The Zeppelin's Passenger
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Part 2 out of 5
"Of course he'd do something!" Her husband groaned. "I should get
a censorship in Ireland, or a post as instructor at Portsmouth."
"Wouldn't you rather take either of those than nothing?" she asked,
"than go on living the life you are living now?"
"To be perfectly frank with you, Philippa, I wouldn't," he declared
bluntly. "What on earth use should I be in a land appointment? Why,
no one could read my writing, and my nautical science is entirely
out of date. Why a cadet at Osborne could floor me in no time."
"You refuse to let me write, then?" she persisted.
"You intend to go on that fishing expedition with Jimmy Dumble
"Wouldn't miss it for anything," he confessed.
Philippa was suddenly white with anger.
"Henry, I've finished," she declared, holding out her hand to keep
him away from her. "I've finished with you entirely. I would
rather be married to an enemy who was fighting honourably for his
country than to you. What I have said, I mean. Don't come near me.
Don't try to touch me."
She swept past him on her way to the door.
"Not even a good-night kiss?" he asked, stooping down.
She looked him in the eyes.
"I am not a child," she said scornfully.
He closed the door after her. For a moment he remained as though
undecided whether to follow or not. His face had softened with
her absence. Finally, however, he turned away with a little shrug
of the shoulders, threw himself into his easy-chair and began to
The telephone bell disturbed his reflection. He rose at once and
took up the receiver.
"Yes, this is 19, Dreymarsh. Trunk call? All right, I am here."
He waited until another voice came to him faintly.
"That's right. The message is Odino Berry, you understand?
"I've got it," Sir Henry replied. "Good night!" He hung up the
receiver, crossed the room to his desk, unlocked one of the drawers,
and produced a black memorandum book, secured with a brass lock.
He drew a key from his watch chain, opened the book, and ran his
fingers down the 0's.
"Odino," he muttered to himself. "Here it is: 'We have trustworthy
information from Berlin.' Now Berry." He turned back. "'You are
being watched by an enemy secret service agent.'"
He relocked the cipher book and replaced it in the desk. Then he
strolled over to his easy-chair and helped himself to a whisky and
soda from the tray which Mills had just arranged upon the sideboard.
"We have trustworthy information from Berlin," he repeated to
himself, "that you are being watched by an enemy secret service
"Tell me, Mr. Lessingham," Philippa insisted, "exactly what are you
thinking of? You looked so dark and mysterious from the ridge below
that I've climbed up on purpose to ask you."
Lessingham held out his hand to steady her. They were standing on
a sharp spur of the cliffs, the north wind blowing in their faces,
thrashing into little flecks of white foam the sea below, on which
the twilight was already resting. For a moment or two neither of
them could speak.
"I was thinking of my country," he confessed. "I was looking
through the shadows there, right across the North Sea."
He shook his head.
"Further away - to Sweden."
"I forgot," she murmured. "You looked as though you were posing for
a statue of some one in exile," she observed. "Come, let us go a
little lower down - unless you want to stay here and be blown to
"I was on my way back to the hotel," he answered quickly, as he
followed her lead, "but to tell you the truth I was feeling a little
"That," she declared," is your own fault. I asked you to come to
Mainsail Haul whenever you felt inclined."
"As I have felt inclined ever since the evening I arrived," he
remarked with a smile, "you might, perhaps, by this time have had
a little too much of me."
"On the contrary," she told him, "I quite expected you yesterday
afternoon, to tell me how you like the place and what you have been
doing. So you were thinking about - over there?" she added,
moving her head seawards.
"Over there absorbs a great deal of one's thoughts," he confessed,
"and the rest of them have been playing me queer tricks."
"Well, I should like to hear about the first half," she insisted.
"Do you know," he replied, "there are times when even now this war
seems to me like an unreal thing, like something I have been reading
about, some wild imagining of Shelley or one of the unrestrainable
poets. I can't believe that millions of the flower of Germany's
manhood and yours have perished helplessly, hopelessly, cruelly.
And France - poor decimated France!"
"Well, Germany started the war, you know," she reminded him.
"Did she?" he answered. "I sometimes wonder. Even now I fancy, if
the official papers of every one of the nations lay side by side,
with their own case stated from their own point of view, even you
might feel a little confused about that. Still, I am going to be
very honest with you. I think myself that Germany wanted war."
"There you are, then," she declared triumphantly. "The whole thing
is her responsibility."
"I do not quite go so far as that," he protested. "You see, the
world is governed by great natural laws. As a snowball grows larger
with rolling, so it takes up more room. As a child grows out of its
infant clothes, it needs the vestments of a youth and then a man.
And so with Germany. She grew and grew until the country could not
hold her children, until her banks could not contain her money,
until she stretched her arms out on every side and felt herself
stifled. Germany came late into the world and found it parcelled
out, but had she not a right to her place? She made herself great.
She needed space."
"Well," Philippa observed, "you couldn't suppose that other nations
were going to give up what they had, just because she wanted their
possessions, could you?"
"Perhaps not," he admitted. "And yet, you see, the immutable law
comes in here. The stronger must possess - not only the stronger
by arms, mind, but by intellect, by learning, by proficiency in
science, by utilitarianism. The really cruel part, the part I was
thinking of then, as I looked out across the sea, is that this
crude and miserable resort to arms should be necessary."
"If only Germans themselves were as broad-minded and reasonable as
you," Philippa sighed, "one feels that there might be some hope for
"I am not alone," he assured her, "but, you see, all over Germany
there is spread like a spider's web the lay religion of the citizen
- devotion to the Government, blind obedience to the Kaiser.
Independent thought has made Germany great in science, in political
economy, in economics. But independent thought is never turned
towards her political destinies. Those are shaped for her. For
good or for evil her children have learnt obedience."
They were descending the hillside now. At their feet lay the little
town, black and silent.
"You have helped me to understand a little," Philippa said. "You
put things so gently and yet so clearly. Now tell me, will you not,
how it is that you, who are a Swede by birth, are bearing arms for
"That is very simple," he confessed. "My mother was a German, and
when she died she bequeathed to me large estates in Bavaria, and a
very considerable fortune. These I could never have inherited
unless I had chosen to do my military service in Germany. My family
is an impoverished one, and I have brothers and sisters dependent
upon me. Under the circumstances, hesitation on my part was
"But when the war came?" she queried.
He looked at her in surprise.
"What was there left for me then?" he demanded. "Naturally I heard
nothing but the voice of those whom I had sworn to obey. I was in
that mad rush through Belgium. I was wounded at Maubeuge, or else
I should have followed hard on the heels of that wonderful retreat
of yours. As it was, I lay for many months in hospital. I joined
again - shall I confess it? - almost unwillingly. The
bloodthirstiness of it all sickened me. I fought at Ypres, but I
think that it was something of the courage of despair, of black
misery. I was wounded again and decorated. I suppose I shall never
be fit for the front again. I tried to turn to account some of my
knowledge of England and English life. Then they sent me here."
"Here, of all places in the world!" Philippa repeated wonderingly.
"Just look at us! We have a single line of railway, a perfectly
straightforward system of roads, the ordinary number of soldiers
being trained, no mysteries, no industries - nothing. What terrible
scheme are you at work upon, Mr. Lessingham?"
"Between you and he confided, "I am not at all sure that I am not
here on a fool's errand - at least I thought so when I arrived."
She glanced up at him.
"And why not now?"
He made no answer, but their eyes met and Philippa looked hurriedly
away. There was a moment's queer, strained silence. Before them
loomed up the outline of Mainsail Haul.
"You will come in and have some tea, won't you?" she invited.
"If I may. Believe me," he added, "it has only been a certain
diffidence that has kept me away so long."
She made no reply, and they entered the house together. They found
Helen and Nora, with three or four young men from the Depot, having
tea in the drawing-room. Lessingham slipped very easily into the
pleasant little circle. If a trifle subdued, his quiet manners,
and a sense of humour which every now and then displayed itself,
were most attractive.
"Wish you'd come and dine with us and meet our colonel, sir,"
Harrison asked him. "He was at Magdalen a few years after Major
Felstead, and I am sure you'd find plenty to talk about."
"I am quite sure that we should," Lessingham replied. "May I come,
perhaps, towards the end of next week? =20I am making most strenuous
efforts to lead an absolutely quiet life here."
