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Archive for July, 2014

Chapter Five

 

“Things exist—because we see them.”

-Oscar Wilde:   Decline of the lie

 

The girl loosened the rope from the pier, sat down in the boat and took the oars. The German grasped the rudder and steered straight for the middle of the lake.

“All hands!” he called.

She laughed and pulled hard. She was strong and the boat glided straight across the lake, straight toward the western shore. He steered a fine curve so that they turned close under the cliffs and had to watch out sharply, the oar touched the water scarcely an inch away from the rock. In this way he urged her around the entire lake, close to the shore. They circled it for a second time. She grew warm, pulled up her sleeves and unbuttoned her blouse. Her muscles were tense and she pulled with all her might. But her eyes gleamed with pride when he praised her.

Among the reeds he had her place the oars in the boat. They lay quietly under the overhanging willows, the long branches of which built a dense shelter around them. The moon climbed above the mountains in the west and threw a hundred dancing silver flecks through the leaves. Behind them the Fiave leapt in long bounds from the cliff side, its roaring wrapped them as if in a great, gray cloak.

The girl left her seat and nestled at his feet. She threw her braids behind her and looked up at him.

“Tell me!” she begged, “Tell me the fairytale!”

“The fairytale?” he asked slowly. “Ah, it’s a sad story.”

His hand rested on her head and yet he did not feel her. He peered through the branches at the bright, quiet lake—and up at the moon. He felt very secure in his lonely hiding place in the Scodra valley, completely surrounded by mountains that reached to the heavens, well protected by the sky piercing hills. And he felt even more hidden in this green grotto—far from all life. Here he was safe from all men and no enemy could find him in this obscure corner. Here he was alone. Not entirely alone. No. But who was with him? There was someone who loved him, and gave his existence a calm and glad repose, Marfa, the goat, or the tom-cat, or even Teresa, any one of them. Each assuredly was a fragment of nature itself—so that the name of each did not matter. He only felt it. Something was there that had life and breath, that was strange and yet his very own, belonged to him. That was what he needed—a dumb thing which he could “speak” to.

He knew it well, this feeling that was peculiar to all men—this great yearning for confession.  Pious folk have an easy time, he thought, and go to their priest. And those who are not pious choose a confessor, too; they go to a mistress or a faithful friend who must hear them and absolve them. But he had neither a friend nor a mistress. Once upon a time he had had a poodle, and he had related many things to this animal’s large eyes. When it licked his hands, when it wagged its tail, then he felt absolved. But his poodle was dead.

He stroked Teresa as if she were a faithful dog. It seemed to him as if he were lying at home, as in the old days when he went to school. He used to lie on the soft skins in front of the fireplace in the evening twilight, when there was no one in the large house except himself and the black dog.

“Come, Ali, come,” he would say. “It’s so long since I’ve talked with you! Come, I have so much to tell you.”

The girl crouched quietly at his feet and did not move.

He spoke, “You see, my good Ali, it happened again. Do you remember how we went walking one evening last week, down by the castle? Then Thekla came! No, no, you didn’t know it; you were down in the garden chasing the ducks. Always after the ducks! Yesterday the police brought in a ticket once again! And we had to pay ten marks because it was the third time this autumn. Mother is angry and says she won’t pay it and I must get rid of you. But she will pay it, in the end, and I won’t get rid of you. Furthermore, what would it matter if we did get rid of you? You would just turn up again the next day.

Yes, you are well off! You don’t behave in the least like a well-bred dog. You ruin the flowerbeds and chase the ducks and tear the trousers of people whom you don’t like. You dirty the whole house, so that we can’t lay carpets on the stairs any longer. Twice a day the maids have to scrub the whole place on your account, and they need hours to keep you clean, you little pig! If I want two pairs of freshly polished boots a day, they grumble; but do any of them ever complain of the work that you cause them? They are proud if you condescend to enter the kitchen occasionally or accompany one of them a few blocks on the street. Yes, beat time with your tail! I know very well that that is your way of laughing out at me.

Come, be good, Ali! Tell me how you succeed in making all the people kind to you? For look, no one is kind to me, no one. They all torment me. They tread on me. They strike me.

Listen:

. . . So Thekla came along the moat of the old castle. I grew red and was embarrassed. I am always embarrassed. And why, dear dog? Why? Why do I always have this horrible feeling? If I want to buy a notebook, I stand at the shop window for fifteen minutes and dare not go in. I am embarrassed—if there’s company at home I don’t come out of my room. I am embarrassed.

