There were odors now, coming to them as they walked. Invisible banners of decay floating upon the night. Stench of fat kitchens, of soft bubbling alleys, of gleaming refuse. Indefinable evaporations from the dark bundles of houses wherein people had packed themselves away. They came like a rust into her nose.
She was moving into a new world. Drunken men appeared and lurched into the darkness with cursings and mutterings. Sometimes they sang. The smoke of the factory chimneys was now invisible, but the chimneys, like rows of minarets, made darker streaks in the gloom. And in the distance blast furnaces gutted the night with pink and orange flares. Figures of girls not yet shaped like barrels came into the street and stood for long moments in the shadows. Rachel watched them as she passed. They moved away into the depths of the soft alleys and vanished. It was late night. The exhalations of alleys and houses increased as if some great disintegration was stewing in the night. A new world....
Rachel's fingers reached for Tesla's hand. She felt surprised. There was no thought of Erik. This about her was a world untouched by the shadow Erik had left behind. So she could live here easily. And Emil was not a man like Erik. Erik, who stood alone, stark, untouched by life. Emil was a background. It would be easy. Her fingers, tightly laced in his, grew cold. Erik would come back. "Come back," murmured her thought. "Oh, if he should come back! No, I mustn't fool myself. It's over. And I can either live or die. I'll live a little while. Why? Because I still love him. Erik mine!"
But it didn't sadden her to walk up the dark steps of Tesla's house. "Erik, good-bye!" Not even that mattered. Erik was gone. That was all something else. Not gone. Oh, God, no! Only Erik had died. She still lived with a dead name in her heart. But here were odors—strange people.
* * * * * *
It was barely furnished but clean inside. Later Rachel sat, her head in Tesla's arms, and wept. She was not sad. Her thought faltered, reaching for words, but drifting away. This is what had become of her—nothing else but this.
Tesla looked quietly at her and kept murmuring, "Little girl, the world is big. There are other things than self. Must you cry? Cry, then. I know what sadness is."
His hands moved gently through her loosened hair and he smiled sorrowfully.
"Dear child," he whispered, "you can always cry in my arms and I will understand. It is the way the world sometimes cries in my heart. I understand.... Yes ... yes...."
A kaleidoscope of cities. A new garrulity. Words like busy little brooms sweeping up after a war. A world of foreigners. Europe was running about with empty pockets and a cracked head. England had had a nose-bleed, France a temporary castration, and the president of the United States was walking around in Paris in an immaculate frock-coat and a high silk hat. The President was closeted in a peace conference mumbling valorously amid lifted eyebrows, amused shoulder shruggings, ironic sighings. A long-faced virgin trapped in a bawdy house and calling in valiant tones for a glass of lemonade.
Erik Dorn drifted through a haze of weeks. This was London. This, Paris. This, Rotterdam. And this, after a long, cold ride standing up in a windowless coach, Berlin. But all curiously alike. People in all of them who said, "We are strangers to you."
There was nothing to see. No impressions to receive. More cities, more people, more words and a detachment. The detachment was Europe. In his own country there was no detachment. He was a part of crowds, newspapers, buildings. Here he was outside. Familiar things looked strange. The eyes busied themselves trying to forget things before them, scurrying after details and worried by an unrelation in architecture, faces, gestures.
It was mid-December when he sat in a hotel room in Berlin one night and ate blue-colored fish, boiled potatoes, and black, soggy bread. He had been wandering for days through snow-covered streets. Now there was shooting in the streets.
"Germany is starving," said an acquaintance. "Our children are dying off by the thousands, thanks to the inhuman blockade."
But despite even the shooting in the streets Dorn noticed the Germans had lost interest in the war. The idea of the war had collapsed. In England and France the idea was still vaguely alive. People kept it alive by discussing it. But even there it had become something unnatural.
One thing there was in common. Only a few people seemed to have been killed. London was jammed. Even though the newspapers summed it up now and then with "a generation has been killed." Paris, too, was jammed. And Berlin now, jammed also. The war had been fought by people who were dead. And the people who were alive were living away its memory.
In Berlin a week, and he thought, "A circus has pulled down its tent, carted off its gaudy wagons, its naphtha lights, and its boxes of sawdust. And a new show is staking out the lot."
The new show was coming to Berlin. Fences and building walls were plastered with its lithographs ... "The Spirit of Bolshevism Marches ... Beware the Wrecker of Mankind...." Posters of gorillas chewing on bloody knives, of fiends with stringy hair setting the torch to orphanages and other nobly drawn edifices labeled "Kultur, Civilization, Humanitat...." The spielers were already on the job. Machine-guns barked in the snow-covered streets. A man named Noske was a Bluthund. A man named Liebknecht was a Schweinhund.
In his hotel room Dorn, eating blue-colored fish, spoke to an acquaintance—an erudite young German who wore a monocle, whose eyes twinkled with an odd humor, and who under the influence of a bottle of Sekt was vociferating passionately in behalf of a thing he called Welt Revolution.
"I don't understand it yet, von Stinnes," Dorn smiled. "I will later. So far I've managed to do nothing more than enjoy myself. Profundity is diverting in New York, but a bore in Berlin. There's too much of it. Good God, man, there are times when I feel that even the buildings of the city are wrapped in thought."
Von Stinnes gestured with an almost English awkwardness. His English contained a slight French accent. His words, amused, careless, carried decision. He spoke knowingly, notwithstanding the Sekt and the smile with which he seemed to be belying his remarks. Thus, the Majority Socialists were traitors. Scheidemann had sold the revolution for a kiss from Graf Rantzau. The masses.... "Ah, m'sieur, they are arming. There will be an overthrow." And then, Ludendorff had framed the revolution—actually manufactured it. All the old officers were back. Noske was allowing them to reorganize the military. The thing was a farce. Social Democracy had failed. The country was already in flames. There would be things happening. "You wait and see. Yes, the Spartikusten will do something ..."
Dorn nodded appreciatively. He felt instinctively that he had stumbled upon a man of value and service. But he listened carelessly. As yet the scene was more absorbing than its details. The local politik boiling beneath the collapse of the empire had not yet struck his imagination. There were large lines to look at first, and absorb.
Snow in unfamiliar streets, night soldier patrols firing at shadows, eager-eyed women in the hotel lobbies, marines carousing in the Kaiser's Schloss—a nation in collapse. Teutonia on her rump, helmet tilted over an eye, hair down, comely and unmilitary legs thrust out, showing her drawers and laughing. Yes, the Germans were laughing. Where was there gayety like the Palais de Danse, the Fox Trot Klubs, Pauligs; gayety like the drunken soldiers patrolling Wilhelmstrasse where a paunchy harness-maker sat in Bismarck's chair?
Gayety with a rumble and a darkness underneath. But such things were only wilder accents to laughter. If the detachment would leave him, if he could familiarize himself, he could lay hands on something; dance away in a macabre mardi-gras.
Two bottles of Sekt had been emptied. A polite Ober responded with a third. Von Stinnes grew eloquent.
"Not before March, Mr. Dorn. It will come only then. This that you hear now, pouf! Hungry men looking for crumbs with hand-grenades. The revolution is only picking its teeth. But wait. It will overturn, when it comes. And even if it does not overturn, if it fails, it will not end, but pause. You hear it whispering now in the streets. Hungry men with hand-grenades. Ah, m'sieur, if you wish we will work together. I am a man of many acquaintances. I am von Stinnes, Baron von Stinnes of a very old, a very dissolute, a very worthless family. I am the last von Stinnes. The dear God Himself glows at the thought. I will work for you as secretary. How much do you offer for a scion of the nobility?"
"Three hundred marks."
"No, weekly," laughed Dorn, "and you buy half the liquor."
Von Stinnes bowed.
"An insult, Mr. Dorn. But I overlook it. One becomes adept in the matter of overlooking insults. You will need me. I am known everywhere. I was with Liebknecht in the Schloss when he slept in the Kaiser's bed. Ho! it was a symbol for you to see him crawl between the sheets. Alas! he slept but poorly, with the marines standing guard and frowning at the bed as if it were capable of something. For me, I would have preferred beds with more pleasant associations. And when Bode tried to be dictator in his father's chamber in the Reichstag—yes," von Stinnes closed his eyes and laughed softly, "he seized the Reichstag with a company of marines. And he sat for two days and two nights signing warrants, confiscation orders. Until a soldier brought him a document issued by Eichorn the mysterious policeman who was dictating from the Stadt House. And poor Bode signed it. He was sleepy. He could not read with sleep. It was his own death warrant. It was I who saved him by taking him to the house of Milly. He slept four days with Milly, in itself a feat."
Von Stinnes swallowed another glass of wine. His eyes seemed to belie his unsteady, careless voice. His eyes remained intent and mocking upon Dorn.
"You have come a few weeks too late. There were scenes, dear God, to make one laugh. In the Schloss. Yes, we bombarded the Schloss—but after we had captured it. The Liebknecht ordered. Everything was done in symbols. Therefore the symbol of the bombardment of the Schloss. So we rushed out one night and opened fire, and when we had knocked off the balcony and peeled the plaster from the walls, we rushed in again and sang the Marseillaise. What wine, m'sieur! Ho, you have come a few weeks too late. But there will be other comedies. And I will be of service. I belong to three officers' clubs. One of them is respectable. Women are admitted. The other two ... women are barred. And look...." He slapped a wallet on the table and extracted a red card, "'member of the Communist Partei—Karl Stinnes,'" he read. "Listen, there are 75,000 rifles in Alexander Platz, waiting for the day."
"Where did you learn your English, von Stinnes?"
"Oxford. Italian in Padua. French, m'sieur, in Paris. During the war." The baron laughed. "Ah, pendant la guerre, m'sieur, en Paris."
"And now," Dorn mused, "you are a Spartikust."
The baron was on his feet, a wine glass raised in his hand.
"Es lebe die Welt Revolution," he cried, "es lebe das Rate Republik!"
"What did you do in Paris, von Stinnes?"
"Pigeons, my friend. I played with pigeons and with vital statistics and made love to little French girls whose sweethearts were dying in the trenches. And in London. But I talk too much. Yes, my tongue slips, you say. But I am lonely and talk is easy.... I drink your health ... hein! it was a day when we met...."
