THE DOUBLE TRAITOR
BY E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
The woman leaned across the table towards her companion.
"My friend," she said, "when we first met—I am ashamed, considering that
I dine alone with you to-night, to reflect how short a time ago—you
spoke of your removal here from Paris very much as though it were a
veritable exile. I told you then that there might be surprises in store
for you. This restaurant, for instance! We both know our Paris, yet do we
lack anything here which you find at the Ritz or Giro's?"
The young man looked around him appraisingly. The two were dining at one
of the newest and most fashionable restaurants in Berlin. The room
itself, although a little sombre by reason of its oak panelling, was
relieved from absolute gloom by the lightness and elegance of its
furniture and appointments, the profusion of flowers, and the soft grey
carpet, so thickly piled that every sound was deadened. The delicate
strains of music came from an invisible orchestra concealed behind a
canopy of palms. The head-waiters had the correct clerical air, half
complacent, half dignified. Among the other diners were many beautiful
women in marvellous toilettes. A variety of uniforms, worn by the
officers at different tables, gave colour and distinction to a tout
ensemble with which even Norgate could find no fault.
"Germany has changed very much since I was here as a boy," he confessed.
"One has heard of the growing wealth of Berlin, but I must say that I
He hesitated. His companion laughed softly at his embarrassment.
"Do not forget," she interrupted, "that I am Austrian—Austrian, that is
to say, with much English in my blood. What you say about Germans does
not greatly concern me."
"Of course," Norgate resumed, as he watched the champagne poured into his
glass, "one is too much inclined to form one's conclusions about a nation
from the types one meets travelling, and you know what the Germans have
done for Monte Carlo and the Riviera—even, to a lesser extent, for Paris
and Rome. Wherever they have been, for the last few years, they seem to
have left the trail of the nouveaux riches. It is not only their
clothes but their manners and bearing which affront."
The woman leaned her head for a moment against the tips of her slim and
beautifully cared for fingers. She looked steadfastly across the table at
"Now that you are here," she said softly, "you must forget those things.
You are a diplomatist, and it is for you, is it not, outwardly, at any
rate, to see only the good of the country in which your work lies."
Norgate flushed very slightly. His companion's words had savoured almost
of a reproof.
"You are quite right," he admitted. "I have been here for a month,
though, and you are the first person to whom I have spoken like this. And
you yourself," he pointed out, "encouraged me, did you not, when you
insisted upon your Austro-English nationality?"
"You must not take me too seriously," she begged, smiling. "I spoke
foolishly, perhaps, but only for your good. You see, Mr. Francis Norgate,
I am just a little interested in you and your career."
"And I, dear Baroness," he replied, smiling across at her, "am more than
a little interested in—you."
She unfurled her fan.
"I believe," she sighed, "that you are going to flirt with me."
"I should enter into an unequal contest," Norgate asserted. "My methods
would seem too clumsy, because I should be too much in earnest."
"Whatever the truth may be about your methods," she declared, "I rather
like them, or else I should not be risking my reputation in this still
prudish city by dining with you alone and without a chaperon. Tell me a
little about yourself. We have met three times, is it not—once at the
Embassy, once at the Palace, and once when you paid me that call. How old
are you? Tell me about your people in England, and where else you have
served besides Paris?"
"I am thirty years old," he replied. "I started at Bukarest. From there
I went to Rome. Then I was second attaché at Paris, and finally, as you
"And your people—they are English, of course?"
"Naturally," he answered. "My mother died when I was quite young, and my
father when I was at Eton. I have an estate in Hampshire which seems to
get on very well without me."
"And you really care about your profession? You have the real feeling for
"I think there is nothing else like it in the world," he assured her.
"You may well say that," she agreed enthusiastically. "I think you might
almost add that there has been no time in the history of Europe so
fraught with possibilities, so fascinating to study, as the present."
He looked at her keenly. It is the first instinct of a young diplomatist
to draw in his horns when a beautiful young woman confesses herself
interested in his profession.
"You, too, think of these things, then?" he remarked.
She shrugged her shoulders.
"But naturally! What is there to do for a woman but think? We cannot act,
or rather, if we do, it is in a very insignificant way. We are lookers-on
at most of the things in life worth doing."
"I will spare you all the obvious retorts," he said, "if you will tell me
why you are gazing into that mirror so earnestly?"
"I was thinking," she confessed, "what a remarkably good-looking
couple we were."
He followed the direction of her eyes. He himself was of a recognised
type. His complexion was fair, his face clean-shaven and strong almost to
ruggedness. His mouth was firm, his nose thin and straight, his grey eyes
well-set. He was over six feet and rather slim for his height. But if his
type, though attractive enough, was in its way ordinary, hers was
entirely unusual. She, too, was slim, but so far from being tall, her
figure was almost petite. Her dark brown hair was arranged in perfectly
plain braids behind and with a slight fringe in front. Her complexion was
pale. Her features were almost cameo-like in their delicacy and
perfection, but any suggestion of coldness was dissipated at once by the
extraordinary expressiveness of her mouth and the softness of her deep
blue eyes. Norgate looked from the mirror into her face. There was a
little smile upon his lips, but he said nothing.
"Some day," she said, "not in the restaurant here but when we are
alone and have time, I should so much like to talk with you on really
"There is one serious matter," he assured her, "which I should like to
discuss with you now or at any time."
She made a little grimace at him.
"Let it be now, then," she suggested, leaning across the table. "We will
leave my sort of serious things for another time. I am quite certain
that I know where your sort is going to lead us. You are going to make
love to me."
"Do you mind?" he asked earnestly.
She became suddenly grave.
"Not yet," she begged. "Let us talk and live nonsense for a few more
weeks. You see, I really have not known you very long, have I, and this
is a very dangerous city for flirtations. At Court one has to be so
careful, and you know I am already considered far too much of a Bohemian
here. I was even given to understand, a little time ago, by a very great
lady, that my position was quite precarious."
"Does that—does anything matter if—"
"It is not of myself alone that I am thinking. Everything matters to one
in your profession," she reminded him pointedly.
"I believe," he exclaimed, "that you think more of my profession than you
do of me!"
"Quite impossible," she retorted mockingly. "And yet, as I dare say you
have already realised, it is not only the things you say to our statesmen
here, and the reports you make, which count. It is your daily life among
the people of the nation to which you are attached, the friends you make
among them, the hospitality you accept and offer, which has all the time
its subtle significance. Now I am not sure, even, that I am, a very good
companion for you, Mr. Francis Norgate."
"You are a very bad one for my peace of mind," he assured her.
She shook her head. "You say those things much too glibly," she declared.
"I am afraid that you have served a very long apprenticeship."
"If I have," he replied, leaning a little across the table, "it has been
an apprenticeship only, a probationary period during which one struggles
towards the real thing."
"You think you will know when you have found it?" she murmured.
He drew a little breath. His voice even trembled as he answered her. "I
know now," he said softly.
Their heads were almost touching. Suddenly she drew apart. He glanced at
her in some surprise, conscious of an extraordinary change in her face,
of the half-uttered exclamation strangled upon her lips. He turned his
head and followed the direction of her eyes. Three young men in the
uniform of officers had entered the room, and stood there as though
looking about for a table. Before them the little company of head-waiters
had almost prostrated themselves. The manager, summoned in breathless
haste, had made a reverential approach.
"Who are these young men?" Norgate enquired.
His companion made no reply. Her fine, silky eyebrows were drawn a
little closer together. At that moment the tallest of the three
newcomers seemed to recognise her. He strode at once towards their
table. Norgate, glancing up at his approach, was simply conscious of the
coming of a fair young man of ordinary German type, who seemed to be in
a remarkably bad temper.
"So I find you here, Anna!"
The Baroness rose as though unwillingly to her feet. She dropped the
slightest of curtseys and resumed her place.
"Your visit is a little unexpected, is it not, Karl?" she remarked.
"Apparently!" the young man answered, with an unpleasant laugh.
He turned and stared at Norgate, who returned his regard with
half-amused, half-impatient indifference. The Baroness leaned
"Will you permit me to present Mr. Francis Norgate to you, Karl?"
Norgate, who had suddenly recognised the newcomer, rose to his feet,
bowed and remained standing. The Prince's only reply to the introduction
was a frown.
"Kindly give me your seat," he said imperatively. "I will conclude your
entertainment of the Baroness."
For a moment there was a dead silence. In the background several of
the maîtres d'hôtel had gathered obsequiously around. For some
reason or other, every one seemed to be looking at Norgate as though
he were a criminal.
"Isn't your request a little unusual, Prince?" he remarked drily.
The colour in the young man's face became almost purple.
"Did you hear what I said, sir?" he demanded. "Do you know who I am?"
"Perfectly," Norgate replied. "A prince who apparently has not learnt how
to behave himself in a public place."
The young man took a quick step forward. Norgate's fists were clenched
and his eyes glittering. The Baroness stepped between them.
"Mr. Norgate," she said, "you will please give me your escort home."
The Prince's companions had seized him, one by either arm. An older man
who had been dining in a distant corner of the room, and who wore the
uniform of an officer of high rank, suddenly approached. He addressed the
Prince, and they all talked together in excited whispers. Norgate with
calm fingers arranged the cloak around his companion and placed a hundred
mark note upon his plate.
"I will return for my change another evening," he said to the dumbfounded
waiter. "If you are ready, Baroness."
They left the restaurant amid an intense hush. Norgate waited
deliberately whilst the door was somewhat unwillingly held open for him
by a maître d'hôtel, but outside the Baroness's automobile was summoned
at once. She placed her fingers upon Norgate's arm, and he felt that she
"Please do not take me home," she faltered. "I am so sorry—so
He laughed. "But why?" he protested. "The young fellow behaved like a
cub, but no one offered him any provocation. I should think by this time
he is probably heartily ashamed of himself. May I come and see you
"Telephone me," she begged, as she gave him her hand through the window.
"You don't quite understand. Please telephone to me."
She suddenly clutched his hand with both of hers and then fell back out
of sight among the cushions. Norgate remained upon the pavement until the
car had disappeared. Then he looked back once more into the restaurant
and strolled across the brilliantly-lit street towards the Embassy.
Norgate, during his month's stay in Berlin, had already adopted regular
habits. On the following morning he was called at eight o'clock and rode
for two hours in the fashionable precincts of the city. The latter
portion of the time he spent looking in vain for a familiar figure in a
green riding-habit. The Baroness, however, did not appear. At ten o'clock
Norgate returned to the Embassy, bathed and breakfasted, and a little
after eleven made his way round to the business quarters. One of his
fellow-workers there glanced up and nodded at his arrival.
"Where's the Chief?" Norgate enquired.
"Gone down to the Palace," the other young man, whose name was Ansell,
replied; "telephoned for the first thing this morning. Ghastly habit
William has of getting up at seven o'clock and suddenly remembering that
he wants to talk diplomacy. The Chief will be furious all day now."
Norgate lit a cigarette and began to open his letters. Ansell, however,
was in a discoursive mood. He swung around from his desk and leaned back
in his chair.
"How can a man," he demanded, "see a question from the same point of view
at seven o'clock in the morning and seven o'clock in the evening?
Absolutely impossible, you know. That's what's the matter with our
versatile friend up yonder. He gets all aroused over some scheme or other
which comes to him in the dead of night, hops out of bed before any one
civilised is awake, and rings up for ambassadors. Then at night-time he
becomes normal again and takes everything back. The consequence is that
this place is a regular diplomatic see-saw. Settling down in Berlin
pretty well, aren't you, Norgate?"
"Very nicely, thanks," the latter replied.
"Dining alone with the Baroness von Haase!" his junior continued. "A
Court favourite, too! Never been seen alone before except with her young
princeling. What honeyed words did you use, Lothario—"
"Oh, chuck it!" Norgate interrupted. "Tell me about the Baroness von
Haase! She is Austrian, isn't she?"
"Related to the Hapsburgs themselves, I believe," he said. "Very old
family, anyhow. They say she came to spend a season here because she was
a little too go-ahead for the ladies of Vienna. I must say that I've
never seen her out without a chaperon before, except with Prince Karl.
They say he'd marry her—morganatically, of course—if they'd let him,
and if the lady were willing. If you want to know anything more about
her, go into Gray's room."
Norgate looked up from his letters.
"Why Gray's room? How does she come into his department?"
Ansell shook his head.
"No idea. I fancy she is there, though."
Norgate left the room a few minutes later, and, strolling across the
hall of the Embassy, made his way to an apartment at the back of the
house. It was plainly furnished, there were bars across the window, and
three immense safes let into the wall. An elderly gentleman, with
gold-rimmed spectacles and a very benevolent expression, was busy with
several books of reference before him, seated at a desk. He raised his
head at Norgate's entrance.
"Good morning, Norgate," he said.
"Good morning, sir," Norgate replied.
"Anything in my way?"
Norgate shook his head.
"Chief's gone to the Palace—no one knows why. I just looked in because I
met a woman the other day whom Ansell says you know something
about—Baroness von Haase."
"Is there anything to be told about her?" Norgate asked bluntly. "I dined
with her last night."
"Then I don't think I would again, if I were you," the other advised.
"There is nothing against her, but she is a great friend of certain
members of the Royal Family who are not very well disposed towards us,
and she is rather a brainy little person. They use her a good deal, I
believe, as a means of confidential communication between here and
Vienna. She has been back and forth three or four times lately, without
any apparent reason."
Norgate stood with his hands in his pockets, frowning slightly.
"Why, she's half an Englishwoman," he remarked.
"She may be," Mr. Gray admitted drily. "The other half's Austrian all
right, though. I can't tell you anything more about her, my dear fellow.
All I can say is that she is in my book, and so long as she is there, you
know it's better for you youngsters to keep away. Be off now. I am
decoding a dispatch."
Norgate retraced his steps to his own room. Ansell glanced up from a mass
of passports as he entered.
"How's the Secret Service Department this morning?" he enquired.
"Old Gray seems much as usual," Norgate grumbled. "One doesn't get much
out of him."
"Chief wants you in his room," Ansell announced. "He's just come in from
the Palace, looking like nothing on earth."
"Wants me?" Norgate muttered. "Righto!"
He went to the looking-glass, straightened his tie, and made his way
towards the Ambassador's private apartments. The latter was alone when he
entered, seated before his table. He was leaning back in his chair,
however, and apparently deep in thought. He watched Norgate sternly as he
crossed the room.
"Good morning, sir," the latter said.
The Ambassador nodded.
"What have you been up to, Norgate?" he asked abruptly.
"Nothing at all that I know of, sir," was the prompt reply.
"This afternoon," the Ambassador continued slowly, "I was to have taken
you, as you know, to the Palace to be received by the Kaiser. At seven
o'clock this morning I had a message. I have just come from the Palace.
The Kaiser has given me to understand that your presence in Berlin is
"Good God!" Norgate exclaimed.
"Can you offer me any explanation?"
For a moment Norgate was speechless. Then he recovered himself. He forgot
altogether his habits of restraint. There was an angry note in his tone.
"It's that miserable young cub of a Prince Karl!" he exclaimed.
"Last night I was dining, sir, with the Baroness von Haase at the
Café de Berlin."
"Alone," Norgate admitted. "It was not for me to invite a chaperon if the
lady did not choose to bring one, was it, sir? As we were finishing
dinner, the Prince came in. He made a scene at our table and ordered me
"And you?" the Ambassador asked.
"I simply treated him as I would any other young ass who forgot
himself," Norgate replied indignantly. "I naturally refused to go, and
the Baroness left the place with me."
"And you did not expect to hear of this again?"
"I honestly didn't. I should have thought, for his own sake, that the
young man would have kept his mouth shut. He was hopelessly in the wrong,
and he behaved like a common young bounder."
The Ambassador shook his head slowly.
"Mr. Norgate," he said, "I am very sorry for you, but you are under a
misapprehension shared by many young men. You believe that there is a
universal standard of manners and deportment, and a universal series of
customs for all nations. You have our English standard of manners in your
mind, manners which range from a ploughboy to a king, and you seem to
take it for granted that these are also subscribed to in other countries.
In my position I do not wish to say too much, but let me tell you that in
Germany they are not. If a prince here chooses to behave like a
ploughboy, he is right where the ploughboy would be wrong."
There was a moment's silence. Norgate was looking a little dazed.
"Then you mean to defend—" he began.
"Certainly not," the Ambassador interrupted. "I am not speaking to you as
one of ourselves. I am speaking as the representative of England in
Berlin. You are supposed to be studying diplomacy. You have been guilty
of a colossal blunder. You have shown yourself absolutely ignorant of the
ideals and customs of the country in which you are. It is perfectly
correct for young Prince Karl to behave, as you put it, like a bounder.
The people expect it of him. He conforms entirely to the standard
accepted by the military aristocracy of Berlin. It is you who have been
in the wrong—diplomatically."
"Then you mean, sir," Norgate protested, "that I should have taken it
"Most assuredly you should," the Ambassador replied, "unless you were
willing to pay the price. Your only fault—your personal fault, I
mean—that I can see is that it was a little indiscreet of you to dine
alone with a young woman for whom the Prince is known to have a
foolish passion. Diplomatically, however, you have committed every
fault possible, I am very sorry, but I think that you had better
report in Downing Street as soon as possible. The train leaves, I
think, at three o'clock."
Norgate for a moment was unable to speak or move. He was struggling with
a sort of blind fury.
"This is the end of me, then," he muttered at last. "I am to be disgraced
because I have come to a city of boors."
"You are reprimanded and in a sense, no doubt, punished," the Ambassador
explained calmly, "because you have come to—shall I accept your term?—a
city of boors and fail to adapt yourself. The true diplomatist adapts
himself wherever he may be. My personal sympathies remain with you. I
will do what I can in my report."
Norgate had recovered himself.
"I thank you very much, sir," he said. "I shall catch the three
The Ambassador held out his hand. The interview had finished. He
permitted himself to speak differently.
"I am very sorry indeed, Norgate, that this has happened," he declared.
"We all have our trials to bear in this city, and you have run up
against one of them rather before your time. I wish you good luck,
whatever may happen."
Norgate clasped his Chief's hand and left the apartment. Then he made his
way to his rooms, gave his orders and sent a messenger to secure his seat
in the train. Last of all he went to the telephone. He rang up the number
which had become already familiar to him, almost with reluctance. He
waited for the reply without any pleasurable anticipations. He was filled
with a burning sense of resentment, a feeling which extended even to the
innocent cause of it. Soon he heard her voice.
"That is Mr. Norgate, is it not?"
"Yes," he replied. "I rang up to wish you good-by."
"Good-by! But you are going away, then?"
"I am sent away—dismissed!"
He heard her little exclamation of grief. Its complete genuineness broke
down a little the wall of his anger.
"And it is my fault!" she exclaimed. "If only I could do anything! Will
you wait—please wait? I will go to the Palace myself."
His expostulation was almost a shock to her.
"Baroness," he replied, "if I permitted your intervention, I could never
hold my head up in Berlin again! In any case, I could not stay here. The
first thing I should do would be to quarrel with that insufferable young
cad who insulted us last night. I am afraid, at the first opportunity, I
"Hush!" she interrupted. "Oh, please hush! You must not talk like
this, even over the telephone. Cannot you understand that you are not
"I am beginning to realise," he answered gruffly, "what it means not to
be in a free country. I am leaving by the three o'clock train, Baroness.
"But you must not go like this," she pleaded. "Come first and see me."
"No! It will only mean more disgrace for you. Besides—in any case, I
have decided to go away without seeing you again."
Her voice was very soft. He found himself gripping the pages of the
telephone book which hung by his side.
"But is that kind? Have I sinned, Mr. Francis Norgate?"
"Of course not," he answered, keeping his tone level, almost indifferent.
"I hope that we shall meet again some day, but not in Berlin."
There was a moment's silence. He thought, even, that she had gone away.
Then her reply came back.
"So be it," she murmured. "Not in Berlin. Au revoir!"
Faithful to his insular prejudices, Norgate, on finding that the other
seat in his coupé was engaged, started out to find the train attendant
with a view to changing his place. His errand, however, was in vain. The
train, it seemed, was crowded. He returned to his compartment to find
already installed there one of the most complete and absolute types of
Germanism he had ever seen. A man in a light grey suit, the waistcoat of
which had apparently abandoned its efforts to compass his girth, with a
broad, pink, good-humoured face, beardless and bland, flaxen hair
streaked here and there with grey, was seated in the vacant place. He had
with him a portmanteau covered with a linen case, his boots were a bright
shade of yellow, his tie was of white satin with a design of lavender
flowers. A pair of black kid gloves lay by his side. He welcomed Norgate
with the bland, broad smile of a fellow-passenger whose one desire it is
to make a lifelong friend of his temporary companion.
"We have the compartment to ourselves, is it not so? You are English?"
Some queer chance founded upon his ill-humour, his disgust of Germany and
all things in it, induced Norgate to tell a deliberate falsehood.
"Sorry," he replied in English. "I don't speak German."
The man's satisfaction was complete.
"But I—I speak the most wonderful English. It pleases me always to speak
English. I like to do so. It is practice for me. We will talk English
together, you and I. These comic papers, they do not amuse. And books in
the train, they make one giddy. What I like best is a companion and a
bottle of Rhine wine."
"Personally," Norgate confessed gruffly, "I like to sleep."
The other seemed a little taken aback but remained, apparently, full of
the conviction that his overtures could be nothing but acceptable.
"It is well to sleep," he agreed, "if one has worked hard. Now I myself
am a hard worker. My name is Selingman. I manufacture crockery which I
sell in England. That is why I speak the English language so wonderful.
For the last three nights I have been up reading reports of my English
customers, going through their purchases. Now it is finished. I am well
posted. I am off to sell crockery in London, in Manchester, in Leeds, in
Birmingham. I have what the people want. They will receive me with open
arms, some of them even welcome me at their houses. Thus it is that I
look forward to my business trip as a holiday."
"Very pleasant, I'm sure," Norgate remarked, curling himself up in his
corner. "Personally, I can't see why we can't make our own crockery. I
get tired of seeing German goods in England."
Herr Selingman was apparently a trifle hurt, but his efforts to make
himself agreeable were indomitable.
"If you will," he said, "I can explain why my crockery sells in England
where your own fails. For one thing, then, I am cheaper. There is a
system at my works, the like of which is not known in England. From the
raw material to the finished article I can produce forty per cent.
cheaper than your makers, and, mind you, that is not because I save in
wages. It is because of the system in the various departments. I do not
like to save in wages," he went on. "I like to see my people healthy and
strong and happy. I like to see them drink beer after work is over, and
on feast days and Sundays I like to see them sit in the gardens and
listen to the band, and maybe change their beer for a bottle of wine.
Industrially, Mr. Englishman, ours is a happy country."
"Well, I hope you won't think I am rude," Norgate observed, "but from the
little I have seen of it I call it a beastly country, and if you don't
mind I am going to sleep."
Herr Selingman sat for several moments with his mouth still open. Then he
gave a little grunt. There was not the slightest ill-humour in the
ejaculation or in his expression. He was simply pained.
"I am sorry if I have talked too much," he said. "I forgot that you,
perhaps, are tired. You have met with disappointments, maybe. I am sorry.
I will read now and not disturb you."
For an hour or so Norgate tried in vain to sleep. All this time the man
opposite turned the pages of his book with the utmost cautiousness,
moved on tiptoe once to reach down more papers, and held out his finger
to warn the train attendant who came with some harmless question.
"The English gentleman," Norgate heard him whisper, "is tired. Let
Soon after five o'clock, Norgate gave it up. He rose to his feet,
stretched himself, and was welcomed with a pleasant smile from his
"You have had a refreshing nap," the latter remarked, "and now, is it not
so, you go to take a cup of English tea?"
"You are quite right," Norgate admitted. "Better come with me."
Herr Selingman smiled a smile of triumph. It was the reward of geniality,
this! He was forming a new friendship!
"I come with great pleasure," he decided, "only while you drink the tea,
I drink the coffee or some beer. I will see. I like best the beer," he
explained, turning sidewise to get out of the door, "but it is not the
best for my figure. I have a good conscience and a good digestion, and I
eat and drink much. But it is good to be happy."
They made their way down to the restaurant car and seated themselves at a
"You let me do the ordering," Herr Selingman insisted. "The man here,
perhaps, does not speak English. So! You will drink your tea with me,
sir. It is a great pleasure to me to entertain an Englishman. I make many
friends travelling. I like to make friends. I remember them all, and
sometimes we meet again. Kellner, some tea for the gentleman—English
tea with what you call bread and butter. So! And for me—" Selingman
paused for a moment and drew a deep sigh of resignation—"some coffee."
"Very kind of you, I'm sure," Norgate murmured.
Herr Selingman beamed.
"It is a great pleasure," he said, "but many times I wonder why you
Englishmen, so clever, so world-conquering, do not take the trouble to
make yourselves with the languages of other nations familiar. It means
but a little study. Now you, perhaps, are in business?"
"Not exactly," Norgate replied grimly. "To tell you the truth, at the
present moment I have no occupation."
Herr Selingman paused in the act of conveying a huge portion of rusk to
his mouth, and regarded his companion with wonder.
"So!" he repeated. "No occupation! Well, that is what in Germany we know
nothing of. Every one must work, or must take up the army as a permanent
profession. You are, perhaps, one of those Englishmen of whom one reads,
who give up all their time to sport?"
Norgate shook his head.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "I have worked rather hard during the
last five or six years. It is only just recently that I have lost my
Herr Selingman's curiosity was almost childlike in its transparency, but
Norgate found himself unable to gratify it. In any case, after his
denial of any knowledge of the German language, he could scarcely lay
claim to even the most indirect connection with the diplomatic service.
"Ah, well," Herr Selingman declared, "opportunities will come. You have
perhaps lost some post. Well, there are others. I should not, I think, be
far away from the truth, sir, if I were to surmise that you had held some
sort of an official position?"
"Perhaps," Norgate assented.
"That is interesting," Herr Selingman continued. "Now with the English of
commerce I talk often, and I know their views of me and my country. But
sometimes I have fancied that among your official classes those who are
ever so slightly employed in Government service, there is—I do not love
the word, but I must use it—a distrust of Germany and her peace-loving
"I have met many people," Norgate admitted, "who do not look upon Germany
as a lover of peace."
"They should come and travel here," Herr Selingman insisted eagerly.
"Look out of the windows. What do you see? Factory chimneys, furnaces
everywhere. And further on—what? Well-tilled lands, clean, prosperous
villages, a happy, domestic people. I tell you that no man in the world
is so fond of his wife and children, his simple life, his simple
pleasures, as the German."
"Very likely," Norgate assented, "but if you look out of the windows
continually you will also see that every station-master on the line wears
a military uniform, that every few miles you see barracks. These simple
peasants you speak of carry themselves with a different air from ours. I
don't know much about it, but I should call it the effect of their
military training. I know nothing about politics. Very likely yours is a
nation of peace-loving men. As a casual observer, I should call you more
a nation of soldiers."
"But that," Herr Selingman explained earnestly, "is for defence only."
"And your great standing army, your wonderful artillery, your Zeppelins
and your navy," Norgate asked, "are they for defence only?"
"Absolutely and entirely," Herr Selingman declared, with a new and
ponderous gravity. "There is nothing the most warlike German desires more
fervently than to keep the peace. We are strong only because we desire
peace, peace under which our commerce may grow, and our wealth increase."
"Well, it seems to me, then," Norgate observed, "that you've gone to a
great deal of expense and taken a great deal of trouble for nothing. I
don't know much about these things, as I told you before, but there is no
nation in the world who wants to attack Germany."
Herr Selingman laid his finger upon his nose.
"That may be," he said. "Yet there are many who look at us with envious
eyes. I am a good German. I know what it is that we want. We want peace,
and to gain peace we need strength, and to be strong we arm. That is
everything. It will never be Germany who clenches her fist, who draws
down the black clouds of war over Europe. It will never be Germany, I
tell you. Why, a war would ruin half of us. What of my crockery? I sell
it all in England. Believe me, young gentleman, war exists only in the
brains of your sensational novelists. It does not come into the world of
"Well, it's very interesting to hear you say so," Norgate admitted. "I
wish I could wholly agree with you."
Herr Selingman caught him by the sleeve.
"You are just a little," he confided, "just a little suspicious, my young
friend, you in your little island. Perhaps it is because you live upon an
island. You do not expand. You have small thoughts. You are not great
like we in Germany, not broad, not deep. But we will talk later of these
things. I must tell you about our Kaiser."
Norgate opened his lips and closed them again.
"Presently," he muttered. "See you later on."
He strolled to his coupé, tried in vain to read, walked up and down the
length of the train, smoked a cigarette, and returned to his compartment
to find Herr Selingman immersed in the study of many documents.
"Records of my customers and my transactions," the latter announced
blandly. "I have a great fondness for detail. I know everything. I carry
with me particulars of everything. That is where we Germans are so
thorough. See, I place them now all in my bag."
He did so and locked it with great care.
"We go to dinner, is it not so?" he suggested.
"I suppose we may as well," Norgate assented indifferently.
They found places in the crowded restaurant car. The manufacturer of
crockery made a highly satisfactory and important meal. Norgate, on the
other hand, ate little. Herr Selingman shook his head.
"My young English friend," he declared, "all is not well with you that
you turn away from good food. Come. Afterwards, over a cigar, you shall
tell me what troubles you have, and I will give you sound advice. I have
a very wide knowledge of life. I have a way of seeing the truth, and I
like to help people."
Norgate shook his head. "I am afraid," he said, "that my case is
"Presently we will see," Herr Selingman continued, rubbing the window
with his cuff. "We are arrived, I think, at Lesel. Here will board the
train one of my agents. He will travel with us to the next station. It is
my way of doing business, this. It is better than alighting and wasting a
day in a small town. You will not mind, perhaps," he added, "if I bring
him into the carriage and talk? You do not understand German, so it will
not weary you."
"Certainly not," Norgate replied. "I shall probably drop off to sleep."
"He will be in the train for less than an hour," Herr Selingman
explained, "but I have many competitors, and I like to talk in private.
In here some one might overhear."
"How do you know that I am not an English crockery manufacturer?"
Herr Selingman laughed heartily. His stomach shook, and tears rolled
down his eyes.
"That is good!" he exclaimed. "An English crockery manufacturer! No, I do
not think so! I cannot see you with your sleeves turned up, walking
amongst the kilns. I cannot see you, even, studying the designs for pots
"Well, bring your man in whenever you want to," Norgate invited, as he
turned away. "I can promise, at least, that I shall not understand what
you are saying, and that I won't sneak your designs."
There was a queer little smile on Herr Selingman's broad face. It almost
seemed as though he had discovered some hidden though unsuspected meaning
in the other's words.
Norgate dozed fitfully as the train sped on through the darkness. He woke
once to find Herr Selingman in close confabulation with his agent on the
opposite side of the compartment. They had a notebook before them and
several papers spread out upon the seat. Norgate, who was really weary,
closed his eyes again, and it seemed to him that he dreamed for a few
moments. Then suddenly he found himself wide-awake. Although he remained
motionless, the words which Selingman had spoken to his companion were
throbbing in his ears.
"I do not doubt your industry, Meyer, but it is your discretion which is
sometimes at fault. These plans of the forts of Liège—they might as well
be published in a magazine. We had them when they were made. We have
received copies of every alteration. We know to a metre how far the guns
will carry, how many men are required to man them, what stocks of
ammunition are close at hand. Understand, therefore, my friend, that the
sight of these carefully traced plans, which you hint to have obtained at
the risk of your life, excites me not at all."
The other man's reply was inaudible. In a moment or two Selingman
"The information which I am lacking just at present in your sphere of
operations, is civilian in character. Take Ghent, for instance. What I
should like here, what our records need at present, is a list of the
principal inhabitants with their approximate income, and, summarising it
all, the rateable value of the city. With these bases it would be easy to
fix a reasonable indemnity."
Norgate was wide-awake now. He was curled up on his seat, underneath his
rug, and though his eyelids had quivered with a momentary excitement, he
was careful to remain as near as possible motionless. Again Selingman's
agent spoke, this time more distinctly.
"The young man opposite," he whispered. "He is English, surely?"
"He is English indeed," Selingman admitted, "but he speaks no German.
That I have ascertained. Give me your best attention, Meyer. Here is
again an important commission for you. Within the next few days, hire an
automobile and visit the rising country eastwards from Antwerp. At some
spot between six and eight miles from the city, on a slight incline and
commanding the River Scheldt, we desire to purchase an acre of land for
the erection of a factory. You can say that we have purchased the
concession for making an American safety razor. The land is wanted, and
urgently. See to this yourself and send plans and price to me in London.
On my return I shall call and inspect the sites and close the bargain."
"And the Antwerp forts?"
The other pursed his lips.
"Pooh! Was it not the glorious firm of Krupp who fitted the guns there?
Do you think the men who undertook that task were idle? I tell you that
our plans of the Antwerp fortifications are more carefully worked out in
detail than the plans held by the Belgians themselves. Here is good work
for you to do, friend Meyer. That and the particulars from Brussels which
you know of, will keep you busy until we meet again."
Herr Selingman began to collect his papers, but was suddenly thrown back
into his seat by the rocking of the train, which came, a few moments
later, to a standstill. The sound of the opening of windows from the
other side of the corridor was heard all down the train. Selingman and
his companion followed the general example, opening the door of the
carriage and the window opposite. A draught blew through the compartment.
One of the small folded slips of paper from Selingman's pocket-book
fluttered along the seat. It came within reach of Norgate. Cautiously he
stretched out his fingers and gripped it. In a moment it was in his
pocket. He sat up in his place. Selingman had turned around.
"Anything the matter?" Norgate asked sleepily.
"Not that one can gather," Selingman replied. "You have slept well. I am
glad that our conversation has not disturbed you. This is my agent from
Brussels—Mr. Meyer. He sells our crockery in that city—not so much as
he should sell, perhaps, but still he does his best."
Mr. Meyer was a dark little man who wore gold-rimmed spectacles, neat
clothes, and a timid smile. Norgate nodded to him good-humouredly.
"You should get Herr Selingman to come oftener and help you," he
remarked, yawning. "I can imagine that he would be able to sell anything
he tried to."
"It is what I often tell him, sir," Mr. Meyer replied, "but he is too
fond of the English trade."
"English money is no better than Belgian," Herr Selingman declared, "but
there is more of it. Let us go round to the restaurant car and drink a
bottle of wine together while the beds are prepared."
"Certainly," Norgate assented, stretching himself. "By-the-by, you
had better look after your papers there, Herr Selingman. Just as I
woke up I saw a small slip fluttering along the seat. You made a most
infernal draught by opening that door, and I almost fancy it went out
of the window."
Herr Selingman's face became suddenly grave. He went through the papers
one by one, and finally locked them up in his bag.
"Nothing missing, I hope?" Norgate asked.
Herr Selingman's face was troubled.
"I am not sure," he said. "It is my belief that I had with me here a
list of my agents in England. I cannot find it. In a sense it is
unimportant, yet if a rival firm should obtain possession of it, there
might be trouble."
Norgate looked out into the night and smiled.
"Considering that it is blowing half a hurricane and commencing to rain,"
he remarked, "the slip of paper which I saw blowing about will be of no
use to any one when it is picked up."
They called the attendant and ordered him to prepare the sleeping
berths. Then they made their way down to the buffet car, and Herr
Selingman ordered a bottle of wine.
"We will drink," he proposed, "to our three countries. In our way we
represent, I think, the industrial forces of the world—Belgium, England,
and Germany. We are the three countries who stand for commerce and peace.
We will drink prosperity to ourselves and to each other."
Norgate threw off, with apparent effort, his sleepiness.
"What you have said about our three countries is very true," he remarked.
"Perhaps as you, Mr. Meyer, are a Belgian, and you, Mr. Selingman, know
Belgium well and have connections with it, you can tell me one thing
which has always puzzled me. Why is it that Belgium, which is, as you
say, a commercial and peace-loving country, whose neutrality is
absolutely guaranteed by three of the greatest Powers in Europe, should
find it necessary to have spent such large sums upon fortifications?"
"In which direction do you mean?" Selingman asked, his eyes narrowing a
little as he looked across at Norgate.
"The forts of Liege and Namur," Norgate replied, "and Antwerp. I know
nothing more about it than I gathered from an article which I read not
long ago in a magazine. I had always looked upon Belgium as being outside
the pale of possible warfare, yet according to this article it seems to
be bristling to the teeth with armaments."
Herr Selingman cleared his throat.
"I will tell you the reason," he said. "You have come to the right man
to know. I am a civilian, but there are few things in connection with my
country which I do not understand. Mr. Meyer here, who is a citizen of
Brussels, will bear me out. It is the book of a clever, intelligent, but
misguided German writer which has been responsible for Belgium's
unrest—Bernhardi's Germany and the Next War—that and articles of a
similar tenor which preceded it."
"Never read any of them," Norgate remarked.
"It was erroneously supposed," Selingman continued, "that Bernhardi
represented the dominant military opinion of Germany when he wrote that
if Germany ever again invaded France, it would be, notwithstanding her
guarantees of neutrality, through Belgium. Bernhardi was a clever writer,
but he was a soldier, and soldiers do not understand the world policy of
a great nation such as Germany. Germany will make no war upon any one,
save commercially. She will never again invade France except under the
bitterest provocation, and if ever she should be driven to defend
herself, it will assuredly not be at the expense of her broken pledges.
The forts of Belgium might just as well be converted into apple-orchards.
They stand there to-day as the proof of a certain lack of faith in
Germany on the part of Belgium, ministered to by that King of the
Jingoes, as you would say in English, Bernhardi. How often it is that a
nation suffers most from her own patriots!"
"Herr Selingman has expressed the situation admirably," Mr. Meyer
"Very interesting, I'm sure," Norgate murmured. "There is one thing
about you foreigners," he added, with an envious sigh. "The way you all
speak the languages of other countries is wonderful. Are you a Belgian,
"Half Belgian and half French."
"But you speak English almost without accent," Norgate remarked.
"In commerce," Herr Selingman insisted, "that is necessary. All my agents
speak four languages."
"You deserve to capture our trade," Norgate sighed.
"To a certain extent, my young friend," Selingman declared, "we mean to
do it. We are doing it. And yet there is enough for us both. There is
trade enough for your millions and for mine. So long as Germany and
England remain friends, they can divide the commerce of the world between
them. It is our greatest happiness, we who have a business relying upon
the good-will of the two nations, to think that year by year the clouds
of discord are rolling away from between us. Young sir, as a German
citizen, I will drink a toast with you, an English one. I drink to
everlasting peace between my country and yours!"
Norgate drained his glass. Selingman threw back his head as he followed
suit, and smacked his lips appreciatively.
"And now," the former remarked, rising to his feet, "I think I'll go and
turn in. I dare say you two still have some business to talk about,
especially if Mr. Meyer is leaving us shortly."
Norgate made his way back to his compartment, undressed leisurely and
climbed into the upper bunk. For an hour or two he indulged in the fitful
slumber usually engendered by night travelling. At the frontier he sat up
and answered the stereotyped questions. Herr Selingman, in sky-blue
pyjamas, and with face looking more beaming and florid than ever, poked
his head cheerfully out of the lower bunk.
"Awake?" he enquired.
"Very much so," Norgate yawned.
"I have a surprise," Herr Selingman announced. "Wait."
Almost as he spoke, an attendant arrived from the buffet car with some
soda-water. Herr Selingman's head vanished for a moment or two. When he
reappeared, he held two glasses in his hand.
"A whisky soda made in real English fashion," he proclaimed triumphantly.
"A good nightcap, is it not? Now we are off again."
Norgate held out his hand for the tumbler.
"Awfully good of you," he murmured.
"I myself," Selingman continued, seated on the edge of the bunk, with his
legs far apart to steady himself, "I myself enjoy a whisky soda. It will
be indeed a nightcap, so here goes."
He drained his glass and set it down. Norgate followed suit. Selingman's
hand came up for the tumbler and Norgate was conscious of a curious
mixture of sensations which he had once experienced before in the
dentist's chair. He could see Selingman distinctly, and he fancied that
he was watching him closely, but the rest of the carriage had become
chaos. The sound of the locomotive was beating hard upon the drums of
his ears. His head fell back.
It was broad daylight when he awoke. Selingman, fully dressed and
looking more beaming than ever, was seated upon a ridiculously
inadequate camp-stool upon the floor, smoking a cigarette. Norgate
stared at him stupidly.
"My young friend," Herr Selingman declared impressively, "if there is one
thing in the world I envy you, it is that capacity for sleep. You all
have it, you English. Your heads touch the pillow, and off you go. Do you
know that the man is waiting for you to take your coffee?"
Norgate lay quite still for several moments. Beyond a slight headache, he
was feeling as usual. He leaned over the side of the bunk.
"How many whiskies and soda did I have last night?" he asked.
Herr Selingman smiled.
"But one only," he announced. "There was only one to be had. I found a
little whisky in my flask. I remembered that I had an English travelling
companion, and I sent for some soda-water. You drank yours, and you did
sleep. I go now and sit in the corridor while you dress."
Norgate swung round in his bunk and slipped to the floor.
"Jolly good of you," he muttered sleepily, "but it was very strong
There was a babel of voices as the long train came to a stand-still in
the harbour station at Ostend. Selingman, with characteristic
forcefulness, pushed his way down the narrow corridor, driving before him
passengers of less weight and pertinacity, until finally he descended on
to the platform itself. Norgate, who had followed meekly in his wake,
stood listening for a moment to the confused stream of explanations. He
understood well enough what had happened, but with Selingman at his elbow
he assumed an air of non-comprehension.
