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Archive for February, 2015

Then the day came when this thought became more than a joke to him. Wölfchen was digging in the garden, behind the stables under the large mulberry tree. That was where Alraune wanted to have her subterranean palace. He dug day after day and once in awhile one of the gardener’s boys would help.

The child sat close by; she didn’t speak, didn’t laugh, just sat there quietly and watched. Then one evening the boy’s shovel gave a loud clang. The gardener’s boy helped and they carefully dug the brown earth out from between the roots with their bare hands. They brought the professor a sword belt, a buckle and a handful of coins. Then he had the place thoroughly dug up and found a small treasure – genuine Gaelic pieces, rare and valuable. It was not really supernatural. Farmers all around sooner or later found something, why shouldn’t there be something hidden in his garden as well?

But that was the point. He asked the boy why he had dug in that particular spot under the mulberry tree and Wölfchen said the little one wanted him to dig there and nowhere else. Then he asked Alraune but she remained silent.

The Privy Councilor thought she was a divining rod, that she could feel where the earth held its treasure. He laughed about it. Yes, he still laughed. Sometimes he took her along out to the Rhine along Villen Street and over to the ground where his men were digging.

Then he would ask dryly enough,” Where should they dig?”

He observed her carefully as she went over the field to see if her sensitive body would give some sign, some indication, anything that might suggest–

But she remained quiet and her little body said nothing, later when she understood what he wanted she would remain standing on one spot and say, “Dig.”

They would dig and find nothing. Then she would laugh lightly. The professor thought, “She’s making fools of us.” But he always dug again where she commanded. Once or twice they found something, a Roman grave, then a large urn filled with ancient silver coins.

Now the Privy Councilor said, “It is coincidence.”

But he thought, “It could also be coincidence.”

 

One afternoon as the Privy Councilor stepped out of the library he saw the boy standing under the pump. He was half-naked with his body bent forward. The old coachman pumped, letting the cold stream pour over his head and neck, over his back and both arms. His skin was blazing red and covered with small blisters.

“What did you do Wölfchen?” He asked.

The boy remained quiet, biting his teeth together, but his dark eyes were full of tears.

The coachman said, “It’s stinging nettles. The little girl beat him with stinging nettles.”

Then the boy defended himself, “No, no. She didn’t beat me. I did it myself. I threw myself into them.”

The Privy Councilor questioned him carefully yet only with the help of the coachman was he able to get the truth out of the boy. It went like this:

He had undressed himself down to his hips, thrown himself into the nettles and rolled around in them, but–at the wish of his little sister. She had noticed how his hand burned when he accidentally touched the weed, had seen how it became red and blistered. Then she had persuaded him to touch them with his other hand and finally to roll around in them with his naked breast.

“Crazy fool!” The Privy Councilor scolded him. Then he asked if Alraune had also touched the stinging nettles.

“Yes,” answered the boy, but she didn’t get burned.

The professor went out into the garden, searched and finally found his foster-child. She was in the back by a huge wall tearing up huge bunches of stinging nettles. She carried them in her naked arms across the way to the wisteria arbor where she laid them out on the ground. She was making a bed.

“Who is that for?” he asked.

The little girl looked at him and said earnestly, “For Wölfchen!”

He took her hands, examined her thin arms. There was not the slightest sign of any rash.

“Come with me,” he said.

He led her into a greenhouse where Japanese primroses grew in long rows.

“Pick some flowers,” he cried.

Alraune picked one flower after another. She had to stretch high to reach them and her arms were in constant contact with the poisonous leaves. But there was no sign of a burning rash.

“She must be immune,” murmured the professor and wrote a concise thesis in the brown leather volume about the appearance of skin rashes through contact with stinging nettles and poison primrose.

He proposed that the reaction was purely a chemical one, that the little hairs on the stems and leaves wounded the skin by secreting an acid, which set up a local reaction at the place of contact.

He attempted to discover a connection as to whether and to what extent the scarcely found immunity against these primroses and stinging nettles had to do with the known insensibility of witches and those possessed. He also wanted to know whether the cause of both phenomenon and this immunity could be explained on an auto-suggestive or hysterical basis.

Now that he had once seen something strange in the little girl he searched methodically for things that would validate this thought. It was mentioned at this spot as an addendum that Dr. Petersen thought it was completely trivial and disregarded the fact in his report that the actual birth of the child took place at the midnight hour.

