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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Kaffee And Kaffeekuchen

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At a large square table near the doorway a group of eight men were absorbed in an animated political discussion, accompanied by much waving of arms, and thundering of gutturals. It appeared to be a table of importance, for the high-backed bench that ran along one side was upholstered in worn red velvet, and every newcomer paused a moment to nod or to say a word in greeting. It was not of American politics that they talked, but of the politics of Austria and Hungary. Finally the argument resolved itself into a duel of words between a handsome, red-faced German whose rosy skin seemed to take on a deeper tone in contrast to the whiteness of his hair and mustache, and a swarthy young fellow whose thick spectacles and heavy mane of black hair gave him the look of a caricature out of an illustrated German weekly. The red-faced man argued loudly, with much rapping of bare knuckles on the table top. But the dark man spoke seldom, and softly, with a little twisted half-smile on his lips; and whenever he spoke the red-faced man grew redder, and there came a huge laugh from the others who sat listening.

"Say, wouldn't it curdle your English?" Blackie laughed.

Solemnly I turned to him. "Blackie Griffith, these people do not even realize that there is anything unusual about this."

"Sure not; that's the beauty of it. They don't need to make no artificial atmosphere for this place; it just grows wild, like dandelions. Everybody comes here for their coffee because their aunts an' uncles and Grossmutters and Grosspapas used t' come, and come yet, if they're livin'! An', after all, what is it but a little German bakery?"

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"But O, wise Herr Baumbach down in the kitchen! O, subtle Frau Baumbach back of the desk!" said I. "Others may fit their shops with mirrors, and cut-glass chandeliers and Oriental rugs and mahogany, but you sit serenely by, and you smile, and you change nothing. You let the brown walls grow dimmer with age; you see the marble-topped tables turning yellow; you leave bare your wooden floor, and you smile, and smile, and smile."

"Fine!" applauded Blackie. "You're on. And here comes Rosie."

Rosie, the radiant, placed on the table cups and saucers of an unbelievable thickness. She set them down on the marble surface with a crash as one who knows well that no mere marble or granite could shatter the solidity of those stout earthenware receptacles. Napkins there were none. I was to learn that fingers were rid of any clinging remnants of cream or crumb by the simple expedient of licking them.

Blackie emptied his pitcher of cream into his cup of black, black coffee, sugared it, stirred, tasted, and then, with a wicked gleam in his black eyes he lifted the heavy cup to his lips and took a long, gurgling mouthful.

"Blackie," I hissed, "if you do that again I shall refuse to speak to you!"

"Do what?" demanded he, all injured innocence.

"Snuffle up your coffee like that."

"Why, girl, that's th' proper way t' drink coffee here. Listen t' everybody else." And while I glared he wrapped his hand lovingly about his cup, holding the spoon imprisoned between first and second fingers, and took another sibilant mouthful. "Any more of your back talk and I'll drink it out of m' saucer an' blow on it like the hefty party over there in the earrings is doin'. Calm yerself an' try a Bismarck."

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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