“There remains for you the third enterprise,” Jesson replied, “one in which, so far as I can see,” he continued, with a smile, “you have not the faintest chance of success.”
“Tell me what it is, at least?” she begged.
“The conversion of Prince Shan.”
Maggie made a little grimace.
“Aren’t you trying me a little high?” she murmured.
“Very high indeed,” Jesson acknowledged. “Prince Shan, for all his wonderful statesmanship and his grip upon world affairs, is reputed to be almost an anchorite in his daily life. No woman has ever yet been able to boast of having exercised the slightest influence over him. At the same time, he is an extraordinarily human person, and success with him would mean the end of your enemies.”
“It sounds a bit of a forlorn hope,” Maggie remarked cheerfully, “but I’ll do my little best.”
“Prince Shan has abandoned his idea of landing at Paris,” Jesson continued. “He is coming direct to London. I have to thank Chalmers for that information. Immelan will meet him directly he arrives, and their first conversations will make history. Afterwards, if things go well, Mademoiselle Karetsky will join the conference.”
“I fear,” Maggie sighed, “that there will be difficulties in the way of my establishing confidential relations with Prince Shan.”
“There will be difficulties,” Jesson assented, “but the thing is not so impossible as it would be in Paris. Prince Shan has a very fine house in Curzon Street, which is kept in continual readiness for him. He will probably entertain to some extent. You will without doubt have opportunities of meeting him socially.”
Maggie glanced at herself in the glass.
“A Chinaman!” she murmured.
“I guess that doesn’t mean what it did,” Chalmers pointed out. “Prince Shan is an aristocrat and a born ruler. He has every scrap of culture that we know anything about and something from his thousand-year-old family that we don’t quite know how to put into words. Don’t you worry about Prince Shan, Lady Maggie. Ask Dorminster here what they called him at Oxford.”
“The first gentleman of Asia,” Nigel replied. “I think he deserves the title.”
On the morning following the conclave in Belgrave Square, the Right Honourable Mervin Brown received two extremely distinguished visitors in Downing Street. It was doubtful whether the Prime Minister was altogether at his best. There was a certain amount of irritability rankling beneath his customary air of bonhommie. He motioned his callers to take chairs, however, and listened attentively to the few words of introduction which his secretary thought necessary.
“This is General Dumesnil, sir, of the French Staff, and Monsieur Pouilly of the French Cabinet. They have called according to appointment, on Government business.”