determination of his to send me to the Arctic, hoping that I would never return.
But before I had gone far I began to consider other matters. I was commissioned to leave Berlin by submarine and that too by the vessel in command of Captain Grauble, whom I knew to be nursing rebellion and mutiny in his heart. If deliverance from Berlin was ever to come, it had come now. To refuse to embrace it would mean to lose for ever this fortunate chance to escape from this sunless Babylon.
I would therefore go first to Grauble and determine without delay if he could be relied on to make the attempt to reach the outer world. Once I knew that, I could go then to Marguerite with an invitation for her to join me in flight—if such a thing were humanly possible.
But recalling the men who had done so much to fill me with hope and faith in the righteousness of my mission, I again changed my plan and sought out Dr. Zimmern and Col. Hellar and arranged for them to meet me that evening at Grauble's quarters.
At the hour appointed I, who had first arrived at the apartment, sat waiting for the arrival of Zimmern. When he came, to my surprise and bewildered joy he was not alone, for Marguerite was with him.
She greeted me with distress and penitence in her eyes and I exulted in the belief that whatever her quarrel with me might be it meant no irretrievable loss of her devotion and love.
We sat about the room, a very solemn conclave, for I had already informed Grauble of my commission to go to the Arctic, and he had sensed at once the revolutionary nature of the meeting. I now gave him a brief statement of the faith of the older men, who from the fulness of their lives had reached the belief that the true patriotism for their race was to be expressed in an effort to regain for the Germans the citizenship of the world.
The young Captain gravely nodded. "I have not lived so long," he said, "but my life has been bitter and full of fear. I am not out of sympathy with your argument, but before we go further," and he turned to Marguerite, "may I not ask why a Princess of the House of Hohenzollern is included in such a meeting as this?"
I turned expectantly to Zimmern, who now gave Grauble an account of the tragedy and romance of Marguerite's life.
"Very well," said Grauble; "she has earned her place with us; now that I understand her part, let us proceed."
For some hours Hellar and Zimmern explained their reasons for believing the life of the isolated German race was evil and defended their faith in the hope of salvation through an appeal to the mercy and justice of the World State.
"Of all this I am easily convinced," said Grauble, "for it is but a logically thought-out conclusion of the feeling I have nourished in my blind rebellion. I am ready to go with Herr von Armstadt and surrender my vessel to the enemy; but the practical question is, will our risk avail anything? What hope can we have that we will even be able to deliver the message you wish to send? How are we to know that we will not immediately be killed?"
The hour had come. "I will answer that question," I said, and there was a tenseness in my tone that caused my hearers to look at me with eager, questioning eyes.
"Barring," I said, "the possibility of destruction before I can gain opportunity to speak to some one in authority, there is nothing to fear in the way of our ungracious reception in the outer world—" As I paused and looked about me I saw Marguerite's eyes shining with the same worshipful wonder as when I had visioned for her the sunlight and the storms of the world outside Berlin—"because I am of that world. I speak their language. I know their people. I never saw the inside of Berlin until I was brought here from the potash mines of Stassfurt, wearing the clothes and carrying the identification papers of one Karl Armstadt who was killed by gas bombs which I myself had ordered dropped into those mines."
At these startling statements the older men could only gasp in incredulous astonishment, but Captain Grauble nodded wisely—"I half expected as much," he said.
I turned to Marguerite. Her eyes were swimming in a mist of tears.
"Then your visions were real memories," she cried,—"and not miracles. I knew you had seen other worlds, but I thought it was in some spirit life." She reached out a trembling hand toward me and then shrinkingly drew it back. "But you are not Karl Armstadt," she stammered, as she realized that I was a nameless stranger.
"No," I said, going to her and placing a reassuring arm about her shoulder, "I am not Karl Armstadt. My name is Lyman de Forrest. I am an American, a chemical engineer from the city of Chicago, and if Captain Grauble does not alter his purpose, I am going back there and will take you with me."
Zimmern and Hellar were listening in consternation. "How is it," asked Hellar, "that you speak German?"
