The School of Courage
Sir Philip believes that certain stories can best be told as “little novels.” This dramatic story of life in Berlin to-day is his latest fictional effort in this direction. Certainly, there is no “padding” in this powerful tale.
BUSINESS & INVESTMENTS
SIR PHILIP GIBBS
MILLIONS of people are going to see “The School of Courage,” which is advertised as one of the greatest film dramas ever produced. I don’t know about that, although it is certainly a work of art—with a big idea in it. It holds the emotion of the spectators so that they sit tense for something like two hours, and shed a tear or two—hurried business men and frivolous flappers—before the lights go up. It makes them “feel good” for five minutes or so until they get into the crush of Broadway again or the tangled traffic of Piccadilly. It’s a plea for human brotherhood, pity, tolerance, peace—so quickly forgotten in the hurly-burly of life!
It’s my privilege to see more than the ordinary spectators. I see behind the scenes, as it were, the private life of the film actors, the strange adventure of this production. That, too, in a way, was “The School of Courage.” It needed pluck. Men and women made a real sacrifice for the sake of this film.
One of the prettiest girls in the world—as she seems to me—risked her health for it, poor child, and the producer went through hell in the course of it.
All that sounds rather hair-raising, but I don’t want to be sensational—merely to tell for the first time the story lying behind that “movie” which is now famous on both sides of the world.
It happened in Berlin—strange as it may seem to people who imagine that the scenes were actually produced in the cities through which the story passes. All those wonderful pictures of the Kremlin in Moscow, the burning port of Smyrna, the refugee haunts in Constantinople, the night life in Budapest, Vienna, Paris, were done in the great Zeppelin shed outside Berlin,underthe direction of Gilbert Harshe, ex-soldier, idealist, temporary slave-driver—for art’s sake— and my good friend.
It was in the Adlon Hotel at the corner of Unter den Linden that I saw Harshe for the first time since the war. I was surprised to see him there, remembering a conversation I had with him one day in war-time when he was commanding an air squadron behind Havrincourt Chateau—its ruins—overlooking Cambrai in 1917.
“If ever the war ends,” he said,
“or if I get through, which isn’t likely, I’ll kill any German who has the face to show himself in England.
I’ll cut his throat over a tea-table, or bash him in a public restaurant.
There’s no forgiveness in me for all this bloody mess of things.”
So he had spoken, and I could see the passion in his eyes and the twitch of his nerves. Men of artistic temperament—and he was a landscape painter before joining up— were too sensitive for this modern way of war, with its infernal shellfire and enormous nerve strain.
Well, there was Gilbert Harshe, of all men, sitting in the Adlon Hotel, Berlin, and not looking as if he wanted to murder any Germans.
It was at tea time, and the Adlon Hotel was filled as usual, at that hour, with the new rich. The tables in the great lounges, between the marble pillars, were crowded with men feeding their little painted ladies. I was a little disgusted by this scene of luxury, and remarked as much to the man by my side, though I could not expect him to take my view. It was young Hermann Winter, the son of the Steel King of Germany whose enormous fortune is based on slave-paid labor. But the young man rather agreed with me, not having the same philosophy as his father, upon whose money he lived expensively with amiable cynicism, and sometimes, I thought, a prick of conscience.
HE LOOKED round the room with an ironical smile before he answered me. “No, these people don’t seem stricken with poverty. Bandits in a small way, like my honored father in a big way. But you mustn’t take your idea of Germany from this kind of crowd. I’d like to take you to a place called the Nacht Asyl. A night shelter for the homeless. Something of a contrast to this kind of thing! The other side of the picture.”
I agreed to go with him one night, and then, glancing round the room, saw Gilbert Harshe.
He was sitting by the window which looks out to the garden, with two ladies and a young man. For the moment he was paying no attention to his company but sat with a frown making a tuck in his forehead, staring into his tea-cup as though reading his luck there.
Hermann Winter seemed excited by one of the ladies at Gilbert Harshe’s tea-table. He half rose from bis chair, with an eager look in his eyes, and then whispered to me in that excellent English which he had learned at Oxford before the war: “Do you see that lovely lady like a Madonna? Isn't she wonderful?”
I told him that I saw two lovely ladies, one fair with a golden plait twisted round her head, the other dark, with big eyes and an Irish smile.
“The fair one,” said young Winter. 'T know her. I've been looking for her everywhere. V e used to be good friends.”
She saw him looking at her and nodded to him. with a sudden flush rising to her fair skin. He half rose again and answered her nod with a bow.
"You wouldn't guess where I used to meet that charming lady— so like a fair Madonna! It was in a night cabaret down the Friedrichstrasse. She used to sing German folk songs, charmingly. I rather pitied her.”
I told him that I pitied any woman in a night cabaret down the Friedrichstrasse, and he agreed.
“Frightful—except for the hardened ones. Once a young me got drunk and tried to kiss her. 1 intervened, and she was rather grateful. That’s how 1 came to know her. Then she disappeared, and 1 feared the worst. There's something about her
He seemed to think that he had given himself away too much and broke off shyly with a heightened color.
I told him that I knew the man that was with her and asked him to excuse me while 1 had a word with this friend of mine.
“Don't say anything about the cabaret,” said young Winter nervously. "It wasn’t a nice place.”
1 went across to Gilbert Harshe and touched him on the shoulder. "Have you forgotten old friends?”
“By alt that’s wonderful! My dear old man!”
We grasped hands and laughed, as men do who remember old adventures.
“\V hat are you doing in Berlin?” I asked.
Harshe smiled at his two pretty ladies as though my U ues 11 o : i held a joke, and they smiled back at him.
“Not idling.” Then he introduced me to the girl with the black eyes and the Irish mouth. “Miss Rosaline Brook, famous on both sides of the world.”
Famous? Ves. 1 had heard the name and seen pictures f that pretty face. Oh Lord, yes, the little American film star, boosted" in all the papers!
“Delighted to meet you,” said Miss Rosaline.
Harshe turned to the other lady, young Winter's “fair Madonna." whom he had known in the night life of Berlin l met the gaze of two blue eyes and was startled by the real beauty of her face, and more by the sweetness and purity f its expression. Hardly Madonna-like, yet delicate as a portrait by Greuze, and with a touch of sadness lurking in the line of the lips in spite of her smile,
Harshe spoke her name with a kind of chivalrous homage. "Miss Hilda Freudenberg—one of my heroines.”
The lady gave me her hand and blushed at this compliment. and laughed a little. "One of your pupils,” she said to Harshe, in a slightly foreign accent.
There was another introduction to a good-looking English boy between the two ladies. Harshe put a hand on hts shoulder affectionately. “Robin Dale. Almost too pretty to live, but once a jolly good scout in my old squadron and now on his way to make an actor, though heaven knows he tries my patience.”
TPHE boy answered cheerfully and without respect. A "Don't worry, old bean. My face is my fortune, and all the ladies love me on the screen.”
I explained that I had a friend with me and asked permission to bring him to that table—Hermann Winter, the son of the rich old man.
For some reason Harshe seemed startled by that name. Then he smiled in a mysterious way and said: “Bring him
over. I like historical coincidences. They make life amusing."
I did not get his meaning then, "but beckoned to Hermann Winter, who came over and bowed stiffly like a German officer before dropping into that easy English style which he had picked up at Oxford.
He greeted Hilda Freudenberg, his “fair Madonna,” as though they were old friends, but with great respect beyond the usual “gnädiges Frauleinkissing her hand as though she were a princess. But I noticed that when he drew his chair next to hers she seemed to shrink from him a little and did not encourage him in conversation.
It was the good-looking boy, Robin Dale, who kept the table lively. He made us all roar with laughter by his execrable German, and by the ridiculous tomfoolery which he carried on with the German waiters, who were not quite sure whether they ought to be amused or insulted. They decided to be amused.
But it was the beautiful Rosaline Brook who was most amused. It was clear that she regarded Robin Dale as her court jester. She treated him with an air of smiling disdain. as an elder sister might behave to a small and obstreperous boy, but I could see that she liked his company and his sense of humor. Once I was surprised to see that she suddenly drooped in her chair and went fast asleep for a few moments. She w-oke up with a start and a look of inquiry.
“What was that last joke of yours, Robin? I’m afraid I missed its priceless wit. Only four hours’ sleep last night!” Robin Dale answered with sham indignation. “Yes, we're slave-driven! That producer of ours is Harshe by name and harsh by nature. We’ll all be dead before the last shot.”
Harshe looked at the boy and girl with a kind of amused anxiety. "You two children ought to go to bed early when you do get a chance— instead of plunging into the night life of Berlin. Don’t forget we start for the studio at eight o’clock to-morrow. I’m shooting that big scene in Moscow.”
The English boy held up his hands in mock horror. “Eight o’clock! That means shaving at seven. It can’t
be done. It’s worse than war.”
Rosaline Brook patted his hand. “Courage, little one! Remember your bulldog breed.”
It was all a mystery to me at that time. I couldn’t guess what Gilbert Harshe w as doing in Berlin with an American movie star, a girl from a night cabaret in the Friedrichstrasse, looking like a princess, and an English boy who had been an airman and was now an actor.
1 learned more about it that evening when Harshe and I were alone together.
7E SAT talking in the Esplanade Hotel—one of the palaces built by Stinnes—where Harshe had joined me for dinner. I reminded him of the oath of hatred he had sworn to all Germans after the war, and he flushed a little and laughed awkwardly.
"Yes. 1 felt like that then. Towards the end something changed in me. I came to see, or thought I did, that there were deeper causes for the wrar than German aggression. Something wrong with civilization in Europe—all sorts of stupidity. Anyhow I enlarged my sympathy when I wandered about after the show in ex-enemy countries— Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Germany, Russia.” He repeated the word Russia, and said, “My God!” as though that were the wmrst he had seen.
“What difference did it make to your point of view?” I asked.
He puffed at his cigar before he answered, as though thinking out the reasons for his change of mind. “I saw the misery of the common folk. The real victims, and not responsible. It knocked out hate. It made me want to do something to stop another spasm of the same sort.” He smiled at some link in his chain of thought. “Funny you should have introduced me to young Hermann Winter!” He explained his amusement at that encounter. “My squadron had orders to bomb a certain chateau thirty miles behind St. Quentin. We were to take our_ largesize bombs and drop ’em low—at thirty feet. Our intelligence crowd had information that old man Winter was staying with the army general. It was to be his funeral in the little old chateau.”
“Why did we covet his blood particularly?” I asked, and Harshe was surprised at my forgetfulness.