Dorn raised his glass.
"To the confusion of the seven deadly virtues!" he laughed.
"I drink," the baron cried. "We will make a tour. We will amuse ourselves. I see that you understand Germany. Because you understand there is something bigger than Germany; that the world is the head of a pin spinning round in a glass of wine. I have been with the other correspondents. Pigs and donkeys. The souls of shopkeepers under the vests."
The baron seated himself carefully and pretended an abrupt seriousness.
"I have made up my mind to die behind the red barricades. Perhaps in March. Perhaps later. Another glass, m'sieur. Thanks. I shall die fighting for the overthrow of the tyranny of the bourgeoisie ... Noske and his parvenu Huns. Ho! Dorn, we will amuse ourselves in a crazy world, eh, what? The tyranny of the bourgeoisie!"
The baron laughed as he rolled over the phrase.
"There will be great deal to enjoy," Dorn smiled. The wine was making him silent.
"Yes, to enjoy. To laugh," the baron interrupted. "I cannot explain now. But you seem to understand. Or am I drunk? Ein galgen gelachter, nicht wahr? I will take quarters at the hotel. I know the management well. I saved the place from being looted in the November excitement. Have you seen the Kaiser Salle? His Majesty dined there once. A witless popinjay. Liebknecht is a man. Flames in his heart. But a poor orator. He will be killed. They must kill him. A little Jew, Haase, has brains. You will meet him. And the Dadaists—they know how to laugh. The cult of the absurd. Perhaps the next emperor of Germany will be a Dada. An Ober Dada—who knows? Once the world learns to laugh we may expect radical changes. And in Muenchen I know a dancer, Mizzi. Dear God, what legs! You must come there to see legs. Faces in the Rhineland. Ankles in Vienna. But legs, dear God, in Muenchen! It is the Spanish influence. Let us drink to Mizzi...."
The wine was vanishing. The baron paused out of breath and sighed. His face that seemed to grow firmer and more ascetic as he drank, took on a far-away shrewdness as if new ideas had surprised it.
"I've felt many things," Dorn spoke, "but thought nothing yet. So far Europe has remained strange. I am in a theater watching a pantomime. I have entered in the middle of the second act and the plot is a bit hidden. But we will have to find some serious work to do. I must meet politicians, leaders; listen to laments and prophecies...."
"All in time, all in time," the baron interrupted. "Am I not your secretary? Well, then, trust me. You will talk to-morrow with Ebert. We begin thus at the bottom. Of all men in Germany who know nothing, he knows least. Thursday, Scheidemann. Treachery requires some shrewdness. The man is not quite an imbecile. If your Roosevelt were a Socialist he would be a Scheidemann. Daumig, Pasadowsky, Erzburger—rely upon me, m'sieur. And Ludendorff. Ah, there we have real work. If Ludendorff will talk now. He is supposed to be in Berlin. I will find him and arrange for you. And so on. You will meet all the great minds, all the big stomachs. I will take you to Radek who is hiding with a price on his head. And Dr. Talheimer on the Rote Fahne, if they do not arrest him too soon. Bernstorff is in the hotel. A man with too much brains. Yes, an intelligent bungler. He will die some day with a sad smile, forgiving his enemies. And if we need women, mention your choice. Mine runs to the married woman of title. A small title is to be preferred. It is a slight insurance against disease. Others prefer the gamins. There is not enough difference to quarrel about. Or do you want a little red in your amours? A sans culotte from Ehrfurst or Spandau? In Essen you will find Belgian women. They will love for nothing. For that matter, a bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate and you can have anyone. There is no virtue left, thank God. And yet, for variety, I sometimes think there should be a little. Ah, yes, yes! I miss the virgins of my youth. Another bottle, eh? Where's the button? What do you think of German plumbing? It is our Kultur. We are proud of our plumbing. It was the ideal for which we fought. To introduce our plumbing throughout Europe—make a German bathroom of the world."
A sound of heavier firing in the streets interrupted. The two sat listening, the baron's face alive with an odd humor.
"Es lebe die Welt Revolution," he whispered. "Do you hear it? Only a murmur. But it starts all over Germany again. Workingmen with guns. You will see them later. I among them. Stay in Europe, my friend, and see the ghost of Marat rising from a German bathtub."
"Who are shooting?" Dorn asked.
"Shadows," the baron laughed. "The government wishes to impress the good burgher that there is danger. So the government orders the soldiers to shoot at midnight. The good burgher wakes and trembles. Mein Gott, das Bolshevismus treibt! Gott sei dank fuer den Regierung. ... So the good burgher gives enthusiastic assent to the increase in the military budget. Dear God, did he not hear shooting at midnight? But they play with more than ghosts. Noske's politik will end in another color. To-night there are only shadows to shoot at. To-morrow ... remember what I tell you...."
The telephone rang and Dorn answered. A voice in English:
"The gentlemen will have to put out the lights. The Spartikusten are coming."
"What did he say?"
"We must put out the lights."
The baron laughed.
"It is nonsense. Come, your hat. We will go have a look."
They hurried down to the lobby. An iron door had been drawn across the entrance of the hotel. In the lobby the shooting seemed a bombardment of the building. A group of American and English correspondents were lounging in the heavy divans, drinking gin and talking to a trio of elaborately gowned women. The talk was in French.
"Hello, Dorn," one of the Englishmen called. Dorn approached the table, von Stinnes following, and whispering, "I will request the porter to open the gate."
"Baron von Stinnes, Mr. Reading."
The Englishman shook hands and smiled.
"I know the baron, Dorn. Rather old friends, what? Have a drink, damn it!"
"Later, if you please," von Stinnes bowed stiffly. Reading beckoned Dorn aside with an air of secrecy. Walking him to another part of the lobby he began whispering:
"I'd let that blighter alone if I were you, Dorn. I'm just telling you because you're rather new to these bloody swine."
"I see," he said, and walked back to von Stinnes. Reading resumed his place with the party.
"Perhaps it was a timely warning," the baron murmured as Dorn drew near him. The gate had been opened and the two emerged. "I make a guess at what Reading told you," the baron pursued.
"It is immaterial," Dorn answered. "I engage you not for your honesty and many virtues, but because you're amusing...."
"Thus you relieve my conscience," von Stinnes sighed.
The wide avenue was deserted. Moonlight lay on the new-fallen snow. A line of soldiers wheeled suddenly out of the Brandenburger Tor and came marching quickly toward the walkers.
"Weiter gehen, weiter gehen," a voice from the troop called. Two detached themselves from the ranks and approached rapidly.
Von Stinnes glared through his monocle and answered in German, "What is the matter with you? Are you crazy? I am Baron von Stinnes. My friend is a member of the American Commission."
Dorn extracted a bit of stamped paper—his special credentials from the German Foreign Office. The soldier glanced at it without troubling to read....
"Sehr gut, mein Herrschaften," he mumbled. Dorn caught a glimpse of his face. Its importance had vanished. The line of soldiers marched on. When they had turned a corner the sound of firing suddenly resumed.
"Shadows again," chuckled von Stinnes.
Snow-covered streets, moonlight, waiting buildings, cold and shadows—here was reality. The thing under the gay tumult of the cafes. Under the baron's laughter. They were passing a stretch of empty shop windows.
"It's cold," Dorn muttered. The baron looked at him with a smile.
"It is cold everywhere in Germany," he said quietly. "Men's hearts are cold with hunger and fear. Brains are confused. Stomachs empty. The top has been knocked off. The soldiers in the streets are the sad little remains of a dead Germany. The new Germany lies cold and hungry in a workingman's bed. Life will come out of the masses. And I am always on the side of life. Not so? The old is dead. We drink wine to the new."
The sound of dance music drifted out of a cafe.
"Shall we stop?" the baron hesitated.
Dorn shook his head.
"Enough cafes. The streets are better. Dark windows."
They walked in silence through the snow, the baron humming a Vienna waltz as the blurred echoes of machine-gun fire rose in the night around them.
... Hours later Dorn lay sleepless in his bed. The smoke of wine was slipping out of his thought.
"I'm alone," he murmured to himself. An emotionless regret came to him.
"There are still years to live." He wrapped himself closer in the silk-covered quilts. "But how? Does it matter? I have loved, and that is over. Rachel is ended. Haven't thought of her for weeks. And now, I am like I was, only older and alone; yet not sad. So people adjust themselves to decay. Senses that could have understood and wept at sorrow die, along with the things whose death causes sorrow. Ergo, there is no sorrow. Wings gone, tears gone, everything gone. Empty again, yet content. I want nothing.... No desires...."
His brain was mumbling sleepily as the cold wind from the opened window swept pleasantly through the room.
"Women to divert me. Wine to make me glad. And a companion—the baron. Droll tragedian! And scenes for my eyes. Yes, yes.... They keep shooting outside. Still shooting after five years. Shooting each other. The world speaks a strange language. What imbecility! Yet life is in the masses. It'll come out, perhaps. From Russia. Russians—a pack of idealists ... a pack of illiterate Wilsons with whiskers. I'm like the baron. I admire revolution. Why? Because it diverts."
He closed his eyes for moments. Still no sleep, and his thought resumed, "Rachel, I once loved you. I can say it now without hurt. Empty memories now—like drawings in outline. And some day even the outlines will leave me."
A curious ache came into his heart. "Ah, she still touches me—still a little. Poor dear one! What a farce! A glorious farce! The nights when she whispered. Her face, I remember, yes, a little. Ghosts! Your eyes are the beckoning hands of dream. That was the best sentence.... The rest were good too—sometimes."
He smiled sleepily on his pillow ... "still shooting. It will be amusing here. Some day when we're old, Rachel and I will see each other again. Old eyes questioning old eyes. Old eyes saying, 'So much has died. Only a little more remains to die.' Sleep ... I must sleep now. To-morrow, work, work! And forget. But nothing to forget. It forgets itself. It says good-bye. A sun gone down. What is it old Carl wrote?... 'The past is a bucket of ashes, a sun gone down ... to-morrow is another day....'"
The detachment vanished. Streets familiarized themselves.
"Ich steh auf den Standpunkt," said the politicians; and the racket of machine-guns offered an obligato.
