The Secrets of the German War Office Dr. Armgaard Karl Graves with the collabaration of Edward Lyell Fox
In view of the general war into which Europe has been precipitated just at the moment of going to press, it is of particular interest to note that the completed manuscript of this book has been in the hands of the publishers since June 1st. Further comment on Dr. Graves' qualifications to speak authoritatively is unnecessary; the chapters that follow are a striking commentary on his sources of information.
The Publishers August 7, 1914.
Chapter I. How I Became a Secret Agent
"O Jerum, jerum, jerum, quâ motatio rerum."
Half past three was heard booming from some clock tower on the twelfth day of June, 1913, when Mr. King, the Liberal representative from Somerset, was given the floor in the House of Commons. Mr. King proceeded to make a sensation.
He demanded that McKinnon Wood, the House Secretary for Scotland, reveal to the House the secrets of the strange case of Armgaard Karl Graves, German spy.
A brief word of explanation may be necessary. Supposed to be serving a political sentence in a Scotch prison, I had amazed the English press and people by publicly announcing my presence in New York City.
Mr. King asked if I was still undergoing imprisonment for espionage; if not, when and why I was released and whether I had been or would be deported at the end of my term of imprisonment as an undesirable alien.
Permit me to quote verbatim from the Edinburgh Scotsman of June 12, 1913:
The Secretary for Scotland replied—Graves was released in December last. It would not be in accordance with precedent to state reasons for the exercise of the prerogative. I have no official knowledge of his nationality. The sentence did not include any recommendation in favor of deportation.
Mr. King—Was he released because of the state of his health?
The Secretary for Scotland—I believe he was in bad health, but I cannot give any other answer.
Mr. King—Were any conditions imposed at the time of his release?
The Secretary for Scotland—I think I have dealt with that in my answer. (Cries of "No.")
Mr. King—Can the right hon. gentleman be a little more explicit? (Laughter.) We are anxious to have the truth. Unless the right hon. gentleman can give me an explicit answer as to whether any conditions were imposed I will put down the question again. (Laughter.)
The Speaker intervened at this stage, and the subject dropped.
Heckling began at this point; word was quickly sent to the Speaker, and he intervened, ruling the subject closed.
Now consider the Secretary for Scotland's statement. "It would not be in accordance with precedent to state reasons for the exercise of prerogative." In other words, high officials in Enghand had found it advisable secretly to release me from Barlinney Prison by using the royal prerogative. Why? Later you will know.
Also, consider the Secretary for Scotland's statement that he had no official knowledge as to my nationality—significant that, as you will realize.
There are three things which do not concern the reader: My origin, nationality and morals. There are three persons alive who know who I am. One of the three is the greatest ruler in the world. None of the three, for reasons of his own, is likely to reveal my identity.
I detest sensationalism and wish it clearly understood that this is no studied attempt to create mystery. There is a certain dead line which no one can cross with impunity and none but a fool would attempt to. Powerful governments have found it advisable to keep silence regarding my antecedents. A case in point occurred when McKinnon Wood, Secretary for Scotland, refused in the House of Commons to give any information whatsoever about me, this after pressure had been brought to bear on him by three mernbers of Parliament. Either the Home Secretary knew nothing about my antecedents, or his trained discretion counseled silence.
I was brought up in the traditions of a house actively engaged in the affairs of its country, for hundreds of years. As an only son, I was promptly and efficiently spoiled for anything else but the station in life which should have been mine—but never has been and, now, never can be. I used to have high aspirations, but promises never kept shattered most of my ideals. The hard knocks of life have made me a fatalist, so now I shrug my shoulders. "Che sara sara." I have had to lead my own life and, all considered, I have enjoyed it. I have crowded into thirty-nine years more sensations than fall to the lot of the average half a dozen men.
Following the custom of our house, I was trained as a military cadet. This military apprenticeship was followed by three years at a famous gymnasium, which fitted me for one of the old classic universities of Europe. And after spending six semesters there, I took my degrees in philosophy and medicine. Not a bad achievement, I take it, for a young chap before reaching his twenty-second birthday. I have always been fond of study and had a special aptitude for sciences and the languages. On one occasion I acquired a fair knowledge of Singalese and Tamul in three months.
From the university I returned home. I had always been obstinate and willful, not to say pigheaded, and being steeped in tales of wrongs done to my house and country, and with the crass assurance of a young sprig fresh from untrammeled university life, I began to give vent to utterances that were not at all to the liking of the powers that were. Soon making myself objectionable, paying no heed to their protests, and one thing leading to another, my family found it advisable to send me into utter and complete oblivion. To them I am dead, and all said and done, I would rather have it so.
After the complete rupture of my home ties, I began some desultory globe trotting. I knocked about in out-of-the-way corners, where I observed and absorbed all sorts of things which became very useful in my subsequent career. A native, and by that I mean an inhabitant, of non-European countries always fascinated me, and I soon learned the way of disarming their suspicion and winning their confidence—a proceeding very difficult to a European. After a time I found myself in Australia and New Zealand, where I traveled extensively, and came to like both countries thoroughly. I have never been in the western part of the United States, but from what I have heard and read I imagine that the life there more closely resembles the clean, healthy, outdoor life of the Australians than any other locality.
I was just on the point of beginning extensive travels in the South Sea Islands, when the situation in South Africa became ominous. War seemed imminent, and following my usual bent of sticking my nose in where I was not wanted I made tracks for this potential seat of trouble. I caught the first steamer for Cape Town landing there a month before the outbreak of war. On horseback I made my way in easy stages up to the Rand. Here happened one of those incidents, which, although small in itself, alters the course of one's life. What took place when I rode into a small town on the Rand known as Doorn Kloof one chilly misty morning, was written in the bowl of fate.
Doorn Kloof is well named; it means "the hoof of the Devil." A straggling collection of corrugated iron shanties set in the middle of a grayish sandy plain as barren of vegetation as the shores of the Dead Sea, sweltering hot an hour after sunrise, chilly cold an hour after sunset, populated by about four hundred Boers of the old narrow-minded ultra Dutch type with as much imagination as a grasshopper—that is Doorn Kloof.
When I rode into the village I was in a decidedly bad temper. Hungry, wet to the skin, the dismal aspect of the place, the absence of anything resembling a hotel, the incivility of the inhabitants, all contributed to shorten my, by no means long, temper. I was ripe for a row. As I rode down the solitary street I found a big burly Dopper flogging brutally a half-grown native boy. This humanitarian had the usual Boer view that the sambrock is more effective than the Bible as a civilizing medium. After convincing him of the technical error of his method, I attended to the black boy, whose back was as raw as a beefsteak. Kim completely adopted me and he is with me still. I christened him Kim, after Kipling's hero, for his Basuto name is unpronounceable. He has repaid me often for what he considers the saving or his life. Not many months later Kim was the unconscious cause of a radical change in my destiny. I have ceased to wonder at such things.
By the time Kim had learned sorne of the duties of a body servant we had reached Port Natal. War had broken out and I volunteered with a Natal field force in a medical capacity. Field hospital work took me where the fighting was thickest. During the battle of the Modder River among the first of the wounded brought in was one of the many foreign officers fighting on the Boer side. It was Kim who found him. This officer's wound was fairly serious and necessitated close attention. Through chance remarks dropped here and there, the officer placed my identity correctly. It developed that he was Major Freiherr von Reitzenstein, one of the few who knew the real reasons of my exile.
In one of our innumerable chats that grew out of our growing intimacy, he suggested my entering the service of Germany in a political capacity. He urged that with my training and social connections I had exceptional equipment for such work. Moreover, he suggested that my service on political missions would give me the knowledge and influence necessary to checkmate the intriguers who were keeping me from my own. This was the compelling reason that made me ultimately accept his proposal to become a Secret Agent of Germany. No doubt, if the Count had lived, I would have gained my ends through his guidance and influence, but he was killed in a riding race, three years after our meeting in the Veldt, and I lost my best friend. By that time I was too deep in the Secret Service to pull out, although it was my intention more than once to do so. And certain promises regarding my restoration in our house were never kept.
Coming to a partial understanding with Count Reitzenstein, I began to work in his interests. The Boer War taught Germany many things about the English army and a few of these I contributed. As a physician I was allowed to go most anywhere and no questions asked. I began to collect little inside scraps of information regarding the discipline, spirit and equipment of the British troops. I observed that many Colonial officers were outspoken in their criticisms. All these points I reported in full to Count Reitzenstein when I dressed his wound. One day he said:
"Don't forget now. After the war, I want to see you in Berlin."
