Berenice smiled slightly.
“You are annoyed,” she declared, “because you will be in opposition once more!”
“If I go into opposition again,” Borrowdean answered, “it will be my own choice. Mannering has asked me to join his Cabinet.”
Berenice raised her eyebrows. Her surprise was genuine.
“You amaze me!” she declared.
“I was amazed myself,” he answered.
She passed on her way, and Borrowdean descending, took a cab quietly home. Berenice, with her hand upon the door, hesitated. Hester had purposely sent her up alone. They had waited until they had heard Borrowdean leave the room. And now at the last moment she hesitated. She was a proud woman. She was departing now, for his sake, from the conventions of a lifetime. He had declined to come to her; no matter, she had come to him instead. Suppose—he should not be glad? Suppose she should fail to see in his face her justification? It was very quiet in the room. She could not even hear the scratching of his pen. Twice her fingers closed upon the knob of the door, and twice she hesitated. If it had not been for facing Hester below she would probably have gone silently away.
And then—she heard a sound. It was not at all the sort of sound for which she had been listening, but it brought her hesitation to a sudden end. She threw open the door, and a little cry of amazement broke from her trembling lips. It was indeed a groan which she had heard. Mannering was stretched upon the floor, his eyes half closed, his face ghastly white. For a moment she stood motionless, a whole torrent of arrested speech upon her quivering lips. Then she dropped on her knees by his side and lifted his cold hand.
“Oh, my love!” she murmured. “My love!”
But he made no sign. Then she stood up, and her cry of horror rang through the house.
A BRAZEN PROCEEDING
Mannering opened his eyes lazily. His companion had stopped suddenly in his reading. He appeared to be examining a certain paragraph in the paper with much interest. Mannering stretched out his hand for a match, and relit his cigarette.
“Read it out, Richard,” he said. “Don’t mind me.”
The young man started slightly.
“I am very sorry, sir,” he said. “I thought that you were asleep!”
“What about the paragraph?” he asked.
“It is just this,” Richard answered, reading. “’The Duchess of Lenchester and Miss Clara Mannering have arrived at Claridge’s from the South of Italy.’”
Mannering looked at him keenly.
“I am curious to know which part of that announcement you find so interesting,” he said.
“Certainly not the latter part, sir,” the young man answered. “I thought perhaps you would have noticed—I meant to speak to you as soon as you were a little stronger—I have asked Hester to be my wife!”