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AFTERWARDS, the newspapers screamed that John Albertson, president of Consolidated American Steel, accidentally had fallen to his death from a window of his suite on the sixth floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco. Four monstrously important diplomats swore to it.

I was there. Karpen was there also. It didn't happen like that. Probably the diplomats believed what they said and they looked at me with amazement afterwards and called me a liar. They said they had never seen me before. Okay. Select the truth for yourself. But I'm telling it my way because Brenda, she of the gardenia skin and the deeply exciting eyes, had a baby this morning and I fear to watch that baby grow, for it is also the child of Karpen the Jew and I wonder how very long it might live.

I met Karpen through Silverstein, the third night before Christmas Eve. Silverstein was violently shivering, although the fog was not particularly cold that night. I let him in and he sat down, shivering, holding his hat between his knees, and" said, "Have you got a drink, Jack?"

"Why, yes. Of course."

I gave him the bottle and he chose a water glass and drank whisky from it. I thought a slug that size would knock him cold, he shook so badly, but it didn't.

"You read the newspapers?" Silverstein asked. He was state executioner at San Quentin, the guy who operated the lethal gas chamber, and I'd met him in a beer joint. I will meet anybody, provided he is not fighting ugly from drink, and I'll listen to anybody, if he will talk, particularly in beer joints. I had known Silverstein thirteen months.

"I do read 'em," I said coldly, because Silverstein certainly couldn't have forgotten I was a newspaperman.

He said, "This morning we tried to execute Karpen," and looked at me with the dark brown eyes of his race almost starting from his head.

His words had had a shock punch behind them, and I'd felt it.


Suddenly Silverstein let his head fall forward where his hands could hold it, and he began to sob. "I tell you!" he said with a gasp. "We tried at ten A.M. on the dot. The lever did not fail. You know how the chamber works? I trip this little lever, see, and a cyanide egg drops into sulphuric acid, and that makes the gas. But within a few seconds I knew there was something wrong. Karpen failed to squirm. He didn't choke nor gasp, the horrible way they do," Silverstein said. "Nothing happened whatever. And there the gas was, rising round him—"

I TOLD Silverstein to take more whisky, and when he realized what I was talking about, he did. He gulped the whisky from the water glass and it didn't hit him. It only made him hold on to himself a little.

Silverstein said, "I watched the indicators, I tell you! Enough gas to kill a herd of elephants. We blew the chamber out and Karpen smiled. We put a white rat in there with him and dropped another cyanide egg and the rat ran about, frantic, squeaking, and went into convulsions and died. But Karpen kept on smiling. After twenty minutes they took Karpen back to his cell. I—I went to see him there."

Abruptly Silverstein's voice was a horrified whisper. "I hadn't really looked at Karpen in the death chamber, but I looked at him now and—so help me!—I remembered him from some time long, long ago! I had never seen him during all my life, but I remembered him. From some time long, long ago," Silverstein whispered.

"They were going to try again at ten o'clock tonight. But"—and here his voice rose to an almost uncontrolled screech— "they didn't."

I looked at my clock. Twelve minutes past ten nu. My reason told me that Silverstein could not possibly know whether the execution had been attempted a second time, or not; because you can't cross the bay from San Quentin to San Francisco in anything even close to twelve minutes. Karpen, I knew, was a murderer, condemned to death for the apparently unprovoked slaying oi an international banker.

"Why not?" I said.

"Because—I let Karpen out," Silverstein said. "I—I remembered Karpen the Jew from some time long, long ago. I tell you I remembered Karpen the Jew!" the man screamed.

I said, "Excuse me," and started out into the hall where I had a telephone. I figured he was nuts. I figured I could shut the door into the hall and call some help. You never know what a nut might do—especially a nut who has been earning a living as an executioner. Nobody, I thought, can "let" a condemned murderer out of San Quentin, except a court or the California governor.

"Don't telephone," Silverstein said dully. "It's not what you think. I've got my right mind."

I don't know why I believed him. I came back and stood in the middle of my living room.

"Why do you come, now, to me, Silverstein?"

"Because you are my friend," be said, "the only one I have."

From his manner I guessed there was something else. He was holding something back.

"What else?"

"Because Karpen said your name," Silverstein strangely replied, lifting his head. "Karpen is waiting outside in the hall. Can he come in?"

