But his nephew cried, “A coincidence?–Well it might be a coincidence–Everything that is remarkable and mysterious is just a coincidence to you!”
He rang for the waiter.
“Wine, wine,” he cried. “Give me something to drink– Alma Raune–Al Raune, if you will.”
He sat down at the table and leaned over toward the Privy Councilor.
“Uncle Jakob, do you remember old Councilor to the Chamber of Commerce Brunner from Cologne and his son whom he named Marco? We had classes together in school even though he was a couple of years older than I was.
He father named him Marco as a joke and now the boy goes through life as Marco Brunner! Now here is the coincidence. The old Councilor to the Chamber of Commerce is the most sober man in the world and so is his wife. So are all of their children. I believe the only thing they drank in their house at Neumarkt was water, milk, tea and coffee.
But Marco drank. He drank a lot even as an upper level student. We often brought him home drunk. Then he became an ensign and then a lieutenant–that was it. He drank more and more. He did stupid things and was put away. Three times his father had him placed into treatment centers and three times he came out. Within a few weeks he was drinking more than ever.
Now comes the coincidence. He, Marco Brunner, drank–Marcobrunner! That was his obsession. He went into all the wine houses in the city searching for his label. He traveled around on the Rhine drinking up all that he could find of his wine. He drank up the sizable fortune that he had received from his grandmother.
‘Hey everyone,’ he screamed in his delirium. ‘Why does Marco Brunner polish off Marcobrunner? Because Marcobrunner polishes off Marco Brunner!’
The people laughed over his joke–It was all a joke – all a coincidence; just like all of life is a joke and a coincidence.
But I know that the old Councilor for the Chamber of Commerce would have given many hundreds of thousands if he had never made that joke–I also know that he has never forgiven himself for naming his poor son Marco and not Hans or Peter.
In spite of all that it is still a coincidence–a very foolish, grotesque coincidence like this scribbling of the prince’s bride.”
The girl was standing up drunkenly, steadying herself with her hand on the chair.
“The prince’s bride–” she babbled. “Get me the prince in bed!”
She took the bottle of cognac, poured her glass completely full.
“I want the prince, do you hear me? I want all of him, the sugar sweet prince!”
“Unfortunately he is not here,” said Dr. Petersen.
“Not here?” She laughed. “Not here? Then it must be someone else! You–or you–or even you old man–It doesn’t matter as long as it’s a man!”
She ripped her blouse off, removed her skirt, loosened her bodice and threw it crashing against the mirror.
“I want a man–I’ll take all three of you! Bring someone in from the street if you want.”
Her shift slid down and she stood naked in front of the mirror lifting up her breasts with both hands.
“Who wants me?” she cried loudly. “Let’s play–all together! It doesn’t cost anything today–because it’s a celebration to help the children and the soldiers.”
She spread her arms out wide reaching into the air. “Soldiers–” she screamed. “I want an entire regiment.”
“Shame on you,” said Dr. Petersen. “Is that any way for a prince’s bride to act?”
But his gaze lingered greedily on her firm breasts.
She laughed. “It doesn’t matter–prince or no prince! Anyone that wants me can have me! My children are whore’s children whether they be from beggar or from a prince.”
Her body became aroused and her breasts extended towards the men. Hot lust radiated from her white flesh, lascivious blood streamed through her blue veins–and her gaze, her quivering lips, her demanding arms, her inviting legs, her hips, and her breasts screamed out with wild desire, “Take me. Take me!”
She was not a prostitute any more–The last veils had been removed and she stood there free of all fetters, the pure female, the prototype, the ideal, from top to bottom.
“Oh, she is the one!” Frank Braun whispered. “Mother Earth–she is Mother Earth–”
A sudden trembling came over her as her skin shivered. Her feet dragged heavily as she staggered over to the sofa.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she murmured. “Everything is spinning!”
“You’re just a little tipsy,” said the attorney quickly. “Drink this and then sleep it off.”
He put another full glass of cognac up to her mouth.
“Yes, I would like to sleep,” she stammered. “Will you sleep with me, youngster?”
She threw herself down onto the sofa, stretched out both legs into the air, laughed out lightly, then sobbed loudly and wept until she was still. Then she turned onto her side and closed her eyes.
Frank Braun pushed a pillow under her head and covered her up. He ordered coffee, went to the window and opened it wide but shut it again a moment later as the early morning light broke in. He turned around.
“Now gentlemen, are you satisfied with this object?”
Dr. Petersen looked at the prostitute with an admiring eye.
“I believe she will do very well,” he opinioned. “Look at her hips, your Excellency, it’s like she is predestined for an impeccable birth.”
The waiter came and brought coffee. Frank Braun commanded him, “Telephone the nearest ambulance. We need a stretcher brought in here for the lady. She has become very sick.”
The Privy Councilor looked at him in astonishment, “What was that all about?”
“That is called–” laughed his nephew. “hitting the nail on the head. It’s called that I am thinking for you and that I am more intelligent than you are. Do you really think that when the girl is sober again she would go one step with you? Even as long as I kept her drunk with words and with wine I still needed to come up with something new to keep her interest. She would run away from both of you heroes at the nearest street corner in spite of all the money and all the princes in the world!
