"Wait here for me," she said, "and I will come to you. You shall know, Victor, that Lucille is not the only woman in the world who has cared for you."
There was a tap at the door. Lady Carey was busy adjusting her hat. Passmore entered, and stood hesitating upon the threshold. Mr. Sabin had risen to his feet. He took one of her hands and raised it to his lips. She gave him a swift, wonderful look and passed out.
Mr. Sabin's manner changed as though by magic. He was at once alert and vigorous.
"My dear Passmore," he said, "come to the table. We shall want those Continental time-tables and the London A.B.C. You will have to take a journey to-night."
The two women were alone in the morning-room of Lady Carey's house in Pont Street. Lucille was walking restlessly up and down twisting her handkerchief between her fingers. Lady Carey was watching her, more composed, to all outward appearance, but with closely compressed lips, and boding gleam in her eyes.
"I think," Lady Carey said, "that you had better see him."
Lucille turned almost fiercely upon her.
"Well, for one thing he will not understand your refusal. He may be suspicious."
"What does it matter? I have finished with him. I have done all that I pledged myself to. What more can be expected of me? I do not wish to see him again."
Lady Carey laughed.
"At least," she said, "I think that the poor man has a right to receive his conge from you. You cannot break with him without a word of explanation. Perhaps—you may not find it so easy as it seems."
Lucille swept around.
"What do you mean?"
Lady Carey shrugged her shoulders.
"You are in a curious mood, my dear Lucille. What I mean is obvious enough. Brott is a strong man and a determined man. I do not think that he will enjoy being made a fool of."
Lucille was indifferent.
"At any rate," she said, "I shall not see him. I have quite made up my mind about that."
"And why not, Countess?" a deep voice asked from the threshold. "What have I done? May I not at least know my fault?"
Lady Carey rose and moved towards the door.
"You shall have it out between yourselves," she declared, looking up, and nodding at Brott as she passed. "Don't fight!"
The cry was imperative, but Lady Carey had gone. Mr. Brott closed the door behind him and confronted Lucille. A brilliant spot of colour flared in her pale cheeks.
"But this is a trap!" she exclaimed. "Who sent for you? Why did you come?"
He looked at her in surprise.
His eyes were full of passionate remonstrance. She looked nervously from him towards the door. He intercepted her glance.
"What have I done?" he asked fiercely. "What have I failed to do? Why do you look as though I had forced myself upon you? Haven't I the right? Don't you wish to see me?"
In Brott's face and tone was all the passionate strenuousness of a great crisis. Lucille felt suddenly helpless before the directness of his gaze, his storm of questions. In all their former intercourse it had been she who by virtue of her sex and his blind love for her had kept the upper hand. And now the position was changed. All sorts of feeble explanations, of appeals to him, occurred to her dimly, only to be rejected by reason of their ridiculous inadequacy. She was silent-abjectly silent.
He came a little closer to her, and the strength of the man was manifest in his intense self-restraint. His words were measured, his tone quiet. Yet both somehow gave evidence of the smouldering fires beneath.
"Lucille," he said, "I find you hard to understand to-day. You have made me your slave, you came once more into my life at its most critical moment, and for your sake I have betrayed a great trust. My conscience, my faith, and although that counts for little, my political career, were in the balance against my love for you. You know which conquered. At your bidding I have made myself the jest of every man who buys the halfpenny paper and calls himself a politician. My friends heap abuse upon me, my enemies derision. I cannot hold my position in this new Cabinet. I had gone too far for compromise. I wonder if you quite understand what has happened?"
"Oh, I have heard too much," she cried. "Spare me the rest."
He continued as though he had not heard her.
"Men who have been my intimate associates for many years, and whose friendship was dear to me, cross the road to avoid: meeting me, day by day I am besieged with visitors and letters from the suffering people to whom my word had been pledged, imploring me for some explanation, for one word of denial. Life has become a hell for me, a pestilent, militant hell! Yet, Lucille, unless you break faith with me I make no complaint. I am content."
"I am very sorry," she said. "I do not think that you have properly understood me. I have never made you any promise."
For a moment he lost control of himself. She shrank back at the blaze of indignation, half scornful, half incredulous, which lit up his clear, grey eyes.
"It is a lie!" he answered. "Between you and me it can be no question of words. You were always very careful of your pledges, but there are limits even to your caution—as to my forbearance. A woman does not ask a man who is pleading to her for her love to give up everything else he cares for in life without hope of reward. It is monstrous! I never sought you under false pretenses. I never asked you for your friendship. I wanted you. I told you so plainly. You won't deny that you gave me hope—encouraged me? You can't even deny that I am within my rights if I claim now at this instant the reward for my apostasy."
Her hands were suddenly locked in his. She felt herself being drawn into his arms. With a desperate effort she avoided his embrace. He still held her left wrist, and his face was dark with passion.
"Let me go!" she pleaded.
"Not I!" he answered, with an odd, choked little laugh. "You belong to me. I have paid the price. I, too, am amongst the long list of those poor fools who have sold their gods and their honour for a woman's kiss. But I will not be left wholly destitute. You shall pay me for what I have lost."
"Oh, you are mad!" she answered. "How could you have deceived yourself so? Don't you know that my husband is in London?"
"The man who calls himself Mr. Sabin?" he answered roughly. "What has that to do with it? You are living apart. Saxe Leinitzer and the Duchess have both told me the history of your married life. Or is the whole thing a monstrous lie?" he cried, with a sudden dawning sense of the truth. "Nonsense! I won't believe it. Lucille! You're not afraid! I shall be good to you. You don't doubt that. Sabin will divorce you of course. You won't lose your friends. I—"
There was a sudden loud tapping at the door. Brott dropped her wrist and turned round with an exclamation of anger. To Lucille it was a Heaven-sent interposition. The Prince entered, pale, and with signs of hurry and disorder about his usually immaculate person.
"You are both here," he exclaimed. "Good! Lucille, I must speak with you urgently in five minutes. Brott, come this way with me."
Lucille sank into a chair with a little murmur of relief. The Prince led Brott into another room, and closed the door carefully behind him.
"Mr. Brott," he said, "can I speak to you as a friend of Lucille's?"
Brott, who distrusted the Prince, looked him steadily in the face. Saxe Leinitzer's agitation was too apparent to be wholly assumed. He had all the appearance of being a man desperately in earnest.
"I have always considered myself one," Brott answered. "I am beginning to doubt, however, whether the Countess holds me in the same estimation."
"You found her hysterical, unreasonable, overwrought!" the Prince exclaimed. "That is so, eh?"
The Prince drew a long breath.
