Dopping is a retired cavalry colonel. I do business for him and know him pretty well He is just the sort of man who would be in the thick of any gun-running that was going on.
"There was another man," said Sam, "whom I didn't know and wasn't introduced to. The fact is there wasn't much time for politeness. My dad looked as if he'd been shot when he saw me, and old Dopping bristled all over like an Irish terrier at the beginning of a fight, and asked me who the devil I was and what I was doing there. Of course, he jolly well knew who I was, and I thought he must know what brought me there, so I just winked by way of letting him understand that I was in the game. He got so red in the face that I thought he'd burst Then the other man chipped in and asked me what I'd got in the car. The three of them whispered together for a bit, and I suggested that if they didn't believe me they'd better go and see. The car was outside the door, and their own man was sitting on the guns. Dopping went, and I suppose he told the other two that the guns were there all right Dad asked me where I got them, and I told them, mentioning Hazlewood's name and the name of the yacht I was a bit puzzled, but I still thought everything was all right, and that there'd be no harm in mentioning names. I very soon saw that there was some sort of mistake somewhere. The governor and old Dopping and the other man, who seemed to be the coolest of the three, went over to the window and looked at the car. Then they started whispering again, and I couldn't hear a word they said. Didn't want to. I was as hungry as a wolf, and there was a jolly good breakfast on the table. I sat down and gorged. I had just started my third egg when the door opened, and a rather nice-looking young fellow walked in. The footman came behind him, looking as white as a sheet, and began some sort of apology for letting the stranger in. Old Dopping, who was still in a pretty bad temper, told the footman to go and be damned. Then the new man introduced himself. He said he was Colonel O'Connell, of the first Armagh Regiment of National Volunteers. I expected to see old Dopping kill him at sight Dopping is a tremendous loyalist, and the other fellow—well—phew!"
Sam whistled. Words failed him, I suppose, when it came to expressing the disloyalty of a colonel of National Volunteers.
"Instead of that," said Sam, "Dopping stood up straight, and saluted O'Connell. O'Connell stiffened his back, and saluted Dopping. The third man, the one I didn't know, stood up, too, and saluted. O'Connell saluted him. Then the governor bowed quite civilly, and O'Connell saluted him. I can tell you it was a pretty scene. 'I beg to inform you, gentlemen,' said O'Connell, 'that a consignment of rifles and ammunition, apparently intended for your force, has arrived at our headquarters in a motor lorry.' Nothing could have been civiller than the way he spoke. But Dopping was not to be beat He's a bristly old bear at times, but he always was a gentleman. 'Owing to a mistake,' he said, 'some arms, evidently belonging to you, are now in a car at our door.' The governor and the other man sat down and laughed till they were purple, but neither O'Connell nor old Dopping so much as smiled. It was then—and I give you my word not till then—that I tumbled to the idea that I'd been running guns for the other side. I expected that there'd be a furious row the minute the governor stopped laughing. But there wasn't In fact, no one took any notice of me. There was a long consultation, and in the end they settled that it might be risky to start moving the guns about again, and that each party had better stick to what it had got. Our fellows—I call them our fellows, though, of course, I was really acting for the others—our fellows got rather the better of the exchange in the way of ammunition. But O'Connell scooped in a lot of extra rifles. When they had that settled they all saluted again, and the governor said something about hoping to meet O'Connell at Philippi. I don't know what he meant by that, but O'Connell seemed tremendously pleased. Where do you suppose Philippi is?"
"Philippi," I said, "is where somebody—Julius Caesar, I think, but it doesn't matter—— What your father meant was that he hoped to have a chance of fighting it out with O'Connell some day. Not a duel, you know, but a proper battle. The Ulster Volunteers against the other lot."
"We shall have to wipe out the police first," said Sam, "to prevent their interfering. I hope I shall be there then. I want to get my own back out of those fellows who collared me from behind the day of the last rag. But, I say, what about the soldiers—the regular soldiers, I mean? Which side will they be on?"
