Then the Privy Councilor said, “The difference doesn’t seem to be that much to me. You are lost anyway. You will never be a decent person.”
Frank Braun grabbed his head with both hands. “You tell me this, uncle? You?”
“Certainly,” declared the professor. “What do you throw your money away on?–It’s always foolish things.”
“That might well be, uncle,” he threw back. “But I have never stuck money into foolish things the way you have!”
He screamed, and it seemed to him that he was swinging a riding whip right into the middle of the old man’s ugly face. He felt the sting of his words–but also felt how quickly they cut through without resistance–like through foam, like through sticky slime–
Quietly, almost friendly, the Privy Councilor replied. “I see that you are still very stupid my boy. Allow your old uncle to give you some good advice. Perhaps it will be useful sometime in your life.
When you want something from people you must go after their little weaknesses. Remember that. I needed you today. For that I tolerated all the insults you threw at me–But you see how it worked. Now I have what I wanted from you–Now it is different and you come pleading to me. You never once thought it would go any other way–Not when you were so useful to me. Oh no! But perhaps there is something else you can do. Then you might be thankful for this good advice.”
Frank Braun said, “Uncle, I’m going down. Do it–For the first time in you life do it–what I ask of you–I know how it seems–and I will never go against you again. What do you want me to do?–Should I grovel even more before you?–Come, let this be enough–Give me the money.”
Then the Privy Councilor spoke, “I will make you a proposition, nephew. Do you promise to listen quietly? To not bluster and roar again like you always do?”
He said firmly, “Yes, Uncle Jakob.”
“Then listen–You shall have the money that you need to get you out of trouble. If you need more, we will have to talk a little about the amount later. But I need you–need you here at home. I will have it arranged for you to be placed there under house arrest for the duration of your sentence–”
“Why not?” Frank Braun answered. “It doesn’t matter to me if I am here or there. How long will you need me?”
“Around a year, not quite that long,” answered the professor.
“I agree,” said the attorney. “What do I need to do?”
“Oh not much,” replied the old man. “Just a little employment that you are already accustomed to and very good at!
You see, my boy,” the Privy Councilor continued. “I need a little help with this girl that you have arranged for me. You are entirely correct. She will run away from us, will become unspeakably bored during her pregnancy and certainly try to abort the child.
I want you to watch over her and protect our interests, prevent her from doing any of these things. Naturally it is a lot easier to do in a prison or workhouse where guards can continually watch. But unfortunately we are not equipped for that. I can’t lock her up in the terrarium with the frogs or in a cage like the monkeys or guinea pigs can I?”
“Certainly not, uncle.” the attorney said. “You must find some other way.”
The old man nodded, “I have found another way. We need someone that will keep her contented right where she is. Now it appears to me that Dr. Petersen is completely unsuitable to hold her interest for a long time. He could scarcely satisfy her for one night. But it needs to be a man. I was thinking about you–”
Frank Braun pressed the chair arms as if he would break them. He breathed deeply.
“Of me–” he repeated.
“Yes, of you,” the Privy Councilor continued. “It is one of the little things that I need you for. You can keep her from running away, tell her some new nonsense. Put your fantasies to some useful purpose and in the absence of her prince, she can fall in love with you. You will be able to satisfy her sensual and sexual requirements. If you are not enough for her, I’m sure you certainly have friends and acquaintances enough that would be glad to spend a few hours with such a beautiful creature.”
The attorney gasped, his voice rang hot. “Uncle,” he spoke. “Do you know what you are asking? You want me to be the lover of this prostitute while she is carrying the murderer’s child? I should entertain her and find new lovers for her every day? Be her pimp–”
“Certainly,” the professor interrupted him quietly. “I know very well what I’m doing. It appears to be the only thing in the world that you are very good at, my boy.”
He didn’t answer, felt this stroke, felt his cheeks become bright red, his temples glow hot. He felt the blows like long stripes from a riding whip cutting across his face and he understood quite well that his uncle was having his revenge.
The Privy Councilor knew it too, a satisfied grin spread across his drooping features.
“You can be grateful boy,” he said slowly. “We don’t need to deceive each other, you and I. We can say things the way they really are. I will hire you as a pimp for this prostitute.”
Frank Braun felt as if he was lying on the floor helpless, completely unarmed, miserably naked and could not move while the old man stepped on him with his dirty feet and spit into his gaping wounds with his poisonous spittle–He could not find a word to speak. Somehow he staggered dizzily down the stairs and out into the street where he stood staring into the bright morning sun.
He scarcely knew that he left, felt like he had been mugged, dropped by a frightful blow to the head and left lying in the gutter. He scarcely knew who he was any more, wandering through the streets for what seemed like centuries until he stood in front of an advertisement pillar. He read the words on the poster but only saw the words without understanding them. Then he found himself at the train station, went to the counter and asked for a ticket.
