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Archive for November, 2014

Chapter Three

Informs how Frank Braun persuaded the Privy Councilor to create Alraune

They sat in the carriage, Professor Ten Brinken and his nephew. They didn’t speak. Frank Braun leaned back staring straight ahead, sunk deeply into his thoughts. The Privy Councilor was observing, squinting over at him watchfully.

The trip lasted scarcely half an hour. They rolled along the open road, turned to the right, went downhill over the rough road to Lendenich. There in the middle of the village lay the birthplace of the Brinken family.

It was a large, almost square complex with gardens and a park. Back from the street stood a row of insignificant old buildings. They turned around a corner past a shrine of the patron Saint of the village, the Holy Saint John of Nepomuk. His statue was decorated with flowers and lit with two eternal lamps that were placed in niches by the corners.

The horses stopped in front of a large mansion. A servant shut the fenced gate behind them and opened the carriage door.

“Bring us some wine Aloys,” commanded the Privy Councilor. “We will be in the library.”

He turned to his nephew. “Will you be sleeping here Frank? Or should the carriage wait?”

The student shook his head, “Neither, I will go back to the city on foot.”

They walked across the courtyard, entered the lower level of the house at a door on the right hand side. It was literally a great hall with a tiny antechamber and a couple of other small rooms nearby.

The walls were lined with long immense shelves containing thousands of books. Low glass cases stood here and there full of Roman artifacts. Many graves had been emptied, robbed of their cherished and carefully preserved treasures. The floor was covered in thick carpet. There were a couple of desks, armchairs and sofas that stood scattered around the room.

They entered. The Privy Councilor threw his alraune on a divan. They lit candles, pulled a couple of chairs together and sat down. The servant uncorked a dusty bottle.

“You can go,” said his master. “But don’t go too far. The young gentleman will be leaving and you will need to let him out.”

“Well?” he turned to his nephew.

Frank Braun drank. He picked the root manikin up and toyed with it. It was still a little moist and appeared to be almost flexible.

“It is clear enough,” he murmured. “There are the eyes–both of them. The nose pokes up there and that opening is the mouth. Look here Uncle Jakob. Doesn’t it look as if it is smiling? The arms are somewhat diminutive and the legs have grown together at the knees. It is a strange thing.”

He held it high, turned it around in all directions.

“Look around Alraune!” he cried. “This is your new home. You will be much happier here with Herr Jakob ten Brinken than you were in the house of the Gontrams.”

“You are old,” he continued. “four hundred, perhaps six hundred years old or even more. Your father was hung because he was a murderer or a horse thief, or else because he made fun of some great knight in armor or in priestly robes.

The important thing is that he was a criminal in his time and they hanged him. At the last moment of his life his seed fell to the earth and created you, you strange creature. Then your mother earth took the seed of this criminal into her fertile womb, secretly fashioned and gave birth to you.

You the great, the all-powerful–Yes you, you miserable ugly creature!–Then they dug you up at the midnight hour, at the crossroads, shaking in terror at your howling, shrieking screams.

The first thing you saw as you looked around in the moonlight was your father hanging there on the gallows with a broken neck and his rotting flesh hanging in tatters.

They took you with them, these people that had tied the noose around your father. They held you, carried you home. You were supposed to bring money into their house. Blood money and young love.

They knew well that you would bring pain, misery, despair and in the end a horrible death. They knew it and still they wanted you, still they dug you up, still they took you home, selling their souls for love and money.”

The Privy Councilor said, “You have a beautiful way of seeing things my boy. You are a dreamer.”

“Yes,” said the student. “That’s what I am–just like you.”

“Like me?” the professor laughed. “Now I think that part of my life is long gone.”

But his nephew shook his head, “No Uncle Jakob. It isn’t. Only you can make real what other people call fantastic. Just think of all your experiments! For you it is more like child’s play that may or may not lead to some purpose.

But never, never would a normal person come up with your ideas. Only a dreamer could do it–and only a savage, a wildman, that has the hot blood of the Brinkens flowing through his veins. Only he would dare attempt what you should now do Uncle Jakob.”

The old man interrupted him, indignant and yet at the same time flattered.

“You crazy boy!–You don’t even know yet if I will have any desire to do this mysterious thing you keep talking about and I still don’t have the slightest idea what it is!”

The student didn’t pause, his voice rang lightly, confidently and every syllable was convincing.

“Oh, you will do it Uncle Jakob. I know that you will do it, will do it because no one else can, because you are the only person in the world that can make it happen. There are certainly a few other professors that are attempting some of the same things you have already done, perhaps even gone further.

But they are normal people, dry, wooden–men of science. They would laugh in my face if I came to them with my idea, would chide me for being a fool. Or else they would throw me completely out the door, because I would dare come to them with such things, such thoughts, thoughts that they would call immoral and objectionable. Such ideas that dare trespass on the craft of the Great Creator and play a trick on all of nature.

You will not laugh at me Uncle Jakob, not you! You will not laugh at me or throw me out the door. It will fascinate you the same way it fascinates me. That’s why you are the only person that can do it!”

“But what then, by all the gods,” cried the Privy Councilor, “what is it?”

The student stood up, filled both glasses to the rims.

“A toast, old sorcerer,” he cried. “A toast! To a newer, younger wine that will flow out of your glass tubes. Toast, Uncle Jakob to your new living alraune–your new child!”

He clinked his glass against his uncle’s, emptied it in a gulp and threw it high against the ceiling where it shattered. The shards fell soundlessly on the heavy carpet.

He pulled his chair closer.

“Now listen uncle and I will tell you what I mean. I know you are really impatient with my long introduction–Don’t think ill of me. It has helped me put my thoughts in order, to stir them up, to make them comprehensible and tangible.

Here it is:

You should create a living alraune, Uncle Jakob, turn this old legend into reality. Who cares if it is superstition, a ghostly delusion of the Middle Ages or mystic flim-flam from ancient times?

You, you can make the old lies come true. You can create it. It can stand there in the light of day tangible for all the world to see–No stupid professor would be able to deny it.

Now pay attention, this is what needs to be done!

The criminal, uncle, you can find easily enough. I don’t think it matters if he dies on a gallows at a crossroads. We are a progressive people. Our prisons and guillotine are convenient, convenient for you as well. Thanks to your connections it will be easy to obtain and save the rare seed of the dead that will bring forth new life.

And Mother Earth?–What is her symbol? What does she represent? She is fertility, uncle. The earth is the feminine, the woman. She takes the semen, takes it into her womb, nourishes it, lets it germinate, grow, bloom and bear fruit. So you take what is fertile like the earth herself–take a woman.

But Mother Earth is the eternal prostitute, she serves all. She is the eternal mother, is always for sale, the prostitute of billions. She refuses her lascivious love to none, offers herself gladly to anyone that will take her. Everything that lives has been fertilized in her glorious womb and she has given birth to it. It has always been this way throughout the ages.

That is why you must use a prostitute Uncle Jakob. Take the most shameless, the cheekiest one of them all. Take one that is born to be a whore, not one that is driven to her profession or one that is seduced into it for money. Oh no, not one of those. Take one that is already wanton, that learns as she goes, one whose shame is her greatest pleasure and reason for living. You must choose her. Only her womb would be like the mother earth’s. You know how to find her. You are rich–You are no school boy in these things.

You can pay her a lot of money, purchase her services for your research. If she is the right one she will reel with laughter, will press her greasy bosom against you and kiss you passionately–She will do this because you have offered her something that no other man has offered her before.

You know better than I what happens then, how to bring about with humans what you have already done with monkeys and guinea pigs. Get everything ready, ready for the moment when the murderer’s bleeding head springs into the basket!”

He jumped up, leaned over the table, looked across at his uncle with intense forceful eyes. The Privy Councilor caught his gaze, parried it with a squint like a curved dirty scimitar parries a supple foil.

“What then nephew?” he said. “And then after the child comes into the world? What then?”

The student hesitated, his words dripped slowly, falling, “Then–we–will–have–a–magickal–creature.”

His voice swung lightly, yielding and reverberating like musical tones.

“Then we will see what truth there is in the old legend, get a glimpse into the deepest bowels of nature.”

