The Illustrious Prince
12. Penelope Intervenes
The perfume of countless roses, the music of the finest band in Europe, floated through
the famous white ballroom of Devenham House. Electric lights sparkled from the ceiling,
through the pillared way the ceaseless splashing of water from the fountains in the winter
garden seemed like a soft undernote to the murmur of voices, the musical peals of
laughter, the swirl of skirts, and the rhythm of flying feet.
Penelope stood upon the edge of the ballroom, her hand resting still upon her partner's
arm. She wore a dress of dull rose-color, a soft, clinging silk, which floated about her as
she danced, a creation of Paquin's, daring but delightful. Her eyes were very full and soft.
She was looking her best, and knew it. Nevertheless, she was just at the moment, a little
DISTRAIT. She was watching the brilliant scene with a certain air of abstraction, as
though her interest in it was, after all, an impersonal thing.
"Jolly well every one looks tonight," her partner, who was Sir Charles, remarked. "All the
women seem to be wearing smart frocks, and some of those foreign uniforms are
"Even the Prince," Penelope said thoughtfully, "must find some reflection of the
philosophy of his own country in such a scene as this. For the last fortnight we have been
surfeited with horrors. We have had to go through all sorts of nameless things," she
added, shivering slightly, "and tonight we dance at Devenham House. We dance, and
drink champagne, and marvel at the flowers, as though we had not a care in the world, as
though life moved always to music."
Sir Charles frowned a little.
"The Prince again!" he said, half protesting. "He seems to be a great deal in your thoughts
"Why not?" she answered. "It is something to meet a person whom one is able to dislike.
Nowadays the whole world is so amiable."
"I wonder how much you really do dislike him," he said.
She looked at him with a mysterious smile.
"Sometimes," she murmured softly, "I wonder that myself."
"Leaving the Prince out of the question," he continued, "what you say is true enough.
Only a few days ago, you had to attend that awful inquest, and the last time I saw dear
old Dicky Vanderpole, he was looking forward to this very dance."