He passed out, closing the door behind him. Captain Wilmot chalked his cue carefully.
“That’s the queerest fellow I ever knew in my life,” he said. “He seems all the time as though his head were in the clouds.”
Lady Grace sighed. She too was chalking her cue.
“I wonder,” she said, “what it would be like to live in the clouds.”
The library at Devenham Castle was a large and sombre apartment, with high oriel windows and bookcases reaching to the ceiling. It had an unused and somewhat austere air. Tonight especially an atmosphere of gloom seemed to pervade it. The Prince, when he opened the door, found the three men who were awaiting him seated at an oval table at the further end of the room.
“I do not intrude, I trust?” the Prince said. “I understood that you wished me to come here.”
“Certainly,” the Duke answered, “we were sitting here awaiting your arrival. Will you take this easy chair? The cigarettes are at your elbow.”
The Prince declined the easy chair and leaned for a moment against the table.
“Perhaps later,” he said. “Just now I feel that you have something to say to me. Is it not so? I talk better when I am standing.”
It was the Prime Minister who made the first plunge. He spoke without circumlocution, and his tone was graver than usual.
“Prince,” he said, “this is perhaps the last time that we shall all meet together in this way. You go from us direct to the seat of your Government. So far there has been very little plain speaking between us. It would perhaps be more in accord with etiquette if we let you go without a word, and waited for a formal interchange of communications between your Ambassador and ourselves. But we have a feeling, Sir Edward and I, that we should like to talk to you directly. Before we go any further, however, let me ask you this question. Have you any objection, Prince, to discussing a certain matter here with us?”
The Prince for several moments made no reply. He was still standing facing the fireplace, leaning slightly against the table behind him. On his right was the Duke, seated in a library chair. On his left the Prime Minister and Sir Edward Bransome. The Prince seemed somehow to have become the central figure of the little group.
“Perhaps,” he said, “if you had asked me that question a month ago, Mr. Haviland, I might have replied to you differently. Circumstances, however, since then have changed. My departure will take place so soon, and the kindness I have met here from all of you has been so overwhelming, that if you will let me I should like to speak of certain things concerning which no written communication could ever pass between our two countries.”
“I can assure you, my dear Prince, that we shall very much appreciate your doing so,” Mr. Haviland declared.