He released her reluctantly. A few yards away, they could hear the soft purring of the six-cylinder engine, inexorable reminder of the passing moments. He caught her by the hand.
“Come,” he whispered passionately. “Every moment is precious.”
She hesitated no longer. The open postern gate seemed to him suddenly to lead down the great thoroughfare of a new and splendid life. He was to be one of those favoured few to whom was given the divine prize. And then he stopped short, even while she walked willingly by his side. He knew so well the need for haste. The gentle murmur of that engine was inviting him all the while. Yet he knew there was one thing more which must be said.
“Philippa,” he began, “you know what we are doing? We can escape, I believe. My flight is all wonderfully arranged. But there will be no coming back. It will be all over when our car passes over the hills there. You will not regret? You care enough even for this supreme sacrifice?”
“I shall never reproach you as long as I live,” she promised. “I have made up my mind to come, and I am ready.”
“But it is because you care?” he pleaded anxiously.
“It is because I care, for one reason.”
“In the great way?” he persisted. “In the only way?”
She hesitated. He suddenly felt her hand grow colder in his. He saw her frame shiver beneath its weight of furs.
“Don’t ask me quite that,” she begged breathlessly. “Be content to know that I have counted the cost, and that I am willing to come.”
He felt the chill of impending disaster. He closed the little gate through which they had been about to pass, and stood with his back to it. In that faint light which seemed to creep over the world before the moon itself was revealed, she seemed to him at that moment the fairest, the most desirable thing on earth. Her face was upturned towards his, half pathetic, half protesting against the revelation which he was forcing from her.
“Listen, Philippa,” he said, “Miss Fairclough warned me of one thing. I put it on one side. It did not seem to be possible. Now I must ask you a question. You have some other motive, have you not, for choosing to come away with me? It is not only because you love me better than any one else in the world, as I do you, and therefore that we belong to one another and it is right and good that we should spend our lives in one another’s company? There is something else, is there not, at the root of your determination? Some ally?”
It was a strange moment for Philippa. Nothing had altered within her, and yet a wonderful pity was glowing in her heart, tearing at her emotions, bringing a sob into her throat.
“You mean—Henry?” she faltered.
“I mean your husband,” he assented.
She was suddenly passionately angry with herself. It seemed to her that the days of childishness were back. She was behaving like an imbecile whilst he played the great game.