In which the lady of the mantilla gives four adventurers several bad moments
THE STORY: During the Great War, Major Richard Hannay undertakes to learn details of a German plot to inflame the Moslems against the British in India and elsewhere. The only clue he is given is a paper bearing the words, “ Kasredin,” "cancer,” and "v. ƒ.,” which a British secret agent in the East brought in but could not explain before he died.
Hannay has two assistants—Sandy Arbuthnot and John S. Blenkiron, the latter a rich and eccentric American. They agree to proceed to Constantinople by different routes. On meeting there, it is hoped that one of them will have learned the secret.
At Lisbon, Hannay meets Peter Pienaar, an old pro-British friend from South Africa; and, under the pretense that they are Boers who want to help Germany, they proceed to the latter country. Hannay now calls himself Cornelius Brandt.
They are met by Colonel von Stumm, a brutal German, and separated. Hannay goes with von Stumm to the latter's castle, and when von Stumm becomes suspicious of his real purpose, Hannay knocks him unconscious and escapes into a forest.
After many adventures and hairbreadth escapes, he reaches the Danube, upon which a tugboat is pulling a string of barges. He persuades the captain to take him on as engineer. Later, Peter Pienaar turns up and also secures a job. They have trouble crossing the Turkish frontier but finally reach Constantinople and escape from a mob of Turks who think they are German spies.
Hannay meets Blenkiron and Sandy, and now he dresses as an American and masquerades as Richard Hanau, of Cleveland, Ohio, a mining engineer who wishes to help Germany win the war. Blenkiron and Sandy have learned the meaning of the word “ Kasredin.” It is the title of an old tale that tells of the coming of a prophet; and this prophet, who means to restore Islam to its old purity, is named Zimrud and also is called Greenmantle. The"v. I,” stands for a very clever woman, Hilda von Einem, who is deeply implicated in the prophet plot and is characterized by Blenkiron as "mad and bad, but principally bad.”
SINCE that first night I had never clapped eyes on Sandy. He had gone clean out of the world, and Blenkiron and I waited anxiously for a word of news. Our own business was in good trim, for we were presently going east toward Mesopotamia, but unless we learned more about Greenmantle our journey would be a grotesque failure. And learn about Greenmantle we could not, for nobody by word or deed suggested his existence, and it was impossible, of course, for us to ask questions. Our only hope was Sandy, for what we wanted to know was ti e prophet’s whereabouts and his plans. I suggested to Blenkiron that we might do more to cultivate Frau von Einem, but he shut his jaw like a rat-trap.
“There’s nothing doing for us in that quarter,” he said. “That’s the most dangerous woman on earth; and if she got any kind of notion that we were wise about her pet schemes I reckon you and I would very soon be in the Bosporus.”
This was all very well; but what was going to happen if the two of us were bundled off to Bagdad with instructions to wash away the British? Our time was getting pretty short, and I doubted if we could spin out more than three days more in Constantinople. I felt just as I had felt with Stumm that last night when I was about to be packed off to Cairo and saw no way of avoiding it. Even Blenkiron was getting anxious. He played Patience incessantly, and was disinclined to talk. I tried to find out something from the servants, but they either knew nothing or wouldn’t speak— the former, I think. I kept my eyes lifting, too. as I walked about the streets, but there was no sign anywhere of the skin coats or the weird stringed instruments. The whole Company of the Rosy Hours seemed to have melted into the air, and I began to wonder if they had ever existed.
Anxiety made me restless, and restlessness made me want exercise. It was no good walking about the city. The weather had become foul again, and I was sick of the smells and the squalor and the fleabitten crowds. So Blenkiron and I got horses, Turkish cavalry mounts with heads like trees, and went out through the suburbs into the open country.
It was a grey drizzling afternoon, with the beginnings of a sea fog which hid the Asiatic shores of the straits. It wasn’t easy to find open ground for a gallop, for there were endless small patches of cultivation and the gardens of country houses. We kept on the high land above the sea, and when we reached a bit of downland came on squads of Turkish soldiers digging trenches. Whenever we let the horses go we had to pull up sharp for a digging party or a stretch of barbed wire. Coils of the beastly thing were lying loose everywhere, and Blenkiron nearly took a nasty toss over one. Then we were always being stopped by sentries and having to show our passes. Still the ride did us good and shook up our livers, and by the time we turned for home I was feeling more like a white man.
We jogged back in the short winter twilight, past the wooded grounds of white villas, held up every few minutes by transport wagons and companies of soldiers. The rain had come on in real earnest, and it was two very bedraggled horsemen that crawled along the muddy lanes. As we passed one villa, shut in by a high white wall, a pleasant smell of wood smoke was wafted toward us, which made me sick for the burning veld. My ear. too, caught the twanging of a zither, which somehow reminded me of the afternoon in Kuprasso’s garden-house.
I pulled up and proposed to investigate, but Blenkiron very testily declined.
“Zithers are as common here as fleas,” he said. “You don’t want to be fossicking around somebody’s stables and
find a horse-boy entertaining his friends. They don’t like visitors in this country; and you’ll be asking for trouble if you go inside those walls. I guess it’s some old Buzzard’s harem.” Buzzard was his own private peculiar name for the Turk, for he said he had had as a boy a natural history book with a picture of a bird called the turkey-buzzard, and couldn’t get out of the habit of applying it to the Ottoman people.
I wasn’t convinced, so I tried to mark down the place. It seemed to be about three miles out from the city, at the end of a steep lane on the inland side of the hill coming from the Bosporus. I fancied somebody of distinction lived there, for a little farther on we met a big empty motor car snorting its way up, and I had a notion that the car belonged to the walled villa.
"^TEXT DAY Blenkiron was in grievous trouble with his dyspepsia. About midday he was compelled to lie down, and having nothing better to do I had out the horses again and took Peter with me. It was funny to see Peter in a Turkish army saddle, riding with the long Boer stirrup and the slouch of the back veld.
That afternoon was unfortunate from the start. It was not the mist and drizzle of the day before, but a stiff Northern gale which blew sheets of rain in our faces and numbed our bridle hands. We took the same road, but pushed west of the trench-digging parties and got to a shallow valley with a white village among cypresses. Beyond that there was a very respectable road which brought us to the top of a crest that in clear weather must have given a fine prospect. Then we turned our horses, and I shaped our course so as to strike the top of the long lane that abutted on the town. I wanted to investigate the white villa.
