“Good morning, cousin,” laughed Alraune ten Brinken.
She stood right in front of him, next to Frieda Gontram.
“Good morning,” he answered curtly. “Read these letters here–It won’t do you any harm to think about what you have been the cause of–It’s time to stop this foolishness, do something sensible, something worth the effort.”
She looked at him sharply.
“Really?” she said, drawing each word out slowly. “And just what is it that you think would be worth my effort?”
He didn’t respond–Didn’t have any answer at the moment.
He stood up, shrugged his shoulders and went into the garden. Her laughter sounded behind him.
“In a bad mood, Herr Guardian?”
That afternoon he sat in the library. Some documents lay in front of him that Attorney Manasse had sent over yesterday. But he didn’t read them. He stared into the air, hurriedly smoking one cigarette after the other.
Then he opened a desk drawer and once more took out the Privy Councilor’s leather bound volume. He read slowly and carefully, considering every little incident.
There was a knock; the chauffeur quickly stepped inside.
“Herr Doctor,” he cried. “Princess Wolkonski is here. She is very upset, screamed for the Fräulein while she was still in her carriage. We thought that perhaps it might be better if you received her first–So Aloys is bringing her here right now.”
“Well done!” he said. He sprang up and went to meet the princess. With great effort she squeezed through the narrow door and waltzed her heavy masses into the half darkened hall, which was lit only by the sparse sunlight that came through the green Venetian blinds.
“Where is she?” she panted. “Where is the Fräulein?”
He took her hand and led her over to the divan. She recognized him immediately and called him by name, but had no intention of getting into a conversation with him.
“I want to see Fräulein Alraune,” she cried. “Bring the Fräulein here!”
She would not calm down until he rang the servant and instructed him to announce the visit of the princess. Then, for the first time, she consented to listen to him.
He asked after the health of her child and the princess related to him, in an immense flood of words, how she had met with her daughter. Not once had she recognized her own mother, had simply sat by the window looking out into the garden, passive and listless.
It had been in the old Privy Councilor’s clinic, that fraud, which Professor Dalberg had now turned into an insane asylum, the same building where–
He interrupted her, cutting short her flood of words. He quickly grabbed her hand, bent over it and looked with simulated interest at her rings.
“Excuse me, your Highness,” he cried quickly. “Where did you ever get this marvelous emerald? Definitely a showcase piece!”
“It was a button from the Magnate’s beret of my first husband,” she replied. “It’s an old heirloom.”
She prepared to continue her tirade, but he didn’t let her get a word in.
“It is a stone of uncommon purity!” he affirmed. “And of remarkable size! I only once saw a similar one, in the royal stud of the Maharajah of Rolinkore–He had it set into his favorite horse’s left eye. For the right it carried a Burmese ruby that was only a little smaller.”
Then he told of the hobby of Indian princes, how they gouged out the eyes of their beautiful horses and replaced them with glass eyes or large round highly polished stones.
“It sounds cruel,” he said. “But I assure you, your Highness. The effect is amazing when you see such a magnificent animal, when they stare at you with Alexandrite eyes, or glance at you out of deep blue sapphires.”
Then he spoke of precious stones, remembering from his student days that she knew quite a bit about jewels and pearls. It was the only thing she was really interested in. She gave him answers, at first quickly and briefly, then became calmer with every minute.
She pulled off her rings, showed them to him one after the other, telling him a little story about each one. He nodded attentively.
“Now let my cousin come,” he thought. “The first storm is over.”
But he was wrong. Alraune had soundlessly come through the door, walked softly across the carpet and set herself down in the easy chair right across from them.
“I am so happy to see you, your Highness,” she piped.
The princess cried out and gasped for breath, crossed herself, then a second time, in the Orthodox manner.
“There she is,” she moaned. “There she sits!”
“Yes,” laughed Alraune, “alive and breathing!”
She stood up and reached her hand out to the princess.
“I am so sorry,” she continued. “My sympathies, your Highness!”
The princess didn’t take her hand. She was speechless for a minute, struggled for composure–Then she found herself again.
“I don’t need your sympathy!” she cried. “I have something to say to you!”
Alraune sat back down, waved lightly with her hand.
“Please speak, your Highness.”
The princess began. Did the Fräulein know that she had lost her fortune through the machinations of his Excellency? But yes, naturally she knew. The gentlemen had explained every detail to her, explained what she had to do–But she had refused to fulfill her obligation.
Did she know what had happened to her daughter? She explained how she had found her in the asylum and what the doctor’s opinion was. She became more excited, her voice swelled, becoming higher and more shrieking.
She knew all of that, declared Alraune calmly.
The princess asked, what was she now intending to do? Did she intend to walk in the same dirty footsteps of her father? Oh, there was a fine scoundrel. You couldn’t find a finer or more cunning blackguard in any book. Now he had his just reward.
She continued screaming and yelling about his Excellency, saying everything that came to her tongue–She screamed that Olga’s sudden attack had been because of the failure of her mission and not wanting to come back. Alraune had made things worse by enticing her friend of many long years away from her.
She believed that if the Fräulein would now help, not only would her fortune be saved, but her child as well, when she heard the news.
‘I’m not asking,” she screamed. “I’m demanding! I demand what is rightfully mine. You have done this wrong, you, my own Godchild, and your father. Now make it right again, as much as you possibly can–It is a shame that I must be the first to tell you this–But you will have it no other way.”
“What is there left to save?” Alraune said softly. “As far as I know, the bank collapsed three days ago. Your money is gone, your Highness!”
