City of Endless Night
Part 2 out of 5
Beyond the noise of the childish whirligigs I came into a space where
the white ceiling lights were dimmed by crimson globes and picture
screens were in operation. It did not take long for me to grasp the
essential difference between these pictured stories and those I had seen
in the workmen's level. There love of woman was entirely absent from the
screen. Here it was the sole substance of the pictures. But unlike the
love romances of the outer world, there were no engagement rings, no
wedding bells, and never once did the face or form of a child appear.
In seating myself to see the pictures I had carefully chosen a place
where there was only room for myself between a man and one of the
supporting columns. At an interlude the man arose to go. The girl who
had been with him arose also, but he pushed her back upon the bench,
saying that he had other engagements, and did not wish her company. The
moment he was gone the girl moved over and proceeded to crowd
caressingly against my shoulder. She was a huge girl, obviously of the
labour strain. She leaned over me as if I had been a lonely child and
she a lonelier woman. Crowded against the pillar I could not escape and
so tried to appear unconcerned.
"Did you like that story?" I asked, referring to the picture that had
"No," she replied, "the girl was too timid. She could never have won a
roof guard captain in that fashion. They are very difficult men, those
roof guard officers."
"And what kind of pictures do you prefer?" I asked.
"Quartettes," she answered promptly. "Two men and two girls when both
girls want the other man, and both men want the girl they have. That
makes a jolly plot. Or else the ones where there are two perfect lovers
and the man is elected to paternity and leaves her. I had a man like
that once and it makes me sad to see such a picture."
"Perhaps," I said, speaking in a timorous voice, "you wanted to go with
him and be the mother of his children?"
She turned her face toward me in the dim light. "He talked like that,"
she said, "and then, I hated him. I knew then that he wanted to go and
leave me. That he hadn't tried to avoid the paternity draft. Yes, he
wanted to sire children. And he knew that he would have to leave me. And
so I hated him for ever loving me."
A strange thrill crept over me at the girl's words. I tried to fathom
her nature, to separate the tangle of reality from the artificial ideas
ingrained by deliberate mis-education. "Did you ever see children? Here,
I mean. Pictures of them, perhaps, on the screen?"
"Never," said the girl, drawing away from me and straightening up till
my head scarce reached her shoulder. "And I never want to. I hate the
thought of them. I wish I never had been one. Why can't
I did not answer, and the labour girl, who, for some technical flaw in
her physique had been rejected for motherhood, arose and walked
After this baffling revelation of the struggle of human souls caught in
the maw of machine-made science, I found the picture screen a dull dead
thing, and I left the hall and wandered for miles, it seemed, past
endless confusion of meaningless revelry. Everywhere was music and
gaming and laughter. Men and girls lounged and danced, or spun the
wheels of fortune or sat at tables drinking from massive steins, a
highly flavoured variety of rather ineffectual synthetic beer. Older
women served and waited on the men and girls, and for every man was at
least one girl and sometimes as many as could crowd about him. And so
they sang, and banged their mugs and sloshed their frothy beverage.
A lonely stranger amidst the jostling throngs, I wandered on through the
carnival of Berlin's Level of Free Women. Despite my longing for human
companionship I found it difficult to join in this strange recrudescent
paganism with any ease or grace.
Girls, alone or in groups, fluttered about me with many a covert or open
invitation to join in their merry-making, but something in my halting
manner and constrained speech seemed to repulse them, for they would
soon turn away as if condemning me as a man without appreciation of the
value of human enjoyment.
My constraint and embarrassment were increased by a certain sense of
guilt, a feeling which no one in this vast throng, either man or woman,
seemed to share. The place had its own standard of ethics, and they were
shocking enough to a man nurtured in a human society founded on the
sanctification of monogamous marriage. But merely to condemn this
recreational life of Germany, by likening it to the licentious freedom
that exists in occasional unrestrained amusement places in the outer
world, would be to give a very incorrect interpretation of Berlin's
Level of Free Women. As we know such places elsewhere in the world there
is always about them some tacit confession of moral delinquency, some
pretence of apology on the part of the participants. The women who so
revel in the outer world consider themselves under a ban of social
disapproval, while the men are either of a type who have no sense of
moral restraint or men who have for the time abandoned it.
But for this life in Berlin no guilt was felt, no apology offered. The
men considered it as quite a normal and proper part of their life, while
the women looked upon it as their whole life, to which they had been
trained and educated and set apart by the Government; they accepted the
rôle quite as did the scientist, labourer, soldier, or professional
mother. The state had decreed it to be. They did not question its
morality. Hence the life here was licentious and yet unashamed, much, as
I fancy was the life in the groves of Athens or the baths of
I AM DRAFTED FOR PATERNITY AND MAKE EXTRAORDINARY
PETITION TO THE CHIEF OF THE EUGENIC STAFF
My research was progressing nicely and I had discovered that in this
field of chemistry also my knowledge of the outer world would give me
tremendous advantages over all competitors. Eagerly I worked at the
laboratory, spending most of my evenings in study. Occasionally I
attended the educational pictures or dined on the Level of Free Women
with my chemical associates and spent an hour or so at dancing or at
cards. My life had settled into routine unbroken by adventure. Then I
received a notice to report for the annual examination at the Physical
Efficiency Laboratory. I went with some misgivings, but the ordeal
proved uneventful. A week later I received a most disturbing
communication, a bulky and official looking packet bearing the imprint
of the Eugenic Office. I nervously slit the envelope and drew forth
"You are hereby notified that you have reached a stage of advancement in
your professional work that marks you a man of superior gifts, and,
having been reported as physically perfect you are hereby honoured with
the high privilege and sacred duties of election to paternity. Full
instructions for your conduct in this duty to the State will be found in
the enclosed folder."
In nervous haste I scanned the printed folder:
"Your first duty will be to visit the boys' school for which passport is
here enclosed. The purpose of this is to awaken the paternal instincts
that you may better appreciate and feel the holy obligation and
privilege conferred upon you. You will also find enclosed cards of
introduction to three women whom the Eugenic Office finds to be fitted
as mothers of your children. That natural selection may have a limited
play you are permitted to select only one woman from each three
assigned. Such selection must be made and reported within thirty days,
after which a second trio will be assigned you. Until such final
selection has been recorded you are expressly forbidden to conduct
yourself toward these women in an amorous manner."
Next followed a set of exacting rules for the proper deportment, in the
carrying out of these duties to which the State had assigned me.
A crushing sense of revulsion, a feeling of loathing and uncleanliness
overwhelmed me as I pushed aside the papers. Coming from a world where
the right of the individual to freedom and privacy in the matrimonial
and paternal relations was recognized as a fundamental right of man, I
found this officious communication, with its detailed instruction,
appalling and revolting.
A man cravenly clings to life and yet there are instincts in his soul
which will cause him to sell life defiantly for a mere conception of a
moral principle. To become by official mandate a father of a numerous
German progeny was a thing to which I could not and would not submit.
Many times that day as I automatically pursued my work, I resolved to go
to some one in authority and give myself up to be sent to the mines as a
prisoner of war, or more likely to be executed as a spy. Cold reason
showed me the futility of neglecting or attempting to avoid an assigned
duty. It was a military civilization and I had already seen enough of
this ordered life of Berlin to know that there was no middle ground of
choice between explicit obedience and open rebellion. Nor need I concern
myself with what punishment might be provided for this particular
disobedience for I saw that rebellion for me would mean an investigation
that would result in complete tearing away of the protecting mask of my
But after my first tumultuous feeling subsided I realized that something
more than my own life was at stake. Already possessed of much intimate
knowledge of the life within Berlin I believed that I was in a way to
come into possession of secrets of vast and vital importance to the
world. To gain these secrets, to escape from the walls of Berlin, was a
more than personal ambition; it was an ambition for mankind.
After a day or two of deliberation I therefore decided against any rash
rebellion. Moreover, as nothing compromising was immediately required of
me, I detached and mailed the four coupons provided, having duly filled
in the time at which I should make the preliminary calls.
On the day and hour appointed I presented the school card to the
elevator operator, who punched it after the manner of his kind, and duly
deposited me on the level of schools for boys of the professional
groups. A lad of about sixteen met me at the elevator and conducted me
to the school designated.
The master greeted me with obsequious gravity, and waved me to the
visitor's seat on a raised platform. "You will be asked to speak," he
said, "and I beg that you will tell the boys of the wonderful chemical
discoveries that won you the honours of election to paternity."
"But," I protested, as I glanced at the boys who were being put through
their morning drill in the gymnasium, "I fear the boys of such age will
not comprehend the nature of my work."
"Certainly not," he replied, "and I would rather you did not try to
simplify it for their undeveloped minds, merely speak learnedly of your
work as if you were addressing a body of your colleagues. The less the
boys understand of it the more they will be impressed with its
importance, and the more ambitious they will be to become great
This strange philosophy of education annoyed me, but I did not have time
to argue further for the bell had rung and the boys were filing in with
strict military precision. There were about fifty of them, all in their
twelfth year, and of remarkable uniformity in size and development. The
blanched skin, which marked the adult faces of Berlin, was, in the pasty
countenance of those German boys, a more horrifying spectacle. Yet they
stood erect and, despite their lack of colour, were evidently a well
nourished, well exercised group of youngsters.
As the last boy reached his place the master motioned with his hand and
fifty arms moved in unison in a mechanical salute.
"We have with us this morning," said the master, "a chemist who has won
the honours of paternity with his original thought. He will tell you
about his work which you cannot understand--you should therefore listen
After a few more sentences of these paradoxical axioms on education, the
master nodded, and, as I had been instructed, I proceeded to talk of the
chemical lore of poison gases.
"And now," said the master, when I resumed my seat, "we will have a
review lesson. You will first recite in unison the creed of your caste."
