The cab dropped us at the corner of the Friedrich-Strasse, which was ablaze with light from end to end, and the Linien-Strasse, a narrow, squalid thoroughfare of dirty houses and mean shops. The street was all but deserted at that hour save for an occasional policeman, but from cellars with steps leading down from the streets came the jingle of automatic pianos and bursts of merriment to show that the Linien-Strasse was by no means asleep.
Before one of these cellar entrances the Jew stopped. At the foot of the steep staircase leading down from the street was a glazed door, its panels all glistening with moisture from the heated atmosphere within. Kore led the way down, I following.
A nauseous wave of hot air, mingled with rank tobacco smoke, smote us full as we opened the door. At first I could see nothing except a very fat man, against a dense curtain of smoke, sitting at a table before an enormous glass goblet of beer. Then, as the haze drifted before the draught, I distinguished the outline of a long, low-ceilinged room, with small tables set along either side and a little bar, presided over by a tawdry female with chemically tinted hair, at the end. Most of the tables were occupied, and there was almost as much noise as smoke in the place.
A woman’s voice screamed: “Shut the door, can’t you, I’m freezing!” I obeyed and, following Kore to a table, sat down. A man in his shirt-sleeves, who was pulling beer at the bar, left his beer-engine and, coming across the room to Kore, greeted him cordially, and asked him what we would take.
Kore nudged me with his elbow.
“We’ll take a Boonekamp each, Haase,” he said.
CLUBFOOT COMES TO HAASE’S
Kore presently retired to an inner room with the man in shirt-sleeves, whom I judged to be the landlord, and in a little the flaxen-haired lady at the bar beckoned me over and bade me join them.
“This is Julius Zimmermann, the young man I have spoken of,” said the Jew; then turning to me:
“Herr Haase is willing to take you on as waiter here on my recommendation, Julius, See that you do not make me repent of my kindness!”
Here the man in shirt-sleeves, a great, fat fellow with a bullet head and a huge double chin, chuckled loudly.
“Kolossal!” he cried. “Herr Kore loves his joke! Ausgezeichnet!” And he wagged his head roguishly at me.
On that Kore took his leave, promising to look in and see how I was faring in a few days’ time. The landlord opened a low door in the corner and revealed a kind of large cupboard, windowless and horribly stale and stuffy, where there were two unsavoury-looking beds.
“You will sleep here with Otto,” said the landlord. Pointing to a dirty white apron lying on one of the beds, he bade me take off my overcoat and jacket and put it on.
“It was Johann’s,” he said, “but Johann won’t want it any more. A good lad, Johann, but rash. I always said he would come to a bad end.” And he laughed noisily.