The Illustrious Prince HTML version

33. Unafraid
The Prince, still fully attired, save that in place of his dress coat he wore a loose smoking
jacket, stood at the windows of his sitting room at Devenham Castle, looking across the
park. In the somewhat fitful moonlight the trees had taken to themselves grotesque
shapes. Away in the distance the glimmer of the sea shone like a thin belt of quicksilver.
The stable clock had struck two. The whole place seemed at rest. Only one light was
gleaming from a long low building which had been added to the coach houses of recent
years for a motor garage. That one light, the Prince knew, was on his account. There his
chauffeur waited, untiring and sleepless, with his car always ready for that last rush to the
coast, the advisability of which the Prince had considered more than once during the last
twenty-four hours. The excitement of the evening, the excitement of his unwonted
outburst, was still troubling him. It was not often that he had so far overstepped the
bounds which his natural caution, his ever-present self-restraint, imposed upon him. He
paced restlessly to and fro from the sitting room to the bedroom and back again. He had
told the truth,--the bare, simple truth. He had seen the letters of fire in the sky, and he had
read them to these people because of their kindness, because of a certain affection which
he bore them. To them it must have sounded like a man speaking in a strange tongue.
They had not understood. Perhaps, even, they would not believe in the absolute sincerity
of his motives. Again he paused at the window and looked over the park to that narrow,
glittering stretch of sea. Why should he not for once forget the traditions of his race, the
pride which kept him there to face the end! There was still time. The cruiser which the
emperor had sent was waiting for him in Southampton Harbor. In twenty-four hours he
would be in foreign waters. He thought of these things earnestly, even wistfully, and yet
he knew that he could not go. Perhaps they would be glad of an opportunity of getting rid
of him now that he had spoken his mind. In any case, right was on their side. The end, if
it must come, was simple enough!
He turned away from the window with a little shrug of the shoulders. Even as he did so,
there came a faint knocking at the door. His servant had already retired. For a moment it
seemed to him that it could mean but one thing. While he hesitated, the handle was softly
turned and the door opened. To his amazement, it was Penelope who stood upon the
"Miss Morse!" he exclaimed breathlessly.
She held out her hand as though to bid him remain silent. For several seconds she seemed
to be listening. Then very softly she closed the door behind her.
"Miss Penelope," he cried softly, "you must not come in here! Please!"
She ignored his outstretched hand, advancing a little further into the room. There was
tragedy in her white face. She seemed to be shaking in every limb, but not with
nervousness. Directly he looked into her eyes, he knew very well that the thing was close
at hand!