"We are youth of the super-race," began the boys in a sing-song and well
timed chorus. "We belong to the chemical group of the intellectual
levels, being born of sires who were great chemists, born of great
chemists for many generations. It is our duty to learn while we are yet
young all that we may ever need to know, to keep our minds free from
forbidden knowledge and to resist the temptation to think on unnecessary
things. So we may be good Germans, loyal to the House of Hohenzollern
and to the worship of the old German God and the divine blood of William
The schoolmaster, who had nodded his head in unison with the rhythm of
the recitation, now smiled in satisfaction. "That was very good," he
said. "I did not hear one faltering voice. Now you may recite
individually in your alphabetical order.
"Anton, you may describe the stages in the evolution of the super-man."
Anton, a flaxen-haired youngster, arose, saluted like a wooden soldier,
and intoned the following monologue:
"Man is an animal in the process of evolving into a god. The method of
this evolution is a struggle in which the weak perish and the strong
survive. First in this process of man's evolution came the savage, who
lived with the lions and the apes. In the second stage came the dark
races who built the so-called ancient civilizations, and fought among
themselves to possess private property and women and children. Third
came the barbarian Blond Brutes, who were destined to sire the
super-race, but the day had not yet come, and they mixed with the dark
races and produced the mongrel peoples, which make the fourth. The fifth
stage is the pure bred Blond Brutes, uncontaminated by inferior races,
which are the men, who under God's direction, built the Armoured City of
Berlin in which to breed the Supermen who are to conquer the mongrel
peoples. The sixth, last and culminating stage of the evolution of man
is the Divinity in human form which is our noble House of Hohenzollern,
descended physically from William the Great, and spiritually from the
soul of God Himself, whose statue stands with that of the Mighty William
at the portals of the Emperor's palace."
It had been a noble effort for so young a memory and as the proud master
looked at me expectantly I could do nothing less than nod my
The master now gave Bruno the following cue:
"Name the four kinds of government and explain each."
From the sad-eyed youth of twelve came this flow of wisdom:
"The first form of government is monarchy, in which the people are ruled
by a man who calls himself a king but who has no divine authority so
that the people sometimes failed to respect him and made revolutions and
tried to govern themselves. The second form of government is a republic,
sometimes called a democracy. It is usually co-existent with the lawyer,
the priest, the family and the greed for gold. But in reality this
government is by the rich men, who let the poor men vote and think they
have a share in the government, thus to keep them contented with their
poverty. The third form of government is proletariat socialism in which
the people, having abolished kings and rich men, attempt to govern
themselves; but this they cannot do for the same reason that a man
cannot lift himself by his shoestraps--"
At this point Bruno faltered and his face went chalky white. The teacher
being directly in front of the standing pupil did not see what had
happened, while I, with fleeting memory of my own school days,
suppressed my mirth behind a formal countenance, as the stoic Bruno
resumed his seat.
The master marked zero on the roll and called upon Conrad, next in line,
to finish the recitation.
"The fourth and last form of government," recited Conrad, "is autocratic
socialism, the perfect government that we Germans have evolved from
proletariat socialism which had destroyed the greed for private property
and private family life, so that the people ceased to struggle
individually and were ready to accept the Royal House, divinely
appointed by God to govern them perfectly and prepare them to make war
for the conquest of the world."
The recitations now turned to repetitions of the pedigree and ranking of
the various branches of the Royal House. But it was a mere list of names
like the begats of Genesis and I was not able to profit much by this
opportunity to improve my own neglected education. As the morning wore
on the parrot-like monologues shifted to elementary chemistry.
The master had gone entirely through the alphabet of names and now
called again the apt Anton for a more brilliant demonstration of his
system of teaching. "Since we have with us a chemist who has achieved
powers of original thought, I will permit you, Anton, to demonstrate
that even at the tender age of twelve you are capable of
Anton rose gravely and stood at attention. "And what shall I think
about?" he asked.
"About anything you like," responded the liberal minded schoolmaster,
"provided it is limited to your permitted field of psychic activity."
Anton tilted back his head and gazed raptly at a portrait of the Mighty
William. "I think," he said, "that the water molecule is made of two
atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen."
A number of the boys shook their heads in disapproval, evidently
recognizing the thought as not being original, but the teacher waited in
respectful silence for the founts of originality to burst forth in
"And I think," continued Anton, "that if the water molecule were made of
four atoms of nitrogen and one of oxygen, it would be a great economy,
for after we had bathed in the water we could evaporate it and make air
and breath it, and after we had breathed it we could condense it again
and use it to drink--"
"But that would be unsanitary," piped a voice from the back of the room.
To this interruption Anton, without taking his gaze from the face of
William, replied, "Of course it would if we didn't sterilize it, but I
was coming to that. We would sterilize it each time."
The master now designated two boys to take to the guardhouse of the
school the lad who had spoken without permission. He then produced a red
cardboard cross adorned with the imperial eagle and crossed test-tubes
of the chemists' insignia and I was honoured by being asked to decorate
Anton for his brilliant exploit in original thought.
"Our intellectual work of the day is over," resumed the master, "but in
honour of our guest we will have, a day in advance, our weekly exercises
in emotion. Heinrich, you may recite for us the category of emotions."
"The permitted emotions," said Heinrich, "are: First, anger, which we
should feel when a weak enemy offends us. Second, hate, which is a
higher form of anger, which we should feel when a powerful enemy offends
us. Third, sadness, which we should feel when we suffer. Fourth, mirth,
which we should feel when our enemy suffers. Fifth, courage, which we
feel at all times because we believe in our strength. Sixth, humility,
which we should feel only before our superiors. Seventh, and greatest,
is pride, which we should feel at all times because we are Germans.
"The forbidden emotions are very numerous. The chief ones which we must
guard against are: First, pity, which is a sadness when our enemy
suffers; to feel this is exceedingly wicked. Second, envy, which is a
feeling that some one else is better than we are, which we must not feel
at all because it is destructive of pride. Third, fear, which is a lack
of courage. Fourth, love, which is a confession of weakness, and is
permissible only to women and dogs."
"Very good," said the master, "I will now grant you permission to feel
some of the permitted emotions. We will first conduct a chemical
experiment. I have in this bottle a dangerous explosive and as I
drop in this pellet it may explode and kill us all, but you must
show courage and not fear." He held the pellet above the mouth of
the bottle, but his eyes were on his pupils. As he dropped the
pellet into the bottle, he knocked over with his foot a slab
of concrete, which fell to the floor with a resounding crash. A
few of the boys jumped in their seats, and the master gravely marked
them as deficient in courage.
"You now imagine that you are adult chemists and that the enemy has
produced a new form of gas bomb, a gas against which we have no
protection. They are dropping the gas bombs into our ventilating shafts
and are killing our soldiers in the mines. You hate the enemy--hate
hard--make your faces black with hate and rage. Adolph, you are
expressing mere anger. There, that is better. You never can be a good
German until you learn to hate.
"And now we will have a permitted emotion that you all enjoy; the
privilege to feel mirth is a thing for which you should be grateful.
"An enemy came flying over Berlin--and this is a true story. I can
remember when it happened. The roof guard shot at him and winged his
plane, and he came down in his parachute, which missed the roof of the
city and fell to the earth outside the walls but within the first ring
of the ray defences. He knew that he could not pass beyond this and he
wandered about for many days within range of the glasses of the roof
guards. When he was nearly starved he came near the wall and waved his
white kerchief, which meant he wished to surrender and be taken into
At this point one of the boys tittered, and the master stopped his story
long enough to mark a credit for this first laugh.
"As the enemy aviator continued to walk about waving his cowardly flag
another enemy plane saw him and let down a line, but the roof guards
shelled and destroyed the plane. Then other planes came and attempted to
pick up the man with lines. In all seven planes were destroyed in
attempting to rescue one man. It was very foolish and very comical. At
last the eighth plane came and succeeded in reaching the man a line
without being winged. The roof batteries shot at the plane in vain--then
the roof gunners became filled with good German hate, and one of them
aimed, not at the plane, but at the man swinging on the unstable wire
line two thousand metres beneath. The shell exploded so near that the
man disappeared as by magic, and the plane flew off with the empty
As the story was finished the boys who had listened with varying degrees
of mechanical smiles now broke out into a chorus of raucous laughter. It
was a forced unnatural laughter such as one hears from a bad actor
attempting to express mirth he does not feel.
When the boys had ceased their crude guffaws the master asked, "Why did
"Because," answered Conrad, "the enemy were so stupid as to waste seven
planes trying to save one man."
"That is fine," said the master; "we should always laugh when our enemy
is stupid, because then he suffers without knowing why he suffers. If
the enemy were not stupid they would cease fighting and permit us to
rule them and breed the stupidity out of them, as it has been bred out
of the Germans by our good old God and the divine mind of the House of
The boys were now dismissed for a recess and went into the gymnasium to
play leap frog. But the sad-eyed Bruno promptly returned and saluted.
"You may speak," said the master.
"I wish, Herr Teacher," said Bruno, "to petition you for permission to
fight with Conrad."
"But you must not begin a fight," admonished the master, "unless you can
attach to your opponent the odium of causing the strife."
"But he did cause the odium," said Bruno; "he stuck it into my leg with
a pin while I was reciting. The Herr Father saw him do it, "--and the
boy turned his eyes towards me in sad and serious appeal.
The schoolmaster glanced at me inquiringly and I corroborated the lad's
"Then," said the master, "you have a _casus belli_ that is actually
true, and if you can make Conrad admit his guilt I will exchange your
mark for his."
Bruno saluted again and started to leave. Then he turned back and said,
"But Conrad is two kilograms heavier than I am, and he may not
"Then," said the teacher, "you must know that I cannot exchange the
marks, for victory in a fight compensates for the fault that caused it.
But if you wish I will change the marks now, but then you cannot fight."
"But I wish to fight," said Bruno, "and so does Conrad. We arranged it
before recitation that he was to stick me with the pin."
"Such diplomacy!" exulted the master when the lad had gone, "and to
think that they can only be chemists!"
