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Tewes burst out with a loud laugh.

“You, you want to go to Germany? And if the president handed you the most beautiful Yankee passport with his own hand and with his own signature on top of it and it was certified by the ambassador to his superior King George – with your face, you would still most certainly not end up in Germany, but instead, arrive in some English prison camp! Those dueling scars make you a German student and you will remain one to your blissful end.

 

– Yes, we have the identification instructions used by the British sea officers, those who search the steamers; Doctor, show them to him! Right on the first page it says, that they should arrest anyone; who has German dueling scars on their face – entirely without regard for all other papers. And you, Herr, have scars for twenty – German dueling scars, as the English so nicely call them. No, Herr, no! We spare no money, and use – despite them – every great and little swindle and every Dodge and gimmick – in order to ship officers overseas and all others whom we believe, can be of use to Germany. But we have no red cent remaining, to enrich an English prison camp with one more prisoner!”

 

The old servant came in bringing a plate with butter bread.

 

“Here is the new cord for the electric cooking stove!” he said.

 

“Thank you,” said Frank Braun, “Now the old stove can still be used.”

 

He took the brown cord, and played with it.

 

“You must console yourself, Herr Frylinghuis, the journey is out of question, you must see that. Please – get hold of yourself!”

 

The attorney crammed the slices of bread in his mouth.

 

“Naturally I can see that,” he moaned.

 

“Ah– The Schmisse! I once I counted them – they struck me eighteen times. I was buttered by them – every time – like no one else. But I remained standing, Doctor, remained standing –“

 

“Like a rock in the sea!” ridiculed the editor.

 

“Don’t laugh,” He pleaded chewing with full cheeks, “it was really so. They could have hacked me to mush – and l still would not have flinched. I was a second three times – a fencing partner, you know – even though I, with my short wings, was the most pathetic bumbler in the entire student corps. Still, for semesters after me they said in Marburg:

 

“He stands there like Frylinghuis.”

 

“I would have never made you a second,” said Frank Braun thoughtfully. “Even though I was a very good fencer, especially if it was one of my good days. – Tell me, Frylinghuis, have you ever licked your own blood at a duel?”

 

“Licked my own blood?” said the other in astonishment. “What do you mean by that?”

 

“Oh – just what I say,” continued Frank Braun. “It was at my third fox duel; at which I was supposed to drill with some fellow. The Prussian struck me through the temporalis, and the blood flowed warm over my left eye. Then I forgot that I was holding a weapon in my hand. I saw nothing – but I felt, how red the blood flowed, so red and soft and warm.

 

“Are you crazy,” hissed my good friend, who was my second, “shut your mouth! Stick your tongue back in!” – That’s when I first noticed, that I was licking my own blood. I did as he said – but it came out again, my tongue – the blood pulled at it. ‘You duel – like a pig’, said my bodyguard.”

 

“And did you always do that?” asked the attorney.

 

“Always? No!” he answered. “I tell you, that often enough I fenced very well, struck several with a rapier and hooked quarte. But then once in a while – it came again – without my wanting it and having no consciousness of it. Then I licked my own blood, forgetting completely where I was and what I was doing. Tell me, Tewes, if I should now suddenly lunge at you, in order to strike you on the head with a knife, what would you do?”

 

“In that moment?” answered the journalist. “Well my first move would probably be, to throw my arm high, in order to parry the blow.”

 

“That was exactly what I once did at a duel,” said Frank Braun, “when I was drunk from my own blood. I tore my left-hand out of the belt from behind me, and threw it high –“

 

“What?” cried the attorney aghast. “What? – That is horrible! – Hopefully you were thoroughly buttered?”

 

“Naturally!” laughed Frank Braun. “Immediately – such foolishness is not permitted at our duels: they called me a wretched whimp! I was dismissed, for an undetermined time – as sometimes happens. And then they gave me the three worst fencers, which they could find, in order to drill me again. Oh yes – licking blood is not in good form at a duel.”

 

“I would agree with that!” nodded the attorney with deepest conviction. “Nothing like that happened with me.”

 

But then, suddenly, his little bit of composure collapsed again.

 

“Of what use is my good standing today!” he said ruefully. “Lord God, what will I do now? How shall I even begin?”

 

“There is nothing that can be done with you,” scorned the journalist. “No one here needs lessons – in good standing!”

 

Frank Braun said:

 

“Hang yourself.”

 

It came out of his teeth, without his willing it. He was thinking it – and spoke it at the same time. It rang seriously – and he was sorry for it instantly. And yet he repeated it, stressed and very definite:

 

“Hang yourself. That is the only thing that remains for you to do.”

 

The attorney took the slice of bread from his mouth. He stared at him, and stammered:

 

“Are you serious, Doctor? – Are you really serious?”

 

Frank Braun held his gaze.

 

Something compelled him, pulled him forward. It was to him, as if he stood on the stage, as if he had to make some proposal to the public, the secretary and the journalist – To prove what he could do, what kind of a man he was: to rule the others, force them down to his feet, to make them slaves and into creatures without wills of their own, into play things for his frivolous moods.

 

“Dear Herr,” he began. “Have you never thought of it yourself? You are a member of the student corps, are an officer – is your honor and self-respect really that lost in this country? The war will last for still four more years, you know that as well as we do, there’s no way for you to get over there – never! And it is just as impossible for you to find something here. You are unfit – for anything – which you can think of.”

 

“Yes – yes –“ moaned the attorney.

 

“What is the use of howling?” he continued. His voice rang unmercifully, cutting and sharp. “You must become clear about this – that you do not have the slightest prospect in this country. And in the best case you are further marked – so as to receive a miserable job for one or two days, which will earn you a couple of dollars, and then the searching around again in a couple of weeks. And in the meantime, dear Herr, you live from – begging! Just remain sitting, don’t get up – it is necessary, that you for once see this thing clearly with your own eyes. As long as you receive money from me and from others, editors and your regulars, you can call it pumping – even though you know very well, that you will never have the slightest possibility of giving the money back. Hear this out just once, isn’t it true? Then you will run to the support chest of the pastor – to help you again – until you see, that there is no more help for the attorney Frylinghuis. Meanwhile, you will know what starvation is – but one can starve for a day or two – if one has a certain hope of finding something, the means of finding a way to eat. Watch for the day – when you will not be getting a single nickel more.”

 

The fat tears rolled over the cheeks of the unfortunate.

 

“And you, Herr Doctor, you would leave me in the lurch?”

 

“I?” he answered harshly. “Naturally!”

 

– He knew that he lied, knew that he would give this man – even though he hated him – in spite of that, would continue to give to him, again and again. But at the same time he felt, that he himself was ashamed of this childish weakness, this foolish consideration, which wiped every “no” from his lips. How did people do it, find that soft spot of goodness in the core of his heart, and make it wider with their suffering and with their love – over and over again? – He scorned all of them – no, no, this man had no right, to see into his breast.

 

“That’s how people are here, ” he said, “and I, like a thousand others.”

 

“You give more away, then you use for yourself!” cried the attorney. “I know it, I know it very well!”

 

Frank Braun pulled his shoulders high.

 

“And even if that is true – I do so, because I am frivolous and careless and have no real understanding of money and of all possible obligations. But you see, once in a while I also have an enlightened moment and then I know, that it is a monkey shame to give you money. The dollar bills that I give you; I take away from others; those who could use them better. I can push off your certain collapse for a couple of pathetic days, and in the meantime someone else will die, that could have easily found some skilled labor! It is criminal, to give you money!”

 

The attorney wiped the tears from his scarred cheeks. He stared at him for a long time, speechless, without understanding.

 

“You – you don’t want – to help me anymore?” he stammered.

 

He wanted to say “No” – and couldn’t. – “Now is enough,” he thought. “Now give him something – and you must give him more this time.” – And then again: “That is cowardly – you must send him away.” – But he couldn’t do it, couldn’t do it: slowly he shoved his hand into his pocket to take out his checkbook.

 

Then, suddenly he jumped up:

 

“No!” he screamed. “No! No! – Hang yourself!”

 

He tossed the electrical cord over to him.

 

“This is a magnificent noose – hang yourself!”

 

The attorney picked the cord up from the floor, breathed deeply and heavily. His voice sounded weak and soft, but yet strangely firm. He spoke:

 

“You are right – it is certainly the best.”

 

He played with the cord, looked at it for a long time, then said:

 

“May I hang myself here, Herr Doctor?”

 

“Thank you very much!” laughed the journalist. “That would be a beautiful mess! Police – an investigation and a great outcry in the newspaper – that is exactly what we don’t want! Go to Central Park tonight – you will find a wonderful selection of trees and streetlights!”

 

“It is just –“ said the attorney, “now I have the courage.”

 

And again it seemed to Frank Braun, as if he stood in front of the public, throwing out some phrase with large gestures, and whose reaction he was certain of. He stepped up to him, tapped him lightly on the shoulder.

 

“Please, as you will, Herr Frylinghuis. Make use of your strong mood and my rooms. Don’t trouble yourself over it, we will put everything in order behind you. – Go through the bedroom, there, next to the bathroom is my clothes closet. There are hooks on the wall that are strong enough.”

 

“Thank you,” said the attorney, entirely calm and very composed. “May I finish the butter bread? Please, a cup of tea! – And if you would be kind enough, to give me a cigarette?”

 

“Please, help yourself!” he replied.

 

They sat around; the attorney ate, drank and smoked.

 

“Do you have any other wish?” asked Frank Braun. “A message? A letter?”

 

“My parents are long dead –“ replied the attorney. “I don’t have any closer relatives. If you would be so kind, to write to my seniors – and then to my corps.”

 

“Gladly!” he nodded. “What should I write?”

 

“Oh, that I am dead,” said the other. “Only – don’t mention how, please.”

 

A little smile tugged around his lips.

 

“’He stands like Frylinghuis’ – that’s what they say in Marburg – that is still something, something. And I would not like it, if they were to say: ‘He hangs like Frylinghuis.’”

 

Then he stood up.

