"Your rooms, Prince, are wonderful," Penelope
said to him. "I knew that you
were a man of taste, but I did
not know that you were also a
He laughed softly.
"In my country," he answered, "there
are no millionaires. The money
which we have, however, we spend,
perhaps a little differently.
But, indeed, none of my treasures
here have cost me anything. They
have come to me through more
generations than I should care
to reckon up. The bronze idol,
for instance, upon my writing
case is four hundred years old,
to my certain knowledge, and
my tapestries were woven when
in this country your walls went
"What I admire more than anything," the
Duchess declared, "is your beautiful
"I am glad," he answered, "that
you like my coloring. Some people
have thought it sombre. To me
dark colors indoors are restful."
"Everything about the whole
place is restful," Penelope said,--"your
servants with their quaint dresses
and slippered feet, your thick
carpets, the smell of those strange
burning leaves, and, forgive
me if I say so, your closed windows.
I suppose in time I should have
a headache. For a little while
it is delicious."
The Prince sighed.
"Fresh air is good," he said, "but
the air that comes from your
streets does not seem to me to
be fresh, nor do I like the roar
of your great city always in
my ears. Here I cut myself off,
and I feel that I can think.
Duchess, you must try those preserved
fruits. They come to me from
my own land. I think that the
secret of preserving them is
not known here. You see, they
are packed with rose leaves and
lemon plant. There is a golden
fig, Miss Penelope,--the fruit
of great knowledge, the magical
fruit, too, they say. Eat that
and close your eyes and you can
look back and tell us all the
wonders of the past. That is
to say," he added with a faint
smile, "if the magic works."
"But the magic never does work," she
protested with a little sigh, "and
I am not in the least interested
in the past. Tell me something
about the future?"
"Surely that is easier," he
answered. "Over the past we have
lost our control,--what has been
must remain to the end of time.
The future is ours to do what
we will with."
"That sounds so reasonable," the
Duchess declared, "and it is
so absolutely false. No one can
do what they will with the future.
It is the future which does what
it will with us."
The Prince smiled tolerantly.
"It depends a good deal, does
it not," he said, "upon ourselves?
Miss Penelope is the daughter
of a country which is still young,
which has all its future before
it, and which, has proclaimed
to the world its fixed intention
of controlling its own destinies.
She, at any rate, should have
imbibed the national spirit.
You are looking at my curtains," he
added, turning to Penelope. "Let
me show you the figures upon
them, and I will tell you the
He led her to the window, and
explained to her for some moments
the story of the faded images
which represented one chapter
out of the mythology of his country.
And then she stopped him.
"Always," she said, "you
and I seem to be talking of
that are dead and past, or of
a future which is out of our
reach. Isn't it possible to speak
now and then of the present?"
"Of the actual present?" he
asked softly. "Of this very moment?"
"Of this very moment, if you
will," she answered. "Your fairy
tale the other night was wonderful,
but it was a long way off."
The Prince was summoned away
somewhat abruptly to bid farewell
to a little stream of departing
guests. Today, more than ever,
he seemed to belong, indeed to
the world of real and actual
things, for a cousin of his mother's,
a Lady Stretton-Wynne, was helping
him receive his guests--his own
aunt, as Penelope told herself
more than once, struggling all
the time with a vague incredulity.
When he was able to rejoin her,
she was examining a curious little
coffer which stood upon an ivory
"Show me the mystery of this
lock," she begged. "I have been
trying to open it ever since
you went away. One could imagine
that the secrets of a nation
might be hidden here."
He smiled, and taking the box
from her hands, touched a little
spring. Almost at once the lid
"I am afraid," he said, "that
it is empty."
She peered in.
"No," she exclaimed, "there
is something there! See!" She
thrust in her hand and drew out
a small, curiously shaped dagger
of fine blue steel and a roll
of silken cord. She held them
up to him.
"What are these?" she asked. "Are
they symbols--the cord and the
knife of destiny?"
He took them gently from her
hand and replaced them in the
box. She heard the lock go with
a little click, and looked into
his face, surprised at his silence.
"Is there anything the matter?" she
asked. "Ought I not to have taken
Almost as the words left her
lips, she understood. His face
was inscrutable, but his very
silence was ominous. She remembered
a drawing in one of the halfpenny
papers, the drawing of a dagger
found in a horrible place. She
remembered the description of
that thin silken cord, and she
began to tremble.
"I did not know that anything
was in the box," he said calmly. "I
am sorry if its contents have
She scarcely heard his words.
The room seemed wheeling round
with her, the floor unsteady
beneath her feet. The atmosphere
of the place had suddenly become
horrible,--the faint odor of
burning leaves, the pictures,
almost like caricatures, which
mocked her from the walls, the
grinning idols, the strangely
shaped weapons in their cases
of black oak. She faltered as
she crossed the room, but recovered
"Aunt," she said, "if
you are ready, I think that
The Duchess was more than ready.
