“I think,” she said, “that you may feel sure. There are things which we may have to say to one another—presently—but—”
He stooped and kissed her fingers.
THE CONSCIENCE OF A STATESMAN
He was shown into her own little boudoir by a smiling maid-servant, who seemed already to treat him with an especial consideration. The wonder of this thing was still lying like a thrall upon him, and yet he knew that the joy of life was burning once more in his veins. He caught sight of himself in a mirror, and he was amazed. The careworn look had gone from his eyes, the sallowness from his complexion. His step was elastic, he felt the firm, quick beat of his heart, even his pulses seem to throb to a new and a wonderful tune. These moments whilst he waited for her were a joy to him. The atmosphere was fragrant with the perfume of her favourite roses, a book lay upon the little inlaid table face downwards as she had left it. There was a delicately engraved etching upon the wall, which he recognized as her work; the watercolours, all of a French school which he had often praised, were of her choosing. Perfect though the room was in colouring and detail, there was yet a habitable, almost a homely, air about it. Mannering moved about amidst her treasures like a man in a dream, only it was a dream of loneliness gone forever, of a grey life suddenly coloured and transformed. It was wonderful.
Then the soft swish of a skirt, and she came in. She had changed her gown. She wore white lace, with a string of pearls about her neck. He looked eagerly into her face, and a great relief took the place of that single instant of haunting fear. The change was still there. It was not the great lady who swept in, but the woman who has found an answer to the one question of life, a little tremulous still, a little less self-assured. She looked at him almost appealingly. A delicate tinge of colour lingered in her cheeks. He moved quickly forward to meet her.
“Dear!” she murmured.
He raised her hand to his lips. He was satisfied.
“You see what my new-born vanity has led to,” she declared, smilingly. “I have had to keep you waiting whilst I changed my gown. I hope you like me in white.”
“You are adorable,” he declared.
“I wonder,” she said, “would you mind dining here alone with me? It will be quite a scratch meal, but I thought that it would be cosier than a restaurant, and afterwards—we could come in here and talk.”
“I should like it better than anything in the world,” he declared, truthfully.
“You may take me in, then,” she said. “I hope that you are as hungry as I am. No, not that way. I have ordered dinner to be served in the little room where I dine when I am alone.”