The Red Book Magazine/Volume 30/Number 6/The Lair of the Kaiser

3935312The Red Book Magazine, Volume 30, Number 6 — The Lair of the Kaiser1918Edwin Balmer

WE changed our entire plan of make-up in this issue in order to get this story into print immediately. It is one of the most powerful pieces of fiction ever written, not only because of its dramatic thought and action but because of its graphic and accurate picture of conditions in Germany to-day.


Author of “The
Wild Goose Chase”
and “Via Wireless”
and co-author of
“The Blind Man's
Eyes” and "The
Indian Drum”

The LAIR of the KAISER

THE Kaiser was coming again to Ehernschloss! It was a castle grim and ancient, well adapted for the relaxation of His Majesty. Rising from the top of the highest slope over that bend of the Rhine, its walls showed black and unbroken save for the deep, narrow slits through which crossbowmen shot and spearmen thrust and men-at-arms poured the liquid fire of wars long gone. Below and all about lay a wood, well tended before this war and mostly uncut since the last siege of the castle centuries ago. The modern city, which had sprung from the little ancient settlement of smiths, artisans and merchants who at times of danger took refuge within the castle walls, had spread far up the River and down; it had spread about the castle too, surrounding it at last, but without encroaching close. So the little forest, with its twisting roads and riding-paths through its tall trees, remained much as it was—a safe and suitable resting-place for the All Highest at the moment which had one.

For the War Lord once more had inspected all his armies from Switzerland to the sea; he had spent tireless days in personally reviewing the plans of approaching campaigns; he had revisited Kiel and the submarine bases; he had presided at the Crown Council; he had seen to the establishment of the martial severities which, just now, had put down the Socialists' strikes; and he required a rest.

That he would take that rest at Ehernschloss was not proclaimed, of course; the excitement of the people, even along the Rhine, made inadvisable any news of His Majesty's movements now. Accordingly Hetty Stroebel and Unteroffizier Joseph Bolland were nervously aware that they had stumbled upon a secret when, in crossing through the castle woods, they saw the wheelmarks in the mew snow which told that the Schloss had been reprovisioned during the night.

“It is for His Majesty, beyond doubt!” Hetty whispered anxiously to Joseph. “For no one else has the castle been opened these three years.”

“Well, do we plan him harm?” Joseph boldly attempted to dismiss her nervousness. He had arrived on furlough only yesterday from the Riga front and from a regiment which had been in close contact with the Russians during the truce; and he was full of astounding revelations of many sorts—of the truth of the German demands at Brest-Litovsk, the real Russian proposals, amazing facts of the motives of America and its preparations, of the failure of the U-boats and the size of the American armies in France.

“They have five hundred thousand men already in France—men as good as the Canadians, at least; and our armies know what they are!” He attempted to go on in the same tone.

“Hush!” Hetty warned, glancing about anxiously. “It will be bad enough for us to be found in here now. If we speak at all of the Americans, we must say that they prepare only against Japan; if they tried to send an army across, they could not; and if they got them across, they would not be real soldiers.”

“I know!” Joseph said. “But the facts—”

“Hush!” Hetty begged. Since entering the castle woods, after leaving the town, they had met no one; but now, just ahead in the path through the Schloss woods, she saw a man in captain's uniform approaching. He stopped and waited for them to come up. Hetty knew him; and he knew her. At least, he had done her the honor to pay her attentions at his last visit, several months previously, when he came in the escort of His Majesty. So his presence made Hetty certain that it was again the Kaiser who was coming to the Schloss; and this captain must know that she and Joseph were in possession of information which they were not to have had. She was quivering and pale, therefore, as she approached the officer. Joseph saluted, and being an inferior, passed on when the captain halted Hetty.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded of her.

“We have been to the city, Herr Hauptmann,” Hetty explained, “and are only passing through on our way home. This path through the woods has been permitted at ordinary times recently.”

“There is no extraordinary occasion now,” the captain said quickly, but less sharply as he gazed at her close by. “Don't I know you?” he inquired.

“I know you, Herr Hauptmann von Engel,” Hetty replied.

“What is your name?”

“Hedwig Stroebel, Herr Hauptmann.”

“Of course; I recall you.” He put his hand upon her, not roughly, but feeling the quality of her flesh under her jacket. “You are the daughter of Ernst Stroebel, the chemist investigator. That gas he gave us—the first—it is very good.”

“Yes, Herr Hauptmann.” She shrank, quivering.

“It went right through their masks, the englische Schweine! You should have seen them cough and kick! The Canadians, how it garroted them too! But what is this?” He felt her quivering. “Sympathy for the enemy as well as spying?”

“I was thinking of my father just then.”

“Ah, what about him?”

“A retort in his laboratory broke, Herr Hauptmann. It had in it some of a newer gas. I have been caring for him six months. He is just getting about a little again.”

“I thought you were thinner.” Von squeezed her shoulder. “But it becomes you—you are so delicately built; pretty, small bones, you have!” He exulted over her. “These big-boned Frauen, when they have fasted a bit—ugh! But you a pretty, and the ethereal adorns you! And you are not—” He frowned as he remembered the man she had been walking with, but he did not turn about to see where Joseph had stopped or whether he had stopped at all. “You are not a Frau, are you, Hetty?”