"Brott," he said, "I am forced to confide in you. Lucille is in terrible danger. I am not sure that there is anybody who can effectually help her but you. Are you prepared to make a great sacrifice for her sake—to leave England at once, to take her to the uttermost part of the world?"
Brott's eyes were suddenly bright. The Prince quailed before the fierceness of his gaze.
"She would not go!" he exclaimed sharply.
"She will," the Prince answered. "She must! Not only that, but you will earn her eternal gratitude. Listen, I must tell you the predicament in which we find ourselves. It places Lucille's life in your hands."
The exclamation came like a pistol shot. The Prince held up his hand.
"Do not interrupt. Let me speak. Every moment is very valuable. You heard without doubt of the sudden death at the Carlton Hotel. It took place in Mr. Sabin's sitting-room. The victim was Mr. Sabin's servant. The inquest was this afternoon. The verdict was death from the effect of poison. The police are hot upon the case. There was no evidence as to the person by whom the poison was administered, but by a hideous combination of circumstances one person before many hours have passed will be under the surveillance of the police."
"And that person?" Brott asked.
The Prince looked round and lowered his voice, although the room was empty.
"Lucille," he whispered hoarsely.
Brott stepped backwards as though he were shot.
"What damned folly!" he exclaimed.
"It is possible that you may not think so directly," Saxe Leinitzer continued. "The day it happened Lucille bought this same poison, and it is a rare one, from a man who has absconded. An hour before this man was found dead, she called at the hotel, left no name, but went upstairs to Mr. Sabin's room, and was alone there for five minutes, The man died from a single grain of poison which had been introduced into Mr. Sabin's special liqueur glass, out of which he was accustomed to drink three or four times a day. All these are absolute facts, which at any moment may be discovered by the police. Added to that she is living apart from her husband, and is known to be on bad terms with him."
Brott as gripping the back of a chair. He was white to the lips.
"You don't think," he cried hoarsely. "You can't believe—"
"No" the Prince answered quickly, "I don't believe anything of the sort. I will tell you as man to man that I believe she wished Mr. Sabin dead. You yourself should know why. But no, I don't believe she went so far as that. It was an accident. But what we have to do is to save her. Will you help?"
"She must cross to the Continent to-night before the police get on the scent. Afterwards she must double back to Havre and take the Bordlaise for New York on Saturday. Once there I can guarantee her protection."
"She cannot go alone."
"You mean that I should go with her?"
"Yes! Get her right away, and I will employ special detectives and have the matter cleared up, if ever it can be. But if she remains here I fear that nothing can save her from the horror of an arrest, even if afterwards we are able to save her. You yourself risk much, Brott. The only question that remains is, will you do it?"
"At her bidding—yes!" Brott declared.
"Wait here," the Prince answered.
Saxe Leinitzer returned to the morning-room, and taking the key from his pocket unlocked the door. Inside Lucille was pale with fury.
"What! I am a prisoner, then!" she exclaimed. "How dare you lock me in? This is not your house. Let me pass! I am tired of all this stupid espionage."
The Prince stood with his back to the door.
"It is for your own sake, Lucille. The house is watched."
She sank into a low chair, trembling. The Prince had all the appearance of a man himself seriously disturbed.
"Lucille," he said, "we will do what we can for you. The whole thing is horribly unfortunate. You must leave England to-night. Muriel will go with you. Her presence will help to divert suspicion. Once you can reach Paris I can assure you of safety. But in this country I am almost powerless."
"I must see Victor," she said in a low tone. "I will not go without."
The Prince nodded.
"I have thought of that. There is no reason, Lucille, why he should not be the one to lead you into safety."
"You mean that?" she cried.
"I mean it," the Prince answered. "After what has happened you are of course of no further use to us. I am inclined to think, too, that we have been somewhat exacting. I will send a messenger to Souspennier to meet you at Charing Cross to-night."
She sprang up.
"Let me write it myself."
"Very well," he agreed, with a shrug of the shoulders. "But do not address or sign it. There is danger in any communication between you."
She took a sheet of note-paper and hastily wrote a few words.
"I have need of your help. Will you be at Charing Cross at twelve o'clock prepared for a journey.—Lucille."
The Prince took the letter from her and hastily folded it up.
"I will deliver it myself," he announced. "It will perhaps be safest. Until I return, Lucille, do not stir from the house or see any one. Muriel has given the servants orders to admit no one. All your life," he added, after a moment's pause, "you have been a little cruel to me, and this time also. I shall pray that you will relent before our next meeting."
She rose to her feet and looked him full in the face. She seemed to be following out her own train of thought rather than taking note of his words.
"Even now," she said thoughtfully, "I am not sure that I can trust you. I have a good mind to fight or scream my way out of this house, and go myself to see Victor."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"The fighting or the screaming will not be necessary, dear Countess," he said. "The doors are open to you. But it is as clear as day that if you go to the hotel or near it you will at once be recognised, and recognition means arrest. There is a limit beyond which one cannot help a wilful woman. Take your life in your hands and go your own way, or trust in us who are doing our best to save you."
"And what of Reginald Brott?" she asked.
"Brott?" the Prince repeated impatiently. "Who cares what becomes of him? You have made him seem a fool, but, Lucille, to tell you the truth, I am sorry that we did not leave this country altogether alone. There is not the soil for intrigue here, or the possibility. Then, too, the police service is too stolid, too inaccessible. And even our friends, for whose aid we are here—well, you heard the Duke. The cast-iron Saxon idiocy of the man. The aristocracy here are what they call bucolic. It is their own fault. They have intermarried with parvenus and Americans for generations. They are a race by themselves. We others may shake ourselves free from them. I would work in any country of the globe for the good of our cause, but never again in England."
Lucille shivered a little.
"I am not in the humour for argument," she declared. "If you would earn my gratitude take that note to my husband. He is the only man I feel sure of—whom I know can protect me."
The Prince bowed low.
"It is our farewell, Countess," he said.
"I cannot pretend," she answered, "to regret it."
Saxe Leinitzer left the room. There was a peculiar smile upon his lips as he crossed the hall. Brott was still awaiting for him.
"Mr. Brott," he said, "the Countess is, as I feared, too agitated to see you again for the present, or any one else. She sends you, however, this message."
He took the folded paper from his waistcoat pocket and handed it to the other man. Brott read it through eagerly. His eyes shone.
"She accepts the situation, then?" he exclaimed.
"Precisely! Will you pardon me, my friend, if I venture upon one other word. Lucille is not an ordinary woman. She is not in the least like the majority of her sex, especially, I might add, amongst us. The fact that her husband was living would seriously influence her consideration of any other man—as her lover. The present crisis, however, has changed everything. I do not think that you will have cause to complain of her lack of gratitude."
