“I am much obliged to you for telling me,” Mannering muttered. He remembered now that he had scarcely spoken a dozen words to his wife since his return.
“Mrs. Mannering appears to have your interests very much at heart,” Berenice said, quietly. “She proved herself quite a match for Sir Leslie. I think that he would have left here at once, only we are expecting Clara back.”
Mannering smiled scornfully.
“I do not think that even Clara,” he said, “is quite fool enough not to recognize in Borrowdean the arrant opportunist. For my part I am glad that all pretence at friendship between us is now at an end. He is one of those men whom I should count more dangerous as a friend than as an enemy.”
Berenice did not reply. They were already in the courtyard of the hotel. Blanche was in a wicker chair in a sunny corner, talking to a couple of young Englishmen. Berenice turned towards the steps. They parted without any further words.
PLAYING THE GAME
Mannering for a moment hesitated. One of the two young men who were talking to his wife he recognized as a former acquaintance of hers—one of a genus whom he had little sympathy with and less desire to know. While he stood there Blanche laughed at some remark made by one of her companions, and the laugh, too, seemed somehow to remind him of the old days. He moved slowly forward.
The young men strolled off almost at once. Mannering took a vacant chair by his wife’s side.
“I have only just heard,” he said, “how much I have to thank you for. I took it for granted somehow that it was the Duchess who had discovered our friend Borrowdean’s little scheme and sent that telegram. Why didn’t you sign it?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“It was the Duchess who made him chuck it up,” she said. “I could never have made him do that. I was an idiot to let Parkins stay in England at all.”
“I always understood,” he said, “that he was dead.”
“I let you think so,” she answered. “I thought you might worry. But seriously, if he told the truth, now, after all these years, would any one take any notice of it?”
“Very likely not,” he said, “so far as regards any criminal responsibility. But our political life is fenced about by all the middle-class love of propriety and hatred of all form of scandal. Parkins’s story, authenticated or not, would have lost me my seat for Leeds.”
“Then I am very glad,” she said, “that I happened to see the telegram. Do you know where Parkins is now?”
“One of my supporters,” he said, “a queer little man named Richard Fardell, has him in tow. He is bringing him up to London, I think.”
“What are you doing this afternoon?” he asked.
She looked at him curiously.
“Mr. Englehall has asked me to go out in his car,” she said. “I am rather tired of motoring, but I think I shall go.”