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The Malefactor

Part 4 out of 5

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government. I know it seems queer that I should be asking you, but it is
that--or ruin. Now you know how things are with me."

"You are making," Wingrave said quietly, "a mistake. I have not pretended or
given the slightest evidence of any friendship for yourself."

Barrington looked at him with slowly mounting color.

"You mean--"

"Precisely," Wingrave interrupted. "I do not know what I might or might not do
for Lady Ruth. I have not considered the subject. It has not, in fact, been
presented to me."

"It is the same thing," Barrington declared hoarsely.

"Pardon me--it is not," Wingrave answered.

"What I ask you to do," Barrington said, "I ask on behalf of my wife."

"As an ambassador," Wingrave said coldly, "you are not acceptable to me. It is
a matter which I could only discuss with Lady Ruth herself. If Lady Ruth has
anything to say to me, I will hear it."

Barrington stood quite still for several moments. The veins on his forehead
stood out like tightly drawn cords, his breath came with difficulty. The light
in his eyes, as he looked at Wingrave, was almost murderous.

"If Lady Ruth desires to see me," Wingrave remarked slowly, "I shall be here
at nine o'clock this evening. Tomorrow my movements are uncertain. You will
excuse me if I hurry you away now. I have an engagement which is already

Barrington took up his hat and left the room without a word. Wingrave remained
in his chair. His eyes followed the departing figure of his visitor. When he
was absolutely sure that he was alone, he covered his face with one hand. His
engagement seemed to have been with his thoughts for he did not stir for
nearly an hour later. Then he rang the bell for Aynesworth.


Wingrave did not speak for several moments after Aynesworth had entered the
room. He had an engagement book before him and seemed to be deep in its
contents. When at last he looked up, his forehead was furrowed with thought,
and he had the weary air of a man who has been indulging in unprofitable

"Aynesworth," he said, "be so good as to ring up Walters and excuse me from
dining with him tonight."

Aynesworth nodded.

"Any particular form of excuse?" he asked.

"No!" Say that I have an unavoidable engagement. I will see him tomorrow

"Anything else?" Aynesworth asked, preparing to leave the room.

"No! You might see that I have no visitors this evening. Lady Ruth is coming
here at nine o'clock."

"Lady Ruth is coming here," Aynesworth repeated in a colorless tone. "Alone?"


Aynesworth shrugged his shoulders, but made no remark. He turned towards the
door, but Wingrave called him back.

"Your expression, Aynesworth," he said, "interests me. Am I or the lady in
question responsible for it?"

"I am sorry for Lady Ruth," Aynesworth said. "I think that I am sorry, too,
for her husband."

"Why? She is coming of her own free will."

"There are different methods of compulsion," Aynesworth answered.

Wingrave regarded him thoughtfully.

"That," he said, "is true. But I still do not understand why you are sorry for

"Because," Aynesworth said, "I know the history of a certain event, and I know
you. It is, I suppose, for this end that you made use of them."

Wingrave nodded.

"Quite right," he declared. "I think that the time is not far off when that
dear lady and I can cry quits. This time, too, I see nothing to impair my
satisfaction at the probable finale. In various other cases, as you might
remember, I have not been entirely successful."

"It depends," Aynesworth remarked drily, "upon what you term success."

Wingrave shrugged his shoulders.

"I think," he said coldly, "that you are aware of what my feelings and desired
course of action have been with regard to those of my fellow creatures with
whom I have happened to come into contact. It seems to me that I have been a
trifle unfortunate in several instances."

"As for instance?" Aynesworth asked.

"Well, to take a few cases only," Wingrave continued, "there was the child
down at Tredowen whom you were so anxious for me to befriend. Of course, I
declined to do anything of the sort, and she ought, by rights, to have gone to
some charitable institution, founded and supported by fools, and eventually
become, perhaps, a domestic servant. Instead of which, some relation of her
father turns up and provides for her lavishly. You must admit that that was

"It depends upon the point of view," Aynesworth remarked drily. "Personally, I
considered it a most fortunate occurrence."

"Naturally," Wingrave agreed. "But then you are a sentimentalist. You like to
see people happy, and you would even help to make them so if you could without
any personal inconvenience. I am at the other pole. If I could collect
humanity into one sentient force, I would set my heel upon it without
hesitation. I try to do what I can with the atoms, but I have not the best of
fortune. There was Mrs. Travers, now! There I should have been successful
beyond a doubt if some busybody hadn't sent that cable to her husband. I
wonder if you were idiot enough to do that, Aynesworth?"

"If I had thought of the Marconigram," Aynesworth said, "I am sure I should
have done it. But as a matter of fact, I did not."

"Just as well, so far as our relations are concerned," Wingrave said coldly.
"I did manage to make poor men of a few brokers in New York, but my best coup
went wrong. That boy would have blown his brains out, I believe, if some
meddling idiot hadn't found him all that money at the last moment. I have had
a few smaller successes, of course, and there is this affair of Lady Ruth and
her estimable husband. You know that he came to borrow money of me, I

"I guessed it," Aynesworth answered. "You should be modern in your revenge and
lend it to him."

Wingrave smiled coldly.

"I fancy," he said, "that Lumley Barrington will find my revenge modern
enough. I may lend the money they need--but it will be to Lady Ruth! I told
her husband so a few minutes ago. I told him to send his wife to me. He has
gone to tell her now!"

"I wonder," Aynesworth remarked, "that he did not thrash you--or try to."

Again Wingrave's lips parted.

"Moral deterioration has set in already," he remarked. "When he pays his bills
with my money, he will lose the little he has left of his self-respect."

Aynesworth turned abruptly away. He was strongly tempted to say things which
would have ended his connection with Wingrave, and as yet he was not ready to
leave. For the sake of a digression, he took up a check book from the table.

"There are three checks," he remarked, "which I cannot trace. One for ten
thousand pounds, another for five, and a third for a thousand pounds. What
account shall I put them to?"

"Private drawing account," Wingrave answered. "They represent a small
speculation. By the bye, you'd better go and ring up Walters."

"Do you wish the particulars entered in your sundry investment book?"
Aynesworth asked.

Wingrave smiled grimly.

"I think not," he answered. "You can put them to drawing account. If you want
me again this evening, I shall dine at the Cafe Royal at eight o'clock, and
shall return here at five minutes to nine."

. . . . . . . . . . .

Lady Ruth was punctual. At a few minutes past nine, Morrison announced that a
lady had called to see Mr. Wingrave by appointment.

"You can show her in," Wingrave said. "See that we are not disturbed."

Lady Ruth was scarcely herself. She was dressed in a high-necked muslin gown,
and she wore a hat and veil, which somewhat obscured her features. The latter
she raised, however, as she accepted the chair which Wingrave had placed for
her. He saw then that she was pale, and her manner betrayed an altogether
unfamiliar nervousness. She avoided his eyes.

"Did you expect me?" she asked.

"Yes!" he answered, "I thought that you would come."

Her foot, long and slender, beat impatiently upon the ground. She looked up at
him once, but immediately withdrew her eyes.

"Why did you bring me here?" she asked in a low tone.

"My dear Lady Ruth!" he protested.

"If you want to play at being friends," she said, "for heaven's sake call me
Ruth. You found it easy enough once."

"You are very kind," he answered. "Ruth, by all means."

"Now will you answer my question?" she said. "Do you mean--to help us?"

"Us--no!" he answered; "you--perhaps yes!" he added.

Then she looked at him, and found herself puzzled by the perfect impassivity
of his features. Surely he would drop the mask now. He had insisted upon her

"Perhaps?" she repeated. "What then--are the conditions?"

He bent over towards her. Curiously enough, there was, mingled with many other
sensations, a certain sense of triumph in the thought, it was almost a hope,
that at last he was going to betray himself, that he was going to admit
tacitly, or by imputation, that her power over him was not wholly dead. It was
a terrible situation--in her heart she felt so, but it had its compensations.
Wingrave had been her constant attendant for months. He had seen her
surrounded by men, all anxious to secure a smile from her; he had seen her
play the great lady in her own house, and she played it very well. She knew
that she was a past mistress in the arts which fascinate his sex, she
understood the quiet speeches, the moods, every trick of the gamester in
emotions, from the fluttering of eyelids to the unchaining of the passions.
And he had loved her. Underneath it all, he must love her now. She was
determined that he should tell her so. It was genuine excitement which
throbbed in her pulses, a genuine color which burned in her cheeks.

"The conditions?" he repeated. "You believe, then, that I mean to make

She raised her eyes to his, eloquent eyes she knew, and looked at him. The
mask was still there--but he had moved a little nearer to her.

"I do not know," she said softly. "You must tell me."

There was a moment's silence. She had scarcely given herself credit for such
capacity for emotion. He was on his feet. Surely the mask must go now! And
then--she felt that it must be a nightmare. It was incredible! He had struck a
match and was calmly lighting a cigarette.

