“You have a wonderful temperament,” Tallente remarked, a little sadly.
“Temperament be damned!” was the forcible reply. “I have done my best. When you’ve said those four words, Tallente, any man ought to have philosophy enough to add, ’Whatever the result may be, it isn’t going to be my funeral.’ Look at you—haggard, losing weight every day, poring over papers, scheming, planning, writing articles, pouring out the great gift of your life twice as fast as you need. No one will thank you for it. It’s quite enough to give half your soul and the joy of living to work for others. Keep something up your sleeve for yourself, Tallente. Mark you, that’s the soundest thing in twentieth century philosophy you’ll ever hear of.—Corner of Clarges Street right for you, eh?”
Tallente held out his hand.
“Horlock,” he said, “thank you. I know you’re right but unfortunately I am not like you. I haven’t an idyllic retreat, a charming companion waiting for me there, a life outside that’s so wonderful. I am driven on because there’s nothing else.”
Horlock laid his hand upon his companion’s shoulder. His tone was suddenly grave—amply sympathetic.
“My friend—and enemy,” he said. “If that is so—I’m sorry for you.”
There was a tense air of expectation amongst the little company of men who filed into one of the smaller lecture rooms attached to Demos House a few afternoons later. Two long tables were arranged with sixty or seventy chairs and a great ballot box was placed in front of the chairman. A little round of subdued cheers greeted the latter as he entered the room and took his place,—the Right Honourable John Weavel, a Privy Councillor, Member for Sheffield and Chairman of the Ironmaster’s Union. Dartrey and Tallente appeared together at the tail end of the procession. Miller sprang at once to his feet and addressed the chairman.
“Mr. Chairman,” he said, “I call attention to the fact that two honorary members of this company are present. I submit that as these honorary members have no vote and the present meeting is called with the sole object of voting a chairman for the year, honorary members be not admitted.”
Mr. Weavel shook his head.
“Honorary members have the right to attend all meetings of our society,” he pronounced. “They can even speak, if invited to do so by the chairman for the day. I am sure that we are all of us very pleased indeed to welcome Mr. Dartrey and Mr. Tallente.”
There was a murmur of approval, in one or two cases a little dubious. Dartrey smiled a greeting at Weavel.
“I have asked Mr. Tallente to accompany me,” he explained, “because, in face of the great issues by which the party to which we all belong is confronted, some question might arise on to-day’s proceedings which would render his presence advisable. He does not wish to address you. I, however, with the chairman’s permission, before you go to the vote would like to say a few words.”