A novel by Gerhart Hauptmann
Translated by Adele and Thomas Seltzer
NEW YORK B.W. HUEBSCH 1912
Copyright 1912 by S. FISCHER, VERLAG, BERLIN
Copyright 1912 by B.W. HUEBSCH
All rights reserved
PRINTED IN U.S.A.
The German fast mail steamer, Roland, one of the older vessels of the North German Steamship Company, plying between Bremen and New York, left Bremen on the twenty-third of January, 1892.
It had been built in English yards with none of those profuse, gorgeous gold decorations in a riotous rococo style which are so unpleasant in the saloons and cabins of ships more recently built in German yards.
The crew of the vessel included the captain, four officers, two engineers of the first rank, assistant engineers, firemen, coal-passers, oilers, a purser, the head-steward and the second steward, the chef, the second cook, and a doctor. In addition to these men with their assistants, to whom the well-being of that tremendous floating household was entrusted, there were, of course, a number of sailors, stewards, stewardesses, workers in the kitchen, and so on, besides two cabin-boys and a nurse. There was also an officer in charge of the mail on board. The vessel was carrying only a hundred cabin passengers from Bremen; but in the steerage there were four hundred human beings.
Frederick von Kammacher, to whom, the day before, the Roland had been non-existent, telegraphed from Paris to have a cabin on it reserved for him. Haste was imperative. After receiving notification from the company that the cabin was being held, he had only an hour and a half in which to catch the express that would bring him to Havre at about twelve o'clock. From Havre he crossed to Southampton, spending the night in a bunk in one of those wretched saloons in which a number of persons are herded together. But he managed to sleep the whole time, and the crossing went without incident.
At dawn he was on deck watching England's ghostly coast-line draw nearer and nearer, until finally the steamer entered the port of Southampton, where he was to await the Roland.
At the steamship office, he was told that the Roland would scarcely make Southampton before evening, and at seven o'clock a tender would be at the pier to convey the passengers to the ship as soon as it was sighted. That meant twelve idle hours in a dreary foreign town, with the thermometer at ten degrees below freezing-point. Frederick decided to take a room in a hotel, and, if possible, pass some of the time in sleep.
In a shop window he saw a display of cigarettes of the brand of Simon Arzt of Port Said. He entered the shop, which a maid was sweeping, and bought several hundred. It was an act dictated by sentiment rather than by a desire for enjoyment. The cigarettes of Simon Arzt of Port Said were excellent, the best he had ever smoked; but the significance they had acquired for him was not due to any intrinsic virtue of theirs.
He carried an alligator portfolio in his waistcoat pocket. In that portfolio, among other things, was a letter he had received the very day he left Paris:
* * * * *
It's no use. I left the sanatorium in the Harz and returned to my parents' home a lost man. That cursed winter in the Heuscheuer Mountains! After a stay in tropical countries, I should not have thrown myself into the fangs of such a winter. Of course, the worst thing was my predecessor's fur coat. To my predecessor's fur coat I owe my sweet fate. May the devil in hell take special delight in burning it. I need scarcely tell you that I gave myself copious injections of tuberculin and spat a considerable number of bacilli. But enough remained behind to provide me with a speedy exitus letalis.
Now for the essential. I must settle my bequests. I find I owe you three thousand marks. You made it possible for me to complete my medical studies. To be sure, they have failed me miserably. But that, of course, you cannot help, and, curiously enough, now that all's lost, the thing that most bothers me is the horrid thought that I cannot repay you.
My father, you know, is principal of a public school and actually managed to save some money. But he has five children beside myself, all of whom are unprovided for. He looked upon me as his capital which would bring more than the usual rate of interest. Being a practical man, he now realises he has lost both principal and interest.
In brief, he is afraid of responsibilities which unfortunately I cannot shoulder in the better world to come—faugh, faugh, faugh!—I spit three times. What shall I do? Would you be able to forego the payment of my debt?
Several times, old boy, I have been two thirds of the way over already, and I have left for you some notes on the states I have passed through, which may not be lacking in scientific interest. Should it be possible for me, after the great moment, to make myself noticeable from the Beyond, you will hear from me again.
Where are you? Good-bye. In the vivid, flashing orgies of my nocturnal dreams, you are always tossing in a ship on the high seas. Do you intend to go on an ocean trip?
It is January. Isn't there a certain advantage in not needing to dread April weather any longer? I shake hands with you, Frederick von Kammacher.
Yours, George Rasmussen.
* * * * *
Frederick, of course, had immediately sent a telegram from Paris, which relieved the son, dying a heroic death, from solicitude for his hale father.
Though Frederick von Kammacher had profound troubles of his own to occupy his mind, his thoughts kept recurring to the letter in his pocket and his dying friend. To an imaginative person of thirty, his life of the past few years is in an eminent degree present to his mind. There had been a tragic turn in Frederick's own life, and now tragedy had also entered his friend's life, a tragedy far more awful.
The two young men had been separated for a number of years. They had met again and passed a number of happy weeks together, enriched by a liberal exchange of ideas. Those weeks were the beginning of similar epochs in the career of each. It was at little winter festivities in Frederick von Kammacher's comfortable home that the cigarettes of Simon Arzt of Port Said, which Rasmussen had brought from the place of their manufacture, had played their role.
Now, in the reading-room of Hofmann's Hotel, near the harbour, he wrote him a letter.
* * * * *
Dear old George,
My fingers are clammy. I am constantly dipping a broken pen in mouldy ink; but if I don't write to you now, you won't get any news of me for three weeks. This evening I board the Roland of the North German Steamship Company.
There seems to be something in your dreams. Nobody could have told you of my trip. Two hours before I started, I myself knew nothing of it.
Day after to-morrow it will be a year since you came to us direct from Bremen, after your second journey, with a trunk full of stories, photographs, and the cigarettes of Simon Arzt. I had scarcely set foot in England when twenty paces from the landing-place, I beheld our beloved brand in a shop window. Of course, I bought some, by wholesale, in fact, and am smoking one while writing, for the sake of auld lang syne. Unfortunately, this horrible reading-room in which I am writing doesn't get any the warmer, no matter how many cigarettes I light.
You were with us two weeks when fate came and knocked at the door. We both rushed to the door and caught a cold, it seems. As for me, I have sold my house, given up my practice, and put my three children in a boarding school. And as for my wife, you know what has befallen her.
The devil! Sometimes it makes one creepy to think of the past. To both of us it seemed a splendid thing for you to take over our sick colleague's practice. I can see you dashing about to visit your patients in his sleigh and fur coat. And when he died, I had not the slightest objection to your settling down as a country physician in the immediate vicinity, although we had always poked a lot of fun at a country physician's starvation practice.
Now things have turned out very differently.
Do you remember with what an endless number of monotonous jokes the goldfinches that fairly overran the Heuscheuer Mountains used to furnish us? When we approached a bare bush or tree, it would suddenly sway to and fro and scatter gold leaves. We interpreted that as meaning mountains of gold. In the evening we dined on goldfinches, because the hunters who went out on Sundays sold them in great quantities and my tippling cook cooked them deliciously. At that time you swore you would not remain a physician. You were not to live from the pockets of poor patients; the State was to salary you and put at your disposal a huge store of provisions, so that you could supply your impoverished patients with flour, wine, meat and necessities. And now, in token of its gratitude, the evil demon of the medical guild has dealt you this blow. But you must get well again.
I am off for America. When we see each other again, you will learn why. I can be of no use to my wife. With Binswanger, she is in excellent hands. Three weeks ago, when I visited her, she did not even recognise me.
I have finished forever with my profession and my medical and bacteriological studies. I have had ill luck, you know. My scientific reputation has been torn to shreds. They say it was fuzz instead of the exciting organism of anthrax that I examined in a dye and wrote about. Perhaps, but I don't think so. At any rate, the thing is a matter of indifference to me.
Sometimes I am thoroughly disgusted with the clownish tricks the world plays upon us, and I feel an approach to English spleen. Nearly the whole world, or, at least Europe, has turned into a cold dish on a station lunch-counter, and I have no appetite for it.
* * * * *
He wound up with cordial lines to his dying friend, and handed the letter to a German porter to mail.
In his room, the temperature was icy, the window-panes frozen over. Without undressing he lay down in one of two vast, chilly beds.
At best, the frame of mind of a traveller with a night's journey behind him and an ocean crossing ahead of him, is not enviable. Frederick's condition was aggravated by a whirl of painful, partially warring recollections, which crowded into his mind, jostling and pushing one another aside in a ceaseless chase. For the sake of storing up strength for the events to come, he would gladly have gone to sleep, but as he lay there, whether with open or closed eyes, he saw past events with vivid clearness.
