The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Volume Xix Part 60

The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries -

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On both sides and all about the iron beasts were lying, lurking immovable, their merciless limbs lazily stretched. In their beautiful brutal bodies a sustained glow seemed to flicker. As at all times the vicious graceful forms lay there and shone with a l.u.s.tful light. But no living brain conceived a creative thought, no eye was animated by a soul. Cold, heartless, brainless beasts filled the halls where they reigned. The little long-necked man with the bushy head and the yellow wheelman's sandals brought to contrast with them much solid worth, and surpa.s.sed them in real beauty. For those sovereigns could all be hacked to pieces, and nothing was lost; they could be replaced. But if Victor Pratteler by some sad accident lost his life, the world would have been poorer in just so much love, good will, sincere remorse, faith, humility and honesty. Before he left the hall, he threw another glance at the idol, and wondered at himself. For the idol was no longer a symbol to him; he could contemplate it quietly and objectively. A feeling of shyness came over him at the memory of the last half hour; but the distress which he had experienced was so great and his deliverance so simple and comprehensible to his soul, that the power of the idol had melted before it. The siren continued to howl. The strikers had fastened the valve with a rope, locked the furnace room and thrown the keys in through the window, so they could not be reproached with having them. After an hour the fire department silenced its voice. In the meantime a stream of workingmen was surging toward the meeting-hall.

With the same quiet and impersonally gentle manner in which he had taken leave of the idol, Victor approached Spiele, when he returned with Hoflinger. He noticed now with his unveiled eyes that the tailor's daughter was by no means as pretty as he had always believed. There were wrinkles about her nose from her habit of drawing it up so often.

She also had some crowsfeet about the eyes. It could not be denied that these eyes were of a beautiful brown in the twilight, but when you looked at them in full light, there was plenty of green in them. Her hands were rather hardened by work and quite callous on the inside from wielding broom and garden tools. So Victor was consoled for her loss, and withdrew his head from the noose. In the evening the long one made a joke. "Think of it, Spiele, Pratteler did not want to leave us. I believe he had some scruples about leaving you alone with me."

Spiele turned over a baby garment which she was sewing. "Well, it is not always a pleasure to be alone with you!" she replied with a laugh.

"But I am going to try it once more."

A week later Victor obeyed the order of the organization which bade all unmarried workingmen leave, in order to unburden the strikers' fund and to let the heads of families fight out their cause. Afterward they might return. He left the house of Hoflinger, in which he had after all fulfilled a vital mission, grateful and with the best wishes for the happiness of those he left. With a conscious will and readiness for action, and with well-trimmed hair, he went out into a world which his eyes saw everywhere in the throes of reorganization.

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