WELL, that was something, all right. Perhaps you know that feeling when your spine seems suddenly to chill and the hairs rise on the back of your neck and between your shoulder blades. A condemned killer, fugitive from a death house, waiting outside in my hall. Wanting to come in. A killer whom I'd never seen in the flesh although I knew his features quite well from pictures-but who could have been acquainted with my own name only through some circumstance unknown to me. Can he come in?

"Has he got a gun?" I said.

"Why no. No, of course not," Silverstein said, and queerly added: "I think he does not need a gun."

I did. I needed a gun and I had one. I got it out of my desk and put it in my right coat pocket. I said, "Open the door."

Silverstein obeyed and Karpen the Jew came in.

He was wearing an old, dark suit that needed pressing. He was tall, well over six feet. He was gaunt, with wide shoulders and long arms and the slightest trace of a stoop, although he held his head erect. His head was entirely bald; no single hair was on it. His skin was very dark and his face was wide across the cheek bones and rather flat, as though his blood had been peasant's blood some time long ago.

He looked in the vigorous middle of life, although I could not then, nor did I ever, determine his precise age. But despite all the extraordinary qualities of his appearance I thought most striking of all was the extraordinary, deep sadness in his eyes.

There were a couple of severe wrinkles down his cheeks, a couple more across his forehead, but he had a complete absence of small wrinkles. I thought, without being able to put my finger on my reason, that he looked somehow unlike any other man I'd ever seen. He took the poorest chair and sat down, clasping his knobby hands together on his lap.

"Would you like a drink?" I said.


"Please," he said.

What else could you say, what else could you do for a man who had just skipped a date with death—save offer him a drink? "I haven't much time," I said. I wanted to get out of there. "I'm taking a plane for New York."

Karpen said, "You don't mean Washington?"

I stared at him.

No, I very carefully had not meant, nor said, Washington. But I'd been lying. Washington was correct. I had a tip on the strangest story any newspaperman could hope to get. I had the address of a Washington house—a palace, really. I probably wouldn't be able to get inside that house, but merely to try was worth a hop across a whole continent.

"Don't bother," Karpen softly said. Then he added in a swift monotonous tone, as though parroting from memory: "You've got a tip, Jack Murphy, on the strangest story that could ever come a newspaperman's way."

He wasn't reading my mind. Nobody can read your mind, my reason told me. But—I strangely questioned—can nobody? I felt sweat coming out of my skin.

"How do you know that?"

Karpen smiled.

"Don't bother," he repeated. "Their plans have been changed. I need some money. Let's take a walk."

My brain was whirling like an off-centered top.

"Whose plans?" I demanded savagely.

KARPEN put one big hand out, palm upward, and ticked the names off with his fingers.

"The plans of ?ve men. John Albertson. Prince Taguchi. Bahkrnetefi. Callieri. Stur-mer. They won't meet in Washington. Taguchi was delayed."

I said, "Taguchi arrived here yesterday morning on the President Cleveland. He started east immediately."

"No. Taguchi's brother arrived, using the name of the Prince. For purposes of dissimulation. Prince Taguchi is coming on the Asama Maru and the Asama Maru survived a slight collision with a barge in Tokio harbor, Nevertheless the ship was delayed sixty hours."

"I'll check that," I said, and stood up.

"The other four men are coming west to meet Taguchi, using a special train. They left Washington yesterday morning. Not by plane. In the air you must keep moving forward to keep on living. Truly important men may invest in the air but they themselves travel on the surface of the ground and the sea. The four will meet Taguchi in the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Christmas Eve."

"I'll check that special train, too," I said.

Silverstein had no idea what it was all about but he said with strained conviction, "You will find Karpen is right."

On my way to the telephone I looked in a mirror. My face was blotched, whitish. Karpen the Jew, within the realm of normal possibility, could not conceivably have known about that scheduled Washington conference. In addition to myself, only a very few other persons in the world were supposed to know. One was a woman.

John Albertson, in secret, sometimes went haywire and blew his top off with drink. He drank with his mistress—a blond and strange and generous girl I'd loved some years ago, during college. Never mind her name. She's still around. Maybe some day she will get on long-distance again and send me another tip, because she still has some affection for me and understands I've got to move up in this newspaper racket and I can't do it without a lot of very special information. She wasn't Brenda. Brenda, you remember, is handsomely dark.