The Privy Councilor opened his lips to speak but Frank Braun wouldn’t let him get a word in.

“Then we can prove whether there is something, some mysterious power that is stronger than all the laws of science that we know. We can prove whether this life is worth the trouble to live–especially for us.”

“Especially for us?” the professor repeated.

Frank Braun said, “Yes Uncle Jakob–especially for us! For you and for me–and the few hundred other people that stand as Masters over their lives–and then prove it even for the enslaved, the ones on the street, for the rest of the herd.”

Then suddenly, abruptly, he asked, “Uncle Jakob, do you believe in God?”

The Privy Councilor clicked his lips impatiently, “Do I believe in God? What does that have to do with it?”

But his nephew pressed him, wouldn’t let him brush it away, “Answer me Uncle Jakob, answer. Do you believe in God?”

He bent down closer to the old man, held him fast in his gaze.

The Privy Councilor said, “What do you mean boy? According to the understanding that everyone else uses, what I recognize as true and believe is most certainly not God. There is only a feeling–but that feeling is so uncontrollable, something so–”

“Yes, yes, uncle,” cried the student. “What about this feeling?”

The professor resisted like always, moved back and forth in his chair.

“Well, if I must speak candidly–there are times–very rare–with long stretches in between–”

Frank Braun cried, “You believe–You do believe in God! Oh, I knew it! All the Brinkens do–all of them up to you.”

He threw up his head, raised his lips high showing rows of smooth shiny teeth, and pushed out every word forcefully.

“Then you will do it Uncle Jakob. Then you must do it and I don’t need to speak with you any more about it. It is something that has been given to you, one out of a million people. It is possible for you–possible for you to play at being God!

If your God is real and lives he must answer you for your impertinence, for daring to do such a thing!”

He became quiet, went back and forth with large strides through the long room. Then he took up his hat and went up to the old man.

“Good night Uncle Jakob,” he said. “Will you do it?”

He reached out his hand to him but the old man didn’t see it. He was staring into space, brooding.

“I don’t know,” he answered finally.

Frank Braun took the alraune from the table, shoved it into the old man’s hands. His voice rang mocking and haughty.

“Here, consult with this!”

But the next moment the cadence of his voice was different.

Quietly he said, “Oh, I know you will do it.”

He strode quickly to the door, stopped there a moment, turned around and came back.

“Just one more thing Uncle Jakob, when you do it–”

But the Privy Councilor burst out, “I don’t know whether I’ll do it.”

“Ok,” said the student. “I won’t ask you any more about it. But just in case you should decide to do it–will you promise me something?”

“What?” the professor inquired.

He answered, “Please don’t let the princess watch!”

“Why not?” the Privy Councilor asked.

Frank Braun spoke softly and earnestly, “Because–because these things–are sacred.”

Then he left. He stepped out of the house and crossed the courtyard. The servant opened the gate and it rattled shut behind him.

Frank Braun walked down the street, stopped before the shrine of the Saint and examined it.

“Oh, Blessed Saint,” he said. “People bring you flowers and fresh oil for your lamps. But this house doesn’t care for you, doesn’t care if your shelter is preserved. You are regarded only as an antique. It is well for you that the folk still believe in you and in your power.”

Then he sang softly, reverently:

“John of Nepomuk

Protector from dangerous floods.

Protect my house!

Guard it from rising waters.

Let them rage somewhere else.

John of Nepomuk

Protect my house!”

“Well old idol,” he continued. “You have it easy protecting this village from dangerous floods since the Rhine lays three quarters of an hour from here and since it is so regular and runs between stone levies.

But try anyway, John of Nepomuk. Try to save this house from the flood that shall now break over it! See, I love you, Saint of stone, because you are my mother’s patron Saint.

She is called Johanna Nepomucema, also called Hubertina so she will never get bitten by a mad dog. Do you remember how she came into this world in this house, on the day that is sacred to you? That is why she carries your name, John of Nepomuk! And because I love her, my Saint–I will warn you for her sake.

You know that tonight another Saint has come inside, an unholy one. A little manikin, not of stone like you and not beautifully enshrined and dressed in garments–It is only made of wood and pathetically naked. But it is as old as you, perhaps even older and people say that it has a strange power. So try, Saint Nepomuk, give us a demonstration of your power!

One of you must fall, you or the manikin. It must be decided who is Master over the house of Brinken. Show us, my Saint, what you can do.”

Frank Braun bowed, paid his respects, crossed himself, laughed shortly and went on with quick strides through the street. He came up to a field, breathed deeply the fresh night air and began walking toward the city. In an avenue under blooming chestnuts he slowed his steps, strolled dreamily, softly humming as he went along.

Suddenly he stopped, hesitated a moment. He turned around, looked quickly both ways, swung up onto a low wall, sprang down to the other side and, ran through a still garden up to a wide red villa.

He stopped there, pursed his lips and his wild short whistle chased through the night, twice, three times, one right after the other. Somewhere a hound began to bark. Above him a window softly opened, a blonde woman in a white nightgown appeared. Her voice whispered through the darkness.

“Is that you?”

And he said, “Yes, yes!”

She scurried back into the room, quickly came back again, took her handkerchief, wrapped something in it and threw it down.

“There my love–the key! But be quiet–very quiet! Don’t wake up my parents.”

Frank Braun took the key out, climbed the small marble steps, opened the door and went inside. While he groped softly and cautiously upward in the dark his young lips moved:

“John of Nepomuk

Protector from dangerous 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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Crash! Something fell off the wall, fell on Sophia, hitting the housemaid right on the head. The maid screamed out loud and in her fright dropped the silver tray she had been serving coffee on.

“A shame about the beautiful silver service,” said Frau Gontram calmly. “What happened?”

Dr. Mohnen immediately took a quick look at the crying housemaid, cut a strand of hair away, washed the gaping edges of the wound and stopped the bleeding with a yellow Iron Chloride wad. He didn’t forget to pat the beautiful girl on the cheeks and furtively squeeze one of her firm breasts. Then he gave her some wine to drink, spoke to her, lightly in her ear.

The Hussar lieutenant stooped, picked up the thing that had caused the damage, raised it high and looked at it from all sides.

There were all kinds of remarkable things hanging on the wall. There was a Kaneka Idol, half male and half female, colorfully painted with yellow and red stripes. Two old heavy and deformed riding boots hung there complete with impressive Spanish spurs. There were all sorts of rusty weapons as well.

On the gray wall was also pressed the Doctorate Diploma of some old Gontram from a Jesuit College in Seville. Near it hung a wonderful ivory crucifix inlaid with gold. On the other side was a large heavy Buddhist cross with a rose in the center carved out of green Jade. Right above that you could see the large tear in the wallpaper where a nail had torn its way out of the brittle plaster.

It was a brown dusty thing made of rock hard wooden root. It looked like an ancient wrinkled man.

“Oh, it’s our alraune!” Frau Gontram said. “It’s just as well that it fell on Sophie, she has a hard skull!–When Wölfchen was born I gave that disgusting manikin to him. I was certain he would be able to break it to pieces but he couldn’t.”

The Legal Councilor explained, “This has been in our family for over two hundred years now. It has done this once before. My grandfather told us that once in the night it sprang off the wall and fell on his head–He was completely drunk when it happened though–He always liked having a few drops to drink.”

“What is it really?” the Hussar lieutenant asked.

“Well, it brings gold into the house,” answered Herr Gontram. “It is an old legend–Manasse can tell you all about it–Come over here, Herr Colleague, tell us, Herr History–What is the legend of the alraune?”

But the little attorney didn’t want to, “Why? Everyone knows it already!”

“No one knows it, Herr Attorney,” the lieutenant cried at him. “No one. Your learning greatly overshadows that of modern education.”

“So tell us, Manasse,” said Frau Gontram. “I always wanted to know what that ugly thing was good for.”

He began. He spoke dryly, matter of factly, as if he were reading some piece out of a book. He spoke unhurried, scarcely raising his voice while swinging the manikin root back and forth in his right hand like a baton.

