THE LITTLE DOOR
an unpublished story by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A review and synopsis of a violent and bloodthirsty
anti-German propaganda short story
written November 17-23, 1917
"The Little Door... developed a theme of hatred and revenge against the Germans. It is Burroughs' most violent and bloodthirsty story of the anti-German type. The victorious Germans, invading a small French village, force their way into a home where the young girl Jeanne and her father live. Innocent and childlike, "her life had been one of kindliness and love," and she had no knowledge of evil. It remained for the Germans to teach her about terror and death. ... (She) lures German officers through the little door into the chamber of doom. (After her lover returns from battle) the mystery of the room from which no German ever emerges is solved." -- Porges
ERB sent the story around to numerous publications but it met with rejection each time and was never published. Ed's publisher, Bob Davis, commented: "There is nothing the matter with The Little Door, except that behind it is a tidal-wave of bloodshed, horror, and suggestion. There has been so much written about the terrible Boche and his evil impulses that there is nothing more left to the imagination.... Can the war, Edgar, and believe that I am still your peaceful friend and ally."
Irwin Porges - Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan
SYNOPSISFrom her window in a little French village, Jeanne watched the hated German invaders push her beloved French troops ever back as they continued on their victorious drive to Paris. She watched as gray-uniformed troops entered houses along the street, and presently she heard a battering on the door of her own home at which time her father nervously entered the room. He gave her a dagger, telling her to hide it in her bosom and to use it when the time came.
Boche rifle butts broke down the front door of her building and she heard a shot followed by the screams of faithful old Aurele. A Prussian officer and his soldiers entered the room and struck down her father with bayonets. The officer seized her and whispered crude words in her ear which filled her with loathing and horror. She promised to surrender to him if he would send his men away. He reciprocated by revealing his famous identity and promising to put his mark on her door to guarantee her future safety. The girl surprised him by returning his kisses and led him to a small door where she promised it would be more private and he would see how a French girl made love.
After entering the room beyond the small door, the girl ducked back out and slammed the door. She quickly pulled on a silk cord near the door and from the other side of the door there came terrifying muffled sounds which filled her with feelings of exaltation. She then threw herself, sobbing, upon the lifeless body of her father.
Next day, the neighbours helped her bury her father and Aurele in the garden behind the house... and still the Germans kept marching past on their way to Paris. A patrol came by the next day looking for the missing officer, and she said he had come and gone... but she whispered to the officer in charge to return without the others to hear the true story. When the officer returned she said that the missing German was afraid to go back and was hiding beyond the little door. After he had passed through the little door the girl again pulled on the silk cord and smiled as she heard him frantically trying to re-open the door. She heard three shots and then silence after which she peered into the room through a hole hidden behind a picture. She then made two crosses on the frame of the little door.
The days of war went by and each afternoon she sat in the window in plain sight of the passing enemy soldiers. Eventually the grey-uniformed enemy appeared to be in retreat and she now waited anxiously for the return the French troops and her lover Jules. More days went by but the cowardly retreating enemy did not notice her in the window. In desperation she knelt in prayer before the two crosses on the little door frame and ran down into the street to entice the passing officers.
From behind closed blinds in a house across the street a man watched it all with burning eyes as a German officer followed the girl into her apartment. Later, as the line of German troops thinned out, the man crossed the street, knife in hand, and used a key to enter the girl's locked room. Jeanne, alone, recognized the unshaven man in the tattered blue uniform and screamed as she saw the fury in his face and the upraised knife in his hand: "Jules!... Have you gone mad?"
Jules, in an insane rage, accused her of being a wanton traitor and attacked her. She sought safety in the room beyond the little door... the frame of which now displayed a third, newly-made cross. She sank to her knees and pleaded with him while at the same time Jules saw a huge lion rise behind her, growling, as it left the dead body of a German officer in the middle of the room.
Jules dragged the girl back through the little door, shouting: "Down, Brutus!"
The streets below were filled with blue uniformed French troops, and the man and woman sighed in relief, but the girl wondered how she was going to feed Brutus now that the Boche were gone.
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