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Archive for September, 2014

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.

 

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His mother observed him–she knew his smallest gesture, the slightest movement of his smooth, sun tanned features. She read in the slight twitch at the corner of his mouth that it was something important.

“What is it?” she asked, and her voice trembled.

“Nothing big,” he answered easily. “You know of course that Uncle Jakob is dead.”

“Yes, I know that,” she said. “It was sad enough.”

“Well then,” he nodded, “the Legal Councilor has sent me a copy of the will. I am the executor and to become the girl’s guardian as well. To do that I must go to Lendenich.”

“When will you leave?” she asked quickly.

“Well,” he said. “I think–this evening.”

“Don’t go,” she begged. “Don’t go! You’ve only been back with me for three days and now you want to leave again.”

“But mother,” he turned to face her. “It’s only for a few days, just to put things in order.”

She said, “That’s what you always say, only a few days–and then you stay away for years.”

“You must be able to see it, dear mother!” he insisted. “Here is the will. Uncle has left you a right decent sum of money and me as well–Something I certainly was not expecting from him. We could certainly use it, both of us.”

She shook her head, “What should I do with the money if you are not with me, my boy?”

He stood up and kissed her gray hair.

“Mother dear, by the end of the week I will be back here with you. It is scarcely two hours by train.”

She sighed deeply, stroked his hands, “Two hours–or two hundred hours, what is the difference?–You are gone either way!”

“Adieu, dear mother,” he said, went upstairs, packed only a small suitcase and came back out to the balcony.

“There, you see! Scarcely enough for two days–Auf Wiedersehen!”

“Auf Wiedersehen, dear boy,” she said quietly.

She heard how he bounded down the stairs, heard the latch click as the door shut. She laid her hand on the intelligent head of her little hound that looked at her with faithful trusting eyes.

“Dear animal,” she spoke. “Now we are alone again–Oh, only to go again, does he come here–when will we see him again?”

Heavy tears fell from her gentle eyes, rolled over the wrinkles on her cheeks, fell down onto the long brown ears of the little hound. He licked at them with his red tongue.

Then down below she heard the bell, heard voices and steps coming up the stairs. She quickly wiped the tears out of her eyes, pushed her black lace scarf into place and straightened out her hair. She stood up, leaned over the railing and called down into the courtyard for the cook to prepare fresh tea for the guests that had come.

Oh, it was good that so many came to visit her, Ladies and Gentlemen–today and always. She could chat with them, tell them about her boy.

 

Legal Councilor Gontram, whom he had wired about his arrival, awaited him at the train station, took him with to the garden terraces of the Royal Court, where he explained everything to him that was important. He begged him to go at once out to Lendenich, speak with the Fräulein and then early the next morning come back into the office.

He couldn’t really say the Fräulein would make trouble for him, but he had a strange, uncomfortable feeling about her that made every meeting with her intolerable. It was funny in a way, he had worked with so many criminals–murderers, assassins, burglars, abortionists, and once he really got to know them he always found that they were really pretty decent people–with the exception of their crimes.

But with the Fräulein, whom you could not reproach for anything, he always had the same feeling that other people had toward the criminals he worked with. It must lie completely in him–

Frank Braun requested that he telephone ahead and announce his arrival to the Fräulein. Then he excused himself, strolled through the park until he hit the road to Lendenich.

He walked through the old village, past the statue of St. Nepomuk and nodded to him, stood in front of the Iron Gate and rang, looking into the courtyard. There was a large gas candelabra burning in the entrance where once a paltry little lantern had glowed. That was the only change that he saw.

Above, from her window the Fräulein looked down, searched the features of the stranger, and tried to recognize him in the flickering light. She saw how Aloys sped up, how he put the key in the lock more quickly than usual.

“Good evening young Master!” cried the servant and the stranger shook hands with him, called him by name, as if he had just come back to his own house after a little trip.

“How goes it, Aloys?”

Then the old coachman hobbled over the stones as quickly as his crippled leg would carry him.

“Young Master,” he crowed. “Young Master! Welcome to Brinken!”

Frank Braun exclaimed, “Froitsheim! Still here? Glad to see you again!”

He shook both hands vigorously. Then the cook came and the wide hipped house keeper. With them came Paul, the valet. The entire servant’s quarters emptied itself into the courtyard. Two old maids pressed to the front, stretching their hands out to him, but first, carefully wiping their hands on their aprons.

“Jesus Christ be praised!” the gardener greeted him and he laughed.

“To eternity, Amen!”

“The young Master is here!” cried the gray haired cook and gave Frank Braun’s suitcase to the valet.

Everyone stood around him, everyone demanded a personal greeting, a handshake, a friendly word, and the younger ones, those that didn’t know him, stood nearby, staring at him with open eyes and awkward smiles, off to the side stood the chauffeur, smoking his short pipe. Even his indolent features showed a friendly smile.

Fräulein ten Brinken snapped her fingers.

“My guardian appears well liked here,” she said half out loud and she called down:

“Bring the Gentleman’s things up to his room–and you, Aloys, show him the way.”

Some frost fell on the fresh spring of his welcome. They let their heads drop, didn’t speak any more. Only Froitsheim shook his hand one last time, walked with him to the master staircase.

“It is good you are here, young Master.”

Frank Braun went up to his room, washed himself, and then followed the butler who announced that dinner was served. He stepped into the dining room and was left alone for a moment. He looked around, there, like always, stood the giant buffet, ostentatious as ever with the heavy golden plates that bore the crest of the Brinkens.

But no fruit lay on them today.

“It is still too early in the season,” he murmured, “or perhaps my cousin has no interest in the first fruits.”

Then the Fräulein came in from the other side, adorned in a black silk gown, richly set with lace down to her feet. She stood in the door a moment, then stepped in and greeted him.

“Good evening, Herr Cousin.”

She reached out her hand to him, but only the two fingertips. He pretended not to notice, taking her entire hand and shaking it vigorously. With a gesture she invited him to take his place and sat down across from him.

“May we be informal with each other?” she began.

“Certainly,” he nodded. “That has long been the custom with the Brinkens.”

He raised his glass, “To your health, little cousin.”

“Little cousin,” she thought. “He calls me little cousin, thinks of me as a doll.”

But she replied, “Prosit, big cousin.”

She emptied her glass, waved for the servant to refill it and drank once more, “To your health, Herr Guardian!”

That made him laugh, Guardian–guardian? It sounded so dignified–”Am I really that old?” he thought.

He answered, “And to you, little ward.”

She got angry–little ward, again; little?–Oh, it would soon be shown which of them was the superior.

“How is you mother?” she asked.

