“I leave,” he told her, “on Friday, soon after dawn.”
She found herself trembling.
“It is a very short time,” she faltered.
They had both risen to their feet. He was close to her now, and she felt herself caught up in a passionate wave of inertia, an absolute inability to protest or resist. His arms were clasped around her lightly and with exceeding gentleness. He leaned down. She found herself wondering, even in that tumultuous moment, at the strange clearness of his complexion, the whiteness of his firm, strong teeth, the soft brilliance of his eyes, which caressed her even before his lips rested upon hers.
“I think that you will come,” he whispered. “I think that you will be very happy.”
The great house in Curzon Street awoke, the following morning, to a state of intense activity. Taxi-cabs and motor-cars were lined along the street; a stream of callers came and went. That part of the establishment of which little was seen by the casual caller, the rooms where half a dozen secretaries conducted an immense correspondence, presided over by Li Wen, was working overtime at full pressure. In his reception room, Prince Shan saw a selected few of the callers, mostly journalists and politicians, to whom Li Wen gave the entree. One visitor even this most astute of secretaries found it hard to place. He took the card in to his master, who glanced at it thoughtfully.
“The Earl of Dorminster,” he repeated. “I will see him.”
Nigel found himself received with courtesy, yet with a certain aloofness. Prince Shan rose from his favourite chair of plain black oak heaped with green silk cushions and held out his hand a little tentatively.
“You are very kind to visit me, Lord Dorminster,” he said. “I trust that you come to wish me fortune.”
“That,” Nigel replied, “depends upon how you choose to seek it.”
“I am answered,” was the prompt acknowledgment. “One thing in your country I have at least learnt to appreciate, and that is your love of candour. What is your errand with me to-day? Have you come to speak to me as an ambassador from your cousin, or in any way on her behalf?”
“My business has nothing to do with Lady Maggie,” Nigel assured him gravely.
Prince Shan held out his hand.
“Stop,” he begged. “Do not explain your business. If it is a personal request, it is granted. If, on the other hand, you seek my advice on matters of grave importance, it is yours. Before other words are spoken, however, I myself desire to address you on the subject of Lady Maggie Trent.”
“As you please,” Nigel answered.
“It is not the custom of my country, or of my life,” Prince Shan continued, “to covet or steal the things which belong to another. If fate has made me a thief, I am very sorry. I have proposed to Lady Maggie that she accompany me back to China. It is my great desire that she should become my wife.”