Part 2 out of 5
"Very soon, I am afraid, little girl," he answered. "I will come and see you,
though, before I go."
"You promise," she said solemnly.
"I promise," Aynesworth repeated.
Then she held up her face, a little timidly, and he kissed her. Afterwards, he
watched her turn with slow, reluctant footsteps to the unpromising abode which
she had pointed out. Aynesworth made his way to the inn, cursing his
impecuniosity and Wingrave's brutal indifference.
He found the latter busy writing letters.
"Doing your work, Aynesworth?" he remarked coldly. "Be so good as to write to
Christie's for me, and ask them to send down a valuer to go through the
"You are really going to sell!" Aynesworth exclaimed.
"Most certainly," Wingrave answered. "Heirlooms and family pictures are only
so much rubbish to me. I am the last of my line, and I doubt whether even my
lawyer could discover a next of kin for my personal property. Sell! Of course
I'm going to sell! What use is all this hoarded rubbish to me? I am going to
turn it into gold!"
"And what use is gold?" Aynesworth asked curiously. "You have plenty!"
"Not enough for my purpose," Wingrave declared. "We are going to America to
"It's vandalism!" Aynesworth said, "rank vandalism! The place as it is is a
picture! The furniture and the house have grown old together. Why, you might
Wingrave scowled at the younger man across the room.
"You are a fool, Aynesworth," he said shortly. "Take down these letters."
After dinner, Wingrave went out alone. Aynesworth followed him about an hour
later, when his work was done, and made his way towards the Vicarage. It was
barely nine o'clock, but the little house seemed already to be in darkness. He
rang twice before anybody answered him. Then he heard slow, shuffling
footsteps within, and a tall, gaunt man, in clerical attire, and carrying a
small lamp, opened the door.
Aynesworth made the usual apologies and was ushered into a bare,
gloomy-looking apartment which, from the fact of its containing a writing
table and a few books, he imagined must be the study. His host never asked him
to sit down. He was a long, unkempt-looking man with a cold, forbidding face,
and his manner was the reverse of cordial.
"I have called to see you," Aynesworth explained, "with reference to one of
your parishioners--the daughter of your late organist."
"Indeed!" the clergyman remarked solemnly.
"I saw her today for the first time and have only just heard her story,"
Aynesworth continued. "It seems to be a very sad one."
His listener inclined his head.
"I am, unfortunately, a poor man," Aynesworth continued, "but I have some
friends who are well off, and I could lay my hands upon a little ready money.
I should like to discuss the matter with you and see if we cannot arrange
something to give her a start in life."
The clergyman cleared his throat.
"It is quite unnecessary," he answered. "A connection of her father's has come
forward at the last moment, who is able to do all that is required for her.
Her future is provided for."
Aynesworth was a little taken aback.
"I am very glad to hear it," he declared. "I understood that she had neither
friends nor relations."
"You were misinformed," the other answered. "She has both."
"May I ask who it is who has turned up so unexpectedly?" Aynesworth inquired.
"I have taken a great fancy to the child."
The clergyman edged a little towards the door, and the coldness of his manner
"I do not wish to seem discourteous, he said, "but I cannot recognize that you
have any right to ask me these questions. You may accept my word that the
child is to be fittingly provided for."
Aynesworth felt the color rising in his cheeks.
"I trust," he said, "that you do not find my interest in her unwarrantable. My
visit to you is simply a matter of charity. If my aid is unneeded, so much the
better. All the same, I should like to know where she is going and who her
"I do not find myself at liberty to afford you any information," was the curt
Thereupon there was nothing left for Aynesworth to do but to put on his hat
and walk out, which he did.
Wingrave met him in the hall on his return.
"Where have you been?" he asked a little sharply.
"On a private errand," Aynesworth answered, irritated by his words and look.
"You are my secretary," Wingrave said coldly. "I do not pay you to go about
executing private errands."
Aynesworth looked at him in surprise. Did he really wish to quarrel?
"I imagine, sir," he said, "that my time is my own when I have no work of
yours on hand. If you think otherwise--"
He paused and looked at his employer significantly. Wingrave turned on his
"Be so kind," he said, "as to settle the bill here tonight. We leave by the
seven o'clock train in the morning."
"Tomorrow!" Aynesworth exclaimed.
"Do you mind," he asked, "if I follow by a later train?"
"I do," Wingrave answered. "I need you in London directly we arrive."
"I am afraid," Aynesworth said, after a moment's reflection, "that it is
impossible for me to leave."
"You will think it a small thing," he said, "but I have given my promise. I
must see that child again before I go!"
"You are referring," he asked, "to the black-frocked little creature we saw
about the place yesterday?"
Wingrave regarded his secretary as one might look at a person who has suddenly
taken leave of his senses.
"I am sorry," he said, "to interfere with your engagements, but it is
necessary that we should both leave by the seven o'clock train tomorrow
Aynesworth reflected for a moment.
"If I can see the child first," he said, "I will come. If not, I will follow
you at midday."
"In the latter case," Wingrave remarked, "pray do not trouble to follow me
unless your own affairs take you to London. Our connection will have ended."
"You mean this?" Aynesworth asked.
"It is my custom," Wingrave answered, "to mean what I say."
Aynesworth set his alarm that night for half-past five. It seemed to him that
his future would largely depend upon how soundly the child slept.
THE HEART OF A CHILD
The cottage, as Aynesworth neared it, showed no sign of life. The curtainless
windows were blank and empty, no smoke ascended from the chimney. Its
plastered front was innocent of any form of creeper, but in the few feet of
garden in front a great, overgrown wild rose bush, starred with deep red
blossoms, perfumed the air. As he drew near, the door suddenly opened, and
with a little cry of welcome the child rushed out to him.
"How lovely of you!" she cried. "I saw you coming from my window!"
"You are up early," he said, smiling down at her.
"The sun woke me," she answered. "It always does. I was going down to the
sands. Shall we go together? Or would you like to go into the gardens at
Tredowen? The flowers are beautiful there while the dew is on them!"
"I am afraid," Aynesworth answered, "that I cannot do either. I have come to
The light died out of her face all of a sudden. The delicate beauty of her
gleaming eyes and quivering mouth had vanished. She was once more the pale,
wan little child he had seen coming slowly up the garden path at Tredowen.
"You are going--so soon!" she murmured.
He took her hand and led her away over the short green turf of the common.
"We only came for a few hours," he told her. "But I have good news for you,
Juliet, unless you know already. Mr. Saunders has found out some of your
friends. They are going to look after you properly, and you will not be alone
"What time are you going?" she asked.
"Silly child," he answered, giving her hand a shake. "Listen to what I am
telling you. You are going to have friends to look after you always. Aren't
"No, I am not glad," she answered passionately. "I don't want to go away. I
Her arms suddenly sought his neck, and her face was buried on his shoulder. He
soothed her as well as he could.
"I must go, little girl," he said, "for I am off to America almost at once. As
soon as I can after I come back, I will come and see you."
"You have only been here one day," she sobbed.
"I would stay if I could, dear," Aynesworth answered. "Come, dry those eyes
and be a brave girl. Think how nice it will be to go and live with people who
will take care of you properly, and be fond of you. Why, you may have a pony,
and all sorts of nice things."
"I don't want a pony," she answered, hanging on his arm. "I don't want to go
away. I want to stay here--and wait till you come back."
"Why, when I come back, little woman," he answered, "you will be almost grown
up. Come, dry your eyes now, and I tell you what we will do. You shall come
back with me to breakfast, and then drive up to the station and see us off."
"I should like to come," she whispered, "but I am afraid of the other
"Very likely we sha'n't see him," Aynesworth answered. "If we do, he won't
"I don't like his face!" she persisted.
"Well, we won't look at it," Aynesworth answered. "But breakfast we must
They were half way through the meal, and Juliet had quite recovered her
spirits when Wingrave entered. He looked at the two with impassive face, and
took his place at the table. He wished the child "Good morning" carelessly,
but made no remark as to her presence there.
"I have just been telling Juliet some good news," Aynesworth remarked. "I went
to see Mr. Saunders, the Vicar here, last night, and he has found out some of
her father's friends. They are going to look after her."
Wingrave showed no interest in the information. But a moment later he
addressed Juliet for the first time.
"Are you glad that you are going away from Tredowen?" he asked.
"I am very, very sorry," she answered, the tears gathering once more in her
"But you want to go to school, don't you, and see other girls?" he asked.
She shook her head decidedly.
"It will break my heart," she said quietly, "to leave Tredowen. I think that
if I have to go away from the pictures and the garden, and the sea, I shall
never be happy any more."
"You are a child," he remarked contemptuously; "you do not understand. If you
go away, you can learn to paint pictures yourself like those at Tredowen. You
will find that the world is full of other beautiful places!"
The sympathetic aspect of his words was altogether destroyed by the thin note
of careless irony, which even the child understood. She felt that he was
"I could never be happy," she said simply, "away from Tredowen. You
understand, don't you?" she added, turning confidentially to Aynesworth.
