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spoke loud too. 'Good-bye,' I called out; 'I'm Dawson.' He heard me,
for his eyes answered with a last flash; then they faded right out and
he fell flat on the steel deck. He had died on his feet; his will kept
him upright to the end; that was a Man. He lived a Man's life, doing
what he thought his duty, and he died a Man's death.... I blew my
whistle twice; up clattered a Sergeant with the Marine Guard and
stopped where that figure on the deck barred their way. 'Get a
stretcher,' I said, 'and send for the doctor. But it won't be any use.
The man's dead.' The Sergeant asked sharply for my report, and sent
off a couple of men for a stretcher. 'Excuse me, Sergeant,' I said, in
my best detective officer voice, 'I will report direct to your Major
and the Commander. I am Chief Inspector Dawson.' He showed no surprise
nor doubt of my word - if you want to understand discipline, gentlemen,
get the Marines to teach you - he asked no questions. With one word he
called the guard to attention, and himself saluted me - me a private! I
handed him my rifle - there was an inch of blood at the point of the
bayonet - and hobbled off to the nearest ladder. My word, I could
scarcely walk, and as for climbing a ship's ladder - I could never have
done if some one hadn't given me a boost behind and some one else a
hand at the top. The Commander and the Major of Marines were both in
the wardroom; I walked in, saluted them as a self-respecting private
should do, and told them the whole story."

"It was Petty Officer Trehayne," said I calmly - and waited for a

"Of course," replied Dawson, greatly to my annoyance. He might have
shown some astonishment at my wonderful intuition; but he didn't, not
a scrap. Even Cary was at first disappointing, though he warmed up
later, and did me full justice. "Trehayne a spy!" cried Cary. "He
looked a smart good man."

"I am not saying that he wasn't," snapped Dawson, whose nerves were
very badly on edge. "He was obeying the orders of his superiors as we
all have to do. He gave his life, and it was for his country's
service. Nobody can do more than that. Don't you go for to slander
Trehayne. I watched him die - on his feet."

Cary turned to me. "What made you think it was Trehayne?" he asked.
This was better. I looked at Dawson, who was brooding in his chair
with his thoughts far away. He was still seeing those eyes fading out
under the glare of the electrics between the steel decks of the

"It was a sheer guess at first," said I, preserving a decent show of
modesty. "When I heard how the enemy plotted and Dawson
counter-plotted with all those skilled workmen in his detective
service, it occurred to me that an enemy with imagination might
counter-counterplot by getting men inside Dawson's defences. I
couldn't see how one would work it, but if German agents, say, could
manage to become trusted servants of Dawson himself, they would have
the time of their lives. So far I was guessing at a possibility,
however improbable it might seem. Then when Dawson told us that he had
sent Trehayne into the _Antigone_ and that he was the one factor
common to both vessels - the workmen and the maintenance part were all
different - I began to feel that my wild theory might have something in
it. I didn't say anything to you, Cary, or to Dawson - he despises
theories. Afterwards Trehayne came in and I spoke to him, and he to
me, in French. He did not utter a dozen words altogether, but I was
absolutely certain that his French had not been learned at an English
public school and during short trips on the Continent. I know too much
of English school French and of one's opportunities to learn upon
Continental trips. It took me three years of hard work to recover from
the sort of French which I learned at school, and I am not well yet.
The French spoken by Trehayne was the French of the nursery. It was
almost, if not quite, his mother tongue, just as his English was.
Trehayne's French accent did not fit into Trehayne's history as
retailed to us by Dawson. From that moment I plumped for Trehayne as
the cutter of gun wires."

Dawson had been listening, though he showed no interest in my speech.
When I had quite finished, and was basking in the respectful
admiration emanating from dear old Cary, he upset over me a bucket of
very cold water.

"Very pretty," said he. "But answer one question. Why did I send
Trehayne to the _Antigone_?"

"Why? How can I tell? You said it was to make sure that the shore
party were all off the ship."

