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pale, her eyes red with weeping, and her eyes kept wandering towards the
door. It was a slack time of the day within and the cellar was free of

"You look poorly, Frau Hedwig," I said. "Trouble with Haase again?"

She looked up at me and shook her head, her eyes brimming over. A tear
ran down the rouge on her cheek.

"I must speak," she said. "I can't bear this suspense alone. You are a
kind young man. You are discreet. Julius, there is trouble brewing for

"What do you mean?" I asked. A foreboding of evil rose within me.

"Kore!" she whispered.

"Kore?" I echoed. "What of him?"

She looked fearfully about her.

"He was taken yesterday morning," she said.

"Do you mean arrested?" I exclaimed, unwilling to believe the staggering

"They entered his apartment early in the morning and seized him in bed.
Ach! it is dreadful!" And she buried her face in her hands.

"But surely," I added soothingly, though with an icy fear at my heart,
"there is no need to despair. What is an arrest to-day with all these

The woman raised her face, pallid beneath its paint, to mine.

"Kore was shot at Moabit Prison this morning," she said in a low voice.
"That young man brought the news just now." Then she added breathlessly,
her words pouring out in a torrent:

"You don't know what this means to us. Haase had dealings with this Jew.
If they have shot him, it is because they have found out from him all
they want to know. That means our ruin, that means that Haase will go
the same way as the Jew.

"But Haase is stubborn, foolhardy. The messenger warned him that a raid
might be expected here at any moment. I have pleaded with him in vain.
He believes that Kore has split; he believes the police may come, but he
says they daren't touch him: he has been too useful to them: he knows
too much. Ach, I am afraid! I am afraid!"

Haase's voice sounded from the inner room.

"Hedwig!" he called.

The woman hastily dried her eyes and disappeared through the door.

The coast was clear, if I wanted to escape, but where could I go,
without a paper or passport, a hunted man?

The news of Kore's arrest and execution haunted me. Of course, the man
was in a most perilous trade, and had probably been playing the game for
years. But suppose they had tracked me to the house in the street called
In den Zelten.

I crossed the room and opened the door to the street. I had never set
foot outside since I had come, and, hopeless as it would be for me to
attempt to escape, I thought I might reconnoitre the surroundings of the
beer-cellar for the event of flight.

I lightly ran up the stairs to the street and nearly cannoned into a man
who was lounging in the entrance. We both apologized, but he stared at
me hard before he strolled on. Then I saw another man sauntering along
on the opposite side of the street. Further away, at the corner, two men
were loitering.

Every one of them had his eyes fixed on the cellar entrance at which I
was standing.

I knew they could not see my face, for the street was but dimly lit, and
behind me was the dark background of the cellar stairway. I took a grip
on my nerves and very deliberately lit a cigarette and smoked it, as if
I had come up from below to get a breath of fresh air. I waited a
little while and then went down.

I was scarcely back in the cellar when Haase appeared from the inner
room, followed by the woman. He carried himself erect, and his eyes were
shining. I didn't like the man, but I must say he looked game. In his
hand he carried my papers.

"Here you are, my lad," he said in quite a friendly tone, "put 'em in
your pocket - you may want 'em to-night."

I glanced at the papers before I followed his advice.

He noted my action and laughed.

"They have told you about Johann," he said. "Never fear, Julius, you and
I are good friends."

The papers were those of Julius Zimmermann all right.

We were having supper at one of the tables in the front room - there were
only a couple of customers, as it was so early - when a man, a regular
visitor of ours, came down the stairs hurriedly. He went straight over
to Haase and spoke into his ear.

"Mind yourself, Haase," I heard him say. "Do you know who had Kore
arrested and shot? It was Clubfoot. There is more in this than we know.
Mind yourself and get out! In an hour or so it may be too late."

Then he scurried away, leaving me dazed.

"By God!" said the landlord, bringing a great fist down on the table so
that the glasses rang, "they won't touch me. Not the devil himself will
make me leave this house before they come, if coming they are!"

