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The Malefactor

II.1. MR. WINGRAVE FROM AMERICA
"Four years ago tonight," Aynesworth said, looking round the club smoking room
thoughtfully, "we bade you farewell in this same room!"
Lovell, wan and hollow-eyed, his arm in a sling, his once burly frame gaunt and
attenuated with disease, nodded.
"And I told you the story," he remarked, "of--the man who had been my friend."
"Don't let us talk of Wingrave tonight!" Aynesworth exclaimed with sudden emphasis.
"Why not?" Lovell knocked the ashes from his pipe, and commenced leisurely to refill it.
"Why not, indeed? I mean to go and see him as soon as I can get about a little better."
"If your description of him," Aynesworth said, "was a faithful one, you will find him
changed."
Lovell laughed a little bitterly.
"The years leave their mark," he said, "upon us all--upon all of us, that is, who step out
into the open where the winds of life are blowing. Look at me! I weighed eighteen stone
when I left England. I had the muscles of a prize fighter and nerves of steel. Today I turn
the scale at ten stone and am afraid to be alone in the dark."
"You will be yourself again in no time," Aynesworth declared cheerfully.
"I shall be better than I am now, I hope," Lovell answered, "but I shall never be the man I
was. I have seen--God grant that I may some day forget what I have seen! No wonder that
my nerves have gone! I saw a Russian correspondent, a strong brutal-looking man, go off
into hysterics; I saw another run amuck through the camp, shooting right and left, and,
finally, blow his own brains out. Many a night I sobbed myself to sleep. The men who
live through tragedies, Aynesworth, age fast. I expect that I shall find Wingrave
changed."
"I would give a good deal," Aynesworth declared, "to have known him when you did."
Lovell nodded.
"You should be able to judge of the past," he said, "by the present. Four years of--
intimate companionship with any man should be enough!"
 
 
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