“We are quite ready for bridge,” she announced.
They played four or five rubbers. Lessingham was by far the most expert player, and he and Philippa in the end were the winners. The two men stood together for a moment or two at the sideboard, helping themselves to whisky and soda. Griffiths had become more taciturn than ever, and even Philippa was forced to admit that the latter part of the evening had scarcely been a success.
“Do you play club bridge in town, Mr. Lessingham?” Griffiths asked.
“Never,” was the calm reply.
“You are head and shoulders above our class down here.”
“Very good of you to say so,” Lessingham replied courteously. “I held good cards to-night.”
“I wonder,” Griffiths went on, dropping his voice a little and keeping his eyes fixed upon his companion, “what the German substitute for bridge is.”
“I wonder,” Lessingham echoed.
“As a nation,” his questioner proceeded, “they probably don’t waste as much time on cards as we do.”
Lessingham’s interest in the subject appeared to be non-existent. He strolled away from the sideboard towards Philippa. She, for her part, was watching Captain Griffiths.
“So many thanks, Lady Cranston,” Lessingham murmured, “for your hospitality.”
“And what about that secret?” she asked.
“You see, there are two,” he answered, looking down at her. “One I shall most surely tell you before I leave here, because it is the one secret which no man has ever succeeded in keeping to himself. As for the other—”
He hesitated. There was something almost like pain in his face. She broke in hastily.
“I did not call you away to ask about either. I happened to notice Captain Griffiths just now. Do you know that he is watching you very closely?”
“I had an idea of it,” Lessingham admitted indifferently. “He is rather a clumsy person, is he not?”
“You will be careful?” she begged earnestly. “Remember, won’t you, that Helen and I are really in a most disgraceful position if anything should come out.”
“Nothing shall,” he promised her. “I think you know, do you not, that, whatever might happen to me, I should find some means to protect you.”
For the second time she felt a curious lack of will to fittingly reprove his boldness. She had even to struggle to keep her tone as careless as her words.
“You really are a delightful person!” she exclaimed. “How long is it since you descended from the clouds?”
“Sometimes I think that I am there still,” he answered, “but I have known you about seventy-six hours.”
“What precision?” she laughed. “It’s a national characteristic, isn’t it? Captain Griffiths,” she continued, as she observed his approach, “if you really must go, please take Mr. Lessingham with you. He is making fun of me. I don’t allow even Dick’s friends to do that.”