As the evening hour drew near which I had set for my call on the first
of the potential mothers assigned me by the Eugenic Staff, I re-read the
rules for my conduct:
"On the occasion of this visit you must wear a full dress uniform,
including all orders, decorations and badges of rank and service to
which you are entitled. This is very important and you should call
attention thereto and explain the full dignity and importance of your
rank and decorations.
"When you call you will first present the card of authorization. You
will then present your identification folder and extol the worth and
character of your pedigree.
"Then you will ask to see the pedigree of the woman, and will not fail
to comment favourably thereon. If she be already a mother you will
inquire in regard to her children. If she be not a mother, you will
supplicate her to speak of her potential children. You will extol the
virtue of her offspring--or her visions thereof,--and will not fail to
speak favourably of their promise of becoming great chemists whose
service will redound to the honour of the German race and the
"After the above mentioned matters have been properly spoken of, you may
compliment the mother upon her own intelligence and fitness as a mother
of scientists. But you will refrain from all reference to her beauty of
person, lest her thoughts be diverted from her higher purpose to matters
of personal amours.
"You will not prolong your call beyond the hours consistent with dignity
and propriety, nor permit the mother to perceive your disposition
Surely nothing in such formal procedure could be incompatible with my
own ideals of propriety. Taking with me my card of authorization bearing
the name "Frau Karoline, daughter of Ernest Pfeiffer, Director of the
Perfume Works," I now ventured to the Level of Maternity.
Countless women passed me as I walked along. They were erect of form and
plain of feature, with expressions devoid of either intelligence or
passion. Garbed in formless robes of sombre grey, like saints
of song and story, they went their way with solemn resignation. Some of
them led small children by the hand; others pushed perambulators
containing white robed infants being taken to or from the nurseries for
their scheduled stays in the mothers' individual apartments.
The actions of the mothers were as methodical as well trained nurses. In
their faces was the cold, pallid light of the mother love of the
madonnas of art, uncontaminated by the fretful excitement of the mother
love in a freer and more uncertain world.
Even the children seemed wooden cherubim. They were physically healthy
beyond all blemish, but they cooed and smiled in a subdued manner.
Already the ever present "_verboten_" of an ordered life seemed to have
crept into the small souls and repressed the instincts of anarchy and
the aspirations of individualism. As I walked among these madonnas of
science and their angelic offspring, I felt as I imagined a man of
earthly passions would feel if suddenly loosed in a mediaeval and
orthodox heaven; for everything about me breathed peace, goodness,
At the door of her apartment Frau Karoline greeted me with formal
gravity. She was a young woman of twenty years, with a high forehead and
piercing eyes. Her face was mobile but her manner possessed the dignity
of the matron assured of her importance in the world. Her only child was
at the nursery at the time, in accordance with the rules of the level
that forbids a man to see his step-children. But a large photograph,
aided by Frau Karoline's fulsome description and eulogies, gave me a
very clear picture of the high order of the young chemist's intelligence
though that worthy had but recently passed his first birthday.
The necessary matters of the inspection of pedigrees and the signing of
my card of authorization had been conducted by the young mother with the
cool self-possession of a well disciplined school-mistress. Her attitude
and manner revealed the thoroughness of her education and training for
her duties and functions in life. And yet, though she relieved me so
skilfully of what I feared would be an embarrassing situation, I
conceived an intense dislike for this most exemplary young mother, for
she made me feel that a man was a most useless and insignificant
creature to be tolerated as a necessary evil in this maternal world.
"Surely," said Frau Karoline, as I returned her pedigree, "you could not
do better for your first born child than to honour me with his
motherhood. Not only is my pedigree of the purest of chemical lines,
reaching back to the establishment of the eugenic control, but I myself
have taken the highest honours in the training for motherhood."
"Yes," I acknowledged, "you seem very well trained."
"I am particularly well versed," she continued, "in maternal psychology;
and I have successfully cultivated calmness. In the final tests before
my confirmation for maternity I was found to be entirely free from
erotic and sentimental emotions."
"But," I ventured, "is not maternal love a sentimental emotion?"
"By no means," replied Frau Karoline. "Maternal love of the highest
order, such as I possess, is purely intellectual; it recognizes only the
passions for the greatness of race and the glory of the Royal House.
Such love must be born of the intellect; that is why we women of the
scientific group are the best of all mothers. Thus, were I not wholly
free from weak sentimentality, I might desire that my second child be
sired by the father of my first, but the Eugenic Office has determined
that I would bear a stronger child from a younger father, therefore I
acquiesced to their change of assignment without emotion, as becomes a
proper mother of our well bred race. My first child is extremely
intellectual but he is not quite perfect physically, and a mother such
as I should bear only perfect children. That alone is the supreme purpose
of motherhood. Do you not see that I am fitted for perfect motherhood?"
"Yes," I replied, as I recalled that my instructions were to pay
compliments, "you seem to be a perfect mother."
But the cold and logical perfection of Frau Karoline dampened my
curiosity and oppressed my spirit of adventure, and I closed the
interview with all possible speed and fled headlong to the nearest
elevator that would carry me from the level.
In my first experience I had suffered nothing worse than an embarrassing
half hour, so, with more confidence I pressed the bell the second
evening, at the apartment of Frau Augusta, daughter of Gustave Schnorr,
Authority on Synthetic Nicotine.
Frau Augusta was a woman of thirty-five. She was well-preserved, more
handsome and less coldly inhuman than the younger woman.
"We will get the formalities over since you have been told they are
necessary," said Frau Augusta, as she reached for my card and folder
and, at the same time, handing me her own pedigree.
Peering over the top of the chart that recorded the antecedents of
Gustave Schnorr, I saw his daughter going through my own folder with the
business-like dispatch of a society dowager examining the "character" of
a new housemaid.
"Ah, yes," she said, raising her brows. "I thought I knew the family.
Your Uncle Otto was my second mate. He is the father of my third son and
my twin girls. I have no more promising children. Have you ever met him?
He is in the aluminum tempering laboratories."
I could only stare stupidly, struck dumb with embarrassment.
"No, I suppose not," went on Frau Augusta, "it is hardly to be expected
since you have upwards of a hundred uncles." She arose and, going toward
a shelf where half a dozen pictures of half a dozen men reposed in an
orderly row, took the second one of the group and handed it to me.
"He is a fine man," she said, with a very full degree of pride for a
past and partial possession. "I fear the Staff erred in transferring
him, but then of course the twin girls were most unexpected and
unfortunate since the Armstadt line is supposed to sire seventy-five per
cent, male offspring.
"What do you think? Isn't the Eugenic Office a little unfair at times?
My fifth man thought so. He said it was a case of politics. I don't
know. I thought politics was something ancient that they had in old
books like churches and families."
"I am sure I do not know," I murmured, as I fumbled the portrait of my
"Of course," continued the voluble Fran Augusta, "you must not think I
am criticizing the authorities. It is all very necessary. And for the
most part I think they have done very well by me. My ten children have
six fathers. All of them but the first were men of most gracious manner
and superior intelligence. The first one had his paternity right
revoked, so I feel satisfied on that score, even if his son is not
gifted--and yet the boy has beautiful hair--I think he would make an
excellent violinist. But then perhaps he wouldn't have been able to
play, so maybe it is all right, though I would think music would be more
easily learned than chemistry. But then since I cannot read either I
ought not to judge. I will show you his picture. I may as well show you
all their pictures. I don't see why you elected fathers should not see
our children--but then I suppose it might produce quarrels. Some women
are so foolish and insist on talking about the children they have
already borne in a way that makes a man feel that his own children could
never come up to them. Now I never do that. Why should one? The future
is always more interesting than the past. I haven't a single child that
has not won the porcelain cross for obedience. Even my youngest--he is
only fourteen months--obeys as if he were a full grown man. Some say
mental and physical excellence are not correlated--but that is a
prejudice because of those great labour beasts. There isn't one of my
children that has fallen below the minimum growth standards, except my
third daughter, and her father was undersized, so it is no fault
As the loquacious mother chattered on, she produced an album, through
which I now turned, inspecting the annual photographs of her blond
brood, each of which was labelled with the statistics of physical growth
and the tests of psychic development.
Strive as I might I could think of no comments to make, but the mother
came to the rescue. Unfastening the binding of the loose leaf album she
hastily shuffled the sheets and brought into an orderly array on the
table before me ten photographs all taken at the age of one year. "That
is the only fair way to view them," she said, "for of course one cannot
compare the picture of a boy of fifteen with an infant of one year. But
at an equal age the comparison is fair to all and now you can surely
tell me which is the most intelligent."
I gazed hopelessly at the infantile portraits which, despite their
varied paternity, looked as alike as a row of peas in a pod.
"Oh, well," said Frau Augusta, "after all is it fair to ask you, since
the twins are your cousins?"
Desperately I wondered which were the twins.
"They resemble you quite remarkably, don't you think so? Except that
your hair is quite dark for an Armstadt." Frau Augusta turned and
glanced furtively at my identification folder. "Of course! your mother.
I had almost forgotten who your mother was, but now I remember, she had
most remarkably dark hair. It will probably prove a dominant
characteristic and your children will also be dark haired. Now I should
like that by way of a change."
I became alarmed at this turn of the conversation toward the more
specific function of my visit, and resolved to make my exit with all
possible speed "consistent with dignity and propriety."
Meanwhile, as she reassembled the scattered sheets of the portrait
album, the official mother chattered on concerning her children's
attributes, while I shifted uneasily in my chair and looked about the
room for my hat--forgetting in my embarrassment that I was dwelling in a
sunless, rainless city and possessed no hat.
At last there was a lull in the monologue and I arose and said I must be
Frau Augusta looked pained and I recalled that I had not yet
complimented her upon her intelligence and fitness to be the mother of
coming generations of chemical scientists, but I stubbornly resolved not
to resume my seat.
"You are young," said Frau Augusta, who had risen and shifted her
position till she stood between me and the door. "Surely you have not
yet made many calls on the maternity level." Then she sighed, "I do not
see why they assign a man only three names to select from. Surely they
could be more liberal." She paused and her face hardened. "And to think
that you men are permitted to call as often as you like upon those
degenerate hussies who have been forbidden the sacred duties of
motherhood. It is a very wicked institution, that level of lust--some
day we women--we mothers of Berlin--will rise in our wrath and see that
they are banished to the mines, for they produce nothing but sin and
misery in this man-made world."
