Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
By JOHN BUCHAN
To Caroline Grosvenor
During the past year, in the intervals of an active life, I have amused
myself with constructing this tale. It has been scribbled in every
kind of odd place and moment--in England and abroad, during long
journeys, in half-hours between graver tasks; and it bears, I fear, the
mark of its gipsy begetting. But it has amused me to write, and I
shall be well repaid if it amuses you--and a few others--to read.
Let no man or woman call its events improbable. The war has driven
that word from our vocabulary, and melodrama has become the prosiest
realism. Things unimagined before happen daily to our friends by sea
and land. The one chance in a thousand is habitually taken, and as
often as not succeeds. Coincidence, like some new Briareus, stretches
a hundred long arms hourly across the earth. Some day, when the full
history is written--sober history with ample documents--the poor
romancer will give up business and fall to reading Miss Austen in a
The characters of the tale, if you think hard, you will recall. Sandy
you know well. That great spirit was last heard of at Basra, where he
occupies the post that once was Harry Bullivant's. Richard Hannay is
where he longed to be, commanding his battalion on the ugliest bit of
front in the West. Mr John S. Blenkiron, full of honour and wholly
cured of dyspepsia, has returned to the States, after vainly
endeavouring to take Peter with him. As for Peter, he has attained the
height of his ambition. He has shaved his beard and joined the Flying
1. A Mission is Proposed
2. The Gathering of the Missionaries
3. Peter Pienaar
4. Adventures of Two Dutchmen on the Loose
5. Further Adventures of the Same
6. The Indiscretions of the Same
7. Christmas Eve
8. The Essen Barges
9. The Return of the Straggler
10. The Garden-House of Suliman the Red
11. The Companions of the Rosy Hours
12. Four Missionaries See Light in Their Mission
13. I Move in Good Society
14. The Lady of the Mantilla
15. An Embarrassed Toilet
16. The Battered Caravanserai
17. Trouble By the Waters of Babylon
18. Sparrows on the Housetops
20. Peter Pienaar Goes to the Wars
21. The Little Hill
22. The Guns of the North
A Mission is Proposed
I had just finished breakfast and was filling my pipe when I got
Bullivant's telegram. It was at Furling, the big country house in
Hampshire where I had come to convalesce after Loos, and Sandy, who was
in the same case, was hunting for the marmalade. I flung him the
flimsy with the blue strip pasted down on it, and he whistled.
'Hullo, Dick, you've got the battalion. Or maybe it's a staff billet.
You'll be a blighted brass-hat, coming it heavy over the hard-working
regimental officer. And to think of the language you've wasted on
brass-hats in your time!'
I sat and thought for a bit, for the name 'Bullivant' carried me back
eighteen months to the hot summer before the war. I had not seen the
man since, though I had read about him in the papers. For more than a
year I had been a busy battalion officer, with no other thought than to
hammer a lot of raw stuff into good soldiers. I had succeeded pretty
well, and there was no prouder man on earth than Richard Hannay when he
took his Lennox Highlanders over the parapets on that glorious and
bloody 25th day of September. Loos was no picnic, and we had had some
ugly bits of scrapping before that, but the worst bit of the campaign I
had seen was a tea-party to the show I had been in with Bullivant
before the war started. [Major Hannay's narrative of this affair has
been published under the title of "The Thirty-nine Steps".]
The sight of his name on a telegram form seemed to change all my
outlook on life. I had been hoping for the command of the battalion,
and looking forward to being in at the finish with Brother Boche. But
this message jerked my thoughts on to a new road. There might be other
things in the war than straightforward fighting. Why on earth should
the Foreign Office want to see an obscure Major of the New Army, and
want to see him in double-quick time?
'I'm going up to town by the ten train,' I announced; 'I'll be back in
time for dinner.'
'Try my tailor,' said Sandy. 'He's got a very nice taste in red tabs.
You can use my name.'
An idea struck me. 'You're pretty well all right now. If I wire for
you, will you pack your own kit and mine and join me?'
'Right-o! I'll accept a job on your staff if they give you a corps. If
so be as you come down tonight, be a good chap and bring a barrel of
oysters from Sweeting's.'
I travelled up to London in a regular November drizzle, which cleared
up about Wimbledon to watery sunshine. I never could stand London
during the war. It seemed to have lost its bearings and broken out
into all manner of badges and uniforms which did not fit in with my
notion of it. One felt the war more in its streets than in the field,
or rather one felt the confusion of war without feeling the purpose. I
dare say it was all right; but since August 1914 I never spent a day in
town without coming home depressed to my boots.
I took a taxi and drove straight to the Foreign Office. Sir Walter did
not keep me waiting long. But when his secretary took me to his room I
would not have recognized the man I had known eighteen months before.
His big frame seemed to have dropped flesh and there was a stoop in the
square shoulders. His face had lost its rosiness and was red in
patches, like that of a man who gets too little fresh air. His hair
was much greyer and very thin about the temples, and there were lines
of overwork below the eyes. But the eyes were the same as before, keen
and kindly and shrewd, and there was no change in the firm set of the
'We must on no account be disturbed for the next hour,' he told his
secretary. When the young man had gone he went across to both doors
and turned the keys in them.
'Well, Major Hannay,' he said, flinging himself into a chair beside the
fire. 'How do you like soldiering?'
'Right enough,' I said, 'though this isn't just the kind of war I would
have picked myself. It's a comfortless, bloody business. But we've
got the measure of the old Boche now, and it's dogged as does it. I
count on getting back to the front in a week or two.'
'Will you get the battalion?' he asked. He seemed to have followed my
doings pretty closely.
'I believe I've a good chance. I'm not in this show for honour and
glory, though. I want to do the best I can, but I wish to heaven it
was over. All I think of is coming out of it with a whole skin.'
He laughed. 'You do yourself an injustice. What about the forward
observation post at the Lone Tree? You forgot about the whole skin
I felt myself getting red. 'That was all rot,' I said, 'and I can't
think who told you about it. I hated the job, but I had to do it to
prevent my subalterns going to glory. They were a lot of fire-eating
young lunatics. If I had sent one of them he'd have gone on his knees
to Providence and asked for trouble.'
Sir Walter was still grinning.
'I'm not questioning your caution. You have the rudiments of it, or
our friends of the Black Stone would have gathered you in at our last
merry meeting. I would question it as little as your courage. What
exercises my mind is whether it is best employed in the trenches.'
'Is the War Office dissatisfied with me?' I asked sharply.
'They are profoundly satisfied. They propose to give you command of
your battalion. Presently, if you escape a stray bullet, you will no
doubt be a Brigadier. It is a wonderful war for youth and brains. But
... I take it you are in this business to serve your country, Hannay?'
'I reckon I am,' I said. 'I am certainly not in it for my health.'
He looked at my leg, where the doctors had dug out the shrapnel
fragments, and smiled quizzically.
'Pretty fit again?' he asked.
'Tough as a sjambok. I thrive on the racket and eat and sleep like a
He got up and stood with his back to the fire, his eyes staring
abstractedly out of the window at the wintry park.
'It is a great game, and you are the man for it, no doubt. But there
are others who can play it, for soldiering today asks for the average
rather than the exception in human nature. It is like a big machine
where the parts are standardized. You are fighting, not because you
are short of a job, but because you want to help England. How if you
could help her better than by commanding a battalion--or a brigade--or,
if it comes to that, a division? How if there is a thing which you
alone can do? Not some "embusque" business in an office, but a thing
compared to which your fight at Loos was a Sunday-school picnic. You
are not afraid of danger? Well, in this job you would not be fighting
with an army around you, but alone. You are fond of tackling
difficulties? Well, I can give you a task which will try all your
powers. Have you anything to say?'
My heart was beginning to thump uncomfortably. Sir Walter was not the
man to pitch a case too high.
'I am a soldier,' I said, 'and under orders.'
'True; but what I am about to propose does not come by any conceivable
stretch within the scope of a soldier's duties. I shall perfectly
understand if you decline. You will be acting as I should act
myself--as any sane man would. I would not press you for worlds. If
you wish it, I will not even make the proposal, but let you go here and
now, and wish you good luck with your battalion. I do not wish to
perplex a good soldier with impossible decisions.'
This piqued me and put me on my mettle.
'I am not going to run away before the guns fire. Let me hear what you
Sir Walter crossed to a cabinet, unlocked it with a key from his chain,
and took a piece of paper from a drawer. It looked like an ordinary
half-sheet of note-paper.
'I take it,' he said, 'that your travels have not extended to the East.'
'No,' I said, 'barring a shooting trip in East Africa.'
'Have you by any chance been following the present campaign there?'
'I've read the newspapers pretty regularly since I went to hospital.
I've got some pals in the Mesopotamia show, and of course I'm keen to
know what is going to happen at Gallipoli and Salonika. I gather that
Egypt is pretty safe.'
'If you will give me your attention for ten minutes I will supplement
your newspaper reading.'
Sir Walter lay back in an arm-chair and spoke to the ceiling. It was
the best story, the clearest and the fullest, I had ever got of any bit
of the war. He told me just how and why and when Turkey had left the
rails. I heard about her grievances over our seizure of her ironclads,
of the mischief the coming of the "Goeben" had wrought, of Enver and
his precious Committee and the way they had got a cinch on the old
Turk. When he had spoken for a bit, he began to question me.
'You are an intelligent fellow, and you will ask how a Polish
adventurer, meaning Enver, and a collection of Jews and gipsies should
have got control of a proud race. The ordinary man will tell you that
it was German organization backed up with German money and German arms.
You will inquire again how, since Turkey is primarily a religious
power, Islam has played so small a part in it all. The Sheikh-ul-Islam
is neglected, and though the Kaiser proclaims a Holy War and calls
himself Hadji Mohammed Guilliamo, and says the Hohenzollerns are
descended from the Prophet, that seems to have fallen pretty flat. The
ordinary man again will answer that Islam in Turkey is becoming a back
number, and that Krupp guns are the new gods. Yet--I don't know. I do
not quite believe in Islam becoming a back number.'
'Look at it in another way,' he went on. 'If it were Enver and Germany
alone dragging Turkey into a European war for purposes that no Turk
cared a rush about, we might expect to find the regular army obedient,
and Constantinople. But in the provinces, where Islam is strong, there
would be trouble. Many of us counted on that. But we have been
disappointed. The Syrian army is as fanatical as the hordes of the
Mahdi. The Senussi have taken a hand in the game. The Persian Moslems
are threatening trouble. There is a dry wind blowing through the East,
and the parched grasses wait the spark. And that wind is blowing
towards the Indian border. Whence comes that wind, think you?'
Sir Walter had lowered his voice and was speaking very slow and
distinct. I could hear the rain dripping from the eaves of the window,
and far off the hoot of taxis in Whitehall.
'Have you an explanation, Hannay?' he asked again.
'It looks as if Islam had a bigger hand in the thing than we thought,'
I said. 'I fancy religion is the only thing to knit up such a
'You are right,' he said. 'You must be right. We have laughed at the
Holy War, the jehad that old Von der Goltz prophesied. But I believe
that stupid old man with the big spectacles was right. There is a
jehad preparing. The question is, How?'
'I'm hanged if I know,' I said; 'but I'll bet it won't be done by a
pack of stout German officers in "pickelhaubes". I fancy you can't
manufacture Holy Wars out of Krupp guns alone and a few staff officers
and a battle cruiser with her boilers burst.'
'Agreed. They are not fools, however much we try to persuade ourselves
of the contrary. But supposing they had got some tremendous sacred
sanction--some holy thing, some book or gospel or some new prophet from
the desert, something which would cast over the whole ugly mechanism of
German war the glamour of the old torrential raids which crumpled the
Byzantine Empire and shook the walls of Vienna? Islam is a fighting
creed, and the mullah still stands in the pulpit with the Koran in one
hand and a drawn sword in the other. Supposing there is some Ark of
the Covenant which will madden the remotest Moslem peasant with dreams
of Paradise? What then, my friend?'
'Then there will be hell let loose in those parts pretty soon.'
'Hell which may spread. Beyond Persia, remember, lies India.'
'You keep to suppositions. How much do you know?' I asked.
'Very little, except the fact. But the fact is beyond dispute. I have
reports from agents everywhere--pedlars in South Russia, Afghan
horse-dealers, Turcoman merchants, pilgrims on the road to Mecca,
sheikhs in North Africa, sailors on the Black Sea coasters,
sheep-skinned Mongols, Hindu fakirs, Greek traders in the Gulf, as well
as respectable Consuls who use cyphers. They tell the same story. The
East is waiting for a revelation. It has been promised one. Some
star--man, prophecy, or trinket--is coming out of the West. The Germans
know, and that is the card with which they are going to astonish the
'And the mission you spoke of for me is to go and find out?'
He nodded gravely. 'That is the crazy and impossible mission.'
'Tell me one thing, Sir Walter,' I said. 'I know it is the fashion in
this country if a man has a special knowledge to set him to some job
exactly the opposite. I know all about Damaraland, but instead of
being put on Botha's staff, as I applied to be, I was kept in Hampshire
mud till the campaign in German South West Africa was over. I know a
man who could pass as an Arab, but do you think they would send him to
the East? They left him in my battalion--a lucky thing for me, for he
saved my life at Loos. I know the fashion, but isn't this just
carrying it a bit too far? There must be thousands of men who have
spent years in the East and talk any language. They're the fellows for
this job. I never saw a Turk in my life except a chap who did
wrestling turns in a show at Kimberley. You've picked about the most
useless man on earth.'
'You've been a mining engineer, Hannay,' Sir Walter said. 'If you
wanted a man to prospect for gold in Barotseland you would of course
like to get one who knew the country and the people and the language.
But the first thing you would require in him would be that he had a
nose for finding gold and knew his business. That is the position now.
I believe that you have a nose for finding out what our enemies try to
hide. I know that you are brave and cool and resourceful. That is why
I tell you the story. Besides ...'
He unrolled a big map of Europe on the wall.
'I can't tell you where you'll get on the track of the secret, but I
can put a limit to the quest. You won't find it east of the
Bosporus--not yet. It is still in Europe. It may be in
Constantinople, or in Thrace. It may be farther west. But it is
moving eastwards. If you are in time you may cut into its march to
Constantinople. That much I can tell you. The secret is known in
Germany, too, to those whom it concerns. It is in Europe that the
seeker must search--at present.'
'Tell me more,' I said. 'You can give me no details and no
instructions. Obviously you can give me no help if I come to grief.'
He nodded. 'You would be beyond the pale.'
'You give me a free hand.'
'Absolutely. You can have what money you like, and you can get what
help you like. You can follow any plan you fancy, and go anywhere you
think fruitful. We can give no directions.'
'One last question. You say it is important. Tell me just how
'It is life and death,' he said solemnly. 'I can put it no higher and
no lower. Once we know what is the menace we can meet it. As long as
we are in the dark it works unchecked and we may be too late. The war
must be won or lost in Europe. Yes; but if the East blazes up, our
effort will be distracted from Europe and the great "coup" may fail.
The stakes are no less than victory and defeat, Hannay.'
I got out of my chair and walked to the window. It was a difficult
moment in my life. I was happy in my soldiering; above all, happy in
the company of my brother officers. I was asked to go off into the
enemy's lands on a quest for which I believed I was manifestly
unfitted--a business of lonely days and nights, of nerve-racking
strain, of deadly peril shrouding me like a garment. Looking out on
the bleak weather I shivered. It was too grim a business, too inhuman
for flesh and blood. But Sir Walter had called it a matter of life and
death, and I had told him that I was out to serve my country. He could
not give me orders, but was I not under orders--higher orders than my
Brigadier's? I thought myself incompetent, but cleverer men than me
thought me competent, or at least competent enough for a sporting
chance. I knew in my soul that if I declined I should never be quite
at peace in the world again. And yet Sir Walter had called the scheme
madness, and said that he himself would never have accepted.
How does one make a great decision? I swear that when I turned round
to speak I meant to refuse. But my answer was Yes, and I had crossed
the Rubicon. My voice sounded cracked and far away.
Sir Walter shook hands with me and his eyes blinked a little.
'I may be sending you to your death, Hannay--Good God, what a damned
task-mistress duty is!--If so, I shall be haunted with regrets, but you
will never repent. Have no fear of that. You have chosen the roughest
road, but it goes straight to the hill-tops.'
He handed me the half-sheet of note-paper. On it were written three
words--'"Kasredin"', '"cancer"', and '"v. I."'
'That is the only clue we possess,' he said. 'I cannot construe it,
but I can tell you the story. We have had our agents working in Persia
and Mesopotamia for years--mostly young officers of the Indian Army.
They carry their lives in their hands, and now and then one disappears,
and the sewers of Baghdad might tell a tale. But they find out many
things, and they count the game worth the candle. They have told us of
the star rising in the West, but they could give us no details. All
but one--the best of them. He had been working between Mosul and the
Persian frontier as a muleteer, and had been south into the Bakhtiari
hills. He found out something, but his enemies knew that he knew and
he was pursued. Three months ago, just before Kut, he staggered into
Delamain's camp with ten bullet holes in him and a knife slash on his
forehead. He mumbled his name, but beyond that and the fact that there
was a Something coming from the West he told them nothing. He died in
ten minutes. They found this paper on him, and since he cried out the
word "Kasredin" in his last moments, it must have had something to do
with his quest. It is for you to find out if it has any meaning.'
