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.