Thereafter, in the long ride to Melita, during luncheon upon a high white terrace overlooking the sailless sea, and in the hours on the unforgetable roads of the islands, St. George, while incommunicable marvels revealed themselves linked with incommunicable beauty, sat in the prince’s motor, his eyes searching the horizon for that fleeing speck of silver and pink. It did not appear again. And when the train of the prince rolled into the yard of the Palace of the Litany it trembled upon St. George’s lips to ask whether the formalities of the court would permit him that day to scale the skies and call upon the royal household.
“For whatever he says, I’ve got to do,” thought St. George, “but no matter what he says, I shall go. Doesn’t Amory realize that we’ve been more than twelve hours on this island, and that nothing has been done?”
And then as they crossed the grassy court in the delicate hush of the merging light—the nameless radiance already penetrating the dusk—the prince spoke smoothly, as if his words bore no import deeper than his smile:
“You are come,” he said courteously, “in time for one of the ceremonies of our regime most important—to me. You will, I hope, do honour to the occasion by your presence. This evening, in the Hall of Kings in the Palace of the Litany, will occur the ceremony of my betrothal.”
“Your betrothal, your Highness?” repeated St. George uncertainly.
“You will be attended by an escort,” the prince continued, “and Balator, the commander of the guard, will receive you in the hall. May the gods permit the possible.”
He swept through the portico before them, and they followed dumbly.
The betrothal of the prince.
St. George heard, and his eager hope went down in foreboding. He turned, hardly daring to read his own dread in the eyes of Amory.
Amory, as St. George had said, was delicious, especially his drawl; but there were times—now, for example, when all that the eyes of Amory expressed was what his lips framed, sotto-voce:
“An American heiress, betrothed to the prince of a cannibal island! Wouldn’t Chillingworth turn in his grave at his desk?”
The “porch of light” proved to be an especially fascinating place at evening. Evening, which makes most places resemble their souls instead of their bodies, had a grateful task in the beautiful room whose spirit was always uppermost, and Evening moved softly in its ivory depths, preluding for Sleep. Here, his lean, shadowed face all anxiety, Rollo stood, holding at arm’s length a parti-coloured robe with floating scarfs.
“It seems to me, sir,” he said doubtfully, “that this one would ’ave done better. Beggin’ your pardon, sir.”
St. George shook his head distastefully.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, and broke into a slow smile as he looked at Amory. The robes which the prince had provided for the evening were rather harder to become accustomed to than the notion of intuitive knowledge.