Gisela was no longer the radiant and voluptuous beauty who had incurred the secret wrath of Ann Howland at Bar Harbor. These years of war, during which she had known hard physical labor and often insufficient nourishment, more rarely still a full night's sleep, had taken her lovely curves of cheek and form, her brilliant color. She was thin, almost gaunt; but the dissolving of the flesh had given her intellect, her force of character, her aspiring spirit, their first real opportunity to stamp her features. She would always be handsome, with her long dark eyes and masses of soft dark hair, her noble outlines; and her womanly sympathies had preserved their balance between a devitalizing horror on the one hand and callousness on the other; but it was a spiritualized beauty, devoid of that appeal to sex of which she had been, even after she had buried the memory of Franz von Nettelbeck and all desire for love, femininely tenacious, however disdainful.
Mimi was the first to speak after a long interval of silence.
"You've got me, all right. I've been digging up a few more things. We're up against it for keeps, and it's get out or starve out. I've a notion to sneak off to my relations in Milwaukee. Mrs. Prentiss, I'll go as your maid—"
"You'll do nothing of the sort!" Gisela's voice cut through the ripples of laughter which always greeted Mimi's redundant slang. "You'll go back to Germany with me and do your part in putting an end to this war!" All but Heloise half arose, but she sat staring at that hard drawn face as if in telepathic communication.
"Can you do anything—really?" gasped Kate. "We have been hoping for a revolution, but had given up the idea—until after the war. Your Socialists either eat out of the Kaiser's hand or sputter and fizzle out. And all your able-bodied men are at the front—"
"But not the women."
"You have both lived in Germany. You know that German women are big strong creatures—what you call husky. They are stronger than many of the men because they have led more decent lives. The men at the front are hopeless as revolutionary material—at present. They are hypnotized. They have been taught not to think. They are sick of the war, they suffer when they come home and see their women reduced to shadows, or go to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their little brothers and sisters; but the teaching of a lifetime: the omnipotence of their sovereigns, whom they innocently believe to rule by divine right, sends them back submissive, patient, sad. I know what you had in mind when you brought us here to convince us that our country was not only responsible for the war, but beaten. You hoped we would somehow bring about the assassination of the Kaiser and the Crown Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria—all the great generals. Is it not so? That would, assuredly, break down the morale of the army, give it a more smashing blow than any it has received even on the Western front. Well, it cannot be done. Even I could not obtain a pass into Great Headquarters. You might as well expect a British soldier to be permitted to saunter over from his lines and make sketches of the German trenches. Those men guard themselves—day and night, at every point—as if haunted with the fear of assassination. Perhaps they are. And remember that the downfall of Caesarism means the downfall not only of junkerism but of all the other kings and Grand Dukes—who are powerful and wealthy in their own domains. They have no doubt cursed Prussia daily since September, 1914, but now they all sink or swim together. They will force Germany to die a thousand deaths in the hope of a miracle that will save a class to which the rest of poor Germany is a breeding-ground for their mighty armies. I belong to that class. One of my brothers is on the staff of the Crown Prince of Prussia. Take my word for it: the solution of Germany's deliverance is not to be found in the simple antidote of political assassination, for only men bound up in the success of the German arms, or their terrorized creatures of our own sex, are near enough to throw the bomb."
"It was rather a commonplace idea," said Kate, gracefully, "but what can you do?"
"Quite aside from the women of the industrial and lower classes generally, who have given the municipalities serious trouble with their food riots—far more than you know about—the German women altogether are restless and dissatisfied. They were promised a short and triumphant war. They are daily more skeptical of promises. They have suffered death in life. All that early exaltation—exhilaration—has gone long since. They shut their teeth and endure because they still believe the cunning official lies—that Britain must be starved by the submersibles, that France's man power is nearly exhausted, that the United States cannot prepare an army in less than two years and needs all her trained men at home to quell the riots of the masses who disapprove of the war. They are taught to believe that ultimate victory for Germany is inevitable—that it is merely a question of months.
"But—convince them that Germany cannot win, that their own conquest is inevitable after three or four more years of horror and torment and personal despair, turn their blind hatred of England and America upon their own conscienceless rulers—"
"Jimminy!" cried Mimi. "That's the dope. Pound it into them that the Enemy Allies will give them a square deal as a Republic and put them under the steam-roller with the Hohenzollerns if they stand pat, and you'll get them. No more hungry and tubercular babies, no more babies born with a cuticle short in theirs. They'd rise as one man—I mean—damn the men!—as one woman."
Heloise left her seat like a whirlwind and flung herself at Gisela's feet. Her face was flaming white. She looked like a sibyl. "I knew it would be you!" she cried in her sweet bell-like tones. "I have had visions of you leading us out of this awful war. You have only to talk to the women—your word was gospel to them before the war—they too will have the vision and they will make it fact."
"Yes—but—" interrupted the practical Ann. "How shall you go to work? It is a stupendous idea. But you never could keep such a propaganda movement a secret. Some one would be sure to betray you. German women are perfect fools about men."
"No longer. Nor were they for several years before the war as subservient (inwardly) to men as they had been in the past. Far from it. And now! They have suffered too much at the hands of men. They have no illusions left. Love and marriage are ghastly caricatures to women who have lived in a time when men are slaughtered like pigs in massed formation; when their little boys are driven to war; when young girls—and widows!—are forced to bring more males into the world with the sanction of neither love nor marriage; when those too young for the trench or the casual bed wail incessantly for bread. Oh, no! The German man's day of any but legal dominion is over. Of course there is always the danger of spies and traitors, but—"
"The wall for you at sunrise if you get caught," cried Mimi, with another subsidence of enthusiasm.
"If that happen to be my destiny. Can any one experience what we have done during these three years and not be as fatalistic as the men in the trenches? I'd rather die before a firing squad after an attempt to save my wretched country than live to see it set back a hundred years. But I refuse to believe that I shall be betrayed or that I shall fail. That I believe to be my destiny. For a long time the idea has been fumbling in the back of my mind, but it lacked the current which would switch it into my consciousness. You two have supplied the current."
Kate threw back her head and gave her merry, ringing laugh. "What delicious irony! Germany defeated by its women! When I think of your august papa, dear Gisela! That kulturistically typical, that naive yet Jovian symbol of all the arrogance and conceit, the simple creed of Kaiserism ueber alles, and will-to-rule, that hurled this colossus on the back of Europe—"
"Quite so. You of all present know that I received the proper training for the part I am about to play. If all goes well we women will erect a tablet to my father's memory in the cathedral at Berlin." She leaned down and patted the rapt face of Heloise, then scowled at Mimi. "May I not count on you?" she asked sternly.
"May you? Well, say, what are you taking me for? I'm more afraid of you than I am of a firing squad, and anyhow I seem to know we'll win out. I'm going to carry a club in case I mix up with Hans. But what's your plan?"
"This is neither the time nor place to work out a campaign. The first move will be to train lieutenants in every State in Germany—women whom we know either personally or through correspondence. You, Heloise, will return to Munich at once and make out the lists. We shall have no difficulty obtaining permits to travel all over the Empire, for it will never enter the insanely stupid official head to doubt whatever excuse we may choose to give. Not only are we German women and therefore sheep, but we are Red Cross nurses.... And remember that nearly all the men who are still in the factories are Socialists—and that women swarm in all of those factories—"
"Marie!" cried Heloise. "How she will work! She has the confidence of the Socialist party—both wings—wherever she is known; and she can talk—like a torrent of liquid fire."
"And the next chapter?" asked Mrs. Prentiss curiously. "You led the German women in thought for five years. Shall you have a Woman's Republic, with you as President?"
"Certainly not. It is not in the German women—not yet—to crave the grinding cares of public life. We shall make the men do the work, and we will live for the first time. Delivered from Caesarism and junkerism and with the advanced men of Germany at the head of a Republic, I should feel too secure of Germany's future to demand any of the ugly duties of government—although the women will speak through the men. Their day of silence and submission is forever passed—"
"Same here," remarked Mimi, stretching and yawning. "Let's go to bed. I have smoked fifty-three cigarettes and my voice is ruined. Nevertheless I shall be a great prima donna, and you, Gisela, can chuck propaganda, and write romance. The world will devour it after these years of undiluted realism written in red ink on a black page. Look at the sun trying to climb out of that mist and give us his blessing."
"I shall go for a walk," said Gisela, "and I shall go alone."
