“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 fear.
“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 Violet.”
“It was no hallucination,” she answered. “You know that! I was Mademoiselle Violet!”
“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.”
“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.