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Archive for October, 2014

“No,” he cried. “That is not true. She would have drown herself–”

“So much the better!” laughed Alraune.

He bit his teeth together, grabbed her arms and shook her.

“You are a witch!” he hissed. “Someone should kill you.”

She didn’t defend herself, even when his fingers pressed deeply into her flesh.

“Who?” she laughed. “You?”

“Yes me!” he screamed. “Me! I planted the seed of this poisonous tree–so I am the one to find an axe and chop it down–to free the world of you!”

“Do it,” she piped gently. “Do it, Frank Braun!”

Her mockery flowed like oil on the fire that burned in him. Haze rose hot and red in front of his eyes, pressed stuffily into his mouth. His features became distorted. He quickly let go of her and raised his clenched fists.

“Hit me,” she cried. “Hit me! I want you to!”

At that his arms sank, his poor will drowned in the flood of her caresses.

That night he awoke. A flickering light fell on him coming from the large silver candlestick that stood on the fireplace. He lay on his great-grandmother’s mighty bed. Over him, directly over him, the little wooden man was suspended.

“If it falls, it will kill me,” he thought half-asleep. “I must take it down.”

Then his gaze fell to the foot of the bed. There crouched Alraune, soft words sounded from her mouth, something rattled lightly in her hands. He turned his head a little and peered over at her. She held the dice cup–her mother’s skull, threw the dice–her father’s bones.

“Nine,” she muttered, “and seven–sixteen!”

Again she put the bone dice in the skull dice cup, shook it noisily back and forth.

“Eleven,” she cried.

“What are you doing?” he interrupted.

She turned around, “I’m playing. I couldn’t go to sleep–so I’m playing.”

“What are you playing?” he asked.

She glided over to him, quickly, like a smooth little snake.

“I’m playing ‘How it will be’, How it will be–with you and with Frieda Gontram!”

“Well–and how will it be?” he asked again.

She drummed with her fingers on his chest.

“She will die,” she twittered. “Frieda Gontram will die.”

“When,” he pressed.

“I don’t know,” she spoke. “Soon, very soon!”

He tightened his fingers together, “Well – and how about me?”

She said, “I don’t know. You interrupted me. Should I continue to play?”

“No,” he cried. “No! I don’t want to know!”

He fell silent, brooding heavily, then startled suddenly, sat up and stared at the door. Light steps shuffled past. Very distinctly he heard the floorboards creak. He sprang out of bed, took a couple steps to the door and listened intently. Now they were gliding up the stairs. Then he heard her clear laughter behind him.

“Let her be!” she tinkled. “What do you want from her?”

“Why should I leave it alone?” he asked. “Who is it?”

She laughed even more, “Who? Frieda Gontram! Your fear is too early, my knight! She still lives!”

He came back, sat on the edge of the bed.

“Bring me some wine!” he cried. “I want something to drink!”

She sprang up, ran into the next room, brought the crystal carafe, let the burgundy bleed into the polished goblets.

“She always runs around,” Alraune explained, “day and night. She says she can’t sleep, so she climbs through the entire house.”

He didn’t hear what she was saying, gulped the wine down and reached the goblet out to her again.

“More,” he demanded. “Give me more!”

“No,” she said. “Not like that! Lay back down. You will drink from me if you are thirsty.”

She pressed his head down onto the pillows, kneeled in front of him on the floor, took a sip of wine and gave it to him in her mouth. He became drunk from the wine, even more drunk from the lips that reached out to him.

The sun burned at noon. They sat on the marble edge of the pool and splashed in the water with their feet.

“Go into my room,” she said. “On my dresser is a hook, on the left hand side. Bring it to me.”

“No,” he replied. “You shouldn’t fish. What would you do with the little goldfish?”

“Do it!” she spoke.

He stood up and went into the mansion. He went into her room, picked up the hook and examined it critically. Then he smiled in satisfaction.

“Well, she won’t catch many with this thing here!” But then he interrupted himself.

Heavy lines creased his forehead, “Not catch many? She would catch goldfish even if she threw in a meat hook!”

His glance fell on the bed, then up to the little root man. He threw the hook into the corner and grabbed a chair in sudden resolve. He placed it by the bed, climbed up and with a quick pull tore the little alraune down. He gathered some paper together, threw it into the fireplace, lit it and laid the little man on top.

He sat down on the floor watching the flames. But they only devoured the paper, didn’t even singe the alraune, only blackened it. And it seemed to him that it laughed, as if its ugly face pulled into a grimace–yes, into Uncle Jakob’s grin! And then–then the phlemy laugh sounded again–echoed from the corners.

He sprang up, took his knife from the table, opened the sharp blade and grabbed the little man from out of the fire. The wooden root was hard and infinitely tough. He was only able to remove little splinters, but he didn’t give up. He cut and cut, one little piece after the other. Bright beads of sweat pearled on his forehead and his fingers hurt from the unaccustomed work. He paused, took some fresh paper, stacks of never read newspapers, threw the splinters on them, sprinkled them with rose oil and Eau de Cologne.

Ah, now it burned, blazed, and the flames doubled his strength. Faster and stronger, he removed more slivers from the wood, always giving new nourishment to the fire. The little man became smaller, lost its arms and both legs. Yet it never gave up, defended itself, the point of a splinter stuck deeply into his finger. But he smeared the ugly head with his blood, grinned, laughed and cut new slivers from its body.

Then her voice rang, hoarse, almost broken.

“What are you doing?” she cried.

He sprang up, threw the last piece into the devouring flames. He turned around and a wild, insane gleam showed in his green eyes.

“I’ve killed it!” he screamed.

“Me,” she moaned, “Me!”

She grabbed at her breast with both hands.

“It hurts,” she whispered. “It hurts.”

He walked past her, slammed the door shut–Yet an hour later he lay again in her arms, greedily drinking her poisonous kisses.

It was true–He had been her teacher. By his hand they had wandered through the park of love, deep onto the hidden path far from broad avenues of the masses. But where the path ended in thick underbrush he turned around, turned back from the steep abyss. There she walked on laughing, untroubled and free of all fear or shyness. She skipped in light easy dance steps. There was no red poisonous fruit that grew in the park of love that her fingers did not pluck, her smiling lips did not taste–

She learned from him how sweet the intoxication was when the tongue sipped little drops of blood from the flesh of the lover. But her desire was insatiable and her burning thirst unquenchable.

He was exhausted from her kisses that night, slowly untangled himself from her limbs, closed his eyes and lay like a dead man, rigid and unmoving. But he didn’t sleep. His senses remained clear and awake despite his weariness. He lay like that for long hours.

The bright light of the full moon fell through the open window onto the white bed. He heard how she stirred at his side, softly moaned and whispered senseless words like she always did on such full moon nights.

He heard her stand up, go singing to the window, then slowly come back, felt how she bent over him and stared at him for a long time. He didn’t move. Again she stood up, ran to the table and came back. She blew quickly on his left breast, then once more and waited, listening to his breathing. Then he felt something cold and sharp slice through his skin and realized it was a knife.

“Now she will thrust it,” he thought.

But that didn’t seem painful to him. It seemed sweet and even good. He didn’t move and waited quietly for the quick thrust that would open his heart. She cut slowly and lightly. Not very deep–but deep enough that his hot blood welled up. He heard her quick breath, opened his eyelids a little and looked up at her. Her lips were half-open, the tip of her little tongue greedily pushed itself out between her even teeth. Her small white breasts raised themselves quickly and an insane fire shone out of her staring green eyes.

Then suddenly she threw herself over him, pressed her mouth to the open wound, drank–drank. He lay there quietly, felt how the blood flowed from his heart. It seemed to him as if she was drinking him dry, sucking all of his blood, not leaving him a single drop.

And she drank–drank–through an eternity she drank–

Finally she raised her head. He saw how she glowed, her cheeks shone red in the moonlight, and little drops of sweat pearled on her forehead. With caressing fingers she once more tasted the red refreshment from the exhausted well, then lightly pressed a few light kisses on it, turned and looked with staring eyes into the moon–

There was something that pulled her. She stood up, went with heavy steps to the window, climbed onto a chair, and set one foot on the windowsill–awash with silvery moonlight.

Then, as if with sudden resolve, she climbed down again, didn’t look to the right or to the left, glided straight through the room.