Mrs. Prentiss and Mrs. Tolby placed a large sum of money to Gisela's account in a Swiss bank, and this she transferred to the Bayerischer Vereinsbank in Munich. As she had collected large sums for war relief, and was on the board of nine war charities, no suspicion was excited. She had given to these organizations the greater part of the small fortune she had made from her play and other writings, not absorbed by taxation and bond subscriptions, but there were many wealthy women, hungry, sad, apprehensive that peace would find them paupers, upon whom she could depend to give liberally.
There was to be no printed matter nor correspondence, but an army of lieutenants, who, starting from certain centers, would augment their numbers from Gisela's long list of correspondents, until it would be possible to sound personally all the women of a district whom it was thought wise to trust.
Gisela returned to Germany as soon as she had worked out the details of her campaign and received the enthusiastic donation of her American friends. Mimi Brandt, Marie von Erkel (who looked like an ecstatic fury of the French Revolution when she realized that at last she had a role to play in life that would not only vent her consuming energies and ambition, but enable her to assist in the downfall of a race of men whom she hated, both for their tyranny and indifference to brains without beauty, with all the diverted passion of her nature), Aimee von Erkel, who was persistent, incisive, and so alarmed at the prospect of all the men in the world being killed, that she would have hastened peace on any terms; Princess Starnwoerth, a Socialist and idealist, a brilliant and persuasive speaker, to whom war was the ultimate horror; Johanna Stueck, whose revolt had been deep and bitter long before the war and who was one of Gisela's fervent disciples and aides—these and six others were sent on one pretense or another into the various States of Germany—the kingdoms, principalities, grand duchies, duchies, and "free towns"—to bear Gisela's personal message and select the proper leaders.
Gisela went at once to Berlin and had a long interview with Mariette, who was ripe for revolution: her lover had been killed and her husband had not. Mariette was not of the type that sorrow and loss ennoble. She was still a handsome woman, particularly in her uniform, but the pink and white cheeks that once had covered her harsh bones were sunken and sallow. Her mouth was like a narrow bar of iron. Her eyes were half closed as if to hide the cold and deadly flame that never flickered; even her nostrils were rigid. All her hard and sensual nature, devoid of tenderness, but dissolved with sentimentality while the man who had conquered her had lived, she had centered on her lover, and with his death she was a tool to Gisela's hand to wreak vengeance upon the powers that had sent him out of the world.
"Leave it to me," she said grimly. "There are not only the women in the towns where I have been stationed these many years, but, here in Berlin, the wives of men whose money is financing this war: men who permitted the war because they hoped for infinite riches but are now terrified that they will not have a pfennig if the war goes on much longer. They dare not rebel, for they would be shot, and their fortunes be confiscated: their banks, industries, shops, run by cowed minor officials. But the women—I can count on many of them. Even if their husbands suspected, they would wink at it, willing that the women should take the risk and they reap the benefit. God! How they hate the war—every woman I know. Leave this part of Germany to me, and be prepared for Schrecklichkeit. There will be no mercy, no politics, in this revolution—merely one end in view. The Russians are babies but we are not. 'Huns' shall cease to be a term of opprobrium, for female Huns will end the war."
Countess Niebuhr, whose love of intrigue had not diminished with the years, and who had known more of the Pan-Germanic mind than her naive husband had guessed—who, moreover, had had a long and enlightening interview with one of her sons but a month before—undertook to win over many women of her own class who had suffered death and disillusion.
Elsa's transfer to a hospital in Saxony was skilfully managed; and Lili went on a concert tour for the Red Cross. It was not worth while to campaign in Austria; the moment Germany was helpless she would collapse automatically.
In the course of a month the secret propaganda was moving with the invisible, sinister, irresistible suction of an undertow. The immense army of women who did Gisela's work proved themselves true Germans, logical products of generations of discipline, concentration, secretiveness, and a thoroughness, even in trifling details, as implacable as it was automatic. They made few mistakes. When they discovered—and their spy service was also Teutonic—that they had confided in some girl or woman whose inherent weakness or venality threatened betrayal, she disappeared immediately and for ever.
Gisela, obtaining a commission to inspect the leading hospitals "back of the front," visited each of the states in turn and addressed thousands of women in groups of two or three hundred, gathered under the eyes of the police in the name of one of the many war charities in which all women were engaged. The lieutenants prepared these women, and Gisela inspired, crystallized, cohered. The timid she shamed with the example of the Russian women (and German women despise all other women); the desperate she had little difficulty in convincing that there was but one egress from their insupportable agony. Victory under her leadership if they stood firm, was inevitable.
She had the gift of a fiery torrent of speech, a clear steady eye, even when it flashed and blazed, and a warm and irresistible magnetism that convinced the individual as well as the mass that she had but one object, the liberation of the miserable women of her country, their deliverance from further sorrow; and that she was wholly lacking in personal ambition.
These women had known the gnawing sensation of unappeased appetite for two years. They had seen old men and women, sometimes their own, fall in the streets dead or dying, because they no longer had the reserves of men and women in their youth or prime. They had seen men blow out their brains in front of municipal buildings, cursing the Emperor, the military autocracy, and even the Government, always at odds with the war lords. They knew of suicides and child murder by despairing mothers that they hardly whispered to one another. And all the children were emaciated and wailed continually for food, sleeping little, playing less, stunted in their growth and threatened with disease; if the war went on another year they would join the little Polish victims on their shadowy playground.... They feared for their daughters at home even as they feared for their young sons in the trenches.... Barring a revolution, the war might last for years ... years.... "Peace Proposals" irritated what little humor they had left to ghastly obscene joking.... "Victories" left them as cold as the mid-winter bed.... The Hohenzollerns, the other kings and princes, the cast-iron junkers, would cling fast to their own until the Enemy Allies' day of judgment, for surrender meant their quicker extermination; now, at least, they were still in the saddle, able to cheer their haunted egos with the Wine of Lies.
It was the Hohenzollerns and defeat, or a Republic and easy terms from the victors who would welcome a sound de-brutalized Germany, jealous of her lost honor, into the family of nations. The arguments were brief and simple. Gisela would have won over women far less despairing than these. And the fact that she had spent four years in America studying its institutions and resources, convinced the most susceptible to official lies that the United States could pour money, men, ammunition, munitions and food into Europe for countless years; and that the agitations of her pacifists, syndicalists, German agents, and bribe-takers were but picturesque ripples on the surface of a nation covering over three million five hundred thousand square miles and embracing more than one hundred million people.
And with all the insidious subtlety of her supple mind she changed the prevailing hatred of President Wilson into a profound and pathetic confidence. She had long since made them envy and admire the women of America, and if these fortunate beings had enthusiastically reelected him and were now giving his policy as persistent and effective assistance as the men, it was for the desperate women of Germany to believe in his promises of deliverance. Above all he had now the approval of their own Gisela Doering.
It was the mothers of Germany, balked, potential, or veritable, who were ready to rise and rescue what was left of the youth of Germany. If victory for the German arms were hopeless they would risk their own lives to force a peace that would leave them with the rags of their old honor and prosperity, that would give them revenge upon the men who had, for their own criminal ambitions—ambitions which belonged to the Middle Ages—doomed them to lifelong sorrow; and that would save the lives of their children—save husbands also for a few of these stern and weary girls. Even in the Rhine Valley, where the greater number of the munition and ammunition factories were grouped, there were incessant meetings, among the night and day shifts, of the thousands of women employed there, and Gisela herself addressed each of them.
Gisela, who had been staring across the Koeniginstrasse into the heavy branches that hung over the wall of the park, her mental vision too actively raking the past to spare a beam for the familiar picture, suddenly switched her searchlight away from those milestones in her historic progress and concentrated it upon a suspicious shadow opposite. Surely it had moved, and there was not a breath of wind. The night was mild and still.
She did not move a muscle but narrowed her gaze until it detached the figure of a man from the dark background of wall and trees. Always apprehensive of spies, although the Gott commandeered by the Kaiser seemed to have adjusted blinders to eyes strained west, east, and south, she leapt to the conclusion that she was under surveillance at last, and her heart beat thickly. She who had believed that the long strain, the constant danger, the incessant demand for resource and ever more resource, had transformed her nerves to pure steel, realized angrily that on this last night when she had permitted herself an hour's idle retrospect before commanding sleep, her nerves more nearly resembled the strings of a violin.
