Part 3 out of 6
He sent one of the hands back to the village to cancel his wire.
In ten minutes I found myself on board, and ten minutes later we
were out in mid-stream and our tows were lumbering into line.
Coffee was being made ready in the cabin, and while I waited for it
I picked up the captain's binoculars and scanned the place I had left.
I saw some curious things. On the first road I had struck on
leaving the cottage there were men on bicycles moving rapidly.
They seemed to wear uniform. On the next parallel road, the one
that ran through the village, I could see others. I noticed, too, that
several figures appeared to be beating the intervening fields.
Stumm's cordon had got busy at last, and I thanked my stars that
not one of the villagers had seen me. I had not got away much too
soon, for in another half-hour he would have had me.
The Return of the Straggler
Before I turned in that evening I had done some good hours' work
in the engine-room. The boat was oil-fired, and in very fair order,
so my duties did not look as if they would be heavy. There was
nobody who could be properly called an engineer; only, besides the
furnace-men, a couple of lads from Hamburg who had been a year
ago apprentices in a ship-building yard. They were civil fellows,
both of them consumptive, who did what I told them and said
little. By bedtime, if you had seen me in my blue jumper, a pair of
carpet slippers, and a flat cap - all the property of the deceased
Walter - you would have sworn I had been bred to the firing of
river-boats, whereas I had acquired most of my knowledge on one
run down the Zambesi, when the proper engineer got drunk and
fell overboard among the crocodiles.
The captain - they called him Schenk - was out of his bearings
in the job. He was a Frisian and a first-class deep-water seaman,
but, since he knew the Rhine delta, and because the German mercantile
marine was laid on the ice till the end of war, they had turned
him on to this show. He was bored by the business, and didn't
understand it very well. The river charts puzzled him, and though
it was pretty plain going for hundreds of miles, yet he was in a
perpetual fidget about the pilotage. You could see that he would
have been far more in his element smelling his way through the
shoals of the Ems mouth, or beating against a northeaster in the
shallow Baltic. He had six barges in tow, but the heavy flood of the
Danube made it an easy job except when it came to going slow.
There were two men on each barge, who came aboard every morning
to draw rations. That was a funny business, for we never lay to
if we could help it. There was a dinghy belonging to each barge,
and the men used to row to the next and get a lift in that barge's
dinghy, and so forth. Six men would appear in the dinghy of the
barge nearest us and carry off supplies for the rest. The men were
mostly Frisians, slow-spoken, sandy-haired lads, very like the breed
you strike on the Essex coast.
It was the fact that Schenk was really a deep-water sailor, and so
a novice to the job, that made me get on with him. He was a good
fellow and quite willing to take a hint, so before I had been twenty-
four hours on board he was telling me all his difficulties, and I was
doing my best to cheer him. And difficulties came thick, because
the next night was New Year's Eve.
I knew that that night was a season of gaiety in Scotland, but
Scotland wasn't in it with the Fatherland. Even Schenk, though he
was in charge of valuable stores and was voyaging against time,
was quite clear that the men must have permission for some kind of
beano. Just before darkness we came abreast a fair-sized town,
whose name I never discovered, and decided to lie to for the night.
The arrangement was that one man should be left on guard in each
barge, and the other get four hours' leave ashore. Then he would
return and relieve his friend, who should proceed to do the same
thing. I foresaw that there would be some fun when the first batch
returned, but I did not dare to protest. I was desperately anxious to
get past the Austrian frontier, for I had a half-notion we might be
searched there, but Schenk took his _Sylvesterabend_ business so
seriously that I would have risked a row if I had tried to argue.
The upshot was what I expected. We got the first batch aboard
about midnight, blind to the world, and the others straggled in at
all hours next morning. I stuck to the boat for obvious reasons, but
next day it became too serious, and I had to go ashore with the
captain to try and round up the stragglers. We got them all in but
two, and I am inclined to think these two had never meant to come
back. If I had a soft job like a river-boat I shouldn't be inclined to
run away in the middle of Germany with the certainty that my best
fate would be to be scooped up for the trenches, but your Frisian
has no more imagination than a haddock. The absentees were both
watchmen from the barges, and I fancy the monotony of the life
had got on their nerves.
The captain was in a raging temper, for he was short-handed to
begin with. He would have started a press-gang, but there was no
superfluity of men in that township: nothing but boys and grandfathers.
As I was helping to run the trip I was pretty annoyed also,
and I sluiced down the drunkards with icy Danube water, using all
the worst language I knew in Dutch and German. It was a raw
morning, and as we raged through the river-side streets I remember
I heard the dry crackle of wild geese going overhead, and wished I
could get a shot at them. I told one fellow - he was the most
troublesome - that he was a disgrace to a great Empire, and was
only fit to fight with the filthy English.
'God in Heaven!' said the captain, 'we can delay no longer. We
must make shift the best we can. I can spare one man from the deck
hands, and you must give up one from the engine-room.'
That was arranged, and we were tearing back rather short in the
wind when I espied a figure sitting on a bench beside the booking-
office on the pier. It was a slim figure, in an old suit of khaki: some
cast-off duds which had long lost the semblance of a uniform. It had
a gentle face, and was smoking peacefully, looking out upon the
river and the boats and us noisy fellows with meek philosophical
eyes. If I had seen General French sitting there and looking like
nothing on earth I couldn't have been more surprised.
The man stared at me without recognition. He was waiting for
I spoke rapidly in Sesutu, for I was afraid the captain might
'Where have you come from?' I asked.
'They shut me up in _tronk_,' said Peter, 'and I ran away. I am
tired, Cornelis, and want to continue the journey by boat.'
'Remember you have worked for me in Africa,' I said. 'You are just
home from Damaraland. You are a German who has lived thirty years away
from home. You can tend a furnace and have worked in mines.'
Then I spoke to the captain.
'Here is a fellow who used to be in my employ, Captain Schenk.
It's almighty luck we've struck him. He's old, and not very strong
in the head, but I'll go bail he's a good worker. He says he'll come
with us and I can use him in the engine-room.'
'Stand up,' said the Captain.
Peter stood up, light and slim and wiry as a leopard. A sailor
does not judge men by girth and weight.
'He'll do,' said Schenk, and the next minute he was readjusting
his crews and giving the strayed revellers the rough side of his
tongue. As it chanced, I couldn't keep Peter with me, but had to
send him to one of the barges, and I had time for no more than five
words with him, when I told him to hold his tongue and live up to
his reputation as a half-wit. That accursed _Sylvesterabend_ had played
havoc with the whole outfit, and the captain and I were weary men
before we got things straight.
In one way it turned out well. That afternoon we passed the
frontier and I never knew it till I saw a man in a strange uniform
come aboard, who copied some figures on a schedule, and brought
us a mail. With my dirty face and general air of absorption in duty,
I must have been an unsuspicious figure. He took down the names
of the men in the barges, and Peter's name was given as it appeared
on the ship's roll - Anton Blum.
'You must feel it strange, Herr Brandt,' said the captain, 'to be
scrutinized by a policeman, you who give orders, I doubt not, to
I shrugged my shoulders. 'It is my profession. It is my business
to go unrecognized often by my own servants.' I could see that I
was becoming rather a figure in the captain's eyes. He liked the way
I kept the men up to their work, for I hadn't been a nigger-driver
Late on that Sunday night we passed through a great city which
the captain told me was Vienna. It seemed to last for miles and
miles, and to be as brightly lit as a circus. After that, we were in big
plains and the air grew perishing cold. Peter had come aboard once
for his rations, but usually he left it to his partner, for he was lying
very low. But one morning - I think it was the 5th of January,
when we had passed Buda and were moving through great sodden
flats just sprinkled with snow - the captain took it into his head to
get me to overhaul the barge loads. Armed with a mighty type-
written list, I made a tour of the barges, beginning with the hindmost.
There was a fine old stock of deadly weapons - mostly
machine-guns and some field-pieces, and enough shells to blow up
the Gallipoli peninsula. All kinds of shell were there, from the big
14-inch crumps to rifle grenades and trench-mortars. It made me
fairly sick to see all these good things preparing for our own
fellows, and I wondered whether I would not be doing my best
service if I engineered a big explosion. Happily I had the common
sense to remember my job and my duty and to stick to it.
Peter was in the middle of the convoy, and I found him pretty
unhappy, principally through not being allowed to smoke. His
companion was an ox-eyed lad, whom I ordered to the look-out while
Peter and I went over the lists.
'Cornelis, my old friend,' he said, 'there are some pretty toys
here. With a spanner and a couple of clear hours I could make these
maxims about as deadly as bicycles. What do you say to a try?'
'I've considered that,' I said, 'but it won't do. We're on a bigger
business than wrecking munition convoys. I want to know how
you got here.'
He smiled with that extraordinary Sunday-school docility of his.
'It was very simple, Cornelis. I was foolish in the cafe - but they
have told you of that. You see I was angry and did not reflect.
They had separated us, and I could see would treat me as dirt.
Therefore, my bad temper came out, for, as I have told you, I do
not like Germans.'
Peter gazed lovingly at the little bleak farms which dotted the
'All night I lay in _tronk_ with no food. In the morning they fed
me, and took me hundreds of miles in a train to a place which I
think is called Neuburg. It was a great prison, full of English
officers ... I asked myself many times on the journey what was the
reason of this treatment, for I could see no sense in it. If they
wanted to punish me for insulting them they had the chance to
send me off to the trenches. No one could have objected. If they
thought me useless they could have turned me back to Holland. I
could not have stopped them. But they treated me as if I were a
dangerous man, whereas all their conduct hitherto had shown that
they thought me a fool. I could not understand it.
'But I had not been one night in that Neuburg place before I
thought of the reason. They wanted to keep me under observation as
a check upon you, Cornelis. I figured it out this way. They had given
you some very important work which required them to let you into
some big secret. So far, good. They evidently thought much of you,
even yon Stumm man, though he was as rude as a buffalo. But they
did not know you fully, and they wanted to check on you. That
check they found in Peter Pienaar. Peter was a fool, and if there was
anything to blab, sooner or later Peter would blab it. Then they
would stretch out a long arm and nip you short, wherever you were.
Therefore they must keep old Peter under their eye.'
'That sounds likely enough,' I said.
'It was God's truth,' said Peter. 'And when it was all clear to me
I settled that I must escape. Partly because I am a free man and do
not like to be in prison, but mostly because I was not sure of
myself. Some day my temper would go again, and I might say
foolish things for which Cornelis would suffer. So it was very
certain that I must escape.
'Now, Cornelis, I noticed pretty soon that there were two kinds
among the prisoners. There were the real prisoners, mostly English
and French, and there were humbugs. The humbugs were treated,
apparently, like the others, but not really, as I soon perceived.
