“That is very kind of you,” he said. “In any case, I fear that my holiday will soon be coming to an end.”
“Your holiday?” she repeated. “Is that what you call it?”
“It has been little else,” he replied indifferently. “There is nothing to be learnt here of the slightest military significance.”
“We told you that when you arrived,” Philippa reminded him.
“I was perhaps foolish not to believe you,” he acknowledged.
“So your very exciting journey through the clouds has ended in failure, after all!” she went on, a moment or two later.
“Failure? No, I should not call it failure.”
“You have really made some discoveries, then?” she enquired dubiously.
“I have made the greatest discovery in the world.”
Her eyebrows were gently raised, the corners of her mouth quivered, her eyes fell.
“Dear me! In this quiet spot?” she sighed.
“Is it Helen or me?”
“Philippa!” he protested.
Her eyebrows were more raised than ever. Her mouth had lost its alluring curve.
“Really, Mr. Lessingham!” she exclaimed. “Have I ever given you the right to call me by my Christian name?”
“In my country,” he answered, “we do not wait to ask. We take.”
“Rank Prussianism,” she murmured. “I really think you had better go back there. You are adopting their methods.”
“I may have to at any moment,” he admitted, “or to some more distant country still. I want something to take back with me.”
“You want a keepsake, of course,” Philippa declared, looking around the room. “You can have my photograph—the one over there. Helen will give you one of hers, too, I am sure, if you ask her. She is just as grateful to you about Richard as I am.”
“But from you,” he said earnestly, “I want more than gratitude.”
“Dear me, how persistent you are!” Philippa murmured. “Are you really determined to make love to me?”
“Ah, don’t mock me!” he begged. “What I am saying to you comes from my heart.”
Philippa laughed at him quietly. There was just a little break in her voice, however.
“Don’t be absurd!”
“There is nothing absurd about it,” he replied, with a note of sadness in his tone. “I felt it from the moment we met. I struggled against it, but I have felt it growing day by day. I came here with my mind filled with different purposes. I had no thought of amusing myself, no thought of seeking here the happiness which up till now I seem to have missed. I came as a servant because I was sent, a mechanical being. You have changed everything. For you I feel what I have never felt for any woman before. I place before you my career, my freedom, my honour.”
Philippa sighed very softly.
“Do you mind ringing the bell?” she begged.
“The bell?” he repeated. “What for?”