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21: Herr Schwartz

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Author Topic: 21: Herr Schwartz  (Read 2 times)
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« on: March 25, 2023, 09:01:28 am »

IN compliment to the great poet of his nation, Herr Schwartz dignified his English home with the name of Goethe Cottage. It was a one-storeyed house of no great size, built somewhat in the style of a bungalow, and standing in a fairly large garden, at the bottom of a rural cul-de-sac, termed Alma Road. Shortly after his visit to the lawyer, Dr. Ellis called at this place, and having advised Schwartz of his coming, found the German and Captain Garret awaiting his arrival. So eager were they to welcome him that they appeared at the gate before the bell ceased to jingle.

"Mine goot doctor," cried Schwartz, beaming, with outstretched hands, "you haf gome at last!"

"Glad to see you, Dr. Ellis," said Garret, jerking out his words in abrupt military style. "We have long expected your visit. Come in."

The three walked towards the house through a theatrical-looking garden, with many coloured glass balls ranged on squat pedestals along the borders of the flower-beds. There was also a tiny fountain, in which a small Triton spouted a smaller stream of water out of a conch-shell, an arbour fiery red with Virginia creeper, and wide walks of white pebbles, which threw back a glare, even under the pale rays of the late autumn sun. The house was surrounded by a wide verandah with gaily-striped red and white sun-blinds, cane lounging-chairs and marble-topped iron tables. Within, Ellis found the place luxuriously furnished, but also theatrical in taste, and he was shown into a drawing-room where intrusive colours of scarlet and magenta inflicted torture on a sensitive eye. Schwartz had money and a love of comfort; but the complacent way in which he looked round this terrible apartment showed that he was absolutely without the artistic sense.

When they sat down Ellis looked at his companions, and was astonished how ill Schwartz appeared to be. Garret, as formerly, was haggard, lean and gentlemanly, with the same military bearing and bored expression. Evidently he was a man who had, as the saying is, "gone the pace," and now, in his middle age---he was between forty and fifty---lacked vitality and zest. As usual he was carefully dressed, and looked eminently well-bred and well-groomed beside his patron and friend. Schwartz himself was less complacent and jolly, also he was lean in comparison with his former portly figure, and his clothes hung loosely on his limbs. Instead of his face being smooth and red, it was now pallid, and wrinkled, and although he attempted to be his usual happy self, the attempt was an obvious effort. Occasionally he stole a troubled glance at the Captain, but that gentleman hardly looked at him and manifested supreme indifference.

"You are not looking well yourself, Herr Schwartz," said Ellis, when the trio were seated and refreshments had been produced by the hospitable German.

"Ach! I am ferry vell," replied Schwartz, hastily. "The hot dimes of the zun haf made me thin."

"Oh, you must keep up your spirits about that.

"Father and mother and everything else," jerked Garret. "Much better than a scamp like me."

"No, no," protested Schwartz, but with a ring of insincerity in his voice, which Ellis at once detected. "You are a goot man, mein frind."

The room at the back of the house, into which Schwartz introduced Ellis, was like a fairy palace. A large, airy, high-roofed apartment, decked and furnished with rainbow hues. Chinese paper of the willow-plate pattern figured on the walls, curtains blue as a midsummer sky draped the French windows, the carpet was of the same cerulean tint, and the furniture was upholstered in azure and white. Hothouse flowers were placed in every corner, there was a grand piano, and many birds in gilded cages made the room re-echo with tuneful strains. The windows were many and large, admitting ample light, and looking out on to a velvet lawn bounded by a tall hedge of laurel. Ellis had never seen a more pretty or cheerful apartment.

"If Miss Gordon is her companion, she may hear of the crime; and think of the shock it would be to her delicate nerves!"

"She will never hear anything of the crime from Miss Gordon. That lady is most discreet."

"She is clever, I don't deny, doctor---too clever, in my opinion. But she is shady. She sold programmes at the Merryman Music-Hall; she is not the kind of companion I should choose for my daughter."

This came well from Captain Garret, who had been cashiered for cheating, who lived on another man's money, and who was an out-and-out adventurer. Ellis felt such a contempt for him that he did not argue the question. "Let us hear what Herr Schwartz has to say," he said.

"Schwartz will be of my opinion," said the Captain, gravely.

But here, it appeared, Garret was wrong. Schwartz listened attentively to the recommendation of Ellis that Miss Gordon should be brought to Goethe Cottage as a companion for Hilda. His face grew a shade paler to the doctor's attentive eye, and he appeared to be uneasy. After a sharp glance at Ellis, he made up his mind and spoke it.

"Miss Corton shall gome!" he declared decisively.

"Schwartz!" said Garret, in a warning tone, whereat the usually placid German flew into a rage.

"I say she shall gome!" he cried, in his deepest tones. "Chanet is a goot girl; she vill not dalk of murders and wickednesses. She is glever!"

Garret muttered something not precisely complimentary to Janet, and turned away. The German looked after him with an anxious expression; but finally turned to Ellis with a look of relief. "Dell Chanet to gome," he said, "but she must zay notings of the murders."

"I'll answer for her there," said Ellis, cheerfully.

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