Translated by Joe E. Bandel 2008
Copyright 2008 by Joe E. Bandel Protected under United States Copyright Law as a derivative work of a foreign Author originally published prior to 1923
The house on the Rhein before the thought of Alraune came into the world.
The vital spark or impulse that would become Alraune existed in the white house long before she was born, long before she was even conceived. This house lay on the Rhein a little out of the city on the large Villa Street leading out to the old Archbishop’s Palace where the university is today. That is where it lies and Legal Councillor Sebastian Gontram and his family once lived there.
You walk in from the street, through the long ugly garden that has never seen a gardener. You come to the house, from which stucco is falling, search for a bell and find none. You call and scream and no one comes. Finally you push the door open and go inside, climb up the dirty, never washed stair and suddenly a huge cat springs through the darkness…
Or even better:
The large garden is alive with a thousand apes. They are the Gontram children: Frieda, Philipp, Paulche, Emilche, Josefehe, and Wulfche. They are everywhere, in the boughs of trees, creeping through the earth in the mine pits. Then there are the hounds, two cheeky spitzes and a Bastard Fox terrier. In addition there is a dwarf pinscher that belongs to attorney Manasse. He is quite the thing, like a brown quince sausage, barrel round, scarcely larger than a hand and called Cyclops.
The yard is filled with noises and screams. Wulfche, scarcely a year old, lies in a child’s wagon and screams high obstinate screams for hours. Only Cyclops can beat this record and he yelps, hoarse and broken, incessantly. Wulfche never moves from his place, only screams, only howls.
The Gontram rogues are resting in the bushes late in the afternoon. Frieda, the oldest, should be looking out for them, taking care that her brothers are behaving. But she thinks they are behaving and she sits under the decaying Lilac leaves with her friend the little princess Wolkonski.
The two chatter and argue, thinking that they soon will become fourteen years old and can get married, or at least have a lover. Right now they are both closed from all this and need to wait a little longer. It is still fourteen days until their first Holy Communion. Then they get long dresses, and then they will be grown up. Then they can have a lover.
She decides to become very virtuous and start going to the May devotions at church immediately. She needs to gather herself together in these days, be serious and sensible.
“-and perhaps also because Schmitz will be there,” says Frieda.
The little princess turns up her nose, “Bah, Schmitz!”
Frieda pinches her under the arm, “-and the Bavarian, the one with the blue cap!”
Olga Wolkonski laughs, “Him? He is- all air. Frieda, you know the good boys don’t go to church.”
That is true, the good ones don’t do that. Frieda sighs. She swiftly gets up and shoves the wagon with the screaming Wulfche to the side, and steps on Cyclops who is trying to bite her ankles. No, no, the princess is right. Church is not the answer.
“Let’s stay here!” She decides. The two maidens creep back under the Lilac leaves.
All the Gontram children have an infinite passion for living. She can’t say how she knows but deep inside, she feels in her blood that she will die young, die fresh. She only has a small amount of time compared to what others are given and she takes this time in triple, making noise, rushing, eating and drinking until she is saturated on life.
Wulfche screams in his wagon, screaming for himself alone as well as for three other babies. His brothers fly through the garden making themselves numerous, as if they are four dozen and not just four. They are dirty, red nosed and ragged, always bloody from a cut on the finger, a scraped knee or some other good scratch.
When the sun sets the Gontram rascals quietly sweep back into the house, going into the kitchen for heaping sandwiches of buttered bread laid thick with ham and sausage. The maid gives them water to drink colored lightly with red wine.
Then the maid washes them. She pulls their clothes off and sticks them in wooden tubs, takes the black soap, the hard brush and scrubs them. She scrubs them like a pair of boots and still can’t get them clean. Then she sticks the wild young ones back in the tubs crying and raving and scrubs them again.
Dead tired they fall into their beds like sacks of potatoes, forgetting to be quiet. They also forget to cover up. The maid takes care of that.
Around this time attorney Manasse comes into the house, climbs up the stairs, knocks with his cane on a few doors and receiving no answer finally moves on.
Mrs. Gontram moves toward him. She is tall, almost twice the size of Mr. Manasse. He is a dwarf, round as a barrel and looks exactly like his ugly dog, Cyclops. Short stubble stands out all over him, out of his cheeks, chin and lips. In the middle his nose appears small and round like a radish. When he speaks, he barks as if he is always snapping.
