Archive for the ‘literary’ Category

Pirate Ship, Dark, Night, Storm, Lightning, Adventure

The Pine of Don Lorenzo

by Paul Rohrer with 3 illustrations by Otto Linnekogel

Translated by Joe Bandel

“Back then we rode with smuggled goods over the mountains,” shouted Michael.

He was drunk and lying on a stone park bench with his jacket unbuttoned. His hand, wearing ten rings from our most dangerous robberies, clutched the stone head of the arm rest. There was the ring of Count Corzan, the Bishop of Valona’s emerald, the ruby of the Duchess of Acra, and other rings bearing fiery glittering jewels.

“We knew that Don Lorenzo with his Venetian livery was tracking us through the ravines. There was a full moon like today when we made our move and killed him right in the middle of his fancy masked ball.”

The rest of us crouched, stretched out in the grass and cursed because the old Castilian had spoiled the drunken celebration for us and for Michael. What devil had made him start talking about the ghost of Don Lorenzo? We had successfully arrived at the lonely bay unnoticed and had delivered our Lombard silk, Skadar velvet, jewelry and spice boxes to our customers in the city. Now we just wanted to sleep peacefully in the ruins of the half fallen down castle. But an old man kept hopping about incessantly on his pillar of a stump, a Dutch flute in his toothless mouth. He was indifferent to the pleading of our captain.

“Don Lorenzo still lives here among the flowers and trees that he has planted,” he repeated. And with a shaky hand he drew a wide semicircle through the air and over the nighttime park. “There is no plant that is not his. The wild roses are his desire, the thorny undergrowth his hatred, the tangled vindictive pines his twisted hands.”

“Then I want to sleep where he sleeps,” bellowed Michael suddenly, and his passion made chills run up our spines. “I want to sleep in the room where he took my woman. It will be his evil conscience against my own! Give me a light!”

Horror seized us. The meal in the green meadow, which had started so happily, which had left us with nothing more than a couple of buxom whores, threatened to become a fight against the invisible. All of the fellows had already experienced the plundering of a Turkish galley in battle and that of a coastal village. They knew what a mandrake or statue of St. John was used for, and that all creatures are not of this world.

“He is crazy,” one shouted. Several of us wanted to grab Michael and take him forcefully down to the beach and onto the ship. But he pulled his sword out of its sheathe. With flat, furious blows the captain drove away everyone from around his body until he stood alone next to the stone bench. But we, who knew his rages,fled into the shadows of the nearest trees, almost more astonished at his rage than over the composure with which the Castilian lifted his lantern and waited for Michael. Michael ordered him forward with a curt wave of his hand, and he limped forward, as if leading Michael to see some rare painting, and not a single person cared enough about their own salvation to take the opportunity to go along.

“A scoundrel,” I wheezed, “who is leading him to his folly.”

But a growl around the circle proved that no one had any desire to be separated from their bottle and put their own fates at risk. Meanwhile the yellow glow of the lantern snaked through the high grass, which year out and year in had never been mowed, until it reached the pointed arch of the gate. When Michael disappeared through it into the immense black mass of the castle with its spacious wings that surrounded the park I lost track of him. There was something in the manner in which he became more distant as he moved away, it seemed to me as if he was under some supernatural compulsion rather than his own will— his movements took on those of a puppet, and this impression became so strong— that a boundless inexplicable fear arose inside me.

Solidly determined not to let him down, I broke away from the others and hurried toward the castle. The murmur of the night wind whispered around its facade and bent the tops of the trees that rose out of the swampy moat next to it.

Already the lantern, which had slipped through the gateway hall, made the outline of the portcullis visible for a moment, then quickly lit up the arch and rushed across the courtyard. In the meantime I bit open one of the cartridges that I always carried on my bandoleer, and with trembling fingers poured the powder into the gun barrel. Then with a loaded weapon I followed the winding path, as the two ahead of me moved through crumbling halls and echoing corridors. Not as much as a whispered word flew between them. You could only hear the clumping of the old man and the sonorous, massive footsteps of Michael. I stopped at the heads of their long shadows and soon stepped onto the bristling silhouette of the caretaker, then on the edge of the braids, that looked like snakes protecting the captain’s skull.

Blinded mirrors upon the walls reflected back the broken eye of a window, colorful silk draperies wrapped around the stage. In one chamber musical instruments lay in a heap as if they had been discarded while fleeing from a masked ball that had been interrupted. Since the night of that murder, when we had stormed the crowded festival with torches and daggers and avenged Michael’s honor, the life of the castle had fallen off like the patched rags of a beggar’s corpse. No one had dared to even carry away so much as a wig. And ever since then our galleon was often anchored in the bay, the wild park served our wild joys and the dry oleander provided the fires, with which we kept the merchants away and lured them into the dangerous limestone reefs. But even the boldest of us had never dared to reenter the castle itself.

I don’t know whether it was necessary or it was the malice of the Castilian, that we had to wander through all those dead rooms, through corridors and cellars, and even through a chapel which still smelled of rotting incense. They finally ended up in one room, in whose alcove stood a canopy bed. Then I heard them speaking softly, while I, from behind a chest, peeked through the doorway. The beam of light from the raised lantern played over that very bed, over the golden decorations, over the frescoes on the walls, from which the plaster was peeling off, and over the thick cobwebs on the window panes.

“Don Lorenzo’s bedroom,” I heard the old man say. Michael was sunk down in an armchair. He dug his fingers into his eye sockets and groaned in memory. You didn’t need to know him to know that he would have liked to tear Lorenzo’s corpse from out of the grave and rip it to pieces.

“Michael,” I called and jumped out, “come back!”

The captain rose up and broke out into a crazed laughter.

“Where is there to go?” He asked. “I must seek him out again. He shall not believe that I was a coward!”

But something troubled me much more than his frenzied laughter. Suddenly the old Castilian was missing.

“Where is your guide?” I replied in terror.

