The Yellow Crayon
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Part 4 out of 6
entrance had been so noiseless, and whose footsteps had been so
light that she stood almost within a few feet of him before he was
even aware of her presence. Then his surprise was so great that he
could only gasp out her name.
She smiled upon him delightfully.
"Me! Lucille! Don't blame your servant. I assured him that I was
expected, so he allowed me to enter unannounced. His astonishment
was a delightful testimony to your reputation, by the bye. He was
evidently not used to these invasions."
Brott had recovered himself by this time, and if any emotion still
remained he was master of it.
"You must forgive my surprise!" he said. "You have of course
something important to say to me. Will you not loosen your cloak?"
She unfastened the clasp and seated herself in his most comfortable
chair. The firelight flashed and glittered on the silver ornaments
of her dress; her neck and arms, with their burden of jewels, gleamed
like porcelain in the semi-darkness outside the halo of his student
lamp. And he saw that her dark hair hung low behind in graceful
folds as he had once admired it. He stood a little apart, and she
noted his traveling clothes and the various signs of a journey
about the room.
"You may be glad to see me," she remarked, looking at him with a
smile. "You don't look it."
"I am anxious to hear your news," he answered. "I am convinced
that you have something important to say to me."
"Supposing," she answered, still looking at him steadily, "supposing
I were to say that I had no object in coming here at all - that it
was merely a whim? What should you say then?"
"I should take the liberty," he answered quietly, "of doubting the
evidence of my senses."
There was a moment's silence. She felt his aloofness. It awoke
in her some of the enthusiasm with which this mission itself had
failed to inspire her. This man was measuring his strength against
"It was not altogether a whim," she said, her eyes falling from
his, "and yet - now I am here - it does not seem easy to say what
was in my mind."
He glanced towards the clock.
"I fear," he said, "that it may sound ungallant, but in case this
somewhat mysterious mission of yours is of any importance I had
better perhaps tell you that in twenty minutes I must leave to catch
the Scotch mail."
She rose at once to her feet, and swept her cloak haughtily around
"I have made a mistake," she said. "Be so good as to pardon my
intrusion. I shall not trouble you again."
She was half-way across the room. She was at the door, her hand
was upon the handle. He was white to the lips, his whole frame was
shaking with the effort of intense repression. He kept silence,
till only a flutter of her cloak was to be seen in the doorway.
And then the cry which he had tried so hard to stifle broke from
She hesitated, and came back - looking at him, so he thought, with
trembling lips and eyes soft with unshed tears.
"I was a brute," he murmured. "I ought to be grateful for this
chance of seeing you once more, of saying good-bye to you."
"Good-bye!" she repeated.
"Yes," he said gravely. "It must be good-bye. I have a great work
before me, and it will cut me off completely from all association
with your world and your friends. Something wider and deeper than
an ocean will divide us. Something so wide that our hands will
never reach across."
"You can talk about it very calmly," she said, without looking at
"I have been disciplining myself," he answered.
She rested her face upon her hand, and looked into the fire.
"I suppose," she said, "this means that you have refused Mr.
"I have refused it," he answered.
"I am sorry," she said simply.
She rose from her chair with a sudden start, began to draw on her
cloak, and then let it fall altogether from her shoulders.
"Why do you do this?" she asked earnestly. "Is it that you are so
ambitious? You used not to be so - in the old days.
He laughed bitterly.
"You too, then," he said, "can remember. Ambitious! Well, why not?
To be Premier of England, to stand for the people, to carry through
to its logical consummation a bloodless revolution, surely this is
worth while. Is there anything in the world better worth having
"Yes," she answered, looking him full in the eyes.
"What is it then? Let me know before it is too late."
He threw his arms about her. For a moment she was powerless in his
"So be it then," he cried fiercely. "Give me the one, and I will
deny the other. Only no half measures! I will drink to the bottom
of the cup or not at all."
She shook herself free from him, breathless, consumed with an anger
to which she dared not give voice. For a moment or two she was
speechless. Her bosom rose and fell, a bright streak of colour
flared in her cheeks. Brott stood away from her, white and stern.
"You - are clumsy!" she said. "You frighten me!"
Her words carried no conviction. He looked at her with a new
"You talk like a child," he answered roughly, "or else your whole
conduct is a fraud. For months I have been your slave. I have
abandoned my principles, given you my time, followed at your heels
like a tame dog. And for what? You will not marry me, you will
not commit yourself to anything. You are a past mistress in the
art of binding fools to your chariot wheels. You know that I love
you - that there breathes on this earth no other woman for me but
you. I have told you this in all save words a hundred times. And
now - now it is my turn. I have been played with long enough. You
are here unbidden - unexpected. You can consider that door locked.
Now tell me why you came."
Lucille had recovered herself. She stood before him, white but calm.
"Because," she said, "I am a woman."
"That means that you came without reason - on impulse?" he asked.
"I came," she said, "because I heard that you were about to take a
step which must separate us for ever."
"And that," he asked, "disturbed you?"
"Come, we are drawing nearer together," he said, a kindling light
in his eyes. "Now answer me this. How much do you care if this
eternal separation does come? Here am I on the threshold of action.
Unless I change my mind within ten minutes I must throw in my lot
with those whom you and your Order loathe and despise. There can
be no half measures. I must be their leader, or I must vanish from
the face of the political world. This I will do if you bid me. But
the price must be yourself - wholly, without reservation-yourself,
body and soul."
"You care - as much as that?" she murmured.
"Ask me no questions, answer mine!" he cried fiercely. "You shall
stay with me here - or in five minutes I leave on my campaign."
She laughed musically.
"This is positively delicious," she exclaimed. "I am being made
love to in medieval fashion. Other times other manners, sir! Will
you listen to reason?"
"I will listen to nothing - save your answer, yes or no," he
declared, drawing on his overcoat.
She laid her hand upon his shoulder.
"Reginald," she said, "you are like the whirlwind - and how can I
answer you in five minutes!"
"You can answer me in one," he declared fiercely. "Will you pay my
price if I do your bidding? Yes or no! The price is yourself. Now!
Yes or no?"
She drew on her own cloak and fastened the clasp
with shaking fingers. Then she turned towards the
"I wish you good-bye and good fortune, Reginald," she said. "I
daresay we may not meet again. It will be better that we do not."
"This then is your answer?" he cried.
She looked around at him. Was it his fancy, or were those tears
in her eyes? Or was she really so wonderful an actress?"
"Do you think," she said, "that if I had not cared I should have
"Tell me that in plain words," he cried. "It is all I ask."
The door was suddenly opened. Grahame stood upon the threshold.
He looked beyond Lucille to Brott.
"You must really forgive me," he said, "but there is barely time
to catch the train, Brott. I have a hansom waiting, and your
luggage is on."
Brott answered nothing. Lucille held out her hands to him.
"Yes or no?" he asked her in a low hoarse tone.
"You must - give me time! I don't want to lose you. I - "
He caught up his coat.
"Coming, Grahame," he said firmly. "Countess, I must beg your
pardon ten thousand times for this abrupt departure. My servants
will call your carriage."
She leaned towards him, beautiful, anxious, alluring.
"Yes or no," he whispered in her ear.
"Give me until to-morrow," she faltered.
"Not one moment," he answered. "Yes - now, this instant - or I go!"
"Brott! My dear man, we have not a second to lose."
"You hear!" he muttered. "Yes or no?"
"Give me until to-morrow," she begged. "It is for your own sake.
For your own safety."
He turned on his heel! His muttered speech was profane, but
inarticulate. He sprang into the hansom by Grahame's side.
"Euston!" the latter cried through the trap-door. "Double fare,
cabby. We must catch the Scotchman."
Lucille came out a few moments later, and looked up and down the
street as her brougham drove smartly up. The hansom was fast
disappearing in the distance. She looked after it and sighed.
Lucille gave a little start of amazement as she realised that she
was not alone in the brougham. She reached out for the check-cord,
but a strong hand held hers.
"My dear Lucille," a familiar voice exclaimed, "why this alarm? Is
it your nerves or your eyesight which is failing you?"
Her hand dropped. She turned towards him.