“Thank you,” he nodded. “Very well, thank you–haven’t you met her yet?–You could have visited her at least once.”

“She never visited us either,” she retorted.

Then when she saw his smile, she quickly added, “Really cousin, we never thought of it.”

“I can just imagine,” he said dryly.

“Papa scarcely spoke of her and not of you at all.”

She spoke a little too quickly, rushing herself. “I was really surprised, you know, when he made you–”

“Me too!” he interrupted her, “and he certainly had some reason for doing it.”

“A reason?” she asked. “What reason?”

He shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know yet–but it will soon come out.”

The conversation never faltered. It was like a ball game; the short sentences flew back and forth. They remained polite, amiable and obliging, but they watched each other, were completely on their guards, and never came together. A taut net stretched itself between them.

After dinner she led him into the music room.

“Would you like some tea?” she asked.

But he requested whiskey and soda. They sat down, chatted some more. Then she stood up, went to the Grand piano.

“Should I sing something?” she asked.

“Please,” he said politely.

She raised the lid, sat down, then she turned around and asked:

“Any special request cousin?”

“No,” he replied. “I don’t know your repertoire, little cousin.”

She pressed her lips together. That is becoming a habit, she thought.

She struck a couple of notes, sang half a stanza, broke off, began another song, and broke that off as well. Then she sang a couple of measures of Offenbach, then a line from Grieg.

“You don’t appear to be in the right mood,” he observed calmly.

She laid her hands on her lap, remained quiet awhile, drummed nervously on her knees. Then she raised her hands, sank them quickly onto the keys and began:

 

There once was a shepherdess

And ron, ron and small patapon

There once was a shepherdess

Who kept her sheep

Ron, ron who kept her sheep

 

She turned toward him, pouting. Oh, yes, that little face surrounded by short curls could very well belong to a graceful shepherdess–

 

She made a cheese

And ron, ron and small patapon

She made a cheese

While milking her sheep

Ron, ron, while milking her sheep

 

Pretty shepherdess, he thought, and poor–little sheep. She moved her head, stretched her left foot sideways, tapped out a beat on the floor with a dainty shoe.

 

The naughty cat watched

And ron, ron and small patapon

The naughty cat watched

From a small distance away

Ron, ron, from a small distance away

 

If you touch it with your paws

And ron, ron, and small patapon

If you touch it with your paws

I will hit you with a stick

Ron, ron, I will hit you with a stick!

 

She turned and laughed at him, her bright teeth gleaming.

“Does she mean I should play her kitten?” he thought.

Her face became a little more serious, and her soft lowered voice rang with a mocking, veiled threat.

 

He did not touch it with his paws

And ron, ron and small patapon

He did not touch it with his paws

He ate it with his jaws

Ron, ron, he ate it with his jaws

 

The shepherdess got angry

And ron, ron and small patapon

The shepherdess got angry

She killed the kitten

Ron, ron, she killed the kitten

 

“Very pretty,” he said. “Where did you learn that little nursery rhyme?”

“In the convent,” she answered. “The sisters sang it.”

He laughed, “Imagine that–in a convent! I would have never expected it–please finish it, little cousin.”

She sprang up from the piano stool, “I am finished. The kitten is dead–that is how it ends!”

“Not entirely,” he declared. “But your pious nuns feared the punishment–so they let the pretty shepherd girl go unpunished for her evil sin! Play again. I will tell you what happened to the shepherd girl after that.”

She went back to the piano, played the melody.

Then he sang:

 

She went to confession

And ron, ron and small patapon

She went to confession

To get forgiveness

Ron, ron, to get forgiveness

 

I confess, my Father

And ron, ron, and small patapon

I confess, my Father

To killing my kitten

Ron, ron, to killing my kitten

 

My daughter, for penance

And ron, ron and small patapon

My daughter, for penance

We will embrace

Ron, ron, we will embrace

 

Penance is sweet

And ron, ron, and small patapon

Penance is sweet

We will begin

Ron, ron, we will do it again

 

“Finished,” she asked.

“Oh yes, very much so,” he laughed. “How do you like the moral, Alraune?”

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Chapter Twelve

Gives an account of how Frank Braun stepped into Alraune’s world.

 

 

 Frank Braun had come back to his mother’s house, somewhere from one of his aimless journeys, from Cashmir in Asia or from Bolivian Chaco. Or perhaps is was from the West Indies where he had played revolutionary in some mad republic, or from the South Seas, where he had dreamed fairytales with the slender daughters of a dying race. He came back from somewhere.

Slowly he walked through his mother’s house, up the white staircase upon whose walls was pressed frame upon frame, old engravings and modern etchings, through his mother’s wide rooms in which the spring sun fell through yellow curtains.  There his ancestors hung, many Brinkens with sharp and clever faces, people that knew where they stood in the world.

There was his great-grandfather and great-grandmother–good portraits from the time of the Emperor, then one of his beautiful grandmother–sixteen years old, in the earlier dress of Queen Victoria. His father and mother hung there and his own portraits as well. There was one of him as a child with a large ball in his hands and long blonde child locks that fell over his shoulders. The other was of him as a youth, in the black velvet dress of a page, reading in a thick, ancient tome.

In the next room were the copies. They came from everywhere, from the Dresden Gallery, the Cassel and Braunshweig galleries, from the Palazzo Pitti, the Prado and from the Reich Museum. There were many Dutch masters, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Ostade, Murillo, Titian, Velasquez and Veronese. All were a little darkened with age, but they glowed reddish gold in the sunlight that broke through the curtains.

He went further, through the room where the modernists hung. There were several good paintings and some not as good. But not one of them was bad and there were no sweet ones.

All around stood old furniture, most of it mahogany–Empire, Directoire or Biedermeir. There was none of oak but several simpler, modern pieces were scattered in between. There was no defined style, simply one after another as the years had brought them. Yet there was a quiet, pervasive harmony that transformed everything that stood there and made it belong.

He climbed up to the floor that his mother had given him. Everything was exactly as he had left it the last time he had departed–two years ago. No paperweight had been moved, no chair was out of place. Yes, his mother always watched to see that the maids were careful and respectful–despite all the cleaning and dusting.

Here, much more than anywhere else in the house, ruled a chaotic throng of innumerable, abstruse things. They were on the floors and on the walls. Five continents contributed strange and bizarre things to this room that were unique to them only.

There were large masks, savage wooden devil deities from the Bismarck Archipelago, Chinese and Annamite flags and many weapons from all regions of the world. Then there were hunting trophies, stuffed animals, Jaguar and tiger skins, huge turtle shells, snakes and crocodiles. There were colorful drums from Luzon, long necked stringed instruments from Raj Putana and crude castings from Albania.