Her apartment was on the ground floor. She stood up, revealing herself disdainfully in the moonlight that now lay full on her window, then went out quickly into the vestibule and unlocked the house door. Her only fear was that the man would have gone, but if he were still there she was determined to walk boldly over to his skulking-place and pretend she believed him to be a burglar or a foreign spy. In these days she carried a small pistol and a dagger.
When she had stepped out on the pavement she glanced quickly up and down the street. Not even a polizeidiener was in sight, for this aristocratic quarter was, in peace and war, the quietest part of an always orderly town. It was evident that the man spied alone.
Holding her head very high, she started across the street; but she had not taken three steps when the shadow detached itself and walked rapidly out into the moonlight. She gave a sharp cry and shrank back. It was Franz von Nettelbeck.
"You—" she stammered. "They sent you—"
"They? And why should I alarm you? Am I so formidable?" He uttered his short harsh laugh and lifted his cap. His head was bandaged; there was a deep scar along the outer line of his right cheek. His face was gaunt and lined; and his shoulders sagged until he suddenly bethought himself and flung them back with a deathless instinct.
Gisela smiled and gave him her hand with a graceful spontaneity. "The sense of being watched always shakes the nerves a bit, and I have felt up to nothing myself for a long time. Why did not you come up to the window when you recognized me?"
"I was so sure of welcome! And yet as soon as I was fit to travel I came here to see you. I intended to send in my card to-morrow. But I could not help haunting your window to-night, and when I had the good fortune to see you sitting there—with the moon shining on your beautiful face—"
"My face is no longer beautiful, dear Franz—"
"You are a thousand times more beautiful than ever—"
Something else vibrated along those steel nerves, but she said briskly: "Standing so long must have tired you. Come in and rest. It is late; but if there are still conventions in this crashing world I have forgotten them."
Her rooms were always prepared for a sudden visit of the police. If a firing squad were her fate it would not have been invited through the usual channels. Even the arms to be worn on the morrow were in the cellars and attics of citizens so respectable as almost to be nameless.
He followed her through the common entrance of the apartment house into her Saal. It was a large comfortable room with many deep chairs, and on the gray walls were a few portraits of her scowling ancestors, contributed long since by her mother. A tall porcelain stove glowed softly. Gisela drew the curtains and lit several candles. She disliked the hard glare of electricity at any time, and she admitted with a curious thrill of satisfaction that those manifestly sincere words of her old lover had given her vanity a momentary resurrection. Her suspicions were by no means allayed, even when she met his eyes blazing with passionate admiration, but why not play the old game of the gods for an hour? What better preparation for the morrow than to relax and forget?
"Poor Franz!" Her voice was the same rich contralto whose promise had routed the Howland millions years ago. "Our poor gallant men! When will this terrible war finish?"
"Ask your United States of America!" And he cursed that superfluous nation roundly. "We had some chance before. Not so much, but still some. Now we shall be beaten to our knees, stamped into the dust, straight down to hell." He threw himself into a chair and pressed his hands against his face.
"But when?" Gisela watched him warily. If these were tactics they were admirable; but who more full of theatric devices than the Kaiser he adored?
"Years hence, no doubt—if we continue to hold the Social-Democrats in hand and drug the people. We'll fight on until our enemies' might proves that they are right and we were fools. That is all there is to war."
Gisela sat down and let her hands fall into her lap with a little pathetic motion of weakness. "Sometimes I wish the Socialists were strong enough to win and end it all," she said plaintively.
"Oh, no, you don't. You are a junker, for all your independent notions, and trying to put some of your own nerve into the women. I read you with great amusement before the war. But no one knows better than yourself that the triumph of democracy in Germany would mean the end of us."
"I cannot see that we are enjoying many privileges at present—unless it be the privilege to lie rather than be lied to. And when our enemies do win we shall be pried out, root and branch. So, why not save our skins at all events? I do not mean mine, of course—nor, for that matter, am I thinking of our class; but of the hundreds of thousands of our dear young men who might be spared—"
"Better die and have done with it. And there is always hope—"
"Oh—in the separate peace, the ultimate submersible, some new invention—the miracle that has come to the rescue more than once in history. There are times when my faith in the destiny of Germany to dominate the world is so great that I cannot believe it possible for her to fail—in spite of everything, everything! And everything is against us! I never realized it until I lay there in the hospital. I was too busy before, and that was my first serious wound. Oh, God! what fools we were. What rotten diplomacy. Even I despised the United States; but as I lay there in Berlin their irresistible almighty power seemed to pass before me in a procession that nearly destroyed my reason. I knew the country well enough, but I would not see."
"They are a very soft-hearted people and would let us down agreeably if the Social-Democrats overturned the House of Hohenzollern and stretched out the imploring hand of a young Republic—"
"No! No! A thousand times rather die to the last man than be beaten within. That would be the one insupportable humiliation. Canaille!" He spat out the word. "I refuse to recognize their existence—"
He sprang to his feet and before her mind could flash to attention he had caught her from her chair and was straining her to him, his arms, his entire body, betraying no evidence whatever of depleted vitality. "Let us forget it all!" he muttered. "We are still young and I am free. I was a fool once and you will believe me when I tell you that I would beg you on my knees to marry me even if you were Gisela Doering.... I have leave of absence for a month ... let us be happy once more...."
"It was a long while ago ... all that ... do you realize how long?"
Gisela stood rigid, her eyes expanded. To her terror and dismay she was thrilling and flaming from head to foot. This lover of her life might have released her from one of their immortal hours but yesterday. But although she had to brace her body from yielding, her mind (and it is the curse of intellectual women of individual powers that the mind never, in any circumstances, ceases to function) realized that while the human will may be strong enough to banish memories, and readjust the lonely soul, its most triumphant acts may be annihilated by the physical contact of its mate. Unless replaced. Fool that she had been merely to have buried the memory of this man by an act of will. She should have taken a commonplace lover, or husband, put out that flaming midnight torch with the standardizing light of day.
Her mind seemed to be darting from peak to peak in a swift and dazzling flight as he talked rapidly and brokenly, kissing her cheek, her neck, straining her so close to him that she could hardly breathe. Suddenly it poised above the memory of an old book of Renan's, "The Abbess Juarre," in which the eminent skeptic had somewhat clumsily attempted to demonstrate that if the world unmistakably announced its finish within three days the inhabitants would give themselves up to an orgy of love.
Well, her world might end to-morrow. Why should she not live to-night?
Her arrogant will demanded the happiness that this man, whom she had never ceased to love for a moment, to whom she had been unconsciously faithful, alone could give her. Moreover, her reason working side by side with her imperious desires, assured her that if he really were spying, and, whatever his passion, meant to remold her will to his and snatch the keystone from the arch, it were wise to keep him here. It was evident that he had no suspicion of the imminence of the revolution.
And it was years since she had felt all woman, not a mere intellect ignoring the tides in the depths of her being. The revelation that she was still young and that her will and all the proud achievements of her mind could dissolve at this man's touch in the crucible of her passion filled her with exultation.
She melted into his arms and lifted hers heavily to his neck.
"Franz! Franz!" she whispered.
Gisela moved softly about the room looking for fresh candles. Those that had replaced the moonlight hours ago had burned out and she did not dare draw the curtains apart: it was too near the dawn. She had no idea what time it was. But she must have light, for to think was imperative, and her mental processes were always clogged in the dark.
She found the old box of candles and placed four in the brackets and lit them. Then she went over to the couch and looked down upon Franz von Nettelbeck. He slept heavily, on his side, his arms relaxed but slightly curved. In a few moments she went down the hall to her bedroom and took a cold bath and made a cup of strong coffee; then dressed herself in a suit of gray cloth, straight and loose, that her swiftest movements might not be impeded. In the belt under the jacket she adjusted her pistol and dagger.
She returned to the Saal and once more looked down upon the unconscious man. How long he had been falling asleep! She had offered him wine, meaning to drug it, but he had refused lest it inflame his wounds. She had offered to make him coffee, but he would not let her go.
It was in the complete admission of her reluctance to leave him, even after he slept, and while disturbed by the fear that the dawn was nearer than in fact it was, that she stared down upon the man who was more to her than Germany and all its enslaved women and men. He knew nothing of her plans, had not a suspicion of the revolution, but he had vowed they never should be parted again. He had great influence and could set wheels in motion that would return him to the diplomatic service and procure him an appointment to Spain; where good diplomatists were badly needed.
