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The Malefactor

I.9. The Sword Of Damocles
Mr. Lumley Barrington, K.C. and M.P., was in the act of stepping into his carriage to
drive down to the House, when he was intercepted by a message. It was his wife's maid,
who came hurrying out after him.
"I beg your pardon, sir," she said, "but her ladyship particularly wished to see you as soon
as you came in."
"Is your mistress in?" Barrington asked in some surprise.
"Yes, sir!" the maid answered. "Her ladyship is resting, before she goes to the ball at
Caleram House. She is in her room now."
"I will come up at once," Barrington said.
He kept the carriage waiting while he ascended to his wife's room. There was no answer
to his knock. He opened the door softly. She was asleep on a couch drawn up before the
fire.
He crossed the room noiselessly, and stood looking down upon her. Her lithe, soft figure
had fallen into a posture of graceful, almost voluptuous ease; the ribbons and laces of her
muslin dressing gown quivered gently with her deep regular breathing. She had thrown
off her slippers, and one long, slender foot was exposed; the other was doubled up
underneath her body. Her face was almost like the face of a child, smooth and
unwrinkled, save for one line by the eyes where she laughed. He looked at her
steadfastly. Could the closing of the eyes, indeed, make all the difference? Life and the
knowledge of life seemed things far from her consciousness. Could one look like that--
even in sleep--and underneath--! Barrington broke away from his train of thought, and
woke her quickly.
She sat up and yawned.
"Parsons managed to catch you, then," she remarked.
"Yes!" he answered. "I was just off. I got away from Wills' dinner party early, and called
here for some notes. I must be at the House"--he glanced at the clock--"in three-quarters
of an hour!"
She nodded. "I won't keep you as long as that."
Her eyes met his, a little furtively, full of inquiry. "I have done what you wished," he said
quietly. "I called at the Clarence Hotel!"
 
 
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