The Yellow Crayon
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Part 2 out of 6
Mr. Sabin sighed.
"It was very simple," he said. "One day, while one of those
wonderful spies was sleeping on my doormat I slipped away and went
over to Washington, saw the English Ambassador, convinced him of my
bonafides, told him very nearly the whole truth. He promised if I
wired him that I was arrested to take my case up at once. You sent
the despatch, and he kept his word. I breakfasted on Saturday
morning at the Waldorf, and though a great dray was driven into
my carriage on the way to the boat, I escaped, as I always do - and
here I am."
"Unhurt!" Felix remarked with a smile, "as usual!"
Mr. Sabin nodded.
"The driver of my carriage was killed, and Duson had his arm broken,"
he said. "I stepped out of the debris without a scratch. Come into
the Customs House now and get your baggage through. I have taken a
coupe on the special train and ordered lunch."
Before long they were on the way to London. Mr. Sabin, whilst
luncheon was being served, talked only of the lightest matters.
But afterwards, when coffee was served and be had lit a cigarette,
he leaned over towards Felix.
"Felix," he said, "your sister is dear to you?"
"She is the only creature on earth," Felix said, "whom I care for.
She is very dear to me, indeed."
"Am I right," Mr. Sabin asked, "in assuming that the old enmity
between us is dead, that the last few years has wiped away the old
"Yes," Felix answered. "I know that she was happy with you. That
is enough for me."
"You and I," Mr. Sabin continued, "must work out her salvation. Do
not be afraid that I am going to ask you impossibilities. I know
that our ways must lie apart. You can go to her at once. It may
be many, many months before I can catch even a glimpse of her.
Never mind. Let me feel that she has you within the circle, and I
without, with our lives devoted to her."
"You may rely upon that," Felix answered. "Wherever she is I am
going. I shall be there. I will watch over her."
Mr. Sabin sighed.
"The more difficult task is mine," he said, "but I have no fear of
failure. I shall find her surrounded by spies, by those who are
now my enemies. Still, they will find it hard to shake me off. It
may be that they took her from me only out of revenge. If that be
so my task will be easier. If there are other dangers which she is
called upon to face, it is still possible that they might accept my
"You would give it?" Felix exclaimed.
"To the last drop of blood in my body," Mr. Sabin answered. "Save
for my love for her I am a dead man upon the earth. I have no
longer politics or ambition. So the past can easily be expunged.
Those who must be her guiding influence shall be mine.
"You will win her back," Felix said. "I am sure of it."
"I am willing to pay any price on earth," Mr. Sabin answered. "If
they can forget the past I can. I want you to remember this. I
want her to know it. I want them to know it. That is all, Felix."
Mr. Sabin leaned back in his seat. He had left this country last
a stricken and defeated man, left it with the echoes of his ruined
schemes crashing in his ears. He came back to it a man with one
purpose only, and that such a purpose as never before had guided
him - the love of a woman. Was it a sign of age, he wondered, this
return to the humanities? His life had been full of great schemes,
he had wielded often a gigantic influence, more than once he had
made history. And now the love of these things had gone from him.
Their fascination was powerless to quicken by a single beat his
steady pulse. Monarchy or republic - what did he care? It was
Lucille he wanted, the woman who had shown him how sweet even defeat
might be, who had made these three years of his life so happy that
they seemed to have passed in one delightful dream. Were they dead, annihilated, these old
ambitions, the old love of great doings, or
did they only slumber? He moved in his seat uneasily.
At Euston the two men separated with a silent handshake. Mr. Sabin
drove to one of the largest and newest of the modern hotels de luxe.
He entered his name as Mr. Sabin - the old exile's hatred of using
his title in a foreign country had become a confirmed habit with
him - and mingled freely with the crowds who thronged into the
restaurant at night. There were many faces which he remembered,
there were a few who remembered him. He neither courted nor shunned
observation. He sat at dinner-time at a retired table, and found
himself watching the people with a stir of pleasure. Afterwards he
went round to a famous club, of which he had once been made a life
member, but towards midnight he was wearied of the dull decorum of
his surroundings, and returning to the hotel, sought the restaurant
once more. The stream of people coming in to supper was greater
even than at dinner-time. He found a small table, and ordered some
oysters. The sight of this bevy of pleasure-seekers, all apparently
with multitudes of friends, might have engendered a sense of
loneliness in a man of different disposition. To Mr. Sabin his
isolation was a luxury. He had an uninterrupted opportunity of
pursuing his favourite study.
There entered a party towards midnight, to meet whom the head-waiter
himself came hurrying from the further end of the room, and whose
arrival created a little buzz of interest. The woman who formed the
central figure of the little group had for two years known no rival
either at Court or in Society. She was the most beautiful woman in
England, beautiful too with all the subtle grace of her royal descent.
There were women upon the stage whose faces might have borne
comparison with hers, but there was not one who in a room would not
have sunk into insignificance by her side. Her movements, her
carriage were incomparable - the inherited gifts of a race of women
born in palaces.
Mr. Sabin, who neither shunned nor courted observation, watched her
with a grim smile which was not devoid of bitterness. Suddenly she
saw him. With a little cry of wonder she came towards him with
"It is marvelous," she exclaimed. "You? Really you?"
He bowed low over her hands.
"It is I, dear Helene," he answered. "A moment ago I was dreaming.
I thought that I was back once more at Versailles, and in the
presence of my Queen."
She laughed softly.
"There may be no Versailles," she murmured, "but you will be a
courtier to the end of your days."
"At least," he said, "believe me that my congratulations come from
my heart. Your happiness is written in your face, and your husband
must be the proudest man in England."
He was standing now by her side, and he held out his hand to Mr.
"I hope, sir," he said pleasantly, "that you bear me no ill - will."
"It would be madness," Mr. Sabin answered. "To be the most beautiful
peeress in England is perhaps for Helene a happier fate than to be
the first queen of a new dynasty."
"And you, uncle?" Helene said. "You are back from your exile then.
How often I have felt disposed to smile when I thought of you, of
all men, in America.
"I went into exile," Mr. Sabin answered, "and I found paradise. The
three years which have passed since I saw you last have been the
happiest of my life."
"Lucille!" Helene exclaimed.
"Is my wife," Mr. Sabin answered.
"Delightful!" Helene murmured. "She is with you then, I hope.
Indeed, I felt sure that I saw her the other night at the opera."
"At the opera!" Mr. Sabin for a moment was silent. He would have
been ashamed to confess that his heart was beating strongly, that a
crowd of eager questions trembled upon his lips. He recovered
himself after a moment.
"Lucille is not with me for the moment," he said in measured tones.
"I am detaining you from your guests, Helene. If you will permit
me I will call upon you."
"Won't you join us?" Lord Camperdown asked courteously. "We are
only a small party - the Portuguese Ambassador and his wife, the
Duke of Medchester, and Stanley Phillipson."
Mr. Sabin rose at once.
"I shall be delighted," he said.
Lord Camperdown hesitated for a moment.
"I present Monsieur le Due de Souspennier, I presume?" he remarked,
Mr. Sabin bowed.
"I am Mr. Sabin," he said, "at the hotels and places where one
travels. To my friends I have no longer an incognito. It is not
It was a brilliant little supper party, and Mr. Sabin contributed
at least his share to the general entertainment. Before they
dispersed he had to bring out his tablets to make notes of his
engagements. He stood on the top of the steps above the palm-court
to wish them good-bye, leaning on his stick. Helene turned back
and waved her hand.
"He is unchanged," she murmured, "yet I fear that there must be
"Why? He seemed cheerful enough," her husband remarked.
She dropped her voice a little.
"Lucille is in London. She is staying at Dorset House."
Mr. Sabin was deep in thought. He sat in an easy-chair with his
back to the window, his hands crossed upon his stick, his eyes
fixed upon the fire. Duson was moving noiselessly about the room,
cutting the morning's supply of newspapers and setting them out
upon the table. His master was in a mood which he had been taught
to respect. It was Mr. Sabin Who broke the silence.
"I have always, as you know, ignored your somewhat anomalous
position as the servant of one man and the slave of a society.
The questions which I am about to ask you you can answer or not,
according to your own apprehensions of what is due to each."
"I thank your Grace!"