"That," I said, "is the one uncertain factor in the problem. Nobody knows."
"The best plan," said Sam, "would be to take them away altogether, and leave us to settle the matter ourselves. We'd do it all right, judging by the way old Dopping and O'Connell behaved to each other."
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. I should never have suspected Sam of profound political wisdom. But it is quite possible that his suggestion would meet the case better than any other.
X ~~ IRELAND FOR EVER
Lord Dunseverick picked his way delicately among the pools and tough cobble stones. He was a very well-dressed young man, and he seemed out of place amid the miry traffic of the Belfast quays. A casual observer would have put him down as a fashionable nincompoop, one of those young men whose very appearance is supposed to move the British worker to outbursts of socialistic fury. The casual observer would, in this case, have been mistaken. Lord Dunseverick, in spite of his well-fitting clothes, his delicately coloured tie, and his general air of sleek well-being, was at that moment—it was the month of May, 1914—something of a hero with the Belfast working man. And the Belfast working man, as everybody knows, is more bitterly contemptuous of the idle rich, especially of the idle rich with titles, than any other working man.
The Belfast working man had just then worked himself up to a degree of martial ardour, unprecedented even in Ulster, in his opposition to Home Rule. Lord Dunseverick was one of the generals of the Ulster Volunteer Force. He had made several speeches which moved Belfast to wild delight and sober-minded men elsewhere to dubious shaking of the head. Enthusiasm in a cause is a fine thing, especially in the young, but when Lord Dunseverick's enthusiasm led him to say that he would welcome the German Emperor at the head of his legions as the deliverer of Ulster from the tyranny of a Parliament in Dublin, why then—then the rank and file of the volunteer army cheered, and other people wondered whether it were quite wise to say such things. Yet Lord Dunseverick, when not actually engaged in making a speech, was a pleasant and agreeable young man with a keen sense of humour. He even—and this is a rare quality in men—saw the humorous side of his own speeches. The trouble was that he never saw it till after he had made them.
A heavy motor-lorry came thundering along the quay. Lord Dunseverick dodged it, and escaped with his life. He was splashed from head to foot with mud. He looked at his neat boots and well-fashioned grey trousers. The blade slime lay thick on them. He wiped a spot of mud off his cheek and rubbed some wet coal dust into his collar. Then he lit a cigarette, and smiled.
He stepped into the porch of a reeking public-house and found himself beside a grizzled man, who looked like a sailor. Lord Dunseverick turned to him.
"Can you tell me," he said, "where Mr. McMunn's office is?"
"Is it coal you're wanting?" asked the sailor.
It is thus that questions are often met in Belfast with counter-questions. Belfast is a city of business men, and it is not the habit of business men to give away anything, even information, without getting something in return. The counter-question may draw some valuable matter by way of answer from the original questioner. In this case the counter-question was a reasonable one. McMunn, of McMunn Brothers, Limited, was a coal merchant. Lord Dunseverick, though a peer, belonged to the north of Ireland. He understood Belfast.
"What I want," he said, "is to see Mr. Andrew McMunn."
"I've business with Andrew McMunn myself," said the sailor, "and I'm going that way."
"Good. Then we'll go together."
"My name," said the sailor, "is Ginty. If you're intimate with Andrew McMunn you'll likely have heard of me."
"I haven't But that's no reason why you shouldn't show me the way."
"It's no that far," said Ginty.
They walked together, sometimes side by side, sometimes driven apart by a string of carts.
"If it had been Jimmy McMunn you wanted to see," said Ginty, "you might have had further to go. Some says Jimmy's in the one place, and more is of opinion that he's in the other. But I've no doubt in my own mind about where Andrew will go when his time comes."
"You know him pretty well, then?"
"Ay, I do. It would be queer if I didn't, seeing that I've sailed his ships this ten year. Andrew McMunn will go to heaven."
"Ah," said Lord Dunseverick, "he's a good man, then?"
