He made no movement to mount his horse. He plodded along the soft sand by her side—a queer, elongated figure, his gloomy eyes fixed upon the ground.
“Until this fellow Lessingham came you were never so hard,” he persisted.
She looked at him with genuine curiosity.
“I was never so hard?” she repeated. “Do you imagine that I have ever for a single moment considered my demeanour towards you—you of all persons in the world? I simply don’t remember when you have been there and when you haven’t. I don’t remember the humours in which I have been when we have conversed. All that you have said seems to me to be the most arrant nonsense.”
He swung himself into the saddle and gathered up the reins.
“Thank you,” he said bitterly, “I understand. Only let me tell you this,” he went on, his whip poised in his hand. “You may have powerful friends who saved your—”
He hesitated so long that she glanced up at him and read all that he had wished to say in his face.
“My what?” she asked.
His courage failed him.
“Mr. Lessingham,” he proceeded, “from arrest. But if he shows his face here again in Dreymarsh, I sha’n’t stop to arrest him. I shall shoot him on sight and chance the consequences.”
“They’ll hang you!” she declared savagely.
He laughed at her.
“Hang me for shooting a man whom I can prove to be a German spy? They won’t dare! They won’t even dare to place me under arrest for an hour. Why, when the truth becomes known,” he went on, his voice gaining courage as the justice of his case impressed itself upon him, “what do you suppose is going to happen to two women who took this fellow in and befriended him, introduced him under a false name to their friends, gave him the run of their house—this man whom they knew all the time was a German? You, Lady Cranston, chafing and scolding your husband by night and by day because he isn’t where you think he ought to be; you, so patriotic that you cannot bear the sight of him out of uniform; you—the hostess, the befriender, the God knows what of Bertram Maderstrom! It will be a pretty tale when it’s all told!”
“I really think,” Philippa asserted calmly, “that you are the most utterly impossible and obnoxious creature I have ever met.”
His face was dangerous for a moment. They had not yet reached the promontory which sheltered them from Dreymarsh.
“Perhaps,” he muttered, leaning malignly towards her, “I could make myself even more obnoxious.”
“Quite possibly,” she replied, “only I want to tell you this. If you come a single inch nearer to me, one of them shall shoot you.”
“Your friend or your husband, eh?” he scoffed.
She waved him on.
“I think,” she told him, “that either of them would be quite capable of ridding the world of a coward like you.”
“A coward?” he repeated.