"My departure from America seemed to incite the most violent
opposition on the part of your friends. As you know, it was with
a certain amount of difficulty that I reached this country. Now,
however, I am left altogether alone. I have not received a single
warning letter. My comings and goings, although purposely devoid
of the ~lightest secrecy, are absolutely undisturbed. Yet I have
some reason to believe that your mistress is in London."
"Your Grace will pardon me," Duson said, "but there is outside a
gentleman waiting to see you to whom you might address the same
questions with better results, for compared with him I know nothing.
It is Monsieur Felix."
"Why have you kept him waiting?" Mr. Sabin asked.
"Your Grace was much absorbed," Duson answered.
Felix was smoking a cigarette, and Mr. Sabin greeted him with a
certain grim cordiality.
"Is this permitted - this visit?" he asked, himself selecting a
cigarette and motioning his guest to a chair.
"It is even encouraged," Felix answered.
"You have perhaps some message?"
"I am glad to see you," Mr. Sabin said. "Just now I am a little
puzzled. I will put the matter to you. You shall answer or not,
at your own discretion."
"I am ready," Felix declared.
"You know the difficulty with which I escaped from America," Mr.
Sabin continued. "Every means which ingenuity could suggest seemed
brought to bear against me. And every movement was directed, if not
from here, from some place in Europe. Well, I arrived here four
days ago. I live quite openly, I have even abjured to some extent
my incognito. Yet I have not received even a warning letter. I am
left absolutely undisturbed."
Felix looked at him thoughtfully.
"And what do you deduce from this?" he asked.
"I do not like it," Mr. Sabin answered drily.
"After all," Felix remarked, "it is to some extent natural. The
very openness of your life here makes interference with you more
difficult, and as to warning letters - well, you have proved the
uselessness of them."
"Perhaps," Mr. Sabin answered. "At the same time, if I were a
superstitious person I should consider this inaction ominous."
"You must take account also," Felix said, "of the difference in the
countries. In England the police system, if not the most infallible
in the world, is certainly the most incorruptible. There was never
a country in which security of person and life was so keenly watched
over as here. In America, up to a certain point, a man is expected
to look after himself. The same feeling does not prevail here."
Mr. Sabin assented.
"And therefore," he remarked, "for the purposes of your friends I
should consider this a difficult and unpromising country in which
"Other countries, other methods!" Felix remarked laconically.
"Exactly! It is the new methods which I am anxious to discover,"
Mr. Sabin said. "No glimmering of them as yet has been vouchsafed
to me. Yet I believe that I am right in assuming that for the
moment London is the headquarters of your friends, and that Lucille
"If that is meant for a question," Felix said, "I may not answer it."
Mr. Sabin nodded.
"Yet," he suggested, "your visit has an object. To discover my
plans perhaps! You are welcome to them."
Felix thoughtfully knocked the ashes off his cigarette.
"My visit had an object," he admitted, "but it was a personal one.
I am not actually concerned in the doings of those whom you have
called my friends."
"We are alone," Mr. Sabin reminded him. "My time is yours."
"You and I," Felix said, "have had our periods of bitter enmity.
With your marriage to Lucille these, so far as I am concerned,
ended for ever. I will even admit that in my younger days I was
prejudiced against you. That has passed away. You have been all
your days a bold and unscrupulous schemer, but ends have at any
rate been worthy ones. To-day I am able to regard you with
feelings of friendliness. You are the husband of my dear sister,
and for years I know that you made her very happy. I ask you, will
you believe in this statement of my attitude towards you?"
"I do not for a single moment doubt it," Mr. Sabin answered.
"You will regard the advice which I am going to as disinterested?"
"Then I offer it to you earnestly, and with my whole heart. Take
the next steamer and go back to America."
"And leave Lucille? Go without making any effort to see her?"
Mr. Sabin was for a moment very serious indeed. The advice given
in such a manner was full of forebodings to him. The lines from
the corners of his mouth seemed graven into his face.
"Felix," he said slowly, "I am sometimes conscious of the fact that
I am passing into that period of life which we call old age. My
ambitions are dead, my energies are weakened. For many years I have
toiled - the time has come for rest. Of all the great passions
which I have felt there remains but one - Lucille. Life without her
is worth nothing to me. I am weary of solitude, I am weary of
everything except Lucille. How then can I listen to such advice?
For me it must be Lucille, or that little journey into the mists,
from which one does not return."
Felix was silent. The pathos of this thing touched him.
"I will not dispute the right of those who have taken her from me,"
Mr. Sabin continued, "but I want her back. She is necessary to me.
My purse, my life, my brains are there to be thrown into the scales.
I will buy her, or fight for her, or rejoin their ranks myself. But
I want her back."
Still Felix was silent. He was looking steadfastly into the fire.
"You have heard me," Mr. Sabin said.
"I have heard you," Felix answered. "My advice stands,"
"I know now," Mr. Sabin said, "that I have a hard task before me.
They shall have me for a friend or an enemy. I can still make
myself felt as either. You have nothing more to say?"
"Then let us part company," Mr. Sabin said, "or talk of something
more cheerful. You depress me, Felix. Let Duson bring us wine.
You look like a death's head."
Felix roused himself.
"You will go your own way," he said. "Now that you have chosen I
will tell you this. I am glad. Yes, let Duson bring wine. I will
drink to your health and to your success. There have been times
when men have performed miracles. I shall drink to that miracle."
Duson brought also a letter, which Mr. Sabin, with a nod towards
Felix, opened. It was from Helene.
"15 Park Lane, London,
"My DEAR UNCLE, -
"I want you to come to luncheon to-day. The Princess de Catelan is
here, and I am expecting also Mr. Brott, the Home Secretary - our
one great politician, you know. Many people say that he is the
most interesting man in England, and must be our next Prime Minister.
Such people interest you, I know. Do come.
Mr. Sabin repeated the name to himself as he stood for a moment with
the letter in his hand.
"Brott! What a name for a statesman! Well, here is your health,
Felix. I do not often drink wine in the morning, but - "
He broke off in the middle of his sentence. The glass which Felix
had been in the act of raising to his lips lay shattered upon the
floor, and a little stream of wine trickled across the carpet.
Felix himself seemed scarcely conscious of the disaster. His cheeks
were white, and he leaned across the table towards Mr. Sabin.
"What name did you say - what name?"
Mr. Sabin referred again to the letter which he held in his hand.
"Brott!" he repeated. "He is Home Secretary, I believe."
"What do you know about him?"
"Nothing," Mr. Sabin answered. "My niece, the Countess of
Camperdown, asks me to meet him to-day at luncheon. Explain
yourself, my young friend. There is a fresh glass by your side."
Felix poured himself out a glass and drank it off. But he remained
Felix picked up his gloves and stick.
"You are asked to meet Mr. Brott at luncheon to-day?"
"Are you going?"
"Very good," he said. "I should advise you to cultivate his
acquaintance. He is a very extraordinary man."
"Come, Felix," Mr. Sabin said. "You owe me something more lucid in
the way of explanations. Who is be?"
"A statesman - successful, ambitious. He expects to be Prime
"And what have I to do with him, or he with me?" Mr. Sabin asked
Felix shook his head.
"I cannot tell you," he said. "Yet I fancy that you and he may
some time be drawn together."
Mr. Sabin asked no more questions, but he promptly sat down and
accepted his niece's invitation. When he looked round Felix had
gone. He rang the bell for Duson and handed him the note.
"My town clothes, Duson," he ordered. "I am lunching out."
The man bowed and withdrew. Mr. Sabin remained for a few moments
in deep thought.
"Brott!" he repeated. "Brott! It is a singular name.
So this was the man! Mr. Sabin did not neglect his luncheon, nor
was he ever for a moment unmindful of the grey-headed princess who
chatted away by his side with all the vivacity of her race and sex.
But he watched Mr. Brott.
A man this! Mr. Sabin was a judge, and he appraised him rightly.
He saw through that courteous geniality of tone and gesture; the
ready-made smile, although it seemed natural enough, did not
deceive him. Underneath was a man of iron, square-jawed, nervous,
forceful. Mr. Brott was probably at that time the ablest
politician of either party in the country. Mr. Sabin knew it.
He found himself wondering exactly at what point of their lives
this man and he would come into contact.
After luncheon Helene brought them together.
"I believe," she said to Mr. Brott, "that you have never met my
UNCLE. May I make you formally acquainted? UNCLE, this is Mr.
