(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Under the Rose” centers on the activities of Porpentine, a British spy in Egypt during the Fashoda crisis of 1898, when the British forces of General Kitchener encountered a French expeditionary troop in the contested area of the Sudan. The “Situation,” as it is referred to in the story, portends an international crisis that could lead to war in Europe, but the real focus of “Under the Rose” is on a small company of secret agents hoping either to promote or to prevent the final catastrophe.

Porpentine and his partner, Robin Goodfellow, are committed to preventing the “balloon” from “going up,” their phrase for the outbreak of an international catastrophe. They are opposed in their efforts by a group of agents, presumably German, who are equally committed to the eventual outbreak of war. The foreign agents are led by an old veteran spy named Moldwoerp and include his subordinate Lepsius and one other agent unfamiliar to the British. Porpentine soon deduces, though, that the other agent is actually one Hugh Bongo-Shaftsbury, supposedly an amateur British archaeologist.

Bongo-Shaftsbury has attached himself to the family of Sir Alastair Wren, who are on tour. In turn, Goodfellow has formed an attachment to Sir Alastair’s oldest daughter, Victoria. The entire company of tourists and spies embarks on the train for Cairo, and en route Goodfellow is nearly killed by an Arab hired by Lepsius. Bongo-Shaftsbury also manages to...

(The entire section is 494 words.)