"You think so now, dear," he said, "but remember that you are very young.
There are many things for you to learn before you grow up."
"I am not a dunce," she replied. "I can talk French and German, and do
arithmetic, and play the organ. Father used to teach me these things. I can
learn at Tredowen very well. I hope that my friends will let me stay here."
Wingrave took no more notice of her. She and Aynesworth walked together to the
station. As they passed the little whitewashed cottage, she suddenly let go
his hand, and darted inside.
"Wait one moment," she cried breathlessly.
She reappeared almost at once, holding something tightly clenched in her right
hand. She showed it to him shyly.
"It is for you, please," she said.
It was a silver locket, and inside was a little picture of herself. Aynesworth
stooped down and kissed her. He had had as many presents in his life as most
men, but never an offering which came to him quite like that! They stood still
for a moment, and he held out her hands. Already the morning was astir. The
seagulls were wheeling, white-winged and noiseless, above their heads; the air
was fragrant with the scent of cottage flowers. Like a low, sweet undernote,
the sea came rolling in upon the firm sands--out to the west it stretched like
a sheet of softly swaying inland water. For those few moments there seemed no
note of discord--and then the harsh whistle of an approaching train! They took
hold of hands and ran.
It was, perhaps, as well that their farewells were cut short. There was
scarcely time for more than a few hurried words before the train moved out
from the queer little station, and with his head out of the window, Aynesworth
waved his hand to the black-frocked child with her pale, eager face already
stained with tears--a lone, strange little figure, full of a sort of plaintive
grace as she stood there, against a background of milk cans, waving a crumpled
Wingrave, who had been buried in a morning paper, looked up presently.
"If our journeyings," he remarked drily, "are to contain everywhere incidents
such as these, they will become a sort of sentimental pilgrimage."
Aynesworth shrugged his shoulders.
"I am sorry," he said, "that my interest in the child has annoyed you. At any
rate, it is over now. The parson was mysterious, but he assured me that she
was provided for."
Wingrave looked across the carriage with cold, reflective curiosity.
"Your point of view," he remarked, "is a mystery to me! I cannot see how the
future of an unfledged brat like that can possibly concern you!"
"Perhaps not," Aynesworth answered, "but you must remember that you are a
little out of touch with your fellows just now. I daresay when you were my
age, you would have felt as I feel. I daresay that as the years go on, you
will feel like it again."
Wingrave was thoughtful for a moment.
"So you think," he remarked, "that I may yet have in me the making of a
Aynesworth returned his gaze as steadfastly.
"One can never tell," he answered. "You may change, of course. I hope that you
"You are candid, at any rate!"
"I do not think," Aynesworth answered, "that there is any happiness in life
for the man who lives entirely apart from his fellow creatures. Not to feel is
not to live. I think that the first real act of kindness which you feel
prompted to perform will mark the opening of a different life for you."
Wingrave spread out the newspaper.
"I think," he said, with a faint sneer, "that it is quite time you took this
THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
Mr. Lumley Barrington, K.C. and M.P., was in the act of stepping into his
carriage to drive down to the House, when he was intercepted by a message. It
was his wife's maid, who came hurrying out after him.
"I beg your pardon, sir," she said, "but her ladyship particularly wished to
see you as soon as you came in."
"Is your mistress in?" Barrington asked in some surprise.
"Yes, sir!" the maid answered. "Her ladyship is resting, before she goes to
the ball at Caleram House. She is in her room now."
"I will come up at once," Barrington said.
He kept the carriage waiting while he ascended to his wife's room. There was
no answer to his knock. He opened the door softly. She was asleep on a couch
drawn up before the fire.
He crossed the room noiselessly, and stood looking down upon her. Her lithe,
soft figure had fallen into a posture of graceful, almost voluptuous ease; the
ribbons and laces of her muslin dressing gown quivered gently with her deep
regular breathing. She had thrown off her slippers, and one long, slender foot
was exposed; the other was doubled up underneath her body. Her face was almost
like the face of a child, smooth and unwrinkled, save for one line by the eyes
where she laughed. He looked at her steadfastly. Could the closing of the
eyes, indeed, make all the difference? Life and the knowledge of life seemed
things far from her consciousness. Could one look like that--even in
sleep--and underneath--! Barrington broke away from his train of thought, and
woke her quickly.
She sat up and yawned.
"Parsons managed to catch you, then," she remarked.
"Yes!" he answered. "I was just off. I got away from Wills' dinner party
early, and called here for some notes. I must be at the House"--he glanced at
the clock--"in three-quarters of an hour!"
She nodded. "I won't keep you as long as that."
Her eyes met his, a little furtively, full of inquiry. "I have done what you
wished," he said quietly. "I called at the Clarence Hotel!"
"You saw him!"
"No! He sent back my card. He declined to see me."
She showed no sign of disappointment. She sat up and looked into the fire,
smoothing her hair mechanically with her hands.
"Personally," Barrington continued, "I could see no object whatever in my
visit. I have nothing to say to him, nor, I should think, he to me. I am sorry
for him, of course, but he'd never believe me if I told him so. What happened
to him was partly my fault, and unless he's changed, he's not likely to forget
She swayed a little towards him.
"It was partly--also--mine," she murmured.
"I don't see that at all," he objected. "You at any rate were blameless!"
She looked up at him, and he was astonished to find how pale she was.
"I was not!" she said calmly.
There was a short silence. Barrington had the air of a man who has received a
"Ruth!" he exclaimed, glancing towards the door, and speaking almost in a
whisper. "Do you mean--that there are things which I have never known?"
"Yes!" she answered. "I mean that he might, if he chose, do us now--both of
us--an immense amount of harm."
Barrington sat down at the end of the sofa. He knew his wife well enough to
understand that this was serious.
"Let us understand one another, Ruth," he said quietly. "I always thought that
you were a little severe on Wingrave at the trial! He may bear you a grudge
for that; it is very possible that he does. But what can he do now? He had his
chance to cross examine you, and he let it go by."
"He has some letters of mine," Lady Ruth said slowly.
"Letters! Written before the trial?"
"Why did he not make use of them there?"
"If he had," Lady Ruth said, with her eyes fixed upon the carpet, "the
sympathy would have been the other way. He would have got off with a much
lighter sentence, and you--would not have married me!"
"Good God!" Barrington muttered.
"You see," Lady Ruth continued, resting her hand upon her husband's coat
sleeve, "the thing happened all in a second. I had the check in my hand when
you and Sir William came crashing through that window, and Sir William's eyes
were upon me. The only way to save myself was to repudiate it, and let
Wingrave get out of the affair as well as he could. Of course, I never guessed
what was going to happen."
"Then it was Wingrave," Barrington muttered, "who played the game?"
"Yes!" Lady Ruth answered quietly. "But I am not so sure about him now. You
and I, Lumley, know one another a little better today than we did twelve years
ago. We have had a few of the corners knocked off, I suppose. I can tell you
things now I didn't care to then. Wingrave had lent me money before! He has
letters from me today, thanking him for it."
Barrington was a large, florid man, well built and well set up. In court he
presented rather a formidable appearance with his truculent chin, his
straight, firm mouth, and his commanding presence. Yet there was nothing about
him now which would have inspired fear in the most nervous of witnesses. He
looked like a man all broken up by some unexpected shock.
"If he had produced those letters--at the trial--"
Lady Ruth shrugged her shoulders.
"I risked it, anyhow," she said. "I had to. My story was the only one which
gave me a dog's chance, and I didn't mean to go under--then. Wingrave never
gave me away, but I fancy he's feeling differently about it now!"
"How do you know, Ruth?"
"I have seen him! He sent for me!" she answered. "Lumley, don't look at me
like that! We're not in the nursery, you and I. I went because I had to. He's
going to America for a time, and then he's coming back here. I think that when
he comes back--he means mischief!"
"He is not the sort of man to forget," Barrington said, half to himself.
She shuddered every so slightly. Then she stretched out a long white arm, and
drawing his head suddenly down to her, kissed him on the lips.
"If only," she murmured, "he would give up the letters! Without them, he might
say--anything. No one would believe!"
Barrington raised his eyes to hers. There was something almost pathetic in the
worshiping light which shone there. He was, as he had always been, her abject
"Can you think of any way?" he asked. "Shall I go to him again?"
"Useless!" she answered. "You have nothing to offer in exchange. He would not
give them to me. He surely would not give them to you. Shall I tell you what
is in his mind? Listen, then! He is rich now; he means to make more money
there. Then he will return, calling himself Mr. Wingrave--an American--with
imaginary letters of introduction to us. He has ambitions--I don't know what
they are, but they seem to entail his holding some sort of a place in society.
We are to be his sponsors."
"Is it practicable?" he asked.