Brott, whom you must know a great deal about even though you have
been away for so long - the Duc
The two men bowed and Helene passed on. Mr. Sabin leaned upon his
stick and watched keenly for any sign in the other's face. If he
expected to find it he was disappointed. Either this man had no
knowledge of who he was, or those things which were to come between
them were as yet unborn.
They strolled together after the other guests into the winter
gardens, which were the envy of every hostess in London. Mr. Sabin
lit a cigarette, Mr. Brott regretfully declined. He neither smoked
nor drank wine. Yet he was disposed to be friendly, and selected
a seat where they were a little apart from the other guests.
"You at least," he remarked, in answer to an observation of Mr.
Sabin's, "are free from the tyranny of politics. I am assuming, of
course, that your country under its present form of government has
lost its hold upon you."
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"It is a doubtful boon," he said. "It is true that I am practically
an exile. Republican France has no need of me. Had I been a
soldier I could still have remained a patriot. But for one whose
leanings were towards politics, neither my father before me nor I
could be of service to our country. You should be thankful," he
continued with a slight smile, "that you are an Englishman. No
constitution in the world can offer so much to the politician who
is strong enough and fearless enough."
Mr. Brott glanced towards his twinkling eyes.
"Do you happen to know what my politics are?" he asked.
Mr. Sabin hesitated.
"Your views, I know, are advanced," he said. "For the rest I have
been abroad for years. I have lost touch a little with affairs in
"I am afraid," Mr. Brott said, "that I shall shock you. You are
an aristocrat of the aristocrats, I a democrat of the democrats.
The people are the only masters whom I own. They first sent me to
"Yet," Mr. Sabin remarked, "you are, I understand, in the Cabinet."
Mr. Brott glanced for a moment around. The Prime Minister was
somewhere in the winter gardens.
"That," he declared, "is an accident. I happened to be the only
man available who could do the work when Lord Kilbrooke died. I
am telling you only what is an open secret. But I am afraid I am
boring you. Shall we join the others?"
"Not unless you yourself are anxious to," Mr. Sabin begged. "It
is scarcely fair to detain you talking to an old man when there
are so many charming women here. But I should be sorry for you
to think me hidebound in my prejudices. You must remember that
the Revolution decimated my family. It was a long time ago, but
the horror of it is still a live thing."
"Yet it was the natural outcome," Mr. Brott said, "of the things
which went before. Such hideous misgovernment as generations of
your countrymen had suffered was logically bound to bring its own
"There is truth in what you say," Mr. Sabin admitted. He did not
want to talk about the French Revolution.
"You are a stranger in London, are you not?" Mr. Brott asked.
"I feel myself one," Mr. Sabin answered. "I have been away for a
few years, and I do not think that there is a city in the world
where social changes are so rapid. I should perhaps except the
cities of the country from which I have come. But then America
is a universe of itself."
For an instant Mr. Brott gave signs of the man underneath. The air
of polite interest had left his face. He glanced swiftly and keenly
at his companion. Mr. Sabin's expression was immutable. It was
he who scored, for he marked the change, whilst Mr. Brott could not
be sure whether he had noticed it or not.
"You have been living in America, then?"
"For several years - yes."
"It is a country," Mr. Brott said, "which I am particularly anxious
to visit. I see my chances, however, grow fewer and fewer as the
years go by."
"For one like yourself," Mr. Sabin said, "whose instincts and
sympathies are wholly with the democracy, a few months in America
would be very well spent."
"And you," Mr. Brott remarked, "how did you get on with the people?"
Mr. Sabin traced a pattern with his stick upon the marble floor.
"I lived in the country," he said, "I played golf and read and
"Were you anywhere near New York?" Mr. Brott asked.
"A few hours' journey only," Mr. Sabin answered. "My home was in
a very picturesque part, near Lenox."
Mr. Brott leaned a little forward.
"You perhaps know then a lady who spent some time in that
neighbourhood - a Mrs. James Peterson. Her husband was, I believe,
the American consul in Vienna.
Mr. Sabin smiled very faintly. His face betrayed no more than a
natural and polite interest. There was nothing to indicate the
fact that his heart was beating like the heart of a young man, that
the blood was rushing hot through his veins.
"Yes," he said, "I know her very well. Is she in London?"
Mr. Brott hesitated. He seemed a little uncertain how to continue.
"To tell you the truth," he said, "I believe that she has reasons
for desiring her present whereabouts to remain unknown. I should
perhaps not have mentioned her name at all. It was, I fancy,
indiscreet of me. The coincidence of hearing you mention the name
of the place where I believe she resided surprised my question.
With your permission we will abandon the subject."
"You disappoint me," Mr. Sabin said quietly. "It would have given
me much pleasure to have resumed my acquaintance with the lady in
"You will, without doubt, have an opportunity," Mr. Brott said,
glancing at his watch and suddenly rising. "Dear me, how the time
He rose to his feet. Mr. Sabin also rose.
"Must I understand," he said in a low tone, "that you are not at
liberty to give me Mrs. Peterson's address?"
"I am not at liberty even," Mr. Brott answered, with a frown, "to
mention her name. It will give me great pleasure, Duke, to better
my acquaintance with you. Will you dine with me at the House of
Commons one night next week?"
"I shall be charmed," Mr. Sabin answered. "My address for the next
few days is at the Carlton. I am staying there under my family
name of Sabin - Mr. Sabin. It is a fancy of mine - it has been ever
since I became an alien - to use my title as little as possible."
Mr. Brott looked for a moment puzzled.
"Your pseudonym," he remarked thoughtfully, "seems very familiar
Mr. Sabin shrugged his shoulders.
"It is a family name," he remarked, "but I flattered myself that it
was at least uncommon."
"Fancy, no doubt," Mr. Brott remarked, turning to make his adieux
to his hostess.
Mr. Sabin joined a fresh group of idlers under the palms. Mr.
Brott lingered over his farewells.
"Your UNCLE, Lady Camperdown," he said, "is delightful. I enjoy
meeting new types, and he represents to me most perfectly the old
order of French aristocracy."
"I am glad," Helene said, "that you found him interesting. I felt
sure you would. In fact, I asked him especially to meet you."
"You are the most thoughtful of hostesses," he assured her. "By
the bye, your UNCLE has just told me the name by which he is known
at the hotel. Mr. Sabin! Sabin! It recalls something to my mind.
I cannot exactly remember what."
She smiled upon him. People generally forgot things when Helene
"It is an odd fancy of his to like his title so little," she
remarked. "At heart no one is prouder of their family and
antecedents. I have heard him say, though, that an exile had
better leave behind him even his name."
"Sabin!" Mr. Brott repeated. "Sabin!"
"It is an old family name," she murmured.
His face suddenly cleared. She knew that he had remembered. But
he took his leave with no further reference to it.
"Sabin!" he repeated to himself when alone in his carriage. "That
was the name of the man who was supposed to be selling plans to the
German Government. Poor Renshaw was in a terrible stew about it.
Sabin! An uncommon name."
He had ordered the coachman to drive to the House of Commons.
Suddenly he pulled the check-string.
"Call at Dorset House," he directed.
* * * * *
Mr. Sabin lingered till nearly the last of the guests had gone.
Then he led Helene once more into the winter gardens.
"May I detain you for one moment's gossip?" he asked. "I see your
carriage at the door."
"It is nothing," she declared. "I must drive in the Park for an
hour. One sees one's friends, and it is cool and refreshing after
these heated rooms. But at any time. Talk to me as long as you
will, and then I will drop you at the Carlton."
"It is of Brott!" he remarked. "Ah, I thank you, I will smoke.
Your husband's taste in cigarettes is excellent."
"Perhaps mine!" she laughed.
Mr. Sabin shrugged his shoulders.
"In either case I congratulate you. This man Brott. He interests
"He interests every one. Why not? He is a great personality."
"Politically," Mr. Sabin said, "the gauge of his success is of
course the measure of the man. But he himself - what manner of a
man is he?"
She tapped with her fingers upon the little table by their side.
