“I want to talk to you,” she said a little abruptly. “You might have come this afternoon as you promised.”
Lady Ruth was a wonderful woman. A well-known statesman had just asked a friend her age.
“I don’t know,” was the answer, “but whatever it is, she doesn’t look it.”
Tonight she was almost girlish. Her complexion was delicate and perfectly natural, the graceful lines of her figure suggested more the immaturity of youth than any undue slimness. She wore a wonderful collar of pearls around her long, shapely neck, but very little other jewelry. The touch of her fingers upon Wingrave’s coat sleeve was a carefully calculated thing. If he had thought of it, he could have felt the slight appealing pressure with which she led him towards one of the smaller rooms.
“There are two chairs there,” she said. “Come and sit down. I have something to say to you.”
THE SHADOW OF A FEAR
For several minutes Lady Ruth said nothing. She was leaning back in the farthest corner of her chair, her head resting slightly upon her fingers, her eyes studying with a curious intentness the outline of Wingrave’s pale, hard face. He himself, either unconscious of, or indifferent to her close scrutiny, had simply the air of a man possessed of an inexhaustible fund of patience.
“Wingrave,” she said quietly, “I think that the time has gone by when I was afraid of you.”
He turned slightly towards her, but he did not speak.
“I am possessed,” she continued, “at present, of a more womanly sentiment. I am curious.”
“Ah!” he murmured, “you were always a little inclined that way.”
“I am curious about you,” she continued. “You are, comparatively speaking, young, well-looking enough, and strong. Your hand is firmly planted upon the lever which moves the world. What are you going to do?”
“That,” he said, “depends upon many things.”
“You may be ambitious,” she remarked. “If so, you conceal it admirably. You may be devoting your powers to the consummation of vengeance against those who have treated you ill. There are no signs of that, either, at present.”
“We have excellent authority,” he remarked, “for the statement that a considerable amount of satisfaction is derivable from the exercise of that sentiment.”
“Perhaps,” she answered, “but the pursuit of vengeance for wrongs of the past is the task of a fool. Now, you are not a fool. You carry your life locked up within you as a strong man should. But there are always some who may look in through the windows. I should like to be one.”
“An empty cupboard,” he declared. “A cupboard swept bare by time and necessity.”
She shook her head.
“Your life,” she said, “is molded towards a purpose. What is it?”
“I must ask myself the question,” he declared, “before I can tell you the answer!”