The young man's career from his twentieth to his thirtieth year had not departed from the conventional lines of his class. Ambition and great aptitude in his specialty had won him the protection of eminent scientists. He had been Professor Koch's assistant, and, without a rupture of their friendly relations, had also studied several semesters under Koch's opponent, Pettenkofer, in Munich. When he went to Rome for the purpose of investigating malaria, he met Mrs. Thorn and her daughter, who later became his wife and whose mind was now deranged. Angele Thorn brought him a considerable addition to his own small fortune. The delicacy of her constitution caused him, eventually, to move with her and the three children that had come to them to a healthy mountain district; but the change did not interfere with his scientific work or professional connections.
Thus it was that in Munich, Berlin, and other scientific centres, he had been considered one of the most competent bacteriologists, a man whose career had passed the stage of the problematical. The worst against him—and that only in the opinion of the cut-and-dried among his fellow-scientists, who shook their heads doubtfully—had been a certain belletristic tendency. Now, however, that his abortive work had appeared and he had suffered his great defeat, all serious scientists said it was the cultivation of side interests that had weakened his strength and led the promising young intellect along the path of self-destruction.
In his icy room in the English hotel, Frederick meditated on his past.
"I see three threads which the Parcae have woven into my life. The snapping of the thread that represents my scientific career leaves me utterly indifferent. The bloody tearing of the other thread"—he had in mind his love for his wife—"makes the first event insignificant. But even though I should still hold a place among the most hopeful of the younger generation of scientists, the third thread, which is still whole, which pierces my soul like a live wire, would have nullified my ambitions and all my endeavours in science."
The third thread was a passion.
Frederick von Kammacher had gone to Paris to rid himself of this passion; but the object of it, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a Swedish teacher of stage dancing, held him in bondage against his will. His love had turned into a disease, which had reached an acute stage, probably because the gloomy events of so recent occurrence had induced in him a state in which men are peculiarly susceptible to love's poison.
It was a friend of his, a physician, who had introduced him in Berlin to the girl and her father, and who later, when sufficiently acquainted with Frederick's secret, raging love, had to take it upon himself to inform the enamoured man of every change in the couple's address.
Doctor von Kammacher's scanty luggage did not indicate careful preparation for a long trip. In a fit of desperation, or, rather, in an outburst of passion, he had made the hasty decision to catch the Roland at Southampton when he learned that the Swede and his daughter had embarked on it at Bremen on the twenty-third of January.
After lying in bed about an hour, Frederick arose, knocked a hole in the ice crust in the pitcher, washed himself, and in a fever of restlessness descended again to the lower rooms of the little hotel. In the reading-room sat a pretty young Englishwoman and a German Jewish merchant, not so pretty and not so young. The dreariness of waiting produced sociability. Frederick and the German entered into a conversation. The German informed Frederick that he had lived in the United States and was returning by the Roland.
The air was grey, the room cold, the young lady impatiently paced up and down in front of the fireplace, where there was no fire, and the conversation of the new acquaintances dwindled into monosyllables.
The condition of the unhappy lover, as a rule, is concealed from the persons he meets, or unintelligible to them. In either case it is ridiculous. A man in love is alternately transported and tormented by brilliant and gloomy illusions. In spite of the cold, cutting wind, the young fool of love was driven restlessly out to roam the streets and alleys of the port. He thought of what an embarrassing position he had been in when the Jewish merchant had insinuatingly inquired for the purpose of his journey. In his effort not to reveal the secret motive of his ocean crossing, Frederick had stammered and stuttered and given some sort of a vague reply. He decided that from now on, in answer to intrusive questioners, he would say he was going to America to see Niagara Falls, Yellowstone Park, and visit an old collegemate of his, also a physician.
During the silent meal in the hotel, the news came that the Roland probably would reach the Needles at five o'clock, two hours earlier than was expected. Frederick took his coffee and smoked some Simon Arzt cigarettes with the German, who at the same time tried to do some business in his trade, which was ready-made clothing. The two men, carrying their luggage, then went to the tender together.
Here they had an uncomfortable hour's wait, while the low smoke-stack belched black vapours into the dirty drab mist that lay oppressively upon everything about the harbour. From time to time the sound of the shovelling of coal arose from the engine-room. One at a time five or six passengers came on board, porters carrying their luggage. The saloon was nothing more than a glass case on deck, inside of which, below the windows, a bench upholstered in red plush ran around the sides. At irregular intervals the bench was heaped with disorderly piles of luggage.
Everybody was taciturn. No one felt reposeful enough to settle in any one place for a length of time. What conversation there was, was conducted in a subdued, frightened sort of whisper. Three young ladies, one of whom was the Englishwoman of the reading-room, unwearyingly paced up and down the full length of the saloon. Their faces were unnaturally pale.
"This is the eighteenth time I have made the round trip," suddenly declared the clothing manufacturer, unsolicited.
"Do you suffer from seasickness?" somebody asked in reply.
"I scarcely set foot on the steamer when I turn into a corpse. That happens each time. I don't come back to life until shortly before we reach Hoboken or, at the other end, Bremerhaven or Cuxhaven."
Finally, after a long, apparently vain wait, something seemed to be preparing in the bowels of the tender and at the wheel. The three ladies embraced and kissed, and an abundance of tears were shed. The prettiest one, the lady of the reading-room, remained on the tender; the others returned to the pier.
Still the little boat refused to move. Finally, however, at nightfall, amid pitch-black darkness, the hawsers were loosened from the iron rings of the dock, a piercing whistle burst from the tender, and the screw began to churn the water slowly, as if merely to test itself.
At the last moment three telegrams were handed to Frederick, one from his old parents and his brother, who wished him a happy voyage, one from his banker, and one from his attorney.
Though Frederick had left neither friend nor relative nor even an acquaintance on the quay, yet, the instant he perceived the tender in motion, a storm assailed him, whether a storm of woe, misery, despair, or a storm of hope in endless happiness, he could not tell. All he felt was that something burst convulsively from his breast and throat, and seethed up, boiling hot, into his eyes.
The lives of unusual men from decade to decade, it seems, enter dangerous crises, in which one of two things takes place; either the morbid matter that has been accumulating is thrown off, or the organism succumbs to it in actual material death, or in spiritual death. One of the most important and, to the observer, most remarkable of these crises occurs in the early thirties or forties, rarely before thirty; in fact, more frequently not until thirty-five and later. It is the great trial balance of life, which one would rather defer as long as is expedient than make prematurely.
It was in such a crisis that Goethe went on his Italian journey, that Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenberg, that Ignatius Loyola hung his weapons in front of an image of the Virgin, never to take them down again, and that Jesus was nailed to the cross. As for the young physician, Frederick von Kammacher, he was neither a Goethe nor a Luther nor a Loyola; but he was akin to them not only in culture, but also in many a trait of genius.
It is impossible to express in words the extent in which his whole previous existence passed in review before Frederick's mental vision as the little tender sped beyond the harbour lights of Southampton, carrying him away from Europe and his home. He seemed to be parting with a whole continent in his soul, upon which he would never set foot again. It was a farewell forever. No wonder if in that moment his whole being was shaken and could not regain its balance.
Loyola had not been a good soldier. Else, how could he have discarded his arms? Luther had not been a good Dominican. Else, how could he have discarded his monk's robes? Goethe had not been a good barrister or bureaucrat. A mighty, irresistible wave had swept over those three men and also, for all the disparity between them, over Frederick von Kammacher, washing the uniform away from their souls.
Frederick was not one of those who enter this crisis unconsciously. He had been feeling its approach for years, and it was characteristic of him that he reflected upon its nature. Sometimes he was of the opinion that it marked the termination of youth and the beginning, therefore, of real maturity. It seemed to him as if hitherto he had worked with other people's hands, according to other people's will, guided rather than guiding. His thinking appeared to him to have been no thinking, but an operating with transmitted ideas. He put it to himself that he had been standing in a hothouse, and his head, like the top of a young tree reaching upward to the light, had broken through the glass roof and made its way into the open.
"Now I will walk with my own feet, look with my own eyes, think my own thoughts, and act from the plenary power of my own will."
In his valise, Frederick carried Stirner's "The Individual and his Own."
Man living in society is never wholly independent. There is no intellect that does not look about for other intellects, if for no other object than to seek confirmation, that is, reinforcement or guidance, at all events, companionship. That Frederick von Kammacher's new intellectual companion was Max Stirner, was the result of a profound disillusionment. He had been disillusioned in his deep-seated altruism, which until now had completely dominated him.
Dense darkness closed in around the tender. The lights of the harbour disappeared completely, and the little cockle-shell with the glass pavilion began to roll considerably. The wind whistled and howled. Sometimes it blew so hard that it seemed to be bringing the tender to a standstill. The screw actually did rise out of the water. Suddenly the whistle screeched several times, and again the steamer made its way through the darkness.