Brott walked out into the streets with the half sheet of note-paper twisted up between his fingers. For the first time for months he was conscious of a distinct and vivid sense of happiness. The terrible period of indecision was past. He knew now where he stood. Nor was his immediate departure from England altogether unpleasant to him. His political career was shattered—friends and enemies were alike cold to him. Such an act of cowardice as his, such pitiful shrinking back at the last fateful moment, was inexplicable and revolting. Even Letheringham was barely civil. It was certain that his place in the Cabinet would be intolerable. He yearned for escape from it all, and the means of escape were now at hand. In after years he knew very well that the shadow of his broken trust, the torture of his misused opportunities, would stand for ever between him and the light. But at that moment he was able to clear his mind of all such disquieting thoughts. He had won Lucille—never mind at what cost, at what peril! He had won Lucille!
He was deeply engrossed, and his name was spoken twice in his ear before he turned round. A small, somewhat shabby-looking man, with tired eyes and more than a day's growth of beard upon his chin, had accosted him.
"Mr. Brott, sir. A word with you, please."
Brott held out his hand. Nevertheless his tone when he spoke lacked heartiness.
"You, Hedley! Why, what brings you to London?"
The little man did not seem to see the hand. At any rate he made no motion to take it.
"A few minutes' chat with Mr. Brott. That's what I've come for."
Brott raised his eyebrows, and nodded in somewhat constrained fashion.
"Well," he said, "I am on my way to my rooms. We can talk as we go, if you like. I am afraid the good people up in your part of the world are not too well pleased with me."
The little man smiled rather queerly.
"That is quite true," he answered calmly. "They hate a liar and a turn-coat. So do I!"
Brott stopped short upon the pavement.
"If you are going to talk like that to me, Hedley," he said, "the less you have to say the better."
The man nodded.
"Very well," he said. "What I have to say won't take me very long. But as I've tramped most of the way up here to say it, you'll have to listen here or somewhere else. I thought you were always one who liked the truth."
"So I do!" Brott answered. "Go on!"
The man shuffled along by his side. They were an odd-looking pair, for Brott was rather a careful man as regards his toilet, and his companion looked little better than a tramp.
"All my life," he continued, "I've been called 'Mad Hedley,' or 'Hedley, the mad tailor.' Sometimes one and sometimes the other. It don't matter which. There's truth in, it. I am a bit mad. You, Mr. Brott, were one of those who understood me a little. I have brooded a good deal perhaps, and things have got muddled up in my brain. You know what has been at the bottom of it all.
"I began making speeches when I was a boy. People laughed at me, but I've set many a one a-thinking. I'm no anarchist, although people call me one. I'll admit that I admire the men who set the French Revolution going. If such a thing happened in this country I'd be one of the first to join in. But I've never had a taste for bloodshed. I'd rather the thing had been done without. From the first you seemed to be the man who might have brought it about. We listened to you, we watched your career, and we began to have hopes. Mr. Brott, the bodies and souls of millions of your fellow-creatures were in the hollow of your hand. It was you who might have set them free. It was you who might have made this the greatest, the freest, the happiest country in the world. Not so much for us perhaps as for our children, and our children's children. We didn't expect a huge social upheaval in a week, or even a decade of years. But we did expect to see the first blow struck. Oh, yes, we expected that."
"I have disappointed you, I know, you and many others," Brott said bitterly. "I wish I could explain. But I can't!"
"Oh, it doesn't matter," the man answered. "You have broken the hearts of thousands of suffering men and women—you who might have led them into the light, have forged another bolt in the bars which stand between them and liberty. So they must live on in the darkness, dull, dumb creatures with just spirit enough to spit and curse at the sound of your name. It was the greatest trust God ever placed in one man's hand—and you—you abused it. They were afraid of you—the aristocrats, and they bought you. Oh, we are not blind up there—there are newspapers in our public houses, and now and then one can afford a half-penny. We have read of you at their parties and their dances. Quite one of them you have become, haven't you? But, Mr. Brott, have you never been afraid? Have you never said to yourself, there is justice in the earth? Suppose it finds me out?"
"Hedley, you are talking rubbish," Brott said. "Up here you would see things with different eyes. Letheringham is pledged."
"If any man ever earned hell," Hedley continued, "it is you, Brott, you who came to us a deliverer, and turned out to be a lying prophet. 'Hell,'" he repeated fiercely, "and may you find it swiftly."
The man's right hand came out of his long pocket. They were in the thick of Piccadilly, but his action was too swift for any interference. Four reports rang suddenly out, and the muzzle of the revolver was held deliberately within an inch or so of Brett's heart. And before even the nearest of the bystanders could realise what had happened Brott lay across the pavement a dead man, and Hedley was calmly handing over the revolver to a policeman who had sprang across the street.
"Be careful, officer," he said, "there are still two chambers loaded. I will come with you quite quietly. That is Mr. Reginald Brott, the Cabinet Minister, and I have killed him."
"For once," Lady Carey said, with a faint smile, "your 'admirable Crichton' has failed you."
Lucille opened her eyes. She had been leaning back amongst the railway cushions.
"I think not," she said. "Only I blame myself that I ever trusted the Prince even so far as to give him that message. For I know very well that if Victor had received it he would have been here."
Lady Carey took up a great pile of papers and looked them carelessly through.
"I am afraid," she said, "that I do not agree with you. I do not think that Saxe Leinitzer had any desire except to see you safely away. I believe that he will be quite as disappointed as you are that your husband is not here to aid you. Some one must see you safely on the steamer at Havre. Perhaps he will come himself."
"I shall wait in Paris," Lucille said quietly, "for my husband."
"You may wait," Lady Carey said, "for a very long time."
Lucille looked at her steadily. "What do you mean?"
"What a fool you are, Lucille. If to other people it seems almost certain on the face of it that you were responsible for that drop of poison in your husband's liqueur glass, why should it not seem so to himself?"
Lucille laughed, but there was a look of horror in her dark eyes.
"How absurd. I know Victor better than to believe him capable of such a suspicion. Just as he knows me better than to believe me capable of such an act."
"Really. But you were in his rooms secretly just before."
"I went to leave some roses for him," Lucille answered. "And if you would like to know it, I will tell you this. I left my card tied to them with a message for him."
Lady Carey yawned.
"A remarkably foolish thing to do," she said. "That may cause you trouble later on. Great heavens, what is this?"
She held the evening paper open in her hand. Lucille leaned over with blanched face.
"What has happened?" she cried. "Tell me, can't you!"
"Reginald Brott has been shot in Piccadilly," Lady Carey said.
"Is he hurt?" Lucille asked.
