There was a moment’s silence. She turned her head and looked at him—looked him in the eyes unshamed, yet with her secret shining there for him to see.
“There may be others, Lawrence,” she said, “to whom you owe something. A woman cannot take back what she has given. There may be sufferers in the world whom you ought also to consider. And a woman loves to think that what she may not have herself is at least kept sacred—to her memory.”
“Fore!” cried Lord Redford, who had found his ball. “Awfully decent of you people to wait so long. We were afraid you meant to claim the hole!”
Mannering rose to play his shot.
“The Duchess and I, Lord Redford,” he said, lightly, “scorn to take small advantages. We mean to play the game!”
THE TRAGEDY OF A KEY
Blanche, in a plain black net gown, sat on Lord Redford’s right hand at the hastily improvised dinner party that evening. Berenice, more subtly and more magnificently dressed, was opposite, by Mannering’s side. The conversation seemed mostly to circle about them.
“A very charming place,” Lord Redford declared. “I have enjoyed my stay here thoroughly. Let us hope that we may all meet here again next year,” he added, raising his glass. “Mannering, you will drink to that, I hope?”
“With all my heart,” Mannering answered. “And you, Blanche?”
She raised her almost untasted glass and touched it with her lips. She set it down with a faint smile. Berenice moved her head towards him.
“Your wife is not very enthusiastic,” she remarked.
“She neither plays golf nor bathes,” Mannering said. “It is possible that she finds it a little dull.”
“Both are habits which it is possible to acquire,” Berenice answered. “I am telling your husband, Mrs. Mannering,” she continued, “that you ought to learn to play golf.”
“Lawrence has offered to teach me more than once,” Blanche answered, calmly. “I am afraid that games do not attract me. Besides, I am too old to learn!”
“My dear Mrs. Mannering!” Lord Redford protested.
“I am forty-two,” Blanche replied, “and at that age a woman thinks twice before she begins anything new in the shape of vigorous exercise. Besides, I find plenty to amuse me here.”
“Might one ask in what direction?” Berenice murmured. “I have found in the place many things that are delightful, but not amusing.”
“I find amusement often in watching my neighbours,” Blanche said. “I like to ask myself what it is they want, and to study their way of attaining it. You generally find that every one is fairly transparent when once you have found the key—and everybody is trying for something which they don’t care for other people to know about.”
The Duchess looked at Blanche steadily. There was a certain insolence, the insolence of her aristocratic birth and assured position in the level stare of her clear brown eyes. But Blanche did not flinch.