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turned on the orderly who had opened the door and screamed abuse at him.
"Camel! Ox! Sheep's-head!" he roared, his face and shining pate
deepening their vermilion hue. "Do I give orders that they shall be
forgotten? What do you mean? You ass...." He put his white-gloved hands
on the man's shoulders and shook him until the fellow's teeth must have
rattled in his head. The orderly, white to the lips, hung limp in the
old man's grasp, muttering apologies: "Ach! Exzellenz! Exzellenz will
excuse me...."

It was a revolting spectacle, but it did not make the least impression
on the son, who, putting down his cap and great-coat and unhooking his
sword, led me into a kind of study. "These orderlies are such
thickheads!" he said.

"Rudi! Rudi!" a hoarse, strident voice screamed from the hall. The
lieutenant ran out.

"You've got to take the fellow to Berlin to-night. The message was here
all the time - that numskull Heinrich forgot it. And we've got to keep
the fellow here till then! An outrage, having the house used as a
barrack for a rascally detective!" Thus much I heard, as the door had
been left open. Then it closed and I heard no more.

As I had heard this much, there was a certain irony in the invitation to
dinner subsequently conveyed to me by the young Uhlan. There was nothing
for it but to accept. I knew I was caught deep in the meshes of Prussian
discipline, every one had his orders and blindly carried them out, from
the garrulous Major on the frontier to this preposterous _Exzellenz_,
this Imperial aide-de-camp of Potsdam. I was already a tiny cog in a
great machine. I should have to revolve or be crushed.

His Excellency left me in no doubt on this point. When I was ushered
into his study, after a much-needed wash and a shave, he received me
standing and said point-blank: "Your orders are to stay here until ten
o'clock to-night, when you will be taken to Berlin by Lieutenant Count
von Boden. I don't know you, I don't know your business, but I have
received certain orders concerning you which I intend to carry out. For
that reason you will dine with us here. After you have seen the person
to whom you are to be taken to-night, Lieutenant Count von Boden will
accompany you to the railway station at Spandau, where a special train
will be in readiness in which he will conduct you back to the frontier.
I wish you clearly to understand that the Lieutenant is responsible for
seeing these orders carried out and will use all means to that end. Have
I made myself clear?"

The old man's manner was indescribably threatening. "This is the machine
we are out to smash," I had said to myself when I saw him savaging his
servant in the hall and I repeated the phrase to myself now. But to the
General I said: "Perfectly, Your Excellency!"

"Then let us go to dinner," said the General.

It was a nightmare meal. A faded and shrunken female, to whom I was not
introduced - some kind of relative who kept house for the General, I
supposed - was the only other person present. She never opened her lips
save, with eyes glazed with terror, to give some whispered instruction
to the orderly anent the General's food or wine. We dined in a
depressing room with dark brown wallpaper decorated with dusty stags'
antlers, an enormous green-tiled stove dominating everything. The
General and his son ate solidly through the courses while the lady
pecked furtively at her plate. As for myself I could not eat for sheer
fright. Every nerve in my body was vibrating at the thought of the
evening before me. If I could not avoid the interview, I was resolutely
determined to give Master von Boden the slip rather than return to the
frontier empty-handed. I had not braved all these perils to be packed
off home without, at least, making an attempt to find Francis. Besides,
I meant if I could to get the other half of that document.

There was some quite excellent Rhine wine, and I drank plenty of it. So
did the General, with the result that, when the veins starting purple
from his temples proclaimed that he had eaten to repletion, his temper
seemed to have improved. He unbent sufficiently to present me with quite
the worst cigar I have ever smoked.

I smoked it in silence whilst father and son talked shop. The female had
faded away. Both men, I found to my surprise, were furious and bitter
opponents of Hindenburg, as I have since learnt most of the old school
of the Prussian Army are. They spoke little of England: their thoughts
seemed to be centred on Russia as the arch-enemy. They pinned their
faith on Falkenhayn and Mackensen. They had no words strong enough in
their denunciation of Hindenburg, whom they always referred to as "the
Drunkard" ... "der Säufer." Nor were they sparing of criticism of what
they called the Kaiser's "weakness" in letting him rise to power.

The humming of a car outside broke up our gathering. Remembering that I
was but a humble servant before this great military luminary, I thanked
the General with due servility for his hospitality. Then the Count and I
went out to the car and presently drove forth into the night.

