“One could scarcely fail to enjoy even the briefest holiday in so delightfully hospitable a place,” was the somewhat measured reply.
“You’re by way of being a fisherman yourself, I hear?” Sir Henry continued.
“In a very small way,” Lessingham acknowledged. “I have been out once or twice.”
“With Ben Oates, eh?”
“I believe that was the man’s name.”
Philippa glanced up from her work with a little exclamation of surprise.
“I had no idea of that, Mr. Lessingham. Whatever made you choose Ben Oates? He is a most disgraceful person.”
“It was entirely by accident,” Lessingham explained. “I met him on the front. It happened to be a fine morning, and he was rather pressing in his invitation.”
“I’m afraid he didn’t show you much sport,” Sir Henry observed. “From what Jimmy Dumble’s brother told him, he seems to have taken you in entirely the wrong direction, and on the wrong tide.”
“We had a small catch,” Lessingham replied. “I really went more for the sail than the sport, so I was not disappointed.”
“The coast itself,” Sir Henry remarked, “is rather an interesting one.”
“I should imagine so,” Lessingham assented. “Mr. Ben Oates, indeed, told me some wonderful stories about it. He spoke of broad channels down which a dreadnought could approach within a hundred yards of the land.”
“He is quite right, too,” his host agreed.
“There’s a lot of deep water about here. The whole of the coast is very curious in that way. What the—what the dickens is this?”
Sir Henry, who had been strolling about the room, picked up a Homburg hat from the far side of a table of curios. Philippa glanced up at his exclamation.
“That’s Nora’s trophy,” she explained. “I told her to take it up to her own room, but she’s always wanting to show it to her friends.”
“Nora’s trophy?” Sir Henry repeated. “Why, it’s nothing but an ordinary man’s hat.”
“Nevertheless, it’s a very travelled one, sir,” Harrison pointed out. “Miss Nora picked it up on Dutchman’s Common, the morning after the observation car was found there.”
Sir Henry held out the hat.
“But Nora doesn’t seriously suppose that the Germans come over in this sort of headgear, does she?” he demanded.
“If you’ll just look inside the lining, sir,” Sinclair suggested.
Sir Henry turned it up and whistled softly. “By Jove, it’s a German hat, all right!” he exclaimed. “Doesn’t look a bad shape, either.”
He tried it on. There was a little peal of laughter from the men. Philippa had ceased her knitting and was watching from the couch. Sir Henry looked at himself in the looking-glass.
“Well, that’s funny,” he observed. “I shouldn’t have thought it would have been so much too small for me. Here, just try how you’d look in it, Mr. Lessingham,” he added, handing it across to him.