"Whenever you like, sir. We sha'n't be able to show you anything
very wild in the way of dissipation. Vintage port and a decent
cigar are the only changes we can make for guests."
Philippa drew her visitor on one side presently, and made him sit
with her in a distant corner of the room.
"I knew there was something I wanted to say to you," she began, "but
somehow or other I forgot when I met you. My husband was very much
struck with Helen's improved spirits. Don't you think that we had
better tell him, when he returns, that we had heard from Major
"Just let him think that your letters came by post in the ordinary
way," he advised. "I shouldn't imagine, from what I have seen of
your husband, that he is a suspicious person, but it is just possible
that he might have associated them with me if you had mentioned them
the other night. When is he coming back?"
"I never know," Philippa answered with a sigh. "Perhaps to-night,
perhaps in a week. It depends upon what sport he is having. You
are not smoking."
Lessingham lit a cigarette.
"I find your husband," he said quietly, "rather an interesting type.
We have no one like that in Germany. He almost puzzles me."
Philippa glanced up to find her companion's dark eyes fixed upon her.
"There is very little about Henry that need, puzzle any one," she
complained bitterly. "He is just an overgrown, spoilt child, devoted
to amusements, and following his fancy wherever it leads him. Why do
you look at me, Mr. Lessingham, as though you thought I was keeping
something back? I am not, I can assure you."
"Perhaps I was wondering," he confessed, "how you really felt towards
a husband whose outlook was so unnatural."
She looked down at her intertwined fingers.
"Do you know," she said softly, "I feel, somehow or other, although
we have known one another such a short time, as though we were
friends, and yet that is a question which I could not answer. A
woman must always have some secrets, you know."
"A man may try sometimes to preserve his," he sighed, "but a woman
is clever enough, as a rule, to dig them out."
A faint tinge of colour stole into her cheeks. She welcomed Helen's
approach almost eagerly.
"A woman must first feel the will," she murmured, without glancing
at him. "Helen, do you think we dare ask Mr. Lessingham to come
"Please do not discourage such a delightful suggestion," Lessingham
"I haven't the least idea of doing so," Helen laughed, "so long as
I may have - say just ten minutes to talk about Dick."
"It is a bargain," he promised.
"We shall be quite alone," Philippa warned him, "unless Henry arrives."
"It is the great attraction of your invitation," he confessed.
"At eight o'clock, then."
"Captain Griffiths to see your ladyship."
Philippa's fingers rested for a moment upon the keyboard of the
piano before which she was seated, awaiting Lessingham's arrival.
Then she glanced at the clock. It was ten minutes to eight.
"You can show him in, Mills, if he wishes to see me."
Captain Griffiths was ushered into the room - awkward, unwieldly,
nervous as usual. He entered as though in a hurry, and there was
nothing in his manner to denote that he had spent the last few
hours making up his mind to this visit.
"I must apologise for this most untimely call, Lady Cranston," he
said, watching the closing of the door. "I will not take up more
than five minutes of your time."
"We are very pleased to see you at any time, Captain Griffiths,"
Philippa said hospitably. "Do sit down, please."
Captain Griffiths bowed but remained standing.
"It is very near your dinner-time, I know, Lady Cranston," he
continued apologetically. "The fact of it is, however, that as
Commandant here it is my duty to examine the bona fides of any
strangers in the place. There is a gentleman named Lessingham
staying at the hotel, who I understand gave your name as
Philippa's eyes looked larger than ever, and her face more innocent,
as she gazed up at her visitor.
"Why, of course, Captain Griffiths," she said. "Mr. Lessingham
was at college with my brother, and one of his best friends. He
has shot down at my father's place in Cheshire."
"You are speaking of your brother, Major Felstead?"
"My only brother."
"I am very much obliged to you, Lady Cranston," Captain Griffiths
declared. "I can see that we need not worry any more about Mr.
"It seems rather old-fashioned to think of you having to worry about
any one down here," she observed. "It really is a very harmless
neighbourhood, isn't it?"
"There isn't much going on, certainly," the Commandant admitted.
"Very dull the place seems at times."
"Now be perfectly frank," Philippa begged him. "Is there a single
fact of importance which could be learnt in this place, worth
communicating to the enemy? Is the danger of espionage here worth
a moment's consideration?"
"That," Captain Griffiths replied in somewhat stilted fashion, "is
not a question which I should be prepared to answer off-hand."
Philippa shrugged her shoulders and appealed almost feverishly to
Helen, who had just entered the room.
"Helen, do come and listen to Captain Griffiths! He is making me
feel quite creepy. There are secrets about, it seems, and he wants
to know all about Mr. Lessingham."
Helen smiled with complete self-possession.
"Well, we can set his mind at rest about Mr. Lessingham, can't we?"
she observed, as she shook hands.
"We can do more," Philippa declared. "We can help him to judge for
himself. We are expecting Mr. Lessingham for dinner, Captain
Griffiths. Do stay."
"I couldn't think of taking you by storm like this," Captain
Griffiths replied, with a wistfulness which only made his voice
sound hoarser and more unpleasant. "It is most kind of you, Lady
Cranston. Perhaps you will give me another opportunity."
"I sha'n't think of it," Philippa insisted. "You must stay and
dine to-night. We shall be a partie carr=A1e, for Nora goes to bed
directly after dinner. I am ringing the bell to tell Mills to set
an extra place," she added.
Captain Griffiths abandoned himself to fate with a little shiver of
complacency. He welcomed Lessingham, who was presently announced,
with very much less than his usual reserve, and the dinner was in
every way a success. Towards its close, Philippa became a little
thoughtful. She glanced more than once at Lessingham, who was
sitting by her side, almost in admiration. His conversation, gay
at times, always polished, was interlarded continually with those =
little social reminiscences inevitable amongst men moving in a
certain circle of English society. Apparently Richard Felstead
was not the only one of his college friends with whom he had kept
in touch. The last remnants of Captain Griffiths' suspicions
seemed to vanish with their second glass of port, although his
manner became in no way more genial.
"Don't you think you are almost a little too daring?" Philippa
asked her favoured guest as he helped her afterwards to set out
a bridge table.
"One adapts one's methods to one's adversary," he murmured, with a
smile, "Your friend Captain Griffiths had only the very conventional
suspicions. The mention of a few good English names, acquaintance
with the ordinary English sports, is quite sufficient with a man
Helen and Griffiths were talking at the other end of the room.
Philippa raised her eyes to her companion's.
"You become more of a mystery than ever," she declared. "You are
making me even curious. Tell me really why you have paid us this
visit from the clouds?"
She was sorry almost as soon as she had asked the question. For a
moment the calm insouciance of his manner seemed to have departed.
His eyes glowed.
"In search of new things," he answered.
A spirit of mischief possessed her. Lessingham's manner was baffling
and yet provocative. For a moment the political possibilities of
his presence faded away from her mind. She had an intense desire to
break through his reserve.
"Won't you tell me - why you came?"
"I could tell you more easily," he answered in a low tone, "why it
will be the most miserable day of my life when I leave."
She laughed at him with perfect heartiness.
"How delightful to be flirted with again!" she sighed. "And I
thought all German men were so heavy, and paid elaborate, underdone
compliments. Still, your secret, sir, please? That is what I want
"If you will have just a little patience!" he begged, leaning so
close to her that their heads almost touched, "I promise that I will
not leave this place before I tell it to you."
Philippa's eyes for the first time dropped before his. She knew
perfectly well what she ought to have done and she was singularly
indisposed to do it. It was a most piquant adventure, after all,
and it almost helped her to forget the trouble which had been
sitting so heavily in her heart. Still avoiding his eyes, she
called the others.
"We are quite ready for bridge," she announced.
They played four or five rubbers. Lessingham was by far the most
expert player, and he and Philippa in the end were the winners.
The two men stood together for a moment or two at the sideboard,
helping themselves to whisky and soda. Griffiths had become more
taciturn than ever, and even Philippa was forced to admit that the
latter part of the evening had scarcely been a success.
"Do you play club bridge in town, Mr. Lessingham?" Griffiths asked.
"Never," was the calm reply.
"You are head and shoulders above our class down here."
"Very good of you to say so," Lessingham replied courteously. "I
held good cards to-night."
