Read SECRET NUMBER TWO of The Secrets of Potsdam , free online book, by William Le Queux, on


The Trautmann affair was one which caused a wild sensation at Potsdam in the autumn of 1912.

In the Emperor’s immediate entourage there was a great deal of gossip, most of it ill-natured and cruel, for most ladies-in-waiting possess serpents’ tongues.  Their tongues are as sharp as their features, and though there may be a few pretty maids-of-honour, yet the majority of women at Court are, as you know, my dear Le Queux, mostly plain and uninteresting.

I became implicated in the unsavoury Trautmann affair, in a somewhat curious manner.

A few months after the Leutenberg tragedy I chanced to be lunching at the “Esplanade” in Berlin, chatting with Laroque, of the French Embassy.  Our hostess was Frau Breitenbach, a wealthy Jewess ­a woman who came from Dortmund ­and who was spending money like water in order to wriggle into Berlin society.  As personal-adjutant of the Crown-Prince I was, of course, one of the principal guests, and I suspected that she was angling for a card of invitation to the next ball at the Marmor Palace.

Who introduced me to the portly, black-haired, rather handsome woman I quite forget.  Probably it was some nobody who received a commission upon the introduction ­for at the Berlin Court introductions are bought and sold just as the succulent sausage is sold over the counter.

In the big white-and-gold salle-a-manger of the “Esplanade,” which, as you know, is one of the finest in Europe, Frau Breitenbach was lunching with sixteen guests at one big round table, her daughter Elise, a very smartly dressed girl of nineteen, seated opposite to her.  It was a merry party, including as it did some of the most renowned persons in the Empire, among them being the Imperial Chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, of the long, grave face and pointed beard, and that grand seigneur who was a favourite at Court, the multi-millionaire Serene Highness Prince Maximilian Egon zu Fuerstenberg.  Of the latter it may be said that no man rivalled his influence with the Emperor.  What he said was law in Germany.

Fuerstenberg was head of the famous “Prince’s Trust,” now dissolved, but at that time, with its capital of a hundred million pounds, it was a great force in the German commercial world.  Indeed, such a boon companion was he of the Kaiser’s that an august but purely decorative and ceremonial place was actually invented for him as Colonel-Marshal of the Prussian Court, an excuse to wear a gay uniform and gorgeous decorations as befitted a man who, possessing twenty millions sterling, was an important asset to the Emperor in his deep-laid scheme for world-power.

Another Prince of the “Trust” was fat old Kraft zu Hohenlohe Oehringen, but as he had only a paltry ten millions he did not rank so high in the War-Lord’s favour.

Fuerstenberg, seated next to the estimable Jewess, was chatting affably with her.  Her husband was in America upon some big steel transaction, but her pretty daughter Elise sat laughing merrily with a young, square-headed lieutenant of the Death’s Head Hussars.

That merry luncheon party was the prologue of a very curious drama.

I was discussing the occult with a middle-aged lady on my right, a sister of Herr Alfred Ballin, the shipping king.  In society discussions upon the occult are always illuminating, and as we chatted I noticed that far across the crowded room, at a table set in a window, there sat alone a dark-haired, sallow, good-looking young civilian, who, immaculate in a grey suit, was eating his lunch in a rather bored manner, yet his eyes were fixed straight upon the handsome, dark-haired young girl, Elise Breitenbach, as though she exercised over him some strange fascination.

Half a dozen times I glanced across, and on each occasion saw that the young man had no eyes for the notables around the table, his gaze being fixed upon the daughter of the great financier, whose interests, especially in America, were so widespread and profitable.

Somehow ­why I cannot even now decide ­I felt a distinct belief that the young civilian’s face was familiar to me.  It was not the first time I had seen him, yet I could not recall the circumstances in which we had met.  I examined my memory, but could not recollect where I had before seen him, yet I felt convinced that it was in circumstances of a somewhat mysterious kind.

