“Your niece said something about having three hundred pounds,” he remarked.
Mannering glanced towards her.
“I think,” he said, “that that must be a mistake. My niece has no such sum at her command.”
Clara rose to her feet.
“You may as well know everything,” she said. “The Duchess of Lenchester came in and found me very unhappy this morning. I told her everything, and she offered to lend me the money. I told her then that it was only three hundred pounds. I thought that was all I owed.”
“Have you made any other confidants?” Mannering asked.
“You will return the Duchess’s cheque,” Mannering said. “Borrowdean, will you come this way?”
Love versus politics
Berenice was a little annoyed. It was the hour before dressing for dinner which she always devoted to repose—the hour saved from the stress of the day which had helped towards keeping her the young woman she certainly was. Yet Borrowdean’s message was too urgent to ignore. She suffered her maid to wrap some sort of loose gown about her, and received him in her own study.
“My dear Sir Leslie,” she said, a little reproachfully, “was this really necessary? You know that after half-past six I am practically a person not existing—until dinner time!”
“I should not have ventured to intrude upon you,” Borrowdean said, quickly, “if the circumstances had not been altogether exceptional. I know your habits too well. I have just come from Mannering.”
“Duchess,” Borrowdean said, “have you—forgive a blunt question—but have you any influence over him?”
Berenice was silent for several moments.
“You ask me rather a hard question,” she said. “A few months ago I think that I should have said yes. To-day—I am not sure. What has happened? Is anything wrong with him?”
“Nothing, except that he seems to have gone mad,” Borrowdean said, bitterly. “I went to him to-day to get him to fix the dates for his meetings at Glasgow and Leeds. What do you think his answer was?”
“Don’t tell me that he wants to back out!” Berenice exclaimed. “Don’t tell me that!”
“Almost as bad! He told me quite coolly that he was not prepared finally to set out his views upon the question until he had completed a course of personal investigation in some of the Northern centres of trade, to which he had committed himself.”
Berenice looked bewildered.
“But what on earth does he mean?” she exclaimed. “Surely he knows all that there is to be known. His mastery of statistics is something wonderful.”