"It is you, then, Prince!" she said. "But why are you here? I do
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
"It is so simple," he said. "We are all very anxious indeed to
hear the result of your interview with Brott - and apart from that,
I personally have too few opportunities to act as your escort to
let a chance go by. I trust that my presence is not displeasing
She laughed a little uneasily.
"It is at any rate unnecessary," she answered. "But since you are
here I may as well make my confession. I have failed."
"It is incredible," the Prince murmured.
"As you will - but it is true," she answered. "I have done my very
best, or rather my worst, and the result has been failure. Mr.
Brott has a great friend - a man named Grahame, whose influence
prevailed against mine. He has gone to Scotland."
"That is serious news," the Prince said quietly.
Lucille leaned back amongst the cushions.
"After all," she declared, "we are all out of place in this country.
There is no scope whatever for such schemes and intrigues as you
and all the rest of them delight in. In France and Russia, even in
Austria, it is different. The working of all great organisation
there is underground - it is easy enough to meet plot by counterplot,
to suborn, to deceive, to undermine. But here all the great games
of life seem to be played with the cards upon the table. We are
hopelessly out of place. I cannot think, Prince, what ill chance
led you to ever contemplate making your headquarters in London."
The Prince stroked his long moustache.
"That is all very well, Lucille," he said, "but you must remember
that in England we have very large subscriptions to the Order.
These people will not go on paying for nothing. There was a meeting
of the London branch a few months ago, and it was decided that
unless some practical work was done in this country all English
subscriptions should cease. We had no alternative but to come over
and attempt something. Brott is of course the bete noire of our
friends here. He is distinctly the man to be struck at."
"And what evil stroke of fortune," Lucille asked, "induced you to
send for me?"
"That is a very cruel speech, dear lady," the Prince murmured.
"I hope," Lucille said, "that you have never for a moment imagined
that I find any pleasure in what I am called upon to do."
"Why not? It must be interesting. You can have had no sympathy
with Brott - a hopeless plebeian, a very paragon of Anglo-Saxon
Lucille laughed scornfully.
"Reginald Brott is a man, at any rate, and an honest one," she
answered. "But I am too selfish to think much of him. It is
myself whom I pity. I have a home, Prince, and a husband. I
want them both."
"You amaze me," the Prince said slowly. "Lucille, indeed, you
amaze me. You have been buried alive for three years. Positively
we believed that our summons would sound to you like a message from
Lucille was silent for a moment. She rubbed the mist from the
carriage window and looked out into the streets.
"Well," she said, "I hope that you realise now how completely you
have misunderstood me. I was perfectly happy in America. I have
been perfectly miserable here. I suppose that I have grown too old
for intrigues and adventures."
"Too old, Lucille," the Prince murmured, leaning a little towards
her. "Lucille, you are the most beautiful woman in London. Many
others may have told you so, but there is no one, Lucille, who is
so devotedly, so hopelessly your slave as I."
She drew her hand away, and sat back in her corner. The man's hot
breath fell upon her cheek, his eyes seemed almost phosphorescent
in the darkness. Lucille could scarcely keep the biting words from
"You do not answer me, Lucille. You do not speak even a single
kind word to me. Come! Surely we are old friends. We should
understand one another. It is not a great deal that I ask from
your kindness - not a great deal to you, but it is all the
difference between happiness and misery for me."
"This is a very worn-out game, Prince," Lucille said coldly. "You
have been making love to women in very much the same manner for
twenty years, and I - well, to be frank, I am utterly weary of
being made love to like a doll. Laugh at me as you will, my
husband is the only man who interests me in the slightest. My
failure to-day is almost welcome to me. It has at least brought
my work here to a close. Come, Prince, if you want to earn my
eternal gratitude, tell me now that I am a free woman."
"You give me credit," the Prince said slowly, "for great generosity.
If I let you go it seems to me that I shall lose you altogether.
You will go to your husband. He will take you away!"
"Why not?" Lucille asked. "I want to go. I am tired of London.
You cannot lose what you never possessed - what you never had the
slightest chance of possessing.
The Prince laughed softly - not a pleasant laugh, not even a
"Dear lady," he said, "you speak not wisely. For I am very much
in earnest when I say that I love you, and until you are kinder
to me I shall not let you go."
"That is rather a dangerous threat, is it not?" Lucille asked.
"You dare to tell me openly that you will abuse your position,
that you will keep me bound a servant to the cause, because of
this foolish fancy of yours?"
The Prince smiled at her through the gloom - a white, set smile.
"It is no foolish fancy, Lucille. You will find that out before
long. You have been cold to me all your life. Yet you would find
me a better friend than enemy."
"If I am to choose," she said steadily, "I shall choose the latter."
"As you will," he answered. "In time you will change your mind."
The carriage had stopped. The Prince alighted and held out his
hand. Lucille half rose, and then with her foot upon the step she
paused and looked around.
"Where are we?" she exclaimed. "This is not Dorset House."
"No, we are in Grosvenor Square," the Prince answered. "I forgot
to tell you that we have a meeting arranged for here this evening.
Permit me." But Lucille resumed her seat in the carriage.
"It is your house, is it not?" she asked.
"Yes. My house assuredly."
"Very well," Lucille said. "I will come in when the Duchess of
Dorset shows herself at the window or the front door - or Felix, or
even De Brouillae."
The Prince still held open the carriage door.
"They will all be here," he assured her. "We are a few minutes
"Then I will drive round to Dorset House and fetch the Duchess.
It is only a few yards."
The Prince hesitated. His cheeks were very white, and something
like a scowl was blackening his heavy, insipid face.
"Lucille," he said, "you are very foolish. It is not much I ask of
you, but that little I will have or I pledge my word to it that
things shall go ill with you and your husband. There is plain
speech for you. Do not be absurd. Come within, and let us talk.
What do you fear? The house is full of servants, and the carriage
can wait for you here."
Lucille smiled at him - a maddening smile.
"I am not a child," she said, "and such conversations as I am forced
to hold with you will not be under your own roof. Be so good as to
tell the coachman to drive to Dorset House."
The Prince turned on his heel with a furious oath.
"He can drive you to Hell," he answered thickly.
Lucille found the Duchess and Lady Carey together at Dorset House.
She looked from one to the other.
"I thought that there was a meeting to-night," she remarked.
The Duchess shook her head.
"Not to-night," she answered. "It would not be possible. Genera1
Dolinski is dining at Marlborough House, and De Broullae is in
Paris. Now tell us all about Mr. Brott."
"He has gone to Scotland," Lucille answered. "I have failed."
Lady Carey looked up from the depths of the chair in which she was
"And the prince?" she asked. "He went to meet you!"
"He also failed," Lucille answered.
Mr. SABIN drew a little breath, partly of satisfaction because he
had discovered the place he sought, and partly of disgust at the
neighbourhood in which he found himself. Nevertheless, he descended
three steps from the court into which he had been directed, and
pushed open the swing door, behind which Emil Sachs announced his
desire to supply the world with dinners at eightpence and vin
ordinaire at fourpence the small bottle.
A stout black-eyed woman looked up at his entrance from behind the
counter. The place was empty.
"What does monsieur require she asked, peering forward through the
gloom with some suspicion. For the eightpenny dinners were the
scorn of the neighbourhood, and strangers were rare in the wine
shop of Emil Sachs.
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"One of your excellent omelettes, my good Annette," he answered,
"if your hand has not lost its cunning!"
She gave a little cry.
"It is monsieur!" she exclaimed. "After all these years it is
monsieur! Ab, you will pardon that I did not recognise you. This
place is a cellar. Monsieur has not changed. In the daylight one
would know him anywhere."
The woman talked fast, but even in that dim light Mr. Sabin knew
quite well that she was shaking with fear. He could see the corners
of her mouth twitch. Her black eyes rolled incessantly, but refused
to meet his. Mr. Sabin frowned.
"You are not glad to see me, Annette!"
She leaned over the counter.
"For monsieur s own sake," she whispered, "go!"
Mr. Sabin stood quite still for a short space of time.
"Can I rest in there for a few minutes?" he asked, pointing to the
door which led into the room beyond.
The woman hesitated. She looked up at the clock and down again.
