Helen’s face was transformed, her eyes glowed, her lips were parted with eagerness. She turned towards Philippa, her expression, her whole attitude an epitome of eloquent pleading.
“Philippa, you will not hesitate? You cannot?”
“I must,” Philippa answered, struggling with her agitation. “I love Dick more dearly than anything else on earth, but just now, Helen, we have to remember, before everything, that we are English women. We have to put our human feelings behind us. We are learning every day to make sacrifices. You, too, must learn, dear. My answer to you, Baron Maderstrom—or Mr. Lessingham, as you choose to call yourself—is no.”
“Philippa, you are mad!” Helen exclaimed passionately. “Didn’t I have to realise all that you say when I let Dick go, cheerfully, the day after we were engaged? Haven’t I realised the duty of cheerfulness and sacrifice through all these weary months? But there is a limit to these things, Philippa, a sense of proportion which must be taken into account. It’s Dick’s life which is in the balance against some intangible thing, nothing that we could ever reproach ourselves with, nothing that could bring real harm upon any one. Oh, I love my country, too, but I want Dick! I should feel like his murderess all my life, if I didn’t consent!”
“It occurs to me,” Lessingham remarked, turning towards Philippa, “that Miss Fairclough’s point of view is one to be considered.”
“Doesn’t all that Miss Fairclough has said apply to me?” Philippa demanded, with a little break in her voice. “Richard is my twin brother, he is the dearest thing in life to me. Can’t you realise, though, that what you ask of us is treason?”
“It really doesn’t amount to that,” Lessingham assured her. “In my own heart I feel convinced that I have come here on a fool’s errand. No object that I could possibly attain in this neighbourhood is worth the life of a man like Richard Felstead.”
“Oh, he’s right!” Helen exclaimed. “Think, Philippa! What is there here which the whole world might not know? There are no secrets in Dreymarsh. We are miles away from everywhere. For my sake, Philippa, I implore you not to be unreasonable.”
“In plain words,” Lessingham intervened, “do not be quixotic, Lady Cranston. There is just an idea on one side, your brother’s life on the other. You see, the scales do not balance.”
“Can’t you realise, though,” Philippa answered, “what that idea means? It is part of one’s soul that one gives when one departs from a principle.”
“What are principles against love?” Helen demanded, almost fiercely. “A sister may prate about them, Philippa. A wife couldn’t. I’d sacrifice every principle I ever had, every scrap of self-respect, myself and all that belongs to me, to save Dick’s life!”
There was a brief, throbbing silence. Helen was feverishly clutching Philippa’s hand. Lessingham’s eyes were fixed upon the tortured face into which he gazed. There were no women like this in his own country.