“It is not my custom to dance,” he said, “but the waltz that they were beginning to play seemed to me to have a little of the lure of our own music. Will you do me the honour?”
They moved away to the music. Chalmers stood and watched them, with one hand in his pocket and the other on Nigel’s shoulder. He turned to Naida, who was on the other side.
“Nothing like a touch of melodrama for the emotions,” he grumbled. “Look at Lady Maggie! Her head might be touching the clouds, and I never saw her eyes shine like that when she danced with me.”
“You don’t dance as well as Prince Shan, old fellow,” Nigel told him.
“And the Prince sails for China at dawn,” Naida murmured.
Prince Shan stood in the tiny sitting room of his suite upon the Black Dragon and looked around him critically. The walls were of black oak, with white inlaid plaques on which a great artist had traced little fanciful figures,—a quaint Chinese landscape, a temple, a flower-hung pagoda. There were hangings of soft, blue silk tapestry, brought from one of his northern palaces. The cloth which covered the table was of the finest silk. There were several bowls of flowers, a couch, and two comfortable chairs. Through the open doors of the two bedchambers came a faint glimpse of snow-white linen, a perfume reminiscent at once of almond blossom, green tea, and crushed lavender, and in the little room beyond glistened a silver bath. Already attired for the voyage, his pilot stood on the threshold.
“Is all well, your Highness?” he asked.
“Everything is in order,” Prince Shan replied. “Ching Su is a perfect steward.”
“The reverend gentleman is in his room, your Highness,” the pilot went on. “All the supplies have arrived, and the crew are at their stations. At what hour will it please your Highness to start?”
Prince Shan looked through the open window, along the wooden platform, out to the broad stretch of road which led to London.
“I announced the hour of my departure as six o’clock,” he replied. “I cannot leave before in case of any farewell message. Is the woman of whom I spoke to you here?”
“She is in attendance, your Highness.”
“She understands that she will not be required unless my other passenger should desire to accompany us?”
“She understands perfectly, your Highness.”
Prince Shan stepped through his private exit on to the narrow wooden platform. Already the mighty engines had started, purring softly but deeply, like the deep-throated murmurings of a giant soon to break into a roar. It was a light, silvery morning, with hidden sunshine everywhere. On the other side of the vast amphitheatre of flat, cinder-covered ground, the Downs crept upwards, rolling away to the blue-capped summit of a distant range of hills. Northwards, the pall of London darkened the horizon.