Part 4 out of 5
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 aperitif 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 protegee 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 cafe 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