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   Chapter 27 No.27

The Double Traitor By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 11984

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Later on that evening, Norgate walked up and down the platform at Charing-Cross with Anna. Her arm rested upon his; her expression was animated and she talked almost eagerly. Norgate carried himself like a man who has found a new thing in life. He was feeling none of the depression of the last few days.

"Dear," Anna begged, "you won't forget, will you, all the time that I am away, that you must never for a single moment relax your caution? Selingman speaks of trust. Well, he gambles, it is true, yet he protects himself whenever he can. You will not move from early morning until you go to bed at night, without being watched. To prove what I say-you see the man who is reading an evening paper under the gas-lamp there? Yes? He is one of Selingman's men. He is watching us now. More than once he has been at our side. Scraps of conversation, or anything he can gather, will go back to Selingman, and Selingman day by day pieces everything together. Don't let there be a single thing which he can lay hold of."

"I'll lead him a dance," Norgate promised, nodding a little grimly. "As for that, Anna dear, you needn't be afraid. If ever I had any wits, they'll be awake during the next few weeks."

"When I come back from Rome," Anna went on, "I shall have more to tell you. I believe that I shall be able to tell you even the date of the great happening. I wonder what other commissions he will give you. The one to-night is simple. Be careful, dear. Think-think hard before you make up your mind. Remember that there is some duplicity which might become suddenly obvious. An official statement might upset everything. These English papers are so garrulous. You might find yourself hard-pressed for an explanation."

"I'll be careful, dear," Norgate assured her, as they stood at last before the door of her compartment. "And of ourselves?"

She lifted her veil.

"We have so little time," she murmured.

"But have you thought over what I suggested?" he begged.

She laughed at him softly.

"It sounds quite attractive," she whispered. "Shall we talk of it when I come back from Italy? Good-by, dear! Of course, I do not really want to kiss you, but our friend under the gas-lamp is looking-and you know our engagement! It is so satisfactory to dear Mr. Selingman. It is the one genuine thing about us, isn't it? So good-by!"

The long train drew out from the platform a few minutes later. Norgate lingered until it was out of sight. Then he took a taxi and drove to the House of Commons. He sent in a card addressed to David Bullen, Esq., and waited for some time. At last a young man came down the corridor towards him.

"I am Mr. Bullen's private secretary," he announced. "Mr. Bullen cannot leave the House for some time. Would you care to go into the Strangers' Gallery, or will you wait in his room?"

"I should like to listen to the debate, if it is possible,"

Norgate decided.

A place was found for him with some difficulty. The House was crowded. The debate concerned one of the proposed amendments to the Home Rule Bill, not in itself important, yet interesting to Norgate on account of the bitter feeling which seemed to underlie the speeches of the extreme partisans on either side. The debate led nowhere. There was no division, no master mind intervening, yet it left a certain impression on Norgate's mind. At a little before ten, the young man who had found him his place touched his shoulder.

"Mr. Bullen will see you now, sir," he said.

Norgate followed his conductor through a maze of passages into a barely-furnished but lofty apartment. The personage whom he had come to see was standing at the further end, talking somewhat heatedly to one or two of his supporters. At Norgate's entrance, however, he dismissed them and motioned his visitor to a chair. He was a tall, powerful-looking man, with the eyes and forehead of a thinker. There was a certain laconic quality in his speech which belied his nationality.

"You come to me, I understand, Mr. Norgate," he began, "on behalf of some friends in America, not directly, but representing a gentleman who in his letter did not disclose himself. It sounds rather complicated, but please talk to me. I am at your service."

"I am sorry for the apparent mystery," Norgate said, as he took the seat to which he was invited. "I will make up for it by being very brief. I have come on behalf of a certain individual-whom we will call, if you please, Mr. X--. Mr. X-- has powerful connections in America, associated chiefly with German-Americans. As you know from your own correspondence with an organisation over there, the situation in Ireland is intensely interesting to them at the present moment."

"I have gathered that, sir," Mr. Bullen confessed. "The help which the Irish and Americans have sent to Dublin has scarcely been of the magnitude which one might have expected, but one is at least assured of their sympathy."

"It is partly my mission to assure you of something else," Norgate declared. "A secret meeting has been held in New York, and a sum of money has been promised, the amount of which would, I think, surprise you. The conditions attached to this gift, however, are peculiar. They are inspired by a profound disbelief in the bona fides of England and the honourableness of her intentions so far as regards the administration of the bill when passed."

Mr. Bullen, who at first had seemed a little puzzled, was now deeply interested. He drew his chair nearer to his visitor's.

"What grounds have you, or those whom you represent, for saying that?" he demanded.

"None that I can divulge," Norgate replied. "Yet they form the motive of the offer which I am about to make to you. I am instructed to say that the sum of a million pounds will be paid into your funds on certain guarantees to be given by you. It is my business here to place these guarantees before you and to report as to your attitude concerning them."

"One million pounds!" Mr. Bu

llen murmured, breathlessly.

