“You see,” Lessingham explained gently. “I am a fatalist!”
It was Helen who finally led her lover from the room. He looked back from the door.
“Maderstrom,” he said, “you know quite well how personally I feel towards you. I am grateful for what you have done for me, even though I am beginning to understand your motives. But as regards the other things we are both soldiers. I am going to talk to Helen for a time. I want to understand a little more than I do at present.”
“Let me help you,” he begged. “Here is the issue in plain words. All that I did for you at Wittenberg, I should have done in any case for the sake of our friendship. Your freedom would probably never have been granted to me but for my mission, although even that I might have tried to arrange. I brought your letters here, and I traded them with your sister and Miss Fairclough for the shelter of their hospitality and their guarantees. Now you know just where friendship ended and the other things began. Do what you believe to be your duty.”
Richard followed Helen out, closing the door after him. Lessingham looked down into Philippa’s face.
“You are more wonderful even than I thought,” he continued softly. “You say so little and you live so near the truth. It is those of us who feel as you do—who understand—to whom this war is so terrible.”
“I want to ask you one question before I send you away,” she told him. “This journey to America?”
“It is a mission on behalf of Germany,” he explained, “but it is, after all, an open one. I have friends—highly placed friends —in my own country, who in their hearts feel as I do about the war. It is through them that I am able to turn my back upon Europe. I have done my share of fighting,” he went on sadly, “and the horror of it will never quite leave me. I think that no one has ever charged me with shirking my duty, and yet the sheer, black ugliness of this ghastly struggle, its criminal inutility, have got into my blood so that I think I would rather pass out of the world in some simple way than find myself back again in that debauch of blood. Is this cowardice, Philippa?”
She looked at him with shining eyes.
“There isn’t any one in the world,” she said, “who could call you a coward. Whatever I may decide, whatever I may feel towards you, that at least I know.”
He kissed her fingers.
“At ten o’clock,” he began—
“But listen,” she interrupted. “Apart from anything which Dick might do, you are in terrible danger here, all the more if you really have accomplished something. Why not go now, at this moment? Why wait? These few hours may make all the difference.”
“They may, indeed, make all the difference to my life,” he answered. “That is for you.”
He followed Mills, who had obeyed her summons, out of the room. Philippa moved to the window and watched him until he had disappeared. Then very slowly she left the room, walked up the stairs, made her way to her own little suite of apartments, and locked the door.