The young doctor, Paul Hein, moves to Berlin in anticipation of a glittering career. But he is caught unawares by the enchantments of the city, and the great sorceress herself.
The festivities in the Brandes house were nearing their end. Flowers and torn up dance cards lay about on the parquet floor; through the open hall doors, you could already see braid wearing servants waiting with cloaks and umbrellas; and only in the great picture gallery of the house did such visitors as don’t like to break off drink their mocha. Gradually even these disappeared.
Melanie and her husband stood next to the exit to say something obliging once more to the parting guests. Each had to take home the consciousness that they were especially distinguished. The gentlemen who clustered around the lady of the house to kiss her hand were also followed by Paul. Uncertain, almost swaying, he strode along, and yet his eyes reflected the entire afterglow of the festivities — he had had only one thought over the entire evening.
When he stood before her, he felt Benno Brandes’s look directed steadily on himself. It confused him, and he would not have kissed the small, warm hand which she openly stretched out to him for any price. Again that foolish feeling of shame befell him, again the innocent provincial arrived at a breakthrough with it. “Come again soon”, Melanie demanded of him, and as he bowed silently, the banker placed his hand on his shoulder and added with a peculiar intonation, “I very much request it too, dear doctor. Right soon — do you understand?”
After that he shook the doctor’s hand with exaggerated politeness, and the latter saw once more a pair of dark eyes directed at him in farewell, perceived once more the white, gorgeous curve of the beautiful woman’s shoulder, then he found himself at the entryway, and a minute later on the empty, night streets. A cool, moist wind struck against him. Cars with beaming headlights flew past him, the wanderer did not raise his head. Before his ears, the igniting music still cheered; before his eyes, everything swam in glitter, gold, many colours; and in between, as if from a rosy haze, the naked form of the enchanting woman emerged. — Breathing heavily, and quickly, as if he did not want to think about it, he pulled the rose out, cushioned it in both his hands and drew its scent in to himself thirstily, greedily. Yes, this pleasant fragrance had billowed around her as she had offered her tantalising arm to him under the statue of Venus. — He shivered and strode on quickly.
“Doctor — Doctor Hein”, the treble of the music teacher, Krebs, crowed behind him. Paul started — a car glided past right next to him, he threw himself in, and stated his address curtly. No, no, he did not want to be reminded of his environs anymore; this hovering brilliance, this grace and confidence of the party from which he just came, to this he wanted to belong constantly himself. A steadfast resolve arose in him. And again he let the strong scent of the flower intoxicate him, and again he heard a fresh, melodious voice next to himself, the small, red glow worm whirred about him, and the sorceress swung her wand invisibly over him.