her into another atmosphere, an atmosphere far removed
from this lonely spot upon the moors. She seemed
to catch from those printed lines some faint, reflective
thrill of the more vital world of strife in which
he was living. For a moment the roar of London
was in her ears. She saw the lighted thoroughfares,
the crowded pavements, the faces of the men and women,
all a little strained and eager, so different from
the placid immobility of the world in which she lived.
She rose to her feet and moved restlessly about the
room. Presently she lifted the curtain and looked
out. There was a pause in the storm and a great
mass of black clouds had just been driven past the
face of the watery moon. Even the wind seemed
to be holding its breath, but so far as she could
see, moors and hillsides were wrapped in one unending
mantle of snow. There was no visible sign of any
human habitation, no sound from any of the birds or
animals who were cowering in their shelters, not even
a sheep hell or the barking of a dog to break the
profound silence. She dropped the curtain and
turned back to her chair. Her feet were leaden
and her heart was heavy. The struggle of the
day was at an end. Memory was asserting itself.
She felt the flush in her cheek, the quickening heat
of her heart, the thrill of her pulses as she lived
again through those few wild minutes. There was
no longer any escape from the wild, confusing truth.
The thing which she had dreaded had come.
The most popular hostess in London was a little thrilled
at the arrival of the moment for which she had planned
so carefully. She laid her hand on Tallente’s
arm and led him towards a comparatively secluded corner
of the winter garden which made her own house famous.
“I must apologise, Mrs. Van Fosdyke,”
he said, “for my late appearance. I travelled
up from Devonshire this afternoon and found snow all
the way. We were nearly two hours late.”
“It is all the more kind of you to have turned
out at all, then,” she told him warmly.
“I don’t mind telling you that I should
have been terribly disappointed if you had failed
me. It has been my one desire for months to have
you three—the Prime Minister, Lethbridge
and you—under my roof at the same time.”
“You find politics interesting over here?”
Tallente asked, a little curiously.
She flashed a quick glance at him.
“Why, I find them absolutely fascinating,”
she declared. “The whole thing is so incomprehensible.
Just look at to-night. Half of Debrett is represented
here, practically the whole of the diplomats, and yet,
except yourself, not a single member of the political
party who we are told will be ruling this country
within a few months. The very anomaly of it is
“There is no necessary kinship between Society
and politics,” Tallente reminded her. “Your
own country, for instance.”
Mrs. Van Fosdyke, who was an American, shrugged her