Their old-fashioned methods and amateurish leading seem to be paying a heavy price in the present campaign.
A new method of illuminating the battlefield at night had been invented on the Continent.
A chemical substance had been manufactured which enabled the user to turn on a strong light over a wide space at any moment.
Rumour said that it was as powerful as a searchlight, and yet could be carried in your pocket. But great secrecy was observed both regarding its composition and its experimental trials.
In the same army a new kind of observation balloon was said to be on trial equipped with some very up-to-date apparatus.
Also it was reported that, in addition to these aids to effective reconnaissance, a new method of swimming rivers by cavalry had been invented by which every man and horse in a cavalry division could cross wide rivers without difficulty or delay.
Owing to political strain going on in Europe at the time there was the possibility that these rumours might have been purposely set on foot, like many others, with a view to giving some moral prestige to the army concerned.
It became my duty to investigate as far as possible what amount of truth lay in them.
It was a difficult country to work in owing to the very stringent police arrangements against spies of every kind, and it looked to be a most unpromising task to elicit what I wanted to know, because one was sure of being watched at every turn. As I afterwards discovered, it was through this multiplicity of police arrangements that one was able to get about with comparative ease, because if one went boldly enough it immediately argued to the watchful policeman that someone else was sure to be observing you.
Moreover, spies generally do their work single-handed, and on this occasion I was accompanied by my brother, and this made it easier for us to go about as a pair of tourists interested in the country generally. A man travelling alone is much more liable to draw attention upon himself, and therefore to go about under suspicion.
Our entry into the country was not altogether fortunate, because while yet in the train we managed to get into trouble with the guard over a window which he insisted on shutting when we wanted it open. In the same carriage with us was a gentleman of some standing in the country, and in a fit of absent-mindedness I made a little sketch of him. I had just completed it when an arm reached down over my shoulder from behind and the picture was snatched away by the observant guard of the train and taken off to be used as evidence against me.
The guard of a train in this country, I may say, ranks apparently much the same as a colonel in the army, and therefore is not a man to be trifled with. On our arrival at the terminus we found a sort of guard of honour of gendarmes waiting for us on the platform, and we were promptly marched off to the police office to account for our procedure in the train by daring to open the window when the guard wished it closed, and for drawing caricatures of a “high-born” man in the train.