Her visitor smiled very faintly. It was the first time he had relaxed even so far as this.
“I am not in possession of any information which I can impart to you, Lady Cranston,” he said, “but I am not prepared to accept your statement that Dreymarsh contains nothing of greater interest than the things which you have mentioned.”
There was no necessity for Philippa to play a part now. The suggestion contained in her visitor’s words had really left her in a state of wonder.
“You are making my flesh creep!” she exclaimed. “You don’t mean to say that we have secrets here?”
“I have said the last word which it is possible for me to say upon the subject,” he declared. “You will understand, I am sure, that I am not here in the character of an inquisitor. I simply thought it my duty, in view of the fact that you had made yourself the social sponsor for Mr. Lessingham, to place certain information before you, and to ask, unofficially, of course, if you have any explanation to give? You may even,” he went on, hesitatingly, “appreciate the motives which led me to do so.”
“My dear man, what explanation could I have?” Philippa protested, “it is an absolute and undeniable fact that Mr. Lessingham was at Magdalen with my brother, and also that he visited us at Wood Norton. I know both these things of my own knowledge. The only possible explanation, therefore, is that you have been misinformed.”
“Or,” Captain Griffiths ventured, “that Mr. Hamar Lessingham in those days passed under another name.”
“Another name?” Philippa faltered.
“Some such name, perhaps,” he continued, “as Bertram Maderstrom.”
There was a short silence. Captain Griffiths had leaned back in his chair and was caressing his upper lip. His eyes were fixed upon Philippa and Philippa saw nothing. Her little heel dug hard into the carpet. In a few seconds the room ceased to spin. Nevertheless, her voice sounded to her pitifully inadequate.
“What an absurdity all this is!” she exclaimed.
“Maderstrom,” Captain Griffiths said thoughtfully, “was, curiously enough, an intimate college friend of your brother’s. He was also a visitor at Wood Norton Hall. At neither place is there any trace of Mr. Hamar Lessingham. Perhaps you have made a mistake, Lady Cranston. Perhaps you have recognised the man and failed to remember his name. If so, now is the moment to declare it.”
“I am very much obliged to you,” Philippa retorted, “but I have never met or heard of this Mr. Maderstrom—”
“Baron Maderstrom,” he interrupted.
“Baron Maderstrom, then, in my life; whereas Mr. Lessingham I remember perfectly.”
“I am sorry,” Captain Griffiths said, setting down his empty teacup and rising slowly to his feet. “We cannot help one another, then.”
“If you want me to transfer Mr. Lessingham, whom I remember perfectly, into a German baron whom I never heard of,” Philippa declared boldly, “I am afraid that we can’t.”