The new garrulity that had seemed strange to Dorn lost its strangeness. It became the victrola phrases of a bewildered diplomacy. But the diplomacy was not confined to frock-coats. It buzzed, snarled up and down the factory districts, in and out of the boulevard cafes and the squat resident sectors.
The German waiting for the knife of Versailles to fall was vomiting a vocabulary of fear, hope, threat, despair. Under cover of a confused Social Democracy the German army was slowly reorganizing itself.
It was three months after his arrival in Berlin that Dorn wrote his curious sketch of the German situation. The three months had witnessed a change in him. He had become a workman—industrious, inquisitive, determined. Under the guidance of von Stinnes he had managed to penetrate the heart of German politik. Tours through the provinces, daily interviews with celebrities, statesmen, leaders of the scores of political factions; adventures under the surface of the victrola phrases pouring from the government buildings and the anti-government buildings, had occupied even his introspections. Seemingly the empire had turned itself into a debating society. Life had become a class in economics.
Three months of work. Unfocused talents drawn into simultaneous activity. And Dorn arose one morning to find himself an outstanding figure in the turmoil of comment and commentators about him. Von Stinnes had wheedled his history out of him for publication in Berlin. Its appearance was greeted with a journalistic shout in the capitol. Radicals and conservatives alike pounced upon it. Haase, leader of the Independent Socialists, declaimed it almost in full before the National Assembly in Weimar.
Dorn had put into it a passionate sense of the irony and futility of his day. Its clarity arrested the obfuscated intellect of a nation groping, whining, and blustering under the shadow of the knife of Versailles.
The writing of it had rid him for the time of Rachel, of Anna, of the years of befuddling emptiness that had marked his attitudes toward the surfaces of thought about him. The emotionless disillusion of his nature had finally produced an adventure for him—the adventure of mental fecundity.
He had gone to Weimar to write. Here the new government of Germany had assembled. Delegates, celebrities, frock-coats, strange hair formations; messiah and magician had come to extricate the nation from its unhappy place on the European guillotine. The narrow streets stuttered with argument.... Von Stinnes and a girl named Mathilde Dohmann accompanied him to the town. The Baron, bored for the moment with his labors, had immersed his volatile self in a diligent pursuit of Mathilde. He had discovered her among communist councils in Berlin and naively attached her as a part of Dorn's secretarial retinue.
"She will be of service," he announced.
Dorn, preoccupied with the scheme of his history, paid little attention to her. Arrived in Weimar he became entirely active, viewing with amusement the Baron's sophisticated assault upon the ardent-voiced, red-haired political spitfire whom he called Matty. Alone in an old tavern room, he gave himself to the arrangements of words clamoring for utterance in his thought. Old words. Old ideas. Notions dormant since years ago. Phrases, ironies remembered out of conversations themselves forgotten. The book was finished towards the middle of March—a history of the post-war Germany; with a biography between the lines of Erik Dorn. Von Stinnes had forthwith produced two German scholars who, under his direction, accomplished the translation with astonishing speed. Excerpts from the thin red-and black-covered volume found their way overnight into the press of the nation. Periodicals seized upon the extended brochure as a Dokument. In pamphlet form the gist of it started upon the rounds of Europe. The garrulity of the day had been given for the moment a new direction.
* * * * * *
"We will go to Munich. There will be a revolution in Munich. I have news from secret sources."
Baron von Stinnes, lounging wearily in front of a chess-board, spoke and raised a cup of mocha to his lips. Dorn, picking his way through a German novel, looked up gloomily and nodded.
"Anywhere," he agreed. "Munich, Moscow, Peking."
In a corner of the room Mathilde was curled on the luxurious hotel divan watching through half-closed eyes the figures of the men. The Baron turned toward her and frowned. In return her face, almost asleep, became vivid with a sneer. The Baron's love-making had gone astray.
"Matty is going to try to carry a million marks into Munich for the Communists," he announced.
The girl stared von Stinnes into silence.
"How do you know that?" she asked slowly.
He lowered his cup and with a show of polite deliberation removed his monocle and wiped it with a silk handkerchief.
"I know many things," he smiled. "The money comes from Dr. Kasnilov and will be brought to Dr. Max Levine in Munich, and the good Max will buy a garrison of Landwehr with it and establish the soviet republic of Bavaria."
"You know Levine?"
"Very well," smiled the Baron.
Mathilde sat up. Her voice acquired a vicious dullness.
"You will not interfere with me, von Stinnes."
"I, Matty?" The Baron laughed and resumed his mocha. "I am heart and soul with Levine. If Dorn cannot go I will have to go alone. It is necessary I be in Munich when the Soviets are called out."
"You will not interfere with me, von Stinnes," the girl repeated, "or I will kill you."
"You have my permission, Fraeulein. The logical time for my death is long past."
Mathilde's sharp young face had grown alive with excitement. She sat with her eyes unwaveringly upon the Baron as if her thought were groping desperately beneath the smiling weariness of the man.
"Mr. Dorn," she spoke, "von Stinnes is a traitor."
"If one million marks will cause a revolution, I'll take them to Munich myself," he answered. "I'm sick of Berlin. I need a revolution to divert me."
"I fear I am in the way," von Stinnes interrupted. He arose with formality. "Mathilde would like to unburden herself to you, Dorn. I am, she will inform you, a secret agent of Colonel Nickolai, and Colonel Nickolai is the head of the anti-bolshevist pro-royalist propaganda in Prussia." He paused and smiled. "I will meet you in the lobby when you come down."
He walked toward the door, halting before the excited face of the girl.
"Ah, Matty, Matty," he murmured, "you will not in your zeal forget that I love you?"
He bowed whimsically and passed out. Dorn laid aside his book and approached the divan. In the week since their return from Weimar he had become interested in the moody, dynamic young creature. The fact that she had resisted the expert persuasions of the Baron—a subject on which the nobleman had discoursed piquantly on their ride to Berlin—had appealed to him.
"Karl is a good fellow," he said, seating himself next to her. "And if it happens he is employed by Noske and Nickolai it doesn't alter my opinion of him."
"He is a scoundrel," she answered quietly.
"That is impossible," Dorn smiled. "He is merely a man without convictions and therefore free to follow his impulses and his employers. I thank God for von Stinnes. He has made Europe possible. A revolution alone could rival him in my affections."
The girl remained silent, and Dorn watched her face. He might embrace her and make love. It would perhaps flatter, please her. She fancied him a man of astounding genius. She had practically memorized his book. Thus, one had only to smile humorlessly, permit one's eyes to grow enigmatic, and think of a proper epigram. He recalled for an instant the two women who had succumbed to his technique since he had left America. They blurred in his memory and became offensive. Yet Matty had been of service and perhaps her moodiness was caused by a suppressed affection. As an amorous prospect she was not without interest. As a reality, however, she would obviously become a bore. In any case there was nothing to hinder polite investigation, mark time with kisses until von Stinnes brought on his promised revolution. He thought carefully. Pessimism was the proper note. Dramatize with an epigram the emptiness of life. His forte—emptiness. Not love but a hunger to live.
"Matty, I regret sadly that you are not a prostitute."
"It would save me the trouble of having to fall in love with you, dear child."
She smiled, a sudden amusement in her eyes.
"You too, Mr. Dorn. I had thought different of you."
"As a creature beyond the petty agitations, eh?"
"As a man."
"It is possible for a Man, despite a capital M, to love."
"Yes, love. It is possible for him only to love. And you do not."
"Much worse. I am sad."
"Perhaps because it is the only emotion that comes without effort."
"So you would fall in love with me to forget that I bore you."
"A broader ambition than that. To forget that living bores me, Mathilde."
"There is someone else you love, Mr. Dorn."
"There was." He smiled humorlessly. "Do you mind if I talk of love? I need a conversational antidote."
"And if you talk of love you may be spared the trouble of having to make love," she laughed quietly. "But I would rather talk of von Stinnes. I am worried."
"You are young," Dorn interrupted, "and full of political error. I am beginning to believe von Stinnes. The most terrible result of the war has been the political mania it has given to women."
Mathilde settled back on the divan and stared with mocking pensiveness at her shoes. Dorn, speaking as if he desired to smile, continued:
"Do you know that when one has loved a woman one grows sad after it is ended, remembering not the woman, but one's self? The memory of her becomes a mirror that gives you back the image of something that has died—a shadow of youth and joy that still bears your name. It is the same with old songs, old perfumes. All mirrors. So I walk through life now smiling into mirrors that give back not myself, but someone else—another Dorn."
He arose and looked down at her.
"Does that interest you?"
"I understand you."
"There are many ways of making love. Sorrowful phrases are the most entertaining, perhaps."
"You make me think you have loved too much."
"Yes, it would be difficult to kiss you. I would become sad with memory of other kisses. Because you are young—as I was then."
"Was it long ago?"
"Things that end are always long ago."
"Then it was only yesterday."
"Yes, yesterday," he laughed, pleased with the ironic sound of his voice. "And what is longer ago than yesterday?"
She had risen and stood before him, an almost boyish figure with her fists clenched.
"I have something else I am in love with," she whispered. "I am in love with——"
"The wonderful revolution, I know."
"And some day in the future you, too, will look into a mirror and see not yourself but a glowing-faced girl that was in love with what was once called the revolution."
"But if things end it is only because we are too weak to hold them forever. So while we are strong we must hold them twice as eagerly."
"Sad. All most deplorably sad, Mathilde. Hands shuffle us into new combinations, when we would prefer the old. Thus you, too, will some day listen to the cry that rises from all endings."
"You are designing. You wish to make me sad, Mr. Dorn. And succeed."
"Only that I may contemplate the futility of your love and smile. As I cannot quite smile at my own. We do not smile easily at corpses."
His hands covered her fingers gently.
"I will give myself to you, if you wish," she whispered.
"And I prefer you like this," he smiled. "If you will come close to me and lay your head against me." He looked down at her as she obeyed. "There is an odor to your hair. And your cheek is soft. These things are similar things. You are almost like a phantom."
"No. She is forgotten. It's something else. A phantom of something that once lived in me, and died. It comes back and stares at me sometimes out of the eyes of strange women, out of the sounds of music. Now, out of your hair."