"Quite," she answered. "He is absolutely unrecognizable now. He has changed
cruelly. Can't you imagine the horror of it? He will be always in evidence;
always with those letters in the background. He means to make life a sort of
torture chamber for us!"
"Better defy him at once, and get over," Barrington said. "After all, don't
you think that the harm he could do is a little imaginary?"
She brushed the suggestion aside with a little shiver.
"Shall I tell you what he would do, Lumley?" she said, leaning towards him.
"He would have my letters, and a copy of my evidence, printed in an elegant
little volume and distributed amongst my friends. It would come one day like a
bomb, and nothing that you or I could do would alter it in the least. Your
career and my social position would be ruined. Success brings enemies, you
know, Lumley, and I have rather more than my share."
"Then we are helpless," he said.
"Unless we can get the letters--or unless he should never return from
America," she answered.
Barrington moved uneasily in his seat. He knew very well that some scheme was
already forming in his wife's brain.
"If there is anything that I can do," he said in a low tone, "don't be afraid
to tell me."
"There is one chance," she answered, "a sort of forlorn hope, but you might
try it. He has a secretary, a young man named Aynesworth. If he were on our
"Don"t you think," Barrington interrupted, "that you would have more chance
with him than I?"
She laughed softly.
"You foolish man," she said, touching his fingers lightly. "I believe you
think that I am irresistible!"
"I have seen a good many lions tamed," he reminded her.
"Nonsense! Anyhow, there is one here who seems quite insensible. I have talked
already with Mr. Aynesworth. He would not listen to me!"
"Nevertheless," she continued softy, "of one thing I am very sure. Every man
is like every woman; he is vulnerable if you can discover the right spot and
the right weapons. Mr. Aynesworth is not a woman's man, but I fancy that he is
ambitious. I thought that you might go and see him. He has rooms somewhere in
He rose to his feet. A glance at the clock reminded him of the hour.
"I will go," he said. "I will do what I can. I think, dear," he added, bending
over her to say farewell, "that you should have been the man!"
She laughed softly.
"Am I such a failure as a woman, then?" she asked with a swift upward glance.
"Don't be foolish, Lumley. My woman will be here to dress me directly. You
must really go away."
He strode down the stairs with tingling pulses, and drove to the House, where
his speech, a little florid in its rhetoric, and verbose as became the man,
was nevertheless a great success.
"Quite a clever fellow, Barrington," one of his acquaintances remarked, "when
you get him away from his wife."
A FORLORN HOPE
Aynesworth ceased tugging at the strap of his portmanteau, and rose slowly to
his feet. A visitor had entered his rooms--apparently unannounced.
"I must apologize," the newcomer said, "for my intrusion. Your housekeeper, I
presume it was, whom I saw below, told me to come up."
Aynesworth pushed forward a chair.
"Won't you sit down?" he said. "I believe that I am addressing Mr. Lumley
Not altogether without embarrassment, Barrington seated himself. Something of
his ordinary confidence of bearing and demeanor had certainly deserted him.
His manner, too, was nervous. He had the air of being altogether ill at ease.
"I must apologize further, Mr. Aynesworth," he continued, "for an apparently
ill-timed visit. You are, I see, on the eve of a journey."
"I am leaving for America tomorrow," Aynesworth answered.
"With Sir Wingrave Seton, I presume?" Barrington remarked.
"Precisely," Aynesworth answered.
Barrington hesitated for a moment. Aynesworth was civil, but inquiring. He
felt himself very awkwardly placed.
"Mr. Aynesworth," he said, "I must throw myself upon your consideration. You
can possibly surmise the reason of my visit."
Aynesworth shook his head.
"I am afraid," he said, "that I must plead guilty to denseness--in this
particular instance, at any rate. I am altogether at a loss to account for
"You have had some conversation with my wife, I believe?"
"Before you proceed, Mr. Aynesworth," Barrington interrupted, "one word. You
are aware that Sir Wingrave Seton is in possession of certain documents in
which my wife is interested, which he refuses to give up?"
"I have understood that such is the case," Aynesworth admitted. "Will you
pardon me if I add that it is a matter which I can scarcely discuss?"
Barrington shrugged his shoulders.
"Let it go, for the moment," he said. "There is something else which I want to
say to you."
Aynesworth nodded a little curtly. He was not very favorably impressed with
Barrington leaned forward in his chair.
"Mr. Aynesworth," he said, "you have made for yourself some reputation as a
writer. Your name has been familiar to me for some time. I was at college, I
believe, with your uncle, Stanley Aynesworth."
He paused. Aynesworth said nothing.
"I want to know," Barrington continued impressively, "what has induced you to
accept a position with such a man as Seton?"
"That," Aynesworth declared, "is easily answered. I was not looking for a
secretaryship at all, or anything of the sort, but I chanced to hear his
history one night, and I was curious to analyze, so far as possible, his
attitude towards life and his fellows, on his reappearance in it. That is the
Barrington leaned back in his chair, and glanced thoughtfully at his
"You know the story of his misadventures, then?" he remarked.
"I know all about his imprisonment, and the cause of it," Aynesworth said
Barrington was silent for several moments. He felt that he was receiving but
"Is it worth while, Mr. Aynesworth?" he asked at length. "There is better work
for you in the world than this."
Again Aynesworth preferred to reply by a gesture only. Barrington was watching
"A political secretaryship, Mr. Aynesworth," he said, "might lead you
anywhere. If you are ambitious, it is the surest of all stepping stones into
the House. After that, your career is in your own hands. I offer you such a
"I am exceedingly obliged to you," Aynesworth replied, "but I scarcely
"I have influence," Barrington said, "which I have never cared to use on my
own account. I am willing to use it on yours. You have only to say the word,
and the matter is arranged.
"I can only repeat," Aynesworth said, "that I am exceedingly obliged to you,
Mr. Barrington, but I cannot understand why you should interest yourself so
much on my behalf."
"If you wish me to speak in plain words," Barrington said, "I will do so. I
ask you to aid me as a man of honor in the restoration of those letters to my
"I cannot do it," Aynesworth said firmly. "I am sorry that you should have
come to me with such an offer. It is quite out of the question!"
Barrington held out his hand.
"Do not decide too hastily," he said. "Remember this. Sir Wingrave Seton had
once an opportunity of putting those letters to any use he may have thought
fit. He ignored it. At that time, their tenor and contents might easily have
been explained. After all these years, that task would be far more difficult.
I say that no man has a right to keep a woman's letters back from her years
after any friendship there may have been between them is over. It is not the
action of an honorable man. Sir Wingrave Seton has placed himself outside the
pale of honorable men."
"Your judgment," Aynesworth answered quietly, "seems to me severe. Sir
Wingrave Seton has been the victim of peculiar circumstances."
Barrington looked at his companion thoughtfully. He was wondering exactly how
much he knew.
"You defend him," he remarked. "That is because you have not yet found out
what manner of man he is."
"In any case," Aynesworth answered, "I am not his judge. Mr. Barrington," he
added, "You must forgive me if I remind you that this is a somewhat
A short silence followed. With Barrington it did not appear to be a silence of
irresolution. He was leaning a little forward in his chair, and his head was
resting upon his hand. Of his companion he seemed for the moment to have
become oblivious. Aynesworth watched him curiously. Was he looking back
through the years, he wondered, to that one brief but lurid chapter of
history; or was it his own future of which he was thinking,--a future which,
to the world, must seem so full of brilliant possibilities, and yet which he
himself must feel to be so fatally and miserably insecure?
"Mr. Aynesworth," he said at last, "I suppose from a crude point of view I am
here to bribe you."
Aynesworth shrugged his shoulders.
"Is it worth while?" he asked a little wearily. "I have tried to be civil--but
I have also tried to make you understand. Your task is absolutely hopeless!"
"It should not be," Barrington persisted. "This is one of those rare cases, in
which anything is justifiable. Seton had his chance at the trial. He chose to
keep silence. I do not praise him or blame him for that. It was the only
course open to a man of honor. I maintain that his silence then binds him to
silence for ever. He has no right to ruin my life and the happiness of my wife
by subtle threats, to hold those foolish letters over our heads, like a
thunderbolt held ever in suspense. You are ambitious, I believe, Mr.
Aynesworth!" Get me those letters, and I will make you my secretary, find you
a seat in Parliament, and anything else in reason that you will!"
Aynesworth rose to his feet. He wished to intimate that, so far as he was
concerned, the interview was at an end.
"Your proposition, Mr. Barrington," he said, "is absolutely impossible. In the
first place, I have no idea where the letters in question are, and Sr.
Wingrave is never likely to suffer them to pass into my charge."
"You have opportunities of finding out," Barrington suggested.
"And secondly," Aynesworth continued, ignoring the interruption, "whatever the
right or the wrong of this matter may be, I am in receipt of a salary from Sr.
Wingrave Seton, and I cannot betray his confidence."
Barrington also rose to his feet. He was beginning to recognize the
hopelessness of his task.
"This is final, Mr. Aynesworth?" he asked.
