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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 11
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Nobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 11 Post by :Bulleke Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :754

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Nobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 11

BOOK TWO CHAPTER XI

Tallente found a taxi on the stand and drove at once to Charles Street. The butler took his hat and stick and conducted him into the spacious drawing-room upon the first floor. Here he received a shock. The most natural thing in the world had happened, but an event which he had never even taken into his calculation. There were half a dozen other callers, all, save one, women. Jane saw his momentary look of consternation, but was powerless to send him even an answering message of sympathy. She held out her hand and welcomed him with a smile.

"This is perfectly charming of you, Mr. Tallente," she said. "I know how busy you must be in the afternoons, but I am afraid I am old-fashioned enough to like my men friends to sometimes forget even the affairs of the nation. You know my sister, I think--Lady Alice Mountgarron? Aunt, may I present Mr. Tallente--the Countess of Somerham. Mrs. Ward Levitte--Lady English--oh! and Colonel Fosbrook."

Tallente made the best of a very disappointing situation. He exchanged bows with his new acquaintances, declined tea and was at once taken possession of by Lady Somerham, a formidable-looking person in tortoise-shell-rimmed spectacles, with a rasping voice and a judicial air.

"So you are the Mr. Tallente," she began, "who Somerham tells me has achieved the impossible!"

"Upon the face of it," Tallente rejoined, with a smile, "your husband is proved guilty of an exaggeration."

"Poor Henry!" his wife sighed. "He does get a little hysterical about politics nowadays. What he says is that you are in a fair way to form a coherent and united political party out of the various factions of Labour, a thing which a little time ago no one thought possible."

Tallente promptly disclaimed the achievement.

"Stephen Dartrey is the man who did that," he declared. "I only joined the Democrats a few months ago."

"But you are their leader," Lady Alice put in.

"Only in the House of Commons," Tallente replied.

"Dartrey is the leader of the party."

"Somerham says that Dartrey is a dreamer," the Countess went on, "that you are the man of affairs and the actual head of them all."

"Your husband magnifies my position," Tallente assured her.

Mrs. Ward Levitte, the wife of a millionaire and a woman of vogue, leaned forward and addressed him.

"Do set my mind at rest, Mr. Tallente," she begged. "Are you going to break up our homes and divide our estates amongst the poor?"

"Is there going to be a revolution?" Lady English asked eagerly. "And is it true that you are in league with all the Bolshevists on the continent?"

Tallente masked his irritation and answered with a smile.

"Civil war," he declared, "commences to-morrow. Every one with a title is to be interned in an asylum, all country houses are to be turned into sanatoriums and all estates will be confiscated."

"The tiresome man won't tell us anything," Lady Alice sighed.

"Of course, he won't," Mrs. Ward Levitte observed. "You can't announce a revolution beforehand truthfully."

"If there is a revolution within the next fifteen years," Tallente said, "I think it will probably be on behalf of the disenfranchised aristocracy, who want the vote back again."

Lady English and Mrs. Levitte found something else to talk about between themselves. Lady Somerham, however, had no intention of letting Tallente escape.

"You are a neighbour of my niece in Devonshire, I believe?" she asked.

He admitted the fact monosyllabically. He was supremely uncomfortable, and it seemed to him that Jane, who was conducting an apparently entertaining conversation with Colonel Fosbrook, might have done something to rescue him.

"My niece has very broad ideas," Lady Somerham went on. "Some of her fellow landowners in Devonshire are very much annoyed with the way she has been getting rid of her property."

"Lady Jane," he pronounced drily, "is in my opinion very wise. She is anticipating the legislation to come, which will inevitably restore the land to the people, from whom, in most cases, it was stolen."

"Well, my husband gave two hundred thousand pounds of good, hard-earned money for Stoughton, where we live," Mrs. Ward Levitte intervened. "So far as I know, the money wasn't stolen from anybody, and I should say that the robbery would begin if the Socialists, or whatever they call themselves, tried to take it away from us to distribute amongst their followers. What do you think, Mr. Tallente? My husband, as I dare say you know, is a banker and a very hard-working man."

"I agree with you," he replied. "One of the pleasing features of the axioms of Socialism adopted by the Democratic Party is that it respects the rights of the wealthy as well as the rights of the poor man. The Democrats may--in fact, they most certainly will--legislate to prevent the hoarding of wealth or to have it handed down to unborn generations, but I can assure you that it does not propose to interfere with the ethics of _meum and _tuum_."

"I wish I could make out what it's all about," Lady Alice murmured.

"Couldn't you give a drawing-room lecture, Mr. Tallente, and tell us?" the banker's wife suggested.

"I am unfortunately a little short of time for such missionary enterprise," Tallente replied, with unappreciated sarcasm. "Dartrey's volume on 'Socialism in Our Daily Life' will tell you all about it." "Far too dry," she sighed. "I tried to read it but I never got past the first half-dozen pages."

"Some day," Tallente observed coolly, "it may be worth your while, all of you, to try and master the mental inertia which makes thought a labour; the application which makes a moderately good bridge player should be sufficient. Otherwise, you may find yourselves living in an altered state of Society, without any reasonable idea as to how you got there." Mrs. Ward Levitte turned to her hostess.

