“Hester, is your mother happy?”
Hester started a little.
“If she is not,” she answered, gravely, “she must be a very ungrateful woman.”
He left it at that, and together they retraced their steps to the hotel. Hester slipped up to her room by a side entrance, but Mannering was obliged to pass the table where the new arrivals were lingering over their coffee. Clara and Lord Redford both called to him.
“Come and have a smoke with us, Mannering, and tell us all about this place,” the latter said. “The Duchess and your niece are charmed with it, and they want to stay for a few days. Are there any golf links?”
“Come and sit next me, uncle,” Clara cried, “and tell me how you like being guardian to an heiress. How I have blessed that dear departed aunt of mine every day of my life.”
Mannering accepted a cigarette, and sat down.
“The golf links are excellent,” he said. “As for your aunt, Clara, she was a very sensible woman. Her money was so well invested that I have practically nothing to do. I expect my duties will commence when the young men come!”
“Miss Mannering,” Sir Leslie said, gravely, “is not at all attracted by young men. She prefers something more staid. I have serious hopes that before our little tour is over I shall have persuaded her to marry me!”
“You dear man!” Clara exclaimed. “I only wish you’d give me the chance.”
“There’s a brazen child to have to chaperon,” the Duchess said. “Positively asking for a proposal.”
“And not in vain,” Sir Leslie declared. “Walk down to the sea with me, Miss Clara, and I’ll propose to you in my most approved fashion. I think you said that the investments were sound, Mannering?”
“The investments are all right,” Mannering answered, “but I shall have nothing to do with fortune-hunters.”
“And I a Cabinet Minister!” Sir Leslie declared. “Miss Clara, let us have that walk.”
“To-morrow night,” she promised. “When I get up it will be to go to bed. Even your love-making, Sir Leslie, could not keep me awake to-night.”
The Duchess rose. The dust was gone, but she was pale, and looked tired.
“Let us leave these men to make plans for us,” she said. “I hope we shall see something of you to-morrow, Mr. Mannering. Good-night, everybody.”
Mannering rose and bowed with the others. For a moment their eyes met. Not a muscle of her face changed, and yet Mannering was conscious of a sudden wave of emotion. He understood that she had not forgotten!
THE SNUB FOR BORROWDEAN
Berenice sat at one of the small round tables in the courtyard, finishing her morning coffee. Sir Leslie sat upon the steps by her side. It was one of those brilliant mornings in early September, when the sunlight seems to find its way everywhere. Even here, surrounded by the pile of worn grey stone buildings, which threw shadows everywhere, it had penetrated. A long shaft of soft, warm light stretched across the cobbles to their feet. Berenice, slim and elegant, fresh as the morning itself, glanced up at her companion with a smile.