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The Double Traitor
by E. Phillips Oppenheim
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THE DOUBLE TRAITOR

BY E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

1915



CHAPTER I

The woman leaned across the table towards her companion.

"My friend," she said, "when we first met—I am ashamed, considering that I dine alone with you to-night, to reflect how short a time ago—you spoke of your removal here from Paris very much as though it were a veritable exile. I told you then that there might be surprises in store for you. This restaurant, for instance! We both know our Paris, yet do we lack anything here which you find at the Ritz or Giro's?"

The young man looked around him appraisingly. The two were dining at one of the newest and most fashionable restaurants in Berlin. The room itself, although a little sombre by reason of its oak panelling, was relieved from absolute gloom by the lightness and elegance of its furniture and appointments, the profusion of flowers, and the soft grey carpet, so thickly piled that every sound was deadened. The delicate strains of music came from an invisible orchestra concealed behind a canopy of palms. The head-waiters had the correct clerical air, half complacent, half dignified. Among the other diners were many beautiful women in marvellous toilettes. A variety of uniforms, worn by the officers at different tables, gave colour and distinction to a tout ensemble with which even Norgate could find no fault.

"Germany has changed very much since I was here as a boy," he confessed. "One has heard of the growing wealth of Berlin, but I must say that I scarcely expected—"

He hesitated. His companion laughed softly at his embarrassment.

"Do not forget," she interrupted, "that I am Austrian—Austrian, that is to say, with much English in my blood. What you say about Germans does not greatly concern me."

"Of course," Norgate resumed, as he watched the champagne poured into his glass, "one is too much inclined to form one's conclusions about a nation from the types one meets travelling, and you know what the Germans have done for Monte Carlo and the Riviera—even, to a lesser extent, for Paris and Rome. Wherever they have been, for the last few years, they seem to have left the trail of the nouveaux riches. It is not only their clothes but their manners and bearing which affront."

The woman leaned her head for a moment against the tips of her slim and beautifully cared for fingers. She looked steadfastly across the table at her vis-a-vis.

"Now that you are here," she said softly, "you must forget those things. You are a diplomatist, and it is for you, is it not, outwardly, at any rate, to see only the good of the country in which your work lies."

Norgate flushed very slightly. His companion's words had savoured almost of a reproof.

"You are quite right," he admitted. "I have been here for a month, though, and you are the first person to whom I have spoken like this. And you yourself," he pointed out, "encouraged me, did you not, when you insisted upon your Austro-English nationality?"

"You must not take me too seriously," she begged, smiling. "I spoke foolishly, perhaps, but only for your good. You see, Mr. Francis Norgate, I am just a little interested in you and your career."

"And I, dear Baroness," he replied, smiling across at her, "am more than a little interested in—you."

She unfurled her fan.

"I believe," she sighed, "that you are going to flirt with me."

"I should enter into an unequal contest," Norgate asserted. "My methods would seem too clumsy, because I should be too much in earnest."

"Whatever the truth may be about your methods," she declared, "I rather like them, or else I should not be risking my reputation in this still prudish city by dining with you alone and without a chaperon. Tell me a little about yourself. We have met three times, is it not—once at the Embassy, once at the Palace, and once when you paid me that call. How old are you? Tell me about your people in England, and where else you have served besides Paris?"

"I am thirty years old," he replied. "I started at Bukarest. From there I went to Rome. Then I was second attache at Paris, and finally, as you see, here."

"And your people—they are English, of course?"

"Naturally," he answered. "My mother died when I was quite young, and my father when I was at Eton. I have an estate in Hampshire which seems to get on very well without me."

"And you really care about your profession? You have the real feeling for diplomacy?"

"I think there is nothing else like it in the world," he assured her.

"You may well say that," she agreed enthusiastically. "I think you might almost add that there has been no time in the history of Europe so fraught with possibilities, so fascinating to study, as the present."

He looked at her keenly. It is the first instinct of a young diplomatist to draw in his horns when a beautiful young woman confesses herself interested in his profession.

"You, too, think of these things, then?" he remarked.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"But naturally! What is there to do for a woman but think? We cannot act, or rather, if we do, it is in a very insignificant way. We are lookers-on at most of the things in life worth doing."

"I will spare you all the obvious retorts," he said, "if you will tell me why you are gazing into that mirror so earnestly?"

"I was thinking," she confessed, "what a remarkably good-looking couple we were."

He followed the direction of her eyes. He himself was of a recognised type. His complexion was fair, his face clean-shaven and strong almost to ruggedness. His mouth was firm, his nose thin and straight, his grey eyes well-set. He was over six feet and rather slim for his height. But if his type, though attractive enough, was in its way ordinary, hers was entirely unusual. She, too, was slim, but so far from being tall, her figure was almost petite. Her dark brown hair was arranged in perfectly plain braids behind and with a slight fringe in front. Her complexion was pale. Her features were almost cameo-like in their delicacy and perfection, but any suggestion of coldness was dissipated at once by the extraordinary expressiveness of her mouth and the softness of her deep blue eyes. Norgate looked from the mirror into her face. There was a little smile upon his lips, but he said nothing.

"Some day," she said, "not in the restaurant here but when we are alone and have time, I should so much like to talk with you on really serious matters."

"There is one serious matter," he assured her, "which I should like to discuss with you now or at any time."

She made a little grimace at him.

"Let it be now, then," she suggested, leaning across the table. "We will leave my sort of serious things for another time. I am quite certain that I know where your sort is going to lead us. You are going to make love to me."

"Do you mind?" he asked earnestly.

She became suddenly grave.

"Not yet," she begged. "Let us talk and live nonsense for a few more weeks. You see, I really have not known you very long, have I, and this is a very dangerous city for flirtations. At Court one has to be so careful, and you know I am already considered far too much of a Bohemian here. I was even given to understand, a little time ago, by a very great lady, that my position was quite precarious."

"Does that—does anything matter if—"

"It is not of myself alone that I am thinking. Everything matters to one in your profession," she reminded him pointedly.

"I believe," he exclaimed, "that you think more of my profession than you do of me!"

"Quite impossible," she retorted mockingly. "And yet, as I dare say you have already realised, it is not only the things you say to our statesmen here, and the reports you make, which count. It is your daily life among the people of the nation to which you are attached, the friends you make among them, the hospitality you accept and offer, which has all the time its subtle significance. Now I am not sure, even, that I am, a very good companion for you, Mr. Francis Norgate."

"You are a very bad one for my peace of mind," he assured her.

She shook her head. "You say those things much too glibly," she declared. "I am afraid that you have served a very long apprenticeship."

"If I have," he replied, leaning a little across the table, "it has been an apprenticeship only, a probationary period during which one struggles towards the real thing."

"You think you will know when you have found it?" she murmured.

He drew a little breath. His voice even trembled as he answered her. "I know now," he said softly.

Their heads were almost touching. Suddenly she drew apart. He glanced at her in some surprise, conscious of an extraordinary change in her face, of the half-uttered exclamation strangled upon her lips. He turned his head and followed the direction of her eyes. Three young men in the uniform of officers had entered the room, and stood there as though looking about for a table. Before them the little company of head-waiters had almost prostrated themselves. The manager, summoned in breathless haste, had made a reverential approach.

"Who are these young men?" Norgate enquired.

His companion made no reply. Her fine, silky eyebrows were drawn a little closer together. At that moment the tallest of the three newcomers seemed to recognise her. He strode at once towards their table. Norgate, glancing up at his approach, was simply conscious of the coming of a fair young man of ordinary German type, who seemed to be in a remarkably bad temper.

"So I find you here, Anna!"

The Baroness rose as though unwillingly to her feet. She dropped the slightest of curtseys and resumed her place.

"Your visit is a little unexpected, is it not, Karl?" she remarked.

"Apparently!" the young man answered, with an unpleasant laugh.

He turned and stared at Norgate, who returned his regard with half-amused, half-impatient indifference. The Baroness leaned forward eagerly.

"Will you permit me to present Mr. Francis Norgate to you, Karl?"

Norgate, who had suddenly recognised the newcomer, rose to his feet, bowed and remained standing. The Prince's only reply to the introduction was a frown.

"Kindly give me your seat," he said imperatively. "I will conclude your entertainment of the Baroness."

For a moment there was a dead silence. In the background several of the maitres d'hotel had gathered obsequiously around. For some reason or other, every one seemed to be looking at Norgate as though he were a criminal.

"Isn't your request a little unusual, Prince?" he remarked drily.

The colour in the young man's face became almost purple.

"Did you hear what I said, sir?" he demanded. "Do you know who I am?"

"Perfectly," Norgate replied. "A prince who apparently has not learnt how to behave himself in a public place."

The young man took a quick step forward. Norgate's fists were clenched and his eyes glittering. The Baroness stepped between them.

"Mr. Norgate," she said, "you will please give me your escort home."

The Prince's companions had seized him, one by either arm. An older man who had been dining in a distant corner of the room, and who wore the uniform of an officer of high rank, suddenly approached. He addressed the Prince, and they all talked together in excited whispers. Norgate with calm fingers arranged the cloak around his companion and placed a hundred mark note upon his plate.

"I will return for my change another evening," he said to the dumbfounded waiter. "If you are ready, Baroness."