In my subsequent eagerness to pump more details from the Colonial officers, I too criticised, and one day I was told Lord Kitchener wanted to see me.
"Doctor," he said curtly, when I was ushered into his tent, "you have twenty-four hours in which to leave camp—"
Whether that mandate was a result of my joining in with the Colonial officers' criticism, or because my secret activity for Count Reitzenstein had been suspected, I cannot say. But knowing the ways of the "man of Khartoum," I made haste to be out of camp within the time prescribed.
Later I learned that the Count, being convalescent and paroled, was sent down to Cape Town. After the occupation of Pretoria, I got tired of roughing it and made my way back to Europe, finally locating in Berlin for a prolonged stay. I knew Berlin, and had a fondness for it, having spent part of my youth there in the course of my education. It has always been a habit of mine not to seem anxious about anything, so I spent several weeks idling around Berlin before looking up Count Reitzenstein. One day I called at his residence, Thiergartenstrasse 23. I found the Count on the point of leaving for the races at Hoppegarten. He was one of the crack sportsmen of Prussia and never missed a meeting. He suggested that I go to the track with him, and while we waited for the servant to bring around his turn-out, he renewed his proposals about my entering Prussian service.
"I expected you long ago," he said. "I have smoothed your way to a great extent. We are likely to meet one or two of the Service Chiefs out at the track, this afternoon. If you like, I'll introduce you to them."
"Is there any likelihood of my being recognized?" I asked. "You know, Count, it will be impossible for me to go under my true flag."
He assured me there was not the slightest chance.
"Your identity," he explained, "need be known to but one person."
Later I w as to know who this important personage was.
" Very well," I agreed; "we'll try it."
The Count always drove his own turn-out, and invited me to climb up on the box. When his attention was not occupied with his reins and returning the salutes of passers-by, for he was one of the most popular men in Berlin, we discussed my private affairs. The Count showed a keen interest and sympathy in them and his proposal began to take favorable shape in my mind. As he predicted, we met some of the Service Chiefs at the track. Indeed, almost the first persons who saluted him in the saddle paddock were Captain Zur See von Tappken and a gentleman who was introduced to me as Herr von Riechter. The Count introduced me as Dr. von Graver, which I subsequently altered whenever the occasion arose to the English Graves. After chatting a bit, Captain von Tappken made an appointment with me at his bureau in the Koenigergratzerstrasse 70, the headquarters of the Intelligence Department of the Imperial Navy in Berlin, but macle no further reference to the subject that afternoon. I noticed though that Herr von Riechter put some pointed and leading questions to me, regarding my travels, linguistic attainments, and general knowledge. He must have been satisfied, for I saw some significant glances pass between him and the Captain. The repeated exclamations of "Grossartig!" and "Colossal!" seemed to express his entire satisfaction.
Following my usual bent, I did not call at Koenigergratzerstrasse 70 as the Captain suggested. About three days passed and then I received a very courteously worded letter requesting me to call at my earliest convenience at his quarters as he had something of importance to tell me. I called.
Koenigergratzerstrasse 70 is a typical Prussian building of administration. Solid but unpretentious, it is the very embodiment of Prussian efficiency, and like all official buildings in Germany is well guarded. The doorkeeper and commissaire, a taciturn non-commissioned officer, takes your name and whom you wish to see. He enters these later in a book, then telephones to the person required and you are either ushered up or denied admittance. When sent up, you are invariably accompanied by an orderly—it does not matter how well you are known—who does not leave you until the door has closed behind you. When you leave, there is the same procedure and the very duration of your visit is entered and checked in the doorkeeper's book.
I was admitted immediately. After passing through three anterooms containing private secretaries not in uniform, I was shown into Captain von Tappken's private office. He wore the undress ranking uniform of the Imperial Navy. This is significant, for it is characteristic of all the branches of the Prussian Service to find officers in charge. The secretaries and men of all work, however, are civilians; this for a reason. The heads of all departments are German officers, recruited from the old feudal aristocracy, loyal to a degree to the throne. They find it incompatible, notwithstanding their loyalty, to soil their hands with some of the work connected with all government duties, especially those of the Secret Service. Though planning the work, they never execute it. To be sure, there are ex-officers connected with the Secret Service, men like von Zenden, formerly an officer of the Zweiter Garde Dragoner, but with some few exceptions they are usually men who have gone to smash. No active or commissioned officer does Secret Service work.
Von Tappken greeted me very tactfully. This is another typical asset of a Prussian Service officer, especially a naval man, and is quite contrary to the usual characteristics of English officials, whose brusqueness is too well and unpleasantly known.
After offering me a chair and cigars, Captain von Tappken began chatting.
"Well, Doctor," he said, "have you made up your mind to enter our Service? For a man fond of traveling and adventure, I promise you will find it tremendously interesting. I have carefully considered your equipment and experience and find that they will be of mutual benefit."
I asked him to explain what would be required of me, but he replied:
"Before my entering upon that, are you adverse to telling me if you have made up your mind to enter the Service?"
It was a fair question, and I replied:
"Yes, provided nothing will be directly required of me that is against all ethics."
I noticed a peculiar smile crossing his features. Then, looking me straight between the eyes and using the sharp, incisive language of a German official, he declared:
"We make use of the same weapons that are used against us. We cannot afford to be squeamish. The interests at stake are too vast to let personal ethical questions stand in the way. What would be required of you in the first instance, is to gain for us information such as we seek. The means by which you gain this information will be left entirely to your own discretion. We expect results. We place our previous knowledge on the subject required, at your disposal. You will have our organization to assist you, but you must understand that we cannot and will not be able to extricate you from any trouble in which you may become involved. Be pleased to understand this clearly. This service is dangerous, and no official assistance or help could be given under any circumstances."
To my cost, I later found this to be the truth. So far, so good. Captain von Tappken had neglected to mention financial inducements and I put the question to him.
He replied promptly:
"That depends entirely on the service performed. In the first instance you will receive a retaining fee of 4000 marks ($1000) a year. You will be allowed 10 marks ($2.50) a day for living expenses, whether in active service or not. For each individual piece of work undertaken you will receive a bonus, the amount of which will vary with the importance of the mission. Living expenses accruing while out on work must not exceed 40 marks ($10) a day. The amount of the bonus you are to receive for a mission will in each case be determined in advance. There is one other thing. One-third of all moneys accruing to you w ill be kept in trust for you at the rate of 5 per cent interest."
I laughed and said:
"Well, Captain, I can take care of my own money."
He permitted the shadow of a smile to play around his mouth.
"You may be able to," he said, "but most of our agents cannot. We have this policy for two reasons: In the first place, it gives us a definite hold upon our men. Secondly, we have found that unless we save some money for our agents, they never save any for themselves. In the event of anything happening to an agent who leaves a family or other relatives, the money is handed over to them."
I later cursed that rule, for when I was captured in England there were 30,000 marks ($7,500) due me at the Wilhelmstrasse and I can whistle for it now.
Captain von Tappken looked at me inquiringly, but I hesitated. It was not on account of monetary causes, but for peculiarly private reasons—the dilemma of one of our house becoming a spy. The Captain, unaware of the personal equation that was obsessing me before giving my word, evidently thought that his financial inducements were not alluring enough.
"Of course," he continued, "this scale of pay is only the beginning. As your use to us and the importance of your missions increases, so will your remuneration. That depends entirely on you."
He raised his eyebrows inquiringly.
"Very well," I said. "I accept."
He held out his hand. "You made up your mind quickly."
"It is my way, Captain. I take a thing or leave it."
"That's what I like, Doctor; a quick, decisive mind."
That seemed to please him.
"Very well. To be of use to us, you w ill need a lot of technical coaching. Are you ready to start tomorrow?"
"Very good," he said, "but to-morrow will do. Be here at ten A. M. Then give us daily as much of your time as we require."
He called in one of his secretaries, gave him command briefly and in a few minutes the man was back with an order for three hundred marks.
"This, Doctor, is your first month's living expenses. Retaining fees are paid quarterly."
As I pocketed the check I remarked:
"Captain, personally we are total strangers. How is it that you seem so satisfied with me?"
Again his peculiar smile was noticeable.
