May to October, 1862
Bernice returned home to hearth and kin. She was surprised at how much her sister had grown, not in stature but in maturity. All the letters from home had been painted in her imagination by the old cherished memories of life with a sibling eight years younger. Anna had barely been out in society when Bernice left for Africa. But now she was a married woman, lady of her own house; her husband, the son of one of her father’s business partners.
However, six years had not changed her parents much, and indeed had filled Bernice with much yearning for their company, their wise counsel, their love. They too had missed her. On the table in her room she found two neatly wrapped books, one from her mother, one from her father. The first was a brand new copy of Magister Kierkegaard’s Training in Christianity. It had been many years since she had read one of his later books. Her favorite, Works of Love, she had taken with her to Africa. Her father’s present was a copy of John Nelson Darby’s eleven Geneva lectures. Attending that with her parents was one of her earliest memories; she had been only six at the time.
Even those gifts were providential, for the clarity of thought of those two great men framed the boundaries of her own convictions. They shared with each other an unabated passion for the Master, and the fierce conviction that that passion must transform the believing heart. But they came at it from two different directions. Darby saw in Jesus the unrelenting fulfillment of the eternal plan laid out in history by the power of prophecy. It was that fulfillment that ushered in the power to transform all believers into tabernacles of the Spirit, tabernacles that together comprised the one Temple, the one Church with its single collective purpose to save the world. Kierkegaard saw in the Incarnation of the Son of Man a penetration of eternity into the temporal, rendering all history moot, demanding that every man individually relate to Christ as if He were here and now, every man standing utterly alone before Him.
They were the two great pillars that shaped the interpretation of her faith. But were her beliefs truly contained within their bounds? Both men acknowledged the ultimate truth of the personal experience with God: that ultimately it is the Spirit Who bears witness to the spirit. But if this was so, then in her spirit she knew Darby was wrong.
Darby claimed that miracles and the sign gifts were only meant for times when God was establishing a new work, a new dispensation, like the Church; or to confirm that establishment. But once it was established and it pervaded the society, no matter how distorted that work became through the folly of man, those gifts were not needed anymore. Then why was she able to see the visions she saw? How did she know what she knew? Why could she speak in languages she had never heard before?
To Magister Kierkegaard she could have refuted nothing. His incisive logic cut to the heart of any excuses she ever made in her life. But why did he have to emphasize suffering so? Yes to carry our cross is the calling of those who would follow after the Master. But isn’t the joy unspeakable and full of glory of which Peter speaks, meant for this life too? Wouldn’t the Man who cast out a Legion once, for the sake of one lost Gentile in His time, do so again in her time?
The months passed. She talked and she worked and she walked with her family, taking every day in, filling her heart anew with memories, memories to take with her when the time came to leave again. Even when she walked alone, there was a comfort in walking about Amsterdam and pondering on the long history of her land and all the Netherlands.
She liked that dynamic equilibrium that maintained the Dutch society on a level keel: with a third of its people Roman Catholic in their politics, a third strict Calvinists, and a third latitudinals, free thinkers styling themselves children of the enlightenment. Yet, even the latter were pragmatic, untheoretical, moderate in their views and averse to radicalism.
In spite of the conflicts with France at the turn of the century, and the loss of Belgium in the 30’s, still it was a healthy prosperous country. She was thankful that the Lord had chosen to give her this as her heritage. She had often thought of that during her time in Africa, especially during the time of the horrible droughts. How fortunate, how comfortable had her life been in contrast to the harsh lives some of those dear people had to bear! She had addressed the obvious question that that thought raised, many times in her youth: Was it comfort that had ushered her so easily into Christianity? No. She knew that was not it. Still, she chose a missionary life to prove it to herself. And she did. But what came next? Livingstone was returning to England. Surely he would go back to Africa again. She would go then too.
In October, as if to add more treasures to her stores of memories, she received a letter from Denmark. In the span of years between 1848 and 1851 she had spent several holidays there with her relatives on her Mother’s side at their house in Amaliegade. In spite of the ten year difference, she had always had a special rapport with her cousin Alix. Even after Alix’s family moved to Bernstorff Palace and Bernice went to America for her medical education, they kept in touch through letters, sharing of draughty attic bedrooms and the trials of being the oldest of the sisters. The letter, just arrived, brought exciting news. Edward Albert, Prince of Wales, had asked for Alix’s hand in marriage. After the Christmas holidays Bernice joined the royal family of Denmark as they made their preparations.
Santiago De Soray crouched in the middle of an abandoned blacksmith shop, studying the implements of the trade collected before him by his men, while the rest inspected every square inch of the surrounding walls. On the outskirts of London, the place had at one time housed a pair of horse stalls, and done a modest business in horseshoeing and repair of carriages and cams. That had been long ago. His latest intelligence connected its most recent owner to the Arnot conclave.
For lack of a better name he had assigned it that identifier in his notes, based on the neighborhood where he had first detected their activities in France. It had taken him almost a year then to identify their lead assassin and bring him to justice. Locating this site had been considerably easier. In the seven months since Bernice had confirmed his concerns, his focused resources had finally identified the key links in the anarchist conclave’s chain of command. As he had expected, the need to replace Dumollard drove them close enough to the surface of society to track their moves.
