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Archive for August, 2014

Wolf Gontram opined, “Why should they shoot each other dead? They are best friends.”

“You are a stupid boy, Wölfchen!” said Alraune. “What does that have to do with it? Whether they are best friends or not? Then they must become enemies.”

“Yes, but why? There is no purpose to it.”

She laughed, grabbed his curly head and kissed him quickly right on the nose.

“No, Wölfchen. There is no purpose at all–Why should there be? But it would be something different, would be a change–Will you help me Wölfchen?”

He didn’t answer. She asked again, “Will you help me Wölfchen?”

He nodded.

That evening Alraune deliberated with young Gontram on how they could arrange things to incite the two friends so that one of them would challenge the other to a duel. Alraune considered, spinning one plan after another and proposing it. Wölfchen Gontram listened and nodded but was still hesitant.

Alraune calmed him.

“They don’t need to be serious about it. Very little blood is shed at duels and afterward they will be like brothers again. It will strengthen their friendship!”

That brightened him up and he helped her think things through. He explained to her the various little weaknesses of them both, where the one was sensitive and where the other–

So her little plan grew. It was no finely crafted scheme at all, was much more quite childish and naïve. Only two people that were blindly in love would ever stumble over such a crude stone.

His Excellency noticed that something was up. He questioned Alraune and when she wouldn’t talk he questioned young Gontram. He learned everything he wanted to from the boy, laughed and gave him a few beautiful suggestions for the little plan as well.

But the friendship between the two was stronger than Alraune had believed. Dr. Mohnen was so rock solidly convinced of his own irresistible nature that it took her over four weeks to turn things around and bring him to the impression that the captain might just take the field this time and likewise to give the captain the impression that for once the doctor might just triumph over him.

The count and Karl Mohnen both thought that it was time to speak privately with each other and settle things but Fräulein ten Brinken understood such confidential talks and always found ways to hinder them. One evening she would invite the doctor and not the cavalry captain. Next time she would go riding with the count and leave the doctor waiting for her at some garden concert.

Each considered themselves as her favorite but also had to recognize that her behavior toward the other was not entirely indifferent either. It was the old Privy Councilor himself that finally fanned the glowing spark into high flames.

He took his office manager to one side and had a long talk with him, said that he was very satisfied with his performance and would not be unhappy at all to see someone as dedicated as he was to someday become his successor. Really, he would never try to influence the decision of his child. Still, he wanted to warn him that there was someone, whom he did not want to name, that was fighting against him, in particular all kinds of rumors of his loose living were spreading and reaching the Fräulein’s ear.

His Excellency then had almost the same talk with the cavalry captain, except that in this case he remarked that he would not take it unkindly if his daughter married into such a prestigious old family like the Geroldingen’s.

During the next few weeks the two rivals strongly avoided any encounters with each other while doubling their attentions toward Alraune. Dr. Mohnen, especially, let none of her desires go unfulfilled. When he heard that she craved a charming seven-stranded pearl necklace that she had seen at a jeweler’s on Schilder Street in Cologne he immediately went there and bought it. Then when he saw that for a moment the Fräulein was really delighted over his gift he believed he had most certainly found the way to her heart and began to shower her with all kinds of beautiful jewels.

For this purpose he had to help himself to the money in the cash box at the ten Brinken offices. But he was so sure of his cause that he did it with a light heart and considered the little forced borrowing as something he was entitled to that he would immediately replace as soon as he received the dowry of millions from his father-in-law. He was certain that his Excellency would only laugh over his little trick.

His Excellency did laugh–but a little differently than the good doctor had thought. On the very same day that Alraune received the strands of pearls he rode into the city and determined immediately where the suitor had found the means for purchasing the gift. But he didn’t say a word.

Count Geroldingen could give no pearls. There was no cash box for him to plunder and no jeweler would loan him anything on credit. But he wrote sonnets for the Fräulein that were really very beautiful! He painted her in her boy’s clothing and played violin, not Beethoven whom he loved, but Offenbach, whom she liked to listen to.

Then on the birthday of the Privy Councilor the collision finally came. They had both been invited and the Fräulein had privately asked each one to escort her to the table. They both came up to her when the servant announced that dinner was served. Each considered the intrusion of the other as tactless and each said–and half suppressed–a few words.

Alraune waved Wolf Gontram over.

“If the gentlemen can’t agree–” she said, laughing and took his arm.

It was a little quiet at the table at first. The Privy Councilor had to do most of the talking. But soon both lovers were warm. They drank to the health of the birthday child and his charming daughter. Karl Mohnen gave a speech and the Fräulein threw a couple of glances at him that made the hot blood pound in the cavalry captain’s temples. But later, at dessert she laid her little hand lightly on the count’s arm–only a second–but long enough to make the round fish eyes of the doctor pop out of his head. When she stood up she allowed both to lead her away; she danced with them both as well.

Then later while dancing a waltz separately with one she spoke of the other, “Oh, that was so abominable of your friend! You won’t really permit that will you?”

The count answered, “Certainly not!”

But Dr. Mohnen threw out his chest and declared, “You can count on me!”

The next morning the little dispute appeared no less childish to the count than it did to the doctor–but they both had the uneasy feeling that they had promised something to Fräulein ten Brinken.

“I will challenge him to a duel with pistols,” said Karl Mohnen to himself, never believing that it would ever happen.

But in any case that morning the cavalry captain sent a couple of comrades to his friend–he wanted the court of honor to see what they made of it. Dr. Mohnen negotiated with the gentlemen, explaining to them that the count was his closest friend and that he didn’t wish to harm him at all. The count only needed to apologize to him–then everything would be fine. He wanted to tell them in confidence that he would also pay off all his friend’s debts immediately on the day after the wedding.

But the officers declared that while all that was very nice it had nothing at all to do with them. The cavalry captain felt insulted and demanded satisfaction. Their task was only to ask if he were gentleman enough to accept the challenge, an exchange of three shots at a distance of fifteen paces.

Dr. Mohnen started, “Three–three exchanges.” he stammered.

The Hussar officers laughed, “Now calm yourself Herr Doctor! The Court of Honor would never in their lives allow such an insane challenge for such a small offence. It is only in good form.”

Dr. Mohnen could see that. He counted on the healthy common sense of the gentlemen of the Court of Honor as well and accepted the challenge.

He did more than that, ran at once to his fraternity house with it and requested seconds, then he sent two students in haste to challenge the Captain for his side–five bullet exchanges at ten paces is what he demanded. That would make him look good and most certainly impress the little Fräulein.

The mixed Court of Honor, composed of officers and fraternity members, were reasonable enough and settled on a single exchange of bullets at twenty paces. That couldn’t do much mischief and honor would be served.

Hans Geroldingen smiled as he heard the verdict and bowed in agreement. But Dr. Mohnen turned very pale. He had calculated that they would declare the duel unnecessary and demand each side to apologize to the other. It was only one bullet but it could still strike!

Early the next morning they solemnly traveled out into Kotten forest in civilian clothes. There were seven carriages, three Hussar officers and the regiment doctor, then Dr. Mohnen and with him Wolf Gontram, two Saxonia fraternity brothers, one from the Phalia fraternity as the impartial guest official who was acting as umpire, one for Dr. Peerenbohm, the fraternity doctor, an old gentleman from the hills, along with carriages for the fraternity seconds and the two officer seconds as well as an assistant for the regimental doctor.

His Excellency ten Brinken was there as well. He had offered his medical help to his office manager, then searched out his old medical case and had everything polished up like new.

For two hours they rode through the laughing dawn. Count Geroldingen was in a very good mood. He had received a little letter from Lendenich the evening before. There was a four-leaf clover inside and a slip of paper with one word on it, “Mascot”.  He put the letter in his lower left vest pocket. It made him laugh and dream of all kinds of good things.

He chatted with his comrades, make jokes about the childish duel. He was the best pistol shot in the city and joked that he would like to shoot a button off the doctor’s coat sleeve. But you could never be sure of these things, especially with a strange pistol. It would be much better to just shoot into the air. It would be a mean trick if the good doctor got so much as even a scratch.

But Dr. Mohnen, who sat together in the carriage with the Privy Councilor and young Gontram, said nothing at all. He had also received a small letter that carried the large slanting letters of Fräulein ten Brinken. It contained a dainty golden horseshoe. But he never once really looked at his mascot, only murmured something about childish superstition and threw the letter on his writing desk.

He was afraid, truly and horribly afraid. It poured itself like dirty mop water over the short-lived enthusiasm of his love. He chided himself for being a complete idiot, getting up this early in the morning only to go riding out to the slaughter. He had a hot burning desire to apologize to the cavalry captain and be done with it. This feeling battled inside him against the feeling of shame that he would feel in front of the Privy Councilor and perhaps even more in front of Wolf who had believed all his tales of heroic deeds.

Meanwhile he gave himself a heroic appearance, attempted to smoke a cigarette and look around calmly. But he was white as chalk when the carriage stopped in the woods and they set off down a narrow footpath to a broad clearing.

The doctors prepared their medical instruments. The umpire opened the pistol case and loaded the murderous weapons. He carefully weighed the powder so that both rounds were equally powerful. They were beautiful weapons that belonged to the umpire.

The seconds chose for their clients, drew straws–short looses, long wins. The cavalry captain smiled at all the solemnity, which no one was really taking seriously. But Dr. Mohnen turned away and stared at the ground. Then the umpire stepped out twenty paces taking such immense leaps that the officers looked with disapproving faces. It did not seem right to them that the umpire was making a farce of it and that proper decorum meant so little.

“The clearing is too small!” Major Von der Osten cried out sarcastically to him.

But the tall umpire answered calmly, “Then the gentlemen can stand in the woods. That would be even better.”

