Alraune pulled him away, breaking a path through the crowd. The red executioner sat in the middle of the hall. He stuck out his long neck, held out his axe to her with both hands.
“I have no flowers,” he cried. “I myself am a red rose. Pluck me!”
Alraune left him sitting, led her lady further, past the tables under the gallery and into the conservatory. She looked around her. It was no less full of people and all of them were waving and calling out to them. Then she saw a little door behind a heavy curtain that led out to a balcony.
“Oh, this is good!” she cried. “Come with Wölfchen!”
She pulled back the curtain, turned the key, and pressed down on the latch. But five coarse fingers rested on her arm.
“What do you want there?” cried a harsh voice.
She turned around. It was Attorney Manasse in his black hooded robe and mask.
“What do you want outside?” he repeated.
She shook off his ugly hand.
“What is it to you?” she answered. “We just want to get a breath of fresh air.”
He nodded vigorously, “That’s just what I thought, exactly why I followed you over here! But you won’t do it, will not do it!”
Fräulein ten Brinken straightened up, looked at him haughtily.
“And why shouldn’t I do it? Perhaps you would like to stop us?”
He involuntarily sagged under her glance, but didn’t give up.
“Yes, I will stop you, I will! Don’t you understand that this is madness? You are both over heated, almost drenched in sweat–and you want to go out onto the balcony where it is twelve degrees below zero?”
“We are going,” insisted Alraune.
“Then go,” he barked. “It doesn’t matter to me what you do Fräulein–I will only stop the boy, Wolf Gontram, him alone.”
Alraune measured him from head to foot. She pulled the key out of the lock, opened the door wide.
“Well then,” she said.
She stepped outside onto the balcony, raised her hand and beckoned to her Rosalinde.
“Will you come out into the winter night with me?” she cried. “Or will you stay inside the hall?”
Wolf Gontram pushed the attorney to the side, stepped quickly through the door. Little Manasse grabbed at him, clamped tightly onto his arm. But the boy pushed him back again, silently, so that he fell awkwardly against the curtain.
“Don’t go Wolf!” screamed the attorney. “Don’t go!”
He looked wretched, his hoarse voice broke.
But Alraune laughed out loud, “Adieu, faithful Eckart! Stay pretty in there and guard our audience!”
She slammed the door in his face, stuck the key in the lock and turned it twice. The little attorney tried to see through the frosted window. He tore at the latch and in a rage stamped both feet on the floor. Then he slowly calmed himself, came out from behind the curtain and stepped back into the hall.
“So it is fate,” he growled.
He bit his strong, tangled teeth together, went back to his Excellency’s table, let himself fall heavily into a chair.
“What’s wrong, Herr Manasse?” asked Frieda Gontram. “You look like seven days of rainy weather!”
“Nothing,” he barked. “Absolutely nothing–by the way, your brother is an ass! Herr Colleague, don’t drink all of that alone! Save some of it for me!”
The Legal Councilor poured his glass full.
But Frieda Gontram said quite convinced, “Yes, I believe that too. He is an ass.”
The two walked through the snow, leaned over the balustrade, Rosalinde and the Chevalier de Maupin. The full moon fell over the wide street, threw its sweet light on the baroque shape of the university, then the old palace of the Archbishop. It played on the wide white expanses down below, throwing fantastic shadows diagonally over the sidewalk.
Wolf Gontram drank in the icy air.
“That is beautiful,” he whispered, waving with his hand down at the white street where there was not the slightest sound to disturb the deep silence.
But Alraune ten Brinken was looking at him, saw how his white shoulders glowed in the moonlight, saw his large deep eyes shining like opals.
“You are beautiful,” she said to him. “You are more beautiful than the moonlit night.”
He let go of the stone balustrade, reached out for her and embraced her.
“Alraune,” he cried. “Alraune.”
She endured this for a moment, then freed herself, and patted him lightly on the hand.
“No,” she laughed, “No! You are Rosalinde–and I am the boy, so I will court you.”
She looked around, grabbed a chair out of the corner, dragged it over, beat off the snow with her sword-cane.
“Here, sit down my beautiful Fräulein. Unfortunately you are a little too tall for me! That’s better–now we are just right!”
She bowed gracefully, then went down on one knee.
“Rosalinde,” she chirped. “Rosalinde! Permit a knight errant to steal a kiss–”
“Alraune,” he began.
But she sprang up, clapped her hand over his lips. “You must say ‘Mein Herr!’” she cried.
“Now then, will you permit me to steal a kiss Rosalinde?”
“Yes, Mein Herr,” he stammered.
Then she stepped behind him, took his head in both arms and she began, hesitated.
“First the ears,” she laughed, “the right and now the left, and the cheeks, both of them–and your stupid nose that I have so often kissed. Finally–lookout Rosalinde, your beautiful mouth.”
She bent lower, pressed her curly head against his shoulder under his hat. But she pulled back again.
“No, no, beautiful maiden, leave your hands! They must rest quietly in your lap.”
He laid his shivering hands on his knee and closed his eyes. Then she kissed him, slowly and passionately. At the end her small teeth sought his lip, bit it quickly so that heavy drops of red blood fell down onto the snow.
She tore herself loose, stood in front of him, staring blankly at the moon with wide-open eyes. A sudden chill seized her, threw a shiver over her slender limbs.
“I’m freezing,” she whispered.
She raised one foot up and then the other.
“The stupid snow is everywhere inside my dance slippers!”
She pulled a slipper off and shook it out.
“Put my shoes on,” he cried. “They are bigger and warmer.”
He quickly slipped them off and let her step into them.
“Is that better?”
“Yes,” she laughed. “I feel good again. For that I will give you another kiss, Rosalinde.”
And she kissed him again–and again she bit him. Then they both laughed at how the moon lit up the red stains on the white ground.
“Do you love me, Wolf Gontram?” she asked.
He said, “I think of nothing else but you.”
She hesitated a moment, then asked again–“If I wanted it–would you jump from the balcony?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Even from the roof?”
“Even from the tower of the Münster Cathedral?”
He nodded again.
“Would you do anything for me, Wölfchen?” she asked.
“Yes, Alraune,” he said, “if you loved me.”
She pursed her lips, rocked her hips lightly.
“I don’t know whether I love you,” she said slowly. “Would you do it even if I didn’t love you?”
His gorgeous eyes that his mother had given him shone, shone fuller and deeper than they had ever done and the moon above, jealous of those eyes, hid from them, concealing itself behind the cathedral tower.
“Yes,” said the boy. “Yes, even then.”
She sat on his lap, wrapped her arms around his neck.
“For that, Rosalinde–for that I will kiss you for a third time.”
And she kissed him again, still longer and more passionately and she bit him–more wildly and deeply. But they couldn’t see the heavy drops in the snow any more because the jealous moon had hidden its silver torch.
“Come,” she whispered. “Come, we must go!”
They exchanged shoes, beat the snow off their clothing, opened the door and stepped back inside, slipped behind the curtain and into the hall. The arc-lamps overhead were glaring; the hot and sticky air stifled them.
Wolf Gontram staggered as he let go of the curtain, grasping quickly at his chest with both hands.
She noticed it. “Wölfchen?” she cried.
He said, “It’s nothing, nothing at all–just a twinge! But it’s all right now.”
Hand in hand they walked through the hall.
Wolf Gontram didn’t come into the office the next day, never got out of bed, lay in a raging fever. He lay like that for nine days. He was often delirious, called out her name–but not once during this time did he come back to consciousness.
Then he died. It was pneumonia. They buried him outside, in the new cemetery.
Fräulein ten Brinken sent a large garland of full, dark roses.