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Norgate's expression was almost one of stupefaction. He looked at the slim young man who had entered his sitting-room a little diffidently and for a moment he was speechless.
"Well, I'm hanged!" he murmured at last. "Hardy, you astonish me!"
"The clothes are a perfect fit, sir," the man observed, "and I think that we are exactly the same height."
Norgate took a cigarette from an open box, tapped it against the table and lit it. He was fascinated, however, by the appearance of the man who stood respectfully in the background.
"Talk about clothes making the man!" he exclaimed. "Why, Hardy, do you realise your possibilities? You could go into my club and dine, order jewels from my jeweller. I am not at all sure that you couldn't take my place at a dinner-party."
The man smiled deprecatingly.
"Not quite that, I am sure, sir. If I may be allowed to say so, though, when you were good enough to give me the blue serge suit a short time ago, and a few of your old straw hats, two or three gentlemen stopped me under the impression that I was you. I should not have mentioned it, sir, but for the present circumstances."
"And no wonder!" Norgate declared. "If this weren't really a serious affair, Hardy, I should be inclined to make a little humorous use of you. That isn't what I want now, though. Listen. Put on one of my black overcoats and a silk hat, get the man to call you a taxi up to the door, and drive to Smith's Hotel. You will enquire for the suite of the Baroness von Haase. The Baroness will allow you to remain in her rooms for half an hour. At the end of that time you will return here, change your clothes, and await any further orders."
"Very good, sir," the man replied.
"Help yourself to cigarettes," Norgate invited, passing the box across. "Do the thing properly. Sit well back in the taxicab, although I'm hanged if I think that my friend Boko stands an earthly. Plenty of money in your pocket?"
"Plenty, thank you, sir."
The man left the room, and Norgate, after a brief delay, followed his example. A glance up and down the courtyard convinced him that Boko had disappeared. He jumped into a taxi, gave an address in Belgrave Square, and within a quarter of an hour was ushered into the presence of Mr. Spencer Wyatt, who was seated at a writing-table covered with papers.
"Mr. Norgate, isn't it?" the latter remarked briskly. "I had Mr. Hebblethwaite's note, and I am very pleased to give you five minutes. Sit down, won't you, and fire away."
"Did Mr. Hebblethwaite give you any idea as to what I wanted?" Norgate asked.
"Better read his note," the other replied, pushing it across the table with a little smile.
Norgate took it up and read:--
"My dear Spencer Wyatt,
"A young friend of mine, Francis Norgate, who has been in the Diplomatic Service for some years and is home just now from Berlin under circumstances which you may remember, has asked me to give him a line of introduction to you which will secure him an interview during to-day. Here is that line. Norgate is a young man for whom I have a great friendship. I consider him possessed of unusual intelligence and many delightful gifts, but, like many others of us, he is a crank. You can listen with interest to anything he may have to say to you, unless he speaks of Germany. That's his weak point. On any other subject he is as sane as the best of us.
"Many thanks. Certainly I am coming to the Review. We are all looking forward to it immensely.
"JOHN W. HEBBLETHWAITE."
Norgate set down the letter.
"There are two points of view, Mr. Spencer Wyatt," he said, "as to Germany. Mr. Hebblethwaite believes that I am an alarmist. I know that I am not. This isn't any ordinary visit of mine. I have come to see you on the most urgent matter which any one could possibly conceive. I have come to give you the chance to save our country from the worst disaster that has ever befallen her."
Mr. Spencer Wyatt looked at his visitor steadily. His eyebrows had drawn a little closer together. He remained silent, however.
"I talk about the things I know of," Norgate continued. "By chance I have been associated during the last few weeks with the head of the German spies who infest this country. I have joined his ranks; I have become a double traitor. I do his work, but every report I hand in is a false one."
"Do you realise quite what you are saying, Mr. Norgate?"
"Realise it?" Norgate repeated. "My God! Do you think I come here to say these things to you for dramatic effect, or from a sense of humour, or as a lunatic? Every word I shall say to you is the truth. At the present moment there isn't a soul who seriously believes that England is going to be drawn into what the papers describe as a little eastern trouble. I want to tell you that that little eastern trouble has been brought about simply with the idea of provoking a European war. Germany is ready to strike at last, and this is her moment. Not a fortnight ago I sat opposite the boy Henriote in a café in Soho. My German friend handed him the money to get back to his country and to buy bombs. It's all part of the plot. Austria's insane demands are part of the plot; they are meant to drag Russia in. Russia must protest; she must mobilise. Germany is secretly mobilising at this moment. She will declare war against Russia, strike at France through Belgium. She will appeal to us for our neutrality."