There was one man who passed as an English officer, another as a
French Canadian, and the others called themselves Russians. None
of the honest men suspected them, but they were there as spies to
hatch plots for escape and get the poor devils caught in the act, and
to worm out confidences which might be of value. That is the
German notion of good business. I am not a British soldier to think
all men are gentlemen. I know that amongst men there are desperate
_skellums_, so I soon picked up this game. It made me very angry, but
it was a good thing for my plan. I made my resolution to escape the
day I arrived at Neuburg, and on Christmas Day I had a plan
'Peter, you're an old marvel. Do you mean to say you were quite
certain of getting away whenever you wanted?'
'Quite certain, Cornelis. You see, I have been wicked in my time
and know something about the inside of prisons. You may build
them like great castles, or they may be like a backveld _tronk_, only
mud and corrugated iron, but there is always a key and a man who
keeps it, and that man can be bested. I knew I could get away, but I
did not think it would be so easy. That was due to the bogus
prisoners, my friends, the spies.
'I made great pals with them. On Christmas night we were very
jolly together. I think I spotted every one of them the first day. I
bragged about my past and all I had done, and I told them I was
going to escape. They backed me up and promised to help. Next
morning I had a plan. In the afternoon, just after dinner, I had to
go to the commandant's room. They treated me a little differently
from the others, for I was not a prisoner of war, and I went there
to be asked questions and to be cursed as a stupid Dutchman.
There was no strict guard kept there, for the place was on the
second floor, and distant by many yards from any staircase. In the
corridor outside the commandant's room there was a window which
had no bars, and four feet from the window the limb of a great
tree. A man might reach that limb, and if he were active as a
monkey might descend to the ground. Beyond that I knew nothing,
but I am a good climber, Cornelis.
'I told the others of my plan. They said it was good, but no one
offered to come with me. They were very noble; they declared that
the scheme was mine and I should have the fruit of it, for if more
than one tried, detection was certain. I agreed and thanked them -
thanked them with tears in my eyes. Then one of them very secretly
produced a map. We planned out my road, for I was going straight
to Holland. It was a long road, and I had no money, for they had
taken all my sovereigns when I was arrested, but they promised to
get a subscription up among themselves to start me. Again I wept
tears of gratitude. This was on Sunday, the day after Christmas,
and I settled to make the attempt on the Wednesday afternoon.
'Now, Cornelis, when the lieutenant took us to see the British
prisoners, you remember, he told us many things about the ways of
prisons. He told us how they loved to catch a man in the act of
escape, so that they could use him harshly with a clear conscience. I
thought of that, and calculated that now my friends would have
told everything to the commandant, and that they would be waiting
to bottle me on the Wednesday. Till then I reckoned I would be
slackly guarded, for they would look on me as safe in the net ...
'So I went out of the window next day. It was the Monday
'That was a bold stroke,' I said admiringly.
'The plan was bold, but it was not skilful,' said Peter modestly. 'I
had no money beyond seven marks, and I had but one stick of
chocolate. I had no overcoat, and it was snowing hard. Further, I
could not get down the tree, which had a trunk as smooth and
branchless as a blue gum. For a little I thought I should be
compelled to give in, and I was not happy.
'But I had leisure, for I did not think I would be missed before
nightfall, and given time a man can do most things. By and by I
found a branch which led beyond the outer wall of the yard and
hung above the river. This I followed, and then dropped from it
into the stream. It was a drop of some yards, and the water was
very swift, so that I nearly drowned. I would rather swim the
Limpopo, Cornelis, among all the crocodiles than that icy river.
Yet I managed to reach the shore and get my breath lying in the
'After that it was plain going, though I was very cold. I knew
that I would be sought on the northern roads, as I had told my
friends, for no one could dream of an ignorant Dutchman going
south away from his kinsfolk. But I had learned enough from the
map to know that our road lay south-east, and I had marked this
'Did you hope to pick me up?' I asked.
'No, Cornelis. I thought you would be travelling in first-class
carriages while I should be plodding on foot. But I was set on
getting to the place you spoke of (how do you call it? Constant
Nople?), where our big business lay. I thought I might be in time
'You're an old Trojan, Peter,' I said; 'but go on. How did you
get to that landing-stage where I found you?'
'It was a hard journey,' he said meditatively. 'It was not easy to
get beyond the barbed-wire entanglements which surrounded Neuburg -
yes, even across the river. But in time I reached the woods
and was safe, for I did not think any German could equal me in
wild country. The best of them, even their foresters, are but babes
in veldcraft compared with such as me ... My troubles came only
from hunger and cold. Then I met a Peruvian smouse, and sold
him my clothes and bought from him these. [Peter meant a
Polish-Jew pedlar.] I did not want to part with my own, which were
better, but he gave me ten marks on the deal. After that I went into a
village and ate heavily.'
'Were you pursued?' I asked.
'I do not think so. They had gone north, as I expected, and were
looking for me at the railway stations which my friends had marked
for me. I walked happily and put a bold face on it. If I saw a man
or woman look at me suspiciously I went up to them at once and
talked. I told a sad tale, and all believed it. I was a poor Dutchman
travelling home on foot to see a dying mother, and I had been told
that by the Danube I should find the main railway to take me to
Holland. There were kind people who gave me food, and one
woman gave me half a mark, and wished me God speed ... Then
on the last day of the year I came to the river and found many
'Was that when you resolved to get on one of the river-boats?'
'_Ja_, Cornelis. As soon as I heard of the boats I saw where my
chance lay. But you might have knocked me over with a straw
when I saw you come on shore. That was good fortune, my friend
... I have been thinking much about the Germans, and I will tell
you the truth. It is only boldness that can baffle them. They are a
most diligent people. They will think of all likely difficulties, but
not of all possible ones. They have not much imagination. They are
like steam engines which must keep to prepared tracks. There they
will hunt any man down, but let him trek for open country and
they will be at a loss. Therefore boldness, my friend; for ever
boldness. Remember as a nation they wear spectacles, which means
that they are always peering.'
Peter broke off to gloat over the wedges of geese and the strings
of wild swans that were always winging across those plains. His
tale had bucked me up wonderfully. Our luck had held beyond all
belief, and I had a kind of hope in the business now which had
been wanting before. That afternoon, too, I got another fillip.
I came on deck for a breath of air and found it pretty cold after
the heat of the engine-room. So I called to one of the deck hands to
fetch me up my cloak from the cabin - the same I had bought that
first morning in the Greif village.
_'Der grune mantel_?' the man shouted up, and I cried, 'Yes'. But the
words seemed to echo in my ears, and long after he had given me
the garment I stood staring abstractedly over the bulwarks.
His tone had awakened a chord of memory, or, to be accurate,
they had given emphasis to what before had been only blurred and
vague. For he had spoken the words which Stumm had uttered
behind his hand to Gaudian. I had heard something like 'Uhnmantl,'
and could make nothing of it. Now I was as certain of those words
as of my own existence. They had been '_Grune mantel_'. _Grune mantel_,
whatever it might be, was the name which Stumm had not meant
me to hear, which was some talisman for the task I had proposed,
and which was connected in some way with the mysterious von Einem.
This discovery put me in high fettle. I told myself that,
considering the difficulties, I had managed to find out a wonderful
amount in a very few days. It only shows what a man can do with the
slenderest evidence if he keeps chewing and chewing on it ...
Two mornings later we lay alongside the quays at Belgrade, and
I took the opportunity of stretching my legs. Peter had come
ashore for a smoke, and we wandered among the battered riverside
streets, and looked at the broken arches of the great railway bridge
which the Germans were working at like beavers. There was a big
temporary pontoon affair to take the railway across, but I calculated
that the main bridge would be ready inside a month. It was a
clear, cold, blue day, and as one looked south one saw ridge after
ridge of snowy hills. The upper streets of the city were still fairly
whole, and there were shops open where food could be got. I
remember hearing English spoken, and seeing some Red Cross
nurses in the custody of Austrian soldiers coming from the
It would have done me a lot of good to have had a word
with them. I thought of the gallant people whose capital this had
been, how three times they had flung the Austrians back over
the Danube, and then had only been beaten by the black treachery
of their so-called allies. Somehow that morning in Belgrade gave
both Peter and me a new purpose in our task. It was our business
to put a spoke in the wheel of this monstrous bloody juggernaut
that was crushing the life out of the little heroic nations.
We were just getting ready to cast off when a distinguished party
arrived at the quay. There were all kinds of uniforms - German,
Austrian, and Bulgarian, and amid them one stout gentleman in a
fur coat and a black felt hat. They watched the barges up-anchor,
and before we began to jerk into line I could hear their conversation.
The fur coat was talking English.
'I reckon that's pretty good noos, General,' it said; 'if the English
have run away from Gally-poly we can use these noo consignments
for the bigger game. I guess it won't be long before we see the
British lion moving out of Egypt with sore paws.'
They all laughed. 'The privilege of that spectacle may soon be
ours,' was the reply.
I did not pay much attention to the talk; indeed I did not realize
till weeks later that that was the first tidings of the great evacuation
of Cape Helles. What rejoiced me was the sight of Blenkiron, as
bland as a barber among those swells. Here were two of the
missionaries within reasonable distance of their goal.
The Garden-House of Suliman the Red
We reached Rustchuk on January 10th, but by no means landed on
that day. Something had gone wrong with the unloading arrangements,
or more likely with the railway behind them, and we were kept
swinging all day well out in the turbid river. On the top of this Captain
Schenk got an ague, and by that evening was a blue and shivering
wreck. He had done me well, and I reckoned I would stand by him. So
I got his ship's papers, and the manifests of cargo, and undertook to
see to the trans-shipment. It wasn't the first time I had tackled that
kind of business, and I hadn't much to learn about steam cranes. I
told him I was going on to Constantinople and would take Peter
with me, and he was agreeable. He would have to wait at Rustchuk
to get his return cargo, and could easily inspan a fresh engineer.
I worked about the hardest twenty-four hours of my life getting
the stuff ashore. The landing officer was a Bulgarian, quite a competent
man if he could have made the railways give him the trucks he
needed. There was a collection of hungry German transport officers
always putting in their oars, and being infernally insolent to
everybody. I took the high and mighty line with them; and, as I had the
Bulgarian commandant on my side, after about two hours' blasphemy
got them quieted.
But the big trouble came the next morning when I had got
nearly all the stuff aboard the trucks.
A young officer in what I took to be a Turkish uniform rode up
with an aide-de-camp. I noticed the German guards saluting him,
so I judged he was rather a swell. He came up to me and asked me
very civilly in German for the way-bills. I gave him them and he
looked carefully through them, marking certain items with a blue
pencil. Then he coolly handed them to his aide-de-camp and spoke
to him in Turkish.
'Look here, I want these back,' I said. 'I can't do without them,
and we've no time to waste.'
