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   Chapter 19 No.19

The Double Traitor By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 6284

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Norgate found Anna waiting for him in the hall of the smaller hotel, a little further westward, to which she had moved. He looked admiringly at her cool white muslin gown and the perfection of her somewhat airy toilette.

"You are five minutes late," she remonstrated.

"I had to go into the city," he apologised. "It was rather an important engagement. Soon I must tell you all about it."

She looked at him a little curiously.

"I will be patient," promised Anna, "and ask no questions."

"You are still depressed?"

"Horribly," she confessed. "I do not know why, but London is getting on my nerves. It is so hatefully, stubbornly, obstinately imperturbable. I would find another word, but it eludes me. I think you would call it smug. And it is so noisy. Can we not go somewhere for lunch where it is tranquil, where one can rest and get away from this roar?"

"We could go to Ranelagh, if you liked," suggested Norgate. "There are some polo matches on this afternoon, but it will be quiet enough for lunch."

"I should love it!" she exclaimed. "Let us go quickly."

They lunched in a shady corner of the restaurant and sat afterwards under a great oak tree in a retired spot at the further end of the gardens. Anna was still a little thoughtful.

"Do you know," she told her companion, "that I have received a hint to present myself in Berlin as soon as possible?"

"Are you going?" Norgate demanded quickly.

"I am not sure," she answered. "I feel that I must, and yet, in a sense, I do not like to go. I have a feeling that they do not mean to let me out of Berlin again. They think that I know too much."

"But why should they suddenly lose faith in you?" Norgate asked.

"Perhaps because the end is so near," she replied. "They know that I have strong English sympathies. Perhaps they think that they would not bear the strain of the times which are coming."

"You are an even greater pessimist than I myself," Norgate observed. "Do you really believe that the position is so critical?"

"I know it," she assured him. "I will not tell you all my reasons. There is no need for me to break a trust without some definite object. It seems to me that if your Secret Service Department were worth anything at all, your country would be in a state almost of panic. What is it they are playing down there? Polo, isn't it? There are six or eight military teams, crowds of your young officers making holiday. And all the time Krupps are working overtime, working night and day, and surrounded by sentries who shoot at sight any stranger. There are parts of the country, even now, under martial law. The streets and the plains resound to the footsteps of armed hosts."

"But there is no excuse for war," he reminded her.

"An excuse is very easily found," she sighed. "German diplomacy is clumsy enough, but I think it can manage that. Do you know that this morning I had a letter from one of the greatest nobles of our own Court at Vienna? He knew that I had intended to take a villa in Normandy for August and September. He has written purposely to warn me not to do so, to warn me not to be away from Austr

ia or Germany after the first of August."

"So soon!" he murmured.

They listened to the band for a moment. In the distance, an unceasing stream of men and women were passing back and forth under the trees and around the polo field.

"It will come like a thunderbolt," she said, "and when I think of it, all that is English in me rises up in revolt. In my heart I know so well that it is Germany and Germany alone who will provoke this war. I am terrified for your country. I admit it, you see, frankly. The might of Germany is only half understood here. It is to be a war of conquest, almost of extermination."

"That isn't the view of your friend Selingman," Norgate reminded her. "He, too, hints at coming trouble, but he speaks of it as just a salutary little lesson."

"Selingman, more than any one else in the world, knows differently," she assured him. "But come, we talk too seriously on such a wonderful afternoon. I have made up my mind on one point, at least. I will stay here for a few days longer. London at this time of the year is wonderful. Besides, I have promised the Princess of Thurm that I will go to Ascot with her. Why should we talk of serious things any longer? Let us have a little rest. Let us promenade there with those other people, and listen to the band, and have some tea afterwards."

Norgate rose with alacrity, and they strolled across the lawns and down towards the polo field. Very soon they found themselves meeting friends in every direction. Anna extricated herself from a little group of acquaintances who had suddenly claimed her and came over to Norgate.

"Prince Herschfeld wants to talk to me for a few minutes," she whispered. "I think I should like to hear what he has to say. The Princess is there, too, whom I have scarcely seen. Will you come and be presented?"

"Might I leave you with them for a few minutes?" Norgate suggested. "There is a man here whom I want to talk to. I will come back for you in half an hour."

"You must meet the Prince first," she insisted. "He was interested when he heard who you were."

She turned to the little group who were awaiting her return. The

Ambassador moved a little forward.

"Prince," she said, "may I present to you Mr. Francis Norgate? Mr.

Norgate has just come from Berlin."

"Not with the kindliest feelings towards us, I am afraid," remarked the Prince, holding out his hand. "I hope, however, that you will not judge us, as a nation, too severely."

"On the contrary, I was quite prepared to like Germany," Norgate declared. "I was simply the victim of a rather unfortunate happening."

"There are many others besides myself who sincerely regret it," the Prince said courteously. "You are kind enough to leave the Baroness for a little time in our charge. We will take the greatest care of her, and I hope that when you return you will give me the great pleasure of presenting you to the Princess."

"You are very kind," Norgate murmured.

"We shall meet again, then," the Prince declared, as he turned away with

Anna by his side.

"In half an hour," Anna whispered, smiling at him over her shoulder.

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