The rattling of the windows, the quivering of the ship's body, the gurgling whirr-whirr of the propeller, the whistling, squalling and howling of the wind, which laid the vessel on her side, all this combined to produce extreme discomfort in the travellers. Again and again, as if uncertain what course to pursue, the boat stopped and emitted its shrill whistle, which was so stifled in the wild commotion of the waters that it seemed nothing but the helpless breathing of a hoarse throat—stopped and went backwards—stopped and went forwards, until again it came to an uncertain halt, twisting and turning in the whirling waters, carried aloft, plunged down, apparently lost and submerged in the darkness.
To be exposed to impressions of this sort for only an hour and a half is enough gradually to reduce a traveller's nerves to a state of torture. The proximity of that awful element the surface of which marks the limits of the one element in which man is capable of living, forces upon the mind thoughts of death and destruction; all the more so since the water's tricks seem so incalculable to the landman that he sees danger where there actually is none. Another thing hard for the man accustomed to unhampered movement to bear is the close confinement. All at once he loses his illusion of freedom of will. Activity, the thing that in the eyes of the European endows life with its sublimest charm, cannot in the twinkling of an eye turn into absolute passivity. Nevertheless, despite these novel, distressing experiences, despite throbbing pulses, over-stimulated senses, and nerves tautened to the snapping point, the situation is by no means lacking in fascination.
Thus, Frederick von Kammacher felt a flush of exaltation. Life was straining him to her breast more closely, wildly, passionately than she had for a long time.
"Either life has again become the one tremendous adventure, or life is nothing," a voice within him said.
Again the tender lay still. Suddenly it groaned, churned the water, sent out huge puffs of hissing steam, whistled as if in great fear, once, twice—Frederick counted seven times—and started off at its utmost speed, as if to escape Satan's clutches. And now, all at once, it turned, swept into a region of light, and faced a mighty vision.
The Roland had reached the Needles and was lying tide rode. In the protection of its vast broadside the little tender seemed to be in a brilliantly lighted harbour. The impression that the surprising presence of the ocean greyhound made upon Frederick was in a fortissimo scale. He had always belonged to that class of men—a class which is not small—whose senses are open to life's varied abundance. Only on the rarest occasions he found a thing commonplace or ordinary, and was never blase in meeting a novelty. But, after all, there are very few persons who would be dull to the impressions of an embarkation by night, outside a harbour in the open waters.
Never before had Frederick been inspired with equal respect for the might of human ingenuity, for the genuine spirit of his times, as at the sight of that gigantic black wall rising from the black waters, that tremendous facade, with its endless rows of round port-holes streaming out light upon a foaming field of waves protected from the wind. In comparison with this product, this creation, this triumph of the divine intellect in man, what were undertakings like the Tower of Babel, allowing that they were not isolated instances and had actually been completed.
Sailors were busy letting the gangway-ladder down the flank of the Roland. Frederick could see that up on deck, at the point where the ladder was being suspended, a rather numerous group of uniformed men had gathered, probably to receive the new passengers. His state of exaltation continued, even while everybody in the tender's saloon, including himself, suddenly seized with haste, grasped his or her hand luggage and stood in readiness. In the presence of that improbability, that Titan of venturesomeness, that floating fairy palace, it was impossible to cling to the conviction that modern civilisation is all prose. The most prosaic of mortals here had forced upon him a piece of foolhardy romance compared with which the dreams of the poets lose colour and turn pale.
While the tender, dancing coquettishly on the swelling foam, was warping to the gangway-ladder, high overhead, on the deck of the Roland, the band struck up a lively, resolute march in a martial yet resigned strain, such as leads soldiers to battle—to victory or to death. An orchestra like this, of wind instruments, drums and cymbals was all that lacked to set the young physician's nerves a-quiver, as in a dance of fire and flame.
The music ringing from aloft out into the night and descending to the little tender manoeuvring in the water, was designed to inspire timid souls with courage and tide them over certain horrors attendant upon the moment. Beyond lay the infinite ocean. In the situation, one could not help representing it to oneself as black, gloomy, forbidding, a fearful, demoniac power, hostile to man and the works of man.
Now, from the breast of the Roland, tore a cry rising higher and louder, upward from a deep bass, a monstrous call, a roar, a thunder, of a fearfulness and strength that congealed the blood in one's heart.
"Well, my dear friend Roland," flashed through Frederick's mind, "you're a fellow that's a match for the ocean." With that he set foot on the gangway-ladder. He completely forgot his previous identity and the reason of his being here.
When, to the wild tune of the brass band, he stepped from the upper rung upon the roomy deck, and stood in the garish sheen of an arc-light, he found himself between two rows of men, the officers and some of the ship's crew. It was the group of uniformed men he had noticed from below. He was astonished and delighted to behold so many confidence-inspiring masculine figures. It was an assemblage of magnificent specimens of manhood, all, from the first mate down to the stewards, tall, picked men, with bold, simple, intelligent, honest features. Moved by a sense at once of pride and of complete trust and security, Frederick said to himself that after all there was still a German nation left; and the singular thought flashed through his mind that God would never decide to take such a selection of noble, faithful men and drown them in the sea like blind puppies.
A steward picked up his luggage and led the way to a cabin with two berths, which he was to have to himself. Soon after, he was sitting at one end of a horseshoe-shaped table in the dining-room. The service was excellent, and the few passengers from the tender ate and drank; but it was not very lively. The main dinner was over, and the little company from the tender in the great, low-ceiled, empty saloon, were each too tired and too engrossed in self to talk.
During the meal Frederick was not aware whether the mammoth body was moving or standing still. The faint, scarcely perceptible quiver seemed too slight to be a sign of the motion of so huge a mass. Frederick had made his first sea voyage when a lad of eighteen as the only passenger on a merchantman going from Hamburg to Naples. The thirteen years since had considerably weakened the impressions of that trip. Moreover, the luxury of this ocean liner into which he had strayed was something so new to him, that all he could do at first was scrutinize everything in astonishment.
When he had drunk his customary few glasses of wine, a sense of peace and comfort stole over him. After their long irritation and tension his nerves succumbed to a pleasant tiredness, which pressed upon him so healthily and imperatively that he felt almost sure of a refreshing night's sleep. He even made the firm resolution—in his condition scarcely necessary—that for this night bygones should be bygones, the future the future, and the present, without regard for past or future, should belong unqualifiedly to rest and sleep.
When he went to bed, he actually did sleep for ten hours, heavily, without stirring. At breakfast in the dining-room, he asked for the passenger list, and with a wild leap of his heart read the names for which he had been looking, Eugen Hahlstroem and Miss Ingigerd Hahlstroem.
He folded up the list and glanced about. There were about fifteen to twenty men and women in the saloon, all engaged in breakfasting or giving their orders to the stewards. To Frederick it seemed they were there for no other purpose than to spy upon his emotions.
The steamer had already been travelling for an hour on the ocean. The dining-room took up the full width of the vessel, and from time to time its port-holes were darkened by the waves dashing against them. Opposite Frederick sat a gentleman in uniform, who introduced himself as Doctor Wilhelm, the ship's physician. Straightway a very lively medical discussion began, though Frederick's thoughts were far away. He was debating with himself how he should act at his first meeting with the Hahlstroems.
He tried to find support in self-deception, telling himself he had boarded the Roland, not for the sake of little Ingigerd Hahlstroem, but because he wanted to see New York, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Yellowstone Park, and Niagara Falls. That is what he would tell the Hahlstroems—that a mere chance had brought them together on the Roland.
He observed that he was gaining in poise. Sometimes, when the adorer is at a distance from the object of his devotion, the idolatry of love assumes fateful proportions. During his stay in Paris, Frederick had lived in a state of constant fever, and his yearning for his idol had risen to an unendurable degree. About the image of little Ingigerd Hahlstroem, a heavenly aureole had laid itself, so compelling in its attraction that Frederick's mental vision was literally blinded to everything else. That illusion had suddenly vanished. He felt ashamed of himself. "I'm a ridiculous fool," he thought, and when he arose to go on deck, he felt as if he had shaken off oppressive fetters. The salt sea air blowing vigorously across the deck heightened his sense of emancipation and convalescence and refreshed him to his inner being.
Men and women lay stretched out on steamer chairs with that green expression of profound indifference which marks the dreaded seasickness. To Frederick's astonishment, he himself felt not the least trace of nausea, and only the sight of his fellow-passengers' misery caused him to realise that the Roland was not gliding through smooth waters, but was distinctly pitching and rolling.
He walked around the ladies' parlour, past the entrance of an extra cabin, and took his stand under the bridge, breasting the steely, salt sea wind. On the deck below, the steerage passengers had settled themselves as far as the bow. Though the Roland was running under full steam, it was not making its maximum speed, prevented by the long, heavy swells that the wind raised and hurled against the bow. Across the forward lower deck there was a second bridge, probably for emergency. Frederick felt strongly tempted to stand up there on that empty bridge.
