Ch2-A The Apple Thief

Chapter Two

The District Court judge scratched himself. The dandruff fell like snow from his head onto his greasy coat collar. He spoke with me before the hearing, saying that he could find no legal grounds that could assure justice in these cases. That was why he scratched himself in confusion and irritation. Then it was nine o’clock. The two lay magistrates stepped into the room, a captain A. D., who clicked his heels together; and a shoe merchant who was so obese that he nodded his whole upper body in greeting.

Then they went out the door, the District Court judge leading in his robe, which shimmered a little from grease and dust. You couldn’t say that the robe increased the grace and dignity of the judge, but at least it covered his jacket, vest and rumpled trousers.

“Twelve cases today,” observed the captain, who felt the necessity of beginning a conversation.

The District Court judge cursed to himself: “Yes, twelve cases and thirty witnesses. That can last all afternoon and even more cases have been pushed back. And furthermore . . .”

The corpulent Herr didn’t appear to be feeling well. Either he had lost last night in the city, or his digestion was upset. Hardly any other ailments could disrupt his quiet existence. Finally he put the documents under his arm and slouched uncomfortably over to the courtroom. The lay magistrates were behind him, and I, as the court recorder came last, with my minutes.

When I have the sheets of paper in front of me and my quill poised to record the relevant and eternally just words of the law, I am always overcome with the awareness of being a necessary limb of society and of fulfilling my duty as a civil servant and as a human being. This awareness should have lifted me up. Yet, unfortunately it was not able to. I was much more annoyed at fulfilling my duty and had to laugh about it. It was possible that my colleagues desired to make it their career, and might even feel some loyalty to it. That aspiration failed with me.

The name of the District Court judge, which I had to write well over a hundred times a week, bored me to such an extent, that I squiggled a few bizarre images on it in order to at least change this one line a little.

The hearings began as usual with cases of begging, vagrancy, petty theft and other starvation related crimes. Old, unkempt women were brought in, in tattered, dirty dresses, homeless prostitutes, whom the policeman on the street had seen, vagrants, pick-pockets, hoodlums.

Before each case the judge would mechanically read the court rulings, include personal information and previous convictions, out of which always emerged once again: starvation, doing time, and once more starvation.

I remained hard and bored with this worn out old song, hard like the judge, hard like the policeman, who administered the required oath. Only once in a while was there a man standing behind the barrier, one whose strength did not yet appear to be broken, one with broad shoulders who through starvation and imprisonment had once more slipped into a miserable dog’s life. And it occurred to me in fearful amazement quite strange that this fellow had not already leapt over the barrier, torn the minutes out of my hands and beat the wobbly head of the judge with it.

And while my quill once more monotonously scribbled, I pondered in a contemplative way the question of whether I would in the end finally disinherit myself completely by perpetrating some riotous act to avenge my meaningless existence. I once almost wished this fame for myself. But perhaps it was the fear of punishment that took away some of my desire for this original plan.

All of these people seemed to be struck by lunacy; no reasonable words could be brought out of them. They didn’t care at all whether they were sentenced for three months or six. They simply howled in despair. When the judge questioned them, they didn’t think it worth the effort to answer him. Instead they just put their broad cracked hands in front of their faces, sobbed and whimpered.

For example, there was a mother. She had stolen an apple twelve times in a row in the market place. The judge asked her if she had eaten the apple right away. Then it would have been simple touch “hand to mouth” robbery and it would have gone better for her. But no, each time she had taken the apple back home, stored it and fed her children with it later. So it was theft, genuine common theft according to paragraph two hundred and forty-two.

Then the judge asked her if she ever intended to steal apples again. If she did not intend to steal apples then it would be a one-time crime and not as serious for her as well. But she absolutely refused to promise not do it again. She just shook her head and began to howl.—so each time she had not wanted to do it again, but had done it anyway? She nodded and howled.—

So, a confession, “admission of guilt” which entailed a combined punishment, with increased punishment, the heaviest possible.

“Do you have anything else to say in your defense?”  asked the judge in closing.

Apparently not, she just whimpered. Upon which we removed to the council chamber.—

In the meantime the District Court judge was feeling better and more comfortable.

