“Perhaps I am different, then,” she murmured. “I have never been lonely here—all my life!”
“Except,” he reminded her, “when I knew you first.”
“Ah! But that was different,” she protested. “I had no home in those days, and I was afraid of being sent away.”
It was in his mind then to tell her of the envelope with her name upon it in his study, but a sudden rush of confusing thoughts kept him silent. It was while he was laboring in the web of this tangled dream of wild but beautiful emotions that Aynesworth came. A pale, tragic figure in his travel-stained clothes, and face furrowed with anxiety, he stood over them almost before they were aware of his presence.
“Walter!” she cried, and sprang to her feet with extended hands. Wingrave’s face darkened, and the shadow of evil crept into his suddenly altered expression. It was an abrupt awakening this, and he hated the man who had brought it about.
Aynesworth held the girl’s hands for a moment, but his manner was sufficient evidence of the spirit in which he had come. He drew a little breath, and he looked from one to the other anxiously.
“Is this—your mysterious guardian, Juliet?” he asked hoarsely.
She glanced at Wingrave questioningly. His expression was ominous, and the light faded from her own face. While she hesitated, Wingrave spoke.
“I imagine,” he said, “that the fact is fairly obvious. What have you to say about it?”
“A good deal,” Aynesworth answered passionately. “Juliet, please go away. I must speak to your guardian—alone!”
Again she looked at Wingrave. He pointed to the house.
“I think,” he said, “that you had better go.”
She hesitated. Something of the impending storm was already manifest. Aynesworth turned suddenly towards her.
“You shall not enter that house again, Juliet,” he declared. “Stay in the gardens there, and presently you shall know why.”
Wingrave had risen to his feet. He was perfectly calm, but there was a look on his face which Juliet had never seen there before. Instinctively she drew a little away, and Aynesworth took his place between them.
“Are you mad, Aynesworth?” Wingrave asked coolly.
“Not now,” Aynesworth answered. “I have been mad to stay with you for four years, to look on, however passively, at all the evil you have done. I’ve had enough of it now, and of you! I came here to tell you so.”
“A letter,” Wingrave answered, “would have been equally efficacious. However, since you have told me—”
“I’ll go when I’m ready,” Aynesworth answered, “and I’ve more to say. When I first entered your service and you told me what your outlook upon life was, I never dreamed but that the years would make a man of you again, I never believed that you could be such a brute as to carry out your threats. I saw you do your best to corrupt a poor, silly little woman, who only escaped ruin by a miracle; I saw you deal out what might have been irretrievable disaster to a young man just starting in life. Since your return to London, you have done as little good, and as much harm, with your millions as any man could.”