The perfume of countless roses,
the music of the finest band
in Europe, floated through the
famous white ballroom of Devenham
House. Electric lights sparkled
from the ceiling, through the
pillared way the ceaseless splashing
of water from the fountains in
the winter garden seemed like
a soft undernote to the murmur
of voices, the musical peals
of laughter, the swirl of skirts,
and the rhythm of flying feet.
Penelope stood upon the edge
of the ballroom, her hand resting
still upon her partner's arm.
She wore a dress of dull rose-color,
a soft, clinging silk, which
floated about her as she danced,
a creation of Paquin's, daring
but delightful. Her eyes were
very full and soft. She was looking
her best, and knew it. Nevertheless,
she was just at the moment, a
little DISTRAIT. She was watching
the brilliant scene with a certain
air of abstraction, as though
her interest in it was, after
all, an impersonal thing.
"Jolly well every one looks
tonight," her partner, who was
Sir Charles, remarked. "All the
women seem to be wearing smart
frocks, and some of those foreign
uniforms are gorgeous."
"Even the Prince," Penelope
said thoughtfully, "must find
some reflection of the philosophy
of his own country in such a
scene as this. For the last fortnight
we have been surfeited with horrors.
We have had to go through all
sorts of nameless things," she
added, shivering slightly, "and
tonight we dance at Devenham
House. We dance, and drink champagne,
and marvel at the flowers, as
though we had not a care in the
world, as though life moved always
Sir Charles frowned a little.
"The Prince again!" he said,
half protesting. "He seems to
be a great deal in your thoughts
"Why not?" she answered. "It
is something to meet a person
whom one is able to dislike.
Nowadays the whole world is so
"I wonder how much you really
do dislike him," he said.
She looked at him with a mysterious
"Sometimes," she murmured softly, "I
wonder that myself."
"Leaving the Prince out of
the question," he continued, "what
you say is true enough. Only
a few days ago, you had to attend
that awful inquest, and the last
time I saw dear old Dicky Vanderpole,
he was looking forward to this
"It seems callous of us to
have come," Penelope declared. "And
yet, if we hadn't, what difference
would it have made? Every one
else would have been here. Our
absence would never have been
noticed, and we should have sat
at home and had the blues. But
all the same, life is cruel."
"Can't say I find much to grumble
at myself," Sir Charles said
cheerfully. "I'm frightfully
sorry about poor old Dicky, of
course, and every other decent
fellow who doesn't get his show.
But, after all, it's no good
being morbid. Sackcloth and ashes
benefit no one. Shall we have
"Not yet," Penelope replied. "Wait
till the crowd thins a little.
Tell me what you have been doing
"Pretty strenuous time," Sir
Charles remarked. "Up at nine,
played golf at Ranelagh all morning,
lunched down there, back to my
rooms and changed, called on
my tailor, went round to the
club, had one game of billiards
and four rubbers of bridge."
"Is that all?" Penelope
The faint sarcasm which lurked
beneath her question passed unnoticed.
Sir Charles smiled good-humoredly.
"Not quite," he answered. "I
dined at the Carlton with Bellairs
and some men from Woolwich and
we had a box at the Empire to
see the new ballet. Jolly good
it was, too. Will you come one
night, if I get up a party?"
"Oh, perhaps!" she answered. "Come
They passed into the great
ballroom, the finest in London,
brilliant with its magnificent
decorations of real flowers,
its crowd of uniformed men and
beautiful women, its soft yet
ever-present throbbing of wonderful
music. At the further end of
the room, on a slightly raised
dais, still receiving her guests,
stood the Duchess of Devenham.
Penelope gave a little start
as they saw who was bowing over
"The Prince!" she
Sir Charles whispered something
a little under his breath.
"I wonder," she remarked with
apparent irrelevance, "whether
"Shall I go and find out for
you?" Sir Charles asked.
She had suddenly grown absent.
She had the air of scarcely hearing
what he said.
"Let us stop," she said. "I
am out of breath."