"One," he said coolly, "is that Mademoiselle Violet employs no more amateur
assassins to make clumsy attempts upon my life."

She sat in her place rigid--half frozen with a cold, numbing fear. He had sent
for her, then, only to mock her. She had failed! They were not even to have
the money! Speech was quite impossible. Then he continued.

"I will take your assent for granted," he said. "Do you know how much you
require to free yourself?"

"About eight thousand pounds!" she answered mechanically.

He sat down and wrote a check, which he laid before her.

"You will have to endorse that," he remarked in a matter-of-fact tone. "Your
name at the back will do instead of a receipt."

She sprang to her feet.

"Keep your money, " she cried. "I will not touch it. Please open the door for
me! I am going."

"By all means--if you wish it," he answered undisturbed. "At the same time, I
am curious to know why you came here at all if you did not intend to accept

She faced him, hot and angry.

"I did intend to accept it," she declared. "It is that or ruin. But you are
too cruel! You make it--impossible."

"You surprise me," he answered. "I suppose you know best."

"For heaven's sake tell me," she cried passionately, "what has come to you,
what manner of a man are you? You loved me once! Now, even, after all these
years, you cannot deny it. You have gone out of your way to be with me, to be
my companion wherever we are. People are beginning to smile when they see us
together. I don't mind. I--for God's sake tell me, Wingrave! Why do you do it?
Why do you lend me this money? What can I do for you? What do you want me to
be? Are you as cold as a stone? Have you no heart--no heart even for

"I would not seek," he answered, "to buy--your friendship with a check!"

"But it is yours already," she cried, holding out her hands. "Give me a little
kindness, Wingrave! You make me feel and seem a perfect idiot. Why, I'd rather
you asked me anything that treated me like this."

"I was under the impression," Wingrave remarked, "that I was behaving rather
well. I wonder what would really satisfy you!"

"To have you behave as you are doing, and want to behave differently," she
cried. "You are magnificent--but it is because you are indifferent. Will you
kiss me, Wingrave?"

"With pleasure!" he answered.

She drew away from him quickly.

"Is it--another woman?" she asked. "The Marchioness?"

Her eagerness was almost painful. He did not answer her at once. She caught
hold of his wrist and drew him towards her. Her eyes searched his face.

"The Marchioness," he said, "is a very beautiful woman. She does not, however,
affect the situation as between you and me."

"If she dared!" Lady Ruth murmured. "Wingrave, won't you try and be friends
with me?"

"I will try--certainly," he answered. "You would be surprised, however, if you
could realize the effect of a long period of enforced seclusion upon a man of

"Don't!" she shrieked; "stop!"

"My temperament, I was about to say," he concluded. "There was a time when I
am afraid I might have been tempted, under such circumstances as these, to
forget that you were no longer free, to forget everything that except we were
alone, and that you--are as beautiful as ever you were!"

"Yes!" she murmured, moving imperceptibly a little nearer towards him.

He picked up the check and gave it to her.

"I am no actor," he said, looking at her steadily. "At present, I make no
conditions. But--"

She leaned towards him. He took her face between his hands and kissed her on
the lips.

"I may make them later," he said. "I reserve my right."

She looked at him for a moment, and dropped her veil.

"Please take me down to my carriage," she asked.


"I am perfectly certain," Juliet declared, "that we ought not to be here."

"That," Aynesworth remarked, fanning himself lightly with his pocket
handkerchief, "may account for the extraordinary sense of pleasure which I am
now experiencing. At the same time, I can't see why not."

"I only met you this afternoon--a few hours ago. And here we are, absolutely
wedged together on these seats--and my chaperon is dozing half the time."

"Pardon me," Aynesworth objected, "I knew you when you were a child."

"For one day!"

"Nevertheless," Aynesworth persisted, "the fact remains. If you date our
acquaintance from this afternoon, I do not. I have never forgotten the little
girl in short frocks and long black hair, who showed me where the seagulls
built, and told me Cornish fairy stories."

"It was a very long time ago," she remarked.

"Four years," he answered; "for you, perhaps, a long time, because you have
changed from a child--into a woman. But for a man approaching middle age--as I

"That is all very well, " she answered, "but I am not sure that we ought to be
in the gallery at Covent Garden together, with a chaperon who will sleep!"

"She will wake up," he declared, "with the music."

"And I," she murmured, "will dream. Isn't it lovely?"

He smiled.

"I wonder how it really seems to you," he remarked. "We are breathing an
atmosphere hot with gas, and fragrant with orange peel. We are squashed in
amongst a crowd of people of a class whom I fancy that neither you nor I know
much about. And I saw you last in a wilderness! We saw only the yellow sands,
and the rocks, and the Atlantic. We heard only the thunder of the sea and the
screaming of seagulls. This is very different."

"Wonderfully, wonderfully different," she answered. "I miss it all! Of course
I do, and yet one is so much nearer to life here, the real life of men and
women. Oh, one cannot compare it. Why should one try? Ah, listen!"

The curtain went up. The music of the orchestra subsided, and the music of the
human voice floated through the Opera House--the human voice, vibrant with joy
and passion and the knowledge which lies behind the veil. Juliet found no time
to talk then, no time to think even of her companion. Her young cheeks were
flushed, her eyes were bright with excitement. She leaned a little forward in
her place, she passed with all the effortless facility of her ingenuous youth,
into the dim world of golden fancies which the story of the opera was slowly
unfolding. Beside her, Mrs. Tresfarwin dozed and blinked and dozed again--and
on her left Aynesworth himself, a little affected by the music, still found
time to glance continually at his companion, so radiant with life and so
fervently intent upon realizing to the full this, the first of its unknown
joys. So with crashing of chords and thunder of melody the act went on. And
when it was over, Juliet thought no more of the Cornish sea and the lullaby of
the waves. A new music was stirring in her young blood.

They were in the front row of the gallery, and presently she leaned over to
gaze down at the panorama below, the women in the boxes and stalls, whose bare
shoulders and skillfully coiffured hair flashed with jewels. Suddenly her hand
fell upon Aynesworth's arm.

"Look!" she cried in some excitement, "do you see who that is in the box
there--the one almost next to the stage?"

Aynesworth, too, uttered a little exclamation. The lights from beneath were
falling full upon the still, cold face of the man who had just taken a vacant
chair in one of the boxes.

"Wingrave!" he exclaimed, and glanced at once at his watch.

"Sir Wingrave Seton," she murmured. "Isn't it strange that I should see him
here tonight?"

"He comes often," Aynesworth answered. "Music is one of his few weaknesses."

There was a movement in the box, and a woman's head and shoulders appeared
from behind the curtain. Juliet gave a little gasp.

"Mr. Aynesworth," she exclaimed, "did you ever see such a beautiful woman? Do
tell me who she is!"

"A very great lady in London society," Aynesworth answered. "That is Emily,
Marchioness of Westchester."

Juliet's eyes never moved from her until the beautiful neck and shoulders were
turned away. She leaned over towards her companion, and she did not again, for
some few minutes, face the house.

"She is the loveliest woman I ever saw in my life," Juliet said with a little
sigh. "Is she a great friend of Sir Wingrave Seton, Mr. Aynesworth?"

"He has no friends," Aynesworth answered. "I believe that they are very well

"Poor Sir Wingrave!" Juliet murmured softly.

Aynesworth looked at her in some surprise.

"It is odd that you should have recognized him from up here, " he remarked
thoughtfully. "He has changed so much during the last few years."

Juliet smiled, but she did not explain. She felt that she was obeying
Wingrave's wishes.

"I should have recognized him anywhere," she answered simply. "I wonder what
they are talking about. She seems so interested, and he looks so bored."

Aynesworth looked at his watch. It was barely ten o'clock.

"I am very glad to see him here this evening," he remarked.

"I should like so much," she said, still gazing at them earnestly, "to know
that they are talking about."

. . . . . . . . . . .

"So you will not tell me," the Marchioness murmured, ceasing for a moment the
graceful movements of her fan, and looking at him steadily. "You refuse me
this--almost the first thing I have ever asked you?"

"It is scarcely," Wingrave objected, "a reasonable question."

"Between you and me," she murmured, "such punctiliousness is scarcely
necessary--is it?"

He withstood the attack of those wonderful eyes lifted swiftly to his, and
answered her gravely.

"You are Lady Ruth's friend," he remarked. "Probably, therefore, she will tell
you all about it."

The Marchioness laughed softly, yet with something less than mirth.

"Friends," she exclaimed, "Lady Ruth and I? There was never a woman in this
world who was less my friend--especially now!"

He asked for no explanation of her last words, but in a moment or two she
vouchsafed it. She leaned a little forward, her eyes flashed softly through
the semi-darkness.

"Lady Ruth is afraid," she said quietly, "that I might take you away from

"My dear lady," he protested, "the slight friendship between Lady Ruth and
myself is not of the nature to engender such a fear."

She shrugged her beautiful shoulders. Her hands were toying with the rope of
pearls which hung from her neck. She bent over them, as though examining the
color of the stones.

