The Marked Field

Carl L. Biemiller's The Marked Field appeared in
Blue Book Magazine
October 1949, Vol. 89, No. 6

Please respect the copyright.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


The man had stayed in the stadium until the pushing, jostling crowd had gone, unwilling to experience the prodding intimacies of herded strangers. Now he walked through the gathering dusk along familiar streets into the town. He was a spare man with an ascetic’s face and a scholar’s brow, and he walked with a minor limp and an unconscious arrogance. He had seen a football game, the first in several years, and he had seen an adversary in one thrilling burst of speed along a sideline. He supposed there was something symbolic in that expenditure of energy to play a game; he thought wryly that energy for games was characteristic of a people bred to aimless conflict and daily competitions for what appeared to be equally aimless living. But crude energy alone, he reflected, could be directed, indeed, should be or nowhere at all would humanity advance.

Humanity was not to be confused with people, with individuals grubbing out an existence, raising families, and in general not knowing what was best for them. People could not matter, a lesson which demanded long discipline before it was fully comprehended. Only humanity counted; and if there was a cosmic irony in such an ideal, he was now beyond the point of understanding it. Humanity, of course, transcended international borders; and this, in a day when fretful sovereignties observed the fact yet clung to the cherished fictions of nationalism, race and creed, was the nub of what, he thought, lesser folk considered treason.

Treason does not begin with an overt act against one’s country. Treason is a cumulative affair born of a man’s attitude toward himself and his evaluation of his own importance. When that evaluation of a personal belief becomes more important than a comparative evaluation of the well being of a national society, then treason, with or without a physical or legal transgression, exists. Yet, in a democratic society there can be no physical punishment for a thought or a belief. In this tenet lay a subtlety which, so far, had prevented democratic countries from dealing sanely with such matters as espionage, loyalties and the so-called preservation of individual liberties. In this axiom of Americanism lay his personal security, his sense of safety. Yet one could never grow careless. That was punishable by persons who understood the ideals for which they stood, and saw nothing beyond reconciliation in the use of blood, brutality and character assassination to support those ideals.

The Rogalski instance was an example, the first that he personally had ever ordered; and while the demonstration gave him stature in the group, it had awakened a thing he had believed long dead, a glimmer of conscience, and with the awakening, a fear. He regretted the necessity for such steps; yet he could see no flaw in his reasoning. Rogalski’s brother, an ardent and active man, had failed. Peters, as he had been known in party circles, had in some manner, probably the foolish affection he had persisted in demonstrating for his younger brother, been traced to Bakerston and iron City. He had been warned of that almost simultaneously with Rogalski’s arrest. The word had come through channels.

There was no certainty in knowing what Rogalski the elder might have told young Rogalski, nor what stresses the young man might have endured, what even unconsciously he might have revealed. The chances were that he knew nothing other than his brother had been secretive about his personal life, although the boy had been subject to early indoctrination. That was enough to establish a connection with the campus. It was necessary that the trail end, necessary to gamble that it might end. He had acted. That he had failed, he had no doubts. Dane’s presence, as a person interested in young Rogalski, was proof enough.

Now he would lie dormant, protected in respectability, cut off from the industrial organization in Iron City, which knew only that he existed, and little else. He would quietly enjoy his power until further orders reached him.

Still, he had never experienced the pressures other men imbued with his ideals had been subjected to. Things had come easy to him, so easily that he had early established his own superiority over most of the people he had met. He was born into a good middle-class Philadelphia family, had gone to private schools and Maine camps until he had entered Harvard, where he graduated possessed of a Phi Beta Kappa key and a quiet charm that attracted others. He had majored in medieval history, studied, mostly on easily won scholarships, at the University of Madrid, the Sorbonne and at Cologne.

It was at Cologne, he thought, his mind ticking off its precise and measured rhythms as he walked through the town, that the stimulating thinking of a fierce evangelism had first fired him, the thinking of a Europe still emerging from the patterns broken in war. He had returned to Philadelphia in 1933 to find apple peddlers on market Street, and his father a suicide, broken economically and spiritually, and buried in a quiet if unkempt Quaker cemetery. He had felt only a sense of estrangement for his mother, a wisp of a woman, confused, bitter, and outraged that a shifting economy should destroy her pleasant routines. He hardly knew the button-breasted, slattish spinster who was his sister, a woman with an aggressive religious streak, working for an obscure magazine.

Their home, a faded brick frame combination in a quiet suburb, was secure. Others were being dispossessed daily. And while there was not market at all for his scholarship in the area, there was a thrilling hope in the national stirring, a cataclysmic changing of values in a social movement known as the New Deal.

Democrats, always at a premium in Philadelphia, had been glad to welcome a new worker, one with his obvious academic background and mannerly charm. He worked effectively. He was one of the first of the deserving into Washington, a contact and survey man for Henry Wallace’s AAA in the Department of Agriculture, at that time a catch all for the bright young men who were not yet grooved. There was a new nation a building under matchless leadership, but it was not precisely a time of balance, of measured, judicious though taking, a fact ignored in all but the most rock-ribbed centers of Tory thinking.