It was an enchanting picture that he drew in spite of the horror that must ever mutter at their threshold; but to the awfulness of war they were both by this time more or less callous, although he was mortally sick of the war itself; and Gisela, who doled half-measures neither to herself nor others, had dismissed the morrow and yielded herself to the joy of the future as of the present. What she had felt for this man in her early twenties seemed a mere partnership of romance and sentiment fused by young nerves, compared with the mature passion he had shocked from its long recuperative sleep. He was her mate, her other part. Her long fidelity, unshaken by time, her own temperament and many opportunities, all were proof of that.
The caste of great lovers in this unfinished world is small and almost inaccessible, but they had taken their place by immemorial right. Were it not for this history of her own making they would find every phase of happiness in each other as long as they both lived. Women, at least, know instinctively the difference between the transient passion, no matter how powerful, and the deathless bond.
Gisela glanced at her wrist watch. It was within seventy minutes of the dawn. If she could only be sure that he would sleep until Munich herself awoke him. But he had told her that he never slept these days more than two or three hours at a time, no matter how weary.
If he awoke before it was time for her to leave the house and renewed his love-making, her response would be as automatic as the progress of life itself.
If she attempted to leave the house before sunrise, on no matter what pretext, his suspicions would be aroused, for she had told him that she had been given a week for rest. For the same reason she dared not awaken him and ask him to go. He would refuse, for it was no time to slip out of a woman's apartment; far better wait until ten o'clock, when there were always visitors of both sexes in her office. Moreover, he would no more wish to go than he would permit her to leave him.
She was utterly in his power if he awakened and chose to exert it. He had mastered her, conquered her, routed her career and her peace, and she had gloried in her submission; gloried in it still. A commonplace woman would have been satisfied, satiated, felt free for the moment, turned with relief to the dry convention of the daily adventure, rather resenting, if she had a pretty will, the supreme surrender to the race in an unguarded hour.
Gisela was cast in the heroic mold. She came down from the old race of goddesses of her own Nibelungenlied, whose passions might consume them but had nothing in common with the ebb and flow of mortals. But great brains are fed by stormy souls, and in the souls of women there is an element of weakness, unknown, save in a few notable instances, to great men in the crises of their destiny; for women are the slaves of the race, and nature when permitting them the abnormality of genius takes her revenge.
If he awakened.... There was little time for thought. She must plan quickly. If she left the house at once he might awaken immediately and after searching the apartment, follow her; there was the dire possibility that he would learn too much before the terrific drama of the revolution opened, and manage to thwart their plans. He was a man of quick brain and ruthless will; no consideration for her would stop him, although he would save her from the consequences of her act, no doubt of that. Save her for himself.
Mimi Brandt, and Heloise and Marie von Erkel were asleep in rooms at the end of the hall.... She had a mad idea of binding him hand and foot and locking him in her bedroom.... Either he would hate her for the humiliation he—Franz von Nettelbeck, glorious on the field of honor, a bound prisoner in a woman's bedroom while his class was blown to atoms, and his caste was roaring its impotent fury to a napping Gott!... Oh, an insufferable affront to a man of his order who held even the dearest woman as the favored pensioner on his bounty ... or she would be consumed with remorse, melt ... it was positive that she must visit him—not leave him to starve ... nor could she keep him bound ... and once more she would be his slave ... could she hold out even for a day?
The first blow of a revolution is, after all, only its first. There is always the danger of a swift reaction.
Unremitting vigilance, work, encouragement are the part of its leaders for months, possibly years, to come. All revolutions are dependent for ultimate success upon one preeminent figure.
Franz stirred under the unconscious fixity of her gaze and changed his position, lying on his back. She hastily averted her eyes. Her hands clenched and spread. Even to-morrow if this man found her ... one soft moment ... when she needed all her energy, her fire, her powers of concentration, of depersonalization, for the millions of tortured women who would follow her straight out to meet any division the Emperor might detach in the vain hope of subduing an army far outnumbering all that he had left of men.
Nothing but a miracle could halt the initial stage of the revolution; the wireless plants were all operated by women in her service, and no telephone message had advised her of danger. No matter what her defection at this moment the revolution would begin at dawn; but although Germany happily lacked the disintegrating forces of Russia, comfortable as she had been for two generations, and proud in her discipline, that very discipline would dissolve its new backbone without the stimulating force of her own inexorable will. And if she deserted them!...
It was a woman's revolution. A necessary number of men Socialists had been admitted to the secret and were to strike the second blow. But the women must strike the first, and according to program. Not only were the men under surveillance, but where women would be pardoned in case of a failure, they would be shot. And most of them had more brain than brawn, were past the fighting age; the girls, and women of middle years, were a magnificent army which would make the graybeards appear absurd in the open.
These women worshiped her, believed her to be a super-being created to save them and their children; but if she betrayed them, proved herself the merest woman of them all—a childless woman at that—the very bones would melt out of them, they would prostrate themselves in the ashes of their final despair.
Spain! Franz! For a moment her imagination rioted.
She smiled ironically. Happiness? Four-walled happiness? Hardly for her, even without the blood of murdered thousands soaking her doorstep. Love, for women like her ... even eternal love ... must be episodical. Life forces the duties of leadership on such women whether they resent them or not. They must take their love where they find it as great men do, subordinated to their chosen careers and the tremendous duties and responsibilities that are the fruit of all achieved ambition.
It was true that she had no political ambition, but for an unpredictive period she must be the beacon-light of the new Republic, no matter how successful the coup of the Socialists; until some one man (she knew of none) or some group of men became strong enough to control its destinies. The women must stand firm, a solid critical body led by herself, until the tragically disciplined soldiers who had survived these years of warfare had ceased to be sheep, or run bleating to the new fold.
Even if she won Franz over, her power would be sapped; not for a moment would he be out of her consciousness; her imagination would drift incessantly from the vital work in hand to the hour of their reunion. The hurtling power of her eloquence would be diminished, her magnetism weakened.
Her memory flashed backward to those three years when he was an ever-rising obsession—personifying love and completion as he did—before which her proud will fell back again and again, powerless and humiliated.
Why, in God's name could not he have come back into her life six months hence?
No woman should risk a sex cataclysm when she has great work to do. Nature is too subtle for any woman's will as long as the man be accessible. And the strongest and the proudest woman that ever lived may have her life disorganized by a man if she possess the power to charm him.
She moved softly from the couch and walked up and down the room, striving to visualize her manifest destiny and erect the grim ideal of duty. Her mind, working at lightning speed, recalled moments, days, in the past, when she had let her will relax, ignored her duties, floated idly with the tide; the sensation of panic with which she had recaptured at a bound the ideals that governed her life. Mortal happiness was not for her. Duty done, with or without exaltation of spirit, would at least keep her in tune with life, preserve her from that disintegrating horror of soul that could end only with self-annihilation.
And end her usefulness. It was a vicious circle.
Suddenly a wave of humiliation, of insupportable shame, swept her from sole to crown, and she returned swiftly to her post above the sleeping man. One moment had undone the work of all those proud years during which she had made herself over from the quintessential lover into one of the intellectual leaders of the world, a woman who had accomplished what no man had dared to attempt, and who, if the revolution were the finality which before this man came had seemed to be written in the Book of Germany, would be immortal in history. Wild fevers of the blood, passionate longing for completion in man, oneness, the "organic unit"—were not for her.
All feeling ebbed slowly out of her, leaving her cold, collected, alert. She was, over all, a woman of genius, the custodian of peculiar gifts, sleeping throughout the ages, perhaps, like Brunhilde on her rock, to awaken not at the kiss of man, but at the summons of Germany in her darkest hour.
She bent over the man who belonged to the woman alone in her and whose power over her would be exerted as ruthlessly as her own should be over herself. He looked a very gallant gentleman as he lay there, and he had been a very brave soldier. His own place was secure in the annals of the war, but at this moment, following upon his triumphant swoop after happiness, he was the one deadly menace to the future of his country.
Gisela opened his shirt gently and bared his breast. She held her breath, but he slept on and she took the dagger from her belt and with a swift hard propulsion drove it into his heart to the guard. He gave a long expiring sigh and lay still. A gallant gentleman, a brave soldier, and a great lover had the honor to be the first man to pay the price of his country's crime, on the altar of the Woman's Revolution.
Gisela went swiftly down the hall and awakened Heloise, Mimi, and Marie and told them what she had done. No novelty in horror could startle European women in those days. They dressed themselves hastily in their gray uniforms and followed her to the Saal. With Mimi's assistance she put on his coat, the hilt of the dagger thrusting forward the row of medals on his breast. Marie went out into the street and flitted up and down like a big gray moth, her gray little face tense with rapture. Her devotion to Gisela had been fanatical from the first but now she begged what invisible power her wild little mind still recognized to be permitted to die for her.
