Part 1 out of 5
The Zeppelin's Passenger
by E. Phillips Oppenheim
"Never heard a sound," the younger of the afternoon callers
admitted, getting rid of his empty cup and leaning forward in his
low chair. "No more tea, thank you, Miss Fairclough. Done
splendidly, thanks. No, I went to bed last night soon after
eleven - the Colonel had been route marching us all off our legs
- and I never awoke until reveille this morning. Sleep of the
just, and all that sort of thing, but a jolly sell, all the same!
You hear anything of it, sir?" he asked, turning to his companion,
who was seated a few feet away.
Captain Griffiths shook his head. He was a man considerably older
than his questioner, with long, nervous face, and thick black hair
streaked with grey. His fingers were bony, his complexion, for a
soldier, curiously sallow, and notwithstanding his height, which
was considerable, he was awkward, at times almost uncouth. His
voice was hard and unsympathetic, and his contributions to the
tea-table talk had been almost negligible.
"I was up until two o'clock, as it happened," he replied, "but I
knew nothing about the matter until it was brought to my notice
Helen Fairclough, who was doing the honours for Lady Cranston, her
absent hostess, assumed the slight air of superiority to which the
circumstances of the case entitled her.
"I heard it distinctly," she declared; "in fact it woke me up. I
hung out of the window, and I could hear the engine just as plainly
as though it were over the golf links."
The young subaltern sighed.
"Rotten luck I have with these things," he confided. "That's three
times they've been over, and I've neither heard nor seen one. This
time they say that it had the narrowest shave on earth of coming
down. Of course, you've heard of the observation car found on
Dutchman's Common this morning?"
The girl assented.
"Did you see it?" she enquired.
"Not a chance," was the gloomy reply. "It was put on two covered
trucks and sent up to London by the first train. Captain Griffiths
can tell you what it was like, I dare say. You were down there,
weren't you, sir?"
"I superintended its removal," the latter informed them. "It was
a very uninteresting affair."
"Any bombs in it?" Helen asked.
"Not a sign of one. Just a hard seat, two sets of field-glasses and
a telephone. It seems to have got caught in some trees and been
"How exciting!" the girl murmured. "I suppose there wasn't any one
Griffiths shook his head.
"I believe," he explained, "that these observation cars, although
they are attached to most of the Zeppelins, are seldom used in night
"I should like to have seen it, all the same," Helen confessed.
"You would have been disappointed," her informant assured her.
"By-the-by," he added, a little awkwardly, "are you not expecting
Lady Cranston back this evening?"
"I am expecting her every moment. The car has gone down to the
station to meet her."
Captain Griffiths appeared to receive the news with a certain
undemonstrative satisfaction. He leaned back in his chair with
the air of one who is content to wait.
"Have you heard, Miss Fairclough," his younger companion enquired,
a little diffidently, "whether Lady Cranston had any luck in town?"
Helen Fairclough looked away. There was a slight mist before her
"I had a letter this morning," she replied. "She seems to have
heard nothing at all encouraging so far."
"And you haven't heard from Major Felstead himself, I suppose?"
The girl shook her head.
"Not a line," she sighed. "It's two months now since we last had
"Jolly bad luck to get nipped just as he was doing so well," the
young man observed sympathetically.
"It all seems very cruel," Helen agreed. "He wasn't really fit to
go back, but the Board passed him because they were so short of
officers and he kept worrying them. He was so afraid he'd get
moved to another battalion. Then he was taken prisoner in that
horrible Pervais affair, and sent to the worst camp in Germany.
Since then, of course, Philippa and I have had a wretched time,
"Major Felstead is Lady Cranston's only brother, is he not?"
"And my only fianc=82," she replied, with a little grimace. "However,
don't let us talk about our troubles any more," she continued, with
an effort at a lighter tone. "You'll find some cigarettes on that
table, Mr. Harrison. I can't think where Nora is. I expect she
has persuaded some one to take her out trophy-hunting to Dutchrnan's
"The road all the way is like a circus," the young soldier observed,
"and there isn't a thing to be seen when you get there. The naval
airmen were all over the place at daybreak, and Captain Griffiths
wasn't far behind them. You didn't leave much for the sightseers,
sir," he concluded, turning to his neighbour.
"As Commandant of the place," Captain Griffiths replied, "I naturally
had to have the Common searched. With the exception of the
observation car, however, I think that I am betraying no confidences
in telling you that we discovered nothing of interest."
"Do you suppose that the Zeppelin was in difficulties, as she was
flying so low?" Helen enquired.
"It is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis," the Commandant assented.
"Two patrol boats were sent out early this morning, in search of her.
An old man whom I saw at Waburne declares that she passed like a
long, black cloud, just over his head, and that he was almost
deafened by the noise of the engines. Personally, I cannot believe
that they would come down so low unless she was in some trouble."
The door of the comfortable library in which they were seated was
suddenly thrown open. An exceedingly alert-looking young lady,
very much befreckled, and as yet unemancipated from the long
plaits of the schoolroom, came in like a whirlwind. In her hand
she carried a man's Homburg hat, which she waved aloft in triumph.
"Come in, Arthur," she shouted to a young subaltern who was
hovering in the background. "Look what I've got, Helen! A trophy!
Just look, Mr. Harrison and Captain Griffiths! I found it in a
bush, not twenty yards from where the observation car came down."
Helen turned the hat around in amused bewilderment.
"But, my dear child," she exclaimed, "this is nothing but an
ordinary hat! People who travel in Zeppelins don't wear things
like that. How do you do, Mr. Somerfield?" she added, smiling at
the young man who had followed Nora into the room.
"Don't they!" the latter retorted, with an air of superior
knowledge. "Just look here!"
She turned down the lining and showed it to them. "What do you
make of that?" she asked triumphantly.
Helen gazed at the gold-printed letters a little incredulously.
"Read it out," Nora insisted.
Unter den Linden, 127."
"That sounds German," she admitted.
"It's a trophy, all right," Nora declared. "One of the crew -=20
probably the Commander - must have come on board in a hurry and
changed into uniform after they had started."
"It is my painful duty, Miss Nora, "Harrison announced solemnly,
"to inform you, on behalf of Captain Griffiths, that all articles
of whatsoever description, found in the vicinity of Dutchman's
Common, which might possibly have belonged to any one in the
Zeppelin, must be sent at once to the War Office."
"Rubbish!" Nora scoffed. "The War Office aren't going to have my
"Duty," the young man began -
"You can go back to the Depot and do your duty, then, Mr. Harrison,"
Nora interrupted, "but you're not going to have my hat. I'd throw
it into the fire sooner than give it up."
"Military regulations must be obeyed, Miss Nora," Captain Griffiths
"Nothing so important as hats," Harrison put in. "You see they fit
The girl's gesture was irreverent but convincing. "I'd listen to
anything Captain Griffiths had to say," she declared, "but you boys
who are learning to be soldiers are simply eaten up with conceit.
There's nothing in your textbook about hats. If you're going to
make yourselves disagreeable about this, I shall simply ignore the
The two young men fell into attitudes of mock dismay. Nora took a
chocolate from a box.
"Be merciful, Miss Nora!" Harrison pleaded tearfully.
"Don't break the regiment up altogether," Somerfield begged, with a
little catch in his voice.
"All very well for you two to be funny," Nora went on, revisiting
the chocolate box, "but you've heard about the Seaforths corning,
haven't you? I adore kilts, and so does Helen; don't you, Helen?"
"Every woman does," Helen admitted, smiling. "I suppose the child
really can keep the hat, can't she?" she added, turning to the
"Officially the matter is outside my cognizance," he declared. "I
shall have nothing to say."
The two young men exchanged glances.
"A hat," Somerfield ruminated, "especially a Homburg hat, is scarcely
an appurtenance of warfare."
His brother officer stood for a moment looking gravely at the object
in question. Then he winked at Somerfield and sighed.
"I shall take the whole responsibility," he decided magnanimously,
"of saying nothing about the matter. We can't afford to quarrel
with Miss Nora, can we, Somerfield?"
"Not on your life," that young man agreed.
"Sensible boys!" Nora pronounced graciously.
