“It is a splendid story,” he declared. “There is a gentleman, he is a count–well, really a prince, a good looking fellow. You would really like him. But unfortunately you can’t see him. They have him in prison and he will be executed soon. The poor fellow, especially since he is as innocent as you or I. He is just somewhat irascible and that’s how the misfortune happened. While he was intoxicated he got into a quarrel with his best friend and shot him. Now he must die.”
“What should I do?” She asked quickly. Her nostrils quivered. Her interest in this curious prince was fully aroused.
“You,” he continued. “You can help him fulfil his last wish–”
“Yes,” she cried quickly. “Yes, yes!–He wants to be with a woman one more time right? I will do it, do it gladly–and he will be satisfied with me!”
“Well done, Alma,” said the attorney. “Well done. You are a good girl– but things are not that simple. Pay attention so you understand.
After he had stabbed–I mean shot his friend to death he ran to his family. They should have protected him, hid him, helped him to escape but they didn’t do that at all. They knew how immensely rich he was and thought there was a good possibility that they would inherit everything from him so they called the police instead.”
“The Devil!” Alma said with conviction.
“Yes, they did,” he continued. “It was frightfully mean of them. So he was imprisoned and what do you think he wants now?”
“Revenge,” she replied promptly.
He clapped her approvingly on the shoulder.
“That’s right Alma. I see you have read all the right books. So he is determined to get revenge on his treacherous family and the only way to do it was to cut them off from his inheritance. You understand everything so far don’t you?”
“Naturally I understand,” she declared. “It would serve them right.”
“But how to do it,” he continued. “That was the question. After long deliberation he found the only possible way. The only way he could prevent his millions to be taken was if he had a child of his own!”
“Does the prince have one?” she asked.
“No,” he answered. “Unfortunately he has none. But he still lives. There is still time–”
Her breath flew and her breasts heaved quickly, “I understand,” she cried. “I can have the prince’s child.”
“That’s right,” he said. “Will you?”
And she screamed, “Yes I will.”
She threw herself back in the lounge chair, spread out her legs and opened her arms wide. A heavy lock of red hair fell down onto her neck. Then she sprang up, emptied her glass again.
“It’s hot in here,” she said. “–Very hot!”
She tore her blouse off and fanned herself with a handkerchief.
He held her glass out to her. “Would you like some more? Come, we will drink to the prince!”
Their glasses clinked together.
“A nice robber story you tell there,” hissed the Privy Councilor to his nephew. “I am curious how it comes out.”
“Have no fear, Uncle Jakob,” he came back. “There is still another chapter.”
Then he turned again to the red haired prostitute.
“Well then, that is what it’s all about Alma. That’s how you can help us. But there is still a problem that I must explain to you. As you know, the baron–”
“She interrupted him, “The baron? I thought he was a prince?”
“Naturally he is a prince,” confirmed Frank Braun. “But when he is incognito he calls himself baron– That’s the way it is with princes.
Now then, his Highness, the prince–”
“His Highness?” she whispered.
“Certainly,” he cried. “Highness like King or Kaiser! But you must swear that you will not talk about it–not to any one–So then, the prince is in disgrace now in a dungeon and heavily guarded at all times. No one is permitted to see him except his attorney. It is highly unlikely that he will be able to be with a woman before his last hour.”
“Oh,” she sighed.
Her interest in the unlucky prince was visibly less but Frank Braun paid no attention.
“There,”–he declaimed totally unperturbed in a voice ringing with pathos–, “deep in his heart, in his terrible need, in his dreadful despair and unquenchable thirst for revenge he suddenly thought about the strange experiments of his Excellency, the genuine Privy Councilor, Professor, Doctor, ten Brinken, the shining light of science.
The young handsome prince, now in the spring of his life, still remembered well his golden boyhood and the good old gentleman that looked after him when he had whooping cough and that sent him bon-bons when he was sick–There he sits, Alma. Look at him, the instrument of the unlucky prince’s revenge!”
He waved with grand gestures toward his uncle.
“That worthy Gentleman there,” he continued, “has in his time advanced medical knowledge many miles. You know how children come into the world Alma, and you also know how they are created. But you don’t know the secret mysteries of life that this benefactor of humanity has discovered! He knows how to create children without the mother and father ever seeing each other! The noble prince would be at peace in his dungeon or at rest in his fresh grave knowing that you, dear girl, with the good help of this old gentleman and under the expert care of this good Doctor Petersen will become the mother of his child.”
Alma looked across over at the Privy Councilor. She didn’t like this sudden shift, this weird transformation of turning a handsome wellborn prince into an old and very ugly professor. It didn’t appeal to her at all.
Frank Braun noticed as well and began a new line of persuasion, trying to get her to think of something else.
“Naturally the prince’s child, Anna, your child, must remain hidden after it comes into this world. He must remain hidden until he is fully-grown to protect him from the persecution and intrigue of his evil family–Naturally he would be a prince, just like his father.”