“Alraune, albraune, mandragora–also called mandrake–mandragora is its official name, a plant belonging to the Nightshade family. It is found around the Mediterranean, Southeast Europe and Asia up to the Himalayas. Its leaves and flowers contain a narcotic that was used in ancient times as a sleeping potion and during operations at the illustrious medical college in Salerno, Italy. The leaves were smoked and the fruit made into a love potion. It stimulates lust and increases potency. The plant is named Dudaim in the Old Testament where Jacob used it to increase Labaan’s flock of sheep.

The root plays the leading role in the saga of the alraune because of its strange resemblance to an old male or female figurine. It was mentioned by Pythagoras and already in his time believed capable of making a person invisible. It is used for magic or the opposite, as a talisman against witchcraft.

The German alraune story began in the early Middle Ages in connection with the crusades. Known criminals were hung stark naked from a gallows at a crossroads. At the moment their neck was broken they lost their semen and it fell to the earth fertilizing it and creating a male or female alraune. It had to be dug out of the ground beneath the gallows when the clock struck midnight and you needed to plug your ears with cotton and wax or its dreadful screams would make you fall down in terror. Even Shakespeare tells of this.

After it is dug up and carried back home you keep it healthy by bringing it a little to eat at every meal and bathing it in wine on the Sabbath. It brings luck in peace and in war, is a protection against witchcraft and brings lots of money into the house. It is good for prophecy and makes its owner lovable. It brings women love magic, fertility and easy childbirth. It makes people fall madly and wildly in love with them.

Yet it also brings sorrow and pain where ever it is. The house where it stays will be pursued by bad luck and it will drive its owner to greed, fornication and other crimes before leading him at last to death and then to hell. Nevertheless, the alraune is very beloved, much sought after and brings a high price when it can be found.

They say that Bohemian general Albrecht Wallenstein carried an alraune around with him and they say the same thing about Henry the Eighth, the English King with so many wives.”

The attorney became quiet, threw the hard piece of wood in front of him onto the table.

“Very interesting, really very interesting,” cried Count Geroldingen. “I am deeply indebted to you for sharing that bit of information Herr Attorney.”

But Madame Marion declared that she would not permit such a thing in her house for even a minute and looked with frightened, believing eyes at the stiff bony mask of Frau Gontram.

Frank Braun walked quickly back to the Privy Councilor. His eyes glowed; he gripped the old gentleman on the shoulder and shook it.

“Uncle Jakob,” he whispered. “Uncle Jakob–”

“What is it now boy?” The professor asked. He stood up and followed his nephew to the window.

“Uncle Jakob,” the student repeated. “That’s it!–That’s what you need to do! It’s better than making stupid jokes with frogs, monkeys and little children! Do it Uncle Jakob, go a new way, where no one has gone before!”

His voice trembled; in nervous haste he blew a puff of smoke out from his cigarette.

“I don’t understand a word you are saying,” said the old man.

“Oh, you must understand Uncle Jakob!–Didn’t you hear what he said?–Create an Alraune, one that lives, one of flesh and blood!–You can do it Uncle, you alone and no one else in the world.”

The Privy Councilor looked at him uncertainly. But in the voice of the student lay such certainty, conviction and belief in his skill that he became curious against his will.

“Explain yourself more clearly Frank,” he said. “I really don’t know what you mean.”

His nephew shook his head hastily, “Not now Uncle Jakob. With your permission I will escort you home. We can talk then.”

He turned quickly, strode to the coffeepot, took a cup, emptied it and took another in quick gulps.

Sophia, the other girl, was trying to evade her comforter and Dr. Mohnen was running around here and there hyper as a cow’s tail during fly season. His fingers felt the need to wash something, to pick something up. He took up the alraune and rubbed it with a clean napkin trying to wipe the dust and grime away that clung to it in layers. It was useless; the thing had not been cleaned for over a century and would only get more napkins dirty. He was filled with the sense that something was not right. He swung it high and skillfully threw it into the middle of the large wine bowl.

“Drink alraune,” he cried. “You have been treated badly in this house and must certainly be thirsty!”

Then he climbed up on a chair and delivered a long solemn speech to the white robed virgins.

“I hope you can stay eternally as pure as you are tonight,” he finished.

He lied, he didn’t want that at all. No one wished that, much less the two young ladies, but they clapped with the others, went over to him, curtsied and thanked him.

Chaplain Schröder stood next to the Legal Councilor complaining powerfully that the date was nearing when the new Civil Law would go into effect. Less than ten more years and the Code of Napoleon would be gone and people in the Rhineland would have the same civil rights as over there in Prussia! It was absolutely unthinkable!

“Yes,” sighed the Legal Councilor, “and all the work! A person has to learn everything all over again, as if they don’t have enough to do as it is.”

He was completely indifferent on the basis that it would not affect him very much since he had studied the new laws already and had passed the exam, thank God!

The princess left and took Frau Marion with her in her carriage. Olga stayed over with her friend again. They stood by the door and said goodbye to the others as they left, one after the other.

“Aren’t you going too, Uncle Jakob?” the student asked.

“I must wait a bit,” said the Privy Councilor. “My carriage is not here yet. It will be here in a
moment.”

Frank Braun looked out the window. There was the little widow, Frau Von Dollinger, going down the stairs nimble as a squirrel in spite of her forty years, down into the garden, falling down, springing back up. She ran right into a smooth tree trunk, wrapped her arms and legs around it and started kissing it passionately, completely drunk and senseless from wine and lust.

Stanislaus Schacht tried to untangle her but she held on like a beetle. He was strong and sober in spite of the enormous quantity of wine that he had drunk. She screamed as he pulled her away trying to stay clasped to the smooth tree trunk but he picked her up and carried her in his arms. Then she recognized him, pulled off his hat and started kissing him on his smooth bald head.

Now the professor was standing, speaking some last words with the Legal Councilor.

“I’d like to ask a favor,” he said. “Would you mind giving me the unlucky little man?”

Frau Gontram answered before her husband could, “Certainly Herr Privy Councilor. Take that nasty alraune along with you! It is certainly something more for a bachelor!”

She reached into the large wine bowl and pulled out the root manikin but the hard wood hit the edge of the bowl, knocking it over, and it rolled to the floor with a loud crash that resounded through the room. The magnificent old crystal bowl broke into hundreds of crystal shards as the bowl’s sweet contents spilled over the table and onto the floor.

“Holy Mother of God!” she cried out. “It is certainly a good thing that it is finally leaving my house!”

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Frank Braun went to the window as the Legal Councilor and Frau Marion went up to the Grand Piano. Herr Gontram sat down on the piano bench, turned around and said.

“I would like a little quiet please. Frau Marion would like to sing a song for us.”

He turned to the Lady, “What would you like after that dear Frau?–Another one I hope, perhaps ‘Les Papillions’? or perhaps ‘Il Baccio’ from Arditti?–Give me the music for them as well!”

The student looked across, she always looked good, this old, well-formed lady. He believed she really had all the adventures that she related. At one time she had been the fiery Diva of Europe. Now she lived in this city that was still stuck back in the fourth century in her little villa. She took long walks through her gardens every evening, put flowers on the graves of her dead hounds and cried for a half-hour.

Now she sang. She had lost her magnificent voice years ago, but there was still a rare magic in her performance, out of the old school. The smile of the conqueror lay on her rouged lips and the thick face paint attempted to capture the former sweetness of her features. Her thick sweaty hands played with her ivory fan and her eyes searched the room as if trying to scratch and pull the applause out of the audience.

Oh yes, she certainly fit in here, Madame Marion Vère de Vère, fit in this house, like all the others that were guests. Frank Braun looked around. There sat his dear uncle with the princess and behind them leaning against the door stood Attorney Manasse and Chaplain Schöder. The long, gaunt, dark chaplain was the best wine connoisseur on the Mosel and the Saar. It was nearly impossible to find a wine cellar that he had not gone into and sampled. Schröder had written a never-ending clever book about the abstruse philosophy of Plotinus and at the same time had written the skits for the Puppet Theater in Cologne. He was particularly enthusiastic about the first Napoleon. He hated the Prussians and anyone that spoke of the Kaiser. Every year on the fifth of May he traveled back to Cologne and the Minority Church where he celebrated a High Mass for the tormented dead of the “Grand Army”.

