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The Double Traitor By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 11852

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


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 Barones

s von Haase at the

Café 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!"

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