And why? Why? I weep with rage and bite my handkerchief and it avails nothing . . . Thekla came. I was embarrassed, grew red and did not greet her. Then I followed her and tried to speak to her. She walked slowly and at the corner she waited a little. But I turned back and did not speak to her. I was embarrassed.

At home I wrote to her. Or rather, I intended to write to her. But nothing came of it; I was embarrassed to say that I was so embarrassed. So it came to pass that I wrote a poem. I copied it and sent it to her . . . And do you know, Ali, what she did? She gave it to her aunt! And her aunt sent it to my professor of mathematics, and he handed it to the director of the gymnasium. Now I am condemned to two hours’ imprisonment this Saturday and they will end by telling my mother, and that is the worst part. That, you see, is what happened.

Now tell me, what did I do to make them all so bad to me? If Thekla did not like my poem, why didn’t she tear it up? And her aunt—why didn’t she summon me? She comes to our house often enough! I would have gladly promised her to never write a poem for Thekla again. But no, she sent it to the gymnasium! If she had only given it to the professor of German or the professor of Greek—she knows them too! They would have both laughed and merely administered a reproof.

But no—she has to send it to that disgusting professor of mathematics! And do you know why? Because she knows very well that I have no ability in mathematics, and that the stupid fellow can’t endure me. That’s why! And he, of course, had to raise a great hue and cry and run to the director. And what did I do? I didn’t greet Thekla, that is true. But she knows very well that I would gladly have done so, and spoken to her too, and a great deal more. And then I wrote a poem for her. Surely that’s nothing bad either! I wrote it because I am fond of her and because I wanted to beg her pardon.

‘That was very improper’, said the director.

If I write poems at all, he said, there must, in the first place, be nothing about girls in them. Now I ask you, Ali, what else is there to put in them? I can’t write her a ballad about giants and knights! What would that have had to do with my not having greeted her and desiring to excuse myself!

‘And in the second place’, he said, ‘a poem of that kind should by no means be sent to anyone.’

But surely all the poets send their verses to those to whom they are addressed. One can’t possibly let them lie around until one has enough for a book!

No, I didn’t do anything wicked to Thekla. All summer long I cut roses in the garden daily. Mother scolded me because they disappeared. I sent them to her by her little brother. That’s what I did. She took them all and yet she betrayed me to her aunt. And no longer than three weeks ago I presented two of my white guinea pigs to this same old aunt, when she was visiting us. I even did a kindness once to the old professor of mathematics; he lost his handkerchief on the street the other day and I picked it up and took it to him.

Why is it then that they are all so wicked to me? Look, Ali, I am good to you, am I not? And I would like to be good to all men—but one may not be. They all do evil to me, all of them, except those who do not know me—you may well believe me, Ali, I don’t know a single human being who doesn’t do evil to me. Tell me how must one go about it to make them kind?”

He fell silent and his eyes looked longingly through the branches. The girl at his feet drank in his words. She didn’t understand what it was all about, but his gentle, sad voice brought tears to her eyes. She looked at him and saw his blond locks fall over his forehead, his youthful lips half-open over the polished teeth. His hands rested on his knees as if they held an open book, but he gazed over it far away. He looked like a lad of fifteen, sitting there before her, lonely, left for dead out in the wide world. She felt like jumping up and pillowing his head against her bosom, she felt like a mother toward this poor boy.

“Now I am back again,” said Frank Braun, “once more.”

“Come here; come close to me, my good dog! Do you know why I am so fond of coming back during the holidays? To see you, my dear old fellow. Why don’t I take you along to the university, like I used to do? You see, it can’t be done, really not! And what is there for you out in the world? Only myself! But here you have everything and may do everything you desire and are master! Out in the world you are only—a simple dog.

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He sighed and threw the cigarette out of the open window.

“That is to say,” he continued, “if I feel like it. Who knows whether either one of you will interest me tomorrow? Perhaps it’s not worth one’s trouble to make such puppets dance—who can tell? Perhaps you’re only stupid, commonplace, hysterical fodder for the clinics of curious physicians! For, you see, my child, on that stage where I am master there is no room for the trivial! The actions must be tragic and fatal and significant!”

He pointed with his finger through the window to the village and the lake.

“Look over there, little puppet,” he cried. “There is your stage! Will you dance? A line dance together with your Mr. Peter? The whole village will be your chorus.”

