Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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brought with it; spurred too, perhaps, by an after-dinner demon.  The cafe was the bier-halle of the ’Fifties, with a door at either end, and lighted by a large wooden lantern.  On a small dais three musicians were fiddling.  Solitary men, or groups, sat at some dozen tables, and the waiters hurried about replenishing glasses; the air was thick with smoke.  Swithin sat down.  “Wine!” he said sternly.  The astonished waiter brought him wine.  Swithin pointed to a beer glass on the table.  “Here!” he said, with the same ferocity.  The waiter poured out the wine.  ‘Ah!’ thought Swithin, ‘they can understand if they like.’  A group of officers close by were laughing; Swithin stared at them uneasily.  A hollow cough sounded almost in his ear.  To his left a man sat reading, with his elbows on the corners of a journal, and his gaunt shoulders raised almost to his eyes.  He had a thin, long nose, broadening suddenly at the nostrils; a black-brown beard, spread in a savage fan over his chest; what was visible of the face was the colour of old parchment.  A strange, wild, haughty-looking creature!  Swithin observed his clothes with some displeasure—­they were the clothes of a journalist or strolling actor.  And yet he was impressed.  This was singular.  How could he be impressed by a fellow in such clothes!  The man reached out a hand, covered with black hairs, and took up a tumbler that contained a dark-coloured fluid.  ‘Brandy!’ thought Swithin.  The crash of a falling chair startled him—­his neighbour had risen.  He was of immense height, and very thin; his great beard seemed to splash away from his mouth; he was glaring at the group of officers, and speaking.  Swithin made out two words:  “Hunde!  Deutsche Hunde!” ’Hounds!  Dutch hounds!’ he thought:  ‘Rather strong!’ One of the officers had jumped up, and now drew his sword.  The tall man swung his chair up, and brought it down with a thud.  Everybody round started up and closed on him.  The tall man cried out, “To me, Magyars!”

Swithin grinned.  The tall man fighting such odds excited his unwilling admiration; he had a momentary impulse to go to his assistance.  ’Only get a broken nose!’ he thought, and looked for a safe corner.  But at that moment a thrown lemon struck him on the jaw.  He jumped out of his chair and rushed at the officers.  The Hungarian, swinging his chair, threw him a look of gratitude—­Swithin glowed with momentary admiration of himself.  A sword blade grazed his—­arm; he felt a sudden dislike of the Hungarian.  ‘This is too much,’ he thought, and, catching up a chair, flung it at the wooden lantern.  There was a crash—­faces and swords vanished.  He struck a match, and by the light of it bolted for the door.  A second later he was in the street.

II

A voice said in English, “God bless you, brother!”

Swithin looked round, and saw the tall Hungarian holding out his hand.  He took it, thinking, ‘What a fool I’ve been!’ There was something in the Hungarian’s gesture which said, “You are worthy of me!”

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Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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