“I’m coming,” she whispered. “I’m coming.”

She opened the door and went out.

He lay there quietly for awhile listening to the steps of the sleepwalker until they lost themselves somewhere in some distant room. Then he stood up, put on his socks and shoes and grabbed his robe. He was happy that she was gone. Now he could get a little sleep. He had to leave, leave now – before she came back.

He crossed the hall and headed toward his room, then heard her footsteps and pressed himself tightly into a doorway. But it was a black figure, Frieda Gontram in her garb of mourning. She carried a lit candle in her hand as she always did on her nightly strolls despite the light of the full moon.

He saw her pale, distorted features, the hard lines that crossed her nose, her thin pinched mouth, and her frightened, averted eyes.

“She was possessed,” he thought, “possessed just like he was.”

For a moment he considered speaking to her, to find out if–if perhaps–But he shook his head, no, no. It wouldn’t help. She blocked the way to his room, so he decided to go across to the library and lay down there on the divan. He sneaked down the stairs, came to the house door, slid back the bolt and unhooked the chain. Then he quietly slipped outside and went out across the courtyard.

The Iron Gate stood wide open as if it were day. That surprised him and he went through it out onto the street. The niche of the Saint lay in deep shadows but the white stone statue shown brighter than usual. Many flowers lay at his feet. Four, five little lanterns burned between them and it seemed to him as if those little flames the people brought, which they called eternal lamps, wanted to do battle against the light of the moon.

“Paltry little lanterns,” he murmured.

But they helped him, were like a protection against the cruel, unfathomable forces of nature. He felt safe in the shadows near the Saint where the moon’s own light didn’t penetrate, where the Saint’s own fires burned. He looked up at the hard features of the statue and it seemed to him as if they lived in the flickering light of the lanterns. It seemed as if the Saint extended himself, grew taller, and looked proudly out to where the moon was shining. Then he sang, lightly humming as he had many years ago, but this time ardently, almost fervently.

 

John of Nepomuk

Protector against floods

Protect me from love!

Let it strike another.

Leave me in earthly peace

John of Nepomuk

Protect me from love.

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Chapter Sixteen

Proclaims how Alraune came to an end.

 

 

HE slowly went up to his room, washed his wound, bandaged it and laughed at the girl’s shooting ability.

“She will learn soon enough,” he thought. “We just need a little target practice.”

Then he remembered her look as she ran away. She was all broken up, full of wild despair, as if she had committed a crime. And it had only been an unlucky coincidence–which fortunately had turned out all right–He hesitated–A coincidence? Ah, that was it. She didn’t take it as a coincidence–took it as–fate.

He considered–

That was certainly it. That was why she was frightened–that was why she ran away–When she looked into his eyes she saw her own image there. That’s what she was afraid of–death, who scattered his flowers where ever her feet trod–

The little attorney had warned him, “Now it is your turn.” Hadn’t Alraune herself told him the same thing when she asked him to leave? Wasn’t the old magick working on him just like it had on all the others? His uncle had left him worthless paper–Now they were digging gold out of the rocks! Alraune brought riches–and she brought death.

Suddenly he was frightened–now for the first time. He bared his wound once again–Oh yes, there it was. His heart beat right under the tear. It had only been the little movement of his body as he turned, as he pointed to the squirrel with his arm that had saved him. Otherwise–otherwise–

No, he didn’t want to die, especially right now because of his mother, he thought. Yes, because of her–but even if she wasn’t there, he wanted to live for himself as well. It had taken many long years to learn how to live, but now he had mastered that great art, which now gave him more than many thousands of others. He lived fully and strongly, stood on the summit and really enjoyed the world and all of its delights.

“Fate loves me,” he thought. “It’s pointing with its finger–much more clearly than the words of the attorney. There is still time.”

He pulled out his suitcase, tore the lid open and began to pack–How had Uncle Jakob ended his leather bound volume?

“Try your luck! It’s too bad that I won’t be there when your turn comes. I would have dearly loved to see it.”

He shook his head.

“No, Uncle Jakob,” he murmured. “You will get no satisfaction out of me this time, not this time.”

He threw his boots together, grabbed a pair of stockings, and laid out a shirt and suit that he wanted to wear. His glance fell on the deep blue kimono that hung over the back of a chair. He picked it up, contemplated the scorched hole that the bullet had made.

“I should leave it here,” he said. “A momento for Alraune. She can put it with the other momentos.”

A deep sigh sounded behind him. He turned around–She stood in the middle of the room, in a thin silk negligee, looking at him with large open eyes.

“You are packing?” she whispered. “You are leaving–I thought so.”

A lump rose in his throat but he choked it back down and pulled himself together.

“Yes, Alraune, I’m going on a journey,” he said.

She threw herself down onto a chair, didn’t answer, just looked at him quietly. He went to the wash basin, took up one thing after another, comb, brush, soap and sponge. Finally he threw the lid shut and locked the suitcase.

“Well,” he said forcefully. “Now I’m ready.”

He stepped up to her, reached out his hand. She didn’t move, didn’t raise her arm and her pale lips remained shut. Only her eyes spoke.

“Don’t go,” they pleaded. “Don’t leave me. Stay with me.”

“Alraune,” he murmured and it sounded like a reproach, like a plea even, to let him go.

But she didn’t let him go, held him solidly with her eyes, “Don’t leave me.”

It felt like his will was melting and he forcefully turned his eyes away from her. But then her lips moved.

“Don’t go,” she insisted. “Stay with me.”

“No,” he screamed. “I don’t want to. You will put me in the ground like all the others!”

He turned his back on her, went to the table, and tore a couple pieces of cotton from the bandage wadding that he had brought for his wound. He moistened them with oil and plugged them solidly into his ears.

“Now you can talk,” he cried. “If you like. I can’t hear you. I can’t see you–I must go and you know it. Let me go.”

She softly said, “Then you will feel me.”

She stepped up to him, lightly laid her hand on his arm and her fingers trembled and spoke – “Stay with me!–Don’t abandon me.”

The light kiss of her little hands was so sweet, so sweet.

“I will tear myself loose,” he thought, “soon, just one second longer.”

He closed his eyes, and with a deep breath savored the caressing touch of her fingers. Then she raised her hands and his cheeks trembled under their gentle touch. She slowly brought her arms around his neck, bent his head down, raised herself up and brought her moist lips to his mouth.

“How strange it is,” he thought. “Her nerves speak and mine understand their language.”

She pulled him one step to the side, pressed him down onto the bed, sat on his knees and wrapped him in a cloak of tender caresses. With slender fingers she pulled the cotton out of his ears and whispered sultry, loving words to him. He didn’t understand because she spoke so softly, but he sensed the meaning, felt that she was no longer saying, “Stay!”–That now she was saying, “I’m so glad that you are staying.”

He kept his eyelids tightly shut over his eyes, yet now he only heard her lips whisper sweet nothings, only felt the tips of her little fingers as they ran across his breast and his face. She didn’t pull him, didn’t urge him–and yet he felt the streaming of her nerves pulling him down onto the bed. Slowly, slowly, he let himself sink.

Then suddenly she sprang up. He opened his eyes, saw her run to the door and shut it, then to the window and tightly close the heavy curtains. A dim twilight still flowed through the room. He wanted to rise, to stand up, but she was back before he could move a single limb. She threw off the black negligee and came to him, shut his eyelids again with gentle fingers and pressed her lips on his.

He felt her little breast in his hand, felt her toe nails play against the flesh of his legs, felt her hair falling over his cheeks–and he didn’t resist, gave himself to her, just as she wanted–

“Are you staying?” she asked.

But he sensed it wasn’t a question any more, she only wanted to hear it from his own lips.

“Yes,” he said softly.

Her kisses fell like the rain in May. Her caresses dropped like a shower of almond blossoms in the evening wind and her loving words sprang like the shimmering pearls of the cascade in the park pool.

“You taught me!” she breathed. “You–you showed me what love is–Now you must stay for my love, which you created!”

She lightly traced her fingers over his wound, kissed it with her tongue, raised her head and looked at him with crazy, confused eyes.

“I hurt you–”she whispered. “I struck you–right over your heart–Do you want to beat me? Should I get the whip? Do what you want!–Tear wounds in me with your teeth–take a knife even. Drink my blood–Do whatever you want–Anything, anything–I am your slave.”

