I had hoped that the conversation might now be carried on again in German. Nothing of the kind. The room leant back in its chairs, as if expecting the fun to go on.
“You get your clothes in London,” the young officer said.
He was a trimly built young man, very pale from recent illness, with flaxen hair and a bright, bold blue eye—the eye of a fighter. His left sleeve was empty and was fastened across his tunic, in a button-hole of which was twisted the black and white ribbon of the Iron Cross.
“Generally,” I answered shortly, “when I go to England. Clothes are cheaper in London.”
“You must have a good ear for languages,” Schmalz continued; “you speak German like a German and English ...” he paused appreciably, “... like an Englishman.”
I felt horribly nervous. This young man never took his eyes off me: he had been staring at me ever since I had entered the room. His manner was perfectly calm and suave.
Still I kept my end up very creditably, I think.
“And not a bad accomplishment, either,” I said, smiling brightly, “if one has to visit London in war-time.”
Schmalz smiled back with perfect courtesy. But he continued to stare relentlessly at me. I felt scared.
“What is Schmalz jabbering about now?” said one of the dug-outs. I translated for the benefit of the company. My resume gave the dug-out who had spoken the opportunity for launching out on an interminable anecdote about an ulster he had bought on a holiday at Brighton. The story lasted until the white-gloved orderly came and announced that “a gentleman” was there, asking for the Herr Major.
“That’ll be your man,” exclaimed the Major, starting up—I noticed he made no attempt to bring the stranger in. “Come, let us go to him!”
I stood up and took my leave. Schmalz came to the door of the anteroom with us.
“You are going to Berlin?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Where shall you be staying?” he asked again.
“Oh, probably at the Adlon!”
“I myself shall be in Berlin next week for my medical examination, and perhaps we may meet again. I should much like to talk more with you about America ... and London. We must have mutual acquaintances.”
I murmured something about being only too glad, at the same time making a mental note to get out of Berlin as soon as I conveniently could.
I HEAR OF CLUBFOOT AND MEET HIS EMPLOYER
As we went down the staircase, the Major whispered to me:
“I don’t think your man wished me to know his name, for he did not introduce himself when he arrived and he does not come to our Casino. But I know him for all that: it is the young Count von Boden, of the Uhlans of the Guard: his father, the General, is one of the Emperor’s aides-de-camp: he was, for a time, tutor to the Crown Prince.”