The Prince, on his way back
from his usual before-breakfast
stroll, lingered for a short
time amongst the beds of hyacinths
and yellow crocuses. Somehow
or other, these spring flowers,
stiffly set out and with shrivelled
edges--a little reminiscent of
the last east wind--still seemed
to him, in their perfume at any
rate, to being him memories of
his own country. Pink and blue
and yellow, in all manner of
sizes and shapes, the beds spread
away along the great front below
the terrace of the castle. This
morning the wind was coming from
the west. The sun, indeed, seemed
already to have gained some strength.
The Prince sat for a moment or
two upon the gray stone balustrade,
looking to where the level country
took a sudden ascent and ended
in a thick belt of pine trees.
Beyond lay the sea. As he sat
there with folded arms, he was
surely a fatalist. The question
as to whether or not he should
ever reach it, should ever find
himself really bound for home,
was one which seemed to trouble
him slightly enough. He thought
with a faint, wistful interest
of the various ports of call,
of the days which might pass,
each one bringing him nearer
the end. He suffered himself,
even, to think of that faint
blur upon the horizon, the breath
of the spicy winds, the strange
home perfumes of the bay, as
he drew nearer and nearer to
the outstretched arms of his
country. Well, if not he, another!
It was something to have done
The rustle of a woman's garment
disturbed him, and he turned
his head. Penelope stood there
in her trim riding habit,--a
garb in which he had never seen
her. She held her skirts in her
hand and looked at him with a
curious little smile.
"It is too early in the morning,
Prince," she said, "for you to
sit there dreaming so long and
so earnestly. Come in to breakfast.
Every one is down, for a wonder."
"Breakfast, by all means," he
answered, coming blithely up
the broad steps. "You are going
to ride this morning?"
"I suppose we all are, more
or less," she answered. "It is
our hunt steeplechases, you know.
Poor Grace is in there nearly
sobbing her eyes out. Captain
Chalmers has thrown her over.
Lady Barbarity--that's Grace's
favorite mare, and her entry
for the cup--turned awkward with
him yesterday, and he won't have
anything more to do with her."
"From your tone," he remarked,
pushing open the French windows, "I
gather that this is a tragedy.
I, unfortunately, do not understand."
"You should ask Grace herself," Penelope
said. "There she is."
Lady Grace looked round from
her place at the head of the
"Come and sympathize with me,
Prince," she cried. "For weeks
I have been fancying myself the
proud possessor of the hunt cup.
Now that horrid man, Captain
Chalmers, has thrown me over
at the last moment. He refuses
to ride my mare because she was
a little fractious yesterday."
"It is a great misfortune," the
Prince said in a tone of polite
regret, "but surely it is not
irreparable? There must be others--why
not your own groom?"
A smile went round the table.
The Duke hastened to explain.
"The race is for gentlemen
riders only," he said. "The horses
have to be the property of members
of the hunt. There would be no
difficulty, of course, in finding
a substitute for Captain Chalmers,
but the race takes place this
morning, and I am afraid, with
all due respect to my daughter,
that her mare hasn't the best
"I won't have a word said against
Lady Barbarity," Lady Grace declared. "Captain
Chalmers is a good horseman,
of course but for a lightweight
he has the worst hands I ever
"But surely amongst your immediate
friends there must be many others," the
Prince said. "Sir Charles, for
"Charlie is riding his own
horse," Lady Grace answered. "He
hasn't the ghost of a chance,
but, of course, he won't give
"Not I!" Somerfield answered,
gorgeous in pink coat and riding
breeches. "My old horse may not
be fast, but he can go the course,
and I'm none too certain of the
others. Some of those hurdles'll
take a bit of doing."
"It is a shame," the Prince
remarked, "that you should be
disappointed, Lady Grace. Would
they let me ride for you?"
Nothing the Prince could have
said would have astonished the
little company more. Somerfield
came to a standstill in the middle
of the room, with a cup of tea
in one hand and a plate of ham
in the other.
"Do you really mean it, Prince?" Penelope
"Well, why not?" he asked,
himself, in turn, somewhat surprised. "If
I am eligible, and Lady Grace
chooses, it seems to me very
"But," the Duke intervened, "I
did not know--we did not know
that you were a sportsman, Prince."
"A sportsman?" the Prince repeated
a little doubtfully. "Perhaps
I am not that according to your
point of view, but when it comes
to a question or riding, why,
that is easy enough."
"Have you ever ridden in a
steeplechase?" Somerfield asked
"Never in my life," the Prince
declared. "Frankly, I do not
know what it is."
"There are jumps, for one thing," Somerfield
continued,--"pretty stiff affairs,
"If Lady Grace's mare is a
hunter," the Prince remarked, "she
can probably jump them."
"The question is whether--" Somerfield
began, and stopped short.
The Prince looked up.
"Yes?" he asked.
Somerfield hesitated to complete
his sentence, and the Duke once
"What Somerfield was thinking,
my dear Prince," he said, "was
that a steeplechase course, as
they ride in this country, needs
some knowing. You have never
been on my daughter's mare before."
