"Didn't you arrest the skipper as well?"
"I intend to use them in our interest, and hope that Admiral Hollway will find himself caught in his own net."
"Isn't that rather a risky game? If the fellows have betrayed Admiral Hollway, you may rely upon it they will do the same by us."
"I trust to their fears and selfishness more than their honour. To take information about us to the English they must return here again, and so I hold them in my hand."
"But the converse is true. I confess I have very little faith in such double-dealing spies."
"Of course, I feel the same; but I believe I have at last found the way to the headquarters of the English system of espionage. In order to get to the bottom of the matter I cannot do without the aid of the two spies."
"Yes. The underlings who risk their lives are always of subordinate importance. It is, above all, necessary to find out the persons of higher rank who prudently contrive to keep themselves in the background."
"I wish you success."
"Before going to Antwerp, whither M. Penurot is to accompany me to-morrow, I should like to make a report to the Imperial Chancellor. May I ask you to let me have a boat to-morrow morning to go to Flushing?"
"Certainly. You can have any boat you like."
"Then I should like the steam pinnace."
"Perhaps you know whether the Chancellor intends to stay long at Flushing?"
"I cannot say. In many ways Antwerp would certainly be a better place; but he has gone to Flushing to make a demonstration."
"To make a demonstration?" repeated the Commander in a tone of astonishment.
"The English, of course, know that he is there, and his presence at Flushing is bound to strengthen their belief that our main base of operations will be the mouth of the Schelde."
"Is it not surprising that our Chancellor is always at the centre of operations, though he is neither a general nor an admiral?"
"We have seen the same before in the case of Bismarck. If we follow the history of the wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870-71 we get the impression that Bismarck was in like manner the soul of all the operations, although his military title was only an honorary one."
"That is true; but the circumstances are essentially different. Bismarck was a trained official, diplomatist, ambassador, before he became Chancellor. His authority was great in military matters, independently of the generals; but our new Chancellor comes from quite a different sphere."
"But he has the power of a strong personality, and it is that which turns the scale in all great matters. The fine instinct of the people feels that the Emperor has chosen rightly, and the Chancellor's general popularity insures him powerful support even against the generals. Besides, everyone must admire his practical understanding and his wide range of vision. Is not the occupation of Antwerp a fresh proof of it? The rest of Belgium is occupied by the French army, but the Chancellor has arranged with the French Government for us to hold Antwerp, since our fleet is in the Schelde. And I am sure we shall never give it up again."
The Commander shook his head doubtfully.
"You really think we shall be able to keep Antwerp without further trouble?"
"We must, and shall, have Antwerp. Belgium and the Netherlands may continue to exist, for we cannot with any justification annex them. But the Netherlands and Antwerp will enter into closer political relations with the German Empire for the sake of their own interests. Their Governments are too weak to put down revolutionary movements in their countries for any length of time. We are moving irresistibly towards the formation of larger states. The fact that war in its attendant manifestations is a means of promoting the union of peoples seems to me to some extent to mitigate its cruelty."
"That sounds very fanciful, Herr major," said the Captain, turning the conversation. "But what sort of information do you propose to send by your agents to Dover?"
"I propose to confirm the Admiral in the idea that we intend to leave the Schelde with the fleet and a number of our private companies' steamers, and, with the support of the French fleet, to throw an army across to Dover."
"I am surprised that the English have not even attempted to force our positions. One is almost tempted to believe that the English navy is as inefficient as the English army. If our enemies felt strong enough, they would have appeared long ago before Brest, Cherbourg, Flushing, Wilhelmshaven, or Kiel. Heligoland could not stop a fleet of ironclads from forcing its way into the Elbe; it ought rather to be a welcome object of attack for the English fleet. If I were in command, I should set out against Heligoland with the older ironclads—Albion, Glory, Canopus, Coliath, Ocean, and Vengeance. The little island could hardly resist these six battleships for long, and the German North Sea fleet—supposing one to exist—would be obliged to come out from Wilhelmshaven to save its honour."
"The reason they do nothing of the sort is not so much the consciousness of their own weakness, as the fact that they have no one whose genius would be equal to the situation. Certainly, they have several capable admirals, but there is no Nelson among them. Perhaps our war also would have remained in abeyance, had not the Emperor discovered in our new Chancellor the genius needed by the times. The wars against Denmark, Austria, and France would hardly have taken place without Bismarck's initiative. Even under a most wretched government which commits the grossest blunders great states can exist for a long time; but advancement, real progress is only possible through the intervention of a strong personality."
"I am not quite of your opinion. I am convinced that it is economic conditions that from time to time force on great revolutions. Do you think, for instance, that the Russians would have conquered India if the economic conditions of the natives had been better?"
"Certainly not. Even a great man must have the soil prepared on which to prove his strength. And I think that our Chancellor has appeared on the scene just at the right moment."
Heideck took leave of the Commander and retired to his cabin to draw up a report and take a well-deserved rest.
When he sent for M. Camille Penurot on the following morning, he found a striking alteration in him. That foppish gentleman no longer showed the dejection of the day before, his dark eyes were bright and full of confidence. By daylight, Heideck saw that his captive was a good-looking man about thirty years of age, more like a Spaniard than a Netherlander.
He bowed politely to Heideck and then asked, with a certain amount of confidence, "Pardon me, Herr major, if I serve the German Empire well, may I count on an adequate reward?"
"I have already told you, M. Penurot, that we are prepared to pay more than the English."
"Oh, that was not what I meant. You mustn't class me with Maaning Brandelaar and people of that sort."
"Will you be good enough to tell me, then, M. Penurot, with whom I am to class you?"
"I am willing from this moment to devote all my energies to the cause of the allies."
"Granted. But what are your wishes in the matter of reward?"
"I should like you to use your influence to obtain me the honour of an order."
Heideck was unable to conceal his astonishment at this strange request.
"Such distinctions are, as a rule, only given in Germany for acts of bravery or for services which cannot be adequately requited in hard cash."
"What I am willing to do requires bravery."
"You are only going to help me to find out the spies in Antwerp."
"But they are dangerous people to make enemies of—people whose tools would be capable of anything."
"Rest assured, M. Penurot, that your reward will correspond with the services rendered. You know that I have no order to bestow, and besides, I do not quite understand of what importance a decoration can be to you."
"You rate my sense of honour too low, Herr major! But in order that you may understand me, I will tell you a secret. I am in love with a lady of very good family, and her people would be more ready to welcome me, if I had an order."
"Then you have fixed your affections very high, I suppose?"
"That's as one takes it. In the matter of birth, I am in that painful situation which is the inheritance of all children born out of wedlock. My mother was a Spanish dancer, my father is the wealthy Amelungen. He is fond of me and provides for me. It was he who bought the business in Breskens for me. But his wife, who is English, has no liking for me."
"I understand you even less than before. If you have such resources at your disposal, why on earth do you mix yourself up in such dangerous undertakings?"
"Herr Amelungen wished it."
"So, then, he really is the guilty party?"
"For God's sake, Herr major, you won't abuse my confidence. I should never forgive myself if anything I said were to harm Herr Amelungen."
"Do not be unnecessarily anxious. Nothing will happen either to you or to Herr Amelungen, if you can induce him to change sides and help us for the future instead of the English."
Penurot hung down his head and remained silent.
"And how about Herr van Spranekhuizen in Rotterdam?" continued Heideck. "Of course he belongs to the league."
"He is my father's brother-in-law. His wife is an Amelungen."
"And what is the real reason why these two gentlemen, who I hear are wealthy merchants, have undertaken to act as spies for England?"
"Oh, there is nothing so wonderful in that, Herr major. France has occupied Belgium, Germany the Netherlands. Of course they are very bitter about it."
"That may be. But well-to-do merchants are not in the habit of risking their lives out of pure patriotism in such circumstances. As a rule, only those people do that who have little to lose."
"I have already told you that my father's wife is English. For love of her he does a great deal which certainly nothing else would induce him to do."
At this moment Heideck, being informed that the pinnace was ready, requested Penurot to accompany him on board. In the harbour of Flushing he took leave of him for a while, with instructions to call upon him in an hour at his office, having told him exactly where it was. He had no fear that Penurot would attempt flight. He felt absolutely sure of this gentleman.
On arriving at his office close to the Duke of Wellington Hotel, Heideck found his staff extremely busy. One lieutenant was looking through the French and German newspapers for important information; another was studying the Russian and English journals. The last were few in number and not of recent date, limited to those which had been smuggled across from England by daring skippers and fishermen. There were several despatches from St. Petersburg, containing news of fresh victories in India.
The Russian army had pushed on to Lucknow without any further engagement worth mentioning having taken place since the battle of Delhi. It seemed as if the English were for the time unwilling to meet the enemy in the open field. They apparently calculated that the heat and the enormous length of their line of communication would prevent the Russians from reaching the southern provinces in sufficient strength to overcome an energetic resistance there. But Heideck no longer believed in the possibility of such a resistance, concluding from the announcement of a stream of reinforcements arriving through the Khyber Pass that all the Russian losses would be speedily made up. In his opinion, practically the only thing left for the English was to embark the remnants of their army at Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, and to get a portion at least of their beaten forces safely out of India.