He led her toward the winter
garden. They sat by a fountain,
listening to the cool play of
"Penelope," Somerfield said
a little awkwardly, "I don't
want to presume, you know, nor
to have you think that I am foolishly
jealous, but you have changed
towards me the last few weeks,
"The last few weeks," she answered, "have
been enough to change me toward
any one. All the same, I wasn't
conscious of anything particular
so far as you are concerned."
"I always thought," he continued
after a moment's hesitation, "that
there was so much prejudice in
your country against--against
all Asiatic races."
She looked at him steadfastly
for a minute.
"So there is," she answered. "What
"Nothing, except that it is
a prejudice which you do not
seem to share," he remarked.
"In a way I do share it," she
declared, "but there are exceptions,
sometimes very wonderful exceptions."
"Prince Maiyo, for instance," he
said bitterly. "Yet a fortnight
ago I could have sworn that you
"I think that I do hate him," Penelope
affirmed. "I try to. I want to.
I honestly believe that he deserves
my hatred. I have more reason
for feeling this way than you
know of, Sir Charles."
"If he has dared--" Somerfield
"He has dared nothing that
he ought not to," Penelope interrupted. "His
manners are altogether too perfect.
It is the chill faultlessness
of the man which is so depressing.
Can't you understand," she added,
speaking in a tone of greater
intensity, "that that is why
I hate him? Hush!"
She gripped his sleeve warningly.
There was suddenly the murmur
of voices and the trailing of
skirts. A little party seemed
to have invaded the winter garden--a
little party of the principal
guests. The Duchess herself came
first, and her fingers were resting
upon the arm of Prince Maiyo.
She stopped to speak to Penelope,
and turned afterwards to Somerfield.
Prince Maiyo held out his hand
for Penelope's programme.
"You will spare me some dances?" he
pleaded. "I come late, but it
is not my fault."
She yielded the programme to
him without a word.
"Those with an X,'" she said, "are
free. One has to protect oneself."
He smiled as he wrote his own
name, unrebuked, in four places.
"Our first dance, then, is
number 10," he said. "It is the
next but one. I shall find you
"Here or amongst the chaperons," she
answered, as they passed on.
"You admire Miss Morse?" the
Duchess asked him.
"Greatly," the Prince answered. "She
is natural, she has grace, and
she has what I do not find so
much in this country--would you
"It is an excellent word," the
Duchess answered. "I am inclined
to agree with you. Her aunt,
with whom she lives, is a confirmed
invalid, so she is a good deal
with me. Her mother was my half-sister."
The Prince bowed.
"She will marry, I suppose?" he
"Naturally," the Duchess answered. "Sir
Charles, poor fellow, is a hopeless
victim. I should not be surprised
if she married him, some day
The Prince looked behind for
a moment; then he stopped to
admire a magnificent orchid.
"It will be great good fortune
for Sir Charles Somerfield," he
Somerfield scarcely waited
until the little party were out
"Penelope," he exclaimed, "you've
given that man four dances!"
"I am afraid," she answered, "that
I should have given him eight
if he had asked for them."
He rose to his feet.
"Will you allow me to take
you back to your aunt?" he asked.
"No!" she answered. "My
aunt is quite happy without
I should prefer to remain here."
He sat down, fuming.
"Penelope, what do you mean
by it?" he demanded.
"And what do you mean by asking
me what I mean by it?" she replied. "You
haven't any especial right that
I know of."
"I wish to Heaven I had!" he
answered with a noticeable break
in his voice.
There was a short silence.
She turned away; she felt that
she was suddenly surrounded by
a cloud of passion.
She stopped him.
"You must not say another word," she
declared. "I mean it,--you must
"I have waited for some time," he
"All the more reason why you
should wait until the right time," she
insisted. "Be patient for a little
longer, do. Just now I feel that
I need a friend more than I have
ever needed one before. Don't
let me lose the one I value most.
In a few weeks' time you shall
say whatever you like, and, at
any rate, I will listen to you.
