“Just so, sir,” Mills replied deferentially, placing the empty glass upon his tray. “If you’ll excuse me, sir, I must get back to the dining room.”
“Quite right,” his master assented. “They won’t be out just yet, will they?”
“Her ladyship will probably be rising in about ten minutes, sir —not before that.”
Sir Henry nodded a little impatiently. Directly the door was closed he rose to his feet, stood for a moment listening by the side of his fishing cabinet, then opened the glass front and touched the spring. With the aid of a little electric torch which he took from his pocket, he studied particularly a certain portion of the giant chart, made some measurements with a pencil, some notes in the margin, and closed it up again with an air of satisfaction. Then he resumed his seat, drew a folded slip of paper from his breast pocket, a chart from another, turned up the lamp and began to write. His face, as he stooped low, escaped the soft shade and was for a moment almost ghastly. Every now and then he turned and made some calculations on the blotting-paper by his side. At last he leaned back with a little sigh of relief. He had barely done so before the door behind him was opened.
“Are we going to stay in here, Mummy, or are we going into the drawing-room?” Nora asked.
“In here, I think,” he heard Philippa reply.
Then they both came in, followed by Helen. Nora was the first to see him and rushed forward with a little cry of surprise.
“Why, here’s Dad!” she exclaimed, flinging her arms around his neck. “Daddy, how dare you be sitting here all by yourself whilst we are having dinner! When did you get back? What a fish!”
Sir Henry closed down his desk, embraced his daughter, and came forward to meet his wife.
“Fine fellow, isn’t he, Nora!” he agreed. “Well, Philippa, how are you? Pleased to see me, I hope? Another new frock, I believe, and in war time!”
“Fancy your remembering that it was war time!” she answered, standing very still while he leaned over and kissed her.
“Nasty one for me,” Sir Henry observed good-humouredly. “How well you’re looking, Helen! Any news of Dick yet?”
Helen attempted an expression of extreme gravity with more or less success.
“Nothing fresh,” she answered.
“Well, well, no news may be good news,” Sir Henry remarked consolingly. “Jove, it’s good to feel a roof over one’s head again! This morning has been the only patch of decent weather we’ve had.”
“This morning was lovely,” Helen assented. “Philippa and I went and sat up in the woods.”
Philippa, who was standing by the fire, turned and looked at her husband critically.
“We have some men dining,” she said. “They will be out in a few minutes. Don’t you think you had better go and make yourself presentable? You smell of fish, and you look as though you hadn’t shaved for a week.”