"Yes," I said, "the system is very wrong, but--"
"But the authorities, you need not say it, I have heard it all before,
the authorities, always the authorities. Why should men always be the
authorities? Why do we mothers of Berlin have no rights? Why are we not
consulted in these matters? Why must we always submit?"
Then suddenly, and very much to my surprise, she placed her hands upon
my shoulders and said hoarsely: "Tell me about the Free Level. Are the
women there more beautiful than I?"
"No," I said, "very few of them are beautiful, and those of the labour
groups are most gross and stupid."
"Then why," wailed Frau Augusta, "was I not allowed to go? Why was I
penned up here and made to bear children when others revel in the
delights of love and song and laughter?"
"But," I said, shocked at this unexpected revelation of character,
"yours is the more honourable, more virtuous life. You were chosen for
motherhood because you are a woman of superior intelligence."
"It's a lie," cried Frau Augusta. "I have no intelligence. I want none.
But I am as beautiful as they. But no, they would not let me go. They
penned me up here with these saintly mothers and these angelic children.
Children, children everywhere, millions and millions of them, and not a
man but doctors, and you elected fathers who are sent here to bring us
pain and sorrow. You say nothing of love--your eyes are cold. The last
one said he loved me--the brute! He came but thrice, when my child was
born he sent me a flower. But that is the official rule. And I hate him,
and hate his child that has his lying eyes."
The distraught woman covered her face with her hands and burst into
When she had ceased her sobs I tried to explain to her the philosophy of
contentment with life's lot. I told her of the seamy side of the gown
that cloaks licentiousness and of the sorrows and bitterness of the
ashes of burned out love. With the most iridescent words at my command I
painted for her the halo of the madonna's glory, and translated for her
the English verse that informs us that there is not a flower in any
land, nor a pearl in any sea, that is as beautiful and lovely as any
child on any mother's knee.
But I do not think I altogether consoled Frau Augusta for my German
vocabulary was essentially scientific, not poetic. But I made a noble
effort and when I left her I felt very much the preacher, for the
function of the preacher, not unlike death, is to make us cling to those
ills we have when we would fly to others that we know not of.
There remained but one card unsigned of the three given me.
Frau Matilda, daughter of Siegfried Oberwinder, Analine Analyst, was
registered as eighteen and evidently an inexperienced mother-elect as I
was a father-elect. The nature of the man is to hold the virgin above
the madonna, and in starting on my third journey to the maternity level,
I found hitherto inexperienced feelings tugging at my heartstrings and
resolved that whatever she might be, I would be dignified and formal yet
most courteous and kind.
My ring was answered by a slender, frightened girl. She was so shy that
she could only nod for me to enter. I offered my card and folder,
smiling to reassure her, but she retreated precipitously into a far
corner and sat staring at me beseechingly with big grey eyes that seemed
the only striking feature of her small pinched face.
"I am sorry if I frighten you," I said, "but of course you know that I
am sent by the eugenic authorities. I will not detain you long. All that
is really necessary is for you to sign this card."
She timidly signed the card and returned it to the corner of the table.
I felt extremely sorry for the fluttering creature; and, knowing that I
could not alter her lot, I sought to speak words of encouragement. "If
you find it hard now," I said, "it is only because you are young and a
stranger to life, but you will be recompensed when you know the joys of
At my words a look of consecrated purpose glowed in the girl's white
face. "Oh, yes," she said eagerly. "I wish very much to be a mother. I
have studied so hard to learn. I wish only to give myself to the holy
duties of maternity. But I am so afraid."
"But you need not be afraid of me," I said. "This is only a formal call
which I have made because the Eugenic Staff ordered it so. But it seems
to me that some better plan might be made for these meetings. Some
social life might be arranged so that you would become acquainted with
the men who are to be the fathers of your children under less
"I try so hard not to be afraid of men, for I know they are necessary to
"Yes," I said dryly, "I suppose they are, though I think I would prefer
to put it that the love of man and woman is necessary to parenthood."
"Oh, no," she said in a frightened voice, "not that, that is very
"So you were taught that you should not love men? No wonder you are
afraid of them."
"I was taught to respect men for they are the fathers of children," she
"Then," I asked, deciding to probe the philosophy of the education for
maternity, "why are not the fathers permitted to enjoy their fatherhood
and live with the mother and the children?"
Frau Matilda now gazed at me with open-mouthed astonishment. "What a
beautiful idea!" she exclaimed with rapture.
"Yes, I rather like it myself--the family--"
"The family!" cried the girl in horror.
"That is what we were talking about."
"But the family is forbidden. It is very wrong, very uneugenic. You must
be a wicked man to speak to me of that."
"You have been taught some very foolish ideas," I replied.
"How dare you!" she cried, in alarm. "I have been taught what is right,
and I want to do what is right and loyal. I passed all my examinations.
I am a good mother-elect, and you say these forbidden things to me. You
talk of love and families. You insult me. And if you select me, I
shall--I shall claim exemption,--" and with that she rose and darted
through the inner door.
I waited for a time and then gently approached the door, which I saw had
swung to with springs and had neither latch nor lock. My gentle rap upon
the hollow panel was answered by a muffled sob. I realized the
hopelessness of further words and silently turned from the door and left
The streets of the level were almost deserted for the curfew had rung
and the lights glowed dim as in a hospital ward at night. I hurried
silently along, shut in by enclosing walls and the lowering ceiling of
the street. From everywhere I seemed to feel upon me the beseeching,
haunting grey eyes of Frau Matilda. My soul was troubled, for it seemed
to stagger beneath the burden of its realization of a lost humanity. And
with me walked grey shadows of other men, felt-footed through the gloom,
and they walked hurriedly as men fleeing from a house of death.
My next duty as a German father-elect was to report to the Eugenic
Office. There at least I could deal with men; and there I went, nursing
rebellion yet trying my utmost to appear outwardly calm.
To the clerk I offered my three signed cards by way of introduction.
"And which do you select?" asked the oldish man over his rimless
"Ah, but you must."
"But what if I refuse to do so?"
"That is most unusual."
"But does it ever happen?"
"Well, yes," admitted the clerk, "but only by Petition Extraordinary to
the Chief of the Staff. But it is most unusual, and if he refuses to
grant it you may be dishonoured even to the extent of having your
election to paternity suspended, may be even permanently cancelled."
"You mean"--I stammered.
"Exactly--you refuse to accept any one of the three women when all are
most scientifically selected for you. Does it not throw some doubts upon
your own psychic fitness for mating at all? If I may suggest, Herr
Colonel--it would be wiser for you to select some one of the three--you
have yet plenty of time."
"No," I said, trying to hide my elation. "I will not do so. I will make
the Petition Extraordinary to your chief."
"Now?" stammered the clerk.
"Yes, now; how do I go about it?"
"You must first consult the Investigator."
After a few formalities I was conducted to that official.
"You refuse to make selection?" inquired the Investigator.
"Because," I replied, "I am engaged upon some chemical research of most
"Yes," nodded the Investigator, "I have just looked that up. The more
reason you should be honoured with paternity."
"Perhaps," I said, "you are not informed of the grave importance of the
research. If you will consult Herr von Uhl of the Chemical Staff--"
"Entirely unnecessary," he retorted; "paternity is also important.
Besides it takes but little time. No more than you need for recreation."
"But I do not find it recreation. I have not been able to concentrate my
mind on my work since I received notice of my election to paternity."
"But you were warned against this," he said; "you have no right to
permit the development of disturbing romantic emotions. They may be bad
for your work, but they are worse for eugenics. So, if you have made
romantic love to the mothers of Berlin, your case must be investigated."
"But I have not."
"Then why has this disturbed you?"
"Because," I replied, "this system of scientific paternity offends my
The investigator ogled me craftily. "What system would you prefer
instead?" he asked.
I saw he was trying to trap me into disloyal admissions. "I have nothing
to propose," I stated. "I only know that I find the paternity system
offensive to me, and that the position I am placed in incapacitates me
for my work."
The investigator made some notes on a pad.
"That is all for the present," he said. "I will refer your case to the
Two days later I received an order to report at once to Dr. Ludwig
Zimmern, Chief of the Eugenic Staff.
The Chief, with whom I was soon cloistered, was a man of about sixty
years. His face revealed a greater degree of intelligence than I had yet
observed among the Germans, nor was his demeanour that of haughty
officiousness, for a kindly warmth glowed in his soft dark eyes.
"I have a report here," said Dr. Zimmern, "from my Investigator. He
recommends that your rights of paternity be revoked on the grounds that
he believes yours to be a case of atavistic radicalism. In short he
thinks you are rebellious by instinct, and that you are therefore unsafe
to father the coming generation. It is part of the function of this
office to breed the rebellious instinct out of the German race. What
have you to say in answer to these charges?"
"I do not want to seem rebellious," I stammered, "but I wish to be
relieved of this duty."
"Very well," said Zimmern, "you may be relieved. If you have no
objection I will sign the recommendation as it stands."
Surely, I thought, this man does not seem very bitter toward my
Zimmern smiled and eyed me curiously. "You know," he said, "that to
possess a thought and to speak of it indiscreetly are two
"Certainly," I replied, emboldened by his words. "A man cannot do
original work in science if he possesses a mind that never thinks
contrary to the established order of things."
The clerks in the outer office must have thought my case a grievous one
for I was closeted with their chief for nearly an hour. Though our
conversation was vague and guarded, I knew that I had discovered in Dr.
Ludwig Zimmern, Chief of the Eugenic Staff, a man guilty himself of the
very crime of possessing rebellious instincts for which he had decided
me unfit to sire German children. And when I finally took my leave I
carried with me his private card and an invitation to call at his
apartment to continue our conversation.