"Emil will return," she said, "at three. Monsieur were best out of
the neighbourhood before then. For ten minutes it might be safe."
Mr. Sabin passed forward. The woman lifted the flap of the counter
and followed him. Within was a smaller room, far cleaner and better
appointed than the general appearance of the place promised. Mr.
Sabin seated himself at one of the small tables. The linen cloth,
he noticed, was spotless, the cutlery and appointments polished and
"This, I presume," he remarked, "is not where you serve the
eightpenny table d'hote?"
The woman shrugged her shoulders.
"But it would not be possible," she answered. "We have no customers
for that. If one arrives we put together a few scraps. But one must
make a pretense. Monsieur understands?"
Mr. Sabin nodded.
"I will take," he said, "a small glass of fin champagne."
She vanished, and reappeared almost immediately with the brandy in
a quaintly cut liqueur glass. A glance at the clock as she passed
seemed to have increased her anxiety.
"If monsieur will drink his liqueur and depart," she prayed. "Indeed,
it will be for the best."
Mr. Sabin set down his glass. His steadfast gaze seemed to reduce
Annette into a state of nervous
"Annette," he said, "they have placed me upon the
"It-is true, monsieur," she answered. "Why do you come here?"
"I wanted to know first for certain that they had ventured so far,"
Mr. Sabin said. "I believe that I am only the second person in
this country who has been so much honoured."
The woman drew nearer to him.
"Monsieur," she said, "your only danger is to venture into such
parts as these. London is so safe, and the law is merciless. They
only watch. They will attempt nothing. Do not leave England.
There is here no machinery of criminals. Besides, the life of
monsieur is insured."
"Insured?" Mr. Sabin remarked quietly. "That is good news. And
who pays the premium?"
"A great lady, monsieur! I know no more. Monsieur must go indeed.
He has found his way into the only place in London where he is not
Mr. Sabin rose.
"You are expecting, perhaps," he said, "one of my friends from
the - "
She interrupted him.
"It is true," she declared. He may be here at any instant. The
time is already up. Oh, monsieur, indeed, indeed it would not do
for him to find you."
Mr. Sabin moved towards the door.
"You are perhaps right," he said regretfully, "although I should
much like to hear about this little matter of life insurance while
I am here."
"Indeed, monsieur," Annette declared, "I know nothing. There is
nothing which I can tell monsieur."
Mr. Sabin suddenly leaned forward. His gaze was compelling. His
tone was low but terrible.
"Annette," he said, "obey me. Send Emil here."
The woman trembled, but she did not move. Mr. Sabin lifted his
forefinger and pointed slowly to the door. The woman's lips parted,
but she seemed to have lost the power of speech.
"Send Emil here!" Mr. Sabin repeated slowly.
Annette turned and left the room, groping her way to the door as
though her eyesight had become uncertain. Mr. Sabin lit a cigarette
and looked for a moment carefully into the small liqueur glass out
of which he had drunk.
"That was unwise," he said softly to himself. "Just such a blunder
might have cost me everything."
He held it up to the light and satisfied himself that no dregs
remained. Then he took from his pocket a tiny little revolver, and
placing it on the table before him, covered it with his handkerchief.
Almost immediately a door at the farther end of the room opened and
closed. A man in dark clothes, small, unnaturally pale, with
deep-set eyes and nervous, twitching mouth, stood before him. Mr.
Sabin smiled a welcome at him.
"Good-morning, Emil Sachs," he said. "I am glad that you have shown discretion. Stand there in
the light, please, and fold your arms.
Thanks. Do not think that I am afraid of you, but I like to talk
"I am at monsieur's service," the man said in a low tone.
"Exactly. Now, Emil, before starting to visit you I left a little
note behind addressed to the chief of the police here - no, you
need not start - to be sent to him only if my return were unduly
delayed. You can guess what that note contained. It is not
necessary for us to revert to - unpleasant subjects."
The man moistened his dry lips.
"It is not necessary," he repeated. "Monsieur is as safe here - from
me - as at his own hotel."
"Excellent!" Mr. Sabin said. "Now listen, Emil. It has pleased me
chiefly, as you know, for the sake of your wife, the good Annette,
to be very merciful to you as regards the past. But I do not
propose to allow you to run a poison bureau for the advantage of the
Prince of Saxe Leinitzer and his friends - more especially, perhaps,
as I am at present upon his list of superfluous persons."
The man trembled.
"Monsieur," he said, "the Prince knows as much as you know, and he
has not the mercy that one shows to a dog."
"You will find," Mr. Sabin said, "that if you do not obey me, I
myself can develop a similar disposition. Now answer me this! You
have within the last few days supplied several people with that
marvelous powder for the preparation of which you are so justly
"Several - no, monsieur! Two only."
The man trembled.
"If they should know!"
"They will not, Emil. I will see to that."
"The first I supplied to the order of the Prince."
"Good! And the second?"
"To a lady whose name I do not know."
Mr. Sabin raised his eyebrows.
"Is not that," he remarked, "a little irregular?"
"The lady wrote her request before me in the yellow crayon. It was sufficient."
"And you do not know her name, Emil?"
"No, monsieur. She was dark and tall, and closely veiled. She was
here but a few minutes since."
"Dark and tall!" Mr. Sabin repeated to himself thoughtfully. "Emil,
you are telling me the truth?"
"I do not dare to tell you anything else, monsieur," the man answered.
Mr. Sabin did not continue his interrogations for a few moments.
Suddenly he looked up.
"Has that lady left the place yet, Emil?"
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"Have you a back exit?" he asked.
"None that the lady would know of," Emil answered. "She must pass
along the passage which borders this apartment, and enter the bar
by a door from behind. If monsieur desires it, it is impossible for
her to leave unobserved."
"That is excellent, Emil," Mr. Sabin said. "Now there is one more
question - quite a harmless one. Annette spoke of my life being in
some way insured."
"It is true, monsieur," Emil admitted. "A lady who also possessed
the yellow crayon came here the day that - that monsieur incurred
the displeasure of - of his friends. She tried to bribe me to blow
up my laboratory and leave the country, or that I should substitute
a harmless powder for any required by the Prince. I was obliged to
"Then she promised me a large sum if you were alive in six months,
and made me at once a payment.
"Dear me," Mr. Sabin said, "this is quite extraordinary."
"I can tell monsieur the lady's name," Emil continued, "for she
raised her veil, and everywhere the illustrated papers have been
full of her picture. It was the lady who was besieged in a little
town of South Africa, and who carried despatches for the general,
disguised as a man."
"Lady Carey!" Mr. Sabin remarked quietly.
"That was the lady's name," Emil agreed.
Mr. Sabin was thoughtful for a few moments. Then he looked up.
"Emil Sachs," he said sternly, "you have given out at least one
portion of your abominable concoction which is meant to end my days.
Whether I shall escape it or not remains to be seen. I am forced at
the best to discharge my servant, and to live the life of a hunted
man. Now you have done enough mischief in the world. To-morrow
morning a messenger will place in your hands two hundred pounds. A
larger sum will await you at Baring's Bank in New York. You will go
there and buy a small restaurant in the business quarter. This is
your last chance, Emil. I give it to you for the sake of Annette."
"And I accept it, monsieur, with gratitude."
"For the present "
Mr. Sabin stopped short. His quick ears had caught the swish of
woman's gown passing along the passage outside. Emil too had
"It is the dark lady," he whispered, "who purchased from me the
other powder. See, I open gently this door. Monsieur must both
see and hear."
The door at the end of the passage was opened. A woman stepped out
into the little bar and made her way towards the door. Here she
was met by a man entering. Mr. Sabin held up his forefinger to stop
the terrified exclamation which trembled on Emil's lips. The woman
was Lucille, the man the Prince. It was Lucille who was speaking.
"You have followed me, Prince. It is intolerable."
"Dear Lucille, it is for your own sake. These are not fit parts
for you 'to visit alone."
"It is my own business," she answered coldly.
The Prince appeared to be in a complaisant mood.
"Come," he said, "the affair is not worth a quarrel. I ask you no
questions. Only since we are here I propose that we test the
cooking of the good Annette. We will lunch together."
"What, here?" she answered. "Absurd."
