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–