"He is rich," she said, "and an uncommon mixture of the student
and the man of society. He refuses many more invitations than he
accepts, he entertains very seldom but very magnificently. He has
never been known to pay marked attentions to any woman, even the
scandal of the clubs has passed him by. What else can I say about
him, I wonder?" she continued reflectively. "Nothing, I think,
except this. He is a strong man. You know that that counts for
Mr. Sabin was silent. Perhaps he was measuring his strength in some
imagined encounter with this man. Something in his face alarmed
Helene. She suddenly leaned forward and looked at him more closely.
"UNCLE," she exclaimed in a low voice, "there is something on your
mind. Do not tell me that once more you are in the maze, that
again you have schemes against this country."
He smiled at her sadly enough, but she was reassured.
"You need have no fear," he told her. "With politics - I have
finished. Why I am here, what I am here for I will tell you very
soon. It is to find one whom I have lost - and who is dear to me.
Forgive me if for to-day I say no more. Come, if you will you shall
drive me to my hotel."
He offered his arm with the courtly grace which he knew so well how
to assume. Together they passed out to her carriage.
After all," Lady Carey sighed, throwing down a racing calendar
and lighting a cigarette, "London is the only thoroughly civilized
Anglo-Saxon capital in the world. Please don't look at me like
that, Duchess. I know - this is your holy of holies, but the Duke
smokes here - I've seen him. My cigarettes are very tiny and very
The Duchess, who wore gold-rimmed spectacles, and was a person of
weight in the councils of the Primrose League, went calmly on with
"My dear Muriel," she said, "if my approval or disapproval was of
the slightest moment to you, it is not your smoking of which I
should first complain. I know, however, that you consider yourself
a privileged person. Pray do exactly as you like, but don't drop
the ashes upon the carpet."
Lady Carey laughed softly.
"I suppose I am rather a thorn in your side as a relative," she
remarked. "You must put it down to the roving blood of my ancestors.
I could no more live the life of you other women than I could fly.
I must have excitement, movement, all the time."
A tall, heavily built man, who had been reading some letters at the
other end of the room, came sauntering up to them.
"Well," he said, "you assuredly live up to your principles, for you
travel all over the world as though it were one vast playground."
"And sometimes," she remarked, "my journeys are not exactly
successful. I know that that is what you are dying to say."
"On the contrary," he said, "I do not blame you at all for this last
affair. You brought Lucille here, which was excellent. Your
failure as regards Mr. Sabin is scarcely to be fastened upon you.
It is Horser whom we hold responsible for that."
"Poor Horser! It was rather rough to pit a creature like that
The man shrugged his shoulders.
"Horser," he said, "may not be brilliant, but he had a great
organisation at his back. Souspennier was without friends or
influence. The contest should scarcely have been so one-sided. To
tell you the truth, my dear Muriel, I am more surprised that you
yourself should have found the task beyond you."
Lady Carey's face darkened.
"It was too soon after the loss of Lucille," she said, "and besides,
there was his vanity to be reckoned with. It was like a challenge
to him, and he had taken up the glove before I returned to New York."
The Duchess looked up from her work.
"Have you had any conversation with my husband, Prince?" she asked.
The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer twirled his heavy moustache and sank
into a chair between the two women.
"I have had a long talk with him," he announced. "And the result?"
the Duchess asked.
"The result I fear you would scarcely consider satisfactory," the
Prince declared. "The moment that I hinted at the existence of
- er - conditions of which you, Duchess, are aware, he showed alarm,
and I had all that I could do to reassure him. I find it everywhere
amongst your aristocracy - this stubborn confidence in the existence
of the reigning order of things, this absolute detestation of
anything approaching intrigue."
"My dear man, I hope you don't include me," Lady Carey exclaimed.
"You, Lady Muriel," he answered, with a slow smile, "are an
exception to all rules. No, you are a rule by yourself."
"To revert to the subject then for a moment," the Duchess said
stiffly. "You have made no progress with the Duke?"
"None whatever," Saxe Leinitzer admitted. "He was sufficiently
emphatic to inspire me with every caution. Even now I have doubts
as to whether I have altogether reassured him. I really believe,
dear Duchess, that we should be better off if you could persuade
him to go and live upon his estates."
The Duchess smiled grimly.
"Whilst the House of Lords exists," she remarked, "you will never
succeed in keeping Algernon away from London. He is always on the
point of making a speech, although he never does it."
"I have heard of that speech," Lady Carey drawled, from her low
seat. "It is to be a thoroughly enlightening affair. All the
great social questions are to be permanently disposed of. The
Prime Minister will come on his knees and beg Algernon to take his
The Duchess looked up over her knitting.,
"Algernon is at least in earnest," she remarked drily. "And he
has the good conscience of a clean living and honest man."
"What an unpleasant possession it must be," Lady Carey remarked
sweetly. "I disposed of my conscience finally many years ago. I
am not sure, but I believe that it was the Prince to whom I
entrusted the burying of it. By the bye, Lucille will be here
directly, I suppose. Is she to be told of Souspennier's arrival
"I imagine," the Prince said, with knitted brows, "that it will not
be wise to keep it from her. It is impossible to conceal her
whereabouts, and the papers will very shortly acquaint her with his."
"And," Lady Carey asked, "how does the little affair progress?"
"Admirably," the Prince answered. "Already some of the Society
papers are beginning to chatter about the friendship existing
between a Cabinet Minister and a beautiful Hungarian lady of title,
etc., etc. The fact of it is that Brott is in deadly earnest. He
gives himself away every time. If Lucille has not lost old
cleverness she will be able to twist him presently around her little
"If only some one would twist him on the rack," the Duchess
murmured vindictively. "I tried to read one of his speeches the other
day. It was nothing more nor less than blasphemy. I do not think that I
am naturally a cruel woman, but I would hand such men over to the
public executioner with joy."
Lucille came in, as beautiful as ever, but with tired lines under
her full dark eyes. She sank into a low chair with listless grace.
"Reginald Brott again, I suppose," she remarked curtly. "I wish
the man had never existed."
"That is a very cruel speech, Lucille," the Prince said, with a
languishing glance towards her, "for if it had not been for Brott
we should never have dared to call you out from your seclusion."
"Then more heartily than ever," Lucille declared, "I wish the man
had never been born. You cannot possibly flatter yourself, Prince,
that your summons was a welcome one."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"I shall never, be able to believe," he said, "that the Countess
Radantz was able to do more than support existence in a small
American town - without society, with no scope for her ambitions,
detached altogether from the whole civilized world."
"'Which only goes to prove, Prince," Lucille remarked contemptuously,
"that you do not understand me in the least. As a place of residence
Lenox would compare very favourably with - say Homburg, and for
companionship you forget my husband. I never met the woman yet who
did not prefer the company of one man, if only it were the right one,
to the cosmopolitan throng we call society."
"It sounds idyllic, but very gauche," Lady Carey remarked drily.
"In effect it is rather a blow on the cheek for you, Prince. Of
course you know that the Prince is in love with you, Lucille?"
"I wish he were," she answered, looking lazily out of the window.
He bent over her.
"I would persuade him to send me home again," she answered coldly.
The Duchess looked up from her knitting. "Your husband has saved
you the journey," she remarked, "even if you were able to work upon
the Prince's good nature to such an extent."
Lucille started round eagerly.
"What do you mean?" she cried.
"Your husband is in London," the Duchess answered.
Lucille laughed with the gaiety of a child. Like magic the lines
from beneath her eyes seemed to have vanished. Lady Carey watched
her with pale cheeks and malevolent expression.
"Come, Prince," she cried mockingly, "it was only a week ago that
you assured me that my husband could not leave America. Already
he is in London. I must go to see him. Oh, I insist upon it."
Saxe Leinitzer glanced towards the Duchess. She laid down her
"My dear Countess," she said firmly, "I beg that you will listen
to me carefully. I speak to you for your own good, and I believe
I may add, Prince, that I speak with authority."
"With authority!" the Prince echoed.
"We all," the Duchess continued, "look upon your husband's arrival
as inopportune and unfortunate. We are all agreed that you must
be kept apart. Certain obligations have been laid upon you. You
could not possibly fulfil them with a husband at your elbow. The
matter will be put plainly before your husband, as I am now putting
it before you. He will be warned not to attempt to see or
communicate with you as your husband. If he or you disobey the
consequences will be serious."
Lucille shrugged her shoulders.
"It is easy to talk," she said, "but you will not find it easy to
keep Victor away when he has found out where I am."
The Prince intervened.
