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The Invisible Prince

AT a masked ball given by the Countess Wohenhoffen, in
Vienna, during carnival week, a year ago, a man draped in
the embroidered silks of a Chinese mandarin, his features entirely
concealed by an enormous Chinese head in cardboard, was standing
in the Wintergarten, the big, dimly lighted conservatory, near the
door of one of the gilt-and-white reception rooms, rather a stolid-
seeming witness of the multi-coloured romp within, when a voice
behind him said, “How do you do, Mr. Field ?”—a woman’s
voice, an English voice.

The mandarin turned round.

From a black mask, a pair of blue-grey eyes looked into his
broad, bland Chinese visage ; and a black domino dropped him an
extravagant little courtesy.

“How do you do ?” he responded. “I’m afraid I’m not Mr.
Field ; but I’ll gladly pretend I am, if you’ll stop and talk with
me. I was dying for a little human conversation.”

“Oh, you’re afraid you’re not Mr. Field, are you ?” the mask
replied derisively. “Then why did you turn when I called his
name ?”

“You mustn’t hope to disconcert me with questions like that,”
said he. “I turned because I liked your voice.”


                        60 The Invisible Prince

He might quite reasonably have liked her voice, a delicate, clear,
soft voice, somewhat high in register, with an accent, crisp,
chiselled, concise, that suggested wit as well as distinction. She
was rather tall, for a woman ; one could divine her slender and
graceful, under the voluminous folds of her domino.

She moved a little away from the door, deeper into the con-
servatory. The mandarin kept beside her. There, amongst the
palms, a fontaine lumineuse was playing, rhythmically changing
colour. Now it was a shower of rubies ; now of emeralds or
amethysts, of sapphires, topazes, of opals.

“How pretty,” she said, “and how frightfully ingenious. I am
wondering whether this wouldn’t be a good place to sit down.
What do you think ?” And she pointed with her fan to a rustic

“I think it would be no more than fair to give it a trial,” he

So they sat down on the rustic bench, by the fontaine
lumineuse .

“In view of your fear that you’re not Mr. Field, it’s rather a
coincidence that at a masked ball in Vienna you should just
happen to be English, isn’t it ?” she asked.

“Oh, everybody’s more or less English, in these days, you know,”
said he.

“There’s some truth in that,” she admitted, with a laugh.
“What a diverting piece of artifice this Wintergarten is, to be
sure. Fancy arranging the electric lights to shine through a
dome of purple glass, and look like stars. They do look like stars,
don’t they ? Slightly over-dressed, showy stars, indeed ; stars in
the German taste ; but stars, all the same. Then, by day, you
know, the purple glass is removed, and you get the sun—the real
sun. Do you notice the delicious fragrance of lilac ? If one


                        By Henry Harland 61

hadn’t too exacting an imagination, one might almost persuade
oneself that one was in a proper open-air garden, on a night in
May. . . . Yes, everybody is more or less English, in these days.
That’s precisely the sort of thing I should have expected Victor
Field to say.”

“By-the-bye,” questioned the mandarin, “if you don’t mind
increasing my stores of knowledge, who is this fellow Field ? ”

“This fellow Field ? Ah, who indeed?” said she. “That’s
just what I wish you’d tell me.”

“I’ll tell you with pleasure, after you’ve supplied me with the
necessary data.”

“Well, by some accounts, he’s a little literary man in London.”

“Oh, come ! You never imagined that I was a little literary
man in London.”

“You might be worse. However, if the phrase offends you, I’ll
say a rising young literary man, instead. He writes things, you

“Poor chap, does he ? But then, that’s a way they have, rising
young literary persons ?”

“Doubtless. Poems and stories and things. And book re-
views, I suspect. And even, perhaps, leading articles in the

Toute la lyre enfin ? What they call a penny-a-liner ?”

“I’m sure I’don t know what he’s paid. I should think he’d
get rather more than a penny. He’s fairly successful. The things
he does aren’t bad.”

“I must look ’em up. But meantime, will you tell me how
you came to mistake me for him ? Has he the Chinese type ?
Besides, what on earth should a little London literary man be doing
at the Countess Wohenhoffen’s ?”

“He was standing near the door, over there, dying for a little


                        62 The Invisible Prince

human conversation, till I took pity on him. No, he hasn’t
exactly the Chinese type, but he’s wearing a Chinese costume,
and I should suppose he’d feel uncommonly hot in that exasperat-
ingly placid Chinese head. I’m nearly suffocated, and I’m only
wearing a loup. For the rest, why shouldn’t he be here ?

“If your loup bothers you, pray take it off. Don’t mind

“You’re extremely good. But if I should take off my loup ,
you’d be sorry. Of course, manlike, you’re hoping that I’m young
and pretty.”

“Well, and aren’t you?”

“I’m a perfect fright. I’m an old maid.”

“Thank you. Manlike, I confess, I was hoping you’d be
young and pretty. Now my hope has received the strongest
confirmation. I’m sure you are.”

“Your argument, with a meretricious air of subtlety, is facile
and superficial. Don’t pin your faith to it. “Why shouldn’t Victor
Field be here ?”

“The Countess only receives tremendous swells. It’s the most
exclusive house in Europe.”

“Are you a tremendous swell ?”

“Rather ! Aren’t you ?”

She laughed a little, and stroked her fan, a big fan of fluffy black

“That’s very jolly,” said he.

“What ?” said she.

“That thing in your lap.”

“My fan ?”

“I expect you’d call it a fan.”

