It was one of Dartrey’s rare moments of genuine enthusiasm. His visitor forgot for a moment the businesslike office with its row of telephones, its shelves of blue books and masses of papers. He seemed to be breathing a new and wonderful atmosphere.
“I am your man, Dartrey,” he promised simply. “Make what use of me you will.”
Dartrey smiled, once more the plain, kindly man of affairs.
“To descend, then, very much to the earth,” he said, “to-night you must go to Bradford. Odames will resign to-morrow. This time,” he added, with a little smile, “I think I can promise you the Democratic support and a very certain election.”
Tallente found himself possessed of a haunting, almost a morbid feeling that a lifetime had passed since last his car had turned out of the station gates and he had seen the moorland unroll itself before his eyes. There was a new pungency in the autumn air, an unaccustomed scantiness in the herbiage of the moor and the low hedges growing from the top of the stone walls. The glory of the heather had passed, though here and there a clump of brilliant yellow gorse remained. The telegraph posts, leaning away from the wind, seemed somehow scantier; the road stretched between them, lonely and desolate. From a farmhouse in the bosom of the tree-hung hills lights were already twinkling, and when he reached the edge of the moor, and the sea spread itself out almost at his feet, the shapes of the passing steamers, with their long trail of smoke, were blurred and uncertain. Below, his home field, his wall-enclosed patch of kitchen garden, the long, low house itself lay like pieces from a child’s play-box stretched out upon the carpet. Only to-night there was no mist. They made their cautious way downwards through the clearest of darkening atmospheres. On the hillsides, as they dropped down, they could hear the music of an occasional sheep bell. Rabbits scurried away from the headlights of the car, an early owl flew hooting over their heads. Tallente, tired with his journey, perhaps a little worn with the excitement of the last two months, found something dark and a little lonely about the unoccupied house, something a little dreary in his solitary dinner and the long evening spent with no company save his books and his pipe. Later on, he lay for long awake, watching the twin lights flash out across the Channel and listening to the melancholy call of the owls as they swept back and forth across the lawn to their secret abodes in the cliffs. When at last he slept, however, he slept soundly. An unlooked-for gleam of sunshine and the dull roar of the incoming tide breaking upon the beach below woke him the next morning long after his usual hour. He bathed, shaved in front of the open window, and breakfasted with an absolute renewal of his fuller interest in life. It was