Part 2 out of 5
"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 Liege. 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 _maitre
d'hotel_; 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 _maitre d'hotel_. 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 Cafe 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 Cafe 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