The Illustrious Prince HTML version
30. Inspector Jacks Importunate
They were talking of the Prince during those few minutes before they separated to dress
for dinner. The whole of the house-party, with the exception of the Prince himself, were
gathered around the great open fireplace at the north end of the hall. The weather had
changed during the afternoon, and a cold wind had blown in their faces on the homeward
drive. Every one had found comfortable seats here, watching the huge logs burn, and
there seemed to be a general indisposition to move. A couple of young men from the
neighborhood had joined the house-party, and the conversation, naturally enough, was
chiefly concerned with the day's sport. The young men, Somerfield especially, were
inclined to regard the Prince's achievement from a somewhat critical standpoint.
"He rode the race well enough," Somerfield admitted, "but the mare is a topper, and no
mistake. He had nothing to do but to sit tight and let her do the work."
"Of course, he hadn't to finish either," one of the newcomers, a Captain Everard Wilmot,
remarked. "That's where you can tell if a fellow really can ride or not. Anyhow, his style
was rotten. To me he seemed to sit his horse exactly like a groom."
"You will, perhaps, not deny him," the Duke remarked mildly, "a certain amount of
courage in riding a strange horse of uncertain temper, over a strange country, in an
enterprise which was entirely new to him."
"I call it one of the most sporting things I ever heard of in my life," Lady Grace declared
Somerfield shrugged his shoulders.
"One must admit that he has pluck," he remarked critically. "At the same time I cannot
see that a single effort of this sort entitles a man to be considered a sportsman. He doesn't
shoot, nor does he ever ride except when he is on military service. He neither plays
games nor has he the instinct for them. A man without the instinct for games is a fellow I
cannot understand. He'd never get along in this country, would he, Wilmot?"
"No, I'm shot if he would!" that young man replied. "There must be something wrong
about a man who hasn't any taste whatever for sport."
Penelope suddenly intervened--intervened, too, in somewhat startling fashion.
"Charlie," she said, "you are talking like a baby! I am ashamed of you! I am ashamed of
you all! You are talking like narrow-minded, ignorant little squireens."
Somerfield went slowly white. He looked across at Penelope, but the angry flash in his
eyes was met by an even brighter light in her own.