I folded it up and placed it in my pocket-book.
'What a great fellow! What was his name?' I asked.
Sir Walter did not answer at once. He was looking out of the window.
'His name,' he said at last, 'was Harry Bullivant. He was my son. God
rest his brave soul!'
The Gathering of the Missionaries
I wrote out a wire to Sandy, asking him to come up by the two-fifteen
train and meet me at my flat.
'I have chosen my colleague,' I said.
'Billy Arbuthnot's boy? His father was at Harrow with me. I know the
fellow--Harry used to bring him down to fish--tallish, with a lean,
high-boned face and a pair of brown eyes like a pretty girl's. I know
his record, too. There's a good deal about him in this office. He
rode through Yemen, which no white man ever did before. The Arabs let
him pass, for they thought him stark mad and argued that the hand of
Allah was heavy enough on him without their efforts. He's
blood-brother to every kind of Albanian bandit. Also he used to take a
hand in Turkish politics, and got a huge reputation. Some Englishman
was once complaining to old Mahmoud Shevkat about the scarcity of
statesmen in Western Europe, and Mahmoud broke in with, "Have you not
the Honourable Arbuthnot?" You say he's in your battalion. I was
wondering what had become of him, for we tried to get hold of him here,
but he had left no address. Ludovick Arbuthnot--yes, that's the man.
Buried deep in the commissioned ranks of the New Army? Well, we'll get
him out pretty quick!'
'I knew he had knocked about the East, but I didn't know he was that
kind of swell. Sandy's not the chap to buck about himself.'
'He wouldn't,' said Sir Walter. 'He had always a more than Oriental
reticence. I've got another colleague for you, if you like him.'
He looked at his watch. 'You can get to the Savoy Grill Room in five
minutes in a taxi-cab. Go in from the Strand, turn to your left, and
you will see in the alcove on the right-hand side a table with one
large American gentleman sitting at it. They know him there, so he
will have the table to himself. I want you to go and sit down beside
him. Say you come from me. His name is Mr John Scantlebury Blenkiron,
now a citizen of Boston, Mass., but born and raised in Indiana. Put
this envelope in your pocket, but don't read its contents till you have
talked to him. I want you to form your own opinion about Mr Blenkiron.'
I went out of the Foreign Office in as muddled a frame of mind as any
diplomatist who ever left its portals. I was most desperately
depressed. To begin with, I was in a complete funk. I had always
thought I was about as brave as the average man, but there's courage
and courage, and mine was certainly not the impassive kind. Stick me
down in a trench and I could stand being shot at as well as most
people, and my blood could get hot if it were given a chance. But I
think I had too much imagination. I couldn't shake off the beastly
forecasts that kept crowding my mind.
In about a fortnight, I calculated, I would be dead. Shot as a spy--a
rotten sort of ending! At the moment I was quite safe, looking for a
taxi in the middle of Whitehall, but the sweat broke on my forehead. I
felt as I had felt in my adventure before the war. But this was far
worse, for it was more cold-blooded and premeditated, and I didn't seem
to have even a sporting chance. I watched the figures in khaki passing
on the pavement, and thought what a nice safe prospect they had
compared to mine. Yes, even if next week they were in the
Hohenzollern, or the Hairpin trench at the Quarries, or that ugly angle
at Hooge. I wondered why I had not been happier that morning before I
got that infernal wire. Suddenly all the trivialities of English life
seemed to me inexpressibly dear and terribly far away. I was very
angry with Bullivant, till I remembered how fair he had been. My fate
was my own choosing.
When I was hunting the Black Stone the interest of the problem had
helped to keep me going. But now I could see no problem. My mind had
nothing to work on but three words of gibberish on a sheet of paper and
a mystery of which Sir Walter had been convinced, but to which he
couldn't give a name. It was like the story I had read of Saint Teresa
setting off at the age of ten with her small brother to convert the
Moors. I sat huddled in the taxi with my chin on my breast, wishing
that I had lost a leg at Loos and been comfortably tucked away for the
rest of the war.
Sure enough I found my man in the Grill Room. There he was, feeding
solemnly, with a napkin tucked under his chin. He was a big fellow
with a fat, sallow, clean-shaven face. I disregarded the hovering
waiter and pulled up a chair beside the American at the little table.
He turned on me a pair of full sleepy eyes, like a ruminating ox.
'Mr Blenkiron?' I asked.
'You have my name, Sir,' he said. 'Mr John Scantlebury Blenkiron. I
would wish you good morning if I saw anything good in this darned
'I come from Sir Walter Bullivant,' I said, speaking low.
'So?' said he. 'Sir Walter is a very good friend of mine. Pleased to
meet you, Mr--or I guess it's Colonel--'
'Hannay,' I said; 'Major Hannay.' I was wondering what this sleepy
Yankee could do to help me.
'Allow me to offer you luncheon, Major. Here, waiter, bring the carte.
I regret that I cannot join you in sampling the efforts of the
management of this hotel. I suffer, Sir, from dyspepsia--duodenal
dyspepsia. It gets me two hours after a meal and gives me hell just
below the breast-bone. So I am obliged to adopt a diet. My
nourishment is fish, Sir, and boiled milk and a little dry toast. It's
a melancholy descent from the days when I could do justice to a lunch
at Sherry's and sup off oyster-crabs and devilled bones.' He sighed
from the depths of his capacious frame.
I ordered an omelette and a chop, and took another look at him. The
large eyes seemed to be gazing steadily at me without seeing me. They
were as vacant as an abstracted child's; but I had an uncomfortable
feeling that they saw more than mine.
'You have been fighting, Major? The Battle of Loos? Well, I guess
that must have been some battle. We in America respect the fighting of
the British soldier, but we don't quite catch on to the de-vices of the
British Generals. We opine that there is more bellicosity than science
among your highbrows. That is so? My father fought at Chattanooga,
but these eyes have seen nothing gorier than a Presidential election.
Say, is there any way I could be let into a scene of real bloodshed?'
His serious tone made me laugh. 'There are plenty of your countrymen
in the present show,' I said. 'The French Foreign Legion is full of
young Americans, and so is our Army Service Corps. Half the chauffeurs
you strike in France seem to come from the States.'
He sighed. 'I did think of some belligerent stunt a year back. But I
reflected that the good God had not given John S. Blenkiron the kind
of martial figure that would do credit to the tented field. Also I
recollected that we Americans were nootrals--benevolent nootrals--and
that it did not become me to be butting into the struggles of the
effete monarchies of Europe. So I stopped at home. It was a big
renunciation, Major, for I was lying sick during the Philippines
business, and I have never seen the lawless passions of men let loose
on a battlefield. And, as a stoodent of humanity, I hankered for the
'What have you been doing?' I asked. The calm gentleman had begun to
'Waal,' he said, 'I just waited. The Lord has blessed me with money to
burn, so I didn't need to go scrambling like a wild cat for war
contracts. But I reckoned I would get let into the game somehow, and I
was. Being a nootral, I was in an advantageous position to take a
hand. I had a pretty hectic time for a while, and then I reckoned I
would leave God's country and see what was doing in Europe. I have
counted myself out of the bloodshed business, but, as your poet sings,
peace has its victories not less renowned than war, and I reckon that
means that a nootral can have a share in a scrap as well as a
'That's the best kind of neutrality I've ever heard of,' I said.
'It's the right kind,' he replied solemnly. 'Say, Major, what are your
lot fighting for? For your own skins and your Empire and the peace of
Europe. Waal, those ideals don't concern us one cent. We're not
Europeans, and there aren't any German trenches on Long Island yet.
You've made the ring in Europe, and if we came butting in it wouldn't
be the rules of the game. You wouldn't welcome us, and I guess you'd
be right. We're that delicate-minded we can't interfere and that was
what my friend, President Wilson, meant when he opined that America was
too proud to fight. So we're nootrals. But likewise we're benevolent
nootrals. As I follow events, there's a skunk been let loose in the
world, and the odour of it is going to make life none too sweet till it
is cleared away. It wasn't us that stirred up that skunk, but we've
got to take a hand in disinfecting the planet. See? We can't fight,
but, by God! some of us are going to sweat blood to sweep the mess up.
Officially we do nothing except give off Notes like a leaky boiler
gives off steam. But as individooal citizens we're in it up to the
neck. So, in the spirit of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson, I'm
going to be the nootralist kind of nootral till Kaiser will be sorry he
didn't declare war on America at the beginning.'
I was completely recovering my temper. This fellow was a perfect
jewel, and his spirit put purpose into me.
'I guess you British were the same kind of nootral when your Admiral
warned off the German fleet from interfering with Dewey in Manila Bay
in '98.' Mr Blenkiron drank up the last drop of his boiled milk and
lit a thin black cigar.
I leaned forward. 'Have you talked to Sir Walter?' I asked.
'I have talked to him, and he has given me to understand that there's a
deal ahead which you're going to boss. There are no flies on that big
man, and if he says it's good business then you can count me in.'
'You know that it's uncommonly dangerous?'
'I judged so. But it don't do to begin counting risks. I believe in
an all-wise and beneficent Providence, but you have got to trust Him
and give Him a chance. What's life anyhow? For me, it's living on a
strict diet and having frequent pains in my stomach. It isn't such an
almighty lot to give up, provided you get a good price in the deal.
Besides, how big is the risk? About one o'clock in the morning, when
you can't sleep, it will be the size of Mount Everest, but if you run
out to meet it, it will be a hillock you can jump over. The grizzly
looks very fierce when you're taking your ticket for the Rockies and
wondering if you'll come back, but he's just an ordinary bear when
you've got the sight of your rifle on him. I won't think about risks
till I'm up to my neck in them and don't see the road out.'
I scribbled my address on a piece of paper and handed it to the stout
philosopher. 'Come to dinner tonight at eight,' I said.
'I thank you, Major. A little fish, please, plain-boiled, and some hot
milk. You will forgive me if I borrow your couch after the meal and
spend the evening on my back. That is the advice of my noo doctor.'
I got a taxi and drove to my club. On the way I opened the envelope
Sir Walter had given me. It contained a number of jottings, the
dossier of Mr Blenkiron. He had done wonders for the Allies in the
States. He had nosed out the Dumba plot, and had been instrumental in
getting the portfolio of Dr Albert. Von Papen's spies had tried to
murder him, after he had defeated an attempt to blow up one of the big
gun factories. Sir Walter had written at the end: 'The best man we
ever had. Better than Scudder. He would go through hell with a box of
bismuth tablets and a pack of Patience cards.'
I went into the little back smoking-room, borrowed an atlas from the
library, poked up the fire, and sat down to think. Mr Blenkiron had
given me the fillip I needed. My mind was beginning to work now, and
was running wide over the whole business. Not that I hoped to find
anything by my cogitations. It wasn't thinking in an arm-chair that
would solve the mystery. But I was getting a sort of grip on a plan of
operations. And to my relief I had stopped thinking about the risks.
Blenkiron had shamed me out of that. If a sedentary dyspeptic could
show that kind of nerve, I wasn't going to be behind him.
I went back to my flat about five o'clock. My man Paddock had gone to
the wars long ago, so I had shifted to one of the new blocks in Park
Lane where they provide food and service. I kept the place on to have
a home to go to when I got leave. It's a miserable business holidaying
in an hotel.
Sandy was devouring tea-cakes with the serious resolution of a
'Well, Dick, what's the news? Is it a brass hat or the boot?'
'Neither,' I said. 'But you and I are going to disappear from His
Majesty's forces. Seconded for special service.'
'O my sainted aunt!' said Sandy. 'What is it? For Heaven's sake put
me out of pain. Have we to tout deputations of suspicious neutrals
over munition works or take the shivering journalist in a motor-car
where he can imagine he sees a Boche?'
'The news will keep. But I can tell you this much. It's about as safe
and easy as to go through the German lines with a walking-stick.'
'Come, that's not so dusty,' said Sandy, and began cheerfully on the
I must spare a moment to introduce Sandy to the reader, for he cannot
be allowed to slip into this tale by a side-door. If you will consult
the Peerage you will find that to Edward Cospatrick, fifteenth Baron
Clanroyden, there was born in the year 1882, as his second son,
Ludovick Gustavus Arbuthnot, commonly called the Honourable, etc. The
said son was educated at Eton and New College, Oxford, was a captain in
the Tweeddale Yeomanry, and served for some years as honorary attache
at various embassies. The Peerage will stop short at this point, but
that is by no means the end of the story. For the rest you must
consult very different authorities. Lean brown men from the ends of
the earth may be seen on the London pavements now and then in creased
clothes, walking with the light outland step, slinking into clubs as if
they could not remember whether or not they belonged to them. From
them you may get news of Sandy. Better still, you will hear of him at
little forgotten fishing ports where the Albanian mountains dip to the
Adriatic. If you struck a Mecca pilgrimage the odds are you would meet
a dozen of Sandy's friends in it. In shepherds' huts in the Caucasus
you will find bits of his cast-off clothing, for he has a knack of
shedding garments as he goes. In the caravanserais of Bokhara and
Samarkand he is known, and there are shikaris in the Pamirs who still
speak of him round their fires. If you were going to visit Petrograd
or Rome or Cairo it would be no use asking him for introductions; if he
gave them, they would lead you into strange haunts. But if Fate
compelled you to go to Llasa or Yarkand or Seistan he could map out
your road for you and pass the word to potent friends. We call
ourselves insular, but the truth is that we are the only race on earth
that can produce men capable of getting inside the skin of remote
peoples. Perhaps the Scots are better than the English, but we're all
a thousand per cent better than anybody else. Sandy was the wandering
Scot carried to the pitch of genius. In old days he would have led a
crusade or discovered a new road to the Indies. Today he merely roamed
as the spirit moved him, till the war swept him up and dumped him down
in my battalion.
I got out Sir Walter's half-sheet of note-paper. It was not the
original--naturally he wanted to keep that--but it was a careful
tracing. I took it that Harry Bullivant had not written down the words
as a memo for his own use. People who follow his career have good
memories. He must have written them in order that, if he perished and
his body was found, his friends might get a clue. Wherefore, I argued,
the words must be intelligible to somebody or other of our persuasion,
and likewise they must be pretty well gibberish to any Turk or German
that found them.
The first, '"Kasredin"', I could make nothing of. I asked Sandy.
'You mean Nasr-ed-din,' he said, still munching crumpets.
'What's that?' I asked sharply.
'He's the General believed to be commanding against us in Mesopotamia.
I remember him years ago in Aleppo. He talked bad French and drank the
sweetest of sweet champagne.'
I looked closely at the paper. The 'K' was unmistakable.
'Kasredin is nothing. It means in Arabic the House of Faith, and might
cover anything from Hagia Sofia to a suburban villa. What's your next
puzzle, Dick? Have you entered for a prize competition in a weekly
'"Cancer,"' I read out.
'It is the Latin for a crab. Likewise it is the name of a painful
disease. It is also a sign of the Zodiac.'
'"v. I",' I read.
'There you have me. It sounds like the number of a motor-car. The
police would find out for you. I call this rather a difficult
competition. What's the prize?'
I passed him the paper. 'Who wrote it? It looks as if he had been in
'Harry Bullivant,' I said.
Sandy's face grew solemn. 'Old Harry. He was at my tutor's. The best
fellow God ever made. I saw his name in the casualty list before Kut.
... Harry didn't do things without a purpose. What's the story of
'Wait till after dinner,' I said. 'I'm going to change and have a
bath. There's an American coming to dine, and he's part of the
Mr Blenkiron arrived punctual to the minute in a fur coat like a
Russian prince's. Now that I saw him on his feet I could judge him
better. He had a fat face, but was not too plump in figure, and very
muscular wrists showed below his shirt-cuffs. I fancied that, if the
occasion called, he might be a good man with his hands.
Sandy and I ate a hearty meal, but the American picked at his boiled
fish and sipped his milk a drop at a time. When the servant had
cleared away, he was as good as his word and laid himself out on my
sofa. I offered him a good cigar, but he preferred one of his own lean
black abominations. Sandy stretched his length in an easy chair and
lit his pipe. 'Now for your story, Dick,' he said.
I began, as Sir Walter had begun with me, by telling them about the
puzzle in the Near East. I pitched a pretty good yarn, for I had been
thinking a lot about it, and the mystery of the business had caught my
fancy. Sandy got very keen.
'It is possible enough. Indeed, I've been expecting it, though I'm
hanged if I can imagine what card the Germans have got up their sleeve.
It might be any one of twenty things. Thirty years ago there was a
bogus prophecy that played the devil in Yemen. Or it might be a flag
such as Ali Wad Helu had, or a jewel like Solomon's necklace in
Abyssinia. You never know what will start off a jehad! But I rather
think it's a man.'
'Where could he get his purchase?' I asked.
'It's hard to say. If it were merely wild tribesmen like the Bedouin
he might have got a reputation as a saint and miracle-worker. Or he
might be a fellow that preached a pure religion, like the chap that
founded the Senussi. But I'm inclined to think he must be something
extra special if he can put a spell on the whole Moslem world. The
Turk and the Persian wouldn't follow the ordinary new theology game.
