“Do me the favour to believe, Mr. Mannering,” he said, “that we have not gone into this matter blindfold. We had a preliminary intimation as to this affair from a person whose word carries considerable weight, and our investigations have been searching. I will admit that the disappearance of the man Parkins is a little awkward for us, but we have ample justification in publishing his story.”
“I trust for your sakes that the law courts will support your views,” Mannering said, coldly. “I scarcely think it likely.”
“Mr. Mannering,” Polden said, “I quite appreciate your attitude, but do you really think it is a wise one? I very much regret that it should have been our duty to unearth this unsavoury story, and having unearthed it, to use it. But you must remember that the issue on hand is a great one. I belong to the Liberal party and the absolute Free Traders, and I consider that for this city to be represented by any one who shows the least indication of being unsafe upon this question would be a national disaster and a local disgrace. I want you to understand, therefore, that I am not playing a game of bluff. The proofs you hold in your hand have been set and corrected. Within a few hours the story will stand out in black and white. Are you prepared for this?”
Mannering shrugged his shoulders.
“I am not prepared to resign my candidature, if that is what you mean,” he said. “I presume that nothing short of that will satisfy you?”
“Nothing,” the editor answered, firmly.
“Then there remains nothing more,” Mannering remarked, coldly, “than for me to wish you a very good-morning.”
“I am sorry,” Mr. Polden said. “I trust you will believe, Mr. Mannering, that I find this a very unpleasant duty.”
Mannering made no answer save a slight bow. He held open the door, and Mr. Polden and his satellite passed out. Afterwards he strolled to the window and looked down idly upon the crowd.
“If I act in accordance with the conventions,” he murmured to himself, “I suppose I ought to take, a glass of poison, or blow my brains out. Instead of which—”
He shrugged his shoulders, and rang for his hat and coat. He was due at one of the great foundries in half an hour to speak to the men during their luncheon interval.
“Instead of which,” he muttered, as he lit a cigarette, “I shall go on to the end.”
TREACHERY AND A TELEGRAM
The sunlight streamed down into the little grey courtyard of the Leon D’or at Bonestre. Sir Leslie Borrowdean, in an immaculate grey suit, and with a carefully chosen pink carnation in his button-hole, sat alone at a small table having his morning coffee. His attention was divided between a copy of the Figaro and a little pile of letters and telegrams on the other side of his plate. More than once he glanced at the topmost of the latter and smiled.