The Malefactor HTML version
II.17. For Pity's Sake
The library at Tredowen was a room of irregular shape, full of angles and recesses lined
with bookcases. It was in one of these, standing motionless before a small marble statue
of some forgotten Greek poet, that Wingrave found his visitor. She wore a plain serge
traveling dress, and the pallor of her face, from which she had just lifted a voluminous
veil, matched almost in color the gleaming white marble upon which she was gazing. But
when she saw Wingrave, leaning upon his stick, and regarding her with stern surprise,
strange lights seemed to flash in her eyes. There was no longer any resemblance between
the pallor of her cheeks and the pallor of the statue.
"Lady Ruth," Wingrave said quietly, "I do not understand what has procured for me the
pleasure of this unexpected visit."
She swayed a little towards him. Her head was thrown back, all the silent passion of the
inexpressible, the hidden secondary forces of nature, was blazing out of her eyes,
pleading with him in the broken music of her tone.
"You do not understand," she repeated. "Ah, no! But can I make you understand? Will
you listen to me for once as a human being? Will you remember that you are a man, and I
a woman pleading for a little mercy--a little kindness?"
Wingrave moved a step further back.
"Permit me," he said, "to offer you a chair."
She sank into it--speechless for a moment. Wingrave stood over her, leaning slightly
against the corner of the bookcase.
"I trust," he said, "that you will explain what all this means. If it is my help which you
Her hands flashed out towards him--a gesture almost of horror.
"Don't," she begged, "you know that it is not that! You know very well that it is not. Why
do you torture me?"
"I can only ask you," he said, "to explain."
She commenced talking quickly. Her sentences came in little gasps.