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CHAPTER XIII. I Move in Good Society
 I walked out of that house next morning with Blenkiron’s arm in mine, a different being from the friendless creature who had looked vainly the day before for . To begin with, I was splendidly dressed. I had a navy-blue suit with square padded shoulders, a neat black bow-tie, shoes with a hump at the toe, and a brown . Over that I wore a greatcoat lined with wolf fur. I had a smart malacca , and one of Blenkiron’s cigars in my mouth. Peter had been made to trim his beard, and, dressed in unassuming pepper-and-salt, looked with his eyes and quiet voice a very respectable servant. Old Blenkiron had done the job in style, for, if you’ll believe it, he had brought the clothes all the way from London. I realized now why he and Sandy had been fossicking in my wardrobe. Peter’s suit had been of Sandy’s , and it was not the fit of mine. I had no difficulty about the accent. Any man brought up in the colonies can get his tongue round American, and I flattered myself I made a very fair shape at the of the Middle West.  
The wind had gone to the south and the snow was melting fast. There was a blue sky above Asia, and away to the north masses of white cloud drifting over the Black Sea. What had seemed the day before the of cities now took on a strange beauty, the beauty of unexpected horizons and tongues of grey water below cypress-studded shores. A man’s temper has a lot to do with his of scenery. I felt a free man once more, and could use my eyes.
That street was a of every nationality on earth. There were Turkish regulars in their queer conical khaki helmets, and wild-looking who had no with Europe. There were of Germans in flat forage-caps, staring vacantly at novel sights, and quick to any officer on the side-walk. Turks in closed carriages passed, and Turks on good Arab horses, and Turks who looked as if they had come out of the Ark. But it was the that caught the eye—very wild, pinched, rabble. I never in my life saw such of beggars, and you walked down that street to the accompaniment of for alms in all the tongues of the Tower of Babel. Blenkiron and I behaved as if we were interested tourists. We would stop and laugh at one fellow and give a penny to a second, passing comments in high-pitched Western voices.
We went into a cafe and had a cup of coffee. A beggar came in and asked alms. Hitherto Blenkiron’s purse had been closed, but now he took out some small nickels and planked five down on the table. The man cried down and picked up three. Blenkiron very swiftly swept the other two into his pocket.
That seemed to me queer, and I remarked that I had never before seen a beggar who gave change. Blenkiron said nothing, and presently we moved on and came to the harbour-side.
There were a number of small alongside, and one or two bigger craft—fruit boats, I judged, which used to in the Aegean. They looked pretty well moth-eaten from disuse. We stopped at one of them and watched a fellow in a blue nightcap ropes. He raised his eyes once and looked at us, and then kept on with his business.
Blenkiron asked him where he came from, but he shook his head, not understanding the tongue. A Turkish policeman came up and stared at us suspiciously, till Blenkiron opened his coat, as if by accident, and displayed a tiny square of ribbon, at which he . Failing to make conversation with the sailor, Blenkiron flung him three of his black cigars.
“I guess you can smoke, friend, if you can’t talk,” he said.
The man grinned and caught the three in the air. Then to my he tossed one of them back.
The regarded it quizzically as it lay on the pavement. “That boy’s a of tobacco,” he said. As we moved away I saw the Turkish policeman pick it up and put it inside his cap.
We returned by the long street on the of the hill. There was a man selling oranges on a tray, and Blenkiron stopped to look at them. I noticed that the man fifteen into a cluster. Blenkiron felt the oranges, as if to see that they were sound, and pushed two aside. The man instantly restored them to the group, never raising his eyes.
“This ain’t the time of year to buy fruit,” said Blenkiron as we passed on. “Those oranges are rotten as medlars.”
We were almost on our own doorstep before I guessed the meaning of the business.
“Is your morning’s work finished?” I said.
“Our morning’s walk?” he asked innocently.
“I said ‘work’.”
He smiled . “I reckoned you’d tumble to it. Why, yes, except that I’ve some figuring still to do. Give me half an hour and I’ll be at your service, Major.”
That afternoon, after Peter had cooked a wonderfully good , I had a heart-to-heart talk with Blenkiron.
“My business is to get noos,” he said; “and before I start on a I make considerable preparations. All the time in London when I was at the British Government, I was busy with Sir Walter arranging things ahead. We used to meet in queer places and at all hours of the night. I up a lot of connections in this city before I arrived, and especially a noos service with your Foreign Office by way of Rumania and Russia. In a day or two I guess our friends will know all about our discoveries.”
At that I opened my eyes very wide.