Two nights later I had dined with the Breitenbachs at their fine house in the Alsenstrasse.  The only guest beside myself was the thin-faced, loud-speaking old Countess von Bassewitz, and after dinner, served in a gorgeous dining-room which everywhere betrayed the florid taste of the parvenu, Frau Breitenbach took the Countess aside to talk, while I wandered with her daughter into the winter garden, with its high palms and gorgeous exotics, that overlooked the gardens of the Austrian Embassy.

When we were seated in cane chairs, and the man had brought us coffee, the pretty Elise commenced to question me about life at the Crown-Prince’s Court, expressing much curiosity concerning the private life of His Imperial Highness.

Such questions came often from the lips of young girls in society, and I knew how to answer them with both humour and politeness.

“How intensely interesting it must be to be personal-adjutant to the Crown-Prince!  Mother is dying to get a command to one of the receptions at Potsdam,” the girl said.  “Only to-day she was wondering ­well, whether you could possibly use your influence in that direction?”

In an instant I saw why I had been invited to dinners and luncheons so often, and why I had been left alone with the sweet-faced, dark-eyed girl.

I reflected a moment.  Then I said: 

“I do not think that will be very difficult.  I will see what can be done.  But I hope that if I am successful you will accompany your mother,” I added courteously, as I lit a cigarette.

“It is really most kind of you,” the girl declared, springing up with delight, for the mere thought of going to Court seemed to give her intense pleasure.  Yet all women, young and old, are alike in that respect.  The struggle to set foot near the throne is, as you yourself have seen, always an unseemly one, and, alas! the cause of many heart-burnings.

When I looked in at Tresternitz’s room in the Palace next morning, I scribbled down the name of mother and daughter for cards.

“Who are they?” grunted the old marshal, removing a big cigar from his puffy lips.

“People I know ­they’re all right, and the girl is very good-looking.”

“Good.  We can do with a little beauty here nowadays.  We’ve had an infernally ugly lot at the balls lately,” declared the man, who was the greatest gossip at Court, and who thereupon commenced to tell me a scandalous story regarding one of the ladies-in-waiting to the Kaiserin who had disappeared from the New Palace, and was believed to be living in Scotland.

“The Emperor is furious,” he added.  “But he doesn’t know the real truth, and never will, I expect.”

A week later the Crown-Prince and Princess gave a grand ball at the Marmor Palace at Potsdam, and the Emperor himself attended.

Frau Breitenbach, gorgeously attired, made her bow before the All-Highest, and her daughter did the same.

That night I saw that the Kaiser was in no good mood.  He seldom was at the Court functions.  Indeed, half an hour before his arrival the Crown-Prince had told me, in confidence, of his father’s annoyance at the failure of some diplomatic negotiations with Britain.

The Emperor, in his brilliant uniform, with the Order of the Black Eagle, of which he was chef-souverain, and the diamond stars of many foreign Orders, presented a truly Imperial figure, his shrewd, unrelenting gaze everywhere, his upturned moustache accentuated, his voice unusually sharp and commanding.

I spoke with Elise, and afterwards, when I danced with her I saw how impressed she was by the glitter and glamour of the Potsdam Court circle, and by the fact that she was in the presence of the All-Highest One, without whose gracious nod nothing could hope to prosper in the Fatherland, and without whose approval no public work could be undertaken in Berlin.  Those statesmen, admirals and generals present might plan, but he alone willed.  His approval or his frown was as a decree of Providence, and his autocratic will greater than that of his “brother,” Nicholas of Russia.