"I said! What does it matter what I say! What I do matters a heap, but
what I say - pouf! I sent Trehayne to the _Antigone_ to test him. I
sent him expecting that he would try to cut her wires, and he did.
Then when I was sure, though I had no evidence for a law court, I sent
him to the _Malplaquet_, and I set my trap there for him to walk into.
How did I guess? I don't guess; I watch. The more valuable a man is to
me, the more I watch him, for he might be even more valuable to
somebody else. Trehayne was an excellent man, but he had not been with
me a month before I was watching him as closely as any cat. I hadn't
been a Marine and served ashore and afloat without knowing a born
gentleman when I see one, and knowing, too, the naval stamp. Trehayne
was too much of a gentleman to have become a workman in the _Vernon_
and at Greenock without some very good reason. He said that he was an
orphan - yes; he said his parents left him penniless, and he had to
earn his living the best way he could - yes. Quite good reasons, but
they didn't convince me. I was certain sure that somewhere, some time,
Trehayne had been a naval officer. I had seen too many during my
service to make any mistake about that. So when I stood there waiting
in that damned cold corner behind that bulkhead, it was for Trehayne
that I was waiting. I meant to take him or to kill him. When he killed
himself, I was glad. As I watched his eyes fade out, it was as if my
own son was dying on his feet in front of me. But it was better so
than to die in front of a firing party. For I - I loved him, and I
wished him 'Good-bye,'"

Dawson pitched his cigar into the fire, got up, and walked away to the
far side of the room. I had never till that moment completely
reverenced the penetrative, infallible judgment of Little Jane.

Dawson came back after a few minutes, picked up another cigar from
Cary's box, and sat down. "You see, I have a letter from him. I found
it in his quarters where I went straight from the _Malplaquet_."

"May we read it?" I asked gently. "I was greatly taken with Trehayne
myself. He was a clean, beautiful boy. He was an enemy officer on
Secret Service; there is no dishonour in that. If he were alive, I
could shake his hand as the officer of the firing party shook the hand
of Lody before he gave the last order."

Dawson took a paper from his pocket, and handed it to me. "Read it
out," said he; "I can't."



I took the letter from Dawson and glanced through it. The first sheet
and the last had been written very recently - just before the boy had
left his quarters for the last time to go on board the _Malplaquet_;
the remainder had been set down at various times; and the whole had
been connected up, put together, and paged after the completion of the
last sheet. Trehayne wrote a pretty hand, firm and clear, the writing
of an artist who was also a trained engineer. There was no trace in
the script of nervousness or of hesitation. He had carried out his
Orders, he saw clearly that the path which he had trod was leading him
to the end of his journey, but he made no complaint. He was a Latin,
and to the last possessed that loftiness of spirit wedded to sombre
fatalism which is the heritage of the Latins. He was at war with his
kindred of Italy and France, and with the English among whom he had
been brought up, and whom he loved. He was their enemy by accident of
birth, but though he might and did love his foes better than his
German friends of Austria and Prussia, yet he had taken the oath of
faithful service, and kept it to the end. I could understand why
Dawson - that strange human bloodhound, in whom the ruthless will
continually struggled with and kept under the very tender heart - would
allow no one to slander Trehayne.

Cary was watching me eagerly, waiting for me to read the letter.

Dawson's head was resting on one hand, and his face was turned away,
so that I could not see it. He could not wholly conceal his emotion,
but he would not let us see more of it than he could help. He did not
move once during my reading.