"He is dead!"
They read the brief announcement together. The deed had been committed by a man whose reputation for sanity had long been questioned, one of Brott's own constituents. He was in custody, and freely admitted his guilt. The two women looked at one another in horror. Even Lady Carey was affected.
"What a hateful thing," she said. "I am glad that we had no hand in it."
"Are you so sure that we hadn't?" Lucille asked bitterly. "You see what it says. The man killed him because of his political apostasy. We had something to do with that at least."
Lady Carey was recovering her sang froid.
"Oh, well," she said, "indirect influences scarcely count, or one might trace the causes of everything which happens back to an absurd extent. If this man was mad he might just as well have shot Brott for anything."
Lucille made no answer. She leaned back and closed her eyes. She did not speak again till they reached Dover.
They embarked in the drizzling rain. Lady Carey drew a little breath of relief as they reached their cabin, and felt the boat move beneath them.
"Thank goodness that we are really off. I have been horribly nervous all the time. If they let you leave England they can have no suspicion as yet."
Lucille was putting on an ulster and cap to go out on deck.
"I am not at all sure," she said, "that I shall not return to England. At any rate, if Victor does not come to me in Paris I shall go to him."
"What beautiful trust!" Lady Carey answered. "My dear Lucille, you are more like a school-girl than a woman of the world."
A steward entered with a telegram for Lucille. It was banded in at the Haymarket, an hour before their departure. Lucille read it, and her face blanched. "I thank you for your invitation, but I fear that it would not be good for my health.—S."
Lady Carey looked over her shoulder. She laughed hardly.
"How brutal!" she murmured. "But, then, Victor can be brutal sometimes, can't he?"
Lucille tore it into small pieces without a word. Lady Carey waited for a remark from her in vain.
"I, too," she said at last, "have had some telegrams. I have been hesitating whether to show them to you or not. Perhaps you had better see them."
She produced them and spread them out. The first was dated about the same time as the one Lucille had received.
"Have seen S. with message from Lucille. Fear quite useless, as he believes worst."
The second was a little longer.
"Have just heard S. has left for Liverpool, and has engaged berth in Campania, sailing to-morrow. Break news to Lucille if you think well. Have wired him begging return, and promising full explanation."
"If these," Lucille said calmly, "belonged to me I should treat them as I have my own."
"What do you mean?"
"I should tear them up."
Lady Carey shrugged her shoulders with the air of one who finds further argument hopeless.
"I shall have no more to say to you, Lucille, on this subject," she said. "You are impossible. In a few days you will be forced to come round to my point of view. I will wait till then. And in the meantime, if you think I am going to tramp up and down those sloppy decks and gaze at the sea you are very much mistaken. I am going to lie down like a civilized being, and try and get a nap. You had better do the same."
"For my part," she said, "I find any part of the steamer except the deck intolerable. I am going now in search of some fresh air. Shall I send your woman along?"
Lady Carey nodded, for just then the steamer gave a violent lurch, and she was not feeling talkative. Lucille went outside and walked up and down until the lights of Calais were in sight. All the time she felt conscious of the observation of a small man clad in a huge mackintosh, whose peaked cap completely obscured his features. As they were entering the harbour she purposely stood by his side. He held on to the rail with one hand and turned towards her.
"It has been quite a rough passage, has it not?" he remarked.
"I have crossed," she said, "when it has been much worse. I do not mind so long as one may come on deck."
"Your friend," he remarked, "is perhaps not so good a sailor?"
"I believe," Lucille said, "that she suffers a great deal. I just looked in at her, and she was certainly uncomfortable."
The little man gripped the rail and held on to his cap with the other hand.
"You are going to Paris?" he asked.
They were in smoother water now. He was able to relax his grip of the rail. He turned towards Lucille, and she saw him for the first time distinctly—a thin, wizened-up little man, with shrewd kindly eyes, and a long deeply cut mouth.
"I trust," he said, "that you will not think me impertinent, but it occurred to me that you have noticed some apparent interest of mine in your movements since you arrived on the boat."
"It is true," she answered. "That is why I came and stood by your side. What do you want with me?"
"Nothing, madam," he answered. "I am here altogether in your interests. If you should want help I shall be somewhere near you for the next few hours. Do not hesitate to appeal to me. My mission here is to be your protector should you need one."
Lucille's eyes grew bright, and her heart beat quickly.
"Tell me," she said, "who sent you?"
"I think that you know," he answered. "One who I can assure you will never allow you to suffer any harm. I have exceeded my instructions in speaking to you, but I fancied that you were looking worried. You need not. I can assure you that you need have no cause."
Her eyes filled with tears.
"I knew," she said, "that those telegrams were forgeries."
He looked carefully around.
"I know nothing about any telegrams," he said, "but I am here to see that no harm comes to you, and I promise you that it shall not. Your friend is looking out of the cabin door. I think we may congratulate ourselves, madam, on an excellent passage."
Lady Carey disembarked, a complete wreck, leaning on the arm of her maid, and with a bottle of smelling salts clutched in her hand. She slept all the way in the train, and only woke up when they were nearing Paris. She looked at Lucille in astonishment.
"Why, what on earth have you been doing to yourself?" she exclaimed. "You look disgustingly fit and well."
Lucille laughed softly.
"Why not? I have had a nap, and we are almost at Paris. I only want a bath and a change of clothes to feel perfectly fresh."
But Lady Carey was suspicious.
"Have you seen any one you know upon the train?" she asked.
Lucille shook her head.
"Not a soul. A little man whom I spoke to on the steamer brought me some coffee. That is all."
Lady Carey yawned and shook out her skirts. "I suppose I'm getting old," she said. "I couldn't look as you do with as much on my mind as you must have, and after traveling all night too."
"After all," she said, "you know that I am a professional optimist, and I have faith in my luck. I have been thinking matters over calmly, and, to tell you the truth, I am not in the least alarmed."
Lady Carey looked at her curiously.
"Has the optimism been imbibed," she asked, "or is it spontaneous?"
"Unless the little man in the plaid mackintosh poured it into the coffee with the milk," she said, "I could not possibly have imbibed it, for I haven't spoken to another soul since we left."
"Paris! Here we are, thank goodness. Celeste can see the things through the customs. She is quite used to it. We are going to the Ritz, I suppose!"
At eight o'clock in the evening Lucille knocked at the door of Lady Carey's suite of rooms at the hotel. There was no answer. A chambermaid who was near came smiling up.
"Miladi has, I think, descended for dinner," she said.
Lucille looked at her watch. She saw that she was a few minutes late, so she descended to the restaurant. The small table which they had reserved was, however, still unoccupied. Lucille told the waiter that she would wait for a few moments, and sent for an English newspaper.
