“It is true,” he answered. “Well, listen. I killed her husband!”
“You! You—killed her husband!” she repeated vaguely.
“Yes! She shielded me. There was an inquest, and they found that he had heart disease. No one knew that I had even seen him that day, no one save she and a servant, who is dead. But the truth lives. He had reason to be angry with me—over a money affair. He came home furious, and found me alone with his wife. He called me—well, it was a lie—and he struck me. I threw him on one side—and he fell. When we picked him up he was dead.”
“It was terrible!” she said, “but you should have braved it out. They could have done very little to you.”
“I know it,” he answered. “But I was young, and my career was just beginning. The thing stunned me. She insisted upon secrecy. It would reflect upon her, she thought, if the truth came out, so I acquiesced, I left the house unseen. All these days I have had to carry the burden of this thing with me. To-day—seemed to be the climax. For the first time I understood.”
“She can never marry you,” Berenice said. “It would be horrible.”
“She refused to marry me to-day,” he answered, “but she laid her life bare, and I cannot marry any one else.”
Berenice was trembling. She was no longer ashamed to show her agitation.
“I am very sorry for you, Lawrence,” she said. “I am very sorry for myself. Good-bye!”
She left him, and Mannering sank back upon the seat.
BORROWDEAN SHOWS HIS “HAND”
“To be plain with you,” Borrowdean remarked, “Mannering’s defection would be irremediable. He alone unites Redford, myself, and—well, to put it crudely, let us say the Imperialistic Liberal Party with Manningham and the old-fashioned Whigs who prefer the ruts. There is no other leader possible. Redford and I talked till daylight this morning. Now, can nothing be done with Mannering?”
“To be plain with you, too, then, Sir Leslie,” Berenice answered, “I do not think that anything can be done with him. In his present frame of mind I should say that he is better left alone. He has worked himself up into a thoroughly sentimental and nervous state. For the moment he has lost his sense of balance.”
“Desperate necessity,” he said, “sometimes justifies desperate measures. We need Mannering, the country and our cause need him. If argument will not prevail there is one last alternative left to us. It may not be such an alternative as we should choose, but beggars must not be choosers. I think that you will know what I mean.”
“I have no idea,” Berenice answered.
“You are aware,” he continued, “that there is in Mannering’s past history an episode, the publication of which would entail somewhat serious consequences to him.”