"Absolutely!" was the firm reply.
Barrington bowed stiffly, and moved towards the door. On the threshold he
"I trust, Mr. Aynesworth," he said hesitatingly, "that you will not regard
this as an ordinary attempt at bribery and corruption. I have simply asked you
to aid me in setting right a great injustice."
"It is a subtle distinction, Mr. Barrington," Aynesworth answered, "but I will
endeavor to keep in mind your point of view."
Barrington drove straight home, and made his way directly to his study. Now
that he was free from his wife's influence, and looked back upon his recent
interview, he realized for the first time the folly and indignity of the whole
proceedings. He was angry that, a man of common sense, keen witted and
farseeing in the ordinary affairs of life, should have placed himself so
completely in a false, not to say a humiliating position. And then, just as
suddenly, he forgot all about himself, and remembered only her. With a breath
of violets, and the delicate rustling of half-lifted skirts, she had come
softly into the room, and stood looking at him inquiringly. Her manner seemed
to indicate more a good-natured curiosity than real anxiety. She made a little
grimace as he shook his head.
"I have failed," he said shortly. "That young man is a prig!"
"I was afraid," she said, "that he would be obstinate. Men with eyes of that
color always are!"
"What are we to do, Ruth?"
"What can we?" she answered calmly. "Nothing but wait. He is going to America.
It is a terrible country for accidents. Something may happen to him there! Do
go and change your things, there's a dear, and look in at the Westinghams' for
me for an hour. We'll just get some supper and come away."
"I will be ready in ten minutes," Barrington answered. He understood that he
was to ask no questions, nor did he. But all the time his man was hurrying him
into his clothes, his brain was busy weaving fancies.
PROFESSOR SINCLAIR'S DANCING ACADEMY
Mr. Sinclair, or as he preferred to be called, Professor Sinclair, waved a
white kid glove in the direction of the dancing hall.
"This way, ladies and gentlemen!" he announced. "A beautiful valse just about
to commence. Tickets, if you please! Ah! Glad to see you, Miss Cullingham!
You'll find--a friend of yours inside!"
There was a good deal of giggling as the girls came out from the little
dressing room and joined their waiting escorts, who stood in a line against
the wall, mostly struggling with refractory gloves. Mr. Sinclair, proprietor
of the West Islington Dancing Academy, and host of these little
gatherings--for a consideration of eighteenpence--did his best, by a running
fire of conversation, to set everyone at their ease. He wore a somewhat rusty
frock coat, black trousers, a white dress waistcoat, and a red tie. Evening
dress was not DE RIGUEUR! The money at the door, and that everyone should
behave as ladies and gentlemen, were the only things insisted upon.
Mr. Sinclair's best smile and most correct bow was suddenly in evidence.
"Mademoiselle Violet!" he exclaimed to a lady who came in alone, "we are
enchanted. We feared that you had deserted us. There is a young gentleman
inside who is going to be made very happy. One shilling change, thank you.
Won't you step into the cloak room?"
The lady shook her head.
"If you don't mind, Mr. Sinclair," she said, "I would rather keep my hat and
veil on. I can only stay for a few minutes. Is Mr. Richardson here, do you
know? Ah! I can see him."
She stepped past the Professor into the little dancing hall. A young lady was
pounding upon a piano, a boy at her side was playing the violin. A few couples
were dancing, but most of the company was looking on. The evening was young,
and Mr. Sinclair, who later on officiated as M.C., had not yet made his attack
upon the general shyness. The lady known as Mademoiselle Violet paused and
looked around her. Suddenly she caught sight of a pale, anemic-looking youth,
who was standing apart from the others, lounging against the wall. She moved
rapidly towards him.
"How do you do, Mr. Richardson?" she said, holding out her hand.
He started, and a sudden rush of color streamed into his cheeks. He took her
hand awkwardly, and he was almost speechless with nervousness.
"I don't believe you're at all glad to see me!" she remarked.
"Oh! Miss Violet!" he exclaimed. He would have said more, but the words stuck
in his throat.
"Can we sit down somewhere?" she said. "I want to talk to you."
There were one or two chairs placed behind a red drugget curtain, where
adventurous spirits led their partners later in the evening. They found a
place there, and the young man recovered his power of speech.
"Not glad to see you!" he exclaimed almost vehemently. "Why, what else do you
suppose I come here for every Thursday evening? I never dance; they all make
game of me because they know I come here on the chance of seeing you again.
I'm a fool! I know that! You just amuse yourself here with me, and then you go
away, back to your friends--and forget! And I hang about round here, like the
silly ass that I am!"
The young man blushed at the sound of his Christian name. He was mollified
"I suppose it's got to be the same thing all over again," he declared
resignedly. "You'll talk to me and let me be near you--and make a fool of me
all round; and then you'll go away, and heaven knows when I'll see you again.
You won't let me take you home, and won't tell me where you live, or who your
friends are. You do treat me precious badly, Miss Violet."
"This time," she said quietly, "it will not be the same. I have something
quite serious to say to you."
"Something serious--you? Go on!" he exclaimed in excitement.
"Have you found another place yet?"
"No. I haven't really tried. I have a little money saved, and I could get one
She stopped him with a smiling gesture.
"I don't mean that--yet," she said. "I wanted to know whether it would be
possible for you to go away for a little time, if someone paid all your
"To go away!" he repeated blankly. "What for?"
Mademoiselle Violet leaned a little nearer to him.
"My mistress asked me yesterday," she said, "if I knew anyone who could be
trusted who would go away, at a moment's notice, on an errand for her."
"Your mistress," he repeated. "You really are a lady's maid, then, are you?"
"Of course!" she answered impatiently. "Haven't I told you so before? Now what
do you say? Will you go?"
"I dunno," he answered thoughtfully. "If it had been for you, I don't know
that I'd have minded. I ain't fond of traveling."
"It is for me," she interrupted hastily. "If I can find her anyone who will do
what she wants, she will make my fortune. She has promised. And then--"
"Well, and then?"
Mademoiselle Violet looked at him thoughtfully.
"I should not make any promises," she said demurely, "but things would
certainly be different."
The young man's blood was stirred. Mademoiselle Violet stood to him for the
whole wonderful world of romance, into which he had peered dimly from behind
the counter of an Islington emporium. Her low voice--so strange to his ears
after the shrill chatter of the young ladies of his acquaintance--the mystery
of her coming and going, all went to give color to the single dream of his
unimaginative life. Apart from her, he was a somewhat vulgar, entirely
commonplace young man, of saving habits, and with some aptitude for business,
in a small way. He had been well on his way to becoming a small but successful
shopkeeper, thereby realizing the only ideals which had yet presented
themselves to him, when Madame Violet had unconsciously intervened. Of what
might become of him now he had no clear conception of himself.
"I'll go!" he declared.
Mademoiselle Violet's eyes flashed behind her veil. Her fingers touched his
for a moment.
"It is a long way," she said.
"I don't care," he answered valiantly.
"America!" he gasped. "But--is this a joke, Miss Violet?"
She shook her head.
"Of course not!" America is not a great journey."
"But it will cost--"
She laughed softly.
"My mistress is very rich," she said. "The cost does not matter at all. You
will have all the money you can spend--and more."
He felt himself short of breath, and bereft of words.
"Gee whiz!" he murmured.
They sat there in silence for a few moments. A promenading couple put their
heads behind the screen, and withdrew with the sound of feminine giggling.
Outside, the piano was being thumped to the tune of a popular polka.
"But what have I go to do?" he asked.
"To watch a man who will go out by the same steamer as you," she answered.
"Write to London, tell me what he does, how he spends his time, whether he is
ill or well. You must stay at the same hotel in New York, and try and find out
what his business is there. Remember, we want to know, my mistress and I,
everything that he does."
"Who is he?" he asked. "A friend of your mistress?"
"No!" she answered shortly, "an enemy. A cruel enemy--the cruelest enemy a
woman could have!"
The subdued passion of her tone thrilled him. He felt himself bewildered--in
touch with strange things. She leaned a little closer towards him, and that
mysterious perfume, which was one of her many fascinations, dazed him with its
"If you could send home word," she whispered, "that he was ill, that anything
had happened to him, that he was not likely to return--our fortunes would be
made--yours and mine."
"Stop!" he muttered. "You--phew! It's hot here!"
He wiped the perspiration recklessly from his forehead with a red silk
"What made you come to me?" he asked. "I don't even know the name of your
"And you must not ask it," she declared quietly. "It is better for you not to
know. I came to you because you were a man, and I knew that I could trust
Her flattery sank into his soul. No one else had ever called him a man. He
felt himself capable of great things. To think that, but for the coming of
this wonderful Mademoiselle Violet, he might even now have been furnishing a
small shop on the outskirts of Islington, with collars and ties and gloves
designed to attract the youth of that populous neighborhood!
"When do I start?" he asked with a coolness which surprised himself.
