Secret History of To-day: Being Revelations of a Diplomatic Spy


Footnote anchors are denoted by [number], and the footnotes have been placed at the end of the book. There are only two in this book.

Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within the text and consultation of external sources.

Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text, and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.

Pg vi: ‘William II.’ replaced by ‘Wilhelm II.’.
Pg vii: page no. ‘256’ replaced by ‘254’, and ‘258’ replaced by ‘256’.
Pg 188: ‘William II.’ replaced by ‘Wilhelm II.’.
Pg 303: ‘Guiseppe Sarto’ replaced by ‘Giuseppe Sarto’.

Original cover

“The Kaiser was attired in his most magnificent costume, wearing the famous winged helmet on his head, and surrounded by a galaxy of ministers and great officers, all arrayed in the utmost military splendour.”

Secret History of

Being Revelations of a Diplomatic Spy


Allen Upward

Author of “Secrets of the Courts of Europe”
“Treason,” etc.


G. P. Putnam’s Sons

New York and London

The Knickerbocker Press


[Pg iii]





“The Kaiser was attired in his most magnificent costume, wearing the famous winged helmet on his head, and surrounded by a galaxy of ministers and great officers, all arrayed in the utmost military splendour.”
“A glance at the cheval glass showed me a stiff, well set-up Prussian official.” 10
“‘I have sent for you, in two words, to find out for me the authorship of this telegram,’ the Kaiser said.” 12
“‘My God!’ he cried out. ‘Who has done this? I shall be ruined!’” 22
“‘We shall find out whether he is a priest,’ was the retort.” 46
“She would talk about her convent.” 48
“‘Father Kehler has been good enough to visit a poor sailor who is lying sick on board,’ he said, in a tone evidently meant to rebuke my impertinence.” 50
“‘As to that—impossible!’ he exclaimed with vigour. ‘That is our secret—ours, you understand.’” 62
“‘Am I under arrest too?’ Prince Pierre demanded with some indignation.” 72
“The Tsar now interposed in a tone of more authority than I had ventured to hope for. ‘Do you suggest, M. V——, that the whole staff of the French army are engaged in a conspiracy to forge documents?’” 88
[vi] “‘Your Majesty must judge me by what I have done already. Two days ago you had never heard my name. Now I am here, alone with you, with a loaded revolver in my pocket.’ The Sultan started violently.” 98
“It was a singular scene, as I stood there laying down pile after pile of greasy ten-thousand-rouble notes on a richly inlaid table.” 106
“There at my feet, along the widening valley, lay a double line of rails, and all across the level space stretched low banks and ditches—the lines of a vast encampment, capable of accommodating half a million men.” 116
“I walked past him without a word.” 126
“‘I am not under anybody’s orders,’ I said, rising to my feet.” 130
“‘You are free,’ he said briefly. ‘The right man has been arrested, too late.’” 144
“‘Let me see your warrant,’ I said.” 158
“He bent forward to listen, and as he did so I launched my clenched fist at his right temple with my full force.” 164
“I watched the brave monarch read it through from beginning to end without one manifestation of dismay.” 168
“Finally he turned his back without a word, and rushed from the room.” 176
Wilhelm II. strode to me, seized me by the shoulders, and thrust me out of the room.” 188
“‘Will you permit me to ask you,’ he said politely, ‘if you have ever done any business on behalf of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary?’” 192
“The Emperor could not repress a slight start.” 198
“I rode right over him.” 212
[vii] “I took out my loaded revolver, cocked it, and advanced to the threshold.” 232
“Queen Draga cast herself on the inanimate form on the bed, concealed the face in her arms, and allowed herself to be stabbed by a dozen bayonets.” 240
“‘V——!’ he exclaimed, drawing back as if he had been stung.” 250
“‘Arrest that man!’ the Kaiser commanded, without giving him time to speak.” 254
“‘Now,’ said the Kaiser, stepping close to my side, ‘tell me the truth—the real truth, mind—and I will spare your life.’” 256
“‘I am going to ask you to undertake a service of an unusual kind.’” 266
“My visitor started as she heard her name, and threw up her veil with a gesture of astonishment and indignation.” 274
“I was stopped at the barricade by a pompous sergeant of police.” 280
“The chief detective came close up to me, put his mouth to my ear, and whispered, ‘Le drapeau blanc!’” 284
“I found the Cardinal absorbed in the inspection of his newly arrived treasures.” 296
“Saddened and subdued, I quitted the audience chamber of Pius X.” 306
“‘I can only render one more service to your Majesty, and that is to advise you to make your peace with the Black Pope.’” 308

[Pg 1]


The initials under which I write these confessions are not those of my real name, which I could not disclose without exposing myself to the revenge of formidable enemies. As it is, I run a very great risk in making revelations which affect some of the most powerful personages now living; and it is only by the exercise of the utmost discretion that I can hope to avoid giving offence in quarters in which the slightest disrespect is apt to have serious consequences.

If I should be found to err on the side of frankness, I can only plead in excuse that I have never yet betrayed the confidence placed in me by the various Governments and illustrious families which have employed me from time to time. The late Prince Bismarck once honoured me by saying: ‘To tell secrets to Monsieur V—— is like putting them into a strong box, with the certainty that they will not come out again until one wants them to.’


In these reminiscences it is my object to recount some of the services I have rendered to civilisation in the course of my career, while abstaining as far as possible from compromising exalted individuals or embittering international relations.

That I am not a man who opens his mouth rashly may be gathered from the fact that, although at any time during the long struggle between Briton and Boer for the mastery in South Africa, I might have completely changed the situation with a word, that word was not uttered while a single Boer remained under arms.

In order to explain how I came to be concerned in this affair, I had better begin by giving a few particulars about myself, and the almost unique position which I hold among the secret service bureaus of Europe and America.

By birth I am a citizen of the United States of America, being the son of a Polish father, exiled on account of his political opinions, and a French mother. From my childhood I showed an extraordinary aptitude for languages, so that there is now scarcely a civilised country outside Portugal and Scandinavia in which I am not able to converse with the natives in their own tongue. At the same time, I was possessed, ever since I can remember, with a passion for intrigue and mystery. The romances of Gaboriau were the favourite reading[3] of my boyhood, and it was my ambition to become a famous detective, the Vidocq of America.

Fired by these visions, I ran away from the insurance office in which my parents had placed me, when I was little more than sixteen, and applied for admission to the ranks of the famous Pinkerton Police. Although my youth was against me, my phenomenal command of languages turned the scale in my favour, and I was given a trial.

Very soon I had opportunities of distinguishing myself in more than one mission to Europe, on the track of absconding criminals; and in this way I earned the favourable notice of the heads of the detective police in London, Paris, Berlin, and other capitals.

At length, finding that I possessed unique qualifications for the work of an international secret agent, I decided to quit the Pinkerton service, and set up for myself, making my headquarters in Paris. From that day to this I have had no cause to repent of my audacity. I have been employed at one time or another by nearly every Government in the world, and my clients have included nearly every crowned head, from the late Queen Victoria to the Dowager Empress of China. I have been sent for on the same day by the Ambassadors of two hostile Powers, each of which desired to employ me against the other.


On one occasion I acted on behalf of a famous German Chancellor against his then master, and on another on behalf of the Emperor against his Chancellor; and neither had cause to complain of my fidelity. I have been instrumental in freeing a Queen renowned for her beauty from the persecution of a blackmailer set on by a foreign court; and I have more than once detected and defeated the plots of anarchists for the assassination of their rulers.

In this way it has come about that I enjoy the friendship and confidence of many illustrious personages, whose names would excite envy were I at liberty to mention them in these pages; and that few events of any magnitude happen in any part of the globe without my being in some measure concerned in them.

Often, when some great affair has been proceeding, I have felt myself as occupying the position of the stage manager, who looks on from the wings, directing the entrances and exits of the gorgeously dressed performers who engross the attention and applause of the ignorant spectators on the other side of the footlights.

The true story of the famous telegram which may be said to have rendered the South African War inevitable is one which strikingly illustrates the[5] extent to which the public may be deceived about the most important transactions of contemporary history.

Every one is familiar with the situation created by that celebrated despatch. For some time previously all England, and, in fact, all Europe, had been agitated by the intelligence that Johannesburg was on the eve of insurrection, that the Boers were drawing their forces together about the doomed city, that Dr. Jameson had dashed across the frontier with five hundred followers in a mad attempt to come to the aid of the threatened Outlanders, and that his action had been formally disavowed by the British Government.

Close on the heels of these tidings came the memorable day on which London was cast into gloom by long streams of placards issuing from the newspaper offices bearing the dismal legend, ‘Jameson Beaten and a Prisoner!’

While the populace were yet reeling under the blow, divided between distress at this humiliation for the British flag, and indignation at the criminal recklessness which had staked the country’s honour on a gambler’s throw, there came the portentous news that the head of the great German Empire, the grandson of Queen Victoria, had sent a public message of congratulation to the Boer President, rejoicing with him in the face of the world over an[6] event which every Englishman felt as a national disaster.

That hour registered the doom of the Pretorian Government. Jameson was scornfully forgotten. The British people, as proud as it is generous, made up its mind that the forbearance so long extended to a vassal of its own, could no longer be shown with honour to the protégé of a mighty European Power.

On the very day on which this celebrated despatch appeared as the chief item of news in all the newspapers of the world, I received an urgent cipher message from the Director of the Imperial Secret Service, Herr Finkelstein, demanding my presence in Berlin.

My headquarters, as I have said, are in Paris, and fortunately I was disengaged when the summons arrived. I had merely to dictate a few dozen wires to my staff, while my valet was strapping up the portmanteau which always stands ready packed in my dressing-room, and to look out my German passport—for I have a separate one for every important nationality—and in an hour or two I was seated in the Berlin express, speeding towards the frontier.

From the bunch of papers which my attentive secretary had thrust into the carriage, I learned something of the effect which the German Emperor’s[7] interference in the affairs of South Africa had produced on the public mind in England. It was evident that the Islanders were strongly roused, and were preparing to pick up the gage of battle which had been thrown down. No sooner had I reached German territory than I found evidences of an even greater excitement. The whole nation seemed to have rallied round the Kaiser, and to be ready to back up his words with martial deeds.

By this time I had little doubt that I had been sent for in connection with the outbreak of hostile feeling between the two Powers. But it was impossible for me to anticipate the actual nature of the task which awaited me.

On reaching Berlin I was met by a private emissary of Finkelstein’s, who hurried me off to the Director’s private house. The first words with which he greeted me convinced me that the business I had come about was of no ordinary kind.

‘Do not sit down,’ he said to me, as I was about to drop into a chair, after shaking hands with him. ‘I must ask you to come to my dressing-room at once, where you will transform yourself as quickly as possible into an officer of the Berlin Police. The moment that is done, I am to conduct you to the Palace, where his Majesty will see you alone.’

As I followed the Director into the dressing-room, where I found a uniform suit laid out ready for my[8] wearing, I naturally asked: ‘Can you tell me what this is about?’

Finkelstein shook his head with a mysterious air.

‘The Kaiser has told me nothing. But he warned me very strictly not to let a single creature in Berlin know of your arrival, and from that fact I have naturally drawn certain conclusions.’

I gazed at Finkelstein with some suspicion. We were good friends, having worked together on more than one occasion, and I knew he would have no wish to keep me in the dark. On the other hand, if he had been instructed to do so, I knew he would not hesitate to lie to me. The secret service has its code of honour, like other professions, and fidelity to one’s employer comes before friendship.

Keeping my eye fixed on him, I observed carelessly—

‘You will tell me just as much or as little as you think fit, my dear Finkelstein. On my part I shall, of course, exercise a similar discretion after his Imperial Majesty has given me my instructions.’

As I expected, the bait took. Curiosity is the besetting weakness of a secret service officer, and the Berlin Director was no exception to the rule. Putting on his most confidential manner, he at once replied—

‘My dear V——, if you and I do not trust each other, whom can we trust? Rest assured that my[9] confidence in you has no reserves. I have spoken the bare truth in saying that the Kaiser has given me no indication of his object in sending for you. But the fact that he has ordered me to take these precautions to conceal the fact of your arrival in Berlin tells me plainly that there is a person whom he wishes to keep in ignorance; and that person can only be——’

‘The Chancellor?’ I threw in, as my companion hesitated.

Finkelstein nodded.

‘You consider, perhaps, that it is against the Chancellor that I am to be employed?’ I went on.

‘It looks like it,’ was the cautious answer.

‘And the reason why this task is not placed in your hands?’

‘Is because I am a native of Hanover, and the Kaiser regards me rather as a public official than as a personal servant of his own dynasty,’ said Finkelstein.

‘In other words, he regards you as a creature of the Chancellor’s,’ I commented bluntly.

The Director made a pleasing and ingenious attempt to blush.

‘I can only affirm to you, on my sacred word of honour, that his Majesty has no cause to trust me any less than if I were a Prussian,’ he declared. ‘And I shall take it as a personal kindness if you[10] will endeavour to convince the Kaiser of my loyalty.’

‘I will take care that he knows your sentiments,’ I answered, with an ambiguity which Finkelstein fortunately did not remark.

By this time I had completed my transformation. A glance at the cheval glass showed me a stiff, well-set-up Prussian official, exhaling the very atmosphere of Junkerdom and sauerkraut. I gave the signal to depart, and we were quickly driving up the Unter den Linden on our way to the Imperial Palace.

‘Announce to his Majesty—the Herr Director Finkelstein and the Herr Inspector Vehm,’ my companion said to the doorkeeper.

A servant, who had evidently received special instructions, stepped forward.

‘The Herr Inspector is to be taken to his Majesty at once,’ he said firmly.

Finkelstein bit his lip as he unwillingly turned to re-enter his carriage. I followed the lackey into the private cabinet of the monarch who had just found himself the centre of an international cyclone.

“A glance at the cheval glass showed me a stiff, well set-up Prussian official.”

Wilhelm II. received me cordially. It was not the first time we had met. About the time of his ascending the throne I had been the means of inflicting on him a defeat which a smaller man would have found [11]it hard to forgive. Fortunately, the German Kaiser was of metal sterling enough to recognise merit even in an enemy, and to realise that my fidelity to my then employer was the best guarantee that I should be equally faithful to himself, if it fell to my lot to serve him.

‘What has Finkelstein told you?’ was the Emperor’s first question, after he had graciously invited me to sit down.

‘Only that he was able to tell me nothing, sire.’

The Emperor gave me a suspicious glance.

‘He appeared to regret that your Majesty had not given him your confidence,’ I added, choosing my words warily. ‘He assured me that you might rely on his entire devotion, as much so as if he were a native of your hereditary States.’

‘And what do you say as to that?’ demanded the Kaiser, with a piercing look.

‘I think that your Majesty cannot be too careful whom you trust.’

Wilhelm II. allowed himself to smile gravely.

‘I see, Monsieur V——, that you are a prudent man. If Herr Finkelstein wishes to convince me of his loyalty to the Hohenzollerns, he cannot begin better than by renouncing the pension which he continues to draw secretly from the Duke of ——.’ His Majesty pronounced the name by which a well-known dispossessed sovereign goes in his exile.


Familiar as I long have been with instances of perfidy in others, I could not restrain an exclamation of astonishment at this revelation of Finkelstein’s double dealing. The Kaiser continued—

‘After that you will not be surprised if I caution you particularly against letting Herr Finkelstein know anything of the object of the inquiry I wish you to undertake.’

I bowed respectfully, and waited with some impatience to learn the true nature of my mission.

‘I could not receive you here without taking some one into the secret of your employment,’ the Kaiser went on to explain; ‘and I chose Finkelstein in order to give the affair as much as possible the aspect of a private and domestic matter. In reality the task I have to set you is one of the most grave in which you have ever been engaged.’

The Kaiser took one of the Berlin papers of the day before, which was lying on the desk in front of him, and pointed to a column in which was set out in conspicuous type the telegram which had convulsed Europe and Africa, and had already caused Lord Salisbury to issue orders for the mobilisation of his Flying Squadron.

‘I have sent for you, in two words, to find out for me the authorship of this telegram,’ the Kaiser said.

“‘I have sent for you, in two words, to find out for me the authorship of this telegram,’ the Kaiser said.”

Notwithstanding my long training in the most [13]tortuous paths of secret intrigue, I was fairly taken aback by this announcement.

‘That telegram!’ I could only exclaim. ‘The one which your Majesty addressed to President Kruger!’

I never sent it,’ Wilhelm II. declared gravely. ‘It is a forgery pure and simple.’

For a moment I sat still in my chair, almost unable to think.

‘But what——? But who——?’ I articulated, struggling with my bewilderment.

‘That is what you have got to find out for me,’ was the answer. ‘Let me tell you all I know. The first intimation I had of the existence of such a thing was the sight of it in the Press. I sent instantly for the Chancellor, who came here wearing a reproachful expression, and evidently prepared to complain bitterly of my having taken such a step without previously informing him. When I told him that the whole thing was an impudent fabrication, he could scarcely believe his ears. In fact, for some time I believe he was inclined to consider my repudiation of it as a mere official denial.’

I ventured to raise my eyes to his Majesty’s as I observed—

‘Your Majesty has taken no steps to make your repudiation public?’

The Kaiser gave an angry frown.

‘That is the serious part of the affair,’ he answered.[14] ‘Kruger, in his eagerness to proclaim to the world that I was on his side, had sent copies of this infamous production to every newspaper in the two hemispheres before it reached my eyes. At the moment when I first saw it, it had already been read and commented upon all round the globe. The British newspapers were already threatening war, and my own people had been excited to a pitch of enthusiasm such as no other act of mine has ever called forth. You see the position I was placed in. If I were now to disavow this forgery, my disavowal would be received everywhere with the same scepticism as was felt even by my own Chancellor. The British would triumph over me, and my own subjects would never forgive me for what they would regard as a surrender to British threats.’

I sat silent. I realised the full difficulty of the Kaiser’s position. He was committed in spite of himself to the act of some impostor, whose real motives were yet to be discovered, but who had already succeeded in bringing the two greatest Powers of Europe to the verge of war.

‘Before I can undo the mischief which has been done,’ the Emperor proceeded, ‘I must first of all ascertain from what quarter this forgery emanated. When I have obtained that information, backed by clear and convincing proofs, it may be possible for[15] me to satisfy the British Government that they and I have been the victims of a conspiracy. If you can succeed in furnishing me with those proofs, it shall be the best day’s work you ever did in your life.’

I listened carefully to these words, scrutinising them for any trace of a double meaning. It was impossible for me to dismiss entirely from my mind that suspicion which the story told by Wilhelm II. was naturally calculated to excite. I asked myself whether the Kaiser was really in earnest, or whether he was not inviting me, in a delicate fashion, to extricate him from the consequences of his own rashness, by putting together some fictitious account of the origin of the telegram, which might impose on Lord Salisbury.

It was clearly necessary, however, for me to appear to be convinced.

‘May I ask if your Majesty’s suspicions point in any particular direction?’ I asked, trying to feel my way cautiously. ‘The President of the Boers is perhaps——’

The Kaiser interrupted me.

‘I do not think Kruger would dare to provoke me by such a trick. He would know that he would be the first to suffer when it was found out. No, I am convinced that we must look nearer home for the traitor.’


Something in the Emperor’s tone struck me as significant.

‘If you could give me any indication of the person——’ I ventured to throw out.

His Majesty looked at me fixedly as he answered—

‘Does it not occur to you, Monsieur V——, that there is in my Empire a powerful family, the heads of which seem at one time to have cherished the notion that the Hohenzollerns could not reign without them, a family which aspired to play the same part in modern Germany which was played by the Mayors of the Palace in the Empire of the Merovingians?’

‘You allude, sire, without doubt, to the Bismarcks?’

‘My grandfather was forced into war with the French by a forged telegram. There would be nothing surprising in an attempt from the same quarter to force me into a war with England.’

I had no answer to make to such reasoning. Daring as such a manœuvre might appear, it was absurd, in the face of historical facts, to pronounce it improbable.

After a minute spent in considering the situation, I turned to the question of how the fraud might have been carried out.

It was quite clear to me that such a message could not have gone over the ordinary wires. The[17] despatches of Emperors are not, as a rule, handed in over the counter of a post-office, like a telegram from a husband announcing that he is prevented from dining at home. I asked the Kaiser to explain to me the system pursued with regard to Imperial messages.

‘That is a matter about which you will be able to learn more from the Chancellor than from me,’ was the answer. ‘Foreign despatches go through the Chancellery, and there is a staff of telegraphists there to deal with them. The wire goes direct to the Central Telegraph Office, I believe, from which it would, of course, find its way to the Cable Company.’

‘Then this fabrication must have been sent from the Chancellery in the first instance?’ I inquired. ‘It could not have been received at the Central Office from an outside source?’

‘Impossible. They would not dare to transmit a message in my name which had not reached them through one of the authorised channels.’

This was the reply I had expected. But I did not fail to mark the admission that there was more than one channel through which the forgery might have come. I was quick to ask—

‘Is there not some other source from which this telegram may have reached them besides the Chancellery? Your Majesty, no doubt, has a private wire from the Palace.’


The Kaiser looked a little put out.

‘That is so, of course,’ he conceded. ‘But that wire is used only for my personal messages, and those of the Imperial family.’

‘Still, a message received over this wire, and couched in your name, would be accepted at the Central Office, would it not?’ I persisted.

‘Undoubtedly. But the Palace operator, a man who works under the eye of my secretary, would not dare to play me such a trick, which, he would be aware, must be detected immediately. Take my advice, Monsieur V——, waste no time over side paths, but go direct to the Chancellor, and commence your perquisitions among his staff.’

I bowed respectfully, as though accepting this plan of campaign. But, as I withdrew from the Emperor’s cabinet, the doubt pressed more strongly than ever upon my mind whether I was not being asked to play a part. I half expected to find everything prepared for me at the Chancellery, prearranged clues leading to the detection of a culprit who would recite a confession which had been put into his mouth beforehand.

I was perfectly willing to perform my part in the comedy in a manner satisfactory to my employer, but all the same I meant to keep my eyes open, and not to let myself be the victim of a deception intended for English consumption.


In this mood I presented myself before the Chancellor. As soon as the Imperial autograph introducing me had met his eye, his Excellency threw aside, or pretended to throw aside, all reserve.

‘I am delighted to find the Emperor has placed this business in your hands, Monsieur V——,’ he said obligingly. ‘Your reputation is well known to me, and I am convinced that you will be perfectly discreet. The Emperor is, of course, thoroughly taken aback by the results of his unfortunate impulse, and wishes to relieve himself of the responsibility he has incurred. In that I am quite willing to help him, but not at my own expense, you understand.’

I murmured something about the Bismarcks. His Excellency gave a smile of contempt.

‘All that is absurd,’ he rapped out. ‘The Emperor is quite foolish about that family, which possesses no more influence to-day than any Pomeranian squire. No, if his Majesty wants a victim he ought to be content with one of his own staff. I refuse to allow the Imperial Chancellery to be discredited in the eyes of Europe.’

This reception, so unlike what I had anticipated, made me begin to think that my inquiry would have to be serious. After a little further conversation with the Chancellor I decided to go to work regularly,[20] beginning by tracing the Imperial telegram back from the Central Office.

The Chancellor readily furnished me with the necessary authority to produce to the Director of the Telegraph Service, to whom I had merely to explain that I had been instructed to verify the exact wording of the now famous despatch.

It is unnecessary for me to detail my interview with this functionary, whose share in the business was purely formal. Suffice it that within a quarter of an hour after entering his office, I came out with the all-important information that the congratulation to Mr. Kruger had come direct from the Imperial Palace, over the Kaiser’s private wire.

By this time it was clear to me that either Wilhelm II. was playing a very complicated game indeed with me, or he really was the victim of one of the most audacious coups in history. My interest in the investigation was strongly roused, as I made my way to the Palace for the second time that day, bent upon a meeting with the telegraphist by whose agency, it now appeared, the war-making despatch had come over the wires.

My recent audience in the Imperial cabinet had invested me with authority in the eyes of the household, and I had no difficulty in getting a footman to conduct me to the operator’s room, which was situated at the far end of the corridor which[21] I had previously passed through on my way to the Kaiser.

The room being empty on my arrival, I dismissed the footman in search of the operator, who, he informed me, would most probably be found with the private secretary to the Emperor.

The moment I found myself alone I stepped up to the apparatus. I am an expert telegraphist, and the machine speedily clicked off the following despatch—

To the German Ambassador, London.—See Lord Salisbury privately, at once, and inform him British Government entirely deceived as to my sentiments. Proofs will be sent to you shortly.Wilhelm, Kaiser.’

I had hardly taken my fingers off the instrument when the door opened and the operator walked in.

Herr Zeiss—I heard this name at the Central Office—appeared to me to be a simple-minded man, more likely to be the victim of a conspiracy than himself a conspirator. I thought it my best plan to assume an air of omniscience at the outset.

‘How is this, sir!’ I demanded with some sternness. ‘Do your instructions permit you to leave this instrument unguarded for any person who pleases to send his own messages over the Emperor’s private wire?’

The telegraphist stared at me with a mixture of surprise and alarm.


‘I don’t know who has authorised you, Herr Inspector——’ he began, when I cut him short.

‘Am I to go to his Majesty, and ask him if you have permission to leave this room when you please, without taking any precautions against the unauthorised use of the wire?’

Herr Zeiss quickly changed his tone.

‘That is not a thing of which I am ever guilty,’ he protested.

‘You have been guilty of it just now,’ I retorted.

‘I have not been away two minutes. No one could have taken advantage of my absence.’

‘Nevertheless, advantage has been taken of your absence.’

‘I don’t believe it!’

‘Ask the Central Office to repeat the message you have just sent them, then.’

Casting a frightened look at me, the man complied. I have seldom seen an expression of deeper astonishment and terror on a man’s face than that which marked the unfortunate operator’s as my despatch came back to him, word after word, ending with the Imperial signature.

‘My God!’ he cried out. ‘Who has done this? I shall be ruined!’

‘Whether you are ruined or not depends entirely on yourself,’ I said sharply. ‘It is in my power to save you, but only upon one condition.’


“‘My God!’ he cried out. ‘Who has done this? I shall be ruined.’”

Herr Zeiss turned on me a gaze of mute appeal.

‘You must tell me the exact truth,’ I proceeded, ‘and you must tell me everything. How often have you left this room without taking precautions against the misuse of the wire in your absence during the last two days?’

Zeiss considered for a moment. Then his face brightened up.

‘Not once, I can assure you positively of that, Herr Inspector.’

This answer, given so confidently, came as a severe check to me. I looked at the man sternly, as I responded, with assumed confidence—

‘And I am positive that you are mistaken. An unauthorised use has been made of this wire, and I am determined to know by whom.’

The operator’s face fell once more. He appeared to me to be honestly at a loss.

‘Come,’ I put in, ‘think again. Begin by recalling any occasions on which you have been called away hurriedly, and have perhaps omitted to lock the door.’

‘But there has been no such occasion. I swear to you that I have not once left this room without taking ample precautions.’

I fancied I discerned a touch of hesitation, rather in the operator’s tone than in his actual words.

‘Speak more plainly,’ I said. ‘What do you mean by precautions?’


‘Either the door was locked, or else——’ This time the hesitation was palpable.

‘Or else what?’

‘It was left in the charge of a trustworthy person.’

‘And that trustworthy person, who was he?’ I found it hard to suppress all signs of excitement as I put this question.

‘The gentleman who will shortly be my brother-in-law.’

‘Ah! Perhaps this gentleman is an employee in the same department as yourself?’

‘Not at all,’ Zeiss protested earnestly. ‘He is a teacher in the Military College. He knows nothing of telegraphy; in fact, he has sometimes asked me questions on the subject which have convinced me that he is quite a fool where electricity is concerned.’

‘Indeed! And the name of this foolish person, if you please?’

‘Herr Severinski.’

‘A Pole!’ I exclaimed.

‘No, a Russian. He was exiled to Siberia on account of his political opinions, but escaped. He teaches Russian in the college.’

‘How did he come to be left in charge of this room?’

‘He called here the day before yesterday, in the[25] evening, to speak to me about his marriage with my sister. They have been engaged for some time, you must know. While he was here I received a note from my sister herself, pressing me to come and speak to her at once outside the Palace. I went, leaving my brother-in-law to wait here during my absence. My sister, I found, merely wished to urge me not to object to any proposal made by her betrothed. On my return I found Severinski yawning and apparently bored to death in my absence. I asked him, and he assured me no one had come near the room while I was away.’

I could scarcely resist smiling as the whole intrigue, so simple, and yet so consummately successful, lay bared to my perception. My whole anxiety now was to keep the worthy but stupid Zeiss ignorant of the transaction in which he had been an unwitting accomplice.

I brought him away from the Palace with me, so as to leave him no opportunity of warning Severinski, and we proceeded together to the Russian’s quarters. I flatter myself that the professor of the Military College was not a little disconcerted when he saw his dupe followed into the room by an Inspector of the Berlin Police.

I explained my position in such a manner as to let Severinski see that I knew everything, without enlightening the other man.


‘The day before yesterday Herr Zeiss left you alone in his room in the Palace. You took the opportunity to send a telegram, the terms of which are known to me, over the Emperor’s private wire. For this offence you and he are liable to severe punishment. What I now have to propose to you is to make a confession which will have the effect of exonerating every one except yourself. If you do this, I think I can promise you that you shall suffer no penalty beyond, of course, the loss of your post in the Military College.’

Severinski gave me a glance of intelligence.

‘You do not require me to denounce anybody else?’ he inquired significantly.

‘I do not require you to confess what is obvious to every one,’ I returned with equal significance.

Poor Zeiss followed this exchange with an air of bewilderment. It was evident that the discovery of the other’s guilt had caused a shock to his confiding nature, and he was still trying to reconcile the Russian’s prompt surrender to me with his previous stupidity on questions of electrical science, when I summarily dismissed him from further share in the interview.

As soon as we were by ourselves Severinski spoke out boldly enough.

‘I am quite willing to give you a statement that I sent the telegram. But I am not going to tell you[27] anything more. You must know that I am an Anarchist.’

I waved my hand scornfully.

‘If I consent to your suppressing the truth, Professor Severinski, it does not follow that I am willing to listen to absurd fictions. Be good enough to write out and sign a circumstantial account of your own part in this clumsy plot, and I will undertake that you shall not pass to-night in prison.’

The Russian had the sense to do what he was told without further parley. I got from him more than I expected. He consented to put in writing that it was after his betrothal to Fraulein Zeiss that he had been solicited to make use of his connection with the Kaiser’s private telegraphist, and he stated the amount of the bribe, a very heavy one, paid him for his services in sending the Imperial congratulations to the President of the Transvaal. We became so friendly over the discussion that Severinski, who was bursting with vanity over his success, wanted me at last to let him tell me too much. I was obliged to order him to be silent.

‘If you tell me that you are an agent of a certain great Power, I must repeat what you say to the Kaiser. Then one of two things will happen. Either your Government will avow your action, in which[28] case you will be hanged as a spy, or it will disavow you, in which case you will pass the rest of your life in prison as a criminal lunatic.’

This menace had all the effect which I could have desired, and I was satisfied that the Russian would now hold his tongue.

Bidding him a cordial farewell—for I confess the fellow’s audacity had inspired me with some admiration—I hastened back to the Palace, to lay the results of my investigations before Wilhelm II.

‘Your Majesty has been victimised by a secret agent whose employers are interested in bringing about a feeling of ill-will, if not an actual war, between Germany and Great Britain. The day before yesterday this agent, whose name is Severinski, and who is employed to teach Russian’—Wilhelm II. started—‘in the Berlin Military College, visited your private telegraphist in the room at the end of this corridor. He had previously contrived that the telegraphist should be called away during his visit, and he took advantage of this absence to send the message which has caused so much trouble.’

The Kaiser made no reply until he had finished reading the proofs I laid before him.

‘And you did not ask this Severinski by whom he was set on?’ demanded his Majesty, giving me a keen glance.


‘I did not know whether you would wish me to do so,’ I answered respectfully.

‘You were right, a thousand times right,’ exclaimed the Emperor. ‘As long as they are in doubt whether I know it is they who have played me this trick, I have the advantage of them, and they will keep silence for their own sakes.’ He paused in deep consideration for a minute, then he looked up quickly. ‘All this time I must not forget the English. Tell me, Monsieur V——, are you personally known to Lord Salisbury?’

‘I have that honour, sire. On one occasion——’

‘Enough! There is not a moment to lose. You will leave Berlin by the first train, and proceed straight to the Ambassador’s house in London. He will take you round to the Prime Minister, and you will offer him the proofs which you have just offered me, explaining at the same time that the excited state of public feeling in both countries makes it impossible for me to take any open action in the matter.’

I bowed and moved towards the door.

‘I will wire to the Ambassador to expect you,’ called out the Kaiser.

‘Pardon me, your Majesty has done so already.’


‘I also passed five minutes alone in the room of Herr Zeiss,’ I explained.


In the years which have elapsed since this celebrated episode, Wilhelm II. has left no means untried to convince the British people of his friendly sentiments towards them. It is as a service to his Imperial Majesty, though without authority from him, that I now venture to lift the veil from the most astounding transaction in the annals of even Muscovite diplomacy.



Although the revelations which have been made already in the British House of Commons have thrown some light on the international intrigues which complicated the progress of the Cuban War, the tragic event which caused the United States to draw the sword against Spain has remained a profound mystery to the present hour.

The truth concerning the destruction of the United States warship Maine, in the roadstead of Havana, is known fully to only two persons now alive. One of these two has taken the vow of perpetual silence in the monastery of La Trappe, and his name is already forgotten by the world.

I shall cause some surprise, perhaps, when I venture to assert that had I left my hotel ten minutes earlier on a certain memorable night in the year 1898, the Spanish flag might still be flying over the citadel of Havana.

The extraordinary adventure which I am going to relate had its starting-point in Paris, which is, to a[32] large extent, the clearing-house of international politics—the diplomatic exchange where the representatives of the Powers meet, and sound each other’s minds. For this reason the highest post in the diplomatic service of every country is still the Paris Embassy, although France itself scarcely ranks to-day as a Power of the first magnitude.

It is Paris, as every one is aware, which was the scene of the long negotiation between the representatives of the Cuban insurgents and the Government of Madrid on the question of the terms to be granted by Spain to her discontented colony. In this negotiation it is equally well known that the Cuban delegates received the moral support of the United States; but it is not generally known that the Spanish Government acted throughout in consultation with most of the European Powers.

I was looking on at the negotiation without any very great interest, sharing, as I did, in the general impression that Spain would give way before long, when I was surprised one morning by receiving a visit from a very remarkable character.

Ludwig Kehler was a Bavarian, who had begun life as a candidate for the priesthood. A disgraceful affair, the particulars of which I had never learned, had caused his dismissal from the seminary, and, after drifting about the world for a time, and mixing in very shady company, he[33] suddenly appeared in Berlin in the character of a police agent.

The exact nature of the services which he rendered to the police was a mystery, but I had formed the theory that he was employed as a spy on the German Catholics, whose attachment to the House of Hohenzollern has always been suspected in Berlin.

The presence of this man in Paris was in itself an unusual event. It did not occur to me to connect it with the Spanish-American question, and that for a very simple reason. Germany is the one country in Europe which has never possessed a foot of soil in the New World. Spain, Portugal, England, France, and even Holland and Denmark have planted their flags across the Atlantic, but the German Michael has been content to remain at home while his neighbours were colonising the globe.

I received Kehler coldly. My acquaintance with him was a purely professional one, and he was a man whom I profoundly distrusted.

As soon as I could do so, without positive rudeness, I invited him to explain the object of his visit.

‘It is of a confidential nature,’ prefaced the Bavarian. ‘May I assure myself that our conversation will remain a secret between us two?’

I bowed gravely.

‘That is always understood, where I am concerned.[34] A man who desires to be trusted must begin by establishing a reputation for secrecy.’

Kehler contented himself with this assurance, dry as it was.

‘I thank you, Monsieur V——. Your reputation is so well established that I had no intention except to ask whether you were willing to receive the proposals I have come to make?’

‘Proceed, Herr Kehler, if you will be so good.’

‘You have learnt, no doubt, that the Spanish Government has made up its mind to concede the terms demanded on behalf of the Cubans by the United States?’

Although I was not aware that things had reached this point, I did not allow Kehler to see that he had given me any information.

‘By this act,’ he continued, ‘the Americans have, in fact, declared that no European Power has any right to enter their hemisphere without their permission.’

‘All that is well known, Herr Kehler.’

‘The question then arises whether the European Powers will allow themselves to be driven out, one by one, or whether, by a bold combination, they will reduce the United States to some respect for the law of nations.’

‘Such a combination would be inopportune at this moment, because the British would stand aloof.’


‘Because they look upon the struggle as one between Spaniard and Cuban,’ Kehler rejoined quickly. ‘But let us suppose there to be a war, in which the United States was engaged against Spain?’

‘You have just said there will be no such war.’

‘A war is always possible, provided those interested in bringing it about are not too scrupulous.’

This sinister language at length convinced me that the Bavarian had not come to see me for nothing. I decided to draw him out.

‘Provided such a war actually commenced, I agree that some combination on behalf of Spain might be possible,’ I murmured, as though reviewing the situation in my mind. ‘But where is the Government sufficiently in earnest to undertake so terrible a responsibility?’

‘It is that Government,’ Kehler responded, ‘which sees its subjects departing in greater numbers every year, but which looks around in vain for some unoccupied region towards which to direct the stream of emigration.’

‘You mean Germany?’

‘We look around us,’ he continued, scarcely noticing my interruption, ‘and we see all the continents staked out in advance by other Powers: Asia by England and Russia, Africa by England and France, North America by England and the United[36] States, Australia by England alone. There remains only South America, in the possession of weak Latin races, unable to make use of their advantages, but who are protected in their decay by the bullies of Washington.’

‘A war in which the United States found itself fully occupied would be a fine opportunity for the German Michael to plant his standard in Brazil or the Argentine, I understand.’

Kehler looked at me earnestly.

‘The man who undertook the task of making such a war inevitable, without compromising exalted personages, would be no loser,’ he remarked significantly.

I looked back at the Bavarian before demanding—

‘Have you any definite scheme to put before me?’

‘Until I know that you accept,’ he demurred.

‘I do not know that you are accredited,’ I reminded him.

‘What authority do you require?’

‘The Imperial autograph simply.’