While he was in his office, despatches were continually arriving from Wilhelmshaven, Kiel, Brest, and Cherbourg. The intelligence department of the entire north coast was under Heideck's control.
Except for isolated naval engagements, the strategic position had, on the whole, remained unaltered for months. Both sides hesitated to risk a decisive battle. The English fleets did not venture to attack the enemy's harbours; the combined squadrons of the continental Powers seemed no more inclined to try their fortune on the open sea. Each was endeavouring to get in touch with the other, waiting for the favourable moment when his adversary's weakness might offer the prospect of successful action.
"The risks these dwellers on the coast run are astonishing," said one of Heideck's staff. "They cross the Channel in their fishing-boats and slip by the warships. The man who brought the last English papers told me that he passed close by them to give the impression that there was nothing wrong. It needed considerable courage to risk that."
"But the enemy's spies are equally efficient. Yesterday, more by accident than any merit of my own, I caught a herring fisher in the mouth of the Schelde who was in English pay; I think I have hit on an apparently important clue, which I intend to follow up in Antwerp, after reporting myself to the Chancellor."
"He is no longer in Flushing. He has left for Antwerp with the Minister for War and the chief of the General Staff; I am told he has matters of importance to arrange with the chief of the French General Staff."
"Have you heard anything more definite as to the nature of these matters?"
"Only that the question of further mobilisation is to be discussed. Apparently, however, the six army corps, which we now have on a war footing, are thought to be enough on our side. We are not waging war by land; why then should the burden of a further mobilisation be imposed upon the people?"
"Certainly, the sacrifices entailed by this war are enormous without that; trade and industry are completely ruined."
"The only gainer by this universal conflagration is America. Since the war broke out, the United States has supplied England with everything she used to get from the Continent."
"Well, it will all come right in the end. Now, as there seems nothing urgent for me to do here, it is time I went to Antwerp."
. . . . . . .
Eberhard Amelungen was unable to conceal his confusion, when an officer in the uniform of the Prussian General Staff appeared at the door of his private office.
Amelungen was a man about sixty years of age, a typical specimen of a substantial, respectable merchant.
"I am somewhat surprised, sir," he said in measured tones. "What can I do for you?"
Heideck introduced himself, and without wasting words told him the reason of his visit.
"I have reason to believe, Herr Amelungen, that you hold in your hands some, if not all, of the chief meshes of a widespread net of espionage. And I think it would be to your interest to tell me the whole truth of your own accord. We know so much already that presumably it will be of little use to you to have recourse to lies."
Amelungen played with his penholder, but his hands trembled visibly, and words failed him. His face had turned ashy pale, and Heideck could not help feeling sorry for him.
"I regret that my duty obliges me to proceed against you," he continued. "I can easily understand your motives. You are a Netherlander and a patriot, and, as perhaps you do not quite understand the political situation, the occupation of your country by a foreign power appears to you an act of violence, which fills you with anger and hatred against us. Therefore I think I may promise you that you will be treated as leniently as possible, if you make my task easy by an open confession."
Eberhard Amelungen shook his head.
"I know nothing of what you charge me with," he said feebly. "You have the power, and can do as you please with me. But I have nothing to confess."
"Not if I tell you that my information comes from the mouth of your own son?"
The merchant stared at the speaker with wide-open eyes full of anxiety.
"From the mouth of my own son? But—I have no son."
"Then M. Camille Penurot also was lying when he said you were his father?"
"For God's sake be merciful! Don't torture me! What is the matter with Camille? Where is he?"
"He has been caught spying. What will happen to him depends on your own behaviour."
Eberhard Amelungen sank back in his stool in a state of collapse.
"My God! you don't mean to put him in prison? or to shoot him?"
"As you may imagine, his fate is not in my hands alone. But in this instance my influence may perhaps be considerable, and it would certainly have weight if I threw it into the scale in your favour and his. Therefore I again ask you to consider whether, as things are, it would not be best for you to be perfectly frank with me. Those who are behind you can no longer protect you, and your only hope lies in the leniency of the German authorities. Do not reject the possibility of securing this leniency."
The merchant was evidently carrying on a severe struggle with himself. After a few moments he raised his head, and in an altered, defiant tone replied—
"Do what you like with me, I have nothing to confess."
Heideck then assumed a sterner, official demeanour.
"Then you must not complain if I begin to search your house."
"Do as you think fit. The victor can take what liberties he pleases."
Heideck opened the door and summoned two of the Berlin criminal police, who at his request had been ordered to Antwerp on this affair with a large number of policemen. Certainly he felt sure in advance that they would find nothing, for Eberhard Amelungen would have been very foolish not to have reckoned long ago on the possibility of such a visit, and to have taken precautions accordingly. The Major, in bringing the police with him, had thought more of the moral impression of the whole procedure. His knowledge of men told him that it had its effect.
"One thing more, Herr Amelungen," said he. "About the same time as the search begins here, another will take place in your private house. I expect the report of those entrusted with it at any moment."
Amelungen breathed hard. He looked nervously at Heideck, as if trying to read his thoughts. Then, after a brief struggle with himself, he whispered—
"Send these men out, Herr major! I should like to speak to you privately."
When Heideck had complied with his request, Amelungen continued, speaking hastily, and bringing out his words with difficulty: "In me you see a man who deserves compassion, a man who has been, entirely against his will and inclination, compromised. If anyone is guilty in this matter, it is my brother-in-law Van Spranekhuizen and a lady correspondent of my wife in Brussels. Occasionally I have acted as agent, when it was a matter of forwarding letters, or of handing over sums of money to the Countess—to the lady; but I have never personally taken any part in the matters in question."
"That statement is not enough for me. I do not doubt the truth of what you say, but I must be informed of all the details before I can drop further proceedings against you. Who is the lady you speak of?"
"A former maid of honour to the late Queen."
"Countess Clementine Arselaarts."
"How did you come to know her?"
"She is a friend of my wife, who made her acquaintance last year when staying in Brussels."
"And your wife is English?"
"Yes; her maiden name was Irwin."
At the sound of this name a flood of painful recollections rushed over Heideck's mind.
"Irwin?" he repeated. "Has the lady by chance any relatives in the British army?"
"I had a brother-in-law, who was a captain in the Indian Lancers. But, according to the news that has reached us, he was killed at the battle of Lahore."
The Major found it hard to control his excitement, but as if he had already allowed himself to be too long diverted from his duty, he hastily returned to the real subject of his examination.
"You said that you have handed over certain sums of money to Countess Arselaarts. By whose order? and on whose account?"
"On account of the English Government and on the order of an English banking house with which I have had business dealings for many years."
"Were the sums large?"
"Latterly, on an average about 10,000 francs a month."
"And how were they paid?"
"Sometimes I sent the amount in cash, often by cheque on Brussels banks."
"Have you any evidence on the point—a receipt signed by the Countess?"
"I strongly advise you to keep nothing back from me. So much is at stake for you and your relatives who are involved in this affair that it is of the utmost consequence that you should secure lenient treatment by a frank confession."
"Well, then, I have some receipts."
"Please let me see them."
Amelungen pulled open a drawer in his writing-table, pressed a spring, and a secret compartment at the back flew open.
"There they are!" said he, handing a small bundle of sheets of paper to Heideck. But the Major's keen eye had noticed, as he glanced rapidly at the compartment, that it contained some other papers, which he politely but firmly demanded to see.
"They are private letters of no importance," objected Amelungen, "some of my wife's correspondence, which she accidentally left in my office. I don't know what they are about myself."
"Be assured that harmless private correspondence will not be abused. But I must claim the absolute right to convince myself of the correctness of your assertions by examining them."
The merchant could see that there was no chance of getting out of it, and, visibly excited, handed the little roll over to Heideck.
The Major took it, without examining the contents more closely at once.
"You definitely assure me, Herr Amelungen, that you have nothing else referring to this matter?"
"Nothing! I give you my word, Herr major."
Heideck got up.
"I charge you not to attempt to leave the town or in any other way evade the German authorities. You will guarantee this not only as regards yourself, but also as regards your wife; and you will further promise me to break off at once all relations with the persons involved in this espionage affair, unless at our order, or in agreement with us."
Eberhard Amelungen, whose powers of resistance seemed completely broken in this painful hour, nodded assent.
"I promise both, Herr major!"
Heideck, having left a criminal official with instructions to keep watch, repaired without delay to the office of Lieutenant-Colonel Nollenberg, head of the intelligence department for Antwerp. He informed him of the result of his conversation and examined the confiscated papers in his presence.
A large number were letters from the Countess Clementine Arselaarts to Frau Beatrix Amelungen, and their contents were harmless, with the exception of a few expressions advising watchfulness and despatch.
But in a special envelope, sealed several times, there was a sheet of paper, covered with close writing, which could not be read offhand, since the letters were apparently jumbled together quite arbitrarily and irregularly.