It aroused some attention, of course, when he descended down among the steerage passengers and then crawled up the iron rungs of the ladder to the windy height. But that did not trouble him. All at once such a madcap spirit had come over him, he felt so happy and refreshed; as if he had never had to suffer dull cares, or put up with the whims of a hysterical wife, or practise medicine in a musty, out-of-the-way corner of the country. Never, it seemed to him, had he studied bacteriology, still less, suffered a fiasco. Never had he been so in love as he appeared to have been only a short time before.
He laughed, bending his head before the gale, filled his lungs with the salty air, and felt better and stronger.
A burst of laughter from the steerage passengers mounted to his ears. At the same instant something lashed him in the face, something that he had seen rearing, white and tremendous, before the bow. It almost blinded him, and he felt the wet penetrate to his skin. The first wave had swept overboard.
Who would not find it humiliating to have his sublime meditations interrupted in such a tricky, brutal way? A moment before, he felt as if to be a Viking were his real calling, and now, inwardly shaking and shivering, amid general ridicule, he crawled ignominiously down the iron ladder.
He was wearing a round grey hat. His overcoat was padded and lined with silk. His gloves were of dressed kid, his buttoned boots of thin leather. All these garments were now drenched with a cold, salty wash. Leaving a damp trail behind, he made his way, not exactly a glorious way, through the steerage passengers, who rolled with laughter. In the midst of his annoyance Frederick heard a voice calling his name. He looked up and scarcely trusted his eyes on seeing a large fellow in whom he thought he recognised a peasant from the Heuscheuer Mountains, a peasant with an evil reputation for drunkenness and all sorts of misdeeds.
"Wilke, is that you?"
"Yes, Doctor, I'm Wilke."
The little town in which Frederick had practised was called Plassenberg an der Heuscheuer, that is, Plassenberg by the Heuscheuer Mountains, a range in the county of Glatz where excellent sandstone is quarried. The people of the district loved Frederick both as a man and a physician. He was the wonder-worker who had performed a number of splendid cures and he was the human being, without pride of caste, whose heart beat warmly for the good of the lowliest of his fellow-men. They loved his natural way with them, always cordial, always outspoken, and sometimes harsh.
Wilke was bound for New England to join his brother.
"The people in the Heuscheuer," he said, "are mean and ungrateful."
Shy and distrustful at home, even toward Frederick, who had treated him for his last knife wound on his neck, his manner here, with the other passengers crossing the great waters, was frank and trustful. He was like a well-behaved child chattering freely.
"You didn't get the thanks you deserved, either, Doctor von Kammacher," he said in his broad dialect, rich in vowel sounds, and recounted a number of cases, of which Frederick had not known, in which good had been repaid by evil tattle. "The people around Plassenberg are not fit for men like you and me. Men like you and me belong in America, the land of liberty."
Elsewhere, Frederick would have resented being placed in the same category as this rowdy, for whom, he recalled, the police were searching. But here he felt no indignation. On the contrary, he was pleasantly surprised, as if by an unexpected meeting with a good friend.
"The world's a small place," said Frederick, passing over the theme of ingratitude and the land of liberty, "the world's a small place. Yet I am surprised to see you here. But I'm wet to the skin, and have to go change my clothes."
On his way to the cabin, on the promenade deck, he encountered the blond captain of the Roland, Von Kessel, who presented himself to Frederick.
"The weather is not quite up to mark," he said by way of excuse for the little mishap on the lower bridge. "If you enjoy standing in front there, you'd better put on one of our oilskins."
Now that the vessel's movement was more accentuated, the cabin, in which Frederick changed his clothes, was a problematical place of abode. The light came from a round port-hole of heavy glass. When the wall with the port-hole in it rose and turned inward like a slanting roof, the sunlight from a rift between the clouds in the sky fell upon the mahogany berth opposite. Sitting on the edge of the lower berth, Frederick tried to steady himself, holding his head bent to keep from striking against his upper berth, and frantically endeavouring not to follow the receding movement of the wall behind. The cabin was rolling in unison with the vessel's movement. Sometimes it seemed to Frederick as if the port-hole wall were the ceiling, and the ceiling the right wall; then again as if the right wall were the ceiling, and the ceiling the port-hole wall, while the actual port-hole wall, as if inviting him to jump, shoved itself at right angles under his feet—during which the port-hole was wholly under water and the cabin in darkness.
It is no easy matter to dress and undress in an oscillating room. That the vessel's motion could have changed so markedly within the one hour since he left the cabin, astonished Frederick. The simple operation of drawing off his boots and trousers, finding others in his trunk, and putting them on again became a gymnastic feat. He had to laugh, and comparisons occurred to him, which made him laugh still more. But his laughter was not heartfelt. Each time he received a knock, or had to jump to regain his balance, he muttered exclamations and instinctively contrasted all this with the comfortable waking up from sleep in his own house. Groaning and labouring, he said to himself:
"My whole personality is being shaken through and through. I was mistaken when I supposed that I had already got my shaking up these last two years. I thought fate was shaking me. Now, both my fate and I are being shaken. I thought there was tragedy in me. Now, I and my tragedy are bowling about in this creaking cage, and are being disgraced in our own eyes.
"I have a habit of pondering over everything. I think about the beak of the ship, which buries itself in each new wave. I think about the laughter of the steerage passengers, those poor, poor people, who, I am sure, scarcely have a gay time of it. My sousing was a treat to them. I think of the rapscallion, Wilke, who married a humpbacked seamstress, ran through her savings, and abused her daily—and I almost embraced him. I think of the blond Teuton, Captain von Kessel, that handsome man, somewhat too insipid-looking and too thick-set, who is our absolute lord and whom we trust at first glance. And, finally, I think about my constant laughing and admit to myself that laughing is a sensible thing only in the rarest circumstances."
Frederick continued a conversation with himself in a similar strain for a while, and cast bitter, ironical reflections upon the passion that had brought him on this trip. He had actually been robbed of his will; and in this condition, in that narrow cabin, surrounded by the ocean, it seemed to him as if his life, and his foolish impotence, were being held up to the rudest ridicule.
When Frederick went up again, there were still a number of persons on deck. The stewards had fastened the steamer chairs to the walls, some of them having slipped and left the occupants, ladies and gentlemen, with the blue marks of their fall. Refreshments were being served. It was interesting to see how the stewards, carrying six or eight full cups, balanced themselves over the heaving deck.
Frederick looked about in vain for Hahlstroem and his daughter.
In walking the full length of the deck several times, examining all the passengers with the utmost care and circumspection, he noticed the pretty young Englishwoman, whom he had seen for the first time in the reading-room of the hotel in Southampton. She was wrapped in rugs and furs and snugly settled in a spot shielded from the wind and warmed by the two huge smoke-stacks. She was receiving the attention of a very lively young man sitting beside her. Each time Frederick passed, the young man scrutinised him sharply. Suddenly he jumped up, held out his hand, and introduced himself as Hans Fuellenberg of Berlin. Though Frederick could not recall ever having met him before, the good-looking, dashing young fellow succeeded in convincing him that they had both been present at a certain evening affair in Berlin. He told Frederick he was going to the United States to take a position in a mining region near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was a wide-awake young man and, what is more, a Berlinese, and had great notions of his own importance. Frederick's reputation in Berlin society inspired him with tremendous respect. Frederick responded to his advances courteously, and allowed him to recount all the latest Berlin news, as if he himself had not left the German capital only a week before. He realised he could depend upon Fuellenberg's garrulousness for every item of interest.
It quickly became evident that Hans Fuellenberg was an amiable, giddy-headed young buck, knowing well how to deal with the ladies. When Frederick called his attention to the fact that the Englishwoman was casting impatient glances toward him, visibly eager for his return, he complacently winked his eye as if to say:
"She won't run away. And if she does, there are plenty more."
"Do you know, Doctor von Kammacher," Fuellenberg said suddenly, "that little Hahlstroem is on board?"
"What little Hahlstroem do you mean?" asked Frederick coolly.
Hans Fuellenberg could not contain his surprise that Frederick should have forgotten little Hahlstroem. He was sure of having seen him in the Kuenstlerhaus in Berlin when Ingigerd danced her dance there for the first time, the dance that then aroused admiration only in the artist world, but later became the sensation of all Berlin. He described the affair.
"The pick of the Berlin artists were standing around the room and on the stairs in informal groups, leaving the centre of the floor clear. Even Menzel and Begas were there. A special exhibition was to open soon, and the walls were hung with a collection of Boecklin pictures. The name of the dance was 'Mara, or the Spider's Victim.'
"I tell you, Doctor von Kammacher," the young man went on, "if you didn't see that dance, you missed something. In the first place, little Ingigerd's costume was very scanty, and then her performance was really wonderful. There are no two opinions about it. A huge artificial flower was set in the middle of the room, and the little thing ran up and smelt of it. She felt all about the flower with closed eyes, vibrating as if with the gauzy wings of a bee. Suddenly she opened her eyes and turned to a rigid statue of stone. On the flower was squatting a huge spider! She darted like an arrow to the farthest corner of the room. Even in the first part of the dance she had seemed to float without weight in the air; but the way sheer horror blew her across that room made her seem like nothing but a vision."
