The Yellow Crayon by E. Phillips Oppenheim
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 discussion?"
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 the music.
"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 their mouthpiece."
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 miss it."
"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 cloak.
"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!"