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The Illustrious Prince

31. Goodbye!
The Prince on his return from the library intercepted Penelope on her way across the hall.
"Forgive me," he said, "but I could not help overhearing some sentences of your
conversation with Sir Charles Somerfield as we sat at dinner. You are going to talk with
him now, is it not so?"
"As soon as he comes out from the dining room."
He saw the hardening of her lips, the flash in her eyes at the mention of Somerfield's
name.
"Yes!" she continued, "Sir Charles and I are going to have a little understanding."
"Are you sure," he asked softly, "that it will not be a misunderstanding?"
She looked into his face.
"What does it matter to you?" she asked. "What do you care?"
"Come into the conservatory for a few minutes," he begged. You know that I take no
wine and I prefer not to return into the dining room. I would like so much instead to talk
to you before you see Sir Charles."
She hesitated. He stood by her side patiently waiting.
"Remember," he said, "that I am a somewhat privileged person just now. My days here
are numbered, you see."
She turned toward the conservatories.
"Very well," she said, "I must be like every one else, I suppose, and spoil you. How dare
you come and make us all so fond of you that we look upon your departure almost as a
tragedy!"
He smiled.
"Indeed," he declared, "there is a note of tragedy even in these simplest accidents of life. I
have been very happy amongst you all, Miss Penelope. You have been so much kinder to
me than I have deserved. You have thrown a bridge across the gulf which separates us
people of alien tongues and alien manners. Life has been a pleasant thing for me here."
"Why do you go so soon?" she whispered.
 
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