'Presently,' he said, smiling, and went off.
I said nothing, reflecting that the stuff was for the Turks and
they naturally had to have some say in its handling. The loading
was practically finished when my gentleman returned. He handed
me a neatly typed new set of way-bills. One glance at them showed
that some of the big items had been left out.
'Here, this won't do,' I cried. 'Give me back the right set. This
thing's no good to me.'
For answer he winked gently, smiled like a dusky seraph, and
held out his hand. In it I saw a roll of money.
'For yourself,' he said. 'It is the usual custom.'
It was the first time anyone had ever tried to bribe me, and it
made me boil up like a geyser. I saw his game clearly enough.
Turkey would pay for the lot to Germany: probably had already
paid the bill: but she would pay double for the things not on the
way-bills, and pay to this fellow and his friends. This struck me as
rather steep even for Oriental methods of doing business.
'Now look here, Sir,' I said, 'I don't stir from this place till I get
the correct way-bills. If you won't give me them, I will have every
item out of the trucks and make a new list. But a correct list I have,
or the stuff stays here till Doomsday.'
He was a slim, foppish fellow, and he looked more puzzled
'I offer you enough,' he said, again stretching out his hand.
At that I fairly roared. 'If you try to bribe me, you infernal little
haberdasher, I'll have you off that horse and chuck you in the river.'
He no longer misunderstood me. He began to curse and threaten,
but I cut him short.
'Come along to the commandant, my boy,' I said, and I marched
away, tearing up his typewritten sheets as I went and strewing them
behind me like a paper chase.
We had a fine old racket in the commandant's office. I said it was
my business, as representing the German Government, to see the
stuff delivered to the consignee at Constantinople ship-shape and
Bristol-fashion. I told him it wasn't my habit to proceed with cooked
documents. He couldn't but agree with me, but there was that
wrathful Oriental with his face as fixed as a Buddha.
'I am sorry, Rasta Bey,' he said; 'but this man is in the right.'
'I have authority from the Committee to receive the stores,' he
'Those are not my instructions,' was the answer. 'They are
consigned to the Artillery commandant at Chataldja,
General von Oesterzee.'
The man shrugged his shoulders. 'Very well. I will have a word
to say to General von Oesterzee, and many to this fellow who
flouts the Committee.' And he strode away like an impudent boy.
The harassed commandant grinned. 'You've offended his Lordship,
and he is a bad enemy. All those damned Comitadjis are. You
would be well advised not to go on to Constantinople.'
'And have that blighter in the red hat loot the trucks on the
road? No, thank you. I am going to see them safe at Chataldja, or
whatever they call the artillery depot.'
I said a good deal more, but that is an abbreviated translation of
my remarks. My word for 'blighter' was _trottel_, but I used some
other expressions which would have ravished my Young Turk
friend to hear. Looking back, it seems pretty ridiculous to have
made all this fuss about guns which were going to be used against
my own people. But I didn't see that at the time. My professional
pride was up in arms, and I couldn't bear to have a hand in a
'Well, I advise you to go armed,' said the commandant. 'You
will have a guard for the trucks, of course, and I will pick you
good men. They may hold you up all the same. I can't help you
once you are past the frontier, but I'll send a wire to Oesterzee and
he'll make trouble if anything goes wrong. I still think you would
have been wiser to humour Rasta Bey.'
As I was leaving he gave me a telegram. 'Here's a wire for your
Captain Schenk.' I slipped the envelope in my pocket and went Out.
Schenk was pretty sick, so I left a note for him. At one o'clock I
got the train started, with a couple of German Landwehr in each
truck and Peter and I in a horse-box. Presently I remembered
Schenk's telegram, which still reposed in my pocket. I took it out
and opened it, meaning to wire it from the first station we stopped
at. But I changed my mind when I read it. It was from some official
at Regensburg, asking him to put under arrest and send back by the
first boat a man called Brandt, who was believed to have come
aboard at Absthafen on the 30th of December.
I whistled and showed it to Peter. The sooner we were at
Constantinople the better, and I prayed we would get there before the
fellow who sent this wire repeated it and got the commandant to
send on the message and have us held up at Chataldja. For my back
had fairly got stiffened about these munitions, and I was going to
take any risk to see them safely delivered to their proper owner.
Peter couldn't understand me at all. He still hankered after a grand
destruction of the lot somewhere down the railway. But then, this
wasn't the line of Peter's profession, and his pride was not at stake.
We had a mortally slow journey. It was bad enough in Bulgaria,
but when we crossed the frontier at a place called Mustafa Pasha we
struck the real supineness of the East. Happily I found a German
officer there who had some notion of hustling, and, after all, it was
his interest to get the stuff moved. It was the morning of the 16th,
after Peter and I had been living like pigs on black bread and
condemned tin stuff, that we came in sight of a blue sea on our
right hand and knew we couldn't be very far from the end.
It was jolly near the end in another sense. We stopped at a
station and were stretching our legs on the platform when I saw a
familiar figure approaching. It was Rasta, with half a dozen
I called Peter, and we clambered into the truck next our horse-
box. I had been half expecting some move like this and had made a plan.
The Turk swaggered up and addressed us. 'You can get back to
Rustchuk,' he said. 'I take over from you here. Hand me the papers.'
'Is this Chataldja?' I asked innocently.
'It is the end of your affair,' he said haughtily. 'Quick, or it will
be the worse for you.'
'Now, look here, my son,' I said; 'you're a kid and know nothing.
I hand over to General von Oesterzee and to no one else.'
'You are in Turkey,' he cried, 'and will obey the
'I'll obey the Government right enough,' I said; 'but if you're the
Government I could make a better one with a bib and a rattle.'
He said something to his men, who unslung their rifles.
'Please don't begin shooting,' I said. 'There are twelve armed
guards in this train who will take their orders from me. Besides, I
and my friend can shoot a bit.'
'Fool!' he cried, getting very angry. 'I can order up a regiment in
'Maybe you can,' I said; 'but observe the situation. I am sitting
on enough toluol to blow up this countryside. If you dare to come
aboard I will shoot you. If you call in your regiment I will tell you
what I'll do. I'll fire this stuff, and I reckon they'll be picking up
the bits of you and your regiment off the Gallipoli Peninsula.'
He had put up a bluff - a poor one - and I had called it. He saw
I meant what I said, and became silken.
'Good-bye, Sir,' he said. 'You have had a fair chance and rejected
it. We shall meet again soon, and you will be sorry for your
He strutted away and it was all I could do to keep from running
after him. I wanted to lay him over my knee and spank him.
We got safely to Chataldja, and were received by von Oesterzee
like long-lost brothers. He was the regular gunner-officer, not thinking
about anything except his guns and shells. I had to wait about
three hours while he was checking the stuff with the invoices, and
then he gave me a receipt which I still possess. I told him about
Rasta, and he agreed that I had done right. It didn't make him as
mad as I expected, because, you see, he got his stuff safe in any
case. It was only that the wretched Turks had to pay twice for the
lot of it.
He gave Peter and me luncheon, and was altogether very civil
and inclined to talk about the war. I would have liked to hear what
he had to say, for it would have been something to get the inside
view of Germany's Eastern campaign, but I did not dare to wait.
Any moment there might arrive an incriminating wire from Rustchuk.
Finally he lent us a car to take us the few miles to the city.
So it came about that at five past three on the 16th day of January,
with only the clothes we stood up in, Peter and I entered Constantinople.
I was in considerable spirits, for I had got the final lap successfully
over, and I was looking forward madly to meeting my friends; but,
all the same, the first sight was a mighty disappointment. I don't
quite know what I had expected - a sort of fairyland Eastern city,
all white marble and blue water, and stately Turks in surplices, and
veiled houris, and roses and nightingales, and some sort of string
band discoursing sweet music. I had forgotten that winter is pretty
much the same everywhere. It was a drizzling day, with a south-
east wind blowing, and the streets were long troughs of mud. The
first part I struck looked like a dingy colonial suburb - wooden
houses and corrugated iron roofs, and endless dirty, sallow children.
There was a cemetery, I remember, with Turks' caps stuck at the
head of each grave. Then we got into narrow steep streets which
descended to a kind of big canal. I saw what I took to be mosques
and minarets, and they were about as impressive as factory chimneys.
By and by we crossed a bridge, and paid a penny for the
privilege. If I had known it was the famous Golden Horn I would
have looked at it with more interest, but I saw nothing save a lot of
moth-eaten barges and some queer little boats like gondolas. Then
we came into busier streets, where ramshackle cabs drawn by lean
horses spluttered through the mud. I saw one old fellow who
looked like my notion of a Turk, but most of the population had
the appearance of London old-clothes men. All but the soldiers,
Turk and German, who seemed well-set-up fellows.
Peter had paddled along at my side like a faithful dog, not saying
a word, but clearly not approving of this wet and dirty metropolis.
'Do you know that we are being followed, Cornelis?' he said
suddenly, 'ever since we came into this evil-smelling dorp.'
Peter was infallible in a thing like that. The news scared me
badly, for I feared that the telegram had come to Chataldja. Then I
thought it couldn't be that, for if von Oesterzee had wanted me he
wouldn't have taken the trouble to stalk me. It was more likely my
I found the ferry of Ratchik by asking a soldier and a German
sailor there told me where the Kurdish Bazaar was. He pointed up
a steep street which ran past a high block of warehouses with every
window broken. Sandy had said the left-hand side coming down,
so it must be the right-hand side going up. We plunged into it, and
it was the filthiest place of all. The wind whistled up it and stirred
the garbage. It seemed densely inhabited, for at all the doors there
were groups of people squatting, with their heads covered, though
scarcely a window showed in the blank walls.
The street corkscrewed endlessly. Sometimes it seemed to stop;
then it found a hole in the opposing masonry and edged its way in.
Often it was almost pitch dark; then would come a greyish twilight
where it opened out to the width of a decent lane. To find a house
in that murk was no easy job, and by the time we had gone a
quarter of a mile I began to fear we had missed it. It was no good
asking any of the crowd we met. They didn't look as if they
understood any civilized tongue.
At last we stumbled on it - a tumble-down coffee house, with
A. Kuprasso above the door in queer amateur lettering. There was
a lamp burning inside, and two or three men smoking at small
We ordered coffee, thick black stuff like treacle, which Peter
anathematized. A negro brought it, and I told him in German I
wanted to speak to Mr Kuprasso. He paid no attention, so I
shouted louder at him, and the noise brought a man out of the back
He was a fat, oldish fellow with a long nose, very like the Greek
traders you see on the Zanzibar coast. I beckoned to him and he
waddled forward, smiling oilily. Then I asked him what he would
take, and he replied, in very halting German, that he would have a sirop.
'You are Mr Kuprasso,' I said. 'I wanted to show this place to
my friend. He has heard of your garden-house and the fun there.'