Michael looked at me without understanding. What guide? Was I so drunken from the plundered Malvasia wine that I was seeing ghosts in my delirium?

“God in heaven,” I screamed in growing horror and threw myself against the door which I had just came through. It was locked. Despite that it appeared to only be made of light wood it would not give way as I tried to spring it with Michael’s sword.

“A rusty lock,” he sneered.

By then I was jumping, crazy as a rat in a trap, against the window, trying to check whether escape was possible there. I wiped the cobwebs away from the window panes with the sleeve of a gold embroidered jacket which I had snatched from the councilor of Ragusa. You could see right down to the bay, in the middle of which our pirate galleon lay at anchor. The full moon made the mountains appear as if covered in snow, and the sea flowed like molten silver. Low on the horizon stood some narrow, supernaturally white banks of clouds. However, as I contemplated the plunge from the heights of the window down to the park, it was not the impossibility of escape from that cursed room that curdled my blood, but something else entirely.

The largest of the pines, which Don Lorenzo had at one time planted down at the edge of the meadow and beneath which we had enjoyed our evening, had left their places. They now stood gloomy and majestic in the open space half way between the castle and our earlier camp.

“You lie,” hissed Michael, when I called out in a strangled voice for him to come and look. “Why should his trees be wandering around?”

Breathlessly we marked the countless blossoms of wild daffodils that covered the meadow, to see if the trees were actually moving. It was difficult to tell for sure, but soon there was no doubt that the pines were dragging their rigid crowns up the slope with a terrible slowness, pushing forward like a snail in its house.

Now it was Michael who suddenly tore himself out of his stupor, and howling, turned away from the window and crashed against the door. I myself, stepped back. Weak with terror I leaned against the wall and watched the efforts of the captain. With his bullish power he smashed the heavy top of a table against the opening. The wood splintered under the terrible impact, yet the door gave way as little as if it were the wall. The terrible tale of the Castilian took form. Don Lorenzo’s ghost invisibly filled the things around us with a cruel vengeance, which had been denied him in life. I felt how his and Michael’s passion began to wrestle for the last time, and without hearing anything with my body, my brain heard, as if a fire passed through the walls and the ceiling, through the plaster and stone, a deep breath of the murdered that trickled down, and in which the moon mixed its pale light with that of the lantern. I would have much rather been standing in a losing battle next to the large deck lantern of our galleon.

While the captain struggled against the wall, I saw how a dark mass slowly rose up in a clear corner of the window. It was the top of a pine swelling and growing right before my eyes.

“Michael,” I groaned.

Then he saw it and with a curse tore the pistol away from me. Before I could stop him, he aimed it and fired at the strange creature. The new powder cap, which I had placed on the pistol the day before did it’s duty.

Michael’s shot thundered terribly loud in the small room. The flash of fire struck against the window pane. It rattled as the bullet went through it, and the powerful smoke of gunpowder filled the room.

But it was as if by this deed the moon had been extinguished, and we immediately stood in front of a completely dark window.

“What is that?” I screamed and raised the lantern. The smoke roiled back and forth, but through it I could see that the pine was now pressing its branches against the glass. They were no longer calm like they had seemed before. The light brown wood curled and rolled back and forth like a snake, and even in the poor light, the long needles trembled as if they were the fingers of this terrible living tree. They pushed against the window panes. They tried to push through everywhere. And then it happened. The glass gave way and bulged inward like a viscous mass. But through the round hole, which the bullet had made, a slender branch had already slipped through and pressed even further into the room.

The captain stood at the end of the bed, in one hand the smoking pistol, the other was so scratched from the wood that all the blood which had drained from his face seemed to be dripping from his fingers. Then a delicate, thin crackling announced that the window could not withstand any more pressure and was going to give way. With heavy knees I crashed once more against the door. I don’t know if it opened by itself or even if some ghost chased me through the desolate castle until I came to the courtyard and collapsed at the fountain. My companions found me there the next morning. They had to use blasting powder to clear the way to Michael’s room. He lay dead on the four poster bed. There was not a single trace of what had happened there during the night, except for one tender pine needle, that was stuck in his chest right through his heart. We gambled with dice for the ten precious rings that were mementos of our ten greatest pirate adventures which he wore on his hand. The emerald of the Bishop of Valona, the ruby of the Duchess of Acra, and all the others. Then we buried our captain and as a funeral service threw a burning torch into the cursed building. Since there was no wind at that time, our galleon lay for three more days in the glowing embers of the fire that was painted over the sea.

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Der Orchideengarten Vol 1, No 11

Der Orchideengarten is the world’s first illustrated fantasy magazine. This issue was published in the German language in 1919. This is the first English translation of these stories and contains the original cover and artwork. It includes: Death by Classified by Fyodor Sologub; OM! by Max Rohrer; Rumplebumm by Richard Theuringer; The Masked Ball by Hanns Reiser; The Deluge by Will Scheller. All translations by Joe Bandel; Layout and design by John Hirschhorn-Smith.

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Woman, Gothic, Dark, Horror, Fantasy, Girl, Person

Many of you don’t know that I translate German horror stories as a hobby. I just finished translating this story and am offering it as a Halloween gift to all my readers! It is a story that will be published in Der Orchideengarten Vol 1, no. 11 which I am currently working on. Enjoy!

Death by Classified

By Fyodor Sologub, translation by Joe Bandel

Resanow suddenly felt weak, tired, and wilted. His thoughts were occupied more and more with death. It seemed to him that there was no sweeter resting place than between the fir boards of a coffin.

Suddenly he was overcome with the desire to do something different from his daily routine.

He sat alone in his silent room and studied the classified ads in the “Nowoje Wremja”. He was looking for something. He compared them and selected one.

 His pale face which had already begun to wither, expressed perplexity and indecision. In his absent-mindedness he reached out with his pencil and the tip struck the lamp shade.

His hand trembled. The pencil tip tapped against the glass. He smiled. He said to himself:

“I am getting old.”