“No, Herr Hauptmann.”

“Not even a patriotess yet?”

Deep crimson color stained Hetty's forehead and cheeks. “A patriotess?” she repeated, without answering.

Von Engel laughed with satisfaction. “That is good; you are still old fashioned. You will have marriage, and to one man! I recollect you had a sweetheart in the army below Riga; that was he with you?”

“Yes, Herr Hauptmann.”

“So he returned only yesterday. In the lists given me this morning of a all who have come to town recently was one on furlong from the eastern army. A seditious lot, they are now; he will need watching, and he shall have it! So you have been waiting for him, treues Mädchen! Well, remain faithful! Ha-ha! How old are you now?”

“Twenty, Herr Hauptmann.”

“A delightful age; I like it. But have you enough to eat? Let me see what you have in that tiny basket. How many in your household? Five? I swear they should feed you better: the ethereal may be carried too far. I shall see that more is sent you. Auf Wiederseh'n. I go on! Remember to remain old-fashioned—ha-ha!—till I see you again! Auf Wiederseh'n!

He squeezed her approvingly once more, released her and strode off. She remained standing, trembling, gazing after him; he glanced back after he had gone several paces and saw her watching him. He laughed went out of sight without again looking about. Hetty turned with eyes wet to Joseph, who had come back to her side.

“I have endangered you,” she said.

“I failed to protect you,” he replied with a repressed quiet which had marked him this time that he was home. More than any bluster or boast, it made her fear for him.

“We must not be seen together,” Hetty said, “or he will have you sent at once to the west front where the danger is greatest; that is the least! You have said so much since you have been home, Joseph. Some of it may come to him when he inquires; and he may do anything to you!”

“Because of you?”

“Yes, because of me!” She sobbed a little and wiped her eyes.

“I did not mean you were to blame, Liebchen!”' He caressed her. “I meant he would get me out of the way to obtain you!”

“We must go on quickly, if we go on together,” she cried. “We do not know who watches us!” She started to run.

They found that the gate ahead was closed, and further on an order posted forbidding the passage across the Schloss park; but there was a man on guard who, after taking their names and addresses, let them out to the road which bounded the castle reserve on that side. Cottages and two-storied dwellings of the middle-class people extended along this road.

It was mid-February, with weather severe even for that season in Rhenish Hesse-Nassau. The white, heavy smoke of undried wood issued from such of the cottage chimneys as showed any fire at all, for days and weeks had passed since the last coal-distribution for house-heating. It had been forbidden, during the summer and autumn, to cut the trees of the Schloss wood for fires; indeed, the proscription still stood; but lately it had been disobeyed. People might suppose that the sudden forbidding of further passing through the woods merely a result of their faggot-stealing, Hetty thought.

“Do not tell to anyone that our Kaiser comes to your Ehernschloss,” she warned Joseph. “Particularly do not say it to my father.”

“Why not to him?” Joseph asked, surprised at her manner of speaking.

“Father has altered much in six months.”

“Yes, Hetty; I saw that last night.”

“”He has altered more again since last night with all the things you told about our enemies—and ourselves.”

“How has he altered?” Joseph demanded.

“So that he can no longer be counted upon for what he may do, Joseph. Remember, I pray you, do not let him learn that Ehernschloss again expects our Kaiser.”

She was leading Joseph on to a two-storied house, a little larger than its immediate neighbors, which had a wing devoted to her father's home laboratory.

The windows of this wing were blank and cold; the whole front of the house was unheated and deserted. Hetty brought Joseph in the front door only to pass at once to the kitchen, where a fire was burning in the stove and where her father and sister were.

Her father, who had been a tall, erect and dignified man, was standing bent before the stove. When he looked up to see who had come in, it was with the piteous expectancy of a fond man who recently has lost dear ones whom he has not been able to abandon as dead. Thrice in the last two years had he received the official notification that a son of his had given his life fighting for the Fatherland; Ernst Stroebel knew, therefore, that all his boys were dead; yet when a door opened, he could not conquer the surge of hope that one of them might appear. His dear wife Hedwig had died here in. this house—“from natural causes,” the doctor said, though the truth was that she had starved, her system unable to assimilate the new scientific diet of substitutes which somehow had kept life in the others. Stroebel had buried her; yet he found himself still expecting her also to appear again.

He saw that it was his “baby,” his little Hetty, who had come in, and he called to her affectionately:

“My little Hetty!”

Then the draft following the opening of the door caused some smoke to escape into the room, and he coughed and choked pitifully, catching to a chair to hold himself up. His breath rasped and rattled in his ruined air-passages. Hetty ran to him, and unable to aid him, she hugged him in her arms, soothing and reassuring, until his breath came less torturingly. She got him seated in a chair, the sweat of the struggle for breath and the fear of death cold upon him.

“'And when the voice of God,'” he wheezed to himself, “'and when at last the voice of God called to him, he saw himself alone upon the earth in the midst of phantoms, sad and beyond all number. And when the voice of God—'” he began over again.

“What is it?” Joseph whispered to Hetty when she drew back to him.