"It is extraordinary!" the latter exclaimed. "Never do I choose this
route but I am visited with some mishap. You hear what has happened?"
"Fellow's trying to tell me," Norgate replied, "but his Flemish is worse
to understand than German."
"The steamer," Selingman announced, "has met with an accident entering
the harbour. There will be a delay of at least six hours—possibly more.
It is most annoying. My appointments in London have been fixed for days."
"Bad luck!" Norgate murmured.
"You do not seem much distressed."
"Why should I be? I really came this way because I was not sure whether
I would not stay here for a few days."
"That is all very well for you," Selingman declared, as they followed
their porters into the shed. "For me, I am a man of affairs. It is
different. My business goes by clockwork. All is regulated by rule, with
precision, with punctuality. Now I shall be many hours behind my
schedule. I shall be compelled to alter my appointments—I, who pride
myself always upon altering nothing. But behold! One must make the best
of things. What a sunshine! What a sea! We shall meet, without a doubt,
upon the Plage. I have friends here. I must seek them. Au revoir, my
young travelling companion. To the good fortune!"
They drifted apart, and Norgate, having made arrangements about his
luggage, strolled through the town and on to the promenade. It was early
for the full season at Ostend, but the sands were already crowded with an
immense throng of children and holiday-makers. The hotels were all open,
and streams of people were passing back and forth along the front,
Norgate, who had no wish to meet acquaintances, passed the first period
of his enforced wait a little wearily. He took a taxicab and drove as far
as Knocke. Here he strolled across the links and threw himself down
finally amongst a little wave of sandy hillocks close to the sea. The
silence, and some remains of the sleepiness of the previous night, soon
began to have their natural effect. He closed his eyes and began to doze.
When he awoke, curiously enough, it was a familiar voice which first fell
upon his ears. He turned his head cautiously. Seated not a dozen yards
away from him was a tall, thin man with a bag of golf clubs by his side.
He was listening with an air of engrossed attention to his companion's
impressive remarks. Norgate, raising himself upon his elbow, no longer
had any doubts. The man stretched upon his back on the sand, partly
hidden from sight by a little grass-grown undulation, was his late
"You do well, my dear Marquis, believe me!" the latter exclaimed.
"Property in Belgium is valuable to-day. Take my advice. Sell. There are
so many places where one may live, where the climate is better for a man
of your constitution."
"That is all very well," his companion replied querulously, "but remember
that Belgium, after all, is my country. My château and estates came to me
by inheritance. Notwithstanding the frequent intermarriages of my family
with the aristocracy of your country, I am still a Belgian."
"Ah! but, my dear friend," Selingman protested, "you are more than a
Belgian, more than a man of local nationality. You are a citizen of the
world of intelligence. You are able to see the truth. The days are coming
when small states may exist no longer without the all-protecting arm of a
more powerful country. I say no more than this. The position of Belgium
is artificial. Of her own will, or of necessity, she must soon become
merged in the onward flow of mightier nations."
"What about Holland, then?"
"Holland, too," Selingman continued, "knows the truth. She knows very
well that the limit of her days as an independent kingdom is almost
reached. The Power which has absorbed the states of Prussia into one
mighty empire, pauses only to take breath. There are many signs—"
"But, my worthy friend," the other man interrupted irritably, "you must
take into consideration the fact that Belgium is in a different position.
Our existence as a separate kingdom might certainly be threatened by
Germany, but all that has been foreseen. Our neutrality is guaranteed.
Your country has pledged its honour to maintain it, side by side with
France and England. What have we to fear, then?"
"You have to fear, Marquis," Selingman replied ponderously, "the
inevitable laws which direct the progress of nations. Treaties solemnly
subscribed to in one generation become worthless as time passes and
"But I do not understand you there!" the other man exclaimed. "What you
say sounds to me like a reflection upon the honour of your country. Do
you mean to insinuate that she would possibly—that she would ever for a
moment contemplate breaking her pledged and sealed word?"
"My friend," Selingman pronounced drily, "the path of honour and glory,
the onward progress of a mighty, struggling nation, carrying in its hand
culture and civilisation, might demand even such a sacrifice. Germany
recognises, is profoundly imbued with the splendour of her own ideals,
the matchlessness of her own culture. She feels justified in spreading
herself out wherever she can find an outlet—at any cost, mind, because
the end must be good."
There was a moment's silence. Then the tall man stood upright.
"If you came out to find me, my friend Selingman, to bring me this
warning, I suppose I should consider myself your debtor. As a matter of
fact, I do not. You have inspired me with nameless misgivings. Your voice
sounds in my ears like the voice of an ugly fate. I am, as you have often
reminded me, half German, and I have shown my friendship for Germany many
times. Unlike most of the aristocracy of my country, I look more often
northwards than towards the south. But I tell you frankly that there are
limits to my Germanism. I will play no more golf. I will walk with you to
"All that I have to say," Selingman went on, "is not yet said. This
opportunity of meeting you is too precious to be wasted. Come. As we walk
there are certain questions I wish to put to you."
They passed within a few feet of where Norgate was lying. He closed his
eyes and held his breath. It was not until their figures were almost
specks in the distance that he rose cautiously to his feet. He made his
way back to the club-house by another angle, gained his taxicab
unobserved, and drove back to Ostend.
* * * * *
Towards evening Norgate strolled into one of the cosmopolitan bars at the
back of the Casino. The first person he saw as he handed over his hat to
a waiter, was Selingman, spread out upon a cushioned seat with a young
lady upon either side of him. He at once summoned Norgate to his table.
"An apéritif," he insisted. "Come, you must not refuse me. In two hours
we start. We tear ourselves away from this wonderful atmosphere. In
atmosphere, mademoiselle," he added, bowing to the right and the left,
"all is included."
"It is not," Norgate admitted, "an invitation to be disregarded. On the
other hand, I have already an appetite."
Selingman thundered out an order.
"Here," he remarked, "we dwell for a few brief moments in Bohemia. I do
not introduce you. You sit down and join us. You are one of us. That you
speak only English counts for nothing. Mademoiselle Alice here is
American. Now tell us at once, how have you spent this afternoon? You
have bathed, perhaps, or walked upon the sands?"
Norgate was on the point of speaking of his excursion to Knocke but was
conscious of Selingman's curiously intent gaze. The spirit of duplicity
seemed to grow upon him.
"I walked for a little way," he said. "Afterwards I lay upon the sands
and slept. When I found that the steamer was still further delayed, I
had a bath. That was half an hour ago. I asked a man whom I met on the
promenade where one might dine in travelling clothes, lightly but
well, and he sent me here—the Bar de Londres—and here, for my good
fortune, I am."
"It is a pity that monsieur does not speak French," one of Selingman's
"But, mademoiselle," Norgate protested, "I have spoken French all my
life. Herr Selingman here has misunderstood me. It is German of which I
The young lady, who immediately introduced herself as Mademoiselle
Henriette, passed her arm through Selingman's.
"We dine here all together, my friend, is it not so?" she begged. "He
will not be in the way, and for myself, I am triste. You talk all the
time to Mademoiselle l'Américaine, perhaps because she is the friend of
some one in whom you are interested. But for me, it is dull. Monsieur
l'Anglais shall talk with me, and you may hear all the secrets that Alice
has to tell. We," she murmured, looking up at Norgate, "will speak of
other things, is it not so?"
For a moment Selingman hesitated. Norgate would have moved on with a
little farewell nod, but Selingman's companions were insistent.
"It shall be a partie carrée," they both declared, almost in unison.
"You need have no fear," Mademoiselle Henriette continued. "I will talk
all the time to monsieur. He shall tell me his name, and we shall be
very great friends. I am not interested in the things of which they
talk, those others. You shall tell me of London, monsieur, and how you
"Join us, by all means," Selingman invited.
"On condition that you dine with me," Norgate insisted, as he took
up the menu.
"Impossible!" Selingman declared firmly.
"Oh! it matters nothing," Mademoiselle Henriette exclaimed, "so long
as we dine."
"So long," Mademoiselle Alice intervened, "as we have this brief glimpse
of Mr. Selingman, let us make the best of it. We see him only because of
a contretemps. I think we must be very nice to him and persuade him to
take us to London to-night."
Selingman's shake of the head was final.
"Dear young ladies," he said, "it was delightful to find you here. I came
upon the chance, I admit, but who in Ostend would not be here between six
and eight? We dine, we walk down to the quay, and if you will, you shall
wave your hands and wish us bon voyage, but London just now is
triste. It is here you may live the life the bon Dieu sends, where
the sun shines all the time and the sea laps the sands like a great blue
lake, and you, mademoiselle, can wear those wonderful costumes and charm
all hearts. There is nothing like that for you in London."
They ordered dinner and walked afterwards down to the quay. Mademoiselle
Henriette lingered behind with Norgate.
"Let them go on," she whispered. "They have much to talk about. It is but
a short distance, and your steamer will not start before ten. We can walk
slowly and listen to the music. You are not in a hurry, monsieur, to
depart? Your stay here is too short already."
Norgate's reply, although gallant enough, was a little vague. He was
watching Selingman with his companion. They were talking together with
"Who is Mr. Selingman?" he enquired. "I know him only as a travelling
Mademoiselle Henriette extended her hands. She shrugged her little
shoulders and looked with wide-open eyes up into her companion's
"But who, indeed, can answer that question?" she exclaimed. "Twice he has
been here for flying visits. Once Alice has been to see him in Berlin. He
is, I believe, a very wealthy manufacturer there. He crosses often to
England. He has money, and he is always gay."
"And Mademoiselle Alice?"
"Who knows?" was the somewhat pointless reply. "She came from America.
She arrived here this season with Monsieur le General."
"What General?" Norgate asked. "A Belgian?"
"But no," his companion corrected. "All the world knows that Alice is the
friend of General le Foys, chief of the staff in Paris. He is a very
great soldier. He spends eleven months working and one month here."
"And she is also," Norgate observed meditatively, "the friend of Herr
Selingman. Tell me, mademoiselle, what do you suppose those two are
talking of now? See how close their heads are together. I don't think
that Herr Selingman is a Don Juan."
"They speak, perhaps, of serious matters," his companion surmised, "but
who can tell? Besides, is it for us to waste our few moments wondering?
You will come back to Ostend, monsieur?"
Norgate looked back at the streaming curve of lights flashing across the
"One never knows," he answered.
"That is what Monsieur Selingman himself says," she remarked, with a
little sigh. "'Enjoy your Ostend to-day, my little ones,' he said, when
he first met us this evening. 'One never knows how long these days will
last.' So, monsieur, we must indeed part here?"
They had all come to a standstill at the gangway of the steamer.
Selingman had apparently finished his conversation with his companion. He
hurried Norgate off, and they waved their hands from the deck as a few
minutes later the steamer glided away.
"A most delightful interlude," Selingman declared. "I have thoroughly
enjoyed these few hours. I trust, that every time this steamer meets with
a little accident, it will be at this time of the year and when I am on
my way to England."
"You seem to have friends everywhere," Norgate observed, as he lit a
"Young ladies, yes," Selingman admitted. "It chanced that they were both
well-known to me. But who else?"
Norgate made no reply. He felt that his companion was watching him.
"It is something," he remarked, "to find charming young ladies in a
strange place to dine with one."
Selingman smiled broadly.
"If we travelled together often, my young friend," he said, "you would
discover that I have friends everywhere. If I have nothing else to do, I
go out and make a friend. Then, when I revisit that place, it loses its
coldness. There is some one there to welcome me, some one who is glad to
see me again. Look steadily in that direction, a few points to the left
of the bows. In two hours' time you will see the lights of your country.
I have friends there, too, who will welcome me. Meantime, I go below to
sleep. You have a cabin?"
Norgate shook his head.
"I shall doze on deck for a little time," he said. "It is too wonderful a
night to go below."
"It is well for me that it is calm," Selingman acknowledged. "I do not
love the sea. Shall we part for a little time? If we meet not at Dover,
then in London, my young friend. London is the greatest city in the
world, but it is the smallest place in Europe. One cannot move in the
places one knows of without meeting one's friends."
"Until we meet in London, then," Norgate observed, as he settled himself
down in his chair.
Norgate spent an utterly fruitless morning on the day after his arrival
in London. After a lengthy but entirely unsatisfactory visit to the
Foreign Office, he presented himself soon after midday at Scotland Yard.
"I should like," he announced, "to see the Chief Commissioner of
The official to whom he addressed his enquiry eyed him tolerantly.
"Have you, by any chance, an appointment?" he asked.
"None," Norgate admitted. "I only arrived from the Continent this
The policeman shook his head slowly.
"It is quite impossible, sir," he said, "to see Sir Philip without an
appointment. Your best course would be to write and state your business,
and his secretary will then fix a time for you to call."
"Very much obliged to you, I'm sure," Norgate replied. "However, my
business is urgent, and if I can't see Sir Philip Morse, I will see some
one else in authority."
Norgate was regaled with a copy of The Times and a seat in a
barely-furnished waiting-room. In about twenty minutes he was told that a
Mr. Tyritt would see him, and was promptly shown into the presence of
that gentleman. Mr. Tyritt was a burly and black-bearded person of
something more than middle-age. He glanced down at Norgate's card in a
somewhat puzzled manner and motioned him to a seat.
"What can I do for you, sir?" he enquired. "Sir Philip is very much
engaged for the next few days, but perhaps you can tell me your
"I have just arrived from Berlin," Norgate explained. "Would you care to
possess a complete list of German spies in this country?"
Mr. Tyritt's face was not one capable of showing the most profound
emotion. Nevertheless, he seemed a little taken aback.
"A list of German spies?" he repeated. "Dear me, that sounds very
He took up Norgate's card and glanced at it. The action was, in its way,
"You probably don't know who I am," Norgate continued. "I have been in
the Diplomatic Service for eight years. Until a few days ago, I was
attached to the Embassy in Berlin."
Mr. Tyritt was somewhat impressed by the statement.
"Have you any objection to telling me how you became possessed of this
"None whatever," was the prompt reply. "You shall hear the whole story."
Norgate told him, as briefly as possible, of his meeting with Selingman,
their conversation, and the subsequent happenings, including the
interview which he had overheard on the golf links at Knocke. When he had
finished, there was a brief silence.
"Sounds rather like a page out of a novel, doesn't it, Mr. Norgate?" the
police official remarked at last.
"It may," Norgate assented drily. "I can't help what it sounds like. It
happens to be the exact truth."
"I do not for a moment doubt it," the other declared politely. "I
believe, indeed, that there are a large number of Germans working in this
country who are continually collecting and forwarding to Berlin
commercial and political reports. Speaking on behalf of my department,
however, Mr. Norgate," he went on, "this is briefly our position. In the
neighbourhood of our naval bases, our dockyards, our military aeroplane
sheds, and in other directions which I need not specify, we keep the most
scrupulous and exacting watch. We even, as of course you are aware,
employ decoy spies ourselves, who work in conjunction with our friends at
Whitehall. Our system is a rigorous one and our supervision of it
unceasing. But—and this is a big 'but', Mr. Norgate—in other
directions—so far as regards the country generally, that is to say—we
do not take the subject of German spies seriously. I may almost say that
we have no anxiety concerning their capacity for mischief."
"Those are the views of your department?" Norgate asked.
"So far as I may be said to represent it, they are," Mr. Tyritt assented.
"I will venture to say that there are many thousands of letters a year
which leave this country, addressed to Germany, purporting to contain
information of the most important nature, which might just as well be
published in the newspapers. We ought to know, because at different times
we have opened a good many of them."
"Forgive me if I press this point," Norgate begged. "Do you consider that
because a vast amount of useless information is naturally sent, that fact
lessens the danger as a whole? If only one letter in a thousand contains
vital information, isn't that sufficient to raise the subject to a more
Mr. Tyritt crossed his legs. His tone still indicated the slight
tolerance of the man convinced beforehand of the soundness of his
"For the last twelve years," he announced,—"ever since I came into
office, in fact,—this bogey of German spies has been costing the nation
something like fifty thousand a year. It is only lately that we have come
to take that broader view of the situation which I am endeavouring
to—to—may I say enunciate? Germans over in this country, especially
those in comparatively menial positions, such as barbers and waiters, are
necessary to us industrially. So long as they earn their living
reputably, conform to our laws, and pay our taxes, they are welcome here.
We do not wish to unnecessarily disturb them. We wish instead to offer
them the full protection of the country in which they have chosen to do
"Very interesting," Norgate remarked. "I have heard this point of view
before. Once I thought it common sense. To-day I think it academic
piffle. If we leave the Germans engaged in the inland towns alone for a
moment, do you realise, I wonder, that there isn't any seaport in England
that hasn't its sprinkling of Germans engaged in the occupations of which
"And in a general way," Mr. Tyritt assented, smiling, "they are
perfectly welcome to write home to their friends and relations each week
and tell them everything they see happening about them, everything they
know about us."
Norgate rose reluctantly to his feet.
"I won't trouble you any longer," he decided. "I presume that if I make a
few investigations on my own account, and bring you absolute proof that
any one of these people whose names are upon my list are in traitorous
communication with Germany, you will view the matter differently?"
"Without a doubt," Mr. Tyritt promised. "Is that your list? Will you
allow me to glance through it?"
"I brought it here to leave in your hands," Norgate replied, passing it
over. "Your attitude, however, seems to render that course useless."
Mr. Tyritt adjusted his eyeglasses and glanced benevolently at the
document. A sharp ejaculation broke from his lips. As his eyes wandered
downwards, his first expression of incredulity gave way to one of
"Why, Mr. Norgate," he exclaimed, as he laid it down, "do you mean to
seriously accuse these people of being engaged in any sort of league
"Most certainly I do," Norgate insisted.
"But the thing is ridiculous!" Mr. Tyritt declared. "There are names
here of princes, of bankers, of society women, many of them wholly and
entirely English, some of them household names. You expect me to believe
that these people are all linked together in what amounts to a conspiracy
to further the cause of Germany at the expense of the country in which
they live, to which they belong?"
Norgate picked up his hat.
"I expect you to believe nothing, Mr. Tyritt," he said drily. "Sorry I
"Not at all," Mr. Tyritt protested, the slight irritation passing from
his manner. "Such a visit as yours is an agreeable break in my routine
work. I feel as though I might be a character in a great modern romance.
The names of your amateur criminals are still tingling in my memory."
Norgate turned back from the door.
"Remember them, if you can, Mr. Tyritt," he advised, "You may have cause
to, some day."
Norgate sat, the following afternoon, upon the leather-stuffed fender of
a fashionable mixed bridge club in the neighbourhood of Berkeley Square,
exchanging greetings with such of the members as were disposed to find
time for social amenities. A smartly-dressed woman of dark complexion and
slightly foreign appearance, who had just cut out of a rubber, came over
and seated herself by his side. She took a cigarette from her case and
accepted a match from Norgate.
"So you are really back again!" she murmured. "It scarcely seems
"I am just beginning to realise it myself," he replied. "You haven't
"My dear man," she protested, "you did not expect me to age in a month,
did you? It can scarcely be more than that since you left for Berlin. Are
you not back again sooner than you expected?"
"Very much sooner," he admitted. "I came in for some unexpected
leave, which I haven't the slightest intention of spending abroad, so
here I am."
"Not, apparently, in love with Berlin," the lady, whose name was Mrs.
Paston Benedek, remarked.
Norgate's air of complete candour was very well assumed.
"I shall never be a success as a diplomatist," he confessed. "When I
dislike a place or a person, every one knows it. I hated Berlin. I hate
the thought of going back again."
The woman by his side smiled enigmatically.
"Perhaps," she murmured, "you may get an exchange."
"Perhaps," Norgate assented. "Meanwhile, even a month away from London
seems to have brought a fresh set of people here. Who is the tall, thin
young man with the sunburnt face? He seems familiar, somehow, but I can't
"He is a sailor," she told him. "Captain Baring his name is."
"Friend of yours?"
She looked at him sidewise.
"Why do you ask?"
"Jealousy," Norgate sighed, "makes one observant. You were lunching with
him in the Carlton Grill. You came in with him to the club this
"Sherlock Holmes!" she murmured. "There are other men in the club with
whom I lunch—even dine."
Norgate glanced across the room. Baring was playing bridge at a table
close at hand, but his attention seemed to be abstracted. He looked often
towards where Mrs. Benedek sat. There was a restlessness about his manner
scarcely in keeping with the rest of his appearance.
"One misses a great deal," Norgate regretted, "through being only an
occasional visitor here."
"As, for instance?"
"The privilege of being one of those fortunate few."
She laughed at him. Her eyes were full of challenge. She leaned a little
closer and whispered in his ear: "There is still a vacant place."
"For to-night or to-morrow?" he asked eagerly.
"For to-morrow," she replied. "You may telephone—3702 Mayfair—at
He scribbled down the number. Then he put his pocket-book away
with a sigh.
"I'm afraid you are treating that poor sailor-man badly," he declared.
"Sometimes," she confided, "he bores me. He is so very much in earnest.
Tell me about Berlin and your work there?"
"I didn't take to Germany," Norgate confessed, "and Germany didn't take
to me. Between ourselves—I shouldn't like another soul in the club to
know it—I think it is very doubtful if I go back there."
"That little contretemps with the Prince," she murmured under
He stiffened at once.
"But how do you know of it?"
She bit her lip. For a moment a frown of annoyance clouded her face. She
had said more than she intended.
"I have correspondents in Berlin," she explained. "They tell me of
everything. I have a friend, in fact, who was in the restaurant
"What a coincidence!" he exclaimed.
She nodded and selected a fresh cigarette.
"Isn't it! But that table is up. I promised to cut in there. Captain
Baring likes me to play at the same table, and he is here for such a
short time that one tries to be kind. It is indeed kindness," she added,
taking up her gold purse and belongings, "for he plays so badly."
She moved towards the table. It happened to be Baring who cut out, and he
and Norgate drifted together. They exchanged a few remarks.
"I met you at Marseilles once," Norgate reminded him. "You were with the
Mediterranean Squadron, commanding the Leicester, I believe."
"Thought I'd seen you somewhere before," was the prompt acknowledgment.
"You're in the Diplomatic Service, aren't you?"
Norgate admitted the fact and suggested a drink. The two men settled down
to exchange confidences over a whisky and soda. Baring looked around him
with some disapprobation.
"I can't really stick this place," he asserted. "If it weren't for—for
some of the people here, I'd never come inside the doors. It's a rotten
way of spending one's time. You play, I suppose?"
"Oh, yes, I play," Norgate admitted, "but I rather agree with you. How
wonderfully well Mrs. Benedek is looking, isn't she!"
Baring withdrew his admiring eyes from her vicinity.
"Prettiest and smartest woman in London," he declared.
"By-the-by, is she English?" Norgate asked.
"A mixture of French, Italian, and German, I believe," Baring replied.
"Her husband is Benedek the painter, you know."
"I've heard of him," Norgate assented. "What are you doing now?"
"I've had a job up in town for a week or so, at the Admiralty," Baring
explained. "We are examining the plans of a new—but you wouldn't be
interested in that."
"I'm interested in anything naval," Norgate assured him.
"In any case, it isn't my job to talk about it," Baring continued
apologetically. "We've just got a lot of fresh regulations out. Any one
would think we were going to war to-morrow."
"I suppose war isn't such an impossible event," Norgate remarked. "They
all say that the Germans are dying to have a go at you fellows."
"They wouldn't have a dog's chance," he declared. "That's the only
drawback of having so strong a navy. We don't stand any chance of
getting a fight."
"You'll have all you can do to keep up, judging by the way they talk in
Germany," Norgate observed.
"Are you just home from there?"
Norgate nodded. "I am at the Embassy in Berlin, or rather I have been,"
he replied. "I am just home on six months' leave."
"And that's your real impression?" Baring enquired eagerly. "You really
think that they mean to have a go at us?"
"I think there'll be a war soon," Norgate confessed. "It probably won't
commence at sea, but you'll have to do your little lot, without a doubt."
Baring gazed across the room. There was a hard light in his eyes.
"Sounds beastly, I suppose," he muttered, "but I wish to God it would
come! A war would give us all a shaking up—put us in our right places.
We all seem to go on drifting any way now. The Services are all right
when there's a bit of a scrap going sometimes, but there's a nasty sort
of feeling of dry rot about them, when year after year all your
preparations end in the smoke of a sham fight. Now I am on this beastly
land job—but there, I mustn't bother you with my grumblings."
"I am interested," Norgate assured him. "Did you say you were considering
"Plans of a new submarine," he confided. "There's no harm in telling you
as much as that."
Mrs. Benedek, who was dummy for the moment, strolled over to them.
"I am not sure," she murmured, "whether I like the expression you have
brought back from Germany with you, Mr. Norgate."
Norgate smiled. "Have I really acquired the correct diplomatic air?" he
asked. "I can assure you that it is an accident—or perhaps I am
"You have acquired," she complained, "an air of unnatural reserve. You
seem as though you had found some problem in life so weighty that you
could not lose sight of it even for a moment. Ah!"
The glass-topped door had been flung wide open with an unusual flourish.
A barely perceptible start escaped Norgate. It was indeed an unexpected
appearance, this! Dressed with a perfect regard to the latest London
fashion, with his hair smoothly brushed and a pearl pin in his black
satin tie, Herr Selingman stood upon the threshold, beaming upon them.
Selingman had the air of a man who returns after a long absence to some
familiar spot where he expects to find friends and where his welcome is
assured. Mrs. Paston Benedek slipped from her place upon the cushioned
fender and held out both her hands.
"Ah, it is really you!" she exclaimed. "Welcome, dear friend! For days I
have wondered what it was in this place which one missed all the time.
Now I know."
Selingman took the little outstretched hands and raised them to his lips.
"Dear lady," he assured her, "you repay me in one moment for all the
weariness of my exile."
She turned towards her companion.
"Captain Baring," she begged, "please ring the bell. Mr. Selingman and I
always drink a toast together the moment he first arrives to pay us one
of his too rare visits. Thank you! You know Captain Baring, don't you,
Mr. Selingman? This is another friend of mine whom I think that you have
not met—Mr. Francis Norgate, Mr. Selingman. Mr. Norgate has just arrived
from Berlin, too."
For a single moment the newcomer seemed to lose his Cheeryble-like
expression. The glance which he flashed upon Norgate contained other
elements besides those of polite pleasure. He was himself again,
however, almost instantly. He grasped his new acquaintance by the hand.
"Mr. Norgate and I are already old friends," he insisted. "We occupied
the same coupe coming from Berlin and drank a bottle of wine together in
Mrs. Benedek threw back her head and laughed, a familiar gesture which
her enemies declared was in some way associated with the dazzling
whiteness of her teeth.
"And now," she exclaimed, "you find that you belong to the same bridge
club. What a coincidence!"
"It is rather surprising, I must admit," Norgate assented. "Mr. Selingman
and I discussed many things last night, but we did not speak of bridge.
In fact, from the tone of our conversation, I should have imagined that
cards were an amusement which scarcely entered into Mr. Selingman's
scheme of life."
"One must have one's distractions," Selingman protested. "I confess that
auction bridge, as it is played over here, is the one game in the world
which attracts me."
"But how about the crockery?" Norgate asked. "Doesn't that come first?"
"First, beyond a doubt," Selingman agreed heartily. "Always, though, my
plan of campaign is the same. On the day of my arrival here, I take
things easily. I spend an hour or so at the office in the morning, and
the afternoon I take holiday. After that I settle down for one week's
hard work. London—your great London—takes always first place with me.
In the mornings I see my agents and my customers. Perhaps I lunch with
one of them. At four o'clock I close my desk, and crockery does not exist
for me any longer. I get into a taxi, and I come here. My first game of
bridge is a treat to which I look forward eagerly. See, there are three
of us and several sitting out. Let us make another table. So!"
They found a fourth without difficulty and took possession of a table at
the far end of the room. Selingman, with a huge cigar in his mouth,
played well and had every appearance of thoroughly enjoying the game.
Towards the end of their third rubber, Mrs. Benedek, who was dummy,
leaned across towards Norgate.
"After all, perhaps you are better off here," she murmured in German.
"There is nothing like this in Berlin."
"One is at least nearer the things one cherishes," Norgate quoted in the
Selingman was playing the hand and held between his fingers a card
already drawn to play. For a moment, it was suspended in the air. He
looked towards Norgate, and there was a new quality in his piercing gaze,
an instant return in his expression of the shadow which had swept the
broad good-humour from his face on his first appearance. The change came
and went like a flash. He finished playing the hand and scored his points
before he spoke. Then he turned to Norgate.
"Your gift of acquiring languages in a short space of time is most
extraordinary, my young friend! Since yesterday you have become able to
speak German, eh? Prodigious!"
Norgate smiled without embarrassment. The moment was a critical one,
portentous to an extent which no one at that table could possibly
"I am afraid," he confessed, "that when I found that I had a fellow
traveller in my coupe I felt most ungracious and unsociable. I was in
a thoroughly bad temper and indisposed for conversation. The simplest
way to escape from it seemed to be to plead ignorance of any language
save my own."
Selingman chuckled audibly. The cloud had passed from his face. To all
appearance that momentary suspicion had been strangled.
"So you found me a bore!" he observed. "Then I must admit that your
manners were good, for when you found that I spoke English and that you
could not escape conversation, you allowed me to talk on about my
business, and you showed few signs of weariness. You should be a
diplomatist, Mr. Norgate."
"Mr. Norgate is, or rather he was," Mrs. Paston Benedek remarked. "He has
just left the Embassy at Berlin."
Selingman leaned back in his chair and thrust both hands into his
trousers pockets. He indulged in a few German expletives, bombastic and
thunderous, which relieved him so much that he was able to conclude his
speech in English.
"I am the densest blockhead in all Europe!" he announced emphatically.
"If I had realised your identity, I would willingly have left you alone.
No wonder you were feeling indisposed for idle conversation! Mr. Francis
Norgate, eh? A little affair at the Café de Berlin with a lady and a
hot-headed young princeling. Well, well! Young sir, you have become more
to me than an ordinary acquaintance. If I had known the cause of your
ill-humour, I would certainly have left you alone, but I would have
shaken you first by the hand."
The fourth at the table, who was an elderly lady of somewhat austere
appearance, produced a small black cigar from what seemed to be a
harmless-looking reticule which she was carrying, and lit it. Selingman
stared at her with his mouth open.
"Is this a bridge-table or is it not?" she enquired severely. "These
little personal reminiscences are very interesting among yourselves, I
dare say, but I cut in here with the idea of playing bridge."
Selingman was the first to recover his manners, although his eyes seemed
still fascinated by the cigar.
"We owe you apologies, madam," he acknowledged. "Permit me to cut."
The rubber progressed and finished in comparative silence. At its
conclusion, Selingman glanced at the clock. It was half-past seven.
"I am hungry," he announced.
Mrs. Benedek laughed at him. "Hungry at half-past seven! Barbarian!"
"I lunched at half-past twelve," he protested. "I ate less than usual,
too. I did not even leave my office, I was so anxious to finish what was
necessary and to find myself here."
Mrs. Benedek played with the cards a moment and then rose to her feet
with a little grimace.
"Well, I suppose I shall have to give in," she sighed. "I am taking it
for granted, you see, that you are expecting me to dine with you."
"My dear lady," Selingman declared emphatically, "if you were to break
through our time-honoured custom and deny me the joy of your company on
my first evening in London, I think that I should send another to look
after my business in this country, and retire myself to the seclusion of
my little country home near Potsdam. The inducements of managing one's
own affairs in this country, Mr. Norgate," he added, "are, as you may
imagine, manifold and magnetic."
"We will not grudge them to you so long as you don't come too often,"
Norgate remarked, as he bade them good night. "The man who monopolised
Mrs. Benedek would soon make himself unpopular here."
Norgate had chosen, for many reasons, to return to London as a visitor.
His somewhat luxurious rooms in Albemarle Street were still locked up. He
had taken a small flat in the Milan Court, solely for the purpose of
avoiding immediate association with his friends and relatives. His whole
outlook upon life was confused and disturbed. Until he received a
definite pronouncement from the head-quarters of officialdom, he felt
himself unable to settle down to any of the ordinary functions of life.
And behind all this, another and a more powerful sentiment possessed him.
He had left Berlin without seeing or hearing anything further from Anna
von Haase. No word had come from her, nor any message. And now that it
was too late, he began to feel that he had made a mistake. It seemed to
him that he had visited upon her, in some indirect way, the misfortune
which had befallen him. It was scarcely her fault that she had been the
object of attentions which nearly every one agreed were unwelcome, from
this young princeling. Norgate told himself, as he changed his clothes
that evening, that his behaviour had been the behaviour of a jealous
school-boy. Then an inspiration seized him. Half dressed as he was, he
sat down at the writing-table and wrote to her. He wrote rapidly, and
when he had finished, he sealed and addressed the envelope without
glancing once more at its contents. The letter was stamped and posted
within a few minutes, but somehow or other it seemed to have made a
difference. His depression was no longer so complete. He looked forward
to his lonely dinner, at one of the smaller clubs to which he belonged,
with less aversion.
"Do you know where any of my people are. Hardy?" he asked his servant.
"In Scotland, I believe, sir," the man replied. "I called round this
afternoon, although I was careful not to mention the fact that you were
in town. The house is practically in the hands of caretakers."
"Try to keep out of the way as much as you can. Hardy," Norgate
enjoined. "For a few days, at any rate, I should like no one to know
that I am in town."
"Very good, sir," the man replied. "Might I venture to enquire, sir, if
you are likely to be returning to Berlin?"
"I think it is very doubtful, Hardy," Norgate observed grimly. "We are
more likely to remain here for a time."
Hardy brushed his master's hat for a moment or two in silence.
"You will pardon my mentioning it, sir," he said—"I imagine it is of no
importance—but one of the German waiters on this floor has been going
out of his way to enter into conversation with me this evening. He seemed
to know your name and to know that you had just come from Germany. He
hinted at some slight trouble there, sir."
"The dickens he did!" Norgate exclaimed. "That's rather quick
"So I thought, sir," the man continued. "A very inquisitive individual
indeed I found him. He wanted to know whether you had had any news yet as
to any further appointment. He seemed to know quite well that you had
been at the Foreign Office this morning."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him that I knew nothing, sir. I explained that you had not been
back to lunch, and that I had not seen you since the morning. He tried to
make an appointment with me to give me some dinner and take me to a
"What did you say to that?" Norgate enquired.
"I left the matter open, sir," the man replied. "I thought I would
enquire what your wishes might be? The person evidently desires to gain
some information about your movements. I thought that possibly it might
be advantageous for me to tell him just what you desired."
Norgate lit a cigarette. For the moment he was puzzled. It was true that
during their journey he had mentioned to Selingman his intention of
taking a flat at the Milan Court, but if this espionage were the direct
outcome of that information, it was indeed a wonderful organisation which
"You have acted very discreetly, Hardy," he said. "I think you had better
tell your friend that I am expecting to leave for somewhere at a moment's
notice. For your own information," he added, "I rather think that I shall
stay here. It seems to me quite possible that we may find London, for a
few weeks, just as interesting as any city in the world."
"I am very glad to hear you say so, sir," the man murmured. "Shall I
fetch your overcoat?"
The telephone bell suddenly interrupted them. Hardy took up the receiver
and listened for a moment.
"Mr. Hebblethwaite would like to speak to you, sir," he announced.
Norgate hurried to the telephone. A cheery voice greeted him.
"Hullo! That you, Norgate? This is Hebblethwaite. I'm just back from a
few days in the country—found your note here. I want to hear all about
this little matter at once. When can I see you?"
"Any time you like," Norgate replied promptly.
"Let me see," the voice continued, "what are you doing to-night?"
"Come straight round to the House of Commons and dine. Or no—wait a
moment—we'll go somewhere quieter. Say the club in a quarter of an
hour—the Reform Club. How will that suit you?"
"I'll be there, with pleasure," Norgate promised.
"Righto! We'll hear what you've been doing to these peppery Germans. I
had a line from Leveson himself this morning. A lady in the case, I hear?
Well, well! Never mind explanations now. See you in a few minutes."
Norgate laid down the receiver. His manner, as he accepted his
well-brushed hat, had lost all its depression. There was no one in the
Cabinet with more influence than Hebblethwaite. He would have his chance,
at any rate, and his chance at other things.
"Look here, Hardy," he ordered, as he drew on his gloves, "spend as much
time as you like with that fellow and let me know what sort of questions
he asks you. Be careful not to mention the fact that I am dining with Mr.
Hebblethwaite. For the rest, fence with him. I am not quite sure what it
all means. If by any chance he mentions a man named Selingman, let me
know. Good night!"
"Good night, sir!" the man replied.
Norgate descended into the Strand and walked briskly towards Pall Mall.
The last few minutes seemed to him to be fraught with promise of a new
interest in life. Yet it was not of any of these things that he was
thinking as he made his way towards his destination. He was occupied most
of the time in wondering how long it would be before he could hope to
receive a reply from Berlin to his letter.
The Right Honourable John Hebblethwaite, M.P., since he had become a
Cabinet Minister and had even been mentioned as the possible candidate
for supreme office, had lost a great deal of that breezy, almost
boisterous effusion of manner which in his younger days had first
endeared him to his constituents. He received Norgate, however, with
marked and hearty cordiality, and took his arm as he led him to the
little table which he had reserved in a corner of the dining-room. The
friendship between the entirely self-made politician and Norgate, who was
the nephew of a duke, and whose aristocratic connections were
multifarious and far-reaching, was in its way a genuine one. There were
times when Hebblethwaite had made use of his younger friend to further
his own undoubted social ambitions. On the other hand, since he had
become a power in politics, he had always been ready to return in kind
such offices. The note which he had received from Norgate that day was,
however, the first appeal which had ever been made to him.
"I have been away for a week-end's golf," Hebblethwaite explained, as
they took their places at the table. "There comes a time when figures
pall, and snapping away in debate seems to stick in one's throat. I
telephoned directly I got your note. Fortunately, I wasn't doing anything
this evening. We won't play about. I know you don't want to see me to
talk about the weather, and I know something's up, or Leveson wouldn't
have written to me, and you wouldn't be back from Berlin. Let's have the
whole story with the soup and fish, and we'll try and hit upon a way to
put things right before we reach the liqueurs."
"I've lots to say to you," Norgate admitted simply. "I'll begin with the
personal side of it. Here's just a brief narration of exactly what
happened to me in the most fashionable restaurant of Berlin last
Norgate told his story. His friend listened with the absorbed attention
of a man who possesses complete powers of concentration.
"Rotten business," he remarked, when it was finished. "I suppose you've
told old—I mean you've told them the story at the Foreign Office?"
"Had it all out this morning," Norgate replied.
"I know exactly what our friend told you," Mr. Hebblethwaite continued,
with a gleam of humour in his eyes. "He reminded you that the first duty
of a diplomat—of a young diplomat especially—is to keep on friendly
terms with the governing members of the country to which he is
accredited. How's that, eh?"
"Pretty nearly word for word," Norgate admitted. "It's the sort of
platitude I could watch framing in his mind before I was half-way through
what I had to say. What they don't seem to take sufficient account of in
that museum of mummied brains and parchment tongues—forgive me,
Hebblethwaite, but it isn't your department—is that the Prince's
behaviour to me is such as no Englishman, subscribing to any code of
honour, could possibly tolerate. I will admit, if you like, that the
Kaiser's attitude may render it advisable for me to be transferred from
Berlin. I do not admit that I am not at once eligible for a position of
similar importance in another capital."
"No one would doubt it," John Hebblethwaite grumbled, "except those
particular fools we have to deal with. I suppose they didn't see it in
the same light."
"They did not," Norgate admitted.
"We've a tough proposition to tackle," Hebblethwaite confessed
cheerfully, "but I am with you, Norgate, and to my mind one of the
pleasures of being possessed of a certain amount of power is to help
one's friends when you believe in the justice of their cause. If you
leave things with me, I'll tackle them to-morrow morning."
"That's awfully good of you, Hebblethwaite," Norgate declared gratefully,
"and just what I expected. We'll leave that matter altogether just now,
if we may. My own little grievance is there, and I wanted to explain
exactly how it came about. Apart from that altogether, there is something
far more important which I have to say to you."
Hebblethwaite knitted his brows. He was clearly puzzled.
"Still personal, eh?" he enquired.
Norgate shook his head.
"It is something of vastly more importance," he said, "than any question
affecting my welfare. I am almost afraid to begin for fear I shall miss
any chance, for fear I may not seem convincing enough."
"We'll have the champagne opened at once, then," Mr. Hebblethwaite
declared. "Perhaps that will loosen your tongue. I can see that this is
going to be a busy meal. Charles, if that bottle of Pommery 1904 is iced
just to the degree I like it, let it be served, if you please, in the
large sized glasses. Now, Norgate."
"What I am going to relate to you," Norgate began, leaning across the
table and speaking very earnestly, "is a little incident which happened
to me on my way back from Berlin. I had as a fellow passenger a person
whom I am convinced is high up in the German Secret Service Intelligence
"All that!" Mr. Hebblethwaite murmured. "Go ahead, Norgate. I like the
commencement of your story. I almost feel that I am moving through the
pages of a diplomatic romance. All that I am praying is that your fellow
passenger was a foreign lady—a princess, if possible—with wonderful
eyes, fascinating manners, and of a generous disposition."
"Then I am afraid you will be disappointed," Norgate continued drily.
