Borrowdean did as he was asked. He noticed the slight impatience of the man as he delivered his message, and the flush with which she greeted him. Then, with a little shrug of the shoulders, he pursued his way.
A PAGE FROM THE PAST
She swept into the room, humming a light opera tune, bringing with her the usual flood of perfumes, suggestion of cosmetics, a vivid apparition of the artificial. Her skirts rustled aggressively, her voice was just one degree too loud. Mannering rose to his feet a little wearily.
She looked at him with raised eyebrows.
“Heavens!” she exclaimed. “What have you been doing with yourself, Lawrence? You look like a ghost!”
“I am quite well,” he answered, calmly.
“Then you don’t look it,” she answered, bluntly. “Where have you been for the last few weeks?”
“Up in the North,” he answered. “It was very hot, and I had a great deal to do. I suppose I am suffering, like the rest of us, from a little overwork.”
She spread herself out in a chair opposite to him.
“Don’t stand,” she said; “you fidget me. I have something to say to you.”
“So I gathered from your note,” he remarked.
“You haven’t hurried.”
“I only got back to London last night,” he answered. “I could scarcely come sooner, could I?”
“I suppose not,” she admitted.
Then for a moment or two she was silent. She was watching him a little curiously.
“Is this true?” she asked, “this rumour?”
“Won’t you be a little more explicit?” he begged.
“They say that you are going to marry the Duchess of Lenchester!”
“It is true,” he answered.
She leaned forward. Her clasped hands rested upon her knee. She seemed to be examining the tip of her patent shoe. Suddenly she looked up at him.
“You ought to have come and told me yourself!” she said.
“I had no opportunity,” he reminded her. “I left London the morning after—it happened—and I returned last night.”
“Political business?” she asked.
“Lawrence,” she said, “I don’t like it.”
“Why not?” he asked. “Has mine been such a successful life, do you think, that you need grudge me a little happiness towards its close?”
“Bosh!” she answered. “You are only forty-six. You are a young man still.”
“I had forgotten my years,” he declared. “I only know that I am tired.”
“You look it,” she remarked. “I must say that there is very little of the triumphant suitor about you. You work too hard, Lawrence.”