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.”