"I wonder," Griffiths went on, dropping his voice a little and
keeping his eyes fixed upon his companion, "what the German
substitute for bridge is."
"I wonder," Lessingham echoed.
"As a nation," his questioner proceeded, "they probably don't waste
as much time on cards as we do."
Lessingham's interest in the subject appeared to be non-existent.
He strolled away from the sideboard towards Philippa. She, for her
part, was watching Captain Griffiths.
"So many thanks, Lady Cranston," Lessingham murmured, "for your
"And what about that secret?" she asked.
"You see, there are two," he answered, looking down at her. "One
I shall most surely tell you before I leave here, because it is the
one secret which no man has ever succeeded in keeping to himself.
As for the other - "
He hesitated. There was something almost like pain in his face.
She broke in hastily.
"I did not call you away to ask about either. I happened to notice
Captain Griffiths just now. Do you know that he is watching you
"I had an idea of it," Lessingham admitted indifferently. "He is
rather a clumsy person, is he not?"
"You will be careful?" she begged earnestly. "Remember, won't you,
that Helen and I are really in a most disgraceful position if
anything should come out."
"Nothing shall," he promised her. "I think you know, do you not,
that, whatever might happen to me, I should find some means to
For the second time she felt a curious lack of will to fittingly
reprove his boldness. She had even to struggle to keep her tone as
careless as her words.
"You really are a delightful person!" she exclaimed. "How long is
it since you descended from the clouds?"
"Sometimes I think that I am there still," he answered, "but I have
known you about seventy-six hours."
"What precision?" she laughed. "It's a national characteristic,
isn't it? Captain Griffiths," she continued, as she observed his
approach, "if you really must go, please take Mr. Lessingham with
you. He is making fun of me. I don't allow even Dick's friends
to do that."
Lessingham's disclaimer was in quite the correct vein.
"You must both come again very soon," their hostess concluded, as
she shook hands. "I enjoyed our bridge immensely."
The two men were already on their way to the door when a sudden
idea seemed to occur to Captain Griffiths. He turned back.
"By-the-by, Lady Cranston," he asked, "have you heard anything from
Philippa shook her head sadly. Helen, who, unlike her friend, had
not had the advantage of a distinguished career upon the amateur
dramatic stage, turned away and held a handkerchief to her eyes.
"Not a word," was Philippa's sorrowful reply.
Captain Griffiths offered a clumsy expression of his sympathy.
"Bad luck!" he said. "I'm so sorry, Lady Cranston. Good night once
This time their departure was uninterrupted. Helen removed her
handkerchief from her eyes, and Philippa made a little grimace at
the closed door.
"Do you be1ieve," Helen asked seriously, "that Captain Griffiths
has any suspicions?"
Philippa shrugged her shoulders.
"If he has, who cares?" she replied, a little defiantly. "The
very idea of a duel of wits between those two men is laughable."
"Perhaps so," Helen agreed, with a shade of doubt in her tone.
Philippa and Helen started, a few mornings later, for one of their
customary walks. The crystalline October sunshine, in which every
distant tree and, seaward, each slowly travelling steamer, seemed
to gain a new clearness of outline, lay upon the deep-ploughed
fields, the yellowing bracken, and the red-gold of the bending trees,
while the west wind, which had strewn the sea with white-flecked
waves, brought down the leaves to form a carpet for their feet, and
played strange music along the wood-crested slope. In the broken
land through which they made their way, a land of trees and moorland,
with here and there a cultivated patch, the yellow gorse still glowed
in unexpected corners; queer, scentless flowers made splashes of
colour in the hedgerows; a rabbit scurried sometimes across their
path; a cock pheasant, after a moment's amazed stare, lowered his
head and rushed for unnecessary shelter. The longer they looked
upwards, the bluer seemed the sky. The grass beneath their feet was
as green and soft as in springtime. Driven by the wind, here and
there a white-winged gull sailed over their heads,- a cloud of them
rested upon a freshly turned little square of ploughed land between
two woods. A flight of pigeons, like torn leaves tossed about by
the wind, circled and drifted above them. Philippa seated herself
upon the trunk of a fallen tree and gazed contentedly about her.
"If I had a looking-glass and a few more hairpins, I should be
perfectly happy," she sighed. "I am sure my hair must look awful."
Helen glanced at it admiringly.
"I decline to say the correct thing," she declared. "I will only
remind you that there will be no one here to look at it."
"I am not so sure," Philippa replied. "These are the woods which
the special constables haunt by day and by night. They gaze up
every tree trunk for a wireless installation, and they lie behind
hedges and watch for mysterious flashes."
"Are you suggesting that we may meet Mr. Lessingham?" Helen enquired,
lazily. "I am perfectly certain that he knows nothing of the
equipment of the melodramatic spy. As to Zeppelins, don't you
remember he told us that he hated them and was terrified of bombs."
"My dear," Philippa remonstrated, "Mr. Lessingham does nothing crude."
"And yet, - " Helen began.
"Yet I suppose the man has something at the back of his head,"
Philippa interrupted. "Sometimes I think that he has, sometimes I
believe that Richard must have shown him my picture, and he has come
over here to see if I am really like it."
"He does behave rather like that," her companion admitted drily.
Phillipa turned and looked at her.
"Helen," she said severely, "don't be a cat."
"If I were to express my opinion of your behaviour," Helen went on,
picking up a pine cone and examining it, "I might astonish you."
"You have an evil mind," Philippa yawned, producing her cigarette
case. "What you really resent is that Mr. Lessingham sometimes
forgets to talk about Dick."
"The poor man doesn't get much chance," Helen retorted, watching the
blue smoke from her cigarette and leaning back with an air of content.
"Whatever do you and he find to talk about, Philippa?"
"Literature - English and German," Philippa murmured demurely. "Mr.
Lessingham is remarkably well read, and he knows more about our
English poets than any man I have met for years."
"I forgot that you enjoyed that sort of thing."
"Once more, don't be a cat," Philippa enjoined. "If you want me to
confess it, I will own up at once. You know what a simple little
thing I am. I admire Mr. Lessingham exceedingly, and I find him a
most interesting companion."
"You mean," her friend observed drily "the Baron Maderstrom."
Philippa looked around and frowned.
"You are most indiscreet, Helen," she declared. "I have learnt
something of the science of espionage lately, and I can assure you
that all spoken or written words are dangerous. There is a
thoroughly British squirrel in that tree overhead, and I am sure
"I suppose the sunshine has got into your head," Helen groaned.
"If you mean that I am finding it a relief to talk nonsense, you are
right," Philippa assented. "As a matter of fact, I am feeling most
depressed. Henry telephoned from somewhere or other before breakfast
this morning, to say that he should probably be home to-night or
to-morrow. They must have landed somewhere down the coast."
"You are a most undutiful wife," Helen pronounced severely. "I am
sure Henry is a delightful person, even if he is a little
irresponsible, and it is almost pathetic to remember how much you
were in love with him, a year or two ago."
Some of the lightness vanished from Philippa's face.
"That was before the war," she sighed.
"I still think Henry is a dear, though I don't altogether understand
him," Helen said thoughtfully.
"No doubt," Philippa assented, "but you'd find the not understanding
him a little more galling, if you were his wife. You see, I didn't
know that I was marrying a sort of sporting Mr. Skimpole."
"I wonder," Helen reflected, "how Henry and Mr. Lessingham will get
on when they see more of one another."
"I really don't care," Philippa observed indifferently.
"I used to notice sometimes - that was soon after you were married,"
Helen continued, "that Henry was just a little inclined to be
Philippa withdrew her eyes from the sea. There was a queer little
smile upon her lips.
"Well, if he still is," she said, "I'll give him something to be=20
"Poor Mr. Lessingham!" Helen murmured.
Philippa's eyebrows were raised.
"Poor Mr. Lessingham? " she repeated. "I don't think you'll find
that he'll be in the least sorry for himself."
"He may be in earnest," Helen reminded her friend. "You can be
horribly attractive when you like, you know, Philippa."
Philippa smiled sweetly.
"It is just possible," she said, "that I may be in earnest myself.
I've quarrelled pretty desperately with Henry, you know, and I'm a
helpless creature without a little admiration."
Helen rose suddenly to her feet. Her eyes were fixed upon a figure
approaching through the wood.
