Part 3 out of 6
This little difference of opinion," the Prince remarked, looking
thoughtfully through the emerald green of his liqueur," interests
me. Our friend Dolinski here thinks that he will not come because
he will be afraid. De Brouillac, on the contrary, says that he
will not come because he is too sagacious. Felix here, who knows
him best, says that he will not come because he prefers ever to
play the game from outside the circle, a looker-on to all
appearance, yet sometimes wielding an unseen force. It is a
strong position that."
Lucille raised her head and regarded the last speaker steadily.
"And I, Prince!" she exclaimed, "I say that he will come because
he is a man, and because he does not know fear."
The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer bowed low towards the speaker.
"Dear Lucille," he said, so respectfully that the faint irony of
his tone was lost to most of those present, "I, too, am of your
opinion. The man who has a right, real or fancied, to claim you
must indeed be a coward if he suffered dangers of any sort to stand
in the way. After all, dangers from us! Is it not a little absurd?"
Lucille looked away from the Prince with a little shudder. He
laughed softly, and drank his liqueur. Afterwards he leaned back
for a moment in his chair and glanced thoughtfully around at the
assembled company as though anxious to impress upon his memory all
who were present. It was a little group, every member of which
bore a well-known name. Their host, the Duke of Dorset, in whose
splendid library they were assembled, was, if not the premier duke
of the United Kingdom, at least one of those whose many hereditary
offices and ancient family entitled him to a foremost place in the
aristocracy of the world. Raoul de Brouillac, Count of Orleans,
bore a name which was scarcely absent from a single page of the
martial history of France. The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer kept up
still a semblance of royalty in the State which his ancestors had
ruled with despotic power. Lady Muriel Carey was a younger
daughter of a ducal house, which had more than once intermarried
with Royalty. The others, too, had their claims to be considered
amongst the greatest families of Europe.
The Prince glanced at his watch, and then at the bridge tables
ready set out.
"I think," he said, "that a little diversion - what does our
"Two sets can start at least," the Duchess said. "Lucille and I
will stay out, and the Count de Brouillac does not play."
The Prince rose.
"It is agreed," he said. "Duke, will you honour me? Felix and
Dolinski are our ancient adversaries. It should be an interesting
trial of strength."
There was a general movement, a re-arrangement of seats, and a
little buzz of conversation. Then silence. Lucille sat back in
a great chair, and Lady Carey came over to her side.
"You are nervous to-night, Lucille," she said.
"Yes, I am nervous," Lucille admitted. "Why not? At any moment
he may be here."
"And you care - so much?" Lady Carey said, with a hard little laugh.
"I care so much," Lucille echoed.
Lady Carey shook out her amber satin skirt and sat down upon a low
divan. She held up her hands, small white hands, ablaze with
jewels, and looked at them for a moment thoughtfully.
"He was very much in earnest when I saw him at Sherry's in New
York," she remarked, "and he was altogether too clever for Mr.
Horser and our friends there. After all their talk and boasting
too. Why, they are ignorant of the very elements of intrigue."
"Here," she said, "it is different. The Prince and he are ancient
rivals, and Raoul de Brouillac is no longer his friend. Muriel, I
am afraid of what may happen."
Lady Carey shrugged her shoulders.
"He is no fool," she said in a low tone. "He will not come here
with a magistrate's warrant and a policeman to back it up, nor will
he attempt to turn the thing into an Adeiphi drama. I know him well
enough to be sure that he will attempt nothing crude. Lucille,
don't you find it exhilarating?"
"Exhilarating? But why?"
"It will be a game played through to the end by masters, and you,
my dear woman, are the inspiration. I think that it is most
Lucille looked sadly into the fire.
"I think," she said, "that I am weary of all these things. I seem
to have lived such a very long time. At Lenox I was quite happy.
Of my own will I would never have left it."
Lady Carey's thin lips curled a little, her blue eyes were full of
scorn. She was not altogether a pleasant woman to look upon. Her
cheeks were thin and hollow, her eyes a little too prominent, some
hidden expression which seemed at times to flit from one to the other
of her features suggested a sensuality which was a little incongruous
with her somewhat angular figure and generally cold demeanour. But
that she was a woman of courage and resource history had proved.
"How idyllic!" she exclaimed. "Positively medieval! Fancy living
with one man three years."
"Why, not? I never knew a woman yet however cold however fond of
change, who had not at some time or other during her life met a man
for whose sake she would have done - what I did. I have had as many
admirers - as many lovers, I suppose, as most women. But I can
truthfully say that during the last three years no thought of one
of them has crossed my mind."
Lady Carey laughed scornfully.
"Upon my word," she said. "If the Prince had not a temper, and if
they were not playing for such ruinous points, I would entertain
them all with these delightful confidences. By the bye, the Prince
himself was once one of those who fell before your chariot wheels,
was he not? Look at him now - sideways. What does he remind you
Lucille raised her eyes.
"A fat angel," she answered, "or something equally distasteful. How
I hate those mild eyes and that sweet, slow smile. I saw him thrash
a poor beater once in the Saxe Leinitzer forests. Ugh!"
"I should not blame him for that," Lady Carey said coldly. "I like
masterful men, even to the point of cruelty. General Dolinski there
fascinates me. I believe that he keeps a little private knout at
home for his wife and children. A wicked little contrivance with
an ivory handle. I should like to see him use it."
Lucille shuddered. This tete-a-tete did not amuse her. She rose
and looked over one of the bridge tables for a minute. The Prince,
who was dealing, looked up with a smile.
"Be my good angel, Countess," he begged. "Fortune has deserted me
to-night. You shall be the goddess of chance, and smile your
favours upon me."
A hard little laugh came from the chair where Lady Carey sat. She
turned her head towards them, and there was a malicious gleam in
"Too late, Prince," she exclaimed. "The favours of the Countess
are all given away. Lucille has become even as one of those
flaxen-haired dolls of your mountain villages. She has given her
heart away, and she is sworn to perpetual constancy."
The Prince smiled.
"The absence," he said, glancing up at the clock, "of that most
fortunate person should surely count in our favour."
Lucille followed his eyes. The clock was striking ten. She
shrugged her shoulders.
"If the converse also is true, Prince," she said, "you can
scarcely have anything to hope for from me. For by half-past ten
he will be here."
The Prince picked up his cards and sorted them mechanically.
"We shall see," he remarked. "It is true, Countess, that you are
here, but in this instance you are set with thorns."
"To continue the allegory, Prince," she answered, passing on to
the next table, "also with poisonous berries. But to the hand
which has no fear, neither are harmful."
The Prince laid down his hand.
"Now I really believe," he said gently, "that she meant to be rude.
Partner, I declare hearts!"
Felix was standing out from the next table whilst has hand was
being played by General Dolinski, his partner. He drew her a
little on one side.
"Do not irritate Saxe Leinitzer," he whispered. "Remember,
everything must rest with him. Twice to-night you have brought
that smile to his lips, and I never see it without thinking of
"You are right," she answered; "but I hate him so. He and Muriel
Carey seem to have entered into some conspiracy to lead me on to
say things which I might regret."
"Saxe Leinitzer," he said, "has never forgotten that he once
aspired to be your lover."
"He has not failed to let me know it," she answered. "He has even
dared - ah!"
There was a sudden stir in the room. The library door was thrown
open. The solemn-visaged butler stood upon the threshold.
"His Grace the Duke of Souspennier!" he announced.
There was for the moment a dead silence. The soft patter of cards
no longer fell upon the table. The eyes of every one were turned
upon the newcomers. And he, leaning upon his stick, looked only
for one person, and having found her, took no heed of any one else.
She rose from her seat and stood with hands outstretched towards
him, her lips parted in a delightful smile, her eyes soft with
"Victor, welcome! It is like you to have found me, and I knew
that you would come."
He raised her fingers to his lips - tenderly - with the grace of a
prince, but all the affection of a lover. What he said to her none
could hear, for his voice was lowered almost to a whisper. But the
colour stained her cheeks, and her blush was the blush of a girl.
A movement of the Duchess recalled him to a sense of his social
duty. He turned courteously to her with extended hand.
"I trust," he said, "that I may be forgiven my temporary fit of
aberration. I cannot thank you sufficiently, Duchess, for your
Her answering smile was a little dubious.