"Thank you very much, Captain Griffiths, for not encouraging them
in their folly. You can take me as far as the post-office when
you go, Arthur," she continued, turning to the fortunate possessor
of the side-car, "and we'll have some golf to-morrow afternoon, if
"Won't Mr. Somerfield have some tea?" Helen invited.
"Thank you very much, Miss Fairclough," the man replied; "we had
tea some time ago at Watson's, where I found Miss Nora."
Nora suddenly held up her finger. "Isn't that the car?" she asked.
"Why, it must be mummy, here already. Yes, I can hear her voice!"
Griffiths, who had moved eagerly towards the window, looked back.
"It is Lady Cranston," he announced solemnly.
The woman who paused for a moment upon the threshold of the library,
looking in upon the little company, was undeniably beautiful. She
had masses of red-gold hair, a little disordered by her long
railway journey, deep-set hazel eyes, a delicate, almost
porcelain-like complexion, and a sensitive, delightfully shaped
mouth. Her figure was small and dainty, and just at that moment she
had an appearance of helplessness which was almost childlike. Nora,
after a vigorous embrace, led her stepmother towards a chair.
"Come and sit by the fire, Mummy," she begged. "You look tired and
Philippa exchanged a general salutation with her guests. She was
still wearing her travelling coat, and her air of fatigue was
unmistakable. Griffiths, who had not taken his eyes off her since
her entrance, wheeled an easy-chair towards the hearth-rug, into
which she sank with a murmured word of thanks.
"You'll have some tea, won't you, dear?" Helen enquired.
Philippa shook her head. Her eyes met her friend's for a moment
- it was only a very brief glance, but the tragedy of some mutual
sorrow seemed curiously revealed in that unspoken question and
answer. The two young subalterns prepared to take their leave.
Nora, kneeling down, stroked her stepmother's hand.
"No news at all, then?" Helen faltered.
"None," was the weary reply.
"Any amount of news here, Mummy," Nora intervened cheerfully, "and
heaps of excitement. We had a Zeppelin over Dutchman's Common last
night, and she lost her observation car. Mr. Somerfield took me
up there this afternoon, and I found a German hat. No one else got
a thing, and, would you believe it, those children over there tried
to take it away from me."
Her stepmother smiled faintly.
"I expect you are keeping the hat, dear," she observed.
"I should say so!" Nora assented.
Philippa held out her hand to the two young men who had been waiting
to take their leave.
"You must come and dine one night this week, both of you," she said.
"My husband will be home by the later train this evening, and I'm
sure he will be glad to have you."
"Very kind of you, Lady Cranston, we shall be delighted," Harrison
"Rather!" his companion echoed.
Nora led them away, and Helen, with a word of excuse, followed them.
Griffiths, who had also risen to his feet, came a little nearer to
"And you, too, of course, Captain Griffiths," she said, smiling
pleasantly up at him. "Must you hurry away?"
"I will stay, if I may, until Miss Fairclough returns," he answered,
resuming his seat.
"Do!" Philippa begged him. "I have had such a miserable time in
town. You can't think how restful it is to be back here."
"I am afraid," he observed, "that your journey has not been
Philippa shook her head.
"It has been completely unsuccessful," she sighed. "I have not
been able to hear a word about my brother. I am so sorry for poor
Helen, too. They were only engaged, you know, a few days before he
left for the front this last time."
Captain Griffiths nodded sympathetically.
"I never met Major Felstead," he remarked, "but every one who has
seems to like him very much. He was doing so well, too, up to that
last unfortunate affair, wasn't he?"
"Dick is a dear," Philippa declared. "I never knew any one with so
many friends. He would have been commanding his battalion now, if
only he were free. His colonel wrote and told me so himself."
"I wish there were something I could do," Griffiths murmured, a
little awkwardly. "It hurts me, Lady Cranston, to see you so upset."
She looked at him for a moment in faint surprise.
"Nobody can do anything," she bemoaned. "That is the unfortunate
part of it all."
He rose to his feet and was immediately conscious, as he always was
when he stood up, that there was a foot or two of his figure which
he had no idea what to do with.
"You wouldn't feel like a ride to-morrow morning, Lady Cranston?" he
asked, with a wistfulness which seemed somehow stifled in his rather
unpleasant voice. She shook her head.
"Perhaps one morning later," she replied, a little vaguely. "I
haven't any heart for anything just now."
He took a sombre but agitated leave of his hostess, and went out
into the twilight, cursing his lack of ease, remembering the things
which he had meant to say, and hating himself for having forgotten
them. Philippa, to whom his departure had been, as it always was,
a relief, was already leaning forward in her chair with her arm
around Helen's neck.
"I thought that extraordinary man would never go," she exclaimed,
"and I was longing to send for you, Helen. London has been such a
dreary chapter of disappointments."
"What a sickening time you must have had, dear!"
"It was horrid," Philippa assented sadly, "but you know Henry is
no use at all, and I should have felt miserable unless I had gone.
I have been to every friend at the War Office, and every friend
who has friends there. I have made every sort of enquiry, and I
know just as much now as I did when I left here - that Richard was
a prisoner at Wittenberg the last time they heard, and that they
have received no notification whatever concerning him for the last
Helen glanced at the calendar.
"It is just two months to-day," she said mournfully, "since we heard."
"And then," Philippa sighed, "he hadn't received a single one of our
Helen rose suddenly to her feet. She was a tall, fair girl of the
best Saxon type, slim but not in the least angular, with every
promise, indeed, of a fuller and more gracious development in the
years to come. She was barely twenty-two years old, and, as is
common with girls of her complexion, seemed younger. Her bright,
intelligent face was, above all, good-humoured. Just at that moment,
however, there was a flush of passionate anger in her cheeks.
"It makes me feel almost beside myself," she exclaimed, "this
hideous incapacity for doing anything! Here we are living in luxury,
without a single privation, whilst Dick, the dearest thing on
earth to both of us, is being starved and goaded to death in a foul
"We mustn't believe that it's quite so bad as that, dear," Philippa
remonstrated. "What is it, Mills?"
The elderly man-servant who had entered with a tray in his band,
bowed as he arranged it upon a side table.
"I have taken the liberty of bringing in a little fresh tea, your
ladyship," he announced, "and some hot buttered toast. Cook has
sent some of the sandwiches, too, which your ladyship generally
"It is very kind of you, Mills," Philippa said, with rather a wan
little smile. "I had some tea at South Lynn, but it was very bad.
You might take my coat, please."
She stood up, and the heavy fur coat slipped easily away from her
slim, elegant little body.
"Shall I light up, your ladyship?" Mills enquired.
"You might light a lamp," Philippa directed, "but don't draw the
blinds until lighting-up time. After the noise of London," she went
on, turning to Helen, "I always think that the faint sound of the
sea is so restful."
The man moved noiselessly about the room and returned once more to
"We should be glad to hear, your ladyship," he said, "if there is
any news of Major Felstead?" Philippa shook her head.
"None at all, I am sorry to say, Mills! Still, we must hope for
the best. I dare say that some of these camps are not so bad as
"We must hope not, your ladyship," was the somewhat dismal reply.
"Shall I fasten the windows?"
"You can leave them until you draw the blinds, Mills," Philippa
directed. "I am not at home, if any one should call. See that
we are undisturbed for a little time."
"Very good, your ladyship."
The door was closed, and the two women were once more alone.
Philippa held out her arms.
"Helen, darling, come and be nice to me," she begged. "Let us both
pretend that no news is good news. Oh, I know what you are
suffering, but remember that even if Dick is your lover, he is my
dear, only brother - my twin brother, too. We have been so much to
each other all our lives. He'll stick it out, dear, if any human
being can. We shall have him back with us some day."
"But he is hungry," Helen sobbed. "I can't bear to think of his
being hungry. Every time I sit down to eat, it almost chokes me."
"I suppose he has forgotten what a whisky and soda is like,"
Philippa murmured, with a little catch in her own throat.
"He always used to love one about this time," Helen faltered,
glancing at the clock.
"And cigarettes!" Philippa exclaimed. "I wonder whether they give
him anything to smoke."
"Nasty German tobacco, if they do," Helen rejoined indignantly.
"And to think that I have sent him at least six hundred of his
She fell once more on her knees by her friend's side. Their arms
were intertwined, their cheeks touching. One of those strange,
feminine silences of acute sympathy seemed to hold them for a while
under its thrall. Then, almost at the same moment, a queer
awakening came for both of them. Helen's arm was stiffened.
