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Norgate had chosen, for many reasons, to return to London as a visitor. His somewhat luxurious rooms in Albemarle Street were still locked up. He had taken a small flat in the Milan Court, solely for the purpose of avoiding immediate association with his friends and relatives. His whole outlook upon life was confused and disturbed. Until he received a definite pronouncement from the head-quarters of officialdom, he felt himself unable to settle down to any of the ordinary functions of life. And behind all this, another and a more powerful sentiment possessed him. He had left Berlin without seeing or hearing anything further from Anna von Haase. No word had come from her, nor any message. And now that it was too late, he began to feel that he had made a mistake. It seemed to him that he had visited upon her, in some indirect way, the misfortune which had befallen him. It was scarcely her fault that she had been the object of attentions which nearly every one agreed were unwelcome, from this young princeling. Norgate told himself, as he changed his clothes that evening, that his behaviour had been the behaviour of a jealous school-boy. Then an inspiration seized him. Half dressed as he was, he sat down at the writing-table and wrote to her. He wrote rapidly, and when he had finished, he sealed and addressed the envelope without glancing once more at its contents. The letter was stamped and posted within a few minutes, but somehow or other it seemed to have made a difference. His depression was no longer so complete. He looked forward to his lonely dinner, at one of the smaller clubs to which he belonged, with less aversion.
"Do you know where any of my people are. Hardy?" he asked his servant.
"In Scotland, I believe, sir," the man replied. "I called round this afternoon, although I was careful not to mention the fact that you were in town. The house is practically in the hands of caretakers."
"Try to keep out of the way as much as you can. Hardy," Norgate enjoined. "For a few days, at any rate, I should like no one to know that I am in town."
"Very good, sir," the man replied. "Might I venture to enquire, sir, if you are likely to be returning to Berlin?"
"I think it is very doubtful, Hardy," Norgate observed grimly. "We are more likely to remain here for a time."
Hardy brushed his master's hat for a moment or two in silence.
"You will pardon my mentioning it, sir," he said--"I imagine it is of no importance--but one of the German waiters on this floor has been going out of his way to enter into conversation with me this evening. He seemed to know your name and to know that you had just come from Germany. He hinted at some slight trouble there, sir."
"The dickens he did!" Norgate exclaimed. "That's rather quick work, Hardy."
"So I thought, sir," the man continued. "A very inquisitive individual indeed I found him. He wanted to know whether you had had any news yet as to any further appointment. He seemed to know quite well that you had been at the Foreign Office this morning."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him that I knew nothing, sir. I explained that you had not been back to lunch, and that I had not seen you since the morning. He tried to make an appointment with me to give me some dinner and take me to a music-hall to-night."
"What did you say to that?" Norgate enquired.
"I left the matter open, sir," the man replied. "I thought I would enquire what your wishes might be? The person evidently desires to gain some information about your movements. I thought that possibly it might be advantageous for me to tell him just what you desired."
Norgate lit a cigarette. For the moment he was puzzled. It was true that during their journey he had mentioned to Selingman his intention of taking a flat at the Milan Court, but if this espionage were the direct outcome of that information, it was indeed a wonderful organisation which Selingman controlled.
"You have acted very discreetly, Hardy," he said. "I think you had better tell your friend that I am expecting to leave for somewhere at a moment's notice. For your own information," he added, "I rather think that I shall stay here. It seems to me quite possible that we may find London, for a few weeks, just as interesting as any city in the world."
"I am very glad to hear you say so, sir," the man murmured. "Shall I fetch your overcoat?"
The telephone bell suddenly interrupted them. Hardy took up the receiver and listened for a moment.
"Mr. Hebblethwaite would like to speak to you, sir," he announced.
Norgate hurried to the telephone. A cheery voice greeted him.
"Hullo! That you, Norgate? This is Hebblethwaite. I'm just back from a few days in the country--found your note here. I want to hear all about this little matter at once. When can I see you?"
"Any time you like," Norgate replied promptly.
"Let me see," the voice continued, "what are you doing to-night?"
"Come straight round to the House of Commons and dine. Or no--wait a moment--we'll go somewhere quieter. Say the club in a quarter of an hour--the Reform Club. How will that suit you?"
"I'll be there, with pleasure," Norgate promised.
"Righto! We'll hear what you've been doing to these peppery Germans. I had a line from Leveson himself this morning. A lady in the case, I hear? Well, well! Never mind explanations now. See you in a few minutes."
Norgate laid down the receiver. His manner, as he accepted his well-brushed hat, had lost all its depression. There was no one in the Cabinet with more influence than Hebblethwaite. He would have his chance, at any rate, and his chance at other things.
"Look here, Hardy," he ordered, as he drew on his gloves, "spend as much time as you like with that fellow and let me know what sort of questions he asks you. Be careful not to mention the fact that I am dining with Mr. Hebblethwaite. For the rest, fence with him. I am not quite sure what it all means. If by any chance he mentions a man named Selingman, let me know. Good night!"
"Good night, sir!" the man replied.
Norgate descended into the Strand and walked briskly towards Pall Mall. The last few minutes seemed to him to be fraught with promise of a new interest in life. Yet it was not of any of these things that he was thinking as he made his way towards his destination. He was occupied most of the time in wondering how long it would be before he could hope to receive a reply from Berlin to his letter.
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