The Illustrious Prince HTML version

5. An Affair Of State
Miss Penelope Morse was perfectly well aware that the taxicab in which she left the
Carlton Hotel was closely followed by two others. Through the tube which she found by
her side, she altered her first instructions to the driver, and told him to proceed as fast as
possible to Harrod's Stores. Then, raising the flap at the rear of the cab, she watched the
progress of the chase. Along Pall Mall the taxi in which she was seated gained
considerably, but in the Park and along the Bird Cage Walk both the other taxies, risking
the police regulations, drew almost alongside. Once past Hyde Park Corner, however, her
cab again drew ahead, and when she was deposited in front of Harrod's Stores, her
pursuers were out of sight. She paid the driver quickly, a little over double his fare.
"If any one asks you questions," she said, "say that you had instructions to wait here for
me. Go on to the rank for a quarter of an hour. Then you can drive away."
"You won't be coming back, then, miss?" the man asked.
"I shall not," she answered, "but I want those men who are following me to think that I
am. They may as well lose a little time for their rudeness."
The chauffeur touched his hat and obeyed his instructions. Miss Penelope Morse plunged
into the mazes of the Stores with the air of one to whom the place is familiar. She did not
pause, however, at any of the counters. In something less than two minutes she had left it
again by a back entrance, stepped into another taxicab which was just setting down a
passenger, and was well on her way back towards Pall Mall. Her ruse appeared to have
been perfectly successful. At any rate, she saw nothing more of the occupants of the two
She stopped in front of one of the big clubs and, scribbling a line on her card, gave it to
the door keeper.
"Will you find out if this gentleman is in?" she said. "If he is, will you kindly ask him to
step out and speak to me?"
She returned to the cab and waited. In less than five minutes a tall, broad-shouldered
young man, clean-shaven, and moving like an athlete, came briskly down the steps. He
carried a soft hat in his hand, and directly he spoke his transatlantic origin was apparent.
"Penelope!" he exclaimed. "Why, what on earth--"
"My dear Dicky," she interrupted, laughing at his expression, "you need not look so
displeased with me. Of course, I know that I ought not to have come and sent a message
into your club. I will admit at once that it was very forward of me. Perhaps when I have
told you why I did so, you won't look so shocked."