“Good evening Mrs. Gontram,” he says. “Is my colleague home yet?”
“Good evening Attorney,” says the tall woman. “Make yourself comfortable.”
“Why isn’t my colleague home yet? –and shut that kid up! I can’t understand a single word you are saying.”
“What?” Mrs. Gontram asks. Then she takes the earplugs out of her ears. “Oh yes,” she goes out. “That Wulfche! You should buy a pair of these things Attorney. Then you won’t hear him.
She goes to the door and screams, “Billy, Billy- or Frieda! Can’t you hear? Make Wulfche quiet!”
She is still in apricot colored pajamas. Her enormous chestnut brown hair is half-pinned up and half-fallen down. Her black eyes appear infinitely large, wide, wide, filled with sharp cunning and scorching unholy fires. But her skeletal face curves in at the temples, the narrow nose droops and her pale cheeks spread themselves tightly over her bones. Huge patches burn lividly on-
“Do you have a good cigar Attorney?” She asks.
He takes his case out angrily, almost furiously.
“How many have you already smoked today Mrs. Gontram?”
“Only twenty,” she laughs. “But you know the filthy things are four pennies apiece and I could use a good one for a change. Give me the thick one there! –and you take the dark, almost black Mexican.”
Mr. Manasse sighs, “Now what are you doing? How long do you have?”
“Bah,” she made a rude sound. “Don’t wet yourself. How long? The other day the doctor figured about six months. But you know how precise they are in that place. He could just as well have meant two years. I’m thinking it’s not going at a gallop. It’s going at a pretty trot along with the galloping consumption.
“You shouldn’t smoke so much!” The little attorney barks.
She looks at him, her thin blue lips pulling high over gleaming teeth.
“What? What Manasse? No more smoking? Now stop with the friendly airs! What am I supposed to do? Bear children all year long? The brats in this house already drive me crazy. That’s why it’s galloping –and I’m not supposed to smoke?”
She blows a thick cloud of smoke into his face and makes him cough.
He looks at her, half poisoned, half living, and admires her. He doesn’t take anything from anyone. When he stands before the bar he never tells a joke or minces words. He barks, snaps, bites without respect or the smallest fear. But here, before this dried up woman whose body is a skeleton, whose head grins like a deaths head, who for a year and a day has stood three quarters in the grave and laughed at herself the last quarter, here he feels afraid.
Her unrestrained shimmering locks are always growing, always thicker, always fuller as if pulling nourishment from her decaying body, her perfect gleaming teeth clamping around a cigar, her eyes, enormous, without hope, without desire, almost without awareness but burning with fire, These leave him silent. They leave him feeling smaller than he really is, almost as small as his hound.
Oh, he is very educated, Attorney Manasse is. She calls him a veritable conversational encyclopedia. It doesn’t matter what the topic of conversation, he can give the information in the blink of an eye.
Now he’s thinking, has she given up on finding a cure? Is she in denial? Does she think that if she ignores death he will not come? Does she think death is not in this house? That when he does come, and only then will she go?
But he, Manasse sees very well that death is here even though she still lives. He has been here all along hiding throughout the house, playing blind cow with this woman that wears his face, letting her abandon her numerous children to cry and race in the garden.
Death doesn’t gallop. He goes at a pretty trot. She has that right. But only out of humor, only because he wants to make a joke, to play with this woman and her life hungry children like a cat plays with the fish in a fish bowl.
Only this woman, Mrs. Gontram, thinks he is not even here. She lies on the lounge all day long smoking big dark cigars, reading never-ending books and wearing earplugs so she can’t hear the noise her children make. He is not here at all? Not here?
Death grins and laughs out of her withered mask, puffs thick smoke into his face. The little Manasse sees him perfectly enough. He stares at him, considers for a long time which great artist has painted this death. Is it Durer? Or Bocklin? Or some other wild harlequin death from Bosch, Breughel or a different insane, inexcusable death from Hogarth, from Goya, from Rowlandson, Rops or Callot?
It is from none of these. Sitting before him is a real death, a death you can willingly go with. It is a good, proper and therefore romantic Rheinlander’s death. It is one you can talk with, that sees the comedy in life, that smokes, drinks wine and laughs. It is good that he smokes thought Manasse, so very good, then you can’t smell him.
Then Legal Councillor Gontram comes into the room.
“Good evening colleague,” he says. “Already here? That is good.”