“To where?” the attendant asked.
“To where?–Yes–to where?”
He was amazed to hear his own voice say, “Coblenz.”
He searched in all his pockets for money. “Third Class,” he cried.
He had enough for that. He climbed up the steps to the platform. That was when he first realized that he was without a hat–He sat down on a bench and waited.
Then he saw her carried in on a stretcher, saw Dr. Petersen come in behind her. He didn’t move from his place, it felt as if it had absolutely nothing at all to do with him. He saw the train arrive, watched how the doctor opened a cabin in First Class and how the bearers carefully placed their burden inside. Then in back, at the end of the train, he climbed inside.
He clenched his jawbone as hysterical laugher convulsed him. It is so appropriate–he thought. Third class– This is good enough for the menial–for the pimp. Then he forgot again as he sat on the hard bench pressed tightly into his corner and stared down at the floorboards.
The gloomy fog would not leave his head. He heard the names of the stations called one after another and it seemed to him as if they were like sparks flowing through a telegraph wire. At other times it seemed like an eternity between one station and another.
In Cologne he had to get out and change trains. He needed to wait for the one going to the Rhine. But it was no interruption; he scarcely noticed the difference, whether he was sitting on a hard bench there or in the train.
Then he was in Coblenz, climbed out and again wandered through the streets. Night was falling when it finally occurred to him that he needed to get back to the fortress. He went over the bridge, climbed up the rocks in the dark and followed the narrow footpath of the prisoners through the underbrush.
Suddenly he was up above, in the officer’s courtyard, then in his room sitting on his bed. Someone came down the hall and stepped into the room, candle in hand. It was the strong marine medic, Dr. Klaverjahn.
“Well hello,” he cried in the doorway. “The Sergeant-major was right. Back so soon brother? Then come on down the hall. The cavalry captain has a game going.”
Frank Braun didn’t move, scarcely heard what the other was saying. The doctor grabbed his shoulder and shook it heartily.
“Don’t just sit there like a log. Come on!”
Frank Braun sprang up swinging something else high as well. It was the chair that he had grabbed.
He moved a step closer, “Get out.” he hissed, “Get out, you scoundrel!”
Dr. Klaverjahn looked at him standing there in front of him. He looked into the pale, distorted face, the intent threatening eyes. It awoke the medical professional that was still in him and he recognized the condition instantly.
“So that’s how it is,” he said quietly–“Please excuse me.”–
Then he left.
Frank Braun stood for awhile with the chair in his hand. A cold laugh hung on his lips but he was thinking of nothing, nothing at all. He heard a knock at the door, heard it like it was far off in the distance. When he looked up–the little ensign was standing in front of him.
“You are back again, what happened?” he asked and startled a bit when the other didn’t answer.
Then he ran out and came back with a glass and a bottle of Bordeaux.
“Drink, it will be good for you.”
Frank Braun drank. He felt how the wine made his pulse race, felt how his legs trembled, threatening to buckle underneath him. He let himself fall heavily onto the bed.
The ensign supported him.
“Drink,” he urged.
But Frank Braun waved him away. “No, no,” he whispered. “It will make me drunk.”
He laughed weakly, “I don’t think I’ve had anything to eat today–”
A noise rang out from down the hall, loud laughing and yelling.
“What’s going on?” he asked indifferently.
The ensign answered, “They are playing. Two new ones came in yesterday.”
Then he reached into his pocket, “By the way, this came for you this evening. It’s a money dispatch for a hundred Marks. Here.”
Frank Braun took the paper, but had to read it twice before he finally understood what it said. His uncle had sent him a hundred Marks and wrote along with it:
“Please consider this as an advance.”
He sprang up with a bound. The fog rose as a red mist in front of his eyes–Advance! Advance? Oh, for that job the old man wanted him for–for that!
The ensign held the money out to him, “Here’s the money.”
He took it and it burned the tips of his fingers and this pain that he felt as a physical pain almost did him in completely. He shut his eyes, letting the scorching fire in his fingers climb into his hands and up into his arms. He felt this final insult burn deeply down into his bones.
“Bring me–” he cried. “Bring me some wine!”
Then he drank and drank. It seemed to him that the dark wine extinguished the sizzling fire.
“What are they playing?” he asked, “Baccarat?”
“No,” said the ensign. “They are playing dice, Lucky Seven.”
Frank Braun took his arm, “Come on. Let’s go.”
They stepped into the casino.
“Here I am!” he cried. “One hundred Marks on the eight” and he threw his money on the table. The cavalry captain shook the cup. It was a six–