I'll bring him here some day. You fellows shall see him for yourselves. I find him interesting enough. You see if it doesn't? A man who's just spent ten or twelve years in prison isn't likely to run any risk of going there again. There will be no tragedy; more likely reconciliation. It was the tragedy of the man himself, with his numbed, helpless life, set down here in the midst of us, with a great, blank chasm between him and his past.
What is there left to drive the wheels? The events of one day are simple and monotonous enough to us, because they lean up against the events of yesterday, and the yesterdays before! How do they seem, I wonder, to a man whose yesterday was more than a decade of years ago! You wish to cull from your interesting employer the material for that every-becoming novel of yours. Let's go upstairs! I've time for one pool. He left the club and walked westwards, humming softly to himself, but thinking all the time intently.
His errand disturbed him. He was to be the means of bringing together again these two people who had played the principal parts in Lovell's drama—his new employer and the woman who had ruined his life. What was the object of it? What manner of vengeance did he mean to deal out to her? Lovell's words of premonition returned to him just then with curious insistence—he was so certain that Wingrave's reappearance would lead to tragical happenings. Aynesworth himself never doubted it. His brief interview with the man into whose service he had almost forced himself had impressed him wonderfully.
Yet, what weapon was there, save the crude one of physical force, with which Wingrave could strike? He rang the bell at No. The man accepted it doubtfully. Aynesworth took back his card, and scribbled upon it the name of the newspaper for which he still occasionally worked. I will not detain her for more than a few minutes. The time passed slowly.
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At last, the door was opened. A woman, in a plain but exquisitely fitting black gown, entered. From Lovell's description, Aynesworth recognized her at once, and yet, for a moment, he hesitated to believe that this was the woman whom he had come to see.
The years had indeed left her untouched. Her figure was slight, almost girlish; her complexion as smooth, and her coloring, faint though it was, as delicate and natural as a child's. Her eyes were unusually large, and the lashes which shielded them heavy. It was when she looked at him that Aynesworth began to understand. I have called with a message from—an old friend of yours. She raised her eyebrows ever so slightly.
The graciousness of her manner was perceptibly abated. The look of enquiry, half impatient, half interrogative, faded slowly from her face. She stood quite still; her impassive features seemed like a plaster cast, from which all life and feeling were drawn out. Her eyes began slowly to dilate, and she shivered as though with cold. Then the man who was watching her and wondering, knew that this was fear—fear undiluted and naked.
He stepped forward, and placed a chair for her. She felt for the back of it with trembling fingers and sat down. One would have thought that she had been choking. She was silent for several moments. Then she raised her head. She was a brave woman, and she was rapidly recovering her self-possession. He would prefer not to come here! Her eyes rested thoughtfully upon his.
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It seemed as though she were trying to read in his face exactly what he meant by "the whole story. I am Sir Wingrave Seton's secretary. She looked at him earnestly. Gradually her face was softening.
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The frozen look was passing away. The expression was coming back to her eyes. She leaned a little towards him. Her voice, although it was raised above a whisper, was full of feeling. He was so hard and unforgiving. I know he thinks that he has a grievance against me. He will have been brooding about it all these years. I dare not see him! I—I am terrified! You have heard only one story.
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Listen"—she raised her eyes suddenly, and leaned a little forward in her chair—"some day, if you will come and see me when I am alone and we have time to spare, I will tell you the whole truth. I will tell you exactly what happened! You shall judge for yourself! Aynesworth," she said quietly.
You must answer it? You don't know how much it means to me. You are Sir Wingrave Seton's secretary; you have access to all his papers.
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Have you seen any letters of mine? Do you know if he still has any in his possession? And, Lady Ruth, you must forgive my reminding you that, in any case, I could not discuss such matters with you," he added.
xasanynudunu.gq She looked at him with a faint, strange smile. Afterwards, when he tried to do so, Aynesworth found it impossible to describe the expression which flitted across her face. He only knew that it left him with the impression of having received a challenge. There was a lingering sweetness in her tone which still had a note of mockery in it.
Her silence left Aynesworth conscious of a vague sense of uneasiness. He felt that her eyes were raised to his, and for some reason, which he could not translate even into a definite thought, he wished to avoid them. The silence was prolonged.
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For long afterwards he remembered those few minutes. There was a sort of volcanic intensity in the atmosphere. He was acutely conscious of small extraneous things, of the perfume of a great bowl of hyacinths, the ticking of a tiny French clock, the restless drumming of her finger tips upon the arm of her chair. All the time he seemed actually to feel her eyes, commanding, impelling, beseeching him to turn round. He did so at last, and looked her full in the face. You can tell him that I think it rather an extraordinary request, but under the circumstances I will do as he suggests.
He is staying at the Clarence, I presume, under his own name? I shall have no difficulty in finding him? And again there was something mysterious in her eyes as she raised them to him, as though there existed between them already some understanding which mocked the conventionality of her words. Aynesworth left the house, and lit a cigarette upon the pavement outside with a little sigh of relief.
He felt somehow humiliated. Did she fancy, he wondered, that he was a callow boy to dance to any tune of her piping—that he had never before seen a beautiful woman who wanted her own way? She did me the scanty honor of appraising me as an easy victim, and she asked questions. I ventured further to remind her that such questions, addressed from her to me, were, to say the least of it, improper. You are annoyed because she regarded you as too easy a victim.
Confess now, that she did not leave you altogether indifferent.
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