But we hadn’t gone far on our road back before we got into trouble. It arose out of a sheep dog, a yellow mongrel brute that came at us like a thunderbolt. It took a special fancy to Peter, and bit savagely at his horse’s heels and sent it capering off the road. I should have warned him, but I did not realize what was happening till too late. For Peter, being accustomed to mongrels in Kaffir kraals, took a summary way with the pest. Since it despised his whip, he out with his pistol and put a bullet through its head.
The echoes of the shot had scarcely died away when the row began. A big fellow appeared running toward us,
shouting wildly. I guessed he was the dog’s owner, and proposed to pay no attention. But his cries summoned two other fellows—soldiers by the look of them—who closed in on us, unslinging their rifles as they ran. My first idea was to show them our heels, but I had no desire to be shot in the back, and they looked like men who wouldn’t stop short of shooting. So we slowed down and faced them.
They made as savage looking a trio as you would want to avoid. The shepherd looked as if he had been dug up, a dirty ruffian with matted hair and a beard like a bird’s nest. The two soldiers stood staring with sullen faces, fingering their guns, while the other chap raved and stormed and kept pointing at Peter, whose mild eyes stared unwinkingly at his assailant.
The mischief was that neither of us had a word of Turkish. I tried German, but it had no effect. We sat looking at them, and they stood storming at us, and it was fast getting dark. Once I turned my horse round as if to proceed, and the two soldiers jumped in front of me.
They jabbered among themselves, and then one said very slowly: “He . . . want . . . pounds.” and he held up five fingers. They evidently saw by the cut of our jib that we weren’t Germans.
“I’ll be hanged if he gets a penny,” I said angrily, and the conversation languished.
The situation was getting serious, so I spoke a word to Peter. The soldiers had their rifles loose in their hands, and before they could lift them we had the pair covered with our pistols.
“If you move.” I said, “you are dead.” They understood that all right and stood stock still, while the shepherd stopped his raving and took to muttering like a gramophone when the record is finished.
“Drop your guns,” I said sharply. “Quick, or we shoot.”
The tone, if not the words, conveyed my meaning. Still staring at us, they let the rifles slide to the ground. The next second we had forced our horses on the top of them, and the three were off like rabbits. I sent a shot over their heads to encourage them. Peter dismounted and tossed the guns into a bit of scrub where they would take some finding.
This hold-up had wasted time. By now it was getting very dark, and we hadn’t ridden a mile before it was black night. It was an annoying predicament, for I had completely lost my bearings and at the best I had only a foggy notion of
the lie of the land. The best plan seemed to be to try and get to the top of a rise in the hope of seeing the lights of the city, but all the countryside was so pockety that it was hard to strike the right kind of rise.
We had to trust to Peter’s instinct. I asked him where our line lay, and he sat very still for a minute sniffing the air. Then he pointed the direction. It wasn’t what I would have taken myself, but on a point like that he was pretty near infallible.
Presently we came to a long slope which cheered me. But at the top there was no light visible anywhere—only a black void like the inside of a shell. As I stared into the gloom it seemed to me that there were patches of deeper darkness that might be woods.
“There is a house half-left in front of us,” said Peter.
I peered till my eyes ached and saw nothing.
“Well, for heaven’s sake, guide me to it,” I said, and with Peter in front we set off down the hill.
TT WAS a wild journey, for darkness clung as close to us as a vest. Twice we stepped into patches ol bog, and once my horse saved himself by a hair from going head forward into a gravel pit. We got tangled up in strands of wire, and often found ourselves rubbing our noses against tree trunks. Several times I had to get down and make a gap in barricades of loose stones. But after a ridiculous amount ot slipping and stumbling we finally struck what seemed the level of a road, and a piece of special darkness in front which turned out to be a high wall.
I argued that all mortal walls had doors, so we set to groping along it, and presently found a gap. There was an old iron gate on broken hinges, which we easily pushed open, and found ourselves on a back path to some house. It was clearly disused, for masses of rotting leaves covered it. and by the feel of il underloot it was grass-grown.
We were dismounted now, leading our horses, and after about fifty yards the path ceased and came out on a well-made carriage drive. So, at least, we guessed, for the place was as black as pitch. Evidently the house couldn’t be far off, but in which direction I hadn’t a notion.
Now I didn’t want to be paying calls on any Turk at that time of day. Our job was to find where the road opened into the lane, for after that our way to Constantinople was clear. One side the lane lay, and the other the house, and it didn’t seem wise to take the risk of tramping up with horses to the front door. So I told Peter to wait for me at the end of the back-road, while I would prospect a bit. I turned to the right, my intention being if I saw the light of a house to return, and with Peter take the other direction.
I walked like a blind man in that nether-pit of darkness. The road seemed well kept, and the soft wet gravel muffled the sounds of my feet. Great trees overhung it, and several times I wandered into dripping bushes. And then I stopped short in mv tracks, for I heard the sound of whistling.
It was quite close, about ten yards away. And the strange thing was that it was a tune I knew, about the last tunc you would expect to hear in this part of the world. It was the Scots air: “Ca’ the yowes to the knowes.” which was a
favorite of my father’s.
The whistler must have felt my presence, for the air suddenly stopped in the middle of a bar. An unbounded curiosity seized me to know who the fellow could be. So I started in and finished it myself.
There was silence for a second, and then the unknown began again and stopped. Once more I chipped in and finished it.
Then it seemed to me that he was coming nearer. The air in that dank tunnel was very still, and I thought I heard a light foot. I think I took a step backward. Suddenly there was a flash of an electric torch from a yard off, so quick that I could see nothing of the man who held it.
Then a low voice spoke out of the darkness—a voice I knew well—and, following it, a hand was laid on my arm. “What the devil are you doing here, Dick?” it said, and there was'something like consternation in the tone.
I told him in a hectic sentence, for I was beginning to feel badly rattled myself.
“You’ve never been in greater danger in your life.” said the voice. “Great God. man, what brought you wandering here today of all days?”
