The Malefactor HTML version

II.21. The Way Of Peace
They awaited his coming in varying moods. Barrington was irritable and restless, Lady
Ruth gave no signs of any emotion whatever. She had the air of a woman who had no
longer fear or hope. Only her eyes were a little weary.
Barrington was walking up and down the room, his hands in his pockets, his eyes fixed
upon his wife. Every now and then he glanced nervously towards her.
"Of course," he said, "if he wants a settlement--well, there's an end of all things. And I
don't see why he shouldn't. He hasn't lent money out of friendship. He hates me--always
has done, and sometimes I wonder whether he doesn't hate you too!"
Lady Ruth shivered a little. Her husband's words came to her with peculiar brutality. It
was as though he were blaming her for not having proved more attractive to the man who
held them in the hollow of his hand.
"Doesn't it strike you," she murmured, "that a discussion like this is scarcely in the best
possible taste? We cannot surmise what he wants--what he is going to do. Let us wait!"
The door opened and Wingrave entered. To Barrington, who greeted him with nervous
cordiality, he presented the same cold, impenetrable appearance; Lady Ruth, with quicker
perceptions, noticed at once the change. She sat up in her chair eagerly. It was what she
had prayed for, this--but was it for good or evil? Her eyes sought his eagerly. So much
depended upon his first few words.
Wingrave closed the door behind him. His greetings were laconic as usual. He addressed
Lady Ruth.
"I find myself obliged," he said, "to take a journey which may possibly be a somewhat
protracted one. I wished, before I left, to see you and your husband. I sent for you
together, but I wish to speak to you separately--to your husband first. You have often
expressed a desire to see over my house, Lady Ruth. My major domo is outside. Will you
forgive me if I send you away for a few minutes?"
Lady Ruth rose slowly to her feet.
"How long do you wish me to keep away?" she asked calmly.
"A few minutes only," he answered. "You will find me here when Parkinson has shown
you round."