Alkmene the King's favorite
This wonderful story tells of a very special Italian Greyhound: Alkmene. If you are in love with Italian Greyhounds, this story will thrill you. Alkmene will come back to life in your hearts, where she will live forever. Enjoy the reading!
Translation made by Valeria Rocco for Lupavaro
The reproduction, publication and distribution, in whole or in part, of this translation is expressly prohibited without written authorization, because the research work and the following translation from the original language is a long and meticulous work.
Original script: Bruno Frank, Werke, 1. Lesebuch. Werke, Lesebuch mit ausgewählten Auszügen aus Erzählungen and Novellen von Bruno Frank 1945
Illustrations: I thank the Roman artist Paola Marinangeli for having made some of his works available to illustrate this writing.
Two years before his death, already marked by advanced age, old Fritz, (editor's note: "Fritz" is the German nickname of FFrederic II) like every year, the King held the great parade of his Silesian troop. He paused a few moments and looked around, with a very dissatisfied and frowning expression. His mood throughout this year's demonstration was terrible. He did not speak to anyone, his attitude was cold and detached, bordering on rudeness. During dinner he even ignored Lafayette and disappeared from the table after an hour of discomfort. "Didn't any missive arrive?" he asked in the silence, in his high, captivating voice, often in contrast with the sharp words. An aide hastily stepped forward to report. No new missive had arrived.
W. Meyer: Friedrich II. mit seinem Grossneffen Friedrich Wilhelm III. und zwei Windspielen, Kreidelithographie,
Gedruckt von Ludwig Theodor Zöllner
In the suite they exchanged attentive and meaningful glances. During the entire trip to Silesia, which now lasted a week, these mysterious messages arrived every day, awaited by the King, who broke the seals immediately, and always with extreme impatience. You could observe the play of colors on his cheeks, from yellowish to purple red, his hands trembled as he broke the seal and his expression showed fear and agitation. Wherever he was, when the letter arrived; en route, during an inspection, in public, at the table, he immediately asked for paper and an inkwell to write a few lines and carefully close the parchment containing the answer and immediately ordered the field officer to deliver the answer to Potsdam. The unfortunate Officer hastily and stealthily took some kind of meal, mounted a fresh horse and galloped, through the clay and sand of Silesia and the Brandenburg areas, frequently changing horses to be faster, with the missive to be returned.
What was going on? Nothing was unthinkable. That poor old man, there under the vault, was the focal point of the continent, now at the center of an international generality. He was the power, the most coveted ally, but equally impenetrable and enigmatic, also known as scary and otherwise avoided. Prussia was again quite lonely in the world. What was going on? A new war, despite the European land seeming pacified after the succession dispute? Was Prussian relations with Russia about to loosen completely, had the union between Petersburg and Wien become an enormous reality? Was Prussia's much-desired alliance with France about to be concluded? Were Friedrich's far-sighted plans for a German principality league involved? Or did Emperor Joseph still ultimately dictate his intentions to cede the Netherlands, to affiliate with Bavaria? That narrow-eyed old man in the blue infantry jacket could hold the fate of Europe in his gouty hands. His army, trained by him as an instrument of terrible power, was capable of being decisive in any conflict on earth. And his glory as a general, forged and strengthened in battles that are already mythical today, whizzes past this army like a huge cutting blade.
But what was going on? What did these couriers mean between Potsdam and Silesia, whose letters managed to worry him, the most serene and relaxed, up to this point, visible to all? Such a thing had never happened before! In their quarters, at the shaky tables, shepherds, advisers and merchants sat down in the evening and reported to their marshals, in Curial French, to their chancellors, to their sovereigns, and there was no court in Europe that was not reported to that. secret flickering movement.
During the maneuver, the hussars in particular had to suffer the discontent of the sovereign, they were forced to exercise mercilessly, despite the constant rain. Likewise, the King did not even care for himself and refused to protect himself from the pouring rain. Crossing the parade ground, someone galloped straight towards the King. At the same moment the rain stopped abruptly, a ray of sunshine emerged and the water on coats, hats, bridles and guns glistened, the countless puddles of the battered camp glistened as if molten silver and with a redeemed cry of joy some birds flew high above the heads of the troop.
