E. Phillips Oppenheim.

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was cold. At Norgate he glanced once or twice with something approaching
curiosity. Stralhaus proceeded to make conversation.

"Our young friend," he explained, addressing Norgate, "is an exile in
London. He belongs to an unfortunate country. He is a native of Bosnia."

The boy's lip curled.

"It is possible," he remarked, "that Mr. Norgate has never even heard of
my country. He is very little likely to know its history."

"On the contrary," Norgate replied, "I know it very well. You have had
the misfortune, during the last few years, to come under Austrian rule."

"Since you put it like that," the boy declared, "we are friends. I am one
of those who cry out to Heaven in horror at the injustice which has been
done. We love liberty, we Bosnians. We love our own people and our own
institutions, and we hate Austria. May you never know, sir, what it is to
be ruled by an alien race!"

"You have at least the sympathy of many nations who are powerless to
interfere," Selingman said quietly. "I read your pamphlet, Mr. Henriote,
with very great interest. Before we leave to-night, I shall make a
proposal to you."

The boy seemed puzzled for a moment, but Stralhaus intervened with some
commonplace remark.

"After dinner," he suggested, "we will talk."

Certainly during the progress of the meal Henriote said little. He ate,
although obviously half famished, with restraint, but although Norgate
did his best to engage him in conversation, he seemed taciturn, almost
sullen. Towards the end of dinner, when every one was smoking and coffee
had been served, Selingman glanced at his watch.

"Now," he said, "I will tell you, my young Bosnian patriot, why I sent
for you. Would you like to go back to your country, in the first place?"

"It is impossible!" Henriote declared bitterly, "I am exile. I am
forbidden to return under pain of death."

Selingman opened his pocket-book, and, searching among his papers,
produced a thin blue one which he opened and passed across the table.

"Read that," he ordered shortly.

The young man obeyed. A sudden exclamation broke from his lips. A pink
flush, which neither the wine nor the food had produced, burned in his
cheeks. He sat hunched up, leaning forward, his eyes devouring the paper.
When he had finished, he still gripped it.

"It is my pardon!" he cried. "I may go back home - back to Bosnia!"

"It is your free pardon," Selingman replied, "but it is granted to you
upon conditions. Those conditions, I may say, are entirely for your
country's sake and are framed by those who feel exactly as you feel - that
Austrian rule for Bosnia is an injustice."

"Go on," the young man muttered. "What am I to do?"

"You are a member," Selingman went on, "of the extreme revolutionary
party, a party pledged to stop at nothing, to drive your country's
enemies across her borders. Very well, listen to me. The pardon which
you have there is granted to you without any promise having been asked
for or given in return. It is I alone who dictate terms to you. Your
country's position, her wrongs, and the abuses of the present form of
government, can only be brought before the notice of Europe in one way.
You are pledged to do that. All that I require of you is that you keep
your pledge."

The young man half rose to his feet with excitement.

"Keep it! Who is more anxious to keep it than I? If Europe wants to know
how we feel, she shall know! We will proclaim the wrongs of our country
so that England and Russia, France and Italy, shall hear and judge for
themselves. If you need deeds to rivet the attention of the world upon
our sufferings, then there shall be deeds. There shall - "

He stopped short. A look of despair crossed his face.

"But we have no money!" he exclaimed. "We patriots are starving. Our
lands have been confiscated. We have nothing. I live over here Heaven
knows how - I, Sigismund Henriote, have toiled for my living with Polish
Jews and the outcasts of Europe."

Selingman dived once more into his pocket-book. He passed a packet across
the table.

"Young man," he said, "that sum has been collected for your funds by the
friends of your country abroad. Take it and use it as you think best. All
that I ask from you is that what you do, you do quickly. Let me suggest
an occasion for you. The Archduke of Austria will be in your capital
almost as soon as you can reach home."

The boy's face was transfigured. His great eyes were lit with a wonderful
fire. His frame seemed to have filled out. Norgate looked at him in
wonderment. He was like a prophet; then suddenly he grew calm. He placed
his pardon, to which was attached his passport, and the notes, in his
breast-coat pocket. He rose to his feet and took the cap from the floor
by his side.

"There is a train to-night," he announced. "I wish you farewell,
gentlemen. I know nothing of you, sir," he added, turning to Selingman,
"and I ask no questions. I only know that you have pointed towards the
light, and for that I thank you. Good night, gentlemen!"

