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.”