The knight approached, the flat pocket of the field officers could already be seen on the left side. Friedrich had noticed it, took a few steps towards the courier, approached and stopped about the point where Lafayette was, who still had his coat on. A stab of pity through the Marquis's chest, crossed with a ray of reverential, almost religious awe. the King, now under the scorching sun, sitting on his rain-soaked horse, showed all his suffering. The uniform dangled like a wet rag over his hunched body, from his blue hat over his hunched body, from his frayed hat water flowed over his pale and suffering face. But his right hand opened and closed, twitching that showed his extreme impatience. The marquis looked at the refuge. Those who were still there came out from under the roof and looked extremely interested; Among the first, Lafayette saw the red general's coat of his opponent, Lord Cornwallis. Now he too wanted to leave, it seemed appropriate, given the circumstances. But the King noticed it, raised his hat and said in a low voice: "Restez toujours!"
The hunting officer had approached, parried his chestnut, wanted to jump down and say hello. the King interrupted the salute, hastily reached out and broke the seal greedily. Lafayette and another gentleman jumped off the horse and hurried towards him. Friedrich had swung so violently in the saddle that he seemed to be about to fall. But he resisted, took a deep, hissing breath and still had the strength to pull away a little on his white horse. Lafayette saw him in profile, his mouth open for air, his eye swollen as if it wanted to shatter. And now he closed his eyelid and a heavy tear ran down his cheek. At that moment The young general felt unusually too close to the ruler. He took a few steps back. There was total silence. The courier waited, motionless, in the distance the hussars scanned the scene in silence. Finally, after a few minutes, the King got off the horse. He did it without paying attention to decorum, he let himself slide down, heavily, like a wet sack sliding down, on the wet side of his horse. "Did he have a crayon?" he asked the field officer in a hollow, dark voice. The exhausted officer did not understand this or could not serve what was asked of him. Then the ruler took what he needed from Lafayette, leaned his wallet against the red saddle of his white horse, took off his glove and wrote. His thin hand moved uncertainly; on it Lafayette noticed a ring, with a large green semi-precious stone, set without art and not at all precious, and was not a little surprised about it. But it was a Silesian chrysoprase, a constant symbol of the conquered province. Now he saw the king's lips move and heard a word, a name
"Alkmene" whispered Friedrich. "Alkmene, Alkmene", in the tone of the most bitter complaint. The marquis lowered his eyes. He hadn't guessed it. It couldn't be guessed, it couldn't be interpreted. He refused to think about it. He would never talk about it. It had already been forgotten. Then he heard himself called and was immediately there. “Sir, there are seal waxes in the outermost compartment,” he replied. the King found what he needed, folded his note and sealed it. His eyes rested on the stamp: it did not show the marquis's coat of arms, but a symbolic figure, a libertas with fluttering hair, in a gloriole. Then Friedrich looked at the young hero and from his wet, sick and sad face a smile was born, wise and melancholy, which after a very short instant disappeared. The moment had fled. “Go back to Potsdam,” he told the field officer. "Hurry up, I'll follow you." The officer set off again, swift as the wind. Friedrich gestured to one of the aides. “I cancel the trip. Let me do everything to Neisse. And first I want the officers for criticism ”. They approached quickly, in groups: the colonel, the majors, the Rittmeister, the lieutenants, the Cornetts, fifty or sixty gentlemen in number. They looked battered and their mood was even worse. Lafayette wanted to retire again. "Restez toujours, monsieur!" said the King.
As he began his criticism, he tried to give his voice a firm and confident tone but he always succeeded only for a few moments. Immediately he became weaker again and nearly sank into a murmur. He was still dripping with rain, he could hide the tremor and his face looked like that of a dying man. Several times he was apparently shaken by strong emotions, then he stopped and was completely absent and only after a visible effort was he able to continue. After three days of grueling travel, the King finally arrived at the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam.
The return home
Alkmene, his dog, his Piccolo Levriero Italiano favorite, his darling, his joy, his consolation, lay dead on a small table, covered by a high glass dome, which usually protected a precious clock. There she lay, lit by two five-armed candlesticks, which stood on the right and left of the fireplace and their flames were doubled by the mirror. She was resting, her delicate head turned towards the interior of the room, lying on her side just as in sleep, the eyelid was raised a little and a dark thread of the iris was visible. Her ghostly little legs were spread elegantly, side by side, one of her front legs slightly curved, coquettishly. Her pale coat glistened with silky reflections under the warm candlelight. At first it wasn't a sad sight at all. It was almost impossible to believe the news of this death, it almost had to be called! “Alkmene Alkmene!”, And she would immediately jump on her legs! Yet, Alkmene had already been buried, she had already been in her grave.