He must be of the Blood. Your Mahdis and Mullahs and Imams were
nobodies, but they had only a local prestige. To capture all
Islam--and I gather that is what we fear--the man must be of the
Koreish, the tribe of the Prophet himself.'
'But how could any impostor prove that? For I suppose he's an
'He would have to combine a lot of claims. His descent must be pretty
good to begin with, and there are families, remember, that claim the
Koreish blood. Then he'd have to be rather a wonder on his own
account--saintly, eloquent, and that sort of thing. And I expect he'd
have to show a sign, though what that could be I haven't a notion.'
'You know the East about as well as any living man. Do you think that
kind of thing is possible?' I asked.
'Perfectly,' said Sandy, with a grave face.
'Well, there's the ground cleared to begin with. Then there's the
evidence of pretty well every secret agent we possess. That all seems
to prove the fact. But we have no details and no clues except that bit
of paper.' I told them the story of it.
Sandy studied it with wrinkled brows. 'It beats me. But it may be the
key for all that. A clue may be dumb in London and shout aloud at
'That's just the point I was coming to. Sir Walter says this thing is
about as important for our cause as big guns. He can't give me orders,
but he offers the job of going out to find what the mischief is. Once
he knows that, he says he can checkmate it. But it's got to be found
out soon, for the mine may be sprung at any moment. I've taken on the
job. Will you help?'
Sandy was studying the ceiling.
'I should add that it's about as safe as playing chuck-farthing at the
Loos Cross-roads, the day you and I went in. And if we fail nobody can
'Oh, of course, of course,' said Sandy in an abstracted voice.
Mr Blenkiron, having finished his after-dinner recumbency, had sat up
and pulled a small table towards him. From his pocket he had taken a
pack of Patience cards and had begun to play the game called the Double
Napoleon. He seemed to be oblivious of the conversation.
Suddenly I had a feeling that the whole affair was stark lunacy. Here
were we three simpletons sitting in a London flat and projecting a
mission into the enemy's citadel without an idea what we were to do or
how we were to do it. And one of the three was looking at the ceiling,
and whistling softly through his teeth, and another was playing
Patience. The farce of the thing struck me so keenly that I laughed.
Sandy looked at me sharply.
'You feel like that? Same with me. It's idiocy, but all war is
idiotic, and the most whole-hearted idiot is apt to win. We're to go
on this mad trail wherever we think we can hit it. Well, I'm with you.
But I don't mind admitting that I'm in a blue funk. I had got myself
adjusted to this trench business and was quite happy. And now you have
hoicked me out, and my feet are cold.'
'I don't believe you know what fear is,' I said.
'There you're wrong, Dick,' he said earnestly. 'Every man who isn't a
maniac knows fear. I have done some daft things, but I never started
on them without wishing they were over. Once I'm in the show I get
easier, and by the time I'm coming out I'm sorry to leave it. But at
the start my feet are icy.'
'Then I take it you're coming?'
'Rather,' he said. 'You didn't imagine I would go back on you?'
'And you, sir?' I addressed Blenkiron.
His game of Patience seemed to be coming out. He was completing eight
little heaps of cards with a contented grunt. As I spoke, he raised
his sleepy eyes and nodded.
'Why, yes,' he said. 'You gentlemen mustn't think that I haven't been
following your most engrossing conversation. I guess I haven't missed
a syllable. I find that a game of Patience stimulates the digestion
after meals and conduces to quiet reflection. John S. Blenkiron is
with you all the time.'
He shuffled the cards and dealt for a new game.
I don't think I ever expected a refusal, but this ready assent cheered
me wonderfully. I couldn't have faced the thing alone.
'Well, that's settled. Now for ways and means. We three have got to
put ourselves in the way of finding out Germany's secret, and we have
to go where it is known. Somehow or other we have to reach
Constantinople, and to beat the biggest area of country we must go by
different roads. Sandy, my lad, you've got to get into Turkey. You're
the only one of us that knows that engaging people. You can't get in by
Europe very easily, so you must try Asia. What about the coast of Asia
'It could be done,' he said. 'You'd better leave that entirely to me.
I'll find out the best way. I suppose the Foreign Office will help me
to get to the jumping-off place?'
'Remember,' I said, 'it's no good getting too far east. The secret, so
far as concerns us, is still west of Constantinople.'
'I see that. I'll blow in on the Bosporus by a short tack.'
'For you, Mr Blenkiron, I would suggest a straight journey. You're an
American, and can travel through Germany direct. But I wonder how far
your activities in New York will allow you to pass as a neutral?'
'I have considered that, Sir,' he said. 'I have given some thought to
the pecooliar psychology of the great German nation. As I read them
they're as cunning as cats, and if you play the feline game they will
outwit you every time. Yes, Sir, they are no slouches at sleuth-work.
If I were to buy a pair of false whiskers and dye my hair and dress
like a Baptist parson and go into Germany on the peace racket, I guess
they'd be on my trail like a knife, and I should be shot as a spy
inside of a week or doing solitary in the Moabite prison. But they
lack the larger vision. They can be bluffed, Sir. With your approval I
shall visit the Fatherland as John S. Blenkiron, once a thorn in the
side of their brightest boys on the other side. But it will be a
different John S. I reckon he will have experienced a change of heart.
He will have come to appreciate the great, pure, noble soul of Germany,
and he will be sorrowing for his past like a converted gun-man at a
camp meeting. He will be a victim of the meanness and perfidy of the
British Government. I am going to have a first-class row with your
Foreign Office about my passport, and I am going to speak harsh words
about them up and down this metropolis. I am going to be shadowed by
your sleuths at my port of embarkation, and I guess I shall run up hard
against the British Legations in Scandinavia. By that time our
Teutonic friends will have begun to wonder what has happened to John
S., and to think that maybe they have been mistaken in that child. So,
when I get to Germany they will be waiting for me with an open mind.
Then I judge my conduct will surprise and encourage them. I will
confide to them valuable secret information about British preparations,
and I will show up the British lion as the meanest kind of cur. You
may trust me to make a good impression. After that I'll move
eastwards, to see the demolition of the British Empire in those parts.
By the way, where is the "rendezvous"?'
'This is the 17th day of November. If we can't find out what we want
in two months we may chuck the job. On the 17th of January we should
forgather in Constantinople. Whoever gets there first waits for the
others. If by that date we're not all present, it will be considered
that the missing man has got into trouble and must be given up. If
ever we get there we'll be coming from different points and in
different characters, so we want a rendezvous where all kinds of odd
folk assemble. Sandy, you know Constantinople. You fix the
'I've already thought of that,' he said, and going to the writing-table
he drew a little plan on a sheet of paper. 'That lane runs down from
the Kurdish Bazaar in Galata to the ferry of Ratchik. Half-way down on
the left-hand side is a cafe kept by a Greek called Kuprasso. Behind
the cafe is a garden, surrounded by high walls which were parts of the
old Byzantine Theatre. At the end of the garden is a shanty called the
Garden-house of Suliman the Red. It has been in its time a
dancing-hall and a gambling hell and God knows what else. It's not a
place for respectable people, but the ends of the earth converge there
and no questions are asked. That's the best spot I can think of for a
The kettle was simmering by the fire, the night was raw, and it seemed
the hour for whisky-punch. I made a brew for Sandy and myself and
boiled some milk for Blenkiron.
'What about language?' I asked. 'You're all right, Sandy?'
'I know German fairly well; and I can pass anywhere as a Turk. The
first will do for eavesdropping and the second for ordinary business.'
'And you?' I asked Blenkiron.
'I was left out at Pentecost,' he said. 'I regret to confess I have no
gift of tongues. But the part I have chosen for myself don't require
the polyglot. Never forget I'm plain John S. Blenkiron, a citizen of
the great American Republic.'
'You haven't told us your own line, Dick,' Sandy said.
'I am going to the Bosporus through Germany, and, not being a neutral,
it won't be a very cushioned journey.'
Sandy looked grave.
'That sounds pretty desperate. Is your German good enough?'
'Pretty fair; quite good enough to pass as a native. But officially I
shall not understand one word. I shall be a Boer from Western Cape
Colony: one of Maritz's old lot who after a bit of trouble has got
through Angola and reached Europe. I shall talk Dutch and nothing
else. And, my hat! I shall be pretty bitter about the British. There's
a powerful lot of good swear-words in the taal. I shall know all about
Africa, and be panting to get another whack at the "verdommt rooinek".
With luck they may send me to the Uganda show or to Egypt, and I shall
take care to go by Constantinople. If I'm to deal with the Mohammedan
natives they're bound to show me what hand they hold. At least, that's
the way I look at it.'
We filled our glasses--two of punch and one of milk--and drank to our
next merry meeting. Then Sandy began to laugh, and I joined in. The
sense of hopeless folly again descended on me. The best plans we could
make were like a few buckets of water to ease the drought of the Sahara
or the old lady who would have stopped the Atlantic with a broom. I
thought with sympathy of little Saint Teresa.
Our various departures were unassuming, all but the American's. Sandy
spent a busy fortnight in his subterranean fashion, now in the British
Museum, now running about the country to see old exploring companions,
now at the War Office, now at the Foreign Office, but mostly in my
flat, sunk in an arm-chair and meditating. He left finally on December
1st as a King's Messenger for Cairo. Once there I knew the King's
Messenger would disappear, and some queer Oriental ruffian take his
place. It would have been impertinence in me to inquire into his
plans. He was the real professional, and I was only the dabbler.
Blenkiron was a different matter. Sir Walter told me to look out for
squalls, and the twinkle in his eye gave me a notion of what was
coming. The first thing the sportsman did was to write a letter to the
papers signed with his name. There had been a debate in the House of
Commons on foreign policy, and the speech of some idiot there gave him
his cue. He declared that he had been heart and soul with the British
at the start, but that he was reluctantly compelled to change his
views. He said our blockade of Germany had broken all the laws of God
and humanity, and he reckoned that Britain was now the worst exponent
of Prussianism going. That letter made a fine racket, and the paper
that printed it had a row with the Censor. But that was only the
beginning of Mr Blenkiron's campaign. He got mixed up with some
mountebanks called the League of Democrats against Aggression,
gentlemen who thought that Germany was all right if we could only keep
from hurting her feelings. He addressed a meeting under their
auspices, which was broken up by the crowd, but not before John S. had
got off his chest a lot of amazing stuff. I wasn't there, but a man
who was told me that he never heard such clotted nonsense. He said
that Germany was right in wanting the freedom of the seas, and that
America would back her up, and that the British Navy was a bigger
menace to the peace of the world than the Kaiser's army. He admitted
that he had once thought differently, but he was an honest man and not
afraid to face facts. The oration closed suddenly, when he got a
brussels-sprout in the eye, at which my friend said he swore in a very
After that he wrote other letters to the Press, saying that there was
no more liberty of speech in England, and a lot of scallywags backed
him up. Some Americans wanted to tar and feather him, and he got
kicked out of the Savoy. There was an agitation to get him deported,
and questions were asked in Parliament, and the Under-Secretary for
Foreign Affairs said his department had the matter in hand. I was
beginning to think that Blenkiron was carrying his tomfoolery too far,
so I went to see Sir Walter, but he told me to keep my mind easy.
'Our friend's motto is "Thorough",' he said, 'and he knows very well
what he is about. We have officially requested him to leave, and he
sails from Newcastle on Monday. He will be shadowed wherever he goes,
and we hope to provoke more outbreaks. He is a very capable fellow.'
The last I saw of him was on the Saturday afternoon when I met him in
St James's Street and offered to shake hands. He told me that my
uniform was a pollution, and made a speech to a small crowd about it.
They hissed him and he had to get into a taxi. As he departed there
was just the suspicion of a wink in his left eye. On Monday I read that
he had gone off, and the papers observed that our shores were well quit
I sailed on December 3rd from Liverpool in a boat bound for the
Argentine that was due to put in at Lisbon. I had of course to get a
Foreign Office passport to leave England, but after that my connection
with the Government ceased. All the details of my journey were
carefully thought out. Lisbon would be a good jumping-off place, for
it was the rendezvous of scallywags from most parts of Africa. My kit
was an old Gladstone bag, and my clothes were the relics of my South
African wardrobe. I let my beard grow for some days before I sailed,
and, since it grows fast, I went on board with the kind of hairy chin
you will see on the young Boer. My name was now Brandt, Cornelis
Brandt--at least so my passport said, and passports never lie.
There were just two other passengers on that beastly boat, and they
never appeared till we were out of the Bay. I was pretty bad myself,
but managed to move about all the time, for the frowst in my cabin
would have sickened a hippo. The old tub took two days and a night to
waddle from Ushant to Finisterre. Then the weather changed and we came
out of snow-squalls into something very like summer. The hills of
Portugal were all blue and yellow like the Kalahari, and before we made
the Tagus I was beginning to forget I had ever left Rhodesia. There
was a Dutchman among the sailors with whom I used to patter the taal,
and but for 'Good morning' and 'Good evening' in broken English to the
captain, that was about all the talking I did on the cruise.
We dropped anchor off the quays of Lisbon on a shiny blue morning,
pretty near warm enough to wear flannels. I had now got to be very
wary. I did not leave the ship with the shore-going boat, but made a
leisurely breakfast. Then I strolled on deck, and there, just casting
anchor in the middle of the stream, was another ship with a blue and
white funnel I knew so well. I calculated that a month before she had
been smelling the mangrove swamps of Angola. Nothing could better
answer my purpose. I proposed to board her, pretending I was looking
for a friend, and come on shore from her, so that anyone in Lisbon who
chose to be curious would think I had landed straight from Portuguese
I hailed one of the adjacent ruffians, and got into his rowboat, with
my kit. We reached the vessel--they called her the "Henry the
Navigator"--just as the first shore-boat was leaving. The crowd in it
were all Portuguese, which suited my book.
But when I went up the ladder the first man I met was old Peter Pienaar.
Here was a piece of sheer monumental luck. Peter had opened his eyes
and his mouth, and had got as far as 'Allemachtig', when I shut him
'Brandt,' I said, 'Cornelis Brandt. That's my name now, and don't you
forget it. Who is the captain here? Is it still old Sloggett?'
'"Ja,"' said Peter, pulling himself together. 'He was speaking about
This was better and better. I sent Peter below to get hold of
Sloggett, and presently I had a few words with that gentleman in his
cabin with the door shut.
'You've got to enter my name in the ship's books. I came aboard at
Mossamedes. And my name's Cornelis Brandt.'
At first Sloggett was for objecting. He said it was a felony. I told
him that I dared say it was, but he had got to do it, for reasons which
I couldn't give, but which were highly creditable to all parties. In
the end he agreed, and I saw it done. I had a pull on old Sloggett,
for I had known him ever since he owned a dissolute tug-boat at Delagoa
Then Peter and I went ashore and swaggered into Lisbon as if we owned
De Beers. We put up at the big hotel opposite the railway station, and
looked and behaved like a pair of lowbred South Africans home for a
spree. It was a fine bright day, so I hired a motor-car and said I
would drive it myself. We asked the name of some beauty-spot to visit,
and were told Cintra and shown the road to it. I wanted a quiet place
to talk, for I had a good deal to say to Peter Pienaar.
I christened that car the Lusitanian Terror, and it was a marvel that
we did not smash ourselves up. There was something immortally wrong
with its steering gear. Half a dozen times we slewed across the road,
inviting destruction. But we got there in the end, and had luncheon in
an hotel opposite the Moorish palace. There we left the car and
wandered up the slopes of a hill, where, sitting among scrub very like
the veld, I told Peter the situation of affairs.
But first a word must be said about Peter. He was the man that taught
me all I ever knew of veld-craft, and a good deal about human nature
besides. He was out of the Old Colony--Burgersdorp, I think--but he
had come to the Transvaal when the Lydenburg goldfields started. He
was prospector, transport-rider, and hunter in turns, but principally
hunter. In those early days he was none too good a citizen. He was in
Swaziland with Bob Macnab, and you know what that means. Then he took
to working off bogus gold propositions on Kimberley and Johannesburg
magnates, and what he didn't know about salting a mine wasn't
knowledge. After that he was in the Kalahari, where he and Scotty
Smith were familiar names. An era of comparative respectability dawned
for him with the Matabele War, when he did uncommon good scouting and
transport work. Cecil Rhodes wanted to establish him on a stock farm
down Salisbury way, but Peter was an independent devil and would call
no man master. He took to big-game hunting, which was what God
intended him for, for he could track a tsessebe in thick bush, and was
far the finest shot I have seen in my life. He took parties to the
Pungwe flats, and Barotseland, and up to Tanganyika. Then he made a
speciality of the Ngami region, where I once hunted with him, and he
was with me when I went prospecting in Damaraland.
When the Boer War started, Peter, like many of the very great hunters,
took the British side and did most of our intelligence work in the
North Transvaal. Beyers would have hanged him if he could have caught
him, and there was no love lost between Peter and his own people for
many a day. When it was all over and things had calmed down a bit, he
settled in Bulawayo and used to go with me when I went on trek. At the
time when I left Africa two years before, I had lost sight of him for
months, and heard that he was somewhere on the Congo poaching
elephants. He had always a great idea of making things hum so loud in
Angola that the Union Government would have to step in and annex it.
After Rhodes Peter had the biggest notions south of the Line.