"How long have you known Ruth?" she asked quietly.

He looked at her steadfastly. He could not be sure whether it was his fancy,
or whether indeed there was some hidden meaning in her question.

"Since I came to live in England," he answered.


There was a moment's silence. Then with a little wave of her hands and a
brilliant smile, she figuratively dismissed the subject.

"We waste time," she remarked lightly, "and we may have callers at any moment.
I will ask you no more questions save those which the conventions may permit
you to answer truthfully. We can't depart from our code, can we, even for the
sake of an inquisitive woman?"

"I can assure you--" he began.

"But I will have no assurances, she interrupted smilingly. "I am going to talk
of other things. I am going to ask you a ridiculous question. Are you fond of

"I believe so," he answered. "Why?"

"Because," she answered, "I sometimes wonder what there is in the world that
interests you! Certainly, none of the ordinary things seem to. Tonight, almost
for the first time, I saw you look a little drawn out of yourself. I was
wondering whether it was the music or the people. I suppose, until one gets
used to it," she added, looking a little wearily around the house, "an
audience like this is worth looking at."

"It certainly is not the people," he said. "Do you make as close a study of
all your acquaintances?"

"Naturally not," she answered, "and I do not class you amongst my
acquaintances at all. You interest me, my friend--very much indeed!"

"I am flattered," he murmured.

"You are not--I wish that you were," she answered simply. "I can understand
why you have succeeded where so many others have failed. You are strong. You
have nerves of steel--and very little heart. But now--what are you going to do
with your life, now that wealth must even have lost its meaning to you? I
should like to know that. Will you tell me?"

"What is there to do?" he asked. "Eat and drink, and juggle a little with the
ball of fate."

"You are not ambitious?"

"Not in the least."

"Pleasure, for itself, does not attract you. No! I know that it does not. What
are you going to do, then?"

"I have no idea," he answered. "Won't you direct me?"

"Yes, I will," she answered, "if you will pay my price."

He looked at her more intently. He himself had been attaching no particular
importance to this conversation, but he was suddenly conscious that it was not
so with the woman at his side. Her eyes were shining at him, soft and full and
sweet; her beautiful bosom was rising and falling quickly; there had come to
her something which even he was forced to recognize, that curious and
voluptuous abandonment which a woman rarely permits herself, and can never
assume. He was a little bewildered. His speech lost for a moment its cold

"Your price?" he repeated. "I--I am stupid. I'm afraid I don't understand."

"Marry me," she whispered in his ear, "and I will take you a little further
into life than you could ever go alone You don't care for me, of course--but
you shall. You don't understand this world, Wingrave, or how to make the best
of it. I do! Let me be your guide!"

Wingrave looked at her in grave astonishment.

"You are not by any chance--in earnest?" he asked.

"You know very well that I am," she answered swiftly. "And yet you hesitate!
What is it that you are afraid of? Don't you like to give up your liberty? We
need not marry unless you choose. That is only a matter of form nowadays at
any rate. I have a hundred chaperons to choose from. Society expects strange
things from me. It is your companionship I want. Your money is fascinating, of
course. I should like to see you spend it, to spend it with both hands. Don't
be afraid that we should be talked about. I am not Lady Ruth! I am Emily,
Marchioness of Westchester, and I live and choose my friends as I please; will
you be chief amongst them? Hush!"

For Wingrave it was providential. The loud chorus which had heralded the
upraising of the curtain died away. Melba's first few notes were floating
through the house. Silence was a necessity. The low passion of the music
rippled from the stage, through the senses and into the hearts of many of the
listeners. But Wingrave listened silent and unmoved. He was even unconscious
that the woman by his side was watching him half anxiously every now and then.

The curtain descended amidst a thunder of applause. Wingrave turned slowly
towards his companion. And then there came a respite--a knock at the door.

The Marchioness frowned, but Wingrave was already holding it open. Lady Ruth,
followed by an immaculate young guardsman, a relative of her husband, was
standing there.

"Mr. Wingrave!" she exclaimed softly, with upraised eyebrows, "why have you
contrived to render yourself invisible? We thought you were alone, Emily," she
continued, "and took pity on you. And all the time you had a prize."

The Marchioness looked at Lady Ruth, and Lady Ruth looked at the Marchioness.
The young guardsman was a little sorry that he had come, but Lady Ruth never
turned a hair.

"You must really have your eyes seen to, dear," the Marchioness remarked in a
tone of tender concern. "When you can't see such an old friend as Mr. Wingrave
from a few yards away, they must be very bad indeed. How are you, Captain
Kendrick? Come and tell me about the polo this afternoon. Sorry I can't offer
you all chairs. This is an absurd box--it was only meant for two!"

"Come into ours," Lady Ruth said; "we have chairs for six, I think."

The Marchioness shook her head.

"I wish I had a millionaire in the family," she murmured. "All the same, I
hate large parties. I am old-fashioned enough to think that two is a
delightful number."

Lady Ruth laid her hand upon Wingrave's arm.

"A decided hint, Mr. Wingrave," she declared. "Come and let me introduce you
to my sister. Our box is only a few yards off."


Wingrave had just come in from an early gallop. His pale cheeks were slightly
flushed, and his eyes were bright. He had been riding hard to escape from
disconcerting thoughts. He looked in at the study, and found Aynesworth with a
mass of correspondence before him.

"Anything important?" he asked.

"Not yet," Aynesworth answered. "The letters marked private I have sent up to
your room. By the bye, there was something I wanted to tell you."

Wingrave closed the door.

"Well?" he said.

"I was up in the gallery of the Opera House last night," Aynesworth said,
"with a--person who saw you only once, soon after I first came to you--before
America. You were some distance away, and yet--my friend recognized you."

Wingrave shrugged his shoulders.

"That, of course, is possible," he answered. "It really does not matter so
very much unless they knew me--as Wingrave Seton!"

"My friend," Aynesworth said, "recognized you as Sir Wingrave Seton."

Wingrave frowned thoughtfully for a moment.

"Who was it?" he asked.

"A most unlikely person," Aynesworth remarked smiling. "Do you remember, when
we went down to Tredowen just before we left for America, a little,
long-legged, black-frocked child, whom we met in the gardens--the organist's
daughter, you know?"

"What of her?" Wingrave asked.

"It was she who was with me," Aynesworth remarked. "It was she who saw you in
the box with the Marchioness of Westchester."

Aynesworth was puzzled by the intentness with which Wingrave was regarding
him. Impenetrable though the man was, Aynesworth, who had not yet lost his
early trick of studying him closely, knew that, for some reason or other, his
intelligence had proved disturbing.

"Have you then--kept up your acquaintance with this child?" he demanded.

Aynesworth shook his head.

"She is not a child any longer, but a very beautiful young woman," he said. "I
met her again quite by accident. She is up in London, studying art at the
studio of an old friend of mine who has a class of girls. I called to see him
the other afternoon, and recognized her."

"Your acquaintance," Wingrave remarked, "has progressed rapidly if she accepts
your escort--to the gallery of the Opera!"

"It was scarcely like that," Aynesworth explained. "I met her and Mrs.
Tresfarwin on the way there, and asked to be allowed to accompany them. Mrs.
Tresfarwin was once your housekeeper, I think, at Tredowen."

"And did you solve the mystery of this relation of her father who turned up so
opportunely?" Wingrave asked.

Aynesworth shook his head.

"She told me nothing about him," he answered.

Wingrave passed on to his own room. His breakfast was on the table awaiting
him, and a little pile of letters and newspapers stood by his plate. His
servant, his head groom, and his chauffeur were there to receive their orders
for the morning. About him were all the evidences of his well-ordered life. He
sent both the men away and locked the door. It was half an hour before he
touched either his breakfast or his letters . . . .

He lunched at Westchester House in obedience to a somewhat imperative summons.
There were other guests there, whom, however, he outstayed. As soon as they
were alone, his hostess touched him on the arm and led him to her own room.

"At last!" she exclaimed, with an air of real relief. "There, sit down
opposite to me, please--I want to watch your face."

She was a little paler than usual, and he noticed that she had avoided talking
much to him at luncheon time. And yet he thought that he had never seen her
more beautiful. Something in her face had altered. He could not tell what it
was for he was not a man of much experience as regarded her sex. Yet, in a
vague sort of way, he understood the change. A certain part of the almost
insolent quietness, the complete self-assurance of her manner, had gone. She
was a little more like an ordinary woman!

"Lady Ruth proved herself an excellent tactician last night," she remarked.
"She has given me an exceedingly uncomfortable few hours. For you, well for
you it was a respite, wasn't it?"

"I don't know that I should call it exactly that," he answered thoughtfully.

She looked at him steadfastly, almost wistfully.

"Well," she said, "I am not going to make excuses for myself. But the things
which one says naturally enough when the emotions provoke them sound crude
enough in cold blood and colder daylight. We women are creatures of mood, you
know. I was feeling a little lonely and a little tired last night, and the
music stole away my common sense."