He lowered his eyes again; they had once been so lively and full of humor and now were tired and indifferent as he looked calmly and attentively at the newspaper.

Finally, he chose one of the classified ads. An educated, intelligent, and good-looking lady found herself in dire straits and asked a noble person to loan her fifty rubles. She would agree to any terms. The address read: Post office No. 17, general delivery. Present receipt Nr. 205824.

Resanow took a yellow, rough sheet of paper out of a box with the letterhead and water mark “Margaret Mill”.

With a sad smile on his lips, he wrote to her:

“Dear Madame!

I will give you the amount you ask for, neither as a loan nor as a gift; but for a service which I can only indicate briefly in this letter. There is not much to say. Since you claim to be intelligent, you will easily understand what I ask of you. That you come to me in the form of my Death. The more attractive it is the better— and act accordingly. If you understand and make this a fun game, the fee will be ample enough for you to live on. Are we agreed? Are you too afraid? Do you understand what I desire of you? If you are in agreement and not afraid and understand me correctly, then write me back, so I can meet with you for the first time. 5 o’clock in the afternoon would be the most suitable time for me. Respond by special delivery. Cash on delivery receipt Nr. 384384 for three ruble notes. I want to pick up the letter on Thursday.”

The three newly printed and issued 1905 ruble notes crackled uncomfortably, like the starched dress of a first communicant. The number 384 was repeated twice. This seemed strange and meaningful to him.

He thought to himself:

“And if? . . .”

He smiled weakly.

“Well, even if . . .”

He did not sign the letter. He sealed it and carried it to the mailbox. The maid could pick it up in the morning.

When he was back in his room, he wondered what the unknown woman looked like. Was she skinny, ugly, with an impoverished brown face, yellow teeth and thin strands of reddish hair beneath a wind and rain battered hat and a comical feather stuck in a ribbon hatband?

Or young, shy, and gentle, a seamstress with her delicate fingers pricked by her needle, with a pale waxy face and a large, sulking mouth?

Or a drunken, painted up, cheeky street whore with a screeching voice and crude manners?

Or an uncouth provincial lady in impossible clothes, with impossible manners, an unwashed neck, one abandoned by her husband or that had not found a lover?

“How will she, how will my Death appear? My own Death?”

“Perhaps she will meet me in a dark corridor, so that when I put my wretched gold into her cold hand, I won’t even see her face?”

On Thursday he went to the main post office. The summer day in the capitol was dusty, hot, and noisy. Here and there the houses had been plastered and whitewashed, and they gave off an unpleasant odor. Yet he felt cheerful, and the familiar restaurants seemed festive to him.

He did not hurry. He went into the Leiner and drank a glass of beer. He did not meet any of his acquaintances. Who could meet with him now? That would be an extremely unusual coincidence.

Around four o’clock he stepped through the open gate into the glass roofed hall of the new main post office. He remembered the old dirty hole that once had served as a post office. Today even the employees looked elegant.

He stopped and stood in front of the kiosk where the stationary was sold. A rotating stand showed him all sorts of sweet banalities that only post cards could give.

“Are these for sale?” He asked the saleswoman.

The cute girl with a bored expression shrugged her rounded shoulders.

“What do you want?” She asked him in a hostile tone. “Stationary, envelopes, postcards?”

He looked at her carefully. He saw the small curls on her forehead, the porcelain white complexion and the blue pupils and said:

“I don’t need anything.”

He went on. Opposite the main entrance in a large four cornered stall sat three young girls behind a double counter handing out letters. The public stood outside. A fat lady with a wart on her nose asked for a letter with the name Ruslan-Swonarjowa?

“What is your name? Swonarjowa?” asked the postwoman, whose face reminded one of the color of a roll, and she went to the box with the letters.

“Ruslan-Swonarjowa!” cried the lady with the wart, in a frightened whisper.

And as the postwoman with the bread-colored face stepped up to the counter with a packet of letters in her hand, the lady with the wart said:

“I have a double name: Ruslan-Swonaryova.”

A red-haired gentleman stood next to the lady with a stiff hat in his hand and followed the movements of the second postwoman with restless eyes; the prettiest of the three, she was looking through a packet of letters and appeared immensely proud of what she was doing. The gentleman appeared to be expecting a “sensitive and frivolous” letter. He was extremely nervous and made an uncomfortable and miserable impression.

The third postwoman, who was plump and red cheeked had a broad face and her chestnut brown mane was combed and parted deeply at her forehead. She laughed merrily at some private matter. She turned for a moment to the other two, who smiled and laughed as well, as if she had told them something very funny. 

Resanow silently handed her his three ruble notes. He eyed the three girls and determined that they were all young, healthy, and pretty. The postal administration had certainly added some elegance to their new building.

He was reminded of the newspaper dispute between this postal worker and a petitioner that he had seen somewhere the other day. The petitioner had not been allowed to sell newspapers at the post office because she was skinny, ugly, and withered from hunger and poverty, and already over thirty-two years old. He closed his eyes and in front of him immediately appeared an emaciated, pale, frightened face with wide open eyes and nervously twitching lips. Someone whispered quietly, but clearly:

“I have nothing to keep me alive.”

Someone else answered just as calmly:

“Then don’t live!”

Resanow opened his eyes. He looked balefully at the plump postwoman, who was busy looking for his cipher. Several letters and postcards were thrown onto the table one after the other. Her laugh was so disgusting and insistent.

Finally, she handed him a letter in a narrow envelope and put all the other letters away.

“I don’t have anything else.”

“I don’t need anything else,” said Resanow in annoyance.

He moved to the side, sat down on a bench in front of a pillar and opened the letter. He did it in a hurry, but otherwise he remained calm.

Large, narrow letters, delicate punctuation marks, a regular, calm, and unexpectedly beautiful handwriting.

“Dear Sir!

I am in agreement. I am not afraid. I understand everything. On Thursday at six o’clock. Michael’s Park, the avenue to the right of the entrance. A white dress. Your letter in my right hand.

