Describes how Wolf Gontram was put into the ground because of Alraune.
Karl Mohnen was not the only one around that time that fell under the deceptive wheels of his Excellency’s magnificent machine. The Privy Councilor completely took over the large People’s Mortgage Bank, which had been under his influence for a long time. At the same time he took possession and control over the wide many-branched Silver Frost Association that had their little savings banks in every little village under the flag of the church.
That didn’t happen without sharp friction since many of the old employees that had thought their positions permanent were reluctant to cooperate with the new regime.
Attorney Manasse, together with Legal Councilor Gontram, legal advisor for these transactions, acted in as many ways as possible to soften the transition without hindering it. His Excellency’s lack of regard made things severe enough and everything that did not appear absolutely necessary to him was thrown away out of hand without further thought. Using right dubious means he pushed to the side other little district associations and banks that opposed him and refused to submit to his control.
By now his superior might extended far into the industrial district as well–everything that had to do with the earth–coal, metals, mineral water, water works, real estate, buildings, agriculture, road making, dams, canals–everything in the Rhineland more or less depended on him.
Since Alraune had come back into the house he handled things with fewer scruples than ever. From the time he first became aware of her influence on his success he showed no more regard to others, no restraint or consideration.
In long pages in the leather volume he explained all of these affairs. Evidently it gave him joy to speak of each new undertaking that was of little value with almost no possibility of success–it was only of these things that he would grab up–and finally attribute their success to the creature that lived in his house.
From time to time he would solicit advice from her without entrusting her with the particulars, asking only, “Should I do it?”
If she nodded, he did it and would drop it immediately if she shook her head. The law had not appeared to exist anymore to the old man for a long time now. Earlier he had spent long hours talking things over with his attorneys, trying to find a way out, a loophole or twist of phrase that would give him a back door. He had studied all possible gaps in the law books, knew all kinds of tricks and whistles that made outright evil deeds legally acceptable. It had been a long time now since he had troubled himself with such evasions.
Trusting only on his power and his luck he broke the law many times knowing full well that no judge would stand up with the plaintiff to balance the scales. His lawsuits multiplied as well as the complaints against him. Most were anonymous, including those the authorities themselves entered against him.
But his connections extended as far into the government as they did the church. He was on close terms with them both. His voice in the provincial daily papers was decisive. The policies of the ArchBishop’s palace in Cologne, which he supported, gave him even greater backing. His influence went as far as Berlin where an exceptionally meritorious medal was given to him at an unveiling of a monument dedicated to the Kaiser. The hand of the All Highest himself placed the medal around his neck and was documented publicly.
Really, he had steered a good sum of money into the building of the monument–but the city had paid dearly for the real estate on which it stood when they were required to purchase it from him.
In addition to these were his title, his venerable age, his acknowledged services to the sciences. What little public prosecutor would want to press charges against him? A few times the Privy Councilor himself pressed charges at some of these accusations. They were seen as gross exaggerations and collapsed like soap bubbles.
In this way he nourished the skepticism of the authorities toward his accusers. It went so far that in one case when a young assistant judge was thoroughly convinced, clear as day, against his Excellency and wanted to intervene, the District Attorney without even looking at the records declared:
“Stupid stuff! Grumblers screaming–We know that! It would only make us look like fools.”
In this case the grumbler was the provisional director of the Wiesbaden Land Museum which had purchased all manner of artifacts from the Privy Councilor. Now he felt defrauded and wanted to publicly declaim him as a forger of antiquities.
The authorities didn’t take up the case but they did notify the Privy Councilor who defended himself very well. He wrote his own personal publication that was inserted into a special Sunday edition of the “Cologne News”. The beautiful human-interest story carried the title, “Taking care of our Museums”.
He didn’t go on about any of the accusations against him, but he attacked his opponent viciously, destroyed him completely, placing him as a know nothing and cretin. He didn’t stop until the poor scholar lay unmoving on the floor. Then he pulled his strings, let his wheels turn–after less than a month there was a different director in the museum.
The head district attorney nodded in satisfaction when he read the notice in the paper.
He brought the page over to the assistant judge and said, “Read that, colleague! You can thank God that you asked me about it and avoided such a fatal error.”
The assistant judge thanked him, but was not absolutely convinced.
In early February on Candlemass all the sleighs and autos traveled to “The Gathering”. It was the great Shrovetide Ball of the community. The Royalty was there and around them circled anyone in the city that wore uniforms or colored fraternity armbands and caps.
Professors circled there as well, along with those from the court, the government, city officials, rich people, Councilors to the Chamber of Commerce and wealthy industrialists.
Everyone was in costume. Only the declared chaperones were allowed to dress as false Spaniards. The old gentleman himself had to leave his dress suit at home and come in a black hooded robe and cowl. Legal Councilor Gontram presided at his Excellency’s large table. He knew the old wine cellar and understood it, the best vintages and how to procure them.
Princess Wolkonski sat there with her daughter Olga, now Countess Figueirea y Abrantes, and with Frieda Gontram. Both were visiting her for the winter.
Then there was Attorney Manasse, a couple of private university speakers, professors and even a few officers and of course the Privy Counselor himself who had taken his little daughter out for her first ball.