They left the restaurant amid an intense hush. Norgate waited deliberately whilst the door was somewhat unwillingly held open for him by a maitre d'hotel, but outside the Baroness's automobile was summoned at once. She placed her fingers upon Norgate's arm, and he felt that she was shivering.

"Please do not take me home," she faltered. "I am so sorry—so very sorry."

He laughed. "But why?" he protested. "The young fellow behaved like a cub, but no one offered him any provocation. I should think by this time he is probably heartily ashamed of himself. May I come and see you to-morrow?"

"Telephone me," she begged, as she gave him her hand through the window. "You don't quite understand. Please telephone to me."

She suddenly clutched his hand with both of hers and then fell back out of sight among the cushions. Norgate remained upon the pavement until the car had disappeared. Then he looked back once more into the restaurant and strolled across the brilliantly-lit street towards the Embassy.



CHAPTER II

Norgate, during his month's stay in Berlin, had already adopted regular habits. On the following morning he was called at eight o'clock and rode for two hours in the fashionable precincts of the city. The latter portion of the time he spent looking in vain for a familiar figure in a green riding-habit. The Baroness, however, did not appear. At ten o'clock Norgate returned to the Embassy, bathed and breakfasted, and a little after eleven made his way round to the business quarters. One of his fellow-workers there glanced up and nodded at his arrival.

"Where's the Chief?" Norgate enquired.

"Gone down to the Palace," the other young man, whose name was Ansell, replied; "telephoned for the first thing this morning. Ghastly habit William has of getting up at seven o'clock and suddenly remembering that he wants to talk diplomacy. The Chief will be furious all day now."

Norgate lit a cigarette and began to open his letters. Ansell, however, was in a discoursive mood. He swung around from his desk and leaned back in his chair.

"How can a man," he demanded, "see a question from the same point of view at seven o'clock in the morning and seven o'clock in the evening? Absolutely impossible, you know. That's what's the matter with our versatile friend up yonder. He gets all aroused over some scheme or other which comes to him in the dead of night, hops out of bed before any one civilised is awake, and rings up for ambassadors. Then at night-time he becomes normal again and takes everything back. The consequence is that this place is a regular diplomatic see-saw. Settling down in Berlin pretty well, aren't you, Norgate?"

"Very nicely, thanks," the latter replied.

"Dining alone with the Baroness von Haase!" his junior continued. "A Court favourite, too! Never been seen alone before except with her young princeling. What honeyed words did you use, Lothario—"

"Oh, chuck it!" Norgate interrupted. "Tell me about the Baroness von Haase! She is Austrian, isn't she?"

Ansell nodded.

"Related to the Hapsburgs themselves, I believe," he said. "Very old family, anyhow. They say she came to spend a season here because she was a little too go-ahead for the ladies of Vienna. I must say that I've never seen her out without a chaperon before, except with Prince Karl. They say he'd marry her—morganatically, of course—if they'd let him, and if the lady were willing. If you want to know anything more about her, go into Gray's room."

Norgate looked up from his letters.

"Why Gray's room? How does she come into his department?"

Ansell shook his head.

"No idea. I fancy she is there, though."

Norgate left the room a few minutes later, and, strolling across the hall of the Embassy, made his way to an apartment at the back of the house. It was plainly furnished, there were bars across the window, and three immense safes let into the wall. An elderly gentleman, with gold-rimmed spectacles and a very benevolent expression, was busy with several books of reference before him, seated at a desk. He raised his head at Norgate's entrance.

"Good morning, Norgate," he said.

"Good morning, sir," Norgate replied.

"Anything in my way?"

Norgate shook his head.

"Chief's gone to the Palace—no one knows why. I just looked in because I met a woman the other day whom Ansell says you know something about—Baroness von Haase."

"Well?"

"Is there anything to be told about her?" Norgate asked bluntly. "I dined with her last night."

"Then I don't think I would again, if I were you," the other advised. "There is nothing against her, but she is a great friend of certain members of the Royal Family who are not very well disposed towards us, and she is rather a brainy little person. They use her a good deal, I believe, as a means of confidential communication between here and Vienna. She has been back and forth three or four times lately, without any apparent reason."

Norgate stood with his hands in his pockets, frowning slightly.

"Why, she's half an Englishwoman," he remarked.

"She may be," Mr. Gray admitted drily. "The other half's Austrian all right, though. I can't tell you anything more about her, my dear fellow. All I can say is that she is in my book, and so long as she is there, you know it's better for you youngsters to keep away. Be off now. I am decoding a dispatch."

Norgate retraced his steps to his own room. Ansell glanced up from a mass of passports as he entered.

"How's the Secret Service Department this morning?" he enquired.

"Old Gray seems much as usual," Norgate grumbled. "One doesn't get much out of him."

"Chief wants you in his room," Ansell announced. "He's just come in from the Palace, looking like nothing on earth."

"Wants me?" Norgate muttered. "Righto!"

He went to the looking-glass, straightened his tie, and made his way towards the Ambassador's private apartments. The latter was alone when he entered, seated before his table. He was leaning back in his chair, however, and apparently deep in thought. He watched Norgate sternly as he crossed the room.

"Good morning, sir," the latter said.

The Ambassador nodded.

"What have you been up to, Norgate?" he asked abruptly.

"Nothing at all that I know of, sir," was the prompt reply.

"This afternoon," the Ambassador continued slowly, "I was to have taken you, as you know, to the Palace to be received by the Kaiser. At seven o'clock this morning I had a message. I have just come from the Palace. The Kaiser has given me to understand that your presence in Berlin is unwelcome."

"Good God!" Norgate exclaimed.

"Can you offer me any explanation?"

For a moment Norgate was speechless. Then he recovered himself. He forgot altogether his habits of restraint. There was an angry note in his tone.

"It's that miserable young cub of a Prince Karl!" he exclaimed. "Last night I was dining, sir, with the Baroness von Haase at the Cafe de Berlin."

"Alone?"

"Alone," Norgate admitted. "It was not for me to invite a chaperon if the lady did not choose to bring one, was it, sir? As we were finishing dinner, the Prince came in. He made a scene at our table and ordered me to leave."

"And you?" the Ambassador asked.

"I simply treated him as I would any other young ass who forgot himself," Norgate replied indignantly. "I naturally refused to go, and the Baroness left the place with me."

"And you did not expect to hear of this again?"

"I honestly didn't. I should have thought, for his own sake, that the young man would have kept his mouth shut. He was hopelessly in the wrong, and he behaved like a common young bounder."

The Ambassador shook his head slowly.

"Mr. Norgate," he said, "I am very sorry for you, but you are under a misapprehension shared by many young men. You believe that there is a universal standard of manners and deportment, and a universal series of customs for all nations. You have our English standard of manners in your mind, manners which range from a ploughboy to a king, and you seem to take it for granted that these are also subscribed to in other countries. In my position I do not wish to say too much, but let me tell you that in Germany they are not. If a prince here chooses to behave like a ploughboy, he is right where the ploughboy would be wrong."

There was a moment's silence. Norgate was looking a little dazed.

"Then you mean to defend—" he began.

"Certainly not," the Ambassador interrupted. "I am not speaking to you as one of ourselves. I am speaking as the representative of England in Berlin. You are supposed to be studying diplomacy. You have been guilty of a colossal blunder. You have shown yourself absolutely ignorant of the ideals and customs of the country in which you are. It is perfectly correct for young Prince Karl to behave, as you put it, like a bounder. The people expect it of him. He conforms entirely to the standard accepted by the military aristocracy of Berlin. It is you who have been in the wrong—diplomatically."

"Then you mean, sir," Norgate protested, "that I should have taken it sitting down?"

"Most assuredly you should," the Ambassador replied, "unless you were willing to pay the price. Your only fault—your personal fault, I mean—that I can see is that it was a little indiscreet of you to dine alone with a young woman for whom the Prince is known to have a foolish passion. Diplomatically, however, you have committed every fault possible, I am very sorry, but I think that you had better report in Downing Street as soon as possible. The train leaves, I think, at three o'clock."

Norgate for a moment was unable to speak or move. He was struggling with a sort of blind fury.

"This is the end of me, then," he muttered at last. "I am to be disgraced because I have come to a city of boors."

"You are reprimanded and in a sense, no doubt, punished," the Ambassador explained calmly, "because you have come to—shall I accept your term?—a city of boors and fail to adapt yourself. The true diplomatist adapts himself wherever he may be. My personal sympathies remain with you. I will do what I can in my report."

Norgate had recovered himself.

"I thank you very much, sir," he said. "I shall catch the three o'clock train."

The Ambassador held out his hand. The interview had finished. He permitted himself to speak differently.

"I am very sorry indeed, Norgate, that this has happened," he declared. "We all have our trials to bear in this city, and you have run up against one of them rather before your time. I wish you good luck, whatever may happen."

Norgate clasped his Chief's hand and left the apartment. Then he made his way to his rooms, gave his orders and sent a messenger to secure his seat in the train. Last of all he went to the telephone. He rang up the number which had become already familiar to him, almost with reluctance. He waited for the reply without any pleasurable anticipations. He was filled with a burning sense of resentment, a feeling which extended even to the innocent cause of it. Soon he heard her voice.