"I'll no go so far as to say precisely that," said Ginty, "but he's a man who never touches a drop of whisky nor smokes a pipe of tobacco. It'll be very hard on him if he doesna go to heaven after all he's missed in this world. But you'll find out what kind of man he is if you go in through the door forninst you. It's his office, thon's one with the brass plate on the door. My business will keep till you're done with him."
Lord Dunseverick pushed open one of a pair of swinging doors, and found himself in a narrow passage. On his right was a ground glass window bearing the word "Inquiries." He tapped at it.
For a minute or two there was no response. Lord Dunseverick brushed some of the mud, now partially dry, off his trousers, and lit a fresh cigarette. The ground glass window was opened, and a redhaired clerk looked out.
"I want to see Mr. McMunn," said Lord Dunseverick, "Mr. Andrew McMunn."
The clerk put his head and shoulders out through the window, and surveyed Lord Dunseverick suspiciously. Very well dressed young men, with pale lavender ties and pearl tie-pins—Lord Dunseverick had both—are not often seen in Belfast quay-side offices.
"If you want to see Mr. McMunn," said the clerk, "—and I'm no saying you will, mind that—you'd better take yon cigarette out of your mouth. There's no smoking allowed here."
Lord Dunseverick took his cigarette out of his mouth, but he did not throw it away. He held it between his fingers.
"Just tell Mr. McMunn," he said, "that Lord Dunseverick is here."
The clerk's manner altered suddenly. He drew himself up, squared his shoulders, and saluted.
The discovery that a stranger is a man of high rank often produces this kind of effect on men of strong democratic principles, principles of the kind held by clerks in all business communities, quite as firmly in Belfast as elsewhere. But it would have been a mistake to suppose that Mr. McMunn's junior clerk was a mere worshipper of title. His salute was not the tribute of a snob to the representative of an aristocratic class. It was the respect due by a soldier, drilled and disciplined, to his superior officer. It was also the expression of a young man's sincere hero-worship. The redhaired clerk was a Volunteer, duly enrolled, one of the signatories of the famous Ulster Covenant Lord Dunseverick had made speeches which moved his soul to actual rapture.
"Come inside, my lord," he said. "I'll inform Mr. McMunn at once."
Lord Dunseverick passed through a door which was held open for him. He entered a large office, very grimy, which is the proper condition of a place where documents concerning coal are dealt with. Six other clerks were at work there. When Lord Dunseverick entered, all six of them stood up and saluted. They, too, so it appeared, were members of the Volunteer Force. The red-haired junior clerk crossed the room towards a door marked "Private." Then he paused, and turned to Lord Dunseverick.
"Might I be so bold as to ask a question?" he said.
"A dozen if you like," said Lord Dunseverick.
"What about the rifles? It's only them we're wanting now. We're drilled and we're ready, but where's the rifles?"
"You shall have them," said Lord Dunseverick.
The clerks in Mr. McMunn's office were accustomed to behave with decorum. No more than a low murmur of approval greeted Lord Dunseverick's words; but the men looked as if they wished to cheer vehemently. The red-haired boy tapped at the door which was marked "Private." A minute later he invited Lord Dunseverick to pass through it.
Andrew McMunn is a hard-faced, grizzled little man, with keen blue eyes. He can, when he chooses, talk excellent English. He prefers, when dealing with strangers, to speak with a strong Belfast accent, and to use, if possible, north of Ireland words and phrases. This is his way of asserting independence of character. He admires independence.
His office is a singularly unattractive room. He writes at a large table, and has a fireproof safe at his elbow. There are three wooden chairs ranged against the wall opposite the writing-table. Four photographs of steamers, cheaply framed, hang above the chairs. They are The Andrew McMunn, The Eliza McMunn, and, a tribute to the deceased Jimmy, The McMunn Brothers. These form the fleet owned by the firm, and carry coal from one port to another, chiefly to Belfast. On the chimney-piece under a glass shade, is a model of The McMunn Brothers, the latest built and largest of the ships.
