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- The Secrets of the German War Office - 3/34 -


As your use to us and the importance of your missions increases, so will your remuneration. That depends entirely on you."

He raised his eyebrows inquiringly.

"Very well," I said. "I accept."

He held out his hand. "You made up your mind quickly."

"It is my way, Captain. I take a thing or leave it."

"That's what I like, Doctor; a quick, decisive mind."

That seemed to please him.

"Very well. To be of use to us, you w ill need a lot of technical coaching. Are you ready to start tomorrow?"

"Now, Captain."

"Very good," he said, "but to-morrow will do. Be here at ten A. M. Then give us daily as much of your time as we require."

He called in one of his secretaries, gave him command briefly and in a few minutes the man was back with an order for three hundred marks.

"This, Doctor, is your first month's living expenses. Retaining fees are paid quarterly."

As I pocketed the check I remarked:

"Captain, personally we are total strangers. How is it that you seem so satisfied with me?"

Again his peculiar smile was noticeable.

"That is outside our usual business procedure," he said. "I have my instructions from above and I simply act on them."

I was young then, and curious so I asked:

"Who are those above and what are their instructions?"

No sooner had I put that question than I learned my first lesson in the Secret Service. All traces of genial friendliness vanished from von Tappken's face. It was stern and serious.

"My boy," he said slowly, "learn this from the start and learn it well. Do not ask questions. Do not talk. Think! You will soon learn that there are many unwritten laws attached to this Service."

I never forgot that. It was my first lesson in Secret Service.

Chapter II. The Making of a Secret Agent

The average man or woman has only a hazy idea what European Secret Service and Espionage really means and accomplishes. Short stories and novels, written in a background of diplomacy and secret agents, have given the public vague impressions about the world of spies. But this is the first real unvarnished account of the system; the class of men and women employed; the means used to obtain the desired results and the risks run by those connected with this service. Since the days of Moses who employed spies in Canaan, to Napoleon Bonaparte, who inaugurated the first thorough system of political espionage, potentates, powerful ministers and heads of departments have found it necessary to obtain early and correct information other than through the usual official channels. To gain this knowledge they have to employ persons unknown and unrecognized in official circles. A recognized official such as an ambassador or a secretary of legation, envoys plenipotentiary and consuls, would not be able to gain the information sought, as naturally everybody is on their guard against them. Moreover, official etiquette prevents an ambassador or consul from acting in such a capacity.

In this age of rapid developments the need of quick and accurate information is even more pressing. Europe to-day is a sort of armed camp, composed of a number of nations of fairly equal strength, in which the units are more or less afraid of each other. Mutual distrust and conflicting interests compel Germany, England, France and Russia to spend billions of money each year on armaments. Germany builds one battleship; England lays down two; France adds ten battalions to her army; Germany adds twenty. So the relative strength keeps on a fair level. But with rapid constructions, new inventions of weapons, armor, aerial craft, this apparent equality is constantly disturbed. Here also enters the personal policy and ambitions and pet schemes of the individual heads of nations and their cabinets. Because there is a constant fear of being outdistanced, every government in Europe is trying its utmost to get ahead of the other. They, hence, keep a stringent watch on each other's movements. This is possible only by an efficient system of espionage, by trained men and women, willing to run the risks attached to this sort of work.

For risks there are. I have been imprisoned twice, once in the Balkans at Belgrade, once in England. I have been attacked five times and bear the marks of the wounds to this day. Escapes I have had by the dozen. All my missions were not successes, more often, failures, and the failures are often fatal. For instance:

Early in the morning of June 11, 1903, the plot which had been brewing in Servia ended with the assassination of the king, queen, ministers and members of the royal household of Servia. I shall not go into the undercurrent political significance of these atrocities as I had no active part in them, but I was sent down by my government later to ascertain as far as possible the prime movers in the intrigue which pointed to Colonel Mashin and a gang of officers of the Sixth Regiment. All these regicides received Russian pay, for King Alexander had become dangerous to Russia, because of his flirting with Austria. Besides, his own idiotic behavior and the flagrant indiscretions of Queen Draga had by no means endeared him to his people.

