“Well, sold him, then. Tony hadn’t got a shilling in the world and he would never take a halfpenny from me. He had to have money. He told me about it that night before you came. Miller gave him five thousand pounds for it—secret service money from one of the branches of his party. Now you know all about it.”
“Yes, I know all about it,” Tallente assented, a little bitterly. “You can take your trip to America without a single regret, Stella. I shall certainly never be a Cabinet Minister again, much less Prime Minister of England. Miller can use those papers to my undoing.”
She shrugged her shoulders as she turned towards the door.
“You are like the fool,” she said, “who tried to build the tower of his life without cement. All very well for experiments, Andrew, when one is young and one can rebuild, but you are a little old for that now, aren’t you, and all your brain and all your efforts, and every thought you have been capable of since the day I met you have been given to that one thing. You’ll find it a little difficult to start all over again.—Don’t—trouble. I know the way down and I have a car waiting. You must take up golf and make a water garden at Martinhoe. I don’t know whether you deserve that I should wish you good fortune. I can’t make up my mind. But I will—and good-by!”
She left him in the end quite suddenly. He had not even time to open the door for her. Tallente looked out of the window and watched her drive away. His feelings were in a curiously numb state. For Stella he had no feeling whatever. Her confirmation of Palliser’s perfidy had awakened in him no new resentment. Only in a vague way he began to realise that his forebodings of the last few days were founded upon a reality. Whether Palliser lived or was dead, it was too late for him to undo the mischief he had done.
Tallente took up the receiver and asked for Dartrey’s number. In half an hour he was on his way to see him.
Tallente had the surprise of his life when he was shown into Dartrey’s little dining room. A late breakfast was still upon the table and Nora was seated behind the coffee pot. She took prompt pity upon his embarrassment.
“You’ve surprised our secret,” she exclaimed, “but anyhow, Stephen was going to tell you to-day. We were married the day before yesterday.”
“That is why I played truant,” Dartrey put in, “although we only went as far as Tunbridge Wells.”
Tallente held out a hand to each. For a moment the tragedy in his own life was forgotten.
“I can’t wish you happiness, because you have found it,” he said. “Wise and wonderful people! Let me see if your coffee is what I should expect, Nora,” he went on. “To tell you the truth, I have had rather a disturbed breakfast.”
“So have we,” Dartrey observed. “You mean the Leeds figures, of course?”