He closed his eyes again and sighed deeply.

“You are the Mistress,” he thought. “The winner!”

Sometimes when he entered the library it seemed as if a laugh came from out of the corners somewhere. The first time he heard it he thought it was Alraune, even though it didn’t sound like her voice. He searched around and found nothing. When he heard it again he became frightened.

“That’s Uncle Jakob’s hoarse voice,” he thought. “He is laughing at me.”

Then he took hold of himself, pulled himself together.

“A hallucination,” he muttered. “And no wonder–my nerves are over stimulated.”

He moved about as if in a dream, slouching and staggering, with hanging, drooping movements and listless eyes. But every nerve was taut and overloaded when he was with her–Then his blood raced, where before it had been sickly and barely crawled.

He had been her teacher, that was true. He had opened her eyes, taught her every Persian mystery from the land of the morning, every game of the ancients that had made love into a fine art. But it was as if he said nothing strange to her at all, only reawakened her long lost memories from some other time. Often her swift desire flamed and broke out like a forest fire in the summer time before he could even speak. He threw the torch and yet shuddered at the rutting fire that scorched his flesh, engulfed him in feverish passion, left him withered and curdled the blood in his veins.

Once as he slunk over the courtyard he met Froitsheim.

“You don’t ride any more, young Master?” asked the old coachman.

He quickly said, “No, not any more.”

Then his gaze met the old man’s and he saw how the dry lips opened.

“Don’t speak, old man!” he said quickly. “I know what you want to say to me! But I can’t–I can’t.”

The coachman watched for a long time as Frank Braun went into the garden, spit, thoughtfully shook his head, then crossed himself.

One evening Frieda Gontram sat on the stone bench under the copper beeches. He stepped up to her and offered his hand.

“Back already Frieda?”

“The two months are gone,” she said.

He put his hand to his forehead.

“Gone,” he murmured. “It scarcely seems like a week to me. How goes it with your brother?” he continued.

“He is dead,” she replied, “for a long time now. Vicar Schrőder and I buried him up there, in Davos.”

“Dead,” he responded.

Then as if to chase the thought away he quickly asked, “What else is new out there? We live like hermits, never go out of the garden.”

“The princess died of a stroke,” she began. “Countess Olga– ”

But he didn’t let her continue.

“No, no,” he cried. “Say nothing. I don’t want to hear. Death, death and more death–Be quiet Frieda, be quiet!”

Now he was happy that she was there. They spoke very little to each other, but they sat together quietly, secretly, when the Fräulein was in the house. Alraune resented that Frieda Gontram was back.

“Why did she come? I won’t have it! I want no one here except you.”

“Let her be,” he said. “She is not in the way, hides herself whenever she can.”

Alraune said, “She is together with you when I’m not there. I know it. She better be careful!”

“What will you do?” he asked.

She answered, “Do? Nothing! Have you forgotten that I don’t need to do anything? It all happens by itself.”

Once again resistance awoke in him.

“You are dangerous,” he said. “Like a poisonous berry.”

She raised her lips, “Why does she nibble then? I ordered her to stay away forever!–But you changed it to two months. It is your fault.”

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Early the next morning Frank Braun stood under the acacia that kissed the Fräulein’s window, gave his short whistle. She opened, called down that she would be right there. Her light steps rang clearly on the flagstones, with a leap she was down from the terrace, over the steps, into the garden and standing in front of him.

“Look at you!” she cried. “In a kimono? Do people go hunting like that?”

He laughed, “Well, it will do just fine for squirrels– But look at you!”

She was dressed as a Wallenstein hunter.

“Holk Regiment!” she cried. “Do you like it?”

She wore high yellow riding boots, a green jerkin and an enormous grayish green hat with waving plumes. An old pistol was stuck into her belt and a long sabre beat against her leg.

“Take that off,” he said. “The game will be terrified of you if you go hunting like that.”

She pouted her lips.

“Aren’t I pretty,” she asked.

He took her into his arms, quickly kissed her lips.“You are charming, you vain little monkey,” he laughed. “And your Holk hunting outfit will do just as well as my kimono for squirrels.”

He unbuckled the sabre and the long spurs, laid her flintlock pistol aside and took up the coachman’s rifle.

“Now come, comrade,” he cried. “Tally ho!”

They went through the garden walking softly, peering through the bushes and into the tops of the trees. He pushed a cartridge into the rifle and cocked it.

“Have you ever shot a gun before?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” she nodded. “Wőlfchen and I went together to the big church fair in Pützchen. We practiced there in the shooting gallery.”

“Good,” he said. “Then you know how you must hold it and aim it.”

There was a rustling over them in the branches.

“Shoot,” she whispered. “Shoot! There is one above us!”

He raised the rifle and looked up, but then let it down again.

“No, not that one,” he declared. “That is a young one, scarcely a year old. We will let it live for a while longer.”

They followed the brook until it came out of the birch trees into the meadow. Fat June bugs buzzed in the sun, yellow butterflies swung over the daisies. Whispering sounds were everywhere, crickets chirping, bees buzzing, grasshoppers jumped at their feet in giant leaps. Frogs croaked in the water and above–a little lark rejoiced. They walked across the meadow to the copper beeches. There, right on the border, they heard a frightened chirping, saw a little hen flutter out of the bushes.

Frank Braun crept quietly ahead, looking sharply.

“There is the robber,” he murmured.

“Where?” she asked. “Where?”

But his shot already cracked–a heavy squirrel fell down from the tree trunk. He raised it up by the tail, showed her where the bullet had hit.

“It won’t plunder any more nests!” he said.

They hunted further through the large park. He shot a second squirrel in the honeysuckle leaves and a third gray squirrel in the top of a pear tree.

“You always shoot!” she cried. “Let me have the gun once!”

He gave it to her, showed her how to carry it, let her shoot into a tree trunk a few times.

“Now come!” he cried. “Let’s see what you can do!”

He pushed the gun barrel down.

“Like this,” he instructed. “The muzzle always points toward the ground and not into the air.”

Near the pool he saw a young animal playing in the path. She wanted to shoot right away, but he called for her to sneak up a few more steps.

“Now you’re close enough, let him have it.”

She shot–the squirrel looked around in astonishment, then quickly sprang up a tree trunk and disappeared into the thick branches. A second time didn’t go much better–She was much too far away. But when she tried to get closer, the animals fled before she could get a shot off.

“The stupid beasts,” she complained. “Why do they stand still for you?”

She appeared charming to him in her childish anger.

“Apparently because they think I am their friend,” he laughed. “You make too much noise in your leather riding boots, that’s what it is! Just wait, we will get closer.”

Right by the mansion, where the hazel bushes pressed against the acacias, he saw another squirrel.

“Stay here,” he whispered. “I will drive it out to you. Only look there into those bushes and when you see it, whistle so I will know. It will turn when you whistle–then shoot!”

He went around in a wide arc, sneaking through the bushes. Finally he discovered the animal on a low acacia, drove it down, and chased it into a hazel thicket. He saw that it was going in the right direction toward Alraune so he backed up a little and waited for her whistle. But he didn’t hear it. Then he went back in the same arc and came out on the wide path behind her. There she stood, gun in hand, staring intently into the bushes and a little off to her left–scarcely three meters away, the squirrel merrily played in the hazel thicket.

“It’s over there,” he called out softly. “Over there, up a little and to the left!”

She heard his voice, turned quickly around toward him. He saw how her lips opened to speak, heard a shot at the same time and felt a light pain in his side. Then he heard her shrill despairing scream, saw how she threw the gun away and rushed toward him. She tore open his kimono, grabbed at the wound with both hands.

He bowed his head, looked down. It was a long, but very light surface wound that was scarcely bleeding. The skin was only burned, showing a broad black line.

“Get the hangman!” he laughed. “That was close!–Right over the heart.”

She stood in front of him, trembling, all of her limbs shaking, scarcely able to stand up. He supported her, talked to her.

“It’s nothing, child. Nothing at all! We will wash it out with something, then moisten it with oil–Think nothing of it!”

He pulled the kimono still further back, showed her his naked chest. With straying fingers she felt the surface wound.

“Right over the heart,” she murmured. “Right over the heart!”

Then suddenly she grabbed her head with both hands. A sudden fear seized her, she looked at him with a horrified gaze, tore herself out of his arms, ran to the house, sprang up the stairs–


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Frank Braun told him her name.