I stuck my nose into a regular hornets' nest and soon found myself in a most dangerous position. I was arrested by the provisional government on the order of Lieutenant Colonel Niglitsch on a most flimsy charge of traveling with false passports. In those times arrests and executions were the order of the day. The old Servian proverb of "Od Roba Ikad Iz Groba Nikad" (Out of prison, yes; out of the grave, never) was fully acted upon. There were really no incriminating papers of any description upon me, but my being seen and associating with persons opposed to the provisional government was quite enough to place me before a drumhead court-martial.

I was sitting in the Café Petit Parisien with Lieutenant Nikolevitch and Mons Krastov, a merchant of Belgrade, when a file of soldiers in charge of an officer pulled us out of our chairs and without any further ado marched us to the Citadel. The next morning we were taken separately into a small room where three men in the uniform of colonels were seated at a small iron table. No questions were asked.

"You are found guilty of associating with revolutionary persons. You were found possessing a passport not your own. You are sentenced to be shot at sundown."

The whole thing appeared to me first as a joke, then as a bluff, but looking closely into those high-cheekboned, narrow-eyed faces with the characteristically close-cropped brutal heads, the humorous aspect dwindled rapidly and I thought it about time to make a counter move. Without betraying any of my inward qualms--and believe me, I began to have some--I said quietly:

"I think you will find it advisable to inform M. Zolarevitch" (then minister of War) "that Count Weringrode sends his regards."

I saw them looking rather curiously at each other and then the center inquisitor fired a lot of questions at me, in answer to which I only shrugged my shoulders.

"That's all I have to say, monsieur."

I was shoved back in my cell. About four that afternoon one of the officers came to see me.

"Your message has not been sent. My comrades were against sending it, but I am related to Zolarevitch. So if you can show me some reason, I shall take your message."

I gave him some reason. So much so that he did not lose any time getting under way. In fact, it was a very pale, perturbed officer who rushed out of my cell. I didn't worry much, but when at about 7.30 the cell door opened and two sentries with fixed bayonets and cartridge pouches entered, placed me in the center and marched me into the courtyard, where ten more likewise equipped soldiers in charge of an officer awaited me, I felt somewhat green. I know a firing squad when I see one. I knew if my message ever reached responsible quarters, nothing could happen to me; but these were motley times and all sorts of delays may have happened to the officer.

"Right about wheel" and myself in the center, we marched out of the courtyard to a little hill to the west of the Citadel.

An old stone building--probably a decayed monastery, for I noticed several crumbled tombstones--was evidently selected for the place of execution. On a little rough, four-foot, stone wall we halted, and the officer, pulling out a document, began reading to me a rather lengthy preamble in Servian.

Up to then not a word had been spoken. I let him finish and then politely requested him, as I was not a Serb and consequently did not understand his lingo, to translate it into a civilized language, preferably German or French. He seemed somewhat startled and gave me to understand that he was led to believe I was a Serb. I used some very forcible German and French, both of which he was able to understand, pointing out to him that someone, somewhere, made a thundering big blunder which somehow would have to be paid for. He was clearly ill at ease, but said, "I have to obey my instructions." I had told him of my message to the minister, and although it was quite obvious I was sparring for time he seemed in no way inclined to rush the execution. Five minutes went; ten minutes went and looking at his watch, which showed five minutes to eight (although it was fast getting dusk, I could see that watch-dial distinctly), shrugging his shoulders and saying, "I can delay no longer," he called a sergeant, who placed me with my shoulders to the wall and offered me a handkerchief. I didn't want a handkerchief. A few sharp orders and twelve Mauser tubes pointed their ugly black snouts directly at me.

I hate to tell my sensation just then. Frankly, I felt nothing clearly. The only thing I remember distinctly was the third man in the second file held his gun in rather a slipshod manner, aiming it first at my midriff, next pointing it at my nose--which strangely


The Secrets of the German War Office - 3/34

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