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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Kaffee And Kaffeekuchen

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I picked up one of the flaky confections and eyed it in despair. There were no plates except that on which the cakes reposed.

"How does one eat them?" I inquired.

"Yuh don't really eat 'em. The motion is more like inhalin'. T' eat 'em successful you really ought t' get into a bath-tub half-filled with water, because as soon's you bite in at one end w'y the custard stuff slides out at the other, an' no human mouth c'n be two places at oncet. Shut your eyes girl, an' just wade in."

I waded. In silence I took a deep delicious bite, nimbly chased the coy filling around a corner with my tongue, devoured every bit down to the last crumb and licked the stickiness off my fingers. Then I investigated the interior of the next cake.

"I'm coming here every day," I announced.

"Better not. Ruin your complexion and turn all your lines into bumps. Look at the dame with the earrings. I've been keepin' count an' I've seen her eat three Schnecken, two cream puffs, a Nusshornchen and a slice of Torte with two cups of coffee. Ain't she a horrible example! And yet she's got th' nerve t' wear a princess gown!"

"I don't care," I replied, recklessly, my voice choked with whipped cream and butteriness. "I can just feel myself getting greasy. Haven't I done beautifully for a new hand? Now tell me about some of these people. Who is the funny little man in the checked suit with the black braid trimming, and the green cravat, and the white spats, and the tan hat and the eyeglasses?"

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"Ain't them th' dizzy habiliments? "A note of envy crept into Blackie's voice. "His name is Hugo Luders. Used t' be a reporter on the Germania, but he's reformed and gone into advertisin', where there's real money. Some say he wears them clo'es on a bet, and some say his taste in dress is a curse descended upon him from Joseph, the guy with the fancy coat, but I think he wears'em because he fancies 'em. He's been coming here ever' afternoon for twelve years, has a cup of coffee, game of chess, and a pow-wow with a bunch of cronies. If Baumbach's ever decide to paint the front of their shop or put in cut glass fixtures and handpainted china, Hugo Luders would serve an injunction on 'em. Next!"

"Who's the woman with the leathery complexion and the belt to match, and the untidy hair and the big feet? I like her face. And why does she sit at a table with all those strange-looking men? And who are all the men? And who is the fur-lined grand opera tenor just coming in-- Oh!"

Blackie glanced over his shoulder just as the tall man in the doorway turned his face toward us. "That? Why, girl, that's Von Gerhard, the man who gives me one more year t' live. Look at everybody kowtowing to him. He don't favor Baumbach's often. Too busy patching up the nervous wrecks that are washed up on his shores."

The tall figure in the doorway was glancing from table to table, nodding here and there to an acquaintance. His eyes traveled the length of the room. Now they were nearing us. I felt a sudden, inexplicable tightening at heart and throat, as though fingers were clutching there. Then his eyes met mine, and I felt the blood rushing to my face as he came swiftly over to our table and took my hand in his.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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