“It must always be so?”
“And you have nothing more to say?”
“If I dared,” he said, raising his eyes to hers, “I would say—trust me! I am not exactly—one of the beasts of the field.”
“Will you not trust me, then? I am not a foolish girl. I am a woman. You may destroy an ideal, but there would be something left.”
“I can tell you no more.”
“Then it is to be good-bye?”
“If you say so!”
She turned slowly away. He watched her disappear. Afterwards, with a curious sense of unreality, he remained quite still, his eyes still fixed upon the portiere through which she had passed.
One of the “Sufferers”
Mannering kept no carriage, and he left Downing Street on foot. The little house which he had taken furnished for the season was in the somewhat less pretentious neighborhood of Portland Crescent, and as there were no hansoms within hail he started to walk home. An attempt at a short cut landed him presently in a neighborhood which he failed to recognize. He paused, looking about him for some one from whom to inquire the way. Then he at once realized what he had already more than once suspected. He was being followed.
The footsteps ceased as he himself had halted. It was a wet night, and the street was ill-lit. Nevertheless, Mannering could distinguish the figure of a man standing in the shadows of the houses, apparently to escape observation. For a moment he hesitated. His follower could scarcely be an ordinary hooligan, for not more than fifty yards away were the lights of a great thoroughfare, and even in this street, quiet though it was, there were people passing to and fro. His curiosity prompted him to subterfuge. He took a cigarette from his case, and commenced in a leisurely manner the operation of striking a light. Instantly the figure of the man began to move cautiously towards him.
Mannering’s eyes and hearing, keenly developed by his country life, apprised him of every step the man took. He heard him pause whilst a couple of women passed on the other side of the way. Afterwards his approach became swifter and more stealthy. Barely in time to avoid, he scarcely knew what, Mannering turned sharply round.
“What do you want with me?” he demanded.
The man showed no signs of confusion. Mannering, as he looked sternly into his face, lost all fear of personal assault. He was neatly but shabbily dressed, pale, and with a slight red moustache. He had a somewhat broad forehead, eyes with more than an ordinary lustre, and, in somewhat striking contradiction to the rest of his features, a large sensitive mouth with a distinctly humorous curve. Even now its corners were receding into a smile, which had in it, however, other elements than mirth alone.
“You are Mr. Lawrence Mannering?”