“We had a grudge against him. He made all the big guns that used to blow us to bits. Anyhow it wasn’t his funeral that night. It might have been mine. I was laid out for three months with a shrapnel bullet in the lung.”
I expressed my regret that he had not made Hermann Winter an orphan. The boy was a better type than his father—and not so efficient. “I expect the old man is getting busy with his plans for the next war,” I said, half seriously.
Harshe shook his head. “There’s not going to be a next war—not for a long time. Not while the common folk of the world remember their losses in the last, and the price they are paying now. I’m helping them to remember. That’s what’s making me keen on my job.”
I asked him how his job was going to help in that way, and he colored up and answered with a hint of emotion: “I’m rubbing in the peace idea. It’s the bug in my brain, my purpose in life. This film drama of mine is going to tear off the veil which hides the cruelty of war’s victims.
He laughed with sudden self-consciousness, as though he had spoken on too high a level.
“Not that I haven’t selfish reasons for wanting to get this job done. If I don’t pull it through, I shall be pretty hard hit— financially. And others will go down with my failure—the fellows who put up the capital because they believe in me.”
Over coffee and liqueurs he told me the idea of his film drama, “The School of Courage.” He had worked it out while wandering round Europe and Asia Minor with Quaker soup-kitchens. He had seen into the heart of agony and had built his plot round the refugees of terror, famine, social revolution and financial ruin—Russians, Greeks, Hungarians, Austrians, Germans of certain classes. He had followed them through to Berlin and Paris where they danced and fiddled for the new rich, or starved in the underworld, or sold themselves—pretty girls, fine ladies—for the means of life. Now he was putting it all into this film drama—the stark truth of human tragedy and courage. If it didn’t tear at people’s hearts, make them shed tears of blood, then he was no artist.
“It sounds thrilling,” I admitted, “but why are you working in Berlin?”
“That studio in the Zeppelin shed is the best in the world for size and lighting. And German labor is cheap and good—though more than I can afford, worse luck. I couldn’t do the job in London half as well for twice the
THERE were other reasons why he worked in Berlin.
He could get all his types there—Russians, Austrians, Hungarians, all the refugees. Gold wasn’t flowing their way after the stabilization of German money, and they were desperate for jobs.
“I’m doing it on the cheap,” said Harshe. “But all the same, I’m spending every bean I’ve got, and getting worried. If there’s any hitch I shan’t be able to carry on. That’s why I’m driving hard, to get through with it and save expense. That’s why young Robin has to shave his
pretty face at seven-thirty in the morning, and why little Rosaline falls asleep over the tea-cups, poor child. Yesterday we worked fourteen hours without a break. Killing!”
He asked me to go to the studio one day. He wanted my advice about some tangles in the plot and said he would take it as a great favor if I would help him a little.
“All I know,” I said, glad to be of any use, and keen to see his show.
Later in the evening, after a second liqueur and some yarns about old times, he revealed a side of his character which I had not suspected.
“I’d like you to know that Austrian lady, Hilda Freudenberg,” he said casually. “If I get through that job all right I want to marry her—if she’ll risk it.”
I wondered what his people would say if he took home an Austrian wife. They were old-fashioned English folk, as I happened to know. I also wondered a little about that cabaret in which young Hermann Winter had made friends with her. Not a nice place, he had said.
“She’s very pretty,” I remarked, in a non-committal way.
“She’s pure gold,” he answered.
Then he knocked me edgewise by telling me that she had a little daughter aged seven—“a fairy thing” he said —smiling with a sudden tenderness in his eyes at the remembrance.
“A little daughter!” I exclaimed in a startled way. “What about her husband?”
Harshe laughed at my anxiety, and said: “Don’t be alarmed. There’s not going to be a scandalous divorce or anything like that. We’re a moral crowd in my movie—= barring a few.” Then he spoke seriously. “Her husband —a Russian lad—was one of the .first victims of Lenin and his gang. He was sent from Vienna with dispatches, and joined his father against a white wall. Very rough on his girl wife, with a baby coming.”
He gave a heavy sigh, and then nodded when I asked him if he had met her first in Berlin.
“She tried to earn her living here. No so easy. Sang old folk songs in the wine rooms of the Friedrichstrasse. Can you imagine?’ Twenty marks a night—starvation wages—and every humiliation. Well, I saved her from that, thank heaven! She’s wonderful in ‘The School of Courage’. ”
He rose from the chair with a sudden glint in his eyes, and I saw that the lady of whom he was speaking was coming across the room, holding hands with Rosaline Brook, the little American film star, while Robin Dale followed, with their cloaks on his arm, and looking very elegant in evening clothes. Young Dale had a bright suggestion which he put to Harshe. “Come and join us at Olivers’s. Rosy and I must dance or die, and Hilda wants a partner.”
“If it is Mr. Harshe!” said the Austrian lady.
Harshe looked tempted, but after a moment’s struggle refused the invitation. “I’d like to. I must have a talk with Anton Dolin. It’s his big scene to-morrow—and he’s giving me a lot of trouble. I can’t think what’s come over him lately. He’s as sulky as a bear.”
WATCHING these people as an outsider, I noticed that the face of Hilda Freudenberg was suffused with a quick blush which made her fair skin flower-like, as when she had seen Hermann Winter.
“He’s a little mad, I think,” she said in her low-toned voice.
“Mad jealous,” said Harshe, “because I’ve put you in the place of that woman Magda who we all know is his mistress.”
Hilda Freudenberg put her hand on Harshe’s sleeve and spoke persuasively. “Come! It would do you good to forget the picture for a little while. All those troubles!” He smiled and shook his head. “Business first, until the job is finished. Then—” He looked at Hilda Freudenberg with eyes that expressed great desire, and then turned to young Dale and the little American girl. “You young people ought to go to bed instead of dancing. Think of that early call to-morrow!”
Robin Dale said that if he didn’t get the smell of the studio out of his nostrils he would go sick. Besides, what was the good of being in Berlin unless one saw something of its life? It was he who suggested that I should take Harshe’s place as Hilda Freudenberg’s partner, and although I’m no dancing man I volunteered, having nothing else to do that evening.
As it happened Hilda Freudenberg and I sat out mostly while Robin and Rosaline danced. The young lady by my side was rather silent until I startled her by a remark I made.
“I once knew some people by the name of Freudenberg.”
She looked at me with surprise and inquired where I had known them.
“In Vienna. There was a Captain Otto von Freudenberg attached to the Court in some way. His wife was an English girl who had gone to school with my sisters.”
She drew a quick breath and answered with emotion, “My mother!”
I looked at her curiously and searched back into the
memories of my first holiday abroad as a very young man.
“They had a little girl,” I said, “with a flaxen pigtail. She used to go dancing over the polished floors of the old Hofburg Palace.”
“Yes,” said Hilda von Freudenberg—it seemed that she had dropped that “von” from her name—“that was me as I remember myself in dreams, and as I see myself in my little daughter.”
I reminded her how even the court flunkeys became human at the sight of her. And one day when I happened to be there the old Emperor passed, and then stopped a moment and turned to kiss her with a sudden tenderness in his dim old eye.
The girl at my side was silent for a moment. Then she spoke very softly, with a break in her voice. “That was before the world changed.”
“Your mother and father?” I asked quietly.
She lowered her head. “My father was killed in the war. My mother died. Pneumonia, the doctor said. It was really hunger. Vienna was terrible after the war.”
I remembered Vienna after the war—its unlighted streets, its beggars, its people of despair. In the hospitals and homes I had seen the tragedy of Austrian childhood,withered, blighted, dying.
In the dancing halls I had seen pretty girls—girls of good family — selling their love for the price of a meal.
“Yes,” I said, “Vienna was terrible after the war.”
Hilda Freudenberg was silent again, thinking back. Then she surprised me by her next words.
“And yet,” she said, “I was very happy for a time in those dark days before the end of the war.
They were the happiest of my life, perhaps.”-
“Incredible!” I exclaimed. “How was that?”
SHE answered with a wonderful simplicity. “It was then that love came to me. There was a young Russian at the Embassy, just a boy. He fell in love with me. While the world was falling into ruin we loved each other and found life wonderful.”
“How long did that last?” I asked, remembering what Harshe had told me and looking at her with pity.
“Three weeks,” she answered. “He went to Moscow with some papers a few days after our marriage. He promised to be back in a month, but there was something in his eyes which frightened me when he went. I think he guessed—or knew.”
She did not tell me what had happened, but nodded when I said, “Harshe told me.”
“After that,” she said, “I came to Berlin with my baby girl. You see, I was quite alone in Vienna after mymother’s death. I thought Berlin was still rich, with plenty of food, and I had an uncle there, my mother’s brother. One day I rang the bell of my uncle’s house.” She asked with a little smile about her lips, “Have you ever heard the clanging of a bell when all one’s life hangs on the answer, and no one comes?”
“No one answered?”
It was an empty house, she told me. Her uncle had committed suicide on the day of the Armistice, which broke his spirit.
“So then?” I asked.
Her answer was a light laugh with a little gesture which seemed to explain the inevitability of the things that happened. “I had a hard time. My baby girl gave me courage. Without her—I hate to remember those days. But then Mr. Harshe helped me, and now I am well-to-do, and perhaps one day—when this film is shown—I may be famous.”
She laughed as though that idea amused her and was rather unbelievable. Then she spoke the name of Harshe again, with something like adoration.
“How can I pay him back?” she asked. “He has been so good —so good!”
I knew one way in which she could pay him back. That way would be easy when he asked her to be his wife, and the prejudice I had had against her when Harshe first told me of that intention vanished as I glanced at her face again and saw its spiritual beauty—“a fair Madonna,” young Winter had called her.
Our private talk ended there, as Robin Dale came back from the dancing floor with Rosaline Brook, the little film star.
“I’m parched for a drink,” said Robin. “What about a bottle of bubbly?”
“Me for orangeade,” said Rosaline. There was a tired lack-lustre look in her eyes and she put her hands over them, complaining that the world was dim. “It’s the light in the silly old studio,” she said. “Robin and I were in the glare of it for hours yesterday. I’m as blind as a bat!”
Later in the evening Rosaline Brook sneezed twice, and it seemed to alarm Hilda Freudenberg and Robin Dale out of all proportion to the importance of that natural and not unusual irritation of the mucus membrane.
“My Lord!” said young Dale with consternation. Hilda Freudenberg touched Rosaline’s hand and said, “You’re shivering, my dear! For goodness sake—’
“A slight chill, I fear,” said the little film star in a jaunty way. “Don’t tell Mr. Harshe or he’ll get scared. If I fall by the wayside—”
“Good heavens!” said Robin Dale. “It would hold up everything and ruin the whole show.”
