The Zeppelin's Passenger
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Part 3 out of 5
midnight if we don't get out."
"And if you do?" Nora cried.
"If we do, Heaven help the whiting!"
"Of course, we're behaving shockingly, all three of us!" Philippa
declared, as she sipped her champagne and leaned back in her seat.
"You mean by coming to a place like this?" Lessingham queried,
looking around the crowded restaurant. "We are not, in that case,
the only sinners."
"I didn't mean the mere fact of being here," Philippa explained,
"but being here with you."
"I forgot," he said gloomily, "that I was such a black sheep."
"Don't be silly," she admonished. "You're nothing of the sort. But,
of course, we are skating on rather thin ice. If I had Henry to
consider in any way, if he had any sort of a career, perhaps I should
be more careful. As it is, I think I feel a little reckless lately.
Dreymarsh has got upon my nerves. The things that I thought most of
in life seem to have crumbled away."
"Ought I to be sorry?" he asked. "I am not."
"But why are you so unsympathetic?"
"Because I am waiting by your side to rebuild," he whispered.
A tall, bronzed young soldier with his arm in a sling, stopped
before their table, and Helen, after a moment's protest and a
glance at Philippa, moved away with him to the little space
reserved for the dancers.
"What a chaperon I am!" Philippa sighed. "I scarcely know anything
about the young man except his name and that he was in Dick's
"I did not hear it," Lessingham observed, "but I feel deeply
grateful to him. It is so seldom that I have a chance to talk to
you alone like this."
"It seems incredible that we have talked so long," Philippa said,
glancing at the watch upon her wrist. "I really feel now that I
know all about you - your school days, your college days, and your
soldiering. You have been very frank, haven't you?"
"I have nothing to conceal - from you," he replied. "If there is
anything more you want to know - "
"There is nothing," she interrupted uneasily.
"Perhaps you are wise," he reflected, "and yet some day, you know,
you will have to hear it all, over and over again."
"I will not be made love to in a restaurant," she declared firmly.
"You are so particular as to localities," he complained. "You could
not see your way clear, I suppose, to suggest what you would consider
a suitable environment? =20
Philippa looked at him for a moment very earnestly.
"Ah, don't let us play at things we neither of us feel!" she begged.
"And there is some one there who wants to speak to you."
Lessingham looked up into the face of the man who had paused before
their table, as one might look into the face of unexpected death.
He remained perfectly still, but the slight colour seemed slowly
to be drawn from his cheeks. Yet the newcomer himself seemed in
no way terrifying. He was tall and largely built, clean-shaven,
and with the humourous mouth of an Irishman or an American.
Neither was there anything threatening in his speech.
"Glad to run up against you, Lessingham," he said, holding out his
hand. "Gay crowd here tonight, isn't it?"
"Very," Lessingham answered, speaking very much like a man in a
dream. "Lady Cranston, will you permit me to introduce my friend
- Mr. Hayter."
Philippa was immediately gracious, and a few moments passed in
trivial conversation. Then Mr. Hayter prepared to depart.
"I must be joining my friends," he observed. "Look in and see me
sometime, Lessingham - Number 72, Milan Court. You know what a
nightbird I am. Perhaps you will call and have a final drink
with me when you have finished here."
"I shall be very glad," Lessingham promised.
Mr. Hayter passed on, a man, apparently, of many acquaintances, to
judge by his interrupted progress. Lady Cranston looked at her
companion. She was puzzled.
"Is that a recent acquaintance," she asked, "as he addressed you by
the name of Lessingham?"
"Yes," was the quiet reply.
"You don't wish to talk about him?"
Helen and her partner returned, a few moments later, and the little
party presently broke up. Lessingham drove the two women to their
hotel in Dover Street.
"We've had a most delightful evening," Philippa assured him, as they
said good night. "You are coming round to see us in the morning,
"If I may," Lessingham assented.
Helen found her way into Philippa's room, later on that night. She
had nerved herself for a very thankless task.
"May I sit down for a few moments?" she asked, a little nervously.
"Your fire is so much better than mine."
Philippa glanced at her friend through the looking-glass before
which she was brushing her hair, and made a little grimace. She
felt a forewarning of what was coming.
"Of course, dear," she replied. "Have you enjoyed your evening?"
"Very much, in a way," was the somewhat hesitating reply. "Of
course, nothing really counts until Dick comes back, but it is nice
to talk with some one who knows him."
"Agreeable conversation," Philippa remarked didactically, "is one
of the greatest pleasures in life."
"You find Mr. Lessingham very interesting, don't you?" Helen asked.
Philippa finished arranging her hair to her satisfaction and drew
up an easy-chair opposite her visitor's.
"So you want to talk with me about Mr. Lessingham, do you?"
"I suppose you know that he's in love with you? Helen began.
"I hope he is a little, my dear," was the smiling reply. "I'm
sure I've tried my best."
"Won't you talk seriously?" Helen pleaded.
"I don't altogether see the necessity," Philippa protested.
"I do, and I'll tell you why," Helen answered. "I don't think Mr.
Lessingham is at all the type of man to which you are accustomed.
I think that he is in deadly earnest about you. I think that he
was in deadly earnest from the first. You don't really care for
him, do you, dear?"
"Very much, and yet not, perhaps, quite in the way you are thinking
of," was the quiet reply.
"Then please send him away," Helen begged.
"My dear, how can I?" Philippa objected. "He has done us an
immense service, and he can't disobey his orders."
"You don't want him to go away, then?"
Philippa was silent for several moments. "No," she admitted, "I
don't think that I do."
"You don't care for Henry any more?"
"Just as much as ever," was the somewhat bitter reply. "That's what
I resent so much. I should like Henry to believe that he had killed
every spark of love in me."
Helen moved across and sat on the arm of her friend's chair. She
felt that she was going to be very daring.
"Have you any idea at the hack of your mind, dear," she asked "of
making use of Mr. Lessingham to punish Henry?"
Philippa moved a little uneasily.
"How hatefully downright you are!" she murmured. "I don't know."
"Because," Helen continued, "if you have any such idea in your mind,
I think it is most unfair to Mr. Lessingham. You know perfectly
well that anything else between you and him would he impossible."
"Don't be ridiculous!" Helen exclaimed vigorously. "Mr. Lessingham
may have all the most delightful qualities in the world, but he has
attached himself to a country which no English man or woman will be
able to think of without shuddering, for many years to come. You
can't dream of cutting yourself adrift from your friends and your
home and your country! It's too unnatural! I'm not even arguing
with you, Philippa. You couldn't do it! I'm wholly concerned with
Mr. Lessingham. I cannot forget what we owe him. I think it
would be hatefully cruel of you to spoil his life."
Philippa's flashes of seriousness were only momentary. She made a
little grimace. She was once more her natural, irresponsible self.
"You underrate my charm, Helen," she declared. "I really believe
that I could make his life instead of spoiling it."
"And you would pay the price?"
Philippa, slim and elflike in the firelight, rose from her chair.
There was a momentary cruelty in her face.
"I sometimes think," she said calmly, "that I would pay any price
in the world to make Henry understand how I feel. There, now run
along, dear. You're full of good intentions, and don't think it
horrid of me, but nothing that you could say would make any
"You wouldn't do anything rash?" Helen pleaded.
"Well, if I run away with Mr. Lessingham, I certainly can't promise
that I'll send cards out first. Whatever I do, impulse will probably
"Why not? I trust mine. Can't you?" Philippa added, with a little
shrug of the shoulders.
"Sometimes," Helen sighed, "they are such wild horses, you know.
They lead one to such terrible places."
"And sometimes," Philippa replied, "they find their way into the
heaven where our soberer thoughts could never take us. Good
Mr. William Hayter, in the solitude of his chambers at the Milan
Court, was a very altered personage. He extended no welcoming
salutation to his midnight visitor but simply motioned him to a
"Well," he began, "is your task finished that you are in London?"
"My task," Lessingham replied, "might just as well never have been
entered upon. The man you sent me to watch is nothing but an
ordinary sport-loving Englishman."
"Really! You have lived as his neighbour for nearly a month, and
that is your impression of him?"
"It is," Lessingham assented. "He has been away sea-fishing, half
the time, but I have searched his house thoroughly."
"Searched his papers, eh?"
"Every one I could find, and hated the job. There are a good many
charts of the coast, but they are all for the use of the fishermen."
"Wonderful!" Hayter scoffed. "My young friend, you may yet find
distinction in some other walk of life. Our secret service, I
fancy, will very soon be able to dispense with your energies."
"And I with your secret service," Lessingham agreed heartily. "I
dare say there may be some branches of it in which existence is
tolerable. That, however, does not apply to the task upon which I
have been engaged."