I remember how, one day in the Militaer-Kabinett, an old buffer at Court whom we called “Hans” Hohenlohe ­he was one of the hundred and sixty odd members of the aristocratic family of Hohenlohe which swarm the Fatherland, mostly penurious, by-the-way, salary-grabbers, all elbowing each other to secure the Kaiser’s favour ­made a very true remark which has ever remained in my memory.  It was very soon after Herr von Libenau, the Imperial Master of Ceremony, had been arrested owing to a scandal at Court, though perfectly innocent.  My friend “Hans” Hohenlohe said in a low, confidential whisper at a shooting party, after the French Ambassador had wished us a merry bon jour and passed out: 

“My dear friend Heltzendorff, you, like myself, know that war is inevitable.  It must come soon!  The reason is to be found in the madness of the Emperor, which has spread among our military party and among the people, till most of them are no more sane than himself.  Hypnotized by good fortune, we have become demented with an overweening vanity and a philosophy which must end in our undoing.  The Emperor’s incessant drum-beating, sabre-rattling, and blasphemous appeals to the Almighty have brought our German nation to that state which, since the world began, has ever gone before destruction.”

No truer words were ever spoken of modern Germany.

They recurred to me as, while waltzing with the pretty daughter of the Dortmund parvenu, I noticed the Emperor standing aside, chatting with old Von Zeppelin, who every now and then patted his silvery hair, a habit of his when in conversation.  With the pair stood Ernst Auguste, the young Duke of Brunswick, who in the following year married the Emperor’s daughter, the rather petulant and go-ahead Victoria Louise.  The Prince, who wore the uniform of the Prussian Guard, was laughing heartily over some remark of old Zeppelin’s as, with my partner, I passed quite close to them.

The dainty Elise was, I found, quite an entertaining little person.  Old Tresternitz had already whispered his opinion of her.

“Undoubtedly the prettiest girl at Court,” he had declared, with a twinkle in his grey eyes.

From words the pretty Elise let drop that night as she hung upon my arm I wondered whether she was really as ingenuous as she pretended.  And yet Frau Breitenbach was one of dozens of others who strove to enter the Court circle, flapping their wings vainly to try and cross the wide gulf which separated the “high life” in Berlin from “Court life.”

The rooms were stifling, therefore I took my pretty dancing partner along a corridor and through several deserted apartments into the east wing of the Palace, showing her some of the Crown-Princess’s private rooms, until at length we stepped through a French window on to the long terrace before the lake, the Heilige-See.

There we were alone.  The white moon was reflected upon the waters, and after the heat of the ball-room the balmy air was delightful.

Against the marble balustrade beside the water I stood chatting with her.  All was silent save for the tramp of soldiers passing near, for the guard was at that hour changing.  As became a courtier, I chaffed and laughed with her, my intention being to learn more concerning her.

But she was, I found, an extremely discreet and clever little person, a fact which further increased the mystery.

One night about two months later I had an appointment with Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater, in Berlin, to arrange a Royal visit there, and after the performance I went back to the Palace, prior to retiring to my rooms in the Krausenstrasse.  The guards saluted as I crossed the dark courtyard, and having passed through the corridors to the private apartments I entered with my key the Crown-Prince’s locked study.

To my surprise, I found “Willie” seated there with the Emperor in earnest discussion.

With apology, I bowed instantly and withdrew, whereupon the Kaiser exclaimed: 

“Come in, Heltzendorff.  I want you.”

Then he cast a quick, mysterious glance at the young man, who had thrown himself in lazy attitude into a long cane lounge chair.  It was as though His Majesty was hesitating to speak with me, or asking his son’s permission to do so.

“Tell me, Heltzendorff,” exclaimed His Majesty suddenly, “do you know this person?” and he placed before my astonished gaze a very artistic cabinet photograph of the pretty Elise.

“Yes,” I answered frankly, quite taken aback.  “It is Fraeulein Breitenbach.”

“And what do you know of her?” inquired His Majesty sharply.  “You introduced her and her mother to Court, I believe.”

I saw that the Emperor had discovered something which annoyed him.  What could it be?

At once I was compelled to admit that I had set down their names for invitation, and, further, I explained all that I knew about them.