“Alraune, was thus brought into this life in the time honored manner,” concluded the Privy Councilor.

Old Brambach had come down from the hills; it had taken four hours to come from beyond the hamlet of Filip. He was a semi-invalid that went through the hamlets in the hill country selling church raffle tickets, pictures of saints and cheap rosaries. He limped into the courtyard and informed the Privy Councilor that he had brought some Roman artifacts with him that a farmer had found in his field.

The professor had the servants tell him that he was busy and to wait, so old Brambach waited there sitting on a stone bench in the yard smoking his pipe. After two hours the Privy Councilor had him called in. He always had people wait even when he had nothing else to do. Nothing lowered the price like letting people wait, he always said.

But this time he really had been busy. The director of the Germanic museum in Nuremburg was there and was purchasing items for a beautiful exhibit called “Gaelic finds in the Rhineland”.

The Privy Councilor did not let Brambach into the library but met with him in the little front room instead.

“Now, you old crippled rascal, let’s see what you have!” he cried.

The invalid untied a large red handkerchief and carefully laid out the contents on a fragile cane chair. There were many coins, a couple of helmet shards, a shield pommel and an exquisite tear vial. The Privy Councilor scarcely turned to give a quick squinting glance at the tear vial.

“Is this all, Brambach?” he asked reproachfully and when the old man nodded he began to heartily upbraid him. He was so old now and still as stupid as a snotty nosed youngster! It had taken him four hours to get here and would take him four hours to go back. Then he had to wait a couple hours as well. He had frittered the entire day away on that trash there! The rubbish wasn’t worth anything. He could pack it back up and take it with him. He wouldn’t give a penny for the lot!

How often did he have to tell people again and again, “Don’t run to Lendenich with every bit of trash?”

It was stupid! It was better to wait until they had a nice collection and then bring everything in at one time! Or maybe he enjoyed the walk in the hot sun all the way here and back from Filip? He should be ashamed of himself.

The invalid scratched behind his ear and then turned his brown cap in his fingers very ill at ease. He wanted to say something to the professor, most of the time he was very good at haggling a higher price for his wares. But he couldn’t think of a single thing, only the four miles that he had just come–exactly what the professor was now berating him for. He was completely contrite and comprehended thoroughly just how stupid he had been so he made no response at all. He requested only that he be allowed to leave the artifacts there so he wouldn’t have to haul them back. The Privy Councilor nodded and then gave him half a Mark.

“There Brambach, for the road! But next time be a little smarter and do what I said. Now go into the kitchen and have some butter-bread and a glass of beer!”

The invalid thanked him, happy enough that things had gone so well and he hobbled back across the court toward the kitchen. His Excellency snatched up the sweet tear vial, pulled a silk handkerchief out of his pocket and carefully cleaned it, viewing the fine violet glass from all sides. Then he opened the door and stepped back into the library where the curator from Nuremburg stood before a glass case. He walked up brandishing the vial in his upraised arm.

“Look at this, dear doctor,” he began. “I have here a most unusual treasure! It belongs to the grave of Tullia, the sister of general Aulus. It is from the site at Schware-Rheindorf. I’ve already shown you several artifacts from there!”

He handed him the vial and continued.

“Can you tell me its point of origin?”

The scholar took the glass, stepped to the window and adjusted his glasses. He asked for a loupe and a silk cloth. He wiped it and held the glass against the light turning it this way and that. Somewhat hesitatingly and not entirely certain he finally said, “Hmm, it appears to be of Syrian make, probably from the glass factory at Palmyra.”

“Bravo!” cried the Privy Councilor. I must certainly watch myself around you. You are an expert!”

If the curator would have said it was from Agrigent or Munda he would have responded with equal enthusiasm.

“Now doctor, what time period is it from?”

The curator raised the vial one more time. “Second century,” he said. “First half.”

This time his voice rang with confidence.

“I give you my compliments,” confirmed the Privy Councilor. “I didn’t believe anyone could make such a quick and accurate determination!”

“Except yourself naturally, your Excellency,” replied the scholar flatteringly.

But the professor replied modestly, “You over estimate my knowledge considerably Herr Doctor. I have spent no less than eight days of hard work trying to make a determination with complete certainty. I have gone through a lot of books.

But I have no regrets. It is a rare and beautiful piece–has cost me enough too. The fellow that found it made a small fortune with it.”