She drew a heavy packet from the recesses of the muff she carried.
"All the particulars are here," she said. "The name of the steamer, the name
of the man, and money. You will be told where to get more in New York, if you
He took it from her mechanically. She rose to her feet.
"You will remember," she said, looking into his eyes.
"I ain't likely to forget anything you've said tonight," he answered honestly.
"But look here! Let me take you home--just this once! Give me something to
She shook her head.
"I will give you something to hope for," she whispered. "You must not come a
yard with me. When you come back it will, perhaps--be different."
He remained behind the partition, gripping the packet tightly. Mademoiselle
Violet took a hasty adieu of Mr. Sinclair, and descended to the street. She
walked for a few yards, and then turned sharply to the left. A hansom, into
which she stepped at once, was waiting there. She wrapped herself hastily in a
long fur coat which lay upon the seat, and thrust her hand through the trap
"St. Martin's Schoolroom!" she told the cabman.
Apparently Mademoiselle Violet combined a taste for philanthropy with her
penchant for Islington dancing halls. She entered the little schoolroom and
made her way to the platform, dispensing many smiles and nods amongst the
audience of the concert, which was momentarily interrupted for her benefit.
She was escorted on to the platform by a young and earnest-looking clergyman,
and given a chair in the center of the little group who were gathered there.
And after the conclusion of the song, the clergyman expressed his
gratification to the audience that a lady with so many calls upon her time,
such high social duties, should yet find time to show her deep interest in
their welfare by this most kind visit. After which, he ventured to call upon
Lady Barrington to say a few words.
MEPHISTOPHELES ON A STEAMER
In some respects, the voyage across the Atlantic was a surprise to Aynesworth.
His companion seemed to have abandoned, for the time at any rate, his habit of
taciturnity. He conversed readily, if a little stiffly, with his fellow
passengers. He divided his time between the smoke room and the deck, and very
seldom sought the seclusion of his state room. Aynesworth remarked upon this
change one night as the two men paced the deck after dinner.
"You are beginning to find more pleasure," he said, "in talking to people."
Wingrave shook his head.
"By no means," he answered coldly. "It is extremely distasteful to me."
"Then why do you do it?" Aynesworth asked bluntly.
Wingrave never objected to being asked questions by his secretary. He seemed
to recognize the fact that Aynesworth's retention of his post was due to a
desire to make a deliberate study of himself, and while his own attitude
remained purely negative, he at no time exhibited any resentment or
"I do it for several reasons," he answered. "First, because misanthropy is a
luxury in which I cannot afford to indulge. Secondly, because I am really
curious to know whether the time will ever return when I shall feel the
slightest shadow of interest in any human being. I can only discover this by
affecting a toleration for these people's society, which I can assure you, if
you are curious about the matter, is wholly assumed."
Aynesworth shrugged his shoulders.
"Surely," he said, "you find Mrs. Travers entertaining?"
Wingrave reflected for a moment.
"You mean the lady with a stock of epigrams, and a green veil?" he remarked.
"No! I do not find her entertaining."
"Your neighbor at table then, Miss Packe?"
"If my affections have perished," Wingrave answered grimly, "my taste, I hope,
is unimpaired. The young person who travels to improve her mind, and fills up
the gaps by reading Baedeker on the places she hasn't been to, fails
altogether to interest me!"
"Aren't you a little severe?" Aynesworth remarked.
"I suppose," Wingrave answered, "that it depends upon the point of view, to
use a hackneyed phrase. You study people with a discerning eye for good
qualities. Nature--and circumstances have ordered it otherwise with me. I see
them through darkened glasses."
"It is not the way to happiness," Aynesworth said.
"There is no highroad to what you term happiness,"Wingrave answered. "One
holds the string and follows into the maze. But one does not choose one's way.
You are perhaps more fortunate than I that you can appreciate Mrs. Travers'
wit, and find my neighbor, who has done Europe, attractive. That is a matter
"I should like," Aynesworth remarked, "to have known you fifteen years ago."
Wingrave shrugged his shoulders.
"I fancy," he said, "that I was a fairly average person--I mean that I was
possessed of an average share of the humanities. I have only my memory to go
by. I am one of those fortunate persons, you see, who have realized an actual
reincarnation. I have the advantage of having looked out upon life from two
different sets of windows.--By the bye, Aynesworth, have you noticed that
unwholesome-looking youth in a serge suit there?"
"What about him?"
"I fancy that he must know--my history. He sits all day long smoking bad
cigarettes and watching me. He makes clumsy attempts to enter into
conversation with me. He is interested in us for some reason or other."
"Shocking young bounder,"he remarked. "I've noticed him myself."
"Talk to him some time, and find out what he means by it," Wingrave said. "I
don't want to find my biography in the American newspapers. It might interfere
with my operations there. Here's this woman coming to worry us! You take her
off, Aynesworth! I shall go into the smoking room."
But Mrs. Travers was not so easily to be disposed of. For some reason or
other, she had shown a disposition to attach herself to Wingrave.
"Please put me in my chair," she said to him, holding out her rug and cushion.
"No! Not you, Mr. Aynesworth. Mr. Wingrave understands so much better how to
wrap me up. Thanks! Won't you sit down yourself? It's much better for you out
here than in the smoking room--and we might go on with our argument."
"I thought," Wingrave remarked, accepting her invitation after a moment's
hesitation, "that we were to abandon it."
"That was before dinner," she answered, glancing sideways at him. "I feel
"You are prepared," he remarked, "for unconditional surrender?"
She looked at him again. She had rather nice eyes, quite dark and very soft,
and she was a great believer in their efficacy.
"Of my argument?"
He did not answer her for a moment. He had turned his head slightly towards
her, and though his face was, as usual, expressionless, and his eyes cold and
hard, she found nevertheless something of meaning in his steady regard. There
was a flush in her cheek when she looked away.
"I am afraid," she remarked, "that you are rather a terrible person."
"You flatter me," he murmured. "I am really quite harmless!"
"Not from conviction then, I am sure," she remarked.
"Perhaps not," he admitted. "Let us call it from lack of enterprise! The
virtues are all very admirable things, but it is the men and women with vices
who have ruled the world. The good die young because there is no useful work
for them to do. No really satisfactory person, from a moral point of view,
ever achieved greatness!"
She half closed her eyes.
"My head is going round," she murmured. "What an upheaval! Fancy
Mephistopheles on a steamer!"
"He was, at any rate, the most interesting of that little trio," Wingrave
remarked, "but even he was a trifle heavy."
"Do you go about the world preaching your new doctrines?" she asked.
"Not I!" he answered. "Nothing would every make a missionary of me, for good
or for evil, for the simple reason that no one else's welfare except my own
has the slightest concern for me."
"What hideous selfishness!" she said softly. "But I don't think--you quite
"I can assure you I do," he answered drily. "My world consists of myself for
the central figure, and the half a dozen or so of people who are useful or
amusing to me! Except that the rest are needed to keep moving the machinery of
the world, they might all perish, so far as I was concerned."
"I don't think," Mrs. Travers said softly, "that I should like to be in your
"I can very easily believe you," he answered.
"Unless," she remarked tentatively, "I came to convert!"
"There is something in that," he admitted. "It would be a great work, a little
difficult, you know."
"All the more interesting!"
"You see," he continued, "I am not only bad, but I admire badness. My wish is
to remain bad--in fact, I should like to be worse if I knew how. You would
find it hard to make a start. I couldn't even admit that a state of goodness
She looked at him curiously. The night air was perhaps getting colder, for she
shivered, and drew the rug a little closer around her.
"You speak like a prophet," she remarked.
"A prophet of evil then!"
She looked at him steadfastly. The lightness had gone out of her tone.
"Do you know," she said, "I am almost sorry that I ever knew you?"
He shook his head.
"You can't mean it," he declared.
"I have done you the greatest service one human being can render another! I
have saved you from being bored!"
"That may be true," she admitted. "But can you conceive no worse state in the
world than being bored?"
"There is no worse state," he answered drily. "I was bored once," he added,
"for ten years or so; I ought to know!"
"Were you married?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"Not quite so bad as that," he answered. "I was in prison!"
She turned a startled face towards him.
"It is perfectly true," he said coolly. "Are you horrified?"
"What did you do?" she asked in a low tone.
"I killed a man."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"He attacked me! I had to defend myself."
She said nothing for several moments.
"Shall I go?" he asked.
"No! Sit still," she answered. "I am frightened of you, but I don't want you
to go away. I want to think . . . . Yes! I can understand you better now! Your
life was spoilt!"
"By no means," he answered. "I am still young! I am going to make up for those
She shook her head.
"You cannot," she answered. "The years can carry no more than their ordinary
burden of sensations. If you try to fill them too full, you lose everything."
"I shall try what I can do!" he remarked calmly.
She rose abruptly.
"I am afraid of you tonight," she said. "I am going downstairs. Will you give
my rug and cushion to the deck steward? And--good night."