"These are wonderful things you are saying, Mr. Norgate!"
"I am telling you the simple truth," Norgate went on, "and the history of our country doesn't hold anything more serious or more wonderful. Shall I come straight to the point? I promised to reach it within five minutes."
"Take your own time," the other replied. "My work is unimportant enough by the side of the things you speak of. You honestly believe that Germany is provoking a war against Russia and France?"
"I know it," Norgate went on. "She believes--Germany believes--that Italy will come in. She also believes, from false information that she has gathered in this country, that under no circumstances will England fight. It isn't about that I came to you. We've become a slothful, slack, pleasure-loving people, but I still believe that when the time comes we shall fight. The only thing is that we shall be taken at a big disadvantage. We shall be open to a raid upon our fleet. Do you know that the entire German navy is at Kiel?"
Mr. Wyatt nodded. "Manoeuvres," he murmured.
"Their manoeuvre," Norgate continued earnestly, "is to strike one great blow at our scattered forces. Mr. Spencer Wyatt, I have come here to warn you. I don't understand the workings of your department. I don't know to whom you are responsible for any step you might take. But I have come to warn you that possibly within a few days, probably within a week, certainly within a fortnight, England will be at war."
Mr. Wyatt glanced down at Hebblethwaite's letter.
"You are rather taking my breath away, Mr. Norgate!"
"I can't help it, sir," Norgate said simply. "I know that what I am telling you must sound like a fairy tale. I beg you to take it from me as the truth."
"But," Mr. Spencer Wyatt remarked, "if you have come into all this information, Mr. Norgate, why didn't you go to your friend Hebblethwaite? Why haven't you communicated with the police and given this German spy of yours into charge?"
"I have been to Hebblethwaite, and I have been to Scotland Yard," Norgate told him firmly, "and all that I have got for my pains has been a snub. They won't believe in German spies. Mr. Wyatt, you are a man of a little different temperament and calibre from those others. I tell you that all of them in the Cabinet have their heads thrust deep down into the sand. They won't listen to me. They wouldn't believe a word of what I am saying to you, but it's true."
Mr. Spencer Wyatt leaned back in his chair. He had folded his arms. He was looking over the top of his desk across the room. His eyebrows were knitted, his thoughts had wandered away. For several moments there was silence. Then at last he rose to his feet, unlocked the safe which stood by his side, and took out a solid chart dotted in many places with little flags, each one of which bore the name of a ship. He looked at it attentively.
"That's the position of every ship we own, at six o'clock this evening," he pointed out. "It's true we are scattered. We are purposely scattered because of the Review. On Monday morning I go down to the Admiralty, and I give the word. Every ship you see represented by those little flags, moves in one direction."
"In other words," Norgate remarked, "it is a mobilisation."
Norgate leaned forward in his chair.
"You're coming to what I want to suggest," he proceeded. "Listen. You can do it, if you like. Go down to the Admiralty to-night. Give that order. Set the wireless going. Mobilise the fleet to-night."
Mr. Wyatt looked steadfastly at his companion. His fingers were restlessly stroking his chin, his eyes seemed to be looking through his visitor.
"But it would be a week too soon," he muttered.
"Risk it," Norgate begged. "You have always the Review to fall back upon. The mobilisation, to be effective, should be unexpected. Mobilise to-morrow. I am telling you the truth, sir, and you'll know it before many days are passed. Even if I have got hold of a mare's nest, you know there's trouble brewing. England will be in none the worse position to intervene for peace, if her fleet is ready to strike."
Mr. Spencer Wyatt rose to his feet. He seemed somehow an altered man.
"Look here," he announced gravely, "I am going for the gamble. If I have been misled, there will probably be an end of my career. I tell you frankly, I believe in you. I believe in the truth of the things you talk about. I risked everything, only a few weeks ago, on my belief. I'll risk my whole career now. Keep your mouth shut; don't say a word. Until to-morrow you will be the only man in England who knows it. I am going to mobilise the fleet to-night. Shake hands, Mr. Norgate. You're either the best friend or the worst foe I've ever had. My coat and hat," he ordered the servant who answered his summons. "Tell your mistress, if she enquires, that I have gone down to the Admiralty on special business."
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