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When William Came

Herr Von Kwarl
Herr Von Kwarl sat at his favourite table in the Brandenburg Café, the new building that
made such an imposing show (and did such thriving business) at the lower end of what
most of its patrons called the Regentstrasse. Though the establishment was new it had
already achieved its unwritten code of customs, and the sanctity of Herr von Kwarl’s
specially reserved table had acquired the authority of a tradition. A set of chessmen, a
copy of the Kreuz Zeitung and the Times, and a slim-necked bottle of Rhenish wine, ice-
cool from the cellar, were always to be found there early in the forenoon, and the
honoured guest for whom these preparations were made usually arrived on the scene
shortly after eleven o’clock. For an hour or so he would read and silently digest the
contents of his two newspapers, and then at the first sign of flagging interest on his part,
another of the café’s regular customers would march across the floor, exchange a word or
two on the affairs of the day, and be bidden with a wave of the hand into the opposite
seat. A waiter would instantly place the chessboard with its marshalled ranks of
combatants in the required position, and the contest would begin.
Herr von Kwarl was a heavily built man of mature middle-age, of the blond North-
German type, with a facial aspect that suggested stupidity and brutality. The stupidity of
his mien masked an ability and shrewdness that was distinctly above the average, and the
suggestion of brutality was belied by the fact that von Kwarl was as kind-hearted a man
as one could meet with in a day’s journey. Early in life, almost before he was in his
teens, Fritz von Kwarl had made up his mind to accept the world as it was, and to that
philosophical resolution, steadfastly adhered to, he attributed his excellent digestion and
his unruffled happiness. Perhaps he confused cause and effect; the excellent digestion
may have been responsible for at least some of the philosophical serenity.
He was a bachelor of the type that is called confirmed, and which might better be labelled
consecrated; from his early youth onward to his present age he had never had the faintest
flickering intention of marriage. Children and animals he adored, women and plants he
accounted somewhat of a nuisance. A world without women and roses and asparagus
would, he admitted, be robbed of much of its charm, but with all their charm these things
were tiresome and thorny and capricious, always wanting to climb or creep in places
where they were not wanted, and resolutely drooping and fading away when they were
desired to flourish. Animals, on the other hand, accepted the world as it was and made
the best of it, and children, at least nice children, uncontaminated by grown-up
influences, lived in worlds of their own making.
Von Kwarl held no acknowledged official position in the country of his residence, but it
was an open secret that those responsible for the real direction of affairs sought his
counsel on nearly every step that they meditated, and that his counsel was very rarely
disregarded. Some of the shrewdest and most successful enactments of the ruling power
were believed to have originated in the brain-cells of the bovine-fronted Stammgast of the
Brandenburg Café.
 
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