She gave him her hand, but she did not look at him, and she hurried away a
Wingrave yawned, and lighting a cigar, strolled up and down the deck. A figure
loomed out of the darkness and almost ran into him. It was the young man in
the serge suit. He muttered a clumsy apology and hurried on.
A COCKNEY CONSPIRATOR
"The bar closes in ten minutes, sir!" the smoking room steward announced.
The young man who had been the subject of Wingrave's remarks hastily ordered
another drink, although he had an only half-emptied tumbler in front of him.
Presently he stumbled out on to the deck. It was a dark night, and a strong
head wind was blowing. He groped his way to the railing and leaned over, with
his head half buried in his hands. Below, the black tossing sea was churned
into phosphorescent spray, as the steamer drove onwards into the night.
Was it he indeed--George Richardson? He doubted it. The world of tape measures
and calico counters seemed so far away; the interior of his quondam lodgings
in a by-street of Islington, so unfamiliar and impossible. He felt himself
swallowed up in this new and bewildering existence, of which he was so
insignificant an atom, the existence where tragedy reared her gloomy head, and
the shadows of great things loomed around him. Down there in the cold restless
waste of black waters--what was it that he saw? The sweat broke out upon his
forehead, the blood seemed turned to ice in his veins. He knew very well that
his fancy mocked him, that it was not indeed a man's white face gleaming on
the crest of the waves. But none the less he was terrified.
Mr. Richardson was certainly nervous. Not all the brandy he had drunk--and he
had never drunk half as much before in his life--afforded him the least
protection from these ghastly fancies. The step of a sailor on the deck made
him shiver; the thought of his empty state room was a horror. He tried to
think of the woman at whose bidding he had left behind him Islington and the
things that belonged to Islington! He tried to recall her soft suggestive
whispers, the glances which promised more even than her spoken words, all the
perfume and mystery of her wonderful presence. Her very name was an
allurement. Mademoiselle Violet! How softly it fell from the lips! . . . God
in heaven, what was that He started round, trembling in every limb. It was
nothing more than the closing of the smoking room door behind him. Sailors
with buckets and mops were already beginning their nightly tasks. He must go
to his stateroom! Somehow or other, he must get through the night . . .
He did it, but he was not a very prepossessing looking object when he
staggered out on deck twelve hours later, into the noon sunshine. The chair
towards which he looked so eagerly was occupied. He scarcely knew himself
whether that little gulp of acute feeling, which shot through his veins, was
of relief or disappointment. While he hesitated, Wingrave raised his head.
Wingrave did not, as a rule, speak to his fellow passengers. Of Richardson, he
had not hitherto taken the slightest notice. Yet this morning, of all others,
he addressed him.
"I believe," he said, holding it out towards him, "that this envelope is
yours. I found it under your chair."
Richardson muttered something inarticulate, and almost snatched it away. It
was the envelope of the fatal letter which Mademoiselle Violet had written him
"Sit down, Mr. Richardson, if you are not in a hurry," Wingrave continued
calmly. "I was hoping that I might see you this morning. Can you spare me a
Richardson subsided into his chair. His heart was thumping against his ribs.
Wingrave's voice sounded to him like a far-off thing.
"The handwriting upon that envelope which I have just restored to you, Mr.
Richardson, is well known to me," Wingrave continued, gazing steadfastly at
the young man whom he was addressing.
"The envelope! The handwriting!" Richardson faltered. "I--it was from--"
An instant's pause. Wingrave raised his eyebrows.
"Ah!" he said. "We need not mention the lady's name. That she should be a
correspondent of yours, however, helps me to understand better several matters
which have somewhat puzzled me lately. No! Don't go, my dear sir. We must
really have this affair straightened out."
"What affair?" Richardson demanded, with a very weak attempt at bluster. "I
don't understand you--don't understand you at all."
Wingrave leaned a little forward in his chair. His eyebrows were drawn close
together; his gaze was entirely merciless.
"You are not well this morning," he remarked. "A little headache perhaps!
Won't you try one of these phenacetine lozenges--excellent things for a
headache, I believe? Warranted, in fact, to cure all bodily ailments for ever!
What! You don't like the look of them?"
The young man cowered back in his chair. He was gripping the sides tightly
with both hands, and the pallor of a ghastly fear had spread over his face.
"I--don't know what you mean," he faltered. "I haven't a headache!"
Wingrave looked thoughtfully at the box between his fingers.
"If you took one of these, Mr. Richardson," he said, "you would never have
another, at any rate. Now, tell me, sir, how you came by them!"
"I know nothing about--" the young man began.
"Don't lie to me, sir," Wingrave said sharply. "I have been wondering what the
--- you meant by hanging around after me, giving the deck steward five
shillings to put your chair next mine, and pretending to read, while all the
time you were trying to overhear any scraps of conversation between my
secretary and myself. I thought you were simply guilty of impertinent
curiosity. This, however, rather alters the look of affairs."
"What does?" Richardson asked faintly. "That box ain't mine."
"Perhaps not," Wingrave answered, "but you found it in my state room and
filled it up with its present contents. My servant saw you coming out, and
immediately went in to see what you had stolen, and report you. He found
nothing missing, but he found this box full of lozenges, which he knows quite
well was half full before you went in. Now, what was your object, Mr.
Richardson, in tampering with that box upon my shelf?"
"I have--I have never seen it before," Richardson declared. "I have never been
in your state room!"
The deck steward was passing. Wingrave summoned him.
"I wish you would ask my servant to step this way," he said. "You will find
him in my state room.
The man disappeared through the companion way. Richardson rose to his feet.
"I'm not going to stay here to be bullied and cross examined," he declared.
"One moment," Wingrave said. "If you leave me now, I shall ask the captain to
place you under arrest."
Richardson looked half fearfully around.
"Attempted murder! Very clumsily attempted, but attempted murder none the
The young man collapsed. Wingrave's servant came down the deck.
"You sent for me, sir?" he inquired respectfully.
Wingrave pointed towards his companion.
"Was that the person whom you saw coming out of my state room?" he asked.
"Yes sir," the man replied at once.
"You could swear to him, if necessary?"
"That will do, Morrison."
The man withdrew. Wingrave turned to his victim. "A few weeks ago," he
remarked, "I had a visit from the lady whose handwriting is upon that
envelope. I had on the table before me a box of phenacetine lozenges. She
naturally concluded that I was in the habit of using them. That lady has
unfortunately cause to consider me, if not an enemy, something very much like
it. You are in correspondence with her. Only last night you placed in my box
of these lozenges some others, closely resembling them, but fortunately a
little different in shape. Mine were harmless--as a matter of fact, a single
one of yours would kill a man in ten minutes. Now, Mr. Richardson, what have
you to say about all this? Why should I not send for the captain, and have you
locked up till we arrive at New York?"
Richardson drew his handkerchief across his damp forehead.
"You can't prove nothing," he muttered.
"I am afraid that I must differ from you," Wingrave answered. "We will see
what the captain has to say."
He leaned forward in his chair, to attract the attention of a seaman.
"All right," he said thickly. "Suppose I own up! What then?"
"A few questions--nothing terrifying. I am not very frightened of you."
"How did you become acquainted with the writer of that letter?"
"She came to a dancing class at Islington," he said.
Wingrave's face was expressionless, but his tone betrayed his incredulity.
"A dancing class at Islington! Nonsense!"
"Mind," the young man asserted, "it was her mistress who put her up to this!
It was nothing to do with her. It was for her mistress's sake."
"Do you know the mistress?" Wingrave asked.
"No; I don't know her name even. Never heard it."
"Your letter, then, was from the maid?"
"Of course, it was," Richardson answered. "If you recognize the writing, you
must know that yourself."
Wingrave looked reflectively seaward. The matter was not entirely clear to
him. Yet he was sure that this young man was telling the truth, so far as he
could divine it.
"Well," he said, "you have made your attempt and failed. If fortune had
favored you, you might at this moment have been a murderer. I might have
warned you, by the bye, that I am an exceedingly hard man to kill."
Richardson looked uneasily around.
"I ain't admitting anything, you know," he said.
""Precisely! Well, what are you going to do now? Are you satisfied with your
first reverse, or are you going to renew the experiment?"
"I've had enough," was the dogged answer. "I've been made a fool of. I can see
that. I shall return home by the next steamer. I never ought to have got mixed
up in this."
"I am inclined to agree with you," Wingrave remarked calmly. "Do I understand
that if I choose to forget this little episode, you will return to England by
the next steamer?"
"I swear it," Richardson declared.
"And in the meantime, that you make no further attempt of a similar nature?"
"Not I!" he answered with emphasis. "I've had enough."
"Then," Wingrave said, "we need not prolong this conversation. Forgive my
suggesting, Mr. Richardson, that whilst I am on deck, the other side of the
ship should prove more convenient for you!"
The young man rose, and without a word staggered off. Wingrave watched him
through half-closed eyes, until he disappeared.
