The Malefactor HTML version

I.12. Mephistopheles On A Steamer
In some respects, the voyage across the Atlantic was a surprise to Aynesworth. His
companion seemed to have abandoned, for the time at any rate, his habit of taciturnity.
He conversed readily, if a little stiffly, with his fellow passengers. He divided his time
between the smoke room and the deck, and very seldom sought the seclusion of his state
room. Aynesworth remarked upon this change one night as the two men paced the deck
after dinner.
"You are beginning to find more pleasure," he said, "in talking to people."
Wingrave shook his head.
"By no means," he answered coldly. "It is extremely distasteful to me."
"Then why do you do it?" Aynesworth asked bluntly.
Wingrave never objected to being asked questions by his secretary. He seemed to
recognize the fact that Aynesworth's retention of his post was due to a desire to make a
deliberate study of himself, and while his own attitude remained purely negative, he at no
time exhibited any resentment or impatience.
"I do it for several reasons," he answered. "First, because misanthropy is a luxury in
which I cannot afford to indulge. Secondly, because I am really curious to know whether
the time will ever return when I shall feel the slightest shadow of interest in any human
being. I can only discover this by affecting a toleration for these people's society, which I
can assure you, if you are curious about the matter, is wholly assumed."
Aynesworth shrugged his shoulders.
"Surely," he said, "you find Mrs. Travers entertaining?"
Wingrave reflected for a moment.
"You mean the lady with a stock of epigrams, and a green veil?" he remarked. "No! I do
not find her entertaining."
"Your neighbor at table then, Miss Packe?"
"If my affections have perished," Wingrave answered grimly, "my taste, I hope, is
unimpaired. The young person who travels to improve her mind, and fills up the gaps by
reading Baedeker on the places she hasn't been to, fails altogether to interest me!"