The seconds led the principals to their places. The umpire once more challenged them to reconcile, but didn’t even wait for an answer.

“Since a reconciliation is refused by both sides,” he continued, “I ask the gentlemen to wait on my command–”

A deep sigh from the doctor interrupted him. Karl Mohnen stood there with trembling knees, the pistol fell out of his shaking hand, his face was as pale as a shroud.

“One moment,” cried the fraternity doctor across to the other side as he hurried with long strides up to him. The Privy Councilor, Wolf Gontram, and both gentlemen from Saxonia followed.

“What’s wrong?” asked Dr. Peerenbohm.

Dr. Mohnen gave no answer; he was completely undone and simply stared straight ahead.

“Now what’s wrong with you doctor?” repeated his second, taking the pistol up from the ground and pressing it back into his hand.

But Karl Mohnen remained quiet. He looked as if he were drunk. Then a smile slid over the broad face of the Privy Councilor. He stepped up to one of the Saxons and whispered into his ear:

“He had an accident.”

The fraternity brother didn’t understand him right away.

“What do you mean, your Excellency?” he asked.

“Can’t you smell!” whispered the old man.

The Saxons gave a quick laugh but kept the seriousness of the situation. They only took out their handkerchiefs and pressed them over their noses.

“Incontinentia alvi,” declared Dr. Peerenbohm appreciatively.

He took a little flask out of his vest pocket, put a couple drops of tincture of opium on a lump of sugar and handed it to Dr. Mohnen.

“Here, chew on this,” he said and pressed it into the doctor’s mouth. “Now pull yourself together. Seriously–a duel is a very frightening thing!”

But the poor doctor heard nothing, saw nothing, and did not notice the bitter taste of opium on his tongue. He confusedly sensed that the people were leaving him.

Then he heard the loud voice of the umpire, “One.”

It rang in his ears–Then “Two,”–at the same time he heard a shot. He closed his eyes, his teeth chattered, his head was spinning.

“Three.”

It sounded from the edge of the woods. Then his own pistol went off and the loud explosion so close stunned him so that his legs gave way. He didn’t fall, he collapsed like a dead pig, broadly setting down on the dew fresh ground.

He sat like that for a minute, although it seemed like an hour. Then it occurred to him that it was over.

“It’s over,” he murmured with a happy sigh.

He felt himself all over–no, he wasn’t wounded. Only, only his trousers were ruined. But what was going on? Nobody was paying any attention to him, so he got up by himself, amazed at the immense speed with which his vitality returned to him.

With deep gulps he drank in the morning air. Oh how good it was to be alive!

Over at the other end of the clearing he saw a tight cluster of people standing together. He polished his Pince-nez and looked through it. Everyone had their back turned toward him. He slowly started across, recognized Wolf Gontram who was standing a long way back. Then he saw two kneeling and someone lying down in the middle. Was it the cavalry captain? Could he have been shot? Had he even fired?

He made a little detour through the high fir trees, came out closer and could now see perfectly. He saw how the count caught sight of him, saw how he weakly beckoned with his hand. They all made room for him as he stepped into the circle. Hans Geroldingen stretched his right hand out to him. He kneeled down and grasped it.

“Forgive me,” he murmured. “I didn’t really want to–”

The cavalry captain smiled, “I know, old friend. It was a coincidence. A God damned coincidence!”

Just then a sudden pain seized him; he moaned and groaned miserably.

“I just wanted to tell you doctor, that I’m not angry at you,” he continued weakly.

Dr. Mohnen didn’t answer; a violent twitch went around the corners of his mouth. His eyes filled with tears. Then the doctors pulled him to the side and occupied themselves once more with the wounded man.

“Nothing can be done,” whispered the regimental doctor.

“We must try getting him to the clinic as quickly as possible,” said the Privy Councilor.

“It would not do us any good,” replied Dr. Peerenbohn. “He would die on us during the transport and only give him unnecessary misery and pain.”

The bullet was in the abdomen; it had penetrated through all the intestines and impacted against the spine where it was now lodged. It was as if it had been drawn there by a mysterious force, straight through Alraune’s letter, through the four-leaf clover and the beloved word, “Mascot”.

It was the little attorney Manasse that saved Dr. Mohnen. When Legal Councilor Gontram showed him the letter he had just received from Lendenich, he declared that the Privy Councilor was the most base, low down, scoundrel that he had ever known. He implored his colleague to not deliver the letter to the District Attorney’s office until the doctor was safe.

It was not about the duel–The authorities had begun proceedings for that on the same day. No, it was about the embezzlement at his Excellency’s office. The attorney himself ran to the delinquent and hauled him out of bed.

“Get up!” he snapped. “Dress! Pack your suitcase! Take the next train to Antwerp and board a ship as quickly as possible! You are an ass! You are a camel! How could you do such a stupid thing?”

Dr. Mohnen rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. The way he stood with the Privy Councilor–

But Herr Manasse didn’t let him finish.

“How you stand with him?” he barked. “Yes, you stand just splendidly with him! Magnificent! Unsurpassed! You fool–It is his Excellency himself that has ordered the Legal Councilor to go to the District Attorney’s office because you have stolen money out of his cash box!”

At that Karl Mohnen decided to crawl out of bed. It was Stanislaus Schacht, his old friend, that helped him get away. He studied the departure schedules, gave him the money that was needed and hired the taxi that would take him to Cologne.

It was a sad parting. Karl Mohnen had lived for over thirty years in this city. Every house, almost every stone held a memory for him. His roots were here; here alone his life had meaning. Now he was thrust forth, head over heels, out into some strange–

“Write me,” said fat Schacht. “What will you do?”

Karl Mohnen hesitated, everything appeared utterly destroyed, collapsed and in pieces. His life had become a confused rubbish pile.

He shrugged his shoulders; his good-natured eyes had a forlorn look.

“I don’t know,” he murmured.

But then the old habit crept across his lips and he smiled through his tears.

“I will find a wife,” he said. “There are many rich girls over there–in America.”

 

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Alraune ten Brinken turned around in the saddle, toyed with the riding whip.

“Dead,” she said slowly. “Dead. That’s really too bad.”

She lightly struck her horse and walked it up to the gate.

“Fräulein,” screamed Frau Lisbeth. “Fräulein, Fräulein–”

Frau Lisbeth ran to the Privy Councilor overflowing with all her despair and hatred. The Privy Councilor let her talk until she quieted down. Then he said that he understood her pain and was not offended at what she had said. He was also prepared, despite the notice, to pay three months of her husband’s wages. But she needed to be reasonable, should be able to see that her husband alone carried the blame for the regrettable accident.

She ran to the police and they were not even polite to her. They had seen it coming, they said. Everyone knew that Raspe was the wildest driver on the entire Rhine. They had done their duty many times by trying to warn him. She should be ashamed of herself for trying to lay the blame on the young Fräulein! Had she ever been seen driving? Yesterday or ever?

Then she ran to an attorney, then a second and a third. But they were honest people and told her that they could not move forward with a lawsuit even when she wanted to pay in advance. Oh, certainly, anything was possible and conceivable, why not? But did she have any proof? No, none at all. Well then! She should just go quietly back home. There was nothing that she could do. Even if everything that she said was true and could be proved–her husband would still carry the blame. He was a grown man, a skilled and experienced chauffeur, while the Fräulein was an inexperienced scarcely grown thing–

So she went back home. She buried her husband in the little cemetery behind the church. She packed all her things and loaded them onto the cart herself. She took the money the Privy Councilor had given her, took her boys and left.

A couple of days later a new chauffeur moved into her old living quarters. He was short, fat and drank a lot. Fräulein ten Brinken didn’t like him and seldom went driving alone with him. He never got any speeding tickets and the people said that he was a good driver, much better than wild Raspe had been.

 

“Little moth,” said Alraune ten Brinken when Wolf Gontram stepped into the room one evening.

The beautiful eyes of the youth glowed.

“You are the candle flame,” he said.

Then she spoke, “You will burn your beautiful wings and then you will lie on the floor like an ugly worm. Be careful Wolf Gontram.”

He looked at her and shook his head.

“No,” he said. “This is the way I want it.”

And every long evening he flew around the flame. Two others flew around it as well and got burned. Karl Mohnen was one and the other was Hans Geroldingen. It was a matter of honor for Dr. Mohnen to court her.

“A perfect match,” he thought. “Finally, she is the right one!”

And his little ship rushed in with full sails. He was always a little in love with every woman but now his brain burned under his bald head, making him foolish, letting him feel for this one girl everything that he had felt for dozens of other women one after the other back through the years. Like always he made the assumption that Alraune ten Brinken felt the same ardent desire toward him, a love that was boundless, limitless and breathless.

One day he talked to Wolf Gontram about his great new conquest. He was glad the boy rode out to Lendenich–as his messenger of love. He had the boy bring many greetings, hand kisses and small gifts from him. Not just one red rose, that was for gentlemen. He was both lover and beloved and needed to send more, flowers, chocolates, petit fours, pralines, and fans, hundreds of little things and knick-knacks. The small bit of good taste that he did have and which he had so successfully taught to his ward melted in the blink of an eye in the flickering fire of his love.

The cavalry captain would often go traveling with him. They had been friends for many years. Count Geroldingen had once been nurtured by Dr. Mohnen’s treasures of wisdom just as Wolf Gontram was now being nurtured. Dr. Mohnen had a vast storehouse and gave it out by the handfuls, happy to find someone that would make use of it.

The two of them would go off on adventures together. It was always the doctor that met the ladies and made their acquaintance. Later he would introduce the count as his friend and boast about him. Often enough it was the Hussar officer who finally plucked the ripe cherries from the tree which Karl Mohnen had discovered.