"It was worth trying," he said softly to himself. "A very clever woman that!
She looks forward through the years, and she sees the clouds gathering. It was
a little risky, and the means were very crude. But it was worth trying!"
THE MOTH AND THE CANDLE
"Tomorrow morning," Aynesworth remarked, "we shall land."
"I shall not be sorry," he said shortly.
Aynesworth fidgeted about. He had something to say, and he found it difficult.
Wingrave gave him no encouragement. He was leaning back in his steamer chair,
with his eyes fixed upon the sky line. Notwithstanding the incessant
companionship of the last six days, Aynesworth felt that he had not progressed
a single step towards establishing any more intimate relations between his
employer and himself.
"Mrs. Travers is not on deck this afternoon," he remarked a trifle awkwardly.
"Indeed!" Wingrave answered. "I hadn't noticed."
Aynesworth sat down. There was nothing to be gained by fencing.
"I wanted to talk about her, sir, if I might," he said.
Wingrave withdrew his eyes from the sea, and looked at his companion in cold
"To me?" he asked.
"Yes! I thought, the first few days, that Mrs. Travers was simply a vain
little woman of the world, perfectly capable of taking care of herself, and
heartless enough to flirt all day long, if she chose, without any risk, so far
as she was concerned. I believe I made a mistake!"
"This is most interesting," Wingrave said calmly, "but why talk to me about
the lady? I fancy that I know as much about her as you do."
"Very likely; but you may not have realized the same things. Mrs. Travers is a
married woman, with a husband in Boston, and two little children, of whom, I
believe, she is really very fond. She is a foolish, good-natured little woman,
who thinks herself clever because her husband has permitted her to travel a
good deal, and has evidently been rather fascinated by the latitudinarianism
of continental society. She is a little afraid of being terribly bored when
she gets back to Boston, and she is very sentimental."
"I had no idea," Wingrave remarked, "that you had been submitting the lady and
her affairs to the ordeal of your marvelous gift of analysis. I rather fancied
that you took no interest in her at all."
"I did not," Aynesworth answered, "until last night."
"And last night?" he repeated questioningly.
"I found her on deck--crying. She had been tearing up some photographs, and
she talked a little wildly. I talked to her then for a little time."
"Can't you be more explicit?" Wingrave asked.
Aynesworth looked him in the face.
"She gave me the impression," he said, "that she did not intend to return to
"And what have you to say to me about this?" he asked.
"I have no right to say anything, of course," Aynesworth answered. "You might
very properly tell me that it is no concern of mine. Mrs. Travers has already
compromised herself, to some extent, with the people on board who know her and
her family. She never leaves your side for a moment if she can help it, and
for the last two or three days she has almost followed you about. You may
possibly derive some amusement from her society for a short time,
"Explain yourself exactly," Wingrave said.
"Is it necessary?" Aynesworth declared brusquely. "Talk sensibly to her! Don't
encourage her if she should really be contemplating anything foolish!"
"Oh, hang it all!" Aynesworth declared. "I'm not a moralist, but she's a
decent little woman. Don't ruin her life for the sake of a little diversion!"
Wingrave, who had been holding a cigar case in his hand for the last few
minutes, opened it, and calmly selected a cigar.
"Aren't you a little melodramatic, Aynesworth?" he said.
"Sounds like it, no doubt," his companion answered, "but after all, hang it,
she's not a bad little sort, and you wouldn't care to meet her in Piccadilly
in a couple of years' time."
Wingrave turned a little in his chair. There was a slight hardening of the
mouth, a cold gleam in his eyes.
"That," he remarked, "is precisely where you are wrong. I am afraid you have
forgotten our previous conversations on this or a similar subject. Disconnect
me in your mind at once from all philanthropic notions! I desire to make no
one happy, to assist at no one's happiness. My own life has been ruined by a
woman. Her sex shall pay me where it can. If I can obtain from the lady in
question a single second's amusement, her future is a matter of entire
indifference to me. She can play the repentant wife, or resort to the primeval
profession of her sex. I should not even have the curiosity to inquire which."
"In that case," Aynesworth said slowly, "I presume that I need say no more."
"Unless it amuses you," Wingrave answered, "it really is not worth while."
"Perhaps," Aynesworth remarked, "it is as well that I should tell you this. I
shall put the situation before Mrs. Travers exactly as I see it. I shall do my
best to dissuade her from any further or more intimate intercourse with you."
"At the risk, of course," Wingrave said, "of my offering you--this?"
He drew a paper from his pocket book, and held it out. It was the return half
of a steamer ticket.
"Even at that risk," Aynesworth answered without hesitation.
Wingrave carefully folded the document, and returned it to his pocket.
"I am glad," he said, "to find that you are so consistent. There is Mrs.
Travers scolding the deck steward. Go and talk to her! You will scarcely find
a better opportunity."
Aynesworth rose at once. Wingrave in a few moments also left his seat, but
proceeded in the opposite direction. He made his way into the purser's room,
and carefully closed the door behind him.
Mrs. Travers greeted Aynesworth without enthusiasm. Her eyes were resting upon
the empty place which Wingrave had just vacated.
"Can I get your chair for you, Mrs. Travers," Aynesworth asked, "or shall we
walk for a few minutes?"
Mrs. Travers hesitated. She looked around, but there was obviously no escape
"I should like to sit down," she said. "I am very tired this morning. My chair
is next Mr. Wingrave's there."
Aynesworth found her rug and wrapped it around her. She leaned back and closed
"I shall try to sleep," she said. "I had such a shocking night."
He understood at once that she was on her guard, and he changed his tactics.
"First," he said, "may I ask you a question?"
She opened her eyes wide, and looked at him. She was afraid.
"Not now," she said hurriedly. "This afternoon."
"This afternoon I may not have the opportunity," he answered. "Is your husband
going to meet you at New York, Mrs. Travers?"
"Are you going direct to Boston?"
She looked at him steadily. There was a slight flush of color in her cheeks.
"I find your questions impertinent, Mr. Aynesworth," she answered.
There was a short silence. Aynesworth hated his task and hated himself. But
most of all, he pitied the woman who sat by his side.
"No!" he said, "they are not impertinent. I am the looker-on, you know, and I
have seen--a good deal. If Wingrave were an ordinary sort of man, I should
never have dared to interfere. If you had been an ordinary sort of woman, I
might not have cared to."
She half rose in her chair.
"I shall not stay here," she began, struggling with her rug.
"Do!" he begged. "I am--I want to be your friend, really!"
"You are supposed to be his," she reminded him.
He shook his head.
"I am his secretary. There is no question of friendship between us. For the
rest, I told him that I should speak to you."
"You have no right to discuss me at all," she declared vehemently.
"None whatever," he admitted. "I have to rely entirely upon your mercy. This
is the truth. People are thrown together a good deal on a voyage like this.
You and Mr. Wingrave have seen a good deal of one another. You are a very
impressionable woman; he is a singularly cold, unimpressionable man. You have
found his personality attractive. You fancy--other things. Wingrave is not the
man you think he is. He is selfish and entirely without affectionate impulses.
The world has treated him badly, and he has no hesitation in saying that he
means to get some part of his own back again. He does not care for you, he
does not care for anyone. If you should be contemplating anything ridiculous
from a mistaken judgment of his character, it is better that you should know
The anger had gone. She was pale again, and her lips were trembling.
"Men seldom know one another," she said softly. "You judge from the surface
"Mine is the critical judgment of one who has studied him intimately,"
Aynesworth said. "Yours is the sentimental hope of one fascinated by what she
does not understand. Wingrave is utterly heartless!"
"That," she answered steadfastly, "I do not believe."
"You do not because you will not," he declared. "I have spoken because I wish
to save you from doing what you would repent of for the rest of your days. You
have the one vanity which is common to all women. You believe that you can
change what, believe me, is unchangeable. To Wingrave, women are less than
playthings. He owes the unhappiness of his life to one, and he would see the
whole of her sex suffer without emotion. He is impregnable to sentiment. Ask
him and I believe that he would admit it!"
She smiled and regarded him with the mild pity of superior knowledge.
"You do not understand Mr. Wingrave," she remarked.
Aynesworth sighed. He realized that every word he had spoken had been wasted
upon this pale, pretty woman, who sat with her eyes now turned seawards, and
the smile still lingering upon her lips. Studying her for a moment, he
realized the danger more acutely than ever before. The fretfulness seemed to
have gone from her face, the weary lines from her mouth. She had the look of a
woman who has come into the knowledge of better things. And it was Wingrave
who had done this! Aynesworth for the first time frankly hated the man. Once,
as a boy, he had seen a keeper take a rabbit from a trap and dash its brains
out against a tree. The incident flashed then into his mind, only the face of
the keeper was the face of Wingrave!
