“We must hope not, your ladyship,” was the somewhat dismal reply. “Shall I fasten the windows?”
“You can leave them until you draw the blinds, Mills,” Philippa directed. “I am not at home, if any one should call. See that we are undisturbed for a little time.”
“Very good, your ladyship.”
The door was closed, and the two women were once more alone. Philippa held out her arms.
“Helen, darling, come and be nice to me,” she begged. “Let us both pretend that no news is good news. Oh, I know what you are suffering, but remember that even if Dick is your lover, he is my dear, only brother—my twin brother, too. We have been so much to each other all our lives. He’ll stick it out, dear, if any human being can. We shall have him back with us some day.”
“But he is hungry,” Helen sobbed. “I can’t bear to think of his being hungry. Every time I sit down to eat, it almost chokes me.”
“I suppose he has forgotten what a whisky and soda is like,” Philippa murmured, with a little catch in her own throat.
“He always used to love one about this time,” Helen faltered, glancing at the clock.
“And cigarettes!” Philippa exclaimed. “I wonder whether they give him anything to smoke.”
“Nasty German tobacco, if they do,” Helen rejoined indignantly. “And to think that I have sent him at least six hundred of his favourite Egyptians!”
She fell once more on her knees by her friend’s side. Their arms were intertwined, their cheeks touching. One of those strange, feminine silences of acute sympathy seemed to hold them for a while under its thrall. Then, almost at the same moment, a queer awakening came for both of them. Helen’s arm was stiffened. Philippa turned her head, but her eyes were filled with incredulous fear. A little current of cool air was blowing through the room. The French windows stood half open, and with his back to them, a man who had apparently entered the room from the gardens and passed noiselessly across the soft carpet, was standing by the door, listening. They heard him turn the key. Then, in a businesslike manner, he returned to the windows and closed them, the eyes of the two women following him all the time. Satisfied, apparently, with his precautions, he turned towards them just as an expression of indignant enquiry broke from Philippa’s lips. Helen sprang to her feet, and Philippa gripped the sides of her chair. The newcomer advanced a few steps nearer to them.