"I am sure," she said "that we are delighted to welcome back
amongst us so old and valued a friend. I suppose you know every
Mr. Sabin looked searchingly around, exchanging bows with those
whose faces were familiar to him. But between him and the Prince
of Saxe Leinitzer there passed no pretense at any greeting. The
two men eyed one another for a moment coldly. Each seemed to be
trying to read the other through.
"I believe," Mr. Sabin said, "that I have that privilege. I see,
however, that I am interrupting your game. Let me beg you to
continue. With your permission, Duchess, I will remain a spectator.
There are many things which my wife and I have to say to one
The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer laid his cards softly upon the table.
He smiled upon Mr. Sabin - a slow, unpleasant smile.
"I think," he said slowly, "that our game must be postponed. It
is a pity, but I think it had better be so."
"It must be entirely as you wish," Mr. Sabin answered. "I am at
your service now or later."
The Prince rose to his feet.
"Monsieur le Due de Souspennier," he said, "what are we to
conclude from your presence here this evening?"
"It is obvious," Mr. Sabin answered. "I claim my place amongst you."
"You claim to be one of us?"
"Ten years ago," the Prince continued, "you were granted immunity
from all the penalties and obligations which a co-membership with
us might involve. This privilege was extended to you on account
of certain great operations in which you were then engaged, and
the object of which was not foreign to our own aims. You are aware
that the period of that immunity is long since past."
Mr. Sabin leaned with both hands upon his stick, and his face was
like the face of a sphinx. Only Lucille, who knew him best of all
those there, saw him wince for a moment before this reminder of his
"I am not accustomed," Mr. Sabin said quietly, "to shirk my share
of the work in any undertaking with which I am connected. Only in
this case I claim to take the place of the Countess Lucille, my
wife. I request that the task, whatever it may be which you have
imposed upon her, may be transferred to me."
The Prince's smile was sweet, but those who knew him best wondered
what evil it might betoken for his ancient enemy.
"You offer yourself, then, as a full member?"
"Subject," he drawled, "to all the usual pains and privileges?"
The Prince played with the cards upon the table. His smooth, fair
face was unruffled, almost undisturbed. Yet underneath he was
wondering fiercely, eagerly, how this might serve his ends.
"The circumstances," he said at last, "are peculiar. I think that
we should do well to consult together - you and I, Felix, and
The two men named rose up silently. The Prince pointed to a
small round table at the farther end of the apartment, half
screened off by a curtained recess.
"Am I also," Mr. Sabin asked, "of your company?"
The Prince shook his head.
"I think not," he said. "In a few moments we will return."
Mr. Sabin moved away with a slight enigmatic gesture. Lucille
gathered up her skirts, making room for him by her side on a
"It is delightful to see you, Victor," she murmured. "It is
delightful to know that you trusted me."
Mr. Sabin looked at her, and the smile which no other woman had
ever seen softened for a moment his face.
"Dear Lucille," he murmured, "how could you ever doubt it? There
was a day, I admit, when the sun stood still, when, if I had felt
inclined to turn to light literature, I should have read aloud
the Book of Job. But afterwards - well, you see that I am here."
"I knew that you would come," she said, "and yet I knew that it
would be a struggle between you and them. For - the Prince - " she
murmured, lowering her voice, "had pledged his word to keep us
Mr. Sabin raised his head, and his eyes traveled towards the
figure of the man who sat with his back to them in the far distant
corner of the room.
"The Prince," he said softly, "is faithful to his ancient enmities."
Lucille's face was troubled. She turned to her companion with a
"He would have me believe," she murmured, "that he is faithful to
other things besides his enmities."
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"I am not jealous," he said softly, "of the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer!"
As though attracted by the mention of his name, which must, however,
have been unheard by him, the Prince at that moment turned round and
looked for a moment towards them. He shot a quick glance at Lady
Carey. Almost at once she rose from her chair and came across to
"The Prince's watch-dog," Lucille murmured. "Hateful woman! She is
bound hand and foot to him, and yet - "
Her eyes met his, and he laughed.
"Really," he said, "you and I in our old age might be hero and
heroine of a little romance - the undesiring objects of a hopeless
Lady Carey sank into a low chair by their side. "You two," she
said, with a slow, malicious smile, "are a pattern to this wicked
world. Don't you know that such fidelity is positively sinful, and
after three years in such a country too?"
"It is the approach of senility," Mr. Sabin answered her. "I am
an old man, Lady Muriel!"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"You are like Ulysses," she said. "The gods, or rather the
goddesses, have helped you towards immortality."
"It is," Mr. Sabin answered, "the moss delicious piece of flattery
I have ever heard."
"Calypso," she murmured, nodding towards Lucille, "is by your side."
"Really," Mr. Sabin interrupted, "I must protest. Lucille and I
were married by a most respectable Episcopalian clergyman. We have
documentary evidence. Besides, if Lucille is Calypso, what about
Lady Carey smiled thoughtfully.
"I have always thought," she said, "that Penelope was a myth. In
your case I should say that Penelope represents a return to sanity
- to the ordinary ways of life."
Mr. Sabin and Lucille exchanged swift glances. He raised his
"Our little idyll," he said, "seems to be the sport and buffet of
every one. You forget that I am of the old world. I do not
"Ulysses," she answered, "was of the old world, yet he was a
wanderer in more senses of the word than one And there have been
times - "
Her eyes sought his. He ignored absolutely the subtlety of meaning
which lurked beneath the heavy drooping eyelids.
"One travels through life," he answered, "by devious paths, and a
little wandering in the flower-gardens by the way is the lot of every
one. But when the journey is over, one's taste for wandering has
gone - well, Ulysses finished his days at the hearth of Penelope."
She rose and walked away. Mr. Sabin sat still and watched her as
though listening to the soft sweep of her gown upon the carpet.
"Hateful woman!" Lucille exclaimed lightly. "To make love, and
such love, to one's lawful husband before one's face is a little
crude, don't you think?"
He shook his head.
"Too obvious," he answered. "She is playing the Prince's game.
Dear me, how interesting this will be soon."
She nodded. A faint smile of bitterness had stolen into her tone.
"Already," she said, "you are beginning to scent the delight of
the atmosphere. You are stiffening for the fight. Soon - "
"Ah, no! Don't say it," he whispered, taking her hand. "I shall
never forget. If the fight seems good to me it is because you are
the prize, and after all, you know, to fight for one's womenkind
is amongst the primeval instincts."
Lady Carey, who had been pacing the room restlessly, touching an
ornament here, looking at a picture there, came back to them and
stood before Mr. Sabin. She had caught his last words.
"Primeval instincts!" she exclaimed mockingly. "What do you know
about them, you of all men, a bundle of nerves and brains, with a
motor for a heart, and an automatic brake upon your passions? Upon
my word, I believe that I have solved the mystery of your perennial
youth. You have found a way of substituting machinery for the human
organ, and you are wound up to go for ever."
"You have found me out," he admitted. "Professor Penningram of
Chicago will supply you too with an outfit. Mention my name if you
like. It is a wonderful country America."
The Prince came over to them, fair and bland with no trace upon his
smooth features or in his half-jesting tone of any evil things.
"Souspennier," he said, holding out his hand, "welcome back once
more to your old place. I am happy to say that there appears to be
no reason why your claim should not be fully admitted."
Mr. Sabin rose to his feet.
"I presume," he said, "that no very active demands are likely to be
made upon my services. In this country more than any other I fear
that the possibilities of my aid are scanty."
The Prince smiled.
"It is a fact," he said, "which we all appreciate. Upon you at
present we make no claim."
There was a moment's intense silence. A steely light glittered in
Mr. Sabin's eyes. He and the Prince alone remained standing. The
Duchess of Dorset watched them through her lorgnettes; Lady Carey
watched too with an intense eagerness, her eyes alight with mingled
cruelty and excitement. Lucille's eyes were so bright that one
might readily believe the tears to be glistening beneath.
I will not pretend," Mr. Sabin said, "to misunderstand you. My
help is not required by you in this enterprise, whatever it may be,
in which you are engaged. On the contrary, you have tried by many
and various ways to keep me at a distance. But I am here, Prince
- here to be dealt with and treated according to my rights."