She rose promptly. The Prince
walked with them to the door
and handed them over to his majordomo.
"It has been so nice of you," he
said to the Duchess, "to honor
my bachelor abode. I shall often
think of your visit."
"My dear Prince," the Duchess
declared, "it has been most interesting.
Really, I found it hard to believe,
in that charming room of yours,
that we had not actually been
transported to your wonderful
"You are very gracious," the
Prince answered, bowing low.
Penelope's hands were within
her muff. She was talking some
nonsense--she scarcely knew what,
but her eyes rested everywhere
save on the face of her host.
Somehow or other she reached
the door, ran down the steps
and threw herself into a corner
of the brougham. Then, for the
first time, she allowed herself
to look behind. The door was
already closed, but between the
curtains which his hands had
drawn apart, Prince Maiyo was
standing in the room which they
had just quitted, and there was
something in the calm impassivity
of his white, stern face which
seemed to madden her. She clenched
her hands and looked away.
"Really, I was not so much
bored as I had feared," the Duchess
remarked composedly. "That Stretton-Wynne
woman generally gets on my nerves,
but her nephew seemed to have
a restraining effect upon her.
She didn't tell me more than
once about her husband's bad
luck in not getting Canada, and
she never even mentioned her
girls. But I do think, Penelope," she
continued, "that I shall have
to talk to you a little seriously.
There's the best-looking and
richest young bachelor in London
dying to marry you, and you won't
have a word to say to him. On
the other hand, after starting
by disliking him heartily, you
are making yourself almost conspicuous
with this fascinating young Oriental.
I admit that he is delightful,
my dear Penelope, but I think
you should ask yourself whether
it is quite worth while. Prince
Maiyo may take home with him
many Western treasures, but I
do not think that he will take
home a wife."
"If you say another word to
me, aunt," Penelope exclaimed, "I
The Duchess, being a woman
of tact, laughed the subject
away and pretended not to notice
Penelope's real distress. But
when they had reached Devenham
House, she went to the telephone
and called up Somerfield.
"Right o'!" he interrupted. "Who
"Be careful what you are saying," she
continued, "because it isn't
any one who wants you to take
them out to supper."
"I only wish you did," he answered. "It's
the Duchess, isn't it?"
"The worst of having a distinctive
voice," she sighed. "Listen.
I want to speak to you."
"I am listening hard," Somerfield
answered. "Hold the instrument
a little further away from you,--that's
"We have been to the Prince's
for tea this afternoon--Penelope
and I," she said.
"I know," he assented. "I was
asked, but I didn't see the fun
of it. It puts my back up to
see Penelope monopolized by that
fellow," he added gloomily.
"Well, listen to what I have
to say," the Duchess went on. "Something
happened there--I don't know
what--to upset Penelope very
much. She never spoke a word
coming home, and she has gone
straight up to her room and locked
herself in. Somehow or other
the Prince managed to offend
her. I am sure of that, Charlie!"
"I'm beastly sorry," Somerfield
answered. "I meant to say that
I was jolly glad to hear it."
The Duchess coughed.
"I didn't quite hear what you
said before," she said severely. "Perhaps
it is just as well. I rang up
to say that you had better come
round and dine with us tonight.
You will probably find Penelope
in a more reasonable frame of
"Awfully good of you," Somerfield
declared heartily. "I'll come
Dinner at Devenham House that
evening was certainly a domestic
meal. Even the Duke was away,
attending a political gathering.
Penelope was pale, but otherwise
entirely her accustomed self.
She talked even more than usual,
and though she spoke of a headache,
she declined all remedies. To
Somerfield's surprise, she made
not the slightest objection when
he followed her into the library
"Penelope," he said, "something
has gone wrong. Won't you tell
me what it is? You look worried."
She returned his anxious gaze,
dry-eyed but speechless.
"Has that fellow,
Prince Maiyo, done or said
She interrupted him.
"No!" she cried. "No!" don't
mention his name, please! I don't
want to hear his name again just
"For my part," Somerfield said
bitterly, "I never want to hear
it again as long as I live!"
There was a short silence.
Suddenly she turned towards him.
"Charlie," she said, "you
have asked me to marry you
"Seven," he corrected. "I
ask you again now--that makes
"Very well," she answered, "I
accept--on one condition."
"On any," he exclaimed, his
voice trembling with joy. "Penelope,
it sounds too good to be true.
You can't be in earnest"
"I am," she declared. "I
will marry you if you will
our engagement is announced everywhere
tomorrow, and that you do not
ask me for anything at all, mind,
not even--not anything--for three
months' time, at least. Promise
that until then you will not
let me hear the sound of the
"I promise," he said firmly. "Penelope,
you mean it? You mean this seriously?"
She gave him her hands and
a very sad little smile.
"I mean it, Charlie," she answered. "I
will keep my word."