“And could you?”
He rose to his feet.
“You are the one person in the world,” he said, “to whom I could tell nothing but the truth. I could.”
They both heard the sound of footsteps in the hall. Lady Jane, disturbed by the ominous note in Tallente’s voice, rose also to her feet, glancing from him towards the door, filled with some vague, inexplicable apprehension. Tallente showed no fear, but it was plain that he had nerved himself to face evil things. There was something almost ludicrous in this denouement to a situation which to both had seemed filled with almost dramatic possibilities. The door was opened by Parkins, the stout, discreet man servant, ushering in the unkempt, ill-tailored, ungainly figure of James Miller.
“This gentleman,” Parkins announced, “wishes to see Mr. Tallente on urgent business.”
The newcomer had distinctly the best of the situation. Tallente, who had expected a very different visitor, was for the moment bereft of words. Lady Jane, who, among her minor faults, was inclined to be a supercilious person, with too great a regard for externals, gazed upon this strange figure which had found its way into her sanctum with an astonishment which kept her also silent.
“Sorry to intrude,” Mr. Miller began, with an affability which he meant to be reassuring. “Mr. Tallente, will you introduce me to the lady?”
Tallente acquiesced unwillingly.
“Lady Jane,” he said, “this is Mr. James Miller—Lady Jane Partington.”
Mr. Miller was impressed, held out his hand and withdrew it.
“I must apologize for this intrusion, Lady Jane, and to you, Tallente, of course. Mr. Tallente is naturally surprised to see me. He and I are political opponents,” he confided, turning to Jane.
Her surprise increased, if possible.
“Are you Mr. Miller, the Democrat M.P.?” she asked,—“the Mr. Miller who was making those speeches at Hellesfield last week?”
“At your ladyship’s service,” he replied, with a low bow. “I am afraid if you are a friend of Mr. Tallente’s you must look upon me as a very disagreeable person.”
“If the newspapers are to be believed, your strategies up at Hellesfield scarcely give one an exalted idea of your tactics,” she replied coldly. “They all seem to agree that Mr. Tallente was cheated out of his seat.”
The intruder smiled tolerantly. He glanced around the room as though expecting to be asked to seat himself. No invitation of the sort, however, was accorded him. “All’s fair in love and politics, Lady Jane,” he declared. “We Democrats have our programme, and our motto is that those who are not with us are against us. Mr. Tallente here knew pretty well what he was up against.”
“On the contrary,” Tallente interrupted, “one never knows what one is up against when you are in the opposite camp, Miller. Would you mind explaining why you have sought me out in this singular fashion?”