"You really aren't respectable, Philippa," she declared. "Throw
away your cigarette, for heaven's sake, and sit up. Some one is
Philippa only moved her head lazily. The sunlight, which came down
in a thousand little zigzags through the wind-tossed trees, fell
straight upon her rather pale, defiant little face, with its
unexpressed evasive charm, and seemed to find a new depth of colour
in the red-gold of her disordered hair. Her slim, perfect body was
stretched almost at full length, one leg drawn a little up, her hands
carelessly drooping towards the grass. The cigarette was still
burning in the corner of her lips.
"I decline," she said, "to throw away my cigarette for any one.
"Least of all, I trust," a familiar voice interposed, "for me."
Philippa sat upright at once, smoothed her hair and looked a little
resentfully at Lessingham. He was wearing a brown tweed
knickerbocker suit, and he carried a gun under his arm.
"Whatever are you doing up here," she demanded, "and do you know
anything about our game laws? You can't come out into the woods
here and shoot things just because you feel like it."
He disposed of his gun and seated himself between them.
"That is quite all right," he assured her. "Your neighbour, Mr.
Windover, to whom these woods apparently belong, asked me to bring
my gun out this morning and try and get a woodcock."
"Gracious! You don't mean that Mr. Windover is here, too?" Philippa
demanded, looking around. Lessingham shook his head.
"His car came for him at the other side of the wood," he explained.
"He was wanted to go on the Bench. I elected to walk home."
"And the woodcock? " she asked. "I adore woodcock."
He produced one from his pocket, took up her felt hat, which was
lying amongst the bracken, and busied himself insulating the pin
feathers under the silk band.
"There," he said, handing it to her, "the first woodcock of the
season. We got four, and I really only accepted one in the hope
that you would like it. I shall leave it with the estimable Mills,
on my return."
"You must come and share it," Philippa insisted. "Those boys of
Nora's are coming in to dinner. Your gift shall be the piece de
"Then may I dine another night?" he begged. "This place encourages
in me the grossest of appetites."
"Have no fear," she replied. "You will never see that woodcock
again. I shall have it for my luncheon to-morrow. I ordered dinner
before I came out, and though it may be a simple feast, I promise
that you shall not go away hungry."
"Will you promise that you will never send me away hungry?" he asked,
dropping his voice for a moment.
She turned and studied him. Helen, who had strolled a few yards
away, was knee-deep in the golden brown bracken, picking some
gorgeously coloured leaves from a solitary bramble bush. Lessingham
had thrown his cap onto the ground, and his wind-tossed hair and the
unusual colour in his cheeks were both, in their way, becoming. His
loose but well-fitting country clothes, his tie and soft collar, were
all well-chosen and suitable. She admired his high forehead and his
firm, rather proud mouth. His eyes as well as his tone were full of
"You know that you ought to be saying that to some Gretchen away
across that terrible North Sea," she laughed.
"There is no Gretchen who has ever made my heart shake as you do,"
She picked up her hat and sighed.
"Really," she said, "I think things are quite complicated enough as
they are. I am in a flutter all day long, as it is, about your
mission here and your real identity. I simply could not include a
flirtation amongst my excitements."
"I have never flirted," he assured her gravely.
"Wise man," she pronounced, rising to her feet. "Come, let us go
and help Helen pick leaves. She is scratching her fingers terribly,
and I'm sure you have a knife. A dear, economical creature, Helen,"
she added, as they strolled along. "I am perfectly certain that
those are destined to adorn my dining-table, and, with chrysanthemums
at sixpence each, you can't imagine how welcome they are. Come,
produce the knife, Mr. Lessingham."
The knife was forthcoming, and presently they all turned their faces
homeward. Philippa arrested both her companions on the outskirts of
the wood, and pointed to the red-tiled little town, to the sombre,
storm-beaten grey church on the edge of the cliff, to the peaceful
fields, the stretch of gorse-sprinkled common, and the rolling
stretch of green turf on the crown of the cliffs. Beyond was the
foam-flecked blue sea, dotted all over with cargo steamers.
"Would one believe," she asked satirically, "that there should be
scope here in this forgotten little spot for the brains of a - Mr.
"Remember that I was sent," he protested. "The error, if error
there be, is not mine."
"And after all," Helen reminded them both, "think how easily one
may be misled by appearances. You couldn't imagine anything more
honest than the faces of the villagers and the fishermen one sees
about, yet do you know, Mr. Lessingham, that we were visited by
burglars last night?"
"Seriously?" he asked.
"Without a doubt. Of course, Mainsail Haul is an invitation to
thieves. They could get in anywhere. Last night they chose the
French windows and seem to have made themselves at home in the
"I trust," Lessingham said, "that they did not take anything of value?"
"They took nothing at all," Philippa sighed. "That is the
humiliating part of it. They evidently didn't like our things."
"How do you know that you had burglars, if they took nothing away?"
"So practical!" Philippa murmured. "As a matter of fact, I heard
some one moving about, and I rang the alarm bell. Mills was
downstairs almost directly and we heard some one running down the
drive. The French windows were open, a chair was overturned in the
library, and a drawer in my husband's desk was wide open."
"The proof," Lessingham admitted, "is overwhelming. You were visited
by a burglar. Does your husband keep anything of value in his desk?"
"Henry hasn't anything of value in the world," Philippa replied
drily, "except his securities, and they are at the bank."
"Without going so far as to contradict you," Lessingham observed, with
a smile, "I still venture to disagree!"
Sir Henry stepped back from the scales and eyed the fish which they
had been weighing, admiringly.
"You see that, Mills? You see that, Jimmy?" he pointed out. "Six
and three-quarter pounds! I was right almost to an ounce. He's a
"A very extraordinary fish, sir," the butler observed. "Will you
allow me to take your oilskins? Dinner was served nearly an hour
Sir Henry slipped off his dripping overalls and handed them over.
"That's all right," he replied. "Listen. Don't say a word about
my arrival to your mistress at present. I have some writing to do.
Bring me a glass of sherry at once, or mix a cocktail if you can
do so without being missed, and take Jimmy away and give him some
whisky and soda."
"But what about your own dinner, sir?"
"I'll have a tray in the gun room," his master decided, "say in
twenty minutes' time. And, Mills, who did you say were dining?"
"Two of the young officers from the Depot, sir - Mr. Harrison and
Mr. Sinclair - and Mr. Hamar Lessingham."
"Lessingham, eh? Sir Henry repeated, as he seated himself before
his writing-table. "Mills," he added, in a confidential whisper,
"what port did you serve?"
The butler's expression was one of conscious rectitude.
"Not the vintage, sir," he announced with emphasis. "Some very
excellent wood port, which we procured for shooting luncheons.
The young gentlemen like it."
"You're a jewel, Mills," his master declared. "Now you understand
- an aperitif for me now, some whisky for Jimmy in your room, and
not a word about my being here. Good night, Jimmy. Sorry we were
too late for the mackerel, but we had some grand sport, all the same.
You'll have a day or two's rest ashore now."
"Aye, aye, sir!" Dumble replied. "We got in just in time. There's
something more than a squall coming up nor'ards."
Sir Henry listened for a moment. The French windows shook, the rain
beat against the panes, and a dull booming of wind was clearly
audible from outside.
"We timed that excellently," he agreed. "Come up and have a chat
to-morrow, Jimmy, if your wife will spare you."
"I'll be round before eleven, sir," the fisherman promised, with a
Sir Henry waited for the closing of the door. Then he leaned forward
for several moments. He had scarcely the appearance of a man returned
from a week or two of open-air life and indulgence in the sport he
loved best. The healthy tan of his complexion was lessened rather
than increased. There were black lines under his eyes which seemed
to speak of sleepless nights, and a beard of several days' growth
was upon his chin. He drank the cocktail which Mills presently
brought him, at a gulp, and watched with satisfaction while the mixer
was vigorously shaken and a second one poured out.
"We've had a rough time, Mills," he observed, as he set down the
glass. "Until this morning it scarcely left off blowing."
"I'm sorry to hear it, sir," was the respectful reply. "If I may
be allowed to say so, sir, you're looking tired."
"I am tired," Sir Henry admitted. "I think, if I tried, I could go
to sleep now for twenty-four hours."