 

“I thank you, Herr Doctor. For everything, for what you have done for me. And also for today, you have opened my eyes wide open.”

 

Frank Braun didn’t speak a word. He seized his lower lip with his teeth, and bit, bit.”

 

“Live well, gentlemen!” said the attorney.

 

He shook everyone’s hand, bent over, and tied the noose. Then he took his cord and went slowly to the back.

 

Rossius watched him go, then turned to hurry after him.

 

“What are you doing?” cried Frank Braun.

 

“I’m going to bring him back!” answered the secretary. “He’s really going to do it!”

 

Frank Braun hissed:

 

“Stay here!”

 

The editor laughed:

 

“Really? He won’t hang himself any more than I will or you will! You will see how pretty he comes back after a short time – and then it will cost us some extra pain money.”

 

Frank Braun didn’t answer. He stood, erect, unmoving, in the middle of the room; looking toward the back.

 

The manuscript of the attorney’s speech lay between the cups. Tewes took it up, paged through it.

 

“I can use this for my butcher master, almost as it is! – Give me your ink pen, Rossius! – Just strike out a couple of lines – then three sentences to begin it and just as many to close – this inheritance spares me a half hours’ time!”

 

And he sat for a while, editing, striking out, and writing, like one, who thoroughly knows his work. Then he handed a couple of pages over to the secretary.

 

“There, type that up! – Only the pages, that are strongly corrected – and those, those that are too dirty. The rest is for my butcher master, just as smooth as we have inherited it.”

 

From in back they could hear a loud sound, Rossius stood up.

 

“He’s singing!” he said.

 

“A cheap swansong!” laughed the editor.

 

“Do you know what it is?”

 

 

Hyacinths

Chapter 8

 

When anyone is bedeviled by evil spirits or suffers a curse, so that he is about to lose everything, then take a loaf of pure white bread, very hot. Cut a large cross in the upper crust – but be careful, that you do not cut all the way through. Pass a hyacinth stone along this cross and speak these words:

 

“May God, who took all precious stones away from the devil, also cast away all evil spirits from me, remove all curses, and save me from insanity.”

 

Saint Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen (12th century)

 

 

When Frank Braun came back home that afternoon, his secretary was sitting very thoughtfully in front of the typewriter. Both hands were in his lap.

 

“Well, what have you found out?” he asked.

 

“I have discovered,” answered Rossius, “that I am your fountain pen, even your swizzle stick. Even more remotely – your horse,  wife or  bicycle, if you had one – presumably I am none of these things. Yet aren’t there still things, which a man does not gladly loan out, because they are somewhat damaged or mainly not returned?”

 

“Hm, –“he said, “a toothbrush. One most certainly uses them over and over again and most are a little damaged – but one does not gladly loan them out!”

 

His secretary replied:

 

“Then I am also your toothbrush. Which you can use to your heart’s content – every day I must help out with another newspaper – or with some committee! And because of that I am only an appendage – you loan out the typewriter – and me along with it!”

 

“Just tell me, if you don’t want to do it!” laughed Frank Braun. “No one is forcing you.”

 

“I know!” sighed Rossius, “that is just it. Overall, I earn a few extra dollars – my Fräulein bride needs another new hat! – Herr Tewes called earlier –”

 

“What are you supposed to write for him?” he inquired.

 

“Ask him yourself – I don’t know. He’s coming here, will do his dictating here.”

 

He jumped up.

 

“Someone’s knocking, he must be here already.”

 

But the old servant announced the attorney, Christoph Frylinghuis.

 

“Him?” gulped Frank Braun. “Why, in the name of God.”

The attorney entered. But Tewes followed at his feet, threw his cane and gloves on a chair.

 

“Cigar – Doctor?” he cried. “Where is your cigar box?”

 

“Excuse me, for coming here – but I must make a committee speech for Wachtel – you know, the fat butcher, the chair of the Defense committee. Editing it is impossible – fifty people in one room – one can’t even understand one’s own words. Home is too far away – that would be three hours to Yonkers and back! That’s why I came here – at least here a man can be undisturbed.”

 

“What do you mean undisturbed?” cried Frank Braun.

 

“God, yes, naturally you are disturbed!” laughed the journalist. “You must get accustomed to that. – Tea? Can Rossius make us some tea? – You already know, that Belgrade has been taken – we just received the news. Then – yes, please give me your advice – what will be passable for my master butcher! I struck out everything that was even the slightest human and left only the fat fisted phrases – and then I drew a line through them as well! It would spare me half the time – and would be a great help with the war!”

 

He ran around, was everywhere with his long wings. He grabbed the cigar box, put the teakettle on the electric stove, brought cups, and searched through his notes.

 

“Will you just sit down!” hissed Rossius. “You are always in my way. First drink some tea – that will give you the needed calmness – then you can dictate your masterpiece to me!”

 

– “Now, what brings you here, Herr Frylinghuis?” Frank Braun spoke to the attorney. “Are things going well in your new job?”

 

“Well?” sighed the attorney. “I was thrown out after two days.”

 

He was short and pudgy – earlier, he must have been fat once, but now his clothes hung loosely around his body. Only his head was round and remained red – a bowling ball head, which appeared to protrude like asparagus on an equally strong and equally red neck. He was shaved and had only a little hair left on his skull – but there were scars, scars everywhere. On both sides, over his chin, cheeks, temples and ears, on the top of his head and down to his forehead and on his nose – they shouted through all the streets: I am a German student. His right arm was uncommonly short – it was no wonder, that anyone dueling with him could score a hit where ever they wanted.

This man was his problem child–there was no work for him to do: he was an attorney and nothing else. He had become an orphan early in life, had squandered his little fortune at the University and in the student corps, it lasted just to the very end, and he had been lucky to take his examinations. He succeeded in getting work in the colonies – they sent him to Samoa – there he learned how to drink whiskey. Then he had somehow crossed the Pacific – and now he was here, searching, searching – and finding nothing.

 

“Why didn’t it work out at the farm?” he asked him.

 

The attorney slurped his hot tea.

 

“Because I have hay fever! This is now my third attempt to live in the country – one day, two days – it can’t be any longer. Then my eyes run, then my nose runs and I toss around as if in a fever – I can’t blame anyone for chasing me away.”

 

Frank Braun hated this man, whom he had to continually help. He was unlucky, he thought – and he brought misfortune!

 

“Call the employment agency,” Tewes proposed. “Those gentlemen have an entire series of academic positions listed.”

 

The attorney shook his head.

 

“I did – but it didn’t work out. It was always the same – I couldn’t do it. I have never held a job for more than a week – and that was only through grace and compassion! I can’t do shorthand or type and my handwriting is unbearably bad.”

 

“Then why don’t you learn?” asked Tewes.

 

“I tried – it didn’t work!” lamented the unfortunate man and stuck out his little hands with their sausage like fingers.

 

“I get writer’s cramp, after I have been doing it for a half hour. – I have tried thirty different occupations by now. I was a dishwasher – more than once – but I am so clumsy, that I broke more dishes, then I earned in a day. I wore holes in my shoes and got blisters on my feet as a sign carrier. I was a “greeter” in a restaurant – that paid well and I would’ve continued doing that, even as belittling as it was. But the innkeeper had to send me away – some of his guests liked me very much, they laughed about me, but the others claimed that they couldn’t eat, because I reminded them of a living tartar beefsteak pacing back and forth.”

 

“Do you speak English?” inquired the editor.

 

A new sigh crept out from the attorney’s lips.

 

“Yes – yes! I can read everything and understand and speak. But in the South Seas I became so accustomed to that damn pigeon English, that everyone here laughs out loud at me. That has already cost me three jobs. The people think, that if they want to have a black, then they would rather have a genuine one. – I was also a security guard and announcer and –”

 

Frank Braun interrupted him in irritation.

 

“That’s very good, we know, everything that you were.”

 

But he immediately regretted his gruff tone, and added:

 

“Before I leave for the summer, I’m thinking of Doctor Ulrich of the German recruit organization, perhaps he can find something for you – we can ask him.”

 

“He already turned me away –” groaned the attorney. “He sent me to Rochester, where I was supposed to establish a new German recruit organization. It went very well, I had propaganda printed up, enlisted many participants, and was soon very popular at all the gatherings. But –”

 

“Why, you unlucky fellow,” cried Tewes, “why did you quit?”

 

Three sighs – and a long despairing sob.

 

“I had to stop speaking. Here is my speech –” He took a manuscript out of his pocket, and waved it around in the air.

 

“It is just as good as any other. But it doesn’t work – I cannot endure the stage. When I stand up there, a childish fear comes over me – and the only thing that comes out of my mouth – is a pathetic stutter. The people laugh in complete happiness; finally one took my paper and read my speech to them. I did not do any damage in Rochester – certainly not – but I must admit Doctor Ulrich was right, when he thought, that I was unfit for propaganda work: to do that a man must be able to give speeches!”

 

“Yes, man,” Tewes laughed as he handed him a cigar, “well what are you good at then? What are you trained in?”

 

“I – am – an attorney,” coughed the poor devil.

 

He took his business card out and gave it to him.

 

“Attorney Christoph Frylinghuis, thank you. I was active in Marburg with the –”

 

The journalist threw a quick glance at the card.

 

“You know, man, you must call yourself a doctor – that’s how it’s done. When you run around here with that face, without the title of Doctor, everyone takes you for a bumbling student – that seems suspicious.”

 

“But I did not take my doctor exam,” said the attorney.

 

Tewes cried: “Made them – didn’t make them – what’s the difference! Do you imagine that anyone here would ask for your papers?”

 

But the other answered – and for the first time there was a little hardness in his voice:

 

“No – I will not do that. That would be a swindle.”

 

“How gullible you are!” scorned the journalist. “Haven’t you noticed yet, that the entire country lives only on swindles? When a man doesn’t have anything and isn’t anything and can’t do anything – like you – and despite that still wants luxuries, any little swindle that comes to mind – will get a person astoundingly far in New York! You can believe that.”

 

“I believe every word you say,” said the attorney, “I am convinced of it to my bones.”

 

He turned to Frank Braun.

