“Where are we?” he asked drowsily.
“Almost to Friedrichstrasse station.”
He gathered his things together, climbed out and went to the hotel. He got a room, bathed, changed clothes and then went down for breakfast. He ran into Dr. Petersen at the door.
“Oh there you are dear Doctor! His Excellency will be overjoyed!”
His Excellency! Again his Excellency! It sounded wrong to his ears.
“How is my uncle?” he asked. “Better?”
“Better?” repeated the doctor. “What do you mean better? His Excellency has not been sick!”
“Is that so,” said Frank Braun. “Not sick! That’s too bad. I thought uncle was on his deathbed.”
Dr. Petersen looked at him very bewildered. “I don’t understand at all–”
He interrupted him, “It’s not important. I am only sorry that the Privy Counselor is not on his deathbed. That would have been so nice! Then I would have inherited right? Unless he has disowned me. That is also very possible–even more likely.”
He saw the bewildered doctor standing before him and fed on his discomfort for a moment.
Then he continued, “But tell me doctor, since when has my uncle been called his Excellency?”
“It’s been four days, the opportunity–”
He interrupted him, “Only four days! And how many years now have you been with him–as his right hand?”
“Now that would be at least ten years now,” replied Dr. Petersen.
“And for ten years you have called him Privy Councilor and he has replied back to you. But now in these four days he has become so completely his Excellency to you that you can’t even think of him any other way than in the third person?”
“Permit me, Herr Doctor,” said the assistant doctor, intimidated and pleading. Permit me to–What do you mean anyway?”
But Frank Braun took him under the arm and led him to the breakfast table.
“Oh, I know that you are a man of the world doctor! One with form and manners–with an inborn instinct for proper behavior–I know that–and now doctor, let’s have breakfast and you can tell me what you have been up to in the meantime.”
Doctor Petersen gratefully sat down, thoroughly reconciled and happy that was over with. This young attorney that he had known as a young schoolboy was quite a windbag and a true hothead–but he was the nephew–of his Excellency.
The assistant doctor was about thirty-six. He was average and Frank Braun thought that everything about him was “average”. His nose was not large or small. His features were not ugly or handsome. He was not young anymore and yet he wasn’t old. The color of his hair was exactly in the middle between dark and light. He wasn’t stupid or brilliant either, not exactly boring and yet not entertaining. His clothes were not elegant and yet not ordinary either.
He was a good “average” in all things and just the man the Privy Councilor needed. He was a competent worker, intelligent enough to grasp and do what was asked of him and yet not intelligent enough to know everything about this colorful game his master played.
“By the way, how much does my uncle pay you?” Frank Braun asked.
“Oh, not exactly splendid–but it is enough,” was the answer. “I’m happy with it. At New Years I was given a four hundred Mark raise.”
The doctor looked hungrily as the nephew began his breakfast with fruit, eating an apple and a handful of cherries.
“What kind of cigars do you smoke?” the attorney inquired.
“What I smoke? Oh, an average kind–Not too strong–he interrupted himself. But why do you ask doctor?”
“Only because,” said Frank Braun, “it interests me–But now tell me what you have already done in these things. Has the Privy Councilor shared his plans with you?”
“Certainly,” the doctor nodded proudly. “I am the only one that knows–except for you of course. This effort is of the highest scientific importance.”
The attorney cleared his throat, “Hmm–you think so?”
“Entirely without a doubt,” confirmed the doctor. “And his Excellency is so extremely gifted to have thought it all out, taking care of every possible problem ahead of time. You know how careful you have to be these days. The foolish public is always attacking us doctors for so many of our absolutely important experiments. Take vivisection–God, the people become sick when they hear the word. What about our experiments with germs, vaccines and so on? They are all thorns in the eyes of the public even though we almost always only work with animals. And now, this question of artificial insemination of people–
His Excellency has found the only possibility in an executed murderer and a paid prostitute. Even the people loving pastor would not have much against it.”
“Yes, it is a splendid idea,” Frank Braun confirmed. “It is well that you can recognize the capacity of your superior.”
Then Dr. Petersen reported how his Excellency had made several attempts in Cologne with his help. Unfortunately they had not had any success in finding an appropriate female. It turned out that these creatures in this class of the population had very different ideas about having to endure artificial insemination. It was nearly impossible to talk to them about it at all, much less persuade one to actually do it. It didn’t matter how eloquent his Excellency spoke or how hard he tried to make them understand that it would not be dangerous at all; that they would earn a nice piece of money and be doing the scientific community a great service. One had screamed loudly that she would rather service the entire scientific community–and made a very rude gesture.
“Pfui!” Frank Braun said. “If only she could!”
It was a very good thing that his Excellency had the opportunity to travel to Berlin for the Gynecological Conference. Here in the metropolis there would no doubt be a much wider selection to choose from. The women in question would not be as stupid as in the province, would have less superstitious fear of the new and be more open and practical regarding the money they could make and the important service they could provide to the advancement of science.
“Especially the last!” Frank Braun emphasized.