Frederick von Kammacher had seen her dance the dreadful dance, not only at the matinee in the Kuenstlerhaus, but eighteen times again. While Fuellenberg was trying to express his impression with "great," "tremendous," "glorious," and similarly strong epithets, Frederick saw the whole dance over again with his mind's eye. He saw how the childlike body, after cowering and trembling a while in the corner of the room, approached the flower again to the accompaniment of music played by a tom-tom, a cymbal, and a flute. Something which was not pleasure drew her to it. The first time she had traced her way to the source of the perfume by sniffing fragrance in the air. Her mouth had been open, the nostrils of her fine little nose had quivered. Hans Fuellenberg was correct in his observation that her eyes, as she held her head back, had been closed. The second time, she seemed to be drawn against her will by a gruesome something, which alternately aroused fear, horror, and curiosity. She held her eyes wide open, and now and then covered them with both hands, as if in dread of seeing something hideous.
But when she came quite close to the flower, all fear suddenly seemed to drop away from her. She hopped for joy and laughed—she had been needlessly alarmed. How could a fat, immobile spider squatting on a flower be dangerous to a creature with wings? This part of her dance was so graceful, so full of droll, bubbling, childlike merriment, that the audience laughed tears of delight.
Now, however, a new phase of the dance began, introduced in a thoughtful strain. Having danced herself to satiety and intoxicated herself with the flower's perfume, Mara, with movements of agreeable fatigue, made as if to lay herself to rest, but delayed here and there to brush from her body something like the threads of a spider's web, at first serenely and pensively, then with growing disquiet, which communicated itself to the onlookers. The child paused, reflected an instant, and apparently was about to laugh at herself because of the fears that had arisen in her soul; but the next minute she paled with fright, and made a dexterous leap, as if to free herself from a trap. Her blond hair tossed back in Maenadic waves turned into a flaming stream. Her whole appearance evoked involuntary cries of admiration.
The flight began. And now the theme of the dance was Mara's entanglement in the threads the spider wove about her, which gradually choked her to death. No dancer has ever executed such an idea with equal skill and fidelity.
The little creature freed her foot from the meshes, only to find her neck entwined; she clutched at the threads about her throat, only to find her hands entangled; she tore at the cobweb, she bent her body, she slipped away; she beat with her fists, she raged, and only enmeshed herself the more tightly in the horrible skein; finally she lay fast bound. During this last phase of the dance, her artist audience stood there rigid, breathless, suffocating with a sense of horror.
It was not until nearly the end that Frederick von Kammacher felt that his fate was forever linked with this girl. The feeling grew stronger during the few moments that remained before the conclusion of the performance. The poison of infatuation came from the expression of her face. He noted precisely how it forced its way into him and how his whole being suddenly grew sick. When little Ingigerd Hahlstroem once more opened her eyes with a look of abysmal dismay, and fastened them in helpless inquiry upon the spider, calmly drinking her blood away, an inner voice seemed to command Frederick to become her compassionate knight, saviour, and protector.
Since, in Fuellenberg's opinion, Frederick von Kammacher was not sufficiently interested in the dancer, Ingigerd Hahlstroem, he mentioned several other recent Berlin celebrities also on the Roland on their way to the United States. There was Geheimrat Lars, a man well-known in art circles, who often cast the deciding vote in purchases of works of art by the government. He was going to America to visit museums, private and public, and study the art situation in general. There was Professor Toussaint, an eminent sculptor, some of whose monuments had been erected in several German cities, chiefly Berlin, works done in a wishy-washy Bernini style.
"Toussaint," Fuellenberg, who seemed to be fairly loaded with Berlin gossip, explained, "needs money. He needs the money that his wife spends and the social season in Berlin swallows up. He and his wife and his wife's maid are all travelling free on his reputation. When he lands in New York, he won't have enough in his pocket even to pay his hotel bill for three days."
Fuellenberg pointed out the sculptor, Toussaint. He was lying in a steamer chair, rising and falling in unison with the Roland. As Frederick turned to look at him, he noticed an odd man without arms being led across the deck by his attendant, who grasped him by his collar and carefully dragged him through a small door close by into the smoking-room.
"That man's a vaudeville star," Fuellenberg continued with his descriptive catalogue. "He will appear in New York with Webster and Forster."
Some stewards came oscillating across the deck to serve the chilly passengers with bowls of hot bouillon. After Fuellenberg had seen to it that his lady was duly served, he deserted her and went with Frederick to the smoking-room. Here, of course, loud talking and tobacco smoke prevailed. The two gentlemen lit their cigars. In one corner of the small room, some men were playing skat, and at several tables, German and English politics were being thrashed out. The main theme of discussion was the rivalry between America and Europe. Wilhelm, the ship's doctor, with whom Frederick had become acquainted at breakfast, came in from his morning inspection of the steerage, and seated himself beside Frederick.
"There are two hundred Russian Jews emigrating to the United States or Canada," he told him, "thirty Polish families, and about the same number of German families from the south, north, and east of Germany. Altogether there are nearly four hundred steerage passengers, among them five babies at the breast and fifty children between the ages of one and fifteen."
Doctor Wilhelm invited Frederick to accompany him the next day on his tour of inspection. He was a man of not more than twenty-six. He had a fair complexion and wore glasses. His manner was somewhat stiff. Ever since he had passed his examinations, two years before, he had been a physician on a vessel. Once he had taken the trip to Japan, once to South America, and several times to the United States. Frederick, of course, immediately thought of his dying friend, George Rasmussen, put his hand in his pocket, and presented his new colleague with Simon Arzt cigarettes.
The cigarettes furnished a starting-point to tell all about George Rasmussen; and when Doctor Wilhelm had learned everything about him, except his name, and then learned his name, too, the world again turned out to be a very small place. Doctor Wilhelm was a friend of George Rasmussen's. They had studied together, one semester in Bonn and one semester in Jena, and had belonged to the same club in Jena. The last few years they had even corresponded. Naturally, the discovery instantly brought the two physicians closer.
The tone in the smoking-room was that of jolly carousals in German Bierstuben. The men let themselves go, talked in loud voices, and gave rein to that coarse humour and noisy gaiety in which time flies for them and which to many of them is a sort of narcotic, giving them rest and ease for a while from the mad chase of existence. Neither Frederick nor Doctor Wilhelm was averse to this tone, which revived old memories of their student days, when they had become accustomed to it. Though to the average student the carousals, now taboo, may be an evil, physically and intellectually, they are the time and place, nevertheless, at which the phoenix of German idealism soars up from tobacco smoke and beer froth to wing its flight to the sun.
Hans Fuellenberg soon felt bored in the company of the two physicians who, in fact, had completely forgotten him; and he slipped away, back to his lady.
"When Germans meet," he said to her, "they must scream and drink Bruederschaft until they get tipsy."
Doctor Wilhelm seemed to be proud of the smoking-room.
"The captain," he said, "is very strict about not having the gentlemen disturbed. He has given absolute orders that women under no circumstances, not even if they smoke, are to be permitted here."
The room had two metal doors, one on the starboard and one on the port side. The person entering or leaving had to contend violently with the wind and the motion of the vessel. The stewards had mastered the art perfectly. Shortly before eleven o'clock, Captain von Kessel appeared. It was his custom to visit the room at about this time every day. After giving friendly or curt answers, as the case might be, to the usual questions regarding the weather and the prospects for a good or bad crossing, he seated himself at the same table as the physicians.
"A seaman was lost in you," he said to Frederick.
"I think you must be mistaken," Frederick rejoined. "I have had quite enough of a salt water sousing. I assure you, I am not longing for another."
A few hours before, a pilot-boat from the French coast had brought the latest news, which the captain proceeded to recount in a calm, quiet manner.
"A vessel of the Hamburg-American line, a twin-screw steamer, the Nordmania, running for only a year, had a mishap about six hundred miles out from New York. It turned back and reached Hoboken safely. The sea was comparatively calm, but all of a sudden a waterspout arose close to the ship, and a great mass of water burst over the ladies' saloon, crushing through its roof and the roof of the deck below and hurling a piano down into the very hold."
The other piece of news he told was that Schweninger was in Friedrichsruh with Bismarck and that Bismarck's death was being expected hourly. Though both Doctor Wilhelm and Frederick von Kammacher disapproved of Bismarck's exceptional anti-Socialist law and its consequences, they were filled with hero worship of the man, Doctor Wilhelm the more so, since the home of his childhood stood on the edge of Sachsenwald, scarcely an hour's ride from Friedrichsruh. He was choke-full, of course, of local Bismarck anecdotes and began to reel them off.
