His uncle shared with him that after careful consideration he was willing to follow the suggestions his nephew had given him to the last letter. He already had a suitable candidate for the father. The stay of execution for the murderer Raul Noerrissen had been denied and he had no further appeals possible. Now his uncle was looking for a mother.
He had already made an attempt without success. Unfortunately it was not easy to find just the right one but time pressed and he was now asking for assistance in this matter from his nephew.
Frank Braun looked at his valet, “Is the letter courier still here?” he asked.
“At your command Herr Doctor, ” the soldier informed him.
“Tell him to wait. Here give him some drink money.”
He searched in his pockets and found a Mark piece. Then he hurried back to the prisoner’s quarters letter in hand. He had scarcely arrived at the barracks courtyard when the wife of the Sergeant-major came towards him with a dispatch.
“A telegram for you!” she cried.
It was from Dr. Petersen, the Privy Councilor’s assistant. It read:
“His Excellency has been at the Hotel de Rome in Berlin since the day before yesterday. Await reply if you can meet. With heartfelt greetings.”
His Excellency? So his uncle was now “ His Excellency” and that was why he was in Berlin–In Berlin–that was too bad. He would have much rather traveled to Paris. It would have been much easier to find someone there and someone better as well. All the same, Berlin it was. At least it would be an interruption of this wilderness.
He considered for a moment. He needed to leave this evening but didn’t have a penny to his name and his comrades didn’t either. He looked at the woman.
“Frau Sergeant-major–” he began. But no, that wouldn’t work. He finished, “Buy the man a drink and put it on my tab.”
He went to his room, packed his suitcase and commanded the boy to take it straight to the train station and wait for him there. Then he went down. The Sergeant-major, the overseer of the prison house, was standing in the door wringing his hands and almost broken up.
“You are about to leave, Herr Doctor,” he lamented, “and the other three gentlemen are already gone to Paris, not even in this country! Dear God, no good can come out of this. It will fall on me alone–I carry all the responsibility.”
“It’s not that bad,” answered Frank Braun. “I’m only going to be gone for a few days and the other gentlemen will be back soon.”
The Sergeant-major continued to complain, “It’s not my fault, most certainly not! But the others are so jealous of me and today Sergeant Bekker has the watch. He–”
“He will keep his mouth shut,” Frank Braun replied. “He just got over thirty Marks from us–charitable donations from the English–By the way, I’m going to the commander in Coblenz to ask for a leave of absence–Are you satisfied now?”
But the overseer of the prison was not satisfied. “What! To the commander? But Herr Doctor, you have no leave of absence to go down to the city, and you still want to go to the commander?”
Frank Braun laughed, “Yes indeed. Straight to him! Namely, I must go to the commander and pump some money out of him.”
The Sergeant-major didn’t say another word. He stood there not moving with a wide-open mouth, completely petrified.
“Give me ten pennies, boy,” Frank Braun cried to his valet, “for the toll bridge.”
He took the coins and went with quick strides across the yard, into the officer’s garden and from there onto the slope leading up to the ramparts. He swung up onto the wall, grabbed the bough of a mighty ash tree on the other side and climbed down the trunk. Then he pushed through the thick underbrush and climbed down the rocks. In twenty minutes he was at the bottom.
It was the route they always took for their nightly escapades. He went along the Rhine to the toll bridge and then across to Coblenz. He learned where the commander lived and hurried there.
He showed the general the telegram and said that he came on very urgent matters. The general let him in and he put the telegram back in his pocket.
“How can I help you with this?”
Frank Braun said, “I need a leave of absence your Excellency. I am a prisoner at the fortress.”
The old general stared at him unkindly, visibly annoyed at the intrusion.
“What do you want? By the way, how did you get down into the city? Do you have a pass?”
“Certainly, Your Excellency,” said Frank Braun. “I have church leave.”
He lied, but knew very well the general only wanted an answer. “I came to Your Excellency to ask for a three day pass. My uncle is in Berlin and dying.”