There sat large, gold spectacled, Stanislaus Schacht, candidate for a degree in Philosophy, in his sixteenth semester, too fat, too lazy to get off his chair. For years he had lived as a lodger at the widow of Professor Dr. von Dollinger’s house. For a long time now he had been installed as the new master of the house. She was that little, ugly, over thin woman sitting beside him, always filling his glass and loading his plate with heaping portions of food. She didn’t eat anything–but she drank as much as he did and with every new glass her ardor grew. She laughingly caressed his huge meaty arm with her bony finger.

Near her stood Karl Mohnen, Dr. jur and Dr. phil. He was a schoolmate and chess player. It was through chess that they had met and become great friends. By now he had studied almost as long as Stanislaus, only he was always taking exams, always changing his major. At the moment it was Philosophy and he was studying for his third exam. He looked like a clerk in a department store, quick, hurried and always moving.

Frank Braun always thought that he should go into business as a merchant. He would certainly be happy running a confectionery where he would have women to serve him. He was always looking for a rich party–on the street–large window promenades too. He had an aptitude for meeting new people and making new friends, especially traveling English women. He clutched onto them gladly–but sadly they had no money.

There was still another person there, the small Hussar lieutenant with the little black mustache that was chatting with the girls. He, the young Count Geroldingen, could always be found back stage in every theater performance. He painted the sets, was talented with the violin and the best horse racer in the regiment. He was now telling Olga and Frieda something about Beethoven that was horribly boring. They were only listening because he was such a handsome little lieutenant.

Oh yes, they all belonged here without exception. They all had a little gypsy blood–despite titles and orders, despite tonsures and uniforms, despite diamonds and golden spectacles, despite all the civilized posturing. Some were devouring food; others were making small detours away from the path of civilized decency.

A roar resounded and merged with Frau Marion’s singing. It was the Gontram rascals fighting on the stairs. Their mother went up to quiet them down. Then Wölfchen screamed in the next room and the girls had to carry the child up into the attic. They took Cyclops along, putting both to bed in the narrow child’s wagon.

Frau Marion began her second song, “The Dance of Shadows” from the opera “Dinorah”.

The princess asked the Privy Councilor about his latest endeavors and if she could come once more to see the remarkable frogs, amphibians and cute monkeys. Yes, she could certainly come. There was a new species of rose that she should really see. It was at his Mehlemer castle. He also had large white camellias that his gardener had planted; she would be interested in them as well.

But the princess was more interested in the frogs and monkeys than the roses and camellias so he related his endeavors to transfer eggs from one frog to another and artificially inseminate them. He told her that he had already produced a beautiful female frog with two heads and another with fourteen eyes on its back.

He would dissect one and remove the eggs from it and fertilize them before transferring the little tadpoles to another frog and just like that, the cells would merrily divide and develop into new life with heads and tails, eyes and legs.

Then he told her about his efforts with monkeys, relating that he had two young long tailed monkeys that were being suckled by their virgin mother–She had never even seen a male monkey!

That interested the princess the most and she asked for all the details. She had read something about it but didn’t understand all the Greek and Latin words. Maybe he could explain it to her in perfect German so she could understand?

The obscene cliches and behaviors dripped out of the Privy Councilor as he explained in anatomical detail just what he did. Spittle drooled down from the corners of his mouth and ran down his heavy, hanging lower lip.

He enjoyed this game, this obscene chatter, watching her voluptuously slurp up every shameful word. Then when he was close to saying an especially repulsive word, he would throw in “Your Highness” and savor with delight the titillation of the delicious contrast.

And how she listened to him! Her face was becoming flushed, excited, almost trembling, sucking this Bordello atmosphere in with all of her pores, as he unveiled what really went on behind the thin scientific banner.

“Do you only inseminate monkeys, Herr Privy Councilor?” she asked breathlessly.

“No,” he said, “also rats and Guinea pigs. Would you like to watch, Your Highness, when I–”

He lowered his voice, almost whispered.

She cried, “Yes, yes! I must see it! Gladly, very gladly! When?”

Then she added with a slow, almost evil dignity. “Did you know, Herr Privy Councilor, that nothing interests me more than the study of medicine. I believe I would have been a very talented doctor.”

He looked at her and grinned widely, “No doubt, Your Highness.”

And he thought, that she certainly would have been a much better Bordello Mother. But he was satisfied; he had his little fish hooked safely on his line.

Then he continued again about his new breed of rose and the camellias at his castle on the Rhine. It was so troublesome for him, and he had only taken possession of it as a favor. The location was such an excellent one and the view–Perhaps when her Highness finally decided to buy a place she might–

Princess Wolkonski decided herself, without any hesitation at all.

“Yes, certainly Herr Privy Councillor, yes, certainly, naturally I will take your castle!”

She saw Frank Braun going past and called out to him, “Hey, Herr Studious! Herr Studious! Come over here! Your uncle has promised that I can observe one of his experiments. Isn’t that delightfully charming? Have you already seen what he does?”

“No,” said Frank Braun. “I’m not at all interested.”

He turned to go away but she grabbed him by the arm and stopped him.

“Give me a cigarette! Oh, and, yes, a glass of champagne please.”

She shivered in hot desire, beads of sweat crept over her massive flesh. Her crude senses had been whipped to a frenzy from her shameless talk with the old man. Her passion needed a goal, a target, and it broke over the young fellow like a huge wave.

“Tell me, Herr Studious,” her breath panted, her mighty breasts threatened to leap out of her dress. “Tell me, do you believe that–that–Herr Privy Councilor–his science–his experiments with artificial insemination–does he do it with people as well?”

She knew very well that he didn’t, but she needed to say it before she could get to what she really wanted with this young, fresh and handsome student.

Frank Braun laughed, instinctively understanding what she had in mind.

“But of course, Your Highness,” he said lightly. “Most certainly! Uncle is already working on it, has discovered a new procedure so refined that the poor woman in question is not even aware of it. Not at all–until she wakes up one beautiful day and discovers that she is pregnant, probably in the fourth or fifth month!

Be very careful Your Highness, keep a watchful eye on Herr Privy Councilor. Who knows, you might already be–”

“Heaven Forbid!” screamed the princess.

“Yes, it could happen,” he cried. “Wouldn’t it be very unpleasant? When you have done absolutely nothing to make it happen!”

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Chapter Two

Expains how  the idea for Alraune came about.

The sun had already set and the candles were burning on the chandelier in the Festival room as Privy Councilor ten Brinken entered. He appeared festive enough in his dress suit. There was a large star on his white vest and a gold chain in the buttonhole from which twenty small medals dangled.

The Legal Councilor stood up, greeted him, and then he and the old gentleman went around the room with threadbare smiles, saying kind words to everyone. They stopped in front of the celebrating girls and the old gentleman took two gold rings out of a beautiful leather case and formally presented them. The one with a sapphire was for blond Frieda and the ruby was for dark Olga. Then he gave a very wise speech to both of them.

“Would you like to sit for a spell?” asked Herr Sebastian Gontram. “We’ve been sitting over there for four hours. Seventeen courses! Isn’t that something! Here is the menu, is there anything you would like?”

The Privy Councilor thanked him, but he had already eaten.

Then Frau Gontram came into the room in a blue, somewhat old-fashioned silk gown with a train. Her hair was done up high.

“I can’t eat anymore ice cream,” she cried. “Prince Puckler had Billa put all of it on the cinnamon noodles!”

The guests laughed. They never knew what to expect in the Gontram house.

Attorney Manasse cried, “Bring the dish in here! We haven’t seen Prince Puckler or fresh cinnamon noodles all day!”

Privy Councilor ten Brinken looked around for a chair. He was a small man, smooth shaven, with thick watery bags under his eyes. He was repulsive enough with swollen hanging lips, a huge meaty nose, and the lid of his left eye drooped heavy but the right stood wide open, squinting around in a predatory manner. Someone behind him said:

“Good Day Uncle Jakob.”

It was Frank Braun. The Privy Councilor turned around; it was very unusual to see his nephew here.

“You’re here?” he asked. “I can only imagine why.”

The student laughed, “Naturally! But you are so wise uncle. You look good by the way, and very official, like a university professor in proud dress uniform with all your medals. I’m here incognito–over there with the other students stuck at the west table.”

