But Lucille sat still, and Mr. Sabin rose slowly to his feet.
“I thank you, Prince,” he said, “for throwing away the mask. Fighting is always better without the buttons. It is true that I have failed more than once, but it is also true that my failures have been more magnificent than your waddle across the plain of life. As for your present authority, I challenge you to your face that you are using it to gain your private ends. What I have said to you I shall repeat to those whose place is above yours. Lucille shall go to Dorset House, but I warn you that I hold my life a slight thing where her welfare is concerned. Your hand is upon the lever of a great organization, I am only a unit in the world. Yet I would have you remember that more than once, Prince, when you and I have met with the odds in your favour the victory has been mine. Play the game fairly, and you have nothing to fear from me but the open opposition I have promised you. Bring but the shadow of evil upon her, misuse your power but ever so slightly against her, and I warn you that I shall count the few years of life left to me a trifle —of less than no account—until you and I cry quits.”
The Prince smiled, a fat, good-natured smile, behind which the malice was indeed well hidden.
“Come, come, my dear Souspennier,” he declared. “This is unworthy of you. It is positively melodramatic. It reminds me of the plays of my Fatherland, and of your own Adelphi Theatre. We should be men of the world, you and I. You must take your defeats with your victories. I can assure you that the welfare of the Countess Lucille shall be my special care.”
Lucille for the first time spoke. She rose from her chair and rested her hands affectionately upon her husband’s shoulder.
“Dear Victor,” she said, “remember that we are in London, and, need I add, have confidence in me. The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer and I understand one another, I believe. If we do not it is not my fault. My presence here at this moment should prove to you how eagerly I shall look forward to the time when our separation is no longer necessary.”
She passed away into the inner room with a little farewell gesture tender and regretful. Mr. Sabin resumed his seat.
“I believe, Prince,” he said, “that no good can come of any further conference between you and me. We understand one another too well. Might I suggest therefore that you permit me to ring?”
The Prince rose to his feet.
“You are right,” he said. “The bandying of words between you and me is a waste of time. We are both of us too old at the game. But come, before I go I will do you a good turn. I will prove that I am in a generous mood.”
Mr. Sabin shrugged his shoulders.
“If anything in this world could inspire me with fear,” he remarked, “it would be the generosity of the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer.”