Rosaline Brook said it wasn’t going to happen. Two sneezes didn’t make a tragedy.
“To bed, child!” said Robin Dale, with an air of authority. “We mustn’t risk these dreadful things.”
We went back in a taxi to the Esplanade and Hilda Freudenberg held Rosaline’s hand all the way, and looked anxious vhen the little film star shivered and cuddled closer.
“Better send for a doctor, dear child,” said Robin. “In any c-ase there’ll be no early call for you to-morrow. I’ll speak a word to Harshe.” Rosaline Brook sat up suddenly in a blaze of anger. “You certainly won’t. I’m wanted tomorrow for the big scene. Do you think I’m the one to lie down on my job? Not if you know little Rosaline!”
He had to promise under pain of excommunication that he would say nothing to alarm Gilbert Harshe and he did so when she allowed herself to be led meekly to bed.
Robin and I sat in the lounge over a cup of chocolate, and I spoke mv thoughts aloud. “Women have a lot of
1WAS thinking of Hilda Freudenberg's tragic tale and of that hard time which had brought her to a low haunt in the night life of Berlin. But young Dale thought I referred to Rosaline Brook and he answered with warm agreement.
••That kid has enough pluck for ten toreadors!” He uttered some gloomy forebodings. “If Rosaline gets a real chill it v ill be the devil to pay for poor old Gilbert Harshe. in the picture all
She's the time an
to drop out for more a day or two th blooming show will go smash.”
“As bad as that?” I exclaimed.
Robin Dale nodded, and blew a very perfect ring with his cigaret
selves,” he said, “dear old Gilbert is working on a very close margin. He may have to do a nose dive before he finishes his flight.”
“Meaning what?” 1 asked.
“Well, speaking frankly,” said Robin, “I reckon he can last out for another week. After that he’ll have to close down whether we’ve shot the last scene or whether we haven’t. A poisonous shame if that happens! It’s a great picture as far as it goes.”
“So if Rosaline were to fall sick it would be rather serious," I remarked.
“A Shakespearean tragedy,” said young Dale.
He began to whistle a lively tune and put on a merry and bright expression which 1 saw was intended for Gilbert Harshe, who came striding towards us after a friendly wave of the hand.
"Back again?” he asked, as though surprised to see us so soon. " What have you done with the ladies?”
"Too sleepy to dance,” said Robin Dale cheerfully. “Both retired to their chaste little beds, leaving us in the
"Very wise of them!” remarked Harshe good-humoredly. "I'm going to work them hard to-morrow, poor
Young Dale shot a glance at me as though to say “What
Neither of us said a word about¡the health of Rosaline Brook those alarming sneezes—which might jeopardize the fortune of Gilbert Harshe and the fate of a great film
I drove out next morning to the Zeppelin shed which had been turned into a “movie” studio. Going through a narrow door I came into a vast hall in which there were stacks of scenery, a tangle of wires, a smell of wet plaster, and a chilly atmosphere which revealed my breath like a white mist. Beyond a high wall of canvas there was a blinding glare of yellow light, and I lost myself utterly down long corridors trying to reach that vivid illumination, which I guessed was on the central stage of Harshe’s film drama.
German worsmen in plastered overalls pushed me on one side to make a passage for a piece of scenery eighty feet high, which I recognized instantly as a part of the Kremlin in Moscow where the tall tower of Ivan Yelike overlooked the battlemented walls. I dodged them, tripped over some coils of wire, wedged myself between two plaster walls, and came into the Red Square of Moscow as I had faced across it in a year of famine. The scene was startling in its realism.
\ CROWD thronged across the open space. They were the very type I had seen in Moscow three years before—old peasants in their sheepskin coats, fur caps, bast shoes; Cossack officers in astrachan cloaks reaching below the tops of their black top-boots; Gipsies in rags and tatters of many colors; laughing-eyed women, and straw-bearded men in leather jackets with rags round their feet: here and there an officer of the Red Army, a Hebrew kommisar, a long-haired student.
Standing underneath an archway leading into the Red Square, by the Shrine of the Iberian Virgin, exactly as I had seen it a score of times, was a group of men and women guarded by Red soldiers. One glance at them in that lurid light which lighted up the whole scene told me that they represented Russian aristocrats and “intellectuals” of the old regime, in shabby clothes but once of good cloth and cut, dirty, but with faces which no dirt could disguise of people of education and good family.
One of the men, dark-eyed, deadly white, with a handsome, tragic face, was leaning with his back to the wall, smoking a cigarette with a look of disdain at the Red soldiers who stood with slung rifles in front of him.
All this was pantomime, a scene for a movie, yet so much like the real tragedy in Moscow during the time of the Terror that for a moment it made me feel uneasy.
A young man with tousled hair in the uniform of a British oîficer, all torn and blood-stained, moved away from the crowd in the archway, came towards me and gave me a cheerful "Hullo!” It was young Dale, whom I dimly recognized in spite of the paint on his face and this disguise.
“Excuse my abject appearance,” he said. “I’ve just escaped from the Bolsheviki. Come and have a drink before dear old Gilbert catches sight of you. This studio is stone cold and I’m frozen to the marrow-bones.”
He led me rapidly through an iron door. We went down a dark corridor warmed by a little charcoal stove, but still damp and cold. There were doom on each side and out of one of them came a tragic-looking girl in ragged clothes with dark rings round her eyes and carmine lips, vivid against her yellow-white skin. I was surprised when she said "Good morning” very graciously before flitting away from us.
"Who's that?” I asked of Robin Dale.
He looked surprised, and then laughed. “We look a bit different in our make-up. That’s Hilda Freudenberg, who was at tea with us yesterday. A wonderful actress and a eharming lady. Even if I didn’t like her I should have
to be polite, because without a doubt she’s going to be Mrs. Gilbert Harshe one day. Dear old Gilbert worships the ground she treads on and lets everybody know it.” He took me into his dressing-room, a small boxlike chamber with a deal table littered with grease paints, shaving apparatus, French novels and tins of tobacco. Two kitchen chairs were piled up with clothes, which Dale pitched to the floor.
“Take a pew,” he said. “I’m certain you can do with a whisky after that long drive. As for me—” He poured out a stiff dose for each of us and drank his own neat, after wishing me good luck. “The best preventive of influenza, pneumonia and all the diseases that lurk in dark corners for delicate souls like me.”
I asked a question which had been nagging in my mind on the way down. “How’s Miss Rosaline?”
“Not at all well,” he answered gravely. “She ought to see a doctor and go to bed. But she’d rather die than let down dear old Gilbert. Let’s go and cheer her up.”
He took me down the corridor again and tapped at one of the doors, and then put his head inside.
“Is it well with the child?” he askèd, and then beckoned to me to enter.
It did not seem to me that it was at all well with the child.
She was lying on a horse-hair couch, dressed as a dancing girl such as one sees in the Russian cabarets with their national head-dress, and in spite of the paint on her face she looked ill and feverish.
She coughed in a way that rather frightened me, though I was no doctor, before holding out her hand and saying: “Make yourself at home. There’s a chair with three cracked legs in the corner over there.”
I was left alone with her when a call came for Robin Dale and he had to rush away without another word.
“Look here,” I said, in a fatherly way, “you ought to get out of this cold studio or you’ll get pneumonia or something. Can’t you lie up for a week?”
She laughed at me and cried: “A week? Good
heavens—the man doesn’t know how important I am! If I drop out everything will stand still. And Mr. Harshe can’t afford it.
He’s working against time and money.”
“Yes,” I said, “I know all that. But your life is worth more than a movie —the best ever made.”
She kissed her hand to ma and said: Merci, Monsieur!"
I spoke bluntly, as she shivered a little. “I believe you’re really ill. Let me tell Harshe to send for a doctor and give you a rest.
She sat up on the sofa, looking exceedingly pretty and very angry. “Say!” she asked in her American way, “who gave you authority over my little life?”
I smiled at her, but was not to be daunted.
“Well, I’m going to tell Harshe anyhow,” I said stubbornly. “He’s not a baby-killer for
the sake of business.”
The little film star jumped up and caught me by the arm. “You mustn’t tell Mr.
Harshe! Please! He’s working on his nerve, with a million worries. I don’t want to be the last straw to break his dear old back.”
“I like your loyalty,” I said ungrudgingly.
“All the same, it’s foolish.”
She spoke to me seriously, putting her hand in mine in a childish way. “It’s kind of you to worry. But you see it’s like this. I’ve been drawing a mighty big salary from Mr. Harshe week after week. It’s been draining him ever so much. And he can’t afford to go on with this expense. The least I can do is to play up to the end, which is only a week or two more.”
“Harshe is lucky in having such good friends,” I said.
“He’s the best producer I’ve ever worked for,” she answered, “as good as gold, and I’d feel terribly bad if I let him down with a heavy bump just before the
picture’s. finished. See what I mean? Loyalty!”
I saw what she meant. I also thought she was looking more ill than I had imagined, when she leaned up against the wall, coughing with a handkerchief to her mouth. It was a little red stain oozing over the handkerchief at her lips which alarmed me horribly.
“Good Lord!” I said in a frightened voice.
“Don’t be scared!” she laughed. “It’s only lip-stick.”
But I didn’t believe her. It was one of her plucky little lies. The child was spitting up blood with that cough of hers. But I could say nothing more, because there was a bang at her door and a woman’s voice called out, “Wanted, Miss Brook! Mr. Harshe is waiting for you.”
“Coming!” the girl called out gaily, kissing her hand to me, and ran out of her room.
When I next saw her a few minutes later she was standing under the walls of the plaster Kremlin in a blinding light, trying to rescue Robin Dale from a crowd of Bolsheviki, while Harshe was shouting out directions and a camera man was shooting the scene.
I felt sorry for Harshe. I felt certain that his little film star would break down before the job was finished and hold up the whole show. But as it happened I was wrong. At least, something else happened before Rosaline sent for a doctor.
On the outskirts of the scene the crowd of Russian aristocrats, peasants, Red soldiers, Kommisars and children stood in groups, talking German, Russian, English and French.
A little apart, but not far from where I stood, I noticed the figure of Hilda Freudenberg, who had passed me in the corridor when I had gone to Robin’s^ dressing-room. She was listening to the conversation of the tall young Russian whom I had seen standing with his back to the wall smoking a eigaret in a disdainful attitude. He was talking to her excitedly, even with passion as it seemed to me, and involuntarily I overheard some
•of his words as his tone was raised — in German.
“If you consent to play Magda’s part, I will tell Herr Harshe what I know about you.”