'The Signor is mistaken. I have no garden-house.'
'Rot,' I said; 'I've been here before, my boy. I recall your shanty
at the back and many merry nights there. What was it you called it?
Oh, I remember - the Garden-House of Suliman the Red.'
He put his finger to his lip and looked incredibly sly. 'The
Signor remembers that. But that was in the old happy days before
war came. The place is long since shut. The people here are too
poor to dance and sing.'
'All the same I would like to have another look at it,' I said, and
I slipped an English sovereign into his hand.
He glanced at it in surprise and his manner changed. 'The Signor
is a Prince, and I will do his will.' He clapped his hands and the
negro appeared, and at his nod took his place behind a
'Follow me,' he said, and led us through a long, noisome passage,
which was pitch dark and very unevenly paved. Then he unlocked
a door and with a swirl the wind caught it and blew it back on us.
We were looking into a mean little yard, with on one side a high
curving wall, evidently of great age, with bushes growing in the
cracks of it. Some scraggy myrtles stood in broken pots, and nettles
flourished in a corner. At one end was a wooden building like a
dissenting chapel, but painted a dingy scarlet. Its windows and
skylights were black with dirt, and its door, tied up with rope,
flapped in the wind.
'Behold the Pavilion,' Kuprasso said proudly.
'That is the old place,' I observed with feeling. 'What times I've
seen there! Tell me, Mr Kuprasso, do you ever open it now?'
He put his thick lips to my ear.
'If the Signor will be silent I will tell him. It is sometimes open -
not often. Men must amuse themselves even in war. Some of the
German officers come here for their pleasure, and but last week we
had the ballet of Mademoiselle Cici. The police approve - but not
often, for this is no time for too much gaiety. I will tell you a
secret. Tomorrow afternoon there will be dancing - wonderful
dancing! Only a few of my patrons know. Who, think you, will be
He bent his head closer and said in a whisper -
'The Compagnie des Heures Roses.'
'Oh, indeed,' I said with a proper tone of respect, though I
hadn't a notion what he meant.
'Will the Signor wish to come?'
'Sure,' I said. 'Both of us. We're all for the rosy hours.'
'Then the fourth hour after midday. Walk straight through the
cafe and one will be there to unlock the door. You are new-comers here?
Take the advice of Angelo Kuprasso and avoid the streets after nightfall.
Stamboul is no safe place nowadays for quiet men.'
I asked him to name a hotel, and he rattled off a list from which
I chose one that sounded modest and in keeping with our get-up. It
was not far off, only a hundred yards to the right at the top of
When we left his door the night had begun to drop. We hadn't
gone twenty yards before Peter drew very near to me and kept
turning his head like a hunted stag.
'We are being followed close, Cornelis,' he said calmly.
Another ten yards and we were at a cross-roads, where a little
_place_ faced a biggish mosque. I could see in the waning light a
crowd of people who seemed to be moving towards us. I heard a
high-pitched voice cry out a jabber of excited words, and it seemed
to me that I had heard the voice before.
The Companions of the Rosy Hours
We battled to a corner, where a jut of building stood out into the
street. It was our only chance to protect our backs, to stand up with
the rib of stone between us. It was only the work of seconds. One
instant we were groping our solitary way in the darkness, the next
we were pinned against a wall with a throaty mob surging round us.
It took me a moment or two to realize that we were attacked.
Every man has one special funk in the back of his head, and mine
was to be the quarry of an angry crowd. I hated the thought of it -
the mess, the blind struggle, the sense of unleashed passions different
from those of any single blackguard. It was a dark world to me,
and I don't like darkness. But in my nightmares I had never
imagined anything just like this. The narrow, fetid street, with the
icy winds fanning the filth, the unknown tongue, the hoarse savage
murmur, and my utter ignorance as to what it might all be about,
made me cold in the pit of my stomach.
'We've got it in the neck this time, old man,' I said to Peter, who
had out the pistol the commandant at Rustchuk had given him.
These pistols were our only weapons. The crowd saw them and
hung back, but if they chose to rush us it wasn't much of a barrier
two pistols would make.
Rasta's voice had stopped. He had done his work, and had
retired to the background. There were shouts from the crowd -
'_Alleman_' and a word '_Khafiyeh_' constantly repeated. I didn't know
what it meant at the time, but now I know that they were after us
because we were Boches and spies. There was no love lost between
the Constantinople scum and their new masters. It seemed an
ironical end for Peter and me to be done in because we were
Boches. And done in we should be. I had heard of the East as a
good place for people to disappear in; there were no inquisitive
newspapers or incorruptible police.
I wished to Heaven I had a word of Turkish. But I made my
voice heard for a second in a pause of the din, and shouted that we
were German sailors who had brought down big guns for Turkey,
and were going home next day. I asked them what the devil they
thought we had done? I don't know if any fellow there understood
German; anyhow, it only brought a pandemonium of cries in which
that ominous word _Khafiyeh_ was predominant.
Then Peter fired over their heads. He had to, for a chap was
pawing at his throat. The answer was a clatter of bullets on the wall
above us. It looked as if they meant to take us alive, and that I was
very clear should not happen. Better a bloody end in a street scrap
than the tender mercies of that bandbox bravo.
I don't quite know what happened next. A press drove down at
me and I fired. Someone squealed, and I looked the next moment
to be strangled. And then, suddenly, the scrimmage ceased, and
there was a wavering splash of light in that pit of darkness.
I never went through many worse minutes than these. When I
had been hunted in the past weeks there had been mystery enough,
but no immediate peril to face. When I had been up against a real,
urgent, physical risk, like Loos, the danger at any rate had been
clear. One knew what one was in for. But here was a threat I
couldn't put a name to, and it wasn't in the future, but pressing
hard at our throats.
And yet I couldn't feel it was quite real. The patter of the pistol
bullets against the wall, like so many crackers, the faces felt rather
than seen in the dark, the clamour which to me was pure gibberish,
had all the madness of a nightmare. Only Peter, cursing steadily in
Dutch by my side, was real. And then the light came, and made the
scene more eerie!
It came from one or two torches carried by wild fellows with
long staves who drove their way into the heart of the mob. The
flickering glare ran up the steep walls and made monstrous shadows.
The wind swung the flame into long streamers, dying away in a fan
And now a new word was heard in the crowd. It was _Chinganeh_,
shouted not in anger but in fear.
At first I could not see the newcomers. They were hidden in the
deep darkness under their canopy of light, for they were holding
their torches high at the full stretch of their arms. They were
shouting, too, wild shrill cries ending sometimes in a gush of rapid
speech. Their words did not seem to be directed against us, but
against the crowd. A sudden hope came to me that for some
unknown reason they were on our side.
The press was no longer heavy against us. It was thinning rapidly
and I could hear the scuffle as men made off down the side streets.
My first notion was that these were the Turkish police. But I
changed my mind when the leader came out into a patch of light.
He carried no torch, but a long stave with which he belaboured the
heads of those who were too tightly packed to flee.
It was the most eldritch apparition you can conceive. A tall man
dressed in skins, with bare legs and sandal-shod feet. A wisp of
scarlet cloth clung to his shoulders, and, drawn over his head down
close to his eyes, was a skull-cap of some kind of pelt with the tail
waving behind it. He capered like a wild animal, keeping up a
strange high monotone that fairly gave me the creeps.
I was suddenly aware that the crowd had gone. Before us was
only this figure and his half-dozen companions, some carrying
torches and all wearing clothes of skin. But only the one who
seemed to be their leader wore the skull-cap; the rest had bare
heads and long tangled hair.
The fellow was shouting gibberish at me. His eyes were glassy,
like a man who smokes hemp, and his legs were never still for a
second. You would think such a figure no better than a mountebank,
and yet there was nothing comic in it. Fearful and sinister
and uncanny it was; and I wanted to do anything but laugh.
As he shouted he kept pointing with his stave up the street
which climbed the hillside.
'He means us to move,' said Peter. 'For God's sake let us get
away from this witch-doctor.'
I couldn't make sense of it, but one thing was clear. These
maniacs had delivered us for the moment from Rasta and his friends.
Then I did a dashed silly thing. I pulled out a sovereign and
offered it to the leader. I had some kind of notion of showing
gratitude, and as I had no words I had to show it by deed.
He brought his stick down on my wrist and sent the coin spinning
in the gutter. His eyes blazed, and he made his weapon sing round
my head. He cursed me - oh, I could tell cursing well enough,
though I didn't follow a word; and he cried to his followers and
they cursed me too. I had offered him a mortal insult and stirred up
a worse hornet's nest than Rasta's push.
Peter and I, with a common impulse, took to our heels. We were
not looking for any trouble with demoniacs. Up the steep, narrow
lane we ran with that bedlamite crowd at our heels. The torches
seemed to have gone out, for the place was black as pitch, and we
tumbled over heaps of offal and splashed through running drains.
The men were close behind us, and more than once I felt a stick on
my shoulder. But fear lent us wings, and suddenly before us was a
blaze of light and we saw the debouchment of our street in a main
thoroughfare. The others saw it, too, for they slackened off. Just
before we reached the light we stopped and looked round. There
was no sound or sight behind us in the dark lane which dipped to
'This is a queer country, Cornelis,' said Peter, feeling his limbs
for bruises. 'Too many things happen in too short a time. I am
The big street we had struck seemed to run along the crest of the
hill. There were lamps in it, and crawling cabs, and quite civilized-
looking shops. We soon found the hotel to which Kuprasso had
directed us, a big place in a courtyard with a very tumble-down-
looking portico, and green sun-shutters which rattled drearily in
the winter's wind. It proved, as I had feared, to be packed to the
door, mostly with German officers. With some trouble I got an
interview with the proprietor, the usual Greek, and told him that
we had been sent there by Mr Kuprasso. That didn't affect him in
the least, and we would have been shot into the street if I hadn't
remembered about Stumm's pass.
So I explained that we had come from Germany with munitions
and only wanted rooms for one night. I showed him the pass and
blustered a good deal, till he became civil and said he would do the
best he could for us.
That best was pretty poor. Peter and I were doubled up in a
small room which contained two camp-beds and little else, and had
broken windows through which the wind whistled. We had a
Wretched dinner of stringy mutton, boiled with vegetables, and a
white cheese strong enough to raise the dead. But I got a bottle of
whisky, for which I paid a sovereign, and we managed to light the
stove in our room, fasten the shutters, and warm our hearts with
a brew of toddy. After that we went to bed and slept like logs
for twelve hours. On the road from Rustchuk we had had uneasy
I woke next morning and, looking out from the broken window,
saw that it was snowing. With a lot of trouble I got hold of a
servant and made him bring us some of the treacly Turkish coffee.
