Part 2 out of 6
'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 God.'
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
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
'So,' said Stumm. 'Well, get into the carriage. Not that one!
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 light.
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
'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
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 brands.'
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 well.
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
'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 you.'
'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
'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 supper.
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 at once.
I heard Stumm telling Gaudian the gist of my plan. The engineer
shook his head.
'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
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
'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 Constantinople.
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
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
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 instruments.'
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
'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
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 Franciscana.
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
'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 _taakhaar_?'
'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 your sake.'
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 crowded.
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
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
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
'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 an 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 happier.
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 German Crown.'
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
'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 Germany.'
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 prison-camp.
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
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 became cruel.
'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 him.
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 frontier.
'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 get in.'
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 office.
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 darkness.
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
'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 down.
'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 speed.
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
'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
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 minutes.
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
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
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 round by telephone and
that they might be on the look-out for me. But that risk had to be
taken, for I must have food.
It was the day before Christmas, I remembered, and people
would be holidaying. The village was quite a big place, but at this
hour - just after eight o'clock - there was nobody in the street
except a wandering dog. I chose the most unassuming shop I could
find, where a little boy was taking down the shutters - one of those
general stores where they sell everything. The boy fetched a very
old woman, who hobbled in from the back, fitting on her spectacles.
'Gruss Gott,' she said in a friendly voice, and I took off my cap. I
saw from my reflection in a saucepan that I looked moderately
respectable in spite of my night in the woods.
I told her the story of how I was walking from Schwandorf to
see my mother at an imaginary place called judenfeld, banking on
the ignorance of villagers about any place five miles from their
homes. I said my luggage had gone astray, and I hadn't time to
wait for it, since my leave was short. The old lady was sympathetic
and unsuspecting. She sold me a pound of chocolate, a box of
biscuits, the better part of a ham, two tins of sardines and a rucksack
to carry them. I also bought some soap, a comb and a cheap razor,
and a small Tourists' Guide, published by a Leipzig firm. As I was
leaving I saw what seemed like garments hanging up in the back
shop, and turned to have a look at them. They were the kind of
thing that Germans wear on their summer walking tours - long
shooting capes made of a green stuff they call loden. I bought one,
and a green felt hat and an alpenstock to keep it company. Then
wishing the old woman and her belongings a merry Christmas, I
departed and took the shortest cut out of the village. There were
one or two people about now, but they did not seem to notice me.
I went into the woods again and walked for two miles till I
halted for breakfast. I was not feeling quite so fit now, and I did
not make much of my provisions, beyond eating a biscuit and some
chocolate. I felt very thirsty and longed for hot tea. In an icy pool I
washed and with infinite agony shaved my beard. That razor was
the worst of its species, and my eyes were running all the time with
the pain of the operation. Then I took off the postman's coat and
cap, and buried them below some bushes. I was now a clean-shaven
German pedestrian with a green cape and hat, and an absurd
walking-stick with an iron-shod end - the sort of person who roams
in thousands over the Fatherland in summer, but is a rarish bird
The Tourists' Guide was a fortunate purchase, for it contained a
big map of Bavaria which gave me my bearings. I was certainly not
forty miles from the Danube - more like thirty. The road through
the village I had left would have taken me to it. I had only to walk
due south and I would reach it before night. So far as I could make
out there were long tongues of forest running down to the river,
and I resolved to keep to the woodlands. At the worst I would
meet a forester or two, and I had a good enough story for them.
On the highroad there might be awkward questions.
When I started out again I felt very stiff and the cold seemed to
be growing intense. This puzzled me, for I had not minded it much
up to now, and, being warm-blooded by nature, it never used to
worry me. A sharp winter night on the high-veld was a long sight
chillier than anything I had struck so far in Europe. But now my
teeth were chattering and the marrow seemed to be freezing in my bones.
The day had started bright and clear, but a wrack of grey clouds
soon covered the sky, and a wind from the east began to whistle.