We entered Berlin from the west, as it seemed to me, but then struck off
in a southerly direction and were soon in the commercial quarter of the
city, all but deserted at that hour, save for the trams. Then I caught a
glimpse of lamps reflected in water, and the next moment the car had
stopped on a bridge over a canal or river. My companion sprang out and
hurried me to a small gate in an iron railing enclosing a vast edifice
looming black in the night, while the car moved off into the darkness.

The gate was open. Half a dozen yards from it was a small, slender tower
with a pointed roof jutting out from the corner of the building. In the
tower was a door which yielded easily to my companion's vigorous push as
a clock somewhere within the building beat a double stroke - half-past
ten.

The door led into a little vestibule brilliantly lit with electric
light. There a man was waiting, a fine, upstanding bearded fellow in a
kind of green hunting costume.

"So, Payer!" said the young Uhlan. "Here is the gentleman. I shall be at
the west entrance afterwards. You will bring him down yourself to the
car."

"Jawohl, Herr Graf!" answered the man in green, and the lieutenant
vanished through the door into the night.

A terrifying, an incredible suspicion that had overwhelmed me directly I
stepped out of the car now came surging through my brain. That vast,
black edifice, that slender tower at the corner - did I not know them?

Mechanically, I followed the man in green. My suspicions deepened
with every step. In a little, they became certainty. Up a shallow and
winding stair, along a long and broad corridor, hung with rich
tapestries, the polished parquet glistening faintly in the dim light,
through splendid suites of gilded apartments with old pictures and
splendid furniture... here a lackey with powdered hair yawning on a
landing, there a sentry in field-grey immobile before a door...I was in
the Berlin Schloss.

The Castle seemed to sleep. A hushed silence lay over all. Everywhere
lights were dim, staircases wound down into emptiness, corridors
stretched away into dusky solitude. Now and then an attendant in evening
dress tiptoed past us or an officer vanished round a corner, noiselessly
save for a faint clink of spurs.

Thus we traversed, as it seemed to me, miles of silence and of twilight,
and all the time my blood hammered at my temples and my throat grew dry
as I thought of the ordeal that stood before me. To whom was I thus
bidden, secretly, in the night?

We were in a broad and pleasant passage now, panelled in cheerful light
brown oak with red hangings. After the desolation of the State
apartments, this comfortable corridor had at least the appearance of
leading to the habitation of man. A giant trooper in field-grey with a
curious silver gorget suspended round his neck by a chain paced up and
down the passage, his jackboots making no sound upon the soft, thick
carpet with which the floor was covered.

The man in green stopped at the door. Holding up a warning hand to me,
he bent his head and listened. There was a moment of absolute silence.
Not a sound was to be heard throughout the whole Castle. Then the man in
green knocked softly and was admitted, leaving me outside.

A moment later, the door swung open again. A tall, elegant man with grey
hair and that indefinite air of good breeding that you find in every man
who has spent a life at court, came out hurriedly. He looked pale and
harassed.

On seeing me, he stopped short.

"Dr. Grundt? Where is Dr. Grundt?" he asked and his eyes dropped to my
feet. He started and raised them to my face.

The trooper had drifted out of earshot. I could see him, immobile as a
statue, standing at the end of the corridor. Except for him and us, the
passage was deserted.

Again the elderly man spoke and his voice betrayed his anxiety.

"Who are you?" he asked almost in a whisper. "What have you done with
Grundt? Why has he not come?"

Boldly I took the plunge.

"I am Semlin," I said.

"Semlin," echoed the other, " - ah yes! the Embassy in Washington wrote
about you - but Grundt was to have come...."

"Listen," I said, "Grundt could not come. We had to separate and he sent
me on ahead...."

"But ... but ..." - the man was stammering now in his anxiety - "... you
succeeded?"

I nodded.

He heaved a sigh of relief.

"It will be awkward, very awkward, this change in the arrangements," he
said. "You will have to explain everything to him, everything. Wait
there an instant."

He darted back into the room.

Once more I stood and waited in that silent place, so restful and so
still that one felt oneself in a world far removed from the angry strife
of nations. And I wondered if my interview - the meeting I had so much
dreaded - was at an end.

"Pst, Pst!" The elderly man stood at the open door.