"And you do not want me, Erik?"
"I want you. But I prefer to amuse myself by fancying that you are unattainable."
"I've liked you, Erik. The rest does not matter to me. I grew old during the war, and careless. My father and two brothers died. And another man."
"So we both need diversion."
"Diversion," he murmured, "the little drug. But what is there to drugs? No, come; we are lovers now."
"We will go to Munich together."
"And will you carry the money for Levine? They would never search you and they might recognize and search me. And besides, von Stinnes would not dare interfere if it was you, even if he is a spy, because he likes you too well."
Her voice had become eager and vibrant. Dorn smiled ruefully, the faint mist of a sigh in his thought. The girl had worked adroitly. Of course, he was someone to carry the money to the Munich radicals.
"It is just an ordinary-looking package. The station will be under a guard and all the roads coming in, too. They are expecting the revolution and ..." She paused and grew red. Dorn's eyes were looking at her banteringly. "You are thinking I have tricked you," she cried, "and that it was only to use you as a ... as a carrier that I ... Well, perhaps it is true. I do not know myself. I told you you could have me. Yes, I give myself to you now ... now.... Do you hear?"
She laughed with bitterness.
"I have never given myself before. I would rather you smiled and were kind. But if you wish to laugh ... and call it a bargain ... it does not matter."
She had stepped away from him and stood with kindled eyes, waiting.
"One can be chivalrous in the absence of all other impulses, Mathilde. And all other impulses have expired in me. So I will take the package. We will start to-morrow early. And as for the rest ... I will spare you the tedium of martyrdom."
He moved toward the door. "Come, we'll go downstairs. Von Stinnes will be getting impatient."
Mathilde came to him swiftly. He caught a glimpse of her face lighted, and her arms circled his neck. She was looking at him without words. A coldness dropped into his heart. There had been three of them before—he, Mathilde, and a phantom. Now there were only Mathilde and himself.
"She was not tricking," he thought, and felt pleased. "At least not consciously."
Her arms fell from him and she stared frightenedly.
"Forgive me, Erik. I thought you loved me. And I would have liked to make you happy...."
He nodded and opened the door.
They sat in the compartment of the train crawling into Munich. The Baron drooped with sleep. Dorn stared wearily out of the window. Springtime. A beginning of green in the fields and over the roll of hills. Formal sunlight upon factories with an empty holiday frown in their windows.
"I hear shooting," he smiled at Mathilde. "We're probably in time."
The girl nodded. Despite the sleepless night sitting upright in the compartment, her eyes were fresh and alive. The desultory crack of a rifle drifting out of the town as if to greet them brought an impatience into her manner. The train was moving slowly.
"Yes, we're in time," she murmured. "See, the white guards are still in possession."
A group of soldiers with white sleeve-bands over the gray-green of their uniforms passed in an empty street.
"There will be white guards at the station, too," she went on. "The attack will come to-night. It must."
She looked intently at von Stinnes who, opening his eyes suddenly, whispered, "Ah, Mathilde ... there was once another Muenchen...."
An uproar in the station. A scurry of guards and soldiers. White sleeve-bands. Machine-guns behind heaped bags of sand. A halloo of orders across the arc of the spacious shed. Passengers pouring out of the newly arrived train, smiling, weeping, staring indifferently.
The officer desired the passengers to line themselves up against the train. A suggestive order, and confusion. Whispers in the crowd.... "Personally, I prefer the guillotine.... No, no, madame. There is no danger. These are good boys. Soldiers of the government. You can tell by the sleeve-bands. White. Merely baggage inspection."
Dorn waited his turn. A group of soldiers approached slowly, delving into pockets for weapons, peering into opened pieces of baggage. Babble, expostulation, eager politeness of innocent travelers, and outside the long crack of rifles, an occasional rip of a machine-gun. The group of soldiers paused before him.
"I am an American," he spoke in English, "with the American commission."
The announcement produced its usual effect. Bows, salutes, smiles. He pulled out his passport and foreign-office credentials. An officer stepped forward and glanced at them.
"Very good," in courteous English, "you will pardon for the delay. We are having a little trouble here."
He indicated the city with a nod of his head and smiled wryly. In German he continued sharply, "Gottlieb, Neuman, you will escort this gentleman and his friends to whatever place they wish to go. Take my car at post 10."
Two soldiers saluted. The officer bowed with a smile. The travelers moved off with their escort toward the street. Mathilde kept her eyes on von Stinnes as they entered a gray automobile.
"Von Stinnes and I will sit in the back," she whispered to Dorn.
The Baron nodded.
"Careful of your Leugger," he whispered, "the soldiers will see it. You can shoot me just as easily if you keep it hidden. I have frequently fired through my pocket."
In a hotel room a half-hour later, Mathilde, grown jubilant as a child, was clapping her hands and laughing.
"It was too simple!" she cried.
Dorn drew a small suitcase from under the bed and opened it.
"Here it is," he laughed. He removed an oblong package. His eyes sought von Stinnes, standing near the window leisurely smoking a cigarette.
"You will find Levine in the Gambrinus Keller," von Stinnes spoke without turning around. "I advise you to go at once, Matty, before the streets crowd up."
He wheeled and held an envelope toward the girl.
"Take this. It will make it easier for you to get in. They are very careful right now. It's a letter of credentials from Dr. Kasnilov."
Mathilde opened the envelope mechanically, her eyes seeking the thought under the Baron's smile.
"Thanks," she spoke in German. "I will go now. I will see you after. At dinner to-night. Here."
She walked quickly from the room, the oblong package under her arm.
The thing hiding in the alleys and shops of the world—the dark, furtive hungers that Russia was thawing into life, emerged on a bright April day in the streets of Munich. Working men with guns. A sweep of spike-haired, deep-eyed troglodytes from the underworld of labor. Factories, shops, and alleys vomited them forth. Farm hovels and stinking bundles of houses sent them singing and roaring down the forbidden avenues, past the forbidden sanctuaries of satrap and burgher.
From behind curtained windows the upper world looked on with amazement and disgust. A topsy-turvy April morning. A Spring day gone mad. Here were the masses celebrated in pamphlet and soap-box oration. An ungodly spectacle, an overturning. Grinning earth faces, roaring earth voices come swaggering into the hallowed precincts of civilization. Workingmen with guns marching to take possession of the world. An old tableau decked with new phrases—the underfed barbarian at the gate of the grainary.
The singing and the roaring continued through the morning.
"Es lebe die Welt Revolution! Es lebe das Rate Republik! Hoch! die soviet von Bayern ... Hoch! Hoch!"
From the twisting, blackened streets, "Hoch!" Men and women squeezing aimlessly around corners. Closely packed drifts of bobbing heads. A crack of rifles dropping punctuations into the scene. "Hoch! Hoch!" from faces clustered darkly about the grimacing, inaudible orators in the squares.
Red flags, red placards like a swarm of confetti on the walls and in the air. A holiday war.... The morning hours marched away.
With noon, a silence gradually darkened the scene. A silence of shuffling feet and murmuring tongues. The revolution had sung its songs. An end of songs and cheerings. Drifting, silent masses. An ominous, enigmatic sweep of faces. Red placards under foot in cubist designs down the streets.
The afternoon waned, the hundred thousands closed in. Darkness was coming and the pack was welding itself together. Rifles were beginning. Machine-guns were beginning. Holiday was over. Quieter streets. The orators become audible. Still faces, raised and listening. The orators had news to give.... One of the garrisons had gone over to the soviets. Two garrisons had vanished. Treachery. A long murmur ... treachery. The armies of General Hoffmann were marching upon Munich ... twenty kilometers from Munich. They would arrive in the night. ... "We will show them, comrades, whether the revolution has teeth to bite as well as a song to sing."
A growl was running through the twilight.... Es lebe das Rate Republik! A fierce whisper of voices. Workingmen looking to their guns, massing about the government buildings. A new war minister in the uniform of a marine, speaking from a balcony. Workingmen with guns, listening. Women drifting back to the hovels and stinking bundles of houses. In the cafes, satraps and burghers eating amid a suppressed clamor of whispers, plans. The foolishness was almost over. The armies of General Hoffmann were coming ... Twenty kilometers out.... Arrive at night. The corps students themselves would saber the swine out of the city....
Night. Darkened streets. Tattered patrols hurrying through mysteriously emptied highways, shouting, "Indoors! Inside, everybody!" Suddenly from a distance the bay of artillery. Workingmen with guns were storming the cannon of the artillery regiment outside the city. A haphazard cross-fire of rifles began to spit from darkened windows ... an upper world showing its teeth behind parlor barricades.
In the shadows of the massive government buildings an army was forming. No ranks, no officers. Easy to drift through the sunny streets singing the Marseillaise and the International ... to mooch along through the forbidden avenues dreaming in the daylight of a new world ... with red flags proclaiming the new masters of earth. Hundred thousands, then. But now, how many? Too dark to see, to count. An army, perhaps. Perhaps a handful....
Feverish salutes in the shadows.... "Gruss Gott, genosse!"
Was it alive? Did the revolution live? What was happening in the empty streets? Who was shooting? And the armies of Hoffmann? Gruss Gott, genosse. Under Rupprecht the armies had lain four years in the trenches. Great armies, swinging along like a single man, that had once battered their way almost into Paris against the English, against the French.
"Gruss Gott, genosse. Hoffmann kommt ... Ja wohl, Gruss Gott!"
Now twenty kilometers away and coming down the highroad against Munich—against the drifting little clusters of lonely men whispering in the shadows—the great armies of the Kaiser, an iron monster clicking down the road toward Munich. Would there be artillery to meet them? Gruss Gott, genosse, wer shusst dort? No, they had only guns, old guns that might not shoot. Old knives at their belts.... Darkness and rifle-spattered silences. Where was the revolution? The shadows whispered, "Gruss Gott...."
The shadows began to stir. A voice was talking in the night. High up from a window. Egelhofer, the communist. No, Levine. Who? A light in the window.... Egelhofer, thin-faced, tall, black-haired. Egelhofer, the new war minister. 'Shh! what was he saying?... "Vorwaerts, der Banhoff...."
