“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.”