"I understand," he murmured. "All that you said shall be forgotten."

"Then you do not understand," she answered, smiling at him. "What I said I do
not wish to be forgotten. Only--just at that moment, it sounded natural
enough--and today--I think that I am a little ashamed."

He rose from his seat. Her eyes leaped up to his expectantly, and the color
streamed into her cheeks. But he only stood by her side. He did nothing to
meet the half-proffered embrace.

"Dear Lady Emily," he said, "all the kind things that you said were spoken to
a stranger. You did not know me. I did not mean anyone to know me. It is you
who have commanded the truth. You must have it. I am not the person I seem to
be. I am not the person to whom words such as yours should have been spoken.
Even my name is an assumed one. I should prefer to leave it at that--if you
are content."

"I am not content," she answered quietly; "I must hear more."

He bowed.

"I am a man," he said, "who spent ten years in prison, the ten best years of
my life. A woman sent me there--a woman swore my liberty away to save her
reputation. I was never of a forgiving disposition, I was never an amiably
disposed person. I want you to understand this. Any of the ordinary good
qualities with which the average man may be endowed, and which I may have
possessed, are as dead in me as hell fire could burn them. You have spoken of
me as of a man who failed to find a sufficient object in life. You were wrong.
I have an object, and I do my best to live up to it. I hate the whole world of
men and women who laughed their way through life whilst I suffered--tortures.
I hate the woman who sent me there. I have no heart, nor any sense of pity.
Now perhaps you can understand my life and the manner of it."

Her hands were clasped to the side of her head. Something of horror had stolen
into the steadfast gaze with which she was still regarding him. Yet there were
other things there which puzzled him.

"This--is terrible!" she murmured. "Then you are not--Mr. Wingrave at all?"

He hesitated. After all, it was scarcely worth while concealing anything now.

"I am Sir Wingrave Seton," he said. "You may remember my little affair!"

She caught hold of his hands.

"You poor, poor dear!" she cried. "How you must have suffered!"

Wingrave had a terrible moment. What he felt he would never have admitted,
even to himself. Her eyes were shining with sympathy, and it was so
unexpected. He had expected something in the nature of a cold withdrawal; her
silence was the only thing he had counted upon. It was a fierce, but short
battle. His sudden grasp of her hands was relaxed. He stood away from her.

"You are very kind," he said. "As you can doubtless imagine, it is a little
too late for sympathy. The years have gone, and the better part of me, if ever
there was a better part, with them."

"I am not so sure of that!" she whispered.

He looked at her coldly.

"Why not?"

"If you were absolutely heartless," she said, "if you were perfectly
consistent, why did you not make me suffer? You had a great chance! A little
feigned affection, and then a few truths. You could have dragged me down a
little way into the pit of broken hearts! Why didn't you?"

He frowned.

"One is forced to neglect a few opportunities!"

She smiled at him--delightfully.

"You foolish man!" she murmured. "Some day or other, you will turn out to be a
terrible impostor. Do you know, I think I am going to ask you again--what I
asked you last night?"

"I scarcely think that you will be so ill-advised," he declared coldly.
"Whether you believe it or not, I can assure you that I am incapable of

She sighed.

"I am not so sure about that," she said with protesting eyebrows, "but you are
terribly hard-hearted?"

He was entirely dissatisfied with the impression he had produced. He
considered the attitude of the Marchioness unjustifiably frivolous. He had an
uneasy conviction that she was not in the least inclined to take him

"I don't think," he said, glancing at the clock, "that I need detain you any

"You are really going away, then?" she asked him softly.


"To call on Lady Ruth, perhaps?"

"As it happens, no," he answered.

Suddenly her face changed--she had remembered something.

"It was Lady Ruth!" she exclaimed.

"Exactly!" he interrupted.

"What a triumph of inconsistency!" she declared scornfully. "You are lending
them money!"

"I am lending money to Lady Ruth," he answered slowly.

Their eyes met. She understood, at any rate, what he intended to convey.
Certainly his expression was hard and merciless enough now!

"Poor Ruth," she murmured.

"Some day," he answered, "you will probably say that in earnest."


"Of course," Juliet said, "after Tredowen it seems very small, almost poky,
but it isn't, really, and Tredowen was not for me all my days. It was quite
time I got used to something else."

Wingrave looked around him with expressionless face. It was a tiny room, high
up on the fifth floor of a block of flats, prettily but inexpensively
furnished. Juliet herself, tall and slim, with all the fire of youth and
perfect health on her young face, was obviously contented.

"And your work?" he asked.

She made a little grimace.

"I have a good deal to unlearn," she said, "but Mr. Pleydell is very kind and

"You will go down to Cornwall for the hot weather, I hope?" he said. "London
is unbearable in August."

"The class are going for a sketching tour to Normandy," she said, "and Mr.
Pleydell thought that I might like to join them. It is very inexpensive, and I
should be able to go on with my work all the time."

He nodded thoughtfully.

"I hear," he said, "that you have met Mr. Aynesworth again."

"Wasn't it delightful?" she exclaimed. "He is quite an old friend of Mr.
Pleydell. I was so glad to see him."

"I suppose," he remarked, "you are a little lonely sometimes?"

"Sometimes," she admitted. "But I sha'n't be when I get to know the girls in
the class a little better."

"I have some friends," he said thoughtfully, "women, of course, who would come
and see you with pleasure. And yet," he added, "I am not sure that you would
not be better off without knowing them."

"They are fashionable ladies, perhaps?" she said simply.

He nodded.

"They belong to the Juggernaut here which is called society. They would
probably try to draw you a little way into its meshes. I think, yes, I am
sure," he added, looking at her, "that you are better off outside."

"And I am quite sure of it," she answered laughing. "I haven't the clothes or
the time or the inclination for that sort of thing. Besides, I am going to be
much too happy ever to be lonely."

"I myself," he said, "am not an impressionable person. But they tell me that
most people, especially of your age, find London a terribly lonely place."

"I can understand that," she answered, "unless they really had something
definite to do. I have felt a little of that myself. I think London frightens
me a little. It is so different from the country, and there is a great deal
that is difficult to understand."

"For instance?"

"The great number of poor people who find it so hard to live," she answered.
"Some of the small houses round here are awful, and Mr. Malcolm--he is the
vicar of the church here, and he called yesterday--tells me that they are
nothing like so bad as in some other parts of London. And then you take a bus,
it is such a short distance--and the shops are full of wonderful things at
such fabulous prices, and the carriages and houses are so lovely, and people
seem to be showering money right and left everywhere."

"It is the same in all large cities," he answered, "more or less. There must
always be rich and poor, when a great community are herded together. As a
rule, the extreme poor are a worthless lot."

"There must be some of them, though," she answered, "who deserve to have a
better time. Of course, I have never been outside Tredowen, where everyone was
contented and happy in their way, and it seems terrible to me just at first. I
can't bear to think that everyone hasn't at least a chance of happiness."

"You are too young," he said, "to bother your head about these things yet Wait
until you have gathered in a little philosophy with the years. Then you will
understand how helpless you are to alter by ever so little the existing state
of things, and it will trouble you less."

"I," she answered, "may, of course, be helpless, but what about those people
who have huge fortunes, and still do nothing?"

"Why should they?" he answered coldly. "This is a world for individual effort.
No man is strong enough to carry even a single one of his fellows upon his
shoulders. Charity is the most illogical and pernicious of all weaknesses."

"Now you are laughing at me," she declared. "I mean men like that Mr.
Wingrave, the American who has come to England to spend all his millions. I
have just been reading about him," she added, pointing to an illustrated paper
on the table. "They say that his income is too vast to be put into figures
which would sound reasonable; that he has estates and shooting properties, and
a yacht which he has never yet even seen. And yet he will not give one penny
away. He gives nothing to the hospitals, nothing to the poor. He spends his
money on himself, and himself alone!"

Wingrave smiled grimly.

"I am not prepared to defend my namesake," he said; "but every man has a right
to do what he likes with his own, hasn't he? And as for hospitals, Mr.
Wingrave probably thinks, like a good many more, that they should be state
endowed. People could make use of them, then, without loss of self respect."

She shook her head a little doubtfully.

"I can't argue about it yet," she said, "because I haven't thought about it
long enough. But I know if I had all the money this man has, I couldn't be
happy to spend thousands and thousands upon myself while there were people
almost starving in the same city."

"You are a sentimentalist, you see," he remarked, "and you have not studied
the laws on which society is based. Tell me, how does Mrs. Tresfarwin like

Juliet laughed merrily.

"Isn't it amusing?" she declared. "She loves it! She grumbles at the milk, and
we have the butter from Tredowen. Everything else she finds perfection. She
doesn't even mind the five flights of stone steps."

"Social problems," Wingrave remarked, "do not trouble her."

"Not in the least," Juliet declared. "She spends all her pennies on beggars
and omnibus rides, and she is perfectly happy."