"DEVIL TAKE THE HINDMOST"
Wingrave and Aynesworth were alone in a private room of the Waldorf Astoria
Hotel. The table at which the former was seated was covered with letters and
papers. A New York directory and an atlas were at his elbow.
"I propose," Wingrave said, leaning back in his chair, "to give you some idea
of the nature of my business in this country. You will be able then, I trust,
to carry out my instructions more intelligibly."
"I thought," he said, "that you came here simply to remain in seclusion for a
"That is one of my reasons," Wingrave admitted, "but I had a special purpose
in coming to America. During my--enforced seclusion--I made the acquaintance
of a man called Hardwell. He was an Englishman, but he had lived in America
for some years, and had got into trouble over some company business. We had
some conversation, and it is upon his information that I am now going to act."
"He is trustworthy?" Aynesworth asked.
"I take the risk," Wingrave answered coolly. "There is a small copper mine in
Utah called the Royal Hardwell Copper Mine. The shares are hundred dollar
ones, and there are ten thousand of them. They are scarcely quoted now, as the
mine has become utterly discredited. Hardwell managed this himself with a
false report. He meant to have the company go into liquidation, and then buy
it for a very small amount. As a matter of fact, the mine is good, and could
be worked at a large profit."
"You have Hardwell's's word for that," Aynesworth remarked.
"Exactly!" Wingrave remarked. "I am proceeding on the assumption that he told
me the truth. I wish to buy, if possible, the whole of the shares, and as many
more as I can get brokers to sell. The price of the shares today is two
"I presume you will send out an expert to the mine first?" Aynesworth said.
"I shall do nothing of the sort," Wingrave answered. "The fact that I was
buying upon information would send the shares up at once. I mean to buy first,
and then go out to the mine. If I have made a mistake, I shall not be ruined.
If Hardwell's story is true, there will be millions in it."
Aynesworth said nothing, but his face expressed a good deal.
"Here are the names of seven respectable brokers," Wingrave continued, passing
a sheet of paper towards him. "I want you to buy five hundred shares from each
of them. The price may vary a few points. Whatever it is, pay it. Here are
seven signed checks. I shall buy myself as many as I can without spoiling the
market. You had better start out in about a quarter of an hour and see to
this. You have my private ledger?"
"Open an account to Hardwell in it; a quarter of all the shares I buy are to
be in his name, and a quarter of all the profits I make in dealing in the
shares is to be credited to him."
"A fairly generous arrangement for Mr. Hardwell," Aynesworth remarked.
"There is nothing generous about it," Wingrave answered coldly. "It is the
arrangement I made with him, and to which I propose to adhere. You understand
what I want you to do?"
"Perfectly," Aynesworth answered; "I still think, however, that much the wiser
course would be to send an expert to the mine first."
"Indeed!" Wingrave remarked politely. "That is all, I think. I shall expect to
see you at luncheon time. If you are asked questions as to why you are dealing
in these shares to such an extent, you can say that the friend for whom you
are acting desires to boom copper, and is going on the low price of the metal
at the moment. They will think you a fool, and perhaps may not trouble to
conceal their opinion after they have finished the business. You must endeavor
to support the character. I have no doubt but that you will be successful."
Aynesworth moved towards the door.
Once more Wingrave called him back. He was leaning a little forward across the
table. His face was very set and cold.
"There is a question which I wish to ask you, Aynesworth," he said. "It
concerns another matter altogether. Do you know who sent the Marconigram to
Dr. Travers, which brought him to New York to meet his wife?"
"I do not," Aynesworth answered.
"It was sent by someone on board the ship," Wingrave continued "You have no
suspicion as to whom it could have been?"
"None!" Aynesworth answered firmly. "At the same time, I do not mind telling
you this. If I had thought of it, I would have sent it myself."
Wingrave shrugged his shoulders.
"It is perhaps fortunate for the continuation of our mutual relations that you
did not think of it," he remarked quietly. "I accept your denial. I shall
expect you back at one o'clock."
At a few minutes after that hour the two men sat down to luncheon. Wingrave at
that time was the possessor of six thousand shares in the Royal Hardwell
Copper Mine, which had cost him, on an average, two dollars twenty-five. The
news of the dealing, however, had got about, and although derision was the
chief sentiment amongst the brokers, the price steadily mounted. A dozen
telegrams were sent out to the mine, and on receipt of the replies, the
dealing became the joke of the day. The mine was still deserted, and no fresh
inspection had been made. The price dropped a little. Then Wingrave bought a
thousand more by telephone, and it rose again to four. A few minutes before
closing time, he threw every share of which he was possessed upon the market,
and the next morning Royal Hardwells stood at one dollar seventy-five.
For a week Wingrave pursued the same tactics, and at the end of that time he
had made twenty thousand dollars. The brokers, however, now understood, or
thought they understood, the situation. No one bought for the rise; they were
all sellers. Wingrave at once changed his tactics. He bought five thousand
shares in one block, and sold none. Even then, the market was only mildly
amused. In a fortnight he was the nominal owner of sixteen thousand shares in
a company of which only ten thousand actually existed. Then he sat still, and
the panic began. The shares in a company which everyone believed to be
worthless stood at thirty dollars, and not a share was offered.
A small pandemonium reigned in Wingrave's sitting room. The telephone rang all
the time; the place was besieged with brokers. Then Wingrave showed his hand.
He had bought these shares to hold; he did not intend to sell one. As to the
six thousand owed to him beyond the number issued, he was prepared to consider
offers. One broker left him a check for twenty thousand dollars, another for
nearly forty thousand. Wingrave had no pity. He had gambled and won. He would
accept nothing less than par price. The air in his sitting room grew thick
with curses and tobacco smoke.
Aynesworth began by hating the whole business, but insensibly the fascination
of it crept over him. He grew used to hearing the various forms of protest, of
argument and abuse, which one and all left Wingrave so unmoved. Sphinx-like he
lounged in his chair, and listened to all. He never condescended to justify
his position, he never met argument by argument. He had the air of being
thoroughly bored by the whole proceedings. But he exacted always his pound of
On the third afternoon, Aynesworth met on the stairs a young broker, whom he
had come across once or twice during his earlier dealings in the shares. They
had had lunch together, and Aynesworth had taken a fancy to the boy--he was
little more--fresh from Harvard and full of enthusiasm. He scarcely recognized
him for a moment. The fresh color had gone from his cheeks, his eyes were set
in a fixed, wild stare; he seemed suddenly aged. Aynesworth stopped him.
"Hullo, Nesbitt!" he exclaimed. "What's wrong?"
The young man would have passed on with a muttered greeting, but Aynesworth
turned round with him, and led the way into one of the smaller smoking rooms.
He called for drinks and repeated his question.
"Your governor has me six hundred Hardwells short," Nesbitt answered curtly.
"Six hundred!" What does it mean?" Aynesworth asked.
"Sixty thousand dollars, or thereabouts," the young man answered despairingly.
"His brokers won't listen to me, and your governor--well, I've just been to
see him. I won't call him names! And we thought that some fool of an
Englishman was burning his fingers with those shares. I'm not the only one
caught, but the others can stand it. I can't, worse luck!"
"I'm beastly sorry," Aynesworth said truthfully. "I wish I could help you."
Nesbitt raised his head. A sudden light flashed in his eyes; he spoke quickly,
"Say, Aynesworth," he exclaimed, "do you think you could do anything with your
governor for me? You see--it's ruin if I have to pay up. I wouldn't mind--for
myself, but I was married four months ago, and I can't bear the thought of
going home--and telling her. All the money we have between us is in my
business, and we've got no rich friends or anything of that sort. I don't know
what I'll do if I have to be hammered. I've been so careful, too! I didn't
want to take this on, but it seemed such a soft thing! If I could get off with
twenty thousand, I'd keep my head up. I hate to talk like this. I'd go down
like a man if I were alone, but--but--oh! Confound it all--!" he exclaimed
with an ominous break in his tone.
Aynesworth laid his hand upon the boy's arm.
"Look here," he said, "I'll try what I can do with Mr. Wingrave. Wait here!"
Aynesworth found his employer alone with his broker, who was just hastening
off to keep an appointment. He plunged at once into his appeal.
"Mr. Wingrave," he said, "you have just had a young broker named Nesbitt on."
Wingrave glanced at a paper by his side.
"Yes," he said. "Six hundred short! I wish they wouldn't come to me."
"I've been talking to him downstairs," Aynesworth said. "This will break him."
"Then I ought not to have done business with him at all," Wingrave said
coolly. "If he cannot find sixty thousand dollars, he has no right to be in
Wall street. I daresay he'll pay, though! They all plead poverty--curs!"
"I think Nesbitt's case is a little different from the others," Aynesworth
continued. "He is quite young, little more than a boy, and he has only just
started in business. To be hammered would be absolute ruin for him. He seems
such a decent young fellow, and he's only just married. He's in an awful state
downstairs. I wish you'd have another talk with him. I think you'd feel
inclined to let him down easy."
Wingrave smiled coldly.