Philippa turned her head, but her eyes were filled with incredulous
fear. A little current of cool air was blowing through the room.
The French windows stood half open, and with his back to them, a
man who had apparently entered the room from the gardens and passed
noiselessly across the soft carpet, was standing by the door,
listening. They heard him turn the key. Then, in a businesslike
manner, he returned to the windows and closed them, the eyes of
the two women following him all the time. Satisfied. apparently,
with his precautions, he turned towards them just as an expression
of indignant enquiry broke from Philippa's lips. Helen sprang to
her feet, and Philippa gripped the sides of her chair. The newcomer
advanced a few steps nearer to them.
It seemed to the two women, brief though the period of actual
silence was, that in those few seconds they jointly conceived
definite and lasting impressions of the man who was to become,
during the next few weeks, an object of the deepest concern to
both of them. The intruder was slightly built, of little more than
medium height, of dark complexion, with an almost imperceptible
moustache of military pattern, black hair dishevelled with the
wind, and eyes of almost peculiar brightness. He carried himself
with an assurance which was somewhat remarkable considering the
condition of his torn and mud stained clothes, the very quality
of which was almost undistinguishable. They both, curiously enough,
formed the same instinctive conviction that, notwithstanding his
tramplike appearance and his burglarious entrance, this was not a
person to be greatly feared.
The stranger brushed aside Philippa's incoherent exclamation and
opened the conversation with some ceremony.
"Ladies," he began, with a low bow, "in the first place let me
offer my most profound apologies for this unusual form of entrance
to your house."
Philippa rose from her easy-chair and confronted him. The firelight
played upon her red-gold hair, and surprise had driven the weariness
from her face. Against the black oak of the chimneypiece she had
almost the appearance of a framed cameo. Her voice was quite steady,
although its inflection betrayed some indignation.
"Will you kindly explain who you are and what you mean by this
extraordinary behaviour?" she demanded.
"It is my earnest intention to do so without delay," he assured her,
his eyes apparently rivetted upon Philippa. "Kindly pardon me."
He held out his arm to stop Helen, who, with her eye upon the bell,
had made a stealthy attempt to slip past him. Her eyes flashed as
she felt his fingers upon her arm.
"How dare you attempt to stop me!" she exclaimed.
"My dear Miss Fairclough," he remonstrated, "in the interests of all
of us, it is better that we should have a few moments of undisturbed
conversation. I am taking it for granted that I have the pleasure
of addressing Miss Fairclough?"
There was something about the man's easy confidence which was, in
its way, impressive yet irritating. Helen appeared bereft of words
and retreated to her place almost mildly. Philippa's very delicate
eyebrows were drawn together in a slight frown.
"You are acquainted with our names, then?"
"Perfectly," was the suave reply. "You, I presume, are Lady Cranston?
I may be permitted to add," he went on, looking at her steadfastly,
"that the description from which I recognise you does you less than
"I find that remark, under the circumstances, impertinent," Philippa
told him coldly.
He shrugged his shoulders. There was a slight smile upon his lips
and his eyes twinkled.
"Alas!" he murmured, "for the moment I forgot the somewhat unusual
circumstances of our meeting. Permit me to offer you what I trust
you will accept as the equivalent of a letter of introduction."
"A letter of introduction," Philippa repeated, glancing at his
disordered clothes, "and you come in through the window!"
"Believe me," the intruder assured her, "it was the only way."
"Perhaps you will tell me, then," Philippa demanded, her anger
gradually giving way to bewilderment, "what is wrong with my front
"For all I know, dear lady," the newcomer confessed, "yours may be
an excellent front door. I would ask you, however, to consider my
appearance I have been obliged to conclude the last few miles of
my journey in somewhat ignominious fashion. My clothes - they were
quite nice clothes, too, when I started," he added, looking down at
himself ruefully - " have suffered. And, as you perceive, I have
lost my hat."
"Your hat?" Helen exclaimed, with a sudden glance at Nora's trophy.
"Precisely! I might have posed before your butler, perhaps, as
belonging to what you call the hatless brigade, but the mud upon
my clothes, and these unfortunate rents in my garments, would have
necessitated an explanation which I thought better avoided. I make
myself quite clear, I trust?"
"Clear?" Philippa murmured helplessly.
"Clear?" Helen echoed, with a puzzled frown.
"I mean, of course," their visitor explained, "so far as regards my
choosing this somewhat surreptitious form of entrance into your
Philippa shrugged her shoulders and made a determined move towards
the bell. The intruder, however, barred her way. She looked up
into his face and found it difficult to maintain her indignation.
His expression, besides being distinctly pleasant, was full of a
"Will you please let me pass?" she insisted.
"Madam," he replied, "I am afraid that it is your intention to ring
"Of course it is," she admitted. "Don't dare to prevent me."
"Madam, I do not wish to prevent you," he assured her. "A few
moments' delay - that is all I plead for."
"Will you explain at once, sir," Philippa demanded, "what you mean
by forcing your way into my house in this extraordinary fashion, and
by locking that door?"
"I am most anxious to do so," was the prompt reply. "I am correct,
of course, in my first surmise that you are Lady Cranston - and you
Miss Fairclough?" he added, bowing ceremoniously to both of them.
"A very great pleasure! I recognised you both quite easily, you see,
from your descriptions."
"From our descriptions?" Philippa repeated.
The newcomer bowed.
"The descriptions, glowing, indeed, but by no means exaggerated,
of your brother Richard, Lady Cranston, and your fianc=82, Miss
"Richard?" Philippa almost shrieked.
"You have seen Dick?" Helen gasped.
The intruder dived in his pockets and produced two sealed envelopes.
He handed one each simultaneously to Helen and to Philippa.
"My letters of introduction," he explained, with a little sigh of
relief. "I trust that during their perusal you will invite me to
have some tea. I am almost starving."
The two women hastened towards the lamp.
"One moment, I beg," their visitor interposed. "I have established,
I trust, my credentials. May I remind you that I was compelled to
ensure the safety of these few minutes' conversation with you, by
locking that door. Are you likely to be disturbed?"
"No, no! No chance at all," Philippa assured him.
"If we are, we'll explain," Helen promised.
"In that case," the intruder begged, "perhaps you will excuse me."
He moved towards the door and softly turned the key, then he drew
the curtains carefully across the French windows. Afterwards he
made his way towards the tea-table. A little throbbing cry had
broken from Helen's lips.
"Philippa," she exclaimed, "it's from Dick! It's Dick's handwriting!"
Philippa's reply was incoherent. She was tearing open her own
envelope. With a well-satisfied smile, the bearer of these
communications seized a sandwich in one hand and poured himself out
some tea with the other. He ate and drank with the restraint of
good-breeding, but with a voracity which gave point to his plea of
starvation. A few yards away, the breathless silence between the
two women had given place to an almost hysterical series of
"It's from Dick!" Helen repeated. "It's his own dear handwriting.
How shaky it is! He's alive and well, Philippa, and he's found a
"I know - I know," Philippa murmured tremulously. "Our parcels have
been discovered, and he got them all at once. Just fancy, Helen,
he's really not so ill, after all!"
They drew a little closer together.
"You read yours out first," Helen proposed," and then I'll read mine."
Philippa nodded. Her voice here and there was a little uncertain.
MY DEAREST SISTER,
I have heard nothing from you or Helen for so long that I was
really getting desperate. I have had a very rough time here,
but by the grace of Providence I stumbled up against an old
friend the other day, Bertram Maderstrom, whom you must have
heard me speak of in my college days. It isn't too much to say
that he has saved my life. He has unearthed your parcels, found
me decent quarters, and I am getting double rations. He has
promised, too, to get this letter through to you. =20
You needn't worry about me now, dear. I am feeling twice the
man I was a month ago, and I shall stick it out now quite easily.
Write me as often as ever you can. Your letters and Helen's make
all the difference.
My love to you and to Henry.
Your affectionate brother, RICHARD.
P.S. Is Henry an Admiral yet? I suppose he was in the Jutland
scrap, which they all tell us here was a great German victory. I
hope he came out all right.
Philippa read the postscript with a little shiver. Then she set her
teeth as though determined to ignore it.