"You will pardon my reminding you, so far as regards your letters,
that there is no post out tonight, sir," Mills proceeded. "I have
prepared a warm bath and laid out your clothes for a change."
"Capital!" Sir Henry exclaimed. "It isn't a letter that's bothering
me, though, Mills. There are just a few geographical notes I want
to make. You know, I'm trying to improve the fishermen's chart of
the coast round here. That fellow Groocock - Jimmy Dumble's uncle
- very nearly lost=20his motor boat last week through trusting to the
"Just so, sir," Mills replied deferentially, placing the empty glass
upon his tray. "If you'll excuse me, sir, I must get back to the
"Quite right," his master assented. "They won't be out just yet,
"Her ladyship will probably be rising in about ten minutes, sir
- not before that."
Sir Henry nodded a little impatiently. Directly the door was closed
he rose to his feet, stood for a moment listening by the side of his
fishing cabinet, then opened the glass front and touched the spring.
With the aid of a little electric torch which he took from his
pocket, he studied particularly a certain portion of the giant chart,
made some measurements with a pencil, some notes in the margin, and
closed it up again with an air of satisfaction. Then he resumed his
seat, drew a folded slip of paper from his breast pocket, a chart
from another, turned up the lamp and began to write. His face, as
he stooped low, escaped the soft shade and was for a moment almost
ghastly. Every now and then he turned and made some calculations on
the blotting-paper by his side. At last he leaned back with a little
sigh of relief. He had barely done so before the door behind him
"Are we going to stay in here, Mummy, or are we going into the
drawing-room?" Nora asked.
"In here, I think," he heard Philippa reply.
Then they both came in, followed by Helen. Nora was the first to
see him and rushed forward with a little cry of surprise.
"Why, here's Dad!" she exclaimed, flinging her arms around his neck.
"Daddy, how dare you be sitting here all by yourself whilst we are
having dinner! When did you get back? What a fish!"
Sir Henry closed down his desk, embraced his daughter, and came
forward to meet his wife.
"Fine fellow, isn't he, Nora!" he agreed. "Well, Philippa, how are
you? Pleased to see me, I hope? Another new frock, I believe, and
in war time!"
"Fancy your remembering that it was war time!" she answered, standing
very still while he leaned over and kissed her.
"Nasty one for me," Sir Henry observed good-humouredly. "How well
you're looking, Helen! Any news of Dick yet?"
Helen attempted an expression of extreme gravity with more or less
"Nothing fresh," she answered.
"Well, well, no news may be good news," Sir Henry remarked
consolingly. "Jove, it's good to feel a roof over one's head again!
This morning has been the only patch of decent weather we've had."
"This morning was lovely," Helen assented. "Philippa and I went and
sat up in the woods."
Philippa, who was standing by the fire, turned and looked at her
"We have some men dining," she said. "They will be out in a few
minutes. Don't you think you had better go and make yourself
presentable? You smell of fish, and you look as though you hadn't
shaved for a week."
"Guilty, my dear," Sir Henry admitted. "Mills is just getting me
something to eat in the gun room, and then I am going to have a
bath and change my clothes."
"And shave, Dad," Nora reminded him.
"And shave, you young pest," her father agreed, patting her on the
shoulder. "Run away and play billiards with Helen. I want to talk
to your mother until my dinner's ready."
Nora acquiesced promptly.
"Come along, Helen, I'll give you twenty-five up. Or perhaps you'd
like to play shell out?" she proposed. "Arthur Sinclair says I have
improved in my potting more than any one he ever knew."
Sir Henry opened the door and closed it after them. Then he returned
and seated himself on the lounge by Philippa's side. She glanced up
at him as though in surprise, and, stretching out her hand towards
her work-basket, took up some knitting.
"I really think I should change at once, if I were you," she
"Presently. I had a sort of foolish idea that I'd like to have a
word or two with you first. I've been away for nearly a fortnight,
"You have," Philippa assented. "Perhaps that is the reason why
I feel that I haven't very much to say to you."
"That sounds just a trifle hard," he said slowly.
"I am hard sometimes," Philippa confessed. "You know that quite
well. There are times when I just feel as though I had no heart
at all, nor any sympathy; when every sensation I might have had
seems shrivelled up inside me."
"Is that how you are feeling at the present time towards me,
Philippa?" he asked.
Her needles flashed through the wool for a moment in silence.
"You had every warning," she told him. "I tried to make you
understand exactly how your behaviour disgusted me before you
"Yes, I remember," he admitted. "I'm afraid, dear, you think I
am a worthless sort of a fellow."
Philippa had apparently dropped a stitch. She bent lower still over
her knitting. There was a distinct frown upon her forehead, her
mouth was unrecognisable.
"Your friend Lessingham is here still, I understand?" her husband
"Yes," Philippa assented, "he is dining to-night. You will probably
see him in a few minutes."
Sir Henry looked thoughtful, and studied for a moment the toe of a
remarkably unprepossessing looking shoe.
"You're so keen about that sort of thing," he said, "what about
Lessingham? He is not soldiering or anything, is he?"
"I have no idea," Philippa replied. "He walks with a slight limp
and admits that he is here as a convalescent, but he hasn't told us
very much about himself."
"I wonder you haven't tackled him," Sir Henry continued. "You're
such an ardent recruiter, you ought to make sure that he is doing
his bit of butchery."
Philippa looked up at her husband for a moment and back at her work.
"Mr. Lessingham," she said, "is a very delightful friend, whose stay
here every one is enjoying very much, but he is a comparative
stranger. I feel no responsibility as to his actions."
"And you do as to mine?"
Sir Henry's head was resting on his hand, his elbow on the back of
the lounge. He seemed to be listening to the voices in the dining
"Hm!" he observed. "Has he been here often while I've been away?"
"As often as he chose," Philippa replied. "He has become very popular
in the neighbourhood already, and he is an exceedingly welcome guest
here at any time."
"Takes advantage of your hospitality pretty often, doesn't he?"
"He is here most days. We are always rather disappointed when he
Sir Henry's frown grew a little deeper.
"What's the attraction?" he demanded.
Philippa smiled. It was the smile which those who knew her best,
"Well," she confided, "I used to imagine that it was Helen, but I
think that he has become a little bored, talking about nothing but
Dick and their college days. I am rather inclined to fancy that it
must be me."
"You, indeed!" he grunted. "Are you aware that you are a married
Philippa glanced up from her work. Her eyebrows were raised, and
her expression was one of mild surprise.
"How queer that you should remind me of it!" she murmured. "I am
afraid that the sea air disturbs your memory."
Sir Henry rose abruptly to his feet.
"Oh, damn!" he exclaimed.
He walked to the door. His guests were still lingering over their
wine. He could hear their voices more distinctly than ever. Then
he came back to the sofa and stood by Philippa's side.
"Philippa, old girl," he pleaded, "don't let us quarrel. I have had
such a hard fortnight, a nor'easter blowing all the time, and the
dirtiest seas I've ever known at this time of the year. For five days
I hadn't a dry stitch on me, and it was touch and go more than once.
We were all in the water together, and there was a nasty green wave
that looked like a mountain overhead, and the side of our own boat
bending over us as though it meant to squeeze our ribs in. It looked
like ten to one against us, Phil, and I got a worse chill than the
sea ever gave me when I thought that I shouldn't see you again."
Philippa laid down her knitting. She looked searchingly into her
husband's face. She was very far from indifferent to his altered
"Henry," she said, "that sounds very terrible, but why do you run
such risks - unworthily? Do you think that I couldn't give you all
that you want, all that I have to give, if you came home to me with
a story like this and I knew that you had been facing death
righteously and honourably for your country's sake? Why, Henry,
there isn't a man in the world could have such a welcome as I could
give you. Do you think I am cold? Of course you don't! Do you
think I want to feel as I have done this last fortnight towards you?
Why, it's misery! It makes me feel inclined to commit any folly,
any madness, to get rid of it all."
Her husband hesitated. A frown had darkened his face. He had the
air of one who is on the eve of a confession.
"Philippa," he began, "you know that when I go out on these fishing
expeditions, I also put in some work at the new chart which I am so
anxious to prepare for the fishermen."
Philippa shook her head impatiently.