In a moment she signaled that the street was deserted. Gisela and Mimi carried the body over to the park and dropped it into the swiftly flowing Isar. The clear jade green of the lovely river reflected the points of the stars, and Franz von Nettelbeck as he drifted down the tide looked as if attended by innumerable candles dropped graciously from on high to watch at his bier. But it was to Heloise this fancy came, and she lifted her face and thanked the stars for their silent funeral march. Not for her would the supreme sacrifice have been possible, and for the moment she did not envy Gisela Doering.
The four girls walked rapidly over to the Maximilianstrasse and crossed the bridge to the Maximilianeum. The long symmetrical brown building with its open galleries filled with the cold starlight was distorted by a wireless station on its highest point and by a biplane on the extreme left of the roof. It stood on a lofty terrace and commanded a view of all Munich and of the tumbled peaks of the Alps.
They ran up the stairs and called to the operator from the higher gallery. She answered in a hard and weary voice: "Nothing." Then they walked down the gallery to the open tower facing the Alps. For half an hour longer they stood in silence, alternately glancing from their wrist watches to the faintly glittering peaks whose first reflection of dawn, if all went well, would change the face of the world.
The eyes of the four women traveled to the lofty towers of the Frauenkirche. Its bells rang out a wild authoritative summons. Coincidentally the streets filled with women dressed uniformly in gray—big powerfully built women, sturdy products of the strong soil of Germany. They did not march, nor form in ranks, but stood silent, alert, shouldering rifles with fixed bayonets.
Involuntarily Gisela and her three lieutenants braced themselves against the pillars of the tower. An instant later the walls of the Maximilianeum rocked under the terrific impact of what sounded like a thousand explosions. The roar of parting walls, the shriek of shells and bombs bursting high in the air, the sharp short cry of shattered metal, the deep approaching voice of dynamite prolonging itself in echoes that seemed to reverberate among the distant Alps, shook the souls of even those inured to the murderous uproar of the battlefield.
Grotesquely combined with this terrific but majestic confusion of sound were the screams of innocent citizens hanging out of the windows, waving their arms, staring distraught at the sky, convinced, in so far as they could think at all, that a great enemy air fleet was bombarding Germany at last.
Masses of flame and smoke shot upward. The pale morning sky turned black, rent with darting crimson tongues and lit with prismatic stars. Other explosions followed in rapid succession, some coming down the light morning wind from a long distance. Blasts of heat swept audibly through the long galleries of the Maximilianeum.
"It is an inferno!" Marie von Erkel for the moment was almost hysterical. "Will Munich be destroyed? Oh, not that!"
"The fire brigades know their business." Gisela glanced up at the Marconi station. Even through the din she could hear the faint crackling of the wireless. "If all Germany—"
But her eyes were wild.... If the revolutionists in the rest of the empire had been as prompt and fearless as those of Bavaria, every munition and ammunition factory, every aerodrome and public hangar, save those taken possession of by powerfully armed squads of women, every arsenal, every warehouse for what gasoline and lubricating oils were left, every telegraph and telephone wire, every railway station near either frontier, with thousands of cars and miles of track had been destroyed simultaneously. The armies would be isolated, without arms or ammunition but what they had on hand or could manufacture in the invaded countries; no food but what they had in storage. They could not fight the enemy seven days longer; if the Enemy Allies heard immediately of the revolution through neutral channels and believed in it after so many false alarms, the finish of the German forces would come in two days.
But had the women of the other states been as prompt and ruthless as the women of Bavaria? Spandau, Essen, all the centers in the Rhine Valley for the manufacture of munitions on a grand scale ... the great Krupp factories ... unless they were in ruins the revolution was a failure....
She could not be everywhere at once. War and misery and starving children, the loss of the men and boys they loved, and a profound distrust of their rulers, had filled them with a cold and bitter hatred of an autocracy convicted of lying and aggressive purpose out of its own mouth; but would the iron in their souls carry them triumphantly past the final test? Women were women and Germans were not Russians. They had little fatalism in their make-up, and their brain cells were packed with the tradition of centuries of submission to man. True, their quiet revolt had begun long before the war, and this last year had wrought extraordinary changes, quickening their mental processes, forcing them to think and act for themselves; but their hearts might have turned to water during those last dispiriting hours before the dawn.
And how could it be possible that all traitors had been detected, exterminated, with millions in the secret? Troops might even now be in Prussia. Great Headquarters (Grosse Hauptquartier) were in Pless, and although the women of that city were not in the confidence of the revolutionaries, and it was to remain in ignorance as long as possible, the abrupt cessation of telephone and telegraph communication would advise that group of alert brains that something was wrong. Moreover, even with interrupted communications they would soon learn of the blowing up of factories in other Silesian towns; no doubt hear them. It was true the railways and bridges between Pless and Berlin were—if they were!—destroyed, but there were always automobiles; enough for a small force.... And the police, the police of Berlin! They were still formidable in spite of the drain on men for the front. Mariette had written her grimly that she would "take care of 'the rats in the granary,'" meaning the police; but although Mariette was the most thorough and merciless person she knew, she doubted even her in this awful moment.
How could she have dreamed of accomplishing a universal revolution in a country possessing the most perfect secret service system in the world?... a country with eyes in the back of its head? True, the Socialists in her confidence had been noisy and bumptious of late in order to concentrate attention upon their sex, and at the same time careful to refrain from definite statements or overt acts.... It would never enter the stupid official head that German women could conceive, much less precipitate, a revolution; but there must be traitors, women who fundamentally were the slaves of men, weak spirits, spirits rotten with imperialism, militarism, but cunning in the art of dissimulation.... What an accursed fool and criminal she had been ... egotistical dreamer! ... led on by the extraordinary power she had acquired over the women of her race....
For a moment she clung to the embrasure, so overwhelming was her impulse to hurl herself down into oblivion. In that dark and shrieking uproar she had the illusion that she was in hell, in hell with her miserable victims.
But although Gisela's long slumbering nerves had had their revenge last night, they had given up the fight when she had destroyed their only ally, and these last protesting vibrations were very brief. Her eyes fell on the ranks of women standing in the wide Maximilianstrasse,—a street a mile long and seventy-five feet across—undisturbed by the turmoil they had anticipated, calmly awaiting her orders. The obsession passed, and after a brief tribute of hatred to her imagination, which was, after all, one root of her power, she turned and glanced critically at her three companions. Marie, looking like a little gray gnome, was dancing about and waving her arms in ecstasy. Heloise, her long blonde hair hanging about her fine French face, was gazing out with rapt eyes and lips apart, as if every sense were drinking in the vision of a Germany delivered. Mimi was standing with her arms akimbo, nodding her head emphatically.
"Great work," she said as she met Gisela's stern eyes. "Better go up to the wireless."
They ran rapidly up to the roof and looked into the little room. The girl who sat there nodded but did not speak. Her face was gray and tense, but there was no evidence of despair. Gisela and Mimi stood motionless for what seemed to them a stifling hour, but at last the operator laid down the receiver.
"All," she said. "Every one."
"The Rhine Valley?"
The girl nodded, then rolled her jacket into a pillow, lay down before the door and immediately fell asleep. It had been a night of ghastly suspense. Another operator was already running up the stair to her relief.
"Fate!" cried Mimi. "The same fate that sank the Armada and drove Napoleon to Moscow. You had the vision—"
"I was the chosen instrument—" Gisela walked rapidly over to the biplane. A girl sat at the joy-stick looking as if carved out of wood. There was no more expression on her face than if she were sitting in the gallery at a rather dull play. Her lover and six brothers were dead in France. She had watched her little brother and her old grandmother die of malnutrition. Her sister was "officially pregnant" and under surveillance lest she kill herself. No more perfect machine was at the disposal of Gisela Doering. Whether Germany were delivered or razed to the earth was all one to her, but she was more than willing, as a Bavarian with a traditional hatred of Prussia, to play her part in the downfall of a race that presumed to call itself German.
Gisela stepped into the machine and it glided downward and skimmed lightly over the great length of the Maximilianstrasse.
