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   Chapter 38 No.38

The Double Traitor By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 9203

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Norgate found himself in an atmosphere of strange excitement during his two hours' waiting at the House of Commons on the following day. He was ushered at last into Mr. Hebblethwaite's private room. Hebblethwaite had just come in from the House and was leaning a little back in his chair, in an attitude of repose. He glanced at Norgate with a faint smile.

"Well, young fellow," he remarked, "come to do the usual 'I told you so' business, I suppose?"

"Don't be an ass!" Norgate most irreverently replied. "There are one or two things I must tell you and tell you at once. I may have hinted at them before, but you weren't taking things seriously then. First of all, is Mr. Bullen in the House?"

"Of course!"

"Could you send for him here just for a minute?" Norgate pleaded. "I am sure it would make what I am going to say sound more convincing to you."

Hebblethwaite struck a bell by his side and despatched a messenger.

"How are things going?" Norgate asked.

"France is mobilising as fast as she can," Hebblethwaite announced. "We have reports coming in that Germany has been at it for at least a week, secretly. They say that Austrian troops have crossed into Poland. There isn't anything definite yet, but it's war, without a doubt, war just as we'd struck the right note for peace. Russia was firm but splendid. Austria was wavering. Just at the critical moment, like a thunderbolt, came Germany's declaration of war. Here's Mr. Bullen. Now go ahead, Norgate."

Mr. Bullen came into the room, recognised Norgate, and stopped short.

"So you're here again, young man, are you?" he exclaimed. "I don't know why you've sent for me, Hebblethwaite, but if you take my advice, you won't let that young fellow go until you've asked him a few questions."

"Mr. Norgate is a friend of mine," Hebblethwaite said. "I think you will find-"

"Friend or no friend," the Irishman interrupted, "he is a traitor, and I tell you so to his face."

"That is exactly what I wished you to tell Mr. Hebblethwaite," Norgate remarked, nodding pleasantly. "I just want you to recall the circumstances of my first visit here."

"You came and offered me a bribe of a million pounds," Mr. Bullen declared, "if I would provoke a civil war in Ireland in the event of England getting into trouble. I wasn't sure whom you were acting for then, but I am jolly certain now. That young fellow is a German spy, Hebblethwaite."

"Mr. Hebblethwaite knew that quite well," admitted Norgate coolly. "I came and told him so several times. I think that he even encouraged me to do my worst."

"Look here, Norgate," Hebblethwaite intervened, "I'm certain you are driving at something serious. Let's have it."

"Quite right, I am," Norgate assented. "I just wanted to testify to you that Mr. Bullen's reply to my offer was the patriotic reply of a loyal Irishman. I did offer him that million pounds on behalf of Germany, and he did indignantly refuse it, but the point of the whole thing is-my report to Germany."

"And that?" Mr. Hebblethwaite asked eagerly.

"I reported Mr. Bullen's acceptance of the sum," Norgate told them. "I reported that civil war in Ireland was imminent and inevitable and would come only the sooner for any continental trouble in which England might become engaged."

Mr. Hebblethwaite's face cleared.

"I begin to understand now, Norgate," he muttered. "Good fellow!"

Mr. Bullen was summoned in hot haste by one of his supporters and hurried out. Norgate drew his chair a little closer to his friend's.

"Look here, Hebblethwaite," he said, "you wouldn't listen to me, you know-I don't blame you-but I knew the truth of what I was saying. I knew what was coming. The only thing I could do to help was to play the double traitor. I did it. My chief, who reported to Berlin that this civil war was inevitable, will get it in the neck, but there's more to follow. The Baroness von Haase and I were associated in an absolutely confidential mission to ascertain the likely position of Italy in the event of this conflict. I know for a fact that Italy will not come in with her allies."

"Do you mean that?" Mr. Hebblethwaite asked eagerly.

"Absolutely certain," Norgate assured him.

Hebblethwaite half rose from his place with excitement.

"I ought to telephone to the War Office," he declared. "It will alter the whole mobilisation of the French troops."