 

“Herr Doctor, that’s why I came to you this afternoon. – I know, that I am a burden to you, I know it! You have helped me so often –”

 

“How much do you need?” he interrupted him.

 

“No, that is not –“ answered the other. “With the money that I earned at the farm I have just paid for my laundry. But I don’t have a place to sleep – not a penny in my pocket – and haven’t eaten since yesterday –“

 

“Go make a couple of sandwiches,” Frank Braun turned to Rossius.

 

“Thank you,” said the attorney. “But, as I said, that is not it! And if you give me money again – it will be gone in a few days. And if you get me a new job, I will be chased away from it after twenty-four hours! – You, doctor – I – I –”

 

He swallowed, drooped and sobbed.

 

“Yes, then what do you want, Herr Frylinghuis?” he asked.

 

The attorney pulled himself together.

 

“You – I –” he began. “I beg you, I plead with you, Herr Doctor, get me a passport! I have served, I am a staff sergeant – and they would enlist me as a lieutenant – there I can do something – over there! Here I will die –”

 

 

Young Rossius stepped up to Frank Braun’s bed.

 

“It’s noon Doctor! Wouldn’t you like to get up? Your servant is here with your tea.”

 

He nodded sleepily. They brought him breakfast in bed; he ate and drank silently, trying to think. It had been this way for quite some time, that he was confused in the mornings, and always had to strain to remember what had happened the night before.

 

“Your lecture is typed,” the secretary said. “I woke up early, took a bath and then went to the typewriter. I also had some tea made for me – with your permission.”

 

Frank Braun asked hesitantly, “you bathed here?”

 

“Where else,” retorted the secretary. “I slept here last night – on the sofa in the middle room.”

 

Yes – he remembered now. He had come home late in the night – there sat young Rossius, waiting up for him. That lecture, which he was supposed to pick up today – about – what was it about anyway?

 

Never mind – it would occur to him later. But that was why he had asked his secretary to come over. He had paced around in the room, and had dictated for an hour and a half. Yes – and he had told the young man that he could stay overnight, in order to type up the speech in the morning. That was it – now it had all come back, thank God!

 

“You gave me a fright doctor! – Last night!” laughed the secretary.

 

“I?” he asked. “How so?”

 

“You are a sleepwalker!” answered Rossius.

 

He jumped out of bed.

 

“Nonsense!” he cried.

 

But the other said: “Not nonsense at all! You came into the room, and started doing something at the table. Then something fell down – that’s why I woke up, and turned on the light. That didn’t bother you. You stood there in pajamas with wide open eyes – fumbling around in your bureau.”

 

What did I do?” he asked.

 

“Nothing special,” the other replied. “You took out a couple of things, scissors – a comb – then you pulled something out of the pocket of your pajamas, and stuck it back in again. You also opened your razor and closed it.”

 

“That was it?” demanded Frank Braun. “And how do you know then, that I was not awake?”

 

“No, you are not awake,” insisted Rossius. “I called out to you – and you didn’t hear me. I stood up, stepped up right in front of you – and you didn’t see me – despite the open eyes. Then I took your arm and lead you back. You were very docile and allowed yourself to be brought quietly back to bed. After two minutes you shut your eyes and were fast asleep –”

 

“Well that was sensible, anyway,” he grumbled.

 

He took his robe and went into the bathroom. After a while he came back, just as tired as ever, not a bit rested.

 

Is there much to do today?” he asked.

 

But he didn’t wait for an answer.

 

“Come Rossius, let’s play a game of chess.”

 

He stretched out on the sofa, his upper body supported by half a dozen pillows. He scanned through the newspaper, in between times he threw a quick glance at the board, and shoved a piece.

 

Then he allowed the lecture to be recited, correcting it here and there. Gradually he wasn’t listening anymore, became lost in dreams.

 

He suddenly interrupted Rossius.

 

“Bring me the blue dossier,” he said, “you know the one, the one in which we keep the anonymous papers – you know, threats and such things.”

 

“It is no longer there!” the secretary said. “You just told me, that I should destroy it all. So I burned it in the fireplace, with everything that was inside it – yesterday, while I was waiting for you and used the time to put things in order a little bit.”

 

“Did I say that?” cried Frank Braun. “It was very stupid – very stupid!”

 

He took a pillow, threw it up in the air, and then caught it again.

 

“Do you remember the letter we got a few days after I returned from Mexico? You know the one – that was so very mysterious and warned of a conspiracy against me?”

 

Rossius nodded.

 

“Oh yes Doctor. You thought that it came from some foolish woman – it was pure foolishness. There was something in it – even if the men in this country are asleep, the women are wide-awake – and that they would find the means – and had found them – to put a stop to your activities and those of your kind.”

 

“Perhaps it was only the childish outburst of an old maid, who believed all the lies in the English papers, like so many million others. And who now sees a crazy murderer in every German! – Perhaps! – Perhaps also there was something to it. – One way or the other, my boy, I almost believe: that I am afraid.”

 

Rossius laughed out loud. “You – doctor? You afraid? Well if you are, I never noticed it before.”

 

“Neither did I –” he spoke, shrugging his shoulders. “At least not when I am awake. But – I believe – I am afraid – when I am asleep.”

 

He was silent for a while, then continued, slowly, considering and thoughtfully:

 

“I dream, – before I only did that, when I was awake – and it was more of a brooding, fantasizing and daydreaming. Now it is genuine, childish dreams – in the deepest sleep – and it is always the same. Of some wound on a breast – and of red, dripping blood. I don’t like these dreams.”

 

He jumped up, and paced with quick nervous steps around the room.

 

“And this sleepwalking last night – who knows, whether it was the first time! Am I some neurasthenic adolescent, an anemic schoolgirl? A hysteric female in menopause or a moonstruck woman who is having her period? – By the hangman, no! I am afraid – I tell you – plain common fear – of – of – something!”

 

He sat down again, sucked on a cigarette.

 

“And this fear must have some basis. I am sick – you know that – since I have been in this goddamn city. Not today – not at this moment – but I just was – and perhaps will be again tomorrow. It is some silly disease – of which no one knows, how and where – and I the least. Seven – no, eight doctors have examined me – from head to foot – van Ness ordered it – and not one of them found anything. ‘A little weakness of the nerves,’ they said – that is the fat phrase. ‘I should not smoke so much,’ they advised – I know that myself. And: ‘Get well – till next time! Thank you very much!’ – now that takes skill!”

 

He became silent again, moving his head back and forth, considering. Then he continued:

 

“It is a tiredness – without any reason. A bodily weakness – often a sudden dizziness – all without any apparent cause. But the greatest feeling is a complete emptiness – that is what it is – just as if I don’t have a single drop of blood in my body anymore. As if the blood in my veins has been eaten away – as if something has been sucking on me, drinking me dry. Just like children do with an orange – they make a hole in it and then suck it out: I am the orange!”

 

He drew up his legs, lit a new cigarette.

 

“I am afraid,” he emphasized, “that is certain. Still not during the daytime – but certainly when I am asleep: also this fear is unconscious, and comes out of a deepest instinct. But then – where, what am I afraid of?”

 

He hesitated, stared at his secretary.

 

“Tell me, do you believe – that it could be some slow poison?”

 

Ernst Rossius laughed out loud.

 

“Calm yourself, Doctor, we are no longer in the Middle Ages!”

 

At that he continued.

 

“What do you mean? – I tell you, the world has never been as insane as it is today – just look at the newspaper! The slaughter of hundreds of thousands – when did the sun ever seen such death? And why – for what? Every government uses the same phrases in their school books – and the lines are just as absurd, just as shamelessly stupid as those of the other. Our foolishness is much more fantastic, then that during the time of the Inquisition, or even, when the raging hordes of the flagellants roamed through Europe turning it into a madhouse. – New York, Rossius, is the most romantic city in the entire world, but still lives today in the darkest of the Middle Ages!”

 

“What are you saying?” the secretary interrupted him. “Modern New York – with its subways and skyscrapers and a hundred thousand automobiles!”

 

“Even so!” he cried. “Even so! With these high and low trains, in which there are more bugs and fleas then anywhere in Naples. With these skyscrapers, which transform so many streets into dark mine shafts. And the automobiles – you know as well as I do, that many women don’t dare to climb into a taxi cab alone, one whose company they don’t know! Why? – Because kidnapping here is a daily occurrence, because they are afraid, of being kidnapped, in broad daylight. You can find opium dens by the dozen – not only in Chinatown – any policeman can show you one. And heroin, cocaine, morphine – whatever you want – in abundance enough to spare. Our Blacks slaughter children to their snake God in their voodoo cult here just as well as somewhere in Haiti! – And when do they ever find a murderer in New York – black or white? Maybe one in every fifty! We have slaves by the thousands – did you read the last report about the padrone system at the harbor – slaves, chained just as tightly together, as they ever were in the plantations of the cotton magnets! – Magicians everywhere! – In almost every house lives a Pythia, that takes money away from the stupid ladies. Prostitutes in all locales and theaters, on every street – females, almost even more males – here you can purchase every infamous lust, if you only open your wallet wide enough! – Like in the Rome of Alexander VI – Middle Ages – a most wonderful Middle Ages! Much more than that really – and that makes it so tasteless and it takes on the patina of the Renaissance – the over fat butter sauce of Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy. The muckrakers and reformers, that chase after every outspoken word, every advertisement in the newspapers, who prosecute peddlers because they sell pictures of women that are a little too scantily dressed. The teetotalers and holier than thou’s, those who ban theater and games on Sunday, who make the blue laws, close salons in the front, only to slip in at the back. But you see, even this Inquisition is of the Middle Ages – only it is not strong and cruel as it was in Spain – instead it is cowardly, small, English and common. But one thing is certain, nothing, nothing is impossible in this giant city, this infinite garbage can, into which the entire world has thrown its garbage.”

 

He laughed out loud.

 

“The two of us are also in it – you and I. But it is good, for a person to know themself, to know how it stands – that way you can crawl out, when an opportunity presents itself, otherwise one’s soul would get corrupted – and you would scarcely know it! – Then you see, Rossius – you get accustomed to it – isn’t that true? And then you feel comfortable in all this mud and dirt.”