On one wall hung a mighty, reddish brown fisherman’s net. It hung down from the ceiling and contained giant star fish, sea urchins, swords from swordfish, silver shimmering tarpon scales, mighty ocean spiders, strange deep-sea fish, mussels and snails.

The furniture was covered with old brocade and over it was thrown delicate silk garments from India, colorful Spanish jackets and mandarin cloaks with large golden dragons.

There were many gods as well, silver and gold Buddhas of all sizes, Indian bas-reliefs of Shiva, Krishna and Genesha along with the absurd, obscene stone idols of the Tchan tribes.

In between, where ever there was a free space on the wall, hung framed glass enclosed images, an impudent Rops, a savage Goya, small drawings by Jean Callots, Crűikshank, Hogarth and assorted colorful cruelties drawn on sheets of paper out of Cambodia and Mysore. Many moderns hung nearby bearing the artist’s name and a dedication.

There was furniture of all styles from all cultures, thickly populated with bronzes, porcelains and unending bric-a-brac.

All these things were Frank Braun. His bullet killed the polar bear on whose white pelt he now stood. He, himself, had caught the mighty blue shark whose powerful jaws hung there in the net with its three rows of teeth. He took these poisoned arrows and this spear from the savage Buca tribe. A Manchu priest gave him this foolish idol and this tall silver priest’s clothes hanger.

Single handedly he had stole this black thunderstone out of the forest temple of the Houdon–Badagri, drank with his own lips out of this Bombita in a Mate blood-brother ritual with the chief of the Toba Indians on the swampy banks of the Pilcomayo. For this curved sword he had given his best hunting rifle to a Malay sultan in North Borneo and for this other long executioner’s sword, his little pocket chess game to the Vice Regent of Shantung.

These wonderful Indian carpets were presented to him by the Maharaja of Vigatpuri, whose life he had saved during an elephant hunt and this earthen eight armed Durga, begrimed with the blood of animals and people, he had received from the High Priest of the dreaded Kalis of Kalighat–

His life lay in these rooms, every mussel, every colored rag, reminded him of long past memories. There lay his opium pipes, over there the large mescal can that had been hammered together out of Mexican silver dollars. Near it was the small tightly locked container of snake venom from Ceylon and a golden arm band–with two magnificent cat’s eyes–it had once been given to him by an eternally laughing child in Birma. He had paid many kisses for them–

Scattered around on the floor, piled on top of each other, stood and lay crates and trunks–twenty-one of them. They contained his new treasures–none had been opened yet.

“Where can I put it all?” he laughed.

A long Persian spear stretched through the air across the large double window. A very large, snow white Cockatoo sat on it. It was a Macassar bird from South Africa with a high flamingo red crest.

“Good morning Peter!” Frank Braun greeted him.

“Atja Tuwan!” answered the bird.

He climbed solemnly over the spear and down to his stand. From there he clambered onto a chair and down to the floor, came with bowed stately strides up to him, climbed up onto his shoulder, spread out his proud crest and flung his wings out wide like the Prussian eagle.

“Atja, Tuwan! Atja, Tuwan!” he cried.

The white bird stretched out his neck and Frank Braun scratched it.

“How’s it going, little Peter?–Are you happy that I’m back again?”

Frank Braun climbed halfway down the staircase, stepped out onto the large covered balcony where his mother was drinking tea. Below, in the garden, the mighty chestnut trees glowed like candles, further back, in the monastery garden, lay an ocean of brilliant snow-white flowers. Brown robed Franciscans wandered under the laughing trees.

“There is Father Barnabas!” he cried.

His mother put her glasses on and looked, “No,” she answered. “That is Father Cyprian.”

A green amazon squatted on the iron railing of the balcony and as soon as he set the Cockatoo down, the cheeky little parrot came rushing up to it. It looked comical enough, walking sideways, like a shuffling Galatian peddler.

“All right,” he screamed. “All right–Lorita real di España e di Portugal!–Anna Mari-i-i-i-i-a!”

He pecked at the large bird, which just raised his crest and softly said, “cockatoo”.

“Still saucy as ever, Phylax?” Frank Braun asked.

“Every day he gets saucier,” laughed his mother. “Nothing is safe from him anymore. He would love to chew up the entire house.”

She dipped a piece of sugar in her tea and gave it to the bird on a silver spoon.

“Has Peter learned anything,” he asked.

“Nothing at all,” she replied. He only speaks his soft, “’Cockatoo’, along with some scraps of Malay.”

“Unfortunately you don’t understand any of that,” he laughed.

His mother said, “No, but I understand my green Phylax much better. He loves to talk, all day long, in all the languages of the world–always something new. Sometimes I lock him up in the closet, just to get a half hour of peace.”

She took the amazon, who was at that moment strolling across the middle of the table and attacking the butter, and set the struggling bird back up on the railing.

Her brown hound came up, stood on its hind legs and rested its little head on her knee.

“Yes, you are here too,” she said. “Would you like some tea?”

She poured tea and milk into a little red saucer, broke off some white bread and a piece of sugar, putting them in it as well.

Frank Braun looked down into the wide garden. Two round hedgehogs were playing on the lawn and nibbling at the young shoots. They must be ancient–he, himself, had once brought them out of the forest, from a school picnic. The male was named Wotan and the female, Tobias Meier. But perhaps these were their grandchildren or great-grandchildren–then he saw the little mound near the white, blooming magnolia bush. There he had once buried his black poodle. Two large yuccas grew there now, in the summer they would bloom with hundreds of white, resounding bells. But now, for spring, his mother had planted many colorful primroses there.

Ivy and other wild vines crawled up the high walls of the house, all the way up to the roof. There, twittering and making noise were the sparrows.

“The thrush has her nest over there, can you see?” asked his mother.

She pointed down to the wooden trellis that led from the courtyard into the garden. The round nest lay half-hidden in ivy. He had to search before he finally found it.

“It already has three little eggs,” he said.

“No, there are four,” his mother corrected him. “She laid the fourth one this morning.”

“Yes, four,” he nodded “Now I can see all of them. It is beautiful here mother.”

She sighed and laid her old hand on his. “Oh yes, my boy–it is beautiful–if only I wasn’t so lonely all the time.”

“Lonely,” he asked. “Don’t you have as many visitors as you used to?”

She said, “Oh yes, they come every day, many young people. They look after this old lady. They come to tea and to dinner. Everyone knows how happy I am when someone comes to visit me. But you see, my boy, they are still strangers–you aren’t.”

