With black bands on their arms, diplomats of Britain's Legation in Panama City had gravely been telling reporters ever since Edward of Wales and Prince George left England that "The Court is in mourning for the Princess Royal, His Majesty's sister. Consequently it will be impossible for Their Royal Highnesses to attend festivities of any sort in Panama. There can be no Legation ball."
When the Princes flew in last week (they left their ship at Cristobal and soared the 55 mi. across the Isthmus) both were wearing light grey suits with wide white pencil stripes, cheerful ties, no black arm bands. When he heard there was to be no Legation ball, George V's eldest son, 36, suggested an "informal dance." Prince George, 28, grinned approval.
Frantically the Legation secretaries tele phoned, convened young women of good family and good looks at the Union Club — to make things more "informal."
The Royal brothers were to sail at midnight. Instead, they arrived at the dance at midnight. An equerry began to dance with brown-eyed, chestnut-haired, smartly-tanned Miss Eleanor Nichols, daughter of Commander Newton Lord Nichols, U. S. N. A tropic moon was slanting over Panama Bay. Among gentlemen of the Royal party there began to circulate in an undertone Edward of Wales's favorite phrase for a young woman he prefers: "She's snappy!"
Presently snappy Miss Nichols was squired to the Royal table, danced with Prince George, who then presented her to his elder brother. Thereafter (two dances) the Prince of Wales danced with no one else. He and Prince George sailed for Peru at 1:30 a.m.
Reporters mobbed tawny Miss Nichols. 'It's so silly!" she exclaimed. "The Prince of Wales has danced with hundreds of other girls. . . .
"I think he's one of the most charming young men I ever met. He isn't a bit offish!" (He had been observed to bend low over Miss Nichols and sing into her ear a tune the orchestra was playing: "With You!"*) "He uses slang. He speaks Spanish rather slowly, but I can understand him much better than the people here who rattle it off so fast. . . .
"I had hardly sat down at his table with Prince George when he walked right over and asked me for the next dance — without sending a messenger or anything !
. . . . One would never think that he is anything but just one of the nicest young men imaginable. . . . And he's an awfully nice dancer! But I believe Prince George is the better of the two. He doesn't have as much to say, though."
Commander Nichols also consented to be interviewed, recalled that when he was presented, the Prince of Wales said: ''I am delighted to know you, sir."
"He seemed just like," concluded Commander Nichols, "a midshipman at Annapolis."
For North American Newspaper Alliance Miss Nichols wrote her own story: "We talked about so many things, none of which I can quite remember. ... I soon discovered the secret of the Prince's popularity ... so natural of manner . . . the prestige of his rank was entirely forgotten by me. . . .
"This sudden publicity . . . has almost upset me. Even my golf game this afternoon was worse than usual."
*Chorus: With you a sunny day,