The Zeppelin's Passenger
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Part 5 out of 5
They gossiped for a time over acquaintances and relations, made
their plans for the week - Richard must report at the War Office at
Philippa grew more and more silent as the meal drew to a close. It
was at Helen's initiative that they left Richard alone for a moment
over his port. She kept her arm through her friend's as they
crossed the hall into the drawing-room, and closed the door behind
them. Philippa stood upon the hearth rug. Already her mouth had
come together in a straight line. 11cr eyes met Helen's defiantly.
"I know exactly what you are going to say, Helen," she began, "and
I warn you that it will be of no use."
Helen drew up a small chair and seated herself before the fire.
"Are you going away with Mr. Lessingham, Philippa?" she asked.
"I am," was the calm response. "I made up my mind this afternoon.
We are leaving to-night."
Helen stretched out one foot to the blaze.
"Motoring?" she enquired.
"Naturally," Philippa replied. "You know there are no trains
leaving here to-night."
"You'll have a cold ride," Helen remarked. "I should take your
heavy fur coat."
Philippa stared at her companion.
"You don't seem much upset, Helen!"
"I think," Helen. declared, looking up, "that nothing that has
ever happened to me in my life has made me more unhappy, but I
can see that you have reasoned it all out, and there is not a
single argument I could use which you haven't already discounted.
It is your life, Philippa, not mine."
"Since you are so philosophical," Philippa observed, "let me ask
you - should you do what I am going to do, if you were in my place?"
"I should not," was the firm reply.
Philippa laughed heartily.
"Oh, I know what you are going to say!" Helen continued quickly.
"You'll tell me, won't you, that I am not temperamental. I think
in your heart you rather despise my absolute fidelity to Richard.
You would call it cowlike, or something of that sort. There is a
difference between us, Philippa, and that is why I am afraid to
argue with you."
"What should you do," Philippa demanded, "if Richard failed you in
some great thing?"
"I might suffer," Helen confessed, "but my love would be there all
the same. Perhaps for that reason I should suffer the more, but I
should never be able to see with those who judged him hardly."
"You think, then," Philippa persisted, "that I ought still to remain
Henry's loving and affectionate wife, ready to take my place amongst
the pastimes of his life - when he feels inclined, for instance, to
wander from his dark lady-love to something petite and of my
complexion, or when he settles down at home for a few days after a
fortnight's sport on the sea and expects me to tell him the war news?"
"I don't think that I should do that," Helen admitted quietly, "but
I am quite certain that I shouldn't run away with another man."
"Because I should be punishing myself too much."
Philippa's eyes suddenly flashed.
"Helen," she said, "you are not such a fool as you try to make me
think. Can't you see what is really at the back of it all in my
mind? Can't you realise that, whatever the punishment it may bring,
it will punish Henry more?"
"I see," Helen observed. "You are running away with Mr. Lessingham
to annoy Henry?"
"Oh, he'll be more than annoyed!" Philippa laughed sardonically.
"He has terrible ideas about the sanctity of things that belong to
him. He'll be remarkably sheepish for some time to come. He may
even feel a few little stabs. When I have time, I am going to
write him a letter which he can keep for the rest of his life. It
won't please him!"
"Where are you - and Mr. Lessingham going to live?" Helen enquired.
"In America, to start with. I've always longed to go to the States."
"What shall you do," Helen continued, "if you don't get out of the
"Mr. Lessingham seems quite sure that we shall," Philippa replied,
"and he seems a person of many expedients. Of course, if we didn't,
I should go back to Cheshire. I should have gone back there, anyway,
before now, if Mr. Lessingham hadn't come."
"Well, it all seems very simple," Helen admitted. "I think Mr.
Lessingham is a perfectly delightful person, and I shouldn't wonder
if you didn't now and then almost imagine that you were happy."
"You seem to be taking my going very coolly," Philippa remarked.
"I told you how I felt about it just now," Helen reminded her.
"Your going is like a great black cloud that I have seen growing
larger and larger, day by day. I think that, in his way, Dick
will suffer just as much as Henry. We shall all be utterly
"Why don't you try and persuade me not to go, then?" Philippa
demanded. "You sit there talking about it as though I were going
on an ordinary country-house visit."
Helen raised her head, and Philippa saw that her eyes were filled
"Philippa dear," she said, "if I thought that all the tears that
were ever shed, all the words that were ever dragged from one's
heart, could have any real effect, I'd go on my knees to you now
and implore you to give up this idea. But I think - you won't be
angry with me, dear? - I think you would go just the same."