We were both in pretty low spirits. 'Europe is a poor cold place,'
said Peter, 'not worth fighting for. There is only one white man's
land, and that is South Africa.' At the time I heartily agreed with him.
I remember that, sitting on the edge of my bed, I took stock of
our position. It was not very cheering. We seemed to have been
amassing enemies at a furious pace. First of all, there was Rasta,
whom I had insulted and who wouldn't forget it in a hurry. He had
his crowd of Turkish riff-raff and was bound to get us sooner or
later. Then there was the maniac in the skin hat. He didn't like
Rasta, and I made a guess that he and his weird friends were of
some party hostile to the Young Turks. But, on the other hand, he
didn't like us, and there would be bad trouble the next time we met
him. Finally, there was Stumm and the German Government. It
could only be a matter of hours at the best before he got the
Rustchuk authorities on our trail. It would be easy to trace us from
Chataldja, and once they had us we were absolutely done. There
was a big black _dossier_ against us, which by no conceivable piece of
luck could be upset.
it was very clear to me that, unless we could find sanctuary and
shed all our various pursuers during this day, we should be done in
for good and all. But where on earth were we to find sanctuary?
We had neither of us a word of the language, and there was no way
I could see of taking on new characters. For that we wanted friends
and help, and I could think of none anywhere. Somewhere, to be
sure, there was Blenkiron, but how could we get in touch with
him? As for Sandy, I had pretty well given him up. I always
thought his enterprise the craziest of the lot and bound to fail. He
was probably somewhere in Asia Minor, and a month or two later
would get to Constantinople and hear in some pot-house the yarn
of the two wretched Dutchmen who had disappeared so soon from
That rendezvous at Kuprasso's was no good. It would have been
all right if we had got here unsuspected, and could have gone on
quietly frequenting the place till Blenkiron picked us up. But to do
that we wanted leisure and secrecy, and here we were with a pack
of hounds at our heels. The place was horribly dangerous already.
If we showed ourselves there we should be gathered in by Rasta, or
by the German military police, or by the madman in the skin cap. It
was a stark impossibility to hang about on the off-chance of
I reflected with some bitterness that this was the 17th day of
January, the day of our assignation. I had had high hopes all the
way down the Danube of meeting with Blenkiron - for I knew he
would be in time - of giving him the information I had had the
good fortune to collect, of piecing it together with what he had
found out, and of getting the whole story which Sir Walter
hungered for. After that, I thought it wouldn't be hard to get away
by Rumania, and to get home through Russia. I had hoped to be
back with my battalion in February, having done as good a bit of
work as anybody in the war. As it was, it looked as if my information
would die with me, unless I could find Blenkiron before the evening.
I talked the thing over with Peter, and he agreed that we were
fairly up against it. We decided to go to Kuprasso's that afternoon,
and to trust to luck for the rest. It wouldn't do to wander about the
streets, so we sat tight in our room all morning, and swopped old
hunting yarns to keep our minds from the beastly present. We
got some food at midday - cold mutton and the same cheese,
and finished our whisky. Then I paid the bill, for I didn't dare to
stay there another night. About half-past three we went into the
street, without the foggiest notion where we would find our
It was snowing heavily, which was a piece of luck for us. Poor
old Peter had no greatcoat, so we went into a Jew's shop and
bought a ready-made abomination, which looked as if it might have
been meant for a dissenting parson. It was no good saving my
money when the future was so black. The snow made the streets
deserted, and we turned down the long lane which led to Ratchik
ferry, and found it perfectly quiet. I do not think we met a soul till
we got to Kuprasso's shop.
We walked straight through the cafe, which was empty, and
down the dark passage, till we were stopped by the garden door. I
knocked and it swung open. There was the bleak yard, now puddled
with snow, and a blaze of light from the pavilion at the other end.
There was a scraping of fiddles, too, and the sound of human talk.
We paid the negro at the door, and passed from the bitter afternoon
into a garish saloon.
There were forty or fifty people there, drinking coffee and sirops
and filling the air with the fumes of latakia. Most of them were
Turks in European clothes and the fez, but there were some German
officers and what looked like German civilians - Army Service
Corps clerks, probably, and mechanics from the Arsenal. A woman
in cheap finery was tinkling at the piano, and there were several
shrill females with the officers. Peter and I sat down modestly in
the nearest corner, where old Kuprasso saw us and sent us coffee.
A girl who looked like a Jewess came over to us and talked French,
but I shook my head and she went off again.
Presently a girl came on the stage and danced, a silly affair, all a
clashing of tambourines and wriggling. I have seen native women
do the same thing better in a Mozambique kraal. Another sang a
German song, a simple, sentimental thing about golden hair and
rainbows, and the Germans present applauded. The place was so
tinselly and common that, coming to it from weeks of rough
travelling, it made me impatient. I forgot that, while for the others
it might be a vulgar little dancing-hall, for us it was as perilous as
a brigands' den.
Peter did not share my mood. He was quite interested in it, as he
was interested in everything new. He had a genius for living
in the moment.
I remember there was a drop-scene on which was daubed a blue
lake with very green hills in the distance. As the tobacco smoke
grew thicker and the fiddles went on squealing, this tawdry picture
began to mesmerize me. I seemed to be looking out of a window at
a lovely summer landscape where there were no wars or danger. I
seemed to feel the warm sun and to smell the fragrance of blossom
from the islands. And then I became aware that a queer scent had
stolen into the atmosphere.
There were braziers burning at both ends to warm the room, and
the thin smoke from these smelt like incense. Somebody had been
putting a powder in the flames, for suddenly the place became very
quiet. The fiddles still sounded, but far away like an echo. The
lights went down, all but a circle on the stage, and into that circle
stepped my enemy of the skin cap.
He had three others with him. I heard a whisper behind me, and
the words were those which Kuprasso had used the day before.
These bedlamites were called the Companions of the Rosy Hours,
and Kuprasso had promised great dancing.
I hoped to goodness they would not see us, for they had fairly
given me the horrors. Peter felt the same, and we both made
ourselves very small in that dark corner. But the newcomers had no
eyes for us.
In a twinkling the pavilion changed from a common saloon,
which might have been in Chicago or Paris, to a place of mystery -
yes, and of beauty. It became the Garden-House of Suliman the Red,
whoever that sportsman may have been. Sandy had said that the
ends of the earth converged there, and he had been right. I lost all
consciousness of my neighbours - stout German, frock-coated
Turk, frowsy Jewess - and saw only strange figures leaping in a
circle of light, figures that came out of the deepest darkness to
make a big magic.
The leader flung some stuff into the brazier, and a great fan of
blue light flared up. He was weaving circles, and he was singing
something shrill and high, whilst his companions made a chorus
with their deep monotone. I can't tell you what the dance was. I
had seen the Russian ballet just before the war, and one of the men
in it reminded me of this man. But the dancing was the least part of
it. It was neither sound nor movement nor scent that wrought the
spell, but something far more potent. In an instant I found myself
reft away from the present with its dull dangers, and looking at a
world all young and fresh and beautiful. The gaudy drop-scene had
vanished. It was a window I was looking from, and I was gazing at
the finest landscape on earth, lit by the pure clean light of morning.
It seemed to be part of the veld, but like no veld I had ever seen.
It was wider and wilder and more gracious. Indeed, I was looking
at my first youth. I was feeling the kind of immortal light-
heartedness which only a boy knows in the dawning of his days. I
had no longer any fear of these magic-makers. They were kindly
wizards, who had brought me into fairyland.
Then slowly from the silence there distilled drops of music. They
came like water falling a long way into a cup, each the essential
quality of pure sound. We, with our elaborate harmonies, have
forgotten the charm of single notes. The African natives know it,
and I remember a learned man once telling me that the Greeks had
the same art. Those silver bells broke out of infinite space, so
exquisite and perfect that no mortal words could have been fitted
to them. That was the music, I expect, that the morning stars made
when they sang together.
Slowly, very slowly, it changed. The glow passed from blue to
purple, and then to an angry red. Bit by bit the notes spun together
till they had made a harmony - a fierce, restless harmony. And I
was conscious again of the skin-clad dancers beckoning out of
There was no mistake about the meaning now. All the daintiness
and youth had fled, and passion was beating the air - terrible,
savage passion, which belonged neither to day nor night, life nor
death, but to the half-world between them. I suddenly felt the
dancers as monstrous, inhuman, devilish. The thick scents that
floated from the brazier seemed to have a tang of new-shed blood.
Cries broke from the hearers - cries of anger and lust and terror. I
heard a woman sob, and Peter, who is as tough as any mortal, took
tight hold of my arm.
I now realized that these Companions of the Rosy Hours were
the only thing in the world to fear. Rasta and Stumm seemed feeble
simpletons by contrast. The window I had been looking out of was
changed to a prison wall - I could see the mortar between the
massive blocks. In a second these devils would be smelling out
their enemies like some foul witch-doctors. I felt the burning eyes
of their leader looking for me in the gloom. Peter was praying
audibly beside me, and I could have choked him. His infernal
chatter would reveal us, for it seemed to me that there was no one
in the place except us and the magic-workers.
Then suddenly the spell was broken. The door was flung open
and a great gust of icy wind swirled through the hall, driving
clouds of ashes from the braziers. I heard loud voices without, and
a hubbub began inside. For a moment it was quite dark, and then
someone lit one of the flare lamps by the stage. It revealed nothing
but the common squalor of a low saloon - white faces, sleepy eyes,
and frowsy heads. The drop-piece was there in all its tawdriness.
The Companions of the Rosy Hours had gone. But at the door
stood men in uniform, I heard a German a long way off murmur,
'Enver's bodyguards,' and I heard him distinctly; for, though I
could not see clearly, my hearing was desperately acute. That is
often the way when you suddenly come out of a swoon.
The place emptied like magic. Turk and German tumbled over
each other, while Kuprasso wailed and wept. No one seemed to
stop them, and then I saw the reason. Those Guards had come for
us. This must be Stumm at last. The authorities had tracked us
down, and it was all up with Peter and me.
A sudden revulsion leaves a man with a low vitality. I didn't
seem to care greatly. We were done, and there was an end of it. It
was Kismet, the act of God, and there was nothing for it but to
submit. I hadn't a flicker of a thought of escape or resistance. The
game was utterly and absolutely over.
A man who seemed to be a sergeant pointed to us and said
something to Kuprasso, who nodded. We got heavily to our feet
and stumbled towards them. With one on each side of us we
crossed the yard, walked through the dark passage and the empty
shop, and out into the snowy street. There was a closed carriage
waiting which they motioned us to get into. It looked exactly like
the Black Maria.
Both of us sat still, like truant schoolboys, with our hands on our
knees. I didn't know where I was going and I didn't care. We
seemed to be rumbling up the hill, and then I caught the glare of
'This is the end of it, Peter,' I said.