"Isn't it wonderful!" she exclaimed, turning towards Helen with
glowing eyes.=20 "Now yours, dear?"
Helen's voice trembled as she read. Her eyes, too, at times were
I am writing to you so differently because I feel that you will
really get this letter. I have bad an astonishing stroke of luck,
as you will gather from Philippa's note. You can't imagine the
difference. A month ago I really thought I should have to chuck
it in. Now I am putting on flesh every day and beginning to feel
myself again. I owe my life to a pal with whom I was at college,
and whom you and I, dearest, will have to remember all our lives.
I think of you always, and my thoughts are like the flowers of
which we see nothing in these hideous huts. My greatest joy is
in dreaming of the day when we shall meet again.
Write to me often, sweetheart. Your letters and my thoughts of
you are the one joy of my life.
Always your lover,
There were a few moments of significant silence. The girls were
leaning together, their arms around one another's necks, their heads
almost touching. Behind them, their visitor continued to eat and
drink. He rose at last, however, reluctantly to his feet, and
coughed. They started, suddenly remembering his presence. Philippa
turned impulsively towards him with outstretched hands.
"I can't tell you how thankful we are to you," she declared.
"Both of us," Helen echoed.
He touched with his fingers a box of cigarettes which stood upon the
"You permit? "he asked.
"Of course," Philippa assented eagerly. "You will find some matches
on the tray there. Do please help yourself. I am afraid that I
must have seemed very discourteous, but this has all been so amazing.
Won't you have some fresh tea and some toast, or wouldn't you like
some more sandwiches?"
"Nothing more at present, thank you," he replied. "If you do not
mind, I would rather continue our conversation."
"These letters are wonderful," Philippa told him gratefully. "You
know from whom they come, of course. Dick is my twin brother, and
until the war we had scarcely ever been parted. Miss Fairclough
here is engaged to be married to him. It is quite two months since
we had a line, and I myself have been in London for the last three
days, three very weary days, making enquiries everywhere."
"I am very happy," he said, "to have brought you such good news."
Once more the normal aspect of the situation began to reimpose
itself upon the two women. They remembered the locked door, the
secrecy of their visitor's entrance, and his disordered condition.
"May I ask to whom we are indebted for this great service?" Philippa
"My name for the present is Hamar Lessingham," was the suave reply.
"For the present?" Philippa repeated. "You have perhaps, some
explanations to make," she went on, with some hesitation; "the
condition of your clothes, your somewhat curious form of entrance?"
"With your permission."
"One moment," Helen intervened eagerly. "Is it possible, Mr. -=20
Lessingham, that you have seen Major Felstead lately?"
"A matter of fifty-six hours ago, Miss Fairclough. I am happy to
tell you that be was looking, under the circumstances, quite
Helen caught up a photograph from the table by her side, and came
over to their visitor's side.
"This was taken just before be went out the first time," she
continued. "Is he anything like that now?"
Mr. Hamar Lessingham sighed and shook his head.
"You must expect," he warned her, "that prison and hospital have
had their effect upon him. He was gaining strength every day,
however, when I left."
Philippa held out her hand. She had been looking curiously at
"Helen, dear, afterwards we will get Mr. Lessingham to talk to us
about Dick," she insisted. "First there are some questions which
I must ask."
He bowed slightly and drew himself up. For a moment it seemed as
though they were entering upon a duel - the slight, beautiful woman
and the man in rags.
"Just now," she began, "you told us that you saw Major Felstead, my
brother, fifty-six hours ago."
"That is so," he assented.
"But it is impossible!" she pointed out. "My brother is a prisoner
of war in Germany."
"Precisely," he replied, "and not, I am afraid, under the happiest
conditions, he has been unfortunate in his camp. Let us talk about
him, shall we?"
"Are you mad," Helen demanded, "or are you trying to confuse us?"
"My dear young lady!" he protested. "Why suppose such a thing? I
was flattering myself that my conversation and deportment were,
under the circumstances, perfectly rational."
"But you are talking nonsense," Philippa insisted. "You say that
you saw Major Felstead fifty-six hours ago. You cannot mean us to
believe that fifty-six hours ago you were at Wittenberg."
"That is precisely what I have been trying to tell you," he agreed.
"But it isn't possible!" Helen gasped.
"Quite, I assure you," he continued; "in fact, we should have been
here before but for a little uncertainty as to your armaments along
the coast. There was a gun, we were told, somewhere near here,
which we were credibly informed had once been fired without the
Philippa's eyes seemed to grow larger and rounder.
"He's raving!" she decided.
"He isn't!" Helen cried, with sudden divination. "Is that your hat?"
she asked, pointing to the table where Nora had left her trophy.
"It is," he admitted with a smile, "but I do not think that I will
"You were in the observation car of that Zeppelin!"
Lessingham extended his hand.
"Softly, please," he begged. "You have, I gather, arrived at the
truth, but for the moment shall it be our secret? I made an
exceedingly uncomfortable, not to say undignified descent from the
Zeppelin which passed over Dutchman's Common last night."
"Then," Philippa cried, "you are a German!"
"My dear lady, I have escaped that misfortune," Lessingham
confessed. "Do you think that none other than Germans ride in
A new tenseness seemed to have crept into the situation. The
conversation, never without its emotional tendencies, at once
changed its character. Philippa, cold and reserved, with a threat
lurking all the time in her tone and manner, became its guiding
"We may enquire your name?" she asked.
"I am the Baron Maderstrom," was the prompt reply. "For the purpose
of my brief residence in this country, however, I fancy that the
name of Mr. Hamar Lessingham might provoke less comment."
"Maderstrom," Philippa repeated. "You were at Magdalen with my
"For three terms," he assented.
"You have visited at Wood Norton. It was only an accident, then,
that I did not meet you."
"It is true," he answered, with a bow. "I received the most charming
hospitality there from your father and mother."
"Why, you are the friend," Helen exclaimed, suddenly seizing his
hands, "of whom Dick speaks in his letter!"
"It has been my great privilege to have been of service to Major
Felstead," was the grave admission. "He and I, during our college
days, were more than ordinarily intimate. I saw his name in one of
the lists of prisoners, and I went at once to Wittenberg."
A fresh flood of questions was upon Helen's lips, but Philippa
brushed her away.
"Please let me speak," she said. "You have brought us these letters
from Richard, for which we offer you our heartfelt thanks, but you
did not risk your liberty, perhaps your life, to come here simply
as his ambassador. There is something beyond this in your visit to
this country. You may be a Swede, but is it not true that at the
present moment you are in the service of an enemy?"
Lessingham bowed acquiescence.
"You are entirely right," he murmured.
"Am I also right in concluding that you have some service to ask
"Your directness, dear lady, moves me to admiration," Lessingham
assured her. "I am here to ask a trifling favour in return for
those which I have rendered and those which I may yet render to your
"And that favour?"
Their visitor looked down at his torn attire.
"A suit of your brother's clothes," he replied, "and a room in which
to change. The disposal of these rags I may leave, I presume, to
"It is my wish," he continued, "to remain in this neighbourhood for
a short: time - perhaps a fortnight and perhaps a month. I should
value your introduction to the hotel here, and the extension of
such hospitality as may seem fitting to you, under the circumstances."
"As Mr. Hamar Lessingham?"=20
"Beyond a doubt."
There was a moment's silence. Philippa's face had become almost
stony. She took a step towards the telephone. Lessingham, however,
held out his hand.
"Your purpose?" he enquired.
"I am going to ring up the Commandant here," she told him, "and
explain your presence in this house."
"An heroic impulse," he observed, "but too impulsive."
"We shall see," she retorted. "Will you let me pass?
His fingers restrained her as gently as possible.
"Let me make a reasonable appeal to both of you," he suggested.
"I am here at your mercy. I promise you that under no circumstances
will I attempt any measure of violence. From any fear of that, I
trust my name and my friendship with your brother will be sufficient
"Continue, then," Philippa assented.
"You will give me ten minutes in which to state my case," he begged.
"We must!" Helen exclaimed. "We must, Philippa! Please!"
"You shall have your ten minutes," Philippa conceded.
He abandoned his attitude of watchfulness and moved back on to the
hearth-rug, his hands behind him. He addressed himself to Philippa.
It was Philippa who had become his judge.