‘I am accustomed to be trusted by my employers,’ I returned decidedly. ‘I cannot act under any other conditions.’

‘That is final?’

‘It is final.’


‘Then I am afraid I can only ask you to forget that I have occupied so much of your time.’

I allowed Kehler to rise and take his departure without making the least sign. The moment he was out of hearing I sprang to the telephone and rang up the agent of the Sugar Trust.

Herr Kehler’s refusal to produce the guarantee for which I asked convinced me that he contemplated some action of a character doubtful, to say the least, if not criminal.

It would have been useless for me to communicate my suspicions to the American Minister in Paris. The diplomacy of the United States, blunt and self-reliant, takes little account of the subterranean intrigue which pervades European politics. But the Government of Washington was not the only factor concerned. As Europe is beginning to learn, the Union is a federation, not so much of those geographical divisions which are painted in different colours on the map, and called States, but of those vast organisations of capital which control the American electoral system, and fill the Senate with their delegates. Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois—these are merely names for school children; the Silver Ring, the Steel Trust, the Cotton Trust, the Pork Trust—such are the true American Powers.

During the whole of the Cuban negotiation the[38] Sugar and Tobacco Trusts had been represented in Paris by agents whose object it was to avert an annexation of Cuba by the United States, an act which would, of course, mean the free admission of Cuban sugar and tobacco into the markets. Adonijah B. Stearine, the Sugar Agent, was a shrewd man, and I had no doubt I should find him a ready listener to what I had to say.

Within an hour of Kehler’s departure, Mr. Stearine was seated in my office. I had to pick my words carefully not to break the promise of secrecy into which I had been beguiled.

‘I have just seen a secret agent who wanted me to help him in some trick to force on a war between the States and Spain.’

Stearine rolled his eyes and whistled thoughtfully.

‘Who sent him?’

‘I can’t say. He refused to disclose his principal, and so I would have nothing to do with him.’

The Sugar Agent pursed up his lips, and frowned.

‘I guess this is a dodge of Bugg’s,’ he muttered.

‘What Bugg?’

‘You don’t say you haven’t heard of Bugg—Milk W. Bugg, the Pork Trust’s man over here? I reckon Bugg is the smartest man in Chicago, and Chicago is the smartest town in the States, and the States is the smartest country on earth; so there you are.’


‘The man who came to me is a German,’ I hinted.

‘Bugg’s smartness,’ was the comment.

‘He wanted me to think he came from Berlin.’

‘Bugg is real smart,’ breathed Mr. Stearine with admiration.

It was evident that the agent of the Sugar Trust was unable to see past the figure of his rival, which filled up his mental horizon. I did not consider it worth while to argue the point.

‘The question is, Do you want this to be stopped?’ I said.

Stearine looked at me with something like surprise.

‘Think you can?’ he questioned briefly.

‘I know the man who is at work. I can shadow him and find out what he is doing.’

‘You will have to be almighty quick about it,’ retorted the other. ‘When did this man get away!’

‘Only an hour ago,’

Mr. Stearine gazed at me with a disconcerting scrutiny. Then he remarked slowly and emphatically—

‘If this is Bugg’s game, and you have given him an hour’s start, I calculate he will be opening a store in Havana this day six months.’

The Pork Trust, it was clear, had everything to gain by a war by which the Sugar Trust had everything[40] to lose. But, in spite of Mr. Stearine’s confident assurances, I continued to have my own opinion about the power behind Herr Kehler.

‘Do you want me to act?’ I demanded briefly.

‘I want you to take a hand—yes.’ The Sugar Agent took out his pocket-book, and counted out bills to the amount of ten thousand dollars. ‘You can play up to that,’ he added, ‘and then you can let me know how the game stands. I guess I shall buy Pork Consols.’

With this discouraging observation, Stearine left.

It did not take me long to decide on my plans. As it was not likely that Kehler was apprehensive of being watched, it would be an easy task to trace him, and I at once gave orders to my staff to that effect, with the result that I learned in a few hours that the Bavarian had put up at the Hotel des Deux Aigles, and was leaving by the Sud Express for Madrid.

I now decided on one of the boldest and most effective strokes in my repertory. I went openly to the station, took my own ticket, and entered the compartment of the sleeping-car in which Kehler had booked his own place.

The real astonishment of the Bavarian at seeing me I met with an affectation of moderate surprise on my own part.

‘So you are going with me?’ I observed.


‘With you!’ Kehler exclaimed.

‘It appears so. No doubt you have been instructed?’

Kehler denied it energetically.

‘But you refused to participate in a certain design,’ he reminded me.

‘I laid down certain conditions, which you declined to fulfil, but which have since been complied with by your principal.’

The Bavarian was thunderstruck. I relied upon his having reported his failure to whomever it was that had sent him to me; and there was nothing impossible in the suggestion that I had in consequence been approached directly.

‘You have credentials, I suppose?’ he asked.

I nodded carelessly.

‘You will convince me, perhaps?’ he persisted.

‘Are you authorised to convince me?’ was my retort.

‘You know it—no.’

I shrugged my shoulders and remained silent.

So commenced the most extraordinary journey I have ever taken, a journey which was destined to end only at Havana. Across France and Spain and the Atlantic Ocean we travelled side by side, each unwilling to lose sight of the other; I, resolved to find out and if possible thwart the designs of my companion; Kehler, unable to determine whether I[42] was an opponent, a rival, or a spy set over him by those on whose behalf he was engaged.

On the frontier, at Hendaye, a despatch was handed in to me through the carriage window. It was from Stearine, and contained these words, whose terrible significance I was designed to learn later—

United States warship Maine arrived harbour Havana.

The agent of the Sugar Trust had been too careful to say more. But it was clear that he regarded this event as a move in the game played by the great exporting Trusts.

From the moment of our arrival in Madrid I was no longer able to keep a close watch on Kehler, though by a sort of tacit agreement we stayed at the same hotel. I found out that he was paying visits to the Provincials of the Jesuit and Franciscan Orders, and had been admitted as a visitor to one or two convents, and for a time I was tempted to relax my suspicions, and to think that the Bavarian was engaged in some Catholic espionage. These doubts were suddenly dissipated by my meeting him one day in the courtyard of the hotel attired in the habit of a priest—the dress of which he had been deprived on account of his youthful misconduct.

I could not doubt that this dress was a mere disguise, and that it had been assumed for a political purpose. I went up to him and whispered—


‘Do we still recognise each other, or do you prefer that we meet as strangers?’

‘As fellow-travellers simply, I should prefer,’ he responded.

The next day he had disappeared from the hotel. I set the agencies at my command to work, and learned without much difficulty that passages had been reserved for the false priest and a Sister of Mercy travelling under his protection, on board a Spanish steamer sailing from Cadiz to Havana.

Needless to add, I was on board the same steamer when she quitted her moorings and breasted the waves of the open sea. During the voyage I had many opportunities of watching Kehler and his companion, who were constantly together, holding long private conversations in retired corners of the vessel. The nun, who was presented to me as Sister Marie-Joseph, was a pale, delicate-looking girl of about twenty, with that abstracted look in her eyes which betokens a mind wavering between earnestness and hallucination.

Dimly, and through clouds of uncertainty, I began to perceive that Kehler had ransacked the convents of Madrid for a suitable instrument, and that he was hard at work hypnotising the unfortunate girl’s mind, so as to prepare it for any suggestion he might have to make.

Before we reached Cuba I contrived to speak to[44] the Sister apart. I found her reserved and distrustful of a heretic, as she had evidently been told to consider me. On my satisfying her that I had been brought up a Catholic, she became slightly more communicative, and revealed a disposition singularly sincere and devoted, but almost morbid in its detestation of Protestantism. She betrayed a feeling of horror at the idea of American domination in the Catholic island of Cuba, and it was in vain that I represented to her the generous tolerance accorded to our religion in the United States.

I did not dare to ask her the subject of her conferences with Kehler. To have hinted at the Bavarian’s true character would have been simply to forfeit her confidence in myself. I decided to reserve my efforts in this direction until our arrival in Havana, where I did not doubt that I should be able to find some responsible ecclesiastic who would undertake the investigation of Kehler’s antecedents.

In the meantime I could only wait and watch. I was painfully impressed by the steady growth of the false priest’s influence over his victim, who seemed at last to respond to his least word or gesture. I had before me the spectacle of a possible Teresa or Elizabeth being gradually transformed into a Ravaillac by the dexterous touches of a rascally police agent.

As soon as we entered the harbour Kehler and[45] his companion got ready to disembark. I noticed that at this moment they were separated, the Sister going ashore by herself with a large basket trunk, while her protector followed at some distance behind.

They met again at the hotel, to which I had accompanied the man. By this time I had forced a certain degree of acquaintance on the couple, though I was unable to interrupt the intimacy of their private intercourse. I arranged to secure a room next to that of the Sister, and I observed with some surprise that Herr Kehler was lodged in another wing of the building.

By a coincidence we found the hotel full of naval officers from the Maine, who had chosen it for their headquarters while on shore. Instead of disconcerting Kehler, this circumstance appeared to give him every satisfaction.

He went out of his way to show civility to the Americans, and rapidly became intimate with several of them. Sister Marie-Joseph, on the other hand, held sullenly aloof, scarcely able to repress some signs of the abhorrence which the sight of the heretics inspired.

The visit of the Maine was understood to be a pacific one. It was a demonstration to the world that the relations between the United States and Spain continued to be those of perfect friendship, and that the former Power was inspired by[46] peaceful motives in seeking to bring about an understanding between the belligerent Cubans and the mother-country.

Nevertheless it was an imprudent act to send a man-of-war, flying the Stars and Stripes, into the harbour of a place swarming with fanatical Spaniards, furious at the interference of another Power between them and their revolted subjects. It was, in fact, a provocation, and it was not surprising that the astute agent of the Sugar Trust had seen in this proceeding the work of those commercial powers whose interest lay in the direction of a rupture.

Faithful to my preconceived intention, I took an early opportunity of waiting upon a high Church functionary in the city, to warn him of the true character of the Bavarian.

The reception I met with was a cold one, however. Monsignor X—— allowed me to see that he considered me an officious person.

‘May I ask what is your interest in all this?’ he demanded, as soon as I had made my statement.

‘I represent the Sugar Trust,’ I told him.

‘The Sugar Trust?’

‘The manufacturers of sugar in the United States, who fear the competition of cane sugar, and are therefore opposed to the annexation of Cuba, which would involve free trade with the island,’ I explained.


“‘We shall find out whether he is a priest,’ was the retort.”

‘And you suggest that this Father Kehler——?’

‘Herr Kehler,’ I corrected. ‘This man is no more a priest than I am. He is believed to be the agent of a Chicago Trust, which desires to see Cuba brought within the Union.’

‘We shall find out whether he is a priest,’ was the retort. ‘Before he can say Mass in this diocese he will have to apply for permission, and to show his ordination papers.’

‘But if he does not wish to say Mass? If he merely confines himself to directing the Sister whom he has conducted here?’

‘In that case we cannot interfere. We have no more proof that she is a Sister than that he is a priest?’

I gave Monsignor X—— an indignant look, which he bore with coolness.

‘Besides, what is it that you apprehend?’ he asked. ‘One cannot deal with imaginary dangers.’

‘I am sure that these two persons are bent on some desperate enterprise—that their presence in Havana bodes no good to the cause of peace,’ was all I could find to say.

The ecclesiastic made a scornful gesture.

‘It appears to me that this is a matter which concerns the police,’ he said, in a tone which signified that the interview was at an end.

I returned to my quarters, realising to the full[48] the difficulty of any effective action. To go to the police would be merely to invite a repetition of the snub which I had just received from the ecclesiastical authority. I could only rely on my own resources.

I sent a wire to Stearine: ‘War agent here as priest, accompanied by nun,’ and waited. It was just possible that Stearine might have connections through which those who had power in the Church at Havana might be influenced, in which case I had no doubt that Monsignor X—— would very quickly become interested in the doings of ‘Father’ Kehler.

I can hardly tell what it was precisely that I expected to happen. I had some idea of an assassination, possibly of the captain of the Maine, or perhaps of the American Consul, by Sister Marie-Joseph.

Day by day I perceived the unhappy girl becoming more and more wrought up to the pitch of enthusiasm necessary for the perpetration of some hideous deed, like that of Charlotte Corday, or Judith. Curiously enough, the poor Sister showed an inclination for my society, perhaps because I was a familiar face. She would sit beside me in the drawing-room of the hotel and talk about her convent, in which she had been educated and passed most of her life.

“She would talk about her convent.”

I learned that she was of a noble family, rendered poor by the ravages committed in the course of the [49]Cuban insurrection, a fact which may have helped to exasperate her spirit. But I sought in vain to draw her into any confidences on the subject of her mission to Havana. The moment I touched on that topic she became dumb, and made an excuse to leave me.

During the next few days I observed the intimacy between Kehler and the American officers becoming closer. The German could speak English fluently, and this circumstance naturally recommended him as a companion in a place where Spanish and French are almost the only languages known to the inhabitants. There was a young lieutenant, or sub-lieutenant, in particular, who was constantly in Kehler’s company, viewing the sights of the town, or smoking with him on the hotel verandah. Suspecting that my man had some object in cultivating this lieutenant, I endeavoured to make his acquaintance myself, only to find my advances rebuffed in a manner which showed me plainly that Kehler had been at work disparaging me beforehand.

One day as I was standing on the verandah I noticed the pair come out of the hotel together, and turn in the direction of the harbour. I followed at a discreet distance, and saw the officer conduct Kehler into a boat, manned by sailors from the Maine, in which they pulled off to the ship. I stood watching, and at the end of about an hour I[50] saw them coming back, the face of the false priest wearing a serious expression.

I took advantage of my acquaintance with him to meet the pair as they landed, and accost them carelessly.

‘You have been to have a look over the ship?’ I threw out.

Kehler tried to pass on with a careless nod, but the lieutenant, less discreet, drew himself up with a severe glance at me.

‘Father Kehler has been good enough to visit a poor sailor who is lying sick on board,’ he said, in a tone evidently meant to rebuke my impertinence.

I bowed with assumed respect. But as they went on their way I experienced a sensation of alarm. The pretext which had imposed on the officer was transparent enough as far as I was concerned. I realised that Kehler was steadily pursuing some well-thought-out design, and that he had contrived this visit to the man-of-war with some dark purpose which it was my business to discover.

I determined at length, since Kehler’s friend was so strongly prejudiced, to seek out some other officer, preferably the commander, and take him into my full confidence. Unhappily events marched too swiftly for me. That very evening it was already too late.

“‘Father Kehler has been good enough to visit a poor sailor who is lying sick on board,’ he said, in a tone evidently meant to rebuke my impertinence.”

Passing through the entrance hall on my way [51]upstairs to dress for dinner, I was struck by the sight of the basket-trunk belonging to Sister Marie-Joseph standing strapped-up, ready to go away. At the foot of the staircase I encountered the Sister herself, evidently prepared for departure.

She appeared pleased to have the opportunity of bidding me farewell.

‘I shall not forget you where I am going,’ she said with a mournful smile, as she extended her hand.

‘May one inquire where that will be?’ I ventured to ask.

She shook her head.

‘It is an affair of duty. I am going a very long way, and you will never see me again.’

‘And Father Kehler,’ I forced myself to say, ‘does he accompany you?’

A momentary expression of repugnance, almost of loathing, flashed out on her pale face.

‘No, no! The padre has done his part in conducting me so far, and finding me the situation of which I was in search. I have parted with him now, and we have nothing more to do with one another.’

This answer relieved my mind of a burden. I came hastily to the conclusion that Kehler, finding himself able to carry out his projects without assistance, had decided to dispense with an embarrassing[52] ally, and I was glad to think that this poor girl would be delivered from his evil influence.

What blindness are we capable of towards those very things which seem the clearest to our after-recollections!

I took the precaution to ascertain at the bureau that Kehler was still staying on in the hotel, and I came down to dinner with a light heart.

A number of the American officers were dining in the hotel that night. There appeared to be a sort of entertainment going forward, in which some Spanish officers from the garrison were fraternising with them.

Kehler, deprived of the company of his lieutenant, sat at a small table by himself, and I noticed that he was drinking heavily, while his flushed face and inflamed eyes showed him to be labouring with an excitement which I ascribed to the influence of the wine.

I sat down at another table, and busied myself with efforts to disentangle the threads of the intrigue which was being woven around me. I cast a thought or two after the poor girl, with whom I had been so strangely associated.

Absorbed in these thoughts, I did not mark the evening advancing, when I was gradually aroused by the breaking up of the military party. The lieutenant, who had shown so strong a dislike for me,[53] rose from his seat and came my way, taking a Spanish officer by the arm.

As they approached, I perceived from his gait that the American had been affected by the healths he had been drinking. I saw him point me out to his companion as they approached, and he muttered something in the other’s ear, which caused the Spaniard to turn on me a glance of grave disgust.

Stung by this insufferable insolence, I sprang to my feet, and placed myself in front of the lieutenant.

‘Have you anything to say to me, sir?’ I said sternly.

‘Nothing. I do not talk with spies,’ was the coarse retort.

‘But you take them on board the ship it is your duty to guard,’ I returned fiercely, carried out of myself.

The lieutenant drew back, amazed.

‘I have taken a worthy priest to console a dying man—one of his own faith,’ he stammered out.

‘A German police agent, disguised as a priest, I suppose you mean. The spy Kehler?’

He began to tremble violently. ‘But the Sister! The nurse!’

‘Sister Marie-Joseph! What do you mean?’

‘She is on board now, nursing O’Callaghan.’

It was my turn to utter an oath of consternation.


‘Come with me. Take me on board instantly, or take me to your commander.’

‘We will go on board,’ said the sobered lieutenant.

Glancing round as I followed him out I saw that Kehler had disappeared. Quickening our steps by a common instinct, the lieutenant and I almost ran down to the water’s edge.

‘Thank God!’ burst from his lips as we came in sight of the majestic vessel lying peacefully at her anchors in the calm waters of the bay, her spars and turrets outlined against the clear, starlit sky, and only a few twinkling lights betraying the presence of the two hundred men who slept below her decks. The same instant there was a spout of fire, a cloud of wreck and dust mounted to heaven, and a thunderous boom stunned our ears, and sent the waters of the bay dashing up at our feet.

The Maine had broken like a bubble. I saw all in a flash—in some dark way that will never now be revealed Sister Marie-Joseph had blown up the Maine. Kehler had succeeded—I had failed.

It has not been easy for me to write the story of what I regard as the greatest failure of my career. My mistake was the initial one of refusing to purchase Kehler’s confidences, by the expedient of pledging myself to assist his enterprise.

Immediately the intelligence of the disaster reached Europe Stearine sent me a cable peremptorily enjoining[55] silence. That injunction I consider has now lost its force through three circumstances, the lapse of time, the death in action of Lieutenant ——, and the living suicide of the arch-criminal, haunted by the horror of his own deed, in the deathlike cloisters of La Trappe.



Every one must feel that the last word has not been said on that extraordinary transaction which convulsed France, and shocked Europe, during the close of the nineteenth century, under the name of the Dreyfus Case.

It is true that no effort has been spared by the Government of the Republic to put an end to an agitation which threatened to develop into a civil war. A general amnesty has been proclaimed; the courts of law have been forbidden to entertain any proceedings involving the guilt or innocence of Captain Dreyfus, his accusers or his partisans, and the French press has been appealed to, in the name of patriotism, to close its columns to all further discussion of the dangerous topic.

Such an attitude, adopted in order to save France from disruption, is not without a certain dignity; but it is at the same time terribly unjust. It is as if France had repeated to the victim of the Devil’s Isle[57] the memorable words—‘It is better that one man should die for the people.’

The one person in Europe who is completely ignorant of the true motives underlying this grim tragedy is without doubt Dreyfus himself. That taciturn, commonplace figure, suddenly elevated into the position of criminal, martyr, and hero, was merely the shuttlecock driven through the air by unseen hands. Even if he was guilty of writing the celebrated bordereau—a question which the Court of Rennes decided in the affirmative—he must have done it by the order of others, given for reasons which he did not comprehend.

It will be remembered that before and during the second trial of Dreyfus, the strongest efforts were put forth on his behalf by three foreign Powers—those composing the Triple Alliance. The German, Austrian, and Italian military attachés, breaking through the etiquette of their position, disclaimed, each on his personal word of honour, any dealings with the alleged spy.

Not only so, but I myself sent for the Paris correspondent of a London newspaper of high standing, and authorised him to inform his readers that the German Emperor himself was prepared personally to exculpate the accused from the charge of selling information to Germany.

This offer, made privately to the French President,[58] was declined for the same reasons which prompted the Government to hush up the whole affair. But every thoughtful man will realise that it would not have been made unless there had been more at stake than the freedom of an obscure captain.

My own connection with the Affaire Dreyfus dates from the time of the first trial and sentence, when the theatrical spectacle of the degradation of the unfortunate officer was the theme of universal comment. At this juncture I received a visit from Colonel ——, an officer high in the Emperor’s confidence, and at that time attached to the German Embassy in Paris.

‘I have come to you,’ he announced, as soon as we found ourselves alone, ‘by command of his Imperial Majesty the Kaiser.’

I bowed respectfully as I replied—

‘I am deeply honoured by this fresh proof of his Majesty’s confidence.’

The Colonel regarded me for a moment with some curiosity.

‘You are a sort of spy, are you not?’ he inquired.

I refused to take offence at this blunt question, so natural on the part of a soldier.

‘Each of us has his own part to play,’ I explained suavely. ‘The soldier fights with the enemy in[59] the open field; the man of my profession has to encounter the foes who burrow underground.’

Colonel —— appeared satisfied.

‘The Kaiser trusts you; that is enough for me,’ he declared. ‘You will not dare to betray this confidence?’

This time I rose to my feet, stern and contemptuous.

‘You have not come here to insult me, I suppose, Colonel? If you are the bearer of instructions from the Kaiser, be good enough to deliver them without comment; if not, I will attend to my other business.’

The German’s face betrayed his astonishment at this rebuke. He hastened to mutter an apology, which I received in silence.

‘His Majesty wishes you to investigate this Affaire Dreyfus, on his behalf. There is some secret motive for the notoriety which they are conferring on this unlucky spy’—the Colonel gave me an apprehensive glance as he pronounced this word—‘and the Kaiser is determined to find out what it is. It appears that we are being made a sort of stalking-horse in the business; it is pretended that Dreyfus was an agent of ours, which is utterly untrue.’ The German smiled sardonically as he added: ‘Our information is supplied to us from higher sources than a simple captain of artillery, and we can get as much as we choose to pay for.’


‘Is it not likely that Dreyfus may be the scapegoat of others—perhaps those higher sources to which you refer?’

The Colonel shook his head.

‘That does not explain the persistence with which they are trying to connect the affair with Germany. I have information that the heads of the French Army are representing that France is in actual danger. The bitterness with which Dreyfus is assailed is due, they pretend, to a sense of the national peril.’

‘And all that is quite untrue, I understand?’

‘So untrue that I have reason to know that Wilhelm II. has a particular desire to conciliate the French——’ The Colonel stopped abruptly as if he had been on the point of saying too much.

‘Very good. Then I am to find out for his Majesty as much as I can about this affair, and particularly why it is sought to represent Dreyfus as an agent of Germany?’

Colonel —— nodded.

It was not an easy task to set me; nevertheless, I had some hope of success. It so happened that I had formerly had transactions of a confidential nature with General Garnier, one of the foremost, if not the foremost, figure among the persecutors of Dreyfus. I had the right to approach this General as a friend, and I had reasons for believing that he[61] might be willing to open his mouth for a sufficient consideration.

Shortly after Colonel ——’s departure, therefore, I strolled round to the General’s private residence, off the Avenue Clichy. Garnier was not at home, but I left a message with the concierge that the dealer in old coins, who had formerly sold him some Roman specimens, had just obtained others which he was anxious to submit for inspection.

As I anticipated, this message had the desired result of bringing General Garnier to see me the same night. He came, not to my public bureau, but to a little apartment in the Quartier Latin which I rent for the purpose of interviews with clients who do not wish their acquaintance with me to be known.

It was evident that my summons had annoyed, perhaps frightened, him.

‘Now, Monsieur V——, what does this mean?’ he blustered, as I closed the door behind him.

‘It means, Monsieur le Général, that I have a question to ask you, but that I do not expect you to answer it for nothing.’

Garnier was visibly relieved to discover that I had not sent for him to extort blackmail. But his reply was not encouraging.

‘I fear that you have given yourself trouble uselessly. It is not my intention to sell any information of a kind which cannot be given openly.’


I knew the man I was dealing with too well to take this answer as final.

‘Without doubt you are right to remind me that a man like yourself ought to be approached with a great deal of circumspection,’ I returned, with a mixture of politeness and irony.

Garnier’s face flushed.

‘I mean what I have said,’ he affirmed. ‘You must not suppose that you are dealing to-day with Colonel Garnier. In my position one has responsibilities to which there attaches itself a sentiment of honour, you understand, M. V——?’

My experience has not taught me that men become more scrupulous by being promoted from the rank of Colonel to that of General, but only that they become more greedy. I replied—

‘I understand of course that one does not buy old coins at the same price from a general officer as from a field officer.’

Garnier’s face assumed a look of indecision.

‘For whom are you acting, this time?’ he demanded.

‘General, if any one had asked me formerly from where I had procured my Roman coins, what do you suppose my answer would have been?’

Garnier tugged thoughtfully at his moustache, as he frowned over a refusal which was, at the same time, a proof that he could trust me.

“‘As to that—impossible!’ he exclaimed with vigour. ‘That is our secret—ours, you understand.’”


‘Suppose you explain to me what information you are in search of?’ he said, throwing himself into a chair.

I thought the battle was won, as I responded—

‘It concerns the Dreyfus Case.’

To my surprise, Garnier bounded out of the seat into which he had just dropped.

‘As to that—impossible!’ he exclaimed with vigour. ‘That is our secret—ours, you understand.’

I listened to this declaration with secret dismay. It revealed to me that the fate of Dreyfus was in some manner connected with the interest of the heads of the French Army, in short, with Garnier’s own; and from his tone I suspected that I was questioning the arch-plotter.

There was still the chance that he might be willing to part with the secret if he could be assured that it would not be used against him.

‘Suppose I required this information on behalf of a friendly monarch, who is himself a soldier, and who might be willing to pledge his word that it should not be made use of to your disadvantage?’

Garnier gazed at me as though he would have read the name of this monarch in my eyes.

‘Impossible,’ he repeated, in a tone of real regret; ‘twice impossible!’ And, as though anxious to convince me that his refusal was not unfriendly, he added—‘It is not a question of a Boulanger this time.’


Perceiving that I could not press him further without showing my own hand, I reluctantly allowed Garnier to depart. He had in reality told me more than he suspected.

In the first place, he had convinced me that the Kaiser’s suspicions were not idle, by his reception of my hint that I was acting for a foreign Power. If the ferocious sentence on Dreyfus had been inspired by spite against an unpopular officer, or by a desire to find a scapegoat for bigger traitors; or if it had merely been an episode in the secret duel between the Church and the Freemasons, as the champions of Dreyfus were inclined to believe, there would have been no meaning in that regretful ‘Twice impossible!’ If Garnier had refused to sell his secret to a foreign Power, I knew him well enough to feel assured that it must be because that Power was in some way interested to defeat Garnier’s conspiracy.

But the real clue had been placed in my hands by those concluding words—‘It is not a question of a Boulanger this time.’

Such a phrase constituted a riddle which few men in Europe were better able than myself to decipher.

Boulanger was an adventurer, lifted on a wave of popular favour, who had seemed likely at one moment to overturn the republic and replace it by a military dictatorship with himself at the head. He had failed[65] because he was a mere adventurer, who represented no principle, and who lacked that personal prestige with the Army which is only acquired by successful leadership in war.

Nevertheless his career had revealed the weakness of the Republic, and proved that all that was necessary to bring about its downfall was an alliance between the military caste and some pretender with more substantial claims than those conferred by the shouts of the Paris mob.

Every one who knows anything of France knows that the soldiers have long chafed under the ascendency of the lawyers, which is a necessary consequence of Republican institutions. But Garnier’s words, if I interpreted them rightly, showed that the lesson of Boulanger’s failure had been laid to heart, and that this time the military conspiracy which undoubtedly existed had found a really formidable figurehead. In short, it was a question not of a military dictator, but of a monarch; not of a Boulanger, but of a Bourbon or a Bonaparte.

I found myself on the brink of a discovery of first-rate importance. For the success of such a military revolution as that indicated only two things seemed necessary, a candidate and an occasion. If my diagnosis were sound, a candidate had been found in Philippe d’Orléans, the representative of the ancient monarchy, or Victor Napoleon, the heir of[66] the Bonapartes. The occasion was to be furnished, perhaps, by the long-delayed war of la revanche!

As soon as I had reduced my thoughts to some sort of order I decided that my next step must be to ascertain which of the two pretenders, who seemed pointed out for the leading rôle in such a conspiracy, was the chosen one. The Duke of Orleans was at this time in England, while the home of Prince Napoleon, as every one knows, is in the neighbourhood of Brussels.

I despatched two of my most trusted subordinates, one to Belgium, and the other to England, with instructions to keep a close watch on the movements of both princes, and to let me know if there were any signs of unusual activity which would indicate that some stroke was in preparation.

In Paris I kept up a similar watch on the headquarters of the Royalist and Bonapartist parties. The Royalists are formidable, thanks to the influence of society; but the Bonapartist cause is represented by a small and dwindling clique of journalists and demagogues, who exhaust themselves in the effort to revive the Napoleonic legend, by their parrot-like repetition of the words Marengo and Austerlitz.

I did not imagine that this noisy faction would be intrusted with any important secret; and I was soon satisfied that if the chiefs of the Army were really contemplating a restoration, Bourbon or Bonapartist,[67] they had kept their design entirely to themselves.

The first reports which I received from my agents abroad were discouraging. The Bourbon Pretender, who is without reticence, and seeks every opportunity of advertising his personality, appeared to be quite passive for the moment.

Prince Victor Napoleon, a man of a very different character, who withdraws himself as much as possible from public notice, conscious, perhaps, that he has inherited some of his father’s unpopularity, was also leading his usual quiet life, and no evidence was forthcoming of any secret intelligence between him and the group of generals who controlled the French army.

Things were in this position, and I was beginning to feel dissatisfied with the slow progress I was making, when I was suddenly called to the telephone one evening by my agent in Brussels, who had at last some important news for me.

‘Prince Victor is going to England,’ he announced, after we had exchanged the password.

‘To England!’ Was it possible that the two rivals were about to meet? I asked myself. ‘When does he depart?’

‘Perhaps to-morrow. His secretary has been to the Belgian Foreign Office to procure passports.’

‘There are no passports required in England,’ I[68] returned, my suspicions instantly roused. ‘You have been deceived. Have you seen the passport?’

‘No. It was from the servants that I learned the Prince was going to England.’

‘It is a blind, rest assured. Keep the strictest watch, and do not allow him to leave Brussels without you. I shall come by the next train.’

I rang off the communication, and hastened to make the necessary preparations for a journey of which I could not foresee the end.

On alighting in the Belgian capital I was met by my faithful henchman, who informed me with sparkling eyes that he had succeeded, by means of a bribe, in ascertaining from a clerk in the Foreign Office that a passport had been granted to the Comte de Saint Pol and secretary, travelling to Berlin.

If anything had been needed to convince me that the journey of Prince Napoleon had a serious purpose, these concealments would have done so. I was now confident that I was on the right track, and I did not grudge the fatigue involved in a journey across Europe.

I ordered Fouqué, as my man was named, to resume his watch on the Prince’s abode, while I waited at the station from which the Berlin express takes its departure. It was understood that we were both to proceed by the same train as the Comte de Saint Pol and his companion.


No hitch occurred; the Prince, accompanied by his secretary and my agent, duly arrived to take their seats in the train, and the four of us alighted together in the capital of Germany. I had spent the interval in considering my plan of action. I was so far from foreseeing the true cause of Prince Napoleon’s mysterious journey, that I expected to find him closeted the next day with the German Emperor, imparting the confidence which Garnier had refused to me. The event proved very different.

As soon as the two travellers had taken up their quarters in a hotel, whither, it is needless to say, we accompanied them, the secretary was sent out on an errand by himself. Fouqué, of course, followed, and came back in about an hour with the startling information that the secretary had been to the Russian Embassy.

The meaning of this proceeding flashed upon me at once. The real destination of the Prince was not Berlin, but Petersburg. He was merely passing a few hours in Berlin in order to confuse the trail, and he had sent his passport to the Embassy to be viséd for Russia.

In order to make sure that my surmise was correct, I decided to make use of my implied authority to act on behalf of the German Government. I ordered Fouqué to force his way bodily into the Count’s apartment, announce himself as[70] an agent of the Berlin police, and demand to see the stranger’s passport. The ruse was completely successful, and I learned that the yellow seal of the Russian Eagle had been affixed to the paper.

My own task had now become difficult and dangerous. Although I maintain friendly relations with the Russian police, with whom I have often collaborated, I knew they were not likely to tolerate my intrusion into their territory as the spy of a foreign Power. In dealing with half-reclaimed savages like the Slaves, one never knows what form their revenge will take, and Siberia is not a country in which I have ever had any inclination to reside.

The plan which presented itself to my mind was an audacious one, but in such situations audacity is safer than faint-heartedness. I despatched Fouqué to the headquarters of the Berlin police with a denunciation against Prince Napoleon’s secretary for the crime of lèse-majesté.

Lèse-majesté is the one offence which is never treated lightly in German official quarters. Fouqué’s information was eagerly taken down, and a police officer promptly arrived at the hotel armed with a warrant for the arrest of the traveller.

M. Rémillard, the secretary, protested in vain that he was a stranger, who had only that hour arrived in Berlin, and was leaving Germany the next day;[71] and that he had never been guilty of the least disrespect towards Wilhelm II.

‘You declared that the Emperor was a babbler,’ he was informed.

‘Ah, but I meant the Emperor of Russia,’ retorted the Frenchman smartly.

‘What, is he a babbler, too?’ exclaimed the policeman—an answer which, I believe, has since become celebrated.

But his ingenuity could not save the unlucky secretary from arrest, and the Comte de Saint Pol found himself obliged to proceed on his journey alone. It remained for me to complete the execution of my design, by substituting myself in the place of M. Rémillard.

This project, which would have been beyond the powers of an ordinary police agent, was rendered possible in my case by my extensive knowledge of underground politics, and the reputation which I have striven to deserve of a man whose faith can be depended on.

I dismissed Fouqué, whose further presence would have embarrassed me, and took my seat in the coupé reserved for the Comte de Saint Pol in the Petersburg express.

In answer to the remonstrance with which my intrusion was received, I explained that I was acting under orders.


‘Your travelling companion has been arrested, Monsieur le Comte, but perhaps I may be allowed to supply his place.’

‘Am I under arrest, too?’ Prince Victor demanded with some indignation.

‘Not at all,’ I answered, ‘but your movements are of some interest to the German Government, or rather the Emperor, who has honoured me with his personal instructions.’

‘What have my affairs to do with his Imperial Majesty?’ inquired the Prince anxiously.

‘Perhaps nothing, perhaps a great deal. You will, at least allow, Monsieur le Comte, that your passage through Germany appears to be attended with some mystery.’

‘In short——?’

‘In short, the Emperor will be glad to be honoured by your confidence, Monseigneur.’

The Prince started at this title, and began narrowly scrutinising my face, while he evidently considered in his own mind what account to give of himself.

‘It may assist you, perhaps,’ I went on to say, ‘if I tell you that I already know nearly all that you can tell me. I am M. V——.’

At this name a change passed over Prince Napoleon’s face. A silent struggle seemed to be taking place in his breast. Presently he raised his eyes to mine.


“‘Am I under arrest too?’ Prince Pierre demanded with some indignation.”

‘Tell me, M. V——, are you capable of forgetting for a couple of hours that you are the Emperor’s confidential agent, and favouring me with your disinterested advice?’

‘I believe so, always provided that your Highness does not ask me to betray the confidences I have received from others.’

The Prince accepted this stipulation with frankness.

‘In all probability you are in a position to tell me more about the reasons for this journey than I know myself. I am going, as a matter of fact, in search of information.’

I concealed as much as possible the shock of surprise which this confession caused me. Up to that moment I had naturally imagined that the Prince was on his way to consult the Tsar, and obtain his approval, as the ally of France, of whatever designs were in progress. I now realised suddenly that I had overlooked a factor in the situation whose importance might be greater than Prince Victor’s own.

I need scarcely say that I refer to his brother Louis.

In enumerating the pretenders whose ambition threatens the Republic, I had naturally omitted this prince, whose claims seemed to be overshadowed by those of his elder brother. I now recalled his popularity as a young man of the most charming[74] manners, and the prestige which he derives from his rank in the Russian Army and the personal friendship of the Tsar.

What was more possible than that Garnier and his comrades, passing over the unattractive elder, should have chosen as the figurehead of their usurpation this romantic character, who would be doubly dependent on them, because he would be doubly a usurper?

These reflections passed through my mind swiftly enough for me to answer without any perceptible pause—

‘You are paying a visit to your brother?’

Prince Victor nodded, as though that were a matter of course. It was easy to see that he felt it a relief to be able to discuss the situation fully and frankly with a man of experience and resource, one who moreover had no reason for taking his brother’s side.

Briefly, his story came to this:—

‘Some years ago, after the death of our father, my brother had a long consultation with me about the prospects of our family. He asserted that he was more popular in France than I was, and suggested that the chance of a Bonaparte restoration would be improved if I would consent to abdicate in his favour. This I naturally refused to do, but he pressed me, and got other members of the family to do the same,[75] and at last I gave way so far as to say that if there were a substantial prospect of success, and it really depended on my resigning my rights in my brother’s favour, I would do it.

‘When I said that, of course, I thought it would be a question of a popular plebiscite, like our uncle received, and that I should be bound by the voice of the majority. But ever since then I have seen feelers put out from time to time in the Paris papers, suggesting that I did not wish to insist on my rights as the heir of the great Napoleon. And now within the last few days I have received a letter from my brother, informing me that a restoration is at last possible, and calling on me to fulfil my pledge, and publicly abdicate my claims.’

I listened to this remarkable disclosure with the keenest interest. It confirmed my suspicions on almost every point, though I was still far from feeling that I had obtained a complete solution to the problem set me by Wilhelm II.