“I would really like to have it for my museum,” declared the director. “What do you want for it?”

“For Nuremburg, only five thousand Marks,” answered the professor. “You know that I offer all German museums specially reduced prices. Next week two gentlemen are coming here from London. I will offer them eight thousand and will certainly get it!”

“But your Excellency,” responded the scholar. “Five thousand Marks! You know very well that I can’t pay such a price! That is beyond my authorization.”

The Privy Councilor said, “I’m really very sorry, but I can’t give the vial away for any less.”

The Herr from Nuremburg weighed the little glass in his hand. “It is a charming tear vial and I am inordinately fond of it. I will give you three thousand, your Excellency.”

The Privy Councilor said, “No, nothing less than five thousand! But I tell you what Herr Director. Since that tear vial pleases you so much, permit me to give it to you as a personal gift. Keep it as a memento of your accurate determination.”

“I thank you, your Excellency. I thank you!” cried the curator. He stood up and shook the Councilor’s hand very hard. “But I am not permitted to accept any gifts in my position. Forgive me then if I must refuse. Anyway, I have decided to pay your price. We must keep this piece in the Fatherland and not permit it to go to England.”

He went to the writing desk and wrote out his check. But before he left the Privy Councilor talked him into buying the other less interesting pieces–from the grave of Tullia, the sister of general Aulus.

The professor ordered the horses ready for his guest and escorted him out to his carriage. As he came back across the court he saw Wölfchen and Alraune standing by the peddler who was showing them his colored images of the Saints. After a meal and some drink old Brambach had recovered some of his courage, had even sold the cook a rosary that he claimed had been blessed by the Bishop. That was why it cost thirty pennies more than the others did. That had all loosened his tongue, which just an hour before had been so timid. He steeled his heart and limped up to the Privy Councilor.

“Herr Professor,” he pleaded. “Buy the children a pretty picture of St. Joseph!”

His Excellency was in a good mood so he replied, “St. Joseph? No, but do you have one of St. John of Nepomuk?”

No, Brambach didn’t have one of him. He had one of St. Anthony though, St. John, St. Thomas and St. Jakob. But unfortunately none of Nepomuk and once again he had to be upbraided for not knowing his business. In Lendenich you could only sell St. John of Nepomuk, none of the other saints.

The peddler took it hard but made one last attempt. “A raffle ticket, Herr Professor! Take a raffle ticket for the restoration of St. Lawrence’s church in Dülmen. It only costs one Mark and every buyer receives an indulgence of one hundred days. It says so right here!”

He held the ticket under the Privy Councilor’s nose.

“No,” said the professor. “We don’t need any indulgences. We are protestant, that’s how we get to heaven and a person can’t win anything in a raffle anyway.”

“What?” the peddler replied. “You can’t win? There are over three hundred prizes and the first prize is fifty thousand Marks in cash! It says so right here!”

He pointed with a dirty finger to the raffle ticket. The professor took the ticket out of his hand and examined it.

“You old ass!” he laughed. “And here it says there are five hundred thousand tickets! Calculate for yourself how many chances you have of winning that!”

He turned to go but the invalid limped after him holding onto his coat.

“Try it anyway professor,” he begged. “We need to live too!”

“No,” cried the Privy Councilor.

Still the peddler wouldn’t give up. “I have a feeling that you are going to win!”

“You always have that feeling!” said the Privy Councilor.

“Let the little one choose a ticket, she brings luck!” insisted Brambach.

That stopped the professor. “I will do it,” he murmured.

“Come over here Alraune!” he cried. “Choose a ticket.”

The child skipped up. The invalid carefully made a fan out of his tickets and held them in front of her.

“Close your eyes,” he commanded. “Now, pick one.”

Alraune drew a ticket and gave it to the Privy Councilor. He considered for a moment and then waved the boy over.

“You choose one too, Wölfchen,” he said.

In the leather volume his Excellency ten Brinken reports that he won fifty thousand Marks in the Dülmen church raffle. Unfortunately he could not be certain whether Alraune or Wölfchen had selected the winning ticket. He had put them both together in his desk without writing the names of the children on them. Still he scarcely had any doubt that it must have been Alraune’s.

As for the rest, he mentions how grateful he was to old Brambach who almost forced him to bring this money into the house. He gave him five Marks and set things up with the local relief fund for aged and disabled veterans so that he would receive a regular pension of thirty Marks per year.

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