He was a man of about five foot ten, very thin and active, and as
strong as a buffalo. He had pale blue eyes, a face as gentle as a
girl's, and a soft sleepy voice. From his present appearance it looked
as if he had been living hard lately. His clothes were of the cut you
might expect to get at Lobito Bay, he was as lean as a rake, deeply
browned with the sun, and there was a lot of grey in his beard. He was
fifty-six years old, and used to be taken for forty. Now he looked
about his age.
I first asked him what he had been up to since the war began. He spat,
in the Kaffir way he had, and said he had been having hell's time.
'I got hung up on the Kafue,' he said. 'When I heard from old
Letsitela that the white men were fighting I had a bright idea that I
might get into German South West from the north. You see I knew that
Botha couldn't long keep out of the war. Well, I got into German
territory all right, and then a "skellum" of an officer came along, and
commandeered all my mules, and wanted to commandeer me with them for
his fool army. He was a very ugly man with a yellow face.' Peter
filled a deep pipe from a kudu-skin pouch.
'Were you commandeered?' I asked.
'No. I shot him--not so as to kill, but to wound badly. It was all
right, for he fired first on me. Got me too in the left shoulder. But
that was the beginning of bad trouble. I trekked east pretty fast, and
got over the border among the Ovamba. I have made many journeys, but
that was the worst. Four days I went without water, and six without
food. Then by bad luck I fell in with 'Nkitla--you remember, the
half-caste chief. He said I owed him money for cattle which I bought
when I came there with Carowab. It was a lie, but he held to it, and
would give me no transport. So I crossed the Kalahari on my feet.
Ugh, it was as slow as a vrouw coming from "nachtmaal". It took weeks
and weeks, and when I came to Lechwe's kraal, I heard that the fighting
was over and that Botha had conquered the Germans. That, too, was a
lie, but it deceived me, and I went north into Rhodesia, where I
learned the truth. But by then I judged the war had gone too far for
me to make any profit out of it, so I went into Angola to look for
German refugees. By that time I was hating Germans worse than hell.'
'But what did you propose to do with them?' I asked.
'I had a notion they would make trouble with the Government in those
parts. I don't specially love the Portugoose, but I'm for him against
the Germans every day. Well, there was trouble, and I had a merry time
for a month or two. But by and by it petered out, and I thought I had
better clear for Europe, for South Africa was settling down just as the
big show was getting really interesting. So here I am, Cornelis, my
old friend. If I shave my beard will they let me join the Flying
I looked at Peter sitting there smoking, as imperturbable as if he had
been growing mealies in Natal all his life and had run home for a
month's holiday with his people in Peckham.
'You're coming with me, my lad,' I said. 'We're going into Germany.'
Peter showed no surprise. 'Keep in mind that I don't like the
Germans,' was all he said. 'I'm a quiet Christian man, but I've the
devil of a temper.'
Then I told him the story of our mission. 'You and I have got to be
Maritz's men. We went into Angola, and now we're trekking for the
Fatherland to get a bit of our own back from the infernal English.
Neither of us knows any German--publicly. We'd better plan out the
fighting we were in--Kakamas will do for one, and Schuit Drift. You
were a Ngamiland hunter before the war. They won't have your
"dossier", so you can tell any lie you like. I'd better be an educated
Afrikander, one of Beyers's bright lads, and a pal of old Hertzog. We
can let our imagination loose about that part, but we must stick to the
same yarn about the fighting.'
'"Ja", Cornelis,' said Peter. (He had called me Cornelis ever since I
had told him my new name. He was a wonderful chap for catching on to
any game.) 'But after we get into Germany, what then? There can't be
much difficulty about the beginning. But once we're among the
beer-swillers I don't quite see our line. We're to find out about
something that's going on in Turkey? When I was a boy the predikant
used to preach about Turkey. I wish I was better educated and
remembered whereabouts in the map it was.'
'You leave that to me,' I said; 'I'll explain it all to you before we
get there. We haven't got much of a spoor, but we'll cast about, and
with luck will pick it up. I've seen you do it often enough when we
hunted kudu on the Kafue.'
Peter nodded. 'Do we sit still in a German town?' he asked anxiously.
'I shouldn't like that, Cornelis.'
'We move gently eastward to Constantinople,' I said.
Peter grinned. 'We should cover a lot of new country. You can reckon
on me, friend Cornelis. I've always had a hankering to see Europe.'
He rose to his feet and stretched his long arms.
'We'd better begin at once. God, I wonder what's happened to old Solly
Maritz, with his bottle face? Yon was a fine battle at the drift when
I was sitting up to my neck in the Orange praying that Brits' lads
would take my head for a stone.'
Peter was as thorough a mountebank, when he got started, as Blenkiron
himself. All the way back to Lisbon he yarned about Maritz and his
adventures in German South West till I half believed they were true.
He made a very good story of our doings, and by his constant harping on
it I pretty soon got it into my memory. That was always Peter's way.
He said if you were going to play a part, you must think yourself into
it, convince yourself that you were it, till you really were it and
didn't act but behaved naturally. The two men who had started that
morning from the hotel door had been bogus enough, but the two men that
returned were genuine desperadoes itching to get a shot at England.
We spent the evening piling up evidence in our favour. Some kind of
republic had been started in Portugal, and ordinarily the cafes would
have been full of politicians, but the war had quieted all these local
squabbles, and the talk was of nothing but what was doing in France and
Russia. The place we went to was a big, well-lighted show on a main
street, and there were a lot of sharp-eyed fellows wandering about that
I guessed were spies and police agents. I knew that Britain was the one
country that doesn't bother about this kind of game, and that it would
be safe enough to let ourselves go.
I talked Portuguese fairly well, and Peter spoke it like a Lourenco
Marques bar-keeper, with a lot of Shangaan words to fill up. He
started on curacao, which I reckoned was a new drink to him, and
presently his tongue ran freely. Several neighbours pricked up their
ears, and soon we had a small crowd round our table.
We talked to each other of Maritz and our doings. It didn't seem to be
a popular subject in that cafe. One big blue-black fellow said that
Maritz was a dirty swine who would soon be hanged. Peter quickly
caught his knife-wrist with one hand and his throat with the other, and
demanded an apology. He got it. The Lisbon "boulevardiers" have not
lost any lions.
After that there was a bit of a squash in our corner. Those near to us
were very quiet and polite, but the outer fringe made remarks. When
Peter said that if Portugal, which he admitted he loved, was going to
stick to England she was backing the wrong horse, there was a murmur of
disapproval. One decent-looking old fellow, who had the air of a
ship's captain, flushed all over his honest face, and stood up looking
straight at Peter. I saw that we had struck an Englishman, and
mentioned it to Peter in Dutch.
Peter played his part perfectly. He suddenly shut up, and, with
furtive looks around him, began to jabber to me in a low voice. He was
the very picture of the old stage conspirator.
The old fellow stood staring at us. 'I don't very well understand this
damned lingo,' he said; 'but if so be you dirty Dutchmen are sayin'
anything against England, I'll ask you to repeat it. And if so be as
you repeats it I'll take either of you on and knock the face off him.'
He was a chap after my own heart, but I had to keep the game up. I
said in Dutch to Peter that we mustn't get brawling in a public house.
'Remember the big thing,' I said darkly. Peter nodded, and the old
fellow, after staring at us for a bit, spat scornfully, and walked out.
'The time is coming when the Englander will sing small,' I observed to
the crowd. We stood drinks to one or two, and then swaggered into the
street. At the door a hand touched my arm, and, looking down, I saw a
little scrap of a man in a fur coat.
'Will the gentlemen walk a step with me and drink a glass of beer?' he
said in very stiff Dutch.
'Who the devil are you?' I asked.
'"Gott strafe England!"' was his answer, and, turning back the lapel of
his coat, he showed some kind of ribbon in his buttonhole.
'Amen,' said Peter. 'Lead on, friend. We don't mind if we do.'
He led us to a back street and then up two pairs of stairs to a very
snug little flat. The place was filled with fine red lacquer, and I
guessed that art-dealing was his nominal business. Portugal, since the
republic broke up the convents and sold up the big royalist grandees,
was full of bargains in the lacquer and curio line.
He filled us two long tankards of very good Munich beer.
'"Prosit",' he said, raising his glass. 'You are from South Africa.
What make you in Europe?'
We both looked sullen and secretive.
'That's our own business,' I answered. 'You don't expect to buy our
confidence with a glass of beer.'
'So?' he said. 'Then I will put it differently. From your speech in
the cafe I judge you do not love the English.'
Peter said something about stamping on their grandmothers, a Kaffir
phrase which sounded gruesome in Dutch.
The man laughed. 'That is all I want to know. You are on the German
'That remains to be seen,' I said. 'If they treat me fair I'll fight
for them, or for anybody else that makes war on England. England has
stolen my country and corrupted my people and made me an exile. We
Afrikanders do not forget. We may be slow but we win in the end. We
two are men worth a great price. Germany fights England in East
Africa. We know the natives as no Englishmen can ever know them. They
are too soft and easy and the Kaffirs laugh at them. But we can handle
the blacks so that they will fight like devils for fear of us. What is
the reward, little man, for our services? I will tell you. There will
be no reward. We ask none. We fight for hate of England.'
Peter grunted a deep approval.
'That is good talk,' said our entertainer, and his close-set eyes
flashed. 'There is room in Germany for such men as you. Where are you
going now, I beg to know.'
'To Holland,' I said. 'Then maybe we will go to Germany. We are tired
with travel and may rest a bit. This war will last long and our chance
'But you may miss your market,' he said significantly. 'A ship sails
tomorrow for Rotterdam. If you take my advice, you will go with her.'
This was what I wanted, for if we stayed in Lisbon some real soldier of
Maritz might drop in any day and blow the gaff.
'I recommend you to sail in the "Machado",' he repeated. 'There is
work for you in Germany--oh yes, much work; but if you delay the chance
may pass. I will arrange your journey. It is my business to help the
allies of my fatherland.'
He wrote down our names and an epitome of our doings contributed by
Peter, who required two mugs of beer to help him through. He was a
Bavarian, it seemed, and we drank to the health of Prince Rupprecht,
the same blighter I was trying to do in at Loos. That was an irony
which Peter unfortunately could not appreciate. If he could he would
have enjoyed it.
The little chap saw us back to our hotel, and was with us the next
morning after breakfast, bringing the steamer tickets. We got on board
about two in the afternoon, but on my advice he did not see us off. I
told him that, being British subjects and rebels at that, we did not
want to run any risks on board, assuming a British cruiser caught us up
and searched us. But Peter took twenty pounds off him for travelling
expenses, it being his rule never to miss an opportunity of spoiling
As we were dropping down the Tagus we passed the old "Henry the
'I met Sloggett in the street this morning,' said Peter, 'and he told
me a little German man had been off in a boat at daybreak looking up
the passenger list. Yon was a right notion of yours, Cornelis. I am
glad we are going among Germans. They are careful people whom it is a
pleasure to meet.'
Adventures of Two Dutchmen on the Loose
The Germans, as Peter said, are a careful people. A man met us on the
quay at Rotterdam. I was a bit afraid that something might have turned
up in Lisbon to discredit us, and that our little friend might have
warned his pals by telegram. But apparently all was serene.
Peter and I had made our plans pretty carefully on the voyage. We had
talked nothing but Dutch, and had kept up between ourselves the role of
Maritz's men, which Peter said was the only way to play a part well.
Upon my soul, before we got to Holland I was not very clear in my own
mind what my past had been. Indeed the danger was that the other side
of my mind, which should be busy with the great problem, would get
atrophied, and that I should soon be mentally on a par with the
ordinary backveld desperado.
We had agreed that it would be best to get into Germany at once, and
when the agent on the quay told us of a train at midday we decided to
I had another fit of cold feet before we got over the frontier. At the
station there was a King's Messenger whom I had seen in France, and a
war correspondent who had been trotting round our part of the front
before Loos. I heard a woman speaking pretty clean-cut English, which
amid the hoarse Dutch jabber sounded like a lark among crows. There
were copies of the English papers for sale, and English cheap editions.
I felt pretty bad about the whole business, and wondered if I should
ever see these homely sights again.
But the mood passed when the train started. It was a clear blowing
day, and as we crawled through the flat pastures of Holland my time was
taken up answering Peter's questions. He had never been in Europe
before, and formed a high opinion of the farming. He said he reckoned
that such land would carry four sheep a morgen. We were thick in talk
when we reached the frontier station and jolted over a canal bridge
I had expected a big barricade with barbed wire and entrenchments. But
there was nothing to see on the German side but half a dozen sentries
in the field-grey I had hunted at Loos. An under-officer, with the
black-and-gold button of the Landsturm, hoicked us out of the train,
and we were all shepherded into a big bare waiting-room where a large
stove burned. They took us two at a time into an inner room for
examination. I had explained to Peter all about this formality, but I
was glad we went in together, for they made us strip to the skin, and I
had to curse him pretty seriously to make him keep quiet. The men who
did the job were fairly civil, but they were mighty thorough. They
took down a list of all we had in our pockets and bags, and all the
details from the passports the Rotterdam agent had given us.
We were dressing when a man in a lieutenant's uniform came in with a
paper in his hand. He was a fresh-faced lad of about twenty, with
short-sighted spectacled eyes.
'Herr Brandt,' he called out.
'And this is Herr Pienaar?' he asked in Dutch.
He saluted. 'Gentlemen, I apologize. I am late because of the
slowness of the Herr Commandant's motor-car. Had I been in time you
would not have been required to go through this ceremony. We have been
advised of your coming, and I am instructed to attend you on your
journey. The train for Berlin leaves in half an hour. Pray do me the
honour to join me in a bock.'
With a feeling of distinction we stalked out of the ordinary ruck of
passengers and followed the lieutenant to the station restaurant. He
plunged at once into conversation, talking the Dutch of Holland, which
Peter, who had forgotten his school-days, found a bit hard to follow.
He was unfit for active service, because of his eyes and a weak heart,
but he was a desperate fire-eater in that stuffy restaurant. By his
way of it Germany could gobble up the French and the Russians whenever
she cared, but she was aiming at getting all the Middle East in her
hands first, so that she could come out conqueror with the practical
control of half the world.
'Your friends the English,' he said grinning, 'will come last. When we
have starved them and destroyed their commerce with our under-sea boats
we will show them what our navy can do. For a year they have been
wasting their time in brag and politics, and we have been building
great ships--oh, so many! My cousin at Kiel--' and he looked over his
But we never heard about that cousin at Kiel. A short sunburnt man
came in and our friend sprang up and saluted, clicking his heels like a
pair of tongs.
'These are the South African Dutch, Herr Captain,' he said.
The new-comer looked us over with bright intelligent eyes, and started
questioning Peter in the taal. It was well that we had taken some
pains with our story, for this man had been years in German South West,
and knew every mile of the borders. Zorn was his name, and both Peter
and I thought we remembered hearing him spoken of.
I am thankful to say that we both showed up pretty well. Peter told
his story to perfection, not pitching it too high, and asking me now
and then for a name or to verify some detail. Captain Zorn looked
'You seem the right kind of fellows,' he said. 'But remember'--and he
bent his brows on us--'we do not understand slimness in this land. If
you are honest you will be rewarded, but if you dare to play a double
game you will be shot like dogs. Your race has produced over many
traitors for my taste.'
'I ask no reward,' I said gruffly. 'We are not Germans or Germany's
slaves. But so long as she fights against England we will fight for
'Bold words,' he said; 'but you must bow your stiff necks to discipline
first. Discipline has been the weak point of you Boers, and you have
suffered for it. You are no more a nation. In Germany we put
discipline first and last, and therefore we will conquer the world.
Off with you now. Your train starts in three minutes. We will see
what von Stumm will make of you.'
That fellow gave me the best 'feel' of any German I had yet met. He was
a white man and I could have worked with him. I liked his stiff chin
and steady blue eyes.
My chief recollection of our journey to Berlin was its commonplaceness.
The spectacled lieutenant fell asleep, and for the most part we had the
carriage to ourselves. Now and again a soldier on leave would drop in,
most of them tired men with heavy eyes. No wonder, poor devils, for
they were coming back from the Yser or the Ypres salient. I would have
liked to talk to them, but officially of course I knew no German, and
the conversation I overheard did not signify much. It was mostly about
regimental details, though one chap, who was in better spirits than the
rest, observed that this was the last Christmas of misery, and that
next year he would be holidaying at home with full pockets. The others
assented, but without much conviction.
The winter day was short, and most of the journey was made in the dark.
I could see from the window the lights of little villages, and now and
then the blaze of ironworks and forges. We stopped at a town for
dinner, where the platform was crowded with drafts waiting to go
westward. We saw no signs of any scarcity of food, such as the English
newspapers wrote about. We had an excellent dinner at the station
restaurant, which, with a bottle of white wine, cost just three
shillings apiece. The bread, to be sure, was poor, but I can put up
with the absence of bread if I get a juicy fillet of beef and as good
vegetables as you will see in the Savoy.