My companion let it be seen plainly that he was not very well pleased with the prospect of being supplanted by his younger brother. I took this feeling into account in the advice which I offered.

‘The only thing you have told me that is new to me, is the fact that Prince Louis is the person favoured by the conspirators,’ I said. ‘I knew there was some such plot on foot, but, like every one else,[76] I took it for granted that you were the only possible candidate for the empire.’ My companion breathed indignantly.

‘As for the success of the movement, that is highly problematical. You will not feel very satisfied if you execute this solemn act, only to see your brother rise for a moment on the shoulders of the mob, and then vanish like Boulanger, leaving your House more feeble than at present.’

‘Then what do you advise me to say to my brother?’ he asked eagerly.

‘I think your course is perfectly clear. You are entitled to demand the fullest information, in the first place. If that satisfies you that your brother’s success is assured, that no action on your part can retard it, then you will act gracefully by conceding a signature which will not deprive you of anything, and will give you substantial claims on his gratitude. But if you see that you are being asked to efface yourself without sufficient grounds, you have only to declare that you are not convinced, and to issue a manifesto to your supporters in France, reminding them that you are still the head of the House of Bonaparte.’

My companion received this suggestion with every sign of satisfaction. During the remainder of the journey I lost no opportunity of playing on the same string, and making him feel that I was, as[77] it were, his ally, engaging in defeating a plot which was much more against him than against the Republic.

When we reached the Russian frontier, I had no difficulty in inducing the Prince to pass me through the barrier as the secretary of the Comte de Saint Pol, and I thus entered Russia in perfect security, in a character which would have amazed the Third Section.

On our arrival in Petersburg I asked Prince Napoleon if he intended to go to his brother’s address. He answered proudly—

‘I am still the head of my House, I believe. It would be more suitable for me to let my brother know of my arrival in order that he may wait upon me.’

I willingly charged myself with the delivery of the summons.

The announcement that I came from Brussels secured my instant admission to Prince Louis’s presence.

‘I have the honour to act as secretary to his Imperial Highness, Prince Victor Napoleon,’ I explained.

‘Ah! In that case you bring me a letter from him, no doubt?’

‘I bring your Highness a message simply. The Prince desires to see you.’


‘But I cannot leave Petersburg—surely my brother knows that!’

‘He knows it so well that he is in Petersburg.’

Prince Louis sprang to his feet, thunderstruck.

‘Victor is here!—already!’ he exclaimed in confusion.

For answer I named the hotel at which we had put up, explaining at the same time that the Prince wished to preserve his incognito strictly.

Prince Louis prepared to accompany me to the hotel in the carriage which had brought me to his house. As we drove along, he inquired—

‘Are you in my brother’s confidence?’

‘I believe I enjoy that honour,’ was my reply. ‘At least I am acquainted with the business which has brought him here.’

‘Perhaps you can tell me something of my brother’s views?’ he said, feeling his way.

‘I think his Highness expects to receive full information before he takes a step which will be irrevocable.’


‘He thinks, perhaps, that you may have been deceived by exaggerated promises, and that he has the right to forbid any premature attempt whose failure would damage the Bonapartist cause.’

Prince Louis gnawed his moustache with some impatience.


‘My brother must not be unreasonable,’ he murmured. ‘One is never certain of success in these attempts.’

‘If you will allow me to advise you, you will give him the fullest opportunity of judging of your prospects. It would be a serious thing for everybody if he were provoked into any public demonstration against you.’

The younger Prince changed colour.

‘Is it so serious as that?’ he exclaimed. And during the remainder of the drive he continued wrapped in thought, only the working of his brow betraying the anxiety within.

The greeting between the brothers was cordial, if not affectionate. I took it for granted that I was to be a party to the conference, and as each brother believed that I was secretly friendly to him, neither suggested that I should retire.

As soon as we were seated round the table, on which I had laid out some paper, pens, and ink, Prince Victor formally opened the discussion.

He spoke with a good deal of dignity and some eloquence. He treated it as a matter beyond dispute that he was the sole depository of the authority of the great Napoleon, entitled to the absolute obedience of every member of his House. He disclaimed any personal ambition, and referred to his former pledge, which he described as a promise to[80] abdicate if he were convinced that such a step on his part was really likely to result in the restoration of the empire.

He then laid it down that he retained the sole right to decide if and when the time for this step had arrived, and hinted that it was his duty, as well as his right, to interfere actively to check any designs of which he disapproved. He concluded by professing a sincere and hearty interest in his brother’s fortunes, and inviting Prince Louis to confide in him fully, as in his best friend.

This statesmanlike deliverance appeared to inspire the younger Prince with genuine respect. He appeared to be a good deal embarrassed in the beginning of his reply. It was a difficult task to tell his elder brother that he had been rejected in favour of Louis himself.

After acknowledging in the most ample manner his brother’s claims on his obedience and gratitude, Prince Louis proceeded—

‘The state of France shows clearly that our House has no chance of success by constitutional means. The Republic can only be subverted by the action of the Army, which embodies the spirit of the nation more truly than the collection of provincial advocates and financiers which calls itself the Chamber of Deputies. The Army will be guided by its chiefs, and, therefore, it is the Staff which holds our fate[81] in its hands. The generals very naturally feel a preference for a soldier. It is now nearly six months since I was first approached in the greatest secrecy by General Garnier.’

I had the utmost difficulty in not betraying my emotion at the sound of this name, so inseparably connected with the Dreyfus Case.

‘Garnier conveyed to me that he and his brother generals had decided that the time was ripe for a revolution, in which they anticipated receiving the support of the Church and the noblesse. He said they were determined to avoid a second catastrophe like that of the mountebank Boulanger, and therefore they meant to abolish the Republic by a military pronunciamento, and declare France a monarchy under their protection. And, in short, he offered me the crown in the name of the French Army.’

‘You reminded him of my existence, perhaps?’ put in the elder brother with some bitterness.

‘I refused to entertain the offer until it had been made to, and refused by, you,’ Louis protested earnestly. ‘Garnier replied that in no event would his brother generals agree to your nomination, and that, if I declined, the offer would be made to the Duke of Orleans, who commanded the support of the clerical faction. It was a question of Bonaparte or Bourbon, and I relied on our compact that in[82] such a case you would relinquish your rights in my favour.’

Prince Victor turned to me as though he wished me to express his sentiments. I accepted the task.

‘It would have been better if you had taken Prince Napoleon into your confidence before giving any definite answer,’ I said. ‘General Garnier might have paid your elder brother the compliment of explaining the reasons for setting him aside.’

‘I did not consider the project sufficiently mature at that time,’ was the answer. ‘I thought it better to wait till the affair assumed a tangible shape.’

‘And this stage has now been reached?’ I inquired.

‘It has. My brother will understand that a pretext was necessary for the action of the Army, and that pretext could only be the danger of war. For a long time we were troubled with the difficulty that neither in Germany nor in England was there any disposition to attack France, and our treaty with Russia laid it down in the most explicit manner that the Tsar would only come to our assistance in the event of our being attacked.

‘But at last, thanks to the vigilance of Garnier and the other chiefs of the Staff, it has been discovered that Germany is secretly preparing for a stealthy spring; she is covering France with her spies, and, but for the timely arrest of this Dreyfus——’


I could not resist a subdued exclamation of triumph as the utterance of this name completed the chain of discovery. The whole intrigue engineered by the artful and unscrupulous French generals lay displayed to my eye, as on a map. I listened like one in a dream as Prince Louis continued explaining to his brother the peril of the French nation, the justification for the Army’s taking command of the State, and the consequent certainty of a Bonaparte restoration.

Victor listened silently, unable to think of any objection, and seeing his own chance of ever reigning as Emperor of the French slipping from him. It was I who put the decisive question.

‘You have, I suppose, taken the Tsar into your confidence, and convinced him of the reality of the danger?’

‘We have obtained the promise of his support,’ Louis answered.

‘Good. In that case you will not refuse your brother the reasonable proofs which it is his right to demand, that you have not been deceived.’

‘What proofs do you expect?’

‘I respectfully advise Prince Napoleon to request an interview with the Tsar.’

This advice was received with very different feelings by the two brothers. Prince Louis cast on me a look of surprise and annoyance; his elder brother’s[84] eyes glistened with pleasure at a suggestion whose value was at once apparent to him.

‘You cannot object to my following my secretary’s advice’, said Prince Victor, after a moment’s pause. ‘The interests of my House are at stake; and before I resign the prospect of a throne I have a right to be thoroughly satisfied. The Tsar is your friend, and, therefore, you should be pleased to accept his mediation.’

Prince Louis yielded, not very graciously, to these representations, and undertook to arrange the conference. He then withdrew, leaving us to discuss the situation.

It is unnecessary for me to relate what passed between Prince Napoleon and myself. I succeeded in fixing him in the opinion that he had been treated ungenerously, and that he owed it to himself to thwart a dishonest and doubtful conspiracy, calculated to bring the name of Bonaparte into odium.

The following day, about the same hour, we were received by the titular autocrat of All the Russias.

The only persons present, besides the two brothers, were myself and the celebrated Pobiedonostzeff, who up till quite recently has exercised a mastery over the mind of his nominal sovereign that has been compared to that of Richelieu over the feeble Louis XIII.

It was at once evident that the decision of[85] Nicholas II. would be largely determined by the advice which he received from his spiritual and political mentor. In effect, the conference resolved itself into a duel between the formidable Russian statesman and myself; he, animated by a hatred of freedom, which led him to sympathise with the design against the Republic; I, influenced by a sense of justice, and a desire to do my duty by the German Emperor.

Having briefly acknowledged the favour of the Tsar in receiving him, Prince Napoleon left the statement of his case in my hands.

I began by briefly referring to the understanding between the two brothers, and the present situation of affairs.

‘What Prince Napoleon desires,’ I went on, addressing myself to Pobiedonostzeff, ‘is to understand whether he is being asked to abdicate on sufficient grounds. Is he dealing with a mere hole-and-corner conspiracy, which may end in a fiasco; or is it true that his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia is committed to the approval and support of his brother’s enterprise?’

The Tsar glanced from my face to that of his Minister, as I concluded, with an expression which convinced me that his Majesty knew very little about the affair, in which he had no doubt blindly accepted the guidance of Pobiedonostzeff.


The Procurator of the Holy Synod had evidently come prepared with an ambiguous reply.

‘His Majesty is a friend of France, and, as such, he naturally views with concern the weakness of the Republic, a weakness inseparable from Governments which rest on the authority of the mob. The Emperor is at the same time a friend of the House of Bonaparte, though, of course, he has no wish to interfere in favour of any particular candidate for the French throne rather than another.

‘He is pledged by treaty to come to the assistance of France in the case of an unprovoked attack by the Three Powers, or by the English. It follows that where the danger of such an attack exists, his Majesty is ready to encourage any prudent measure in the interests of France, such as this appears to be.’

Prince Louis smiled, well pleased at this skilful answer. His brother gave me an expectant glance.

‘Am I to understand, then—or, rather, is Prince Napoleon to understand—that it is the threatening attitude of Germany which has weighed with his Imperial Majesty?’

‘You may say the treacherous intrigues of Germany. The Germans have been careful to avoid any open provocation.’

‘His Majesty has received satisfactory proofs, no doubt, that such intrigues exist?’


‘Undoubtedly. General Garnier, on behalf of the Staff of the French Army, has laid before the Emperor’s advisers documents which prove up to the hilt that Germany is merely waiting for the psychological moment to spring upon France, disarm her, and erase her from the list of the Great Powers.’

‘Would it not have been more in accordance with precedent if these documents had been submitted to you by the President of the French Republic through the medium of the French Ambassador?’

I was glad to notice the Tsar turn a questioning look on his Minister as I delivered this thrust, for which Pobiedonostzeff was evidently not prepared.

‘I do not understand your objection,’ he said, in some surprise. ‘Prince Napoleon is surely not interested on behalf of the Republican Government.’

‘The interest of Prince Napoleon is to know the truth,’ I responded sternly. ‘Conspirators are not always scrupulous about the means they employ. General Garnier is not a man who can be pronounced incapable of manufacturing evidence in favour of his schemes.’

The Procurator’s face flushed.

‘You venture to insinuate that General Garnier is a forger!’ he cried wrathfully.

‘Listen, M. Pobiedonostzeff. In the time of the late Tsar I was employed by the Russian Government,[88] before it concluded the treaty of alliance with France, to obtain secret and precise information concerning the military strength of that country. I have never revealed the name of the officer from whom I purchased that information. Shall I do so now?’

The Russian Minister gazed at me in consternation, and his master appeared equally surprised. Glancing at a slip of paper which lay before him, Pobiedonostzeff asked—

‘Who are you, then? Your name cannot be Rémillard.’

‘It is V——,’ I answered.

The Procurator threw himself back in his seat, astonished.

‘Your police have not shown their usual astuteness, I am afraid,’ I observed, smiling.

The Tsar now interposed in a tone of more authority than I had ventured to hope from his not very strong face.

‘Do you suggest, M. V——, that the whole Staff of the French Army are engaged in a conspiracy to forge documents?’

‘Something of the kind, I am afraid, sire.’

‘But this notorious case, which has excited the attention of the whole of Europe—the Affaire Dreyfus?’

‘I am in a position to assure your Majesty that [89]Captain Dreyfus had no more to do with Germany than M. Pobiedonostzeff here.’

“The Tsar now interposed in a tone of more authority than I had ventured to hope for. ‘Do you suggest, M. V——, that the whole staff of the French army are engaged in a conspiracy to forge documents?’”

The Procurator of the Holy Synod raised his head.

‘You are very confident, it seems to me, M. V——,’ he sneered. ‘May I ask if you have been retained by the party which is seeking to reopen the case of Dreyfus?’

‘No, M. le Procureur, my knowledge has been acquired from an opposite quarter.’

‘From General Garnier himself, perhaps?’

‘No, not this time,’ I retorted, with biting significance. ‘My information was derived from his Imperial Majesty, Wilhelm II.’

Never shall I forget the changes which passed rapidly across the faces of three of my listeners as I made this statement. Prince Victor Napoleon alone received unmoved an announcement for which he was already prepared.

‘It is not a month,’ I added calmly, ‘since the German Emperor charged me with a commission to find out two things: the reason for the theatrical publicity given to the trial of an obscure captain in the French Army, and the object of the persistent attempt to represent him as a spy of Germany.’ I paused for a moment and turned to Nicholas II. before concluding. ‘That commission I have now accomplished. I am now in a position to inform the German Emperor that the purpose of this shameful[90] comedy is to impose on the French people the belief that they are in danger of an invasion, from which they can only be delivered by a Bonaparte restoration under the patronage of your Majesty.’

The face of the young Tsar went red and white by turn.

‘I swear by Saint Nicholas that they shall eat their forgeries!’ he said.

And I have reason to know that it was the pressing and peremptory request of the Russian Emperor that at last secured the second trial, and the final pardon and release of the unhappy sufferer.



Perhaps the most sensational event in recent history was the publication by the young and newly crowned Tsar of All the Russias of a rescript calling upon the great military Powers of the world to disband their armies and dismantle their fleets, and inaugurate an era of universal peace.

This extraordinary invitation produced a flutter in all the diplomatic dovecotes, for European statesmen have learned by this time that Russia does nothing in vain. Everywhere the same question was asked: ‘What is behind this rescript?’

It is scarcely necessary to add that, with the exception of a few sentimental fanatics in England and the United States, no one was inclined to put faith in a demonstration which was actually the prelude to a raid on the ancient liberties of Finland, in order to swell the armies of the Imperial peacemaker, and to a combined attack by all the great Christian Powers upon the only unarmed Empire in the world.


Nobody was deceived, but every one was disconcerted for the moment, and I was disconcerted like the rest. I was more. I was irresistibly drawn on to attempt the solution of a mystery which fascinated me like a difficult chess problem set before an expert in the game.

I could not afford, of course, to set about such an investigation merely for my own amusement. After waiting a decent time on the chance that I might be sent for by one of the Governments most interested in unravelling the schemes of the great Eurasian Power, I took the unusual step of going unasked to proffer my assistance to the Ambassador of a Power to which I have rendered important services.

To my surprise and chagrin I found myself repelled on the threshold, the Ambassador in question, a diplomatist of great experience, declaring that there was nothing to discover.

‘I share your disbelief in the peaceful intentions of the Russian Council of State,’ his Excellency was good enough to say to me. ‘But this is a matter with which they have really had nothing to do. This rescript is the outcome of the Tsar’s own individuality. He is a philanthropic young man, carried away by the enthusiasm natural to his age, and his advisers have had to give way to him. That is all; and it only remains to see whether his idea is practicable.’


The explanation was a plausible one, and all the more so because by this time the character of the new ruler of Russia was fairly well known to those whose business it is to reckon up the personalities of sovereigns and statesmen. Still I was not convinced.

‘That is exactly the explanation which I should offer to the Foreign Offices of Europe, if I were M. Witte,’ I ventured to observe.

The Ambassador smiled with good humour.

‘The explanation does not rest on the word of M. Witte, I assure you,’ he answered. ‘Every one who knows anything about Nicholas II. knows that he is a simple-minded, honest young man, quite incapable of playing a part in a comedy. As a matter of fact there is nothing in this rescript which he has not been saying in private conversation with his family and friends any time this last two or three years. The German Emperor heard all about it long ago. Now at last he has put his views formally before the world in a state paper. These proposals may not be practicable, but there can be no doubt that they are perfectly sincere.’

‘I do not doubt the Tsar’s sincerity,’ I returned. ‘But knowing what I know of Russia, I want to understand why the Council of State have allowed the Tsar to have his own way.’

This time the Ambassador’s smile was less indulgent.


‘Really, M. V——, I think you are pushing your suspicions too far. Your profession has biassed your mind, and caused you to see mystery where it does not exist. You remind me of those politicians whom Bismarck used to say that he could always deceive by being perfectly frank.’

I smiled in my turn, a little grimly, as I responded—

‘It appears to me, your Excellency, that the counsellors of the Tsar have just taken a leaf out of Bismarck’s book.’

Baffled in this direction, I was casting about me for another client, when my secretary came in to me one morning with a despatch marked urgent, calling me to proceed immediately to Constantinople, where my services were required by Muzaffir Effendi, the eunuch highest in the confidence of Abdul Hamid.

I snatched at the opening with the assurance of triumph. Of all states Turkey was the one most deeply concerned in the foreign policy of Russia. Of all possible clients the most desirable was the ruler whose secret hoards had dazzled the imagination of every secret service agent in the world for a quarter of a century.

What the business might be on which Muzaffir wanted me I neither knew nor greatly cared. I took my seat in the train that was to bear me[95] towards the Balkan Peninsula, firmly resolved that his business should give way to mine.

On my way across Central Europe I found the papers already full of the touching story of the benevolent young despot and his triumph over the worldly wisdom of his counsellors. I could not blame the journalists for being taken in by a story which had imposed on one of the most hard-headed diplomatists in Paris; I could only marvel at the astuteness and daring of the Muscovite statesmen who had contrived to turn the personal idiosyncrasies of their sovereign to use in their Machiavellian politics.

On reaching the shores of the Bosphorus I found, as I had anticipated, that I was wanted to disentangle a miserable intrigue of the harem, the kind of work more suited to a private detective than to a man in my unique position. Under any other circumstances I should have declined the task without more ado; as it was, I turned Muzaffir’s difficulty into my opportunity.

‘Listen to me,’ I said to the trembling eunuch, as soon as he had finished confiding his tale to me, ‘I can save you, and I will save you, but only on one condition. And that is, that you procure me a private and confidential audience of the Sultan, and that you use your influence with him to make him grant the request I have to make.’


Muzaffir, who, like all his tribe, was a miser, seemed overjoyed at this cheap method of rewarding me. Of course, he wished to know the object I had in view.

‘I am going to ask the Sultan to employ me on a secret political mission outside the Turkish Empire, a mission from which you have nothing to fear. Your business is to persuade the Sultan to trust me—let that be enough.’

Twist and wriggle as he would, the eunuch found he could get nothing more out of me. He gave in, and his influence over the mind of Abdul Hamid being unbounded, I quickly found myself face to face with the lean, dark, gaunt-eyed Asiatic who styles himself Commander of the Faithful and Shadow of God on earth.

Abdul Hamid proved to be in a more suspicious mood than my friend in Paris. As soon as I mentioned the Peace Rescript he interrupted me.

‘I am not going to disarm. I know what the Christian Powers are by this time. They always begin to talk about peace when they are secretly preparing to attack somebody.’

‘I am afraid your Majesty is right. The question is, what is the real design underlying this particular piece of hypocrisy?’

‘I know that, too,’ was the unexpected reply. ‘The Russians have decided to turn their attention to[97] China. There they can do all that they want with a hundred thousand men. So it is to their interest to get rid of the burden of a great army which will not be wanted for a generation.’

This was an ingenious idea, but it did not satisfy me, any more than the semi-official one had done. I ventured to object—

‘If that were all, sire, there would be no occasion for this melodramatic appeal to the other Powers. There is nothing to hinder Russia from reducing her armaments by one-half to-morrow. No one dreams of attacking her. Her army is kept up for offence, not for defence. She is the one Power that could afford to set the example of disbanding, and such an example would carry more weight than any number of professions on paper, however well meant.’

The Sultan appeared struck by this reasoning.

‘Then what do you say is the object behind this rescript?’ he demanded.

‘I do not know. But I undertake to find out if your Majesty will furnish me with the necessary means.’

Abdul Hamid gave me a distrustful glance.

‘It is an expensive thing to buy information from the Council of State,’ he grumbled.

‘You are right, sire. And the higher one goes, the more expensive it becomes. It is clear that this move has been engineered by persons who are able to[98] manage the Tsar himself, and such persons are not likely to sell their own game for much less than a million roubles.’

Abdul Hamid quivered at the mention of this sum as though I had demanded one of the eyes out of his head.

‘Why should I go to this expense?’ he objected. ‘I have already told you that I am not going to disarm.’

‘The question is whether you are willing to see Germany and Austria disarm, leaving you to face Russia single-handed. Surely it is worth a hundred thousand pounds to Turkey to prevent her allies from falling into such a trap.’

The Sultan still hesitated.

‘How do I know that I shall get anything in return, if I trust you with this money?’ he asked suspiciously.

‘Your Majesty must judge me by what I have done already. Two days ago you had never heard my name. Now I am here alone with you, with a loaded revolver in my pocket’—the Sultan started violently—‘discussing the secrets of your foreign policy. Does that look as though I were a fool?’

The Commander of the Faithful sat silent, attentively regarding me for some minutes. Finally he dismissed me, promising to consider my proposal.

“‘Your Majesty must judge me by what I have done already. Two days you had never heard my name. Now I am here, alone with you, with a loaded revolver in my pocket.’ The Sultan started violently.”

I withdrew, confident that Abdul would consult [99]his all-powerful favourite, and that Muzaffir would see that I got my way.

A week later I was back in Paris, with an autograph letter from the Sultan to his Ambassador in Russia, and a draft on the Ottoman Bank which I took the precaution to exchange for a letter of credit from a private Parisian banking firm to the Ephrussis of Petersburg.

My intention was to go to Russia in the character of a French financial agent, the representative of a syndicate of Paris bankers, on the look-out for profitable concessions from the Government of the Tsar. In this way I hoped to be able to approach influential persons without exciting suspicion, and to ascertain their corruptibility before exposing my secret object.

In order to play this part it was not necessary for me to indulge in any actual deceit. As a matter of fact the demand for foreign capital to develop Russian properties is a steadily increasing one, and I had no difficulty in meeting with financiers willing to constitute me their agent, to inquire into the character of some of the undertakings submitted to them.

The only person I proposed to take into my confidence was the Turkish Ambassador in Petersburg, on whom I relied for information as to the personal influences at work in the Russian Court.

It was to the Ambassador, therefore, that I paid my first visit on arriving in the northern capital.[100] His Excellency received me at first with some reserve, which was quickly dissipated by a perusal of the Sultan’s missive.

‘You have come to learn the truth about this rescript,’ he remarked. ‘It is certainly a new departure. You disbelieve in the sincerity of the Tsar, I suppose?’

‘Not in the sincerity of the Tsar, but in the sincerity of those who make his benevolent sentiments the cloak of their own secret policy,’ I corrected.

The Ambassador nodded approvingly.

‘You have put your finger on the weak spot,’ he responded. ‘The danger in dealing with this rescript is that the other Powers may take it seriously owing to their trust in the personal character of Nicholas. In reality Nicholas is merely an instrument in the hands of three persons, without whose advice he does nothing, and two of those three are themselves creatures of the Council of State.’

‘And the three persons are?’

‘They are his mother, the Dowager Empress Dagmar; Pobiedonostzeff, the Procurator of the Holy Synod; and the Grand Duke ——, the Tsar’s constant companion and bosom friend.’

At the sound of such names as these I was almost appalled at the outset. The character of the Dowager Empress, as much as her rank, rendered her unapproachable. M. Pobiedonostzeff, although a bigot,[101] was not likely to be a traitor. The Grand Duke was an unknown quantity, as far as I was concerned, but it did not seem very probable that a personage in his position would prove accessible to a bribe.

It never does to despair too soon. I put the question which long experience of the dark side of human nature has rendered habitual with me—

‘Has the Grand Duke any vices?’

‘He gambles a good deal in the Yacht Club.’

I drew a breath of satisfaction. Of all men the gambler is the easiest to corrupt, because to him alone money is everything, and because there comes a time to every gambler when money is not to be had.

‘Who are his gambling companions?’ was my next question.

The Ambassador named several Russian nobles of high rank, among whom the leading spirit seemed to be a Prince Boris Mendelieff. I was going on with my inquiries when his Excellency checked me.

‘I have told you enough, it seems to me, to enable you to go on by yourself. In the meantime I am the Ambassador of the Sultan, not his secret service agent, and I wish to know nothing that might compromise me.’

I respected his scruples, though they were such as some Russian diplomatists would scarcely have[102] understood, and proceeded to form my own plans for making the acquaintance of Prince Mendelieff.

Fortunately the Russians are as unsuspicious in private life as they are suspicious in politics. My skill as a bridge-player, a game in which I have no living superior, proved a ready passport into the gaming circles of Petersburg, and it was not long before I found myself sitting at the same card-table with the intimate of the Grand Duke.

I was lucky enough to lose a considerable sum to him, which I paid with a good grace, and he could not do less than invite me to his house. I accepted the invitation with an eagerness which must have struck him as rather ill-bred, and we drove there together. Over a bottle of champagne I became confidential. I avowed myself to be a money-lender, as well as a concession-hunter, and hinted that I should be prepared to pay handsomely for introductions to clients of high station.

Mendelieff took the bait like a hungry pike. He was the first to mention the name of the Grand Duke, doubtless knowing that his Imperial Highness would be only too pleased to meet such an accommodating person as I appeared to be. A bargain was struck, and Mendelieff promised to let me know as soon as he had arranged for my reception by his august patron.

The meeting took place in the Prince’s own house.[103] Cards were produced, the stakes were exceedingly high, and rather against my wish I won steadily, while the losses of the Grand Duke were severe enough to disturb his good humour. Mendelieff artfully seized the right moment to present me as a friend in need, and to take off the rest of the party, leaving us together.

The Grand Duke lost no time in putting me to the proof.

‘You are a banker, are you not, M. de Sarthe?’—De Sarthe was the name under which I had crossed the frontier.

‘At least, I represent some important financial houses,’ I replied.

‘Oh, spare me that kind of thing,’ his Imperial Highness returned impatiently, ‘let us take the usual comedy for granted, and tell me frankly how much you are prepared to lend me.’

‘I do not know how much you want, sir, but I have any sum up to a million roubles at your service.’

The Grand Duke’s eyes sparkled.

‘M. de Sarthe, you are a friend indeed!’ he exclaimed. ‘But what are your terms for this advance?’

‘As far as your pocket is concerned, nothing. I do not even ask that this loan shall ever be repaid.’

He stared at me for a moment in astonishment.[104] Then all at once his expression changed, and his voice dropped to a whisper.

‘Ah! I understand. This is some affair of the secret service. You are offering me a bribe, I suppose.’

‘I do not come from the Third Section, if that is what your Highness means. I am, as I have said, a financier, and my only object is to make money.’

‘I see. You wish me to influence the Government on your behalf?’

‘Not exactly that, sir. I am in search of information—information which will enable me to operate successfully on the Paris Bourse.’

The Grand Duke looked rather relieved. It was evident that he did not consider this very serious.

‘And what is the information you want?’ he asked.

‘It is very simple. I want to know the real bearing of the recent Peace Rescript of the Tsar. Let me explain,’ I went on quickly, raising my hand as I saw he was about to speak. ‘I know the surface explanation of the matter, but I do not believe it. I do not believe that this rescript would ever have seen the light unless the Council of State had some purpose of their own to serve by it, and I want to know what that purpose is. It is not to lessen the burden of their own armaments; they could do that,[105] if they chose, to-morrow. This is an appeal to the other Powers to disarm, and I want to know why it has been made.’

The Grand Duke listened to this speech in silence, biting his lips with an air of indecision from which I augured a good result.

‘You seem to know a good deal, M. de Sarthe,’ he said sullenly. ‘Surely you must know that I am not in the secrets of our Foreign Office.’

‘I believe that, of course, if you say so, sir. But I believe as well that the Tsar did not draw up this document without your encouragement, and that in encouraging the Tsar, you acted as the instrument of the Council of State. I am entitled to suppose that you were not a blind instrument, but that you knew pretty well why the Council were so ready to fall in with the enthusiastic impulses of Nicholas II.’

It was a bold thrust, but it went home. The Grand Duke gave me a startled look, and relapsed into a long spell of silent pondering. Finally he said—

‘And supposing I were to tell you something that you considered it worth a million roubles to hear, what guarantee have I that you would not betray my secret? What proof have I even now that you are not a spy set on by my enemies in the Council of State?’


‘I will give your Highness that proof on condition that, if it is satisfactory, you will accept my proposal.’

‘I consent.’

‘Then all I need do is to invite you to make your communication, not to me but to the Ambassador of the Sublime Porte, whom you will hardly suspect of being in the confidence of M. Pobiedonostzeff.’

With these words I rose to my feet. Stupefied for a moment, the Grand Duke recovered himself in time to make a detaining gesture.

‘Do not go, monsieur. What you have said completely satisfies me. It appears that I am required to betray my country.’

‘That depends,’ I returned smoothly. ‘If the Council of State is plotting to betray the Tsar, as I understand it is, I should have thought it consistent with the honour of a Russian prince of the blood to take part in defeating their unworthy schemes.’

This was evidently a new view to his Imperial Highness, and I could see by the expression of his face that it was telling powerfully.

‘Well,’ he said at length, ‘it seems to me that you have my word. When do you propose to pay me this money?’

‘Now, this moment, if your Highness pleases.’

‘Count it out, then,’ was the brief injunction.

“It was a singular scene, as I stood there laying down pile after pile of greasy ten-thousand-rouble notes on a richly inlaid table.”


I obeyed. It was a singular scene as I stood there laying down pile after pile of greasy ten thousand rouble notes on a richly inlaid table, while one of the highest personages in the proudest Court of Europe or Asia stood beside me, his tall figure glistening with gold ornaments and jewelled decorations, and his dark Slavonian features flushed with excitement and greed. As the last note left my fingers, he bent down and breathed in my ear—

Take the Siberian railway, and use your eyes.

I am ready to admit that my first feeling, after hearing those few words which had cost me a hundred thousand roubles each, was one of sickening disappointment. But a very little consideration served to show me that the Grand Duke had told me enough to place success within my reach, and that the information which he thus put it in my power to acquire by my own observation was calculated to be of greater value than any mere statement made at second-hand.

Somewhere along the vast, just completed track which connects the Baltic with the Pacific lay the key to the true purpose of that famous rescript which had imposed on all the statesmen of the world, and only vigilance and circumspection were required to find it.

Never was there a journey more fraught with peril than that which I now undertook. I had to[108] disappear from civilisation for an unknown length of time, and plunge into a region shrouded in mysterious dread, the land of prison and exile; the gloomy realm which forms the background to the showy life of the capital beside the Neva, like a dark subterranean dungeon hidden beneath a glittering palace.

From Siberia few enemies of the Russian Government ever return. My safety depended on my keeping up the character of a financial agent, on the look-out for sources of wealth requiring French capital for their development. In that character I was sure of a cordial reception, and it served as a convenient cloak for some curiosity about the country I was passing through.

Not daring to intrust my secret to a companion, I was obliged to go without sleep from the moment of leaving the Ural mountains behind. The utmost indulgence I could allow myself was such a light doze as left the attention ready to leap into activity at the least provocation. At every stopping place I got out and made a careful examination of the neighbourhood. The one thing I had to fear was the night. In the Cimmerian darkness of a northern winter I might have been carried past an army without perceiving it.

The train by which I travelled was a long one, and it was increased before we entered Asia by the[109] addition of an open car like a cattle-truck, containing peasants whom I took to be prisoners. I had to be careful not to show myself too inquisitive, but I noticed at the various stations along the track that they were all young men of about the same age, and that they got in and out in obedience to orders given by officials who were armed, and whom I imagined to be warders or police.

I did not consider it safe to hold much conversation with my fellow passengers. It was probable that more than one spy was among them. I had an uneasy sensation of being watched by invisible eyes, and I knew that if I once aroused real suspicion by my behaviour, my doom was sealed.

So the days and nights passed, and the train crept on its way across the silence of the frozen continent. I strained my eyes in vain across the blinding waste, and strained my ears through the night. No sight or sound rewarded me, save the solitary huts of the railway-men and the monotonous tinkle of sleigh-bells.

According to my reckoning we had got nearly half way from the Ural to the Amur when the longest stage of all was reached. We ran from the sunset of one day to nearly noon of the next, only halting to take in water and fuel. Then at last the train entered a town of considerable importance, apparently a sort of depôt of the line, there being[110] many side-rails on which trucks were standing as though waiting till they should be required.

As soon as the train stopped, I got out as usual with the other passengers, to stretch my legs and look about me. The long journey and the lack of proper rest had so exhausted me that it was some time before I realised that there was an unusual lack of bustle about this particular halt.

When at last the fact of this strange stillness was borne in upon my consciousness, I roused myself to observation. At once I perceived that the alighting passengers were fewer in number than before. It was the troop I had mistaken for prisoners who were missing. I looked at the end of the train for their car. It was no longer there.

We had silently slipped the wagon in the course of the night!

This discovery acted on my tired brain like magic. In an instant I was again the alert, cautious investigator whose decisions were as swift as his intuitions were unerring. Without hesitating I returned to my carriage, removed my luggage with the aid of a porter, and ordered a sleigh to drive me to the hotel.

The guard of the train came up to me, as I was making these preparations, and asked me if I were not going on.

‘Not by your train,’ I replied blandly. ‘I shall[111] break my journey here, and look about me. By what I can see this place seems likely to be an important commercial centre, such as I have come in search of.’

‘Your Excellency is mistaken,’ the man answered roughly. ‘This place is nothing at all—only a dumping place for spare wagons. To-morrow we shall come to a really important town, where much business is done.’

I gave the fellow my most supercilious stare. Then, pulling out a note for fifty roubles, I handed it to him, saying haughtily—

‘I am obliged to you for your trouble. Good day.’

He drew back astonished and abashed, and I made my way out of the station, without once turning to see if I were followed.

Directly I reached the hotel I threw myself on a bed, and slept soundly for twenty-four hours.

I awoke refreshed and vigorous, and ready to carry out my task with coolness and resolution. Knowing myself to be in a land where every second man was a spy, I thought it idle to attempt any concealment of my actions. I was there as an explorer, and I determined to explore boldly. If the agents of the Government took it on themselves to stop me, I knew well enough how to deal with them.

My first step was to ask the landlord of the hotel[112] to recommend me a guide. The man whom he presented to me was a typical mouchard, with ‘spy’ written on every line of his countenance. This was just what I expected. I engaged him at a liberal salary, and ordered him to fit out an expedition for a journey of some days into the interior.

‘Where do you want to go?’ the man asked.

‘Where I please,’ I replied sharply. ‘Keep your curiosity to yourself, or take another master. I want a guide, not a partner.’

This rebuke had the desired effect. The police agent, for such of course he was, was obliged to come with me on my own terms. Doubtless he reported me to his bureau as a headstrong man who could not be controlled by any means save open force.

At the same time I lost no opportunity of impressing the authorities with my assumed character. The Prefect of the town called on me, and I explained to him that Siberia was regarded in Paris as one of the richest mineral regions of the earth, and that I was merely the pioneer of a swarm of prospectors who would be invading it before long. I made his mouth water as I talked of shares and syndicates, and conveyed to him that by a judicious use of his opportunities he might become one of the millionaires of the future.

To the westward of the town, in the direction[113] from which the train had brought me, there was visible a range of low hills, a conspicuous landmark in the desolate plain. It was towards these hills that I ordered my guide to conduct me, as soon as the preparations for the march were completed.

The rascal was cunning enough to hide his reluctance, and we set out. But after we had gone a day’s journey I noticed that our march was steadily veering away from the line of the railway, and taking a northerly direction. I said nothing, determined to counteract these tactics at the right moment. At the end of the third day, after a slow progress compared with the speed of the train, we pitched our camp at the foot of the range, about forty miles, as near as I could judge, from the point where it was pierced by the railway.

The next morning the caravan wound its way to the summit of the ridge, and I looked down on a broad valley, watered by a river, and broken up by small spurs jutting out from the main watershed. As the guide was about to plunge down, so as to cross the stream, I checked him abruptly.

‘We are not going that way. I shall turn southward now, and keep along the summit of the ridge till we come to the railway.’

The man’s face turned as black as a thunder-cloud.

‘You cannot go that way,’ he snorted.



He hesitated.

‘Because it is impassable. The horses will break down.’

‘We will go on till they do,’ I answered sternly. ‘And let this be your last attempt to disobey me. At the next I send you back, and go on without you.’

The man slunk forward, muttering curses, which I affected not to hear. But I had not yet frightened him sufficiently. At the next halt one of the drivers came to me and reported that a horse had gone lame.

‘Bring it here,’ I commanded.

He went away, and returned leading the animal.

‘Go,’ I said sternly. ‘Take the horse back with you, and take rations for three days. Do not let me see you again.’

The driver looked thoroughly crestfallen. He slouched back to his comrades without another word.

