Mr. Sabin had the air of a man gravely surprised. He shook his head very slightly.
“You must not ask me such a question as that, Mr. Brott,” he said. “It is not a subject which I could possibly discuss with you. But I have no objection to going so far as this. My experience of the Countess is that she is a woman of magnificent and effective will power. I think if she has any desire to marry you there are or could be no obstacles existing which she would not easily dispose of.”
“There are obstacles, then?”
“You must not ask me that,” Mr. Sabin said, with a certain amount of stiffness. “The Countess is a very dear friend of mine, and you must forgive me now if I say that I prefer not to discuss her any longer.”
A hall servant entered the room, bearing a note for Mr. Brott. He received it at first carelessly, but his expression changed the moment he saw the superscription. He turned a little away, and Mr. Sabin noticed that the fingers which tore open the envelope were trembling. The note seemed short enough, but he must have read it half a dozen times before at last he turned round to the messenger.
“There is no answer,” he said in a low tone.
He folded the note and put it carefully into his breast pocket. Mr. Sabin subdued an insane desire to struggle with him and discover, by force, if necessary, who was the sender of those few brief lines. For Mr. Brott was a changed man.
“I am afraid,” he said, turning to his guest, “that this has been a very dull evening for you. To tell you the truth, this club is not exactly the haunt of pleasure-seekers. It generally oppresses me for the first hour or so. Would you like a hand at bridge, or a game of billiards? I am wholly at your service—until twelve o’clock.”
Mr. Sabin glanced at the clock.
“You are very good,” he said, “but I was never much good at indoor games. Golf has been my only relaxation for many years. Besides, I too have an engagement for which I must leave in a very few minutes.”
“It is very good of you,” Mr. Brott said, “to have given me the pleasure of your company. I have the greatest possible admiration for your niece, Mr. Sabin, and Camperdown is a thundering good fellow. He will be our leader in the House of Lords before many years have passed.”
“He is, I believe,” Mr. Sabin remarked, “of the same politics as yourself.”
“We are both,” Mr. Brott answered, with a smile, “I am afraid outside the pale of your consideration in this respect. We are both Radicals.”
Mr. Sabin lit another cigarette and glanced once more at the clock.
“A Radical peer!” he remarked. “Isn’t that rather an anomaly? The principles of Radicalism and aristocracy seem so divergent.”
“Yet,” Mr. Brott said, “they are not wholly irreconcilable. I have often wished that this could be more generally understood. I find myself at times very unpopular with people, whose good opinion I am anxious to retain, simply owing to this too general misapprehension.”