 

He stood up again, went to the window, and pushed it up. Then turned back.

 

“Poison just like all the others – why not? Quick and slow – it’s entirely possible. What the Medici could do and the Borgia – the New Yorker can certainly do as well! Just like they celebrate their orgies, although lacking in style and taste.”

 

He laughed, then went up to his secretary.

 

“Tell me, have you ever participated in an orgy here?”

 

“Yes –“ said the other, “that’s what we call them. With beer or whiskey – with girls and singing.”

 

Frank Braun interrupted him:

 

“Where is my invitation? Search for the one from the moon ladies. They are having their annual celebration – I will take you along.”

 

Rossius searched around.

 

“Here it is,” he said. “For the nineteenth – that was yesterday.”

 

“It’s too bad,” said Frank Braun, “that is too late. But in late August or winter – remind me – when we get another invitation.”

 

– “The mail?” asked Rossius. “Would you like to see the mail?”

 

He waved his hand.

 

“No, not now – later! – Unless there is something special?”

 

The secretary considered, then reached into his vest pocket, and pulled out a paper.

 

“Oh, I forgot – I was in the library yesterday – was searching for Saint Ambrose – it gave me a lot of trouble! Here is the hymn, which you wanted – of the immaculate conception.”

 

He handed him the slip. Frank Braun read out loud:

 

“Fit porta Christi pervia,

Referta plena gratia

Transitque rex, et permanet

Clausa, ut fuit, per saccula.

Cenus superni numinis

Processit aula virginis

-Sponsus, redemptor, conditor,

Suae gigas ecclesiae.”

 

“That is beautiful,” he said, “it is magnificent! The power of imagination of those men of faith is astounding. Who can do something like that today: to make something so abstract seem so real! This power of imagery – can make the most implausible, most impossible, the most incomprehensible sound so natural and logical – with just the ring of a few words!”

 

Ernst Rossius said:

 

“I attempted to translate it, last night, as I was waiting for you –”

 

“Read it,” Frank Braun nodded.

 

And the secretary began:

 

“The Virgin’s womb, the gate of Christ, so full of grace

and wonderful. – The King, who chose this vessel,

passed through, And yet it remained locked – as it has

through all the centuries – this immaculate gate.

 

-And remained locked, as the divinely conceived

of light emerged from out of the virginal

column of her body – the sweet, cherished Savior,

the founder, and mighty altar of his church.”

 

Frank Braun took the paper out of his hand.

 

“Not bad,” he said, “not bad. – But you know, what that – one part is?, ‘Transitque rex’ – Ambrose certainly meant Christ for that – and Christ brings the Holy Ghost into us – or God the father! In any case, in that sense it is genuine and most certainly Ambrose! Yet, it is still stronger, still more powerful: the gate of her body remains locked at the entrance of the divine, just as with the coming forth of the Savior! Locked, immaculate – through all the centuries!”

 

“Thank you for the friendly recognition,” laughed Rossius. “But tell me, Doctor, what did you want with this hymn anyway?”

 

“And why then, Ernst Rossius, did you translate it?” he countered. “Just out of boredom? Certainly not! – There are dozens of volumes here, which you are interested in, and that you could have read. And that report for the committee, which they have been asking of us for three weeks now, which you haven’t even started! Instead you sat down here and tormented yourself for an hour, over a couple of mystical Christian fragments trying to translate them into tolerable German verse! – Why?”

 

“I don’t know –“ said the other.

 

“Well, I don’t either!” cried Frank Braun. “It is presumably, because it is something God wills, that we also have a part to play here – in this medieval witche’s Sabbath in the city of New York. These ambergris golden colors are missing – and perhaps it is our destiny, that we should mix them in!”

 

He pulled up a couple of chairs, one of which was still usable. His yellow eyes shone, trembling with joy, at being able to talk, to lecture, and to have a contract, over something that he was interested in. This was the single joy of the knowledgeable, to be able to share –

 

He explained the horoscope in detail, gave the ancient laws of the Assyrian astrologers, then moved on to the further advancements of the Babylonians, Phoenicians, Egyptians and Ethiopians. The Arabs, Greeks, Armenians and Persians – and the strangely sophisticated comments of the Alexandrian school. He explained at great length, clearly and factually, why the horoscopes of the ancient world were so accurate.

 

“At that time, yes, everyone believed in the eternal laws of the stars. Their principles? – Some nomad created them, somewhere in the desert. Then they became the norm – became solid and sacred through the centuries, conventional, like the numeral system, like the alphabet. The ancient world believed so solidly upon them, that their historians – Herodotus at the top of the list – used them in their histories. He said, more than once; ‘The history of these people as handed down by their tradition, is this: – but that is false; and in the stars it is written differently.’ And then he told the history of the people, as it was written in the stars – and not, as he had heard it on his travels.

 

Back then man had learned – already for thousands of years – how to calculate the procession of the stars, for the past as well as for the future. They were not that interested in the present – much more that which had been, and even more that which would be. In the stars stood the story of Jesus Christ – oh, with all the smallest details – and you can read them there today just as well as they could thousands of years ago before his birth. Isn’t it chiseled out in the clearest Sanskrit on that great stone in the Berlin museum? You only need to calculate the positions of the stars for this year or that one?

 

But then – a couple times in a century – there comes an entirely rare constellation – and it was such a one, which changed the entire world in the fourth century before Christ. Someone will come from out of the West: a young hero on a white horse. He will destroy empires – to him the gates of the cities will open and the armies will flee before him like chaff. And he came, the Macedonian Alexander, and fulfilled everything just like the eternal wisdom of the stars taught. A Russian, Murajeff, had calculated the dates, and everything was correct, down to the last detail, day after day. Why? Because the entire Orient knew the prophecy and firmly believed in it, because they had been expecting the conqueror for many years already. That was why the cities opened their doors to him, why the gigantic armies of the Persian King’s fled before a handful of Greeks. And King Alexander played his role as the emissary of the stars well enough, fulfilling – as much as possible, everything which had been prophesied by the astrologers, whose prophecies he knew so well, just like all the others. That’s why he cut the Gordian knot, and why he made the pilgrimage to the temple of Ammon! – The only flaw was that Alexander remembered a little too late his role as the young hero who had been promised to mankind; we know today, that he was nearly 50 years old and no longer young, when he marched his army against Persia. Perhaps he used makeup and powder – but, whatever he did to hide his age – he succeeded very well. – In the history books all over the world he is still described as the young, smiling, and radiant hero!

 

Because it is written in the stars – and it is the stars that are right – not reality.

 

The other important prophecy was that of the Messiah. The Jewish folk were feverish and excited during those years – the time of the stars had come – now he was there, the one sent by God, was in their midst. He appeared – not alone – there were several others like him. Didn’t John the Baptist go into the wilderness, didn’t he baptize with water – just as Jesus? And didn’t Josephus, the so-called Christ of the Jews, a little later lead exactly the same type of life as the Nazarene?

But why? Because – it is written in the stars.

Again and again the Bible tells us, that Christ did this or that – in order to fulfill what was written. Written where? – In the stars.

 

And so rock solid was this belief in the eternal stars, that the Alexandrian school did exactly the same thing as Herodotus: they corrected – according to the stars – the history of the apostles. And so – a few centuries later – the remarkable history of the performance of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple was included in the Gospel of Luke, like that of the flight into Egypt in the Gospel of Matthew.

 

 

These histories are written in the stars – every day they can be read again. The evangelist did not write it down? Well then, he must have forgotten – that’s why all the holes needed to be filled in.”

 

The little professor became warmer and warmer. His short arms waved around in the air, and he rocked back and forth on his broken chair. He spoke of the prophecies of the Aztecs and those of the Incas, which Cortez and Pizarro made good use of; he quoted one example after another from late Roman history and out of the Middle Ages, in order to prove, how magnificently every horoscope was fulfilled, as long as men did – what was written in the stars. He didn’t stop talking for a minute, making good use of the opportunity, gushing like a happy waterfall.

 

Frank Braun stood up, and laid a hand on his shoulder.

 

“I must interrupt you, professor,” he said, “I have an appointment –“

 

“But the goddess Labartu?” pleaded the other. “I still have to tell you, how the Phoenician Astarte –“

 

“Some other time,” he said, “some other time! I really don’t have any time today.”

 

Lotte van Ness adjusted her hat.

 

“Would you like to come with me for lunch, doctor?” she said. “You can tell me about all of that.”

 

“You?” he asked. “Are you interested in that?”

 

She smiled: “I believe – yes. I will report everything back to him.”

 

Professor von Kachele searched for his hat, and finally found it in a wastebasket.

 

They went up the steps and climbed into the auto. Lotte van Ness had them stop at Tiffany’s, climbed out, and immediately came back again with a little box in her hand. She opened it, and took out a slender, golden necklace, which held a small nondescript crystal. She showed it to the professor, and asked:

 

“I had this made – do you know what it is supposed to be?”

 

Doctor von Kachele examined this crystal:

 

“You had a Griffin engraved on it,” he said slowly. “A Griffin – do you have a baby?”

 

Frank Braun laughed. “A baby? No, she doesn’t. Why do you ask?”

 

Lecturing again, a finger on his nose, the professor explained:

 

“That is a Phoenician superstition from Trecento, which presumably the Crusaders brought out of Syria – this thing here – is supposed to bring ample milk to women!”

 

Lotte Lewi nodded, took the necklace, put it around her neck.

 

“You are right,” she said.

 

Frank Braun stared at her:

 

“Lotte, you – you need milk?”

 

“Yes,” she said quietly. “Milk. – For my child. A lot of milk – red milk.”

 

*       *

*

 

 

“Nonsense,” Frank Braun thought. “Foolish nonsense!”

 

But he could not get rid of the thought. Again and again his eyes wandered to the beryl which Lotte had given him. And he remembered the old stones in her breastplate.

 

The next day he again descended into Kachele’s Cave.

