However, I moved on to another military station, where as a stranger I tried another tack. The rifle ranges were surrounded by a belt of trees, outside of which was an unclimbable fence guarded by two sentries, one on either side. It seemed impossible to get into or even near the range without considerable difficulty.
One day I sauntered carelessly down in the direction of the range at a point far away from the entrance gate, and here I lay down on the grass as if to sleep, but in reality to listen and take the rate of the shooting from the sound and also the amount of success by the sound of the hits on the iron target. Having gained a certain amount of data in this way, I approached more nearly in the hope of getting a sight of what was going on.
While the sentry’s back was turned I made a rush for the fence, and though I could not get over, I found a loose plank through which I was able to get a good view of what was happening.
While engaged at this, to my horror the sentry suddenly turned on his tracks and came back towards me. But I had been prepared against such eventualities, and jamming back the plank into its place, I produced from my pocket a bottle of brandy which I had brought for the purpose. Half of it had been already sprinkled over my clothes, so that when the man approached he found me in a state of drunkenness, smelling vilely of spirits, and profuse in my offers to him to share the bottle.
[Illustration: The above sketch shows the writer in a tight place. He was discovered in close proximity to a rifle range by a German sentry. He pretended to be intoxicated, and so escaped. But it was a close shave.]
He could make nothing of me, and therefore gently but firmly conducted me to the end of his beat and thrust me forth and advised me to go home, which I did in great content....
The practice of spying has one unfortunate tendency: it teaches one to trust no one, not even a would-be benefactor. A foreign country had recently manufactured a new form of field gun which was undergoing extensive secret trials, which were being conducted in one of her colonies in order to avoid being watched. I was sent to find out particulars of this gun. On arrival in the colony I found that a battery of new guns was carrying out experiments at a distant point along the railway.
The place was by all description merely a roadside station, with not even a village near it, so it would be difficult to go and stay there without being noticed at once. The timetable, however, showed that the ordinary day train stopped there for half an hour for change of engines, so I resolved to see what I could do in the space of time allowed.
We jogged along in the local train happily enough and stopped at every little station as we went. At one of these a Colonial farmer entered my carriage, and though apparently ill and doleful, we got into conversation on the subject of the country and the crops.