"That is outside our usual business procedure," he said. "I have my instructions from above and I simply act on them."
I was young then, and curious so I asked:
"Who are those above and what are their instructions?"
No sooner had I put that question than I learned my first lesson in the Secret Service. All traces of genial friendliness vanished from von Tappken's face. It was stern and serious.
"My boy," he said slowly, "learn this from the start and learn it well. Do not ask questions. Do not talk. Think! You will soon learn that there are many unwritten laws attached to this Service."
I never forgot that. It was my first lesson in Secret Service.
Chapter II. The Making of a Secret Agent
The average man or woman has only a hazy idea what European Secret Service and Espionage really means and accomplishes. Short stories and novels, written in a background of diplomacy and secret agents, have given the public vague impressions about the world of spies. But this is the first real unvarnished account of the system; the class of men and women employed; the means used to obtain the desired results and the risks run by those connected with this service. Since the days of Moses who employed spies in Canaan, to Napoleon Bonaparte, who inaugurated the first thorough system of political espionage, potentates, powerful ministers and heads of departments have found it necessary to obtain early and correct information other than through the usual official channels. To gain this knowledge they have to employ persons unknown and unrecognized in official circles. A recognized official such as an ambassador or a secretary of legation, envoys plenipotentiary and consuls, would not be able to gain the information sought, as naturally everybody is on their guard against them. Moreover, official etiquette prevents an ambassador or consul from acting in such a capacity.
In this age of rapid developments the need of quick and accurate information is even more pressing. Europe to-day is a sort of armed camp, composed of a number of nations of fairly equal strength, in which the units are more or less afraid of each other. Mutual distrust and conflicting interests compel Germany, England, France and Russia to spend billions of money each year on armaments. Germany builds one battleship; England lays down two; France adds ten battalions to her army; Germany adds twenty. So the relative strength keeps on a fair level. But with rapid constructions, new inventions of weapons, armor, aerial craft, this apparent equality is constantly disturbed. Here also enters the personal policy and ambitions and pet schemes of the individual heads of nations and their cabinets. Because there is a constant fear of being outdistanced, every government in Europe is trying its utmost to get ahead of the other. They, hence, keep a stringent watch on each other's movements. This is possible only by an efficient system of espionage, by trained men and women, willing to run the risks attached to this sort of work.
For risks there are. I have been imprisoned twice, once in the Balkans at Belgrade, once in England. I have been attacked five times and bear the marks of the wounds to this day. Escapes I have had by the dozen. All my missions were not successes, more often, failures, and the failures are often fatal. For instance:
Early in the morning of June 11, 1903, the plot which had been brewing in Servia ended with the assassination of the king, queen, ministers and members of the royal household of Servia. I shall not go into the undercurrent political significance of these atrocities as I had no active part in them, but I was sent down by my government later to ascertain as far as possible the prime movers in the intrigue which pointed to Colonel Mashin and a gang of officers of the Sixth Regiment. All these regicides received Russian pay, for King Alexander had become dangerous to Russia, because of his flirting with Austria. Besides, his own idiotic behavior and the flagrant indiscretions of Queen Draga had by no means endeared him to his people.
I stuck my nose into a regular hornets' nest and soon found myself in a most dangerous position. I was arrested by the provisional government on the order of Lieutenant Colonel Niglitsch on a most flimsy charge of traveling with false passports. In those times arrests and executions were the order of the day. The old Servian proverb of "Od Roba Ikad Iz Groba Nikad" (Out of prison, yes; out of the grave, never) was fully acted upon. There were really no incriminating papers of any description upon me, but my being seen and associating with persons opposed to the provisional government was quite enough to place me before a drumhead court-martial.
I was sitting in the Café Petit Parisien with Lieutenant Nikolevitch and Mons Krastov, a merchant of Belgrade, when a file of soldiers in charge of an officer pulled us out of our chairs and without any further ado marched us to the Citadel. The next morning we were taken separately into a small room where three men in the uniform of colonels were seated at a small iron table. No questions were asked.
"You are found guilty of associating with revolutionary persons. You were found possessing a passport not your own. You are sentenced to be shot at sundown."
The whole thing appeared to me first as a joke, then as a bluff, but looking closely into those high-cheekboned, narrow-eyed faces with the characteristically close-cropped brutal heads, the humorous aspect dwindled rapidly and I thought it about time to make a counter move. Without betraying any of my inward qualms—and believe me, I began to have some—I said quietly:
"I think you will find it advisable to inform M. Zolarevitch" (then minister of War) "that Count Weringrode sends his regards."
I saw them looking rather curiously at each other and then the center inquisitor fired a lot of questions at me, in answer to which I only shrugged my shoulders.
"That's all I have to say, monsieur."
I was shoved back in my cell. About four that afternoon one of the officers came to see me.
"Your message has not been sent. My comrades were against sending it, but I am related to Zolarevitch. So if you can show me some reason, I shall take your message."
I gave him some reason. So much so that he did not lose any time getting under way. In fact, it was a very pale, perturbed officer who rushed out of my cell. I didn't worry much, but when at about 7.30 the cell door opened and two sentries with fixed bayonets and cartridge pouches entered, placed me in the center and marched me into the courtyard, where ten more likewise equipped soldiers in charge of an officer awaited me, I felt somewhat green. I know a firing squad when I see one. I knew if my message ever reached responsible quarters, nothing could happen to me; but these were motley times and all sorts of delays may have happened to the officer.
"Right about wheel" and myself in the center, we marched out of the courtyard to a little hill to the west of the Citadel.
An old stone building—probably a decayed monastery, for I noticed several crumbled tombstones—was evidently selected for the place of execution. On a little rough, four-foot, stone wall we halted, and the officer, pulling out a document, began reading to me a rather lengthy preamble in Servian.
Up to then not a word had been spoken. I let him finish and then politely requested him, as I was not a Serb and consequently did not understand his lingo, to translate it into a civilized language, preferably German or French. He seemed somewhat startled and gave me to understand that he was led to believe I was a Serb. I used some very forcible German and French, both of which he was able to understand, pointing out to him that someone, somewhere, made a thundering big blunder which somehow would have to be paid for. He was clearly ill at ease, but said, "I have to obey my instructions." I had told him of my message to the minister, and although it was quite obvious I was sparring for time he seemed in no way inclined to rush the execution. Five minutes went; ten minutes went and looking at his watch, which showed five minutes to eight (although it was fast getting dusk, I could see that watch-dial distinctly), shrugging his shoulders and saying, "I can delay no longer," he called a sergeant, who placed me with my shoulders to the wall and offered me a handkerchief. I didn't want a handkerchief. A few sharp orders and twelve Mauser tubes pointed their ugly black snouts directly at me.
I hate to tell my sensation just then. Frankly, I felt nothing clearly. The only thing I remember distinctly was the third man in the second file held his gun in rather a slipshod manner, aiming it first at my midriff, next pointing it at my nose—which strangely enough caused me intense annoyance. How long we stood thus I don't know. The next thing I remember was a rattle of grounding arms and the sight of two other officers, excitedly gesticulating with the one in charge of the firing squad. All three presently came towards me and one pulling out a flask of cognac with a polite bow offered me a drink. I needed it; but didn't take it. All this time I had been standing motionless with my arms folded across my breast. I heard one say to the other, "Nitchka Curacha" (no coward). If he had only known.
Indeed, had I anticipated such an experience, had I known the things I know now I doubt if I would have been so pleased with the results of my first visit to Koenigergratzerstrasse 70, where the Intelligence Department of the German Admiralty is quartered. Will the reader step back with me in the narrative to the day of my officially joining the Service? Returning to my hotel after my interview with Captain von Tappken in his office, I began to reflect.
I had not entered the Service out of pure adventure or for monetary reasons alone. Money has never appealed to me as the all-powerful thing in life. I have always had enough for creature comforts and as for adventure I had had my fill during the Boer War and my world wanderings. No, I had joined the German Secret Service for quite a different reason. I was thinking of the influences that had pressed me out of my destined groove, by every human right my own. I remember how sanguine Count Reitzenstein was that through the Service I ought to gain the power I had lost. But as I sat in the hotel room had occult powers been given me, I never would have taken up Secret Service work. But one is not quite as wise at twenty-four as at thirty-nine.