“That just proves your twisted thinking, where else would you be sitting?” his uncle said. “When you once–”

“Yes, yes,” Frank Braun interrupted him. “When I finally get as old as you, then I will be permitted–and so on–That’s what you would tell me, isn’t it? All heaven be praised that I’m not yet twenty Uncle Jakob. I like it this way much better.”

The Privy Councilor sat down. “Much better? I can believe that. In the fourth Semester and doing nothing but fighting, drinking, fencing, riding, loving and making poor grades! I wrote your mother about the grades the university gave you. Tell me youngster, just what are you doing in college anyway?”

The student filled two glasses, “Here Uncle Jakob, drink, then your suffering will be lighter! Well, I’ve been in several classes already, not just one, but an entire series of classes. Now I’ve left and I’m not going back.”

“Prosit!”

“Prosit!” The Privy Councilor said. “Have you finished?”

“Finished?” Frank Braun laughed. “I’m much more than finished. I’m overflowing! I’m done with college and I’m done with the Law. I’m going to travel. Why should I be in college? It’s possible that the other students can learn from you professors but their brains must then comply with your methods. My brain will not comply. I find every single one of you unbelievably foolish, boring and stupid.”

The professor took a long look at him.

“You are immensely arrogant, my dear boy,” he said quietly.

“Really?” The student leaned back, put one leg over the other. “Really? I scarcely believe that. But if so, it doesn’t really matter. I know what I’m doing. First, I’m saying this to annoy you a bit–You look so funny when you are annoyed, second, to hear back from you that I’m right.

For example, you, uncle, are certainly a shrewd old fox, very intelligent, clever and you know a multitude of things–But in college weren’t you just as insufferable as the rest of your respected colleagues? Didn’t you at one time or another say to yourself that you wanted to perhaps just have some fun?”

“Me? Most certainly not!” the professor said. “But that is something else. When you once–Well, ok, you know already–Now tell me boy, where in all the world will you go from here? Your mother will not like to hear that you are not coming home.”

“Very well,” cried Frank Braun. “I will answer you.”

“But first, why have you have rented this house to Gontram? He is certainly not a person that does things by the book. Still, it is always good when you can have someone like that from time to time. His tubercular wife naturally interests you as a medical doctor. All the doctors in the city are enraptured by this phenomenon without lungs. Then there’s the princess that you would gladly sell your castle in Mehlem to.

Finally, dear uncle, there are the two teenagers over there, beautiful, fresh vegetables aren’t they? I know how you like young girls–Oh, in all honor, naturally. You are always honorable Uncle Jakob!”

He stopped, lit a cigarette and blew out a puff of smoke. The Privy Councilor squinted at him poisonously with a predatory right eye.

“What did you want to tell me?” he asked lightly.

The student gave a short laugh, “Oh, nothing. Nothing at all!”

He stood up, went to the corner table, picked up a cigar box and opened it. They were the expensive cigars of the Privy Councilor.

“The smokes, dear uncle. Look, Romeo and Juliet, your brand. The Legal Councilor has certainly not spared any expense for you!”

He offered one to the Privy Councilor.

“Thank you,” growled the professor. “Thank you. Now once again, what is it that you want to tell me?”

Frank Braun moved his chair closer.

“I will tell you Uncle Jakob. But first I need to reproach you. I don’t like what you did, do you hear me? I know myself quite well, know that I’ve been wasting my life and that I continue–Leave that. You don’t care and I’m not asking you to pay any of my debts.

I request that you never again write such a letter to our house. You will write back to mother and tell her that I am very virtuous, very moral, work very hard and that I’m moving on and such stuff. Do you understand?”

“Yes, that I must lie,” said the Privy Councilor. “It should sound realistic and witty, but it will sound slimy as a snail, even to her.”

The student looked at him squarely, “Yes uncle, you should even lie. Not on my account, you know that, but for mother.”

He stopped for a moment gazing into his glass, “and since you will tell these lies for me, I will now tell you this.”

“I am curious,” said the Privy Councilor a little uncertainly.

“You know my life,” the student continued and his voice rang with bitter honesty. “You know that I, up until today, have been a stupid youth. You know because you are an old and clever man, highly educated, rich, known by all, decorated with titles and orders, because you are my uncle and my mother’s only brother. You think that gives you a right to educate me. Right or not, you will never do it. No one will ever do it, only life will educate me.”

The professor slapped his knee and laughed out loud. “Yes, life! Just wait youngster. It will educate you soon enough. It has enough twists and turns, beautiful rules and laws, solid boundaries and thorny barriers.”

Frank Braun replied, “They are nothing for me, much less for me than for you. Have you, Uncle Jakob, ever fought through the twists, cut through the wiry thorns and laughed at all the laws? I have.”

“Pay attention uncle,” he continued. “I know your life as well. The entire city knows it and the sparrows pipe their little jokes about you from the rooftops. But the people only talk to themselves in whispers, because they fear you, fear your cleverness and your money. They fear your power and your energy.

I know why little Anna Paulert died. I know why your handsome gardener had to leave so quickly for America. I know many more little stories about you. Oh, I don’t approve, certainly not. But I don’t think of you as evil. I even admire you a little perhaps because you, like a little king, can do so many things with impunity. The only thing I don’t understand is how you are successful with all the children. You are so ugly.”

The Privy Councilor played with his watch chain. Then he looked quietly at his nephew, almost flattered.

“You really don’t understand that?”

The student replied, “No, absolutely not at all. But I do understand how you have come to it! For a long time you’ve had everything that you wanted, everything that a person could have within the normal constraints of society. Now you want more. The brook is bored in its old bed, steps here and there over the narrow banks–It is in your blood.”

The professor raised his glass, reached it out to him.

“Give me another, my boy,” he said. His voice trembled a little and certainly rang out with solemnity. “You are right. It is in the blood, my blood and your blood.”

He drank and reached out to shake hands with his nephew.

“You will write mother like I want you to?” asked Frank Braun.

“Yes, I will,” replied the old man.

The student said, “Thank you Uncle Jakob.”

He took the outstretched hand and shook it.

“Now go, you old Don Juan, call the Communicants! They both look beautiful in their sacred gowns, don’t they?”

“Hmm,” said the uncle. “Don’t they look good to you?”

Frank Braun laughed. “Me? Oh, my God! No, Uncle Jakob, I am no rival, not today. Today I have a higher ambition–perhaps when I am as old as you are!–But I am not the guardian of their virtue. Those two celebrating roses will not improve until they have been plucked. Someone will, and soon–Why not you? Hey Olga, Frieda! Come on over here!”

But neither girl came over. They were hovering around Dr. Mohnen, filling his glass and listening to his suggestive stories. The princess came over; Frank Braun stood up and offered her his chair.

“Sit down, sit down!” she cried. “I have absolutely nothing to chat with you about!”

“Just a few minutes, your Highness. I will go get a cigarette,” the student said. “My uncle has been waiting all night for a chance to give you his compliments. He will be overjoyed.”

The Privy Councilor was not overjoyed about it. He would have much rather had the little princess sitting there, but now he entertained the mother–

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The princess enters, obese and sweaty, large diamonds on her fingers, in her ears, around her neck and in her hair in a vulgar display of extravagance.

She is a Hungarian countess or baroness. She met the prince somewhere in the Orient. A marriage was arranged, that was certain, but also certain, was that right from the beginning it was a fraud on both sides.

She wanted the marriage to make her impossible pregnancy legal. The prince wanted the same marriage to prevent an international scandal and hide his small mistake. It was a net of lies and impudent fraud, a legal feast for Herr Sebastian Gontram, everything was in motion, and nothing was solid. Every smallest assertion would prompt legal opposition from the other side. Every shadow would be extinguished through a court ruling.

Only one thing stayed the same, the little princess. Both the prince and the princess proclaimed themselves as father and mother and claimed her as their own. This product of their strange marriage is heir to many millions of dollars. The mother has the advantage, has custody.

“Have a seat, princess!”

The Legal Councilor would sooner bite his tongue than call this woman, ‘Highness’. She is his client and he doesn’t treat her a hair better than a peasant woman.

“Take your coat off!” but he doesn’t help her with it.

“We have just written you a letter,” he continues and reads the beautiful letter to her.