"By no means," he answered. "As you doubtless know, the exterior
of the place is entirely misleading. These people are old servants
of mine. I can answer for the luncheon."
"You can also eat it," came the prompt reply. "I am returning to
Mr. Sabin emerged through the swing door. "Your discretion, my
dear Lucille," he said, smiling, "is excellent. The place is
indeed better than it seems, and Annette's cookery may be all that
the Prince claims. Yet I think I know better places for a luncheon
party, and the ventilation is not of the best. May I suggest that
you come with me instead to the Milan?"
"Victor! You here?"
Mr. Sabin smiled as he admitted the obvious fact. The Prince's
face was as black as night.
"Believe me," Mr. Sabin said, turning to the Prince, "I sympathise
entirely with your feelings at the present moment. I myself have
suffered in precisely the same manner. The fact is, intrigue in
this country is almost an impossibility. At Paris, Vienna, Pesth,
how different! You raise your little finger, and the deed is done. Superfluous people - like
myself - are removed like the hairs from
your chin. But here intrigue seems indeed to exist only within the
pages of a shilling novel, or in a comic opera. The gentleman with
a helmet there, who regards us so benignly, will presently earn a
shilling by calling me a hansom. Yet in effect he does me a far
greater service. He stands for a multitude of cold Anglo-Saxon
laws, adamant, incorruptible, inflexible - as certain as the laws
of Nature herself. I am quite aware that by this time I ought to
be lying in a dark cellar with a gag in my mouth, or perhaps in
the river with a dagger in my chest. But here in England, no!"
The Prince smiled - to all appearance a very genial smile.
"You are right, my dear friend," he said, "yet what you say
possesses, shall we call it, a somewhat antediluvian flavour.
Intrigue is no longer a clumsy game of knife and string and bowl.
It becomes to-day a game of finesse. I can assure you that I have
no desire to give a stage whistle and have you throttled at my feet.
On the contrary, I beg you to use my carriage, which you will find
in the street. You will lunch at the Milan with Lucille, and I
shall retire discomfited to eat alone at my club. But the game is
a long one, my dear friend. The new methods take time."
"This conversation," Mr. Sabin said to Lucille, "is interesting,
but it is a little ungallant. I think that we will resume it at
some future occasion. Shall we accept the Prince's offer, or shall
we be truly democratic and take a hansom."
Lucille passed her arm through his and laughed.
"You are robbing the Prince of me," she declared. "Let us leave
him his carriage."
She nodded her farewells to Saxe Leinitzer, who took leave of them
with a low bow. As they waited at the corner for a hansom Mr. Sabin
glanced back. The Prince had disappeared through the swing doors.
"I want you to promise me one thing," Lucille said earnestly.
"It is promised," Mr. Sabin answered.
"You will not ask me the reason of my visit to this place?"
"I have no curiosity," Mr. Sabin answered. "Come!"
Mr. Sabin, contrary to his usual custom, engaged a private room at
the Milan. Lucille was in the highest spirits.
"If only this were a game instead of reality!" she said, flashing
a brilliant smile at him across the table, "I should find it most
fascinating. You seem to come to me always when I want you most.
And do you know, it is perfectly charming to be carried off by you
in this manner."
Mr. Sabin smiled at her, and there was a look in his eyes which
shone there for no other woman.
"It is in effect," he said, "keeping me young. Events seem to have
enclosed us in a curious little cobweb. All the time we are
struggling between the rankest primitivism and the most delicate
intrigue. To-day is the triumph of primitivism."
"Meaning that you, the medieval knight, have carried me off, the
distressed maiden, on your shoulder."
"Having confounded my enemy," he continued, smiling, "by an
embarrassing situation, a little argument, and the distant view
of a policeman's helmet."
"This," she remarked, with a little satisfied sigh as she selected
an ortolan, "is a very satisfactory place to be carried off to.
And you," she added, leaning across the table and touching his
fingers for a moment tenderly, "are a very delightful knight-errant."
He raised the fingers to his lips - the waiter had left the room.
She blushed, but yielded her hand readily enough.
"Victor," she murmured, "you would spoil the most faithless woman
on earth for all her lovers. You make me very impatient."
"Impatience, then," he declared, "must be the most infectious of
fevers. For I too am a terrible sufferer."
"If only the Prince," she said, "would be reasonable."
"I am afraid," Mr. Sabin answered, "that from him we have not much
to hope for."
"Yet," she continued, "I have fulfilled all the conditions. Reginald
Brott remains the enemy of our cause and Order. Yet some say that
his influence upon the people is lessened. In any case, my work is
over. He began to mistrust me long ago. To-day I believe that
mistrust is the only feeling he has in connection with me. I shall
demand my release."
"I am afraid," Mr. Sabin said, "that Saxe Leinitzer has other reasons
for keeping you at Dorset House."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"He has been very persistent even before I left Vienna. But he must
know that it is hopeless. I have never encouraged him."
"I am sure of it," Mr. Sabin said. "It is the incorrigible vanity
of the man which will not be denied. He has been taught to believe
himself irresistible. I have never doubted you for a single moment,
Lucille. I could not. But you have been the slave of these people
long enough. As you say, your task is over. Its failure was always
certain. Brott believes in his destiny, and it will be no slight
thing which will keep him from following it. They must give you
back to me."
"We will go back to America," she said. "I have never been so
happy as at Lenox."
"Nor I," Mr. Sahin said softly.
"Besides," she continued, "the times have changed since I joined
the Society. In Hungary you know how things were. The Socialists
were carrying all before them, a united solid body. The aristocracy
were forced to enter into some sort of combination against them.
We saved Austria, I am not sure that we did not save Russia. But
England is different. The aristocracy here are a strong resident
class. They have their House of Lords, they own the land, and will
own it for many years to come, their position is unassailable. It
is the worst country in Europe for us to work in. The very climate
and the dispositions of the people are inimical to intrigue. It is
Muriel Carey who brought the Society here. It was a mistake. The
country is in no need of it. There is no scope for it."
"If only one could get beyond Saxe Leinitzer," Mr. Sabin said.
She shook her head.
"Behind him," she said, "there is only the one to whom all reference
is forbidden. And there is no man in the world who would be less
likely to listen to an appeal from you - or from me."
"After all," Mr. Sabin said, "though Saxe Leinitzer is our enemy,
I am not sure that he can do us any harm. If he declines to
release you - well, when the twelve months are up you are free
whether he wishes it or not. He has put me outside the pale. But
this is not, or never was, a vindictive Society. They do not deal
in assassinations. In this country at least anything of the, sort
is rarely attempted. If I were a young man with my life to live in
the capitals of Europe I should be more or less a social outcast, I
suppose. But I am proof against that sort of thing."
Lucille looked a little doubtful.
"The Prince," she said, "is an intriguer of the old school. I know
that in Vienna he has more than once made use of more violent means
than he would dare to do here. And there is an underneath machinery
very seldom used, I believe, and of which none of us who are ordinary
members know anything at all, which gives him terrible powers."
Mr. Sabin nodded grimly.
"It was worked against me in America," he said, "but I got the best
of it. Here in England I do not believe that he would dare to use
it. If so, I think that before now it would have been aimed at
Brott. I have just read his Glasgow speech. If he becomes
Premier it will lead to something like a revolution."
"Brott is a clever man, and a strong man," she said. "I am sorry
for him, but I do not believe that he will never become Prime
Minister of England."
Mr. Sabin sipped his wine thoughtfully.
"I believe," he said, "that intrigue is the resource of those who
have lived their lives so quickly that they have found weariness.
For these things to-day interest me very little. I am only anxious
to have you back again, Lucille, to find ourselves on our way to
our old home."
She laughed softly.
"And I used to think," she said, "that after all I could only keep
you a little time - that presently the voices from the outside world
would come whispering in your ears, and you would steal back again
to where the wheels of life were turning."
"A man," he answered, "is not easily whispered out of Paradise."
She laughed at him.
"Ah, it is so easy," she said, "to know that your youth was spent
at a court."
"There is only one court," he answered, "where men learn to speak
She leaned back in her chair.
"Oh, you are incorrigible," she said softly. "The one role in life
in which I fancied you ill at ease you seem to fill to perfection."