I waited till half an hour had passed, then I rose and walked over to the camp-fire, round which my followers were seated, the driver among them.

‘How is it that you are still here?’ I demanded.

‘The horse is all right again,’ was the surly answer.

‘So much the worse for you.’ I took out my revolver in one hand, and my watch in the other. ‘In ten minutes from now I aim this revolver at you, and fire,’ I remarked. ‘It kills at two hundred metres. I should advise you to get out of range.’


I do not think I have ever seen a man get through his preparations in less time than then. Long before the allotted time was up, he was well out of reach, galloping down the slope of the hill.

In every expedition through a wild country there comes a moment which decides who is to be master. That moment past, I had no fear of further trouble. I was now able to unbend with the guide; I informed him that I expected to find gold, and promised him a rich reward if I succeeded with his aid.

But a disappointment was in store for me. Although we marched carefully along the summit of the hills, and I scrutinised every yard of the valley below with a powerful field-glass, I detected no trace of anything calling for investigation; in fact, I discerned no signs of human life. By the time I had worked down to the railway I began to fear that I was on a false scent.

It was in the night, after we had pitched our camp close beside the line, that the true solution occurred to me. I rose and secretly crept out of my tent, eluding the solitary watchman, and made my way along the track of the rails. After groping and stumbling over the roughly laid road for three or four miles, I suddenly made a discovery. The line divided, sending off a branch rail, which curved away to the south.

I knew now what had become of the missing gang[116] of prisoners, or rather—for by this time I saw more clearly—of military recruits.

I also knew why I had missed my way. The guide had led me to the north of the line, and what I had come so far to find lay to the south.

The next day I issued orders to continue the march to the southward, crossing the railway. The face of the guide, when he received this direction, sufficiently showed that I was getting warm, as the children say, at last. He made no open remonstrance, but in the course of the day I noticed that another man and horse had disappeared.

I paid no attention to this proof of treachery. It came too late to affect me. By noon of the first day after quitting the main line for the south, I was already in possession of the carefully guarded secret of the Council of State.

There at my feet, along the widening valley, lay a double line of rails, gleaming blue in the sunlight, and all across the level space at regular intervals stretched low banks and ditches—the lines of a vast encampment, capable of accommodating half a million men. Still further on I had a glimpse of the white sparkle of tents and piles of fresh-hewn timber, and I even fancied I could catch the faint hum of voices and the thud of hammers as the hidden army toiled away at its barracks and entrenchments.

“There at my feet, along the widening valley, lay a double line of rails, and all across the level space stretched low banks and ditches—the lines of a vast encampment, capable of accommodating half a million men.”


The meaning of the Peace Rescript was manifest at last, and the meaning was formidable indeed. While appearing to disarm in concert with the rest of Europe, Russia’s intention was secretly to withdraw her enormous forces to this unsuspected retreat, from whence, at the decisive moment, they would issue like a creation of magic, to overwhelm the defenceless continent.

I had made my discovery; it was still a question whether I was to return with it in safety.

Before I had made up my mind whether to push my observations further, I was alarmed to see a sotnia of Cossacks approaching, led by a Russian officer. My little camp was quickly surrounded, and the officer presented himself before me.

It required all my nerve to deal with the emergency. The first words of the officer showed me that he considered me a spy, and was prepared to hang me out of hand. I affected the utmost astonishment and indignation, and produced the papers which showed me to be a Frenchman travelling on behalf of various financial syndicates in Paris. The officer thrust them aside contemptuously.

‘All this is nothing to me,’ he declared. ‘You should not have come within reach of our camp. Even if I do not hang you, you will never be allowed to return to Europe, of that you may be assured.’

‘I will take my chance of that, captain,’ I answered[118] coolly. ‘Living in this out-of-the-way region, you perhaps have not heard that France and Russia are in military alliance, and, besides, that the Tsar has declared his intention to disarm, so that your preparations here have ceased to be of the slightest consequence to anybody.’

The officer was fairly staggered. He had heard, of course, of the French alliance, and no doubt some rumour as to the recent rescript had penetrated to the secret camp, but without its scope being very well understood.

‘I know that it is my duty to arrest you, at the very least,’ he persisted.

‘As to that, you will do as you please. It will sound well in Paris that every prospector who ventures into Siberia with a view of developing the resources of the country exposes himself to the treatment of a spy. M. Witte will find it takes some persuasion to secure another French loan.’

It is needless to give further details of a conversation in which the ignorance of the Russian gave me a very great advantage over him. I am vain enough to plume myself on having made use of the treacherous rescript to out-manœuvre its authors. In saying that, of course, I do not refer to Nicholas II., who perhaps did not even know of the existence of the hidden camp.

In the end the Cossack officer decided to escort[119] me back to the town where I had left the train, and hand me over to the civil authorities, a decision which was assisted by the usual methods of persuasion in the East. My friend the Prefect, already predisposed in my favour, required a somewhat heavier bribe, and finally I made assurance doubly sure by resuming my journey eastward, and leaving Russian territory by way of the Chinese frontier.

It was from the first telegraph station in the Celestial Empire that I sent the cipher despatch to Constantinople which was destined to render abortive the much-talked-of Conference at the Hague:

Russia preparing enormous concealed camp in Siberia, beside railway, to hide forces when nominally disbanded. I have seen it.

Abdul Hamid was too shrewd to take any open part in opposing the Russian proposals, but when I saw the firm stand made against them by the German representatives, I knew that he had not thrown my telegram into the waste-paper basket.

It only remains to add that the Russian Government, realising that its secret had been betrayed, stealthily set to work to efface every sign of the concealed camp; and that, if my latest information be correct, the mysterious valley is again given over to silence and to solitude.



Guy de Maupassant once remarked to me that it was necessary to preserve the Anarchists in order to make modern history interesting.

The rulers of the world seem to be of the same opinion. Over and over again scientists and men of common sense have told them that the Anarchist is simply a diseased mind, requiring to be dealt with like other brain-sick creatures. But statesmen and police alike have persisted in treating the Anarchist as a serious politician, with results which are, unfortunately, too well known.

It is true that, after the death of Elizabeth of Austria, the chivalrous King of Italy, Humbert, summoned a conference of diplomatists and police directors in Venice to consider methods for dealing with the Anarchists. But he would have done better to call in Professor Lombroso. I myself would undertake to guarantee the life of every ruler in Europe[121] and America, for the sum of £20,000 a year, provided I were allowed to incarcerate in an asylum every man whom I could prove to be a sufferer from homicidal mania.

As it was, I foreboded that the only result of King Humbert’s gallant action would be to point him out to these creatures as their next victim. Yet I must now so far confess myself mistaken as to declare that the death of the late King of Italy does not really lie at the door of Anarchism.

It was another European sovereign, more alive to the realities of the situation than Humbert, who secretly commissioned me to make an investigation into the organisation of the Anarchist sect and the trend of its operations. I must not disclose the name of this monarch; to do so would be to point him out to the vengeance of the assassins.

As soon as I had received his commission I laid aside all my other work and prepared to disappear for an indefinite period.

My first step was to transform myself into a workman, or rather a loafer, for an industrious workman is seldom found among the ‘active’ Anarchists. I secured a few jobs in Paris as a house-painter’s labourer—that is to say, I did the scraping and cleaning before the skilled workman applied the fresh coats of paint. I took care to show no zeal in my employment, and in the intervals of work I hung[122] about the brasseries and grumbled at the smallness of my earnings.

By these tactics I quickly earned the reputation of a good comrade, and a true-hearted Republican. The Socialists of the quarter I had chosen to work in quickly recognised me as a likely convert, and I allowed them to enrol me in one of the most advanced societies.

All these measures were mere preliminaries to the final one of blossoming forth as a declared Anarchist. It is from the ranks of Socialism that Anarchism draws its recruits. Though the two theories are utterly opposed, they express the same discontent with civilisation. An Anarchist is little more than a Socialist who has gone out of his mind.

By going over to the Anarchist group from the arms of their rivals, I ensured myself a welcome which would never have been given to me had I attempted to force myself upon them at the outset.

Among the Anarchists it was necessary to adopt rather different tactics. I had now to play the part of a dangerous lunatic, only awaiting direction from some superior mind to commit an act of violence.

Paris itself is not an important Anarchist centre. The French police are too quick witted for their capital to be a comfortable residence for these desperadoes. The three great centres, as most people know, are Zürich, London, and Jersey City, U.S.A.


Zürich is the Russian headquarters, and is rather a place for Nihilists than international Anarchists. I therefore decided to cross over to London, in the hope of coming into touch with the leading minds of the sect.

In London I found myself received without the least suspicion. My carefully prepared record stood me in good stead. I was introduced by my Parisian comrades as a promising convert from Socialism, and no one inquired further.

I found the London Anarchists torn by internal dissensions which left them no time to think of attacking kings and queens. The first man I was asked to murder was Prince ——, the leader of the idealist group, whose sole offence was his refusal to concur in the homicidal programme of the active Anarchists.

I refused to execute this mandate, on the plea that I had vowed to put to death a crowned head, and could not afford to risk my life in the pursuit of humbler prey.

I may state here that the elaborate machinery of secret meetings, oaths, ballots, and so on has no existence except in the imagination of popular novelists. Their fantastic descriptions can only provoke a smile on the part of any one who has been behind the scenes of Anarchism.

The Anarchists are a fluctuating community, here[124] to-day and gone to-morrow, among whom a few leading spirits who have learned to know and trust each other by actual experience exercise an influence much like that exercised by the Front Bench over a Parliamentary party in England, an influence which varies with their own concord and strength of character.

When these leaders find a man whom they see to be a suitable instrument, they bring their influence to bear on him to carry out whatever object they may agree upon. In some cases perhaps a pantomimic scene is arranged, such as we read of in romances, to impress a weak mind. I can only say that I never saw anything of the sort.

A well-known Anarchist, whose name would be recognised immediately were I to mention it, took me aside one night, and suggested to me the removal of the Prince. I gave the answer I have mentioned, and the proposal was instantly dropped.

My refusal was followed, naturally enough, by an attempt on my own life. Two days afterwards the editor of an Anarchist paper, who had taken rather a fancy to me, came round to my lodgings before daybreak and advised me to leave for America. He gave me no reason for this advice, but he was very urgent with me, and insisted on writing me a letter of introduction to a man living in Jersey City. I promised to consider the matter, and he bade me farewell.


On leaving my lodging an hour later to go and look for a job—the customary pretence—I discovered immediately that I was being followed. I need scarcely say that for me to baffle the clumsy espionage of such blunderers would have been the easiest thing in the world. But I wished to see how far they would go, and I allowed my tracker to follow me all day. At night I went down to the Thames Embankment. I placed myself on the edge of the river steps by Cleopatra’s Needle, and waited.

I am a good swimmer, and I did not think it likely that my enemy would use a weapon if he thought he could get rid of me by the simple method of pushing me into the water. A pistol would be too dangerous for himself on account of the report. I had seen that he did not carry a stick. He was probably armed with a knife, and he might try and give me a thrust with it as he pushed me over; but a knife-thrust in the back is not a very serious thing to a man who has been in the habit of wearing a mail shirt for twenty years.

I am ready to confess that my heart beat faster as I heard the stealthy tread coming up behind me. To my surprise the would-be assassin paused before he had got within striking distance, and shuffled with his feet on the flags. Puzzled by these tactics I glanced round and saw a young man, not more than twenty years of age, whose face was white, and who[126] was trembling in every limb. At once I grasped the situation. The poor wretch’s heart had failed him, and he was trying to put me on my guard against himself, in order that he might have an excuse for not carrying out his task.

I walked past him without a word, shook him off in the course of the next hour, and took the last train to Liverpool.

On my arrival in the States, I lost no time in seeking out the man to whom my editor friend had furnished me with an introduction. To the European reader it may be worth while to explain that Jersey City practically joins on to New York, so that it is really a suburb of the American metropolis.

I was received with open arms by this man—an Italian named Ferretti—and I became a member of the most influential Anarchist club. Among those I sometimes played dominoes with there was a long-haired dreamer named Bresci, a visitor from Paterson. All this time I passed under the name of Lebrun. My American citizenship I carefully concealed.

I soon saw that some one had informed the American group of my being bound by oath to kill a crowned head. On all hands I was treated with the deference due to a prospective martyr. It was not long before Ferretti himself began to sound me as to my willingness to make Humbert of Italy my victim.


“I walked past him without a word.”

I was careful not to discourage this suggestion as I had the one made to me in London. I listened to all Ferretti had to say with apparent acquiescence.

‘Humbert has placed himself at the head of our enemies,’ he urged. ‘This Venice conference is a declaration of war. If we wish to maintain our moral ascendency we must strike a blow which will intimidate other rulers from proceeding against us.’

As soon as I could get away I went into New York and sent a code telegram to my secretary in Paris for him to decipher and send on to the King of Italy. It was in these terms: ‘Anarchists in Jersey City, U.S.A., are looking for man to send against you. Have ports watched.

Unfortunately the King paid no attention to this warning. He was a fatalist, it seems.

Ferretti returned to the charge before long. I kept him in play, neither consenting nor refusing, my object being, of course, to retain his confidence. I did not want another man to be despatched instead of me without my knowledge.

It was not long before others beside Ferretti began to try and influence me in the same direction. It is difficult to trace the first birth of suspicion in the mind, but a suspicion was born in mine that these men had some motive which they had not yet disclosed to me for urging me to this attempt.

I tested them at last by making a counter-proposal.[128] It was in the club, late one night, and there were present, beside Ferretti, another Italian who called himself ‘The Bear,’ a bearded German named Peters, and a Swiss watchmaker, who was lame and used crutches. These four seemed to have a common understanding.

Peters had been acting as spokesman, and strongly denouncing the proceedings at Venice, which he described as an abandonment of the methods of civilisation—a curious complaint for an Anarchist to make.

Ferretti applied the moral.

‘Some one must be found to avenge us,’ he declared. ‘If Humbert is suffered to live, our principles are doomed.’

‘I am not sure of that,’ I answered. ‘Humbert is not a politician. He has been stirred up because Luccheni killed a woman, which, in my opinion, was an unwise action. We ought to choose our victims more carefully. It is absurd to pick off a man like Humbert, when there are such enemies as —— and —— alive.’

My remarks were received in ominous silence. The other four exchanged looks of disappointment. The Bear was the first to protest.

‘It is the curse of Anarchism that every one wants to have his own opinion. It seems to me that when men like ourselves, who have guided the movement[129] for years, are agreed on the right course of action, a new comrade ought to accept our decision.’

I did not retort that the word Anarchist, if it meant anything, meant one who had his own opinion and refused to be guided by the agreement of others. There is nothing a fanatic resents so much as reason, except ridicule. Instead, I affected to be surprised.

‘Do you mean that you disapprove of the execution of ——?’ I demanded, naming a man whose reputation for cruelty and bigotry was world wide.

‘The removal of Humbert ought to come first,’ was the answer.

‘Do you say that deliberately? Have all our comrades made up their minds, or is it merely your own opinion?’

‘It is the judgment of us four,’ said The Bear. ‘That ought to be enough.’

‘We are willing to provide funds for any comrade who will undertake the mission,’ added Peters.

‘But not for any other mission, such as one against ——?’ I ventured to object.

‘We have not said that. We are ready to consider an application.’

The last answer came from the lame watchmaker, who had kept his eyes fixed on me with a close scrutiny during the whole conversation. It was[130] evident that this man was more cautious than the other three, and that he had begun to distrust me. Perhaps he thought I was a boaster; perhaps his suspicions went deeper.

‘Well, I am not under anybody’s orders,’ I said, rising to my feet. ‘Show me that I can serve the cause better by Humbert’s removal than any one else’s, and I will take the mission.’

The four let me come away in silence. I had now no doubt whatever that there was some very strong motive in the background behind all this talk about the Venice conference, and I sent a fresh wire to the threatened King—‘American group absolutely determined on your death, and offering bribes.

This telegram was treated with the same indifference as its predecessor.

Ferretti was naturally more inclined to trust me than were the others, thanks to my London friend’s recommendation. I was, therefore, not surprised to receive a call from him the next day, and to find that he was at last going to show his hand.

‘It is right, is it not,’ he began, ‘that you are prepared to undertake the removal of one of our enemies, provided you are satisfied that you are doing good to the cause?’

‘That is all I ask,’ I responded; ‘Humbert or another, what does it matter to me?’


“‘I am not under anybody’s orders,’ I said, rising to my feet.”

‘You don’t consider that the fact that Humbert has taken a leading part against us marks him out for destruction?’

‘No, I don’t; I don’t believe he is any worse than the others.’

‘Very well; admitting that, for the sake of argument; if I were to prove to you that Humbert’s death would benefit the cause specially in other ways, what would you say?’

‘If I believed that, I should most likely consent.’

‘Good! That is what I expected. Now you understand that what I am going to tell you must be in the very greatest confidence.’

I nodded.

‘The removal of Humbert will put funds at our disposal for other work.’

At last I was on the trail. Carefully concealing my excitement under an appearance of natural curiosity, I inquired: ‘How is that, comrade?’

‘You must not ask too much. I have only got authority to tell you that it is so. A sum of money will be ours as soon as Humbert is dead.’

‘And you will not tell me how or why?’

Ferretti hesitated.

‘It has been promised us—guaranteed to us, in fact—by one who has reasons of his own for wanting to see Humbert out of the way.’


‘I don’t like the sound of that,’ I objected. ‘It sounds as though we were being hired as private assassins.’

Ferretti’s face fell.

‘I am afraid I cannot tell you anything more without consulting others,’ he said slowly. ‘I will swear to you, if you like, that it is not a case of private revenge. The person behind us has public reasons for his conduct, though they are not the same as ours.’

This statement threw me into a brown study. What public reasons could any one possibly have for the removal of the King of Italy? The Garibaldians? No, they were not assassins—besides, they would not have come to America to get a suitable instrument. There were plenty nearer at hand.

‘Listen to me,’ I said at length. ‘When I took a vow to rid the world of a crowned head at the risk of my own life, I did not undertake to become a blind tool in the hands of any one else. I owe no obedience to you or our comrades. I say what I said last night—convince me that I ought to kill Humbert, and I will. But it is no good if you can’t trust me. Why should I trust you with my life, when you won’t trust me with your reasons for wanting this King out of the way?’

Ferretti was staggered.


‘I will tell the others what you say,’ he declared. ‘For my part, I think your demand is reasonable.’

He left me, but did not come back. Days passed, and no further overture was made to me. On the contrary, the lame Swiss began to talk to me about the other victims I had pointed out, and to encourage me to fix on one of them.

I was able to guess what had happened. The four were looking for a more docile tool.

I sent off a third wire:

I have lost touch with the conspiracy. From this moment I no longer answer for your life.

This warning was not even shown to the doomed King.

I now adopted a course which I had put off as long as possible, on account of the risk involved. I secretly engaged a second lodging at a distance, where I could disguise myself as I pleased, and began to shadow the Anarchist leaders.

It was a dangerous game to play, because such men were accustomed to find themselves the subject of police surveillance, and would probably be quick to detect anything of the sort. My only chance of success lay in the fact that I already possessed so much knowledge of their movements as to make the task of watching them a comparatively easy one.

I had come to the conclusion that the real head[134] of the group was the crippled Swiss. This man kept a small shop, chiefly for repairs, in the heart of the Italian quarter. I made up as a Corsican, to account for any imperfections of accent, and hung about the neighbourhood, begging.

Ferretti, Peters, and The Bear were frequent visitors, and the simpleton Bresci called once or twice, but for some days I saw nothing that I could fix upon as having a suspicious look. I remembered, however, that the lame watchmaker had always been missing from the gatherings at the club on Saturday nights, and I looked forward to making some discovery when the end of the week arrived.

I was not disappointed, though I had to wait so long that I almost gave up hope. Just as the clock struck ten a tall, swarthy figure brushed right by me, and slipped into the little shop. The moment after, the lame man came out into the street, and began putting up the shutters.

It was necessary to act promptly. I stepped up to the Swiss and whispered my assumed name in his ear.

‘Lebrun! You!’ he ejaculated in astonishment. ‘I thought you were one of the police.’

‘It is the other way about,’ I answered. ‘The police have been after me; that is why I have had to disguise myself. But let us come inside, I want to talk to you.’


As I expected, he tried to prevent me going in.

‘No, not there. I have some one on business.’

‘Business of the cause?’ I demanded.

‘Yes—no, private business.’

‘I will wait in the shop till he is gone,’ I returned, and pushed my way through the door, the cripple following.

The tall, dark figure started to its feet in evident alarm as we entered. I saw a brown hand glide towards the bosom, an action which told me that I was not dealing with a European. In the dim light of the little shop I could not fix the stranger’s nationality more precisely. He did not seem to be an Arab; he was above the grade of a negro. If I had met him in Algiers I should have called him a Sudanese, a convenient term for the unknown races of Africa.

The situation was a complicated one. The watchmaker, it was evident, did not more than half believe my account of myself; I could not tell that the stranger really had any connection with the mystery I wanted to unravel; and he must have been utterly confounded by my intrusion.

‘Is your friend one of us? Does he know anything about the business you put before me the other day?’ I asked of the Swiss in Italian.

Before the Swiss could do more than give me a[136] warning gesture, the unknown had addressed him in the sort of Italian which forms the common speech of seamen in the Levant.

‘Is this the man you thought you could persuade to undertake the work?’

The watchmaker was fairly cornered.

‘Go inside and I will speak to you,’ he said to the swarthy outlander; then he added, speaking in quick French to me—‘I must have some explanation with you before I trust you again.’

‘That will not do for me,’ I returned, sticking to my Italian and trying to render it intelligible to the unknown. ‘You have asked me to do a dangerous work on behalf of the cause; very well, I am ready to do it, but first I insist on knowing who is going to provide the sinews of war. That is fair, it seems to me.’

This time the stranger’s tone became peremptory.

‘Why do not you wish me to speak to this man?’ he asked.

The shopkeeper scowled at both of us by turns.

‘Because I don’t know that he is right,’ he muttered.

‘How do I know that you are right?’ I retorted. ‘It appears you are going to have a big price for this business, and you want me to shut my eyes and not ask what becomes of the money.’

The Swiss wrung his hands in despair. I believe[137] that he was quite honest, and that he wished for the money in order to spread his atrocious principles; while his distrust of me was only too well founded.

I addressed myself boldly to the unknown.

‘I am your man, I believe. Tell me who you are, and why you want this job carried out, and I will undertake it. As for the money, you may hand that over to my comrade here, as long as I know how much it is.’

This last offer turned the balance. The Swiss himself proposed that we should come into the back shop and talk things over in confidence.

When we were all three seated together, it was the watchmaker who gave me the long-sought explanation in a few words.

‘This man is an Abyssinian. He has come here on behalf of the Emperor Menelik.’

‘Menelik!’ I exclaimed in astonishment. ‘What has he got to do with us?’

‘Nothing directly; but if you have read the papers you must know that Humbert was the moving spirit in the Abyssinian war. He made peace after Adowa, under pressure from the Crown Prince, who told him the dynasty was in danger. But Menelik believes that the King is secretly preparing for a fresh attack. He is in league with the British, who are advancing from the Sudan. The Abyssinians want to clear the Italians out of their country altogether, and[138] they can never do that while Humbert is alive. That is how it stands, isn’t it?’

This last question was addressed to Menelik’s agent. The Abyssinian answered by a smile that showed his formidable white teeth.

‘The King of Italy is the enemy of Abyssinia. The King of Italy must die. If an Abyssinian tries to kill him, he will be suspected, and stopped; therefore he must be killed by a European. The Negus has sent me to find a European who will do this for money. I have been in Italy and France, and there they told me that it was best for me to apply to the followers of your religion, which teaches that all kings ought to be killed. Is it not so? Therefore I come here, to the headquarters of your sect. If one of you will accept the task, on that day I pay him in the money of this country one thousand dollars. On the day I hear that King Humbert is dead I pay you four thousand dollars. Divide it how you like; that is nothing to me.’

Improbable as a fairy tale though all this sounded, I could not resist the evidence of my own senses, which showed me the Abyssinian envoy there in the flesh. I knew, of course, that assassination has always been one of the recognised political methods of Asiatic and African States, but this alliance between a half-civilised despot and the extreme revolutionaries of Europe struck me as altogether[139] without precedent in the history of the world. Certainly my own experience, fertile as it naturally had been in surprising incidents, had never brought to light a more singular intrigue than this.

My position now became an extremely difficult one. I had practically agreed to accept the commission to assassinate the King of Italy, but it was not that which troubled me. I foresaw that as soon as Menelik’s agent realised that he had been played with by me he would endeavour to find some other and more trustworthy tool. To denounce him to the police of New York would have been perfectly idle; in the first place he could buy the police, and in the second place no American court would punish a ‘political’ conspiracy, unless, indeed, it were against the United States.

I contented myself for the moment with formally undertaking the required murder. The Abyssinian arranged to bring the first instalment of the blood money to the watchmaker’s house on the following Saturday night, and we all three parted apparently on the best of terms.

The next day I sent off a long telegraphic despatch summarising the whole situation. The proposal I made was that the Italian Government should cable me authority and funds to enable me to have the Abyssinian envoy privately kidnapped, and returned to his own country, viâ Massowah.


They had the incredible folly to wire instead to their Minister in Washington, instructing him to demand the arrest and expulsion of Menelik’s agent.

The net result of this ill-considered action was to flood the Italian quarter of Jersey City for several days with sham detectives, to cause a thousand or two dollars to pass into the pockets of the local Tammany, and to compel me to hasten my departure for Europe on my supposed mission, in order to rebut the suspicions of the Anarchists—and, in fact, to escape their vengeance.

The night before my departure there was a little supper at the club, at which the four were present. No open reference was made to the object of my journey. But after supper the half-witted Bresci, who had been one of the party, asked leave to walk home with me.

‘I wish I were going with you,’ he said suddenly.

‘I wish I could put you in an asylum, where you would be taken care of,’ was my thought in answer. I said aloud that I had reasons for going alone.

‘I know those reasons,’ the enthusiast declared. ‘Let me come with you. I am not afraid.’

For a moment I hesitated. A king’s life was in the balance, though I did not know it.

I made the clever man’s common mistake—I underrated the strength of the fool.

‘Take my advice,’ I said to Bresci, ‘leave this work[141] to men like me. You are not suited for it: you would betray yourself directly.’

His face became overcast, and he relapsed into a sullen silence which lasted till I parted from him at my own door.

An hour before stepping on board the steamer that was to convey me to Havre I sent off a final wire: ‘Am leaving to-day for Europe, pledged to kill King Humbert.

This bitter shaft of contempt roused even the Italian police into activity. On landing at the French port I was met by a detective sent from Rome.

I took him with me to a hotel, where we discussed the situation in a private room.

‘It seems to me that we are all right for the present,’ he urged. ‘As long as they think you are going to carry out the work they are not likely to send any one else.’

‘Do not be too sure,’ I answered. ‘There is a lame watchmaker over there who does not quite trust me.’

‘What do you propose to do?’ asked the detective.

‘To shoot King Humbert,’ I replied.

The man gasped at me in sheer amazement.

‘I am going to put you to a practical test,’ I explained. ‘I am going to try and discharge a blank cartridge at the King. If you can prevent my doing so, I shall hope that his life is safe.’


‘But what do you expect us to do? We cannot arrest you.’

‘No; that is my point. You know that I am going to kill your King, and yet the law does not permit you to interfere till you see me put my finger to the trigger of my revolver.’

‘We can stop you at the frontier.’

‘Try,’ I said drily.

He tried. A week later I was in Rome.

In reality I did not intend to go quite so far as I had threatened. To do so would have been offensive to his Majesty. What I desired was to put the police thoroughly on the alert. I hoped to stimulate them into taking precautions which would be effective against a real assassin.

For I knew better than to think that Menelik’s envoy would go away satisfied with having despatched me on the errand of death. I did not believe the swarthy figure with the formidable white teeth would leave New York till he had received some certain assurance of the success of his murderous plans.

Before leaving the United States I had arranged with my old employers, Pinkerton’s, to have a watch kept on all outward-bound vessels, so that I might receive the earliest information of any move on the part of the Abyssinian. I had supplied them with a full description of the man.


Meanwhile the Italian police did their best, hampered as they were by the King’s chivalrous disregard of danger, and his dislike of surveillance. It is not an easy thing to guard a monarch against his will.

As soon as I had satisfied myself that my disguise as an Italian workman was impenetrable, I went northward after the doomed King. As my train rolled into the station at Turin, I caught a glimpse on the platform of a white face with long draggled hair and a haunted expression in the eyes—a face that I had last seen in a Jersey City slum at midnight, more than a month ago.

Long before the train stopped I had leapt out of my compartment in hot pursuit; but Bresci had disappeared.

I went instantly to the chief police-officer in Turin and gave information. Detectives were despatched in all directions to search the city; but it was too late.

The following morning a telegram was put into my hands before I got out of bed. It was from Pinkerton’s, and contained these words: ‘Man answering description has just booked passage to Liverpool.

This despatch convinced me that the situation was desperate. Coupling the news with the sight of the evening before, I could not doubt that the[144] Abyssinian agent expected to hear within the next few hours that his dreadful end was achieved.

I dressed in feverish haste and rushed round to the police-office, only to learn that no arrest had been made, and Bresci was still at large.

‘Unless that man is apprehended within the next twenty-four hours, King Humbert will have ceased to live,’ I told the astonished chief of police.

In this extremity I decided to proceed to Monza, see the King myself, and implore him not to stir abroad until Bresci’s capture was notified. That afternoon, as I entered the small town of Monza, I was arrested on suspicion!

It was in vain that I protested, warned, and threatened. My demand to be carried before King Humbert was regarded as a proof of guilt. My disclosure of my identity was suspected as a ruse. I was confined in a cell while telegrams were being exchanged with my friend the Italian detective, and with my secretary in Paris.

Suddenly, as I tramped impatiently up and down within my narrow bounds, I was aware of a terrible commotion outside. Men ran past the door of my prison, curses and cries were heard, and there was a sound of bayonets being fixed. Maddened by the nervous tension, I battered with my manacled hands against the cell door.

“‘You are free,’ he said briefly. ‘The right man has been arrested, too late.’”


It was flung open from without, and an armed warder faced me.

‘You are free,’ he said briefly. ‘The right man has been arrested—too late.’

I sank down on the plank seat and burst into tears.



The readers of my previous revelations will have noticed that I have constantly been engaged in thwarting the schemes of the cunning rulers of Russia. This has been to me a labour of love. My father, as I have said, was a native of Poland, and I have avenged his wrongs on the Government which drove him forth to exile.

I have already related how I exposed and defeated the insidious design concealed under the Peace Rescript of Nicholas II. Hardly had this audacious intrigue miscarried when Europe was startled to hear that the Ministers of the Imperial peacemaker had overthrown the ancient liberties of Finland, in order to swell the Finnish contingent to the armies of the Tsar.

This time I admit that I was deceived, like everybody else. The brutal frankness of the proceeding disarmed suspicion. When Russia openly declares herself a tyrant, it is difficult to believe she is dissembling.


But there was one man in Europe who saw that there was more in the proceedings against Finland than met the eye. This was a monarch whose genius and nobility of character would have placed him at the head of living rulers had he been born to the command of a great Power instead of a small and distracted State. I need scarcely say that I refer to his Majesty, King Oscar of Sweden and Norway.

It was with peculiar satisfaction that I received a confidential summons from this King, whose fine qualities I had long admired, and by whom I felt it a distinction to be trusted. I was far from guessing the real nature of the business on which I was to be employed.

As the message did not come to me through the Scandinavian Minister in Paris, but was a private autograph communication from King Oscar himself, I was disposed to think his Majesty wanted me to adjust some family affair. It is well known that the Bernadottes are not more free from such anxieties than other royal houses.

On my arrival at the beautiful capital of Sweden, I put up at the Hotel Rydberg, entering myself as the Baron de Neuville, on tour. The same evening I was called upon by one of the King’s intimate friends, the Count Söderhielm, who took me across to the Palace, and introduced me into King Oscar’s private cabinet.


I noticed as we crossed the Place Gustavus Adolphus that the flag was not hoisted on the Palace. His Majesty was supposed to be at Drottningholm, from which place he had come secretly in a small launch for the purpose of our interview.

As soon as Count Söderhielm had presented me to his Majesty, he retired to the antechamber, leaving us together.

‘Perhaps you are wondering what I have sent for you to do?’ King Oscar began.

‘At least, I do not doubt that any service on which your Majesty employs me will be an honourable one,’ I answered respectfully.

The King smiled.

‘I have not sent for you to pay me compliments,’ he said rebukingly. ‘Let me first ask if it is true that you are no friend to the Russian Government?’

I looked at the King in some surprise.

‘It is better for me to tell you, sire, that I do not allow my private feelings to enter into my work. The Russian Government has employed me before now, and may do so again; in which case I should serve it as loyally as I hope to do your Majesty.’

The King did not seem ill-pleased by this frankness.

‘I respect you for that answer,’ he said graciously. ‘I ought not to have asked you for your personal confidence.’


‘I am a Pole by my father’s side, sire,’ I threw in.

King Oscar thanked me for this hint by a nod.

‘Let us come to business. You have taken note, I expect, of this determination to Russianise Finland?’

I bowed, restraining my curiosity at this unexpected opening.

‘You know that Finland is an ancient province of the Swedish Crown, and that when it was united to Russia, after the fall of Napoleon, my ancestor, the then Crown Prince Bernadotte, was authorised to take Norway as a compensation?’

‘I do, sire.’

‘Perhaps you know also that the exchange has been a disastrous one for Sweden. The Finns were contented and happy under our rule, while the Norwegians have done nothing but quarrel with the Swedes for a century.’

‘I have heard something of this,’ I responded.

‘Now as long as Finland held the position of a semi-independent State, over which the Tsar ruled as Grand Duke of Finland, it was possible for us to regard her as a buffer between us and Russia. We had every reason to hope that if the Russians wished to attack us, they would have to subdue Finland first.’

‘I was hardly aware of that, sire.’

‘It is the fact. The Finnish civilisation is really[150] Swedish, our language is spoken there, and the Swedish element in the population looks on Sweden as its real home. Very good. That being so, the Russians have decided to conquer Finland in time of peace, under the cloak of administrative measures.’

‘Your Majesty means that this attack on Finland is really an attack on Sweden and Norway?’

‘It is the first step towards an attack on Sweden,’ King Oscar answered, with significance. ‘The question of Norway is the matter about which I have sent for you.’

I gazed at the King in astonishment.

‘I am the King of Norway as well as of Sweden,’ his Majesty pursued, ‘and you must not think I favour one country more than the other. But I might as well be King at the same time of France and Germany, for any real harmony there is between the two countries. The Norwegians are working for absolute separation; the Swedes will grant them everything except the right to make war on Sweden; and yet they cannot agree.’

‘You fear, sire, that the Norwegians will fight in order to secure their independence.’

‘I fear it is rather the other way about,’ the King answered sorrowfully. ‘They aim at independence in order to be able to fight. You see me in the position of a father whose two children are ready to rush at one another’s throats, and who cannot show[151] kindness to one without incurring the hatred of the other. This situation has poisoned the peace of mind of every sovereign of Scandinavia for a hundred years. It broke my grandfather’s heart.’

I listened to this sad confession with respectful sympathy. King Oscar proceeded—

‘Let me tell you some more. Before the last Russo-Turkish war, the geography of the Balkans had been made for a year the special study of the Military School in Petersburg. Last month the geography of Scandinavia was given a similar precedence. That is not all. A swarm of Russian officers, disguised as woodcutters, have been coming over the northern frontier, and making their way down through Sweden, surveying the country as they go.’

‘Surely they can be arrested as spies!’

‘We dare not,’ was the response. ‘That would be forcing Russia’s hand. We can only watch, and await developments.’

‘The Germans ought to know of this,’ I ventured to remark.

‘The Germans are more afraid of Russia than we are,’ the King answered. ‘Germany is no longer a first-class Power. There are in fact only four Powers of the first magnitude to-day, Great Britain, Russia, the United States, and China. The two English Powers together could dictate to the world, but they[152] are divided by the childish American jealousy. China is still asleep. Consequently all the other Powers of Europe are little more than vassals of the Tsar. France has openly placed herself under his protection. Austria has become Russia’s junior partner in the Balkans. The independence of Germany is only nominal; the Emperor takes his time from Petersburg. No other country counts.’

It was the first time that I had heard the situation summed up with such pitiless plainness.

‘You consider, then, that Russia is actually about to draw the sword?’ I asked.

‘No, she will leave us to do that. Russia has discovered that her conquests advance better under the cloak of peace. She means to take Norway under cover of a declaration in favour of Norwegian independence.’

‘But the Norwegians—are they mad enough to become parties to that? Do they want to exchange King Log for King Stork?’

‘Go and see,’ was King Oscar’s reply.

I quitted his Majesty’s presence, and returned to my hotel, deeply disturbed by what I had heard. I could not suppose that the most sagacious sovereign in Europe was indulging in idle fears. Yet it was hard to believe that the inhabitants of a free, self-governing country would voluntarily exchange their condition for servitude to the Asiatic despotism[153] which had just laid Finland prostrate at their door.

Three days afterwards I arrived in Christiania. I had made careful preparations for the task before me. I assumed the character of a Russian spy, as the least likely to provoke suspicion of the quarter from which I really came. And I had disguised my person as effectively as I knew how, lest I should meet a real agent of the Tsar’s Government, who might detect A—— V—— beneath the outward semblance of Alexander Volkuski.

The pains I had taken were well rewarded. In the hotel in which I put up I found staying a man who passed as a Finnish officer, of Swedish nationality, but whom I immediately recognised as Count Marloff, the confidential right-hand man of M. de Witte himself. It is true the Russian was disguised, and the disguise was a very good one, but by an almost incredible oversight he had ventured to assume that a disguise which had already done duty once might safely be used again.

It was seven years before, in Teheran, that I had seen that reddish wig and noted that peculiar limp, but if Count Marloff had offered me his card I could not have been more sure of his identity. Such mistakes may be pardonable in a mere detective, but they are fatal in our profession.

My tactics were soon decided on. I knew that[154] the attention of ‘Colonel Sigersen’ would be quickly attracted to a Russian staying in Christiania, and I have generally found the boldest game to be the most successful.

I seized the first opportunity of the Count’s being seated alone in the smoking-room of the hotel, to go up to him boldly.

‘How do you do, Count?’ I said in Russian. ‘Or perhaps you will wish me to say “Colonel”?’