“Well, thank God”, he said. “Half the morning is already gone. Now we can at last with good conscience have breakfast.”

With that he pulled out his mangled morning biscuit and chewed comfortably with full, smacking cheeks. The lay magistrates dedicated themselves to their breakfasts as well, the captain to his ham sandwich, the shoe merchant to his sausage.

I sat down at a writing desk removed some distance away from the council table, where I listened to this legal discussion for training purposes. I would have liked breakfast myself, but that would not do for an attorney.

“Now Herr Captain,” asked the District Court judge, as he contentedly ate. “What should I give the little woman?”

The captain had no idea what the little woman deserved and cleared his throat.

“The case isn’t that serious,” he said finally.

“No, it’s not that serious,” confirmed his colleague.

“How would it be then, if I said a week?” the judge proposed.

With great agility he gave the legal basis for it and asked whether the Herren magistrates had a counter proposal? No, naturally they didn’t know any counter proposal to offer the judge. So it remained a week in prison.

As the woman received her sentence and was then led away, it appeared to be too much for her. She collapsed completely and whimpered like a young hound.

Then came other familiar scenes—the further appearance of so called pauperism, which is in general very old and never changes much.

“There have always been the poor and the rich.” Maintain our religious doctrines very correctly. But then again, there is also social reform . . .

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Ch1-E When is the Costume Ball?

I had not in the slightest expected this revolt from her! It brought up all kinds of new possibilities and threats behind them; whose ugly faces were well concealed.

One thing became clear in that moment, that my passions were once more aroused, tantalized as they had been once before, in my younger, stronger times. I felt an irresistible craving, wanted to take up this female, to hold her fast with the last of my dwindling persuasive powers for the rest of my life. If she became free from me I would never find another. It would be boring and ridiculous to play out this dance of love all over again from the beginning.

In that moment I became sick with longing for the love of my former girlfriends. Fear and trembling nestled into my heart and waited to once more tear open the scarred wounds of old loves.

No resentment, no trace of ill feelings stepped between us. We had both long since given up such childish, useless resistance against things that were now over. One spoke of them, but did not get upset—

I turned the lamp on, but then took the red screen away from the clock. A bright yellow light now appeared to be what was needed.

Then I took Alice over to another place and chatted about harmless, unimportant things; about her new acquaintances, and the balls that she was planning to attend. I was trying to discover some new charm that could keep her from leaving me. But none of this seemed to make any impression on her.

“Do you really enjoy going to balls and soirees now?” I asked.

“Yes, now that I’ve gotten accustomed to them.”

“And naturally you are thinking about getting married?”

“Certainly, after I’m a little older . . .”

“The more you will sink in price. That is very important.—how would it be, if I myself joined the crowd of happy perspective buyers?”

“What do you mean and where?”

“Right now, I’m thinking of your gander market, at the ball.”

“That I would like to see, you, Tust, as a suitor!”

“Why not? I can still remember my charming manners, might even bring them along.  An attorney from a respected family with my salary is already worthy of a girl valued at five hundred thousand by her brothers.

But Alice was thinking that it would be much nicer to marry a lieutenant. They would be better educated as a husband. She was determined as well, to respectability and the appearance of enduring restraint—

“What a fine marriage it would be between us!” she thought smiling, and secretly painted, in her imagination, a fantasy with a couple of images, that she had to heartily laugh over.

She provoked me with her humor, especially when I considered, that as long as I had known her, not a single thing had happened.

Perhaps later, after I had lost the capability to love entirely and stood waiting, after the honeymoon, to receive help from the known endearments of marriage, yes, then perhaps . . . ! Otherwise, she, as previously said, would be beaten by the untrusting women.

“I have a serious desire,” I continued, “to see for myself how you amuse yourself with your Herren.”

“Come to the next costume ball,” she said. “Then perhaps you will understand that our society is not at all that bad —I already know what you want to say—naturally it is vanity that comes over me there. But I enjoy it, being vain, even though it seems silly.”