“For goodness’ sake, what would you call it ?”

“I should call it a fan.”


                        By Henry Harland 63

She gave another little laugh. “You have a nice instinct for
the mot juste,” she informed him.

“Oh, no,” he disclaimed, modestly. “But I can call a fan
a fan, when I think it won’t shock the sensibilities of my

“If the Countess only receives tremendous swells,” said she,
“you must remember that Victor Field belongs to the Aristocracy
of Talent.”

“Oh,quant à ça , so, from the Wohenhoffen’s point of view, do
the barber and the horse-leech. In this house, the Aristocracy of
Talent dines with the butler.”

“Is the Countess such a snob ?”

“No ; she’s an Austrian. They draw the line so absurdly
tight in Austria.”

“Well, then, you leave me no alternative but to conclude that
Victor Field is a tremendous swell. Didn’t you notice, I bobbed
him a courtesy ?”

“I took the courtesy as a tribute to my Oriental magnificence.
Field doesn’t sound like an especially patrician name. I’d give
anything to discover who you are. Can’t you be induced to tell
me ? I’ll bribe, entreat, threaten—I’ll do anything you think
might persuade you.”

“I’ll tell you at once, if you’ll own up that you’re Victor

“Oh, I’ll own up that I’m Queen Elizabeth if you’ll tell me
who you are. The end justifies the means.”

“Then you are Victor Field ?”

“If you don’t mind suborning perjury, why should I mind
committing it ? Yes. And now, who are you ?”

“No ; I must have an unequivocal avowal. Are you or are
you not Victor Field ?”


                        64 The Invisible Prince

“Let us put it at this, that I’m a good serviceable imitation ;
an excellent substitute when the genuine article is not procur-

“Of course, your real name isn’t anything like Victor Field,”
she declared pensively.

“I never said it was. But I admire the way in which you give
with one hand and take back with the other.”

“Your real name is …. Wait a moment …. Yes,
now I have it. Your real name …. It’s rather long. You
don’t think it will bore you ?”

“Oh, if it’s really my real name, I daresay I’m hardened to it.”

“Your real name is Louis Charles Ferdinand Stanislas John
Joseph Emmanuel Maria Anna.”

“Mercy upon me,” he cried, “what a name ! You ought to
have broken it to me in instalments. And it’s all Christian name
at that. Can’t you spare me just a little rag of a surname, for
decency’s sake ?”

“The surnames of royalties don’t matter, Monseigneur.”

“Royalties ? What ? Dear me, here’s rapid promotion ! I
am royal now ? And a moment ago I was a little penny-a-liner
in London.”

L’un n’empéche pas l’autre. Have you never heard the story
of the Invisible Prince ?”

“I adore irrelevancy. I seem to have read something about an
invisible prince when I was young. A fairy tale, wasn’t it ?”

“The irrelevancy is only apparent. The story I mean is a
story of real life. Have you ever heard of the Duke of Zeln ?”

“Zeln ? Zeln ?” he repeated, reflectively. “No, I don’t
think so.”

She clapped her hands. “Really, you do it admirably. If I
weren’t perfectly sure of my facts, I believe I should be taken in.


                        By Henry Harland 65

Zeln, as any history would tell you, as any old atlas would show
you, was a little independent duchy in the centre of Germany.”

“Poor, dear thing ! Like Jonah in the centre of the whale,”
he murmured, sympathetically.

“Hush. Don’t interrupt. Zeln was a little independent
German duchy, and the Duke of Zeln was its sovereign. After
the war with France it was absorbed by Prussia. But the ducal
family still rank as royal highnesses. Of course, you’ve heard of
the Leczinskis ?”

“Lecz——what ?”


“How do you spell it ?”


“Good. Capital. You have a real gift for spelling.”

“Will you be quiet,” she said, severely, “and answer my
question ? Are you familiar with the name ?”

“I should never venture to be familiar with a name I didn’t

“Ah, you don’t know it ? You have never heard of Stanislas
Leczinski, who was king of Poland ? Of Marie Leczinska, who
married Louis XV. ?”

“Oh, to be sure. I remember. The lady whose portrait one
sees at Versailles.”

“Quite so. Very well ; the last representative of the Lec-
zinskis, in the elder line, was the Princess Anna Leczinska, who,
in 1858, married the Duke of Zeln. She was the daughter of
John Leczinski, Duke of Grodnia, and governor of Galicia, and
of the Archduchess Henrietta d’Este, a cousin of the Emperor of
Austria. She was also a great heiress, and an extremely hand-
some woman. But the Duke of Zeln was a bad lot, a viveur, a
gambler, a spendthrift. His wife, like a fool, made her entire


                        66 The Invisible Prince

fortune over to him, and he proceeded to play ducks and drakes
with it. By the time their son was born he’d got rid of the last
farthing. Their son wasn’t born till ’63, five years after their
marriage. Well, and then, what do you suppose the duke did ? ”

“Reformed, of course. The wicked husband always reforms
when a child is born—and there’s no more money.”

“You know perfectly well what he did. He petitioned the
German Diet to annul the marriage. You see, having exhausted
the dowry of the Princess Anna, it occurred to him that if she
could only be got out of the way, he might marry another heiress,
and have the spending of another fortune.”