Marloff started, as well he might, and stared hard into my face.

‘My name is Colonel Sigersen,’ he said forbiddingly. ‘Have I had the pleasure of meeting you before?’

This was the opening I wanted. I drew back disdainfully.

‘I must apologise,’ I said, with irony; ‘I have not had the honour of meeting you, Colonel Sigersen. Pray do not think I wish to intrude on you.’

Marloff saw his mistake. In the secret service of Russia nothing is more common than for two different agents to be employed independently of each other, and even as spies upon each other. When that happens, if the two men are wise, they strike up a private alliance, and compare notes at their employers’ expense. When they keep each other at arm’s length, each has it in his power to cause annoyance to the other.


Marloff was now in the position of having refused my overture towards friendship, without knowing who I was. This left me free to watch him, without rendering any explanations. He was consequently furious with himself.

The fact is the man was a mere amateur, as one who drops into a profession from above generally is. De Witte had taken him out of a cavalry regiment, and made a diplomatist of him; but when it came to secret service work he was a child in the hands of a man like myself.

I saw the pretended Colonel get up and limp out of the room, no doubt to send a cipher despatch to the Minister, complaining of my arrival. I went to the manager of the hotel, introduced myself as a Russian police agent on the track of a great rouble forgery, and wormed out of him a mass of particulars with regard to Sigersen’s movements.

I gathered that he had been in Christiania about a month, having toured through Norway first as far north as Trondhjem. He had made numerous friends in the Norwegian capital, including several prominent members of the Storthing, as they call their parliament. But his chosen intimate appeared to be a judge named ——, who was regarded as a guiding spirit of the party most strongly hostile to the Swedish connection.

It was Judge —— who had prompted the erection[156] of a fortress on the Swedish-Norwegian frontier, guarding the approach to Christiania. The same warlike functionary had decided on the judicial bench that no native of Sweden could exercise the rights of a citizen in Norway until he had taken out letters of naturalisation. In short, this judge had carefully taught his countrymen to treat the Swedes as Englishmen were treated by the Boers in the days of the Transvaal Republic.

All this was nothing more than I had been prepared for by King Oscar. The task now before me was to ascertain if possible what was the nature of the understanding between Judge —— and the agent of the Russian Government.

I asked the hotel manager—

‘How does Colonel Sigersen pay your bill?’

‘By cheque,’ was the ready answer. ‘By cheque on the Bergen and Christiania Bank.’

‘Is it usual for foreign visitors to have a banking account open in Christiania?’ I inquired, keeping up the part of a detective.

The manager admitted it was not. Evidently, now I had drawn his attention to the point, it struck him as suspicious. I left him, feeling that I had secured an ally in my watch on Marloff, and made my way to the offices of the bank.

The director of this institution received me with every courtesy. Bankers are too often victimised[157] for them to regard the police with any feeling but gratitude. The tale I brought was received with open ears.

‘I have reason to think that an account has been opened with you for purposes of fraud. If I am right, the swindlers have endeavoured to gain your confidence at the outset by a large credit. This credit has been opened in the name of Colonel Sigersen, a pretended Finlander.’

The manager was visibly alarmed.

‘A gentleman of that name has opened an account with us, certainly,’ he answered cautiously. ‘But he brought the very best introductions. In fact I could not have asked for better.’

‘Have you any objection to tell me the character of those introductions?’

‘I don’t mind telling you that one was from a well-known citizen, a man in a very responsible position.’

‘In short, Judge ——?’

The manager started.

‘How did you know that?’ he demanded.

‘I have been on Colonel Sigersen’s track for a long time,’ I answered evasively. ‘I venture to think that if you make inquiries, you will find that his Honour, Judge —— knows very little about him really, and nothing at all about his financial standing.’


‘I will communicate with his Honour, and let you know the result.’

‘Do so, by all means. In the meanwhile, perhaps, you may be willing to tell me how this man’s credit is supplied?’

The manager hesitated.

‘I hardly know whether I ought to betray his affairs until I have something more to go upon.’

‘Perhaps you will let me ask you if Sigersen has yet made a large payment in rouble notes?’

‘I can answer that—no.’

‘Then I think you may be safe for the present,’ I said. ‘When he does, I advise you to pass them on to your Russian correspondents as quickly as possible.’

This shot told. The manager became very uneasy. By degrees I worked on his fears till he invited me to examine his ledger. I did so, and found that Marloff had brought a heavy credit from a Petersburg bank, and, what was more to my purpose, had drawn several heavy cheques to the order of Judge ——.

‘So far you seem to be on the safe side,’ I commented as I finished my inspection. ‘But I have two pieces of advice to give you. On no account let this man overdraw his ascertained credit, and do not honour any cheques drawn against rouble notes till you hear from me again.’


“‘Let me see your warrant,’ I said.”

The manager thanked me, and allowed me to depart.

I had now to consider the best way in which to approach the judge, who was not likely to prove easily gullible, as it was fairly certain that Marloff and he were in each other’s confidence.

But I had underrated the Russian’s resources. On re-entering my hotel I was accosted by a man in the uniform of the Norwegian police, who informed me that he held a warrant for my arrest.

‘On what charge?’ I demanded, as soon as I had recovered from my first surprise.

‘On a charge of conspiracy against the Government of Norway,’ was the answer.

‘I arrived in Norway only yesterday,’ I exclaimed.

‘All that you can tell to the judge,’ retorted the police officer.

‘Let me see your warrant,’ I said.

The man produced the paper, while the hotel manager, who had arrived on the scene, looked on astonished, as he well might.

The warrant bore the signature of Judge ——.

‘Take me to the judge instantly, if you will be so good,’ I said.

‘I am going to,’ the officer returned.

He made no attempt to secure me, probably having had his instructions. We walked together to the[160] judge’s house; he appeared to combine the functions of a judge and committing magistrate; and I was conducted into a room evidently used for the examination of prisoners.

Judge —— entered immediately, and we exchanged scrutinising glances. The leader of the anti-Swedish party was a young man, still on the right side of forty, with a very determined countenance, and a look about which there was nothing furtive or embarrassed. It was not an intellectual face. I put the man down as a strong-willed, ambitious intriguer, with courage, but not very much disinterested patriotism.

‘What is the meaning of this preposterous arrest?’ I demanded, with warmth.

‘This is an affair of State; I will examine the accused in private,’ the judge announced, not answering me directly.

As soon as the room was cleared, he turned to me.

‘Who are you?’ was his first question.

‘I am a Russian,’ I answered.

‘I know that. What is your business here?’

I breathed again. I now knew that Marloff had failed to guess my identity.

‘I have come here on the track of certain forgers,’ I began, and went on to tell the story I had given to the hotel manager and the banker.


Judge —— listened incredulously.

‘I do not believe a word you have said,’ he declared. ‘Show me your papers.’

I produced the passport and credentials from the Russian police with which I had been careful to provide myself. They were, of course, forged.

‘I will retain these and ascertain if they are genuine,’ the judge observed.

‘Your Honour means that you will submit them to the suspected man,’ I returned boldly.

‘How dare you say that? How dare you call’—he hesitated for a second—‘Colonel Sigersen a suspected man? You know perfectly well who he is.’

‘I know him to be the most skilful forger in Russia,’ I answered, not quite untruthfully.

Judge —— glared at me as if he would like to have struck me.

‘What nonsense! You know his real name.’

‘What difference does that make, your Honour?’

‘You know he is a man in high position, in the confidence of his Government.’

‘I know he was, till recently. I have no doubt he is capable of pretending he is still.’

The judge was plainly disconcerted by the line I was taking. He had hoped, no doubt, that I should meet him half way.

‘On your arrival here you recognised the Count, and greeted him. He rebuffed you, as he had a perfect[162] right to do, and denounced you to me as a spy. It is too late for you to turn round and pretend that he is a criminal. It is you who are on your defence, not he.’

‘Your Honour has been imposed upon. But it is of no consequence. Tell me what I am charged with, and I will defend myself.’

‘You are a spy.’

‘In a sense that is true. I am a detective.’

‘By whom are you employed?’

‘Your Honour has my papers.’

The judge bit his lip. He clearly did not know how to proceed. I, of course, could see that it was not his game to bring me to a public trial.

‘It seems to me, sir, that it is a mistake for us to quarrel,’ I said after giving him a minute for reflection. ‘If I have annoyed Count Marloff by recognising him, that is not an offence against the law of Norway, I presume. On the other hand, if I am right in my conjectures, or rather my instructions, the Count himself should be the last man to provoke a public inquiry into his business here. Your Honour knows the law better than I, but I should have thought there might be something in the business transacted between you and the Count which would not look well——’

He interrupted me.

‘I want to know why you are here. If you are a[163] friend, of course there is no need to quarrel. If not’—he shrugged his shoulders.

‘I came as a friend,’ I replied. ‘I came prepared to co-operate with you, to assist you, in fact. But I must first know how you stand with regard to Marloff. Is he your personal friend, or are the relations between you exclusively political?’

‘I have no personal feeling for him,’ was the guarded answer.

‘Very good. In that case your Honour shall see my real credentials. I must tell you frankly that Count Marloff has ceased to enjoy the implicit confidence of his and my Government.’

I put my hand into an inner pocket, and produced a slip of paper in the forged handwriting of the Russian Foreign Minister.

‘Does your Honour recognise that writing?’ I asked, with a confident air.

Judge —— was completely deceived. He glanced at the few lines, which were in French, with an air of the greatest respect. Then he looked at me.

‘I must apologise, Prince ——’ he began, when I raised a warning finger.

‘Hush! Not my real name, please.’

I took back the paper with an air as if my life depended on its preservation, and restored it to my pocket.

‘I am exceedingly sorry to have had to show you[164] this,’ I said gravely. ‘I have, in fact, exceeded my instructions, which were simply to watch Count Marloff and report on the progress he was making. His own violent action has forced me to go further than I wished. I am sorry to say it confirms the suspicion entertained in the Foreign Office that he is playing a double game. He is a protégé of M. de Witte’s, but M. de Witte is not infallible.

‘Now I am afraid I must ask your Honour to take me into your confidence. I trust you have not put yourself into Marloff’s power? I know that he has paid you considerable sums.’

Judge —— looked decidedly nervous.

‘I have given him nothing in writing, I believe,’ he answered, glancing at the same time at an iron safe let into the wall of the room.

‘So far, so good. It is writing that counts in these affairs. Have you any objection to my seeing the memoranda you have made of your conversations with him?’

The judge stared at me as if I had been a wizard.

‘I don’t know what makes you think I have taken any memoranda,’ he protested.

‘Just as you please, sir,’ I said drily. ‘I should have been gratified if you had so far confided in me as to let me glance inside that safe. But you are right to be cautious.’

“He bent forward to listen, and as he did so I launched my clenched fist at his right temple with my full force.”

His eyes turned once more in the direction of the [165]safe, in spite of himself. I saw a struggle going on in his mind.

‘There is no necessity for you to decide hastily,’ I said in my blandest tones. ‘I am as anxious as you are that you should have every possible security. If you are so far satisfied as to release me from arrest, we can sit down and talk over things quietly.’

This hint had the desired effect. The judge called in the policeman, and informed him that his services were no longer required.

As soon as I heard the outer door of the building clang to on the departing officer, I drew nearer the judge, lowering my voice to a confidential whisper, as I said—

‘Now you shall have the truth.’

He bent forward to listen, and as he did so I launched my clenched fist at his right temple with my full force, and he dropped senseless without so much as a sigh.

The moment I was satisfied that he was unconscious I stepped to the door and locked it. Then I rifled his pocket of his bunch of keys, picked out the right one, and opened the safe, all without drawing breath.

The contents of the safe were chiefly official law papers, which I did not waste time over. But in a narrow tray at the top I found something that interested me more.


It was nothing less than a draft treaty—a treaty to be made between the Norwegian Ministry, acting without the knowledge of their King, and the Imperial Government of Russia!

I did not stay to read the document through. After a hasty look to make sure I was leaving nothing else of importance behind, I locked the safe, drew off its key from the bunch, and dropped the other keys on the floor beside the stunned man, slipped quietly out of the room and out of the house.

Instead of returning to my hotel, I made my way down to the harbour—I did not dare to risk trying to get a train. In the harbour I hired a small fishing-boat with a sail, and put straight out to sea. It was on the tossing waters of the Cattegat by moonlight that I took in the provisions of the extraordinary compact between the Norwegian conspirators and their Imperial ally.

The document had been carefully drawn up, evidently with an eye to the public opinion of Europe, which would naturally be scandalised by an alliance between the great Slave despotism and a Teutonic commonwealth.

The treaty began by reciting that the Union between Sweden and Norway had been forced on the Norwegians against their will, by the Swedes aided by Russia’s authority. It went on to state that the Union had failed to benefit either country, and that[167] Russia had consented to undo her past injury to Norway by helping her to annul the bond.

Then followed the particulars of the aid to be rendered. Norway pledged herself not to make any open move till the signal was given from Petersburg, which was to be as soon as Finland had settled down into the condition of a Russian province. In the meantime the Norwegians were to strengthen themselves in every possible way, and to keep up a steady pressure of agitation against Sweden.

As soon as all was ready, the Norwegian Storthing was to meet in secret session and proclaim Norway a free and independent Republic, under the protection of the Tsar, and mass her troops on the frontier. Two Russian Army Corps were to be ready in Finland, on the pretext of manœuvres, and these were to be hurled across the frontier to the north of the Gulf of Bothnia. At the same time the Russian fleet was to cross the Baltic, occupy the island of Gothland, and blockade Stockholm and the Swedish ports.

All these measures were to be taken merely as precautions. If the Swedes accepted the inevitable, the Russians were to retire again. If the Swedes took up arms, war was to be declared, and Russia was to annex Gothland to her Empire, the Norwegians receiving territory in the north.

And what was the price which the Tsar was to[168] receive for this mighty demonstration? It was not a nominal one. The Norwegian Republic bound itself to grant to his Imperial Majesty a lease for twenty-five years—that is to say, for ever—of a warm-water port on the Atlantic Ocean, to be used as a depôt and coaling station for the Russian Fleet.

It was the dream of six generations of Muscovite statesmen realised at last. Russia, with one foot on the Atlantic and another on the Pacific, would dominate the Old World.

All that night the fishing-boat carried me along in the track of the Baltic steamers. At dawn I boarded an English packet going into Gothenburg, and thirty-six hours later I stood again in King Oscar’s cabinet, and placed the treaty in his hands.

I watched the brave monarch read it through from beginning to end without one manifestation of dismay or even of indignation.

‘My poor subjects!’ was his sole remark as he raised his eyes at the end. ‘They little know the fate they are preparing for their children.’

I asked if his Majesty had any further instructions for me. To my surprise he answered, ‘Yes.’

“I watched the brave monarch read it through from beginning to end without one manifestation of dismay.”

‘There is only one quarter to which I can look for aid,’ he said, ‘and that is England. Germany is a broken reed. Go to England, take this document with you, show it to the principal members of the Government, telling them how it came into your [169]hands, and ask them if they wish to see a Russian Cherbourg within twelve hours of the Scottish coast. If they remain indifferent, I can do nothing more.’

‘The English Press?’ I suggested doubtfully.

‘The Norwegians have captured it, I fear,’ objected his Majesty. ‘Norway is the playground of the British tourist; and, besides, the English consider themselves half Norwegian by race. No, popular sentiment in Great Britain is on the side of Norway.’

‘Nevertheless, sire, if thoughtful Englishmen could be made to realise that, for the sake of pique—for a mere whim—the Norwegians were about to place the keys of the Atlantic in the hands of Britain’s most formidable foe, they might make their influence felt.’

‘Do what you think best, M. V——,’ the King said wearily. ‘I am getting an old man, and I wish for peace.’

I have ventured to take his Majesty at his word.



Some two or three years back—that is, shortly before the great Boxer rising in China—the careless Parisians were amused to hear of the existence in their midst of an association styling itself the Company of the Joyous Peach Blossom.

This body professed to be a literary guild or brotherhood formed for the purpose of studying the Chinese poets, and transplanting some of the poetical flowers of the East into the garden of Western literature. All this sounded a trifle fantastic, and Paris, accustomed to the caprices of its youthful literary coteries, shrugged its shoulders and asked with a smile whether the guild possessed more than two members in all, or whether it were not a pure myth, and the Company of the Joyous Peach Blossom a device of some budding poet, anxious to seek notoriety.

The announcement of the guild’s existence struck me in a different light. Having made a profound study for many years of secret societies, past and[171] present, I had grasped the fact that China is the one land in which such societies are truly formidable, all the most famous secret societies of Europe being mere trifles compared with the terrible conspiracies which honeycomb the Heavenly Kingdom.

I had learned, moreover, that the most powerful and reckless of these Chinese societies assumed the most innocent and poetical names, as, for example, the dreaded brotherhood of the Waterlily, which deluged Southern China in blood forty years ago.

Therefore, while the French police, usually so shrewd in dealing with secret political organisations, did not deem the Company of the Joyous Peach Blossom worth a moment’s consideration, I set to work to find out all I could about it.

I was not long in discovering that the guild was more than the eccentric imagination of a Quartier Latin poet. To begin with, I found that similar societies, bearing names of an equally fantastic nature, had simultaneously come into existence in London, Berlin, New York, and Chicago, and that all these bodies were in correspondence with one another.

I found, further, that the members of the Parisian society were in communication with a retired French diplomatist of singular character, a man who had returned from a ten years’ sojourn in Pekin, steeped[172] to the lips in Chinese ideas, and a professed follower of Khung the Master, or Confucius, as he is called in the West.

I ascertained that the guild had its headquarters in the studio of a rising artist of the Mystic school, that it held meetings from time to time, of which minutes were kept, and in the record of its proceedings there appeared references to certain Chinese spirits of the underworld, and entries which, in veiled language, hinted at rites having been practised of a nature which could only be described as sorcery.

I had no very definite object in acquiring this information, but I was led on by a vague idea that it might be useful to me at some future time. During the storm of indignation aroused in Europe by the Boxer massacres, nothing more was heard of the Company of the Joyous Peach Blossom, which seemed to have sunk out of existence. I had ceased to think about it, when one day, shortly after the conclusion of the peace negotiations, my secretary came in to ask me if I would receive a gentleman whose card he handed to me.

I took the card, and read on it the name of M. Caramel-Bignaud. M. Bignaud was a young poet of distinction, whose verses, stamped with a delicate aloofness of their own, had attracted the attention of connoisseurs in the columns of Gil Blas. To me[173] he possessed an interest of a different kind, for I had last read his name as president at the meetings of the Company of the Joyous Peach Blossom.

‘I will see this gentleman,’ I told my assistant.

Partly surprised, partly gratified, by this proof that I had rightly gauged the importance of the guild, I waited with keen curiosity to hear what M. Bignaud had come to say to me.

The poet entered and took the chair I pointed out to him without a word. Then, leaning back negligently and fixing his dark, sleepy eyes on mine, he began—

‘I have come to ask you, M. V——, if you are willing to undertake a long journey—a very long journey—without receiving any information as to the business which awaits you at the end.’

‘But that is easily answered,’ I said. ‘Provided I am sufficiently well paid for my time and trouble, it makes no difference to me where I go, or whether there is anything for me to do when I get there. It must be always understood that I am at liberty to refuse this business, if I choose, without assigning any reason, and that my refusal will make no difference to my charge for the journey itself.’

‘Your conditions are perfectly satisfactory,’ M. Bignaud declared. ‘Whatever sum you require shall be paid to you in advance. How soon will you be able to start?’


I reflected for an instant.

‘If you wanted me to go to any place in Europe or America I should have said immediately. As you are going to send me to China I must have six hours to get ready.’

The poet’s sleepy gaze changed into one of astonishment.

‘But have I said anything about China?’ he demanded, evidently in some dismay.

‘You have said nothing. I am accustomed to draw inferences in my work, and there is no time to lose if I am to start as soon as I have said.’

‘The affair is not so pressing,’ the poet remarked with a smile. ‘The hurry and flurry of the West are not known in that delightful country. It will be quite soon enough if you start to-morrow, or the day after.’

‘So much the better. Am I to go to Pekin or Sing-fu?’

‘To Sing-fu.’ M. Bignaud’s tone betrayed a mild surprise at my guess. ‘It is unnecessary, I suppose, to observe that the mission is confidential?’

That is the sort of remark which always irritates me.

‘I am a confidential agent,’ I retorted curtly. ‘To whom am I to report myself?’

M. Bignaud leant forward impressively.

‘To the Dowager Empress!’


I received this announcement without manifesting any emotion.

‘Am I to take any credentials?’

The president of the Company of the Joyous Peach Blossom unbuttoned his coat, and drew from the breast-pocket a small parcel wrapped in yellow silk. Unwinding the silk, fold by fold, with reverent care, he displayed to view a square tablet of translucent stone, of a colour like that of an olive tree seen at a distance with the light upon it. It was a piece of jade, a stone whose beauty is not yet appreciated in Europe, but which the Chinese estimate far above onyx or mother-o’-pearl or chalcedony.

Taking the tablet from his hand, I perceived that it was engraved with the figure of a dragon, whose extended claws each showed five talons.

‘This is an Imperial talisman,’ I observed.

‘It is a passport,’ the other responded. ‘The sight of that tablet will gain you admittance to the presence of her Imperial Majesty.’ He sighed as he added: ‘You are to be envied, monsieur.’

‘That remains to be seen.’ I proceeded to fix the amount of my remuneration and expenses, which M. Bignaud paid without demur.

As he was rising to go he could not resist asking—

‘Have you any objection to tell me what it was that led you to guess that your journey would be to China?’


‘It was more than a guess, monsieur, since I knew I had the honour to receive the chief of the Company of the Joyous Peach Blossom.’

I almost regretted my openness when I saw the effect which this confession produced on the poet. He turned pale, stammered once or twice as though unable to speak, and finally turned his back without a word, and rushed from the room.

It would be tedious to recount the particulars of my journey across a hemisphere to interview the extraordinary woman who had revived in our own day the fabled majesty of Semiramis.

I reflected that it was not a little singular that, in an age when the women of the Western world were clamouring for opportunities to play a greater part in life, this almond-eyed daughter of the Manchus had cast ridicule upon their agitation by proving that it was possible for a woman, born in the most conservative society of the globe, to achieve the supreme direction of five hundred millions of human beings, and to make sport of the statesmen of Europe and America.

“Finally he turned his back without a word, and rushed from the room.”

To reach Pekin was an easy matter, but my difficulties began when I embarked on the dangerous enterprise of travelling into the interior of the empire, through provinces seething with hatred of the foreign devil. In spite of the magic influence of my sacred tablet, I found it prudent to disguise [177]my Western extraction under the official robes of a mandarin of the fourth class. Thus attired I travelled in security and comfort, everywhere received with the honours due to a high official honoured with a summons to the Court of Heaven.

As I approached Sing-fu I left the disturbed area behind me. The inhabitants of this inland region did not appear to have heard of the troubles in Pekin or the arrival of the German Michael with his mailed fist to exact redress for the murder of his Ambassador. They understood merely that the Son of Heaven had come among them for repose after the labour of chastising certain barbarian pirates who had been infesting the sea-coast.

It was given out by my attendants that I had come to report the successful execution of his Majesty’s sentence on the ruffians; and if I had really left the heads of the German Emperor, the Tsar of Russia, and President Roosevelt grinning on spikes over the gates of Pekin, my reception could not have been more cordial.

I found the Chinese court encamped in a sort of military fashion, in charming scenery, at the foot of a ridge of low hills, amid groves of fruit trees watered by a delightful stream. The tents of ten thousand guards and attendants clustered round the stately pavilions of the great mandarins, adorned with flags emblematic of their rank; and in the[178] centre the great Imperial Dragon Standard floated over a fairy-like palace whose lacquered wood and silken curtains concealed the sacred person of the Mother of the Sun and Moon.

The disgraced Emperor, whose fate was still a mystery to his subjects, was closely imprisoned in one wing of the Imperial quarters.

It was now that I realised the full significance of the jade tablet sent to me by the hands of the student of Chinese literature. The nearer I penetrated to my august client, the more awe this symbol seemed to excite, till the attendants who guarded the antechamber actually fell on their knees at the sight of it, and refused to rise till I had replaced it in its silken veils.

Impressed, in spite of myself, by this ceremonial homage to a mere token, I felt a real sentiment of awe as I stood at last in the presence of the being whom countless millions of men worship as divine.

Slight, dark-haired, and ivory-pale, the Emperor-maker received me seated in a simple chair of bamboo. I was not required to perform the kowtow, my audience being a strictly private one. I learned afterwards, moreover, that a hurried decree of the Board of Rites had raised my grandfather to the rank of a marquis, in order to qualify me for a personal interview with her Majesty.

The conversation was carried on in French, through[179] an interpreter, himself of such high rank that he could not have spoken to me directly but for the recent ennobling of my ancestry.

‘Her Imperial Majesty has deigned to express a hope that you are not fatigued by your journey.’

‘It is impossible to be conscious of fatigue in her Majesty’s presence,’ I returned with a deep bow.

By the slight smile that parted the thin, terrible lips of the Empress, I acquired the certainty that her Majesty perfectly understood everything that was being said.

No doubt the interpreter was equally aware of this circumstance, for he assumed an expression of courtly dismay.

‘I dare not let the Mother of the Emperor know that you have presumed to offer her a compliment,’ he said rebukingly. ‘I will tell her Majesty that you await her Imperial commands.’

After a short interchange in Chinese, he turned to me again.

‘I am commanded to tell you that one of the barbarian chiefs who have made a disturbance in the capital of the Empire has made a demand, as the price of his departure, which is too insolent to be treated as anything but a display of the ignorant vanity of a savage. The chief I speak of exercises some authority among those of the Western devils who call themselves Dutch or Teutons.’


‘You mean the German Emperor?’ I said incautiously.

The interpreter put on a look of horror, as at some unheard-of blasphemy.

‘Hush, I implore you. You forget the Sacred Presence. There is only one Emperor—he whom her Majesty permits to execute her will over the black-haired people. The vain assumption of Imperial titles by these foreign bandits is deeply offensive to the Court of Heaven. You understand? All such upstarts exist merely by the tolerance of her Majesty. We will speak of this person as the Viceroy of the German Province.’

I could scarcely resist a smile as I bowed apologetically. I imagined myself repeating this conversation to Wilhelm II., a ruler not inclined to take too low an estimate of his own consequence.

‘This rebellious Viceroy,’ the Chinese courtier proceeded, ‘has had the unheard-of arrogance to require that a Prince of the Manchu dynasty shall travel to his unknown province to express regret for the death of its envoy at the Imperial Court.’

This announcement did not come to me as news. In passing through Pekin I had learned that one of the conditions of peace was that a Chinese Prince should go to Berlin to tender the Imperial apologies to the Kaiser for the murder of the German Ambassador during the Boxer rising.


The interpreter went on—

‘You may be able to understand faintly how such a proposal must strike the Imperial ears, by imagining the case of a negro king in the heart of Africa requiring Queen Victoria to send one of her sons to prostrate himself in his kraal, because some accident had happened to one of his slaves in London.’

I listened in silence to this illustration, which showed me that the Dowager Empress was pretty well acquainted with the political distinctions prevailing among those whom she professed to regard as savages beneath her notice.

‘It is, of course, impossible,’ the courtly interpreter went on, ‘for the Brother of the Sun and Moon to submit to this degradation, even if it were safe to expose one of the Imperial House to the dangerous magical arts of the West. It is rumoured that you have diabolical contrivances called kodaks; now it is evident that if one of the Race of Heaven were kodaked, the Sun himself might avenge such an insult by refusing to shine upon the earth.’

He said all this with a perfectly serious air. But from the expression on the face of the Empress I fancied her Majesty was a little wearied of this fulsome strain.

I ventured to bring him to the point.

‘Will you tell me what her Imperial Majesty desires me to do?’


‘Her Majesty graciously condescends to confide in you. Her slaves who reside among the Western viceroys have assured her that you respect the precept of the great Khung—“The counsellor who betrays his lord’s secret and the child who bites his mother, these are too base to be pardoned.”’

‘Go on,’ I said, becoming slightly impatient.

‘It being impossible to do what the German Viceroy asks, and her Majesty being benevolently anxious to spare him the humiliation of a refusal, there has been sought out a man of the people, a barber in the Tartar city of Pekin, whose features Heaven has permitted to bear a certain resemblance to those of his Imperial Highness, Prince Chung.

‘This respectable person, whose intelligence is remarkable for his station in life, has been provided with a dress sufficiently like that worn by the Imperial Family to deceive the barbarians. He has further received some lessons in etiquette and deportment during the last few weeks. He will now proceed to the regions of the West, and gratify the absurd pride of the Viceroy in the manner agreed upon.’

‘He will pass himself off as the Prince?’

‘It is necessary that he should do so, in order to soothe the Viceroy. It is better that the Prince’s name should incur this obloquy, than that the[183] barbarian soldiery should continue their ravages in the Heavenly Kingdom.’

The scheme sounded daring, and yet it seemed to have a very good chance of success. To a European eye one Chinaman is very like another. And there were not likely to be many people in Berlin capable of distinguishing between the manners of a prince and a barber, apart from their surroundings.

‘I don’t see why the plan shouldn’t succeed,’ I said aloud. ‘Its very boldness ought to carry it through.’

I observed a distinct look of satisfaction on the face of the formidable Empress as I made this comment. The interpreter hastened to respond—

‘Your words are those of a prudent man. Her Imperial Majesty offers you the honour of accompanying the Prince’s substitute, nominally as his courier, but really as his protector. You will be on the watch against any chance of detection, and will warn him against imprudent conduct.’

‘I accept her Majesty’s commission,’ was my answer.

Before the courtier could go through the form of interpreting the words, the Empress said something to him in Chinese, which caused him to start like a man who can hardly believe what he has heard.

Her Majesty made an impatient gesture at this piece of pantomime. Instantly he turned towards me.


‘Will your Excellency permit me to offer you my most respectful congratulations? The Queen of Heaven has ordered you a cup of tea!’

I realised that I was as much exalted as if a mere barbarian empress had bestowed on me an embrace. The tea was brought; a whisper from my adviser warned me that I must merely touch the cup with my finger and retire.

The interpreter, whose name I learned was Wu Tang, accompanied me from the presence to make the necessary preparations. Once away from the dreaded eye of his Imperial mistress, he proved to be a very agreeable, well-informed man, and I regretted that he was not coming on the mission to Europe.

He introduced me to the pretended Prince, who had already got quite used to his part, and received me with all the airs of a Cousin of the Sun and Moon, and Brother-in-Law of the whole Milky Way.

Of our journey westward it is needless for me to write, since our progress was fully reported in the barbarian press. The barber was kodaked more than once, the apprehensions of the Chinese Court on this head being fully justified.

The principal incident which marked the progress of the Embassy must also be fresh in the public mind—namely, the demand of the German Court[185] that the Prince should perform the kowtow, and his refusal.

It was at this stage that I first felt myself to be doing something to earn the lavish rewards of the Dowager Empress. Left to himself, I believe the barber would have given way, and performed the degrading obeisance, thereby lowering the honour of the Imperial House beyond redemption. The wretched man was thoroughly frightened at finding himself so far from home; and, in his ignorance of Western manners, he really thought that the Kaiser might have him imprisoned and beheaded if he provoked his Majesty.

Fortunately we were on Swiss territory at the time, and by means of my secret agency I was able to procure a written despatch from the Chinese Ambassador at another Court, in the name of the Empress, positively forbidding Prince Chung’s substitute to comply with the offensive demand.

The circumstances of our public audience in the Palace of Berlin were sufficient to daunt any impostor. I confess to some slight nervousness on my own part, though I was, of course, disguised beyond the possibility of recognition, as I stood before the monarch who had so often trusted me in his most confidential affairs, and listened to the faltering speech of the false Prince.

The Kaiser was attired in his most magnificent[186] costume, wearing the famous winged helmet on his head, and surrounded by a galaxy of ministers and great officers, all arrayed in the utmost military splendour. It was a sight calculated to strike terror into an Oriental mind, and I admired the theatrical completeness of the spectacle, almost regretting that it should be wasted on an obscure underling. Had the real Prince been there he might have learned a valuable lesson, and given some good advice to the Empress of China on his return.

On the evening after the ceremony the Prince’s substitute was compelled to attend a banquet, given in order to mark the termination of strife, and the restoration of good feeling between the two empires.

At this banquet I was unable to be present, my position being too low for me to receive an invitation, and too high for me to appear as an attendant on the Prince. What incident it was that occurred to rouse the Kaiser’s suspicion, I have never been able to learn—the luckless barber himself could not tell me. But late that night a wire reached me from my office in Paris, to this effect—

Urgent wire received from German Emperor requiring you immediately in Berlin. What reply?

With the reception of that telegram a light[187] burst upon my mind. A doubt which I had tried in vain to stifle had vexed me all along as to the sufficiency of the Empress’s motive for retaining my services, at a high cost, to do practically nothing.

Now at last it seemed to me that I understood. This extraordinary woman had doubtless consulted her representatives in Europe as to the dangers of detection, and they had informed her that I was Wilhelm II.’s favourite confidential agent, who would almost certainly be called in if any suspicion arose. Thereupon she had adopted the artful device of retaining me on her own side in advance, placing me in the extremely delicate position of being bound by loyalty to her to hoodwink my other patron.

What was I to do? A bare refusal or neglect to answer the Kaiser’s summons would leave him free to employ another agent, whom I might find it hard to outwit. On the other hand, I should violate my lifelong rule, if I accepted a commission which I could not loyally discharge.

After much painful thought, I decided on what seemed to me the only wise and honourable course. Disguised as I was, I went straight round to the palace, and asked to see the Kaiser.

‘Impossible!’ declared the private secretary on duty, to whom I was first shown in. ‘His Majesty is retiring. Who are you?’


‘Go and tell the Emperor that the man whom he has just telegraphed to Paris for is here.’

The secretary gave me an astonished look, as he well might, and left the room.

In a minute he was back with instructions to conduct me to the Kaiser’s presence.

I found his Majesty in his dressing-room alone.

‘Monsieur V——! Is this really you?’ he exclaimed.

‘My voice may be more familiar to you than my face, sire,’ I responded.

‘I am delighted. Sit down. I have a most extraordinary thing to consult you about. This——’

I ventured to hold up my hand. For the first time in my life I presumed to interrupt royalty.

‘A thousand pardons, sire! I beg of you to let me speak first.’

‘Why, what does this mean, sir,’ Wilhelm II. inquired sternly.

‘It means, sire, that I am compelled to presume on the many faithful services I have rendered to your Majesty to ask you for a favour which alone can extricate me from a position of cruel embarrassment.’

‘Proceed, sir.’

The Kaiser’s tone was still reserved, but I fancied I observed a slight softening in the glance.

‘I already know the business in which you desire my aid.’

Wilhelm II. strode to me, seized me by the shoulder, and thrust me out of the room.”


‘You know it!’ cried the Emperor, fairly confounded.

‘It is my business to know things, and I know this. Now, let me put it to your Majesty, what can you possibly gain by following up an inquiry which can have no tangible result? I say no tangible result, because there is simply no means by which you can arrive at the proof of what you suspect. And, if it were otherwise, how could your Majesty possibly turn the information to account?

‘You could not entertain the idea of confessing to the world that you had been duped. Consider, sire, what use the wits of the boulevards would make of such a revelation! Imagine the pencil of Caran d’Ache at work on the episode!’

I saw Wilhelm II. fidget uneasily, and I knew that my cause was gained.

‘On the other hand,’ I resumed, ‘suppose that you have harboured a suspicion which is unjust. You run the risk of affronting a submissive enemy—of insulting the fallen. And it would be too late to repair the injury to your own prestige; the Paris mockers would never abandon so good a joke.’

The Kaiser frowned and tugged at his moustache. It was evident that he only sought an excuse to yield.

‘Consider, sire, that what is merely a question of politics with you is one of religion with the poor woman you have humiliated to-day. Your end is[190] gained; the Imperial House of China has humbled itself in the dust before the Hohenzollerns. If a religious scruple has caused this public act to be done by proxy, that is a secret known only to a few persons who, for their own sakes, will never dare to reveal it.’

By this time the Kaiser was as anxious to pass the matter over as he had been just before to investigate it.

‘If I consent to take your advice, and dismiss the suspicion I have formed, will you in turn tell me two things?’

‘I have no doubt I shall, sire.’

‘Then, why are you in Berlin, and how is it you know so much?’

‘I am here, sire, in the train of his Imperial Highness, as the confidential agent of the Dowager Empress of China.’

The Kaiser glared at me, biting his lip to repress the amused smile that struggled forth nevertheless.

‘M. V——, you are a wonderful man! I am not sure whether I ought to arrest you or to pardon you freely; however, I will cry quits if you will tell me who this fellow really is?’

‘He is, of course, sire, the brother of his Imperial Maj——’

Wilhelm II. strode to me, seized me by the shoulders, and thrust me out of the room.



I am now going to relate the story of what is, perhaps, the most extraordinary mission on which I have ever been employed. It will, I think, come as a surprise to many of the best-informed politicians on the Continent, including the highly placed personages whose schemes I was the means of detecting and defeating.

It was during the war between the British and Boers in South Africa, at a period which I do not care to specify more particularly, that I had the honour to receive a request to proceed without loss of time to Petersburg, and wait upon M. Witte. It is chiefly this Minister’s unjust dismissal that has provoked me to make this disclosure.

I was particularly gratified at being sent for by the great Russian Minister, because his action was a demonstration of the high confidence reposed in my loyalty. Although I was known to be a Pole by descent, and the favourite and confidant of the[192] German Emperor, who had constantly employed me to combat Russian intrigues, yet M. Witte felt no fear in intrusting me with the secrets of Russian statecraft.

The moment I arrived in Petersburg, I went without waiting to change or refresh myself to wait on my client. Our interview took place, not at the Ministry of Finance, where M. Witte would have been surrounded by spies, but at a small private house in a suburb of the Russian capital.

The Finance Minister received me in a small study, the walls of which were lined with works on political economy and kindred subjects.

‘I have asked you to meet me here,’ the Minister explained, as soon as I had seated myself, and lighted the cigar which he pressed upon me, ‘because I don’t wish the fact that we are in communication to be known to a single person in the Russian Empire. In particular, it must be kept a strict secret from the Minister of War. It is against him that you will be acting really, and I shall have to ask you to pledge yourself that in case of your proceedings attracting his attention, you will lead him to suppose that you have been commissioned by some foreign Power.’

