He ran laughing over to a blonde Teuton that was strutting as a red executioner with a mighty axe made of cardboard.
“You–brother-in-law,” she cried. “I’ve got two mama’s. Will you execute them, both of them?”
The student straightened up and raised both arms high.
“Where are they?” he bellowed.
But Alraune found no time to answer; the Colonel of the 28th regiment had snatched her up for the two-step.
–The Chevalier de Maupin stepped onto the professors’ table.
“Where is your Albert?” asked the professor of literature. “Where is your Isabella?”
“My Albert is running around here somewhere, Herr Professor,” answered Alraune. “He appears in two dozen different versions in this very ballroom!”
“As for Isabella”–her eyes searched around the room–“Isabella,” she continued, “I will present her to you as well.”
She stepped up to the professor’s daughter; a fifteen year old, timid thing that looked at her with large amazed blue eyes.
“Will you be my page, little gardener?” she asked.
The flaxen haired girl said, “Yes, gladly–If you want me to!”
“You must be my page when I am a lady,” the Chevalier instructed, “and my maid when I go as a gentleman.”
The little girl nodded.
“How is that, Herr Professor?” laughed Alraune.
“Summa cum Laude!” acknowledged the professor. “But leave my dear little Trudi here with me.”
“Now I ask!” cried the Fräulein ten Brinken and she turned to a short, round botanist.
“Which flowers bloom in my garden, Herr Professor?”
“Red hibiscus,” answered the botanist. He knew the flora of Ceylon very well, “golden lotus and white temple flowers.”
“Wrong!” cried Alraune. “Entirely wrong! Do you know, Herr Rifleman from Harlem? Which flowers grow in my garden?”
The art professor looked at her sharply, a light smile tugged at his lips.
“Les fleurs du mal; the flowers of evil,” he said. “Aren’t they?”
“Yes,” cried Mlle. de Maupin. “Yes, you’ve got it right.”
“But they don’t bloom for you my dear scientist. You must patiently wait until they are dried and pressed into a book or in a frame after the varnish dries.”
She pulled her pretty sword, bowed, saluted and snapped her sword-cane back together. Then she turned around on her heel, danced a few steps with the Baron von Manteuffel from Prussia, heard the light voice of her Royal Highness and sprang quickly up to the table of the princess.
“Countess Almaviva,” she began. “What do you desire from your faithful cherubim?”
“I’m really disappointed with him,” said the princess. “He has really earned a beating, scampering around the hall with one scoundrel after another!”
“Don’t forget the Susanna’s either,” laughed the prince-escort.
Alraune ten Brinken pulled her lips into a pout. “What should such a poor boy do,” she cried, “who knows nothing of this evil world?”
She laughed, took the lute from the shoulder of the adjutant who was standing in front of her dressed as Frans Hals. She strummed, stepped back a few paces and sang:
“You, who instinctively
Know the ways of the heart
Tell me, is it love
That burns so here in mine?”
“From whom do you want advice cherubim?” asked the princess.
“Doesn’t my Countess Almaviva know?” Alraune gave back.
Her Royal Highness laughed, “You are very daring, my page!”
Cherubim answered, “That is the way of pages!”
He lifted the lace on the sleeves of the princess and kissed her on the hand–a little too high on the arm and a little too long.
“Shall I bring you Rosalinde?” he whispered, and he read the answer in her eyes.
Rosalinde danced past–not a moment’s rest was she allowed this evening. The Chevalier de Maupin took her away from her dance partner, led her up the steps to the table of her Highness.
“Give her something to drink,” she cried. “My beloved thirsts.”
She took the glass the princess handed to her and placed it to Wolf Gontram’s red lips. Then she turned to the prince consort.
“Will you dance with me, wild outrider from the Rhine?”
He laughed coarsely and pointed to his gigantic brown riding boots with their immense spurs.
“Do you believe that I can dance in these?”
“Try it,” she urged, and pulled him by the arm away from where he was sitting.
“It will be alright! Only don’t trample me to death or break me, you rough hunter.”
The prince threw a doubtful glance at the delicate thing in perfumed lace, then put on his buckskin gloves and reached out to her.
“Then come, my little page,” he cried.
Alraune threw a hand kiss over to the princess, waltzed through the hall with the heavy prince. The people made room for them and it went well enough diagonally across and then back. He raised her high and whirled her through the air so that she screamed. Then he got entangled in his long spurs–oops! They were both lying on the dance floor.
She was up again, like new, reaching out her hand to him.
“Get up Herr Outrider. I can’t very well lift you.”
He raised his upper body, but when he tried to get onto his right foot a quick “ouch!” came out of his mouth. He steadied himself with his left hand, tried to get up again, but it didn’t work. An intense pain took his Majesty across the foot.
There he sat, big and strong, in the middle of the dance floor and couldn’t get himself up. Several came up and tried taking off the mighty boot, which covered his entire leg, but it wouldn’t go. The foot had swelled up so quickly they had to cut away the tough leather with sharp knives. Professor Dr. Helban, Orthopedic, examined him and determined the anklebone was broken.
“I’m done with dancing for today,” grumbled the prince-escort.
Alraune stood at the front of the thick circle that surrounded him, near her pressed the red executioner. A little song occurred to her that she had heard the students howling at night.
“Tell me,” she asked. “How does that song go, the one about the fields, the forests and the strong man’s strength?”