Yes, the office said, it was true that the Asama Maru had sustained a minor collision in Tokio harbor. The boat would reach San Francisco Christmas Eve. The office did not, of course, possess the passenger list of the ship. Even had the office had it, the list wouldn't have done any good. Checking Karpen's statement about the special train took more time. More than an hour—and a big telephone bill. I called our Washington staff man and he called me back.

"There's nothing but a rumor," he said. "A special train probably did pull out of here. You may be right. You named four guys. Not one of them can be located in Washington any place he ought to be."

"Thanks," I said.

I returned to my living room. Karpen looked up.

"Let's go out and walk around," he suggested again.

I WENT with him. I was—temporarily, as usual—managing editor of the Clarion, but the shop didn't expect me back till the shop saw me coming. My tip had been too important, and I'd decided to run it down myself. But something must have gone screwy with my reflexes and reactions that night. It's the only way I can figure it now.

Yet at the time it seemed perfectly normal that I should go with Karpen instead of doing a lot of other things. There was nothing screwy about the working of my brain, I feel sure. I realized with perfect clarity that Karpen's freedom was itself a spectacular yarn which I should have hopped on with both feet. But perhaps you yourself have had some such experience—a time when, for no reason you can afterwards adequately isolate, your accustomed manner of acting simply does not seem important, and you act differently.

Well, Karpen was there when he should have been in San Quentin or dead; I knew he was Karpen all right because I'd okayed plenty of his pictures for Page One; and I should have hopped on it fast, trying to discover how he had escaped, and perhaps myself recapturing him.

Instead, Karpen insisted and we went for a walk. Silverstein mumbled that he had to get back to the prison and he left us, moving away hastily with a queer motion as though his legs were just recovering from some sort of paralysis.

There were pinpoints of water hanging in the night air and filling it—not rain, exactly, or San Francisco fog, but something between the two. Round every street light a nimbus glowed and the occasional lighted windows in apartment houses and residential hotels looked cheerful and warm and secure against the night and against all the warped things that walk by night, against all dark violence brooding in the strange minds of men.

We came to Powell street and turned into the brighter city and there were late people upon the sidewalks, buttoned and furred, some few desperate homeless men who wanted fifteen cents each for beds and who would want it again tomorrow night and always. People with comfortable slugs of alcohol inside them going home and a few drunks. A ruddy cop named Percival said hello to me and didn't look at Karpen and strolled on. I wanted to find out why Karpen had done the killing.

"Why was it, really?" I said. "Why did you kill Franklin?"

Franklin had been the banker—a gambling thief who had stolen the savings, the security and food, of a hundred thousand men and women and children, yet had not gone to jail.


A look of surprise wrinkled Karpen's face.

He said patiently, "I didn't. Franklin was dead already. Jack, you would have said he was insane, if you could have seen clearly the inside of his mind, but my word for it was dead. Franklin had that peculiar cunning insanity which can defeat any scientific test. I merely executed a fiend, a mind in a body which, soulless, stalked the earth. Merely executed a walking, ruthless greed before it could do any further damage."

I stopped where I was, because my own mind burned suddenly with a group of words I'd not brought up from my memory in many a year. "Vengeance is mine—saith the Lord."

"Who do you think you are?" I snarled, frightened. "God?"

"No," Karpen replied softly, humbly. "Only one, particular, servant of—the Son."

"I'll see you later," I said. Courage greater than mine was required here, in panic I told myself. But somehow I didn't flee. Perhaps because Karpen had his bald, batted head cocked to one side, as though he listened to some directing clear sweet distant voice. "I need some money," he was repeating, and then: "Let's turn up here."

WE LEFT Market and walked, I think, about two blocks. This street was darker than most; standing on our right was a skinny brick building where I remembered a speakeasy used to be, and Karpen hesitated and again he seemed to listen.

"It ought to be here," he said, peering about on the sidewalk. We couldn't see very well but within a few seconds Karpen stooped and rose with a wallet. The wallet was full of money—$357—it had three one-hundred-dollar bills in it, four tens and seventeen ones.

Karpen took the money out as though he had known all the time he would find it there. He put the money in his pants and tossed the excellent wallet and the rest of its contents into the gutter.