"You are an adorable husband!"
"I should like," he said, "a better opportunity to prove it!"
"Let us hope," she murmured, "that our separation is nearly over.
I shall appeal to the Prince to-night. My remaining at Dorset
House is no longer necessary."
"I shall come," he said, "and demand you in person."
She shook her head.
"No! They would not let you in, and it would make it more
difficult. Be patient a little longer."
He came and sat by her side. She leaned over to meet his embrace.
"You make patience," he murmured, "a torture!"
* * * * *
Mr. Sabin walked home to his rooms late in the afternoon, well
content on the whole with his day. He was in no manner prepared
for the shock which greeted him on entering his sitting-room.
Duson was leaning back in his most comfortable easy-chair.
"Duson!" Mr. Sabin said sharply. "What does this mean?"
There was no answer. Mr. Sabin moved quickly forward, and then
stopped short. He had seen dead men, and he knew the signs. Duson
was stone dead.
Mr. Sabin's nerve answered to this demand upon it. He checked his
first impulse to ring the bell, and looked carefully on the table
for some note or message from the dead man. He found it almost at
once - a large envelope in Duson's handwriting. Mr. Sabin hastily
broke the seal and read:
"Monsieur, - I kill myself because it is easiest and best. The
poison was given me for you, but I have not the courage to become
a murderer, or afterwards to conceal my guilt. Monsieur has been
a good master to me, and also Madame la Comtesse was always
indulgent and kind. The mistake of my life has been the joining
the lower order of the Society. The money which I have received
has been but a poor return for the anxiety and trouble which have
come upon me since Madame la Comtesse left America. Now that I
seek shelter in the grave I am free to warn Monsieur that the
Prince of S. L. is his determined and merciless enemy, and that
he has already made an unlawful use of his position in the Society
for the sake of private vengeance. If monsieur would make a
powerful friend he should seek the Lady Muriel Carey.
"Monsieur will be so good as to destroy this when read. My will
is in my trunk.
"Your Grace's faithful servant,
Mr. Sabin read this letter carefully through to the end. Then he
put it into his pocket-book and quickly rang the bell.
"You had better send for a doctor at once," he said to the waiter
who appeared. "My servant appears to have suffered from some sudden
illness. I am afraid that he is quite dead."
You spoke, my dear Lucille," the Duchess of Dorset said, "of your
departure. Is not that a little premature?"
Lucille shrugged her beautiful shoulders, and leaned back in her
corner of the couch with half-closed eyes. The Duchess, who was
very Anglo-Saxon, was an easy person to read, and Lucille was
anxious to know her fate.
"Why premature?" she asked. "I was sent for to use my influence
with Reginald Brott. Well, I did my best, and I believe that for
days it was just a chance whether I did not succeed. However, as
it happened, I failed. One of his friends came and pulled him away
just as he was wavering. He has declared himself now once and for
all. After his speech at Glasgow he cannot draw back. I was brought
all the way from America, and I want to go back to my husband."
The Duchess pursed her lips.
"When one has the honour, my dear," she said, "of belonging to so
wonderful an organisation as this we must not consider too closely
the selfish claims of family. I am sure that years ago I should
have laughed at any one who had told me that I, Georgina Croxton,
should ever belong to such a thing as a secret society, even though
it had some connection with so harmless and excellent an
organisation as the Primrose League."
"It does seem remarkable," Lucille murmured.
"But look what terrible times have come upon us," the Duchess
continued, without heeding the interruption. "When I was a girl a
Radical was a person absolutely without consideration. Now all our
great cities are hot-beds of Socialism and - and anarchism. The
whole country seems banded together against the aristocracy and the
landowners. Combination amongst us became absolutely necessary in
some shape or form. When the Prince came and began to drop hints
about the way the spread of Socialism had been checked in Hungary
and Austria, and even Germany, I was interested from the first.
And when he went further, and spoke of the Society, it was I who
persuaded Dorset to join. Dear man, he is very earnest, but very
slow, and very averse to anything at all secretive. I am sure the
reflection that he is a member of a secret society, even although
it is simply a linking together of the aristocracy of Europe in
their own defence, has kept him awake for many a night."
Lucille was a little bored.
"The Society," she said, "is an admirable one enough, but just now
I am beginning to feel it a little exacting. I think that the
Prince expects a good deal of one. I shall certainly ask for my
The Duchess looked doubtful.
"Release!" she repeated. "Come, is that not rather an exaggerated
expression? I trust that your stay at Dorset House has not in any
way suggested an imprisonment."
"On the contrary," Lucille answered; "you and the Duke have been
most kind. But you must remember that I have home of my own - and
a husband of my own."
"I have no doubt," the Duchess said, "that you will be able to
return to them some day. But you must not be impatient. I do not
think that the Prince has given up all hopes of Reginald Brott yet."
Lucille was silent. So her emancipation was to be postponed. After
all, it was what she had feared. She sat watching idly the Duchess's
knitting needles. Lady Carey came sweeping in, wonderful in a black
velvet gown and a display of jewels almost barbaric.
"On my way to the opera," she announced. "The Maddersons sent me
their box. Will any of you good people come? What do you say,
Lucille shook her head.
"My toilette is deficient," she said;, "and besides, I am staying
at home to see the Prince. We expect him this evening."
"You'll probably be disappointed then," Lady Carey remarked, "for
he's going to join us at the opera. Run and change your gown.
"Are you sure that the Prince will be there?" Lucille asked.
"Then I will come," she said, "if the Duchess will excuse me."
The Duchess and Lady Carey were left alone for a few minutes. The
former put down her knitting.
"Why do we keep that woman here," she asked, "now that Brott has
broken away from her altogether?"
Lady Carey laughed meaningly.
"Better ask the Prince," she remarked.
The Duchess frowned.
"My dear Muriel," she said, "I think that you are wrong to make such insinuations. I am sure that
the Prince is too much devoted to our
cause to allow any personal considerations to intervene."
Lady Carey yawned.
"Rats!" she exclaimed.
The Duchess took up her knitting, and went on with it without remark.
Lady Carey burst out laughing.
"Don't look so shocked," she exclaimed. "It's funny. I can't help
being a bit slangy. You do take everything so seriously. Of course
you can see that the Prince is waiting to make a fool of himself
over Lucille. He has been trying more or less all his life."
"He may admire her," the Duchess said. "I am sure that he would
not allow that to influence him in his present position. By the
bye, she is anxious to leave us now that the Brott affair is over.
Do you think that the Prince will agree?"
Lady Carey's face hardened.
"I am sure that he will not," she said coolly. "There are reasons
why she may not at present be allowed to rejoin her husband."
The Duchess used her needles briskly.
"For my part," she said, "I can see no object in keeping her here
any longer. Mr. Brott has shown himself quite capable of keeping
her at arm's length. I cannot see what further use she is."
Lady Carey heard the flutter of skirts outside and rose.
"There are wheels within wheels," she remarked. "My dear Lucille,
what a charming toilette. We shall have the lady journalists
besieging us in our box. Paquin, of course. Good-night, Duchess.
Glad to see you're getting on with the socks, or stockings, do you
Insolent aristocratic, now and then attractive in some strange
suggestive way, Lady Carey sat in front of the box and exchanged
greetings with her friends. Presently the Prince came in and took
the chair between the two women. Lady Carey greeted him with a nod.
"Here's Lucille dying to return to her lawful husband," she remarked.
"Odd thing, isn't it? Most of the married women I ever knew are
dying to get away from theirs. You can make her happy or miserable
in a few moments."
The Prince leaned over between them, but he looked only at Lucille.
"I wish that I could," he murmured. "I wish that that were within
"It is," she answered coolly. "Muriel is quite right. I am most
anxious to return to my husband."
The Prince said nothing. Lady Carey, glancing towards him at that
moment, was surprised at certain signs of disquietude in his face
which startled her.
"What is the matter with you?" she asked almost roughly.
"Matter with me? Nothing," he answered. "Why this unaccustomed
Lady Carey looked into his face fiercely. He was pale, and there
was a strained look about his eyes. He seemed, too, to be listening.