The woman burst into tears, while Otto blinked his watery eyes in
terror. I sat and looked at my plate, my heart too full for words. It
was bitter to have dared so much to get this far and then find the path
blocked, as it seemed, by an insuperable barrier. They were after me all
right: the mention of Clubfoot's name, the swift, stern retribution that
had befallen Kore, made that certain - and I could do nothing. That
cellar was a cul-de-sac, a regular trap, and I knew that if I stirred a
foot from the house I should fall into the hands of those men keeping
their silent vigil in the street.

Therefore, I must wait, as calmly as I might, and see what the evening
would bring forth. Gradually the cellar filled up as people drifted in,
but many familiar faces, I noticed, were missing. Evidently the ill
tidings had spread. Once a man looked in for a glass of beer and drifted
out again, leaving the door open. As I was closing it, I heard a muffled
exclamation and the sound of a scuffle at the head of the stairs. It was
so quietly done that nobody below, save myself, knew what had happened.
The incident showed me that the watch was well kept.

The evening wore on - interminably, as it seemed to me. I darted to and
fro from the bar, laden with mugs of beer and glasses of schnaps,
incessantly, up and down. But I never failed, whenever there came a
pause in the orders, to see that my journey finished somewhere in the
neighbourhood of the door. A faint hope was glimmering in my brain.

Until the end of my life, that interminable evening in the beer-cellar
will remain stamped in my memory. I can still see the scene in its every
detail, and I know I shall carry the picture with me to the grave; the
long, low room with its blackened ceiling, the garish yellow gaslight,
the smoke haze, the crowded tables, Otto, shuffling hither and hither
with his mean and sulky air, Frau Hedwig, preoccupied at her desk,
red-eyed, a graven image of woe, and Haase, presiding over the
beer-engine, silent, defiant, calm, but watchful every time the door

When at last the blow fell, it came suddenly. A trampling of feet on the
stairs, a great blowing of whistles ... then the door was burst open
just as everybody in the cellar sprang to their feet amid exclamations
and oaths from the men and shrill screams from the women. Outlined in
the doorway stood Clubfoot, majestic, authoritative, wearing some kind
of little skull-cap, such as duelling students wear, over a black silk
handkerchief bound about his head. At the sight of the man the hubbub
ceased on the instant. All were still save Haase, whose bull-like voice
roaring for silence broke on the quiet of the room with the force of an

I was in my corner by the door, pressed back against the coats and hats
hanging on the wall. In front of me a frieze of frightened faces
screened me from observation. Quickly, I slipped off my apron.

Clubfoot, after casting a cursory glance round the room, strode its
length towards the bar where Haase stood, a crowd of plain-clothes men
and policemen at his heels. Then quite suddenly the light went out,
plunging the place into darkness. Instantly the room was in confusion;
women screamed; a voice, which I recognized as Clubfoot's, bawled
stentorianly for lights ... the moment had come to act.

I grabbed a hat and coat from the hall, got into them somehow, and
darted to the door. In the dim light shining down the stairs from a
street lamp outside, I saw a man at the door. Apparently he was guarding

"Back!" he cried, as I stepped up to him.

I flashed in his eyes the silver star I held in my hand.

"The Chief wants lanterns!" I said low in his ear.

He grabbed my hand holding the badge and lowered it to the light.

"All right, comrade," he replied. "Drechsler has a lantern, I think!
You'll find him outside!"

I rushed up the stairs right into a group of three policemen.

"The Chief wants Drechsler at once with the lantern," I shouted, and
showed my star. The three dispersed in different directions calling for

I walked quickly away.



I calculated that I had at least two hours, at most three, in which to
get clear of Berlin. However swiftly Clubfoot might act, it would take
him certainly an hour and a half, I reckoned, from the discovery of my
flight from Haase's to warn the police at the railway stations to detain
me. If I could lay a false trail I might at the worst prolong this
period of grace; at the best I might mislead him altogether as to my
ultimate destination, which was, of course, Düsseldorf. The unknown
quantity in my reckonings was the time it would take Clubfoot to send
out a warning all over Germany to detain Julius Zimmermann, waiter and
deserter, wherever and whenever apprehended.