The compact ranks, which had listened unmoved to the roar of dynamite and the detonations of bursting shells, raised their faces at the humming of the machine and broke into harsh abrupt cheering. Then they leaned their rifles against their powerful bodies and unfurled their flags and waved them in the faces of the half paralyzed people in the windows. It was a white flag with a curious device sketched in crimson: a hen in successive stages of evolution. The final phase was an eagle. The body was modeled after the Prussian emblem of might, but the face, grim, leering, vengeful, pitiless, was unmistakably that of a woman. However humor may be lacking in the rest of that grandiose Empire it was grafted into the Bavarians by Satan himself.
Gisela nodded. "The hens are eagles—all over Germany," she announced in her full carrying voice. "Word has come through from every quarter."
She flew down the Leopoldstrasse. It was packed with women from the Feldherrnhalle to the Siegesthor, cheering women, waving their flags, armed to the teeth. So was the great Park of the Residenz, the Hofgarten, where the guards were either bound or dead. It took her but a few moments to fly all over Munich. The narrow streets were deserted, save for the prostrate policemen bound suddenly from ambush; but in all the beautiful squares, with their pompous statues, and in all the wider streets, and out in the wide Theresien Field before the colossal figure of Bavaria, the women were gathered; relapsing into phlegmatic calm as soon as she had given her message and passed.
But it was by no means a scene of unbroken dignity and silence. Here and there groups of men in uniform lay dead, sword or pistol in hand. Once Gisela flew low and discharged her revolver into the shoulder of a big officer, half dressed and barely recovered from his wounds, who was keeping off half a dozen women with magnificent sword play. The women gave one another first aid, then lifted and pitched him into his house.
There was sniping, of course, from the windows, but the women made a concerted rush and disposed of the terrified offender as remorselessly as their own men had punished the desperate civilians of the lands they had invaded. They had heard their men brag for too many years about their admirable policy of Schrecklichkeit to forget the lesson in this fateful hour.
The most exciting scenes and the only ones in which any of the women were killed were in the vicinity of the garrison. These interior garrisons of the country had been one of the long debated problems. As no women entered them and as it was not safe to attempt the corruption of any of the men, there were but two alternatives: blow them up and sacrifice the men wholesale or meet them with a superior force as they rushed out to ascertain the nature of the explosions, and fight them in open battle. Gisela had finally decided to give them a chance for their lives, as she had no mind to shed any more blood than was unavoidable; and these men, being no longer in their prime, must be overcome eventually, no matter what their fury.
When she hovered over the Marztplatz in front of the garrison a few moments after the last of the explosions, and while fire was still raging in this military quarter of magazines, arsenals and laboratories, men and women were mixed in a hideous confusion, shooting and slashing indiscriminately. But there were thousands of women and only a few hundred men, all of whom at one time or another had been wounded. Finally the captain of this regiment of women ordered a swift retreat, and simultaneously three machine guns opened fire from innocent looking windows, but on the garrison building, not on the square. They ceased after one round, and the captain of the women gave such men as were alive and unwounded their choice between death and surrender. They chose the sensible alternative, were driven within, and placed under a heavy guard.
It was not safe to venture too close to the still exploding and blazing structures, but it was quite apparent that the work had been done thoroughly. The fire brigades were busy, and there was little danger of Munich, one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world, falling a victim to the revolution. Many lives had been sacrificed, no doubt. The women night-workers in the factories, fifteen minutes before the signal from the Frauenkirche, had pretended to strike, seized all the hand arms available and shot down the men who attempted to control them. The men in the secret had gone with them and were already about their business.
The officers in charge of the Class of 1920 were too few in number to make any resistance, too dazed to grasp a situation for which there was no precedent; they had surrendered to the Amazons grimly awaiting their decision. The poor boys in the Kadettenkorps had run home to their mothers, and, finding them in the streets, had either taken refuge in the cellars, or joined those formidable warriors in gray, promising obedience and yielding their arms.
Other aeroplanes were darting about the city. The greater number were driven by women, directing the fire brigades, but now and again a man, whose monoplane had been in his private shed, flew upward primed for battle. After a few parleys he retired to await events, one only shooting a woman, and crashing to earth riddled with avenging bullets.
Such air men as were in Munich were too callous to danger of all sorts, too accustomed to the horrors of the battlefield, to take this outpouring of women and mere civilians seriously; even in spite of the explosions, which, to be sure, denoted an appalling amount of destruction. Any attempt to sally forth on foot and ascertain the extent of the damage was met by bayonets and pistols in the hands of brigades of women whose like they had never seen in Germany. They inferred they were Russians, who had managed to cross the frontier with the infernal subtlety of their race. At all events they would be exterminated with no effort of men lacking authority to act.
Several of the women flew out into the country, but except where people were gathered about smoking ruins the land was at peace; there was no sign of a rally to the blue and white flag of Bavaria, no sign of an avenging army. In the course of the morning there were hundreds of these aviators darting about Bavaria, descending to tell the peasants or shop-keepers of the small towns that Germany was in revolution, the armies deprived of all support, and that the Republic had been proclaimed in Berlin. The Social Democrats had possession of the Reichstaggebaeude, and every official head still affixed to its shoulders was as helpless—a fuming prisoner in its own house—as if those arrogant brains had turned to porridge. Every royal and official residence throughout the Empire was surrounded by an army of women with fixed bayonets, and before noon every unsubmissive member of the old regime would be in either a fortress or the common prison.
This news Gisela heard at ten o'clock when she returned to the wireless station on the Maximilianeum. The Berlin news came from Mariette.
In Munich the old King had been returned to the Red Palace which he had occupied during the long years of his father's regency, and it too was surrounded by an alert but silent army. The other royal palaces were guarded in a similar manner, but the women had no intention of killing these kindly Wittelsbachs if it could be avoided. All they asked of them was to keep quiet, and keep quiet they did. After all, they had reigned a thousand years. Perhaps they were tired. Certainly they always looked bored to the verge of dissolution.
The Munich Socialists had taken possession of the Residenz in which to proclaim their victory and the new Republic, and by this time were crowding the Hofgarten and adjoining streets. They were unarmed and many of the women moved constantly among them, ready at a second's notice to dispose summarily of any man who even scowled his antagonism to the downfall of monarchy.
Six hundred women, according to the prearranged program, and under Gisela's direct supervision, were turning such outlying buildings as commanded the highways leading toward the frontiers into fortifications. They had little apprehension that their sons and fathers, their husbands and lovers, would fire on the women to whom they had brought home food from their rations these two years past, or that the General Staff would risk the demolition of the cities of Germany. But they took no chances, knowing that an attempt might be made to rush them. In that case they were determined to remember only that their husbands and sons, fathers and lovers, were bent upon their final subjection. Moreover, the term "brain storm" had long since found its way from the United States to Germany, and the women thought it singularly applicable to their former masters when in a state of baffled rage.
Mariette's communications by wireless were very brief, and on the second day of the revolution Gisela went by special train to Berlin. It was the King's own train, and always ready to start. The engineer and fireman avowed themselves "friends of the revolution," but they performed their duties with two armed women in the cab and fifty more in the car behind the engine.
The cities through which Gisela passed, as well as the small towns and wayside villages, presented a uniform appearance: smoking ruins in the outlying sections which had been devoted to the war factories, and streets deserted save for women sentries. One or two of the smaller towns had burned, owing to lack of fire brigades. The food trains destined for the front, which had been moved out of danger before the general destruction, were being systematically unloaded, and a portion of the contents doled out to thousands of emaciated men, women, and children. The rest would be as methodically returned to the warehouses.
Gisela arrived in Berlin half an hour before the Kaiser.
The city was as dark as interstellar space and she would have been forced to spend the night in the Anhalt Bahnhof if Mariette had not met her. They walked from the station, keeping close to the walls of the silent houses and entering Unter den Linden from the Friedrichstrasse. There was not a sound but the high whirr of airplanes keeping guard over a city that seemed stifled in the embrace of death, its life current switched off by the proudest achievement of its pestilent laboratories.
Mariette did not take the trouble to lower her hard incisive voice as she told her sister the brief story of the revolution in Berlin.
"I left not a loophole for failure. Two minutes before the bells rang every policeman on duty was shot dead from a doorway or window. The police offices and stations were blown up. There is not a policeman alive in Berlin. I also ordered the garrisons blown up. Both the police and the garrisons here were too strong. I dared not risk an encounter. Criticize me if you will. It is done."
"But the Emperor, the General Staff?" Gisela was in no mood to waste a thought upon means, nor even upon accomplished ends. "If they left Pless at once they should have been here before this."
