“It’s given you something to think about, eh?” Miller remarked affably.
Tallente came to himself with a little start.
“I’m afraid my mind was wandering,” he confessed.
His companion smiled knowingly. He was conscious of Tallente’s aloofness, but determined to break through it if he could. After all, this caste feeling was absurd. He was, in his way, a well-known man, a Member of Parliament, a future Cabinet Minister. He was the equal of anybody.
“Don’t wonder at it! Pleasant neighbours hereabouts, eh?”
Tallente affected to misunderstand. He glanced around at the few farmhouses dotted in sheltered places amongst the hills.
“There are very few of them,” he answered. “That makes this place all the more enjoyable for any one who comes for a real rest.”
Miller felt that he was suffering defeat. He opened his lips and closed them again. The jocular reference to Lady Jane remained unspoken. There was something in the calm aloofness of the man by his side which intimidated even while it annoyed him. Soon they commenced the drop from the moorland to where, far away below, the Manor with its lawn and gardens and outbuildings seemed like a child’s pleasure palace. Miller leaned forward and pointed downwards.
“There’s Dartrey sitting on the terrace,” he pointed out. “Dartrey and Nora Miall. You’ve heard of her, I expect?”
“I know her by repute, of course,” Tallente admitted. “She is a very brilliant young woman. It will give me great pleasure to meet her.”
Tallente took tea that afternoon with his three guests upon the terrace. Before them towered the wood-embosomed cliffs, with here and there great red gashes of scarred sandstone. Beyond lay the sloping meadow, with its clumps of bracken and grey stone walls, and in the background a more rugged line of rocky cliffs. The sea in the bay flashed and glittered in the long rays of the afternoon sunshine. The scene was extraordinarily peaceful. Stephen Dartrey for the first few minutes certainly justified his reputation for taciturnity. He leaned back in a long wicker chair, his head resting upon his hand, his thoughtful eyes fixed upon vacancy. No man in those days could have resembled less a popular leader of the people. In appearance he was a typical aristocrat, and his expression, notwithstanding his fine forehead and thoughtful eyes, was marked with a certain simplicity which in his younger days had lured many an inexperienced debater on to ridicule and extinction. In an intensely curious age, Dartrey was still a man over whose personality controversy raged fiercely. He was a poet, a dreamer, a writer of elegant prose, an orator, an artist. And behind all these things there was a flame in the man, a perfect passion for justice, for seeing people in their right places, which had led him from the more flowery ways into the world of politics. His enemies called him a dilettante and a poseur. His friends were led into rhapsodies through sheer affection. His supporters hailed him as the one man of genius who held out the scales of justice before the world.