He begins a long story about all that has happened during the day in the Bureau and before the court. Purely remarkable things that only happen to lawyers once in a lifetime happen to Mr. Gontram every day. There are strange and often lusty occurrences that are sometimes comic, often bloody and highly tragic.
Not a word is true. The Legal Councillor has an incurable shyness of telling the truth. Before his morning bath, yes, before he washes his face in the basin, from the moment his mouth first opens wide he lies. When he sleeps, he dreams up new lies. Everyone knows that he lies but his stories are so lusty and interesting they want to hear them anyway. Even when they aren’t that good they are still entertaining.
He is in his late forties with a short, very sparse beard and thinning hair. A gold pince-nez with a long black cord always hangs crooked over his nose and helps his blue shortsighted eyes see to read.
He is untidy, disorderly, unwashed, and always with ink spots on his fingers. He is a bad jurist and very much against doing any work, supervising his junior lawyers but not doing anything himself. On this basis he oversees the Bureau managers and clerks and is often not seen for weeks at a time. When he is there, he sleeps. If he is awake, once in awhile he makes a short sentence that reads, “Denied” and stamps the words “Legal Councillor” underneath.
Nevertheless he has a very good practice, much better than the knowledgeable and shrewd Manasse. He understands the language of the people and can chat with them. He is popular with all the judges and lawyers because he never makes any problems and all his clients walk. For the accused and for the jury he is worth the gold he is paid, you can believe that.
Once a Public Prosecutor said, “I ask the accused be denied extenuating circumstances, Legal Councillor Gontram is defending him.”
Extenuating circumstances, his clients always get them, but Manasse seldom receives them despite his scholarly ways and sharp speeches.
There is still more, Legal Councillor Gontram had a couple of big, important and provocative cases that created sensations throughout the land. In both cases he fought through the entire year and finally won. These cases suddenly awoke in him a strange energy that up until then had lain sleeping inside of him.
The first was so full of tangles, a six times loser, nearly impossible case that went from lawyer to lawyer, a case with complicated international questions that he had no suspicion of when he took it. He just thought it was interesting and liked it.
The Koschen brothers out of Lennep had been condemned to death three times. In a fourth resumption he continued on and won their freedom despite hair splitting circumstantial evidence.
The other was a big million-dollar dispute over Galmeiberg Mfg. from Neutral-Moresnet that every jurist in three countries knew about. Certainly Gontram at the least had fought through to the very end and obtained a victorious verdict.
Since then for three years he handles all the legal casework for Princess Wolkonski. Remarkably, this man never says a word about it, what he really does. Instead he fills the ears of those he meets with lies, cheeky inventions of his legal heroics. Not a single syllable comes over his lips of the real events of his day. This makes it seem like he detests all truth.
Mrs. Gontram says, “Dinner is just about ready and I’ve already set out a bowl of fresh Woodruff salad. Should I go get dressed?”
“Stay the way you are woman,” the Legal Councillor decides. “Manasse won’t mind-” he interrupts himself, “Dear God, how that child screams! Can’t you hold him?”
She goes past him with long, slow strides, opens the door to the antechamber where the maid has pushed the child’s wagon. She takes Wolfche, carries him in and sits him in a highchair.
“No wonder he screams,” she says. He’s completely wet.”
But she does nothing about it, leaving him to dry out by himself.
“Be still, you little devil,” she continues. “Can’t you see I have company?”
But Wolfche is determined to disturb the entire visit. Manasse stands up, pats him, strokes his chubby back, and brings him a Jack-in-the-box to play with. The child pushes the Jack-in-the-box away, bellows and screams incessantly. Cyclops accompanies him from under the table.
Then Mama says, “Now wait, sugar drop. I have something for you.”
She takes the chewed black cigar stub from out between her teeth and shoves it into the baby’s mouth.
“There Wolfche, how do you like that? Well?”
The child becomes still in the blink of an eye, sucking, pulling and beams, overjoyed, out of huge laughing eyes.
“Now you see Attorney, how you must deal with children?” The tall woman says. She speaks confidently and quietly, completely earnest.
“But you men don’t understand anything at all about children.”
The maid comes and announces that dinner is ready. While the others are going into the dining room she goes with unsteady steps up to the child.
“Bah,” she says and rips the cigar stub out of his mouth. Immediately Wolfche starts to howl again. She takes him up, rocks him back and forth, and sings him a melancholy lullaby from her Wolloonian homeland in Belgium.