Well satisfied with my prospects, I arose early the next morning and walked briskly to Captain Tappken's office. Punctually at ten o'clock I announced myself at the Admiralty and after the usual procedure with the door man, I was received by Herr von Stammer, private secretary of Captain Tappken. A very astute and calculating gentleman is Herr von Stammer. Suave, genial, talkative, he has the plausible and unstudied art of extracting information without committing himself in turn. A marvelous encyclopædia of devious Secret Service facts, an ideal tutor.
When we were alone in his office, von Stammer began by saying abruptly:
"From now on, you must be entirely and absolutely at our Service. You will report daily at twelve noon by telephoning a certain number. At all times you must be accessible. You will pay close attention to the following rules:
"Absolute silence in regard to your missions. No conversation with minor officials but only with the respective heads of departments or to whomever you are sent. You will make no memoranda nor carry written documents. You will never discuss your affairs with any employee in the Service whom you may meet. You are not likely to meet many. It is strictly against the rules to become friendly or intimate with any agent. You must abstain from intoxicating liquors. You are not permitted to have any women associates. You will be known to us by a number. You will sign all your reports by that number. Always avoid telephoning, telegraphing and cabling as much as possible. In urgent cases do so, but use the cipher that will be supplied to you."
He went on to give numerous other minor details and instructions, elaborating the system, but which might prove wearisome here. I was in his office all the forenoon, and when he ushered me out I half expected to be called into von Tappken's presence to be sent on my first mission. Instead of that, I had to wait five months before I was given my first work and an exceedingly unimportant thing it was. During those five months I was kept at a steady grind of schooling in certain things. Day after day, week after week, I was grounded in subjects that were essential to efficient Secret Service work.
Broadly, they could be divided into four classes—topography, trigonometry, naval construction and drawing. The reasons for these you will see from my missions. My tutors were all experts in the Imperial Service. A Secret Service agent sent out to investigate and report on the condition, situation, and armament of a fort like Verdun in France must be able to make correct estimates of distances, height, angles, conditions of the ground, etc. This can only be done by a man of the correct scientific training. He must have the science of topography at his finger tips; he must be able to make quick and accurate calculations using trigonometry, as well as possessing skill as a draftsman. In my mission to Port Arthur, where I had to report on the defenses, I found this training invaluable.
The same applies to the subject of naval construction. Before entering the German Secret Service, I certainly knew the difference between a torpedo and a torpedo boat destroyer, but naturally could not give an accurate description of the various types of destroyers and torpedoes. My instructor in this subject was Lieutenant Captain Kurt Steffens, torpedo expert of the Intelligence Department of the Imperial Navy. After a month of tutelage under him, I was able to tell the various types of torpedoes, submarines, and mines, etc., in use by the principal Powers. I could even tell by the peculiar whistle it made whether the torpedo that was being discharged was a Whitehead or a Brennan.
I was also drilled in the construction of every known kind of naval gun. Dozens of model war-crafts were shown to me and explained. I saw the model of every warship in the world. For days at a time I was made to sit before charts that hung from the walls of certain rooms in the Intelligence Department and study the silhouettes of every known varying type of war-craft. I was schooled in this until I could tell at a glance what type of a battleship, cruiser, or destroyer it was, whether it was peculiar to the English, French, Russian or United States Navy. As I shall show in relating one of my missions to England, I was brushed up on the silhouette study of British warships, for I had to be able to discern and classify them at long range. The different ranking officers of the navies of the world, their uniforms, the personnel of battleships, the systems of flag signals, and codes, were explained to me in detail. I was given large books in which were colored plates of the uniforms and signal flags of every navy in the world. I had to study these until at a glance I could tell the rank and station of the officers and men of the principal navies. The same with the signal flags. I pored over those books night after night into the early hours of the morning. My regular hours for tuition were from ten to twelve in the forenoon and from two until six in the afternoon. But it was impossible to compress all the work into that time. I was anxious to get my first mission, and I presume I did a great deal of cramming.
My study was not all in Berlin. I spent most of my time there at Koenigergratzerstrasse 70 and at the Zeughaus, the great museum of the German General Staff. But there were side trips to the big government works at Kiel and Wilhelmshafen. There I was taught every detail of the mechanics of naval construction and I was not pronounced equipped until I could talk intelligently about every unassembled part of a gun, torpedo tube, or mine.
In the course of my five months' instruction under the various experts of the Prussian Service I had many opportunities to observe the exhaustive thoroughness and the minuteness of detail which the German General Staff possesses. I did not lose the chance of this opportunity. I really did observe and see more than was intended for me to see. Of the amazing amount of labor, time and money that has been spent to gather the information contained in the secret archives of the German General Staff, the marvelous system of war that has been perfected in the German Empire, I shall tell when I consider the secrets of the War Machine.
Naturally, I soon came to know still other things than what they taught me. I began to consider the whole proposition of Secret Service, and before relating my first important mission for Germany I shall tell you some of the general secrets of the System.
There are four systems of Secret Service in Europe, the four leading powers each possessing one. First in systematic efficiency is the German, next comes the Russian, then the French, and English. England has a very efficient service in India and her Asiatic possessions, but has only lately entered the European field. Last but not least comes the International Secret Service Bureau with headquarters in Belgium, a semi-private concern which procures reliable information for anyone who will pay for it. This service is generally entrusted with the procuring of technical details, such as the plans of a new kind of gun or data on a new and minor fortification. Mr. Vance Thompson has also cited special missions like this one that follows.
Not often does the chance come to leave the regular channels of espionage and go forth upon a mission out of the ordinary. That chance came a few years ago to the Russian agents in Brussels. In St. Petersburg the chiefs were desirous of knowing the identity and names of a group of revolutionists who had formed a sort of colony in Montreux, Switzerland. A French woman, known sometimes as Theresa Prevost (the last I heard of her she was in prison) was detailed to the mission. Young and clever was Theresa; likewise the man who was ordered to accompany her, posing as a "brother," Charles Prevost.
The chief of these Russian fugitives, who were down around the lake of Geneva, brewing their dark plans, was known. He was Goluckoffsky, and he had a son twenty-two years of age—an impressionable Russian son. Hence the young and pretty Theresa.
It was decided by her Brussels chiefs that she assume the role of an heiress from Canada. Five thousand francs for preliminary expenses were handed over to her and with Charles, the brother, she descended upon Montreux. If you were there at the time you will recall the social triumph made by the young Canadian heiress. You may even remember that she seemed to be infatuated with the young impressionable son of old Goluckoffsky. The day long they were together. They were going to be married, and Charles Prevost the "brother," stood in the background, chatted amiably with old Goluckoffsky and his friends and smiled.
Then as an heiress should, Theresa and her "brother" invited Goluckoffsky, his family and friends, to a pre-nuptial luncheon. No expense was spared, for the wires had moaned with requests sent to Brussels for money. Young Goluckoffsky was delighted with his fiancée. She was insistent that all his friends should be there, all the revolutionaries—although of course his dear Theresa did not know that. How the spelling of their names puzzled her. With gay heart young Goluckoffsky wrote out all their names on a slip of paper so she could send their invitations properly—the names St. Petersburg wanted to know.
Came the day of the luncheon, a gala affair in the banquet room of the hotel. Theresa looked charming; even the grimmest of the old revolutionists were taken with her. Old Goluckoffsky beamed upon this sparkling febrile woman, rich too, who was to marry his son.
Ices had been served when Theresa, her pretty face in smiles, declared that she had a surprise for her guests. To her it was the day of days. What better than a group photograph of her dear and new friends? How she would treasure it! Strangely enough this did not please the guests. Photographs were dangerous. Suppose, in some way, the Okrana got hold of them. They breathed easier, though, when Theresa, calling in the photographer—the best in Lausanne, she assured them—instructed him to deliver all copies to Mr. Goluckoffsky, her dear father-in-law to be. So the revolutionists grouped themselves on the hotel lawn; the photographer pressed the bulb; and everybody laughed.
As quickly as the photographer could print his proofs they were delivered to Theresa; that night she and her "brother" left Montreux. In two days the names of all the revolutionists in young Goluckoffsky's handwriting and their pictures were delivered to the chief in Brussels. A substantial fee was paid Theresa, besides, and she must have smiled; some of those young Russians are delightful.