That is why I had to take control. Dr. Petersen, when the ambulance comes you will take the girl immediately to the train station. If I’m not wrong the early train leaves at six o’clock, be on it. You will take an entire cabin and put your patient into bed there. I don’t think she will wake up, but if she does give her some more cognac. You might add a couple drops of morphine as well. That way you should be comfortably in Bonn by evening with your booty–Telegraph ahead so the Privy Councilor’s carriage is waiting for you at the train station. Put the girl inside and take her to your clinic–Once she is there it will not be so easy for her to escape–You have your ways of keeping her there I’m sure.”
“Forgive me, doctor.” The assistant doctor turned to him, “This almost appears like a forcible kidnapping.”
“Yes it does,” nodded the attorney. “Salve your citizen’s conscience with the knowledge that you have a contract!–Now don’t talk about it, do it!–Do what you are told.”
Dr. Petersen turned to his chief, who was quiet and brooding in the middle of the room and asked whether he could take first class, which room at the clinic he should put the girl in, whether they needed a special assistant and–
During all this Frank Braun stepped up to the sleeping prostitute.
“Beautiful girl,” he murmured. “Your locks creep like fiery golden adders.”
He pulled a narrow golden ring from his finger, one with a little pearl on it. Then he took her hand and placed it on her finger.
“Take this, Emmy Steenhop gave me this ring when I magically poisoned her flowers. She was beautiful, strong, and like you, was a remarkable prostitute!–Sleep child, dream of your prince and your prince’s child!”
He bent over and kissed her lightly on the forehead–The ambulance orderlies came with a stretcher. They took the sleeping prostitute and carefully placed her on the stretcher, covered her with a warm woolen blanket and carried her out. Like a corpse, thought Frank Braun. Dr. Petersen excused himself and went after them.
Now the two of them were alone.
A few minutes went by and neither of them spoke. Then the Privy Councilor spoke to his nephew.
“Thank you,” he said dryly.
“Don’t mention it,” replied his nephew. “I only did it because I wanted to have a little fun and variety. I would be lying if I said I did it for you.”
The Privy Councilor continued standing there right in front of him, twiddling his thumbs.
“I thought as much. By the way, I will share something that you might find interesting. As you were chatting about the prince’s child, it occurred to me that when this child is born into the world I should adopt it.”
He laughed, “You see, your story was not that far from the truth and this little alraune creature already has the power to take things from you even before it is conceived. I will name it as my heir. I’m only telling you this now so you won’t have any illusions about inheriting.”
Frank Braun felt the cut. He looked his uncle straight in the eye.
“That’s just as well Uncle Jakob,” he said quietly. “You would have disinherited me sooner or later anyway, wouldn’t you?”
The Privy Councilor held his gaze and didn’t answer. Then the attorney continued.
“Now perhaps it would be best if we use this time to settle things with each other–I have often angered you and disgusted you–For that, you have disinherited me. We are quit.
But I gave you this idea and you have me to thank that it is now possible. For that you owe me a little gratitude. I have debts–”
The professor listened, a quick grin spread over his face.
“How much?” he asked.
Frank Braun answered, “–Now it depends–twenty thousand ought to cover it.”
He waited, but the Privy Councilor calmly let him wait.
“Well?” he asked impatiently.
Then the old man said, “Why do you say ‘well’? Do you seriously believe that I will pay your debts for you?”
Frank Braun stared at him. Hot blood shot through his temples, but he restrained himself.
“Uncle Jakob,” he said, and his voice shook. “I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need to. One of my debts is urgent, very urgent. It is a gambling debt, on my honor.”
The professor shrugged his shoulders; “You shouldn’t have been gambling.”
“I know that,” answered his nephew, exerting all of his nerves to control himself. “Certainly, I shouldn’t have done it. But I did–and now I must pay. There is something else–I can’t go to mother with these things. You know as well as I do that she already does more for me than she should–She just a while ago put all my affairs in order for me–Now, because of that she’s sick–In short, I can’t go to her and I won’t.”
The Privy Councilor laughed bittersweet, “I am very sorry for your poor mother but it will not make me change my mind.”
“Uncle Jakob,” he cried into the cold sneering mask, beside himself with emotion. “Uncle Jakob, you don’t know what you are saying. I owe some fellow prisoners at the fortress a thousand and I must pay them back by the end of the week. I have a few other pathetic little debts to people that have loaned me money on my good face. I can’t cheat them. I also pumped money out of the commander so that I could travel here–”
“Him too!” the professor interrupted.
“Yes, him too!” he replied. “I lied to him, told him that you were on your death bed and that I had to be near you in your final hours. That’s why he gave me leave.”
The Privy Councilor wagged his head back and forth, “You told him that?–You are a veritable genie at borrowing and swindling–But now that must finally come to an end.”
“Blessed Virgin,” screamed the nephew. “Be reasonable Uncle Jakob! I must have the money–I am lost if you don’t help me.”