"A cipher!" said Heideck. "But we shall soon get to the bottom of it. You have some capable interpreters at your disposal, and it might be a good thing if they set to work at once."
He continued his examination, and suddenly the blood rushed to his face, for in his hands he held a letter, the handwriting of which he recognised at the first glance as Edith's. Its contents were as follows:—
"DEAR BEATRICE,—As you see, I am again in England. You know that I have returned a widow, and you can believe that my experiences have been terrible. Your brother met an honourable death at Lahore; with the utmost difficulty I myself succeeded in getting away from India under the protection of Attorney-General Kennedy and his family. I should have to fill a book if I were to tell you all the horrors of our journey. But this is not the proper time to complain of the melancholy lot of an individual. We are all strangers and pilgrims on earth, and must bear the cross that is laid upon us.
"The immediate reason of my writing to-day is that I want your opinion on a certain matter. When I arrived at my parents' house, I heard that uncle Godfrey had died on the 16th of April. I do not know whether you have already heard of this, as regular communication with the Continent is interrupted. My uncle Godfrey has left a will, dividing his property equally between you as his niece and my deceased husband. His property was larger than my husband thought. After division, both you and my husband would have had a yearly income of 5,000 pounds. Now your brother has died without having disposed of his property. But my lawyer tells me that, as his sole heiress, I can claim his share of the inheritance. To arrange about this I have come here to Dover; for I found that I could only get the letter forwarded to Antwerp with the assistance of Admiral Hollway, who is charged with the protection of our coast. To my surprise the Admiral informed me that your name was known to him, and he willingly undertook to forward this letter to you. Now please consent to uncle Godfrey's property being divided between you and me. I do not believe you will have any objection, but I consider it a duty to obtain your definite consent. I shall be glad to hear from you that you are well.
"P.S.—In India I made the acquaintance of a German officer who rendered me great service during the terrible times of the war and saved my life more than once. He travelled with the Kennedys and myself on the Caledonia to Naples. From there he went on to Berlin, while we continued our voyage on a man-of-war through the Straits of Gibraltar to Southampton. This officer is a Captain Heideck of the Prussian General Staff. I should be thankful to you if you would find out where he is at present. I am very anxious to know his address. For a time I am staying in Dover. Letters addressed to Mrs. Jones, 7, St. Paul's Street, will reach me."
The perusal of this letter revived a crowd of painful recollections in Heideck's mind. He never doubted for a moment that the postscript, in which his name occurred, explained Edith's real object in writing. All the rest was certainly a mere pretext; for he knew how indifferent Edith was in regard to money matters, and was convinced that she was in no such hurry about the settlement of the inheritance as might have been thought from her letter.
The Lieutenant-Colonel approached him at this moment.
"It has taken less time to decipher the document than I had ventured to hope," said he. "I have telegraphed at once to the police at Schleswig to arrest the writer, one Brodersen, without delay. Please convince yourself what sort of friends we have amongst the Danes."
Heideck read as follows:—
"In the harbour of Kiel, the larger warships are the battleships Oldenburg, Baden, Wurttemberg, Bayern, Sachsen; the large cruisers Kaiser, Deutschland, Konig Wilhelm; the small cruisers Gazelle, Prinzess Wilhelm, Irene, Komet, and Meteor, with the torpedo division boats D 5 and D 6 with their divisions. In addition, there are about 100 large and small steamers of the North-German Lloyd, the Hamburg-America Line, the Stettin Company, and others. All the large steamers are equipped with quick-firing cannon and machine-guns; the small, only with machine-guns. In the neighbourhood of Kiel there are 50,000 infantry and artillery from Hanover, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and the province of Saxony, with only two regiments of hussars. My friends' opinions differ as to the plans of the German Government. Possibly ships of the line will proceed through the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and make a combined attack with the Russian fleet on the British near Copenhagen.
"It is most probable that the fleet of transports will take on board the army collected at Kiel and convey it through the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal into the North Sea, where the German battleships now at Antwerp will join the French squadrons from Cherbourg. An attempt would then be made, under cover of the warships, to land the German army and the French troops from Boulogne at Dover, or some place near on the English coast.
"I acknowledge the receipt of 10,000 francs from Mynheer van Spranekhuizen, but must ask you to send a further sum twice that amount. My agents are risking their lives, and will not work for less."
"You, too, my dear Brodersen, have risked your life," said the Lieutenant-Colonel seriously. "I should not like to give much for it at the present moment."
"These notes are very instructive," observed Heideck. "If we strengthen Admiral Hollway in the belief that we intend to land the German troops in England from Antwerp and not from Kiel, our fleet of transports at Kiel will be able to cross the North Sea all the more safely and effect the landing in Scotland."
THE FATE OF A SPY
Colonel Mercier-Milon reported from Brussels that he had arrested Countess Arselaarts and thought he had made a valuable capture. The Countess was deeply in debt and lived very extravagantly. A little time ago she had been assisted financially by an exalted personage, who had left the country. Since then her resources had become exhausted, and it was supposed that she had acted as a spy for the English at a high salary. He added that he was on the point of discovering a widespread network of espionage in France and Belgium.
Herr van Spranekhuizen and Hinnerk Brodersen of Schleswig had also been arrested the same morning.
"I wish we had trustworthy information as to the strength of the British fleet," said the Lieutenant-Colonel, who had communicated the above report to Heideck. "Sometimes I am really inclined to believe that this fleet is not so effective as all the world has hitherto assumed. It is almost impossible for outsiders to get a clear insight into the condition of the English navy. So far as I can remember, false reports are systematically published about the fleet—officially, semi-officially, and privately. From time to time a speaker is put up in Parliament by the Government to deliver a violent attack on the naval administration. He is contradicted by a representative of the Admiralty, and dust is again thrown in the eyes of the world. On one of Queen Victoria's last birthdays a powerful squadron, as it was called, was assembled for review off Spithead. But no foreigner was allowed a close inspection of these imposing fleets, and I am greatly inclined to think that it was another case of the famous movable villages, which Potemkin showed the Russian Empress on her journey to the Crimea. Official statements give the number of English warships as more than four hundred, not including torpedo-boats, but amongst them is a large number of obsolete and inefficient vessels."
"If the English fleet were really so efficient as is believed, it would be difficult to understand why it has not attempted any decisive action up till now."
"That is also my view. The Copenhagen fleet would have attacked Kiel harbour long ago. It was said that it was to hold the Russian fleet in check. But that would be superfluous to start with, as long as the Gulfs of Bothnia and Finland were blocked with ice and the Russian squadrons were unable to move. This way of making war reminds me forcibly of the state of things in the Crimean War, when a powerful English fleet set out with a great flourish of trumpets against Cronstadt and St. Petersburg, but did nothing except bombard Bomarsund, a place nobody cared about. The English Press had great difficulty in excusing the fiasco of its world-renowned fleet."
Returning to the previous subject of conversation, Heideck said to the Lieutenant-Colonel: "I don't think we need trouble ourselves any more about the communications of Countess Arselaarts and Messrs. Amelungen and Co. The court-martial may settle with them. I attach incomparably greater importance to skipper Brandelaar, whom I hold in my hand, and through whom—perhaps with the help of Camille Penurot—I hope to obtain information about the British fleet and its proposed employment. Brandelaar's vessel should now be off Ternenzen. I will ask you, Herr Lieutenant-Colonel, to have the man and his crew arrested to-day."
"But how does that agree with your intention of using him as a spy in our interest?"
"I forgot to tell you that it is an agreement between Brandelaar and myself. He himself thought it necessary for his own safety; he was afraid of the crew. Of course it will only be a sham examination, and the man must be released as soon as possible, on the ground of insufficient evidence, so that he can return to England to-morrow."
The Lieutenant-Colonel promised to do as the Major desired.
The same evening Heideck met Penurot by arrangement at a tavern.
"Our business is somewhat complicated," said Heideck. "There must be some more people working for your father, hitherto unknown to us."
"Why do you think that, Herr major?"
"Your father had some letters from Admiral Hollway, which were not brought by Brandelaar."
"Yes, yes, I know. I can imagine that."
"Do you know who brought them over?"
"I don't know for certain, but I can guess."
"Can't you get me more certain information?"
"I will try."
"How will you set about it?"
"There are some sailors' taverns here, where I hope to get on the track. But they are desperate fellows, and it is dangerous to meddle with them."
"If you will point out the taverns to me, I will have all the customers arrested to-night."
"For Heaven's sake, don't, Herr major! We should ruin everything by that. These men would let themselves be cut to pieces rather than betray anything to you. If anyone can get them to speak, it is myself."
"Wouldn't you be trusting them too much?"
"No, no. I know best how to deal with them, and I know many ways of making them open their mouths."
"Well, do what you can. The matter is important. I am very anxious to find someone to obtain trustworthy information about the British fleet, and you know we don't spare money."