So much for an example of the clever work done by Brussels. The German Service, in which I served on and off for twelve years, has three distinct branches—the Army, Navy and Personal, each branch having its own chief and its own corps of men and women agents. The Army and Navy division is controlled by the General Staff of Berlin (Grosser General Stabe), the most marvelous organization in the world. The Political and Personal branch is controlled from the Wilhelmstrasse, the German Foreign Office, the Emperor in person, or his immediate Privy Councilor. The Army and Navy divisions confine themselves to the procuring of hidden and secret information as regards armaments, plans, discoveries, etc. The political branch concerns itself with the supervision of meetings between potentates, cabinet ministers and so forth. The Personal branch, under the direct control of the Privy Councilor, is used by the Emperor for his own special purposes and service in this branch is the sine qua non of the service.
The Personal consists of all classes of men and women. Princes and counts, lawyers and doctors, actors and actresses, mondaines of the great world, demi-mondaines of the half world, waiters and porters, all are made use of as occasion arises. It may well happen that your interesting acquaintance in the salon of an express steamer or your charming companion in the tearoom of the Ritz is the paid agent of some government. Great singers, dancers and artists, especially of Russian and Austrian origin, are often spies. Notably Anna Pavlowa, famous for light feet and nimble wit, said wit being retained by the Russian government at 50,000 rubles per annum. When Mlle. Pavlowa travels in Germany, she has the honor of a very unostentatious bodyguard, the government being anxious that nothing should happen to them. Perhaps Mademoiselle may remember a little incident at the Palais de Dance in Berlin—Anna vs. He of Lichtenstein.
Or perhaps Mademoiselle will recall a little episode in the Eis Arena in Berlin during a certain New Year's Eve carnival when the restoration—not the loss—of her magnificent gold chatelaine bag caused her much embarrassment. The chatelaine in question being dexterously commandeered by an expert in such matters of the Secret Service squad.
It happened that the Personal Branch of the German Secret Service was exceedingly interested in that gold bag. Mademoiselle had been carrying on an affair with a young ordnance officer of the Potsdam garrison. Now the Service does not like to see officers, especially those of the ordnance, becoming involved with ladies like the Pavlowa. On this particular night he had presented her with the new bag and she had been injudicious enough to have kept in the golden receptacle a dangerously compromising letter that he had enclosed. Injudicious, dear lady! Corsage or stockings, Mademoiselle; but vanity bags—never!
I have reason to believe that the following incident cost the Pavlowa a rather remunerative engagement in Berlin.
Celebrating the coming of the New Year, Mademoiselle and her party were feasting in the Ice Arena. I happened to be at near-by table, and saw everything; as well as later hearing the inside of it.
The gold chatelaine lay on the table at her elbow. Upon observing its position, the waiter—a secret agent on the case—deliberately tipped over a champagne glass that stood within a few inches of the bag. Of course, Mademoiselle was worried lest the wine run over on her gown and while thus preoccupied, the waiter, stammering apologies, mopped up the table cloth with his serviette—mopped up the wine and cleverly covering the bag folded it in the napkin and hurried away. In two minutes he had opened it, abstracted the letter from the young ordnance officer; and was back, apologizing to the Pavlowa.
"Your pardon, Mademoiselle," he said, handing her the gold chatelaine." In my haste I picked up this bag by mistake. I suppose it is yours."
With a slight start she said "yes," took the bag and hurriedly opening it felt for the letter. To her dismay it was gone. I saw her eyes narrow a little and then I marveled at time cleverness of the woman.
"No," she suddenly said, "that is not my bag. I never saw it before. I advise you to find the owner."
Clever Anna! You sacrificed the costly gift, but you went over the frontier just the same.
The necessary qualifications of an agent vary of course with the class of work to be done. We can dismiss the waiter and porter class, as they never receive independent commands and work only under direct supervision on minor details without knowing why. The trusted agent handling important matters and documents must needs be a person of intelligence, tact and address. He must be a linguist and, above all, a man of resource and a close student of his fellow men. In the woman agent charm and tact, beauty and manners, à la grande dame, knowledge of the world and men are essential. The pay varies, but is always good. Expenses are never questioned, the money being no object. For instance, I spent on a mission through the Riviera 20,000 marks in fourteen days. My fixed salary towards the end was 10,000 marks a year, besides twenty marks a day living expenses when not at work, which was automatically tripled irrespective of expenses when out on work. Besides, there is a bonus set out for each piece of work, the amount of which varies with the importance of the case in hand. I received as much as 30,000 marks ($7,500) for a single mission performed successfully.
The risks are great, so are the rewards—if successful. If not, then one pays the usual price of failures, in this case only more so. For in the event of disaster no official help or protection could or would be granted and quarter is neither asked nor given. The work is interesting and fascinating to those of an adventurous turn of mind and not overly nervous about their health or squeamish in regards to established ethics. I would not suggest the Secret Service as a means of livelihood for a nervous person. At times it is arduous and strenuous work and mostly undertaken by men and women who fear neither man nor devil. It is not compatible to longevity. As a rule, the constant strain of being on the qui vive, playing a lone hand against the most powerful influences often unknown, having one's plans upset at the last moment and continually pitting one's own brain against some of the acutest and shrewdest minds of the world, the knowledge that the slightest blunder means loss of liberty, often of life, is wearing, to say the least.
I have known men and women, courageous to a degree, who have broken dowm under the strain; sooner or later one is bound to succumb. I have known of a dozen men and women who have mysteriously disappeared, "dropped out of sight," caught or killed—not always by their opponents.
To cite but two cases, one of a woman, the other of a man.
Olga Bruder was a spy. She worked for Germany and for the Service Bureau in Brussels. A few years ago it was announced in the European newspapers that a woman known as Olga Bruder had committed suicide in a hotel at Memel on the Russian border. Fraulein Bruder had been sent after the plans of a Russian fort. In Berlin they learned that she had obtained them, but becoming involved in a love affair with a Russian officer was holding them out, planning to restore them to him. Also, contrary to the service regulations, she knew four foreign agents well. Later reports from Danzig revealed the fact that she had become enamored with a sectional chief of the Russian Service and that she was about to give up everything to him. So Olga Bruder committed suicide. She was poisoned.
As for Lieutenant von Zastrov, an ex-army officer in the German Secret Service, he was killed in a duel. Zastrov was suspected of flirting with Russian agents—only suspected. He knew too much to be imprisoned. He was a civilian and under the German law entitled to a public hearing. Had he still been a military man, a secret tribunal would have been possible, but being the scion of an old aristocratic house and knowing official secrets, it was not wise to put him in against the regular machinery of elimination. So Zastrov was challenged to a duel. He killed the first man the Service chiefs sent against him, yet no sooner was that duel over than he was challenged again. In half an hour Zastrov was dead.
Yes, your own employers often think it advisable at times to eliminate a too clever or knowing member of their service, unless that same member has procured for himself a solid good "life insurance" in the nature of documentary evidence of such character that to meddle with him brings danger of disclosure. Of late there have been no attempts on my life.
Chapter III. Into the East
Reclining in my deck chair on the N. D. L. liner Bayern, bound for Singapore, I was smoking a pipe and idly speculating. I had cultivated the acquaintance of my table neighbor, a Japanese, Baron Huraki, and was at the moment, expecting him to come up the companionway and take his place in his deck chair beside me. Instead came two officers of the Second Siberian Rifles, strolling along the deck. It was obvious that, although it still lacked three hours of noon, these gentlemen had been quite frequently to the shrine of Bacchus. I had no fault to find with that, as long as they did not interfere with my own personal comfort. When they began tacking along, talking at the top of their voices on that part of the deck known by experienced travelers to be reserved for repose and reading, however, they began to irritate me. When one of them threw himself into the Baron's chair and displayed that beastly annoying habit of continually wriggling and creaking the chair, meanwhile shouting to his companion at the top of his lungs, I lost all patience. It only needed Baron Huraki's appearance and quiet request for the evacuation of his deck chair, and the insolent stare and non-compliance of the Russian, to make me chip in with:
"Damn it, sir! You don't own the whole world yet."
I went on in terse military German which eighty per cent. of all Russian officers know and the trend of which is never misunderstood. I pointed out that any further encroaching would be resented in a most drastic and sudden manner. The usual farcical exchange of cards, permitting all sorts of bluffs, does not impress a Russian, but the imminent chance of blows from fists does. A pair of astonished bulging eyes, a muttered apology and quietness reigned.