>From outside in the street came faintly to their ears the cry of a
"Get me an evening paper," she whispered in his ear.
He got up and left the box. Lucille was watching the people below
and had not appreciated the significance of what had been passing
between the two. Lady Carey leaned back in the box with half-closed
eyes. Her fingers were clenched nervously together, her bosom was
rising and falling quickly. If he had dared to defy her! What was
it the newsboys were calling? What a jargon! Why did not Saxe
Leinitzer return? Perhaps-he was afraid! Her heart stood still
for a moment, and a little half-stifled cry broke from her lips.
Lucille looked around quickly.
"What is the matter, Muriel?" she asked. "Are you faint?"
"Faint, no," Lady Carey answered roughly. "I'm quite well. Don't
take any notice of me. Do you hear? Don't look at me."
Lucille obeyed. Lady Carey sat quite still with her hand pressed
to her side. It was a stifling pain. She was sure that she had
heard at last. "Sudden death of a visitor at the Carlton Hotel."
The place was beginning to go round.
Saxe Leinitzer returned. His face to her seemed positively ghastly.
He carried an evening paper in his hand. She snatched it away from
him. It was there before her in bold, black letters:
"Sudden death in the Carlton Hotel."
Her eyes, dim a moment ago, suddenly blazed fire upon him.
"It shall be a life for a life," she whispered. "If you have killed
him you shall die."
Lucille looked at them bewildered. And just then came a sharp tap
at the box door. No one answered it, but the door was softly opened.
Mr. Sabin stood upon the threshold.
"Pray, don't let me disturb you," he said. "I was unable to refrain
from paying you a brief visit. Why, Prince, Lady Carey! I can
assure you that I am no ghost."
He glanced from one to the other with a delicate smile of mockery
parting his thin lips. For upon the Prince's forehead the
perspiration stood out like beads, and he shrank away from Mr.
Sabin as from some unholy thing. Lady Carey had fallen back across
her chair. Her hand was still pressed to her side, and her face
was very pale. A nervous little laugh broke from her lips.
Mr. Sabin found a fourth chair, and calmly seated himself by
Lucille's side. But his eyes were fixed upon Lady Carey. She
was slowly recovering herself, but Mr. Sabin, who had never
properly understood her attitude towards him, was puzzled at the
air of intense relief which almost shone in her face.
"You seem - all of you," he remarked suavely, "to have found the
music a little exciting. Wagner certainly knew how to find his
way to the emotions. Or perhaps I interrupted an interesting
Lucille smiled gently upon him.
"These two," she said, looking from the Prince to Lady Carey, "seem
to have been afflicted with a sudden nervous excitement, and yet I do
not think that they are, either of them, very susceptible to music."
Lady Carey leaned forward, and looked at him from behind the large
fan of white feathers which she was lazily fluttering before her face.
"Your entrance," she murmured, "was most opportune, besides being
very welcome. The Prince and I were literally - on the point of
flying at one another's throats."
Mr. Sabin glanced at his neighbour and smiled.
"You are certainly a little out of sorts, Saxe Leinitzer," he
remarked. "You look pale, and your hands are not quite steady.
Nerves, I suppose. You should see Dr. Carson in Brook Street."
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
"My health," he said, "was never better. It is true that your
coming was somewhat of a surprise," he added, looking steadily at
Mr. Sabin. "I understood that you had gone for a short journey,
and I was not expecting to see you back again so soon."
"Duson," Mr. Sabin said, "has taken that short journey instead.
It was rather a liberty, but he left a letter for me fully
explaining his motives. I cannot blame him."
The Prince stroked his moustache.
"Ah!" he remarked. "That is a pity. You may, however, find it
politic, even necessary, to join him very shortly."
Mr. Sabin smiled grimly.
"I shall go when I am ready," he said, "not before!"
Lucille looked from one to the other with protesting eyebrows.
"Come," she said, "it is very impolite of you to talk in riddles
before my face. I have been flattering myself, Victor, that you
were here to see me. Do not wound my vanity."
He whispered something in her ear, and she laughed softly back at
him. The Prince, with the evening paper in his hand, escaped from
the box, and found a retired spot where he could read the little
paragraph at his leisure. Lady Carey pretended to be absorbed by
"Has anything happened, Victor?" Lucille whispered.
"Well, in a sense, yes," he admitted. "I appear to have become
unpopular with our friend, the Prince. Duson, who has always been
a spy upon my movements, was entrusted with a little sleeping
draught for me, which he preferred to take himself. That is all."
"Duson is - "
"He is dead!"
Lucille went very pale.
"This is horrible!" she murmured
"The Prince is a little annoyed, naturally," Mr. Sabin said. "It
is vexing to have your plans upset in such a manner."
"He is hateful! Victor, I fear that he does not mean to let me
leave Dorset House just yet. I am almost inclined to become, like
you, an outcast. Who knows - we might go free. Bloodshed is always
avoided as much as possible, and I do not see how else they could
strike at me. Social ostracism is their chief weapon. But in
America that could not hurt us."
He shook his head.
"Not yet," he said. "I am sure that Saxe Leinitzer is not playing
the game. But he is too well served here to make defiance wise."
"You run the risk yourself," she protested.
"It is a different matter. By the bye, we are overheard."
Lady Carey had forgotten to listen any more to the music. She was
watching them both, a steely light in her eyes, her fingers
nervously entwined. The Prince was still absent.
"Pray do not consider me," she begged. "So far as I am concerned,
your conversation is of no possible interest. But I think you had
better remember that the Prince is in the corridor just outside."
"We are much obliged to you," Mr. Sabin said. "The Prince may hear
every word I have to say about him. But all the same, I thank you
for your warning.
"I fear that we are very unsociable, Muriel," Lucille said, "and,
after all, I should never have been here but for you."
Lady Carey turned her left shoulder upon them.
"I beg," she said, "that you will leave me alone with the music.
I prefer it."
The Prince suddenly stood upon the threshold. His hand rested
lightly upon the arm of another man.
"Come in, Brott," he said. "The women will be charmed to see you.
And I don't suppose they've read your speeches. Countess, here is
the man who counts all equal under the sun, who decries class, and
recognises no social distinctions. Brott was born to lead a
revolution. He is our natural enemy. Let us all try to convert him."
Brott was pale, and deep new lines were furrowed on his face.
Nevertheless he smiled faintly as he bowed over Lucille's fingers.
"My introduction," he remarked, "is scarcely reassuring. Yet here
at least, if anywhere in the world, we should all meet upon equal
ground. Music is a universal leveler."
"And we haven't a chance," Lady Carey remarked with uplifted
eyebrows, "of listening to a bar of it."
Lucille welcomed the newcomer coldly. Nevertheless, he manoeuvred
himself into the place by her side. She took up her fan and
commenced swinging it thoughtfully.
"You are surprised to see me here?" he murmured.
"Yes!" she admitted.
He looked wearily away from the stage up into her face.
"And I too," he said. "I am surprised to find myself here!"
"I pictured you," she remarked, "as immersed in affairs. Did I
not hear something of a Radical ministry with you for Premier?"
"It has been spoken of," he admitted.
"Then I really cannot see," she said, "what you are doing here."
"Why not?" he asked doggedly.
She shrugged her shoulders.
"In the first place," she said, "you ought to be rushing about
amongst your supporters, keeping them up to the mark, and all that
sort of thing. And in the second - "
"Are we not the very people against whom you have declared war?"
"I have declared war against no people," he answered. "It is
systems and classes, abuses, injustice against which I have been
forced to speak. I would not deprive your Order of a single
privilege to which they are justly entitled. But you must remember
that I am a people's man. Their cause is mine. They look to me as
Lucille shrugged her shoulders.
"You cannot evade the point," she said. "If you are the, what do
you call it, the mouthpiece of the people, I do not see how you can
be anything else than the enemy of the aristocracy."
"The aristocracy? Who are they?" he asked. "I am the enemy of all
those who, because they possess an ancient name and inherited wealth,
consider themselves the God-appointed bullies of the poor, dealing
them out meagre charities, lordly patronage, an unspoken but bitter
contempt. But the aristocracy of the earth are not of such as these.