I was a little afraid of our giving ourselves away in our sleep, but I
need have had no fear, for our escort slumbered like a hog with his
mouth wide open. As we roared through the darkness I kept pinching
myself to make myself feel that I was in the enemy's land on a wild
mission. The rain came on, and we passed through dripping towns, with
the lights shining from the wet streets. As we went eastward the
lighting seemed to grow more generous. After the murk of London it was
queer to slip through garish stations with a hundred arc lights
glowing, and to see long lines of lamps running to the horizon. Peter
dropped off early, but I kept awake till midnight, trying to focus
thoughts that persistently strayed. Then I, too, dozed and did not
awake till about five in the morning, when we ran into a great busy
terminus as bright as midday. It was the easiest and most unsuspicious
journey I ever made.
The lieutenant stretched himself and smoothed his rumpled uniform. We
carried our scanty luggage to a "droschke", for there seemed to be no
porters. Our escort gave the address of some hotel and we rumbled out
into brightly lit empty streets.
'A mighty dorp,' said Peter. 'Of a truth the Germans are a great
The lieutenant nodded good-humouredly.
'The greatest people on earth,' he said, 'as their enemies will soon
I would have given a lot for a bath, but I felt that it would be
outside my part, and Peter was not of the washing persuasion. But we
had a very good breakfast of coffee and eggs, and then the lieutenant
started on the telephone. He began by being dictatorial, then he
seemed to be switched on to higher authorities, for he grew more
polite, and at the end he fairly crawled. He made some arrangements,
for he informed us that in the afternoon we would see some fellow whose
title he could not translate into Dutch. I judged he was a great
swell, for his voice became reverential at the mention of him.
He took us for a walk that morning after Peter and I had attended to
our toilets. We were an odd pair of scallywags to look at, but as
South African as a wait-a-bit bush. Both of us had ready-made tweed
suits, grey flannel shirts with flannel collars, and felt hats with
broader brims than they like in Europe. I had strong-nailed brown
boots, Peter a pair of those mustard-coloured abominations which the
Portuguese affect and which made him hobble like a Chinese lady. He
had a scarlet satin tie which you could hear a mile off. My beard had
grown to quite a respectable length, and I trimmed it like General
Smuts'. Peter's was the kind of loose flapping thing the "taakhaar"
loves, which has scarcely ever been shaved, and is combed once in a
blue moon. I must say we made a pretty solid pair. Any South African
would have set us down as a Boer from the back-veld who had bought a
suit of clothes in the nearest store, and his cousin from some
one-horse dorp who had been to school and thought himself the devil of
a fellow. We fairly reeked of the sub-continent, as the papers call it.
It was a fine morning after the rain, and we wandered about in the
streets for a couple of hours. They were busy enough, and the shops
looked rich and bright with their Christmas goods, and one big store
where I went to buy a pocket-knife was packed with customers. One
didn't see very many young men, and most of the women wore mourning.
Uniforms were everywhere, but their wearers generally looked like
dug-outs or office fellows. We had a glimpse of the squat building
which housed the General Staff and took off our hats to it. Then we
stared at the Marinamt, and I wondered what plots were hatching there
behind old Tirpitz's whiskers. The capital gave one an impression of
ugly cleanness and a sort of dreary effectiveness. And yet I found it
depressing--more depressing than London. I don't know how to put it,
but the whole big concern seemed to have no soul in it, to be like a
big factory instead of a city. You won't make a factory look like a
house, though you decorate its front and plant rose-bushes all round
it. The place depressed and yet cheered me. It somehow made the German
people seem smaller.
At three o'clock the lieutenant took us to a plain white building in a
side street with sentries at the door. A young staff officer met us
and made us wait for five minutes in an ante-room. Then we were
ushered into a big room with a polished floor on which Peter nearly sat
down. There was a log fire burning, and seated at a table was a little
man in spectacles with his hair brushed back from his brow like a
popular violinist. He was the boss, for the lieutenant saluted him and
announced our names. Then he disappeared, and the man at the table
motioned us to sit down in two chairs before him.
'Herr Brandt and Herr Pienaar?' he asked, looking over his glasses.
But it was the other man that caught my eye. He stood with his back to
the fire leaning his elbows on the mantelpiece. He was a perfect
mountain of a fellow, six and a half feet if he was an inch, with
shoulders on him like a shorthorn bull. He was in uniform and the
black-and-white ribbon of the Iron Cross showed at a buttonhole. His
tunic was all wrinkled and strained as if it could scarcely contain his
huge chest, and mighty hands were clasped over his stomach. That man
must have had the length of reach of a gorilla. He had a great, lazy,
smiling face, with a square cleft chin which stuck out beyond the rest.
His brow retreated and the stubby back of his head ran forward to meet
it, while his neck below bulged out over his collar. His head was
exactly the shape of a pear with the sharp end topmost.
He stared at me with his small bright eyes and I stared back. I had
struck something I had been looking for for a long time, and till that
moment I wasn't sure that it existed. Here was the German of
caricature, the real German, the fellow we were up against. He was as
hideous as a hippopotamus, but effective. Every bristle on his odd
head was effective.
The man at the table was speaking. I took him to be a civilian
official of sorts, pretty high up from his surroundings, perhaps an
Under-Secretary. His Dutch was slow and careful, but good--too good
for Peter. He had a paper before him and was asking us questions from
it. They did not amount to much, being pretty well a repetition of
those Zorn had asked us at the frontier. I answered fluently, for I
had all our lies by heart.
Then the man on the hearthrug broke in. 'I'll talk to them,
Excellency,' he said in German. 'You are too academic for those
He began in the "taal", with the thick guttural accent that you get in
German South West. 'You have heard of me,' he said. 'I am the Colonel
von Stumm who fought the Heraros.'
Peter pricked up his ears. '"Ja", Baas, you cut off the chief
Baviaan's head and sent it in pickle about the country. I have seen
The big man laughed. 'You see I am not forgotten,' he said to his
friend, and then to us: 'So I treat my enemies, and so will Germany
treat hers. You, too, if you fail me by a fraction of an inch.' And
he laughed loud again.
There was something horrible in that boisterousness. Peter was
watching him from below his eyelids, as I have seen him watch a lion
about to charge.
He flung himself on a chair, put his elbows on the table, and thrust
his face forward.
'You have come from a damned muddled show. If I had Maritz in my power
I would have him flogged at a wagon's end. Fools and pig-dogs, they
had the game in their hands and they flung it away. We could have
raised a fire that would have burned the English into the sea, and for
lack of fuel they let it die down. Then they try to fan it when the
ashes are cold.'
He rolled a paper pellet and flicked it into the air. 'That is what I
think of your idiot general,' he said, 'and of all you Dutch. As slow
as a fat vrouw and as greedy as an aasvogel.'
We looked very glum and sullen.
'A pair of dumb dogs,' he cried. 'A thousand Brandenburgers would have
won in a fortnight. Seitz hadn't much to boast of, mostly clerks and
farmers and half-castes, and no soldier worth the name to lead them,
but it took Botha and Smuts and a dozen generals to hunt him down. But
Maritz!' His scorn came like a gust of wind.
'Maritz did all the fighting there was,' said Peter sulkily. 'At any
rate he wasn't afraid of the sight of the khaki like your lot.'
'Maybe he wasn't,' said the giant in a cooing voice; 'maybe he had his
reasons for that. You Dutchmen have always a feather-bed to fall on.
You can always turn traitor. Maritz now calls himself Robinson, and
has a pension from his friend Botha.'
'That,' said Peter, 'is a very damned lie.'
'I asked for information,' said Stumm with a sudden politeness. 'But
that is all past and done with. Maritz matters no more than your old
Cronjes and Krugers. The show is over, and you are looking for safety.
For a new master perhaps? But, man, what can you bring? What can you
offer? You and your Dutch are lying in the dust with the yoke on your
necks. The Pretoria lawyers have talked you round. You see that map,'
and he pointed to a big one on the wall. 'South Africa is coloured
green. Not red for the English, or yellow for the Germans. Some day
it will be yellow, but for a little it will be green--the colour of
neutrals, of nothings, of boys and young ladies and chicken-hearts.'
I kept wondering what he was playing at.
Then he fixed his eyes on Peter. 'What do you come here for? The
game's up in your own country. What can you offer us Germans? If we
gave you ten million marks and sent you back you could do nothing.
Stir up a village row, perhaps, and shoot a policeman. South Africa is
counted out in this war. Botha is a cleverish man and has beaten you
calves'-heads of rebels. Can you deny it?'
Peter couldn't. He was terribly honest in some things, and these were
for certain his opinions.
'No,' he said, 'that is true, Baas.'
'Then what in God's name can you do?' shouted Stumm.
Peter mumbled some foolishness about nobbling Angola for Germany and
starting a revolution among the natives. Stumm flung up his arms and
cursed, and the Under-Secretary laughed.
It was high time for me to chip in. I was beginning to see the kind of
fellow this Stumm was, and as he talked I thought of my mission, which
had got overlaid by my Boer past. It looked as if he might be useful.
'Let me speak,' I said. 'My friend is a great hunter, but he fights
better than he talks. He is no politician. You speak truth. South
Africa is a closed door for the present, and the key to it is
elsewhere. Here in Europe, and in the east, and in other parts of
Africa. We have come to help you to find the key.'
Stumm was listening. 'Go on, my little Boer. It will be a new thing
to hear a "taakhaar" on world-politics.'
'You are fighting,' I said, 'in East Africa; and soon you may fight in
Egypt. All the east coast north of the Zambesi will be your
battle-ground. The English run about the world with little
expeditions. I do not know where the places are, though I read of them
in the papers. But I know my Africa. You want to beat them here in
Europe and on the seas. Therefore, like wise generals, you try to
divide them and have them scattered throughout the globe while you
stick at home. That is your plan?'
'A second Falkenhayn,' said Stumm, laughing.
'Well, England will not let East Africa go. She fears for Egypt and
she fears, too, for India. If you press her there she will send armies
and more armies till she is so weak in Europe that a child can crush
her. That is England's way. She cares more for her Empire than for
what may happen to her allies. So I say press and still press there,
destroy the railway to the Lakes, burn her capital, pen up every
Englishman in Mombasa island. At this moment it is worth for you a
The man was really interested and the Under-Secretary, too, pricked up
'We can keep our territory,' said the former; 'but as for pressing, how
the devil are we to press? The accursed English hold the sea. We
cannot ship men or guns there. South are the Portuguese and west the
Belgians. You cannot move a mass without a lever.'
'The lever is there, ready for you,' I said.
'Then for God's sake show it me,' he cried.
I looked at the door to see that it was shut, as if what I had to say
was very secret.
'You need men, and the men are waiting. They are black, but they are
the stuff of warriors. All round your borders you have the remains of
great fighting tribes, the Angoni, the Masai, the Manyumwezi, and above
all the Somalis of the north, and the dwellers on the upper Nile. The
British recruit their black regiments there, and so do you. But to get
recruits is not enough. You must set whole nations moving, as the Zulu
under Tchaka flowed over South Africa.'
'It cannot be done,' said the Under-Secretary.
'It can be done,' I said quietly. 'We two are here to do it.'
This kind of talk was jolly difficult for me, chiefly because of
Stumm's asides in German to the official. I had, above all things, to
get the credit of knowing no German, and, if you understand a language
well, it is not very easy when you are interrupted not to show that you
know it, either by a direct answer, or by referring to the interruption
in what you say next. I had to be always on my guard, and yet it was
up to me to be very persuasive and convince these fellows that I would
be useful. Somehow or other I had to get into their confidence.
'I have been for years up and down in Africa--Uganda and the Congo and
the Upper Nile. I know the ways of the Kaffir as no Englishman does.
We Afrikanders see into the black man's heart, and though he may hate
us he does our will. You Germans are like the English; you are too big
folk to understand plain men. "Civilize," you cry. "Educate," say the
English. The black man obeys and puts away his gods, but he worships
them all the time in his soul. We must get his gods on our side, and
then he will move mountains. We must do as John Laputa did with
'That's all in the air,' said Stumm, but he did not laugh.
'It is sober common sense,' I said. 'But you must begin at the right
end. First find the race that fears its priests. It is waiting for
you--the Mussulmans of Somaliland and the Abyssinian border and the
Blue and White Nile. They would be like dried grasses to catch fire if
you used the flint and steel of their religion. Look what the English
suffered from a crazy Mullah who ruled only a dozen villages. Once get
the flames going and they will lick up the pagans of the west and
south. This is the way of Africa. How many thousands, think you, were
in the Mahdi's army who never heard of the Prophet till they saw the
black flags of the Emirs going into battle?'
Stumm was smiling. He turned his face to the official and spoke with
his hand over his mouth, but I caught his words. They were: 'This is
the man for Hilda.' The other pursed his lips and looked a little
Stumm rang a bell and the lieutenant came in and clicked his heels. He
nodded towards Peter. 'Take this man away with you. We have done with
him. The other fellow will follow presently.'
Peter went out with a puzzled face and Stumm turned to me.
'You are a dreamer, Brandt,' he said. 'But I do not reject you on that
account. Dreams sometimes come true, when an army follows the
visionary. But who is going to kindle the flame?'
'You,' I said.
'What the devil do you mean?' he asked.
'That is your part. You are the cleverest people in the world. You
have already half the Mussulman lands in your power. It is for you to
show us how to kindle a holy war, for clearly you have the secret of
it. Never fear but we will carry out your order.'
'We have no secret,' he said shortly, and glanced at the official, who
stared out of the window.
I dropped my jaw and looked the picture of disappointment. 'I do not
believe you,' I said slowly. 'You play a game with me. I have not
come six thousand miles to be made a fool of.'
'Discipline, by God,' Stumm cried. 'This is none of your ragged
commandos.' In two strides he was above me and had lifted me out of my
seat. His great hands clutched my shoulders, and his thumbs gouged my
armpits. I felt as if I were in the grip of a big ape. Then very
slowly he shook me so that my teeth seemed loosened and my head swam.
He let me go and I dropped limply back in the chair.
'Now, go! "Futsack!" And remember that I am your master. I, Ulric
von Stumm, who owns you as a Kaffir owns his mongrel. Germany may have
some use for you, my friend, when you fear me as you never feared your
As I walked dizzily away the big man was smiling in his horrible way,
and that little official was blinking and smiling too. I had struck a
dashed queer country, so queer that I had had no time to remember that
for the first time in my life I had been bullied without hitting back.
When I realized it I nearly choked with anger. But I thanked heaven I
had shown no temper, for I remembered my mission. Luck seemed to have
brought me into useful company.
Further Adventures of the Same
Next morning there was a touch of frost and a nip in the air which
stirred my blood and put me in buoyant spirits. I forgot my precarious
position and the long road I had still to travel. I came down to
breakfast in great form, to find Peter's even temper badly ruffled. He
had remembered Stumm in the night and disliked the memory; this he
muttered to me as we rubbed shoulders at the dining-room door. Peter
and I got no opportunity for private talk. The lieutenant was with us
all the time, and at night we were locked in our rooms. Peter
discovered this through trying to get out to find matches, for he had
the bad habit of smoking in bed.
Our guide started on the telephone, and announced that we were to be
taken to see a prisoners' camp. In the afternoon I was to go somewhere
with Stumm, but the morning was for sight-seeing. 'You will see,' he
told us, 'how merciful is a great people. You will also see some of
the hated English in our power. That will delight you. They are the
forerunners of all their nation.'
We drove in a taxi through the suburbs and then over a stretch of flat
market-garden-like country to a low rise of wooded hills. After an
hour's ride we entered the gate of what looked like a big reformatory
or hospital. I believe it had been a home for destitute children.
There were sentries at the gate and massive concentric circles of
barbed wire through which we passed under an arch that was let down
like a portcullis at nightfall. The lieutenant showed his permit, and
we ran the car into a brick-paved yard and marched through a lot more
sentries to the office of the commandant.
He was away from home, and we were welcomed by his deputy, a pale young
man with a head nearly bald. There were introductions in German which
our guide translated into Dutch, and a lot of elegant speeches about
how Germany was foremost in humanity as well as martial valour. Then
they stood us sandwiches and beer, and we formed a procession for a
tour of inspection. There were two doctors, both mild-looking men in
spectacles, and a couple of warders--under-officers of the good old
burly, bullying sort I knew well. That was the cement which kept the
German Army together. Her men were nothing to boast of on the average;
no more were the officers, even in crack corps like the Guards and the
Brandenburgers; but they seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of
hard, competent N.C.O.s.
We marched round the wash-houses, the recreation-ground, the kitchens,
the hospital--with nobody in it save one chap with the 'flu.' It
didn't seem to be badly done. This place was entirely for officers,
and I expect it was a show place where American visitors were taken.
If half the stories one heard were true there were some pretty ghastly
prisons away in South and East Germany.
I didn't half like the business. To be a prisoner has always seemed to
me about the worst thing that could happen to a man. The sight of
German prisoners used to give me a bad feeling inside, whereas I looked
at dead Boches with nothing but satisfaction. Besides, there was the
off-chance that I might be recognized. So I kept very much in the
shadow whenever we passed anybody in the corridors. The few we met
passed us incuriously. They saluted the deputy-commandant, but
scarcely wasted a glance on us. No doubt they thought we were
inquisitive Germans come to gloat over them. They looked fairly fit,
but a little puffy about the eyes, like men who get too little
exercise. They seemed thin, too. I expect the food, for all the
commandant's talk, was nothing to boast of. In one room people were
writing letters. It was a big place with only a tiny stove to warm it,
and the windows were shut so that the atmosphere was a cold frowst. In
another room a fellow was lecturing on something to a dozen hearers and
drawing figures on a blackboard. Some were in ordinary khaki, others
in any old thing they could pick up, and most wore greatcoats. Your
blood gets thin when you have nothing to do but hope against hope and
think of your pals and the old days.