“He is thinking of our Kaiser!” she answered. “It is the way Father has been for many months since Emil's death followed that of my other brothers, and my mother went, and he has been so weak. There was a drawing by Raemaekers which some one got to him and which he kept, though it meant his death if anyone found it. The picture was the one, I think, which led to His Majesty's putting the price upon Raemaekers' head. It showed His Majesty at the moment of death, which had come to him suddenly; he was in uniform and helmet; and the moment before, there might have been many strong soldiers about him; but at the instant of death they all disappeared, and in their places appeared only the ghosts of the dead, old men and young, women and girls and little babies, all of whom had died through the war; and below was what Father has been saying: 'And when the voice of God called to him, he saw himself alone upon the earth in the midst of phantoms, sad and without number.'”

Stroebel was repeating it again when his daughter Luisa stopped him. She would have made a move to aid her father when he was struggling for breath had not her younger sister come. Luisa was not callous; but her strength was less than Hetty's. She had been married seven months before to Unteroffizier Rolf Sorge of the army facing the British in Flanders. For many weeks, on account of her approaching maternity, her portion of the family ration had been perhaps twice that of Hetty's; but Luisa had become gaunt, not ethereal. Her skin, instead of becoming delicately shell-like in pinkness, was yellow and dry; her deep blue eyes, very like Hetty's, had become too big; and her brown hair had lost all luster. It was long before Christmas when she last had heard from her husband; and if he had had furloughs, none had brought him home since summer.

“You looked at the casualty lists?” Luisa gazed from her sister to Joseph dully.

“Yes, Luisa,” Hetty said. “And I stayed till I got near enough to read every name upon all—wounded and missing as well as killed. Rolf's name was not on any.”

Luisa's eyes burned with resentment. “That means nothing! The casualty lists! They are weeks and months behind now, and falser than ever, too. Think of Ada Lund's husband! Had it not been Rolf's shovel which scraped the disk from his body in the mud, who would know about him yet? As far as the official lists say, he is alive yet; and Rolf found him months ago.”

HETTY saw that her father's watery eyes stared piteously at Luisa as she spoke; but Luisa did not notice. Like the many, many millions of her famishing sort, her whole thought had gone to food. “What did you get to-day?” she demanded, taking the market-basket from Hetty and turning out its miserable booty upon the table. She always said that she had ceased to expect sufficient and decent food and that she had become used to the brown lumps which now went for war-bread, the desiccated ounces of potato- or pea-meal or—on lucky days—some unidentifiable strip which might be horse-meat, or walrus brought down by the Swedes from the Arctic Sea; but always, when the daily dole arrived, she complained with violent bitterness. So now, wrapped in her own troubles, she noticed nothing unusual between her sister and Joseph; but Hetty was aware that her father's bloodshot eyes—his gas had had the double virtue of attacking eyes as well as lungs—watched her and Joseph ceaselessly. Several times he started to speak; but except for coughing, he remained silent and bent over until Luisa, her morning's energy spent, went to her room to rest.

“What threatens you two?” Stroebel demanded then.

“Nothing, Papa.”

“Say the truth to me, Töchterlein. I can observe; neither of you are as you were earlier!”

“No; we are not,” Joseph put in. “A Captain von Engel stopped her—”

“Captain von Engel!” Stroebel cried, straightening with a wince and standing up.

“He stopped Hetty, sending me on—” Joseph continued.

“So he is back, is he?” Stroebel broke in again, swinging to Hetty.

“Yes, Papa.”

“I see! What did he say to you? What has he done?” Stroebel demanded fiercely when she hesitated.

“He's done nothing, Papa—only he said that he liked me very much.”


“And she was not to marry me!” Joseph finished,

“Ha! That is it, is it? I see! For Captain von Engel will be detained here awhile, and he approves of you, Hetty, my little daughter! Von Engel, the harbinger of His Majesty! The stormy petrel preceding the hurricane of the All Highest!” His voice rose to a shrill crow, then cracked and broke to the wheeze. “So he is coming here again, the All Highest!” he cried, his fury transferred, with the sudden shift of rage, from von Engel to his master. “Our Kaiser hides at the Ehernschloss once more to rest while he sends his doubles out to endure danger for him and to fool his people. Well he knows he needs them! His enemies among his own people may become so many and so desperate that he must disarm, in these days, even his own soldiers who are not of bis personal guard, when he passes. Yea! And in certain places he dare not go, even when all are disarmed, It is plain how it is! Here comes an eyewitness who has seen His Majesty. 'He looks scarcely as old as his age would suggest,' says this one. 'The complexion clear, the carriage erect, the step elastic, not the slightest indication of weariness.' That very week another interview him elsewhere who finds him very gray and pale, much worn; a third testifies to an appearance in between.

“How is that? Well, it is known that even in times of peace he sometimes had the actor Schmalz to appear it places for him to save him inconveniences. Now, to sat him from death, he requires not only Schmalz but two or three—perhaps a dozen—other doubles; who knows? So again he will be sending them around while he hides here! For his people, even on the Rhine, no longer are to be trusted!”

He hobbled to the tab!e where Hetty had laid out the food. “It is not that sixty millions are brought to this or worse; it is not that I—and millions like myself, men and women, old and young—have the care of the authorities so long as we are strong and clever to devise new ways of slaughter, and when we cease to be of use are cast aside like dogs to starve. It is not that we are beginning to learn from events on the Russian front, and from the scraps of truth which such as Joseph bring us, how we were led into this war, how we who trusted and were patriotic were lied to, fooled and deceived to make ourselves infamous—”

“Papa!” Hetty cried. “Still yourself!”