He led me through a room, a cosy place, smelling pleasantly of leather
furniture, to a door. He opened it, revealing across a narrow threshold
another door. On this he knocked.

"Herein!" cried a voice - a harsh, metallic voice.

My companion turned the handle and, opening the door, thrust me into the
room. The door closed behind me.

I found myself facing the Emperor.




CHAPTER IX

I ENCOUNTER AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE WHO LEADS ME TO A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE


He stood in the centre of the room, facing the door, his legs, straddled
apart, planted firmly on the ground, one hand behind his back, the
other, withered and useless like the rest of the arm, thrust into the
side pocket of his tunic. He wore a perfectly plain undress uniform of
field-grey, and the unusual simplicity of his dress, coupled with the
fact that he was bare-headed, rendered him so unlike his conventional
portraits in the full panoply of war that I doubt if I should have
recognized him - paradoxical as it may seem - but for the havoc depicted
in every lineament of those once so familiar features.

Only one man in the world to-day could look like that. Only one man in
the world to-day could show, by the ravage in his face, the appalling
weight of responsibility slowly crushing one of the most vigorous and
resilient personalities in Europe. His figure, erstwhile erect and
well-knit, seemed to have shrunk, and his withered arm, unnaturally
looped away into his pocket, assumed a prominence that lent something
sinister to that forbidding grey and harassed face.

His head was sunk forward on his breast. His face, always intensely
sallow, almost Italian in its olive tint, was livid. All its alertness
was gone; the features seemed to have collapsed, and the flesh hung
flabbily, bulging in deep pouches under the eyes and in loose folds at
the corners of the mouth. His head was grizzled an iron-grey but the
hair at the temples was white as driven snow. Only his eyes were
unchanged. They were the same grey, steely eyes, restless, shifting,
unreliable, mirrors of the man's impulsive, wayward and fickle mind.

He lowered at me. His brow was furrowed and his eyes flashed malice. In
the brief instant in which I gazed at him I thought of a phrase a friend
had used after seeing the Kaiser in one of his angry moods - "His icy,
black look."

I was so taken aback at finding myself in the Emperor's presence that I
forgot my part and remained staring in stupefaction at the apparition.
The other was seemingly too busy with his thoughts to notice my
forgetfulness, for he spoke at once, imperiously, in the harsh staccato
of a command.

"What is this I hear?" he said. "Why has not Grundt come? What are you
doing here?"

By this time I had elaborated the fable I had begun to tell in the
corridor without. I had it ready now: it was thin, but it must suffice.

"If your Majesty will allow me, I will explain," I said. The Emperor was
rocking himself to and fro, in nervous irritability, on his feet. His
eyes were never steady for an instant: now they searched my face, now
they fell to the floor, now they scanned the ceiling.

"Dr. Grundt and I succeeded in our quest, dangerous though it was. As
your Majesty is aware, the ... the ... the object had been divided...."

"Yes, yes, I know! Go on!" the other said, pausing for a moment in his
rocking.

"I was to have left England first with my portion. I could not get away.
Everyone is searched for letters and papers at Tilbury. I devised a
scheme and we tested it, but it failed."

"How? It failed?" the other cried.

"With no detriment to the success of our mission, Your Majesty."

"Explain! What was your stratagem?"

"I cut a piece of the lining from a handbag and in this I wrapped a
perfectly harmless letter addressed to an English shipping agent in
Rotterdam. I then pasted the fragment of the lining back in its place in
the bottom of the bag. Grundt gave the bag to one of our number as an
experiment to see if it would elude the vigilance of the English
police."

A light of interest was growing in the Emperor's manner, banishing his
ill-temper. Anything novel always appealed to him.

"Well?" he said.

"The ruse was detected, the letter was found and our man was fined
twenty pounds at the police court. It was then that Dr. Grundt decided
to send me...."

"You've got it with you?" the other exclaimed eagerly.

"No, Your Majesty," I said. "I had no means of bringing it away. Dr.
Grundt, on the other hand ..." And I doubled up my leg and touched my
foot.

The Emperor stared at me and the furrow reappeared between his eyes.
Then a smile broke out on his face, a warm, attractive smile, like
sunshine after rain, and he burst into a regular guffaw. I knew His
Majesty's weakness for jokes at the expense of the physical deformities
of others, but I had scarcely dared to hope that my subtle reference to
Grundt's clubfoot as a hiding-place for compromising papers would have
had such a success. For the Kaiser fairly revelled in the idea and
laughed loud and long, his sides fairly shaking.