"You have been completely duped," Hayter told him calmly, "and the
information you have sent us is valueless. Sir Henry Cranston,
instead of being the type of man whom you have described, is one
of the greatest experts upon coast defense and mine-laying, in the
Lessingham laughed shortly.
"That," he declared, "is perfectly absurd."
"It is," Hayter repeated, with emphasis, "the precise truth. Sir
Henry Cranton's fishing excursions are myths. He is simply
transferred from his fishing boat on to one of a little fleet of
so-called mine sweepers, from which he conducts his operations.
Nearly every one of the most important towns on the east coast are
protected by minefields of his design."
Lessingham was dumbfounded. His companion's manner was singularly
"But how could Sir Henry or any one else keep this a secret?" he
protested. "Even his wife is scarcely on speaking terms with him
because she believes him to he an idler, and the whole neighbourhood
gossips over his slackness."
"The whole neighbourhood is easily fooled," Hayter retorted. "There
are one or two who know, however."
"There are one or two," Lessingham observed grimly, "who are
beginning to suspect me."
"That is a pity," Hayter admitted, "because it will be necessary
for you to return to Dreymarsh at once."
"Return to Dreymarsh at once? But Cranston is away. There is
nothing for me to do there in his absence."
"He will be back on Wednesday or Thursday night," was the confident
reply. "He will bring with him the plan of his latest defenses of
a town on the east coast, which our cruiser squadron purpose to
bombard. We must have that chart."
Lessingham listened in mute distress.
"Could you possibly get me relieved?" he begged. "The fact is - "
"We could not, and we will not," Hayter interrupted fiercely.
"Unless you wish me to denounce you at home as a renegade and a
coward, you will go through with the work which has been allotted
to you. Your earlier mistakes will be forgiven if that chart
is in my hands by Friday."
"But how do you know that he will have it? "Lessingham protested.
"Supposing you are right and he is really responsible for the
minefields you speak of, I should think the last thing he would
do would be to bring the chart back to Dreymarsh."
"As a matter of fact, that is precisely what he will do," Hayter
assured his listener. "He is bringing it back for the inspection
of one of the commissioners for the east coast defense, who is
to meet him at his house. And I wish to warn you, too, Maderstrom,
that you will have very little time. For some reason or other,
Cranston is dissatisfied with the secrecy under which he has been
compelled to work, and has applied to the Admiralty for recognition
of his position. Immediately this is given, I gather that his
house will be inaccessible to you."
Lessingham sat, his arms folded, his eyes fixed upon the fire.
His thoughts were in a turmoil, yet one thing was hatefully clear.
Cranston was not the unworthy slacker he had believed him to be.
Philippa's whole point of view might well be changed by this
discovery - especially now that Cranston had made up his mind to
assert himself for his wife's sake. There was an icy fear in
"You understand," Hayter persisted coldly, "what it is you have
"Perfectly. I shall return by the afternoon train," was the
"If you succeed," Hayter continued, "I shall see that you get the
usual acknowledgment, but I will, if you wish it, ask for your
transfer to another branch of the service. I am not questioning
your patriotism or your honour, Maderstrom, but you are not the
man for this work."
"You are right," Lessingham said. "I am not."
"It is not my affair," Hayter proceeded, "to enquire too closely
into the means used by our agents in carrying out our designs.
That I find you in London in company with the wife of the man
whom you are appointed to watch, may be a fact capable of the
most complete and satisfactory explanation. I ask no questions.
I only remind you that your country, even though it be only your
adopted country, demands from you, as from all others in her
service, unswerving loyalty, a loyalty uninfluenced by the
claims of personal sentiment, duty, or honour. Have I said
"You have said as much as it is wise for you to say," Lessingham
replied, his voice trembling with suppressed passion.
"That is all, then," the other concluded. "You know where to send
or bring the chart when you have it? If you bring it yourself, it
is possible that something which you may regard as a reward, will
be offered to you."
Lessingham rose a little wearily to his feet. His farewell to
Hayter was cold and lifeless.
He left the hotel and started on his homeward way, struggling with
a sense of intolerable depression. The streets through which he
passed were sombre and unlit.
A Zeppelin warning, a few hours before, had driven the people to
their homes. There was not a chink of light to be seen anywhere.
An intense and gloomy stillness seemed to brood over the deserted
thoroughfares. Nightbirds on their way home flitted by like
shadows. Policemen lurked in the shadows of the houses. The few
vehicles left crawled about with insufficient lights. Even the
warning horns of the taxicab men sounded furtive and repressed.
Lessingham, as he marched stolidly along, felt curiously in
sympathy with his environment. Hayter's news brought him face to
face with that inner problem which had so suddenly become the
dominant factor in his life. For the first time he knew what love
was. He felt the wonder of it, the far-reaching possibilities,
the strange idealism called so unexpectedly into being. He
recognized the vagaries of Philippa's disposition, and yet,
during the last few days, he had convinced himself that she was
beginning to care. Her strained relations with her husband had
been, without a doubt, her first incentive towards the acceptance
of his proffered devotion. Now he told himself with eager
hopefulness that some portion of it, however minute, must be for
his own sake. The relations between husband and wife, he reminded
himself, must, at any rate, have been strained during the last
few months, or Cranston would never have been able to keep his
secret. In his gloomy passage through this land of ill omens,
however, he shivered a little as he thought of the other
possibility - tortured himself with imagining what might happen
during her revulsion of feeling, if Philippa discovered the truth.
A sense of something greater than he had yet known in life seemed
to lift him into some lofty state of aloofness, from which he
could look down and despise himself, the poor, tired plodder
wearing the heavy chains of duty. There was a life so much more
wonderful, just the other side of the clouds, a very short distance
away, a life of alluring and passionate happiness. Should he ever
find the courage, he wondered, to escape from the treadmill and
go in search of it? Duty, for the last two years, had taken him
by the hand and led him along a pathway of shame. He had never
been a hypocrite about the war. He was one of those who had
acknowledged from the first that Germany had set forth, with the
sword in her hand, on a war of conquest. His own inherited
martial spirit had vaguely approved; he, too, in those earlier
days, had felt the sunlight upon his rapier. Later had come the
enlightenment, the turbulent waves of doubt, the nightmare of a
nation's awakening conscience, mirrored in his own soul. It was
in a depression shared, perhaps, in a lesser degree by millions
of those whose ranks he had joined, that he felt this passionate
craving for escape into a world which took count of other things.
Punctually at 12 o'clock the next morning, Lessingham presented
himself at the hotel in Dover Street and was invited by the hall
porter to take a seat in the lounge. Philippa entered, a few
minutes later, her eyes and cheeks brilliant with the brisk exercise
she had been taking, her slim figure most becomingly arrayed in
grey cloth and chinchilla.
"I lost Helen in Harrod's," she announced, "but I know she's
lunching with friends, so it really doesn't matter. You'll have
to take care of me, Mr. Lessingham, until the train goes, if you
"For even longer than that, if you will," he murmured.
She laughed. "More pretty speeches? I don't think I'm equal to
them before luncheon."
"This time I am literal," he explained. "I am coming back to
He felt his heart beat quicker, a sudden joy possessed him.
Philippa's expression was obviously one of satisfaction.
"I'm so glad," she assured him. "Do you know, I was thinking only
as I came back in the taxicab, how I should miss you."
She was standing with her foot upon the broad fender, and her first
little impulse of pleasure seemed to pass as she looked into the
fire. She turned towards him gravely.
"After all, do you think you are wise?" she asked. "Of course, I
don't think that any one at Dreymarsh has the least suspicion, but
you know Captain Griffiths did ask questions, and - well, you're
safely away now. You have been so wonderful about Dick, so wonderful
altogether," she went on, "that I couldn't bear it if trouble were
He smiled at her.
"I think I know what is at the back of your mind," he said. "You
think that I am coming back entirely on your account. As it
happens, this is not so."
She looked at him with wide-open eyes.
"Surely," she exclaimed, "you have satisfied yourself that there is
no field for your ingenuity in Dreymarsh?"
"I thought that I had," he admitted. "It seems that I am wrong. I
have had orders to return."
"Orders to return?" she repeated. "From whom?
He shook his head.
"Of course, I ought not to have asked that," she proceeded hastily,
"but it does seem odd to realise that you can receive instructions
and messages from Germany, here in London."
"Very much the same sort of thing goes on in Germany," he reminded
"So they say," she admitted, "but one doesn't come into contact with
it. So you are really coming back to Dreymarsh!"
"With you, if I may?"
"Naturally," she agreed.
He glanced at the clock. "We might almost be starting for lunch,"
She nodded. " As soon as I've told Grover about the luggage."