"I will claim nothing from you," he began, "for the services which
I have rendered to Richard. Our friendship was a real thing, and,
finding him in such straits, I would gladly, under any circumstances,
have done all that I have done. I am well paid for this by the
thanks which you have already proffered me."
"No thanks - nothing that we could do for you would be sufficient
recompense," Helen declared energetically.
"Let me speak for a moment of the future," he continued. "Supposing
you ring that telephone and hand me over to the authorities here?
Well, that will be the end of me, without a doubt. You will have
done what seemed to you to he the right thing, and I hope that that
consciousness will sustain you, for, believe me, though it may not
be at my will, your brother's life will most certainly answer for
There was a slight pause. A sob broke from Helen's throat. Even
Philippa's lip quivered.
"Forgive me," he went on, "if that sounds like a threat. It was not
so meant. It is the simple truth. Let me hurry on to the future.
I ask so little of you. It is my duty to live in this spot for one
month. What harm can I do? You have no great concentration of
soldiers here, no docks, no fortifications, no industry. And in
return for the slight service of allowing me to remain here
unmolested, I pledge my word that Richard shall be set at liberty
and shall be here with you within two months."
Helen's face was transformed, her eyes glowed, her lips were parted
with eagerness. She turned towards Philippa, her expression, her
whole attitude an epitome of eloquent pleading.
"Philippa, you will not hesitate? You cannot?"
"I must," Philippa answered, struggling with her agitation. "I love
Dick more dearly than anything else on earth, but just now, Helen,
we have to remember, before everything, that we are English women.
We have to put our human feelings behind us. We are learning every
day to make sacrifices. You, too, must learn, dear. My answer to
you, Baron Maderstrom - or Mr. Lessingham, as you choose to call
yourself - is no."
"Philippa, you are mad!" Helen exclaimed passionately. "Didn't I
have to realise all that you say when I let Dick go, cheerfully,
the day after we were engaged? Haven't I realised the duty of
cheerfulness and sacrifice through all these weary months? But
there is a limit to these things, Philippa, a sense of proportion
which must be taken into account. It's Dick's life which is in
the balance against some intangible thing, nothing that we could
ever reproach ourselves with, nothing that could bring real harm
upon any one. Oh, I love my country, too, but I want Dick! I
should feel like his murderess all my life, if I didn't consent!"
"It occurs to me," Lessingham remarked, turning towards Philippa,
"that Miss Fairelough's point of view is one to be considered."
"Doesn't all that Miss Fairclough has said apply to me?" Philippa
demanded, with a little break in her voice. "Richard is my twin
brother, he is the dearest thing in life to me. Can't you realise,
though, that what you ask of us is treason?
"It really doesn't amount to that," Lessingham assured her. "In my
own heart I feel convinced that I have come here on a fool's errand.
No object that I could possibly attain in this neighbourhood is
worth the life of a man like Richard Felstead."
"Oh, he's right!" Helen exclaimed. "Think, Philippa! What is there
here which the whole world might not know? There are no secrets in
Dreymarsh. We are miles away from everywhere. For my sake,
Philippa, I implore you not to be unreasonable."
"In plain words," Lessingham intervened, "do not be quixotic, Lady
Cranston. There is just an idea on one side, your brother's life
on the other. You see, the scales do not balance."
"Can't you realise, though," Philippa answered, "what that idea
means? It is part of one's soul that one gives when one departs
from a principle."
"What are principles against love?" Helen demanded, almost fiercely.
"A sister may prate about them, Philippa. A wife couldn't. I'd
sacrifice every principle I ever had, every scrap of self-respect,
myself and all that belongs to me, to save Dick's life!"
There was a brief, throbbing silence. Helen was feverishly clutching
Philippa's hand. Lessingham's eyes were fixed upon the tortured face
into which he gazed. There were no women like this in his own
"Dear lady," he said, and for the first time his own voice shook,
"I abandon my arguments. I beg you to act as you think best for
your own future happiness. The chances of life or death are not
great things for either men like your brother or for me. I would
not purchase my end, nor he his life, at the expense of your
suffering. You see, I stand on one side. The telephone is there
for your use."
"You shan't use it!" Helen cried passionately. "Phillipa, you
Philippa turned towards her, and all the stubborn pride had gone
out of her face. Her great eyes were misty with tears, her mouth
was twitching with emotion. She threw her arms around Helen's neck.
"My dear, I can't! I can't!" she sobbed.
Philippa's breakdown was only momentary. With a few brusque words
she brought the other two down to the level of her newly recovered
"To be practical," she began, "we have no time to lose. I will go
and get a suit of Dick's clothes, and, Helen, you had better take
Mr. Lessingham into the gun room. Afterwards, perhaps you will have
time to ring up the hotel."
Lessingham took a quick step towards her, - almost as though he were
about to make some impetuous withdrawal. Philippa turned and met his
almost pleading gaze. Perhaps she read there his instinct of
"I am in command of the situation," she continued, a little more
lightly. "Every one must please obey me. I shan't be more than
She left the room, waving back Lessingham's attempt to open the
door for her. He stood for a moment looking at the place where
she had vanished. Then he turned round.
"Major Felstead's description," he said quietly, "did not do his
"Philippa is a dear," Helen declared enthusiastically. "Just for
a moment, though, I was terrified. She has a wonderful will."
"How long has she been married?"
"About six years."
"Are there - any children?"
Helen shook her head.
"Sir Henry had a daughter by his first wife, who lives with us."
"Six years!" Lessingham repeated. "Why, she seems no more than a
child. Sir Henry must be a great deal her senior."
"Sixteen years," Helen told him. "Philippa is twenty-nine. And now,
don't be inquisitive any more, please, and come with me. I want to
show you where to change your clothes."
She opened a door on the other side of the room, and pointed to a
small apartment across the passage.
"If you'll wait in there," she begged, "I'll bring the clothes to
you directly they come. I am going to telephone now."
"So many thanks," he answered. "I should like a pleasant bedroom
and sitting room, and a bathroom if possible. My luggage you will
find already there. A friend in London has seen to that."
She looked at him curiously.
"You are very thorough, aren't you? she remarked.
The people of the country whom it is my destiny to serve all are,"
he replied. "One weak link, you know, may sometimes spoil the
She closed the door and took up the telephone.
"Number three, please," she began. "Are you the hotel? The manager?
Good! I am speaking for Lady Cranston. She wishes a sitting-room,
bedroom and bath-room reserved for a friend of ours who is arriving
to-day - a Mr. Hamar Lessingham. You have his luggage already, I
believe. Please do the best you can for him. - Certainly. - Thank
you very much."
She set down the receiver. The door was quickly opened and shut.
Philippa reappeared, carrying an armful of clothes.
"Why, you've brought his grey suit," Helen cried in dismay, "the
one he looks so well in!"
"Don't be an idiot," Philippa scoffed. "I had to bring the first
I could find. Take them in to Mr. Lessingham, and for heaven's
sake see that he hurries! Henry's train is due, and he may be here
at any moment."
"I'll tell him," Helen promised. "I'll smuggle him out of the back
way, if you like."
Philippa laughed a little drearily.
"A nice start that would be, if any one ever traced his arrival!"
she observed. "No, we must try and get him away before Henry comes,
but, if the worst comes to the worst, we'll have him in and
introduce him. Henry isn't likely to notice anything," she added,
a little bitterly.
Helen disappeared with the clothes and returned almost immediately,
Philippa was sitting in her old position by the fire.
"You're not worrying about this, dear, are you?" the former asked
"I don't know," Philippa replied, without turning her head. "I don't
know what may come of it, Helen. I have a queer sort of feeling
about that man."
Helen sighed. "I suppose," she confessed, "I am the narrowest
person on earth. I can think of one thing, and one thing only.
If Mr. Lessingham keeps his word, Dick will be here perhaps in a
month, perhaps six weeks - certainly soon!"
"He will keep his word," Philippa said quietly. "He is that sort
The door on the other side of the room was softly opened.
Lessingham's head appeared.
"Could I have a necktie?" he asked diffidently. Philippa stretched
out her hand and took one from the basket by her side.
"Better give him this," she said, handing it over to Helen. "It is
one of Henry's which I was mending.- Stop!"
She put up her finger. They all listened.