"Don't talk to me about your fishermen, Henry! I'm as sick with
them as I am with you. You can see twenty or thirty of them any
morning, lounging about the quay, strapping young fellows who
shelter themselves behind the plea of privileged employment. We are
notorious down here for our skulkers, and you - you who should be
the one man to set them an example, are as bad as they are. You
deliberately encourage them."
Sir Henry abandoned his position by his wife's side, His face
darkened and his eyes flashed.=20
"Skulkers? " he repeated furiously.
Philippa looked at him without flinching.
"Yes! Don't you like the word?"
The angry flush faded from his cheeks as quickly as it had come. He
laughed a little unnaturally, took up a cigarette from an open box,
and lit it.
"It isn't a pleasant one, is it, Philippa?" he observed, thrusting
his hands into his jacket pockets strolling away. "If one doesn't
feel the call - well, there you are, you see. Jove, that's a fine
He stood admiring the codling upon the scales. Philippa continued
"If you intend to spend the rest of the evening with us," she told
him calmly, "please let me remind you again that we have guests for
dinner. Your present attire may be comfortable but it is scarcely
He turned away and came back towards her. As he passed the lamp,
"Why, you're wet," she exclaimed, "wet through!"
"Of course I am," he admitted, feeling his sleeve, "but to tell you
the truth, in the interest of our conversation I had quite forgotten
it. Here come our guests, before I have had time to escape. I can
hear your friend Lessingham's voice."
The three dinner guests entered together, Lessingham in the middle.
Sir Henry's presence was obviously a surprise to all of them.
"No idea that you were back, sir," Harrison observed, shaking hands.
Sir Henry greeted them all good-humouredly. "I turned up about
three quarters of an hour ago," he explained, "just too late to
join you at dinner."
"Bad luck, sir," Sinclair remarked. "I hope that you had good sport?"
"Not so bad," Sir Henry admitted. "We had to go far enough for it,
though. What do you think of that for an October codling?"
They all approached the scales and admired the fish. Sir Henry
stood with his hands in his pockets, listening to their comments.
"You are enjoying your stay here, I hope, Mr. Lessingham?" he
"One could scarcely fail to enjoy even the briefest holiday in so
delightfully hospitable a place," was the somewhat measured reply.
"You're by way of being a fisherman yourself, I hear?" Sir Henry
"In a very small way," Lessingham acknowledged. "I have been out
once or twice."
"With Ben Oates, eh?"
"I believe that was the man's name."
Philippa glanced up from her work with a little exclamation of
"I had no idea of that, Mr. Lessingham. Whatever made you choose
Ben Oates? He is a most disgraceful person."
"It was entirely by accident," Lessingham explained. "I met him on
the front. It happened to be a fine morning, and he was rather
pressing in his invitation."
"I'm afraid he didn't show you much sport," Sir Henry observed.
"From what Jimmy Dumble's brother told him, he seems to have taken
you in entirely the wrong direction, and on the wrong tide."
"We had a small catch," Lessingham replied. "I really went more for
the sail than the sport, so I was not disappointed."
"The coast itself," Sir Henry remarked, "is rather an interesting
"I should imagine so," Lessingham assented. "Mr. Ben Oates, indeed,
told me some wonderful stories about it. He spoke of broad channels
down which a dreadnought could approach within a hundred yards of
"He is quite right, too," his host agreed.
"There's a lot of deep water about here. The whole of the coast is
very curious in that way. What the - what the dickens is this?"
Sir Henry, who had been strolling about the room, picked up a
Homburg hat from the far side of a table of curios. Philippa glanced
up at his exclamation.
"That's Nora's trophy," she explained. "I told her to take it up to
her own room, but she's always wanting to show it to her friends."
"Nora's trophy?" Sir Henry repeated. "Why, it's nothing but an
ordinary man's hat."
"Nevertheless, it's a very travelled one, sir," Harrison pointed out.
"Miss Nora picked it up on Dutchman's Common, the morning after the
observation car was found there."
Sir Henry held out the hat.
"But Nora doesn't seriously suppose that the Germans come over in
this sort of headgear, does she?" he demanded.
"If you'll just look inside the lining, sir," Sinclair suggested.
Sir Henry turned it up and whistled softly. "By Jove, it's a
German hat, all right!" he exclaimed. "Doesn't look a bad shape,
He tried it on. There was a little peal of laughter from the men.
Philippa had ceased her knitting and was watching from the couch.
Sir Henry looked at himself in the looking-glass.
"Well, that's funny," he observed. "I shouldn't have thought it
would have been so much too small for me. Here, just try how you'd
look in it, Mr. Lessingham," he added, handing it across to him.
Lessingham accepted the situation quite coolly, and placed the hat
carefully on his head.
"It doesn't feel particularly comfortable," he remarked.
"That may be," Sir Henry suggested, "because you have it on wrong
side foremost. If you'd just turn it round, I believe you would
find it a very good fit."
Lessingham at once obeyed. Sir Henry regarded him with admiration.
"Excellent!" he exclaimed. "Look at that, Philippa. Might have
been made for him, eh?"
Lessingham looked at himself in the glass and removed the hat from
his head with, some casual observation. He was entirely at his ease.
His host turned towards the door, which Mills was holding open.
"Captain Griffiths, sir," the latter announced.
Sir Henry greeted his visitor briefly.
"How are you, Griffiths? " he said. "Glad to see you. Excuse my
costume, but I am just back from a fishing expedition. We are all
admiring Mr. Lessingham in his magic hat."
Captain Griffiths shook hands with Philippa, nodded to the others,
and turned towards Lessingham.
"Put it on again, there's a good fellow, Lessingham," Sir Henry
begged. "You see, we have found a modern version of Cinderella's
slipper. The hat which fell from the Zeppelin on to Dutchman's
Common fits our friend like a glove. I never thought the Germans
made such good hats, did you, Griffiths?"
"I always thought they imported their felt hats," Captain Griffiths
acknowledged. "Is that really the one with the German name inside,
which Miss Nora brought home?"
"This is the genuine article," Lessingham assented, taking it from
his head and passing it on to the newcomer. "Notwithstanding the
name inside, I should still believe that it was an English hat. It
feels too comfortable for anything else."
The Commandant took the hat to a lamp and examined it carefully.
He drew out the lining and looked all the way round. Suddenly he
gave vent to a little exclamation.
"Here are the owner's initials," he declared, "rather faint but
still distinguishable, - B. M. Hm! There's no doubt about its
being a German hat."
"B. M.," Sir Henry muttered, looking over his shoulder. "How very
interesting! B. M.," he repeated, turning to Philippa, who had
recommenced her knitting. "Is it my fancy, or is there something
a little familiar about that?"
"I am sure that I have no idea," Philippa replied. "It conveys
nothing to me."
There was a brief but apparently pointless silence. Philippa's
needles flashed through her wool with easy regularity. Lessingham
appeared to be sharing the mild curiosity which the others showed
concerning the hat. Sir Henry was standing with knitted brows, in
the obvious attitude of a man seeking to remember something.
"B. M.," he murmured softly to himself. "There was some one I've
known or heard of in England - What's that, Mills?"
"Your dinner is served, sir," Mills, who had made a silent entrance,
Sir Henry apparently thought no more of the hat or its possible
owner. He threw it upon a neighbouring table, and his face expressed
a new interest in life.
"Jove, I'm ravenous!" he confessed. "You'll excuse me, won't you?
Mills, see that these gentlemen have cigars and cigarettes - in the
billiard room, I should think. You'll find the young people there.
I'll come in and have a game of pills later."
The two young soldiers, with Captain Griffiths, followed Sir Henry
at once from the room. Lessingham, however, lingered. He stood
with his hands behind him, looking at the closed door.
"Are you going to stay and talk nonsense with me, Mr. Lessingham?"
"If I may," he answered, without changing his position.
Philippa looked at him curiously.
"Do you see ghosts through that door?"
He shook his head.
"Do you know," he said, as he seated himself by her side, "there
are times when I find your husband quite interesting."
Philippa leaned back in her place.
"Exactly what do you mean by that, Mr. Lessingham?" she demanded.
He shook himself free from a curious sense of unreality, and turned
"I must confess," he said, "that sometimes your husband puzzles me."
"Not nearly so much as he puzzles me," Philippa retorted, a little
"Has he always been so desperately interested in deep-sea fishing?"
