With night came counsel. Wilhelm decided to go first to Hamburg, where Paul lived during the winter, wait there till the spring, and then arrange further plans. He visited the grave of his father and mother, gave Stubbe orders as to the management of the house, took leave of a few friends, visited one or two poor people whom he was in the habit of looking after, and then had nothing further to keep him in Berlin. The rest of the day he passed with Schrotter, who found the parting very hard to bear. Bhani, whom they had acquainted with the matter, had tears in her beautiful dark eyes—the last remnant of youth in the withered face. And as he left the dear familiar house in the Mittelstrasse she begged him—translating the Indian words plainly enough by looks and gestures—to accept an amulet of cold green jade as a remembrance of her.
That night at eleven o’clock a slow train bore Wilhelm away from Berlin.
At the station he caught sight of the face of his old friend Patke, whom he had come across more than once during that day. The former non-commissioned officer had apparently reached the goal of his ambitions and become a private detective.
Schrotter had stood on the step of the carriage till the very last moment, holding his friend’s hand. Now Wilhelm leaned back in his corner and closed his eyes, and while the train rattled along over the snow-covered plain, he asked himself for the first time whether after all Dorfling had been quite such a fool as most of them considered him to have been?
On alighting next morning at the station in Hamburg, Wilhelm found himself clasped in a pair of strong arms and pressed to a magnificent fur coat. Inside this warm garment there beat a still warmer heart, that of Paul Haber, who had received a letter from Wilhelm the day before, telling him of his dismissal from Berlin, and that he was leaving for Hamburg by the last train before midnight, and whom neither the cold and darkness nor the extreme earliness of the hour could restrain from meeting his friend at the station.
Their greeting was short and affectionate.
“A hearty welcome to you!” cried Paul. “We will do our best to make a new home for you here.”
“You see, I thought of you at once when I had to look about me for some resting-place in the wide world.”
“I should have expected no less of you. Keep your ears stiff, and don’t let the horrid business worry you.”
Wilhelm’s bag was handed to an attendant servant, and the two friends walked off arm in arm toward an elegant brougham lined with light blue, with a conspicuously handsome long-limbed chestnut and a stout, bearded coachman, which stood waiting for them.
Wilhelm mentioned the name of the hotel where he intended to stay, but Paul cut him short. “Not a bit of it! Home, Hans, and look sharp about it!” And before Wilhelm could offer any remonstrance, he found himself pushed into the carriage, Paul at his side. The door banged, the footman sprang on to the box, and off they went as fast as the long legs of the chestnut would carry them.