STROEBEL laughed bitterly and coughed. “I am brave am I not, wheezing these things to my daughter and her sweetheart in my kitchen? Ah, well, I am not done yet! He shall see that I still have strength to strike—strike for an end to the war and liberation of our from this monstrous slaughter!”

“He, Papa? Whom do you mean?”

“His Majesty, our Kaiser—the All Highest War Lord! Look and see, Hetty, that your sister is asleep.”

Hetty hesitated, trying to calm her father; then she went to Luisa's door; she closed it and returned.

“I will tell you about Rolf now,” he said. “Rolf is not dead or captured or wounded; nor has he been. I have found out; he has merely 'married' once or twice more since last summer; nor was our Luisa his first wife. He had at least one woman earlier, still living!”

“My poor Luisa!” Hetty recoiled, flushing deep as she gazed from her father to Joseph.

“But I scarcely surprise you, I see,” her father continued. “What Rolf has done to our Luisa is no longer punishable crime; it has become honorable conduct, encouraged by the authorities in Germany to-day. I know beyond doubt you, Joseph, have been instructed to do as he; I know that my little daughter here—my baby Hetty—has been exhorted by the state to become what we used to consider the lowest and most depraved of women, all in the name of patriotism. But they shall not have her! They have taken my wife! They have taken my sons; my three boys sleep under the Flanders sod! They have ruined my elder daughter; my baby alone remains! They shall not have her, I say! Though there has come condition of things where beasts like Captain Engel may do, more than ever, what they wish, yet punishment shall be visited, I say. The penalty shall appear!”

He stood swaying and with his weak eyes streaming from his fury; then suddenly he left them and stumbled to his own room.

Hetty started after him; but as he shut his door, she turned back and gazed aghast at Joseph.

“My Hetty!” he cried to her, offering his arms.

“No—no!” She thrust him off, her blue eyes agonized with dread.

“My Hetty, what Rolf has done does not make you hate me?” he asked.

“Hate you, dear Joseph? I could never do that—nor distrust you! What a different man you have become from the boy that you were that day long ago, Joseph, when I kissed you so happily and you kissed me, and you first went away with them all singing, 'Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles!'

“Tell me all that troubles you, Hetty!”

“You have heard Father! Oh, I begged you not to let him learn that our Kaiser comes here. For Father, you see now, Father—” She was whispering and her voice failed.

“What, Hetty?”

“Father plans to kill him!”

“His Majesty?”

“Yes, Joseph. He has come to believe it would end the war, end our misery, our starvation and bestiality, our—our—the sort of thing, Joseph, which he spoke about and we all know.”

“The assassination of the Kaiser! Ending our troubles is not so simple as that. They will end, Hetty! Believe that! Revolt—revolution surely will come. But the assassination of the Kaiser would only deter it and do harm, not good.”

“I'll tell Papa that!”

“To kill our Kaiser would be, indeed, the worst thing for us! I have heard it talked over many times, of course, among the Russians who seek revolution. Even they refuse it; at best, they say, it is the stroke of the weak, the impatient and the afraid.”

“But that makes it my father's stroke, Joseph! He is very weak, and so near to death that he is impatient and afraid. One after one, he has seen us all go—my three brothers, my mother, now Luisa ruined, and me—me threatened while he is barely alive. And he has never been a man to do nothing. He cannot die without attempting some stroke in protest. You heard him when we came in, brooding—brooding as so many times before on the death of our Kaiser. He pictures His Majesty before him at the moment of death when the voice of God at last calls him and he is surrounded by the phantoms of all who have gone in this war—my mother and brothers, my aunt and her sons and all the rest of the wraiths, sad and beyond number. And my father would be the voice of God to call our Kaiser and visit that upon him. 'I—the voice of God!' I have heard Papa whisper it again and again.”

“But how could he strike, Hetty? He is a broken man.”

“Yes; but he has slain, they say, two army corps of our enemies with substances they could not see or hear or smell or feel until it killed them. When our Kaiser comes here, could even His Majesty be safe? Oh, if Mamma were here, she would know what to say to him! Yet—oh, I would not call her back No, I would not call any woman back to our country to-day! Oh, my poor poor Luisa! Poor Papa!”

“At least, we can look out for him.” Joseph comforted her with arms about her. “And you Engel shall not harm you!”

But she made excuse to send him away. What could Joseph do against Captain von Engel of th escort of His Majesty? Joseph could only destroy himself without helping her; and Captain von Engel, she was well aware, was watching both Joseph and her now.

She got proof of that very soon after Joseph was gone, when she saw a man approaching the house from the direction of the Schloss. He proved to be one of the soldier servants, and he carried a basket heaped high with things, and of no little weight. When he reached the kitchen door and knocked, Hetty waited, trembling; then she went to the door and opened it.

“Compliments of Herr Hauptmann von Engel!” The soldier presented the basket. “Sausage, good bread, jelly potted tongue,” the man hungrily enumerated items of is burden.

“I cannot take it!” Hetty refused.