The first time he had pangs of conscience and considered himself as low as they came. He tormented himself for a couple of days and then openly confessed to his friend what he had done. He made vehement excuses saying the girl had made such advances toward him that he had no choice but to submit to her. He was glad that it had happened because now he knew the girl was not worthy of his friend’s love.

Dr. Mohnen made nothing about it, saying that it didn’t matter to him at all, that it was completely all right. Then he gave the example of the Mayan Indians in the Yucatan. It was customary for them to say, “My wife is also my friend’s wife”.

But Count Geroldingen could tell his friend was sick about it so the next time a new acquaintance of the doctor preferred him, he didn’t say anything. Thus it happened over the years that quite a few of Dr. Mohnen’s women also became the handsome cavalry captain’s women as well, exactly like in the Yucatan. Only there was this difference, most of them had never been the doctor’s women at all.

He was the chicari, the beater, that tracked down the game and drove it out into the open–but the hunter was Hans Geroldingen. Yet he was quiet about it, had a good heart and didn’t want to hurt his friend’s feelings. So the beater never noticed when the hunter shot and held himself up as the most glorious Nimrod on the Rhine.

Dr. Mohnen would often say, “Come along count. I’ve made a new conquest, a picture beautiful English girl. I picked her up yesterday at the open air concert and am meeting her tonight on the banks of the Rhine.”

“But what about Elly?” the cavalry captain would reply.

“Replaced,” declared Karl Mohnen grandly.

It was phenomenal how easily he could exchange his current flame for a new one. As soon as he found someone new he was simply done with the old one and didn’t care about her at all. The girls never made any troubles for him either. In that respect he far surpassed the Hussar who always had difficulty letting go and even more difficulty in getting his women to let go of him. For those reasons it required all the energy and persuasive skill of the doctor to take him along to meet some new beauty.

This time he said, “You must see her captain. God, I’m so happy that I have come so lightly through all my adventures and never been caught. Finally I’ve found the right one! She’s enormously rich, enormously. His old Excellency has over thirty million, perhaps forty. Well, what do you say count? His foster daughter is pretty as a picture and fresh as a blossom on a tree limb! By the way, speaking in strict confidence, the little bird is already in my net. I have never been so certain of things!”

“Yes, but what about Fräulein Clara?” returned the cavalry captain.

“Gone,” declared the doctor. “Just today I wrote her a letter saying that my work load had become so overwhelming that I simply had no more time left for her.”

Geroldingen sighed; Fräulein Clara was a teacher in an English finishing school. Dr. Mohnen had met her at a local dance and later introduced him to her. She loved the cavalry captain and he had hoped that for once Dr. Mohnen would take her away from him. He had to start thinking seriously about getting married. Sooner or later it had to happen, his debts were growing and he needed to find some solution.

“Write her the same thing!” cried Karl Mohnen. “God, if I can do it, you can do it as well. You’re just her friend! You have too much conscience man, much too much conscience.”

He wanted to take the count with him to Lendenich, to give him a reason for visiting with the little Fräulein ten Brinken.

He hit his friend lightly on the shoulder; “You’re as sentimental as a freshman, count! I leave one sitting and you blame yourself, always the same old song! But consider what stands to be won this time, the richest heiress on the Rhine. No delay is permitted!”

The cavalry captain rode out there with his friend and fell no less deeply in love with the strange creature who was so very different from all the others that had offered their red lips for him to kiss. As he went back home that night he felt the same way he had that time twenty years ago when for the first time he had taken for himself the girl that his friend adored.

Over the years this had happened so often and he had been so successful at it that his conscience no longer bothered him. But he was ashamed of himself now. This time it was entirely different. His feelings toward this half child were different and he knew that his friend’s emotions were different as well.

There was one thing that consoled him; Dr. Mohnen would certainly not win Fräulein ten Brinken. His chances of doing that were much less than they had been with any of the other women. Really, this time he was not even sure if she would be interested in him. When it came to this little doll all of his natural confidence had completely deserted him.

As far as young Gontram was concerned, it appeared that the Fräulein liked to have her handsome page, as she called him, around. But it was just as clear that he was nothing more than a plaything for Alraune without any will of his own.

No, neither of these two were rivals, not the smooth talking doctor nor the handsome youth. The cavalry captain seriously weighed his chances for the first time in his life. He was from an ancient and noble family and the King’s Hussars were considered the finest regiment in the West.

He was slender and well built, still looked young enough and was soon to be promoted to Major. He was a dilettante, and versed well enough in all the arts. If he had to be honest with himself he would have to admit that it would not be easy to find a Prussian cavalry officer with more interests or more accomplishments than he had. Truthfully it was not surprising that both women and girls threw themselves around his neck. Why shouldn’t Alraune do the same? She could search for a long time before she found anyone better. Even more, as the adopted daughter of his Excellency, she had the only thing that he couldn’t offer, money, and she had it in such immense abundance! The two of them would make an excellent couple, he thought.

Wolf Gontram was in the house sacred to St. Nepomuk every evening and at least three times every week he brought the cavalry captain and the doctor along with him. The Privy Councilor withdrew after the meal, coming in only occasionally for a half hour at a time, listening to them, observing for a bit and withdrawing again, “testing the waters” as he called it.

The three lovers sat around the little Fräulein, looking at her and making love to her, each in their own way.

The young girl enjoyed the attention for awhile but then it began to bore her. Things were getting too monotonous and a little more color was needed to liven up the evenings in Lendenich.

“They should do something,” she said to Wolf Gontram.

The youth asked, “Who should do something?”

She looked at him, “Who? Those two! Dr. Mohnen and the count.”

“Tell them what they should do,” he replied. “I’m sure they will do it.”

Alraune looked at him astonished, “How should I know what they should do? They have to figure that out themselves.”

She put her head in her hands and stared out into the room.

“Wouldn’t it be nice Wölfchen, if they dueled each other? Shot each other dead–both of them?”

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Chapter Nine

Speaks of Alraune’s lovers and what happened to them.

 

 

These were the five men that loved Alraune ten Brinken: Karl Mohnen, Hans Geroldingen, Wolf Gontram, Jakob ten Brinken and Raspe, the chauffeur. The Privy Councilor’s brown volume speaks of them all and this story of Alraune must speak of them as well.

Raspe, Matthieu-Maria Raspe, came with the Opel automobile that Princess Wolkonski gave to Alraune on her seventeenth birthday. He had served with the Hussars but now he not only had to drive the car, he had to help the old coachman with the horses as well. He was married and had two little boys. Lisbeth, his wife, took care of the laundry in the house of ten Brinken. They lived in the little cottage near the library right beside the iron-gated entrance to the courtyard.

Matthieu was blonde, big and strong. He understood his work and used his head as well as his hands. The horses obeyed his touch just as well as the automobile did. Early one morning he saddled the Irish mare of his Mistress, stood in the courtyard and waited. The Fräulein slowly came down the steps from the mansion. She was dressed as a young boy wearing yellow leather gaiters, a gray riding suit and a little riding cap to cover her hair.

She did not use the stirrup but had him lace his fingers together, stepped into them and stayed like that for a short second before swinging herself up astride the saddle. Then she hit the horse a sharp blow with the whip so that it reared up and tore out through the open gate. Mattheiu-Maria had all kinds of trouble mounting his heavy chestnut gelding and catching up to her.

Brown haired Lisbeth closed the gate behind them. She pressed her lips together and watched them go–her husband whom she loved and Fräulein ten Brinken whom she hated.

Somewhere out in the meadow the Fräulein came to a stop, turned around and let him catch up.

“Where should we ride today, Matthieu-Maria?” she asked.

He said, “Wherever the Fräulein commands.”

Then she tore the mare around and galloped further.

“Jump Nellie!” she cried.

Raspe hated these morning rides no less than his wife did. It was as if the Fräulein rode alone, as if he were only air, a part of the landscape, or as if he did not exist at all to his mistress. But then when she did take the trouble to notice him for even a second he felt still more annoyed. For then it was certain that she was going to demand something unusual of him once more.

She stopped at the Rhine and waited quietly until he came up to her side. He rode as slow as he could, knowing that she had come up with some new notion and hoped she would forget it by the time he got there. But she never forgot a notion.

“Matthieu-Maria,” she said, “should we swim across?”

He raised objections knowing ahead of time that it would be useless.

“The banks on the other side are too steep,” he said. “You can’t climb back up out of the water, especially right here where the current is so rapid and–”

He got angry. It was all so pointless, the things his mistress did. Why should they ride across the Rhine? They would get all wet and cold. He would be lucky not to come down with a cold from it. It was all for nothing, once more for nothing. He made up his mind to stay behind. She could do her foolishness alone. What was it to him? He had a wife and children–

That was as far as he got before riding into the stream. He plunged deep into the water with his heavy Mecklenburger and had all kinds of trouble arriving safely somewhere onto the rocks on the other side. He shook himself off angrily and swore, then rode out of the stream at a sharp trot up to his mistress. She gave him a brief sardonic glance.

“Did you get wet, Matthieu-Maria?”

He remained quiet, insulted and angry. Why did she have to call him by his forename? Why was she so familiar with him? He was Raspe, the chauffeur, and not a stable boy. His brain found a dozen good replies but his lips didn’t speak them.

Another day they rode to the dunes where the Hussars practiced. That was even more embarrassing to him. Many of the officers and non-commissioned officers knew him from the time he had served with the regiment.

The mustached sergeant of the 2nd squadron called out derisively to him.

“Well Raspe, are you going to ride with us awhile?”

“The devil take that crazy female,” growled Raspe.

