“Come and talk to the Duchess,” Somerfield said. “She has something delightful to propose.”
The Duchess looked up from her writing table and nodded to her husband, who had just entered.
“Good morning, Ambrose!” she said. “Do you want to talk to me?”
“If you can spare me five minutes,” the Duke suggested. “I don’t think that I need keep you longer.”
The Duchess handed her notebook to her secretary, who hastened from the room. The Duke seated himself in her vacant chair.
“About our little party down in Hampshire next week,” he began.
“I am waiting to hear from you before I send out any invitations,” the Duchess answered.
“Quite so,” the Duke assented. “To tell you the truth, I don’t want anything in the nature of a house party. What I should really like would be to get Maiyo there almost to ourselves.”
His wife looked at him in some surprise.
“You seem particularly anxious to make things pleasant for this young man,” she remarked. “If he were the son of the Emperor himself, no one could do more for him than you people have been doing these last few weeks.”
The Duke of Devenham, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whose wife entertained for his party, and whose immense income, derived mostly from her American relations, was always at its disposal, was a person almost as important in the councils of his country as the Prime Minister himself. It sometimes occurred to him that the person who most signally failed to realize this fact was the lady who did him the honor to preside over his household.
“My dear Margaret,” he said, “you can take my word for it that we know what we are about. It is very important indeed that we should keep on friendly terms with this young man,—I don’t mean as a personal matter. It’s a matter of politics—perhaps of something greater, even, than that.”
The Duchess liked to understand everything, and her husband’s reticence annoyed her.
“But we have the Japanese Ambassador always with us,” she remarked. “A most delightful person I call the Baron Hesho, and I am sure he loves us all.”
“That is not exactly the point, my dear,” the Duke explained. “Prince Maiyo is over here on a special mission. We ourselves have only been able to surmise its object with the aid of our secret service in Tokio. You can rest assured of one thing, however. It is of vast importance to the interests of this country that we secure his goodwill.”