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- The Secrets of the German War Office - 6/34 -
I went on in terse military German which eighty per cent. of all Russian officers know and the trend of which is never misunderstood. I pointed out that any further encroaching would be resented in a most drastic and sudden manner. The usual farcical exchange of cards, permitting all sorts of bluffs, does not impress a Russian, but the imminent chance of blows from fists does. A pair of astonished bulging eyes, a muttered apology and quietness reigned.
With a mild smile Baron Huraki dropped into his chair, but I did not like the expression in his eyes. Knowing the prowess of the Baron as an exponent of his national system of self-defense (I had seen him harmlessly toss about the biggest sailor on the _Bayern_, the chief butcher, who was as strong as an ox), I said:
"It's a wonder to me, Baron, that you didn't throw that boor half way across the deck."
I shall never forget his answer.
"We of the Samurai never fight when there is nothing behind it. It is not the time."
I did not like the expression in his eyes.
All this transpired because I was on the road to Singapore, away from Berlin, on my first important mission in the German Secret Service. The Intelligence Department had instructed me to ascertain the extent of the new docks and fortifications in course of completion in the Straits Settlements--an assignment calling for exact topographical data, photographs and plans.
Leaving port, I had found the _Bayern_ comfortably crowded. In the East war clouds were gathering and among the passengers were a number of Japanese called home, as I afterwards learned, for the impending struggle. At Port Said we had taken on a Russian contingent, quite a few of whom were officers bound for Port Arthur, Dalny and Vladivostock, and in view of the gathering conflict I found the relative conduct and bearing of representatives of these races that were soon to clash, vastly interesting.
And after my experience with the Russians, I was to know more. From that time on, I began to notice a subtle change in Baron Huraki's attitude toward me. Quite of his own accord he discussed with me the customs, ideals and aspirations of his caste and country. Wrapped in a Shuai kimono, his gift to me, we spent many hot and otherwise tedious nights, sprawled in our deck chairs, discussing unreservedly the questions of the East. What I learned then and the insight I got into the aims and character of Nippon, were invaluable to me. Baron Huraki, now high in the services of the Mikado, is my friend still. Once a year he sends me _Shuraino-Ariki_, a wonderful spray of cherry blossoms, the Japanese symbol of rejuvenating friendship.
A Secret Service agent, although making no friends or acquaintances, always makes it his business to converse with and study his fellow travelers. Following my usual habit, I went out of my way to cultivate the acquaintance of the Japanese, particularly Huraki. A scholar of no mean attainments was the Baron.
Quietly, without being didactic, he upheld his end in most discussions on applied sciences or philosophic arguments, putting forth his deep knowledge in an unobtrusive way. I found this trait to be an invariable rule with most of the Japanese with whom I came in contact. Once or twice during our lengthy and pleasant chats I tried to veer the subject round to the all-engrossing Eastern question, only to be met with the maddening bland smile of the East. I was rather inexperienced in the fathomless, undefinable ways of the Orient, but on the _Bayern_ I learned rapidly the truths that Western methods and strategy are absolutely useless against the impenetrable stoicism of an Asiatic and that only personal regard and obligation on their part will produce results. In striking contrast to the Japanese, small and sinewy, any two of them weighing no more than one Russian, quiet, taciturn, genial and abstemious, were the children of the "Little White Father." The Russians were an aggressive, big, well set up, heavy type of men, by no means teetotalers, talkative, with overbearing swagger, always posing, talking contemptuously about the possible struggle in the East, invariably referring to the Japanese as "little monkey men." Fortunate for me was it that the _Bayern_ was carrying both Russians and Japanese; the knowledge I acquired from Baron Huraki of the Asiatics was invaluable in Singapore; what I learned of Russians, I needed at Port Arthur. But I am anticipating my narrative.
Arriving in Singapore, I put up at the Hotel de la Paix on the Marine Parade. I posed as an ordinary tourist with a leaning toward hunting and a fad of doing research work in tropical botany. I gradually became acquainted with a number of English officers and was introduced at their clubs. The information obtained through these channels about the new naval base was merely theoretical and I soon found that to obtain practical results I would have to get in touch with the native clerks. In the English Eastern possessions, you see, most clerical and minor mechanical positions are held by natives. It soon was brought home to me, though, that this cultivating natives was by no means easy and a rather dangerous thing to do. To be in any way successful, I had to find a native of a higher caste, one with sufficient influence to command the clerks. If I could get hold of one of the numerable discontented petty rajahs, for instance, there might be a chance of obtaining what I sought.
