“I understand,” she assented, under her breath. “And now,” she went on, raising her eyes, “somehow I think that you are right. It would be better for you and Dick not to meet.”
“I am sure of it,” he agreed. “I shall come for my answer at ten o’clock. I wonder—”
He stood looking at her, his eyes hungry to find some sign in her face. There was so much kindness there, so much that might pass, even, for affection, and yet something which, behind it all, chilled his confidence. He left his sentence uncompleted and turned towards the door. Suddenly she called him back. She held up her finger. Her whole expression had changed. She was alarmed.
“Wait!” she begged. “I can hear Dick’s voice. Wait till he has crossed the hail.”
They both stood, for a moment, quite silent. Then they heard a little protesting cry from Helen, and a good-humoured laugh from Richard. The door was thrown open.
“You don’t mind our coming through to the gun room, Phil?” her brother asked. “We’re not—My God!”
There was a queer silence, broken by Helen, who stood on the threshold, the picture of distress.
“I tried to get him to go the other way, Philippa.”
Richard took a quick step forward. His hands were outstretched.
“Bertram!” he exclaimed. “Is this a miracle? You here with my sister?”
Lessingham held out his hand. Suddenly Richard dropped his. His expression had become sterner.
“I don’t understand,” he said simply. “Somebody please explain.”
For a few brief seconds no one seemed inclined to take upon themselves the onus of speech. Richard’s amazement seemed to increase upon reflection.
“Maderstrom!” he exclaimed. “Bertram! What in the name of all that’s diabolical are you doing here?”
“I am just a derelict,” Lessingham explained, with a faint smile. “Glad to see you, Richard. You are a day earlier than I expected.”
“You knew that I was coming, then?” Richard demanded.
“Naturally,” Lessingham replied. “I had the great pleasure of arranging for your release.”
“Look here,” Richard went on, “I’m groping about a bit. I don’t understand. Forgive me if I run off the track. I’m not forgetting our friendship, Maderstrom, or what I owe to you since you came and found me at Wittenburg. But for all that, you have served in the German Army and are an enemy, and I want to know what you are doing here, in England, in my brother-in-law’s house.”
“No particular harm, Richard, I promise you,” Lessingham replied mildly.
“You are here under a false name!”
“Hamar Lessingham, if you do not mind,” the other assented. “I prefer my own name, but I do not fancy that the use of it would ensure me a very warm welcome over here just now. Besides,” he added, with a glance at Philippa, “I have to consider the friends whose hospitality I have enjoyed.”