Penurot was ready to attempt his difficult task at once, and took leave of Heideck, promising to meet him soon after midnight at the same tavern. Heideck left the restaurant soon after him, and walked along the quay Van Dyck, to cool his heated brow. In time of war the town presented a strangely altered appearance. There was a swarm of German soldiers in the streets; the usual busy traffic at the harbour had entirely ceased. There had been no trade since the German warships, like floating citadels, had been lying in the Schelde. And yet it was almost incomprehensible, how the change had come about so rapidly. Antwerp was an almost impregnable fortress, if the flooding of the surrounding country was undertaken in time. But the Belgian Government had not even made an attempt at defence, when the vanguard of the seventh and eighth army corps had appeared in the neighbourhood of the town. It had surrendered the fortress at once, with all its strong outer forts, to the German military commanders and had withdrawn its own army. The Imperial Chancellor was certainly right in attaching such importance to the possession of Antwerp by Germany. The population was almost exclusively Flemish, and Antwerp was thus in nationality a German town.
From the general political situation Heideck's thoughts returned to Edith and her letter, and at last he decided to write to her that very evening.
To carry out his intention, he went back to the restaurant where he had met Penurot, and called for ink and paper. When he had finished his letter, he looked over the words he had written, in which, contrary to his usual practice, he had given utterance to his real feelings:—
"MY DEAR EDITH,—In the exercise of my duty, I accidentally came into possession of your letter to Frau Amelungen. I was looking for something quite different at the time, and you can imagine how great was my surprise at the unexpected discovery.
"From the hour when we were obliged to separate and you, possibly not without resentment and reproach, held out your hand at parting, I have felt more and more how indispensable you are to me. I treasure every word you have said to me, every look you have bestowed upon me, and your image is before my mind, ever brighter, ever more beautiful. I have never met a woman whose mind was so beautiful, so refined, so keen as yours. I must confess that your ideas at first sometimes terrified me. Your views are often so far removed from the commonplace, so far above the ordinary, that it needs time to estimate them correctly. If I now recall to mind what formerly seemed strange to me, it is only with feelings of admiration. From day to day the impression you made upon me at our first conversation has sunk deeper into my mind, and the comforting certainty, that love for you will fill my entire life in the future, grows more and more unshakable.
"Nevertheless, I may not regret that I had the strength to leave you at Naples. The beautiful dream of our life together would have been disturbed too soon by the rude reality. My duty calls me from one place to another, and as long as this war lasts I am not my own master for an hour. We must have patience, Edith. Even this campaign cannot last for ever, and if Heaven has decreed that I shall come out of it alive, we shall meet again, never more to part.
"You may not be able to answer this letter, for communication with Frau Amelungen is interrupted. But I know you will answer me if it is possible, and I am happy to think that, by letting you know I am alive, I have given you a pleasure, soon, I hope, to be followed by the still greater happiness of meeting again. Let us wait patiently and confidently for that hour!"
He sealed the letter and put it in his pocket, in order to hand it over to Brandelaar on the following day. He then waited for the reappearance of Penurot, who had promised to be back at midnight. But although he waited nearly an hour over the time in the tavern, he waited in vain. The terms in which Herr Amelungen's natural son had spoken of the people he intended to look for that evening made the Major anxious about his fate. Before returning to his quarters, he paid a visit to the town police office, requesting that a search might be made in the less reputable sailors' taverns near the harbour for M. Camille Penurot, of whose appearance he gave a careful description.
As there was no news of him on the following morning, Heideck felt almost certain that the affair had turned out disastrously for Penurot. However, for the moment, he could not stop to investigate the young man's whereabouts.
He was informed by the Lieutenant-Colonel that Brandelaar, whose vessel actually lay off Ternenzen, had been arrested with his crew, examined, and liberated during the course of the night, as had been agreed between the two officers.
Heideck now set out for Ternenzen to give Brandelaar the information for Admiral Hollway that had been collected at his office, together with the private information that was of such importance to him.
At last, having paid Brandelaar a thousand francs on account, Heideck also gave him the letter to Edith, with careful instructions as to its delivery. The skipper, whose zeal for the cause of Germany was now undoubtedly honourable, repeatedly promised to carry out his orders conscientiously and to the best of his power.
On returning to Antwerp at noon, Heideck found a communication at his office from the police to the effect that Camille Penurot's body had been found in one of the harbour basins, stabbed in several places in the breast and neck. A search for the assassins had been immediately set on foot, but up to the present no trace of them had been discovered.
A WOMAN'S TREACHERY
According to the agreement with Heideck, Brandelaar, on his return from Dover, was to put in at Flushing, and the Major had instructed the guardships at the mouth of the West Schelde to allow the smack to pass unmolested without detention. But he waited for the skipper from day to day in vain. The weather could not have been the cause of his delay; certainly it had not been too bad for a man of Brandelaar's daring. A moderate north wind had been blowing nearly the whole time, so that a clever sailor could have easily made the passage from Dover to Flushing in a day.
Consequently, other reasons must have kept him in England. Heideck began to fear that either his knowledge of men, so often tried, had deceived him on this occasion, or that Brandelaar had fallen a victim to some act of imprudence in England.
A whole week having passed since Brandelaar had started, Heideck at least hoped for his return to-day. The north wind had increased towards evening; there was almost a storm, and the blast rattled violently at the windows of the room in the hotel, in which Heideck sat still writing at midnight.
A gentle knock at the door made him look up from his work. Who could have come to see him at this late hour? It was certainly not an orderly from his office, which was open day and night, for soldiers' fingers as a rule knocked harder.
"Come in!" he said. The door opened slowly, and Heideck saw, in the dimly-lighted corridor, a slender form in a long oilskin cape and a large sailor's hat, the brim of which was pressed down over the forehead.
A wild idea flashed through Heideck's mind. He sprang up, and at the same moment the pretended young man tore off his hat and held out his arms with a cry of joy.
"My dear—my beloved friend!"
At this moment all other thoughts and feelings were forgotten by Heideck in the overpowering joy of seeing her again. He rushed to Edith and drew her to his breast. For a long time they remained silent in a long embrace, looking into each other's eyes and laughing like merry children.
At last, slowly freeing herself from his arms, Edith said—
"You are not angry with me, then, for coming to you, although you forbade it? You will not send me away from you again?"
Her voice penetrated his ear like sweet, soothing music. What man could have resisted that seductive voice?
"I should like to be angry with you, my dear, but I cannot—Heaven knows I cannot!"
"I could not have lived any longer without you," whispered the young woman. "I was obliged to see you again, or I should have died of longing."
"My sweet, my only love! But what is the meaning of this disguise? And how did you manage to cross the Channel?"
"I took the way you showed me. And is my disguise so very displeasing to you?"
She had thrown off the ugly, disfiguring cape and stood before him in a dark blue sailor's dress. Even in her dress as an Indian rajah he had not thought her more enchanting.
"The only thing that displeases me is that other eyes than mine have been allowed to see you in it. But you still owe me an explanation how you got here?"
"With your messenger of love, your postillon d'amour, who was certainly rather uncouth and awkward for so delicate a mission."
"What! did you come with Brandelaar?" cried Heideck, in surprise.
"Yes. The moment I received your letter from his clumsy sailor's fist, my mind was made up. I asked him whether he was returning to Flushing, and when he said yes, I declared he must take me with him, cost what it would. I would have paid him all I possessed, without hesitation, to take me across. But the good fellow did it for much less."
"You foolish girl!" said Heideck reprovingly. But pride in his beautiful, fearless darling shone brightly from his eyes. "I shall have to take Brandelaar seriously to task for playing so reckless a game. But what made him so long in returning?"
"I believe he had all kinds of private business to see after. And he was not the only one—I had my business too. I did not want to come to you empty-handed, my friend."
"Empty-handed? I don't understand."
"I puzzled my brains how I could please you, and appease your anger at my sudden appearance—that terrible anger, of which I felt so afraid. And as I heard from Brandelaar that it is your duty to discover military secrets—"
"The worthy Brandelaar is a chatterer. It seems as if your beautiful eyes have tempted him to open his whole heart to you."
"And if it had been the case," she asked, with a roguish smile, "would you not have every reason to be grateful to him as well as myself? But really—you don't even know what I have brought for you. Aren't you the least curious?"
"No military secret, I suppose?"
He spoke jestingly, but she nodded seriously.
"Yes—a great secret. Chance helped me, or I should hardly have got hold of it. There it is! But be sure I shall claim an adequate reward for it."
She handed him a sealed envelope, which she had kept concealed under her dress. When Heideck, with growing excitement, spread out the paper it contained, he recognised at the first glance the blue stamped paper of the English Admiralty.
No sooner had he read the first lines than he started up in the most violent excitement. His face had become dark red, a deep furrow showed itself between his eyebrows.
"What is this?" he ejaculated. "For God's sake, Edith, how did you come by this paper?"
"How did I come by it? Oh, that's quite a secondary consideration. The chief thing is, whether it is of any value to you or not. But aren't you pleased with it?"
Heideck was still staring like one hypnotised at the paper covered with the regularly formed writing of a practised clerk's hand.
"Incomprehensible!" he murmured. Then, suddenly looking at Edith almost threateningly, he repeated—
"How did you come by it?"
