Towards three o’clock on the following afternoon, the boisterous wind of an uncertain morning settled down to worse things. It tore the spray from the crest of the gathering waves, dashed it even against the French windows of Mainsail Haul, and came booming down the open spaces cliffwards, like the rumble of some subterranean artillery. A little group of fishermen in oilskins leaned over the railing and discussed the chances of Ben Oates bringing his boat in safely. Philippa, also, distracted by a curious anxiety, stood before the blurred window, gazing into what seemed almost a grey chaos. “Captain Griffiths, your ladyship.”
She turned around quickly at the announcement. Even an unwelcome caller at that moment was almost a relief to her.
“How nice of you to come and see me on such an afternoon, Captain Griffiths,” she exclaimed, as they shook hands. “Helen is over at the Canteen, Nora is hard at work for once in her life, and I seem most dolefully alone.”
Her visitor’s reception of Philippa’s greeting promised little in the way of enlivenment. He seemed more awkward and ill at ease than ever, and his tone was almost threatening.
“I am very glad to find you alone, Lady Cranston,” he said. “I came specially to have a few words with you on a certain matter.”
Her momentary impulse of relief at his visit passed away. There seemed to her something sinister in his manner. She was suddenly conscious that there was a new danger to be faced, and that this man’s attitude towards her was, for some reason or other, inimical. After the first shock, however, she prepared herself to do battle.
“Well, you seem very mysterious,” she observed. “I haven’t broken any laws, have I? No lights flashing from any of my windows?”
“So far as I am aware, there are no complaints of the sort,” the Commandant acknowledged, still speaking with an unnatural restraint. “My call, I hope, may be termed, to some extent, at least, a friendly one.”
“How nice!” she sighed. “Then you’ll have some tea, won’t you?”
“Not at present, if you please,” he begged. “I have come to talk to you about Mr. Hamar Lessingham.”
“Really?” Philippa exclaimed. “Whatever has that poor man been doing now.”
“Dreymarsh,” her visitor proceeded, “having been constituted, during the last few months, a protected area, it is my duty to examine and enquire into the business of any stranger who appears here. Mr. Hamar Lessingham has been largely accepted without comment, owing to his friendship with you. I regret to state, however, that certain facts have come to my knowledge which make me wonder whether you yourself may not in some measure have been deceived.”
“This sounds very ridiculous,” Philippa interposed quietly.
“A few weeks ago,” Captain Griffith continued, “we received information that this neighbourhood would probably be visited by some person connected with the Secret Service of Germany. There is strong evidence that the person in question is Mr. Hamar Lessingham.”