She doesn’t have any more luck than Mr. Manasse. The child just screams and screams. She takes the cigar stub again, spits on it and rubs it against her dirty apron to make sure the fire is completely out and puts it back in Wolfche’s red mouth.
Then she takes the child, washes him, changes him, and tucks him into bed. Wolfche never stirs, lies quiet still and contented. Then he falls asleep, beaming blissfully, the ghastly black cigar stub always in his lips.
Oh yes, she was right, this tall woman. She understands children, at least Gontram children.
During the dinner and into the evening they eat and the Legal Councillor talks. They drink a light wine from the Ruwer. Mrs. Gontram finishes first and brings the spiced wine.
Her husband sniffs critically.
“I want champagne,” he says.
She sets the spiced wine on the table anyway. “We don’t have any more champagne. All that’s left in the cellar is a bottle of Pommery.”
He looks intently at her over his spectacles, shakes his head dubiously. “Now you know you are a housewife! We have no champagne and you don’t say a word about it? What? No, champagne in the house! Fetch the bottle of Pommery. Spiced wine is not good enough.”
He shakes his head back and forth, “No champagne. So what!” He repeats. “We must procure some right away. Come woman; bring my quill and paper. I must write the Prince.
But when the paper is set in front of him, he pushes it away again. He sighs.
“I’ve been working all day long. You write woman, I’ll dictate to you.”
Mrs. Gontram doesn’t move. Write? She’s a complete failure at writing!
“I can’t,” she says.
The Legal Councillor looks over at Manasse.
“See how it is, Colleague? Can’t she do this for me? I am so exhausted-”
The little Attorney looks straight at him.
“Exhausted? He mocks, “From what? Telling stories? I would like to know why your fingers always have ink on them, Legal Councillor. I know it’s not from writing!”
Mrs. Gontram laughs. “Oh Manasse, that’s from last Christmas when he had to sign as witness to the children’s bad behavior! Anyway, why quarrel? Let Frieda write.”
She cries out the window to Frieda. Frieda comes into the room and Olga Wolkonski comes with her.
“So nice to have you here,” the Legal Councillor greets her. Have you already eaten this evening?”
Both girls have eaten down in the kitchen.
“Sit here Frieda,” bids her father. “Right here.”
“Now, take the quill and write what I tell you.”
But Frieda is a true Gontram child. She hates to write. Instantly she springs up out of the chair.
“No, no,” she cries. “Olga should write, she is so much better than I am.”
The Princess stays on the sofa. She doesn’t want to do it either. But her friend has a means to make her submit.
“If you don’t write,” she whispers. “I won’t lend you any sins for the day after tomorrow.”
That did it. The day after tomorrow is Confession and her confession slip is looking very insufficient. Sins are not permitted during this time of First Communion but you still need to confess. You must rigorously investigate, consider and seek to see if you can’t somehow find yet another sin. That is something the Princess absolutely can’t understand.
But Frieda is splendid at it. Her confession slip is the envy of the entire class. Thought sins are especially easy for her. She can discover dozens of magnificent sins easily at a time. She gets this from Papa. Once she really gets started she can attend the Father Confessor with heaps of sins so he never really learns anything.
“Write Olga,” she whispers. “Then I’ll lend you eight fat sins.”
“Ten,” counters the Princess.
Frieda Gontram nods. It doesn’t matter to her. She will give away twenty sins so she doesn’t have to write.
Olga sits at the table, picks up the quill and looks questioningly.
“Now write,” says the Legal Councillor.
“Respected Ms. Princess,”
“Is this for Mama?” The Princess asks.
“Naturally, who else would it be for? Write!”
“Respected Ms. Princess,”
The Princess doesn’t write. If it’s for Mama, I can only write, ‘Dear Mama’.”
The Legal Councillor is impatient.
“Write what you want child, just write!”
She writes, “Dear Mama,”
Then the Legal Councillor dictates:
“Unfortunately I must inform you that there is a problem. I must consider so many things and you can’t consider things when you have nothing to drink. We don’t have a drop of champagne in the house. In the interests of your cases please send us a basket of spiced champagne, a basket of Pommery and six bottles of –”
“St. Marceaux!” cries the little attorney.
“St. Marceaux,” continues the Legal Councillor. That is namely the favorite of my colleague, Manasse, who so often helps.
With best Greetings,
“Now see, Colleague!” He says. “You need to correct me! I didn’t dictate this letter alone. But I will sign it single handedly, and he puts his name on it.