"You are questioning me like a magistrate. But you may know, for all I care. The brother of the lady with whom I was staying in Dover is private secretary to the Admiralty—a poor fellow, suffering from disease of the lungs, whose one desire was to go to Egypt or Madeira, to get relief from his sufferings. By finding him the means for this I have done an act of philanthrophy. I asked him, in return for a further present of money, to give me the copy of an important document connected with his department."
She suddenly broke off, and Heideck burst out into a short, sharp laugh which filled her with surprise and alarm.
"An act of philanthrophy!" he repeated in a tone of unspeakable bitterness. "Did you know what this man was selling to you?"
"He said it was the English fleet's plan of attack, and I thought it would interest you."
"But surely you must have known how far-reaching would be the consequences of your act? Had you no suspicion that irreparable harm might overtake your country, if this plan came to the knowledge of its enemies?"
His voice quivered with fearful anxiety, but Edith did not seem to understand his excitement.
"I understand you less and less," she said impatiently. "It can only be one of two things. Either this paper is of importance to you, and then you ought to feel the more grateful to me, the more important it is. Or the secretary has deceived me as to its value. Then it isn't worth the trouble of saying any more about it."
"Do you look at it in that light, Edith?" he said, mournfully. "Only in that light? Did you only think of yourself and me, when you bribed an unfortunate wretch to commit the most disgraceful of all crimes?"
"Oh, my dearest, what strong language! I was not prepared for such reproaches. Certainly I was only thinking of you and me, and I am not in the least ashamed to confess it, for there is nothing in the world of more importance for me than our love."
"And your country, Edith? is that of no account?"
"My country—what is it? A piece of earth with stones, trees, animals, and men who are nothing to me, to whom I owe nothing and am indebted for nothing. Why should I love them more than the inhabitants of any other region, amongst whom there are just as many good and bad people as amongst them? I am an Englishwoman: well, but I am also a Christian. And who would have the right to condemn me, if the commandments of Christianity were more sacred to me than all narrow-minded, national considerations? If the possession of this paper really made you the stronger—if it should bring defeat upon England, instead of the hoped-for victory which would only endlessly prolong the war—what would mankind lose thereby? Perhaps peace would be the sooner concluded, and, justly proud of my act, I would then confess before all the world."
Heideck had not interrupted her, but she saw that her words had not convinced him. With gloomy countenance he stood before her, breathing hard, like one whose heart is oppressed by a heavy burden.
"Forgive me, but I cannot follow your train of thought," said he, with a melancholy shake of the head. "There are things which cannot be extenuated however we may try to palliate them."
"Well, then, if you think what I have done so monstrous, what is there to prevent us from undoing it? Give me back the paper; I will tear it up. Then no one will be injured by my treachery."
"It is too late for that. Now that I know what this paper contains, my sense of duty as an officer commands me to make use of it. You have involved me in a fearful struggle with myself."
"Oh, is that your logic? Your sense of honour does not forbid you to reap the fruits of my treachery, but you punish the traitress with the full weight of your contempt."
He avoided meeting her flaming eyes.
"I did not say I despised you, but—"
"Well, what else do you mean?"
"Once again—I do not despise you, but it terrifies me to find what you are capable of."
"Is not that the same thing in other words? A man cannot love a woman if he is terrified at her conduct. Tell me straight out that you can no longer love me."
"It would be a lie if I said so, Edith. You have killed our happiness, but not my love."
She only heard the last words of his answer, and with brightening eyes flung herself on his breast.
"Then scold me as you like, you martinet! I will put up with anything patiently, if only I know that you still love me, and that you will be mine, all mine, as soon as this terrible war no longer stands between us like a frightful spectre."
He did not return her caresses, and gently pushed her from him.
"Forgive me, if I must leave you now," he said in a singularly depressed voice, "but I must be in Antwerp by daybreak."
"Is it really so urgent? May I not go with you?"
"No, that is impossible, for I shall have to travel on an engine."
"And when will you return?"
Heideck turned away his face.
"I don't know. Perhaps I shall be sent on further, so that I shall have no opportunity of saying good-bye to you."
"In other words, you don't mean to see me again? You are silent. You cannot have the heart to deceive me. Must I remind you that you have sworn to belong to me, if you survive this war?"
"If I survive it—yes!"
The tone of his reply struck her like a blow. She had no need to look at him again, to know what was passing in his mind. Now for the first time she understood that there was no further hope for her. Heideck had spoken the truth, when he said he still loved her, and the horror which he felt at her conduct did not, according to his conscience, release him from his word. But as he at the same time felt absolutely certain that he could never make a traitress to her country his wife, his idea of the honour of a man and officer drove him to the only course which could extricate him from this fearful conflict of duties.
He had sworn to marry her, if he survived the war. And since he could no more keep his oath than break it, he had at this moment decided to put an end to the struggle by seeking death, which his calling made it so easy for him to find. With the keen insight of a woman in love Edith read his mind like an open book. She knew him so well that she never for a moment cherished the illusion that she could alter his mind by prayers or tears. She knew that this man was ready to sacrifice everything for her—everything save honour. Her mind had never been fuller of humble admiration than at the moment when the knowledge that she had lost him for ever spread a dark veil over all her sunny hopes of the future.
She did not say a word; and when her silence caused him to turn his face again towards her, she saw an expression of unutterable pain in his features, usually so well controlled. Then she also felt the growing power of a great and courageous resolution. Her mind rose from the low level of selfish passion to the height of self-sacrificing renunciation. But it had never been her way to do by halves what she had once determined to carry out. What was to be done admitted no cowardly delay, no tender leave-taking must allow Heideck to guess that a knowledge of his intentions had decided her course of action.
With that heroic self-command of which, perhaps, only a woman is capable in such circumstances, she forced herself to appear outwardly calm and composed.
"Then I am no longer anxious about our future, my friend," she said after a long silence, smiling painfully. "I will not detain you any longer now; for I know that your duties as a soldier must stand first. I am happy that I have been permitted to see you again. Not to hinder your doing your duty in this serious time of war, I give you your freedom. Perhaps your love will some day bring you back to me of your own accord. And now, farewell."
Her sudden resolution and the calmness with which she resigned herself to this second separation must have seemed almost incomprehensible to Heideck after what had passed. But her beautiful face betrayed so little of the desperate hopelessness she felt, that, after a brief hesitation, he regarded this singular change in the same light as the numerous other surprises to which her mysterious nature had already treated him. She had spoken with such quiet firmness, that he could no longer look upon her resolution as the suggestion of a perverse or angry whim.
"For God's sake, Edith, what do you intend to do?"
"I shall try to return to Dover to-morrow. I should only be in your way here."
"In that case, we should not see each other again before you leave?"
"You said yourself that there was little chance of that."
"I am not my own master, and this information—"
"No excuse is necessary; no regard for me should hinder you in the performance of your official duties. Once again then, good-bye, my dear, my beloved friend! May Heaven protect you!"
She flung herself on his breast and kissed him; but only for a few seconds did her soft arm linger round his neck. She did not wish to give way, and yet she felt that she would not be able to control herself much longer. She hurriedly picked up her oilskin cape from the floor and seized her fisherman's hat. Heideck fervently desired to say something affectionate and tender, but his throat seemed choked as it were by an invisible hand; he could only utter, in a voice that sounded cold and dry, the words, "Farewell, my love! farewell!"
When he heard the door close behind her, he started up impetuously, as if he meant to rush after her and call her back. But after the first step he stood still and pressed his clenched left hand upon his violently beating heart. His face, as if turned to stone, wore an expression of inflexible resolution, and the corners of his mouth were marked by two deep, sharp lines, as if within this single hour he had aged ten years.
EDITH'S LAST JOURNEY
Skipper Brandelaar had given Edith the name of the inn near the harbour, where he expected a message from Heideck in the course of the night; for he felt certain that the Major would be anxious to speak to him as soon as possible.
But he was considerably surprised when, instead of the messenger he expected, he saw his beautiful disguised passenger enter the low, smoke-begrimed taproom. He went to meet Edith with a certain clumsy gallantry, to shield her from the curiosity and importunities of the men seated with him at the table, whose weatherbeaten faces inspired as little confidence as their clothing, which smelt of tar and had suffered badly from wind and weather.
Utterly surprised, he was going to question Edith, but she anticipated him.
"I must get back to Dover to-night," she said hurriedly, in a low tone. "Will you take me across? I will pay you what you ask."
The skipper shook his head slowly, but resolutely.
"Impossible. Even if I could leave again, it couldn't be done in such weather."
"It must be done. The weather is not so bad, and I know you are not the man to be afraid of a storm."
"Afraid—no! Very likely I have weathered a worse storm than this with my smack. But there is a difference between the danger a man has to go through when he cannot escape it, and that to which he foolishly exposes himself. When I am on a journey, then come what pleases God, but—"
"No more, Brandelaar," interrupted Edith impatiently. "If you cannot, or will not go yourself, surely one of your acquaintances here is brave and smart enough to earn a couple of hundred pounds without any difficulty."
The skipper's little eyes twinkled.