And I could not reproach her for that. Only it was difficult for me, the master, to be able to win back her desire. It had not happened for months, when she hung on my neck and swore that there was nothing more beautiful, than to be alone with me. She didn’t want to become a Lady; she hated everything that was stupid and boring, and our high society was really nothing other than a herd of frisky sheep and geese.

“When is the costume ball?” I asked.

“On the first of March.”

“Then I will get an invitation to it from a good Aunt.”

“Oh, that is so dear of you,” she said in outright joy.

It was obviously a way for her to lead me once more into her Milieu, a way in which she would not need to shame herself any further.

“You see,” she continued, “I have always desired this; that your fighting the people was contrary to my wishes. They are not really that unbearably bad.”

“My dear, you are entirely correct. You can have a good laugh over them. Only not the same joke so often! By the third time it is pretty worn out!—”

But, I thought to myself, one must pursue the hoyden, even in strange places. Who knows, whether she will find better pastures over there, and then never again return—

We departed on that evening as good friends. I had not yet lost anything. Only the heavy gray clouds of wooing hung stuffy in the air.

Then I kissed Alice passionately; I held her pretty face solidly in my hands, for the last time, as if it belonged to me.

As her footsteps echoed down the hallway, it was very painful around my heart. She had become someone else for me, one of the beloved that a man suffers for, because a man struggles for her in fear—

The last hours of the day I read a book by Jonas Lie. It was “The Family of Gilje”, and spoke of the dull monotony in the life of a citizen’s daughter. Only in the last chapter did hope and sorrow burst suddenly for the first time, which still moved her; bursting like a soap bubble. Only a sad softness remained behind, the disappointment, which would remain there until death.

The book had tortured me with every page; but in the last chapter, I unexpectedly broke out into bitter tears, groundless and silly, from a feeling that came over me, as if from another world that was alien to me.

I had learned long ago not to feel sorry for myself, and every external hardship I have always observed only with the eyes of a wanderer, who goes through life as if through a strange and sad theater of fools.

So this feeling had to be a metaphysical one.

Still the metaphysical had always seemed pointless and hindered me along the path; and neither the wisdom of Pythagoras, nor the forced laughter of Zarathustra could banish it.

Once I thought that I had brooded this bad feeling inside myself to death, once and for all—and because of that it had returned to me as a ghost with new pains, new enticements and wanted to completely convince me that it was very serious about its childish game.

And I had no more desire at all to fight against it any longer.

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Ch1-D The Kiss

This was the Alice of two years ago, the sixteen year old girlfriend of a young jokester, whom she appeared to take seriously. But by now she had long learned not to believe him. Everything had turned out differently than she had hoped, not at all as solemn, much more seductive and soft, grotesque like a type of comedia dell’. And perhaps sweet disgust was already rising in her heart.

Yet perhaps this rummaging around in faded sentiment brought her no less of a sensation than it gave to me, who at the time had loved her differently, more happily.

“Read more, more!” urged Alice, while she folded her hands around my arm, and I took up the second letter.

“My dearest friend,

You are a terrible, tormenting spirit! Stubborn like all men! Even though I was in no way convinced of your principles, I finally went to the Lampe Institute, but, as it happened, waited in vain under the black paintings for the ungrateful. Then weeks passed before we met again at some boring evening event. —No, if you only knew, how impossible it is for us.

In the next room my sister Emmy is rehearsing, who unfortunately, by God’s grace is very musical. At our next evening card party she is supposed to perform something the best she can. Poor thing! Papa is quarreling downstairs with the coachman, and Mama is nervous, because Papa is in a bad mood.

Day after day the same stifling boredom, afternoon French instruction with Mademoiselle and in the evenings the newspaper or music! Music with or without guests; but a real concert; where you have to get dressed up, so the young people of the good families will notice. I had imagined my first winter to be much more different.  It is often said, and Mama said it then, that I had apparently been reading books. Dear God! If only I had one in my hands!

No, I am unsatisfied by nature. Mademoiselle is entirely correct about that.  Papa says: Unsatisfied as a social democrat. The more they have, the more they want. It’s no different in our factory than it is at home. Papa doesn’t understand what is really wrong with me; a little cordiality, kindness and all kinds of beautiful things. Yes, all kinds of things. It must be that way somewhere. You shall tell me where! And because of that, there remains nothing else for me to do, except to go to you, in your enchanted castle, Mozart St. Nr. 5. But I ask one little thing of you; be well-behaved and don’t scare me! Under these conditions, said in good faith, I am very happy about this.