She was absent only a few moments, and then, as it was a dry, sunny
morning, they walked down St. James Street and along Pall Mall to
the Carlton. Philippa met several acquaintances, but Lessingham
walked with his head erect, looking neither to the right nor to the
"Aren't you sometimes afraid of being recognised?" she asked him.
"There must he a great many men about of your time at Magdalen, for
"Nine years makes a lot of difference," he reminded her, "and besides,
I have a theory that it is only when the eyes meet that recognition
really takes place. So long as I do not look into any one's face,
I feel quite safe."
"You are sure that you would not like to go to a smaller place than
"It makes no difference," he assured her. "My credentials have been
wonderfully established for me."
"I'm so glad," she confessed. "I know it's most unfashionable, but
I do like these big places. If ever I had my way, I should like to
live in London and have a cottage in the country, instead of living
in the country and being just an hotel dweller in London."
"I wonder if New York would not do?" he ventured.
"I expect I should like New York," she murmured.
"I think," he said, "in fact, I am almost sure that when I leave
here I shall go to the United States."
She looked at him and turned suddenly away. They arrived just then
at their destination, and the moment passed. Lessingham left his
companion in the lounge while he went back into the restaurant to
secure his table and order lunch. When he came back, he found
Philippa sitting very upright and with a significant glitter in her
"Look over there," she whispered, "by the palm."
He followed the direction which she indicated. A man was standing
against one of the pillars, talking to a tall, dark woman, obviously
a foreigner, wrapped in wonderful furs. There was something familiar
about his figure and the slight droop of his head.
"Why, it's Sir Henry!" Lessingham exclaimed, as the man turned around.
"My husband," Philippa faltered.
Sir Henry, if indeed it were he, seemed afflicted with a sudden
shortsightedness. He met the incredulous gaze both of Lessingham
and his wife without recognition or any sign of flinching. At that
distance it was impossible to see the tightening of his lips and
the steely flash in his blue eyes.
"The whiting seem to have brought him a long way," Philippa said,
with an unnatural little laugh.
"Shall I go and speak to him? "Lessingham asked.
"For heaven's sake, no!" she insisted. "Don't leave me. I wouldn't
have him come near me for anything in the world. It is only a few
weeks ago that I begged him to come to London with me, and he said
that he hated the place. You don't know - the woman?"
Lessingham shook his head.
"She looks like a foreigner," was all he could say.
"Take me in to lunch at once," Philippa begged, rising abruptly to
her feet. "This is really the last straw."
They passed up the stairway and within a few feet of where Sir Henry
was standing. He appeared absorbed, however, in conversation with
his companion, and did not even turn around. Philippa's little
face seemed to have hardened as she took her seat. Only her eyes
were still unnaturally bright.
"I am so sorry if this has annoyed you," Lessingham regretted. "You
would not care to go elsewhere?"
"I? Go anywhere else?" she exclaimed scornfully. "Thank you, I am
perfectly satisfied here. And with my companion," she added, with
a brilliant little smile. "Now tell me about New York. Have you
ever been there?"
"Twice," he told her. "At present the dream of my life is to go
there with you."
She looked at him a little wonderingly.
"I wonder if you really care," she said. "Men get so much into the
habit of saying that sort of thing to women. Sometimes it seems to
me they must do a great deal of mischief. But you - Is that really
"I would sacrifice everything that I have ever held dear in life,"
he declared, with his face aglow, "for its realization."
"But you would be a deserter from your country," she pointed out.
"You would never be able to return. Your estates would be
confiscated. You would be homeless."
"Home," he said softly, "is where one's heart takes one. Home is
just where love is."
Her eyes, as they met his, were for a moment suspiciously soft.
Then she began to talk very quickly of other things, to compare
notes of countries which they had both visited, even of people whom
they had met. They were obliged to leave early to catch their
train. As they passed down the crowded restaurant they once more
found themselves within a few feet of Sir Henry. His back was
turned to them, and he was apparently ignorant of their near
presence. The party had become a partie Carr=A1e, another man, and
a still younger and more beautiful woman having joined it.
"Of course," Philippa said, as they descended the stairs, "I am
behaving like an idiot. I ought to go and tell Henry exactly what
I think of him, or pull him away in the approved Whitechapel fashion.
We lose so much, don't we, by stifling our instincts."
"For the next few minutes," he replied, glancing at his watch, "I
think we had better concentrate our attention upon catching our
They reached King's Cross with only a few minutes to spare. Grover,
however, had already secured a carriage, and Helen was waiting for
them, ensconced in a corner. She accepted the news of Lessingham's
return with resignation. Philippa became thoughtful as they drew
towards the close of their journey and the slow, frosty twilight
began to creep down upon the land.
"I suppose we don't really know what war is," she observed, looking
out of the window at a comfortable little village tucked away with
a background of trees and guarded by a weather-beaten old church.
"The people are safe in their homes. You must appreciate what that
means, Mr. Lessingham."
"Indeed I do," he answered gravely. "I have seen the earth torn
and dismembered as though by the plough of some destroying angel.
A few blackened ruins where, an hour or so before, a peaceful
village stood; men and women running about like lunatics stricken
with a mortal fear. And all the time a red glow on the horizon, a
blood-red glow, and little specks of grey or brown lying all over
the fields; even the cattle racing round in terror. And every now
and then the cry of Death! You are fortunate in England."
Philippa leaned forward.
"Do you believe that our turn will come?" she asked. "Do you believe
that the wave will break over our country?"
"Who can tell?"
"Ah, no, but answer me," she begged. "Is it possible for you to land
an army here?"
"I think," he replied, "that all things are possible to the military
genius of Germany. The only question is whether it is worth while.
Germans are supposed to be sentimentalists, you know. I rather doubt
it. There is nothing would set the joybells of Berlin clanging so
much as the news of a German invasion of Great Britain. On the other
hand, there is a great party in Germany, and a very far-seeing one,
which is continually reminding the Government that, without Great
Britain as a market, Germany would never recover from the financial
strain of the war."
"This is all too impersonal," Philippa objected. "Do you, in your
heart, believe that the time might come when in the night we should
hear the guns booming in Dreymarsh Bay, and see your grey-clad
soldiers forming up on the beach and scaling our cliffs? "
"That will not be yet," he pronounced. "It has been thought of.
Once it was almost attempted. Just at present, no."
Philippa drew a sigh of relief.
"Then your mission in Dreymarsh has nothing to do with an attempted
"Nothing," he assured her. "I can even go a little further. I can
tell you that if ever we do try to land, it will be in an unsuspected
place, in an unexpected fashion."
"Well, it's really very comforting to hear these things at
first-hand," Philippa declared, with some return to her usual manner.
"I suppose we are really two disgraceful women, Helen and I - traitors
and all the rest of it. Here we sit talking to an enemy as though he
were one of our best friends."
"I refuse to be called an enemy," Lessingham protested. "There are
times when individuality is a far greater thing than nationality.
I am just a human being, born into the same world and warmed by the
same sun as you. Nothing can alter the fact that we are fellow
"Dreymarsh once more," Philippa announced, looking out of the window.
"And you're a terribly plausible person, Mr. Lessingham. Come round
and see us after dinner - if it doesn't interfere with your work."
"On the contrary," he murmured under his breath. "Thank you very
Sir Henry was standing with his hands in his pockets and a very
blank expression upon his face, looking out upon the Admiralty
Square. He was alone in a large, barely furnished apartment, the
walls of which were so hung with charts that it had almost the
appearance of a schoolroom prepared for an advanced geography
class. The table from which he had risen was covered with an
amazing number of scientific appliances, some samples of rock and
sand, two microscopes and several telephones.
Sir Henry, having apparently exhausted the possibilities of the
outlook, turned somewhat reluctantly away to find himself
confronted by an elderly gentleman of cheerful appearance, who
at that moment had entered the room. From the fact that he had
done so without knocking, it was obvious that he was an intimate.
"Well, my gloomy friend," the newcomer demanded, "what's wrong with
Sir Henry was apparently relieved to see his visitor. He pushed a
chair towards him and indicated with a gesture of invitation a box
of cigars upon his desk.
"Your little Laranagas," he observed. "Try one."
The visitor opened the box, sniffed at its contents, and helped
"Now, then, get at it, Henry," he enjoined. "I've a Board=20in
half-an-hour, and three dispatches to read before I go in. What's
"Look here, Rayton," was the firm reply, "I want to chuck this
infernal hole-and-corner business. I tell you I've worked it
threadbare at Dreymarsh and it's getting jolly uncomfortable."
The newcomer grinned.
"Poor chap!" he observed, watching his cigar smoke curl upwards.