* * * * *

_To Chief Inspector William Dawson, C.I.D._


Will you be surprised, my friend, when you read this that I have left
for you, to learn that I, your right-hand man in the unending spy
hunt, I whom you have called your bright jewel of a pupil, Petty
Officer John Trehayne, R.N.V.R., am at this moment upon the books of
the Austrian Navy as a sub-lieutenant, seconded for Secret Service?
Have you ever been surprised by anything? I don't know. You have said
often in my hearing that you suspect every one. Have you suspected me?
Sometimes when I have caught that sidelong squint of yours, that
studied accidental glance which sees so much, I have felt almost sure
that you were far from satisfied that Trehayne was the man he gave
himself out to be. I have been useful to you. I have eaten your salt,
and have served you as faithfully as was consistent with the supreme
Orders by which I direct my action. With you I have run down and
captured German agents, wretched lumps of dirt, whom I loathe as much
as you do. Those who have sworn fidelity to this fair country of
England, and have accepted of her citizenship - things which I have
never done - and then in fancied security have spied upon their adopted
Mother, I loathe and spit upon. I have taken the police oath of
obedience to my superiors, and I have kept it, but I have never sworn
allegiance to His Majesty your King, whom I pray that God may preserve
though I am his enemy. To your blunt English mind, untrained in logic,
my sentiments and actions may lack consistency. But no. Those agents
whom we have run down, you and I, were traitors - traitors to England.
Of all traitors for whom Hell is hungry the German-born traitor is the
most devilish. I would not have you think, my friend, that I am at one
with them. Never while I have been in your pay and service have I had
any communication direct or indirect with any of the naturalised-
British Prussian scum, who have betrayed your noble generosity. I have
taken my Orders from Vienna, I have communicated always direct with
Vienna. I am an Austrian naval officer. I am no traitor to England.

* * * * *

I spring from an old Italian family which has long been settled in
Trieste. For many generations we have served in the Austrian Navy.
With modern Italy, with the Italy above all which has thrown the Holy
Father into captivity and stripped the Holy See of the dominions
bestowed upon it by God, we have no part or lot. Yet when I have met
Italian officers, and those too of France, as I have frequently done
during my cruises afloat, I have felt with them a harmony of spirit
which I have never experienced in association with German-Austrians
and with Prussians. I do not wish to speak evil of our Allies, the
Prussians, but to one of my blood they are the most detestable people
whom God ever had the ill-judgment to create.

* * * * *

I was born in Trieste, and lived there with my parents until I was
eight years old. In our private life we always spoke Italian or
French, German was our official language. I know that language well,
of course, but it is not my mother tongue. Italian or French, and
afterwards English - I speak and write all three equally well; which of
the three I shall use when I come to die and one reverts to the speech
of the nursery and schoolroom, I cannot say; it will depend upon whom
those are that stand about my deathbed.

When I was eight years old, my father, Captain - - (no, I will not
tell you my name; it is not Trehayne though somewhat similar in
sound), was appointed Austrian Consul at Plymouth, and we all moved to
that great Devonshire seaport. I was young enough to absorb the rich
English atmosphere, nowhere so rich as in that county which is the
home and breeding-ground of your most splendid Navy. I was born again,
a young Elizabethan Englishman. My story to you of my origin was true
in one particular - I really was educated at Blundell's School at
Tiverton. Whenever - and it has happened more than once - I have met as
Trehayne old schoolfellows of Blundell's they have accepted without
comment or inquiry my tale that I had become an Englishman, and had
anglicised my name. Among the peoples which exist on earth to-day, you
English are the most nobly generous and unsuspicious. The Prussians
laugh at you; I, an Austrian-Italian, love and respect you.

* * * * *

When I was sixteen, after I had spent eight years in Devon, and four
of those years at an English public school, I was in speech and almost
in the inner fibres of my mind an Englishman. Your naval authorities
at Plymouth and Devonport, as serenely trustful and heedless of
espionage as the mass of your kindly people, allowed my father - whom I
often accompanied - to see the dockyards, the engine shops, the
training schools, and the barracks. They knew that he was an Austrian
naval officer, and they took him to their hearts as a brother, of the
common universal brotherhood of the sea. I think that your Navy holds
those of a foreign naval service as more nearly of kin to themselves
than civilians of their own blood. The bond of a common profession is
more close than the bond of a common nationality. I do not doubt that
my father sent much information to our Embassy in London - it was what
he was employed to do - but I am sure that he did not basely betray the
wonderful confidence of his hosts. Our countries were at peace. My
father is no Prussian; he is a chivalrous gentleman. I am sure that he
did not send more than his English naval friends were content at the
time that he should send. For in those years your newspapers and your
books upon the Royal Navy of England concealed little from the world.
I have visited Dartmouth; I have dined in the Naval College there with
bright sailor boys of my own age. It was then my one dream, had I
remained in England, to have become an Englishman, and to have myself
served in your Navy. It was a vain dream, but I knew no better. Fate
and my birth made me afterwards your enemy. I would have fought you
gladly face to face on land or sea, but never, never, would I have
stabbed the meanest of Englishmen in the back.