With many cordial greetings,

Your friend Alice.”

It was then, for the first time, that I recognized a trace of the underlying tone, in which the world itself would be her great courtesan, or else the un-abiding preaching of the women.—

The last letter, a couple of months later, said much the same thing:

My only Tust!

It is impossible for me to come again for three weeks. But on Penance Day, I will be able to stand in line with the congregation, so that morning from 9-12 o’clock will be available. I had hoped at first, to skip family coffee; yet it has been postponed. I also have to be present at the Wilhemi Concert, sitting next to grandmamma, and my absence would be noticed. So then, Penance Day around 9 o’clock! The time is not ideal, but there is no other.

Meanwhile, you can get some work done or find new paintings and poems for me. Really, you have the ability to produce something. The most comical things receive an entirely serious and respectable face at your place. I am especially happy about your forthcoming confession. That will be some dance! Don’t think that I will release you from this. After you have learned all the hair fine details from me, I will demand the same from you as well, even though I am much less jealous than you.

As to the question of whether I love you, I have repeatedly given it serious consideration, but am still not clear about it. In the beginning, it seems I was wild about you. But you have a certain way, which one gets accustomed to so quickly. Sometimes I dream about you night and day, and other times I forget about you entirely.

In any case you are much too dear to me, so dear, that I cannot grasp it or—you are a complete scoundrel! I almost believe it’s the latter. But I don’t want to get married. I am considering your character as well, since we have only had to tolerate each other for a few hours; when we have been sitting good naturedly next to each other. And up until now, those have been most enchanting hours, without wanting to flatter you.

Live well, dearest Tucku, and a thousand greetings and—

From your true Alice.

She appeared to be especially proud of this last letter. Then she laughed contentedly and naively.

I remembered it differently.  At the time I really found everything about her charming and original. Now I was almost frightened of this clever child, who with time grew ever older and more clever.—

But had I valued her soul at the time?—Not entirely. But its future and development!—because I hoped to add to its value.—was it already too late for that? Or had it become too wanton? Or had I become too weak?—either way, the joke had now become more of a problem, the game become a battle. And this battle for love disturbed me.

It became twilight. There was really some time before sunset. But my window, which faced to the north, was almost covered with heavy gray curtains and allowed only a small sliver of light into the room. Evening always came an hour earlier at my house than for other people.

I locked the letters back in the chest. Alice followed them thoughtfully with her eyes and waited for some word of recognition for the beautiful things that she had written. I didn’t know what to say to her. Everything that kept us a part lay upon me. At the least I should have learned, to consider her nature, as it was now.

I could not prevent the feeling of coldness that streamed out from her. She quietly slid down from my knees.

As I turned around, she reclined in one of the armchairs and looked down in front of her.

“Make it completely dark,” she asked me very softly and friendly. “This eternal twilight just makes us moody.”

I closed the shutters in front of the window and could only see her figure in outline. Then I stepped up to her and set down next to her on the cushion of the chair.

She reached out her hand to me. If only I had not caressed and kissed it so gladly! She has appeared the symbol of beauty to me for her entire life. So flexibly formed with her fragile limbs and thin, ivory white skin; she could very well be allowed to believe, that body and bearing were the better parts of a lover.

Only the nature of my love was the realization of unknown delights.

If I had wanted to lift the veil from the Sais painting, I would have only made my desire a little poorer, at least in the end.

Then my desire was everything, a thousand times more than the pleasure of past intoxications and avenged itself with disenchantment.

But my last impression of it is always still the kiss. Oh, how I kissed the gentle child next to me that evening! I slipped my hand between her neck and the chair and lay my lips on hers, as if we belonged to each other. She was dull and listless, like one that swoons along the way. Only her eyes looked at me with a strange, sickly glow.

Then something seemed to occur to her and occupy her thinking.

Softly she pulled her lips away and laid her head next to my forehead, temple to temple.