Will you be content with that?"
"Yes!" he answered.
She laid her fingers upon his
"I am dancing this with Captain
Wilmot," she said. "Will you
come and bring me back here afterwards,
unless you are engaged?"
The Prince found her alone
in the winter garden, for Somerfield,
when he had seen him coming,
had stolen away. He came towards
her quickly, with the smooth
yet impetuous step which singled
him out at once as un-English.
He had the whole room to cross
to come to her, and she watched
him all the way. The corners
of his lips were already curved
in a slight smile. His eyes were
bright, as one who looks upon
something which he greatly desires.
Slender though his figure was,
his frame was splendidly knit,
and he carried himself as one
of the aristocrats of the world.
As he approached, she scanned
his face curiously. She became
critical, anxiously but ineffectively.
There was not a feature in his
face with which a physiognomist
could have found fault.
"Dear young lady," he said,
bowing low, "I come to you very
humbly, for I am afraid that
I am a deceiver. I shall rob
you of your pleasure, I fear.
I have put my name down for four
dances, and, alas! I do not dance."
She made room for him by her
"And I," she said, "am
weary of dancing. One does
else, night after night. We will
"Talk or be silent," he answered
softly. "Myself I believe that
you are in need of silence. To
be silent together is a proof
of great friendship, is it not?"
"It seems to me that I have
been through so much the last
fortnight." she said.
"You have suffered where you
should not have suffered," he
assented gravely. "I do not like
your laws at all. At what they
called the inquest your presence
was surely not necessary! You
were a woman and had no place
there. You had," he added calmly, "so
little to tell."
"Life to me just now," he continued, "is
so much a matter of comparison.
It is for that, indeed, that
I am here. You see, I have lived
nearly all my life in my own
country and only a very short
time in Europe. Then my mother
was an English lady, and my father
a Japanese nobleman. Always I
seem to be pulled two different
ways, to be struggling to see
things from two different points
of view. But there is one subject
in which I think I am wholly
with my own country."
"And that?" she
"I do not think," he said, "that
the rougher and more strenuous
paths of life were meant to be
trodden by your sex. Please do
not misunderstand me," he went
on earnestly. "I am not thinking
of the paths of literature and
of art, for there the perceptions
of your sex are so marvellously
acute that you indeed may often
lead where we must follow. I
am speaking of the more material
things of life."
She was suddenly conscious
of a shiver which seemed to spread
from her heart throughout her
limbs. She sat quite still, gripping
her little lace handkerchief
in her fingers.
"I mean," he continued, "the
paths which a man must tread
who seeks to serve his country
or his household,--the every-day
life in which sometimes intrigue
or force is necessary. Do you
agree with me, Miss Morse?"
"I suppose so," she
"That is why," he added, "it
was painful to me to see you
stand there before those men,
answering their questions,--men
whose walk in life was different,
of an order removed from yours,
who should not even have been
permitted to approach you upon
bended knees. Do not think that
I am suggesting any fault to
you--do not think that I am forcing
your confidence in any way. But
these are the thoughts which
came to me only a little time
She was silent. They listened
together to the splashing of
the water. What was the special
gift, she wondered, which gave
this man such insight? She felt
her heart beating; she was conscious
that he was looking at her. He
knew already that it was through
her medium that those despatches
which never reached London were
to have been handed on to their
destination! He must know that
she was to some extent in the
confidence of her country's Ambassador!
Perhaps he knew, too, those other
thoughts which were in her mind,--knew
that it had been her deliberate
intent to deceive him, to pluck
those secrets which he carried
with him, even from his heart!
What a fool she had been to dream,
for a moment, of measuring her
wits against his!
He began to speak again, and
his voice seemed pitched in lighter
"After all," he said, "you
must think it strange of me to
be so egotistical--to speak all
the time so much of my likes
and dislikes. To you I have been
a little more outspoken than
"You have found me an interesting
subject for investigation perhaps?" she
asked, looking up suddenly.