"You seem to think that I am obstinate," Philippa complained.
"You see, you are temperamental, dear," Helen reminded her. "You
have a complex nature. I know very well that you need the daily=20
love that Henry doesn't seem to have been willing to give you
lately, and I couldn't stop your turning towards the sun, you know.
Only - all the time there's that terrible anxiety - are you quite
sure it is the sun?"
"You believe in Mr. Lessingham, don't you?" Philippa asked.
"I do indeed," Helen replied. "I am not quite sure, though, that
I believe in you."
Philippa was a little startled.
"Well, I never!" she exclaimed. "Exactly what do you mean by that,
"I am not quite sure," Helen continued, "that when the moment has
really come, and your head is upturned and your arms outstretched,
and your feet have left this world in which you are now, I am not
quite sure that you will find all that you seek."
"You think he doesn't love me?"
"I am not convinced," Helen replied calmly, "that you love him."
"Why, you idiot," Philippa declared feverishly, "of course I love
him! I think he is one of the sweetest, most lovable persons I
ever knew, and as to his being a Swede, I shouldn't care whether he
were a Fiji Islander or a Chinese."
Helen nodded sympathetically.
"I agree with you," she said, "but listen. You know that I haven't
uttered a single word to dissuade you. Well, then, grant me just
one thing. Before you start off this evening, tell Mr. Lessingham
the truth, whatever it may be, the truth which you haven't told me.
It very likely won't make any difference. Two people as nice as you
and he, who are going to join their lives, generally do, I believe,
find the things they seek. Still, tell him."
Philippa made no reply. Richard opened the door and lingered upon
the threshold. Helen rose to her feet.
"I am coming, Dick," she called out cheerfully. "There's a gorgeous
fire in the gun room, and two big easy-chairs, and we'll have just
the time I have been looking forward to all day. You'll tell me
things, won't you?
She looked very sweet as she came towards him, her eyes raised to
him, her face full of the one happiness. He passed his arm around
"I'll try, dear," he said. "You won't be lonely, Philippa?"
"I'll come and disturb you when I am," she promised.
The door closed. She stood gazing down into the fire, listening to
their footsteps as they crossed the hall.
Lessingham stood for a moment by the side of the car from which he
had just descended, glanced at the huge tires and the tins of
petrol lashed on behind.
"Nothing more you want, chauffeur?" he asked.
"Nothing, sir," was the almost inaudible reply.
"You have the route map?"
"Yes, sir, and enough petrol for three hundred miles."
Lessingham turned away, pushed open the gate, and walked up the
drive of Mainsail Haul. Decidedly it was the moment of his life.
He was hard-pressed, as he knew, by others besides Griffiths. A
few hours now was all the start he could reasonably expect. He
was face to face with a very real and serious danger, which he
could no longer ignore, and from which escape was all the time
becoming more difficult. And yet all the emotionalism of this
climax was centered elsewhere. It was from Philippa's lips that
he would hear his real sentence; it was her answer which would
fill him once more with the lust for life, or send him on in his
rush through the night for safety, callous, almost indifferent
as to its result.
He walked up the drive, curiously at his ease, in a state of
suspended animation, which knew no hope and feared no
disappointment. Just before he reached the front door, the
postern gate in the wall on his left-hand side opened, and
Philippa stood there, muffled up in her fur coat, framed in the
faint and shadowy moonlight against the background of seabounded
space. He moved eagerly towards her.
"I heard the car," she whispered. "Come and sit down for a moment.
It isn't in the least cold, and the moon is just coming up over the
sea. I came out," she went on, as he walked obediently by her
side, "because the house somehow stifled me."
She led him to a seat. Below, the long waves were breaking through
upon the rocks, throwing little fountains of spray into the air.
The village which lay at their feet was silent and lifeless - there
was, indeed, a curious absence of sound, except when the incoming
waves broke upon the rocks and ground the pebbles together in their
long, backward swish. Very soon the sleeping country, now wrapped
in shadows, would take form and outline in the light of the rising
moon; hedges would divide the square fields, the black woods would
take shape and the hills their mystic solemnity. But those few
minutes were minutes of suspense. Lessingham was to some extent
conscious of their queer, allegorical significance.
"I have come," he reminded her quite steadily, "for my answer."