As I stumbled along through the snowy undergrowth I kept longing
for bright warm places. I thought of those long days on the veld
when the earth was like a great yellow bowl, with white roads
running to the horizon and a tiny white farm basking in the heart
of it, with its blue dam and patches of bright green lucerne. I
thought of those baking days on the east coast, when the sea was
like mother-of-pearl and the sky one burning turquoise. But most
of all I thought of warm scented noons on trek, when one dozed in
the shadow of the wagon and sniffed the wood-smoke from the fire
where the boys were cooking dinner.
From these pleasant pictures I returned to the beastly present -
the thick snowy woods, the lowering sky, wet clothes, a hunted
present, and a dismal future. I felt miserably depressed, and I
couldn't think of any mercies to count. It struck me that I might be
About midday I awoke with a start to the belief that I was being
pursued. I cannot explain how or why the feeling came, except that
it is a kind of instinct that men get who have lived much in wild
countries. My senses, which had been numbed, suddenly grew
keen, and my brain began to work double quick.
I asked myself what I would do if I were Stumm, with hatred in
my heart, a broken jaw to avenge, and pretty well limitless powers.
He must have found the car in the sandpit and seen my tracks in
the wood opposite. I didn't know how good he and his men might
be at following a spoor, but I knew that any ordinary Kaffir could
have nosed it out easily. But he didn't need to do that. This was a
civilized country full of roads and railways. I must some time and
somewhere come out of the woods. He could have all the roads
watched, and the telephone would set everyone on my track within
a radius of fifty miles. Besides, he would soon pick up my trail in
the village I had visited that morning. From the map I learned that
it was called Greif, and it was likely to live up to that name with me.
Presently I came to a rocky knoll which rose out of the forest.
Keeping well in shelter I climbed to the top and cautiously looked
around me. Away to the east I saw the vale of a river with broad
fields and church-spires. West and south the forest rolled unbroken
in a wilderness of snowy tree-tops. There was no sign of life
anywhere, not even a bird, but I knew very well that behind me in
the woods were men moving swiftly on my track, and that it was
pretty well impossible for me to get away.
There was nothing for it but to go on till I dropped or was
taken. I shaped my course south with a shade of west in it, for the
map showed me that in that direction I would soonest strike the
Danube. What I was going to do when I got there I didn't trouble
to think. I had fixed the river as my immediate goal and the future
must take care of itself.
I was now certain that I had fever on me. It was still in my
bones, as a legacy from Africa, and had come out once or twice
when I was with the battalion in Hampshire. The bouts had been
short for I had known of their coming and dosed myself. But now I
had no quinine, and it looked as if I were in for a heavy go. It made
me feel desperately wretched and stupid, and I all but blundered
For suddenly I came on a road and was going to cross it blindly,
when a man rode slowly past on a bicycle. Luckily I was in the
shade of a clump of hollies and he was not looking my way, though
he was not three yards off. I crawled forward to reconnoitre. I saw
about half a mile of road running straight through the forest and
every two hundred yards was a bicyclist. They wore uniform and
appeared to be acting as sentries.
This could only have one meaning. Stumm had picketed all the
roads and cut me off in an angle of the woods. There was no
chance of getting across unobserved. As I lay there with my heart
sinking, I had the horrible feeling that the pursuit might be following
me from behind, and that at any moment I would be enclosed
between two fires.
For more than an hour I stayed there with my chin in the snow.
I didn't see any way out, and I was feeling so ill that I didn't seem
to care. Then my chance came suddenly out of the skies.
The wind rose, and a great gust of snow blew from the east. In five
minutes it was so thick that I couldn't see across the road. At first I
thought it a new addition to my troubles, and then very slowly I saw
the opportunity. I slipped down the bank and made ready to cross.
I almost blundered into one of the bicyclists. He cried out and
fell off his machine, but I didn't wait to investigate. A sudden
access of strength came to me and I darted into the woods on the
farther side. I knew I would be soon swallowed from sight in the
drift, and I knew that the falling snow would hide my tracks. So I
put my best foot forward.
