“I am very happy,” he said, “to have brought you such good news.”
Once more the normal aspect of the situation began to reimpose itself upon the two women. They remembered the locked door, the secrecy of their visitor’s entrance, and his disordered condition.
“May I ask to whom we are indebted for this great service?” Philippa enquired.
“My name for the present is Hamar Lessingham,” was the suave reply.
“For the present?” Philippa repeated. “You have perhaps, some explanations to make,” she went on, with some hesitation; “the condition of your clothes, your somewhat curious form of entrance?”
“With your permission.”
“One moment,” Helen intervened eagerly. “Is it possible, Mr. Lessingham, that you have seen Major Felstead lately?”
“A matter of fifty-six hours ago, Miss Fairclough. I am happy to tell you that he was looking, under the circumstances, quite reasonably well.”
Helen caught up a photograph from the table by her side, and came over to their visitor’s side.
“This was taken just before he went out the first time,” she continued. “Is he anything like that now?”
Mr. Hamar Lessingham sighed and shook his head.
“You must expect,” he warned her, “that prison and hospital have had their effect upon him. He was gaining strength every day, however, when I left.”
Philippa held out her hand. She had been looking curiously at their visitor.
“Helen, dear, afterwards we will get Mr. Lessingham to talk to us about Dick,” she insisted. “First there are some questions which I must ask.”
He bowed slightly and drew himself up. For a moment it seemed as though they were entering upon a duel—the slight, beautiful woman and the man in rags.
“Just now,” she began, “you told us that you saw Major Felstead, my brother, fifty-six hours ago.”
“That is so,” he assented.
“But it is impossible!” she pointed out. “My brother is a prisoner of war in Germany.”
“Precisely,” he replied, “and not, I am afraid, under the happiest conditions, he has been unfortunate in his camp. Let us talk about him, shall we?”
“Are you mad,” Helen demanded, “or are you trying to confuse us?”
“My dear young lady!” he protested. “Why suppose such a thing? I was flattering myself that my conversation and deportment were, under the circumstances, perfectly rational.”
“But you are talking nonsense,” Philippa insisted. “You say that you saw Major Felstead fifty-six hours ago. You cannot mean us to believe that fifty-six hours ago you were at Wittenberg.”
“That is precisely what I have been trying to tell you,” he agreed.
“But it isn’t possible!” Helen gasped.
“Quite, I assure you,” he continued; “in fact, we should have been here before but for a little uncertainty as to your armaments along the coast. There was a gun, we were told, somewhere near here, which we were credibly informed had once been fired without the slightest accident.”