When Friedrich left, she was ill. The ruler left with a heart of lead, he could barely travel. But he was ashamed to give up his job, the province, the army and his men because of a dog and then he was ashamed again to feel this shame. Eventually, he left on August 15, like every year. The three chamber hussars were ordered to send a detailed report on the little darling every morning. And every evening an officer pursued by the regiment was to bring the ruler's instructions. These officers did not know what they were carrying, because Schöning, Struetzky and Neumann were discreet and silent.
They didn't laugh, even when they were alone or with each other. They took care of Alkmene, with fear and concern and finally with despair. Their care and concern were useless, in the end the frail greyhound died and they buried her in front of the king's windows, in a flowerbed, where several of her greyhounds lay. When the King's reply arrived, they trembled. the King ordered them to remove Alkmene from his tomb and set her down in the library; he himself would leave immediately. followed the message Here he is, now he has arrived and there lay Alkmene under the glass dome. The lights, despite the late hour, were still on in all the state chancelleries and were waiting in their country castles for the crowned: Joseph in Laxenburg, Karl in the Escorial, in Tsarskoye Selo Katavevarina, Georg in Windsor; even the pope.
The sovereign had not simply died a dog, which perhaps could be replaced. The elderly feel alone, they no longer live with their generation; those young people who lived with them, those who grew up with them, are gone and speak a language without echo. The last few years had created a terrible void around him, there was no one left. D'Argens, Seydlitz, Fouqué, Buddenbrock, all away, Krusemarck, Quintus Icilius within three days, and therefore also the best and the last, the most faithful of the loyal, the most distinguished of the wise, the wisest of the honest , Earl Marishal Keith. He was all alone. His diners, who still shared his heavy and unhealthy meals shared with him meant nothing to him, they just had to provide him with the keywords for his stories and anecdotes, because the King liked to talk while he ate. Women have not flanked his mature years, except a dark, heavy duty; in a small castle, in the north of Berlin, lived an old lady, with whom he had been married for fifty years and to whom, every year, he made a special visit for half an hour
He had also owned a family once, there had been ten brothers and sisters, four of them were still alive. He had only loved one sister, very bright, she lived in Bayreuth, and she had been dead for a quarter of a century now. The sovereign had nothing left but his IGs. He had always liked the wordless creatures, he never tolerated a blow or a joke towards animals. There was no whip or spurs for his horses, he fed them fruit from his table, convinced that what delighted his palate would delight them too. The monkeys, that lived in the castle, were allowed to do whatever they wanted in his rooms, he laughed with emotion and when one of them died of tuberculosis, he had all the others taken back to their warm homeland, with sadness in their hearts. Initially he did not want to accept the Arabian dromedary given to him by a Russian general and had sought the advice of an expert, to make sure that the animal really tolerated the local climate. His great, unique love and affection, his true great passion belonged only to Italian greyhounds.
People, who always needed tangible reasons, said that this passion had grown so strong when his famous Biche, in the Seven Years' War, thanks to his extraordinary intelligence, saved his life. It was said that once he sat down with the King, hidden under a bridge arch, when the pursuers galloped noisily over the bridge. Biche looked at their master with understanding, remained motionless and did not bark. Well, maybe that alone was a heroic and good saga for the people. But even the upper class, the international class, in short, high society, had thoughts about the King's passion for his greyhounds, only this was a little less innocent.
It was a century of eroticism and anomalies and so on, so it was assumed, without further ado, that the King was going to sleep with his little dogs (because he preferred females) to replace his wife. And according to external opinion, it was even difficult to refute, because the favorite greyhound really slept every night in her bed. The sovereign did not care what this circumstance had made one think of his "inclination". He despised people and their opinions, despised any hypocritical modesty, to the point of even enjoying such rumors. It might have occurred to him to give up some of his habits for the talk of the people.
On the Jägerhof there was still a breeding of Italian greyhounds. Never less than forty, sometimes there were seventy and eighty, managed by different hunters. The serious situation for these employees, when more puppies died of distemper than the sovereign seemed normal for the law of natural selection! The King often came on an unexpected visit, just to see if everything was going according to his directions. He then brought the most beautiful and intelligent to his home, never less than three were in his company. They were allowed everything, the clemency of the King, towards his greyhounds, had no limits. They sat next to him on the sofas, jumped into his lap while he wrote and he preferred to stop working and not let those graceful creatures get off his legs. They were allowed to play with what they wanted, they could gnaw on what they wanted even if it were precious objects. They were always with him. When, after lunch, he sat outside in the sun they were with him, in his chair or playing near to him
And when a stranger appeared far below the terraces, they began to bark furiously and the King, who basically hated people, praised them very much for it. Only when the king went to sleep were they taken away, except for one who shared his bed. But early in the morning, as soon as they woke up, they all returned. the King took care of them tenderly. Woe to the servant but woe to the guest who accidentally stepped on one of them! the King became furious, he raised his stick to rant, he was like an angry father. No consideration, no etiquette prevented him from heavily insulting the unfortunate beater. From time to time strangers came to him on an important mission, wearing an ornate gala gown, perfectly memorizing Exposé. The Kammerhusar opened it and they, with amazement, saw the King sitting on the floor, wearing an old jacket which he fed his dogs, adjusting the morsels with his stick.