In the weeks that followed, my acquaintance with the Chief of the
Eugenic Staff ripened rapidly into a warm friendship. The frank manner
in which he revealed his dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in
Germany pleased me greatly. Zimmern was interested in my chemical
researches and quickly comprehended their importance.
"I know so little of chemistry," he deplored, "yet on it our whole life
hangs. That is why I am so glad of an opportunity to talk to you. I do
not approve of so much ignorance of each other's work on the part of our
scientists. Our old university system was better. Then a scientist in
any field knew something of the science in all fields. But now we are
specialized from childhood. Take, for example, yourself. You are at work
on a great problem by which all of our labour stands to be undone if you
chemists do not solve it, and yet you do not understand how we will all
be undone. I think you should know more of what it means, then you will
work better. Is it not so?"
"Perhaps," I said, "but I have little time. I am working too hard now."
"Then," said Zimmern, "you should spend more time in pleasure on the
Free Level. Two days ago I conferred with the Emperor's Advisory Staff,
and I learned that grave changes are threatened. That is one reason I am
so interested in this protium on which you chemists are working. If you
do not solve this problem and replenish the food supply, the Emperor has
decided that the whole Free Level with its five million women must be
abolished. His Majesty will have no half-way measures. He is afraid to
take part of these women away, lest the intellectual workers rebel like
the labourers did in the last century when their women were taken away
"But what will His Majesty do with these five million women?" I
inquired, eagerly desirous to learn more.
"Do? What can he do with the women?" exclaimed Dr. Zimmern in a low
pitched but vibrant voice. "He thinks he will make workers of them. He
does not seem to appreciate how specialized they are for pleasure. He
will make machine tenders of them to relieve the workmen, who are to be
made soldiers. He would make surface soldiers out of these blind moles
of the earth, put amber glasses on them and train them to run on the
open ground and carry the war again into the sunlight. It is folly,
sheer folly, and madness. His Majesty, I fear, reads too much of old
books. He always was historically inclined."
On a later occasion Zimmern gave me the broad outlines of the history of
"Our science of applied Eugenics," he said, "began during the Second
World War. Our scientists had long known that the same laws of heredity
by which plants and animals had been bred held true with man, but they
had been afraid to apply those laws to man because the religion of that
day taught that men had souls and that human life was something too
sacred to be supervised by science. But William III was a very fearless
man, and he called the scientists together and asked them to outline a
plan for the perfection of the German race.
"At first all they advocated was that paternity be restricted to the
superior men. This broke up the old-fashioned family where every man
chose his own wife and sired as many children as he liked. There were
great mutterings about that, and if we had not been at war, there would
have been rebellion. The Emperor told the people it was a military
necessity. The death toll of war then was great and there was urgent
need to increase the birth rate, so the people submitted and women soon
ceased to complain because they could no longer have individual
husbands. The children were supported by the state, and if they had
legitimate fathers of the approved class they were left in the mothers'
care. As all women who were normal and healthy were encouraged to bear
children, there was a great increase in the birth rate, which came near
resulting in the destruction of the race by starvation.
"As soon as a sufficient number of the older generation that had
believed in the religious significance of the family and marriage system
had died out, the ambitious eugenists set about to make other reforms.
The birth rate was cut down by restricting the privilege of motherhood
to a selected class of women. The other women were instructed in the
arts of pleasing man and avoiding maternity, and that is where we have
the origin of our free women. In those days they were free to associate
with men of all classes. Indeed any other plan would at first have been
"A second fault was that the superior men for whom paternity was
permitted were selected from the official and intellectual classes. The
result was that the quality of the labourers deteriorated. So two
strains were established, the one for the production of the intellectual
workers, and the other for producing manual workers. From time to time
this specialization has increased until now we have as many strains of
inheritance as there are groups of useful characteristics known to be
"We have produced some effects," mused Zimmern, "which were not
anticipated, and which have been calling forth considerable criticism.
His Majesty sends me memorandums nearly every year, after he reviews the
maternity levels, insisting that the feminine beauty of the race is, as
a whole, deteriorating. And yet this is logical enough. With the
exception of our small actor-model strain, the characteristics for which
we breed have only the most incidental relation to feminine beauty. The
type of the labour female is, as you have seen, a buxom, fleshly beauty;
youth and full nutrition are essential to its display, and it soon fades.
In the scientific strains it seems that the power of original thought
correlates with a feminine type that is certainly not beautiful.
Doubtless not understanding this you may have felt that you were
discriminated against in your assignment. But the clerical mind
with its passion for monotonous repetition of petty mental processes
seems to correlate with the most exquisite and refined feminine
features. Those scintillating beauties on the Free Level who have
ever at their beck our wisest men are from our clerical strain,--but
of course they are only the rejects. It is unfortunate that you cannot
see the more privileged specimens in the clerical maternity level.
"But I digress to that which is of no consequence. The beauty of women is
unimportant but the number of women is very important. When some women
were specialized for motherhood then there were surplus women. At first
they made workers of them. The war was then conducted on a larger scale
than now. We had not yet fully specialized the soldier class. All the
young men went to war; and, when they came back and went to work, they
became bitterly jealous of the women workers and made an outcry that
those who could not fight should not work. The men workers drove the women
from industry, hoping thereby each to possess a mistress. As a result the
great number of unproductive women was a drain upon the state. All sorts
of schemes were proposed to reduce the number of female births but most of
these were unscientific. In studying the records it was found that the
offspring of certain men were predominantly males. By applying this
principle of selection we have, with successive generations, been able to
reduce the proportion of female births to less than half the old rate.
"But the sexual impulse of the labourers made them restless and
rebellious, and the support of the free women for these millions of
workers was a great economic waste. When animals had been bred to large
size and great strength their sexuality had decreased, while their power
as beasts of burden increased. The same principle applied to man has
resulted in more docile workers. By beginning with the soldiers and mine
workers, who were kept away from women, and by combining proper training
with the hereditary selection, we solved that problem and removed all
knowledge of women from the minds of the workmen."
"But how about paternity among the workers?" I asked.
"Those who are selected are removed to special isolated quarters. They
are told they are being taken to serve as His Majesty's body guard; and
they never go back to mingle with their fellows."
I then related for the doctor my conversation with the workman who asked
me about women.
"So," said Zimmern, "there has been a leak somewhere; knowledge is hard
to bottle. Still we have bottled most of it and the labourer accepts his
loveless lot. But it could not be done with the intellectual worker."
Dr. Zimmern smiled cynically. "At least," he added, "we don't propose to
admit that it can be done. And that, Col. Armstadt, is what I was
remarking about the other evening. Unless you chemists can solve the
protium problem, Germany must cut her population swiftly, if we do not
starve out altogether. His Majesty's plan to turn the workmen into
soldiers and make workers of the free women will not solve it. It is too
serious for that. The Emperor's talk about the day being at hand is all
nonsense. He knows and we know that these mongrel herds, as he calls the
outside enemy, are not so degenerate.
"We may have improved the German stock in some ways by our scientific
breeding, but science cannot do much in six generations, and what we
have accomplished, I as a member of the Eugenist Staff, can assure you
has really been attained as much by training as by breeding, though the
breeding is given the credit. Our men are highly specialized, and once
outside the walls of Berlin they will find things so different that this
very specialization will prove a handicap. The mongrel peoples are more
adaptable. Our workmen and soldiers are large in physique, but dwarfed
of intellect. The enemy will beat us in open war, and, even if we should
be victorious in war, we could not rule them. Either we solve this food
business or we all turn soldiers and go out into the blinding sunlight
and die fighting."
I ventured as a wild remark: "At least, if we get outside there will be
plenty of women."
The older man looked at me with the superiority of age towards youth.
"Young man," he said, "you have not read history; you do not understand
this love and family doctrine; it exists in the outside world today just
as it did two centuries ago. The Germans in the days of the old surface
wars made too free with the enemy's women, and that is why they ran us
into cover here and penned us up. These mongrel people will fight for
their women when they will fight for nothing else. We have not bred all
the lust out of our workmen either. It is merely dormant. Once they are
loosed in the outer world they will not understand this thing and they
will again make free with the enemy's women, and then we shall all be
Dr. Zimmern got up and filled a pipe with synthetic tobacco and puffed
energetically as he walked about the room. "What do you say about this
protium ore?" he asked; "will you be able to solve the problem?"
"Yes," I said, "I think I shall."
"I hope so," replied my host, "and yet sometimes I do not care; somehow
I want this thing to come to an end. I want to see what is outside there.
I think, perhaps, I would like to fly.
"What troubles me is that I do not see how we can ever do it. We have
bred and trained our race into specialization and stupidity. We wouldn't
know how to go out and join this World State if they would let us."
Dr. Zimmern paced the room in silence for a time. "Do you know," he
said, "I should like to see a negro, a black man with kinky hair--it
must be queer."
"Yes," I answered, "there must be many queer things out there."
IN WHICH I LEARN THAT COMPETITION IS STILL
THE LIFE OF THE OLDEST TRADE IN THE WORLD
When I told Dr. Zimmern that I should solve the problem of the increase
of the supply of protium I may have been guilty of speaking of hopes as
if they were certainties. My optimism was based on the discovery that
the exact chemical state of the protium in the ore was unknown, and that
it did not exist equally in all samples of the ore.
After some further months of labour I succeeded in determining the exact
chemical ingredients of the ore, and from this I worked rapidly toward a
new process of extraction that would greatly increase the total yield of
the precious element. But this fact I kept from my assistants whose work
I directed to futile researches while I worked alone after hours in
following up the lead I had discovered.
During the progress of this work I was not always in the laboratory. I
had become a not infrequent visitor to the Level of the Free Women. The
continuous carnival of amusement had an attraction for me, as it must
have had for any tired and lonely man. But it was not merely the lure of
sensuous pleasures that appealed to me, for I was also fascinated with
the deeper and more tragic aspect of life beneath the gaudy surface of
Some generalities I had picked up from observation and chance
conversations. As a primary essential to life on the level I had quickly
learned that money was needed, and my check book was in frequent demand.
