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undo the mischief he had done.

Tallente took up the receiver and asked for Dartrey's number. In half
an hour he was on his way to see him.



CHAPTER XIV

Tallente had the surprise of his life when he was shown into Dartrey's
little dining room. A late breakfast was still upon the table and Nora
was seated behind the coffee pot. She took prompt pity upon his
embarrassment.

"You've surprised our secret," she exclaimed, "but anyhow, Stephen was
going to tell you to-day. We were married the day before yesterday."

"That is why I played truant," Dartrey put in, "although we only went as
far as Tunbridge Wells."

Tallente held out a hand to each. For a moment the tragedy in his own
life was forgotten.

"I can't wish you happiness, because you have found it," he said. "Wise
and wonderful people! Let me see if your coffee is what I should
expect, Nora," he went on. "To tell you the truth, I have had rather a
disturbed breakfast."

"So have we," Dartrey observed. "You mean the Leeds figures, of
course?"

Tallente shook his head.

"I haven't even opened a newspaper."

"Horlock went down himself yesterday to speak for his candidate. Our
man is in by five thousand, seven hundred votes."

"Amazing!" Tallente murmured.

"It is the greatest reversal of figures in political history," Dartrey
declared. "Listen, Tallente. I was quite prepared to go the Session,
as you know, but Horlock's had enough. He is asking for a vote of
confidence on Tuesday. He'll lose by at least sixty votes."

"And then?"

"We can't put it off any longer. We shall have to take office. I shall
be sent for as the nominal leader of the party and I shall pass the
summons on to you. Here is a list of names. Some of them we ought to
see unofficially at once."

Tallente looked down the slip of paper. He came to a dead stop with his
finger upon Miller's name.

"I know," Dartrey said sympathetically, "but, Tallente, you must
remember that men are not made all in the same mould, and Miller is the
link between us and a great many of the most earnest disciples of our
faith. In politics a man has sometimes to be accepted not so much for
what he is as for the power which he represents."

"Has he agreed to serve under me?" Tallente inquired.

"We have never directly discussed the subject," Dartrey replied. "He
posed rather as the ambassador when we came to you at Martinhoe, but as
a matter of fact, if it interests you to know it, he was strongly
opposed to my invitation to you. I am expecting him here every
moment - in fact, he telephoned that he was on the way an hour ago."

Miller arrived, a few minutes later, with the air of one already
cultivating an official gravity. He was dressed in his own conception
of morning clothes, which fitted him nowhere, linen which confessed to a
former day's service and a brown Homburg hat. It was noticeable that
whilst he was almost fulsome in his congratulations to Nora and
overcordial to Dartrey, he scarcely glanced at Tallente and confined
himself to a nod by way of greeting.

"Couldn't believe it when you told me over the telephone," he said. "I
congratulate you both heartily. What about Leeds, Dartrey?"

"Splendid!"

"It's the end, I suppose?"

"Absolutely! That is why I telephoned for you. Horlock is quite
resigned. I understand that they will send for me, but I wish to tell
you, Miller, as I have just told Tallente, that I have finally made up
my mind that it would not be in the best interests of our party for me
to attempt to form a Ministry myself. I am therefore passing the task
on to Tallente. Here is a list of what we propose."

Miller clenched the sheet of paper in his hand without glancing at it.
His tone was bellicose.

"Do I understand that Tallente is to be Prime Minister?"

"Certainly! You see I have put you down for the Home Office, Sargent as
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Saunderson - "

"I don't want to hear any more," Miller interrupted. "It's time we had
this out. I object to Tallente being placed at the head of the party."

"And why?" Dartrey asked coldly.

"Because he is a newcomer and has done nothing to earn such a position,"
Miller declared; "because he has come to us as an opportunist, because
there are others who have served the cause of the people for all the
years of their life, who have a better claim; and because at heart, mind
you, Dartrey, he isn't a people's man."

"What do you mean by saying that I am not a people's man?" Tallente
demanded.

