“But,” he protested, “even if I did as you suggested, and went back into politics, it would be some time, if ever, before I should be any better off.”
“I will wait until that time comes,” she answered, “provided that when it does, you share with me.”
Then Mannering understood.
“Upon my word,” he exclaimed, “you are an apt conspirator indeed. All this time you have been fooling me. I even fancied—bah! How much is Borrowdean giving you for this?”
“Nothing at all,” she answered, coolly. “It is my own sincere desire for your welfare which has prompted all that I have said to you. I am ambitious for you, Lawrence. I should like to see you Prime Minister. I am sure you could be if you tried. You are letting your talents rust, and I don’t approve of it!”
The faint note of mockery in her tone was clearly apparent. Mannering found it hard to answer her calmly.
“Come,” he said, “put it into plain words. What does it mean? What do you want?”
“Sir Leslie tells me,” she said, raising her eyes and looking him in the face, “that his party is prepared to find you a safe seat to-morrow. I want you to give up your hermit’s life and accept it.”
“And the alternative?”
“You have it already before you. Your reception of it was not, I must admit, altogether flattering.”
“I am allowed,” he said, “some short space of time for consideration?”
“Until to-morrow, if you wish,” she answered. “I imagine you know pretty well what you mean to do.”
He picked up his hat and turned towards the door.
“Yes,” he said, “I suppose I do!”
BORROWDEAN MAKES A BARGAIN
Borrowdean sank into the chair which Berenice had indicated, with a little sigh of relief.
“These all-night sittings,” he remarked, “get less of a joke as one advances in years. You read the reports this morning?”
“And Mannering’s speech?”
“Every word of it.”
“Our little conspiracy,” he continued, “is bearing fruit. Honestly, Mannering is a surprise, even to me. After these years of rust I scarcely expected him to step back at once into all his former brilliancy. His speech last night was wonderful.”
“I heard it,” she said. “You are quite right. It was wonderful.”
“You were in the House?” he asked, looking up quickly.
“I was there till midnight,” she answered.
Borrowdean was thoughtful for a moment.
“His speech,” he remarked, “sounded even better than it read.”
“I thought so,” she admitted. “He has all the smaller tricks of the orator, as well as the gift of eloquence. One can always listen to him with pleasure.”