She drew herself up and answered coldly: “There is nothing I have to hide. In any case you forget yourself, Anton Dolin.”
He hesitated, and then spoke with a harsh laugh. “I do not forget your lover, Hermann Winter. In that •dirty cabaret! Everyone knew, except this stupid Englishman who thinks you so much more virtuous than Magda, whose part you have stolen.”
I did not hear Hilda Freudenberg’s answer. Perhaps she didn’t answer. I only saw her slip away from that Russian actor as if he had struck her in the face when she had no one to defend her.
I was painfully distressed. Because of my remembrance of her childhood in the old Hofburg palace in Vienna, and my visit to her people—all those years ago—I felt a keen interest in her, beyond idle curiosity. Especially now that Harshe was in love with her. The words of that Russian stirred me with a sense of rage. What a blackguard thing to say! What a skunk!
I was boiling with this indignation when Harshe discovered me at last between a change of scenes and led me to a charcoal stove where Robin and Rosaline stood warming themselves.
“It’s a strange crowd here,” he said. “If I could get their life stories on the screen it would make more
drama than any film picture yet produced. Only, the censor wouldn’t pass it all.”
He laughed, and looked at the crowd of “extras” gathered outside the Kremlin wall as though he were thinking of their private histories.
“Who are they all?” I asked. “From what class do they come?”
“Mostly Germans,’’said Harshe,“ with just a sprinkling of Russian refugees, a few Austrians, a Hungarian count
—poor devil!—and some Poles. All of them—except the stars—desperately in need of the starvation wages I pay them for the job.”
He seemed to find some spiritual comfort in the thought that his “movie” was supporting so many people.
“They’re my characters,” he told me. “I mean they’re the actual types I’ve introduced into my story. They’ve lived the things I try to show. They’ve known the agony I can only suggest. They’ve starved, suffered, sold themselves, struggled, despaired, like the people I put on the screen. ‘The School of Courage!’ Well, these people—or some of ’em—have needed a lot of pluck to pull through as far as this.”
He nodded his head in the direction of the tall young Russian who had spoken such brutal words to Hilda Freudenberg.
“See that fellow? He calls himself Anton Dolin. He’s one of those innumerable princes. Lay for six months in a Russian prison, starving and lousy, before he escaped by killing his guard and getting out as a Red soldier. A surly, temperamental sort of chap—I’ve no end of trouble with him—but just the face and figure I want, and a first-class actor; he gets my idea.”
Perhaps the Russian was aware that Harshe was speaking about him. He suddenly advanced towards us and spoke to Harshe in fairly good English, and in a passionable temper. “Mr. Harshe—I will play my part
no more! I walk out of this studio. I wish you a very good day.”
HE TURNED on the heels of his long Cossack boots and would have walked straight away if Harshe had not caught him by the arm and swung him round again, with rough good nature.
“What’s all this nonsense, Anton? I thought we had finished the argument yesterday.”
“That is true,” said the Russian. “There is no argument. I have decided. I go away—and do not come back.”
He struggled to release his arm from the tight grip, but Harshe kept hold of him and spoke sternly.
“You’re not going just yet. I want you for the next scene—in five minutes. Please remember your loyalty, to say nothing of your salary, and play the game.”
The young Russian flung up his arms in a rage. “Loyalty! Play the game! That is very English. A nation of hypocrites! What was your loyalty to Magda Yronska? Why did you give her part to that Austrian woman?”
Harshe’s voice was cold and hard when he answered. “Magda Yronska liked her bed too much. She was never to be found when I wanted her. In any case, that is my business as producer.”
“It is my business,” said the Russian. “What affects her affects me. We work together or not at all.”
“In this company,” said Harshe quietly, “I don’t engage actors with their mistresses. In any case, the part is now being played by Fraulein Freudenberg, to my satisfaction.”
The Russian who called himself Anton Dolin flung his cigaret away with a gesture of rage. “To your satisfaction!” he repeated scornfully. “Yes, you despise my poor Magda because she is my mistress. You are a moral Englishman. You employ only very virtuous people in your company, is it not? Like Fraulein Freudenberg, from the Wein Stube of the Friedrichstrasse!”
I saw Harshe clench his fist, which was a little inconsistent with his principles of peace.
“Let us keep that lady’s name out of our conversation,” he said, with a rather deadly anger.
“She has stolen Magda’s part!” cried the Russian. “Or rather, you give it to her because you love her. That virtuous lady who was the mistress of Hermann Winter--”
I looked at Harshe and saw his face flame with rage.
He raised his fist as though to smash the Russian’s face. Some little veins in his forehead swelled out, and the line of his mouth hardened.
Then he lowered bis fist and spoke in a low voice. “Get out! If you’re not outside this studio in three minutes I won’t answer for my—self-control.” The young Russian saluted gravely and courteously, turned on his heel and walked in a slow and stately way to the iron door leading to the dressingrooms.
Harshe was breathing heavily until with a strong effort he mastered himself and spoke to me calmly. “That man is a Russian prince. Did I tell you? He is also a Russian cad.” He stood staring at the boards with a frown on his face, and then laughed. “The School of Courage,” he said. “Well, I’m afraid this puts the lid on it. All my efforts gone to waste. All the loyalty, art and industry of this good crowTd.”
I questioned him anxiously, and used the last word in the title of his play. “Courage!”
Harshe turned round and smiled at me, and put his hand on my shoulder as though to steady himself.
“Courage isn’t good enough now, except to cut our losses and keep smiling. That fellow’s departure knocks me edgewise. He was the chief character in the last scenes—some already shot.” “What difference does that make?” I asked.
He was amazed by my ignorance. “I shall have to shoot ’em all over again! Keep all these big sets standing—at enormous expense—until I can get another actor of the right type to replace that—swine! It can’t be done, and that’s all there is about it.” He passed his hand over his forehead with a gesture of weariness—or resignation—and then smiled again. “It's been a good try all the same. I don't regret it. The only thing I flunk is telling the crowd that I'm closing down.”
He moved away a few paces towards the groups gathered on the edge of the lighted space, as though he intended to tell them there and then. But I grabbed his arm and spoke with some emotion because I hated to see a big effort go to waste, and pluck defeated.
“Look here, surely you can get some more capital? A cable to America?”
Harshe shook his head and seemed to see a joke
Continued on page 48
Continued, from page 13
The School of Courage
somewhere. “I’ve tried all that. America doesn’t believe in my scenario. I hawked it from New York to SanFrancisco and couldn’t raise a thousand dollars.”
“German money?” I suggested. “Some of these people seem to have a lot.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “German money is hard to get unless I cut my plot to pieces, which I’m hanged if I’ll do. They think I’m anti-German, whereas I’m pro-peace. Nothing doing— except to face the music. I’m down and out.”
I could only say “Hard luck, old man!” but felt desperately sorry because he would have to haul down his flag after this gallant adventure.
We joined a group of principals around a charcoal stove. They were drinking coffee out of thick cups placed for them on a rickety table. Rosaline was standing on a hot brick which Robin had heated on the glowing charcoal, with considerable pride in his patent foot-warmer.
Hilda Freudenberg was the first to see something alarming in Harshe’s strained face and serious eyes. “What has happened?” she asked, with great anxiety?
Harshe made a gesture of resignation. “The end of this adventure. Anton Dolin has thrown up his part.”
There was a moment’s silence until Robin Dale spoke. “Chucked it altogether?”
“Ratted!” said Harshe.
“Could you set the law against him?” asked Robin. “Sue him for breach of contract?”
Harshe didn’t think so. As a matter of fact he had told the fellow to go, though he seemed to forget that.
It was Hilda Freudenberg who asked a question about the motive behind Anton Dolin’s act of treachery, as it seemed to them all. She put her hand on Harshe’s sleeve and her words came rather breathlessly. ‘ Why does he leave j us like this? For what reason? What did he say?”
I COULD see the anxiety with which | she asked those questions, and I remembered—and tried to forget—some words spoken by that Russian, Anton Dolin. Was she afraid that he had made that accusation about her relations with Hermann Winter? The thought came into my mind, with a momentary suspicion which I knew to be unworthy.
Harshe did not show by the flicker of | an eyelid that Anton Dolin had spoken outrageous words about her. He had just wiped them out of his mind.
‘He had no reason except temper— and silly jealousy. It was because I sacked that woman Magda, for whom he’s ruining himself, poor fool. These Russians!”
I saw Hilda Freudenberg’s candid eyes scan his face as though for any shadow there, unrevealed by his words. Then her voice thrilled with anger.
“He is mad, that Anton Dolin. He is wicked also.”
“Forget him,” said Harshe with an impatient gesture as though obliterating the man. Then he spoke again in a frank, manly way which renewed my admiration for him, considering how much this business meant to him—“everything,” as he had told me.
“The truth is, my dears, that I can’t go on. You see how I’m fixed. And you know all the difficulties I’ve had, and my lack of capital. I bit off more than I could chew—to put it vulgarly. I mean,
I underestimated the cost of things. The idea was too big for the cash. Well, it’s been a great game while it lasted. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and your friendship best of all. You’ve been wonderfully patient, magnificently loyal, with all my nagging and slave-driving, I’m desperately grateful to you all. I can never pay back.
“It’s hard on the poor people here who’ll be out of work again. I'm sorry about that. Now I thank you—from my heart—and if you’ll excuse another speech, which you needn’t listen to, I’ll tell the crowd.”
Hilda Freudenberg was weeping, and Harshe saw her tears and liftd up her hand and put it to his lips.
It was Rosaline Brook, the little American film star, who stopped Harshe from making his second speech. She had her hand on Robin Dale’s shoulder and cried out excitedly: “This is all poppycock! We’re just going to finish this picture. That’s all there is to it!”
Harshe smiled at her and shook his head, but she was not to be silenced. “It’s my loveliest part. Do you think I’m going to miss my chance of the biggest hit in the world? Not on your life, dear people!”
“What’s your idea, sweet child?” asked Robin.
Rosaline’s eyes were feverish. “If it’s any help,” she said, “you can have my idea for what it’s worth. I’ve been drawing a big salary as a film star. Just robbing poor Mr. Harshe. Well, I’m handing it back—all I haven’t spent— and playing—for love—until the last shot.
liobin Dale went down Pit one knee and kissed her hand with mock gallantry which was more than half sincere. Then he rose and shouted: “Bravo! Bravo! That’s a sporting offer and a fine lead. I’m doing the same. And so say all of us!” He began to sing the old chorus, as though at a public banquet:
“And so say all of us!