Frieda turns away from the window, “Are you finished? Yes? Well, I can only say that you didn’t need to write the letter. Olga’s Mama is coming and she’s in the garden now!”
She had seen the Princess a long time ago but had kept quiet and not interrupted. If Olga wanted to get ten beautiful sins she should at least work for them!
All the Gontrams are like that, father, mother and children. They are very, very unwilling to work but are very willing to let others do it.
The Princess enters, obese and sweaty, large diamonds on her fingers, in her ears, around her neck and in her hair in a vulgar display of extravagance.
She is a Hungarian Countess or Baroness. She met the Prince somewhere in the Orient. A marriage was arranged, that was certain, but also certain, was that right from the beginning it was a fraud on both sides.
She wanted the marriage to make her impossible pregnancy legal. The Prince wanted the same marriage to prevent an international scandal and hide his small mistake. It was a net of lies and impudent fraud, a legal feast for Mr. Sebastian Gontram, everything was in motion, and nothing was solid. Every smallest assertion would prompt legal opposition from the other side. Every shadow would be extinguished through a court ruling.
Only one thing stayed the same, the little Princess. Both the Prince and the Princess proclaimed themselves as father and mother and claimed her as their own. This product of their strange marriage is heir to many millions of dollars. The mother has the advantage, has custody.
“Have a seat, Ms. Princess!”
The Legal Councillor would sooner bite his tongue than call this woman, ‘Highness’. She is his client and he doesn’t treat her a hair better than a peasant woman.
“Take your coat off!” But he doesn’t help her with it. “We have just written you a letter,” he continues and he reads the beautiful letter to her.
“But of course,” cries the Princess. “I will take care of it first thing tomorrow morning!”
She opens her purse and pulls out a heavy envelope.
“Look at this, Honorable Legal Councillor, I came straight here with it. It is a letter from Lord, Count Ormes of Great-Becskerekgyartelep, you know him.”
Mr. Gontram furrows his brow. This isn’t good. The King himself has demanded that he is not permitted to do any business while at home. He stands up and takes the letter.
“That’s very good,” he says. “Very good. We will clear this up in the morning at the office.”
She defends herself, “But it’s very urgent! It’s very important!”
The Legal Councillor interrupts her, “Urgent? Important? Let me tell you about what is urgent and important, absolutely nothing. Only in the office can a person judge what is urgent and important.”
He reproaches her, “Ms. Princess, you are an educated woman! You know all about proper manners and enjoy them all the time. You must know that you don’t bring business home at night.”
She persists, “But I can never catch you at the office Honorable Legal Councillor. During this week alone I was—”
Now he is almost angry. “Then come next week! Do you think that all I do is work on your stuff alone? Do you really believe that is all I do? Do you know what my time alone for the murderer Houten costs? And it’s on my head to handle your millions as well.”
Then he begins to tell a funny story, incessantly relating an unending imaginary story of a strange crime Lord and the heroic Attorney that brings him to justice for all the horrible sex murders that he has committed.
The Princess sighs, but she listens to him. She laughs once in awhile, always in the wrong places. She is the only one of all his listeners that never knows when he lies and also the only one that doesn’t understand his jokes.
“Nice story for the children!” Attorney Manasse barks.
Both girls are listening eagerly, staring at the Legal Councillor with wide-open eyes and mouths. But he doesn’t allow himself to be interrupted. It is never too early to get accustomed to such things. He talks as if sex murderers were common, that they happen all the time in life and you can encounter dozens of them every day.
He finally finishes, looks at the hour. “Ten already! You children must go to bed! Drink your spiced wine quickly.”
The girls drink, but the Princess declares that she will under no circumstances go back to her house. She is too afraid and can’t sleep by herself, and perhaps there is a disguised sex murderer in the house. She wants to stay with her friend. She doesn’t ask her Mama. She asks only Frieda and her mother.
“You can as far as I’m concerned,” says Mrs. Gontram. “But don’t you oversleep! You need to be in church on time.”
The girls curtsey and go out, arm in arm, inseparable.
“Are you afraid too?” The Princess asks.
Frieda says, “What Papa was saying is all lies.”
But she is still afraid anyway and at the same time strangely longing for these things. Not to experience them, oh no, not to know that. But she is thinking how she wants to be able to tell stories like that! Yes, that is another sin for Confession! She sighs.