"Lady Jane," she begged, "come and rescue us, please. We are being scolded. Colonel Fosbrook, we need a man to protect us. Mr. Tallente is threatening us with terrible things."

"We're getting what we asked for," Lady Alice put in quickly.

Colonel Fosbrook caressed for a moment a somewhat scanty moustache. He was a man of early middle-age, with a high forehead, an aquiline nose and a somewhat vague expression.

"I'm afraid my protection wouldn't be much use to you," he said, regarding Tallente with mild interest. "I happen to be one of the few surviving Tories. I imagine that Mr. Tallente's opinions and mine are so far apart that even argument would be impossible."

Tallente acquiesced, smiling.

"Besides which, I never argue, outside the House," he added. "You should stand for Parliament, Colonel Fosbrook, and let us hear once more the Athanasian Creed of politics. All opposition is wholesome."

Colonel Fosbrook glared. The fact that he had three times stood for Parliament and three times been defeated was one of the mortifications of his life. He made his adieux to Jane and departed, and to Tallente's joy a break-up of the party seemed imminent. Mrs. Ward Levitte drifted out and Lady English followed suit. Lady Somerham also rose to her feet, but after a glance at Tallente sat down again.

"My dear Jane," she insisted, "you must dine with us to-night. You haven't been here long enough to have any engagements, and it always puts your uncle in such a good temper to hear that you are coming."

Jane shook her head.

"Sorry, aunt," she regretted, "but I am dining with the Temperleys. I met Diana in Bond Street this morning."

"Thursday, then."

"I am keeping Thursday for--a friend. Saturday I am free."

"Saturday we are going into the country," her aunt said, a little ungraciously. "Heaven knows what for! Your uncle hates shooting and always catches cold if he gets his feet wet."

Tallente unwillingly held out his hand to his hostess. He seemed to have no alternative but to make his adieux. Jane walked with him towards the door.

"I am horribly disappointed," he confessed, under his breath.

She smiled a little deprecatingly.

"I couldn't help having people here, could I?"

"I suppose not," he answered, with masculine unreasonableness. "I only know that I wanted to see you alone."

"Men are such schoolboys," she murmured tolerantly. "Even you! I must see my friends, mustn't I, when they know that I am here and call?"

"About that friend on Thursday night?" he went on.

"I am waiting to hear from him," she answered, "whether he prefers to dine here or to take me out."

His ill-humour vanished, and with it some of his stiffness of bearing. His farewell bow from the door to Lady Somerham was distinguished with a new affability.

"If we may be alone," he said softly, "I should like to come here."

Nevertheless, his visit left him a little disturbed, perhaps a little irritable. With all the dominant selfishness which is part of a man's love, he had spent every waking leisure moment since their last meeting in a world peopled by Jane and himself alone, a world in which any other would have been an intruder. His eagerly anticipated visit to her had brought him sharply up against the commonplace facts of their day-by-day existence. He began to realise that she was without the liberty accorded to his sex, or to such women as Nora Miall, whose emancipation was complete. Jane's way through life was guarded by a hundred irritating conventions. He began to doubt even whether she realised the full import of what had happened between them. There was nothing gross about his love, not even a speculation in his mind as to its ultimate conclusion. He was immersed in a wave of sentimentality. He wanted her by his side, free from any restraint. He wanted the joy of her presence, more of those soft, almost reluctant kisses, the mute obedience of her nature to the sweet and natural impulse of her love. Of the inevitable end of these things he never thought. He was like a schoolboy in love for the first time. His desires led him no further than the mystic joy of her presence, the sweet, passionless content of propinquity. For the time the rest lay somewhere in a world of golden promise. The sole right that he burned to claim was the right to have her continually by his side in the moments when he was freed from his work, and even with the prospect of the following night before him, he chafed a little as he reflected that until then he must stand aside and let others claim her. In a fit of restlessness he abandoned his usual table in the House of Commons grillroom, and dined instead at the Sheridan Club, where he drank a great deal of champagne and absorbed with ready appreciation and amusement the philosophy of the man of pleasure. This was one of the impulses which kept his nature pliant even in the midst of these days of crisis.

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NEXT BOOKS

Nobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 12 Nobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 12

Nobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 12
BOOK TWO CHAPTER XIIWhilst Tallente was trying to make up for the years of pleasant good-fellowship which his overstudious life had cost him and to recover touch with the friends of his earlier days, Stephen Dartrey, filled with a queer sense of impending disaster, was climbing the steps to Nora's flat. On the last landing he lingered for a moment and clenched his fingers. "I am a coward," he reflected sadly. "I have asked for this and it has come." He stood for a moment perfectly still, with half-closed eyes, seeking for self-control very much in the fashion of a man
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Nobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 7 Nobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 7

Nobody's Man - Book Two - Chapter 7
BOOK TWO CHAPTER VIIFor some weeks after his chief's dinner party, Tallente slackened a little in his grim devotion to work. A strangely quiescent period of day-by-day political history enabled him to be absent from his place in the House for several evenings during the week, and although he spent a good many hours with Dartrey at Demos House, carefully discussing and elaborating next season's programme, he still found himself with time to spare, and with Jane's note buttoned up in his pocket, he deliberately turned his face towards life in its more genial and human aspect. He dined one night
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