For he’s a jolly good fellow—”
Harshe grinned at him, but there was a glint of moisture in his eyes, and I could see that he was deeply moved.
“It’s fine of you,” he said. “Good and generous! But saving your two salaries won’t help me much. There’s all the crowd to pay—they can’t afford to work for nothing—and if I have to shoot those scenes again I shall want a lot more capital. No, my dears, the game is up.”
“Give me a week,” said Rosaline Brook. “If I don’t get some capital out of the United States I’ll never play in a movie again. I’ll cable to all the men who sent me flowers when I sailed, ‘Say it with dollars!’ That’s my message to those who love me!”
She laughed, and yet was desperately in. earnest. Even now I remember the child’s courage with the glow of admiration that came to me in that cold Zeppelin shed. She was offering her health as well as her salary. Perhaps even her life, if she felt as ill as I thought she looked.
ROBIN DALE backed her idea. “I agree with Rosaline. Don’t let’s haul down the little old flag until we’ve moved heaven and earth, Jews and Gentiles, for the price of victory. Give us a week or two, dear old Gilbert. Put it to the crowd. Tell them exactly what has happened, the treachery of that swine Dolin, and the state of your treasury. Ask them if they will put their salaries into the pool while you hustle round for new capital.”
Harshe was impressed, and I could see that he was thinking out the possible odds of luck which might save his venture by any fluke. He stood quite silent, with his head on one side, staring at the floorboards, while the little veins on his forehead throbbed.
“If I could find another type like Dolin,” he said presently, “some one who could step into his shoes quickly—” Then he thrust the idea away from him. “No, it’s only playing with false hope.”
Robin Dale pressed his arm. “It’s idiotic to throw away the finest picture ever screened in sight of the last shot. Bad business, old man! As for the crowd —just try them! Put it up to them. It’s only fair. I’ll bet I know their answer!” “I funk it,” said Harshe in a low voice. “The humiliation—”
It was the little film star who made him jerk his head up as though her words had stung him. “Weren’t you one of the heroes of the Great War? What about the white feather in time of peace?”
For a moment Harshe was offended, almost angry. Then he looked at the little painted lady and laughed. “It’s my pride,” he said—“not lack of pluck. Well, I’ll go through with it because you’re all so generous. It gives me more faith in human nature. Keeps me humble.”
He stepped away from the group, picked up the megaphone and called out some words in German. It was a call to the company to get together. He had an announcement to make. Would they come up and listen to what he wanted to tell them?
I shall never forget that scene as the crowd of film actors came forward and pressed close on all sides, some of them standing on chairs and boxes to look over the heads of the others, some in the half darkness of the great scene outside the Kremlin walls, some in a vivid glare of yellow light.
One of the young Russians was spokesman for his own people. Then an old German, dressed as a Russian refugee. The answer was the same in both cases. On behalf of the crowd they offered their services to the end of the picture, with wages or without. “Herr Harshe could count on their perfect loyalty.”
Then they cheered him again and again, and I have never seen a man more moved by the loyalty of good friends. Tears stood in his eyes, and he did not trouble to hide them when he thanked them with broken words.
Before I left the studio that afternoon he took me on one side and put his arm through mine.
“I'm glad you saw what happened,” he said. “The world doesn’t think much of movie actors. A rotten crowd! That’s the usual verdict. Well, you and I don’t think so after what they’ve done to-day. I’d go through fire for friends like that.”
Poor old Harshe! He was as pleased by that demonstration of loyalty as though he had found the capital he wanted, and I saw that he was buoyed up with new hope which seemed to me illusory. It was not so much the money he hated losing but the big idea with which he had hoped to touch the heart of the world.
It looked as though luck were dead against Harshe. I did a little scouting round in Berlin, but there was nothing doing in the way of capital. The film business, I found, was not in good odor in financial circles—or any other. The risks were too great, and there had been a heavy siump in the movie market.
Apart altogether from money he was, as he admitted, “up against it.” He would have to replace that fellow Anton Dolin by another actor of his type and style, and at the ir.omeot Berlin didn’t seem to provide the right kind of Russian who could step into Dolin’s shoes and carry on. But a worse thing had happened, as I guessed it would. Little Rosaline had crocked up at last and taken to her bed, willy-nilly. She was in the hands of a German doctor and two nurses. Whatever happened, nothing could be done until she was well enough to face the camera again.
What he was doing at this time to get hold of new capital I don’t know, but he was spending a lot of small change in taxi-cabs and I have an idea that he was interviewing every German financier who had any interest in the film industry, and others besides.
Meanwhile poor young Robin Dale was disconsolate without that little American star who had teased him so unmercifully. Withno work doing at the studio, he found time rather heavy on his hands in the city of Berlin, and he fell back on my company for lack of better entertainment.
IT WAS while we were dining together in a chic little restaurant in the Kurfurttendamn that we were both surprised so see Hilda Freudenberg at a table in the corner of the room with a friend who sat with his back towards us, so that we could not see his face even when he was talking with a waiter. There was a little girl sitting next to the lady, with a table napkin under her chin—a fairy princess aged six years or so, whose grace and daintiness attracted the attention of the other diners, who kept smiling in her direction.
“Hilda’s baby,” said Robin. “I’m desperately in love with her.”
Because of that love he left his own dinner for a moment and went over to the other table. I saw him kiss the little girl in his charming way and say something which made her laugh before he turned to Hilda Freudenberg and raised her hand to his lips. It was then that I saw the man who had his back turned. He shifted sideways to greet Robin in the friendliest manner. It was my friend Hermann Winter.
I confess that seeing him there with Hilda Freudenberg gave me a sense of uneasiness and even distress. Certain words spoken by that Russian fellow came into my mind poisonously. “Hermann Winter’s mistress,” he had said. “Everybody knows.” The man, no doubt, was a liar, and was certainly a cad. And yet, for Harshe’s sake and my own admiration of a
charming lady, I wished that Hermann I Winter had not been in that restaurant I with Hilda Freudenberg. I had a sense of suspicion which I could not overcome.
Dale was obviously telling them that I was in the room. They both turned and i greeted me, young Winter by a little j wave of the hand, Hilda Freudenberg , with a gracious smile. Then Robin came j back with a message.
“They want us to join them for dessert.
I It’s luck finding them here.” I think he I saw a shadow on my face, and was conscious of my rather gloomy silence afterwards. “Little Anna is wonderful!” he said. “It’s a privilege to know such a i darling of the gods.”
J 1 could not refuse the invitation, and I that abominable suspicion of mine was stifled by the perfectly natural and simple ; greeting of both Hermann Winter and the lady. It was only for the shade of a moment that I saw a faintly deeper color I creep below Hilda Freudenberg’s fine skin and that in her eyes I saw, or thought j I saw, a guarded look.
She put her arms around her little daughter and spoke to me above her head. "History repeats itself! I must have been like that when you came to Vienna as a boy and saw me dancing through the Hofburg Palace.”
Yes, she had been exactly like that, as I remembered, with a kind of pang because ¡ of the swiftness of time’s passage. I twisted one of little Anna’s golden locks round my finger and stooped to kiss her.
“I hope she won’t see so much unhappy history as you and I,” I said. “Perhaps we’re getting out of the shadows now. It may be a brighter world for the children of to-morrow.”
They were rather heavy-going words for a dinner-table conversation, and I was aware of that, but spoke to hide a sense of nervousness. My remarks led to a general discussion in which Hermann Winter proved himself to be a light-hearted pessimist, and Hilda Freudenberg an optimist because of her belief in an idealism which Winter denied. And then, when that discussion languished a little, young Winter startled me by something he said about Harshe’s movie.
“Miss Freudenberg is trying to persuade me to finance your friend’s film drama. I have had to confess that my old father keeps me on so tight a string that I cannot even pay my debts.”
HILDA FREUDENBERG spoke to
him eagerly, as though he had revealed her secret and passionate hope. “Could you not persuade your father? It would be good business for him— and he could spare the money—so easily. Out of all his millions—it would be so little.” She turned to me, and in her eagerness put her hand on mine. “Help me to persuade Mr. Winter to ask his father! It would be so splendid for the whole world and the cause of peace.”
Robin and I took up the argument. I felt curiously elated now that Hilda Freudenberg had revealed her reason for dining with Hermann Winter that evening. She was doing her bit to get capital for Harshe. What a fool I had been not to think of the same idea!
Young Winter listened to the arguments of young Dale and myself with smiling patience. Then he asked a question, but his eyes were upon Hilda Freudenberg.
“Speaking in a strictly business way,
1 what do I stand to get out of it? You see, as the son of my father, I speak selfishly.
I What profit shall I get? What reward?” "Kudos," said young Robin, “and a handsome share of profits in a big success.” “What do you say, gnädiges Fraulein?" asked young Winter.
She looked at him with a little smile about her lips, and a heightened color. “Gratitude as well,” she said. “The whole company would bless your name. Please! We beg of you!”
Young Winter was staring down at the white table-cloth with a queer smile, as though thinking the matter out. “I’m rather scared of my old father,” he said. “But I’ll have a go at him. For purely selfish reasons, of course. Those benedieI tions, and that gratitude! They appeal j to me more than the other uncertain * profits.”
We were all rather excited by this new hope. I could see that Hilda Freudenberg had set her heart on it, though young Winter suggested that the odds were against success. Then, soon afterwards, we all rose from the table when little Anna snuggled her head against her mother’s arm. and looked too sleepy even for
Robin’s playfulness. Hilda Freudenberg asked the head waiter to call a taxi, and it was Hermann Winter who saw her home.
HARSHE came with me to that Nacht Asyl which young Winter had promised to show me as “the other side of the picture” in Berlin life. We agreed to dine afterwards at his father’s house off the Thiergarten. Some ladies would be there, and he had invited Hilda Freudenberg to join us.
Looking back on that evening, I find it extraordinary that this chance visit to a night shelter in Berlin should have led to the most astonishing development in the drama of that “School of Courage” andthe lives of its actors. Yet it is, as I have always found, by such accidental threads that the web of life is woven. They seem to join in a haphazard way, a stitch here, a stitch there, until one sees the pattern of that plot in which our human adventure is recorded. And behind it, surely, is Design—not merely chance.
The Nacht Asyl was an immense building divided like a barracks, and I shall never forget my impression of that house of refuge for homeless folk. In the building, as on every night, were nearly five thousand men and women who were so utterly destitute, so irrevocably caught between the wheels of life’s industrial machine, that they had nothing between them and starvation but the little bowls of thin gruel which we saw delivered to them, and no shelter for their bodies but this free lodging where they lay in crowded quarters until, at six o’clock next morning, they were turned into the streets again.