“But of course,” cries the princess. “I will take care of it first thing tomorrow morning!”

She opens her purse and pulls out a heavy envelope.

“Look at this, Honorable Legal Councilor. I came straight here with it. It is a letter from Lord, Count Ormes of Greater-Becskerekgyartelep, you know him.”

Herr Gontram furrows his brow. This isn’t good. The King himself would not be permitted to demand him to conduct any business while at home. He stands up and takes the letter.

“That’s very good,” he says. “Very good. We will clear this up in the morning at the office.”

She defends herself, “But it’s very urgent! It’s very important!”

The Legal Councilor interrupts her, “Urgent? Important? Let me tell you what is urgent and important, absolutely nothing. Only in the office can a person judge what is urgent and important.”

He reproaches her, “Princess, you are an educated woman! You know all about proper manners and enjoy them all the time. You must know that you don’t bring business home at night.”

She persists, “But I can never catch you at the office Honorable Legal Councilor. During this week alone I was–”

Now he is almost angry. “Then come next week! Do you think that all I do is work on your stuff alone? Do you really believe that is all I do? Do you know what my time alone costs for the murderer Houten? And it’s on my head to handle your millions as well.”

Then he begins to tell a funny story, incessantly relating an unending imaginary story of a strange crime lord and the heroic attorney that brings him to justice for all the horrible sex murders that he has committed.

The princess sighs, but she listens to him. She laughs once in awhile, always in the wrong places. She is the only one of all his listeners that never knows when he lies and also the only one that doesn’t understand his jokes.

“Nice story for the children!” barks Attorney Manasse.

Both girls are listening eagerly, staring at the Legal Councilor with wide-open eyes and mouths. But he doesn’t allow himself to be interrupted. It is never too early to get accustomed to such things. He talks as if sex murderers were common, that they happen all the time in life and you can encounter dozens of them every day.

He finally finishes, looks at the hour, “Ten already! You children must go to bed! Drink your spiced wine quickly.”

The girls drink, but the princess declares that she will under no circumstances go back to her house. She is too afraid and can’t sleep by herself, perhaps there is a disguised sex murderer in the house. She wants to stay with her friend. She doesn’t ask her Mama. She asks only Frieda and her mother.

“You can as far as I’m concerned,” says Frau Gontram. “But don’t you oversleep! You need to be in church on time.”

The girls curtsey and go out, arm in arm, inseparable.

“Are you afraid too?” asks the princess.

Frieda says, “What Papa was saying is all lies.”

But she is still afraid anyway and at the same time strangely longing for these things. Not to experience them, oh no, not to know that. But she is thinking how she wants to be able to tell stories like that! Yes, that is another sin for confession! She sighs.

Above, they finish the spiced wine. Frau Gontram smokes one last cigar. Herr Manasse stands up to leave the room and the Legal Councilor is telling the princess a new story. She hides her yawn behind her fan, attempts again to get a word in.

“Oh, yes, dear Legal Councilor,” she says quickly. “I almost forgot! May I pick your wife up at noon tomorrow in the carriage? I’d like to take her with me into Rolandseck for a bit.”

“Certainly,” he answers. “Certainly, if she wants to.”

But Frau Gontram says, “I can’t go out.”

“And why not?” the princess asks. “It would do you some good to get out and breathe some fresh spring air.”

Frau Gontram slowly takes the cigar out from between her teeth. “I can’t go out. I don’t have a decent hat to wear–”

The Princess laughs as if it is a good joke. She will also send the Milliner over in the morning with the newest spring fashions.

“Then I’ll go,” says Frau Gontram. “But send Becker from Quirinusjass, they have the best.”

“And now I must go to sleep–good night!”

“Oh, yes, it is time I must get going too!” the princess cries hastily.

Legal Councilor escorts her out, through the garden and into the street. He helps her up into her carriage and then deliberately shuts the garden gate.

As he comes back, his wife is standing in the house door, a burning candle in her hand.

“I can’t go to bed yet,” she says quietly.

“What,” he asks. “Why not?”

She replies, “I can’t go to bed yet because Manasse is lying in it!”

They climb up the stairs to the second floor and go into the bedroom. In the giant marriage bed lies the little attorney pretty as can be and fast asleep. His clothing is hung carefully over the chair, his boots standing nearby. He has taken a clean nightgown out of the  wardrobe and put it on. Near him lies his Cyclops like a crumpled young hedgehog.

Legal Councilor Gontram takes the candle from the nightstand and lights it.

“And the man insults me, says that I’m lazy!” he says shaking his head in wonderment.

“–And he is too lazy to go home!”

“Shh!”  Frau Gontram says. “You’ll wake everyone up.”

She takes bedding and linen out of the wardrobe and goes very quietly downstairs and makes up two beds on the sofas. They sleep there.

Everyone is sleeping in the white house. Downstairs by the kitchen the strong cook, Billa, sleeps, the three hounds next to her. In the next room the four wild rascals sleep, Philipp, Paulche, Emilche and Josefche. Upstairs in Frieda’s large balcony room the two friends are sleeping. Wülfche sleeps nearby with his black tobacco stub. In the living room sleep Herr Sebastian Gontram and his wife. Up the hall Herr Manasse and Cyclops contentedly snore and way up in the attic sleeps Sophia, the housemaid. She has come back from the dance hall and lightly sneaked up the stairs.

Everyone is sleeping, twelve people and four sharp hounds. But something is not sleeping. It shuffles slowly around the white house–

Outside by the garden flows the Rhine, rising and breasting its embankments. It appears in the sleeping village, presses itself against the old toll office.

Cats and Tomcats are pushing through the bushes, hissing, biting, striking each other, their round hot glittering eyes possessed with aching, agonizing and denied lust–

In the distance at the edge of the city you hear the drunken songs of the wild students–

Something creeps all around the white house on the Rhine, sneaks through the garden, past a broken embankment and overturned benches. It looks in pleasure at the Sunday antics of the love hungry cats and climbs up to the house. It scratches with hard nails on the wall making a loose piece of plaster fall, pokes softly at the door so that it rattles lightly like the wind.

Then it’s in the house shuffling up the stairs, creeping cautiously through all the rooms and stops, looks around, smiles.

Heavy silver stands on the mahogany buffet, rich treasures from the time of the Kaiser. But the windowpanes are warped and patched with paper. Dutchmen hang on the wall. They are all good paintings from Koekoek, Verboekhuoeven, Verwee and Jan Stobbaerts, but they have holes and the old golden frames are black with spider webs. These magnificent beauties came from the ArchBishop’s old hall. But the broken crystal is sticky with flyspecks.

Something sneaks through the still house and each time it comes it breaks something, almost nothing, an infinite smallness, a crack. But again and again, each time it comes, the crack grows in the night. There is a small noise, a light creaking in the hall, a nail loosens and the old furniture gives way. There is a rattle at the swollen shutters and a strange clanking between the windowpanes.

Everyone sleeps in this big house on the Rhine but something slowly shuffles around.

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Then Legal Councilor Gontram comes into the room.

“Good evening colleague,” he says. “Here already? That’s good.”

He begins a long story about all that has happened during the day at the office and before the court. Purely remarkable things that only happen to lawyers once in a lifetime happen to Herr Gontram every day. These strange and often lusty occurrences are sometimes comic, often bloody and highly tragic.

Not a word is true. The Legal Councilor has an incurable shyness of telling the truth. Before his morning bath, yes, even before he washes his face in the basin, from the moment his mouth first opens wide he lies. When he sleeps, he dreams up new lies. Everyone knows that he lies, but his stories are so lusty and interesting they want to hear them anyway. Even when they aren’t that good they are still entertaining.

He is in his late forties with a short, very sparse beard and thinning hair. A gold pince-nez with a long black cord always hangs crookedly over his nose and helps his blue shortsighted eyes see to read.

He is untidy, disorderly, unwashed, and always has ink spots on his fingers. He is a bad jurist and very much against doing any work, always supervising his junior lawyers but not doing anything himself. On this basis he oversees the office managers and clerks and is often not seen for weeks at a time. When he is there, he sleeps. If he is awake, once in awhile he writes a short sentence that reads, “Denied” and stamps the words “Legal Councilor” underneath.

