After the supper there were obligations which the Prince, whose sense of etiquette was always strong, could not avoid. He took Penelope back to her aunt, reminding her that the next dance but one belonged to him. Miss Morse, who was an invalid and was making one of her very rare appearances in Society, watched him curiously as he disappeared.
“I wonder what they’d think of your new admirer in New York, Penelope,” she remarked.
“I imagine,” Penelope answered, “that they would envy me very much.”
Miss Morse, who was a New Englander of the old-fashioned type, opened her lips, but something in her niece’s face restrained her.
“Well, at any rate,” she said, “I hope we don’t go to war with them. The Admiral wrote me, a few weeks ago, that he saw no hope for anything else.”
“It would be a terrible complication,” the Duchess sighed, “especially considering our own alliance with Japan. I don’t think we need consider it seriously, however. Over in America you people have too much common sense.”
“The Government have, very likely,” Miss Morse admitted, “but it isn’t always the Government who decide things or who even rule the country. We have an omnipotent Press, you know. All that’s wanted is a weak President, and Heaven knows where we should be!”
“Of course,” the Duchess remarked, “Prince Maiyo is half an Englishman. His mother was a Stretton-Wynne. One of the first intermarriages, I should think. Lord Stretton-Wynne was Ambassador to Japan.”
“I think,” said Penelope, “that if you could look into Prince Maiyo’s heart you would not find him half an Englishman. I think that he is more than seven-eighths a Japanese.”
“I have heard it whispered,” the Duchess remarked, leaning forward, “that he is over here on an exceedingly serious mission. One thing is quite certain. No one from his country, or from any other country, for that matter, has ever been so entirely popular amongst us. He has the most delightful manners of any man I ever knew of any race.”
Sir Charles came up, with gloomy face, to claim a dance. After it was over, he led Penelope back to her aunt almost in silence.
“You are dancing again with the Prince?” he asked.
“Certainly,” she answered. “Here he comes.”
The Prince smiled pleasantly at the young man, who towered like a giant above him, and noticed at once his lack of cordiality.
“I am selfish!” he exclaimed, pausing with Penelope’s hand upon his coat sleeve. “I am taking you too much away from your friends, and spoiling your pleasure, perhaps, because I do not dance. Is it not so? It is your kindness to a stranger, and they do not all appreciate it.”
“We will go into the winter garden and talk it over,” she answered, smiling.
They found their old seats unoccupied. Once more they sat and listened to the fall of the water.
“Prince,” said Penelope, “there is one thing I have learned about you this evening, and that is that you do not love questions. And yet there is one other which I should like to ask you.”