Alraune came dressed as Mademoiselle de Maupin wearing boy’s clothes in the style of Beardsly’s famous illustrations. She had torn through many wardrobes in the house of ten Brinken, stormed through many old chests and trunks. She finally found them in a damp cellar along with piles of beautiful Mechlin lace that an ancient predecessor had placed there. It is certain the poor seamstress who created them would have cried tears to see them treated like that.
This lacey women’s clothing that made up Alraune’s cheeky costume netted still more fresh tears–she scolded the dressmaker that could not get just the right fit to the capricious costume, the hair dresser that Alraune beat because she couldn’t understand the exact hair style Alraune wanted and who couldn’t lay the chi-chi’s just right, and the little maid whom she impatiently poked with a large pin while getting dressed.
Oh, it was a torture to turn Alraune into this girl of Gautier’s, in the bizarre interpretation of the Englishman, Beardsly.
But when it was done, when the moody boy with his high sword-cane strutted with graceful pomp through the hall, there were no eyes that didn’t greedily follow him, no old ones or young ones, of either men or women.
The Chevalier de Maupin shared his glory with Rosalinde. Rosalinde, the one in the last scene–was Wolf Gontram, and never did the stage see a more beautiful one. Not in Shakespeare’s time when slender boys played the roles of his women. Not even later since Margaret Hews, the beloved of Prince Rupert, was the first woman to play the part of the beautiful maiden in “As You Like It”.
Alraune had the youth dressed and with infinite care had brought him up to this point. She taught him how to walk, how to dance, how to move his fan and even how he should smile.
And now, even as she appeared as a boy and yet a girl kissed by Hermes as well as Aphrodite in her Beardsly costume; Wolf Gontram embodied the character of his compatriot, Shakespeare, no less.
He was in a red evening gown and train brocaded with gold, a beautiful girl, and yet a boy as well. Perhaps the old Privy Councilor understood all of it, perhaps little Manasse, perhaps even Frieda Gontram did a little as her quick look darted from one to the other. Other than that it was certain that no one else did in that immense hall of the Gathering in which heavy garlands of red roses hung from the ceiling.
But everyone felt it, felt that here was something special, of singular worth. Her Royal Highness sent her adjutant to fetch them both and present them to her. She danced the first waltz with him, playing the gentleman to Rosalinde, then as the lady with the Chevalier de Maupin. She clapped her hands loudly during the minuet when Théophile Gautier’s curly headed boy bowed and flirted with Shakespeare’s sweet dream girl directly in front of her.
Her Royal Highness was an excellent dancer herself, was first at the tennis courts and the best ice skater in the city. She would have loved to dance through the entire night with only the two of them. But the crowd wanted their share as well. So Mademoiselle de Maupin and Rosalinde flew from one set of arms into another, soon pressing into the muscular arms of young men, soon feeling the hot heaving breasts of beautiful women.
Legal Councilor Gontram looked on indifferently. The Treves punch bowl and its brewed contents interested him much more than the success of his son. He attempted to tell Princess Wolkonski a long story about a counterfeiter but her Highness wasn’t listening.
She shared the satisfaction and happy pride of his Excellency ten Brinken, felt herself a participant in the creation and bringing into the world of this creature, her Godchild, Alraune.
Only little Manasse was bad tempered enough, cursing and muttering under his breath.
“You shouldn’t dance so much boy,” he hissed at Wolf. “Be more careful of your lungs!”
But young Gontram didn’t hear him.
Countess Olga sprang up and flew out to Alraune.
“My handsome chevalier,” she whispered.
The boy dressed in lace answered, “Come here my little Tosca!”
He wheeled her around to the left and circled through the hall, scarcely giving her time to breathe, brought her back to the table breathless and kissed her full on the mouth.
Frieda Gontram danced with her brother, looking at him for a long time with her intelligent gray eyes.
“It’s a shame that you are my brother,” she said.
He didn’t understand her at all.
“Why?” he asked.
She laughed, “Oh, you stupid boy! By the way, your answer ‘Why?’ is entirely correct. It shouldn’t make any difference at all should it? It is only the last shred of those morals that our stupid education has given us. Like putting lead weights in our virtuous skirts to keep them long, stretched smooth and modest. That’s what it is, my beautiful little brother!”
But Wolf Gontram didn’t understand one syllable. She laughed, left him standing there, and took the arm of Fräulein ten Brinken.
“My brother is a more beautiful girl that you are,” she said. “But you are a sweeter boy.”
“And you,” laughed Alraune, “my blonde abbess, you prefer sweet boys?”
She answered, “What is permitted for Héloise? It went very badly for my poor Abalard, you know. He was slender and delicate just like you are! There I can learn much about self-modesty.
But you, my sweet little boy, you appear like a strange priest with a new and fresh doctrine, one that would harm no one.”
“My doctrine is ancient and venerable,” said the Chevalier de Maupin.
“That is the best covering for such sweet sin,” laughed the blonde abbess.
She took a goblet from the table and handed it to him.
“Drink, sweet boy.”
The countess came up with hot pleading eyes, “Let me have him!”
But Frieda Gontram shook her head. “No,” she said sharply. “Not him! Fair game, if you like–”
“She kissed me,” insisted Tosca and Héloise scoffed.
“Do you believe you are the only one tonight?”
She turned to Alraune, “Decide, my Paris. Who shall it be? The worldly lady, or the pious one?”
“For today?” asked Fräulein de Maupin.
“Today–and as long as you want!” cried Countess Olga.
The fancy dressed boy laughed, “I want the abbess–and Tosca as well.”