“Herr Doktor! Can I have a word with you?”
I GO ON WITH THE STORY
I was in the billiard-room of the Castle, a dusty place, obviously little used, for it smelt of damp. A fire was burning in the grate, however, and on a table in the corner, which was littered with papers, stood a dispatch box.
Clubfoot wore a dinner-coat and, as he laughed, his white expanse of shirt-front heaved to the shaking of his deep chest. For a moment, however, I had little thought of him or the ugly-looking Browning he held in his fist. My ears were strained for any sound that might betray Francis’ presence in the garden. But all remained silent as the grave.
Clubfoot, still chuckling audibly, walked over to me. I thought he was going to shoot me, he came so straight and so fast, but it was only to get behind me and shut the door, driving me, as he did so, farther into the room.
The door by which he had entered stood open. Without taking his eyes off me or deflecting his weapon from its aim, he called out:
A light step resounded, and the one-armed lieutenant tripped into the room. When he saw me, he stopped dead. Then he softly began to circle round me with a mincing step, murmuring to himself: “So! So!”
“Good evening, Dr. Semlin!” he said in English. “Say, I’m mighty glad to see you! Well, Okewood, dear old boy, here we are again. What? Herr Julius Zimmermann ...” and he broke into German, “es freut mich!”
I could have killed him where he stood, maimed though he was, for his fluency in the American and English idiom alone.
“Search him, Schmalz!” commanded Clubfoot curtly.
Schmalz ran the fingers of his one arm over my pockets, flinging my portfolio on the billiard-table towards Clubfoot, and the other articles as they came to light ... my pistol, watch, cigarette-case and so forth ... on to a leather lounge against the wall. In his search he brushed me with his severed stump ... ugh, it was horrible!
Clubfoot had snatched up the portfolio and hastily examined it. He shook the contents out on the billiard-table and examined them carefully.
“Not there!” he said. “Run him upstairs, and we’ll strip him,” he ordered; “and let not our clever young friend forget that I’m behind him with my little toy!”
Schmalz gripped me by the collar, spitefully digging his knuckles into my neck, and propelled me out of the room ... almost into the arms of Monica.
She screamed and, turning, fled away down the passage. Clubfoot laughed noisily, but I reflected mournfully that in my present sorry plight, unwashed and unshaven, in filthy clothes, haled along like a common pickpocket, even my own mother would not have recognized me.
There was a degrading scene in the bedroom to which they dragged me, where the two men stripped me to the skin and pawed over every single article of clothing I possessed. Physically and mentally, I cowered in my nudity before the unwholesome gaze of these two sinister cripples. Of all my experiences in Germany, I still look back upon that as almost my worst ordeal.