The bank provided an aluminum currency for the pettier needs of the
recreational life, but neither the checks nor the currency had had value
on other levels, since there all necessities were supplied without cost
and luxuries were unobtainable. This strange retention of money
circulation and general freedom of personal conduct exclusively on the
Free Level puzzled me. Thus I found that food and drink were here
available for a price, a seeming contradiction to the strict limitations
of the diet served me at my own quarters. At first it seemed I had
discovered a way to defeat that limitation--but there was the weigher to
It was a queer ensemble, this life in the Black Utopia of Berlin, a
combination of a world of rigid mechanistic automatism in the regular
routine of living with rioting individual license in recreational
pleasure. The Free Level seemed some ancient Bagdad, some Bourbon Court,
some Monte Carlo set here, an oasis of flourishing vice in a desert of
sterile law-made, machine-executed efficiency and puritanically ordered
life. Aided by a hundred ingenious wheels and games of chance, men and
women gambled with the coin and credit of the level. These games were
presided over by crafty women whose years were too advanced to permit of
a more personal means of extracting a living from the grosser passions
of man. Some of these aged dames were, I found, quite highly regarded
and their establishments had become the rendezvous for many younger
women who by some arrangement that I could not fathom plied their
traffic in commercialized love under the guidance of these subtler women
who had graduated from the school of long experience in preying
But only the more brilliant women could so establish themselves for the
years of their decline. There were others, many others, whose beauty had
faded without an increase in wit, and these seemed to be serving their
more fortunate sisters, both old and young, in various menial
capacities. It was a strange anachronism in this world where men's more
weighty affairs had been so perfectly socialized, to find woman
retaining, evidently by men's permission, the individualistic right to
exploit her weaker sister.
The thing confounded me, and yet I recalled the well known views of our
sociological historians who held that it was woman's greater
individualism that had checked the socialistic tendencies of the world.
Had the Germans then achieved and maintained their rigid socialistic
order by retaining this incongruous vestige of feminine commercialism as
a safety valve for the individualistic instincts of the race?
They called it the Free Level, and I marvelled at the nature of this
freedom. Freedom for licentiousness, for the getting and losing of money
at the wheels of fortune, freedom for temporary gluttony and the mild
intoxication of their flat, ill-flavoured synthetic beer. A tragic
symbol it seemed to me of the ignobility of man's nature, that he will
be a slave in all the loftier aspects of living if he can but retain his
freedom for his vices and corruptions. Had the Germans then, like the
villain of the moral play, a necessary part in the tragedy of man; did
they exist to show the other races of the earth the way they
should not go? But the philosophy of this conception collapsed when I
recalled that for more than a century the world had lost all sight of
the villain and yet had not in the least deteriorated from a lack of the
From these vaguer speculations concerning the Free Level of Berlin that
existed like a malformed vestigial organ in the body of that socialized
state, my mind came back to the more human, more personal side of the
problem thus presented me. I wanted to know more of the lives of these
women who maintained Germany's remnant of individualism.
To what extent, I asked myself, have the true instincts of womanhood and
the normal love of man and child been smothered out of the lives of
these girls? What secret rebellions are they nursing in their hearts? I
wondered, too, from what source they came, and why they were selected
for this life, for Zimmern had not adequately enlightened me on
Pondering thus on the secret workings in the hearts of these girls, I
sat one evening amid the sensuous beauty of the Hall of Flowers. I
marvelled at how little the Germans seemed to appreciate it, for it was
far less crowded than were the more tawdry places of revelry. Here
within glass encircling walls, preserved through centuries of artificial
existence, feeding from pots of synthetic soil and stimulated by
perpetual light, marvellous botanical creations flourished and flowered
in prodigal profusion. Ponderous warm-hued lilies floated on the
sprinkled surface of the fountain pool. Orchids, dangling from the metal
lattice, hung their sensuous blossoms in vapour-laden air. Luxurious
vines, climatized to this unreal world, clambered over cosy arbours, or
clung with gripping fingers to the mossy concrete pillars.
I was sitting thus in moody silence watching the play of the fountain,
when, through the mist, I saw the lonely figure of a girl standing in
the shadows of a viny bower. She was toying idly with the swaying
tendrils. Her hair was the unfaded gold of youth. Her pale dress of
silvery grey, unmarred by any clash of colour, hung closely about a form
of wraith-like slenderness.
I arose and walked slowly toward her. As I approached she turned toward
me a face of flawless girlish beauty, and then as quickly turned away as
if seeking a means of escape.
"I did not mean to intrude," I said.
She did not answer, but when I turned to go, to my surprise, she stepped
forward and walked at my side.
"Why do you come here alone?" she asked shyly, lifting a pensive
"Because I am tired of all this tawdry noise. But you," I said, "surely
you are not tired of it? You cannot have been here long."
"No," she replied, "I have not. Only thirty days"; and her blue eyes
gleamed with childish pride.
"And that is why you seem so different from them all?"
Timidly she placed her hand upon my arm. "So you," she said gratefully,
"you understand that I am not like them-that is, not yet."
"You do not act like them," I replied, "and what is more, you act as if
you did not want to be like them. It surely cannot be merely that you
are new here. The other girls when they come seem so eager for this
life, to which they have long been trained. Were you not trained for
"Yes," she admitted, "they tried to train me for it, but they could not
kill my artist's soul, for I was not like these others, born of a strain
wherein women can only be mothers, or, if rejected for that, come here.
I was born to be a musician, a group where women may be something more
than mere females."
"Then why are you here?" I asked.
"Because," she faltered, "my voice was imperfect. I have, you see, the
soul of an artist but lack the physical means to give that soul
expression. And so they transferred me to the school for free women,
where I have been courted by the young men of the Royal House. But of
course you understand all that."
"Yes," I said, "I know something of it; but my work has always so
absorbed me that I have not had time to think of these matters. In fact,
I come to the Free Level much less than most men."
For a moment, it seemed, her eyes hardened in cunning suspicion, but as
I returned her intent gaze I could fathom only the doubts and fears of
"Please let us sit down," I said; "it is so beautiful here; and then
tell me all about yourself, how you have lived your childhood, and what
your problems are. It may be that I can help you."
"There is not much to tell," she sighed, as she seated herself beside
me. "I was only eight years old when the musical examiners condemned my
voice and so I do not remember much about the music school. In the other
school where they train girls for the life on the Free Level, they
taught us dancing, and how to be beautiful, and always they told us that
we must learn these things so that the men would love us. But the only
men we ever saw were the doctors. They were always old and serious and I
could not understand how I could ever love men. But our teachers would
tell us that the other men would be different. They would be handsome
and young and would dance with us and bring us fine presents. If we were
pleasing in their sight they would take us away, and we should each have
an apartment of our own, and many dresses with beautiful colours, and
there would be a whole level full of wonderful things and we could go
about as we pleased, and dance and feast and all life would be love and
joy and laughter.
"Then, on the 'Great Day,' when we had our first individual dresses--for
before we had always worn uniforms--the men came. They were young
military officers and members of the Royal House who are permitted to
select girls for their own exclusive love. We were all very shy at
first, but many of the girls made friends with the men and some of them
went away that first day. And after that the men came as often as they
liked and I learned to dance with them, and they made love to me and
told me I was very beautiful. Yet somehow I did not want to go with
them. We had been told that we would love the men who loved us. I don't
know why, but I didn't love any of them. And so the two years passed and
they told me I must come here alone. And so here I am."
"And now that you are here," I said, "have you not, among all these men
found one that you could love?"
"No," she said, with a tremor in her voice, "but they say I must."
"And how," I asked, "do they enforce that rule? Does any one require
you--to accept the men?"
"Yes," she replied. "I must do that--or starve."
"And how do you live now?" I asked.
"They gave me money when I came here, a hundred marks. And they make me
pay to eat and when my money is gone I cannot eat unless I get more. And
the men have all the money, and they pay. They have offered to pay me,
but I refused to take their checks, and they think me stupid."
The child-like explanation of her lot touched the strings of my heart.
"And how long," I asked, "is this money that is given you when you come
here supposed to last?"
"Not more than twenty days," she answered.
"But you," I said, "have been here thirty days!"
She looked at me and smiled proudly. "But I," she said, "only eat one
meal a day. Do you not see how thin I am?"
The realization that any one in this scientifically fed city could be
hungry was to me appalling. Yet here was a girl living amidst luxurious
beauty, upon whom society was using the old argument of hunger to force
her acceptance of the love of man.
I rose and held out my hand. "You shall eat again today," I said.
"I would rather not," she demurred. "I have not yet accepted favours
from any man."
"But you must. You are hungry," I protested. "The problem of your
existence here cannot be put off much longer. We will go eat and then we
will try and find some solution."
Without further objection she walked with me. We found a secluded booth
in a dining hall. I ordered the best dinner that Berlin had to offer.
During the intervals of silence in our rather halting dinner
conversation, I wrestled with the situation. I had desired to gain
insight into the lives of these girls. Yet now that the opportunity was
presented I did not altogether relish the rôle in which it placed me.
The apparent innocence of the confiding girl seemed to open an easy way
for a personal conquest--and yet, perhaps because it was so obvious and
easy, I rebelled at the unfairness of it. To rescue her, to aid her to
escape--in a free world one might have considered these more obvious
moves, but here there was no place for her to escape to, no higher
social justice to which appeal could be made. Either I must accept her
as a personal responsibility, with what that might involve, or desert
her to her fate. Both seemed cowardly--yet such were the horns of the
dilemma and a choice must be made. Here at least was an opportunity to
make use of the funds that lay in the bank to the credit of the name I
bore, and for which I had found so little use. So I decided to offer her
money, and to insist that it was not offered as the purchase price
"You must let me help you," I said, "you must let me give you money."
"But I do not want your money," she replied. "It would only postpone my
troubles. Even if I do accept your money, I would have to accept money
from other men also, for you cannot pay for the whole of a
"Why not," I asked, "does any rule forbid it?"