Wingrave rose to go in a few minutes. Juliet walked with him to the door.

"I am going to be really hospitable," she declared. "I am going to walk with
you to the street."

"All down those five flights?" he exclaimed.

"Every one of them!"

They commenced the descent.

"There is something about a flat," she declared, "which makes one horribly
curious about one's neighbors--especially if one has never had any. All these
closed doors may hide no end of interesting people, and I have never seen a
soul go in or out. How did you like all this climbing?"

"I'm afraid I didn't appreciate it," he admitted.

"Perhaps you won't come to see me again, then?" she asked. "I hope you will."

"I will come," he said a little stiffly, "with pleasure!"

They were on the ground floor, and Juliet opened the door. Wingrave's motor
was outside, and the man touched his hat. She gave a little breathless cry.

"It isn't yours?" she exclaimed.

"Certainly," he answered. "Do you want to come and look at it?"

"Rather!" she exclaimed. "I have never seen one close to in my life."

He hesitated.

"I'll take you a little way, if you like," he said.

Her cheeks were pink with excitement.

"If I like! And I've never been in one before! I'll fly up for my hat. I
sha'n't be a moment."

She was already halfway up the first flight of stairs, with a whirl of skirts
and flying feet. Wingrave lit a cigarette and stood for a moment thoughtfully
upon the pavement. Then he shrugged his shoulders. His face had grown a little

"She must take her chances," he muttered. "No one knows her. Nobody is likely
to find out who she is."

She was down again in less time than seemed possible. Her cheeks were flushed
and her eyes bright with excitement. Wingrave took the wheel himself, and she
sat up by his side. They glided off almost noiselessly.

"We will go up to the Park," he said. "It is just the time to see the people."

"Anywhere!" she exclaimed. "This is too lovely!"

They passed from Battersea northwards into Piccadilly, and down into the Park.
Juliet was too excited to talk; Wingrave had enough to do to drive the car.
They passed plenty of people who bowed, and many who glanced with wondering
admiration at the beautiful girl who sat by Wingrave's side. Lady Ruth, who
drive by quickly in a barouche, almost rose from her seat; the Marchioness,
whose victoria they passed, had time to wave her hand and flash a quick,
searching glance at Juliet, who returned it with her dark eyes filled with
admiration. The Marchioness smiled to herself a little sadly as the car shot
away ahead.

"If one asked," she murmured to herself, "he would try to persuade one that it
was another victim."


Wingrave was present that evening at a reception given by the Prime Minister
to some distinguished foreign guests. He had scarcely exchanged the usual
courtesies with his host and hostess before Lady Ruth, leaning over from a
little group, whispered in his ear.

"Please take me away. I am bored. I want to talk to you."

He paused at once. Lady Ruth nodded to her friends.

"Mr. Wingrave is going to take me to hear Melba sing," she said. "See you all
again, I suppose, at Hereford House!"

They made slow progress through the crowded rooms. Once or twice Wingrave
fancied that his companion hung a little heavily upon his arm. She showed no
desire to talk. She even answered a remark of his in a monosyllable. Only when
they passed the Marchioness, on the arm of one of the foreign guests in whose
honor the reception was given, she seemed to shiver a little, and her grasp
upon his arm was tightened. Once, in a block, she was forced to speak to some
acquaintances, and during those few seconds, Wingrave studied her curiously.
She was absolutely colorless, and her strange brilliant eyes seemed to have
lost all their fire. Her gown was black, and the decorations of her hair were
black except for a single diamond. There was something almost spectral about
her appearance. She walked stiffly--for the moment she had lost the sinuous
grace of movement which had been one of her many fascinations. Her neck and
shoulders alone remained, as ever, dazzlingly beautiful.

They reached a quiet corner at last. Lady Ruth sank with a little gesture of
relief into an easy chair. Wingrave stood before her.

"You are tired tonight," he remarked.

"I am always tired," she answered wearily. "I begin to think that I always
shall be."

He said nothing. Lady Ruth closed her eyes for a moment as though from sheer
fatigue. Suddenly she opened them again and looked him full in the face.

"Who was she?" she asked.

"I do not understand," he replied.

"The child you were with--the ingenue, you know--with the pink cheeks and the
wonderful eyes! Is she from one of the theaters, or a genuine article?"

"The young lady to whom you refer," he answered, "is the daughter of an old
friend of mine. I am practically her guardian. She is in London studying

"You are her guardian?" Lady Ruth repeated. "I am sorry for her."

"You need not be," he answered. "I trust that I shall be able to fulfill my
duties in a perfectly satisfactory manner."

"Oh! I have no doubt of it," she answered. "Yet I am sorry for her."

"You are certainly," he remarked, "not in an amiable mood."

"I am in rather a desperate one if that is anything," she said, looking at him
with something of the old light in her tired eyes.

"You made a little error, perhaps, in those calculations?" he suggested. "It
can be amended."

"Don't be a brute," she answered fiercely.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"That sounds a little severe," he remarked.

"Don't take any notice of anything I say tonight," she murmured softly. "I am
a little mad. I think that everything is going against me! I know that you
haven't a grain of sympathy for me--that you would rather see me suffer than
not, and yet you see I give myself away entirely. Why shouldn't I? Part of it
is through you in a way."

"I rather fancied," he remarked, "that up to now--"

"Yes! Of course!" she interrupted, "you saved me from ruin, staved it off at
any rate. And you held over the reckoning! I--I almost wish--"

She paused. Again her eyes were searching his.

"I am a little tired of it all, you see," she continued. "I don't suppose
Lumley and I can ever be the same again since I brought him--that check. He
avoids being alone with me--I do the same with him. One would think--to watch
the people, that the whole transaction was in the Morning Post. They smile
when they see us together, they grin when they see you with anybody else. It's
getting hateful, Wingrave!"

"I am afraid," he said quietly, "that you are in a nervous, hypersensitive
state. No one else can possibly know of the little transaction between us,
and, so far as I am concerned, there has been nothing to interfere with your
relations with your husband."

"You are right," she answered, "I am losing my nerve. I am only afraid that I
am losing something else. I haven't an ounce of battle left in me. I feel that
I should like to close my eyes and wake up in a new world, and start all over

"It is nothing but a mood," he assured her. "Those new worlds don't exist any
longer. They generally consist of foreign watering places where the sheep and
the goats house together now and then. I think I should play the game out,
Lady Ruth, until--"

"Until what?"

"Perhaps to the end," he answered. "Who can tell? Not I! By this time
tomorrow, it might be I who would be reminding you--"


"That there are other worlds, and other lives to live!"

"I should like," she whispered very softly, "to hear of them. But I fancy
somehow that you will never be my instructor. What of your ward?"

"Well! What of her?" he answered calmly.

She shivered a little.

"You were very frank with me once, Wingrave," she said. "You are a man whose
life fate has wrecked, fate and I! You have no heart left, no feeling. You can
create suffering and find it amusing. I am beginning to realize that."

He nodded.

"There is some truth," he declared, "In what you say."

"What of that child? Is she, too, to be a victim?"

"I trust," he answered, "that you are not going to be melodramatic."

"I don't call it that. I really want to know. I should like to warn her."

"I am not at war with children," he answered. "Her life and mine are as far
apart as the poles."

"I had an odd fancy when I saw you with her," Lady Ruth said slowly. "She is
very good-looking--and not so absurdly young."

"The fancy was one," he remarked coldly, "which I think you had better get rid

"In a way," she continued thoughtfully, "I should like to get rid of it, and
yet--how old are you, Wingrave? Well, I know. You are very little over forty.
You are barely in the prime of life, you are strong, you have the one thing
which society today counts almost divine--great, immeasurable wealth! Can't
you find someone to thaw the snows?"

"I loved a woman once," he answered. "It was a long time ago, and it seems
strange to me now."

Lady Ruth lifted her eyes to his, and their lambent fires were suddenly

"Love her again," she murmured. "What is past is past, but there are the days
to come! Perhaps the woman, too, is a little lonely."

"I think not," he answered calmly. "The woman is married, she has lived with
her husband more or less happily for a dozen years or so! She is a little
ambitious, a little fond of pleasure, but a leader of society, and, I am sure,
a very reputable member of it. To love her again would be as embarrassing to
her--as it would be difficult for me. You, my dear Lady Ruth, I am convinced,
would be the last to approve of it."

"You mock me," she murmured, bending her head. "Is forgiveness also an

"I think," he said, "that any sentiment whatever between those two would be
singularly misplaced. You spoke of Melba, I think! She is singing in the
further room."

Lady Ruth rose up, still and pale. There was fear in her eyes when she looked
at him.

"Is it to be always like this, then?" she said.

"Ah!" he answered, "I am no prophet. Who can tell what the days may bring? In
the meantime..."

The Marchioness was very much in request that evening, and she found time for
only a few words with Wingrave.