"Are you annoyed?" Bismarck asked his barber, when he came in one day with his moustache twirled upward in the new fashion of the race tracks. "A moustache trimmed and twisted like that to me looks as if it were terribly annoyed and for no reason."
The international gong had not been introduced on the Roland. The trumpeter of the band sent two blasts across the promenade deck and through the corridors of the first cabin as a signal for the midday meal. The first blast entered with the howling of the wind into the close, noisy, crowded smoking saloon. The attendant of the man without arms came to conduct his master across the deck again. Frederick watched the armless man with great interest. He seemed to be extraordinarily brisk and quick-witted. He spoke English, French and German with equal fluency, and to everybody's delight parried the impertinences of a saucy young American, whose disrespectfulness did not yield even before the sacred person of the captain; for which the dignified skipper sometimes rewarded him by staring over his head like a lion over a yapping terrier.
The table in the dining-room was in the form of a trident, with the closed end at the rear and the three prongs pointing to the prow. Opposite the centre prong was a false mantel with a mirror, where was posted the elegant figure in blue livery of Mr. Pfundner, the head-steward. He was a man of between forty and fifty. With his white, artificially curled hair, which gave the impression of being powdered, he resembled a major-domo of Louis XIV's time. As he stood there, head erect, looking over the swaying hall, he seemed to be the special squire of Captain von Kessel, who sat at the end of the middle prong, in the capacity both of host and most honoured guest. Next to the captain sat Doctor Wilhelm and the first mate. Frederick, having found favour in the captain's eyes, was assigned a place next to Doctor Wilhelm. The ship was no longer tossing so violently, and the dining-room, in consequence, was fairly well filled. The last ones to enter were the card players of the smoking-room, who came storming in. At the closed end of the trident, Frederick saw Mr. Hahlstroem, but without his daughter.
Many stewards very quickly and deftly served a vast quantity of dishes. Wine was also placed on the table. Within a short while the corks were popping from champagne bottles in the vicinity of the card players. In a gallery the band played without interruption. There were seven numbers on the printed music programme, which bore the name of the vessel, the date, and a picture of negroes in evening dress and high hats plucking at banjos.
Still the forward part of the vessel and, along with it, the dining-room with all its dishes, plates, and bottles, with its gentlemen guests and lady guests and the steward-waiters, with its fish and vegetables and meats and drinks and brass band, were lifted high on the mountain top of one wave and plunged deep in the trough of the next. The mighty working of the engines quivered through the ship. The dining-room walls had to cope with the onslaught of the opposing element.
The electric lights were turned on full. The grey of the cloudy winter day did not suffice to illuminate the room, especially since what brightness there was outside was every instant shut off by the water splashing against the port-holes.
Frederick enjoyed the daring of it—to be dining in festivity to the accompaniment of frivolous music in the illuminated bowels of this monster, this Roland. From time to time the mighty ship seemed on the point of encountering invincible resistance. A combination of opposing forces would rise up against the stem, producing the effect of a solid body, a veritable mountainside. At such moments the noise of the talking would die down, and many pale faces would exchange glances and turn to the captain or to the prow of the vessel. But Captain von Kessel and his officers were absorbed in their meal and paid no attention to the phenomenon, which for moments at a time brought the Roland to a quivering standstill. They never looked up, but kept to their eating and talking, even when, as often happened, tremendous masses of water hurled themselves against the walls, threatening to crash through what seemed like pitifully thin partitions for excluding that mighty, wrathful element, thundering and roaring with suppressed hate and fury.
During the meal Frederick's eyes were constantly drawn to Hahlstroem's tall figure. Though his hair was touched with grey, he was certainly still to be counted a handsome man. Next to him sat a man of about thirty-five, with a bushy beard, dark, bushy eyebrows, and dark, deep-set eyes, which sometimes darted a sharp, piercing glance at Frederick—at least so it seemed to Frederick. The man troubled him. He noticed that Hahlstroem graciously permitted the stranger to entertain him and pay him court.
"Do you know that tall, fair-haired man, Doctor von Kammacher?" the physician asked. In his confusion Frederick failed to answer, looking helplessly at Doctor Wilhelm. "He is a Swede. His name is Hahlstroem," Doctor Wilhelm continued. "A peculiar fellow. Earlier in his life he made a mess of your and my profession. He is travelling with his daughter, not an uninteresting little miss. She's been dreadfully seasick, and hasn't left the horizontal in her berth since we set sail from Bremen. That dark fellow sitting next to Hahlstroem seems to be something like, well, let us say, her fiance."
"By the way, what do you do for seasickness?" Frederick asked hastily, to conceal his dismay and turn the conversation.
"You here, Doctor von Kammacher? I can scarcely trust my eyes." At the bottom of the companionway Frederick felt Hahlstroem tackle him, just as he was about to mount to deck.
"Why, Mr. Hahlstroem, what a peculiar coincidence! It's as if the whole of Berlin had agreed to emigrate to America!" Frederick exclaimed, simulating surprise with somewhat forced liveliness.
"May I present Mr. Achleitner? Mr. Achleitner is an architect from Vienna."
The man with the piercing eyes smiled with an air of interest, holding fast to the brass balustrade to keep from being hurled against the wall.
The door of a rather gloomy saloon opened on the first landing. It bore the misleading sign "smoking-room," misleading because the smokers never used it, far preferring the cosey little saloon on deck. A brown upholstered bench ran around the brown, wainscoted walls. Kneeling on the bench one could look out through three or four port-holes upon the seething and boiling of the waves. The entire floor space between the benches was taken up by a table finished in a dark stain.
"This room is a horrid hole," said Hahlstroem. "It positively makes me creepy."
A loud, trumpet-like, laughing voice called out from inside the room:
"I say, Hahlstroem, if this sort of weather holds out, neither your daughter nor I will keep the first day of our engagement with Webster and Forster. We're not even making eight knots. Perhaps I'll be able to manage. A big dose of salt water doesn't hurt me. To-day is the twenty-fifth. If we reach Hoboken at eight o'clock the evening of the first of February, I can appear for my act in perfect serenity at nine o'clock; but that frail blossom of yours can't. She will certainly need a few days to recover from the hardships of this trip."
The three men entered the smoking-room. Frederick had already recognised the voice as belonging to the man without arms, who, he learned later, from Hahlstroem, was a world-renowned celebrity. For more than ten years the bill-boards of every great city in the world had been displaying simply his name, Arthur Stoss, which alone sufficed to draw throngs to the theatres. His special art consisted in doing with his feet whatever other people do with their hands.
The first sight of him, of course, was repellent; but in the smoking-room on deck Frederick had got over his first repulsion and had become interested in his personality. Yet the situation in which he now beheld him was so novel, so remarkable, almost to the point of improbability, that he had difficulty in concealing his amazement. Arthur Stoss was eating lunch. Since this room was so little used and since a man forced to handle his knife and fork with his feet could not be permitted to eat in the public dining-room, they served Arthur Stoss with his meals here. To the three onlookers it had the value of an artistic performance to see how the actor managed to manipulate his instruments with his clean, bare toes—and that despite the pitching of the vessel—meanwhile, in the best of humour, uttering the wittiest remarks as bite after bite disappeared down his throat. He began to banter Hahlstroem and Achleitner, sometimes in rather caustic fashion, while exchanging glances with Frederick, as if he thought vastly more of him than of the other two men, who soon withdrew from his attacks to go on deck.
"My name is Stoss."
"Mine, Von Kammacher."
"It's very good of you to keep me company. That Hahlstroem and his henchman are disgusting. Though I have been an actor for twenty years, I can't stand the sight of such weedy weaklings, who don't do anything themselves and exploit their daughters. They have the effect of an emetic on me. For all that, he plays the great man. He has no talent, so he is going to boil soup from his daughter's bones. Yet he goes about nose up in the air. If he sees a dollar in the dirt and somebody of distinction is looking, he will let it lie. He won't pick it up. There is no denying he has an attractive appearance. He has the stuff in him for a very clever, fashionable swindler. But he would rather take it easy and live off his daughter and his daughter's admirers. It's astonishing how many people are willing to make asses of themselves. There's that Achleitner—look at the condescension with which Hahlstroem treats him and the lofty way Hahlstroem plays the role of benefactor! He used to be a riding-master. Then he got mixed up in some quack cure, a combination of Swedish gymnastics and hydrotherapeutics, and his wife left him, a fine, hard-working woman, now doing splendidly as head of a department at Worth's in Paris."
Frederick felt drawn up-stairs to Hahlstroem. The man's past as Stoss described it was at that moment a matter of indifference to him. But Stoss's remark about the asses some people are willing to make of themselves sent a fleeting red to his face.