He couldn't be without his animals. His favorite dog also accompanied him in war, he was always with him almost to the point of battles. When the King moved to his winter quarters, the other Sighthounds also left Sanssouci and this, for the whole world, was a sign that the year's campaign was over. When there was peace, the ruler exchanged his Potsdam with Berlin every year for a few weeks. Punctually, very early in the morning, on December 22nd he rode there alone but only when the midday sun was shining did his dogs travel. It was a strange, even a fantastic caravan. The Arabian dromedary swayed forward, covered in a green saddle cape on which the box with the hundred cans of tobacco was fixed; then the Italian greyhounds followed, in a carriage drawn by six horses, first wrapped in warm clothes and then covered. The servant, who was in the back seat, facing the lively greyhounds, talked incessantly with them, urged them not to expose themselves and lifted them and covered them when they jumped off the seats.
Alkmene the King's favorite greyhound, the servants
"Hasenfuß, you have to be calmer", he said, yes, he really spoke to them in the third person, "Stay comfortable and warm, Pompon!" "Alkmene, don't bark so wildly!" The italian greyhounds, in Berlin more than ever, were a comfort and relaxation to the King, considering that he, the misanthrope, was forced to do some large receptions. Therefore, the benevolent had considered all this an oddity, the ill-minded a perverse deviation. In reality it wasn't either. The older he got, the more he discovered people's malice and wickedness, the more his tender heart turned to the clear and simple soul of these wordless creatures. He could trust them. He could always count on them. One day they were like the other, always confident, always good friends. Their faces, like a Italian Greyhound, sometimes showed a noble sorrow, almost of offense, but they were cheerful and sweet. They often trembled even in the sun, nature had made them so beautiful. They were refreshments for him, loaded with responsibility. He who had worked more than anyone else, who works with his servants, his helpers. They never tired or disturbed him, the King willingly gave them his presence and attention as much as they asked for.
The King's mourning
The thing he hated most on earth was hypocrisy, he couldn't pass a crucifix without cursing, because he wanted to show people that he didn't believe in their faith at all. He thought everyone was liars and false. Only his dogs weren't hypocrites. Their naive selfishness moved and delighted him: he was nature itself. The fact that he preferred small Italian greyhounds to all breeds was probably due to the time. The "Piccolo Levriero Italiano" ( italian greyhound in italian language) was a regal and authentic Rococo dog, in short, a fashionable dog. He had kept it all his life, never even thought about other breeds, he had better reasons. He loved the grace and delicacy, the elegant line of the limbs. These dogs and his tastes were as little German as possible. They were everything that Prussia did not have, this harsh and cloudy country to which it remained chained to it. The breed was called "Italienisches Windspiel" (Italian wind game) but it meant for him not only the cheerfulness and transparent sky of Florence, it was also his cleverly beautiful Athens, and the free and elegant Paris. This Sanssouci here was a monastery, and he was that old grotesque abbot: what a beautiful sensuality, what a beautiful light, life is light here and this lightness came from these cute little animals. With never diminishing joy and emotion, he saw them jump. or raise the narrow and noble head. They stretch their slender paws on the floor, close together and he felt very strong as a large contrasting figure, him with his gout knots on his fingers, his seven teeth and his tobacco-smeared jacket.The King had always loved one of them in particular, there was always a little favorite among them.