She showed him the small bag by her side upon the seat, and touched
her cloak. She was indeed prepared for a journey.
"You see," she told him, "here I am."
His face was suddenly transformed. She was almost afraid of the
effect of her words. She found herself struggling in his arms.
"Not yet," she begged. "Please remember where we are."
He released her reluctantly. A few yards away, they could hear the
soft purring of the six-cylinder engine, inexorable reminder of the
passing moments. He caught her by the hand.
"Come," he whispered passionately. "Every moment is precious."
She hesitated no longer. The open postern gate seemed to him
suddenly to lead down the great thoroughfare of a new and splendid
life. He was to be one of those favoured few to whom was given
the divine prize. And then he stopped short, even while she walked
willingly by his side. He knew so well the need for haste. The
gentle murmur of that engine was inviting him all the while. Yet
he knew there was one thing more which must be said.
"Philippa," he began, " you know what we are doing? We can escape,
I believe. My flight is all wonderfully arranged. But there
will be no coming back. It will be all over when our car passes
over the hills there. You will not regret? You care enough even
for this supreme sacrifice?"
"I shall never reproach you as long as I live," she promised. "I
have made up my mind to come, and I am ready."
"But it is because you care?" he pleaded anxiously.
"It is because I care, for one reason."
"In the great way?" he persisted. "In the only way?"
She hesitated. He suddenly felt her hand grow colder in his. He
saw her frame shiver beneath its weight of furs.
"Don't ask me quite that," she begged breathlessly. "Be content
to know that I have counted the cost, and that I am willing to come."
He felt the chill of impending disaster. He closed the little gate
through which they had been about to pass, and stood with his back
to it. In that faint light which seemed to creep over the world
before the moon itself was revealed, she seemed to him at that
moment the fairest, the most desirable thing on earth. Her face
was upturned towards his, half pathetic, half protesting against
the revelation which he was forcing from her.
"Listen, Philippa," he said, "Miss Fairclough warned me of one thing.
I put it on one side. It did not seem to be possible. Now I must
ask you a question. You have some other motive, have you not, for
choosing to come away 'with me? It is not only because you love me
better than any one else in the world, as I do you, and therefore
that we belong to one another and it is right and good that we
should spend our lives in one another's company? There is something
else, is there not, at the root of your determination? Some ally?"
It was a strange moment for Philippa. Nothing had altered within
her, and yet a wonderful pity was glowing in her heart, tearing at
her emotions, bringing a sob into her throat.
"You mean - Henry? she faltered.
"I mean your husband," he assented.
She was suddenly passionately angry with herself. It seemed to her
that the days of childishness were back. She was behaving like an
imbecile whilst he played the great game.
"You see," he went on, his own voice a little unsteady, "this is
one of those moments in both our lives when anything except the
exact truth would mean shipwreck. You still love your husband?"
"I am such a fool!" she sobbed, clutching at his arm.
"You were willing to go away with me," he continued mercilessly,
"partly because of the anger you felt towards him, and partly out
of revenge, and just a little because you liked me. Is that not so?"
Her head pressed upon his arm. She nodded. It was just that
convulsive movement of her head, with its wealth of wonderful hair
and its plain black motoring hat, which dealt the death-blow to his
hopes. She was just a child once more - and she trusted him.
"Very well, then," he said, "just let me think - for a moment."
She understood enough not to raise her head. Lessingham was gazing
out through the chaotic shadows of the distant banks of=20clouds from
which the moon was rising. Already the pain had begun, and yet
with it was that queer sense of exaltation which comes with
"We have been very nearly foolish," he told her, with grave
kindliness. "It is well, perhaps, that we were in time. Those
windows which lead into your library,- through which I first came
to you, by-the-by,- " he added, with a strange, reminiscent little
sigh, "are they open?".
"Yes!" she whispered.
"Come, then," he invited. "Before I leave there is something I want
to make clear to you."
They made their way rather like two conspirators along the little
terraced walk. Philippa opened the window and closed it again
behind them. The room was empty. Lessingham, watching her closely,
almost groaned as he saw the wonderful relief in her face. She
threw off the cloak, and he groaned again as he remembered how
nearly it had been his task to remove it. In her plain travelling
dress, she turned and looked at him very pathetically.
"You have, perhaps, a morning paper here?" he enquired.
"A newspaper? Why, yes, the Times," she answered, a little surprised.
He took it from the table towards which she pointed, and held it
under the lamplight. Presently he called to her. His forefinger
rested upon a certain column.