Above, they finish the spiced wine. Mrs. Gontram smokes one last cigar. Mr. Manasse stands up to leave the room and the Legal Councillor is telling the Princess a new story. She hides her yawn behind her fan, attempts again to get a word in.
“Oh, yes, Dear Legal Councillor,” she says quickly. “I almost forgot! May I pick your wife up at noon tomorrow in the carriage? I’d like to take her for a bit with me into Rolandseck?”
“Certainly,” he answers. “Certainly, if she wants to.”
But Mrs. Gontram says, “I can’t go out.”
“And why not?” The Princess asks. “It would do you some good to get out and breathe some fresh spring air.”
“Mrs. Gontram slowly takes the cigar out from between her teeth. “I can’t go out. I don’t have a decent hat to wear.”
The Princess laughs as if it is a good joke. She will also send the Milliner over in the morning with the newest spring fashions.
“Then I’ll go,” says Mrs. Gontram. “But send Becker from Quirinusjass, they have the best.”
“And now I must go to sleep—good night!”
“Oh, yes, it is time I must get going too!” The Princess cries hastily.
The Legal Councillor escorts her out, through the garden and into the street. He helps her up into her carriage and then deliberately shuts the garden gate.
As he comes back, his wife is standing in the house door, a burning candle in her hand.
“I can’t go to bed yet,” she says quietly.
“What,” he asks. “Why not?”
She replies, “I can’t go to bed yet because Manasse is lying in it!”
They climb up the stairs to the second floor and go into the bedroom. In the giant marriage bed lies the little attorney pretty as can be and fast asleep. His clothing is hung carefully over the chair, his boots standing nearby. He has taken a clean nightgown out of the wardrobe and put it on. Near him like a crumpled young hedgehog lies his Cyclops.
Legal Councillor Gontram takes the candle from the nightstand and lights it.
“And the man insults me, says that I’m lazy!” He says shaking his head in wonderment. “—And he is too lazy to go home!”
“Shh! Mrs. Gontram says. “You’ll wake everyone up.”
She takes bedding and linen out of the wardrobe and goes very quietly downstairs and makes up two beds on the sofas. They sleep there.
Everyone is sleeping in the white house. Downstairs by the kitchen the strong cook, Billa, sleeps, the three hounds next to her. In the next room sleep the four wild rascals, Philipp, Paulche, Emilche and Josefche. Upstairs in Frieda’s large balcony room the two friends are sleeping. Wolfche sleeps nearby with his black tobacco stub. In the living room sleep Mr. Sebastian Gontram and his wife. Up the hall Mr. Manasse and Cyclops contentedly snore and way up in the attic sleeps Sophia, the housemaid. She had come back from the dance hall and lightly sneaked up the stairs.
Everyone is sleeping, twelve people and four sharp hounds. But something is not sleeping. It shuffles slowly around the white house.
Outside by the garden flows the Rhein, rising and breasting its embankments. It appears in the sleeping village, presses itself against the old toll office.
Cats and Tomcats are pushing through the bushes, hissing, biting, striking each other, their round hot glittering eyes possessed with aching, agonizing and denied lust.
In the distance at the edge of the city you hear the drunken songs of the wild students.
Something creeps all around the white house on the Rhein, dodging through the garden, past a broken embankment and overturned benches. It looks in pleasure at the Sunday antics of the love hungry cats and climbs up to the house. It scratches with hard nails on the wall making a loose piece of plaster fall, pokes softly at the door so that it rattles lightly like the wind.
Then it’s in the house shuffling up the stairs, creeping cautiously through all the rooms and stops, looks around, smiling.
Heavy silver stands on the mahogany buffet, rich treasures from the time of the Kaiser. But the windowpanes are warped and patched with paper. Dutchmen hang on the wall. They are all good paintings from Koekoek, Verboekhuoeven, Verwee and Jan Stobbaerts. But they have holes and the old golden frames are black with spider webs. These magnificent delights came from the ArchBishop’s old hall. But his broken crystal is sticky with flyspecks.
Something sneaks through the still house and when it comes it brings something with it, almost a nothing, an unnamable smallness, a spark. But again and again, each time it comes, the spark grows out of the night, grows out of the dreams of those sleeping. It makes a small noise, chews lightly in the hall, loosens a nail and jumps on the old furniture. It rattles the swollen shutters and clanks curiously between the windowpanes.
Everyone sleeps in this big house on the Rhein but something slowly shuffles around.