Your class are furnishing the world with advanced thinkers every year,
every month! Inherited prejudices can never survive the next few
generations. The fusion of classes must come."
She shook her head.
"You are sanguine, my friend," she said. "Many generations have
come and gone since the wonderful pages of history were opened to
us. And during all these years how much nearer have the serf and
the aristocrat come together? Nay, have they not rather drifted
apart? ... But listen! This is the great chorus. We must not
"So the Prince has brought back the wanderer," Lady Carey whispered
to Mr. Sabin behind her fan. "Hasn't he rather the air of a sheep
who has strayed from the fold?"
Mr. Sabin raised the horn eyeglass, which he so seldom used, and
contemplated Brott steadily.
"He reminds me more than ever," he remarked, "of Rienzi. He is
like a man torn asunder by great causes. They say that his speech
at Glasgow was the triumph of a born orator."
Lady Carey shrugged her shoulders.
"It was practically the preaching a revolution to the people," she
said. "A few more such, and we might have the red flag waving. He
left Glasgow in a ferment. If he really comes into power, what are
we to expect?"
"To the onlookers," Mr. Sabin remarked, "a revolution in this
country would possess many interesting features. The common people
lack the ferocity of our own rabble, but they are even more
determined. I may yet live to see an English Duke earning an honest
living in the States."
"It depends very much upon Brott," Lady Carey said. "For his own
sake it is a pity that he is in love with Lucille."
Mr. Sabin agreed with her blandly.
"It is," he affirmed, "a most regrettable incident."
She leaned a little towards him. The box was not a large one, and
their chairs already touched.
"Are you a jealous husband?" she asked.
"Horribly," be answered.
"Your devotion to Lucille, or rather the singleness of your devotion
to Lucille," she remarked, "is positively the most gauche thing about
you. It is - absolutely callow!"
He laughed gently.
"Did I not always tell you," he said, "that when I did marry I
should make an excellent husband?"
"You are at least," she answered sharply, "a very complaisant one."
The Prince leaned forward from the shadows of the box.
"I invite you all," he said, "to supper with me. It is something
of an occasion, this! For I do not think that we shall all meet
again just as we are now for a very long time."
"Your invitation," Mr. Sabin remarked, "is most agreeable. But
your suggestion is, to say the least of it, nebulous. I do not see
what is to prevent your all having supper with me to-morrow evening.
Lady Carey laughed as she rose, and stretched out her hand for her
"To-morrow evening," she said, "is a long way off. Let us make
sure of to-night - before the Prince changes his mind."
Mr. Sabin bowed low.
"To-night by all means," he declared. "But my invitation remains
- a challenge!"
The Prince, being host, arranged the places at his supper-table.
Mr. Sabin found himself, therefore, between Lady Carey and a young
German attache, whom they had met in the ante-room of the restaurant.
Lucille had the Prince and Mr. Brott on either side of her.
Lady Carey monopolised at first the greater part of the conversation.
Mr. Sabin was unusually silent. The German attache, whose name was
Baron von Opperman, did not speak until the champagne was served,
when he threw a bombshell into the midst of the little party.
"I hear," he said, with a broad and seraphic smile, "that in this
hotel there has to-day a murder been committed."
Baron von Opperman was suddenly the cynosure of several pairs of
eyes. He was delighted with the success of his attempt towards
the general entertainment.
"The evening papers," he continued, "they have in them news of a
sudden death. But in the hotel here now they are speaking of
something - what you call more - mysterious. There has been ordered
an examination post-mortem!"
"It is a case of poisoning then, I presume?" the Prince asked,
"It is so supposed," the attache answered. "It seems that the
doctors could find no trace of disease, nothing to have caused death.
They were not able to decide anything. The man, they said, was in
perfect health - but dead."
"It must have been, then," the Prince remarked, "a very wonderful
"Without doubt," Baron Opperman answered.
The Prince sighed gently.
"There are many such," he murmured. "Indeed the science of
toxicology was never so ill-understood as now. I am assured that
there are many poisons known only to a few chemists in the world, a
single grain of which is sufficient to destroy the strongest man
and leave not the slightest trace behind. If the poisoner be
sufficiently accomplished he can pursue his - calling without the
faintest risk of detection."
Mr. Sabin sipped his wine thoughtfully.
"The Prince is, I believe, right," he remarked. "It is for that
reason, doubtless, that I have heard of men whose lives have been
threatened, who have deposited in safe places a sealed statement of
the danger in which they find themselves, with an account of its
source, so that if they should come to an end in any way mysterious
there may be evidence against their murderers."
"A very reasonable and judicious precaution," the Prince remarked
with glittering eyes. "Only if the poison was indeed of such a
nature that it was not possible to trace it nothing worse than
suspicion could ever be the lot of any one."
Mr. Sabin helped himself carefully to salad, and resumed the
discussion with his next course.
"Perhaps not," he admitted. "But you must remember that suspicion
is of itself a grievous embarrassment. No man likes to feel that
he is being suspected of murder. By the bye, is it known whom the
unfortunate person was?"
"The servant of a French nobleman who is staying in the hotel," Mr.
Brott remarked. "I heard as much as that."
Mr. Sabin smiled. Lady Carey glanced at him meaningly.
"You have worried the Prince quite sufficiently," she whispered.
"Change the subject."
Mr. Sabin bowed.
"You are very considerate - to the Prince," he said.
"It is perhaps for your sake," she answered. "And as for the Prince
- well, you know, or you should know, for how much he counts with
Mr. Sabin glanced at her curiously. She was a little flushed as
though with some inward excitement. Her eyes were bright and soft.
Despite a certain angularity of figure and her hollow cheeks she was
certainly one of the most distinguished-looking women in the room.
"You are so dense," she whispered in his ear, "wilfully dense,
perhaps. You will not understand that I wish to be your friend."
He smiled with gentle deprecation.
"Do you blame me," he murmured, "if I seem incredulous? For I am
an old man, and you are spoken of always as the friend of my enemy,
the friend of the Prince."
"I wonder," she said thoughtfully, "if this is really the secret
of your mistrust? Do you indeed fear that I have no other interest
in life save to serve Saxe Leinitzer?"
"As to that," he answered, "I cannot say. Yet I know that only a
few months ago you were acting under orders from him. It is you
who brought Lucille from America. It was through you that the first
blow was struck at my happiness."
"Cannot I atone?" she murmured under her breath. "If I can I will.
And as for the present, well, I am outside his schemes now. Let us
be friends. You would find me a very valuable ally."
"Let it be so," he answered without emotion. "You shall help me,
if you will, to regain Lucille. I promise you then that my gratitude
shall not disappoint you."
She bit her lip.
"And are you sure," she whispered, "that Lucille is anxious to be
won back? She loves intrigue, excitement, the sense of being
concerned in important doings. Besides - you must have heard what
they say about her - and Brott. Look at her now. She wears
her grass widowhood lightly enough."
Mr. Sabin looked across the table. Lucille had indeed all the
appearance of a woman thoroughly at peace with the world and herself.
Brott was talking to her in smothered and eager undertones. The
Prince was waiting for an opportunity to intervene. Mr. Sabin
looked into Brott's white strong face, and was thoughtful.
"It is a great power - the power of my sex," Lady Carey continued,
with a faint, subtle smile. "A word from Lucille, and the history
book of the future must be differently written."
"She will not speak that word," Mr. Sabin said. Lady Carey shrugged
her shoulders. The subtlety of her smile faded away. Her whole
face expressed a contemptuous and self-assured cynicism.
"You know her very well," she murmured. "Yet she and I are no
strangers. She is one who loves to taste - no, to drink - deeply
of all the experiences of life. Why should we blame her, you and
I? Have we not the same desire?"
Mr. Sabin lit a cigarette.
"Once, perhaps," he remarked. "You must not forget that I am no
longer a young man."
She leaned towards him.
"You will die young," she murmured. "You are not of the breed of
men who grow old."
"Do you mean to turn my head?" he asked her, with a humorous smile.
"It would be easier," she answered, "than to touch your heart."
Then Lucille looked across at them - and Mr. Sabin suddenly
remembered that Reginald Brott knew them both only as strangers.
"Muriel," she said, "you are behaving disgracefully."