'_Ja_, Cornelis,' he replied, and that was all our talk.
By and by - hours later it seemed - we stopped. Someone
opened the door and we got out, to find ourselves in a courtyard
with a huge dark building around. The prison, I guessed, and I
wondered if they would give us blankets, for it was perishing cold.
We entered a door, and found ourselves in a big stone hall. It
was quite warm, which made me more hopeful about our cells. A
man in some kind of uniform pointed to the staircase, up which we
plodded wearily. My mind was too blank to take clear impressions,
or in any way to forecast the future. Another warder met us and
took us down a passage till we halted at a door. He stood aside and
motioned us to enter.
I guessed that this was the governor's room, and we should be
put through our first examination. My head was too stupid to
think, and I made up my mind to keep perfectly mum. Yes, even if
they tried thumbscrews. I had no kind of story, but I resolved not
to give anything away. As I turned the handle I wondered idly
what kind of sallow Turk or bulging-necked German we should
It was a pleasant room, with a polished wood floor and a big fire
burning on the hearth. Beside the fire a man lay on a couch, with a
little table drawn up beside him. On that table was a small glass of
milk and a number of Patience cards spread in rows.
I stared blankly at the spectacle, till I saw a second figure. It was
the man in the skin-cap, the leader of the dancing maniacs. Both
Peter and I backed sharply at the sight and then stood stock still.
For the dancer crossed the room in two strides and gripped both
of my hands.
'Dick, old man,' he cried, 'I'm most awfully glad to see you again!'
Four Missionaries See Light in their Mission
A spasm of incredulity, a vast relief, and that sharp joy which
comes of reaction chased each other across my mind. I had come
suddenly out of very black waters into an unbelievable calm. I
dropped into the nearest chair and tried to grapple with something
far beyond words.
'Sandy,' I said, as soon as I got my breath, 'you're an incarnate
devil. You've given Peter and me the fright of our lives.'
'It was the only way, Dick. If I hadn't come mewing like a tom-cat
at your heels yesterday, Rasta would have had you long before you
got to your hotel. You two have given me a pretty anxious time,
and it took some doing to get you safe here. However, that is all
over now. Make yourselves at home, my children.'
'Over!' I cried incredulously, for my wits were still wool-
gathering. 'What place is this?'
'You may call it my humble home' - it was Blenkiron's sleek
voice that spoke. 'We've been preparing for you, Major, but it was
only yesterday I heard of your friend.'
I introduced Peter.
'Mr Pienaar,' said Blenkiron, 'pleased to meet you. Well, as I was
observing, you're safe enough here, but you've cut it mighty fine.
Officially, a Dutchman called Brandt was to be arrested this afternoon
and handed over to the German authorities. When Germany
begins to trouble about that Dutchman she will find difficulty in
getting the body; but such are the languid ways of an Oriental
despotism. Meantime the Dutchman will be no more. He will have
ceased upon the midnight without pain, as your poet sings.'
'But I don't understand,' I stammered. 'Who arrested us?'
'My men,' said Sandy. 'We have a bit of a graft here, and it
wasn't difficult to manage it. Old Moellendorff will be nosing after
the business tomorrow, but he will find the mystery too deep for
him. That is the advantage of a Government run by a pack of
adventurers. But, by Jove, Dick, we hadn't any time to spare. If
Rasta had got you, or the Germans had had the job of lifting you,
your goose would have been jolly well cooked. I had some unquiet
hours this morning.'
The thing was too deep for me. I looked at Blenkiron, shuffling
his Patience cards with his old sleepy smile, and Sandy, dressed like
some bandit in melodrama, his lean face as brown as a nut, his bare
arms all tattooed with crimson rings, and the fox pelt drawn tight
over brow and ears. It was still a nightmare world, but the dream
was getting pleasanter. Peter said not a word, but I could see his
eyes heavy with his own thoughts.
Blenkiron hove himself from the sofa and waddled to a cupboard.
'You boys must be hungry,' he said. 'My duo-denum has been
giving me hell as usual, and I don't eat no more than a squirrel. But
I laid in some stores, for I guessed you would want to stoke up
some after your travels.'
He brought out a couple of Strassburg pies, a cheese, a cold
chicken, a loaf, and three bottles of champagne.
'Fizz,' said Sandy rapturously. 'And a dry Heidsieck too! We're
in luck, Dick, old man.'
I never ate a more welcome meal, for we had starved in that
dirty hotel. But I had still the old feeling of the hunted, and before
I began I asked about the door.
'That's all right,' said Sandy. 'My fellows are on the stair and at
the gate. If the _Metreb_ are in possession, you may bet that other
people will keep off. Your past is blotted out, clean vanished away,
and you begin tomorrow morning with a new sheet. Blenkiron's
the man you've got to thank for that. He was pretty certain you'd
get here, but he was also certain that you'd arrive in a hurry with a
good many inquirers behind you. So he arranged that you should
leak away and start fresh.'
'Your name is Richard Hanau,' Blenkiron said, 'born in Cleveland,
Ohio, of German parentage on both sides. One of our brightest mining-
engineers, and the apple of Guggenheim's eye. You arrived this
afternoon from Constanza, and I met you at the packet.
The clothes for the part are in your bedroom next door. But I guess
all that can wait, for I'm anxious to get to business. We're not here
on a joy-ride, Major, so I reckon we'll leave out the dime-novel
adventures. I'm just dying to hear them, but they'll keep. I want to
know how our mutual inquiries have prospered.'
He gave Peter and me cigars, and we sat ourselves in armchairs
in front of the blaze. Sandy squatted cross-legged on the hearthrug
and lit a foul old briar pipe, which he extricated from some pouch
among his skins. And so began that conversation which had never
been out of my thoughts for four hectic weeks.
'If I presume to begin,' said Blenkiron, 'it's because I reckon my
story is the shortest. I have to confess to you, gentlemen, that I
He drew down the corners of his mouth till he looked a cross
between a music-hall comedian and a sick child.
'If you were looking for something in the root of the hedge, you
wouldn't want to scour the road in a high-speed automobile. And
still less would you want to get a bird's-eye view in an aeroplane.
That parable about fits my case. I have been in the clouds and I've
been scorching on the pikes, but what I was wanting was in the
ditch all the time, and I naturally missed it ... I had the wrong
stunt, Major. I was too high up and refined. I've been processing
through Europe like Barnum's Circus, and living with generals and
transparencies. Not that I haven't picked up a lot of noos, and got
some very interesting sidelights on high politics. But the thing I
was after wasn't to be found on my beat, for those that knew it
weren't going to tell. In that kind of society they don't get drunk
and blab after their tenth cocktail. So I guess I've no contribution
to make to quieting Sir Walter Bullivant's mind, except that he's
dead right. Yes, Sir, he has hit the spot and rung the bell. There is a
mighty miracle-working proposition being floated in these parts,
but the promoters are keeping it to themselves. They aren't taking
in more than they can help on the ground-floor.'
Blenkiron stopped to light a fresh cigar. He was leaner than
when he left London and there were pouches below his eyes. I
fancy his journey had not been as fur-lined as he made out.
'I've found out one thing, and that is, that the last dream Germany
will part with is the control of the Near East. That is what
your statesmen don't figure enough on. She'll give up Belgium and
Alsace-Lorraine and Poland, but by God! she'll never give up the
road to Mesopotamia till you have her by the throat and make her
drop it. Sir Walter is a pretty bright-eyed citizen, and he sees it
right enough. If the worst happens, Kaiser will fling overboard a
lot of ballast in Europe, and it will look like a big victory for the
Allies, but he won't be beaten if he has the road to the East safe.
Germany's like a scorpion: her sting's in her tail, and that tail
stretches way down into Asia.
'I got that clear, and I also made out that it wasn't going to be
dead easy for her to keep that tail healthy. Turkey's a bit of an
anxiety, as you'll soon discover. But Germany thinks she can
manage it, and I won't say she can't. It depends on the hand she
holds, and she reckons it a good one. I tried to find out, but they
gave me nothing but eyewash. I had to pretend to be satisfied, for
the position of John S. wasn't so strong as to allow him to take
liberties. If I asked one of the highbrows he looked wise and spoke
of the might of German arms and German organization and German
staff-work. I used to nod my head and get enthusiastic about these
stunts, but it was all soft soap. She has a trick in hand - that much
I know, but I'm darned if I can put a name to it. I pray to God you
boys have been cleverer.'
His tone was quite melancholy, and I was mean enough to feel
rather glad. He had been the professional with the best chance. It
would be a good joke if the amateur succeeded where the expert failed.
I looked at Sandy. He filled his pipe again, and pushed back his
skin cap from his brows. What with his long dishevelled hair, his
high-boned face, and stained eyebrows he had the appearance of
some mad mullah.
'I went straight to Smyrna,' he said. 'It wasn't difficult, for you
see I had laid down a good many lines in former travels. I reached
the town as a Greek money-lender from the Fayum, but I had
friends there I could count on, and the same evening I was a
Turkish gipsy, a member of the most famous fraternity in Western
Asia. I had long been a member, and I'm blood-brother of the chief
boss, so I stepped into the part ready made. But I found out that
the Company of the Rosy Hours was not what I had known it in
1910. Then it had been all for the Young Turks and reform; now it
hankered after the old regime and was the last hope of the Orthodox.
It had no use for Enver and his friends, and it did not
regard with pleasure the _beaux yeux_ of the Teuton. It stood for Islam
and the old ways, and might be described as a Conservative-
Nationalist caucus. But it was uncommon powerful in the provinces,
and Enver and Talaat daren't meddle with it. The dangerous thing
about it was that it said nothing and apparently did nothing. It just
bided its time and took notes.
'You can imagine that this was the very kind of crowd for my
purpose. I knew of old its little ways, for with all its orthodoxy it
dabbled a good deal in magic, and owed half its power to its
atmosphere of the uncanny. The Companions could dance the heart
out of the ordinary Turk. You saw a bit of one of our dances this
afternoon, Dick - pretty good, wasn't it? They could go anywhere,
and no questions asked. They knew what the ordinary man was
thinking, for they were the best intelligence department in the
Ottoman Empire - far better than Enver's _Khafiyeh_. And they were
popular, too, for they had never bowed the knee to the _Nemseh_ -
the Germans who are squeezing out the life-blood of the Osmanli
for their own ends. It would have been as much as the life of the
Committee or its German masters was worth to lay a hand on us,
for we clung together like leeches and we were not in the habit of
sticking at trifles.
'Well, you may imagine it wasn't difficult for me to move where
I wanted. My dress and the pass-word franked me anywhere. I
travelled from Smyrna by the new railway to Panderma on the
Marmora, and got there just before Christmas. That was after
Anzac and Suvla had been evacuated, but I could hear the guns
going hard at Cape Helles. From Panderma I started to cross to
Thrace in a coasting steamer. And there an uncommon funny thing
happened - I got torpedoed.