“I want to tell you something, Tust”, she said hesitantly; “Back then, when I wrote those letters, you were much dearer to me than you believed.”

I remained silent between fear and tension; such words could mean many things.

“You have not wanted to notice that,” she continued; “because you have only been playing with me. Isn’t that true, what you have been doing?”

This guilt had never troubled me before. What just occurred must have awoken her suspicions.

Fearfully, like something caught, I sought to calm her:

“Alice,” I said, “don’t you believe that you bring me the dearest, most holy bliss . . .”

“Because you don’t know anything dear or holy any more—tell me, has it now become serious with you?”

“Ah, love, what is serious in our days!”

“There, you see! But I expected that, and I imagined it exactly. Gradually it has become clear to me, that you and I—no, let’s say we,—have deluded ourselves.”

With that she pushed me softly away from her.—it happened for the first time and suddenly the beautiful order of my well nurtured love came crashing down.

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Ch1-C A Very Dangerous Age

“How did you get away from your coffee with the ladies just now?” I asked her.

“Just now, for example, I claimed that I had to dart over to aunt Almalie’s and see her; if she is not there, so much the better! You would not believe how easy it is to dupe the ladies and my good mama.”

“But how about your papa?”

“When he gets back from work he plays whist and is more than happy if he doesn’t have to trouble with us.”

“Do your parents know that you are at a dangerous age?”

“What do you mean?” asked Alice, taken aback and a little offended.”

“You must know that little ladies between sixteen and eighteen are often little varmints.”

“You—I won’t stand for that!” she cried laughing. “Be happy that I still even come. By the way, my parents are much too honest of people, to think that something is not proper. They also have no idea that such a convincing child as I am is capable of such foolish escapades.”

“Aren’t they a little more than foolish escapades?”


“How beautiful it is that escapades can last for years!”

“I was still a child then.”

“And now?”

“I have become accustomed to it.”

I had heard hard words like this from her the last several times she had visited. She always spoke them flippantly. Striking me with them in grinning ridicule, as if she wanted to provoke me about something and then pouted, because I never gave her an answer, with a short angry puff of cigarette smoke toward the ceiling.

Perhaps originally she had spoken in jest. But later it appeared to be truer and pressed upon me in a threatening way. I believed in this threat and began to be afraid. But the fear made my weakly shimmering love flicker that much more brightly, so that after a while it assumed the Medusa head of passion.

I sat turned away from Alice and tried to fight it. I had to support my head with both hands, so heavy weighed the image of a near catastrophe on my thoughts. Then she stepped up softly behind me and ruffled my hair. She stroked lightly with the finger nails of her index fingers across my skin, in endless winding pathways that led through the hair to the back of my neck, along the edge of my ear lobes and across my forehead from temple to temple. It was a joyful, familiar love caress that went through the reflexes in my nerves and brought sweet shivers to my spine.

That seemed so comical that I regained my composure again and let the disturbing girl ride on my knee. She pulled the key out of my pocket and opened the compartments of my writing desk in order to rummage through the countless packets of letters that lay there in a clutter; to open and read them. She had listened much too well to the mysteries of my life.

Naturally she left all my business letters and family letters alone. But love letters that I had exchanged with old school friends and later with good hearted girls brought her great joy. I read along with over her shoulder, not at all displeased at this sweet youthful foolishness.

Finally she found the slanted flourishes of her own handwriting. There were only three letters, the only things that she had written me from out of those most beautiful weeks that had brought us together and when she had attempted to seduce me.

“We should read these again,” she opined. “There is certainly much foolishness in them.”

I took the small, light blue letters, which she had written, from out of her hand with shy emotion and unfolded them.

“Would you like to hear,” I asked, “how dear I was to you?”

“Why not?” she said. “I can barely remember back then.”

It was a soft teasing, yet not without a touch of melancholy. I took the first letter and read it out loud, while Alice listened with dreaming eyes.

