Mr. Sabin gently raised his eyebrows.
“Annoyance!” he repeated. “I fear that I do not quite understand.”
The Prince smiled.
“Surely Lucille has told you,” he said, “of the perilous position in which she finds herself.”
“My wife,” Mr. Sabin said, “has told me nothing. You alarm me.”
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
“I deeply regret to tell you,” he said, “that the law has proved too powerful for me. I can no longer stand between her and what I fear may prove a most unpleasant episode. Lucille will be arrested within the hour.”
“Upon what charge?” Mr. Sabin asked.
“The murder of Duson.”
Mr. Sabin laughed very softly, very gently, but with obvious genuineness.
“You are joking, Prince,” he exclaimed.
“I regret to say,” the Prince answered, “that you will find it very far from a joking matter.”
Mr. Sabin was suddenly stern.
“Prince of Saxe Leinitzer,” he said, “you are a coward and a bully.”
The Prince started forward with clenched fist. Mr. Sabin had no weapon, but he did not flinch.
“You can frighten women,” he said, “with a bogie such as this, but you have no longer a woman to deal with. You and I know that such a charge is absurd—but you little know the danger to which you expose yourself by trifling with this subject. Duson left a letter addressed to me in which he announced his reasons for committing suicide.”
“Yes. He preferred suicide to murder, even at the bidding of the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer. He wrote and explained these things to me—and the letter is in safe hands. The arrest of Lucille, my dear Prince, would mean the ruin of your amiable society.”
“This letter,” the Prince said slowly, “why was it not produced at the inquest? Where is it now?”
“It is deposited in a sealed packet with the Earl of Deringham,” Mr. Sabin answered. “As to producing it at the inquest—I thought it more discreet not to. I leave you to judge of my reasons. But I can assure you that your fears for my wife’s safety have been wholly misplaced. There is not the slightest reason for her to hurry off to America. We may take a little trip there presently, but not just yet.”
The Prince made a mistake. He lost his temper.
“You!” he cried, “you can go to America when you like, and stay there. Europe has had enough of you with your hare-brained schemes and foolish failures. But Lucille does not leave this country. We have need of her. I forbid her to leave. Do you hear? In the name of the Order I command her to remain here.”
Mr. Sabin was quite calm, but his face was full of terrible things.
“Prince,” he said, “if I by any chance numbered myself amongst your friends I would warn you that you yourself are a traitor to your Order. You prostitute a great cause when you stoop to use its machinery to assist your own private vengeance. I ask you for your own sake to consider your words. Lucille is mine—mine she will remain, even though you should descend to something more despicable, more cowardly than ordinary treason, to wrest her from me. You reproach me with the failures of my life. Great they may have been, but if you attempt this you will find that I am not yet an impotent person.”