"What about the guy who lost all that?" I said.

"He won't be hurt," Karpen replied. "You and I have three nights and two days to pass. How about beer?"

I wanted to get away from Karpen the "Jew more than ever, then, but the midnight Examiner was on the street and when we returned to Market I bought a copy and looked at the headlines across the top and then I could not leave Karpen at all. The line of black type screamed:


Now I am not a religious man and I know no more than any other what may be the awful abilities of the human spirit, nor to what special terrific power one particular human mind might attain, given time enough for development. In our day, men do claim they do not believe anything save those matters which exude evidences of their reality in laboratories—upon ammeters and in test tubes, through spectroscopes and chemical stains.

Yet such a claim is patently smug and false, since that thing which is most completely real, life in its strange inexplicable arrival and residence and departure, cannot be identified in any such way that a scientist may say, "See, this is life. This is the mainspring which makes this body tick."

And all the days of any man's earthly life are spent in further confusion. Believing himself armed with test tubes, millions of him nevertheless swarm the churches each Sunday, there to listen to splendid words, splendid meanings which make no recordings whatever on scientific instruments.

A girl's eyes are only a couple of eyes, two ingenious spheroids of fluid and veins and muscles set in a skull, yet if she loves you you can see her spirit shining deep behind her eyes, and you recognize its reality so well that you are willing to blend with her spirit all that you have, your own life—willing to give into her keeping your own unprovable spirit which you do not understand. . . .


On its front page the Examiner had a picture, too. A picture of the man who even then walked Market Street at my left elbow. Karpen's picture. The paper said Karpen had been gassed to death yet here he was, walking.

I-put a hand out and gripped his arm hard and it was a real arm, all right, the flesh firm and muscular under the worn cloth of his coat, and my reason was wildly crying out that this entire happening could not be true yet it was true. It was blackest magic, yet there is no magic upon the face of the earth and everything has a natural explanation if you can only find it. Abruptly I found my wild reason wondering how much one man might learn of exotic but scientific arts such as hypnotism, if he had the time. A great deal, I thought—if!

So much learning that he might walk out of a death house, leaving the witnesses to watch an execution and even a burial which did not really occur.


If he had the time!

If he had centuries. Of time—of life. Centuries, to study.

BUT no normal man does live for centuries. No—I thought—and then told myself with a reasonableness I still do not understand, that Karpen the Jew was no normal or ordinary man. Already tonight he had used up his earthly time yet here he was alive and walking at my side.

My heart was wildly pounding and we came to a beer joint, a rather tough place patronized considerably by sailors. There were girls, some of them temporarily without male companions, but we didn't do anything about the girls. Karpen had a tormented look. His eyes glowed with torment and he kept his hat on.

I said, "You don't want beer. You've got to see your wife."

His sigh was almost a groan and he moved his great shoulders forward.

"It will not be considerate," he said. "Cruel. But you're right. Come on."

"Me?" I said, surprised.

"Yes. You must stay with me three days," Karpen said. "You must stay with me till the ambassadors of the great ones have met and you must see what happens then. Nobody will believe you but you must write it down."

Well, the great ones planned to start the killing again. Coldly, deliberately, as all wars are started. That had been my monstrous tip, telephoned by John Albert-son's mistress. The ambassadors of the great ones would meet, fix a schedule of dates, determine last details of an agreement which doubtless had been in process of formulation for months. Write it down? You could bet your living lungs I would write the story down, if I could only get it.

Karpen said, "Machiavelli was quite a guy."

I was startled. I said, "Sure."

"Machiavelli once remarked," Karpen said, "that if a prince, a dictator, a despot of any sort felt himself tottering, the only certain way to restore the power of his despotism was foreign war. Arouse the patriotism of stupid men in any unworthy and needless cause. Wave the flag and beat the drums."

A new feeling of even greater strangeness surged through me. Not from Karpen's meaning, but from the arrangement of his words. And I heard my strained voice asking, "Did you get that out of a book, Karpen?"

"Why, no," he said. "No . . ."

Machiavelli. A Florentine philosopher, a writer, an adviser to potentates—who had lived in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A cold-blooded priest of violence and subjection. How would you, living, know what such a. man had said, unless you did get it from a book? Or unless—my mind cried out—unless that lang-dead man had spoken to you directly-in person—before he died!