We stood outside one of the long dormitories in which four hundred men or so were densely crowded between lines of wooden bunks. Some of them were undressing. Others lay on their beds. Here and there a couple were playing cards. They had come in from rain-swept streets. It was suffocatingly hot, and a sickening stench of wet rags, human bodies, foul breath, struck me in the face as I stood there, so that I reeled back.
“From what class do these men come?” asked Harshe.
The Director shut the door and locked it, and then answered: “From every class! Professors, students, journalists, laborers, doctors, merchants, clerks, hawkers, mechanics—and aristocrats.” Harshe raised his eyebrows and repeated the word “aristocrats” with incredulity.
“Last week we had a Freiherr,” said the Director. “What you would call a baron. This is the wreckage of a nation's manhood. These are the human derelicts of our national defeat. Perhaps it is as bad in other countries. War made many victims among all the peoples. Yrou have your own unemployed in England.” Harshe gripped my arm and whispered to me: “This is another picture for my ‘School of Courage.’ Think of the tragic lives in these ghastly rooms—the adventures that brought them here! This is a House of Despair.”
It was as we stood at the door of one of these rooms that Harshe gripped my arm again and whispered: “Look! That young fellow—standing by the bed there. How extraordinary! Amazing!”
I saw the man at whom he was gazing. It was a young man, with a dead-white face and black hair. One lock fell over his forehead. He was staring at us with a kind of sullen disdain.
“Who is he?” I asked.
Harshe whispered his reply. “A Russian, certainly. And remarkably like Anton Dolin. The same type, anyhow. With a little greasepaint—” Some idea seemed to excite him. “By Jove, yes! If he could act—or let me coach him—I could replace that swine who let us down. It would save shooting those scenes again.” He spoke to the Director, glancing from time to time at the young man in that suffocating room with its crowd of bedfellows from the underworld.
“Certainly!” said the Director. “Let me speak to him.”
HE WENT into the room alone and we saw him go up to the young man and talk to him. He looked startled—almost afraid, I thought—and shrank behind a group of men. But presently, with evident reluctance, and a timid look in his eyes, he came with the Director to the door.
Harshe spoke to him in German, very courteously. “May I have a word with you?”
The young man looked at him with moody eyes. “What for?”
"If you are wanting work and a good wage, 1 might help you,” said Harshe. "Are you a Russian, by any chance?”
For a moment the young man did not answer. He seemed to suspect some trap, and 1 wondered if he were afraid of the police for some crime which had brought j him to this Nacht Asyl as a good hiding¡ place. He was certainly a gentleman, or had been one. 1 noticed his delicate hands and his fine haggard features. It was no peasant or laborer who stood before us.
“I am a Russian,” he said, after that hesitation. “What then?”
Harshe explained his purpose simply and briefly. "I am producing a film picj ture which deals with Moscow'. I want a Russian of your type. I’ll pay you twenty marks a day for a week if you’ll let me teach you how to act a bit. Does the idea I appeal to you?”
It did not appeal rapidly. It seemed to j take some time for the man’s mind to grasp the meaning of this astounding offer. Then he answered with a slow smile softening the line of his mouth.
"There are many men here who would ! sell their souls for twenty marks a day. I will sell my face for that, if it’s any use to i you.”
“And your figure,” said Harshe. “It’s the way you stand and move. Exactly right. Against the white wall—”
The young Russian started, and then laughed wdth a note of irony. “A good many Russians have stood against white walls. In Moscow and other places.” “Yes,” said Harshe, “that’s what I mean. It comes into my film picture.”
He gave the address of the Zeppelin shed to his new acquaintance and asked him to be there at a certain time. Then 1 saw him hold out some paper money.
The young Russian didn’t take it at once. “I haven’t earned it yet,” he said. “I may be a failure at the job, as I’ve failed in most others.” He looked back into the long dormitory from which the human stench enveloped us. Then he took the money and said, “I’ll do my best.”
Harshe’s eyes lighted up. “Good! And now you might give me your name.”
The young Russian hesitated again and then gave a name which Harshe scribbled on a card. At the time I didn’t hear it, but ; now I know it was Serge Detloff.
We left him standing there in the corridor, a tall figure with a tragic, handsome face.
DY THE sudden breakdown of a wristwatch I made a mistake in the time and was the first to arrive—twenty minutes too soon—at the house of old Otto Winter, after dressing for dinner.
I had come almost straight from the I Nacht Asyl to this private palace, and the contrast was rather overwhelming. While I was busy with thoughts of this I was startled by the voices of a man and woman speaking in the room beyond the heavy curtains. I recognized the voices of Hermann Winter and Hilda Freudenberg. They had come in through a door farther j down the hall.
“Put your cloak here, gnädiges Frau! lein," said young Winter, speaking in German. “We can talk a little before the j others come.”
There was a moment’s silence, and I wondered whether I should go to the curtains and announce my presence. But I expected that Hermann Winter would j bring Hilda Freudenberg into the salon ; where I stood. They began to speak in low tones until I think they must have moved closer to the curtains. Then the lady spoke a sentence which I heard quite ¡ clearly.
“Then your father will advance the
“Yes,” said Winter. “I’m expecting a j final telegram. I’ve explained the whole I scheme, and the old man seems satisfied.” I heard him strike a match and then laugh ; quietly before he spoke again. “I haven’t j told him my motive for going into the ! film industry. T^hat romantic little bar, gain we have made! My wonderful reward!”
Hilda Freudenberg’s voice trembled a little as she answered: “I will keep my side of the bargain. But I want you to understand. It will be friendship, but not love. If you want me on those terms—”
I was in the unhappy position of being ! an eavesdropper against my will, and the words I had heard were disturbing and alarming. I strode quickly towards the I door, but before I left the room Hermann 1 Winter spoke again, with a thrill in his voice.
“ On any terms. Your beauty and your grace—”
1 went out of the room with a feeling of guilt at having heard so much. In the hall Harshe was arriving with Robin Dale and some of Winter’s other guests. We were announced together, and Harshe, in his simple way, did not seem at all surprised to find Hilda Freudenberg already in the room with Hermann Winter. He kissed her hand with his usual reverence and was not aware of the unusual pallor of her face. It was only I and Hermann Winter who knew that she was saving his movie at the cost of herself . . . and I hated to know.
Harshe was astounded, delighted and deeply moved when, towards the end of the chic little dinner, Hermann Winter rose from his chair, holding a telegram which had just been handed to him on a silver tray, and made a speech in his excellent imitation of Oxford English.
‘T am very happy to say that I have prevailed on my dishonest but affectionate father to provide the extra capital which Mr. Harshe needs for the completion of his artistic enterprise. Here is a telegram in which he gives me that authority. It took a bit of doing, as I must admit. But when I persuaded him that it was for a business proposition out of which he might get considerable profits for his cash, he was delighted to think that at last his prodigal son had turned over a new leaf and was true to the family instinct for making money. Well, that’s how it happened! It’s a real pleasure to me to be the means of saving a work of art which may be a powerful influence towards world peace, and is, anyhow, filled with beauty and grace because of those who move through the pictures. Mr. Harshe! I am very proud, sir, to be in this slight material way your collaborator and assistant.”
I need not give Harsne s reply, his astonishment, his gratitude, his idealism, his joy that the work of all his artists should be rewarded, as it would be, by world recognition of their genius and beauty.
1WAS watching Hilda Freudenberg curiously, not without pity, and I saw there, in her wonderful eyes, the sadness, and yet the joy also, of a woman who had made a great sacrifice for the sake of a man she loved beyond her own happiness.
There was a great scene of enthusiasm when Harshe called his crowd together again in the old Zeppelin shed outside Berlin and announced the glad tidings that he had sufficient capital to finish the story and pay them their arrears of wages. They cheered him tumultuously, and some of the women kissed his hands in their foreign way, much to his embarrassment, as he was essentially shy. Hermann Winter was there for the first time as part proprietor, and was very much amused with that glimpse of movie life behind the scenes. He had driven out with Hilda Freudenberg, but soon after her arrival she had gone to her dressing-room, from which she did not appear again until her call came in the afternoon.
I spent some time with Harshe in his private room, going through a section of the scenario which wanted, he thought, some alterations. After that he left me, to arrange about the lighting of tbe big scene he was arranging to “shoot” that afternoon, and I worked for a couple of hours in his room on the last part of the scenario, in which there were one or two weak points.
After that I went round to Robin Dale’s dressing-room for a little conversation and a nip of his excellent whisky, and found that young man with all his make-up on ready for an immediate appearance before the camera.
“This is a great day,” he said, bringing up a cane chair and making room for me in his den. “Dear old Gilbert has all the money he wants, little Rosaline is crawling back to health. ‘God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world!’ ” He poured out some whisky and made a slight amendment to his rosy view of life. “Barring one or two mysterious and unhappy episodes which spoil the comedy of life to a sensitive soul like mine.”
I inquired his meaning, and he lowered his voice.
“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s to see a woman in tears. It distresses me abominably, brutal fellow though I be.”
“Who’s been crying?” I asked.
He told me that he had gone to pass the time of day with Hilda Freudenberg, and had found her with her head (
down on her dressing-table, crying her heart out.
‘‘Not even the sight of my bonny face cheered her up,” said Robin. “None of my little witticisms could get a smile out of her. Joking apart, 1 feel rather hipped about it. She’s a charming little lady, and 1 hate to see her so sorry for herself.”
1 had work to do in Berlin, and after a merry luncheon with Robin and Rosaline, who slanged each other like Beatrice and Benedick, I left the Zeppelin shed and drove back to the city, thereby missing an extraordinary drama which was not in the scenario of “The School of Courage.”
It was Robin Dale who described it to me that evening when be came to my hotel with a strange excitement in his eyes.
“I’ve something to tell you,” he said. ‘‘You’ll never believe it. It beats everything. Incredible and amazing!”
It was some time before I could get him to tell me a straight story, after a series of exclamations which conveyed nothing. Then it all came out, and I remember his words almost as he spoke them.
“It was after that luncheon we had. Things went wrong with the lights. They always do. I wandered about with that deadly boredom which is the special disease of the movie trade, and stood among the crowd watching a scene being shot. Harshe was there, of course, and busy as usual, with a megaphone in one hand and that look of intensity which he always wears when he is in the midst of produc-
“He was putting the new Russian through his paces. The fellow was made up exactly like Anton Dolin in his big scene outside the Kremlin, and I swear to goodness I couldn’t tell the difference! As like as two peas. And he was playing his part jolly well. It’s where he’s arrested as a Russian aristocrat and nearly torn to bits by a crowd of Russian Bolsheviki.
