“You pay me a very delightful compliment,” he murmured.
“Please repay me, then, by being candid,” she answered. “Consider for a moment that I am a typical English girl, and tell me whether I am so very different from the Japanese women of your own class?”
He hesitated for a moment. The question was not without its embarrassments.
“Men,” he said, “are very much the same, all the world over. They are like the coarse grass which grows everywhere. But the flowers, you know, are different in every country.”
Lady Grace sighed. Perhaps she had been a trifle too daring! She was willing enough, at any rate, to let the subject drift away.
“Soon the curtain will go up,” she said, “and we can talk no longer. I should like to tell you, though, how glad I am—how glad we all are—that you can come to us next week.”
“I can assure you that I am looking forward to it,” he answered a little gravely. “It is my farewell to all of you, you know, and it seems to me that those who will be your father’s guests are just those with whom I have been on the most intimate terms since I came to England.”
“Penelope is coming,” she said quickly,—“you know that?—Penelope and Sir Charles Somerfield.”
“Yes,” he answered, “I heard so.”
The curtain went up. The faint murmur of the violins was suddenly caught up and absorbed in the thunderous music of a march. Lady Grace moved nearer to the front. Prince Maiyo remained where he was among the shadows. The music was in his ears, but his eyes were half closed.
The Duke’s chef had served an Emperor with honor—the billiard room at Devenham Castle was the most comfortable room upon earth. The three men who sat together upon a huge divan, the three men most powerful in directing the councils of their country, felt a gentle wave of optimism stealing through their quickened blood. Nevertheless this was a serious matter which occupied their thoughts.
“We are becoming,” the Prime Minister said, “much too modern. We are becoming over-civilized out of any similitude to a nation of men of blood and brawn.”
“You are quoting some impossible person,” Sir Edward Bransome declared.
“One is always quoting unconsciously,” the Prime Minister admitted with a sigh. “What I mean is that five hundred years ago we should have locked this young man up in a room hung with black crape, and with a pleasant array of unfortunately extinct instruments we should have succeeded, beyond a doubt, in extorting the truth from him.”
“And if the truth were not satisfactory?” the Duke asked, lighting a cigar.