He caught her cheerful tone.
“You are inspiring,” he declared. “Thank heaven, I have a twelve hours’ journey before me. I need time for thought, if ever a man did.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she answered, lightly. “The truth is somewhere in your brain, I suppose, and when the time comes you will find it. Much better think about your sandwiches.”
The car backed into the yard. Blanche reappeared, and behind her Mannering’s bag.
“I do hope that Hester and I have packed everything,” she said. “We could come over to-morrow, if there’s anything you want us for. If not we shall stay here for another week. Good-bye!”
She calmly held up her lips, and Mannering kissed them after a moment’s hesitation. She remained by his side even when he turned to say farewell to Berenice.
“I am sure you ought to be going,” she said calmly. “I will send on your letters if there are any to-morrow. Wire your address as soon as you arrive. Good luck!”
The car glided away. They all stood in a group to see him go, and waved indiscriminate farewells. Blanche moved a little apart as the car disappeared, and Berenice watched her curiously. She was rubbing her lips with her handkerchief.
“A sting!” she remarked, becoming suddenly aware of the other’s scrutiny. “Nothing that hurts very much!”
Mannering, in his sitting-room at last, locked the door and drew a long breath of relief. Upon his ear-drums there throbbed still the yells of his enthusiastic but noisy adherents—the truculent cries of those who had heard his great speech with satisfaction, of those who saw pass from amongst themselves to a newer school of thought one whom they had regarded as their natural leader. It was over at last. He had made his pronouncement. To some it might seem a compromise. To himself it was the only logical outcome of his long period of thought. He spoke for the workingman. He demanded inquiry, consideration, experiment. He demanded them in a way of his own, at once novel and convincing. Many of the most brilliant articles which had ever come from his pen he abjured. He drew a sharp line between the province of the student and the duty of the politician.
And now he was alone at last, free to think and dream, free to think of Bonestre, to wonder what reports of his meeting would reach the little French watering-place, and how they would be received. He could see Berenice reading the morning paper in the little grey courtyard, with the pigeons flying above her head and the sunlight streaming across the flags. He could hear Borrowdean’s sneer, could see Lord Redford’s shrug of the shoulders. There is little sympathy in the world for the man who dares to change his mind.
There was a knock at the door, and his servant entered with a tray.