"You're in a nasty mess, you know, Henry. Did I tell you that I
had a letter from your wife the other day, asking me if I couldn't
find you a job?"
Sir Henry waited a little grimly, whilst his friend enjoyed the
"That's all very well," he said, "but we are on the point of a
separation, or something of the sort. I'll admit it was all right
at first to run the thing on the Q.T., but that's pretty well busted
up by now. Why, according to your own reports, they know all about
me on the other side."
"Not a doubt about it," the other agreed. "I'm not sure that you
haven't got a spy fellow down at Dreymarsh now."
"I'm quite sure of it," Sir Henry replied grimly. "The brute was
lunching with my wife at the Carlton to-day, and, as luck would
have it, I was landed with that Russian Admiral's wife and
sister-in-law. You're breaking up the happy home, that's what
you're doing, Rayton!"
His lordship at any rate seemed to find the process amusing. He
laughed until the tears stood in his eyes.
"I should love to have seen Philippa's face," he chuckled, "when
she walked into the restaurant and saw you there! You're supposed
to be off on a fishing expedition, aren't you?"
"I went out after whiting," Sir Henry groaned, "and I'd just promised
to chuck it for a time when I got the Admiral's message."
"Well, we'll see to your German spy, anyway," his visitor promised.
"Don't be an ass!" Sir Henry exclaimed irritably. "I don't want the
fellow touched at present. Why, he's been a sort of persona grata
at my house. Hangs around there all the time when I'm away."
"All the more reason for putting an end to his little game, I should
say," was the cheerful reply.
"And have the whole neighbourhood either laughing at my wife and
Miss Fairclough, or talking scandal about them!" Sir Henry retorted.
"I forgot that," his friend confessed ruminatively. "He's a
gentlemanly sort of fellow, from what I hear, but a rotten spy.
What do you want done with him?"
"Leave him for me to deal with," Sir Henry insisted. "I have a
little scheme on hand in which he is concerned."
Rayton scratched his chin doubtfully.
"The fellow may not be such a fool as he seems," he reminded his
"I won't run any risks," Sir Henry promised. "I just want him left
there, that's all. And look here, Rayton, you know what I want from
you. I quite agreed to your proposals as to my anonymity at the
time when I was up in Scotland, but the thing's a secret no longer
with the people who count. Every one in Germany knows that I'm a
mine-field specialist, so I don't see why the dickens I should pose
any longer as a sort of half-baked idiot."
Rayton's eyes twinkled.
"You want to play the Wilson Barrett hero and make a theatrical
disclosure of your greatness," he laughed. "Poor Philippa will
fall upon her knees. You will be the hero of the village, which
will probably present you with some little article of plate. You've
a good time coming, Henry."
"Talk sense, there's a good fellow," the other begged. "You go and
see the Chief and put it to him. There isn't a single reason why I
shouldn't own up now."=20
"I'll see what I can do," Rayton promised, "but what about this
fellow Lessingham, or whatever else he calls himself, down there?
There's a chap named Griffiths - Commandant, isn't he? - been
writing us about him."
"I won't have Lessingham touched," Sir Henry insisted. "He can't
do any particular harm down there, and there isn't a line or a
drawing of mine down at Dreymarsh which he isn't welcome to."
Lord Rayton rose to his feet.
"Look here, Henry, old fellow," he said, "I do sympathise with you
up to a certain point. I tell you what I'll do. I shall have to
answer Philippa's letter, and I'll answer it in such a way that if
she is as clever a little woman as I think she is, she'll get a hint.
Of course," he went on ruminatively, "it is rather a misfortune that
the Princess Ollaneff and her sister are such jolly good-looking
women. Makes it look a little fishy, doesn't it? What I mean to
say is, it's a far cry from fishing for whiting in the North Sea to
lunching with a beautiful princess at the Carlton - when you think
your wife's down in Norfolk."
Sir Henry threw open the door.
"Look here, I've had enough of you, Rayton," he declared. "You get
back and do an hour's work, if you can bring your mind to it."
The latter assumed a sudden dignity, necessitated by the sound of
voices in the corridor, and departed. The door had scarcely been
closed when two younger men presented themselves - Miles Ensol, Sir
Henry's secretary, a typical-looking young sailor minus his left
arm; and a pale-faced, clean-shaven man of uncertain age, in civilian
clothes. Sir Henry shook hands with the latter and pointed to the
easy-chair which his previous visitor had just vacated.
"Welcome back again, Horridge," he said cordially. "Miles, I'll
ring when I want you."
"Very good, sir," the secretary replied. "There's a fisherman from
Norfolk downstairs, when you're at liberty."
Sir Henry nodded.
"I'll see him presently. Shut him up somewhere where he can smoke."
The young man withdrew, carefully closing the door, around which Sir
Henry, with a word of apology, arranged a screen.
"I don't think," he explained, "that eavesdropping extends to these
premises, or that our voices could reach outside. Still, a ha'porth
of prevention, eh? Have a cigar, Horridge."
"I'm not smoking for a day or two, thank you, sir.
"You look as though they'd put you through it," Sir Henry remarked.
His visitor smiled.
"I've travelled fourteen miles in a barrel," he said, "and we were
out for twenty-four hours in a Danish sailing skiff. You know what
the weather's been like in the North Sea. Before that, the last
word of writing I saw on German soil was a placard, offering a
reward of five thousand marks for my detention, with a disgustingly
lifelike photograph at the top. I had about fifty yards of quay to
walk in broad daylight, and every other man I passed turned to stare
after me. It gives you the cold shivers down your back when you
daren't look round to see if you're being followed."
Sir Henry groped in the cupboard of his desk, and produced a bottle
of whisky and a syphon of soda water. His visitor nodded approvingly.
"I've touched nothing until I've reached what I consider sanctuary,"
he observed. "My nerves have gone rotten for the first time in my
life. Do you mind, sir, if I lock the door?"
"Go ahead," Sir Henry assented.
He brought the whisky and soda himself across the room. Horridge
resumed his seat and held out his hand almost eagerly. For a moment
or two he shook as though he had an ague. Then, just as suddenly as
it had come upon him, the fit passed. He drained the contents of the
tumbler at a gulp' set it down empty by his side, and stretched out
his hand for a cigar.
"The end of my journey didn't help matters any," he went on. "I
daren't even make for a Dutch port, and we were picked up eventually
by a tramp steamer from Newcastle to London with coals. I hadn't
been on board more than an hour before a submarine which had been
following overhauled us. I thought it was all up then, but the fog
lifted, and we found ourselves almost in the midst of a squadron of
destroyers from Harwich. I made another transfer, and they landed
me in time to catch the early morning train from Felixstowe."
"Did they get the submarine?" his listener asked eagerly.
"Get it!" the other repeated, with a smile. "They blew it into
"Plenty of movement in your life!"
"I've run the gauntlet over there once too often," Horridge said
grimly. "Just look at me now, Sir Henry. I'm twenty-nine years old,
and it's only two years and a half since I was invalided out of the
navy and took this job on. The last person I asked to guess my age
put me down at fifty. What should you have said?"
"Somewhere near it," was the candid admission. "Never mind, Horridge,
you've done your bit. You shall pass on your experience to a new
hand, take your pension and try the south coast of England for a few
months. Now let's get on with it. You know what I want to hear
Horridge produced from his pocket a long strip of paper.
"They're there, sir," he announced, "coaled to the scuppers, every
man standing to stations and steam up. There's the list."
He handed the paper across to Sir Henry, who glanced it down.
"The fast cruiser squadron," he observed. "Hm! Three new ships we
haven't any note of. No transports, then, Horridge?'"
"Not a sign of one, sir," was the reply. "They're after a
He rose to his feet, walked to a giant map of England, and touched a
certain port on the east coast. Sir Henry's eyes glistened.
"It is a certainty," Horridge replied. "I've been on three of those
ships. I've dined with four of the officers. They're under sealed
orders, and the crew believes that they're going to escort out half
a dozen commerce destroyers. But I have the truth. That's their
objective," Horridge repeated, touching once more the spot upon the
map, "and they are waiting just for one thing."
Sir Henry smiled thoughtfully.
"I know what they're waiting for," he said. "Perhaps if they'd a
Herr Horridge to send over here for it, they'd have got it before
now. As it is - well, I'm not sure," he went on. "It seems a pity
to disappoint them, doesn't it? I'd love to give them a run for
Horridge smiled faintly. He knew a good deal about his companion.
"They're spoiling for it, sir," he admitted. Sir Henry spoke down
a telephone and a few minutes later Ensol reappeared.
"Find Mr. Horridge a comfortable room," his chief directed, "and
one of our confidential typists. You can make out your report at
your leisure," he went on. "Come in and see me when it's all
"Certainly, sir," Horridge replied, rising.
