“So you see,” she concluded, sitting up and speaking once more in her conversational manner, “I am not a bit modern really, am I? I am just as primitive as I can be, longing for the things all women long for and unashamed to confess my longing to any one who has the gift of understanding, any one who walks with his eyes turned towards the clouds.”
Their taxicab stopped outside the building in which her little flat was situated. She handed him the door key. “Please turn this for me,” she begged. “I am at home every afternoon between five and seven. Come and see me whenever you can.” He opened the door and she passed in, looking back at him with a little wave of the hand before she vanished lightly into the shadows. Tallente dismissed the cab and walked back towards his rooms. His light-heartedness was passing away with every step he took. The cheerful little groups of pleasure-seekers he encountered seemed like an affront to his increasing melancholy. Once more he had to reckon with this strange new feeling of loneliness which had made its disturbing entrance into his thoughts within the last few years. It was as though a certain weariness of life and its prospects had come with the temporary cessation of his day-by-day political work, and as though an unsuspected desire, terrified at the passing years, was tugging at his heartstrings in the desperate call for some tardy realisation.
Tallente met the Prime Minister walking in the Park early on the following morning. The latter had established the custom of walking from Knightsbridge Barracks, where his car deposited him, to Marble Arch and back every morning, and it had come to be recognised as his desire, and a part of the etiquette of the place, that he should be allowed this exercise without receiving even the recognition of passersby. On this occasion, however, he took the initiative, stopped Tallente and invited him to talk with him.
“I thought of writing to you, Tallente,” he said. “I cannot bring myself to believe that you were in earnest on Wednesday morning.”
“Absolutely,” the other assured him. “I have an appointment with Dartrey in an hour’s time to close the matter.”
The Prime Minister was shocked and pained.
“You will dig your own grave,” he declared. “The idea is perfectly scandalous. You propose to sell your political birthright for a mess of pottage.”
“I am afraid I can’t agree with you, sir,” Tallente regretted. “I am at least as much in sympathy with the programme of the Democratic Party as I am with yours.”
“In that case,” was the somewhat stiff rejoinder, “there is, I fear, nothing more to be said.”
There was a brief silence. Tallente would have been glad to make his escape, but found no excuse.
“When we beat Germany,” Horlock ruminated, “the man in the street thought that we had ensured the peace of the world. Who could have dreamed that a nation who had played such an heroic part, which had imperiled its very existence for the sake of a principle, was all the time rotten at the core!”