I was moving along, listening with half an ear to the lieutenant's
prattle and the loud explanations of the deputy-commandant, when I
pitchforked into what might have been the end of my business. We were
going through a sort of convalescent room, where people were sitting
who had been in hospital. It was a big place, a little warmer than the
rest of the building, but still abominably fuggy. There were about half
a dozen men in the room, reading and playing games. They looked at us
with lack-lustre eyes for a moment, and then returned to their
occupations. Being convalescents I suppose they were not expected to
get up and salute.
All but one, who was playing Patience at a little table by which we
passed. I was feeling very bad about the thing, for I hated to see
these good fellows locked away in this infernal German hole when they
might have been giving the Boche his deserts at the front. The
commandant went first with Peter, who had developed a great interest in
prisons. Then came our lieutenant with one of the doctors; then a
couple of warders; and then the second doctor and myself. I was
absent-minded at the moment and was last in the queue.
The Patience-player suddenly looked up and I saw his face. I'm hanged
if it wasn't Dolly Riddell, who was our brigade machine-gun officer at
Loos. I had heard that the Germans had got him when they blew up a
mine at the Quarries.
I had to act pretty quick, for his mouth was agape, and I saw he was
going to speak. The doctor was a yard ahead of me.
I stumbled and spilt his cards on the floor. Then I kneeled to pick
them up and gripped his knee. His head bent to help me and I spoke low
in his ear.
'I'm Hannay all right. For God's sake don't wink an eye. I'm here on
a secret job.'
The doctor had turned to see what was the matter. I got a few more
words in. 'Cheer up, old man. We're winning hands down.'
Then I began to talk excited Dutch and finished the collection of the
cards. Dolly was playing his part well, smiling as if he was amused by
the antics of a monkey. The others were coming back, the
deputy-commandant with an angry light in his dull eye. 'Speaking to
the prisoners is forbidden,' he shouted.
I looked blankly at him till the lieutenant translated.
'What kind of fellow is he?' said Dolly in English to the doctor. 'He
spoils my game and then jabbers High-Dutch at me.'
Officially I knew English, and that speech of Dolly's gave me my cue.
I pretended to be very angry with the very damned Englishman, and went
out of the room close by the deputy-commandant, grumbling like a sick
jackal. After that I had to act a bit. The last place we visited was
the close-confinement part where prisoners were kept as a punishment
for some breach of the rules. They looked cheerless enough, but I
pretended to gloat over the sight, and said so to the lieutenant, who
passed it on to the others. I have rarely in my life felt such a cad.
On the way home the lieutenant discoursed a lot about prisoners and
detention-camps, for at one time he had been on duty at Ruhleben.
Peter, who had been in quod more than once in his life, was deeply
interested and kept on questioning him. Among other things he told us
was that they often put bogus prisoners among the rest, who acted as
spies. If any plot to escape was hatched these fellows got into it and
encouraged it. They never interfered till the attempt was actually
made and then they had them on toast. There was nothing the Boche
liked so much as an excuse for sending a poor devil to 'solitary'.
That afternoon Peter and I separated. He was left behind with the
lieutenant and I was sent off to the station with my bag in the company
of a Landsturm sergeant. Peter was very cross, and I didn't care for
the look of things; but I brightened up when I heard I was going
somewhere with Stumm. If he wanted to see me again he must think me of
some use, and if he was going to use me he was bound to let me into his
game. I liked Stumm about as much as a dog likes a scorpion, but I
hankered for his society.
At the station platform, where the ornament of the Landsturm saved me
all the trouble about tickets, I could not see my companion. I stood
waiting, while a great crowd, mostly of soldiers, swayed past me and
filled all the front carriages. An officer spoke to me gruffly and
told me to stand aside behind a wooden rail. I obeyed, and suddenly
found Stumm's eyes looking down at me.
'You know German?' he asked sharply.
'A dozen words,' I said carelessly. 'I've been to Windhuk and learned
enough to ask for my dinner. Peter--my friend--speaks it a bit.'
'So,' said Stumm. 'Well, get into the carriage. Not that one! There,
I did as I was bid, he followed, and the door was locked behind us.
The precaution was needless, for the sight of Stumm's profile at the
platform end would have kept out the most brazen. I wondered if I had
woken up his suspicions. I must be on my guard to show no signs of
intelligence if he suddenly tried me in German, and that wouldn't be
easy, for I knew it as well as I knew Dutch.
We moved into the country, but the windows were blurred with frost, and
I saw nothing of the landscape. Stumm was busy with papers and let me
alone. I read on a notice that one was forbidden to smoke, so to show
my ignorance of German I pulled out my pipe. Stumm raised his head,
saw what I was doing, and gruffly bade me put it away, as if he were an
old lady that disliked the smell of tobacco.
In half an hour I got very bored, for I had nothing to read and my pipe
was "verboten". People passed now and then in the corridors, but no
one offered to enter. No doubt they saw the big figure in uniform and
thought he was the deuce of a staff swell who wanted solitude. I
thought of stretching my legs in the corridor, and was just getting up
to do it when somebody slid the door back and a big figure blocked the
He was wearing a heavy ulster and a green felt hat. He saluted Stumm,
who looked up angrily, and smiled pleasantly on us both.
'Say, gentlemen,' he said, 'have you room in here for a little one? I
guess I'm about smoked out of my car by your brave soldiers. I've
gotten a delicate stomach ...'
Stumm had risen with a brow of wrath, and looked as if he were going to
pitch the intruder off the train. Then he seemed to halt and collect
himself, and the other's face broke into a friendly grin.
'Why, it's Colonel Stumm,' he cried. (He pronounced it like the first
syllable in 'stomach'.) 'Very pleased to meet you again, Colonel. I
had the honour of making your acquaintance at our Embassy. I reckon
Ambassador Gerard didn't cotton to our conversation that night.' And
the new-comer plumped himself down in the corner opposite me.
I had been pretty certain I would run across Blenkiron somewhere in
Germany, but I didn't think it would be so soon. There he sat staring
at me with his full, unseeing eyes, rolling out platitudes to Stumm,
who was nearly bursting in his effort to keep civil. I looked moody
and suspicious, which I took to be the right line.
'Things are getting a bit dead at Salonika,' said Mr Blenkiron, by way
of a conversational opening.
Stumm pointed to a notice which warned officers to refrain from
discussing military operations with mixed company in a railway carriage.
'Sorry,' said Blenkiron, 'I can't read that tombstone language of
yours. But I reckon that that notice to trespassers, whatever it
signifies, don't apply to you and me. I take it this gentleman is in
I sat and scowled, fixing the American with suspicious eyes.
'He is a Dutchman,' said Stumm; 'South African Dutch, and he is not
happy, for he doesn't like to hear English spoken.'
'We'll shake on that,' said Blenkiron cordially. 'But who said I spoke
English? It's good American. Cheer up, friend, for it isn't the call
that makes the big wapiti, as they say out west in my country. I hate
John Bull worse than a poison rattle. The Colonel can tell you that.'
I dare say he could, but at that moment, we slowed down at a station
and Stumm got up to leave. 'Good day to you, Herr Blenkiron,' he cried
over his shoulder. 'If you consider your comfort, don't talk English
to strange travellers. They don't distinguish between the different
I followed him in a hurry, but was recalled by Blenkiron's voice.
'Say, friend,' he shouted, 'you've left your grip,' and he handed me my
bag from the luggage rack. But he showed no sign of recognition, and
the last I saw of him was sitting sunk in a corner with his head on his
chest as if he were going to sleep. He was a man who kept up his parts
There was a motor-car waiting--one of the grey military kind--and we
started at a terrific pace over bad forest roads. Stumm had put away
his papers in a portfolio, and flung me a few sentences on the journey.
'I haven't made up my mind about you, Brandt,' he announced. 'You may
be a fool or a knave or a good man. If you are a knave, we will shoot
'And if I am a fool?' I asked.
'Send you to the Yser or the Dvina. You will be respectable
'You cannot do that unless I consent,' I said.
'Can't we?' he said, smiling wickedly. 'Remember you are a citizen of
nowhere. Technically, you are a rebel, and the British, if you go to
them, will hang you, supposing they have any sense. You are in our
power, my friend, to do precisely what we like with you.'
He was silent for a second, and then he said, meditatively:
'But I don't think you are a fool. You may be a scoundrel. Some kinds
of scoundrel are useful enough. Other kinds are strung up with a rope.
Of that we shall know more soon.'
'And if I am a good man?'
'You will be given a chance to serve Germany, the proudest privilege a
mortal man can have.' The strange man said this with a ringing
sincerity in his voice that impressed me.
The car swung out from the trees into a park lined with saplings, and
in the twilight I saw before me a biggish house like an overgrown Swiss
chalet. There was a kind of archway, with a sham portcullis, and a
terrace with battlements which looked as if they were made of stucco.
We drew up at a Gothic front door, where a thin middle-aged man in a
shooting-jacket was waiting.
As we moved into the lighted hall I got a good look at our host. He was
very lean and brown, with the stoop in the shoulder that one gets from
being constantly on horseback. He had untidy grizzled hair and a
ragged beard, and a pair of pleasant, short-sighted brown eyes.
'Welcome, my Colonel,' he said. 'Is this the friend you spoke of?'
'This is the Dutchman,' said Stumm. 'His name is Brandt. Brandt, you
see before you Herr Gaudian.'
I knew the name, of course; there weren't many in my profession that
didn't. He was one of the biggest railway engineers in the world, the
man who had built the Baghdad and Syrian railways, and the new lines in
German East. I suppose he was about the greatest living authority on
tropical construction. He knew the East and he knew Africa; clearly I
had been brought down for him to put me through my paces.
A blonde maidservant took me to my room, which had a bare polished
floor, a stove, and windows that, unlike most of the German kind I had
sampled, seemed made to open. When I had washed I descended to the
hall, which was hung round with trophies of travel, like Dervish
jibbahs and Masai shields and one or two good buffalo heads. Presently
a bell was rung. Stumm appeared with his host, and we went in to
I was jolly hungry and would have made a good meal if I hadn't
constantly had to keep jogging my wits. The other two talked in
German, and when a question was put to me Stumm translated. The first
thing I had to do was to pretend I didn't know German and look
listlessly round the room while they were talking. The second was to
miss not a word, for there lay my chance. The third was to be ready to
answer questions at any moment, and to show in the answering that I had
not followed the previous conversation. Likewise, I must not prove
myself a fool in these answers, for I had to convince them that I was
useful. It took some doing, and I felt like a witness in the box under
a stiff cross-examination, or a man trying to play three games of chess
I heard Stumm telling Gaudian the gist of my plan. The engineer shook
'Too late,' he said. 'It should have been done at the beginning. We
neglected Africa. You know the reason why.'
Stumm laughed. 'The von Einem! Perhaps, but her charm works well
Gaudian glanced towards me while I was busy with an orange salad. 'I
have much to tell you of that. But it can wait. Your friend is right
in one thing. Uganda is a vital spot for the English, and a blow there
will make their whole fabric shiver. But how can we strike? They have
still the coast, and our supplies grow daily smaller.'
'We can send no reinforcements, but have we used all the local
resources? That is what I cannot satisfy myself about. Zimmerman says
we have, but Tressler thinks differently, and now we have this fellow
coming out of the void with a story which confirms my doubt. He seems
to know his job. You try him.'
Thereupon Gaudian set about questioning me, and his questions were very
thorough. I knew just enough and no more to get through, but I think I
came out with credit. You see I have a capacious memory, and in my
time I had met scores of hunters and pioneers and listened to their
yarns, so I could pretend to knowledge of a place even when I hadn't
been there. Besides, I had once been on the point of undertaking a job
up Tanganyika way, and I had got up that country-side pretty accurately.
'You say that with our help you can make trouble for the British on the
three borders?' Gaudian asked at length.
'I can spread the fire if some one else will kindle it,' I said.
'But there are thousands of tribes with no affinities.'
'They are all African. You can bear me out. All African peoples are
alike in one thing--they can go mad, and the madness of one infects the
others. The English know this well enough.'
'Where would you start the fire?' he asked.
'Where the fuel is dryest. Up in the North among the Mussulman
peoples. But there you must help me. I know nothing about Islam, and
I gather that you do.'
'Why?' he asked.
'Because of what you have done already,' I answered.
Stumm had translated all this time, and had given the sense of my words
very fairly. But with my last answer he took liberties. What he gave
was: 'Because the Dutchman thinks that we have some big card in dealing
with the Moslem world.' Then, lowering his voice and raising his
eyebrows, he said some word like 'Uhnmantl'.
The other looked with a quick glance of apprehension at me. 'We had
better continue our talk in private, Herr Colonel,' he said. 'If Herr
Brandt will forgive us, we will leave him for a little to entertain
himself.' He pushed the cigar-box towards me and the two got up and
left the room.
I pulled my chair up to the stove, and would have liked to drop off to
sleep. The tension of the talk at supper had made me very tired. I
was accepted by these men for exactly what I professed to be. Stumm
might suspect me of being a rascal, but it was a Dutch rascal. But all
the same I was skating on thin ice. I could not sink myself utterly in
the part, for if I did I would get no good out of being there. I had
to keep my wits going all the time, and join the appearance and manners
of a backveld Boer with the mentality of a British
intelligence-officer. Any moment the two parts might clash and I would
be faced with the most alert and deadly suspicion.
There would be no mercy from Stumm. That large man was beginning to
fascinate me, even though I hated him. Gaudian was clearly a good
fellow, a white man and a gentleman. I could have worked with him for
he belonged to my own totem. But the other was an incarnation of all
that makes Germany detested, and yet he wasn't altogether the ordinary
German, and I couldn't help admiring him. I noticed he neither smoked
nor drank. His grossness was apparently not in the way of fleshly
appetites. Cruelty, from all I had heard of him in German South West,
was his hobby; but there were other things in him, some of them good,
and he had that kind of crazy patriotism which becomes a religion. I
wondered why he had not some high command in the field, for he had had
the name of a good soldier. But probably he was a big man in his own
line, whatever it was, for the Under-Secretary fellow had talked small
in his presence, and so great a man as Gaudian clearly respected him.
There must be no lack of brains inside that funny pyramidal head.
As I sat beside the stove I was casting back to think if I had got the
slightest clue to my real job. There seemed to be nothing so far.
Stumm had talked of a von Einem woman who was interested in his
department, perhaps the same woman as the Hilda he had mentioned the
day before to the Under-Secretary. There was not much in that. She
was probably some minister's or ambassador's wife who had a finger in
high politics. If I could have caught the word Stumm had whispered to
Gaudian which made him start and look askance at me! But I had only
heard a gurgle of something like 'Uhnmantl', which wasn't any German
word that I knew.
The heat put me into a half-doze and I began dreamily to wonder what
other people were doing. Where had Blenkiron been posting to in that
train, and what was he up to at this moment? He had been hobnobbing
with ambassadors and swells--I wondered if he had found out anything.
What was Peter doing? I fervently hoped he was behaving himself, for I
doubted if Peter had really tumbled to the delicacy of our job. Where
was Sandy, too? As like as not bucketing in the hold of some Greek
coaster in the Aegean. Then I thought of my battalion somewhere on the
line between Hulluch and La Bassee, hammering at the Boche, while I was
five hundred miles or so inside the Boche frontier.
It was a comic reflection, so comic that it woke me up. After trying
in vain to find a way of stoking that stove, for it was a cold night, I
got up and walked about the room. There were portraits of two decent
old fellows, probably Gaudian's parents. There were enlarged
photographs, too, of engineering works, and a good picture of Bismarck.
And close to the stove there was a case of maps mounted on rollers.
I pulled out one at random. It was a geological map of Germany, and
with some trouble I found out where I was. I was an enormous distance
from my goal and moreover I was clean off the road to the East. To go
there I must first go to Bavaria and then into Austria. I noticed the
Danube flowing eastwards and remembered that that was one way to
Then I tried another map. This one covered a big area, all Europe from
the Rhine and as far east as Persia. I guessed that it was meant to
show the Baghdad railway and the through routes from Germany to
Mesopotamia. There were markings on it; and, as I looked closer, I saw
that there were dates scribbled in blue pencil, as if to denote the
stages of a journey. The dates began in Europe, and continued right on
into Asia Minor and then south to Syria.
For a moment my heart jumped, for I thought I had fallen by accident on
the clue I wanted. But I never got that map examined. I heard
footsteps in the corridor, and very gently I let the map roll up and
turned away. When the door opened I was bending over the stove trying
to get a light for my pipe.
It was Gaudian, to bid me join him and Stumm in his study.
On our way there he put a kindly hand on my shoulder. I think he
thought I was bullied by Stumm and wanted to tell me that he was my
friend, and he had no other language than a pat on the back.
The soldier was in his old position with his elbows on the mantelpiece
and his formidable great jaw stuck out.