“Well now I’m here,” he said and changed the subject, described the various curiosities that he had brought back with him, asked her if she wanted to be there when he unpacked.

Then the girl came up bringing the mail that had just arrived. He tore his letters open and glanced fleetingly at them. He paused, looked at one more closely. It was a letter from Legal Councilor Gontram that briefly communicated what had happened at his uncle’s house. There was also a copy of the will and his expressed wish that Frank Braun travel over as soon as possible to put the affairs in order. He, the Legal Councilor, had been court ordered to act as temporary executor. Now that he, Frank Braun, was once more back in Europe he begged him to take up his obligation.

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Intermezzo

 

Perhaps your quiet days, my blonde little sister, will also drop like silver bells that ring softly with slumbering sins.

Laburnums now throw their poisonous yellow where the pale snow of the acacias once lay. Ardent clematis show their deep blue where the devout clusters of wisteria once peacefully resounded.

Sweet is the gentle game of lustful desire; yet sweeter to me are all the cruel raging passions of the nighttime. Yet even sweeter than any of these to me now is sweet sleeping sin on a hot summer afternoon.

–She slumbers lightly, my gentle companion, and I dare not awaken her. She is never more beautiful than when she is sleeping like this. In the mirror my darling sin rests, near enough, resting in her thin silken shift on white linen.

Your hand, little sister, falls over the edge of the bed. Your slender finger that carries my gold band is gently curling. Your transparent rosy nails glow like the first light of morning. Fanny, your black maid, manicured them. It was she that created these little marvels.

And I kiss your marvelous transparent rosy nails in the mirror.

Only in the mirror–in the mirror only–only with loving glances and the light touch of my lips.

They will grow, if sin awakes, they will grow, become the sharp claws of a tiger, tearing my flesh–

Your head rises out of the pillow, surrounded by golden locks. They fall around it lightly like flickering golden flames that awaken at the first breezes of early morning. Your little teeth smile out from your thin lips, like the milky opals in the glowing bracelet of the moon Goddess.

And I kiss your golden hair, sister, and your gleaming teeth–in the mirror–only in the mirror–with the soft touch of my lips and with loving glances.

For I know that if ardent sin awakes the milky opals will become mighty fangs and the golden locks become fiery vipers. Then the claws of the tigress will tear at my flesh, the sharp teeth bite dreadful, bloody wounds. Then the flaming vipers will hiss around my head, crawl into my ears, spray their venom into my brain, whisper and entice with a fairy tale of savage lust–

Your silken shift has fallen down from your shoulder, your childish breasts smile there, resting, like two white newborn kittens, lifting their sweet rosy noses into the air.

I look up at your gentle eyes, jeweled blue eyes that catch the light, that glow like the sapphire on the forehead of my golden Buddha figurine.

Do you see, sister, how I kiss them–in the mirror? No fairy has a lighter touch.

–For I know well, when she wakes up, my eternal sin, blue lightening will flash out of her eyes. It will strike my poor heart, making my blood boil and seethe, melting in ardent desire the strong chains that restrain me, till all becomes madness and then surges the entire–

Then hunts, free of her chains, the raging beast. She overpowers you, sister, in furious frenzy. Your sweet childish breasts become the giant breasts of a murderous fury–now that sin has awakened–she rends in joy, bites in fury, exults in pain and bathes in pools of blood.

But my glances are still silent, like the tread of nuns at the grave of a saint. Softer yet is the light touch of my lips, like the kiss of the Holy Ghost at communion that turns the bread into the body of our Lord.

She should not awaken, should remain peacefully sleeping–my beautiful sin.

Nothing, my love, is sweeter to me, than pure sin as you lightly sleep.


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He went, took off his fur coat, sat down on the sofa and waited. He considered how he should tell her, weighed every sentence and every word. After a good hour he heard her steps.

He got up, went to the door–there she stood in front of him, as an elevator boy in a tight fitting strawberry red uniform.

“Ah,” he said, “that is kind of you.”

“Your reward,” she laughed. “Because you have obeyed so beautifully today–now tell me, what is it?”

The Privy Councilor didn’t gloss things over, he told her everything, like it was, each little detail without any embellishments. She didn’t interrupt, let him speak and confess.

“It is really your fault,” he said. “I would have taken care of it all without much trouble–but I let it all go, have been so preoccupied with you, they grew like the heads of the Hydra.”

“The evil Hydra”–she mocked, “and now she is giving poor, good Hercules so much trouble! By the way, it seems that this time the hero is a poisonous salamander and the monstrous Hydra is the punishing avenger.”

“Certainly,” he nodded, “from the viewpoint of the people. They have their ‘justice for everyone’ and I have made my own. That is really my only crime. I believed that you would understand.”

She laughed in delight, “Certainly daddy, why not? Am I reproaching you? Now tell me, what are you going to do?”

He proposed his plans to her, one after the other, that they had to flee, that very night–take a little trip and see the world. Perhaps first to London, or to Paris–they could stay there until they got everything they needed. Then over the ocean, across America–to Japan–or to India–whatever they wanted, even both, there was no hurry. They had time enough, then finally to Palestine, to Greece, Italy and Spain. Where ever she wanted–there they could stay and leave again when they had enough. Finally they could buy a villa somewhere on Lake Garda or on the Riviera. Naturally it would be in the middle of a large garden. She could have her horses and her cars, even a yacht. She could fill the entire house with people if she wanted–

He wasn’t stingy with his promises, painted in glowing colors all the tempting splendors that awaited her, was always finding new and more alluring reasons that she should go.

Finally he stopped, asked his question, “Now child, what do you say to that? Wouldn’t you like to live like that?”

She sat on the table with her slender legs dangling.

“Oh yes,” she nodded. “Very much so–only–only–”

“Only?”–he asked quickly, “If you wish something else–say it! I will fulfill it for you.”

She laughed at him, “Well then, fulfill this for me! I would very much like to travel–only not with you!”

The Privy Councilor took a step back, almost fell, grabbed onto the back of a chair. He searched for words and found none.

She spoke, “With you it would be boring for me–you are tiresome to me–I want to go without you!”

He laughed, attempting to persuade himself that she was joking.

“But I am the one that must be leaving right away,” he said. “I must leave–tonight yet!”

“Then leave,” she said quietly. “I’m staying.”

He began all over again, imploring and lamenting. He told her that he needed her, like the air that he breathed. She should have compassion on him–soon he would be eighty and wouldn’t be a burden to her very much longer.

Then he threatened her again, screamed that he would disinherit her, throw her out into the street without a penny.

“Just try it,” she threw back at him.