“Come Bianca,” spoke the old man. “You will have it good here with me. We will be friends.”

Then he turned again to Frank Braun.

“Young Master,” he continued. “I have three great-grandchildren in the village, two little girls and a boy. They are the cobbler’s children, on the road to Godesberg. They often come to visit me on Sunday afternoons. May I let them ride the ass?–Just here in the yard?”

He nodded, but before he could answer the Fräulein cried out:

“Why don’t you ask me, old man? It is my animal. He gave it to me!–Now I want to tell you–you are permitted to ride her–even in the gardens, when we are not home.”

Frank Braun’s glance thanked her–but not the old coachman. He looked at her, half mistrusting and half surprised, grumbled something incomprehensible and enticed the donkey into the stable with the juicy carrots.

He called the stable boy, presented him to Bianca, then the horses, one after the other–led her around behind the farmyard, showed her the cow barn with the heavy Hollander cows and the young calf of black and white Liese. He showed her the hounds, both sharp pointers, the old guard dog and the cheeky fox terrier that was sleeping in the stable. Brought her to the pigs, where the enormous Yorkshire sow suckled her piglets, to the goats and the chicken coop. Bianca ate carrots and followed him. It appeared that she liked it at the Brinken’s.

Often in the afternoons the Fräulein’s clear voice rang out from the garden.

“Bianca!” she cried. “Bianca!”

Then the old coachman opened her stall; swung the door open wide and the little donkey came into the garden at an easy trot. She would stop a few times, eat the green juicy leaves, indulge in the high clover or wander around some more until the enticing call rang out again, “Bianca!” Then she would search for her mistress.

They lay on the lawn under the ash trees. No table–only a large platter lay on the grass covered with a white Damascus cloth. There were many fruits, assorted tid-bits, dainties and sweets among the roses. The wine stood to the side.

Bianca snuffled, scorned the caviar and no less the oysters, turned away from the pies. But she took some cake and a piece of ice out of the cooler, ate a couple of roses in between–

“Undress me!” said Alraune.

Then he loosened the eyes and hooks and opened the snaps. When she was naked he lifted her onto the donkey. She sat astride on the white animal’s back and held on lightly to the shaggy mane. Slowly, step by step, she rode over the meadow. He walked by her side, lying his right hand on the animal’s head. Bianca was clever, proud of the slender boy whom she carried, didn’t stop once, but went lightly with velvet hoofs.

There, where the dahlia bed ended, a narrow path led past the little brook that fed the marble pool. She didn’t go over the wooden bridge. Carefully, one foot after the other, Bianca waded through the clear water. She looked curiously to the side when a green frog jumped from the bank into the stream. He led the animal over to a raspberry patch, picked the red berries and divided them with Alraune, continued through the thick laurel bushes.

There, surrounded by thick elms, lay a large field of carnations. His grandfather had laid it out for his good friend, Gottfried Kinkel, who loved these flowers. Every week he had sent the poet a large bouquet for as long as he lived. There were little feathery carnations, tens of thousands of them, as far as the eye could see. All the flowers glowed silver-white and their leaves glowed silvery green. They gleamed far, far into the evening sun, a silver ground.

Bianca carried the pale girl diagonally across the field and then back around. The white donkey stepped deeply through the silver ocean; the wind made light waves that kissed her hoofs.

He stood on the border and watched her, drank in the sweet colors until he was sated. Then she rode up to him.

“Isn’t it beautiful, my love?” she asked.

And he said sincerely,  “–It is very beautiful–ride some more.”

She answered, “I am happy.”

Lightly she laid her hand behind the clever animal’s ears and it stepped out, slowly, slowly, through shining silver–

“Why are you laughing?” she asked.

They sat on the terrace at the breakfast table and he was reading his mail. There was a letter from Herr Manasse, who wrote him about the Burberger mining shares.

“You have read in the newspapers about the gold strike in the Hocheifel,” said the attorney. For the greatest part the gold has been found on territory owned by the Burberger Association. It appears very doubtful to me that these small veins of ore will be worth the very considerable cost of refining it. Nevertheless, your shares that were completely worthless four weeks ago, now, with the help of the Association’s skillful press release have rapidly climbed in value and have been at par for a week already.

Today, I heard through bank director Baller that they are prepared to quote them at two hundred fourteen. Therefore I have given your stocks over to my friend and asked him to sell them immediately. That will happen tomorrow, perhaps they will obtain an even higher rate of exchange.”

He handed the letter over to Alraune.

“Uncle Jakob himself, would have never dreamed of that,” he laughed. “Otherwise he would have certainly left my mother and me some different shares!”

She took the letter, carefully read it through to the end. Then she let it sink, stared straight ahead into space. Her face was wax pale.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Yes he did–He did know it,” she said slowly. “He knew exactly what he was doing!”

Then she turned to him.

“If you want to make money–don’t sell the shares,” she continued and her voice rang with conviction.

“They will find still more gold–Your shares will climb still higher–much higher.”

“It’s too late,” he said lightly. “By this hour the shares have probably already been sold! Besides, are you all that certain?”

“Certain?” she repeated. “Certain? Who could be more certain that I?”

She let her head sink down onto the table, sobbed out loud, “So it begins–so–”

He stood up, laid his arm around her shoulder.

“Nonsense,” he said. “Beat that depression out of your brain!–Come Alraune, we will go swimming. The fresh water will wash the foolish cobwebs away. Chat with your mermaid sisters–they will confirm that Melusine can bring no more harm once she has kissed her lover.”

She pushed him away, sprang up, stood facing him, and looked him straight in the eyes.

“I love you,” she cried. “Yes, I do–But it is not true–the magic does not go away! I am no Melusine, am not the fresh water’s child! I come out of the earth–and the night created me.”

Shrill tones rang from her lips–and he didn’t know if it was a sob or a laugh–

He grabbed her in his strong arms, paid no attention to her struggling and hitting. He held her like a wild child, carried her down the steps and into the garden, carried her screaming over to the pool, threw her in, as far as he could with all her clothes on.

She got up and stood for a moment in amazement, dazed and confused. Then he let the cascades play and a splashing rain surrounded her. She laughed loudly at that.

“Come,” she cried. “Come in too!”

She undressed and in high spirits threw her wet clothes at his head.

“Aren’t you ready yet?” she urged. “Hurry up!”

When he was standing beside her she saw that he was bleeding. The drops fell from his cheek, from his neck and left ear.

“I bit you,” she whispered.

He nodded. Then she raised herself up high, encircled his neck, and drank the red blood with ardent lips.

“Now it is better,” she said.

They swam around–Then he went into the house, brought her a cloak. And when they turned to go back, hand in hand, under the copper beeches she said:

“I thank you, my love!”

They lay naked in the red afterglow. Their bodies, that had been one through the hot afternoon hours, fell apart–Broken and crushed by their caresses, their fondling and sweet words, like the flowers, like the tender grass, over which their love storm had broken. The firebrand lay dead, had devoured itself with greedy teeth. Out of the ashes grew a cruel, steel hard hatred.

They looked at each other–now they knew that they were mortal enemies. The long red lines on her thighs now seemed disgusting and unseemly to him, the spittle ran in his mouth as if he had sucked a bitter poison out of her lips. The little wounds that her teeth and her nails had torn hurt and burned, swelling up–

“She has poisoned me,” he thought. “Like she once did Dr. Petersen.”

Her green gaze smiled over at him, provoking, mocking and impudent. He closed his eyes, bit his lips together, and curled his fingers into fists. Then she stood up, turned around and kicked him with her foot, carelessly and contemptuously.

He sprang up at that, stood in front of her, their glances crossed–Not one word came out of her mouth, but she pouted her lips, raised her arm, spit at him, slapped him in the face with her hand.

Then he threw himself at her, shook her body, whirled her around by her hair, flung her to the ground, kicked her, beat her, choked her tightly by the neck. She defended herself well. Her nails shredded his face, her teeth bit into his arm and his chest. And with blood foaming at their mouths, their lips searched and found each other, took each other in a rutting frenzy of burning desire and pain–

Then he seized her, flung her several meters away, so that she fainted, sinking down onto the lawn. He staggered a few steps further, sank down and stared up into the blue heavens, without desire, without will–listening to his temples pound–until his eyelids sank–

When he awoke, she was kneeling at his feet, drying the blood out of his wounds with her hair, ripping her shift into long strips, bandaging him skillfully–

“Let’s go, my love,” she said. “Evening falls.”