"Read this," he directed.
She read it out in a tone which passed from surprise to blank wonder:
Commander Sir Henry Cranston, Baronet, to receive the D.S.0. for
special services, and to be promoted to the rank of Acting
"What does it mean?" she asked feverishly. "Henry? A D.S.0. for
Henry for special services?"
"It means," he told her, with a forced smile, "that your husband is,
as you put it in your expressive language, a fraud."
For a moment Philippa was unsteady upon her feet. Lessingham led
her to a chair. From outside came the low, cautious hooting of the
motor horn, calling to its dilatory passenger.
"I can not, of course, explain everything to you," he began, in a
tone of unusual restraint, "but I do know that for the last two
years your husband has been responsible to the Admiralty for most
of the mine fields around your east coast. To begin with, his stay
in Scotland was a sham. He was most of the time with the fleet and
round the coasts. His fishing excursions from here have been of
the same order, only more so. All the places of importance, from
here to the mouth of the Thames, have been mined, or rather the
approaches to them have been mined, under his instructions. My
mission in this country, here at Dreymarsh - do not shrink from
me if you can help it - was to obtain a copy of his mine protection
scheme of a certain town on the east coast."
"Why should I shrink from you?" she murmured. "This is all too
wonderful! What a little beast Henry must think me!" she added,
with truly feminine and marvellously selfish irrelevance.
"You and Miss Fairclough," Lessingham went on, "have rather scoffed
at my presence here on behalf of our Secret Service. It seemed to
you both very ridiculous. Now you understand."
"It makes no difference," Philippa protested tearfully. "You always
told us the truth."
"And I shall continue to do so," Lessingham assured her. "I am not
a clever person at my work which is all new to me, but fortune
favoured me the night your husband was shipwrecked. I succeeded
in stealing from him, on board that wrecked trawler, the plan of
the mine field which I was sent over to procure."
"Of course you had to do it if you could," Philippa sobbed. "I
think it was very clever of you."
"There are others who might look at the matter differently," he said.
"I am going to ask you a question which I know is unnecessary, but
I must have your answer to take away with me. If you had known all
the time that your husband, instead of being a skulker, as you
thought him, was really doing splendid work for his country, you
would not have listened to me for one moment, would you? You
would not have let me grow to love you?"
She clutched his hands.
"You are the dearest man in the world," she exclaimed, her lips
still quivering, "but, as you say, you know the answer. I was
always in love with Henry. It was because I loved him that I was
so furious. I liked you so much that it was mean of me ever to
think of - of what so nearly happened."
"So nearly happened!" he repeated, with a sudden access of the
Once more the low, warning hoot of the motor horn, this time a
little more impatient, broke the silence. Philippa was filled
with an unreasoning terror.
"You must go!" she implored. "You must go this minute! If they
were to take you, I couldn't bear it. And that man Griffiths - he
has sworn that if he can not get the Government authority, he
will shoot you!"
"Griffiths has gone to London," he reminded her.
"Yes, but he may be back by this train," she cried, glancing at the
clock, "and I have a strange sort of fancy - I have had it all day
- that Henry might come, too. It is overdue now. Any one might
arrive here. Oh, please, for my sake, hurry away!" she begged, the
tears streaming from her eyes. "If anything should happen, I could
never forgive myself. It is because you have been so dear, so true
and honourable, that all this time has been wasted. If it were to
cost you your life!"
She was seized by a fit of nervous anxiety which became almost a
paroxysm. She buttoned his coat for him and almost dragged him to
the door. And then she stopped for a moment to listen. Her eyes
became distended. Her lips were parted. She shook as though with
"It is too late!" she faltered hysterically. "I can hear Henry's
voice! Quick! Come to the window. You must get out that way and
through the postern gate."
"Your husband will have seen the car," he protested. "And besides,
there is your dressing-bag and your travelling coat."
"I shall tell him everything," she declared wildly. "Nothing
matters except that you escape. Oh, hurry! I can hear Henry
talking to Jimmy Dumble - for God's sake - "
The words died away upon her lips. The door had been opened and
closed again immediately. There was the quick turn of the lock,
sounding like the click of fate. Sir Henry, well inside the room,
nodded to them both affably.
"Well, Philippa? You weren't expecting me, eh? Hullo, Lessingham!
Not gone yet? Running it a trifle fine, aren't you?"
Lessingham glanced towards the fastened door.