He spoke yet again, painting the wonderful splendors that he wanted to give her. She should be free, like no other girl, to do and have as she desired. There was no
wish, no thought that he couldn’t turn into reality for her. She only had to come with–not leave him alone.

She shook her head. “I like it here. I haven’t done anything–I’m staying.”

She spoke quietly and calmly, never interrupted him, let him talk and make promises, start all over again. But she shook her head whenever he asked the question.

Finally she sprang down from the table and went with soft steps toward the door, passing him.

“It is late,” she said. “I am tired. I’m going to bed–good night daddy, happy travels.”

He stepped into her way, made one last attempt, sobbed out that he was her father, that children had a duty to their parents, spoke like a pastor.

She laughed at that, “So I can go to heaven!”

She stood near the sofa, set down astride the arm.

“How do you like my leg?” she cried suddenly and stretched her slender leg out toward him, moving it back and forth in the air.

He stared at her leg, forgot what he wanted, thought no more about flight or danger, saw nothing else, felt nothing–other than her slender strawberry red boy’s leg that swung back and forth before his eyes.

“I am a good child,” she tittered, “a very dear child that makes her stupid daddy very happy–kiss my leg, daddy–caress my beautiful leg daddy!”

He fell heavily onto his knees, grabbed at her red leg, moved his straying fingers over her thigh and her tight calf, pressed his moist lips on the red fabric, licked slowly along it with his trembling tongue.

Then she sprang up, lightly and nimbly, tugged on his ear, and patted him softly on the cheek.

“Now daddy,” her voice tinkled, “have I fulfilled my duty well enough? Good night then! Happy travels–and don’t get caught–it would be very unpleasant in prison. Send me some pretty picture postcards, you hear?”

She was at the door before he could get up, made a bow, short and stiff like a boy and put her right hand to her cap.

“It has been an honor, your Excellency,” she cried. “And don’t make too much noise down here while you are packing–it might disturb my sleep.”

He swayed towards her, saw how quickly she ran up the stairs. He heard the door open upstairs, heard the latch click and the key turn in it twice. He wanted to go after her, laid his hand on the banister. But he felt that she would not open, despite all his pleading. That door would remain closed to him even if he stood there for hours through the entire night until dawn, until–until–until the constable came to take him away.

He stood there unmoving, listening to her light steps above him, back and forth through her room. Then no more. Then it was silent.

He slipped out of the house, went bare headed through the heavy rain across the courtyard, stepped into the library, searched for matches, lit a couple of candles on his desk. Then he let himself fall heavily into his easy chair.

“Who is she,” he whispered. “What is she? What a creature!” he muttered.

He unlocked the old mahogany desk, pulled a drawer open, took out the leather bound volume and laid it in front of him.

He stared at the cover, “A.T. B.”, he read, half out loud. “Alraune ten Brinken.”

The game was over, totally over, he sensed that completely. And he had lost – he held no more cards in his hand. It had been his game; he alone had shuffled the cards. He had held all the trumps–and now he had lost anyway. He smiled grimly, now he had to pay the price. Pay the price? Oh yes, but in what coin?

He looked at the clock–it was past twelve. The people would come with the warrant around seven o’clock at the latest–he still had over six hours. They would be very considerate, very polite–they would even bring him into custody in his own car. Then–then the battle would begin. That would not be too bad–he would defend himself through several months, dispute every move his opponents made.

But finally–in the main case–he would lose anyway. Manasse had that right. Then it would be–prison–or flee–but alone, entirely alone? Without her? In that moment he felt how he hated her, but he also knew as well that he could think of nothing else any more, only her. He could run around the world aimlessly, without purpose, not seeing, not hearing anything but her bright twittering voice, her slender swinging red leg.

Oh, he would starve, out there or in prison–either way. Her leg–her sweet slender boy’s leg! Oh how could he live without that red leg?

The game was lost–he must pay the bill, better to pay it quickly, this very night–with the only thing of value he had left–with his life. And since it wasn’t worth anything any more, perhaps he could bring someone else down with him.

That did him good, now he brooded about whom to take down with him, someone that would give him a little satisfaction to give one final last kick.

He took his last will and testament out of the desk, which named Alraune as his heir, read through it, then carefully tore it into small pieces.

“I must make a new one,” he whispered, “only for whom?–for whom?”

There was his sister–was her son, Frank Braun, his nephew–

He hesitated, him–him? Wasn’t it him that had brought this poisonous gift into his house, this strange creature that had now ruined him?

He–just like the others! Oh, he should pay, even more than Alraune.

“You will tempt God,” the fellow had said. “You will put a question to him, so audacious that He must answer.”

Oh yes, now he had his answer! But if he inexorably had to go down, the youth should share his fate. He, Frank Braun, who had engendered this thought, given him the idea.

Now he had a bright shiny weapon, her, his little daughter, Alraune ten Brinken. She would bring him as well to the point where he was today. He considered, rocked his head and grinned in satisfaction at this certain final victory.

Then he wrote his will without pausing, in swift, ugly strokes. Alraune remained his heir, her alone. But he secured a legacy for his sister and another for his nephew, whom he appointed as executor and guardian of the girl until she came of age. That way he needed to come here, be near her, breathe the sultry air from her lips, and it would happen, like it had happened with all the others!

Like it had with the Count and with Dr. Mohnen, like it had with Wolf Gontram, like with the chauffeur–and finally, like it had happened with he, himself, as well.

He laughed out loud, made still another entry, that the university would inherit if Alraune died without an heir. That way his nephew would be shut out in any case. Then he signed the document and dated it.

He took the leather bound volume, read further, wrote the early history and conscientiously brought everything up to date. He ended it with a little note to his nephew, dripping with derision.

“Try your luck,” he wrote. “To bad that I won’t be there when your turn comes. I would have been very glad to see it!”

He carefully blotted the wet ink, closed the book and laid it back in the drawer with the other momentos, the necklace of the Princess, the alraune of the Gontrams, the dice cup, the white card with a hole shot through it that he had taken out of the count’s vest pocket. “Mascot” was written on it. Near it lay a four leaf clover–several black drops of clotted blood still clung to it–

He stepped up to the curtain and untied the silk cord. With a long scissors he cut the end off and threw it into the drawer with the others. “Mascot”, he laughed. “Luck for the house!”

He searched around the walls, climbed onto a chair and with great difficulty took down a mighty iron cross from a heavy hook, laid it carefully on the divan.

“Excuse me,” he grinned, “for moving you out of your place–it will only be for a short time–only for a few hours–you will have a worthy replacement!”