 

“Tell me professor,” he asked, “is it possible that precious stones actually possess the strange properties which superstitious people have ascribed to them through the ages? What I mean is – do you know of any actual case? Is it possible?”

 

The little professor coughed.

 

“Why not? Every child knows the strange properties of minerals – everyone has at one time played with a magnet and iron nails, or thrown sodium or potassium into a washbasin to watch it burn! All children have played with Mercury which is always in a liquid state, or set fire to magnesium because it burns with a brighter flame than daylight. Aren’t those marvelous properties? Practically every mineral has its marvels – and we only know about a few of them precisely. All metals oxidize except gold which does not combine with oxygen. Think of the silent emanations of radium, or consider iridium which does not dissolve in any acid, not even in aqua regia. And what about calc spar with its double refraction – and tourmaline, which becomes electric by heating, and topaz which becomes electrified by rubbing! Hornblende does not burn, meerschaum is hygroscopic and turns into a jelly when dissolved. – There are marvels wherever you look.”

 

“Even healing properties?” asked Frank Braun.

 

The professor laughed.

 

“But Doctor, you know that as well as I do! Haven’t you ever taken sodium sulfite which is much more effective than castor oil? Haven’t you ever used carbolic acid, and learned about its disinfecting qualities? Consider this – what would medicine do without minerals! Caustic potash, caustic soda, silver nitrate, all have a caustic effect; millions of people use mercury, and even more eat iron. Carlsbad, Vichy and all the other mineral waters are used for thousands of diseases. And there are still physicians – and authorities among them – that are solidly convinced, that you can cure all the diseases in the world with iodine and arsenic!”

 

“But then,” Frank Braun said hesitatingly, “then it would be quite possible that –”

 

“That some of the strange properties which our ancestors ascribed to precious stones are true? Without any question! Much of it is pure imagination, certainly; and often quite childish. But much, much might very well be true. And as you know Doctor, our so-called exact science is often childish enough: it is only true until we discover something to prove that it isn’t.”

 

*       *

*

 

Ch7-B A Horoscope

She bent over toward him.

 

“You are lying!”

 

“You don’t believe me?” he asked. Then he acted wounded, attempting a genuinely sad face. But she laughed out loud at him.

 

“I was right! – You were an agent down there for your country. Every day the newspapers talk about how the Germans are down there trying to incite against us.”

 

“Child,” he said – and this time it rang serious – “your newspapers lie every day. The Germans in Mexico are happy that they still have their lives: they were long ago made beggars through the revolution, which Wall Street created. There is only one down there that is inciting the Mexicans – the Yankee.”

 

She sounded very snobbish: “Inciting against ourselves?”

 

He nodded: “It will come out in the end.”

 

He became silent; he could tell that she still wasn’t convinced.

 

“I was with Evangeline Adams,” she said after a while. “I had my horoscope done. And yours.”

 

“You too?” he thought.

 

He asked: “Who did you have do them?”

 

She said: “Mrs. Cochrane, Doctor Deed and Otis. They all said different things.”

 

“And you still go to them?” he cried.

 

“Naturally.” she laughed. “Tomorrow I’m going to Sullivan.”

 

*       *

*

 

That – and certainly only that – Lotte van Ness had learned in America. Her library, her work and studies, her restless battles and researches in all these crazy books – that was European: German and Jewish. But she traveled around, almost every day, going to one or another of the many swindlers, which sold childish phrases for good money. That belonged to something else – that was the grand style of the New York upper class.

 

Nowhere, in no country and in no city of the world where there are as many swindlers as here. The rascals pursued their shameless and base handiwork with naïve cheekiness – mostly with old women – here and there even a man. There were several thousand of them in all quarters of the giant city: horoscope tellers, oracles, fortune tellers, secret counselors, occultists, psychologists, Chiromancers, spiritualists, prophets, Theosophists – and with no end. This included the dirty, ragged women, that hussled people on the streets, offering to read palms for a couple of nickels, to the highly renowned professor Reese, whom they called the brain of the world. And they all earned good money, from quarters up to ten thousand dollar checks.

 

– She had dozens of horoscopes done – each one always stupider, always more childish than the last. She scanned them quickly, then tore them up. It was really astounding, what they came up with.

 

And still she kept going from one to another, always getting new ones –

 

Once Frank Braun told her: “There is one, just one single person in New York, who can really cast a horoscope. I met him yesterday on the street – he is an acquaintance of mine from Europe. He is the only one, that is not a swindler and really understands something about it – but he will tell you right out, that it’s all nonsense.”

 

“Take me there,” she demanded.

 

*       *

*

 

Lotte van Ness picked him up the next day.

 

“Well, what’s the name of your magician?”

 

He replied: “Baron Otto von Kachele, university professor, Doctor of medicine and philosophy.”

 

“A university professor?” she asked.

 

He nodded.

 

“In South Germany – in Heidelberg, I believe, or in Freiburg – that was before my time. When I made his acquaintance, he was a spa Doctor in Thüringen.”

 

He told her the story of the man, while she drove through the streets. And it occurred to him, that he could tell many hundred such stories – all different in the middle, but all the same at the beginning and at the end. The beginning: a sunny rise in the homeland – good family, golden youth, work and passion. And then, at some time the tempest, the storm, the coming to America. And the end: a miserable arrival in this giant city, a pathetic, painful slow death through the long years. Deeper and deeper –

 

This one was a professor, master and doctor. As a student he had written for many learned periodicals, made a name for himself, became a private lecturer and a professor. He was comfortable enough, married a blonde, young thing, which adored him and cared for him. The path of his life appeared easy and even.

 

Then suddenly he lost his professorship, had to leave the city, overnight. Something had happened – and there were rumors – but no one spoke them aloud. They wanted to retain him, give him every further opportunity. He took an inferior position in a spa, continued his studies, and became world-renowned as an Egyptologist and Assyrian expert. He spent his money buying were rare antiques; but as a doctor he developed a very large practice in a short time, that gave him every possible comfort. Only, he didn’t do anything. He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t gamble, didn’t travel – never looked at women, not even his own. Nothing held the smallest interest for this man, only his Sanskrit and hieroglyphs. What he was really sparse with was time not gold, he gave that out freely with full hands, while he worked through the nights.

 

Then – he was arrested, taken before the court, – and tried – he had raped one of his patients. In the beginning he attempted to lie – then confessed to everything, no longer defended himself behind the closed doors. In prison he was granted every possible facility, was brought all the books that he wanted, and allowed to work to his heart’s content – there he wrote a monumental work on Assyrian horoscopes. Yes, they even went so far as to permit him to resume his practice – he began in a different city, and in a short time again had a splendid practice.

 

It lasted two years – then the district attorney received a new complaint. It was exactly the same: he had again abused a woman, while she was under ether. Young, beautiful? Oh no – she was over sixty years old and horribly ugly – she was suffering from nose cancer.

 

The district attorney knew him well – and would have gladly saved him! He hesitated a moment, then had a warrant sworn out – for the next morning. But that evening he went to the pub and talked about it –

 

And the others sat around: the judge, head Forrester, physicians –

 

What would happen next? Long years in prison? Or an insane asylum for life? One of them went to him that night – and spoke with him. The professor was perfectly reasonable and not at all insane. But when the talk came around to what he had done, he slowly shook his head.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

That same night they helped him get away, and after two days he was on the ocean.

 

And now he had been in New York for several years. The money, which his wife had brought with her, was long used up, and what he possessed of antiques had to be sold far below their value. His escapades in Europe were no obstacle here – no one knew anything about them. But he could not start a practice again – he would’ve had to take all the examinations over again. Thousands of German doctors had done that and it would’ve been just as easy for him – as it had been for all the others. But: he didn’t speak any English. He read fluently anything in Sanskrit, runes and hieroglyphs, understood Phoenician, Ethiopian and Coptic – his English remained entirely terrible. And – perhaps he was a little afraid of himself. Couldn’t what had happened to him three times before happen again to him any day? He was afraid of practicing medicine – afraid of the hateful animal, that slumbered somewhere inside him.

 

So he plodded along. Like before he wrote very erudite papers for all kinds of scientific journals, like before was a corresponding member of all kinds of learned society. But in order to live, he did anything the moment offered. He invented a new gold mixture for dental fillings and sold it to a dentist who had it patented and made twenty thousand dollars on it – Doctor Kachele himself received fifty dollars as his share.

 

A swindle doctor, who was striving for a professorship chair in orthopedics at the Columbia University, gave him a contract to write a history of this healing art and promised him a hundred dollars for it. He was very unsatisfied with him, because he had hoped that the manuscript would be ready in three weeks at the latest – and the German professor needed almost a year for it. He worked through the nights, discovered perplexing annotations about foot ailments in Babylonian and Assyrian times, developed the material with a thoroughness, as if it dealt with a treatment that would rid the world of consumption. When he finally delivered his pages, the American was beside himself with indignation: the book was much too long and in addition had a crowd of illustrations – that would make it more expensive to publish. He deducted fifty dollars because of that and another thirty, because an English translation would need to be prepared. There was one other condition: his own picture with the signature. – The work was published – naturally with the purchaser’s name as the author; it won a prize in Harvard and the orthopedic chair was created for him at Columbia University. And then the Yankee showed himself as a gentleman – he sent the professor a copy, which bore on the first page a very respectful dedication: “To my dear friend.” And with it was a ten dollar bill.

 

But even such work was a rare stroke of luck. The learned Baron made his living with urine analysis. Day in and day out – for all kinds of doctors and quacks – he received one dollar for each analysis.

 

They walked down the steps, right out from the street – seventeen steps. Down below in the basement was the laboratory. The poor professor sat on a stool without a back, his hands on his knees, bent over, as if half asleep, among his tumblers, retorts, flasks and test tubes, that shone in an unnatural ultraviolet light like poisoned moonlight. His hollow cheeked features were very ugly, with a long, unkempt beard and dirty, grizzled hair on his head. Shortsighted, bright yellow eyes, peered over steel rimmed glasses.

“Doctor,” Frank Braun called to him, “how are you?”