"Just what the words indicate," was the almost fierce reply. "You're
Eton and Oxford, not board-school and apprentice. Your brain brings you
to the cause of the people, not your heart. You aren't one of us and
never could be. You're an aristocrat, and before we knew where we were,
you'd be legislating for aristocrats. You'd try and sneak them into
your Cabinet. It's their atmosphere you've been brought up in. It's
with them you want to live. That's what I mean when I say that you're
not a people's man, Tallente, and I defy any one to say that you are."

"Miller," Dartrey intervened earnestly, "you are expounding a case from
the narrowest point of view. You say that Tallente was born an
aristocrat. That may or may not be true, but surely it makes his
espousal of the people's cause all the more honest and convincing? For
you to say that he is not a people's man, you who have heard his
speeches in the house, who have read his pamphlets, who have followed,
as you must have followed, his political career is sheer folly."

"Then I am content to remain a fool," Miller rejoined. "Once and for
all, I decline to serve under Tallente, and I warn you that if you put
him forward, if you go so far, even, as to give him a seat in the
Cabinet of the Government it is your job to form, you will disunite the
party and bring calamity upon us."

"Have you any further reason for your attitude," Tallente asked
pointedly, "except those you have put forward?"

Miller met his questioner's earnest gaze defiantly.

"I have," he admitted.

"State it now, then, please."

Miller rose to his feet. He became a little oratorical, more than
usually artificial.

"I make my appeal to you, Dartrey," he said. "You have put forward this
man as your choice of a leader of the great Democratic Party, the party
which is to combine all branches of Labour, the party which is to stand
for the people. I charge him with having written in the last year of
the war a scathing attack upon the greatest of British institutions, the
trades unions, an article written from the extreme aristocratic
standpoint, an article which, if published to-day and distributed
broadcast amongst the miners and operatives of the north, would result
in a revolution if his name were persisted in."

"I have read everything Tallente has ever written, and I have never come
across any such article," Dartrey declared promptly.

"You have never come across it because it was never published," Miller
continued, "and yet the fact remains that it was written and offered to
the Universal Review. It was actually in type and was only held back at
the earnest request of the Government, because on the very day that it
should have appeared, an armistice was concluded between the railway
men, the miners and the War Council, and the Government was terrified
lest anything should happen to upset that armistice."

"Is this true, Tallente?" Dartrey asked anxiously.

"Perfectly. I admit the existence of the article and I admit that it
was written with all the vigour I could command, on the lines quoted by
Miller. Since, however, it was never published, it can surely be
treated as nonexistent?"

"That is just what it cannot be," Miller declared. "The signed
manuscript of that article is in the hands of those who would rather see
it published than have Tallente Prime Minister."

"Blackmail," the latter remarked quietly.

"You can call it what you please," was the sneering reply. "The facts
are as I have stated them."

"But what in the world could have induced you to write such an article,
Tallente?" Dartrey demanded. "Your attitude towards Labour, even when
you were in the Coalition Cabinet, was perfectly sound."

"It was more than sound, it was sympathetic," Tallente insisted. "That
is why I worked myself into the state of indignation which induced me to
write it. I will not defend it. It is sufficient to remind you both
that when we were hard pressed, when England really had her back to the
wall, when coal was the very blood of life to her, a strike was declared
in South Wales and received the open sympathy of the faction with which
this man Miller here is associated. Miller has spoken plainly about me.
Let him hear what I have to say about him. He went down to South Wales
to visit these miners and he encouraged them in a course of action
which, if other industries had followed suit, would have brought this
country into slavery and disgrace. And furthermore, let me remind you
of this, Dartrey. It was Miller's branch of the Labour Party who sent
him to Switzerland to confer with enemy Socialists and for the last
eighteen months of the war he practically lived under the espionage of
our secret service - a suspected traitor."

"It's a lie!" Miller fumed.

"It is the truth and easily proved," Tallente retorted. "When peace
came, however, Miller's party altered their tactics and the hatchet was
to have been buried. My article was directed against the trades unions
as they were at that time, not as they are to-day, and I still claim
that if public opinion had not driven them into an arrangement with the
Government, my article would have been published and would have done
good. To publish it now could answer no useful purpose. Its
application is gone and the conditions which prompted its tone
disappeared."

"I am beginning to understand," Dartrey admitted. "Tell me, how did the
manuscript ever leave your possession, Tallente?"