He knotted the cord, threw it high over the hook, pulled on it, considered it, that it would hold–and he climbed for a second time onto the chair–

The police found him early the next morning. The chair was pushed over; nevertheless the dead man stood on it with the tip of one toe. It appeared as if he had regretted the deed and at the last moment tried to save himself. His right eye stood wide open, squinting out toward the door and his thick blue tongue protruded out–he looked very ugly.

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“As you will, your Excellency,” he said. “By the way, do you know there is a rumor these days that the Műhlhelmer credit bank is going to stop payments?”

“Nonsense,” he replied. “In any case I’ve scarcely put any money into it.”

“You haven’t?” asked Herr Gontram, a little surprised. “For half a year now you have kept that institution on a sound financial basis with over eleven million. You did it to gain tighter control of the potash industry! I, myself, was obliged to sell Princess Wolkonski’s mines to fund the cause.”

His Excellency ten Brinken nodded, “The princess–well yes–am I the princess?”

The Legal Councilor rocked his head thoughtfully.

“She will lose her money,” he murmured.

“What’s that to me,” cried the Privy Councilor. “Anyway, we will see what can be saved.”

He stood up, drummed on the writing desk with his hand.

“You are right, Herr Legal Councilor. I should pay more attention to my affairs. Please expect me at the office around six-o’clock. I thank you.”

He shook hands and accompanied him to the door.

But he didn’t drive into the city that afternoon. Two lieutenants came to tea, he kept finding reasons for going back into the room on one pretext or another, couldn’t stand to go out of the house. He was jealous of every man Alraune spoke with, of the chair she sat on and the very carpet she walked on. He didn’t go the next day or the next.

The Legal Councilor sent one messenger after another. He sent them away without an answer, disconnected his phone so he wouldn’t get any more calls.

Then the Legal Councilor turned to Alraune, told her that it was very important for the Privy Councilor to come into the office. She rang for her car, sent her maid to the library to tell the Privy Councilor to get ready for a drive into the city with her.

He trembled with joy. It was the first time in weeks that she had gone driving with him. He donned his fur coat, went out into the courtyard, opened the car door for her. She didn’t speak, but he was happy enough to be permitted to sit next to her. She drove directly to the office and told him to get out.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Shopping,” she answered.

“Will you pick me back up?” he begged.

She laughed, “I don’t know, perhaps.”

He was grateful enough for the ‘perhaps’. He climbed up the stairs and opened the door on the left to the Legal Councilor’s room.

“Here I am,” he said.

The Legal Councilor shoved the documents at him, a huge pile of them.

“Here’s the junk,” he nodded, “a pretty collection. There are a couple of old cases that for a long time appeared to be settled. They’ve taken off again. There are also a couple of new ones since the day before yesterday!”

The Privy Councilor sighed. “A bit much–would you give me a report, Herr Legal Councilor?”

Gontram shook his head, “Wait until Manasse comes. He knows more about them. He will be here soon. I’ve called for him. Right now he is with the Examiner in the Hamecher case.”

“Hamecher?” asked the professor. “Who is that?”

“The tinker,” the Legal Councilor reminded him. “The expert opinion of the doctor was very incriminating. The Public Prosecutor has ordered an investigation–there lies the summons–by the way, it appears to me that this case is the most important one right now.”

The Privy Councilor took up the documents and leafed through them, one after the other. But he was restless, listened nervously at every phone ring, every step that sounded through the hallway.

“I only have a little time,” he said.

The Legal Councilor shrugged his shoulders and calmly lit a fresh cigar. They waited, but the attorney didn’t appear. Gontram telephoned his office, then the court, but couldn’t reach him anywhere.

The professor pushed the documents to the side.

“I can’t read them today,” he said. “I don’t have any interest in them.”

“Perhaps you are sick, your Excellency,” opined the Legal Councilor. He ordered some wine and seltzer water. Then the Fräulein came. The Privy Councilor heard the auto drive up and stop. He immediately sprang up and grabbed his fur coat. He met her coming up the corridor.

“Are you ready?” she cried.

“Naturally,” he returned. “Completely.”

But the Legal Councilor stepped between them.

“It’s not true, Fräulein. We have not even begun. We are waiting for Attorney Manasse.”

The old man exclaimed, “Nonsense! It is all entirely trivial. I’m riding back with you, child.”

She looked at the Legal Councilor who spoke, “These papers appear very important to me.”

“No, no,” insisted the Privy Councilor.

But Alraune decided. “You will stay! Adieu, Herr Gontram,” she cried.

Then she turned around and ran down the stairs. He went back into the room, stepped up to the window, watched her climb into the car and leave. Then he stayed standing there, looking out onto the street into the dusk.

Herr Gontram ordered the gaslights turned on, sat quietly in his easy chair, smoked and drank his wine. They were still waiting when the office closed. One after the other, the employees left, opened their umbrellas and stepped carefully through the mud on the street. Neither spoke a word.

Finally the attorney came, hurried up the stairs, tore open the door.

“Good evening,” he growled, put his umbrella in a corner, pulled off his galoshes, threw his wet jacket onto the sofa.

“High time, Herr Colleague,” said the Legal Councilor.

“High time, yes, it is certainly high time!” he came back.

He went right up to the Privy Councilor, stood right in front of him and screamed in his face.

“The warrant is out!”

“What warrant?” hissed the Privy Councilor.

“What warrant?” mocked the attorney. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes–the Hamecher case! It will be served early tomorrow morning at the latest.”

“We must stand bail,” observed the Legal Councilor carelessly.

The little attorney spun around; “Don’t you think I already thought of that!–I immediately offered to stand bail–half a million–right away–denied! The mood has turned sour at the county court your Excellency. I’ve always thought it would happen some day.

The judge was very cool and told me, ‘Please put your request in writing, Herr Attorney. But I fear that you will have little luck with it. Our evidence is overwhelming–and it appears that extreme care must be taken.’

Those were his exact words! Not very edifying is it?”

He poured himself a full glass, emptied it in short gulps.

“I can tell you more, your Excellency! I met with Attorney Meir II at court; he is our opposition in the Gerstenberg case. He also represents the municipality of Huckingen, which filed suit against you yesterday. I asked him to wait for me–then I had a long talk with him. That is the reason I am so late getting here, Herr Colleague. He talked straight with me–we are loyal to each other at county court, thank God!

That’s when I learned the opposing lawyers have united, they already had a long conference the day before yesterday. A couple of newspaper reporters were there as well. One of them was sharp Dr. Landmann from the General Advertiser. You know very well, your Excellency, that you haven’t put a penny of money into that paper!

The roles are well divided. I tell you–this time you won’t get out of the trap so easily!”

The Privy Councilor turned to Herrn Gontram.