“You are certain you know nothing more?” asked the Emperor, his brows contracted and his eyes fixed steadily upon mine.  “Understand that no blame attaches to you.”

I assured him that I had revealed all that I knew concerning them.

“Hold no further communication with either mother or daughter,” His Majesty said.  “Leave for Paris by the eight o’clock train to-morrow morning, and go to Baron von Steinmetz, the chief of our confidential service in France.”

Then, turning to the Crown-Prince, he said:  “You have his address.”

“Yes,” said the younger man.  “He is passing as Monsieur Felix Reumont, and is living at 114 bis, Avenue de Neuilly, close to the Pont.”

I scribbled the name and address upon the back of an envelope, whereupon His Majesty said: 

“Carry my verbal orders to Steinmetz, and tell him to act upon the orders I sent him by courier yesterday.  And you will assist him.  He will explain matters fully when you arrive.”

Then, crossing to the Crown-Prince’s writing-table, His Majesty took a large envelope, into which, with the same hand, he dexterously placed the photograph with several papers, and sealed them with the Crown-Prince’s seal.  At the moment the Crown-Princess entered, said some words to her husband in a low voice, and went out again.

“Give this to Von Steinmetz from me,” His Majesty said after she had gone.

I bowed as I took it from His Majesty’s hand, my curiosity now greatly excited regarding Frau Breitenbach and her pretty daughter.  What, I wondered, was in the wind?

“And, Heltzendorff, please report to me,” remarked the Heir, still lounging lazily in the chair, his white, well-manicured hands clasped behind his head.  “Where shall you stay?”

“At the Hotel Chatham.  I always stay there in preference to the larger hotels.”

“And not a bad judge,” laughed His Majesty merrily.  “I remember when I used to go to Paris incognito one could dine at the ‘Chatham’ most excellently ­old-fashioned, but very good.  Vian’s, across the road, is also good.”

The Kaiser knows Paris well, though he has never visited the French capital openly.

Bowing, I took leave of my Imperial master, and next morning at eight o’clock, set out upon my mysterious mission.

I found the Baron von Steinmetz living in a good-sized house in the leafy Avenue de Neuilly, not far from the bridge.  One of the cleverest and most astute officials that Germany possessed, and a man high in the Kaiser’s favour, he had, in the name of Felix Reumont, purchased, with Government funds of course, a cinema theatre in the Rue Lafayette, and ostensibly upon the proceeds of that establishment lived comfortably out at Neuilly.

At eleven o’clock in the morning his valet, evidently a German, showed me in.

“I quite understand, my dear Heltzendorff,” he said, as in his cosy little den he took from the Emperor’s packet the picture of Fraeulein Elise and stood gazing at it thoughtfully.  “It is quite plain why you should have been sent by His Majesty.”

“Why.  I don’t understand.  But His Majesty told me that you would explain.  The young lady and her mother are friends of mine.”

“Exactly.  That’s just it!” exclaimed the round-faced, rather florid man whom I had once met before.  “You apparently know but little of them ­eh? ­or you would not call them your friends!”

Those mysterious words surprised me, but I was the more astounded when he continued: 

“You of course know of those disgraceful anonymous letters which have been continually arriving at Court ­of the Emperor’s fury concerning them.”

I replied in the affirmative, for, as a matter of fact, for the past three months the whole Court had been flooded with most abusive and disgraceful correspondence concerning the camarilla that had again sprung up around the Kaiser.  The Emperor, the Empress, the Crown-Prince and Princess, Prince Eitel, Sophie Caroline, Prince Henry of Prussia and others had received letters, most of them in typewriting, containing the most intimate details of scandals concerning men and women around the Emperor.

Fully a dozen of these letters addressed to the Crown-Prince he had handed to me ­letters denouncing in some cases perfectly innocent people, destroying the reputations of honest men and women, and abusing the Heir to the Throne in an outrageous manner.

