Ronnie looked anxiously at Cicely.
“You can see it coming on, if you’re gifted with prophetic vision of a reliable kind,” said Cicely; “of course as Murrey doesn’t take kindly to the idea of Gorla’s enterprise I won’t have the party here. I’ll give it at a restaurant, that’s all. I can see Murrey’s point of view, and sympathise with it, but I’m not going to throw Gorla over.”
There was another pause of uncomfortably protracted duration.
“I say, this is a top-hole omelette,” said Ronnie.
It was his only contribution to the conversation, but it was a valuable one.
Herr Von Kwarl sat at his favourite table in the Brandenburg Cafe, the new building that made such an imposing show (and did such thriving business) at the lower end of what most of its patrons called the Regentstrasse. Though the establishment was new it had already achieved its unwritten code of customs, and the sanctity of Herr von Kwarl’s specially reserved table had acquired the authority of a tradition. A set of chessmen, a copy of the Kreuz Zeitung and the Times, and a slim-necked bottle of Rhenish wine, ice-cool from the cellar, were always to be found there early in the forenoon, and the honoured guest for whom these preparations were made usually arrived on the scene shortly after eleven o’clock. For an hour or so he would read and silently digest the contents of his two newspapers, and then at the first sign of flagging interest on his part, another of the cafe’s regular customers would march across the floor, exchange a word or two on the affairs of the day, and be bidden with a wave of the hand into the opposite seat. A waiter would instantly place the chessboard with its marshalled ranks of combatants in the required position, and the contest would begin.
Herr von Kwarl was a heavily built man of mature middle-age, of the blond North-German type, with a facial aspect that suggested stupidity and brutality. The stupidity of his mien masked an ability and shrewdness that was distinctly above the average, and the suggestion of brutality was belied by the fact that von Kwarl was as kind-hearted a man as one could meet with in a day’s journey. Early in life, almost before he was in his teens, Fritz von Kwarl had made up his mind to accept the world as it was, and to that philosophical resolution, steadfastly adhered to, he attributed his excellent digestion and his unruffled happiness. Perhaps he confused cause and effect; the excellent digestion may have been responsible for at least some of the philosophical serenity.