“Don’t be ridiculous!” Helen exclaimed vigorously. “Mr. Lessingham may have all the most delightful qualities in the world, but he has attached himself to a country which no English man or woman will be able to think of without shuddering, for many years to come. You can’t dream of cutting yourself adrift from your friends and your home and your country! It’s too unnatural! I’m not even arguing with you, Philippa. You couldn’t do it! I’m wholly concerned with Mr. Lessingham. I cannot forget what we owe him. I think it would be hatefully cruel of you to spoil his life.”
Philippa’s flashes of seriousness were only momentary. She made a little grimace. She was once more her natural, irresponsible self.
“You underrate my charm, Helen,” she declared. “I really believe that I could make his life instead of spoiling it.”
“And you would pay the price?”
Philippa, slim and elflike in the firelight, rose from her chair. There was a momentary cruelty in her face.
“I sometimes think,” she said calmly, “that I would pay any price in the world to make Henry understand how I feel. There, now run along, dear. You’re full of good intentions, and don’t think it horrid of me, but nothing that you could say would make any difference.”
“You wouldn’t do anything rash?” Helen pleaded.
“Well, if I run away with Mr. Lessingham, I certainly can’t promise that I’ll send cards out first. Whatever I do, impulse will probably decide.”
“Why not? I trust mine. Can’t you?” Philippa added, with a little shrug of the shoulders.
“Sometimes,” Helen sighed, “they are such wild horses, you know. They lead one to such terrible places.”
“And sometimes,” Philippa replied, “they find their way into the heaven where our soberer thoughts could never take us. Good night, dear!”
Mr. William Hayter, in the solitude of his chambers at the Milan Court, was a very altered personage. He extended no welcoming salutation to his midnight visitor but simply motioned him to a chair.
“Well,” he began, “is your task finished that you are in London?”
“My task,” Lessingham replied, “might just as well never have been entered upon. The man you sent me to watch is nothing but an ordinary sport-loving Englishman.”
“Really! You have lived as his neighbour for nearly a month, and that is your impression of him?”
“It is,” Lessingham assented. “He has been away sea-fishing, half the time, but I have searched his house thoroughly.”
“Searched his papers, eh?”
“Every one I could find, and hated the job. There are a good many charts of the coast, but they are all for the use of the fishermen.”
“Wonderful!” Hayter scoffed. “My young friend, you may yet find distinction in some other walk of life. Our secret service, I fancy, will very soon be able to dispense with your energies.”