“Well?” she asked.
“There is nothing here,” he decided, “which will help me very much. With your permission I will take this,” he added, selecting one at random.
She nodded and they replaced the others. Then she touched him on the arm.
“Listen,” she said, “are you perfectly certain that there is no one coming?”
He listened for a moment.
“I can’t hear any one,” he answered. “They’ve started a four-handed game of pool in the billiard room.”
“Then I will disclose to you Henry’s dramatic secret. See!”
She touched the spring in the side of the secretary. The false back, with its little collection of fishing flies, rolled slowly up. The large and very wonderful chart on which Sir Henry had bestowed so much of his time, was revealed. Lessingham gazed at it eagerly.
“There!” she said. “That has been a great labour of love with Henry. It is the chart, on a great scale, from which he works. I don’t know a thing about it, and for heaven’s sake never tell Henry that you have seen it.”
He continued to examine the chart earnestly. Not a part of it escaped him. Then he turned back to Philippa.
“Is that supposed to be the coast on the other side of the point?” he asked.
“I don’t exactly know where it is,” she replied. “Every time Henry finds out anything new, he comes and works at it. I believe that very soon it will be perfect. Then he will start on another part of the coast.”
“This is not the only one that he has prepared, then?” Lessingham enquired.
She shook her head.
“I believe it is the fifth,” she replied. “They all disappear when they are finished, but I have no idea where to. To me they seem to represent a shocking waste of time.”
Lessingham was suddenly taciturn. He held out his hand. “You are dining with us to-morrow night, remember,” she said.
“I am not likely to forget,” he assured her.
“And don’t get drowned,” she concluded. “I don’t know any of these fishermen—I hate them all—but I’m told that Oates is the worst.”
“I think that we shall be quite all right,” he assured her. “Thanks very much for finding me the charts. What I have seen will help me.”
Helen came in for a moment and their farewell was more or less perfunctory. Lessingham was almost thankful to escape. There was an unusual flush in his cheeks, a sense of bitter humiliation in his heart. All the fervour with which he had started on his perilous quest had faded away. No sense of duty or patriotism could revive his drooping spirits. He felt himself suddenly an unclean and dishonoured being.