“Clever dodge. Did it come off? ”

“It came off, all too well. He based his petition on the ground
that the marriage had never been—I forget what the technical
term is. Anyhow, he pretended that the princess had never been
his wife except in name, and that the child couldn’t possibly be
his. The Emperor of Austria stood by his connection, like the
loyal gentleman he is ; used every scrap of influence he possessed
to help her. But the duke, who was a Protestant (the princess
was of course a Catholic), persuaded all the Protestant States in
the Diet to vote in his favour. The Emperor of Austria was
powerless, the Pope was powerless. And the Diet annulled the

“Ah,” said the mandarin.

“Yes. The marriage was annulled, and the child declared
illegitimate. Ernest Augustus, as the duke was somewhat incon-
sequently named, married again, and had other children, the eldest
of whom is the present bearer of the title—the same Duke of
Zeln one hears of, quarrelling with the croupiers at Monte Carlo.
The Princess Anna, with her baby, came to Austria. The
Emperor gave her a pension, and lent her one of his country


                        By Henry Harland 67

houses to live in—Schloss Sanct Andreas. Our hostess, by-the-
bye, the Countess Wohenhoffen, was her intimate friend and her
première dame d’honneur .”

” Ah,” said the mandarin.

“But the poor princess had suffered more than she could bear.
She died when her child was four years old. The Countess
Wohenhoffen took the infant, by the Emperor’s desire, and
brought him up with her own son Peter. He was called Prince
Louis Leczinski. Of course, in all moral right, he was the
Hereditary Prince of Zeln. His legitimacy, for the rest, and his
mother’s innocence, are perfectly well established, in every sense
but a legal sense, by the fact that he has all the physical charac-
teristics of the Zeln stock. He has the Zeln nose and the Zeln
chin, which are as distinctive as the Hapsburg lip.”

“I hope, for the poor young man’s sake, though, that they’re
not so unbecoming ?”

“They’re not exactly pretty. The nose is a thought too long,
the chin is a trifle short. However, I daresay the poor young
man is satisfied. As I was about to tell you, the Countess
Wohenhoffen brought him up, and the Emperor destined him for
the Church. He even went to Rome and entered the Austrian
College. He’d have been on the high road to a cardinalate by
this time, if he’d stuck to the priesthood, for he had strong interest.
But, lo and behold, when he was about twenty, he chucked the
whole thing up.”

“Ah ? Histoire de femme ?

“Very likely, though I’ve never heard any one say so. At all
events, he left Rome, and started upon his travels. He had no
money of his own, but the Emperor made him an allowance. He
started upon his travels, and he went to India, and he went to
America, and he went to South Africa, and then, finally, in ’87


                        68 The Invisible Prince

or ’88, he went—no one knows where. He totally disappeared,
vanished into space. He’s not been heard of since. Some people
think he’s dead. But the greater number suppose that he tired
of his false position in the world, and one fine day determined to
escape from it, by sinking his identity, changing his name, and
going in for a new life under new conditions. They call him the
Invisible Prince. His position was rather an ambiguous one,
wasn’t it ? You see, he was neither one thing nor the other.
He had no état-civil . In the eyes of the law he was a bastard,
yet he knew himself to be the legitimate son of the Duke of
Zeln. He was a citizen of no country, yet he was the rightful
heir to a throne. He was the last descendant of Stanislas
Leczinski, yet it was without authority that he bore his name.
And then, of course, the rights and wrongs of the matter were
only known to a few. The majority of people simply remem-
bered that there had been a scandal. And (as a wag once said of
him) wherever he went, he left his mother’s reputation behind
him. No wonder he found the situation irksome. Well, there
is the story of the Invisible Prince.”

“And a very exciting, melodramatic little story, too. For my
part, I suspect your Prince met a boojum. I love to listen to
stories. Won’t you tell me another ? Do, please.”

“No, he didn’t meet a boojum. He went to England, and set
up for an author. The Invisible Prince and Victor Field are one
and the same person.”

“Oh, I say! Not really ?”

“Yes, really.”

“What makes you think so ?”

“I’m sure of it. To begin with, I must confide to you that
Victor Field is a man I’ve never met.”

“Never met . . . . ? But, by the blithe way in which you


                        By Henry Harland 69

were laying his sins at my door, a little while ago, I supposed you
were sworn confederates.”

“What’s the good of masked balls, if you can’t talk to people
you’ve never met ? I’ve never met him, but I’m one of his
admirers. I like his little poems. And I’m the happy possessor
of a portrait of him. It’s a print after a photograph. I cut it
from an illustrated paper.”

“I really almost wish I was Victor Field. I should feel such
a glow of gratified vanity.”

“And the Countess Wohenhoffen has at least twenty portraits
of the Invisible Prince—photographs, miniatures, life-size paint-
ings, taken from the time he was born, almost, to the time of his
disappearance. Victor Field and Louis Leczinski have counten-
ances as like each other as two halfpence.”

“An accidental resemblance, doubtless.”

“No, it isn’t an accidental resemblance.”

“Oh, then you think it’s intentional ?”

“Don’t be absurd. I might have thought it accidental, except
for one or two odd little circumstances. Primo , Victor Field is a
guest at the Wohenhoffens’ ball.”

“Oh, he is a guest here ?”