"A couple of hundred pounds? Is it really so important for you to leave Flushing to-day? We have hardly landed!"
"Yes, it is very important. And I have already told you that I don't care how much it costs."
The skipper, who had evidently begun to waver, rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"H'm! Anyhow, I couldn't do it myself. I have important information for the Herr major, and he would have a right to blame me, if I went away without even so much as speaking to him. But perhaps—perhaps I might find out a skipper who would take the risk, provided that I got something out of it for myself."
"Of course, of course! I don't want a favour from you for nothing. You shall have fifty pounds the moment I set foot in the boat."
"Good! And two hundred for the skipper and his men? The men are risking their lives, you mustn't forget that. Besides, they will have to manage confoundedly cleverly to get past the German guardships unnoticed."
"Yes, yes! Why waste so much time over this useless bargaining? Here is the money—now get me a boat."
"Go in there," said Brandelaar, pointing to the door of a little dark side room. "I will see whether my friend Van dem Bosch will do it."
Before complying with Brandelaar's suggestion, Edith glanced at the man whom he had indicated with a movement of his head. Externally this robust old sea-dog was certainly not attractive, but his alarming appearance did not make Edith falter in her resolution for a moment.
"Good—talk to your friend, Brandelaar! And mind that I don't have to wait too long for his consent."
. . . . . . .
The gallant Brandelaar must have found a very effective means of persuasion, for in less than ten minutes he was able to inform Edith that Van dem Bosch was ready to risk the journey on the terms offered. He said nothing more about the danger of the undertaking, as if he were afraid of frightening the young Englishwoman from her plan, so profitable to himself. From this moment nothing more was said about the matter. It was not far to the place where the cutter lay at anchor, and Edith struggled on bravely between the two men, who silently walked along by her side, in the face of the hurricane from the north, roaring in fitful gusts from the sea. They rowed across to the vessel in a yawl, and when Brandelaar returned to the quay he had his fifty pounds all right in his pocket.
"If the Herr major asks after me, you may tell him the whole truth with confidence," Edith had said to him. "And greet him from me—greet him heartily. Don't forget that, Brandelaar."
. . . . . . .
The skipper's two men, who had been lying fast asleep below deck in the cutter, were considerably astonished and certainly far from pleased at the idea of the nocturnal passage. But a few words from the skipper in a language unintelligible to Edith speedily removed their discontent. They now readily set to work to set sail and weigh anchor. The skipper's powerful hands grasped the helm; the small, strongly-built vessel tacked a little and then, heeling over, shot out into the darkness.
It passed close by the Gefion, and had it by accident been shown up by the electric light which from time to time searched the disturbed surface of the water, the nocturnal trip would in any case have experienced a very disagreeable interruption. But chance favoured the rash undertaking. No signal was made, no shout raised from the guardship, and the lights of Flushing were soon lost in the darkness.
Since the start Edith had been standing by the mast, looking fixedly backwards to the place where she was leaving everything which had hitherto given all its value and meaning to her life. The skipper and his two men, whom the varying winds kept fully occupied with their sails, did not seem to trouble about her, and it was not till a suddenly violent squall came on that Van dem Bosch shouted to her that she had better go below, where she would at least be protected against the wind and weather.
But Edith did not stir. For her mind, racked by all the torments of infinite despair, the raging of the storm, the noise of the rain rattling down, and the hissing splash of the waves as they dashed against the planks of the boat, made just the right music. The tumult of the night around her harmonised so exactly with the tumult within her that she almost felt it a relief. The close confinement of a low cabin would have been unbearable. She could only hold out by drinking in deep draughts of air saturated with the briny odour of the sea, and by exposing her face to the storm, the rain, and the foam of the waves. It was a kind of physical struggle with the brute forces of Nature, and its stirring effect upon her nerves acted as a tonic to a mind lacerated with sorrow.
She had no thought for time or space. Only the hurricane-like rising of the storm, the increasingly violent breaking of the waves, and the wilder rocking of the boat, told her that she must be on the open sea. In spite of her oilskin cape, she was completely wet through, and a chill, which gradually spread over her whole body from below, numbed her limbs. Nevertheless, she never for a moment thought of retiring below. She had no idea of danger. She heard the sailors cursing, and twice the skipper's voice struck her ears, uttering what seemed to be an imperious command. But she did not trouble herself about this. As if already set free from everything earthly, she remained completely indifferent to everything that was going on around her. The more insensible her body became, paralysed by the penetrating damp and chill, the more indefinite and dreamlike became all the impressions of her senses. She seemed to have lost all foothold, to be flying on the wings of the storm, free from all restrictions of corporeal gravity, through unlimited space. All the rushing, howling, rattling, and splashing of the unchained elements seemed to her to unite in one monotonous, majestic roar, which had no terrors for her, but a wonderfully soothing influence. As her senses slowly failed, the tumult became a lofty harmony; she felt so entirely one with mighty, all-powerful Nature that the last feeling of which she was conscious was a fervent, ardent longing to dissolve in this mighty Nature, like one of the innumerable waves, whose foam wetted her feet in passing.
. . . . . . .
A loud sound, like the sharp report of a gun, was heard above the confusion of noises—a loud crash—some wild curses from rough sailors' throats! The boat suddenly danced and tossed upon the waves like a piece of cork, while the big sail flapped in the wind as if it would be torn the next minute into a thousand pieces.
The peak-halyard was broken, and the gaff, deprived of its hold, struck with fearful force downwards. With all the might of his arms, strong as those of a giant, the skipper pulled at the helm to bring the vessel to the wind. The two other men worked desperately to make the sail fast.
In these moments of supreme danger none of the three gave a thought to the disguised woman in the oilskin cape, who had stood so long motionless as a statue by the mast. Not till their difficult task was successfully finished did they notice that she had disappeared. They looked at each other with troubled faces. The skipper at the helm said—
"She has gone overboard. The gaff must have hit her on the head. There is no more to be done. Why would she stay on deck?"
He cleared his throat and spat into the sea, after the fashion of sailors.
The other two said nothing. Silently they obeyed the orders of the skipper, who made for the mouth of the Schelde again.
They made no attempt to save her. It would have been a useless task.
THE STOLEN DOCUMENT
The last ordinary train to Antwerp had gone long before Heideck reached the station. But a short interview with the railway commissioner sufficed, and an engine was at once placed at the Major's disposal. When he had mounted to the stoker's place the station-master saluted and signalled to the driver to start. For a moment Heideck felt a sharp pain in his heart like a knife when the grinding engine started. It was his life's happiness that he was leaving behind him for ever. A dull, paralysing melancholy possessed his soul. He seemed to himself to be a piece of lifeless mechanism, like the engine puffing ceaselessly onwards, subject and blindly obedient to the will of another. All his actions were decided, no longer by his own resolutions, but by an inexorable, higher law—by the iron law of duty. He was no longer personally free nor personally responsible. The way was marked out for him as clearly and distinctly as the course of the engine by the iron lines of rails. With tightly compressed lips he looked fixedly before him. What lay behind was no longer any concern of his. Only a peremptory "Forward" must henceforth be his watchword.
About six o'clock in the morning he stood before the royal castle on the Place de Meix, where the Prince-Admiral had fixed his quarters, King Leopold having offered him the castle to reside in.
In spite of the early hour Heideck was at once conducted to the Prince's study.
"Your Royal Highness," said Heideck, "I have a report of the utmost importance to make. These orders of the English Admiralty have fallen into my hands."
The Prince motioned him to a seat by his desk. "Be good enough to read the orders to me, Herr major."
Heideck read the important document, which ran as follows:—
"The Lords of the Admiralty think it desirable to attack the German fleet first, as being the weaker. This attack must be carried out before the Russian fleet is in a position to go to its assistance in Kiel harbour. Therefore a simultaneous attack should be made on the two positions of the German fleet on the 15th of July."
"On the 15th of July?" repeated the Prince, who had risen in great excitement. "And it is the 11th to-day! How did you get possession of these orders, Herr major? What proof have you that this document is genuine?"
"I have the most convincing reasons for believing it genuine, your Royal Highness. You can see for yourself that the orders are written on the blue stamped paper of the English Admiralty."
"Very well, Herr major! But that would not exclude the idea of a forgery. How did you come into possession of this paper?"
"Your Royal Highness will excuse my entering into an explanation."
"Then read on."
"On the day mentioned the Copenhagen fleet has to attack Kiel harbour. Two battleships will take up a position before the fortress of Friedrichsort and Fort Falkenstein on the west side, two more before the fortifications of Labo and Moltenort on the east side of Kiel inlet; they will keep up so hot a fire on the fortifications that the rest of the fleet will be able to enter the harbour behind them under their protection.
"In the harbour of Kiel there are about a hundred transports and some older ironclads and cruisers, which cannot offer a serious resistance to our fleet. All these ships must be attacked with the greatest rapidity and vigour. It is of the utmost importance to send a battleship to the entrance of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, in order to cut off the retreat of the German ships. All the German ships in the harbour are to be destroyed. The attack is to be commenced by some cruisers from the rest of the fleet, which will enter the inlet in advance, without any consideration of the chance of their being blown up by mines. These vessels are to be sacrificed, if necessary, in order to set the entrance free.