'Listen to me,' he said. 'Herr Gaudian and I are inclined to make use
of you. You may be a charlatan, in which case you will be in the devil
of a mess and have yourself to thank for it. If you are a rogue you
will have little scope for roguery. We will see to that. If you are a
fool, you will yourself suffer for it. But if you are a good man, you
will have a fair chance, and if you succeed we will not forget it.
Tomorrow I go home and you will come with me and get your orders.'
I made shift to stand at attention and salute.
Gaudian spoke in a pleasant voice, as if he wanted to atone for Stumm's
imperiousness. 'We are men who love our Fatherland, Herr Brandt,' he
said. 'You are not of that Fatherland, but at least you hate its
enemies. Therefore we are allies, and trust each other like allies.
Our victory is ordained by God, and we are none of us more than His
Stumm translated in a sentence, and his voice was quite solemn. He held
up his right hand and so did Gaudian, like a man taking an oath or a
parson blessing his congregation.
Then I realized something of the might of Germany. She produced good
and bad, cads and gentlemen, but she could put a bit of the fanatic
into them all.
The Indiscretions of the Same
I was standing stark naked next morning in that icy bedroom, trying to
bathe in about a quart of water, when Stumm entered. He strode up to
me and stared me in the face. I was half a head shorter than him to
begin with, and a man does not feel his stoutest when he has no
clothes, so he had the pull on me every way.
'I have reason to believe that you are a liar,' he growled.
I pulled the bed-cover round me, for I was shivering with cold, and the
German idea of a towel is a pocket-handkerchief. I own I was in a
pretty blue funk.
'A liar!' he repeated. 'You and that swine Pienaar.'
With my best effort at surliness I asked what we had done.
'You lied, because you said you know no German. Apparently your friend
knows enough to talk treason and blasphemy.'
This gave me back some heart.
'I told you I knew a dozen words. But I told you Peter could talk it a
bit. I told you that yesterday at the station.' Fervently I blessed
my luck for that casual remark.
He evidently remembered, for his tone became a trifle more civil.
'You are a precious pair. If one of you is a scoundrel, why not the
'I take no responsibility for Peter,' I said. I felt I was a cad in
saying it, but that was the bargain we had made at the start. 'I have
known him for years as a great hunter and a brave man. I knew he
fought well against the English. But more I cannot tell you. You have
to judge him for yourself. What has he done?'
I was told, for Stumm had got it that morning on the telephone. While
telling it he was kind enough to allow me to put on my trousers.
It was just the sort of thing I might have foreseen. Peter, left
alone, had become first bored and then reckless. He had persuaded the
lieutenant to take him out to supper at a big Berlin restaurant. There,
inspired by the lights and music--novel things for a backveld
hunter--and no doubt bored stiff by his company, he had proceeded to
get drunk. That had happened in my experience with Peter about once in
every three years, and it always happened for the same reason. Peter,
bored and solitary in a town, went on the spree. He had a head like a
rock, but he got to the required condition by wild mixing. He was
quite a gentleman in his cups, and not in the least violent, but he was
apt to be very free with his tongue. And that was what occurred at the
He had begun by insulting the Emperor, it seemed. He drank his health,
but said he reminded him of a wart-hog, and thereby scarified the
lieutenant's soul. Then an officer--some tremendous swell at an
adjoining table had objected to his talking so loud, and Peter had
replied insolently in respectable German. After that things became
mixed. There was some kind of a fight, during which Peter calumniated
the German army and all its female ancestry. How he wasn't shot or run
through I can't imagine, except that the lieutenant loudly proclaimed
that he was a crazy Boer. Anyhow the upshot was that Peter was marched
off to gaol, and I was left in a pretty pickle.
'I don't believe a word of it,' I said firmly. I had most of my
clothes on now and felt more courageous. 'It is all a plot to get him
into disgrace and draft him off to the front.'
Stumm did not storm as I expected, but smiled.
'That was always his destiny,' he said, 'ever since I saw him. He was
no use to us except as a man with a rifle. Cannon-fodder, nothing
else. Do you imagine, you fool, that this great Empire in the thick of
a world-war is going to trouble its head to lay snares for an ignorant
'I wash my hands of him,' I said. 'If what you say of his folly is
true I have no part in it. But he was my companion and I wish him
well. What do you propose to do with him?'
'We will keep him under our eye,' he said, with a wicked twist of the
mouth. 'I have a notion that there is more at the back of this than
appears. We will investigate the antecedents of Herr Pienaar. And you,
too, my friend. On you also we have our eye.'
I did the best thing I could have done, for what with anxiety and
disgust I lost my temper.
'Look here, Sir,' I cried, 'I've had about enough of this. I came to
Germany abominating the English and burning to strike a blow for you.
But you haven't given me much cause to love you. For the last two days
I've had nothing from you but suspicion and insult. The only decent man
I've met is Herr Gaudian. It's because I believe that there are many
in Germany like him that I'm prepared to go on with this business and
do the best I can. But, by God, I wouldn't raise my little finger for
He looked at me very steadily for a minute. 'That sounds like
honesty,' he said at last in a civil voice. 'You had better come down
and get your coffee.'
I was safe for the moment but in very low spirits. What on earth would
happen to poor old Peter? I could do nothing even if I wanted, and,
besides, my first duty was to my mission. I had made this very clear
to him at Lisbon and he had agreed, but all the same it was a beastly
reflection. Here was that ancient worthy left to the tender mercies of
the people he most detested on earth. My only comfort was that they
couldn't do very much with him. If they sent him to the front, which
was the worst they could do, he would escape, for I would have backed
him to get through any mortal lines. It wasn't much fun for me either.
Only when I was to be deprived of it did I realize how much his company
had meant to me. I was absolutely alone now, and I didn't like it. I
seemed to have about as much chance of joining Blenkiron and Sandy as
of flying to the moon.
After breakfast I was told to get ready. When I asked where I was
going Stumm advised me to mind my own business, but I remembered that
last night he had talked of taking me home with him and giving me my
orders. I wondered where his home was.
Gaudian patted me on the back when we started and wrung my hand. He
was a capital good fellow, and it made me feel sick to think that I was
humbugging him. We got into the same big grey car, with Stumm's
servant sitting beside the chauffeur. It was a morning of hard frost,
the bare fields were white with rime, and the fir-trees powdered like a
wedding-cake. We took a different road from the night before, and
after a run of half a dozen miles came to a little town with a big
railway station. It was a junction on some main line, and after five
minutes' waiting we found our train. Once again we were alone in the
carriage. Stumm must have had some colossal graft, for the train was
I had another three hours of complete boredom. I dared not smoke, and
could do nothing but stare out of the window. We soon got into hilly
country, where a good deal of snow was lying. It was the 23rd day of
December, and even in war time one had a sort of feel of Christmas.
You could see girls carrying evergreens, and when we stopped at a
station the soldiers on leave had all the air of holiday making. The
middle of Germany was a cheerier place than Berlin or the western
parts. I liked the look of the old peasants, and the women in their
neat Sunday best, but I noticed, too, how pinched they were. Here in
the country, where no neutral tourists came, there was not the same
stage-management as in the capital.
Stumm made an attempt to talk to me on the journey. I could see his
aim. Before this he had cross-examined me, but now he wanted to draw
me into ordinary conversation. He had no notion how to do it. He was
either peremptory and provocative, like a drill-sergeant, or so
obviously diplomatic that any fool would have been put on his guard.
That is the weakness of the German. He has no gift for laying himself
alongside different types of men. He is such a hard-shell being that
he cannot put out feelers to his kind. He may have plenty of brains, as
Stumm had, but he has the poorest notion of psychology of any of God's
creatures. In Germany only the Jew can get outside himself, and that
is why, if you look into the matter, you will find that the Jew is at
the back of most German enterprises.
After midday we stopped at a station for luncheon. We had a very good
meal in the restaurant, and when we were finishing two officers
entered. Stumm got up and saluted and went aside to talk to them.
Then he came back and made me follow him to a waiting-room, where he
told me to stay till he fetched me. I noticed that he called a porter
and had the door locked when he went out.
It was a chilly place with no fire, and I kicked my heels there for
twenty minutes. I was living by the hour now, and did not trouble to
worry about this strange behaviour. There was a volume of time-tables
on a shelf, and I turned the pages idly till I struck a big railway
map. Then it occurred to me to find out where we were going. I had
heard Stumm take my ticket for a place called Schwandorf, and after a
lot of searching I found it. It was away south in Bavaria, and so far
as I could make out less than fifty miles from the Danube. That
cheered me enormously. If Stumm lived there he would most likely start
me off on my travels by the railway which I saw running to Vienna and
then on to the East. It looked as if I might get to Constantinople
after all. But I feared it would be a useless achievement, for what
could I do when I got there? I was being hustled out of Germany
without picking up the slenderest clue.
The door opened and Stumm entered. He seemed to have got bigger in the
interval and to carry his head higher. There was a proud light, too,
in his eye.
'Brandt,' he said, 'you are about to receive the greatest privilege
that ever fell to one of your race. His Imperial Majesty is passing
through here, and has halted for a few minutes. He has done me the
honour to receive me, and when he heard my story he expressed a wish to
see you. You will follow me to his presence. Do not be afraid. The
All-Highest is merciful and gracious. Answer his questions like a man.'
I followed him with a quickened pulse. Here was a bit of luck I had
never dreamed of. At the far side of the station a train had drawn up,
a train consisting of three big coaches, chocolate-coloured and picked
out with gold. On the platform beside it stood a small group of
officers, tall men in long grey-blue cloaks. They seemed to be mostly
elderly, and one or two of the faces I thought I remembered from
photographs in the picture papers.
As we approached they drew apart, and left us face to face with one
man. He was a little below middle height, and all muffled in a thick
coat with a fur collar. He wore a silver helmet with an eagle atop of
it, and kept his left hand resting on his sword. Below the helmet was
a face the colour of grey paper, from which shone curious sombre
restless eyes with dark pouches beneath them. There was no fear of my
mistaking him. These were the features which, since Napoleon, have
been best known to the world.
I stood as stiff as a ramrod and saluted. I was perfectly cool and
most desperately interested. For such a moment I would have gone
through fire and water.
'Majesty, this is the Dutchman I spoke of,' I heard Stumm say.
'What language does he speak?' the Emperor asked.
'Dutch,' was the reply; 'but being a South African he also speaks
A spasm of pain seemed to flit over the face before me. Then he
addressed me in English.
'You have come from a land which will yet be our ally to offer your
sword to our service? I accept the gift and hail it as a good omen. I
would have given your race its freedom, but there were fools and
traitors among you who misjudged me. But that freedom I shall yet give
you in spite of yourselves. Are there many like you in your country?'
'There are thousands, sire,' I said, lying cheerfully. 'I am one of
many who think that my race's life lies in your victory. And I think
that that victory must be won not in Europe alone. In South Africa for
the moment there is no chance, so we look to other parts of the
continent. You will win in Europe. You have won in the East, and it
now remains to strike the English where they cannot fend the blow. If
we take Uganda, Egypt will fall. By your permission I go there to make
trouble for your enemies.'
A flicker of a smile passed over the worn face. It was the face of one
who slept little and whose thoughts rode him like a nightmare. 'That is
well,' he said. 'Some Englishman once said that he would call in the
New World to redress the balance of the Old. We Germans will summon
the whole earth to suppress the infamies of England. Serve us well,
and you will not be forgotten.' Then he suddenly asked: 'Did you fight
in the last South African War?'
'Yes, Sir,' I said. 'I was in the commando of that Smuts who has now
been bought by England.'
'What were your countrymen's losses?' he asked eagerly.
I did not know, but I hazarded a guess. 'In the field some twenty
thousand. But many more by sickness and in the accursed prison-camps
of the English.'
Again a spasm of pain crossed his face.
'Twenty thousand,' he repeated huskily. 'A mere handful. Today we
lose as many in a skirmish in the Polish marshes.'
Then he broke out fiercely. 'I did not seek the war ... It was forced
on me ... I laboured for peace ... The blood of millions is on the
heads of England and Russia, but England most of all. God will yet
avenge it. He that takes the sword will perish by the sword. Mine was
forced from the scabbard in self-defence, and I am guiltless. Do they
know that among your people?'
'All the world knows it, sire,' I said.
He gave his hand to Stumm and turned away. The last I saw of him was a
figure moving like a sleep-walker, with no spring in his step, amid his
tall suite. I felt that I was looking on at a far bigger tragedy than
any I had seen in action. Here was one that had loosed Hell, and the
furies of Hell had got hold of him. He was no common man, for in his
presence I felt an attraction which was not merely the mastery of one
used to command. That would not have impressed me, for I had never
owned a master. But here was a human being who, unlike Stumm and his
kind, had the power of laying himself alongside other men. That was
the irony of it. Stumm would not have cared a tinker's curse for all
the massacres in history. But this man, the chief of a nation of
Stumms, paid the price in war for the gifts that had made him
successful in peace. He had imagination and nerves, and the one was
white hot and the others were quivering. I would not have been in his
shoes for the throne of the Universe ...
All afternoon we sped southward, mostly in a country of hills and
wooded valleys. Stumm, for him, was very pleasant. His imperial
master must have been gracious to him, and he passed a bit of it on to
me. But he was anxious to see that I had got the right impression.
'The All-Highest is merciful, as I told you,' he said.
I agreed with him.
'Mercy is the prerogative of kings,' he said sententiously, 'but for us
lesser folks it is a trimming we can well do without.'
I nodded my approval.
'I am not merciful,' he went on, as if I needed telling that. 'If any
man stands in my way I trample the life out of him. That is the German
fashion. That is what has made us great. We do not make war with
lavender gloves and fine phrases, but with hard steel and hard brains.
We Germans will cure the green-sickness of the world. The nations rise
against us. Pouf! They are soft flesh, and flesh cannot resist iron.
The shining ploughshare will cut its way through acres of mud.'
I hastened to add that these were also my opinions.
'What the hell do your opinions matter? You are a thick-headed boor of
the veld ... Not but what,' he added, 'there is metal in you slow
Dutchmen once we Germans have had the forging of it!'
The winter evening closed in, and I saw that we had come out of the
hills and were in flat country. Sometimes a big sweep of river showed,
and, looking out at one station I saw a funny church with a thing like
an onion on top of its spire. It might almost have been a mosque,
judging from the pictures I remembered of mosques. I wished to heaven
I had given geography more attention in my time.
Presently we stopped, and Stumm led the way out. The train must have
been specially halted for him, for it was a one-horse little place
whose name I could not make out. The station-master was waiting,
bowing and saluting, and outside was a motor-car with big head-lights.
Next minute we were sliding through dark woods where the snow lay far
deeper than in the north. There was a mild frost in the air, and the
tyres slipped and skidded at the corners.
We hadn't far to go. We climbed a little hill and on the top of it
stopped at the door of a big black castle. It looked enormous in the
winter night, with not a light showing anywhere on its front. The door
was opened by an old fellow who took a long time about it and got well
cursed for his slowness. Inside the place was very noble and ancient.
Stumm switched on the electric light, and there was a great hall with
black tarnished portraits of men and women in old-fashioned clothes, and
mighty horns of deer on the walls.
There seemed to be no superfluity of servants. The old fellow said
that food was ready, and without more ado we went into the
dining-room--another vast chamber with rough stone walls above the
panelling--and found some cold meats on the table beside a big fire.
The servant presently brought in a ham omelette, and on that and the
cold stuff we dined. I remember there was nothing to drink but water.
It puzzled me how Stumm kept his great body going on the very moderate
amount of food he ate. He was the type you expect to swill beer by the
bucket and put away a pie in a sitting.
When we had finished, he rang for the old man and told him that we
should be in the study for the rest of the evening. 'You can lock up
and go to bed when you like,' he said, 'but see you have coffee ready
at seven sharp in the morning.'
Ever since I entered that house I had the uncomfortable feeling of
being in a prison. Here was I alone in this great place with a fellow
who could, and would, wring my neck if he wanted. Berlin and all the
rest of it had seemed comparatively open country; I had felt that I
could move freely and at the worst make a bolt for it. But here I was
trapped, and I had to tell myself every minute that I was there as a
friend and colleague. The fact is, I was afraid of Stumm, and I don't
mind admitting it. He was a new thing in my experience and I didn't
like it. If only he had drunk and guzzled a bit I should have been
We went up a staircase to a room at the end of a long corridor. Stumm
locked the door behind him and laid the key on the table. That room
took my breath away, it was so unexpected. In place of the grim
bareness of downstairs here was a place all luxury and colour and
light. It was very large, but low in the ceiling, and the walls were
full of little recesses with statues in them. A thick grey carpet of
velvet pile covered the floor, and the chairs were low and soft and
upholstered like a lady's boudoir. A pleasant fire burned on the
hearth and there was a flavour of scent in the air, something like
incense or burnt sandalwood. A French clock on the mantelpiece told me
that it was ten minutes past eight. Everywhere on little tables and in
cabinets was a profusion of knickknacks, and there was some beautiful
embroidery framed on screens. At first sight you would have said it
was a woman's drawing-room.
