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    Chapter 2

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    Chapter 2
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    At first, when I saw the mass of people, I thought it was the usual picture crowd. I said, with a smile, "Can it be that the American people are not so dead to art after all?" But then I observed that the crowd seemed to be swaying this way and that; also there seemed to be a great many men in army uniforms. "Hello!" I exclaimed. "A row?"

    There was a clamor of shouting; the army men seemed to be pulling and pushing the civilians. When we got nearer, I asked of a bystander, "What's up?" The answer was: "They don't want 'em to go in to see the picture."

    "Why not?"

    "It's German. Hun propaganda!"

    Now you must understand, I had helped to win a war, and no man gets over such an experience at once. I had a flash of suspicion, and glanced at my companion, the cultured literary critic from Berlin. Could it possibly be that this smooth-spoken gentleman was playing a trick upon me--trying, possibly, to get something into my crude American mind without my realizing what was happening? But I remembered his detailed account of the production, the very essence of "art for art's sake." I decided that the war was three years over, and I was competent to do my own thinking.

    Dr. Henner spoke first. "I think," he said, "it might be wiser if I did not try to go in there."

    "Absurd!" I cried. "I'm not going to be dictated to by a bunch of imbeciles!"

    "No," said the other, "you are an American, and don't have to be. But I am a German, and I must learn."

    I noted the flash of bitterness, but did not resent it. "That's all nonsense, Dr. Henner!" I argued. "You are my guest, and I won't--"

    "Listen, my friend," said the other. "You can doubtless get by without trouble; but I would surely rouse their anger, and I have no mind to be beaten for nothing. I have seen the picture several times, and can talk about it with you just as well."

    "You make me ashamed of myself," I cried--"and of my country!"

    "No, no! It is what you should expect. It is what I had in mind when I spoke of the surgeon contracting the disease. We German intellectuals know what war means; we are used to things like this." Suddenly he put out his hand. "Good-bye."

    "I will go with you!" I exclaimed. But he protested--that would embarrass him greatly. I would please to stay, and see the picture; he would be interested later on to hear my opinion of it. And abruptly he turned, and walked off, leaving me hesitating and angry.

    At last I started towards the entrance of the theatre. One of the men in uniform barred my way. "No admittance here!"

    "But why not?"

    "It's a German show, and we aint a-goin' to allow it."

    "Now see here, buddy," I countered, none too good-naturedly, "I haven't got my uniform on, but I've as good a right to it as you; I was all through the Argonne."

    "Well, what do you want to see Hun propaganda for?"

    "Maybe I want to see what it's like."

    "Well, you can't go in; we're here to shut up this show!"

    I had stepped to one side as I spoke, and he caught me by the arm. I thought there had been talk enough, and gave a sudden lurch, and tore my arm free. "Hold on here!" he shouted, and tried to stop me again; but I sprang through the crowd towards the box-office. There were more than a hundred civilians in or about the lobby, and not more than twenty or thirty ex-service men maintaining the blockade; so a few got by, and I was one of the lucky ones. I bought my ticket, and entered the theatre. To the man at the door I said: "Who started this?"

    "I don't know, sir. It's just landed on us, and we haven't had time to find out."

    "Is the picture German propaganda?"

    "Nothing like that at all, sir. They say they won't let us show German pictures, because they're so much cheaper; they'll put American-made pictures out of business, and it's unfair competition."

    "Oh!" I exclaimed, and light began to dawn. I recalled Dr. Henner's remark about producing a great many ideas out of a very little food; assuredly, the American picture industry had cause to fear competition of that sort! I thought of old "T-S," as the screen people call him for short--the king of the movie world, with his roll of fat hanging over his collar, and his two or three extra chins! I though of Mary Magna, million dollar queen of the pictures, contriving diets and exercises for herself, and weighing with fear and trembling every day!
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