Nevertheless he has a very good practice, much better than the knowledgeable and shrewd Manasse. He understands the language of the people and can chat with them. He is popular with all the judges and lawyers because he never makes any problems and all his clients walk. For the accused and for the jury he is worth the gold he is paid, you can believe that.

Once a Public Prosecutor said, “I ask the accused be denied extenuating circumstances, Legal Councilor Gontram is defending him.”

Extenuating circumstances, his clients always get them, but Manasse seldom receives them despite his scholarly ways and sharp speeches.

There is still more, Legal Councilor Gontram had a couple of big, important and provocative cases that created sensations throughout the land. In both cases he fought through the entire year and finally won. These cases suddenly awoke in him a strange energy that up until then had lain sleeping inside of him.

The first was so full of tangles, a six times loser, nearly impossible case that went from lawyer to lawyer, a case with complicated international questions that he had no suspicion of when he took it. He just thought it was interesting and liked it.

The Koschen brothers out of Lennep had been condemned to death three times. In a fourth resumption he continued on and won their freedom despite hair splitting circumstantial evidence.

The other was a big million-dollar dispute over Galmeiberg Mfg. from Neutral-Moresnet that every jurist in three countries knew about. Certainly Gontram at the least had fought through to the very end and obtained a victorious verdict.

Since then for three years he handles all the legal casework for Princess Wolkonski. Remarkably, this man never says a word about it, about what he really does. Instead he fills the ears of those he meets with lies, cheeky inventions of his legal heroics. Not a single syllable comes over his lips of the real events of his day. This makes it seem like he detests all truth.

Frau Gontram says, “Dinner is just about ready and I’ve already set out a bowl of fresh Woodruff salad. Should I go get dressed?”

“Stay the way you are woman,” the Legal Councilor decides. “Manasse won’t mind–” he interrupts himself, “Dear God, how that child screams! Can’t you hold him?”

She goes past him with long, slow strides, opens the door to the antechamber where the maid has pushed the child’s wagon. She takes Wülfche, carries him in and sits him in a highchair.

“No wonder he screams,” she says. He’s completely wet.”

But she does nothing about it, leaving him to dry out by himself.

“Be still, you little devil,” she continues. “Can’t you see I have company?”

But Wülfche is determined to disturb the entire visit. Manasse stands up, pats him, strokes his chubby back, and brings him a Jack-in-the-box to play with. The child pushes the Jack-in-the-box away, bellows and screams incessantly. Cyclops accompanies him from under the table.

Then Mama says, “Now wait, sugar drop. I have something for you.”

She takes the chewed black cigar stub from out between her teeth and shoves it into the baby’s mouth.

“There Wülfche, how do you like that? Well?”

The child becomes still in the blink of an eye, sucking, pulling and beams, overjoyed, out of huge laughing eyes.

“Now attorney, you see how you must deal with children?” says the tall woman. She speaks confidently and quietly, completely earnest.

“But you men don’t understand anything at all about children.”

The maid comes and announces that dinner is ready. While the others are going into the dining room she goes with unsteady steps up to the child.

“Bah,” she says and rips the cigar stub out of his mouth. Immediately Wülfche starts to howl again. She takes him up, rocks him back and forth and sings him a melancholy lullaby from her Wolloonian homeland in Belgium.

She doesn’t have any more luck than Herr Manasse. The child just screams and screams. She takes the cigar stub again, spits on it and rubs it against her dirty apron to make sure the fire is completely out and puts it back in Wülfche’s red mouth.

Then she takes the child, washes him, changes him, and tucks him into bed. Wülfche never stirs, lies quiet, still and contented. Then he falls asleep, beaming blissfully, the ghastly black cigar stub always in his lips.

Oh yes, she was right, this tall woman. She understands children, at least Gontram children.

During the dinner and into the evening they eat and the Legal Councilor talks. They drink a light wine from the Ruwer. Frau Gontram finishes first and brings the spiced wine.

Her husband sniffs critically.

“I want champagne,” he says.

She sets the spiced wine on the table anyway. “We don’t have any more champagne. All that’s left in the cellar is a bottle of Pommery.”

He looks intently at her over his spectacles, shakes his head dubiously.

“Now you know you are a housewife! We have no champagne and you don’t say a word about it? What? No, champagne in the house! Fetch the bottle of Pommery– Spiced wine is not good enough.”

He shakes his head back and forth, “No champagne. Imagine that!” He repeats. “We must procure some right away. Come woman; bring my quill and paper. I must write the princess.”

But when the paper is set in front of him, he pushes it away again. He sighs.

“I’ve been working all day long. You write woman, I’ll dictate to you.”

Frau Gontram doesn’t move. Write? She’s a complete failure at writing!

“I can’t,” she says.

The Legal Councilor looks over at Manasse.

“See how it is, Colleague? Can’t she do this for me? I am so exhausted–”

The little Attorney looks straight at him.

“Exhausted?” He mocks, “From what? Telling stories? I would like to know why your fingers always have ink on them, Legal Councilor. I know it’s not from writing!”

Frau Gontram laughs. “Oh Manasse, that’s from last Christmas when he had to sign as witness to the children’s bad behavior!–Anyway, why quarrel? Let Frieda write.”

She cries out the window to Frieda. Frieda comes into the room and Olga Wolkonski comes with her.

“So nice to have you here,” the Legal Councilor greets her. “Have you already eaten this evening?”

Both girls have eaten down in the kitchen.

“Sit here Frieda,” bids her father. “Right here.”

Frieda obeys.

“Now, take the quill and write what I tell you.”

But Frieda is a true Gontram child. She hates to write. Instantly she springs up out of the chair.

“No, no,” she cries. “Olga should write, she is so much better than I am.”

The princess stays on the sofa. She doesn’t want to do it either. But her friend has a means to make her submit.

“If you don’t write,” she whispers. “I won’t lend you any sins for the day after tomorrow.”

That did it. The day after tomorrow is Confession and her confession slip is looking very insufficient. Sins are not permitted during this time of First Communion but you still need to confess. You must rigorously investigate, consider and seek to see if you can’t somehow find yet another sin. That is something the princess absolutely can’t understand.

But Frieda is splendid at it. Her confession slip is the envy of the entire class. Thought sins are especially easy for her. She can discover dozens of magnificent sins easily at a time. She gets this from Papa. Once she really gets started she can attend the Father Confessor with such heaps of sins that he never really learns anything.

“Write Olga,” she whispers. “Then I’ll lend you eight fat sins.”

“Ten,” counters the princess.

Frieda Gontram nods. It doesn’t matter to her. She will give away twenty sins so she doesn’t have to write.

Olga sits at the table, picks up the quill and looks questioningly.

“Now write,” says the Legal Councilor.

“Honorable Princess–”

“Is this for Mama?” the princess asks.

“Naturally, who else would it be for? Write!”

“Honorable Princess–”

The princess doesn’t write. “If it’s for Mama, I can only write, ‘Dear Mama’.”

The Legal Councilor is impatient.

“Write what you want child, just write!”

She writes, “Dear Mama!”

Then the Legal Councilor dictates:

“Unfortunately I must inform you that there is a problem. There are so many things that I must consider and you can’t consider things when you have nothing to drink. We don’t have a drop of champagne in the house. In the interests of your case please send us a basket of spiced champagne, a basket of Pommery and six bottles of–”

“St. Marceaux!” cries the little attorney.

“St. Marceaux,” continues the Legal Councilor. That is namely the favorite of my colleague, Manasse, who so often helps.

With best Greetings,

Your–”

“Now see, Colleague!” he says. “You need to correct me! I didn’t dictate this letter alone but I will sign it single handedly, and he puts his name on it.

Frieda turns away from the window, “Are you finished? Yes? Well, I can only say that you didn’t need to write the letter. Olga’s Mama is coming and she’s in the garden now!”

She had seen the princess a long time ago but had kept quiet and not interrupted. If Olga wanted to get ten beautiful sins she should at least work for them!

All the Gontrams were like that, father, mother and children. They are very, very unwilling to work but are very willing to let others do it.

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Chapter 1

Describes the house on the Rhine before the thought of Alraune came into the world.