The tall Teuton was thoroughly drunk and reacted as if someone had thrown a coin into an automated machine. He swung his axe high into the air and bellowed out:
“He fell on a stone.
He fell on a–crack, crack, crack –
He fell on a stone!
Broke three ribs in his body
In the fields and the forests
And all of his strength–
And then his right –crack, crack, crack
And then his right leg!”
“Shut up!” whispered a fraternity brother to him. “Are you entirely crazy?”
That quieted him. But the good natured prince laughed.
“Thanks for the appropriate serenade! But you can save the three ribs–My leg here is completely enough!”
They carried him out on a chair, helped him into his sleigh. The princess left the ball with him. She was not at all happy about the incident.
Alraune sought out Wolf Gontram, found him still sitting at the abandoned Royal table.
“What did she do?” she asked quickly. “What did she say?”
“I don’t know,” answered Wölfchen.
She took his fan, hit him sharply on the arm.
“You do know,” she insisted. “You must know and you must tell me!”
He shook his head, “But I really don’t know. She gave me something to drink and smoothed back the hair on my forehead. I believe she also squeezed my hand, but I can’t say exactly, don’t know exactly all that she said. A couple of times I said, ‘Yes.’ But I wasn’t listening to her at all. I was thinking about something entirely different.”
“You are terribly stupid Wölfchen,” said the Fräulein reproachfully. “You were dreaming again! What were you dreaming about this time?”
“About you,” he replied.
She stamped her feet in anger.
“About me! Always about me! Why are you always thinking about me?”
His large deep eyes pleaded with her.
“I can’t help it,” he whispered.
The music began, interrupting the silence that the going away of the Royalty had caused. “Roses of the South” sounded soft and seductive. She took his hand, pulled him out with her.
“Come, Wölfchen, we will dance!”
They stepped out and turned around. They were alone in the large hall. The gray bearded art professor saw them, climbed up on his chair and shouted:
“Quiet, special waltz for the Chevalier de Maupin and his Rosalinde!”
Hundreds of eyes rested on the beautiful couple. Alraune was highly aware of it and felt the admiration with every step that she took. But Wolf Gontram noticed nothing, he only felt, as he lay in her arms and was carried by the soft sounds. His heavy black eye lashes lowered, shadowing his deep, dreamy eyes.
The Chevalier de Maupin led, certain, as confidant as a slender page that has lived on the smooth dance floor since the cradle. His head was bowed slightly forward, his left hand held two of Rosalinde’s fingers while the right rested on the golden knob of the sword-cane that he had pushed down through the lace trimmed sash till the other end showed behind him. His powdered hair curled like tiny silver snakes, a smile spread his lips revealing smooth white teeth.
Rosalinde followed every light pressure. Her red and gold train slid smoothly over the floor and her figure grew out of it like a graceful shaped flower. Her head lay back, white ostrich plumes dangled heavily from her large hat. She was worlds away from everyone else, enraptured by the garlands of roses that hung throughout the hall. They passed under them again and again on their way around the dance floor.
The guests pressed to the edges, those in back climbed up on chairs and tables. They watched, breathless.
“I congratulate you, your Excellency,” murmured Princess Wolkonski.
The Privy Councilor replied, “Thank you, your Highness. You see that our efforts have not been entirely in vain.”
They changed directions, the Chevalier led his Lady diagonally across the hall, and Rosalinde opened her eyes wide, throwing quiet, astonished glances at the crowd surrounding them.
“Shakespeare would kneel if he saw this Rosalinde,” declared the professor of literature.
But at the next table little Manasse barked from his chair down to Legal Councilor Gontram.
“Stand up and look just this once, Herr Colleague! Look at that! Your boy looks just like your departed wife–exactly like her!”
The old Legal Councilor remained sitting quietly, sampling a new bottle of Urziger Auslese.
“I can’t especially remember any more how she looked,” he opined indifferently.
Oh, he remembered her well, but what did that have to do with other people?
The couple danced, down through the hall and back. Rosalinde’s white shoulders rose and fell faster, her cheeks grew flushed–but the Chevalier smiled under his powder and remained equally graceful, equally certain, confident and nimble.
Countess Olga tore the red carnations out of her hair and threw them at the couple. The Chevalier de Maupin caught one in the air, pressed it to his lips and blew her a kiss. Then all the others grabbed after colorful flowers, taking them out of vases on the tables, tearing them from clothing, loosening them from their hair, and under a shower of flowers the couple waltzed to the left around the hall carried by the sounds of “Roses of the South”.
The orchestra started over and over again. The musicians, dulled and over tired from nightly playing, appeared to wake up, leaning over the balustrade of the balcony and looking down. The baton of the conductor flew faster, hotter rushed the bows of the violinists and in deep silence the untiring couple, Rosalinde and the Chevalier de Maupin, floated through a sea of roses, colors and sounds.
Then the conductor stopped the music. Then it broke loose. The Baron von Platten, Colonel of the 28th cried out with his stentorian voice down from the gallery:
“A cheer for the couple! A cheer for Fräulein ten Brinken! A cheer for Rosalinde!”
The glasses clinked and people shouted and yelled, pressing onto the dance floor, surrounding the couple, almost crushing them.
Two fraternity boys from Rhenania carried in a mighty basket full of red roses they had purchased downtown somewhere from a flower woman. A couple Hussar officers brought champagne. Alraune only sipped, but Wolf Gontram–overheated, red-hot and thirsty, guzzled the cool drink greedily, one goblet after another.