“The order, then, is to leave it,” the soldier said; and he put the basket down in the snow and went off. Hetty left it there while she tried to think what best to do. She went to her room for a few moments during which she heard Luisa stirring and going to the kitchen. The outer door opened and shut, and Hetty in sudden alarm rushed back to the kitchen.

Her sister Luisa—gaunt, half-starved Luisa—had discovered the basket and brought it in. She had sat down with it in her lap while she snatched from it the delicate, well-flavored food which she devoured recklessly.

“Luisa!” Hetty cried in reproach. “What are you doing?”

“Food! Good food!” Luisa returned. “Good food! I found it!”

“You must not eat it!”

“Why?” Luisa continued to devour. “It was beside our door. It is good—oh so, so good, Hetty! Here, have some; share it! Call Papa!”

Hetty drew back, refusing the food for herself; but she could not take it away from Luisa. Besides, all might as well be used as some. There was nothing to do now but to keep it.

CAPTAIN VON ENGEL followed his gift the next forenoon. He rang and knocked imperatively until Hetty, who happened to be alone in the house with her father, had to admit him.

“You are even prettier, having dined properly,” he complimented her and his generosity, putting his hand upon her.

“I have not dined differently from usual,” Hetty defied him quietly.

“So? Why not? You tell me my pig of a servant stole—”

“No,” Hetty said. “He left all here; my family have appreciated your gift, Herr Hauptmann, but not I.”

“So? You have been so well fed by others, perhaps?”

“No, Herr Hauptmann.”

“Then why have you not eaten? To be insolent to me? Who is that there?” von Engel demanded at a sound from the rear. “That swinish sweetheart I've forbidden you?”

“My father, Herr Hauptmann.”

“Where is he?”

“In the kitchen. He is not strong; that is where the fire is.”

“Tell him to come here; and light that fire there.” He motioned toward the fireplace where a fire was set.

"Yes, Herr Hauptmann.”

Captain von Engel unbuttoned his coat and stood before the fire with his back to Hetty and to her father, who came in and stood waiting. Ostensibly von Engel was warming himself, oblivious of the chemist; in fact, he had glanced at Stroebel and was entirely given to thought about him. For von Engel's glance had discovered that Stroebel was a fated man and knew it; and von Engel had become uneasy in regard to fated men who knew their certain nearness to death.

“Good morning, Herr Stroebel.” Von Engel turned abruptly. “You may go,” he said to Hetty. “Close the door.”

“I am glad to see you are so well recovered,” von Engel complimented.

“I do well enough, Herr Hauptmann,” Stroebel said. He forced himself to appear to feel flattered at a call from Captain von Engel.

“You are able to do a little work again, I hear,” von Engel proceeded rapidly.

“Yes—a little, at times,” admitted Stroebel.

“That is excellent. I hoped it was so. We need your aid again, Herr Stroebel.”

“Yes, Herr Hauptmann?” Stroebel replied, watching von Engel more closely.

“I will tell you frankly; I know you always can be trusted implicitly,” von Engel went on, with oily flattery.

“I have been, Herr Hauptmann,” Stroebel replied quietly.

“Precisely! So the task is this: There are, as you surely know, several low persons who are taking the basest advantage of the present difficulties within the Empire to harass and embarrass our High Command.”

Stroebel nodded patiently.

“Most of these may be disregarded,” went on von Engel. “Their influence quickly passes, or they may be punished with the severity which they merit. There is one of these Socialist-radical dog-swine who has been causing the greatest annoyance to the High Command and all loyal Germans like ourselves but who, because of the treacherous unrest of the low people, puts upon us the problem of his removal in such a manner that no one will suspect that he did not die—he is not a young man, so let us say—of heart failure. It is preferable, indeed, that death come upon him when he is alone and engaged in some such ordinary occupation as walking. He will be alone, yet within the observation of others, perhaps; he will fall dead without the suspicion of violence. You are able to follow me?”

“Quite easily, Herr Hauptmann,” Stroebel assured.

“The responsibility was given me to select the investigator-chemist who could be trusted with so extraordinarily delicate an operation. If Ernst Stroebel, I said, retains but a part of his powers which gave us that gas which saved many army corps to our High Command, this task is nothing to him. But perhaps I have underestimated the difficulties; what is required may be impossible.”

“Not impossible, not impossible at all, Herr Hauptmann! Entirely attainable, I assure you!”

Von Engel smiled. “Very well; we shall see.” And he turned away with satisfaction. He had put the matter just right, he flattered himself. Not only had he assigned the task to one who was master of death-doses of extreme subtlety, but he had brought to a despairing man the inspiration of a call from his Fatherland which he had faithfully served.

Stroebel, holding composure with the severest struggle, did not disillusion him. Excitement threatened so to betray him that the chemist drove his mind to problem of the chemical combinations now possible to him.

“Obviously you understand that the political situation does not brook delay,” von Engel said.

“Thank you, Herr Hauptmann. But the question of supplies, Herr Hauptmann—the chemicals which I need.”

“Make a list, and they shall be supplied instantly.”

“Thank you, Herr Hauptmann. “Then, when I am finished, how do I report?”

“I may come here myself, or—” Von Engel took a card from his pocket and scribbled upon it a few words. “That will admit you at any time to the castle grounds to report to me.” He gave the card to Stroebel.