On at least three occasions “Willie” had shown me letters addressed to the Kaiser himself, and intercepted by the Kaiserin, who, in consequence of this flood of anonymous epistles that had produced such a terrible sensation at Potsdam, had ordered that all such letters found in the Imperial post-bag should be handed at once to her.

The great War-Lord’s feelings had been sorely wounded by the vitriolic shafts, and his vanity much injured by the boldness of the unknown letter-writer who had dared to speak his mind concerning the Eulenburg scandals, which Maximilian Harden had some time before exposed in the Zukunft.

All Berlin was gossiping about the scandal of the letters and the horrible innuendoes contained in them.  The Allerhoechste Person, though boiling over with anger, blissfully believed that outside the Palaces nothing was known of the contents of the correspondence.  But the Emperor, in his vanity, never accurately gauges the mind of his people.

“The identity of the writer is the point that is engaging my attention,” the Baron said, as, seating himself at his big, carved-oak writing-table, he opened a drawer and drew forth a bundle of quite a hundred letters, adding:  “All these that you see here have been addressed either to the Emperor or the Empress,” and he handed me one or two, which on scanning I saw contained some outrageous statements, allegations which would make the hair of the All-Highest One bristle with rage.

“Well!” I exclaimed, aghast, looking up at the Baron after I had read an abusive letter, which in cold, even lines of typewriting commenced with the words:  “You, a withered crook in spectacular uniform better fitted for the stage of the Metropol Theatre, should, instead of invoking the aid of Providence, clear out your own Augean stable.  Its smell is nauseous to the nostrils of decent people.  Surely you should blush to have feasted in the castle of Liebenberg with the poet, Prince Philip, and your degenerate companions, Hohenau, Johannes Lynar, and your dearly beloved Kuno!”

And the abusive missive proceeded to denounce two of my friends, ladies-in-waiting at the Neues Palais, and to make some blackguardly allegations concerning the idol.  Von Hindenburg.

“Well,” I exclaimed, “that certainly is a very interesting specimen of anonymous correspondence.”

“Yes, it is!” exclaimed the Baron.  “In Berlin every inquiry has been made to trace its author.  Schunke, head of the detective police, was charged by the Emperor to investigate.  He did so, and both he and Klewitz failed utterly.  Now it has been given into my hands.”

“Have you discovered any clue to the writer?” I asked anxiously, knowing full well what a storm of indignation those letters had produced in our own circle.

Presently, when I sat with the Baron at his table, he switched on an intense electric light, even though it was day-time, and then spread out some of the letters above a small, square mirror.

“You see they are on various kinds of note-paper, bearing all kinds of watermarks, of French, English, and German manufacture.  Some we have here are upon English paper, because it is heavy and thick.  Again, three different makes of typewriter have been used ­one a newly-invented importation from America.  The written letters are, you will see, mostly in a man’s hand.”

“Yes, I see all that,” I said.  “But what have you discovered concerning their author?  The letter I received bore a French stamp and the postmark of Angers.”

He placed before me quite a dozen envelopes addressed to the Emperor and Empress, all bearing the postmark of that town in the Maine-et-Loire.  Others had been posted in Leipzig, Wilhelmshaven, Tours, Antwerp, Berlin-Wilmersdorf, and other places.

“The investigation is exceedingly difficult, I can assure you,” he said.  “I have had the assistance of some of the best scientific brains of our Empire in making comparisons and analyses.  Indeed, Professor Harbge is with me from Berlin.”

As he uttered those words the Professor himself, an elderly, spectacled man in grey tweeds, entered the room.  I knew him and greeted him.

“We have been studying the writing-papers,” the Professor said presently, as he turned over the letters, some of which were upon commercial typewriting paper, some on cheap thin paper from fashionable “blocks,” and others upon various tinted paper of certain mills, as their watermarks showed.  The papers were various, but the scurrilous hand was the clever and evasive one of some person who certainly knew the innermost secrets of the German Court.