‘That will be easy,’ I replied. ‘Russia has plenty of watchful enemies. Shall I say Great Britain?’

M. Witte shook his head thoughtfully.

“‘Will you permit me to ask you,’ he said politely, ‘if you have ever done any business on behalf of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary?’”


‘You would not be believed. No one will credit the British Government with intelligence enough to acquire knowledge of its enemies’ intentions. But that is a point which I can safely leave to your discretion if the occasion should arise.’

I contented myself with bowing, and waited for the Minister to proceed.

‘Will you permit me to ask you,’ he said politely, ‘if you have ever done any business on behalf of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary?’

‘I have been engaged by his Majesty on two occasions,’ I responded. ‘It was I who succeeded in suppressing the facts concerning the death of the Crown Prince Rudolf, and in establishing the currency of the version which has now been accepted as serious history. The truth,’ I added, ‘will never be known to any one outside the innermost circle of the Habsburg family; and I dare not tell it even to your Excellency. The other occasion I am not at liberty to mention.’

‘Perhaps I can guess it, though,’ the Russian Minister returned with a shrewd smile. ‘However, the important thing is that you are already personally known to the Emperor. It follows from that fact that he has learned to respect and trust you.’

I thanked M. Witte for this compliment by a low bow. At the same time I was a little on my guard.


‘You know so much of what goes on in Europe, M. V——,’ he resumed, ‘that perhaps it will be no news to you that Francis-Joseph has decided to abdicate the Dual Crown.’

This announcement, in fact, came as a complete surprise to me. Fortunately I had time to prepare to receive it calmly.

‘I will not pretend that it is news,’ was my response. ‘But I am always glad to have my own information confirmed. I shall be grateful for anything you may tell me on the subject.’

‘I am not going to keep anything from you,’ said the Minister. ‘The Emperor has made a private announcement of his intention to my own master, the Tsar, asking for his good offices on behalf of his proposed successor.’

‘The Archduke Ferdinand?’ I put in rashly.

M. Witte drew himself up, and gave me a suspicious glance.

‘You are too subtle, M. V——,’ he said coldly. ‘I have no doubt that you know perfectly well that it is the young Archduke Karl whom the Emperor has chosen to succeed him.’

I thought it better to be suspected of subtlety than nescience, and apologised.

‘I ought not to have spoken. I beg your Excellency to continue.’

‘What I am going to ask you to do may sound[195] rather extraordinary. I want you to go to Vienna, see his Majesty, of course without letting him know that you have been in communication with me, and tell him that you suspect the Russian Government is playing him false. Then persuade him to employ you to find out what is in the wind.’

I stared at M. Witte in some bewilderment. Then I answered cautiously—

‘Do I understand you, sir, to propose that I am really to enter the service of the Emperor? Or am I to be your agent in the business?’

‘I want you to do both,’ was the answer.

‘I am to deceive the Emperor, it appears?’ I said with rising indignation.

‘Not in the least. You will accept his commission to ascertain the secret intentions and purposes of the Government of Russia, and you will execute that commission exactly as if you and I had never held this conversation.’

‘M. Witte, I must beg you to be plain with me. I never consent to act in the dark. What is your true motive in making this strange proposal to me?’

‘I think I have already told you,’ the Minister returned with perfect coolness. ‘The man whom I am combating is Count Lamsdorff.’

‘Your colleague?’

‘Exactly. My colleague, the War Minister.’


‘Let me see if I clearly understand your Excellency. The Emperor of Austria has given the Tsar private notice of his intention to abdicate? The Tsar has promised to preserve a friendly attitude? Nevertheless, the war party in the ministry, with or without the Tsar’s connivance, are secretly preparing to take advantage of the situation in some way? Your Excellency, knowing this, and disapproving of their plans, desires to put the Austrian Emperor on his guard, in order that the scheme may miscarry?’

M. Witte punctuated this speech with a series of nods.

‘And why?’ I demanded bluntly, throwing myself back in my chair.

The Russian statesman looked at me for a minute, as though trying to make up his mind whether it would be of any use to offer me a false excuse. I prepared to listen to something about the obligations of international honour and good faith.

‘Suppose I were to tell you that I am acting under the confidential instructions of my own Emperor, who lacks the courage to put his veto on the policy of the Grand Dukes?’

‘In that case your object can be attained much more simply. Procure me a line in the handwriting of Nicholas II. to Francis-Joseph, and I undertake[197] to deliver it, and to burn it afterwards with my own hand.’

The Russian heaved a sigh of amused resignation.

‘You are too deep for me, M. V——. Very well, then, I will tell you.’ He bent forward and lowered his voice. ‘Russia is not ready to strike. A war now would mean the bankruptcy of the Empire. The others will not believe this, but I know it. I will not have my carefully laid plans shattered by them, for the sake of a miserable province like Galicia.

‘I am a statesman, not a pettifogger. With my railways I am reaching forward to clutch the great Empires of Asia. China is already within my grasp; India is being drawn closer year by year. When a thousand millions of men obey the sceptre of the Tsar, these petty European States will fall like ripe plums into our lap.’

The Russian spoke with real emotion. If I still retained any faint misgiving, it was not enough to restrain me from accepting the service required of me.

Within three days I found myself in the palace of Schönbrunn.

Of all my clients Francis-Joseph is the most unapproachable. Modern ideas of democratic equality find little encouragement in the Austrian Court.[198] After the friendly bonhomie of the German Kaiser, and the tactful kindness of the King of England, the Austrian sovereign’s manner affects one disagreeably: it is like touching a lump of ice. Yet, according to his lights, the Emperor is gracious and even cordial, especially to those who approach him in his private hours.

I found him in his favourite room overlooking the Park. His Majesty did not invite me to be seated in his presence, an omission which indicated no unfriendliness.

‘I am pleased to receive you, monsieur,’ he said in a clear, stately voice. ‘The services you have rendered me entitle you to ask for an audience, and I have no doubt your reason for seeking it is a proper one. Be good enough to state it.’

‘I have taken the liberty of asking for this audience in order that I might offer your Majesty certain information about your forthcoming abdication.’

The Emperor could not repress a slight start. Lifting his eyebrows, he gazed at me steadily in the face.

“The Emperor could not repress a slight start.”

‘I have communicated my desire to abdicate,’ he said with a significant intonation, ‘to six persons only. Two of them are brother sovereigns; two are members of my own family; the other two are the Chancellor of the Empire and the Prime Minister of [199]Hungary. Through which of them did you receive your information?’

‘Not one of the persons in your Majesty’s confidence has the slightest idea that I have heard anything whatever on the subject. I must respectfully beg your Majesty not to press me further.’

The aged Emperor was evidently much disturbed.

‘If what you say is true—and I do not doubt your word—the information must have reached you through an intermediary. That is to say, my purpose is known to at least eight persons, in short, to the whole world.’

I held my tongue. It is the art by which I have learned most of my secrets.

After a few minutes’ silent consideration, during which the frown on his face steadily deepened, his Majesty looked at me again.

‘What do you wish to tell me?’

‘I wish to put your Majesty on your guard.’

‘You have done that already, most effectually,’ he interrupted.

‘I have come to beg you to distrust the assurances you have received, no matter from what quarter, that your Majesty’s abdication will pass off quietly. And if I should be so fortunate as to possess your confidence, I would further request your Majesty to employ me on the service of ascertaining what the intentions of your neighbours really are.’


The Emperor perceived that I was keeping something back.

‘In what directions do your suspicions point?’ he inquired sternly.

‘Chiefly to Russia,’ I answered with intentional vagueness.

‘You are mistaken, I believe. You cannot know the nature of the assurances I have received. Besides, I am well acquainted with the position of Russia. M. Witte is the man who counts in the Russian Government, and he is all for peace. He needs time to develop his plans. The country is nearly insolvent. However much the war party may desire to make a snatch at Galicia, they will not be allowed to do so.’

‘Will your Majesty pardon me if I venture to make a proposition? I will undertake to ascertain the actual state of things at my own risk. If I am able to report that my suspicions are unfounded, your Majesty shall make me no acknowledgment whatever.’

Francis-Joseph threw me a displeased look.

‘I regret that you should have permitted yourself to speak to me in that way, monsieur. Be good enough to remember who I am. I do not employ servants without paying them. Your former services give you a claim to consideration; your position and character entitle you to be treated seriously; and I am not going to reject your present request. You[201] may consider yourself retained to make this investigation. Have you anything else to say?’

This acceptance of my offer, glacial though it was, consoled me for the rebuke by which it was accompanied. Nevertheless, as I left the Emperor’s presence, I regretted that he had not been more frank with me. It was no doubt my own reticence which provoked this corresponding reserve on his Majesty’s part. But the result might have been unfortunate.

It will be noticed particularly that although the Emperor had practically admitted that it was his intention to vacate the throne, he had refrained from giving me the smallest hint as to the date of the abdication.

I took my way towards the Galician frontier in the character of a British tourist, armed with a sheaf of the coupons of Messrs. Cook. I was aware that this disguise would serve better than any other as a cloak for prying and impertinent questioning.

Galicia, I need hardly say, is that part of Poland which fell to the share of Austria in the famous partition of the eighteenth century. Bitterly as the Poles hate the Russians, the two peoples are allied in language and blood, and Russia has always looked forward to incorporating the whole of the ancient realm of the Jagellons in her own dominions in course of time. The break-up of the Dual Monarchy[202] would naturally be the signal for Russia to execute her designs on the Polish province of the Habsburgs.

In Galicia itself I found everything in a state of the most profound peace and security. There was the usual frontier garrison, but the camps showed no signs of special activity. I toured along the frontier almost from end to end, in a motor which I had ordered from Paris, and I came upon great stretches of country, several miles in extent, where a whole Russian army corps could have crossed the line without being observed, far less opposed.

At the end of this inspection, which lasted about a week, I crossed over to the Russian side.

I found myself received without apparent distrust. The legend of the mad Englishman on his motor-car had no doubt preceded me. The Russians do not dislike Englishmen, as individuals, in the way they dislike Germans. At all events I had no difficulty in making friends with many of the officers in command of frontier posts. They offered me hospitality, and showed no resentment at my somewhat daring exploration of their frontier.

At the first blush, everything seemed as peaceful on this side as on the other. The number of troops under arms was not excessive, and the men showed none of those signs of suppressed excitement which warn an experienced eye that some movement is in contemplation.


Presently, however, I began to remark an extraordinary number of telegraphic despatches arriving at the various posts. Special messengers seemed to come and go with a frequency that hardly seemed necessary in time of peace. At last, one night, I was roused from sleep by a sound which my ears were quick to recognise. It was the muffled rumble of an artillery train passing over the rough paving-stones of the small town in which I had stopped for the night.

I got up, softly drew back the curtain of the window, and cautiously peeped out. There, in the moonlight, rolled by gun after gun, followed by the caissons and all the supplementary outfit of a park of artillery.

They were heading southward, and the frontier lay only three miles away. I counted six batteries—thirty-six guns—the equipment of an army corps. When all had gone by I retired to rest again.

I rose at break of day, took out my car, and followed in the route of the cannon. The road conducted me without a turning straight to the frontier post, where I found a sleepy Russian sentry exchanging friendly greetings with a still drowsier Austrian one. A short way beyond stood the Austrian guard-house, with the men lounging on a bench outside the door in the sunlight, waiting for their coffee.


Everything was as if my vision of the night before had been a dream.

I turned my car round, and drove back slowly, scrutinising every hedge and tree along both sides of the road. Less than a mile from the post my attention was caught by a place on the left hand side, where the hedge appeared to have been mended or replanted. I ought to explain that the road was bordered at this point by a thick wood apparently impenetrable to anything bigger than a stoat.

I stopped the car, got down, and approached the hedge, examining every inch of the ground.

The first discovery I made was that the road itself had been recently mended. Creases in the surface, like the ruts made by heavy wheels in turning, had been filled up, and the dust from other parts of the road carefully raked over the spot.

Then, looking closely at the hedge, I perceived that the bushes were no longer growing in their place. The entire hedge had been cut away level with the ground for a space of several yards, and then replaced, the matted bushes being wired together so as to form a sort of gate or hurdle, like the furze hurdles in common use in England and other countries. The leaves were already beginning to droop from want of the nourishment supplied by the roots.

I drew up my car close to the hedge, and, mounting[205] upon it, managed to scramble over into the wood, at the cost of some scratches.

I found myself in the midst of a pile of brush-wood which extended for some paces, completely covering the soil from view. Immediately beyond came a gap in the trees, not in front, but at one side, so that it was quite invisible from the road. Turning sharply towards the frontier, and running almost parallel with the high road, was a grassy drive or lane, about ten feet wide, and sufficiently free from undergrowth to admit the passage of an army.

With my heart thumping against my ribs, and almost holding my breath in my excitement, I stole along this path, which revealed, by a hundred tokens, that it had recently been used for heavy traffic. I followed its windings for I should think a mile and a half, when I found myself brought up abruptly by a post and rail fence, the posts being painted yellow on the side which faced me, and black on the reverse.

This fence was the boundary between the two empires. A narrow footpath bordered it on each side, so that the patrol might pass along it each day on his rounds.

As for the artillery, it seemed to have disappeared, to have been swallowed up by the earth.

I looked round me in all directions. The woodland[206] road by which I had reached the frontier stretched away on the other side of the fence. This was in itself a suspicious sign. It scarcely seemed likely that two independent drives would have been constructed so as to meet in the heart of the forest, unless there was some traffic meant to pass that way. All at once the explanation burst upon me. It was a smuggler’s route!

The high tariffs of the Russian and Austrian empires have fostered an important contraband traffic. The soldiers who patrol the frontier are easily bribed by a share in the gains of the smugglers. What the Russian War Office had done was to bribe the smugglers in their turn to act as its allies in this strange invasion.

I have used the word invasion. Unless my deductions were wholly false, the thirty-six guns which I had seen passing my window in the night were by this time actually planted on the soil of Austria.

I sprang over the fence, and hurried forward on the still clearly revealed track.

At the end of an hour from my first entrance into the forest, my ear caught a low murmur which warned me that I was drawing near to some kind of encampment. Striking from the lane into the wood, I advanced, creeping from tree to tree. But I have had few opportunities of learning woodcraft, and[207] there were keener ears, and more stealthy footsteps than mine in the forest. Suddenly I felt a powerful hand gripping my throat, a dark cloth descended over my eyes, and I was thrown violently to the ground.

I did not lose consciousness, while I was lifted up by the feet and shoulders, and carried a distance which I calculated at two hundred paces. After some twisting and turning I was set down, and the cloth was taken off my head. I sat up and looked round.

I found myself in a small hut or wigwam of boughs and woven rushes, surrounded by half a dozen dark-faced men who squatted between me and the doorway, the only opening by which light was admitted. One glance at my captors satisfied me that they were neither soldiers nor Russians. Reassured on this point I prepared to defend myself boldly.

The head man of the party appeared to be an old fellow with a short grey beard, who might have passed equally well in the uncertain light for a Wallach, a Slovene, a gipsy, or a Jew, but certainly not for an honest man of any race. Addressing myself to the chief of the smugglers, as I conceived him to be, in Polish, I asked—

‘Why have you dared to treat me like this?’

‘He is a Pole!’ The muttered exclamation[208] solved my doubt as to the race of the smugglers. The language they used between themselves was Romany.

‘What were you doing in our wood?’ the old gipsy asked threateningly.

Before I had time to reply, the old man’s eye suddenly lighted up. He took a step towards me, uttered an amazed ejaculation, and then, before I knew what was happening, fell on his knees before me, and, seizing my right hand, respectfully kissed a ring on the little finger. At the same time the other members of the party crowded round, evidently impatient to follow his example.

The ring which excited this extraordinary demonstration was one which I had worn so long that I had forgotten all about it. It had been given me seventeen years before, in Baghdad, by an old woman I had saved from the bastinado at the hands of a savage Pasha.

She was a gipsy, I now remembered; she had forced the ring upon me against my will, and had urged me never to take it off night or day, assuring me in the most solemn manner that it would one day be the means of saving my life. This prophecy, which I had laughed at as a vain boast and quickly forgotten, was coming true at last.

Blessing the old lady with all my heart, and inwardly apologising to her for my past scepticism, I[209] put on the air of one who was accustomed to, and expected, the homage he was receiving.

‘That will do, my friends,’ I said, when each man had saluted the magic ring in turn—it was engraved with a pentagram. ‘Now, if I give you some money, how long will it take you to procure some bottles of good wine?’

A grunt of pleasure welcomed this inquiry. I heard a word which sounded like canteen. Then one of the men rose, in obedience to a nod from the chief.

‘Cheni will fetch it in five minutes,’ said the old man.

I placed a double handful of gold in his outstretched palms. A perfect salvo of approving cries greeted this munificence.

While we were waiting for the wine to appear I offered an account of myself which appeared to be quite satisfactory. I said I was a Pole, of gipsy descent through my mother, that I was engaged in a plot to bring about a general rising in the event of war between Austria and Russia, and that I was specially engaged to secure the support of the numerous gipsies along the frontier, who were to watch the movements of the two great belligerents on our behalf, a service for which they would be handsomely paid.

The arrival of six bottles of first-rate Tokay gave[210] all the confirmation to my words that was required. As the wine vanished down their throats, the gipsies laid aside all reserve, and freely imparted to me what information they possessed.

They told me, in the first place, that the six batteries I was tracing were within a few yards of us, skilfully hidden among the trees. Their arrival brought the force designed for the occupation of Galicia up to a total strength of eighty thousand men and seventy-two guns, all of whom had been secretly brought across the frontier at different points during the last few days, and were now ready to move in concert as soon as the signal was given, and overrun the unprepared province.

Vast convoys of provisions were being held in readiness on the Russian side of the frontier, and a second army of one hundred and twenty thousand men was to be secretly mobilised in and around Warsaw, ready to come to the support of the first, in the event of serious resistance on the part of the Austrian Government.

This last item rested on hearsay, but the presence of two army corps on Galician soil was a fact for which my informants were able to vouch from their own observation. The fact was known to every smuggler along the Galician frontier, and yet, so profuse were the bribes they had received, and so[211] perfect was their secrecy, that not the slightest hint had been suffered to reach any official of the Austrian Government.

I spent some hours of the most agonising suspense I have ever known, in the company of these drunken outlaws, before I dared to risk an effort to get away. Their suspicions, or rather their natural distrustfulness, caused them to raise all sorts of objections to my departure. It was only by swearing on the sacred pentagram that no hair of their heads should ever be imperilled by any action of mine, that I was able to tear myself away.

When I got out on to the high road again, at the spot where I had left my motor, I found, as I had feared, that it was no longer there. I turned at haphazard in the direction of the frontier post. As soon as I came in sight of the Russian guard-house, I saw, to my delight, my car standing on the road in the front of the door, with a group of interested soldiers curiously inspecting every part of it.

Now the car happened to be a Panhard, of the most powerful construction yet turned out by the famous French firm.

I strolled up carelessly, greeted the astonished soldiers in broken Russian, and asked them if they were familiar with the machine. The lieutenant of the post, a man in education and intelligence below the level of an English sergeant, bustled out and[212] began questioning me, with the evident intention of ordering my arrest.

I handed him my passport to read, a process which takes some time with an illiterate Russian officer, and went on explaining the mechanism of the car to the inquisitive soldiers. Finally I came to the driving power.

‘And now, my friends,’ I said, ‘I will show you how the car is propelled. Stand back clear of the wheels, if you please. You see this lever. I place my hand on it so——’

‘Stay!’ shouted the officer, divining the danger in this demonstration.

He spoke too late. As my hand grasped the lever, I vaulted into the car, and before the excited soldiers realised that it was under way, the Panhard was tearing towards the boundary line at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour.

The Russian sentry ran out into the middle of the road to stop me. He was a poor peasant, perhaps from the banks of the Volga, who must have thought that the Evil One himself was upon him. I saw his face blanch, and almost heard the chattering of his teeth, but he did not flinch from his duty. I rode right over him, and I am sorry to say that I believe he was killed.

“I rode right over him.”

The Austrian sentry simply fired off his gun as a warning to his comrades at the guard-house further [213]along the road. They swarmed out, and I pulled up the machine. I had put the brake on immediately after crossing into Austrian territory.

‘In the Emperor’s name!’ I whispered to the Austrian officer of the guard. ‘I am not an Englishman, but a member of the Austrian Secret Service. By allowing me to pass without delay you will render the Government a vital service.’

‘You have just killed a man,’ the officer objected, pointing to the blood on my wheels.

‘I am afraid so. The fact that I killed a Russian sentry in order to cross the frontier should convince you that I am in deadly earnest.’

The officer, by some rare chance, was intelligent enough to believe me.

‘Pass on, sir,’ he said.

I pressed the lever, and set out on my mad race across an Empire to Vienna. I had nothing to eat or drink. I had no shields for my eyes; the Russian soldiers must have removed them while the car was in their hands. I was utterly unprepared for my terrible journey. But some intuition warned me that every moment was precious, and I kept my splendid machine at full pressure for the whole five hundred miles.

I will not attempt to describe that nightmare ride. Late in the evening of the following day, I alighted at the gate of the palace of Schönbrunn, worn-out,[214] my face and hands chapped and bleeding, my eyes half-blinded with dust, and my strength nearly gone.

‘The Emperor! Take me to the Emperor!’ I gasped to the first person I met. ‘It is life or death!’

I was conducted into the presence of a chamberlain, who sought to impose all sorts of obstacles.

‘You cannot see his Majesty now. I dare not intrude upon him. He is closeted with the Archdukes. It is a Habsburg Family Council.’

‘My God!’ I cried out. ‘You have given me ten thousand reasons for insisting! If it costs my life, I must interrupt his Majesty.’

My violence cowed the official. He conducted me, or, in fact, supported me, for I was almost too weak to stand, to the door of the Council Chamber.

‘Go in, if you must,’ he said. ‘For my part, I dare not announce you.’

I turned the handle of the door, and staggered into the room.

The spectacle which met my eyes was dazzling. In a blaze of light all the Archdukes of the Imperial House, wearing their uniforms and robes of State, were grouped in a semicircle, facing a throne on which the representative of the Cæsars was seated in his Imperial mantle, wearing the great Double Eagle[215] Crown of Austria. Before him, on a footstool, knelt a handsome lad of fifteen, in whom I had no difficulty in recognising the Archduke Karl, the destined successor to the throne.

At the moment I burst in I saw the venerable Emperor raise his hands to his head, lift up the Imperial Crown, in which the huge diamonds and rubies and sapphires sparkled like founts of fire, and hold it poised in the air over his young kinsman’s bent head. In another second it would have rested on the boy’s brow, and Francis-Joseph would have ceased to reign.


My voice rang out like the hoarse scream of a drunkard. I tottered forward and fell on my knees, while the Emperor half rose from his throne, still grasping the great crown in both hands.

‘Pardon, sire! At this hour a Russian army of eighty thousand men is encamped upon the soil of Austria!’

Francis-Joseph sank back on his seat, and mechanically replaced the diadem on his own head.

The explanations which followed between the two Governments were not communicated to me. But I learned through my friends the gipsies that the discovery of the motor, and my subsequent flight gave the alarm to the Russian War Office. The[216] invading force retired as stealthily as it had come, and all vestiges of its having crossed the frontier were so speedily and skilfully effaced that if Count Lamsdorff fell back on a denial of the truth, it is probable that the Austrian Government found itself unable to press the charge.

So the evil day has been postponed; for, as long as Francis-Joseph reigns over the Dual Monarchy, Russia will be content to bide her time.

In the meanwhile I have been informed that a warrant has been issued against me, in the Russian courts, for the murder of the sentry whose fate I have described.



It is with painful feelings, and only after long consideration, that I have resolved to lift the veil from the tragic mystery which surrounds the fate of the Queen who perished under the knives of assassins in Belgrade in the month of June 1903.

The hesitation I have felt in approaching this melancholy story is due to reasons of a personal character. Many years before, when the late Queen of Servia occupied a private station, it was my lot to meet her, and to fall under the spell of that fascination which this extraordinary woman possessed over men, and which will cause her to be remembered in history with Helen and Cleopatra, and all those enchantresses who have involved kingdoms in ruin by their charms.

I had no right to suppose that the Countess, as she then was, distinguished me from the crowd of those who paid homage to her; but yet it seems as though I had in some manner inspired her with a feeling of confidence and regard warmer than that[218] usually felt by any woman for a man who is neither her lover nor her kinsman.

I believe myself to be the only survivor of the tragedy who possesses the key to that strange and terrible career, and that in imparting my knowledge to the world I am discharging what has become a sacred duty to the dead.

With this apology I will come straight to the history.

It was some years since I had seen or heard anything of the Countess Draga, though, of course, I was aware, in common with all well-informed students of contemporary politics, of the passion which she had inspired in the young King of Servia, when I was astonished by receiving one day a private letter from her, imploring me to come to Belgrade at once to advise her on a matter of the highest importance.

I lost no time in obeying the summons, by which I was singularly moved, since there is only one thing which can ever be of the highest importance to a woman.

It was in the courtyard garden of an old stonewalled Servian house—more like a fortified farmhouse than a private mansion—that the revelation burst on my ears which was so soon to startle the capitals of Europe.

A fountain plashed into a marble basin strewn[219] with rose leaves, and the faint scent of myrtle and lemon blossom came from the curtain of shrubs which screened the gateway in the thick grey wall. The beautiful woman whose name was the object of maledictions throughout a continent, reclined on a low couch heaped with Oriental cushions, and fixed her dark eyes on me with a tragic intensity of appeal, as she confessed her secret.

‘I need the advice of a disinterested friend, one who stands apart from the intrigues which centre round the Servian throne.’

I sat upright on the French chair provided for me, and gazed down at her, outwardly calm and stern as ever, but gripping the throttle of emotions whose strength none can know but myself.

‘My advice will be disinterested in one sense,’ I answered slowly. ‘I care nothing for the plots and conspiracies which, under the name of politics, serve as a substitute for the old brigandage of the Balkans. But I am interested in your happiness.’

The Countess Draga let her eyelids fall for a moment as a quick spasm of pain crossed her face.

‘Do not let us speak of my happiness,’ she said in low tones. ‘It is of Alexander I must think.’

I folded my arms across my chest, and said nothing.

‘He has asked me to be his Consort.’


I did not succeed in quite concealing the astonishment with which I heard this piece of news, as yet unsuspected by Europe, and for which my friend Baron Rothschild would gladly have paid 1,000,000 francs.

‘I refused him,’ the Countess added; ‘I have refused him not once but twice, but he persists.’

‘Kings ought to marry kings’ children,’ I observed, as she seemed to wait for some expression of opinion from me.

‘Add that boys ought to marry girls and not grown women, and you will say what the world will say as soon as it hears of this,’ she returned, with some bitterness. ‘That is what I have told Alexander; and he has sworn upon the crucifix in my presence that he will marry only me.’

‘Leave Servia. Spend a year on the Riviera—or in Paris’—she glanced swiftly at me as I said this—‘and he may change his resolution.’

The Servian’s reply startled me.

‘I cannot. At this moment I am under secret arrest.’

‘Under arrest?’

‘You forget that Alexander has made himself master, and that reasons of State cover a great deal in Servia which they would not cover in France.’

I was staggered. A stranger situation I had never encountered in all my strange experience.


‘He holds you a prisoner till you consent to become his Queen!’

‘Till I become his Queen,’ she corrected.

I sat still for a minute, considering. The chancelleries and the public of Europe would never believe this story. They would think, they were already thinking and saying, that the Countess was an adventuress, luring the young King to his ruin.

‘There is one very simple solution,’ I said at last. ‘I will arrange your escape.’

‘Impossible!’ she sighed.

I frowned.

‘Pardon me, my dear Countess, but when you did me the honour to consult me, I assumed that you had some confidence in my ability. I offer to take you wherever you wish to go.’

‘You misunderstand me, my dear friend. I do not doubt your power to release me. But my flight would become a public event; Alexander has too little self-restraint to keep silence about it. I should thus damage him as much as by accepting the throne which he offers me. He has sworn, moreover, that if I persist in my refusal, he will abdicate.’

With what sophistries will a woman deceive herself where her heart is concerned! And how worse than useless is it to reason with her.

‘You have told me enough,’ I answered, in a voice which was melancholy in spite of myself. ‘I perceive[222] that this young monarch is not indifferent to you.’

The lovely Servian lowered her glance, and began picking a rose to pieces with her delicate fingers.

‘He is my King,’ she murmured. ‘He is the last of the dynasty of Obrenovitch, which my family have served faithfully for a hundred years. The one thing which alarms me most in the whole situation is that I have been urged to accept the King’s hand by Colonel Masileff.’

‘Colonel Masileff?’

‘Who is understood to be the secret head of the party in favour of Prince Peter Karageorgevitch.’

I now understood the seriousness of the affair, since it was clear that whatever step was favoured by the supporters of the Karageorgevitch claimant must be fraught with some danger to the Obrenovitch.

‘Is Alexander aware of this fact?’

‘I have told him, but he considers it an excuse on my part. Perhaps, if you were to warn him, he might listen to you.’

I did not much relish the task of forcing my advice on a headstrong youth, intoxicated with love and sovereignty. In the end I decided to return from Belgrade through Switzerland and take an opportunity of finding out something about Alexander’s rival for the Servian crown.


But the ways of women are proverbially difficult to calculate.

While I was still lingering in Belgrade, on the look-out for some useful introduction to Prince Peter, the world was startled by the public announcement of the forthcoming marriage of the King and the Countess.

I went at once to wait on the prospective Queen of Servia to tender my formal congratulations. I found her already surrounded by a throng of courtiers, among whom I discerned the lean military figure and vulture nose of the man whom Draga herself had denounced to me a few days before—Colonel Masileff.

So magical is the influence of royalty that I found myself able to detect a difference already in the manner, and even in the very voice, of the woman who had bared her heart to me so short a time before. She was gracious and cordial, but it was the graciousness and cordiality of a Sovereign to a subject, rather than that of a beautiful woman to a man.

Coming away I thrust my arm through that of the formidable Colonel.

‘Have you any commands for Geneva?’ I asked. ‘I shall be there in the course of two days.’

Masileff let himself be surprised.

‘But I thought you were a friend of the Countess?’ he stammered.


‘Certainly—as you are,’ I retorted. ‘It seems to me that the Countess is doing a very good stroke of work for a cause in which you and I are both interested.’

Masileff glanced at me with curiosity.

‘Do you know, Monsieur V——’ (I had not seen cause to disguise my identity on this occasion), ‘that I think you must be more fortunate than I am. That is to say, I think you must possess the confidence of a person who has not yet honoured me by a sign that my services are acceptable to him.’

‘Thank you, Colonel,’ I replied, bowing. ‘Your message shall be delivered in the right quarter.’

I left Belgrade the same night, and two days later found myself in the presence of a quiet, elderly man in a modest apartment near the famous Lake Leman.

I had sent in my card with the pencilled addition: ‘Confidential agent of the Tsar, the German Emperor, and Monsieur Chamberlain.’

I felt sure that the names of the powerful triumvirate who, between them, controlled the destinies of the Old World, would secure me the attention of Prince Peter Karageorgevitch; and I was not mistaken.

The Prince received me with a real or assumed nervousness, and expressed himself anxious to receive any message I might have for him.


‘I have no message of any importance for your Highness,’ I replied, scrutinising carefully the careworn features of the elderly man who sat in front of me. ‘My only message at all is one from Colonel Masileff, which is perhaps not worth your attention.’

‘I have heard of the Colonel, and shall be pleased to hear anything on his behalf,’ the Prince replied cautiously.

‘Colonel Masileff is a little disappointed, sir, that your Highness has not offered him any token of your approbation. He would welcome some sign that you are not indifferent to your friends in Servia.’

Prince Peter looked at me with a glance which, though quiet, was not less searching than my own.

‘I thank you, Monsieur V——. Is that all?’

‘It is the whole of the message, sir.’

‘Again, thank you.’

‘Your Highness does not wish to make me the medium of your answer, perhaps?’ I hinted.

‘There is no answer.’

I perceived that I was dealing with a man of no ordinary penetration and shrewdness. With such men it is always best to come straight to the point and to be frank.

‘And now, sir, for the real object of my visit. I need not tell your Highness that I did not come to Geneva to oblige Colonel Masileff.’


‘That is already quite clear,’ the Prince commented drily.

A remark from which I inferred that it was in the power of Masileff to have given me credentials which would have secured me a very different reception.

‘I have come here, then, to beg for the life of a woman.’

Karageorgevitch started slightly, and began for the first time to look uneasy.

‘I thought you said you had no important message,’ he reminded me.

‘I have none. The woman I speak of is totally ignorant of the step I take in coming here.’

‘Then your interest in the matter is——?’

‘Is personal merely. I make it my private prayer to your Highness that, in a certain event which no longer seems improbable, the life of this woman shall be spared.’

Prince Peter gave an imperceptible shrug, a shrug which said very plainly, nevertheless, ‘I have no motive for obliging you.’

Aloud his Highness remarked—

‘I am strongly opposed to all bloodshed, Monsieur V——. I feel sure there is no reality in the danger you foresee, or I should be as earnest as yourself in wishing to prevent it.’

‘I can say no more, sir; I am here, as I have said, merely in my private capacity. Still, I happen to[227] have rendered important services to some very powerful personages’ (the Prince glanced at the names I had inscribed on my card), ‘and, without being a blackmailer, I feel confident that if I appealed to those personages for their influence on behalf of a righteous and honourable cause, I should not be refused.’

Prince Peter rose to his feet, and walked twice up and down the room before replying.

‘It is evident to me,’ he said at length, ‘that you have a strong personal interest in the new Queen of Servia, and that you are a man who is to be trusted. That being so, I will explain to you frankly my position. I have friends in Servia who desire to see the restoration of my dynasty, and derive much confidence from the misconduct of this youth in whom the Obrenovitch line terminates.

‘Their reports reach me regularly, and I am therefore able to anticipate their plans to some extent. But I have resolved that if I am ever to seat myself on the Servian throne, I must keep my hands clean. For that reason I have never committed myself by approving any of the measures contemplated on my behalf.

‘If Masileff really told you he never heard from me, he told you the actual truth. I have never yet returned any answer to any of the communications I receive almost weekly from Belgrade. To that rule[228] I must adhere. All I can promise you is this, that if hereafter I receive any information which convinces me that the life of the Countess Draga is in danger, I will at once break silence, and send a peremptory order to my friends that she is to be allowed to leave the country in safety.’

I thanked the Servian prince for this pledge, which was all I had any right to expect. The claimant to a Crown could hardly be asked to veto all attempts on his behalf on the mere chance that some of them might endanger the lives of the reigning family.

I returned to Paris, and sought to distract myself in my work from brooding over the tragedy which seemed to be shaping itself in the Servian capital.

As we had both foreseen, Queen Draga incurred the obloquy of the world by marrying Alexander. Her reputation was sacrificed to his, and I believe that she deliberately posed as the instigator of all his violent and injudicious measures, in the hope of acting, so to speak, as a conductor of the popular wrath, and thereby saving her husband.

Had she been able at the same time to wean Alexander from his wild passion for herself, he and his dynasty might have been preserved. It is the charitable view to take that the young King was not fully responsible for his acts at this time. The distressing circumstances of his bringing-up, the[229] fatal inheritance of his father’s example and influence, render it impossible to regard Alexander Obrenovitch as a normal young man.

The long period of suspense which I passed through, while watching from Paris over the safety of the Queen of Servia, was at last put an end to by a cypher telegram from the agent whom I had stationed in Belgrade unknown even to Draga herself.

Death of King fixed for next week. Queen must be persuaded to fly at once.

The despatch reached me just half an hour before the departure of the Oriental express, into which I flung myself panting as it began to glide out of the station.

My agent, warned from Vienna, met me as I alighted in Belgrade.

The pallor of his countenance told me that he had bad news to communicate.

‘The worst—instantly!’ I exclaimed, in Polish, a language I have taught to all the most trusted members of my staff.

‘Nothing has happened,’ he stammered out. ‘But I tried to give a hint to the Queen; she has passed it on to her husband. The conspirators have learned that suspicion has been aroused in the Palace; and——’

‘And what?’ I seized him by the wrist.


‘The assassination is to be carried out to-night, instead of next week.’


Exhausted as I was by the long journey, this news almost broke me down. I had to lean against my agent for support.

The poor wretch, conscious that he had blundered disastrously, dared not meet my eye, and I felt him trembling.

It is my maxim never to be angry with an employee except for bad faith. If an agent of mine blunders or breaks down I consider the fault is mine for having intrusted him with a task beyond his powers. Besides, there are no perfect instruments. In my own career I have made two mistakes.

Therefore I assured the unfortunate man that all was well, since Queen Draga was yet alive. We went together to the house in which my agent had been residing for some time in the character of correspondent of the Havas Agency. There I assumed the Servian dress which he had had the forethought to prepare for me, and, disguised as a sous-officier, I set off for the Palace.

My military uniform naturally inspired confidence in the sentries, those in the plot no doubt supposing that I was so, also.

I made my way round to a side entrance, suitable[231] to my apparent station, and there, by my agent’s advice, asked to see Anna Petrovitch, the waiting-maid who had shared the Queen’s fortunes for many years.

I was admitted without any demur, and presently Anna herself appeared. She took me apart into a small chamber apparently used by the upper servants of the Palace, and asked me what I wanted.

‘I must see the Queen immediately, in private,’ I answered.

‘You cannot do that. Her Majesty is just sitting down to dinner. What is your name; and what do you want to see her about?’

‘My name does not matter. I come as a friend, and I bring her Majesty a message from one who wishes her well.’

I knew that if this woman were really in Draga’s confidence these words would not fall unheeded.

‘Cannot you tell me something more? I will try to get you an audience as soon as dinner is over, provided I am sure that you are a friend.’

‘Listen!’ I bent forward and whispered in her ear. ‘Have you ever heard the Queen mention a certain Monsieur V——?’

The woman gave a start of joy, impossible to be feigned.

‘You come from him?’

I bowed.


‘Then I will endeavour to let the Queen know at once. In the meantime, follow me.’

Anna conducted me up one of the back staircases of the Palace and along a corridor, till we arrived at a door, which she unlocked with a key taken out of her pocket.

I found myself in a small bedroom, humbly, but comfortably furnished.

