“You know,” he began, as he wheeled a chair up to the fire for her, “that man Griffiths doesn’t like me. He never took to me from the first, I could see that. If it comes to that, I don’t like Griffiths. He is one of those mean, suspicious sort of characters we could very well do without.”
Philippa, who had rehearsed a little speech several times in her bedroom, tried to be firm.
“Mr. Lessingham,” she said, “you know that we are both your friends. Do listen, please. Captain Griffiths is Commandant here and in a position of authority. He has a very large power. I honestly believe that it is his intention to have you arrested—if not to-night, within a very few days.”
“I do not see how he can,” Lessingham objected, helping himself to another piece of toast. “I have committed no crime here. I have played golf with all the respectable old gentlemen in the place, and I have given the committee some excellent advice as to the two new holes. I have played bridge down at the club—we will call it bridge!—and I have kept my temper like an angel. I have dined at Mess and told them at least a dozen new stories. I have kept my blinds drawn at night, and I have not a wireless secreted up the chimney. I really cannot see what they could do to me.”
Philippa tried bluntness.
“You have served in the German army, and you are living in a protected area under a false name,” she declared.
“Well, of course, there is some truth in what you say,” he admitted, “but even if they have tumbled to that and can prove it, I should do no good by running away. To be perfectly serious,” he added, setting his cup down, “there is only one thing at the present moment which would take me out of Dreymarsh, and that is if you believe that my presence here would further compromise you and Miss Fairclough.”
Philippa was beginning to find her courage. “We’re in it already, up to the neck,” she observed. “I really don’t see that anything matters so far as we are concerned.”
“In that case,” he decided, “I shall have the honour of presenting myself at the usual time.”
Philippa and Helen met in the drawing-room, a few minutes before eight that evening. Philippa was wearing a new black dress, a model of simplicity to the untutored eye, but full of that undefinable appeal to the mysterious which even the greatest artist frequently fails to create out of any form of colour. Some fancy had induced her to strip off her jewels at the last moment, and she wore no ornaments save a band of black velvet around her neck. Helen looked at her curiously.
“Is this a fresh scheme for conquest, Philippa?” she asked, as they stood together by the log fire.
Philippa unexpectedly flushed.
“I don’t know what I was thinking about, really,” she confessed. “Is that the exact time, I wonder?”