By way of answer I addressed him in English and in French, while he and Zimmern glanced at each other as do men who see a miracle and strive to hold their reason while their senses contradict their logic.
I now sketched the story of my life and adventures with a fulness of convincing detail. One incident only I omitted and that was of the near discovery of my identity by Armstadt's former mistress. Of that I did not speak for I felt that Marguerite, at least in the presence of the others, would not relish that part of the story. Nor did I wish to worry them with the fear that was still upon me that I had not seen the last of that affair.
After answering many questions and satisfying all doubts as to the truth of my story, I again turned the conversation to the practical problem of the escape from Berlin. "You can now see," I declared, "that I deserve no credit for genius or courage. I am merely a prisoner in an enemy city where my life is in constant danger. If any one of you should speak the word, I would be promptly disposed of as a spy. But if you are sincere in your desire to send a message to my Government, I am here to take that message."
"It almost makes one believe that there is a God," cried Hellar, "and that he has sent us a deliverer."
"As for me," spoke up Captain Grauble, "I shall deliver your messenger into the hands of his friends, and trust that he can persuade them to deal graciously with me and my men. I should have made this break for liberty before had I not believed it would be fleeing from one death to another."
"Then you will surely leave us," said Zimmern. "It is more than we have wished and prayed for, but," he added, turning a compassionate glance toward Marguerite, "it will be hard for her."
"But she is going with us," I affirmed. "I will not leave her behind. As for you and Col Hellar, I shall see you again when Berlin is free. But the risks are great and the time may be long, and if Marguerite will go I will take her with me as a pledge that I shall not prove false in my mission for you, her people."
I read Marguerite's answer in the joy of her eyes, as I heard Col. Hellar say: "That would be fine, if it were possible."
But Zimmern shook his head. "No," he said, as if commanding. "Marguerite must not go now even if it were possible. You may come back for her if you succeed in your mission, but we cannot lose her now; she must not go now,—" and his voice trembled with deep emotion. At his words of authority concerning the girl I loved I felt a resurge of the old suspicion and jealousy.
"I am sorry," spoke up Captain Grauble, "but your desire to take the Princess Marguerite with you is one that I fear cannot be realized. I would be perfectly willing for her to go if we could once get her aboard, but the approach of the submarine docks are very elaborately guarded. To smuggle a man aboard without a proper permit would be exceedingly difficult, but to get a woman to the vessel is quite impossible."
"I suppose that it cannot be," I said, for I saw the futility of arguing the matter further at the time, especially as Zimmern was opposed to it.
The night was now far spent and but four days remained in which to complete my preparations for departure. In this labour Zimmern and Hellar could be of no service and I therefore took my leave of them, lest I should not see them again. "Within a year at most," I said, "we may meet again, for Berlin will be open to the world. Once the passage is revealed and the protium traffic stopped, the food stores cannot last longer. When these facts are realized by His Majesty and the Advisory Council, let us hope they will see the futility of resisting. The knowledge that Germany possesses will increase the world's food supply far more than her population will add to the consumptive demands, hence if reason and sanity prevail on both sides there will be no excuse for war and suffering."
And so I took my leave of the two men from whose noble souls I had achieved my aspirations to bring the century-old siege of Berlin to a sane and peaceful end without the needless waste of life that all the world outside had always believed would be an inevitable part of the capitulation of the armoured city.
I now walked with Marguerite through the deserted tree-lined avenues of the Royal Level.
"And why, dear," I asked, "have you refused to see me these five days past?"
"Oh, Karl," she cried, "you must forgive me, for nothing matters now—I have been crazed with jealousy. I was so hurt that I could see no one, for I could only fight it out alone."
"And what do you mean?" I questioned. "Jealous? And of whom could you be jealous, since there is no other woman in this unhappy city for whom I have ever cared?"
"Yes, I believe that. I haven't doubted that you loved me with a nobler love than the others, but you told me there were no others, and I believed you. So it was hard, so very hard. The Doctor—I saw Dr. Zimmern this morning and poured out my heart to him—insisted that I should accept the fact that until marriage all men were like that, and it could not be helped. But I never asked you, Karl, about other women; you yourself volunteered to tell me there were no others, and what you told me was not true. I must forgive you, for now I may lose you, but why does a man ever need to lie to a woman? I somehow feel that love means truth—"
"But," I insisted, "it was the truth. I bear no personal relation to any other woman."
