Once more the door was opened below. The voice of the singer came floating up. Then it was closed again and the little passionate cry blotted out. His lips moved but he said nothing. It seemed suddenly, from the light in his face, that he might have been echoing those words which rang in her ears. She trembled and suddenly held her hand across the table.
“Hold my fingers,” she begged. “These others will think that we have made a bet or a compact. What does it matter? I want to give you all that I can. Will you be patient? Will you remember that you have found your way along a very difficult path to a goal which no one yet has ever reached? I could tell you more but may not that be enough? I want you to have something to carry away with you, something not too cold, something that burns a little with the beginnings of life and love, and, if you will, perhaps hope. May that content you for a little while, for you see, although I am not a girl, these things, and thoughts of these things, are new to me?”
He drew a little breath. It seemed to him that there was no more beautiful place on earth than this little smoke-hung corner of the restaurant. The words which escaped from his lips were vibrant, tremulous.
“I am your slave. I will wait. There is no one like you in the world.”
Tallente found a distant connection of his waiting for him in his rooms, on his return from the House at about half-past six,—Spencer Williams, a young man who, after a brilliant career at Oxford, had become one of the junior secretaries to the Prime Minister. The young man rose to his feet at Tallente’s entrance and hastened to explain his visit.
“You’ll forgive my waiting, sir,” he begged. “Your servant told me that you were dining out and would be home before seven o’clock to change.”
“Quite right, Spencer,” Tallente replied. “Glad to see you. Whisky and soda or cocktail?”
The young man chose a whisky and soda, and Tallente followed suit, waving his visitor back into his chair and seating himself opposite.
“Get right into the middle of it, please,” he enjoined.
“To begin with, then, can you break your engagement and come and dine with the Chief?”
“Out of the question, even if it were a royal command,” was the firm reply. “My engagement is unbreakable.”
“The Chief will be sorry,” Williams said. “So am I. Will you go round to Downing Street and see him afterwards?”
“I could,” Tallente admitted, “but why? I have nothing to say to him. I can’t conceive what he could have to say to me. There are always pressmen loitering about Downing Street, who would place the wrong construction on my visit. You saw all the rubbish they wrote because he and I talked together for a quarter of an hour at Mrs. Van Fosdyke’s?”
“I know all about that,” Williams assented, “but this time, Tallente, there’s something in it. The Chief quarrelled with you for the sake of the old gang. Well, he made a bloomer. The old gang aren’t worth six-pence. They’re rather a hindrance than help to legislation, and when they’re wanted they’re wobbly, as you saw this afternoon. Lethbridge went into the lobby with you.”