The Prince stroked his fair moustache.
"I am a little puzzled," he admitted, "as to this - shall I not
call it self-assertiveness? - on the part of my good friend
"I will make it quite clear then," Mr. Sabin answered. "Lucille,
will you favour me by ringing for your maid. The carriage is at
The Prince held out his hand.
"My dear Souspennier," he said, "you must not think of taking
Lucille away from us."
"Indeed," Mr. Sabin answered coolly. "Why not?"
"It must be obvious to you," the Prince answered, "that we did not
send to America for Lucille without an object. She is now engaged
in an important work upon our behalf. It is necessary that she
should remain under this roof."
"I demand," Mr. Sabin said, "that the nature of that necessity
should be made clear to me."
The Prince smiled with the air of one disposed to humour a wilful
"Come!" he said. "You must know very well that I cannot stand here
and tell you the bare outline, much less the details of an important
movement. To-morrow, at any hour you choose, one from amongst us
shall explain the whole matter - and the part to be borne in it by
"And to-night?" Mr. Sabin asked.
The Prince shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the clock.
"To-night, my dear friend," he said, "all of us, I believe, go on
to a ball at Carmarthen House. It would grieve me also, I am sure,
Duke, to seem inhospitable, but I am compelled to mention the fact
that the hour for which the carriages have been ordered is already
Mr. Sabin reflected for a few moments.
"Did I understand you to say," he asked, "that the help to be given
to you by my wife, Lucille, Duchess of Souspennier, entailed her
remaining under this roof?"
The Prince smiled seraphically.
"It is unfortunate," he murmured, "since you have been so gallant
as to follow her, but it is true! You will understand this
perfectly - to-morrow."
"And why should I wait until to-morrow?" Mr. Sabin asked coolly.
"I fear," the Prince said, "that it is a matter of necessity."
Mr. Sabin glanced for a moment in turn at the faces of all the
little company as though seeking to discover how far the attitude
of his opponent met with their approval. Lady Carey's thin lips
were curved in a smile, and her eyes met his mockingly. The
others remained imperturbable. Last of all he looked at Lucille.
"It seems," he said, smiling towards her, "that I am called upon
to pay a heavy entrance fee on my return amongst your friends. But
the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer forgets that he has shown me no
authority, or given me no valid reason why I should tolerate such
flagrant interference with my personal affairs."
"To-morrow - to-morrow, my good sir!" the Prince interrupted.
"No! To-night!" Mr. Sabin answered sharply. "Lucille, in the
absence of any reasonable explanation, I challenge the right of the
Prince of Saxe Leinitzer to rob me even for an hour of my dearest
possession. I appeal to you. Come with me and remain with me
until it has been proved, if ever it can be proved, that greater
interests require our separation. If there be blame I will take it.
Will you trust yourself to me
Lucille half rose, but Lady Carey's hand was heavy upon her
shoulder. As though by a careless movement General Dolinski and
Raoul de Brouillac altered their positions slightly so as to come
between the two. The Duke of Dorset had left the room. Then Mr.
Sabin knew that they were all against him.
"Lucille," he said, "have courage! I wait for you."
She looked towards him, and her face puzzled him. For there
flashed across the shoulders of these people a glance which was
wholly out of harmony with his own state of barely subdued passion
- a glance half tender, half humorous, full of subtle promise.
Yet her words were a blow to him.
"Victor, how is it possible? Believe me, I come if I could.
To-morrow - very soon, it may be possible. But now. You hear what
the Prince says. I fear that he is right!"
To Mr. Sabin the shock was an unexpected one. He had never doubted
but that she at least was his side. Her words found him unprepared,
and a moment he showed his discomfiture. His recovery however, was
swift and amazing. He bowed to Lucille, and by the time he raised
his head even the reproach had gone from his eyes.
"Dear lady," he said, "I will not venture to dispute your decision.
Prince, will you appoint a time to-morrow when this matter shall be
more fully explained to me?"
The Prince's smile was sweetness itself, and his tone very gentle.
But Mr. Sabin, who seldom yielded to any passionate impulse, kept
his teeth set and his hand clenched, lest the blow he longed to
deal should escape him.
"At midday to-morrow I shall be pleased to receive you," he said.
"The Countess, with her usual devotion and good sense, has, I trust,
convinced you that our action is necessary!"
"To-morrow at midday," Mr. Sabin said, "I will be here. I have the
honour to wish you all good-night."
His farewell was comprehensive. He did not even single out Lucille
for a parting glance. But down the broad stairs and across the
hall of Dorset House he passed with weary steps, leaning heavily
upon his stick. It was a heavy blow which had fallen upon him. As
yet he scarcely realised it.
His carriage was delayed for a few moments, and just as he was
entering it a young woman, plainly dressed in black, came hurrying
out and slipped a note into his hand.
"Pardon, monsieur," she exclaimed, with a smile. I feared that I
was too late."
Mr. Sabin's fingers closed over the note, and he stepped blithely
into the carriage. But when he tore it open and saw the handwriting
he permitted himself a little groan of disappointment. It was not
from her. He read the few lines and crushed the sheet of paper in
"I am having supper at the Carlton with some friends on our way
to C. H. I want to speak to you for a moment. Be in the Palm
Court at 12.15, but do not recognise me until I come to you. If
possible keep out of sight. If you should have left my maid will
bring this on to your hotel.
Mr. Sabin leaned back in his carriage, and a frown of faint
perplexity contracted his forehead.
If I were a younger man," he murmured to himself, "I might believe
that this woman was really in earnest, as well as being Saxe
Leinitzer's jackal. We were friendly enough in Paris that year.
She is unscrupulous enough, of course. Always with some odd fancy
for the grotesque or unlikely. I wonder - "
He pulled the check-string, and was driven to Camperdown House. A
great many people were coming and going. Mr. Sabin found Helene's
maid, and learnt that her mistress was just going to her room, and
would be alone for a few minutes. He scribbled a few words on the
back of a card, and was at once taken up to her boudoir.
"My dear UNCLE," Helene exclaimed, "you have arrived most
opportunely. We have just got rid of a few dinner people, and we
are going on to Carmarthen House presently. Take that easy-chair,
please, and, light a cigarette. Will you have a liqueur? Wolfendon
has some old brandy which every one seems to think wonderful."
"You are very kind, Helene," Mr. Sabin said. "I cannot refuse
anything which you offer in so charming a manner. But I shall not
keep you more than a few minutes."
"We need not leave for an hour," Helene said, "and I am dressed
except for my jewels. Tell me, have you seen Lucille? I am so
anxious to know."
"I have seen Lucille this evening," Mr. Sabin answered.
"At Dorset House!"
Helene sat down, smiling.
"Do tell me all about it."
"There is very little to tell," Mr. Sabin answered.
"She is with you - she returns at least!"
Mr. Sabin shook his head.
"No," he answered. "She remains at Dorset House."
Helene was silent. Mr. Sabin smoked pensively a moment or two, and
sipped the liqueur which Camperdown's own servant had just brought
"It is very hard, Helene," he said, "to make you altogether
understand the situation, for there are certain phases of it which
I cannot discuss with you at all. I have made my first effort to
regain Lucille, and it has failed. It is not her fault. I need
not say that it is not mine. But the struggle has commenced, and
in the end I shall win."
"Lucille herself - " Helene began hesitatingly.
"Lucille is, I firmly believe, as anxious to return to me as I am
anxious to have her," Mr. Sabin said.
Helene threw up her hands.
"It is bewildering," she exclaimed.
"It must seem so to you," Mr. Sabin admitted.
"I wish that Lucille were anywhere else," Helene said. "The Dorset
House set, you know, although they are very smart and very
exclusive, have a somewhat peculiar reputation. Lady Carey,
although she is such a brilliant woman, says and does the most
insolent, the most amazing things, and the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer
goes everywhere in Europe by the name of the Royal libertine. They
are powerful enough almost to dominate society, and we poor people
who abide by the conventions are absolutely nowhere beside them.
They think that we are bourgeois because we have virtue, and
prehistoric because we are not decadent."
"The Duke - " Mr. Sabin remarked.
"Oh, the Duke is quite different, of course," Helene admitted.