She drew back from me, breathing quickly, faith and doubt fighting a battle royal in her eyes. "But the checks, Karl?" she stammered; "those checks the girl on the Free Level cashes each month, and worse than that the check at the Jeweller's where you bought a necklace for twenty thousand marks?"
"Quite right, there are such checks, and I shall explain them. But before I begin, may I ask just how you came to know about those checks? Not that I care; I am glad you do know; but the fact of your knowledge puzzles me, for I thought the privacy of a man's checking account was one of the unfair privileges that man has usurped for himself and not granted to women."
"But I did not pry into the matter. I would never have thought of such a thing until he forced the facts upon me."
"He? You mean von Kufner?"
"Yes, it was five days ago. I was out walking with him and he insisted on my going into a jewellery store we were passing. I at first refused to go as I thought he wished to buy me something. But he insisted that he merely wanted me to look at things and I went in. You see, I was trying not to offend him."
"Of course," I said, "there was no harm in that. And—"
"The Admiral winked at the Jeweller. I saw him do that; and the jeweller set out a tray of ruby necklaces and began to talk about them, and then von Kufner remarked that since they were so expensive he must not sell many. 'Oh, yes,' said the Jeweller, 'I sell a great number to young men who have just come into money. I sold one the other day to Herr von Armstadt of the Chemical Staff,' and he reached for his sales book and opened it to the page with a record of the sale. He had the place marked, for I saw him remove a slip as he opened the book."
"Rather clever of von Kufner," I commented; "how do you suppose he got trail of it?"
"He admitted his trailing quite frankly," said Marguerite, "for as soon as we were out of the shop, I accused him of preparing the scene. 'Of course,' he said, 'but I had to convince you that your chemist was not so saintly as you thought him. His banker is a friend of mine, and I asked him about von Armstadt's account. He is keeping a girl on the Free Level and evidently also making love to one of better caste, or he would hardly be buying ruby necklaces.' I told von Kufner that he was a miserable spy, but he only laughed at me and said that all men were alike and that I ought to find it out while I was young—and then he asked if I would like him to have the young woman's record sent up from the Free Level for my inspection. I ordered him to leave me at once and I have not seen or heard from him since, until I received a note from him today telling me of the Royal order for you to go to the Arctic."
I first set Marguerite's mind at ease about the checks to Bertha by explaining the incident of the geography, and then told the story of Katrina and the meeting in the cafe, and the later affair of Holknecht and the necklace.
"And you will promise me never to see her again?"
"But you have forgotten," I said, "that I am leaving Berlin in four days."
"Oh, Karl," she cried, "I have forgotten everything—I cannot even remember that new name you gave us—I believe I must be dreaming—or that it is all a wild story you have told us to see how much we in our simplicity and ignorance will believe."
"No," I said gently, "it is not a dream, though I could wish that it were, for Grauble says that there is no hope of taking you with me; and yet I must go, for the Emperor has ordered me to the Arctic and von Kufner will see to it that I make no excuses. If I once leave Berlin by submarine with Grauble I do not see how I can refuse to carry out my part of this project to which I am pledged, and make the effort to reach the free world outside."
Marguerite turned on me with a bitter laugh. "The free world," she cried, "your world. You are going back to it and leave me here. You are going back to your own people—you will not save Germany at all—you will never come back for me!"
"You are very wrong," I said gently. "It is because I have known you and known such men as Dr. Zimmern and Col. Hellar that I do want to carry the message that will for ever end this sunless life of your imprisoned race."
"But," cried Marguerite, "you do not want to take me; you could find a way if you would—you made the Emperor do your bidding once—you could do it again if you wanted to."
"I very much want to take you; to go without you would be but a bitter success."
"But have you no wife, or no girl you love among your own people?"
"But if I should go with you, the people of your world would welcome you but they would imprison me or kill me as a spy."