"That is Mr. Norgate, is it not?"

"Yes," he replied. "I rang up to wish you good-by."

"Good-by! But you are going away, then?"

"I am sent away—dismissed!"

He heard her little exclamation of grief. Its complete genuineness broke down a little the wall of his anger.

"And it is my fault!" she exclaimed. "If only I could do anything! Will you wait—please wait? I will go to the Palace myself."

His expostulation was almost a shock to her.

"Baroness," he replied, "if I permitted your intervention, I could never hold my head up in Berlin again! In any case, I could not stay here. The first thing I should do would be to quarrel with that insufferable young cad who insulted us last night. I am afraid, at the first opportunity, I should tell—"

"Hush!" she interrupted. "Oh, please hush! You must not talk like this, even over the telephone. Cannot you understand that you are not in England?"

"I am beginning to realise," he answered gruffly, "what it means not to be in a free country. I am leaving by the three o'clock train, Baroness. Farewell!"

"But you must not go like this," she pleaded. "Come first and see me."

"No! It will only mean more disgrace for you. Besides—in any case, I have decided to go away without seeing you again."

Her voice was very soft. He found himself gripping the pages of the telephone book which hung by his side.

"But is that kind? Have I sinned, Mr. Francis Norgate?"

"Of course not," he answered, keeping his tone level, almost indifferent. "I hope that we shall meet again some day, but not in Berlin."

There was a moment's silence. He thought, even, that she had gone away. Then her reply came back.

"So be it," she murmured. "Not in Berlin. Au revoir!"



CHAPTER III

Faithful to his insular prejudices, Norgate, on finding that the other seat in his coupe was engaged, started out to find the train attendant with a view to changing his place. His errand, however, was in vain. The train, it seemed, was crowded. He returned to his compartment to find already installed there one of the most complete and absolute types of Germanism he had ever seen. A man in a light grey suit, the waistcoat of which had apparently abandoned its efforts to compass his girth, with a broad, pink, good-humoured face, beardless and bland, flaxen hair streaked here and there with grey, was seated in the vacant place. He had with him a portmanteau covered with a linen case, his boots were a bright shade of yellow, his tie was of white satin with a design of lavender flowers. A pair of black kid gloves lay by his side. He welcomed Norgate with the bland, broad smile of a fellow-passenger whose one desire it is to make a lifelong friend of his temporary companion.

"We have the compartment to ourselves, is it not so? You are English?"

Some queer chance founded upon his ill-humour, his disgust of Germany and all things in it, induced Norgate to tell a deliberate falsehood.

"Sorry," he replied in English. "I don't speak German."

The man's satisfaction was complete.

"But I—I speak the most wonderful English. It pleases me always to speak English. I like to do so. It is practice for me. We will talk English together, you and I. These comic papers, they do not amuse. And books in the train, they make one giddy. What I like best is a companion and a bottle of Rhine wine."

"Personally," Norgate confessed gruffly, "I like to sleep."

The other seemed a little taken aback but remained, apparently, full of the conviction that his overtures could be nothing but acceptable.

"It is well to sleep," he agreed, "if one has worked hard. Now I myself am a hard worker. My name is Selingman. I manufacture crockery which I sell in England. That is why I speak the English language so wonderful. For the last three nights I have been up reading reports of my English customers, going through their purchases. Now it is finished. I am well posted. I am off to sell crockery in London, in Manchester, in Leeds, in Birmingham. I have what the people want. They will receive me with open arms, some of them even welcome me at their houses. Thus it is that I look forward to my business trip as a holiday."

"Very pleasant, I'm sure," Norgate remarked, curling himself up in his corner. "Personally, I can't see why we can't make our own crockery. I get tired of seeing German goods in England."

Herr Selingman was apparently a trifle hurt, but his efforts to make himself agreeable were indomitable.

"If you will," he said, "I can explain why my crockery sells in England where your own fails. For one thing, then, I am cheaper. There is a system at my works, the like of which is not known in England. From the raw material to the finished article I can produce forty per cent. cheaper than your makers, and, mind you, that is not because I save in wages. It is because of the system in the various departments. I do not like to save in wages," he went on. "I like to see my people healthy and strong and happy. I like to see them drink beer after work is over, and on feast days and Sundays I like to see them sit in the gardens and listen to the band, and maybe change their beer for a bottle of wine. Industrially, Mr. Englishman, ours is a happy country."

"Well, I hope you won't think I am rude," Norgate observed, "but from the little I have seen of it I call it a beastly country, and if you don't mind I am going to sleep."

Herr Selingman sat for several moments with his mouth still open. Then he gave a little grunt. There was not the slightest ill-humour in the ejaculation or in his expression. He was simply pained.

"I am sorry if I have talked too much," he said. "I forgot that you, perhaps, are tired. You have met with disappointments, maybe. I am sorry. I will read now and not disturb you."

For an hour or so Norgate tried in vain to sleep. All this time the man opposite turned the pages of his book with the utmost cautiousness, moved on tiptoe once to reach down more papers, and held out his finger to warn the train attendant who came with some harmless question.

"The English gentleman," Norgate heard him whisper, "is tired. Let him sleep."

Soon after five o'clock, Norgate gave it up. He rose to his feet, stretched himself, and was welcomed with a pleasant smile from his companion.

"You have had a refreshing nap," the latter remarked, "and now, is it not so, you go to take a cup of English tea?"

"You are quite right," Norgate admitted. "Better come with me."

Herr Selingman smiled a smile of triumph. It was the reward of geniality, this! He was forming a new friendship!

"I come with great pleasure," he decided, "only while you drink the tea, I drink the coffee or some beer. I will see. I like best the beer," he explained, turning sidewise to get out of the door, "but it is not the best for my figure. I have a good conscience and a good digestion, and I eat and drink much. But it is good to be happy."

They made their way down to the restaurant car and seated themselves at a table together.

"You let me do the ordering," Herr Selingman insisted. "The man here, perhaps, does not speak English. So! You will drink your tea with me, sir. It is a great pleasure to me to entertain an Englishman. I make many friends travelling. I like to make friends. I remember them all, and sometimes we meet again. Kellner, some tea for the gentleman—English tea with what you call bread and butter. So! And for me—" Selingman paused for a moment and drew a deep sigh of resignation—"some coffee."

"Very kind of you, I'm sure," Norgate murmured.

Herr Selingman beamed.

"It is a great pleasure," he said, "but many times I wonder why you Englishmen, so clever, so world-conquering, do not take the trouble to make yourselves with the languages of other nations familiar. It means but a little study. Now you, perhaps, are in business?"

"Not exactly," Norgate replied grimly. "To tell you the truth, at the present moment I have no occupation."

"No occupation!"

Herr Selingman paused in the act of conveying a huge portion of rusk to his mouth, and regarded his companion with wonder.

"So!" he repeated. "No occupation! Well, that is what in Germany we know nothing of. Every one must work, or must take up the army as a permanent profession. You are, perhaps, one of those Englishmen of whom one reads, who give up all their time to sport?"

Norgate shook his head.

"As a matter of fact," he said, "I have worked rather hard during the last five or six years. It is only just recently that I have lost my occupation."

Herr Selingman's curiosity was almost childlike in its transparency, but Norgate found himself unable to gratify it. In any case, after his denial of any knowledge of the German language, he could scarcely lay claim to even the most indirect connection with the diplomatic service.

"Ah, well," Herr Selingman declared, "opportunities will come. You have perhaps lost some post. Well, there are others. I should not, I think, be far away from the truth, sir, if I were to surmise that you had held some sort of an official position?"

"Perhaps," Norgate assented.

"That is interesting," Herr Selingman continued. "Now with the English of commerce I talk often, and I know their views of me and my country. But sometimes I have fancied that among your official classes those who are ever so slightly employed in Government service, there is—I do not love the word, but I must use it—a distrust of Germany and her peace-loving propensities."

"I have met many people," Norgate admitted, "who do not look upon Germany as a lover of peace."

"They should come and travel here," Herr Selingman insisted eagerly. "Look out of the windows. What do you see? Factory chimneys, furnaces everywhere. And further on—what? Well-tilled lands, clean, prosperous villages, a happy, domestic people. I tell you that no man in the world is so fond of his wife and children, his simple life, his simple pleasures, as the German."

"Very likely," Norgate assented, "but if you look out of the windows continually you will also see that every station-master on the line wears a military uniform, that every few miles you see barracks. These simple peasants you speak of carry themselves with a different air from ours. I don't know much about it, but I should call it the effect of their military training. I know nothing about politics. Very likely yours is a nation of peace-loving men. As a casual observer, I should call you more a nation of soldiers."

"But that," Herr Selingman explained earnestly, "is for defence only."

"And your great standing army, your wonderful artillery, your Zeppelins and your navy," Norgate asked, "are they for defence only?"

"Absolutely and entirely," Herr Selingman declared, with a new and ponderous gravity. "There is nothing the most warlike German desires more fervently than to keep the peace. We are strong only because we desire peace, peace under which our commerce may grow, and our wealth increase."

"Well, it seems to me, then," Norgate observed, "that you've gone to a great deal of expense and taken a great deal of trouble for nothing. I don't know much about these things, as I told you before, but there is no nation in the world who wants to attack Germany."