The white house in which Alraune was thought into existence existed long before she was born–long before she was even conceived. This house lay on the Rhine a little out of the city on the large Villa Street leading out to the old Archbishop’s Palace where the university is today.  That is where it lies and Legal Councilor Sebastian Gontram and his family once lived there.

You walk in from the street, through the long ugly garden that has never seen a gardener. You come to the house, from which stucco is falling, search for a bell and find none. You call and scream and no one comes. Finally you push the door open and go inside, climb up the dirty, never washed stair and suddenly a huge cat springs through the darkness…

Or even better–

The large garden is alive with a thousand monkeys. They are the Gontram children: Frieda, Philipp, Paulche, Emilche, Josefehe, and Wülfche. They are everywhere, in the boughs of trees, creeping through the earth in the mine pits. Then there are the hounds, two cheeky spitzes and a Bastard Fox terrier. In addition there is a dwarf pinscher that belongs to Attorney Manasse. He is quite the thing, like a brown quince sausage, round as a barrel , scarcely larger than a hand and called Cyclops.

The yard is filled with noises and screams. Wülfche, scarcely a year old, lies in a child’s wagon and screams high obstinate screams for hours. Only Cyclops can beat this record and he yelps, hoarse and broken, incessantly. Wülfche never moves from his place, only screams, only howls.

The Gontram rogues are resting in the bushes late in the afternoon. Frieda, the oldest, should be looking out for them, taking care that her brothers are behaving. But she thinks they are behaving and sits under the decaying Lilac leaves with her friend, the little Princess Wolkonski.

The two chatter and argue, thinking that they soon will become fourteen years old and can get married, or at least have a lover. Right now they are both forbidden from all this and need to wait a little longer. It is still fourteen days until their first Holy Communion. Then they get long dresses, and then they will be grown up. Then they can have a lover.

She decides to become very virtuous and start going to the May devotions at church immediately. She needs to gather herself together in these days, be serious and sensible.

“–and perhaps also because Schmitz will be there,” says Frieda.

The little Princess turns up her nose, “Bah–Schmitz!”

Frieda pinches her under the arm, “–and the Bavarian, the one with the blue cap!”

Olga Wolkonski laughs, “Him? He is–all air! Frieda, you know the good boys don’t go to church.”

That is true, the good ones don’t do that. Frieda sighs. She swiftly gets up and shoves the wagon with the screaming Wülfche to the side, and steps on Cyclops who is trying to bite her ankles. No, no, the princess is right. Church is not the answer.

“Let’s stay here!” she decides. The two girls creep back under the Lilac leaves.

All the Gontram children have an infinite passion for living. They can’t say how they know but deep inside, they feel in their blood that they will die young, die fresh. They only have a small amount of time compared to what others are given and they take this time in triple, making noise, rushing, eating and drinking until they are saturated on life.

Wülfche screams in his wagon, screaming for himself alone as well as for three other babies. His brothers fly through the garden making themselves numerous, as if they were four dozen and not just four. They are dirty, red nosed and ragged, always bloody from a cut on the finger, a scraped knee or some other good scratch.

When the sun sets the Gontram rascals quietly sweep back into the house, going into the kitchen for heaping sandwiches of buttered bread laid thick with ham and sausage. The maid gives them water to drink colored lightly with red wine.

Then the maid washes them. She pulls their clothes off and sticks them in wooden tubs, takes the black soap, the hard brush and scrubs them. She scrubs them like a pair of boots and still can’t get them clean.  Then she sticks the wild young ones back in the tubs crying and raving and scrubs them again.

Dead tired they fall into their beds like sacks of potatoes, forgetting to be quiet. They also forget to cover up. The maid takes care of that.

Around this time Attorney Manasse comes into the house, climbs up the stairs, knocks with his cane on a few doors and receiving no answer finally moves on.

Frau Gontram moves toward him. She is tall, almost twice the size of Herr Manasse. He is a dwarf, round as a barrel and looks exactly like his ugly dog, Cyclops. Short stubble stands out all over him, out of his cheeks, chin and lips. His nose appears in the middle, small and round like a radish. When he speaks, he barks as if he is always snapping.

“Good evening Frau Gontram,” he says. “Is my colleague home yet?”

“Good evening attorney,” says the tall woman. “Make yourself comfortable.”

“Why isn’t my colleague home yet?–and shut that kid up! I can’t understand a single word you are saying.”

“What?” Frau Gontram asks. Then she takes the earplugs out of her ears. “Oh yes,” she continues. “That Wülfche! You should buy a pair of these things Attorney. Then you won’t hear him.”

She goes to the door and screams, “Billa, Billa–or Frieda! Can’t you hear? Make Wülfche quiet!”

She is still in apricot colored pajamas. Her enormous chestnut brown hair is half-pinned up and half-fallen down. Her black eyes appear infinitely large, wide, wide, filled with sharp cunning and scorching unholy fires. But her skeletal face curves in at the temples, her narrow nose droops and her pale cheeks spread themselves tightly over her bones. Huge patches burn lividly on–

“Do you have a good cigar Attorney?” she asks.

He takes his case out angrily, almost furiously.

“How many have you already smoked today Frau Gontram?”

“Only twenty,” she laughs. “But you know the filthy things are four pennies apiece and I could use a good one for a change. Give me the thick one there! – and you take the dark, almost black Mexican.”

Herr Manasse sighs, “Now how are you doing? How long do you have?”

“Bah,” she made a rude sound. “Don’t wet yourself. How long? The other day the doctor figured about six months. But you know how precise they are in that place. He could just as well have meant two years. I’m thinking it’s not going at a gallop. It’s going at a pretty trot along with the galloping consumption.”

“You shouldn’t smoke so much!” The little attorney barks.

She looks at him, her thin blue lips pulling high over gleaming teeth.

“What? What Manasse? No more smoking? Now stop with the friendly airs! What am I supposed to do? Bear children all year long? The brats in this house already drive me crazy. That’s why it’s galloping–and I’m not supposed to smoke?”

She blows a thick cloud of smoke into his face and makes him cough.

He looks at her, half-poisoned, half-living, and admires her. He doesn’t take anything from anyone. When he stands before the bar he never tells a joke or minces words. He barks, snaps, bites without respect or the smallest fear.–But here, before this dried up woman whose body is a skeleton, whose head grins like a death’s head, who for a year and a day has stood three quarters in the grave and laughed at herself the last quarter, here he feels afraid.

Her unrestrained shimmering locks are always growing, always thicker, always fuller as if pulling nourishment from her decaying body. Her perfect gleaming teeth clamp around a cigar; her eyes are enormous, without hope, without desire, almost without awareness but burning with fire–These leave him silent. They leave him feeling smaller than he really is, almost as small as his hound.

Oh, he is very educated, Attorney Manasse is. She calls him a veritable conversational encyclopedia. It doesn’t matter what the topic of conversation, he can give the information in the blink of an eye.

Now he’s thinking, has she given up on finding a cure? Is she in denial? Does she think that if she ignores death he will not come? Does she think death is not in this house? That when he does come, only then will she go?

But he, Manasse, sees very well that death is here even though she still lives. He has been here all along hiding throughout the house, playing blind cow with this woman that wears his face, letting her abandon her numerous children to cry and race in the garden.

Death doesn’t gallop. He goes at a pretty trot. She has that right. But only out of humor, only because he wants to make a joke, to play with this woman and her life hungry children like a cat plays with the fish in a fish bowl.

Only this woman, Frau Gontram, thinks he is not even here. She lies on the lounge all day long smoking big dark cigars, reading never-ending books and wearing earplugs so she can’t hear the noise her children make–He is not here at all?–Not here?

Death grins and laughs out of her withered mask, puffs thick smoke into his face. Little Manasse sees him perfectly enough. He stares at him, considers for a long time which great artist has painted this death. Is it Durer? Or Bocklin? Or some other wild harlequin death from Bosch, Breughel or a different insane, inexcusable death from Hogarth, from Goya, from Rowlandson, Rops or Callot?

It is from none of these. Sitting before him is a real death, a death you can willingly go with. It is a good, proper and therefore romantic Rhinelander’s death. It is one you can talk with, that sees the comedy in life, that smokes, drinks wine and laughs. It is good that he smokes thought Manasse, so very good, then you can’t smell him–

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