“Sixteen different varieties of paper have been received at the Neues and Marmor Palaces,” the Baron remarked.  “Well, I have worked for two months, night and day, upon the inquiry, for, as you know, the tentacles of our Teuton octopus are everywhere.  I have discovered that eleven of these varieties of paper can be purchased at a certain small stationer’s shop, Lancry’s, in the Boulevard Haussmann, close to the ‘Printemps.’  One paper especially is sold nowhere else in Paris.  It is this.”

And he held over a mirror a letter upon a small sheet of note-paper bearing the watermark of a bull’s head.

“That paper was made at a mill in the south of Devonshire, in England, destroyed by fire five years ago.  Paper of that make cannot be obtained anywhere else in France,” he declared.

I at once realized how much patience must have been expended upon the inquiry, and said: 

“Then you have actually fixed the shop where the writer purchased his paper?”

“Yes,” he replied.  “And we know that the newly-invented typewriter, a specimen one, was sold by the Maison Audibert, in Marseilles.  The purchaser of the typewriter in Marseilles purchases his paper and envelopes at Lancry’s, in the Boulevard Haussmann.”

“Splendid!” I said enthusiastically, for it was clear that the Baron, with the thousand-and-one secret agents at his beck and call, had been able, with the Professor’s aid, to fix the source of the stationery.  “But,” I added, “what is wanted from me?” Why, I wondered, had His Majesty sent the Baron that photograph of Elise Breitenbach?

“I want you to go with me to the central door of the ‘Printemps’ at four o’clock this afternoon, and we will watch Lancry’s shop across the way,” the Baron replied.

This we did, and from four till six o’clock we stood, amid the bustle of foot passengers, watching the small stationer’s on the opposite side of the boulevard, yet without result.

Next day and the next I accompanied the prosperous cinema proprietor upon his daily vigil, but in vain, until his reluctance to tell me the reason why I had been sent to Paris annoyed me considerably.

On the fifth afternoon, just before five o’clock, while we were strolling together, smoking and chatting, the Baron’s eyes being fixed upon the door of the small single-fronted shop, I saw him suddenly start, and then make pretence of utter indifference.

“Look!” he whispered beneath his breath.

I glanced across and saw a young man just about to enter the shop.

The figure was unfamiliar, but, catching sight of his face, I held my breath.  I had seen that sallow, deep-eyed countenance before.

It was the young man who, two months previously, had sat eating his luncheon alone at the “Esplanade,” apparently fascinated by the beauty of little Elise Breitenbach!

“Well,” exclaimed the Baron.  “I see you recognize him ­eh?  He is probably going to buy more paper for his scurrilous screeds.”

“Yes.  But who is he?  What is his name?” I asked anxiously.  “I have seen him before, but have no exact knowledge of him.”

The Baron did not reply until we were back again in the cosy room in Neuilly.  Then, opening his cigar-box, he said: 

“That young man, the author of the outrageous insults to His Majesty, is known as Franz Seeliger, but he is the disgraced, ne’er-do-well son of General von Trautmann, Captain-General of the Palace Guard.”

“The son of old Von Trautmann!” I gasped in utter amazement.  “Does the father know?”

The Baron grinned and shrugged his shoulders.

Then after I had related to him the incident at the “Esplanade,” he said: 

“That is of greatest interest.  Will you return to Berlin and report to the Emperor what you have seen here?  His Majesty has given me that instruction.”

Much mystified, I was also highly excited that the actual writer of those abominable letters had been traced and identified.  The Baron told me of the long weeks of patient inquiry and careful watching; of how the young fellow had been followed to Angers and other towns in France where the letters were posted, and of his frequent visits to Berlin.  He had entered a crack regiment, but had been dismissed the Army for forgery and undergone two years’ imprisonment.  Afterwards he had fallen in with a gang of clever international hotel thieves, and become what is known as a rat d’hotel.  Now, because of a personal grievance against the Emperor, who had ordered his prosecution, he seemed to have by some secret means ferreted out every bit of scandal at Potsdam, exaggerated it, invented amazing additions, and in secret sown it broadcast.

