“Mr. Lessingham,” she said, “is a very delightful friend, whose stay here every one is enjoying very much, but he is a comparative stranger. I feel no responsibility as to his actions.”
“And you do as to mine?”
Sir Henry’s head was resting on his hand, his elbow on the back of the lounge. He seemed to be listening to the voices in the dining room beyond.
“Hm!” he observed. “Has he been here often while I’ve been away?”
“As often as he chose,” Philippa replied. “He has become very popular in the neighbourhood already, and he is an exceedingly welcome guest here at any time.”
“Takes advantage of your hospitality pretty often, doesn’t he?”
“He is here most days. We are always rather disappointed when he doesn’t come.”
Sir Henry’s frown grew a little deeper.
“What’s the attraction?” he demanded.
Philippa smiled. It was the smile which those who knew her best, feared.
“Well,” she confided, “I used to imagine that it was Helen, but I think that he has become a little bored, talking about nothing but Dick and their college days. I am rather inclined to fancy that it must be me.”
“You, indeed!” he grunted. “Are you aware that you are a married woman?”
Philippa glanced up from her work. Her eyebrows were raised, and her expression was one of mild surprise.
“How queer that you should remind me of it!” she murmured. “I am afraid that the sea air disturbs your memory.”
Sir Henry rose abruptly to his feet.
“Oh, damn!” he exclaimed.
He walked to the door. His guests were still lingering over their wine. He could hear their voices more distinctly than ever. Then he came back to the sofa and stood by Philippa’s side.
“Philippa, old girl,” he pleaded, “don’t let us quarrel. I have had such a hard fortnight, a nor’easter blowing all the time, and the dirtiest seas I’ve ever known at this time of the year. For five days I hadn’t a dry stitch on me, and it was touch and go more than once. We were all in the water together, and there was a nasty green wave that looked like a mountain overhead, and the side of our own boat bending over us as though it meant to squeeze our ribs in. It looked like ten to one against us, Phil, and I got a worse chill than the sea ever gave me when I thought that I shouldn’t see you again.”
Philippa laid down her knitting. She looked searchingly into her husband’s face. She was very far from indifferent to his altered tone.
“Henry,” she said, “that sounds very terrible, but why do you run such risks—unworthily? Do you think that I couldn’t give you all that you want, all that I have to give, if you came home to me with a story like this and I knew that you had been facing death righteously and honourably for your country’s sake? Why, Henry, there isn’t a man in the world could have such a welcome as I could give you. Do you think I am cold? Of course you don’t! Do you think I want to feel as I have done this last fortnight towards you? Why, it’s misery! It makes me feel inclined to commit any folly, any madness, to get rid of it all.”