Cyrus Grisscome is an agent of American State Department.
According to the brief synopsis we are given of this gentleman at the beginning of the first recorded adventure, Grisscome is "known to the public as a millionaire yachtsman and society leader, but in reality [is] one of the most able and trusted secret agents of the U.S. Department of State".
Grisscome is said to have "retired from business at the age of thirty-eight after the development of a lucky bonanza in the Arizona mining-country". He is the proud owner of an exquisite yacht known as the Mirage, 140' of luxurious seaworthiness with lines so fine as "to imply considerable speed at a pinch". Since Grisscome will often use this vessel in his activities for the government, that ability to move quickly will prove useful on more than one occasion.
Further regarding his employment status, it is said that he "had no occupation in the world beyond that of following his own inclinations - drifting from his palatial estate beyond Gloucester on Cape Ann [in Massachusetts] to his beautiful hacienda in Southern California - and from there to the Mirage for months of cruising, which frequently ended at his country-house in Devonshire, a short two-hour ride from Charing Cross Station".
It is apparent from these descriptions that Grisscome is a man of leisure with little to do except enjoy himself however he feels whenever he feels like it. Obviously, while Grisscome is undoubtedly extremely wealthy, he uses this cover to be able to perform secretive work for the State Department. Within that field of undercover work, Grisscome used the codename of "17".
In the nine adventures that exist of this man, we are assured at their start that the storyteller will be revealing exciting tales of suspense and danger. "In the underground game of diplomacy between the world's great Powers, he matches American intuitiveness, resource and wit against the most brilliant and unscrupulous emissaries of the foreign governments. That men of prominence and wide experience are actually employed in such service by the government is only vaguely understood by most Americans, yet, were it not for their unceasing watchfulness and resource, we should find ourselves serious embroiled with other nations every year."
From the first adventure on, we are shown repeatedly that Grisscome has the attention of the American government, albeit very covertly. He meets regularly with the sitting President (unnamed but really Teddy Roosevelt) and the Secretary of State (SoS) Foote (not his real name, of course). To facilitate these clandestine get-togethers, since Grisscome recently moved into a house off Dupont Circle not too far from Foote's D.C. residence, he has had a secret tunnel constructed 50' below the surface connecting the two residences. At least once the two country leaders came to Grisscome's home via the tunnel for an important meeting.
Grisscome has refused on several occasions to be paid for his efforts, explaining to the Chief Executive that his success in mining has afforded him all his needs and then some, though he has made it politely but definitely clear that major expenses, like the tunnel construction, would need expensing. He can easily afford such a gesture as he tells the succeeding President (again unnamed but certainly Taft due to a reference to that man's work in the Philippines) that he had a personal wealth of over $30 million, the equivilent of near a billion today).
Grisscome goes to a good deal of trouble to make sure no one suspects him of his influence with the government leadership or of his extra-curricular activities on its behalf. In addition to his frequent cruises on his yacht, he also maintains at his luxurious Dupont Circle mansion a steady flow of parties and galas, spearheaded by his aunt and his female cousin who live with him in that massive home. The whole purpose of this was to keep his name firmly in the society pages but always with the idea of being one of the idle rich.
Grisscome is described as "a man very close to six feet in height, but so well proportioned that he would pass for some inches shorter. He is of medium complexion, with fine, dark brown hair and military mustache - keen grey eyes which have a glint of polished steel and turn almost black with the man becomes thoroughly aroused. He has what women consider a very handsome mouth - a square, forceful chin and a straight, Grecian nose".
In his ability to handle himself, it is said that "few people East of the mining country have ever, knowingly, seen him handle a revolver or rifle - yet it is doubtful if there exists in the country a quicker or a better shot. As a swordsman, his ability is nothing short of inborn genius". Despite that, "he is a man who, nine times out of ten, avoids the use of physical force as he would anything else in extremely bad taste".
If good heroes need bad enemies, Grisscome has achieved one in great order with the Prussian spy/diplomat, Baron Grosserhaupt. That man strives to achieve the same sort of fame as Grisscome in the 'man-of-leisure, fellow-of-no-real-importance' department. He tries to be thought of as a man "of considerable wealth - is a yachtsman, sportsman, a social lion of cultivated and agreeable manners, in short pretty much everything that a rich man can be except a diplomat." And, again just like Grisscome, the Baron has the ear and confidence of his country's leader, in this case the Kaiser, and can get, when needed, cooperation from German officials whenever he requires it. Grisscome well knows that the Baron "is actually - and has been for years - one of the ablest, most unscrupulous and most trusted secret agents of his government. And the field of his activities encircles the globe".
Complicating Grisscome's clandestine activities but providing a much appreciated distraction is Alicia Noyes, daughter of one of the Senate's most influential leaders. About Noyes the SoS states, "she has a capacity for seeing things which have been rather important to my Department, and what she can keep her mouth shut better than any other woman I've met". Noyes plays a role in several of the adventures either providing intelligence to Grisscome (he thinks without her realizing it but she is quite sharp) or asking pointed questions or making insightful observations that he would rather avoid.
After discovering the SoS's new butler was a German spy, Grisscome offered to provide a replacement with "I'll send you another man whom we can be pretty sure of up to a quarter of a million or so. Beyond that, there's no saying what any man will do in a country where money is all-powerful, as a rule".
About using a battleship in a small affair, "That's fighting mosquitoes and scorpions with twelve-inch guns - expensive and, for the purpose, inefficient".