With a mild smile Baron Huraki dropped into his chair, but I did not like the expression in his eyes. Knowing the prowess of the Baron as an exponent of his national system of self-defense (I had seen him harmlessly toss about the biggest sailor on the Bayern, the chief butcher, who was as strong as an ox), I said:
"It's a wonder to me, Baron, that you didn't throw that boor half way across the deck."
I shall never forget his answer.
"We of the Samurai never fight when there is nothing behind it. It is not the time."
I did not like the expression in his eyes.
All this transpired because I was on the road to Singapore, away from Berlin, on my first important mission in the German Secret Service. The Intelligence Department had instructed me to ascertain the extent of the new docks and fortifications in course of completion in the Straits Settlements—an assignment calling for exact topographical data, photographs and plans.
Leaving port, I had found the Bayern comfortably crowded. In the East war clouds were gathering and among the passengers were a number of Japanese called home, as I afterwards learned, for the impending struggle. At Port Said we had taken on a Russian contingent, quite a few of whom were officers bound for Port Arthur, Dalny and Vladivostock, and in view of the gathering conflict I found the relative conduct and bearing of representatives of these races that were soon to clash, vastly interesting.
And after my experience with the Russians, I was to know more. From that time on, I began to notice a subtle change in Baron Huraki's attitude toward me. Quite of his own accord he discussed with me the customs, ideals and aspirations of his caste and country. Wrapped in a Shuai kimono, his gift to me, we spent many hot and otherwise tedious nights, sprawled in our deck chairs, discussing unreservedly the questions of the East. What I learned then and the insight I got into the aims and character of Nippon, were invaluable to me. Baron Huraki, now high in the services of the Mikado, is my friend still. Once a year he sends me Shuraino-Ariki, a wonderful spray of cherry blossoms, the Japanese symbol of rejuvenating friendship.
A Secret Service agent, although making no friends or acquaintances, always makes it his business to converse with and study his fellow travelers. Following my usual habit, I went out of my way to cultivate the acquaintance of the Japanese, particularly Huraki. A scholar of no mean attainments was the Baron.
Quietly, without being didactic, he upheld his end in most discussions on applied sciences or philosophic arguments, putting forth his deep knowledge in an unobtrusive way. I found this trait to be an invariable rule with most of the Japanese with whom I came in contact. Once or twice during our lengthy and pleasant chats I tried to veer the subject round to the all-engrossing Eastern question, only to be met with the maddening bland smile of the East. I was rather inexperienced in the fathomless, undefinable ways of the Orient, but on the Bayern I learned rapidly the truths that Western methods and strategy are absolutely useless against the impenetrable stoicism of an Asiatic and that only personal regard and obligation on their part will produce results. In striking contrast to the Japanese, small and sinewy, any two of them weighing no more than one Russian, quiet, taciturn, genial and abstemious, were the children of the "Little White Father." The Russians were an aggressive, big, well set up, heavy type of men, by no means teetotalers, talkative, with overbearing swagger, always posing, talking contemptuously about the possible struggle in the East, invariably referring to the Japanese as "little monkey men." Fortunate for me was it that the Bayern was carrying both Russians and Japanese; the knowledge I acquired from Baron Huraki of the Asiatics was invaluable in Singapore; what I learned of Russians, I needed at Port Arthur. But I am anticipating my narrative.
Arriving in Singapore, I put up at the Hotel de la Paix on the Marine Parade. I posed as an ordinary tourist with a leaning toward hunting and a fad of doing research work in tropical botany. I gradually became acquainted with a number of English officers and was introduced at their clubs. The information obtained through these channels about the new naval base was merely theoretical and I soon found that to obtain practical results I would have to get in touch with the native clerks. In the English Eastern possessions, you see, most clerical and minor mechanical positions are held by natives. It soon was brought home to me, though, that this cultivating natives was by no means easy and a rather dangerous thing to do. To be in any way successful, I had to find a native of a higher caste, one with sufficient influence to command the clerks. If I could get hold of one of the numerable discontented petty rajahs, for instance, there might be a chance of obtaining what I sought.
In one of the clubs, I found a clue. A young Rajah, one of the numerous coterie of petty princes—fair play compels me to withhold his name—had got himself into some trouble and the paternal government had promptly suspended his income. Here was my chance. I soon ascertained young Rajah's haunts and made it my business to frequent them. One day I found him on the veranda of the Marine Hotel and asked him for a match, making a return compliment of a cigarette. This was a procedure against established British social usage in the East, where it is considered infra dig to meet a native on a social footing. Herein lies a grave danger to English colonial policy. Your semi-European educated native, having partly absorbed European manners, resents this subordination and ostracism. So, with this high-spirited, rather clever young rajah. I accepted his invitation to whiskey "pegs" and subsequent dinner at his bungalow. One visit led to another and we were soon rather intimate. The young Rajah, having the usual native taste for luxury well developed and his income stopped, I became of some monetary assistance to him. Also, judiciously fostering his discontent against the government, I soon had him in a desired frame of mind. Through his influence on the native clerks, I was able to gain all the plans, data and photographs of England's new naval base in the Straits Settlement.
By this time my close association with this notorious young Rajah was marked and I found it advisable to pull up stakes, which I did in short order, arranging passage on the N. D. L. liner Sachsen, homeward bound. Having a week to spare and finding that by leaving the Sachsen at Colombo, I could catch the Prinz Regent Leopold of the same line, coming up from Australia en route for Europe, I had my ticket transferred. This would give me a ten-day vacation in Ceylon, where I had a number of acquaintances, having hunted there during my early travels. Accordingly, at Colombo I put up at the Galle Face Hotel, and the first man I met was Allan MacGregor, one of Lipton's tea estate managers, in Kandy and Newara Elya. MacGregor and I were old pals, having done much hunting and bridge playing in days gone by. I planned to spend a week with him and go after some leopards. By the by, I'd like to see the MacGregor's face when he learns that his quondam friend and boon companion was an international spy!
"Dinna get sair, Mac. You're no the only chiel what'll tak a wee surprise."
I was just arranging a hunting trip with MacGregor when Bill Peters, manager of the hotel, another old acquaintance, handed me a cable knocking all my plans to bits. It was a cipher message from Captain von Tappken, and shortly I was again on the high sea, bound not for home, but for Port Arthur. My orders were to ascertain how far the Port Arthur fortifications were completed and to report on the general conditions as I found them. I wondered not a little at this mission, as I could not then see what close interest Germany could have in a possible war between Russia and Japan. Also, I by no means relished the assignment, for it was a perilous business and I judged the Russians to be extremely suspicious—which I afterwards learned they were not.
I decided to travel under the cloak of a doctor of natural history and botany, my medical training giving me the necessary knowledge to impersonate the character. The reader will understand that if Doctor Franz von Cannitz is subsequently mentioned, it refers to me. Almost everybody, especially my government, knew that war between Russia and Japan was inevitable. I say, all, except Russia.
To make this situation clear, let me hark back a little. Japan, beating China in the war of 1895, took and occupied Port Arthur. Japan later, compelled by hostile demonstrations on the part of Russia backed up by France and Germany, restored Port Arthur to China. Note the holding aloof of England here. The actual text of the ultimatum delivered was that the possession of ceded territory by Japan would be detrimental to the lasting peace of the Orient. Japan was bitterly humiliated and an Asiatic never forgets or forgives. Japan bided her time. Russia's duplicity in the Boxer Campaign, and her seizure of Port Arthur, gave Japan the needed casus belli. Result, the Russian-Japanese War.
Arriving in Port Arthur, I established myself at the Hotel l'Europe and with prospecting spade, botanical trowel and butterfly net, I sallied forth around the hills of Port Arthur. The first thing which struck me was the enormous number of Chinese and Chunshuses (bad Coolies) employed everywhere. I came to know that they were not all Chinese Coolies and that almost every tenth man was a disguised Japanese. To an observer, trained in the facial characteristics of the Oriental, it was not difficult to pick out the Japanese from the mass of Coolies. They fairly swarmed in Port Arthur right under the very noses of the Russians. As Baron Huraki had told me during our passage on the Bayern, his countrymen were actually employed in the building of the Port Arthur defenses! These Japanese w ere later able to give invaluable information in directing the Japanese batteries. Numerous other alleged Coolies were acting as servants to Russian officers. I also found that on the Lioa Teah Shan Railway and at Pidgeon Bay the very porters were Japanese. In fact, the entire Russian stronghold was infested with them.
