Mr. Sabin leaned heavily upon his stick as he slowly made his way along the corridor to his rooms. Things were going ill with him indeed. He was not used to the fear of an enemy, but the memory of Lady Carey’s white cheeks and indrawn lips as she had entered his carriage chilled him. Her one look, too, was a threat worse than any which her lips could have uttered. He was getting old indeed, he thought, wearily, when disappointment weighed so heavily upon him. And Lucille? Had he any real fears of her? He felt a little catch in his throat at the bare thought—in a moment’s singular clearness of perception he realised that if Lucille were indeed lost the world was no longer a place for him. So his feet fell wearily upon the thickly carpeted floor of the corridor, and his face was unusually drawn and haggard as he opened the door of his sitting-room.
And then—a transformation, amazing, stupefying. It was Lucille who was smiling a welcome upon him from the depths of his favourite easy-chair—Lucille sitting over his fire, a novel in her hand, and wearing a delightful rose-pink dressing-gown. Some of her belongings were scattered about his room, giving it a delicate air of femininity. The faint odour of her favourite and only perfume gave to her undoubted presence a wonderful sense of reality.
She held out her hands to him, and the broad sleeves of her dressing-gown fell away from her white rounded arms. Her eyes were wonderfully soft, the pink upon her cheeks was the blush of a girl.
“Victor,” she murmured, “do not look so stupefied. Did you not believe that I would risk at least a little for you, who have risked so much for me? Only come to me! Make the most of me. All sorts of things are sure to happen directly I am found out.”
He took her into his arms. It was one of the moments of his lifetime.
“Tell me,” he murmured, “how have you dared to do this?”
“You know the Prince and his set. You know the way they bribe. Intrigues everywhere, new and old overlapping. They have really some reason for keeping you and me apart, but as regards my other movements, I am free enough. And they thought, Victor—don’t be angry—but I let them think it was some one else. And I stole away from the ball, and they think—never mind what they think. But you, Victor, are my intrigue, you, my love, my husband!”
Then all the fatigue and all the weariness, died away from Mr. Sabin’s face. Once more the fire of youth burned in his heart. And Lucille laughed softly as her lips met his, and her head sank upon his shoulder.
Lady Carey suddenly dropped her partner’s arm. She had seen a man standing by himself with folded arms and moody face at the entrance to the ball-room. She raised her lorgnettes. His identity was unquestionable.