The Illustrious Prince HTML version

11. A Commission
Mr. Robert Blaine-Harvey, American Ambassador and Plenipotentiary Extraordinary to
England, was a man of great culture, surprising personal gifts, and with a diplomatic
instinct which amounted almost to genius. And yet there were times when he was
puzzled. For at least half an hour he had been sitting in his great library, looking across
the Park, and trying to make up his mind on a very important matter. It seemed to him
that he was face to face with what amounted almost to a crisis in his career. His two years
at the Court of St. James had been pleasant and uneventful enough. The small questions
which had presented themselves for adjustment between the two countries were, after all,
of no particular importance and were easily arranged. The days seemed to have gone by
for that over-strained sensitiveness which was continually giving rise to senseless
bickerings, when every trilling breeze seemed to fan the smouldering fires of jealousy.
The two great English-speaking nations appeared finally to have realized the absolute
folly of continual disputes between countries whose destiny and ideals were so
completely in accord and whose interests were, in the main, identical. A period of
absolute friendliness had ensued. And now there had come this little cloud. It was small
enough at present, but Mr. Harvey was not the one to overlook its sinister possibilities.
Two citizens of his country had been barbarously murdered within the space of a few
hours, one in the heart of the most thickly populated capital in the world, and there was a
certain significance attached to this fact which the Ambassador himself and those others
at Washington perfectly well realized. He glanced once more at the most recent letter on
the top of this pile of correspondence and away again out into the Park. It was a difficult
matter, this. His friends at Washington did not cultivate the art of obscurity in the words
which they used, and it had been suggested to him in black and white that the murder of
these two men, under the particular circumstances existing, was a matter concerning
which he should speak very plainly indeed to certain August personages. Mr. Harvey,
who was a born diplomatist, understood the difficulties of such a proceeding a good deal
more than those who had propounded it.
There was a knock at the door, and a footman entered, ushering in a visitor.
"The young lady whom you were expecting, sir," he announced discreetly.
Mr. Harvey rose at once to his feet.
"My dear Penelope," he said, shaking hands with her, "this is charming of you."
Penelope smiled.
"It seems quite like old times to feel myself at home here once more," she declared.