“Thank you, Herr Hauptmann.”

“The list of requisites; make it up for me now. I personally shall wait,” von Engel offered.

“You are very good, Herr Hauptmann.”

STROEBEL, dismissed, delayed only a minute longer. He left von Engel and went to his laboratory, distinctly closing the door behind him. Then, quite silently, he opened it. His ears were very good, and he heard:

“Hetty, come here!”

“What is it, Herr Hauptmann?'

“Why are you such a silly girl, Hetty? Only to provoke me? If it is that, all right; I like it.”

“How am I silly, Herr Hauptmann?”

“I offer you my honorable attentions!”

“Honorable, Herr Hauptmann?”

“Honorable, certainly! Where do you shut yourself up these days that you how nothing? Can you not read? Do you not hear what is to be done, these days? Every pretty girl like you is to be mated to some one fit! I say that seditious sweetheart of yours is not fit! And I offer you opportunity to do your duty to the Fatherland; and what do you say?”

“No! No! No!”

“You little fool! Then read that and consider! And think better. By God, you are pretty—”

There was the sound of a struggle, but von Engel caught the girl and kissed her.

Stroebel started to run, stumbling, down the hall; but as he caught himself, cunning came to him; and when he appeared to von Engel and his daughter, he apologized to the Captain for interrupting him.

“The list of requisites, Herr Hauptmann. You said to bring it to you.”

“Oh, yes,”

Stroebel gave him the list; and von Engel desired to delay no longer. He went out and Stroebel turned to his little Hetty.

She had crumpled in her hand a paper Von Engel had thrust to her: and when her father demanded it, she at first refused it; but when he forced her to give it to him, she tried to depreciate it by explaining: “It is only the general proclamation, Papa, distributed to solders and to all women now.”

“I will see it,” Stroebel said, and slowly he read aloud:

“Women in all classes of society who have reached a certain age are, in the interests of the Fatherland, not only authorized but called upon to enter into a secondary marriage which is supported by personal inclination. Only a married man may be the object of this inclination—'” The father's voice cracked in its emotion, and for many words, he mumbled. Then he spoke clearly again:

“'The offspring of these lawful—lawful,'” he repeated with terrible intensity, “'lawful marriages bear the name of their mother, and are handed over to the care of the state, unless the mother assumes responsibility for them. They are to be regarded in every respect as fully equal members of society. The mothers wear a narrow wedding-ring as a sign of their patriotism!' Patriotism!” Stroebel repeated.

“'The difficulties consist solely in ethical scruples which, notwithstanding the issue of proper regulations by the state, will continue to operate until conscience has disposed of them. It rests, therefore, with the women and the clergy, assisted by the state, to determine whether Germany shall be able not only to maintain herself on her present pinnacle of morality, but by her own strength to stand up in the future, as in the present, to the pressure of enemies who are increasing numerically!'”

He cast down the proclamation, and with his eyes streaming, he put out his hands and caught his little Hetty by the shoulders and held her before him.

“That goes, by the permission of the High Command, to our soldiers and the women and girls of Germany! O God! Make me Thy Voice! Think, little Hetty! How many times have I been so stupid as to blame Rolf for what he has done to our Luisa; and do you know, only a minute ago when I heard you and him here, I would have been satisfied to have killed only Captain von Engel!”

He looked past her and beyond with his blurred eyes, and gradually a great trembling came over him so that Hetty crept close to him as he turned her around and pointed her gaze up and out the window.

There was a stretch upon the slope of the castle grounds where, in one of the sieges long ago, the trees had been cut down and never replanted. It exposed a portion of the road to view, and far away upon the stretch and outlined against the snow appeared horsemen. Two rode by together, then two more, and after an interval, another pair.

“What do you see, Liebchen?” her father asked. “What do you see?”

“Horsemen, that is all, Father.”

“Riding how?”

She told him.

“Aye!” he said. “Fore-riders; and then His Majesty with his companion, and then two in the rear, just as we have seen them before. For our Kaiser is come now to Ehernschloss!”

THE next day at noon this was known throughout most of the city; for as during previous visits of His Majesty, the members of the special police, who were charged with the safety of the All Highest, became very active. They shut off streets, guarded gates and suddenly entered and searched houses of His Majesty's subjects; among these homes searched was the cottage where Joseph Bolland lived with his mother. The police found nothing incriminating, but immediately after they had reported, Joseph received peremptory orders to present himself at the station the next morning where recruits were being gathered for dispatch to the regiments upon the west front.

Hetty had gone to town before the news reached her house; and when she returned, she found her father shut up in his laboratory, where he had been working almost ceaselessly since receiving his chemical supplies the day before.

“'And when the voice of God,'” she made out the sound of the words which he repeated while. he worked, “'and when the voice of God called to him, he saw himself alone upon the earth, in the midst of phantoms, sad and without number.'”

She knocked.

“Little Hetty?” he cried excitedly.

“Yes, Papa.”

“Stay away from the door; do not breathe there. Go away!”

“You are making gas?”

“Yes. Go to my room.”

She went there, frightened by the sound of his voice; he joined her and told her of Joseph.

“This is von Engel's work, of course,” he said while she stood staring before her. “You must marry Joseph to-night Why—what is the matter? You do not want to do it?”