Yes, the armies of Hoffmann had come. The shadows stirred wildly. Forward ... es lebe die Welt Revolution! This time a battle-cry, hoarse, shaking. Men were running. Workingmen with guns, guns that would shoot ... "Der Banhoff ... der Banhoff...."
The shadows were emptying themselves. A pack was running. Two abreast, three abreast, in broken strings of men. Groups, solitary figures, hatless, bellowing. The revolution was moving. The empty streets filled. An army? A handful? Let God show in the morning. Workingmen with guns were running through the night. Munich was shaking.... "Der Banhoff, genosse, vorwaerts!"
The revolution was emptying itself into the great square fronting the station. Little lights twinkling outside the ancient weinstubes began to explode. There must be darkness. Pop!... pop!... a rattle of glass. A blaze of shooting. The railroad station was firing now.
"Es lebe das Rate Republik!" from the darkness in the streets. A sweep of figures across the open square. Arms twisting, leaping in sudden glares of flame. The revolution hurled itself with a long cry upon the barricades of thundering lead.
In the single lighted window of the government buildings a face still spoke ... "Ich bin Egelhofer, ihr Krieg's minister ... Ich komm...."
Waving a rifle over his head, the war minister rushed from the building. A marine from Kiel. A new pack loosened itself from the shadows. A war minister was leading.
Moving swiftly through the streets, Dorn hurried to the seat of the new government—the Wittelbacher Palais. Von Stinnes was waiting there. He had been delayed in joining the Baron by the sudden upheaval about the hotel.
The wave had passed. Almost safe now to skirt the scene of battle and make a try for the Palais. As he darted out of the darkened hotel entrance, the thing seemed for a moment under his nose. An oppressive intimacy of tumult.
"They're at the station," he thought. "I'll have to hurry in case they fall back."
He ran quickly in an opposite direction followed by the leap of firing. Several blocks, and he paused. Here was safety. The revolution a good half-mile off. He walked slowly, recovering breath. The street was lighted. Shop windows blinked out upon the pavements. A few stragglers walked like himself, intent upon destinations made serious by the near sound of firing. An interesting evening, thus far. A stout, red-faced man with a heavily ornamented vest followed the figure of a woman. Dorn smiled. Biology versus politics.... "Excuse me, pretty one, you look lonely...." A charwoman. Black, sagging clothes. Dorn passed and heard her exclaim, "Who, me? You ask me to go with you? Dear God, he asks me! I am an honest workingwoman. Run along with you!" The woman, walking swiftly, drew alongside. She was chuckling and muttering to herself, a curious pride in her voice, "He asked me, dear God—me!"
The abrupt sound of rifle-fire around the corner startled her. Dorn halted. The woman turned toward him, puzzled.
"They are shooting a whole lot to-night," she spoke in German.
"Quite a lot," he answered.
She looked back at the red-faced man who had remained where she had left him.
"What do you think of that dunce?" she whispered, and hurried on.
Dorn followed leisurely in the direction of the Palais.
A rabble of dictators, ministerial fledglings, freshly sprouted governors, organizers, departmental heads, scurried through the dimly lighted corridors of the old Palais. Dorn, with the aid of a handful of communist credentials that seemed to flow endlessly from the pockets of the Baron, passed the Palais guard—a hundred silent men squatting behind a hastily erected barricade of sandbags.
Within he stumbled upon von Stinnes. The Baron drew him into a large empty chamber.
"We must be careful," he whispered. His voice buzzed with an elation. "Already two ministries have fallen. There is talk now of Levine. He's of the extreme left. I thought you would like to see it. It has its amusing side." He laughed softly. "I was with the men in the streets for a while. There was something there, Dorn. Life, yes ... yes ... It was amazing. But here it is different. What is it the correspondents say? 'All is confusion, there is nothing to report.' ... Yes, confusion. There are at present three poets, one lunatic, an epileptic, four workingmen and a scientist from Vienna, and two school teachers. They are the Council of Ten. Look, there is Muhsam, the one with the red vandyke. A poet. He used to recite rhymes in the Cafe Stephanie."
The red vandyke peered into the room. "Stinnes, you are wanted," he called. "I have my portfolio. I am the new minister to Russia. I leave for Moscow to-morrow."
"Congratulations!" the Baron answered.
A tall, contemplative man with a scraggly gray beard—an angular Christ-like figure—appeared. He spoke. "What are you doing here, Muhsam? There is work inside."
"And you!" angrily.
"I must think. We must grow calm." He passed on, thinking.
"Landerdauer," smiled the Baron, "the Whitman translator."
"Yes," the vandyke answered, "we have appointed him minister of education. What news from the station, Stinnes?"
"It is taken."
Dorn followed the Baron about the corridors, his ears bewildered by the screechings from unexpected chambers of debate. He listened, amused, to the volatile von Stinnes.
"They are trying for a coalition. Nikish is at the top. A former schoolmaster. The communists under Levine won't come in. The workingmen are out overthrowing the world, and the great thinkers sit in conference hitting one another over the head with slapsticks. Life, Dorn, is a droll business, and revolution a charming comedy, nicht wahr? But it will grow serious soon. Munich will be cut off. Food will vanish. Aha! wait a minute...."
He darted after a swaggering figure. Dorn watched. The baron appeared to be commanding and entreating. The figure finally, with a surly shake of his head, hurried off. The Baron returned.
"That was Levine," he said. "He won't come in unless Egelhofer is ratified as war minister. Egelhofer is a communist. Wait a minute. I will tell them to make Egelhofer minister. I will make a speech. We must have the Egelhofer."
He vanished again. Dorn, standing against a window, watched frantic men scurry down the corridor bellowing commands at one another....
"Yesterday they were garrulous little fools buzzing around cafe tables," he thought. "To-night they boom. Rodinesque. And yet comic. Yes, comedians. But no more than the troupe of white-collared comedians in Wilhelmstrasse or Washington. The workers were different. There was something in the streets. Men in flame. But here are little matches."
He caught sight of Mathilde and called her name. She came and stood beside him. Her body was trembling.
"Did you spend the money?" he asked softly.
"Yes, but they will buy the garrisons back again. They have more funds than we. Oh, we need more."
"Who will buy them back?"
"The bourgeoise. They have more money than we. And without the garrisons we are lost."
She wrung her hands. Dorn struggled to become properly serious.
"There, it may come out very fine," he murmured. "Anyway, von Stinnes is making a speech. It should help."
"Yes, trying to bring Egelhofer in as war minister. He talked with Levine...."
"I don't understand," she answered. "He is doing something I don't understand, because he is a traitor."
She became silent and moved closer to Dorn.
"Oh, Erik," she sighed, "I must cry. I am tired."
He embraced her as she began to weep. Von Stinnes emerged, red-faced and elated.
"It is settled," he announced. "Hello! what's wrong with Matty?"
"Tired," Dorn answered.
"We will go to the hotel."
They started down the corridor. A group of soldiers emerged from a chamber, blocking their way.
"Baron von Stinnes," one of them called. The Baron saluted.
"You are under arrest by order of the Council of Ten."
Von Stinnes bowed.
"Go to the hotel with Matty, Dorn. I will be on soon."
To the soldiers he added, "Very well, comrades. Take me to comrade Levine."
"We have orders...."
"To Levine, I tell you," he interrupted angrily. "Are you fools?"
He removed a document quickly from his coat pocket and thrust it under the soldiers' eyes.
"From Levine," he whispered fiercely. "Now where is Levine?"
The soldiers led the way toward the interior of the Palais.
* * * * * *
Outside, Dorn supported the drooping figure of the girl. Runners passed them crying out, "It is over! We have taken the station!"
They arrived at the hotel. The lobby was thronged with people. A chocolate salesman from Switzerland was orating: "They have erected a guillotine in Marien Platz. They are shooting down and beheading everybody who wears a white collar."
The hotel proprietor quieted the crowd.
"Nonsense!" he cried. "Ridiculous nonsense! We are safe. They are all good Bavarians and will hurt nobody."
Dorn led Mathilde to his room. She threw herself on the bed.
"So tired!" she whispered.
"But happy," he added. "Your beloved masses have triumphed."
"Don't. I'm sick of talking...."
"Too much excitement," he smiled.
They became silent. Dorn, watching her carelessly in the dimly lighted room, began to think.... "Disillusionment already. The dream has died in her. A child's brain overstuffed with slogans, it begins now to ache and grow confused. Tyranny, injustice, seem far away and vague. The revolution in the streets has blown the revolution out of her heart. There will be many like that to-morrow. The over-idealized idealists will empty first. The revolution was a dream. The reality of it will eat up the dream. Justice to the dreamer is a vision of new stars. To the workingman—another loaf of bread."
"Of what are you thinking, Erik?"
"Of nothing ... and its many variants," he answered.
"We've won," she sighed. "Oh, what a day!"
He noted the listlessness in her voice.
"Yes," he said, "another sham has had heroic birth. Out of workingmen with guns there will rise some day a new society which will be different than the old, only as to-morrow is different than to-day. The rivers, Mathilde, flow to the sea and life flows to death. And there is nothing else of consequence for intelligence to record."
"You talk like a German of the last century," she smiled. "Oh, you're a strange man!"
This pleased him. He thought of words, a ramble of words—but a knock at the door. Von Stinnes entered. He was carrying a basket.
"Food," he announced cheerfully. "With food in our stomachs the world will seem more coherent for a while."
He busied himself arranging plates of sandwiches on a small table.
He walked to the bed and leaned over her. The girl's eyes were closed.
"Poor child, poor child!" the Baron whispered. He caressed her head gently. "We will not wake her up. But eat and leave her food. Do you mind if we go out for a while? It is still early and it will be hard to sleep to-night. I know a cafe where we can sit quietly and drink wine, perhaps with cookies."
Their eating finished, Dorn accompanied his friend into the street.
"It seems as if nothing had happened," he said, as they walked through the spring night. "People are asleep as usual, and there is an odor of summer in the dark."
Von Stinnes silently directed their way. After a half-hour's walk he paused in front of an ancient-looking building.
"We are in Schwabbing now," he said, "the rendezvous of the Welt Anschauers. I think this place is still open."