I must have run miles before the hot fit passed, and I stopped
from sheer bodily weakness. There was no sound except the crush
of falling snow, the wind seemed to have gone, and the place was
very solemn and quiet. But Heavens! how the snow fell! It was
partly screened by the branches, but all the same it was piling itself
up deep everywhere. My legs seemed made of lead, my head burned,
and there were fiery pains over all my body. I stumbled on blindly,
without a notion of any direction, determined only to keep going
to the last. For I knew that if I once lay down I would never rise again.
When I was a boy I was fond of fairy tales, and most of the
stories I remembered had been about great German forests and
snow and charcoal burners and woodmen's huts. Once I had longed
to see these things, and now I was fairly in the thick of them. There
had been wolves, too, and I wondered idly if I should fall in with a
pack. I felt myself getting light-headed. I fell repeatedly and laughed
sillily every time. Once I dropped into a hole and lay for some time
at the bottom giggling. If anyone had found me then he would
have taken me for a madman.
The twilight of the forest grew dimmer, but I scarcely noticed it.
Evening was falling, and soon it would be night, a night without
morning for me. My body was going on without the direction of
my brain, for my mind was filled with craziness. I was like a drunk
man who keeps running, for he knows that if he stops he will fall,
and I had a sort of bet with myself not to lie down - not at any rate
just yet. If I lay down I should feel the pain in my head worse.
Once I had ridden for five days down country with fever on me
and the flat bush trees had seemed to melt into one big mirage and
dance quadrilles before my eyes. But then I had more or less kept
my wits. Now I was fairly daft, and every minute growing dafter.
Then the trees seemed to stop and I was walking on flat ground.
it was a clearing, and before me twinkled a little light. The change
restored me to consciousness, and suddenly I felt with horrid
intensity the fire in my head and bones and the weakness of my
limbs. I longed to sleep, and I had a notion that a place to sleep was
before me. I moved towards the light and presently saw through a
screen of snow the outline of a cottage.
I had no fear, only an intolerable longing to lie down. Very
slowly I made my way to the door and knocked. My weakness was
so great that I could hardly lift my hand.
There were voices within, and a corner of the curtain was lifted
from the window. Then the door opened and a woman stood
before me, a woman with a thin, kindly face.
'Gruss Gott,' she said, while children peeped from behind her
'Gruss Gott,' I replied. I leaned against the door-post, and speech
She saw my condition. 'Come in, Sir,' she said. 'You are sick and
it is no weather for a sick man.'
I stumbled after her and stood dripping in the centre of the little
kitchen, while three wondering children stared at me. It was a poor
place, scantily furnished, but a good log-fire burned on the hearth.
The shock of warmth gave me one of those minutes of self-
possession which comes sometimes in the middle of a fever.
'I am sick, mother, and I have walked far in the storm and lost
my way. I am from Africa, where the climate is hot, and your cold
brings me fever. It will pass in a day or two if you can give me a bed.'
'You are welcome,' she said; 'but first I will make you coffee.'
I took off my dripping cloak, and crouched close to the hearth.
She gave me coffee - poor washy stuff, but blessedly hot. Poverty
was spelled large in everything I saw. I felt the tides of fever
beginning to overflow my brain again, and I made a great attempt
to set my affairs straight before I was overtaken. With difficulty I
took out Stumm's pass from my pocket-book.
'That is my warrant,' I said. 'I am a member of the Imperial
Secret Service and for the sake of my work I must move in the
dark. If you will permit it, mother, I will sleep till I am better, but
no one must know that I am here. If anyone comes, you must deny
She looked at the big seal as if it were a talisman.
'Yes, yes,' she said, 'you will have the bed in the garret and be
left in peace till you are well. We have no neighbours near, and the
storm will shut the roads. I will be silent, I and the little ones.'
My head was beginning to swim, but I made one more effort.
'There is food in my rucksack - biscuits and ham and chocolate.
Pray take it for your use. And here is some money to buy Christmas
fare for the little ones.' And I gave her some of the German notes.