Lady Carey did not appear. A quarter of an hour passed. The head waiter came up with a benign smile.
"Madam will please to be served?" he suggested, with a bow.
"I am waiting for my friend Lady Carey," Lucille answered. "I understood that she had come down. Perhaps you will send and see if she is in the reading-room."
"With much pleasure, madam," the man answered.
In a few minutes he returned.
"Madam's friend was the Lady Carey?" he asked.
The man was gently troubled.
"But, Miladi Carey," he said, "has left more than an hour ago."
Lucille looked up, astonished.
"Left the hotel?" she exclaimed.
"But yes, madam," he exclaimed. "Miladi Carey left to catch the boat train at Calais for England."
"It is impossible," Lucille answered. "We only arrived at midday."
"I will inquire again," the man declared. "But it was in the office that they told me so."
"They told you quite correctly," said a familiar voice. "I have come to take her place. Countess, I trust that in me you will recognise an efficient substitute."
It was the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer who was calmly seating himself opposite to her. The waiter, with the discretion of his class, withdrew for a few paces and stood awaiting orders. Lucille looked across at him in amazement.
"You here?" she exclaimed, "and Muriel gone? What does this mean?"
The Prince leaned forward.
"It means," he said, "that after you left I was in torment. I felt that you had no one with you who could be of assistance supposing the worst happened. Muriel is all very well, but she is a woman, and she has no diplomacy, no resource. I felt, Lucille, that I should not be happy unless I myself saw you into safety."
"So you followed us here," Lucille remarked quietly.
"Exactly! You do not blame me. It was for your sake—as well as my own."
"And Muriel—why has she left me without farewell—without warning of any sort?"
The Prince smiled and stroked his fair moustache.
"Well," he said, "it is rather an awkward thing for me to explain, but to tell you the truth, Muriel was a little—more than a little—annoyed at my coming. She has no right to be, but—well, you know, she is what you call a monopolist. She and I have been friends for many years."
"I understand perfectly what you have wished to convey," Lucille said. "But what I do not understand are the exact reasons which brought you here."
The Prince took up the carte de jour.
"As we dine," he said, "I will tell you. You will permit me to order?"
Lucille rose to her feet.
"For yourself, certainly," she answered. "As for me, I have accepted no invitation to dine with you, nor do I propose to do so."
The Prince frowned.
"Be reasonable, Lucille," he pleaded. "I must talk with you. There are important plans to be made. I have a great deal to say to you. Sit down."
Lucille looked across at him with a curious smile upon her lips.
"You have a good deal to say to me?" she remarked. "Yes, I will believe that. But of the truth how much, I wonder?"
"By and bye," he said, "you will judge me differently. For hors d'oeuvres what do you say to oeufs de pluvier? Then—"
"Pardon me," she interrupted, "I am not interested in your dinner!"
"In our dinner," he ventured gently.
"I am not dining with you," she declared firmly. "If you insist upon remaining here I shall have something served in my room. You know quite well that we are certain to be recognised. One would imagine that this was a deliberate attempt on your part to compromise me."
"Lucille," he said, "do not be foolish! Why do you persist in treating me as though I were your persecutor?"
"Because you are," she said coolly.
"It is ridiculous," he declared. "You are in the most serious danger, and I have come only to save you. I can do it, and I will. But listen—not unless you change your demeanour towards me."
She laughed scornfully. She had risen to her feet now, and he was perforce compelled to follow her example.
"Is that a challenge?" she asked.
"You may take it as such if you will," he answered, with a note of sullenness in his tone. "You know very well that I have but to lift my finger and the gendarmes will be here. Yes, we will call it a challenge. All my life I have wanted you. Now I think that my time has come. Even Souspennier has deserted you. You are alone, and let me tell you that danger is closer at your heels than you know of. I can save you, and I will. But I have a price, and it must be paid."
"If I refuse?" she asked.
"I send for the chief of the police."
She looked him up and down, a measured, merciless survey. He was a tall, big man, but he seemed to shrink into insignificance.
"You are a coward and a bully," she said slowly. "You know quite well that I am innocent of any knowledge even concerning Duson's death. But I would sooner meet my fate, whatever it might be, than suffer even the touch of your fingers upon my hand. Your presence is hateful to me. Send for your chief of the police. String your lies together as you will. I am satisfied."
She left him and swept from the room, a spot of colour burning in her cheeks, her eyes lit with fire. The pride of her race had asserted itself. She felt no longer any fear. She only desired to sever herself at once and completely from all association with this man. In the hall she sent for her maid.
"Fetch my cloak and jewel case, Celeste," she ordered. "I am going across to the Bristol. You can return for the other luggage."
"Do as I say at once," Lucille ordered.
The girl hesitated and then obeyed. Lucille found herself suddenly addressed in a quiet tone by a man who had been sitting in an easy-chair, half hidden by a palm tree.
"Will you favour me, madam, with a moment's conversation?"
Lucille turned round. She recognised at once the man with whom she had conversed upon the steamer. In the quietest form of evening dress, there was something noticeable in the man's very insignificance. He seemed a little out of his element. Lucille had a sudden inspiration, The man was a detective.
"What do you wish to say?" she asked, half doubtfully.
"I overheard," he remarked, "your order to your maid. She had something to say to you, but you gave her no opportunity."
"And you?" she asked, "what do you wish to say?"
"I wish to advise you," he said, "not to leave the hotel."
She looked at him doubtfully.
"You cannot understand," she said, "why I wish to leave it. I have no alternative."
"Nevertheless," he said, "I hope that you will change your mind."
"Are you a detective?" she asked abruptly.
"Madam is correct!"
The flush of colour faded from her cheeks.
"I presume, then," she said, "that I am under your surveillance?"
"In a sense," he admitted, "it is true."
"On the steamer," she remarked, "you spoke as though your interest in me was not inimical."
"Nor is it," he answered promptly. "You are in a difficult position, but you may find things not so bad as you imagine. At present my advice to you is this: Go upstairs to your room and stay there."
The little man had a compelling manner. Lucille made her way towards the elevator.
"As a matter of fact," she murmured bitterly, "I am not, I suppose, permitted to leave the hotel?"
"Madam puts the matter bluntly," he answered; "but certainly if you should insist upon leaving, it would be my duty to follow you."
She turned away from him and entered the elevator. The door of her room was slightly ajar, and she saw that a waiter was busy at a small round table. She looked at him in surprise. He was arranging places for two.
"Who gave you your orders?" she asked.
"But it was monsieur," the man answered, with a low bow. "Dinner for two."
"Monsieur?" she repeated. "What monsieur?"