Herr Selingman laid his finger upon his nose.

"That may be," he said. "Yet there are many who look at us with envious eyes. I am a good German. I know what it is that we want. We want peace, and to gain peace we need strength, and to be strong we arm. That is everything. It will never be Germany who clenches her fist, who draws down the black clouds of war over Europe. It will never be Germany, I tell you. Why, a war would ruin half of us. What of my crockery? I sell it all in England. Believe me, young gentleman, war exists only in the brains of your sensational novelists. It does not come into the world of real purpose."

"Well, it's very interesting to hear you say so," Norgate admitted. "I wish I could wholly agree with you."

Herr Selingman caught him by the sleeve.

"You are just a little," he confided, "just a little suspicious, my young friend, you in your little island. Perhaps it is because you live upon an island. You do not expand. You have small thoughts. You are not great like we in Germany, not broad, not deep. But we will talk later of these things. I must tell you about our Kaiser."

Norgate opened his lips and closed them again.

"Presently," he muttered. "See you later on."

He strolled to his coupe, tried in vain to read, walked up and down the length of the train, smoked a cigarette, and returned to his compartment to find Herr Selingman immersed in the study of many documents.

"Records of my customers and my transactions," the latter announced blandly. "I have a great fondness for detail. I know everything. I carry with me particulars of everything. That is where we Germans are so thorough. See, I place them now all in my bag."

He did so and locked it with great care.

"We go to dinner, is it not so?" he suggested.

"I suppose we may as well," Norgate assented indifferently.

They found places in the crowded restaurant car. The manufacturer of crockery made a highly satisfactory and important meal. Norgate, on the other hand, ate little. Herr Selingman shook his head.

"My young English friend," he declared, "all is not well with you that you turn away from good food. Come. Afterwards, over a cigar, you shall tell me what troubles you have, and I will give you sound advice. I have a very wide knowledge of life. I have a way of seeing the truth, and I like to help people."

Norgate shook his head. "I am afraid," he said, "that my case is hopeless."

"Presently we will see," Herr Selingman continued, rubbing the window with his cuff. "We are arrived, I think, at Lesel. Here will board the train one of my agents. He will travel with us to the next station. It is my way of doing business, this. It is better than alighting and wasting a day in a small town. You will not mind, perhaps," he added, "if I bring him into the carriage and talk? You do not understand German, so it will not weary you."

"Certainly not," Norgate replied. "I shall probably drop off to sleep."

"He will be in the train for less than an hour," Herr Selingman explained, "but I have many competitors, and I like to talk in private. In here some one might overhear."

"How do you know that I am not an English crockery manufacturer?" Norgate remarked.

Herr Selingman laughed heartily. His stomach shook, and tears rolled down his eyes.

"That is good!" he exclaimed. "An English crockery manufacturer! No, I do not think so! I cannot see you with your sleeves turned up, walking amongst the kilns. I cannot see you, even, studying the designs for pots and basins."

"Well, bring your man in whenever you want to," Norgate invited, as he turned away. "I can promise, at least, that I shall not understand what you are saying, and that I won't sneak your designs."

There was a queer little smile on Herr Selingman's broad face. It almost seemed as though he had discovered some hidden though unsuspected meaning in the other's words.



CHAPTER IV

Norgate dozed fitfully as the train sped on through the darkness. He woke once to find Herr Selingman in close confabulation with his agent on the opposite side of the compartment. They had a notebook before them and several papers spread out upon the seat. Norgate, who was really weary, closed his eyes again, and it seemed to him that he dreamed for a few moments. Then suddenly he found himself wide-awake. Although he remained motionless, the words which Selingman had spoken to his companion were throbbing in his ears.

"I do not doubt your industry, Meyer, but it is your discretion which is sometimes at fault. These plans of the forts of Liege—they might as well be published in a magazine. We had them when they were made. We have received copies of every alteration. We know to a metre how far the guns will carry, how many men are required to man them, what stocks of ammunition are close at hand. Understand, therefore, my friend, that the sight of these carefully traced plans, which you hint to have obtained at the risk of your life, excites me not at all."

The other man's reply was inaudible. In a moment or two Selingman spoke again.

"The information which I am lacking just at present in your sphere of operations, is civilian in character. Take Ghent, for instance. What I should like here, what our records need at present, is a list of the principal inhabitants with their approximate income, and, summarising it all, the rateable value of the city. With these bases it would be easy to fix a reasonable indemnity."

Norgate was wide-awake now. He was curled up on his seat, underneath his rug, and though his eyelids had quivered with a momentary excitement, he was careful to remain as near as possible motionless. Again Selingman's agent spoke, this time more distinctly.

"The young man opposite," he whispered. "He is English, surely?"

"He is English indeed," Selingman admitted, "but he speaks no German. That I have ascertained. Give me your best attention, Meyer. Here is again an important commission for you. Within the next few days, hire an automobile and visit the rising country eastwards from Antwerp. At some spot between six and eight miles from the city, on a slight incline and commanding the River Scheldt, we desire to purchase an acre of land for the erection of a factory. You can say that we have purchased the concession for making an American safety razor. The land is wanted, and urgently. See to this yourself and send plans and price to me in London. On my return I shall call and inspect the sites and close the bargain."

"And the Antwerp forts?"

The other pursed his lips.

"Pooh! Was it not the glorious firm of Krupp who fitted the guns there? Do you think the men who undertook that task were idle? I tell you that our plans of the Antwerp fortifications are more carefully worked out in detail than the plans held by the Belgians themselves. Here is good work for you to do, friend Meyer. That and the particulars from Brussels which you know of, will keep you busy until we meet again."

Herr Selingman began to collect his papers, but was suddenly thrown back into his seat by the rocking of the train, which came, a few moments later, to a standstill. The sound of the opening of windows from the other side of the corridor was heard all down the train. Selingman and his companion followed the general example, opening the door of the carriage and the window opposite. A draught blew through the compartment. One of the small folded slips of paper from Selingman's pocket-book fluttered along the seat. It came within reach of Norgate. Cautiously he stretched out his fingers and gripped it. In a moment it was in his pocket. He sat up in his place. Selingman had turned around.

"Anything the matter?" Norgate asked sleepily.

"Not that one can gather," Selingman replied. "You have slept well. I am glad that our conversation has not disturbed you. This is my agent from Brussels—Mr. Meyer. He sells our crockery in that city—not so much as he should sell, perhaps, but still he does his best."

Mr. Meyer was a dark little man who wore gold-rimmed spectacles, neat clothes, and a timid smile. Norgate nodded to him good-humouredly.

"You should get Herr Selingman to come oftener and help you," he remarked, yawning. "I can imagine that he would be able to sell anything he tried to."

"It is what I often tell him, sir," Mr. Meyer replied, "but he is too fond of the English trade."

"English money is no better than Belgian," Herr Selingman declared, "but there is more of it. Let us go round to the restaurant car and drink a bottle of wine together while the beds are prepared."

"Certainly," Norgate assented, stretching himself. "By-the-by, you had better look after your papers there, Herr Selingman. Just as I woke up I saw a small slip fluttering along the seat. You made a most infernal draught by opening that door, and I almost fancy it went out of the window."

Herr Selingman's face became suddenly grave. He went through the papers one by one, and finally locked them up in his bag.

"Nothing missing, I hope?" Norgate asked.

Herr Selingman's face was troubled.

"I am not sure," he said. "It is my belief that I had with me here a list of my agents in England. I cannot find it. In a sense it is unimportant, yet if a rival firm should obtain possession of it, there might be trouble."

Norgate looked out into the night and smiled.

"Considering that it is blowing half a hurricane and commencing to rain," he remarked, "the slip of paper which I saw blowing about will be of no use to any one when it is picked up."

They called the attendant and ordered him to prepare the sleeping berths. Then they made their way down to the buffet car, and Herr Selingman ordered a bottle of wine.

"We will drink," he proposed, "to our three countries. In our way we represent, I think, the industrial forces of the world—Belgium, England, and Germany. We are the three countries who stand for commerce and peace. We will drink prosperity to ourselves and to each other."

Norgate threw off, with apparent effort, his sleepiness.

"What you have said about our three countries is very true," he remarked. "Perhaps as you, Mr. Meyer, are a Belgian, and you, Mr. Selingman, know Belgium well and have connections with it, you can tell me one thing which has always puzzled me. Why is it that Belgium, which is, as you say, a commercial and peace-loving country, whose neutrality is absolutely guaranteed by three of the greatest Powers in Europe, should find it necessary to have spent such large sums upon fortifications?"

"In which direction do you mean?" Selingman asked, his eyes narrowing a little as he looked across at Norgate.

"The forts of Liege and Namur," Norgate replied, "and Antwerp. I know nothing more about it than I gathered from an article which I read not long ago in a magazine. I had always looked upon Belgium as being outside the pale of possible warfare, yet according to this article it seems to be bristling to the teeth with armaments."

Herr Selingman cleared his throat.

"I will tell you the reason," he said. "You have come to the right man to know. I am a civilian, but there are few things in connection with my country which I do not understand. Mr. Meyer here, who is a citizen of Brussels, will bear me out. It is the book of a clever, intelligent, but misguided German writer which has been responsible for Belgium's unrest—Bernhardi's Germany and the Next War—that and articles of a similar tenor which preceded it."