He led the way through a narrow court and entered a large, dimly-lighted room. Blank white walls stared at them. Von Stinnes picked out a table in a corner and ordered two flasks of wine from a stout woman with a large wooden ring of keys at her black waist.
They drank in silence. Dorn observed an unusual air about his friend. He thought of Mathilde's suspicions, and smiled. Yet there was something inexplicable about von Stinnes. There had been from the first.
"Inexplicable because he is ... nothing," Dorn thought. "A chevalier of excitements, a Don Quixote of disillusion...."
"You are thinking of me," the baron smiled over his wine-glass, "as I am thinking of you. Here's to our unimportant healths, Erik."
Dorn swallowed more wine. To be called Erik by his friend pleased him. He looked inquiringly at the humorous eyes of the man, and spoke:
"You are cut after my pattern."
The Baron nodded.
"Only I have had more opportunities to exercise the pattern," he replied. "For the pattern, dear friend, is scoundrelism. And I, God bless me ..." He paused and gestured as if in a hopelessness of words.
"There is quality as well as quantity in scoundrelism," Dorn suggested. He was thinking without emotion of Anna.
"I have decided to remain in Munich," von Stinnes spoke, "and that means that I will die here."
"The day's melodrama has gone to your head," Dorn laughed.
"No. There are people in Munich who know me quite well—too well. And among their virtues they number a desire for my death. In Berlin it is otherwise. Then too, this business of to-day can't last. It is already topheavy with thinkers, and will eventually evaporate in a dozen executions. It may come back, though. I cannot forget the workingmen who stormed the Banhoff."
He paused and drank.
"Yes, I have decided to stay and play awhile. There will be a few weeks more. One will find extravagant diversions in Munich during the next few weeks. I am already Egelhofer's right-hand man. I will organize the Soviet army, assist in the conduct of the government, try to buy coal from Rathenau in Berlin, make speeches, compose earth-shaking proclamations, and end up smoking a cigarette in front of a Noske firing-squad.... Do not interrupt. I feel it is a program I owe to humanity. And in addition, I am growing weary of myself."
Dorn shook his head.
"Romantics, friend. I do not argue against them."
"I wonder," von Stinnes continued, "if you realize I am a scoundrel. I have thought at times that you did, because of the way you smile when I talk."
"Scoundrels are creatures I do not like. And I like you. Ergo, you are not a scoundrel, von Stinnes."
The Baron laughed.
"A convenient philosophy, Erik. Well, I was in the German intelligence and worked in Paris during the second year of the war. Prepare yourself for a confession. My secrets bore me. And a little cocotte of a countess betrayed me. It is a virtue French women have. They are not to be trusted, and love to them is something which may be improved by the execution of a lover. But there was no execution. To save my skin I entered the French intelligence—without, of course, resigning from the German. Thus I was of excellent service to the largest number. To the French I was invaluable. German positions, plans, maneuvers, at my finger tips.... And to the Germans, unaware of my new and lucrative connection, I was also invaluable. Again positions, plans, maneuvers. I was transferred to Italy by the French and ... But it's a complicated narrative. I haven't it straight in my own mind yet. Do you know, I wake up at night sometimes with the rather naive idea that I, von Stinnes, who prefer Turkish cigarettes to women, even brunettes ... But I stammer. It is difficult to be amusing, always. I think sometimes at night that I was personally responsible for at least half the casualties of the war."
"Megalomania," said Dorn without changing his smile.
"Yes, obviously. You hit it. A distorted conscience image. Ah, the bombardments I have perfected. The hills of men I have blown up. Frenchmen, Germans, Italians. Yes, a word from me ... I pointed the cannon straighter.... But disregarding the boast ... you will admit my superiority as a scoundrel."
"It is immaterial," Dorn answered. "If you betrayed the French, you made amends by betraying the Germans, and vice versa. As for the Italians ... I have never been in Italy."
Von Stinnes laughed.
"You do not believe me, eh?"
"You are lying only in what you do not say," Dorn laughed.
"Yes, exactly. I will go on, if it amuses you."
"It is better conversation than usual."
"I am now with the English," von Stinnes continued. "They play a curious game outside Versailles, the English. They have entrusted me with a most delicate mission." He paused and drained his glass. "It is quite dramatic. I tell it to you because I am drunk and weary of secrets. Five years of secrets ... until I am almost timorous of thinking even to myself ... for fear I will betray something to myself. But—it is droll. The million marks you so gallantly carried in for Matty, they were mine, Erik." He laughed. "I gave them to Dr. Kasnilov, and a very mysterious Englishman gave them to me...."
"Gifts of a million are somewhat phenomenal," Dorn murmured.
"I stole only a hundred thousand," von Stinnes went on, "which, of course, everyone expected."
"But why the English, Karl?"
"A little plan to separate Bavaria from Prussia, and help break up Middle Europe. You know feeling between the two provinces is intense. There was almost a mutiny in the second war year. And anything to help it along. To-morrow, Franz Lipp the new foreign minister of the Soviets will telegraph to Berlin recalling the Bavarian ambassador; there is one, you know—a figurehead. And the good Franz will announce to the world that Bavaria has declared its independence of Prussia. This will be a politic move for the Soviets as well as England. For the bourgeoisie in Bavaria dislike Prussia as much as the communists dislike her. But I bore you with intrigue. We have had our little revolution for which you must allow me to accept an honest share of credit.... Let us have another flask."
"An interesting story," Dorn agreed.
"You still smile, Erik?"
"More than ever."
"Ah, then truly, we are of the same pattern."
Von Stinnes stared at him sadly.
"You are my first companion in five years," he added.
"As you are mine," Dorn answered. "Here ... to the success of all your villainies and our friendship."
"Which is not one of them," the Baron murmured. "You believe me?"
"Ah! it is almost a sensation to be believed ... for speaking the truth. I feel as if I have committed some exotic sin. Yes, confession is good for the soul."
"Shall we go back to the hotel?"
The Baron leaned forward and grasped Dorn's hand feverishly.
"I do not wish to joke any more," he whispered. "I have told you the truth. And you still smile at me. You are a curious man. I have for long sat like an exile surrounded by my villainies and smiling alone at the world. But it is impossible to live alone, to become someone whom nobody knows, whom trusting people mistake for someone else. I have wanted to be known as I am ... but have been afraid. Ah! I am very drunk ... for you seem still amused."
Dorn squeezed his hand.
"Yes, you are my first friend," he said. The Baron followed him to his feet. They were silent on the way to the hotel. Von Stinnes walked with his arm linked in Dorn's. Before the latter's room he halted.
"Good night, sweet prince," he mumbled drowsily, "and may angels guard thy sleep."
Alone, he moved unsteadily down the hall.
Mathilde was gone. Moving about the room, Dorn found a note left for him. He read:
"A man was here asking for you. An American officer. I met him in the lobby and mentioned there was an American here and he asked your name. When I told him he seemed to be excited. He said his name is Captain Hazlitt and he is in the courier service on his way from Paris to Vienna. I do not like him. Please be careful.
In the days that followed Dorn sought to interest himself in the details of the situation. The thing buzzed and gyrated about him, tiring his thought with its innumerable surfaces. Revolution. A new state. New flags and new slogans.
"I can't admire it," he explained to Mathilde at the end of the first week, "because its grotesqueries makes me laugh. And I cannot laugh at it because its intensity saddens me. To observe the business sanely is to come to as many conclusions as there are words."
Mathilde had recovered some of her enthusiasm. But the mania that had illuminated her thought was gone. She spoke and worked eagerly through the days, moving from department to department, helping to establish some of the innumerable stenographic archives the endless stream of soviet pronouncements and orders were beginning to require. But at night her listlessness returned.
"There is doubt in you too," Dorn smiled at her. "I am sorry for that. It has been the same with so many others. They have, alas! become reasonable. And to become reasonable ... Well, revolution does not thrive on reason. It needs something more active. You, Mathilde, were a revolutionist in Berlin. Now you are a stenographer. Alas! one collapses under a load of dream and finds one's self in an uninteresting Utopia, if that means anything. Epigrams lie around the street corners of Munich waiting new text-books."
They were walking idly toward the cafe von Stinnes had appointed as a rendezvous. It was late and the dark streets were deserted. The shops had been closed all week. The Revolution was struggling in poorly ventilated council-rooms with problems of economics. Beyond the persistent rumors that the city, cut off from the fields, would starve in another two days and that the legendary armies of Hoffmann were within a stone's throw of the Hofbrau House, there was little excitement. "My employers," von Stinnes had explained on the fourth day, "are waiting to see if the Soviet can stand against the Noske armies from Prussia. The armies will arrive in a few weeks. If the Soviet can defeat them and thus establish its authentic independence, my employers in Versailles will then finance the Bavarian bourgeoisie and assist in the overthrow of the Communists. On the one condition, of course, that the bourgeoisie maintain Bavaria as an independent nation. And this the bourgeoisie are not at all averse to doing. It sounds preposterous, doesn't it? You smile. But all intrigue is preposterous, even when most successful."
"I quite believe," Dorn had answered. "I've long been convinced that intrigue is nothing more than the fantastic imbecilities unimaginative men palm off on one another for cleverness."
Now, walking with Mathilde, Dorn felt an inclination to rid himself of the week's political preoccupation. Mathilde was beginning to have a sentimental influence upon him.
"Perhaps if she loved me something would come back," he thought. "Anyway it would be nice to feel a woman in love with me again."
An innocuous sadness sat comfortably in his heart. Later he would embrace her. Kiss ... watch her undress. Things that would mean nothing.... But they might help waste time, and perhaps give him another glimpse of ... He paused in his thought and felt a dizziness enter his silence. Words spun. "The face of stars," he murmured under his breath, and laughed as Mathilde looked inquiringly up at him.
The cafe was deserted. Von Stinnes, alone in a booth, called "Hello" to them as they entered.
"We have the place almost to ourselves," he said. "There are some people in the other room."
He looked affectionately at the two as they sat down, and added, "How goes the courtship?"
"Gravely and with cautious cynicism," Dorn answered. "We find it difficult to overcome our sanities."