But he galloped along at the rear and during the attack rode at the side of the Fräulein. Then Count Geroldingen, cavalry captain, came over with his English piebald to chat with the Fräulein. Raspe stayed back but she spoke loud enough so that he could hear.

“Well count, how do you like my esquire?”

The cavalry captain laughed, “Splendid! Well suited for such a young prince as yourself!”

Raspe wanted to box his ears, the Fräulein’s as well, and the sergeant’s, and the entire squadron that was grinning at him. He was embarrassed and turned red as a schoolboy.

But the afternoons were even worse when he had to go driving with her in the automobile. He sat in his place behind the wheel squinting at the door and sighed in relief when someone came out of the house with her, suppressed a curse when she came out alone.

Often he had his wife find out if she wanted to go driving alone. Then he would quickly take a few parts out of the machine and lie under it on his back, greasing and cleaning them as if he were repairing something.

“We can’t go driving today Fräulein,” he would say.

Then he would smile in satisfaction after she was out of the garage. One time it didn’t go so well for him. She stayed there in the garage quietly waiting. She didn’t say anything, but it seemed to him as if she knew very well what he was up to. Then he slowly bolted everything back together.

“Ready?” she asked.

He nodded.

“You see,” she said, “how better it goes when I’m here Matthieu-Maria.”

When he came back from that drive, when his Opel was once more in the garage and he was setting down to the meal his wife set out for him, he trembled, he was pale and his eyes stared at nothing. Lisbeth didn’t ask, she knew what it was about.

“That damned female!” he murmured.

She brought out the blonde, blue eyed boys to him, white in their fresh pajamas and set one on each knee. Slowly he became happy and at ease with his laughing children. Then after his boys were in bed, he sat outside on the stone bench smoking his cigarette, strolled through the village and through the ancient garden of the Brinkens, talking things over with his wife.

“No good can come of it,” he said. “She rushes and rushes. No speed is fast enough for her. Fourteen speeding tickets in three weeks–”

“You don’t have to pay them,” said Frau Lisbeth.

“No,” he said. “But I am notorious for it. The police take out their notebooks whenever they see the white car with ‘I.Z.937’ on it!”

He laughed, “Well, they aren’t wrong in taking our number. We deserve every one of our tickets.”

He quieted, took a wrench out of his pocket and played with it. His wife pushed her arm under his, took his cap off and stroked back his tangled hair.

“What does she want anyway?” she asked.

She took pains to make her voice sound innocent and indifferent.

Raspe shook his head, “I don’t know Lisbeth. She is crazy. That’s what it is and she has some damned way about her that makes people do what she wants even when they are entirely against it and know that it is wrong.”

“What did she do today?” his wife asked.

He said, “No more than usual. She can’t stand to see another car in front of us. She must pass it and even if it has thirty more horsepower than ours, she wants to catch up to it. ‘Catch it,’ she says to me and if I hesitate she lightly touches my arm with her hand and I let loose as if the devil himself were driving the machine.”

He sighed, brushed the cigarette ash off his pants.

“She always sits next to me,” he continued, “and just her sitting there makes me really upset and nervous. All I can think about is what kind of foolishness she’s going to make me do this time. Her greatest joy is jumping the car over obstacles, boards, sand piles and things like that. I’m no coward, but there should be some purpose to it if you are going to risk your life every day. ‘Just drive,’ she says. ‘Nothing will happen to me.’ She is calm when she jumps over a road ditch at one hundred kilometers/hour. It’s possible that nothing can happen to her, but some time I’m going to make a mistake, tomorrow or the next day!”

Lisbeth pressed his hand. “You must simply try to not obey her. Say ‘No’ when she wants to do something stupid! You are not permitted to take such chances with your life. It is not fair to us, to me or the children.”

He looked straight at her, still and calm. “I know that. It’s not fair to you or even to myself. But you see, that’s just it. I can not say ‘No’ to the Fräulein. Nobody can. Look how young Herr Gontram runs after her like a puppy dog, look at the way the others are happy to fulfill all of her foolish notions! Not one of all the people in the household can endure being around the Fräulein. Yet everyone of them will do what she wants even if it is stupid or disgusting.”

“That’s not true!” said Lisbeth. ”Froitsheim, the coachman, won’t, not at all.”

He whistled, “Froitsheim! You’re right. He turns around and walks away whenever he sees her. But he is almost ninety years old and hasn’t had any blood in his body for a long time.”

She looked at him in surprise, “Does she stir your blood then, Matthieu? Is that why you must do what she wants?”

He evaded her eyes and looked down at the ground. But then he took her hand and looked straight at her.

“Well you see Lisbeth, I don’t know what it is. I’ve often thought about it, what it really is. When I see her I get so angry that I could strangle her. When she’s not there I run around full of fear that she might call me.”

He spit on the ground. “Damn it all!” he cried. “I wish I was rid of this job! Wish I had never accepted it.”

They talked it over, turning it this way and that, weighing everything for and against it and finally they came to the conclusion that he should give his notice. But before doing that he should go into the city the very next day and look for a new position.

That night Frau Lisbeth slept peacefully for the first time in months but Matthieu-Maria didn’t sleep at all. He requested a leave of absence the next morning and went to the job placement office in the city. He was really lucky. The agent took him to meet with a Councilor of the Chamber of Commerce that was looking for a chauffeur and he got the job. He received a higher salary than what he had been getting, fewer work hours and didn’t have to do anything with horses.

As they stepped out of the house the agent congratulated him. But he had a feeling as if there was nothing he should be thankful for, as if he would never work at this new job.

Still, it made him happy to see his wife’s eyes light up in joy when he told her.

“In fourteen days,” he said. “If only the time was already gone!”

She shook her head. “No,” she said firmly. “Not fourteen days. Do it tomorrow! You must insist, talk with the Privy Councilor.”

“That won’t do any good,” he replied. “He would inform the Fräulein and then–”

Frau Lisbeth grasped his hand. “Leave it alone!” she decided. “I will speak with the Fräulein myself.”

She left him standing there, went across the courtyard and announced herself. While she waited she considered exactly what she wanted to say so they would be permitted to leave that very morning. But she didn’t need to say anything at all. The Fräulein only listened, heard that he wanted to go without notice, nodded curtly and said that it was all right.

Frau Lisbeth flew back to her man, embraced and kissed him.

“Only one more night and the bad dream will be over.”

They must pack quickly and he should telephone the Councilor to the Chamber of Commerce to tell him that he could begin his new job the next morning. They pulled the old trunk out from under the bed and her bright enthusiasm infected him. He pulled out his iron bound chest as well, dusted it off and helped her pack, passing things to her. He ran into the village to hire a boy to bring a cart for hauling things away. He laughed and was content for the first time in the house of ten Brinken.

Then, as he was taking a cook pot from the stove and wrapping it in newspaper Aloys, the servant, came.

He announced, “The Fräulein wants to go driving.”

Raspe stared at him and didn’t say a word.

“Don’t go!” cried his wife.

He said, “Please inform the Fräulein that as of today I am no longer–”

He didn’t finish. Alraune ten Brinken stood in the door.

She said, “Matthieu-Maria, I let you go tomorrow. Today you will go driving with me.”

Then she left and behind her went Raspe.

“Don’t go! Don’t go!” screamed Frau Lisbeth.

He could hear her screams but didn’t know who it was or where they came from. Frau Lisbeth fell heavily onto the bench. She heard both of their steps as they crossed the courtyard to the garage. She heard the iron gate creak open on its hinges, heard the auto as it drove out onto the street and heard as well the short blast of the horn. That was the farewell greeting her husband always gave each time he left for the city. She sat there with both hands on her lap and waited, waited until they brought him back. Four farmers carried him in on a mattress and laid him down in the middle of the room among the trunks and boxes. They undressed him, helped wash him and did as the doctor commanded. His long white body was full of blood, dust and dirt.

Frau Lisbeth knelt beside him without words, without tears. The old coachman came and took the screaming boys away, then the farmers left and finally the doctor as well. She never asked him, not with words or with her eyes. She already knew the answer that he would give.

Once in the middle of the night Raspe woke up and opened his eyes. He recognized her, asked for some water and she gave him some to drink.

“It is over,” he said weakly.

She asked, “What happened?”

He shook his head, “I don’t know. The Fräulein said, ‘Faster, Matthieu-Maria’. I didn’t want to do it. Then she laid her hand on mine and I felt her through my glove and I did it. That’s all I know.”

He spoke so softly that she had to put her ear next to his mouth to hear and when he was quiet she whispered.

“Why did you do it?”

Again he moved his lips, “Forgive me Lisbeth! I had to do it. The Fräulein–”

She looked at him, startled by the hot look in his eyes, and her tongue suddenly cried out the thought almost before her brain could even think it.

“You, you love her?”

Then he raised his head the width of a thumb and murmured with closed eyes, “Yes, yes– I –love driving–with her.”

Those were the last words he spoke. He sank back into a deep faint and lay like that until the early morning when he passed away. Frau Lisbeth stood up. She ran to the door and old Froitsheim took her into his arms.

“My husband is dead,” she said.

The coachman made the sign of the cross and made to go past her into the room but she held him back.

“Where is the Fräulein?” she asked quickly. “It she alive? Is she hurt?”

The deep wrinkles in the old face deepened, “Is she alive?–Whether she even lives! She’s standing over there! Wounded? Not a scratch. She just got a little dirty!”

He pointed with trembling fingers out into the courtyard. There stood the slender Fräulein in her boy’s suit, setting her foot into the laced fingers of a Hussar, swinging up into the saddle.

“She telephoned the cavalry captain,” said the old coachman. “Told him she had no groom this morning, so the count sent that fellow over.”

Lisbeth ran across the courtyard.

“He is dead!” she cried. “My man is dead.”