"We have no objection to your meeting," he said, "but it must be
as acquaintances. There must be no intermission or slackening in
your task, and that can only be properly carried out by the Countess
Radantz and from Dorset House."
Lucille smothered her disappointment.
"Dear me," she said. "You will find Victor a little hard to
There was a moment's silence. Then the Prince spoke slowly, and
watching carefully the effect of his words upon Lucille.
"Countess," he said, "it has been our pleasure to make of your
task so far as possible a holiday. Yet perhaps it is wiser to
remind you that underneath the glove is an iron hand. We do not
often threaten, but we brook no interference. We have the means
to thwart it. I bear no ill-will to your husband, but to you I
say this. If he should be so mad as to defy us, to incite you to
disobedience, he must pay the penalty."
A servant entered.
"Mr. Reginald Brott is in the small drawing-room, your Grace," he
announced. "He enquired for the Countess Radantz."
Lucille rose. When the servant had disappeared she turned round
for a moment, and faced the Prince. A spot of colour burned in her
cheeks, her eyes were bright with anger.
"I shall remember your words, Prince," she said. "So far from mine
being, however, a holiday task, it is one of the most wearisome and
unpleasant I ever undertook. And in return for your warnings let
me tell you this. If you should bring any harm upon my husband you
shall answer for it all your days to me. I will do my duty. Be
careful that you do not exceed yours."
She swept out of the room. Lady Carey laughed mockingly at the
"Poor Ferdinand!" she exclaimed.
He had been kept waiting longer than usual, and he had somehow the
feeling that his visit was ill-timed, when at last she came to him.
He looked up eagerly as she entered the little reception room which
he had grown to know so well during the last few weeks, and it
struck him for the first time that her welcome was a little forced,
her eyes a little weary.
"I haven't," he said apologetically, "the least right to be here."
"At least," she murmured, "I may be permitted to remind you that
you are here without an invitation."
"The worse luck," he said, "that one should be necessary."
"This is the one hour of the day," she remarked, sinking into a
large easy-chair, "which I devote to repose. How shall I preserve
my fleeting youth if you break in upon it in this ruthless manner?"
"If I could only truthfully say that I was sorry," he answered,
"but I can't. I am here - and I would rather be here than anywhere
else in the world."
She looked at him with curving lips; and even he, who had watched
her often, could not tell whether that curve was of scorn or mirth.
"They told me," she said impressively, "that you were different - a
woman-hater, honest, gruff, a little cynical. Yet those are the
speeches of your salad days. What a disenchantment!"
"The things which one invents when one is young," he said, "come
perhaps fresh from the heart in later life. The words may sound
the same, but there is a difference."
"Come," she said, "you are improving. That at any rate is ingenious.
Suppose you tell me now what has brought you here before four
o'clock, when I am not fit to be seen?"
He smiled. She shrugged her shoulders.
"I mean it. I haven't either my clothes or my manners on yet.
"I met a man who interested me," he answered. "He comes from
America, from Lenox!"
He saw her whiten. He saw her fingers clutch the sides of her
"From Lenox? And his name?"
"The Duke of Souspennier! He takes himself so seriously that he
even travels incognito. At the hotel he calls himself Mr. Sabin."
"I wondered whether you might not know him?"
"Yes, I know him."
"And in connection with this man," Brott continued, "I have
something in the nature of a confession to make. I forgot for
a moment your request. I even mentioned your name."
The pallor had spread to her cheeks, even to her lips. Yet her
eyes were soft and brilliant, so brilliant that they fascinated him.
"What did he say? What did he ask?"
"He asked for your address. Don't be afraid. I made some excuse.
I did not give it."
For the life of him he could not tell whether she was pleased or
disappointed. She had turned her shoulder to him. She was looking
steadily out of the window, and he could not see her face.
"Why are you curious about him?" she asked.
"I wish I knew. I think only because he came from Lenox."
She turned her face slowly round towards him. He was astonished to
see the dark rings under her eyes, the weariness of her smile.
"The Duke of Souspennier," she said slowly, "is an old and a dear
friend of mine. When you tell me that he is in London I am anxious
because there are many here who are not his friends - who have no
cause to love him."
"I was wrong then," he said, "not to give him your address."
"You were right," she answered. "I am anxious that he should not
know it. You will remember this?" He rose and bowed over her hand.
"This has been a selfish interlude," he said. "I have destroyed
your rest, and I almost fear that I have also disturbed your peace
of mind. Let me take my leave and pray that you may recover both."
She shook her head.
"Do not leave me," she said. "I am low-spirited. You shall stay
and cheer me
There was a light in his eyes which few people would have recognised.
She rose with a little laugh and stood leaning towards the fire, her
elbow upon the broad mantel, tall, graceful, alluring. Her soft
crimson gown, with its wealth of old lace, fell around her in lines
and curves full of grace. The pallor of her face was gone now - the
warmth of the fire burned her cheeks. Her voice became softer.
"Sit down and talk to me," she murmured. "Do you remember the old
days, when you were a very timid young secretary of Sir George
Nomsom, and I was a maid-of-honour at the Viennese Court? Dear
me, how you have changed!"
"Time," he said, "will not stand still for all of us. Yet my memory
tells me how possible it would be - for indeed those days seem but
He looked up at her with a sudden jealousy. His tone shook with
passion. No one would have recognised Brott now. In his fiercest
hour of debate, his hour of greatest trial, he had worn his mask,
always master of himself and his speech. And now he had cast it
off. His eyes were hungry, his lips twitched.
"As yesterday! Lucille, I could kill you when I think of those
days. For twenty years your kiss has lain upon my lips - and you
- with you - it has been different."
She laughed softly upon him, laughed more with her eyes than with
her lips. She watched him curiously.
"Dear me!" she murmured, "what would you have? I am a woman - I
have been a woman all my days, and the memory of one kiss grows cold.
So I will admit that with me - it has been different. Come! What
"I wonder," he said, "what miserable fate, what cursed stroke of
fortune brought you once more into my life?"
She threw her head back and laughed at him, this time heartily,
"What adorable candour!" she exclaimed. "My dear friend, how
amiable you are."
He looked at her steadfastly, and somehow the laugh died away from
"Lucille, will you marry me?"
"Marry you? I? Certainly not."
"And why not?"
"For a score of reasons, if you want them," she answered. "First,
because I think it is delightful to have you for a friend. I can
never quite tell what you are going to do or say. As a husband I
am almost sure that you would be monotonous. But then, how could
you avoid it? It is madness to think of destroying a pleasant
friendship in such a manner."
"You are mocking me," he said sadly.
"Well," she said, "why not? Your own proposal is a mockery.
"A mockery! My proposal!"
"Yes," she answered steadily. "You know quite well that the very
thought of such a thing between you and me is an absurdity. I
abhor your politics, I detest your party. You are ambitious, I
know. You intend to be Prime Minister, a people's Prime Minister.
Well, for my part, I hate the people. I am an aristocrat. As
your wife I should be in a perfectly ridiculous position. How
foolish! You have led me into talking of this thing seriously.
Let us forget all this rubbish."
He stood before her - waiting patiently, his mouth close set, his
manner dogged with purpose.
"It is not rubbish," he said. "It is true that I shall be Prime
Minister. It is true also that you will be my wife."
She shrank back from him - uneasily. The fire in his eyes, the
ring in his tone distressed her.
"As for my politics, you do not understand them. But you shall! I
will convert you to my way of thinking. Yes, I will do that. The
cause of the people, of freedom, is the one great impulse which
beats through all the world. You too shall hear it."
"Thank you," she said. "I have no wish to hear it. I do not believe
in what you call freedom for the people. I have discovered in
America how uncomfortable a people's country can he."
"Yet you married an American. You call yourself still the Countess
Radantz ... but you married Mr. James B. Peterson!"
"It is true, my friend," she answered. "But the American in
question was a person of culture and intelligence, and at heart he
was no more a democrat than I am. Further, I am an extravagant
woman, and he was a millionaire."
"And you, after his death, without necessity - went to bury yourself
in his country."
"I am jealous of every year of your life which lies hidden from me,"
he said slowly.
"Dear me - how uncomfortable!"
"Before you - reappeared," he said, "I had learnt, yes I had learnt
to do without you. I had sealed up the one chapter of my life
which had in it anything to do with sentiment. Your coming has
altered all that. You have disturbed the focus of my ambitions.