Your Death.”

A postal employee rang the bell. The hall emptied. Resanow went to a Viennese restaurant. He ate a quick lunch and drank wine.

At half past five he was already at the park.

She stood under a tree at the beginning of an avenue near the entrance. Her white dress rose from out of the dark green of the silent park.

She was slender, pale, very quiet and calm. While he was walking up to her, she looked him over carefully. She had gray, calm eyes that did not reveal anything. But her gaze was tense and watchful. The expression of her face, which was by no means pretty, was cheerful and humble. The smile on her generous mouth was sweet and sad.

“My dearest Death!” He said softly.

He remained standing in front of her and reached out his hand in greeting, suddenly seized by a strange unrest.

She remained silent. She took his letter from out of her right hand, put it into her left and squeezed his hand with hers, which was noticeably narrow, cool, and gentle.

He asked:

“Have you been waiting for me long?”

She answered, every word articulated slowly, in a lifeless monotone and deadly silent voice:

“You didn’t expect me. You thought that it would be someone other than me.”

It seemed to him that a strangely cold breath streamed from her. The folds of her white dress were so still and motionless. The simple white straw hat with a white ribbon that she wore high above her hair threw a yellow shadow across her face.

As she stood in front of Resanow, she leaned forward and with the tip of her parasol drew a fine line in the sand between them from left to right.

He asked:

“So, you want to be my Death?”

Her answer sounded so calm:

“I am your Death.”

And he asked again, while a shiver ran over him:

“Aren’t you afraid to play such a sinister role?”

She answered:

“Death fears the living and shows no one its face. You are quite well the first, of the living, who has seen the human face of his Death.”

He said:

“You play your role too quickly and too conscientiously. Tell me, what is your name?”

She replied with a sad, soft smile:

“I am your Death, your white, quiet, stormless Death. Breath quickly, your hours are numbered.”

He wrinkled his brow and said:

“You are an educated woman; you are in need and ask for money. What has brought you to this, that you accept all my terms and agree to play such an uncanny role?”

She answered:

“I am hungry, sick, tired and sad.”

He laughed and said:

“By all means rest. Why are you standing? Please sit down on a bench.”

They went a few steps further and sat down. She drew an intricate pattern in the sand with the tip of her parasol.

He said:

“You are hungry. If you want, we can go to a restaurant, and I can get you something to eat. I also want to give you the money that you asked for. Tell me, is there anything else that I can do for you?”

“I will take everything from you that you care to give: your money and your soul.”

He started. Then he said with a laugh:

“You play your role most excellently!”

She answered:

“I came. My hour will soon strike. I will wait.”

He took his wallet out of his pocket.

In the small middle compartment, closed with a steel clasp, lay the five gold pieces which he had prepared for her. He took them out. She silently reached out her narrow, pale, soft, and steady hand. Delicate lines crossed her white palm in a clear, simple network.

The five gold pieces made a light click as one by one they were placed in her cold, motionless hand. Her delicate, long, white fingers slowly closed, and her hand quietly slid to a pocket on the side of her white skirt.

He thought to himself:

“My poor gold. — my last gift. — the poor earnings of a day laborer, — the miserable earnings for a superhuman work. — that is what I give you, my beloved!”

Did he only think these words, or did he say them aloud? They sounded so clear in his ears. Such a deep grief weighed down upon his heart!

She looked at him sadly with her gray eyes and smiled. Then she leaned forward, and the tip of her parasol rustled swiftly through the sand.

She whispered:

I have taken your gold and will also take your soul. You have given me your gold and you will give me your soul as well.”

He said softly:

You have received my gold because I have given it to you. But how will you take my soul? How do you plan to take it?”

She answered:

“When my hour strikes, I will come to you to fetch your soul and you will give it to me. You will give it to me because I am your Death, and you cannot outrun me.”

 This felt unbearably harsh to him, and he said with a cutting voice, to drown out his pain and fear:

You live in a furnished room. You are seeking a position or employment. Your name is Marie or Anna. What is your name anyway?

And he screamed, seized by a sudden hatred:

“Tell me what your name is!”

And she dispassionately replied:

“I am your Death.”

Her words sounded so hopeless and merciless. He started and hung his head. Discouraged he asked her:

“You need my gold, because you are hungry and tired, but my soul, — why do you need my soul?”

“With your gold I will buy bread and wine. I will eat and drink, and also give my death brood something to eat. Then I will take your soul. I will carefully take it out of your body, will carry it on my back, will goe with it into that dark room, where your and mine invisible Master dwells, go down and hand your soul over to Him. He will squeeze it and capture its sap in a deep bowl, into which my silent tears will also fall. — and then He will take my silent tears mixed with the sap of your soul and sprinkle them among the midnight stars.”

The strange words sounded so stiff and slow, like a strange incantation.

People passed by, voices rang out all around. Equipment rolled past outside on the pavement. Light footed children ran past, laughing. — everything was hidden behind the magical veil of her slow words. The colorful, joyful evening of the vanishing day disappeared as if in a cloud of incense.

He was sad, tired, and indifferent. He said softly:

“When the trembling of my soul reaches up to the stars and in those distant worlds an insatiable thirst for lust and life ignites — what will happen to me? I will be here rotting in a dark grave, which indifferent people will scratch out for me. What do I receive from your high sounding promises? What? Tell me!”

She replied with a mild smile:

“In blissful sleep is eternal rest.”

He said:

“Eternal rest! Is that your consolation?”

“I comfort any way I can,” she replied with the same stiff, gentle smile.

He stood up and walked to the park exit:

Behind him he heard her soft footsteps.

For a long time, he walked through the streets of the city, and she always followed him. Once in awhile he quickened his pace, as if to outrun her. — then she also went faster; she gathered the hem of her white dress with her delicate fingers and ran after him. If he stopped and looked back, he would see her in front of a shop window looking at the displays. When he got angry, turned around and walked toward her; she would quickly run across the street or hide in a doorway or shop entrance.