You can imagine that I was pretty scared, for .Sandy was the last man to put a case too high. And the next second I felt worse, for he clutched my arm and dragged me in a bound to the side of the road. I could seenothing, but I felt that his head was screwed round, and mine followed suit. And there, a dozen yards off, were the acetylene lights of a big motor car.
It came very slowly, purring like a great cat, while we
pressed into the bushes. The headlights seemed to spread a fan far to either side, showing the full width of the drive and its borders, and about half the height of the overarching trees. There was a figure in uniform sitting beside the chauffeur, whom I saw dimly in the reflex glow, but the body of the car was dark.
It crept toward us, passed, and my mind was just getting easy again when it stopped. A switch was snapped within, and the limousine was brightly lit up. Inside I saw a woman’s figure.
The servant had got out and opened the door and a voice came from within—a clear soft voice speaking in some tongue I did not understand. Sandy had started forward at the sound of it, and I followed him. It would never do for me to be caught skulking in the bushes.
T WAS so dazzled by the suddenness of the glare that at
first I blinked and saw nothing. Then my eyes cleared and I found myself looking at the inside of a car upholstered in some soft dove-colored fabric, and beautifully finished off in ivory and silver. The woman who sat in it had a mantilla of black lace over her head and shoulders, and with one slender jewelled hand she kept its folds over the greater part of her face. I saw only a pair of pale grey-blue eyes—these and the slim fingers.
I remember that Sandy was standing very upright with his hands on his hips, by no means like a servant in the presence of his mistress. He was a fine figure of a man at all times, but in those wild clothes, with his head thrown back and his dark brows drawn below his skull-cap, he looked like some savage king out of an older world. He was speaking Turkish, and glancing at me now and then as if angry and perplexed. I took the hint that he was not supfx)sed to know any other tongue, and that he was asking who the devil I might be.
Then they both looked at me, Sandy with the slow unwinking stare of the gipsy, the lady with those curious beautiful pale eyes. They ran over my clothes, my brand-new riding breeches, my splashed boots, my wide-brimmed hat. I took off the last and made my best bow.
“Madam,” I said, “I have to ask pardon for trespassing in your garden. The fact is, I and my servant—he’s down the road with the horses and I guess you noticed him—the two of us went for a ride this afternoon, and got good and well lost. We came in by your back gate, and I w'as prospecting for your front door to find someone to direct us, when I bumped into this brigand chief who didn’t understand my talk. I’m American, and I’m here on a big Government proposition. I hate to trouble you, but if you’d send a man to show us how to strike the city I’d be very much in your debt.”
Her eyes never left my face. “Will you come into the car?” she said in English. “At the house I will give you a servant to direct you.”
She drew in the skirts of her fur cloak to make room for me, and in my muddy boots and sopping clothes I took the seat she pointed out.
She said a word in Turkish to Sandy, switched off the light, and the car moved on.
Women had never come much my way, and I knew about as much of their ways as I knew about the Chinese language. All my life I had lived with men only, and rather a rough crowd at that. When I made my pile and came home I looked to see a little society, but I had first the business of the Black Stone on my hands, and then the war, so my education languished. I had never been in a motor car with a lady before, and I felt like a fish on a dry sandbank.
The soft cushions and the subtle scents filled me with acute uneasiness. I wasn’t thinking now about Sandy’s grave words, or about Blenkiron’s warning, or about my job and the part this woman must play in it. I was thinking only that I felt mortally shy. The darkness made it worse. I was sure that my companion was looking at me all the time and laughing at me for a clown.
The car stopped and a tall servant opened the door. The lady was over the threshold before I was at the step. I followed her heavily, the wet squelching from my field boots. At that moment I noticed that she was very tall.
She led me through a long corridor to a room where two pillars held lamps in the shape of torches. The place was dark but for their glow, and it was as warm as a hothouse from invisible stoves. I felt soft carpets underfoot, and on the walls hung some tapestry or rug of an amazingly intricate geometrical pattern, but with every strand as rich as jewels. There, between the pillars, she turned and faced me. Her furs were thrown back, and the black mantilla had slipped down to her shoulders.
“I have heard of you,” she said. “You are called Richard Hanau, the American. Why have you come to this land?”
“To have a share in the campaign,” I said. “I’m an engineer, and I thought I could help out with some business like Mesopotamia.”
“You are on Germany’s side?” she asked.
“Why, yes,” I replied. “We Americans are supposed to be nootrals, and that means we’re free to choose any side we fancy. I’m for the Kaiser.”
TJTER COOL EYES searched me, but not in suspicion. I could see she wasn’t troubling with the question whether I was speaking the truth. She was sizing me up as a man. I cannot describe that calm appraising look. There was no sex in it, nothing even of that implicit sympathy with which one human being explores the existence of another. I was a chattel, a thing infinitely removed from intimacy. Even so I have myself looked at a horse which I thought of buying, scanning his shoulders and hocks and paces. Even so must the old lords of Constantinople have looked at the slaves which the chances of war brought to their markets, assessing their usefulness for some task or other with no thought of a humanity common to purchased and purchaser. And yet—not quite. This woman’s eyes were weighing me, not for any special duty, but for my essential qualities. I felt that I was under the scrutiny of a connoisseur.
I see I have written that I knew nothing about women. But every man has in his bones a consciousness of sex. I was shy and perturbed, but horribly fascinated. This slim woman, poised exquisitely like some statue between the pillared lights with her fair cloud of hair, her long delicate face, and her pale bright eyes, had the glamor of a wild dream. I hated her instinctively, hated her intensely, but I longed to arouse her interest. To be valued coldly by those eyes was offense to my manhood, and I felt antagonism rising within me. I am a strong fellow, well set up, and rather above the average height, and my irritation stiffened me from heel to crown. I (lung my head back and gave her cool glance for cool glance, pride against pride.
Once, I remember, a doctor on board ship who dabbled in hypnotism told me that I was the most unsympathetic jjerson he had ever struck. He said I was about as good a mesmeric subject as Table Mountain. Suddenly I began to realize that this woman was trying to cast some spell over
me. The eyes grew large and luminous, and I was conscious for just an instant of some will battling to subject mine. I was aware, too, in the same moment of a strange scent which recalled that wild hour in Kuprasso’s garden-house. It passed quickly, and for a second her eyes drooped. I seemed to read in them failure, and yet a kind of satisfaction too, as if they had found more in me than they expected.