He laughed aloud.

“Ah, it will become a fine play. For I am no physician, thank heaven; I am a charlatan. But only a charlatan can work miracles.”

He fell silent and went up to her.

“Come, my child,” he said. “We will go one step further.”

He laid his right hand on her head, stroked it with his index finger and created a gentle stimulation. After a few moments her eyes were entirely closed, she drew a deep breath and her lethargy vanished. He made several experiments, more as a matter of habit than to convince himself of the appearance of the third phase of her sleep. He ascertained the fact that by means of a gentle stimulation of the skin the muscles of the somnambulist contracted, and relaxed again just as easily through the same motion. He addressed her, gave her a few commands; she answered softly and immediately executed whatever he desired. But this ceased to amuse him, and he thought of waking her up again. And quite superficially, without any real faith in its success, he made one further experiment.

He commanded her to open her eyes wide. And suddenly, without any transition, he put his face quite close to hers, gazing at her straight and piercingly. Her cheeks flushed, all her blood rose to her head. Her pupils were remarkably dilated. He grasped her hand, without lowering his gaze, and took her pulse—a hundred and twenty-five beats. And now she clung to his glance. He walked backward; the girl followed him, her head stretched forward, her shoulders drawn up and her arms hanging limp beside her body. Her face seemed strangely empty, her features immobile. Her eyes were fixed, not a fiber of her body quivered, not a word issued from the harshly closed lips. Her expression was stony, and just one thought arose in her brain: not to lose this gleaming point—his eyes—even if it were to cost the world.

And that was the success of the experiment: the girl knew what was happening to her. Her consciousness was excessively clear; the smallest movement was stamped upon her brain. He strode up to her, pinched her arm, took a sharp knife from the table and pricked her twice and three times so that the blood flowed brightly. She saw it and knew what he was doing, but she felt no pain and it was not unpleasant to her. She did not even feel fear—she hung upon his eyes, immovable, fixed, as a little bird upon the eyes of a snake.

Frank Braun still held her with his eyes. But now his expression became happy, quietly smiling, a great joy like exquisite warmth seemed to arise in him.

“Her trance!” he murmured. “Oh, the girl is splendid—she is splendid!”

He took her head in his arms and gently blew on her eyes. She awakened at once. The fixed expression was lost, all her mobility returned. She seemed astonished and confused but not fearful.

“What did you do with me?” she asked.

He answered, “You know.”

Then he lifted her arm and kissed away the blood from the wounds.

“Did it hurt?” he asked.

She smiled, “No, not at all! But why did you do it?”

“Why?” he laughed. “Why? I don’t know. And if I knew and were to tell you, you would not understand it anyhow. May I do anything I please with you?”

She kissed both of his hands.

“Certainly,” she said, “you may do anything that you desire.”

He thought:

“How touching! With your kind permission and your father’s and your father confessor’s! Well, I didn’t get your permission this time until after the feast!”

But aloud he said, “Thank you, it’s very dear of you. Someday soon we will go to one of the American’s meetings.”

She lowered her eyes and made no answer. Her breasts rose and fell and he saw how she struggled.

Finally she said quietly, “Yes.”

“You still have a trace of will left, haven’t you?” he asked softly. “Come here my child.”

He drew her to him and lightly passed his hand over her head and face, her shoulders, arms and breasts. He stroked her gently here and there, seeking a spot highly sensitive to hypnotic stimulation. Finally he found one at the base of the cushion of her left thumb. He pressed the spot lightly and the girl at once fell asleep. But immediately he blew upon her and awakened her again.

“Now she is my slave,” he thought.

“Listen, I’m terribly hungry!” he said. “Aren’t we going to have anything to eat this evening?”

“Of course we are,” she cried. “I’ll hurry to the kitchen right away! Everything will be ready in a moment.”

“Hurry then,” he said, “and then we’ll take the boat and go out on the lake. You are to row, and I will tell you stories. Do you want to?”

She fell upon his neck.

“Do I want to!”

He kissed her gently, “But I’m not going to tell you all that confusing stuff about my work. I’ll tell you a real fairytale.”

And the girl cried out in her joy, “Yes—yes! A fairytale! A fairytale!”

He stepped to the window and saw her hurrying to the garden to pick strawberries. Then a boy came running up to her and in both hands brought her  great bunches of white currant twigs. He recognized him; it was the small boy whom he had seen on that first day when he had arrived in the valley.