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“That must be nice!” growled little Manasse as he sat in the park with the Legal Councilor and his son listening to a concert. “If she doesn’t turn back around soon her neck will really hurt!”

“Who are you taking about?” asked the Legal Councilor.

“Who? Her Royal Highness!” cried the attorney. “Look over there Herr Colleague. She’s been staring at your rascal for the last half hour, craning her neck around to look at him.”

“God, just let her be,” answered the Legal Councilor good-naturedly.

But little Manasse wouldn’t give up.

“Sit over here Wolf!” he commanded and the young man obeyed sitting beside him and turning his back to the princess.

Yes, this beauty frightened the little attorney. He felt that it was a mask and he could hear death laughing behind it just as he believed it had done for the boy’s mother. And that pained him, tortured him until he almost hated the young man, even as he had once loved his mother. This hatred was strange enough, it was a nightmare, a burning desire that young Gontram’s fate would soon be fulfilled, that it would happen suddenly–much better today than tomorrow.

Still it was the attorney that tried to liberate the boy from his fate if he could and did everything possible to help, to smooth his life out as much as possible. When his Excellency ten Brinken stole his foster son’s fortune he was beside himself.

“You are a fool! An Idiot!”

He barked at the Legal Councilor. He dearly wanted to nip at his heels like his poor dead hound, Cyclops, had done and he set down to the father in smallest detail every way his son had been swindled, one after the other.

The Privy Councilor had taken over the vineyards and fields that Wolf had inherited from his aunt and scarcely paid fair market price for them. Then he had discovered no less than three mineral springs on those same grounds that he now bottled and profited from.

“We would have never thought of that,” responded the Legal Councilor quietly.

The little attorney spit in anger. “That doesn’t matter! The properties are worth six times as much today and the old swindler didn’t even pay that. He deducted over half of the price for the boy’s upkeep. It is an obscenity–”

But it made no impression at all on the Legal Councilor. He was a good man, so full of goodness that he only saw the goodness in others as well. He was ready to find a bit of it in the lowest criminals no matter what their crimes. So he thought highly of the Privy Councilor for hiring the boy to work in his offices. Then he threw in his trump card. The Privy Councilor himself had told him that he wanted to remember his son sufficiently in his will.

“Him? Him?” The attorney became bright red with restrained anger and plucked at the gray stubble of his beard.

“He won’t leave the boy one copper!”

But the Legal Councilor closed the debate, “Besides, a Gontram has never gone bad as long as the Rhine has flowed.” And in that he was completely right.

Every evening since Alraune returned Wolf rode out to Lendenich. Dr. Mohnen procured a horse for him from his friend, cavalry captain, Count Geroldingen, who placed it at his disposal. His mentor also had the young man learn dancing and fencing.

“A man of the world must know these things,” he declared and told of wild rides, triumphant duels and huge successes in ball rooms even though he himself had never climbed on a horse, never stood in front of a sword and could scarcely skip to the polka.

Wolf Gontram would bring the count’s horse to the stables and then walk across the courtyard to the mansion. He always brought one rose, never more than one. That’s what Dr. Mohnen had taught him. But it was always the most beautiful rose in the entire city.

Alraune would take his rose and slowly pluck it. Every evening it went that way. She would fold the petals together in her hands and then blow them explosively against his forehead and his cheeks. That was the favor she granted him. He did not demand anything else. He dreamed of having her–but not once did he act on those dreams and his unmastered desire circled and filled the room.

Wolf Gontram followed the strange creature that he loved like a shadow. She called him Wölfchen like she had done as a child.

“Because you are such a big dog,” she declared, “with long shaggy black hair and very handsome. You also have such deep, trusting and questioning eyes–that’s why! Because you are not good for anything Wölfchen, other than to run behind me and carry my things.”

Then she would call him over to lie down in front of her chair and she would put her little feet on his breast, stroke him across the cheeks with her soft doe-skin shoes, then throw them off and poke the tips of her toes between his lips.

“Kiss, kiss,” and she laughed as he kissed all around the fine silk stockings that enclosed her feet.

The Privy Councilor squinted at young Gontram with a sour smile. He was as ugly as the boy was beautiful–He knew that very well, but he was not afraid that Alraune would fall in love with him. It was just that his constant presence was uncomfortable to him.

“He doesn’t need to come over here every night,” he grumbled.

“Yes he does!” responded Alraune–so Wölfchen came.

The professor thought, “Very well then, my boy, swallow the hook!”

So Alraune became mistress of the house of Brinken from the very first day she came back from school. She was the mistress and yet remained a stranger, remained an outsider, a thing that would not grow in this ancient earth, not in this community that had planted roots and breathed the ancient air.

The servants, the maids, the coachman and the gardener only called her Fräulein and so did all the people of the village. They would say, “There goes the Fräulein,” and said it as if she came from somewhere else and was only visiting. But Wolf Gontram called her the young Master.

The shrewd Privy Councilor noticed these things at once and it occurred to him that the people sensed she was different. He wrote in the leather volume, “and the animals sense it too! The animals–the horses and the hounds, the slender roe-buck that run around in the garden and even the little squirrels that scurry through the tops of the trees.”

Wolf Gonram was their great friend. They raised their heads and ran up to him when he was near. But they slunk quietly away when the Fräulein was with him.

Her influence extended only to people thought the professor. Animals are immune and he counted the farmers and servants among the animals. They had the same healthy instincts, he reflected, some instinctive dislike that was half fear.

She can be very happy that she was born into this world now and not five centuries ago. She would have been accused of being a witch in a month’s time in this little village of Lendenich–and the Bishop would have been given a good roast.

This aversion of the people and animals toward Alraune delighted the old gentleman almost as much as the strange attraction she exerted on the higher born. He always noted new examples of this affection and hatred even though he did find exceptions in both camps.

From the records of the Privy Councilor it shows that he was convinced there was some factor in Alraune that brought about a sharp and well-defined influence on her surroundings. The professor was inclined to gather evidence that would support his hypothesis and to reject anything that didn’t.

As a result his manuscript was much less a report over the things she did–than a relating of what others did under her influence. It was primarily an account of the people that came in contact with her, and how they played out the life of the creature Alraune.

To the Privy Councilor she was a true phantom, an unreal thing that had no real life of her own, a shadow creature that reflected the ultraviolet radiation of others back at them, causing them to do the things they did.

He doggedly pursued this idea and never really believed that she was human at all. He even spoke to her as if she were an unreal thing that he had given a body and form, as if she were a bloodless doll that he had given a living mask. That flattered his old vanity and was why Alraune affected his life more than she did any of the others.

So he polished his doll and made her more colorful and beautiful each day. He allowed her to be mistress and submitted to her wishes and moods just like the others, but with this difference. He always believed he had the game in hand, was firmly convinced that ultimately it was only his individual will that was being reflected back and expressed through the medium of Alraune.

 


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Chapter Eight

Details how Alraune became Mistress of the House of Brinken.

 

 

When Alraune once more returned to the house on the Rhine that was sacred to St. Nepomuk the Privy Councilor ten Brinken was seventy-six years old. But that was only calendar age. There was no weakness or even the smallest amount of pain to remind him of it. He felt warm and sunny in the old village that was now threatened to be seized by the growing fingers of the city.

He hung like a fat spider in the strong web of his power as it extended out in all directions and he felt a light titillation at Alraune’s home coming. She would be a welcome plaything for his whims and equally amusing bait that should entice many more stupid flies and moths into his web.

When Alraune came she didn’t appear that much different to the old man than she had been as a child. He studied her for a long time as she sat in front of him in the library and found nothing that reminded him of her father or her mother.

The young girl was petite, pretty, slender, narrow-chested and not yet developed. Her figure was like that of a boy’s as were her quick, somewhat awkward movements. He thought she looked like a doll, only her head was not a doll’s head at all. Her cheekbones protruded, her pale thin lips stretched over her little teeth.

But her hair fell rich and full, not red like her mother’s, but heavy and chestnut brown like that of Frau Josefe Gontram, thought the Privy Councilor. Then it occurred to him that it had been in that house where the idea of Alraune first originated.

He squinted over across where she still sat, observing her critically like a picture, watching her, searching for memories–

Yes, her eyes, they opened wide under saucy thin eyebrows that arched across her smooth narrow forehead. They looked cool and derisive and yet at times soft and dreamy, grass green, hard as steel– like the eyes of his nephew Frank Braun.

The professor shoved out his broad lower lip. That particular discovery did not please him at all– Then he shrugged his shoulders, why shouldn’t the youth who had first conceived of her not share this with her? It was little enough and very dearly bought considering the round millions that this quiet girl had taken from him–

“You have bright eyes,” he said.

She only nodded.

He continued, “And your hair is beautiful. Wölfchen’s mother had hair like that.”

Then Alraune said, “I’m going to cut it off.”

The Privy Councilor commanded, “You will not do that, do you hear?”

But when she came to the evening meal her hair was cut. She looked like a page, her locks falling in curls around her boy’s head.

“Where is your hair?” he cried at her.

Calmly she said, “Here.”

She showed him a large cardboard box. In it lay the shiny meter long bundles of hair.

He began, “Why did you cut it off?–Because I forbid it?–Out of defiance then?”

Alraune smiled, “No, not at all. I would have done it anyway.”

“Then why?” he enquired.

She picked up the box and took out the seven long bundles. Each one was tied and wrapped with a golden cord and there was a little card attached to it.  There were seven names on these seven cards, Emma, Marguèrite, Louison, Evelyn, Anna, Maud and Andrea.

“Are those your school friends?” He asked. “You cut your hair off to send them a keepsake? You foolish child.”

He was angry at this unexpected teenage sentimentalism. It didn’t appeal to him at all. He had imagined the girl much more mature and cold-blooded.