"I am the culprit," a familiar voice answered from the depths of an easy-chair, whose back was to her. "I was very hungry, and it occurred to me that under the circumstances you would probably not have dined either. I hope that you will like what I have ordered. The plovers' eggs look delicious."
She gave a little cry of joy. It was Mr. Sabin.
The Prince dined carefully, but with less than his usual appetite. Afterwards he lit a cigarette and strolled for a moment into the lounge. Celeste, who was waiting for him, glided at once to his side.
"Monsieur!" she whispered. "I have been here for one hour."
"Monsieur le Duc has arrived."
The Prince turned sharply round.
"Monsieur le Duc de Souspennier. He calls himself no longer Mr. Sabin."
A dull flush of angry colour rose almost to his temples.
"Why did you not tell me before?" he exclaimed.
"Monsieur was in the restaurant," she answered. "It was impossible for me to do anything but wait."
"Where is he?"
"Alas! he is with madam," the girl answered.
The Prince was very profane. He started at once for the elevator. In a moment or two he presented himself at Lucille's sitting-room. They were still lingering over their dinner. Mr. Sabin welcomed him with grave courtesy.
"The Prince is in time to take his liqueur with us," he remarked, rising. "Will you take fin champagne, Prince, or Chartreuse? I recommend the fin champagne."
The Prince bowed his thanks. He was white to the lips with the effort for self-mastery.
"I congratulate you, Mr. Sabin," he said, "upon your opportune arrival. You will be able to help Lucille through the annoyance to which I deeply regret that she should be subjected."
Mr. Sabin gently raised his eyebrows.
"Annoyance!" he repeated. "I fear that I do not quite understand."
The Prince smiled.
"Surely Lucille has told you," he said, "of the perilous position in which she finds herself."
"My wife," Mr. Sabin said, "has told me nothing. You alarm me."
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
"I deeply regret to tell you," he said, "that the law has proved too powerful for me. I can no longer stand between her and what I fear may prove a most unpleasant episode. Lucille will be arrested within the hour."
"Upon what charge?" Mr. Sabin asked.
"The murder of Duson."
Mr. Sabin laughed very softly, very gently, but with obvious genuineness.
"You are joking, Prince," he exclaimed.
"I regret to say," the Prince answered, "that you will find it very far from a joking matter."
Mr. Sabin was suddenly stern.
"Prince of Saxe Leinitzer," he said, "you are a coward and a bully."
The Prince started forward with clenched fist. Mr. Sabin had no weapon, but he did not flinch.
"You can frighten women," he said, "with a bogie such as this, but you have no longer a woman to deal with. You and I know that such a charge is absurd—but you little know the danger to which you expose yourself by trifling with this subject. Duson left a letter addressed to me in which he announced his reasons for committing suicide."
"Yes. He preferred suicide to murder, even at the bidding of the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer. He wrote and explained these things to me—and the letter is in safe hands. The arrest of Lucille, my dear Prince, would mean the ruin of your amiable society."
"This letter," the Prince said slowly, "why was it not produced at the inquest? Where is it now?"
"It is deposited in a sealed packet with the Earl of Deringham," Mr. Sabin answered. "As to producing it at the inquest—I thought it more discreet not to. I leave you to judge of my reasons. But I can assure you that your fears for my wife's safety have been wholly misplaced. There is not the slightest reason for her to hurry off to America. We may take a little trip there presently, but not just yet."
The Prince made a mistake. He lost his temper.
"You!" he cried, "you can go to America when you like, and stay there. Europe has had enough of you with your hare-brained schemes and foolish failures. But Lucille does not leave this country. We have need of her. I forbid her to leave. Do you hear? In the name of the Order I command her to remain here."
Mr. Sabin was quite calm, but his face was full of terrible things.
"Prince," he said, "if I by any chance numbered myself amongst your friends I would warn you that you yourself are a traitor to your Order. You prostitute a great cause when you stoop to use its machinery to assist your own private vengeance. I ask you for your own sake to consider your words. Lucille is mine—mine she will remain, even though you should descend to something more despicable, more cowardly than ordinary treason, to wrest her from me. You reproach me with the failures of my life. Great they may have been, but if you attempt this you will find that I am not yet an impotent person."
The Prince was white with rage. The sight of Lucille standing by Mr. Sabin's side, her hand lightly resting upon his, her dark eyes full of inscrutable tenderness, maddened him. He was flouted and ignored. He was carried away by a storm of passion. He tore a sheet of paper from his pocket book, and unlocking a small gold case at the end of his watch chain, shook from it a pencil with yellow crayon. Mr. Sabin leaned over towards him.
"You sign it at your peril, Prince," he said. "It will mean worse things than that for you."
For a second he hesitated. Lucille also leaned towards him.
"Prince," she said, "have I not kept my vows faithfully? Think! I came from America at a moment's notice; I left my husband without even a word of farewell; I entered upon a hateful task, and though to think of it now makes me loathe myself—I succeeded. I have kept my vows, I have done my duty. Be generous now, and let me go."
The sound of her voice maddened him. A passionate, arbitrary man, to whom nothing in life had been denied, to be baulked in this great desire of his latter days was intolerable. He made no answer to either of them. He wrote a few lines with the yellow crayon and passed them silently across to Lucille.
Her face blanched. She stretched out an unwilling hand. But Mr. Sabin intervened. He took the paper from the Prince's hand, and calmly tore it into fragments. There was a moment's breathless silence.
"Victor!" Lucille cried. "Oh, what have you done!"
The Prince's face lightened with an evil joy.
"We now, I think," he said, "understand one another. You will permit me to wish you a very pleasant evening, and a speedy leave-taking."
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"Many thanks, my dear Prince," he said lightly. "Make haste and complete your charming little arrangements. Let me beg of you to avoid bungling this time. Remember that there is not in the whole of Europe to-day a man more dangerous to you than I."
The Prince had departed. Mr. Sabin lit a cigarette and stood on the hearthrug. His eyes were bright with the joy of fighting.
"Lucille," he said, "I see that you have not touched your liqueur. Oblige me by drinking it. You will find it excellent."
She came over to him and hung upon his arm. He threw his cigarette away and kissed her upon the lips.
"Victor," she murmured, "I am afraid. You have been rash!"
"Dearest," he answered, "it is better to die fighting than to stand aside and watch evil things. But after all, there is no fear. Come! Your cloak and dressing case!"
"You have plans?" she exclaimed, springing up.
"Plans?" He laughed at her a little reproachfully. "My dear Lucille! A carriage awaits us outside, a special train with steam up at the Gard de L'ouest. This is precisely the contingency for which I have planned."