And she pursued him with her gray, calm, watchful eyes. Incessantly she pursued him.

“I will take a cab,” he said to himself.

He was amazed that this simple thought had not occurred to him earlier.

But when he spoke to a cab driver, she came closer. She stood right next to him and breathed her cold and sadness upon him. And she smiled.

He told himself angrily:

“She will sit with me in the coach. I can’t outrun her on foot or by coach.”

The coachman demanded sixty kopecks.

“Thirty,” said Resanow, and then walked away quickly.

The coachman cursed.

Resanow climbed up to the third floor and stood in front of the door leading to his apartment. He rang the bell. Meanwhile light footsteps came up the stairs. He rang a second time impatiently. A cold wave of fear came over him. He wanted to be inside his apartment before she could see which door he entered. There were four apartments on each floor.

She came closer and closer. Her white dress shimmered in the semi-darkness of the stairwell. She came nearer and her gray eyes looked watchfully into his own frightened eyes as he finally entered his apartment taking one backward glance.

He pulled the door shut behind him and turned the key. In the semi-darkness of the corridor, he remained standing and looked with sad eyes at the door. He felt, — as if the door had suddenly become transparent, — that she silently, with a mild smile on her lovely lips, stood outside the door and lifted her pale face to read the apartment number so that she could remember it.

Then he listened as her footsteps slowly went away.

Resanow stepped into his study.

“She is gone.” A voice said clearly.

Another hopeless, calm voice replied:

“She will come back.”

He waited. It became darker and darker. His heart tightened. His thoughts were unclear and confused. He felt dizzy as waves of hot and cold ran over him.

He thought:

“What will she do now? Perhaps she will buy something to eat, then go home and feed her hungry death brood. That is what she called her own children. How many children did she have? What did they look like? Were they as quiet as she was, his dearest Death? Starved, skinny, white, shy? Unseemly, with those same watchful eyes, just as dear, as hers, my white Death?”

She is feeding her death brood. Then she will go to sleep. Then she will come back here. Why?

Suddenly he was overcome by a burning curiosity.

Of course, she will come back. Why else would she have followed him to the doorstep of his apartment? But how will she come? How will she fulfill her task, this strange lady, who for money was prepared to do anything and wanted to be his own Death?

Maybe she is not a woman at all, but Death incarnate? Perhaps she will come here and take his soul from out of his sinful, weak body?

He laid down on the sofa and wrapped himself in a plaid blanket. A cruel-sweet fever sent shivers through all his limbs.

What strange thoughts came to his mind! She was very smart and conscientious. She wanted to honestly earn the money that he had given her and was trying to play her role to perfection.

But why was she so cold?

Well, because she was poor, starving, tired and ill.

She was tired from work. She had too much to do:

               Has sewn the entire day,

               Is tired, is sick . . .

She wandered around sick and hungry, searching. Her poor death brood was waiting, with wide open hungry mouths.

And he remembered her face, the earthly, human face of his Death.

The face was so familiar to him, her features so intimate.

Her face emerged more and more clearly in his memory, that known, trusted and beloved face.

“Who is she, my white Death? My sister?

               It is difficult for me because I am sick.

               Dear brother, stay with me!

And if you are my eternal sister, my white Death— what does it matter to me, that you appear to me here in this incarnation as a woman, who has met me through a classified ad and lives in a common apartment house?

I have placed my poor, clinking gold, my pathetic gift into her cold hand. She has taken the gold in her freezing hand and wants to also take my soul. She will carry me into the dark room, and the face of the Master will appear before me. — My own eternal face because I am the Master. I have brought my soul to life and have commanded Death to come and take me.”

And he waited.

It was night. The doorbell softly rang. No one heard it. Resanow threw off the blanket and crept softly into the anteroom. The screeching of the key in the lock was much too loud.  The door opened and she stood on the threshold.

He stumbled back into the darkness of the anteroom. He asked, as if he were surprised:

“Is it you?”

She said:

“I came. My hour has struck. It is time.”

He closed the door and went through the dark rooms into his study. He heard her light footsteps behind him.

In the darkness of his room, she snuggled up to him and kissed him with tender and sinless kisses.

“Who are you?” He asked.

She answered:

“You called me, and I came. I am not afraid, and you should not be afraid either. I will give you the last sweetness that life has to give— the kiss of Death. And your death shall be easy and sweet because of the poison.”

He asked:

“And you?”

She answered:

“I already told you that I will climb down that singular path with your soul which now stands open to us.”

“And your brood?”

“I sent them on ahead, so they can go before us and open the door.”

“When will you take my soul?” He asked again.

And she snuggled up tenderly against him and whispered:

“The dagger is sharp; it’s sting gives pleasure.”

And she snuggled up against him once more and kissed him.

Then the sting of the poisoned dagger touched his neck. A sweet fire ran like lightning through all his veins, and he lay dead in her arms.

With a second sting of the poisoned dagger, she killed herself and fell down dead on top of his corpse.

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Der Orchideengarten Vol 1 No 10

Der Orchideengarten was the worlds first fantasy magazine published in the German language in 1919 and this is the first English translation with the original artwork. Stories include: Hop Frog by Edgar Allan Poe; The Assembly by A. M. Frey; Cafe Lazarus by Max Krell; Plague by Alexander von Bernus. Translation by Joe E. Bandel; layout and design by John Hirschhorn-Smith.

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Der Orchideengarten Vol 1 No 9 was first published in the German language in 1919 and this is the first English translation of this historical fantasy magazine. It includes the original art and stories. Der Orchideengarten was the worlds first fantasy magazine. This issue contains the stories and poems: The Diary of Dr. Hederson by Horst H. Wehner; The Holy Pillar by S. von Vegesack; Of the Man Krapp by Emil Lucka; The White Flute by Erich Mosse. Translation is by Joe E. Bandel; editing and layout is by John Hirschhorn-Smith.

Finally got this issue out and only one story left on the next issue so they are coming! Slow but sure.

