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   Chapter 30 No.30

The Double Traitor By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 9443

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Anna almost threw herself from the railway carriage into Norgate's arms. She kissed him on both cheeks, held him for a moment away from her, then passed her arm affectionately through his.

"You dear!" she exclaimed. "Oh, how weary I am of it! Nearly a week in the train! And how well you are looking! And I am not going to stay a single second bothering about luggage. Marie, give the porter my dressing-case. Here are the keys. You can see to everything."

Norgate, carried almost off his feet by the delight of her welcome, led her away towards a taxicab.

"I am starving," she told him. "I would have nothing at Dover except a cup of tea. I knew that you would meet me, and I thought that we would have our first meal in England together. You shall take me somewhere where we can have supper and tell me all the news. I don't look too hideous, do I, in my travelling clothes?"

"You look adorable," he assured her, "and I believe you know it."

"I have done my best," she confessed demurely. "Marie took so much trouble with my hair. We had the most delightful coupe all to ourselves. Fancy, we are back again in London! I have been to Italy, I have spoken to kings and prime ministers, and I am back again with you. And queerly enough, not until to-morrow shall I see the one person who really rules Italy."

"Who is that?" he asked.

"I am not sure that I shall tell you everything," she decided. "You have not opened your mouth to me yet. I shall wait until supper-time. Have you changed your mind since I went away?"

"I shall never change it," he assured her eagerly. "We are in a taxicab and I know it's most unusual and improper, but-"

"If you hadn't kissed me," she declared a moment later as she leaned forward to look in the glass, "I should not have eaten a mouthful of supper."

They drove to the Milan Grill. It was a little early for the theatre people, and they were almost alone in the place. Anna drew a great sigh of content as she settled down in her chair.

"I think I must have been lonely for a long time," she whispered, "for it is so delightful to get back and be with you. Tell me what you have been doing?"

"I have been promoted," Norgate announced. "My prospective alliance with you has completed Selingman's confidence in me. I have been entrusted with several commissions."

He told her of his adventures. She listened breathlessly to the account of his dinner in Soho.

"It is queer how all this is working out," she observed. "I knew before that the trouble was to come through Austria. The Emperor was very anxious indeed that it should not. He wanted to have his country brought reluctantly into the struggle. Even at this moment I believe that if he thought there was the slightest chance of England becoming embroiled, he would travel to Berlin himself to plead with the Kaiser. I really don't know why, but the one thing in Austria which would be thoroughly unpopular would be a war with England."

"Tell me about your mission?" he asked.

"To a certain point," she confessed, with a little grimace, "it was unsuccessful. I have brought a reply to the personal letter I took over to the King. I have talked with Guillamo, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with whom, of course, everything is supposed to rest. What I have brought with me, however, and what I heard from Guillamo, are nothing but a repetition of the assurances given to our Ambassador. The few private words which I was to get I have failed in obtaining, simply because the one person who could have spoken them is here in London."

"Who is that?" he enquired curiously.

"The Comtesse di Strozzi," she told him. "It is she who has directed the foreign policy of Italy through Guillamo for the last ten years. He does nothing without her. He is like a lost child, indeed, when she is away. And where do you think she is? Why, here in London. She is staying at the Italian Embassy. Signor Cardina is her cousin. The great ball to-morrow night, of which you have read, is in her honour. You shall be my escort. At one time I knew her quite well."

"The Comtesse di Strozzi!" he exclaimed. "Why, she spent the whole of last season in Paris. I saw quite a great deal of her."

"How odd!" Anna murmured. "But how delightful! We shall be able to talk to her together, you and I."

"It is rather a coincidence," he admitted "She had a sort of craze to visit some of the places in Paris where it is necessary for a woman to go incognito, and I was always her escort. I heard from her only a few weeks ago, and she told me that she was coming to London."

Anna shook her head at him gaily.

