“If you are right, Borrowdean,” he said, “the suffering will be mine. Come, your time is short now. Perhaps you had better make your adieux to my niece and Mrs. Handsell.”
They all came out into the drive to see him start. A curious change had come over the bright spring day. A grey sea-fog had drifted inland, the sunlight was obscured, the larks were silent. Borrowdean shivered a little as he turned up his coat-collar.
“So Nature has her little caprices, even—in paradise!” he remarked.
“It will blow over in an hour,” Mannering said. “A breath of wind, and the whole thing is gone.”
Borrowdean’s farewells were of the briefest. He made no further allusion to the object of his visit. He departed as one who had been paying an afternoon call more or less agreeable. Clara waved her hand until he was out of sight, then she turned somewhat abruptly round and entered the house. Mannering and Mrs. Handsell remained for a few moments in the avenue, looking along the road. The sound of the horse’s feet could still be heard, but the trap itself was long since invisible.
“The passing of your friend,” she remarked, quietly, “is almost allegorical. He has gone into the land of ghosts—or are we the ghosts, I wonder, who loiter here?”
Mannering answered her without a touch of levity. He, too, was unusually serious.
“We have the better part,” he said. “Yet Borrowdean is one of those men who know very well how to play upon the heartstrings. A human being is like a musical instrument to him. He knows how to find out the harmonies or strike the discords.”
She turned away.
“I am superstitious,” she murmured, with a little shiver. “I suppose that it is this ghostly mist, and the silence which has come with it. Yet I wish that your friend had stayed away from Blakely!”
* * * * *
Upstairs from her window Clara also was gazing along the road where Borrowdean had disappeared. And Borrowdean himself was puzzling over a third telegram which Mannering had carelessly passed on to him with his own, and which, although it was clearly addressed to Mannering, he had, after a few minutes’ hesitation, opened. It had been handed in at the Strand Post-office.
“I must see you this week.—Blanche.”
A few hours later, on his arrival in London, Borrowdean repeated this message to Mannering from the same post-office, and quietly tearing up the original went down to the House.
“I cannot tell,” he reported to his chief, “whether we have succeeded or not. In a fortnight or less we shall know.”
THE DUCHESS ASKS A QUESTION
Clara stepped through the high French window, and with skirts a little raised crossed the lawn. Lindsay, who was following her, stopped to light a cigarette.