"You possess gifts," he admitted
calmly, "which one does not find
amongst the womenfolk of my country,
nor can I say that I have found
them to any extent amongst the
ladies of the English Court."
"Gifts of which you do not
approve when possessed by my
sex," she suggested.
"You are a law to yourself,
Miss Morse," he said. "What one
would not admire in others seems
natural enough in you. You have
brains and you have insight.
For that reason I have been with
you a little outspoken,--for
that reason and another which
I think you know of. You see,
my time over here grows nearer
to an end with every day. Soon
I must carry away with me, over
the seas, all the delightful
memories, the friendships, the
affections, which have made this
country such a pleasant place
"You are going soon?" she
"Very soon," he answered. "My
work is nearly finished, if indeed
I may dignify it by the name
of work. Then I must go back."
She shrank a little away from
him, as though the word were
distasteful to her.
"Do you mean that you will
go back for always?" she asked.
"There are many chances in
life," he answered. "I am the
servant of the Emperor and my
"There is no hope, then," she
continued, "of your settling
down here altogether?"
For once the marble immobility
of his features seemed disturbed.
He looked at her in honest amazement.
"Here!" he exclaimed. "But
I am a son of Japan!"
"There are many of your race
who do live here," she reminded
He smiled with the air of one
who is forced to humor a person
of limited vision.
"With them it is, alas! a matter
of necessity," he said. "It is
very hard indeed to make you
understand over here how we feel
about such things,--there seems
to be a different spirit amongst
you Western races, a different
spirit or a lack of spirit--I
do not know which I should say.
But in Japan the love of our
country is a passion which seems
to throb with every beat of our
hearts. If we leave her, it is
for her good. When we go back,
it is our reward."
"Then you are here now for
her good?" she asked.
"Tell me in what way?" she
begged. "You have been studying
English customs, their methods
of education, their political
He turned his head slowly and
looked into her eyes. She bore
the ordeal well, but she never
forgot it. It seemed to her afterwards
that he must have read every
thought which had flashed through
her brain. She felt like a little
child in the presence of some
mysterious being, thoughts of
whom had haunted her dreams,
now visible in bodily shape for
the first time.
"My dear young lady," he said, "please
do not ask me too much, for I
love to speak the truth, and
there are many things which I
may not tell. Only you must understand
that the country I love--my own
country--must enter soon upon
a new phase of her history. We
who look into the future can
see the great clouds gathering.
Some of us must needs be pioneers,
must go forward a little to learn
our safest, and best course.
May I tell you that much?"
"Of course," she
"And now," he added, leaving
his seat as though with reluctance, "the
Duchess reminded me, above all
things, that directly I found
you I was to take you to supper.
One of your royal princes has
been good enough to signify his
desire that we should sit at
the same table."
She rose at once.
"Does the Duchess know that
you are taking me?" she asked.
"I arranged it with her," he
answered. "My time draws soon
to an end and I am to be spoilt
They crossed the ballroom together
and mounted the great stairs.
Something--she never knew quite
what it was--prompted her to
detain him as they paused on
the threshold of the supper room.
"You do not often read the
papers, Prince," she said. "Perhaps
you have not seen that, after
all, the police have discovered
a clue to the Hamilton Fynes
The Prince looked down upon
her for a moment without reply.
"Yes?" he murmured
She understood that she was
to go on--that he was anxious
for her to go on.
"Some little doctor in a village
near Willington, where the line
passes, has come forward with
a story about attending to a
wounded man on the night of the
murder," she said.
He was very silent. It seemed
to her that there was something
strange about the immovability
of his features. She looked at
him wonderingly. Then it suddenly
flashed upon her that this was
his way of showing emotion. Her
lips parted. The color seemed
drawn from her cheeks. The majordomo
of the Duchess stood before them
with a bow.
"Her Grace desires me to show
your Highness to your seats," he
Prince Maiyo turned to his
"Will you allow me to precede
you through the crush?" he said. "We
are to go this way."