“Yes, he is. You are wondering how I know. Nothing
simpler. The same costumier who made my domino, supplied
his Chinese dress. I noticed it at his shop. It struck me as
rather nice, and I asked whom it was for. The costumier said,
for an Englishman at the Hôtel de Bade. Then he looked in his
book, and told me the Englishman’s name. It was Victor Field,
So, when I saw the same Chinese dress here to-night, I knew it
covered the person of one of my favourite authors. But I own,
like you, I was a good deal surprised. What on earth should a
little London literary man be doing at the Countess Wohen-

The Yellow Book—Vol. X. E


                        70 The Invisible Prince

hoffen’s ? And then I remembered the astonishing resemblance
between Victor Field and Louis Leczinski ; and I remembered
that to Louis Leczinski the Countess Wohenhoffen had been a
second mother ; and I reflected that though he chose to be as one
dead and buried for the rest of the world, Louis Leczinski might very
probably keep up private relations with the Countess. He might
very probably come to her ball, incognito, and safely masked. I
observed also that the Countess’s rooms were decorated through-
out with white lilac. But the white lilac is the emblematic flower
of the Leczinskis ; green and white are their family colours.
Wasn’t the choice of white lilac on this occasion perhaps designed
as a secret compliment to the Prince ? I was taught in the
schoolroom that two and two make four.”

“Oh, one can see that you’ve enjoyed a liberal education. But
where were you taught to jump to conclusions ? You do it with a
grace, an assurance. I too have heard that two and two make
four ; but first you must catch your two and two. Really, as if
there couldn’t be more than one Chinese costume knocking
about Vienna, during carnival week ! Dear, good, sweet lady,
it’s of all disguises the disguise they’re driving hardest, this
particular season. And then to build up an elaborate theory of
identities upon the mere chance resemblance of a pair of photo-
graphs ! Photographs indeed ! Photographs don’t give the com-
plexion. Say that your Invisible Prince is dark, what’s to prevent
your literary man from being fair or sandy ? Or vice versâ ?
And then, how is a little German Polish princeling to write poems
and things in English ? No, no, no ; your reasoning hasn’t a leg
to stand on.”

“Oh, I don’t mind its not having legs, so long as it convinces
me. As for writing poems and things in English, you yourself
said that everybody is more or less English, in these days.


                        By Henry Harland 71

German princes are especially so. They all learn English, as a
second mother-tongue. You see, like Circassian beauties, they
are mostly bred up for the marriage market ; and nothing is a
greater help towards a good sound remunerative English marriage,
than a knowledge of the language. However, don t be frightened.
I must take it for granted that Victor Field would prefer not to
let the world know who he is. I happen to have discovered his
secret. He may trust to my discretion.”

“You still persist in imagining that I’m Victor Field ?”

“I should have to be extremely simple-minded to imagine
anything else. You wouldn’t be a male human being if you had
sat here for half an hour patiently talking about another man.”

“Your argument, with a meretricious air of subtlety, is facile
and superficial. I thank you for teaching me that word. I’d sit
here till doomsday talking about my worst enemy, for the pleasure
of talking with you.”

“Perhaps we have been talking of your worst enemy. Whom
do the moralists pretend a man’s worst enemy is wont to be ?”

“I wish you would tell me the name of the person the moralists
would consider your worst enemy.”

“I’ll tell you directly, as I said before, if you’ll own up.”

“Your price is prohibitive. I’ve nothing to own up to.”

“Well then—good night.”

Lightly, swiftly, she fled from the conservatory, and was soon
irrecoverable in the crowd.



The next morning Victor Field left Vienna for London ; but
before he left he wrote a letter to Peter Wohenhoffen. In the
course of it he said : “There was an Englishwoman at your ball
last night with the reasoning powers of a detective in a novel.


                        72 The Invisible Prince

By divers processes of elimination and induction, she had formed
all sorts of theories about no end of things. Among others, for
instance, she was willing to bet her halidome that a certain Prince
Louis Leczinski, who seems to have gone on the spree some
years ago, and never to have come home again—she was willing
to bet anything you like that Leczinski and I—moi qui vous parle
—were to all intents and purposes the same. Who was she,
please ? Rather a tall woman, in a black domino, with grey eyes,
or greyish blue, and a nice voice.”

In the answer which he received from Peter Wohenhoffen
towards the end of the week, Peter said : ” There were nineteen
Englishwomen at my mother’s party, all of them rather tall, with
nice voices, and grey or blue-grey eyes. I don’t know what
colours their dominoes were. Here is a list of them.”

The names that followed were names of people whom Victor
Field almost certainly would never meet. The people Victor
knew in London were the sort of people a little literary man
might be expected to know. Most of them were respectable ; some
of them even deemed themselves rather smart—and patronised him
right Britishly. But the nineteen names in Peter Wohenhoffen’s
list (“Oh, me ! Oh, my !” cried Victor) were names to make
you gasp.

All the same, he went a good deal to Hyde Park during the
season, and watched the driving.

“Which of all those haughty high-born beauties is she ?” he
wondered futilely.

And then the season passed, and then the year ; and little by
little, of course, he ceased to think about her.



One afternoon last May, a man habited in accordance with


                        By Henry Harland 73

the fashion of the period, stopped before a hairdresser’s shop in
Knightsbridge somewhere, and, raising his hat, bowed to the
three waxen ladies who simpered from the window.

“Oh ! It’s Mr. Field !” a voice behind him cried. “What
are these cryptic rites that you’re performing ? What on earth
are you bowing into a hairdresser’s window for ? “—a smooth,
melodious voice, tinged by an inflection that was half ironical,
half bewildered.

“I was saluting the type of English beauty,” he answered,
turning. “Fortunately, there are divergencies from it,” he
added, as he met the puzzled smile of his interlocutrice ; a puzzled
smile indeed, but, like the voice, by no means without its touch
of irony.

She gave a little laugh ; and then, examining the models
critically, “Oh ?” she questioned. “Would you call that the
type ? You place the type high. Their features are quite fault-
less, and who ever saw such complexions ?”