"I am doing my best," Lady Carey answered, "to keep you in
The eyes of the two women met for a moment, and though the smiles
lingered still upon their faces Lady Carey at any rate was not able
to wholly conceal her hatred. Lucille shrugged her shoulders.
"I am doing my best," she said, "to convert Mr. Brott."
"To what?" Lady Carey asked.
"To a sane point of view concerning the holiness of the aristocracy,"
Lucille answered. "I am afraid though that I have made very little
impression. In his heart I believe Mr. Brott would like to see us
all working for our living, school-teachers and dressmakers, and
that sort of thing, you know."
Mr. Brott protested.
"I am not even," he declared, "moderately advanced in my views as
regards matters of your sex. To tell you the truth, I do not like
women to work at all outside their homes."
Lady Carey laughed.
"My dear," she said to Lucille, "you and I may as well retire in
despair. Can't you see the sort of woman Mr. Brott admires? She
isn't like us a bit. She is probably a healthy, ruddy-cheeked
young person who lives in the country, gets up to breakfast to pour
out the coffee for some sort of a male relative, goes round the
garden snipping off roses in big gloves and a huge basket, interviews
the cook, orders the dinner, makes fancy waistcoats for her husband,
and failing a sewing maid, does the mending for the family. You
and I, Lucille, are not like that."
"Well, you have mentioned nothing which I couldn't do, if it seemed
worth while," Lucille objected. "It sounds very primitive and
delightful. I am sure we are all too luxurious and too lazy. I
think we ought to turn over a new leaf."
"For you, dear Lucille," Lady Carey said with suave and deadly
satire, "what improvement is possible? You have all that you could
desire. It is much less fortunate persons, such as myself, to whom
Utopia must seem such a delightful place."
A frock-coated and altogether immaculate young man approached their
table and accosted Mr. Sabin.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "but the manager would be much
obliged if you would spare him a moment or two in his private room
as soon as possible."
Mr. Sabin nodded.
"In a few minutes," he answered.
The little party broke up almost immediately. Coffee was ordered
in the palm court, where the band was playing. Mr. Sabin and the
Prince fell a little behind the others on the way out of the room.
"You heard my summons?" Mr. Sabin asked.
"I am going to be cross-examined as regards Duson. I am no longer
a member of the Order. What is to prevent my setting them upon
the right track?"
"The fact," the Prince said coolly, "that you are hoping one day
to recover Lucille."
"I doubt," Mr. Sabin said, "whether you are strong enough to keep
her from me."
The Prince smiled. All his white teeth were showing.
"Come," he said, "you know better than - much better than that.
Lucille must wait her release. You know that."
"I will buy it," Mr. Sabin said, "with a lie to the manager here,
or I will tell the truth and still take her from you."
The Prince stood upon the topmost step of the balcony. Below was
the palm court, with many little groups of people dotted about.
"My dear friend," he said, "Duson died absolutely of his own free
will. You know that quite well. We should have preferred that the
matter had been otherwise arranged. But as it is we are safe,
"Duson's letter!" Mr. Sabin remarked.
"You will not show it," the Prince answered. "You cannot. You
have kept it too long. And, after all, you cannot escape from the
main fact. Duson committed suicide."
"He was incited to murder. His letter proves it."
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
"By whom? Ah, how your story would excite ridicule. I seem to
hear the laughter now. No, my dear Souspennier, you would bargain
for me with Lucille. Look below. Are we likely to part with her
In a corner, behind a gigantic palm, Lucille and Brott were talking
together. Lady Carey had drawn Opperman a little distance away.
Brott was talking eagerly, his cheeks flushed, his manner earnest.
Mr. Sabin turned upon his heel and walked away.
Mr. Sabin, although he had registered at the hotel under his
accustomed pseudonym, had taken no pains to conceal his identity,
and was well known to the people in authority about the place. He
was received with all the respect due to his rank.
"Your Grace will, I trust, accept my most sincere apologies for
disturbing you," Mr. Hertz, the manager, said, rising and bowing at
his entrance. "We have here, however, an emissary connected with
the police come to inquire into the sad incident of this afternoon.
He expressed a wish to ask your Grace a question or two with a view
to rendering your Grace's attendance at the inquest unnecessary."
Mr. Sabin nodded.
"I am perfectly willing," he said, "to answer any questions you may
choose to put to me."
A plain, hard-featured little man, in a long black overcoat, and
holding a howler hat in his hand, bowed respectfully to Mr. Sabin.
"I am much obliged to you, sir," he said. "My name is John Passmore.
We do not of course appear in this matter unless the post-mortem
should indicate anything unusual in the circumstances of Duson's
death, but it is always well to be prepared, and I ventured to ask
Mr. Hertz here to procure for me your opinion as regards the death
of your servant."
"You have asked me," Mr. Sabin said gravely, "a very difficult
The eyes of the little detective flashed keenly.
"You do not believe then, sir, that he died a natural death?"
"I do not," Mr. Sabin answered.
Mr. Hertz was startled. The detective controlled his features
"May I ask your reasons, sir?"
Mr. Sabin lightly shrugged his shoulders.
"I have never known the man to have a day's illness in his life,"
he said. "Further, since his arrival in England he has been
acting in a strange and furtive manner, and I gathered that he had
some cause for fear which he was indisposed to talk about."
"This," the detective said, "is very interesting."
"Doubtless," Mr. Sabin answered. "But before I say anything more
I must clearly understand my position. I am giving you personally
a few friendly hints, in the interests of justice perhaps, but still
quite informally. I am not in possession of any definite facts
concerning Duson, and what I say to you here I am not prepared to
say at the inquest, before which I presume I may have to appear as
a witness. There, I shall do nothing more save identify Duson and
state the circumstances under which I found him."
"I understand that perfectly, sir," the man answered. "The less
said at the inquest the better in the interests of justice."
Mr. Sabin nodded.
"I am glad," he said, "that you appreciate that. I do not mind going
so far then as to tell you that I believe Duson died of poison."
"Can you give me any idea," the detective asked, "as to the source?"
"None," Mr. Sabin answered. "That you must discover for yourselves.
Duson was a man of silent and secretive habits, and it has occurred
to me more than once that he might possibly be a member of one of
those foreign societies who have their headquarters in Soho, and
concerning which you probably know more than I do."
The detective smiled. It was a very slight flicker of the lips,
but it attracted Mr. Sabin's keen attention.
"Your suggestions," the detective said, "are making this case a very interesting one. I have
always understood, however, that reprisals
of this extreme nature are seldom resorted to in this country.
Besides, the man's position seems scarcely to indicate sufficient
importance - perhaps - "
"Well?" Mr. Sabin interjected.
"I notice that Duson was found in your sitting-room. It occurs to
me as a possibility that he may have met with a fate intended for
some one else - for yourself, for instance, sir!"
"But I," Mr. Sabin said smoothly, "am a member of no secret society,
nor am I conscious of having enemies sufficiently venomous to desire
The detective sat for a moment with immovable face.
"We, all of us, know our friends, sir," he said. "There are few of
us properly acquainted with our enemies."
Mr. Sabin lit a cigarette. His fingers were quite steady, but this
man was making him think.
"You do not seriously believe," he asked, "that Duson met with a
death which was intended for me?"
"I am afraid," the detective said thoughtfully, "that I know no
more about it than you do."
"I see," Mr. Sabin said, "that I am no stranger to you."
"You are very far from being that, sir," the man answered. "A
few years ago I was working for the Government - and you were not
often out of my sight."
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"It was perhaps judicious," he remarked, "though I am afraid it
proved of very little profit to you. And what about the present
"I see no harm in telling you, sir, that a general watch is kept
upon your movements. Duson was useful to us ... but now Duson
"It is a fact," Mr. Sabin said impressively, "that Duson was a
genius. My admiration for him continually increases."
"Duson made harmless reports to us as we desired them," the
detective said. "I have an idea, however, that if this course had
at any time been inimical to your interests that Duson would have
"I am convinced of it," Mr. Sabin declared.
"And Duson is dead!"
Mr. Sabin nodded gravely.
The little hard-visaged man looked steadily for a moment upon the
"Duson died virtually whilst accepting pay from if not actually
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