"No rule, but can so young a man as you afford it?"
"How much does it take for you to live here?"
"About five marks a day."
I glanced rather proudly at my insignia as a research chemist of the
first rank. "Do you know," I asked, "how much income that
"Well, no," she admitted, "I know the income of military officers, but
there are so many of the professional ranks and classes that I get all
"That means," I said, "ten thousand marks a year."
"So much as that!" she exclaimed in astonishment. "And I can live here
on two hundred a month, but no, I did not mean that--you wouldn't,--I
couldn't--let you give me so much."
"Much!" I exclaimed; "you may have five hundred if you need it."
"You make love very nicely," she replied with aloofness.
"But I am not making love," I protested.
"Then why do you say these things? Do you prefer some one else? If so
why waste your funds on me?"
"No, no!" I cried, "it is not that; but you see I want to tell you
things; many things that you do not know. I want to see you often and
talk to you. I want to bring you books to read. And as for money, that
is so you will not starve while you read my books and listen to me talk.
But you are to remain mistress of your own heart and your own person.
You see, I believe there are ways to win a woman's love far better than
buying her cheap when she is starved into selling in this
She looked at me dubiously. "You are either very queer," she said, "or
else a very great liar."
"But I am neither," I protested, piqued that the girl in her innocence
should yet brand me either mentally deficient or deceitful. "It is
impossible to make you understand me," I went on, "and yet you must
trust me. These other men, they approve the system under which you live,
but I do not. I offer you money, I insist on your taking it because
there is no other way, but it is not to force you to accept me but only
to make it unnecessary for you to accept some one else. You have been
very brave, to stand out so long. You must accept my money now, but you
need never accept me at all--unless you really want me. If I am to make
love to you I want to make love to a woman who is really free; a woman
free to accept or reject love, not starved into accepting it in this
"It is all very wonderful," she repeated; "a minute ago I thought you
deceitful, and now I want to believe you. I can not stand out much
longer and what would be the use for just a few more days?"
"There will be no need," I said gently, "your courage has done its work
well--it has saved you for yourself. And now," I continued, "we will
bind this bargain before you again decide me crazy."
Taking out my check book I filled in a check for two hundred marks
payable to--"To whom shall I make it payable?" I asked.
"To Bertha, 34 R 6," she said, and thus I wrote it, cursing the
prostituted science and the devils of autocracy that should give an
innocent girl a number like a convict in a jail or a mare in a breeder's
And so I bought a German girl with a German check--bought her because I
saw no other way to save her from being lashed by starvation to the
slave block and sold piecemeal to men in whom honour had not even died,
but had been strangled before it was born.
With my check neatly tucked in her bosom, Bertha walked out of the café
clinging to my arm, and so, passing unheeding through the throng of
indifferent revellers, we came to her apartment.
At the door I said, "Tomorrow night I come again. Shall it be at the
café or here?"
"Here," she whispered, "away from them all."
I stooped and kissed her hand and then fled into the multitude.
I had promised Bertha that I would bring her books, but the narrow range
of technical books permitted me were obviously unsuitable, nor did I
feel that the unspeakably morbid novels available on the Level of Free
Women would serve my purpose of awakening the girl to more wholesome
aspirations. In this emergency I decided to appeal to my
Leaving the laboratory early, I made my way toward his apartment,
puzzling my brain as to what kind of a book I could ask for that would
be at once suitable to Bertha's child-like mind and also be a volume
which I could logically appear to wish to read myself. As I walked
along the answer flashed into my mind--I would ask for a geography
of the outer world.
Happily I found Zimmern in. "I have come to ask," I said, "if you could
loan me a book of description of the outer world, one with maps, one
that tells all that is known of the land and seas and people."
"Oh, yes," smiled Zimmern, "you mean a geography. Your request," he
continued, "does me great honour. Books telling the truth about the
world without are very carefully guarded. I shall be pleased to get the
geography for you at once. In fact I had already decided that when you
came again I would take you with me to our little secret library.
Germany is facing a great crisis, and I know no better way I can serve
her than doing my part to help prepare as many as possible of our
scientists to cope with the impending problems. Unless you chemists
avert it, we shall all live to see this outer world, or die that
Dr. Zimmern led the way to the elevator. We alighted on the Level of Free
Women. Instead of turning towards the halls of revelry we took our
course in the opposite direction along the quiet streets among the
apartments of the women. We turned into a narrow passage-way and Dr.
Zimmern rang the bell at an apartment door. But after waiting a moment
for an answer he took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door.
"I am sorry Marguerite is out," he said, as he conducted me into a
reception room. The walls were hung with seal-brown draperies. There
were richly upholstered chairs and a divan piled high with fluffy
pillows. In one corner stood a bookcase of burnished metal filigree.
Zimmern waved his hand at the case with an expression of disdain. "Only
the conventional literature of the level, to keep up appearances," he
said; "our serious books are in here"; and he thrust open the door of a
room which was evidently a young lady's boudoir.
Conscious of a profane intrusion, I followed Dr. Zimmern into the dainty
dressing chamber. Stepping across the room he pushed open a spacious
wardrobe, and thrusting aside a cleverly arranged shield of feminine
apparel he revealed, upon some improvised shelves, a library of perhaps
a hundred volumes. He ran his hand fondly along the bindings. "No other
man of your age in Berlin," he said, "has ever had access to such a
complete fund of knowledge as is in this library."
I hope the old doctor took for appreciation the smile that played upon
my face as I contrasted his pitiful offering with the endless miles of
book stacks in the libraries of the outer world where I had spent so
many of my earlier days.
"Our books are safer here," said Zimmern, "for no one would suspect a
girl on this level of being interested in serious reading. If perchance
some inspector did think to perform his neglected duties we trust to him
being content to glance over the few novels in the case outside and not
to pry into her wardrobe closet. There is still some risk, but that we
must take, since there is no absolute privacy anywhere. We must trust to
chance to hide them in the place least likely to be searched."
"And how," I asked, "are these books accumulated?"
"It is the result of years of effort," explained Zimmern. "There are
only a few of us who are in this secret group but all have contributed
to the collection, and we come here to secure the books that the others
bring. We prefer to read them here, and so avoid the chance of being
detected carrying forbidden books. There is no restriction on the
callers a girl may have at her apartment; the authorities of the level
are content to keep records only of her monetary transactions, and that
fact we take advantage of. Should a man's apartment on another level be
so frequently visited by a group of men an inquiry would be made."
All this was interesting, but I inferred that I would again have
opportunity to visit the library and now I was impatient to keep my
appointment with Bertha. Making an excuse for haste, I asked Zimmern to
get the geography for me. The stiff back of the book had been removed,
and Zimmern helped me adjust the limp volume beneath my waistcoat.
"I am sorry you cannot remain and meet Marguerite tonight," he said as I
stepped toward the door. "But tomorrow evening I will arrange for you to
meet Colonel Hellar of the Information Staff, and Marguerite can be with
us then. You may go directly to my booth in the café where you last
dined with me."
After a brief walk I came to Bertha's apartment, and nervously pressed
the bell. She opened the door stealthily and peered out, then
recognizing me, she flung it wide.
"I have brought you a book," I said as I entered; and, not knowing what
else to do, I went through the ridiculous operation of removing the
geography from beneath my waistcoat.
"What a big book," exclaimed Bertha in amazement. However, she did not
open the geography but laid it on the table, and stood staring at me
with her child-like blue eyes.
"Do you know," she said, "that you are the first visitor I ever had in
my apartment? May I show you about?"
As I followed her through the cosy rooms, I chafed to see the dainty
luxury in which she was permitted to live while being left to starve.
The place was as well adapted to love-making as any other product
of German science is adapted to its end. The walls were adorned
with sensual prints; but happily I recalled that Bertha, having
no education in the matter, was immune to the insult.
Anticipating my coming she had ordered dinner, and this was presently
delivered by a deaf-and-dumb mechanical servant, and we set it forth on
the dainty dining table. Since the world was young, I mused, woman and
man had eaten a first meal together with all the world shut out, and so
we dined amid shy love and laughter in a tiny apartment in the heart of
a city where millions of men never saw the face of woman--and where
millions of babies were born out of love by the cold degree of science.
And this same science, bartering with licentious iniquity, had provided
this refuge and permitted us to bar the door, and so we accepted our
refuge and sanctified it with the purity that was within our own
hearts--such at least was my feeling at the time.
And so we dined and cleared away, and talked joyfully of nothing. As the
evening wore on Bertha, beside me upon the divan, snuggled contentedly
against my shoulder. The nearness and warmth of her, and the innocence
of her eyes thrilled yet maddened me.
With fast beating heart, I realized that I as well as Bertha was in the
grip of circumstances against which rebellion was as futile as were
thoughts of escape. There was no one to aid and no one to forbid or
criticize. Whatever I might do to save her from the fate ordained for
her would of necessity be worked out between us, unaided and unhampered
by the ethics of civilization as I had known it in a freer, saner world.
In offering Bertha money and coming to her apartment I had thrust myself
between her and the crass venality of the men of her race, but I had now
to wrestle with the problem that such action had involved. If, I
reasoned, I could only reveal to her my true identity the situation
would be easier, for I could then tell her of the rules of the game of
love in the world I had known. Until she knew of that world and its
ideals, how could I expect her to understand my motives? How else could
I strengthen her in the battle against our own impulses?
And yet, did I dare to confess to her that I was not a German? Would not
deep-seated ideals of patriotism drilled into the mind of a child place
me in danger of betrayal at her hands? Such a move might place my own
life in jeopardy and also destroy my opportunity of being of service to
the world, could I contrive the means of escape from Berlin with the
knowledge I had gained. Small though the possibilities of such escape
might be, it was too great a hope for me to risk for sentimental
reasons. And could she be expected to believe so strange a tale?
And so the temptation to confess that I was not Karl Armstadt passed,
and with its passing, I recalled the geography that I had gone to so
much trouble to secure, and which still lay unopened upon the table.