She looked straight at him, “No,” she said. “I don’t care about them at all–only”–she hesitated–

“Only what?” urged the professor.

“Only,” she began again. “Only they should cut their hair off too!”

“Why should they?” cried the old man.

Then Alraune laughed, “–cut their hair completely off! Much more than I have, right down to the scalp. I’ll write them that I have cut my hair right to the scalp–and then they must do it as well!”

“They wouldn’t be that stupid,” he threw back.

“Oh yes they will,” she insisted. “I told them that we should all cut our hair off and they promised they would if I did it first. But I forgot all about it and only remembered again when you spoke of my hair.”

The Privy Councilor laughed at her, “People promise all kinds of things–but they won’t do them. You alone are the fool.”

Then she raised herself up from her chair and came up close to the old man.

“Yes they will,” she whispered hotly. “They will do it. They know very well that I will rip their hair out myself if they don’t–They are afraid of me, even when I’m not there.”

Stirred up and trembling slightly with emotion she stood there in front of him.

“Are you that certain they will do it?” he asked.

She answered with conviction, “Yes, absolutely certain.”

Then the same certainty grew in him as well and he didn’t even wonder why.

“So why did you do it then?” he asked.

In an instant she was transformed. All her strangeness had disappeared and she was once more just a moody and capricious child.

“Well,” she laughed shortly and her little hands stroked the full bundles of hair. “Well, you see–it’s like this. It hurts me, this heavy hair, and I sometimes get headaches from it. I also know that short hair looks good on me but it doesn’t look good on them at all. The senior class of Mademoiselle de Vynteelen will look like a monkey house! The other students will scream at them and call them fools and Mademoiselle will scold them. The new Miss and the Fräulein will scream at them and scold them as well.”

She clapped her hands together laughing brightly with glee.

“Will you help me?” she asked. “How should I send them?”

The Privy Councilor said, “Individually, as samples of no value and have them registered.”

She nodded, “Alright, that’s what I will do!”

During the evening meal she described to him how the girls would look without their hair. The tall rangy Evelyn Clifford had thin straight light blonde hair and full-blooded Louison always wore her brown hair pinned up turban style. Then there were the two Rodenberg Countesses, Anna and Andrea. Their long curly locks encircled their hard bony Westfalen skulls.

“With all their hair gone,” she laughed, “they will look like Meerkats! Everyone will laugh when they see them.”

They went back to the library. The Privy Councilor helped her get the things she needed, got her cardboard boxes, twine, sealing wax and postage stamps. Then he smoked his cigar, chewing half of it while watching her write her letters, seven little letters to seven girls in Spa.

The old family crest of the Brinkens was on the top of each letter, John of Nepomuk, patron Saint and protector against floods, was in the upper field, below was a silver heron fighting with a serpent–The heron was the heraldic animal of the Brinkens.

He looked at her and a faint itch crept over his old skin. Old memories began to grow in him, lustful thoughts of half-grown boys and girls–She, Alraune, was both a boy and a girl. Moist spittle dribbled down from his fleshy lips, soaking into the black Havana. He squinted over at her, eager and full of trembling desire. In that minute he understood what it was that attracted people to this slender petite creature like the little fish that swim after the bait and don’t see the hook.

But he could see the sharp hook very well and thought he knew a way to avoid the hook and still consume the sweet morsel–

Wolf Gontram worked at the Privy Councilor’s office in the city. His foster father had taken him out of school after one year and stuck him in a bank as an apprentice. There he had forgotten everything he had so laboriously learned at school. He settled into his job and did just what was demanded of him. Then when his apprenticeship came to an end he went to the Privy Councilor’s office to work as a secretary.

It was a strange business, being a secretary for his Excellency. Karl Mohnen, Ph.D. four times over, was office manager and his old boss found him useful enough. He still went through life looking for the right person to get married to. Wherever he went he made new acquaintances and hung out with the new set. But it never led to anything. His hair was long gone but his nose was still as good as always–he was always sniffing around for something, a woman for himself or a business opportunity for the Privy Councilor–and he was good at it.

A couple of accountants kept the books in order well enough to keep things going and there was a room that bore the sign “Legal Business”. Legal Councilor Gontram and Herr Manasse, who had not yet been promoted to Legal Councilor, sometimes spent an hour in it. They took care of the Privy Councilor’s ample lawsuits as they handsomely multiplied. Manasse took the hopeful ones that would end in a victory and the old Legal Councilor took the bad ones, prolonging them and postponing them until finally bringing them to an acceptable compromise.

Dr. Mohnen had his own office as well. Wolf Gontram sat in this office as his protégé and he sought to educate the boy in his own way. This man of the world knew a lot, scarcely less than little Manasse, but he never acted upon that knowledge or did anything with it.

He had gathered his information just like as a boy he had collected stamps, because his schoolmates were doing it. Now his stamp collection lay in a desk drawer someplace. Only when someone wanted to see a rare stamp did he take it out and flip through it.

“There, Saxony, red!”

Something had attracted him to Wolf Gontram. Perhaps it was the big black eyes that he had once loved when they belonged to Wolf’s mother. He loved them as well as he could considering how he loved five hundred other beautiful eyes as well. Yet the farther back his relationship with a woman, the greater it now appeared. Today he felt as if he had once had the most intimate trust of this woman whose son now worked with him even though he had not once even kissed her hand.

And so it came about that young Gontram took in all his little love stories and believed them. Not for one second did he doubt the doctor’s heroic deeds and solidly held him up as the great seducer that he so terribly wanted to be himself.

Dr. Mohnen selected his wardrobe, showed him how to tie a bowtie and made him elegant–as much as he understood elegant–

He gave him books, took him with to the theater and to concerts in order to always have a grateful audience for his stories. He held himself to be a man of the world and wanted to make Wolf Gontram into one as well. And it was no lie that the Gontram youth had him alone to thank for everything that he became. Dr. Mohnen was the teacher that was needed, that demanded nothing and always gave day after day. Minute by minute without even knowing it he fashioned a new life for Wolf Gontram.

Wolf Gontram was beautiful, everyone in the city could see that except Karl Mohnen who thought beauty was only possible in tight association with skirts and to whom everything was beautiful that wore long hair and nothing else.

But the others saw it. Even when he was going to school old Gentlemen turned as he went by and squinted after him, officers glanced at him and turned pale whenever he was around. Many a well-groomed head with jaded tastes sighed–and quickly suppressed the hot desire and longing that screamed inside them. But now the glances came from under veils or grand hats. The beautiful eyes of women now followed the young man.

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But Alraune ten Brinken had never been so healthy. During this time she put on weight, positively blossomed and gaily ran around through all the sick rooms. No one troubled themselves over her during these weeks as she ran up and down the stairs, sat on all the beds and told the children that they were going to die the next day and go to hell. While she, Alraune would continue to live and go to heaven.

She gave away all of her pictures of the saints telling the sick girls that they could diligently pray to the Madonna and to the sacred heart of Jesus–but it wouldn’t do them any good. They would still heartily burn and roast–It was simply amazing how vividly she could describe these torments. Sometimes when she was in a good mood she would be generous. Then she would promise them only a hundred thousand years in purgatory. That was bad enough for the minds of the pious sick little girls.

The doctor finally unceremoniously threw Alraune out of the rooms. The sisters were absolutely convinced that she had brought the illness into the convent and sent her head over heels back home.

The professor was tickled and laughed over this report. He became a little more serious when shortly after the child’s arrival two of his maids contracted typhus and both soon died in the hospital.

He wrote an angry letter to the supervisor of the convent and complained bitterly that under the existing circumstances they should have never sent the little one back home. He refused to pay the tuition payment for the last half of the year and energetically insisted that he be reimbursed for the monies he had put out for his two sick maids–From a sanitary point of view the sisters should not have been permitted to act as they had done.

His Excellency ten Brinken did not handle things much differently. While he was not exactly afraid of contagion, like all doctors he would much rather observe illness in others than in his own body. He let Alraune stay in Lendenich only until he found a good finishing school in the city. By the fourth day he had already sent her to Spa, to the illustrious Institute of Mlle. de Vynteelen.

Silent Aloys had to escort her. As far as the child was concerned the trip went without incident but he did have two little incidents to report. On the train trip there he had found a pocket book with several pieces of silver and on the trip back home he had slammed his finger in the compartment door of the car he was riding in. The Privy Councilor nodded in satisfaction at Aloy’s report.

The Head Mistress was Fräulein Becker who had grown up in the University City on the Rhine and always went back there on her vacations. She had much to relate to the Privy Councilor over the years that Alraune stayed with her.

Right from the first day that Alraune arrived in the ancient building on Marteau Avenue her dominion began and it was not only imposed on her schoolmates. It was also imposed on the instructors, most especially over the Miss, who after only a few weeks had become a plaything for the absurd moods of the little girl, without any will of her own.

At breakfast on that very first day Alraune declared that she didn’t like honey and marmalade and much more preferred butter. Naturally Mlle. de Vynteelen didn’t give her any. It was only a few days until several of the other girls began to crave butter as well. Finally a large cry for butter went up throughout the entire Institute.

Even Miss Paterson, who had never in her life enjoyed anything with her morning tea other than toast with jam suddenly felt an uncontrollable desire for butter. So the principal had been obliged to give in to the demand for butter but on that very same day Alraune acquired a preference for orange marmalade.

In response to the Privy Councilor’s pointed question Fräulein Becker declared that the torturing of animals never came up during those years at the Vynteelen School. At least no incidents had ever been discovered. On the other hand, Alraune had made the lives of the other children miserable as well as those of all the instructors, both male and female.