"Perhaps," he admitted, "a trifle too fine."
Sir Henry was suddenly taken by storm. Philippa had thrown herself
into his arms. Her fingers were locked around his neck. Her lips,
her eyes, were pleading with him.
"Henry! Henry, you must forgive me! I never knew - I never dreamed
what you were really doing. I shall never forgive myself, but you
- you will be generous "
"That's all right, dear," he promised, stooping down to kiss her.
"Partly my fault, of course. I had to humour those old ladies down
at Whitehall1 who wanted me to pose as a particularly harmless
idiot. You see," he went on, glancing towards Lessingham, "they
were always afraid that my steps might be dogged by spies, if my
position were generally known."
Philippa did not relinquish her attitude. She was still clinging
to her husband. She refused to let him go.
"Henry," she begged, "oh, listen to me! I have so much to confess,
so much of which I am ashamed! And yet, with it all, I want to
entreat - to implore one great favour from you."
Sir Henry looked down into his wife's face.
"Is it one I can grant?" he asked gravely.
"If you want me ever to be happy again, you will," she sobbed.
"For Helen's sake as well as mine, help Mr. Lessingham to escape."
Lessingham took a quick step forward. He had the air of one who
has reached the limits of his endurance.
"You mean this kindly, Lady Cranston, I know," he said, "but I
desire no intervention."
Sir Henry patted his wife's hand and held her a little away from
him. There was a curious but unmistakable change in his deportment.
His mouth had not altogether lost its humorous twist, but his jaw
seemed more apparent, the light in his eyes was keener, and there
was a ring of authority in his tone.
"Come," he said, "let us understand one another, Philippa, and you
had better listen, too, Mr. Lessingham. I can promise you that
your chances of escape will not be diminished by my taking up these
few minutes of your time. Philippa," he went on, turning back to
her, "you have always posed as being an exceedingly patriotic
Englishwoman, yet it seems to me that you have made a bargain with
this man, knowing full well that he was in the service of Germany,
to give him shelter and hospitality here, access to my house and
protection amongst your friends, in return for certain favours
shown towards your brother."
Philippa was speechless. It was a view of the matter which she and
Helen had striven so eagerly to avoid.
"But, Henry," she protested, "his stay here seemed so harmless. You
yourself have laughed at the idea of espionage at Dreymarsh. There
is nothing to discover. There is nothing going on here which the
whole world might not know."
"That was never my plea," Lessingham intervened.
"Nor is it the truth," Sir Henry added sternly.
The Baron Maderstrom was sent here, Philippa, to spy upon me, to
gain access by any means to this house, to steal, if he could,
certain plans and charts prepared by me."
Philippa began to tremble. She seemed bereft of words.
"He told me this," she faltered. "He told me not half an hour ago."
There was a tapping at the door. Sir Henry moved towards it but
did not turn the key.
"Who is that?" he asked.
"Captain Griffiths is here with an escort, sir," Mills announced.
"He has seized the motor car outside, and he begs to be allowed
to come in."
Mills' words were plainly audible throughout the room. Philippa
made eager signs to Lessingham, pointing to the French windows.
Lessingham, however, shook his head.
"I prefer," he said gently, "to finish my conversation with your
There was another and more insistent summons from outside. This
time it was Captain Griffiths' raucous voice.
"Sir Henry Cranston," he called out, "I am here with authority. I
beg to be admitted."
"Where is your escort?"
"In the hall."
"If I let you come in," Sir Henry continued, "will you come alone?"
"I should prefer it," was the eager reply. "I wish to make this
business as little unpleasant to - to everybody as possible."
Sir Henry softly turned the key, opened the door, and admitted
Griffiths. The man seemed to see no one else but Lessingham. He
would have hastened at once towards him, but Sir Henry laid his hand
upon his arm.
"You must kindly restrain your impatience for a few moments," he
insisted. "This is a private conference. Your business with the
Baron Maderstrom can be adjusted later."
"It is my duty," Griffiths proclaimed impatiently, "to arrest that
man as a spy. I have authority, granted me this morning in London."
"Quite so," Sir Henry observed, "but we are in the midst of a very
interesting little discussion which I intend to conclude. Your turn
will come later, Captain Griffiths."
"I can countenance no discussion with such men as that," Griffiths
declared scornfully. "I am here in the execution of my duty, and
I resent any interference with it."
"No one wishes to interfere with you," Sir Henry assured him, "but
until I say the word you will obey my orders."