"Never read any of them," Norgate remarked.

"It was erroneously supposed," Selingman continued, "that Bernhardi represented the dominant military opinion of Germany when he wrote that if Germany ever again invaded France, it would be, notwithstanding her guarantees of neutrality, through Belgium. Bernhardi was a clever writer, but he was a soldier, and soldiers do not understand the world policy of a great nation such as Germany. Germany will make no war upon any one, save commercially. She will never again invade France except under the bitterest provocation, and if ever she should be driven to defend herself, it will assuredly not be at the expense of her broken pledges. The forts of Belgium might just as well be converted into apple-orchards. They stand there to-day as the proof of a certain lack of faith in Germany on the part of Belgium, ministered to by that King of the Jingoes, as you would say in English, Bernhardi. How often it is that a nation suffers most from her own patriots!"

"Herr Selingman has expressed the situation admirably," Mr. Meyer declared approvingly.

"Very interesting, I'm sure," Norgate murmured. "There is one thing about you foreigners," he added, with an envious sigh. "The way you all speak the languages of other countries is wonderful. Are you a Belgian, Mr. Meyer?"

"Half Belgian and half French."

"But you speak English almost without accent," Norgate remarked.

"In commerce," Herr Selingman insisted, "that is necessary. All my agents speak four languages."

"You deserve to capture our trade," Norgate sighed.

"To a certain extent, my young friend," Selingman declared, "we mean to do it. We are doing it. And yet there is enough for us both. There is trade enough for your millions and for mine. So long as Germany and England remain friends, they can divide the commerce of the world between them. It is our greatest happiness, we who have a business relying upon the good-will of the two nations, to think that year by year the clouds of discord are rolling away from between us. Young sir, as a German citizen, I will drink a toast with you, an English one. I drink to everlasting peace between my country and yours!"

Norgate drained his glass. Selingman threw back his head as he followed suit, and smacked his lips appreciatively.

"And now," the former remarked, rising to his feet, "I think I'll go and turn in. I dare say you two still have some business to talk about, especially if Mr. Meyer is leaving us shortly."

Norgate made his way back to his compartment, undressed leisurely and climbed into the upper bunk. For an hour or two he indulged in the fitful slumber usually engendered by night travelling. At the frontier he sat up and answered the stereotyped questions. Herr Selingman, in sky-blue pyjamas, and with face looking more beaming and florid than ever, poked his head cheerfully out of the lower bunk.

"Awake?" he enquired.

"Very much so," Norgate yawned.

"I have a surprise," Herr Selingman announced. "Wait."

Almost as he spoke, an attendant arrived from the buffet car with some soda-water. Herr Selingman's head vanished for a moment or two. When he reappeared, he held two glasses in his hand.

"A whisky soda made in real English fashion," he proclaimed triumphantly. "A good nightcap, is it not? Now we are off again."

Norgate held out his hand for the tumbler.

"Awfully good of you," he murmured.

"I myself," Selingman continued, seated on the edge of the bunk, with his legs far apart to steady himself, "I myself enjoy a whisky soda. It will be indeed a nightcap, so here goes."

He drained his glass and set it down. Norgate followed suit. Selingman's hand came up for the tumbler and Norgate was conscious of a curious mixture of sensations which he had once experienced before in the dentist's chair. He could see Selingman distinctly, and he fancied that he was watching him closely, but the rest of the carriage had become chaos. The sound of the locomotive was beating hard upon the drums of his ears. His head fell back.

It was broad daylight when he awoke. Selingman, fully dressed and looking more beaming than ever, was seated upon a ridiculously inadequate camp-stool upon the floor, smoking a cigarette. Norgate stared at him stupidly.

"My young friend," Herr Selingman declared impressively, "if there is one thing in the world I envy you, it is that capacity for sleep. You all have it, you English. Your heads touch the pillow, and off you go. Do you know that the man is waiting for you to take your coffee?"

Norgate lay quite still for several moments. Beyond a slight headache, he was feeling as usual. He leaned over the side of the bunk.

"How many whiskies and soda did I have last night?" he asked.

Herr Selingman smiled.

"But one only," he announced. "There was only one to be had. I found a little whisky in my flask. I remembered that I had an English travelling companion, and I sent for some soda-water. You drank yours, and you did sleep. I go now and sit in the corridor while you dress."

Norgate swung round in his bunk and slipped to the floor.

"Jolly good of you," he muttered sleepily, "but it was very strong whisky."



CHAPTER V

There was a babel of voices as the long train came to a stand-still in the harbour station at Ostend. Selingman, with characteristic forcefulness, pushed his way down the narrow corridor, driving before him passengers of less weight and pertinacity, until finally he descended on to the platform itself. Norgate, who had followed meekly in his wake, stood listening for a moment to the confused stream of explanations. He understood well enough what had happened, but with Selingman at his elbow he assumed an air of non-comprehension.

"It is extraordinary!" the latter exclaimed. "Never do I choose this route but I am visited with some mishap. You hear what has happened?"

"Fellow's trying to tell me," Norgate replied, "but his Flemish is worse to understand than German."

"The steamer," Selingman announced, "has met with an accident entering the harbour. There will be a delay of at least six hours—possibly more. It is most annoying. My appointments in London have been fixed for days."

"Bad luck!" Norgate murmured.

"You do not seem much distressed."

"Why should I be? I really came this way because I was not sure whether I would not stay here for a few days."

"That is all very well for you," Selingman declared, as they followed their porters into the shed. "For me, I am a man of affairs. It is different. My business goes by clockwork. All is regulated by rule, with precision, with punctuality. Now I shall be many hours behind my schedule. I shall be compelled to alter my appointments—I, who pride myself always upon altering nothing. But behold! One must make the best of things. What a sunshine! What a sea! We shall meet, without a doubt, upon the Plage. I have friends here. I must seek them. Au revoir, my young travelling companion. To the good fortune!"

They drifted apart, and Norgate, having made arrangements about his luggage, strolled through the town and on to the promenade. It was early for the full season at Ostend, but the sands were already crowded with an immense throng of children and holiday-makers. The hotels were all open, and streams of people were passing back and forth along the front, Norgate, who had no wish to meet acquaintances, passed the first period of his enforced wait a little wearily. He took a taxicab and drove as far as Knocke. Here he strolled across the links and threw himself down finally amongst a little wave of sandy hillocks close to the sea. The silence, and some remains of the sleepiness of the previous night, soon began to have their natural effect. He closed his eyes and began to doze. When he awoke, curiously enough, it was a familiar voice which first fell upon his ears. He turned his head cautiously. Seated not a dozen yards away from him was a tall, thin man with a bag of golf clubs by his side. He was listening with an air of engrossed attention to his companion's impressive remarks. Norgate, raising himself upon his elbow, no longer had any doubts. The man stretched upon his back on the sand, partly hidden from sight by a little grass-grown undulation, was his late travelling companion.

"You do well, my dear Marquis, believe me!" the latter exclaimed. "Property in Belgium is valuable to-day. Take my advice. Sell. There are so many places where one may live, where the climate is better for a man of your constitution."

"That is all very well," his companion replied querulously, "but remember that Belgium, after all, is my country. My chateau and estates came to me by inheritance. Notwithstanding the frequent intermarriages of my family with the aristocracy of your country, I am still a Belgian."

"Ah! but, my dear friend," Selingman protested, "you are more than a Belgian, more than a man of local nationality. You are a citizen of the world of intelligence. You are able to see the truth. The days are coming when small states may exist no longer without the all-protecting arm of a more powerful country. I say no more than this. The position of Belgium is artificial. Of her own will, or of necessity, she must soon become merged in the onward flow of mightier nations."

"What about Holland, then?"

"Holland, too," Selingman continued, "knows the truth. She knows very well that the limit of her days as an independent kingdom is almost reached. The Power which has absorbed the states of Prussia into one mighty empire, pauses only to take breath. There are many signs—"

"But, my worthy friend," the other man interrupted irritably, "you must take into consideration the fact that Belgium is in a different position. Our existence as a separate kingdom might certainly be threatened by Germany, but all that has been foreseen. Our neutrality is guaranteed. Your country has pledged its honour to maintain it, side by side with France and England. What have we to fear, then?"

"You have to fear, Marquis," Selingman replied ponderously, "the inevitable laws which direct the progress of nations. Treaties solemnly subscribed to in one generation become worthless as time passes and conditions change."

"But I do not understand you there!" the other man exclaimed. "What you say sounds to me like a reflection upon the honour of your country. Do you mean to insinuate that she would possibly—that she would ever for a moment contemplate breaking her pledged and sealed word?"

"My friend," Selingman pronounced drily, "the path of honour and glory, the onward progress of a mighty, struggling nation, carrying in its hand culture and civilisation, might demand even such a sacrifice. Germany recognises, is profoundly imbued with the splendour of her own ideals, the matchlessness of her own culture. She feels justified in spreading herself out wherever she can find an outlet—at any cost, mind, because the end must be good."

There was a moment's silence. Then the tall man stood upright.

