“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 province to know. I will tell you that no matter what the temptation, what the proffered reward may be, Italy will not join in this war on the side of Germany and Austria.”
“You are very kind, Comtesse,” Norgate said simply, “and I shall respect your confidence.”
She rose and laid her fingers upon his arm.
“To people whom I like,” she declared, “I speak frankly. I give away no secrets. I say what I believe. And now I must leave you for a much subtler person and a much subtler conversation. Prince Herschfeld is waiting to talk to me. Perhaps he, too, would like to know the answer which will go to his master, but how can I tell?”
The Ambassador had paused before them. The Comtesse rose and accepted his arm.
“I shall take away with me to-night at least two charming memories,” she assured him, as she gathered up her skirts. “My two dances, Mr. Norgate, have been delightful. Now I am equally sure of entertainment of another sort from Prince Herschfeld.”
The Prince bowed.
“Ah! madame,” he sighed, “it is so hard to compete with youth. I fear that the feet of Mr. Norgate will be nimbler than my brain to-night.”
She nodded sympathetically.
“You are immersed in affairs, of course,” she murmured. “Au revoir, Mr. Norgate! Give my love to Anna. Some day I hope that I shall welcome you both in Rome.”
Norgate pushed his way through a confused medley of crates which had just been unloaded and made his way up the warehouse to Selingman’s office. Selingman was engaged for a few minutes but presently opened the door of his sanctum and called his visitor in.
“Well, my young friend,” he exclaimed, “you have brought news? Sit down. This is a busy morning. We have had large shipments from Germany. I have appointments with buyers most of the day, yet I can talk to you for a little time. You were at the ball last night?”
“I was permitted to escort the Baroness von Haase,” Norgate replied.
Selingman nodded ponderously.
“I ask you no questions,” he said. “The Baroness works on a higher plane. I know more than you would believe, though. I know why the dear lady went to Rome; I know why she was at the ball. I know in what respect you were probably able to help her. But I ask no questions. We work towards a common end, but we work at opposite ends of the pole. Curiosity alone would be gratified if you were to tell me everything that transpired.”