Little blue eggshells lay on the path. He searched in the bushes, found the plundered nest of a crossbill.

“Those pesky squirrels,” he cried. “There are far too many in the park. They will drive out all of our song birds.”

“What should we do?” she asked.

He said, “Shoot a few.”

She clapped her hands.

“Yes, yes,” she laughed. “We will go on a hunt!”

“Do you have some kind of a gun?” he asked.

She considered, “No, –I believe there are none, at least none that we can use–We must buy one–But wait,” she interrupted herself, “The old coachman has one. Sometimes he shoots the stray cats when they poach.”

He went to the stables.

“Hello Froitsheim,” he cried. “Do you have a gun?”

“Yes,” replied the old man. “Should I go get it?”

He nodded, then he asked, “Tell me old man. Do you still want to let your great-grandchildren ride on Bianca? They were here last Sunday–but I didn’t see you setting them on the donkey.”

The old man growled, went into his room, took a rifle down from the wall, came back, sat down quietly, cleaning it and getting it ready.

“Well?” he asked. “Aren’t you going to answer me?”

Froitsheim chewed with dry lips.

“I don’t want to,” he grumbled.

Frank Braun laid a hand on his shoulder, “Be reasonable old man, say what is on your heart. I think you can speak freely with me!”

Then the coachman said, “I will accept nothing from the Fräulein–don’t want any gifts from her. I receive my bread and wages–for that I work. I don’t want any more than that.”

Frank Braun felt that no persuasion would help getting through his hard skull. Then he hit upon an idea, threw in a little bait that the old man could chew on–

“If the Fräulein asked something special of you, would you do it?”

“No,” said the stubborn old man. “No more than my duty.”

“But if she paid you extra,” he continued. “Then would you do it?”

The coachman still didn’t want to agree.

“That would depend–” he chewed.

“Don’t be pig headed, Froitsheim!” laughed Frank Braun. “The Fräulein–not I–wants to borrow your gun to shoot squirrels–That has absolutely nothing to do with your duty, and because of that–do you understand, in return–she will allow you to let the children ride on the donkey–It is a trade. Will you do it?”

“Yes,” said the old man grinning. “I will.”

He handed the rifle over to him, took a box of cartridges out of a drawer.

“I will throw these in as well!” he spoke. “That way I’ve paid well and am not in her debt–Are you going out riding this afternoon, young Master?” he continued.

“Good, the horses will be ready around five-o’clock.”–Then he called the stable boy, sent him running out to the cobbler’s wife, his granddaughter, to let her know that she should send the children up that evening–

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Chapter Fifteen

 

Tells how Alraune lived in the park.

 

 

HE didn’t write his mother on that day, or the next, pushed it off for another week and further–for months. He lived in the large garden of the Brinkens, like he had done when he was a boy, when he had spent his school vacations there.

They sat in the warm green houses or under the mighty cedars, whose young sprouts had been brought from Lebanon by some pious ancestor, or strolled under the Mulberry trees, past a small pool that was deeply overshadowed by hanging willows.

The garden belonged to them that summer, to them alone, Alraune and him. The Fräulein had given strict orders that none of the servants were permitted to enter, not by day or by night. Not once were the gardeners called for. They were sent away into the city, charged with the maintenance of her gardens at her villas in Coblenz. The renters were very happy and amazed at the Fräulein’s attentiveness.

Only Frieda Gontram used the path. She never spoke a word about what she suspected but didn’t know. But her pinched lips and her evasive glance spoke loudly enough. She avoided meeting him on the path and yet was always there as soon as he was together with Alraune.

“What the blazes,” he grumbled. “I wish she was on top of mount Blocksberg!”

“Is she bothering you?” asked Alraune.

“Doesn’t she bother you?” he retorted.

She replied, “I haven’t noticed. I scarcely pay any attention to her.”

That evening he encountered Frieda Gontram by the blossoming blackthorns. She stood up from her bench and turned to go. Her gaze held a hot hatred.

He went up to her, “What is it Frieda?”

She said, “Nothing!–You can be satisfied now. You will soon be free of me.”

“Why is that?” he asked.

Her voice trembled, “I must go–tomorrow! Alraune told me that you didn’t want me here.”

An infinite misery spoke out of her glance.

“You wait here, Frieda. I will speak with her.”

He hurried into the house and came back after a short time.

“We have thought it over,” he began, “Alraune and I. It is not necessary that you go away–forever.  Frieda, it’s only that I make you nervous with my presence–and you do the same for me, excuse me for saying it. That’s why it would be better if you go on a journey–only for awhile. Travel to Davos to visit your brother. Come back in two months.”

She stood up, looked at him with questioning eyes that were still full of fear.

“Is that the truth?” she whispered. “Only for two months?”

He answered, “Certainly it’s true. Why should I lie Frieda?”

She gripped his hand; a great joy made her face glow.

“I am very grateful to you!” she said. “Everything is alright then–as long as I am permitted to come back!”

She said, “Goodbye,” and headed for the house, stopped suddenly and came back to him.

“There is something else, Herr Doctor,” she said. “Alraune gave me a check this morning but I tore it up, because–because–in short, I tore it up. Now I will need some money. I don’t want to go to her–she would ask–and I don’t want her to ask. For that reason–will you give me the money?”

He nodded, “Naturally I will–Am I permitted to ask why you tore the check up?”

She looked at him, shrugged her shoulders.

“I wouldn’t have needed the money any more if I had to leave her forever–”

“Frieda,” he pressed, “where would you have gone?”

“Where?” A bitter laugh rang out from her thin lips. “Where? The same place Olga went! Only, believe me, doctor. I would have achieved my goal!”

She nodded lightly to him, walked away and disappeared between the birch trees.

Early, when the young sun woke him, he came out of his room in his kimono, went into the garden along the path that led past the trellis and into the rose bed. He cut white Boule de Neige roses, Queen Catharine roses, Victoria roses, Snow Queen roses and Merveille de Lyon roses. Then he turned left where the larches and the silver fir trees stood.

Alraune sat on the edge of the pool in a black silk robe, breaking breadcrumbs, throwing them to the goldfish. When he came she twined a wreath out of the pale roses, quickly and skillfully making a crown for her hair.

She threw off her robe, sat in her lace negligee and splashed in the cool water with her naked feet–She scarcely spoke, but she trembled as his fingers lightly caressed her neck, when his soft breath caressed her cheek. Slowly she took off the negligee and laid it on the bronze mermaid beside her.

Six water nymphs sat around the marble edge of the pool pouring water out of jugs and urns, spraying thin streams out of their breasts. Various animals crept around them, giant lobsters, spiny lobsters, turtles, fish, eels and other reptiles. In the middle of the pool Triton blew his horn as chubby faced merfolk blew mighty streams of water high into the air around him.

“Come, my friend,” she said.

Then they both climbed into the water. It was very cold and he shivered, his lips became blue and goose bumps quickly appeared on his arms. He had to swim vigorously, beat his arms and tread water to warm his blood and get accustomed to the unusual temperature.

But she didn’t even notice, was in her element in an instant and laughing at him. She swam around like a little frog.

“Turn the faucet on!” she cried.

He did it. There, near the pool’s edge, by the statue of Galatea, light waves came from the water as well as three other places in the pool. They boiled up a little, growing stronger and higher, climbing higher and higher, until they became enormous sparkling cascades of silvery rain, higher than the spouting streams of the mermen.

There she stood between all four, in the middle of a shimmering rain, like a sweet boy, slender and delicate. His long glance kissed her. There was no blemish in the symmetry of her limbs, not the slightest defect in this sweet work of art. Her color was in proportion as well, like white marble with a light breath of yellow. Only the insides of her thighs showed two curious rose colored lines.

“That’s where Dr. Petersen perished,” he thought.

He bent down, kneeled and kissed the rosy places.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked.

He said, “ I’m thinking that you are the fairy Melusine!–See the little mermaids around us–they have no legs, only long, scaly fish tails. They have no souls, these nymphs, but it is said that sometimes they love a human, some fisherman or wandering knight.