He made friends easily, drank moderately, preferred select company, which by that curious osmosis of New Deal Washington in the first administration included the new great; and he rose in Government circles, was frequently on loan from agency to agency when discreet, intelligent men were required. He was appreciated, active, strong in a feeling of genuine usefulness for the first time in his life. It was perfectly natural for him to be asked to visit with those he later knew as party members, to share their discussions, to be aware of the flattery in their demand for his expressed opinions. It seemed natural, even intellectually necessary, for him to join the party. It was a motivation force and an inexhaustible source of energy should the then current drive toward a better world ebb into shoddier politics and small jealousies….

He entered the house on the winding Bakerston side street where he maintained his meticulously arranged three room apartment, thought idly that he would dress at leisure, take his carefully kept 1940 Chevrolet from the garage and drive to Iron City for dinner, perhaps at the Steel Hotel. He would buy the early editions of the local Sunday papers and return early for a quiet evening. For a moment he regretted declining a fellow faculty member’s invitation to bridge, decided that, for some vague reason, he would not have been good company….

The party had asked nothing of him for quite a long period, other than seeking his help in inviting other selected guests to occasional social gatherings. In 1938 he had been loaned to the State Department, attached to the division handling Latin-American affairs, where he had worked unobtrusively and not particularly well. He was surprised when the inter-agency loan had been made permanent. He had shared the proper sympathy with little Finland during the Russian invasion, shrugged it off and pointed out the major Nazi menace. He performed the curious bit of mental gymnastics involved in the Stalin-Hitler pack of 1939.

It was late in the same year that he had been asked by a party friend for a look at some papers marked Confidential, but hardly top secret. He had refused. The party was political, he thought; exactly the same as the Democrats or Republicans. That night he had callers who gravely and with deep sincerity explained the need for truly international thinking, the need for an extension of something better than a nationalistic New Deal throughout the world, the assistance required for practical means to achieve it, and the mechanism by which he had achieved his current trusted and respected position. He had removed the requested papers for an overnight loan, returned them the next day, un-smudged.

The next time a similar request had been made concerning information in a more important category, he had again refused. Integrity dies hard.

Even today, with his understanding of discipline and party necessity more acute, he still felt a hot flush of shame, of stark fear as he recalled that instance. Three strangers had called at his apartment, requested his presence at a familiar place downtown, and had instead driven him down to Monument Park. There, in the reflected flow of a moon on the majesty of Washington Monument, he had been physically beaten with a scientific skill that left him a quivering hulk, with every tortured nerve ajangle. He had not erred again. His position, his vulnerability, was made clear, his idealism clarified, and with it the realization that he was a physical coward.

Not until Hitler’s invasion of Russia, and in the bursting Washington fervor inspired by the acquisition of another major ally against Nazism, did he finally adjudicate his thinking, gain a sense of personal comfort, which, incidentally, he had learned did not really matter to the party. At the height of what could have been his greatest period of party usefulness, he had been asked to resign, giving ill health as an excuse. He had left the State Department, was promptly offered another honorable, reasonably publicized post as assistant to the executive director of a newly formed Global Fellowship Association.

He had not known then, did not know now, that there had been a defection of party spirit somewhere in the chain of apparatus which might possibly have involved him in an unflattering manner—might, which was more important, have endangered the basic work.. That work went on; for him it wore the blunt label espionage. He exchanged it for the honors, prestige and sense of power the service bestowed upon him. In 1943 he had come to Central University, his academic background finally recognized, made useful. There was no freedom in the peace of Bakerston. When he let himself think as he was now, he recognized that he had accepted an alien form of life, and that it gave him the outward appearance of honor. Not for years had he missed his self-respect. If he knew its lack, he termed the void discipline. He was fortunate, he thought, that he had never married, and in the same instant was aware of an acute loneliness, a foreboding.

The feeling stayed with him during the ride to Iron City. He allowed a hotel attendant to remove his car for parking, entered the lobby and passed into the dining room. As he followed the headwaiter between the rows of damask-topped tables, he nodded to several students who took his lectures; as he approached the table selected, a voice broke his stride, and he turned. Sally Whittaker, whom he knew, as practically the whole campus knew, from her newspaper associations with Central, was seated at a table to his left. She smiled and beckoned to him. He hesitated, nodded to the waiter, and crossed to her.

“Good evening, Miss Whittaker,” he said courteously.

“It’s been a long time, Professor Slanp,” she smiled. “How goes it with the Minnesingers, old Venice and the Hanseatic League?”

Her escort was taller standing than he looked from the upper reaches of a stadium, and there was a serene strength in his face. Perhaps there had been no mistake the night his room was examined, and the sap should have struck harder. The Professor allowed himself a quizzical, charming smile.

“This is Mr. Dane,” said Sally brightly. “Eddie, this is Professor Stuart Slanp of the University, a valued acquaintance of mine.”

“Delighted,” said the Professor. “I saw him this afternoon. That was a creditable run you made, young man.”

“How do you do,” replied Eddie, his face impassive; “and thank you, sir.”

“I just wanted to say hello,” explained Sally. “I’m sure you’ll see Eddie on the campus from time to time.”

The spare man inclined his head gravely, nodded to Dane and moved off again. The young man’s murmur reached him as he turned.

“It’s nice to know you.”

DreamHost Web Hosting -

This site is powered by Dreamhost. Touch the moon to join the "dream."

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home