“What should you do,” Philippa demanded, “if Richard failed you in some great thing?”
“I might suffer,” Helen confessed, “but my love would be there all the same. Perhaps for that reason I should suffer the more, but I should never be able to see with those who judged him hardly.”
“You think, then,” Philippa persisted, “that I ought still to remain Henry’s loving and affectionate wife, ready to take my place amongst the pastimes of his life—when he feels inclined, for instance, to wander from his dark lady-love to something petite and of my complexion, or when he settles down at home for a few days after a fortnight’s sport on the sea and expects me to tell him the war news?”
“I don’t think that I should do that,” Helen admitted quietly, “but I am quite certain that I shouldn’t run away with another man.”
“Because I should be punishing myself too much.”
Philippa’s eyes suddenly flashed.
“Helen,” she said, “you are not such a fool as you try to make me think. Can’t you see what is really at the back of it all in my mind? Can’t you realise that, whatever the punishment it may bring, it will punish Henry more?”
“I see,” Helen observed. “You are running away with Mr. Lessingham to annoy Henry?”
“Oh, he’ll be more than annoyed!” Philippa laughed sardonically. “He has terrible ideas about the sanctity of things that belong to him. He’ll be remarkably sheepish for some time to come. He may even feel a few little stabs. When I have time, I am going to write him a letter which he can keep for the rest of his life. It won’t please him!”
“Where are you—and Mr. Lessingham going to live?” Helen enquired.
“In America, to start with. I’ve always longed to go to the States.”
“What shall you do,” Helen continued, “if you don’t get out of the country safely?”
“Mr. Lessingham seems quite sure that we shall,” Philippa replied, “and he seems a person of many expedients. Of course, if we didn’t, I should go back to Cheshire. I should have gone back there, anyway, before now, if Mr. Lessingham hadn’t come.”
“Well, it all seems very simple,” Helen admitted. “I think Mr. Lessingham is a perfectly delightful person, and I shouldn’t wonder if you didn’t now and then almost imagine that you were happy.”
“You seem to be taking my going very coolly,” Philippa remarked.
“I told you how I felt about it just now,” Helen reminded her. “Your going is like a great black cloud that I have seen growing larger and larger, day by day. I think that, in his way, Dick will suffer just as much as Henry. We shall all be utterly miserable.”
“Why don’t you try and persuade me not to go, then?” Philippa demanded. “You sit there talking about it as though I were going on an ordinary country-house visit.”
Helen raised her head, and Philippa saw that her eyes were filled with tears.