At the first turning I came to after leaving Haase's, tram-lines ran
across the street. A tram was waiting, bound in a southerly direction,
where the centre of the city lay. I jumped on to the front platform
beside the woman driver. It is fairly dark in front and the conductor
cannot see your face as you pay your fare through a trap in the door
leading to the interior of the tram. I left the tram at Unter den Linden
and walked down some side streets until I came across a quiet-looking
café. There I got a railway guide and set about reviewing my plans.

It was ten minutes to twelve. A man in my position would in all
probability make for the frontier. So, I judged, Clubfoot must
calculate, though, I fancied, he must have wondered why I had not long
since attempted to escape back to England. Düsseldorf was on the main
road to Holland, and it would certainly be the more prudent course, say,
to make for the Rhine and travel on to my destination by a Rhine
steamer. But time was the paramount factor in my case. By leaving
immediately - that very night - for Düsseldorf I might possibly reach
there before the local authorities had had time to receive the warning
to be on the look-out for a man answering to my description. If I could
leave behind in Berlin a really good false clue, it was just possible
that Clubfoot might follow it up _before_ taking general dispositions to
secure my arrest if that clue failed. I decided I must gamble on this

The railway guide showed that a train left for Düsseldorf from the
Potsdamer Bahnhof - the great railway terminus in the very centre of
Berlin - at 12.45 a.m. That left me roughly three-quarters of an hour to
lay my false trail and catch my train. My false trail should lead
Clubfoot in a totally unexpected direction, I determined, for it is the
unexpected that first engages the notice of the alert, detective type of
mind. I would also have to select another terminus.

Why not Munich? A large city on the high road to a foreign
frontier - Switzerland - with authorities whose easy-going ways are
proverbial in Germany. You leave Berlin for Munich from the Anhalter
Bahnhof, a terminus which was well suited for my purpose, as it is only
a few minutes' drive from the Potsdamer station.

The railway guide showed there was a train leaving for Munich at 12.30
a.m. - an express. That would do admirably. Munich it should be then.

Fortunately I had plenty of money. I had taken the precaution of
getting Kore to change my money into German notes before we left In den
Zelten ... at a preposterous rate of exchange, be it said. How lost I
should have been without Semlin's wad of notes!

I paid for my coffee and set forth again. It was 12.15 as I walked into
the hall of the Anhalt station.

Remembering the ruse which the friendly guide at Rotterdam had taught
me, I began by purchasing a platform ticket. Then I looked about for an
official upon whom I could suitably impress my identity. Presently I
espied a pompous-looking fellow in a bright blue uniform and scarlet
cap, some kind of junior stationmaster, I thought.

I approached him and, raising my hat, politely asked him if he could
tell me when there was a train leaving for Munich.

"The express goes at 12.30," he said, "but only first and second class,
and you'll have to pay the supplementary charge. The slow train is not
till 5.49."

I assumed an expression of vexation.

"I suppose I must go by the express," I said. "Can you tell me where the
booking-office is?"

The official pointed to a pigeon-hole and I took care to speak loud
enough for him to hear me ask for a second-class ticket, single, to

I walked upstairs and presented my Munich ticket to the collector at the
barrier. Then I hurried past the main-line platforms over the suburban
side, where I gave up my platform ticket and descended again to the

It was just on the half-hour as I came out of the station. Not a cab to
be seen! I hastened as fast as my legs would carry me until, breathless
and panting, I reached the Potsdam terminus. The clock over the station
pointed to 12.39.

A long queue, composed mostly of soldiers returning to Belgium and the
front, stood in front of the booking-office. The military were getting
their warrants changed for tickets. I chafed at the delay, but it was
actually this circumstance which afforded me the chance of getting my
ticket for Düsseldorf without leaving any clue behind.

A big, bearded Landsturm man with a kind face was at the pigeon-hole.

"I am very late for my train, my friend," I said, "would you get me a
third-class single for Düsseldorf?" I handed him a twenty-mark note.

"Right you are," he answered readily.

"There," he said, handing me my ticket and a handful of change, "and
lucky you are to be going to the Rhine. I'm from the Rhine myself and
now I'm going back to guarding the bridges in Belgium!"

I thanked him and wished him luck. Here at least was a witness who was
not likely to trouble me. And with a thankful heart I bolted on to the
platform and caught the train.