"The personage in question was a man whose name was Selingman. He told me
that he was a manufacturer of crockery and that he came often to England
to see his customers. He called himself a peace-loving German, and he
professed the utmost good-will towards our country and our national
policy. At the commencement of our conversation, I managed to impress him
with the idea that I spoke no German. At one of the stations on the line
he was joined by a Belgian, his agent, as he told me, in Brussels for the
sale of his crockery. I overheard this agent, whose name was Meyer,
recount to his principal his recent operations. He offered him an exact
plan of the forts of Liège. I heard him instructed to procure a list of
the wealthy inhabitants of Ghent and the rateable value of the city, and
I heard him commissioned to purchase land in the neighbourhood of Antwerp
for a secret purpose."
Mr. Hebblethwaite's eyebrows became slowly upraised. The twinkle in his
eyes remained, however.
"My!" he exclaimed softly. "We're getting on with the romance all right!"
"During the momentary absence of this fellow and his agent from the
carriage," Norgate proceeded, "I possessed myself of a slip of paper
which had become detached from the packet of documents they had been
examining. It consisted of a list of names mostly of people resident in
the United Kingdom, purporting to be Selingman's agents. I venture to
believe that this list is a precise record of the principal German spies
in this country."
"German spies!" Mr. Hebblethwaite murmured. "Whew!"
He sipped his champagne.
"That list," Norgate went on, "is in my pocket. I may add that although I
was careful to keep up the fiction of not understanding German, and
although I informed Herr Selingman that I had seen the paper in question
blow out of the window, he nevertheless gave me that night a drugged
whisky and soda, and during the time I slept he must have been through
every one of my possessions. I found my few letters and papers turned
upside down, and even my pockets had been ransacked."
"Where was the paper, then?" Mr. Hebblethwaite enquired.
"In an inner pocket of my pyjamas," Norgate explained. "I had them made
with a sort of belt inside, at the time I was a king's messenger."
Mr. Hebblethwaite played with his tie for a moment and drank a little
"Could I have a look at the list?" he asked, as though with a sudden
Norgate passed it across the table to him. Mr. Hebblethwaite adjusted his
pince-nez, gave a little start as he read the first name, leaned back in
his chair as he came to another, stared at Norgate about half-way down
the list, as though to make sure that he was in earnest, and finally
finished it in silence. He folded it up and handed it back.
"Well, well!" he exclaimed, a little pointlessly. "Now tell me, Norgate,
you showed this list down there?"—jerking his head towards the street.
"I did," Norgate admitted.
"And what did they say?"
"Just what you might expect men whose lives are spent within the four
walls of a room in Downing Street to say," Norgate replied. "You are
half inclined to make fun of me yourself, Hebblethwaite, but at any
rate I know you have a different outlook from theirs. Old Carew was
frantically polite. He even declared the list to be most interesting! He
rambled on for about a quarter of an hour on the general subject of the
spy mania. German espionage, he told me, was one of the shadowy evils
from which England had suffered for generations. So far as regards
London and the provincial towns, he went on, whether for good or evil,
we have a large German population, and if they choose to make reports to
any one in Germany as to events happening here which come under their
observation, we cannot stop it, and it would not even be worth while to
try. As regards matters of military and naval importance, there was a
special branch, he assured me, for looking after these, and it was a
branch of the Service which was remarkably well-served and remarkably
successful. Having said this, he folded the list up and returned it to
me, rang the bell, gave me a frozen hand to shake, a mumbled promise
about another appointment as soon as there should be a vacancy, and that
was the end of it."
"About that other appointment," Mr. Hebblethwaite began, with some
"Damn the other appointment!" Norgate interrupted testily. "I didn't come
here to cadge, Hebblethwaite. I am never likely to make use of my friends
in that way. I came for a bigger thing. I came to try and make you see a
danger, the reality of which I have just begun to appreciate myself for
the first time in my life."
Mr. Hebblethwaite's manner slowly changed. He pulled down his waistcoat,
finished off a glass of wine, and leaned forward.
"Norgate," he said, "I am sorry that this is the frame of mind in which
you have come to me. I tell you frankly that you couldn't have appealed
to a man in the Cabinet less in sympathy with your fears than I myself."
"I am sorry to hear that," Norgate replied grimly, "but go on."
"Before I entered the Cabinet," Mr. Hebblethwaite continued, "our
relations with Foreign Powers were just the myth to me that they are to
most people who read the Morning Post one day and the Daily Mail the
next. However, I made the best part of half a million in business through
knowing the top and the bottom and every corner of my job, and I started
in to do the same when I began to have a share in the government of the
country. The entente with France is all right in its way, but I came to
the conclusion that the greatest and broadest stroke of diplomacy
possible to Englishmen to-day was to cultivate more benevolent and more
confidential relations with Germany. That same feeling has been spreading
through the Cabinet during the last two years. I am ready to take my
share of the blame or praise, whichever in the future shall be allotted
to the inspirer of that idea. It is our hope that when the present
Government goes out of office, one of its chief claims to public approval
and to historical praise will be the improvement of our relations with
Germany. We certainly do not wish to disturb the growing confidence which
exists between the two countries by any maladroit or unnecessary
investigations. We believe, in short, that Germany's attitude towards us
is friendly, and we intend to treat her in the same spirit."
"Tell me," Norgate asked, "is that the reason why every scheme for the
expansion of the army has been shelved? Is that the reason for all the
troubles with the Army Council?"
"It is," Hebblethwaite admitted. "I trust you, Norgate, and I look upon
you as a friend. I tell you what the whole world of responsible men and
women might as well know, but which we naturally don't care about
shouting from the housetops. We have come to the conclusion that there is
no possible chance of the peace of Europe being disturbed. We have come
to the conclusion that civilisation has reached that pitch when the last
resource of arms is absolutely unnecessary. I do not mind telling you
that the Balkan crisis presented opportunities to any one of the Powers
to plunge into warfare, had they been so disposed. No one bade more
boldly for peace then than Germany. No one wants war. Germany has nothing
to gain by it, no animosity against France, none towards Russia. Neither
of these countries has the slightest intention, now or at any time, of
invading Germany. Why should they? The matter of Alsace and Lorraine is
finished. If these provinces ever come back to France, it will be by
political means and not by any mad-headed attempt to wrest them away."
"Incidentally," Norgate asked, "what about the enormous armaments of
Germany? What about her navy? What about the military spirit which
practically rules the country?"
"I have spent three months in Germany during the last year,"
Hebblethwaite replied. "It is my firm belief that those armaments and
that fleet are necessary to Germany to preserve her place of dignity
among the nations. She has Russia on one side and France on the
other, allies, watching her all the time, and of late years England
has been chipping at her whenever she got a chance, and flirting with
France. What can a nation do but make herself strong enough to defend
herself against unprovoked attack? Germany, of course, is full of the
military spirit, but it is my opinion, Norgate, that it is a great
deal fuller of the great commercial spirit. It isn't war with Germany
that we have to fear. It's the ruin of our commerce by their great
assiduity and more up-to-date methods. Now you've had a statement of
policy from me for which the halfpenny Press would give me a thousand
guineas if I'd sign it."
"I've had it," Norgate admitted, "and I tell you frankly that I hate it.
I am an unfledged young diplomat in disgrace, and I haven't your
experience or your brains, but I have a hateful idea that I can see the
truth and you can't. You're too big and too broad in this matter,
Hebblethwaite. Your head's lifted too high. You see the horrors and the
needlessness, the logical side of war, and you brush the thought away
Mr. Hebblethwaite sighed.
"Perhaps so," he admitted. "One can only act according to one's
convictions. You must remember, though, Norgate, that we don't carry
our pacificism to extremes. Our navy is and always will be an
"Even with hostile naval and aeroplane bases at—say—Calais, Boulogne,
Mr. Hebblethwaite pushed a box of cigars towards his guest, glanced at
the clock, and rose.
"Young fellow," he said, "I have engaged a box at the Empire. Let
us move on."
"My position as a Cabinet Minister," Mr. Hebblethwaite declared, with a
sigh, "renders my presence in the Promenade undesirable. If you want to
stroll around, Norgate, don't bother about me."
Norgate picked up his hat. "Jolly good show," he remarked. "I'll be back
before it begins again."
He descended to the lower Promenade and sauntered along towards the
refreshment bar. Mrs. Paston Benedek, who was seated in the stalls,
leaned over and touched his arm.
"My friend," she exclaimed, "you are distrait! You walk as though you
looked for everything and saw nothing. And behold, you have found me!"
Norgate shook hands and nodded to Baring, who was her escort.
"What have you done with our expansive friend?" he asked. "I thought you
were dining with him."
"I compromised," she laughed. "You see what it is to be so popular. I
should have dined and have come here with Captain Baring—that was our
plan for to-night. Captain Baring, however, was generous when he saw my
predicament. He suffered me to dine with Mr. Selingman, and he fetched me
afterwards. Even then we could not quite get rid of the dear man. He came
on here with us, and he is now, I believe, greeting acquaintances
everywhere in the Promenade. I am perfectly convinced that I shall have
to look the other way when we go out."
"I think I'll see whether I can rescue him," Norgate remarked. "Good
show, isn't it?" he added, turning to her companion.
"Capital," replied Baring, without enthusiasm. "Too many people
Norgate strolled on, and Mrs. Benedek tapped her companion on the
knuckles with her fan.
"How dared you be so rude!" she exclaimed. "You are in a very bad humour
this evening. I can see that I shall have to punish you."
"That's all very well," Baring grumbled, "but it gets more difficult to
see you alone every day. This evening was to have been mine. Now this fat
German turns up and lays claim to you, and then, about the first moment
we've had a chance to talk, Norgate comes gassing along. You're not
nearly as nice to me, Bertha, as you used to be."
"My dear man," she protested, "in the first place I deny it. In the
second, I ask myself whether you are quite as devoted to me as you were
when you first came."
"In what way?" he demanded.
She turned her wonderful eyes upon him.
"At first when you came," she declared, "you told me everything. You
spoke of your long mornings and afternoons at the Admiralty. You told me
of the room in which you worked, the men who worked there with you. You
told me of the building of that little model, and how you were all
allowed to try your own pet ideas with regard to it. And then, all of a
sudden, nothing—not a word about what you have been doing. I am an
intelligent woman. I love to have men friends who do things, and if they
are really friends of mine, I like to enter into their life, to know of
their work, to sympathise, to take an interest in it. It was like that
with you at first. Now it has all gone. You have drawn down a curtain. I
do not believe that you go to the Admiralty at all. I do not believe that
you have any wonderful invention there over which you spend your time."
"Bertha, dear," he remonstrated, "do be reasonable."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"But am I not? See how reasonably I have spoken to you. I have told you
the exact truth. I have told you why I do not take quite that same
pleasure in your company as when you first came."
"Do consider," he begged. "I spoke to you freely at first because we had
not reached the stage in the work when secrecy was absolutely necessary.
At present we are all upon our honour. From the moment we pass inside
that little room, we are, to all effects and purposes, dead men. Nothing
that happens there is to be spoken of or hinted at, even to our wives or
our dearest friends. It is the etiquette of my profession, Bertha. Be
"Pooh!" she exclaimed. "Fancy asking a woman to be reasonable! Don't you
realise, you stupid man, that if you were at liberty to tell everybody
what it is that you do there, well, then I should have no more interest
in it? It is just because you say that you will not and you may not
tell, that, womanlike, I am curious."
"But whatever good could it be to you to know?" he protested. "I should
simply addle your head with a mass of technical detail, not a quarter of
which you would be able to understand. Besides, I have told you, Bertha,
it is a matter of honour."
She looked intently at her programme.
"There are men," she murmured, "who love so much that even honour counts
for little by the side of—"
"Of what?" he whispered hoarsely.
For a moment they sat in silence. The place was not particularly hot, yet
there were little beads of perspiration upon Baring's forehead. The
fingers which held his programme twitched. He rose suddenly to his feet.
"May I go out and have a drink?" he asked. "I won't go if you don't want
to be alone."
"My dear friend, I do not mind in the least," she assured him. "If you
find Mr. Norgate, send him here."
In one of the smaller refreshment rooms sat Mr. Selingman, a bottle of
champagne before him and a wondrously attired lady on either side. The
heads of all three were close together. The lady on the left was talking
in a low tone but with many gesticulations.
"Dear friend," she exclaimed, "for one single moment you must not think
that I am ungrateful! But consider. Success costs money always, and I
have been successful—you admit that. My rooms are frequented entirely
by the class of young men you have wished me to encourage. Pauline and I
here, and Rose, whom you have met, seek our friends in no other
direction. We are never alone, and, as you very well know, not a day has
passed that I have not sent you some little word of gossip or
information—the gossip of the navy and the gossip of the army—and there
is always some truth underneath what these young men say. It is what you
desire, is it not?"
"Without a doubt," Selingman assented. "Your work, my dear Helda, has
been excellent. I commend you. I think with fervour of the day when first
we talked together, and the scheme presented itself to me. Continue to
play Aspasia in such a fashion to the young soldiers and sailors of this
country, and your villa at Monte Carlo next year is assured."
The woman shrugged her shoulders.
"I will not say that you are not generous," she declared, "for that would
be untrue, but sometimes you forget that these young men have very little
money, and the chief profit from their friendship, therefore, must come
to us in other ways."
"You want a larger allowance?" Selingman asked slowly.
"Not at present, but I want to warn you that the time may come when I
shall need more. A salon in Pimlico, dear friend, is an expensive thing
to maintain. These young men tell their friends of our hospitality, the
music, our entertainment. We become almost too much the fashion, and it
Selingman held up his champagne glass, gazed at the wine for a moment,
and slowly drank it.
"I am not of those," he announced, "who expect service for nothing,
especially good service such as yours. Watch for the postman, dear lady.
Any morning this week there may come for you a pleasant little surprise."
She leaned over and patted his arm.
"You are a prince," she murmured. "But tell me, who is the grave-looking
Selingman glanced up. Norgate, who had been standing at the bar with
Baring, was passing a few feet away.
"The rake's progress," the former quoted solemnly.
Selingman raised his glass.
"Come and join us," he invited.
Norgate shook his head slightly and passed on. Selingman leaned a little
forward, watching his departing figure. The buoyant good-nature seemed to
have faded out of his face.
"If you could get that young man to talk, now, Helda," he muttered, "it
would be an achievement."
She glanced after him, "To me," she declared, "he looks one of the
"He is an Englishman with a grievance," Selingman continued. "If the
grievance cuts deep enough, he may—But we gossip."
"The other was a navy man," the girl remarked. "His name is Baring."
"You need not bother about him," he said. "If it is possible for him to
be of use, that is arranged for in another quarter. So! Let us finish our
wine and separate. That letter shall surely come. Have no fear."
Selingman strolled away, a few minutes later. Baring had returned to Mrs.
Paston Benedek, and Norgate had resumed his place in the box. Selingman,
with a gold-topped cane under his arm, a fresh cigar between his lips,
and a broad smile of good-fellowship upon his face, strolled down one of
the wings of the Promenade. Suddenly he came to a standstill. In the box
opposite to him, Norgate and Hebblethwaite were seated side by side.
Selingman regarded them for a moment steadfastly.
"A friend of Hebblethwaite's!" he muttered. "Hebblethwaite—the one man
whom Berlin doubts!"
He withdrew a little into the shadows, his eyes fixed upon the box. A
little way off, in the stalls, Mrs. Paston Benedek was whispering to
Baring. Further back in the Promenade, Helda was entertaining a little
party of friends. Selingman's eyes remained fixed upon Norgate.
Mrs. Paston Benedek, on the following afternoon, sat in one corner of the
very comfortable lounge set with its back to the light in her charming
drawing-room. Norgate sat in the other.
"I think it is perfectly sweet of you to come," she declared. "I do not
care how many enemies I make—I will certainly dine with you to-night.
How I shall manage it I do not yet know. You shall call for me here at
eight o'clock—or say a quarter past, then we need not hurry away too
early from the club. If Captain Baring is there, perhaps it would be
better if you did not speak of our engagement."
"What is the wonderful attraction about Baring?" he asked discontentedly.
"Really, there isn't any," she replied. "I like to be kind, that is all.
I do not like to hurt anybody's feelings, and I know that Captain Baring
would like very much to dine with me to-night himself. I was obliged to
throw him over last night because of Mr. Selingman's arrival."
"You have not always been so considerate," he persisted. "Why this
especial care for Baring's feelings?"
She turned her head a little towards him. She was leaning back in her
corner of the lounge, her hands clasped behind her head. There was an
elaborate carelessness about her pose which she numbered among her
"Perhaps," she retorted, "I, too, find your sudden attraction for me a
little remarkable. On those few occasions when you did honour us at the
club before you left for Berlin, you were agreeable enough, but I do not
remember that you once asked me to dine with you. There was no Captain
"The truth is," Norgate confessed, "since I returned, I have felt rather
like hiding myself. I don't care about going to my own club or visiting
my own friends. I came to the St. James's as a sort of compromise."
"You are not very flattering," she complained.
"Wouldn't you rather I were truthful?" asked Norgate. "One's
friends, one's real friends, are scarcely likely to be found at a
mixed bridge club."
"After that," she sighed, "I am going to telephone to Captain Baring. He,
at any rate, is in love with me, and I need something to restore my
"In love with you, perhaps, but are you in love with him?"
She laughed, softly at first, but with an ever more insistent note of
satire underlying her mirth.
"The woman," she said, "who expects to get anything out of life worth
having, doesn't fall in love. She may give a good deal, she may seem to
give everything, but if she is wise, she keeps her heart."
"Are you sure," she asked, fixing her brilliant eyes upon him, "that he
needs your sympathy? He is very much in love with me, and there are times
when I could almost persuade myself that I am in love with him. At any
rate, he attracts me."
Norgate was momentarily sententious. "The psychology of love," he
murmured, looking into the fire, "is a queer study."
Once more she laughed at him.
"Before you went to Berlin," she said, "you used not to talk of the
psychology of love. Your methods, so far as I remember them, were a
little different. Confess now—you fell in love in Berlin."
Norgate stifled a sudden desire to confide in his companion.
"At my age!" he exclaimed.
"It is true that it is not a susceptible age," Mrs. Benedek admitted.
"You are in what I call your mid-youth. Mid-youth, as a rule, is an age
of cynicism. As you grow older, you will appreciate more the luxury of
emotion. But tell me, was it the little Baroness who fascinated you? She
is a great beauty, is she not?"
"I took her out to dinner," Norgate observed. "Therefore I suppose it was
my duty to be in love with her."
"Fancy sharing the same sofa," she laughed, "with a rival of princes!
Do you know that the Baroness is a friend of mine? She comes sometimes
"I am much more interested in your love affair," he protested.
"And I find far more interest in your future," she insisted. "Let us
talk sensibly, like good friends and companions. What are you going to
do? They will not treat this affair seriously at the Foreign Office? They
cannot think that you were to blame?"
"In a sense, no," he replied. "Diplomatically, however, I am, from their
point of view, a heinous offender. I rather think I am going to be
shelved for six months."
"Just what one would expect from this horrible Government!" Mrs. Benedek
"What do you know about the Government?" he asked. "Are you taking up
politics as well as the study of the higher auction?"
She sighed, and her eyes were fixed upon him very earnestly, as she
declared: "You do not understand me, my friend. You never did. I am
not altogether frivolous; I am not altogether an artist. I have my
"Is this going to be one of them?"
"Don't make fun of me, please," she begged, "You are like so many
Englishmen. Directly a woman tries to talk seriously, you will push her
back into her place. You like to treat her as something to frivol with
and make love to. Is it your amour propre which is wounded, when you
feel sometimes forced to admit that she has as clear an insight into the
more important things of life as you yourself?"
"Do you talk like that with Baring?" he asked.
For several seconds she was silent. Her eyes had contracted a little. She
seemed to be seeking for some double meaning in his words.
"Captain Baring is an intelligent man," she said, "and he is a man, too,
who understands his own particular subject. Of course it is a pleasure to
talk to him about it."
"I thought navy men, as a rule," he remarked, "were not communicative."
"Do you call it communicative," she enquired, "to discuss the subject you
love best with your greatest friend? But let us not talk any more of
Captain Baring. It is in you just now that I am interested, you and your
future. You seem to think that your friends at the Foreign Office are not
going to find you another position—for some time, at any rate. You are
not one of those men who think of nothing but sport and amusing
themselves. What are you going to do during the next few months?"
"At present," he confessed thoughtfully, "I have only the vaguest ideas.
Perhaps you could help me."
"Perhaps I could," she admitted. "We will talk of that another time, if
It was obvious that she was speaking under a certain tension. The silence
which ensued was significant.
"Why not now?" he asked.
"It is too soon," she answered, "and you would not understand. I might
say things to you which would perhaps end our friendship, which would
give you a wrong impression. No, let us stay just as we are for a
"This is most tantalising," grumbled Norgate.
She leaned over and patted his hand.
"Have patience, my friend," she whispered. "The great things come to
those who wait."
An interruption, commonplace enough, yet in its way startling, checked
the words which were already upon his lips. The telephone bell from the
little instrument on the table within a few feet of them, rang
insistently. For a moment Mrs. Benedek herself appeared taken by
surprise. Then she raised the receiver to her ear.
"My friend," she said to Norgate, "you must excuse me. I told them
distinctly to disconnect the instrument so that it rang only in my
bedroom. I am disobeyed, but no matter. Who is that?"
Norgate leaned back in his place. His companion's little interjection,
however, was irresistible. He glanced towards her. There was a slight
flush of colour in her cheeks, her head was moving slowly as though
keeping pace to the words spoken at the other end. Suddenly she laughed.
"Do not be so foolish," she said. "Yes, of course. You keep your share of
the bargain and I mine. At eight o'clock, then. I will say no more now,
as I am engaged with a visitor. Au revoir!"
She set down the receiver and turned towards Norgate, who was turning the
pages of an illustrated paper. She made a little grimace.
"Oh, but life is very queer!" she declared. "How I love it! Now I am
going to make you look glum, if indeed you do care just that little bit
which is all you know of caring. Perhaps you will be a little
disappointed. Tell me that you are, or my vanity will be hurt. Listen and
prepare. To-night I cannot dine with you."
He turned deliberately around. "You are going to throw me over?" he
demanded, looking at her steadfastly.
"To throw you over, dear friend," she repeated cheerfully. "You would do
just the same, if you were in my position."
"It is an affair of duty," he persisted, "or the triumph of a rival?"
She made a grimace at him. "It is an affair of duty," she admitted, "but
it is certainly with a rival that I must dine."
He moved a little nearer to her on the lounge.
"Tell me on your honour," he said, "that you are not dining with Baring,
and I will forgive!"
For a moment she seemed as though she were summoning all her courage to
tell the lie which he half expected. Instead she changed her mind.
"Do not be unkind," she begged. "I am dining with Captain Baring. The
poor man is distracted. You know that I cannot bear to hurt people. Be
kind this once. You may take my engagement book, you may fill it up as
you will, but to-night I must dine with him. Consider, my friend. You may
have many months before you in London. Captain Baring finishes his work
at the Admiralty to-day, and leaves for Portsmouth to-morrow morning. He
may not be in London again for some time. I promised him long ago that I
would dine with him to-night on one condition. That condition he is
keeping. I cannot break my word."
Norgate rose gloomily to his feet.
"Of course," he said, "I don't want to be unreasonable, and any one can
see the poor fellow is head over ears in love with you."
She took his arm as she led him towards the door.
"Listen," she promised, laughing into his face, "when you are as much in
love with me as he is, I will put off every other engagement I have in
the world, and I will dine with you. You understand? We shall meet later
at the club, I hope. Until then, au revoir!"
Norgate hailed a taxi outside and was driven at once to the nearest
telephone call office. There, after some search in the directory, he rang
up a number and enquired for Captain Baring. There was a delay of about
five minutes. Then Baring spoke from the other end of the telephone.
"Who is it wants me?" he enquired, rather impatiently.
"Are you Baring?" Norgate asked, deepening his voice a little.
"Yes! Who are you?"
"I am a friend," Norgate answered slowly.
"What the devil do you mean by 'a friend'?" was the irritated reply. "I
am engaged here most particularly."
"There can be nothing so important," Norgate declared, "as the warning I
am charged to give to you. Remember that it is a friend who speaks. There
is a train about five o'clock to Portsmouth. Your work is finished. Take
that train and stay away from London."
Norgate set down the receiver without listening to the tangle of
exclamations from the other end, and walked quickly out of the shop. He
re-entered his taxi.
"The St. James's Club," he ordered.
Norgate found Selingman in the little drawing-room of the club, reclining
in an easy-chair, a small cup of black coffee by his side. He appeared to
be exceedingly irate at the performance of his partner in a recent
rubber, and he seized upon Norgate as a possibly sympathetic confidant.
"Listen to me for one moment," he begged, "and tell me whether I have not
the right to be aggrieved. I go in on my own hand, no trump. I am a
careful declarer. I play here every day when I am in London, and they
know me well to be a careful declarer. My partner—I do not know his
name; I hope I shall never know his name; I hope I shall never see him
again—he takes me out. 'Into what?' you ask. Into diamonds! I am
regretful, but I recognise, as I believe, a necessity. I ask you, of what
do you suppose his hand consists? Down goes my no trump on the table—a
good, a very good no trump. He has in his hand the ace, king, queen and
five diamonds, the king of clubs guarded, the ace and two little hearts,
and he takes me out into diamonds from no trumps with a score at love
all. Two pences they had persuaded me to play, too, and it was the rubber
game. Afterwards he said to me: 'You seem annoyed'; and I replied 'I am
annoyed,' and I am. I come in here to drink coffee and cool myself.
Presently I will cut into another rubber, where that young man is not.
Perhaps our friend Mrs. Benedek will be here. You and I and Mrs. Benedek,
but not, if we can help it, the lady who smokes the small black cigars.
She is very amiable, but I cannot attend to the game while she sits there
opposite to me. She fascinates me. In Germany sometimes our women smoke
cigarettes, but cigars, and in public, never!"
"We'll get a rubber presently, I dare say," Norgate remarked, settling
himself in an easy-chair. "How's business?"
"Business is very good," Selingman declared. "It is so good that I must
be in London for another week or so before I set off to the provinces. It
grows and grows all the time. Soon I must find a manager to take over
some of my work here. At my time of life one likes to enjoy. I love to be
in London; I do not like these journeys to Newcastle and Liverpool and
places a long way off. In London I am happy. You should go into business,
young man. It is not well for you to do nothing."
"Do you think I should be useful in the crockery trade?" Norgate asked.
Herr Selingman appeared to take the enquiry quite seriously.
"Why not?" he demanded. "You are well-educated, you have address,
you have intelligence. Mrs. Benedek has spoken very highly of you.
But you—oh, no! It would not suit you at all to plunge yourself
into commerce, nor would it suit you, I think, to push the affairs
of a prosperous German concern. You are very English, Mr. Norgate,
is that not so?"
"Not aggressively," Norgate replied. "As a matter of fact, I am rather
fed up with my own country just now."
Mr. Selingman sat quite still in his chair. Some signs of a change which
came to him occasionally were visible in his face. He was for that moment
no longer the huge, overgrown schoolboy bubbling over with the joy and
appetite of life. His face seemed to have resolved itself into sterner
lines. It was the face of a thinker.
"There are other Englishmen besides you," Selingman said, "who are a
little—what you call 'fed up' with your country. You have much common
sense. You do not believe that yours is the only country in the world.
You like sometimes to hear plain speech from one who knows?"
"Without a doubt," Norgate assented.
Mr. Selingman stroked his knee with his fat hand.
"You in England," he continued, "you are too prosperous. Very, very
slowly the country is drifting into the hands of the people. A country
that is governed entirely by the people goes down, down, down. Your
classes are losing their hold and their influence. You have gone from
Tory to Whig, from Whig to Liberal, from Liberal to Radical, and soon it
will be the Socialists who govern. You know what will come then?
Colonies! What do your radicals care about colonies? Institutions! What
do they care about institutions? All you who have inherited money, they
will bleed. You will become worse than a nation of shop-keepers. You will
be an illustration to all the world of the dangers of democracy. So! I
go on. I tell you why that comes about. You are in the continent of
Europe, and you will not do as Europe does. You are a nation outside. You
have believed in yourselves and believed in yourselves, till you think
that you are infallible. Before long will come the revolution. It will be
a worse revolution than the French Revolution."
Norgate smiled. "Too much common sense about us, I think, Mr. Selingman,
for such happenings," he declared. "I grant you that the classes are
getting the worst of it so far as regards the government of the country,
but I can't quite see the future that you depict."
"Good Englishman!" Herr Selingman murmured approvingly. "That is your
proper attitude. You do not see because you will not see. I tell you that
the best thing in all the world would be a little blood-letting. You do
not like your Government. Would it not please you to see them humiliated
just a little?"
"In what way?"
"Oh! there are ways," Selingman declared. "A little gentle smack like
this,"—his two hands came together with a crash which echoed through the
room—"a little smack from Germany would do the business. People would
open their eyes and begin to understand. A Radical Government may fill
your factories with orders and rob the rich to increase the prosperity of
the poor, but it will not keep you a great nation amongst the others."
"You seem to have studied the question pretty closely," he remarked.
"I study the subject closely," Selingman went on, "because my interests
are yours. My profits are made in England. I am German born, but I am
English, too, in feeling. To me the two nations are one. We are of the
same race. That is why I am sorrowful when I see England slipping back.
That is why I would like to see her have just a little lesson."
Selingman paused. Norgate rose to his feet and stood on the hearthrug,
with his elbow upon the mantelpiece.
"Twice we have come as far as that, Mr. Selingman," he pointed out.
"England requires a little lesson. You have something in your mind behind
that, something which you are half inclined to say to me. Isn't that so?
Why not go on?"
"Because I am not sure of you," Selingman confessed frankly. "Because
you might misunderstand what I say, and we should be friends no
longer, and you would say silly things about me and my views.
Therefore, I like to keep you for a friend, and I go no further at
present. You say that you are a little angry with your country, but
you Englishmen are so very prejudiced, so very quick to take offence,
so very insular, if I may use the word. I do not know how angry you
are with your country. I do not know if your mind is so big and broad
that you would be willing to see her suffer a little for her greater
good. Ah, but the lady comes at last!"
Mrs. Benedek was accompanied by a tall, middle-aged man, of fair
complexion, whom Selingman greeted with marked respect. She turned
"Let me present you," she said, "to Prince Edward of Lenemaur—Mr.
The two men shook hands.
"I played golf with you once at Woking," Norgate reminded his new
"I not only remember it," Prince Edward answered, "but I remember the
result. You beat me three up, and we were to have had a return, but you
had to leave for Paris on the next day."
"You will be able to have your return match now," Mrs. Benedek observed.
"Mr. Norgate is going to be in England for some time. Let us play bridge.
I have to leave early to-night—I am dining out—and I should like to
make a little money."
They strolled into the bridge-room. Selingman hung behind with Norgate.
"Soon," he suggested, "we must finish our talk, is it not so? Dine with
me to-night. Mrs. Benedek has deserted me. We will eat at the Milan
Grill. The cooking there is tolerable, and they have some Rhine wine—but
you shall taste it."
"Thank you," Norgate assented, "I shall be very pleased."
They played three or four rubbers. Then Mrs. Benedek glanced at
"I must go," she announced. "I am dining at eight o'clock."
"Stay but for one moment," Selingman begged. "We will all take a little
mixed vermouth together. I shall tell the excellent Horton how to
prepare it. Plenty of lemon-peel, and just a dash—but I will not give
my secret away."
He called the steward and whispered some instructions in his ear. While
they were waiting for the result, a man came in with an evening paper in
his hand. He looked across the room to a table beyond that at which
Norgate and his friends were playing.
"Heard the news, Monty?" he asked.
"No! What is it?" was the prompt enquiry.
"Poor old Baring—"
The newcomer stopped short. For the first time he noticed Mrs. Benedek.
She half rose from her chair, however, and her eyes were fixed upon him.
"What is it?" she exclaimed. "What has happened?"
There was a moment's awkward silence. Mrs. Benedek snatched the paper
away from the man's fingers and read the little paragraph out aloud. For
a moment she was deathly white.
"What is it?" Selingman demanded.
"Freddy Baring," she whispered—"Captain Baring—shot himself in his room
at the Admiralty this afternoon! Some one telephoned to him. Five minutes
later he was found—dead—a bullet wound through his temple!… Give me
my chair, please. I think that I am going to faint."
Selingman and Norgate dined together that evening in a corner of a large,
popular grill-room near the Strand. They were still suffering from the
shock of the recent tragedy. They both rather avoided the topic of
Baring's sudden death. Selingman made but one direct allusion to it.
"Only yesterday," he remarked, "I said to little Bertha—I have known her
so long that I call her always Bertha—that this bureau work was bad for
Baring. When I was over last, a few months ago, he was the picture of
health. Yesterday he looked wild and worried. He was at work with others,
they say, at the Admiralty upon some new invention. Poor fellow!"
Norgate, conscious of a curious callousness which even he himself found
inexplicable, made some conventional reply only. Selingman began to talk
of other matters.
"Truly," he observed, "a visit to your country is good for the patriotic
German. Behold! here in London, we are welcomed by a German maître
d'hôtel; we are waited on by a German waiter; we drink German wine; we
eat off what I very well know is German crockery."
"And some day, I suppose," Norgate put in, "we are to be German subjects.
Isn't that so?"
Selingman's denial was almost unduly emphatic.
"Never!" he exclaimed. "There is nothing so foolish as the way many of
you English seem to regard us Germans as though we were wild beasts of
prey. Now it gives me pleasure to talk with a man like yourself, Mr.
Norgate. I like to look a little into the future and speculate as to our
two countries. Above all things, this thing I do truly know. The German
nation stands for peace. Yet in order that peace shall everywhere
prevail, a small war, a humanely-conducted war, may sometime within the
future, one must believe, take place. It would last but a short time, but
it might lead to great changes. I have sometimes thought, my young friend
Norgate, that such a war might be the greatest blessing which England
could ever experience."
"As a discipline, you mean?" Norgate murmured.
"As a cleansing tonic," Selingman declared. "It would sweep out your
Radical Government. It would bring the classes back to power. It would
kindle in the spirits of your coming generation the spark of that
patriotism which is, alas! just now a very feeble flame. What do you
think? You agree with me, eh?"
"It is going a long way," Norgate said cautiously, "to approve of a form
of discipline so stringent."
"But not too far—oh, believe me, not too far!" Selingman insisted. "If
that war should come, it would come solely with the idea of sweeping away
this Government, which is most distasteful to all German politicians. It
would come solely with the idea that with a new form of government here,
more solid and lasting terms of friendship could be arranged between
Germany and England."
"A very interesting theory," Norgate remarked. "Do you believe in it
Selingman paused to give an order to a waiter. His tone suddenly became
more serious. He pointed to the menu.
"They have dared," he exclaimed, "to bring us Hollandaise sauce with
the asparagus! A gastronomic indignity! It is such things as this which
would endanger the entente between our countries."
"I don't mind Hollandaise" Norgate ventured.
"Then of eating you know very little," Herr Selingman pronounced. "There
is only one sauce to be served with asparagus, and that is finely drawn
butter. I have explained to the maître d'hôtel. He must bring us what I
desire. Meanwhile, we spoke, I think, of our two countries. You asked me
a question. I do indeed believe in the theories which I have been
"But wouldn't a war smash up your crockery business?" Norgate asked.
"For six months, yes! And after that six months, fortunes for all of us,
trade such as the world has never known, a settled peace, a real union
between two great and friendly countries. I wish England well. I love
England. I love my holidays over here, my business trips which are
holidays in themselves, and for their sake and for my own sake, I say
that just a little wrestle, a slap on the cheek from one and a punch on
the nose from the other, and we should find ourselves."
"War is a very dangerous conflagration," Norgate remarked. "I cannot
think of any experiment more hazardous."
"It is no experiment," Selingman declared. "It is a certainty. All that
we do in my country, we do by what we call previously ascertained
methods. We test the ground in front of us before we plant our feet upon
it. We not only look into the future, but we stretch out our hands. We
make the doubtful places sure. Our turn of mind is scientific. Our
road-making and our bridge-building, our empire-making and our diplomacy,
they are all fashioned in the same manner. If you could trust us, Mr.
Norgate, if you could trust yourself to work for the good of both
countries, we could make very good and profitable use of you during the
next six months. Would you like to hear more?"
"But I know nothing about crockery!"
"Would you like to hear more?" Selingman repeated.
"I think I should."
"Very well, then," Selingman proceeded. "Tomorrow we will talk of it.
There are some ways in which you might be very useful, useful at the same
time to your country and to ours. Your position might be somewhat
peculiar, but that you would be prepared for a short time to tolerate."
"Peculiar in what respect?" Norgate asked.
Selingman held his glass of yellow wine up to the light and criticised it
for a moment. He set it down empty.
"Peculiar," he explained, "inasmuch as you might seem to be working with
Germany, whereas you were really England's best friend. But let us leave
these details until to-morrow. We have talked enough of serious matters.
I have a box at the Gaiety, and we must not be late—also a supper party
afterwards. This is indeed a country for enjoyment. To-morrow we speak of
these things again. You have seen our little German lady at the Gaiety?
You have heard her sing and watch her dance? Well, to-night you shall
"Rosa Morgen?" Norgate exclaimed.
Selingman nodded complacently.
"She sups with us," he announced, "she and others. That is why, when they
spoke to me of going back for bridge to-night, I pretended that I did not
hear. Bridge is very good, but there are other things. To-night I am in a
frivolous vein. I have many friends amongst the young ladies of the
Gaiety. You shall see how they will welcome me."
"You seem to have found your way about over here," Norgate remarked, as
he lit a cigar and waited while his companion paid the bill.
"I am a citizen of the world," Selingman admitted. "I enjoy myself as I
go, but I have my eyes always fixed upon the future. I make many friends,
and I do not lose them. I set my face towards the pleasant places, and I
keep it in that direction. It is the cult of some to be miserable; it is
mine to be happy. The person who does most good in the world is the
person who reflects the greatest amount of happiness. Therefore, I am a
philanthropist. You shall learn from me, my young friend, how to banish
some of that gloom from your face. You shall learn how to find
They made their way across to the Gaiety, where Selingman was a very
conspicuous figure in the largest and most conspicuous box. He watched
with complacency the delivery of enormous bouquets to the principal
artistes, and received their little bow of thanks with spontaneous and
unaffected graciousness. Afterwards he dragged Norgate round to the
stage-door, installed him in a taxi, and handed over to his escort two or
three of his guests.
"I entrust you, Mr. Norgate," he declared, "with our one German export
more wonderful, even, than my crockery—Miss Rosa Morgen. Take good care
of her and bring her to the Milan. The other young ladies are my honoured
guests, but they are also Miss Morgen's. She will tell you their names. I
have others to look after."
Norgate's last glimpse of Selingman was on the pavement outside the
theatre, surrounded by a little group of light-hearted girls and a few
"He is perfectly wonderful, our Mr. Selingman," Miss Morgen murmured, as
they started off. "Tell me how long you have known him, Mr. Norgate?"
"Four days," Norgate replied.
She screamed with laughter.
"It is so like him," she declared. "He makes friends everywhere. A day is
sufficient. He gives such wonderful parties. I do not know why we all
like to come, but we do. I suppose that we all get half-a-dozen
invitations to supper most nights, but there is not one of us who does
not put off everything to sup with Mr. Selingman. He sits in the
middle—oh, you shall watch him to-night!—and what he says I do not
know, but we laugh, and then we laugh again, and every one is happy."
"I think he is the most irresistible person," Norgate agreed. "I met him
two or three nights ago, coming over from Berlin, and he spoke of nothing
but crockery and politics. To-night I dine with him, and I find a
"He is a perfect dear," one of the other girls exclaimed, "but so
curiously inquisitive! I have a great friend, a gunner, whom I brought
with me to one of his parties, and he is always asking me questions about
him and his work. I had to absolutely worry Dick so as to be able to
answer all his questions, didn't I, Rosa?"
Miss Morgen nodded a little guardedly.
"I should not call him really inquisitive," she said. "It is because he
likes to seem interested in the subject which interests you."
"I am not at all sure whether that is true," the other young lady
objected. "You remember when Ellison Gray was always around with us?
Why, I know that Mr. Selingman simply worried Maud's life out of her to
get a little model of his aeroplane from him. There were no end of
things he wanted to know about cubic feet and dimensions. He is a dear,
all the same."
"A perfect dear!" the others echoed.
They drew up outside the Milan. Rosa Morgen turned to their escort.
"We will meet you in the hall in five minutes," she said. "Then we can
all go together and find Mr. Selingman."
Selingman's supper party was in some respects both distinctive and
unusual. Norgate, looking around him, thought that he had never in his
life been among such a motley assemblage of people. There were eight or
nine musical comedy young ladies; a couple of young soldiers, one of whom
he knew slightly, who had arrived as escorts to two of the young ladies;
Prince Edward of Lenemaur; a youthful peer, who by various misdemeanours
had placed himself outside the pale of any save the most Bohemian
society, and several other men whose faces were unfamiliar. They occupied
a round table just inside the door of the restaurant, and they sat there
till long after the lights were lowered. The conversation all the time
was of the most general and frivolous description, and Selingman, as the
hour grew later, seemed to grow larger and redder and more joyous. The
only hint at any serious conversation came from the musical comedy star
who sat at Norgate's left.