He left them and walked out of the restaurant like a man in a dream.
Selingman helped himself to a liqueur and passed the bottle to Norgate.

"It is in strange places that one may start sometimes the driving wheels
of Fate," he remarked.




CHAPTER XXX


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."




CHAPTER XXXI


They paused at last, breathless, and walked out of the most wonderful
ballroom in London into the gardens, aglow with fairy lanterns whose
brilliance was already fading before the rising moon. They found a seat
under a tall elm tree, and Anna leaned back. It was a queer mixture of
sounds which came to their ears; in the near distance, the music of a
wonderful orchestra rising and falling; further away, the roar of the
great city still awake and alive outside the boundary of those grey
stone walls.

"Of course," she murmured, "this is the one thing which completes my
subjugation. Fancy an Englishman being able to waltz! Almost in that
beautiful room I fancied myself back in Vienna, except that it was more
wonderful because it was you."

"You are turning my head," he whispered. "This is like a night out of
Paradise. And to think that we are really in the middle of London!"

"Ah! do not mention London," she begged, "or else I shall begin to think
of Sodom and Gomorrah. After all, why need one live for anything else
except the present?"

"There is the Comtesse," he reminded her disconsolately.

She sighed.

"How horrid of you!"

"Let us forget her, then," he begged. "We will go into the marquee there
and have supper, and afterwards dance again. We'll steal to-night out of
the calendar. We'll call it ours and play with it as we please."

She shook her head.

"No," she decided, "you have reminded me of our duty, and you are quite
right. You were brought here to talk to the Comtesse. I do not know why,
but she is in a curiously impenetrable frame of mind. I tried hard to get
her to talk to me, but it was useless; you must see what you can do.
Fortunately, she seems to be absolutely delighted to have met you again.
You have a dance with her, have you not?"

He drew out his programme reluctantly.

"The next one, too," he sighed.

Anna rose quickly to her feet.

"How absurd of me to forget! Take me inside, please, and go and look for
her at once."

"It's all very well," Norgate grumbled, "but the last time I saw her she
was about three deep among the notabilities. I really don't feel that I
ought to jostle dukes and ambassadors to claim a dance."

"You must not be so foolish," Anna insisted. "The Comtesse cares nothing
for dukes and ambassadors, but she is most ridiculously fond of
good-looking young men. Mind, you will do better with her if you speak
entirely outside all of us. She is a very peculiar woman. If one could
only read the secrets she has stored up in her brain! Sometimes she is so
lavish with them, and at other times, and with other people, it seems as
though it would take an earthquake to force a sentence from her lips.
There she is, see, in that corner. Never mind the people around her. Go
and do your duty."

Norgate found it easier than he had expected. She no sooner saw him
coming than she rose to her feet and welcomed him. She laid her fingers
upon his arm, and they moved away towards the ballroom.

"I am afraid," he apologised, "that I am rather an intruder. You all
seemed so interested in listening to the Duke."

"On the contrary, I welcome you as a deliverer," she declared. "I have
heard those stories so often, and worse than having heard them is the
necessity always to smile. The Duke is a dear good person, and he has
been exceedingly kind to me during the whole of my stay, but oh, how one
sometimes does weary oneself of this London of yours! Yet I love it. Do
you know that you were almost the first person I asked for when I arrived
here? They told me that you were in Berlin."

"I was," he admitted. "I am in the act of being transferred."

"Fortunate person!" she murmured. "You speak the language of all
capitals, but I cannot fancy you in Berlin."

They had reached the edge of the ballroom. He hesitated.

"Do you care to dance or shall we go outside and talk?"

She smiled at him. "Both, may we not? You dear, discreet person, when I
think of the strange places where I have danced with you - Perhaps it is
better not to remember!"

They moved away to the music and later on found their way into the
garden. The Comtesse was a little thoughtful.

"You are a great friend of Anna's, are you not?" she enquired.

"We are engaged to be married," he answered simply.

She made a little grimace.

"Ah!" she sighed, "you nice men, it comes to you all. You amuse
yourselves with us for a time, and then the real feeling comes, and where
are we? But it is queer, too," she went on thoughtfully, "that Anna
should marry an Englishman, especially just now."

"Why 'especially just now'?"

The Comtesse evaded the question.

"Anna seemed always," she said, "to prefer the men of her own country.
Oh, what music! Shall we have one turn more, Mr. Francis Norgate? It is
the waltz they played - but who could expect a man to remember!"

