“It is perfectly true,” the Prince admitted.
“I, too, am an old friend, as she has doubtless told you,” Brott said. “All my life she has been the one woman whom I have desired to call my wife. That desire has never been so strong as at the present moment.”
The Prince removed his cigar from his mouth and looked grave.
“But, my dear Brott,” he said, “have you considered the enormous gulf between your—views? The Countess owns great hereditary estates, she comes from a family which is almost Royal, she herself is an aristocrat to the backbone. It is a class against which you have declared war. How can you possibly come together on common ground?”
Brott was silent for a moment. Looking at him steadily the Prince was surprised at the change in the man’s appearance. His cheeks seemed blanched and his skin drawn. He had lost flesh, his eyes were hollow, and he frequently betrayed in small mannerisms a nervousness wholly new and unfamiliar to him.
“You speak as a man of sense, Prince,” he said after a while. “You are absolutely correct. This matter has caused me a great deal of anxious thought. To falter at this moment is to lose, politically, all that I have worked for all my life. It is to lose the confidence of the people who have trusted me. It is a betrayal, the thought of which is a constant shame to me. But, on the other hand, Lucille is the dearest thing to me in life.”
The Prince’s expression was wholly sympathetic. The derision which lurked behind he kept wholly concealed. A strong man so abjectly in the toils, and he to be chosen for his confidant! It was melodrama with a dash of humour.
“If I am to help you,” the Prince said, “I must know everything. Have you made any proposals to Lucille? In plain words, how much of your political future are you disposed to sacrifice?”
“All!” Brott said hoarsely. “All for a certainty of her. Not one jot without.”
Brott sprang to his feet, white and nervous.
“It is where I am at fault,” he exclaimed. “It is why I have asked for your advice, your help perhaps. I do not find it easy to understand Lucille. Perhaps it is because I am not well versed in the ways of her sex. I find her elusive. She will give me no promise. Before I went to Glasgow I talked with her. If she would have married me then my political career was over—thrown on one side like an old garment. But she would give me no promise. In everything save the spoken words I crave she has promised me her love. Again there comes a climax. In a few hours I must make my final choice. I must decline to join Letheringham, in which case the King must send for me, or accept office with him, and throw away the one great chance of this generation. Letheringham’s Cabinet, of course, would be a moderate Liberal one, a paragon of milk and water in effectiveness.