"What have you been doing to poor Ruth?" she asked. "I never saw her look so

"Indeed!" he answered, "I had not noticed it."

"If I didn't know her better," she remarked, "I might begin to suspect her of
a conscience. Whose baby were you driving about this afternoon? I didn't know
that your taste ran to ingenues to such an extent. She's sweetly pretty, but I
don't think it's nice of you to flaunt her before us middle-aged people. It's
enough to drive us to the rouge box. Come to lunch tomorrow!"

"I shall be delighted," he answered, and passed on.

An hour or so later, on his way out, he came upon Lady Ruth sitting a little
forlornly in the hall.

"I wonder whether I dare ask you to drop me in Cadogan Square?" she asked. "Is
it much out of your way? I am leaving a little earlier than I expected."

"I shall be delighted," he answered, offering his arm.

They passed out of the door and down the covered way into the street. A few
stragglers were loitering on the pavement, and one, a tall, thin young man in
a long ulster, bent forwards as they came down the steps. Wingrave felt his
companion's grasp tighten upon his arm; a flash of light upon the pale
features and staring eyes of the young man a few feet off, showed him to be in
the act of intercepting them. Then, at a sharp word from Wingrave, a policeman
stretched out his arm. The young man was pushed unceremoniously away.
Wingrave's tall footman and the policeman formed an impassable barrier--in a
moment the electric brougham was gliding down the street. Lady Ruth was
leaning back amongst the cushions, and the hand which fell suddenly upon
Wingrave's was cold as ice!


"You saw--who that was?"

Lady Ruth's voice seemed to come from a greater distance. Wingrave turned and
looked at her with calm curiosity. She was leaning back in the corner of the
carriage, and she seemed somehow to have shrunk into an unusual
insignificance. Her eyes alone were clearly visible through the
semi-darkness--and the light which shone from their depths was the light of

"Yes," he answered slowly, I believe that I recognized him. It was the young
man who persists in some strange hallucination as to a certain Mademoiselle

"It was no hallucination," she answered. "You know that! I was Mademoiselle

He nodded.

"It amazes me," he said thoughtfully, "that you should have stooped to such
folly. That my demise would have been a relief to you I can, of course, easily
believe, but the means--they surely were not worthy of your ingenuity."

"Don't!" she cried sharply. "I must have been utterly, miserably mad!"

"Even the greatest of schemers have their wild moments," he remarked
consolingly. "This was one of yours. You paid me a very poor compliment, by
the bye, to imagine that an insignificant creature like that--"

"Will you--leave off?" she moaned.

"I daresay," he continued after a moment's pause, "that you find him now quite
an inconvenient person to deal with."

She shuddered.

"Oh, I am paying for my folly, if that is what you mean," she declared. "He
knows--who I am--that he was deceived. He follows me about--everywhere."

Wingrave glanced out of the carriage window.

"Unless I am very much surprised," he answered, "he is following us now!"

She came a little closer to him.

"You won't leave me? Promise!"

"I will see you home," he answered.

"You are coming on to Hereford House."

"I think not," he answered; "I have had enough of society for one evening."

"Emily will be there later," she said quietly.

"Even Lady Emily," he answered, "will not tempt me. I will see you safely
inside. Afterwards, if your persistent follower is hanging about, I will
endeavor to talk him into a more reasonable frame of mind."

She was silent for a moment. Then she turned to him abruptly.

"You are more kind to me sometimes than I deserve, Wingrave," she remarked.

"It is not kindness," he answered. "I dislike absurd situations. Here we are!
Permit me!"

Wingrave kept his word. He saw Lady Ruth to her front door, and then turned
back towards his carriage. Standing by the side of the footman, a little
breathless, haggard and disheveled-looking, was the young man who had
attempted to check their progress a few minutes ago.

Wingrave took hold of his arm firmly.

"Get in there," he ordered, pointing to the carriage.

The young man tried to escape, but he was held as though in a vise. Before he
well knew where he was, he was in the carriage, and Wingrave was seated by his

"What do you want with me?" he asked hoarsely.

"I want to know what you mean by following that lady about?" Wingrave asked.

The young man leaned forward. His hand was upon the door.

"Let me get out," he said sullenly.

"With pleasure--presently," Wingrave answered. "I can assure you that I am not
anxious to detain you longer than necessary. Only you must first answer my

"I want to speak to her! I shall follow her about until I can!" the young man

Wingrave glanced at him with a faint derisive smile. His clothes were worn and
shabby, he was badly in need of a shave and a wash. He sat hunched up in a
corner of the carriage, the picture of mute discomfort and misery.

"Do you know who she is?" Wingrave asked.

"Mademoiselle Violet!" the young man answered.

"You are mistaken," Wingrave answered. "She is Lady Ruth Barrington, wife of
Lumley Barrington and daughter of the Earl of Haselton."

The young man was unmoved.

"She is Mademoiselle Violet," he declared.

The coupe drew up before the great block of buildings in which was Wingrave's
flat. The footman threw open the door.

"Come in with me," Wingrave said. "I have something more to say to you."

"I would rather not," the young man muttered, and would have slouched off, but
Wingrave caught him by the arm.

"Come!" he said firmly, and the youth obeyed.

Wingrave led the way into his sitting room and dismissed his servant who was
setting out a tray upon the sideboard.

"Sit down," he ordered, and his strange guest again obeyed. Wingrave looked at
him critically.

"It seems to me," he said deliberately, "that you are another of those poor
fools who chuck away their life and happiness and go to the dogs because a
woman had chosen to make a little use of them. You're out of work, I suppose?"



"I suppose so."

Wingrave brought a plate of sandwiches from the sideboard, and mixed a whisky
and soda. He set them down in front of his guest, and turned away with the
evening paper in his hand.

"I am going into the next room for some cigarettes," he remarked.

He was gone scarcely two minutes. When he returned, the room was in darkness.
He moved suddenly towards the electric lights, but was pushed back by an
unseen hand. A man's hot breath fell upon his cheek, a hoarse, rasping voice
spoke to him out of the black shadows.

"Don't touch the lights! Don't touch the lights, I say!"

"What folly is this?" Wingrave asked angrily. "Are you mad?"

"Not now," came the quick answer. "I have been. It has come to me here, in the
darkness. I know why she is angry, I know why she will not speak to me. It
is--because I failed."

Wingrave laughed, and moved towards the lights.

"We have had enough of this tomfoolery," he said scornfully. "If you won't
listen to reason--"

He never finished his sentence. He had stumbled suddenly against a soft body,
he had a momentary impression of a white, vicious face, of eyes blazing with
insane fury. Quick to act, he struck--but before his hand descended, he had
felt the tearing of his shirt, the sharp, keen pain in his chest, the swimming
of his senses. Yet even then he struck again with passionate anger, and his
assailant went down amongst the chairs with a dull, sickening crash!

Then there was silence in the room. Wingrave made an effort to drag himself a
yard or two towards the bell, but collapsed hopelessly. Richardson, in a few
moments, staggered to his feet.

He groped his way to the side of the wall, and found the knobs of the electric
lights. He turned two on and looked around him. Wingrave was lying a few yards
off, with a small red stain upon his shirt front. His face was ghastly pale,
and he was breathing thickly. The young man looked at him for several moments,
and then made his way to the side table where the sandwiches were. One by one
he took them from the dish, and ate deliberately. When he had finished, he
made his way once more towards where Wingrave lay. But before he reached the
spot, he stopped short. Something on the wall had attracted his attention. He
put his hand to his head and thought for a moment. It was an idea--a glorious

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Lady Ruth's maid stepped back and surveyed her mistress ecstatically.

"Milady," she declared, "has never, no never, appeared more charming. The
gown, it is divine--and the coiffure! Milady will have no rivals."

Lady Ruth looked at herself long and earnestly in the glass. Her face
reflected none of the pleased interest with which her maid was still regarding
her. The latter grew a little anxious.

"Milady thinks herself a trifle pale, perhaps--a little more color?"

Lady Ruth set down the glass.

"No, thank you, Annette," she answered. "I shall do very well, I suppose.
Certainly, I won't have any rouge."

"Milady knows very well what becomes her," the woman answered discreetly. "The
pallor, it is the more distinguished. Milady cannot fail to have all the
success she desires!"

Lady Ruth smiled a little wearily. And at that moment, there came a knock at
the door. A servant entered.

"Someone wishes to speak to your ladyship on the telephone," the girl

"On the telephone, at this time of night?" Lady Ruth exclaimed. "Ridiculous!
They must send a message, whoever they are!"

"Parkins told them so, your ladyship," the girl answered; "but they insisted
that the matter was important. They would give no name, but said that they
were speaking from Mr. Wingrave's rooms."

Lady Ruth raised her eyebrows.

"It is very extraordinary," she said coldly, "but I will come to the


Lady Ruth took up the receiver. Some instinct seemed to have prompted her to
close the door of the study.

"Who is there?" she asked. "Who is it that wants me?"

A thin, unfamiliar voice answered her.

