“You mean to say that you let him?”
“I listened to what he had to say,” she confessed. “It didn’t occur to you, I suppose,” her husband remarked, with somewhat strained sarcasm, “that you were another man’s wife?”
“I am doing my best to forget that fact,” Philippa reminded him.
“I see! And he is to help you?”
Sir Henry’s irritation was fast merging into anger.
“I shall turn the fellow out of the house,” he declared.
Philippa shrugged her shoulders.
“Why don’t you?”
He seated himself on the couch by his wife’s side. “Look here, Philippa, don’t let’s wrangle,” he begged. “I’m afraid you’ll have to make up your mind to see a good deal less of your friend Lessingham, anyway.”
Philippa’s brows were knitted. She was conscious of a vague uneasiness.
“Really? And why?”
“For one thing,” her husband explained, “because I don’t intend to have him hanging about my house during my absence.”
“The best way to prevent that would be not to go away,” Philippa suggested.
“Well, in all probability,” he announced guardedly, “I am not going away again—at least not just yet.”
Philippa’s manner suddenly changed. She laid down her work. Her hand rested lightly upon her husband’s shoulder.
“You mean that you are going to give up those horrible fishing excursions of yours?”
“For the present I am,” he assured her.
“And are you going to do something—some work, I mean?” she asked breathlessly.
“For the immediate present I am going to stay at home and look after you,” he replied.
Philippa’s face fell. Her manner became notably colder.
“You are very wise,” she declared. “Mr. Lessingham is a most fascinating person. We are all half in love with him—even Helen.”
“The fellow must have a way with him,” Sir Henry conceded grudgingly. “As a rule the people here are not over-keen on strangers, unless they have immediate connections in the neighbourhood. Even Griffiths, who since they made him Commandant, is a man of many suspicions, seems inclined to accept him.”
“Captain Griffiths dined here the other night,” Philippa remarked, “and I noticed that he and Mr. Lessingham seemed to get on very well.”
“The fellow’s all right in his way, no doubt,” Sir Henry began.
“Of course he is,” Philippa interrupted. “Helen likes him quite as much as I do.”
“Does he make love to Helen, too?” Sir Henry ventured.
“Don’t talk nonsense!” Philippa retorted. “He isn’t that sort of a man at all. If he has made love to me, he has done so because I have encouraged him, and if I have encouraged him, it is your fault.”
Sir Henry, with an impatient exclamation, rose from his place and took a cigarette from an open box.
“Quite time I stayed at home, I can see. All the same, the fellow’s rather a puzzle. I can’t help wondering how he succeeded in making such an easy conquest of a lady who has scarcely been notorious for her flirtations, and a young woman who is madly in love with another man. He hasn’t—”