Sir Henry held out his hand. He looked with something like wonder
at the nerve-shattered man who had risen to his feet with a certain
air of briskness.
"Horridge," he said, "I wish I had your pluck."
"I don't know any one in the service from whom you need borrow any,
sir," was the quiet reply.
Lessingham sat upon a fallen tree on Dutchman's Common near the
scene of his romantic descent, and looked rather ruefully over the
moorland, seawards. Above him, the sky was covered with little
masses of quickly scudding clouds. A fugitive and watery sunshine
shone feebly upon a wind-tossed sea and a rain-sodden landscape.
He found a certain grim satisfaction in comparing the
disorderliness of the day with the tumult in his own life. He felt
that he had embarked upon an enterprise greater than his capacity,
for which he was in many ways entirely unsuitable. And behind him
was the scourge of the telegram which he had received a few hours
ago, a telegram harmless enough to all appearance, but which,
decoded, was like a scourge to his back.
Your work is unsatisfactory and your slackness deserves reprobation.
Great events wait upon you. The object of your search is necessary
for our imminent
The sound of a horse's hoofs disturbed him. Captain Griffiths, on
a great bay mare, glanced curiously at the lonely figure by the
roadside, and then pulled up.
"Back again, Mr. Lessingham?" he remarked.
"As you see."
The Commandant fidgeted with his horse for a moment. Then he
approached a little nearer to Lessingham's side.
"You are a good walker, I perceive, Mr. Lessingham," he remarked.
"When the fancy takes me," was the equable reply.
"Have you come out to see our new guns?"
"I had no idea," Lessingham answered indifferently, "that you had
"We have a small battery of anti-aircraft guns, newly arrived from
the south of England," he said. "The secret of their coming and
their locality has kept the neighbourhood in a state of ferment for
the last week."
Lessingham remained profoundly uninterested.
"They most of them spotted the guns," his companion continued, "but
not many of them have found the searchlights yet."
"It seems a little late in the year," Lessingham observed, "to be
making preparations against Zeppelins."
"Well, they cross here pretty often, you know," Griffiths reminded
him. "It's only a matter of a few weeks ago that one almost came to
grief on this common. We picked up their observation car not fifty
yards from where you are sitting."
"I remember hearing about it," Lessingham acknowledged.
"By-the-by," the Commandant continued, smoothing his horse's neck,
"didn't you arrive that evening or the evening after?"
"I believe I did."
"Liverpool Street or King's Cross? The King's Cross train was very
nearly held up."
"I didn't come by train at all," Lessingham replied, glancing for a
moment into the clouds, "And now I come to think of it, it must have
been the evening after."
"Fine county for motoring," Griffiths continued, stroking his
"The roads I have been on seem very good," was the somewhat bored
"You haven't a car of your own here, have you?"
"Not at present."
Captain Griffiths glanced between his horse's ears for a few moments.
Then he turned once more towards his companion.
"Mr. Lessingham," he said, "you are aware that I am Commandant here?"
"I believe," Lessingham replied, "that Lady Cranston told me so."
"It is my duty, therefore," Griffiths went on, "to take a little
more than ordinary interest in casual visitors, especially at this
time of the year. The fact that you are well-known to Lady Cranston
is, of course, an entirely satisfactory explanation of your presence
here. At the same time, there is certain information concerning
strangers of which we keep a record, and in your case there is a line
or two which we have not been able to fill up."
"If I can be of any service," Lessingham murmured.
"Precisely," the other interrupted. "I knew you would feel like
that. Now your arrival here - we have the date, I think - October
6th. As you have just remarked, you didn't come by train. How did
Lessingham's surprise was apparently quite genuine.
"Is that a question which you ask me to answer- officially?" he
His interlocutor shrugged his shoulders.
"I am not putting official questions to you at all," he replied,
"nor am I cross-examining you, as might be my duty, under the
circumstances, simply because your friendship with the Cranstons
is, of course, a guarantee as to your position. But on the other
hand, I think it would be reasonable if you were to answer my
"Perhaps you are right," he admitted. "As you can tell by finding
me here this afternoon, I am a great walker. I arrived - on foot."
"I see," Griffiths reflected. "The other question which we usually
ask is, where was your last stopping place?"
"Stopping place?" Lessingham murmured.
"Yes, where did you sleep the night before you came here?" Griffiths
Lessingham shook his head as though oppressed by some distasteful
"But I did not sleep at all," he complained. "It was one of the
worst nights which I have ever spent in my life."
Captain Griffiths gathered up his reins.
"Well," he said with clumsy sarcasm, "I am much obliged to you, Mr.
Lessingham, for the straight-forward way in which you have answered
my questions. I won't bother you any more just at present. Shall
I see you to-morrow night at Mainsail Haul?"
"Lady Cranston has asked me to dine," was the somewhat reserved reply.
His inquisitor nodded and cantered away. Lessingham looked after him
until he had disappeared, then he turned his face towards Dreymarsh
and walked steadily into the lowering afternoon. Twilight was falling
as he reached Mainsail Haul, where he found Philippa entertaining some
callers, to whom she promptly introduced him. Lessingham gathered,
almost in the first few minutes, that his presence in Dreymarsh was
becoming a subject of comment.
"My husband has played bridge with you at the club, I think," a lady
by whose side he found himself observed. "You perhaps didn't hear
my name - Mrs. Johnson?"
"I congratulate you upon your husband," Lessingham replied. "I
remember him perfectly well because he kept his temper when I
"Dear me!" she exclaimed. "He must have taken a fancy to you, then.
As a rule, they rather complain about him at bridge."
"I formed the impression," Lessingham continued, "that he was rather
a better player than the majority of the performers there."
Mrs. Johnson, who was a dark and somewhat forbidding-looking lady,
"He thinks so, at any rate," she conceded. "Didn't he tell me that
you were invalided home from the front?"
Lessingham shook his head.
"I am quite sure that it was not mentioned," he said. "We walked
home together as far as the hotel one evening, but we spoke only of
the golf and some shooting in the neighbourhood."
Philippa, who had been maneuvering to attract Lessingham's attention,
suddenly dropped the cake basket which she was passing. There was
a little commotion. Lessingham went down on his hands and knees to
help collect the fragments, and she found an opportunity to whisper
in his ear.
"Be careful. That woman is a cat. Stay and talk to me. Please
don't bother, Mr. Lessingham. Won't you ring the bell instead?"
she continued, raising her voice.
Lessingham did as he was asked, and affected not to notice Mrs.
Johnson's inviting smile as he returned. Philippa made room for
him by her side.
"Helen and I were talking this afternoon, Mr. Lessingham," she said,
"of the days when you and Dick were both in the Magdalen Eleven and
both had just a chance of being chosen for the Varsity. You never
played, did you?"
He shook his head.
"No such luck. In any case, Richard would have been in well before
me. I always maintained that he was the first of our googlie
"So you were at Magdalen with Major Felstead?" another caller
remarked in mild wonder.
"Mr. Lessingham and my brother were great friends," Philippa
explained. "Mr. Lessingham used to come down to shoot in Cheshire."
Lady Cranston's guests were all conscious of a little indefinable
disappointment. The gossip concerning this stranger's appearance
in Dreymarsh was practically strangled. Mrs. Johnson, however, fired
a parting shot as she rose to go.
"You were not in the same regiment as Major Felstead, were you, Mr.
Lessingham?" she asked. "No," he answered calmly.
Philippa was busy with her adieux. Mrs. Johnson remained indomitable.
"What was your regiment, Mr. Lessingham?" she persisted. "You must
forgive my seeming inquisitive, but I am so interested in military
Lessingham bowed courteously.
"I do not remember alluding to my soldiering at all," he said coolly,
"but as a matter of fact I am in the Guards."
Mrs. Johnson accepted Philippa's hand and the inevitable. Her
good-by to Lessingham was most affable. She walked up the road with
"I think, Vicar," she said severely, "that for a small place,
Dreymarsh is becoming one of the worst centres of gossip I ever knew.
Every one has been saying all sorts of unkind things about that
charming Mr. Lessingham, and there you are - Major Felstead's friend
and a Guardsman! Somehow or other, I felt that he belonged to one
of the crack regiments. I shall certainly ask him to dinner one
night next week."
The vicar nodded benignly. He had the utmost respect for Mrs.
Johnson's cook, and his own standard of social desirability, to
which the object of their discussion had attained.
"I should be happy to meet Mr. Lessingham at any time," he
pronounced, with ample condescension. I noticed him in church last
"My dear man, whatever shall I do with you!" Philippa exclaimed
pathetically, as the door closed upon the last of her callers.
"The Guards, indeed!"
Lessingham smiled as he resumed his place by her side.