"The car!" Philippa exclaimed, rising hastily to her feet. "That
is Henry! Go out with Mr. Lessingham, Helen," she continued, "and
wait until he is ready. Don't forget that he is an ordinary caller,
and bring him in presently."
Helen nodded understandingly and hurried out.
Philippa moved a few steps towards the other door. In a moment it
was thrown open. Nora appeared, with her arm through her father's.
"I went to meet him, Mummy," she explained. "No uniform - isn't it
Sir Henry patted her cheek and turned to greet his wife. There was
a shadow upon his bronzed, handsome face as he watched her rather
"Sorry I couldn't catch your train, Phil," he told her. "I had to
make a call in the city so I came down from Liverpool Street. Any
She held his hands, resisting for the moment his proffered embrace.
"Henry," she said earnestly, "do you know I am so much more anxious
to hear your news."
"Mine will keep," he replied. "What about Richard?"
She shook her head.
"I spent the whole of my time making enquiries," she sighed, "and
every one was fruitless. I failed to get the least satisfaction
from any one at the War Office. They know nothing, have heard
"I'm ever so sorry to hear it," Sir Henry declared sympathetically.
"You mustn't worry too much, though, dear. Where's Helen?"
"She is in the gun room with a caller."
"With a caller? "Nora exclaimed. "Is it any one from the Depot?
I must go and see."
"You needn't trouble," her stepmother replied. "Here they are,
The door on the opposite side of the room was suddenly opened, and
Hamar Lessingham and Helen entered together. Lessingham was
entirely at his ease, - their conversation, indeed, seemed almost
engrossing. He came at once across the room on realising Sir
"This is Mr. Hamar Lessingham - my husband," Philippa said. "Mr.
Lessingham was at college with Dick, Henry, so of course Helen and
he have been indulging in all sorts of reminiscences."
The two men shook hands.
"I found time also to examine your Leech prints," Lessingham remarked.
"You have some very admirable examples."
"Quite a hobby of mine in my younger days," Sir Henry admitted.
"One or two of them are very good, I believe. Are you staying in
these parts long, Mr. Lessingham?"
"Perhaps for a week or two," was the somewhat indifferent reply.
"I am told that this is the most wonderful air in the world, so I
have come down here to pull up again after a slight illness."
"A dreary spot just now," Sir Henry observed, "but the air's all
right. Are you a sea-fisherman, by any chance, Mr. Lessingham?"
"I have done a little of it," the visitor confessed. Sir Henry's
face lit up. He drew from his pocket a small, brown paper parcel.
"I don't mind telling you," he confided as he cut the string, "that
I don't think there's another sport like it in the world. I have
tried most of them, too. When I was a boy I was all for shooting,
perhaps because I could never get enough. Then I had a season or
two at Melton, though I was never much of a horseman. But for real,
unadulterated excitement, for sport that licks everything else into
a cocked hat, give me a strong sea rod, a couple of traces, just
enough sea to keep on the bottom all the time, and the codling
biting. Look here, did you ever see a mackerel spinner like that?"
he added, drawing one out of the parcel which he had untied. "Look
at it, all of you."
Lessingham took it gingerly in his fingers. Philippa, a little
ostentatiously, turned her back upon the two men and took up a
"Lady Cranston does not sympathize with my interest in any sort of
sport just now," Sir Henry explained good-humouredly. "All the
same I argue that one must keep one's mind occupied somehow or
"Quite right, Dad!" Nora agreed. "We must carry on, as the Colonel
says. All the same, I did hope you'd come down in a new naval
uniform, with lots of gold braid on your sleeve. I think they might
have made you an admiral, Daddy, you'd look so nice on the bridge."
"I am afraid," her father replied, with his eyes glued upon the
spinner which Lessingham was holding, "that that is a consideration
which didn't seem to weigh with them much. Look at the glitter of
it," he went on, taking up another of the spinners. "You see, it's
got a double swivel, and they guarantee six hundred revolutions a
"I must plead ignorance," Lessingham regretted, "of everything
connected with mackerel spinning."
"It's fine sport for a change," Sir Henry declared. "The only thing
is that if you strike a shoal one gets tired of hauling the beggars
in. By-the-by, has Jimmy been up for me, Philippa? Have you heard
whether there are any mackerel in?"
Philippa raised her eyebrows.
"Mackerel!" she repeated sarcastically.
"Have you any objection to the fish, dear?" Sir Henry enquired
Philippa made no reply. Her husband frowned and turned towards
"You see," he complained a little irritably, "my wife doesn't approve
of my taking an interest even in fishing while the war's on, but,
hang it all, what are you to do when you reach my age? Thinks I
ought to be a special constable, don't you, Philippa?"
"Need we discuss this before Mr. Lessingham?" she asked, without
looking up from her paper.
Lessingham promptly prepared to take his departure.
"See something more of you, I hope," Sir Henry remarked hospitably,
as he conducted his guest to the door. "Where are you staying
"At the hotel."
"I did not understand that there was more than one," Lessingham
replied. "I simply wrote to The Hotel, Dreymarsh."
"There is only one hotel open, of course, Mr. Lessingham," Philippa
observed, turning towards him. "Why do you ask such an absurd
question, Henry? The 'Grand' is full of soldiers. Come and see
us whenever you feel inclined, Mr. Lessingham."
"I shall certainly take advantage of your permission, Lady Cranston,"
were the farewell words of this unusual visitor as he bowed himself
Sir Henry moved to the sideboard and helped himself to a whisky and
soda. Philippa laid down her newspaper and watched him as though
waiting patiently for his return. Helen and Nora had already
obeyed the summons of the dressing bell.
"Henry, I want to hear your news," she insisted. He threw himself
into an easy-chair and turned over the contents of Philippa's
"Where's that tie of mine you were mending?" he asked. "Is it
"It is upstairs somewhere," she replied. "No, I have not finished
it. Why do you ask? You have plenty, haven't you?"
"Drawers full," he admitted cheerfully. "Half of them I can never
wear, though. I like that black and white fellow. Your friend
Lessingham was wearing one exactly like it."
"It isn't exactly an uncommon pattern," Philippa reminded him.
"Seems to have the family taste in clothes," Sir Henry continued,
stroking his chin. "That grey tweed suit of his was exactly the
same pattern as the suit Richard was wearing, the last time I saw
him in mufti."
"They probably go to the same tailor," Philippa remarked equably.
Sir Henry abandoned the subject. He was once more engrossed in an
examination of the mackerel spinners.
"You didn't answer my question about Jimmy Dumble," he ventured
Philippa turned and looked at him. Her eyes were usually very
sweet and soft and her mouth delightful. Just at that moment,
however, there were new and very firm lines in her face.
"Henry," she said sternly, "you are purposely fencing with me.
Mr. Lessingham's taste in clothes, or Jimmy Dumble's comings and
goings, are not what I want to hear or talk about. You went to
London, unwillingly enough, to keep your promise to me. I want to
know whether you have succeeded in getting anything from the
"Nothing but the cold shoulder, my dear," he answered with a little
"Do you mean to say that they offered you nothing at all?" she
persisted. "You may have been out of the service too long for
them to start you with a modern ship, but surely they could have
given you an auxiliary cruiser, or a secondary command of some sort?"
"They didn't even offer me a washtub, dear," he confessed. "My
name's on a list, they
"Oh, that list!" Philippa interrupted angrily. "Henry, I really
can't bear it. Couldn't they find you anything on land?"
"My dear girl," he replied a little testily, "what sort of a figure
should I cut in an office! No one can read my writing, and I
couldn't add up a column of figures to save my life. What is it?"
he added, as the door opened, and Mills made his appearance.
"Dumble is here to see you, sir.
"Show him in at once," his master directed with alacrity. "Come
in, Jimmy," he went on, raising his voice. "I've got something
to show you here."
Philippa's lips were drawn a little closer together. She swept past
her husband on her way to the door.
"I hope you will be so good," she said, looking back, "as to spare
me half an hour of your valuable time this evening. This is a
subject which I must discuss with you further at once."
"As urgent as all that, eh?" Sir Henry replied, stopping to light
a cigarette. "Righto! You can have the whole of my evening, dear,
with the greatest of pleasure.- Now then, Jimmy!"