“They left in haste,” commented Worthington as he joined his master.
“But not in panic.” Santiago stood up, with a look of satisfaction in his face. “They do not know how much we have uncovered.”
“Nevertheless, everything confirms your assessment of an accelerated time table.”
“Yes.” The Spaniard motioned at the clues arranged before them on the dirt floor. “What do you see, Fernando?”
“Evidence that the most recent activity within these walls was, at least, unusual. The blacksmith hammer and tongs, and the anvil yonder are to be expected. But these do not fit: Thin metal and rubber gaskets of varied sizes, pieces of coiled flexible reinforced steel tubing, and a small broken valve, evidently manufactured with extreme precision.”
Santiago nodded. “Someone has been working here with a compressed air system. The workmanship on the valve suggests one of the shops in Birmingham. But, Why?”
“Propulsion?” Worthington suggested. “We know the conclave was interested in the Danish Construction Commission meetings this last summer. The Danes were studying the proposal by John Ericsson to build the Danish Navy a 200 foot shallow draft armored vessel in the monitor design. They eventually selected Napier and Sons in Glasgow as the supplier. Perhaps there is a way to augment the power of the vessel with compressed air. Didn’t Baron von Rathlen build a land vehicle propelled by compressed air?”
“Indeed.” Santiago smiled at Worthington’s agile imagination. The intelligence and creativity of his faithful servant and friend would put to shame many a lettered doctor. “There is a Mr. Beach in New York proposing the propulsion of subway cars by compressed air. And yes, there is no doubt that replacing the steam-based systems on board a monitor vessel with a compressed air system could greatly improve the safety and comfort of the operators within. But such improvements are not required. The mere fact that the Danes have gone forward with the commissioning of the vessel, is enough. Such a technical advancement in the North Sea has implications on the balance of power, implications that will not be missed by Bismarck.”
“Not a new weapon of war,” Worthington understood the shadow that crossed his master’s face, “but political upheaval. You believe this conclave is intent on seeding a new wave of revolutions.”
“It has been over a decade since the instigators of the 1848 revolutions were finally eradicated. I had hoped, Fernando, I had hoped. But we again have evidence of far ranging connections and plans with worldwide scope.”
“Then, as you have taught me, we ask, where is the tipping point?”
“You hit on it already, Fernando: Denmark and the North Sea.
“In the Prussian conflict of 1849, the Danish naval losses at Eckernförde were almost pivotal. It was only the decisive battle at Fredericia that forced the Prussians to sign the cease-fire agreement or choose a protracted conflict they could not win. The great powers then were standing in opposition to Prussia. Sweden was supplying military help to Denmark, and both Russia and Great Britain threatened to act unless the Prussians retracted. With Austria becoming increasingly hostile, the Prussians could not afford a conflict on that scale. They backed off. But even then it took until 1851 for the people of the duchies Schleswig-Holstein to put down their weapons.
“That is the crux of unstable equilibrium in the North Sea. The German population, especially in Holstein, regards the Danes as an occupying force, their presence has been made increasingly bitter as a result of the Language Edicts passed in 1851. Russia demanded that the peace agreement maintain the integrity of Danish territory, insisting that both duchies have equal footing in the Danish kingdom. But I know the house of Augustenburg has never really given up its claim on Holstein. Sooner or later the Prussians will try again, when the right man is at the helm. Bismarck is such a man. And in the intervening decade, much has changed in the standing of the great powers.”
Worthington accepted implicitly his master’s assessment of the present state of that never ending chess game of nations. They kept abreast of every move through a common weak link they had exploited many times before, the diplomatic messenger services. Of late, the correspondence between Baron Bloomfield in Vienna and the newly appointed British Ambassador to Prussia in Berlin, Sir Andrew Buchanan, had held the greatest interest for them.
Lord Russell’s autumn dispatch certainly gave the German Diet the impression that Great Britain sympathized with their viewpoint. Yet at the same time there were representations that the only reasonable claim the German Diet had was on Holstein. To tread on Schleswig, it was insinuated, would bring dire consequences involving all Europe. But who would enforce such consequences? As Disraeli had commented in private, the stature of Great Britain among the great powers was eroding.
“How soon do you expect the conflict to arise again?” Worthington had to ask.
“The time is ripe. France has no intention of interfering. And Russia is distracted by the actions of the Revolutionary Movement Committee in Poland. Sweden… well the last time an offensive-defensive alliance with the Danish was proposed, under King Frederick VII, no agreement was reached, for at every turn Denmark insisted Holstein be included. And Sweden sees that as a losing proposition. No, if Prussia goes after the duchies, and they will go after both, it would be Great Britain alone. Perhaps she would act; but what if Britain was not seen as an ally?”