This carelessness, lack of knowledge or suspicion, with a total lack of belief on the part of the Russian officers, that the "little monkey men" would ever dare attack, is in my opinion the chief cause of the comparatively quick fall of Port Arthur. For even with the incompleted defenses the place was tremendously strong. Everywhere I could see the most elaborate plans incomplete. For instance, as I wandered through the hills seeking my botanical specimens, I found that the chain of forts on the hills of the Quang Tong peninsula south and west of Dalny, were totally unfinished and that the Kuan Ling section of the Port Arthur and Dalny railway was not even adequately protected from capture by a hostile force. The lack of adequate supervision and the general slovenliness prevailing made it easy for me to go about unchallenged. I mixed freely with officers and men. The expenditure of a few rubles on vodka, in the case of the men, and the never-rejected invitation on the part of most officers to join in a jamboree, made me a very popular figure indeed. Through them I learned that the provisions of Port Arthur were in a most deplorable state. To use but one instance: Out of 1,420,000 pounds of flour, nearly one-half was bad with sour cords, which caused part of the enormous amount of sickness even then prevailing in the Port Arthur garrison. During the war forty-five per cent. of the troops were incapacitated because of unsanitary food. I found 600,000 pounds of maize were wormy and over 700,000 pounds of corned beef were putrid. Women and wine, however, abounded.
Never in any place—and I know all the gayest and fastest places on earth—have I seen, comparatively speaking, such an enormous amount of wine in stock, or such a number of demi-mondaines assembled. Most of the officers had private harems. I often sat in the Casino and watched the officers of the First Tomsk Regiment, the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Siberian Rides practicing with their newly supplied Mauser-pistols on tables loaded with bottles containing the most costly vintage wines and cognacs. At such times the place literally ran ankle deep in wine. There were over sixty gambling houses and dancing halls supporting more than a thousand filles de joie. In fact, the general intemperance was such that on the night of Admiral Togo's attack more than half the complement of the Russian fleet was ashore, dead drunk, in honor of one of the tutelary Russian saints.
The harbor defenses comprising submarine mines and searchlight stations, etc., I found to be in the worst condition. In pottering around, I visited many of the switchboard stations controlling the submarine mine fields. Everywhere the eye met evidences of defective work—rusty contacts, open insulations and exposed connections. There were carelessly exposed buoys betraying to the naked eye supposedly invisible submarine mines. The whole mine field was so badly laid that the Japanese were subsequently able to drag and explode three out of every five mines. This explains the astounding fact that during Admiral Togo's five dashes, some of them lasting thirty-six hours, all that he lost from torpedoes and mines was one ship, the Hatsuse, which struck a floating mine.
I did a great deal of investigating the composition and geological formation of the ground surrounding Port Arthur. I found most of the ground consisting of loose layers of lava scoriæ. The comparative easy capture of the otherwise immensely strong 203 Metre Hill did not surprise me. The texture of the ground, besides having a deadening effect on shell fire, made the approach to the forts by means of parallels surprisingly easy. The Japanese, by the way, also knew this peculiarity of the ground and used it to great advantage in their advances. I also found the forts on 174 and 131 Metre Hills as well as the north fort of East Rekwan in an incompleted state. The commander of the forts, General Smyrnoff, was using strenuous efforts to complete the work, but the personal animosity of General Krondrachinko, the commander of the general defenses, vetoed most of his suggestions. The vast sums of money which the Russian central government appropriated for the fortification of Port Arthur, honestly used, would have made the place completely impregnable. It is not too much to say—and this will be borne out by any trained observer and student of the conditions then existing in and around Port Arthur—that sixty per cent. of the money for defense purposes disappeared mysteriously.
All the Russian officers, however, were not grafters and drunken libertines. Among them I did find men of alert and earnest character who were quite aware of the frightful conditions existing, but who were so used to them right through Russia that they viewed things with true Slavonic composure. I even found the searchlight stations back on the hills to be in a deplorable state. Indeed, on the night of Togo's second attack on Port Arthur the power plant was out of order and the searchlights which should have flooded the harbor with light were dark. The plant was subsequently repaired under enormous difficulties and cost, but of no avail. Coolie spies had procured the exact location of the power house and searchlight stations and thus aided, the Japanese gunners riddled them with shell. A great deal has been said about the wonderful marksmanship of the Japanese, but for the most part it was due to data on exact distances and locations, furnished by their spies.
Although the officers were a careless, thoughtless lot, I found that the personnel of the garrison contained, on the whole, a good type of Russian soldier. They were not brilliant but faithful and obedient. A Russian regiment is never routed. They stand and are killed, being too stolid to run. I found most of the officers of Port Arthur to be brilliant dashing men of the world, personally of high animal courage, but self-indulgence, neglect, disbelief in hostilities and underestimation of their foe, undermined them.
Among the high officials at Port Arthur, Colonel Reiss, Commander of the Ordnance Service, stood out alone. He was the only officer, not excepting General Stoessel himself, who seemed to realize the gravity of the whole situation. In long chats which I had with him, he more than hinted at the lamentable state of his ammunition. Once I asked him why these conditions were not changed and he said:
"The Little Father (the Czar) is far away,"—he shrugged expressively.
Officers told me that tons and tons of ammunition bags did not contain full weight. Whole ammunition trucks had only a double layer of powder bags on top, the rest containing sand bags to be used only for bastions and escarpions, the money flowing into the pockets of the army contractors. I met General Stoessel at the Casino twice, and neither time did he impress me as a military genius. A soldier of the Buller type, he was bluff, hearty, courageous and stupid. His florid bearded face, thick-set figure and his deep guttural growls reminded me of a Boer Dopper.
Among all the Russians I met at Port Arthur, the most interesting figure was to me the great battle painter Verestshagin. I am proud to be able to say that he called me "friend." I happened to be of some assistance to him in alleviating an attack of malaria. This, with a similar taste in the arts and literature, soon put us on a friendly and intimate footing. I have met many men of letters, artists and statesmen, but never one who impressed me so much with the profundity of his learning and thought as did Verestshagin, and I am not easily impressed.
One night we were sitting on the Casino veranda overlooking the wonderful Harbor of Port Arthur. It was one of those quiet, balmy, semi-tropical nights for which this part of the world is famous, one of those crystal, clear, soundless nights, and the silhouettes of Russia's grim silent battle monsters riding at anchor were sharply outlined on the moonlit waters of the bay. We were smoking our pipes, having just finished a long chat about the history of these regions—the old Manchu and Tartar dynasties, how far they had influenced and still influence the history of the world, the Volker-Wanderung—of the Huns, the Goths, and Vandals—a subject on which Verestshagin disclosed a deep store of knowledge.
As the night was far advanced, I suggested that I had probably trespassed long enough on his kindness and hospitality. He turned around in his chair and placing his hand on my shoulder said in his soft deep voice:
"No, Doctor Cannitz, you are doing me a service instead. I am restless to-night. I have a curious presentiment that before long these lovely hills will hear the roar of guns in earnest." Dreamily speaking as if to himself he continued, "And Russia will lose . . . but I shall not see it." Abruptly he looked up, sat erect in his chair and shook himself as if throwing off something that oppressed him.
"Do you believe in premonition. Doctor? I know I shall find my death here soon."
An indescribable shuddery sensation seemed to pass over me. I am by no means sentimental or easily moved, nor am I overly superstitious; but I have encountered one or two things in the course of my life which cannot be explained by rule and line. Throwing off my sudden strange mood, I told Verestshagin that his morbid fancies were due to his still feverish condition, and the depressing effect of over-doses of sulphate of quinine. He rose and smiled, and said:
"Of course you are right, Doctor."
Before parting, he gave me a little sketch of Port Arthur which I have still. I keep it as a treasured memento of one of the few really good men I have met, and one of the few from whom I had been able to part without harming.
Verestshagin's premonition was fulfilled. He died—a hero's death, going down with Admiral Marakoff on the flagship of the Russian squadron six weeks later.
I remained at Port Arthur for another five weeks, and exactly seven days before Togo's first night attack I received a cable from my government. It was in cipher, of course, and I was ordered to leave Port Arthur immediately and make my way home as there was danger of my being bottled up at any minute. It is significant that in the Intelligence Department at Berlin they knew an attack was imminent, although they did not know it at Port Arthur. Furthermore, Russian securities dropped eighteen points on the New York Stock Exchange, hours before the official knowledge of the attack came through. This information leaked out through the German Embassy in Washington. Seven days after I left, Togo made the torpedo attack in which he sank the Czarevitch, Retvitsan and Palada.
