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.
“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.”