"I will tell you," Tallente replied, pointing over at Miller. "Because
that man paid Palliser, my secretary, five thousand pounds out of his
secret service money to obtain possession of it."

Miller was plainly discomfited.

"Who told you that lie?" he faltered.

"It's no lie - it's the truth," Tallente rejoined. "You used five
thousand pounds of secret service money to gratify a private spite."

"That's false, anyhow," Miller retorted. "I have no personal spite
against you, Tallente. I look upon you as a dangerous man in our party,
and if I have sought for means to remove you from it, it has been not
from personal feeling, but for the good of the cause."

"There stands your leader," Tallente continued. "Did you consult him
before you bribed my secretary and hawked about that article, first to
Horlock and now to heaven knows whom?"

"It is the first I have heard of it," Dartrey said sternly.

"Just so. It goes to prove what I have declared before - that Miller's
attack upon me is a personal one."

"And I deny it," Miller exclaimed fiercely. "I don't like you,
Tallente, I hate your class and I distrust your presence in the ranks of
the Democratic Party. Against your leadership I shall fight tooth and
nail. Dartrey," he went on, "you cannot give Tallente supreme control
over us. You will only court disaster, because that article will surely
appear and the whole position will be made ridiculous. I am strong
enough - that is to say, those who are behind me will take my word on
trust - to wreck the position on Thursday. I can keep ninety Labour men
out of the Lobby and the Government will carry their vote of confidence.
In that case, our coming into power may be delayed for years. We shall
lose the great opportunity of this century. Tallente is your friend,
Dartrey, but the cause comes first. I shall leave the decision with
you."

Miller took his departure with a smile of evil triumph upon his thin
lips. He had his moment of discomfiture, however, when Dartrey coldly
ignored his extended hand. The two men left behind heard the door slam.

"This is the devil of a business, Tallente!" Dartrey said grimly.



CHAPTER XV

Nora returned to the room as Miller left.

"I don't know whether you wanted me to go," she said to Dartrey, "but I
cannot sit and listen to that man talk. I try to keep myself free from
prejudices, but there are exceptions. Miller is my pet one. Tell me
exactly what he came about? Something disagreeable, I am sure?"

They told her, but she declined to take the matter seriously.

"A position like this is necessarily disagreeable," she argued, "but I
have confidence in Mr. Tallente. Remember, this article was written
nine years ago, Stephen, and though for twenty-four hours it may make
things unpleasant, I feel sure that it won't do nearly the harm you
imagine. And think what a confession to make! That man, who aims at
being a Cabinet Minister, sits here in this room and admits that he
bribed Mr. Tallente's secretary with five thousand pounds to steal the
manuscript out of his safe. How do you think that will go down with the
public?"

"A certain portion of the public, I am afraid," Tallente said gravely,
"will say that I discovered the theft - and killed Palliser."

"Killed Palliser!" Nora repeated incredulously. "I never heard such
rubbish!"

"Palliser certainly disappeared on the evening of the day when he parted
with the manuscript to Miller," Tallente went on, "and has never been
seen or heard of since."

"But there must be some explanation of that," Dartrey observed.

There was a short silence, significant of a curious change in the
atmosphere. Tallente's silence grew to possess a queer significance.
The ghost of rumours to which neither had ever listened suddenly forced
its way back into the minds of the other two. Dartrey was the first to
collect himself.

"Tallente," he said, "as a private person I have no desire to ask you a
single question concerned with your private life, but we have come to
something of a crisis. It is necessary that I should know the worst.
Is there anything else Miller could bring up against you?"

"To the best of my belief, nothing," Tallente replied calmly

"That is not sufficient," Dartrey persisted. "Have you any knowledge,
Tallente, which the world does not share, of the disappearance of this
man Palliser? It is inevitable that if you discovered his treachery
there should have been hard words. Did you have any scene with him? Do
you know more of his disappearance than the world knows?"

"I do," Tallente replied. "You shall share that knowledge with me to a
certain extent. I had another cause for quarrel with Palliser to which
I do not choose to refer, but on my arrival home that night I summoned
him from the house and led him to an open space. I admit that I chose a
primitive method of inflicting punishment upon a traitor. I intended to
thrash Palliser, a course of action in which I ask you, Dartrey, to
believe, as a man of honour, I was justified. I struck too hard and
Palliser went over the cliff."