"Well," she said, "I won't indulge in any ante-jealousies. I only hope that

through her we shall get to know the truth. Are things here still quiet?"

"Absolutely."

"Also in Paris. Francis, I feel so helpless. On my way I thought of staying over, of going to see the Minister of War and placing certain facts before him. And then I realised how little use it would all be. They won't believe us, Francis. They would simply call us alarmists. They won't believe that the storm is gathering."

"Don't I know it!" Norgate assented earnestly. "Why, Hebblethwaite here has always been a great friend of mine. I have done all I can to influence him. He simply laughs in my face. To-day, for the first time, he admitted that there was a slight uneasiness at the Cabinet Meeting, and that White had referred to a certain mysterious activity throughout Germany. Nevertheless, he has gone down to Walton Heath to play golf."

She made a little grimace.

"Your great Drake," she reminded him, "played bowls when the Armada sailed. Your Cabinet Ministers will be playing golf or tennis. Oh, what a careless country you are!-a careless, haphazard, blind, pig-headed nation to watch over the destinies of such an Empire! I'm so tired of politics, dear. I am so tired of all the big things that concern other people. They press upon one. Now it is finished. You and I are alone. You are my lover, aren't you? Remind me of it. If you will, I will discuss the subject you mentioned the other day. Of course I shall say 'No!' I am not nearly ready to be married yet. But I should like to hear your arguments."

Their heads grew closer and closer together. They were almost touching when Selingman and Rosa Morgen came in. Selingman paused before their table.

"Well, well, young people!" he exclaimed. "Forgive me, Baroness, if I am somewhat failing in respect, but the doings of this young man have become some concern of mine."

Her greeting was tinged with a certain condescension. She had suddenly stiffened. There was something of the grande dame in the way she held up the tips of her fingers.

"You do not disapprove, I trust?"

"Baroness," Selingman declared earnestly, "it is an alliance for which no words can express my approval. It comes at the one moment. It has riveted to us and our interests one whose services will never be forgotten. May I venture to hope that your journey to Italy has been productive?"

"Not entirely as we had hoped," Anna replied, "yet the position there is not unfavourable."

Selingman glanced towards the table at which Miss Morgen had already seated herself.

"I must not neglect my duties," he remarked, turning away.

"Especially," Anna murmured, glancing across the room, "when they might so easily be construed into pleasures."

Selingman beamed amiably.

"The young lady," he said, "is more than ornamental-she is extremely useful. From the fact that I may not be privileged to present her to you, I must be careful that she cannot consider herself neglected. And so good night, Baroness! Good night, Norgate!"

He passed on. The Baroness watched him as he took his place opposite his companion.

"Is it my fancy," Norgate asked, "or does Selingman not meet entirely with your approval?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"It is not that," she replied. "He is a great man, in his way, the Napoleon of the bourgeoisie, but then he is one of them himself. He collects the whole scheme of information as to the social life and opinions-the domestic particulars, I call them-of your country. Details of your industries are at his finger-tips. He and I do not come into contact. I am the trusted agent of both sovereigns, but it is only in high diplomatic affairs that I ever intervene. Selingman, it is true, may be considered the greatest spy who ever breathed, but a spy he is. If we could only persuade your too amiable officials to believe one-tenth of what we could tell them, I think our friend there would breakfast in an English fortress, if you have such a thing."

"We should only place him under police supervision," declared Norgate, "and let him go. It's just our way, that's all."

She waved the subject of Selingman on one side, but almost at that moment he stood once more before them. He held an evening paper in his hand.

"I bring you the news," he announced. "A terrible tragedy has happened. The Archduke of Austria and his Consort have been assassinated on their tour through Bosnia."

For a moment neither Anna nor Norgate moved. Norgate felt a strange sense of sickening excitement. It was as though the curtain had been rung up!

"Is the assassin's name there?" he asked.

"The crime," Selingman replied, "appears to have been committed by a young Servian student. His name is Sigismund Henriote."

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