"You knew Machiavelli?" I ridiculously stammered. And then I leaned on our table and said quickly, loudly: "Who are you, Karpen?"

BUT he didn't reply, and I was glad he didn't because I felt with abrupt terror that I already and certainly knew who he was. I remembered an age-old, persistent, never-explained legend from human history. The tale of how a tormented Man once struggled along a grievous dusty road bearing his Cross, and sought to pause and rest a moment upon the doorstep of a mean hut but was denied any pause, and of how He uttered a calm and terrible judgment upon the Jewish laborer dwelling there. A curse that the Jew also must never rest, not even in death, but must wander the living earth forever, immune from death, unkillable.

And a waiter who had been staring came to our table and said to me, "You better go home now, buddy. When a guy starts talkin' into his beer he better go home." The waiter didn't look at Karpen. I think now he didn't know he was there, couldn't see him at all. Probably the waiter thought I was tight, but I was not. I'd had nothing alcoholic in twenty-four hours except that one half-finished glass of beer.

We went out and a taxi took us to an apartment house in Taylor Street. Brenda opened her own door. She was Karpen's young wife and she spoke not a word, she only moved within the circle of his arms and I felt acutely embarrassed, so complete was their kiss. Her great love for Karpen, her entire sweet and passionate and scientifically-unprovable spirit came up into her eyes as she stepped into his arms.

It wasn't till many days later, when everything was over, that I remembered she subsequently asked no questions, no explanation of the bewildering fact of his freedom. Although obviously she had been weeping, I think now she never believed Karpen the killer had really died, nor would die, no matter what was said.

She took us into her rooms and sat down. She folded her small, capable feminine hands in her lap and she looked at Karpen as though she could never stop looking, her eyes big and soft and shining and a little wet. And I knew that if any man can make a girl love him like that, mister, he's got something—but particularly if the girl is like Brenda.

She was completely and astonishingly beautiful. Skin like gardenia petals, as I've said. Large, long eyes so brown they were almost black. Sleek, intensely black, soft hair.

But it was the composition of her features that made a click in my mind. I'm nuts about museums. Give me a museum and I can wander there a long time, happily and oddly excited by these collected tangible inheritances from ancient peoples who were human the same as we are human, but who thought, acted, believed differently; who perhaps possessed strange knowledges which we will never possess again.

Therefore I knew Brenda Karpen at once. I had seen those features—not precisely the same ones, but the same unmistakable type-many times before, carved in stone and copied from death masks of queens of the Nile, of Assyria, Babylon. Features strong yet delicate, the nose straight, the proportions beautifully classic.

And Brenda's possession of them might have been rare among women, but it was certainly not unique. Look around you. The races are mixed now, and confused, but the flawless features of the ancient queens have never died. The girls are generally Syrian, Jewish, Armenian—but you can find them anywhere, among Mexican Indians, in France, Spain, Russia, Park Avenue or the slums of Boston.

"How long has this been going on?" I said.

Karpen lifted his eyelids and I thought a spark was there.

"How long do you think?"

My spine was ice again but I said, "Two thousand years. You will have many wives waiting for you, Karpen, and each will be a copy of the others."

He said with a deep sadness, "I—hope they do not wait. I've instructed Brenda she must—not."

She smiled. It was sweet, enigmatic, secret. The nearest thing to the Mona Lisa smile I'd ever seen.. "What little time you've had for me, Karpen, will be always in my heart," she said. "I'm going to have a child of yours."

"It won't be like me," he said. "The child will die when his time has come."

"Listen!" I screamed, because now I felt that I had to know. "Who are you?"

He stared at me and replied dully, "Why, merely Karpen. A Jew."

I STAYED there till Christmas Eve. I slept on a couch and thought not once of the office. My spirit was filled with a mounting, swelling dread. Not for Brenda. She, I discovered immediately, was not rich but she had an income which would support her, and any child, in comfort, no matter what happened to Karpen himself. But dread of what he might do when the ambassadors assembled.

We left Brenda's apartment only once during that period, and then to visit an exclusive men's store. There Karpen outfitted himself from head to foot in the finest evening clothes the place could supply, and insisted that I purchase similar gear for myself. The salesman who attended to our wants scarcely opened his mouth. His air was one of fascination, and his face was white and troubled, as though he ought to remember Karpen but could not.

