“I wondered,” she confessed, “if I were ever to be allowed to see inside your wonderful house.”
“It is my misfortune to be compelled to pay so brief a visit to this country,” he replied. “As a rule, it gives me great pleasure to open my rooms three evenings and entertain those who care to come and see me.”
“I have heard of your entertainments,” she said, smiling. “Prima donnas sing. You rob the capitals of Europe to find your music. Then the great Monsieur Auguste is lured from Paris to prepare your supper, and not a lady leaves without some priceless jewel.”
“I entertain so seldom,” he reminded her. “I fear that the fame of my feasts has been exaggerated.”
“When do you leave, Prince?” she asked him.
“Within a few days,” he replied.
“I come for your last word,” she announced. “All that I have written to Paul Matinsky you know.”
“The last word is not yet to be spoken,” he said. “This, however, you may tell Matinsky. The scheme of Oscar Immelan has been laid before me. I have rejected it.”
“In what other way, then, would you use your power?” she asked.
He made no answer. She watched him with a great and growing curiosity.
“Prince,” she said, “they tell me that you are a great student of history.”
“I have read what is known of the history of most of the countries of the world,” he admitted.
“There have been men,” she persisted, “who have dealt in empires for the price of a woman’s smile.”
“Such men have loved,” he said, “as I love.”
“Yet for you life has always been a great and lofty thing,” she reminded him. “You could not stand where you do if you had not realised the beauty and wonder of sacrifice. Fate has given the peace of the world into your keeping. You will not juggle with the trust?”
He rose to his feet. A servant stood almost immediately at the open door.
“Fate and an American engineer,” he remarked with a smile. “I thank you, dear lady, for your visit. You will hear my news before I leave.”
She looked into his eyes for a moment.
“It is a great decision,” she said, “which rests with you!”
An hour or so later, Prince Shan left his house in Curzon Street and, followed at a discreet distance by two members of his household, strolled into the Park. It had pleased him that morning to conform rigorously to the mode of dress adopted by the fashionable citizens of the country which he was visiting. Few people, without the closest observation, would have taken him for anything but a well-turned-out, exceedingly handsome and distinguished-looking Englishman. He carried himself with a faint air of aloofness, as though he moved amongst scenes in which he had no actual concern, as though he were living, in thought at any rate, in some other world. The morning