“Forgive me,” he protested, “but I did not know that you had any plans. All that you told us on your return from Blakely was that you had failed. So far as you were concerned the matter seemed to me to be over, and with it, I imagined, your interest in Mannering. I brought him here—”
“Because I wished him to know who you were. I wished him to understand the improbability of your ever again returning to Blakely.”
“You are telling the truth now, at any rate,” she remarked, curtly, “or what sounds like the truth. Why did you trouble in the matter at all? Where I have failed you are not likely to succeed.”
Borrowdean smiled for the first time.
“I have still some hopes of doing so,” he admitted.
The Duchess glanced at the little Louis Seize time-piece, and hesitated.
“You had better abandon them,” she said. “Lawrence Mannering may be wrong, or he may be right, but he believes in his choice. He has no ambition. You have no motive left to work upon.”
Borrowdean shook his head.
“You are wrong, Duchess,” he remarked, simply. “I never believed in Mannering’s sentimentality. To-day, with his own lips, he has confessed to me that another, an unbroached reason, stands behind his refusal!”
“And he never told me,” the Duchess murmured, involuntarily.
“Duchess,” Borrowdean answered, with a faint, cynical parting of the lips, “there are matters which a man does not mention to the woman in whose high opinion he aims at holding an exalted place.”
There was a knock at the door. The Duchess’s maid entered, carrying a long cloak of glimmering lace and satin.
The Duchess nodded.
“I come at once, Hortense,” she said, in French. “Sir Leslie,” she added, turning towards him, “you are making a great mistake, and I advise you to be careful. You are one of those who think ill of all men. Such men as Lawrence Mannering belong to a race of human beings of whom you know nothing. I listened to you once, and I was a fool. You could as soon teach me to believe that you were a saint, as that Mannering had anything in his past or present life of which he was ashamed. Now, Hortense.”
Borrowdean walked off, still smiling. How simple half the world was.
THE PUMPING OF MRS. PHILLIMORE
Hester sprang to her feet eagerly as she heard the front door close, and standing behind the curtain she watched the man, who was already upon the pavement looking up and down the street for a hansom. His erect, distinguished figure was perfectly familiar to her. It was Sir Leslie Borrowdean again.
She resumed her seat in front of the typewriter, and touched the keys idly. In a few moments what she had been expecting happened. Her mother entered the room.
Of her advent there were the usual notifications. An immense rustling of silken skirts, and an overwhelming odour of the latest Bond Street perfume. She flung herself into a chair, and regarded her daughter with a complacent smile.