 

The little professor jumped up, and reached out both hands to him.

 

“It is so nice that you came to see me, so nice. – I found the information that you are asking about, I have written it all down for you.”

 

He ran to the back, picked up a manuscript from a table, a complete thirty pages.

 

“There,” he cried. “Here you have it all! – Your voodoo priestess, the Mamaloi, cannot be anything else than a human personification of the Coptic Berzelia – and much further back – is the wife of Moloch, whom the Greeks call Basileia. I assure you, we have a straight line – no not straight, it is much more very crooked – from the Babylonian goddess Labartu up to the child sacrifices of Haitian voodoo! And the remarkable inversion, that the blood demanding Astarte gives her own blood, when –“

 

Frank Braun interrupted him:

 

“Thank you, Professor, you can tell me about all that later. Today I would like something else from you. This lady here –“

 

He introduced Mrs. van Ness. Kachele turned around, then noticed for the first time that there was a woman in his basement. He reached out his hand to her, but he didn’t greet her – bitterly disappointed that his lecture had been interrupted.

 

“Come now,” Frank Braun mollified him, “don’t be angry, Professor! I have explained to Mrs. van Ness, that you are the only person alive who can cast a horoscope – strictly scientific and without a swindle.”

 

“What?” cried the little man. “Scientific and without a swindle? To examine old horoscopes, that is science, but to cast new ones is always a swindle! Aren’t there enough stupid asses in New York who get rich by casting horoscopes for still bigger asses? Why did you come to me? You have gotten lost, right next door lives such a magician – every hour of the day I see elegant autos pass by. – I can mix you up some toothpaste, if you want, or give you something for eczema – I will analyze your urine – real cheap! That is honest work! But –”

 

Frank Braun cried: “Don’t get excited, Baron, it’s not worth it! If you don’t want to do it, you don’t need to!”

 

“No, I don’t want to!” shouted the professor.

 

“All right, all right!” Frank Braun calmed him. Then he added quickly: “This is a big laboratory – it’s a pity that it has no daylight. – Do you live here too, Professor?”

 

“No,” he snarled, “I have another room on 40th St.”

 

Frank Braun held him solidly.

 

“One room – for you and your wife? – How is she?”

 

“Bad,” hissed the professor.

 

“Is she sick?” he asked.

 

Doctor von Kachele shrugged his shoulders.

 

“Is that any wonder, considering the life that we lead?”

 

Now he had him, right where he wanted. He stepped up close to him, and said slowly and with emphasis:

 

“your wife is sick – under nourished probably – just like yourself! And you have the courage, out of false pride, to refuse a contract that could bring you a lot of money?”

 

The little professor pulled his head into his coat collar, and then poked it out like a turtle.

 

“A lot of money, you say? – How much money?” he demanded.

 

“How long would it take?” Frank Braun asked back.

 

The professor thought for a moment.

 

“If I should be really serious about it – look up all the old charts –” he took out his handkerchief, polished his glasses, then wiped the sweat from his forehead. “It will take at least three months,” he continued, “perhaps four, if I am to do it properly.”

 

“I’ll pay you ten dollars a day – for four months!” said Mrs. van Ness.

 

He calculated.

 

“That – that would be – over twelve hundred dollars –“ he stammered.

 

She nodded: “do you accept?”

 

“Yes!” he cried out loud. “I –“ but he interrupted himself suddenly. “Doctor,” he began hesitantly and clumsily, “I have known you for ten years now – but – we have never had any business dealings with each other –” he cleared his throat, tried to work up his courage, and began again. “You see, I have been cheated of my reward so often in this country –” his voice broke, became horse and very bitter – “always – always!”

 

Lotte van Ness pulled out her checkbook, wrote, and handed a check over to him.

 

“Here, Herr professor. And please, don’t begin until you have cashed it. That way you can be certain.”

 

He nodded, mechanically, almost without understanding. He folded the check and put it carefully away in his wallet. Then he took a pencil from the table, and walked over to the whitewashed wall. He drew a large, clumsy circle and within that the twelve houses.

 

“Does the lady know, what a horoscope is?” he asked.

 

Frank Braun laughed.

 

“I hope so. She has already had a hundred done – from your competitors.”

 

The professor wagged his head back and forth.

 

“Basically they are just as good, as the one that I am going to make for you – from the stars. Whether I sit down and fantasize something for you in five minutes – or whether I put together in a longer work after finding out all the old Assyrian rules, what the stars signify in your hour of your birth – that is something completely different! It all depends on you, gracious Frau! You can have it done, like Alexander the great did – or like Jesus of Nazareth – then your horoscope will be accurate! Mine or that of the smallest fortuneteller on Coney Island –” he had completely regained his equilibrium.

 

“Would you like to hear?” he asked. “For just a quarter of an hour? I must tell you, what you will get for your money! – Sit down please, sit down!”

 

 

Ch7-A Back Home

Chapter 7

 

Crystals

 

“In a very secret manner the Wesir,

Who is threefold wise, created a mirror for himself

Out of purest mountain crystal. – And when the Shah

Cast a glance into this magic mirror,

The book of destiny of the seven worlds,

Which is seven times hidden, lie there open –“

 

Dschami, Salamân and Absal

 

Ernst Rossius met him at the station.

 

“How is it going with our detectives?” Frank Braun asked him.

 

“Fine, thank you,” the secretary said. “They will be glad to see you back, Doctor – dead or alive!” He stepped back, staring at his superior. “Really – more dead than alive! You look –”

 

“Never mind, say it!”

 

“Like sour beer and spit!” the secretary burst out.

 

Frank Braun thought: “As long as it is nothing worse!” He had been forced to stop on the way, spending three days in bed in a St. Louis hotel. But the rest had not done him any good; he still felt just as tired, just as worn-out and empty as before.

 

Lotte van Ness was not nearly as worried as Rossius. Frank Braun thought:

 

“She only pretends, because she doesn’t want to scare me. That’s silly, because there are mirrors, after all! Besides, I’m not frightened at all.”

 

That night he lay on the sofa with his head in her lap while she took his hands in hers and softly stroked his forehead. He told her about Mexico and about Poncho Villa.

 

She asked: “His name was Colonel Pearlstein, you say?”

 

He nodded and smiled. It was a fixed idea of hers that the Jews would do it – would help Germany. And she believed that this Jew Pearlstein would lead the Mexicans into Texas, and in that case the English and Italians, the Russians and French would get no more war supplies; and then Germany would win the war.

 

“And if Villa burns down ten Yankee cities, the English lackey that sits on George Washington’s chair still won’t do anything. Never, never!” Frank Braun thought.

 

But he did not say it; he let her dream.

 

He felt quieter and stronger, his brain cleared when her slim hands touched him; he softly kissed the tips of her fingers.

 

“Where is your little knife?” she asked. He gave it to her; she hesitated for a moment, then opened it quickly.

 

“It is entirely clean!” she cried happily. But then – in the same breath she sighed: “poor boy!”

 

“What is that thing supposed to be?” he asked. “Is it a magic mirror? Does it get stains when I am unfaithful to you?”

 

She nodded. “Yes – it get stains, large, ugly stains. But it is not a magic mirror – it stains are perfectly natural. Any little knife in the world would do me the same service.” She put it back in his pocket. “Guard it well; someday it will be bloody!”

 

She got to her feet quickly, kissed the question away from his mouth.

 

“Get up, my friend, dinner awaits!”

They ate and drank in silence. He reached for her hand across the table – he felt              at home now, quiet and peaceful – like at mother’s.

 

And at the same time, felt as if he had never held another woman in his arms.

 

Only her – Lotte Levi.

 

She had made herself beautiful for him – he noticed now for the first time. She looked radiant and exciting – she had never been so beautiful before.

 

Once she asked: “Are you glad to be back?”

 

He only nodded.

 

She dropped raisins in the champagne glasses; the raisins filled with air and swam like little silver fishes in the golden wine. They fished them out with their tongues, held them between their lips and munched them – from each other’s lips.

 

“Come!” she said.

 

*       *

*

 

 

 

He rubbed his half-awake eyes – sat up in the large bed. The sun shone warmly through the yellow curtains – how late was it?

 

He closed his eyes, trying to think, trying to remember the stray thoughts of this night. But he could only remember the dream he had had.

 

He had dreamed of the dancer, the Goyita – Dolores Echevarria. He had dreamed of her as she danced the rumba, of her neck and her breasts, of the tiny red wound with the single drop of blood –

 

No – that was not true. He had not seen her in his dream; he had not seen her eyes and he had not seen her dance –

 

He was fantasizing that now; he was daydreaming.

 

He had dreamed only of her smooth white breasts and of the small blood red scar –

 

He laughed and opened his eyes wide. “And it hadn’t even been there!”

 

He looked around – there was a dark red stain on the white pillow, a little smeared, like a streak.

 

Had he seen that while he was half asleep? Was that what had caused his dream?

 

He jumped out of bed – where was Lotte? Her clothes lay scattered around the room, on the sofa, on chairs and on the carpet – her shoes and stockings, corset and dress.

 

He took a bath, dressed and went into the dining room. The maid brought him tea and asked him to wait, Madame was getting ready. So he had breakfast alone and it tasted better than it had for weeks.

 

Had he really been sick and tired? He – yesterday? He could not imagine how he had felt yesterday – he was feeling so fresh and healthy now.

 

He went into her library, walked around, and read the titles of the books piled over her desk.

 

– Sancti Petris Epiphanii Episcopi Cypri Ad Diodorum Tyri Episcopum, De XII Gemmis, quae erant in veste Aaronis. Ah, that was about the breastplate.

 

“She takes it seriously,” he thought.

 

There was Franciscus Rueus’ curious book and a treatise on precious stones by Bishop Marbod of Rennes. He also saw the Hortus Sanitatis of Johan of Cuba, the grand Lapidaire of Jean de Mandeville’s, and the famous Speculum Lapidum of Camillus Leonardus. On a chair by the desk lay Cardano’s book and close by were the works of Konrad von Megenberg. On the shelves he saw Josephus Gonellus, De Boot, Volmar, Finot, Kunz, Morales and many other authors – all the men who had written about precious stones.