“My child would be a prince?” she whispered.
“Yes, of course,” he confirmed. “Or maybe a princess. That is something we can not know. It will inherit the castle, the grounds and several millions in money. But you will not be permitted to force yourself on him and compromise everything.”
That did it. Fat tears ran down her cheeks. She was already in her role, feeling the grief and sorrow of having to give up her beloved child. She was a prostitute, but her child would be a prince! She couldn’t be in his life. She would have to remain quiet, suffer and endure everything–for her child. It would never know who its mother was.
A heavy sob seized her, shook her entire body. She threw herself over the table, buried her head in her arms and wept bitterly.
Tenderly, almost lovingly he laid his hand on her neck softly stroking her wild loose hair. He could taste the sugar water in the lemonade that he had mixed as well and took her very seriously in this moment.
“Magdalena,” he whispered to her. “Magdalena–”
She righted herself, stuck her hand out to him.
“I promise you that I will never press myself on him. He will never hear me or see me, but–but–”
“What is it girl?” he asked softly.
She grabbed his arm, fell onto her knees in front of him and buried her head in his lap.
“Only once–only once!” she cried. “Can’t I see him just one time? From a distance–perhaps out of a window?”
“Will you finish this trashy comedy,” the Privy Councilor threw at him.
Frank Braun looked wildly at him–and knew his uncle was right but something in his blood rebelled and he hissed back:
“Quiet you old fool! Don’t you see how beautiful this is?”
He bent back down over the prostitute, “Yes, girl. You shall see him, your young prince. I will take you along when he leads his soldiers for the first time, or to the theater when he is sitting above in the box–You can see him then–”
She didn’t answer, but she squeezed his hand and tears mixed in with her kisses. Then he slowly straightened her up, carefully set her back in the chair and gave her some more to drink. It was a large glass half full of cognac.
“Will you do it?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said softly. “I will–What should I do?”
He reflected a moment, “First–first–we will draw up a little contract.”
He turned to the assistant doctor.
“Do you have some paper, doctor? And a quill? Good! Then you can write. Write everything twice, if you please.”
He dictated, said that the undersigned of her own free will would agree to be at the disposal of his Excellency ten Brinken for the purpose of this experiment. She would solemnly promise to faithfully obey all the orders of this gentleman. And further, that after the birth of the child she would completely renounce all claim to it.
In return his Excellency would immediately place fifteen thousand Marks into a savings account in the name of the undersigned and turn this account over to her upon the delivery of the child. He would further provide for her maintenance and support up to that time and carry all costs as well as giving her a monthly allowance of one hundred Marks to use as she pleased.
He took the paper and read it out loud one time.
“It doesn’t say anything about the prince!” she said.
“Naturally it doesn’t,” he declared. “That must remain highly secret.”
She could see that, but there was still something that bothered her.
“Why–” she asked. “Why did you pick me? Any woman would gladly do what she could for the poor prince.”
He hesitated. This question was a little unexpected but he found an answer.
“Well, you know,” he began. “it is like this–The prince’s childhood sweetheart was a very beautiful duchess. He loved her with all his heart as only a real prince can love and she loved the handsome young noble just as much. But she died.”
“How did she die?” Alma asked.
“She died of–of the measles. The prince’s beloved had golden red hair just like yours. She looked exactly like you. The prince’s last wish is that the mother of his child look like the beloved of his youth. He gave us her picture and described her to us exactly. We searched all over Europe and never found the right one–until tonight when we saw you.”
She was flattered and laughed. “Do I really look like the beautiful duchess?”
He cried, “You could have been sisters!–By the way, can we take your photograph? It would make the prince very happy to see your picture!”
He handed the writing quill over to her, “Now sign, child!”
She took the paper and wrote “Al–” Then she stopped.
“There is a fat hair in the quill.”
She took a napkin and cleaned the quill with it.
“Damn–” murmured Frank Braun. “It occurs to me that she is not yet an adult. Legally we must also have her father’s signature–Oh well, this will do for the contract. Just write!–By the way, what is your father’s name?”
She said, “My father is Master Baker Raune in Halberstadt.”
Then she wrote her father’s name in clumsy slanting letters. Frank Braun took the paper out of her hand and looked at it. He let it fall and picked it up again staring at it.
“By all that’s Holy,” he cried out loud. “That–that is–”
“What’s the matter now, Herr Doctor?” asked the assistant doctor.
He handed the contract over to him, “There–there–look at the signature.”
Dr. Petersen looked at the sheet of paper.
“So,” he asked puzzled. “I don’t see anything remarkable about it.”
“No, no, naturally not, you wouldn’t,” cried Frank Braun. “Give the contract to the Privy Councilor. Now read that, Uncle Jakob!”
The professor examined the signature. The girl had forgotten to finish writing her first name. “Al Raune” was written on the paper.
“Of all things–A remarkable coincidence,” said the professor.
He folded both sheets carefully together and stuck them in his breast pocket.