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The Illustrious Prince

29. A Race
The Prince, on his way back from his usual before-breakfast stroll, lingered for a short
time amongst the beds of hyacinths and yellow crocuses. Somehow or other, these spring
flowers, stiffly set out and with shrivelled edges--a little reminiscent of the last east wind-
-still seemed to him, in their perfume at any rate, to being him memories of his own
country. Pink and blue and yellow, in all manner of sizes and shapes, the beds spread
away along the great front below the terrace of the castle. This morning the wind was
coming from the west. The sun, indeed, seemed already to have gained some strength.
The Prince sat for a moment or two upon the gray stone balustrade, looking to where the
level country took a sudden ascent and ended in a thick belt of pine trees. Beyond lay the
sea. As he sat there with folded arms, he was surely a fatalist. The question as to whether
or not he should ever reach it, should ever find himself really bound for home, was one
which seemed to trouble him slightly enough. He thought with a faint, wistful interest of
the various ports of call, of the days which might pass, each one bringing him nearer the
end. He suffered himself, even, to think of that faint blur upon the horizon, the breath of
the spicy winds, the strange home perfumes of the bay, as he drew nearer and nearer to
the outstretched arms of his country. Well, if not he, another! It was something to have
done one's best.
The rustle of a woman's garment disturbed him, and he turned his head. Penelope stood
there in her trim riding habit,--a garb in which he had never seen her. She held her skirts
in her hand and looked at him with a curious little smile.
"It is too early in the morning, Prince," she said, "for you to sit there dreaming so long
and so earnestly. Come in to breakfast. Every one is down, for a wonder."
"Breakfast, by all means," he answered, coming blithely up the broad steps. "You are
going to ride this morning?"
"I suppose we all are, more or less," she answered. "It is our hunt steeplechases, you
know. Poor Grace is in there nearly sobbing her eyes out. Captain Chalmers has thrown
her over. Lady Barbarity--that's Grace's favorite mare, and her entry for the cup--turned
awkward with him yesterday, and he won't have anything more to do with her."
"From your tone," he remarked, pushing open the French windows, "I gather that this is a
tragedy. I, unfortunately, do not understand."
"You should ask Grace herself," Penelope said. "There she is."
Lady Grace looked round from her place at the head of the breakfast table.
"Come and sympathize with me, Prince," she cried. "For weeks I have been fancying
myself the proud possessor of the hunt cup. Now that horrid man, Captain Chalmers, has
 
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