The Malefactor eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 284 pages of information about The Malefactor.
would be the most piquant, the most wonderful cross examination every heard—­the woman lying to save her honor and to achieve her vengeance; the man on trial for his life.  Wingrave stood up.  Lady Ruth raised her veil, and looked at him from the witness box.  There was the most intense silence I ever realized.  Who could tell the things which flashed from one to the other across the dark well of the court; who could measure the fierce, silent scorn which seemed to blaze from his eyes, as he held her there—­his slave until he chose to give the signal for release?  At last he looked away towards the judge, and the woman fell forward in the box gasping, a crumpled up, nerveless heap of humanity.

“‘My lord,’ he said, ‘I have no questions to ask this witness!’

“Everyone staggered.  Wingrave’s few friends were horrified.  After that there was, of course, no hope for him.  He got fifteen years’ penal servitude.”

Like an echo from that pent-up murmur of feeling which had rippled through the crowded court many years ago, his little group of auditors almost gasped as Lovell left his place and strolled down the room.  Aynesworth laid his hand upon his shoulder.

“All the time,” he said, “you were looking at that calendar!  Why?”

Lovell once more faced them.  He was standing with his back to a round table, strewn with papers and magazines.

“It was the date,” he said, “and the fact that I must leave England within a few hours, which forced this story from me.  Tomorrow Wingrave will be free!  Listen, Aynesworth,” he continued, turning towards him, “and the rest of you who fancy that it is I who am leaving a humdrum city for the world of tragedies!  I leave you the legacy of a greater one than all Asia will yield to me!  Lady Ruth is married to Lumley, and they hold today in London a very distinguished social position.  Tomorrow Wingrave takes a hand in the game.  He was once my friend; I was in court when he was tried; I was intimately acquainted with the lawyer’s clerk who had the arrangement of his papers.  I know what no one else breathing knows.  He is a man who never forgives; a man who was brutally deceived, and who for years has had no other occupation than to brood upon his wrongs.  He is very wealthy indeed, still young, he has marvelous tenacity of purpose, and he has brains.  Tomorrow he will be free!”

Aynesworth drew a little breath.

“I wonder,” he murmured, “if anything will happen.”

Lovell shrugged his shoulders.

“Where I go,” he said, “the cruder passions may rage, and life and death be reckoned things of little account.  But you who remain—­who can tell?—­you may look into the face of mightier things.”


Three men were together in a large and handsomely furnished sitting room of the Clarence Hotel, in Piccadilly.  One, pale, quiet, and unobtrusive, dressed in sober black, the typical lawyer’s clerk, was busy gathering up a collection of papers and documents from the table, over which they had been strewn.  His employer, who had more the appearance of a country gentleman than the junior partner in the well-known firm of Rocke and Son, solicitors, had risen to his feet, and was drawing on his gloves.  At the head of the table was the client.

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The Malefactor from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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