"Do you know our host very well?" she asked Norgate once.
"I am afraid I can't say that I know him well at all," Norgate replied.
"I met him in the train coming from Berlin, a few nights ago."
"He is the most original person," she declared. "He entertains whenever
he has a chance; he makes new friends every hour; he eats and drinks and
seems always to be enjoying himself like an overgrown baby. And yet, all
the time there is such a very serious side to him. One feels that he has
a purpose in it all."
"Perhaps he has," Norgate ventured.
"Perhaps he has," she agreed, lowering her voice a little. "At least, I
believe one thing. I believe that he is a good German and yet a great
friend of England."
"You don't find the two incompatible, then?"
"I do not," the young lady replied firmly. "I do not understand
everything, of course, but I am half German and half English, so I can
appreciate both sides, and I do believe that Mr. Selingman, if he had not
been so immersed in his business, might have been a great politician."
The conversation drifted into other channels. Norgate was obliged to give
some attention to the more frivolous young lady on his right. The general
exodus to the bar smoking-room only took place long after midnight. Every
one was speaking of going on to a supper club to dance, and Norgate
quietly slipped away. He took a hurried leave of his host.
"You will excuse me, won't you?" he begged. "Enjoyed my evening
tremendously. I'd like you to come and dine with me one night."
"We will meet at the club to-morrow afternoon," Selingman declared. "But
why not come on with us now? You are not weary? They are taking me to a
supper club, these young people. I have engaged myself to dance with
Miss Morgen—I, who weigh nineteen stone! It will be a thing to see.
Come with us."
Norgate excused himself and left the place a moment later. It was a fine
night, and he walked slowly towards Pall Mall, deep in thought. Outside
one of the big clubs on the right-hand side, a man descended from a
taxicab just as Norgate was passing. They almost ran into one another.
"Norgate, you reprobate!"
The latter passed his arm through the young man's and led him towards the
"Come in and have a drink," he invited. "I am just up from the House. I
do wish you could get some of your military friends to stop worrying us,
Norgate. Two hours to-night have been absolutely wasted because they
would talk National Service and heckle us about the territorials."
"I'll have the drink, although heaven knows I don't need any!" Norgate
replied. "As for the rest, I am all on the side of the hecklers. You
ought to know that."
They drew two easy-chairs together in a corner of the great, deserted
smoking-room, and Hebblethwaite ordered the whiskies and sodas.
"Yes," he remarked, "I forgot. You are on the other side, aren't you? I
haven't a word to say against the navy. We spend more money than is
necessary upon it, and I stick out for economy whenever I can. But as
regards the army, my theory is that it is useless. It's only a
temptation to us to meddle in things that don't concern us. The navy is
sufficient to defend these shores, if any one were foolish enough to wish
to attack us. If we need an army at all, we should need one ten times the
size, but we don't. Nature has seen to that. Yet tonight, when I was
particularly anxious to get on with some important domestic legislation,
we had to sit and listen to hours of prosy military talk, the
possibilities of this and that. They don't realise, these brain-fogged
ex-military men, that we are living in days of common sense. Before many
years have passed, war will belong to the days of romance."
"For a practical politician, Hebblethwaite," Norgate pronounced, "you
have some of the rottenest ideas I ever knew. You know perfectly well
that if Germany attacked France, we are almost committed to chip in. We
couldn't sit still, could we, and see Calais and Boulogne, Dieppe and
Ostend, fortified against us?"
"If Germany should attack France!" Hebblethwaite repeated. "If Prussia
should send an expeditionary force to Cornwall, or the Siamese should
declare themselves on the side of the Ulster men! We must keep in
politics to possibilities that are reasonable."
"Take another view of the same case, then," Norgate continued. "Supposing
Germany should violate Belgium's independence?"
"You silly idiot!" Hebblethwaite exclaimed, as he took a long draught
of his whisky and soda, lit a cigar, and leaned back in his chair,
"the neutrality of Belgium is guaranteed by a treaty, actually signed
"Supposing she should break her treaty?" Norgate persisted. "I told you
what I heard in the train the other night. It isn't for nothing that that
sort of work is going on."
Hebblethwaite shook his head.
"You are incorrigible, Norgate! Germany is one of the Powers of Europe
undoubtedly possessing a high sense of honour and rectitude of conduct.
If any nation possesses a national conscience, and an appreciation of
national ethics, they do. Germany would be less likely than any nation in
the world to break a treaty."
"Hebblethwaite," Norgate declared solemnly, "if you didn't understand the
temperament and character of your constituents better than you do the
German temperament and character, you would never have set your foot
across the threshold of Westminster. The fact of it is you're a domestic
politician of the very highest order, but as regards foreign affairs and
the greater side of international politics, well, all I can say is you've
as little grasp of them as a local mayor might have."
"Look here, young fellow," Hebblethwaite protested, "do you know that you
are talking to a Cabinet Minister?"
"To a very possible Prime Minister," Norgate replied, "but I am going to
tell you what I think, all the same. I'm fed up with you all. I bring you
some certain and sure information, proving conclusively that Germany is
maintaining an extraordinary system of espionage over here, and you tell
me to mind my own business. I tell you, Hebblethwaite, you and your Party
are thundering good legislators, but you'll ruin the country before
you've finished. I've had enough. It seems to me we thoroughly deserve
the shaking up we're going to get. I am going to turn German spy myself
and work for the other side."
"You do, if there's anything in it," Hebblethwaite retorted, with a grin.
"I promise we won't arrest you. You shall hop around the country at your
own sweet will, preach Teutonic doctrines, and pave the way for the
coming of the conquerors. You'll have to keep away from our arsenals and
our flying places, because our Service men are so prejudiced. Short of
that you can do what you like."
Norgate finished his cigar in silence. Then he threw the end into the
fireplace, finished his whisky and soda, and rose.
"Hebblethwaite," he said, "this is the second time you've treated me like
this. I shall give you another chance. There's just one way I may be of
use, and I am going to take it on. If I get into trouble about it, it
will be your fault, but next time I come and talk with you, you'll have
to listen to me if I shove the words down your throat. Good night!"
"Good night, Norgate," Hebblethwaite replied pleasantly. "What you want
is a week or two's change somewhere, to get this anti-Teuton fever out of
your veins. I think we'll send you to Tokyo and let you have a turn with
the geishas in the cherry groves."
"I wouldn't go out for your Government, anyway," Norgate declared. "I've
given you fair warning. I am going in on the other side. I'm fed up with
the England you fellows represent."
"Nice breezy sort of chap you are for a pal!" Hebblethwaite grumbled.
"Well, get along with you, then. Come and look me up when you're in a
"I shall probably find you in a worse one," Norgate retorted.
* * * * *
It was one o'clock when Norgate let himself into his rooms. To his
surprise, the electric lights were burning in his sitting-room. He
entered a little abruptly and stopped short upon the threshold. A slim
figure in dark travelling clothes, with veil pushed back, was lying
curled up on his sofa. She stirred a little at his coming, opened her
eyes, and looked at him.
Throughout those weeks and months of tangled, lurid sensations, of
amazing happenings which were yet to come, Norgate never once forgot that
illuminative rush of fierce yet sweet feelings which suddenly thrilled
his pulses. He understood in that moment the intolerable depression of
the last few days. He realised the absolute advent of the one experience
hitherto missing from his life. The very intensity of his feelings kept
him silent, kept him unresponsive to her impetuous but unspoken welcome.
Her arms dropped to her side, her lips for a moment quivered. Her voice,
notwithstanding her efforts to control it, shook a little. She was no
longer the brilliant young Court beauty of Vienna. She was a tired and
"You are surprised—I should not have come here! It was such a
She caught up her gloves feverishly, but Norgate's moment of stupefaction
had passed. He clasped her hands.
"Forgive me," he begged. "It is really you—Anna!"
His words were almost incoherent, but his tone was convincing. Her fears
"You don't wonder that I was a little surprised, do you?" he exclaimed.
"You were not only the last person whom I was thinking of, but you
were certainly the last person whom I expected to see in London or to
"But why?" she asked. "I told you that I came often to this country."
"I remember," Norgate admitted. "Yet I never ventured to hope—"
"Of course I should not have come here," she interrupted. "It was absurd
of me, and at such an hour! And yet I am staying only a few hundred yards
away. The temptation to-night was irresistible. I felt as one sometimes
does in this queer, enormous city—lonely. I telephoned, and your
servant, who answered me, said that you were expected back at any moment.
Then I came myself."
"You cannot imagine that I am not glad to see you," he said earnestly.
"I want to believe that you are glad," she answered. "I have been
restless ever since you left. Tell me at once, what did they say to
"I am practically shelved," he told her bitterly. "In twelve months'
time, perhaps, I may be offered something in America or Asia—countries
where diplomacy languishes. In a word, your mighty autocrat has spoken
the word, and I am sacrificed."
She moved towards the window.
"I am stifled!" she exclaimed. "Open it wide, please."
He threw it open. They looked out eastwards. The roar of the night was
passing. Here and there were great black spaces. On the Thames a sky-sign
or two remained. The blue, opalescent glare from the Gaiety dome still
shone. The curving lights which spanned the bridges and fringed the
Embankment still glittered. The air, even here, high up as they were on
the seventh story of the building, seemed heavy and lifeless.
"There is a storm coming," she said. "I have felt it for days."
She stood looking out, pale, her large eyes strained as though seeking to
read something which eluded her in the clouds or the shadows which hung
over the city. She had rather the air of a frightened but eager child.
She rested her fingers upon his arm, not exactly affectionately, but as
though she felt the need of some protection.
"Do you know," she whispered, "the feeling of this storm has been in my
heart for days. I am afraid—afraid for all of us!"
"Afraid of what?" he asked gently.
"Afraid," she went on, "because it seems to me that I can hear, at
times like this, when one is alone, the sound of what one of your
writers called footsteps amongst the hills, footsteps falling upon
wool, muffled yet somehow ominous. There is trouble coming. I know it.
I am sure of it."
"In this country they do not think so," he reminded her. "Most of our
great statesmen of today have come to the conclusion that there will be
no more war."
"You have no great statesmen," she answered simply. "You have plenty of
men who would make very fine local administrators, but you have no
statesmen, or you would have provided for what is coming."
There was a curious conviction in her words, a sense of one speaking who
has seen the truth.
"Tell me," he asked, "is there anything that you know of—"
"Ah! but that I may not tell you," she interrupted, turning away from the
window. "Of myself just now I say nothing—only of you. I am here for a
day or two. It is through me that you have suffered this humiliation. I
wanted to know just how far it went. Is there anything I can do?"
"What could any one do?" he asked. "I am the victim of circumstances."
"But for a whole year!" she exclaimed. "You are not like so many young
Englishmen. You do not wish to spend your time playing polo and golf,
and shooting. You must do something. What are you going to do with
He moved across the room and took a cigarette from a box.
"Give me something to drink, please," she begged.
He opened a cupboard in his sideboard and gave her some soda-water. She
had still the air of waiting for his reply.
"What am I going to do?" he repeated. "Well, here I am with an idle
twelve months. It makes no difference to anybody what time I get up, what
time I go to bed, with whom or how I spend the day. I suppose to some
people it would sound like Paradise. To me it is hateful. Shall I be your
"How do you know that I need a secretary?" she asked.
"How should I?" he replied. "Yet you are not altogether an idler in
life, are you?"
For a moment she did not answer. The silence in the room was almost
impressive. He looked at her over the top of the soda-water syphon whose
handle he was manipulating.
"What do you imagine might be my occupation, then?" she asked.
"I have heard it suggested," he said slowly, "that you have been a useful
intermediary in carrying messages of the utmost importance between the
Kaiser and the Emperor of Austria."
"Your Intelligence Department is not so bad," she remarked. "It is true.
Why not? At the German Court I count for little, perhaps. In Austria my
father was the Emperor's only personal friend. My mother was scarcely
popular there—she was too completely English—but since my father died
the Emperor will scarcely let me stay a week away. Yes, your information
is perhaps true. I will supplement it, if you like. Since our little
affair in the Café de Berlin, the Kaiser, who went out of his way to
insist upon your removal from Berlin, has notified the Emperor that he
would prefer to receive his most private dispatches either through the
regular diplomatic channels or by some other messenger."
Norgate's emphatic expletive was only half-stifled as she continued.
"For myself," she said with a shrug, "I am not sorry. I found it very
interesting, but of late those feelings of which I have told you have
taken hold of me. I have felt as though a terrible shadow were brooding
over the world."
"Let me ask you once more," he begged. "Why are you in London?"
"I received a wire from the Emperor," she explained, "instructing me to
return at once to Vienna. If I go there, I know very well that I shall
not be allowed to leave the city. I have been trusted implicitly, and
they will keep me practically a prisoner. They will think that I may feel
a resentment against the Kaiser, and they will be afraid. Therefore, I
came here. I have every excuse for coming. It is according to my original
plans. You will find that by to-morrow morning I shall have a second
message from Vienna. All the same, I am not sure that I shall go."
There was a ring at the bell. Norgate started, and Anna looked at
"Who is that?" she asked. "Do you see the time?"
Norgate moved to the door and threw it open. A waiter stood there.
"What do you want?" demanded Norgate.
The man pointed to the indicator.
"The bell rang, sir," he replied. "Is there anything I can get for you?"
"I rang no bell," Norgate asserted. "Your indicator must be out of
Norgate would have closed the door, but Anna intervened.
"Tell the waiter I wish to speak to him," she begged.
The man advanced at once into the room and glanced interrogatively at
Anna. She addressed him suddenly in Austrian, and he replied without
hesitation. She nodded. Then she turned to Norgate and laughed softly.
"You see how perfect the system is," she said. "I was followed here,
passed on to your floor-waiter. You are a spy, are you not?" she added,
turning to the man. "But of course you are!"
"Madame!" the man protested. "I do not understand."
"You can go away," she replied. "You can tell Herr Selingman in your
morning's report that I came to Mr. Norgate's rooms at an early hour in
the morning and spent an hour talking with him. You can go now."
The man withdrew without remark. He was a quiet, inoffensive-looking
person, with sallow complexion, suave but silent manners. Norgate closed
the door behind him.
"A victim of the system which all Europe knows of except you people,"
she remarked lightly. "Well, after this I must be careful. Walk with me
to my hotel."
"Of course," he assented.
They made their way along the silent corridors to the lift, out into the
streets, empty of traffic now save for the watering-carts and street
"Will there be trouble for you," Norgate asked at last, "because of
"There is more trouble in my own heart," she told him quietly. "I feel
strangely disturbed, uncertain which way to move. Let me take your
arm—so. I like to walk like that. Somehow I think, Mr. Francis Norgate,
that that little fracas in the Café de Berlin is going to make a great
difference in both our lives. I know now what I had begun to believe.
Like all the trusted agents of sovereigns, I have become an object of
suspicion. Well, we shall see. At least I am glad to know that there is
some one whom I can trust. Perhaps to-morrow I will tell you all that is
in my heart. We might even, if you wished it, if you were willing to face
a few risks, we might even work together to hold back the thunder. So!
Good night, my friend," she added, turning suddenly around.
He held her hand for a moment as they stood together on the pavement
outside her hotel. For a single moment he fancied that there was a change
in that curious personal aloofness which seemed so distinctive of her. It
passed, however, as she turned from him with her usual half-insolent,
half gracious little nod.
"To-morrow," she directed, "you must ring me up. Let it be at
The Ambassador glanced at the clock as he entered his library to greet
his early morning visitor. It was barely nine o'clock.
"Dear friend," he exclaimed, as he held out his hands, "I am distressed
to keep you waiting! Such zeal in our affairs must, however, not remain
unnoticed. I will remember it in my reports."
Anna smiled as he stooped to kiss her fingers.
"I had special reasons," she explained, "for my haste. I was
disappointed, indeed, that I could not see you last night."
"I was at Windsor," her host remarked. "Now come, sit there in the
easy-chair by the side of my table. My secretaries have not yet arrived.
We shall be entirely undisturbed. I have ordered coffee here, of which we
will partake together. A compromising meal to share, dear Baroness, but
in the library of my own house it may be excused. The Princess sends her
love. She will be glad if you will go to her apartments after we have
finished our talk."
A servant entered with a tray, spread a cloth on a small round table,
upon which he set out coffee, with rolls and butter and preserves. For a
few moments they talked lightly of the weather, of her crossing, of
mutual friends in Berlin and Vienna. Then Anna, as soon as they were
alone, leaned a little forward in her chair.
"You know that I have a sort of mission to you," she said. "I should not
call it that, perhaps, but it comes to very nearly the same thing. The
Emperor has charged me to express to you and to Count Lanyoki his most
earnest desire that if the things should come which we know of, you both
maintain your position here at any cost. The Emperor's last words to me
were: 'If war is to come, it may be the will of God. We are ready, but
there is one country which must be kept from the ranks of our enemies.
That country is England. England must be dealt with diplomatically.' He
looks across the continent to you, Prince. This is the friendly message
which I have brought from his own lips."
The Prince stirred his coffee thoughtfully. He was a man just passing
middle-age, with grey hair, thin in places but carefully trimmed, brushed
sedulously back from his high forehead. His moustache, too, was grey, and
his face was heavily lined, but his eyes, clear and bright, were almost
the eyes of a young man.
"You can reassure the Emperor," he declared. "As you may imagine, my
supply of information here is plentiful. If those things should come that
we know of, it is my firm belief that with some reasonable yet nominal
considerations, this Government will never lend itself to war."
"You really believe that?" she asked earnestly.
"I do," her companion assured her. "I try to be fair in my judgments.
London is a pleasant city to live in, and English people are agreeable
and well-bred, but they are a people absolutely without vital impulses.
Patriotism belongs to their poetry books. Indolence has stagnated their
blood. They are like a nation under a spell, with their faces turned
towards the pleasant and desirable things. Only a few months ago, they
even further reduced the size of their ridiculous army and threw cold
water upon a scheme for raising untrained help in case of emergency. Even
their navy estimates are passed with difficulty. The Government which is
conducting the destinies of a people like this, which believes that war
belongs to a past age, is never likely to become a menace to us."
Anna drew a little sigh and lit the cigarette which the Prince passed
her. She threw herself back in her chair with an air of contentment.
"It is so pleasant once more to be among the big things," she declared.
"In Berlin I think they are not fond of me, and they are so pompous and
secretive. Tell me, dear Prince, will you not be kinder to me? Tell me
what is really going to happen?"
He moved his chair a little closer to hers.
"I see no reason," he said cautiously, "why you should not be told.
Events, then, will probably move in this direction. Provocation will be
given by Servia. That is easily arranged. Tension will be caused, Austria
will make enormous demands, Russia will remonstrate, and, before any one
has time to breathe, the clouds will part to let the lightnings through.
If anything, we are over-ready, straining with over-readiness."
"And the plan of campaign?"
"Austria and Italy," the Prince continued slowly, "will easily keep
Russia in check. Germany will seize Belgium and rush through to Paris.
She will either impose her terms there or leave a second-class army to
conclude the campaign. There will be plenty of time for her then to turn
back and fall in with her allies against Russia."
"And England?" Anna asked. "Supposing?"
The Prince tapped the table with his forefinger.
"Here," he announced, "we conquer with diplomacy. We have imbued the
present Cabinet, even the Minister who is responsible for the army, with
the idea that we stand for peace. We shall seem to be the attacked party
in this war. We shall say to England—'Remain neutral. It is not your
quarrel, and we will be capable of a great act of self-sacrifice. We will
withhold our fleet from bombarding the French towns. England could do no
more than deal with our fleet if she were at war. She shall do the same
without raising a finger.' No country could refuse so sane and
businesslike an offer, especially a country which will at once count upon
its fingers how much it will save by not going to war."
The Prince shrugged his shoulders. "Afterwards is inevitable."
"Please go on," she insisted.
"We shall occupy the whole of the coast from Antwerp to Havre. The
indemnity which France and Russia will pay us will make us the mightiest
nation on earth. We shall play with England as a cat with a mouse, and
when the time comes…. Well, perhaps that will do," the Prince
Anna was silent for several moments.
"I am a woman, you know," she said simply, "and this sounds, in a way,
terrible. Yet for months I have felt it coming."
"There is nothing terrible about it," the Prince replied, "if you keep
the great principles of progress always before you. If a million or so
of lives are sacrificed, the great Germany of the future, gathering
under her wings the peoples of the world, will raise them to a pitch
of culture and contentment and happiness which will more than atone
for the sacrifices of to-day. It is, after all, the future to which we
A telephone bell rang at the Prince's elbow. He listened for a moment
"An urgent visitor demands a moment of my time," he said, rising.
"I have taken already too much," Anna declared, "but I felt it was time
that I heard the truth. They fence with me so in Berlin, and, believe me,
Prince Herschfeld, in Vienna the Emperor is almost wholly ignorant of
what is planned."
The door was opened behind them. The Prince turned around. A young man
had ushered in Herr Selingman. For a moment the latter looked steadily at
Anna. Then he glanced at the Ambassador as though questioningly.
"You two must have met," the Prince murmured.
"We have met," Anna declared, smiling, as she made her way towards the
door, "but we do not know one another. It is best like that. Herr
Selingman and I work in the same army—"
"But I, madame, am the sergeant," Selingman interrupted, with a low bow,
"whilst you are upon the staff."
She laughed as she made her adieux and departed. The door closed heavily
behind her. Selingman came a little further into the room.
"You have read your dispatches this morning, Prince?" he asked.
"Not yet," the latter replied. "Is there news, then?"
Selingman pointed to the closed door. "You have spoken for long
"Naturally," the Prince assented. "She is a confidential friend of the
Emperor. She has been entrusted for the last two years with all the
private dispatches between Vienna and Berlin."
"In your letters you will find news," Selingman declared. "She is
pronounced suspect. She is under my care at this moment. A report was
brought to me half an hour ago that she was here. I came on at once
myself. I trust that I am in time?"
The Prince stood quite silent for a moment.
"Fortunately," he answered coolly, "I have told her nothing."
As Norgate entered the premises of Selingman, Horsfal and Company a
little later on the same morning he looked around him in some surprise.
He had expected to find a deserted warehouse—probably only an office. He
saw instead all the evidences of a thriving and prosperous business.
Drays were coming and going from the busy door. Crates were piled up to
the ceiling, clerks with notebooks in their hands passed continually back
and forth. A small boy in a crowded office accepted his card and
disappeared. In a few minutes he led Norgate into a waiting-room and
handed him a paper.
"Mr. Selingman is engaged with a buyer for a few moments, sir," he
reported. "He will see you presently."
Norgate looked through the windows out into the warehouse. There was no
doubt whatever that this was a genuine and considerable trading concern.
Presently the door of the inner office opened, and he heard Mr.
Selingman's hearty tones.
"You have done well for yourself and well for your firm, sir," he was
saying. "There is no one in Germany or in the world who can produce
crockery at the price we do. They will give you a confirmation of the
order in the office. Ah! my young friend," he went on, turning to
Norgate, "you have kept your word, then. You are not a customer, but you
may walk in. I shall make no money out of you, but we will talk
Norgate passed on into a comfortably furnished office, a little redolent
of cigar smoke. Selingman bit off the end of a cigar and pushed the box
towards his visitor.
"Try one of these," he invited. "German made, but Havana
tobacco—mild as milk."
"Thank you," Norgate answered. "I don't smoke cigars in the morning. I'll
have a cigarette, if I may."
"As you will. What do you think of us now that you have found your
"Your business seems to be genuine enough, at all events," Norgate
"Genuine? Of course it is!" Selingman declared emphatically. "Do you
think I should be fool enough to be connected with a bogus affair? My
father and my grandfather before me were manufacturers of crockery. I can
assure you that I am a very energetic and a very successful business man.
If I have interests in greater things, those interests have developed
naturally, side by side with my commercial success. When I say that I am
a German, that to me means more, much more, than if I were to declare
myself a native of any other country in the world. Sit opposite to me
there. I have a quarter of an hour to spare. I can show you, if you will,
over a thousand designs of various articles. I can show you
orders—genuine orders, mind—from some of your big wholesale houses,
which would astonish you. Or, if you prefer it, we can talk of affairs
from another point of view. What do you say?"
"My interest in your crockery," Norgate announced, "is non-existent. I
have come to hear your offer. I have decided to retire—temporarily, at
any rate—from the Diplomatic Service. I understand that I am in
disgrace, and I resent it. I resent having had to leave Berlin except at
my own choice. I am looking for a job in some other walk of life."
Selingman nodded approvingly.
"Forgive me," he said, "but it is true, then, that you are in some way
dependent upon your profession?"
"I am not a pauper outside it," Norgate replied, "but that is not the
sole question. I need work, an interest in life, something to think
about. I must either find something to do, or I shall go to Abyssinia. I
should prefer an occupation here."
"I can help you," Selingman said slowly, "if you are a young man of
common sense. I can put you in the way of earning, if you will, a
thousand pounds a year and your travelling expenses, without interfering
very much with your present mode of life."
Selingman flicked the ash from the end of his cigar. He shook his head
"I am a judge of character, young man," he declared. "I pride myself upon
that accomplishment. I know very well that in you we have one with
brains. Nevertheless, I do not believe that you would sell my crockery."
"It seems easy enough," Norgate observed.
"It may seem easy," Selingman objected, "but it is not. You have not, I
am convinced, the gifts of a salesman. You would not reason and argue
with these obstinate British shopkeepers. No! Your value to me would lie
in other directions—in your social position, your opportunities of
meeting with a class above the commercial one in which I have made my few
English friends, and in your own intelligence."
"I scarcely see of what value these things would be to a vendor of
"They would be of no value at all," Selingman admitted. "It is not in the
crockery business that I propose to make use of you. I believe that we
both know that. We may dismiss it from our minds. It is only fencing with
words. I will take you a little further. You have heard, by chance, of
the Anglo-German Peace Society?"
"The name sounds familiar," Norgate confessed. "I can't say that I know
anything about it."
"It was I who inaugurated that body," Selingman announced. "It is I who
direct its interests."
"Congratulate you, I'm sure. You must find it uphill work sometimes."
"It is uphill work all the time," the German agreed. "Our great object
is, as you can guess from the title, to promote good-feeling between the
two countries, to heal up all possible breaches, to soothe and dispel
that pitiful jealousy, of which, alas! too much exists. It is not easy,
Mr. Norgate. It is not easy, my young friend. I meet with many
disappointments. Yet it is a great and worthy undertaking."
"It sounds all right," Norgate observed. "Where do I come in?"
"I will explain. To carry out the aims of our society, there is much
information which we are continually needing. People in Germany are often
misled by the Press here. Facts and opinions are presented to them often
from an unpalatable point of view. Furthermore, there is a section of the
Press which, so far from being on our side, seems deliberately to try to
stir up ill-feeling between the two countries. We want to get behind the
Press. For that purpose we need to know the truth about many matters; and
as the truth is a somewhat rare commodity, we are willing to pay for it.
Now we come face to face. It will be your business, if you accept my
offer, to collect such facts as may be useful to us."
"I see," Norgate remarked dubiously, "or rather I don't see at all. Give
me an example of the sort of facts you require."
Mr. Selingman leaned a little forward in his chair. He was warming to
"By all means. There is the Irish question, then."
"The Irish question," Norgate repeated. "But of what interest can that be
to you in Germany?"
"Listen," Selingman continued. "Just as you in London have great
newspapers which seem to devote themselves to stirring up bitter feeling
between our two countries, so we, alas! in Germany, have newspapers and
journals which seem to devote all their energies to the same object. Now
in this Irish question the action of your Government has been very much
misrepresented in that section of our Press and much condemned. I should
like to get at the truth from an authoritative source. I should like to
get it in such a form that I can present it fairly and honestly to the
public of Germany."
"That sounds reasonable enough," Norgate admitted. "There are several
"I do not want pamphlets," Selingman interrupted. "I want an actual
report from Ulster and Dublin of the state of feeling in the country,
and, if possible, interviews with prominent people. For this the society
would pay a bonus over and above the travelling expenses and your salary.
If you accept my offer, this is probably one of the first tasks I should
commit to you."
"Give me a few more examples," Norgate begged.
"Another subject," Selingman continued, "upon which there is wide
divergence of opinions in Germany, and a great deal of misrepresentation,
is the attitude of certain of your Cabinet Ministers towards the French
entente: how far they would support it, at what they would stop short."
"Isn't that rather a large order?" Norgate ventured. "I don't number
many Cabinet Ministers among my personal friends."
Selingman puffed away at his cigar for a moment. Then he withdrew it
from his mouth and expelled large volumes of smoke.
"You are, I believe, intimately acquainted with Mr. Hebblethwaite?"
"How the mischief did you know that?" Norgate demanded.
"Our society," Selingman announced, smiling ponderously, "has
ramifications in every direction. It is our business to know much. We are
collectors of information of every sort and nature."
"Seems to have been part of your business to follow me about,"
"Perhaps so. If we thought it good for us to have you followed about, we
certainly should," Selingman admitted. "You see, in Germany," he added,
leaning back in his chair, "we lay great stress upon detail and
intelligence. We get to know things: not the smattering of things, like
you over here are too often content with, but to know them thoroughly and
understand them. Nothing ever takes us by surprise. We are always
forewarned. So far as any one can, we read the future."
"You are a very great nation, without a doubt," Norgate acknowledged,
"but my quarter of an hour is coming to an end. Tell me what else you
would expect from me if I accepted this post?"
"For the moment, I can think of nothing," Selingman replied. "There are
many ways in which we might make use of you, but to name them now would
be to look a little too far into the future."
"By whom should I really be employed?"
"By the Anglo-German Peace Society," Selingman answered promptly. "Let
me say a word more about that society. I am proud of it. I am one of
those prominent business men who are responsible for its initiation. I
have given years of time and thought to it. All our efforts are directed
towards promoting a better understanding with England, towards teaching
the two countries to appreciate one another. But in the background there
is always something else. It is useless to deny that the mistrust
existing between the two countries has brought them more than once
almost to the verge of war. What we want is to be able, at critical
times, to throw oil upon the troubled waters, and if the worst should
come, if a war really should break out, then we want to be able to act
as peacemakers, to heal as soon as possible any little sores that there
may be, and to enter afterwards upon a greater friendship with a
"It sounds very interesting," Norgate confessed. "I had an idea that you
were proposing something quite different."
"To be perfectly frank with you," Norgate acknowledged, "I thought you
wanted me to do the ordinary spy business—traces of fortresses, and
particulars about guns and aeroplanes—"
"Rubbish, my dear fellow!" Selingman interrupted. "Rubbish! Those things
we leave to our military department, and pray that the question of their
use may never arise. We are concerned wholly with economic and social
questions, and our great aim is not war but peace."
"Very well, then," Norgate decided, "I accept. When shall I start?"
Selingman laid his hand upon the other's shoulder as he rose to his feet.
"Young man," he said, "you have come to a wise decision. Your salary will
commence from the first of this month. Continue to live as usual. Let me
have the opportunity of seeing you at the club, and let me know each day
where you can be found. I will give you your instructions from day to
day. You will be doing a great work, and, mind you, a patriotic work. If
ever your conscience should trouble you, remember that. You are working
not for Germany but for England."
"I will always remember that," Norgate promised, as he turned away.
Norgate found Anna waiting for him in the hall of the smaller hotel,
a little further westward, to which she had moved. He looked
admiringly at her cool white muslin gown and the perfection of her
somewhat airy toilette.
"You are five minutes late," she remonstrated.
"I had to go into the city," he apologised. "It was rather an important
engagement. Soon I must tell you all about it."
She looked at him a little curiously.
"I will be patient," promised Anna, "and ask no questions."
"You are still depressed?"
"Horribly," she confessed. "I do not know why, but London is getting on
my nerves. It is so hatefully, stubbornly, obstinately imperturbable. I
would find another word, but it eludes me. I think you would call it
smug. And it is so noisy. Can we not go somewhere for lunch where it is
tranquil, where one can rest and get away from this roar?"
"We could go to Ranelagh, if you liked," suggested Norgate. "There
are some polo matches on this afternoon, but it will be quiet enough
"I should love it!" she exclaimed. "Let us go quickly."
They lunched in a shady corner of the restaurant and sat afterwards
under a great oak tree in a retired spot at the further end of the
gardens. Anna was still a little thoughtful.
"Do you know," she told her companion, "that I have received a hint to
present myself in Berlin as soon as possible?"
"Are you going?" Norgate demanded quickly.
"I am not sure," she answered. "I feel that I must, and yet, in a sense,
I do not like to go. I have a feeling that they do not mean to let me out
of Berlin again. They think that I know too much."
"But why should they suddenly lose faith in you?" Norgate asked.
"Perhaps because the end is so near," she replied. "They know that I have
strong English sympathies. Perhaps they think that they would not bear
the strain of the times which are coming."
"You are an even greater pessimist than I myself," Norgate observed. "Do
you really believe that the position is so critical?"
"I know it," she assured him. "I will not tell you all my reasons. There
is no need for me to break a trust without some definite object. It seems
to me that if your Secret Service Department were worth anything at all,
your country would be in a state almost of panic. What is it they are
playing down there? Polo, isn't it? There are six or eight military
teams, crowds of your young officers making holiday. And all the time
Krupps are working overtime, working night and day, and surrounded by
sentries who shoot at sight any stranger. There are parts of the country,
even now, under martial law. The streets and the plains resound to the
footsteps of armed hosts."
"But there is no excuse for war," he reminded her.
"An excuse is very easily found," she sighed. "German diplomacy is clumsy
enough, but I think it can manage that. Do you know that this morning I
had a letter from one of the greatest nobles of our own Court at Vienna?
He knew that I had intended to take a villa in Normandy for August and
September. He has written purposely to warn me not to do so, to warn me
not to be away from Austria or Germany after the first of August."
"So soon!" he murmured.
They listened to the band for a moment. In the distance, an unceasing
stream of men and women were passing back and forth under the trees and
around the polo field.
"It will come like a thunderbolt," she said, "and when I think of it, all
that is English in me rises up in revolt. In my heart I know so well that
it is Germany and Germany alone who will provoke this war. I am terrified
for your country. I admit it, you see, frankly. The might of Germany is
only half understood here. It is to be a war of conquest, almost of
"That isn't the view of your friend Selingman," Norgate reminded her.
"He, too, hints at coming trouble, but he speaks of it as just a salutary
"Selingman, more than any one else in the world, knows differently," she
assured him. "But come, we talk too seriously on such a wonderful
afternoon. I have made up my mind on one point, at least. I will stay
here for a few days longer. London at this time of the year is wonderful.
Besides, I have promised the Princess of Thurm that I will go to Ascot
with her. Why should we talk of serious things any longer? Let us have a
little rest. Let us promenade there with those other people, and listen
to the band, and have some tea afterwards."
Norgate rose with alacrity, and they strolled across the lawns and down
towards the polo field. Very soon they found themselves meeting friends
in every direction. Anna extricated herself from a little group of
acquaintances who had suddenly claimed her and came over to Norgate.
"Prince Herschfeld wants to talk to me for a few minutes," she whispered.
"I think I should like to hear what he has to say. The Princess is there,
too, whom I have scarcely seen. Will you come and be presented?"
"Might I leave you with them for a few minutes?" Norgate suggested.
"There is a man here whom I want to talk to. I will come back for you in
half an hour."
"You must meet the Prince first," she insisted. "He was interested when
he heard who you were."
She turned to the little group who were awaiting her return. The
Ambassador moved a little forward.
"Prince," she said, "may I present to you Mr. Francis Norgate? Mr.
Norgate has just come from Berlin."
"Not with the kindliest feelings towards us, I am afraid," remarked the
Prince, holding out his hand. "I hope, however, that you will not judge
us, as a nation, too severely."
"On the contrary, I was quite prepared to like Germany," Norgate
declared. "I was simply the victim of a rather unfortunate happening."
"There are many others besides myself who sincerely regret it," the
Prince said courteously. "You are kind enough to leave the Baroness for a
little time in our charge. We will take the greatest care of her, and I
hope that when you return you will give me the great pleasure of
presenting you to the Princess."
"You are very kind," Norgate murmured.
"We shall meet again, then," the Prince declared, as he turned away with
Anna by his side.
"In half an hour," Anna whispered, smiling at him over her shoulder.
The Right Honourable John William Hebblethwaite strolled along by the
rails of the polo ground, exchanging greetings with friends, feeling very
well content with himself and the world generally. A difficult session
was drawing towards an end. The problem which had defeated so many
governments seemed at last, under his skilful treatment, capable of
solution. Furthermore, the session had been one which had added to his
reputation both as an orator and a statesman. There had been an
astonishingly flattering picture of him in an illustrated paper that
week, and he was exceedingly pleased with the effect of the white hat
which he was wearing at almost a jaunty angle. He was a great man and he
knew it. Nevertheless, he greeted Norgate with ample condescension and
engaged him at once in conversation.
"Delighted to see you in such company, my young friend," he declared.
"I think that half an hour's conversation with Prince Herschfeld would
put some of those fire-eating ideas out of your head. That's the man
whom we have to thank for the everyday improvement of our relations
"The Prince has the reputation of being a great diplomatist,"
"Added to which," Hebblethwaite continued, "he came over here charged,
as you might say, almost with a special mission. He came over here to
make friends with England. He has done it. So long as we have him in
London, there will never be any serious fear of misunderstanding between
the two countries."
"What a howling optimist you are!" Norgate observed.
"My young friend," Hebblethwaite protested, "I am nothing of the sort. I
am simply a man of much common sense, enjoying, I may add, a few hours'
holiday. By-the-by, Norgate, if one might venture to enquire without
indiscretion, who was the remarkably charming foreign lady whom you were
"The Baroness von Haase," Norgate replied. "She is an Austrian."
Mr. Hebblethwaite sighed. He rather posed as an admirer of the other sex.
"You young fellows," he declared, "who travel about the world, are much
to be envied. There is an elegance about the way these foreign women
dress, a care for detail in their clothes and jewellery, and a carriage
which one seldom finds here."
They had reached the far end of the field, having turned their backs, in
fact, upon the polo altogether. Norgate suddenly abandoned their
"Look here," he said, in an altered tone, "do you feel inclined to answer
a few questions?"
"For publication?" Hebblethwaite asked drily. "You haven't turned
journalist, by any chance, have you?"
Norgate shook his head. "Nevertheless," he admitted, "I have changed my
profession. The fact is that I have accepted a stipend of a thousand a
year and have become a German spy."
"Good luck to you!" exclaimed Hebblethwaite, laughing softly. "Well, fire
away, then. You shall pick the brains of a Cabinet Minister at your
leisure, so long as you'll give me a cigarette—and present me, when we
have finished, to the Baroness. The country has no secrets from you,
Norgate. Where will you begin?"
"Well, you've been warned, any way," Norgate reminded him, as he offered
his cigarette case. "Now tell me. It is part of my job to obtain from you
a statement of your opinion as to exactly how far our entente with
France is binding upon us."
Hebblethwaite cleared his throat.
"If this is for publication," he remarked, "could you manage a photograph
of myself at the head of the interview, in these clothes and with this
hat? I rather fancy myself to-day. A pocket kodak is, of course, part of
the equipment of a German spy."
"Sorry," Norgate regretted, "but that's a bit out of my line. I am the
disappointed diplomatist, doing the dirty work among my late friends.
What we should like to know from Mr. Hebblethwaite, confidentially
narrated to a personal friend, is whether, in the event of a war between
Germany and Russia and France, England would feel it her duty to
Hebblethwaite glanced around. The throng of people had cleared off to
watch the concluding stages of the match.
"I have a sovereign on this," he remarked, glancing at his card.
"Which have you backed?" Norgate enquired.
"Well, it's any odds on the Hussars, so you've lost your money,"
Norgate told him.
Hebblethwaite sighed resignedly. "Well," he said, "the question you
submit is a problem which has presented itself to us once or twice,
although I may tell you that there isn't a soul in the Cabinet except one
who believes in the chance of war. We are not a fire-eating lot, you
know. We are all for peace, and we believe we are going to have it.
However, to answer your questions more closely, our obligations depend
entirely upon the provocation giving cause for the war. If France and
Russia provoked it in any way, we should remain neutral. If it were a war
of sheer aggression from Germany against France, we might to a certain
extent intervene. There is not one of us, however, who believes for a
single moment that Germany would enter upon such a war."
"When you admit that we might to a certain extent intervene," Norgate
said, "exactly how should we do it, I wonder? We are not in a
particular state of readiness to declare war upon anybody or anything,
are we?" he added, as they turned around and strolled once more towards
the polo ground.
"We have had no money to waste upon senseless armaments," Mr.
Hebblethwaite declared severely, "and if you watch the social measures
which we have passed during the last two years, you will see that every
penny we could spare has been necessary in order to get them into working
order. It is our contention that an army is absolutely unnecessary and
would simply have the effect of provoking military reprisals. If we, by
any chance in the future, were drawn into war, our navy would be at the
service of our allies. What more could any country ask than to have
assured for them the absolute control of the sea?"
"That's all very well," Norgate assented. "It might be our fair share on
paper, and yet it might not be enough. What about our navy if Antwerp,
Ostend, Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne, and Havre were all German ports, as
they certainly would be in an unassisted conflict between the French and
They were within hearing now of the music of the band. Hebblethwaite
quickened his pace a little impatiently.
"Look here," he protested, "I came down here for a holiday, I tell you
frankly that I believe in the possibility of war just as much as I
believe in the possibility of an earthquake. My own personal feeling is
that it is just as necessary to make preparations against one as the
other. There you are, my German spy, that's all I have to say to you.
