“On the contrary,” Philippa rejoined, “he took advantage of the war to hire a Scotch moor at half-price, about a week after hostilities had commenced.”
“It’s a rum go,” Richard repeated. “I can’t fancy Henry as a skulker. Forgive me, Philippa,” he added.
“You are entirely forgiven,” she assured him drily.
“He comes of such a fine fighting stock,” Richard mused. “I suppose his health is all right?”
“His health,” Philippa declared, “is marvellous. I should think he is one of the strongest men I know.”
Her brother patted her hand.
“You’ve been making rather a trouble of it, old girl,” he said affectionately. “It’s no good doing that, you know. You wait and let me have a talk with Henry.”
“I think,” she replied, “that nearly everything possible has already been said to him.”
“Perhaps you’ve put his back up a bit,” Richard suggested, “and he may really be on the lookout for something all the time.”
“It has been a long search!” Philippa retorted, with quiet sarcasm. “Let us talk about something else.”
They gossiped for a time over acquaintances and relations, made their plans for the week—Richard must report at the War Office at once.
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. Her 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.”