'It must have been about the last effort of a British submarine in
those waters. But she got us all right. She gave us ten minutes to
take to the boats, and then sent the blighted old packet and a fine
cargo of 6-inch shells to the bottom. There weren't many passengers,
so it was easy enough to get ashore in the ship's boats. The
submarine sat on the surface watching us, as we wailed and howled
in the true Oriental way, and I saw the captain quite close in the
conning-tower. Who do you think it was? Tommy Elliot, who lives
on the other side of the hill from me at home.
'I gave Tommy the surprise of his life. As we bumped past him,
I started the "Flowers of the Forest" - the old version - on the
antique stringed instrument I carried, and I sang the words very
plain. Tommy's eyes bulged out of his head, and he shouted at me
in English to know who the devil I was. I replied in the broadest
Scots, which no man in the submarine or in our boat could have
understood a word of. "Maister Tammy," I cried, "what for wad
ye skail a dacent tinkler lad intil a cauld sea? I'll gie ye your kail
through the reek for this ploy the next time I forgaither wi' ye on
the tap o' Caerdon."
'Tommy spotted me in a second. He laughed till he cried, and as
we moved off shouted to me in the same language to "pit a stoot
hert tae a stey brae". I hope to Heaven he had the sense not to tell
my father, or the old man will have had a fit. He never much
approved of my wanderings, and thought I was safely anchored in
'Well, to make a long story short, I got to Constantinople, and
pretty soon found touch with Blenkiron. The rest you know.
And now for business. I have been fairly lucky - but no more, for I
haven't got to the bottom of the thing nor anything like it. But I've
solved the first of Harry Bullivant's riddles. I know the meaning
'Sir Walter was right, as Blenkiron has told us. There's a great
stirring in Islam, something moving on the face of the waters. They
make no secret of it. Those religious revivals come in cycles, and
one was due about now. And they are quite clear about the details.
A seer has arisen of the blood of the Prophet, who will restore the
Khalifate to its old glories and Islam to its old purity. His sayings
are everywhere in the Moslem world. All the orthodox believers
have them by heart. That is why they are enduring grinding poverty
and preposterous taxation, and that is why their young men are
rolling up to the armies and dying without complaint in Gallipoli
and Transcaucasia. They believe they are on the eve of a great
'Now the first thing I found out was that the Young Turks had
nothing to do with this. They are unpopular and unorthodox, and
no true Turks. But Germany has. How, I don't know, but I could
see quite plainly that in some subtle way Germany was regarded as
a collaborator in the movement. It is that belief that is keeping the
present regime going. The ordinary Turk loathes the Committee,
but he has some queer perverted expectation from Germany. It is
not a case of Enver and the rest carrying on their shoulders the
unpopular Teuton; it is a case of the Teuton carrying the unpopular
Committee. And Germany's graft is just this and nothing more -
that she has some hand in the coming of the new deliverer.
'They talk about the thing quite openly. It is called the
_Kaaba-i-hurriyeh_, the Palladium of Liberty. The prophet himself is
known as Zimrud - "the Emerald" - and his four ministers are called also
after jewels - Sapphire, Ruby, Pearl, and Topaz. You will hear
their names as often in the talk of the towns and villages as you will
hear the names of generals in England. But no one knew where
Zimrud was or when he would reveal himself, though every week
came his messages to the faithful. All that I could learn was that he
and his followers were coming from the West.
'You will say, what about _Kasredin_? That puzzled me dreadfully,
for no one used the phrase. The Home of the Spirit! It is an
obvious cliche, just as in England some new sect might call itself
the Church of Christ. Only no one seemed to use it.
'But by and by I discovered that there was an inner and an outer
circle in this mystery. Every creed has an esoteric side which is kept
from the common herd. I struck this side in Constantinople. Now
there is a very famous Turkish _shaka_ called _Kasredin_, one of those
old half-comic miracle plays with an allegorical meaning which they
call _orta oyun_, and which take a week to read. That tale tells of the
coming of a prophet, and I found that the select of the faith spoke
of the new revelation in terms of it. The curious thing is that in
that tale the prophet is aided by one of the few women who play
much part in the hagiology of Islam. That is the point of the tale,
and it is partly a jest, but mainly a religious mystery. The prophet,
too, is not called Emerald.'
'I know,' I said; 'he is called Greenmantle.'
Sandy scrambled to his feet, letting his pipe drop in the fireplace.
'Now how on earth did you find out that?' he cried.
Then I told them of Stumm and Gaudian and the whispered words
I had not been meant to hear. Blenkiron was giving me the benefit of
a steady stare, unusual from one who seemed always to have his eyes
abstracted, and Sandy had taken to ranging up and down the room.
'Germany's in the heart of the plan. That is what I always
thought. If we're to find the _Kaaba-i-hurriyeh_ it is no good fossicking
among the Committee or in the Turkish provinces. The secret's
in Germany. Dick, you should not have crossed the Danube.'
'That's what I half feared,' I said. 'But on the other hand it is
obvious that the thing must come east, and sooner rather than later.
I take it they can't afford to delay too long before they deliver the
goods. If we can stick it out here we must hit the trail ... I've got
another bit of evidence. I have solved Harry Bullivant's third
Sandy's eyes were very bright and I had an audience on wires.
'Did you say that in the tale of _Kasredin_ a woman is the ally of the
'Yes,' said Sandy; 'what of that?'
'Only that the same thing is true of Greenmantle. I can give you
I fetched a piece of paper and a pencil from Blenkiron's desk and
handed it to Sandy.
'Write down Harry Bullivant's third word.'
He promptly wrote down '_v. I._'
Then I told them of the other name Stumm and Gaudian had
spoken. I told of my discovery as I lay in the woodman's cottage.
'The "I" is not the letter of the alphabet, but the numeral. The
name is Von Einem - Hilda von Einem.'
'Good old Harry,' said Sandy softly. 'He was a dashed clever
chap. Hilda von Einem? Who and where is she? for if we find her
we have done the trick.'
Then Blenkiron spoke. 'I reckon I can put you wise on that,
gentlemen,' he said. 'I saw her no later than yesterday. She is a
lovely lady. She happens also to be the owner of this house.'
Both Sandy and I began to laugh. It was too comic to have
stumbled across Europe and lighted on the very headquarters of
the puzzle we had set out to unriddle.
But Blenkiron did not laugh. At the mention of Hilda von
Einem he had suddenly become very solemn, and the sight of his
face pulled me up short.
'I don't like it, gentlemen,' he said. 'I would rather you had
mentioned any other name on God's earth. I haven't been long in this
city, but I have been long enough to size up the various political
bosses. They haven't much to them. I reckon they wouldn't stand up
against what we could show them in the U-nited States. But I have met
the Frau von Einem, and that lady's a very different proposition. The
man that will understand her has got to take a biggish size in hats.'
'Who is she?' I asked.
'Why, that is just what I can't tell you. She was a great excavator
of Babylonish and Hittite ruins, and she married a diplomat who
went to glory three years back. It isn't what she has been, but what
she is, and that's a mighty clever woman.'
Blenkiron's respect did not depress me. I felt as if at last we had
got our job narrowed to a decent compass, for I had hated casting
about in the dark. I asked where she lived.
'That I don't know,' said Blenkiron. 'You won't find people
unduly anxious to gratify your natural curiosity about Frau von Einem.'
'I can find that out,' said Sandy. 'That's the advantage of having
a push like mine. Meantime, I've got to clear, for my day's work
isn't finished. Dick, you and Peter must go to bed at once.'
'Why?' I asked in amazement. Sandy spoke like a medical adviser.
'Because I want your clothes - the things you've got on now. I'll
take them off with me and you'll never see them again.'
'You've a queer taste in souvenirs,' I said.
'Say rather the Turkish police. The current in the Bosporus is
pretty strong, and these sad relics of two misguided Dutchmen will
be washed up tomorrow about Seraglio Point. In this game you
must drop the curtain neat and pat at the end of each Scene, if you
don't want trouble later with the missing heir and the family lawyer.'
I Move in Good Society
I walked out of that house next morning with Blenkiron's arm in
mine, a different being from the friendless creature who had looked
vainly the day before for sanctuary. To begin with, I was splendidly
dressed. I had a navy-blue suit with square padded shoulders, a neat
black bow-tie, shoes with a hump at the toe, and a brown bowler.
Over that I wore a greatcoat lined with wolf fur. I had a smart
malacca cane, and one of Blenkiron's cigars in my mouth. Peter had
been made to trim his beard, and, dressed in unassuming pepper-and-salt,
looked with his docile eyes and quiet voice a very respectable servant.
Old Blenkiron had done the job in style, for, if you'll
believe it, he had brought the clothes all the way from London. I
realized now why he and Sandy had been fossicking in my wardrobe.
Peter's suit had been of Sandy's procuring, and it was not the
fit of mine. I had no difficulty about the accent. Any man brought
up in the colonies can get his tongue round American, and I
flattered myself I made a very fair shape at the lingo of the
The wind had gone to the south and the snow was melting fast.
There was a blue sky above Asia, and away to the north masses of
white cloud drifting over the Black Sea. What had seemed the day
before the dingiest of cities now took on a strange beauty, the
beauty of unexpected horizons and tongues of grey water winding
below cypress-studded shores. A man's temper has a lot to do with
his appreciation of scenery. I felt a free man once more, and could
use my eyes.
That street was a jumble of every nationality on earth. There
were Turkish regulars in their queer conical khaki helmets, and
wild-looking levies who had no kin with Europe. There were squads
of Germans in flat forage-caps, staring vacantly at novel sights, and
quick to salute any officer on the side-walk. Turks in closed carriages
passed, and Turks on good Arab horses, and Turks who
looked as if they had come out of the Ark. But it was the rabble
that caught the eye - very wild, pinched, miserable rabble. I never
in my life saw such swarms of beggars, and you walked down that
street to the accompaniment of entreaties for alms in all the tongues
of the Tower of Babel. Blenkiron and I behaved as if we were
interested tourists. We would stop and laugh at one fellow and give
a penny to a second, passing comments in high-pitched Western
We went into a cafe and had a cup of coffee. A beggar came in
and asked alms. Hitherto Blenkiron's purse had been closed, but
now he took out some small nickels and planked five down on the
table. The man cried down blessings and picked up three. Blenkiron
very swiftly swept the other two into his pocket.
That seemed to me queer, and I remarked that I had never before
seen a beggar who gave change. Blenkiron said nothing, and
presently we moved on and came to the harbour-side.
There were a number of small tugs moored alongside, and one
or two bigger craft - fruit boats, I judged, which used to ply in the
Aegean. They looked pretty well moth-eaten from disuse. We
stopped at one of them and watched a fellow in a blue nightcap
splicing ropes. He raised his eyes once and looked at us, and then
kept on with his business.