"France knows," Norgate told him quietly. "My wife has seen to that. She passed the information on to them just in time to contract the whole line of mobilisation."

"You've been doing big things

, young fellow!" Mr. Hebblethwaite exclaimed excitedly. "Go on. Tell me at once, what was your report to Germany?"

"I reported that Italy would certainly fulfil the terms of her alliance and fight," Norgate replied. "Furthermore, I have convinced my chief over here that under no possible circumstances would the present Cabinet sanction any war whatsoever. I have given him plainly to understand that you especially are determined to leave France to her fate if war should come, and to preserve our absolute neutrality at all costs."

"Go on," Hebblethwaite murmured. "Finish it, anyhow."

"There is very little more," Norgate concluded. "I have a list here of properties in the outskirts of London, all bought by Germans, and all having secret preparations for the mounting of big guns. You might just pass that on to the War Office, and they can destroy the places at their leisure. There isn't anything else, Hebblethwaite. As I told you, I've played the double traitor. It was the only way I could help. Now, if I were you, I would arrest the master-spy for whom I have been working. Most of the information he has picked up lately has been pretty bad, and I fancy he'll get a warm reception if he does get back to Berlin, but if ever there was a foreigner who abused the hospitality of this country, Selingman's the man."

"We'll see about that presently," Mr. Hebblethwaite declared, leaning back. "Let me think over what you have told me. It comes to this, Norgate. You've practically encouraged Germany to risk affronting us."

"I can't help that," Norgate admitted. "Germany has gone into this war, firmly believing that Italy will be on her side, and that we shall have our hands occupied in civil war, and in any case that we should remain neutral. I am not asking you questions, Hebblethwaite. I don't know what the position of the Government will be if Germany attacks France in the ordinary way. But one thing I do believe, and that is that if Germany breaks Belgian neutrality and invades Belgium, there isn't any English Government which has ever been responsible for the destinies of this country, likely to take it lying down. We are shockingly unprepared, or else, of course, there'd have been no war at all. We shall lose hundreds of thousands of our young men, because they'll have to fight before they are properly trained, but we must fight or perish. And we shall fight-I am sure of that, Hebblethwaite."

"We are all Englishmen," Hebblethwaite answered simply.

The door was suddenly opened. Spencer Wyatt pushed his way past a protesting doorkeeper. Hebblethwaite rose to his feet; he seemed to forget Norgate's presence.

"You've been down to the Admiralty?" he asked quickly. "Do you know?"

Spencer Wyatt pointed to Norgate. His voice shook with emotion.

"I know, Hebblethwaite," he replied, "but there's something that you don't know. We were told to mobilise the fleet an hour ago. My God, what chance should we have had! Germany means scrapping, and look where our ships are, or ought to be."

"I know it," Hebblethwaite groaned.

"Well, they aren't there!" Spencer Wyatt announced triumphantly. "A week ago that young fellow came to me. He told me what was impending. I half believed it before he began. When he told me his story, I gambled upon it. I mistook the date for the Grand Review. I signed the order for mobilisation at the Admiralty, seven days ago. We are safe, Hebblethwaite! I've been getting wireless messages all day yesterday and to-day. We are at Cromarty and Rosyth. Our torpedo squadron is in position, our submarines are off the German coast. It was just the toss of a coin-papers and a country life for me, or our fleet safe and a great start in the war. This is the man who has done it."

"It's the best news I've heard this week," Hebblethwaite declared, with glowing face. "If our fleet is safe, the country is safe for a time. If this thing comes, we've a chance. I'll go through the country. I'll start the day war's declared. I'll talk to the people I've slaved for. They shall come to our help. We'll have the greatest citizen army who ever fought for their native land. I've disbelieved in fighting all my life. If we are driven to it, we'll show the world what peace-loving people can do, if the weapon is forced into their hands. Norgate, the country owes you a great debt. Another time, Wyatt, I'll tell you more than you know now. What can we do for you, young fellow?"

Norgate rose to his feet.

"My work is already chosen, thanks," he said, as he shook hands. "I have been preparing for some time."

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