Jimmy Dumble possessed a very red face and an extraordinary capacity
for silence. He stood a yard or two inside the room, twirling his
hat in his hand. Sir Henry, after the closing of the door, did
not for a moment address his visitor. There was a subtle but
unmistakable change in his appearance as he stood with his hands in
his pockets, and a frown on his forehead, whistling softly to
himself, his eyes fixed upon the door through which his wife had
vanished. He swung round at last towards the telephone.
"Stand by for a moment, Jimmy, will you?" he directed.
"Aye, aye, sir!"
Sir Henry took up the receiver. He dropped his voice a little,
although it was none the less distinct.
"Number one - police-station, please. - Hullo there! The inspector
about? - That you, Inspector? - Sir Henry Cranston speaking. Could
you just step round? - Good! Tell them to show you straight into
the library. You might just drop a hint to Mills about the lights,
eh? Thank von."
He laid down the receiver and turned towards the fisherman.
"Well, Jimmy," he enquired, "all serene down in the village, eh?"
"So far as I've seen or heard, sir, there ain't been a word spoke
as shouldn't be."
"A lazy lot they are," Sir Henry observed.
"They don't look far beyond the end of their noses."
"Maybe it's as well for us, sir, as they don't," was the cautious
Sir Henry strolled to the further end of the room.
"Perhaps you are right, Jimmy," he admitted.
"That fellow Ben Oates seems to be the only one with
"He don't keep sober long enough to give us any trouble," Dumble
declared. "He began asking me questions a few days ago, and I know
he put Grice's lad on to find out which way we went last Saturday
week, but that don't amount to anything. He was dead drunk for
three days afterwards."
Sir Henry nodded.
"I'm not very frightened of Ben Oates, Jimmy," he confided, as he
threw open the door of a large cabinet which stood against the
further wall. "No strangers about, eh?"
"Not a sign of one, sir."
Sir Henry glanced towards the door and listened.
"Shall I just give the key a turn, sir?" his visitor asked.
"I don't think it is necessary," Sir Henry replied. "They've all
gone up to change. Now listen to me, Jimmy."
He leaned forward and touched a spring. The false back of the
cabinet, with its little array of flies, spinners, fishing hooks
and tackle, slowly rolled back. Before them stood a huge chart,
wonderfully executed in red, white and yellow.
"That's a marvellous piece of work, sir," the fisherman observed
"Best thing I ever did in my life," Sir Henry agreed. "Now see
here, Jimmy. We'll sail out tomorrow, or take the motor boat,
according to the wind. We'll enter Langley Shallows there and pass
Dead Man's Rock on the left side of the waterway, and keep straight
on until we get Budden Wood on the church tower. You follow me?"
"Aye, aye, sir!"
"We make for the headland from there. You see, we shall be outside
the Gidney Shallows, and number twelve will pick us up. Put all
the fishing tackle in the boat, and don't forget the bait. We must
never lose sight of the fact, Jimmy, that the main object of our
lives is to catch fish."
"That's right, sir," was the hearty assent.
"We'll be off at seven o'clock sharp, then," Sir Henry decided.
"The tide'll be on the flow by that time," Jimmy observed, "and
we'll get off from the staith breakwater. That do be a fine piece
of work and no mistake," he added, as the false back of the cabinet
glided slowly to its place.
Sir Henry chuckled.
"It's nothing to the one I've got on number twelve, Jimmy," he said.
"I've got the seaweed on that, pretty well. You'll take a drop of
whisky on your way out?" he added. "Mills will look after you."
"I thank you kindly, sir."
Mills answered the bell with some concern in his face.
"The inspector is here to see you, sir," he announced. "He did
mention something about the lights. I'm sure we've all been most
careful. Even her ladyship has only used a candle in her bedroom."
"Show the inspector in," Sir Henry directed," and I'll hear what
he has to say. And give Dumble some whisky as he goes out, and a
"Wishing you good night, sir," the latter said, as he followed
Mills. "I'll be punctual in the morning. Looks to me as though
we might have good sport."
"We'll hope for it, anyway, Jimmy," his employer replied cheerfully.
"Come in, Inspector."
The inspector, a tall, broad-shouldered man, saluted and stood at
attention. Sir Henry nodded affably and glanced towards the door.
He remained silent until Mills and Dumble had disappeared.
"Glad I happened to catch you, Inspector," he observed, sitting
on the edge of the table and helping himself to another cigarette.
"Any fresh arrivals?"
"None, sir," the man reported, "of any consequence that I can see.
There are two more young officers for the Depot, and the young lady
for the Grange, and Mr. and Mrs. Silvester returned home last night.
There was a commercial traveller came in the first train this
morning, but he went on during the afternoon."
"Hm! What about a Mr. Lessingham - a Mr. Hamar Lessingham?"
"I haven't heard of him, sir."
"Have you had the registration papers down from the hotel yet?"
"Not this evening, sir. I met the Midland and Great Northern train
in myself. Her ladyship was the only passenger to alight here."
"And I came the other way myself," Sir Henry reflected.
"Now you come to mention the matter, sir," the inspector continued,
"I was up at the hotel this afternoon, and I saw some luggage about
addressed to a name somewhat similar to that."
"Probably sent on in advance, eh?"
"There could be no other way, sir," the inspector replied, "unless
the registration paper has been mislaid. I'll step up to the hotel
this evening and make sure."
"You'll oblige me very much, if you will. By Jove," Sir Henry
added, looking towards the door, "I'd no idea it was so late!"
Philippa, who had changed her travelling dress for a plain black
net gown, was standing in the doorway. She looked at the inspector,
and for a moment the little colour which she had seemed to disappear.
"Is anything the matter?" she asked breathlessly.
"Nothing in the world, my dear," her husband assured her. "I am
frightfully sorry I'm so late. Jimmy stayed some time, and then
the inspector here looked in about our lights. Just a little
more care in this room at night, he thinks. We'll see to it,
"I am very much obliged, sir," the man replied. "Sorry to be under
the necessity of mentioning it."
Sir Henry opened the door.
"You'll find your own way out, won't you?" he begged. "I'm a
The inspector saluted and withdrew. Sir Henry glanced round.
"I won't be ten minutes, Philippa," he promised. "I had no idea
it was so late."
"Come here one moment, please," she insisted.
He came back into the room and stood on the other side of the small
table near which she had paused.
"What is it, dear? "he enquired. "We are going to leave our talk
till after dinner, aren't we?"
She looked him in the face. There was an anxious light in her eyes,
and she was certainly not herself. "Of course! I only wanted to
know - it seemed to me that you broke off in what you were saying to
the inspector, as I came into the room. Are you sure that it was
the lights he came around about? There isn't anything else wrong,
"What else could there be?" he asked wonderingly.
"I have no idea," she replied, with well-simulated indifference.
"I was only asking you whether there was anything else?"
He shook his head.
She threw herself into an easy-chair and picked up a magazine.
"Thank you," she said. "Do hurry, please. I have a new cook and
she asked particularly whether we were punctual people."
"Six minutes will see me through it," Sir Henry promised, making
for the door. "Come to think of it, I missed my lunch. I think
I'll manage it in five."
Sir Henry was in a pleasant and expansive humour that evening. The
new cook was an unqualified success, and he was conscious of having
dined exceedingly well. He sat in a comfortable easy-chair before
a blazing wood fire, he had just lit one of his favourite brand of
cigarettes, and his wife, whom he adored, was seated only a few
"Quite a remarkable change in Helen," he observed. "She was in the
depths of depression when I went away, and to-night she seems
"Helen varies a great deal," Philippa reminded turn.
"Still, to-night, I must say, I should have expected to have found
her more depressed than ever," Sir Henry went on. "She hoped so
much from your to London, and you apparently accomplished nothing."
"Nothing at all."
"And you have had no letters?"
"Then Helen's high spirits, I suppose, are only part of woman's
natural inconsistency. - Philippa, dear!"
"I am glad to be at home. I am glad to see you sitting there. I
know you are nursing up something, some little thunderbolt to launch
at me. Won't you launch it and let's get it over?"
Philippa laid down the hook which she had been reading, and turned
to face her husband. He made a little grimace.
"Don't look so severe," he begged. "You frighten me before you
"I'm sorry," she said, "but my face probably reflects my feelings.
I am hurt and grieved and disappointed in you, Henry."
"That's a good start, anyway," he groaned.