The commander blurted out, “What is your uncle to me? It’s entirely out of the question! You are not sitting up there at your convenience. It’s because you have broken the law, do you understand? Anyone could come to me with a dying uncle or aunt. If it’s not at least a parent I deny such a pass strictly on principle.”
“I remain dutiful, your Excellency,” he replied. “I will inform my uncle, his Excellency, the Privy Councilor ten Brinken, immediately by telegraph that unfortunately his only nephew is not allowed to hasten to his deathbed for his weary eyes to look upon.”
He bowed, turned toward the door, but the general held him back as he had expected.
“Who is your uncle?” he asked in hesitation.
Frank Braun repeated the name and the beautiful title. Then he took the telegram out of his pocket and handed it over.
“My poor uncle has one last chance for deliverance in Berlin but unfortunately the operation is not successful very often.”
“Hmm,” said the commander. “Go my young friend. Go immediately. Perhaps it will be helpful.”
Frank Braun made a face, lamented and said, “Only God knows–Perhaps my prayers can do some good.”
He interrupted himself with a beautiful sigh and continued, “I remain dutiful, your Excellency. There is just one other thing I have to ask.”
The commander gave him the telegram back. “What?” he asked.
Frank Braun burst out, “I have no travel money. May I ask your Excellency to loan me three hundred Marks.”
The general looked suspiciously at him. “No money–Hmm–so no money either–But wasn’t yesterday the first? Didn’t your money come?”
“My money came promptly, your Excellency,” he replied quickly. “But it was gone just as quickly that night!”
The old commander laughed at that.
“Yes, yes. That is how you atone for your crimes, your misdeeds! So you need three hundred Marks?”
“Yes, your Excellency! My uncle will certainly be very happy to hear how you have helped me out of this predicament, if I am permitted.”
The general turned, went to the writing desk, opened it and took out three little pieces of paper and a moneybox. He gave the prisoner quill and paper and told him what to write down on the receipt. Then he gave him the money. Frank Braun took it with a light easy bow.
“I remain dutiful, your Excellency.”
“Think nothing of it,” said the commander. “Go there and come back right away–Give my compliments to yours truly, his Excellency.”
“Once again I remain dutiful, your Excellency.”
One last bow and he was outside. He sprang over the six front steps in one leap and had to restrain himself not to shout out loud. That was great!
He called a taxi to take him to the Ehrenbreitstein train station. There he leafed through the departure times and found he still had three hours to wait. He called to the valet that was waiting with his suitcase and commanded him to quickly run over to the “Red Cock” and bring back the ensign from Plessen.
“But bring the right one boy!” he said sharply. “The young gentleman that just got here not to long ago, the one that wears No. six on his back. The one that–Wait, your pennies have earned interest.”
He threw him a ten Mark piece. Then he went into the wine house, considered carefully, ordered a select supper and sat at the window looking out at the Sunday citizens as they wandered along the Rhine.
Finally the ensign came. “What’s up now?”
“Sit down,” said Frank Braun. “Shut up. Don’t ask. Eat, drink and be merry!”
He gave him a hundred Mark bill. Pay my bill with this. You can keep the rest–and tell them up there that I’ve gone to Berlin–with a pass! I want the Sergeant-major to know that I will be back before the end of the week.”
The blonde ensign stared at him in outright admiration, “Just tell me–how did you do it?”
“My secret,” said Frank Braun. “But it wouldn’t do you any good if I did tell you. His Excellency will only be good-natured enough to fall for it once. Prosit!”
The ensign brought him to the train and handed his suitcase up to him. Then he waved his hat and handkerchief.
Frank Braun stepped back from the window and forgot in that same instant the little ensign, his co-prisoners and the fortress. He spoke with the conductor, stretched out comfortably in his sleeper, closed his eyes and went to sleep. The conductor had to shake him very hard to wake him up.