Here are your friends. I must pay my respects to the Prince, and I should
like to meet your charming companion."
Anna detached herself from a little group of men at their approach, and
Norgate at once introduced his friend.
"I have only been able to induce Mr. Hebblethwaite to talk to me for the
last ten minutes," he declared, "by promising to present him to you."
"A ceremony which we will take for granted," she suggested, holding out
her fingers. "Each time I have come to London, Mr. Hebblethwaite, I have
hoped that I might have this good fortune. You interest us so much on the
Mr. Hebblethwaite bowed and looked as though he would have liked the
interest to have been a little more personal.
"You see," Anna explained, as she stood between the two men, "both
Austria and Germany, the two countries where I spend most of my time, are
almost military ridden. Our great statesmen, or the men who stand behind
them, are all soldiers. You represent something wholly different. Your
nation is as great and as prosperous as ours, and yet you are a pacifist,
are you not, Mr. Hebblethwaite? You scorn any preparations for war. You
do not believe in it. You give back the money that we should spend in
military or naval preparations to the people, for their betterment. It is
"We act according to our convictions," Mr. Hebblethwaite pronounced. "It
is our earnest hope that we have risen sufficiently in the scale of
civilisation to be able to devote our millions to more moral objects than
the massing of armaments."
"And you have no fears?" she persisted earnestly. "You honestly believe
that you are justified in letting the fighting spirit of your people
"I honestly believe it, Baroness," Mr. Hebblethwaite replied. "Life is a
battle for all of them, but the fighting which we recognise is the fight
for moral and commercial supremacy, the lifting of the people by
education and strenuous effort to a higher plane of prosperity."
"Of course," Anna murmured, "what you say sounds frightfully convincing.
History only will tell us whether you are in the right."
"My thirst," Mr. Hebblethwaite observed, glancing towards the little
tables set out under the trees, "suggests tea and strawberries."
"If some one hadn't offered me tea in a moment or two," Anna declared, "I
should have gone back to the Prince, with whom I must confess I was very
bored. Shall we discuss politics or talk nonsense?"
"Talk nonsense," Mr. Hebblethwaite decided. "This is my holiday. My brain
has stopped working. I can think of nothing beyond tea and strawberries.
We will take that table under the elm trees, and you shall tell us all
Norgate, after leaving Anna at her hotel, drove on to the club, where he
arrived a few minutes before seven. Selingman was there with Prince
Edward, and half a dozen others. Selingman, who happened not to be
playing, came over at once and sat by his side on the broad fender.
"You are late, my young friend," he remarked.
"My new career," Norgate replied, "makes demands upon me. I can no longer
spend the whole afternoon playing bridge. I have been attending to
"It is very good," Selingman declared amiably. "That is the way I like to
hear you talk. To amuse oneself is good, but to work is better still.
Have you, by chance, any report to make?"
"I have had a long conversation with Mr. Hebblethwaite at Ranelagh this
afternoon," Norgate announced.
There was a sudden change in Selingman's expression, a glint of eagerness
in his eyes.
"With Hebblethwaite! You have begun well. He is the man above all others
of whose views we wish to feel absolutely certain. We know that he is a
strong man and a pacifist, but a pacifist to what extent? That is what we
wish to be clear about. Now tell me, you spoke to him seriously?"
"Very seriously, indeed," Norgate assented. "The subject suggested
itself naturally, and I contrived to get him to discuss the possibilities
of a European war. I posed rather as a pessimist, but he simply jeered at
me. He assured me that an earthquake was more probable. I pressed him on
the subject of the entente. He spoke of it as a thing of romance and
sentiment, having no place in any possible development of the
international situation. I put hypothetical cases of a European war
before him, but he only scoffed at me. On one point only was he
absolutely and entirely firm—under no circumstances whatever would the
present Cabinet declare war upon anybody. If the nation found itself face
to face with a crisis, the Government would simply choose the most
dignified and advantageous solution which embraced peace. In short, there
is one thing which you may count upon as absolutely certain. If England
goes to war at any time within the next four years, it will be under some
Selingman was vastly interested. He had drawn very close to Norgate, his
pudgy hands stretched out upon his knees. He dropped his voice so that it
was audible only a few feet away.
"Let me put an extreme case," he suggested. "Supposing Russia and Germany
were at war, and France, as Russia's ally, were compelled to mobilise. It
would not be a war of Germany's provocation, but Germany, in
self-defence, would be bound to attack France. She might also be
compelled by strategic considerations to invade Belgium. What do you
think your friend Hebblethwaite would say to that?"
"I am perfectly convinced," Norgate replied, "that Hebblethwaite would
work for peace at any price. The members of our present Government are
pacifists, every one of them, with the possible exception of the
Secretary of the Admiralty."
"Ah!" Mr. Selingman murmured. "Mr. Spencer Wyatt! He is the gentleman who
clamours so hard and fights so well for his navy estimates. Last time,
though, not all his eloquence could prevail. They were cut down almost a
"I believe that was so," Norgate admitted.
"Mr. Spencer Wyatt, eh?" Selingman continued, his eyes fixed upon the
ceiling. "Well, well, one cannot wonder at his attitude. It is not his
role to pose as an economist. He is responsible for the navy.
Naturally he wants a big navy. I wonder what his influence in the
Cabinet really is."
"As to that," Norgate observed, "I know no more than the man in
"Naturally," Mr. Selingman agreed. "I was thinking to myself."
There was a brief silence. Norgate glanced around the room.
"I don't see Mrs. Benedek here this afternoon," he remarked.
Selingman shook his head solemnly.
"The inquest on the death of that poor fellow Baring is being held
to-day," he explained. "That is why she is staying away. A sad thing
that, Norgate—a very sad happening."
"It was indeed."
"And mysterious," Selingman went on. "The man apparently, an hour before,
was in high spirits. The special work upon which he was engaged at the
Admiralty was almost finished. He had received high praise for his share
in it. Every one who had seen him that day spoke of him as in absolutely
capital form. Suddenly he whips out a revolver from his desk and shoots
himself, and all that any one knows is that he was rung up by some one on
the telephone. There's a puzzle for you, Norgate."
Norgate made no reply. He felt Selingman's eyes upon him.
"A wonderful plot for the sensational novelist. To the ordinary human
being who knew Baring, there remains a substratum almost of uneasiness.
Where did that voice come from that spoke along the wires, and what was
its message? Baring, by all accounts, had no secrets in his life. What
was the message—a warning or a threat?"
"I did not read the account of the inquest," Norgate observed. "Wasn't it
possible to trace the person who rang up, through the telephone office?"
"In an ordinary case, yes," Selingman agreed. "In this case, no! The
person who rang up made use of a call office. But come, it is a gloomy
subject, this. I wish I had known that you were likely to see Mr.
Hebblethwaite this afternoon. Bear this in mind in case you should come
across him again. It would interest me very much to know whether any
breach of friendship has taken place at all between him and Mr. Spencer
Wyatt. Do you know Spencer Wyatt, by-the-by?"
"Only slightly," Norgate replied, "Not well enough to talk to him
intimately, as I can do to Hebblethwaite."
"Well, remember that last little commission," Selingman concluded. "Are
you staying on or leaving now? If you are going, we will walk together. A
little exercise is good for me sometimes. My figure requires it. It is a
very short distance, but it is better than nothing at all."
"I am quite ready," Norgate assured him.
They left the room and descended the stairs together. At the entrance
to the building, Selingman paused for a moment. Then he seemed suddenly
"It is habit," he declared. "I stand here for a taxi, but we have agreed
to walk, is it not so? Come!"
Norgate was looking across the street to the other side of the pavement.
A man was standing there, engaged in conversation with a plainly-dressed
young woman. To Norgate there was something vaguely familiar about the
latter, who turned to glance at him as they strolled by on the other side
of the road. It was not until they reached the corner of the street,
however, that he remembered. She was the young woman at the telephone
call office near Westbourne Grove!
Mr. Hebblethwaite was undoubtedly annoyed. He found himself regretting
more than ever the good nature which had prompted him to give this
visitor an audience at a most unusual hour. He had been forced into the
uncomfortable position of listening to statements the knowledge of which
was a serious embarrassment to him.
"Whatever made you come to me, Mr. Harrison?" he exclaimed, when at last
his caller's disclosures had been made. "It isn't my department."
"I came to you, sir," the official replied, "because I have the privilege
of knowing you personally, and because I was quite sure that in your
hands the matter would be treated wisely."
"You are sure of your facts, I suppose?"
"I do not know much about navy procedure," Mr. Hebblethwaite said
thoughtfully, "but it scarcely seems to me possible for what you tell me
to have been kept secret."
"It is not only possible, sir," the man assured him, "but it has been
done before in Lord Charles Beresford's time. You will find, if you make
enquiries, that not only are the Press excluded to-day from the
shipbuilding yards in question, but the work-people are living almost in
barracks. There are double sentries at every gate, and no one is
permitted under any circumstances to pass the outer line of offices."
Mr. Hebblethwaite sat, for a few moments, deep in thought.
"Well, Mr. Harrison," he said at last, "there is no doubt that you have
done what you conceived to be your duty, although I must tell you
frankly that I wish you had either kept what you know to yourself or
taken the information somewhere else. Since you have brought it to me,
let me ask you this question. Are you taking any further steps in the
matter at all?"
"Certainly not, sir," was the quiet reply. "I consider that I have done
my duty and finished with it, when I leave this room."
"You are content, then," Mr. Hebblethwaite observed, "to leave this
matter entirely in my hands?"
"Entirely, sir," the official assented. "I am perfectly content, from
this moment, to forget all that I know. Whatever your judgment prompts
you to do, will, I feel sure, be satisfactory."
Mr. Hebblethwaite rose to his feet and held out his hand.
"Well, Mr. Harrison," he concluded, "you have performed a disagreeable
duty in a tactful manner. Personally, I am not in the least grateful to
you, for, as I dare say you know, Mr. Spencer Wyatt is a great friend of
mine. As a member of the Government, however, I think I can promise you
that your services shall not be forgotten. Good evening!"
The official departed. Mr. Hebblethwaite thrust his hands into his
pockets, glanced at the clock impatiently, and made use of an expression
which seldom passed his lips. He was in evening dress, and due to dine
with his wife on the other side of the Park. Furthermore, he was very
hungry. The whole affair was most annoying. He rang the bell.
"Ask Mr. Bedells to come here at once," he told the servant, "and tell
your mistress I am exceedingly sorry, but I shall be detained here for
some time. She had better go on without me and send the car back. I will
come as soon as I can. Explain that it is a matter of official business.
When you have seen Mrs. Hebblethwaite, you can bring me a glass of sherry
and a biscuit."
The man withdrew, and Mr. Hebblethwaite opened a telephone directory. In
a few moments Mr. Bedells, who was his private secretary, appeared.
"Richard," his chief directed, "ring up Mr. Spencer Wyatt. Tell him that
whatever his engagements may be, I wish to see him here for five minutes.
If he is out, you must find out where he is. You can begin by ringing up
at his house."
Bedells devoted himself to the telephone. Mr. Hebblethwaite munched a
biscuit and sipped his sherry. Presently the latter laid down the
telephone and reported success.
"Mr. Spencer Wyatt was on his way to a city dinner, sir," he announced.
"They caught him in the hall and he will call here."
Mr. Hebblethwaite nodded. "See that he is sent up directly he comes."
In less than five minutes Mr. Spencer Wyatt was ushered in. He was
wearing the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet—a tall, broad-shouldered
man, fair complexioned, and with the bearing of a sailor.
"Hullo, Hebblethwaite, what's wrong?" he asked. "Your message just caught
me. I am dining with the worshipful tanners—turtle soup and all the rest
of it. Don't let me miss more than I can help."
Mr. Hebblethwaite walked to the door to be sure that it was closed and
came back again.
"Look here, Wyatt," he exclaimed, "what the devil have you been up to?"
Wyatt whistled softly. A light broke across his face.
"What do you mean?" he demanded.
"You know perfectly well what I mean," Hebblethwaite continued. "Five
weeks ago we had it all out at a Cabinet meeting. You asked Parliament to
lay down six battleships, four cruisers, thirty-five submarines, and
twelve torpedo boats. You remember what a devil of a row there was.
Eventually we compromised for half the number of battleships, two
cruisers, and the full amount of small craft."
"I am given to understand," Hebblethwaite said slowly, "that you have
absolutely disregarded the vote—that the whole number of battleships are
practically commenced, and the whole number of cruisers, and rather more
than the number of smaller craft."
Wyatt threw his cocked hat upon the table.
"Well, I am up against it a bit sooner than I expected," he remarked.
"Who's been peaching?"
"Never mind," Hebblethwaite replied. "I am not telling you that. You've
managed the whole thing very cleverly, and you know very well, Wyatt,
that I am on your side. I was on your side in pressing the whole of your
proposals upon the Cabinet, although honestly I think they were far
larger than necessary. However, we took a fair vote, and we compromised.
You had no more right to do what you have done—"
"I admit it, Hebblethwaite," Wyatt interrupted quickly. "Of course, if
this comes out, my resignation's ready for you, but I tell you frankly,
as man to man, I can't go on with my job, and I won't, unless I get the
ships voted that I need. We are behind our standard now. I spent
twenty-four hours making up my mind whether I should resign or take this
risk. I came to the conclusion that I should serve my country better by
taking the risk. So there you are. What are you going to do about it?"
"What the mischief can I do about it?" Hebblethwaite demanded irritably.
"You are putting me in an impossible position. Let me ask you this,
Wyatt. Is there anything at the back of your head that the man in the
street doesn't know about?"
"What is it, then?"
"I have reasons to believe," Wyatt announced deliberately, "reasons
which are quite sufficient for me, although it was impossible for me to
get up in Parliament and state them, that Germany is secretly making
preparations for war either before the end of this year or the
beginning of next."
Hebblethwaite threw himself into an easy-chair.
"Sit down, Wyatt," he said. "Your dinner can wait for a few minutes. I
have had another man—only a youngster, and he doesn't know
anything—talking to me like that. We are fully acquainted with
everything that is going on behind the scenes. All our negotiations with
Germany are at this moment upon the most friendly footing. We haven't a
single matter in dispute. Old Busby, as you know, has been over in Berlin
himself and has come back a confirmed pacifist. If he had his way, our
army would practically cease to exist. He has been on the spot. He ought
to know, and the army's his job."
"Busby," Wyatt declared, "is the silliest old ass who ever escaped
petticoats by the mere accident of sex. I tell you he is just the sort of
idiot the Germans have been longing to get hold of and twist round their
fingers. Before twelve months or two years have passed, you'll curse the
name of that man, when you look at the mess he has made of the army.
Peace is all very well—universal peace. The only way we can secure it is
by being a good deal stronger than we are at present."
"That is your point of view," Hebblethwaite reminded him. "I tell you
frankly that I incline towards Busby's."
"Then you'll eat your words," Wyatt asserted, "before many months are
out. I, too, have been in Germany lately, although I was careful to go as
a tourist, and I have picked up a little information. I tell you it
isn't for nothing that Germany has a complete list of the whole of her
rolling stock, the actual numbers in each compartment registered and
reserved for the use of certain units of her troops. I tell you that from
one end of the country to the other her state of military preparedness is
amazing. She has but to press a button, and a million men have their
rifles in their hands, their knapsacks on their backs, and each regiment
knows exactly at which station and by what train to embark. She is making
Zeppelins night and day, training her men till they drop with exhaustion.
Krupp's works are guarded by double lines of sentries. There are secrets
there which no one can penetrate. And all the time she is building ships
feverishly. Look here—you know my cousin, Lady Emily Fakenham?"
"Only yesterday," Wyatt continued impressively, "she showed me a
letter—I read it, mind—from a cousin of Prince Hohenlowe. She met him
at Monte Carlo this year, and they had a sort of flirtation. In the
postscript he says: 'If you take my advice, don't go to Dinard this
August. Don't be further away from home than you can help at all this
summer.' What do you think that meant?"
"It sounds queer," Hebblethwaite admitted.
"Germany is bound to have a knock at us," Spencer Wyatt went on. "We've
talked of it so long that the words pass over our heads, as it were, but
she means it. And I tell you another thing. She means to do it while
there's a Radical Government in power here, and before Russia finishes
her reorganisation scheme. I am not a soldier, Hebblethwaite, but the
fellows we've got up at the top—not the soldiers themselves but the
chaps like old Busby and Simons—are simply out and out rotters. That's
plain speaking, isn't it, but you and I are the two men concerned in the
government of this country who do talk common sense to one another. We've
fine soldiers and fine organisers, but they've been given the go-by
simply because they know their job and would insist upon doing it
thoroughly, if at all. Russia will have another four million men ready to
be called up by the end of 1915, and not only that, but what is more
important, is that she'll have the arms and the uniforms for them.
Germany isn't going to wait for that. I've thought it all out. We are
going to get it in the neck before seven or eight months have passed, and
if you want to know the truth, Hebblethwaite, that's why I have taken a
risk and ordered these ships. The navy is my care, and it's my job to see
that we keep it up to the proper standard. Whose votes rob me of my extra
battleships? Why, just a handful of Labour men and Irishmen and cocoa
Liberals, who haven't an Imperial idea in their brains, who think war
belongs to the horrors of the past, and think they're doing their duty by
what they call 'keeping down expenses.' Hang it, Hebblethwaite, it's
worse than a man who won't pay fire insurance for his house in a
dangerous neighbourhood, so as to save a bit of money! What I've done I
stick to. Split on me, if you want to."
"I don't think I shall do that," Hebblethwaite said, "but honestly,
Wyatt, I can't follow you in your war talk. We got over the Agadir
trouble. We've got over a much worse one—the Balkan crisis. There
isn't a single contentious question before us just now. The sky is
"Believe me," Wyatt insisted earnestly, "that's just the time to look for
the thunderbolt. Can't you see that when Germany goes to war, it will be
a war of conquest, the war which she has planned for all these years?
She'll choose her own time, and she'll make a casus belli, right
enough, when the time comes. Of course, she'd have taken advantage of the
position last year, but she simply wasn't ready. If you ask me, I believe
she thinks herself now able to lick the whole of Europe. I am not at all
sure, thanks to Busby and our last fifteen years' military
administration, that she wouldn't have a good chance of doing it. Any
way, I am not going to have my fleet cut down."
"The country is prosperous," Hebblethwaite acknowledged. "We can afford
"Then look here, old chap," Wyatt begged, "I am not pleading for my own
sake, but the country's. Keep your mouth shut. See what the next month or
two brings. If there's trouble—well, I don't suppose I shall be jumped
on then. If there isn't, and you want a victim, here I am. I disobeyed
orders flagrantly. My resignation is in my desk at any moment."
Hebblethwaite glanced at the clock.
"I am very hungry," he said, "and I have a long way to go for dinner.
We'll let it go at that, Wyatt. I'll try and keep things quiet for you.
If it comes out, well, you know the risk you run."
"I know the bigger risk we are all running," Wyatt declared, as he took a
cigarette from an open box on the table by his side and turned towards
the door. "I'll manage the turtle soup now, with luck. You're a good
fellow, Hebblethwaite. I know it goes against the grain with you, but, by
Jove, you may be thankful for this some time!"
The Right Honourable John William Hebblethwaite took the hat from his
footman, stepped into his car, and was driven rapidly away. He leaned
back among the cushions, more thoughtful than usual. There was a yellow
moon in the sky, pale as yet. The streets were a tangled vortex of
motorcars and taxies, all filled with men and women in evening dress. It
was the height of a wonderful season. Everywhere was dominant the note of
prosperity, gaiety, even splendour. The houses in Park Lane,
flower-decked, displayed through their wide-flung windows a constant
panorama of brilliantly-lit rooms. Every one was entertaining. In the
Park on the other side were the usual crowd of earnest, hard-faced men
and women, gathered in little groups around the orator of the moment.
Hebblethwaite felt a queer premonition that evening. A man of sanguine
temperament, thoroughly contented with himself and his position, he
seemed almost for the first time in his life, to have doubts, to look
into the future, to feel the rumblings of an earthquake, the great
dramatic cry of a nation in the throes of suffering. Had they been wise,
all these years, to have legislated as though the old dangers by land and
sea had passed?—to have striven to make the people fat and prosperous,
to have turned a deaf ear to every note of warning? Supposing the other
thing were true! Supposing Norgate and Spencer Wyatt had found the truth!
What would history have to say then of this Government of which he was so
proud? Would it be possible that they had brought the country to a great
prosperity by destroying the very bulwarks of its security?
The car drew up with a jerk, and Hebblethwaite came back to earth.
Nevertheless, he promised himself, as he hastened across the pavement,
that on the morrow he would pay a long-delayed visit to the War Office.
Anna was seated, a few days later, with her dearest friend, the Princess
of Thurm, in a corner of the royal enclosure at Ascot. For the first time
since their arrival they found themselves alone. From underneath her
parasol the Princess looked at her friend curiously.
"Anna," she said, "something has happened to you."
"Perhaps, but explain yourself," Anna replied composedly.
"It is so simple. There you sit in a Doucet gown, perfection as ever,
from the aigrette in your hat to those delicately pointed shoes. You have
been positively hunted by all the nicest men—once or twice, indeed, I
felt myself neglected—and not a smile have I seen upon your lips. You go
about, looking just a little beyond everything. What did you see, child,
over the tops of the trees in the paddock, when Lord Wilton was trying so
hard to entertain you?"
"An affair of moods, I imagine," Anna declared. "Somehow I don't feel
quite in the humour for Ascot to-day. To be quite frank," she went on,
turning her head slowly, "I rather wonder that you do, Mildred."
The Princess raised her eyebrows.
"Why not? Everything, so far as I am concerned, is couleur de rose.
Madame Blanche declared yesterday that my complexion would last for
twenty years. I found a dozen of the most adorable hats in Paris. The
artist who designs my frocks was positively inspired the last time I sat
to him. I am going to see Maurice in a few weeks, and meanwhile I have
several new flirtations which interest me amazingly. As for you, my
child, one would imagine that you had lost your taste for all frivolity.
You are as cold as granite. Be careful, dear. The men of to-day, in this
country, at any rate, are spoilt. Sometimes they are even uncourtier-like
enough to accept a woman's refusal."
"Well," Anna observed, smiling faintly, "even a lifetime at Court has not
taught me to dissimulate. I am heavy-hearted, Mildred. You wondered what
I was looking at when I gazed over those green trees under which all
those happy people were walking. I was looking out across the North Sea.
I was looking through Belgium to Paris. I saw a vast curtain roll up, and
everything beyond it was a blood-stained panorama."
A shade rested for a moment on her companion's fair face. She shrugged
"We've known for a long time, dear, that it must come."
"But all the same, in these last moments it is terrible," Anna insisted.
"Seriously, Mildred, I wonder that I should feel it more than you. You
are absolutely English. Your father is English, your mother is English.
It is only your husband that is Austrian. You have lived in Austria only
for seven years. Has that been sufficient to destroy all your patriotism,
all your love for your own country?"
The Princess made a little grimace.
"My dear Anna," she said, "I am not so serious a person as you are. I am
profoundly, incomprehensibly selfish. The only human being in the whole
world for whom I have had a spark of real affection is Maurice, and I
adore him. What he has told me to do, I have done. What makes him happy
makes me happy. For his sake, even, I have forgotten and shall always
forget that I was born an Englishwoman. Circumstances, too," she went on
thoughtfully, "have made it so easy. England is such a changed country.
When I was a child, I could read of the times when our kings really
ruled, of our battles for dominion, of our fight for colonies, of our
building up a great empire, and I could feel just a little thrill. I
can't now. We have gone ahead of Napoleon. From a nation of shop-keepers
we have become a nation of general dealers—a fat, over-confident,
bourgeois people. Socialism has its hand upon the throat of the classes.
Park Lane, where our aristocracy lived, is filled with the mansions of
South African Jews, whom one must meet here or keep out of society
altogether. Our country houses have gone the same way. Our Court set is
dowdy, dull to a degree, and common in a different fashion. You are
right. I have lost my love for England, partly because of my marriage,
partly because of those things which have come to England herself."
For the first time there was a little flush of colour in Anna's
exquisitely pale cheeks. There was even animation in her tone as she
turned towards her friend.
"Mildred," she exclaimed, "it is splendid to hear you say what is really
in your mind! I am so glad you have spoken to me like this. I feel these
things, too. Now I am not nearly so English as you. My mother was English
and my father Austrian. Therefore, only half of me should be English.
Yet, although I am so much further removed from England than you are, I
have suddenly felt a return of all my old affection for her."
"You are going to tell me why?" her companion begged.
"Of course! It is because I believe—it is too ridiculous—but I believe
that I am in your position with the circumstances reversed. I am
beginning to care in the most foolish way for an unmistakable
"If we had missed this little chance of conversation," the Princess
declared, "I should have been miserable for the rest of my life! There is
the Duke hanging about behind. For heaven's sake, don't turn. Thank
goodness he has gone away! Now go on, dear. Tell me about him at once. I
can't imagine who it may be. I have watched you with so many men, and I
know quite well, so long as that little curl is at the corner of your
lips, that they none of them count. Do I know him?"
"I do not think so," Anna replied. "He is not a very important person."
"It isn't the man you were dining with in the Café de Berlin when Prince
Karl came in?"
"Yes, it is he!"
The Princess made a little grimace.
"But how unsuitable, my dear," she exclaimed, "if you are really in
earnest! What is the use of your thinking of an Englishman? He is quite
nice, I know. His mother and my mother were friends, and we met once or
twice. He was very kind to me in Paris, too. But for a serious affair—"
"Well, it may not come to that," Anna interrupted, "but there it is. I
suppose that it is partly for his sake that I feel this depression."
"I should have thought that he himself would have been a little out of
sympathy with his country just now," the Princess remarked. "They tell me
that the Foreign Office ate humble pie with the Kaiser for that affair
shockingly. They not only removed him from the Embassy, but they are
going to give him nothing in Europe. I heard for a fact that the Kaiser
requested that he should not be attached to any Court with which Germany
had diplomatic relations."
Anna nodded. "I believe that it is true," she admitted, "but I am not
sure that he realises it himself. Even if he does, well, you know the
type. He is English to the backbone."
"But there are Englishmen," the Princess insisted earnestly, "who are
amenable to common sense. There are Englishmen who are sorrowing over the
decline of their own country and who would not be so greatly distressed
if she were punished a little."
"I am afraid Mr. Norgate is not like that," Anna observed drily.
"However, one cannot be sure. Bother! I thought people were very kind to
leave us so long in peace. Dear Prince, how clever of you to find out
The Ambassador stood bareheaded before them.
"Dear ladies," he declared, "you are the lode-stones which would draw one
even through these gossamer walls of lace and chiffons, of draperies as
light as the sunshine and perfumes as sweet as Heine's poetry."
"Very pretty," Anna laughed, "but what you really mean is that you were
looking for two of your very useful slaves and have found them."
The Ambassador glanced around. Their isolation was complete.
"Ah! well," he murmured, "it is a wonderful thing to be so charmingly
aided towards such a wonderful end."
"And to have such complete trust in one's friends," Anna remarked,
looking him steadfastly in the face.
The Prince did not flinch. His smile was perfectly courteous and
"That is my happiness," he admitted. "I will tell you the reason which
directed my footsteps this way," he added, drawing a small betting book
from his pocket. "You must back Prince Charlie for the next race. I will,
if you choose, take your commissions. I have a man waiting at the rails."
"Twenty pounds for me, please," the Princess declared. "I have the horse
marked on my card, but I had forgotten for the moment."
"And the same for me," Anna begged. "But did you really come only to
bring us this valuable tip, Prince?"
The Ambassador stooped down.
"There is a dispatch on its way to me," he said softly, "which I believe
concerns you. It might be necessary for you to take a short journey
within the next few days."
"Not back to Berlin?" Anna exclaimed.
Their solitude had been invaded by now, and the Princess was talking to
two or three men who were grouped about her chair. The Ambassador stooped
a little lower.
"To Rome," he whispered.
Back from the dusty roads, the heat and noise of the long day, Anna was
resting on the couch in her sitting-room. A bowl of roses and a note
which she had read three or four times stood on a little table by her
side. One of the blossoms she had fastened into the bosom of her loose
gown. The blinds were drawn, the sounds of the traffic outside were
muffled and distant. Her bath had been just the right temperature, her
maid's attention was skilful and delicate as ever. She was conscious of
the drowsy sweet perfume of the flowers, the pleasant sense of powdered
cleanliness. Everything should have conduced to rest, but she lay there
with her eyes wide-open. There was so much to think about, so much that
was new finding its way into her stormy young life.
Anna turned her head. Her maid had entered noiselessly from the inner
room and was standing by her side.
"Madame does not sleep? There is a person outside who waits for an
interview. I have denied him, as all others. He gave me this."
Anna almost snatched the piece of paper from her maid's fingers. She
glanced at the name, and the disappointment which shone in her eyes was
very apparent. It was succeeded by an impulse of surprise.
"You can show him in," she directed.
Selingman appeared a few moments later—Selingman, cool, rosy, and
confident, on the way to his beloved bridge club. He took the hand
which Anna, without moving, held out to him, and raised it gallantly
to his lips.
"I thought it was understood, my crockery friend," she murmured, "that in
London we did not interchange visits."
"Most true, gracious lady," he admitted, "but there are circumstances
which can alter the most immovable decisions. At this moment we are
confronted with one. I come to discuss with you the young Englishman,
She turned her head a little. Her eyes were full of enquiry.
"To discuss him with me?"
Selingman's eyes as though by accident fell upon the roses and the note.
"Ah, well," she murmured, "go on."
"It is wonderful," Selingman proceeded, "to be able to tell the truth. I
speak to you as one comrade to another. This young man was your companion
at the Café de Berlin. For the indiscretion of behaving like a
bull-headed but courageous young Englishman, he is practically dismissed
from the Service. He comes back smarting with the injustice of it. Chance
brings him in my way. I proceed to do my best to make use of this
"So like you, dear Herr Selingman!" Anna murmured.
"Ever gracious, dear lady. Well, to continue, then. Here I find a young
Englishman of exactly the order and position likely to be useful to us. I
approach him frankly. He has been humiliated by the country he was
willing to serve. I talk to him of that country. 'You are English, of
course,' I remind him, 'but what manner of an England is it to-day which
claims you?' It is a very telling argument, this. Upon the classes of
this country, democracy has laid a throttling hand. There is a spirit of
discontent, they say, among the working-classes, the discontent which
breeds socialism. There is a worse spirit of discontent among the upper
classes here, and it is the discontent which breeds so-called traitors."
"I can imagine all the rest," Anna interposed coolly. "How far have you
"The young man," Selingman told her, "has accepted my proposals. He has
drawn three months' salary in advance. He furnished me yesterday with
details of a private conversation with a well-known Cabinet Minister."
Anna turned her head. "So soon!" she murmured.
"So soon," Selingman repeated. "And now, gracious lady, here comes my
visit to you. We have a recruit, invaluable if he is indeed a recruit at
heart, dangerous if he has the brains and wit to choose to make himself
so. I, on my way through life, judge men and women, and I judge
them—well, with few exceptions, unerringly, but at the back of my brain
there lingers something of mistrust of this young man. I have seen
others in his position accept similar proposals. I have seen the
struggles of shame, the doubts, the assertion of some part of a man's
lower nature reconciling him in the end to accepting the pay of a foreign
country. I have seen none of these things in this young man—simply a
cold and deliberate acceptance of my proposals. He conforms to no type.
He sets up before me a problem which I myself have failed wholly to
solve. I come to you, dear lady, for your aid."
"I am to spy upon the spy," she remarked.
"It is an easy task," Selingman declared. "This young man is your slave.
Whatever your daily business may be here, some part of your time, I
imagine, will be spent in his company. Let me know what manner of man he
is. Is this innate corruptness which brings him so easily to the bait, or
is it the stinging smart of injustice from which he may well be
suffering? Or, failing these, has he dared to set his wits against mine,
to play the double traitor? If even a suspicion of this should come to
you, there must be an end of Mr. Francis Norgate."
Anna toyed for a moment with the rose at her bosom. Her eyes were looking
out of the room. Once again she was conscious of a curious slackening of
purpose, a confusion of issues which had once seemed to her so clear.
"Very well," she promised. "I will send you a report in the course of a
"I should not," Selingman continued, rising, "venture to trouble you,
Baroness, as I know the sphere of your activities is far removed from
mine, but chance has put you in the position of being able to ascertain
definitely the things which I desire to know. For our common sake you
will, I am sure, seek to discover the truth."
"So far as I can, certainly," Anna replied, "but I must admit that I,
like you, find Mr. Norgate a little incomprehensible."
"There are men," Selingman declared, "there have been many of the
strongest men in history, impenetrable to the world, who have yielded
their secrets readily to a woman's influence. The diplomatists in life
who have failed have been those who have underrated the powers possessed
by your wonderful sex."
"Among whom," Anna remarked, "no one will ever number Herr Selingman."
"Dear Baroness," Selingman concluded, as the maid whom Anna had summoned
stood ready to show him out, "it is because in my life I have been
brought into contact with so many charming examples of your power."
* * * * *
Once more silence and solitude. Anna moved restlessly about on her couch.
Her eyes were a little hot. That future into which she looked seemed to
become more than ever a tangled web. At half-past seven her maid
"Madame will dress for dinner?"
Anna swung herself to her feet. She glanced at the clock.
"I suppose so," she assented.
"I have three gowns laid out," the maid continued respectfully. "Madame
would look wonderful in the light green."
"Anything," Anna yawned.
The telephone bell tinkled. Anna took down the receiver herself.
"Yes?" she asked.
Her manner suddenly changed. It was a familiar voice speaking. Her maid,
who stood in the background, watched and wondered.
"It is you, Baroness! I rang up to see whether there was any chance of
your being able to dine with me? I have just got back to town."
"How dared you go away without telling me!" she exclaimed. "And how can I
dine with you? Do you not realise that it is Ascot Thursday, and I have
had many invitations to dine to-night? I am going to a very big
dinner-party at Thurm House."
"Bad luck!" Norgate replied disconsolately. "And to-morrow?"
"I have not finished about to-night yet," Anna continued. "I suppose you
do not, by any chance, want me to dine with you very much?"
"Of course I do," was the prompt answer. "You see plenty of the Princess
of Thurm and nothing of me, and there is always the chance that you may
have to go abroad. I think that it is your duty—"
"As a matter of duty," Anna interrupted, "I ought to dine at Thurm House.
As a matter of pleasure, I shall dine with you. You will very likely not
enjoy yourself. I am going to be very cross indeed. You have neglected
me shamefully. It is only these wonderful roses which have saved you."
"So long as I am saved," he murmured, "tell me, please, where you would
like to dine?"
"Any place on earth," she replied. "You may call for me here at half-past
eight. I shall wear a hat and I would like to go somewhere where our
people do not go."
Anna set down the telephone. The listlessness had gone from her manner.
She glanced at the clock and ran lightly into the other room.
"Put all that splendour away," she ordered her maid cheerfully. "To-night
we shall dazzle no one. Something perfectly quiet and a hat, please. I
dine in a restaurant. And ring the bell, Marie, for two aperitifs—not
that I need one. I am hungry, Marie. I am looking forward to my dinner
already. I think something dead black. I am looking well tonight. I can
afford to wear black."
"Madame has recovered her spirits," she remarked demurely.
Anna was suddenly silent. Her light-heartedness was a revelation. She
turned to her maid.
"Marie," she directed, "you will telephone to Thurm House. You will ask
for Lucille, the Princess's maid. You will give my love to the Princess.
You will say that a sudden headache has prostrated me. It will be enough.
You need say no more. To-morrow I lunch with the Princess, and she will
"Confess," Anna exclaimed, as she leaned back in her chair, "that my idea
was excellent! Your little restaurant was in its way perfection, but the
heat—does one feel it anywhere, I wonder, as one does in London?"
"Here, at any rate, we have air," Norgate remarked appreciatively.
"We are far removed," she went on, "from the clamour of diners, that
babel of voices, the smell of cooking, the meretricious music. We look
over the house-tops. Soon, just behind that tall building there, you will
see the yellow moon."
They were taking their coffee in Anna's sitting-room, seated in
easy-chairs drawn up to the wide-flung windows. The topmost boughs of
some tall elm trees rustled almost in their faces. Away before them
spread the phantasmagoria of a wilderness of London roofs, softened and
melting into the dim blue obscurity of the falling twilight. Lights were
flashing out everywhere, and above them shone the stars. Norgate drew a
long breath of content.
"It is wonderful, this," he murmured.
"We are at least alone," Anna said, "and I can talk to you. I want to
talk to you. Should you be very much flattered, I wonder, if I were to
say that I have been thinking of little else for the last three or four
days than how to approach you, how to say something to you without any
fear of being misunderstood, how to convince you of my own sincerity?"
"If I am not flattered," he answered, looking at her keenly, "I am at
least content. Please go on."
"You are one of those, I believe," she continued earnestly, "who realise
that somewhere not far removed from the splendour of these summer days, a
storm is gathering. I am one of those who know. England has but a few
more weeks of this self-confident, self-esteeming security. Very soon the
shock will come. Oh! you sit there, my friend, and you are very
monosyllabic, but that is because you do not wholly trust me."
He swung suddenly round upon her and there was an unaccustomed fire
in his eyes.
"May it not be for some other reason?" he asked quickly.
There was a moment's silence. Her own face seemed paler than ever in the
strange half light, but her eyes were wonderful. He told himself with
passionate insistence that they were the eyes of a truthful woman.
"Tell me," she begged, "what reason?"
He leaned towards her.
"It is so hopeless," he said. "I am just a broken diplomat whose career
is ended almost before it is begun, and you—well, you have everything at
your feet. It is foolish of me, isn't it, but I love you."
He took her hand, and she did not withdraw it.
"If it is foolish," she murmured, "then I am foolish, too. Perhaps you
can guess now why I came to London."
He drew her into his arms. She made no resistance. Her lips, even, were
seeking his. It seemed to him in those breathless moments that a greater
thing than even the destiny of nations was born into the world. There
was a new vigour in his pulses as she gently pushed him back, a new
splendour in life.
"Dear," she exclaimed, "of course we are both very foolish, and yet, I do
not know. I have been wondering why this has not come to me long ago, and
now that it has come I am happy."
"You care—you really care?" he insisted passionately.
"Of course I do," she told him, quietly enough and yet very
convincingly. "If I did not care I should not be here. If I did not
care, I should not be going to say the things to you which I am going to
say now. Sit back in your chair, please, hold my hand still, smoke if
you will, but listen."
He obeyed. A deeper seriousness crept into her tone, but her face was
still soft and wonderful. The new things were lingering there.
"I want to tell you first," she said, "what I think you already know. The
moment for which Germany has toiled so long, from which she has never
faltered, is very close at hand. With all her marvellous resources and
that amazing war equipment of which you in this country know little, she
will soon throw down the gage to England. You are an Englishman, Francis.
You are not going to forget it, are you?"
"Forget it?" he repeated.
"I know," she continued slowly, "that Selingman has made advances to you.
I know that he has a devilish gift for enrolling on his list men of
honour and conscience. He has the knack of subtle argument, of twisting
facts and preying upon human weaknesses. You have been shockingly treated
by your Foreign Office. You yourself are entirely out of sympathy with
your Government. You know very well that England, as she is, is a country
which has lost her ideals, a country in which many of her sons might
indeed, without much reproach, lose their pride, Selingman knows this. He
knows how to work upon these facts. He might very easily convince you
that the truest service you could render your country was to assist her
in passing through a temporary tribulation."
He looked at her almost in surprise.
"You seem to know the man's methods," he observed.
"I do," she answered, "and I detest them. Now, Francis, please tell me
the truth. Is your name, too, upon that long roll of those who are
pledged to assist his country?"
"It is," he admitted.
She drew a little away.
"You admit it? You have already consented?"
"I have drawn a quarter's salary," Norgate confessed. "I have entered
Selingman's corps of the German Secret Service."
"You mean that you are a traitor!" she exclaimed.
"A traitor to the false England of to-day," Norgate replied, "a friend,
I hope, of the real England."
She sat quite still for some moments.
"Somehow or other," she said, "I scarcely fancied that you would give in
"You seem disappointed," he remarked, "yet, after all, am I not on
"I suppose so," she answered, without enthusiasm.
There was another and a more prolonged silence. Norgate rose at last
to his feet. He walked restlessly to the end of the room and back
again. A dark mass of clouds had rolled up; the air seemed almost
sulphurous with the presage of a coming storm. They looked out into
the gathering darkness.
"I don't understand," he said. "You are Austrian; that is the same as
German. I tell you that I have come over on your side. You seem
"Perhaps I am," she admitted, standing up, too, and linking her arm
through his. "You see, my mother was English, and they say that I am
entirely like her. I was brought up here in the English country.
Sometimes my life at Vienna and Berlin seems almost like a dream to me,
something unreal, as though I were playing at being some other woman.
When I am back here, I feel as though I had come home. Do you know really
that nothing would make me happier than to hear or think nothing about
duty, to just know that I had come back to England to stay, and that you
were English, and that we were going to live just the sort of life I
pictured to myself that two people could live so happily over here,
without too much ambition, without intrigue, simply and honestly. I am a
little weary of cities and courts, Francis. To-night more than ever
England seems to appeal to me, to remind me that I am one of her
"Are you trying me, Anna?" he asked hoarsely.