“What life have you led?” the soft voice was saying.
I was able to answer quite naturally, rather to my surprise. “I have been a mining engineer up and down the world.”
“You have faced danger many times?”
“I have faced danger.”
“You have fought with men in battles?”
“I have fought in battles.”
Her bosom rose and fell in a kind of sigh. A smile—a very beautiful thing—flitted over her face. She gave me her hand.
"The horses are at the door now,” she said, “and your servant is with them. One of my people will guide you to the city.”
She turned away and passed out of the circle of light into the darkness beyond. . .
Peter and I jogged home in the rain with one of Sandy’s skin-clad Companions loping at our side. We did not speak a word, for my thoughts were running like hounds on the track of the past hours. I had seen the mysterious I lilda von Einem, I had spoken to her, I had held her hand. She had insulted me with the subtlest of insults and yet I was not angry. Suddenly the game I was playing became invested with a tremendous solemnity. My old antagonists, Stumm and Rasta and the whole German Empire, seemed to shrink into the background, leaving only the slim woman with her inscrutable smile and devouring eyes. “Mad and bad,” Blenkiron had called her, “but principally bad.” I did not think they were the proper terms, for they belonged to the narrow world of our common experience. This was something beyond and above it, as a cyclone or an earthquake is outside the decent routine of nature. Mad and bad she might be, but she was also great.
Before we arrived our guide had plucked my knee and spoken some words which he had obviously got by heart. “The Master says,” ran the message, “expect him at midnight.”
T WAS soaked to the bone, and while Peter set off to look for dinner, I went to my room to change. I had a rub down and then got into pyjamas for some dumb-bell exercise with two chairs, for that long wet ride had stiffened my arm and shoulder muscles. They were a vulgar suit of primitive blue, which Blenkiron had looted from my London wardrobe. As Cornelius Brandt I had sported a flannel night-gown.
My bedroom opened off the sitting-room, and while I was busy with my gymnastics I heard the door open. I thought at first it was Blenkiron, but the briskness of the tread was unlike his measured gait. I had left the light burning there, and the visitor, whoever he was, had made himself at home. I slipped on a green dressing-gown Blenkiron had lent me, and sallied forth to investigate.
My friend Rasta was standing by the table, on which he had laid an envelope. He looked round at my entrance and saluted.
“I come from the Minister of War, sir,” he said, “and bring your passports for tomorrow. You will travel by. . .” And then his voice tailed away and his black eyes narrowed to slits. He had seen something which switched him off the metals.
At that moment 1 saw it too. There was a mirror on the wall behind him, and as 1 faced him I could not help seeing my reflection.lt was the exact image of the engineer on the Danube boat—blue jeans, loden cloak, and all. The accursed mischance of my costume had given him the clue to an identity which was otherwise buried deep in the Bosporus.
I am bound to say for Rasta that he was a man of quick action. In a trice he had whipped round to the other side of the table between me and the door, where he stood regarding me wickedly.
By this time I was at the table and stretched out a hand for the envelope. My one hope was nonchalance.
“Sit down, sir,” I said, “and have a drink. It’s a filthy'night to move about in.”
“Thank you, no, Herr Brandt,” he said. “You may burn these passports, for they will not be used.”
“Whatever’s the matter with you?” I cried. "You’ve mistaken the house, my lad. I’m called Hanau—Richard Hanau—and my partner’s Mr. John S. Blenkiron. He’ll be here presently. Never knew anyone of the name of Brandt, barring a tobacconist in Denver City.”
“You have never been to Rustchuk?” he said with a sneer.
“Not that I know of. But, pardon me, sir, if I ask your name and your business here. I’m damed if I’m accustomed to be called by Dutch names or have my word doubted. In my country we consider that impolite as between gentlemen.”
I could see that my bluff was having its effect. His stare began to waver, and when he next spoke it was in a more civil tone.
“I will ask pardon if I’m mistaken, sir, but you’re the image of a man who a week ago was at Rustchuk, a man much wanted by the Imperial Government.”
“A week ago I was tossing in a dirty little hooker coming from Constanza. Unless Rustchuk’s in the middle of the Black Sea I’ve never visited the township. I guess you’re barking up the wrong tree. Come to think of it. I was expecting passix>rts. Say, do you come from Enver Damad?”
“I have that honor,” he said.
“Well, Enver is a very good friend of mine. He's the brightest citizen I’ve struck this side of the Atlantic.”
The man was calming down, and in another minute his suspicions would have gone. But at that moment, by the crookedest kind of luck, Peter entered with a tray of dishes. He did not notice Rasta, and walked straight to the table and plumped down his burden on it. The Turk had stepped aside at his entrance, and I saw by the look in his eyes that his suspicions had become a certainty. For Peter, stripped to the shirt and breeches, was the identical shabby little companion of the Rustchuk meeting.
I had never doubted Rasta’s pluck. He jumped for the door and had a pistol out in a trice pointing at my head.
“Bonne fortune." he cried. “Both the birds at one shot.” His hand was on the
latch, and his mouth was open to cry. I guessed there was an orderly waiting on the stairs.
T-TE HAD what you call the strategic advantage, for he w'as at the door, while I w'as at the other end of the table and Peter at the side of it at least two yards from him. The road was clear before him, and neither of us was armed. I made a despairing step fonvard, not knowing what I meant to do, for I saw no light. But Peter was before me.
He had never let go of the tray, and now, as a boy skims a stone on a pond, he skimmed it with its contents at Rasta’s head. The man w'as opening the door with one hand while he kept me covered with the other, and he got the contrivance fairly in the face. A pistol shot cracked out, and the bullet w'ent through the tray, but the noise was drowned in the crash of glasses and crockery. The next second Peter had wrenched the pistol from Rasta’s hand and had gripped his throat.
A dandified young Turk, brought up in Paris and finished in Berlin, may be as brave as a lion, but he cannot stand in a rough-andtumble against a back-veld hunter, though more than double his age. There was no need for me to help. Peter had his own way, learned in a wild school, of knocking the sense out of a foe. He gagged him scientifically, and trussed him up with his own belt and two straps from a trunk in my bedroom.