"Ach, der Stelze! Excellent! Excellent!" he cried. "Plessen, come and
hear how we've diddled the Englander again!"

We were in a long room, lofty, with a great window at the far end, where
the room seemed to run to the right and left in the shape of a T. From
the big writing-desk with its litter of photographs in heavy silver
frames, the little bronze busts of the Empress, the water-colour
sea-scapes and other little touches, I judged this to be the Emperor's
study.

At the monarch's call, a white-haired officer emerged from the further
end of the room, that part which was hidden from my view.

The Kaiser put his hand on his shoulder.

"A great joke, Plessen!" he said, chuckling. Then, to me:

"Tell it again!"

I had warmed to my work now. I gave as drily humorous an account as I
could of Dr. Grundt, fat and massive and podgy, hobbling on board the
steamer at Tilbury, under the noses of the British police, with the
document stowed away in his boot.

The Kaiser punctuated my story with gusty guffaws, and emphasized the
fun of the _dénouement_ by poking the General in the ribs.

Plessen laughed very heartily, as indeed he was expected to. Then he
said suavely:

"But has the stratagem succeeded, Your Majesty?"

The monarch knit his brow and looked at me.

"Well, young man, did it work?"

"... Because," Plessen went on, "if so, Grundt must be in Holland. In
that case, why is he not here?"

My heart sank within me. Above all things, I knew I must keep my
countenance. The least sign of embarrassment and I was lost. Yet I felt
the blood fleeing from my face and I was glad I stood in the shadow.

A knock came to the door. The elderly chamberlain who had met me outside
appeared.

"Your Majesty will excuse me ... General Baron von Fischer is there to
report...."

"Presently, presently," was the answer in an irritable tone. "I am
engaged just now...."

The old courtier paused irresolutely for a moment.

"Well, what is it; what is it?"

"Despatches from General Head-quarters, Your Majesty! The General asked
me to say the matter was urgent!"

The Kaiser wakened in an instant.

"Bring him in!" Then, to Plessen, he added in a voice from which all
mirth had vanished, in accents of gloom:

"At this hour, Plessen? If things have again gone wrong on the Somme!"

An officer came in quickly, rigid with a frozen face, helmet on head,
portfolio under his arm. The Kaiser walked the length of the room to his
desk and sat down. Plessen and the other followed him. I remained where
I was. They seemed to have forgotten all about me.

A murmur rose from the desk. The officer was delivering his report. Then
the Kaiser seemed to question him, for I heard his hard, metallic
voice:

"Contalmaison ... Trones Wood ... heavy losses ... forced
back ... terrific artillery fire ..." were words that reached me.
The Kaiser's voice rose on a high note of irritability. Suddenly he
dashed the papers on the desk from him and exclaimed:

"It is outrageous! I'll break him! Not another man shall he have if I
must go myself and teach his men their duty!"

Plessen hurriedly left the desk and came to me. His old face was white
and his hands were shaking.

"Get out of here!" he said to me in a fierce undertone. "Wait outside
and I will see you later!" Still, from the desk, resounded that harsh,
strident voice, running on in an ascending scale, pouring forth a
foaming torrent of menace.

I had often heard of the sudden paroxysms of fury from which the Kaiser
was said to suffer of recent years, but never in my wildest daydreams
did I ever imagine I should assist at one.

Gladly enough did I exchange the highly charged electrical atmosphere of
the Imperial study for the repose of the quiet corridor. Its perfect
tranquillity was as balm to my quivering nerves. Of the man in green
nothing was to be seen. Only the trooper continued his silent vigil.

Again I acted on impulse. I was wearing my grass-green raincoat, my hat
I carried in my hand. I might therefore easily pass for one just leaving
the Castle. Without hesitation, I turned to the left, the way I had
come, and plunged once more into the labyrinth of galleries and
corridors and landings by which the man in green had led me. I very soon
lost myself, so I decided to descend the next staircase I should come
to. I followed this plan and went down a broad flight of stairs, at the
foot of which I found a night porter, clad in a vast overcoat bedizened
with eagles and seated on a stool, reading a newspaper.

