She leaned hack in the corner of the sofa to which he had led her, her eyes dry now but still very soft and sweet. He sat by her side, fingering some of the things in her work basket. Once she held out her hand and seemed to find comfort in his clasp. He raised her fingers to his lips without any protest from her. She looked at him with a little smile.
“You know, I’m not at all an Ibsen heroine,” she declared. “I can’t see my way like those wonderful emancipated women.”
“Yet,” he said thoughtfully, “the way to the simple things is so clear.”
Confidences were at an end for a time, broken up by the entrance of Nora and Helen, and some young men from the Depot, who had looked in for a game of billiards. Lessingham rose to leave as soon as the latter had returned to their game. His tone and manner now were completely changed. He seemed ill at ease and unhappy.
“I am going to have a day’s fishing to-morrow,” he told Philippa, “but I must admit that I have very little faith in this man Oates. They all tell me that your husband has any number of charts of the coast. Do you think I could borrow one?”
“Why, of course,” she replied, “if we can find it.”
She took him over to her husband’s desk, opened such of the drawers as were not locked, and searched amongst their contents ruthlessly. By the time they had finished the last drawer, Lessingham had quite a little collection of charts, more or less finished, in his hand.
“I don’t know where else to look,” she said. “You might go through those and see if they are of any use. What is it, Mills?” she added, turning to the door.
Mills had entered noiselessly, and was watching the proceedings at Sir Henry’s desk with a distinct lack of favour. He looked away towards his mistress, however, as he replied.
“The young woman has called with reference to a situation as parlour-maid, your ladyship,” he announced. “I have shown her into the sewing room.” Lady Cranston glanced at the clock.
“I sha’n’t be more than five or ten minutes,” she promised Lessingham. “Just look through those till I come back.”
She hurried away, leaving Lessingham alone in the room. He stood for a moment listening. On the left-hand side, through the door which had been left ajar, he could hear the click of billiard balls and occasional peals of laughter. On the right-hand side there was silence. He moved swiftly across the room and closed the door leading into the billiard room, deposited on the sofa the charts which he had been carrying, and hurried back to the secretary. With a sickening feeling of overwhelming guilt, he drew from his pocket a key and opened, one by one, the drawers through which they had not searched. It took him barely five minutes to discover—nothing. With an air of relief he rearranged everything. When Philippa returned, he was sitting on the lounge, going through the charts which they had looked out together.