“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.