Here at least was something to get us away from the tumultuous
consciousness of ourselves and I reached for the volume and spread it
open upon my knees.
"What a funny book!" exclaimed Bertha, as she gazed at the round maps of
the two hemispheres. "Of what is that a picture?"
"The world," I answered.
She stared at me blankly. "The Royal World?" she asked.
"No, no," I replied. "The world outside the walls of Berlin."
"The world in the sun," exclaimed Bertha, "on the roof where they fight
the airplanes? A roof-guard officer" she paused and bit her lip--
"The world of the inferior races," I suggested, trying to find some
common footing with her pitifully scant knowledge.
"The world underground," she said, "where the soldiers fight in the
Baffled in my efforts to define this world to her, I began turning the
pages of the geography, while Bertha looked at the pictures in
child-like wonder, and I tried as best I could to find simple
Between the lines of my teaching, I scanned, as it were, the true state
of German ignorance. Despite the evident intended authoritativeness of
the book--for it was marked "Permitted to military staff officers"--I
found it amusingly full of erroneous conceptions of the true state of
affairs in the outer world.
This teaching of a child-like mind the rudiments of knowledge was an
amusing recreation, and so an hour passed pleasantly. Yet I realized
that this was an occupation of which I would soon tire, for it was not
the amusement of teaching a child that I craved, but the companionship
of a woman of intelligence.
As we turned the last page I arose to take my departure. "If I leave the
book with you," I said, "will you read it all, very carefully? And then
when I come again I will explain those things you can not understand."
"But it is so big, I couldn't read it in a day," replied Bertha, as she
looked at me appealingly.
I steeled myself against that appeal. I wanted very much to get my mind
back on my chemistry, and I wanted also to give her time to read and
ponder over the wonders of the great unknown world. Moreover, I no
longer felt so grievously concerned, for the calamity which had
overshadowed her had been for the while removed. And I had, too, my own
struggle to cherish her innocence, and that without the usual help
extended by conventional society. So I made brave resolutions and
explained the urgency of my work and insisted that I could not see her
for five days.
Hungrily she pleaded for a quicker return; and I stubbornly resisted the
temptation. "No," I insisted, "not tomorrow, nor the next day, but I
will come back in three days at the same hour that I came tonight."
Then taking her in my arms, I kissed her in feverish haste and tore
myself from the enthralling lure of her presence.
When I reached the café the following evening to keep my appointment
with Zimmern, the waiter directed me to one of the small enclosed
booths. As I entered, closing the door after me, I found myself
confronting a young woman.
"Are you Col. Armstadt?" she asked with a clear, vibrant voice. She
smiled cordially as she gave me her hand. "I am Marguerite. Dr. Zimmern
has gone to bring Col. Hellar, and he asked me to entertain you until
The friendly candour of this greeting swept away the grey walls of
Berlin, and I seemed again face to face with a woman of my own people.
She was a young woman of distinctive personality. Her features, though
delicately moulded, bespoke intelligence and strength of character that
I had not hitherto seen in the women of Berlin. Framing her face was a
luxuriant mass of wavy brown hair, which fell loosely about her
shoulders. Her slender figure was draped in a cape of deep blue
"Dr. Zimmern tells me," I said as I seated myself across the table from
her, "that you are a dear friend of his."
A swift light gleamed in her deep brown eyes. "A very dear friend," she
said feelingly, and then a shadow flitted across her face as she added,
"Without him life for me would be unbearable here."
"And how long, if I may ask, have you been here?"
"About four years. Four years and six days, to be exact. I can keep
count you know," and she smiled whimsically, "for I came on the day of
my birth, the day I was sixteen."
"That is the same for all, is it not?"
"No one can come here before she is sixteen," replied Marguerite, "and
all must come before they are eighteen."
"But why did you come at the first opportunity?" I asked, as I mentally
compared her confession with that of Bertha who had so courageously
postponed as long as she could the day of surrender to this life of
shamefully commercialized love.
"And why should I not come?" returned Marguerite. "I had a chance to
come, and I accepted it. Do you think life in the school for girls of
forbidden birth is an enjoyable one?"
I wanted to press home the point of my argument, to proclaim my pride in
Bertha's more heroic struggle with the system, for this girl with whom I
now conversed was obviously a woman of superior intelligence, and it
angered me to know that she had so easily surrendered to the life for
which German society had ordained her. But I restrained my speech, for I
realized that in criticizing her way of life I would be criticizing her
obvious relation to Zimmern, and like all men I found myself inclined to
be indulgent with the personal life of a man who was my friend.
Moreover, I perceived the presumptuousness of assuming a superior air
towards an established and accepted institution. Yet, strive as I might
to be tolerant, I felt a growing antagonism towards this attractive and
cultured girl who had surrendered without a struggle to a life that to
me was a career of shame--and who seemed quite content with her
"Do you like it here?" I asked, knowing that my question was stupid, but
anxious to avoid a painful gap in what was becoming, for me, a difficult
Marguerite looked at me with a queer penetrating gaze. "Do I like it
here?" she repeated. "Why should you ask, and how can I answer? Can I
like it or not like it, when there was no choice for me? Can I push out
the walls of Berlin?"--and she thrust mockingly into the air with a
delicately chiselled hand--"It is a prison. All life is a prison."
"Yes," I said, "it is a prison, but life on this level is more joyful
than on many others."
Her lip curled in delicate scorn. "For you men--of course--and I suppose
it is for these women too--perhaps that is why I hate it so, because
they do enjoy it, they do accept it. They sell their love for food and
raiment, and not one in all these millions seems to mind it."
"In that," I remarked, "perhaps you are mistaken. I have not come here
often as most men do, but I have found one other who, like you, rebels
at the system--who in fact, was starving because she would not sell
Marguerite flashed on me a look of pitying suspicion as she asked: "Have
you gone to the Place of Records to look up this rebel against the
sale of love?"
A fire of resentment blazed up in me at this question. I did not know
just what she meant by the Place of Records, but I felt that this woman
who spoke cynically of rebellion against the sale of love, and yet who
had obviously sold her love to an old man, was in no position to
discredit a weaker woman's nobler fight.
"What right," I asked coldly, "have you to criticize another whom you do
"I am sorry," replied Marguerite, "if I seem to quarrel with you when I
was left here to entertain you, but I could not help it--it angers me to
have you men be so fond of being deceived, such easy prey to this
threadbare story of the girl who claims she never came here until forced
to do so. But men love to believe it. The girls learn to use the story
because it pays."
A surge of conflicting emotion swept through me as I recalled the
child-like innocence of Bertha and compared it with the critical
scepticism of this superior woman. "It only goes to show," I thought,
"what such a system can do to destroy a woman's faith in the very
existence of innocence and virtue."
Marguerite did not speak; her silence seemed to say: "You do not
understand, nor can I explain--I am simply here and so are you, and we
have our secrets which cannot be committed to words."
With idle fingers she drummed lightly on the table. I watched those
slender fingers and the rhythmic play of the delicate muscles of the
bare white arm that protruded from the rich folds of the blue velvet
cape. Then my gaze lifted to her face. Her downcast eyes were shielded
by long curving lashes; high arched silken brows showed dark against a
skin as fresh and free from chemist's pigment as the petal of a rose. In
exultant rapture my heart within me cried that here was something fine
of fibre, a fineness which ran true to the depths of her soul.
In my discovery of Bertha's innocence and in my faith in her purity and
courage I had hoped to find relief from the spiritual loneliness that
had grown upon me during my sojourn in this materialistic city. But that
faith was shaken, as the impression Bertha had made upon my
over-sensitized emotions, now dimmed by a brighter light, flickered pale
on the screen of memory. The mere curiosity and pity I had felt for a
chance victim singled out among thousands by the legend of innocence on
a pretty face could not stand against the force that now drew me to this
woman who seemed to be not of a slavish race--even as Dr. Zimmern seemed
a man apart from the soulless product of the science he directed. But as
I acknowledged this new magnet tugging at the needle of my floundering
heart, I also realized that my friendship for the lovable and courageous
Zimmern reared an unassailable barrier to shut me into outer darkness.
The thought proved the harbinger of the reality, for Dr. Zimmerman
himself now entered. He was accompanied by Col. Hellar of the
Information Staff, a man of about Zimmern's age. Col. Hellar bore
himself with a gracious dignity; his face was sad, yet there gleamed
from his eye a kindly humor.
Marguerite, after exchanging a few pleasantries with Col. Hellar and
myself, tenderly kissed the old doctor on the forehead, and slipped out.
"You shall see much of her," said Zimmern, "she is the heart and fire of
our little group, the force that holds us together. But tonight I asked
her not to remain"--the old doctor's eyes twinkled with merriment,--"for
a young man cannot get acquainted with a beautiful woman and with ideas
at the same time."
"And now," said Zimmern, after we had finished our dinner, "I want Col.
Hellar to tell you more of the workings of the Information Service."
"It is a very complex system," began Hellar. "It is old. Its history
goes back to the First World War, when the military censorship began by
suppressing information thought to be dangerous and circulating
fictitious reports for patriotic purposes. Now all is much more
elaborately organized; we provide that every child be taught only the
things that it is decided he needs to know, and nothing more. Have you
seen the bulletins and picture screens in the quarters for the workers?"
"Yes," I replied, "but the lines were all in old German type."
"And that," said Hellar, "is all that the workers and soldiers can read.
The modern type could be taught them in a few days, but we see to it
that they have no opportunity to learn it. As it is now, should they
find or steal a forbidden book, they cannot read it."
"But is it not true," I asked, "that at one time the German workers were
most thoroughly educated?"
"It is true," said Hellar, "and because of that universal education
Germany was defeated in the First World War. The English contaminated
the soldiers by flooding the trenches with democratic literature dropped
from airplanes. Then came the Bolshevist regime in Russia with its
passion for revolutionary propaganda. The working men and soldiers read
this disloyal literature and they forced the abdication of William the
Great. It was because of this that his great grandson, when the House of
Hohenzollern was restored to the throne, decided to curtail universal
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