Neither Nora nor Dartrey seemed capable of speech. Tallente's cool,
precise manner of telling his story seemed to have an almost paralysing
effect upon them.

"Afterwards," Tallente continued, "I discovered the theft of that
document. A faithful servant of mine, and I, searched for Palliser's
body, risking our lives in vain, as it turns out, in the hope of
recovering the manuscript. The body was neither in the bay below nor
hung up anywhere on the cliff. One of two things, then, must have
happened. Either Palliser's body must have been taken out by the tide,
which flows down the Bristol Channel in a curious way, and will never
now be recovered, or he made a remarkable escape and decided, under all
the circumstances, to make a fresh start in life."

Nora came suddenly over to Tallente's side. She took his arm and
somehow or other the strained look seemed to pass from his face.

"Dear friend," she said, "this is very painful for you, I know, but your
other cause of quarrel with Palliser - you will forgive me if I ask - was
it about your wife?"

"It was," Tallente replied. "You are just the one person in the world,
Nora, in whom I am glad to confide to that extent."

She turned to Dartrey.

"Stephen," she said, "either Palliser is dead and his death can be
brought to no one's door, or he is lying hidden and there is no one to
blame. You can wipe that out of your mind, can you not? All that we
shall have to consider now is the real effect upon the members of our
party as a whole, if this article is published."

"Have you a copy of it?" Dartrey asked.

Tallente shook his head.

"I haven't, but if a certain suspicion I have formed is true, I might be
able to get you one. In any case, Dartrey, don't come to any decision
for a day or two. If it is for the good of the party for you to throw
me overboard, you must do it, and I can assure you I'll take the plunge
willingly. On the other hand, if you want me to fight, I'll fight."

Dartrey smiled.

"It is extraordinary," he said, "how one realises more and more, as time
goes on, how inhuman politics really are. The greatest principle in
life, the principle of sticking to one's friends, has to be discarded.
I shall take you at your word, Tallente. I am going to consider only
what I think would be best for the welfare of the Democratic Party and
in the meantime we'll just go on as though nothing had happened."

"If Horlock approaches me," Tallente began -

"He can go out either on a vote of confidence or on an adverse vote on
any of the three Bills next week," Dartrey said. "We don't want to
drive them out like a flock of sheep. They can go out waving banners
and blowing tin horns, if they like, but they're going. It's time the
country was governed, and the country, after all, is the only thing that
counts. - I am sorry to send you back to work, Tallente, in such a state
of uncertainty, but I know it will make no difference to you. Strike
where you can and strike hard. Our day is coming and I tell you
honestly I can't believe - nothing would make me believe - that you won't
be in at the death."

"Don't forget that we meet to-night in Charles Street," Tallente
reminded them, as he shook hands.

"Trust Nora," Dartrey replied. "She has been looking forward to it
every day."

"I now," Tallente said, as he took up his hat and stick, "am going to
confront an editor."

"You are going to try and get me a copy of the article?"

Tallente nodded.

"I am going to try. If my suspicions are correct, you shall have it in
twenty-four hours."

Tallente, however, spent a somewhat profitless morning, and it was only
by chance in the end that he succeeded in his quest. He strolled into
the lounge at the Sheridan Club to find the man he sought the centre of
a little group. Greetings were exchanged, cocktails drunk, and as soon
as an opportunity occurred Tallente drew his quarry on one side.

"Greening," he said, "if you are not in a hurry, could I have a word
with you before lunch?"

"By all means," the other replied. "We'll go into the smoking room."

They strolled off together, followed by more than one pair of curious
eyes. An interview between the editor of the daily journal having the
largest circulation in Great Britain and Tallente, possible dictator of
a new party in politics, was not without its dramatic interest.
Tallente wasted no words as soon as they had entered the smoking room
and found it empty.

"Do you mind talking shop, Greening?" he asked. "I've been down to your
place twice this morning, but couldn't find you."

"Go ahead," the other invited. "I had to go round to Downing Street and
then on to see the chief. Sorry you had a fruitless journey."