“This man is too dangerous to let go,” he said, as if his procedure were the most ordinary thing in the world. “He will be quiet now' till w'e have time to make a plan.”
At that moment there came a knocking at the door. That is the sort of thing that happens in melodrama, just when the villain has finished off his job neatly. The correct thing to do is to pale to the teeth, and with a rolling, conscience-stricken eye glare round the horizon. But that was not Peter’s way.
“We’d better tidy up if we’re to have visitors,” he said calmly.
Now there was one of those big oak German cupboards against the wall which must have been brought in in sections, for complete it would never have got through the door. It was empty now, but for Blenkiron’s hat-box. In it he deposited the unconscious Rasta, and turned the key. “There’s enough ventilation through the top,” he observed, “to keep the air good.” Then he opened the door.
A magnificent kavass in blue and silver stood outside. He saluted and proffered a card on which was written in pencil, “Hilda von Einem.”
I would have begged for time to change my clothes, but the lady was behind him.
I saw the black mantilla and the rich sable furs. Peter vanished through my bedroom, and I was left to receive my guest in a room littered with broken glass and a senseless man in the cupboard.
There are some situations so crazily extravagant that they key up the spirit to meet them. I was almost laughing when that stately lady stepped over my threshold.
“Madam,” I said, with a bow that shamed my old dressing-gown and strident pyjamas. “You find me at a disadvantage. I came home soaking from my ride and was in the act of changing. My servant has just upset a tray of crockery, and I fear this room’s no fit place for a lady. Allow me three minutes to make myself presentable.”
She inclined her head gravely and took a seat by the fire. I went into my bedroom, and as I expected found Peter lurking by the other door. In a hectic sentence I bade him get Rasta’s orderly out of the place on any pretext, and tell him his master would return later. Then I hurried into decent garments and came out to find my visitor in a brown study.
At the sound of my entrance she started from her dream and stood up on the hearthrug, slipping the long robe of fur from her slim body.
“We are alone?” she said. “We will not be disturbed?”
Then an inspiration came to me. I remembered that Frau von Einem, according to Blenkiron, did not see eye to eye with the
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Young Turks; and I had a queer instinct tirât Rasta could not be to her liking. So I spoke the truth.
“I must tell you that there’s another guest here tonight. I reckon he’s feeling pretty uncomfortable. At present he’s trussed up en a shelf in that cupboard.”
She did not trouble to look round.
“Is he dead?” she asked calmly.
“By no means,” I said, “but lie’s fixed so he can’t speak, and I guess he can’t hear much.”
“He was the man who brought you this?” she asked, pointing to the envelope on the table which bore the big blue stamp of the Ministry of War.
“The same,” I said. “I’m not perfectly sure of his name, but I think they call him Rasta.”
Not a flicker of a smile crossed her face, but I had a feeling that the news pleased her.
“Did he thwart you?” she asked.
“Why, yes. He thwarted me some. His head is a bit swelled, and an hour or two on the shelf will do him good.”
“He is a powerful man,” she said, “a jackal of Enver’s. Y'ou have made a dangerous enemy.”
“I don’t value him at two cents,” said I, though I thought grimly that as far as I muid see the value of him was likely to be about the price of my neck.
“Perhaps you are right,” she said with Sirious eyes. “In these days no enemy is dangerous to a bold man. 1 have come tonight, Mr. Hanau, to talk business with you, as they say in your country. I have heard well of you, and today I have seen you. I may have need of you, and you assuredly will have need of me. . . ”
SHE BROKE off, and again her strange potent eyes fell on my face. They were like a burning searchlight which showed up every cranny and crack of the soul. I felt it was going to be horribly difficult to act a part under that compelling gaze. She could not mesmerize me, but she could strip me of my fancy dress and set me naked in the masquerade.
“What came you forth to seek?” she asked. “You are not like the stout American Blenkiron, a lover of shoddy power and a devotee of a feeble science. There is something more than that in your face. Y'ou are on our side, but you are not of the Germans with their hankerings for a rococo empire. You come from America, the land of pious follies, where men worship gold and words. I ask, what come you forth to seek?”
As she spoke I seemed to get a vision of a figure, like one of the old gods looking down on human nature from a great height, a figure disdainful and passionless, but with its own magnificence. It kindled my imagination, and I answered with the stuff I had often cogitated when I had tried to explain to myself just how a case could be made out against the Allied cause.
“I will tell you, madam,” I said. “I am a man who has followed a science, but 1 have followed it in wild places, and I have gone through it and come out at the other side. The world, as I see it, had become too easy and cushioned. Men had forgotten their manhood in soft speech, and imagined that the rules of their smug civilization were the laws of the universe. But that is not the teaching of science, and it is not the teaching of life. We had forgotten the greater virtues, and we were becoming emasculated humbugs whose gods were our own weaknesses. Then came war, and the air was cleared. Germany, in spite of her blunders and her grossness, stood forth as the scourge of cant. She had the courage to cut through the bonds of humbug and to laugh at the fetishes of the herd. Therefore I am on Germany’s side. But I came here for another reason. I know nothing of the East, but as I read history it is from the desert that the purification comes. When mankind is smothered with shams and phrases and painted idols a
wind blows out of the wilds to cleanse and simplify life. The world needs space and fresh air. The civilization we have boasted of is a toy shop and a blind alley, and I hanker for open country.”
This confounded nonsense was well re-1 ceived. Her pale eyes had the cold light of a fanatic. With her bright hair and the long exquisite oval of her face she looked like some destroying fury of a Norse legend. At that moment I think I first really feared her; before 1 had half hated and half admired. Thank heaven, in her absorption she did not notice that I had forgotten the speech of Cleveland, Ohio.
“Y'ou are of the Household of Faith,” she said. “Y'ou will presently learn many things, for the Faith marches to victory. Meantime I have one word for you. Y'ou and your companion travel eastward.”
“We go to Mesopotamia.” I said. “I reckon these are our passports,” and I pointed to the envelope.
She picked it up, opened it. and then tore it in pieces and tossed it in the fire.