He beckoned to him and asked, “What’s your name?”

Teresa looked up.

“He doesn’t understand,” she said. “His name is Gino: he is deaf and dumb.”

She stroked his cheek and made signs to him with her fingers; then the boy looked up at the window, blushed and bowed in awkward embarrassment.

Frank Braun asked, “Is he your protégé?”

The girl nodded, “Yes, he is. He is a parish child and has neither father nor mother; no one pays any attention to him.”

Again she made signs to him with her hands; his emaciated face beamed and he ran quickly to the kitchen. The German descended the stairs. He threw a glance into the kitchen. The little fellow lay there on the floor beside the hearth and the kindling wood. The farmhand entered, took a heavy basket from his shoulders and threw the heavy wood from it onto the floor. Marfa, the goat, followed him.

“Hey, Angelo!” Frank Braun called out to him. “How is Venier’s wife?”

The fellow stood still and pulled his shoulders up; a broad imbecile grin settled down over his face, as always. Frank Braun saw this stupid laugh—wasn’t it possible, just once, to throw this eternal, dull equanimity out of gear? A mood of childlike wantonness overcame him. He leaped down the stone steps and turned somersaults in front of the house like a maddened top. Then he pulled the grinning fellow out of doors, stood him up and jumped over him. Finally he stood on his head, ran up and down on his hands, and sang and roared like one possessed.

Teresa came back from the garden with a basket of strawberries in her hand; for a moment she stared in astonishment at his wild activity; then she cried out with delight and sat down on the stone bench laughing. The boy Gino looked out of the door, his black eyes sparkled; he clapped his hands for joy. But the farmhand stood speechless and stupid as a huge block of wood and didn’t move. Frank Braun sprang to his feet and turned a mighty somersault that landed him close to Angelo.

“Well, Angelo,” he cried, “how do you like that?”

The man grinned sheepishly.

“Sir,” he stammered, “I’m not from hereabouts!”

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The peasant beckoned slightly with his head and Frank Braun followed him into an outer chamber. Venier took a water carafe from a shelf.

“Go and send Mr. Peter to me,” said Frank Braun.

He filled two glasses half-full of water and dropped some laudanum into each. Then the American came in.

“What do you want Doctor?” he asked.

“Here is the medicine,” said the German. “I am going away now and you must give it to the sick woman. Are you going to stay here all night?”

“Yes,” said Pietro Nosclere, “we shall watch and pray.”

“Very well, then,” Frank Braun continued. “Give her the contents of the one glass at once. She will take the medicine more willingly from you. It is to be hoped that she will feel quieter then and soon fall asleep. If she wakes up again give her the contents of the other glass. Do you understand?”

Peter nodded.

“But will you really do it?” asked the other.

The American did not answer. But it was easy to see his intention, namely, to take the glasses and pour out their contents as soon as the other had turned his back. Frank Braun was vexed. He grasped Pietro’s shoulders and shook him.

“Look at me!” he commanded. “You will do what I tell you! I insist! Do you understand?”

The American murmured, “Yes, I will do it.”

He took the glasses and went back to the sick woman. On the following day Frank Braun met the peasant in front of his house.

“Well, how is your wife today?” he asked.

Mariano Venier answered distrustfully, “You didn’t help her. I won’t pay anything.”

“I didn’t ask for anything,” said the German. “And I don’t want any money. I’d simply like to know how the patient is.”

Venier grew more polite.

“She is better, sir; she will probably get well. I thank you for having come.”

Swiftly he added:

“But it was the American who saved her.”

Then he turned around and hurried into his house. The village was agog over the healing of Matilda Venier. People said that she had been irretrievably lost, and that even the skill of the famous German physician had been in vain. Mr. Peter had watched and prayed with her for three nights and saved her body, which had already been in the very claws of Satan.

Teresa came into his room.

“It was you who saved Matilda, wasn’t it, and not the American?”

Frank Braun thought:

“I dare say she saved herself.”

But he said, “It was probably the American. He prayed so nicely.”

The girl did not know whether he spoke seriously.

“No, no!” she insisted.

“Oh, yes, yes!” he interrupted her. “I told you that I was no physician. Come in!” he cried, as he heard a gentle knocking at the door.

The girl opened the door. But when she saw Pietro she was frightened and ran quickly out.