"So far as I am concerned," Lessingham intervened, "I wish it to be
understood that I offer no defence."
"You have no defence," Sir Henry reminded him suavely. "I gather
that not only had you the effrontery to steal a chart from my pocket
in the midst of a life struggle upon the trawler, but you have
capped this exploit with a deliberate attempt to abduct my wife."
Griffiths seemed for a moment almost beside himself. His eyes
glowed. His long fingers twitched. He kept edging a little nearer
"Both charges," the latter confessed, looking Sir Henry in the eyes,
Then Philippa found herself. She saw the sudden flash in her
husband's eyes, the grim fury in Griffiths' face. She stepped once
"Henry," she insisted, "you must listen to what I have to say."
"We have had enough words," Griffiths interposed savagely.
Sir Henry ignored the interruption.
"I am listening, Philippa," he said calmly.
"It was my intention an hour ago to leave this place with Mr.
Lessingham to-night," she told him deliberately.
"The devil it was!" Sir Henry muttered.
"As for the reason, you know it," she continued, her tone full of
courage. "I am willing to throw myself at your feet now, but all
the same I was hardly treated. I was made the scapegoat of your
stupid promise. You kept me in ignorance of things a wife should
know. You even encouraged me to believe you a coward, when a
single word from you would have changed everything. Therefore, I
say that it is you who are responsible for what I nearly did, and
what I should have done but for him - listen, Henry - but for him!"
"But for him," her husband repeated curiously.
"It was Mr. Lessingham," she declared, "who opened my eyes concerning
you. It was he who refused to let me yield to that impulse of anger.
Look at my coat there. My bag is on that table. I was ready to
leave with him to-night. Before we went, he insisted on telling me
everything about you. He could have escaped, and I was willing to
go with him. Instead, he spent those precious minutes telling me
the truth about you. That was the end."
"Lady Cranston omits to add," Lessingham put in, "that before I did
so she told me frankly that her feelings for me were of warm
friendliness - that her love was given to her husband, and her
"How long is this to go on?" Griffiths asked harshly. "I have the
authority here and the power to take that man. These domestic
explanations have nothing to do with the case."
"Excuse me," Sir Henry retorted, with quiet emphasis, "they have a
great deal to do with it."
"I am Commandant of this place -" Griffiths commenced.
"And I possess an authority here which you had better not dispute,"
Sir Henry reminded him sternly.
There was a moment's tense silence. Griffiths set his teeth hard,
but his hand wandered towards the back of his belt.
"I am now," Sir Henry continued, "going to announce to you a piece
of news, over which we shall all be gloating when to-morrow morning's
newspapers are issued, but which is not as yet generally known.
During last night, a considerable squadron of German cruisers managed
to cross the North Sea and found their way to a certain port of
considerable importance to us.
Lessingham started, His face was drawn as though with pain. He had
the air of one who shrinks from the news he is about to hear.
"Incidentally," Sir Henry continued, "three-quarters of the squadron
also found their way to the bottom of the sea, and the other quarter
met our own squadron, lying in wait for their retreat, and will not
Lessingham swayed for a moment upon his feet. One could almost
fancy that Sir Henry's tone was tinged with pity as he turned
"The chart of the mine field of which you possessed yourself, he said,
"which it was the object of your visit here to secure, was a chart
specially prepared for you. You see, our own Secret Service is not
altogether asleep. Those very safe and inviting-looking channels
for British and Allied traffic - I marked them very clearly, didn't
I? - were where I'd laid my mines. The channels which your cruisers
so carefully avoided were the only safe avenues. So you see why it
is, Maderstrom, that I have no grudge against you."
Lessingham's face for a moment was the face of a stricken man.
There was a look of dull horror in his eyes.
"Is this the truth?" he gasped.
"It is the truth," Sir Henry assured him gravely.
"Does this conclude the explanations?" Captain Griffiths demanded
impatiently. "Your news is magnificent, Sir Henry. As regards this
felon - "
Sir Henry held up his hand.
"Maderstrom's fate," he said, "is mine to deal with and not yours,
Philippa was the first to grasp the intentions of the man who was
standing only a few feet from her. She threw herself upon his arm
and dragged down the revolver which he had raised. Sir Henry, with
a shout of fury, was upon them at once. He took Griffiths by the
throat and threw him upon the sofa. The revolver clattered
harmlessly on to the carpet.
