The Illustrious Prince HTML version

34. Banzai!
It was curious how the Prince's sudden departure seemed to affect almost every member
of the little house party. At first it had been arranged that the Duke, Mr. Haviland, Sir
Edward Bransome, and the Prince should leave in the former's car, the Prince's following
later with the luggage. Then the Duchess, whose eyes had filled with tears more than
once after her whispered conversation with her husband, announced that she, too, must go
to town. Lady Grace insisted upon accompanying her, and Penelope reminded them that
she was already dressed for travelling and that, in any case, she meant to be one of the
party. Before ten o'clock they were all on their way to London.
The Prince sat side by side with Lady Grace, the other two occupants of the car being the
Duke himself and Mr. Haviland. No one seemed in the least inclined for conversation.
The Duke and Mr. Haviland exchanged a few remarks, but Lady Grace, leaning back in
her seat, her features completely obscured by a thick veil, declined to talk to any one. The
Prince seemed to be the only one who made any pretence at enjoying the beauty of the
spring morning, who seemed even to be aware of the warm west wind, the occasional
perfume of the hedgeside violets, and the bluebells which stretched like a carpet in and
out of the belts of wood. Lady Grace's eyes, from beneath her veil, scarcely once left his
face. Perhaps, she thought, these things were merely allegorical to him. Perhaps his eyes,
fixed so steadfastly upon the distant horizon, were not, as it seemed, following the
graceful outline of that grove of dark green pine trees, but were indeed searching back
into the corners of his life, measuring up the good and evil of it, asking the eternal
question--was it worth while?
In the other car, too, silence reigned. Somerfield was the only one who struggled against
the general air of depression.
"After all," he remarked to Bransome, "I don't see what we're all so blue about. If
Scotland Yard are right, and the Prince is really the guilty person they imagine him, I
cannot see what sympathy he deserves. Of course, they look upon this sort of thing more
lightly in his own country, but, after all, he was no fool. He knew his risks."
Penelope spoke for the first time since they had left Devenham.
"If you begin to talk like that, Charlie," she said, "I shall ask the Duchess to stop the car
and put you down here in the road."
Somerfield laughed, not altogether pleasantly.
"Seven miles from any railway station," he remarked.
Penelope shrugged her shoulders.