“Sometimes I wonder,” Penelope said thoughtfully, “whether such speeches as the one which you have just made do not indicate something totally wrong in our modern life. You, for instance, have no profession, Charlie, and you devote your life to a systematic course of what is nothing more or less than pleasure-seeking. You hunt or you shoot, you play polo or golf, you come to town or you live in the country, entirely according to the seasons. If any one asked you why you had not chosen a profession, you would as good as tell them that it was because you were a rich man and had no need to work for your living. That is practically what it comes to. You Englishmen work only if you need money. If you do not need money, you play. The Prince is wealthy, but his profession was ordained for him from the moment when he left the cradle. The end and aim of his life is to serve his country, and I believe that he would consider it sacrilege if he allowed any slighter things to divert at any time his mind from its main purpose. He would feel like a priest who has broken his ordination vows.”
“That’s all very well,” Somerfield said coolly, “but there’s nothing in life nowadays to make us quite so strenuous as that.”
“Isn’t there?” Penelope answered. “You are an Englishman, and you should know. Are you convinced, then, that your country today is at the height of her prosperity, safe and sound, bound to go on triumphant, prosperous, without the constant care of her men?”
Somerfield looked up at her in growing amazement.
“What on earth’s got hold of you, Penelope?” he asked. “Have you been reading the sensational papers, or stuffing yourself up with jingoism, or what?”
“None of those things, I can assure you,” she said. “A man like the Prince makes one think, because, you see, every standard of life we have is a standard of comparison. When one sees the sort of man he is, one wonders. When one sees how far apart he is from you Englishmen in his ideals and the way he spends his life, one wonders again.”
Somerfield shrugged his shoulders.
“We do well enough,” he said. “Japan is the youngest of the nations. She has a long way to go to catch us up.”
“We do well enough!” she repeated under her breath. “There was a great city once which adopted that as her motto,—people dig up mementoes of her sometimes from under the sands.”
Somerfield looked at her in an aggrieved fashion.
“Well,” he said, “I thought that this was to be an amusing luncheon party.”
“You should have talked more to Lady Grace,” she answered. “I am sure that she is quite ready to believe that you are perfection, and the English army the one invincible institution in the world. You mustn’t take me too seriously today, Charlie. I have a headache, and I think that it has made me dull.” . . .
They trooped out into the foyer in irregular fashion to take their coffee. The Prince and Penelope were side by side.