In one of the clubs, I found a clue. A young Rajah, one of the numerous coterie of petty princes--fair play compels me to withhold his name--had got himself into some trouble and the paternal government had promptly suspended his income. Here was my chance. I soon ascertained young Rajah's haunts and made it my business to frequent them. One day I found him on the veranda of the Marine Hotel and asked him for a match, making a return compliment of a cigarette. This was a procedure against established British social usage in the East, where it is considered _infra dig_ to meet a native on a social footing. Herein lies a grave danger to English colonial policy. Your semi-European educated native, having partly absorbed European manners, resents this subordination and ostracism. So, with this high-spirited, rather clever young rajah. I accepted his invitation to whiskey "pegs" and subsequent dinner at his bungalow. One visit led to another and we were soon rather intimate. The young Rajah, having the usual native taste for luxury well developed and his income stopped, I became of some monetary assistance to him. Also, judiciously fostering his discontent against the government, I soon had him in a desired frame of mind. Through his influence on the native clerks, I was able to gain all the plans, data and photographs of England's new naval base in the Straits Settlement.
By this time my close association with this notorious young Rajah was marked and I found it advisable to pull up stakes, which I did in short order, arranging passage on the N. D. L. liner _Sachsen_, homeward bound. Having a week to spare and finding that by leaving the _Sachsen_ at Colombo, I could catch the _Prinz Regent Leopold_ of the same line, coming up from Australia en route for Europe, I had my ticket transferred. This would give me a ten-day vacation in Ceylon, where I had a number of acquaintances, having hunted there during my early travels. Accordingly, at Colombo I put up at the Galle Face Hotel, and the first man I met was Allan MacGregor, one of Lipton's tea estate managers, in Kandy and Newara Elya. MacGregor and I were old pals, having done much hunting and bridge playing in days gone by. I planned to spend a week with him and go after some leopards. By the by, I'd like to see the MacGregor's face when he learns that his quondam friend and boon companion was an international spy!
"Dinna get sair, Mac. You're no the only chiel what'll tak a wee surprise."
I was just arranging a hunting trip with MacGregor when Bill Peters, manager of the hotel, another old acquaintance, handed me a cable knocking all my plans to bits. It was a cipher message from Captain von Tappken, and shortly I was again on the high sea, bound not for home, but for Port Arthur. My orders were to ascertain how far the Port Arthur fortifications were completed and to report on the general conditions as I found them. I wondered not a little at this mission, as I could not then see what close interest Germany could have in a possible war between Russia and Japan. Also, I by no means relished the assignment, for it was a perilous business and I judged the Russians to be extremely suspicious--which I afterwards learned they were not.
I decided to travel under the cloak of a doctor of natural history and botany, my medical training giving me the necessary knowledge to impersonate the character. The reader will understand that if Doctor Franz von Cannitz is subsequently mentioned, it refers to me. Almost everybody, especially my government, knew that war between Russia and Japan was inevitable. I say, all, except Russia.
To make this situation clear, let me hark back a little. Japan, beating China in the war of 1895, took and occupied Port Arthur. Japan later, compelled by hostile demonstrations on the part of Russia backed up by France and Germany, restored Port Arthur to China. Note the holding aloof of England here. The actual text of the ultimatum delivered was that the possession of ceded territory by Japan would be detrimental to the lasting peace of the Orient. Japan was bitterly humiliated and an Asiatic never forgets or forgives. Japan bided her time. Russia's duplicity in the Boxer Campaign, and her seizure of Port Arthur, gave Japan the needed _casus belli_. Result, the Russian-Japanese War.
Arriving in Port Arthur, I established myself at the Hotel l'Europe and with prospecting spade, botanical trowel and butterfly net, I sallied forth around the hills of Port Arthur. The first thing which struck me was the enormous number of Chinese and Chunshuses (bad Coolies) employed everywhere. I came to know that they were not all Chinese Coolies and that almost every tenth man was a disguised Japanese. To an observer, trained in the facial characteristics of the Oriental, it was not difficult to pick out the Japanese from the mass of Coolies. They fairly swarmed in Port Arthur right under the very noses of the Russians. As Baron Huraki had told me during our passage on the _Bayern_, his countrymen were actually employed in the building of the Port Arthur defenses! These Japanese w ere later able to give invaluable information in directing the Japanese batteries. Numerous other alleged Coolies were acting as servants to Russian officers. I also found that on the Lioa Teah Shan Railway and at Pidgeon Bay the very porters were Japanese. In fact, the entire Russian stronghold was infested with them.
This carelessness, lack of knowledge or suspicion, with a total lack of belief on the part of the Russian officers, that the "little monkey men" would ever dare attack, is in my opinion the chief cause of the comparatively quick fall of Port Arthur. For even with the incompleted defenses the place was tremendously strong. Everywhere I could see the most elaborate plans incomplete. For instance, as I wandered through the hills seeking my botanical specimens, I found that the chain of forts on the hills of the Quang Tong peninsula south and west of Dalny, were totally unfinished and that the Kuan Ling section of the Port Arthur and Dalny railway was not even adequately protected from capture by a hostile force. The lack of adequate
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