“He looked the part perfectly, a haughty young swine, hiding the fear in his eyes— disdainful of the rabble, and yet scared. Harshe was pleased with him. ‘That’s good,’ he smiled. ‘Well done, Detloff! Hold it like that!’
“Then suddenly he turned to Hahn, the assistant producer, and said, ‘Where’s Miss Freudenberg? She comes on here.’
“Ï-JAHN shouted out her name, but of A A course there was no answer, as she was still in her dressing-room. I noticed something go wrong with that Russian fellow, the new man. He dropped his pose and looked as startled as a rabbit. His hand went to the place where his heart ought to be, and he held on to a bit of scenery. I thought, ‘What’s the matter with the fellow? Everybody seems very edgy to-day!’ Then I heard Harshe say that he would go for Miss Freudenberg himself, and saw him stride away.
“He was away for quite a time, while the scene was held up. The young Russian was whispering to two other men of his own race. They all looked excited about something, as though a miracle had happened. Then Harshe came back, followed by Hilda and young Winter. Harshe was looking like nothing on earth, with all the spirit dead in his eyes, if you know what I mean. Like a fellow who has had a knock-out blow. He must have overheard something between young Winter and Hilda, something that had hit him pretty hard. Or they must have told him something. But he pulled himself together and j spoke in his usual businesslike way.
“‘Now we’ll shoot the new scene. That lighting is all wrong! Miss Freudenberg, stand here, please. Detloff, you go to meet the woman who rescues you. You wipe the blood out of your eyes. You stagger a little.’
“The young Russian staggered a little, but not because Harshe told him to. He was staring at Hilda like a madman— clean daft! Then he called out her name i in a strangled sort of way.
“Hilda was staring back at him as j though she saw a ghost. Her face frightened me. She gave a queer cry, which froze me to the marrow bones. Then she went forward a little, seemed to turn dizzy, swayed, and fell bang on the floor I with a frightful whack.”
Young Robin halted in his story and ! drew a deep breath, as though seeing that fall again and sickening at the sound of it.
I sat forward, listening to the strangest story I have ever heard, incredible but for its truth, and impossible except in Europe I after war and revolution.
“What happened then?” I asked.
Robin talked like a man who sees the thing he tells.
“The young Russian went down on his knees before her. He lifted up her head and kissed her white lips. He was whimpering and dropping tears on her face. Harshe seized him by the shoulders and shook him and said, ‘What the devil!’ Young Winter stood by looking scared. All the crowd gathered round, not knowing what to make of things. Who could?
“It was Harshe who carried her back to her dressing-room, like a child. Then young Winter turned to the Russian, who was still on his knees, and asked a question. I didn’t hear the question. I only heard the answer.”
Robin Dale was silent again. Then he gave a queer laugh and said, “You wouldn’t guess the answer in a thousand years.”
As a matter of fact I guessed, though it seemed impossible. “What was the answer?” I asked.
Robin told me what I had guessed.
“ ‘She’s my wife,’ said the man, and after that began to jabber things I couldn’t hear.”
That was the story that Robin Dale told me of the scene in the studio that day. There had been no more work done, and Robin had driven back to Berlin with Rosaline, who was vastly excited.
I made only one comment on this amazing narrative. It came from my heart. "Poor old Harshe!” I said.
Robin nodded agreement. “Pretty rough!” he answered. “First she sells him for the son of Otto Wrinter, and then she springs a husband on him. With the face of a Madonna!”
Robin’s judgment was too severe, for I knew that Hilda Freudenberg had made her bargain with Hermann W inter, not for wantonness or greed, but so that Harshe, who loved her, might fulfil his great idea and win success. It was to pay him back by a loyalty that would break his heart— so strange are women!
T THINK Harshe must have walked all A the way back to Berlin that evening— it was a good ten miles—for when I met him in the hall of the Esplanade Hotel he looked dog-tired, and his boots were covered with dust.
“Can you come up to my room?” he asked. “I want a yarn with you.”
He spoke in a normal tone of voice, but I could see that he was suffering from some mental shock, and when wre had gone into his room he took no notice of me for a few minutes, but paced up and down with a gloomy frown on his forehead. Then he turned to me with an apologetic laugh and said:
“Sorry for being uncivil. Have a drink, won’t you?”
I shook my head. “I don’t want a drink. I want to know what’s happened. Y'ou don’t seem pleased with things.”
He smiled faintly at that remark of mine, and there was a flash of humor in his eyes for a second before the haggard look came back.
“A man isn’t pleased with things when he’s in the middle of a moral hell.”
“As bad as that?” I asked.
Harshe seemed to search for the exact truth. “Well,” be said, “I don’t want to play the wounded egoist. That part doesn’t suit me. But two things have happened to-day which have knocked me edgewise for a time. I’m telling you because I want your advice as a good pal."
I told him that he could count on my friendship anyhow, whatever the value of my advice.
He plunged abruptly into the middle of the tale. "Y’ou know how young Winter persuaded his father to put upsome money to finish my show? Well, I thought it was a young man’s generosity. An interest in art. A sporting offer. Simple fellow, wasn’t I?”
“What was his motive?” I asked, concealing my own knowledge, which I had gained behind some heavy curtains.
“I’ll tell you,” said Harshe. His voice changed and hardened. “It was to buy the favor of the girl I happened to love. Hilda Freudenberg, with the Madonnalike face, whom l had idealized, put on a pedestal, reverenced—in my simple, sentimental way!”
He laughed bitterly and began to pace up and down the room again, and then stopped and spoke huskily.
“She was late for her call this morning. I went to her room to fetch her. Hermann Winter was there, holding her hand. I said, ‘What are you doing? Clear out or I’ll hit you!’ ” , _
“And did he clear out?”
Harshe allowed his lips to smile, but there was no mirth in his eyes. “It appeared that he had a right to be there. He told me that Hilda had promised to be his wife. His wife he said, not his mistress! The fellow is a humorist, you see.”
Harshe laughed horribly, as though he saw a deadly humor in his words.
He told me that when he turned to Hilda and asked her whether it was true I she confirmed the fact, all right. She had promised Winter.
“So that’s that!” said Harshe, but there was no look of resignation in his eyes, in which there was a savage irony.
1 was silent for a while and then put my hand on his shoulder with a friendly touch.
I “Do you know why she promised him?” I asked.
HE ANSWERED with a shrug of the shoulders. “Young Winter is the son of the richest man in Germany._ An excellent reason. Also she was his mistress before I knew her. Another good reason!” His voice rose to a higher pitch in sudden anger. “Can I doubt what that Russian fellow said? Anton Dolin, whom I called a liar. Why, it’s obvious! I was blinded by her innocent eyes. She was like the rest of them in that stinking cabaret-—rotten to the soul!”
I kept my hand on his shoulder, though he tried to shake it off. “Steady, old man! Play fair! You may be doing the lady a great injustice. I think you are. I swear you are!”
He looked at me with a gloomy surprise. “What do you know about it? What’s your idea?”
I spoke with a conviction that shook him and startled him.
“You’ve got it all wrong. There’s no proof at all that Hilda Freudenberg was young Winter’s mistress. I don’t believe it. I utterly refuse to believe it. There’s a look in her eyes. Anyhow, I can tell you this as the truth. She doesn’t care two pins for Hermann Winter, beyond a little friendship. She wants to sacrifice herself for your sake—to pay you back for your kindness, to give you the chance of winning success. It’s her idea of loyalty. All wrong—but somehow with divine unselfishness!”
Harshe stared at me with a searching intensity. “Good Lord!” he whispered. “If I could believe that—”
I assured him, with a faith that was quite sincere: “I’m certain of it. I know it. It was her love-offering to you, old man. The price of success for ‘The School of Courage.’ ”
Harshe stood there with his head bent, staring at the pattern of the carpet. It was quite a time before he answered me, and then he laughed. “It sounds good, what you say. I’d like to believe it. I’d go down on both knees— Anyhow, it doesn’t make much difference now. I forgot to tell you. Something else happened. There’s a man who says he has a prior claim.”
“I heard about it,” I said. “The man from the Nacht Asyl. I can’t believe it.” Harshe was not so unbelieving. There was nothing that couldn’t happen in modern Europe. The things that he had heard and seen since the war made fools of fiction writers. And then he said something that sounded a little mystical.
“I was guided to the Nacht Asyl. It wasn’t by accident I went there with you. Those things are arranged.”
“By whom?” I asked, and he looked at me strangely and said:
“By the Providence of the funny old film drama which is human life.”
We were silent after that, and Harshe dropped into a chair with an air of weariness and sat there with his chin on his chest until, after ten minutes or more, he spoke again in great dejection.
“I’m finished this time. It’s the end of my hopes and the end of my film.”
I couldn’t see it, and told him so, which made him a little angry because of my density.
“Haven’t I told you? Do you think I can take Winter’s money now that I know his motive for lending it? And do you think he’s going to pay up anyhow, now that he has been cheated out of his passion by a husband from the Nacht. Asyl?” Strangely enough, as it seemed, it was young Winter himself who answered that
question. He sent up his card and asked the favor of a few minutes’ conversation with Mr. Harshe. He would also be favored, he said, if he could bring up Mr. Serge Detloff, who was deeply anxious for an interview.
I 'ELL them to go to —!” said Harshe, with more violence than I have ever heard him use. For a moment he was out of control because of bis stress of emotion and jangled nerves. Then suddenly his old will-power and his sense of chivalry prevailed over that possession and he spoke quietly to the page boy, in German. “Ask the gentlemen to come up.”
To me he explained his change of mind. “It’s only fair to see them. And anyhow 1 want to know the truth of things.” I had no right to be in that room as a witness of the scene that followed. And yet 1 was glad when Harshe said “Stay!” as I wras about to leave the room when the door opened and Winter stood there with the young Russian whom I had first seen in the Nacht Asyl.
Hermann Winter was the only man among us perfectly at ease, and, 1 think, slightly amused with the situation. Very calmly he laid his hat and stick down on the table and drew off his fawn-colored gloves while he explained the object of his visit.
“I think this conversation is necessary. It affects the happiness and reputation of a lady for whom we all have a high regard.”
Harshe’s brows drew together and he answered icily: “I do not discuss any lady’s reputation. If you have something to say about the money your father promised to put into my film production—”
Young Winter made a quick gesture as though waving out that idea. “That is of no account at the moment. This is not a money matter. It is a question of-—shall 1 say high morality?”
He smiled amiably at Harshe, who responded with a glare and some very sharp words. “I do not admit your authority on that subject.”