"Trying you? Of course not!" she answered. "I am speaking to you just
simply and naturally, because you are the one person in the world to whom
I may speak like that."
"Then let's drop it, both of us!" he exclaimed, holding her arm
tightly to his. "Courts and cities can do without you, and Selingman
can do without me. We'll take a cottage somewhere and live through
these evil days."
She shook her head.
"You and I are not like that, Francis," she declared. "When the storm
breaks, we mustn't be found hiding in our holes. You know that quite
well. It is for us to decide what part we may play. You have chosen. So,
in a measure, have I. Tomorrow I am going on a secret mission to Italy."
"Anna!" he cried in dismay.
"Alas, yes!" she repeated, "We may not even meet again, Francis, till the
map of Europe has been rewritten with the blood of many of our friends
and millions of our country-people. But I shall think of you, and the
kiss you will give me now shall be the last upon my lips."
"You can go away?" he demanded. "You can leave me like this?"
"I must," she answered simply. "I have work before me. Good-by, Francis!
Somehow I knew what was coming. I believe that I am glad, dear, but I
must think about it, and so must you."
Norgate left the hotel and walked out amid the first mutterings of the
storm. He found a taxi and drove to his rooms. For an hour he sat before
his window, watching the lightning play, fighting the thoughts which beat
upon his brain, fighting all the time a losing battle. At midnight the
storm had ceased. He walked back through the rain-streaming streets. The
air was filled with sweet and pungent perfumes. The heaviness had passed
from the atmosphere. His own heart was lighter; he walked swiftly.
Outside her hotel he paused and looked up at the window. There was a
light still burning in her room. He even fancied that he could see the
outline of her figure leaning back in the easy-chair which he had wheeled
up close to the casement. He entered the hotel, stepped into the lift,
ascended to her floor, and made his way with tingling pulses and beating
heart along the corridor. He knocked softly at her door. There was a
little hesitation, then he heard her voice on the other side.
"Who is that?"
"It is I—Francis," he answered softly. "Let me in."
There was a little exclamation. She opened the door, holding up
"Quietly," she whispered. "What is it, Francis? Why have you come back?
What has happened to you?"
He drew her into the room. She herself looked weary, and there were
lines under her eyes. It seemed, even, as though she might have been
weeping. But it was a new Norgate who spoke. His words rang out with a
fierce vigour, his eyes seemed on fire.
"Anna," he cried, "I can't fence with you. I can't lie to you. I can't
deceive you. I've tried these things, and I went away choking, I had to
come back. You shall know the truth, even though you betray me. I am no
man of Selingman's. I have taken his paltry money—it went last night to
a hospital. I am for England—God knows it!—the England of any
government, England, however misguided or mistaken. I want to do the work
for her that's easiest and that comes to me. I am on Selingman's roll.
What do you think he'll get from me? Nothing that isn't false, no
information that won't mislead him, no facts save those I shall distort
until they may seem so near the truth that he will build and count upon
them. Every minute of my time will be spent to foil his schemes. They
don't believe me in Whitehall, or Selingman would be at Bow Street
to-morrow morning. That's why I am going my own way. Tell him, if you
will. There is only one thing strong enough to bring me here, to risk
everything, and that's my love for you."
She was in his arms, sobbing and crying, and yet laughing. She clutched
at him, drew down his face and covered his lips with kisses.
"Oh! I am so thankful," she cried, "so thankful! Francis, I ached—my
heart ached to have you sit there and talk as you did. Now I know that
you are the man I thought you were. Francis, we will work together."
"You mean it?"
"I do, England was my mother's country, England shall be my husband's
country. I will tell you many things that should help. From now my work
shall be for you. If they find me out, well, I will pay the price. You
shall run your risk, Francis, for your country, and I must take mine; but
at least we'll keep our honour and our conscience and our love. Oh, this
is a better parting, dear! This is a better good night!"
Mrs. Benedek was the first to notice the transformation which had
certainly taken place in Norgate's appearance. She came and sat by his
side upon the cushioned fender.
"What a metamorphosis!" she exclaimed. "Why, you look as though
Providence had been showering countless benefits upon you."
There were several people lounging around, and Mrs. Benedek's remark
certainly had point.
"You look like Monty, when he's had a winning week," one of them
"It is something more than gross lucre," a young man declared, who had
just strolled up. "I believe that it is a good fat appointment. Rome,
perhaps, where every one of you fellows wants to get to, nowadays."
"Or perhaps," the Prince intervened, with a little bow, "Mrs. Benedek has
promised to dine with you? She is generally responsible for the gloom or
happiness of us poor males in this room."
"None of these wonderful things have happened—and yet, something perhaps
more wonderful," he announced. "I am engaged to be married."
There was a mingled chorus of exclamations and congratulations.
Selingman, who had been standing on the outskirts of the group, drew a
little nearer. His face wore a somewhat puzzled expression.
"And the lady?" he enquired. "May we not know the lady's name? That is
"It is the Baroness von Haase," Norgate replied. "You probably know her
by name and repute, at least, Mr. Selingman. She is an Austrian, but she
is often at Berlin."
Selingman stretched out his great hand. For some reason or other, the
announcement seemed to have given him real pleasure.
"Know her? My dear young friend, while I may not claim the privilege of
intimate friendship with her, the Baroness is a young lady of the
greatest distinction and repute in Berlin. I congratulate you. I
congratulate you most heartily. The anger of our young princeling is no
longer to be wondered at. I cannot tell you how thoroughly interesting
this news is to me."
"You are very good indeed, I am sure, all of you," Norgate declared,
answering the general murmur of kindly words. "The Baroness doesn't play
bridge, but I'd like to bring her in one afternoon, if I may."
"I have had the honour of meeting the Baroness von Haase several times,"
Prince Lenemaur said. "It will give me the utmost pleasure to renew my
acquaintance with her. These alliances are most pleasing. Since I have
taken up my residence in this country, I regard them with the utmost
favour. They do much to cement the good feeling between Germany,
Austria, and England, which is so desirable."
"English people," Mrs. Benedek remarked, "will at least have the
opportunity of judging Austrian women from the proper standpoint. Anna is
one of the most accomplished and beautiful women in either Vienna or
Berlin. I hope so much that she will not have forgotten me altogether."
They all drifted presently back to the bridge tables. Norgate, however,
excused himself. He had some letters to write, he declared, and
presently he withdrew to the little drawing-room. In about a quarter of
an hour, as he had expected, the door opened, and Selingman entered. He
crossed the room at once to where Norgate was writing and laid his hand
upon his shoulder.
"Young man," he said, "I wish to talk with you. Bring your chair around.
Sit there so that the light falls upon your face. So! Now let me see.
Where does that door lead to?"
"Into the secretary's room, but it is locked," Norgate told him.
"So! And the outer one I myself have carefully closed. We talk here,
then, in private. This is great news which you have brought this
"It is naturally of some interest to me," Norgate assented, "but I
"It is of immense interest, also, to me," Selingman interrupted. "It may
be that you do not know this at present. It may be that I anticipate, but
if so, no matter. Between you and your fiancée there will naturally be no
secrets. You are perhaps already aware that she holds a high position
amongst those who are working for the power and development and expansion
of our great empire?"
"I have gathered something of the sort," Norgate admitted. "I know, of
course, that she is a personal favourite of the Emperor's, and persona
grata at the Court of Berlin."
"You have no scruple, then, about marrying a woman who belongs to a
certain clique, a certain school of diplomacy which you might, from a
superficial point of view, consider inimical to your country's
"I have no scruple at all in marrying the Baroness von Haase," Norgate
replied firmly. "As for the rest, you and I have discussed fully the
matter of the political relations between our countries. I have shown you
practically have I not, what my own views are?"
"That is true, my young friend," Selingman confessed. "We have spoken
together, man to man, heart to heart. I have tried to show you that even
though we should stand with sword outstretched across the seas, yet in
the hearts of our people there dwells a real affection, real good-will
towards your country. I think that I have convinced you. I have come,
indeed, to have a certain amount of confidence in you. That I have
already proved. But your news to-day alters much. There are grades of
that society which you have joined, rings within rings, as you may well
imagine. I see the prospect before me now of making much greater and more
valuable use of you. It was your brain, and a certain impatience with
the political conduct of your country, which brought you over to our
side. Why should not that become an alliance—an absolute alliance? Your
interests are drawn into ours. You have now a real and great reason for
throwing in your lot with us. Let me look at you. Let me think whether I
may not venture upon a great gamble."
Norgate did not flinch. He appeared simply a little puzzled. Selingman's
blue, steel-like eyes seemed striving to reach the back of his brain.
"All the things that we accomplish in my country," the latter continued,
"we do by method and order. We do them scientifically. We reach out into
the future. So far as we can, we foresee everything. We leave little to
chance. Yet there are times when one cannot deal in certainties. Young
man, the news which you have told us this afternoon has brought us to
this pitch. I am inclined to gamble—to gamble upon you."
"Is there any question of consulting me in this?" Norgate asked coolly.
Selingman brushed the interruption on one side.
"I now make clear to you what I mean," he continued. "You have joined my
little army of helpers, those whom I have been able to convince of the
justice and reasonableness of Germany's ultimate aim. Now I want more
from you. I want to make of you something different. More than anything
in the world, for the furtherance of my schemes here, I need a young
Englishman of your position and with your connections, to whom I can give
my whole confidence, who will act for me with implicit obedience,
without hesitation. Will you accept that post, Francis Norgate?"
"If you think I am capable of it," Norgate replied promptly.
"You are capable of it," Selingman asserted. "There is only one grim
possibility to be risked. Are you entirely trustworthy? Would you flinch
at the danger moment? Before this afternoon I hesitated. It is your
alliance with the Baroness which gives me that last drop of confidence
which was necessary."
"I am ready to do your work," Norgate said. "I can say no more. My own
country has no use for me. My own country seems to have no use for any
one at all just now who thinks a little beyond the day's eating and
drinking and growing fat."
Selingman nodded his head. The note of bitterness in the other's tone was
to his liking.
"Of rewards, of benefits, I shall not now speak," he proceeded. "You have
something in you of the spirit of men who aim at the greater things.
There is, indeed, in your attitude towards life something of the
idealism, the ever-stretching heavenward culture of my own people. I
recognise that spirit in you, and I will not give a lower tone to our
talk this afternoon by speaking of money. Yet what you wish for you may
have. When the time comes, what further reward you may desire, whether it
be rank or high position, you may have, but for the present let it be
sufficient that you are my man."
He held out his hand, and all the time his eyes never left Norgate's.
Gone the florid and beaming geniality of the man, his easy good-humour,
his air of good-living and rollicking gaiety. There were lines in his
forehead. The firm contraction of his lips brought lines even across his
plump cheeks. It was the face, this, of a strong man and a thinker. He
held Norgate's fingers, and Norgate never flinched.
"So!" he said at last, as he turned away. "Now you are indeed in the
inner circle, Mr. Francis Norgate. Good! Listen to me, then. We will
speak of war, the war that is to come, the war that is closer at hand
than even you might imagine."
"War with England?" Norgate exclaimed.
Selingman struck his hands together.
"No!" he declared. "You may take it as a compliment, if you like—a
national compliment. We do not at the present moment desire war with
England. Our plan of campaign, for its speedy and successful
accomplishment, demands your neutrality. The North Sea must be free to
us. Our fleet must be in a position to meet and destroy, as it is well
able to do, the Russian and the French fleets. Now you know what has kept
Germany from war for so long."
"You are ready for it, then?" Norgate remarked.
"We are over-ready for it," Selingman continued. "We are spoiling for
it. We have piled up enormous stores of ordnance, ammunition, and all
the appurtenances of warfare. Our schemes have been cut and dried to the
last detail. Yet time after time we have been forced to stay our hand.
Need I tell you why? It is because, in all those small diplomatic
complications which have arisen and from which war might have followed,
England has been involved. We want to choose a time and a cause which
will give England every opportunity of standing peacefully on one side.
That time is close at hand. From all that I can hear, your country is,
at the present moment, in danger of civil war. Your Ministers who are
most in favour are Radical pacifists. Your army has never been so small
or your shipbuilding programme more curtailed. Besides, there is no
warlike spirit in your nation; you sleep peacefully. I think that our
time has come. You will not need to strain your ears, my friend. Before
many weeks have passed, the tocsin will be sounding. Does that move you?
Let me look at you."
Norgate's face showed little emotion. Selingman nodded ponderously.
"Surely," Norgate asked, "Germany will wait for some reasonable pretext?"
"She will find one through Austria," Selingman replied. "That is simple.
Mind, though this may seem to you a war wholly of aggression, and though
I do not hesitate to say that we have been prepared for years for a war
of aggression, there are other factors which will come to light. Only a
few months ago, an entire Russian scheme for the invasion of Germany next
spring was discovered by one of our Secret Service agents."
"One question more," he said. "Supposing Germany takes the plunge, and
then England, contrary to anticipation, decides to support France?"
Selingman's face darkened. A sudden purposeless anger shook his voice.
"We choose a time," he declared, "when England's hands are tied. She is
in no position to go to war with any one. I have many reports reaching me
every day. I have come to the firm conclusion that we have reached the
hour. England will not fight."
"And what will happen to her eventually?" Norgate asked.
Selingman smiled slowly.
"When France is crushed," he explained, "and her northern ports
garrisoned by us, England must be taught just a little lesson, the lesson
of which you and I have spoken, the lesson which will be for her good.
That is what we have planned. That is how things will happen. Hush! There
is some one coming. It is finished, this. Come to me to-morrow morning.
There is work for you."
Later on that evening, Norgate walked up and down the platform at
Charing-Cross with Anna. Her arm rested upon his; her expression was
animated and she talked almost eagerly. Norgate carried himself like a
man who has found a new thing in life. He was feeling none of the
depression of the last few days.
"Dear," Anna begged, "you won't forget, will you, all the time that I am
away, that you must never for a single moment relax your caution?
Selingman speaks of trust. Well, he gambles, it is true, yet he protects
himself whenever he can. You will not move from early morning until you
go to bed at night, without being watched. To prove what I say—you see
the man who is reading an evening paper under the gas-lamp there? Yes? He
is one of Selingman's men. He is watching us now. More than once he has
been at our side. Scraps of conversation, or anything he can gather, will
go back to Selingman, and Selingman day by day pieces everything
together. Don't let there be a single thing which he can lay hold of."
"I'll lead him a dance," Norgate promised, nodding a little grimly. "As
for that, Anna dear, you needn't be afraid. If ever I had any wits,
they'll be awake during the next few weeks."
"When I come back from Rome," Anna went on, "I shall have more to tell
you. I believe that I shall be able to tell you even the date of the
great happening. I wonder what other commissions he will give you. The
one to-night is simple. Be careful, dear. Think—think hard before you
make up your mind. Remember that there is some duplicity which might
become suddenly obvious. An official statement might upset everything.
These English papers are so garrulous. You might find yourself
hard-pressed for an explanation."
"I'll be careful, dear," Norgate assured her, as they stood at last
before the door of her compartment. "And of ourselves?"
She lifted her veil.
"We have so little time," she murmured.
"But have you thought over what I suggested?" he begged.
She laughed at him softly.
"It sounds quite attractive," she whispered. "Shall we talk of it when I
come back from Italy? Good-by, dear! Of course, I do not really want to
kiss you, but our friend under the gas-lamp is looking—and you know our
engagement! It is so satisfactory to dear Mr. Selingman. It is the one
genuine thing about us, isn't it? So good-by!"
The long train drew out from the platform a few minutes later. Norgate
lingered until it was out of sight. Then he took a taxi and drove to
the House of Commons. He sent in a card addressed to David Bullen,
Esq., and waited for some time. At last a young man came down the
corridor towards him.
"I am Mr. Bullen's private secretary," he announced. "Mr. Bullen cannot
leave the House for some time. Would you care to go into the Strangers'
Gallery, or will you wait in his room?"
"I should like to listen to the debate, if it is possible,"
A place was found for him with some difficulty. The House was crowded.
The debate concerned one of the proposed amendments to the Home Rule
Bill, not in itself important, yet interesting to Norgate on account of
the bitter feeling which seemed to underlie the speeches of the extreme
partisans on either side. The debate led nowhere. There was no division,
no master mind intervening, yet it left a certain impression on Norgate's
mind. At a little before ten, the young man who had found him his place
touched his shoulder.
"Mr. Bullen will see you now, sir," he said.
Norgate followed his conductor through a maze of passages into a
barely-furnished but lofty apartment. The personage whom he had come to
see was standing at the further end, talking somewhat heatedly to one or
two of his supporters. At Norgate's entrance, however, he dismissed them
and motioned his visitor to a chair. He was a tall, powerful-looking man,
with the eyes and forehead of a thinker. There was a certain laconic
quality in his speech which belied his nationality.
"You come to me, I understand, Mr. Norgate," he began, "on behalf of some
friends in America, not directly, but representing a gentleman who in his
letter did not disclose himself. It sounds rather complicated, but
please talk to me. I am at your service."
"I am sorry for the apparent mystery," Norgate said, as he took the seat
to which he was invited. "I will make up for it by being very brief. I
have come on behalf of a certain individual—whom we will call, if you
please, Mr. X——. Mr. X—— has powerful connections in America,
associated chiefly with German-Americans. As you know from your own
correspondence with an organisation over there, the situation in Ireland
is intensely interesting to them at the present moment."
"I have gathered that, sir," Mr. Bullen confessed. "The help which the
Irish and Americans have sent to Dublin has scarcely been of the
magnitude which one might have expected, but one is at least assured of
"It is partly my mission to assure you of something else," Norgate
declared. "A secret meeting has been held in New York, and a sum of money
has been promised, the amount of which would, I think, surprise you. The
conditions attached to this gift, however, are peculiar. They are
inspired by a profound disbelief in the bona fides of England and the
honourableness of her intentions so far as regards the administration of
the bill when passed."
Mr. Bullen, who at first had seemed a little puzzled, was now deeply
interested. He drew his chair nearer to his visitor's.
"What grounds have you, or those whom you represent, for saying that?"
"None that I can divulge," Norgate replied. "Yet they form the motive of
the offer which I am about to make to you. I am instructed to say that
the sum of a million pounds will be paid into your funds on certain
guarantees to be given by you. It is my business here to place these
guarantees before you and to report as to your attitude concerning them."
"One million pounds!" Mr. Bullen murmured, breathlessly.
"There are the conditions," Norgate reminded him.
"In the first place," Norgate continued, "the subscribers to this fund,
which is by no means exhausted by the sum I mention, demand that you
accept no compromise, that at all costs you insist upon the whole bill,
and that if it is attempted at the last moment to deprive the Irish
people by trickery of the full extent of their liberty, you do not
hesitate to encourage your Nationalist party to fight for their freedom."
Mr. Bullen's lips were a little parted, but his face was immovable.
"In the event of your doing so," Norgate continued, "more money, and arms
themselves if you require them, will be available, but the motto of those
who have the cause of Ireland entirely at heart is, 'No compromise!' They
recognise the fact that you are in a difficult position. They fear that
you have allowed yourself to be influenced, to be weakened by pressure
so easily brought upon you from high quarters."
"I understand," Mr. Bullen remarked. "Go on."
"There is a further condition," Norgate proceeded, "though that is less
important. The position in Europe at the present moment seems to indicate
a lasting peace, yet if anything should happen that that peace should be
broken, you are asked to pledge your word that none of your Nationalist
volunteers should take up arms on behalf of England until that bill has
become law and is in operation. Further, if that unlikely event, a war,
should take place, that you have the courage to keep your men solid and
armed, and that if the Ulster volunteers, unlike your men, decide to
fight for England, as they very well might do, that you then proceed to
take by force what it is not the intention of England to grant you by any
Mr. Bullen leaned back in his chair. He picked up a penholder and played
with it for several moments.
"Young man," he asked at last, "who is Mr. X——?"
"That, in the present stage of our negotiations," Norgate answered
coolly, "I am not permitted to tell you."
"May I guess as to his nationality?" Mr. Bullen enquired.
"I cannot prevent your doing that."
"The speculation is an interesting one," Mr. Bullen went on, still
fingering the penholder. "Is Mr. X—— a German?"
Norgate was silent.
"I cannot answer questions," he said, "until you have expressed
"You can have them, then," Mr. Bullen declared.
"You can go back to Mr. X—— and tell him this. Ireland needs help
sorely to-day from all her sons, whether at home or in foreign
countries. More than anything she needs money. The million pounds of
which you speak would be a splendid contribution to what I may term our
war chest. But as to my views, here they are. It is my intention, and
the intention of my Party, to fight to the last gasp for the literal
carrying out of the bill which is to grant us our liberty. We will not
have it whittled away or weakened one iota. Our lives, and the lives of
greater men, have been spent to win this measure, and now we stand at
the gates of success. We should be traitors if we consented to part with
a single one of the benefits it brings us. Therefore, you can tell Mr.
X—— that should this Government attempt any such trickery as he not
unreasonably suspects, then his conditions will be met. My men shall
fight, and their cause will be just."
"So far," Norgate admitted, "this is very satisfactory."
"To pass on," Mr. Bullen continued, "let me at once confess that I find
something sinister, Mr. Norgate, in this mysterious visit of yours, in
the hidden identity of Mr. X——. I suspect some underlying motive
which prompts the offering of this million pounds. I may be wrong, but
it seems to me that I can see beneath it all the hand of a foreign
enemy of England."
"Supposing you were right, Mr. Bullen," Norgate said, "what is England
but a foreign enemy of Ireland?"
A light flashed for a moment in Mr. Bullen's eyes. His lip curled
"Young man," he demanded, "are you an Englishman?"
"I am," Norgate admitted.
"You speak poorly, then. To proceed to the matter in point, my word is
pledged to fight. I will plunge the country I love into civil war to gain
her rights, as greater patriots than I have done before. But the thing
which I will not do is to be made the cat's-paw, or to suffer Ireland to
be made the cat's-paw, of Germany. If war should come before the
settlement of my business, this is the position I should take. I would
cross to Dublin, and I would tell every Nationalist Volunteer to shoulder
his rifle and to fight for the British Empire, and I would go on to
Belfast—I, David Bullen—to Belfast, where I think that I am the most
hated man alive, and I would stand side by side with the leader of those
men of Ulster, and I would beg them to fight side by side with my
Nationalists. And when the war was over, if my rights were not granted,
if Ireland were not set free, then I would bid my men take breathing time
and use all their skill, all the experience they had gained, and turn and
fight for their own freedom against the men with whom they had struggled
in the same ranks. Is that million pounds to be mine, Mr. Norgate?"
Norgate shook his head.
"Nor any part of it, sir," he answered.
"I presume," Mr. Bullen remarked, as he rose, "that I shall never have
the pleasure of meeting Mr. X——?"
"I most sincerely hope," Norgate declared fervently, "that you never
will. Good-day, Mr. Bullen!"
He held out his hand. Mr. Bullen hesitated.
"Sir," he said, "I am glad to shake hands with an Irishman. I am willing
to shake hands with an honest Englishman. Just where you come in, I don't
know, so good evening. You will find my secretary outside. He will show
you how to get away."
For a moment Norgate faltered. A hot rejoinder trembled upon his lips.
Then he remembered himself and turned on his heel. It was his first
lesson in discipline. He left the room without protest.
Mr. Hebblethwaite turned into Pall Mall, his hands behind his back, his
expression a little less indicative of bland good humour than usual. He
had forgotten to light his customary cigarette after the exigencies of a
Cabinet Council. He had even forgotten to linger for a few minutes upon
the doorstep in case any photographer should be hanging around to take a
snapshot of a famous visitor leaving an historic scene, and quite
unconsciously he ignored the salutation of several friends. It was only
by the merest chance that he happened to glance up at the corner of the
street and recognised Norgate across the way. He paused at once and
beckoned to him.
"Well, young fellow," he exclaimed, as they shook hands, "how's the
German spy business going?"
"Pretty well, thanks," Norgate answered coolly. "I am in it twice over
now. I'm marrying an Austrian lady shortly, very high up indeed in the
Diplomatic Secret Service of her country. Between us you may take it that
we could read, if we chose, the secrets of the Cabinet Council from which
you have just come."
"Any fresh warnings, eh?"
Norgate turned and walked by his friend's side.
"It is no use warning you," he declared. "You've a hide as thick as a
rhinoceros. Your complacency is bomb-proof. You won't believe anything
until it's too late."
"Confoundedly disagreeable companion you make, Norgate," the Cabinet
Minister remarked irritably. "You know quite as well as I do that
the German scare is all bunkum, and you only hammer it in either to
amuse yourself or because you are of a sensational turn of mind. All
"All the same, what?" Norgate interrupted.
Hebblethwaite took his young friend's arm and led him into his club.
"We will take an apéritif in the smoking-room," he said. "After that I
will look in my book and see where I am lunching. It is perhaps not
the wisest thing for a Cabinet Minister to talk in the street. Since
the Suffragette scares, I have quite an eye for a detective, and there
has been a fellow within a few yards of your elbow ever since you
spoke to me."
"That's all right," Norgate reassured him. "Let's see, it's Tuesday,
isn't it? I call him Boko. He never leaves me. My week-end shadowers are
a trifle less assiduous, but Boko is suspicious. He has deucedly long
"What the devil are you talking about?" Hebblethwaite demanded, as
they sat down.
"The fact of it is," Norgate explained, "they don't altogether trust me
in my new profession. They give me some important jobs to look after, but
they watch me night and day. What they'd do if I turned 'em up, I can't
imagine. By-the-by, if you do hear of my being found mysteriously shot
or poisoned or something of that sort, don't you take on any theory as to
suicide. It will be murder, right enough. However," he added, raising his
glass to his lips and nodding, "they haven't found me out yet."
"I hear," Hebblethwaite muttered, "that the bookstalls are loaded with
this sort of rubbish. You do it very well, though."
"Oh! I am the real thing all right," Norgate declared. "By-the-by, what's
the matter with you?"
"Nothing," Hebblethwaite replied. "When you come to think of it, sitting
here and feeling the reviving influence of this remarkably well-concocted
beverage, I can confidently answer 'Nothing.' And yet, a few minutes ago,
I must admit that I was conscious of a sensation of gloom. You know,
Norgate, you're not the only idiot in the world who goes about seeing
shadows. For the first time in my life I begin to wonder whether we
haven't got a couple of them among us. Of course, I don't take any notice
of Spencer Wyatt. It's his job. He plays the part of popular
hero—National Anthem, God Save the Empire, and all that sort of thing.
He must keep in with his admirals and the people, so of course he's
always barking for ships. But White, now. I have always looked upon White
as being absolutely the most level-headed, sensible, and peace-adoring
Minister this country ever had."
"What's wrong with him?" Norgate asked.
"I cannot," Hebblethwaite regretted, "talk confidentially to a
"Getting cautious as the years roll on, aren't you?" Norgate sighed.
"I hoped I was going to get something interesting out of you to cable
"You try cabling to Berlin, young fellow," Hebblethwaite replied grimly,
"and I'll have you up at Bow Street pretty soon! There's no doubt about
it, though, old White has got the shivers for some reason or other. To
any sane person things were never calmer and more peaceful than at the
present moment, and White isn't a believer in the German peril, either.
He is half inclined to agree with old Busby. He got us out of that Balkan
trouble in great style, and all I can say is that if any nation in Europe
wanted war then, she could have had it for the asking."
"Well, exactly what is the matter with White at the present moment?"
"Got the shakes," Hebblethwaite confided. "Of course, we don't employ
well-born young Germans who are undergoing a period of rustication, as
English spies, but we do get to know a bit what goes on there, and the
reports that are coming in are just a little curious. Rolling stock is
being called into the termini of all the railways. Staff officers in
mufti have been round all the frontiers. There's an enormous amount of
drilling going on, and the ordnance factories are working at full
pressure, day and night."
"The manoeuvres are due very soon," Norgate reminded his friend.
"So I told White," Hebblethwaite continued, "but manoeuvres, as he
remarked, don't lead to quite so much feverish activity as there is about
Germany just now. Personally, I haven't a single second's anxiety. I only
regret the effect that this sort of feeling has upon the others. Thank
heavens we are a Government of sane, peace-believing people!"
"A Government of fat-headed asses who go about with your ears stuffed
full of wool," Norgate declared, with a sudden bitterness. "What you've
been telling me is the truth. Germany's getting ready for war, and you'll
have it in the neck pretty soon."
Hebblethwaite set down his empty glass. He had recovered his composure.
"Well, I am glad I met you, any way, young fellow," he remarked. "You're
always such an optimist. You cheer one up. Sorry I can't ask you to
lunch," he went on, consulting his book, "but I find I am motoring down
for a round of golf this afternoon."
"Yes, you would play golf!" Norgate grunted, as they strolled towards the
door. "You're the modern Nero, playing golf while the earthquake yawns
"Play you some day, if you like," Hebblethwaite suggested, as he called
for a taxi. "They took my handicap down two last week at Walton
Heath—not before it was time, either. By-the-by, when can I meet the
young lady? My people may be out of town next week, but I'll give you
both a lunch or a dinner, if you'll say the word. Thursday night, eh?"
"At present," Norgate replied, "the Baroness is in Italy, arranging for
the mobilisation of the Italian armies, but if she's back for Thursday,
we shall be delighted. She'll be quite interested to meet you. A keen,
bright, alert politician of your type will simply fascinate her."
"We'll make it Thursday night, then, at the Carlton," Hebblethwaite
called out from his taxi. "Take care of Boko. So long!"
At the top of St. James's Street, Norgate received the bow of a very
elegantly-dressed young woman who was accompanied by a well-known
soldier. A few steps further on he came face to face with Selingman.
"A small city, London," the latter declared. "I am on my way to the
Berkeley to lunch. Will you come with me? I am alone to-day, and I hate
to eat alone. Miss Morgen has deserted me shamefully."
"I met her a moment or two ago," Norgate remarked. "She was with
Selingman nodded. "Rosa has been taking a great interest in flying
lately. Colonel Bowden is head of the Flying Section. Well, well, one
must expect to be deserted sometimes, we older men."
"Especially in so great a cause," Norgate observed drily.
Selingman smiled enigmatically.
"And you, my young friend," he enquired, "what have you been doing
"I have just left Hebblethwaite," Norgate answered.
"There was a Cabinet Council this morning, wasn't there?"
"An unimportant one, I should imagine. Hebblethwaite seemed thoroughly
satisfied with himself and with life generally. He has gone down to
Walton Heath to play golf."
Selingman led the way into the restaurant.
"Very good exercise for an English Cabinet Minister," he remarked,
"capital for the muscles!"
"I had no objection," Norgate remarked, a few hours later, "to lunching
with you at the Berkeley—very good lunch it was, too—but to dine with
you in Soho certainly seems to require some explanation. Why do we do it?
Is it my punishment for a day's inactivity, because if so, I beg to
protest. I did my best with Hebblethwaite this morning, and it was only
because there was nothing for him to tell me that I heard nothing."
Selingman spread himself out at the little table and talked in voluble
German to the portly head-waiter in greasy clothes. Then he turned to
"My young friend," he enjoined, "you should cultivate a spirit of
optimism. I grant you that the place is small and close, that the odour
of other people's dinners is repellent, that this cloth, perhaps, is not
so clean as it once was, or the linen so fine as we are accustomed to.
But what would you have? All sides of life come into the great scheme. It
is here that we shall meet a person whom I need to meet, a person whom I
do not choose to have visit me at my home, whom I do not choose to be
seen with in any public place of great repute."
"I should say we were safe here from knocking against any of our
friends!" Norgate observed. "Anyhow, the beer's all right."
They were served with light-coloured beer in tall, chased tumblers.
Selingman eyed his with approval.
"A nation," he declared, "which brews beer like this, deserves well of
the world. You did wisely, Norgate, to become ever so slightly associated
with us. Now examine carefully these hors d'oeuvres. I have talked with
Karl, the head-waiter. Instead of eighteen pence, we shall pay three
shillings each for our dinner. The whole resources of the establishment
are at our disposal. Fresh tins of delicatessen, you perceive. Do not
be afraid that you will go-away hungry."
"I am more afraid," Norgate grumbled, "that I shall go away sick.
"You may be interested to hear," announced Selingman, glancing up, "that
our visit is not in vain. You perceive the two men entering? The nearest
one is a Bulgarian. He is a creature of mine. The other is brought here
by him to meet us. It is good."
The newcomers made their way along the room. One, the Bulgarian, was
short and dark. He wore a well-brushed blue serge suit with a red tie,
and a small bowler hat. He was smoking a long, brown cigarette and he
carried a bundle of newspapers. Behind him came a youth with a pale,
sensitive face and dark eyes, ill-dressed, with the grip of poverty upon
him, from his patched shoes to his frayed collar and well-worn cap.
Nevertheless, he carried himself as though indifferent to these things.
His companion stopped short as he neared the table at which the two men
were sitting, and took off his hat, greeting Selingman with respect.
"My friend Stralhaus!" Selingman exclaimed. "It goes well, I trust?
You are a stranger. Let me introduce to you my secretary, Mr.
Stralhaus bowed and turned to his young companion.
"This," he said, "is the young man with whom you desired to speak. We
will sit down if we may. Sigismund, this is the great Herr Selingman,
philanthropist and millionaire, with his secretary, Mr. Norgate. We take
dinner with him to-night."
The youth shook hands without enthusiasm. His manner towards Selingman
was cold. At Norgate he glanced once or twice with something approaching
curiosity. Stralhaus proceeded to make conversation.
"Our young friend," he explained, addressing Norgate, "is an exile in
London. He belongs to an unfortunate country. He is a native of Bosnia."
The boy's lip curled.
"It is possible," he remarked, "that Mr. Norgate has never even heard of
my country. He is very little likely to know its history."
"On the contrary," Norgate replied, "I know it very well. You have had
the misfortune, during the last few years, to come under Austrian rule."
"Since you put it like that," the boy declared, "we are friends. I am one
of those who cry out to Heaven in horror at the injustice which has been
done. We love liberty, we Bosnians. We love our own people and our own
institutions, and we hate Austria. May you never know, sir, what it is to
be ruled by an alien race!"
"You have at least the sympathy of many nations who are powerless to
interfere," Selingman said quietly. "I read your pamphlet, Mr. Henriote,
with very great interest. Before we leave to-night, I shall make a
proposal to you."
The boy seemed puzzled for a moment, but Stralhaus intervened with some
"After dinner," he suggested, "we will talk."
Certainly during the progress of the meal Henriote said little. He ate,
although obviously half famished, with restraint, but although Norgate
did his best to engage him in conversation, he seemed taciturn, almost
sullen. Towards the end of dinner, when every one was smoking and coffee
had been served, Selingman glanced at his watch.
"Now," he said, "I will tell you, my young Bosnian patriot, why I sent
for you. Would you like to go back to your country, in the first place?"
"It is impossible!" Henriote declared bitterly, "I am exile. I am
forbidden to return under pain of death."
Selingman opened his pocket-book, and, searching among his papers,
produced a thin blue one which he opened and passed across the table.
"Read that," he ordered shortly.
The young man obeyed. A sudden exclamation broke from his lips. A pink
flush, which neither the wine nor the food had produced, burned in his
cheeks. He sat hunched up, leaning forward, his eyes devouring the paper.
When he had finished, he still gripped it.
"It is my pardon!" he cried. "I may go back home—back to Bosnia!"
"It is your free pardon," Selingman replied, "but it is granted to you
upon conditions. Those conditions, I may say, are entirely for your
country's sake and are framed by those who feel exactly as you feel—that
Austrian rule for Bosnia is an injustice."
"Go on," the young man muttered. "What am I to do?"
"You are a member," Selingman went on, "of the extreme revolutionary
party, a party pledged to stop at nothing, to drive your country's
enemies across her borders. Very well, listen to me. The pardon which
you have there is granted to you without any promise having been asked
for or given in return. It is I alone who dictate terms to you. Your
country's position, her wrongs, and the abuses of the present form of
government, can only be brought before the notice of Europe in one way.
You are pledged to do that. All that I require of you is that you keep
The young man half rose to his feet with excitement.
"Keep it! Who is more anxious to keep it than I? If Europe wants to know
how we feel, she shall know! We will proclaim the wrongs of our country
so that England and Russia, France and Italy, shall hear and judge for
themselves. If you need deeds to rivet the attention of the world upon
our sufferings, then there shall be deeds. There shall—"
He stopped short. A look of despair crossed his face.
"But we have no money!" he exclaimed. "We patriots are starving. Our
lands have been confiscated. We have nothing. I live over here Heaven
knows how—I, Sigismund Henriote, have toiled for my living with Polish
Jews and the outcasts of Europe."
Selingman dived once more into his pocket-book. He passed a packet across
"Young man," he said, "that sum has been collected for your funds by the
friends of your country abroad. Take it and use it as you think best. All
that I ask from you is that what you do, you do quickly. Let me suggest
an occasion for you. The Archduke of Austria will be in your capital
almost as soon as you can reach home."
The boy's face was transfigured. His great eyes were lit with a wonderful
fire. His frame seemed to have filled out. Norgate looked at him in
wonderment. He was like a prophet; then suddenly he grew calm. He placed
his pardon, to which was attached his passport, and the notes, in his
breast-coat pocket. He rose to his feet and took the cap from the floor
by his side.
"There is a train to-night," he announced. "I wish you farewell,
gentlemen. I know nothing of you, sir," he added, turning to Selingman,
"and I ask no questions. I only know that you have pointed towards the
light, and for that I thank you. Good night, gentlemen!"
He left them and walked out of the restaurant like a man in a dream.
Selingman helped himself to a liqueur and passed the bottle to Norgate.
"It is in strange places that one may start sometimes the driving wheels
of Fate," he remarked.
Anna almost threw herself from the railway carriage into Norgate's arms.
She kissed him on both cheeks, held him for a moment away from her, then
passed her arm affectionately through his.
"You dear!" she exclaimed. "Oh, how weary I am of it! Nearly a week in
the train! And how well you are looking! And I am not going to stay a
single second bothering about luggage. Marie, give the porter my
dressing-case. Here are the keys. You can see to everything."
Norgate, carried almost off his feet by the delight of her welcome, led
her away towards a taxicab.
"I am starving," she told him. "I would have nothing at Dover except a
cup of tea. I knew that you would meet me, and I thought that we would
have our first meal in England together. You shall take me somewhere
where we can have supper and tell me all the news. I don't look too
hideous, do I, in my travelling clothes?"
"You look adorable," he assured her, "and I believe you know it."
"I have done my best," she confessed demurely. "Marie took so much
trouble with my hair. We had the most delightful coupe all to
ourselves. Fancy, we are back again in London! I have been to Italy, I
have spoken to kings and prime ministers, and I am back again with you.
And queerly enough, not until to-morrow shall I see the one person who
really rules Italy."
"Who is that?" he asked.
"I am not sure that I shall tell you everything," she decided. "You have
not opened your mouth to me yet. I shall wait until supper-time. Have you
changed your mind since I went away?"
"I shall never change it," he assured her eagerly. "We are in a taxicab
and I know it's most unusual and improper, but—"
"If you hadn't kissed me," she declared a moment later as she
leaned forward to look in the glass, "I should not have eaten a
mouthful of supper."
They drove to the Milan Grill. It was a little early for the theatre
people, and they were almost alone in the place. Anna drew a great sigh
of content as she settled down in her chair.
"I think I must have been lonely for a long time," she whispered, "for
it is so delightful to get back and be with you. Tell me what you have
"I have been promoted," Norgate announced. "My prospective alliance with
you has completed Selingman's confidence in me. I have been entrusted
with several commissions."
He told her of his adventures. She listened breathlessly to the account
of his dinner in Soho.
"It is queer how all this is working out," she observed. "I knew before
that the trouble was to come through Austria. The Emperor was very
anxious indeed that it should not. He wanted to have his country brought
reluctantly into the struggle. Even at this moment I believe that if he
thought there was the slightest chance of England becoming embroiled, he
would travel to Berlin himself to plead with the Kaiser. I really don't
know why, but the one thing in Austria which would be thoroughly
unpopular would be a war with England."
"Tell me about your mission?" he asked.
"To a certain point," she confessed, with a little grimace, "it was
unsuccessful. I have brought a reply to the personal letter I took over
to the King. I have talked with Guillamo, the Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs, with whom, of course, everything is supposed to rest.
What I have brought with me, however, and what I heard from Guillamo, are
nothing but a repetition of the assurances given to our Ambassador. The
few private words which I was to get I have failed in obtaining, simply
because the one person who could have spoken them is here in London."
"Who is that?" he enquired curiously.
"The Comtesse di Strozzi," she told him. "It is she who has directed the
foreign policy of Italy through Guillamo for the last ten years. He does
nothing without her. He is like a lost child, indeed, when she is away.
And where do you think she is? Why, here in London. She is staying at the
Italian Embassy. Signor Cardina is her cousin. The great ball to-morrow
night, of which you have read, is in her honour. You shall be my escort.
At one time I knew her quite well."
"The Comtesse di Strozzi!" he exclaimed. "Why, she spent the whole of
last season in Paris. I saw quite a great deal of her."
"How odd!" Anna murmured. "But how delightful! We shall be able to talk
to her together, you and I."
"It is rather a coincidence," he admitted "She had a sort of craze to
visit some of the places in Paris where it is necessary for a woman to go
incognito, and I was always her escort. I heard from her only a few weeks
ago, and she told me that she was coming to London."
Anna shook her head at him gaily.
