Chapter VIII

On Friday night Gisela left her apartment in the Koeniginstrasse, where she had slept for a few hours after a visit to the principal cities of the Empire, and walked out to Schwabing, that picturesque "village" that looked like a bit of the Alps transferred to the edge of Munich. She had not forgotten the man she had sacrificed, and at the end of the first day of the Revolution she had learned that his body had been caught under the Schwabing bridge, rescued, and placed temporarily in the vault of the little church.

It was a bright starlight night, and the old white church with its bulbous tower, last outpost of Turkey in her heyday, looked like a lone mourner for the dream of Mittel-Europa. Gisela climbed the mound and entered the quiet enclosure. She had met no one in the peaceful suburb, although she had heard the deep guttural voices of elderly men still lingering at the tables in the beer gardens.

She had sent orders to leave the door of the church unlocked, and she entered the barren room, guiding herself with her electric torch to the stair that led down to the vault. Fear of any sort had long since been crowded out of her, but it was a lonely pilgrimage she hardly would have undertaken ten days ago.

She descended the short flight of steps and flashed her light about the vault. It was a small room, oppressively musty and humid. All Schwabing is damp but the Isar itself might have washed the walls of this dripping sepulcher. The coffin stood on a rough trestle in the center of the chamber, and it was covered with the military cloak that, with his sword and helmet, she had ordered sent from his hotel.

She stood beside the coffin, trying to visualize the man who lay within, wondering if the orders still bulged above the hilt of the dagger she had driven in with so firm a hand ... or if they had taken the time to remove it ... or if that symbol of Germany's freedom would be found ages hence in a handful of dust when the man who had taught her all she would ever know of love or living was long forgotten....

But in a moment these vagrant fancies, drifting from a tired brain, took flight, her reluctant mind focused itself, and she knelt beside the bier, pressing the folds of the cloak about her face and weeping heavily.

It was her final tribute to her womanhood. That she had rescued her country and incidentally the world, making democracy and liberty safe for the first time in its history, mattered nothing to her then. Nor her immortal fame.

To regret was impossible. Strong souls are inaccessible to regret. But she hated life and her bitter destiny, for she had sacrificed the life that gave meaning to her own, and she wished that the implacable Powers that rule the destinies of individuals and nations had foreborne their accustomed irony and presented her gifts to some woman mercifully lacking her own terrible power to love and suffer--and the imagination which would keep for ever vivid in her mind the poignant happiness that had been hers and that she had immolated on the cold altar of duty. She was still young, and her sole hope, glimmering at the end of an interminable perspective, was that it would be her privilege to lie at last in the grave with this man; who had been her other part and whose heart and hers she had slain.