When I was sixteen years old I left England with my parents and
returned to Triest. I was a good mathematician with a keen taste for
mechanics. I spent two years in the naval engineering shops at Pola,
and I was gazetted as a sub-lieutenant in the engineering branch of
the Austrian Navy. My next two years were spent afloat. Although I did
not know it, I had already been marked out by my superiors for the
Secret Service. My perfect acquaintance with English, my education at
Blundell's, my knowledge of your thoughts and your queer ways, and
twists of mind, had equipped me conspicuously for Secret Service work
in your midst.

As a youth of twenty, in the first flush of manhood, I was seconded
for service here, and I returned to England. That was five years ago.

* * * * *

[I paused, for my throat was dry, and looked up. Cary was leaning
forward intent upon every word. Dawson's face was still turned away;
he had not moved. It seemed to me that to our party of three had been
added a fourth, the spirit of Trehayne, and that he anxiously waited
there yonder in the shadows for the deliverance of our judgment. Had
he, an English public school boy, played the game according to the
immemorial English rules? I went on.]

* * * * *

It was extraordinarily easy for me to obtain employment in the heart
of your naval mysteries. Few questions were asked; you admitted me as
one of yourselves. I took the broad open path of full acceptance of
your conditions. I first obtained employment in a marine engineering
shop at Southampton, joined a trade union, attended Socialist
meetings - I, a member of one of the oldest families in Trieste. Though
a Catholic, I bent my knee in the English Church, and this was not
difficult, for I had always attended service in the chapel at
Blundell's. To you, my friend, I can say this, for you are of some
strange sect which consigns to the lowest Hell both Catholics and
Anglicans alike. Your Heaven will be a small place. From Southampton I
went to the torpedo training-ship _Vernon_. Again I had no difficulty.
I was a workman of skill and intelligence. I was there for more than
two years, learning all your secrets, and storing them in my mind for
the benefit of my own Service at home.

It was at Portsmouth that there came to me the great temptation of my
life, for I fell in love, not as you colder people do, but as a
Latin of the warm South. She was an English girl of good, if
undistinguished, family. Though in my hours of duty I belonged to that
you call the 'working classes,' I was well off, and lived in private
the life of my own class. I had double the pay of my rank, an
allowance from my father, and my wages, which were not small. There
were many English families in Portsmouth and Southsea who were
graciously pleased to recognise that John Trehayne, trade unionist,
and weekly wage-earning workman, was a gentleman by birth and
breeding. In any foreign port I should have been under police
supervision as a person eminently to be suspected; in Portsmouth I was
accepted without question for what I gave myself out to be - a
gentleman who wished to learn his business from the bottom upwards. I
will say nothing of the lady of my heart except that I loved her
passionately, and should have married her - aye, and become an
Englishman in fact, casting off my own, country - if War had not blown
my ignoble plans to shatters. There was nothing ignoble in my love,
for she was a queen among women, but in myself for permitting the hot
blood of youth to blind my eyes to the duty claimed of me by my
country. When war became imminent, I was not recalled, as I had hoped
to be, since I wished to fight afloat as became my rank and family. I
was ordered to take such steps as most effectively aided me to observe
the English plans and preparations, and to report when possible to
Vienna. In other words, I was ordered to act in your midst as a
special intelligence officer - what you would call a Spy. It was an
honourable and dangerous service which I had no choice but to accept.
My dreams of love had gone to wreck. I could have deceived the woman
whom I loved, for she would have trusted me and believed any story of
me that I had chosen to tell. But could I, an officer, a gentleman by
birth and I hope by practice, a secret enemy of England and a spy upon
her in the hour of her sorest trial, could I remain the lover of an
English girl without telling her fully and frankly exactly what I was?
Could I have committed this frightful treason to love and remained
other than an object of scorn and loathing to honest men? I could not.
In soul and heart she was mine; I was her man, and she was my woman.
With her there were no reserves in love. She was mine, yet I fled from
her with never a word, even of good-bye. I made my plans, obtained
certificates of my proficiency in the _Vernon_, kissed my dear love
quietly, almost coldly, without a trace of the passion that I felt,
and fled. It was the one thing left me to do. My friend, that was two
years ago. She knows not whether I am alive or am dead; I know not
whether she is alive or is dead. Yet during every hour of the long
days, and during every hour of the still longer nights, she has been
with me. I have done my duty, but I do not think that I wish to live
very much longer. If death comes to me quickly - and to those in my
present trade it comes quickly - will you, my friend, of your bountiful
kindness write to [here followed a name and address] and repeat
exactly what I now say. Do not tell what I was or how I died, but just
write, "He loved you to the last." There is a portrait in a locket
round my neck and a ring on my finger. Send her those, my good friend,
and she will know that your words are true.