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Der Orchideengarten is the world’s first illustrated fantasy magazine and was published in the German language in 1919. This is the first time it has been published in the English language with the original artwork. Stories and poems include: “No One and Everyone” by Oskar Maria Graf; “The Wake” by Apuleius; “The Suicide” by Klarbund; “The Gray Mill” by H. Steinitzer; “The Head of the Condemned” by Alexander Dumas; “The Balcony” by Max Rohrer; “A Dream” by Will Scheller. Translations by Joe E. Bandel and layout by John Hirschhorn-Smith.

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Mati, Fire, Smoke, The Flame, Burn, Glow, Hot, Censer

Think of this as a political statement! This describes the type of society that I see our world turning into and I don’t like it! This is a story that I have translated for Der Orchideengarten #8. It might give some of you an insight into our current world and whether we choose to live in such a world.

The Head of the Condemned

From the story by Alexander Dumas (1802-1870) and retold by E. Boyer von Berghof (with four drawings by Paul Humpoletz)

Mr. Ledru drew from his memories:

It was in May 1793. A wonderful spring day, followed by an equally beautiful spring night, and I had been on a trip. I returned home late. The full moon bathed the streets of Paris in a pale light, the shadows cast by the streetlights trembled eerily. In the distance, fading away, like the howl of a hungry jackal, came the sound of a plaintive dog. Revolutionary enthusiasm asserted itself in the back-and-forth exchange of a few gun shots.

Then, cutting through the silence of Taranna Square, which I was slowly passing through, came the cry for help of a frightened woman. And walking more quickly towards Rue Tournon I noticed a woman who was resisting arrest by a patrol of Sansculottens. She had scarcely seen me when she turned towards me with folded and uplifted hands:

“Ah, Mr. Albert! There is a man I know, and he will certainly confirm that I am Solange, the daughter of mother Ledieu. Right?”

And in the same moment she had seized my right hand and feverishly clutched me. Hot fear trembled all over her body, which I felt through the coarse calico that defaced her figure. But her fingers were refined and soft.

“The daughter of mother Ledieu, so you say. You don’t have a citizen card, so march to the main guard post, my dear!”

Again, that desperate pressure on my arm. I understood.

“It is you, my poor Solange,” I said quickly, “what happened to you?”

“Now, do you see, gentlemen?” Her figure calmed itself.

“It seems to us that you could do better by saying citizen!”

“Excuse me, citizen Sergeant,” replied the young girl, “it’s not my fault, but that of my mother’s profession which has given me the bad manners of the noble pack, which we had to give up, but are not yet used to. But I want to break the habit, be more diligent.”

The ironic tone of her last words escaped the leader of the Sansculottes, who smelled strongly of brandy.

“I was carrying laundry for my mother, Mr. Albert.” She spoke to me bravely. “And I was late, so without thinking, I forgot my ID card at home.”

“Will you vouch for me, citizen . . . Albert?”

“Certainly! Is that enough?”

“No. Because first: who will vouch for you? Do you have an ID card, Sir?”

“Danton! Is that enough?”

“If Danton vouches for you, then that is enough. How and where will you get his testimony?”

“In the Cordeliers Club. Follow me there.”

And we went to the Rue de l ’Observance, in which the Cordeliers Club held its nightly meetings in an old Franciscan monastery. I quickly tore out a piece of paper from my pocket, took pen in hand and wrote a few words on it.

Danton, agitated by the debates at the meeting, worried about me and rushed from the hall.

“Yes, friend Ledru, and here you are, under suspicion of being a conspirator or even a royalist? No, no, brave citizens, I vouch for my friend here. It that good enough for you, citizen Sergeant?”

“It is good that you vouch for him. But for her too?”

The henchman’s stubbornness sounded clearly in his question.

“For her? Which one?”

“Here, this one here!”

“For him, for her, for everyone, that is around him!”

“I thank you citizen Danton and am happy to have seen you. Just continue as before with your work for the welfare of the people. The people will bless you!”

“The people . . . well yes! So be it. Your hand, good sergeant!”

“Long live Danton,” cried the patrol enthusiastically, before leaving.

I wanted to thank Danton, but he was urgently needed in the club and went back inside.

“Madam,” I spoke to the one who called herself Solange. Where may I now take you?”

“Where else but to mother Ledieu, Rue Ferou 24.”

We hardly spoke a word the entire way. A drunk moaned through Rue des Fossés, formerly Monsieur le Prince, and we took another way via Rue du Petit Lion. She skipped along next to me, and I found leisure to observe her. She had to be around 22 years old. A brunette with a peach complexion, expressive large eyes, a fine straight nose and a somewhat mocking mouth. Her feet and hands were like those of a queen. I understood how she would attract suspicion dressed as she was. As we reached number 24, she stopped, to say goodbye.

“Miss Solange, may I see you again?”

“What for and why?”

“Are you an aristocrat?”

“Not a trace. I told you, who I was. Solange Ledieu.”

“You are no more Solange Ledieu, than I am named Albert. Felix Ledru is my name . . . If you insist on not telling me your name fine. But it is really for your own good, that I asked for your name. What happened to you today, can happen to you tomorrow or next week with a worse outcome. I am not a spy for the police, I want to help you.”

“What kind of guarantee do I have that I can trust you?”

“Your own heart must tell you that.”

She looked at me searchingly for a while. Then she said, much more gently, almost humbly:

“I could use a friend like you pretend to be or want to become. But not for myself, for my father.”

“When can I see you again?”

“Tomorrow at this time, here on the street. As soon as I see you from the window, I’ll hurry down.”

“So, tomorrow around 10 o’clock. Solange.” —

The door fell shut, the key locked, I went on alone.