Especially the poor music instructor who always placed his snuffbox on the mantel in the hall during class so he would not be tempted to use it. From the moment of Alraune’s entrance into the school the most remarkable things had been found in it. For example, thick spider webs, wood lice, gunpowder, pepper, writing sand black with ink and once even a chopped up millipede. Several girls were caught doing it and punished–but never Alraune.

Yet she always showed a passive resistance toward the musician, never practiced and during class laid her hands in her lap and never raised them to play an instrument. But when the professor finally complained in despair to the principal Alraune quietly declared that the old man was lying. At that point Mlle. de Vynteelen personally attended the next hour and saw that the little girl knew her lesson exquisitely, could play better than any of the others and showed a remarkable talent.

The Head Mistress reproached the music instructor heavily. He stood there speechless and could say nothing other than, “But it is incredible, incredible!”

From then on the little schoolgirls only called him “Monsieur Incredible”. They called after him whenever they saw him and pronounced the words like he did, as if they didn’t have any teeth in their mouths either.

As for the Miss, she scarcely ever experienced a quiet day. New stupid pranks were always being played on her. They sprinkled itch powder in her bed and one time after a picnic placed a half dozen fleas in it. Then the key to her wardrobe was missing, then the hooks and eyelets were torn from the dress that she wanted to wear. Once as she was going to bed she was almost frightened to death by an effervescent powder reaction in her chamber pot. Another time so many stinging insects flew through her open window that she screamed out for help. Then the chair she sat on was smeared with paint or with glue or she found a dead mouse or an old chicken head in her pocket.

And so it merrily continued, the poor Miss could hardly enjoy an hour of her life. Investigations took place and those girls found guilty were always punished but it was never determined to be Alraune even though everyone was convinced that she was the mastermind behind all the pranks.

The only one that angrily rejected this suspicion was the English woman herself. She swore the girl was innocent up until the day she left the de Vynteelen Institute.

“This hell,” she said, “only shelters one sweet little angel.”

The Privy Councilor grinned as he noted in the leather volume, “That sweet little angel is Alraune.”

As for herself, Fräulein Becker related to the Professor that she had avoided coming into contact with the strange little creature from the very start. That had been easy for her since she was mostly occupied in working with the French and English students. She only had to instruct Alraune in gymnastics and sewing. As for the latter subject, she had quickly exempted her from it when she had seen that not only did Alraune have no interest in sewing, she showed a downright aversion to it.

But in calisthenics, which by the way Alraune always excelled in, she always acted as if she never noticed the joking around the child did. She only once had a little confrontation with her and that was just after Alraune’s entrance into the school. She had to confess that unfortunately Araune had gotten the better of her.

By chance she had overheard Alraune telling her schoolmates about her stay in the convent. The boasting and cheeky bragging was so abominable that she took it as her duty to intervene. On one hand the little one told how splendid and magnificent the convent was and on the other hand she told truly murderous stories about the various misdeeds of the pious sisters.

She herself had been brought up in the Sacré Couer convent in Nancy and knew very well how simple and plain it was and knew as well that the nuns were the most harmless creatures in the world. So she called Alraune into her office and reproached her for telling such fraudulent stories. She also demanded that the girl immediately tell her schoolmates that she had not been telling the truth. When Alraune stubbornly refused, she declared that she would tell them herself.

At that Alraune rose up on her toes, looked straight at her and quietly said, “If you tell them that, Fräulein, I will tell them that your mother has a little cheese shop in her home.”

Fräulein Becker confessed that she had become weak and given in to a false shame. She let the child have her way. There had been something so deliberate and calculated in the soft voice of the child in that moment that she had become afraid. She left Alraune standing there and went to her room happy to avoid an outright quarrel with the little creature.

It wasn’t long before she received her deserved punishment for denying her good mother. By the next day Alraune had already told all the students about her mother’s cheese shop and it cost a lot of effort to again win back the respect which she lost throughout the Institute.

But things were much worse for Alraune’s schoolmates then they were for the instructors. There was not one student in the entire school that had not suffered because of her. Strangely enough it appeared that every new bit of mischief seemed to make her even more popular. She made a point to sacrifice everyone that appeared to stand against her until they were all on her side. She was more popular than any of the other girls.

Fräulein Becker reported some of the worst cases to the Privy Councilor and they were mentioned in the leather volume.

Blanche de Banville had just returned from vacation with her parents in Picardy. The hot-blooded fourteen-year-old had fallen head over heels in love with her cousin who was the same age as she was. She wrote to him from Spa as well and he answered, addressing her letters B.d.B., hold at post office until claimed by addressee. Then he must have found something better to do with his time, in any case no more letters came.

Both Alraune and little Louison knew about her secret. Naturally Blanche was very unhappy and cried through entire nights. Louison sat with her and tried to comfort her. But Alraune declared that it was wrong to console her, her cousin had been unfaithful and betrayed her. Now Blanche needed to die of unrequited love. That was the only way to repay her false lover and make things right. Then for the rest of his life he would be tormented by the furies. She knew several famous stories where it had been like that.

Blanche was agreeable to the dying part but it did not go well. Food always tasted good to her despite her great pain. That’s when Alraune declared that if Blanche couldn’t die of a broken heart she must find some other way to bring it about. She recommended a dagger or a pistol–but they didn’t have either one.

Blanche could not be persuaded to jump out the window, push a hatpin into her heart or hang herself. She just wanted to swallow something, nothing else. Soon Alraune had some new advice. There was a bottle of Lysol in Mlle. de Vynteelen’s medicine chest–Louison must steal it. Unfortunately there was only a little bit left in the bottle so Louison had to scratch the phosphorus heads off a couple boxes of matches as well.

Blanche wrote several farewell letters, one to her parents, the principal and her traitorous lover. Then she drank the Lysol and swallowed the matchheads–They both tasted horrible enough. Just to be certain Alraune had her swallow three packets of needles–She herself, by the way, was not present at this suicide attempt. She had gone to her room under the pretence of being a lookout after Blanche had sworn on the crucifix to follow her instructions exactly.

That evening little Louison sat on the bed with her friend. Crying miserably she handed over first the Lysol, then the match heads and finally the packets of needles. Blanche became very ill from these threefold poisons and was soon writhing and screaming in pain. Louison screamed with her and their screams roared through the entire house. Then she ran out of the room and fetched the Head Mistress and the teachers yelling that Blanche was dying.

Blanche de Banville did not die. A capable doctor quickly gave her an effective emetic that brought the Lysol, phosphorus and needle packets back up again. Still, one of the needle packets had opened up in her stomach and a half dozen needles had gotten loose. They wandered through her body and in the course of her life came out again in all kinds of places painfully reminding the little suicide of her first love.

Blanche lay in bed sick for a long time and had a lot of pain. It appeared that she had been punished enough. Everyone sympathized with her, was good to her and granted her slightest wish. She wished for nothing else but that her two friends that had helped her, Alraune and little Louison, not be punished. She pleaded and begged for so long that the principal finally promised. That was why Alraune was not thrown out of the school.

 

Then it was Hilde Aldekerk’s turn. She loved the Berlin style cakes that were sold in the German confectionery at Place Royal. She claimed she could eat twenty. Alraune bet that she couldn’t polish off thirty. Whoever lost the bet had to pay for the cakes. Hilde Aldekerk won–but she got so sick that she had to stay in bed fourteen days.

“Glutton,” said Alraune ten Brinken. “It serves you right!”

From that point on the only thing all the little girls called fat, round Hilda was “Glutton”. She howled about it for awhile but then got used to her new nickname and finally became one of Alraune’s most faithful companions, just like Blanche de Banville.

Fräulein Becker reported that Alraune had only one time been seriously punished at the school and strangely enough, unjustly. On a full moon night the French teacher stumbled out of her room terrified. She woke the entire household with her screams and yelled that a white ghost was sitting on the balustrade of her balcony. No one would go into her room until they finally woke up the porter who armed himself with a club and went inside.

The ghost turned out to be Alraune who was sitting there in her white night gown and staring with wide-open eyes into the moon. She could not say how she got there. The principal took the playing ghost as a very bad prank. Only much later did it come out that the girl had been seen on several different occasions sleep walking under the influence of the full moon.

Interestingly enough Alraune accepted this unjust punishment–to copy a chapter out of “Tèlèmaque”–without protest and conscientiously carried it out on a free afternoon. She would have most certainly rebelled and resisted any just punishment.

Fräulein Becker concluded, “I fear that your Excellency will not experience much joy from your daughter in the future.”

The Privy Councilor replied, “That might well be, but up to now I believe that I am very well satisfied with her.”

He did not let Alraune come home for vacation the last two years. Instead he permitted her to travel with her school friends, once to Scotland with Maude McPherson, then with Blanche to her parents in Paris and finally with the two Rodenburgs to their family estate in Münster.

He didn’t have any reports from these episodes in Alraune’s life and could only imagine how she occupied herself during these vacations. It was a satisfaction to him to think of how this creature he had created extended her influence outward in ever expanding circles.

In the newspaper he read that during the summer in which Alraune was at Boltenhagen the green and white colors of the old Count Rodenberg did exceedingly well at the track and his stud brought in a considerable winnings.

He also learned that Mlle. de Vynteelen had received an unexpected inheritance that placed her in the position of needing to close the school so she didn’t take any new students and only kept her old students until they graduated.

He attributed both of these things to the presence of Alraune and was half convinced that she brought gold into the other houses she had stayed at, the convent in Nancy, at Reverend McPherson in Edinburgh and the home of the Banvilles on Haussmann Boulevarde. She had made good threefold on her little deviltries.