Before I took the steamer back to Europe, I went to Kiou-Chau, the German colony in China, and filed a long report by cipher cable. Six months later I had the satisfaction of having a talk with numerous officers of the German General Staff and of receiving compliments on the correctness of my observations, reports and predictions.
Later I learned the reasons why I had been sent to Port Arthur. Germany desired to ascertain the exact relative strength of the Port Arthur defenses and Russian positions in the Far East for the following reasons:
Since the time of Frederick the Great, the only power on the Continent which Germany has feared and has always been loath openly to quarrel with, is Russia. Through the setback she received in the Far East in 1905, her influence steadily decreased in the Balkans and the recent fiasco of Russian machinations during the Balkan war, has made her become a secondary factor for decades to come. Germany, through her keen Intelligence Department, foresaw the result of the Russo-Japanese conflict and immediately set about to undermine and destroy Russian influence south of the Austrian border.
By Russia's defeat in the East, the balance of the power was completely shifted. It gave Germany and Austria the desired opportunities and a free hand in the Balkans and Turkey. Had Germany through her Intelligence Department found Russia invulnerable in the East, the map of the Balkans would have to be painted in different colors—as you will see.
Chapter IV. At the Sublime Porte
I was back in Berlin from my mission to the Far East on March 10, 1905. The next four months were rather commonplace—odd little commissions of no particular interest or importance.
On July the 5th, however, there came a hurried summons from Captain von Tappken for me to report at Koenigergratzerstrasse 70. I lost no time in getting around, nor did I have to wait to be ushered up. I was shown direct to the Captain's office and as he received me, I noticed that he was in a rather excited frame of mind.
"Verdammt! Doctor! I am going to lose you. I am requested by the Wilhelmstrasse to hand you over to them. Very annoying. I do not like to lose you from our branch here. But we must obey."
I expressed my regrets.
"Doctor, you are bettering yourself. It is seldom that they over there take any notice of us over here, or request the services of any of my men. But your work has attracted some attention. I shall request that your services are not entirely lost to this department. Herr Stammer will take you over. Good-by and good luck!"
He gave me a hearty handshake and my connection with the Intelligence Department of the Imperial Navy came to an end. Stammer and I hailed a taxi and drove to the Wilhelmstrasse, where the doorkeeper put me through an official ceremony similar to the procedure of Koenigergratzerstrasse 70. Stammer gave the commissaire his card and we were shown into a chamber and bidden to wait. I was frankly curious about what was in store for me, but I knew better by now than to ask questions. Presently there entered a tall, thin, iron-gray gentleman, the very type of a Prussian bureaucrat. Walking with quick nervous steps to his desk he acknowledged our bows with a curt nod and turning to Stammer he said:
"This is Dr. Graver, your Excellency."
"Ah, yes. Sehr schön. Convey my thanks to Captain Tappken, Stammer."
Stammer then bowing himself out, I was asked to step into an anteroom. There a secretary took me in hand and informed me that the tall, thin, iron-gray gentleman was Graf Botho von Wedel, Wirklicher Geheimrat and Vortragender Rab Botho Kaiser—(Privy Councilor to the German Emperor).
So—Count Wedel. H'm! Although this was the first time I had seen the Count, I had heard a great deal about him. The Emperor's Privy Councilor and right hand was the head of the political sections of the Secret Service. This promised to be interesting. I wondered what the likely upshot would be, but I was interrupted in my soliloquy by a summons to reenter the Count's chamber.
I was shown to a seat. Graf Wedel looked me over carefully and minutely for a considerable length of time with a frank stare of appraisal.
"How old are you, Doctor?"
I must confess my extreme youth always made this question one of secret annoyance.
"Twenty-five, your Excellency."
"Very young, very young." He stared at me again and after a pause said:
"Yet the reports about your work are satisfactory and show discretion and intelligence above your years."
I bowed in acknowledgment.
"You will from now on," he said, "become attached to this section of the Service. You will be trusted with some very grave and important matters. You will receive your orders and instructions only from me. You will report only to me direct. On no account will you see any subordinate or any person, no matter what his official status, without my expressed permission. Verstehen sie?"
"For funds," he continued, "you will apply to my secretary. Of your expenses you will furnish a monthly account. How soon can you be ready to go on a mission?"
I told him in two hours.
"Good!" he exclaimed, "the sooner the better. This is what I want you to do. You will go at once to Constantinople and find out which of the court officials are in French and Russian pay. You will find out the favorites of the high officials and officers, especially the nationality of these women. I will not give you any points of introductions. They might lead you to be suspected. They are a crafty lot down there. Be careful and take your time. You know nothing can be done in a hurry down in that country,"—he paused as if waiting for questions from me. We discussed a few minor points then he said:
"Your official number with us from now on will be 1734. You will always use 17 to sign personal cipher messages sent to me. You will use 34 in signing official reports and communications."
The necessary arrangements for my preliminary expenses were discussed with one of his secretaries and I then went back to my quarters to think over a plan of campaign and prepare myself for the mission. The transfer from Captain Tappken's department pleased me for I knew that at the Wilhelmstrasse I would be in closer touch with the bigger affairs of diplomacy. Tappken had hinted at my finding favor with the Wilhelmstrasse and I guessed that coming on top of my Port Arthur success a delicate private mission was responsible for it. To cite the case:
Germany keeps a watch on all her officers. When one of them is spending more money than his income, he is promptly investigated. I recalled how they had sent me to the Spandau Garrison to inquire into the affairs of an officer who was too lavish with his money to suit the Intelligence Department. He was an ordnance officer in a small arms factory at Spandau and it was the natural conclusion that he was obtaining this extra money by selling state secrets.
I encountered, however, an entirely different situation. I learned that he was absolutely innocent on that score but that he was receiving money from a certain princess who had become infatuated with him. She was of a very high house and I realized that her name could not be mentioned in a report to Captain Tappken. This situation required delicate treatment. I solved the dilemma by reporting to Tappken that the ordnance officer was guiltless of any act of treason against his country. I then made a private report, covering the intimate facts, which went direct to officials of higher responsibility. The princess' name did not appear as far as subordinates were concerned and the whole affair was hushed up. My fortunate discretion in this matter undoubtedly strengthened my standing with the Wilhelmstrasse.
By this time I had installed myself in quiet quarters on the Mittelstrasse, and Kim, who had been transformed from a Basuto boy into an efficient man servant, looked after my comforts. To secure myself from the questions of prying neighbors, I had caused it to be known that I was a retired South African planter inclined to poor health. This was the most likely explanation for my curious mode of living and my sudden periodical disappearances, for I was away from the Mittelstrasse for months at a time. Presumably I was traveling about to the different watering places on the Continent for my health.
My mission to Constantinople called for some considerable thought in selecting the most advisable character to impersonate. A tourist came first to mind. A tourist was out of the question, because tourists do not stay long in one place and I expected to be three or four months in Turkey. There was nothing to study in Constantinople. I thought of a student of botany, the rôle I had used at Port Arthur. But that would not do. The idea of a merchant came to me, but I dismissed the idea of a prosperous merchant, for it would necessitate making business connections, a careful and slow process, the fulfillment of which would consume entirely too much time. I finally decided to travel as a physician, or to use the Turkish word a Hakim. A Hakim is always accorded respect, even reverence, by Turks and Arabs. This character determined upon, I went to the telephone and requested the Service Intelligence Department to give me letters of introduction to the German hospital and the Pera Hospital in Constantinople. They were sent to me signed by the authorities of the Charitee in Berlin and described that I was going to study tropical and Asiatic diseases and requested that the hospitals give me every facility for research work. I had Kim pack a case of medical instruments and told him to have everything in readiness to leave Berlin that night, on the Orient Express. He was necessary to my plans and was to accompany me. A messenger from Wedel brought a few final verbal instructions, my funds and sealed instructions. I was bidden to keep away from all official German intercourse in Constantinople. Wedel might have saved himself the trouble of that word of caution for I knew enough of the subtle Oriental mind to keep away from anything that would raise the slightest suspicion in regard to my identity. If I pride myself on anything, it is a knowledge of Eastern character. With the instructions were a thousand marks cash and a draft for 5000 marks on the Ottoman Bank of Constantinople that had been deposited in my name.