The Illustrious Prince HTML version

28. Patriotism
The Duke's chef had served an Emperor with honor--the billiard room at Devenham
Castle was the most comfortable room upon earth. The three men who sat together upon a
huge divan, the three men most powerful in directing the councils of their country, felt a
gentle wave of optimism stealing through their quickened blood. Nevertheless this was a
serious matter which occupied their thoughts.
"We are becoming," the Prime Minister said, "much too modern. We are becoming over-
civilized out of any similitude to a nation of men of blood and brawn."
"You are quoting some impossible person," Sir Edward Bransome declared.
"One is always quoting unconsciously," the Prime Minister admitted with a sigh. "What I
mean is that five hundred years ago we should have locked this young man up in a room
hung with black crape, and with a pleasant array of unfortunately extinct instruments we
should have succeeded, beyond a doubt, in extorting the truth from him."
"And if the truth were not satisfactory?" the Duke asked, lighting a cigar.
"We should have endeavored to change his point of view," the Prime Minister continued,
"even if we had to change at the same time the outline of his particularly graceful figure.
The age of thumbscrews and the rack was, after all, a very virile age. Just consider for a
moment our positions--three of the greatest and most brilliant statesmen of our day--and
we can do very little save wait for this young man to declare himself. We are the puppets
with whom he plays. It rests with him whether our names are written upon the scroll of
fame or whether our administration is dismissed in half a dozen contemptuous words by
the coming historian. It rests with him whether our friend Bransome here shall be
proclaimed the greatest Foreign Minister that ever breathed, and whether I myself have a
statue erected to me in Westminster Yard, which shall be crowned with a laurel wreath by
patriotic young ladies on the morning of my anniversary."
The Duke stretched himself out with a sigh of content. His cigar was burning well, and
the flavor of old Armignac lingered still upon his palate.
"Come," he protested, "I think you exaggerate Maiyo's importance just a little, Haviland.
Hesho seems excellently disposed towards us, and, after all, I should have thought his
word would have had more weight in Tokio than the word of a young man who is new to
diplomacy, and whose claims to distinction seem to rest rather upon his soldiering and
the fact that he is a cousin of the Emperor."
The Prime Minister sighed.
"Dear Duke," he said, "no one of us, not even myself, has ever done that young man
justice. To me he represents everything that is most strenuous and intellectual in Japanese