"We have been married six years," Philippa went on, "and I admit at
once that I have been very happy. Then the war came. You know
quite well, Henry, that especially at that time I was very, very
fond of you, yet it never occurred to me for a moment but that, like
every other woman, I should have to lose my husband for a time.
- Stop, please," she insisted, as he showed signs of interrupting.
"I know quite well that it was through my persuasions you retired
so early, but in those days there was no thought of war, and I
always had it in my mind that if trouble came you would find your
way back to where you belonged."
"But, my dear child, that is all very well," Sir Henry protested,
"but it's not so easy to get back again. You know very well that
I went up to the Admiralty and offered my services, directly the
"Yes, and what happened?" Philippa demanded. "You were, in a
measure, shelved. You were put on a list and told that you would
hear from them - a sort of Micawber-like situation with which you
were perfectly satisfied. Then you took that moor up in Scotland
and disappeared for nearly six months."
"I was supplying the starving population with food," he reminded her
genially. "We sent about four hundred brace of grouse to market,
not to speak of the salmon. We had some very fair golf, too, some
of the time."
"Oh, I have not troubled to keep any exact account of your
diversions!" Philippa said scornfully. "Sometimes," she continued,
"I wonder whether you are quite responsible, Henry. How you can
even talk of these things when every man of your age and strength
is fighting one way or another for his country, seems marvellous to
me. Do you realise that we are fighting for our very existence?
Do you realise that my own father, who is fifteen years older than
you, is in the firing line? This is a small place, of course, but
there isn't a man left in it of your age, with your physique, who
has had the slightest experience in either service, who isn't doing
"I can't do more than send in applications," he grumbled. "Be
reasonable, my dear Philippa. It isn't the easiest thing in the
world to find a job for a sailor who has been out of it as long as
"So you say, but when they ask me what you are doing, as they all
did in London this time, and I reply that you can't get a job, there
is generally a polite little silence. No one believes it. I don't
Sir Henry turned in his chair. His cigar was burning now idly
between his fingers. His heavy eyebrows were drawn together.
"Well, I don't," she reiterated. "You can be angry, if you will
- in fact I think I should prefer you to be angry. You take no
pains at the Admiralty. You just go there and come away again,
once a year or something like that. Why, if I were you, I
wouldn't leave the place until they'd found me something - indoors
or outdoors, what does it matter so long as your hand is on the
wheel and you are doing your little for your country? But you
- what do you care? You went to town to get a job - and you come
back with new mackerel spinners! You are off fishing to-morrow
morning with Jimmy Dumble. Somewhere up in the North Sea, to-day
and to-morrow and the next day, men are giving their lives for
their country. What do you care? You will sit there smoking your
pipe and catching dabs!"
"Do you know you are almost offensive, Philippa?" her husband said
"I want to be," she retorted. "I should like you to feel that I am.
In any case, this will probably be the last conversation I shall
hold with you on the subject."
"Well, thank God for that, anyway! "he observed, strolling to the
chimneypiece and selecting a pipe from a rack. "I think you've
said about enough."
"I haven't finished," she told him ominously.
"Then for heaven's sake get on with it and let's have it over," he
"Oh, you're impossible!" Philippa exclaimed bitterly. "Listen.
I give you one chance more. Tell me the truth? Is there anything
in your health of which I do not know? Is there any possible
explanation of your extraordinary behaviour which, for some reason
or other, you have kept to yourself? Give me your whole confidence."
Sir Henry, for a moment, was serious enough. He stood looking down
at her a little wistfully.
"My dear," he told her, "I have nothing to say except this. You
are my very precious wife. I have loved you and trusted you since
the day of our marriage. I am content to go on loving and trusting
you, even though things should come under my notice which I do not
understand. Can't you accept me the same way?"
Philippa, rnomentarily uneasy, was nevertheless rebellious.
"Accept you the same way? How can I! There is nothing in my life
to compare in any way with the tragedy of your - "
She paused, as though unwilling to finish the sentence. He waited
patiently, however, for her to proceed.
"Of my what?"
"Lethargy," she pronounced triumphantly.
"An excellent word," he murmured.
"It is too mild a one, but you are my husband," she remarked.
"That reminds me," he said quietly. "You are my wife."
"I know it," she admitted, "but I am also a woman, and there are
limits to my endurance. If you can give me no explanation of your
behaviour, Henry, if you really have no intention of changing it,
then there is only one course left open for me."
"That sounds rather alarming - what is it?" he demanded.
Philippa lifted her head a little. This was the pronouncement
towards which she had been leading.
"From to-day," she declared, "I cease to be your wife."
His fingers paused in the manipulation of the tobacco with which he
was filling his pipe. He turned and looked at her.
"I cease to be your wife."
"How do you manage that? he asked.
"Don't jest," she begged. "It hurts me so. What I mean is surely
plain enough. I will continue to live under your roof if you wish
it, or I am perfectly willing to go back to Wood Norton. I will
continue to bear your name because I must, but the other ties
between us are finished."
"You don't mean this, Philippa," he said gravely. "But I do mean
it," she insisted. "I mean every word I have spoken. So far as
I am concerned, Henry, this is your last chance."
There was a knock at the door. Mills entered with a note upon a
salver. Sir Henry took it up, glanced questioningly at his wife,
and tore open the envelope.
"There will be no answer, Mills," he said.
The man withdrew. Sir Henry read the few lines thoughtfully:-
According to enquiries made I find that Mr. Hamar Lessingham
arrived at the Hotel this evening in time for dinner. His
luggage arrived by rail yesterday. It is presumed that he came
by motor-car, but there is no car in the garage, nor any mention
of one. His room was taken for him by Miss Fairclough, ringing
up for Lady Cranston about seven o'clock.
"Is your note of interest?" Philippa enquired.
"In a sense, yes," he replied, thrusting it into his waistcoat
pocket. "I presume we can consider our late subject of conversation
"I have nothing more to say," she pronounced.
"Very well, then," her husband agreed, "let us select another topic.
This time, supposing I choose?"
"You are welcome."
"Let us converse, then, about Mr. Hamar Lessingham."
Philippa had taken up her work. Her fingers ceased their labours,
but she did not look up.
"About Mr. Hamar Lessingham," she repeated. "Rather a limited
subject, I am afraid."
"I am not so sure," he said thoughtfully. "For instance, who is he?"
"I have no idea," she replied. "Does it matter? He was at college
with Richard, and he has been a visitor at Wood Norton. That is all
that we know. Surely it is sufficient for us to offer him any
"I am not disputing it," Sir Henry assured her. "On the face of it,
it seems perfectly reasonable that you should be civil to him. On
the other hand, there are one or two rather curious points about his
coming here just now."
"Really?" Philippa murmured indifferently, bending a little lower
over her work.
"In the first place," her husband continued, "how did he arrive here?"
"For all I know," she replied, "he may have walked."
"A little unlikely. Still, he didn't come from London by either of
the evening trains, and it seems that you didn't take his rooms for
him until about seven o'clock, before which time he hadn't been to
the hotel. So, you see, one is driven to wonder how the mischief
he did get here."
"I took his rooms?" Philippa repeated, with a sudden little catch
at her heart.
"Some one from here rang up, didn't they?" Sir Henry went on
carelessly. "I gathered that we were introducing him at the hotel."
"Where did you hear that?" she demanded.
He shrugged his shoulders, but avoided answering the question.
"I have no doubt," he continued, "that the whole subject of Mr.
Hamar Lessingham is scarcely worth discussing. Yet he does seem to
have arrived here under a little halo of coincidence."
"I am afraid I have scarcely appreciated that," Philippa remarked;
"in fact, his coming here has seemed to me the most ordinary thing
in the world. After all, although one scarcely remembers that since
the war, this is a health resort, and the man has been ill."
"Quite right," Sir Henry agreed. "You are not going to bed, dear?"
Philippa had folded up her work. She stood for a moment upon the
hearth-rug. The little hardness which had tightened her mouth had
disappeared, her eyes had softened.
"May I say just one word more," she begged, "about our previous - our
only serious subject of conversation? I have tried my best since we
were married, Henry, to make you happy."
"You know quite well," 'he assured her, "that you have succeeded."
"Grant me one favour, then," she pleaded. "Give up your fishing
expedition to-morrow, go back to London by the first train and let
me write to Lord Rayton. I am sure he would do something for you."