He stopped me and asked me my business. I told him I was coming from the
Emperor's private apartments, whereupon he demanded my pass. I showed
him my badge which entirely satisfied him, though he muttered something
about "new faces" and not having seen me before. I asked him for the way
out. He said that at the end of the gallery I should come to the west
entrance. I felt I had had a narrow squeak of running into my mentor
outside. I told the man I wanted the other entrance ... I had my car
there.

"You mean the south entrance?" he asked, and proceeded to give me
directions which brought me, without further difficulty, out upon the
open space in front of the great equestrian statue of the Emperor
William I.

It was a clear, starry night and I heaved a sigh of relief as I saw the
Schloss-Platz glittering in the cold light of the arc lamps. So pressing
had been the danger threatening me that the atmosphere of the Castle
seemed stifling in comparison with the keen night air. A new confidence
filled my veins as I strode along, though the perils to which I was
advancing were not a whit less than those I had just escaped. For I had
burnt my boats. My disappearance from the Castle must surely arouse
suspicion and it was only a matter of hours for the hue and cry to be
raised after me. At best it might be delayed until Clubfoot presented
himself at the Castle.

I could not remain in Berlin, that was clear. My American passport was
not in order, and if I were to fall back upon my silver badge, I should
instantly come into contact with the police with all kinds of unwelcome
consequences. No, I must get out of Berlin at all costs. Well away from
the capital, I might possibly utilize my silver badge or by its help
procure identity papers that would give me a status of some kind.

But Francis? Baffled as I was by that obscure jingle of German,
something seemed to tell me that it was a message from my brother. It
was dated from Berlin, and I felt that the solution of the riddle, if
riddle it were, must be found here.

I had reached Unter den Linden. I entered a café and ordered a glass of
beer. The place was a blaze of light and dense with a blue cloud of
tobacco smoke. A noisy band was crashing out popular tunes and there was
a loud buzz of conversation rising from every table. It was all very
cheerful and the noise and the bustle did me good after the strain of
the night.

I drew from my pocket the slip of paper I had had from Dicky and fell to
scanning it again. I had not been twelve hours in Germany, but already I
was conscious that, for anyone acting a part, let anything go wrong with
his identity papers and he could never leave the country. If he were
lucky, he might lie doggo; but there was no other course.

Supposing, then, that this had happened to Francis (as, indeed, Red Tabs
had hinted to me was the case) what course would he adopt? He would try
and smuggle out a message announcing his plight. Yes, I think that is
what I myself would do in similar circumstances.

Well, I would accept this as a message from Francis. Now to study it
once more.

_O Eichenholz! O Eichenholz!
Wie leer sind deine Blätter.
Wie Achiles in dem Zelte.
Wo zweie sich zanken
Erfreut sich der Dritte._

The message fell into three parts, each consisting of a phrase. The
first phrase might certainly be a warning that Francis had failed in
his mission.

_"O Okewood! how empty are thy leaves!"_

What, then, of the other two phrases?

They were short and simple. Whatever message they conveyed, it could not
be a lengthy one. Nor was it likely that they contained a report of
Francis' mission to Germany, whatever it had been. Indeed, it was not
conceivable that my brother would send any such report to a Dutchman
like van Urutius, a friendly enough fellow, yet a mere acquaintance and
an alien at that.

The message carried in those two phrases must be, I felt sure, a
personal one, relating to my brother's welfare. What would he desire to
say? That he was arrested, that he was going to be shot? Possibly, but
more probably his idea in sending out word was to explain his silence
and also to obtain assistance.

My eye recurred continually to the final phrase: "When _two_ people fall
out, the _third_ party rejoices."

Might not these numerals refer to the number of a street? Might not in
these two phrases be hidden an address at which one might find Francis,
or at the worst, hear news of him?

I sent for the Berlin Directory. I turned up the streets section and
eagerly ran my eye down the columns of the "A's." I did not find what I
was looking for, and that was an "Achilles-Strasse," either with two
"l's" or with one.

Then I tried "Eichenholz." There was an "Eichenbaum-Allee" in the Berlin
suburb called West-End, but that was all. I tried for a "Blätter" or a
"Blatt-Strasse" with an equally negative result.

It was discouraging work, but I went back to the paper again. The only
other word likely to serve as a street remaining in the puzzle was
"Zelt."

"Wie Achiles in dem Zelte."

Wearily I opened the directory at the "Z's."


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