"Is that Lady Ruth Barrington?"


"Is it--Mademoiselle Violet?"

The receiver nearly dropped from her hand.

"I don't understand you," she answered, "I am Lady Ruth Barrington! Who are

"You are Mademoiselle Violet," was the answer, "and you know who I am! Listen,
I am in Mr. Wingrave's rooms."

She would have liked to have rung off and gone away, but it seemed a sheer
impossibility for her to move! And all the time her knees were shaking, and
the fear of evil things was in her heart.

"What are you doing there?" she asked.

"He brought me in himself," the thin voice answered. "Can you hear me? I don't
want to speak any louder for fear anyone else should be listening."

"Yes, I can hear," she answered. "But how dared you ring me up? Say what you
desire to quickly! I am going away."

"Wait, please," the voice answered. "I know why you have been angry with me. I
know why you have kept away from me, why you have been so cruel! It was
because I failed. Was it not, dear Mademoiselle Violet?"

She had not the breath or the courage to answer him. In a moment or two he
continued, and there was a note of suppressed exultation in his tone.

"Listen! This time--I have not failed!"

She nearly screamed. The receiver in her hand burned like a live thing. Her
eyes were set in a fixed and awful stare as though she were trying to see for
herself outside the walls of the little room where she stood into the larger
chamber from which the voice--that awful voice--came! Her own words were
hysterical and uncertain, but she managed to falter them out at last.

"What do you mean? Where is Mr. Wingrave? Tell me at once!"

The voice, without being raised, seemed to take to itself a note of triumph.

"He is dying--on the floor--just here! Listen hard! Perhaps you can hear him
groan! Now will you believe that I am not a coward?"

Her shriek drowned his words. She flung the receiver from her with a crash and
rushed from the room into the hall. She brushed past her maid with a wild

"Never mind my wraps. Open the door, Parkins! Is the carriage waiting?"

"Yes, Milady! Shall--"

But she was past him and down the steps.

"No. 18, Grosvenor Mansions," she cried to the man. "Drive fast."

The man obeyed. The servants, who had come to the door, stood there a little
frightened group. She ignored them and everything else completely. The
carriage had scarcely stopped when she sprang out and crossed the pavement in
a few hasty steps. The tall commissionaire looked in amazement at her. She
wore an opera cloak--she was a bewildering vision of white satin and diamonds,
and her eyes were terrible with the fear which was in her heart.

She clutched him by the arm.

"Come up with me to Mr. Wingrave's rooms," she exclaimed. "Something terrible
has happened. I heard through the telephone."

The man dashed up the stairs by her side. Wingrave's suite was on the first
floor, and they did not wait for the lift. The commissionaire put his finger
on the bell of the outside door. She leaned forward, listening breathlessly.
Inside all was silence except for the shrill clamor of the bell.

"Go on ringing," she said breathlessly. "Don't leave off!"

The man looked at her curiously. "Mr. Wingrave came in about an hour ago with
a young man, madam," he said.

"Yes, yes!" she cried. "Listen! There's someone coming."

They heard a hesitating step inside. The door was cautiously opened. It was
Richardson, pale, disheveled, but triumphant, who peered out.

"Mademoiselle--Mademoiselle Violet," he cried. "You have come to see for
yourself. This way!"

She raised her arm and struck him across the face so that, with a little moan,
he staggered back against the wall. Then she hastened forward into the room
towards which he had pointed and the door of which stood open. The
commissionaire followed her. The servants were beginning to appear.

The room was in darkness save for one electric light. A groan, however,
directed them. She fell on her knees by Wingrave's prostrate figure and raised
his head slightly. His servant, too, was hurrying forward. She looked up.

"Get me some brandy," she ordered. "Send someone for a doctor. Don't let that
young man escape. The brandy, quick!"

She forced some between his lips. There was already a spot of blood upon the
gown which, a few minutes ago, had seemed so immaculate. One of the ornaments
fell from her hair. It lay unnoticed by her side. Suddenly Wingrave opened his
eyes. She saw at once that he was conscious and that he recognized her.

"Don't move, please," she begged. "It will be better for you not to speak. The
doctor will be here directly."

He nodded.

"I don't think that I am much hurt," he said slowly. "Your young friend was a
born bungler!"

She shuddered, but said nothing.

"How on earth," he asked, "did you get here?"

She whispered in his ear.

"The brute--telephoned. Please don't talk."

The doctor arrived. His examination was over in a few moments.

"Nothing serious," he declared. "The knife was pretty blunt fortunately. How
did it happen? It seems like a case for the police."

"It was an accident," Wingrave declared coolly.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. He was busy making bandages. Lady Ruth rose
to her feet. She was white and giddy. The commissionaire and Morrison were
talking together at the door. The latter turned to Lady Ruth.

"Do you think that we had better send for the police, your ladyship?" he
asked. "It was the young man who came in with Mr. Wingrave who must have done
this! I thought he was a very wild-looking sort of person."

"You heard what Mr. Wingrave said," she answered. "I don't think that I should
disobey him, if I were you. The doctor says that, after all, it is not very

"He can't have got far," the hall porter remarked. "He only slipped out as we
came in."

"I should let him go for the present," Lady Ruth said. "If Mr. Wingrave wishes
to prosecute afterwards, it will be easy for him to do so."

She stepped back to where Wingrave lay. He was in a recumbent position now
and, although a little pale, he was obviously not seriously hurt.

"If there is nothing else that I can do," she said, "I will go now!"

"By all means," Wingrave answered. "I am exceedingly obliged to you for your
kindness," he added a little stiffly. "Morrison, show Lady Barrington to her

She spoke a few conventional words of farewell and departed. Outside on the
pavement she stood for a moment, looking carefully around. There was no sign
of Richardson anywhere! She stepped into the carriage and leaned back in the


Wingrave disappeared suddenly from London. Aynesworth alone knew where he was
gone, and he was pledged to secrecy. Two people received letters from him.
Lady Ruth was one of them.

"This," she remarked quietly, handing it over to her husband, "may interest

He adjusted his eye glasses and read it aloud:--

"Dear Lady Ruth,--I am leaving London today for several weeks. With the usual
inconsistency of the person to whom life is by no means a valuable asset, I am
obeying the orders of my physician. I regret, therefore, that I cannot have
the pleasure of entertaining your husband and yourself during Cowes week. The
yacht, however, is entirely at your disposal, and I have written Captain
Masterton to that effect. Pray extend your cruise, if you feel inclined to.--I
remain, yours sincerely, W."

Mr. Barrington looked at his wife inquiringly.

"That seems to me entirely satisfactory, Ruth," he said. "I think that he
might have added a word or two of acknowledgment for what you did for him.
There is no doubt that, but for your promptness, things might have gone much

"Yes," Lady Ruth said slowly, "I think that he might have added a few words."

Her husband regarded her critically.

"I am afraid, dear," he said, "that all this anxiety has knocked you up a
little. You are not looking well."

"I am tired," she answered calmly. "It has been a long season. I should like
to do what Wingrave has done--go away somewhere and rest."

Barrington laid his hand upon hers affectionately. It seemed to him that the
rings hung a little loosely upon the thin, white fingers. She was pale, too,
and her eyes were weary. He did not notice that, as soon as she could, she
drew her hand away.

"'Pon my word," he said, "I wish we could go off somewhere by ourselves. But
with Wingrave's yacht to entertain on, we must do something for a few of the
people. I don't suppose he minds whom we ask, or how many."

"No!" she answered, "I do not suppose he cares."

"It is most opportune," Barrington declared. "I wanted particularly to do
something for the Hendersons. He seems very well disposed, and his influence
means everything just now. Really, Ruth, I believe we are going to pull
through after all."

She smiled a little wearily.

"Do you think so, Lumley?"

"I am sure of it, Ruth," he answered. "I only wish I could see you a little
more cheerful. Surely you can't still--be afraid of Wingrave," he added,
glancing uneasily across the table.

She looked him in the eyes.

"That is exactly what I am," she answered. "I am afraid of him. I have always
been afraid. Nothing has happened to change him. He came back to have his
revenge. He will have it."

Lumley Barrington, for once, felt himself superior to his clever wife. He
smiled upon her reassuringly.

"My dear Ruth," he said, "if only you would reflect for a few moments, I feel
sure you would realize the absurdity of such fancies. We did Wingrave a
service in introducing him to society here, and I am sure that he appreciated
it. If he wished for our ruin, why did he lend us eight thousand pounds on no
security? Why does he lend us his yacht to entertain our friends? Why did he
give me that information which enabled me to make the only money I ever did
make on the Stock Exchange?"

She smiled contemptuously.

"You do not understand a man like Wingrave," she declared. "Nothing that he
has done is inconsistent with my point of view. He gave you a safe tip,
knowing very well that when you had won a little, you would try again on your
own account and lose--which you did. He lent us the money to become our
creditor; and he lends us the yacht to give another handle to the people who
are saying already that he occupies the position in our family which is more
fully recognized on the other side of the Channel!"