“Want to, Papa? Oh, if I could!”

“That is what Joseph cried when he told me of this—if only he could marry you! Well, why can you not?”

She did not answer.

“Besides the desires of Captain von Engel, what is the impediment?” her father demanded. “None, I know. Joseph fears to bring you to harm at once if notice of your marriage is posted; you, I see, fear for him likewise. Well, we shall see whether in Germany to-day my daughter, even though approved of by a Captain von Engel, may not marry her sweetheart who has served the Fatherland as a soldier. I have sent, since Joseph was here, to the registrar to instruct that the usual public notice of your marriage at once be posted.”


“By this time it is done. Joseph is in the city seeking you. I go back to my work; it is not quite complete.”

HE went to his laboratory and locked himself in. Hetty, unable to follow him, ran out seeking Joseph. She met him halfway out from the city on the road which surrounded the Schloss woods. He was walking quickly and with his head erect; a proud defiance of consequence had come to him—a defiance quite distinct from that boastful bravery of the boy who had marched off to battle singing “Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles.” It made many people who passed gaze at him wonderingly; it made Hetty's heart burn within her for him as never before, when he saw her and she saw his leaping exultation of love.

He seized her hands. “Notice of our marriage is given, my Hetty!”

“Yes!” She gazed up at him, her eyes filling. “Father has told me.”

“A few friends already have congratulated me.”

“I have met no one yet who has heard, Joseph, so I have not yet been congratulated.”

“Come; we will walk along together now.”


He turned her back toward her home, passing people who gazed at them smilingly and who knew so little that they envied these lovers; then they met one or two who had heard of the notice of the marriage and who therefore congratulated them.

“You are happy, Hetty?”

“Yes, Joseph; we may be married now. What is done will bring upon you all that can be brought.”

“I have been thinking whether that would be true of you, Hetty.”

“Joseph—when they searched your things, they found nothing, none of those proclamations from Russia, no copies, nothing which he could use against you?”

“Nothing, Hetty, I am sure. I have been very careful.”

“But you have been so incautious in speech, dear Joseph. If they said that they had found proof of sedition, it would seem true!”

“Doubtless he will content himself with sending me at once to Flanders, Hetty.”

“Oh, he would have, perhaps. Not now. Every squad of soldiers we see seems about to halt you.”

“Do not think it, Hetty.”

“Ah! There is another. See—they want you..... Yes; it is arrest! My Joseph!”

SHE caught up his hand and kissed it passionately as the soldiers stopped him. Joseph was put under arrest; the soldiers would not say by whose orders or for what. Possibly they did not know; but he was under arrest. They took him away; and Hetty stood alone in the street, surrounded at a little distance by strangers and friends who dared not even sympathize with her. Slowly she turned from the direction in which they had taken Joseph and went on to the house of her father.

He opened the door as she turned in.

“Well,” he cried to her, “well, how goes it? When will the wedding be?”

“Wedding! We shall never have any wedding, Father! You have killed Joseph! They have arrested him; they have taken him away. Oh, you have killed him, killed him!”

“I?” her father cried. “I—by posting that! Very well. I waited for that, but I need not have waited! The voice of God! Ah, how it calls! How careless men may be! The other day, when he was here and before all this happened, Captain von Engel scribbled for me, to honor me, an order to come to the castle to report to him when my work was done. Well, it is done; and I have his passport! I take my results to him and his master!”

He stepped into his laboratory and took up a metal box; he put on cap and coat and mittens, and without other words, he went out.

It was the afternoon hour when, as was well known, it was His Majesty's custom to ride. This day was bright and fair; and Hetty, gazing up toward the Schloss, saw two horsemen coming down the stretch of bare road; they passed out of sight, and two more followed, and after them another pair. His Majesty was riding again! And Hetty knew what her father had entered the castle grounds to do. But for the moment, in her passion, all came to her as all had come to him.

She saw her brothers slain, butchered in battle, not in defense of the Fatherland but for the glory of the Prussian king! She saw her mother—sweet, patient, uncomplaining—slowly starved and dying in sacrifice to the Crown! She saw her father gassed, as he had gassed a hundred thousand French and English, in horrible holocaust to forward schemes of the royal house. She saw, not Rolf who had betrayed and ruined Luisa, but behind him and exhorting him, the royal state! She saw not only von Engel arresting Joseph and insulting and menacing her, but the High Command who “authorized and called upon” men and girls to debase and debauch each other. And for the moment all formed before her in the person of Authority itself—the face of the All Highest in helmet and uniform: His Majesty, the Kaiser, who had ordered or permitted all these things. And for that moment she wished her father to accomplish what he had gone to do.

Then hollowness seized her as she saw her father, having done it, punished; as she saw Joseph in jail accused for having part in it and condemned, hanged, for what he had cried out to her must not be done. And below and beneath all, there stirred through her now an instinct, born and bred in her blood and bone, for the safety and sanctity of His Majesty! And she had ceased to think or reason or feel.

HETTY ran to the gate to the grounds of the Schloss through which her father had been admitted. The soldier who had passed him refused to let her by. There was a telephone-box by which any imperative circumstance could be referred to the commander of the guard at the castle; the sentinel could telephone urgent matters; that was all he could do.