After that my recollection becomes dim. She helped me up a
ladder to the garret, undressed me, and gave me a thick coarse
nightgown. I seem to remember that she kissed my hand, and that
she was crying. 'The good Lord has sent you,' she said. 'Now the
little ones will have their prayers answered and the Christkind will
not pass by our door.'
The Essen Barges
I lay for four days like a log in that garret bed. The storm died
down, the thaw set in, and the snow melted. The children played
about the doors and told stories at night round the fire. Stumm's
myrmidons no doubt beset every road and troubled the lives of
innocent wayfarers. But no one came near the cottage, and the
fever worked itself out while I lay in peace.
It was a bad bout, but on the fifth day it left me, and I lay, as
weak as a kitten, staring at the rafters and the little skylight. It was
a leaky, draughty old place, but the woman of the cottage had
heaped deerskins and blankets on my bed and kept me warm. She
came in now and then, and once she brought me a brew of some
bitter herbs which greatly refreshed me. A little thin porridge was
all the food I could eat, and some chocolate made from the slabs in
I lay and dozed through the day, hearing the faint chatter of
children below, and getting stronger hourly. Malaria passes as
quickly as it comes and leaves a man little the worse, though this
was one of the sharpest turns I ever had. As I lay I thought, and
my thoughts followed curious lines. One queer thing was that
Stumm and his doings seemed to have been shot back into a
lumber-room of my brain and the door locked. He didn't seem to be
a creature of the living present, but a distant memory on which I
could look calmly. I thought a good deal about my battalion and
the comedy of my present position. You see I was getting better,
for I called it comedy now, not tragedy.
But chiefly I thought of my mission. All that wild day in the
snow it had seemed the merest farce. The three words Harry Bullivant
had scribbled had danced through my head in a crazy fandango.
They were present to me now, but coolly and sanely in all their
I remember that I took each one separately and chewed on it for
hours. _Kasredin_ - there was nothing to be got out of that. _Cancer_ -
there were too many meanings, all blind. _V. I._ - that was the worst
gibberish of all.
Before this I had always taken the I as the letter of the alphabet. I
had thought the v. must stand for von, and I had considered the
German names beginning with I - Ingolstadt, Ingeburg, Ingenohl,
and all the rest of them. I had made a list of about seventy at the
British Museum before I left London.
Now I suddenly found myself taking the I as the numeral One.
Idly, not thinking what I was doing, I put it into German.
Then I nearly fell out of the bed. Von Einem - the name I had
heard at Gaudian's house, the name Stumm had spoken behind his
hand, the name to which Hilda was probably the prefix. It was a
tremendous discovery - the first real bit of light I had found. Harry
Bullivant knew that some man or woman called von Einem was at
the heart of the mystery. Stumm had spoken of the same personage
with respect and in connection with the work I proposed to do in
raising the Moslem Africans. If I found von Einem I would be
getting very warm. What was the word that Stumm had whispered
to Gaudian and scared that worthy? It had sounded like _uhnmantl_.
If I could only get that clear, I would solve the riddle.
I think that discovery completed my cure. At any rate on the
evening of the fifth day - it was Wednesday, the 29th of December
- I was well enough to get up. When the dark had fallen and it was
too late to fear a visitor, I came downstairs and, wrapped in my
green cape, took a seat by the fire.
As we sat there in the firelight, with the three white-headed
children staring at me with saucer eyes, and smiling when I looked
their way, the woman talked. Her man had gone to the wars on the
Eastern front, and the last she had heard from him he was in a
Polish bog and longing for his dry native woodlands. The struggle
meant little to her. It was an act of God, a thunderbolt out of the
sky, which had taken a husband from her, and might soon make
her a widow and her children fatherless. She knew nothing of its
causes and purposes, and thought of the Russians as a gigantic
nation of savages, heathens who had never been converted, and
who would eat up German homes if the good Lord and the brave
German soldiers did not stop them. I tried hard to find out if she
had any notion of affairs in the West, but she hadn't, beyond the
fact that there was trouble with the French. I doubt if she knew of
England's share in it. She was a decent soul, with no bitterness
against anybody, not even the Russians if they would spare her man.