Arthur Stoss grew more and more communicative. He sat like an ape, a resemblance impossible to avoid when a man uses his feet instead of his hands. When he had finished his meal, he stuck a cigar in his mouth, like any other gentleman. In him the likeness to an ape was accentuated by the breadth and flatness of his nose and the formation of his heavy jaws. He looked like a fair-skinned orang-outang. However, his high, broad forehead gave him the mark of the human intellect. He had no beard, that is, he had never in his life, probably, had to remove a hair from his parchmenty, freckled, yellow skin. His cheek bones were prominent, and his head unusually large. Though his general appearance made a most energetic, by no means effeminate impression, there still was something eunuch-like about it, the high pitch of his voice adding to this impression. While casting about for an opportunity to escape the monster's spell, Frederick was nevertheless deeply interested in him from a medical and anthropological standpoint. The man, without doubt, was an extremely instructive specimen of abnormality. His facies was that of an intermediate sexual stage.
"People like Hahlstroem," he continued, "are actually not worthy of the healthy limbs with which God endowed them. Of course, even if one has a figure like a statue by Myron, it is awkward if there is too little up here"—he tapped his forehead. "That is what is the trouble with Hahlstroem. There is too little up here. Look at me. I don't say everybody, but at least nine out of ten, in my position would have succumbed as a child. Instead of that, I have a wife, I own a villa in the Kahlenberg Mountains, I support three children of my step-brother and an older sister of my wife, who was a singer and lost her voice. I am absolutely independent. I remain on the stage because I want to bring my wealth up to a certain point. If the Roland were to sink to-day, I could go down with perfect equanimity. I have done my work. I have invested my money at a high rate of interest. My wife, my wife's sister, and my step-brother's children are all provided for."
The actor's attendant appeared, to help his master to his cabin for his afternoon nap.
"My days are mapped out like a time-table," Stoss explained. "My attendant here, Bulke, served his four years in the German navy. With all the ocean crossings I have to make, I couldn't get along with a man who wasn't used to the water. I need a perfect water rat."
A little spell of dizziness came over Frederick when he went to his cabin to fetch his heavy overcoat. On deck it was very quiet as compared with the morning. Hahlstroem was nowhere to be seen, and Frederick seated himself on a bench near the entrance to the main companionway. With his collar turned up and his hat drawn over his forehead, he succumbed to the state of drowsiness characteristic of sea trips, in which, despite the heaviness of one's eyelids, one feels and perceives with a restless lucidity of the inner vision. Images chase through one's mind, a kaleidoscopic stream, shifting incessantly, going and coming, and finally reducing the soul to a state of torture. The sybaritic meal with its clatter of plates, its talking and music, was still whirling through Frederick's brain. He heard the vaudeville actor declaiming. The half-ape was holding Mara in his arms. Hahlstroem in all his height was looking on, smiling. The waves were rolling heavily against the tiny dining-room and pressing hard on the creaking hull. Bismarck, a huge figure in armour, and Roland, the valiant warrior in armour, were laughing grimly and conversing. Frederick saw both wading through the sea. Roland was holding Mara, the tiny dancer, on his right palm. Every now and then Frederick shivered. The ship careened, a stiff southeaster heeling her to starboard. The waves hissed and foamed. The rhythm produced by the rise and fall of the pistons finally seemed to turn into the rhythm of Frederick's own body. The working of the screw was distinctly audible. At regular intervals the stern would rise out of the water, carrying with it the screw, which would then buzz in the air, and Frederick would hear Wilke from the Heuscheuer saying:
"Doctor, if only the screw doesn't snap."
Finally, all the machinery of the vessel seemed to be turning in his brain. Sometimes one engineer in the engine-room would call out to another, and the clang of the metal shovels when the stokers fed the furnace penetrated to the deck.
All of a sudden Frederick jumped to his feet; he thought he saw a ghost, or a dead-alive corpse, reeling up the companionway and making for him. It was the clothing manufacturer whom he had met at Southampton, looking more like a man in his death throes than one already dead. He gave Frederick a ghastly glance of unconsciousness and let a steward support him to the nearest steamer chair.
"If that man," Frederick thought, "is not to be reckoned among the heroes, then there never have been any heroes in the world."
"Each time I cross," the clothing manufacturer had said, "I suffer from seasickness, from the moment I set foot on the ship until I leave it."
And what horrible extremes of suffering he had to go through!
Opposite Frederick, at the entrance to the companionway, stood a cabin-boy. From time to time at the signal of a whistle from the bridge, he would disappear to receive orders from the first or second mate, or whatever officer happened to be on duty. Often an hour and more would pass without the summons, and the handsome lad had plenty of time to meditate upon himself and his lot in life. Frederick felt sorry for him as he stood there on guard, bored and chilly; so he spoke to him.
He learned that his name was Max Pander and that he came from near the Black Forest. The next logical question to put to him was whether he liked his work. The boy answered with a resigned smile, which heightened the charm of his handsome head, but showed he had none too much passion for the seaman's calling.
"There is not much in travelling on steamers," he observed. "A real sailor belongs on board a sailing vessel. There is a mate of mine here on the Roland," he added in a tone of great admiration, "who is only eighteen years old and has already been on two long, dangerous trips on a schooner."
To Frederick, it seemed as if lasting passion for the sea—the sea, which was already making him miserable—must be a conventional myth. It was three o'clock. He had been on board only nineteen or twenty hours, and already found it a petty hardship. "If the Roland doesn't make better time," he calculated, "I shall have to go through the same difficulties of existence eight or nine times twenty-four hours. But I will get back to land and remain there, while Pander, the cabin-boy, will have to return across the ocean a few days after landing."
"If someone were to find you a good position on land," Frederick asked, "would you give up your position here?"
"Yes, indeed," said Pander, emphasising his reply with a decided nod of his head.
"A nasty southeaster," said Doctor Wilhelm, passing by beside the tall figure of the first mate. "How would you like to come to my room? We can smoke and have some coffee there without being disturbed."
Walking along the deck below the promenade deck, one passed a covered gangway on both the starboard and port sides, into which opened various official rooms, including the officers' cabins, among them Doctor Wilhelm's, a comparatively spacious room, containing a bed, a table, chairs, and a well-equipped medicine closet.
The gentlemen had scarcely seated themselves when a Red Cross sister, who worked under Doctor Wilhelm's direction, appeared and gave a report, smiling as she did so, of a woman patient in the second cabin.
"In my two years of practice on a steamer, this is the fifth time I have had a case like this," Doctor Wilhelm said after the sister had left. "Girls who can no longer conceal the consequences of their mistake and are at loss what to do, take passage on a ship, when it is almost certain that the event they expect will occur. Such girls, of course, never suspect that they are typical on all sea trips, and are surprised when our stewards and stewardesses sometimes treat them with corresponding respect. I myself, of course, always do all I can for the poor creatures, and I usually succeed in inducing the captains not to make an announcement of the birth, in case there is one. Once a girl about whom we could not help giving notice was found hanging to the window sash in her lodgings near the harbour."
Over their coffee and Simon Arzt cigarettes, the whole woman question was unrolled.
"So far," said Frederick, "the woman question is nothing but the old-maid question, at least in the way women conceive it. The sterility of old maids sterilizes the whole movement."
Frederick developed his ideas. But tormenting visions of Mara and her admirer pursued him, and he discoursed mechanically, his reasoning on the woman question having become a matter of rote to him.
"The vital germinal spot of each reform in women's rights," he argued with apparent liveliness, blowing clouds of smoke, "must be the maternal instinct. The cells of the future cell-state, which will be a healthier social body, is the woman with the maternal instinct. The great women reformers are not those who would have women act just like men in all externals, but those who are conscious that all men, even the greatest, were born of women. They are the conscious mothers of the race of men and gods. A woman's natural right is her right to the child, and it is a most inglorious page in the history of woman that she has allowed herself to be deprived of that right. The birth of the child, in so far as it is not sanctioned by a man, is subject to the fire and brimstone of public scorn. And this scorn is the most pitiful page in man's history. The devil knows how it ever came to possess such awful, absolute dominion. Form a league of mothers, I should counsel women. Each member shall give token of her motherhood by having children without the sanction of a man, that is, without regard for so-called honour. In this lies woman's strength, but only if she takes pride in her child, instead of bearing it with a troubled conscience, in cowardice, concealment, and fear. Reacquire your proud, instinctive consciousness, which you are fully justified in having, of being the mothers of humanity; and having that consciousness, you will be invincible."
Doctor Wilhelm, who kept in touch with professional circles, was acquainted with Frederick's name and the outcome of his scientific career. His unfortunate bacteriological work was on his book shelf. Nevertheless, the name of Frederick von Kammacher had an authoritative ring, and association with the great man flattered him. He listened to Frederick's exposition intently.