* * * * *

I fled as far from Portsmouth, where my dear love dwelt, as I could
go; I fled to Greenock, that dreadful sodden corner of earth where the
rain never ceases to fall, and the sun never shines. At Greenock one
measures the rainfall not by inches, but by yards. Sometimes, not
often, a pale orb struggles through the clouds and glimmers faintly
upon the grimy town - some poor relation of the sun, maybe, but not the
godlike creature himself. For six months, in this cold desolate spot,
among a people strangely unlike the English of Devon, though they are
of kindred race, I laboured for six months in the Torpedo Factory. I
lived meanly in one room, for my Austrian pay and allowance had
stopped when War cut the channels of communication. I could, had I
chosen, have drawn money from German agencies in London, but I scorned
to hold truck with them. They were traitors to the England which
trusted and protected them, and of which they were citizens. I lived
upon my wages and preserved jealously all that I had saved during my
years of comparative affluence at Portsmouth. It was duty which made
me a Spy, not gold.

One day I was called into the office of the Superintendent, and it was
hinted to me, diplomatically, not unskilfully, that I was desired to
take service with the English secret police. I feigned reluctance,
made difficulties, professed diffidence, until pressure was put upon
me, and I was forced to accept a position which I could never by any
scheming have achieved. Those whom the gods seek to destroy, they
first drive mad - you are a very trustful unsuspicious folk, all except
you to whom I write. But even you did not, I am sure, suspect me at
the beginning. I was sent to Scotland Yard in London to be trained in
my new duties. You saw me there, and claimed me for your staff, and I
came to this centre of shipbuilding and worked here with you. I was
clothed in the uniform of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

There are two matters closely affecting my personal honour which will
seem of small moment to you - you who display always a sublime
patriotic scorn of every moral scruple; but to me they are great. I am
of the old chivalry of Italy, and I have been taught at school in
England always to play the game. Though I wore the uniform of the
R.N.V.R., it was as a disguise and cloak of my police office; I was
never attested. I have never, never, never sworn allegiance to
England. I have always kept troth with my own country; I have never
broken troth with England. Had the English naval oath been proffered
to me, I should have refused it at any hazard to my personal safety.
My honour is unstained.

You have paid me for my work, I have taken your pay, but I have not
spent it upon myself. Every penny of it for the last twelve months
will be found at my quarters. I have lived upon what I saved at
Portsmouth - lived sometimes very scantily. My funds are running low.
What I shall do when they are exhausted I cannot tell. Perhaps, who
knows, they will last my time. As for the rest, that packet of
Treasury Notes which has been my police pay, unexpended, will you take
it, my friend, and pay it to the fund for assisting the English
sailors interned in Holland? I should feel happier if they would
accept it, for I have, as you will presently learn, taken some of
their names in vain. I have not broken any oath, and I have not used
your pay; my honour is unstained.

* * * * *

[Again I paused and glanced at Dawson. He had not even winced - at
least not visibly - when Trehayne had held him free from every moral
scruple. He must, I think, have read the letter many times before he
had handed it to me. Cary looked troubled and uneasy. To him a spy had
been just a spy - he had never envisaged in his simple honest mind such
a super-spy as Trehayne. I went on.]

* * * * *

Now nothing was hidden from me; I had within my hands all the secrets

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Online LibraryBennet CopplestoneThe Lost Naval Papers → online text (page 7 of 18)