And indeed, the fact that such a strange dark man with the build and rugged countenance of a laborer, the bald head and the wide knobby brow of a wise and ancient spirit, should require the formal tails of highest society, doubtless was enough to silence any salesman. And if he failed to lose his troubled look even when we departed—well, I suppose very few persons would remember and identify any convict, not having known him personally, after newspapers had declared him officially dead.

"Just why are we doing this?" I had growled when the man left us alone a moment.

Karpen replied slowly, with an odd dignity, "I, too, shall be an ambassador of a Great One, and we must do Him honor. We must not appear less well provisioned —than the others."

Afterward, when I had written it down and thought it over, it sounded unnatural, stilted, a trifle absurd. But I wrote it down the way he said it and that was it. "I, too, shall be the ambassador of a Great One," Karpen said.

Afraid? I was plenty afraid. Each meal time, food and wine would appear on Brenda's table. She refused to permit any contribution from me, and Karpen offered none, and then Christmas Eve had arrived and we set forth—tail-coated, top-hatted, caped, gloved. Just Karpen and I. All day Brenda had been very gay, then inexpressibly sad, by turn. She kissed Karpen goodbye, a kiss even more intense than that first one I had unwillingly witnessed, and held him off by his shoulders looking into his eyes.

"You won't be back, Karpen?"

Miserably he shook his great head. "I have—so much to do."

We walked. The night was crisp, clear, chill. The stars shone bright and a slivver of moon hung in the night sky and we did not hasten.

Karpen asked suddenly, "How old are you?"

"Thirty-five. You know that."

He nodded. He counted back, on his fingers. "The last one ended in 1918. You were—"


"A Boy Scout?"

"Yeah," I said. "I sold Liberty Bonds going from one office to the next. I had a Boy Scout uniform, I was a runt for my age, I had a lot of badges, an Eagle badge, and I sold plenty of bonds."

"YOU don't know how it was, then," Karpen said and his voice was a sword, steel, bitterly slashing. "The next men never remember, never know till they see new killing, themselves. A few of their fellows turn into animals, ruthless, themselves safe, slavering with power-lust. The few start the bands, the flags. Wave the flags, blow the trumpets, beat the drums. A few start the new men, the next crop who don't remember, again into the killing. No, you're a new one and you don't remember. Nothing of the hush hospitals, where bodies which are only hunks of living meat still do live in this day, souvenirs of violence which the new men are not permitted to see. Nothing of the dawn, and young men whimpering or savage in mud and filth and vermin, hungry, afraid, awaiting zero. Awaiting the dreadful top tick of a watch, then scrambling up, slipping and scrambling in mud, the air screaming and bursting, themselves quiet, only the rifles blasting, themselves moving to death, to dreadful torn flesh and shattered bone. Themselves become animals when they ought to be at home, safe, working, loving their lovely young women, children and dogs in front of a fire. Music and warmth and peace and wine and sunlight, all gone."

"What are you going to do, Karpen?" I muttered urgently. "Your grammar is punk."

He didn't reply. The Mark Hopkins. We entered an elevator, ourselves the only passengers that trip, and Karpen said, "Sixth floor."

The boy stopped the car in front of a blank wall. "You can't go there, sir," he said. "You must have made a mistake."

Karpen's eyes seemed to glow. His chin was a rock. "No mistake," he said.

The frightened boy let us out at the sixth floor. The corridors contained perhaps two dozen men of assorted nationalities. Well-dressed; but tough and hard-eyed men, for all that. Secret police, I thought.

To my astonishment we walked directly through the swarming guards and not one let his glance stop on us, not one attempted to block us. We might have been invisible. I—think we were.

Karpen took a key from one of his pockets and opened a door. I followed him through one room empty even of rugs and furniture and into a second. The second room was long, big. At a long table the conference of the ambassadors was already in session.

Karpen and I selected two chairs against the nearest wall and sat down. Nobody turned a head. Nobody, in fact, seemed even to be aware of our presence till Karpen acted, hours later.

Right now John Albertson was speaking. Later the others spoke, sweated, bargained, approached exhaustion and refused it, spoke again. I think my mouth soon must have dropped open, and stayed that way, because 'afterward I needed a lot of water.

