“No,” he said. “You had better understand everything. The halfpenny press told the truth. Yet only half the truth. I have been to all these places, wasted my time, wasted their time, from a purely selfish reason—to be near the only woman I have ever cared for, the woman, Grahame!”
“I knew it,” Grahame murmured. “I fought against the belief, I thought that I had stifled it. But I knew it all the time.”
“If I have seemed lukewarm sometimes of late,” Brott said, “there is the cause. She is an aristocrat, and my politics are hateful to her. She has told me so seriously, playfully, angrily. She has let me feel it in a hundred ways. She has drawn me into discussions and shown the utmost horror of my views. I have cared for her all my life, and she knows it. And I think, Grahame, that lately she has been trying constantly, persistently, to tone down my opinions. She has let me understand that they are a bar between us. And it is a horrible confession, Grahame, but I believe that I was wavering. This invitation from Letheringham seemed such a wonderful opportunity for compromise.”
“This must never go out of the room,” Grahame said hoarsely. “It would ruin your popularity. They would never trust you again.”
“I shall tell no one else,” Brott said.
“And it is over?” Grahame demanded eagerly.
“It is over.”
* * * * *
The Duke of Dorset, who entertained for his party, gave a great dinner that night at Dorset House, and towards its close the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer, who was almost the only non-political guest, moved up to his host in response to an eager summons. The Duke was perturbed.
“You have heard the news, Saxe Leinitzer?”
“I did not know of any news,” the Prince answered. “What is it?”
“Brott has refused to join with Letheringham in forming a ministry. It is rumoured even that a coalition was proposed, and that Brott would have nothing to do with it.”
The Prince looked into his wineglass.
“Ah!” he said.
“This is disturbing news,” the Duke continued. “You do not seem to appreciate its significance.”
The Prince looked up again.
“Perhaps not,” he said. “You shall explain to me.”
“Brott refuses to compromise,” the Duke said. “He stands for a ministry of his own selection. Heaven only knows what mischief this may mean. His doctrines are thoroughly revolutionary. He is an iconoclast with a genius for destruction. But he has the ear of the people. He is to-day their Rienzi.”
The Prince nodded.
“And Lucille?” he remarked. “What does she say?”
“I have not spoken to her,” the Duke answered. “The news has only just come.”
“We will speak to her,” the Prince said, “together.”
Afterwards in the library there was a sort of informal meeting, and their opportunity came.