IT was nine o'clock at night upon the second of August-- the most terrible August in the history of the world.* One might have thought already that God's curse hung heavy over a degenerate earth,* for there was an awesome hush and a feeling of vague expectancy in the sultry and stagnant air. The sun had long set, but one blood-red gash, like an open wound, lay low in the distant west. Above, the stars were shining brightly; and below, the lights of the shipping glimmered in the bay.* The two famous Germans stood beside the stone parapet of the garden walk, with the long, low, heavily-gabled house behind them, and they looked down upon the broad sweep of the beach at the foot of the great chalk cliff* on which Von Bork, like some wandering eagle, had perched himself four years before. They stood with their heads close together, talking in low, confidential tones. From below, the two glowing ends of their cigars might have been the smouldering eyes of some malignant fiend looking down in the darkness.
A remarkable man this Von Bork--a man who could hardly be matched among all the devoted agents of the Kaiser.* It was his talents which had first recommended him for the English mission, the most important mission of all, but since he had taken it over those talents had become more and more manifest to the half-dozen people in the world who were really in touch with the truth. One of these was his present companion, Baron Von Herling,* the Chief Secretary of the legation,* whose huge 100-horse-power Benz car* was blocking the country lane as it waited to carry* its owner back to London.
'Things are moving very fast now and quite in accordance with the time-table.* So far as I can judge the trend of events, you will probably be back in Berlin within the week,'