“Anything else?” she asked with a faint note of sarcasm in her tone.
“Yes,” Mr. Harvey replied, “there is something else. I should like to know what attitude Prince Maiyo takes towards the proposed renewal of the treaty between his country and Great Britain.”
She shook her head.
“Even if we were friends,” she said, “the very closest of friends, he would never tell me. He is far too clever.”
“Do not be too sure,” Mr. Harvey said. “Sometimes a man, especially an Oriental, who does not understand the significance of your sex in these matters, can be drawn on to speak more freely to a woman than he would ever dream of doing to his best friend. He would not tell you in as many words, of course. On the other hand, he might show you what was in his mind.”
“He is going back very shortly,” Penelope remarked.
Mr. Harvey nodded.
“That is why I sent for you to come immediately. You will see him tonight at Devenham House.”
“With all the rest of the world,” she answered, “but a man is not likely to talk confidentially under such conditions.”
Mr. Harvey rose to his feet.
“It is only a chance, of course,” he admitted, “but remember that you know more than any other person in this country except myself. It would be impossible for the Prince to give you credit for such knowledge. A casual remark, a word, perhaps, may be sufficient.”
Penelope held out her hand. The servant for whom the Ambassador had rung was already in the room.
“I will try,” she promised. “Ask Mrs. Harvey to excuse my going up to see her this afternoon. I have another call to make, and I want to rest before the function tonight.”
The Ambassador bowed, and escorted her to the door.
“I have confidence in you, Penelope,” he said. “You will try your best?”
“Oh, yes!” she answered with a queer little laugh, “I shall do that. But I don’t think that even you quite understand Prince Maiyo!”
The perfume of countless roses, the music of the finest band in Europe, floated through the famous white ballroom of Devenham House. Electric lights sparkled from the ceiling, through the pillared way the ceaseless splashing of water from the fountains in the winter garden seemed like a soft undernote to the murmur of voices, the musical peals of laughter, the swirl of skirts, and the rhythm of flying feet.
Penelope stood upon the edge of the ballroom, her hand resting still upon her partner’s arm. She wore a dress of dull rose-color, a soft, clinging silk, which floated about her as she danced, a creation of Paquin’s, daring but delightful. Her eyes were very full and soft. She was looking her best, and knew it. Nevertheless, she was just at the moment, a little distrait. She was watching the brilliant scene with a certain air of abstraction, as though her interest in it was, after all, an impersonal thing.