We went to the lift in procession, Beau Brummell in front, then a waiter, then ourselves and the gold-braided hall porter bringing up the rear. One or two people were sitting in the lounge, attended by a platoon of waiters. The whole place gave an impression of wealth and luxury altogether out of keeping with British ideas of the stringency of life in Germany under the British blockade. I could not help reflecting to myself mournfully that Germany did not seem to feel the pinch very much.
At the lift the procession bowed itself away and we went up in charge of the liftman, a gorgeous individual who looked like one of the Pope’s Swiss Guards. We reached the centresol in an instant. The Lieutenant led the way along the dimly lighted corridor.
“Here is the sitting-room,” he said, opening a door. “This is my room, this the bathroom, and this,” he flung open the fourth door, “is your room!”
He stood aside to let me pass. The lights in the room were full on. In an arm-chair a big man in an overcoat was sitting.
He had a heavy square face and a clubfoot.
A GLASS OF WINE WITH CLUBFOOT
I walked boldly into the room. All sense of fear had vanished in a wave of anger that swept over me, anger with myself for letting myself be trapped, anger with my companion for his treachery.
Schmalz stood at my elbow with a smile full of malice on his face.
“There now!” he cried, “you see, you are among friends! Am I not thoughtful to have prepared this little surprise for you? See, I have brought you to the one man you have crossed so many hundreds of miles of ocean to see! Herr Doktor! this is Dr. Semlin. Dr. Semlin: Dr. Grundt.”
The other had by now heaved his unwieldy frame from the chair.
“Dr. Semlin?” he said, in a perfectly emotionless voice, une voix blanche, as the French say, “this is an unexpected pleasure. I never thought we should meet in Berlin. I had believed our rendezvous to have been fixed for Rotterdam. Still, better late than never!” And he extended to me a white, fat hand.
“Our friend, the Herr Leutnant,” I answered carelessly, “omitted to inform me that he was acquainted with you, as, indeed, he failed to warn me that I should have the pleasure of seeing you here to-night.”
“We owe that pleasure,” Clubfoot replied with a smile that displayed a glitter of gold in his teeth, “to a purely fortuitous encounter at the Casino at Goch, as, indeed, it would appear, I am similarly indebted to chance for the unlooked-for boon of making your personal acquaintance here this evening.”
He bowed to Schmalz as he said this.
“But come,” he went on, “if I may make bold to offer you the hospitality of your own room, sit down and try a glass of this excellent Brauneberger. Rhine wine must be scarce where you come from. We have much to tell one another, you and I.”