Lucille! I have loved you for more than half a lifetime. Isn't it
time I had my reward?"
He took a quick step towards her. In his tone was the ring of
mastery, the light in his eyes was compelling. She shrank back,
but he seized one of her hands. It lay between his, a cold dead
"What have my politics to do with it?" he asked fiercely. "You are
not an Englishwoman. Be content that I shall set you far above
these gods of my later life. There is my work to be done, and I
shall do it. Let me be judge of these things. Believe me that it
is a great work. If you are ambitious - give your ambitions into
my keeping, and I will gratify them. Only I cannot bear this
suspense-these changing moods. Marry me-now at once, or send me
back to the old life."
She drew her fingers away, and sank down into her easy-chair. Her
head was buried in her hands. Was she thinking or weeping? He
could not decide. While he hesitated she looked up, and he saw
that there was no trace of tears upon her face.
"You are too masterful," she said gently. "I will not marry you.
I will not give myself body and soul to any man. Yet that is what
you ask. I am not a girl. My opinions are as dear to me in their
way as yours are to you. You want me to close my eyes while you
drop sugar plums into my mouth. That is not my idea of life. I
think that you had better go away. Let us forget these things."
"Very well," he answered. "It shall be as you say." He did not
wait for her to ring, nor did he attempt any sort of farewell. He
simply took up his hat, and before she could realise his intention
he had left the room. Lucille sat quite still, looking into the
"If only," she murmured, "if only this were the end."
Duson entered the sitting-room, noiseless as ever, with pale,
passionless face, the absolute prototype of the perfect French
servant, to whom any expression of vigorous life seems to savour of presumption. He carried a
small silver salver, on which reposed a
"The gentleman is in the ante-room, sir," he announced.
Mr. Sabin took up the card and studied it.
"Lord Robert Foulkes."
"Do I know this gentleman, Duson?" Mr. Sabin asked.
"Not to my knowledge, sir," the man answered.
"You must show him in," Mr. Sabin said, with a sigh. "In this
country one must never be rude to a lord."
Duson obeyed. Lord Robert Foulkes was a small young man, very
carefully groomed, nondescript in appearance. He smiled
pleasantly at Mr. Sabin and drew off his gloves.
"How do you do, Mr. Sabin?" he said. "Don't remember me, I daresay.
Met you once or twice last time you were in London. I wish I could
say that I was glad to see you here again."
Mr. Sabin's forehead lost its wrinkle. He knew where he was now.
"Sit down, Lord Robert," he begged. "I do not remember you, it is
true, but I am getting an old man. My memory sometimes plays me
The young man looked at Mr. Sabin and laughed softly. Indeed,
Mr. Sabin had very little the appearance of an old man. He was
leaning with both hands clasped upon his stick, his face alert,
his eyes bright and searching.
"You carry your years well, Mr. Sabin. Yet while we are on the
subject, do you know that London is the unhealthiest city in the
"I am always remarkably well here," Mr. Sabin said drily.
"London has changed since your last visit," Lord Robert said, with
a gentle smile. "Believe me if I say - as your sincere well-wisher
- that there is something in the air at present positively
unwholesome to you. I am not sure that unwholesome is not too weak
"Is this official?" Mr. Sabin asked quietly.
The young man fingered the gold chain which disappeared in his
"Need I introduce myself?" he asked.
"Quite unnecessary," Mr. Sabin assured him. "Permit me to reflect
for a few minutes. Your visit comes upon me as a surprise. Will
you smoke? There are cigarettes at your elbow."
"I am entirely at your service," Lord Robert answered. "Thanks, I
will try one of your cigarettes. You were always famous for your
There was a short silence. Mr. Sabin had seldom found it more
difficult to see the way before him.
"I imagined," he said at last, "from several little incidents which
occurred previous to my leaving New York that my presence here was
regarded as superfluous. Do you know, I believe that I could
convince you to the contrary."
Lord Robert raised his eyebrows.
"Mr. dear Mr. Sabin," he said, "pray reflect. I am a messenger.
No more! A hired commissionaire!"
Mr. Sabin bowed.
"You are an ambassador!" he said.
The young man shook his head.
"You magnify my position," he declared. "My errand is done when I
remind you that it is many years since you visited Paris, that
Vienna is as fascinating a city as ever, and Pesth a few hours
journey beyond. But London - no, London is not possible for you.
After the seventh day from this London would be worse than
Mr. Sabin smoked thoughtfully for a few moments.
"Lord Robert," he said, "I have, I believe, the right of a personal
appeal. I desire to make it."
Lord Robert looked positively distressed.
"My dear sir," he said, "the right of appeal, any right of any
sort, belongs only to those within the circle."
"Exactly," Mr. Sabin agreed. "I claim to belong there."
Lord Roberts shrugged his shoulders.
"You force me to remind you," he said, "of a certain decree - a
decree of expulsion passed five years ago, and of which I presume
due notification was given to you."
Mr. Sabin shook his head very slowly.
"I deny the legality of that decree," he said. "There can be no
such thing as expulsion."
"There was Lefanu," Lord Robert murmured.
"He died," Mr. Sabin answered. "That was reasonable enough."
"Your services had been great," Lord Robert said, "and your fault
was but venial."
"Nevertheless," Mr. Sabin said, "the one was logical, the other is
"You claim, then," the young man said, "to be still within the
"You are aware that this is a very dangerous claim?"
Mr. Sabin smiled, but he said nothing. Lord Robert hastened to
"I beg your pardon," he said. "I should have known better than
to have used such a word to you. Permit me to take my leave."
Mr. Sabin rose.
"I thank you, sir," he said, "for the courteous manner in which you
have discharged your mission."
Lord Robert bowed.
"My good wishes," he said, "are yours."
Mr. Sabin when alone called Duson to him.
"Have you any report to make, Duson?" he asked.
Mr. Sabin dismissed him impatiently.
"After all, I am getting old. He is young and he is strong - a
worthy antagonist. Come, let us see what this little volume has
to say about him."
He turned over the pages rapidly and read aloud.
"Reginald Cyril Brott, born 18 - , son of John Reginald Brott, Esq.,
of Manchester. Educated at Harrow and Merton College, Cambridge,
M.A., LL.D., and winner of the Rudlock History Prize. Also tenth
wrangler. Entered the diplomatic service on leaving college, and
served as junior attache at Vienna."
Mr. Sabin laid down the volume, and made a little calculation. At
the end of it he had made a discovery. His face was very white
"I was at Petersburg," he muttered. "Now I think of it, I heard
something of a young English attache. But - "
He touched the bell.
"Duson, a carriage!"
At Camperdown House he learned that Helene was out - shopping, the
hall porter believed. Mr. Sabin drove slowly down Bond Street, and
was rewarded by seeing her brougham outside a famous milliner's. He
waited for her upon the pavement. Presently she came out and smiled
her greetings upon him.
"You were waiting for me?" she asked.
"I saw your carriage."
"How delightful of you. Let me take you back to luncheon."
He shook his head.
"I am afraid," he said, "that I should be poor company. May I
drive home with you, at any rate, when you have finished?"
"Of course you may, and for luncheon we shall be quite alone, unless
somebody drops in."
He took his seat beside her in the carriage. "Helene," he said, "I
am interested in Mr. Brott. No, don't look at me like that. You
need have no fear. My interest is in him as a man, and not as a
politician. The other days are over and done with now. I am on
the defensive and hard pressed."
Her face was bright with sympathy. She forgot everything except her
old admiration for him. In the clashing of their wills the victory
had remained with her. And as for those things which he had done,
the cause at least had been a great one. Her happiness had come to
her through him. She bore him no grudge for that fierce opposition
which, after all, had been fruitless.
"I believe you, UNCLE," she said affectionately. "If I can help
you in any way I will."
"This Mr. Brott! He goes very little into society, I believe."
"Scarcely ever," she answered. "He came to us because my husband
is one of the few Radical peers."
"You have not heard of any recent change in him - in this respect?"
"Well, I did hear Wolfendon chaffing him the other day about
somebody," she said. "Oh, I know. He has been going often to the
Duchess of Dorset's. He is such an ultra Radical, you know, and
the Dorsets are fierce Tories. Wolfendon says it is a most unwise
thing for a good Radical who wants to retain the confidence of the
people to be seen about with a Duchess."