"Oh, you are wonderful, Victor," she murmured as she drew on her coat. "But what corner of the earth is there where we should be safe?"
"I am going," Mr. Sabin said, "to try and make every corner of the earth safe."
She was bewildered, but he only laughed and held open the door for her. Mr. Sabin made no secret of his departure. He lingered for a moment in the doorway to light a cigarette, he even stopped to whisper a few words to the little man in plain dinner clothes who was lounging in the doorway. But when they had once left the hotel they drove fast.
In less than half an hour Paris was behind them. They were traveling in a royal saloon and at a fabuulous cost, for in France they are not fond of special trains. But Mr. Sabin was very happy. At least he had escaped an ignominious defeat. It was left to him to play the great card.
"And now," Lucille said, coming out from her little bed-chamber which the femme de chambre was busy preparing, "suppose you tell me where we are going."
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"Do not be alarmed," he said, "even though it will sound to you the least likely place in the world. We are going to Berlin."
The great room was dimly enough lit, for the windows looking out upon the street were high and heavily curtained, The man who sat at the desk was almost in the shadow. Yet every now and then a shaft of sunlight fell across his pale, worn face. A strange combination this of the worker, the idealist, the man of affairs. From outside came the hum of a great city. At times, too, there came to his ears as he sat here the roar of nations at strife, the fierce underneath battle of the great countries of the world struggling for supremacy. And here at this cabinet this man sat often, and listened, strenuous, romantic, with the heart of a lion and the lofty imagination of an eagle, he steered unswervingly on to her destiny a great people. Others might rest, but never he.
He looked up from the letter spread out before him. Lucille was seated at his command, a few yards away. Mr. Sabin stood respectfully before him.
"Monsieur le Duc," he said, "this letter, penned by my illustrious father to you, is sufficient to secure my good offices. In what manner can I serve you?"
"Your Majesty," Mr. Sabin answered, "in the first place by receiving me here. In the second by allowing me to lay before you certain grave and very serious charges against the Order of the Yellow Crayon, of which your Majesty is the titular head."
"The Order of the Yellow Crayon," the Emperor said thoughtfully, "is society composed of aristocrats pledged to resist the march of socialism. It is true that I am the titular head of this organisation. What have you to say about it?"
"Only that your Majesty has been wholly deceived," Mr. Sabin said respectfully, "concerning the methods and the working of this society. Its inception and inauguration were above reproach. I myself at once became a member. My wife, Countess of Radantz, and sole representative of that ancient family, has been one all her life."
The Emperor inclined his head towards Lucille.
"I see no reason," he said, "when our capitals are riddled with secret societies, all banded together against us, why the great families of Europe should not in their turn come together and display a united front against this common enemy. The Order of the Yellow Crayon has had more than my support. It has had the sanction of my name. Tell me what you have against it."
"I have grave things to say concerning it," Mr. Sahin answered, "and concerning those who have wilfully deceived your Majesty. The influences to be wielded by the society were mainly, I believe, wealth, education, and influence. There was no mention made of murder, of an underground alliance with the 'gamins' of Paris, the dregs of humanity, prisoners, men skilled in the art of secret death."
The Emperor's tone was stern, almost harsh.
"Duc de Souspennier, what are these things which you are saying?" he asked.
"Your Majesty, I speak the truth," Mr. Sabin answered firmly. "There are in the Order of the Yellow Crayon three degrees of membership. The first, which alone your Majesty knows of, simply corresponds with what in England is known as the Primrose League. The second knows that beneath is another organisation pledged to frustrate the advance of socialism, if necessary by the use of their own weapons. The third, whose meetings and signs and whose whole organisation is carried on secretly, is allied in every capital in Europe with criminals and murderers. With its great wealth it has influence in America as well as in every city of the world where there are police to be suborned, or desperate men to be bought for tools. At the direction of this third order Lavinski died suddenly in the Hungarian House of Parliament, Herr Krettingen was involved in a duel, the result of which was assured beforehand, and Reginald Brott, the great English statesman, was ruined and disgraced. I myself have just narrowly escaped death at his hands, and in my place my servant has been driven to death. Of all these things, your Majesty, I have brought proofs."
The Emperor's face was like a carven image, but his tone was cold and terrible.
"If these things have been sanctioned," he said, "by those who are responsible for my having become the head of the Order; they shall feel my vengeance."
"Your Majesty," Mr. Sabin said earnestly, "a chance disclosure, and all might come to light. I myself could blazon the story through Europe. Those who are responsible for the third degree of the Order of the Yellow Crayon, and for your Majesty's ignorance concerning its existence, have trifled with the destiny of the greatest sovereign of modern times."
"The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer," the Emperor said, "is the acting head of the Order."
"The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer," Mr. Sabin said firmly, "is responsible for the existence of the third degree. It is he who has connected the society with a system of corrupt police or desperate criminals in every great city. It is the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer, your Majesty, and his horde of murderers from whom I have come to seek your Majesty's protection. I have yet another charge to make against him. He has made, and is making still, use of the society to further his own private intrigues. In the name of the Order he brought my wife from America. She faithfully carried out the instructions of the Council. She brought about the ruin of Reginald Brott. By the rules of the society she was free then to return to her home. The Prince, who had been her suitor, declined to let her go. My life was attempted. The story of the Prince's treason is here, with the necessary proofs. I know that orders have been given to the hired murderers of the society for my assassination. My life even here is probably an uncertain thing. But I have told your Majesty the truth, and the papers which I have brought with me contain proof of my words."
The Emperor struck a bell and gave a few orders to the young officer who immediately answered it. Then he turned again to Mr. Sabin.
"I have summoned Saxe Leinitzer to Berlin," he said. "These matters shall be gone into most thoroughly. In the meantime what can I do for you?"
"We will await the coming of the Prince," Mr. Sabin answered grimly.
* * * * *
Lady Carey passed from her bath-room into a luxurious little dressing-room. Her letters and coffee were on a small table near the fire, an easy-chair was drawn up to the hearthrug. She fastened the girdle of her dressing-gown, and dismissed her maid.
"I will ring for you in half an hour, Annette," she said. "See that I am not disturbed."
On her way to the fireplace she paused for a moment in front of a tall looking-glass, and looked steadily at her own reflection.
"I suppose," she murmured to herself, "that I am looking at my best now. I slept well last night, and a bath gives one colour, and white is so becoming. Still, I don't know why I failed. She may be a little better looking, but my figure is as good. I can talk better, I have learnt how to keep a man from feeling dull, and there is my reputation. Because I played at war correspondence, wore a man's clothes, and didn't shriek when I was under fire, people have chosen to make a heroine of me. That should have counted for something with him—and it didn't. I could have taken my choice of any man in London—and I wanted him. And I have failed!"
