“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?”
“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.”