Philippa shrugged her shoulders.
"More or less, but never quite to this extent. The thing has become
an obsession with him lately. If you are really going to stay and
talk with me, do you mind if we don't discuss my husband? Just now
the subject is rather a painful one with me."
"I can quite understand that," Lessingham murmured sympathetically.
"What do you think of Captain Griffiths?" she asked, a little
"I have thought nothing more about him. Should I? Is he of any
"He is military commandant here."
Lessingham nodded thoughtfully.
"I suppose that means that he is the man who ought to be on my
track," he observed.
"I shouldn't be in the least surprised to hear that he was," Philippa
said drily. "I have told you that he came and asked about you the
other night, when he dined here. He seemed perfectly satisfied then,
but he is here again to-night to see Henry, and he=20never visits
anywhere in an ordinary way."
"Are you uneasy about me?" Lessingham enquired.
"I am not sure," she answered frankly. "Sometimes I am almost
terrified and would give anything to hear that you were on your way
home. And at other times I realise that you are really very clever,
that nothing is likely to happen to you, and that the place will
seem duller than ever when you do go."
"That is very kind of you," he said. "In any case, I fear that my
holiday will soon be coming to an end."
"Your holiday?" she repeated. "Is that what you call it?"
"It has been little else," he replied indifferently. "There is
nothing to be learnt here of the slightest military significance."
"We told you that when you arrived," Philippa reminded him.
"I was perhaps foolish not to believe you," he acknowledged.
"So your very exciting journey through the clouds has ended in
failure, after all!" she went on, a moment or two later.
"Failure? No, I should not call it failure."
"You have really made some discoveries, then?" she enquired dubiously.
"I have made the greatest discovery in the world."
Her eyebrows were gently raised, the corners of her mouth quivered,
her eyes fell.
"Dear me! In this quiet spot?" she sighed.
"Is it Helen or me?"
"Philippa!" he protested.
Her eyebrows were more raised than ever. Her mouth had lost its
"Really, Mr. Lessingham!" she exclaimed. "Have I ever given you
the right to call me by my Christian name?"
"In my country," he answered, "we do not wait to ask. We take."
"Rank Prussianism," she murmured. "I really think you had better
go back there. You are adopting their methods."
"I may have to at any moment," he admitted, "or to some more distant
country still. I want something to take back with me."
"You want a keepsake, of course," Philippa declared, looking around
the room. "You can have my photograph - the one over there. Helen
will give you one of hers, too, I am sure, if you ask her. She is
just as grateful to you about Richard as I am."
"But from you," he said earnestly, "I want more than gratitude."
"Dear me, how persistent you are!" Philippa murmured. "Are you
really determined to make love to me?"
"Ah, don't mock me!" he begged. "What I am saying to you comes from
Philippa laughed at him quietly. There was just a little break in
her voice, however.
"Don't he absurd!"
"There is nothing absurd about it," he replied, with a note of
sadness in his tone. "I felt it from the moment we met. I struggled
against it, but I have felt it growing day by day. I came here with
my mind filled with different purposes. I had no thought of amusing
myself, no thought of seeking here the happiness which up till now
I seem to have missed. I came as a servant because I was sent, a
mechanical being. You have changed everything. For you I feel what
I have never felt for any woman before. I place before you my career,
my freedom, my honour."
Philippa sighed very softly.
"Do you mind ringing the bell?" she begged.
"The bell?" he repeated. "What for?"
"I want Helen to hear you," she confided, with a wonderful little
"Philippa, don't mock me," he pleaded. "If this is only amusement
to you, tell me so and let me go away. It is the first time in my
life that a woman has come between me and my work. I am no longer
master of myself. I am obsessed with you. I want nothing else in
life but your love."
There was an almost startling change in Philippa's face. The banter
which had served her with so much effect, which she had relied upon
as her defensive weapon, was suddenly useless. Lessingham had
created an atmosphere around him, an atmosphere of sincerity.
"Are you in earnest?" she faltered.
"God knows I am!" he insisted.
"You - you care for me?"
"So much," he answered passionately, "that for your sake I would
sacrifice my honour, my country, my life."
"But I've only known you for such a short time," Philippa protested,
"and you're an enemy."
"I discard my birth. I renounce my adopted country," he declared
fiercely. "You have swept my life clear of every scrap of ambition
and patriotism. You have filled it with one thing only - a great,
"Have you forgotten my husband?"
"Do you think that if he had been a different sort of man I should
have dared to speak? Ask yourself how you can continue to live
with him? You can call him which you will. Both are equally
disgraceful. Your heart knows the truth. He is either a coward or
Philippa's cheeks were suddenly white. Her eyes flashed. His words
had stung her to the quick.
"A coward?" she repeated furiously. "You dare to call Henry that?"
Lessingham rose abruptly to his feet. He moved restlessly about the
room. His fists were clenched, his tone thick with passion.
"I do!" he pronounced. "Philippa, look at this matter without
prejudice. Do you believe that there is a single man of any country,
of your husband's age and rank, who would be content to trawl the
seas for fish whilst his country's blood is being drained dry? Who
would weigh a codling," he added, pointing scornfully to the scales,
"whilst the funeral march of heroes is beating throughout the world?
The thing is insensate, impossible!"
Philippa's head drooped. Her hands were nervously intertwined.
"Don't!" she pleaded, "I have suffered so much."
"Forgive me," he begged, with a sudden change of voice. "If I am
mistaken in your husband - and there is always the chance - I am
sorry. I will confess that I myself had a different opinion of him,
but I can only judge from what I have seen and from that there is
no one in the world who would not agree with me that your husband
is unworthy of you."
"Oh, please stop!" Philippa cried. "Stop at once!"
Lessingham came back to his place by her side. His voice was still
shaking, but it had grown very soft.
"Philippa, forgive me," he repeated. "If you only knew how it hurts
to see you like this! Yet I must speak. There is just once in
every man's lifetime when he must tell the truth. That time has
come with me - I love you."
"So does my husband," she murmured.
"I will only remind you, then, that he shows it in strange fashion,"
Lessingham continued. "He sets your wishes at defiance. He who
should be an example in a small place like this, is only an object
of contempt in the neighbourhood. Even I, who have only lived here
for so short a time, have caught the burden of what people say."
Philippa wiped her eyes.
"Please, do you mind," she begged, "not saying anything more about
Henry. You are only reminding me of things which I try all the
time to forget."
"Believe me," Lessingham answered wistfully, "I am only too content
to ignore him, to forget that he exists, to remember only that you
are the woman who has changed my life."
Philippa looked at him in something like dismay, rather like a child
who has started an engine which she has no idea how to stop.
"But you must not - you must not talk to me like this!"
His hand closed upon hers. It lay in his grasp, unyielding, cold,
"Why not?" he whispered. "I have the one unalterable right, and I
am willing to pay the great price."
"Right?" she faltered.
"The right of loving you - the right of loving you better than any
woman in the world."
There was a queer silence, only partly due, as she was instantly
aware, to the emotion of the moment. A door behind them had opened.
Philippa's quicker senses had recognised her husband's footsteps.
Lessingham rose deliberately to his feet. In his heart he welcomed
the interruption. This might, perhaps, be the decisive moment. Sir
Henry was strolling towards them. His manner and his tone, however,
were alike good-natured.
"I was to order you into the billiard room, Mr. Lessingham," he
announced. "Sinclair has been sent for - a night route march, or
some such horror - and they want you to make a four."
Lessingham hesitated. He had a passionate inclination to face the
situation, to tell this man the truth. Sir Henry's courteous
indifference, however, was like a harrier. He recognised the
"I am afraid I am rather out of practice," he said, "but I shall be
delighted to do my best."
Sir Henry was obviously not in the best of tempers. For a
mild-mannered and easy-going man, his expression was scarcely normal.
"That fellow was making love to you," he said bluntly, as soon as
the door was closed behind Lessingham.
Philippa looked up at her husband with an air of pleasant candour.
"He was doing it very nicely, too," she admitted.
"You mean to say that you let him?"
"I listened to what he had to say," she confessed. "It didn't occur
to you, I suppose," her husband remarked, with somewhat strained
sarcasm, "that you were another man's wife?"
"I am doing my best to forget that fact," Philippa reminded him.