Liepzig, Carl Tauschnitz Strasse, 8 Jan 95

My dear friend,

I have considered everything for a long time and it will not work! I really cannot risk it. If anyone sees me ringing on your door, if papa finds out, it would be terrible and destroy our beautiful plans for a friendship. Naturally people would think the worst things and entirely without any reason. Do not believe that I have any fear of you! After having twice danced the cotillion with you and recently sitting next to you for ten hours as a bridesmaid at a wedding, I feel that I know you quite well. No one has less talent at courting a lady or falling in love than you; and of course, our serious, solemn friendship is the best protection against such silly thoughts.

Well, it is really only on account of the danger we have in common. By the way, don’t think of me as such a gosling on that count—in all the world, that is something that I don’t want—so I will make you a different proposal. Come to the museum Sunday afternoon, to the Lanpe foundation, where I will be waiting for you. No one there will notice and we will be completely undisturbed; especially since we are up to nothing bad, simply wanting to talk about serious things, about life and the world; about the grand and interesting world, which I like to hear so much about, especially everything if possible from out of your own mouth.

As you know, you have promised to tell me how things are going and to give particulars. But now you will once more say that my proposal is nothing more than a rendezvous like the serving maids have with their cherished ones in the courtyard. I don’t need to assure you that these thoughts of mine are even more terrible than yours are. But still people can’t comprehend that serving maids don’t go into museums and that my “cherished one” is not you and never will be. I will never have a so called “cherished one” anyway.

Please answer me very soon, so that I know where I stand and don’t forget to let your land lady write the address so it is written in a lady’s hand.

With most cordial greetings,

Your friend, Alice


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Ch1-B Not the Slightest Suspicion

And most of all, to irresistibly dream of her, to clasp the entirety of her soul in fantasy, to strip her soul bare, in front of me, brought down onto the golden carpet of my desire; a soul that writhed in the shame of its desires, that looked up at me smiling, and then hid itself, that hoped, rejoiced and scolded, as ever so slowly the joy of waiting came to an end. Then the corporeal would disappear entirely, even as the banal instincts of the animal and the human gushed forth.

And so I loved Alice in every hour, whether she was here with me now in my room, or only an image in my dreams.

What she was chatting about, I could so easily dispense with.

She had just come from having coffee with the ladies. She gave information to me that, Alice, herself, was indifferent to, but it was not without interest as it concerned that world which I so happily observed. It is exceedingly difficult for a man to know what goes on when ladies are having coffee.

“So Frau Meyer was there? But which Frau Meyer?”

“The lady supreme court justice naturally.”

“Naturally the lady supreme court justice. She is a nice Frau.”

“Yes, so you think so too? Still Frau Meyer says that you are a bad one.”

“Appalling, why does she say that?”

“She has it from your aunt, the court councilor.”

“Yes, if she got it from my aunt, then really . . .But what did she give for particulars?”

“People have seen you with a person.”

“With a—person? My God, I know many persons!”

“With a female, naturally.”

“So now you believe something scandalous of me?”

“No, you know it’s just . . .”

“Yes, a man has occasional talks; today with the laundry woman, tomorrow with the lady dentist, with the hair dresser or some other “person” that a man especially needs—to look good. But continue—what now stands on the register of my sins?”

“To continue: your free thinking and that you no longer allow yourself to be seen in good company.”

“Do you think those go together?”

“She said them together.”

“My good aunt, if she only knew, how ridiculously un-free my thoughts are; their hair styles have them climbing mountains. But the young girls, what do they say, when they are not skillfully destroying their husbands?”

“They sit there so grandly listening and keep their thoughts to themselves.”

“Do they understand it at all?”

“No, naturally not; they are not as depraved as I am. Yet there is one of them . . .”

“One . . .”

“That has a friend as debauched as you are.”

She said that in such a flattering way and pressed against my breast as strongly as her weak strength allowed.

“Haven’t you suspected?”

“What do you think? That is so beautiful! Not even slightly; not the least suspicion!”

Yes, I believe Alice was proud of that. That gave her a powerful incentive for us to be together, to be secretive and do the forbidden. It replaced much of the lust of the first sins and was also not without its own dangers.



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Ch 1-A Alice

From Out of Decadence; a Novel

By Kurt Martens 1898

Translated by Joe Bandel

Chapter 1

I had decorated my room with flowers, with Iris, lilacs and white clusters of vanilla.