"He is a fanatical Tory, very stupid, very blind to anything except
his beloved Primrose League. How he came to lend himself to the
vagaries of such a set I cannot imagine."
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"C'est la femme toujours!" he remarked. "His Grace is, I fear,
henpecked, and the Duchess herself is the sport of cleverer people.
And now, my dear niece, I see that the time is going. I came to
know if you could get me a card for the ball at Carmarthen House
Helene laughed softly.
"Very easily, my dear UNCLE. Lady Carmarthen is Wolfendon's cousin,
you know, and a very good friend of mine. I have half a dozen blank
cards here. Shall I really see you there?"
"I believe so," Mr. Sabin answered.
"It is possible."
"There is nothing I suppose which I can do in the way of
intervention, or anything of that sort?"
Mr. Sabin shook his head.
"Lucille and I are the best of friends," he answered. "Talk to her,
if you will. By the bye, is that twelve o'clock? I must hurry.
Doubtless we shall meet again at the ball."
But Carmarthen House saw nothing of Mr. Sabin that night.
Mr. Sabin from his seat behind a gigantic palm watched her egress
from the supper-room with a little group of friends.
They came to a halt in the broad carpeted way only a few feet from
him. Lady Carey, in a wonderful green gown, her neck and bosom
ablaze with jewels, seemed to be making her farewells.
"I must go in and see the De Lausanacs," she exclaimed. "They are
in the blue room supping with the Portuguese Ambassador. I shall
be at Carmarthen House within half an hour - unless my headache
becomes unbearable. Au revoir, all of you. Good-bye, Laura!"
Her friends passed on towards the great swing doors. Lady Carey
retraced her steps slowly towards the supper-room, and made some
languid inquiries of the head waiter as to a missing handkerchief.
Then she came again slowly down the broad way and reached Mr. Sabin.
He rose to his feet.
"I thank you very much for your note," he said. "You have something,
I believe, to say to me."
She stood before him for a moment in silence, as though not unwilling
that he should appreciate the soft splendour of her toilette. The
jewels which encircled her neck were priceless and dazzling; the soft
material of her gown, the most delicate shade of sea green, seemed
to foam about her feet, a wonderful triumph of allegoric dressmaking.
She saw that he was studying her, and she laughed a little uneasily,
looking all the time into his eyes.
"Shockingly overdressed, ain't I?" she said. "We were going straight
to Carmarthen House, you know. Come and sit in this corner for a
moment, and order me some coffee. I suppose there isn't any less
"I fear not," he answered. "You will perhaps be unobserved behind
She sank into a low chair, and he seated himself beside her. She
"Dear me!" she said. "Do men like being run after like this?"
Mr. Sabin raised his eyebrows.
"I understood," he said, "that you had something to say to me of
She shot a quick look up at him.
"Don't be horrid," she said in a low tone. "Of course I wanted to
see you. I wanted to explain. Give me one of your cigarettes."
He laid his case silently before her. She took one and lit it,
watching him furtively all the time. The man brought their coffee.
The place was almost empty now, and some of the lights were turned
"It is very kind of you," he said slowly, "to honour me by so much consideration, but if you have
much to say perhaps it would be
better if you permitted me to call upon you to-morrow. I am afraid
of depriving you of your ball - and your friends will be getting
"Bother the ball - and my friends," she exclaimed, a certain
strained note in her tone which puzzled him. "I'm not obliged to
go to the thing, and I don't want to. I've invented a headache,
and they won't even expect me. They know my headaches."
"In that case," Mr. Sabin said, "I am entirely at your service."
She sighed, and looked up at him through a little cloud of tobacco
"What a wonderful man you are," she said softly. "You accept
defeat with the grace of a victor. I believe that you would triumph
as easily with a shrug of the shoulders. Haven't you any feeling at
all? Don't you know what it is like to feel?"
"We both come," he said, "of a historic race. If ancestry is worth
anything it should at least teach us to go about without pinning
our hearts upon our sleeves."
"But you," she murmured, "you have no heart."
He looked down upon her then with still cold face and steady eyes.
"Indeed," he said, "you are mistaken."
She moved uneasily in her chair. She was very pale, except for a
faint spot of pink colour in her cheeks.
"It is very hard to find, then," she said, speaking quickly, her
bosom rising and falling, her eyes always seeking to hold his.
"To-night you see what I have done - I have, sent away my friends
- and my carriage. They may know me here - you see what I have
risked. And I don't care. You thought to-night that I was your
enemy - and I am not. I am not your enemy at all."
Her hand fell as though by accident upon his, and remained there.
Mr. Sabin was very nearly embarrassed. He knew quite well that
if she were not his enemy at that moment she would be very shortly.
"Lucille," she continued, "will blame me too. I cannot help it.
I want to tell you that for the present your separation from her
is a certain thing. She acquiesces. You heard her. She is quite
happy. She is at the ball to-night, and she has friends there who
will make it pleasant for her. Won't you understand?"
"No," Mr. Sabin answered.
She beat the ground with her foot.
"You must understand," she murmured. "You are not like these fools
of Englishmen who go to sleep when they are married, and wake in
the divorce court. For the present at least you have lost Lucille.
You heard her choose. She's at the ball to-night - and I have come
here to be with you. Won't you, please," she added, with a little
nervous laugh, "show some gratitude?"
The interruption which Mr. Sabin had prayed for came at last. The
musicians had left, and many of the lights had been turned down.
An official came across to them.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, addressing Mr. Sabin, "but we are
closing now, unless you are a guest in the hotel."
"I am staying here," Mr. Sabin answered, rising, "but the lady - "
Lady Carey interrupted him.
"I am staying here also," she said to the man.
He bowed at once and withdrew. She rose slowly to her feet and
laid her fingers upon his arm. He looked steadily away from her.
"Fortunately," he said, "I have not yet dismissed my own carriage.
* * * * *
Mr. Sabin leaned heavily upon his stick as he slowly made his way
along the corridor to his rooms. Things were going ill with him
indeed. He was not used to the fear of an enemy, but the memory
of Lady Carey's white cheeks and indrawn lips as she had entered
his carriage chilled him. Her one look, too, was a threat worse
than any which her lips could have uttered. He was getting old
indeed, he thought, wearily, when disappointment weighed so heavily
upon him. And Lucille? Had he any real fears of her? He felt a
little catch in his throat at the bare thought - in a moment's
singular clearness of perception he realised that if Lucille were
indeed lost the world was no longer a place for him. So his feet
fell wearily upon the thickly carpeted floor of the corridor, and
his face was unusually drawn and haggard as he opened the door of
And then - a transformation, amazing, stupefying. It was Lucille
who was smiling a welcome upon him from the depths of his favourite
easy-chair - Lucille sitting over his fire, a novel in her hand,
and wearing a delightful rose-pink dressing-gown. Some of her
belongings were scattered about his room, giving it a delicate air
of femininity. The faint odour of her favourite and only perfume
gave to her undoubted presence a wonderful sense of reality.
She held out her hands to him, and the broad sleeves of her
dressing-gown fell away from her white rounded arms. Her eyes
were wonderfully soft, the pink upon her cheeks was the blush of
"Victor," she murmured, "do not look so stupefied. Did you not
believe that I would risk at least a little for you, who have
risked so much for me? Only come to me! Make the most of me.
All sorts of things are sure to happen directly I am found out."
He took her into his arms. It was one of the moments of his
"Tell me," he murmured, "how have you dared to do this?"
"You know the Prince and his set. You know the way they bribe.
Intrigues everywhere, new and old overlapping. They have really
some reason for keeping you and me apart, but as regards my other
movements, I am free enough. And they thought, Victor - don't be
angry - but I let them think it was some one else. And I stole
away from the ball, and they think - never mind what they think.
But you, Victor, are my intrigue, you, my love, my husband!"
Then all the fatigue and all the weariness, died away from Mr.
Sabin's face. Once more the fire of youth burned in his heart.
And Lucille laughed softly as her lips met his, and her head sank
upon his shoulder.
Lady Carey suddenly dropped her partner's arm. She had seen a
man standing by himself with folded arms and moody face at the
entrance to the ball-room. She raised her lorgnettes. His
identity was unquestionable.
"Will you excuse me for a moment, Captain Horton," she said to her
escort. "I want particularly to speak to Mr. Brott."
Captain Horton bowed with the slight disappointment of a hungry
man on his way to the supper-room.
"Don't be long," he begged. "The places are filling up.
Lady Carey nodded and walked swiftly across to where Brott was
standing. He moved eagerly forward to meet her.
"Not dancing, Mr. Brott?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"This sort of thing isn't much in my way," he answered. "I was
rather hoping to see the Countess here. I trust that she is not
She looked at him steadily.
"Do you mean," she said, "that you do not know where she is?"
"I?" he answered in amazement. "How should I? I have not seen her
at all this evening. I understood that she was to be here."
Lady Carey hesitated. The man was too honest to be able to lie like
this, even in a good cause. She stood quite still for a moment
thinking. Several of her dearest friends had already told her that
she was looking tired and ill this evening. At that moment she was
"I have been down at Ranelagh this afternoon," she said slowly,
"and dining out, so I have not seen Lucille. She was complaining
of a headache yesterday, but I quite thought that she was coming
here. Have you seen the Duchess?"
He shook his head.
"No. There is such a crowd."
Lady Carey glanced towards her escort and turned away.
"I will try and find out what has become of her," she said. "Don't
go away yet."
She rejoined her escort.
"When we have found a table," she said, "I want you to keep my place
for a few moments while I try and find some of my party."
They passed into the supper-room, and appropriated a small table.
Lady Carey left her partner, and made her way to the farther end of
the apartment, where the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer was supping with
half a dozen men and women. She touched him on the shoulder.
"I want to speak to you for a moment, Ferdinand," she whispered.
He rose at once, and she drew him- a little apart.
"Brott is here," she said slowly.
"Brott here!" he repeated. "And Lucille?"
"He is asking for her - expected to find her here. He is downstairs
now, looking the picture of misery."
He looked at her inquiringly. There was a curious steely light in
her eyes, and she was showing her front teeth, which were a little
"Do you think," he asked, "that she has deceived us?"
"What else? Where are the Dorsets?"
"The Duchess is with the Earl of Condon, and some more people at
the round table under the balcony."
"Give me your arm," she whispered. "We must go and ask her;"
They crossed the room together. Lady Carey sank into a vacant
chair by the side of the Duchess and talked for a few minutes to
the people whom she knew. Then she turned and whispered in the
"Where is Lucille?"
The Duchess looked at her with a meaning smile.
"How should I know? She left when we did."
"Yes. It was all understood, wasn't it?"
Lady Carey laughed unpleasantly.
"She has fooled us," she said. "Brott is here alone. Knows
nothing of her."
The Duchess was puzzled.
"Well, I know nothing more than you do," she answered. "Are you
sure the man is telling the truth?"
"Of course. He is the image of despair."
"I am sure she was in earnest," the Duchess said. "When I asked
her whether she should come on here she laughed a little nervously,
and said perhaps or something of that sort."
"The fool may have bungled it," Lady Carey said thoughtfully. "I
will go back to him. There's that idiot of a partner of mine. I
must go and pretend to have some supper."
Captain Horton found his vis-a-vis a somewhat unsatisfactory
companion. She drank several glasses of champagne, ate scarcely
anything, and rushed him away before he had taken the edge off his
appetite. He brought her to the Duchess and went back in a huff
to finish his supper alone. Lady Carey went downstairs and
discovered Mr. Brott, who had scarcely moved.
"Have you seen anything of her?" she asked.
He shook his head gloomily.
"No! It is too late for her to come now, isn't it?"
"Take me somewhere where we can talk," she said abruptly. "One of
those seats in the recess will do."
He obeyed her, and they found a retired corner. Lady Carey wasted
no time in fencing.
"I am Lucille's greatest friend, Mr. Brott, and her confidante,"
"So I have understood."
"She tells me everything."
He glanced towards her a little uneasily.
"That is comprehensive!" he remarked.
"It is true," she answered. "Lucille has told me a great deal about
your friendship! Come, there is no use in our mincing words.
Lucille has been badly treated years ago, and she has a perfect
right to seek any consolation she may find. The old fashioned
ideas, thank goodness, do not hold any longer amongst us. It is
not necessary to tie yourself for life to a man in order to procure
a little diversion."
"I will not pretend to misunderstand you, Lady Carey," he said
gravely, "but I must decline to discuss the Countess of Radantz in
connection with such matters."
"Oh, come!" she declared impatiently; "remember that I am her
friend. Yours is quite the proper attitude, but with me it doesn't
matter. Now I am going to ask you a plain question. Had You any
engagement with Lucille to-night?"
She watched him mercilessly. He was colouring like a boy. Lady
Carey's thin lips curled. She had no sympathy with such amateurish
love-making. Nevertheless, his embarrassment was a great relief to
"She promised to be here," he answered stiffly.
"Everything depends upon your being honest with me," she continued.
"You will see from my question that I know. Was there not something
said about supper at your rooms before or after the dance?"
"I cannot discuss this matter with you or any living person," he
answered. "If you know so much why ask me?"
Lady Carey could have shaken the man, but she restrained herself.
"It is sufficient!" she declared. "What I cannot understand is why
you are here - when Lucille is probably awaiting for you at your
He started from his chair as though he had been shot.
"What do you mean?" he exclaimed. "She was to - "
He stopped short. Lady Carey shrugged her shoulders.
"Oh, written you or something, I suppose!" she exclaimed. "Trust
an Englishman for bungling a love affair. All I can tell you is
that she left Dorset House in a hansom without the others, and said
some thing about having supper with some friends."
Brott sprang to his feet and took a quick step towards the exit.
"It is not possible!" he exclaimed.
She took his arm. He almost dragged her along.
"Well, we are going to see," she said coolly. "Tell the man to
call a hansom."
They drove almost in silence through the Square to Pall Mall.
Brott leaped out onto the pavement directly the cab pulled up.
"I will wait here," Lady Carey said. "I only want to know that
Lucille is safe."
He disappeared, and she sat forward in the cab drumming idly with
her forefingers upon the apron. In a few minutes he came back.
His appearance was quite sufficient. He was very pale. The change
in him was so ludicrous that she laughed.
"Get in," she said. "I am going round to Dorset House. We must
find out if we can what has become of her."
He obeyed without comment. At Dorset House Lady Carey summoned
the Duchess's own maid.
"Marie," she said, "you were attending upon the Countess Radantz
"Yes, my lady."
"At what time did she leave?"
"At about, eleven, my lady."
"Yes, my lady."
Lady Carey looked steadily at the girl.
"Did she take anything with her?"
The girl hesitated. Lady Carey frowned.
"It must be the truth, remember, Marie."
"Certainly, my lady! She took her small dressing-case."
Lady Carey set her teeth hard. Then with a movement of her head
she dismissed the maid. She walked restlessly up and down the
room. Then she stopped short with a hard little laugh.
"If I give way like this," she murmured, "I shall be positively
hideous, and after all, if she was there it was not possible for
him - "
She stopped short, and suddenly tearing the handkerchief which she
had been carrying into shreds threw the pieces upon the floor, and
stamped upon them. Then she laughed shortly, and turned towards
"Now I must go and get rid of that poor fool outside," she said.
"What a bungler!"
Brott was beside himself with impatience.
"Lucille is here," she announced, stepping in beside him. "She has
a shocking headache and has gone to bed. As a matter of fact, I
believe that she was expecting to hear from you."
"Impossible!" he answered shortly. He was beginning to distrust
"Never mind. You can make it up with her to-morrow. I was foolish
to be anxious about her at all. Are you coming in again?"
They were at Carmarthen House. He handed her out.
"No, thanks! If you will allow me I will wish you good-night."
She made her way into the ball-room, and found the Prince of Saxe
Leinitzer, who was just leaving.
"Do you know where Lucille is she asked.
He looked up at her sharply. "Where?"
"At the Carlton Hotel-with him."
He rose to his feet with slow but evil promptitude. His face just
then was very unlike the face of an angel. Lady Carey laughed
"Poor man," she said mockingly. "It is always the same when you
and Souspennier meet."
He set his teeth.
"This time," he muttered, "I hold the trumps."
She pointed at the clock. It was nearly four. "She was there at
eleven," she remarked drily.
His Highness, the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer!"
Duson stood away from the door with a low bow. The Prince - in
the buttonhole of whose frock-coat was a large bunch of Russian
violets, passed across the threshold. Mr. Sabin rose slowly
from his chair.
"I fear," the Prince said suavely, "that I am an early visitor.
I can only throw myself upon your indulgence and plead the urgency
of my mission."
His arrival appeared to have interrupted a late breakfast of the
Continental order. The small table at which Lucille and Mr. Sabin
were seated was covered with roses and several dishes of wonderful
fruit. A coffee equipage was before Lucille. Mr. Sabin, dressed
with his usual peculiar care and looking ten years younger, had
just lit a cigarette.
"We have been anticipating your visit, Prince," Mr. Sabin remarked,
with grim courtesy. "Can we offer you coffee or a liqueur?"
"I thank you, no," the Prince answered. "I seldom take anything
before lunch. Let me beg that you do not disturb yourselves. With
your permission I will take this easy-chair. So! That is excellent.
We can now talk undisturbed."
Mr. Sabin bowed.
"You will find me," he said, "an excellent listener."
The Prince smiled in an amiable manner. His eyes were fixed upon
Lucille, who had drawn her chair a little away from the table.
What other woman in the world who had passed her first youth could
sit thus in the slanting sunlight and remain beautiful?
"I will ask you to believe," the Prince said slowly, "how sincerely
I regret this unavoidable interference in a domestic happiness so
touching. Nevertheless, I have come for the Countess. It is
necessary that she returns to Dorset House this morning."
"You will oblige me," Mr. Sabin remarked, "by remembering that my
wife is the Duchesse de Souspennier, and by so addressing her."
The Prince spread out his hands - a deprecating gesture.
"Alas!" he said, "for the present it is not possible. Until the
little affair upon which we are now engaged is finally disposed of
it is necessary that Lucille should be known by the title which she
bears in her own right, or by the name of her late husband, Mr.
James B. Peterson."
"That little affair," Mr. Sabin remarked, "is, I presume, the matter
which you have come to explain to me."
The Prince smiled and shook his head.
"Explain! My dear Duke, that is not possible. It is not within
your rights to ask questions or to require any explanation as to
anything which Lucille is required to do by us. You must remember
that our claim upon her comes before yours. It is a claim which
she cannot evade or deny. And in pursuance of it, Countess, I
deeply regret having to tell you that your presence at Dorset House
within the next hour is demanded."
Lucille made no answer, but looked across the table at Mr. Sabin
with a little grimace.
"It is a comedy," she murmured. "After all, it is a comedy!"
Mr. Sabin fingered his cigarette thoughtfully.
"I believe," he said, "that the Duchess realises her
responsibilities in this matter. I myself have no wish to deny
them. As ordinary members we are both pledged to absolute obedience.
I therefore place no embargo upon the return of my wife to Dorset
House. But there are certain conditions, Prince, that considering
the special circumstances of the case I feel impelled to propose."
"I can recognise," the Prince said, "no conditions."
"They are very harmless," Mr. Sabin continued calmly. "The first is
that in a friendly way, and of course under the inviolable law of
secrecy, you explain to me for what part Lucille is cast in this
little comedy; the next that I be allowed to see her at reasonable
intervals, and finally that she is known by her rightful name as
Duchesse de Souspennier."
The forced urbanity which the Prince had assumed fell away from him
without warning. The tone of his reply was almost a sneer.
"I repeat," he said, "that I can recognise no conditions."
"It is perhaps," Mr. Sabin continued, "the wrong word to use. We
submit to your authority, but you and I are well aware that your
discretionary powers are large. I ask you to use them."
"And I," the Prince said, "refuse. Let me add that I intend to
prevent any recurrence of your little adventure of last night.
Lucille shall not see you again until her task is over. And as for
you, my dear Duke, I desire only your absence. I do not wish to
hurt your feelings, but your name has been associated in the past
with too many failures to inspire us with any confidence in engaging
you as an ally. Countess, a carriage from Dorset House awaits you."
But Lucille sat still, and Mr. Sabin rose slowly to his feet.
"I thank you, Prince," he said, "for throwing away the mask.
Fighting is always better without the buttons. It is true that I
have failed more than once, but it is also true that my failures
have been more magnificent than your waddle across the plain of life.
As for your present authority, I challenge you to your face that you
are using it to gain your private ends. What I have said to you I
shall repeat to those whose place is above yours. Lucille shall go
to Dorset House, but I warn you that I hold my life a slight thing
where her welfare is concerned. Your hand is upon the lever of a
great organization, I am only a unit in the world. Yet I would have
you remember that more than once, Prince, when you and I have met
with the odds in your favour the victory has been mine. Play the
game fairly, and you have nothing to fear from me but the open
opposition I have promised you. Bring but the shadow of evil upon
her, misuse your power but ever so slightly against her, and I warn
you that I shall count the few years of life left to me a trifle
- of less than no account - until you and I cry quits."
The Prince smiled, a fat, good-natured smile, behind which the
malice was indeed well hidden.
"Come, come, my dear Souspennier," he declared. "This is unworthy
of you. It is positively melodramatic. It reminds me of the plays
of my Fatherland, and of your own Adelphi Theatre. We should be men
of the world, you and I. You must take your defeats with your
victories. I can assure you that the welfare of the Countess Lucille
shall be my special care."
Lucille for the first time spoke. She rose from her chair and rested
her hands affectionately upon her husband's shoulder.
"Dear Victor," she said, "remember that we are in London, and, need
I add, have confidence in me. The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer and I
understand one another, I believe. If we do not it is not my fault.
My presence here at this moment should prove to you how eagerly I
shall look forward to the time when our separation is no longer
She passed away into the inner room with a little farewell gesture
tender and regretful. Mr. Sabin resumed his seat.
"I believe, Prince," he said, "that no good can come of any further
conference between you and me. We understand one another too well.
Might I suggest therefore that you permit me to ring?"
The Prince rose to his feet.
"You are right," he said. "The bandying of words between you and
me is a waste of time. We are both of us too old at the game. But
come, before I go I will do you a good turn. I will prove that I
am in a generous mood."
Mr. Sabin shrugged his shoulders.
"If anything in this world could inspire me with fear," he remarked,
"it would be the generosity of the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer."
The Prince sighed.
"You always misunderstand me," he murmured. "However, I will prove
my words. You spoke of an appeal."
"Certainly," Mr. Sabin answered. "I intend to impeach you for
making use of the powers entrusted to you for your own private ends
- in other words, for making an arbitrary misuse of your position."
The Prince nodded.
"It is very well put," he said. "I shall await the result of your
appeal in fear and trembling. I confess that I am very much afraid.
But, come now, I am going to be generous. I am going to help you
on a little. Do you know to whom your appeal must be made?"
"To the Grand Duke!" Mr. Sabin replied.
The Prince shook his head.
"Ah me!" he said, "how long indeed you have been absent from the
world. The Grand Duke is no longer the head of our little affair.
Shall I tell you who has succeeded him?"
"I can easily find out," Mr. Sabin answered.
"Ah, but I warned you that I was in a generous mood," the Prince
said, with a smile. "I will save you the trouble. With your
permission I will whisper the name in your ear. It is not one which
we mention lightly."
He stepped forward and bent his head for a moment. Afterwards, as
he drew back, the smile upon his lips broadened until he showed all
his teeth. It was a veritable triumph. Mr. Sabin, taken wholly
by surprise, had not been able to conceal his consternation.
"It is not possible," he exclaimed hoarsely. "He would not dare."
But in his heart he knew that the Prince had spoken the truth.
After all," said the Prince, looking up from the wine list, "why
cannot I be satisfied with you? And why cannot you be satisfied
with me? It would save so much trouble."
Lady Carey, who was slowly unwinding the white veil from her picture
hat, shrugged her shoulders.
"My dear man," she said, "you could not seriously expect me to fall
in love with you."
The Prince sipped his wine - a cabinet hock of rare vintage - and
found it good. He leaned over towards his companion.
"Why not?" he asked. "I wish that you would try - in earnest, I
mean. You are capable of great things, I believe - perhaps of the
great passion itself."
"Perhaps," she murmured derisively.
"And yet," he continued, "there has always been in our love-making
a touch of amateurishness. It is an awkward word, but I do not
know how better to explain myself."
"I understand you perfectly," she answered. "I can also, I think,
explain it. It is because I never cared a rap about you."
The Prince did not appear altogether pleased. He curled his fair
moustache, and looked deprecatingly at his companion. She had so
much the air of a woman who has spoken the truth.
"My dear Muriel!" he protested.
She looked at him insolently.
"My good man," she said, "whatever you do don't try and be
sentimental. You know quite well that I have never in my life
pretended to care a rap about you - except to pass the time. You
are altogether too obvious. Very young girls and very old women
would rave about you. You simply don't appeal to me. Perhaps I
know you too well. What does it matter!"
He sighed and examined a sauce critically. They were lunching at
Prince's alone, at a small table near the wall.
"Your taste," he remarked a little spitefully, "would be considered
a trifle strange. Souspennier carries his years well, but he must
be an old man."
She sipped her wine thoughtfully.
"Old or young," she said, "he is a man, and all my life I have
loved men, - strong men. To have him here opposite to me at this
moment, mine, belonging to me, the slave of my will, I would give
- well, I would give - a year of my life - my new tiara - anything!"
"What a pity," he murmured, "that we cannot make an exchange, you
and I, Lucille and he!"
"Ah, Lucille!" she murmured. "Well, she is beautiful. That goes
for much. And she has the grand air. But, heavens, how stupid!"
"Stupid!" he repeated doubtfully.
She drummed nervously upon the tablecloth with her fingers.
"Oh, not stupid in the ordinary way, of course, but yet a fool. I
should like to see man or devil try and separate us if I belonged
to him - until I was tired of him. That would come, of course. It
comes always. It is the hideous part of life."
"You look always," he said, "a little too far forward. It is a
mistake. After all, it is the present only which concerns us."
"Admirable philosophy," she laughed scornfully, "but when one is
bored to death in the present one must look forward or backward for
He continued his lunch in silence for a while.
"I am rebuked!" he said.
There came a pause in the courses. He looked at her critically.
She was very handsomely dressed in a walking costume of dove-coloured
grey. The ostrich feathers which drooped from her large hat were
almost priceless. She had the undeniable air of being a person of
breeding. But she was paler even than usual, her hair,
notwithstanding its careful arrangement, gave signs of being a
little thin in front. There were wrinkles at the corners of her
eyes. She knew these things, but she bore his inspection with
"I wonder," he said reflectively, "what we men see in you. You
have plenty of admirers. They say that Grefton got himself shot
out at the front because you treated him badly. Yet - you are not
much to look at, are you?"
She laughed at him. Hers was never a pleasant laugh, but this time
it was at least natural.
"How discriminating," she declared. "I am an ugly woman, and men
of taste usually prefer ugly women. Then I am always well dressed.
I know how to wear my clothes. And I have a shocking reputation.
A really wicked woman, I once heard pious old Lady Surbiton call me!
Dear old thing! It did me no end of good. Then I have the very
great advantage of never caring for any one more than a few days
together. Men find that annoying."
"You have violent fancies," he remarked, "and strange ones."
"Perhaps," she admitted. "They concern no one except myself."
"This Souspennier craze, for instance!"
"Well, you can't say that I'm not honest. It is positively my only
virtue. I adore the truth. I loathe a lie. That is one reason,
I daresay, why I can only barely tolerate you. You are a shocking
- a gross liar."
"Oh, don't look at me like that," she exclaimed irritably. "You
must hear the truth sometimes. And now, please remember that I
came to lunch with you to hear about your visit this morning."
The Prince gnawed his moustache, and the light in his eyes was not
a pleasant thing to see. This woman with her reckless life, her
odd fascination, her brusque hatred of affectations, was a constant
torment to him. If only he could once get her thoroughly into his
"My visit," he said, "was wholly successful. It could not well be
otherwise. Lucille has returned to Dorset House. Souspennier is
confounded altogether by a little revelation which I ventured to
make. He spoke of an appeal. I let him know with whom he would
have to deal. I left him nerveless and crushed. He can do nothing
save by open revolt. And if he tries that - well, there will be
no more of this wonderful Mr. Sabin."
"Altogether a triumph to you," she remarked scornfully. "Oh, I
know the sort of thing. But, after all, my dear Ferdinand, what of
last night. I hate the woman, but she played the game, and played
it well. We were fooled, both of us. And to think that I - "
She broke off with a short laugh. The Prince looked at her
"Perhaps," he said, "you had some idea of consoling the desolate
"Perhaps I had," she answered coolly. "It didn't come off, did it?
Order me some coffee, and give me a cigarette, my friend. I have
something else to say to you."
He obeyed her, and she leaned back in the high chair.
"Listen to me," she said. "I have nothing whatever to do with you
and Lucille. I suppose you will get your revenge on Souspennier
through her. It won't be like you if you don't try, and you ought
to have the game pretty well in your own hands. But I won't have
Souspennier harmed. You understand?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Souspennier," he said, "must take care. If he oversteps the bounds
he must pay the penalty."
She leaned forward. There was a look in her face which he knew
"You and I understand one another," she said coolly. "If you want
me for an enemy you can have me. Very likely I shall tell you
before long that you can do what you like with the man. But until
I do it will be very dangerous for you if harm comes to him."
"It is no use," he answered doggedly. "If he attacks he must be
"If he attacks," she answered, "you must give me twenty-four hours
clear notice before you move a hand against him. Afterwards - well,
we will discuss that."
"You had better," he said, looking at her with an ugly gleam in his
eyes, "persuade him to take you for a little tour on the Continent.
It would be safer."
"If he would come," she said coolly, "I would go to-morrow. But he
won't - just yet. Never mind. You have heard what I wanted to say.
Now shall we go? I am going to get some sleep this afternoon.
Everybody tells me that I look like a ghost."
"Why not come to Grosvenor Square with me?" he leaning a little
across the table. "Patoff shall make you some Russian tea, and
afterwards you shall sleep as long as you like."
"How idyllic!" she answered, with a faint sarcastic smile. "It
goes to my heart to decline so charming an invitation. But, to
tell you the truth, it would bore me excessively."
He muttered something under his breath which startled the waiter at
his elbow. Then he followed her out of the room. She paused for a
few moments in the portico to finish buttoning her gloves.
"Many thanks for my lunch," she said, nodding to him carelessly.
"I'm sure I've been a delightful companion."
"You have been a very tormenting one," he answered gloomily as he
followed her out on to the pavement.
"You should try Lucille," she suggested maliciously.
He stood by her side while they waited for her carriage, and looked
at her critically. Her slim, elegant figure had never seemed more
attractive to him. Even the insolence of her tone and manner had
an odd sort of fascination. He tried to hold for a moment the
fingers which grasped her skirt.
"I think," he whispered, "that after you Lucille would be dull!"
"That is because Lucille has morals and a conscience," she said,
"and I have neither. But, dear me, how much more comfortably one
gets on without them. No, thank you, Prince. My coupe is only
built for one. Remember."
She flung him a careless nod from the window. The Prince remained
on the pavement until after the little brougham had driven away.
Then he smiled softly to himself as he turned to follow it.
"No!" he said. "I think not! I think that she will not get our
good friend Souspennier. We shall see!"
A barely furnished man's room, comfortable, austere, scholarly.
The refuge of a busy man, to judge by the piles of books and papers
which littered the large open writing-table. There were despatch
boxes turned upside down, a sea of parchment and foolscap. In the
midst of it all a man deep in thought.
A visitor, entering with the freedom of an old acquaintance, laid
his hand upon his shoulder and greeted him with an air of suppressed enthusiasm.
"Planning the campaign, eh, Brott? Or is that a handbook to Court
etiquette? You will need it within the week. There are all sorts
of rumours at the clubs."
Brott shook himself free from his fit of apathetic reflection. He
would not have dared to tell his visitor where his thoughts had
been for the last half hour.
"Somehow," he said, "I do not think that little trip to Windsor
will come just yet. The King will never send for me unless he is
His visitor, an ex-Cabinet Minister, a pronounced Radical and a
lifelong friend of Brott's, shrugged his shoulders.
"That time," he said, "is very close at hand. He will send for
Letheringham first, of course, and great pressure will be brought
to bear upon him to form a ministry. But without you he will be
helpless. He has not the confidence of the people."
"Without me," Brott repeated slowly. "You think then that I should
not accept office with Letheringham?"
His visitor regarded him steadily for a moment, open-mouthed,
obviously taken aback.
"Brott, are you in your right senses?" he asked incredulously. "Do
you know what you are saying?"
Brott laughed a little nervously.
"This is a great issue, Grahame," he said. "I will confess that I
am in an undecided state. I am not sure that the country is in a
sufficiently advanced state for our propaganda. Is this really our
opportunity, or is it only the shadow of what is to come thrown
before? If we show our hand too soon all is lost for this
generation. Don't look at me as though I were insane, Grahame.
Remember that the country is only just free from a long era of
"The better our opportunity," Grahame answered vigorously. "Two
decades of puppet government are enervating, I admit, but they
only pave the way more surely to the inevitable reaction. What is
the matter with you, Brott? Are you ill? This is the great moment
of our lives. You must speak at Manchester and Birmingham within
this week. Glasgow is already preparing for you. Everything and
everybody waits for your judgment. Good God, man, it's magnificent!
Where's your enthusiasm? Within a month you must be Prime Minister,
and we will show the world the way to a new era."
Brott sat quite still. His friend's words had stirred him for the
moment. Yet he seemed the victim of a curious indecision. Grahame
leaned over towards him.
"Brott, old friend," he said, "you are not ill?"
Brott shook his head.
"I am perfectly well," he said.
"It is a delicate thing to mention," he said. "Perhaps I shall
pass even the bounds of our old comradeship. But you have changed.
Something is wrong with you. What is it?"
"There is nothing," Brott answered, looking up. "It is your fancy.
I am well enough."
Grahame's face was dark with anxiety.
"This is no idle curiosity of mine," he said. "You know me better
than that. But the cause which is nearer my heart than life itself
is at stake. Brott, you are the people's man, their promised
redeemer. Think of them, the toilers, the oppressed, God's
children, groaning under the iniquitous laws of generations of evil
statesmanship. It is the dawn of their new day, their faces are
turned to you. Man, can't you hear them crying? You can't fail
them. You mustn't. I don't know what is the matter with you,
Brott, but away with it. Free yourself, man."
Brott sighed wearily, but already there was a change in him. His
face was hardening - the lines in his face deepened. Grahame
continued hastily - eagerly.
"Public men," he said, "are always at the mercy of the halfpenny
press, but you know, Brott, your appearance so often in Society
lately has set men's tongues wagging. There is no harm done, but
it is time to stop them. You are right to want to understand these
people. You must go down amongst them. It has been slumming in
Mayfair for you, I know. But have done with it now. It is these
people we are going to fight. Let it be open war. Let them hear
your programme at Glasgow. We don't want another French Revolution,
but it is going to be war against the drones, fierce, merciless war!
You must break with them, Brott, once and for ever. And the time
Brott held out his hand across the table. No one but this one man
could have read the struggle in his face.
"You are right, Grahame. I thank you. I thank you as much for
what you have left unsaid as for what you have said. I was a fool
to think of compromising. Letheringham is a nerveless leader. We
should have gone pottering on for another seven years. Thank God
that you came when you did. See here!"
He tossed him over a letter. Grahame's cheek paled as he read.
"Already!" he murmured.
Grahame devoured every word. His eyes lit up with excitement.
"My prophecy exactly," he exclaimed, laying it down. "It is as I
said. He cannot form the ministry without you. His letter is
abject. He gives himself away. It is an entreaty. And your
"Has not yet gone," Brott said. "You shall write it yourself if
you like. I am thankful that you came when you did."
"You were hesitating?" Grahame exclaimed.
Grahame looked at him in wonder, and Brott faced him sturdily.
"It seems like treason to you, Grahame!" he said. "So it does to
me now. I want nothing in the future to come between us," he
continued more slowly, "and I should like if I can to expunge the
memory of this interview. And so I am going to tell you the truth."
Grahame held out his hand.
"Don't!" he said. "I can forget without."
I3rott shook his head.
"No," he said. "You had better understand everything. The
halfpenny press told the truth. Yet only half the truth. I have
been to all these places, wasted my time, wasted their time, from
a purely selfish reason - to be near the only woman I have ever
cared for, the woman, Grahame!"
"I knew it," Grahame murmured. "I fought against the belief, I
thought that I had stifled it. But I knew it all the time."
"If I have seemed lukewarm sometimes of late," Brott said, "there
is the cause. She is an aristocrat, and my politics are hateful
to her. She has told me so seriously, playfully, angrily. She
has let me feel it in a hundred ways. She has drawn me into
discussions and shown the utmost horror of my views. I have cared
for her all my life, and she knows it. And I think, Grahame, that
lately she has been trying constantly, persistently, to tone down
my opinions. She has let me understand that they are a bar between
us. And it is a horrible confession, Grahame, but I believe that
I was wavering. This invitation from Letheringham seemed such a
wonderful opportunity for compromise."
"This must never go out of the room," Grahame said hoarsely. "It
would ruin your popularity. They would never trust you again.
"I shall tell no one else," Brott said.
"And it is over?" Grahame demanded eagerly.
"It is over."
* * * * *
The Duke of Dorset, who entertained for his party, gave a great
dinner that night at Dorset House, and towards its close the
Prince of Saxe Leinitzer, who was almost the only non-political
guest, moved up to his host in response to an eager summons. The
Duke was perturbed.
"You have heard the news, Saxe Leinitzer?"
"I did not know of any news," the Prince answered. "What is it?"
"Brott has refused to join with Letheringham in forming a ministry.
It is rumoured even that a coalition was proposed, and that Brott
would have nothing to do with it."
The Prince looked into his wineglass.
"Ah!" he said.
"This is disturbing news," the Duke continued. You do not seem to
appreciate its significance."
The Prince looked up again.
"Perhaps not," he said. "You shall explain to me."
"Brott refuses to compromise," the Duke said. "He stands for a
ministry of his own selection. Heaven only knows what mischief
this may mean. His doctrines are thoroughly revolutionary. He is
an iconoclast with a genius for destruction. But he has the ear of
the people. He is to-day their Rienzi."
The Prince nodded.
"And Lucille?" he remarked. "What does she say?"
"I have not spoken to her," the Duke answered. "The news has only
"We will speak to her," the Prince said, "together."
Afterwards in the library there was a sort of informal meeting, and
their opportunity came.
"So you have failed, Countess," her host said, knitting his grey
brows at her.
She smilingly acknowledged defeat.
"But I can assure you," she said, "that I was very near success.
Only on Monday he had virtually made up his mind to abandon the
extreme party and cast in his lot with Letheringham. What has
happened to change him I do not know."
The Prince curled his fair moustache.
"It is a pity," he said, "that he changed his mind. For one thing
is very certain. The Duke and I are agreed upon it. A Brott
ministry must never be formed."
She looked up quickly.
"What do you mean?"
The Prince answered her without hesitation.
"If one course fails," he said, "another must be adopted. I regret
having to make use of means which are somewhat clumsy and obvious.
But our pronouncement on this one point is final. Brott must not
be allowed to form a ministry."
She looked at him with something like horror in her soft full eyes.
"What would you do?" she murmured.
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
"Well," he said, "we are not quite medieval enough to adopt the
only really sensible method and remove Mr. Brott permanently from
the face of the earth. We should stop a little short of that, but
I can assure you that Mr. Brott's health for the next few months is
a matter for grave uncertainty. It is a pity for his sake that you
She bit her lip.
"Do you know if he is still in London?" she asked.
"He must be on the point of leaving for Scotland," the Duke answered.
"If he once mounts the platform at Glasgow there will be no further
chance of any compromise. He will be committed irretrievably to
his campaign of anarchy."
"And to his own disaster," the Prince murmured.
Lucille remained for a moment deep in thought. Then she looked up.
"If I can find him before he starts," she said hurriedly, "I will
make one last effort."
He peered forward over his desk at the tall graceful figure whose