"You are talking rubbish," he declared vehemently. "No one would dare to say
such a thing of you--of my wife!"

She laughed unmercifully.

"If you were not my husband," she said cruelly, "You would have heard it
before now. I have been careful all my life--more careful than most women, but
I can hear the whisperings already. There are more ways to ruin than one,

"We will refuse the yacht," Barrington said sullenly, "and I will go to the
Jews for that eight thousand pounds."

"We will do nothing of the sort," Lady Ruth answered. "I am not going to be a
laughing stock for Emily and her friends if I can help it. We'll play the game
through now! Only--it is best for you to know the risks . . ."

Wingrave's second letter was to Juliet. She found it on her table one
afternoon when she came back from her painting class. She tore it open eagerly
enough, but her face clouded over as she read.

"Dear Juliet,--I am sorry that I am unable to carry out my promise to come and
see you, but I have been slightly indisposed for some days, and am leaving
London, for the present, almost at once. I trust that you are still interested
in your work, and will enjoy your trip to Normandy.

"I received your letter, asking for my help towards re-establishing in life a
poor family in whom you are interested. I regret that I cannot accede to your
request. It is wholly against my principles to give money away to people of
this class. I look upon all charity as a mischievous attempt to tamper with
natural laws, and I am convinced that if everyone shared my views, society
would long ago have been re-established on a sounder and more logical basis.
To be quite frank with you, also, I might add that the gift of sympathy has
been denied to me. I am quite indifferent whether the family you allude to
starve or prosper.

"So far as you yourself are concerned, however, the matter is entirely
different. If it gives you pleasure to assist in pauperizing any number of
your fellow creatures, pray do so. I enclose a check for L100. It is a present
to you. Use it entirely as you please--only, if you use it for the purpose
suggested in your letter to me, remember that the responsibility is yours, and
yours alone.--I remain, sincerely yours, Wingrave Seton."

Juliet walked straight to her writing table. Her cheeks were flushed, and her
eyes were wet with tears. She drew out a sheet of note paper and wrote

"My dear guardian,--I return you the check. I cannot accept such presents
after all your goodness to me. I am sorry that you feel as you do about giving
money away. You are so much older and wiser than I am that I dare not attempt
to argue with you. Only it seems to me that life would be a cruelly selfish
thing if we who are so much more fortunate than many of our fellow creatures
did not sometimes try to help them a little through their misery. Perhaps I
feel this a little more keenly because I wonder sometimes what might not have
become of me but for your goodness.

"I am sorry that you are going away without coming to see me again. You are
not displeased with me, I hope, for asking you this, or for any other reason?
I am foolish enough to feel a little lonely sometimes. Will you take me out
again when you come back?--Your affectionate ward, Juliet."

Juliet went out and posted her letter. On the way back she met Aynesworth.

"Come and sit in the Park for a few minutes," he begged.

She turned and walked by his side willingly enough.

"Have you been in to see me?" she asked.

"Yes!" he answered. "I have some tickets for the Haymarket for tonight. Do you
think we could persuade Mrs. Tresfarwin to come?"

"I'm sure we could," she answered, laughing. Hannah never wants any
persuading. How nice of you to think of us!"

"I am afraid," he answered, "that I think of you a good deal."

"Then I think that that also is very nice of you!" she declared.

"You like to be thought of?"

"Who doesn't? What is the play tonight?"

"I'll tell you about it afterwards," he said. "There is something else I want
to say to you first."

She nodded. She scarcely showed so much interest as he would have liked.

"It is about Berneval," he said, keeping his eyes fixed upon her face. "I saw
Mr. Pleydell today, and he told me that you were all going there. He suggested
that I should come too!"

"How delightful!" she exclaimed. "Can you really get off?"

"Yes. Sir Wingrave is going away, and doesn't want me. I must go somewhere,
and I thought that I might go over and take rooms near you all. Would you care
to have me?

"Of course I would," she answered frankly. "Oh!" she exclaimed suddenly, her
face clouding over--"I forgot!"


"I am not sure," she said, "that I am going."

"Not going?" he repeated incredulously. "Mr. Pleydell told me that it was all

"It was--until today," she said. "I am a little uncertain now."

He looked at her perplexed.

"May I know why?" he asked.

She raised her eyebrows slightly.

"You are rather an inquisitive person," she remarked. "The fact is, I may need
the money I have saved for Berneval for somewhere else."

"Of course," he said slowly, "if you don't go--I don't. But you can't stay in
London all through the hot weather!"

"Miss Pengarth has asked me to go down there," she said.

He laid his hand suddenly upon hers.

"Juliet," he said.

She shook her head.

"Miss Lundy, please!"

"Well, Miss Lundy then! May I talk to you seriously?"

"I prefer you frivolous," she murmured. "I like to be amused."

"I'll be frivolous enough later on this evening. I've been wondering if you'd
think it impertinent if I asked you to tell me about your guardian."

"What do you want to know?" she asked.

"Just who he is, and why he is content to let you live with only an old woman
to look after you. It isn't the best thing in the world for you, is it? I
should like to know him, Juliet."

She shook her head.

"I am sorry," she said, "I cannot tell you anything."

There was a short silence. Aynesworth was disappointed, and showed it.

"It isn't exactly ordinary curiosity," he continued. "Don't think that! Only I
feel that you need someone who has the right to advise you and look after you.
I should like to be your guardian, Juliet!"

She laughed merrily.

"Good!" she declared. "I like you so much better frivolous. Well, you shall
have your wish. You shall be my guardian for the evening. I have one cutlet
for dinner, and I am sure it will be spoilt. Will you come and share it?"

She rose to her feet and stood looking down upon him. He was struck, for the
first time, by something different in her appearance. The smooth, delicate
girlishness of her young face was, as yet, untroubled. Her eyes laughed
frankly into his, and all the grace of natural childhood seemed still to
linger about her. And yet--there was a change! Understanding was there;
understanding, with sorrow in its wake. Aynesworth was suddenly anxious. Had
anything happened of which he was ignorant? He rose up slowly. He was sure of
himself now! Was he sure of her?


Wingrave threw the paper aside with an impatient exclamation. A small notice
in an obscure corner had attracted his attention; the young man, Richardson,
had been fished out of the river half drowned, and in view of his tearful and
abject penitence, had been allowed to go his way by a lenient magistrate. He
had been ill, he pleaded, and disappointed. His former employer, in an
Islington emporium, gave him a good character, and offered to take him back.
So that was an end of Mr. Richardson, and the romance of his days!

A worm like that to have brought him--the strong man, low! Wingrave thought
with sullen anger as he leaned back in his chair with half-closed eyes. Here
was an undignified hiatus, if not a finale, to all his schemes, to the even
tenor of his self-restrained, purposeful life! The west wind was rippling
through the orchards which bordered the garden. The muffled roar of the
Atlantic was in his ears, a strange everlasting background to all the slighter
summer sounds, the murmuring of insects, the calling of birds, the melodious
swish of the whirling knives in the distant hayfield. Wingrave was alone with
his thoughts, and he hated them!

Even Mr. Pengarth was welcome, Mr. Pengarth very warm from his ride, carrying
his hat and a small black bag in his hand. As he drew nearer, he became hotter
and was obliged to rest his bag upon the path and mop his forehead. He was
more afraid of his client than of anything else in the world.

"Good afternoon, Sir Wingrave," he said. "I trust that you are feeling better

Wingrave eyed him coldly. He did not reply to the inquiry as to his health.

"You have brought the deed?" he asked.

"Certainly, Sir Wingrave."

The lawyer produced a roll of parchment from his bag. In response to
Wingrave's gesture, he seated himself on the extreme edge of an adjacent seat.

"I do not propose to read all that stuff through," Wingrave remarked. "I take
it for granted that the deed is made out according to my instructions."

"Certainly, Sir Wingrave!"

"Then we will go into the house, and I will sign it."

Mr. Pengarth mopped his forehead once more. It was a terrible thing to have a

"Sir Wingrave," he said, "I apologize most humbly for what I am about to say,
but as the agent of your estates in this county and your--er--legal adviser
with regard to them, I am forced to ask you whether you are quite determined
upon this--most unexampled piece of generosity. Tredowen has been in your
mother's family for a great many years, and although I must say that I have a
great affection for this young lady, I have also an old fashioned dislike to
seeing--er--family property pass into the hands of strangers. You might,
forgive me--marry!"

Wingrave smiled very faintly, otherwise his face was inscrutable.

"I might," he admitted calmly, "but I shall not. Do you consider me, Mr.
Pengarth, to be a person in possession of his usual faculties?"

"Oh, most certainly--most certainly," the lawyer declared emphatically.

"Then please do not question my instructions any further. So far as regards
the pecuniary part of it, I am a richer man than you have any idea of, Mr.
Pengarth, and for the rest--sentiment unfortunately does not appeal to me. I

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