He smiled at the girl and covered her hand with his. Her eyes regarded him luminously. They sat eating their late meal, von Stinnes chatting of the latest developments.... A mob of communist workingmen had attacked the poet Muhsam while he was unburdening himself of proletarian oratory in the Schiller Square.
"They chased him for two blocks into the Palais," the Baron smiled, "and he lost his hat. And perhaps his portfolio. They are beginning to distrust the poets. They want something besides revolutionary iambics now. Muhsam, however, is content. He received a postal card this afternoon with a skull and cross-bones drawn on it informing him he would be assassinated Friday at 3 P.M. It was signed by 'The Society for the Abolition of Monstrosities.' He is having it done into an expressionist placard and it will undoubtedly restore his standing with the Council of Ten. Franz Lipp, the foreign minister, you know, has ordered all the telephones taken out of the foreign office building. It's an old failing of his—a phobia against telephones. They send him into fits when they ring. He has incidentally offered to sign a separate peace with the Entente. A crafty move, but premature. And the burghers have been ordered under pain of death to surrender all firearms within twenty-four hours."
The talk ran on. Mathilde, feigning sleep, placed her head on Dorn's shoulder.
"You play with the little one," whispered von Stinnes. "She is in love."
Dorn placed his arm around her and smiled at her half-opened eyes.
A man, walking unsteadily across the empty cafe, stopped in front of the booth.
"I've been looking for you," he said. "You don't remember me, eh?"
Dorn looked up. An American uniform. An excited face.
"My name's Hazlitt. Come out here."
Von Stinnes leveled his monocle witheringly upon the interloper and murmured an aside, "He's drunk...."
Dorn stood up.
"Yes, I remember you now," he said. The man's tone had oppressed him. "What do you want?"
He detached himself from Mathilde and stepped into the room. Hazlitt stared at him.
"I owe you something," he spoke slowly. "Come out here."
Watching the man as he approached, Dorn became aware of a rage in himself. His muscles had tightened and a nervousness was shaking in his words. The man was a stranger, yet there was an uncomfortable intimacy in his eyes.
Hazlitt stood breathing heavily. This was Erik Dorn—the man who had had Rachel. Wine swept a flame through his thought. God! this was the man. She was gone, but this was the man. Shoot him down like a dog! Shoot him down! Kill the grin of him. He'd pay. He'd killed something. Shoot him down! There was a gun under his coat—army revolver. Better than shooting Germans. This was the man.
"You're going to pay for it," he spoke. "Go on, say something."
Dorn's rage hesitated. A mistake. What the devil was up?
"Oh, you've forgotten her," Hazlitt whispered. Shoot him! Voices inside demanded wildly that he shoot. Not talk, but kill.
"Rachel," he cried suddenly. His eyes stopped seeing.
Dorn jumped for the gun that had appeared and caught his arm in time. Rachel—then this was something about Rachel? Hazlitt ... Rachel. What? A fight over Rachel? Rachel gone, dead for always. Get the gun away, though....
They were stumbling across the room, twisting and locked together. He saw von Stinnes rise, stand undecided. Mathilde's face, like something shooting by outside a car window. And a strong man trying to kill him ... for Rachel. A Galahad for Rachel.
His thought faded into a rage. A curse as the man grabbed at his throat. The gun was still in the air. His wrist was beginning to ache from struggling with the thing. This was part of the idiocy of things. But he must look out. Perhaps only a moment more to live. The man was weeping. Mumbling ... "you made a fool out of her ... You dirty...."
As they continued their stumbling and clutching, a fury entered Dorn. He became aware of eyes blazing against him—drunken, furious eyes that were weeping. With a violent lunge he twisted the gun out of the man's hand. There was an instant of silence and the man came hurling against him.
Dorn fired. Down ... "my head ..." He lay still. The body of Hazlitt sprawled over him. For a moment the two men remained embraced on the floor. Then the body of Hazlitt rolled slowly from on top. It fell on its back—a dead face covered with blood staring emptily at the ceiling.
Dorn, with the edge of an iron table foot embedded in his head, lay breathing unevenly, his eyes closed.
The blinds were drawn. Cheering drifted in through the open window. Mathilde sat in a chair. She was watching him.
"Hello!" he murmured. "What's up?"
She fell to her knees beside the bed and began to weep. He lay quietly listening to her. Bandages around his head. A lunatic with a gun. Yes. Rachel. The man had been in love with Rachel. Pains like noises in his ears.
"You mustn't talk...."
"I'm all right. Where's von Stinnes?"
He smiled feebly. She was holding his hand, still weeping. A memory returned vividly. A man with blazing eyes. He had lost his temper. But there had been something more than that. Two imbeciles fighting over a thing that had died for both of them. Clowns at each other's throat. A background unfolded itself. Against it he lay watching the two men. Here was something like a quaint old print with a title, "Fate...."
"Bumped my head," he murmured. But another thought persisted. It moved through the pain in his skull, unable to straighten itself into lines of words. It was something about fighting for Rachel. He would ask questions.
"What happened, Mathilde? Where'd he go?"
"You mean the man? 'Shh.... Don't talk now."
"Come, don't be silly."
The thinness of his voice surprised him.
"What became of the fool?"
"Yes, you shot him. Now be quiet."
"Good God, so I did. I remember. When he jumped at me."
A sinking feeling almost drifted him away. He felt as if he had become hungry. The man was dead.... "I killed him. Well ... what of it?"
He opened his eyes and looked at the room. It was day—afternoon, perhaps.
"The doctor says you'll be all right in a few days. But you must be quiet...."
"Von Stinnes," he murmured. "There'll be trouble. Call him, will you?"
Mathilde turned away. Now the pain was less. He could hear cheering outside. A demonstration. Workingmen marching under new flags.
"Von Stinnes is under arrest, Erik."
"What for? A new government?" What a crazy business.
"No. Don't talk, please. Later...."
He was too weak to sit up.
"Things will have to be straightened out," he muttered. "The fool was an American officer. There'll be trouble."
"No, don't worry. Von Stinnes has fixed things."
His eyes grew heavy and closed. Sleep ... and let things, fixed or unfixed, go to the devil.
When he awoke again the room was lighted. Mathilde, standing by the window, turned as he stirred.
"Are you awake?"
"Yes, and hungry."
She brought a tray to his bed. He raised himself carefully, his head unbearably heavy. Mathilde watched him with wide eyes as he sipped some broth.
"What did they arrest the Baron for?" he asked.
She waited till he had finished, and cleared the bed, sitting down on the edge. Her face lowered toward him till her lips touched and kissed him.
"For murder," she whispered. Another kiss. "Now you must be quiet and I'll tell you. He gave himself up when the police came. We carried you out first. And then I left him."
"But," Dorn looked bewilderedly into the eyes of the girl.
"It was easier for him than for you. They would take you away for trial to America. But he will be tried here. And he will come out all right. Don't worry. We thought your skull was fractured, but the doctor says it was only a hard blow."
She lowered her head beside him on the pillow and whispered, "I love you! Poor Erik! He is defenseless—with a broken head."
"You are kind," he answered; "von Stinnes, too. But we must set matters right...."
"No, no, be still!"
He grew silent. It was night again. In the morning he would be strong enough to get up. A misty calm, the pain almost gone, veins throbbing and a little split in his thought ... but no more.
"I will sleep by you," Mathilde spoke. She stood up and removed her waist and shoes. He watched her with interest. Another woman curiously like Anna, like Rachel—like the two creatures in Paris. Shoulders suddenly bare. Possessive, unashamed gestures.... She lay down beside him with a sigh.
"Poor Erik! I take advantage of a broken head."
"No," he smiled.
They lay motionless, her head touching his shoulder timidly.
"I could live with you forever and be happy," she whispered.
"We will see about forever—when it comes."
"Do you like me—perhaps—now?"
He would have preferred her silent. Silence at least was an effortless lie. To make love was preposterous. How many times had he said, "I love you?" Too many. But she was young and it would sound pretty in her ears.
"Mathilde, dear one."
Her arm trembled across his body.
It was difficult, but he would say it.... "Yes, in an odd sort of way, Mathilde, I love you...."
"Ah! you are only being polite—because I have fed you broth."
"No. As much as I can love anything...."
"Later, Erik. 'Shh! Sleep if you can. Oh, I am shameless."
She had moved against him. He thought with a smile, "What an original way of nursing a broken head!"
Later, tired with a renewed effort to straighten out words about the fool and Rachel and himself, he closed his eyes. Mathilde was still awake.
"I'll see von Stinnes in the morning," he murmured drowsily. "Von Stinnes ... a gallant friend...."
... Someone knocking on the door aroused him. Dawn was in the room.
"Matty," he called. She slept. He found himself able to rise and his legs carried him unsteadily to the door. A tall marine, outside.
"Herr Erik Dorn?"
Dorn nodded dizzily.
The man went on in German. "I come from Stinnes. I have a letter for you."
He took the letter from his hand and moved hurriedly to a chair.
"Thanks," vaguely. The marine saluted and walked off. Mathilde had awakened.
"What are you doing?"
She slipped out of bed and hurried to him.
"A letter," he answered. He allowed her to help him back to his pillow. Reclining again, his dizziness grew less.
"I'll read it for you," she said.
"No. Von Stinnes...."
"It may be important."
"I'll be able to read in a moment."
She shook her head and slipped the envelope from his weakening fingers.
"I know about von Stinnes. Don't be afraid. May I?"