"There are the conditions," Norgate reminded him.

"Well?"

"In the first place," Norgate continued, "the subscribers to this fund, which is by no means exhausted by the sum I mention, demand that you accept no compromise, that at all costs you insist upon the whole bill, and that if it is attempted at the last moment to deprive the Irish people by trickery of the full extent of their liberty, you do not hesitate to encourage your Nationalist party to fight for their freedom."

Mr. Bullen's lips were a little parted, but his face was immovable.

"Go on."

"In the event of your doing so," Norgate continued, "more money, and arms themselves if you require them, will be available, but the motto of those who have the cause of Ireland entirely at heart is, 'No compromise!' They recognise the fact that you are in a difficult position. They fear that you have allowed yourself to be influenced, to be weakened by pressure so easily brought upon you from high quarters."

"I understand," Mr. Bullen remarked. "Go on."

"There is a further condition," Norgate proceeded, "though that is less important. The position in Europe at the present moment seems to indicate a lasting peace, yet if anything should happen that that peace should be broken, you are asked to pledge your word that none of your Nationalist volunteers should take up arms on behalf of England until that bill has become law and is in operation. Further, if that unlikely event, a war, should take place, that you have the courage to keep your men solid and armed, and that if the Ulster volunteers, unlike your men, decide to fight for England, as they very well might do, that you then proceed to take by force what it is not the intention of England to grant you by any other means."

Mr. Bullen leaned back in his chair. He picked up a penholder and played with it for several moments.

"Young man," he asked at last, "who is Mr. X--?"

"That, in the present stage of our negotiations," Norgate answered coolly, "I am not permitted to tell you."

"May I guess as to his nationality?" Mr. Bullen enquired.

"I cannot prevent your doing that."

"The speculation is an interesting one," Mr. Bullen went on, still fingering the penholder. "Is Mr. X-- a German?"

Norgate was silent.

"I cannot answer questions," he said, "until you have expressed your views."

"You can have them, then," Mr. Bullen declared.

"You can go back to Mr. X-- and tell him this. Ireland needs help sorely to-day from all her sons, whether at home or in foreign countries. More than anything she needs money. The million pounds of which you speak would be a splendid contribution to what I may term our war chest. But as to my views, here they are. It is my intention, and the intention of my Party, to fight to the last gasp for the literal carrying out of the bill which is to grant us our liberty. We will not have it whittled away or weakened one iota. Our lives, and the lives of greater men, have been spent to win this measure, and now we stand at the gates of success. We should be traitors if we consented to part with a single one of the benefits it brings us. Therefore, you can tell Mr. X-- that should this Government attempt any such trickery as he not unreasonably suspects, then his conditions will be met. My men shall fight, and their cause will be just."

"So far," Norgate admitted, "this is very satisfactory."

"To pass on," Mr. Bullen continued, "let me at once confess that I find something sinister, Mr. Norgate, in this mysterious visit of yours, in the hidden identity of Mr. X--. I suspect some underlying motive which prompts the offering of this million pounds. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that I can see beneath it all the hand of a foreign enemy of England."

"Supposing you were right, Mr. Bullen," Norgate said, "what is England but a foreign enemy of Ireland?"

A light flashed for a moment in Mr. Bullen's eyes. His lip curled inwards.

"Young man," he demanded, "are you an Englishman?"

"I am," Norgate admitted.

"You speak poorly, then. To proceed to the matter in point, my word is pledged to fight. I will plunge the country I love into civil war to gain her rights, as greater patriots than I have done before. But the thing which I will not do is to be made the cat's-paw, or to suffer Ireland to be made the cat's-paw, of Germany. If war should come before the settlement of my business, this is the position I should take. I would cross to Dublin, and I would tell every Nationalist Volunteer to shoulder his rifle and to fight for the British Empire, and I would go on to Belfast-I, David Bullen-to Belfast, where I think that I am the most hated man alive, and I would stand side by side with the leader of those men of Ulster, and I would beg them to fight side by side with my Nationalists. And when the war was over, if my rights were not granted, if Ireland were not set free, then I would bid my men take breathing time and use all their skill, all the experience they had gained, and turn and fight for their own freedom against the men with whom they had struggled in the same ranks. Is that million pounds to be mine, Mr. Norgate?"

Norgate shook his head.

"Nor any part of it, sir," he answered.

"I presume," Mr. Bullen remarked, as he rose, "that I shall never have the pleasure of meeting Mr. X--?"

"I most sincerely hope," Norgate declared fervently, "that you never will. Good-day, Mr. Bullen!"

He held out his hand. Mr. Bullen hesitated.

"Sir," he said, "I am glad to shake hands with an Irishman. I am willing to shake hands with an honest Englishman. Just where you come in, I don't know, so good evening. You will find my secretary outside. He will show you how to get away."

For a moment Norgate faltered. A hot rejoinder trembled upon his lips. Then he remembered himself and turned on his heel. It was his first lesson in discipline. He left the room without protest.

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