"The Duchess of Dorset," Mr. Sabin remarked, "must be, well - a
"She is sixty if she is a day. But I daresay she herself is not
the attraction. There is a very beautiful woman staying with her
- the Countess Radantz. A Hungarian, I believe."
Mr. Sabin sat quite still. His face was turned away from Helene.
She herself was smiling out of the window at some acquaintances.
"I wonder if there is anything more that I can tell you?" she asked
He turned towards her with a faint smile.
"You have told me," he said, "all that I want to know."
She was struck by the change in his face, the quietness of his tone
"Am I meant to understand?" she said dubiously "because I don't in
the least. It seems to me that have told you nothing. I cannot
imagine what Mr. Brott and you have in common."
"If your invitation to lunch still holds good," he said, "may I
accept it? Afterwards, if you can spare me a few minutes I will
make things quite clear to you.
"You will find," she declared, "that I shall leave you little peace
for luncheon. I am consumed with curiosity."
Nevertheless, Mr. Sabin lunched with discretion, as usual, but with
no lack of appetite. It chanced that they were alone. Lord
Camperdown was down in the Midlands for a day's hunting, and Helene
had ensured their seclusion from any one who might drop in by a
whispered word to the hail porter as they passed into the house.
It seemed to her that she had never found Mr. Sabin more
entertaining, had never more appreciated his rare gift of effortless
and anecdotal conversation. What a marvelous memory! He knew
something of every country from the inside. He had been brought at
various times during his long diplomatic career into contact with
most of the interesting people in the world. He knew well how to
separate the grain from the chaff according to the tastes of his
listener. The pathos of his present position appealed to her
irresistibly. The possibilities of his life had been so great,
fortune had treated him always so strangely. The greatest of his
schemes had come so near to success, the luck had turned against
him only at the very moment of fruition. Helene felt very kindly
towards her UNCLE as she led him, after luncheon, to a quiet corner
of the winter garden, where a servant had already arranged a table
with coffee and liqueurs and cigarettes. Unscrupulous all his life,
there had been an element of greatness in all his schemes. Even
his failures had been magnificent, for his successes he himself had
seldom reaped the reward. And now in the autumn of his days she
felt dimly that he was threatened with some evil thing against which
he stood at bay single-handed, likely perhaps to be overpowered.
For there was something in his face just now which was strange to her.
"Helene," he said quietly, "I suppose that you, who knew nothing of
me till you left school, have looked upon me always as a selfish,
passionless creature - a weaver of plots, perhaps sometimes a
dreamer of dreams, but a person wholly self-centred, always
She shook her head.
"Not selfish!" she objected. "No, I never thought that. It is
the wrong word."
"At least," he said, "you will be surprised to hear that I have
loved one woman all my life."
She looked at him half doubtfully.
"Yes," she said, "I am surprised to hear that."
"I will surprise you still more. I was married to her in America
within a month of my arrival there. We have lived together ever
since. And I have been very happy. I speak, of course, of Lucille!"
"It is amazing," she murmured. "You must tell me all about it."
"Not all," he answered sadly. "Only this. I met her first at
Vienna when I was thirty-five, and she was eighteen. I treated her
shamefully. Marriage seemed to me, with all my dreams of great
achievements, an act of madness. I believed in myself and my career.
I believed that it was my destiny to restore the monarchy to our
beloved country. And I wanted to be free. I think that I saw
myself a second Napoleon. So I won her love, took all that she had
to give, and returned nothing.
"In the course of years she married the son of the American Consul
at Vienna. I was obliged, by the bye, to fight her brother, and he
carried his enmity to me through life. I saw her sometimes in the
course of years. She was always beautiful, always surrounded by a
host of admirers, always cold. When the end of my great plans here
came, and I myself was a fugitive, her brother found me out. He
gave me a letter to deliver in America. I delivered it - to his
"She was as beautiful as ever, and alone in the world. It seemed
to me that I realised then how great my folly had been. For always
I had loved her, always there had been that jealously locked little
chamber in my life. Helene, she pointed no finger of scorn to my
broken life. She uttered no reproaches. She took me as I was, and
for three years our life together has been to me one long unbroken
harmony. Our tastes were very similar. She was well read,
receptive, a charming companion. Ennui was a word of which I have
forgotten the meaning. And it seemed so with her, too, for she
grew younger and more beautiful."
"And why is she not with you?" Helene cried. "I must go and see
her. How delightful it sounds!"
"One day, about three months ago," Mr. Sabin continued, "she left
me to go to New York for two days. Her milliner in Paris had sent
over, and twice a year Lucille used to buy clothes. I had
sometimes accompanied her, but she knew how I detested New York,
and this time she did not press me to go. She left me in the
highest spirits, as tender and gracefully affectionate as ever.
She never returned."
Helene started in her chair.
"Oh, UNCLE!" she cried.
"I have never seen her since," he repeated.
"Have you no clue? She could not have left you willingly. Have
you no idea where she is?"
He bowed his head slowly.
"Yes," he said, "I know where she is. She came to Europe with Lady
Carey. She is staying with the Duchess of Dorset."
"The Countess Radantz?" Helene cried.
"It was her maiden name," he answered.
There was a moment's silence. Helene was bewildered.
"Then you have seen her?"
He shook his head slowly.
"No. I did not even know where she was until you told me."
"But why do you wait a single moment?" she asked. "There must be
some explanation. Let me order a carriage now. I will drive
round to Dorset House with you."
She half rose. He held out his hand and checked her.
"There are other things to be explained," he said quickly. "Sit
She obeyed him, mystified.
"For your own sake," he continued, "there are certain facts in
connection with this matter which I must withhold. All I can tell
you is this. There are people who have acquired a hold upon
Lucille so great that she is forced to obey their bidding. Lady
Carey is one, the Duchess of Dorset is another. They are no
friends of mine, and apparently Lucille has been taken away from
me by them."
"A - a hold upon her?" Helene repeated vaguely.
"It is all I can tell you. You must suppose an extreme case. You
may take my word for it that under certain circumstances Lucille
would have no power to deny them anything."
"But - without a word of farewell. They could not insist upon her
leaving you like that! It is incredible!"
"It is quite possible," Mr. Sabin said.
Helene caught herself looking at him stealthily. Was it possible
that this wonderful brain had given way at last? There were no
signs of it in his face or expression. But the Duchess of Dorset!
Lady Carey! These were women of her own circle - Londoners, and
the Duchess, at any rate, a woman of the very highest social
position and unimpeached conventionality.
"This sounds - very extraordinary, UNCLE!" she remarked a little
"It is extraordinary," he answered drily. "I do not wonder that
you find it hard to believe me. I - "
"Not to believe - to understand!"
"We will not distinguish! After all, what does it matter? Assume,
if you cannot believe, that Lucille's leaving me may have been at
the instigation of these people, and therefore involuntary. If
this be so I have hard battle to fight to win her back, but in the
end I shall do it."
She nodded sympathetically.
"I am sure," she said, "that you will not find it difficult. Tell
me, cannot I help you in any way? I know the Duchess very well
indeed - well enough to take you to call quite informally if you
please. She is a great supporter of what they call the Primrose
League here. I do not understand what it is all about, but it
seems that I may not join because my husband is a Radical."
Mr. Sabin looked for a moment over his clasped hands through the
faint blue cloud of cigarette smoke, and sundry possibilities
flashed through his mind to be at once rejected. He shook his
"No!" he said firmly. "I do not wish for your help at present,
directly or indirectly. If you meet the Countess I would rather
that you did not mention my name. There is only one person whom,
if you met at Dorset House or anywhere where Lucille is, I would
ask you to watch. That is Mr. Brott!"
It was to be a conversation full of surprises for Helene. Mr.
Brott! Her hand went up to her forehead for a moment, and a
little gesture of bewilderment escaped her.
"Will you tell me," she asked almost plaintively, "what on earth
Mr. Brott can have to do with this business - with- Lucille - with
you - with any one connected with it?"
Mr. Sabin shrugged his shoulders.
"Mr. Brott," he remarked, "a Cabinet Minister of marked Radical
proclivities, has lately been a frequent visitor at Dorset House,
which is the very home of the old aristocratic Toryism. Mr. Brott
was acquainted with Lucille many years ago - in Vienna. At that
time he was, I believe, deeply interested in her. I must confess
that Mr. Brott causes me some uneasiness.
