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–