Dr. Petersen obliged him with:
“It is unbelievable how old fashioned their ideas are in Cologne! Every Guinea pig, yes, even every monkey is infinitely more insightful and reasonable than those females. I almost lost my faith in the towering intellect of humanity. I hope that here I can regain that shaken belief and make it solid once more.”
“There is no doubt about it,” the attorney encouraged him. “It would be a real shame indeed if Berlin’s prostitutes couldn’t do any better than Guinea-pigs and monkeys!
By the way, when is my uncle coming? Is he up already?”
“Oh, he’s been up for a long time now,” declared the assistant doctor zealously. “His Excellency left immediately. He had a ten o’clock audience at the Ministry.”
“And after that?” Frank Braun asked.
“I don’t know how long it will last,” reasoned Doctor Petersen. “In any case his Excellency requested I wait for him in the auditorium at two o’clock. Then at five o’clock his Excellency has another important meeting with a Berlin colleague here in the hotel and around seven his Excellency is invited to eat with the university president.
Herr Doctor, perhaps you could meet in between–”
Frank Braun considered. Basically he was in favor of his uncle being occupied the entire day. Then his uncle wouldn’t be around to interfere with his day.
I want you to deliver a message to my uncle,” he said. “Tell him we will meet up downstairs in the hotel around eleven o’clock.”
“Around eleven o’clock?” The assistant doctor made a somewhat dubious face. “Isn’t that a little late? His Excellency is in the habit of going to bed around that time and after such a strenuous day.”
“His Excellency must exert himself a little bit longer today doctor.” Frank Braun decided. “Deliver the message. The hour is certainly not too late for our purpose. It’s almost too early–In fact, it would be better if it were twelve o’clock instead–That way if poor uncle is too tired he can rest a bit ahead of time. Goodbye Doctor–until this evening.”
He stood up, nodded curtly and left. He bit his teeth together, feeling at the same moment as his lips closed just how childish, how much of a mad mess it all was. He was almost ashamed of how he had treated the good doctor, how small he had been, how cheap his joke was. All of his nerves and sinews screamed for action–and instead he let his thistle headed brain scatter in a thousand directions–while he played childish pranks!
Dr. Petersen watched him go.
“He is full of pride,” he said to himself. “Not once did he offer to shake my hand.”
He ordered another coffee, added a little cream and deliberated while smearing butter on another slice of bread.
Then with innermost conviction, “Pride goes before the fall!”
Very satisfied with this wholesome common wisdom he bit into the white bread and raised the cup to his mouth.
It was closer to one o’clock that evening when Frank Braun finally appeared.
“Excuse me uncle,” he said lightly.
“Now dear nephew,” replied the Privy Councilor. “We have been waiting way too long!”
“I had something better to do uncle, and by the way you are not waiting here because of me but only because of your purpose.”
The professor squinted over at him. “Youngster–” he began, but he controlled himself. “No, let it go. I am grateful that you have come here to help me nephew. Are you ready to go now?”
“No,” declared Frank Braun blinded in childish defiance. “I will have a whiskey soda first. We have enough time.”
That was his nature now, driving everything to the limit, sensitive and thin skinned to every little word, taking offence at even the slightest provocation. He always said harsh things to others but couldn’t endure the softest rebuke or criticism himself. He could feel how the old gentleman was hurt by his actions but knew the real reason his uncle was hurt was because he needed his stupid young nephew, that is what really sickened and offended his uncle.
It almost felt like a put down that the Privy Councilor was so completely oblivious, couldn’t see through the shabby surface behavior, couldn’t understand the blonde defiance for what it really was. While he on the other hand had to resist whether he wanted to or not, be more of a pirate than he really was, pull the mask still tighter and go his insolent way like he had discovered on the Montmartre, shock the bourgeois.
He leisurely emptied his glass, then stood up negligently like a bored, melancholy prince, “Whenever you gentlemen are ready.”
He looked down on his guests from above as if they were infinitely beneath him.
“Innkeeper, a cab.”
They left. The Privy Councilor was quiet, his upper lip hung down deeply, fat tear ducts drained over his cheeks. His mighty ears stuck out on both sides and the glittering right eye shone green in the dark.
“He looks like an owl,” thought Frank Braun. “Like an ugly old owl searching for a mouse.”
Dr. Petersen sat open mouthed in the front seat. He couldn’t comprehend the unbelievable behavior of the nephew towards his uncle.
It wasn’t long before the young man once more found his equilibrium–Why should he get angry at the old ass? In the end his good side came out as he helped the Privy Councilor out of the cab.
“Here we are,” he cried. “Please step inside.”
“Café Stern” it said on the large sign illuminated with electric lights. They went inside, down long rows of small marble tables and through a crowd of noisy and yelling people. Finally they sat down. This was a good place. Many women sat around all decked out with enormous hats and colorful silk blouses, multitudes of flesh waiting for customers. They were spread out lounging around like window displays.
“Is this one of the better places?” the Privy Councilor asked.
The nephew shook his head. “No Uncle Jakob, not at all. We wouldn’t find what we wanted there–This might even be too good. We need the bottom dregs.”