“Why, yes. You Britishers haven’t any notion how wide-awake your Intelligence Service is. I reckon it’s easy the best of all the . You never talked about it in peace time, and you the ways of the Teuton. But you had the wires laid good and sure. I calculate there isn’t much that happens in any corner of the earth that you don’t know within twenty-four hours. I don’t say your highbrows use the noos well. I don’t take much stock in your political push. They’re a lot of silver-tongues, no doubt, but it ain’t that is wanted in this racket. The William Jennings Bryan stunt in war-time. Politics is like a chicken-coop, and those inside get to behave as if their little run were all the world. But if the politicians make mistakes it isn’t from lack of good instruction to guide their steps. If I had a big proposition to handle and could have my pick of helpers I’d plump for the Intelligence Department of the British Admiralty. Yes, Sir, I take off my hat to your Government sleuths.”
“Did they provide you with ready-made spies here?” I asked in .
“Why, no,” he said. “But they gave me the key, and I could make my own arrangements. In Germany I buried myself deep in the local atmosphere and never peeped out. That was my game, for I was looking for something in Germany itself, and didn’t want any foreign cross-bearings. As you know, I failed where you succeeded. But so soon as I crossed the Danube I set about opening up my lines of communication, and I hadn’t been two days in this before I had got my telephone exchange buzzing. Sometime I’ll explain the thing to you, for it’s a pretty little business. I’ve got the cutest cypher ... No, it ain’t my invention. It’s your Government’s. Any one, babe, imbecile, or dotard, can carry my messages—you saw some of them today—but it takes some mind to set the piece, and it takes a lot of figuring at my end to work out the results. Some day you shall hear it all, for I guess it would please you.”
“How do you use it?” I asked.
“Well, I get early noos of what is going on in this cabbage-patch. Likewise I get noos of the rest of Europe, and I can send a message to Mr X. in Petrograd and Mr Y. in London, or, if I wish, to Mr Z. in Noo York. What’s the matter with that for a post-office? I’m the best informed man in Constantinople, for old General Liman only hears one side, and mostly lies at that, and Enver prefers not to listen at all. Also, I could give them points on what is happening at their very door, for our friend Sandy is a big boss in the best-run crowd of mountebanks that ever secrets out of men’s hearts. Without their help I wouldn’t have cut much ice in this city.”
“I want you to tell me one thing, Blenkiron,” I said. “I’ve been playing a part for the past month, and it wears my nerves to tatters. Is this job very tiring, for if it is, I doubt I may up.”
He looked thoughtful. “I can’t call our business an absolute rest-cure any time. You’ve got to keep your eyes skinned, and there’s always the risk of the little packet of going off unexpected. But as these things go, I rate this stunt as easy. We’ve only got to be natural. We wear our natural clothes, and talk English, and sport a Teddy Roosevelt smile, and there isn’t any call for theatrical talent. Where I’ve found the job tight was when I had got to be natural, and my naturalness was the same brand as that of everybody round about, and all the time I had to do things. It isn’t easy to be going down town to business and taking with Mr Carl Rosenheim, and next hour being engaged trying to blow Mr Rosenheim’s friends sky-high. And it isn’t easy to keep up a part which is clean outside your ordinary life. I’ve never tried that. My line has always been to keep my normal personality. But you have, Major, and I guess you found it wearing.”
“Wearing’s a mild word,” I said. “But I want to know another thing. It seems to me that the line you’ve picked is as good as could be. But it’s a cast-iron line. It commits us pretty deep and it won’t be a simple job to drop it.”
“Why, that’s just the point I was coming to,” he said. “I was going to put you wise about that very thing. When I started out I figured on some situation like this. I argued that unless I had a very clear part with a big in it I wouldn’t get the confidences which I needed. We’ve got to be at the heart of the show, taking a real hand and not just looking on. So I settled I would be a big engineer—there was a time when there weren’t many bigger in the United States than John S. Blenkiron. I talked large about what might be done in Mesopotamia in the way of washing the British down the river. Well, that talk caught on. They knew of my reputation as an expert, and they were to death to rope me in. I told them I wanted a helper, and I told them about my friend Richard Hanau, as good a German as ever supped sauerkraut, who was coming through Russia and Rumania as a neutral; but when he got to Constantinople would drop his neutrality and double his . They got reports on you by wire from the States—I arranged that before I left London. So you’re going to be welcomed and taken to their just like John S. was. We’ve both got jobs we can hold down, and now you’re in these pretty clothes you’re the dead ringer of the brightest kind of American engineer ... But we can’t go back on our tracks. If we wanted to leave for Constanza next week they’d be very polite, but they’d never let us. We’ve got to go on with this adventure and nose our way down into Mesopotamia, hoping that our luck will hold ... God knows how we will get out of it; but it’s no good going out to meet trouble. As I observed before, I believe in an all-wise and beneficent , but you’ve got to give him a chance.”
I am bound to confess the staggered me. We might be let in for fighting—and worse than fighting—against our own side. I wondered if it wouldn’t be better to make a bolt for it, and said so.
He shook his head. “I reckon not. In the first place we haven’t finished our . We’ve got ............
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