The Yellow Crayon by E. Phillips Oppenheim
Mr. Sabin a few minutes afterwards ordered his carriage, and was driven to Dorset House. He asked for Lucille, but was shown at once into the library, where the Duke was awaiting him. Then Mr. Sabin knew that something had happened.
The Duke extended his hand solemnly.
"My dear Souspennier," he said, "I am glad to see you. I was in fact on the point of despatching a messenger to your hotel."
"I am glad," Mr. Sabin remarked, "that my visit is opportune. To tell you the truth, Duke, I am anxious to see my wife."
The Duke coughed.
"I trust," he said, "that you will not for a moment consider me guilty of any discourtesy to the Countess, for whom I have a great respect and liking. But it has come to my knowledge that the shelter of my roof and name were being given to proceedings of which I heartily disapproved. I therefore only a few hours ago formally broke off all connection with Saxe Leinitzer and his friends, and to put the matter plainly, I expelled them from the house."
"I congratulate you heartily, Duke, upon a most sensible proceeding," Mr. Sabin said. "But in the meantime where is my wife?"
"Your wife was not present at the time," the Duke answered, "and I had not the slightest intention of including her in the remarks I made. Whether she understood this or not I cannot say, but I have since been given to understand that she left with them."
"How long ago?" Mr. Sabin asked.
"Several hours, I fear," the Duke answered. "I should like, Souspennier, to express to you my regrets that I was ever induced to become connected in any way with proceedings which must have caused you a great deal of pain. I beg you to accept my apologies.
"I do not blame you, Duke," Mr. Sabin said. "My one desire now is to wrest my wife away from this gang. Can you tell me whether she left alone or with any of them?"
"I will endeavour to ascertain," the Duke said, ringing the bell.
But before the Duke's somewhat long-winded series of questions had gone very far Mr. Sabin grasped the fact that the servants had been tampered with. Without wasting any more time he took a somewhat hurried leave and drove back to the hotel. One of the hall porters approached him, smiling.
"There is a lady waiting for you in your rooms, sir," he announced. "She arrived a few minutes ago."
Mr. Sabin rang for the elevator, got out at his floor and walked down the corridor, leaning a little more heavily than usual upon his stick. If indeed it were Lucille who had braved all and come to him the way before them might still be smooth sailing. He would never let her go again. He was sure of that. They would leave England - yes, there was time still to catch the five o'clock train. He turned the handle of his door and entered. A familiar figure rose from the depths of his easy-chair. Her hat lay on the table, her jacket was open, one of his cigarettes was between her lips. But it was not Lucille.
"Lady Carey!" he said slowly. "This is an unexpected pleasure. Have you brought Lucille with you?"
"I am afraid," she answered, "that I have no ropes strong enough."
"You insinuate," he remarked, "that Lucille would be unwilling to come."
"There is no longer any need," she declared, with a hard little laugh, "for insinuations. We have all been turned out from Dorset House neck and crop. Lucille has accepted the inevitable. She has gone to Reginald's Brott's rooms."
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"Indeed. I have just come from Dorset House myself. The Duke has supplied me with a highly entertaining account of his sudden awakening. The situation must have been humorous."
Her eyes twinkled.
"it was really screamingly funny. The Duke had on his house of Lords manner, and we all sat round like a lot of naughty children. If only you bad been there."
Mr. Sabin smiled. Suddenly she laid her hand upon his arm.
"Victor," she said, "I have come to prove that I am your friend. You do not believe that Lucille is with Reginald Brott. It is true! Not only that, but she is leaving England with him to-night. The man's devotion is irresistible - he has been gaining on her slowly but surely all the time."
"I have noticed" Mr. Sabin remarked calmly, "that he has been wonderfully assiduous. I am sure I congratulate him upon his success, if he has succeeded."
"You doubt my word of course," she said. "But I have not come here to tell you things. I have come to prove them. I presume that what you see with your own eyes will be sufficient."
Mr. Sabin shook his head.
"Certainly not," he answered. "I make it a rule to believe nothing that I see, and never to trust my ears."
She stamped her foot lightly upon the floor.
"How impossible you are," she exclaimed. "I can tell you by what train Lucille and Reginald Brott will leave London to-night. I can tell you why Lucille is bound to go."
"Now," Mr. Sabin said, "you are beginning to get interesting."
"Lucille must go - or run the risk of arrest for complicity in the murder of Duson."
"Are you serious?" Mr. Sabin asked, with admirably assumed gravity.
"Is it a jesting matter?" she answered fiercely. "Lucille bought poison, the same poison which it will be proved that Duson died of. She came here, she was the last person to enter your room before Duson was found dead. The police are even now searching for her. Escape is her only chance."
"Dear me," Mr. Sabin said. "Then it is not only for Brott's sake that she is running away."
"What does that matter? She is going, and she is going with him."
"And why," he asked, "do you come to give me warning? I have plenty of time to interpose."
"You can try if you will. Lucille is in hiding. She will not see you if you go to her. She is determined. Indeed, she has no choice. Lucille is a brave woman in many ways, but you know that she fears death. She is in a corner. She is forced to go."
"Again," he said, "I feel that I must ask you why do you give me warning?"
She came and stood close to him.
"Perhaps," she said earnestly, "I am anxious to earn your gratitude. Perhaps, too, I know that no interposition of yours would be of any avail."
Mr. Sabin smiled.
"Still," he said, "I do not think that it is wise of you. I might appear at the station and forcibly prevent Lucille's departure. After all, she is my wife, you know."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"I am not afraid," she said. "You will make inquiries when I have gone, and you will find out that I have spoken the truth. If you keep Lucille in England you will expose her to a terrible risk. It is not like you to be selfish. You will yield to necessity."
"Will you tell me where Lucille is now?" he asked.
"For your own sake and hers, no," she answered. "You also are watched. Besides, it is too late. She was with Brott half an hour after the Duke turned us out of Dorset House. Don't you understand, Victor - won't you? It is too late."
He sat down heavily in his easy-chair. His whole appearance was one of absolute dejection.
"So I am to be left alone in my old age," he murmured. "You have your revenge now at last. You have come to take it."
She sank on her knees by the side of his chair, and her arms fell upon his shoulders.
"How can you think so cruelly of me, Victor," she murmured. "You were always a little mistaken in Lucille. She loved you, it is true, but all her life she has been fond of change and excitement. She came to Europe willingly - long before this Brott would have been her slave save for your reappearance. Can't you forget her - for a little while?"
Mr. Sabin sat quite still. Her hair brushed his cheeks, her arms were about his neck, her whole attitude was an invitation for his embrace. But he sat like a figure of stone, neither repulsing nor encouraging her.
"You need not be alone unless you like," she whispered.
"I am an old man," he said slowly, "and this is a hard blow for me to bear. I must be sure, absolutely sure that she has gone."
"By this time to-morrow," she murmured, "all the world will know it."
"Come to me then," he said. "I shall need consolation."
Her eyes were bright with triumph. She leaned over him and kissed him on the lips. Then she sprang lightly to her feet.
"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."