There followed days of sullen battle for Tallente, a battle with luck against him, with his back to the wall, with despair more than once yawning at his feet. The house in Charles Street was closed. There had come no word to him from Jane, no news even of her departure except the somewhat surprised reply of Parkins, when he had called on the following afternoon.
“Her ladyship left for Devonshire, sir, by the ten-fifty train.”
Tallente went back to the fight with those words ringing in his ears. He had deliberately torn to pieces his house of refuge. Success or failure, what did it matter now? Yet with the dogged courage of one loathing failure for failure’s own sake, he flung himself into the struggle.
On the fifth day after Jane’s departure, the thunderbolt fell. Tallente’s article was printed in full and the weaker members of the Democratic Party shouted at once for his resignation. At a question cunningly framed by Dartrey, Tallente rose in the House to defend his position, and acting on the soundest axiom of military tactics, that the best defence is attack, he turned upon Miller, and with caustic deliberation exposed the plot framed for his undoing. He threw caution to the winds, and though repeatedly and gravely called to order, he poured out his scorn upon his enemy till the latter, white as a sheet, rose to demand the protection of the Speaker. There were very few in the House that day who ever forgot the almost terrifying spectacle of Miller’s collapse under his adversary’s hurricane assault, or the proud and dignified manner in which Tallente concluded his own defence. But this was only the first step. The Labour Press throughout the country took serious alarm at an attack which, though out of date and influenced by conditions no longer predominant, yet struck a very lusty blow at the very existence of their great nervous centres. Miller, as Chairman of the Associated Trades Unions, issued a manifesto which, notwithstanding his declining influence, exercised considerable effect. It seemed clear that he could rely still upon a good ninety votes in the House of Commons. Horlock became more cheerful. He met Tallente leaving the House one windy March evening and the two men shared a taxi together, westwards.
“Looks to me like another year of office, thanks to you,” the Prime Minister observed. “Lenton tells me that we shall have a majority of forty on Thursday week. It is Thursday week you’re going for us again, isn’t it?”