“I heard Mr. Dartrey’s last words,” she said. “Can you refuse such an appeal in such a spot? You turn away to think, turn to the quietness of all these dreaming voices. Believe me, if there is a soul beneath them, it is the same soul which has inspired our creed. You yourself have come here full of bitterness, Andrew Tallente, because it seemed to you that there was no place for you amongst the prophets of democracy. It was you yourself, in a moment of passion, perhaps, who said that democracy, as typified in existing political parties, was soulless. You were right. Hasn’t Mr. Dartrey just told you so and doesn’t that make our task the clearer? It brings before us those wonderful days written about in the Old Testament—the people must be led into the light.”
Her voice had become almost part of the music of the evening. She was looking up at him, her beautiful eyes aglow. Dartrey, a yard or two off, his thoughtful face paler than ever in the faint light, was listening with joyous approval. In the background, Miller, with his hands in his pockets, was smoking mechanically the cigarette which he had just rolled and lit. The thrill of a great moment brought to Tallente a feeling of almost strange exaltation.
“I am your man, Dartrey,” he promised. “I will do what I can.”
The Right Honourable John Augustus Horlock, Prime Minister of England through a most amazing fluke, received Tallente, a few days later, with the air of one desiring to show as much graciousness as possible to a discomfited follower. He extended two fingers and indicated an uncomfortable chair.
“Well, well, Tallente,” he said, “sorry I wasn’t in town when you passed through from the north. Bad business, that Hellesfield affair.”
“It was a very bad business indeed,” Tallente agreed, “chiefly because it shows that our agents there must be utterly incapable.”
The Prime Minister coughed.
“You think so, Tallente, eh? Now their point of view is that you let Miller make all the running, let him make his points and never got an answer in—never got a grip on the people, eh?”
“That may do for the official explanation,” Tallente replied coldly, “but as a plain statement of facts it is entirely beside the mark. If you will forgive my saying so, sir, it has been one of your characteristics in life, born, without doubt,” he added, with a little bow, “of your indomitable courage, to minimise difficulties and dangers of a certain type. You did not sympathise with me in my defeat at Hellesfield because you underrated, as you always have underrated, the vastly growing strength and dangerous popularity of the party into whose hands the government of this country will shortly pass.”
Mr. Horlock frowned portentously. This was not at all the way in which he should have been addressed by an unsuccessful follower. But underneath that frown was anxiety.