“The orders are countermanded,” she; said. “I have need of you and you go with me. Not to the flats of the Tigris, but to the great hills. Tomorrow you will receive new passports.”
She gave me her hand and turned to go. At the threshold she paused, and looked toward the oak cupboard. “Tomorrow I will relieve you of your prisoner. He will be safer in my hands.”
SHE LEFT me in a condition of pretty blank bewilderment. We were to be tied to the chariot wheels of this fury, and started on an enterprise compared to which fighting against our friends at Kut seemed tame and reasonable. On the other hand, I had been spotted by Rasta, and had got the envoy of the most powerful man in Constantinople locked in a cupboard. At all costs we had to keep Rasta safe, but I was very determined that he should not be handed over to the lady. I was going to be no party to cold-blooded murder, which I judged to be her expedient. It was a pretty kettle of fish, but in the meantime I must have food, for I had eaten nothing for nine hours. So I went in search of Peter.
I had scarcely begun my long-deferred meal when Sandy entered. He was before his time, and he looked as solemn as a sick owl. I seized on him as a drowning man clutches a spar.
He heard my story of Rasta with a lengthening face.
“That’s bad,” he said. “You say he spotted you, and your subsequent doings of course would not disillusion him. It’s an infernal nuisance, but there’s only one way ’ out of it. I must put him in charge of my ! own people. They will keep him safe and sound till he’s wanted. Only he mustn’t see me.” And he went out in a hurry.
I fetched Rasta from his prison. He had come to his senses by this time, and lay regarding me with stony, malevolent eyes.
“I’m very sorry, sir,” I said, “for what has happened. But you left me no alternative. I’ve got a big job on hand and I can’t have it interfered with by you or anyone. You’re paying the price of a suspicious nature. When you know a little more you’ll want to apologize to me. I’m going to see that you are kept quiet and comfortable for a day or two. You’ve no cause to worry, for you’ll suffer no harm. I give you my word of honor as an American citizen.”
Two of Sandy's miscreants came in and bore him off, and presently Sandy himself returned. When I asked where he was being taken, Sandy said he didn’t know. “They’ve got their orders, and they’ll carry them out to the letter. There’s a big unknown area in Constantinople to hide a man, into which the K/uiJiyeh never enter.”
Then he flung himself into a chair and lit his old pipe.
“Dick,” he said, “this job is getting very
difficult and very dark. But my knowledge has grown in the last few days. I’ve found out the meaning of the second word that Harry Bullivant scribbled.”
“Cancer?” I asked.
“Yes. It means just what it reads and no j more. Greenmantle is dying—has been dy| ing for months. This afternoon they brought a German doctor to see him, and the man gave him a few hours of life. By now he may be dead.”
The news was a staggerer. For a moment I thought it cleared up things. “Then that busts the show,” I said. “You can’t have a crusade without a prophet.”
“I wish I thought it did. It’s the end of one stage, but the start of a new and blacker one. Do you think that woman will be beaten by such a small thing as the death of her prophet? She’ll find a substitute—one of the four Ministers, or someone else. She’s a devil incarnate, but she has the soul of a Najxileon. The big danger is only beginning.”
Then he told me the story of his recent ; doings. He had found out the house of Frau von Einem without much trouble, and had ¡ performed with his ragamuffins in the servants’ quarters. The prophet had a large retinue, and the fame of the minstrels—for the Companions were known far and wide in the land of Islam—came speedily to the ears of the Holy Ones. Sandy, a leader in this most orthodox coterie, was taken into favor and brought to the notice of the four Ministers. He and his half-dozen retainers became inmates of the villa, and Sandy, from his knowledge of Islamic lore and his ostentatious piety, was admitted to the confidence of the household. Frau von Einem welcomed him as an ally, for the Companions had been the most devoted propagandists of the new revelation.
As he described it, it was a strange business. Greenmantle was dying and often in great pain, but he struggled to meet the demands of his protectress. The four Ministers, as Sandy saw them, were unworldly ascetics; the prophet himself was a saint, though a practical saint with some notions of policy, but the controlling brain and will were those of the lady. Sandy seemed to have won his favor, even his affection. He spoke of him with a kind of desperate pity.
“I never .saw such a man. He is the greatest gentleman you can picture, with a dignity like a high mountain. He is a dreamer and a poet, too—a genius if I can judge these things. I think I can assess him rightly, for I know something of the soul of the East, but it would be too long a story to tell now. The West knows nothing of the true Oriental. It pictures him as lapped in color and idleness and luxury and gorgeous dreams. But it is all wrong. The Keif he yearns for is an austere thing. It is the austerity of the East that is its beauty and its terror.
“It always wants the same things at the back of its head. The Turk and the Arab came out of big spaces, and they have the desire of them in their bones. They settle down and stagnate, and by and by they degenerate into that appalling subtlety which is their ruling passion gone crooked. And then comes a new revelation and a great simplifying. They want to live face to face with God without a screen of ritual and images and priestcraft. They want to prune life of its foolish fringes and get back to the noble bareness of the desert. Remember, it is always the empty desert and the empty sky that cast their spell over them—these, and the hot, strong, antiseptic sunlight which burns up all rot and decay. . . It isn’t inhuman. It’s the humanity of one part of the human race. It isn’t ours, it isn’t as good as ours, but it’s jolly good all the same. There are times when it grips me so hard that I’m inclined to forswear the gods of my fathers !
“Well, Greenmantle is the prophet of this great simplicity. He speaks straight to the heart of Islam, and it’s an honorable message. But for our sins it’s been twisted into part of that damed German propaganda.
; His unworldliness has been used for a cun! ning political move, and his creed of space I and simplicity for the furtherance of the last * word in human degeneracy. My God, Dick,
it’s like seeing St. Francis run by Messalina.” “The woman has been here tonight,” I said. “She asked me what I stood for, and I invented some infernal nonsense which she approved of. But I can see one thing. She and her prophet may run for different stakes, but it’s the same course.'”
SANDY started. “She’s been here!” he cried. “Tell me, Dick, what did you think of her?”
“1 thought she was about two parts mad, but the third part was uncommon like inspiration.”
"That’s about right,” he said. “I was wrong in comparing her to Messalina. She’s something a dashed sight more complicated. She runs the prophet just because she shares his belief. Only what in him is sane and fine, in her is mad and horrible. You see, Germany also wants to simplify life.”