That night I realized the crazy folly of war. When I saw the
splintered shell of Ypres and heard hideous tales of German doings,
I used to want to see the whole land of the Boche given up to fire
and sword. I thought we could never end the war properly without
giving the Huns some of their own medicine. But that woodcutter's
cottage cured me of such nightmares. I was for punishing the guilty
but letting the innocent go free. It was our business to thank God
and keep our hands clean from the ugly blunders to which
Germany's madness had driven her. What good would it do Christian
folk to burn poor little huts like this and leave children's bodies by
the wayside? To be able to laugh and to be merciful are the only
things that make man better than the beasts.
The place, as I have said, was desperately poor. The woman's
face had the skin stretched tight over the bones and that
transparency which means under-feeding; I fancied she did not have the
liberal allowance that soldiers' wives get in England. The children
looked better nourished, but it was by their mother's sacrifice. I did
my best to cheer them up. I told them long yarns about Africa and
lions and tigers, and I got some pieces of wood and whittled them
into toys. I am fairly good with a knife, and I carved very presentable
likenesses of a monkey, a springbok, and a rhinoceros. The
children went to bed hugging the first toys, I expect, they
It was clear to me that I must leave as soon as possible. I had to
get on with my business, and besides, it was not fair to the woman.
Any moment I might be found here, and she would get into
trouble for harbouring me. I asked her if she knew where the
Danube was, and her answer surprised me. 'You will reach it in an
hour's walk,' she said. 'The track through the wood runs straight
to the ferry.'
Next morning after breakfast I took my departure. It was drizzling
weather, and I was feeling very lean. Before going I presented
my hostess and the children with two sovereigns apiece. 'It is
English gold,' I said, 'for I have to travel among our enemies and
use our enemies' money. But the gold is good, and if you go to any
town they will change it for you. But I advise you to put it in your
stocking-foot and use it only if all else fails. You must keep your
home going, for some day there will be peace and your man will
come back from the wars.'
I kissed the children, shook the woman's hand, and went off
down the clearing. They had cried 'Auf Wiedersehen,' but it wasn't
likely I would ever see them again.
The snow had all gone, except in patches in the deep hollows.
The ground was like a full sponge, and a cold rain drifted in my
eyes. After half an hour's steady trudge the trees thinned, and
presently I came out on a knuckle of open ground cloaked in dwarf
junipers. And there before me lay the plain, and a mile off a broad
I sat down and looked dismally at the prospect. The exhilaration
of my discovery the day before had gone. I had stumbled on a
worthless piece of knowledge, for I could not use it. Hilda von
Einem, if such a person existed and possessed the great secret, was
probably living in some big house in Berlin, and I was about as
likely to get anything out of her as to be asked to dine with the
Kaiser. Blenkiron might do something, but where on earth was
Blenkiron? I dared say Sir Walter would value the information, but
I could not get to Sir Walter. I was to go on to Constantinople,
running away from the people who really pulled the ropes. But if I
stayed I could do nothing, and I could not stay. I must go on and I
didn't see how I could go on. Every course seemed shut to me, and
I was in as pretty a tangle as any man ever stumbled into.
For I was morally certain that Stumm would not let the thing
drop. I knew too much, and besides I had outraged his pride. He
would beat the countryside till he got me, and he undoubtedly
would get me if I waited much longer. But how was I to get over
the border? My passport would be no good, for the number of that
pass would long ere this have been wired to every police-station in
Germany, and to produce it would be to ask for trouble. Without it
I could not cross the borders by any railway. My studies of the
Tourists' Guide had suggested that once I was in Austria I might
find things slacker and move about easier. I thought of having a try
at the Tyrol and I also thought of Bohemia. But these places were a
long way off, and there were several thousand chances each day
that I would be caught on the road.
This was Thursday, the 30th of December, the second last day of
the year. I was due in Constantinople on the 17th of January.
Constantinople! I had thought myself a long way from it in Berlin,
but now it seemed as distant as the moon.