"Well," he said, "I told the dear lady the truth. You will find my
name well up in the list of the thirty-first battalion of the
She threw herself back in her chair and laughed. "How amusing it
would be if it weren't all so terrible! You really are a perfect
political Raffles. Do you know that this afternoon you have
absolutely reestablished yourself? Mr. Johnson will probably call
on you to-morrow - they may even ask you to dine - the vicar will
write and ask for a subscription, and Dolly Fenwick will invite you
to play golf with her."
"Do not turn my head," he begged.
"All the same," Philippa continued, more gravely, "I shall never
have a moment's peace whilst you are in the place. I was thinking
about you last night. I don't believe I have ever realised before
how terrible it would be if you really were discovered. What would
they do to you?"
"Whatever they might do," he replied, a little wearily, "I must
obey orders. My orders are to remain here, but even if I were told
that I might go, I should find it hard."
"Do you mean that? " she asked.
"I think you know," he answered.
"You men are so strange," she went on, after a moment's pause.
"You give us so little time to know you, you show us so little of
yourselves and you expect so much."
"We offer everything," he reminded her.
"I want to avoid platitudes," she said thoughtfully, "but is love
quite the same thing for a man as for a woman? =20
"Sometimes it is more," was the prompt reply. "Sometimes love, for
a woman, means only shelter; often, for a man, love means the
blending of all knowledge, of all beauty, all ambition, of all that
he has learned from books and from life. Sometimes a man can see
no further and needs to look no further."
Philippa suddenly felt that she was in danger. There was something
in her heart of which she had never before been conscious, some
music, some strange turn of sentiment in Lessingham s voice or
the words themselves. It was madness, she told herself breathlessly.
She was in love with her husband, if any one. She could not have
lost all feeling for him so soon. She clasped her hands tightly.
Lessingham seemed conscious of his advantage, and leaned towards
"If I were not offering you my whole life," he pleaded, "believe
me, I would not open my lips. If I were thinking of episodes. I
would throw myself into the sea before I asked you to give me even
your fingers. But you, and you alone, could fill the place in my
life which I have always prayed might be filled, not for a year or
even a decade of years, but for eternity."
"Oh, but you forget!" she faltered.
"I remember so much," he replied, "that I know it is hard for you
to speak. There are bonds which you have made sacred, and your
fingers shrink from tearing them asunder. If it were not for this,
Philippa - hear the speech of a renegade - my mandate should be torn
in pieces. My instructions should flutter into the waste-paper
basket, To-morrow should see us on our way to a new country and a
new life. But you must be very sure indeed."
"Is it because of me that you are staying here?" she asked.
"Upon my honour, no," he assured her. "I must stay here a little
longer, whatever it may mean for me. And so I am content to remain
what I am to you at this minute. I ask from you only that you
remain just what you are. But when the moment of my freedom comes,
when my task here is finished and I turn to go, then I must come
She rose suddenly to her feet, crossed the floor, and threw open
the window. The breeze swept through the room, flapping the
curtains, blowing about loose articles into a strange confusion.
She stood there for several moments, as though in search of some
respite from the emotional atmosphere upon which she had turned
her back. When she finally closed the window, her hair was in
little strands about her face. Her eyes were soft and her lips
"You make me feel," she said, taking his hand for a moment and
looking at him almost piteously, "you make me feel everything except
"Except one thing?" he repeated.
"Can't you understand?" she continued, stretching out her hand with
a quick, impulsive little movement. "I am here in Henry's house,
his wife, the mistress of his household. All the years we've been
married I have never thought of another man. I have never indulged
in even the idlest flirtation. And now suddenly my life seems
upside down. I feel as though, if Henry stood before me now, I
would strike him on the cheek. I feel sore all over, and ashamed,
but I don't know whether I have ceased to love him. I can't tell.
Nothing seems to help me. I close my eyes and I try to think of
that new world and that new life, and I know that there is nothing
repulsive in it. I feel all the joy and the strength of being with
you. And then there is Henry in the background. He seems to have
had so much of my love."
He saw the tears gathering in her eyes, and he smiled at her
"Remember that at this moment I am asking you for nothing," be said.
"Just think these things out. It isn't really a matter for sorrow,"
he continued. "Love must always mean happiness - for the one who
She leaned hack in the corner of the sofa to which he had led her,
her eyes dry now but still very soft and sweet. He sat by her side,
fingering some of the things in her work basket. Once she held out
her hand and seemed to find comfort in his clasp. He raised her
fingers to his lips without any protest from her. She looked at
him with a little smile.
"You know, I'm not at all an Ibsen heroine," she declared. "I can't
see my way like those wonderful emancipated women."
"Yet," he said thoughtfully, "the way to the simple things is so
Confidences were at an end for a time, broken up by the entrance of
Nora and Helen, and some young men from the Depot, who had looked
in for a game of billiards. Lessingham rose to leave as soon as the
latter had returned to their game. His tone and manner now were
completely changed. He seemed ill at ease and unhappy.
"I am going to have a day's fishing to-morrow," he told Philippa,
"but I must admit that I have very little faith in this man Oates.
They all tell me that your husband has any number of charts of the
coast. Do you think I could borrow one?"
"Why, of course," she replied, "if we can find it."
She took him over to her husband's desk, opened such of the drawers
as were not locked, and searched amongst their contents ruthlessly.
By the time they had finished the last drawer, Lessingham had quite a
little collection of charts, more or less finished, in his hand.
"I don't know where else to look," she said. "You might go through
those and see if they are of any use. What is it, Mills?" she added,
turning to the door.
Mills had entered noiselessly, and was watching the proceedings at
Sir Henry's desk with a distinct lack of favour. He looked away
towards his mistress, however, as he replied.
"The young woman has called with reference to a situation as
parlour-maid, your ladyship," he announced. "I have shown her into
the sewing room." Lady Cranston glanced at the clock.
"I sha'n't be more than five or ten minutes," she promised Lessingham.
"Just look through those till I come back."
She hurried away, leaving Lessingham alone in the room. He stood
for a moment listening. On the left-hand side, through the door
which had been left ajar, he could hear the click of billiard balls
and occasional peals of laughter. On the right-hand side there was
silence. He moved swiftly across the room and closed the door leading
into the billiard room, deposited on the sofa the charts which he had
been carrying, and hurried back to the secretary. With a sickening
feeling of overwhelming guilt, he drew from his pocket a key and
opened, one by one, the drawers through which they had not searched.
It took him barely five minutes to discover - nothing. With an air
of relief he rearranged everything. When Philippa returned, he was
sitting on the lounge, going through the charts which they had
looked out together.
"Well?" she asked.
"There is nothing here," he decided, "which will help me very much.
With your permission I will take this," he added, selecting one at
She nodded and they replaced the others. Then she touched him on
"Listen," she said, "are you perfectly certain that there is no one
He listened for a moment.
"I can't hear any one," he answered. "They've started a four-handed
game of pool in the billiard room.
"Then I will disclose to you Henry's dramatic secret. See!"
She touched the spring in the side of the secretary. The false back,
with its little collection of fishing flies, rolled slowly up. The
large and very wonderful chart on which Sir Henry had bestowed so
much of his time, was revealed. =20Lessingham gazed at it eagerly.
"There!" she said. "That has been a great labour of love with
Henry. It is the chart, on a great scale, from which he works. I
don't know a thing about it, and for heaven's sake never tell Henry
that you have seen it."
He continued to examine the chart earnestly. Not a part of it
escaped him. Then he turned back to Philippa.
"Is that supposed to be the coast on the other side of the point?"
"I don't exactly know where it is," she replied. "Every time Henry
finds out anything new, he comes and works at it. I believe that
very soon it will be perfect. Then he will start on another part of
"This is not the only one that he has prepared, then?" Lessingham
She shook her head.
"I believe it is the fifth," she replied. "They all disappear when
they are finished, but I have no idea where to. To me they seem to
represent a shocking waste of time."
Lessingham was suddenly taciturn. He held out his hand. "You are
dining with us to-morrow night, remember," she said.
"I am not likely to forget," he assured her.
"And don't get drowned," she concluded. "I don't know any of these
fishermen - I hate them all - but I'm told that Oates is the worst."
"I think that we shall be quite all right," he assured her. "Thanks
very much for finding me the charts. What I have seen will help me."