They love him so much that they come out of the water at high tide, out onto the land. Then they go to an old witch or shaman–that brews some nasty potion they have to drink. Then the shaman takes a sharp knife and begins to cut into the fish tail. It is very painful–very painful, but Melusine suppresses her pain. Her love is so great that she doesn’t complain, doesn’t cry out, until the pain becomes so great she loses consciousness. But when she awakes–her little tail is gone and she goes about on two beautiful legs–like a human–only the scars where the shaman cut are still visible.”

“But wasn’t she always still a nymph?” she asked. “Even with human legs?–And the sorcerer could never create a soul for her.”

“No,” he said. “He couldn’t do that, but there is something else they say of nymphs.”

“What do they say?” she asked.

He explained, “She only has her strange power as long as she is untouched. When she drowns in the kisses of her lover, when she looses her maidenhood in her knight’s embrace–then she looses her magic as well. She can no longer bring river gold and treasures but the black sorrow that followed her can no longer cross her threshold either. From then on she is like any other child of man–”

“If it only was!” she whispered.

She tore the white crown from her head, swam over to the mermen and Triton, to the water nymphs and threw the rose blossoms into their laps–

“Take them, sisters–take them!” she laughed. “I am a child of man–”

 

An enormous canopy bed stood in Alraune’s bedroom on low, baroque columns. Two pillars grew out of the foot and bore shelves that shown with golden flames. The engraved sides showed Omphale with Hercules in a woman’s dress as he waited on her, Perseus kissing Andromeda, Hephaestus catching Ares and Aphrodite in his net–Many tendrils of vines wove themselves in between and doves played in them–along with winged cherubs. The magnificent ancient bed, heavily gilt with gold, had been brought out of Lyons by Fräulein Hortense de Monthy when she became his great-grandfather’s wife.

He saw Alraune standing on a chair at the head of the bed, a heavy pliers in her hand.

“What are you doing with that?” he asked.

She laughed, “Just wait. I will soon be finished.”

She pounded and tore, carefully enough, at the golden figurine of Amor that hovered at the head of the bed with his bow and arrow. She pulled one nail out, then another, seized the little god, twisted him this way and that–until he came loose. She grabbed him, jumped down, laid him on top of the wardrobe, took out the Alraune manikin, clambered back up onto the chair again with it and fastened it to the head of the bed with wire and twine. Then she came back down and looked critically at her work.

“How do you like it?” she asked him.

“Why should the little man be there?” he retorted.

She said, “He belongs there!–I didn’t like the golden Cupid–That is for all the other people–I want to have Galeotto, my root manikin.”

“Why do you call it that?” he asked.

“Galeotto!” she replied. “Wasn’t it him that brought us together?–Now I want him to hang there, to watch over us through the night.”

Sometimes they went out riding in the evenings or also during the night if the moon was shining. They rode through the Sieben Gerberge mountain range or to Rolandseck and into the wilderness beyond.

Once they found a she-donkey at the foot of Dragon’s Rock in the Sieben Geberge mountain range. People there used the animal for riding up to the castle at the top. He bought her. She was a young animal, well cared for and glistened like fresh snow. Her name was Bianca. They took her with them, behind the horses on a long rope, but the animal just stood there, planting her forelegs like a stubborn mule, allowing herself to be choked and dragged along Finally they found a way to persuade her. In Kőnigswinter he bought a large bag full of sugar, took the rope off Bianca and let her run free. He threw her one piece of sugar after the other from out of the saddle. Soon the she-donkey ran after them, keeping itself tight to his stirrup, snuffling at his boots.

Old Froitsheim took the pipe out of his mouth as they came up, spit thoughtfully and grinned agreeably.

“An ass,” he chewed. “A young ass! It’s been almost thirty years since we’ve had one here in the stable. You know, young Master, how I used to let you ride old gray Jonathan?” He got a bunch of carrots and gave them to the animal, stroking her shaggy fur.

“What’s her name, young Master?” he asked.


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He nodded, but she fell silent again.

“So,” he began, “did you read the leather bound volume?”

“Yes,” she said.

She took a deep breath, looked at him.

“So, am I only a joke that you once made, Frank Braun?”

“A joke?” he returned. “–An–idea, if you will–”

“And I suppose it was funny enough,” she laughed out loud. But that’s not why I waited here for you. I want to know something entirely different. Tell me. Do you believe it?”

“Do I believe what?” he answered. “If everything happened like Uncle relates in the leather bound volume? Yes, I believe that.”

She shook her head impatiently. “No, that’s not what I mean. Naturally that is true–why would he lie in his book?–I want to know whether you also believe–like my–my–that is–your uncle did–That I am a different type of creature, different from other people, that I–am now, that I am, what my name implies?”

“How shall I reply to your question?” he said. “Ask any medical doctor–he will certainly say that you are just as good a human being as anyone else in the world, even if your first appearance was a little unusual–He would add, that all the other details are pure coincidence and unimportant, the–”

“That means nothing to me,” she interrupted.

“For your uncle these little details were most important. Basically it doesn’t matter if they are or not. I want to know if you share his opinion? Do you believe as well that I am a strange creature?”

He remained silent, searched for a reply, didn’t know how he should respond. He did believe it–and then again he didn’t–

“You see–” he began finally.

“Speak,” she urged. “Do you believe that I am your insolent joke–that took form? Your idea, which the old Privy Councilor threw into his crucible, which he cooked and distilled, until something came out that now sits before you?”

This time he didn’t hesitate, “If you put it that way, yes, that’s what I believe.”

She laughed softly, “I thought so–and that’s why I waited up for you tonight, to cure you of this vanity as soon as possible. No, cousin, you didn’t throw this idea into the world, not you–not any more than the old Privy Councilor did.”

He didn’t understand her.

“Then who did?” he asked.

She reached under the pillow with her hand.

“This did!” she cried.

She lightly tossed the little alraune into the air and caught it again, caressed it lovingly with nervous fingers.

“That there? Why that?” he asked.

She gave back, “Did you think about it earlier–before the day the Legal Councilor celebrated the communion of the two children?”

“No,” he replied. “Certainly not.”

But then this thing fell down from the wall, that was when the idea came to you! Isn’t that true?”

“Yes,” he confessed. “That is how it was.”

“Now then,” she continued, “so the idea came from outside somewhere and entered into you. It was when Attorney Manasse gave his lecture, when he recited like a school book and explained to all of you what this little alraune was and what it meant–That’s when the idea grew in your brain. It became so large and so strong that you found the strength to suggest it to your uncle, to persuade him to carry it out, to create me.

Then, if I am only an idea that came into the world and took on human form, it is also true that you, Frank Braun, were only an agent, an instrument–no more than the Privy Councilor or his assistant doctor. No different than–”

She hesitated, fell silent, but only for a moment. Then she continued–

“than the prostitute, Alma and the rapist-murderer whom you all coupled–you and Death!”

She laid the little alraune on the silk cushions, looked at it with an almost loving glance and said,” You are my father: You are my mother. You are what created me.”

He looked at her.

“Perhaps it was so,” he thought.

Ideas whirl through the air, like the pollen from flowers and play around before finally sinking into someone’s brain. Often they waste away there, spoil and die–Only a few find good rich soil–

“Perhaps she is right,” he thought.

His brain had always been a fertile planting place for all kinds of foolishness and abstruse fantasies. It seemed the same to him, whether he was the one that once threw the seed of this idea into the world–or whether he was the fertile earth that had received it.

But he remained silent, left her with her thought. He glanced over at her, a child, playing with her doll. She slowly stood up, not letting the little manikin out of her hands.

“There is something else I want to tell you,” she spoke softly. “But first I want to thank you for it, for giving me the leather bound volume and not burning it.”

“What is it?” he asked.

She interrupted herself.

“Should I kiss you?” she asked. “I could kiss–”

“Was that all you wanted to say, Alraune?” he said.

She replied, “No, not that!–I only thought I would like to kiss you once. Just in case–But first I want to tell you this, why I waited. Go away!”

He bit his lips, “Why?”

“Because–because it would be better,” she answered, “for you–perhaps for me as well. But it doesn’t depend on that–I now know how things are–am now enlightened, and I think that things will continue to go as they have–only, I will not be running around blindly anymore–Now I see everything. Soon–soon it will be your turn, and that’s why it would be better if you left.”

“Are you so certain of this?” he asked.

