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.