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   Chapter 35 No.35

The Double Traitor By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 10872

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Anna passed her hand through Norgate's arm and led him forcibly away from the shop window before which they had been standing.

"My mind is absolutely made up," she declared firmly. "I adore shopping, I love Bond Street, and I rather like you, but I will have no more trifles, as you call them. If you do not obey, I shall gaze into the next tobacconist's window we pass, and go in and buy you all sorts of unsmokable and unusable things. And, oh, dear, here is the Count! I feel like a child who has played truant from school. What will he do to me, Francis?"

"Don't worry, dear," Norgate laughed. "We're coming to the end of this tutelage, you know."

Count Lanyoki, who had stopped his motor-car, came across the street towards them. He was, as usual, irreproachably attired. He wore white gaiters, patent shoes, and a grey, tall hat. His black hair, a little thin at the forehead, was brushed smoothly back. His moustache, also black but streaked with grey, was twisted upwards. He had, as always, the air of having just left the hands of his valet.

"Dear Baroness," he exclaimed, as he accosted her, "London has been searched for you! At the Embassy my staff are reduced to despair. Telephones, notes, telegrams, and personal calls have been in vain. Since lunch-time yesterday it seemed to us that you must have found some other sphere in which to dwell."

"Perhaps I have," Anna laughed. "I am so sorry to have given you all this trouble, but yesterday-well, let me introduce, if I may, my husband, Mr. Francis Norgate. We were married by special license yesterday afternoon."

The Count's amazement was obvious. Diplomatist though he was, it was several seconds before he could collect himself and rise to the situation. He broke off at last, however, in the midst of a string of interjections and realised his duties.

"My dear Baroness," he said, "my dear lady, let me wish you every happiness. And you, sir," he added, turning to Norgate, "you must have, without a doubt, my most hearty congratulations. There! That is said. And now to more serious matters. Baroness, have you not always considered yourself the ward of the Emperor?"

She nodded.

"His Majesty has been very kind to me," she admitted. "At the same time, I feel that I owe more to myself than I do to him. His first essay at interfering in my affairs was scarcely a happy one, was it?"

"Perhaps not," the Count replied. "And yet, think what you have done! You have married an Englishman!"

"I thought English people were quite popular in Vienna," Anna reminded him.

The Count hesitated. "That," he declared, "is scarcely the question. What troubles me most is that forty-eight hours ago I brought you a dispatch from the Emperor."

"You brought," Anna pointed out, "what really amounted to an order to return at once to Vienna. Well, you see, I have disobeyed it."

They were standing at the corner of Clifford Street, and the Count, with a little gesture, led the way into the less crowded thoroughfare.

"Dear Baroness," he continued, as they walked slowly along, "I am placed now in a most extraordinary position. The Emperor's telegram was of serious import. It cannot be that you mean to disobey his summons?"

"Well, I really couldn't put off being married, could I," Anna protested, "especially when my husband had just got the special license. Besides, I do not wish to return to Vienna just now."

The Count glanced at Norgate and appeared to deliberate for a moment.

"The state of affairs in the East," he said, "is such that it is certainly wiser for every one just now to be within the borders of their own country."

"You believe that things are serious?" Anna enquired. "You believe, then, that real trouble is at hand?"

"I fear so," the Count acknowledged. "It appears to us that Servia has a secret understanding with Russia, or she would not have ventured upon such an attitude as she is now adopting towards us. If that be so, the possibilities of trouble are immense, almost boundless. That is why, Baroness, the Emperor has sent for you. That is why I think you should not hesitate to at once obey his summons."

Anna looked up at her companion, her eyes wide open, a little smile parting her lips.

"But, Count," she exclaimed, "you seem to forget! A few days ago, all that you say to me was reasonable enough, but to-day there is a great difference, is there not? I have married an Englishman. Henceforth this is my country."

There was a moment's silence. The Count seemed dumbfounded. He stared at

Anna as though unable to grasp the meaning of her words.

"Forgive me, Baroness!" he begged. "I cannot for the moment realise the significance of this thing. Do you mean me to understand that you consider yourself now an Englishwoman?"

"I do indeed," she assented. "There are many ties which still bind me to Austria-ties, Count," she proceeded, looking him in the face, "of which I shall be mindful. Yet I am not any longer the Baroness von Haase. I am Mrs. Francis Norgate, and I have promised to obey my husband in all manner of ridiculous things. At the same time, may I add something which will, perhaps, help you to accept the position with more philosophy? My husband is a friend of Herr Selingman's."