‘This is my own room. The Queen’s boudoir is reached through that door,’ she explained, pointing to it. ‘Wait here, and excuse me if I take the precaution of locking you in.’

‘Stay,’ I said sharply. ‘In situations like this I trust no one. Give me the key, and I will lock myself in, and open to your knock.’

The servant made no objection, and a signal was arranged between us; after which she stole away, leaving me there in the gathering dusk, with the fate of a kingdom trembling in the balance.

Of my feelings during the next half hour it would be useless to speak. Murder, red-armed and tiger-eyed, was whetting its knife against the bosom of the woman whom I would gladly have died to save. And I could do nothing but stand there and gaze furtively through the window for the first sign of the approaching cyclone.

“I took out my loaded revolver, cocked it and advanced to the threshold.”

At the end of thirty eternal minutes the expected knock came at the outer door. I took out my [233]loaded revolver, cocked it, and advanced to the threshold.

‘Who is there?’

‘The Queen’s friend,’ came the expected answer.

I unlocked the door, opened it just widely enough to admit the waiting-maid, and promptly shut and locked it again.

‘The Queen knows you are here, but she dares not leave the table for another half hour. At the end of that time she will be in her boudoir, and will admit us.’

I took out my watch, and cursed each dilatory hand.

‘Is the danger so pressing, then?’ asked the frightened woman.

‘I do not know how pressing it is,’ I answered gloomily. ‘I cannot even be sure that Queen Draga will be suffered to leave that table alive.’

‘Oh, you are mistaken there!’ Anna exclaimed. ‘My mistress is safe. She has had a private assurance that she will be allowed to flee.’

‘Has she fled?’ I retorted. I thought I knew Draga better than her servant did.

Silence followed. The knowledge that Prince Peter had evidently contrived to give orders on behalf of the Queen, in the event of violence being employed, soothed me to some extent. Nevertheless, a sad and terrible presentiment warned me to expect the worst.


A low scratching on the inner door, that leading into the Royal boudoir, told us that the victim was still alive. A bolt was withdrawn, and the next moment I found myself in Queen Draga’s presence.

It was the same woman whom I had left a few years ago, in the full bloom of her womanhood, but how changed, how stricken! The harassed brow, the hunted look in the eyes, the grey streaks in the hair, all told me what the difference had been between the lot of the Queen and the simple Countess.

‘You are from Monsieur ——?’ she whispered.

I drew myself up. Recognition flashed in her eyes.

‘You are Andrea!’

That word repaid me for everything. I went down on one knee, and pressed her offered fingers to my lips.

It was only by the light of the moon that we were able to see each other. Anna was moving towards the key of the electric lamps, but the Queen forbade her with a gesture.

‘Now, tell me, what is it?’

‘You must this very minute put on Anna’s dress, and leave the Palace with me. We shall go straight to the railway, where my agent has by this time chartered a special train.’

Draga drew back unconvinced.


‘The assassination is fixed for next Tuesday,’ she declared.

‘It is fixed for to-night.’

‘To-night? You must be mistaken.’

I smiled bitterly.

‘The Tsar of Russia has never said that to me, madam.’

‘But how?—when?—Your own agent told me—if he was your agent——’

I waved my hand impatiently.

‘All that was true three days ago, madam. Your Majesty told King Alexander, and the conspirators have advanced the hour in consequence.’

For the first time the heroic woman turned pale, and began to tremble.

‘At what hour to-night is it?’

‘I have not ascertained. For ought I know the assassins are at this moment surrounding the Palace. There may be just time for you to leave.’

‘But the King! Alexander! My husband!’

‘I do not think there will be time for him to leave as well,’ I said gravely.

Queen Draga threw one hand across her breast with a superb defiance.

‘I do not go without my husband, sir.’

I was torn between admiration and despair.

‘I should have done better to remain in Paris, I perceive,’ I said sullenly.


‘On the contrary, dear Andrea, I, who know you so well, know that you have the heroism of soul to save the man you hate at the prayer of the woman you love.’

I stood thunderstruck, while she crossed the room into the adjoining bedchamber, and sounded a silver bell.

‘Inform his Majesty that I desire to see him very particularly as soon as possible.’

The servant who had answered the bell bowed and withdrew, with startled looks, from which I was inclined to suspect that he was in the pay of the assassins. Fortunately, he had not been able to see me where I stood.

The Queen now began hurriedly to change her dress for one more suitable for the emergency. Meanwhile there was no sign that her message had reached Alexander.

‘You have been betrayed, madam,’ I observed at last. ‘That servant was a traitor. I saw it in his face.’

Draga uttered a cry of despair.

‘You, Anna, you go and bring the King here at all costs.’

Anna darted out of the room.

The Queen, too terribly anxious to go on with her own preparations for flight, paced the room like a lioness listening for the approach of the hunters.


Five minutes passed—ten minutes—a quarter of a year! Then a step was heard in the adjoining room, and the young King of Servia, his dark face flushed with wrath, strode in.

‘What is all this? Are you trying to frighten me, Draga?’

He saw me and stopped, at the same time putting his hand to his side where his sword should have been. The weapon was missing, perhaps by accident.

‘This is our best friend, Alexander. He has come to save us. The assassins have changed their plans, and will be here to-night. A special train has been got ready, and if you can leave the Palace in disguise, all will be well.’

The ascendency of a powerful intellect in the moment of danger made itself felt. Alexander looked about him, half-dazed, as the poor youth well might be, by the ghastly imminence of the peril.

‘What disguise can I wear?’ he demanded, in a choked voice.

‘Change clothes with your valet,’ the Queen replied, with feminine quickness. ‘This gentleman affirms that he is one of the conspirators.’

‘Constantine! Impossible! I do not believe it.’

Draga wrung her hands.

‘I cannot save him. He is obstinate!’ she sobbed.

The sob conquered the stubborn narrow mind[238] which would have resisted all argument. Alexander darted into his dressing-room, from which the valet was just trying to escape.

Seizing the man by the throat, Alexander dealt him a blow on the temple which deprived him of his senses. I had followed his Majesty, and I now stripped the valet while the King hastily undressed. While the King was assuming the disguise thus provided for him, I carried the insensible man into the bedroom, and placed him between the royal sheets.

At this moment the white face of Anna Petrovitch appeared in the doorway beyond.

‘They are coming! I see them outside in the courtyard.’

‘Quick, quick!’ burst from the lips of Queen Draga, whose self-possession seemed almost unnatural. And she pushed her husband towards the door of his own dressing-room.

‘This way?’ he exclaimed, his mind unable to keep pace with hers.

‘Yes. You are Constantine. You are in the plot, remember. You must let them in to kill your master, who is asleep.’

I shuddered. My suspicion—for it was hardly more—was going to be fatal to the valet.

‘Go with him,’ Queen Draga added, turning to me. ‘I am safe. I need neither protection nor guidance. He needs both. I adjure you, Andrea!’


Swept away by the torrent of her impetuosity, I followed Alexander to the dressing-room.

Draga herself came to the door, and closed it softly after us.

We were just in time to meet a party of a dozen soldiers, headed by Colonel Masileff himself.

Stepping past the young King, who was shaking like a leaf, I whispered in Masileff’s ear—

‘Be quiet, or you will awake him. He is lying on the bed, drunk.’

The soldiers filed in past us, not one casting so much as a glance at our faces, shrouded by the darkness.

The moment the last man had stepped across the threshold of the dressing-room, I took Alexander by the arm and drew, or rather dragged, him out into the corridor, and down the great staircase of the Palace.

We passed out unquestioned. It did not occur to one of the men whom we found outside that Masileff could have missed his prey.

My uniform was enough to disarm suspicion, for it was that of a regiment in which every man had sworn on the Gospel not to let Alexander escape alive. My agent had served me well.

We found him at the station. The special train was ready, with steam up, waiting for the signal to place us in safety on the soil of Austria.


I made Alexander take his seat in the meanest compartment, while I waited outside the station for the appearance of the two women.

I waited a long time.

From the town, all buried in darkness, there came sounds of tumult and exultation, which must have shaken the heart of the young man in the train.

It was not till I had been there for nearly three-quarters of an hour that I saw one female form creeping feebly along the road towards the station.

I darted out to meet her, and uttered an oath.

Anna Petrovitch fell weeping into my arms, with the doleful cry: ‘Queen Draga is dead! Queen Draga is dead!’

Five minutes later I had placed the desolate creature in the train, and we were speeding on our way to Vienna.

It was in the train that I learned the few particulars that Anna had to tell. But I had already guessed the nature of the catastrophe.

Another party of soldiers, headed by a personal enemy of the Queen’s, had invaded the Royal suite through the waiting-maid’s room at the instant that Masileff and his men burst into the bedroom where the valet was lying insensible. Whether Draga’s life might really have been spared or not, it is impossible to say. The heroic woman’s resolution was instantly taken. She knew that if the valet were [241]recognised there would at once be a hue and cry, and that the King would be pursued and probably taken; and she resolved to give her life for her husband’s. She cast herself on the inanimate form lying on the bed, concealed the face in her arms, and allowed herself to be stabbed by a dozen bayonets.

“Queen Draga cast herself on the inanimate form on the bed, concealed the face in her arms, and allowed herself to be stabbed by a dozen bayonets.”

Of the savage details of the murder I dare not trust myself to write. To those who know how thin is the veneer of civilisation on the Southern Slaves, how faint is the moral difference between some of these so-called Christians and their Mohammedan neighbours, it will not come as a surprise to learn that when the bloodhounds desisted from their work there was no longer any possibility of recognising either of their victims.

Of the young King, and what has become of him since that hideous night, I intend to say no single word. Of her who perished, let no man henceforth say anything but good.



It is always a delicate matter for a foreigner to write about the Sovereign of another country in such a way as to be acceptable to his subjects. In case I, a citizen of the United States, should unwittingly offend any English prejudices in the following narrative, I can only assure my readers that I am actuated by no feeling but that of the most sincere respect for the greatest of living Sovereigns and the mighty people over whom he reigns.

In the summer of 1902 the whole world was dismayed by the news that the Coronation of King Edward VII. had been postponed at the last moment, on account of his Majesty’s grave state of health.

The Governments of the Continent, ever distrustful, and prone to credit others with their own Machiavellian statecraft, eagerly asked themselves if the official explanation of this event was genuine, or whether it did not conceal some subtle political purpose.

As a result, I found myself commissioned by a[243] certain great Power to go over to London, and ascertain the true state of affairs.

Needless to say, my inquiries enabled me in a very short time to report to my employers that their suspicions were groundless.

In the course of the brief investigation I was brought into personal touch with a man of high rank, occupying a confidential position in the Royal Household—the Marquis of Bedale. The manner in which I carried out my delicate mission caused Lord Bedale to compliment me highly upon my courage and discretion, and I have every reason to think that his lordship spoke in favourable terms of me to his exalted master.

Before I left England I was surprised and gratified to receive a request from Lord Bedale to wait upon him in his private apartment in Buckingham Palace, on confidential business.[1]

His lordship received me in the friendliest fashion, and talked to me quite freely.

‘Let me begin,’ he said, ‘by asking you for your frank opinion on our Secret Service.’

‘The Secret Service of Great Britain is the most scrupulously conducted in the world,’ I replied discreetly.


Lord Bedale gave me a queer smile.

‘That means, I suppose, that it is the most inefficient?’ he suggested.

‘It is the worst paid,’ I said, by way of extenuation. ‘I have heard that the total amount voted for this purpose by the British Parliament is only £40,000, but that sounds incredible.’

‘I am afraid it is not far from the truth,’ Lord Bedale answered. ‘We have acted in the belief that the British Empire was too strong to care about what its enemies were planning.’

‘I should think the Boer War must have made you realise that such a policy was not the cheapest in the long run,’ I ventured to remark.

‘It has shown me so, at all events,’ he answered, ‘and possibly some others. You will not offend me in the least, Monsieur V——, if you tell me plainly that you consider our Intelligence Department the weakest branch of our Foreign Service, and utterly unworthy of an Empire with such world-wide interests as ours.’

I was obliged to admit that such was my opinion. His lordship proceeded.

‘This state of things constitutes a national danger. In a country like ours, run on democratic lines, it is almost hopeless to look to Parliament for any improvement. The only remedy is for some one who has the interests of his country at heart to[245] supplement the work of the public service by a private intelligence department conducted at his own expense, just as in the case of a newspaper proprietor.’

I gave the speaker a quick glance of interrogation. I happened to be aware that the Marquis, in spite of his high rank, was not a very wealthy man, and it was therefore clear to me that he was not speaking of himself.

‘Such a person as you describe would, indeed, deserve well of his country,’ was all I thought it prudent to say.

‘I shall be glad if you will consider me as the person concerned,’ Lord Bedale said in a tone which warned me that I was on delicate ground. ‘I have sent for you to ask if you will accept a commission from me to act as a Secret Service agent in the interests of Great Britain.’

I hesitated. It is my fixed rule to deal only with principals, and I could not escape the conclusion that Lord Bedale was merely the agent of another.

‘Will you let me ask your lordship one question?’ I said. ‘Do you offer me this commission as a private citizen solely, or am I at liberty to infer, from your position in the Royal Household, that you have no concealments from the exalted personage you serve, and that by accepting your offer I shall, in effect, be serving his Majesty?’


The Marquis studied my face carefully before answering.

‘It seems to me that such an inference is right and natural, and one that you are bound to make,’ he said slowly.

‘Then I shall feel highly honoured by accepting,’ I returned, bowing.

The question of terms was disposed of to our mutual satisfaction. I came away from the Palace filled with reverence for the monarch who, unless I were completely deceived, had decided to contribute out of his private purse to the defence of the great Empire whose politicians were so neglectful of its safety.

On my return to Paris I set to work to organise a special department for the purpose of collecting intelligence likely to be of importance to the British Empire.

I was amused to find that several of the secret agents in the service of the British Foreign Office were receiving much larger salaries from the Russian Government than from the one they were supposed to act for. Among other similar discoveries my agents reported to me that a certain British Vice-Consul in the Euphrates Valley, a Greek by extraction, had secretly taken out letters of naturalisation as a German subject. It was on this man’s recommendation chiefly that the British Government had[247] been induced to give its countenance to the project for a German railway to Baghdad.

I duly forwarded this and other items to Lord Bedale, but I could not perceive that any notice was taken of them by the Foreign Office. Probably the permanent staff resented the idea that they were being checked and inspected, and determined to show that they were not going to let even their monarch interfere with them.

But all this was merely preliminary. I was on the eve of a discovery of so much moment that I have often asked myself since whether, but for me, the British Empire would be in existence to-day.

Newspaper readers may recollect that not very long ago a sharp passage of words took place between a German Minister and an English statesman whom I will not indicate more closely in the present excited state of party politics. Although in appearance but a quarrel of Ministers, it was perfectly well understood on the Continent that the Count von Bülow was only the mouthpiece of his Imperial master on this occasion. Europe gasped at the spectacle of this political thunderstorm, in which the lurking hatred of Germany towards England was for the first time brought to the surface, and exposed.

I knew the character of both of these formidable peoples too well to believe that the incident would have no after effects. As by the glare of a lightning-flash,[248] there stood revealed before me the figures of the two great protagonists, contending together for the mastery in a war raging over three continents.

Very soon after Lord Bedale, or whoever stood behind him, had confided the safety of Great Britain to my care, I repaired in disguise to Berlin. My instinct taught me that this capital was the true storm-centre, and that from here, rather than St. Petersburg, would be directed the designs of any really dangerous movement against the country of Edward VII.

My first visit after my arrival was paid to the Director of the Imperial Secret Service, my old friend Finkelstein. I felt it would be impossible for me to remain long in the German capital without my presence becoming known to this astute chief of police, and I deemed it the most prudent course to throw him off his guard at the outset.

I caused myself to be announced as Father d’Aurignac, of the Order of the Assumptionists. My assumed character completely imposed on Finkelstein, and I opened the conversation by saying—

‘I have come here in consequence of the persecution of the Order now being carried on by the French Republic. We are obliged to seek other homes, it being impossible for us to remain in France. A large number of houses have been transferred to England, but my brethren and I[249] detest that country so much that we wish to settle in Germany instead. I have been deputed to ascertain what treatment we are likely to receive at the hands of the authorities.’

‘That is not in my department,’ Finkelstein answered. ‘You should apply to the Minister of the Interior.’

‘You misunderstand me,’ I returned smoothly. ‘I do not doubt that we shall be permitted to settle here. The question is, how much independence we shall enjoy from police supervision. In France we were always able to maintain exceedingly friendly relations with the police. We are, of course, a very wealthy Order.’

Finkelstein’s eyes sparkled. I knew that he was in receipt of a secret pension from the exiled claimant to the throne of a State annexed by Prussia in 1866. It was evident that he was perfectly ready to do business.

‘You will find that the Berlin police exercise the greatest tact towards communities of high character like yours,’ he said eagerly.

I lay back in my chair and threw off my hood, as I observed—

‘My dear Finkelstein, I see that you are not changed.’

The Director’s consternation was quite laughable to witness.


‘V——!’ he exclaimed, drawing back as if he had been stung; then he added, in a tone of hesitation: ‘My old friend?’

‘Yes; your friend—and your ally, if you will accept him as such,’ I said cordially.

Finkelstein looked immensely relieved. He was well aware that the Kaiser did not accord him his complete confidence, and he must have feared that I had come to him, as on a former occasion, as the Kaiser’s agent.

‘My dear V——, any friendship and assistance that I can give you are at your service at all times,’ he hastened to assure me.

‘It is understood, then, is it not, that we are to stand by each other? If I undertake to report favourably of you in a certain quarter, you will give me your confidence?’

‘That is always understood between Secret Service agents who are men of honour,’ the German responded.

We shook hands with great warmth.

‘Now,’ I said, ‘I can afford to be perfectly frank.’

Finkelstein glanced at me with the suspicion which such a declaration was certain to provoke.

‘I am here, this time, in the interests of Russia.’

The Director met my eye with a look of polite incredulity.

“‘V——!’ he exclaimed, drawing back as if he had been stung.”

‘Distrust has been awakened in the Russian [251]Council of State by this Venezuelan affair, in which Germany has been much too friendly with England. It is necessary to ascertain exactly what the Kaiser’s views and intentions really are. He is either deceiving the Tsar, or deceiving the English, and I have to find out which. For this purpose I must pass a night in the Emperor’s private cabinet.’

‘But surely that is not a difficult thing for you to manage,’ observed Finkelstein, with evident distrust. ‘His Majesty trusts you implicitly, does he not?’

‘He may trust me as a spy on you, and yet not confide to me his political designs,’ I answered. ‘The truth is that the Kaiser is on his guard. He knows that he is being watched, and just now he distrusts everybody—his own police most of all,’ I added pointedly.

The Director put his hand to his head, with a gesture of despair.

‘It comes to this,’ he cried pathetically, ‘that unless I betray him you will report to him that I am a traitor!’

‘You should have thought of that before you accepted the money of the Duke of Heligoland,’ I retorted, naming the Royal exile referred to above.

The German sighed, and hung his head.

‘The Russian Government is not less wealthy than the Order of Assumptionists,’ I added.


Finkelstein brightened up again. A man of such mercurial temperament was most unfit for his position.

As soon as it became a question of terms between us I knew that the battle was won. The German really hated and feared Russia, like all his countrymen, and had it been prudent to do so, I should have been glad to relieve his mind.

It was an easy matter for him to make the required arrangements. A hint to the commander of the regiment which supplied the Palace guard that some theft had taken place, and that a detective’s presence was necessary, was sufficient. At the hour of eleven, the Kaiser’s time for retiring, I found myself in the uniform of a Prussian soldier, pacing the corridor which gave access to his Majesty’s cabinet.

Secured from suspicion by the character in which I had entered the Palace, I lost no time in unlocking the door of the room by means of a key invented by myself. I must be excused from describing its mechanism in these pages; but the only lock against which it is powerless is the familiar letter padlock.

As soon as I was inside I closed the door again. I did not venture to turn on the electric light, but made use of a dark lantern I had brought with me, to explore the chamber.

In front of me stood his Majesty’s writing-table, covered with despatch boxes. I considered it useless[253] to open them, and turned my eyes round the room in search of some more secret receptacle.

At first no sign of anything of the kind I sought was visible. There were cupboards, but they were not even locked. The walls were hung with maps, among which my eye was particularly caught by a chart of the world on Mercator’s projection, on which the various possessions of Great Britain were indicated by small red flags attached to pins. It seemed to me an ominous thing that such a map, so marked, should be ever before the eyes of the ablest Continental ruler, who was known to be feverishly at work building a navy fit to contend with that of England.

In a reflective mood I stepped towards the map and looked at it. The flag which marked New Zealand had sagged down slightly, as though less firmly thrust in than the rest. Without stopping to think what I was doing, I took hold of the pin and pressed it into the wall.

To my surprise I felt a resistance which at once accounted for the loose position in which I had found the flag. I removed one of the other pins, and found it went into the wall without any difficulty. It was therefore clear that at the particular part of the wall covered by New Zealand there existed some obstacle, probably of a metallic nature.

Once convinced of this, I had no doubt as to my[254] next step. I drew out the whole of the pins in the eastern portion of the chart, and rolled it back.

I was rewarded by the sight of a dark round patch on the wall-paper, beneath which I could detect the presence of a metallic disk or knob. I pressed it boldly, and a square section of the wall opened out on a hinge, revealing a small cupboard, secured by a black seal showing the impress of the Emperor’s signet, with which I was sufficiently familiar.

This discovery placed me in an awkward position. There was no time for me to counterfeit the seal, and if I broke it, it was evident that Wilhelm II. must know that his hiding-place had been tampered with.

The prudence I had shown in dealing with Finkelstein was now invaluable to me. At the worst the Kaiser would learn that his secrets were in the hands of a Russian spy, and my real employer would be unknown. It was this reflection which emboldened me to proceed.

I broke the seal, opened the cupboard, and found a pile of papers which I took to the writing-table to look through.

The papers were enclosed in what is styled in Government Departments a ‘jacket’—a large sheet of paper folded to form a cover. The outside of this jacket was endorsed in the Kaiser’s well-known hand—‘European Zollverein.’

“‘Arrest that man!’ the Kaiser commanded, without giving him time to speak.”


Those words told me all. The daring brain of Wilhelm II. had revived the idea which the great Napoleon embodied in his famous Milan Decrees. The whole of the Powers of the Continent were to be united in a Customs League against Great Britain.

Russia and Austria, I saw, had eagerly welcomed the proposal. Spain and Turkey, with the Balkan States, were also committed to it. So were Belgium and Holland, the first in revenge for British criticism of the Congo Free State, the second on account of the Boer War. Sweden and Denmark were evidently disinclined to the scheme, but unable to resist the pressure put upon them. Only three countries still held out firmly—France, Italy, and Portugal.

The opposition of France seemed to be due partly to the fact that Great Britain was her largest customer, and partly to dislike of any proposal coming from Germany. Italy and Portugal seemed to realise that their own fate was bound up with that of England, and to view with dread the prospect of weakening the British power.

I had just finished reading the spirited protest of little Portugal, contained in a private autograph letter from Dom Carlos to the German Emperor, when the room was suddenly flashed with the full glare of the electric light. I looked up and saw his Majesty standing before me, in full uniform, with his sword drawn in his hand.


I had reckoned without Wilhelm II. when I undertook my perilous enterprise. The colonel of the guard, it appeared, had reported that a detective had been admitted into the Palace by Finkelstein’s request. The Kaiser had thought little of the matter at first, but later on his curiosity had become too strong for him, and he had decided to find out for himself what was going on.

I confess that for the first and only time in my life I turned cold with fear, as the sudden apparition of the armed Emperor burst on my startled consciousness.

‘Arrest that man!’ he commanded, without giving me time to speak.

Two soldiers advanced from the corridor and pinioned me by the arms. Then the Kaiser himself stepped forward, seized the papers I had been studying, and thrust them into his breast.

‘Order a firing-party with ball cartridges to get ready in the inner courtyard,’ was the next command.

All this time it was evident that the Kaiser had not recognised me. Indeed, my disguise was so perfect that I felt quite secure on that head. The question was whether it would make matters worse or better for me if I revealed my identity.

‘Now,’ his Majesty demanded, turning to me, ‘who are you, and what are you doing here?’

“‘Now,’ said the Kaiser, stepping close to my side, ‘tell me the truth—the real truth, mind—and I will spare your life.’”


‘Does your Majesty wish me to speak before these men?’

The Kaiser hesitated.

‘Yes,’ he said at last; ‘speak out.’

I shrugged my shoulders.

‘I am here as the agent of the Federal Council,’ I declared. The Federal Council, as most readers will remember, is the Senate of the German Empire. It represents more especially the dynasties of Bavaria, Saxony, and the other small kingdoms united with Prussia to form the modern Empire.

Wilhelm II. started as I pronounced the name of this body. It is well known that his Imperial Majesty does not enjoy the full confidence of some of his satellite kings. In the army there has been a good deal of friction beneath the surface. It was therefore not at all improbable that the lesser royalties of Germany should have employed a spy to detect the designs of their erratic and overbearing suzerain.

‘Did you tell this to Herr Finkelstein?’ was the next question.

‘No, sire.’ I was anxious to save the Director from the Imperial wrath. ‘I persuaded him that I was your Majesty’s confidential agent.’

The Kaiser glared at me, and muttered an exclamation which I need not repeat.

‘How do I know that you are telling the truth to me, any more than you did to him?’ he cried.


‘Your Majesty cannot know it,’ I answered coldly. ‘The Council, of course, will disown me.’

‘You are a cool hand,’ Wilhelm commented, gnawing his moustache. ‘It seems to me that I can do nothing with you, except shoot you.’

‘That will be much the simplest course,’ I replied. I saw that it would be a contest between the Emperor’s curiosity and his vengeance, and already I began to hope.

His Majesty gave the signal, and I was led out into the courtyard, where I found six men under the command of an officer, drawn up in line.

I was placed in front of them, and as I looked down the rifle-barrels already pointed at my heart I felt really nervous for a moment. The scene was illuminated by a solitary lamp fixed over the gateway, and its rays broke against the row of steel tubes which held death.

‘Now,’ said the Kaiser, stepping close to my side, ‘tell me the truth—the real truth, mind—and I will spare your life.’

I tried to think of something which Wilhelm II. would be likely to believe. In the meantime, I congratulated myself on not having disclosed my identity, as in that case, of course, it would not have occurred to his Majesty that I could be induced to betray my employer.


He saw that I was hesitating, and fortunately mistook the reason.

‘I will not only spare your life, but I will send you across the frontier under an escort, and let you go free,’ his Majesty declared.

I affected to yield reluctantly.

‘My mission is not, strictly speaking, an official one. I am the agent of an individual, who wishes to render a service to his countrymen, without his action being publicly known. Your Majesty’s recent alliance with Great Britain to blockade Venezuela has aroused the fears of thoughtful American statesmen. It is suspected that you may have other projects in which the interests of the United States are concerned, and I have been instructed——’

‘By Theodore Roosevelt!’ the Kaiser exclaimed, falling back a pace or two.

I nodded.

‘Your Majesty has guessed the truth. The project which I have discovered among your papers does not concern the United States, and I am therefore willing to undertake that it shall not be revealed to the President.’

‘Enough,’ Wilhelm II. said in subdued tones. ‘I have passed my word.’ He turned to the officer. ‘Take this man in irons to Hamburg, and place him on board a British vessel.’

If I felt some compunction at the liberty I had[260] taken with the name of the United States President, I consoled myself with the assurance that he would pardon me in view of the fact that I was acting in the interest of the mother-country.

My escort placed me on board a steamer bound for Hull, with an intimation to the captain that my irons were not to be struck off till the ship was out of the Elbe.

The captain was naturally curious to learn who I was. I allowed him to suppose that I was a Pole banished for sedition. Fortunately, I had ample funds about me to defray my first-class passage, and I have generally found in dealing with Englishmen that a Bank of England note inspires more confidence than a testimonial from an Archbishop.

As soon as the boat reached Hull I made the best of my way to Balmoral, where Lord Bedale was staying in attendance on King Edward.

Into his lordship’s astonished ears I poured the whole tale of my discovery, passing over as lightly as possible the dangers through which I had passed.

Lord Bedale was much moved.

‘I must thank you warmly for having kept the K——I mean, for having kept my name out of this. The Emperor would certainly have suspected that I was acting on King Edward’s behalf.’

‘It is possible,’ I said drily.

The Marquis glanced at me and we both smiled.


‘Enough!’ he said. ‘Remain in the neighbourhood, and I will see you again in a day or two.’

The next time Lord Bedale sent for me his manner was entirely changed.

‘Monsieur V——,’ he said, ‘I have related the whole of your adventure to his Majesty, who has formed the highest opinion of your tact and fidelity; so much so, that he has now instructed me to offer you a mission on his own behalf.’

‘That will be the highest honour I could receive.’

‘His Majesty’s health is not yet fully recovered. In consequence, his physicians have advised him to take a sea-voyage in the early part of the year.’

‘I trust it will benefit his Majesty very greatly.’

‘The climate of the Mediterranean has been recommended.’

‘There is no pleasanter climate at that time of year.’

‘As his Majesty will be obliged to pass by the mouth of the Tagus, it will seem discourteous if he does not land in Lisbon, and see the King.’

‘His Majesty’s courtesy is proverbial.’

‘In visiting his Maltese subjects he will be so near Italy that King Victor may expect to see him in Rome.’

‘That will be only natural.’

‘In case his Majesty should feel tired of so much sea, he may feel it pleasanter to return overland.’


‘That will involve his passing through Paris.’


Portugal, Italy, France—these were the three States which had made a stand against the threatened alliance against the United Kingdom. I looked at Lord Bedale and we understood one another.

‘His Majesty proposes that you should visit each of these three capitals in advance, and ascertain in a confidential way how he is likely to be received, not merely by the head of the State, but by the people themselves—the nation.’

‘I understand.’

‘King Edward desires to be received, not with formal courtesy, but with the recognition due to the ambassador of the world’s peace.’

‘I shall bear that in mind.’

‘I may add that he only defers bestowing the Victorian Order on you till he is able to do so in return for the services he now asks you to render him.’

There is not much more for me to add.

In Rome, as in Lisbon, I found there was little for me to do; the name of King Edward was already on every tongue. Even in Paris, with its jealous and reckless Press, I found that the British King was a favourite with those who were most ready to criticise British policy.

I had an interview with Father Loubet, as the[263] French love to call their homely peasant-President; the man who has proved once more that sterling character counts for more in public life than rank or wealth or intellectual cleverness.

Later on I had the honour of accompanying the ruler of Britain on his stately progress of peace. And as his coming was acclaimed in capital after capital, and the nations so long sundered by senseless rivalries shook hands, with their sovereigns, the angry Emperors realised that England’s ‘splendid isolation’ was over, and that she had resumed her historic rôle of the champion of the weak, and protector of the liberties of Europe.

The glittering jewel pinned to my breast by the great Monarch’s own hands was an unnecessary reward. To have served such a master was enough.



The Humbert Case, like the Dreyfus Case, is a chose jugée.

Thérèse Humbert, one of the greatest women of the century, who united the commanding personality of a Catherine the Great with the genius for intrigue of a Catherine de Medicis, has been formally tried and condemned, and is now secluded from the public eye. The journals of the Boulevards pretend to be satisfied; and their credulous readers are taught to believe that this remarkable affair was a vulgar swindle, and that the famous millions had no existence except in the mind of the arch-intriguer.

It is under these circumstances that I find myself at length free to make an announcement which I foresee must provoke a storm of denial and denunciation.

I know what has become of the Humbert millions.

I do not make this declaration without having weighed the consequences. If my part in this affair could be brought home to me by legal proofs, it is[265] possible that I should find myself in danger of a penalty such as has been meted out to Madame Humbert herself.

I believe, however, that I have sufficiently secured myself against such a contingency. For many months past I have been engaged in a duel of a singular character with the famous head of the French police, M. Rattache: a duel of wits, in which the combatants have kept on the mask of friendship, while exchanging thrusts and parries with an assumption of perfect unconsciousness.

In no step of her marvellous career, perhaps, did Thérèse Humbert show more sagacity than in establishing relations with myself. Accustomed as I am to act almost exclusively for crowned heads, or ministers of state, I was the agent least likely to be suspected of any connection with what wore the appearance of an ordinary police affair.

With the same prudence which marked nearly all her actions, Madame Humbert refrained from coming to my office to engage my services, and from asking me to visit her. Instead, I received what appeared to be a casual invitation to dine with a banker, whom I will call Baron Y——.

Baron Y—— was a man whom I knew but slightly, but his house enjoyed a good reputation, and he moved in the best society of the financial world. He was noted for his entertainments, and therefore I was[266] surprised on this occasion to find only three other persons present, besides the members of the family.

The three other guests were M. Bas-Riviére, an ex-member of the Waldeck-Rousseau Ministry, the Marquis des Saintes Roches, a distinguished Legitimist, that is to say, a member of the party which aims at the restoration of the Bourbons, and—Thérèse Humbert.

At this time the voice of rumour was already busy with Madame Humbert’s name; but though assailed, she still maintained a bold front, and her enemies had not yet been able to touch her.

It did not occur to me that her presence at the dinner had any significance, but I studied her with that interest which her reputation naturally excited. Impassive, almost stolid in her demeanour, and speaking but little, Madame Humbert impressed me more than any woman I have ever met, with the single exception of the Dowager Empress of China. I will not say that I felt awed by this extraordinary personage, but I recognised in her one of those commanding personalities which overrule all who are brought into touch with them.

After dinner Baron Y—— led us through some of the rooms in his superb mansion, to view the pictures and curiosities which his wealth had enabled him to gather together.

“‘I am going to ask you to undertake a service of an unusual kind.’”

Somehow or other Madame Humbert contrived to [267]fall gradually behind the rest of the party, keeping me by her side. I did not realise that this was a deliberate manœuvre, until, just as the others were passing out of a small Turkish smoking-room, my companion abruptly laid her hand on my arm, and whispered in my ear—

‘Let us remain here a moment, if you please, Monsieur V——. I have something which I wish to say to you.’

Even then it did not at first dawn on me that the whole entertainment had been arranged for the single purpose of enabling Madame Humbert to interview me without attracting the notice of the police, who were already beginning to take an interest in her movements.

‘Let us sit down,’ the custodian of the mysterious millions said with authority. ‘What I have to say to you will take some time.’

Observe, she did not admit the possibility of my objecting to receive her confidences. She had made up her mind that I was the agent necessary for her purpose, and it was only left to me to obey.

I took a seat beside her without speaking. Magnetised by her strange power, it did not occur to me to lay down any conditions in advance.

‘I am going to ask you to undertake a service of an unusual kind. You will run some risks, and I shall be obliged to trust you implicitly.’


‘Madame,’—I began to protest. She silenced me with a superb gesture.

‘I have not asked you for assurances, monsieur. If I have chosen you in preference to any of my friends, even men of the highest honour, like M. des Saintes Roches, depend upon it I know what I am about. Do not interrupt me, but listen. In my safe at this moment I have notes and securities to the value of two hundred millions of francs.’

Two hundred millions! That is to say, in English money, £8,000,000! I stared at her in amazement—almost in disbelief. She went on speaking with the most perfect composure, as if nothing out of the ordinary were being discussed. It was this self-command, this air of the commonplace with which she invested the most fantastic statements, which constituted the secret of her power.

‘This sum, which originally amounted to only one hundred and twenty millions, does not belong to me. It is a sacred deposit, intrusted to me many years ago, since which time the interest has steadily accumulated.’

‘But, then, whose——?’ I tried to put in. But Madame Humbert would not permit me to speak.

‘It is useless to question me, monsieur. Think what you like concerning the true ownership of this money, but do not expect me to enlighten you. All that it is necessary for you to know is that these[269] millions constitute a war fund, to be employed in a certain event, and on behalf of a cause which I was brought up to hold dearer than life.’

‘A war fund!’ I could not resist exclaiming.

My companion ignored the interruption.

‘From which it follows that the whole sum must always be available, at an hour’s notice, in the hands of a trusty agent. Hitherto I have been that agent; but I have met with misfortunes, and a danger has arisen that this sum may fall into the hands of my private creditors.’

She paused for a moment, and then added, in a less firm tone—

‘The custody of this vast sum has been my ruin. In order to use it to advantage I was obliged to invent all sorts of fables to account for its being in my possession. People insisted on treating me as a rich woman, they forced loans upon me; I considered it permissible to borrow money on the security of this fortune of which I was merely the guardian; I managed my own affairs badly—in short I am insolvent, and shall shortly be obliged to go into hiding. My creditors have asked the Courts for an order to open the safe which contains the millions, and unless they are removed in time I shall have incurred the vengeance of those whose cause I have betrayed.’

She shuddered. Thérèse Humbert, the strong-minded, imperturbable woman who had witnessed[270] suicides committed on her account, trembled as she referred to this vengeance, which was so much more terrible to her than any penalties in the power of the French Courts to impose.

‘In a word, Monsieur V——,’ she resumed, throwing off her momentary weakness, ‘you must relieve me of the custody of this treasure.’

I sat as if mesmerised while I received this staggering proposal, which the extraordinary personage beside me made in the matter-of-fact tone of one who is asking another to undertake the posting of a letter.

This woman, whom I had never seen before, who was beginning to be publicly branded as an adventuress, and who had just confessed herself to be a bankrupt, if not something which the law would call by a harsher name—this woman calmly informed me that she proposed handing over to me a sum equal to the revenue of a kingdom, to be held, as far as I could see, for an unknown length of time, for an unknown owner, and for an unknown purpose.

If it had been any other person in the world who had made me such a proposition, I am certain that I should have laughed at it as a hoax, or, at least, demanded the most circumstantial details and assurances before going further. What was there about this Thérèse Humbert, with her figure of a[271] bourgeois, her expressionless face, and cold grey eye, which compelled me to take her seriously—which made me, against my judgment, submit to become her instrument? In the power of the human will there are mysteries which philosophy has not yet fathomed.

It is true that at this time Madame Humbert still retained the confidence of a very large section of society. There had, as yet, been no hint of any criminal proceedings against her. Even if there had been, moreover, she had so clearly separated her position as trustee of the millions from her private dealings, that she had convinced me that I could carry out her instructions with regard to the fund, without being guilty of any dishonesty towards the creditors who were proceeding against her.

Be that as it may, I consented to consider the matter.

