The knife was forthcoming, and presently they all turned their faces homeward. Philippa arrested both her companions on the outskirts of the wood, and pointed to the red-tiled little town, to the sombre, storm-beaten grey church on the edge of the cliff, to the peaceful fields, the stretch of gorse-sprinkled common, and the rolling stretch of green turf on the crown of the cliffs. Beyond was the foam-flecked blue sea, dotted all over with cargo steamers.
“Would one believe,” she asked satirically, “that there should be scope here in this forgotten little spot for the brains of a—Mr. Lessingham!”
“Remember that I was sent,” he protested. “The error, if error there be, is not mine.”
“And after all,” Helen reminded them both, “think how easily one may be misled by appearances. You couldn’t imagine anything more honest than the faces of the villagers and the fishermen one sees about, yet do you know, Mr. Lessingham, that we were visited by burglars last night?”
“Seriously?” he asked.
“Without a doubt. Of course, Mainsail Haul is an invitation to thieves. They could get in anywhere. Last night they chose the French windows and seem to have made themselves at home in the library.”
“I trust,” Lessingham said, “that they did not take anything of value?”
“They took nothing at all,” Philippa sighed. “That is the humiliating part of it. They evidently didn’t like our things.”
“How do you know that you had burglars, if they took nothing away?” Lessingham enquired.
“So practical!” Philippa murmured. “As a matter of fact, I heard some one moving about, and I rang the alarm bell. Mills was downstairs almost directly and we heard some one running down the drive. The French windows were open, a chair was overturned in the library, and a drawer in my husband’s desk was wide open.”
“The proof,” Lessingham admitted, “is overwhelming. You were visited by a burglar. Does your husband keep anything of value in his desk?”
“Henry hasn’t anything of value in the world,” Philippa replied drily, “except his securities, and they are at the bank.”
“Without going so far as to contradict you,” Lessingham observed, with a smile, “I still venture to disagree!”
Sir Henry stepped back from the scales and eyed the fish which they had been weighing, admiringly.
“You see that, Mills? You see that, Jimmy?” he pointed out. “Six and three-quarter pounds! I was right almost to an ounce. He’s a fine fellow!”
“A very extraordinary fish, sir,” the butler observed. “Will you allow me to take your oilskins? Dinner was served nearly an hour ago.”
Sir Henry slipped off his dripping overalls and handed them over.
“That’s all right,” he replied. “Listen. Don’t say a word about my arrival to your mistress at present. I have some writing to do. Bring me a glass of sherry at once, or mix a cocktail if you can do so without being missed, and take Jimmy away and give him some whisky and soda.”