"I see! And he is to help you?"
Sir Henry's irritation was fast merging into anger.
"I shall turn the fellow out of the house," he declared.
Philippa shrugged her shoulders.
"Why don't you?"
He seated himself on the couch by his wife's side. "Look here,
Philippa, don't let's wrangle," he begged. "I'm afraid you'll have
to make up your mind to see a good deal less of your friend
Philippa's brows were knitted. She was conscious of a vague
"Really? And why?"
"For one thing," her husband explained, "because I don't intend to
have him hanging about my house during my absence."
"The best way to prevent that would be not to go away," Philippa
"Well, in all probability," he announced guardedly, "I am not
going away again - at least not just yet."
Philippa's manner suddenly changed. She laid down her work. Her
hand rested lightly upon her husband's shoulder.
"You mean that you are going to give up those horrible fishing
excursions of yours?"
"For the present I am," he assured her.
"And are you going to do something - some work, I mean?" she asked
"For the immediate present I am going to stay at home and look after
you," he replied.
Philippa's face fell. Her manner became notably colder.
"You are very wise," she declared. "Mr. Lessingham is a most
fascinating person. We are all half in love with him - even Helen."
"The fellow must have a way with him," Sir Henry conceded grudgingly.
"As a rule the people here are not over-keen on strangers, unless
they have immediate connections in the neighbourhood. Even Griffiths,
who since they made him Commandant, is a man of many suspicions,
seems inclined to accept him."
"Captain Griffiths dined here the other night," Philippa remarked,
"and I noticed that he and Mr. Lessingham seemed to get on very well."
"The fellow's all right in his way, no doubt," Sir Henry began.
"Of course he is," Philippa interrupted. "Helen likes him quite as
much as I do."
"Does he make love to Helen, too?" Sir Henry ventured.
"Don't talk nonsense!" Philippa retorted. "He isn't that sort of
a man at all. If he has made love to me, he has done so because I
have encouraged him, and if I have encouraged him, it is your fault."
Sir Henry, with an impatient exclamation, rose from his place and
took a cigarette from an open box.
"Quite time I stayed at home, I can see. All the same, the fellow's
rather a puzzle. I can't help wondering how he succeeded in making
such an easy conquest of a lady who has scarcely been notorious for
her flirtations, and a young woman who is madly in love with another
man. He hasn't - "
"He hasn't," Sir Henry continued, blowing out the match which he
had been holding to his cigarette and throwing it away, "been in
the position of being able to render you or Helen any service, has
"I don't understand you," Philippa replied, a little uneasily.
"There's nothing to understand," Sir Henry went on. "I was simply
trying to find some explanation for his veni, vidi, vici."
"I don't think you need go any further than the fact," Philippa
observed, "that he is well-bred, charming and companionable."
"Incidentally," Sir Henry queried, "do you happen to have come
across any one here who ever heard of him before?"
"I don't remember any one," Philippa replied. "He was at college
with Richard, you know."
Sir Henry nodded.
"Of course, that's a wonderful introduction to you and Helen," he
admitted. "And by-the-by, that reminds me," he went on, "I never
saw such a change in two women in my life, as in you and Helen.
A few weeks ago you were fretting yourselves to death about Dick.
Now you don't seem to mention him, you both of you look as though
you hadn't a care in the world, and yet you say you haven't heard
from him. Upon my word, this is getting to be a house of mysteries!"
"The only mystery in it that I can see, is you, Henry," she declared.
"Me?" he protested. "I'm one of the simplest-minded fellows alive.
What is there mysterious about me?"
"Your ignominious life," was the cold reply.
"Jove, I got it that time!" he groaned, - "got it in the neck! But
didn't I tell you just now that I was turning over a new leaf?"
"Then prove it," Philippa pleaded. "Let me write to Rayton and beg
him to use his influence to get you something to do. I am sure you
would be happier, and I can't tell you what a difference it would
make to me."
"It's that indoor work I couldn't stick, old thing," he confided.
"You know, they're saying all the time it's a young man's war.
They'd make me take some one's place at home behind a desk."=20
"But even if they did," she protested, "even if they put you in a
coal cellar, wouldn't you be happier to feel that you were helping
your country? Wouldn't you be glad to know that I was happier?"
Sir Henry made a wry face.
"It seems to me that your outlook is a trifle superficial, dear,"
he grumbled. "However - now what the dickens is the matter?"
The door had been opened by Mills, with his usual smoothness, but
Jimmy Dumble, out of breath and excited, pushed his way into the
"Hullo? What is it, Jimmy?" his patron demanded.
"Beg your pardon, sir," was the almost incoherent reply. "I've run
all the way up, and there's a rare wind blowing. There's one of our
- our trawlers lying off the Point, and she's sent up three green
and six yellow balls."
"Whiting, by God!" Sir Henry exclaimed.
"Whiting!" Philippa repeated, in agonised disgust. "What does this
"It must be a shoal," her husband explained. "It means that we've
got to get amongst them quick. Is the Ida down on the beach, Jimmy?"
"She there all right, sir," was the somewhat doubtful reply, "but
us'll have a rare job to get away, sir. That there nor'easter is
blowing great guns again and it's a cruel tide."
"We've got to get out somehow," Sir Henry declared. "Mills, my
oilskins and flask at once. I sha'n't change a thing, but you might
bring a cardigan jacket and the whisky and soda."
Mills withdrew, a little dazed. Philippa, whose fingers were
clenched together, found her tongue at last.
"Henry!" she exclaimed furiously.
"What is it, my dear?"
"Do you mean to tell me that after your promise," she continued,
"after what you have just said, you are starting out to-night for
another fishing expedition?"
"Whiting, my dear," Sir Henry explained. "One can't possibly miss
whiting. Where the devil are my keys? - Here they are. Now then."
He sat down before his desk, took some papers from the top drawer,
rummaged about for a moment or two in another, and found what seemed
to be a couple of charts in oilskin cases. All the time the wind
was shaking the windows, and a storm of rain was beating against the
"Help yourself to whisky and soda, Jimmy," Sir Henry invited, as he
buttoned up his coat. "You'll need it all presently."
"I thank you kindly, sir," Jimmy replied. "I am thinking that we'll
both need a drink before we're through this night."
He helped himself to a whisky and soda on the generous principle of
half and half. Philippa, who was watching her husband's preparations
indignantly, once more found words.
"Henry, you are incorrigible!" she exclaimed. "Listen to me if you
please. I insist upon it."
Sir Henry turned a little impatiently towards her. "Philippa, I
really can't stop now," he protested. "But you must! You shall!"
she cried. "You shall hear this much from me, at any rate, before
you go. What I said the other day I repeat a thousandfold now."
Sir Henry glanced at Dumble and motioned his head towards the door.
The fisherman made an awkward exit.
"A thousandfold," Philippa repeated passionately. "You hear, Henry?
I do not consider myself any more your wife. If I am here when you
return, it will be simply because I find it convenient. Your conduct
is disgraceful and unmanly."
"My dear girl!" he remonstrated. "I may be back in twenty-four -
possibly twelve hours."
"It is a matter of indifference to me when you return," was the curt
reply. "I have finished."
The door was thrown open.
"Your oilskins, sir, and flask," Mills announced, hurrying in, a
little breathless. "You'll forgive my mentioning it, sir, but it
scarcely seems a fit night to leave home."
"Got to be done this once, Mills," his master replied, struggling
into his coat.
The young people from the billiard room suddenly streamed in. Nora,
who was still carrying her cue, gazed at her father in amazement.
"Why, where's Dad going?" she cried.
"It appears," Philippa explained sarcastically, "that a shoal of
whiting has arrived."
"Very uncertain fish, whiting," Sir Henry observed, "here to-day
and gone to-morrow."
"You won't find it too easy getting off to-night, sir," Harrison
"Jimmy will see to that," was the confident reply. "I expect we
shall be amongst them at daybreak. Good-by, everybody! Good-by,
His eyes sought his wife's in vain. She had turned towards
"You are not hurrying off, are you, Mr. Lessingham?" she asked. "I
want you to show me that new Patience."
"I shall be delighted."
Sir Henry turned slowly away. For a moment his face darkened as
his eyes met Lessingham's. He seemed about to speak but changed
"Well, good-by, every one," he called out. "I shall be back before
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