"Good-morning to you, my lord!" said McMunn, without rising from his seat.
He nodded towards one of the chairs which stood against the wall. This was his way of inviting his visitor to sit down. His eyes were fixed, with strong disapproval, on the cigarette, which still smoked feebly in Lord Dunseverick's hand.
"Your clerk gave me a hint," said Dunseverick, "that you object to tobacco."
"It's my opinion," said McMunn, "that the man who pays taxes that he needn't pay—I'm alluding to the duty on tobacco, you'll understand—for the sake of poisoning himself with a nasty stink, is little better than a fool. That's my opinion, and I'm of the same way of thinking about alcoholic drink."
Lord Dunseverick deposited the offending cigarette on the hearth and crushed it with his foot.
"Teetotaller?" he said. "I dare say you're right, though I take a whisky-and-soda myself when I get the chance."
"You'll no get it here," said McMunn; "and what's more, you'll no' get it on any ship owned by me."
"Thank you. It's as well to understand before-hand."
"I'm a believer in speaking plain," said McMunn. "There's ay less chance of trouble afterwards if a man speaks plain at the start. But I'm thinking that it wasn't to hear my opinion on the Christian religion that your lordship came here the day."
McMunn, besides being a teetotaller, and opposed to the smoking of tobacco, was the president of a Young Men's Anti-Gambling League. He was, therefore, in a position to throw valuable light on the Christian religion.
"I came to settle the details about this expedition to Hamburg," said Lord Dunseverick.
"Well," said McMunn, "there's no that much left to settle. The Brothers is ready."
"The McMunn Brothers. Thon's the model of her on the chimneypiece."
Lord Dunseverick looked at the model attentively. It represented a very unattractive ship. Her bow was absurdly high, cocked up like the snout of a Yorkshire pig. Her long waist lay low, promising little freeboard in a sea. Her engines and single funnel were aft. On a short, high quarterdeck was her bridge and a squat deck-house. She was designed, like her owner, for purely business purposes.
"You'll have the captain's cabin," said McMunn. "Him and me will sleep in the saloon."
"Oh, you're coming too?"
"I am. Have you any objection?"
"None whatever. I'm delighted. We'll have a jolly time."
"I'll have you remember," said McMunn, "that it's not pleasuring we're out for."
"It's serious business. Smuggling rifles in the teeth of a Royal Proclamation is——"
"When I understand," said McMunn, "and you understand, where's the use of saying what we're going for? I'm taking risks enough anyway, without unnecessary talking. You never know who's listening to you."
"About paying for the—er—the—er—our cargo? Is that all arranged?"
"They'll be paid in bills on a Hamburg bank," said McMunn.
"Won't they expect cash? I should have thought that in transactions of this kind——"
"You're not a business man, my lord; but I'd have you know that a bill with the name of McMunn to it is the same as cash in any port in Europe."
"Well, that's your part of the affair. I am leaving that to you."
"You may leave it What I say I'll do. But there's one thing that I'm no quite easy in my mind about."
"If you're thinking about the landing of the guns——"
"I'm no asking what arrangements you've made about that. The fewer there is that knows what's being done in a business of this kind, the better for all concerned. What's bothering me is this. There's a man called Edelstein."
"Who's he? I never heard of him before."
"He's the Baron von Edelstein, if that's any help to you."
"It isn't. He's not the man we're buying the stuff from."
"He is not. Nor he wasn't mentioned from first to last till the letter I got the day."
He turned to the safe beside him and drew out a bundle of papers held together by an elastic band.
"That's the whole of the correspondence," he said, "and there's the last of it."
He handed a letter to Lord Dunseverick, who read it through carefully.
"This baron," he said, "whoever he is, intends to pay his respects to us before we leave Hamburg. Very civil of him."
"It's a civility we could do without. When I'm doing business I'd rather do it with business men, and a baron, you'll understand, is no just——"
"I'm a baron myself," said Lord Dunseverick.