Third-class travel in Germany is not a hobby to be cultivated if your
means allow the luxury of better accommodation. The travelling German
has a habit of taking off his boots when he journeys in the train by
night - and a carriageful of lower middle-class Huns, thus unshod, in
the temperature at which railway compartments are habitually kept in
Germany, is an environment which makes neither for comfort nor for

The atmosphere, indeed, was so unbearable that I spent most of the night
in the corridor. Here I was able to destroy the papers of Julius
Zimmermann, waiter ... I felt I was in greater danger whilst I had them
on me ... and to assure myself that my precious document was in its
usual place - in my portfolio. It was then I made the discovery,
annihilating at the first shock, that my silver badge had disappeared. I
could not remember what I had done with it in the excitement of my
escape from Haase's. I remembered having it in my hand and showing it to
the police at the top of the stairs, but after that my mind was a blank.
I could only imagine I must have carried it unconsciously in my hand and
then dropped it unwittingly. I looked at the place where it had been
clasped on my braces: it was not there and I searched all my pockets for
it in vain.

I had relied upon it as a stand-by in case there were trouble at the
station in Düsseldorf. Now I found myself defenceless if I were
challenged. It was a hard knock, but I consoled myself by the reflection
that, by now, Clubfoot knew I had this badge ... it would doubtless
figure in any description circulated about me.

It was a most unpleasant journey. There was some kind of choral society
on the train, occupying seven or eight compartments of the third-class
coach in which I was travelling. For the first few hours they made night
hideous with part-songs, catches and glees chanted with a volume of
sound that in that confined place was simply deafening. Then the noise
abated as one by one the singers dropped off to sleep. Presently silence
fell, while the train rushed forward in the darkness bearing me towards
fresh perils, fresh adventures.

* * * * *

A gust of fresh air in my face, the trample of feet, loud greetings in
guttural German, awoke me with a start. It was broad daylight and
through my compartment, to which I had crept in the night, weary with
standing, filed the jovial members of the choral society, with bags in
their hands and huge cockades in their buttonholes. There was a band on
the platform and a huge choir of men who bawled a stentorian-voiced hymn
of greeting. "Düsseldorf" was the name printed on the station lamps.

All the passengers, save the members of the choral society, had left the
train, apparently, for every carriage door stood open. I sprang to my
feet and let myself go with the stream of men. Thus I swept out of the
train and right into the midst of the jostling crowd of bandsmen,
singers and spectators on the platform. I stood with the new arrivals
until the hymn was ended and thus solidly _encadrés_ by the
Düsseldorfers, we drifted out through the barrier into the station
courtyard. There brakes were waiting into which the jolly choristers,
guests and hosts, clambered noisily. But I walked straight on into the
streets, scarcely able to realize that no one had questioned me, that at
last, unhindered, I stood before my goal.

Düsseldorf is a bright, clean town with a touch of good taste in its
public buildings to remind one that this busy, industrial city has found
time even while making money to have called into being a school of art
of its own. It was a delightful morning with dazzling sunshine and an
eager nip in the air that spoke of the swift, deep river that bathes the
city walls. I revelled in the clear, cold atmosphere after the foulness
of the drinking-den and the stifling heat of the journey. I exulted in
the sense of liberty I experienced at having once more eluded the grim
clutches of Clubfoot. Above all, my heart sang within me at the thought
of an early meeting with Francis. In the mood I was in, I would admit no
possibility of disappointment now. Francis and I would come together at

I came upon a public square presently and there facing me was a great,
big café, white and new and dazzling, with large plate-glass windows
and rows of tables on a covered verandah outside. It was undoubtedly a
"_kolossal_" establishment after the best Berlin style. So that there
might be no mistake about the name it was placarded all over the front
of the place in gilt letters three feet high on glass panels - Café

It was about nine o'clock in the morning and at that early hour I had
the place to myself. I felt very small, sitting at a tiny table, with
tables on every side of me, stretching away as it were into the
_Ewigkeit_, in a vast white room with mural paintings of the crassest
school of impressionism.

I ordered a good, substantial breakfast and whiled away the time while
it was coming by glancing at the morning paper which the waiter brought

My eyes ran down the columns without my heeding what I read, for my
thoughts were busy with Francis. When did he come to the café? How was
he living at Düsseldorf?

