The Yellow Crayon by E. Phillips Oppenheim
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 the truth."
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:
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."