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!”