It was the first time he had called her by her given name–that astounded her so much she didn’t pay attention to his question.
“Good,” she replied indifferently.
“Isn’t it though,” he cried. “A pretty moral that teaches little girls they will not be permitted to kill their kittens and go unpunished!”
He stood right in front of her and towered over her by at least two heads. She had to look up at him to catch his eye.
She thought, “How much difference a stupid thirty centimeters makes.”
She wished she were dressed in men’s clothing as well. Already her skirts gave her a disadvantage. Then immediately it occurred to her that she had never experienced these feelings with others. But she stretched herself up, tossed her head lightly:
“Not all shepherdesses have to serve such penance,” she twittered.
He parried, “And not all Father Confessors will let them off so lightly.”
She searched for a reply and found none. That made her angry. She dearly wanted to pay him back–in his own way. But this skill was new to her–it was like an uncommon language that she could understand completely, but couldn’t speak correctly herself.
“Good night, Herr Guardian,” she said quickly. “I’m going to bed.”
“Good night, little cousin,” he smiled. “Sweet dreams!”
She climbed up the stairs, didn’t run up them as usual, went slowly and thoughtfully. She didn’t like him, her cousin, not at all. But he attracted her, stimulated her, and goaded her into responding.
“We will be done with him soon enough,” she thought.
And as the lady’s maid loosened her bodice and handed her the long nightgown she said, “It’s good that he’s here, Katie. It breaks up the monotony.”
It almost made her happy that she had lost this advance skirmish.
Frank Braun had long conferences with Legal Councilor Gontram and Attorney Manasse. He consulted with the Chancery Judge about his guardianship and with the probate Judge. He was given the run around and became thoroughly vexed.
With the death of his uncle the criminal accusations were finally cut off, but the civil complaints had swollen to a high flood. All the little businessmen that had trembled at a squinting look from his Excellency now came forward with new demands and claims, seeking compensation for damages that were often quite dubious in nature.
“The District Attorney’s office has made peace with us,” said the old Legal Councilor, “and the police won’t bother us either. But despite all that, we still have the county court tightly packed with our cases alone–the second court room will be the private institute of the late Privy Councilor for the next six months.”
“His Deceasedness would enjoy it, if he could look out of his hellish cauldron,” the lawyer remarked. “He only enjoyed such suits a dozen at a time.”
He laughed as well, when Frank Braun handed him the Burberger mining shares that were his inheritance.
“The old man would have loved to be here now,” he said, “to see your face in half an hour! Just you wait, you’ve got a little surprise coming.”
He took the shares, counted them, “A hundred eighty thousand Marks.”
He reviewed them, “One hundred thousand for your mother–the rest for you! Now pay attention!”
He picked up the telephone receiver, asked to be connected to the Shaffhausen Trust Company and requested to speak with one of the directors.
“Hello,” he barked. “Is that you, Friedberg?–A little favor, I have a few Burberger shares here–what can I get for them?”
A loud laughter rang out of the telephone and Herr Manasse joined in loudly.
“I thought so–” he cried out. “So they are absolutely worthless? What? They expect new funding next year–the best thing is to throw the entire lot away–well naturally!–A fraudulent investment that will certainly sooner or later loose everything? Thank you, Herr Director, excuse me for disturbing you!”
He hung up the phone and turned grimly to Frank Braun. “So now you know. And now you are wearing exactly that stupid face that your kindly uncle expected–excuse me for telling the truth! But leave the shares with me–it is possible that one of the other mining companies will take some interest in them and offer you a couple hundred Marks. Then we can buy a few bottles of wine with it and celebrate.”
Before Frank Braun had come back the greatest difficulty had constituted the almost daily negotiations with the large Mülheim Credit Bank. The bank had dragged on from week to week with exceptional effort, remembering the Privy Councilor’s solemn promise of assistance, always in the hope of receiving some small portion of help from his heiress.
With heroic courage the Directors, the Gentlemen from the Board of Directors, and the auditors managed to keep the leaky ship above water, always aware that the slightest new impact might cause it to capsize.
With the help of the bank, his Excellency had successfully concluded many very risky speculations. To him the bank had been a bright fountain of gold. But the bank’s own undertakings, which it had taken at the Privy Councilor’s suggestion, were all failing–Really his own fortune was no longer in danger, but that of the Princess Wolkonski was, along with those of several other wealthy investors.
This included the savings of a great number of little people as well, penny speculators that had followed the star of his Excellency. The legal executors of the Privy Councilor’s estate had promised their help, as much as it was in their power to do. But the hands of Legal Councilor Gontram, as provisional guardian, were tied by law–through the Chancery court–Money held in trust was sacred–all of it!
Really, there had been only one possibility, Manasse had found it. They could declare the Fräulein ten Brinken of age. Then she would be free to fulfill her father’s moral obligations. For that purpose all of the parties worked together, pulling every last penny out of their own pockets. Already, with the last of their strength they had successfully survived a run on the bank that had lasted fourteen days–The decision had to be made now.
Until then the Fräulein had shook her head. Now she listened quietly to what the gentlemen were proposing, smiled, and said, “No.”
“Why should I become of age?” she asked. “I like the way it is right now–and why should I give money away to save a bank that is absolutely of no concern to me at all?”
The Chancery Judge gave her a long speech about preserving the honor of her father. Everyone knew that he alone was the cause of their present difficulties–it was her duty as his child to clear his good name.
Alraune laughed in his face, “His good name?”
She turned around to Attorney Manasse: “Tell me, what do you think of it?”
Manasse didn’t answer, curled up in his chair, spat and hissed like a stepped on Tomcat.
“Not much more than I do, it appears!” said the Fräulein. “And I won’t give a penny for it.”
Commercial Councilor Lützman, chairman of the Board of Directors, proposed that she should have some consideration for the old princess, who for so long had been an intimate friend of the house of Brinken. What about all of the little people that would lose all of their hard-earned money?
“Why did they speculate?” she replied calmly. “Why did they put their money into such a dubious bank? If I wanted to give to charity I know of better ways.”
Her logic was clear and cruel, like a sharp knife. She knew her father, she said, and whoever invested in the same things he did was certainly not very much better.
But it was not about charity, the Director returned. It was almost certain that the bank would hold together with her help, if it could only get over this current crisis she would get her money back, every penny of it and with interest.
She turned to the Chancery Judge.
“Your Honor,” she asked, “is there a risk involved?”
Naturally unforeseen circumstances could always come up. He had the professional duty to tell her–but as a human being he could only add his urgent plea to that of the other gentlemen. She would be doing a great and good work, saving the livelihoods of multitudes and the possibility of loss in his opinion was ever so slight.
She stood up, interrupted him quickly.
“Well then, gentlemen. There is a risk,” she cried mockingly, “and I don’t want to take any risk. I don’t want to save any livelihoods and have no desire to do great and good works.”
She nodded lightly to the gentlemen, left, leaving them sitting with fat, red little heads.
But still the bank continued, still battled on. Hope formed anew when the Legal Councilor informed them that Frank Braun; the true Guardian had arrived. The gentlemen immediately got in contact with him, arranged a conference for the next day.
Frank Braun saw very well that he would not be able to leave as quickly as he had believed. So he wrote his mother.
The old Frau read his letter, folded it carefully, and laid it in the large black trunk that contained all of his letters. She opened them on long winter evenings when she was completely alone. Then she read to her brown little hound what he had written to her.
She went out onto the balcony, looked down at the high chestnut trees that carried glowing candles in their mighty arms, looked down on the white blooming trees of the monastery under which brown monks quietly wandered.
“When will he come, my dear boy?” she thought.