Bahkmeteff was there, representative of the new dictator of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Callieri was there, from Italy. Prince Taguchi, from Japan. Sturmer, a tall German with a monocle, a horse face, and utterly blank blue eyes. Each man acting not for his people, but for his master.

There was no single dictator in the United States; only a dictating group, an oligarchy. Given continued peace, the United States eventually might overwhelm its oligarchy and become truly democratic. Therefore John Albertson was there also, representing not the President nor the people of the United States, but himself and his group-cunning men who understood the waving of flags and the beating of drums, for profit and personal power.

They used English, in the cultured and conversational tones of gentlemen. So it wasn't their tones that dropped my mouth open. It was the things they said, their terrible calm meanings.

OF COURSE I had known that no modern major conflict ever occurs unprecedented by definite agreements between all powers which may be affected. Later any conflict may get out of hand, but its beginning is always a matter of premeditation and not of passion.

Yet I had never watched the machinery mesh. The ambassadors of the great abhor newspapermen whom they cannot control. Yet there I was, beside Karpen the Jew, and the ambassadors in cultured voices were calmly and cunningly trading in violence, in the lands, the wealth, the human lives and blood of other nations. They calmly estimated how many of their own men would be slaughtered upon the various fronts of attack.

The presence of Bahkmeteff, of course, had amazed me most. Callieri and Taguchi and Sturmer—fanatic fascists. In the next world war the fascists must inevitably fight all the rest of the world but mainly the communists, as they fought so long and horribly in Spain. And yet here, in this hotel room, these fascist leaders were making parley with the enemy.

For peace?

I must have been quite unsophisticated that night, to have felt even that one tingling thrill of hope.

Because these men had assembled not to avoid blood and death, but to cause them and agree upon the details of their manufacture.

"As you know, gentlemen," Bahkmeteff said suavely, "war, to the Russian dictator, is an immediate necessity." Lately, he reminded them, handwriting had appeared upon the wall. Lately the Russian people had demanded that no more foodstuffs be exported from the Soviet Union. A demand which had risen after two decades of cruel, animal-like labor, raising tremendous crops only to watch those crops dumped into foreign world markets at ruinous prices in exchange for machinery which the Russians might use but certainly could not eat. A demand so ugly that wisely it had been granted, at least for the present. But war would lift the minds of the Russians off their bellies—and only war.

Mussolini and Hitler, too, were tottering. The Ethiopian burlesque was past and Italy long ago had seized that luckless African land for its oil. (Since warships bum oil and there is no oil under Italy.) And Czechoslovakia was Hitler's but he needed ?ames round the earth before he moved to regain Germany's lost and more distant colonies.

And Japan was invading all the markets of the world with manufactured goods and underselling all competitors but going bankrupt doing it, and now particularly needful of further war to keep her people whipped up to the proper frenzy of obedience.

And in America all the business men were desperate from taxes and the insane spending oi the government, but America still had no dictator; yet John Albertson thought that war might create a dictatorship and in any event war would bring monstrous profits to the steel industry.

Sturmer and John Albertson, Callieri and Bahkmeteli agreed. Prince Taguchi mentioned a date when Japanese fishing boats would attempt to blow up the U. S. Pacific Fleet and block the Panama Canal, and Japanese warships would shell Manila and Alaska. The Germans were interested, Sturmer said, primarily in France, Belgium, and Southern Africa, but would attack Russia as a matter of form, not really concentrating any force there.

Oh, the ambassadors, personally, and John Albertson, were safe enough in their planning. Not one of them, not one of the dictators for whom the ambassadors spoke, ever would see an actual firing line. They were as impersonal as though they were playing chess. War-is always impersonal to those who start it. It becomes personal only to those hundreds of thousands of younger men who get the bullets in their guts; and then John Albertson was speaking again.

THE bands and the flags were ready, he said. Geniuses of pub1icity—ready also. Nothing would be simpler, to trained propagandists using an oligarchic press, to orators and politicians, than hurling the United States into war—on either side.

Karpen bent toward me and his face was stiff.

"You have heard," he said. "We look now upon one man who is already dead. All here are drunk with power, with ambition, but only John Albertson has already died, a greed-torn dead man who must sell bullets and armor plate."