Helen came in for a moment and their farewell was more or less
perfunctory. Lessingham was almost thankful to escape. There was
an unusual flush in his cheeks, a sense of bitter humiliation in his
heart. All the fervour with which he had started on his perilous
quest had faded away. No sense of duty or patriotism could revive
his drooping spirits. He felt himself suddenly an unclean and
Towards three o'clock on the following afternoon, the boisterous
wind of an uncertain morning settled down to worse things. It tore
the spray from the crest of the gathering waves, dashed it even
against the French windows of Mainsail Haul, and came booming down
the open spaces cliffwards, like the rumble of some subterranean
artillery. A little group of fishermen in oilskins leaned over the
railing and discussed the chances of Ben Oates bringing his boat
in safely. Philippa, also, distracted by a curious anxiety, stood
before the blurred window, gazing into what seemed almost a grey
chaos. "Captain Griffiths, your ladyship."
She turned around quickly at the announcement. Even an unwelcome
caller at that moment was almost a relief to her.
"How nice of you to come and see me on such an afternoon, Captain
Griffiths," she exclaimed, as they shook hands. "Helen is over at
the Canteen, Nora is hard at work for once in her life, and I seem
most dolefully alone."
Her visitor's reception of Philippa's greeting promised little in
the way of enlivenment. He seemed more awkward and ill at ease than
ever, and his tone was almost threatening.
"I am very glad to find you alone, Lady Cranston," he said. "I came
specially to have a few words with you on a certain matter."
Her momentary impulse of relief at his visit passed away. There
seemed to her something sinister in his manner. She was suddenly
conscious that there was a new danger to be faced, and that this
man's attitude towards her was, for some reason or other, inimical.
After the first shock, however, she prepared herself to do battle.
"Well, you seem very mysterious," she observed. "I haven't broken
any laws, have I? No lights flashing from any of my windows?"
"So far as I am aware, there are no complaints of the sort," the
Commandant acknowledged, still speaking with an unnatural restraint.
"My call, I hope, may he termed, to some extent, at least, a
"How nice!" she sighed. "Then you'll have some tea, won't you?"
"Not at present, if you please," he begged. "I have come to talk
to you about Mr. Hamar Lessingham."
"Really?" Philippa exclaimed. "Whatever has that poor man been
"Dreymarsh," her visitor proceeded, "having been constituted, during
the last few months, a protected area, it is my duty to examine and
enquire into the business of any stranger who appears here. Mr. Hamar
Lessingham has been largely accepted without comment, owing to his
friendship with you. I regret to state, however, that certain facts
have come to my knowledge which make me wonder whether you yourself
may not in some measure have been deceived."
"This sounds very ridiculous," Philippa interposed quietly.
"A few weeks ago," Captain Griffith continued, "we received
information that this neighbourhood would probably be visited by
some person connected with the Secret Service of Germany. There is
strong evidence that the person in question is Mr. Hamar Lessingham."
"A graduate of Magdalen, my brother's intimate friend, and a frequent
visitor at my father's house in Cheshire," Philippa observed, with
"The possibility of your having made a mistake, Lady Cranston,"
Captain Griffiths rejoined, "has, I must confess, only just occurred
to me. The authorities at Magdalen College have been appealed to,
and no one of the name of Lessingham was there during any one of
your brother's terms."
Philippa took the blow well. She simply stared at her caller in a
"We have also information," he continued gravely, "from Wood Norton
Hall - from your mother, in fact, Lady Cranston - that no college
friend of your brother, of that name, has ever visited Wood Norton."
"Go on," Philippa begged, a little faintly. "Did I ever live there
myself? Was Richard ever at Magdalen?"
Captain Griffiths proceeded with the air of a man who has a task to
finish and intends to do so, regardless of interruptions.
"I have had some conversation with Mr. Lessingham, in the course of
which I asked him to explain his method of reaching here, and his
last habitation. He simply fenced with me in the most barefaced
fashion. He practically declined to give me any account of himself."
Philippa rose and rang the bell.
"I suppose I must give you some tea," she said, "although you seem
to have come here on purpose to make my head ache."
"My object in coming here," Captain Griffiths rejoined, a little
stiffly, "is to save you some measure of personal annoyance."
"Oh, please don't think that I am ungrateful," Philippa begged.
"Of course, it is all some absurd mistake, and I'm sure we shall get
to the bottom of it presently - Tell me what you think of the storm?"
she added, as Mills entered with the tea tray. "Do you think it
will get any worse, because I am terrified to death already?"
"I am no judge of the weather here," he confessed. "I believe the
fishermen are preparing for something unusual."
She seated herself before the tea tray and insisted upon performing
her duties as hostess. Afterwards she laid her hand upon his arm
and addressed him with an air of complete candour.
"Now, Captain Griffiths," she began, "do listen to me. Just one
moment of common sense, if you please. What do you suppose there
could possibly be in our harmless seaside village to induce any one
to risk his life by coming here on behalf of the Secret Service of
"Dreymarsh," Captain Griffiths replied, "was not made a prohibited
area for nothing."
"But, my dear man, be reasonable," Philippa persisted. "There are
perhaps a thousand soldiers in the place, the usual preparations
along the cliff for coast defence, a small battery of anti-aircraft
guns, and a couple of searchlights. There isn't a grocer's boy in
the place who doesn't know all this. There's no concealment about
it. You must admit that Germany doesn't need to send over a Secret
Service agent to acquaint herself with these insignificant facts."
Her visitor smiled very faintly. It was the first time he had
relaxed even so far as this.
"I am not in possession of any information which I can impart to you,
Lady Cranston," he said, "but I am not prepared to accept your
statement that Dreymarsh contains nothing of greater interest than
the things which you have mentioned."
There was no necessity for Philippa to play a part now. The
suggestion contained in her visitor's words had really left her in
a state of wonder.
"You are making my flesh creep!" she exclaimed. "You don't mean to
say that we have secrets here?"
"I have said the last word which it is possible for me to say upon
the subject," he declared. "You will understand, I am sure, that
I am not here in the character of an inquisitor. I simply thought
it my duty, in view of the fact that you had made yourself the
social sponsor for Mr. Lessingham, to place certain information
before you, and to ask, unofficially, of course, if you have any
explanation to give? You may even," he went on, hesitatingly,
"appreciate the motives which led me to do so."
"My dear man, what explanation could I have?" Philippa protested,
"it is an absolute and undeniable fact that Mr. Lessingham was at
Magdalen with my brother, and also that he visited us at Wood
Norton. I know both these things of my own knowledge. The only
possible explanation, therefore, is that you have been misinformed."
"Or," Captain Griffiths ventured, "that Mr. Hamar Lessingham in
those days passed under another name."
"Another name?" Philippa faltered.
"Some such name, perhaps," he continued, "as Bertram Maderstrom"
There was a short silence. Captain Griffiths had leaned back in
his chair and was caressing his upper lip. His eyes were fixed
upon Philippa and Philippa saw nothing. Her little heel dug hard
into the carpet. In a few seconds the room ceased to spin.
Nevertheless, her voice sounded to her pitifully inadequate.
"What an absurdity all this is!" she exclaimed.
"Maderstrom," Captain Griffiths said thoughtfully, "was, curiously
enough, an intimate college friend of your brother's. He was also
a visitor at Wood Norton Hall. At neither place is there any trace
of Mr. Hamar Lessingham. Perhaps you have made a mistake, Lady
Cranston. Perhaps you have recognised the man and failed to remember
his name. If so, now is the moment. to declare it."
"I am very much obliged to you," Philippa retorted, "but I have
never met or heard of this Mr. Maderstrom - "
"Baron Maderstrom," he interrupted.
"Baron Maderstrom, then, in my life; whereas Mr. Lessingham I
"I am sorry," Captain Griffiths said, setting down his empty teacup
and rising slowly to his feet. "We cannot help one another, then."
"If you want me to transfer Mr. Lessingham, whom I remember
perfectly, into a German baron whom I never heard of," Philippa
declared boldly, "I am afraid that we can't."
"Baron Maderstrom was a Swedish nobleman," Captain Griffiths observed.
"Swedish or German, I know nothing of him," Philippa persisted.
"There remains, then, nothing more to be said."
"I am afraid not," Philippa agreed sweetly.
"Under the circumstances," Captain Griffiths asked, "you will not,
I am sure, expect me to dine to-night"
"Not if you object to meeting Mr. Hamar Lessingham," Philippa
Her visitor's face suddenly darkened, and Philippa wondered vaguely
whether anything more than professional suspicion was responsible
for that little storm of passion which for a moment transformed
his appearance. He quickly recovered, however.
"I may still," he concluded, moving towards the door, "be forced to
present myself here in another capacity."
The confinement of the house, after the departure of her unwelcome
visitor, stifled Philippa. Attired in a mackintosh, with a scarf
around her head, she made her way on to the quay, and, clinging to
the railing, dragged herself along to where the fishermen were
gathered together in a little group. The storm as yet showed no
signs of abatement.
"Has anything been heard of Ben Oates' boat?" she enquired.