Blenkiron asked him where he came from, but he shook his
head, not understanding the tongue. A Turkish policeman came up
and stared at us suspiciously, till Blenkiron opened his coat, as if by
accident, and displayed a tiny square of ribbon, at which he saluted.
Failing to make conversation with the sailor, Blenkiron flung him
three of his black cigars.
'I guess you can smoke, friend, if you can't talk,' he said.
The man turned and caught the three neatly in the air. Then to
my amazement he tossed one of them back.
The donor regarded it quizzically as it lay on the pavement.
'That boy's a connoisseur of tobacco,' he said. As we moved away I
saw the Turkish policeman pick it up and put it inside his cap.
We returned by the long street on the crest of the hill. There was a
man selling oranges on a tray, and Blenkiron stopped to look at them.
I noticed that the man shuffled fifteen into a cluster. Blenkiron felt
the oranges, as if to see that they were sound, and pushed two aside.
The man instantly restored them to the group, never raising his eyes.
'This ain't the time of year to buy fruit,' said Blenkiron as we
passed on. 'Those oranges are rotten as medlars.'
We were almost on our own doorstep before I guessed the
meaning of the business.
'Is your morning's work finished?' I said.
'Our morning's walk?' he asked innocently.
'I said "work".'
He smiled blandly. 'I reckoned you'd tumble to it. Why, yes,
except that I've some figuring still to do. Give me half an hour and
I'll be at your service, Major.'
That afternoon, after Peter had cooked a wonderfully good
luncheon, I had a heart-to-heart talk with Blenkiron.
'My business is to get noos,' he said; 'and before I start on a
stunt I make considerable preparations. All the time in London
when I was yelping at the British Government, I was busy with Sir
Walter arranging things ahead. We used to meet in queer places
and at all hours of the night. I fixed up a lot of connections in this
city before I arrived, and especially a noos service with your Foreign
Office by way of Rumania and Russia. In a day or two I guess our
friends will know all about our discoveries.'
At that I opened my eyes very wide.
'Why, yes. You Britishers haven't any notion how wide-awake
your Intelligence Service is. I reckon it's easy the best of all the
belligerents. You never talked about it in peace time, and you
shunned the theatrical ways of the Teuton. But you had the wires
laid good and sure. I calculate there isn't much that happens in any
corner of the earth that you don't know within twenty-four hours.
I don't say your highbrows use the noos well. I don't take much
stock in your political push. They're a lot of silver-tongues, no
doubt, but it ain't oratory that is wanted in this racket. The William
Jennings Bryan stunt languishes in war-time. Politics is like a
chicken-coop, and those inside get to behave as if their little run
were all the world. But if the politicians make mistakes it isn't from
lack of good instruction to guide their steps. If I had a big proposition
to handle and could have my pick of helpers I'd plump for the
Intelligence Department of the British Admiralty. Yes, Sir, I take
off my hat to your Government sleuths.'
'Did they provide you with ready-made spies here?' I asked in
'Why, no,' he said. 'But they gave me the key, and I could make
my own arrangements. In Germany I buried myself deep in the
local atmosphere and never peeped out. That was my game, for I
was looking for something in Germany itself, and didn't want any
foreign cross-bearings. As you know, I failed where you succeeded.
But so soon as I crossed the Danube I set about opening up my
lines of communication, and I hadn't been two days in this metropolis
before I had got my telephone exchange buzzing. Sometime I'll explain
the thing to you, for it's a pretty little business. I've got the cutest
cypher ... No, it ain't my invention. It's your Government's. Any one,
babe, imbecile, or dotard, can carry my messages - you saw some of them
today - but it takes some mind to set the piece, and it takes a lot of
figuring at my end to work out the results. Some day you shall hear it
all, for I guess it would please you.'
'How do you use it?' I asked.
'Well, I get early noos of what is going on in this cabbage-patch.
Likewise I get authentic noos of the rest of Europe, and I can send
a message to Mr X. in Petrograd and Mr Y. in London, or, if I
wish, to Mr Z. in Noo York. What's the matter with that for a
post-office? I'm the best informed man in Constantinople, for old
General Liman only hears one side, and mostly lies at that, and
Enver prefers not to listen at all. Also, I could give them points on
what is happening at their very door, for our friend Sandy is a big
boss in the best-run crowd of mountebanks that ever fiddled secrets
out of men's hearts. Without their help I wouldn't have cut much
ice in this city.'
'I want you to tell me one thing, Blenkiron,' I said. 'I've been
playing a part for the past month, and it wears my nerves to tatters.
Is this job very tiring, for if it is, I doubt I may buckle up.'
He looked thoughtful. 'I can't call our business an absolute rest-
cure any time. You've got to keep your eyes skinned, and there's
always the risk of the little packet of dynamite going off unexpected.
But as these things go, I rate this stunt as easy. We've only got to
be natural. We wear our natural clothes, and talk English, and
sport a Teddy Roosevelt smile, and there isn't any call for theatrical
talent. Where I've found the job tight was when I had got to be
natural, and my naturalness was the same brand as that of everybody
round about, and all the time I had to do unnatural things. It isn't
easy to be going down town to business and taking cocktails with
Mr Carl Rosenheim, and next hour being engaged trying to blow
Mr Rosenheim's friends sky - high. And it isn't easy to keep up a
part which is clean outside your ordinary life. I've never tried that.
My line has always been to keep my normal personality. But you
have, Major, and I guess you found it wearing.'
'Wearing's a mild word,' I said. 'But I want to know another
thing. It seems to me that the line you've picked is as good as could
be. But it's a cast-iron line. It commits us pretty deep and it won't
be a simple job to drop it.'
'Why, that's just the point I was coming to,' he said. 'I was
going to put you wise about that very thing. When I started out I
figured on some situation like this. I argued that unless I had a very
clear part with a big bluff in it I wouldn't get the confidences
which I needed. We've got to be at the heart of the show, taking a
real hand and not just looking on. So I settled I would be a big
engineer - there was a time when there weren't many bigger in the
United States than John S. Blenkiron. I talked large about what
might be done in Mesopotamia in the way of washing the British
down the river. Well, that talk caught on. They knew of my
reputation as an hydraulic expert, and they were tickled to death to
rope me in. I told them I wanted a helper, and I told them about
my friend Richard Hanau, as good a German as ever supped sauerkraut,
who was coming through Russia and Rumania as a benevolent neutral; but
when he got to Constantinople would drop his neutrality and double his
benevolence. They got reports on you by wire from the States - I
arranged that before I left London. So you're going to be welcomed and
taken to their bosoms just like John S. was. We've both got jobs we
can hold down, and now you're in these pretty clothes you're the dead
ringer of the brightest kind of American engineer ... But we can't go
back on our tracks. If we wanted to leave for Constanza next week
they'd be very polite, but they'd never let us. We've got to go on
with this adventure and nose our way down into Mesopotamia, hoping that
our luck will hold ... God knows how we will get out of it; but
it's no good going out to meet trouble. As I observed before, I
believe in an all-wise and beneficent Providence, but you've got to
give him a chance.'
I am bound to confess the prospect staggered me. We might be
let in for fighting - and worse than fighting - against our own side.
I wondered if it wouldn't be better to make a bolt for it, and said SO.
He shook his head. 'I reckon not. In the first place we haven't
finished our inquiries. We've got Greenmantle located right enough,
thanks to you, but we still know mighty little about that holy man.
in the second place it won't be as bad as you think. This show
lacks cohesion, Sir. It is not going to last for ever. I calculate that
before you and I strike the site of the garden that Adam and Eve
frequented there will be a queer turn of affairs. Anyhow, it's good
enough to gamble on.'
Then he got some sheets of paper and drew me a plan of the
dispositions of the Turkish forces. I had no notion he was such a
close student of war, for his exposition was as good as a staff
lecture. He made out that the situation was none too bright anywhere.
The troops released from Gallipoli wanted a lot of refitment,
and would be slow in reaching the Transcaucasian frontier, where
the Russians were threatening. The Army of Syria was pretty nearly
a rabble under the lunatic Djemal. There wasn't the foggiest chance
of a serious invasion of Egypt being undertaken. Only in Mesopotamia
did things look fairly cheerful, owing to the blunders of
British strategy. 'And you may take it from me,' he said, 'that if the
old Turk mobilized a total of a million men, he has lost 40 per cent
of them already. And if I'm anything of a prophet he's going pretty
soon to lose more.'
He tore up the papers and enlarged on politics. 'I reckon I've got
the measure of the Young Turks and their precious Committee.
Those boys aren't any good. Enver's bright enough, and for sure
he's got sand. He'll stick out a fight like a Vermont game-chicken,
but he lacks the larger vision, Sir. He doesn't understand the
intricacies of the job no more than a sucking-child, so the Germans
play with him, till his temper goes and he bucks like a mule. Talaat
is a sulky dog who wants to batter mankind with a club. Both these
boys would have made good cow-punchers in the old days, and
they might have got a living out West as the gun-men of a Labour
Union. They're about the class of Jesse James or Bill the Kid,
excepting that they're college-reared and can patter languages. But
they haven't the organizing power to manage the Irish vote in a
ward election. Their one notion is to get busy with their firearms,
and people are getting tired of the Black Hand stunt. Their hold on
the country is just the hold that a man with a Browning has over a
crowd with walking-sticks. The cooler heads in the Committee are
growing shy of them, and an old fox like David is lying low till his
time comes. Now it doesn't want arguing that a gang of that kind
has got to hang close together or they may hang separately. They've
got no grip on the ordinary Turk, barring the fact that they are
active and he is sleepy, and that they've got their guns loaded.'
'What about the Germans here?' I asked.
Blenkiron laughed. 'It is no sort of a happy family. But the
Young Turks know that without the German boost they'll be
strung up like Haman, and the Germans can't afford to neglect an
ally. Consider what would happen if Turkey got sick of the game
and made a separate peace. The road would be open for Russia to
the Aegean. Ferdy of Bulgaria would take his depreciated goods to
the other market, and not waste a day thinking about it. You'd
have Rumania coming in on the Allies' side. Things would look
pretty black for that control of the Near East on which Germany
has banked her winnings. Kaiser says that's got to be prevented at
all costs, but how is it going to be done?'
Blenkiron's face had become very solemn again. 'It won't be
done unless Germany's got a trump card to play. Her game's
mighty near bust, but it's still got a chance. And that chance is a
woman and an old man. I reckon our landlady has a bigger brain
than Enver and Liman. She's the real boss of the show. When I
came here, I reported to her, and presently you've got to do the
same. I am curious as to how she'll strike you, for I'm free to admit
that she impressed me considerable.'
'It looks as if our job were a long way from the end,' I said.