“And that favour?”
Their visitor looked down at his torn attire.
“A suit of your brother’s clothes,” he replied, “and a room in which to change. The disposal of these rags I may leave, I presume, to your ingenuity.”
“It is my wish,” he continued, “to remain in this neighbourhood for a short time—perhaps a fortnight and perhaps a month. I should value your introduction to the hotel here, and the extension of such hospitality as may seem fitting to you, under the circumstances.”
“As Mr. Hamar Lessingham?”
“Beyond a doubt.”
There was a moment’s silence. Philippa’s face had become almost stony. She took a step towards the telephone. Lessingham, however, held out his hand.
“Your purpose?” he enquired.
“I am going to ring up the Commandant here,” she told him, “and explain your presence in this house.”
“An heroic impulse,” he observed, “but too impulsive.”
“We shall see,” she retorted. “Will you let me pass?”
His fingers restrained her as gently as possible.
“Let me make a reasonable appeal to both of you,” he suggested. “I am here at your mercy. I promise you that under no circumstances will I attempt any measure of violence. From any fear of that, I trust my name and my friendship with your brother will be sufficient guarantee.”
“Continue, then,” Philippa assented.
“You will give me ten minutes in which to state my case,” he begged.
“We must!” Helen exclaimed. “We must, Philippa! Please!”
“You shall have your ten minutes,” Philippa conceded.
He abandoned his attitude of watchfulness and moved back on to the hearth-rug, his hands behind him. He addressed himself to Philippa. It was Philippa who had become his judge.
“I will claim nothing from you,” he began, “for the services which I have rendered to Richard. Our friendship was a real thing, and, finding him in such straits, I would gladly, under any circumstances, have done all that I have done. I am well paid for this by the thanks which you have already proffered me.”
“No thanks—nothing that we could do for you would be sufficient recompense,” Helen declared energetically.
“Let me speak for a moment of the future,” he continued. “Supposing you ring that telephone and hand me over to the authorities here? Well, that will be the end of me, without a doubt. You will have done what seemed to you to be the right thing, and I hope that that consciousness will sustain you, for, believe me, though it may not be at my will, your brother’s life will most certainly answer for mine.”
There was a slight pause. A sob broke from Helen’s throat. Even Philippa’s lip quivered.
“Forgive me,” he went on, “if that sounds like a threat. It was not so meant. It is the simple truth. Let me hurry on to the future. I ask so little of you. It is my duty to live in this spot for one month. What harm can I do? You have no great concentration of soldiers here, no docks, no fortifications, no industry. And in return for the slight service of allowing me to remain here unmolested, I pledge my word that Richard shall be set at liberty and shall be here with you within two months.”