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    Chapter 3

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    Chapter 3
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    It was time for the picture to begin, so I smoothed my coat, and went to a seat, and was one of perhaps two dozen spectators before whom "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" received its first public showing in Western City. The story had to do with a series of murders; we saw them traced by a young man, and fastened bit by bit upon an old magician and doctor. As the drama neared its climax, we discovered this doctor to be the head of an asylum for the insane, and the young man to be one of the inmates; so in the end the series of adventures was revealed to us as the imaginings of a madman about his physician and keepers. The settings and scenery were in the style of "futurist" art--weird and highly effective. I saw it all in the light of Dr. Henner's interpretation, the product of an old, perhaps an overripe culture. Certainly no such picture could have been produced in America! If I had to choose between this and the luxurious sex-stuff of Mary Magna--well, I wondered. At least, I had been interested in every moment of "Dr. Caligari," and I was only interested in Mary off the screen. Several times every year I had to choose between mortally hurting her feelings, and watching her elaborate "vamping" through eight or ten costly reels.

    I had read many stories and seen a great many plays, in which the hero wakes up in the end, and we realize that we have been watching a dream. I remembered "Midsummer Night's Dream," and also "Looking Backward." An old, old device of art; and yet always effective, one of the most effective! But this was the first time I had ever been taken into the dreams of a lunatic. Yes, it was interesting, there was no denying it; grisly stuff, but alive, and marvelously well acted. How Edgar Allen Poe would have revelled in it! So thinking, I walked towards the exit of the theatre, and a swinging door gave way--and upon my ear broke a clamor that might have come direct from the inside of Dr. Caligari's asylum. "Ya, ya. Boo, boo! German propaganda! Pay your money to the Huns! For shame on you! Leave your own people to starve, and send your cash to the enemy."

    I stopped still, and whispered to myself, "My God!" During all the time--an hour or more--that I had been away on the wings of imagination, these poor boobs had been howling and whooping outside the theatre, keeping the crowds away, and incidentally working themselves into a fury! For a moment I thought I would go out and reason with them; they were mistaken in the idea that there was anything about the war, anything against America in the picture. But I realized that they were beyond reason. There was nothing to do but go my way and let them rave.

    But quickly I saw that this was not going to be so easy as I had fancied. Right in front of the entrance stood the big fellow who had caught my arm; and as I came toward him I saw that he had me marked. He pointed a finger into my face, shouting in a fog-horn voice: "There's a traitor! Says he was in the service, and now he's backing the Huns!"

    I tried to have nothing to do with him, but he got me by the arm, and others were around me. "Yein, yein, yein!" they shouted into my ear; and as I tried to make my way through, they began to hustle me. "I'll shove your face in, you damned Hun!"--a continual string of such abuse; and I had been in the service, and seen fighting!

    I never tried harder to avoid trouble; I wanted to get away, but that big fellow stuck his feet between mine and tripped me, he lunged and shoved me into the gutter, and so, of course, I made to hit him. But they had me helpless; I had no more than clenched my fist and drawn back my arm, when I received a violent blow on the side of my jaw. I never knew what hit me, a fist or a weapon. I only felt the crash, and a sensation of reeling, and a series of blows and kicks like a storm about me.

    I ask you to believe that I did not run away in the Argonne. I did my job, and got my wound, and my honorable record. But there I had a fighting chance, and here I had none; and maybe I was dazed, and it was the instinctive reaction of my tormented body--anyhow, I ran. I staggered along, with the blows and kicks to keep me moving. And then I saw half a dozen broad steps, and a big open doorway; I fled that way, and found myself in a dark, cool place, reeling like a drunken man, but no longer beaten, and apparently no longer pursued. I was falling, and there was something nearby, and I caught at it, and sank down upon a sort of wooden bench.
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