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