"For the attack on the German fleet in the Schelde, which must also take place on the 15th of July, Vice-Admiral Domvile will form a fleet of two divisions from the Channel squadrons and the cruiser fleet.
"The first division will be formed of the following battleships: Bulwark (Vice-Admiral Domvile's flagship), Albemarle, Duncan, Montagu, Formidable, Renown, Irresistible, and Hannibal.
"The cruisers Bacchante (Rear-Admiral Walker), Gladiator, Naiad, Hermione, Minerva, Rainbow, Pegasus, Pandora, Abukir, Vindictive, and Diana.
"The destroyers Dragon, Griffin, Panther, Locust, Boxer, Mallard, Coquette, Cygnet, and Zephyr.
"Two torpedo flotillas.
"Two ammunition ships, two colliers, and a hospital ship are to be allotted to the division.
"The second division will be formed of the following battleships: Majestic (Vice-Admiral Lord Beresford), Magnificent (Rear-Admiral Lambton), Cornwallis, Exmouth, Russell, Mars, Prince George, Victorious, and Caesar.
"The cruisers St. George (Captain Winsloe), Sutlej, Niobe, Brilliant, Doris, Furious, Pactolus, Prometheus, Juno, Pyramus, and Pioneer.
"The destroyers Myrmidon, Chamois, Flying Fish, Kangaroo, Desperate, Fawn, Ardent, Ariel, and Albatross.
"Two torpedo flotillas.
"Two ammunition ships, two colliers, and a hospital ship are to be alloted to the division.
"A squadron under Commodore Prince Louis of Battenberg (flagship, Implacable) will remain in reserve to watch for the possible approach of a French fleet. In case one is seen, the first division is to unite with this reserve squadron under the supreme command of Vice-Admiral Domvile, and to attack the French fleet vigorously, it being left to the second division to give battle to the German fleet. The general orders given to the fleet for the attack will then only apply to the second division. His Majesty's Government expects that the division will be able to defeat the enemy, even without the help of the first division. As soon as the scouts of the second division have driven the German guardships from the mouth of the West Schelde, the left wing of the fighting ships will open fire on Flushing, the right on the land fortifications of the south bank. The wings are not to stop, but to advance with the rest of the fleet, and the entire division will press on to Antwerp or until it meets the German fighting fleet, which must be attacked with the greatest vigour.
"The precise details of the manner of attack are left to Vice-Admiral Domvile.
"If, contrary to expectation, the German fleet, at the beginning of the attack in the mouth of the Schelde, should decide upon an advance, the admiral commanding must act upon his own judgment, according to circumstances; but, above all, it should be remembered that it is of more importance to capture as many German ships as possible than to destroy them, so that the captured ships may be used by us during the further course of the war."
The Prince-Admiral had listened in silence while Heideck was reading. The excitement which what he had heard had caused him was plainly reflected in his features.
"There seems a strong internal probability that these orders are genuine," he said thoughtfully; "but I should like to have further and more positive proof of it; for it is quite possible that it is intentionally designed to mislead us. Where does this document come from, Herr major?"
"I have already most humbly reported to your Royal Highness that I have induced the skipper Brandelaar, whom I arrested as an English spy, to act for the future in our interest. Brandelaar's boat brought this order."
"Where is this man?"
"His boat lies in Flushing harbour."
"And how did Brandelaar get possession of it?"
"I did not get it from Brandelaar himself, but from a lady, an Englishwoman, who crossed with him from Dover. My honour imposes silence upon me. I must not mention this lady's name, but I am firmly convinced and believe that I can guarantee that the document in Admiral Hollway's office has been copied word for word."
"We can soon find means of convincing ourselves whether the British fleet is preparing to carry out these orders. Then at last the time for energetic action would have arrived. His Majesty has foreseen some such advance on the part of the British fleet, and we have now to carry out the plan of the supreme commander. I thank you, Herr major!"
Heideck bowed and turned to go. He felt that he could endure it no longer, and it was only with an effort that he maintained his erect, military bearing.
When he reached the threshold, the Prince turned to him again, and said, "I think I shall be doing you an honour, Herr major, if I give you the opportunity of witnessing, by my side, the events of that great and glorious day in the life of our youthful fleet. Report yourself to me on the morning of the 15th of July on board my flagship. I will see that your present post is provided for."
"Your Royal Highness is very gracious."
"You have a claim on my thanks. Au revoir, then, Herr major."
The Prince immediately summoned the adjutant on duty, and ordered him to have several copies of the English naval plan of attack prepared at once.
One of these was intended for the admiral in command of the French fleet at Cherbourg. The Prince gave the imperial messenger, who was to convey the document to him, an autograph letter in which he urged upon the admiral to do his utmost to reach Flushing on the morning of the 15th with as strong a fighting fleet as possible, so as to assist the German fleet in its engagement with the numerically superior fleet of the English.
NEWS OF AN OLD FRIEND
"Dear Friend and Comrade,—Although it is still painful for me to write, I cannot deny myself the pleasure of being the first to congratulate you on receiving the Order of St. Vladimir. A friend in the War Office has just informed me that the announcement has appeared in the Gazette. I hope that this decoration, which you so fully earned by your services at the occupation of Simla, will cause you some satisfaction. You are aware that the Vladimir can only be bestowed on Russians or foreigners in the service of Russia, and thus you will be one of the few German officers whose breast is adorned with this mark of distinction so highly prized in this country.
"You will be surprised that my congratulations are sent from St. Petersburg; no doubt you thought of me as still in sunny India, the theatre of our mutual adventures in the war. I should certainly have remained there till the end of the campaign, had not an English bullet temporarily put an end to my military activity—all too soon for my ambition, as you can imagine. Uninjured in two great battles and a number of trifling skirmishes, I was unhappily destined to be incapacitated in quite an unimportant and inglorious encounter. Had I not been saved by an heroic woman, you would have heard no more of your old friend Tchajawadse, except that he was one of those who had remained on the field of honour.
"Can you guess the name of this woman, comrade? I do not think you can have entirely forgotten my supposed page Georgi, and I am telling you nothing new to-day in lifting the veil of the secrecy, with which for obvious reasons I was obliged to shroud his relations to me in India. Georgi was a girl, and for years she has been dearer to me than anyone else. She was of humble birth, and possessed little of what we call culture. But, nevertheless, she was to me the dearest creature that I have ever met on my wanderings through two continents; a wonderful compound of savagery and goodness of heart, of ungovernable pride and unselfish, devoted affection—a child and a heroine. She had given herself to me, and followed me on my journeys from pure inclination, not for the sake of any advantage. It had been her own wish to play the part of a servant. I do not, however, mean to say that she never made use of the power she possessed over me, for she was proud, and knew how to govern.
"Once, at the beginning of our Indian journey, extremely irritated by her obstinate pride, I raised my hand against her. One look from her brought me to my senses before the punishment followed. Afterwards, when my blood had long cooled, she said to me, her eyes still blazing with anger, 'If you had really struck me I should have left you at once, and no entreaties would ever have induced me to return to you.' I laughed at her words, but from that time exercised more control over myself. We lived in perfect harmony till the day when Georgi saved your life in Lahore, my valued comrade. It was she who brought me the terrible news that you were being led away to death. I had never seen the girl so fearfully excited before. Her eyes glistened and her whole frame trembled. It seemed as if she would have driven me forward with the lash, that I might not be too late. I myself was too anxious to worry my head much about the girl's singular excitement. But after you were happily saved, when you were concealed in my tent, and I looked for Georgi to tell her of the result of my intervention, she fell into such a paroxysm of joy that my jealous suspicions were aroused. Carried away by excitement I flung an insult at her, and then, when she answered me defiantly—to her misfortune and mine I had my riding-whip in my hand—I committed a hateful act, which I would rather have recalled than any of my other numerous follies. She received the blow in silence. The next moment she had disappeared, and I waited in vain for her return. Till we left Simla I had her searched for everywhere, but no trace of her could be found. I myself then gave her up for lost. After our return to Lahore, when we were marching on to Delhi, I occasionally heard of a girl wearing Indian dress who had appeared in the neighbourhood of our troop and resembled my lost page Georgi. But as soon as I made inquiries after this girl it seemed as if the earth had swallowed her up, and under the rapidly changing impressions of the war her image gradually faded from my mind.
"During a reconnaissance near Lucknow, which I had undertaken with my regimental staff and a small escort, my own carelessness led us into an ambuscade set by the English, which cost most of my companions their lives. At the beginning of the encounter a shot in the back had unhorsed me. I was taken for dead, and those few of my companions who were able to save themselves by flight had no time to take the fallen with them. After lying for a long time unconscious, I saw, on awaking, a number of armed Indians plundering the dead and wounded. One of the brown devils approached me. When he saw me lifting myself up to grasp my revolver, he rushed upon me brandishing his sword. I parried the first thrust at my head with my right arm. Defenceless as I was, I was already prepared for the worst. But at the moment, when the rascal was lifting up his arm for another thrust, he reeled backwards and collapsed without uttering a sound. It was Georgi, who had saved my life by a well-directed shot.
