We made no secret as to our identity and handed our cards to the commissary of police when we were brought up before him. He was—till that moment—glaring at us fiercely, evidently deciding what punishment to give us before he had heard our case at all. But when he saw my brother’s name as an officer in the Guards, he asked: “Does this mean in the Guards of her Majesty Queen Victoria?” When he heard it was so his whole demeanour changed. He sprang from his seat, begged us to be seated, and explained it was all a mistake. Evidently Guards in his country were in very high repute. He explained to us there were certain little irritating rules on the railway which had to be enforced, but, of course, in our case we were not to be bound by such small bye-laws, and with profuse apologies he bowed us out of the office, without a stain upon our characters.
We did not live long without the stain. Our first anxiety was to find where and how it would be possible to see some of this equipment for which we had come to the country. Manoeuvres were going on at a place some fifty miles distant, and there, as tourists, we betook ourselves without delay. We put up at a small inn not far from the railway-station, and for the next few days we did immense walking tours, following up the troops and watching them at their work over a very extended area of country.
At last one day we sighted a balloon hanging in the sky, and we made a bee line for it until we arrived at its station. When it was hauled down and anchored to the ground the men went off to the camp to get their dinners, and the balloon was left without a soul to guard it. It was not long before we were both inside the car, taking note of everything in the shape of the instruments and their makers’ names, and so had all the information it was possible to get before the men came back.
Our next step was to see this wonderful illuminant for night work, and in the course of our wandering’s we came across a large fort from which searchlights had been showing the previous night. There were notice boards round this fort at a distance of about twenty yards apart stating that nobody was allowed within this circle of notices, and we argued that if once we were inside any sentry or detective would naturally suppose we had leave to be there.
We tried the idea, and it worked splendidly. We walked calmly through camps and past sentries without a tremor and not a question was asked us. Once within this line we were able to get directly into the fort, and there we strolled along as if the place belonged to us.
There is a certain amount of art required in making yourself not appear to be a stranger in a new place.
In the minor matter of hat, boots, and necktie it is well to wear those bought in the country you are visiting, otherwise your British-made articles are sure to attract the attention of a watchful policeman.