“I wonder how they’ll vote,” Dartrey speculated. “Weavel’s our man.”
“You can’t tell,” Tallente replied. “You’ve given them something fresh to think about. They may even decide not to vote to-day at all. Miller has some strong supporters. He appeals tremendously to a certain class of labour—and that class exists, you know, Dartrey—which loves the excitement and the loafing of a strike, which feels somehow or other that benefits got in any other way than by force are less than they ought to have been.”
There was a knock at the door. Northern put in his head. He was the Boot and Shoe representative.
“Thought I’d let you know how the thing’s gone,” he said. “There’s an unholy row there. They’ve chucked Miller. Saunderson’s in by five votes. I’m off back again. Miller’s up speaking, tearing mad.”
He nodded and disappeared. Dartrey held out his hand.
“Thank God!” he exclaimed. “Let’s clear cut, Tallente. Nora must know about this at once. We’ll call at the House and enter your amendment against the vote of confidence. And then—Nora. I am not sure, Tallente—the man’s a subtle fellow—but I rather think we’ve driven the final nail into Miller’s coffin.”
The great night came and passed with fewer thrills than any one had imagined possible. Horlock himself undertook the defence of his once more bitterly assailed Government and from the first it was obvious what the end must be. He spoke with the resigned cynicism of one who knows that words are fruitless, that the die is already cast and that his little froth of words, valedictory in their tone from the first, was only a tribute to exacting convention. Tallente had never been more restrained, although his merciless logic reduced the issues upon which the vote was to be taken to the plainest and clearest elements. He remained studiously unemotional and nothing which he said indicated in any way his personal interest in the sweeping away of the Horlock regime. He was the impersonal but scathing critic, paving the way for his chief. It was Dartrey himself who overshadowed every one that night. He spoke so seldom in the House that many of the members had forgotten that he was an orator of rare quality. That night he lifted the debate from the level of ordinary politics to the idyllic realms where alone the lasting good of the world is fashioned. He pointed out what government might and should be, taking almost a Roman view of the care of the citizen, his early and late education, his shouldering of the responsibilities which belong to one of a great community. From the individual he passed to the nation, sketching in a few nervous but brilliant phrases the exact possibilities of socialistic legislation; and he wound up with a parodied epigram: Government, he declared, was philosophy teaching by failures. In the end, Miller led fourteen of his once numerous followers into the Government lobby to find himself by forty votes upon the losing side.