The next day I brought Solange an ID. That calmed her initial mistrust and she confided in me that she had spoken with her father. I shared with her how I thought he could be saved. He must get out of Paris, out of France, and travel to England. And she should follow him shortly. But there was no time to lose, because General Marceau, the person I had gone to for this favor, was departing for the Kleber army the next evening. He would take good care of the notorious outlaw. Solange decided to take me to him that same evening. First, she had me wait on the corner of the former Hotel Mậtignon and spoke again with her father alone. Then she picked me up. Opposite the Hotel Mortemart rose an inconspicuous house, whose door she opened with her little key. Carefully she once more locked the door and led me up to the second floor.

Both of our shadows fell on the narrow balustrade that ran around the building, encircling the courtyard. Like the tight outline of two lovers embracing each other, I thought. A tomcat sang his horrible love song. A man of about fifty in workman’s clothes welcomed me. But his manner of speaking told me immediately that he was foolishly dressed.

I told him everything, including that Marceau intended to take him along as his secretary. Yet he did not want to travel without his daughter. It was only after I told him how impossible it was for them both to travel together, that it would endanger both of their lives, that he finally gave in. I promised him that I would send Solange as quickly as possible. — On the next evening the stranger was happily traveling with Marceaus’ entourage. — — By the day after that we knew the father was out of all danger. Solange’s joy was indescribable. That evening she confessed her love for me. But this love was her downfall. Because instead of leaving, she stayed with me in Paris.

I found her a job as a substitute teacher in a girl’s school, so she would be safe from the revolutionary police that were searching for her. She herself moved into Rue Taranne, and every Sunday and Thursday the poor attic, with its four crooked walls hid an indescribably rich life of love and happiness.

Four months passed. I had surrendered myself to a very peculiar study. A study of the death of the murdered. But not out of an unnatural pleasure and sickness of my emotional life, but out of a sense of being humane. I imagined that if a person were to be murdered, it would be much better to be beheaded than to hang. Many who wanted to hang, were sentenced to beheading and described the sensation which they envisioned. They described it as a sudden shocking blow. Like a deeper sleep, without any pain. First there was a tugging and tearing through all the limbs, but only for a second. Then a blue flame flickered before the eyes and one fell asleep.

We were in the time of common executions. No one had any rule over the other, even Danton had to finally accept it. They guillotined 30-40 people a day, and the blood on the scaffold began to create an eerie puddle. A pond of gruesome color and import.

They dug a trench around the scaffold three feet deep and covered it with boards. That was necessary because once an 8 or 10 year old boy was climbing around and fell into the hideous pit.

I was continuing my propaganda work, that the abolition of the death penalty was necessary through the proof of the existence of life after the execution. Yes, I advanced my experiments by means of galvanism and electricity.

The government put the Clamart cemetery at my disposal and made available to me all the bodies and heads of the executed. I established a laboratory in a small chapel, in a corner of the cemetery. An electrical generator and four so-called laborers helped me with my horrifying work. Around five o’clock in the afternoon a new batch of corpses always arrived. The corpses lay, covered with raw burlap, on the filthy, blood stained and dripping red cart. The heads were placed together in a common sack. I usually took out one or two heads and as many bodies. I gave back the rest. My brothers assisted me in my research.

My love for Solange, to whom I had told nothing of my vocation, grew from day to day. She often received letters from her father who kept warning her to come to him in England. But out of love for me she kept putting off her departure day after day. I often thought of simply marrying her. But to do this she would need to reveal her real name and nothing, not even my scientific prestige could protect her from the Huguier-Tinville. So, I pushed off this marriage plan.

Then came the trial of Queen Marie Antoinette. It started on October 4th and on the 16th her head fell under the guillotine. The streets pulsed with feverish life. Once more the excitement grew in the bloodthirsty crowd by the hour. — I went to Solange around four o’clock in the afternoon, where I found her lost in tears. Even in me a boyhood memory came alive of when the Queen had spoken to me and given me a Louis d’or on a golden chain.

As always, we spent the night together. We stood at the window for a long time and I teased Solange that in her long light hair she looked like Saint Genofeva keeping watch over a hunger and doubt shaken Paris. Then I carried her to her bed and covered her wonderful well cared for, pure white body with a thousand kisses. A wave of light poured in from the moon and surrounded the head of my blessed slumbering lover with a gentle golden halo. But I could not sleep. Until around three o’clock in the morning a dog kept howling in mournful tones. Days later I learned that he belonged to a tenant that had been summoned to the security committee and had not returned.

The nights were already getting cold, so we left the windows closed. Towards morning Solange woke me up and told me that her father had appeared in a dream to help her to escape. He had come in through a bedroom window. Indeed, there was one window open, and a fresh morning breeze swept over Solange’s hot face. With consolations, implorations and protests the morning passed quickly. Solange did not want to abandon me in any way, yet her school started at nine o’clock, and she had already stayed home the day before, on the day of Antoinette’s execution, and she could not stay away from the school for any reason. I hailed a carriage and accompanied her to the corner of Rue des Fossés-St. Bernard. During the entire trip we held each other tightly, as if we were about to be separated forever. As I climbed down from the carriage and Solange continued on, I stood there firmly rooted. And suddenly the carriage stopped again. Solange sprang out and embraced me furiously. Then the loud clang from Saint Etienne struck nine o’clock. She hurried quickly back to the carriage; whose horses now took off at a quicker pace.

A letter from Solange the next day notified me that she and the head of the school had had a violent quarrel because of her absence and then being late. Sunday we would see each other again. I was really looking forward to it. I was still worried about her because she had written that her father’s last letter had been unsealed.

It was Friday, and I had just taken up a new work about Saint Germain, Cagliostro and Pythagoras and had buried myself so deeply in his lectures, that I forgot about the appointment with my brothers. I read about the old wisdom that death does not cancel life. Death only destroys the memories, nothing more. If only the memory was not destroyed, and every soul could recall their past memories from the beginning of the world until now. A certain inexplicable atavistic memory had been experienced by several people, but only the three named above had discovered the great secret, that their bodies had died several times before. It was already three o’clock when I stopped reading and quickly hurried to meet my brothers, but they were no longer there.

