“So you have failed, Countess,” her host said, knitting his grey brows at her.
She smilingly acknowledged defeat.
“But I can assure you,” she said, “that I was very near success. Only on Monday he had virtually made up his mind to abandon the extreme party and cast in his lot with Letheringham. What has happened to change him I do not know.”
The Prince curled his fair moustache.
“It is a pity,” he said, “that he changed his mind. For one thing is very certain. The Duke and I are agreed upon it. A Brott ministry must never be formed.”
She looked up quickly.
“What do you mean?”
The Prince answered her without hesitation.
“If one course fails,” he said, “another must be adopted. I regret having to make use of means which are somewhat clumsy and obvious. But our pronouncement on this one point is final. Brott must not be allowed to form a ministry.”
She looked at him with something like horror in her soft full eyes.
“What would you do?” she murmured.
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
“Well,” he said, “we are not quite medieval enough to adopt the only really sensible method and remove Mr. Brott permanently from the face of the earth. We should stop a little short of that, but I can assure you that Mr. Brott’s health for the next few months is a matter for grave uncertainty. It is a pity for his sake that you failed.”
She bit her lip.
“Do you know if he is still in London?” she asked.
“He must be on the point of leaving for Scotland,” the Duke answered. “If he once mounts the platform at Glasgow there will be no further chance of any compromise. He will be committed irretrievably to his campaign of anarchy.”
“And to his own disaster,” the Prince murmured.
Lucille remained for a moment deep in thought. Then she looked up.
“If I can find him before he starts,” she said hurriedly, “I will make one last effort.”
He peered forward over his desk at the tall graceful figure whose entrance had been so noiseless, and whose footsteps had been so light that she stood almost within a few feet of him before he was even aware of her presence. Then his surprise was so great that he could only gasp out her name.
She smiled upon him delightfully.
“Me! Lucille! Don’t blame your servant. I assured him that I was expected, so he allowed me to enter unannounced. His astonishment was a delightful testimony to your reputation, by the bye. He was evidently not used to these invasions.”
Brott had recovered himself by this time, and if any emotion still remained he was master of it.
“You must forgive my surprise!” he said. “You have of course something important to say to me. Will you not loosen your cloak?”