 

On the other side of the library, there were entire shelves full of volumes dealing with prophecies, secret revelations of the future, horoscopes, and divination. There was Albertus Magnus, of course, the magic book of Ragiel, Plotinus, Jamblichos, Dionysios the Areopagite, Paracelsus, Eliphas Levi. He noticed a surprising number of Gnostics, but there were also representatives of the Indian, Babylonian, Talmud – Jewish and Alexandrian school, as well as Christian mystics. And in all the books there were bent corners, reading marks, and pencil notations on the margin.

 

“What is she looking for?” he wondered.

 

*       *

*

 

 

He did not wait for Lotte. His secretary telephoned and asked him to come home to speak with a couple of men who were urgently waiting for him. He drove to 23rd St. and shook hands with the detectives in front of the door. Then he talked to the men and gave them a short report. In the evening he met Ivy Jefferson and her mother at the Claremont on the Hudson; Mrs. Jefferson’s beau, the English consul general, was also there.

 

“You look splendid!” Mrs. Jefferson said. “Sparkling like champagne!”

 

He smiled. He must have changed considerably in the past twenty-four hours. Only yesterday he had looked like sour beer.

 

“Thank you!” he said. “And you also seem –”

 

But she didn’t let him get a word in.

 

“It must have been marvelous on the West Coast!” she interrupted him. “It is a shame that we have never been there. I hope you accomplished your work in California!”

 

“Califor –”

 

He felt Ivy’s foot on his.

 

“Of course you did! You sent us such pretty postcards – from Los Angeles and San Diego.”

 

He returned the slight pressure of her foot.

 

“Yes, of course! Everything went beautifully. California is a lovely place –”

 

As they were leaving, he saw Farstin step out of her car, accompanied by two women. She gave him a quick glance which he failed to understand, and brushed past him. But then she changed her mind, turned around and looked at Ivy Jefferson, measured her from head to foot and greeted him with a mocking smile.

 

“Do you know her?” Ivy asked.

 

He nodded.

 

The car drove up and he helped Mrs. Jefferson in. Then he turned and offered his hand to Ivy.

 

“No,” she said. “Mother is driving with her beau. I have my new car here. I wanted to show it to you.”

 

She climbed into the left side of her big new Packard, took the wheel and invited him to sit beside her. Then she turned and followed her mother’s limousine.

 

“You were in Mexico,” she said.

 

“So you spied on me!”

 

“No, I didn’t at all. It was the easiest thing in the world to find out.”

 

“How?”

 

She smiled.

 

“Didn’t you have your secretary send me a couple of letters? With the pretty heading: “somewhere”? He put your letter into another envelope and sent the letter to me just as you had ordered. But I called him up from Newport and asked him to telephone me every time a letter came for me. And the next time –“

 

“You told him that you were coming to town!” he finished her sentence. “And asked him to lunch – where?”

 

“At Delmonico’s, of course. He was to bring me the letter. He did – and three minutes later I knew where you were.”

 

“And what else did he tell you?”

 

“Nothing else! Unfortunately! I could not get any more out of him – and I really flirted quite nicely – with your kind permission. He made a slip in the beginning, but afterwards he was a bitter disappointment. By the way, I told everyone that you are in California.”

 

He whistled.

 

“Why didn’t you tell them where I was? It is no secret. I just wanted to see a bullfight again – that was all.”

 

“And you needed almost ten weeks for that?” Ivy persisted.

 

“Certainly!” he said calmly. “I had to wait until there was one.”

 

Ch6-G The Rumba

She wore a short, white muslin skirt and a blouse of the same material that was cut like a man’s shirt, but open in the front. A blue silk shawl was wound tightly around her hips and she wore a blue silk cloth of the same material around her neck. A third blue cloth was wound around her forehead, covering her hair, and tied at the back in a knot. The ends of it hung down to the nape of her neck. Her costume was that of a peasant girl, from the vaudeville stage, of course. The dancer carried a little basket in her hand; she made a few practiced movements, that were supposed to indicate that she was coming home from work in the field and that it was very hot. Why the heat should make her feel like dancing was not made very clear – without any plausible reason she decided to do it anyway. She threw her little basket away, pulled off the kerchief around her neck, and fanned herself a couple times with it, as if she was wiping the sweat away, and then threw it after the basket. The Goyita went through this little prologue without much enthusiasm, and with rather stiff movements. But you could understand the meaning of it: it was very hot – that was why she was very lightly dressed, with only a skirt and blouse. And: she wanted to dance.

Then she stepped out into the center, threw a glance to her organ grinder, and waited for the beat.

But suddenly, on a wave from the general, all the officers stood up with him.

“Viva la Goyita!” they cried. They emptied their glasses, and held them high in their hands.

Colonel Pearlstein went up to her, and handed her a full glass. And she took it, drank it down to the last drop.

“Viva Villa!” she answered.

She gave the glass back, and threw a quick glance around her. Stamped her feet, and cried out loud: “Send the women out, General!”

He could understand that! – No, she would not dance the rumba in front of them, not in front of prostitutes!

So the women had to go, out into the garden – had to wait outside.

Only then did she begin.

Slowly, step-by-step, stretching and weaving, but subtle and lithe. Gradually her movements became faster, more sweeping and curving. Ripples passed down both arms and down her entire body, from her throat to the tips of her toes, as if snakes were swiftly gliding down her body. And – in sharp contrast to that, was the motion of her shoulders, short, quick, and strangely angular. This was no dance of the hips or the belly. Not one where you kicked up your legs, lifted your arms over your head and made provoking gestures with the head and hands. Even though all of that played a part, even though she pushed out her belly and pulled it back in, rolled her hips – lifted her arms and legs high in gestures of the tiresome heat, that sought coolness. But their gaze was drawn only toward her shoulders, to her shoulders and her breasts.

Then she danced faster, wilder, twirling, her hands placed solidly on her hips. Her shoulders jerked, flew back and forth, sprang out, then back – one – the other – and again, both. Then it opened – only for a brief moment – her unbuttoned blouse – showed a narrow strip of glowing white flesh, down to her waist.

Then, it wasn’t just the shoulders that were working, no, it was her entire chest. – The stretching became a quick jerking, the weaving and swaying became a fast heaving – it seemed, as if she were dancing with her lungs. Always twisting, ever wilder and faster –

And then it jumped – from out of her blouse with a quick twist of her left shoulder – one of her young breasts. There it was – peering out, for a second – quick, as radiant as the white blouse – then disappeared again. Just as quickly as it had come –

“Ah!” Exclaimed the officers. “Ah, oh!”

She danced on. Again and again. This twitching of her shoulders, this trembling of her breasts – and the undulations of her lower body. Again and again. This stretching that became a quick twitching – this wild jerking that dissolved once more into gentle, voluptuous swaying.

Every eye was on her, expectant, greedy and hungry, waiting for that quick moment, when they would spy one of her white breasts.

“The other one!” They cried hoarsely. “The other one!”

That was the game, that it always looked as if one of her breasts wanted to jump out of the protecting blouse – which then covered it back up, again and again.

“The other one!” They screamed.

And almost at the same time, as if on command – the right breast flew out of the blouse. Laughing, glowing – like cool marble – then hiding once more behind the thin cloth.

Poncho Villa jumped up from his chair, and bent forward. His fat eyes protruded from their sockets, the spittle ran out of his open mouth.

“Las dos!” He bellowed. “Both of them!”

And his people yelled after him: “Las dos! Las dos!”

All of the lecherous lust spread like thick fog through the wide room. It crawled into their noses and mouths, Clawed into their poor brains. These crude warriors, at who’s laughing words, thousands of cheeky prostitutes were prepared to obey, these robbers and bandits, that tore half-grown children away from their mothers and dragged nuns from out of their beds, to whom the flesh of women was as cheep and common as their dirty pulque schnapps – they trembled in reverent excitement over these two breasts. Their fat, hot hands groped after these snowy globes, their dark eyes leered after the white quarry that jumped out and just as quickly hit itself again, their tongues, protruded like those of bulls, thirsting after the sweet drink of those white buds. Their nostrils scented the perfume of cherry blossoms, their ugly ears drank in the dancing music of those white kittens that played hide and seek –

One – quick, quick – and then another – quick, quick –

Frank Braun saw how the lame general Alvaro Gumucio embraced a pillar with both arms, clinging to it, as if he feared to faint. He saw, how Poncho Villa pressed his knees on the shoulder of the soldier, that was couching next to him, pressing him down with the entire weight of his bulk, as if he wanted to squash him.

“Las dos!” Whispered the dictator. “Las dos!”

Colonel Pearlstein, who was standing next to him, had a guarded expression on his face. He was still smiling, critical and slightly mocking – but it seemed frozen, turned to solid stone. And his fists were cramped around the handle of his riding crop, bending it, twisting – as if he wanted to break it.

And it even tore him into the red fog. It was, as if he was breathing in hot lava, as if he would choke in the heat of all this passion. And only distantly – distantly – somewhere in the clouds behind the eternal desert beckoned a white coolness –

White,white – there was white somewhere in the infinite distance – shade and snow – innocence and purity – and – behind the marble and the swans and death’s cold grave clothes – was a release from all this burning torment. There somewhere, in the clouds that covered the moon – that wrapped the white glowing light in a radiant mystery – the great salvation –

Then he saw it – flying past like a shooting star in the November night – a little red strip in the middle of her breasts. A small wound, scarcely a half inch long – and a single drop of blood oozed out of it –

Something whipped him into a frenzy – something pulled him forward –

But he conquered it, clung with both hands to the arms of his chair. Held fast.

One – a glimpse – a glimpse – and then another – a glimpse –

Poncho Villa clenched his fists.

“Las dos!” He pleaded. “Las dos!”

Suddenly, with a jerk, she stopped as the music broke off. She drew herself up to her full height – her proud head flung far back – her deep blue, triumphant gaze over her slaves. She stood, threw her arms back, and then with a wild shudder pulled her shoulders back: and then they sprang out, both at the same time – her young breasts.