The confidant of the King
No one had ever been as dear to him as Alkmene. He wasn't just because he was very old now and even less than before he had a man to whom he would turn his heart. It was also because Alkmene was so beautiful and so intelligent. He had carried her away from the Jägerhof in her arms when she was very young. At that time she weighed less than 500 grams and it seemed very funny to him, to baptize this slender creature with the name of the mother of Hercules. She did not weigh more than 2 kg even when she became an adult, she was the best and fine product of many years of breeding, the most delicate, the Piccolo Levriero Italiano most adorable, probably around the world. the King could carry her on his arms even when her gout got worse. Alkmene never left him, not even for an hour. He always sat in a low chair next to him, on a down pillow, on which his light body hardly left a footprint. She ate with him, at the table he casually placed the best morsels on the damask tablecloth to cool them. She went with him to the gallery of paintings and looked at him, just like him, at the new paintings. When the King was sad, Alkmene noticed it and showed him all the tricks she knew how to do, she stood up on her paws or pretended to be dead, nothing more as the King did not want her dogs to learn anything. When the King spoke to her, she tilted her lovely head with an indescribably intelligent expression and listened. But if he scolded her, always very gently, she couldn't stand it and she put a paw on her mouth, as if to beg him to stop. If so, the King would leap to his feet and take Alkmene in her arms, press her against the blue tunic of the uniform, kiss her with his toothless mouth, again and again, giving her the sweetest endearments. Sometimes tears ran down his cheeks, for the happiness that he, in those moments, he felt in his old and lonely heart. And when they went to bed together in the evening, then Alkmene was closer to him than any predecessor, nestled between her chest and right arm. There she remained silent, like a child with her mother, and she breathed her light, sweet breath against her shoulder.
And now Alkmene, his beloved Alkmene was dead.
He was there with his arms down, looking down at his dearest treasure. No, that terrible shock, caused by pain, had not yet materialized because Alkmene was so beautiful, not at all distorted, she lay there in peace, she seemed to still breathe, her silky mantle shone light gold, like the gold of champagne. He looked aside to rest his eyes on Alkmene's chair beside the table, covered by its round cushion. Here she sat and watched him rule the empire. She behaved well, always behaved very well and quietly, only her feet were often in a little nervous movement. With that he had scratched the pillow, tore a little and in one place feathers came out. It was horrible this vivid testimony of the beautiful past life, now next to the little dead girl! There was something else on the chair: Alkmene's collar. It consisted of a strip of green leather and was adorned with silver plates. He took it and read what was written on it: “On m'appelle Alcmène et je suis au Roi”. He was holding the collar between his fingers and he thought he could still feel the warmth of her thin neck. He dropped the collar and began to cry. He stood there, hunched over the glass dome, and it was as if all the tears his old body could produce came out all together. He sobbed, screamed, wiped his eyes with the rough sleeve of his uniform, wiped the back of his hand too, and since he hadn't washed in days, he completely disfigured him. His tears flowed, flowed, his eyes hurt, the tears fell on the glass dome, a river of tears that split left and right over the untouchable corpse, flowing down the crystal of the dome.
Suddenly a thought, a phrase formed in his head and it inhibited the pain. He thought and moved his lips: "these are the last tears I will shed". His crying stopped. He had wandered for hours in the small round room past the glass cabinets with the bound works of the essay; under the empty gazes of Socrates, Apollo and Homer, who from their consoles rested their gaze on him. the King made three circles around his half-century working cell. He stopped at one of the tall windows that were almost open. It was the east window. Over there on the edge of the terrace lay on its base, the beautiful Flora, illuminated by the moonlight. Soon he would be there too. His crypt was under this base. Next to it, adjacent, all his Italian greyhounds, the predecessors of Alkmene, were buried. There they lay for a long time, now transformed into ghostly skeletons, a row of small stone slabs, on which the names are engraved. But at the end of the row, very dark in the moonlight, a small square could be seen dug into the ground: it was the earth bed, from which they had taken Alkmene, awaiting the return of the King.
The pain of the King
“Ma petite Alcmène,” he said in a whisper in the language of his heart, “bientôt je me coucherai tout près de toi“. He returned to the table, with both hands lifting, not without effort, the crystal dome. He wanted to feel Alkmene once again, he wanted to feel again how light she was, he wanted to caress her and he wanted to kiss her. But he winced and walked away. His apparent composure was false, under the silky mantle there was already rot and the quick work of death. He quickly replaced the crystal dome. The greasy smell of decay had hit him. Oh peace and end! Oh innocence! Oh extinction! Now Alkmene was shining again under the crystal, as if he were sleeping. But the King had not been very careful in his haste, his little body was not completely circumscribed by the rounded edge of the dome and one of his paws was looking out. Slender and delicate, a phantom paw, protruded towards the King and it was as if his treasure was gently holding out the slender hand to drag him with it into nothingness, in the comfort of eternal rest.
Sources: File: Bruno Frank, Werke, 1. Lesebuch.Werke, Lesebuch mit ausgewählten Auszügen aus Erzählungen and Novellen von Bruno Frank 1945
Alkmene the King's favorite IG, in memoriam
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