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.