It was a happy, if a trifle hysterical little dinner party that evening at Mainsail Haul. Philippa was at times unusually silent, but Helen had expanded in the joy of her great happiness. Richard, shaved and with his hair cut, attired once more in the garb of civilisation, seemed a different person. Even in these few hours the lines about his mouth seemed less pronounced. They talked freely of Maderstrom.
“A regular ‘Vanity Fair’ problem,” Richard declared, balancing his wine glass between his fingers, “a problem, too, which I can’t say I have solved altogether yet. The only thing is that if he is really going to-night, I don’t see why I shouldn’t let the matter drift out of my mind.”
“It is so much better,” Helen agreed. “Try as hard as ever I can, I cannot picture his doing any harm to anybody. And as for any information he may have gained here, well, I think that we can safely let him take it back to Germany.”
“He was always,” Richard continued reminiscently, “a sort of cross between a dreamer, an idealist, and a sportsman. There was never anything of the practical man of affairs about him. He was scrupulously honourable, and almost a purist in his outlook upon life. I have met a great many Germans,” Richard went on, “and I’ve killed a few, thank God!—but he is about as unlike the ordinary type as any one I ever met. The only pity is that he ever served his time with them.”
Philippa had been listening attentively. She was more than ever silent after her brother’s little appreciation of his friend. Richard glanced at her good-humouredly.
“You haven’t killed the fatted calf for me in the shape of clothes, Philippa,” he observed. “One would think that you were going on a journey.”
She glanced down at her high-necked gown and avoided Helen’s anxious eyes.
“I may go for a walk,” she said, “and leave you two young people to talk secrets. I am rather fond of the garden these moonlight nights.”
“When is Henry coming back?” her brother enquired.
Philippa’s manner was quiet but ominous.
“I have no idea,” she confessed. “He comes and goes as the whim seizes him, and I very seldom know where he is. One week it is whiting and another codling. Lately he seems to have shown some partiality for London life.”
Richard’s eyes were wide open now.
“You mean to say that he is still not doing anything?”
“But what excuse does he give—or rather I should say reason?” Richard persisted.
“He says that he is too old for a ship, and he won’t work in an office,” Philippa replied. “That is what he says. His point of view is so impossible that I can not even discuss it with him.”
“It’s the rummest go I ever came across,” Richard remarked reminiscently. “I should have said that old Henry would have been up and at ’em at the Admiralty before the first gun was fired.”