“It’s the type, all the same,” said he. “Just as the imitation
marionette is the type of English breeding.”

“The imitation marionette ? I’m afraid I don’t follow,” she

“The imitation marionettes. You’ve seen them at little
theatres in Italy. They’re actors who imitate puppets. Men and
women who try to behave as if they weren’t human, as if they
were made of starch and whalebone instead of flesh and blood.”

“Ah, yes,” she assented, with another little laugh. “That
would be rather typical of our insular methods. But do you
know what an engaging, what a reviving spectacle you presented,
as you stood there flourishing your hat ? What do you imagine
people thought ? And what would have happened to you if I
had just chanced to be a policeman, instead of a friend ?”


                        74 The Invisible Prince

“Would you have clapped your handcuffs on me ? I suppose
my conduct did seem rather suspicious. I was in the deepest
depths of dejection. One must give some expression to one’s

“Are you going towards Kensington ?” she asked, preparing
to move on.

“Before I commit myself, I should like to be sure whether you
are,” he replied.

“You can easily discover with a little perseverance.”

He placed himself beside her, and together they walked towards

She was rather taller than the usual woman, and slender. She
was exceedingly well-dressed ; smartly, becomingly : a jaunty
little hat of strangely twisted straw, with an aigrette springing
defiantly from it ; a jacket covered with mazes and labyrinths of
embroidery ; at her throat a big knot of white lace, the ends of
which fell winding in a creamy cascade to her waist (do they call
the thing a jabot?) ; and then. . . . . But what can a man
trust himself to write of these esoteric matters ? She carried
herself extremely well, too : with grace, with distinction, her
head held high, even thrown back a little, superciliously. She
had an immense quantity of very lovely hair. Red hair ? Yellow
hair ? Red hair with yellow lights burning in it ? Yellow hair
with red fires shimmering through it ? In a single loose, full
billow it swept away from her forehead, and then flowed into
half-a-thousand rippling, crinkling, capricious undulations. And
her skin had the sensitive colouring, the fineness of texture, that
are apt to accompany red hair when it’s yellow, yellow hair when
it’s red. Her face, with its pensive, quizzical eyes, its tip-tilted
nose, its rather large mouth, and the little mocking quirks and
curves the lips took, was an alert, arch, witty face, a delicate


                        By Henry Harland 75

high-bred face, and withal a somewhat sensuous, emotional face ;
the face of a woman with a vast deal of humour in her soul, a vast
deal of mischief, of a woman who would love to tease you and
mystify you, and lead you on, and put you off, and yet who, in
her own way, at her own time, would know supremely well how
to be kind.

But it was mischief rather than kindness that glimmered in her
eyes at present, as she asked, “You were in the deepest depths of
dejection ? Poor man ! Why ?”

“I can’t precisely determine,” said he, “whether the sym-
pathy that seems to vibrate in your voice is genuine or counter-

“Perhaps it’s half and half. But my curiosity is unmixed.
Tell me your troubles.”

“The catalogue is long. I’ve sixteen hundred million. The
weather, for example. The shameless beauty of this radiant
spring day. It’s enough to stir all manner of wild pangs and
longings in the heart of an octogenarian. But, anyhow, when
one’s life is passed in a dungeon, one can’t perpetually be singing
and dancing from mere exuberance of joy, can one ?”

“Is your life passed in a dungeon ?”

“Indeed, indeed, it is. Isn’t yours ?”

“It had never occurred to me that it was.”

“You’re lucky. Mine is passed in the dungeons of Castle

“Oh, Castle Ennui. Ah, yes. You mean you’re bored ?”

“At this particular moment I’m savouring the most exquisite
excitement. But in general, when I am not working or sleeping,
I’m bored to extermination—incomparably bored. If only one
could work and sleep alternately, twenty-four hours a day, the
year round ! There’s no use trying to play in London. It’s so


                        76 The Invisible Prince

hard to find a playmate. The English people take their pleasures
without salt.”

“The dungeons of Castle Ennui,” she repeated meditatively.
“Yes, we are fellow-prisoners. I’m bored to extermination too.
Still,” she added, ” one is allowed out on parole, now and again.
And sometimes one has really quite delightful little experiences.”

“It would ill become me, in the present circumstances, to
dispute that.”

“But the Castle waits to reclaim us afterwards, doesn’t it?
That’s rather a happy image, Castle Ennui.”

“I’m extremely glad you approve of it ; Castle Ennui is the
Bastille of modern life. It is built of prunes and prisms ; it has
its outer court of Convention, and its inner court of Propriety ;
it is moated round by Respectability; and the shackles its inmates
wear are forged of dull little duties and arbitrary little rules. You
can only escape from it at the risk of breaking your social neck,
or remaining a fugitive from social justice to the end of your
days. Yes, it is a fairly decent little image.”

“A bit out of something you’re preparing for the press ?” she

“Oh, how unkind of you!” he cried. “It was absolutely

“One can never tell, with vous autres gens-de-lettres

“It would be friendlier to say nous autres gens d’esprit

“Aren’t we proving to what degree nous autres gens d’esprit
sont bêtes,” she remarked, by continuing to walk along this
narrow pavement, when we can get into Kensington Gardens by
merely crossing the street ? Would it take you out of your
way ?”

“I have no way. I was sauntering for pleasure, if you can
believe me. I wish I could hope that you have no way either.


                        By Henry Harland 77

Then we could stop here, and crack little jokes together the
livelong afternoon,” he said, as they entered the Gardens.

