He bent over her fingers. His good angel and his instinct of sensibility, which was always appraising her attitude towards him, prompted his studied farewell.
“You will let yourself out?” she begged. “I have taken off my cloak and I could not face that wind.”
“Of course,” he answered. “I shall call for you at a quarter to eight to-morrow night. I only wish I could make you understand what it means to have that to look forward to.”
“If you can make me believe that,” she answered gravely, “perhaps I shall be glad that I have come.”
Whilst Tallente, rejuvenated, and with a wonderful sense of well-being at the back of his mind, was on his feet in the House of Commons on the following afternoon, leading an unexpected attack against the unfortunate Government, Dartrey sat at tea in Nora’s study. Nora, who had had a very busy day, was leaning back in her chair, well content though a little fatigued. Dartrey, who had forgotten his lunch in the stress of work, was devoting himself to the muffins.
“While I think of it,” he said, “let me thank you for playing hostess so charmingly the other night.”
She made him a little bow.
“Your dinner party was a great success.”
“Was it?” he murmured, a little doubtfully. “I am not quite so sure. I can’t seem to get at Tallente, somehow.”
“He is doing his work well, isn’t he?”
“The mechanical side of it is most satisfactory,” Dartrey confessed. “He is the most perfect Parliamentary machine that was ever evolved.”
“Surely that is exactly what you want? You were always complaining that there was no one to bring the stragglers into line.”
“For the present,” Dartrey admitted, “Tallente is doing excellently. I wish, though, that I could see a little farther into the future.”
“Tell me exactly what fault you find with him?” Nora persisted.
“He lacks enthusiasm already. He makes none of the mistakes which are coincident with genius and he is a little intolerant. He takes no trouble to adapt himself to varying views, he has a fine, broad outlook, but no man can see into every corner of the earth, and what is outside his outlook does not exist.”
“He is not happy in his work. There is something wanting in his scheme of life. I have built a ladder for him to climb. I have given him the chance of becoming the greatest statesman of to-day. One would think that he had some other ambition.”
Nora sighed. She looked across at her visitor a little diffidently.
“I can help you to understand Andrew Tallente,” she declared. “His condition is the greatest of all tributes to my sex. He has had an unhappy married life. From forty to fifty he has borne it philosophically as a man may. Now the reaction has come. With the first dim approach of age, he becomes suddenly terrified for the things he is missing.”