“You care?” she faltered. “This is not pity?”
He held her to him till she almost swooned. The restraint of so many years was broken down.
“Must I, after all, be the teacher?” he asked passionately, as their lips met again. “Must I show you what love is?”
Tallente was seated at breakfast a few mornings later when his wife paid him an unexpected visit. She responded to his greeting with a cold nod, refused the coffee which he offered her and the easy-chair which he pushed forward to the fire.
“I got your letter, Andrew,” she said, “in which you proposed to call upon me this afternoon. I am leaving town. I am on my way back to New York, as a matter of fact, and I shall have left the hotel by midday, so you see I have come to visit you instead.”
“It is very kind,” he answered.
She shrugged her shoulders and looked disparagingly around the plainly furnished man’s sitting room.
“Not much altered here,” she remarked. “It looks just as it did when I used to come to tea with you before we were married.”
“The neighbourhood is a conservative one,” he replied. “Still, I must confess that I am glad I never gave the rooms up. I don’t think that nature intended me to dwell in palaces.”
“Perhaps not,” she agreed, a little insolently. “It is a habit of yours to think and live parochially. Now what did you want of me, please?”
“There is a scheme on foot,” he began, “to bring about my political ruin.”
“You don’t mean to tell me,” she exclaimed, with a sudden light in her eyes, “that you, my well-behaved Andrew, have been playing around? You are not going to be a corespondent or any-thing of that sort?”
“I used the word ‘political,’” he reminded her coldly. “You would not understand the situation, but its interest and my danger centres round a certain document which was stolen from my study at Martinhoe on or just before the day of my arrival from London last August.”