An old fisherman pointed seawards.
"There she comes, ma'am, up on the crest of that wave; look!"
"Will she get in?" Philippa asked eagerly.
There were varied opinions, expressed in indistinct mutterings.
"She's weathering it grand," the fisherman to whom she had first
spoken, declared. "We've a line ready yonder, and we're reckoning
on getting 'em ashore all right. Lucky for Ben that the gentleman
along with him is a fine sailor. Look at that, mum!" he added in
excitement. "See the way he brought her head round to it, just in
time. Boys, they'll come in on the next one!"
One by one the sailors made their way to the very edge of the
wave-splashed beach. There were a few more minutes of breathless
anxiety. Then, after the boat had disappeared completely from sight,
hidden by a huge grey wall of sea, she seemed suddenly to climb to
the top of it, to hover there, to become mixed up with the spray and
the surf and a great green mass of waters, and then finally, with a
harsh crash of timbers and a shout from the fishermen, to be flung
high and dry upon the stones. Philippa, clutching the iron railing,
saw for a moment nothing but chaos. Her knees became weak. She was
unable to move. There was a queer dizziness in her ears. The sound
of voices sounded like part of an unreal nightmare. Then she was
aware of a single figure climbing the steps towards her. There was
blood trickling down his face from the wound in the forehead, and he
was limping slightly.
"Mr. Lessingham!" she called out, as he reached the topmost step.
He took an eager step towards her.
"Philippa!" he exclaimed. "Why, what are you doing here?"
"I was frightened," she faltered. "Are you hurt?"
"Not in the least," he assured her. "We had a rough sail home,
that's all, and that fellow Oates drank himself half unconscious.
Come along, let me help you up the steps and out of this."
She clung to his arm, and they struggled up the private path to the
house. Mills let them in with many expressions of concern, and
Helen came hurrying to them from the background.
"I went out to see the storm," Philippa explained weakly, "and I
saw Mr. Lessingham's boat brought in."
"And Mr. Lessingham will come this way at once," Helen insisted.
"I haven't had a real case since I got my certificate, and I'm going
to bind his head up."
Philippa began to feel her strength returning. The horror which lay
behind those few minutes of nightmare rose up again in her mind.
Mills had hurried on into the bathroom, and the other two were
preparing to follow. She stopped them.
"Mr. Lessingham," she said, "listen. Captain Griffiths has been
here. He knows or guesses everything."
"Helen must bind your head up, of course," she continued. "After
that, think! What can we do? Captain Griffiths knows that there
was no Hamar Lessingham at college with Dick, that he never visited
Wood Norton, that there is some mystery about your arrival here,
and he told me to my face that he believes you to be Bertram
"What a meddlesome fellow!" Lessingham grumbled, holding his
handkerchief to his forehead.
"Oh, please be serious!" Helen begged, looking up from the bandage
which she was preparing. "This is horrible!"
"Don't I know it!" Philippa groaned. "Mr. Lessingham, you must
please try and escape from here. You can have the car, if you like.
There must be some place where you can go and hide until you can
get away from the country."
"But I'm dining here to-night," Lessingham protested. "I'm not
going to hide anywhere."
The two women exchanged glances of despair.
"Can't I make you understand!" Philippa exclaimed pathetically.
"You're in danger here - really in danger!"
Lessingham's demeanour showed no appreciation of the situation.
"Of course, I can quite understand," he said, "that Griffiths is
suspicious about me, but, after all, no one can prove that I have
broken the law here, and I shall not make things any better by
attempting an opera bouffe flight. Can I have my head tied up and
come and talk to you about it later on?"
"Oh, if you like," Philippa assented weakly. "I can't argue."
She made her way up to her room and changed her wet clothes. When
she came down, Lessingham was standing on the hearth rug in the
library, with a piece of buttered toast in one hand and a cup of tea
in the other. His head was very neatly bound up, and he seemed
quite at his ease.
"You know," be began, as he wheeled a chair up to the fire for her,
"that man Griffiths doesn't like me. He never took to me from the
first, I could see that. If it comes to that, I don't like Griffiths.
He is one of those mean, suspicious sort of characters we could very
well do without."
Philippa, who had rehearsed a little speech several times in her
bedroom, tried to be firm.
"Mr. Lessingham," she said, "you know that we are both your friends.
Do listen, please. Captain Griffiths is Commandant here and in a
position of authority. He has a very large power. I honestly
believe that it is his intention to have you arrested - if not
to-night, within a very few days."
"I do not see how he can," Lessingham objected, helping himself to
another piece of toast. "I have committed no crime here. I have
played golf with all the respectable old gentlemen in the place, and
I have given the committee some excellent advice as to the two new
holes. I have played bridge down at the club - we will call it
bridge! - and I have kept my temper like an angel. I have dined at
Mess and told them at least a dozen new stories. I have kept my
blinds drawn at night, and I have not a wireless secreted up the
chimney. I really cannot see what they could do to me."
Philippa tried bluntness.
"You have served in the German army, and you are living in a
protected area under a false name," she declared.
"Well, of course, there is some truth in what you say," he admitted,
"but even if they have tumbled to that and can prove it, I should
do no good by running away. To be perfectly serious," he added,
setting his cup down, "there is only one thing at the present
moment which would take me out of Dreymarsh, and that is if you
believe that my presence here would further compromise you and Miss
Philippa was beginning to find her courage. "We're in it already,
up to the neck," she observed. "I really don't see that anything
matters so far as we are concerned."
"In that case," he decided, "I shall have the honour of presenting
myself at the usual time."
Philippa and Helen met in the drawing-room, a few minutes before
eight that evening. Philippa was wearing a new black dress, a
model of simplicity to the untutored eye, but full of that
undefinable appeal to the mysterious which even the greatest
artist frequently fails to create out of any form of colour. Some
fancy had induced her to strip off her jewels at the last moment,
and she wore no ornaments save a band of black velvet around her
neck. Helen looked at her curiously.
"Is this a fresh scheme for conquest, Philippa?" she asked, as they
stood together by the log fire.
Philippa unexpectedly flushed.
"I don't know what I was thinking about, really," she confessed.
"Is that the exact time, I wonder?"
"Two minutes to eight," Helen replied.
"Mr. Lessingham is always so punctual," Philippa murmured. "I wonder
if Captain Griffiths would dare!"
"We've done our best to warn him," Helen reminded her friend. "The
man is simply pig-headed."
"I can't help feeling that he's right," Philippa declared, "when he
argues that they couldn't really prove anything against him."
"Does that matter," Helen asked anxiously, "so long as he is an
enemy, living under a false name here?"
"You don't think they'd - they'd - "
"Shoot him?" Helen whispered, lowering her voice. "They couldn't
do that! They couldn't do that!"
The clock began to chime. Suddenly Philippa, who had been listening,
gave a little exclamation of relief.
"I hear his voice!" she exclaimed. "Thank goodness!"
Helen's relief was almost as great as her companion's. A moment
later Mills ushered in their guest. He was still wearing his
bandage, but his colour had returned. He seemed, in fact, almost
"Nothing has happened, then?" Philippa demanded anxiously, as soon
as the door was closed.
"Nothing at all," he assured them. "Our friend Griffiths is terribly
afraid of making a mistake."
"So afraid that he wouldn't come and dine. Never mind, you'll have
to take care of us both," she added, as Mills announced dinner.
"I'll do my best," he promised, offering his arm.
If the sword of Damocles were indeed suspended over their heads, it
seemed only to heighten the merriment of their little repast.
Philippa had ordered champagne, and the warmth of the pleasant dining
room, the many appurtenances of luxury by which they were surrounded,
the glow of the wine, and the perfume of the hothouse flowers upon
the table, seemed in delicious contrast to the fury of the storm
outside. They all three appeared completely successful in a strenuous
effort to dismiss all disconcerting subjects from their minds.
Lessingham talked chiefly of the East. He had travelled in Russia,
Persia, Afghanistan, and India, and he had the unusual but striking
gift of painting little word pictures of some of the scenes of his
wanderings. It was half-past nine before they rose from the table,
and Lessingham accompanied them into the library. With the advent
of coffee, they were for the first time really alone. Lessingham
sat by Philippa's side, and Helen reclined in a low chair close at
"I think," he said, "that I can venture now to tell you some news."
Helen put down her work. Philippa looked at him in silence, and her
eyes seemed to dilate.
"I have hesitated to say anything about it," Lessingham went on,
"because there is so much uncertainty about these things, but I
believe that it is now finally arranged. I think that within the
next week or ten days - perhaps a little before, perhaps a little
later - your brother Richard will be set at liberty."
"Dick? Dick coming home?" Philippa cried, springing up from her
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