The Prince smiled.
"So far as I am concerned," he
said, "that is of no account.
There was a day at Mukden--I
do not like to talk of it, but
it comes back to me--when I rode
twelve different horses in twenty-four
hours, but perhaps," he added,
turning to Lady Grace, "you would
not care to trust your horse
with one who is a stranger to
your--what is it you call them?--steeplechases."
"On the contrary, Prince," Lady
Grace exclaimed, "you shall ride
her, and I am going to back you
for all I am worth."
Bransome, who was also in riding
clothes, although he was not
taking part in the steeplechases
himself, glanced at the clock.
"You are running it rather
fine," he said. "You'll scarcely
have time to hack round the course."
"Some one must explain it to
me," the Prince said. "I need
only to be told where to go.
If there is no time for that,
I must stay with the other horses
until the finish. There is a
flat finish perhaps?"
"About three hundred yards," the
"Have you any riding clothes?" Penelope
whispered to him.
"Without a doubt," he answered. "I
will go and change in a few minutes."
"We start in half an hour," Somerfield
remarked. "Even that allows us
none too much time."
"Perhaps," the Duke suggested
diffidently, "you would like
to ride over, Prince? It is a
good eleven miles, and you would
have a chance of getting into
The Prince shook his head.
"No," he said, "I
should like to motor with you
"Just as you like, of course," the
Duke agreed. "Grace's mare is
over there now. We shall be able
to have a look at her before
the race, at any rate."
The opinions, after the Prince
had left the table, were a little
divided as to what was likely
"For a man who has never even
hunted and knows nothing whatever
about the country," Somerfield
declared, "to attempt to ride
in a steeplechase of this sort
is sheer folly. If you take my
advice, Lady Grace, you will
get out of it. Lady Barbarity
is far too good a mare to have
her knees broken."
"I am perfectly content to
take my risks," Lady Grace answered
confidently. "If the Prince had
never ridden before in his life,
I would trust him."
Somerfield turned away, frowning.
"What do you think about it,
Penelope?" he asked.
"I am afraid," she answered, "that
I agree with Grace."
Two punctures and a leaking
valve delayed them over an hour
on the road. When they reached
their destination, the first
race was already over.
"It's shocking bad luck," the
Duke declared, "but there's no
earthly chance of your seeing
the course, Prince. Come on the
top of the stand with me, and
bring your glasses. I think I
can point out the way for you."
"That will do excellently," the
Prince answered. "There is no
need to go and look at every
jump. Show me where we start
and as near as possible the way
we have to go, and tell me where
The course was a natural one,
and the stand itself on a hill.
The greater part of it was clearly
visible from where they stood.
The Duke pointed out the water
jump with some trepidation, but
the Prince's glasses rested on
it only for a moment. He pointed
to a clump of trees.
"Which side there?" he
"To the left," the
Duke answered. Remember to
keep inside the red
The Prince nodded.
"Where do we finish?" he
The Duke showed him.
"That is all right," he said. "I
need not look any more."
In the paddock some of the
horses were being led around.
The Prince noted them approvingly.
"Very nice horses," he said,--"light,
but very nice. That one I like
best," he added, pointing to
a dark bay mare, who was already
giving her boy some trouble.
"That's lucky," the Duke answered, "for
she's your mount. I must go and
talk to the clerk about your
entry. It is a little late, but
I think that it will be all right."
The Prince glanced over Lady
Grace's mare and turned aside
to join Penelope and Somerfield.
"I like the look of my horse,
Sir Charles," he said. "I think
that I shall beat you today."
"We both start at five to one," Somerfield
answered. "Shall we have a bet?"
"With pleasure," the Prince
agreed. "Will you name the amount?
I do not know what is usual."
"Anything you like," Somerfield
answered, "from ten pounds to
"One hundred,--we will say
one hundred, then," the Prince
declared. "My mount against yours.
He threw off his overcoat,
and they saw for the first time
that he was dressed in English
riding clothes of dark material,
but absolutely correct cut.
"I must go now and be introduced
to the Clerk of the Course," he
said. "Ah, here is Lady Grace!" he
added. "Come with me, Lady Grace.
Your father is seeing about my
entry. I think that in five minutes
the bell will ring."
Everything was in order, and
a few minutes later the Prince
came out. The mare was stripped,
and the whole party gathered
round to watch him mount. He
swung himself into the saddle
without hesitation. The mare
suddenly reared. Prince Maiyo
only smiled, and with loose reins
stooped and patted her neck.
He seemed to whisper something
in her ear, and she stood for
a moment afterwards quite still.
Lady Grace drew a quick breath.
"What did you say to her, Prince?" she
asked. "She is behaving beautifully
except for that first start."
"Your mare understands Japanese,
Lady Grace," the Prince answered,
smiling. "She and I are going
to be great friends. Show me
the way, please. Ah, I follow
that other horse! I see. Lady
Grace, au revoir. You shall have
"Gad, I believe she will!" the
Duke exclaimed. "Look at the
fellow ride. His body is like
The parade in front of the
stand was a short one. The Prince
rode by in the merest canter.