"They did not leave Pless at once. When they began to send out questions by wireless after they found their telephone and telegraph wires cut, they were kept quiet for several hours by soothing messages sent by our women in Breslau and nearer towns. An abortive uprising of a handful of starving Socialists! Even when their fliers went out they could learn nothing because they dared not land even at Breslau; high-firing guns threatened them everywhere. All they could report was that the streets were full of armed women, which, of course, the General Staff took as an unseemly joke. But toward night a soldier who had managed to escape from Breslau came staggering into Great Headquarters with information that penetrated even that composite Prussian skull: the women of Germany had risen en masse and effected a revolution. Of course they refused to believe the worst—that every ounce and inch of war material had been destroyed; and the entire Staff, escorted by a thousand troops—all they had on hand—started for Berlin. They did not omit to wireless in both directions for troops to march on Berlin at once; but, needless to say, these messages were deflected. As the tracks were torn up they were obliged to travel by automobile, and as the bridges over the Kloonitz Canal and the Oder tributaries had been blown up, they were unable to ameliorate what must have been an apoplectic impatience. No doubt a few of them are dead. Of course their progress has been watched and reported every hour, but they have not been molested. We want them here. Only their small air squadron has been shot down."
They felt their way along Unter den Linden by the trees and entered the Opernplatz. Two biplanes awaited them before the arsenal. There were lights in the great pile of the Hohenzollerns across the bridge. Uneasy spirits prowled there, no doubt, but none of the women of the Imperial family had made any attempt to escape, accepting the assurances of the revolutionists that no harm should come to them, and, knowing nothing of the thorough methods taken to reduce the army to impotence, awaited with what patience they could muster—and royal women are the most patient in the world—the invincible troops that must come within a day or two to their rescue.
The two biplanes flew over to the streets east of the Emperor's palace and hovered just above the house tops until the eyes of Gisela and Mariette, now accustomed to a darkness unpierced by moon or stars, made out a long line of moving blackness in the narrow gloom of the Koeniginstrasse. The forward cars entered the palace from the Schlossplatz, and as lights immediately appeared in the courtyards Gisela saw eight or ten men alight stiffly and hurriedly enter the inner portals. The other automobiles ranged themselves in an apparently unbroken line on all sides of the palace. Gisela had amused herself imagining the nervous speculations of those war-hardened potentates and warriors as they crawled through the sinister darkness of the capital—proud witness of a thousand triumphal marches; of the sharp and darting gaze above the guns of the armored cars, expecting an ambush at every corner. How they must hate a situation so utterly without precedent.
Gisela almost laughed aloud as she saw the purple flag, denoting that the Emperor was in residence, run up on the north side of the palace. However, automatic discipline worked both ways.
Once more Berlin was as silent as if at rest for ever under the pall of darkness that seemed to have descended from the dark and threatening sky.
But only for a moment.
Berlin suddenly burst into a blinding glare of light. Unter den Linden from end to end—excepting only the royal palaces—with its long line of imposing public buildings, hotels, and shops, the Kaiser-Franz-Joseph-Platz, the Zeugplatz, the Lustgarten—the Schlossplatz—all the magnificent expanse from the Brandenburg gate to a quarter of a mile beyond the river Spree—had been strung and looped with electric lights, and the scene looked as if touched with a royal fairy's wand. The side streets from the Royal Library and the old Kaiser Wilhelm palace as far as the Schlossbruecke, were also brilliantly illuminated.
And in all these streets and squares women stood in close ranks, silent, phlegmatic women, with pistols in their belts and rifles with fixed bayonets on their shoulders, the steel reflecting the terrific downpour of light with a steady and menacing glitter. These women wore gray uniforms and there were shining Prussian helmets on their heads.
In every window was a double row of women, armed; and the housetops were crowded with them. There were also machine guns on the roofs, pointing downward or toward the roof of the palace.
Mariette laughed. "Theatric enough to please even his taste? Our last tribute. Let us hope he will enjoy it."
A moment later the expected happened. A window of the palace overlooking the great Schlossplatz opened and the Emperor stepped out into the narrow balcony. His uniform was caked with dust and mud and his face was drawn with a mortal fatigue; but as he stood there scowling haughtily down upon that upturned sea of woman's faces, the most singular vision that ever had greeted imperial eyes, he was an imposing figure enough to those who knew that he was the Kaiser Wilhelm II, King of Prussia and Alsace-Lorraine, and Emperor in Germany.
It was evident that he had no intention of speaking, but expected this grotesque mob to be overwhelmed by the imperial presence and dissolve.
Frau Kathie Meyers, with the figure of an Amazon and the voice of a megaphone, stepped forth from the ranks and lifted her placid red face to the balcony.
"You will abdicate, William Hohenzollern," she announced in tones that rolled down toward the Brandenburg gate like the overtones of a Death Symphony at the Front. "Germany is a Republic. And the palace is mined. If your soldiers fire one shot from the windows the palace goes up to meet the ghosts of every arsenal and every ammunition factory in what two days ago was the Empire of Germany. Your armies are helpless. You will remain a prisoner within your palace until we have decided whether to deliver you to Great Britain, incarcerate you in a fortress, or permit you to live in exile. It will depend upon the behavior of the army when it returns. If you attempt to leave the palace you will be shot."
The Emperor stared down upon that mass of calm implacable faces, so unmistakably German; not brilliant nor beautiful, but persistent as death, and stamped with the watermark of kultur; stared for a long moment, his gray face twitching, the familiar gray blaze in his eyes. But he turned without a word or even a disdainful gesture and reentered the palace, the window closing immediately behind him.
The Amazon addressed the men in the armored automobiles that surrounded the palace.
"Fire upon us if you like. Our ranks are close and you will kill many. But not one of you will live to eat rat sausage tomorrow morning. Now disarm and march to the guard house."
The contemptible little army of the Kaiser, hypnotized as much by the glare as by this solid mass of vindictive females—singly so negligible—shrugged their shoulders, surrendered their arms, and marched off under guard. After all, they would have a blessed rest, however brief, before the great generals sent back a few brigades to execute summary vengeance upon these presumptuous women, who had used their incidental superiority in numbers so basely.
But nothing came from the front but frantic orders by wireless to the staunch but impotent pillars of the old regime. The British, French, and American forces, convinced at last that German women actually had effected a revolution—God knew how!—attacked every point of the line from Flanders to Belfort, and their aviators dropped newspapers containing the extraordinary but verified story, into the German trenches and back of the lines.
The destruction of the railways leading to the Austria-Hungarian Empire, as well as all the rolling stock within three miles of the frontier, balked any attempt to rush supplies in from the east, and in two days Austria was in the throes of a revolution far more devastating internally than Germany's, for that excitable and harassed people, long on the verge of despair, merely caught the revolution-microbe and went mad.
To supply either the army opposing Italy or that in Roumania and Gallicia, to say nothing of that in the Northeast, was no longer even considered. The young Emperor sought only to come to an understanding with his people.
It was a matter of days before both ammunition and food would be exhausted on the two fronts, and neither had a superfluous man to send to Berlin, or even to repair the tracks.
By Friday there was no longer any doubt of the complete success of the Revolution. Britain, France, Russia, Italy, the United States, with a prompt and canny statesmanship, remarkable in Governments, had formally acknowledged the German Republic, and offered terms of peace possible for an ambitious and self-respecting but beaten people to accept. At all events there would be no commercial boycott, and the young Republic would be given every assistance in restoring the shattered finances of Germany, and its economic relations with the rest of the world.
The good German people were flattered in phrases that they rolled on their tongues. Even those too schooled in lies to believe the statesmen of their own or any land reflected that, after all, the Enemy Allies had demonstrated they were sportsmen, that German prisoners had been well treated, and that before the war there had been no restrictions upon German commerce save in insidious reiterated words of men determined upon war at any cost. As a matter of fact, Germany had been absorbing the commerce of the world, and Britain had been reprehensibly supine.
As the Socialists now did all the talking, and unhindered, it was not difficult to persuade even the reluctant minority that the military party had precipitated the war in a sudden panic at the rapidly developing power of the proletariat.
Night fliers dropped millions of leaflets in the vicinity of the armies on the Eastern and Western fronts, signed (at the pistol point) by the most powerful names in the former Government, as well as by the well-known Social-Democrat leaders, containing the details of the Revolution and proofs of its success. The Empire had fallen. A Republic, acknowledged by the great powers of the world, was established. Would the soldiers stack their arms and return to their homes? If the generals or under officers attempted to restrain them it was to be remembered that the soldiers were as a hundred thousand to one.