Thought of the trotting horses, ever approaching closer, terrified her; but here, before the sentinel, she could not accuse her father. A safer scheme for gaining entrance came to her—safer for her father, whatever it might prove for her.

“Send word at once to Captain von Engel,” she ordered, “that Fraulein Hetty Stroebel must see him.”

The soldier, having telephoned, stepped back. “Captain von Engel is engaged at present; but later doubtless he will see you. Proceed to the lodge.”

Hetty went by. The way to the lodge led toward the road upon which His Majesty and his escort were riding. She ran as soon as she was out of sight of the guard; and she knew that her father could not be far ahead, because he could walk but slowly. He had proceeded very slowly indeed, for now, after running only a few minutes, she saw him,

He had stopped beside a tree to rest, she thought; but as she approached, she saw that he was not merely resting: he was waiting. Gone was the overmastering fury which had taken him to the Schloss grounds; he had spent it in some [deed]. He no longer carried the metal box he had borne from the house; he was gazing upon the riding-path where intersected the footway several yards beyond him; and he did not turn when Hetty called nor when she came up beside him.

“Be still!” was all he said when she spoke to him. “Be still; you interrupt—you break in upon the voice of God. Listen; it is about to call—the voice of God. It is about to call him. Listen.”

HE was listening, and so intently that Hetty was still and she listened. She heard hoof-beats coming down the bridle-path—the hoofs of several horses galloping rapidly; and now the horses and their riders came in sight. There were the two who rode first; young officers of the guard, these were; they galloped past, their horses' hoofs kicking the dry, powdery snow. Now the following riders came into sight, the straight stiff figure of Captain von Engel and beside him a shorter man on a large horse, gray and commanding, unrelaxed and sternly gazing ahead.

“His Majesty!” Hetty cried, her heart pounding so that it choked her. “Se(illegible text) Majestãt!”

“It is the voice of God!” her father said beside her. He had gazed at his Majesty once also; but instantly his eyes had gone back to the path ahead when the fore-riders had galloped past; and Hetty, gazing over the snow, suddenly saw that her father's footprints had gone ahead to the riding-path at that point and then had returned; and where the footprints were, the light snow kicked up by the first horses seemed to hover over the ground as though the air had become heavier there and sustained the shimmering dust.

“Beware!” Hetty shouted, seeing it and running forward. “Stop! Beware! Your Majesty, beware!”

But the riders of the galloping horses did not hear or see her; they came while a light gust of breeze lifted the shimmer in the air and took it toward them.

“See to yourselves! See to yourselves!” Hetty screamed as the horse upon which Captain von Engel rode stumbled and went to its knees; it neighed and trumpeted, rolling over while von Engel hurled himself to the ground. The great horse upon which His Majesty rode was less swiftly affected; it galloped a length or two before it collapsed and went down trumpeting out its breath and throwing the figure of His Majesty prostrate.

HETTY had halted when they went down; and now her father was beside her, holding her and pulling her back.

“Stay away!” he wheezed to her. “Stay away! It is the gas! I made it; nothing can save them. The fore-riders broke the containers and stirred it from the path; these came upon it—all as I have planned! He will die!” Stroebel was thinking only of His Majesty now. “No one, I say, can save him. But he will not die at once; I have insured his moment to him to hearken—hearken to the voice of God and to witness the gathering of the phantoms, the phantoms of those whom he has tortured and killed, sad and beyond all number. See—see them gathering about him now. Do you not see them, Hetty?”

Her father stared about; beyond all doubt he witnessed them gathering—the innumerable phantoms of the men and women, old and young, the girls and boys and the babes, sad and beyond all number. And for the instant that her father held her, Hetty seemed to see them too. But the man who had been flung from the great horse struggled up on his knees, and though he was dying, and though beyond all doubt he now knew it, he threw back his head proudly and without guilt. With a wrench of his body, as he rasped for breath, he put his hand upon his sword and knelt as one before his liege lord.

“It has come upon me, instead of upon Your Majesty!” he cried. “I die for you!” And he fell forward upon his face and did not move.

“The voice of God!” Stroebel cried out. “It came to him, but it brought him—only that! Only that!”

Beside the still form of His Majesty, the great horse had ceased to move; von Engel's horse too lay dead, and the form of von Engel was motionless upon the snow. But from the direction of the castle other riders appeared; and the fore-riders, who had gone far on, had turned and were coming back. They were the closest, and so Hetty ran to them.

“It is gas—gas which has killed him. It is upon the ground about there. Do not go close!” she cried to the two officers, who returned.

But her father, in spite of the warning which he first had given her, now had crept up to the forms on the ground. Whether he believed that the gas already might have cleared, or whether now he was reckless of it, Hetty could not tell. But he went up and bent over the face of the man who died with his hand on his sword.

He threw back the long cape from over the left side, and he stooped and stared closely at the face.

“The left arm!” Stroebel's voice screamed. “It is sound; and the scar under the eye; it is paint! This is not he! It is only an actor! The voice of God, I have called it to this!” And he fell forward on his hands and knees on the ground. “But at least,” he cried out, “at least, von Engel is dead. Here, Liebchen, at least I have saved you from von Engel—for Joseph, when he comes back—and revolution comes!”

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1959, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 64 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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