“At least you were vindicated,” Violet said.
“Oh, that!” said Wentworth. “Well, it was beginning to be time my luck turned, wasn’t it? It was rank enough to be caught, but if I’d been convicted, I’d have hanged myself. Now tell me! Was it Field’s brilliant defence that dazzled you into marrying him?”
She did not answer him. She turned instead and faced him in the darkness. “Burleigh! What do you mean by risk? What do you mean by being—caught? You don’t mean—you can’t mean—that you—that you were—guilty!”
Her voice shook. The words tumbled over each other. Her hand wrenched itself free.
“My dear girl!” said Wentworth. “Don’t be so melodramatic! No man is guilty until he is proved so. And—thanks to the kindly offices of your good husband—I did not suffer the final catastrophe.”
“But—but—but—” Her utterance seemed suddenly choked. She rose, feeling blindly for the door.
“It’s locked,” said Wentworth, and there was a ring of malice in his voice. “I say, don’t be unreasonable! You shouldn’t ask unnecessary questions, you know. Other people don’t. For Heaven’s sake, let’s enjoy what we’ve got and leave the past alone!”
“Open the door!” gasped Violet in a whisper.
He rose without haste. Her white dress made her conspicuous in the dimness. Her cloak had fallen from her, and she seemed unaware of it.
He reached out as if to open the door, and then very suddenly his intention changed. He caught her to him.
“By Heaven,” he said, and laughed savagely, “I’ll have my turn first!”
She turned in his hold, turned like a trapped creature in the first wild moment of capture, struggling so fiercely that she broke through his grip before he had made it secure.
He stumbled against the boat, but she sprang from him, sprang for the open moonlight and the lapping water, and the next instant she was gone from his sight.
The water was barely up to her knees, but she stumbled among slippery stones as she fled round the corner of the boat-house, and twice she nearly fell. There were reeds growing by the bank; she struggled through them, frantically fighting her way.
She was drenched nearly to the waist when at last she climbed up the grassy slope. She heard the seekers laughing down among the ruins some distance away as she did so, and for a few seconds she thought she might escape to the house unobserved. She turned in that direction, her wet skirts clinging round her. And then, simultaneously, two things happened.
The key ground in the lock of the boat-house, and, ere Wentworth could emerge, a man walked out from the shadow of some trees and met her on the path. She stopped short in the moonlight, standing as one transfixed. It was her husband.
He came to her, moving more quickly than was his won’t. “My dear child!” he ejaculated.