“I know,” I said. “I told her that an hour ago, when I talked more rot to the second than any mortal man ever achieved. It will come between me and my sleep for the rest of my days.”
“Germany’s simplicity is that of the neurotic, not the primitive. It is megalomania and egotism and the pride of the man in the Bible that waxed fat and kicked. But the results are the same. She wants to destroy and simplify; but it isn’t the simplicity of the ascetic, which is of the spirit, but the simplicity of the madman that grinds down all the contrivances of civilization to a featureless monotony. The prophet wants to save the souls of his people; Germany wants to rule the inanimate corpse of the world. But you can get the same language to cover both. And so you have the partnership of St. Francis and Messalina. Dick, did you ever hear of a thing called the Superman?” “There was a time when the papers were full of nothing else,” I answered. “I gather it was invented by a sportsman called Nietzsche.”
“Maybe,” said Sandy. “Old Nietzsche has been blamed for a great deal of rubbish he would have died rather than acknowledge. But it’s a craze of the new, fatted Germany. It’s a fancy type which could never really exist, any more than the Economic Man of the politicians. Mankind has a sense of humor which stops short of the final absurdity. There never has been and there never could be a real Superman. . . But there might be a Superwoman.”
“You’ll get into trouble, my lad, if you talk like that,” I said.
"It’s true all the same. Women have got a perilous logic which we never have, and some of the best of them don’t see the joke of life like the ordinary man. They can be far greater than men, lor they can go straight to the heart of things. There never was a man so near the divine as Joan of Arc. But I think too they can be more entirely damnable than anything that ever was breeched, for they don’t stop still now and then and laugh at themselves. . . There is no Superman. The poor old donkeys that fancy themselves in the part are either crack-brained professors who couldn’t rule a Sunday-school class, or bristling soldiers with pint-pot heads who imagine that the shooting of a Due d’Enghien made a Napoleon. But there is a Superwoman, and her name’s Hilda von Einem.”
“I thought our job was nearly over,” I groaned, “and now it looks as if it hadn’t well started. Bullivant said that all we had to do was to find out the truth.”
“Bullivant didn’t know. No man knows except you and me. I tell you, the woman has immense power. The Germans have trusted her with their trump card, and she’s going to play it for all she is worth. There’s no crime that will stand in her way. She has set the ball rolling, and if need be she’ll cut all her prophets’ throats and run the show herself. . . I don’t know about your job, for honestly I can’t quite see what you and Blenkiron are going to do. But I’m very clear about my own duty. She’s let me into the business, and I’m going to stick to it in the hope that I’ll find a chance of wrecking it. . We’re moving eastward tomorrow— with a new prophet if the old one is dead.” “Where are you going?” I asked.
“I don’t know. But I gather it’s a long journey, judging by the preparations. And it must be to a cold country, judging by the clothes provided.”
“Well, wherever it is, we’re going with you. You haven’t heard our end of the yarn. Blenkiron and I have been moving in the best circles as skilled American engineers who are going to play Old Harry with the British on the Tigris. I’m a pal of Enver’s now, and lie has offered me his protection. The lamented Rasta brought our passjxirts for the journey to Mesoiiotamia tomorrow, but an hour ago your lady tore them up and put them in the fire. We are going with her, and she vouchsafed the information that it was toward the great hills.”
Sandy whistled long and low. “I wonder what the deuce she wants with you? This thing is getting dashed complicated, Dick . . . Where, more by token, is Blenkiron? He’s the fellow to know about high politics.” The missing Blenkiron, as Sandy spoke, entered the room with his slow, quiet step.
I could see by his carriage that for once he had no dyspepsia, and by his eyes that he was excited.
“Say. boys,” he said, “I’ve got something | pretty considerable in the way of noos, j There’s been big fighting on the Eastern border, and the Buzzards have taken a bad knock.”
HIS HANDS were full of papers, from j which he selected a map and spread it on the table.
“They keep mum about the thing in this capital, but I’ve been piecing the story together these last days, and I think I’ve got it¡ straight. A fortnight ago old man Nicholas descended from his mountains and scuppered his enemies there—at Kuprikeui, j where the main road eastward crosses the • Araxes. That was only the beginning of the ! stunt, for he pressed on on a broad front, and the gentleman called Kiamil, who commands in those parts, was not up to the job of holding him. The Buzzards were shepherded in from north and east and south, and now the Muscovite is sitting down outside the forts of Erzerum. I can tell you they’re pretty miserable about the situation in the highest quarters. . . Enver is sweating blood to get fresh divisions to Erzerum from Gally-poly, but it’s a long road and it looks as if they would be too late for the fair. . . You and I, major, start for Mesopotamy tomorrow, and that’s about the meanest bit of bad luck that ever happened to John S. We’re missing the chance of seeing the goriest fight of this campaign.”
I picked up the map and pocketed it. Maps were my business, and I had been looking for one.
“We’re not going to Mesopotamia,” I said. “Our orders have been cancelled.” “But I’ve just seen Enver, and he said he ' had sent around our passports.”
“They’re in the fire,” I said. “The right ones will come along tomorrow morning.” Sandy broke in, his eyes bright with excitement.
“The great hills! . . . We’re going to Erzerum. . . Don’t you see that the Germans are playing their big card? They’re sending the Greenmantle to the point of danger in the hope that his coming will rally the Turkish defense. Things are beginning to move, Dick, old man. No more kicking the heels for us. We’re going to be in it up to the neck, and Heaven help the best man ... I must be off now, for I’ve a lot to do. Au revoir. We meet some time soon in the hills.”
Blenkiron still looked puzzled, till I told him the story of that night’s doings. As he listened, all the satisfaction went out of his face, and that funny, childish air of bewilderment crept in.
“It’s not for me to complain, for it’s in the straight line of our dooty, but I reckon there’s going to be big trouble ahead of this caravan. It’s Kismet, and we’ve got to bow. But I won’t pretend that I’m not considerable scared at the prospect.”
“Oh, so am I,” I said. “The woman frightens me into fits. We’re up against it this time all right. All the same I’m glad we’re to be let into the real star metropolitan
performance. I didn’t relish the idea of touring the provinces.”