His hand would have left no trace if he had not been so indiscreet as to buy his paper from that one shop close to the Rue de Provence, where he had rooms.

On the third night following I stood in the Emperor’s private room at Potsdam and made my report, explaining all that I knew and what I had witnessed in Paris.

“That man knows a very great deal ­but how does he know?” snapped the Emperor, who had just returned from Berlin, and was in civilian attire, a garb quite unusual to him.  He had no doubt been somewhere incognito ­visiting a friend perhaps.  “See Schunke early to-morrow,” he ordered, “and tell him to discover the link between this young blackguard and your friends the Breitenbachs, and report to me.”

I was about to protest that the Breitenbachs were not my friends, but next instant drew my breath, for I saw that the great War-Lord, even though he wore a blue serge suit, was filled with suppressed anger.

“This mystery must be cleared up!” he declared in a hard voice, reflecting no doubt upon the terrible abuse which the writer had heaped upon him, all the allegations, by-the-way, having contained a certain substratum of truth.

Next morning I sat with the bald-headed and astute Schunke at the headquarters of the detective police in Berlin, and there discussed the affair fully, explaining the result of my journey to Paris and what I had seen, and giving him the order from the Kaiser.

“But, Count, if this woman Breitenbach and her pretty daughter are your friends you will be able to visit them and glean something,” he said.

“I have distinct orders from the Emperor not to visit them while the inquiry is in process,” I replied.

Schunke grunted in dissatisfaction, stroked his iron-grey beard, but made no further comment.

We walked out together, and I left him at the door of the Etat-major of the Army in the Koenigsplatz.

Later that same morning I returned to the Marmor Palace to report to the Crown-Prince, but found that His Highness was absent upon an official visit of inspection at Stuttgart.  The Marshal of the Court, Tresternitz, having given me the information, laughed, and added: 

“Officially, according to to-day’s newspapers, His Highness is in Stuttgart, but unofficially I know that he is at the Palace Hotel, in Brussels, where there is a short-skirted variety attraction singing at the Eden Theatre.  So, my dear Heltzendorff, you can return to the Krausenstrasse for a day or two.”

I went back to Berlin, the Crown-Princess being away at Wiesbaden, and from day to day awaited “Willie’s” return.

In the meantime I several times saw the great detective, Schunke, and found that he was in constant communication with Baron Steinmetz in Paris.  The pair were evidently leaving no stone unturned to elucidate the mystery of those annoying letters, which were still falling as so many bombs into the centre of the Kaiser’s Court.

Suddenly, one Sunday night, all Berlin was electrified at the news that General von Trautmann, Captain-General of the Palace Guard ­whom, truth to tell, the Crown-Prince had long secretly hated because he had once dared to utter some word of reproach ­had been arrested, and sent to a fortress at the Emperor’s order.

An hour after the arrest His Majesty’s personal-adjutant commanded me by telephone to attend at the Berlin Schloss.  When we were alone the Kaiser turned to me suddenly, and said: 

“Count von Heltzendorff, you will say nothing of your recent visit to Paris, or of the authorship of those anonymous letters ­you understand?  You know absolutely nothing.”

Then, being summarily dismissed by a wave of the Imperial hand, I retired, more mystified than ever.  Why should my mouth be thus closed?  I dared not call at the Alsenstrasse to make my own inquiries, yet I knew that the police had made theirs.

When I returned to my rooms that evening Schunke rang me up on the telephone with the news that my friends the Breitenbachs had closed their house and left early that morning for Brussels.

“Where is Seeliger?” I inquired in great surprise.

“In Brussels.  The Breitenbachs have gone there to join him, now that the truth is out and his father is under arrest.”