He felt that all these people ought to feel gratitude to his child, this strange girl that went abroad out into the world bringing gifts and strewing roses upon the life paths of all those that had the fortune to meet her. He laughed as it occurred to him that those roses also had sharp thorns capable on inflicting many beautiful wounds as well.

“By the way,” he asked Fräulein Becker. “How are things going with your dear mother?”

“Why thank you for asking, your Excellency,” she answered. “Mother can’t complain. Her business has grown considerably better during the last few years!”

“Really,” said the Privy Councilor and he gave orders that all cheeses, the Emmenthall, Roquefort, Chester and old Höllander, from now on were to be purchased from Frau Becker on Münster Street.

 

 

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Chapter Seven

Shares the things that occurred when Alraune was a young girl.

 

 

From the time she was eight years old until she was twelve Alraune ten Brinken was raised in the Sacré Couer convent in Nancy. From then until her seventeenth birthday she lived at Mlle. de Vynteelen’s finishing school for young ladies on Du Marteau Avenue in Spa. During this time she went to the ten Brinken home twice a year to spend her vacations.

At first the Privy Councilor tried to have her taught at home. He hired a girl to teach the child, then a tutor and soon after that another one. But even with the best intentions in a short time they all despaired of ever teaching her anything. It was simply not going to happen. It was not something they could point out. She was not wild or unruly. She just never answered and there was nothing that could break through her stubborn silence.

She just sat there quiet and still, staring straight ahead and blinking with half-open eyes. You could scarcely tell if she was even listening. She would pick up the slate in her hand but she would not move it, not up, down, or to make a letter–If she did use it, it was to draw some strange animal with ten legs or a face with three eyes and two noses.

What she learned at all she learned before the Privy Councilor sent her to the convent, before her separation from Wölfchen. This same boy that failed miserably in every class in school and looked down with contempt on any schoolwork had an unending patience with his sister at home.

She had him write long rows of numbers, write out his name and her name hundreds of times and she enjoyed it when he made a mistake, when his dirty little fingers cramped up on him. It was for this purpose that she would take up the slate, the pencil or the writing quill. She would learn a number, a word or its opposite, grasp it quickly, write it down, and then let the boy copy it for hours. She always found something to correct, there, that stroke was not right. She played the teacher–so she learned.

Then one day the principal came out to complain to the Privy Councilor about the pathetic performance of his foster son. Wölfchen was especially weak in the sciences.

Alraune heard this and from then on played school with him, controlled him, made him study till dark, listened to him recite his lessons and made him learn. She would put him in his room, close the door and not let him come out until he had finished off his homework.

She acted as if she knew everything already and would not tolerate any doubt of her superiority. She learned very easily and quickly. She did not want to show any weakness in front of the boy so she took up one book after another grasping its contents and moving on to the next in a wild and chaotic manner without tying them together. This went on until the youth would come to her when he didn’t know something. He would ask her to explain it to him because she must surely know it. Then she would put him off, scold him and tell him to think it over.

That gave her some time to search in her books. If she couldn’t find the answer she would run off to the Privy Councilor and ask him. Then she would come back to the boy and ask if the answer had occurred to him yet. If it hadn’t she would finally give him the answer. The professor noticed the game and it amused him. He would have never even considered placing the girl out of the home if the princess hadn’t kept pressuring him again and again.

The princess had always been a good Catholic and it seemed as if she became more devout with every Kilo of fat that she put on. She was insistent that her Godchild must be brought up in a convent. The Privy Councilor had been her financial advisor for several years now and invested her millions almost as if they were his own. He thought it prudent to go along with her on this point. So Alraune went to the Sacré Couer convent in Nancy.

There were several exceptionally short entries in the Privy Councilor’s hand during this period and several long reports from the Mother Superior. The professor grinned as he filed them, especially the first ones that praised the girl and the extraordinary progress she was making. He knew his convents and knew very well that a person could not learn anything of this world among these pious sisters.

He enjoyed how the first letters filled with the praise that all the parents received very soon took a different tone. The Mother Superior reported more and more urgently on various cruelties and these complaints always had the same basis. It was not the behavior of the girl herself, not her performance in giving presentations. It was always about the influence she exerted on her schoolmates.

“It is entirely true,” writes the Reverend Mother, “that the child herself never tortures animals. At least she has never been caught at it–But it is equally true that all the little cruelties committed by the other girls originate in her head.

First there was little Mary, a well-behaved and obedient child that was caught in the convent garden blowing up frogs with hollow grass stems. When she was called to account for her actions she confessed that Alraune had given her the idea. We didn’t want to believe it at first and thought it was much more likely that she was trying to shift the blame away from herself.

But very soon after that two different girls were discovered sprinkling salt on some large slugs so that they writhed in agony as they slowly dissolved into slime. Now slugs are also God’s creatures and again these two children declared that Alraune had pushed them into it. I then questioned her myself and the child admitted everything and went on to explain that she had once heard that about slugs and wanted to see if it was really true. As for the blowing up of frogs, she said that it sounded so beautiful when you smashed a blown up frog with a stone. Of course she would never do it herself because some of the crushed frog might squirt onto her hands.

When I asked whether she understood that she had done wrong she declared No, she had not done anything wrong and what the other children did had nothing at all to do with her.”

At this place in the report in parentheses the Privy Councilor wrote, “She is absolutely correct!”

“Despite being punished,” the letter continues, “a short time later we had several other deplorable cases that we determined must have originated from Alraune.

For example, Clara Maasen of Düren, a girl several years older than Alraune, she has been in our care for four years now and never given the slightest cause for complaint. She took a mole and poked its eyes out with a red-hot knitting needle. She was so upset over what she had done that she spent the next few days extremely agitated and bursting into tears for no reason at all. She only calmed down again after she had received absolution during her next confession.

Alraune explained that moles creep around in the dark earth and it doesn’t matter if they can see or not.

Then we found very ingeniously constructed bird traps in the garden. Thank God no little birds had been caught in them yet. No one would tell us where she had gotten the idea. Only under the threat of severe punishment did some girls finally admit that Alraune had enticed them into doing it and at the same time threatened to do something to them if they told on her.

Unfortunately this unholy influence of the child on her schoolmates has now grown to the point where we can scarcely find out the truth anymore.

Helene Petiot was caught at recess carefully cutting the wings off of flies, ripping their legs off and throwing them alive onto an anthill. The little girl said that she had come up with the idea herself and stuck with her story in front of His Reverence, swearing that Alraune had nothing to do with it.

Her cousin Ninon lied just as stubbornly yesterday after she had tied a tin pot to the tail of our good old cat and almost drove it insane. Nevertheless we are convinced that Alraune had her hand in that game as well.”

The Mother Superior then wrote further that she had called a conference together and everyone had concluded the best thing was to respectfully beg his Excellency to take his daughter away from the convent and come as soon as possible to get her.

The Privy Councilor answered that he very much regretted the incidents but must beg them to keep the child a little while longer at the convent.

“The more difficult the work, the greater the reward.”

He had no doubt that the patience and piety of the sisters would be successful in clearing the weeds out of the heart of his child and turn it into a beautiful garden of the Lord. The reason he did this was to see if the influence of this sensitive child was stronger than the discipline of the convent and all the efforts of the pious sisters.

He knew very well that the cheap Sacré Couer convent did not draw from the best families and that it was very happy to count the daughter of his Excellency as one of its students. He was not mistaken. The Reverend Mother replied that with God’s help they would try once more. All the sisters had declared themselves willing to include a special plea for Alraune in their evening prayers. In generosity the Privy Councilor sent them a hundred Marks for their charities.

During the next vacation the professor carefully observed the little girl. He knew the Gontram family from the Great-grandfather down and knew that they all took in a great love for animals with their mother’s milk. He felt that her influence on this much older boy would at last meet its match, become powerless against this innermost feeling of unlimited goodness.

Yet he caught Wölfchen Gontram one afternoon down by the little pond under the trumpet tree. He was kneeling on the ground. In front of him sat a large frog on a stone. The youth had lit a cigarette and shoved it in the wide mouth and deep down its throat. The frog smoked in deathly fear, swallowing the smoke, pulling it down into its belly. It inhaled more and more but couldn’t push it back out so it became larger and larger.

Wölfchen stared at it, fat tears running down his cheeks. But he lit another cigarette when the first one burned down, removed the stub from the frog’s throat and with shaking fingers pushed the fresh one back into its mouth. The frog swelled up monstrously, quivering in agony, its eyes popping out of their sockets. It was a strong animal and endured two and a half cigarettes before it exploded.

The youth screamed in misery as if his own pain were much greater than that of the animal he had just tortured to death. He sprang back as if he wanted to run away into the bushes, looked around and then quickly ran back when he saw that the torn body of the frog was still moving. Wild and despairing he crushed it to death with his heel to free it from its misery.

The Privy Councilor took him by the ear and searched his pockets. He found a few more cigarettes and the boy confessed to taking them from the writing desk in the library. But he could not be moved to tell how he had known that smoking frogs would inflate themselves until they finally explode. No amount of urging worked and the rich beating that the professor gave him through the garden didn’t help either. He remained silent.

Alraune stubbornly denied everything as well even after one of the maids declared she had seen the child taking the cigarettes. Despite everything they both stuck to their stories; the boy, that he had stolen the cigarettes and the girl, that she had not done anything.

Alraune stayed at the convent for one more year. Then in the middle of the school year she was sent home and certainly this time unjustly. Only the superstitious sisters believed that she was guilty and just maybe the Privy Councilor suspected it a little as well. But no reasonable person would have.

Once before illness had broken out at Sacré Couer, that time it had been the measles and fifty-seven little girls lay sick in their beds. Only a few like Alraune ran around healthy. But this time it was much worse. It was a typhoid epidemic. Eight children and one nun died. Almost all of the others became sick.

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