"She had accompanied the dragoons sent from our camp to recover the dead and wounded, and had got considerably in advance of the horsemen. Hence it had been possible for her to save me.
"I was too weak to ask her many questions, and my memory is a blank as to the few moments of this meeting.
"For a week I lay between life and death. Then my iron constitution triumphed. You can imagine, my dearest friend, how great my desire was to see Georgi again. But she was no longer in the camp, and no one could tell me where she was. She disappeared again as suddenly as she had appeared on that day. This time I must make up my mind to the conviction that I have lost her for ever. While on my sick bed I received a command to repair to St. Petersburg. At the same time I was highly flattered to learn that I had been promoted, and as soon as my condition permitted it, I started on my journey.
"Pardon me, dear friend, for lingering so long over a personal matter, which, after all, can have very little interest for you.
"You are as well informed as myself of the manifold changes of this war, which has already destroyed the value of untold millions, and has cost hundreds of thousands of promising human lives. I could almost envy you for being still spared to be an eyewitness of the great events, while I am condemned to the role of an inactive spectator. But I do not believe the struggle will last much longer. The sacrifices which it imposes on the people are too great to be endured many months longer. Everything is pressing to a speedy and decisive result, and I have no doubt what that result will be. For although the defeats and losses sustained by the English are partly compensated by occasional successes, one great naval victory of the allies would finally decide the issue against Great Britain. Hitherto, both sides have hesitated to bring about this decisive result, but all here are convinced that the next few weeks will at last bring those great events on the water, so long and so eagerly expected.
"To my surprise, I see that our treaty of peace with Japan is still the subject of hostile criticism in the foreign Press. Certainly, in the second phase of the campaign, the fortune of war had turned in our favour, but the struggle for India was so important for Russia that she was unwilling to divide her forces any longer. Hence we were able to build a golden bridge for Japan, and hence the peace of Nagasaki. The German Imperial Chancellor is highly popular in Russia also, owing to the part he took in the conclusion of the peace.
"Have you had the opportunity of approaching the Imperial Chancellor? This Baron Grubenhagen must be a man of strong personality.
"I am sending this letter to you by way of Berlin, for I do not know where you are at this moment. I hope it will reach you, and that you will occasionally find time to gladden your old friend Tchajawadse by letting him know that you are still alive."
Heideck had glanced rapidly through the Prince's letter, written in French, which he had found waiting for him after his return from Antwerp. Not even the news of the honourable distinction conferred by the bestowal of the Russian order had been able to evoke a sign of joy on his grave countenance. The amiable Russian Prince and his beautiful page were to him like figures belonging to a remote past, that lay an endless distance behind him. The events of the last twenty-four hours had shaken him so violently that what might perhaps a few days before have aroused his keenest interest now seemed a matter of indifference and no concern of his.
At this moment the orderly announced a man in sailor's dress, and Heideck knew that it could only be Brandelaar. The skipper had already given the information which he had brought from Dover to the officer on duty who had taken Heideck's place. If they were not exactly military secrets which by that means became known to the German military authorities, some items of the various information might prove of importance as affecting the Prince-Admiral's arrangements.
Heideck assumed that Brandelaar had now come for his promised reward. But as the skipper, after receiving the money, kept turning his hat between his fingers, like a man who does not like to perform a painful errand or make a disagreeable request, Heideck asked in astonishment: "Have you anything else to say to me, Brandelaar?"
Only after considerable hesitation he replied, "Yes, Herr major, I was to bring you a greeting—you will know who sent it."
"I think I can guess. You have seen the lady again since yesterday evening?"
"The lady came to me last night at the inn and demanded to be taken back to Dover at once. But I thought you would not like it."
"So then you refused?"
Brandelaar continued to stare in front of him at the floor.
"The lady would go—in spite of the bad weather. And she would not be satisfied till I had persuaded my friend Van dem Bosch to take her in his cutter to Dover?"
"This was last night?"
"And what more?" persisted Heideck.
"He came back at noon to-day. They had a misfortune on the way."
Heideck's frame shook convulsively. A fearful suspicion occurred to him. He needed all his strength of will to control himself.
"And the lady?"
"Herr major, it was the lady who met with an accident. She fell overboard on the journey."
Heideck clasped the back of the chair before him with both hands. Every drop of blood had left his face.
"Fell—overboard? Good God, man—and she was not saved?"
Brandelaar shook his hand.
"No, Herr major! She would stay on deck in spite of the storm, though Van dem Bosch kept asking her to go below. When a violent squall broke the halyard, she was knocked overboard by the gaff. As the sea was running high, there was no chance of saving her."
Heideck had covered his face with his hand. A dull groan burst from his violently heaving breast and a voice within him exclaimed—
"The guilt is yours. She sought death of her own accord, and it was you who drove her to it!"
His voice sounded dry and harsh when he turned to the skipper and said—
"I thank you for your information, Brandelaar. Now leave me alone."
THE LANDING IN SCOTLAND
The ninth and tenth army corps had collected at the inlet of Kid harbour. The town of Kiel and its environs resounded with the clattering of arms, the stamping of horses and the joyful songs of the soldiers, who, full of hope, were expecting great and decisive events. But no one knew anything for certain about the object of the impending expedition.
From the early hours of the morning of the 13th of July an almost endless stream of men, horses, and guns poured over the landing-bridges, which connected the giant steamers of the shipping companies with the harbour quays. Other divisions of troops were taken on board in boats, and on the evening of the 14th the whole field army, consisting of 60,000 men, was embarked.
Last of all, the general commanding, accompanied by the Imperial Chancellor, proceeded in a launch on board the large cruiser Konig Wilhelm, which lay at anchor in the Bay of Holtenall. Immediately afterwards, three rockets, mounting brightly against the dark sky, went up from the flagship. At this signal, the whole squadron started slowly in the direction of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal.
The transport fleet consisted of about sixty large steamers, belonging to the North-German Lloyd, the Hamburg-America, and the Stettin companies. They were protected by the battleships Baden, Wurttemberg, Bayern, and Sachsen, the large cruisers Kaiser and Deutschland, the small cruisers Gazelle, Prinzess Wilhelm, Irene, Komet, and Meteor, and the torpedo divisions D 5 and D 6, accompanied by their torpedo-boat divisions.
The last torpedo-boat had long left the harbour, when, about eleven o'clock in the forenoon of the 15th of July, the dull thunder of the English ironclads resounded before the fortifications of the inlet of Kiel, answered by the guns of the German fortress.
Bright sunshine was breaking through the light clouds when the Konig Wilhelm entered the Elbe at Brunsbuttel. The boats of the torpedo division, hastening forward, reported the mouth of the river free from English warships, and a wireless message was received from Heligoland in confirmation of this.
The squadron proceeded at full speed to the north-west. The torpedo division D 5 reconnoitred in advance, the small, swift boats being followed by the cruisers Prinzess Wilhelm and Irene, which from their high rigging were especially adapted for scouting operations and carried the necessary apparatus for wireless telegraphy. The rest of the fleet, whose speed had to be regulated by that of the Konig Wilhelm, followed at the prescribed intervals.
When the sharp outlines of the red cliffs of Heligoland appeared, the German cruiser Seeadler came from the island to meet the squadron and reported that the coast ironclads Aegir and Odin, the cruisers Hansa, Vineta, Freya, and Hertha, together with the torpedo-boats, had set out from Wilhelmshaven during the night and had seen nothing of the enemy. The sea appeared free. All the available English warships of the North Sea squadron had advanced to attack Antwerp.
Since the transport fleet did not appear to need reinforcements, it proceeded on its way west-north-west with its attendant warships, the Wilhelmshaven fleet remaining at Heligoland.
What was its destination?
Only a few among the many thousands could have given an answer, and they remained silent. The red cliffs of Heligoland had long since disappeared in the distance. Hours passed, but nothing met the eyes of the eagerly gazing warriors, save the boundless, gently rippling sea and the crystal-clear blue vault of heaven, stretched above it like a huge bell.
"What is our destination?"
It could not be the coast of England, which would have been reached long ago. But where was the landing to take place, if not there? To what distant shore was the German army being taken, the largest whose destinies had ever been entrusted to the treacherous waves of the sea?
When daylight again brought a report from the scouts that the enemy's ships were nowhere to be seen, the Commander-in-Chief of the army could not help expressing his surprise to the Admiral that the English had apparently entirely neglected scouting in the North Sea, and further, that they did not even see any merchant vessels.
"The explanation of this apparently surprising fact is not very remote, Your Excellency," replied the Admiral. "We should hardly sight any merchantmen, since maritime trade is now almost entirely at a standstill, owing to the insecurity of the seas. We have not met a flotilla of fishing-boats, since in this part of the North Sea there are no fishing-grounds. We see none of the enemy's ships, since the English have most likely calculated every other possibility except our attempting to land in Scotland."