“Don’t I need to be?”

He shrugged his shoulders, “Perhaps, I don’t know. But tell me, why do you want to do this for me?”

“I like you,” she said quietly. “You have been good to me.”

He laughed, “Weren’t the others as well?”

“Yes,” she answered. “They all were. But I didn’t see it. And they–all of them–they loved me–you don’t–not yet.”

She went to the writing desk, took a postcard and gave it to him.

“Here is a postcard from your mother. It came earlier this evening; the servant brought it up with my mail by mistake. I read it. Your mother is ill–She very much begs you to come back to her.”

He took the postcard, stared in front of him undecided. He knew that they were right, both of them, could feel it, that it was foolishness to remain here. Then a boyish defiance seized him that screamed out, “No! No!”

“Will you go?” she asked.

He forced himself, spoke with a determined voice, “Yes, cousin!”

He looked at her sharply, watched every line of her face searching for some movement, a little tug at the corners of her mouth, a little sigh would have been enough, some something that showed him her regret. But she remained quiet and serious. No breath moved on her inflexible mask.

That vexed him, wounded him, seemed like an affront and an insult to him. He pressed his lips solidly together.

“Not like this,” he thought. “I won’t go like this.”

She came up to him, reached out her hand to him.

“Good,” she said. “Good–Now I will go. I can give you a goodbye kiss if you want.”

A sudden fire flickered in his eyes at that.

Without even wanting to, he said, “Don’t do it Alraune. Don’t do it!”

And his voice took on her own tone.

She raised her head and quickly asked, “Why not?”

Again he used her words, but she sensed that it was on purpose.

“I like you, Alraune,” he said. “You have been good to me today–many red lips have kissed my mouth–and they became very pale. Now–now, it would be your turn. That is why it would be better if you didn’t kiss me!”

They stood facing each other; their eyes glowed hard as steel. Unnoticed, a smile played on his lips. His weapon was bright and sharp. Now she could choose. Her “No” would be his victory and her defeat–then he could go with a light heart. But her “Yes” would mean war and she felt it–the same way he did. It was like that very first evening, exactly the same, only that time was the beginning and opening round. There had still been hope for several other rounds in the duel. But now–it was the end. He was the one that had thrown the glove–

She took him up on it.

“I am not afraid,” she spoke.

He fell silent and the smile died on his lips–Now it was serious.

“I want to kiss you,” she repeated.

He said, “Be careful! I will kiss you back.”

She held his gaze–“Yes,” she said–Then she smiled.

“Sit down, you are a little too tall for me!”

“No,” he cried out loudly. “Not like that.”

He went to the wide divan, laid down on it, buried his head in the cushions, stretched his arms out wide on both sides, closed his eyes.

“Now, come Alraune!” he cried.

She stepped closer, kneeled by his hips, hesitated, looked at him, then suddenly threw herself down onto him, seized his head, pressed her lips on his. He didn’t embrace her, didn’t move his arms. But his fingers tightened into fists. He felt her tongue, the light bite of her teeth.

“Kiss harder,” he whispered. “Kiss harder.”

Red fog lay before his eyes. He heard the Privy Councilor’s repulsive laugh, saw the large piercing eyes of Frau Gontram, how she begged little Manasse to explain the little alraune to her. He heard the giggling of the two celebrants, Olga and Frieda, and the broken, yet still beautiful voice of Madame de Vére singing “Les Papillons”, saw the small Hussar Lieutenant listening eagerly to the attorney, saw Karl Mohnen, as he wiped the little alraune with the large napkin–

“Kiss harder!” he murmured.

And Alma–her mother, red like a burning torch, snow-white breasts with tiny blue veins, and the execution of her father–as Uncle Jakob had described it in his leather bound volume–Out of the mouth of the princess–And the hour, in which the old man created her–and the other, in which his doctor brought her into this world–

“Kiss me,” he moaned, “Kiss me.”

He drank her kisses, sucked the hot blood from his lips, which her teeth had torn, and he became intoxicated, knowingly and intentionally, as if from champagne or his oriental narcotics–

“Enough,” he said suddenly, “enough, you don’t know what you are doing.”

At that she pressed her curls more tightly against his forehead, her kisses became hotter and more wild. Now the clear thoughts of day lay shattered, now came the dreams, swelling on a blood red ocean, now the Maenad swung her thyrsos and he frothed in the holy frenzy of Dionysus.

“Kiss me,” he screamed.

But she released him, let her arms sink. He opened his eyes, looked at her.

“Kiss me!” he repeated softly.

Her eyes glazed over, her breath came in short pants. Slowly she shook her head. At that he sprang up.

“Then I will kiss you,” he cried.

He lifted her up in his arms, threw her down struggling onto the divan, knelt down–there, right where she had knelt.

“Close your eyes,” he whispered and he bent down–

Good, his kisses were good–caressing and soft, like a harp played on a summer night, wild too, yes, and raw, like a storm wind blowing over the North sea. They burned red-hot like the fiery breath out of mount Aetna, ravishing and consuming like the vortex of a maelstrom–

“It’s pulling me under,” she felt, “pulling me into it.”

But then the spark struck and burning flames shot high into the heavens, the burning torch flew, ignited the altar, and with bloody jowls the wolf sprang into the sanctuary.

She embraced him, pressed herself tightly to his breast–I’m burning–she exalted–I’m burning–at that, he tore the clothes from her body.

The sun that woke her was high in the sky. She saw that she was lying there completely naked, but didn’t cover herself. She turned her head, saw him sitting up right next to her–naked like she was.

She asked, “Will you be leaving today?”

“Is that what you want, that I should leave?” he gave back.

“Stay,” she whispered. “Stay!”

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Chapter Fourteen

Describes how Frank Braun played with fire and how Alraune awoke.

 

 

THAT evening the Fräulein didn’t come to dinner, only allowed Frieda Gontram to bring in a little tea and a few cakes. Frank Braun waited awhile for her, hoping that perhaps later she would come down. Then he went to the library and reluctantly took up the documents from the writing desk. But he couldn’t bring himself to read them, put them down again and decided to drive into the city.

Before he left he took the last little mementos from out of the desk drawer, the piece of silk curtain cord, the card and four-leaf clover with the bullet holes through them and finally the alraune manikin. He packed everything together, sealed the brown paper package and had it sent up to the Fräulein. He attached no written explanation to it–

Everything would be explained to her inside the leather bound volume that bore her initials.

Then he rang for the chauffeur and drove into the city. As he expected, he met Herr Manasse in the little wine pub on Cathedral Square. Stanislaus Schacht was with him. He sat down with them and began to chat.

He got into a deep discussion with the attorney about legal questions, debating the pros and cons of this and that lawsuit. They decided to turn a few of the doubtful cases over to the Legal Councilor for him alone. He would bring them to some acceptable compromise. Manasse believed that a victorious settlement could be reached with the others.

In some of the cases Frank Braun calmly suggested they simply acknowledge the claim, but Manasse refused.

“Never acknowledge–even if the opponent’s demands are as clear as day and justified a hundred-fold!”

He was the straightest and most honest attorney in the county courthouse, one that always told his clients the truth, right to their face. In front of the bar he might remain completely quiet but he would never lie–and yet he was way too much a lawyer not to have an innate hatred of recognizing an opponent’s claim.

“It only costs us more,” Frank Braun objected.

“So what!” barked the attorney. “What does that have to do with it?–I tell you, one never knows–there is always a chance…”

“A legal one–perhaps–” answered Frank Braun. “–but–”

He fell silent. There was no other way for the attorney. The Court determined justice–what ever it said was just, even how it decided. Today it would be just–and totally different after a couple of months in the higher courts. Nevertheless, the Court gave the final decision and it was sacred–not the parties involved.

To recognize a claim yourself, without such a decision, was usurping the right of the Court. As an attorney Manasse was partial to his own clients. He desired the judge to be impartial, so it was an abomination to him to make such a decision for his own party.

Frank Braun smiled.

“As you wish,” he said.

He spoke with Stanislaus Schacht, listened as this friend of Dr. Mohnen talked of all the others that had been there as students with him.

“Yes, Joseph Theyssen has been a Government Advisor for some time now and Klingel Hőffer is a professor at Halle–he will be the new chair for Anatomy, and Fritz langen–and Bastian–and–”

Frank Braun listened, turned the pages of this living directory of German nobility that knew everyone.

