“You are generous,” he said, “for I suppose I am a deserter. As to where I shall sit, it is very hard to tell. I fancy myself that we are on the eve of a complete readjustment of parties. Wherever I may find myself, however, it will scarcely be with your friends.”
“I realize that, and I am sorry,” she said. “All that we need is a leader, and you might have been he. As it is, I suppose we shall muddle along somehow until some one comes out of the ruck strong enough to pull us together.... Come and see me in London, Lawrence. Who knows but that you may be able to convert me!”
“You are too staunch,” he answered, “and you have not seen what I have seen.”
“Didn’t you once tell me at Blakely that politics for a woman was a mischosen profession—that we were at once too obstinate and too sentimental? Perhaps you were right. We don’t come into touch with the same forces that you meet with, and we come into touch with others which make the world seem curiously upside-down. Good-night, Lawrence! I am going to my room quietly. Lady Redford wants to play bridge, and I don’t feel like it! Bon voyage!”
Mannering stood alone in the little courtyard, lit now with hanging lights, and crowded with stray visitors who had strolled in from the streets. The rest of the party had gone into the salon beyond, and Mannering felt curiously disinclined to join them. Suddenly there was a touch upon his arm. He turned round. Blanche was standing there looking up at him. Something in her face puzzled him. Her eyes fell before his. She was pale, yet as he looked at her a flood of colour rushed into her cheeks. His momentary impression of her eyes was that they were very soft and very bright. She had thrown off her wrap, and with her left hand was holding up her white skirt. Her right hand was clenched as though holding something, and extended timidly towards him.
“I wanted to say good-night to you—and—there was something else—this!”
Something passed from her hand to his, something cold and hard. He looked at her in amazement, but she was already on her way up the grey stone steps which led from the courtyard into the hotel, and she did not turn back. He opened his hand and stared at what he found there. It was a key—number forty-four, Premier etage.
BLANCHE FINDS A WAY OUT
Mannering was conscious of an overpowering desire to be alone. He made his way out of the courtyard and back to the promenade. Some of the lights were already extinguished, and a slight drizzling rain was falling. He walked at once to the further wall, and stood leaning over, looking into the chaos of darkness. The key, round which his fingers were still tightly clenched, seemed almost to burn his flesh.