"No," and I smiled as I answered, "they do not kill women."
During four brief days that remained until Capt. Grauble's vessel was due to depart my every hour was full of hurried preparations for my survey of the Arctic mines. Clothing for the rigours and rough labour of that fearful region had to be obtained and I had to get together the reports of previous surveys and the instruments for the ore analyses that would be needed. Nor was I altogether faithless in these preparations for at times I felt that my first duty might be thus to aid in the further provisioning of the imprisoned race, for how was I to know that I would be able to end the state of war that had prevailed in spite of the generations of pacifist efforts? At times I even doubted that this break for the outer world would ever be made. I doubted that Capt. Grauble, though he solemnly assured us that he was ready for the venture, was acting in good faith. Could he, I asked, persuade his men to their part of the adventure? Would not our traitorous design be discovered and we both be returned as prisoners to Berlin? Granted even that Grauble could carry out his part and that the submarine proceeded as planned to rise to the surface or attempt to make some port, with the best of intentions of surrendering to the World State authorities, might not we be destroyed before we could make clear our peaceful and friendly intentions? Could I, coming out of Germany with Germans prove my identity? Would my story be believed? Would I have believed such a story before the days of my sojourn among the Germans? Might I not be consigned to languish in prison as a merely clever German spy, or be consigned to an insanity ward?
At times I doubted even my own desire to escape from Berlin if it meant the desertion of Marguerite, for there could be no joy in escape for me without her. Yet I found small relish in looking forward to life as a member of that futile clan of parasitical Royalty. Had Germany been a free society where we might hope to live in peace and freedom perhaps I could have looked forward to a marriage with Marguerite and considered life among the Germans a tolerable thing. But for such a life as we must needs live, albeit the most decent Berlin had to offer, I could find no relish—and the thought of escape and call of duty beyond the bomb proof walls and poisoned soil called more strongly than could any thought of love and domesticity within the accursed circle of fraudulent divinity.
There was also the danger that lurked for me in Holknecht's knowledge of my identity and the bitterness of his anger born of his insane and stupid jealousy.
Rather than remain longer in Berlin I would take any chance and risk any danger if only Marguerite were not to be left behind. And yet she must be left behind, for such a thing as getting a woman aboard a submarine or even to the submarine docks had never been heard of. I thought of all the usual tricks of disguising her as a man, of smuggling her as a stowaway amidst the cargo, but Grauble's insistence upon the impossibility of such plans had made it all too clear that any such wild attempt would lead to the undoing of us all.
If escape were possible with Marguerite—! But cold reason said that escape was improbable enough for me alone. For a woman of the House of Hohenzollern the prison of Berlin had walls of granite and locks of steel.
The time of departure drew nearer. I had already been passed down by the stealthy guards and through the numerous locked and barred gates to the subterranean docks where Grauble's vessel, the Eitel 3, rested on the heavy trucks that would bear her away through the tunnel to the pneumatic lock that would float her into the passage that led to the open sea.
My supplies and apparatus were stored on board and the crew were making ready to be off. But three hours were left until the time of our departure and these hours I had set aside for my final leave-taking of Marguerite. I hastened back through the guarded gates to the elevator and was quickly lifted to the Royal Level where Marguerite was to be waiting for me.
With fast beating and rebellious heart I rang the bell of the Countess' apartment. I could scarcely believe I heard aright when the servant informed me that the Princess Marguerite had gone out.
I demanded to see the Countess and was ushered into the reception-room and suffered unbearably during the few minutes till she appeared. To my excited question she replied with a teasing smile that Marguerite had gone out a half hour before with Admiral von Kufner. "I warned you," said the Countess as she saw the tortured expression of my face, "but you would not believe me, when I told you the Admiral would prove a dangerous man."
"But it is impossible," I cried. "I am leaving for the Arctic mines. I have only a couple of hours; surely you are hiding something. Did you see her go? Did she leave no word? Do you know where they have gone or when they will return?"
