“Yes, I understand you,” the Prince said gravely. “I understand more than you do. I understand Lucille’s position.”
Brott leaned forward with bright eyes.
“Lucille, the Countess of Radantz, is at the present moment a married woman.”
Brott was speechless. His face was like a carved stone image, from which the life had wholly gone.
“Her husband—in name only, let me tell you, is the Mr. Sabin with whom we had supper this evening.”
“Their marriage had strange features in it which are not my concern, or even yours,” the Prince said deliberately. “The truth is, that they have not lived together for years, they never will again, for their divorce proceedings would long ago have been concluded but for the complications arising from the difference between the Hungarian and the American laws. Here, without doubt, is the reason why the Countess has hesitated to pledge her word directly.”
“It is wonderful,” Brott said slowly. “But it explains everything.”
There was a loud knock at the door. The secretary appeared upon the threshold. Behind him was a tall, slim young man in traveling costume.
“The King’s messenger!” Brott exclaimed, rising to his feet.
The Prince presented himself with a low bow. Lucille had a copy of the morning paper in her hand.
“I congratulate you, Countess,” he said. “You progress admirably. It is a great step gained.”
Lucille, who was looking pale and nervous, regarded him with anxiety.
“A step! But it is everything. If these rumours are true, he refuses the attempt to form a Cabinet. He takes a subordinate position under Letheringham. Every paper this morning says that if this is so his political career is over. It is true, is it not?”
“It is a great gain,” the Prince said slowly.
“But it is everything,” Lucille declared, with a rising note of passion in her tone. “It was my task. It is accomplished. I demand my release.”
The Prince was silent for a moment.
“You are in a great hurry, Lucille,” he said.
“What if I am!” she replied fiercely. “Do you suppose that this life of lies and deceit is pleasant to me? Do you suppose that it is a pleasant task to lure a brave man on to his ruin?”