“You have trusted him?”
“I trust or I do not trust,” Selingman replied. “That you know. I have employed this young man in very useful work. I cannot blindfold him. He knows.”
“Then I fear treachery,” the Count declared.
“Have you any reason for saying that?” Selingman asked.
The Count lit a cigarette with trembling fingers.
“Listen,” he said, “always, my friend, you undervalue a little the English race. You undervalue their intelligence, their patriotism, their poise towards the serious matters of life. I know nothing of Mr. Francis Norgate save what I saw this morning. He is one of that type of Englishmen, clean-bred, well-born, full of reserve, taciturn, yet, I would swear, honourable. I know the type, and I do not believe in such a man being your servant.”
The shadow of anxiety crossed Selingman’s face.
“Have you any reason for saying this?” he repeated.
“No reason save the instinct which is above reason,” the Count replied quickly. “I know that if the Baroness and he put their heads together, we may be under the shadow of catastrophe.”
Selingman sat with folded arms for several moments.
“Count,” he said at last, “I appreciate your point of view. You have, I confess, disturbed me. Yet of this young man I have little fear. I did not approach him by any vulgar means. I took, as they say here, the bull by the horns. I appealed to his patriotism.”
“To what?” the Count demanded incredulously.
“To his patriotism,” Selingman repeated. “I showed him the decadence of his country, decadence visible through all her institutions, through her political tendencies, through her young men of all classes. I convinced him that what the country needed was a bitter tonic, a kind but chastening hand. I convinced him of this. He believes that he betrays his country for her ultimate good. As I told you before, he has brought me information which is simply invaluable. He has a position and connections which are unique.”
The Count drew his chair a little nearer.
“You say that he has done you great service,” he said. “Well, you must admit for yourself that the day is too near now for much more to be expected. Could you not somehow guard against his resolution breaking down at the last moment? Think what it may mean to him—the sound of his national anthem at a critical moment, the clash of arms in the distance, the call of France across the Channel. A week—even half a week’s extra preparation might make much difference.”
Selingman sat for a short time, deep in thought. Then he drew out a box of pale-looking German cigars and lit one.
“Count,” he announced solemnly, “I take off my hat to you. Leave the matter in my hands.”
Norgate set down the telephone receiver and turned to Anna, who was seated in an easy-chair by his side.