The Emperor’s fury was that of a lunatic.  It knew no bounds.  His mind, poisoned against the poor old General, he had fixed upon him as the person responsible for that disgraceful correspondence which for so many weeks had kept the Court in constant turmoil and anxiety.  Though His Majesty was aware of the actual writer of the letters, he would not listen to reason, and openly declared that he would make an example of the silver-haired old Captain-General of the Guard, who, after all, was perfectly innocent of the deeds committed by his vagabond son.

A prosecution was ordered, and three weeks later it took place in camera, the Baron, Schunke and a number of detectives being ordered to give evidence.  So damning, indeed, was their testimony that the Judge passed the extreme sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment.

And I, who knew and held proofs of the truth, dared not protest!

Where was the General’s son ­the real culprit and author of the letters?  I made inquiry of Schunke, of the Baron, and of others who had, at the order of the All-Highest, conspired to ruin poor Von Trautmann.  All, however, declared ignorance, and yet, curiously enough, the fine house in the Alsenstrasse still remained empty.

Later, I discovered that the Crown-Prince had been the prime mover in the vile conspiracy to send the elderly Captain-General to prison and to the grave, for of this his words to me one day ­a year afterwards ­were sufficient proof: 

“It is a good job, Heltzendorff, that the Emperor rid himself at last of that canting old pest, Von Trautmann.  He is now in a living tomb, and should have been there four years ago!” and he laughed.

I made no response.  Instead, I thought of the quiet, innocent old courtier languishing in prison because he had somehow incurred the ill-will of the Emperor’s son, and I confess that I ground my teeth at my own inability to expose the disgraceful truth.

About six months after the secret trial of the unfortunate General I had accompanied the Crown-Prince on a visit to the Quirinal, and one afternoon while strolling along the Corso, in Rome, suddenly came face to face with the dainty little figure of Fraeulein Elise Breitenbach.

In delight I took her into Ronzi’s, the noted confectioner’s at the corner of the Piazza Colonna, and there, at one of the little tables, she explained to me how she and her mother, having become acquainted with Franz Seeliger ­not knowing him to be the General’s son ­they suddenly fell under the suspicion of the Berlin Secret Police, and, though much puzzled, did not again come to Court.

Some weeks later mother and daughter chanced to be in Paris, and one day called at Seeliger’s rooms in the Rue de Provence, but he was out.  They, however, were shown into his room to wait, and there saw upon his table an abusive and scurrilous typewritten letter in German addressed to the Emperor.  Then it suddenly dawned upon them that the affable young man might be the actual author of those infamous letters.  It was this visit which, no doubt, revealed to the Baron the young man’s hiding-place.  Both mother and daughter, however, kept their own counsel, met Seeliger next day, and watched, subsequently learning, to their surprise, that he was the son of General von Trautmann, and, further, that he had as a friend one of the personal valets of the Emperor, from whom, no doubt, he obtained his inside information about persons at Court.

“When his poor father was sentenced we knew that the young man was living in Brussels, and at once went there in order to induce him to come forward, make confession, and so save the General from disgrace,” said the pretty girl seated before me.  “On arrival we saw him alone, and told him what we had discovered in the Rue de Provence, whereupon he admitted to us that he had written all the letters, and announced that he intended to return to Berlin next day and give himself up to the police in order to secure his father’s release.”

“And why did he not do so?” I asked eagerly.

“Because next morning he was found dead in his bed in the hotel.”

“Ah, suicide.”

“No,” was her half-whispered reply.  “He had been strangled by an unknown hand ­deliberately murdered, as the Brussels police declared.  They were, of course, much mystified, for they did not know, as we know, that neither the young man’s presence nor his confession were desired in Berlin.”

Fearing the Emperor’s wrath, the Breitenbachs, like myself, dare not reveal what they knew ­the truth, which is here set down for the first time ­and, alas! poor General von Trautmann died in prison at Mulheim last year.