"His Majesty's Service has no use for madmen," he thundered. "You
know that I possess superior authority here."
"That man shall not escape!" Griffiths shouted.
He struggled for his whistle. Sir Henry snatched it from him and
picked up the revolver from the carpet.
"Look here, Griffiths," he remonstrated severely, "one single move
in opposition to my wishes will cost you your career. Let there be
no misunderstanding about it. That man will not be arrested by you
Griffiths staggered to his feet. He was half cowed, half furious.
"You take the responsibility for this, Sir Henry?" he demanded
thickly. "The man is a proved traitor. If you assist him to escape,
you are subject to penalties - "
Sir Henry threw open the door.
"Captain Griffiths," he interrupted, "I am not ignorant of my
position in this matter. Believe me, your last chance of retaining
your position here is to remember that you have had specific orders
to yield to my authority in all matters. Kindly leave this room
and take your soldiers back to their quarters."
Griffiths hesitated for a single moment. He had the appearance of
a man half demented by a passion which could find no outlet. Then
he left the room, without salute, without a glance to the right or
to the left. Out in the hall, a moment later, they heard a harsh
voice of command. The hall door was opened and closed behind the
sound of retreating footsteps.
"Sir Henry," Lessingham reminded him, "I have not asked for your
"My dear fellow, you wouldn't," was the prompt reply. "As for the
little trouble that has happened in the North Sea, don't take it
too much to heart, it was entirely the fault of the people who sent
"The fault of the people who sent me here," Lessingham repeated.
"I scarcely understand."
"It's simple enough," Sir Henry continued. "You see, you are about
as fit to be a spy as Philippa, my wife here, is to be a detective.
You possess the one insuperable obstacle of having the instincts
of a gentleman. - Come, come," he went on, "we have nothing more to
say to one another. Open that window and take the narrow path down
to the beach. Jimmy Dumble is waiting for you at the gate. He will
row you out to a Dutch trawler which is lying even now off the point."
"You mean me to get away?" Lessingham exclaimed, bewildered.
"Believe me, it will cost nothing," Sir Henry assured him. "I was
not bluffing when I told Captain Griffiths that I had supreme
authority here. He knows perfectly well that I am within my rights
in aiding your escape."
Philippa moved swiftly to where Lessingham was standing. She gave
him her hands.
"Dear friend," she begged, "so wonderful a friend as you have been,
don't refuse this last thing."
"Be a sensible fellow, Maderstrom," Sir Henry said. "Remember that
you can't do yourself or your adopted country a ha'porth of good by
playing the Quixote."
"Besides," Philippa continued, holding his hands tightly, "it is,
after all, only an exchange. You have saved Henry's life, set
Richard free, and brought us happiness. Why should you hesitate to
accept your own liberty?"
Sir Henry threw open the window and looked towards a green light
out at sea.
"There's your trawler," he pointed out, "and remember the tide will
turn in half an hour. I don't wish to hurry you "
Lessingham raised Philippa's fingers to his lips.
"I shall think of you both always," he said simply. "You are very
He turned towards the window. Sir Henry took up the Homburg hat
from the table by his side.
"Better take your hat," he suggested.
Lessingham paused, accepted it, and looked steadfastly at the donor.
"You knew from the first?" he asked.
"From the very first," Sir Henry assured him. "Don't look so
confounded," he went on consolingly. "Remember that espionage is
the only profession in which it is an honour to fail."
Philippa came a little shyly into her husband's arms, as he turned
back into the room. The tenderness in his own face, however, and
a little catch in his voice, broke down at once the wall of reserve
which had grown up between them.
"My dear little woman!" he murmured. "My little sweetheart! You
don't know how I've ached to explain everything to you - including
the Russian ladies."
"Explain them at once, sir!" Philippa insisted, pretending to draw
her face away for a moment.
"They were the wife and sister-in-law of the Russian Admiral,
Draskieff, who was sent over to report upon our method of mine
laying," he told her.
"You and I have to go up to a little dinner they are giving to-morrow
or the next day.
"Oh, dear, what an idiot I was!" Philippa exclaimed ruefully. "I
imagined - all sorts of things. But, Henry dear," she went on, "do
you know that we have a great surprise for you - here in the house?"
"No surprise, dear," he assured her, shaking his head. "I knew the
very hour that Richard left Wittenberg. And here he is, by Jove!"
Richard and Helen entered together. Philippa could not even wait
for the conclusion of the hearty but exceedingly British greeting
which passed between the two men.