"If you came out to find me, my friend Selingman, to bring me this warning, I suppose I should consider myself your debtor. As a matter of fact, I do not. You have inspired me with nameless misgivings. Your voice sounds in my ears like the voice of an ugly fate. I am, as you have often reminded me, half German, and I have shown my friendship for Germany many times. Unlike most of the aristocracy of my country, I look more often northwards than towards the south. But I tell you frankly that there are limits to my Germanism. I will play no more golf. I will walk with you to the club-house."

"All that I have to say," Selingman went on, "is not yet said. This opportunity of meeting you is too precious to be wasted. Come. As we walk there are certain questions I wish to put to you."

They passed within a few feet of where Norgate was lying. He closed his eyes and held his breath. It was not until their figures were almost specks in the distance that he rose cautiously to his feet. He made his way back to the club-house by another angle, gained his taxicab unobserved, and drove back to Ostend.

* * * * *

Towards evening Norgate strolled into one of the cosmopolitan bars at the back of the Casino. The first person he saw as he handed over his hat to a waiter, was Selingman, spread out upon a cushioned seat with a young lady upon either side of him. He at once summoned Norgate to his table.

"An aperitif," he insisted. "Come, you must not refuse me. In two hours we start. We tear ourselves away from this wonderful atmosphere. In atmosphere, mademoiselle," he added, bowing to the right and the left, "all is included."

"It is not," Norgate admitted, "an invitation to be disregarded. On the other hand, I have already an appetite."

Selingman thundered out an order.

"Here," he remarked, "we dwell for a few brief moments in Bohemia. I do not introduce you. You sit down and join us. You are one of us. That you speak only English counts for nothing. Mademoiselle Alice here is American. Now tell us at once, how have you spent this afternoon? You have bathed, perhaps, or walked upon the sands?"

Norgate was on the point of speaking of his excursion to Knocke but was conscious of Selingman's curiously intent gaze. The spirit of duplicity seemed to grow upon him.

"I walked for a little way," he said. "Afterwards I lay upon the sands and slept. When I found that the steamer was still further delayed, I had a bath. That was half an hour ago. I asked a man whom I met on the promenade where one might dine in travelling clothes, lightly but well, and he sent me here—the Bar de Londres—and here, for my good fortune, I am."

"It is a pity that monsieur does not speak French," one of Selingman's companions murmured.

"But, mademoiselle," Norgate protested, "I have spoken French all my life. Herr Selingman here has misunderstood me. It is German of which I am ignorant."

The young lady, who immediately introduced herself as Mademoiselle Henriette, passed her arm through Selingman's.

"We dine here all together, my friend, is it not so?" she begged. "He will not be in the way, and for myself, I am triste. You talk all the time to Mademoiselle l'Americaine, perhaps because she is the friend of some one in whom you are interested. But for me, it is dull. Monsieur l'Anglais shall talk with me, and you may hear all the secrets that Alice has to tell. We," she murmured, looking up at Norgate, "will speak of other things, is it not so?"

For a moment Selingman hesitated. Norgate would have moved on with a little farewell nod, but Selingman's companions were insistent.

"It shall be a partie carree," they both declared, almost in unison.

"You need have no fear," Mademoiselle Henriette continued. "I will talk all the time to monsieur. He shall tell me his name, and we shall be very great friends. I am not interested in the things of which they talk, those others. You shall tell me of London, monsieur, and how you live there."

"Join us, by all means," Selingman invited.

"On condition that you dine with me," Norgate insisted, as he took up the menu.

"Impossible!" Selingman declared firmly.

"Oh! it matters nothing," Mademoiselle Henriette exclaimed, "so long as we dine."

"So long," Mademoiselle Alice intervened, "as we have this brief glimpse of Mr. Selingman, let us make the best of it. We see him only because of a contretemps. I think we must be very nice to him and persuade him to take us to London to-night."

Selingman's shake of the head was final.

"Dear young ladies," he said, "it was delightful to find you here. I came upon the chance, I admit, but who in Ostend would not be here between six and eight? We dine, we walk down to the quay, and if you will, you shall wave your hands and wish us bon voyage, but London just now is triste. It is here you may live the life the bon Dieu sends, where the sun shines all the time and the sea laps the sands like a great blue lake, and you, mademoiselle, can wear those wonderful costumes and charm all hearts. There is nothing like that for you in London."

They ordered dinner and walked afterwards down to the quay. Mademoiselle Henriette lingered behind with Norgate.

"Let them go on," she whispered. "They have much to talk about. It is but a short distance, and your steamer will not start before ten. We can walk slowly and listen to the music. You are not in a hurry, monsieur, to depart? Your stay here is too short already."

Norgate's reply, although gallant enough, was a little vague. He was watching Selingman with his companion. They were talking together with undoubted seriousness.

"Who is Mr. Selingman?" he enquired. "I know him only as a travelling companion."

Mademoiselle Henriette extended her hands. She shrugged her little shoulders and looked with wide-open eyes up into her companion's grave face.

"But who, indeed, can answer that question?" she exclaimed. "Twice he has been here for flying visits. Once Alice has been to see him in Berlin. He is, I believe, a very wealthy manufacturer there. He crosses often to England. He has money, and he is always gay."

"And Mademoiselle Alice?"

"Who knows?" was the somewhat pointless reply. "She came from America. She arrived here this season with Monsieur le General."

"What General?" Norgate asked. "A Belgian?"

"But no," his companion corrected. "All the world knows that Alice is the friend of General le Foys, chief of the staff in Paris. He is a very great soldier. He spends eleven months working and one month here."

"And she is also," Norgate observed meditatively, "the friend of Herr Selingman. Tell me, mademoiselle, what do you suppose those two are talking of now? See how close their heads are together. I don't think that Herr Selingman is a Don Juan."

"They speak, perhaps, of serious matters," his companion surmised, "but who can tell? Besides, is it for us to waste our few moments wondering? You will come back to Ostend, monsieur?"

Norgate looked back at the streaming curve of lights flashing across the dark waters.

"One never knows," he answered.

"That is what Monsieur Selingman himself says," she remarked, with a little sigh. "'Enjoy your Ostend to-day, my little ones,' he said, when he first met us this evening. 'One never knows how long these days will last.' So, monsieur, we must indeed part here?"

They had all come to a standstill at the gangway of the steamer. Selingman had apparently finished his conversation with his companion. He hurried Norgate off, and they waved their hands from the deck as a few minutes later the steamer glided away.

"A most delightful interlude," Selingman declared. "I have thoroughly enjoyed these few hours. I trust, that every time this steamer meets with a little accident, it will be at this time of the year and when I am on my way to England."

"You seem to have friends everywhere," Norgate observed, as he lit a cigar.

"Young ladies, yes," Selingman admitted. "It chanced that they were both well-known to me. But who else?"

Norgate made no reply. He felt that his companion was watching him.

"It is something," he remarked, "to find charming young ladies in a strange place to dine with one."

Selingman smiled broadly.

"If we travelled together often, my young friend," he said, "you would discover that I have friends everywhere. If I have nothing else to do, I go out and make a friend. Then, when I revisit that place, it loses its coldness. There is some one there to welcome me, some one who is glad to see me again. Look steadily in that direction, a few points to the left of the bows. In two hours' time you will see the lights of your country. I have friends there, too, who will welcome me. Meantime, I go below to sleep. You have a cabin?"

Norgate shook his head.

"I shall doze on deck for a little time," he said. "It is too wonderful a night to go below."

"It is well for me that it is calm," Selingman acknowledged. "I do not love the sea. Shall we part for a little time? If we meet not at Dover, then in London, my young friend. London is the greatest city in the world, but it is the smallest place in Europe. One cannot move in the places one knows of without meeting one's friends."

"Until we meet in London, then," Norgate observed, as he settled himself down in his chair.



CHAPTER VI

Norgate spent an utterly fruitless morning on the day after his arrival in London. After a lengthy but entirely unsatisfactory visit to the Foreign Office, he presented himself soon after midday at Scotland Yard.

"I should like," he announced, "to see the Chief Commissioner of the Police."

The official to whom he addressed his enquiry eyed him tolerantly.

"Have you, by any chance, an appointment?" he asked.

"None," Norgate admitted. "I only arrived from the Continent this morning."

The policeman shook his head slowly.

"It is quite impossible, sir," he said, "to see Sir Philip without an appointment. Your best course would be to write and state your business, and his secretary will then fix a time for you to call."

"Very much obliged to you, I'm sure," Norgate replied. "However, my business is urgent, and if I can't see Sir Philip Morse, I will see some one else in authority."

Norgate was regaled with a copy of The Times and a seat in a barely-furnished waiting-room. In about twenty minutes he was told that a Mr. Tyritt would see him, and was promptly shown into the presence of that gentleman. Mr. Tyritt was a burly and black-bearded person of something more than middle-age. He glanced down at Norgate's card in a somewhat puzzled manner and motioned him to a seat.

"What can I do for you, sir?" he enquired. "Sir Philip is very much engaged for the next few days, but perhaps you can tell me your business?"

"I have just arrived from Berlin," Norgate explained. "Would you care to possess a complete list of German spies in this country?"

Mr. Tyritt's face was not one capable of showing the most profound emotion. Nevertheless, he seemed a little taken aback.

"A list of German spies?" he repeated. "Dear me, that sounds very interesting!"