The American approached. Frank Braun bade him good-day and offered him a chair. In his embarrassment Mr. Peter rubbed his large red hands over his knees. Then stammering, he began and said that he had come to express his gratitude for the healing of the sister. The people in the village, it is true, said that he himself had saved Venier’s wife, because no one had seen the doctor give him the medicine for her, he himself, however, knew better.

“I suppose you have explained it to the people?” Frank Braun asked.

“No,” said Mr. Peter, “not yet. But I will do so Sunday afternoon at the meeting. I will proclaim then that it was not I, but the German physician, who saved our sister.”

Frank Braun looked at him.

“You will not do that,” he said quietly.

“And why not?”

Pietro moved around on his chair uneasily.

“Why not? I must tell it. It is the truth. And one should always honor the truth.”

“You will not say it. I shall come and watch you. And if you say it, I shall get up and explain to all that you are lying.”

The American jumped up from his chair, but Frank Braun took him by the arm and pushed him back down again.

“Keep your seat.” He went on, “You need to understand me—it was not I who healed the wife of Mariano Venier, it was you!”

Pietro grasped his head with both hands.

“I?” he stammered. “I? But it was you who gave the medicine!”

Frank Braun lied.

“No, I gave her clear water. I am no physician. I can heal no one. You alone healed the sick woman—you and your prayer. It is to you that Jesus gives the power of His grace, not to me!”

Pietro turned his hat in his hands. He brooded painfully; thoughts defined themselves very slowly in his brain. Frank Braun repeated all that he had said once more and with emphasis. Only then, only then did the man grasp his meaning.  He arose, his eyes glowed.

“Doctor,” he asked, “is that really true?”

Frank Braun took the outstretched hand and shook it heartily.

“Yes! That is really true!”

And he thought:

“Why shouldn’t I lie, if it gives him so much pleasure?”

A strange delight tickled him, as he regarded the American. The latter’s chest heaved, he stretched his narrow shoulders, it seemed as if he were growing, moment by moment. He stretched out his hand, half opened his lips, as if he were about to address his congregation.

Frank Braun thought:

“You ought to be grateful to me, old boy. It is only now that you are beginning to believe in yourself.”

He led him to the door: the American walked falteringly, uncertainly, almost as one intoxicated. On his thin, bloodless lips lay a proud, triumphant smile. But it vanished the moment he looked at the other and became conscious of his existence. He did not doubt himself, but with this great faith in himself he gained yet another faith—namely, in the superior power of the stranger.

Humbly he said, “I thank you, Doctor.”

Frank Braun answered, “You have nothing to thank me for. Someday soon I am coming to one of your meetings.”

He waved his hand, “Farewell, Elijah.”

Pietro opened the door and bowed.

Suddenly he stopped and asked, stammering, “Sir, why do you call me—Elijah?”

Frank Braun thought:

“You repulsive fool! Don’t you really feel yourself to be a prophet?”

And he said, “Go now. I will tell you another time.”

Pietro had scarcely left the house when Teresa reentered the room. She seemed excited, her cheeks burned.

Breathlessly she asked, “What did he say? Why did he come?”

Frank Braun answered, “How does it concern you? He came to me and not to you.”

But she trembled and gasped.

“I don’t want him to come here! He shall not come!”

She came close to him and grasped his arm. He looked at her sharply and she trembled and pulled herself together.

Gently, as if excusing herself, she said, “He has the evil eye.”

Frank Braun drew her to him, and placed her lightly on his knee. She wanted to speak but he motioned her to be silent. He pressed her head against his shoulder then he swiftly passed his hands over her temples. She did not resist, but lay quietly breathing against his breast. He held her with his left hand, while he made soothing passes with his right hand. He observed her closely; his glance melted into hers.

Then suddenly the gentle twitching of her lids ceased, the conjunctiva became slightly enlarged and her eyes stood wide open. He nodded in satisfaction. He put her on her feet: she remained standing on the spot. He arose, took her arm and then her hand. All her limbs showed great flexibility, automatically went through such gestures as he desired, or remained stiff in the position which he gave them. Large tears rolled from the eyes of the cataleptic girl. He drove a needle into her arm with some violence; her face showed no expression of pain. That was enough for him; he had little desire for repeated experiments. Swiftly he closed both of her eyelids with his finger.

Her eyes opened and then closed again: opened once more and finally remained half open. The eyeballs were convulsively turned upward; the lids were fluttering with vibrant motion. Her head hung down far over her bosom; a subdued sobbing noise issued from her glottis. He raised her arm; it fell back like lead. He took her elbow, sought the nerve-center and pressed heavily on it. Immediately the muscles which this nerve served, contracted violently and her hand assumed a claw like shape.