Suddenly, I found myself looking at a name I knew ... it was in the
personal paragraphs.

"Lieut.-General Count von Boden," the paragraph ran, "Aide-de-Camp to
H.M. the Emperor, has been placed on the retired list owing to
ill-health. General von Boden has left for Abbazia, where he will take
up his permanent residence." There followed the usual biographical

Of a truth, Clubfoot was a power in the land.

I ate my breakfast at a table by the open door, and surveyed the busy
life of the square where the pigeons circled in the sunshine. A waiter
stood on the verandah idly watching the birds as they pecked at the
stones. I was struck with the profound melancholy depicted in his face.
His cheeks were sunken and he had a pinched look which I had observed in
the features of most of the customers at Haase's. I set it down to the
insufficient feeding which is general among the lower classes in Germany

But in addition to this man's wasted appearance, his eyes were hollow,
there were deep lines about his mouth and he wore a haggard look that
had something strangely pathetic about it. His air of brooding sadness
seemed to attract me, and I found my eyes continually wandering back to
his face.

And then, without warning, through some mysterious whispering of the
blood, the truth came to me that this was my brother. I don't know
whether it was a passing mood reflected in his face or the shifting
lights and shadows in his eyes that lifted the veil. I only know that
through those features ravaged by care and suffering and in spite of
them I caught a glimpse of the brother I had come to seek.

I rattled a spoon on the table and called softly out to the verandah.


The man turned.

I beckoned to him. He came over to my table. He never recognized me, so
dull was he with disappointment ... me with my unshaven, unkempt
appearance and in my mean German shoddy ... but stood silently, awaiting
my bidding.

"Francis," I said softly ... and I spoke in German ... "Francis, don't
you know me?"

He was magnificent, strong and resourceful in his joy at our meeting as
he had been in his months of weary waiting.

Only his mouth quivered a little as instantly his hands busied
themselves with clearing away my breakfast.

"Jawohl!" he answered in a perfectly emotionless voice.

And then he smiled and in a flash the old Francis stood before me.

"Not a word now," he said in German as he cleared away the breakfast.
"I am off this afternoon. Meet me on the river promenade by the Schiller
statue at a quarter past two and we'll go for a walk. Don't stay here
now but come back and lunch in the restaurant ... it's always crowded
and pretty safe!"

Then he called out into the void:

"Twenty-six wants to pay!"

Such was my meeting with my brother.



That afternoon Francis and I walked out along the banks of the swiftly
flowing Rhine until we were far beyond the city. Anxious though I was
that he should reveal to me that part of his life which lay hidden
beneath those lines of suffering in his face, he made me tell my story
first. So I unfolded to him the extraordinary series of adventures that
had befallen me since the night I had blundered upon the trail of a
great secret in that evil hotel at Rotterdam.

Francis did not once interrupt the flow of my narrative. He listened
with the most tense interest but with a growing concern which betrayed
itself clearly on his face. At the end of my story, I silently handed to
him the half of the stolen letter I had seized from Clubfoot at the
Hotel Esplanade.

"Keep it, Francis," I said. "It's safer with a respectable waiter like
you than with a hunted outcast like myself!"

My brother smiled wanly, but his face assumed the look of grave anxiety
with which he had heard my tale. He scrutinized the slips of paper very
closely, then tucked them away in a letter-case, which he buttoned up in
his hip pocket.

"Fortune is a strange goddess, Des," he said, his weary eyes roving out
over the turgid, yellow stream, "and she has been kind to you, though,
God knows, you have played a man's part in all this. She has placed in
your possession something for which at least five men have died in vain,
something that has filled my thoughts, sleeping and waking, for more
than half a year. What you have told me throws a good deal of light upon
the mystery which I came to this cursed country to elucidate, but it
also deepens the darkness which still envelops many points in the

"You know there are issues in this game of ours, old man, that stand
even higher than the confidence that there has always been between us
two. That is why I wrote to you so seldom out in France - I could tell
you nothing about my work: that is one of the rules of our game. But now

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Online LibraryValentine WilliamsThe Man with the Clubfoot → online text (page 11 of 16)