"I think - that men always know," Helene said, "if they care to.
Was Lucille happy with you?"
"Absolutely. I am sure of it."
"Then your first assumption must be correct," she declared. "You
cannot explain things to me, so I cannot help you even with my
advice. I am sorry."
He turned his head towards her and regarded her critically, as
though making some test of her sincerity.
"Helene," he said gravely, "it is for your own sake that I do not
explain further, that I do not make things clearer to you. Only
I wanted you to understand why I once more set foot in Europe. I
wanted you to understand why I am here. It is to win back Lucille.
It is like that with me, Helene. I, who once schemed and plotted
for an empire, am once more a schemer and a worker, but for no
other purpose than to recover possession of the woman whom I love.
You do not recognise me, Helene. I do not recognise myself.
Nevertheless, I would have you know the truth. I am here for that,
and for no other purpose."
He rose slowly to his feet. She held out both her hands and
"Let me help you, she begged. "Do! This is not a matter of
politics or anything compromising. I am sure that I could be
useful to you."
"So you can," he answered quietly. "Do as I have asked you. Watch
Mr. Brott and Mr. Sabin dined together - not, as it happened, at
the House of Commons, but at the former's club in Pall Mall. For
Mr. Sabin it was not altogether an enjoyable meal. The club was
large, gloomy and political; the cooking was exactly of that order
which such surroundings seemed to require. Nor was Mr. Brott a
particularly brilliant host. Yet his guest derived a certain amount
of pleasure from the entertainment, owing to Brott's constant
endeavours to bring the conversation round to Lucille.
"I find," he said, as they lit their cigarettes, "that I committed
an indiscretion the other day at Camperdown House!"
Mr. Sabin assumed the puzzled air of one endeavouring to pin down
an elusive memory.
"Let me see," he murmured doubtfully. "It was in connection with - "
"The Countess Radantz. If you remember, I told you that it was her
desire just now to remain incognito. I, however, unfortunately
forgot this during the course of our conversation."
"Yes, I remember. You told me where she was staying. But the
Countess and I are old acquaintances. I feel sure that she did not
object to your having given me her address. I could not possibly
leave London without calling upon her."
Mr. Brott moved in his chair uneasily.
"It seems presumption on my part to make such a suggestion perhaps,"
he said slowly, "but I really believe that the Countess is in
earnest with reference to her desire for seclusion just at present.
I believe that she is really very anxious that her presence in
London, just now should not be generally known."
"I am such a very old friend," Mr. Sabin said. "I knew her when
she was a child."
Mr. Brott nodded.
"It is very strange," he said, "that you should have come together
again in such a country as America, and in a small town too."
"Lenox," Mr. Sabin said, "is a small place, but a great center.
By the bye, is there not some question of an impending marriage on
the part of the Countess?"
"I have heard - of nothing of the sort," Mr. Brott said, looking up
startled. Then, after a moment's pause, during which he studied
closely his companion's imperturbable face, he added the question
which forced its way to his lips.
Mr. Sabin looked along his cigarette and pinched it affectionately.
It was one of his own, which he had dexterously substituted for
those which his host had placed at his disposal.
"The Countess is a very charming, a very beautiful, and a most
attractive woman," he said slowly. "Her marriage has always seemed
to me a matter of certainty."
Mr. Brott hesitated, and was lost.
"You are an old friend of hers," he said. "You perhaps know more
of her recent history than I do. For a time she seemed to drop out
of my life altogether. Now that she has come back I am very anxious
to persuade her to marry me."
A single lightning-like flash in Mr. Sabine's eyes for a moment
disconcerted his host. But, after all, it was gone with such
amazing suddenness that it left behind it a sense of unreality.
Mr. Brott decided that after all it must have been fancy.
"May I ask," Mr. Sabin said quietly, "whether the Countess appears
to receive your suit with favour?"
Mr. Brott hesitated.
"I am afraid I cannot go so far as to say that she does," he said
regretfully. "I do not know why I find myself talking on this
matter to you. I feel that I should apologise for giving such a
personal turn to the conversation."
"I beg that you will do nothing of the sort," Mr. Sabin protested.
"I am, as a matter of fact, most deeply interested."
"You encourage me," Mr. Brott declared, "to ask you a question - to
me a very important question."
"It will give me great pleasure," Mr. Sabin assured him, "if I am
able to answer it."
"You know," Mr. Brott said, "of that portion of her life concerning
which I have asked no questions, but which somehow, whenever I think
of it, fills me with a certain amount of uneasiness. I refer to the
last three years which the Countess has spent in America."
Mr. Sabin looked up, and his lips seemed to move, but he said
nothing. Mr. Brott felt perhaps that he was on difficult ground.
"I recognise the fact," he continued slowly, "that you are the
friend of the Countess, and that you and I are nothing more than
the merest acquaintances. I ask my question therefore with some
diffidence. Can you tell me from your recent, more intimate
knowledge of the Countess and her affairs, whether there exists
any reason outside her own inclinations why she should not accept
my proposals of marriage?"
Mr. Sabin had the air of a man gravely surprised. He shook his
head very slightly.
"You must not ask me such a question as that, Mr. Brott," he said.
"It is not a subject which I could possibly discuss with you. But
I have no objection to going so far as this. My experience of the
Countess is that she is a woman of magnificent and effective will
power. I think if she has any desire to marry you there are or
could be no obstacles existing which she would not easily dispose
"There are obstacles, then?"
"You must not ask me that," Mr. Sabin said, with a certain amount
of stiffness. "The Countess is a very dear friend of mine, and
you must forgive me now if I say that I prefer not to discuss her
A hall servant entered the room, bearing a note for Mr. Brott. He
received it at first carelessly, but his expression changed the
moment he saw the superscription. He turned a little away, and
Mr. Sabin noticed that the fingers which tore open the envelope were
trembling. The note seemed short enough, but he must have read it
half a dozen times before at last he turned round to the messenger.
"There is no answer," he said in a low tone.
He folded the note and put it carefully into his breast pocket. Mr.
Sabin subdued an insane desire to struggle with him and discover,
by force, if necessary, who was the sender of those few brief lines.
For Mr. Brott was a changed man.
"I am afraid," he said, turning to his guest, "that this has been a
very dull evening for you. To tell you the truth, this club is not
exactly the haunt of pleasure-seekers. It generally oppresses me
for the first hour or so. Would you like a hand at bridge, or a
game of billiards? I am wholly at your service - until twelve
Mr. Sabin glanced at the clock.
"You are very good," he said, "but I was never much good at indoor
games. Golf has been my only relaxation for many years. Besides,
I too have an engagement for which I must leave in a very few
"It is very good of you," Mr. Brott said, "to have given me the
pleasure of your company. I have the greatest possible admiration
for your niece, Mr. Sabin, and Camperdown is a thundering good
fellow. He will be our leader in the House of Lords before many
years have passed."
"He is, I believe," Mr. Sabin remarked, "of the same politics as
"We are both," Mr. Brott answered, with a smile, "I am afraid
outside the pale of your consideration in this respect. We are
Mr. Sabin lit another cigarette and glanced once more at the clock.
"A Radical peer!" he remarked. "Isn't that rather an anomaly? The
principles of Radicalism and aristocracy seem so divergent."
"Yet," Mr. Brott said, "they are not wholly irreconcilable. I have
often wished that this could be more generally understood. I find
myself at times very unpopular with people, whose good opinion I am
anxious to retain, simply owing to this too general misapprehension."
Mr. Sabin smiled gently.
"You were referring without doubt - " he began.
"To the Countess," Brott admitted. "Yes, it is true. But after
all," he added cheerfully, "I believe that our disagreements are
mainly upon the surface. The Countess is a woman of wide culture
and understanding. Her mind, too, is plastic. She has few
Mr. Sabin glanced at the clock for the third time, and rose to his
feet. He was quite sure now that the note was from her. He leaned
on his stick and took his leave quietly. All the time he was
studying his host, wondering at his air of only partially suppressed
"I must thank you very much, Mr. Brott," he said, "for your
entertainment. I trust that you will give me an opportunity shortly
of reciprocating your hospitality."
The two men parted finally in the hall. Mr. Sabin stepped into his
"Dorset House!" he directed.
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