They plunged again into the crowd of dancers. The Comtesse was breathless
yet exhilarated when at last they emerged.

"But you dance, as ever, wonderfully!" she cried. "You make me think of
those days in Paris. You make me even sad."

"They remain," he assured her, "one of the most pleasant memories
of my life."

She patted his hand affectionately. Then her tone changed.

"Almost," she declared, "you have driven all other things out of my
mind. What is it that Anna is so anxious to know from me? You are in her
confidence, she tells me."

"Entirely."

"That again is strange," the Comtesse continued, "when one considers your
nationality, yet Anna herself has assured me of it. Do you know that she
is a person whom I very much envy? Her life is so full of variety. She is
the special protégée of the Emperor. No woman at Vienna is more trusted."

"I am not sure," Norgate observed, "that she was altogether satisfied
with the results of her visit to Rome."

The Comtesse's fan fluttered slowly back and forth. She looked for a
moment or two idly upon the brilliant scene. The smooth garden paths, the
sheltered seats, the lawns themselves, were crowded with little throngs
of women in exquisite toilettes, men in uniform and Court dress. There
were well-known faces everywhere. It was the crowning triumph of a
wonderful London season.

"Anna's was a very difficult mission," the Comtesse pointed out
confidentially. "There is really no secret about these matters. The whole
world knows of Italy's position. A few months ago, at the time of what
you call the Balkan Crisis, Germany pressed us very hard for a definite
assurance of our support, under any conditions, of the Triple Alliance. I
remember that Andrea was three hours with the King that day, and our
reply was unacceptable in Berlin. It may have helped to keep the peace.
One cannot tell. The Kaiser's present letter is simply a repetition of
his feverish attempt to probe our intentions."

"But at present," Norgate ventured, "there is no Balkan Crisis."

The Comtesse looked at him lazily out of the corners of her sleepy eyes.

"Is there not?" she asked simply. "I have been away from Italy for a week
or so, and Andrea trusts nothing to letters. Yesterday I had a dispatch
begging me to return. I go to-morrow morning. I do not know whether it is
because of the pressure of affairs, or because he wearies himself a
little without me."

"One might easily imagine the latter," Norgate remarked. "But is it
indeed any secret to you that there is a great feeling of uneasiness
throughout the Continent, an extraordinary state of animation, a bustle,
although a secret bustle, of preparation in Germany?"

"I have heard rumours of this," the Comtesse confessed.

"When one bears these things in mind and looks a little into the future,"
Norgate continued, "one might easily believe that the reply to that still
unanswered letter of the Kaiser's might well become historical."

"You would like me, would you not," she asked, "to tell you what that
reply will most certainly be?"

"Very much!"

"You are an Englishman," she remarked thoughtfully, "and intriguing with
Anna. I fear that I do not understand the position."

"Must you understand it?"

"Perhaps not," she admitted. "It really matters very little. I will speak
to you just in the only way I can speak, as a private individual. I tell
you that I do not believe that Andrea will ever, under any circumstances,
join in any war against England, nor any war which has for its object the
crushing of France. In his mind the Triple Alliance was the most selfish
alliance which any country has ever entered into, but so long as the
other two Powers understood the situation, it was scarcely Italy's part
to point out the fact that she gained everything by it and risked
nothing. Italy has sheltered herself for years under its provisions, but
neither at the time of signing it, nor at any other time, has she had the
slightest intention of joining in an aggressive war at the request of her
allies. You see, her Government felt themselves safe - and I think that
that was where Andrea was so clever - in promising to fulfil their
obligations in case of an attack by any other Power upon Germany or
Austria, because it was perfectly certain to Andrea, and to every person
of common sense, that no such aggressive attack would ever be made. You
read Austria's demands from Servia in the paper this morning?"

"I did," Norgate admitted. "No one in the world could find them
reasonable."

"They are not meant to be reasonable," the Comtesse pointed out. "They
are the foundation from which the world quarrel shall spring. Russia
must intervene to protect Servia from their hideous injustice. Germany
and Austria will throw down the gage. Germany may be right or she may be
wrong, but she believes she can count on Great Britain's neutrality. She
needs our help and believes she will get it. That is because German
diplomacy always believes that it is going to get what it wants. Now, in
a few words, I will tell you what the German Emperor would give me a


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