But that big sullen river in front of me led to it. And as I looked
my attention was caught by a curious sight. On the far eastern
horizon, where the water slipped round a corner of hill, there was a
long trail of smoke. The streamers thinned out, and seemed to
come from some boat well round the corner, but I could see at least
two boats in view. Therefore there must be a long train of barges,
with a tug in tow.
I looked to the west and saw another such procession coming
into sight. First went a big river steamer - it can't have been much
less than 1,000 tons - and after came a string of barges. I counted
no less than six besides the tug. They were heavily loaded and their
draught must have been considerable, but there was plenty of depth
in the flooded river.
A moment's reflection told me what I was looking at. Once
Sandy, in one of the discussions you have in hospital, had told us
just how the Germans munitioned their Balkan campaign. They
were pretty certain of dishing Serbia at the first go, and it was up
to them to get through guns and shells to the old Turk, who was
running pretty short in his first supply. Sandy said that they wanted
the railway, but they wanted still more the river, and they could
make certain of that in a week. He told us how endless strings of
barges, loaded up at the big factories of Westphalia, were moving
through the canals from the Rhine or the Elbe to the Danube.
Once the first reached Turkey, there would be regular delivery, you
see - as quick as the Turks could handle the stuff. And they didn't
return empty, Sandy said, but came back full of Turkish cotton and
Bulgarian beef and Rumanian corn. I don't know where Sandy got
the knowledge, but there was the proof of it before my eyes.
It was a wonderful sight, and I could have gnashed my teeth to
see those loads of munitions going snugly off to the enemy. I
calculated they would give our poor chaps hell in Gallipoli. And
then, as I looked, an idea came into my head and with it an eighth
part of a hope.
There was only one way for me to get out of Germany, and that
was to leave in such good company that I would be asked no
questions. That was plain enough. If I travelled to Turkey, for
instance, in the Kaiser's suite, I would be as safe as the mail; but if I
went on my own I was done. I had, so to speak, to get my passport
inside Germany, to join some caravan which had free marching
powers. And there was the kind of caravan before me - the Essen
It sounded lunacy, for I guessed that munitions of war would be
as jealously guarded as old Hindenburg's health. All the safer, I
replied to myself, once I get there. If you are looking for a deserter
you don't seek him at the favourite regimental public-house. If
you're after a thief, among the places you'd be apt to leave
unsearched would be Scotland Yard.
It was sound reasoning, but how was I to get on board? Probably
the beastly things did not stop once in a hundred miles, and Stumm
would get me long before I struck a halting-place. And even if I
did get a chance like that, how was I to get permission to travel?
One step was clearly indicated - to get down to the river bank at
once. So I set off at a sharp walk across squelchy fields, till I struck
a road where the ditches had overflowed so as almost to meet in the
middle. The place was so bad that I hoped travellers might be few.
And as I trudged, my thoughts were busy with my prospects as a
stowaway. If I bought food, I might get a chance to lie snug on
one of the barges. They would not break bulk till they got to their
Suddenly I noticed that the steamer, which was now abreast me,
began to move towards the shore, and as I came over a low rise, I
saw on my left a straggling village with a church, and a small
landing-stage. The houses stood about a quarter of a mile from the
stream, and between them was a straight, poplar-fringed road.
Soon there could be no doubt about it. The procession was
coming to a standstill. The big tug nosed her way in and lay up
alongside the pier, where in that season of flood there was enough
depth of water. She signalled to the barges and they also started
to drop anchors, which showed that there must be at least two men
aboard each. Some of them dragged a bit and it was rather a cock-
eyed train that lay in mid-stream. The tug got out a gangway, and
from where I lay I saw half a dozen men leave it, carrying something
on their shoulders.
It could be only one thing - a dead body. Someone of the crew
must have died, and this halt was to bury him. I watched the
procession move towards the village and I reckoned they would
take some time there, though they might have wired ahead for a
grave to be dug. Anyhow, they would be long enough to give me a chance.
For I had decided upon the brazen course. Blenkiron had said
you couldn't cheat the Boche, but you could bluff him. I was going
to put up the most monstrous bluff. If the whole countryside was
hunting for Richard Hannay, Richard Hannay would walk through
as a pal of the hunters. For I remembered the pass Stumm had
given me. If that was worth a tinker's curse it should be good
enough to impress a ship's captain.