“What do you think, Herr Legal Councilor?”

“Wait,” he declared. “There will be a way out of it.”

But Manasse screamed, “I tell you there is no way out of it! The noose is knotted, it will tighten–you will hang, your Excellency, if you don’t give the gallows ladder a quick shove ahead of time!”

“What do you advise then,” asked the professor.

“Exactly the same thing that I advised poor Dr. Mohnen, whom you have on your conscience, your Excellency! That was a meanness of you–yet what good does it do if I tell you the truth now?

I advise that you liquidate everything you possibly can. By the way, we can do that without you. Pack your bags and clear out–tonight! That’s what I advise.”

“They will issue a warrant,” opined the Legal Councilor.

“Certainly,” cried Manasse. “But they will not give it any special urgency. I already spoke with Colleague Meir about it. He shares my opinion. It is not in the interest of the opposition to create a scandal – the authorities would be happy enough if they could avoid one as well.

They only want to render you harmless, your Excellency, put an end to your doings–and for that–believe you me–they now have the means. But if you disappear, live somewhere in a foreign land, we could wrap this thing up quietly. It would cost a lot of money–but what does that matter? They would be lenient on you, even today yet. It is really in their own interests to not throw this magnificent fodder to the radical and socialistic press.”

He remained quiet, waiting for an answer. His Excellency ten Brinken paced slowly back and forth across the room with heavy, dragging steps.

“How long do you believe I must stay away?” he asked finally.

The little attorney turned around to face him, “How long!” he barked. “What a question! For just as long as you live! You can be happy that you still have this possibility at least. It will certainly be more pleasant to spend your millions in a beautiful villa on the Riviera than to finish out your life in prison! It will come to that, I guarantee you!–By the way, the authorities themselves have opened this little door for you. They could just as easily have issued the warrant this morning. Then it would have already been carried out! Damned decent of them, but they will be disgusted and take it very badly if you don’t make use of this little door.

If they must act, they will act decisively. Then your Excellency, this night will be your last night’s sleep as a free man.”

The Legal Councilor said, “Travel! After hearing all that it really does seem to be the best thing.”

“Oh yes,” snapped Manasse. “The best–the best all the way around, and the only thing as well, travel! Disappear–step out–never to be seen again–and take the Fräulein, your daughter, along with you–Lendenich will thank you for it and our city as well.”

The Privy Councilor pricked up his ears at that. For the first time that evening a little life came into his features, penetrating through the staring apathetic mask, flickering with a light nervous restlessness.

“Alraune,” he whispered. “Alraune–if she goes with–he wiped his mighty brow with his coarse hand, twice, three times. He sank down, asked for a glass of wine, and emptied it.

“I believe you are right, Gentlemen,” he said. “I thank you. Now let’s get everything in order.”

He took the stack of documents and handed over the top one, “The Karpen brickyards–If you please–”

The attorney began calmly, objectively, gave his report. He took the next document in turn, weighed all the options, every slightest chance for a defense, and the Privy Councilor listened to him, threw a word in here and there, sometimes found a new possibility, like in the old times.

With each case the professor became clearer, his reasoning better thought out. Each new danger appeared to awaken and strengthen his old resiliency. He separated out a number of cases as comparatively harmless. But there still remained more than enough to get his neck broken.

He dictated a couple of letters, gave a lot of instructions, made notes to himself, outlined proposals and complaints–then he studied the time tables with the Herren, making his travel plans, giving exact instructions for the next meeting. As he left his office it was with the conviction that his affairs were in order.

He took a hired car and drove back to Lendenich, confident and self-assured. It was only as the servant opened the gate for him, as he walked across the courtyard and up the steps of the mansion, it was only then that his confidence left him.

He searched for Alraune and took it as a good omen that no guests were there. He heard from the maid that she had dined alone and was now in her rooms so he went up there. He stepped inside at her, “Come in.”

“I must speak with you,” he said.

She sat at her writing desk, looked up briefly.

“No,” she cried. “I don’t want to right now.”

“It is very important,” he pleaded. “It is urgent.”

She looked at him, lightly crossed her feet.“Not now,” she answered. “–Go down–in a half hour.”

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Chapter Eleven

Renders to the reader the end of the Privy Councilor through Alraune.

 

 

On leap year night a storm blew in over the Rhine. Coming in from the south it seized the ice flows, pushing them downstream, piling them on top of each other and crashing them against the old toll bridge. It tore the roof off the Jesuit church, blew down ancient linden trees in the courtyard garden, loosened the moorings of the strong pontoon boat of the swimming school and dashed it to pieces on the mighty pillars of the stone bridge.

The storm chased through Lendenich as well. Three chimneys tumbled down from the community center and old Hahnenwirt’s barn was destroyed. But the worst thing it did was to the house of ten Brinken. It blew out the eternal lamps that burned at the shrine of St. John of Nepomuk.

That had never been seen before, not in the several hundred years that the Manor house had stood. The devout villagers quickly refilled the lamps and lit them again the next morning, but they said it portended a great misfortune and the end of the Brinken’s was certain.

That night had proven that the Saint had now turned his hand away from the Lutheran house. No storm in the world could have extinguished those lamps unless he allowed it.

It was an omen, that’s what the people said. But some whispered that it hadn’t been the storm winds at all. The Fräulein had been outside around midnight–she had extinguished the lamps.

But it appeared as if the people were wrong in their prophecies. Large parties were held in the mansion even though it was lent. All the windows were brightly lit one night after the other. Music could be heard along with laughter and loud singing.

The Fräulein demanded it. She needed distraction, she said, after her bereavement and the Privy Councilor did as she wished. He crept behind her where ever she went. It was almost as if he had taken over Wőlfchen’s role.

His squinting glance sought her out when she stepped into the room and followed her when she left. She noticed how the hot blood crept through his old veins, laughed brightly and tossed her head. Her moods became more capricious and her demands became more exaggerated.

The old man handled it by always demanding something in return, having her tickle his bald head or play her quick fingers up and down his arm, demanding that she sit on his lap or even kiss him. Time after time he urged her to come dressed as a boy.

She came in riding clothes, in her lace clothing from the Candlemass ball, as a fisher boy with opened shirt and naked legs, or as an elevator boy in a red, tight fitting uniform that showed off her hips. She also came as a mountain climber, as Prince Orlowski, as Nerissa in a court clerk’s gown, as Piccolo in a black dress suit, as a Rococo page, or as Euphorion in tricots and blue tunic.