So, I went to the cemetery alone. An ugly October rain drew long cold streaks in the mist filled landscape. The town crier passed by in a tattered coat howling out the names of those sentenced to death from the list. Close behind him, invisible, walked death. When I got to Clamart it was almost night. One cloudy light flickered in the grave digger’s shed, overturned and still standing tombstones rose out of the twilight.  The wind rushed through the defoliated trees, like skeleton’s rattling together.

Countless mounds of newly disturbed earth displayed empty or occupied open graves, still uncovered. The bottom of one of these open pits was almost filled to the brim with water. Poor, cold and naked corpses were thrown into this dirty rainwater! I unlocked my laboratory. I struck a flint and lit a fire; the tinder had gotten wet and did not catch fire until the fifth or sixth try. The flicker of the candle ran along the wall, searching. The altar was stripped of all ornaments, the paintings cut and removed from their frames. In the place where earlier the tabernacle had stood, representing God and all of life, now lay exposed a skull with skin and hair, grinning into nothingness.

I sat down in my armchair, which one of the workers had brought, and pondered. I thought of the queen, whom they had only a few hours ago laid in her grave, of the woman, who had been so beautiful, so rich, so happy and like a common criminal had been led to the scaffold by an angry mob. And I thought of the gray sack, that now hid her head, and the soft, splendid linen, on which the blonde girl’s head had once rested in the national castle of Schӧnbrunn, and in the gilded state beds in Versailles, St. Cloud and the Tuileries, upon which the royal mother herself would have liked to slumber.

Outside the thunderstorm became very violent. The storm roared around the old chapel in powerful gales and the branch of an ash drummed on the roof. The ground trembled softly beneath the weight of a nearby passing vehicle. Oh, the red cart with Master Simson’s afternoon meat.

Two men, dripping wet dragged a sack in through the door.

“Good evening, Sir. Those beasts are almost stiff from the cold. Well, these are warmer. You won’t catch cold from them.”

Then they left without closing the door, through which the wind came in and swirled around my hat and coat. The flame of my light flickered up, flickered restlessly back and forth and threatened to go out completely.

I quickly closed the door again and picked up the sack. Outside the bride of the wind raged, and I heard the creaking graveyard trees giving the gruesome sighs of their death song and the whistling and groans of the wild hunt was in the air. Was it the gruesome concert of nature, or that I was alone in the chapel where I usually worked with my brothers, or was it the peculiar restlessness that I felt which had held me spellbound all day? For the first time in a long time, I was seized with a faint horror. And suddenly it seemed to me, as if I heard a weak voice plaintively call out the name “Albert”. I was startled and felt my hair stand on end and made an attempt to smooth it back down. Only one person in the world had ever called me that. I hesitated to untie the sack; but then it repeated again, only weaker and more pitifully:


My right hand went quickly into the sack. And then it seemed to me as if lips that were still warm, pressed a kiss upon my hand. I was in that stage of horror, which overwhelms and kills us or gives the coward an unheard of feeling of courage and strength. I took the head and quickly put it on the table. But right away I frightened myself. Because I uttered a terrible scream, which shook the vault like a lament of the damned. — — — There was no doubt about it — it was Solange’s head.

I whimpered, I sobbed, I starred absent-mindedly in front of me for minutes without finding any pain-relieving tears. I raved and laughed, loud and shrill like a madman. Then I sat down, took the head, which was full of coagulating blood, kissed it on the mouth and repeated over and over again:

“Solange, Solange, Solange!”

And then I imagined, or did it really happen? That the eyes, which were half closed, opened a little and two tears fell before they closed again.

What happened to me after that, how the light suddenly went out, how I tried to flee, ran into the table, collapsed, fell and struck my head on the edge, and how I believed that the mouth of the guillotined head suddenly opened to my lips and I sensed a cold deathly kiss, as I lost all consciousness.

The next morning the grave diggers found me and slowly brought me back to life. —

Solange had indeed been arrested the same day that she had written to me and was sentenced and judged the next day. The head that had spoken to me, touched my hand and my lips, the eyes, which had looked at me and cried, were indeed Solange’s head, eyes and lips.

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Der Orchideengarten was published in the German language in 1919 and this is the first time most of these stories and artwork have been published in the English language. Stories and Poems include: “The Hashish Dream” by Richard Euringer; “The Devil” by Guy de Maupaasant; “From the Ways of the Hanged” by Siegfried Aram; “The Blazing Flame” by Karl and Joseph Capek; all translations by Joe E. Bandel; Edit and layout by John Hirschhorn-Smith.

I’m back! Sorry it has taken so long! I almost forgot how to do this! I will be doing two magazines this month to kind of catch up and then go back to one a month. There should be no problem now that I am retired and have more time to work on these projects.

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Der Orchideengarten Vol 1 No 5 contains the stories and poems: Otto te Kloot- Orchids; Wilhem Nhil- The Cannibal Club; Charles Baudelaire- The Spectre; Wilhem Meinhold- The Amber Witch-How My Poor Child Was Sentenced To Be Put To The Question (translation by Lady Duff-Gordon).These have been translated by Joe E. Bandel and include the original 1919 artwork. Technical Editor is John Hirschhorn-Smith.

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Der Orchideengarten Vol 1 No 4 contains the stories and poems: The Coffee Pot by Theophile Gautier; Dios Vienne by Leo Perutz; Cox-City by Apollinarius Wileem; Adventure of a Wolf by Alexander Petofi. These have been translated by Joe E. Bandel and include the original artwork. Technical Editor is John Hirschhorn-Smith.

Just in time for the first of August! I really loved translating these stories! I can’t choose between “The Coffee Pot” and “Dios Vienne” as my favorites for this issue. Just to be upfront, “Dios Vienne” appears to be a fragment from the book “The Marquis de Bolibar”. It was so interesting that I bought a cheap copy of the novel on line and am looking forward to reading the entire story. “The Coffee Pot” really touched my heart and reminded me of why I love this type of literature so much.

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