“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.
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.