He took up Norgate's card and glanced at it. The action was, in its way, significant.

"You probably don't know who I am," Norgate continued. "I have been in the Diplomatic Service for eight years. Until a few days ago, I was attached to the Embassy in Berlin."

Mr. Tyritt was somewhat impressed by the statement.

"Have you any objection to telling me how you became possessed of this information?"

"None whatever," was the prompt reply. "You shall hear the whole story."

Norgate told him, as briefly as possible, of his meeting with Selingman, their conversation, and the subsequent happenings, including the interview which he had overheard on the golf links at Knocke. When he had finished, there was a brief silence.

"Sounds rather like a page out of a novel, doesn't it, Mr. Norgate?" the police official remarked at last.

"It may," Norgate assented drily. "I can't help what it sounds like. It happens to be the exact truth."

"I do not for a moment doubt it," the other declared politely. "I believe, indeed, that there are a large number of Germans working in this country who are continually collecting and forwarding to Berlin commercial and political reports. Speaking on behalf of my department, however, Mr. Norgate," he went on, "this is briefly our position. In the neighbourhood of our naval bases, our dockyards, our military aeroplane sheds, and in other directions which I need not specify, we keep the most scrupulous and exacting watch. We even, as of course you are aware, employ decoy spies ourselves, who work in conjunction with our friends at Whitehall. Our system is a rigorous one and our supervision of it unceasing. But—and this is a big 'but', Mr. Norgate—in other directions—so far as regards the country generally, that is to say—we do not take the subject of German spies seriously. I may almost say that we have no anxiety concerning their capacity for mischief."

"Those are the views of your department?" Norgate asked.

"So far as I may be said to represent it, they are," Mr. Tyritt assented. "I will venture to say that there are many thousands of letters a year which leave this country, addressed to Germany, purporting to contain information of the most important nature, which might just as well be published in the newspapers. We ought to know, because at different times we have opened a good many of them."

"Forgive me if I press this point," Norgate begged. "Do you consider that because a vast amount of useless information is naturally sent, that fact lessens the danger as a whole? If only one letter in a thousand contains vital information, isn't that sufficient to raise the subject to a more serious level?"

Mr. Tyritt crossed his legs. His tone still indicated the slight tolerance of the man convinced beforehand of the soundness of his position.

"For the last twelve years," he announced,—"ever since I came into office, in fact,—this bogey of German spies has been costing the nation something like fifty thousand a year. It is only lately that we have come to take that broader view of the situation which I am endeavouring to—to—may I say enunciate? Germans over in this country, especially those in comparatively menial positions, such as barbers and waiters, are necessary to us industrially. So long as they earn their living reputably, conform to our laws, and pay our taxes, they are welcome here. We do not wish to unnecessarily disturb them. We wish instead to offer them the full protection of the country in which they have chosen to do productive work."

"Very interesting," Norgate remarked. "I have heard this point of view before. Once I thought it common sense. To-day I think it academic piffle. If we leave the Germans engaged in the inland towns alone for a moment, do you realise, I wonder, that there isn't any seaport in England that hasn't its sprinkling of Germans engaged in the occupations of which you speak?"

"And in a general way," Mr. Tyritt assented, smiling, "they are perfectly welcome to write home to their friends and relations each week and tell them everything they see happening about them, everything they know about us."

Norgate rose reluctantly to his feet.

"I won't trouble you any longer," he decided. "I presume that if I make a few investigations on my own account, and bring you absolute proof that any one of these people whose names are upon my list are in traitorous communication with Germany, you will view the matter differently?"

"Without a doubt," Mr. Tyritt promised. "Is that your list? Will you allow me to glance through it?"

"I brought it here to leave in your hands," Norgate replied, passing it over. "Your attitude, however, seems to render that course useless."

Mr. Tyritt adjusted his eyeglasses and glanced benevolently at the document. A sharp ejaculation broke from his lips. As his eyes wandered downwards, his first expression of incredulity gave way to one of suppressed amusement.

"Why, Mr. Norgate," he exclaimed, as he laid it down, "do you mean to seriously accuse these people of being engaged in any sort of league against us?"

"Most certainly I do," Norgate insisted.

"But the thing is ridiculous!" Mr. Tyritt declared. "There are names here of princes, of bankers, of society women, many of them wholly and entirely English, some of them household names. You expect me to believe that these people are all linked together in what amounts to a conspiracy to further the cause of Germany at the expense of the country in which they live, to which they belong?"

Norgate picked up his hat.

"I expect you to believe nothing, Mr. Tyritt," he said drily. "Sorry I troubled you."

"Not at all," Mr. Tyritt protested, the slight irritation passing from his manner. "Such a visit as yours is an agreeable break in my routine work. I feel as though I might be a character in a great modern romance. The names of your amateur criminals are still tingling in my memory."

Norgate turned back from the door.

"Remember them, if you can, Mr. Tyritt," he advised, "You may have cause to, some day."



CHAPTER VII

Norgate sat, the following afternoon, upon the leather-stuffed fender of a fashionable mixed bridge club in the neighbourhood of Berkeley Square, exchanging greetings with such of the members as were disposed to find time for social amenities. A smartly-dressed woman of dark complexion and slightly foreign appearance, who had just cut out of a rubber, came over and seated herself by his side. She took a cigarette from her case and accepted a match from Norgate.

"So you are really back again!" she murmured. "It scarcely seems possible."

"I am just beginning to realise it myself," he replied. "You haven't altered, Bertha."

"My dear man," she protested, "you did not expect me to age in a month, did you? It can scarcely be more than that since you left for Berlin. Are you not back again sooner than you expected?"

Norgate nodded.

"Very much sooner," he admitted. "I came in for some unexpected leave, which I haven't the slightest intention of spending abroad, so here I am."

"Not, apparently, in love with Berlin," the lady, whose name was Mrs. Paston Benedek, remarked.

Norgate's air of complete candour was very well assumed.

"I shall never be a success as a diplomatist," he confessed. "When I dislike a place or a person, every one knows it. I hated Berlin. I hate the thought of going back again."

The woman by his side smiled enigmatically.

"Perhaps," she murmured, "you may get an exchange."

"Perhaps," Norgate assented. "Meanwhile, even a month away from London seems to have brought a fresh set of people here. Who is the tall, thin young man with the sunburnt face? He seems familiar, somehow, but I can't place him."

"He is a sailor," she told him. "Captain Baring his name is."

"Friend of yours?"

She looked at him sidewise.

"Why do you ask?"

"Jealousy," Norgate sighed, "makes one observant. You were lunching with him in the Carlton Grill. You came in with him to the club this afternoon."

"Sherlock Holmes!" she murmured. "There are other men in the club with whom I lunch—even dine."

Norgate glanced across the room. Baring was playing bridge at a table close at hand, but his attention seemed to be abstracted. He looked often towards where Mrs. Benedek sat. There was a restlessness about his manner scarcely in keeping with the rest of his appearance.

"One misses a great deal," Norgate regretted, "through being only an occasional visitor here."

"As, for instance?"

"The privilege of being one of those fortunate few."

She laughed at him. Her eyes were full of challenge. She leaned a little closer and whispered in his ear: "There is still a vacant place."

"For to-night or to-morrow?" he asked eagerly.

"For to-morrow," she replied. "You may telephone—3702 Mayfair—at ten o'clock."

He scribbled down the number. Then he put his pocket-book away with a sigh.

"I'm afraid you are treating that poor sailor-man badly," he declared.

"Sometimes," she confided, "he bores me. He is so very much in earnest. Tell me about Berlin and your work there?"

"I didn't take to Germany," Norgate confessed, "and Germany didn't take to me. Between ourselves—I shouldn't like another soul in the club to know it—I think it is very doubtful if I go back there."

"That little contretemps with the Prince," she murmured under her breath.

He stiffened at once.

"But how do you know of it?"

She bit her lip. For a moment a frown of annoyance clouded her face. She had said more than she intended.

"I have correspondents in Berlin," she explained. "They tell me of everything. I have a friend, in fact, who was in the restaurant that night."

"What a coincidence!" he exclaimed.

She nodded and selected a fresh cigarette.

"Isn't it! But that table is up. I promised to cut in there. Captain Baring likes me to play at the same table, and he is here for such a short time that one tries to be kind. It is indeed kindness," she added, taking up her gold purse and belongings, "for he plays so badly."

She moved towards the table. It happened to be Baring who cut out, and he and Norgate drifted together. They exchanged a few remarks.

"I met you at Marseilles once," Norgate reminded him. "You were with the Mediterranean Squadron, commanding the Leicester, I believe."

"Thought I'd seen you somewhere before," was the prompt acknowledgment. "You're in the Diplomatic Service, aren't you?"

Norgate admitted the fact and suggested a drink. The two men settled down to exchange confidences over a whisky and soda. Baring looked around him with some disapprobation.

"I can't really stick this place," he asserted. "If it weren't for—for some of the people here, I'd never come inside the doors. It's a rotten way of spending one's time. You play, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes, I play," Norgate admitted, "but I rather agree with you. How wonderfully well Mrs. Benedek is looking, isn't she!"

Baring withdrew his admiring eyes from her vicinity.

"Prettiest and smartest woman in London," he declared.