The Privy Councilor would sit on the sofa and have her walk back and forth in front of him. His moist hands rubbed across his trousers, his legs slid back and forth on the carpet and with bated breath he would search for a way to begin–

She would stand there looking at him, challenging him, and under her gaze he would back down. He searched in vain but could not find the words that would cover his disgusting desires and veil them in a cute little jacket.

Laughing mockingly she would leave–as soon as the door latch clicked shut, as soon as he heard her clear laughter on the stairs–the thoughts would come to him. Then it was easy, then he knew exactly what to say, what he should have said. He often called out after her–sometimes she even came back.

“Well?” she asked.

But it didn’t work; again it didn’t work.

“Oh, nothing,” he grumbled.

That was it, his confidence had failed him. He searched around for some other victim just to convince himself that he was still master of his old skills. He found one, the little thirteen-year-old daughter of the tinsmith that had been brought to the house to repair some kettles.

“Come along, little Marie,” he said. “There is something I want to give you.”

He pulled her into the library. After a half hour the little one slunk past him in the hall like a sick, wild animal with wide open, staring eyes, pressing herself tightly against the wall–

Triumphant, with a broad smile, the Privy Councilor stepped across the courtyard, back into the mansion. Now he was confident–but now Alraune avoided him, came up when he seemed calm but pulled back confused when his eyes flickered.

“She plays–she’s playing with me!” grated the professor.

Once, as she stood up from the table he grabbed her hand. He knew exactly what he wanted to say, word for word–yet forgot it instantly. He got angry at himself, even angrier at the haughty look the girl gave him.

Quickly, violently, he sprang up, twisted her arm around and threw her screaming down onto the divan. She fell–but was back on her feet again before he could get to her. She laughed, laughed so shrilly and loudly that it hurt his ears. Then without a word she stepped out of the room.

She stayed in her rooms, wouldn’t come out for tea, not to dinner. She was not seen for days. He pleaded at her door–said nice things to her, implored and begged. But she wouldn’t come out. He pushed letters in to her, swore and promised her more and still more, but she didn’t answer.

One day after he had whimpered for hours before her door she finally opened it.

“Be quiet,” she said. “It bothers me–what do you want?”

He asked for forgiveness, said it had been a sudden attack, that he had lost control over his senses–

She spoke quietly, “You lie!”

Then he let all masks fall, told her how he desired her, how he couldn’t breathe without her around, told her that he loved her.

She laughed out loud at him but agreed to negotiate and made her conditions. He still searched here and there trying to find ways to get an advantage.

“Once, just once a week she should come dressed as a boy–”

“No,” she cried. “Any day if I want to–or not at all if I don’t want to.”

That was when he knew he had lost and from that day on he was the Fräulein’s slave, without a will of his own. He was her obedient hound, whimpering around her, eating the crumbs that she deliberately knocked off the table for him. She allowed him to run around in his own home like an old mangy animal that lived on charity–only because no one cared enough to kill it.

She gave him her commands, “Purchase flowers, buy a motorboat. Invite these gentlemen on this day and these others on the next. Bring down my purse.”

He obeyed and felt richly rewarded when she suddenly came down dressed as an Eton boy with a high hat and large round collar, or if she stretched out her little patent leather shoes so he could tie the silk laces.

Sometimes when he was alone he would wake up. He would slowly lift his ugly head, shake it back and forth and brood about what had happened. Hadn’t he become accustomed to rule for generations? Wasn’t his will law in the house of ten Brinken?

To him it was as if a tumor had swelled up in the middle of his brain and crushed his thoughts or some poisonous insect had crawled in through his ears or nose and stung him. Now it whirled around right in front of his face, mockingly buzzed in front of his eyes–why didn’t he kill it?

He got half way up, struggling with resolution.

“This must come to an end,” he murmured.

But he forgot everything as soon as he saw her. Then his eyes opened, his ears grew sharp, listening for the rustle of her silk. Then his mighty nose sniffed the air greedily, taking in the fragrance of her body, making his old fingers tremble, making him lick the spittle from his lips with his tongue.

All of his senses crept toward her, eagerly, lecherously, poisonously, filled with loathsome vices and perversions–that was the strong cord on which she held him.

 

Herr Sebastian Gontram came out to Lendenich and found the Privy Councilor in the library.

“You have got to be careful,” he said. “We are going to have a lot of trouble getting things back in order. You should be a little more concerned about it, your Excellency.”

“I have no time,” answered the Privy Councilor.

“That’s not good enough,” said Herr Gontram quietly. “You must have some time for this. You haven’t taken care of anything this past week, just let everything go. Be careful your Excellency, it could cost you dearly.”

“Ok,” sneered the Privy Councilor. “What is it then?”

“I just wrote you about it,” answered the Legal Councilor. “But it seems you don’t read my letters any more. The former director of the Wiesbaden museum has written a brochure, as you know, in which he has made all kinds of assertions. For that he was brought in front of the court. He moved to have the pieces in question examined by experts. Now the commission has examined your pieces and for the most part they have been declared forgeries. All the newspapers are full of it. The accused will certainly be acquitted.”

“Let him be,” said the Privy Councilor.

“That’s all right with me, your Excellency, if that is what you want!” Gontram continued, “But he has already filed a new suit against you with the District Attorney and the authorities must act on it.

By the way, that is not everything, not by far. In the Gerstenberger foundry bankruptcy case the bankruptcy administrator has placed an accusation against you on the basis of several documents. You are being accused of concealing financial records, swindling and cheating. A similar accusation has been filed, as you know, by the Karpen brickworks.

Finally Attorney Kramer, representing the tinsmith Hamecher, has succeeded in having the District Attorney’s office order a medical examination of his little daughter.

“The child lies,” cried the professor. “She is a hysterical brat.”

“All the better,” nodded the Legal Councilor. “Then your innocence will surely come out.

A little more distant there is a lawsuit by the merchant Matthiesen for damages and reimbursements of fifty thousand Marks that comes with another accusation of fraud.

In a new lawsuit in the case of Plutus manufacturing the opposing attorney is charging you with falsification of documents and has declared as well that he wants to take the necessary steps to bring it into criminal court.

You see, your Excellency, how the cases multiply when you don’t come into the office for a long time. Scarcely a day goes by without something new being filed.”

“Are you finished yet?” the Privy Councilor asked.

“No,” said Herr Gontram calmly, “absolutely not. Those were only some little flowers from the beautiful bouquet that is waiting for you in the city. I advise your Excellency, insist that you come in. Don’t take these things so lightly.”

But the Privy Councilor answered, “I told you already that I don’t have any time. You really shouldn’t bother me with these trifles and just leave me alone.”

The Legal Councilor rose up, put his documents in his leather portfolio and closed it slowly.

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