My companion at once set herself to extract from me a definite undertaking.

‘There is no time to lose,’ she insisted. ‘Although I am exhausting every legal form, in order to postpone the decision, my advocate has warned me that I must not expect it to be delayed much longer. I shall not be easy till the millions are safely in your hands.’

‘And when I have received them, what then?’[272] I asked. ‘Will it not be known that the sum is in my possession, and shall I not be exposed to proceedings in my turn?’

‘That is what we have got to avoid,’ was the answer. ‘It will be necessary for you to take the money with the greatest secrecy. Fortunately, this is not an affair of bankers. The notes and bills are lying ready in the safe in my house, and do not require to be endorsed. You will not be asked for a receipt even.’

I was more and more overcome by the sublime daring of this woman’s ideas.

‘Then you simply wish me to take the fund from you and hold it at your disposal?’

‘At the disposal of those to whom it belongs,’ Thérèse corrected me. ‘When the time comes to reclaim these millions I may be out of reach. That will not matter to you. All you will have to do is to keep the treasure in some safe hiding-place, and deliver it up to the first person who comes to you and pronounces in your ear three words.’

She bent her lips towards me and whispered three words of such notable significance that I was left in little doubt as to the purpose for which the mysterious hoard was being kept in readiness.

Although the light thus obtained served to relieve my mind of the fear that I was mixing in any vulgar swindle, yet at the same time it showed me that[273] there were grave risks to be run, and that I might easily find myself in the meshes of the criminal law.

I again asked for time to consider. Madame Humbert’s sole reply was an offer of terms so liberal that it would have been quarrelling with my profession to refuse. She smiled with grim satisfaction as she read in my face that I gave in.

‘Then that is settled, monsieur,’ she remarked, preparing to rise. ‘I will only add that the sooner you get to work the better it will be for everybody.’

‘When do you propose to hand the millions over to me?’ was my natural question.

‘I do not propose to hand them over to you at all,’ she responded coolly. ‘You will take the money out of the safe in your own fashion, and without consulting me.’

I gazed at her in consternation.

‘You mean that I should steal this two hundred millions!’ I gasped.

‘That will be the best plan, I think,’ said Madame Humbert with an approving nod.

I have been concerned in some curious transactions in my time, and in some dangerous ones, but now I felt that I was fairly out of my depth. I knew that I was nothing to Thérèse Humbert; and if it suited her convenience to use me as a cat’s-paw[274] in the game she was playing with the authorities I might very well find myself in an ugly situation.

What, for example, could be easier than for this accomplished intriguer to set a trap for me; have me arrested, perhaps, in the attempt to break into an empty safe, and thus establish a defence for herself? She would be able to pose as the victim of a robbery; and I should be held responsible for the disappearance of these millions whose existence was in dispute.

I felt my companion’s eyes fixed on my face in watchful scrutiny as these reflections passed through my mind. My decision was taken swiftly.

‘You shall hear from me in the morning, madame,’ I said sharply, rising from my seat. ‘Till then, au revoir.’

And I went out of the room, and out of the house, without giving her an opportunity to press me further.

When the morning came I was seated in my office as usual, engaged in deciphering a confidential cable from the President of Colombia, when my secretary entered the room and informed me that a veiled lady, who declined to give her name, wished to see me in private.

‘Show Madame Humbert in,’ I said, emphasising the name.

“My visitor started as she heard her name, and threw up her veil with a gesture of astonishment and indignation.”

The secretary, who understood what was required [275]of him, went out, and immediately returned with the visitor.

‘Madame Humbert,’ he announced with as much confidence as if the great Thérèse had intrusted him with her card.

On the previous night Madame Humbert had enjoyed the superiority over me, I confess it. This morning the tables were turned, and I had brought off the first coup.

My visitor started as she heard her name, and threw up her veil with a gesture of astonishment and indignation combined.

‘Madame Humbert!’ I cried, pretending to be equally surprised. Then, as the secretary retired, I added—‘This publicity, is it quite prudent, my dear madame?’

Thérèse gave me a glance in which I read something like fear, as she dropped into a seat.

‘But I don’t understand, Monsieur V——. I don’t know how that young man learned who I was.’

I shrugged my shoulders.

‘It is the business of my staff to penetrate mysteries, madame. But you may depend on my secretary’s discretion. It will be awkward if the police have followed you here, however. If M. Rattache were to learn that we had been in communication, I might be obliged to withdraw from the case.’


Madame Humbert clasped her hands in agitation. Her demeanour was no longer that of the cold, masterful woman who had conversed with me in Baron Y——’s smoking-room.

‘Listen, monsieur! Is it possible that you do not guess the object of my visit?’

‘Unless it is to give me further instructions on the subject of your affair, no.’

Thérèse wrung her hands.

‘It is to tell you, on the contrary, that everything is lost. At the very moment that we were talking together, a real robber, unknown to me, was rifling my safe of everything!’

‘You are serious, madame, I suppose?’

‘Serious!’ It is impossible to describe the tragedy in her voice and air. ‘I tell you, monsieur, that I left Baron Y——’s within an hour of speaking to you. I drove straight home, went to the safe, opened it, and found inside a button and a centime.’


Madame Humbert gazed at me desperately.

‘You do not believe me, perhaps, monsieur? Yet I swear to you as a Christian woman—I swear as a mother—that there were two hundred millions of francs in that safe when I came to dine at Baron Y——’s.’

‘I have not the least doubt of it, madame.’

‘Then what do you suspect?’


‘It is clear to me that you have been robbed since.’

‘By whom?’

‘By some one in your confidence, perhaps. Some one to whom you had confided the guardianship of this fund, in which his Royal Highness the —— of —— is so much interested.’

Madame Humbert glared at me in anger.

‘You are mocking me,’ she cried fiercely. ‘I came here to ask if you would undertake the recovery of this money from the thief.’

‘That is unnecessary, madame. All that your friends have to do is to approach him, and breathe in his ear the three words, —— —— ——.’

‘But if we do not know who he is!’ cried the distracted plotter.

‘Oh, if you only require to know who he is, that is soon settled. I will send you the name of the robber on the day on which your affair terminates in the Courts.’

A light began to break upon the mind of the excited woman.

‘Monsieur V——!’ she exclaimed. ‘Is it possible——?’

I drew myself up.

‘Silence, if you please, madame. I have made you a promise which I shall know how to keep. In the meantime it is clear that we have nothing more[278] to say to one another, and that the sooner you are out of this building the better it will be for all parties.’

Madame Humbert rose, gave me a glance in which curiosity, respect, and apprehension were strangely mingled, and quitted my presence without venturing to say another word.

I have never seen her since.

The following day, as I entered my private room at the usual hour, I was conscious of a singular impression, in the nature of a presentiment. Some men possess a sense, more subtle than sight or smell, by means of which they are able to detect a personal presence, more especially one hostile to themselves. I have been well served by an instinct of this kind on more than one occasion, and now it asserted itself so strongly that for an instant I believed that there must be some one hiding in my room.

A glance around removed this suspicion. Everything was in its place as usual—was even more in its place than usual, if I may be permitted the hyperbole.

I went to the secret drawer in which I kept the cipher despatches concerning the Panama affair (on which I was engaged about this time).

It seemed to me that the spring worked a little more smoothly than when I had last opened the drawer. The papers inside lay exactly as I had[279] left them overnight. Struck by a sudden thought, I pulled the drawer right out, lit a match, and examined the dusty floor of the recess.

I was rewarded by the sight of one—two—three distinct prints of finger-tips in the dust.

That sight, of course, told me everything. My office had been ransacked during the night by the French police, and those prints had been left by fingers tapping in search of the hiding-place of the Humbert millions.

It was a startling thing to find M. Rattache so swiftly on my trail, and I inwardly cursed the imprudence which had permitted Madame Humbert to pay me her tell-tale visit. I put on my hat and hurried round to the little apartment in the Quartier Latin which I use for appointments with persons whom it would be inexpedient to receive openly. As I expected, I found M. Rattache had been before me. His myrmidons had done their work no less thoroughly here than at my headquarters.

I always enjoy a struggle with a foe worthy of my steel, and this was by no means my first bout with the famous detective force of Paris. On my first settling in Paris, their attentions to me had been incessant and disagreeable, and it had taken all my ingenuity to keep my secrets from them. By degrees we had drifted into a species of informal armistice, it being understood, rather than agreed, that they[280] abandoned the attempt to follow my proceedings, while I refrained from acting against them in the criminal affairs with which they were chiefly concerned.

Between M. Rattache, the brilliant head of the force, and myself there had sprung up a warm private friendship, based on mutual respect. I knew that he would not have permitted his men to trouble me without pretty good grounds for so doing; and this made me the more anxious.

My first thought, after visiting the Quartier Latin, was for my private residence. I felt pretty sure that the police could not have been there in the night without my knowledge, and I asked myself what plan the fertile brain of my rival would devise in order to search the premises without giving me warning.

I hailed a fiacre, and bade the driver go to my house at his best speed. It was not yet eleven o’clock, so there was room for hope that M. Rattache had not begun his attack in this quarter. If he had, I should probably catch his men at work.

As we drew near the street in which my house is situated we were overtaken by a fire-engine, which dashed by at a gallop. Struck by a sudden apprehension, I offered my driver a golden pourboire to double his speed.

“I was stopped at the barricade by a pompous sergeant of police.”

It was too late. As we drove up I beheld a thick [281]black column of smoke issuing from my house. A barricade had been formed; half a dozen fire-engines were drawn up in front, though it was remarkable that not one had yet begun to play upon the building; and every floor appeared to be swarming with firemen, who were gutting the house of everything it contained.

In spite of my vexation at the sight of my ruined home, I could not withhold my tribute of admiration to M. Rattache’s promptness and resource. Under the pretence of a fire, which he had of course contrived to start, and which was well under control, he had turned in a horde of detectives, disguised as firemen, with instructions to pull the building to pieces, if necessary, in search of the Humbert millions.

It was useless for me to think of interfering. I was stopped at the barricade by a pompous sergeant of police, who took down my name and address, rebuked me severely for my negligence in permitting my house to catch fire, and forbade me to interrupt the firemen in their benevolent labours on my behalf.

Walking to and fro on the pavement, and scrutinising every article brought out from the building by his assistants, I perceived M. Rattache himself. In a minute he caught sight of me, and came towards me with extended arms.

He knew, of course, that I thoroughly understood[282] the game. Nevertheless, his expression of sympathetic distress was perfect.

‘My dear V——! What an unlucky chance! Behold me overwhelmed with grief at your misfortune!’

‘You are too good,’ I returned drily. ‘There is nothing of any value in the house, I am glad to say. This accident will merely give me the annoyance of sleeping in a hotel for the next few nights.’

‘Do not say that, my dear colleague,’ M. Rattache responded eagerly. ‘You will confer a real favour on me by consenting to accept my hospitality for a short time, till your house is ready for you again.’

I glanced at him with suspicion. Did this mean that I was to be under arrest?

‘I cannot thank you sufficiently for such kindness,’ was my answer. ‘But I am afraid I should cause you too much inconvenience. My hours are very irregular; sometimes it is necessary for me to be at my office in the middle of the night.’

‘Do not let yourself be restrained by such considerations,’ he replied earnestly. ‘You shall be as free as if you were under your own roof.’

It would have been ungracious to persist in my refusal, especially as I fancied from M. Rattache’s tone that he had already come to the conclusion that his raid on my house was a mistake, and really regretted the inconvenience he had caused me.


On the whole, the arrangement was not such a bad one for me. While I should have been exposed to the surveillance of my antagonist in any case, this plan would place him under mine. We should be like the combatants in the holmgang, who were strapped together, and placed on a small island, to hack each other to pieces with knives.

I moved into my new quarters the same day, some of my personal baggage being brought round by the pretended firemen, who must have wondered to see me on such terms with their chief. Rattache presented me to his wife, a most charming woman with three little daughters, whose hearts I immediately won by organising all sorts of games at blindman’s buff and hide-and-seek.

During the next few days I received cipher wires from my various agents abroad, informing me that their apartments had been searched, and that they were being shadowed by unknown men.

I was pleased with these despatches, which proved to me that my men were on the alert. I sent encouraging replies, and persuaded Madame Rattache to accompany me to the theatre.

I had already visited a Turkish bath in company with my host, in order to afford him every facility for ascertaining that I was not carrying any portion of the £8,000,000 on my person.

At the end of a month my house was in perfect[284] order again. M. Rattache was beginning to feel a little uneasy, perhaps, at my great progress in the friendship of madame, for he raised no objection when I proposed to bring my stay with him to a close. The little girls were in despair at my going, and Madame Rattache earnestly pressed me to come and see them frequently.

Months passed away, and France and Europe were absorbed in learning of the sudden flight of the Humberts, the discovery of the empty safe, the capture of the fugitives, and the trial and sentence of the majestic Thérèse.

As she was leaving the dock at the end of the case, one of the warders slipped into her hand a piece of paper which contained simply my initials—A. V.

I had gone straight from Baron Y——’s house, at the end of our conversation, to the Humbert mansion, gained admittance by means of the master-key which I usually carry about me, opened the safe without the least difficulty, and carried off its contents—all before Madame Humbert had left the Baron’s door.

“The chief detective came close up to me, put his mouth to my ear, and whispered, ‘Le drapeau blanc!’”

This instantaneous action, which I had considered necessary for my own protection, turned out to be the best possible course for the safety of the millions. Now I had redeemed my promise to Madame Humbert, by admitting that I was in possession of the [285]lost treasure, and I waited confidently for the person who should come to claim it.

Exactly two days afterwards I was surprised by a visit from M. Rattache, whom I had not seen for some time, a slight coolness having resulted from his abortive efforts to surprise my secret.

The chief detective, instead of taking the chair I offered him, came close up to me, put his mouth to my ear, and whispered: ‘Le drapeau blanc!

The white flag! Is there any English reader who does not know that in France the white flag signifies the ancient standard of the Valois and the Bourbons—the inseparable emblem of Legitimist royalty, which the Comte de Chambord refused to exchange for the Revolutionary tricolor, even to obtain the throne?

I stared at M. Rattache, confounded to find in the head of the Republican police the confidential agent of the Monarchists.

He enjoyed my astonishment for a minute in silence. Then he said aloud—

‘Now, my dear V——, perhaps you will reveal to me the secret of that hiding-place which has baffled the efforts of my best men for so long.’

I smiled quietly as I took up my hat.

‘On first receiving this fund I simply put the notes and bills in a registered parcel and sent it to my agent in Brussels, with instructions to put it in a fresh cover and send it to and fro through the[286] post till further notice. But on finding that you were interested in my correspondence I naturally adopted another plan. I will take you at once to the spot where I have deposited these millions, which I shall not be sorry to get rid of.’

I led the way out into the street, called a fiacre, and whispered an address into the driver’s ear.

It was my turn to enjoy the discomfiture of my colleague, as the carriage drew up before his own door.

‘Here!’ was all he could gasp.

I paid the driver and dismissed him.

‘Surely there could be no spot more safe from the perquisitions of the police,’ I answered mockingly.

M. Rattache conducted me in, and led the way towards his study.

‘Not that way,’ I objected. ‘It is necessary for us to go upstairs.’

With ever-deepening chagrin M. Rattache followed me, as I ascended to the schoolroom in which his little daughters were at play with their dolls.

They rushed to embrace me with exclamations of joy.

‘Isabel,’ I said to the eldest, a bright girl of twelve, ‘now you shall show the others the hiding-place where we put the box of bricks.’

A cry of delight greeted this proposal. Isabel ran gaily in front to lead the party into her own little[287] bedroom, where, under a loose plank, which this observant child had discovered, and the knowledge of which she had kept to herself with that marvellous secrecy of which children are sometimes capable, lay—the Humbert millions!

Isabel was a little disappointed to find, when the box was opened, that her bricks had been changed into stupid pieces of paper. But I explained that a fairy had been at work, and that a new and better set of bricks would arrive by the next post.

And so, I am relieved to say, terminated my connection with the Humbert Case.



I must be pardoned if I exercise a certain reserve in telling the story of the most delicate of all the affairs in which I have been engaged. While the interests concerned were, in their own nature, purely political, the fact that they centred round the spiritual Head of Christendom imposes on me restraints which I am bound to recognise.

I cannot recall at this moment whether, in the course of these reminiscences, I have had occasion to mention that I was honoured on several occasions by the confidence of the illustrious Pontiff who, in the course of less than a generation, exalted the Papacy to a height of power and reverent esteem such as it had scarcely enjoyed since the Middle Ages.

To me, as to all who have paid any attention to the history of their own times, the passing away of Leo XIII. marked an epoch in the history of the world. I was in Paris, awaiting the announcement which would plunge two continents into mourning,[289] when, an hour before the fatal bulletin reached the newspaper offices, I received a despatch desiring me to start immediately for Rome, and wait upon the young King of Italy in the Palace of the Quirinal.

Whether in consequence of my connection with the Vatican or not, it happened that I had never been directly employed in the service of the House of Savoy. I have told the story of my unavailing efforts to save the life of King Humbert; but on that occasion I acted as the agent of the friendly monarch of another country.

During my journey to Rome in obedience to the royal summons, my mind was deeply exercised by the problem presented by the disastrous breach between the Italian Kingship and the Papacy.

When the troops of Victor Emmanuel I., thirty-four years ago, marched into the City of the Popes, to make it the capital of United Italy, no one foresaw the difficulties which would flow from the refusal of the Popes to abandon their rights as the temporal Sovereigns of Rome and the States of the Church.

Other dethroned sovereigns have fled from their lost dominions, and gradually sunk out of sight. But the Popes, seated in the Vatican, and solemnly excommunicating the dynasty which has displaced them, have rendered insecure the whole fabric of the Italian monarchy.


I myself, divided between my political sympathies as an American citizen, and my loyalty as a Catholic to the Head of my Church, had often sought in vain for some way of reconciling the venerable rights of the Chair of Peter with the patriotic aspirations of the Italian people.

The various solutions put forward from time to time, such as the cession to the Pope of a small slice of territory including the Vatican, seemed to me inadequate and mean. Some loftier treatment of the situation seemed to be called for, but no statesman, ecclesiastical or secular, had yet been found to propose it.

Now, with the accession of a new Pope, it was possible to indulge hopes of a new policy. I encouraged myself to believe that Victor Emmanuel II. had sent for me that I might assist him in such an endeavour.

The character of this young ruler had already aroused my interest and curiosity. In his father’s lifetime he was unknown to the public until he suddenly stepped into the foreground, at the time of the Abyssinian disasters, as the determined opponent of Crispi’s policy of adventure, and the champion of peace.

Since his accession he had won golden opinions by his modesty, benevolence, and practical energy in the work of government. But he had as yet given no[291] indications of any marked individuality or policy of his own.

Within an hour of my arrival in Rome I found myself in his Majesty’s presence.

His reception of me was not merely gracious but cordial. In a few well-chosen words he thanked me for my services at the time of the tragedy of Monza.

‘I believe you have been employed in the secret service of the Vatican?’ King Victor proceeded.

I bowed again.

‘Will you tell me whether that constitutes any obstacle to your serving me?’ he inquired.

I hesitated.

‘I should feel embarrassed if your Majesty were to ask me to act against the Vatican,’ I ventured to say.

‘But suppose I were to ask you to undertake the office of mediator, to promote a reconciliation between the Papacy and the Italian nation?’

‘Then, sire, you would be offering me the task which I covet above all others, and which I should feel to be the crown of my career.’

The young King made a gesture of delight.

‘That is fortunate indeed! Listen, monsieur! From a boy my heart has bled at the thought of this miserable estrangement, so fraught with danger to the cause of religion as well as to the national freedom.[292] In addition I must tell you that I feel very deeply my own position. I have a conviction that our House cannot prosper while it remains under the curse of the Church.

‘As far as I am concerned,’ Victor Emmanuel went on, ‘there is no sacrifice I am not prepared to make, even to the laying down of my crown, in order to win the forgiveness of the Holy See, and to establish good relations between the Church and the nation. But I need not say that I can do nothing by myself. Unless I can succeed in carrying the Parliament and the people with me, I should simply make things worse than they are at present.’

His Majesty paused for a minute, and then resumed, watching my face anxiously.

‘I have been seeking for years for some means of appeasing the Holy Father that would not be rejected by the secular politicians. And the plan which has developed itself in my mind is this:—

‘In the Middle Ages, perhaps I need not remind you, the Popes enjoyed but a scanty authority in the Roman States. Their authority was defied by the usurping barons, and even in the City of Rome they frequently saw authority exercised by the senate and people. Yet at the very same epoch they were wielding tremendous powers over Europe; they were able to dethrone emperors; a King of England laid down his crown at the feet of a Papal Legate; and[293] the Kings of Naples acknowledged the suzerainty of the Popes by an annual tribute.’

I began to see what was coming, and testified my admiration by a glance.

‘I propose,’ King Victor said impressively, ‘to acknowledge the Holy Father as the suzerain of the Italian kingdom. I am prepared to lay my crown at his feet, and to receive it again as his gift. I propose to hold myself as the vassal of his Holiness, to pay a tribute, instead of the pension which has been refused, and to exercise my power of veto over legislation in obedience to the Pope’s directions. In short, I am willing to efface myself, and to govern Italy as the deputy of the Holy See.’

I listened with deep emotion to the noble young King as he unfolded his scheme, a scheme in which it was evident that he intended himself to be the sacrifice which would procure peace. At the same time I perceived certain difficulties in the way. The successors of St. Peter, in modern times at all events, had been accustomed to rule over their limited dominions as absolute monarchs. Was it to be hoped that they would consent to accept a constitutional authority in exchange, even though that authority extended over the whole peninsula?

Yet the See of Rome, as suzerain of Italy, would be able to re-enter the field of international politics as a great Power. Alliances might follow which[294] would place the Pope in the position of president over a great Catholic league embracing Austria, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and possibly France as well, to say nothing of the powerful leverage which the Church was able to exercise over the policy of semi-Catholic powers, such as Germany, Great Britain, and the United States.

Carried away by these dazzling visions, I exclaimed aloud—

‘I believe in your Majesty! If only the new Pope will accept your plans!’

King Victor flushed with gratification at my outburst.

‘That is the task I am going to intrust to you,’ he announced. ‘I have made careful inquiries, and I believe there is one Cardinal who, if he were elected, would be likely to welcome my overtures.’

‘And his name, sire?’

‘Cardinal Sarto, the Patriarch-Archbishop of Venice.’

My face fell. I had scarcely heard of his Eminence of Venice by name. Certainly he was not among those cardinals—the Papabili, as they are termed—whose candidature was taken seriously by the ecclesiastical politicians of the Vatican.

‘Is Cardinal Sarto a possible candidate, sire?’ I ventured to object.


‘You must make him so,’ King Victor said earnestly. ‘I rely on you to secure his election.’

Although not lacking in self-confidence, I shrank before this tremendous task. Apart from my scruples as a Catholic—and I was by no means sure how far it was lawful for a layman to interfere in a Papal election—I doubted my power to influence the choice of the Sacred College in the short time at my disposal.

‘In ten days from now the Conclave will begin,’ I murmured reflectively.

‘I know it,’ broke in Victor Emmanuel. ‘I want you to be present in the Conclave as my secret agent.’

I trembled. The secrecy of the Conclave is guarded with the greatest care. In what way could I possibly gain admission to the private deliberations of the Cardinals?

The King answered my unspoken doubts.

‘In ten days the Cardinals will enter the Conclave, each with a single attendant, and the door will be walled up, not to be reopened until Christendom again has a Pope. It is necessary for you to be inside that walled-up door.’

‘I must enter in the character of attendant to one of the Cardinals!’ I exclaimed.

‘You must enter as the servant of Cardinal Salvatierra,’ his Majesty declared.


I frowned slightly. It seemed to me that my employer, in his enthusiasm, was going a little too fast. I did not like having so much arranged for me in advance. This Cardinal Salvatierra, who was he; and in what way had he come to lend himself to the purpose of the King of Italy?

‘Does the Cardinal enjoy your Majesty’s confidence?’ I asked drily.

‘Not in the sense that you do, Monsieur V——,’ the King answered. ‘Salvatierra is one of the ornamental members of the College. He is a scholar and antiquarian, not a Churchman or politician. His collection of intaglios is said to be the finest in Rome.’

‘May I venture to ask how much his Eminence has been told?’

‘Only that I desire the election of a Pope who will be well disposed towards Italy. It has always been customary for the Sacred College to receive representations from the Catholic Powers of their views and wishes on the subject of Papal election. The only irregularity in this case is that, as the Italian kingdom is not recognised by the Papacy, I can only communicate with the College indirectly.’

“I found the Cardinal absorbed in the inspection of his newly arrived treasures.”

I listened to his Majesty with considerable inward misgiving. I was more than a little afraid of the guilt I might be incurring by entering the Conclave. At the same time I told myself that Cardinal Salvatierra [297]had a right to introduce whom he pleased as his attendant; and if he was satisfied to take me, it was not for me to raise objections.

After some further conversation with his Majesty, I retired to a hotel and effected a transformation which gave me the appearance of a respectable upper servant, such as a steward or valet, in an Italian noble family. Thus attired, I made my way round to the Salvatierra Palace, and sent up my name to his Eminence as Jacopo Luigi.

‘I doubt if his Eminence will receive you to-night,’ the porter informed me. ‘A case of exquisite cameos of untold value has just arrived for his collection—a gift from some great personage, I believe; and his Eminence is hard at work unpacking them.’

I had my own suspicion as to the source of this truly regal offering, and felt more than ever uneasy as to the lawfulness of my proceedings.

However, it was not long before a message came down that I was to go up and wait upon his Eminence at once.

I found the Cardinal absorbed in the inspection of his newly arrived treasures. Holding a delicate camel’s-hair brush in one hand, he was going over the cameos, carefully removing every speck of dust and holding them up to the light in search of possible blemishes.

His Eminence was a tall, stately personage, refined[298] and ascetic in feature, with a faded blue eye which fell on me with an expression of the most complete indifference.

‘You are Jacopo Luigi,’ he observed, glancing towards a letter which lay open on a pier-table. ‘My nephew, Count Baldachino, recommends you to me very strongly. He says’—the Cardinal interrupted himself to scrutinise a fresh gem with the minutest care—‘he says that you are thoroughly discreet and faithful. You understand the particular necessity for discretion in my service, no doubt?’

He took his eye off the cameo for an instant, to dart a glance at me, so keen and penetrating that it was as if a hidden man had suddenly sprung to the window and looked out. Before I could respond, the Cardinal’s back was turned to me again, and he was dusting away harder than ever.

‘I perfectly understand, Eminence,’ I muttered.

‘That is quite right, then. I take you into my service. At a salary of 800 lire. Introduce yourself to the master of my household.’

These sentences were punctuated by eager movements, as his Eminence proceeded in his examination of the newly arrived treasures.

I waited for more, but finding that the Cardinal had apparently forgotten my presence, in his antiquarian enthusiasm, I moved towards the door and withdrew.


I need not describe the household. I found myself received at first with the jealousy natural on the part of old servants towards a new comer, but I soon got on good terms with those whom I wished to conciliate.

From the gossip of the servants’ hall I gathered many important hints about the forthcoming election.

Had merit only been considered, the long and important services of Cardinal Rampolla would have given him a paramount claim on the tiara. But his strength of character had aroused the dread of those Cardinals who consider that a weak Pope means a powerful College, and vice versâ.

Various other names were being talked about as popular candidates, but among them I did not once catch that of King Victor’s nominee, the saintly, simple-hearted Archbishop of Venice.

Each of the two great Mendicant Orders, the Dominicans and Franciscans, had its favourite, for whom the brethren were eagerly working. But I could not learn the name of any Cardinal who was being supported by the ubiquitous and powerful Company of Jesus.

This was in itself a suspicious sign. The jealousy—perhaps I ought to say the fear—of the Jesuits entertained by the ordinary hierarchy of the Church is so intense that in all probability if the Jesuits had shown their hand by openly supporting a particular[300] Cardinal, that would have been enough to ensure his exclusion.

I could only surmise that they were working in the dark, or, perhaps, waiting for the opportunity to intervene and turn the scale between the final candidates.

As soon as the obsequies of Leo XIII. had been duly performed, the Cardinals in solemn procession entered the Hall of the Conclave, and the doors were locked.

Inside the vast chamber a small wooden cell, just large enough to contain a narrow bed and a chair, had been erected for the accommodation of each Cardinal.

The occupation of these tiny compartments was decided by lot, so it will be understood that I experienced a sensation of uneasy surprise on finding that Cardinal Salvatierra had obtained the cubicle adjoining that of the Patriarch of Venice.

I do not feel myself at liberty to violate the secrecy of the Conclave by relating minutely the steps which I took to secure support for Cardinal Sarto. I obtained a few votes in the first ballot, but not enough to afford any promise of ultimate success.

Cardinal Rampolla struck his first and last blow. He polled his full number of votes, and fell short of the requisite two-thirds majority. Then realising that the jealousy of his great powers was too strong to be overcome, he retired from the contest.


This left the field open to the two rival Mendicant Orders. Their nominees, whom I think it more respectful not to name, polled vote for vote, but neither could command anything like the number of suffrages required.

It appeared likely that the Conclave would last some time. In the second ballot I was surprised to find that a fair number of votes was given to my supposed master. Cardinal Salvatierra appeared equally surprised, and a little annoyed by this circumstance.

‘I wish they would ignore me,’ he said testily, when I brought him his dinner. ‘They know I am not a possible Pope, and they will injure me with the successful candidate.’

I said nothing, but an idea was already germinating in my mind. Before the next scrutiny I waited with the utmost secrecy upon the two Cardinals who were managing the election on behalf of the Dominicans and Franciscans respectively.

To each of their Eminences I said practically the same thing.

‘You cannot succeed in carrying your nominee. Neither can your rivals. Meanwhile the Jesuits are secretly preparing to gather in the scattered votes and concentrate them on their own candidate.’

‘Who is that?’ was the eager question I received in each case.


‘You will see in the next scrutiny. Unless you stand firm, and refuse to accede, you will have a Jesuit Pope.’

This threat was necessary, because when a candidate obtains so large a proportion of votes as to make his election seem certain at the next ballot, it is a very usual thing for the supporters of the beaten candidates to go over at once, in order to have the credit of voting for the new Pope.

The next scrutiny was taken. The name of Salvatierra came out high upon the list, wanting only four votes of the two-thirds majority. The Franciscan and Dominican Cardinals stood firm. But the unsuspecting Archbishop of Venice, who did not dream that his own candidature was anything but a side manœuvre, earnestly implored his own few supporters to accede to Salvatierra, and thus complete the election of a Pope.

Fortunately I had anticipated this action on his part, and had obtained the most binding pledges from the few Cardinals I had won over. There was no election, and Salvatierra returned to his cell, unable to conceal his mortification.

‘Luigi,’ he said to me that night, ‘you have seen how things are going. Against my will I am destined to receive the tiara. This places us both in a different position. You have done your best to serve the personage who desired me to take you[303] into my service, and it is not your fault that you have failed to secure the election of a pro-Italian Cardinal. Now I can place it in your power to achieve the same end by another means. If you will give me the King’s votes in the next ballot, I will pledge myself to negotiate in a friendly and liberal spirit for the settlement of the differences between the Papacy and the Kingdom.’

‘Your Eminence can escape from the burden of the triple crown,’ I replied, with affected simplicity, ‘by causing your own supporters to accede to any one of the other candidates.’

‘You mean to Cardinal Sarto,’ his Eminence retorted. ‘You do not suppose that my friends would elect a Dominican or Franciscan puppet? Let me warn you, my dear Signor Luigi, or Monsieur V——, that the Cardinal on whom your master places his reliance, is not strong enough to carry out the reconciliation you desire. Giuseppe Sarto is a saint, not a statesman.’

I felt there was some truth in this warning, but I had my instructions, and I could not in this case look beyond them. I promised to weigh his Eminence’s words, and retired to sound the feeling of the Conclave.

I found that the election was already virtually decided. The extraordinary leap upward of Salvatierra, following on my warning, had convinced the[304] two Mendicant Orders of their danger. They had communicated their own fears and suspicions to the rest of the College, and the fatal whisper—‘The Jesuit candidate’—had already run round the Conclave. The two Orders having agreed to withdraw their champions, there remained only one candidate in the field.

At the next ballot Cardinal Sarto, the nominee of the excommunicated King of Italy, was triumphantly elected Pope.

The amazement of the saintly prelate, who had remained in profound ignorance of the whole of the negotiations and intrigues, softened the hearts of even his rivals, and convinced the most worldly-minded of the electors that they had involuntarily made the right choice.

Salvatierra was the first to offer the kiss of homage to his new sovereign. His Eminence’s parting words to myself as we quitted the Conclave made me fear that my triumph was more apparent than real.

‘You have chosen the White Pope, Monsieur V——. It remains to see how you will fare at the hands of the Black Pope.’

He returned to his palace and his curiosities, to all appearance well contented to resume his rôle of harmless antiquary.

But I did not doubt that a full report of all that[305] had passed would be laid at once before the formidable personage with whose opposition he had threatened me.

In a villa a short distance outside the walls of Rome resides an ascetic recluse, never seen in any public ceremonies, visited only from time to time by a few quietly dressed priests and laymen, to all appearance as insignificant as himself. This is the Black Pope—in other words, the General of the Company of Jesus.

Very soon after the election of Pius X. I applied for and obtained a private interview with his Holiness.

My previous connection with the secret service of the Vatican rendered this easy.

To no one but the Holy Father himself did I intend to reveal my character as the agent of Victor Emmanuel II.

So great was my veneration for the Vicar of Christ, so intense my admiration for the personal character of the new Pope, that I had determined never to confess to his Holiness the part which I had played in his election, lest his wrath should fall upon me in consequence.

As I knelt before Pius X. in the small and simply furnished room in which he had chosen to install himself, I saw his eye fall on me with an expression of pity and curiosity.


‘You do well to kneel, my son,’ the Holy Father said, in a low, gentle voice. ‘You have erred very grievously.’

I looked up in astonishment. Pius X. pointed to a small table which stood beside his chair.

‘What do you see there?’ he asked, preserving the same tone of mild reproof.

I glanced at the table, and beheld a portion of a railway ticket.

‘When I left Venice a fortnight ago, I took a return ticket,’ the Pope continued. ‘What you see is the half which I am never going to use. Take it. It will be a souvenir for you, and may remind you to beware of the vanity of meddling in spiritual concerns.’

Amazed by this form of address, I rose from my knees, and respectfully possessed myself of the precious keepsake, which I thrust into my inmost pocket.

‘I came to Rome,’ the Holy Father pursued calmly, ‘without other hope or ambition than to record my vote for the most worthy member of the Sacred College. Even had I wished to be Pope I should not have been presumptuous enough to put myself forward as a candidate for the Chair of Saint Peter.

“Saddened and subdued, I quitted the audience chamber of Pius X.”

‘It appears that there were others, with more [307]worldly motives, who entertained ambitions of the kind. For my part, when I learned that some Cardinals had recorded their votes for me I had no feeling but one of surprise and chagrin. I suspected that I was being used as a stalking-horse on behalf of others. I could not dream that a layman had dared to interfere in the election at the bidding of a usurper who is outside the pale of Christian fellowship, under the curse of the Church!’

I trembled as I perceived that some one had been beforehand with me, and had narrated my proceedings to his Holiness, no doubt with a gloss which had caused Pius X. to take the worst view of my action.

‘Fortunately your rash and evil designs were overruled for good. Unknown to yourself, you were an instrument in the hands of others. While you were watching you were watched. Pious and vigilant men, the faithful soldiers of the Church Militant, who had no object of their own to serve, and who only sought the good of the Church, were aware all along of your proceedings, your true employer, and his secret aims. You sought to place in the Chair of Peter an obedient tool of the House of Savoy. The watchful guardians of the Church resolved that you should be instrumental in the elevation of one who, however[308] unworthy, is at least free from the passion of worldly ambition.’

I would fain have spoken, but the Holy Father imposed silence on me by a stern gesture.

‘The candidature of his Eminence Cardinal Salvatierra was a ruse, to which the zealous persons I speak of were obliged to resort, in order to throw dust in your eyes. From the first they had determined to ensure my election, if it could be brought about without using improper means of influencing the Sacred College. They checkmated you, without your perceiving it.

‘Now you may go and tell the rash young King who used you as his agent that his designs have miscarried. I sit here, neither his nominee nor his creature, but the duly chosen Head of the Roman Church, and I call upon him to retire from the territories bestowed upon the Church by Constantine.’

I listened with feelings of stupefaction and despair. The story which had been told the Pope was so nearly true that I had no scope for contradiction; it had been so skilfully coloured that I realised that any attempt at explanation or denial would fail of its effect.

“‘I can only render one more service to your Majesty, and that is to advise you to make your peace with the Black Pope.’”

In fact I had been guilty of very nearly what I stood accused of. The reproaches of Pius X. were an echo of the whispers of my conscience. I had [309]elected a Pope, but my presumption in doing so had made that very Pope an enemy of the sovereign whom I had served too well.

‘Will your Holiness condescend to hear me?’ I implored. ‘The Jesuits——’

‘Silence!’ his Holiness commanded. ‘I will not listen to a word against those devoted men, whose value, and whose loyalty to the Holy See, I now understand for the first time. If your master, the King of Sardinia,[2] desires to learn the conditions on which he may obtain his pardon from the Holy See, I advise him to apply to—Cardinal Salvatierra.’

Cardinal Salvatierra! I recalled the Cardinal’s parting words—‘You have chosen the White Pope; it remains to see how you will fare at the hands of the Black Pope.’

Saddened and subdued, I quitted the audience-chamber of Pius X., and repaired to that of Victor Emmanuel II.

‘I have carried out your Majesty’s instructions. Cardinal Sarto is the new Pope. And now I can only render one more service to your Majesty, and that is——’

‘And that is?’ the King exclaimed.

‘To advise you to make your peace with the Black Pope!’


I prefer to say no more. It would be imprudent on my part to embarrass a situation already bristling with difficulties, by indicating the steps which still remain to be taken before peace can be restored between the two mighty powers represented by the Vatican and the Quirinal.


[1] As I have stated already, whenever in the course of these disclosures I repeat a private conversation, I do so in the interest of the other party to it, if not in every case with his express permission.—A. V.

[2] The title of King of Italy is not recognised by the Vatican.—A. V.

Reminds one of Cranford.

London Telegraph.

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