The Red Cross sister entered again to summon Doctor Wilhelm to a first-class woman patient. The physician's small, close hermitage, in which Frederick was now left alone, gave him opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of his remarkable journey. The Roland was proceeding more smoothly, and while he sat there smoking cigarettes, a sense of comfort came over him, partly attributable, however, to the general effect of a sea trip on one's nerves. It seemed wonderful to him to be on this great transport of human cargo, to be driven onward to a new continent along with so many fellow-men, subject to the same weal and woe. And the cause of his presence on the ship was so curious! Never before had he had so strange a sense of being a will-less puppet in the hands of destiny. Again dark and light illusions mingled in his brain. He thought of Ingigerd, whom he had not yet seen; and when he touched the quivering wall of the low room, he was penetrated by happiness, that the same walls were protecting him as the little dancer and that the same bottom was holding them up.
"It's not true. It's a lie," he repeated half aloud, referring to the statement of the armless man, that Hahlstroem was exposing his daughter to dishonour and was exploiting her.
Doctor Wilhelm's return aroused Frederick from his dreams with a painful shock. Doctor Wilhelm laughed and continued to laugh, as he threw his cap on the bed and said:
"I've just dragged our little Hahlstroem and her pet dog on deck. The little imp has been giving a regular performance, in which her faithful poodle, Achleitner, plays the part, one moment of the beaten cur, the next moment of the spoiled darling."
Doctor Wilhelm's report made Frederick uneasy. The first time he had seen Mara, she seemed to him the incarnation of childish purity and innocence. But since then, rumours had reached his ears which shook his faith in her chastity and caused him many agonised hours and sleepless nights. He had even had an excellent opinion of her father, and that, too, was shaken.
Doctor Wilhelm, who also seemed to be extremely interested in Ingigerd, began to speak of Achleitner.
"He told me in confidence, he's engaged to her."
Frederick remained silent. That was his only way of concealing his profound dismay, now that the ship's doctor confirmed the supposition he had expressed at the dinner-table.
"Achleitner is a faithful dog," Doctor Wilhelm continued. "He is one of those men who have a canine sort of patience. He sits up on his hind legs and begs for a lump of sugar. He fetches and carries and lies down and plays dead. She could do whatever she wanted, and he would still, I think, be her patient, faithful poodle. If you'd like to, Doctor von Kammacher, we might go on deck and visit her. She's lots of fun. Besides we can watch the sun set."
Little Mara lay stretched out in a steamer chair. Achleitner was most uncomfortably perched on a small camp-stool directly in front of her, so that he could look straight into her face. He had wrapped her up to her shoulders in rugs. The setting sun, casting its rays across the mighty heavings of the sea, glorified a lovely face. The ship was no longer tossing so violently, and the deck was lively with people sitting in chairs or promenading up and down. Some of the passengers had got over their seasickness, and there was a general air of revived animation and talkativeness.
Mara's appearance was somewhat conspicuous. She wore her very long, light hair flowing, and was playing with a small doll, a fact of which every passerby turned about to assure himself.
When Frederick saw this girl, who for weeks had been hovering in his soul, in his dreams, in his waking hours, who, as it were, had covered the rest of the world from his sight, or, at least, had cast a veil over it, his excitement was so intense and his heart beat so violently against his ribs that he had to turn away to keep his countenance. Even after the lapse of several seconds, it was difficult for him to believe that the enthralled, enslaved condition of his being was not noticeable to the people about him. But his excitement was by no means due solely to the fear of self-betrayal. It sprang from his passion, which, he suddenly realised, dominated him with undiminished strength.
"Papa told me you were here," the little miss said to him, adjusting the blue silk cap on her doll's head. "Won't you sit down with us? Mr. Achleitner, please go and get a chair for Doctor von Kammacher." She turned to Doctor Wilhelm. "Your treatment was summary, but I am grateful to you. I feel very well sitting here, watching the sun set. You're fond of nature, aren't you, Doctor von Kammacher?"
"Nur fuer Natur hegte sie Sympathie," trolled Doctor Wilhelm, swaying on tip-toe.
"Oh, you are impudent," Ingigerd reproved him. "Doctor Wilhelm is impudent, you know," she added to Frederick. "I saw he was the very instant he looked at me and the way he took hold of me."
"But, my dear young lady, so far as I know, I never took hold of you."
"If you please, you did—going up the stairs. I have blue marks as the result."
The chatter ran on for a while in a similar strain. Frederick, without betraying it, was on the alert for every word she uttered, noted every play of feature, watched for her glances, for the rise and fall of her lashes. He jealously studied the others, too, and caught every expression, every movement, every glance that was meant for her. He even noticed how Max Pander, the handsome cabin-boy, still standing at his post, held his eyes fixed upon her, a broad smile on his lips.
Ingigerd's pleasure in receiving the homage of three men and being the centre of general interest was evident. She plucked at her little doll and her odd, checked jacket, and gave herself up to coquettish whimsies. Her affected voice filled Frederick with the delight of a long, cool drink to a thirsty man. At the same time, his whole being was inflamed with jealousy. The first mate, Von Halm, a magnificent young man of twenty-eight, a perfect tower of a man, joined the group and was favoured by Ingigerd with looks and pointed remarks, which indicated to her admirers that this weather-tanned officer was not an object of indifference to her.
"How many miles, Lieutenant, since we left the Needles?" asked Achleitner, who was pale and evidently chilly.
"We're making better time now," Von Halm replied; "but for the last twenty-two or twenty-three hours, we haven't made more than two hundred miles."
"At that rate it will take two weeks to reach New York," cried Hans Fuellenberg, somewhat too forwardly, from where he was sitting a little distance away. He was still flirting with the English lady from Southampton; but now, irresistibly drawn to Mara's sphere, he jumped up and left her, bringing the tone that was agreeable to Mara and all her admirers, except Frederick von Kammacher. The jolliness of the little group communicated itself to the rest of the promenade deck.
Disgusted with the orgy of banality, Frederick moved off to be alone with his thoughts. The deck, which in the middle of the day had been dripping with water, was now quite dry. He walked to the stern and looked out over the broad, foaming wake. He heaved a deep breath of joy at the thought that he was no longer in the narrow spell of the little female demon. Suddenly the long tension of his soul relaxed. Though he might have suffered a profound disenchantment, yet he felt as if he had taken a sobering bath, which left him a free agent, alone with his own soul. He felt ashamed of his instability. His passion for that little person seemed ridiculous, and he covertly beat his breast and rapped his forehead with his knuckles as if to awaken himself from a dream.
But, finally, the great cosmic moment of the slowly setting sun cast its spell over the young German adventurer.
A fresh wind was still blowing from the southeast, slanting the vessel slightly to the side where the sun hung over the horizon, turning the heavens in the west into a great, dusky conflagration. That sun, beneath which a slate-coloured sea was rolling in waves gently tossing foam—that sea, slate-coloured in the east and a cold, darkening blue in the west and south—that sky above, with great masses of clouds—these were to Frederick like the three mighty motives of a world symphony.
"Any one who is susceptible to them," he thought, "has no real cause to feel small, for all their awful majesty."
He was standing near the log, the long line of which was trailing in the ocean. The great ship was quivering under his feet. From the two smoke-stacks the wind was pressing the smoke down over the waves, and a melancholy procession of figures, widows in long crepe veils, wringing their hands in mute grief, drifted away backward, as if into the twilight gloom of eternal damnation. He heard the talking of the passengers, and represented to himself all that was united within the walls of that immense house, hurrying forward restlessly—how much hunting, fleeing, hoping, fearing. And in his soul, responding to the universal miracle, arose the great unanswered questions that seek to penetrate to the dark meaning of existence: "Why?" "What for?"
He began to pace the deck again without noticing that he drew near Ingigerd Hahlstroem.
"You are wanted," a voice behind him suddenly announced. Seeing how he started, Doctor Wilhelm excused himself.
"You were dreaming; you are a dreamer," Mara called. "Come over here. I don't like these stupid men."
The six or eight gentlemen in attendance, with the exception of Achleitner, laughed and withdrew with a humorous show of great obedience.
"Why do you stay here, Achleitner?" Thus the faithful canine received his dismissal.
Frederick saw how the men withdrew together in groups at a little distance, whispering as they usually do when having sport with a pretty woman who is not exactly a prude; and it was with some shame, at any rate, with expressed repugnance that he took the stool still warm from Achleitner's body. Mara began to rhapsodise about nature.
"Isn't everything prettiest when the sun goes down? I think it's fun—at least I like it," she quickly substituted, when Frederick made a wry face at the remark. She spoke in sentences that all began with "I don't like," or "I despise," or "I do detest." In the face of that vast cosmic drama unfolding itself before her senses, she sat wholly unmoved and unsympathetic, displaying the overweening arrogance of a spoiled child. Frederick wanted to jump up, but remained where he was, pulling nervously at the end of his moustache, while his face assumed a stiff, mocking expression. Mara noticed it, and was visibly upset by this unusual form of homage.