But it wasn't. I soon saw the difference. There had never been a
woman's hand in that place. It was the room of a man who had a passion
for frippery, who had a perverted taste for soft delicate things. It
was the complement to his bluff brutality. I began to see the queer
other side to my host, that evil side which gossip had spoken of as not
unknown in the German army. The room seemed a horribly unwholesome
place, and I was more than ever afraid of Stumm.
The hearthrug was a wonderful old Persian thing, all faint greens and
pinks. As he stood on it he looked uncommonly like a bull in a
china-shop. He seemed to bask in the comfort of it, and sniffed like a
satisfied animal. Then he sat down at an escritoire, unlocked a drawer
and took out some papers.
'We will now settle your business, friend Brandt,' he said. 'You will
go to Egypt and there take your orders from one whose name and address
are in this envelope. This card,' and he lifted a square piece of grey
pasteboard with a big stamp at the corner and some code words
stencilled on it, 'will be your passport. You will show it to the man
you seek. Keep it jealously, and never use it save under orders or in
the last necessity. It is your badge as an accredited agent of the
I took the card and the envelope and put them in my pocket-book.
'Where do I go after Egypt?' I asked.
'That remains to be seen. Probably you will go up the Blue Nile. Riza,
the man you will meet, will direct you. Egypt is a nest of our agents
who work peacefully under the nose of the English Secret Service.'
'I am willing,' I said. 'But how do I reach Egypt?'
'You will travel by Holland and London. Here is your route,' and he
took a paper from his pocket. 'Your passports are ready and will be
given you at the frontier.'
This was a pretty kettle of fish. I was to be packed off to Cairo by
sea, which would take weeks, and God knows how I would get from Egypt
to Constantinople. I saw all my plans falling to pieces about my ears,
and just when I thought they were shaping nicely.
Stumm must have interpreted the look on my face as fear.
'You have no cause to be afraid,' he said. 'We have passed the word to
the English police to look out for a suspicious South African named
Brandt, one of Maritz's rebels. It is not difficult to have that kind
of a hint conveyed to the proper quarter. But the description will not
be yours. Your name will be Van der Linden, a respectable Java
merchant going home to his plantations after a visit to his native
shores. You had better get your "dossier" by heart, but I guarantee
you will be asked no questions. We manage these things well in
I kept my eyes on the fire, while I did some savage thinking. I knew
they would not let me out of their sight till they saw me in Holland,
and, once there, there would be no possibility of getting back. When I
left this house I would have no chance of giving them the slip. And
yet I was well on my way to the East, the Danube could not be fifty
miles off, and that way ran the road to Constantinople. It was a
fairly desperate position. If I tried to get away Stumm would prevent
me, and the odds were that I would go to join Peter in some infernal
Those moments were some of the worst I ever spent. I was absolutely
and utterly baffled, like a rat in a trap. There seemed nothing for it
but to go back to London and tell Sir Walter the game was up. And that
was about as bitter as death.
He saw my face and laughed. 'Does your heart fail you, my little
Dutchman? You funk the English? I will tell you one thing for your
comfort. There is nothing in the world to be feared except me. Fail,
and you have cause to shiver. Play me false and you had far better
never have been born.'
His ugly sneering face was close above mine. Then he put out his hands
and gripped my shoulders as he had done the first afternoon.
I forget if I mentioned that part of the damage I got at Loos was a
shrapnel bullet low down at the back of my neck. The wound had healed
well enough, but I had pains there on a cold day. His fingers found
the place and it hurt like hell.
There is a very narrow line between despair and black rage. I had
about given up the game, but the sudden ache of my shoulders gave me
purpose again. He must have seen the rage in my eyes, for his own
'The weasel would like to bite,' he cried. 'But the poor weasel has
found its master. Stand still, vermin. Smile, look pleasant, or I
will make pulp of you. Do you dare to frown at me?'
I shut my teeth and said never a word. I was choking in my throat and
could not have uttered a syllable if I had tried.
Then he let me go, grinning like an ape.
I stepped back a pace and gave him my left between the eyes.
For a second he did not realize what had happened, for I don't suppose
anyone had dared to lift a hand to him since he was a child. He
blinked at me mildly. Then his face grew as red as fire.
'God in heaven,' he said quietly. 'I am going to kill you,' and he
flung himself on me like a mountain.
I was expecting him and dodged the attack. I was quite calm now, but
pretty helpless. The man had a gorilla's reach and could give me at
least a couple of stone. He wasn't soft either, but looked as hard as
granite. I was only just from hospital and absurdly out of training.
He would certainly kill me if he could, and I saw nothing to prevent
My only chance was to keep him from getting to grips, for he could have
squeezed in my ribs in two seconds. I fancied I was lighter on my legs
than him, and I had a good eye. Black Monty at Kimberley had taught me
to fight a bit, but there is no art on earth which can prevent a big
man in a narrow space from sooner or later cornering a lesser one.
That was the danger.
Backwards and forwards we padded on the soft carpet. He had no notion
of guarding himself, and I got in a good few blows.
Then I saw a queer thing. Every time I hit him he blinked and seemed
to pause. I guessed the reason for that. He had gone through life
keeping the crown of the causeway, and nobody had ever stood up to him.
He wasn't a coward by a long chalk, but he was a bully, and had never
been struck in his life. He was getting struck now in real earnest,
and he didn't like it. He had lost his bearings and was growing as mad
as a hatter.
I kept half an eye on the clock. I was hopeful now, and was looking
for the right kind of chance. The risk was that I might tire sooner
than him and be at his mercy.
Then I learned a truth I have never forgotten. If you are fighting a
man who means to kill you, he will be apt to down you unless you mean
to kill him too. Stumm did not know any rules to this game, and I
forgot to allow for that. Suddenly, when I was watching his eyes, he
launched a mighty kick at my stomach. If he had got me, this yarn
would have had an abrupt ending. But by the mercy of God I was moving
sideways when he let out, and his heavy boot just grazed my left thigh.
It was the place where most of the shrapnel had lodged, and for a
second I was sick with pain and stumbled. Then I was on my feet again
but with a new feeling in my blood. I had to smash Stumm or never
sleep in my bed again.
I got a wonderful power from this new cold rage of mine. I felt I
couldn't tire, and I danced round and dotted his face till it was
streaming with blood. His bulky padded chest was no good to me, so I
couldn't try for the mark.
He began to snort now and his breath came heavily. 'You infernal cad,'
I said in good round English, 'I'm going to knock the stuffing out of
you,' but he didn't know what I was saying.
Then at last he gave me my chance. He half tripped over a little table
and his face stuck forward. I got him on the point of the chin, and
put every ounce of weight I possessed behind the blow. He crumpled up
in a heap and rolled over, upsetting a lamp and knocking a big china
jar in two. His head, I remember, lay under the escritoire from which
he had taken my passport.
I picked up the key and unlocked the door. In one of the gilded
mirrors I smoothed my hair and tidied up my clothes. My anger had
completely gone and I had no particular ill-will left against Stumm.
He was a man of remarkable qualities, which would have brought him to
the highest distinction in the Stone Age. But for all that he and his
kind were back numbers.
I stepped out of the room, locked the door behind me, and started out
on the second stage of my travels.
Everything depended on whether the servant was in the hall. I had put
Stumm to sleep for a bit, but I couldn't flatter myself he would long
be quiet, and when he came to he would kick the locked door to
matchwood. I must get out of the house without a minute's delay, and
if the door was shut and the old man gone to bed I was done.
I met him at the foot of the stairs, carrying a candle.
'Your master wants me to send off an important telegram. Where is the
nearest office? There's one in the village, isn't there?' I spoke in
my best German, the first time I had used the tongue since I crossed
'The village is five minutes off at the foot of the avenue,' he said.
'Will you be long, sir?'
'I'll be back in a quarter of an hour,' I said. 'Don't lock up till I
I put on my ulster and walked out into a clear starry night. My bag I
left lying on a settle in the hall. There was nothing in it to
compromise me, but I wished I could have got a toothbrush and some
tobacco out of it.
So began one of the craziest escapades you can well imagine. I
couldn't stop to think of the future yet, but must take one step at a
time. I ran down the avenue, my feet cracking on the hard snow,
planning hard my programme for the next hour.
I found the village--half a dozen houses with one biggish place that
looked like an inn. The moon was rising, and as I approached I saw
that there was some kind of a store. A funny little two-seated car was
purring before the door, and I guessed this was also the telegraph
I marched in and told my story to a stout woman with spectacles on her
nose who was talking to a young man.
'It is too late,' she shook her head. 'The Herr Burgrave knows that
well. There is no connection from here after eight o'clock. If the
matter is urgent you must go to Schwandorf.'
'How far is that?' I asked, looking for some excuse to get decently out
of the shop.
'Seven miles,' she said, 'but here is Franz and the post-wagon. Franz,
you will be glad to give the gentleman a seat beside you.'
The sheepish-looking youth muttered something which I took to be
assent, and finished off a glass of beer. From his eyes and manner he
looked as if he were half drunk.
I thanked the woman, and went out to the car, for I was in a fever to
take advantage of this unexpected bit of luck. I could hear the
post-mistress enjoining Franz not to keep the gentleman waiting, and
presently he came out and flopped into the driver's seat. We started
in a series of voluptuous curves, till his eyes got accustomed to the
At first we made good going along the straight, broad highway lined
with woods on one side and on the other snowy fields melting into haze.
Then he began to talk, and, as he talked, he slowed down. This by no
means suited my book, and I seriously wondered whether I should pitch
him out and take charge of the thing. He was obviously a weakling,
left behind in the conscription, and I could have done it with one
hand. But by a fortunate chance I left him alone.
'That is a fine hat of yours, mein Herr,' he said. He took off his own
blue peaked cap, the uniform, I suppose, of the driver of the
post-wagon, and laid it on his knee. The night air ruffled a shock of
Then he calmly took my hat and clapped it on his head.
'With this thing I should be a gentleman,' he said.
I said nothing, but put on his cap and waited.
'That is a noble overcoat, mein Herr,' he went on. 'It goes well with
the hat. It is the kind of garment I have always desired to own. In
two days it will be the holy Christmas, when gifts are given. Would
that the good God sent me such a coat as yours!'
'You can try it on to see how it looks,' I said good-humouredly.
He stopped the car with a jerk, and pulled off his blue coat. The
exchange was soon effected. He was about my height, and my ulster
fitted not so badly. I put on his overcoat, which had a big collar
that buttoned round the neck.
The idiot preened himself like a girl. Drink and vanity had primed him
for any folly. He drove so carelessly for a bit that he nearly put us
into a ditch. We passed several cottages and at the last he slowed
'A friend of mine lives here,' he announced. 'Gertrud would like to
see me in the fine clothes which the most amiable Herr has given me.
Wait for me, I will not be long.' And he scrambled out of the car and
lurched into the little garden.
I took his place and moved very slowly forward. I heard the door open
and the sound of laughing and loud voices. Then it shut, and looking
back I saw that my idiot had been absorbed into the dwelling of his
Gertrud. I waited no longer, but sent the car forward at its best
Five minutes later the infernal thing began to give trouble--a nut
loose in the antiquated steering-gear. I unhooked a lamp, examined it,
and put the mischief right, but I was a quarter of an hour doing it.
The highway ran now in a thick forest and I noticed branches going off
now and then to the right. I was just thinking of turning up one of
them, for I had no anxiety to visit Schwandorf, when I heard behind me
the sound of a great car driven furiously.
I drew in to the right side--thank goodness I remembered the rule of
the road--and proceeded decorously, wondering what was going to happen.
I could hear the brakes being clamped on and the car slowing down.
Suddenly a big grey bonnet slipped past me and as I turned my head I
heard a familiar voice.
It was Stumm, looking like something that has been run over. He had his
jaw in a sling, so that I wondered if I had broken it, and his eyes
were beautifully bunged up. It was that that saved me, that and his
raging temper. The collar of the postman's coat was round my chin,
hiding my beard, and I had his cap pulled well down on my brow. I
remembered what Blenkiron had said--that the only way to deal with the
Germans was naked bluff. Mine was naked enough, for it was all that
was left to me.
'Where is the man you brought from Andersbach?' he roared, as well as
his jaw would allow him.
I pretended to be mortally scared, and spoke in the best imitation I
could manage of the postman's high cracked voice.
'He got out a mile back, Herr Burgrave,' I quavered. 'He was a rude
fellow who wanted to go to Schwandorf, and then changed his mind.'
'Where, you fool? Say exactly where he got down or I will wring your
'In the wood this side of Gertrud's cottage ... on the left hand. I
left him running among the trees.' I put all the terror I knew into my
pipe, and it wasn't all acting.
'He means the Henrichs' cottage, Herr Colonel,' said the chauffeur.
'This man is courting the daughter.'
Stumm gave an order and the great car backed, and, as I looked round, I
saw it turning. Then as it gathered speed it shot forward, and
presently was lost in the shadows. I had got over the first hurdle.
But there was no time to be lost. Stumm would meet the postman and
would be tearing after me any minute. I took the first turning, and
bucketed along a narrow woodland road. The hard ground would show very
few tracks, I thought, and I hoped the pursuit would think I had gone
on to Schwandorf. But it wouldn't do to risk it, and I was determined
very soon to get the car off the road, leave it, and take to the
forest. I took out my watch and calculated I could give myself ten
I was very nearly caught. Presently I came on a bit of rough heath,
with a slope away from the road and here and there a patch of black
which I took to be a sandpit. Opposite one of these I slewed the car
to the edge, got out, started it again and saw it pitch head-foremost
into the darkness. There was a splash of water and then silence.
Craning over I could see nothing but murk, and the marks at the lip
where the wheels had passed. They would find my tracks in daylight but
scarcely at this time of night.
Then I ran across the road to the forest. I was only just in time, for
the echoes of the splash had hardly died away when I heard the sound of
another car. I lay flat in a hollow below a tangle of snow-laden
brambles and looked between the pine-trees at the moonlit road. It was
Stumm's car again and to my consternation it stopped just a little
short of the sandpit.
I saw an electric torch flashed, and Stumm himself got out and examined
the tracks on the highway. Thank God, they would be still there for
him to find, but had he tried half a dozen yards on he would have seen
them turn towards the sandpit. If that had happened he would have
beaten the adjacent woods and most certainly found me. There was a
third man in the car, with my hat and coat on him. That poor devil of
a postman had paid dear for his vanity.
They took a long time before they started again, and I was jolly well
relieved when they went scouring down the road. I ran deeper into the
woods till I found a track which--as I judged from the sky which I saw
in a clearing--took me nearly due west. That wasn't the direction I
wanted, so I bore off at right angles, and presently struck another
road which I crossed in a hurry. After that I got entangled in some
confounded kind of enclosure and had to climb paling after paling of
rough stakes plaited with osiers. Then came a rise in the ground and I
was on a low hill of pines which seemed to last for miles. All the
time I was going at a good pace, and before I stopped to rest I
calculated I had put six miles between me and the sandpit.
My mind was getting a little more active now; for the first part of the
journey I had simply staggered from impulse to impulse. These impulses
had been uncommon lucky, but I couldn't go on like that for ever. "Ek
sal 'n plan maak", says the old Boer when he gets into trouble, and it
was up to me now to make a plan.
As soon as I began to think I saw the desperate business I was in for.
Here was I, with nothing except what I stood up in--including a coat
and cap that weren't mine--alone in mid-winter in the heart of South
Germany. There was a man behind me looking for my blood, and soon
there would be a hue-and-cry for me up and down the land. I had heard
that the German police were pretty efficient, and I couldn't see that I
stood the slimmest chance. If they caught me they would shoot me
beyond doubt. I asked myself on what charge, and answered, 'For
knocking about a German officer.' They couldn't have me up for
espionage, for as far as I knew they had no evidence. I was simply a
Dutchman that had got riled and had run amok. But if they cut down a
cobbler for laughing at a second lieutenant--which is what happened at
Zabern--I calculated that hanging would be too good for a man that had
broken a colonel's jaw.
To make things worse my job was not to escape--though that would have
been hard enough--but to get to Constantinople, more than a thousand
miles off, and I reckoned I couldn't get there as a tramp. I had to be
sent there, and now I had flung away my chance. If I had been a
Catholic I would have said a prayer to St Teresa, for she would have
understood my troubles.
My mother used to say that when you felt down on your luck it was a
good cure to count your mercies. So I set about counting mine. The
first was that I was well started on my journey, for I couldn't be
above two score miles from the Danube. The second was that I had
Stumm's pass. I didn't see how I could use it, but there it was.
Lastly I had plenty of money--fifty-three English sovereigns and the
equivalent of three pounds in German paper which I had changed at the
hotel. Also I had squared accounts with old Stumm. That was the
biggest mercy of all.
I thought I'd better get some sleep, so I found a dryish hole below an
oak root and squeezed myself into it. The snow lay deep in these woods
and I was sopping wet up to the knees. All the same I managed to sleep
for some hours, and got up and shook myself just as the winter's dawn
was breaking through the tree tops. Breakfast was the next thing, and
I must find some sort of dwelling.
Almost at once I struck a road, a big highway running north and south.
I trotted along in the bitter morning to get my circulation started,
and presently I began to feel a little better. In a little I saw a
church spire, which meant a village. Stumm wouldn't be likely to have
got on my tracks yet, I calculated, but there was always the chance
that he had warned all the villages
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