“Alas, my way leads straight back to the Castle. I’ve pro-
mised to call on an old woman in Campden Hill.”

“Disappoint her. It’s good for old women to be disappointed.
It whips up their circulation.”

“I shouldn’t much regret disappointing the old woman, and I
should rather like an hour or two of stolen freedom. I don’t
mind owning that I’ve generally found you, as men go, a moder-
ately interesting man to talk with. But the deuce of it is. . . . .
You permit the expression ?”

“I’m devoted to the expression.”

“The deuce of it is, I’m supposed to be driving.”

“Oh, that doesn’t matter. So many suppositions in this world
are baseless.”

“But there’s the prison-van. It’s one of the tiresome rules in
the female wing of Castle Ennui that you’re always supposed,
more or less, to be driving. And though you may cheat the
authorities by slipping out of the prison-van directly it’s turned
the corner, and sending it on ahead, there it remains, a factor
that can’t be eliminated. The prison-van will relentlessly await
my arrival in the old woman’s street.”

“That only adds to the sport. Let it wait. When a factor
can’t be eliminated, it should be haughtily ignored. Besides,
there are higher considerations. If you leave me, what shall I do
with the rest of this weary day ?”

“You can go to your club.”

“Merciful lady ! What sin have I committed ? I never go
to my club, except when I’ve been wicked, as a penance. If you
will permit me to employ a metaphor—oh, but a tried and trusty
metaphor—when one ship on the sea meets another in distress, it


                        78 The Invisible Prince

stops and comforts it, and forgets all about its previous engage-
ments and the prison-van and everything. Shall we cross to the
north, and see whether the Serpentine is in its place ? Or would
you prefer to inspect the eastern front of the Palace ? Or may I
offer you a penny chair ?”

“I think a penny chair would be the maddest of the three

And they sat down in penny chairs.

“It’s rather jolly here, isn’t it?” said he. “The trees, with
their black trunks, and their leaves, and things. Have you ever seen
such sumptuous foliage ? And the greensward, and the shadows,
and the sunlight, and the atmosphere, and the mistiness—isn’t it
like pearl-dust and gold-dust floating in the air ? It’s all got up
to imitate the background of a Watteau. We must do our best
to be frivolous and ribald, and supply a proper foreground. How
big and fleecy and white the clouds are. Do you think they’re
made of cotton-wool ? And what do you suppose they paint the
sky with ? There never was such a brilliant, breath-taking blue.
It’s much too nice to be natural. And they’ve sprinkled the
whole place with scent, haven’t they ? You notice how fresh and
sweet it smells. If only one could get rid of the sparrows—the
cynical little beasts ! hear how they’re chortling—and the people,
and the nursemaids and children. I have never been able to under-
stand why they admit the public to the parks.”

“Go on,” she encouraged him. “You’re succeeding admirably
in your effort to be ribald.”

“But that last remark wasn’t ribald in the least—it was
desperately sincere. I do think it’s inconsiderate of them to admit
the public to the parks. They ought to exclude all the lower
classes, the People, at one fell swoop, and then to discriminate
tremendously amongst the others.”


                        By Henry Harland 79

“Mercy, what undemocratic sentiments ! The People, the
poor dear People—what have they done ?”

“Everything. What haven’t they done ? One could forgive
their being dirty and stupid and noisy and rude ; one could forgive
their ugliness, the ineffable banality of their faces, their goggle-eyes,
their protruding teeth, their ungainly motions ; but the trait one
can’t forgive is their venality. They’re so mercenary. They’re
always thinking how much they can get out of you—everlastingly
touching their hats and expecting you to put your hand in your
pocket. Oh, no, believe me, there’s no health in the People.
Ground down under the iron heel of despotism, reduced to a
condition of hopeless serfdom, I don’t say that they might not
develop redeeming virtues. But free, but sovereign, as they are
in these days, they’re everything that is squalid and sordid and
offensive. Besides, they read such abominably bad literature.”

“In that particular they’re curiously like the aristocracy, aren’t
they ?” said she. “By-the-bye, when are you going to publish
another book of poems ?”

“Apropos of bad literature ?”

“Not altogether bad. I rather like your poems.”

“So do I,” said he. “It’s useless to pretend that we haven’t
tastes in common.”

They were both silent for a bit. She looked at him oddly, an
inscrutable little light flickering in her eyes. All at once she
broke out with a merry trill of laughter.

“What are you laughing at ?” he demanded.

“I’m hugely amused,” she answered.

“I wasn’t aware that I’d said anything especially good.”

“You’re building better than you know. But if I am amused,
youlook ripe for tears. What is the matter ?”

“Every heart knows its own bitterness. Don’t pay the least


                        80 The Invisible Prince

attention to me. You mustn’t let moodiness of mine cast a blight
upon your high spirits.”

“No fear. There are pleasures that nothing can rob of their
sweetness. Life is not all dust and ashes. There are bright

“Yes, I’ve no doubt there are.”

“And thrilling little adventures—no ? “

“For the bold, I dare say.”

“None but the bold deserve them. Sometimes it’s one thing,
and sometimes it’s another.”

“That’s very certain.”

“Sometimes, for instance, one meets a man one knows, and
speaks to him. And he answers with a glibness ! And then,
almost directly, what do you suppose one discovers ? ”

“What ?”

“One discovers that the wretch hasn’t the ghost of a notion who
one is—that he’s totally and absolutely forgotten one !”

“Oh, I say ! Really ?”