"Well," she said, "I won't indulge in any ante-jealousies. I only
hope that through her we shall get to know the truth. Are things here
"Also in Paris. Francis, I feel so helpless. On my way I thought of
staying over, of going to see the Minister of War and placing certain
facts before him. And then I realised how little use it would all be.
They won't believe us, Francis. They would simply call us alarmists. They
won't believe that the storm is gathering."
"Don't I know it!" Norgate assented earnestly. "Why, Hebblethwaite here
has always been a great friend of mine. I have done all I can to
influence him. He simply laughs in my face. To-day, for the first time,
he admitted that there was a slight uneasiness at the Cabinet Meeting,
and that White had referred to a certain mysterious activity throughout
Germany. Nevertheless, he has gone down to Walton Heath to play golf."
She made a little grimace.
"Your great Drake," she reminded him, "played bowls when the Armada
sailed. Your Cabinet Ministers will be playing golf or tennis. Oh, what a
careless country you are!—a careless, haphazard, blind, pig-headed
nation to watch over the destinies of such an Empire! I'm so tired of
politics, dear. I am so tired of all the big things that concern other
people. They press upon one. Now it is finished. You and I are alone. You
are my lover, aren't you? Remind me of it. If you will, I will discuss
the subject you mentioned the other day. Of course I shall say 'No!' I am
not nearly ready to be married yet. But I should like to hear your
Their heads grew closer and closer together. They were almost
touching when Selingman and Rosa Morgen came in. Selingman paused
before their table.
"Well, well, young people!" he exclaimed. "Forgive me, Baroness, if I am
somewhat failing in respect, but the doings of this young man have become
some concern of mine."
Her greeting was tinged with a certain condescension. She had suddenly
stiffened. There was something of the grande dame in the way she held
up the tips of her fingers.
"You do not disapprove, I trust?"
"Baroness," Selingman declared earnestly, "it is an alliance for which no
words can express my approval. It comes at the one moment. It has riveted
to us and our interests one whose services will never be forgotten. May
I venture to hope that your journey to Italy has been productive?"
"Not entirely as we had hoped," Anna replied, "yet the position there is
Selingman glanced towards the table at which Miss Morgen had already
"I must not neglect my duties," he remarked, turning away.
"Especially," Anna murmured, glancing across the room, "when they might
so easily be construed into pleasures."
Selingman beamed amiably.
"The young lady," he said, "is more than ornamental—she is extremely
useful. From the fact that I may not be privileged to present her to you,
I must be careful that she cannot consider herself neglected. And so good
night, Baroness! Good night, Norgate!"
He passed on. The Baroness watched him as he took his place opposite his
"Is it my fancy," Norgate asked, "or does Selingman not meet entirely
with your approval?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"It is not that," she replied. "He is a great man, in his way, the
Napoleon of the bourgeoisie, but then he is one of them himself. He
collects the whole scheme of information as to the social life and
opinions—the domestic particulars, I call them—of your country. Details
of your industries are at his finger-tips. He and I do not come into
contact. I am the trusted agent of both sovereigns, but it is only in
high diplomatic affairs that I ever intervene. Selingman, it is true,
may be considered the greatest spy who ever breathed, but a spy he is. If
we could only persuade your too amiable officials to believe one-tenth of
what we could tell them, I think our friend there would breakfast in an
English fortress, if you have such a thing."
"We should only place him under police supervision," declared Norgate,
"and let him go. It's just our way, that's all."
She waved the subject of Selingman on one side, but almost at that moment
he stood once more before them. He held an evening paper in his hand.
"I bring you the news," he announced. "A terrible tragedy has happened.
The Archduke of Austria and his Consort have been assassinated on their
tour through Bosnia."
For a moment neither Anna nor Norgate moved. Norgate felt a strange sense
of sickening excitement. It was as though the curtain had been rung up!
"Is the assassin's name there?" he asked.
"The crime," Selingman replied, "appears to have been committed by a
young Servian student. His name is Sigismund Henriote."
They paused at last, breathless, and walked out of the most wonderful
ballroom in London into the gardens, aglow with fairy lanterns whose
brilliance was already fading before the rising moon. They found a seat
under a tall elm tree, and Anna leaned back. It was a queer mixture of
sounds which came to their ears; in the near distance, the music of a
wonderful orchestra rising and falling; further away, the roar of the
great city still awake and alive outside the boundary of those grey
"Of course," she murmured, "this is the one thing which completes my
subjugation. Fancy an Englishman being able to waltz! Almost in that
beautiful room I fancied myself back in Vienna, except that it was more
wonderful because it was you."
"You are turning my head," he whispered. "This is like a night out of
Paradise. And to think that we are really in the middle of London!"
"Ah! do not mention London," she begged, "or else I shall begin to think
of Sodom and Gomorrah. After all, why need one live for anything else
except the present?"
"There is the Comtesse," he reminded her disconsolately.
"How horrid of you!"
"Let us forget her, then," he begged. "We will go into the marquee there
and have supper, and afterwards dance again. We'll steal to-night out of
the calendar. We'll call it ours and play with it as we please."
She shook her head.
"No," she decided, "you have reminded me of our duty, and you are quite
right. You were brought here to talk to the Comtesse. I do not know why,
but she is in a curiously impenetrable frame of mind. I tried hard to get
her to talk to me, but it was useless; you must see what you can do.
Fortunately, she seems to be absolutely delighted to have met you again.
You have a dance with her, have you not?"
He drew out his programme reluctantly.
"The next one, too," he sighed.
Anna rose quickly to her feet.
"How absurd of me to forget! Take me inside, please, and go and look for
her at once."
"It's all very well," Norgate grumbled, "but the last time I saw her she
was about three deep among the notabilities. I really don't feel that I
ought to jostle dukes and ambassadors to claim a dance."
"You must not be so foolish," Anna insisted. "The Comtesse cares nothing
for dukes and ambassadors, but she is most ridiculously fond of
good-looking young men. Mind, you will do better with her if you speak
entirely outside all of us. She is a very peculiar woman. If one could
only read the secrets she has stored up in her brain! Sometimes she is so
lavish with them, and at other times, and with other people, it seems as
though it would take an earthquake to force a sentence from her lips.
There she is, see, in that corner. Never mind the people around her. Go
and do your duty."
Norgate found it easier than he had expected. She no sooner saw him
coming than she rose to her feet and welcomed him. She laid her fingers
upon his arm, and they moved away towards the ballroom.
"I am afraid," he apologised, "that I am rather an intruder. You all
seemed so interested in listening to the Duke."
"On the contrary, I welcome you as a deliverer," she declared. "I have
heard those stories so often, and worse than having heard them is the
necessity always to smile. The Duke is a dear good person, and he has
been exceedingly kind to me during the whole of my stay, but oh, how one
sometimes does weary oneself of this London of yours! Yet I love it. Do
you know that you were almost the first person I asked for when I arrived
here? They told me that you were in Berlin."
"I was," he admitted. "I am in the act of being transferred."
"Fortunate person!" she murmured. "You speak the language of all
capitals, but I cannot fancy you in Berlin."
They had reached the edge of the ballroom. He hesitated.
"Do you care to dance or shall we go outside and talk?"
She smiled at him. "Both, may we not? You dear, discreet person, when I
think of the strange places where I have danced with you—Perhaps it is
better not to remember!"
They moved away to the music and later on found their way into the
garden. The Comtesse was a little thoughtful.
"You are a great friend of Anna's, are you not?" she enquired.
"We are engaged to be married," he answered simply.
She made a little grimace.
"Ah!" she sighed, "you nice men, it comes to you all. You amuse
yourselves with us for a time, and then the real feeling comes, and where
are we? But it is queer, too," she went on thoughtfully, "that Anna
should marry an Englishman, especially just now."
"Why 'especially just now'?"
The Comtesse evaded the question.
"Anna seemed always," she said, "to prefer the men of her own country.
Oh, what music! Shall we have one turn more, Mr. Francis Norgate? It is
the waltz they played—but who could expect a man to remember!"
They plunged again into the crowd of dancers. The Comtesse was breathless
yet exhilarated when at last they emerged.
"But you dance, as ever, wonderfully!" she cried. "You make me think of
those days in Paris. You make me even sad."
"They remain," he assured her, "one of the most pleasant memories
of my life."
She patted his hand affectionately. Then her tone changed.
"Almost," she declared, "you have driven all other things out of my
mind. What is it that Anna is so anxious to know from me? You are in her
confidence, she tells me."
"That again is strange," the Comtesse continued, "when one considers your
nationality, yet Anna herself has assured me of it. Do you know that she
is a person whom I very much envy? Her life is so full of variety. She is
the special protégée of the Emperor. No woman at Vienna is more trusted."
"I am not sure," Norgate observed, "that she was altogether satisfied
with the results of her visit to Rome."
The Comtesse's fan fluttered slowly back and forth. She looked for a
moment or two idly upon the brilliant scene. The smooth garden paths, the
sheltered seats, the lawns themselves, were crowded with little throngs
of women in exquisite toilettes, men in uniform and Court dress. There
were well-known faces everywhere. It was the crowning triumph of a
wonderful London season.
"Anna's was a very difficult mission," the Comtesse pointed out
confidentially. "There is really no secret about these matters. The whole
world knows of Italy's position. A few months ago, at the time of what
you call the Balkan Crisis, Germany pressed us very hard for a definite
assurance of our support, under any conditions, of the Triple Alliance. I
remember that Andrea was three hours with the King that day, and our
reply was unacceptable in Berlin. It may have helped to keep the peace.
One cannot tell. The Kaiser's present letter is simply a repetition of
his feverish attempt to probe our intentions."
"But at present," Norgate ventured, "there is no Balkan Crisis."
The Comtesse looked at him lazily out of the corners of her sleepy eyes.
"Is there not?" she asked simply. "I have been away from Italy for a week
or so, and Andrea trusts nothing to letters. Yesterday I had a dispatch
begging me to return. I go to-morrow morning. I do not know whether it is
because of the pressure of affairs, or because he wearies himself a
little without me."
"One might easily imagine the latter," Norgate remarked. "But is it
indeed any secret to you that there is a great feeling of uneasiness
throughout the Continent, an extraordinary state of animation, a bustle,
although a secret bustle, of preparation in Germany?"
"I have heard rumours of this," the Comtesse confessed.
"When one bears these things in mind and looks a little into the future,"
Norgate continued, "one might easily believe that the reply to that still
unanswered letter of the Kaiser's might well become historical."
"You would like me, would you not," she asked, "to tell you what that
reply will most certainly be?"
"You are an Englishman," she remarked thoughtfully, "and intriguing with
Anna. I fear that I do not understand the position."
"Must you understand it?"
"Perhaps not," she admitted. "It really matters very little. I will speak
to you just in the only way I can speak, as a private individual. I tell
you that I do not believe that Andrea will ever, under any circumstances,
join in any war against England, nor any war which has for its object the
crushing of France. In his mind the Triple Alliance was the most selfish
alliance which any country has ever entered into, but so long as the
other two Powers understood the situation, it was scarcely Italy's part
to point out the fact that she gained everything by it and risked
nothing. Italy has sheltered herself for years under its provisions, but
neither at the time of signing it, nor at any other time, has she had the
slightest intention of joining in an aggressive war at the request of her
allies. You see, her Government felt themselves safe—and I think that
that was where Andrea was so clever—in promising to fulfil their
obligations in case of an attack by any other Power upon Germany or
Austria, because it was perfectly certain to Andrea, and to every person
of common sense, that no such aggressive attack would ever be made. You
read Austria's demands from Servia in the paper this morning?"
"I did," Norgate admitted. "No one in the world could find them
"They are not meant to be reasonable," the Comtesse pointed out. "They
are the foundation from which the world quarrel shall spring. Russia
must intervene to protect Servia from their hideous injustice. Germany
and Austria will throw down the gage. Germany may be right or she may be
wrong, but she believes she can count on Great Britain's neutrality. She
needs our help and believes she will get it. That is because German
diplomacy always believes that it is going to get what it wants. Now, in
a few words, I will tell you what the German Emperor would give me a
province to know. I will tell you that no matter what the temptation,
what the proffered reward may be, Italy will not join in this war on the
side of Germany and Austria."
"You are very kind, Comtesse," Norgate said simply, "and I shall respect
She rose and laid her fingers upon his arm.
"To people whom I like," she declared, "I speak frankly. I give away no
secrets. I say what I believe. And now I must leave you for a much
subtler person and a much subtler conversation. Prince Herschfeld is
waiting to talk to me. Perhaps he, too, would like to know the answer
which will go to his master, but how can I tell?"
The Ambassador had paused before them. The Comtesse rose and
accepted his arm.
"I shall take away with me to-night at least two charming memories," she
assured him, as she gathered up her skirts. "My two dances, Mr. Norgate,
have been delightful. Now I am equally sure of entertainment of another
sort from Prince Herschfeld."
The Prince bowed.
"Ah! madame," he sighed, "it is so hard to compete with youth. I fear
that the feet of Mr. Norgate will be nimbler than my brain to-night."
She nodded sympathetically.
"You are immersed in affairs, of course," she murmured. "Au revoir, Mr.
Norgate! Give my love to Anna. Some day I hope that I shall welcome you
both in Rome."
Norgate pushed his way through a confused medley of crates which had just
been unloaded and made his way up the warehouse to Selingman's office.
Selingman was engaged for a few minutes but presently opened the door of
his sanctum and called his visitor in.
"Well, my young friend," he exclaimed, "you have brought news? Sit down.
This is a busy morning. We have had large shipments from Germany. I have
appointments with buyers most of the day, yet I can talk to you for a
little time. You were at the ball last night?"
"I was permitted to escort the Baroness von Haase," Norgate replied.
Selingman nodded ponderously.
"I ask you no questions," he said. "The Baroness works on a higher plane.
I know more than you would believe, though. I know why the dear lady went
to Rome; I know why she was at the ball. I know in what respect you were
probably able to help her. But I ask no questions. We work towards a
common end, but we work at opposite ends of the pole. Curiosity alone
would be gratified if you were to tell me everything that transpired."
"You keep yourself marvellously well-informed as to most things, don't
you, Mr. Selingman?" Norgate remarked.
"Platitudes, young man, platitudes," Selingman declared, "words of air.
What purpose have they? You know who I am. I hold in my hand a thousand
strings. Any one that I pull will bring an answering message to my brain.
Come, what is it you wish to say to me?"
"I am doing my work for you," Norgate remarked, "and doing it
extraordinarily well. I do not object to a certain amount of
surveillance, but I am getting fed up with Boko."
"Who the hell is Boko?" Selingman demanded.
"I must apologise," Norgate replied. "A nickname only. He is a little
red-faced man who looks like a children's toy and changes his clothes
about seven times a day. He is with me from the moment I rise to the last
thing at night. He is getting on my nerves. I am fast drifting into the
frame of mind when one looks under the bed before one can sleep."
"Young man," Selingman said, "a month ago you were a person of no
importance. To-day, so far as I am concerned, you are a treasure-casket.
You hold secrets. You have a great value to us. Every one in your
position is watched; it is part of our system. If the man for whom you
have found so picturesque a nickname annoys you, he shall be changed.
That is the most I can promise you."
"You don't trust me altogether, then?" Norgate observed coolly.
Selingman tapped on the table in front of him with his pudgy forefinger.
"Norgate," he declared solemnly, "trust is a personal matter. I have no
personal feelings. I am a machine. All the work I do is done by
machinery, the machinery of thought, the machinery of action. These are
the only means by which sentiment can be barred and the curious
fluctuations of human temperament guarded against. If you were my son, or
if you had dropped straight down from Heaven with a letter of
introduction from the proper quarters, you would still be under my
"That seems to settle the matter," Norgate confessed, "so I suppose I
mustn't grumble. Yours is rather a bloodless philosophy."
"Perhaps," Selingman assented. "You see me as I sit here, a merchant of
crockery, and I am a kind person. If I saw suffering, I should pause to
ease it. If a wounded insect lay in my path, I should step out of my way
to avoid it. But if my dearest friend, my nearest relation, seemed likely
to me to do one fraction of harm to the great cause, I should without one
second's compunction arrange for their removal as inevitably, and with as
little hesitation, as I leave this place at one o'clock for my luncheon."
Norgate shrugged his shoulders.
"One apparently runs risks in serving you," he remarked.
"What risks?" Selingman asked keenly.
"The risk of being misunderstood, of making mistakes."
"Pooh!" Selingman exclaimed. "I do not like the man who talks of risks.
Let us dismiss this conversation. I have work for you."
Norgate assumed a more interested attitude.
"I am ready," he said. "Go on, please."
"A movement is on foot," Selingman proceeded, "to establish manufactories
in this country for the purpose of producing my crockery. A very large
company will be formed, a great part of the money towards which is
already subscribed. We have examined several sites with a view to
building factories, but I have not cared at present to open up direct
negotiations. A rumour of our enterprise is about, and the price of the
land we require would advance considerably if the prospective purchaser
were known. The land is situated, half an acre at Willesden,
three-quarters of an acre at Golder's Hill, and an acre at Highgate. I
wish you to see the agents for the sale of these properties. I have
ascertained indirectly the price, which you will find against each lot,
with the agent's name," Selingman continued, passing across a folded slip
of foolscap. "You will treat in your own name and pay the deposit
yourself. Try and secure all three plots to-day, so that the lawyers can
prepare the deeds and my builder can make some preparatory plans there
during the week."
Norgate accepted the little bundle of papers with some surprise. Enclosed
with them was a thick wad of bank-notes.
"There are two thousand pounds there for your deposits," Selingman
continued. "If you need more, telephone to me, but understand I want to
start to work laying the foundations within the next few days."
"I'll do the best I can," Norgate promised, "but this is rather a change
for me, isn't it? Will Boko come along?"
Selingman smiled for a moment, but immediately afterwards his face was
"Young man," he said, "from the moment you pledged your brains to my
service, every action of your day has been recorded. From one of my
pigeonholes I could draw out a paper and tell you where you lunched
yesterday, where you dined the day before, whom you met and with whom you
talked, and so it will be until our work is finished."
"So long as I know," Norgate sighed, rising to his feet, "I'll try to get
used to him."
Norgate found no particular difficulty in carrying out the commissions
entrusted to him. The sale of land is not an everyday affair, and he
found the agents exceedingly polite and prompt. The man with whom he
arranged the purchase of about three quarters of an acre of building land
at Golder's Green, on the conclusion of the transaction exhibited some
"Queer thing," he remarked, "but I sold half an acre, a month or two ago,
to a man who came very much as you come to-day. Might have been a
foreigner. Said he was going to put up a factory to make boots and shoes.
He is not going to start to build until next year, but he wanted a very
solid floor to stand heavy machinery. Look here."
The agent climbed upon a pile of bricks, and Norgate followed his
example. There was a boarded space before them, with scaffolding poles
all around, but no other signs of building, and the interior consisted
merely of a perfectly smooth concrete floor.
"That's the queerest way of setting about building a factory I ever saw,"
the man pointed out.
Norgate, who was not greatly interested, assented. The agent escorted him
back to his taxicab.
"Of course, it's not my business," he admitted, "and you needn't say
anything about this to your principals, but I hope they don't stop with
laying down concrete floors. Of course, money for the property is the
chief thing we want, but we do want factories and the employment of
labour, and the sooner the better. This fellow—Reynolds, he said his
name was—pays up for the property all right, has that concrete floor
prepared, and clears off."
"Raising the money to build, perhaps," Norgate remarked. "I don't think
there's any secret about my people's intentions. They are going to build
factories for the manufacture of crockery."
The agent brightened up.
"Well, that's a new industry, anyway. Crockery, eh?"
"It's a big German firm in Cannon Street," Norgate explained. "They are
going to make the stuff here. That ought to be better for our people."
The young man nodded.
"I expect they're afraid of tariff reform," he suggested. "Those Germans
see a long way ahead sometimes."
"I am beginning to believe that they do," Norgate assented, as he stepped
into the taxi.
Norgate walked into the club rather late that afternoon. Selingman and
Prince Lenemaur were talking together in the little drawing-room. They
called him in, and a few minutes later the Prince took his leave.
"Well, that's all arranged," Norgate reported. "I have bought the three
sites. There was only one thing the fellow down at Golder's Hill was
"He hoped you weren't just going to put down a concrete floor and then
shut the place up."
Mr. Selingman's amiable imperturbability was for once disturbed.
"What did the fellow mean?" he enquired.
"Haven't an idea," Norgate replied, "but he made me stand on a pile of
bricks and look at a strip of land which some one else had bought upon a
hill close by. I suppose they want the factories built as quickly as
possible, and work-people around the place."
"I shall have two hundred men at work to-morrow morning," Selingman
remarked. "If that agent had not been a very ignorant person, he would
have known that a concrete floor is a necessity to any factory where
heavy machinery is used."
"Is it?" Norgate asked simply.
"Any other question?" Selingman demanded.
"None at all."
"Then we will go and play bridge."
They cut into the same rubber. Selingman, however, was not at first
entirely himself. He played his cards in silence, and he once very nearly
revoked. Mrs. Benedek took him to task.
"Dear man," she said, "we rely upon you so much, and to-day you fail to
amuse us. What is there upon your mind? Let us console you, if we can."
"Dear lady, it is nothing," Selingman assured her. "My company is
planning big developments in connection with our business. The details
afford me much food for thought. My attention, I fear, sometimes wanders.
Forgive me, I will make amends. When the day comes that my new factories
start work, I will give such a party as was never seen. I will invite you
all. We will have a celebration that every one shall talk of. And
meanwhile, behold! I will wander no longer. I declare no trumps."
Selingman for a time was himself again. When he cut out, however, he
fidgeted a little restlessly around the room and watched Norgate share
the same fate with an air of relief. He laid his hand upon the
"Come into the other room, Norgate," he invited. "I have something to
say to you."
Norgate obeyed at once, but the room was already occupied. A little blond
lady was entertaining a soldier friend at tea. She withdrew her head
from somewhat suspicious proximity to her companion's at their entrance
and greeted Selingman with innocent surprise.
"How queer that you should come in just then, Mr. Selingman!" she
exclaimed. "We were talking about Germany, Captain Fielder and I."
Selingman beamed upon them both. He was entirely himself again. He looked
as though the one thing in life he had desired was to find Mrs. Barlow
and her military companion in possession of the little drawing-room.
"My country is flattered," he declared, "especially," he added, with a
twinkle in his eyes, "as the subject seemed to be proving so
She made a little grimace at him.
"Seriously, Mr. Selingman," she continued, "Captain Fielder and I have
been almost quarrelling. He insists upon it that some day or other
Germany means to declare war upon us. I have been trying to point out
that before many years have passed England and France will have drifted
apart. Germany is the nearest to us of the continental nations, isn't
she, by relationship and race?"
"Mrs. Barlow," Selingman pronounced, "yours is the most sensible allusion
to international politics which I have heard for many years. You are
right. If I may be permitted to say so," he added, "Captain Fielder is
wrong. Germany has no wish to fight with any one. The last country in the
world with whom she would care to cross swords is England."
"If Germany does not wish for war," Captain Fielder persisted, "why does
she keep such an extraordinary army? Why does she continually add to her
navy? Why does she infest our country with spies and keep all her
preparations as secret as possible?"
"Of these things I know little," Selingman confessed, "I am a
manufacturer, and I have few friends among the military party. But this
we all believe, and that is that the German army and navy are our
insurance against trouble from the east. They are there so that in case
of political controversy we shall have strength at our back when we seek
to make favourable terms. As to using that strength, God forbid!"
The little lady threw a triumphant glance across at her companion.
"There, Captain Fielder," she declared, "you have heard what a typical,
well-informed, cultivated German gentleman has to say. I rely much more
upon Mr. Selingman than upon any of the German reviews or official
statements of policy."
Captain Fielder was bluntly unconvinced.
"Mr. Selingman, without doubt," he agreed, "may represent popular and
cultivated German opinion. The only thing is whether the policy of the
country is dictated by that class. Do you happen to have seen the
"Not yet," Mr. Selingman admitted. "Is there any news?"
"There is the full text," Captain Fielder continued, "of Austria's
demands upon Servia. I may be wrong, but I say confidently that those
demands, which are impossible of acceptance, which would reduce Servia,
in fact, to the condition of a mere vassal state, are intended to provoke
a state of war."
Mr. Selingman shook his head.
"I have seen the proposals," he remarked. "They were in the second
edition of the morning papers. They are onerous, without a doubt, but
remember that as you go further east, all diplomacy becomes a matter of
barter. They ask for so much first because they are prepared to take a
great deal less."
"It is my opinion," Captain Fielder pronounced, "that these demands are
couched with the sole idea of inciting Russia's intervention. There is
already a report that Servia has appealed to St. Petersburg. It is quite
certain that Russia, as the protector of the Slav nations, can never
allow Servia to be humbled to this extent."
"Even then," Mr. Selingman protested good-humouredly, "Austria is
"There are very few people," Captain Fielder continued, "who do not
realise that Austria is acting exactly as she is bidden by Germany.
To-morrow you will find that Russia has intervened. If Vienna disregards
her, there will be mobilisation along the frontiers. It is my private and
very firm impression that Germany is mobilising to-day, and secretly."
Mr. Selingman laughed good-humouredly.
"Well, well," he said, "let us hope it is not quite so bad as that."
"You are frightening me, Captain Fielder," Mrs. Barlow declared. "I am
going to take you off to play bridge."
They left the room. Selingman looked after them a little curiously.
"Your military friend," he remarked, "is rather a pessimist."
"Well, we haven't many of them," Norgate replied. "Nine people out of ten
believe that a war is about as likely to come as an earthquake."
Selingman glanced towards the closed door.
"Supposing," he said, dropping his voice a little, "supposing I were to
tell you, young man, that I entirely agreed with your friend? Supposing I
were to tell you that, possibly by accident, he has stumbled upon the
exact truth? What would you say then?"
Norgate shrugged his shoulders.
"Well," he observed, "we've agreed, haven't we, that a little
lesson would be good for England? It might as well come now as at
any other time."
"It will not come yet," Mr. Selingman went on, "but I will tell you what
is going to happen."
His voice had fallen almost to a whisper, his manner had become
"Within a week or two," he said, "Germany and Austria will have declared
war upon Russia and Servia and France. Italy will join the allies—that
you yourself know. As for England, her time has not come yet. We shall
keep her neutral. All the recent information which we have collected
makes it clear that she is not in a position to fight, even if she wished
to. Nevertheless, to make a certainty of it, we shall offer her great
inducements. We shall be ready to deal with her when Calais, Ostend,
Boulogne, and Havre are held by our armies. Now listen, do you flinch?"
The two men were still standing in the middle of the room. Selingman's
brows were lowered, his eyes were keen and hard-set. He had gripped
Norgate by the left shoulder and held him with his face to the light.
"Speak up," he insisted. "It is now or never, if you mean to go through
with this. You're not funking it, eh?"
"Not in the least," Norgate declared.
For the space of almost thirty seconds Selingman did not remove his gaze.
All the time his hand was like a vice upon Norgate's shoulder.
"Very well," he said at last, "you represent rather a gamble on my
part, but I am not afraid of the throw. Come back to our bridge now.
It was just a moment's impulse—I saw something in your face. You
realise, I suppose—but there, I won't threaten you. Come back and
we'll drink a mixed vermouth together. The next few days are going to
be rather a strain."
Norgate's expression was almost one of stupefaction. He looked at the
slim young man who had entered his sitting-room a little diffidently and
for a moment he was speechless.
"Well, I'm hanged!" he murmured at last. "Hardy, you astonish me!"
"The clothes are a perfect fit, sir," the man observed, "and I think that
we are exactly the same height."
Norgate took a cigarette from an open box, tapped it against the table
and lit it. He was fascinated, however, by the appearance of the man who
stood respectfully in the background.
"Talk about clothes making the man!" he exclaimed. "Why, Hardy, do you
realise your possibilities? You could go into my club and dine, order
jewels from my jeweller. I am not at all sure that you couldn't take my
place at a dinner-party."
The man smiled deprecatingly.
"Not quite that, I am sure, sir. If I may be allowed to say so, though,
when you were good enough to give me the blue serge suit a short time
ago, and a few of your old straw hats, two or three gentlemen stopped me
under the impression that I was you. I should not have mentioned it, sir,
but for the present circumstances."
"And no wonder!" Norgate declared. "If this weren't really a serious
affair, Hardy, I should be inclined to make a little humorous use of you.
That isn't what I want now, though. Listen. Put on one of my black
overcoats and a silk hat, get the man to call you a taxi up to the door,
and drive to Smith's Hotel. You will enquire for the suite of the
Baroness von Haase. The Baroness will allow you to remain in her rooms
for half an hour. At the end of that time you will return here, change
your clothes, and await any further orders."
"Very good, sir," the man replied.
"Help yourself to cigarettes," Norgate invited, passing the box across.
"Do the thing properly. Sit well back in the taxicab, although I'm
hanged if I think that my friend Boko stands an earthly. Plenty of money
in your pocket?"
"Plenty, thank you, sir."
The man left the room, and Norgate, after a brief delay, followed his
example. A glance up and down the courtyard convinced him that Boko had
disappeared. He jumped into a taxi, gave an address in Belgrave Square,
and within a quarter of an hour was ushered into the presence of Mr.
Spencer Wyatt, who was seated at a writing-table covered with papers.
"Mr. Norgate, isn't it?" the latter remarked briskly. "I had Mr.
Hebblethwaite's note, and I am very pleased to give you five minutes. Sit
down, won't you, and fire away."
"Did Mr. Hebblethwaite give you any idea as to what I wanted?"
"Better read his note," the other replied, pushing it across the table
with a little smile.
Norgate took it up and read:—
"My dear Spencer Wyatt,
"A young friend of mine, Francis Norgate, who has been in the Diplomatic
Service for some years and is home just now from Berlin under
circumstances which you may remember, has asked me to give him a line of
introduction to you which will secure him an interview during to-day.
Here is that line. Norgate is a young man for whom I have a great
friendship. I consider him possessed of unusual intelligence and many
delightful gifts, but, like many others of us, he is a crank. You can
listen with interest to anything he may have to say to you, unless he
speaks of Germany. That's his weak point. On any other subject he is as
sane as the best of us.
"Many thanks. Certainly I am coming to the Review. We are all looking
forward to it immensely.
"JOHN W. HEBBLETHWAITE."
Norgate set down the letter.
"There are two points of view, Mr. Spencer Wyatt," he said, "as to
Germany. Mr. Hebblethwaite believes that I am an alarmist. I know that I
am not. This isn't any ordinary visit of mine. I have come to see you on
the most urgent matter which any one could possibly conceive. I have come
to give you the chance to save our country from the worst disaster that
has ever befallen her."
Mr. Spencer Wyatt looked at his visitor steadily. His eyebrows had drawn
a little closer together. He remained silent, however.
"I talk about the things I know of," Norgate continued. "By chance I
have been associated during the last few weeks with the head of the
German spies who infest this country. I have joined his ranks; I have
become a double traitor. I do his work, but every report I hand in is a
"Do you realise quite what you are saying, Mr. Norgate?"
"Realise it?" Norgate repeated. "My God! Do you think I come here to say
these things to you for dramatic effect, or from a sense of humour, or as
a lunatic? Every word I shall say to you is the truth. At the present
moment there isn't a soul who seriously believes that England is going to
be drawn into what the papers describe as a little eastern trouble. I
want to tell you that that little eastern trouble has been brought about
simply with the idea of provoking a European war. Germany is ready to
strike at last, and this is her moment. Not a fortnight ago I sat
opposite the boy Henriote in a café in Soho. My German friend handed him
the money to get back to his country and to buy bombs. It's all part of
the plot. Austria's insane demands are part of the plot; they are meant
to drag Russia in. Russia must protest; she must mobilise. Germany is
secretly mobilising at this moment. She will declare war against Russia,
strike at France through Belgium. She will appeal to us for our
"These are wonderful things you are saying, Mr. Norgate!"
"I am telling you the simple truth," Norgate went on, "and the
history of our country doesn't hold anything more serious or more
wonderful. Shall I come straight to the point? I promised to reach it
within five minutes."
"Take your own time," the other replied. "My work is unimportant enough
by the side of the things you speak of. You honestly believe that Germany
is provoking a war against Russia and France?"
"I know it," Norgate went on. "She believes—Germany believes—that
Italy will come in. She also believes, from false information that she
has gathered in this country, that under no circumstances will England
fight. It isn't about that I came to you. We've become a slothful, slack,
pleasure-loving people, but I still believe that when the time comes we
shall fight. The only thing is that we shall be taken at a big
disadvantage. We shall be open to a raid upon our fleet. Do you know that
the entire German navy is at Kiel?"
Mr. Wyatt nodded. "Manoeuvres," he murmured.
"Their manoeuvre," Norgate continued earnestly, "is to strike one great
blow at our scattered forces. Mr. Spencer Wyatt, I have come here to warn
you. I don't understand the workings of your department. I don't know to
whom you are responsible for any step you might take. But I have come to
warn you that possibly within a few days, probably within a week,
certainly within a fortnight, England will be at war."
Mr. Wyatt glanced down at Hebblethwaite's letter.
"You are rather taking my breath away, Mr. Norgate!"
"I can't help it, sir," Norgate said simply. "I know that what I am
telling you must sound like a fairy tale. I beg you to take it from me as
"But," Mr. Spencer Wyatt remarked, "if you have come into all this
information, Mr. Norgate, why didn't you go to your friend Hebblethwaite?
Why haven't you communicated with the police and given this German spy of
yours into charge?"
"I have been to Hebblethwaite, and I have been to Scotland Yard," Norgate
told him firmly, "and all that I have got for my pains has been a snub.
They won't believe in German spies. Mr. Wyatt, you are a man of a little
different temperament and calibre from those others. I tell you that all
of them in the Cabinet have their heads thrust deep down into the sand.
They won't listen to me. They wouldn't believe a word of what I am saying
to you, but it's true."
Mr. Spencer Wyatt leaned back in his chair. He had folded his arms. He
was looking over the top of his desk across the room. His eyebrows were
knitted, his thoughts had wandered away. For several moments there was
silence. Then at last he rose to his feet, unlocked the safe which stood
by his side, and took out a solid chart dotted in many places with little
flags, each one of which bore the name of a ship. He looked at it
"That's the position of every ship we own, at six o'clock this evening,"
he pointed out. "It's true we are scattered. We are purposely scattered
because of the Review. On Monday morning I go down to the Admiralty, and
I give the word. Every ship you see represented by those little flags,
moves in one direction."
"In other words," Norgate remarked, "it is a mobilisation."
Norgate leaned forward in his chair.
"You're coming to what I want to suggest," he proceeded. "Listen. You can
do it, if you like. Go down to the Admiralty to-night. Give that order.
Set the wireless going. Mobilise the fleet to-night."
Mr. Wyatt looked steadfastly at his companion. His fingers were
restlessly stroking his chin, his eyes seemed to be looking through
"But it would be a week too soon," he muttered.
"Risk it," Norgate begged. "You have always the Review to fall back upon.
The mobilisation, to be effective, should be unexpected. Mobilise
to-morrow. I am telling you the truth, sir, and you'll know it before
many days are passed. Even if I have got hold of a mare's nest, you know
there's trouble brewing. England will be in none the worse position to
intervene for peace, if her fleet is ready to strike."
Mr. Spencer Wyatt rose to his feet. He seemed somehow an altered man.
"Look here," he announced gravely, "I am going for the gamble. If I have
been misled, there will probably be an end of my career. I tell you
frankly, I believe in you. I believe in the truth of the things you talk
about. I risked everything, only a few weeks ago, on my belief. I'll risk
my whole career now. Keep your mouth shut; don't say a word. Until
to-morrow you will be the only man in England who knows it. I am going to
mobilise the fleet to-night. Shake hands, Mr. Norgate. You're either the
best friend or the worst foe I've ever had. My coat and hat," he ordered
the servant who answered his summons. "Tell your mistress, if she
enquires, that I have gone down to the Admiralty on special business."
Anna passed her hand through Norgate's arm and led him forcibly away from
the shop window before which they had been standing.
"My mind is absolutely made up," she declared firmly. "I adore
shopping, I love Bond Street, and I rather like you, but I will have no
more trifles, as you call them. If you do not obey, I shall gaze into
the next tobacconist's window we pass, and go in and buy you all sorts
of unsmokable and unusable things. And, oh, dear, here is the Count! I
feel like a child who has played truant from school. What will he do to
"Don't worry, dear," Norgate laughed. "We're coming to the end of this
tutelage, you know."
Count Lanyoki, who had stopped his motor-car, came across the street
towards them. He was, as usual, irreproachably attired. He wore white
gaiters, patent shoes, and a grey, tall hat. His black hair, a little
thin at the forehead, was brushed smoothly back. His moustache, also
black but streaked with grey, was twisted upwards. He had, as always, the
air of having just left the hands of his valet.
"Dear Baroness," he exclaimed, as he accosted her, "London has been
searched for you! At the Embassy my staff are reduced to despair.
Telephones, notes, telegrams, and personal calls have been in vain.
Since lunch-time yesterday it seemed to us that you must have found some
other sphere in which to dwell."
"Perhaps I have," Anna laughed. "I am so sorry to have given you all this
trouble, but yesterday—well, let me introduce, if I may, my husband, Mr.
Francis Norgate. We were married by special license yesterday afternoon."
The Count's amazement was obvious. Diplomatist though he was, it was
several seconds before he could collect himself and rise to the
situation. He broke off at last, however, in the midst of a string of
interjections and realised his duties.
"My dear Baroness," he said, "my dear lady, let me wish you every
happiness. And you, sir," he added, turning to Norgate, "you must have,
without a doubt, my most hearty congratulations. There! That is said. And
now to more serious matters. Baroness, have you not always considered
yourself the ward of the Emperor?"
"His Majesty has been very kind to me," she admitted. "At the same time,
I feel that I owe more to myself than I do to him. His first essay at
interfering in my affairs was scarcely a happy one, was it?"
"Perhaps not," the Count replied. "And yet, think what you have done! You
have married an Englishman!"
"I thought English people were quite popular in Vienna," Anna
The Count hesitated. "That," he declared, "is scarcely the question.
What troubles me most is that forty-eight hours ago I brought you a
dispatch from the Emperor."
"You brought," Anna pointed out, "what really amounted to an order to
return at once to Vienna. Well, you see, I have disobeyed it."
They were standing at the corner of Clifford Street, and the Count, with
a little gesture, led the way into the less crowded thoroughfare.
"Dear Baroness," he continued, as they walked slowly along, "I am placed
now in a most extraordinary position. The Emperor's telegram was of
serious import. It cannot be that you mean to disobey his summons?"
"Well, I really couldn't put off being married, could I," Anna protested,
"especially when my husband had just got the special license. Besides, I
do not wish to return to Vienna just now."
The Count glanced at Norgate and appeared to deliberate for a moment.
"The state of affairs in the East," he said, "is such that it is
certainly wiser for every one just now to be within the borders of their
"You believe that things are serious?" Anna enquired. "You believe, then,
that real trouble is at hand?"
"I fear so," the Count acknowledged. "It appears to us that Servia has a
secret understanding with Russia, or she would not have ventured upon
such an attitude as she is now adopting towards us. If that be so, the
possibilities of trouble are immense, almost boundless. That is why,
Baroness, the Emperor has sent for you. That is why I think you should
not hesitate to at once obey his summons."
Anna looked up at her companion, her eyes wide open, a little smile
parting her lips.
"But, Count," she exclaimed, "you seem to forget! A few days ago, all
that you say to me was reasonable enough, but to-day there is a great
difference, is there not? I have married an Englishman. Henceforth this
is my country."
There was a moment's silence. The Count seemed dumbfounded. He stared at
Anna as though unable to grasp the meaning of her words.
"Forgive me, Baroness!" he begged. "I cannot for the moment realise the
significance of this thing. Do you mean me to understand that you
consider yourself now an Englishwoman?"
"I do indeed," she assented. "There are many ties which still bind me to
Austria—ties, Count," she proceeded, looking him in the face, "of which
I shall be mindful. Yet I am not any longer the Baroness von Haase. I am
Mrs. Francis Norgate, and I have promised to obey my husband in all
manner of ridiculous things. At the same time, may I add something which
will, perhaps, help you to accept the position with more philosophy? My
husband is a friend of Herr Selingman's."
The Count glanced quickly towards Norgate. There was some relief in his
face—a great deal of distrust, however.
"Baroness," he said, "my advice to you, for your own good entirely, is,
with all respect to your husband, that you shorten your honeymoon and
pay your respects to the Emperor. I think that you owe it to him. I think
that you owe it to your country."
Anna for a moment was grave again.
"Just at present," she pronounced, "I realise one debt only, and that is
to my husband. I will come to the Embassy to-morrow and discuss these
matters with you, Count, but whether my husband accompanies me or not, I
have now no secrets from him."
"The position, then," the Count declared, "is intolerable. May I ask
whether you altogether realise, Baroness; what this means? The Emperor is
your guardian. All your estates are subject to his jurisdiction. It is
his command that you return to Vienna."
Anna laughed again. She passed her fingers through Norgate's arm.
"You see," she explained, as they stood for a moment at the corner of the
street, "I have a new emperor now, and he will not let me go."
* * * * *
Selingman frowned a little as he recognised his visitor. Nevertheless,
he rose respectfully to his feet and himself placed a chair by the side
of his desk.
