Give me your hand, Baronet. Come to our conference tonight. We will wash down our diplomatic disagreement with a good drink of beer, and blue clouds of smoke from our pipes shall waft away all the intrigues, plots and counter-plots.
But—Your Majesty, who is to furnish the source of amusement tonight?
Will Your Majesty take me as the scapegoat?
Oho, Baronet! it will be a hot skirmish. He who has been under fire from a dozen such old soldiers needs a week or two to recover from the experience.
A pleasing fate indeed, to play the fox to such hounds!
We’ll find some one to be the central figure this evening. You must be among the laughers, and then you can tell us something of the cock-fights and the boxing-bouts in England. That sort of amusement pleases me mightily, and I would permit it to come into this country without excise or other duty. Very well, then, the Smoker is at eight o’clock. Your pardon for this queer audience of dismissal. Bring a brave thirst with you. For in the matter of drinking we pay no attention to the customary procedure.
[He goes out, followed by all except HOTHAM.]
Excellent! We adapt ourselves to circumstances and circumstances adapt themselves to us. Now for my letter to the Queen. [He sits down, takes a partly written letter from his portfolio and reads it.] “Exalted Lady: Your wish to see the Prince of Wales is a command for your devoted servant. Unless all plans should go awry I will have the honor to lead the Prince of Wales this very night into the presence of his Royal Aunt. He hopes not only for the happiness of pressing a kiss on Your Majesty’s hand, but desires, with all the longing of an ardent heart, finally to look upon his dear affianced, the Princess Wilhelmine. Use all your power to free the Princess from her imprisonment for this evening.” [He begins to write.] “I would suggest that you advise the Princess to wrap herself in a white domino. This disguise will carry her safely past the palace sentries.” There—the young people can see each other again, can storm the fortress of the mother’s heart, and can win for themselves the support of public opinion, as represented by the invited guests. [He seals the letter.] Now if I could find the Prince—Ah, there he is!
PRINCE (looking in cautiously).
Hotham, I’ve been looking for you everywhere. What do you think has just happened to me?
Another Royal mission?