“I gue^s that's correct. But I could wish that the good God would see (it to take that lovely lady to Himself. She's too much for a quiet man at my time of life. When she invites us to go in on the ground (loor I feel like taking the elevator to the roof-garden.”
r"PWO DAYS later, in the evening, wc came to Angora, the first stage in our journey.
The passports had arrived next morning, as Frau von Einem had promised, and with them a plan of our journey. More, one of the Companions, who spoke a little English, was detailed to accompany us—a wise precaution, for no one of us had a word of Turkish. These were the sum of our instructions. I heard nothing more of Sandy or Greenmantle or the lady. We were meant to travel in our own party.
We had the railway to Angora, a very comfortable German Schlafwagen, tacked to the end of a troop-train. There wasn’t much to be seen of the country, for after we left the Bosporus wc ran into scuds of snow, and except that we seemed to be climbing on to a big plateau I had no notion of the landscape. It was a marvel that we made such good time, for that line was congested beyond anything I have ever seen. The place was crawling with the Gallipoli troops, and every siding was packed with supply trucks. When we stopped—which we did on an average about once an hour—you could see vast camps on both sides of the line, and often we struck regiments on the march along the railway track. They looked a fine, hardy lot of ruffians, but many wrere deplorably ragged, and I didn’t think much of their boots. I wondered how they would do the five hundred miles of road to Erzerum.
Blenkiron played Patience, and Peter and I took a hand at picquet, but mostly we smoked and yarned. Getting away from that infernal city had cheered us up wonderfully. Now we were out on the open road, moving to the sound of the guns. At the worst we should not perish like rats in a sewer. We would be all together, too, and that was a comfort. I think we felt the relief which a man who has been on a lonely outpost feels when he is brought back to his battalion. Besides, the thing had gone clean beyond our power to direct. It was no good planning and scheming, for none of us had a notion what the next step might be. We were fatalists now. believing in Kismet, and that is a comfortable faith.
All but Blenkiron. The coming of Hilda von Einem into the business had put a very ugly complexion on it for him. It was curious to see how she affected the different members of our gang. Peter did not care a rush; man, woman and hippogriff were the same to him; he met it all as calmly as if he were making plans to round up an old lion in a patch of bush, taking the facts as they came and working at them as if they were a sum in arithmetic. Sandy and I were impressed—it’s no good denying it: horribly impressed—but we were too interested to be scared, and we weren’t a bit fascinated. We hated her too much for that. But she fairly struck Blenkiron dumb. He said himself it was just like a rattlesnake and a bird.
I made him talk about her, for if he sat and brooded he would get worse. It was a strange thing that this man, the most imperturbable and I think about the most courageous I have ever met. should be paralyzed by a slim woman. There was no doubt about it. The thought of her made the future to him as black as a thunder cloud. It took the power out of his joints, and if she was going to be much around, it looked as if Blenkiron might be counted out.
I suggested that he was in love with her, but this he vehemently denied.
“No. sir; I haven’t got no sort of affection for the lady. My trouble is that she puts me out of countenance, and I can’t fit her in as an antagonist. I guess we Americans haven’t
got the right poise for dealing with that kind oí female. We’ve exalted our womenfolk into little tin gods, and at the same time left them out of the real business of life. Consequently, when we strike one playing the biggest kind of man's game we can’t place her. We aren’t used to regarding them as anything except angels and children. I wish I had had you boys’ upbringing.”
ANGORA was like my notion of some place such as Amiens in the retreat from Mons. It was one mass of troops and transport—the neck of the bottle, for more arrived every hour, and the only outlet was the single eastern road. The town was pandemonium into which distracted German officers were trying to introduce some order. They didn’t worry much about us, for the heart of Anatolia wasn’t a likely huntingground for suspicious characters. We took our passfxîrts to the commandant, who vised them readily, and told us he’d do his best to get us transport. We spent the night in a sort of hotel, where all four crowded into one little bedroom, and next morning I had my work cut out getting a motor car. It took four hours, and the use of every great name in the Turkish Empire, to raise a dingy sort of car, and another two to get the petrol and spare tires. As for a chauffeur, love or money couldn’t find him, and I was compelled to drive the thing myself.
We left just after midday and swung out into bare bleak downs patched with scrubby woodlands. There was no snow here, but a wind was blowing from the east which searched the marrow. Presently we climbed up into hills, and the road, though not badly engineered to begin with, grew as rough as the channel of a stream. No wonder, for the traffic was like what one saw on that awful stretch between Cassel and Ypres, and there were no gangs of Belgian roadmakers to mend it up. We found troops by the thousands striding along with their impassive Turkish faces, ox convoys, mule convoys, wagons drawn by sturdy little Anatolian horses, and, coming in the contrary direction. many shabby Red Crescent cars and wagons of the wounded. We had to crawl for hours on end, till we got past a block. Just before the darkening we seemed to outstrip the first press, and had a clear run for about ten miles over a low pass in the hills. I began to get anxious about the car, for it was a poor one at the best, and the road was guaranteed sooner or later to knock even a good one into scrap iron.
All the same it was glorious to be out in the open again. Peter’s face wore a new look and he sniffed the bitter air like a stag. There floated up from little wayside camps the odor of wood smoke and dung fires. That, and the curious acrid winter smell of great wind-blown spaces, will always come to my memory as I think of that day. Every hour brought me peace of mind and resolution. I felt as I had felt when the battalion first marched from Aire toward the firingline, a kind of keying-up and wild expectation. I’m not used to cities, and lounging about Constantinople had slackened my fibre. Now, as the sharp wind buffeted us, I felt braced to any kind of risk. We were on the great road to the east and the border hills, and soon we should stand upon the farthest battlefront of the war. This was no commonplace intelligence job. That was all over, and we were going into the firing line, going to take part in what might be the downfall of our enemies. I didn’t reflect that we were among those enemies, and would probably share their downfall if we were not shot earlier. The truth is. I had got out of the way of regarding the thing as a struggle between armies and nations. I hardly bothered to think where my sympathies lay. First and foremost it was a contest between the four of us and a crazy woman, and this personal antagonism made the strife of armies only a dimly felt background.
To be Continued