Fascinated, I watched Karpen rise from his chair. Fascinated, I saw the startled bewildered faces of the diplomats turn to Karpen as though wondering how in the name of highest heaven any man save themselves could be here in this room-a room now guarded by secret police and secret strongarm men from each of their separate nations.

I watched Karpen slowly stalk to John Albertson and I saw Karpen's great hands deliberately close round Albertson's throat, while I myself and the other four men in the room stared in stunned horror.

There was a small stifled scream from Albertson, president of Consolidated American Steel. Then he was off his chair, his legs wriggling and attempting to brace themselves, his hands viciously and desperately clawing at those other great hands which had his throat. John Albertson was moving across the thick carpet toward a window and when Karpen the Jew had brought him there, Karpen deliberately withdrew one strangling hand and got the window open.

Then he looked down upon Albertson, sadly, and—I thought—compassionately. With the deliberation of an automaton Karpen lifted John Albertson high, held him squirming and screaming thus a short moment, and flung him into space.

Albertson's screams diminished and then, abruptly, sickeningly, ceased.

Karpen turned and faced the ambassadors. His rugged face was gray now.

He spoke in a voice more cultured, tremendously more gentle than any of theirs had been. He said, "Gentlemen, I give you a promise. Each of you is powerful. Not so powerful as the great dictators whom you represent, but still each of you wields colossal influence in his own land. I promise you that if the wars occur which you have agreed upon tonight, each of you shall die in ways far more horrible than the Way you have seen John Albertson die. I say to you, ye shall not kill!—and in your own bodies yourselves remain secure! Take my message also to your masters. Should this war occur, to each great dictator I also shall find my way. And I shall come," Karpen said, "to kill!" He turned and left, without haste.

I went out following Karpen and that was the way it had happened. If the ambassadors afterward called Albertson's plunge merely a tragic accident—well, perhaps they really do not remember what they saw Karpen do and say, at least not in their conscious minds. But each of those four ambassadors, I notice, has retired now to a private and sedentary life.

And as Karpen reached the street, the paved hilltop where the Mark Hopkins sits, it didn't even occur to me to warn him that for this latest crime he now must surely die. For I understood he would never die, so long as men lived upon the earth. A lethal gas chamber? Probably that had been his last forlorn hope of death. . . .

THE street throbbed with excitement, of course, and police and an ambulance were here. But we walked unimpeded past the police, past the broken mashed object that had been John Albertson, and went down into the town. Freshly dressed, quiet people were going "into the churches on that Christmas Sunday morning, and there were tollings of bells.

"I can do so little," Karpen said.

"You've done plenty lately," I said.

"One man—in all the world. Why don't the others help?"

"Some of them do."

There was nothing mystic, nothing supernormal in the sardonic glance which this living Jew turned on me then. Nor in his hard, practical. words. "Hear me!" Karpen said. "This is the United States of America. I've been here many times. You have a Constitution, the highest law of the land. Adopt an amendment. Say that each member of the Congress who votes for any war or who fails to vote against it, shall upon formal declaration of such war automatically lose his office. That immediately he shall be compelled, regardless of age or physical competence, to become an infantry private, ineligible for promotion, ineligible for furlough even if wounded, and assigned to front line combat until dead or until the war ends. Send also to the front any President who signs a declaration of war. Adopt that one simple basic law. Challenge other nations into providing likewise for their own leaders. And then," said Karpen the Jew, "you wouldn't have very many more wars."

He halted without warning, and added: "But the nations will not be permitted to do it. The great rulers are never the ones who fight."

He was looking at me, but his eyes became strangely opaque. Perhaps he wasn't seeing me any longer. His head cocked to one side and again I had that curious impression that he was listening to some voice which I myself could not hear. Within a few seconds, however, his pupils cleared. Hastily and with a queer formality he shook my hand, murmured, "I have so little time!" said goodbye, and was gone.

So little time! All eternity he had—yet Karpen the Jew was pressed and had to hurry. And Brenda's son was born today —Karpen's son—and although Karpen had assured her the child would not be like himself, I cannot help wondering. I pray it will not, because Karpen, the last I saw of him, was walking away in Christmas sunlight while bells tolled, repeating that another child, a Christ had been born; walking down a city sidewalk, through the moving crowds in their fine new clothing, stalking the world, himself one symbol of his entire deep and peaceful and homeless race. One lonely man accursed forever to the choking task of all mankind's salvation.