He nodded and she began to read:
"DEAR ERIK DORN:
"I write this at night, and to-morrow I will be ended. You must not misunderstand what I do. It is a business long delayed. But I have made a full confession in writing for the Entente commission—ten closely written pages. A masterpiece, if I have to boast myself. And in order to avoid the anti-climax which your sense of honor would undoubtedly precipitate, I will put a period to it in an hour. A trigger pulled, and the nobility of my sad country loses another of its shining lights. I am overawed by the quaint justice of life. I end a career of villainy with a final lie. It would really be impossible for me to die telling a truth. The devil himself would appear and protest. But with a lie on my lips, it is easy. Indeed, somehow, natural. But I pose—a male Magdalene in tears. Do not misunderstand—too much. You are my friend, and I would like to live a while longer that we might amuse ourselves together. You have been an education. I find myself even now on this auspicious midnight writing with your words. But I mistrust you, friend. You would deny me this delicate martyrdom if I lived. For you are at bottom lamentably honorable. So now, as you read this, I am dead (a sentence out of Marie Corelli) and the situation is beyond adjustment. Please accept my service as gracefully as it is rendered. The confession, as I said, is a masterpiece. It would please my vanity if sometime you could read it. For in this, my last lie, I have extended myself. Dear friend, there is a certain awe which I cannot overcome—for the drama, or comedy, finishes too perfectly. You once called me a Don Quixote of disillusion. And now, perhaps, I will inspire a few new phrases. Let them be poignant, but above all graceful. I would have for my epitaph your smile and the whimsical irony of your comment. Better this than the hand-rubbing grunt of the firing-squad returning to barracks after its labors. Alas! that I will not be near you to hear it. But perhaps there will come to me as I submit myself to the opening tortures of hell, an echo of your words. And this will bring me a smile with which to cheat the devil. I bequeathe to you my silver cigarette-case. You are my brother and I say good-bye to you.
"KARL VON STINNES."
"No postscript?" Dorn asked softly.
Mathilde shook her head. There was silence.
"Will you find out about him, please?" he whispered.
The girl dressed herself quickly and left the room without speaking. Alone, Dorn lay with the letter in his hand.
He spoke aloud after minutes, as if addressing someone invisible.
"I have no phrases, dear friend. Let my tears be an epigram."
The sea swarmed under the night. A moon road floated on the long dark swells. From the deck of the throbbing ship Dorn looked steadily toward the circle of moving water. In the salon, the ship's orchestra was playing. A rollicking sound of music drifted away into the dark monotone of the sea.
A romantic mood. A chair on an upper deck. Stars and a moon road over the sea. Better to sit mumbling to himself than join in the chatter of the cabin. The gayly lighted salon alive with laughter, music, and voices touched his ears—a tiny music-box tinkling valiantly through the dark sweep of endless yesterdays, endless to-morrows that sighed out of the hidden water. The night was an old yesterday, the sea an old to-morrow.
A sadness in his heart that kept him from smiling, a strange comedy of words in his thought, a harlequin with the night sitting on his lap. There were things to remember. There were memories. Unnecessary to think. Words formed themselves into phrases. Phrases made dim pictures as if the past was struggling fitfully to remain somehow alive.... His good-bye to Mathilde. And long, stupid weeks in Berlin. The girl had been absurd. Absurd, an impulsive little shrew. With demands. Four months of Mathilde. Unsuspected variants of boredom. Clothed in her unrelenting love like an Indian in full war dress. Yet to part with her had made him sad.
The sea rolled mystically away from his eyes.
"An old pattern," his thought murmured, "holding eternities. And the little music keeps tinkling downstairs. A butterfly of sound in the night. Like a miniature of all living. Ah, I'm growing sentimental. Sitting holding hands with the sea. She was sad when I left her. What of it? Von Stinnes. Dear friend! No sadness there. He was right. New phrases, graceful emotions. What an artist! But Warren couldn't write the story. It has to be played by a hurdy-gurdy on a guillotine."
He let his words wander gropingly over the water until a silence entered him. Thus life wandered away. The sea beat time to the passing of ships, changing ships. But always the same beat. It was the constancy of the stars that saddened him. September stars. The stars were yesterdays. Yes, unchanging spaces, unchanging yesterdays, and a ship's orchestra dropping little valses into the dark sea. He opened a silver cigarette-case—an heirloom with a crest on it. Von Stinnes again. Curious how he remembered him—a memory neither sad nor merry—but final like the sea. A phantom of word and incident that bowed with an enchanting irony out of an April day. The other, the fool with the gun.... Good God, he was a murderer! He smiled. Von Stinnes, a melancholy Pierrot doffing his hat with a gallant snicker to the moon. Hazlitt, a pantaloon. Yet tragic. Yes, there was something in the cafe that night—two men hurling themselves drunkenly against the taunting emptiness of life. The rage had come because he had remembered Rachel. A sudden mysterious remembering. A remembering that she was gone. It had torn for a moment at his heart, shouted in his ears and driven him mad.
Something had taken Rachel out of him. Time had eaten her image out of him. He had remembered this in the cafe. But why had he fired at the stranger? Because the man's eyes blazed. Because he had become for an instant an intolerable comrade.
"We fought each other for what someone else had done to us," Dorn murmured. "Not Rachel but someone that couldn't be touched. Absurd!" Hazlitt slipped like a shadow out of his mind—an unanswered question.
The throbbing ship with its tinkling orchestra, its laughing, chattering faces, was carrying him home over a dark sea. At night he sat alone watching the circle of water. Four vanished nights. Four more nights. He sighed. The sadness that lay in his heart desired to talk to him. He struggled to change his thinking. Ideas that were new to him arose at night on the ship.
"Not now," he whispered. He was postponing something. But the night and the rolling sea were swallowing his resistance. Words that would tell him the pain in his heart waited for him.... "Anna. Dear God, Anna! It's that. But why Anna now? It was easy before."
Words of Anna waited for him. He stared into the dark.
"I want her. I must go back to her. Anna, forgive me!"
A murmur that the darkness might understand. The long rolling sea listened automatically. Weak fool! Yet he felt better. He could think now without hiding from words that waited.
His heart wept in silence. The unbidden ones came.... Anna—standing looking at him. A despair, a death in her face. Something tearing itself out of her. What pain! But no sound. An agony deeper than sound in her eyes. He trembled at the memory. The crucified happy one....
Dear God, would he always have to remember now? Other pictures were gone. They had drifted away leaving little phrases dragging in his thought. Now Anna had found him. Not a phantom, but the thing as he had left it, without a detail gone. The gesture of her agony intact. His thought shifted vainly away. He knew she was standing as he had left her—horribly inanimate—and he must go back. He would hold her in his arms, kiss her lips, kneel before her weeping for forgiveness. Ah! he would be kind. At night he would sit holding her head in his arms, stroking her hair; whispering, "Forget ... forget! A year or two of madness—gone forever. But years now waiting for us. New years. Everything is gone but us. That brought me back. Mists blew away. Dear Anna, I love you."
He was making love to Anna, his wife. A droll finale. Tears came in his eyes. There lay happiness. She would move again. The rigid figure that he had left behind and that was waiting rigidly, would smile again. He plunged desperately into the dream of words to be. The music from the salon had ended. Better, silence. Nothing to remind one of the fugitive tinkle of life. A dark, interminable sea, a moon road, a sigh of rolling water and a ship throbbing in the night.
"Dear Anna, I love you." And she would smile, her white face and eyes that were constant as the stars. Constant, eternal. Love that was no mystery but a caress of sea nights. Forgive him. And her sorrow would heal under his fingers. It would end all right. The two years—the halloo of strange sterile things—buried under the smile of her eyes ... deep, sorrowful, beautiful. Words to be. "Anna we will grow old together, holding to each other and smiling; lovers whom the years make always younger." Words that were to heal the strange sadness that had come to him and start a dead figure into life.
He stood up and walked to the rail, staring into the churn of water underneath.
"It's slow," he murmured. "Four more days."
Anna's love would hide the world from him. But a fear loosened his heart. The smell of sea whirled in his veins.
"Perhaps," he thought dreamily, "perhaps there will be nothing. She will say no."
He hesitated, straightened with a sigh.
"A wife deserter, a seducer, a murderer. I mustn't expect too much, eh, von Stinnes?"
He smiled at the night. The sound of the Baron's name seemed to bring a strength into him. He walked toward his berth, his head unnecessarily high, smoking at his cigarette and humming a tune remembered from the Munich cafes.
There were people in New York who came to Erik Dorn and said: "Tell us about Europe. And Germany. Is it really true that...." As if there were some inner revelation—a few precious phrases of undistilled truth that the correspondent of the New Opinion had seen fit to withhold from his communications.
The skyscrapers were intact. Windows shot into the air. Streets bubbled with people. A useless sky clung tenaciously to its position above the roof-gardens. The scene was amiable. Dorn spent a day congratulating himself upon the genius of his homeland. He felt a pride in the unbearable confusion of architecture and traffic.
But in the nine months of his absence there had been a change; or at least a change seemed to have occurred. Perhaps he had brought the change with him. It was evident that the Niagara of news pouring out of Europe into the press and periodicals of the day had inundated the provincialism of his countrymen. People were floundering about in a daze of facts—groping ludicrously through labyrinths of information.
It had been easy during the war. Democracy-Autocracy; a tableau to look at. Thought had been unnecessary. In fact, the popular intelligence had legislated against it. The tableau was enough—a sublimated symbol of the little papier-mache rigmarole of their daily lives, the immemorial spectacle of Good and Evil at death grips, limelighted for a moment by the cannon in France. The unreason and imbecility of the mob crowned themselves. Thought became lese majeste.
Dorn returned to find the tableau had suffered an explosion. It had for some mysterious reason glibly identified as reaction burst into fragments and vanished in a skyrocket chaos. Shantung, Poland, little nations, pogroms, plebiscites, Ireland, steel strikes, red armies, Fourteen Points, The Truth About This, The Real Story of That, the League of Nations, the riots in Berlin, in Dublin, Milan, Paris, London, Chicago; secret treaties, pacts, betrayals, Kolchak—an incomprehensible muddle of newspaper headlines shrieked from morning to morning and said nothing. The distracted mob become privy for the moment to the vast biological disorder eternally existent under its nose, snorted, yelped, and shook indignant sawdust out of its ears.
In vain the editorial Jabberwocks came galloping daily down the slopes of Sinai bearing new tablets written in fire. The original and only genuine tableau was gone. The starry heavens which concealed the Deity Himself had become a junkpile full of its fragments.
"In the temporary collapse of the banalities that conceal the world from their eyes," thought Dorn, "they're trying to figure out what's really what around them—and making a rather humorous mess of it."
He went about for several days dining with friends, conferring with Edwards and the directors of the New Opinion, and slowly shaping his "experiences abroad" into phonograph records that played themselves automatically under the needles of questions.
At night, he amused himself with reading the radical and conservative periodicals, his own magazine among them.