"I will be quite frank with you," Tallente went on. "What I am going to
suggest to you is pure guesswork. A political opponent, if I can
dignify the fellow with such a term, has in his possession an article of
mine which I wrote some years ago, during the war. I have been given to
understand that he means to obtain publication of it for the purpose of
undermining my position with the Labour Party. Has he brought it to
you?"

"He has," Greening answered briefly.

"Are you going to use it?"

"We are. The article is in type now. It won't be out for a day or two.
When it does, we look upon it as the biggest political scoop of this
decade."

"I protest to you formally," Tallente said, "against the publication by
a respectable journal of a stolen document."

Greening shook his head.

"Won't do, Tallente," he replied. "We have had a meeting and decided to
publish. The best I can do for you is to promise that we will publish
unabridged any comments you may have to make upon the matter, on the
following day."

"I have always understood that there is such a thing as a journalistic
conscience," Tallente persisted. "Can you tell me what possible
justification you can find for making use of stolen material?"

"The journalistic conscience is permitted some latitude in these
matters," Greening answered drily. "We are not publishing for the sake
of any pecuniary benefit or even for the kudos of a scoop. We are
publishing because we want to do our best to drive you out from amongst
the Democrats."

"Did Horlock send Miller to you?" Tallente enquired.

Greening shook his head once more.

"I cannot answer that sort of question. I will say as much as this in
our justification. We stand for sane politics and your defection from
the ranks of sane politicians has been very seriously felt. We look
upon this opportunity of weakening your present position with the
Democratic Party as a matter of political necessity. Personally, I am
very sorry, Tallente, to do an unfriendly action, but I can only say,
like the school-master before he canes a refractory pupil, that it is
for your own good."

"I should prefer to remain the arbiter of my own destiny," Tallente
observed drily. "I suppose you fully understand that that noxious
person, Miller, paid my defaulting secretary five thousand pounds for
that manuscript?"

"My dear fellow, if your pocket had been picked in the street of that
manuscript and it had been brought to us, we should still have used it,"
was the frank reply.

Tallente stared gloomily out of the window.

"Then I suppose there is nothing more to be said," he wound up.

"Nothing! Sorry, Tallente, but the chief is absolutely firm. He looks
upon you as the monkey pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for the
Labour Party and he has made up his mind to singe your paws."

"The Democrats will rule this country before many years have passed,"
Tallente said earnestly, "whether your chief likes it or not. Isn't it
better to have a reasonable and moderate man like myself of influence in
their councils than to have to deal with Miller and his lot?"

Greening shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the clock.

"Orders are orders," he declared, "and even if I disbelieved in the
policy of the paper, I couldn't afford to disobey. Come and lunch,
Tallente."

"Can I have a proof of the article?"

"By all means," was the prompt reply. "Shall I send it to your rooms or
here?"

"Send it direct to Stephen Dartrey at the House of Commons."

"I see," Greening murmured thoughtfully, "and then a council of war, eh?
Don't forget our promise, Tallente. We'll publish your counterblast,
whatever the consequences."

Tallente sighed.

"It isn't decided yet," he said, as they made their way towards the
luncheon room, "whether there is to be a counterblast."



CHAPTER XVI

"We have achieved a triumph," Jane declared, when the last of the
servants had disappeared and the little party of four were left to their
own devices. "We have sat through the whole of dinner and not once
mentioned politics."

"You made us forget them," Tallente murmured.

"A left-handed compliment," Jane laughed. "You should pay your tribute
to my cook. Mr. Dartrey, I have told you all about my farms and your
wife has explained all that I could not understand of her last article
in the National. Now I am going to seek for further enlightenment.
Tell my why the publication of an article written years ago is likely to
affect Mr. Tallente's present position so much?"

"Because," Dartrey explained, "it is an attack upon the most sensitive,
the most difficult, and the section of our party furthest removed from
us - the great trades unions. Some years ago, Lady Jane, since the war,
one of our shrewdest thinkers declared that the greatest danger
overshadowing this country was the power wielded by the representatives
of these various unions, a power which amounted almost to a
dictatorship. We have drawn them into our party through detaching the


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