She stressed the ‘gone’–You could hear the bank notes fluttering in all directions.
“That doesn’t matter,” declared the princess. “The Legal Councilor told me that almost twelve million of my money was invested into that rotten bank. You will simply give me those twelve million out of your own money. That will be nothing to you–I know that very well!”
“Is that all?” said Fräulein ten Brinken. “Are there any more commands, your Highness!”
“Many more,” cried the princess. “You will inform Fräulein Gontram that she is to leave your house immediately. She will go with me to my poor daughter. I promised to bring her along the next time I came. Especially now, so she can share the news that this sad misfortune has been made right. It will have a very good effect on the countess–Perhaps a sudden recovery.
I won’t reproach Fräulein Gontram in any way over her ungrateful behavior or continue pointing out your own behavior to you. I only wish this affair to be settled immediately.”
She fell silent, took a deep breath after the tremendous exertion of her long speech. She took her handkerchief, fanned herself, and wiped the thick drops of sweat that beaded on her bright red face.
Alraune stood up briefly, made a slight bow.
“Your Highness is too gracious,” she piped.
Then she remained quiet.
The princess waited awhile, then finally asked, “Well?”
“Well?” the Fräulein came back in the same tone of voice.
“I’m waiting, –” cried the princess.
“So am I, – ” said Alraune.
Princess Wolkonski moved back and forth on the divan, whose old springs sagged heavily under her weight. The way she was pressed into her mighty corset, which even now formed the huge masses into some type of shape, made it difficult for her to breath or even move. Her breath came short and unconsciously her thick tongue licked her dry lips.
“May I be permitted to have a glass of water brought for you, your Highness?” twittered the Fräulein.
She acted as if she had not heard.
“What do you intend to do now?” she asked solemnly.
Alraune spoke with infinite simplicity, “Absolutely nothing.”
The old princess stared at her with round cow eyes, as if she could not comprehend what the young thing meant. She stood up, confused, took a few steps, looked around as if she were searching for something.
Frank Braun stood up, took the carafe of water from the table, filled a glass and gave it to her. She drank it greedily.
Alraune stood up as well.
“I beg to be excused, your Highness,” she said. “May I be permitted to convey your greetings to Fräulein Gontram?”
The princess went up to her, seething, full of repressed anger.
Now she is going to burst, thought Frank Braun.
But she couldn’t find the words, searched in vain for a beginning.
“Tell her,” she panted. “Tell her that I never want to lay eyes on her again! She is no better a woman than you are!”
She stamped with heavy steps through the hall, gasping, sweating, and waving her mighty arms in the air. Then her glance fell on the open drawer. She saw the necklace that she had once given her Godchild, a gold chain with pearls and set with diamonds around the fiery lock of the mother’s hair. A triumphant look of hatred flew over her bloated features. She quickly tore the necklace out of the drawer.
“Do you know what this is?” she screamed.
“No,” said Alraune calmly. “I’ve never seen it before.”
The princess stepped up right in front of her.
“So that scoundrel of a Privy Councilor embezzled it from you–just like him! It was my present to you, Alraune, as my god-child!”
“Thank you,” said the Fräulein. “The pearls are very pretty, and the diamonds too–if they are real.”
“They are real,” screamed the princess. “Like this hair that I cut from your mother!”
She threw the necklace into the Fräulein’s lap. Alraune took the unusual piece of jewelry, weighed it thoughtfully in her hand.
“My–mother?” she said slowly. “It appears that my mother had very beautiful hair.”
The princess placed herself solidly in front of her, putting both hands solidly on her hips. She was matter of fact, like a washerwoman.
“Very beautiful hair,” she laughed. “Very beautiful! So beautiful that all the men ran after her and paid an entire Mark for one night’s sleep with her beautiful hair!”
The Fräulein sprang up. The blood drained out of her face in an instant, but she quickly laughed again and said calmly and scornfully:
“You are getting old, your Highness, old and childish.”
That was the end. Now there was no going back for the princess. She broke loose with ordinary, infinitely vulgar language like a drunken Bordello Madam. She screamed, howled and obscene filth poured out of her mouth.
Alraune’s mother was a whore, one of the lowest kind, who gave herself away for a Mark and her father was a miserable rapist and murderer whose name was Noerrissen. She knew all about it. The Privy Councilor had paid the prostitute money and purchased her for his vile experiment, had inseminated her with the semen of the executed criminal. That was how Alraune had been created and she, herself, had injected the loathsome semen into Alraune’s mother.
She, Alraune, the stinking fruit of that experiment, was sitting there now–right in front of her!–A murderer’s daughter and a prostitute’s child!
That was her revenge. She went out triumphant, with light steps, swollen with the pride of a victory that made her ten years younger. She slammed the door loudly as she closed it.
Now it was quiet in the large library. Alraune sat in her chair, a little pale. Her hands played nervously with the necklace, faint movements played around the corners of her mouth. Finally she stood up.
“Stupid stuff,” she whispered.
She took a few steps, then calmed herself and stepped back up to her cousin.
“Is it true, Frank Braun?” she asked.
He hesitated a moment, stood up and said slowly:
“I believe that it is true.”
He stepped over to the writing desk, took up the leather bound volume and handed it to her.
“Read this,” he said.
She didn’t speak a word, turned to go.
“Take this too,” he cried after her and handed her the dice cup that had been fashioned out of her mother’s skull and the dice that had been created out of her father’s bones.