“Yes, really. You can’t deny that that’s an exhilarating little

“I should think it might be. One could enjoy the man’s

“Or his lack of embarrassment. Some men are of an assurance,
of a sanf froid !They’ll place themselves beside you, and walk
with you, and talk with you, and even propose that you should
pass the livelong afternoon cracking jokes with them in a garden,
and never breathe a hint of their perplexity. They’ll brazen it

“That’s distinctly heroic, Spartan, of them, don’t you think ?
Internally, poor dears, they’re very likely suffering agonies of


                        By Henry Harland 81

“We’ll hope they are. Could they decently do less ?”

“And fancy the mental struggles that must be going on in
their brains. If I were a man in such a situation I’d throw
myself upon the woman’s mercy. I’d say, ‘Beautiful, sweet lady,
I know I know you. Your name, your entirely charming and
appropriate name, is trembling on the tip of my tongue. But, for
some unaccountable reason, my brute of a memory chooses to play
the fool. If you’ve a spark of Christian kindness in your soul,
you’ll come to my rescue with a little clue.'”

“If the woman had a Christian sense of the ridiculous in her
soul, I fear you’d throw yourself on her mercy in vain.”

“What is the good of tantalising people ?”

“Besides, the woman might reasonably feel slightly humiliated
to find herself forgotten in that bare-faced manner.”

“The humiliation surely would be all the man’s. Have you
heard from the Wohenhoffens lately ?”

“The—what ? The—who ?”

“The Wohenhoffens.”

“What are the Wohenhoffens ? Are they persons ? Are they
things ?”

“Oh, nothing. My enquiry was merely dictated by a thirst
for knowledge. It occurred to me vaguely that you might have
worn a black domino at a masked ball they gave, the Wohen-
hoffens. Are you sure you didn’t.”

“I’ve a great mind to punish your forgetfulness by pretending
that I did.”

“She was rather tall, like you, and she had grey eyes, and a
nice voice, and a laugh that was sweeter than the singing of
nightingales. She was monstrously clever, too, with a flow of
language that would have made her a leader in any sphere. She
was also a perfect fiend. I have always been anxious to meet her


                        82 The Invisible Prince

again, in order that I might ask her to marry me. I’m strongly
disposed to believe that she was you. Was she ?”

“If I say yes, will you at once proceed to ask me to marry
you ?”

“Try it and see.”

Ce n’est pas la peine. It occasionally happens that a woman’s
already got a husband.”

“She said she was an old maid.”

“Do you dare to insinuate that I look like an old maid ?”


“Upon my word !”

“Would you wish me to insinuate that you look like anything
so insipid as a young girl ? Were you the woman of the black
domino ?”

“I should need further information, before being able to make
up my mind. Are the—what’s their name ?—Wohenheimer ?—
are the Wohenheimers people one can safely confess to knowing ?
Oh, you’re a man, and don’t count. But a woman ? It sounds
a trifle Jewish, Wohenheimer. But of course there are Jews and

“You’re playing with me like the cat in the adage. It’s too
cruel. No one is responsible for his memory.”

“And to think that this man took me down to dinner not two
months ago !” she murmured in her veil.

“You’re as hard as nails. In whose house ? Or—stay.
Prompt me a little. Tell me the first syllable of your name.
Then the rest will come with a rush.”

“My name is Matilda Muggins.”

“I’ve a great mind to punish your untruthfulness by pretending
to believe you,” said he. “Have you really got a husband ?”

“Why do you doubt it ?”

                                                I don’t

                        By Henry Harland 83

“I don’t doubt it. Have you ?”

“I don’t know what to answer.”

“Don’t you know whether you’ve got a husband ?”

“I don’t know what I’d better let you believe. Yes, on the
whole, I think you may as well assume that I’ve got a husband.”

“And a lover, too ?”

“Really ! I like your impertinence !”

“I only asked to show a polite interest. I knew the answer
would be an indignant negative. You’re an Englishwoman, and
you’re nice. Oh, one can see with half an eye that you’re nice.
But that a nice Englishwoman should have a lover is as
inconceivable as that she should smoke a pipe. It’s only the
reg’lar bad-uns in England who have lovers. There’s nothing
between the family pew and the divorce court. One nice
Englishwoman is a match for the whole Eleven Thousand
Virgins of Cologne.”

“To hear you talk, one might fancy you were not English
yourself. For a man of the name of Field, you’re uncommonly
foreign. You look rather foreign too, you know, by-the-bye.
You haven’t at all an English cast of countenance.”

“I’ve enjoyed the advantages of a foreign education. I was
brought up abroad.”

“Where your features unconsciously assimilated themselves to
a foreign type ? Where you learned a hundred thousand strange
little foreign things, no doubt ? And imbibed a hundred
thousand unprincipled little foreign notions ? And all the
ingenuous little foreign prejudices and misconceptions concerning
England ?”

” Most of them.”

Perfide Albion ? English hypocrisy ?”

“Oh, yes, the English are consummate hypocrites. But there’s


                        84 The Invisible Prince

only one objection to their hypocrisy—it so rarely covers any
wickedness. It’s such a disappointment to see a creature stalking
towards you, laboriously draped in sheep’s clothing, and then to
discover that it’s only a sheep. You, for instance, as I took the
liberty of intimating a moment ago, in spite of your perfectly
respectable appearance, are a perfectly respectable woman. If
you weren’t, wouldn’t I be making furious love to you, though !