“Lethargy,” he murmured. “Go ahead, my child—it is not well to have a will of one’s own.”

He pressed her back into the chair, then sat down on the table in front of her and lit a cigarette. He looked at her, smoked and thought deeply.

“How strange it is,” he thought. “Doesn’t it look as if I am the sorcerer? And yet I know very well that it is not I who have the power, but you, my child! And if I were ever to accomplish anything with either that fool, that American, whom you dislike, or with yourself, it will always be your power or his that brings it about and not mine! I can think, but you people can achieve it!

Science asserts that you are both ill and therefore pitiable, and science is probably right. It would heal you if it could. But I am no physician and I would not heal you. Your disease is a source of power which I will use if I can.”

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Frank Braun came downstairs late. He had worked until dawn. He breakfasted, then, lost in thought, looked out the window. Teresa served him; she stood silently beside him, awaiting his look. But he scarcely saw her. He had not noticed that she had been gone, and did not notice now that she had returned. He ate quickly and got up.  That evening and on the next day she continued to stand beside him as he ate. She did not dare to address him, but served him as silently as a slave.

Once she said softly:

“I am to give you the priest’s regards.”

He looked up, “What priest?”

“Don Vincenzo,” she said.

He nodded indifferently, “Ah, yes. Thank you.”

His thoughts were far away. Only after a while did the meaning of her words strike him. He looked at her—and saw that she was beautiful.

“So you went to see your confessor?” he asked.

She did not lower her eyes, but answered his look.

“Yes, I was in the city four days ago.”

He asked, “Did you confess?”

She nodded. Then, very softly:

“He said it was the hand of God.”

Frank Braun laughed.

“Is that so? Did he say that? He too?”

He patted her lightly on the cheek and went out. Now he chatted with her at times, but he did not touch her. He was friendly and kind to her, as to a comely lad whose presence he liked. Sometimes, when he played his lute, he called her. Then he let her sit by him and listen. Or he went into the boat and gave her the oars. She rowed and sat there silently in front of him, thinking and dreaming over the water. And he grew accustomed to having her run beside him on his walks, as patiently and attentively as a well-trained dog.

One evening, as they were sitting together in the boat, it occurred to him that she could speak German. The thought made him happy, for he felt the need of speaking to someone concerning his work. And since he thought in German it was more pleasant to speak to her in that language, rather than in her own, for then he was more aware that she did not understand him. Now he told her everything he thought. He asked her advice, but at once supplied the answer himself. That helped him to see more clearly, more incisively—to speak out loud to her that way.

Earnestly, patiently, Teresa listened to him for hours. She understood very little of all that he said, but his words seemed miraculous to her. She sat before him and was silent, happy and blessed in the feeling that her master was speaking to her.

Frank Braun did not count the days. Spring departed and summer lay in the valley. He saw that well. He went with the girl through the fields, and felt that there was something common between him and these people who tilled the land. Their hands scattered the seed, harrowed and ploughed, creating all that was to grow. And that was how his work grew too. He was cheerful and happy in the virile power of his creative activity, and on his soil let the fruits ripen in the sun.

Sometimes, by day, when the girl was in the garden, or far out on the lake, he called the white goat or the tom-cat to him. Neither had a name, but he had christened the goat Marfa and the tom-cat Fritzi. And the animals responded to these names, hurried up the stairs when he called, and thumped at the door. Then he let them into the room, sat down and read to them.

But the goat gave him no rest, pushed him gently and sniffed at the pocket in which he carried sugar.

“Get out, Marfa,” he said. “You take no interest in racial questions or ethnological problems.”

Or again, in the middle of the night, he went over to Teresa. He woke her up, sat down at the edge of the bed and talked to her. She listened, as always, in earnest silence. Then he went away again. Sometimes, too, he stayed and, laughing, took her in his arms. And she closed her eyes and trembled with happiness.

One evening there was a knocking at his door. Angelo, the farmhand, stumbled in, gasping, almost bursting with an important message. Would the gentleman come down to the village to the house of Mariano Venier. His wife, Matilda, was very ill and about to die. And would not the doctor come at once.

“I am not a physician,” said Frank Braun.

But the man did not budge. Frank Braun repeated that he had no skill in that art and could not help. Then Angelo shrugged his shoulders resignedly, as if to say:

“Well, it’s none of my business.”