The mare made one wild plunge
which would have unseated any
ordinary person, but her rider
never even moved in his saddle.
"I never saw a fellow sit so
close in my life," the Duke declared. "Do
you know, Grace, I believe, I
really believe he'll ride her!"
Lady Grace laughed scornfully.
"I have a year's allowance
on already," she said, "so you
had better pray that he does.
I think it is very absurd of
you all," she added, "because
the Prince cares nothing for
games, to conclude that he is
any the less likely to be able
to do the things that a man should
do. He perhaps cannot ride about
on a trained pony with a long
stick and knock a small ball
between two posts, but I think
that if he had to ride for his
own life or the life of others
he would show you all something."
"They're off!" the
They watched the first jump
breathlessly. The Prince, riding
a little apart, simply ignored
the hurdle, and the mare took
it in her stride. They turned
the corner and faced an awkward
post and rails. The leading horse
took off too late and fell. The
Prince, who was close behind,
steered his mare on one side
like lightning. She jumped like
a cat,--the Prince never moved
in his seat.
"He rides like an Italian," Bransome
declared, shutting up his glasses. "There's
never a thing in this race to
touch him. I am going to see
if I can get any money on."
Another set of hurdles and
then the field were out of sight.
Soon they were visible again
in the valley. The Prince was
riding second now. Somerfield
was leading, and there were only
three other horses left. They
cleared a hedge and two ditches.
At the second one Somerfield's
horse stumbled, and there was
a suppressed cry. He righted
himself almost at once, however,
and came on. Then they reached
the water jump. There was a sudden
silence on the stand and the
hillside. Somerfield took off
first, the Prince lying well
away from him. Both cleared it,
but whereas Lady Grace's mare
jumped wide and clear, and her
rider never even faltered in
his saddle, Somerfield lost all
his lead and only just kept his
seat. They were on the homeward
way now, with only one more jump,
a double set of hurdles. Suddenly,
in the flat, the Prince seemed
to stagger in his saddle. Lady
Grace cried out.
"He's over, by Jove!" the Duke
exclaimed. "No, he's righted
The Prince had lost ground,
but he came on toward the last
jump, gaining with every stride.
Somerfield was already riding
his mount for all he was worth,
but the Prince as yet had not
touched his whip. They drew closer
and closer to the jump. Once
more the silence came. Then there
was a little cry,--both were
over. They were turning the corner
coming into the straight. Somerfield
was leaning forward now, using
his whip freely, but it was clear
that his big chestnut was beaten.
The Prince, with merely a touch
of the whip and riding absolutely
upright, passed him with ease,
and rode in a winner by a dozen
lengths. As he cantered by the
stand, they all saw the cause
of his momentary stagger. One
stirrup had gone, and he was
riding with his leg quite stiff.
"You've won your money, Grace," the
Duke declared, shutting up his
glass. "A finely ridden race,
too. Did you see he'd lost his
stirrup? He must have taken the
last jump without it. I'll go
and fetch him up."
The Duke hurried down. The
Prince was already in the weighing
room smoking a cigarette.
"It is all right," he said
smiling. "They have passed me.
I have won. I hope that Lady
Grace will be pleased."
"She is delighted!" the Duke
exclaimed, shaking him by the
hand. "We all are. What happened
to your stirrup?"
"You must ask your groom," the
Prince answered. "The leather
snapped right in the flat, but
it made no difference. We have
to ride like that half the time.
It is quite pleasant exercise," he
continued, "but I am very dirty
and very thirsty. I am sorry
for Sir Charles, but his horse
was not nearly so good as your
They made their way toward
the stand, but met the rest of
the party in the paddock. Lady
Grace went up to the Prince with
declared, you rode superbly.
It was a wonderful
race. I have never felt so grateful
to any one in my life."
The Prince smiled in a puzzled
"My dear young lady," he said, "it
was a great pleasure and a very
pleasant ride. You have nothing
to thank me for because your
horse is a little better than
"It was not my mare alone," she
answered,--"it was your riding."
The Prince laughed as one who
does not understand.
"You make me ashamed, Lady
Grace," he declared. "Why, there
is only one way to ride. You
did not think that because I
was not English I should fall
off a horse?"
"I am afraid," the Duke remarked
smiling, "that several Englishmen
have fallen off!"
"It is a matter of the horse," the
Prince said. "Some are not trained
for jumping. What would you have,
then? In my battalion we have
nine hundred horsemen. If I found
one who did not ride so well
as I do, he would go back to
the ranks. We would make an infantryman
of him. Miss Morse," he added,
turning suddenly to where Penelope
was standing a little apart. "I
am so sorry that Sir Charles'
horse was not quite so good as
Lady Grace's. You will not blame
She looked at him curiously.
She did not answer immediately.
Somerfield was coming towards
them, his pink coat splashed
with mud, his face scratched,
and a very distinct frown upon
his forehead. She looked away
from him to the Prince. Their
eyes met for a moment.
"No!" she said. "I
do not blame you!"