"Listen to me, both of you!" she cried incoherently.- "Helen, you
especially! You never heard anything so wonderful in your life!
They weren't fishing excursions at all. There weren't any whiting.
Henry was laying mines all the time, and he's blown up half the
German fleet! It's all in the Times this morning. He's got a D.S.0.
- Henry has - and he's a Rear-Admiral! Oh, Helen, I want to cry!"
The two women wandered into a far corner of the room. Richard wrung
his brother-in-law's hand.
"Philippa isn't exactly coherent," he remarked, "but it sounds all
"You see," Sir Henry explained, "I've been mine laying ever since
the war started. I always had ideas of my own about mine fields,
as you may remember. I started with Scotland, and then they moved
me down here. The Admiralty thought they'd be mighty clever, and
they insisted upon my keeping my job secret. It led to a little
trouble with Philippa, but I think we are through with all that.
- I suppose you know that those two young women have been engaged
in a regular conspiracy, Dick?"
"I know a little," Richard replied gravely, "and I'm sure you will
believe that I wouldn't have countenanced it for a moment if I'd
had any idea what they were up to."
"I'm sure you wouldn't," Sir Henry agreed. "Anyway, it led to no
"Maderstrom, then," Richard asked, with a sudden more complete
apprehension of the affair, "was over here to spy upon you?"
"That's the ticket," Sir Henry assented.
"And he bribed Philippa and Helen with my liberty!"
"Don't you worry about that," his brother-in-law begged. "They
must have known by instinct that a chap like Maderstrom couldn't do
"Where is he now?" Richard asked eagerly. "Helen insisted upon
keeping me out of the way but we've heard all sorts of rumours. The
Commandant has been up here after him, hasn't he?"
"Yes, and I sent him away with a flea in his ear! I don't like the
"The pseudo-Mr. Lessingham, eh?" Sir Henry observed. "Well, to tell
you the truth, Dick, if there is one person I am a little sorry for
in the history of the last few weeks, it's Maderstrom."
"You, too?" Richard exclaimed. "Why, every one seems crazy about
Sir Henry nodded.
"I remember him in your college days, Dick. He was a gentleman and
a good sort, only unfortunately his mother was a German. He did his
bit of soldiering with the Prussian Guards at the beginning of the
war, got a knock and volunteered for the Secret Service. They sent
him over here. The fellow must have no end of pluck, for, as I dare
say you know, they let him down from the observation car of a
Zeppelin. He finds his way here all right, makes his silly little
bargain with our dear but gullible womenkind, and sets himself to
watch - to watch me, mind. The whole affair is too ridiculously
transparent. For a time he can't bring himself even to touch my
papers here, although, as it happens, they wouldn't have done him
the least bit of good. It was only the stress and excitement of
the shipwreck last week that he ventured to steal the chart which
I had so carefully prepared for him. I really think, if he hadn't
done that, I should have had to slip it into his pocket or absolutely
force it upon him somehow. He sends it off like a lamb and behold
the result! We've crippled the German Navy for the rest of the war."
"It was a faked chart, then, of course?" Richard demanded
"And quite the cleverest I ever prepared," Sir Henry acknowledged.
"I can assure you that it would have taken in Von Tirpitz himself,
if he'd got hold of it."
"But where is Maderstrom now, sir?" Richard asked.
Sir Henry moved his head towards the window, where Philippa, for the
last few moments, had softly taken her place. Her eyes were watching
a green light bobbing up and down in the distance. Suddenly she gave
a little exclamation.
"It's moving!" she cried. "He's off!"
"He's safe on a Dutch trawler," Sir Henry declared. "And I think,"
he added, moving towards the sideboard, "it's time you and I had
a drink together, Dick."
They helped themselves to whisky and soda. There were still many
explanations to be given. Half-concealed by the curtain, Philippa
stood with her eyes turned seawards. The green light was dimmer
now, and the low, black outline of the trawler crept slowly over
the glittering track of moonlight. She gave a little start as it
came into sight. There was a sob in her throat, tears burning in
her eyes. Her fingers clutched the curtains almost passionately.
She stood there watching until her eyes ached. Then she felt an
arm around her waist and her husband's whisper in her ear.
I haven't let you wander too far, have I, Phil?"
She turned quickly towards him, eager for the comfort of his
extended arms. Her face was buried in his shoulder.
"You know," she murmured.
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