She threw herself back in her easy-chair and laughed softly.
"Failed! What an ugly word! He is old, and he limps, and I—well, I was never a very bashful person. He was beautifully polite, but he wouldn't have anything to say to me."
She began to tear open her letters savagely.
"Well, it is over. If ever anybody speaks to me about it I think that I shall kill them. That fool Saxe Leinitzer will stroke his beastly moustache, and smile at me out of the corners of his eyes. The Dorset woman, too—bah, I shall go away. What is it, Annette?"
"His Highness the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer has called, milady."
"Called! Does he regard this as a call?" she exclaimed, glancing towards the clock. "Tell him, Annette, that your mistress does not receive at such an hour. Be quick, child. Of course I know that he gave you a sovereign to persuade me that it was important, but I won't see him, so be off."
"But yes, milady," Annette answered, and disappeared.
Lady Carey sipped her coffee.
"I think," she said reflectively, "that it must be Melton."
"Milady," she exclaimed, "His Highness insisted upon my bringing you this card. He was so strange in his manner, milady, that I thought it best to obey."
Lady Carey stretched out her hand. A few words were scribbled on the back of his visiting card in yellow crayon. She glanced at it, tore the card up, and threw the pieces into the fire.
"My shoes and stockings, Annette," she said, "and just a morning wrap—anything will do."
The Prince was walking restlessly up and down the room, when Lady Carey entered. He welcomed her with a little cry of relief.
"Heavens!" he exclaimed. "I thought that you were never coming."
"I was in no hurry," she answered calmly. "I could guess your news, so I had not even the spur of curiosity."
He stopped short.
"You have heard nothing! It is not possible?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"No, but I know you, and I know him. I am quite prepared to hear that you are outwitted. Indeed, to judge from your appearance there can be no doubt about it. Remember I warned you."
The Prince was pale with fury.
"No one could foresee this," he exclaimed. "He has walked into the lion's den."
"Then," Lady Carey said, "I am quite prepared to hear that he tamed the lion."
"If there was one person living whom I could have sworn that this man dared not visit, it was our Emperor," the Prince said. "It is only a few years since, through this man's intrigues, Germany was shamed before the world."
"And yet," Lady Carey said sweetly, "the Emperor has received him."
"I have private intelligence from Berlin," Saxe Leinitzer answered. "Mr. Sabin was in possession of a letter written to him by the Emperor Frederick, thanking him for some service or other; and the letter was a talisman."
"How like him," Lady Carey murmured, "to have the letter."
"What a pity," the Prince sneered, "that such devotion should remain unrewarded."
Lady Carey sighed.
"He has broken my heart," she replied.
The Prince threw out his hands.
"You and I," he cried, "why do we behave like children! Let us start afresh. Listen! The Emperor has summoned me to Berlin."
"Dear me," Lady Carey murmured. "I am afraid you will have a most unpleasant visit."
"I dare not go," the Prince said slowly. "It was I who induced the Emperor to become the titular head of this cursed Order. Of course he knew nothing about the second or third degree members and our methods. Without doubt he is fully informed now. I dare not face him."
"What shall you do?" Lady Carey asked curiously.
"I am off to South America," he said. "It is a great undeveloped country, and there is room for us to move there. Muriel, you know what I want of you."
"My good man," she answered, "I haven't the faintest idea."
"You will come with me," he begged. "You will not send me into exile so lonely, a wanderer! Together there may be a great future before us. You have ambition, you love intrigue, excitement, danger. None of these can you find here. You shall come with me. You shall not say no. Have I not been your devoted slave? Have—"
She stopped him. Her lips were parted in a smile of good-natured scorn.
"Don't be absurd, Saxe Leinitzer. It is true that I love intrigue, excitement and danger. That is what made me join your Order, and really I have had quite a little excitement out of it, for which I suppose I ought to thank you. But as for the rest, why, you are talking rubbish. I would go to South America to-morrow with the right man, but with you, why, it won't bear talking about. It makes me angry to think that you should believe me capable of such shocking taste as to dream of going away with you."
He flung himself from the room. Lady Carey went back to her coffee and letters. She sent for Annette.
"Annette," she directed, "we shall go to Melton to-morrow. Wire Haggis to have the Lodge in order, and carriages to meet the midday train. I daresay I shall take a few people down with me. Let George go around to Tattershalls at once and make an appointment for me there at three o'clock this afternoon. Look out my habits and boots, too, Annette."
Lady Carey leaned back in her chair for a moment with half-closed eyes.
"I think," she murmured, "that some of us in our youth must have drunk from some poisoned cup, something which turned our blood into quicksilver. I must live, or I must die. I must have excitement every hour, every second, or break down. There are others too—many others. No wonder that that idiot of a man in Harley Street talked to me gravely about my heart. No excitement. A quiet life! Bah! Such wishy-washy coffee and only one cigarette."
She lit it and stood up on the hearthrug. Her eyes were half closed, every vestige of colour had left her cheeks, her hand was pressed hard to her side. For a few minutes she seemed to struggle for breath. Then with a little lurch as though still giddy, she stooped, and picking up her fallen cigarette, thrust it defiantly between her teeth.
"Not this way," she muttered. "From a horse's back if I can with the air rushing by, and the hot joy of it in one's heart... Only I hope it won't hurt the poor old gee... Come in, Annette. What a time you've been, child."
The Emperor sent for Mr. Sabin. He declined to recognise his incognito.
"Monsieur le Duc," he said, "if proof of your story were needed it is here. The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer has ignored my summons. He has fled to South America."
Mr. Sabin bowed.
"A most interesting country," he murmured, "for the Prince."
"You yourself are free to go when and where you will. You need no longer have any fears. The Order does not exist. I have crushed it."
Mr. Sabin bowed.
"Your Majesty," he said, "has shown exemplary wisdom."
"From its inception," the Emperor said, "I believe that the idea was a mistaken one. I must confess that its originality pleased me; my calmer reflections, however, show me that I was wrong. It is not for the nobles of the earth to copy the methods of socialists and anarchists. These men are a pest upon humanity, but they may have their good uses. They may help us to govern alertly, vigorously, always with our eyes and ears strained to catch the signs of the changing times. Monsieur le Duc, should you decide to take up your residence in this country I shall at all times be glad to receive you. But your future is entirely your own."
Mr. Sabin accepted his dismissal from audience, and went back to Lucille.
"The Prince," he told her, "has gone—to South America. The Order does not exist any longer. Will you dine in Vienna, or in Frankfort?"
She held out her arms.
"You wonderful man!" she cried.