The Count glanced quickly towards Norgate. There was some relief in his face-a great deal of distrust, however.

"Baroness," he said, "my advice to you, for your o

wn good entirely, is, with all respect to your husband, that you shorten your honeymoon and pay your respects to the Emperor. I think that you owe it to him. I think that you owe it to your country."

Anna for a moment was grave again.

"Just at present," she pronounced, "I realise one debt only, and that is to my husband. I will come to the Embassy to-morrow and discuss these matters with you, Count, but whether my husband accompanies me or not, I have now no secrets from him."

"The position, then," the Count declared, "is intolerable. May I ask whether you altogether realise, Baroness; what this means? The Emperor is your guardian. All your estates are subject to his jurisdiction. It is his command that you return to Vienna."

Anna laughed again. She passed her fingers through Norgate's arm.

"You see," she explained, as they stood for a moment at the corner of the street, "I have a new emperor now, and he will not let me go."

* * * * *

Selingman frowned a little as he recognised his visitor. Nevertheless, he rose respectfully to his feet and himself placed a chair by the side of his desk.

"My dear Count!" he exclaimed. "I am very glad to see you, but this is an unusual visit. I would have met you somewhere, or come to the Embassy. Have we not agreed that it was well for Herr Selingman, the crockery manufacturer-"

"That is all very well, Selingman," the Count interrupted, "but this morning I have had a shock. It was necessary for me to talk with you at once. In Bond Street I met the Baroness von Haase. For twenty-four hours London has been ransacked in vain for her. This you may not know, but I will now tell you. She has been our trusted agent, the trusted agent of the Emperor, in many recent instances. She has carried secrets in her brain, messages to different countries. There is little that she does not know. The last twenty-four hours, as I say, I have sought for her. The Emperor requires her presence in Vienna. I meet her in Bond Street this morning and she introduces to me her husband, an English husband, Mr. Francis Norgate!"

He drew back a little, with outstretched hands. Selingman's face, however, remained expressionless.

"Married already!" he commented. "Well, that is rather a surprise."

"A surprise? To be frank, it terrifies me!" the Count cried. "Heaven knows what that woman could tell an Englishman, if she chose! And her manner-I did not like it. The only reassuring thing about it was that she told me that her husband was one of your men."

"Quite true," Selingman assented. "He is. It is only recently that he came to us, but I do not mind telling you that during the last few weeks no one has done such good work. He is the very man we needed."

"You have trusted him?"

"I trust or I do not trust," Selingman replied. "That you know. I have employed this young man in very useful work. I cannot blindfold him. He knows."

"Then I fear treachery," the Count declared.

"Have you any reason for saying that?" Selingman asked.

The Count lit a cigarette with trembling fingers.

"Listen," he said, "always, my friend, you undervalue a little the English race. You undervalue their intelligence, their patriotism, their poise towards the serious matters of life. I know nothing of Mr. Francis Norgate save what I saw this morning. He is one of that type of Englishmen, clean-bred, well-born, full of reserve, taciturn, yet, I would swear, honourable. I know the type, and I do not believe in such a man being your servant."

The shadow of anxiety crossed Selingman's face.

"Have you any reason for saying this?" he repeated.

"No reason save the instinct which is above reason," the Count replied quickly. "I know that if the Baroness and he put their heads together, we may be under the shadow of catastrophe."

Selingman sat with folded arms for several moments.

"Count," he said at last, "I appreciate your point of view. You have, I confess, disturbed me. Yet of this young man I have little fear. I did not approach him by any vulgar means. I took, as they say here, the bull by the horns. I appealed to his patriotism."

"To what?" the Count demanded incredulously.

"To his patriotism," Selingman repeated. "I showed him the decadence of his country, decadence visible through all her institutions, through her political tendencies, through her young men of all classes. I convinced him that what the country needed was a bitter tonic, a kind but chastening hand. I convinced him of this. He believes that he betrays his country for her ultimate good. As I told you before, he has brought me information which is simply invaluable. He has a position and connections which are unique."

The Count drew his chair a little nearer.

"You say that he has done you great service," he said. "Well, you must admit for yourself that the day is too near now for much more to be expected. Could you not somehow guard against his resolution breaking down at the last moment? Think what it may mean to him-the sound of his national anthem at a critical moment, the clash of arms in the distance, the call of France across the Channel. A week-even half a week's extra preparation might make much difference."

Selingman sat for a short time, deep in thought. Then he drew out a box of pale-looking German cigars and lit one.

"Count," he announced solemnly, "I take off my hat to you. Leave the matter in my hands."

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