The women felt no real apprehension of an avenging army. They knew the average German male. His innate subserviency to power would turn him automatically about to the party whose power was supreme. And the soldiers hated their officers.
On Friday night Gisela left her apartment in the Koeniginstrasse, where she had slept for a few hours after a visit to the principal cities of the Empire, and walked out to Schwabing, that picturesque "village" that looked like a bit of the Alps transferred to the edge of Munich. She had not forgotten the man she had sacrificed, and at the end of the first day of the Revolution she had learned that his body had been caught under the Schwabing bridge, rescued, and placed temporarily in the vault of the little church.
It was a bright starlight night, and the old white church with its bulbous tower, last outpost of Turkey in her heyday, looked like a lone mourner for the dream of Mittel-Europa. Gisela climbed the mound and entered the quiet enclosure. She had met no one in the peaceful suburb, although she had heard the deep guttural voices of elderly men still lingering at the tables in the beer gardens.
She had sent orders to leave the door of the church unlocked, and she entered the barren room, guiding herself with her electric torch to the stair that led down to the vault. Fear of any sort had long since been crowded out of her, but it was a lonely pilgrimage she hardly would have undertaken ten days ago.
She descended the short flight of steps and flashed her light about the vault. It was a small room, oppressively musty and humid. All Schwabing is damp but the Isar itself might have washed the walls of this dripping sepulcher. The coffin stood on a rough trestle in the center of the chamber, and it was covered with the military cloak that, with his sword and helmet, she had ordered sent from his hotel.
She stood beside the coffin, trying to visualize the man who lay within, wondering if the orders still bulged above the hilt of the dagger she had driven in with so firm a hand ... or if they had taken the time to remove it ... or if that symbol of Germany's freedom would be found ages hence in a handful of dust when the man who had taught her all she would ever know of love or living was long forgotten....
But in a moment these vagrant fancies, drifting from a tired brain, took flight, her reluctant mind focused itself, and she knelt beside the bier, pressing the folds of the cloak about her face and weeping heavily.
It was her final tribute to her womanhood. That she had rescued her country and incidentally the world, making democracy and liberty safe for the first time in its history, mattered nothing to her then. Nor her immortal fame.
To regret was impossible. Strong souls are inaccessible to regret. But she hated life and her bitter destiny, for she had sacrificed the life that gave meaning to her own, and she wished that the implacable Powers that rule the destinies of individuals and nations had foreborne their accustomed irony and presented her gifts to some woman mercifully lacking her own terrible power to love and suffer—and the imagination which would keep for ever vivid in her mind the poignant happiness that had been hers and that she had immolated on the cold altar of duty. She was still young, and her sole hope, glimmering at the end of an interminable perspective, was that it would be her privilege to lie at last in the grave with this man; who had been her other part and whose heart and hers she had slain.
THE WOMEN OF GERMANY
An Argument for my "The White Morning"
From The Bookman, February, 1918, by courtesy of Dodd, Mead & Co.
THE WOMEN OF GERMANY
An Argument for my "The White Morning"
I have been asked by the Editor of The Bookman to state my authority for writing The White Morning; in other words for daring to believe that a revolution conceived and engineered by women is possible in Germany.
Before giving my own reasons, stripped of what glamor of fiction I have been able to surround the story with, I should like to say that when I began to put the idea into form I thought it was entirely my own. But while it is always pleasant to offer this sort of incense to one's vanity, I should have been more than glad to quote to my editor and publisher some reliable male authority; a man's opinion, on all momentous subjects, by force of tradition, far outweighing any theory or guess that a woman, no matter what her intimate personal experience, may advance.
Imagine then my delight, when the story was half finished, to read an article by A. Curtis Roth, in the Saturday Evening Post, in which he stated unequivocally that it was among the possibilities that the women of Germany, driven to desperation by suffering and privation, and disillusion, would arise suddenly and overturn the dynasty. Mr. Roth, who was American vice-consul at Plauen, Saxony, until we entered the war, has written some of the most enlightening and brilliant articles that have appeared on the internal conditions of any of the belligerent countries since August, 1914. He remained at his post until the last moment and then left Germany a physical wreck from malnutrition. In spite of the fact that he was an officer in the consular service of a neutral country, with ample means at his command, and standing in close personal relations with the authorities, he could not get enough to eat; and what he was forced to swallow—lest he starve—completely broke down his digestion.
On the other hand, he never ceased to observe; and having made friends of all classes of Germans, and been given facilities for observation and study of conditions enjoyed by few Americans in the Teutonic Empire at the time, he noted every phase and change, both subtle and manifest, through which these afflicted people passed during the first three years of the war. They are in far worse case now.
Later (in November) I read an article by a German, J. Koettgen, in the New York Chronicle, which was even more explicit.
Herr Koettgen is one of the agents in this country of Hermann Fernau, an eminent intellectual of Germany, who escaped into Switzerland, and wages relentless war upon the dynasty and the military caste of Prussia; which he holds categorically responsible for the world war. There is a price on Fernau's head. He dares not walk abroad without a bodyguard, and cannon are concealed among the oleanders that surround his house. Not only has he written two books, Because I am a German, and The Coming Democracy, which if circulated in Germany would prick thousands of dazed despairing brains into immediate rebellion, but he is the head of those German Radical Democrats which have united in an organization called "Friends of German Democracy."
Their avowed object, through the medium of a bi-weekly journal, Die Freie Zeitung, and other propaganda, is to plant sound democratic ideas and ideals in the minds of German prisoners in the Entente countries, and to recruit the saner exiles everywhere. These publications reach men and women of German blood whose grandfathers fled from military tyranny after their abortive revolution in 1848, and, with their descendants, have enjoyed freedom and independence in the United States ever since. The best of them are expected to exert pressure upon their friends and relatives in Germany. There are already branches of this epochal organization in the larger American cities.
Herr Koettgen (who has written a book called The Hausfrau and Democracy, by the way) walked into the office of the Chronicle some time in November and presented a letter to the editor, Mr. Fletcher. In the course of the heated conversation that ensued, Herr Koettgen exclaimed with bitter scorn: "Oh, so you think yourself as fiercely anti-German as a man may be? Well, let me tell you that you are not capable of one-tenth the passionate hatred I feel for a dynasty and a caste that has made me so ashamed of being a German that I could eat the dust."
In Herr Koettgen's article occur the following paragraphs: "At the first glance German women hardly appear likely material for the coming Revolution which will turn Germany into a modern country. But many incidents point to the fact that German women are growing with their increasing task. They are beginning to replace their men not only economically but politically. Most of the public demonstrations in Germany during this war have been led and arranged by women. The very first demonstration in 1915 consisted of women. As Mr. Gerard tells us in his book, they had no very definite idea of what they wanted; only they wanted their men back. But since that time their political education has made rapid progress.... With their men in the field and their former leaders (Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, Louise Zietz) in prison, German women are learning to act for themselves. Their demonstrations point to it, as do also letters written by German women to their men who are now prisoners of war in France and England. In one of these letters which escaped the watchful eye of the censor, a German hausfrau described how she made the officials of Muenster sit up by her energetic and persistent demands."
A girl upon one occasion said to Herr Koettgen: "Only women and children were employed in our factory. We had more than one strike. Two women would go round to every woman and girl in the shop and tell them: 'We have asked for twenty or thirty pfennings more. To-morrow we are going on strike. She who does not come out will have the thrashing of her life.' We were all frightened and stayed away, for they really meant it."
Herr Koettgen continues: "Novel circumstances are reawakening in the meek German hausfrau some of that combative spirit which characterized the Teuton women in the time of Tacitus, when they often fought alongside of their men in the wagon camp.... German women will show their men the way to freedom. Doing more than their share of the nation's work, they insist upon being heard, and their growing influence is one of the greatest dangers to German autocracy in its present predicament. As politicians German women have the advantage of not having gone through the soul-destroying, brutalizing school of Prussian militarism, and of not being burdened with the rigmarole of theory which formed the content of German politics before the war. They can be trusted to make a bee-line for the real obstacle to peace and liberty—to eradicate the autocratic militaristic regime which enslaved the German people in order to enslave the world."
Now that the way has been cleared by two men of affairs who have never condescended to write fiction, I will give my own reasons for belief in the German women, and also for the general plan of The White Morning.