"By-the-by, is she English?" Norgate asked.

"A mixture of French, Italian, and German, I believe," Baring replied. "Her husband is Benedek the painter, you know."

"I've heard of him," Norgate assented. "What are you doing now?"

"I've had a job up in town for a week or so, at the Admiralty," Baring explained. "We are examining the plans of a new—but you wouldn't be interested in that."

"I'm interested in anything naval," Norgate assured him.

"In any case, it isn't my job to talk about it," Baring continued apologetically. "We've just got a lot of fresh regulations out. Any one would think we were going to war to-morrow."

"I suppose war isn't such an impossible event," Norgate remarked. "They all say that the Germans are dying to have a go at you fellows."

Baring grinned.

"They wouldn't have a dog's chance," he declared. "That's the only drawback of having so strong a navy. We don't stand any chance of getting a fight."

"You'll have all you can do to keep up, judging by the way they talk in Germany," Norgate observed.

"Are you just home from there?"

Norgate nodded. "I am at the Embassy in Berlin, or rather I have been," he replied. "I am just home on six months' leave."

"And that's your real impression?" Baring enquired eagerly. "You really think that they mean to have a go at us?"

"I think there'll be a war soon," Norgate confessed. "It probably won't commence at sea, but you'll have to do your little lot, without a doubt."

Baring gazed across the room. There was a hard light in his eyes.

"Sounds beastly, I suppose," he muttered, "but I wish to God it would come! A war would give us all a shaking up—put us in our right places. We all seem to go on drifting any way now. The Services are all right when there's a bit of a scrap going sometimes, but there's a nasty sort of feeling of dry rot about them, when year after year all your preparations end in the smoke of a sham fight. Now I am on this beastly land job—but there, I mustn't bother you with my grumblings."

"I am interested," Norgate assured him. "Did you say you were considering something new?"

Baring nodded.

"Plans of a new submarine," he confided. "There's no harm in telling you as much as that."

Mrs. Benedek, who was dummy for the moment, strolled over to them.

"I am not sure," she murmured, "whether I like the expression you have brought back from Germany with you, Mr. Norgate."

Norgate smiled. "Have I really acquired the correct diplomatic air?" he asked. "I can assure you that it is an accident—or perhaps I am imitative."

"You have acquired," she complained, "an air of unnatural reserve. You seem as though you had found some problem in life so weighty that you could not lose sight of it even for a moment. Ah!"

The glass-topped door had been flung wide open with an unusual flourish. A barely perceptible start escaped Norgate. It was indeed an unexpected appearance, this! Dressed with a perfect regard to the latest London fashion, with his hair smoothly brushed and a pearl pin in his black satin tie, Herr Selingman stood upon the threshold, beaming upon them.



CHAPTER VIII

Selingman had the air of a man who returns after a long absence to some familiar spot where he expects to find friends and where his welcome is assured. Mrs. Paston Benedek slipped from her place upon the cushioned fender and held out both her hands.

"Ah, it is really you!" she exclaimed. "Welcome, dear friend! For days I have wondered what it was in this place which one missed all the time. Now I know."

Selingman took the little outstretched hands and raised them to his lips.

"Dear lady," he assured her, "you repay me in one moment for all the weariness of my exile."

She turned towards her companion.

"Captain Baring," she begged, "please ring the bell. Mr. Selingman and I always drink a toast together the moment he first arrives to pay us one of his too rare visits. Thank you! You know Captain Baring, don't you, Mr. Selingman? This is another friend of mine whom I think that you have not met—Mr. Francis Norgate, Mr. Selingman. Mr. Norgate has just arrived from Berlin, too."

For a single moment the newcomer seemed to lose his Cheeryble-like expression. The glance which he flashed upon Norgate contained other elements besides those of polite pleasure. He was himself again, however, almost instantly. He grasped his new acquaintance by the hand.

"Mr. Norgate and I are already old friends," he insisted. "We occupied the same coupe coming from Berlin and drank a bottle of wine together in the buffet."

Mrs. Benedek threw back her head and laughed, a familiar gesture which her enemies declared was in some way associated with the dazzling whiteness of her teeth.

"And now," she exclaimed, "you find that you belong to the same bridge club. What a coincidence!"

"It is rather surprising, I must admit," Norgate assented. "Mr. Selingman and I discussed many things last night, but we did not speak of bridge. In fact, from the tone of our conversation, I should have imagined that cards were an amusement which scarcely entered into Mr. Selingman's scheme of life."

"One must have one's distractions," Selingman protested. "I confess that auction bridge, as it is played over here, is the one game in the world which attracts me."

"But how about the crockery?" Norgate asked. "Doesn't that come first?"

"First, beyond a doubt," Selingman agreed heartily. "Always, though, my plan of campaign is the same. On the day of my arrival here, I take things easily. I spend an hour or so at the office in the morning, and the afternoon I take holiday. After that I settle down for one week's hard work. London—your great London—takes always first place with me. In the mornings I see my agents and my customers. Perhaps I lunch with one of them. At four o'clock I close my desk, and crockery does not exist for me any longer. I get into a taxi, and I come here. My first game of bridge is a treat to which I look forward eagerly. See, there are three of us and several sitting out. Let us make another table. So!"

They found a fourth without difficulty and took possession of a table at the far end of the room. Selingman, with a huge cigar in his mouth, played well and had every appearance of thoroughly enjoying the game. Towards the end of their third rubber, Mrs. Benedek, who was dummy, leaned across towards Norgate.

"After all, perhaps you are better off here," she murmured in German. "There is nothing like this in Berlin."

"One is at least nearer the things one cherishes," Norgate quoted in the same language.

Selingman was playing the hand and held between his fingers a card already drawn to play. For a moment, it was suspended in the air. He looked towards Norgate, and there was a new quality in his piercing gaze, an instant return in his expression of the shadow which had swept the broad good-humour from his face on his first appearance. The change came and went like a flash. He finished playing the hand and scored his points before he spoke. Then he turned to Norgate.

"Your gift of acquiring languages in a short space of time is most extraordinary, my young friend! Since yesterday you have become able to speak German, eh? Prodigious!"

Norgate smiled without embarrassment. The moment was a critical one, portentous to an extent which no one at that table could possibly have realised.

"I am afraid," he confessed, "that when I found that I had a fellow traveller in my coupe I felt most ungracious and unsociable. I was in a thoroughly bad temper and indisposed for conversation. The simplest way to escape from it seemed to be to plead ignorance of any language save my own."

Selingman chuckled audibly. The cloud had passed from his face. To all appearance that momentary suspicion had been strangled.

"So you found me a bore!" he observed. "Then I must admit that your manners were good, for when you found that I spoke English and that you could not escape conversation, you allowed me to talk on about my business, and you showed few signs of weariness. You should be a diplomatist, Mr. Norgate."

"Mr. Norgate is, or rather he was," Mrs. Paston Benedek remarked. "He has just left the Embassy at Berlin."

Selingman leaned back in his chair and thrust both hands into his trousers pockets. He indulged in a few German expletives, bombastic and thunderous, which relieved him so much that he was able to conclude his speech in English.

"I am the densest blockhead in all Europe!" he announced emphatically. "If I had realised your identity, I would willingly have left you alone. No wonder you were feeling indisposed for idle conversation! Mr. Francis Norgate, eh? A little affair at the Cafe de Berlin with a lady and a hot-headed young princeling. Well, well! Young sir, you have become more to me than an ordinary acquaintance. If I had known the cause of your ill-humour, I would certainly have left you alone, but I would have shaken you first by the hand."

The fourth at the table, who was an elderly lady of somewhat austere appearance, produced a small black cigar from what seemed to be a harmless-looking reticule which she was carrying, and lit it. Selingman stared at her with his mouth open.

"Is this a bridge-table or is it not?" she enquired severely. "These little personal reminiscences are very interesting among yourselves, I dare say, but I cut in here with the idea of playing bridge."

Selingman was the first to recover his manners, although his eyes seemed still fascinated by the cigar.

"We owe you apologies, madam," he acknowledged. "Permit me to cut."

The rubber progressed and finished in comparative silence. At its conclusion, Selingman glanced at the clock. It was half-past seven.

"I am hungry," he announced.

Mrs. Benedek laughed at him. "Hungry at half-past seven! Barbarian!"

"I lunched at half-past twelve," he protested. "I ate less than usual, too. I did not even leave my office, I was so anxious to finish what was necessary and to find myself here."

Mrs. Benedek played with the cards a moment and then rose to her feet with a little grimace.

"Well, I suppose I shall have to give in," she sighed. "I am taking it for granted, you see, that you are expecting me to dine with you."

"My dear lady," Selingman declared emphatically, "if you were to break through our time-honoured custom and deny me the joy of your company on my first evening in London, I think that I should send another to look after my business in this country, and retire myself to the seclusion of my little country home near Potsdam. The inducements of managing one's own affairs in this country, Mr. Norgate," he added, "are, as you may imagine, manifold and magnetic."

"We will not grudge them to you so long as you don't come too often," Norgate remarked, as he bade them good night. "The man who monopolised Mrs. Benedek would soon make himself unpopular here."



CHAPTER IX

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 work, Hardy."

"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 music-hall to-night."

"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 Selingman controlled.

"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."

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