“Are you still enrolled?” he asked.

Stanislaus fell silent, a little offended.

But the attorney barked, “What! Didn’t you know? He passed his doctoral exam–five years ago.”

“Really–five years ago!”

Frank Braun calculated backward, that must have been in his forty-fifth, no, forty-sixth semester.

“Well,” he said.

He stood up and reached out his hand, which the other heartily shook.

“Allow me to congratulate you, Herr Doctor!” he continued. “But–tell me–what are you doing now?”

“Yes, if he only knew!” cried the attorney.

Then chaplain Schrőder came. Frank Braun stood up to greet him–

“Back in the country again?” cried the black suited priest. “We must celebrate!”

“I am the host,” declared Stanislaus Schacht. “He must drink to my doctor’s degree.”

“And with me to my newly becoming a vicar,” laughed the priest. “Let’s share the honor then, if it’s alright with you, Dr. Schacht.”

They agreed and the white haired vicar ordered a 93 Scharzhofberger, which the wine pub had placed in stock on his recommendation. He tested the wine, nodded with satisfaction and toasted with Frank Braun.

“You have it good,” he said, “sticking your nose into every unknown place on land and sea. Yes, we can read about them in the newspapers–but we must sit at home and console ourselves with the fact that the Mosel still always produces a good wine–You certainly can’t get this label out there!”

“We can get the label,” he said, “but not the wine– Now Herr Reverend, what have you been up to?”

“What should I be up to?” replied the priest. “One just gets themselves angry. Our old Rhine is always becoming more Prussian. But for relaxation one can write rotten pieces for the Tűnnes, Bestavader, Schâl, Speumanes and the Marizzebill. I have already plundered Plautus and Terence in their entirety for Peter Millowwitsch’s puppet theater in Cologne–Now I’m doing it to Holberg. And just think, that fellow–Herr Director, he calls himself today–now pays me royalties–Another one of those Prussian inventions.”

“Be happy about it!” growled Attorney Manasse. “By the way, he’s also published on Iamblicos.”

He turned to Frank Braun, “And I tell you, it is a very exceptional book.”

“Not worth talking about,” cried the old vicar.

“Only a little attempt–”

Stanislaus Schacht interrupted him.

“Go on!” he said. “Your work lays out the foundation of the very essence of the Alexandrian school. Your hypothesis about the Emanation Doctrine of the Neo-Platonists–”

He went on, lecturing like an argumentative Bishop at the high council. Here and there he made of few considerations, gave his opinion, that it wasn’t right the author based his entire work on the three cosmic principles that had been previously established. Couldn’t he have just as well successfully included the ‘Spirit’ of Pophyrs?”

Manasse joined in and finally the vicar as well. They argued as if there was nothing more important in the entire world than this strange monism of Alexander, which was based on nothing other than a mystical annihilation of self, of the “I”, through ecstasy, asceticism and theurgy.

Frank Braun listened silently.

“This is Germany,” he thought. “This is my country–”

It occurred to him that a year ago he had been sitting in a bar somewhere in Melbourne or Sidney–with him had been a Justice of the reme Court, a Bishop of the High Church and a famous doctor. They had disputed and argued no less ardently than these three that were now sitting with him–But it had been about whom was the better boxer, Jimmy Walsh of Tasmania or slender Fred Costa, the champion of New-South Wales.

But here sat a little attorney, who was still being passed over for promotion to Legal Councilor, a priest that wrote foolish pieces for a puppet theater, that had a few titles of his own, but never a parish, and finally the eternal student Stanislaus Schacht, who after some fourteen years was happy to have his doctor’s degree and now didn’t know what to do with himself.

And these three little poor wretches spoke about the most abstract, far-fetched things that had nothing at all to do with their occupations. And they spoke so easily, with the same familiarity as the gentlemen in Melbourne had conversed about a boxing match. Oh, you could sift through all of America and Australia, even nine-tenths of Europe–and you would not find such an abundance of knowledge–only–it was dead.

He sighed, it was long dead and reeked of decay–really, the gentlemen didn’t even notice!

He asked the vicar how it was going with his foster son, young Gontram. Immediately Attorney Manasse interrupted himself.

“Yes, tell us Herr Reverend–that’s why I came here. What does he write?”

Vicar Schröder unbuttoned his jacket, pulled out his wallet and took a letter out of it.

“Here, read for yourself,” he said. “It doesn’t sound very encouraging!”

He handed the envelope to the attorney. Frank Braun threw a quick glance at the postmark.

“From Davos?” he asked. “Did he inherit his mother’s fate as well?”

“Unfortunately,” sighed the old priest. “And he was such a fresh, good boy, that Josef, absolutely not meant for the priesthood though. God only knows what he would have studied, or I would have allowed him to study if I didn’t wear the black robe. But I promised his mother on her deathbed. By the way, he has already gone as far in his studies as I have–I tell you–he passed his doctoral exam–summa cum laude! I obtained a special dispensation for him through the ArchBishop, who has always been very benevolent towards me personally.

He helped me a lot with the work about Iamblichos–yes, he could really become something! Only–unfortunately–”

He hesitated and slowly emptied his glass.

“Did it come so suddenly, Herr Reverend?” asked Frank Braun.

“You could say that,” answered the priest. “It first started with the psychological shock of the sudden death of his brother, Wolf. You should have seen him outside, at the cemetery. He never moved from my side while I gave my sermon, stared at the enormous garland of blood red roses that lay on the coffin. He held himself upright until the ceremony was ended, but then he felt so weak that Schacht and I had to downright carry him.

In the carriage he seemed better, but at home with me he once more became entirely apathetic–The only thing I could get out of him at all that entire evening was that now he was the last of the Gontram boys and it was his turn next. This apathy would not yield and from that hour he remained convinced that his days were numbered, even though a very thorough medical examination gave me a lot of hope in the beginning. But then it went rapidly. From day to day you could see his decline–now we have sent him to Davos–but it appears that his song will soon be over.”

He fell silent, fat tears stood in his eyes–

“His mother was tougher,” growled the attorney. “She laughed in the Reaper’s face for six long years.”

“God grant her soul eternal peace,” said the vicar and he filled the glasses. “We will drink a silent toast to her–in her memory.”

They raised the glasses and emptied them.

“The old Legal Councilor will soon be entirely alone,” observed Dr. Schacht. “Only his daughter appears to be completely healthy–She is the only one that will survive him.”

“The attorney grumbled, “Frieda?–No, I don’t believe it.”

“And why not?” asked Frank Braun.

“Because–because–” he began, “–well, why shouldn’t I say it?”

He looked straight at Frank Braun, cutting, enraged, as if he wanted to take him by the throat.

“You want to know why Frieda Gontram will never grow old?–I will tell you. Because she is now completely caught in the claws–of that damned witch out there!–That’s why–Now you know!”

“Witch,” thought Frank Braun. “He calls her a witch, just like Uncle Jakob did in his leather bound volume.”

“What do you mean by that, Herr Attorney?” he asked.

Manasse barked, “Exactly what I said. “Whoever gets to close to the Fräulein ten Brinken–gets stuck, like a fly in syrup. And whoever is once caught by her–stays there and no amount of struggling will do any good!

Be careful, Herr Doctor, I’m warning you! It is thankless enough–to give warnings like this. I have already done it once–without any success–with Wölfchen–now it is you–flee while there is still time. What do you still want here?–It seems to me exactly as if you are already licking at the honey!”

Frank Braun laughed–but it sounded a little forced.

“Have no fear on my account, Herr Attorney,” he cried–But he didn’t convince the other–and even less, himself.

They sat and drank, drank to Schacht’s doctoral degree and to the Priest’s becoming a vicar. They drank as well to the health of Karl Mohnen, of whom no one had heard since he had left the city.

“He is lost,” said Stanislaus Schacht.

Then he became sentimental and sang melancholy songs. Frank Braun took his leave, went out on foot back to Lendenich–through the fragrant trees of spring – like in the old times.

He came across the courtyard, then saw a light in the library. He went in–Alraune sat on the divan.

“You here, little cousin?” he greeted.

She didn’t answer, waved to him to take a place. He sat across from her, waiting. But she remained silent and he didn’t press her.

Finally she said, “I wanted to speak with you.”

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