The perfume of these wilting greenhouse flowers was weak and painful, like my love, which aroused and disturbed me, without fulfillment, without pain—

Toward evening, exactly at the promised hour, Alice came and greeted me with a friendly handshake. Then she threw off her coat, her cap with a veil, and laughed at me with her accustomed gaiety.

Again I found her less and less of a child, older and fuller than six weeks earlier when I had seen her the last time. All too quickly she was becoming a lady, as if she could not wait for it, eager to enjoy every strong pleasure, of which she had only known up until this time from my own words. But previously she had always been moderate and of impeccable manners; and I must admit, despite all dangers, that my joy at her loveliness increased precisely because this little girl maintained our friendship and held this alluring charm ever since she had been so fortunately separated from the poverty and underworld of her childhood.

This fine poise and carriage that encircled her like the perfume of her maidenhood also raised her far above the hordes of young wives, who were less tender in their desires and easier to be won. She was a very rare fruit on the tree of life. For these reasons, I was very proud of Alice and listened so passionately to the last melancholy words of this sonata that they call love—

The first thing that Alice did was to stretch out on my sofa and clasp her hands together behind the knot of her hair. Even though shy and well behaved in her position as eldest daughter, she had learned to feel at home with me in the two years of our acquaintance. Why shouldn’t she want to come now and enjoy some more of this harmless freedom! That was why she took up one of my blade thin cigarettes, which she had learned how to smoke from me. I pushed an ashtray over to her and sat down beside her.

In front of us, on the low étagère were even more pleasures for Alice, a bottle of brown Curacao liqueur, which she loved to mix with chrysanthemum and bitter orange, as well as banana biscuits, much sweeter than the exaggerated taste of bonbons. That was why she broke off almost invisibly small portions and slowly pushed them between her teeth with an adorable and coquettish gesture. Then she noticed another plate with overly large, sugary balls of pastry.

“What are those funny looking things?”

“Kourabiedes”, I said auspiciously. “The national pastry of Greece, consisting mostly of butter and they taste delicious.”

“Oh, how charming!” she cried and spread her little fingers wide apart in order to grab one of the monsters. The taste created an unspeakable joy in her.

“Blessed Ambrosia!” she murmured with full jaws. “Ambrosia straight from Olympia!”

She guzzled down her liqueur in one draught, the brown Curacao with the bitter orange.

Then she slung her arms around my neck and kissed me, only a glancing kiss with closed lips, like every little girl kisses, who has still not known love. Oh, how strange it was to have her lying there so tenderly against me. For her to do that you had to give her delicacies and liqueur. That made the exquisite ray of passion even more enchanting. It gave hope and strengthened the belief, that she may yet love me.

Whether it was clearly the warm, deep cordiality of long breeding, devotion and cherishing, a thankful feeling of well-being or whether it was really passion that remained the question. I have never found the answer to that, never, not even now when it has become a question for a doctor.

She sees in me a very dear friend, like some romantic singer, who sings of the flattering joys of life in the middle of a dim theater, while the wide questioning eyes of the child look toward the curtain. The singer sings of many wonders that lie behind the curtain. The little girl fidgets with impatience and finds the melody of the singer wonderfully sweet; until the time the curtains are pulled apart and the entire splendor becomes visible in front of her.

After that there is only one question, whether the singer was just a prologue that had stepped up onto the stage, or if he would continue to sing in the great concert.

That was often the question for me, and yet I did not really want to be there when the performance began. It would no doubt be a great performance that played out in front of me, with bad actors taking part in it.

Oh, but it was a much higher honor to be the muse of the bud, the first enticing light of day that brings it to bloom. Later its fragrance is for everyone, who is skilled and clever enough to pluck it. And that is not really difficult with young ladies!

No, only to have her near me, in the power of my spell, under the influence of my powers! To drink in her beauty with eyes that are moist with love, to touch her white skin with trembling fingers and search every secret place with my lips, where the blood races and throbs, beneath her throat and on her temples beneath the curls of her blonde hair!

Posted in Anarchist World, decadence, German literature, Joe Bandel, Kurt Martens, translation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment