“One never has until one has burned one’s fingers,” Philippa sighed. “I know perfectly well what is the matter with you,” she continued severely. “You are fretting because curried chicken is Dick’s favourite dish.”
“I am not such a baby,” Helen protested. “All the same, it does make one think. I wonder—”
“I know exactly what you were going to say,” Philippa interrupted. “You were going to say that you wondered whether Mr. Lessingham would keep his promise.”
“Whether he would be able to,” Helen corrected. “It does seem so impossible, doesn’t it?”
“So does Mr. Lessingham himself,” Philippa reminded her. “It isn’t exactly a usual thing, is it, to have a perfectly charming and well-bred young man step out of a Zeppelin into your drawing-room.”
“You really believe, then,” Helen asked eagerly, “that he will be able to keep his promise?”
Philippa nodded confidently.
“Do you know,” she said, “I believe that Mr. Lessingham, by some means or another, would keep any promise he ever made. I am expecting to see Dick at any moment now, so you can get on with your lunch, dear, and not sit looking at the curry with tears in your eyes.”
“It isn’t the curry so much as the chutney,” Helen protested faintly. “He never would touch any other sort.”
“Well, I shouldn’t be surprised if he were here to finish the bottle,” Philippa declared. “I have a feeling this morning that something is going to happen.”
“How long has Nora gone away for?” Helen enquired, after a moment’s pause.
“A fortnight or three weeks,” Philippa answered. “Her grandmother wired that she would be glad to have her until Christmas.”
“Just why,” Helen asked seriously, “have you sent her away?”
Philippa toyed with her curry, and glanced around as though she regretted Mills’ absence from the room.
“I thought it best,” she said quietly. “You see, I am not quite sure what the immediate future of this menage is going to be.”
Helen leaned across the table and laid her hand upon her friend’s.
“Dear,” she sighed, “it worries me so to hear you talk like that.”
“Because you know perfectly well, although you profess to ignore it, that at the bottom of your heart there is no one else but Henry. It isn’t fair, you know.”
“To whom isn’t it fair?” Philippa demanded.
“To Mr. Lessingham.”
Philippa was thoughtful for a few moments.
“Perhaps,” she admitted, “that is a point of view which I have not sufficiently considered.”
Helen pressed home her advantage.
“I don’t think you realise, Philippa,” she said, “how madly in love with you the man is. In a perfectly ingenuous way, too. No one could help seeing it.”
“Then where does the unfairness come in?” Philippa asked. “It is within my power to give him all that he wants.”