"My dear Count!" he exclaimed. "I am very glad to see you, but this is an
unusual visit. I would have met you somewhere, or come to the Embassy.
Have we not agreed that it was well for Herr Selingman, the crockery
"That is all very well, Selingman," the Count interrupted, "but this
morning I have had a shock. It was necessary for me to talk with you at
once. In Bond Street I met the Baroness von Haase. For twenty-four hours
London has been ransacked in vain for her. This you may not know, but I
will now tell you. She has been our trusted agent, the trusted agent of
the Emperor, in many recent instances. She has carried secrets in her
brain, messages to different countries. There is little that she does not
know. The last twenty-four hours, as I say, I have sought for her. The
Emperor requires her presence in Vienna. I meet her in Bond Street this
morning and she introduces to me her husband, an English husband, Mr.
He drew back a little, with outstretched hands. Selingman's face,
however, remained expressionless.
"Married already!" he commented. "Well, that is rather a surprise."
"A surprise? To be frank, it terrifies me!" the Count cried. "Heaven
knows what that woman could tell an Englishman, if she chose! And her
manner—I did not like it. The only reassuring thing about it was that
she told me that her husband was one of your men."
"Quite true," Selingman assented. "He is. It is only recently that he
came to us, but I do not mind telling you that during the last few weeks
no one has done such good work. He is the very man we needed."
"You have trusted him?"
"I trust or I do not trust," Selingman replied. "That you know. I have
employed this young man in very useful work. I cannot blindfold him.
"Then I fear treachery," the Count declared.
"Have you any reason for saying that?" Selingman asked.
The Count lit a cigarette with trembling fingers.
"Listen," he said, "always, my friend, you undervalue a little the
English race. You undervalue their intelligence, their patriotism, their
poise towards the serious matters of life. I know nothing of Mr. Francis
Norgate save what I saw this morning. He is one of that type of
Englishmen, clean-bred, well-born, full of reserve, taciturn, yet, I
would swear, honourable. I know the type, and I do not believe in such a
man being your servant."
The shadow of anxiety crossed Selingman's face.
"Have you any reason for saying this?" he repeated.
"No reason save the instinct which is above reason," the Count replied
quickly. "I know that if the Baroness and he put their heads together, we
may be under the shadow of catastrophe."
Selingman sat with folded arms for several moments.
"Count," he said at last, "I appreciate your point of view. You have, I
confess, disturbed me. Yet of this young man I have little fear. I did
not approach him by any vulgar means. I took, as they say here, the bull
by the horns. I appealed to his patriotism."
"To what?" the Count demanded incredulously.
"To his patriotism," Selingman repeated. "I showed him the decadence of
his country, decadence visible through all her institutions, through her
political tendencies, through her young men of all classes. I convinced
him that what the country needed was a bitter tonic, a kind but
chastening hand. I convinced him of this. He believes that he betrays his
country for her ultimate good. As I told you before, he has brought me
information which is simply invaluable. He has a position and connections
which are unique."
The Count drew his chair a little nearer.
"You say that he has done you great service," he said. "Well, you must
admit for yourself that the day is too near now for much more to be
expected. Could you not somehow guard against his resolution breaking
down at the last moment? Think what it may mean to him—the sound of his
national anthem at a critical moment, the clash of arms in the distance,
the call of France across the Channel. A week—even half a week's extra
preparation might make much difference."
Selingman sat for a short time, deep in thought. Then he drew out a box
of pale-looking German cigars and lit one.
"Count," he announced solemnly, "I take off my hat to you. Leave the
matter in my hands."
Norgate set down the telephone receiver and turned to Anna, who was
seated in an easy-chair by his side.
"Selingman is down-stairs," he announced. "I rather expected I should see
something of him as I didn't go to the club this afternoon. You won't
mind if he comes up?"
"The man is a nuisance," Anna declared, with a little grimace. "I was
perfectly happy, Francis, sitting here before the open window and looking
out at the lights in that cool, violet gulf of darkness. I believe that
in another minute I should have said something to you absolutely
ravishing. Then your telephone rings and back one comes to earth again!"
Norgate smiled as he held her hand in his.
"We will get rid of him quickly, dearest," he promised.
There was a knock at the door, and Selingman entered, his face wreathed
in smiles. He was wearing a long dinner coat and a flowing black tie. He
held out both his hands.
"So this is the great news that has kept you away from us!" he exclaimed.
"My congratulations, Norgate. You can never say again that the luck has
left you. Baroness, may I take advantage of my slight acquaintance to
express my sincere wishes for your happiness?"
They wheeled up a chair for him, and Norgate produced some cigars. The
night was close. They were on the seventh story, overlooking the river,
and a pleasant breeze stole every now and then into the room.
"You are well placed here," Selingman declared. "Myself, I too like to
be high up."
"These are really just my bachelor rooms," Norgate explained, "but under
the circumstances we thought it wiser to wait before we settled down
anywhere. Is there any news to-night?"
"There is great news," Selingman announced gravely. "There is news of
wonderful import. In a few minutes you will hear the shouting of the boys
in the Strand there. You shall hear it first from me. Germany has found
herself compelled to declare war against Russia."
They were both speechless. Norgate was carried off his feet. The reality
of the thing was stupendous.
"Russia has been mobilising night and day on the frontiers of East
Prussia," Selingman continued. "Germany has chosen to strike the first
blow. Now listen, both of you. I am going to speak in these few minutes
to Norgate here very serious words. I take it that in the matters which
lie between him and me, you, Baroness, are as one with him?"
"It is so," Norgate admitted.
"To be frank, then," Selingman went on, "you, Norgate, during these
momentous days have been the most useful of all my helpers here. The
information which I have dispatched to Berlin, emanating from you, has
been more than important—it has been vital. It has been so vital that I
have a long dispatch to-night, begging me to reaffirm my absolute
conviction as to the truth of the information which I have forwarded.
Let us, for a moment, recapitulate. You remember your interview with Mr.
Hebblethwaite on the subject of war?"
"Distinctly," Norgate assented.
"It was your impression," Selingman continued, "gathered from that
conversation, that under no possible circumstances would Mr.
Hebblethwaite himself, or the Cabinet as a whole, go to war with Germany
in support of France. Is that correct?"
"It is correct," Norgate admitted.
"Nothing has happened to change your opinion?"
"To proceed, then," Selingman went on. "Some little time ago you called
upon Mr. Bullen at the House of Commons. You promised a large
contribution to the funds of the Irish Party, a sum which is to be paid
over on the first of next month, on condition that no compromise in the
Home Rule question shall be accepted by him, even in case of war. And
further, that if England should find herself in a state of war, no
Nationalists should volunteer to fight in her ranks. Is this correct?"
"Perfectly," Norgate admitted.
"The information was of great interest in Berlin," Selingman pointed out.
"It is realised there that it means of necessity a civil war."
"Without a doubt."
"You believe," Selingman persisted, "that I did not take an exaggerated
or distorted view of the situation, as discussed between you and Mr.
Bullen, when I reported that civil war in Ireland was inevitable?"
"It is inevitable," Norgate agreed.
Selingman sat for several moments in portentous silence.
"We are on the threshold of great events," he announced. "The Cabinet
opinion in Berlin has been swayed by the two factors which we have
discussed. It is the wish of Germany, and her policy, to end once and for
all the eastern disquiet, to weaken Russia so that she can no longer call
herself the champion of the Slav races and uphold their barbarism against
our culture. France is to be dealt with only as the ally of Russia. We
want little more from her than we have already. But our great desire is
that England of necessity and of her own choice, should remain, for the
present, neutral. Her time is to come later. Italy, Germany, and Austria
can deal with France and Russia to a mathematical certainty. What we
desire to avoid are any unforeseen complications. I leave you to-night,
and I cable my absolute belief in the statements deduced from your work.
You have nothing more to say?"
"Nothing," Norgate replied.
Selingman was apparently relieved. He rose, a little later, to his feet.
"My young friend," he concluded, "in the near future great rewards will
find their way to this country. There is no one who has deserved more
than you. There is no one who will profit more. That reminds me. There
was one little question I had to ask. A friend of mine has seen you on
your way back and forth to Camberley three or four times lately. You
lunched the other day with the colonel of one of your Lancer regiments.
How did you spend your time at Camberley?"
For a moment Norgate made no reply. The moonlight was shining into the
room, and Anna had turned out all the lights with the exception of one
heavily-shaded lamp. Her eyes were shining as she leaned a little forward
in her chair.
"Boko again, I suppose," Norgate grunted.
"Certainly Boko," Selingman acknowledged.
"I was in the Yeomanry when I was younger," Norgate explained slowly. "I
had some thought of entering the army before I took up diplomacy. Colonel
Chalmers is a friend of mine. I have been down to Camberley to see if I
could pick up a little of the new drill."
"For what reason?" Selingman demanded.
"Need I tell you that?" Norgate protested. "Whatever my feeling for
England may be at the present moment, however bitterly I may regret the
way she has let her opportunities slip, the slovenly political condition
of the country, yet I cannot put away from me the fact that I am an
Englishman. If trouble should come, even though I may have helped to
bring it about, even though I may believe that it is a good thing for the
country to have to meet trouble, I should still fight on her side."
"But there will be no war," Selingman reminded him. "You yourself have
ascertained that the present Cabinet will decline war at any cost."
"The present Government, without a doubt," Norgate assented. "I am
thinking of later on, when your first task is over."
Selingman nodded gravely.
"When that day comes," he said, as he rose and took up his hat, "it will
not be a war. If your people resist, it will be a butchery. Better to
find yourself in one of the Baroness' castles in Austria when that time
comes! It is never worth while to draw a sword in a lost cause. I wish
you good night, Baroness. I wish you good night, Norgate."
He shook hands with them both firmly, but there was still something of
reserve in his manner. Norgate rang for his servant to show him out. They
took their places once more by the window.
"War!" Norgate murmured, his eyes fixed upon the distant lights.
Anna crept a little nearer to him.
"Francis," she whispered, "that man has made me a little uneasy.
Supposing they should discover that you have deceived them, before they
have been obliged to leave the country!"
"They will be much too busy," Norgate replied, "to think about me."
Anna's face was still troubled. "I did not like that man's look," she
persisted, "when he asked you what you were doing at Camberley. Perhaps
he still believes that you have told the truth, but he might easily have
it in his mind that you knew too many of their secrets to be trusted when
the vital moment came."
Norgate leaned over and drew her towards him.
"Selingman has gone," he murmured. "It is only outside that war is
throbbing. Dearest, I think that my vital moments are now!"
Mr. Hebblethwaite permitted himself a single moment of abstraction. He
sat at the head of the table in his own remarkably well-appointed
dining-room. His guests—there were eighteen or twenty of them in
all—represented in a single word Success—success social as well as
political. His excellently cooked dinner was being served with faultless
precision. His epigrams had never been more pungent. The very
distinguished peeress who sat upon his right, and whose name was a
household word in the enemy's camp, had listened to him with enchained
and sympathetic interest. For a single second he permitted his thoughts
to travel back to the humble beginnings of his political career. He had a
brief, flashlight recollection of the suburban parlour of his early days,
the hard fight at first for a living, then for some small place in local
politics, and then, larger and more daring schemes as the boundary of his
ambitions became each year a little further extended. Beyond him now was
only one more step to be taken. The last goal was well within his reach.
The woman at his right recommenced their conversation, which had been for
a moment interrupted.
"We were speaking of success," she said. "Success often comes to one
covered by the tentacles and parasites of shame, and yet, even in its
grosser forms, it has something splendid about it. But success that
carries with it no apparent drawback whatever is, of course, the most
amazing thing of all. I was reading that wonderful article of Professor
Wilson's last month. He quotes you very extensively. His analysis of your
character was, in its way, interesting. Directly I had read it, however,
I felt that it lacked one thing—simplicity. I made up my mind that the
next time we talked intimately, I would ask you to what you yourself
attributed your success?"
Hebblethwaite smiled graciously.
"I will not attempt to answer you in epigrams," he replied. "I will pay a
passing tribute to a wonderful constitution, an invincible sense of
humour, which I think help one to keep one's head up under many trying
conditions. But the real and final explanation of my success is that I
embraced the popular cause. I came from the people, and when I entered
into politics, I told myself and every one else that it was for the
people I should work. I have never swerved from that purpose. It is to
the people I owe whatever success I am enjoying to-day."
The Duchess nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes," she admitted, "you are right there. Shall I proceed with my own
train of thought quite honestly?"
"I shall count it a compliment," he assured her earnestly, "even if your
thoughts contain criticisms."
"You occupy so great a position in political life to-day," she continued,
"that one is forced to consider you, especially in view of the future, as
a politician from every point of view. Now, by your own showing, you
have been a specialist. You have taken up the cause of the people against
the classes. You have stripped many of us of our possessions—the Duke,
you know, hates the sound of your name—and by your legislation you have,
without a doubt, improved the welfare of many millions of human beings.
But that is not all that a great politician must achieve, is it? There is
our Empire across the seas."
"Imperialism," he declared, "has never been in the foreground of my
programme, but I call myself an Imperialist. I have done what I could for
the colonies. I have even abandoned on their behalf some of my pet
principles of absolute freedom in trade."
"You certainly have not been prejudiced," she admitted. "Whether your
politics have been those of an Imperialist from the broadest point of
view—well, we won't discuss that question just now. We might, perhaps,
differ. But there is just one more point. Zealously and during the whole
of your career, you have set your face steadfastly against any increase
of our military power. They say that it is chiefly due to you and Mr.
Busby that our army to-day is weaker in numbers than it has been for
years. You have set your face steadily against all schemes for national
service. You have taken up the stand that England can afford to remain
neutral, whatever combination of Powers on the Continent may fight. Now
tell me, do you see any possibility of failure, from the standpoint of a
great politician, in your attitude?"
"I do not," he answered. "On the contrary, I am proud of all that I have
done in that direction. For the reduction of our armaments I accept the
full responsibility. It is true that I have opposed national service. I
want to see the people develop commercially. The withdrawing of a million
of young men, even for a month every year, from their regular tasks,
would not only mean a serious loss to the manufacturing community, but it
would be apt to unsettle and unsteady them. Further, it would kindle in
this country the one thing I am anxious to avoid—the military spirit. We
do not need it, Duchess. We are a peace-loving nation, civilised out of
the crude lust for conquest founded upon bloodshed. I do believe that
geographically and from every other point of view, England, with her
navy, can afford to fold her arms, and if other nations should at any
time be foolish enough to imperil their very existence by fighting for
conquest or revenge, then we, who are strong enough to remain aloof, can
only grow richer and stronger by the disasters which happen to them."
There was a momentary silence. The Duchess leaned back in her chair, and
Mr. Hebblethwaite, always the courteous host, talked for a while to the
woman on his left. The Duchess, however, reopened the subject a few
"I come, you must remember, Mr. Hebblethwaite," she observed, "from long
generations of soldiers, and you, as you have reminded me, from a long
race of yeomen and tradespeople. Therefore, without a doubt, our point
of view must be different. That, perhaps, is what makes conversation
between us so interesting. To me, a conflict in Europe, sooner or
later, appears inevitable. With England preserving a haughty and insular
neutrality, which, from her present military condition, would be almost
compulsory, the struggle would be between Russia, France, Italy,
Germany, and Austria. Russia is an unknown force, but in my mind I see
Austria and Italy, with perhaps one German army, holding her back for
many months, perhaps indefinitely. On the other hand, I see France
overrun by the Germans very much as she was in 1870. I adore the French,
and I have little sympathy with the Germans, but as a fighting race I
very reluctantly feel that I must admit the superiority of the Germans.
Very well, then. With Ostend, Calais, Boulogne, and Havre seized by
Germany, as they certainly would be, and turned into naval bases, do you
still believe that England's security would be wholly provided for by
Mr. Hebblethwaite smiled.
"Duchess," he said, "sooner or later I felt quite sure that our
conversation would draw near to the German bogey. The picture you draw is
menacing enough. I look upon its probability as exactly on the same par
as the overrunning of Europe by the yellow races."
"You believe in the sincerity of Germany?" she asked.
"I do," he admitted firmly. "There is a military element in Germany which
is to be regretted, but the Germans themselves are a splendid, cultured,
and peace-loving people, who are seeking their future not at the point
of the sword but in the counting-houses of the world. If I fear the
Germans, it is commercially, and from no other point of view."
"I wish I could feel your confidence," the Duchess sighed.
"I have myself recently returned from Berlin," Mr. Hebblethwaite
continued. "Busby, as you know, has been many times an honoured guest
there at their universities and in their great cities. He has had every
opportunity of probing the tendencies of the people. His mind is
absolutely and finally made up. Not in all history has there ever existed
a race freer from the lust of bloodthirsty conquest than the German
people of to-day."
Mr. Hebblethwaite concluded his sentence with some emphasis. He felt that
his words were carrying conviction. Some of the conversation at their end
of the table had been broken off to listen to his pronouncements. At that
moment his butler touched him upon the elbow.
"Mr. Bedells has just come up from the War Office, sir," he announced.
"He is waiting outside. In the meantime, he desired me to give you this."
The butler, who had served an archbishop, and resented often his own
presence in the establishment of a Radical Cabinet Minister, presented a
small silver salver on which reposed a hastily twisted up piece of paper.
Mr. Hebblethwaite, with a little nod, unrolled it and glanced towards the
Duchess, who bowed complacently. With the smile still upon his lips, a
confident light in his eyes, Mr. Hebblethwaite held out the crumpled
piece of paper before him and read the hurriedly scrawled pencil lines:
"Germany has declared war against Russia and presented an ultimatum to
France. I have other messages."
Mr. Hebblethwaite was a strong man. He was a man of immense self-control.
Yet in that moment the arteries of life seemed as though they had ceased
to flow. He sat at the head of his table, and his eyes never left those
pencilled words. His mind fought with them, discarded them, only to find
them still there hammering at his brain, traced in letters of scarlet
upon the distant walls. War! The great, unbelievable tragedy, the one
thousand-to-one chance in life which he had ever taken! His hand almost
fell to his side. There was a queer little silence. No one liked to ask
him a question; no one liked to speak. It was the Duchess at last who
murmured a few words, when the silence had become intolerable.
"It is bad news?" she whispered.
"It is very bad news indeed," Mr. Hebblethwaite answered, raising his
voice a little, so that every one at the table might hear him. "I have
just heard from the War Office that Germany has declared war against
Russia. You will perhaps, under the circumstances, excuse me."
He rose to his feet. There was a queer singing in his ears. The feast
seemed to have turned to a sickly debauch. All that pinnacle of success
seemed to have fallen away. The faces of his guests, even, as they
looked at him, seemed to his conscience to be expressing one thing, and
one thing only—that same horrible conviction which was deadening his own
senses. He and the others—could it be true?—had they taken up lightly
the charge and care of a mighty empire and dared to gamble upon, instead
of providing for, its security? He thrust the thought away; and the
natural strength of the man began to reassert itself. If they had done
ill, they had done it for the people's sake. The people must rally to
them now. He held his head high as he left the room.
Norgate found himself in an atmosphere of strange excitement during his
two hours' waiting at the House of Commons on the following day. He was
ushered at last into Mr. Hebblethwaite's private room. Hebblethwaite had
just come in from the House and was leaning a little back in his chair,
in an attitude of repose. He glanced at Norgate with a faint smile.
"Well, young fellow," he remarked, "come to do the usual 'I told you so'
business, I suppose?"
"Don't be an ass!" Norgate most irreverently replied. "There are one or
two things I must tell you and tell you at once. I may have hinted at
them before, but you weren't taking things seriously then. First of all,
is Mr. Bullen in the House?"
"Could you send for him here just for a minute?" Norgate pleaded. "I am
sure it would make what I am going to say sound more convincing to you."
Hebblethwaite struck a bell by his side and despatched a messenger.
"How are things going?" Norgate asked.
"France is mobilising as fast as she can," Hebblethwaite announced.
"We have reports coming in that Germany has been at it for at least a
week, secretly. They say that Austrian troops have crossed into
Poland. There isn't anything definite yet, but it's war, without a
doubt, war just as we'd struck the right note for peace. Russia was
firm but splendid. Austria was wavering. Just at the critical moment,
like a thunderbolt, came Germany's declaration of war. Here's Mr.
Bullen. Now go ahead, Norgate."
Mr. Bullen came into the room, recognised Norgate, and stopped short.
"So you're here again, young man, are you?" he exclaimed. "I don't know
why you've sent for me, Hebblethwaite, but if you take my advice, you
won't let that young fellow go until you've asked him a few questions."
"Mr. Norgate is a friend of mine," Hebblethwaite said. "I think you
"Friend or no friend," the Irishman interrupted, "he is a traitor, and I
tell you so to his face."
"That is exactly what I wished you to tell Mr. Hebblethwaite," Norgate
remarked, nodding pleasantly. "I just want you to recall the
circumstances of my first visit here."
"You came and offered me a bribe of a million pounds," Mr. Bullen
declared, "if I would provoke a civil war in Ireland in the event of
England getting into trouble. I wasn't sure whom you were acting for
then, but I am jolly certain now. That young fellow is a German spy,
"Mr. Hebblethwaite knew that quite well," admitted Norgate coolly. "I
came and told him so several times. I think that he even encouraged me to
do my worst."
"Look here, Norgate," Hebblethwaite intervened, "I'm certain you are
driving at something serious. Let's have it."
"Quite right, I am," Norgate assented. "I just wanted to testify to you
that Mr. Bullen's reply to my offer was the patriotic reply of a loyal
Irishman. I did offer him that million pounds on behalf of Germany, and
he did indignantly refuse it, but the point of the whole thing is—my
report to Germany."
"And that?" Mr. Hebblethwaite asked eagerly.
"I reported Mr. Bullen's acceptance of the sum," Norgate told them. "I
reported that civil war in Ireland was imminent and inevitable and would
come only the sooner for any continental trouble in which England might
Mr. Hebblethwaite's face cleared.
"I begin to understand now, Norgate," he muttered. "Good fellow!"
Mr. Bullen was summoned in hot haste by one of his supporters and hurried
out. Norgate drew his chair a little closer to his friend's.
"Look here, Hebblethwaite," he said, "you wouldn't listen to me, you
know—I don't blame you—but I knew the truth of what I was saying. I
knew what was coming. The only thing I could do to help was to play the
double traitor. I did it. My chief, who reported to Berlin that this
civil war was inevitable, will get it in the neck, but there's more to
follow. The Baroness von Haase and I were associated in an absolutely
confidential mission to ascertain the likely position of Italy in the
event of this conflict. I know for a fact that Italy will not come in
with her allies."
"Do you mean that?" Mr. Hebblethwaite asked eagerly.
"Absolutely certain," Norgate assured him.
Hebblethwaite half rose from his place with excitement.
"I ought to telephone to the War Office," he declared. "It will alter the
whole mobilisation of the French troops."
"France knows," Norgate told him quietly. "My wife has seen to that. She
passed the information on to them just in time to contract the whole line
"You've been doing big things, young fellow!" Mr. Hebblethwaite exclaimed
excitedly. "Go on. Tell me at once, what was your report to Germany?"
"I reported that Italy would certainly fulfil the terms of her alliance
and fight," Norgate replied. "Furthermore, I have convinced my chief over
here that under no possible circumstances would the present Cabinet
sanction any war whatsoever. I have given him plainly to understand that
you especially are determined to leave France to her fate if war should
come, and to preserve our absolute neutrality at all costs."
"Go on," Hebblethwaite murmured. "Finish it, anyhow."
"There is very little more," Norgate concluded. "I have a list here of
properties in the outskirts of London, all bought by Germans, and all
having secret preparations for the mounting of big guns. You might just
pass that on to the War Office, and they can destroy the places at their
leisure. There isn't anything else, Hebblethwaite. As I told you, I've
played the double traitor. It was the only way I could help. Now, if I
were you, I would arrest the master-spy for whom I have been working.
Most of the information he has picked up lately has been pretty bad, and
I fancy he'll get a warm reception if he does get back to Berlin, but if
ever there was a foreigner who abused the hospitality of this country,
Selingman's the man."
"We'll see about that presently," Mr. Hebblethwaite declared, leaning
back. "Let me think over what you have told me. It comes to this,
Norgate. You've practically encouraged Germany to risk affronting us."
"I can't help that," Norgate admitted. "Germany has gone into this war,
firmly believing that Italy will be on her side, and that we shall have
our hands occupied in civil war, and in any case that we should remain
neutral. I am not asking you questions, Hebblethwaite. I don't know what
the position of the Government will be if Germany attacks France in the
ordinary way. But one thing I do believe, and that is that if Germany
breaks Belgian neutrality and invades Belgium, there isn't any English
Government which has ever been responsible for the destinies of this
country, likely to take it lying down. We are shockingly unprepared, or
else, of course, there'd have been no war at all. We shall lose hundreds
of thousands of our young men, because they'll have to fight before they
are properly trained, but we must fight or perish. And we shall fight—I
am sure of that, Hebblethwaite."
"We are all Englishmen," Hebblethwaite answered simply.
The door was suddenly opened. Spencer Wyatt pushed his way past a
protesting doorkeeper. Hebblethwaite rose to his feet; he seemed to
forget Norgate's presence.
"You've been down to the Admiralty?" he asked quickly. "Do you know?"
Spencer Wyatt pointed to Norgate. His voice shook with emotion.
"I know, Hebblethwaite," he replied, "but there's something that you
don't know. We were told to mobilise the fleet an hour ago. My God, what
chance should we have had! Germany means scrapping, and look where our
ships are, or ought to be."
"I know it," Hebblethwaite groaned.
"Well, they aren't there!" Spencer Wyatt announced triumphantly. "A week
ago that young fellow came to me. He told me what was impending. I half
believed it before he began. When he told me his story, I gambled upon
it. I mistook the date for the Grand Review. I signed the order for
mobilisation at the Admiralty, seven days ago. We are safe,
Hebblethwaite! I've been getting wireless messages all day yesterday and
to-day. We are at Cromarty and Rosyth. Our torpedo squadron is in
position, our submarines are off the German coast. It was just the toss
of a coin—papers and a country life for me, or our fleet safe and a
great start in the war. This is the man who has done it."
"It's the best news I've heard this week," Hebblethwaite declared, with
glowing face. "If our fleet is safe, the country is safe for a time. If
this thing comes, we've a chance. I'll go through the country. I'll start
the day war's declared. I'll talk to the people I've slaved for. They
shall come to our help. We'll have the greatest citizen army who ever
fought for their native land. I've disbelieved in fighting all my life.
If we are driven to it, we'll show the world what peace-loving people can
do, if the weapon is forced into their hands. Norgate, the country owes
you a great debt. Another time, Wyatt, I'll tell you more than you know
now. What can we do for you, young fellow?"
Norgate rose to his feet.
"My work is already chosen, thanks," he said, as he shook hands. "I have
been preparing for some time."
The card-rooms at the St. James's Club were crowded, but very few people
seemed inclined to play. They were standing or sitting about in little
groups. A great many of them were gathered around the corner where
Selingman was seated. He was looking somewhat graver than usual, but
there was still a confident smile upon his lips.
"My little friend," he said, patting the hand of the fair lady by his
side, "reassure yourself. Your husband and your husband's friends are
quite safe. For England there will come no fighting. Believe me, that is
a true word."
"But the impossible is happening all the time," Mrs. Barlow protested.
"Who would have believed that without a single word of warning Germany
would have declared war against Russia?"
Mr. Selingman raised his voice a little.
"Let me make the situation clear," he begged. "Listen to me, if you will,
because I am a patriotic German but also a lover of England, a sojourner
here, and one of her greatest friends. Germany has gone to war against
Russia. Why? You will say upon a trifling pretext. My answer to you is
this. There is between the Teuton and the Slav an enmity more mighty than
anything you can conceive of. It has been at the root of all the unrest
in the Balkans. Many a time Germany has kept the peace at the imminent
loss of her own position and prestige. But one knows now that the
struggle must come. The Russians are piling up a great army with only one
intention. They mean to wrest from her keeping certain provinces of
Austria, to reduce Germany's one ally to the condition of a vassal state,
to establish the Slav people there and throughout the Balkan States, at
the expense of the Teuton. Germany must protect her own. It is a
struggle, mind you, which concerns them alone. If only there were common
sense in the world, every one else would stand by and let Germany and
Austria fight with Russia on the one great issue—Slav or Teuton."
"But there's France," little Mrs. Barlow reminded him. "She can't keep
out of it. She is Russia's ally."
"Alas! my dear madam," Selingman continued, "you point out the tragedy of
the whole situation. If France could see wisdom, if France could see
truth, she would fold her arms with you others, keep her country and her
youth and her dignity. But I will be reasonable. She is, as you say,
bound—bound by her alliance to Russia, and she will fight. Very well!
Germany wants no more from France than what she has. Germany will fight a
defensive campaign. She will push France back with one hand, in as
friendly a manner as is compatible with the ethics of war. On the east
she will move swiftly. She will fight Russia, and, believe me, the issue
will not be long doubtful. She will conclude an honourable peace with
France at the first opportunity."
"Then you don't think we shall be involved at all?" some one else asked.
"If you are," Selingman declared, "it will be your own doing, and it will
simply be the most criminal act of this generation. Germany has nothing
but friendship for England. I ask you, what British interests are
threatened by this inevitable clash between the Slav and the Teuton? It
is miserable enough for France to be dragged in. It would be lunacy for
England. Therefore, though it is true that serious matters are pending,
though, alas! I must return at once to see what help I can afford my
country, never for a moment believe, any of you, that there exists the
slightest chance of war between Germany and England."
"Then I don't see," Mrs. Barlow sighed, "why we shouldn't have a rubber
"Let us," Selingman assented. "It is a very reasonable suggestion. It
will divert our thoughts. Here is the afternoon paper. Let us first see
whether there is any further news."
It was Mrs. Paston Benedek who opened it. She stared at the first sheet
for a moment with eyes which were almost dilated. Then she looked around.
Her voice sounded unnatural.
"Look!" she cried. "Francis Norgate—Mr. Francis Norgate has committed
suicide in his rooms!"
"It is not possible!" Selingman exclaimed.
They all crowded around the paper. The announcement was contained in a
few lines only. Mr. Francis Norgate had been discovered shot through the
heart in his sitting-room at the Milan Court, with a revolver by his
side. There was a letter addressed to his wife, who had left the day
before for Paris. No further particulars could be given of the tragedy.
The little group of men and women all looked at one another in a strange,
questioning manner. For a moment the war cloud seemed to have passed even
from their memories. It was something newer and in a sense more dramatic,
this. Norgate—one of themselves! Norgate, who had played bridge with
them day after day, had been married only a week or so ago—dead, under
the most horrible of all conditions! And Baring, only a few weeks before!
There was an uneasiness about which no one could put into words, vague
suspicions, strange imaginings.
"It's only three weeks," some one muttered, "since poor Baring shot
himself! What the devil does it mean? Norgate—why, the fellow was full
of common sense."
"He was fearfully cut up," some one interposed, "about that Berlin
"But he was just married," Mrs. Paston Benedek reminded them, "married to
the most charming woman in Europe,—rich, too, and noble. I saw them only
two days ago together. They were the picture of happiness. This is too
terrible. I am going into the other room to sit down. Please forgive me.
Mr. Selingman, will you give me your arm?"
She passed into the little drawing-room, almost dragging her companion.
She closed the door behind them. Her eyes were brilliant. The words came
hot and quivering from her lips.
"Listen!" she ordered. "Tell me the truth. Was this suicide or not?"
"Why should it not be?" Selingman asked gravely. "Norgate was an
Englishman, after all. He must have felt that he had betrayed his
country. He has given us, as you know, very valuable information. The
thought must have preyed upon his conscience."
"Don't lie to me!" she interrupted. "Tell me the truth now or never come
near me again, never ask me another question, don't be surprised to find
the whole circle of your friends here broken up and against you. It's
only the truth I ask for. If a thing is necessary, do I not know that it
must be done? But I will hear the truth. There was that about Baring's
death which I never understood; but this—this shall be explained."
Selingman stood for a moment or two with folded arms.
"Dear lady," he said soothingly, "you are not like the others. You have
earned the knowledge of the truth. You shall have it. I did not mistrust
Francis Norgate, but I knew very well that when the blow fell, he would
waver. These Englishmen are all like that. They can lose patience with
their ill-governed country. They can go abroad, write angry letters to
The Times, declare that they have shaken the dust of their native land
from their feet. But when the pinch comes, they fall back. Norgate has
served me well, but he knew too much. He is safer where he is."
"He was murdered, then!" she whispered.
Selingman nodded very slightly.
"It is seldom," he declared, "that we go so far. Believe me, it is only
because our great Empire is making its move, stretching out for the great
world war, that I gave the word. What is one man's life when millions are
soon to perish?"
She sank down into an easy-chair and covered her face with her hands.
"I am answered," she murmured, "only I know now I was not made for these
things. I love scheming, but I am a woman."
Mr. Selingman's influence over his fellows had never been more marked
than on that gloomiest of all afternoons. They gathered around him as he
sat on the cushioned fender, a cup of tea in one hand and a plateful of
buttered toast by his side.
"To-day," he proclaimed, "I bring good news. Yesterday, I must admit,
things looked black, and the tragedy to poor young Norgate made us all
"I should have said things looked worse," one of the men declared,
throwing down an afternoon paper. "The Cabinet Council is still sitting,
and there are all sorts of rumours in the city."
"I was told by a man in the War Office," Mrs. Barlow announced, "that
England would stand by her treaty to Belgium, and that Germany has made
all her plans to invade France through Belgium."
"Rumours, of course, there must be," Selingman agreed, "but I bring
something more than rumour. I received to-day, by special messenger from
Berlin, a dispatch of the utmost importance. Germany is determined to
show her entire friendliness towards England. She recognises the
difficulties of your situation. She is going to make a splendid bid for
your neutrality. Much as I would like to, I cannot tell you more. This,
however, I know to be the basis of her offer. You in England could help
in the fight solely by means of your fleet. It is Germany's suggestion
that, in return for your neutrality, she should withdraw her fleet from
action and leave the French northern towns unbombarded. You will then be
in a position to fulfil your obligations to France, whatever they may be,
without moving a stroke or spending a penny. It is a triumph of
diplomacy, that—a veritable triumph."
"It does sound all right," Mrs. Barlow admitted.
"It has relieved my mind of a mighty burden," Selingman continued,
setting down his empty plate and brushing the crumbs from his waistcoat.
"I feel now that we can look on at this world drama with sorrowing eyes,
indeed, but free from feelings of hatred and animosity. I have had a
trying day. I should like a little bridge. Let us—"
Selingman did not finish his sentence. The whole room, for a moment,
seemed to become a study in still life. A woman who had been crossing the
floor stood there as though transfixed. A man who was dealing paused with
an outstretched card in his hand. Every eye was turned on the threshold.
It was Norgate who stood there, Norgate metamorphosed, in khaki
uniform—an amazing spectacle! Mrs. Barlow was the first to break the
silence with a piercing shriek. Then the whole room seemed to be in a
turmoil. Selingman alone sat quite still. There was a grey shade upon his
face, and the veins were standing out at the back of his hands.
"So sorry to startle you all," Norgate said apologetically. "Of course,
you haven't seen the afternoon papers. It was my valet who was found
dead in my rooms—a most mysterious affair," he added, his eyes meeting
Selingman's. "The inquest is to be this afternoon."
"Your valet!" Selingman muttered.
"A very useful fellow," Norgate continued, strolling to the fireplace and
standing there, "but with a very bad habit of wearing my clothes when I
am away. I was down in Camberley for three days and left him in charge."
They showered congratulations upon him, but in the midst of them the
strangeness of his appearance provoked their comment.
"What does it mean?" Mrs. Benedek asked, patting his arm. "Have you
"In a sense I have," Norgate admitted, "but only in the sense that every
able-bodied Englishman will have to do, in the course of the next few
months. Directly I saw this coming, I arranged for a commission."
"But there is to be no war!" Mrs. Barlow exclaimed. "Mr. Selingman
has been explaining to us this afternoon what wonderful offers
Germany is making, so that we shall be able to remain neutral and yet
keep our pledges."
"Mr. Selingman," Norgate said quietly, "is under a delusion. Germany, it
is true, has offered us a shameless bribe. I am glad to be able to tell
you all that our Ministry, whatever their politics may be, have shown
themselves men. An English ultimatum is now on its way to Berlin. War
will be declared before midnight."
Selingman rose slowly to his feet. His face was black with passion.
He pushed a man away who stood between them. He was face to face
"So you," he thundered, suddenly reckless of the bystanders, "are a
double traitor! You have taken pay from Germany and deceived her! You
knew, after all, that your Government would make war when the time came.
Is that so?"
"I was always convinced of it," Norgate replied calmly. "I also had the
honour of deceiving you in the matter of Mr. Bullen. I have been the
means, owing to your kind and thoughtful information, of having the fleet
mobilised and ready to strike at the present moment, and there are
various little pieces of property I know about, Mr. Selingman, around
London, where we have taken the liberty of blowing up your foundations.
There may be a little disappointment for you, too, in the matter of
Italy. The money you were good enough to pay me for my doubtful services,
has gone towards the establishment of a Red Cross hospital. As for you,
Selingman, I denounce you now as one of those who worked in this country
for her ill, one of those pests of the world, working always in the
background, dishonourably and selfishly, against the country whose
hospitality you have abused. If I have met you on your own ground, well,
I am proud of it. You are a German spy, Selingman."
Selingman's hand fumbled in his pocket. Scarcely a soul was surprised
when Norgate gripped him by the wrist, and they saw the little shining
revolver fall down towards the fender.
"You shall suffer for these words," Selingman thundered. "You young
fool, you shall bite the dust, you and hundreds of thousands of your
cowardly fellows, when the German flag flies from Buckingham Palace."
Norgate held up his hand and turned towards the door. Two men in plain
"That may be a sight," Norgate said calmly, "which you, at any rate, will
not be permitted to see. I have had some trouble in arranging for your
arrest, as we are not yet under martial law, but I think you will find
your way to the Tower of London before long, and I hope it will be with
your back to the light and a dozen rifles pointing to your heart."
A third man had come into the room. He tapped Selingman on the shoulder
and whispered in his ear.
"I demand to see your warrant!" the latter exclaimed.
The officer produced it. Selingman threw it on the floor and spat upon
it. He looked around the room, in the further corner of which two men
and a woman were standing upon chairs to look over the heads of the
"Take me where you will," he snarled. "You are a rotten, treacherous,
cowardly race, you English, and I hate you all. You can kill me first, if
you will, but in two months' time you shall learn what it is like to wait
hand and foot upon your conquerors."
He strode out of the room, a guard on either side of him and the door
closed. One woman had fainted. Mrs. Paston Benedek was swaying back
and forth upon the cushioned fender, sobbing hysterically. Norgate
stood by her side.
"I have forgotten the names," he announced pointedly, "of many of that
fellow's dupes. I am content to forget them. I am off now," he went on,
his tone becoming a little kinder. "I am telling you the truth. It's war.
You men had better look up any of the forces that suit you and get to
work. We shall all be needed. There is work, too, for the women, any
quantity of it. My wife will be leaving again for France next week with
the first Red Cross Ambulance Corps. I dare say she will be glad to hear
from any one who wants to help."
"I shall be a nurse," Mrs. Paston Benedek decided. "I am sick of bridge
and amusing myself."
"The costume is quite becoming," Mrs. Barlow murmured, glancing at
herself in the looking-glass, "and I adore those poor dear soldiers."
"Well, I'll leave you to it," Norgate declared. "Good luck to you all!"
They crowded around him, shaking him by the hand, still besieging him
with questions about Selingman. He shook his head good-humouredly and
made his way towards the door.
"There's nothing more to tell you," he concluded. "Selingman is just one
of the most dangerous spies who has ever worked in this country, but the
war itself was inevitable. We've known that for years, only we wouldn't
believe it. We'll all meet again, perhaps, in the work later on."
Late that night, Norgate stood hand in hand with Anna at the window of
their little sitting-room. Down in the Strand, the newsboys were
shouting the ominous words. The whole of London was stunned. The great
war had come!
"It's wonderful, dear," Anna whispered, "that we should have had
these few days of so great happiness. I feel brave and strong now for
Norgate held her closely to him.
"We've been in luck," he said simply. "We were able to do something
pretty soon. I have had the greatest happiness in life a man can have.
Now I am going to offer my life to my country and pray that it may be
spared for you. But above all, whatever happens," he added, leaning a
little further from the window towards where the curving lights gleamed
across the black waters of the Thames, "above all, whatever may happen to
us, we are face to face with one splendid thing—a great country to fight
for, and a just cause. I saw Hebblethwaite as I came in. He is a changed
man. Talks about raising an immense citizen army in six months. Both his
boys have taken up commissions. Hebblethwaite himself is going around the
country, recruiting. They are his people, after all. He has given them
their prosperity at the expense, alas! of our safety. It's up to them now
to prove whether the old spirit is there or not. We shall need two
million men. Hebblethwaite believes we shall get them long before the
camps are ready to receive them. If we do, it will be his justification."
"And if we don't?" Anna murmured.
Norgate threw his head a little further back.
"Most pictures," he said, "have two sides, but we need only look at one.
I am going to believe that we shall get them. I am going to remember the
only true thing that fellow Selingman ever said: that our lesson had come
before it is too late. I am going to believe that the heart and
conscience of the nation is still a live thing. If it is, dear, the end
is certain. And I am going to believe that it is!"