“I am expecting her every moment. The car has gone down to the station to meet her.”
Captain Griffiths appeared to receive the news with a certain undemonstrative satisfaction. He leaned back in his chair with the air of one who is content to wait.
“Have you heard, Miss Fairclough,” his younger companion enquired, a little diffidently, “whether Lady Cranston had any luck in town?”
Helen Fairclough looked away. There was a slight mist before her eyes.
“I had a letter this morning,” she replied. “She seems to have heard nothing at all encouraging so far.”
“And you haven’t heard from Major Felstead himself, I suppose?”
The girl shook her head.
“Not a line,” she sighed. “It’s two months now since we last had a letter.”
“Jolly bad luck to get nipped just as he was doing so well,” the young man observed sympathetically.
“It all seems very cruel,” Helen agreed. “He wasn’t really fit to go back, but the Board passed him because they were so short of officers and he kept worrying them. He was so afraid he’d get moved to another battalion. Then he was taken prisoner in that horrible Pervais affair, and sent to the worst camp in Germany. Since then, of course, Philippa and I have had a wretched time, worrying.”
“Major Felstead is Lady Cranston’s only brother, is he not?” Griffiths enquired.
“And my only fiancé,” she replied, with a little grimace. “However, don’t let us talk about our troubles any more,” she continued, with an effort at a lighter tone. “You’ll find some cigarettes on that table, Mr. Harrison. I can’t think where Nora is. I expect she has persuaded some one to take her out trophy-hunting to Dutchman’s Common.”
“The road all the way is like a circus,” the young soldier observed, “and there isn’t a thing to be seen when you get there. The naval airmen were all over the place at daybreak, and Captain Griffiths wasn’t far behind them. You didn’t leave much for the sightseers, sir,” he concluded, turning to his neighbour.
“As Commandant of the place,” Captain Griffiths replied, “I naturally had to have the Common searched. With the exception of the observation car, however, I think that I am betraying no confidences in telling you that we discovered nothing of interest.”
“Do you suppose that the Zeppelin was in difficulties, as she was flying so low?” Helen enquired.
“It is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis,” the Commandant assented. “Two patrol boats were sent out early this morning, in search of her. An old man whom I saw at Waburne declares that she passed like a long, black cloud, just over his head, and that he was almost deafened by the noise of the engines. Personally, I cannot believe that they would come down so low unless she was in some trouble.”
The door of the comfortable library in which they were seated was suddenly thrown open. An exceedingly alert-looking young lady, very much befreckled, and as yet unemancipated from the long plaits of the schoolroom, came in like a whirlwind. In her hand she carried a man’s Homburg hat, which she waved aloft in triumph.