Hermann Winter started and flushed a little, and then laughed good-temperedly. “No, I admit that I am not a saint or a Puritan. Still, I have moments of—let me say, sensibility, ordinary human decency.”
There was a moment’s silence, broken by Harshe impatiently. “What’s all this about? W'hyhave you brought that young man with you? Does he bring any proofs of his claim to be—w’hat he says he is?” For the first time the young Russian spoke. “I have no proofs, sir. Not here in Berlin.”
“Where, then?” asked Harshe.
“In Vienna,” said the Russian. “We were married as boy and girl. I wras the son of the first secretary to the Russian Embassy. My father wTas Prince Mikhailoff.”
Harshe answered with a sarcasm wThicb I think was only a mask for his emotion. “All Russians are the sons of princes. There must have been ninety-nine millions of them.”
The young Russian smiled. “It seems so in Berlin and other cities. But I cannot help being the son of my father. It wmuld have been better if I hadn’t been-—in the Russia of Lenin.”
“You left Vienna?” asked Harshe, with less intolerance in his voice, as though the story of suffering stamped on the young man’s face touched his sympathy a little.
“A few weeks after my marriage,” said Serge Detloff, as he called himself. “It was in 1917. I arrived in Russia in time for the Revolution. I wjas one of its victims, because of my father’s name. That scene in your film picture-—against a white wrall! During four years in prison I saw many men shot against a white wall, through the bars of my little window1.” “But they didn't shoot you!” said Iiarsbe, rather brutally, I thought, though 1 made allowance for the stress under which he was suffering.
“They took pity on my youth,” said Detloff." “I w'as only eighteen when I was put into prison. I am now twenty-five, though 1 feel a hundred.”
Harshe said something in a low voice which I thought was more in character than the stern words he had spoken. “You have suffered, if what you say is true.”
“Yes,” said the young Russian gravely, “I have knowm suffering."
It was Hermann Winter who broke the silence that followed again. “I must vouch for something which our friend here did not know. It was published in the papers that Prince Mikhailoff and his son had been shot by order of the Cheka. It is true that the Prince was shot, though the son was spared. You see, there was every reason for the lady who had married that boy to believe in his death.”
Harshe stared at young Winter and then at the Russian as though he searched for the truth in them.
The young Russian moved forward a little into the room and spoke in a curious monotone. “In my prison, where I lay in dirt and lice, 1 lived only in remembrance. I had only the memory of my wife and our dear love. I thought of her beauty, her grace. You cannot imagine, sir—”
“I think I can,” said Harshe gently, and then suddenly the young man burst into tears, leaning against the wall with his arm across his face, as perhaps he had leaned against that prison wall in Moscow.
IT WAS Hermann Winter who broke the silence that followed. He spoke to Harshe in a quiet, unaffected voice. “I think it’s true, all that. From what he tells me, he escaped from Russia a year ago, and searched for his wife in Vienna and here in Berlin. He found her to-day! It would have been sad for him if he had found her—a little later. Perhaps after all we did well in going to the Nacht Asyl that night. It is possible that ‘ Herr Gott’ had something to do with it—though 1 speak as an infidel. Who knows?’’
He smiled as though speaking flippantly, though I think he was serious, and took up his hat and gloves as though going at once. But he had something else to say, and I am glad he said it.
“It was a little caddish, you think, that I should use my money as the son of a rich man to persuade a certain lady to be my wife 1 said wife, sir, and not mistress, strange 'asit may seem! Yes, I admitthat. The strange passion we call love makes men rather—caddish—sometimes. Men like me, without morality. But the lady— our beautiful Hilda—there was a very generous spirit behind her promise to me. it was her loyalty to you that made her accept me as her partner. Can friendship go further than that? I was jealous of you because of that. To have a friend like that I would go willingly to the Nacht Asyl.”
Í saw a tide of color sweep into Harshe's face, and then ebb and leave him pale. It was caused by the shame of his unbelief in the woman he loved.
Hermann Winter moved towards the door and said a few words more in a genial casual way. “Of course that money will be all right. Good luck to the movie!” He held out his hand with a friendly gesture and said, ”Auf Wieder-
Harshe hesitated, looked at young Winter in a troubled way and then took the offered hand. “I’ve been an egoist,” he said, with a strange humility.
WHEN Hermann Winter had left the room, a cloud seemed to have lifted from Harshe’s face. It looked serene again and there was the old friendly light back in his eyes. I think the restoration of his faith in Hilda Freudenberg’s purity of soul had overwhelmed the selfish passion of his desire for her. He had accused himself of egotism, but I have never met a man of so strong a character who had so little selfishness. Certainly at that moment, after the struggle which had torn and tortured him, he put self on one side and reached beyond it to human charity.
He went over to the young Russian and put his hand on his shoulder.
“I believe your story,” he said simply. “It’s God’s luck that you’ve found your wife again—after all this time. I’ll ring up to her room. If she’s well enough—’
He crossed over to the wall where the telephone was fixed, but before he took off the receiver Serge Detloff, as he had called himself, and as his name appears in “The School of Courage,” strode towards him quickly and spoke eagerly in his broken English, which I only faintly reproduce: “Sir, a moment, please! I wish to say something which lies much on my heart.” He breathed heavily, and I could see that he was terribly excited.
Harshe moved away from the window and said, “We are friends here.”
Serge Detloff had some difficulty in finding his words, not for lack of English,
I think, but because what he wanted to say was a supreme act of sacrifice, hard to make and hard to say.
“It is like this. I do not wish to behave like a brutal fellow. It is possible that I come back too late, that 1 find my little wife too late. In that case I go away again. Back to the Nacht Asyl—if you will. It is perhaps better so."
Harshe’s eyes flashed across to mine. He seemed to ask whether I was as much astounded as himself. “I don’t get your meaning,” hesaid.
The young Russian threw his hair back from his forehead as though to clear his mind. “It is not easy to give my meaning —though it is clear in my heart. Down in the underworld—that hell!—I have been alone with my thoughts, always thinking life, trying to see the truth of things, to find the purpose of life itself. There is not much in it, except perhaps love. I see nothing else but that. I do not wish to claim a love which may not be mine, or to spoil a love which may belong to others. You see?”
Harshe answered after a moment’s puzzled thought, “No, I don’t see.”
THE young Russian made a gesture of despair. “How can I say? It is plain to me. I have stared at it for seven years.
I have tried to get courage to meet it and accept it. All that time I was a prisoner.
I thought. A year goes by, and I think of nothing but my little wife. Perhaps for six months she thinks of me, remembers our love, yearns for me. After that she begins to forget. She meets other men, kind, human, alive, while I am dead. Then two years, while 1 am still dead. Then later, four, five, six, seven years.
“I grow more dead and dead in prison. She thinks me dead. She remembers with a little sigh—our passing love. But in the world she is young, gay, wanting love. I search for her when I come out. Search until I weep and weaken because I do not find her. But all the time I am afraid of finding her. You understand? I am filled with fear to find her." . .
The fear was in his eyes now, visible, and I think I understood. But Harshe seemed perplexed and said:
“What fear? Why should you have been afraid?”
Serge Detloff put his hand up to his head and then let it drop.
“It was seven years,” he said. “That is time to live again, after a few weeks of marriage. A beautiful girl need not wait so long. It would be cruelty. There was a poem I read about a shipwrecked sailor. You know it? He came back to find his woman married to another. He went away and drowned himself, I think. That was'best. But you understand my fear? Perhaps I come back too late, like that sailor.”
Harshe and I were silent. I do not think I have ever been so moved by any spoken words. I understood the tragic fear in this man's mind, after all that agony of waiting, searching for this girl who had been in his dream in prison, and in the Nacht Asyl.
He spoke again. _ with that direct simplicity of his. “A ou have been kind to me, sir, and I am grateful. If it happens that I arrive too late for my wdfe s love, because perhaps it is you she loves, I will go without any kind of trouble. After seven years I have no claim. I am still a gentleman, I hope. In my mind, I mean.”
He looked down at his shabby clothes as though they disguised his claim to be a gentleman.
HARSHE strode over to him and put his arm around him, with sudden emotion and almost fatherly sympathy.
‘ ‘ My dear lad ! A'ou needn't worry your head as far as I’m concerned. A'our wife and I are good friends. Ijshall always be proud and glad of that. Seven years is a long time! But I think she has waited for you—kept herself for you. I hope you've come back in time!”
“How can I know?” asked Serge Detloff.
“Ask her,” said Harshe, and he laughed sincerely for the first time since his walk back to Berlin.
He went to the telephone and rang up a room. It was Rosaline Brook who answered, as afterwards I learned.
“How is Hilda?” asked Harshe.
I did not hear the answer, but only Harshe’s comment, which was. “Good!”
He hesitated for a moment and then spoke again: “Ask her to come down to my room. Or shall we come up? There’s some one here who wants to see her. It is the young Russian whom she saw to-day at the studio. If she wants to see him again —if she is well enough, I mean—he is waiting in my room.”
He held on to the receiver and listened, and then put it down and turned to Serge Detloff.
“She is coming,” he said.
I saw a kind of thrill pass through the young Russian. His dark eyes were luminous, but his face was dead-white.
“We’ll leave you,” said Harshe, and he beckoned to me. But Serge shook his head and said:
“No, no! Please!”
We waited for what might have been two minutes. It seemed like half an hour. Perhaps to the young Russian it seemed like eternity, though he stood motionless, hardly breathing, with his head slightly raised.
Then the door opened, and Rosaline Brook held it so that Hilda Freudenberg could pass her.
She, too, was white, and she looked at the man who was her husband as though he had come back from the dead. She came forward a little and then stood still with a strange troubled smile.
“Serge!” she said, in a low voice. “My dearest love!”
The young man went towards her, and dropped down on his knees and wept over her hands, which he clasped and kissed.
Harshe beckoned to me again and Rosaline took his hand, and we went out of the room, leaving those two alone.
“Not too late, after all,” said Harshe. “Well—I’m glad.”
IT WAS in London that I saw the first Droduction of that film called “The School of Courage.” The spectators followed its drama with intense interest, moved by emotion at this sweeping picture of all the human agony, hope, disillusion and sacrifice that had followed in the wake of war and revolution. I don’t know whether they understood its plea for greater charity. It doesn’t seem to have changed the heart of the world. . . .
I saw more than they did. Those faces on the screen were the people I had met. Their story was more vivid to me than the drama in which they acted. I was aware of their share in “The School of Courage,” which is life. Out in the street again I took off my hat to the movie crowd, and especially to Gilbert Harshe, who had not been seen at all upon the screen.