“As I am, I can see no reason why you shouldn’t make furious
love to me, if it would amuse you. There’s no harm in firing
your pistol at a person who’s bullet-proof.”

“No ; it’s merely a wanton waste of powder and shot.
However, I shouldn’t stick at that. The deuce of it is. . . .
You permit the expression ?”

“I’m devoted to the expression.”

“The deuce of it is, you profess to be married.”

“Do you mean to say that you, with your unprincipled foreign
notions, would be restrained by any such consideration as that ?”

“I shouldn’t be for an instant—if I weren’t in love with

Comment donc? Déjà ?” she cried with a laugh.

“Oh, déjà ! Why not ? Consider the weather—consider the
scene. Is the air soft, is it fragrant ? Look at the sky—good
heavens !—and the clouds, and the shadows on the grass, and the
sunshine between the trees. The world is made of light to-day,
of light and colour, and perfume and music. Tutt’ intorno canta
amor , amor , amore ! What would you have ? One recognises one’s
affinity. One doesn’t need a lifetime. You began the business
at the Wohenhoffens’ ball. To-day you’ve merely put on the
finishing touches.”

“Oh, then I am the woman you met at the masked ball ?”

“Look me in the eye, and tell me you’re not.”

                                                I haven’t

                        By Henry Harland 85

“I haven’t the faintest interest in telling you I’m not. On
the contrary, it rather pleases me to let you imagine that I am.”

“She owed me a grudge, you know. I hoodwinked her like

“Oh, did you ? Then, as a sister woman, I should be glad to
serve as her instrument of vengeance. Do you happen to have
such a thing as a watch about you ?”


“Will you be good enough to tell me what o’clock it is ?”

“What are your motives for asking ?”

“I’m expected at home at five.”

“Where do you live ?”

“What are your motives for asking ?”

“I want to call upon you.”

“You might wait till you’re invited.”

“Well, invite me—quick !”


“Never ?”

“Never, never, never. A man who’s forgotten me as you
have !”

“But if I’ve only met you once at a masked ball. . . . .”

“Can’t you be brought to realise that every time you mistake
me for that woman of the masked ball you turn the dagger in
the wound ?”

“But if you won’t invite me to call upon you, how and when
am I to see you again ?”

“I haven’t an idea,” she answered, cheerfully. “I must go
now. Good bye.” She rose.

“One moment. Before you go will you allow me to look at
the palm of your left hand ?”

“What for ?”

The Yellow Book—Vol. X. F

                                                “I can

                        86 The Invisible Prince

“I can tell fortunes. I’m extremely good at it. I’ll tell you

“Oh, very well,” she assented, sitting down again : and guile-
lessly she pulled off her glove.

He took her hand, a beautifully slender, nervous hand, warm
and soft, with rosy, tapering ringers.

“Oho ! you are an old maid after all,” he cried. “There’s no
wedding ring.”

“You villain !” she gasped, snatching the hand away.

“I promised to tell your fortune. Haven’t I told it correctly ?”

“You needn’t rub it in, though. Eccentric old maids don’t
like to be reminded of their condition.”

“Will you marry me?

“Why do you ask ?”

“Partly from curiosity. Partly because it’s the only way I can
think of, to make sure of seeing you again. And then, I like
your hair. Will you ?”

“I can’t.”

“Why not ?”

“The stars forbid. And I’m ambitious. In my horoscope it
is written that I shall either never marry at all, or—marry royalty.”

“Oh, bother ambition ! Cheat your horoscope. Marry me.
Will you ?”

“If you care to follow me,” she said, rising again, “you can
come and help me to commit a little theft.”

He followed her to an obscure and sheltered corner of a flowery
path, where she stopped before a bush of white lilac.

“There are no keepers in sight, are there ?” she questioned.

“I don’t see any,” said he.

“Then allow me to make you a receiver of stolen goods,” said
she, breaking off a spray, and handing it to him.


                        By Henry Harland 87

“Thank you. But I’d rather have an answer to my question.”

“Isn’t that an answer ?”

“Is it ?”

“White lilac to the Invisible Prince ?”

“The Invisible Prince . . . . Then you are the black
domino !”

“Oh, I suppose so.”

“And you will marry me ?”

“I’ll tell the aunt I live with to ask you to dinner.”

“But will you marry me ?”

“I thought you wished me to cheat my horoscope ?”

“How could you find a better means of doing so ?”

“What ! if I should marry Louis Leczinski . . . . ?”

“Oh, to be sure. You would have it that I was Louis Lec-
zinski. But, on that subject, I must warn you seriously—”

“One instant,” she interrupted. “People must look other
people straight in the face when they’re giving serious warnings.
Look straight into my eyes, and continue your serious warning.”

“I must really warn you seriously,” said he, biting his lip,
“that if you persist in that preposterous delusion about my being
Louis Leczinski, you’ll be most awfully sold. I have nothing on
earth to do with Louis Leczinski. Your ingenious little theories,
as I tried to convince you at the time, were absolute romance.”

Her eyebrows raised a little, she kept her eyes fixed steadily on
his—oh, in the drollest fashion, with a gaze that seemed to say
“How admirably you do it ! I wonder whether you imagine I
believe you. Oh, you fibber ! Aren’t you ashamed to tell me
such abominable fibs ?”. . . .

They stood still, eyeing each other thus, for something like
twenty seconds, and then they both laughed and walked on.

MLA citation:

Harland, Henry. “The Invisible Prince.” The Yellow Book, vol. 10, July 1896, pp. 59-87. Yellow Book Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010-2014. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020.