He turned around and growled, “I’m not from hereabouts.”

From below Frank Braun heard loud and hurried talk. Immediately after that the landlord entered his room and Teresa was with him.

Raimondi said, “Venier is downstairs and refuses to go! Please go to his wife, sir!”

“But what am I to do there?” cried the German. “I tell you I’m not a physician!”

Raimondi nodded politely.

“But you are a doctor, aren’t you?” he said.

“Certainly!” exclaimed Frank Braun. “But I am not a doctor of medicine. I can’t help the woman I tell you.”

The landlord nodded again, scratched his chin and spat.

“Of course not!” he agreed. “But these people aren’t going to believe it. They think that because you are a doctor you must be able to cure them.”

And his own aspect betrayed the fact that he himself thoroughly shared their opinion, and that it would vex him greatly if the strange doctor who lodged with him were not to go. He took a new start:

“Now the American has gone and is going to pray her well again. I’m sure you can do as much good as he!”

But Frank Braun did not feel the slightest ambition to compete with the American.

“No,” he said, “I have neither the time nor am I in the mood for such folly.”

Then the girl approached him.

“Please go to the poor woman,” she begged. “Perhaps you can help her, after all.”

He laughed, “But, child, I assure you that I can’t do anything at all.”

She was quite serious and looked at him with her large eyes.

“Surely,” she insisted. “You can do anything!”

She grasped his arm.

“I beg of you to go to the poor woman!”

He sighed. Shrugging his shoulders he opened a drawer and took out a few vials and pill boxes: laudanum, quinine, pyramidon—whatever he happened to have. Triumphantly the landlord watched him and escorted him down the stairs.

“The doctor is coming!” he called out to the peasant.

The latter was a dirty, stunted, black haired fellow, with a low forehead and an incipient goiter. Hastily he ran ahead and Frank Braun followed with long strides. Venier led him to his house, then through the hall into the bedroom. Many people were there, all praying aloud. He recognized the huge farmhand with the red goiter, and also Sibylla, the crooked old beggar from the road.

“So you have grown pious, too?” he thought.

When he entered they interrupted their singing; swiftly he stepped to the bed. The air in the room was heavy to the point of suffocation.

“Open the window,” he commanded.

Venier went to the window. But his wife sat up in bed.

“No!” she cried. “Leave it closed! Pietro Nosclere says that it must remain shut!”

Frank Braun turned to one side. The American stood next to him. He was dressed in black and wore a long coat which was closed tight at the neck, like the coat of a domestic missionary. His face was beardless; his eyes, which were small, piercing and lay deep in their hollows, squinted a little. His forehead was bulging; there was almost no chin, his nose seemed flattened out. In contrast, his large ears, if grown tight by their lobes, protruded hugely on both sides. Old scrofulous scars ran across his neck, his movements were hasty and almost epileptic.

Frank Braun thought:

“I could much more easily diagnose him than the sick woman.”

“Let me take your pulse,” he said.

But the woman hid her arm under the bedclothes and looked at him, her eyes full of hatred. He turned to the peasant, glad of a reason for going.

“You see your wife doesn’t want me,” he continued. “How can I help, then?”

At this point the American said, “Give him your hand, sister.”

Obediently she lifted her arm. He felt her pulse, and saw that she had a high fever. He asked for a candle in order to see better in the semi-darkness. Then he asked her to open her mouth. Her tongue and her entire mouth were badly inflamed. She coughed and rattled.

“She is certainly ill,” he thought. “That much is certain!”

He had no idea what ailed her, and considered what he was to do.

“How long since she’s slept?” he asked hesitatingly.

The American answered, “Three nights ago. And since yesterday we have been here praying with her. If Jesus is willing, he will heal our sister. All healing comes from the Blood of the Lamb.”

“Certainly,” Frank Braun nodded. He thought:

“In any event it can do her no harm to have a good sleep; I’ll give her a little opium.”

“Water!” he cried. “I will give her some medicine.”

The woman cried out and struggled with her hands.

“No, no, he wants to poison me!”

Then she began to sing aloud and the whole company joined in.

 

Sinner, behold the Lamb of God

On the cross, on the cross, on the cross,

Who took our guilt upon himself,

On the cross, on the cross, on the cross.

Oh see his blood, oh hear his cry!

That looseneth us from slavery,

From Satan’s bondage set us free

On the cross, on the cross, on the cross!

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