On the eve of the First World War, Von Bork, a German agent, is getting ready to leave England with his vast collection of intelligence, gathered over a four-year period. His wife and household have already left Harwich for Flushing in the Netherlands, leaving only him and his elderly housekeeper. Von Bork and his diplomat friend Baron von Herling disparage their British hosts, having judged them rather negatively. Von Herling is impressed at his friend's collection of vital British military secrets, and tells Von Bork that he will be received in Berlin as a hero. Von Bork indicates that he is waiting for one last transaction with his Irish-American informant Altamont, who will arrive shortly. The treasure will prove rich, Von Bork thinks: naval signals.