The Countess shook her head. "I only know," she replied more sympathetically, "that Marguerite seemed very excited all morning. She talked with me of your leaving and seemed very wrought up over it, and then but an hour or so ago she rushed into her room and telephoned—it must have been to the Admiral, for he came shortly afterwards. They talked together for a little while and then, without a word to me they went out, seeming to be in a great hurry. Perhaps she felt so upset over your leaving that she thought it kinder not to risk a parting scene. She is so honest, poor child, that she probably did not wish to send you away with any false hopes."
"But do you mean," I cried, "that you think she has gone out with von Kufner to avoid seeing me?"
"I am sorry," consoled the Countess, "but it looks that way. It was cruel of her, for she might have sent you away with hope to live on till your return, even if she felt she could not wait for you."
I strove not to show my anger to the Countess, for, considering her ignorance of the true significance of the occasion, I could not expect a full understanding.
Miserably I waited for two hours as the Countess tried to entertain me with her misplaced efforts at sympathy while I battled to keep my faith in Marguerite alive despite the damaging evidence that she had deserted me at the last hour.
I telephoned to von Kufner's office and to his residence but could get no word as to his whereabouts, and Marguerite did not return.
I dared not wait any longer—asking for envelope and paper, I penned a hasty note to Marguerite: "I shall go on to the Arctic and come back to you. The salvation of Berlin must wait till you can go with me. I cannot, will not, lose you."
And then I tore myself away and hastened to the elevator and was dropped to a subterranean level and passed again through the locked and guarded gates.
As I came to the vessel no one was in sight but the regular guards pacing along the loading docks. I mounted the ladder to the deck. The second officer stood by the open trap. "They are waiting for you," he said. "The Admiral himself is below. He came with his lady to see you off."
I hastened to descend and saw von Kufner and Marguerite chatting with Captain Grauble.
"Why the delay?" asked von Kufner. "It is nearly the hour of departure, and I have brought the Princess to bid you farewell. We have been showing her the vessel."
"It is all very wonderful," said Marguerite with a calm voice, but her eyes spoke the feverish excitement of a great adventure.
"The Princess Marguerite," said von Kufner, "is the only woman who has ever seen a submarine since the open sea traffic was closed. But she has seen it all and now we must take our leave for it is time that you should be off."
As he finished speaking the Admiral politely stepped away to give me opportunity for a farewell word with Marguerite. Grauble followed him and, as he passed me, he gave me a look of gloating triumph and then opened the door of his cabin, which the Admiral entered.
"I am going with you," whispered Marguerite. "Grauble understands."
There was the sound of a scuffle and a strangled oath. Grauble's head appeared at the cabin door. "Here, Armstadt; be quick, and keep him quiet."
I plunged into the cabin and saw von Kufner crumpled against the bunk; his hands were manacled behind him and his mouth stuffed with a cloth.
With an exulting joy I threw myself upon the man as he struggled to rise. I easily held him down, and whipping out my own kerchief I bound it tightly across his mouth to more effectively gag him.
Then rolling him over I planted my knee on his back while I ripped a sheet from the bunk and bound his feet.
From without I heard Grauble's voice in command: "Close the hatch." Then I felt the vessel quiver with machinery in motion and I knew that we were moving along the tunnel toward the sea.
Grauble appeared again in the door of the cabin. "The mate understands," he said, "and the crew will obey. I told them that the Admiral was going out with us to inspect the lock. But the presence of a woman aboard will puzzle them. I have placed the Princess in the mate's cabin so no one can molest her. We have other things to keep us occupied."
With Grauble's help I now bound von Kufner to the staunch metal leg of the bunk and we left him alone in the narrow room to ponder on the meaning of what he had heard.
Outside Grauble led me over to the instrument board where the mate was stationed.
"Any unusual message?" asked Grauble.
"None," said the mate. "I think we will go through without interruption at least until we reach the lock; if anything is suspicioned we will be held up there for examination."
"Do you think the guards at the dock suspected anything?" questioned Grauble.
"It is not likely," replied the mate. "They saw him come aboard, but he spoke to none of them. They will presume he is going out to the lock. The presence of a woman will puzzle them; but, as she was with the Admiral, they will not dare interfere or even report the fact."