Of course there were a thousand risks. They might have heard of
me in the village and told the ship's party the story. For that reason
I resolved not to go there but to meet the sailors when they were
returning to the boat. Or the captain might have been warned and
got the number of my pass, in which case Stumm would have his
hands on me pretty soon. Or the captain might be an ignorant
fellow who had never seen a Secret Service pass and did not know
what it meant, and would refuse me transport by the letter of his
instructions. In that case I might wait on another convoy.
I had shaved and made myself a fairly respectable figure before I
left the cottage. It was my cue to wait for the men when they left
the church, wait on that quarter-mile of straight highway. I judged
the captain must be in the party. The village, I was glad to observe,
seemed very empty. I have my own notions about the Bavarians as
fighting men, but I am bound to say that, judging by my observations,
very few of them stayed at home.
That funeral took hours. They must have had to dig the grave,
for I waited near the road in a clump of cherry-trees, with my feet
in two inches of mud and water, till I felt chilled to the bone. I
prayed to God it would not bring back my fever, for I was only
one day out of bed. I had very little tobacco left in my pouch, but I
stood myself one pipe, and I ate one of the three cakes of chocolate
I still carried.
At last, well after midday, I could see the ship's party returning.
They marched two by two and I was thankful to see that they had
no villagers with them. I walked to the road, turned up it, and met
the vanguard, carrying my head as high as I knew how.
'Where's your captain?' I asked, and a man jerked his thumb
over his shoulder. The others wore thick jerseys and knitted caps,
but there was one man at the rear in uniform.
He was a short, broad man with a weather-beaten face and an
'May I have a word with you, Herr Captain?' I said, with what I
hoped was a judicious blend of authority and conciliation.
He nodded to his companion, who walked on.
'Yes?' he asked rather impatiently.
I proffered him my pass. Thank Heaven he had seen the kind of
thing before, for his face at once took on that curious look which
one person in authority always wears when he is confronted with
another. He studied it closely and then raised his eyes.
'Well, Sir?' he said. 'I observe your credentials. What can I do for
'I take it you are bound for Constantinople?' I asked.
'The boats go as far as Rustchuk,' he replied. 'There the stuff is
transferred to the railway.'
'And you reach Rustchuk when?'
'In ten days, bar accidents. Let us say twelve to be safe.'
'I want to accompany you,' I said. 'In my profession, Herr
Captain, it is necessary sometimes to make journeys by other than
the common route. That is now my desire. I have the right to call
upon some other branch of our country's service to help me. Hence
Very plainly he did not like it.
'I must telegraph about it. My instructions are to let no one
aboard, not even a man like you. I am sorry, Sir, but I must get
authority first before I can fall in with your desire. Besides, my boat
is ill-found. You had better wait for the next batch and ask Dreyser
to take you. I lost Walter today. He was ill when he came aboard -
a disease of the heart - but he would not be persuaded. And last
night he died.'
'Was that him you have been burying?' I asked.
'Even so. He was a good man and my wife's cousin, and now I
have no engineer. Only a fool of a boy from Hamburg. I have just
come from wiring to my owners for a fresh man, but even if he
comes by the quickest train he will scarcely overtake us before
Vienna or even Buda.'
I saw light at last.
'We will go together,' I said, 'and cancel that wire. For behold,
Herr Captain, I am an engineer, and will gladly keep an eye on your
boilers till we get to Rustchuk.'
He looked at me doubtfully.
'I am speaking truth,' I said. 'Before the war I was an engineer in
Damaraland. Mining was my branch, but I had a good general
training, and I know enough to run a river-boat. Have no fear. I
promise you I will earn my passage.'
His face cleared, and he looked what he was, an honest, good-
humoured North German seaman.
'Come then in God's name,' he cried, 'and we will make a
bargain. I will let the telegraph sleep. I require authority from the
Government to take a passenger, but I need none to engage a new