Their conversation was interrupted by their men. Gathered on the dirt floor before them was every piece of equipment they had found. A different kind of valve was set beside the first one, smaller; its fitting of the same size as the threaded orifice in the middle of a slender metal cylinder. And that cylinder’s end was evidently designed to accommodate the steel tubing. Beside these, one of the men had reassembled out of broken pieces a larger rubber gasket. Each piece still retained its elasticity but as a whole the assemblage had the appearance of having been shattered. The pieces of the puzzle thus laid out triggered a feeling of recognition in the Spaniard’s mind.
And then to the right of all those small intricately machined components they had set down the pieces of a large iron object. One of the young men, with an inborn mechanical aptitude, had started to assemble the iron device out of its several parts.
“Bem feito, Abilio.”1 Santiago crouched beside him and completed the assembly. He gave orders to start a fire in the pit, and sent another man for a bucket of ice, while he inspected the glassware that his men had uncovered behind a false wall. Not much was left. The clear liquid at the bottom of a gallon jug, by its absence of odor and the way it wicked into dry wood, had all the appearance of water but there was something about the way it clung to the glass that suggested something else was dissolved in it.
The memory he was seeking finally fell into place. The iron device looked like a locomotive engine piston and cylinder. The outer casing of the cylinder formed an ample stable base which fit on the center of a wrought iron basin. The faint film of rust on the basin surface was evidence it had been filled with water or probably ice. But the interior of the piston was different from any ordinary design. The cylinder’s wall was twice as thick as normal, the piston that fit inside correspondingly narrower. And the face of the piston was not flat. It was mildly convex to match the concavity receiving it at the base of the interior of the cylinder. In that base, as his fingers had revealed and lamplight confirmed, there was etched a shallow rectangular pit.
Under the illumination of the lamp he could discern another etched line. He poured the water from the jug into the cylinder until it reached that line. After lubricating the sides of the piston with the grease remaining in a metal container, he slid it onto the cylinder’s mouth and let it drop. It slid inwards slowly; the close fit of the metal parts was superb. There was a faint whisper as the trapped air exhaled itself out until the piston’s face came to rest on the water within.
The man with the ice returned. Santiago directed him to pour it in the basin around the foot of the cylinder. He waited, blacksmith’s hammer in hand, for a few minutes. The condensation of moisture on the iron announced that the metal had reached temperature, shrinking minutely in the process and sealing the water within. Motioning the men aside Santiago struck the piston down. A few seconds after the ringing echo damped out into silence, the ice in the basin had melted into water. He drew out the piston and reached into the cylinder with the metal tongs, and pulled out a rectangular sliver of smoking ice.
As he had instructed, another man had an iron warming in the fire. Santiago set the ice on the anvil and asked for the iron. Again warning them aside he brought the hot tip down onto the ice and the ensuing explosion redoubled off the walls like a thunderclap. The tip of the metal in his hand was bent backwards by the blast. “Unstable ice.” He motioned at the rest of the evidence. “The scraps of metal piping, the broken valves you found, it all suggests someone has been working here with liquefied gases. If so, they have access to low enough temperatures to do this much more efficiently, and store it for an indefinite time.”
“Windbüchse”, the Spaniard replied in German.
“Wind rifle”, his right-hand man translated into Portuguese for the younger men. “A quiet, smokeless gun. Compressed air.”
“Charged to 500 pounds per square inch of air pressure they are as deadly as any rifle, and utterly efficient. An expert can discharge twenty shots in half a minute. The most common failure is in the opening of the trigger release valve against the pressure in the reservoir. But imagine if that reservoir is charged with liquefied air. There would be no pressure until the sublimation of the gas is triggered by a small temperature or pressure change. Andrews of Belfast has worked out the science with Carbon Dioxide.”
“And the ice?”
“Bullets, Worthington, bullets… invisible and explosive.”
The logical conclusion that fit the data took form in the Spaniard’s lips: “An assassination attempt on the heir to the Danish throne, in British soil, would be enough to bring the delicate balance of power in the North Sea toppling down, shattering Denmark’s trust of Britain.” Bismarck would not miss such an opportunity. How much would Prussia take then? No one would stand in her way until it was too late. Then the eventual reaction could trigger a European war.
The upcoming wedding between the Prince of Wales and the daughter of the King of Denmark was the obvious target of opportunity. They had but weeks to uncover the details of the plan and be there before it was carried out.
The Spaniard dismissed his crew except for his old companion. “All we have is evidence they were here.”
“We have checked and re-checked every trail in London and the surrounding cities. They are nowhere to be found. They could not possibly strike in London.”
“Which leaves only the sea-route.”
Worthington scanned his master’s face. He was not surprised that in those brief moments he had already analyzed the options and compared them to the infallible mental record he kept of every document he had read. “We return to the sailor’s life.”
Santiago smiled. “It did you well.”
“It will be difficult to board Her Majesty’s Yacht surreptitiously.”
“We will be joining the crew of the HMS Warrior.” At his manservant’s silent reaction, Santiago expounded: “Seven hundred men on board. In spite of the extra pay they are always short of stokers and trimmers. They’ve been rerouted to perform escort duty. They’ll coal up at Oslo. Considering that it can take a week to clean everything afterwards, they’ll have to be there at least a week before joining the Victoria and Albert. Oslo will serve as our temporary base.”
1Well done, Abilio (Portuguese)