– No one laughed, no one said a word. There was only a deep, breathless silence.

Were they weeping? Down on their knees? – All of them?

*  *

*

The Goyita stepped back, threw a shawl over her shoulders, and sat down on her chair next to the organ grinder.

No one applauded; no one scarcely dared to make a move. It appeared as if they were petrified, the way they sat there and stood, spellbound and hypnotized for minutes.

Frank Braun thought: ‘She learned that from the animal trainer! – And she had surpassed her master! She understood how to tame the beast.’

The dancer stood up and slowly walked across the courtyard. Colonel Pearlstein, pushed a chair over for her, and she sat down. She said quietly:

“Give me something to drink. I am thirsty.”

The Colonel filled a glass, and she drank.

“It is your name day today, general – to your health!”

At that Poncho Villa woke up. He reached into the little basket, that the soldier held between his knees, and took out the black leather box, then handed it to her without a word. She took it, opened it, and then said with a smile –

“Am I supposed to shave?”

He was confused, like a schoolboy. He took the chest back, then grabbed the watches, bracelets and earrings that he had bought from the peddler and dropped them into her lap. He also pulled off the fat diamond rings from his fingers and threw them in as well. Colonel Pearlstein took chains and brooches out of his pocket, and also handed her a couple of thick packs of new Villa bills. Then the others all came up, filling her lap with jewelry and gold. But the general reached again into his wallet, and took out two hand fulls of gold pieces, and let them fall into her lap clinking. He laughed, happy at how the gold rang so prettily on the gold.

She called the organ grinder, who brought her purse. She put everything inside, carelessly, without looking.

“Thank you!” she said.

Only once and for everyone.

But it seemed as if the officers were anxious for the dancer to take their gifts. They pressed around, sitting, standing, attentive, like dear children in a circle.

‘These are robbers?’ thought Frank Braun. ‘Murderers and rustlers? – They are sweet little lambs!’

And the beautiful shepherdess held them all with the blue silk ribbon of her eyes.

“Drink!” she laughed. “Drink! Be happy, it is the general’s name day!”

Then they drank. No one thought to call the women back – oh no – the Goyita was here, who had danced the rumba for them. She sat with them; she drank with them, smoked with them, her, the Goyita –

Frank Braun toasted with her.

“Who remains from the circus?” he asked.

She returned his gaze. “Him there!” she answered, pointing at the organ grinder. “Him there – and no one else. – He was one of the stable boys. Now he is almost blind.”

“Blind?” he asked. “From the fever?”

She said: “I don’t know. He lay for a long time in the hospital in San Francisco – when he came out, that’s how he was. Now he travels around with me.” – She looked at him for a long time with her sapphire gaze – it seemed to him, as if a cool, blue water bathed him, washing away all the hot dirt.

“You have helped my priests,” she continued, “You are good, like the captain was. Like all the other Germans on that terrible ship.”
“What happened to the animals?” he interrupted her.

She explained:

“The captain helped me to sell them in San Francisco. Also, the tents and the cages – all of it. I received a lot of money – more than we believed. I have had Masses read for the souls of the director. And for Louison – and for all the others. – Only they didn’t want the tiger and didn’t want the wolf; they were both sick. I nursed them back to health – I had more luck with them than with poor little Louison.”

She spoke quietly and calmly, good-naturedly and indifferently, as if she was speaking of a long forgotten time.

“The tiger was bad tempered and ugly, clawed at me, was treacherous and mean. That’s why I sold him to the general – it is good that the bull conquered him. But the Wolf is thankful and good – he is my loyal animal.”

She told him of the captain of the Thuringia, of the officers and the crew. Told of her excursions in California and Texas, Sonora, and Chihuahua. And how she finally came to General Villa –

No one interrupted her, everyone listened quietly. Frank Braun kept his eyes on her, but it was not her blue eyes, that he sought. It was like a compulsion – he had to stare at her throat, lurking, waiting, to see whether her shawl might move. Because underneath was a small wound with a drop of blood: he must see it –

Finally, she stood up.

Your name day is today, General Villa, I will dance one more dance for you.”

She called to her organ grinder – he had fallen asleep on his chair.

“Leave him alone,” she said, “Don’t wake him up! Who wants to turn the organ?”

They all jumped for it, but tall Dominguez was the first to seize the handle.

She pulled off the light blue blouse, calmly, in front of all the men. She was so calm, so certain of her power over the men.

Frank Braun sharpened his gaze – but where was the little wound?

But this throat, and this bosom was white, blinding white. There was not the slightest red scratch anywhere.

He had dreamed it –

She wrapped a yellow shawl around her body, over her hips, breasts and shoulders. She stood up, and danced a short, simple Ole.

She took the flowers out of her hair, divided them, gave them to everyone. But Poncho Villa received the largest and the most beautiful one. She stepped again to the middle, and said:

“Another one from Sevilla – and then I’m done. – The one, the one they dance in Chipiona – for their Madonna.”

She danced, light footed and happy, bending and swaying softly. And she sang, a simple and naïve little Coppola:

“Morena, Morena eres,
Bendita tu, Morenura!
Que me tienes en la cama
Sin frio ni calentura!”

“Who is Morena?” Asked the general, “the brown haired one, of whom you sing?”

“Who?” She cried. “She is the mother of God, the brown haired mother of God from Chipiona!”

Once again, they raised their glasses, and drank once more to the dancer’s health.

General Villa cried: “I don’t want any more wine. Bring mescal schnapps!”

Frank Braun seized the colonel’s arm.

“Do you have mescal?” he asked. “I have been asking every person in the entire city for it. And no one can find me even a single button!”

The colonel laughed:

“We are not any better! The general is crazy about mescal – like every one of us. It is strongly commanded, that all of it should be delivered here, if we can find any – but no one can find anything, and nothing is ever delivered! What we call mescal schnapps, has nothing of mescal, other than the name – only one fruit in 100 liters of strong alcohol.”

The dancer lightly touched his arm.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“Mescal buttons!” he replied. “They are little fruits, from a type of cactus. The Indians call it peyote –”

She said: “I will find you some.”

He looked at her in astonishment. “You? Where?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “But I will find some.”

Then she left. She nodded lightly, and she smiled at those around her. But she didn’t shake hands with anyone.

Behind her went the organ grinder.

*   *
*

The women slowly sneaked back into the court, one after the other. It became loud again, wilder and noisier.

Then more dice throwing, card playing, yelling and singing –

The Saint was gone – and the silent church once more became a whorehouse.

They brought large bottles, thick bellied and heavy, and poured pungent fluid into the glasses, mixing it with wine. There were no corks stuck in the bottlenecks – but brown dried things, like little roots.

Colonel Pearlstein handed him one.

“What is this?” he asked. “But he didn’t try it.

“A finger!” laughed the adjutant. “A dried finger from a Yankee that we shot down at Naco!”

He asked: “Is that the general’s joke?”

“No,” cried Pearlstein, “Colonel Gumucio invented it; he maintains that the schnapps tastes better that way.”

He put one arm under his, “Come, Doctor, we will go. What’s going to happen here now – is not very enjoyable.”

They rode slowly to the city.

“What do you want with the mescal anyway?” asked the Jew.

He answered: “I was just reminded about it. I have not had any for a long time – at least ten years or more. And I thought, perhaps it might help when I have one of these damned attacks.”

Colonel Pearlstein shrugged his shoulders: “I don’t believe in that stuff. But it is true that all the Indians swear by it.”

He pointed with his riding crop to a couple miserable, completely destroyed and burned down walls.

“A large house once stood there,” he said. “It was that of the American consul. They tore it down to the ground.”

“And the consul?” he asked.

“He was lucky. Someone hid him, and helped him to flee – they would have shot him dead, if they had discovered him – so they vented their rage out on the stones. I think the Yankees will be receiving a lot of abuse from us!”

“All of them!” nodded Frank Braun. “Yet even if you shoot dead every single American in this land beginning with the consul  – President Wilson still won’t do anything.”

“Why not?” asked the Colonel.

Frank Braun said: “Pah, you know yourself! Because the Mexicans are supposed to kill themselves! Even more, because that’s the way England wants it – and, you see, colonel, the president and the entire government – and the entire ruling and rich classes in the United States – they make much, much money, when they do what London commands! What you receive in weapons and ammunition, is enough to make each of you dangerous to each other. Yet such shipments serve no purpose for the Yankee – in contrast – he earns one bloody million after the other on war supplies that he sends to Europe – against Germany and Austria, and for Russia and its friends. The war would have ended over there a long time ago, if America didn’t daily send so much to the Allies, as they do every year. That is Yankee land’s greatest business – and as long as that blossoms, they must have peace with you! – Because, you understand, Colonel, if America had to fight with you, they would need those weapons themselves and those munitions: In one blow the shipments overseas would be forbidden. But that would mean Germany’s victory. Only later, when you are entirely weak, will the American give you the mercy stroke from behind – that is when there will be order. But as long as the war lasts in Europe – you will have your beautiful piece; can plunder the consulate and murder Americans to your hearts content! The war, which you need to unite your country, the outside war – can be brought about only one way!”

“How?” asked the adjutant.

“Only one way –” repeated Frank Braun. “If Mexican troops attack Texas or California.”

Colonel Pearlstein didn’t answer, and remained quiet for a long time, became very silent and thoughtful. They rode through the streets without a word. They came to the fonda. Frank Braun climbed down, let his horse be brought to the stall, and shook hands with the adjutant.

“Good night,” he said.

The Colonel shook his hand, then whistled, and stroked the neck of his horse with the riding crop.

He spoke slowly:

“I am an American, was born in New York. I would be with them, riding behind the Star-Spangled Banner today, if they would have had me. They didn’t want me – pushed me away like a leper –”

He gave his animal a quick blow, that frightened it so that it jumped to the side. He corrected it quickly, turned around, and rode away at a trot.

Then he stopped suddenly, turned in the saddle, and cried loudly through the night:

“I will bring Poncho Villa across the border!”

.

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