“Two minutes to eight,” Helen replied.
“Mr. Lessingham is always so punctual,” Philippa murmured. “I wonder if Captain Griffiths would dare!”
“We’ve done our best to warn him,” Helen reminded her friend. “The man is simply pig-headed.”
“I can’t help feeling that he’s right,” Philippa declared, “when he argues that they couldn’t really prove anything against him.”
“Does that matter,” Helen asked anxiously, “so long as he is an enemy, living under a false name here?”
“You don’t think they’d—they’d—”
“Shoot him?” Helen whispered, lowering her voice. “They couldn’t do that! They couldn’t do that!”
The clock began to chime. Suddenly Philippa, who had been listening, gave a little exclamation of relief.
“I hear his voice!” she exclaimed. “Thank goodness!”
Helen’s relief was almost as great as her companion’s. A moment later Mills ushered in their guest. He was still wearing his bandage, but his colour had returned. He seemed, in fact, almost gay.
“Nothing has happened, then?” Philippa demanded anxiously, as soon as the door was closed.
“Nothing at all,” he assured them. “Our friend Griffiths is terribly afraid of making a mistake.”
“So afraid that he wouldn’t come and dine. Never mind, you’ll have to take care of us both,” she added, as Mills announced dinner.
“I’ll do my best,” he promised, offering his arm.
If the sword of Damocles were indeed suspended over their heads, it seemed only to heighten the merriment of their little repast. Philippa had ordered champagne, and the warmth of the pleasant dining room, the many appurtenances of luxury by which they were surrounded, the glow of the wine, and the perfume of the hothouse flowers upon the table, seemed in delicious contrast to the fury of the storm outside. They all three appeared completely successful in a strenuous effort to dismiss all disconcerting subjects from their minds. Lessingham talked chiefly of the East. He had travelled in Russia, Persia, Afghanistan, and India, and he had the unusual but striking gift of painting little word pictures of some of the scenes of his wanderings. It was half-past nine before they rose from the table, and Lessingham accompanied them into the library. With the advent of coffee, they were for the first time really alone. Lessingham sat by Philippa’s side, and Helen reclined in a low chair close at hand.
“I think,” he said, “that I can venture now to tell you some news.”
Helen put down her work. Philippa looked at him in silence, and her eyes seemed to dilate.
“I have hesitated to say anything about it,” Lessingham went on, “because there is so much uncertainty about these things, but I believe that it is now finally arranged. I think that within the next week or ten days—perhaps a little before, perhaps a little later—your brother Richard will be set at liberty.”