The Duchess was more than ready. She rose promptly. The Prince walked with them to the door and handed them over to his majordomo.
“It has been so nice of you,” he said to the Duchess, “to honor my bachelor abode. I shall often think of your visit.”
“My dear Prince,” the Duchess declared, “it has been most interesting. Really, I found it hard to believe, in that charming room of yours, that we had not actually been transported to your wonderful country.”
“You are very gracious,” the Prince answered, bowing low.
Penelope’s hands were within her muff. She was talking some nonsense—she scarcely knew what, but her eyes rested everywhere save on the face of her host. Somehow or other she reached the door, ran down the steps and threw herself into a corner of the brougham. Then, for the first time, she allowed herself to look behind. The door was already closed, but between the curtains which his hands had drawn apart, Prince Maiyo was standing in the room which they had just quitted, and there was something in the calm impassivity of his white, stern face which seemed to madden her. She clenched her hands and looked away.
“Really, I was not so much bored as I had feared,” the Duchess remarked composedly. “That Stretton-Wynne woman generally gets on my nerves, but her nephew seemed to have a restraining effect upon her. She didn’t tell me more than once about her husband’s bad luck in not getting Canada, and she never even mentioned her girls. But I do think, Penelope,” she continued, “that I shall have to talk to you a little seriously. There’s the best-looking and richest young bachelor in London dying to marry you, and you won’t have a word to say to him. On the other hand, after starting by disliking him heartily, you are making yourself almost conspicuous with this fascinating young Oriental. I admit that he is delightful, my dear Penelope, but I think you should ask yourself whether it is quite worth while. Prince Maiyo may take home with him many Western treasures, but I do not think that he will take home a wife.”
“If you say another word to me, aunt,” Penelope exclaimed, “I shall shriek!”
The Duchess, being a woman of tact, laughed the subject away and pretended not to notice Penelope’s real distress. But when they had reached Devenham House, she went to the telephone and called up Somerfield.
“Charlie,” she said,—
“Right o’!” he interrupted. “Who is it?”
“Be careful what you are saying,” she continued, “because it isn’t any one who wants you to take them out to supper.”
“I only wish you did,” he answered. “It’s the Duchess, isn’t it?”
“The worst of having a distinctive voice,” she sighed. “Listen. I want to speak to you.”
“I am listening hard,” Somerfield answered. “Hold the instrument a little further away from you,—that’s better.”
“We have been to the Prince’s for tea this afternoon—Penelope and I,” she said.