"Ay, you are."
McMunn said no more. He left it to be understood that his opinion of barons in general was not improved by his acquaintance with Lord Dunseverick.
"I don't think we need bother about Von Eddstein, anyway," said Lord Dunseverick. "What harm can he do us?"
"I'm no precisely bothering about him," said McMunn; "but I'd be easier in my mind if I knew what he wanted with us."
"We sail to-night, anyway," said Lord Dunseverick.
"Ay, we do. I tell't Ginty. He's the captain of The McMunn Brothers, and a good man."
"I've met him. In fact——"
"If you've met Ginty you've met a man who knows his business, though I wish he'd give over drinking whisky. However, he's a strong Protestant and a sound man, and you can't expect perfection."
"Capital!" said Lord Dunseverick. "It's a great comfort to be sure of one's men."
"I wish I was as sure of every one as I am of Ginty," said McMunn. "I'm no saying that your lordship's not sound. The speech you made last night at Ballymena was good enough, and I'm with you in every word of it; but——"
"Oh, speeches!" said Lord Dunseverick.
He was uneasily conscious that he had allowed himself to be carried away by the excitement of the occasion when speaking at Ballymena. It was right and proper to threaten armed resistance to Home Rule. It was another thing to offer a warm welcome to the German Emperor if he chose to land in Ulster. The cold emphasis with which McMunn expressed agreement with every word of the speech made Lord Dunseverick vaguely uneasy.
"Ay," said McMunn; "your speeches are well enough, and I don't say, mind you, that you're not a sound man; but I'd be better pleased if you were more serious. You're too fond of joking, in my opinion."
"Good heavens!" said Lord Dunseverick. "I haven't ventured on the ghost of a joke since I came into your office!" He looked round him as he spoke, and fixed his eyes at last on the fireproof safe. "Nobody could."
"It's no what you've said, it's your lordship's appearance. But it's too late to alter that, I'm thinking."
"Not at all," said Lord Dunseverick. "I'll join you this evening in a suit of yellow oilskins, the stickiest kind, and a blue fisherman's jersey, and a pair of sea-boots. I'll have——"
"You will," said McMunn, "and you'll look like a play actor. It's just what I'm complaining of."
The McMunn Brothers lay, with steam up, at a single anchor a mile below the Hamburg quays. The yellow, turbid waters of the Elbe swept past her sides. Below her stretched the long waterway which leads to the North Sea. The lights of the buoys which marked the channel twinkled dimly in the gloom of the summer evening. Shafts of brighter light swept across and across the water from occulting beacons set at long intervals among buoys. Above the steamer lay a large Norwegian barque waiting for her pilot to take her down on the ebb tide. Below The McMunn Brothers was an ocean-going tramp steamer. One of her crew sat on the forecastle playing the "Swanee River" on a melodeon.
McMunn, Ginty, and Lord Dunseverick were together in the cabin of The McMunn Brothers. McMunn, dressed precisely as he always dressed in his office, sat bolt upright on the cabin sofa. In front of him on the table were some papers, which he turned over and looked at from time to time.
Beside him was Ginty, in his shirt sleeves, with his peaked cap pushed far back on his head. He sat with his elbows on the table. His chin, thrust forward, rested on his knuckles. He stared fixedly at the panelling on the opposite wall of the cabin. Lord Dunseverick, who had a side of the table to himself, leaned far back. His legs were stretched out straight in front of him. His hands were in his pockets. He gazed wearily at the small lamp which swung from the cabin roof.
For a long time no one spoke. It was Lord Dunseverick who broke the silence in the end. He took his cigarette-case from his pocket.
"You may say what you like about tobacco, McMunn," he said, "but it's a comfort to a man when he has no company but a bear with a sore head."
"Ay," said McMunn, "you'll smoke and you'll smoke, but you'll no make me any easier in my mind by smoking."
Ginty drew a plug of black tobacco from his pocket, and began cutting shreds from it with a clasp knife. He was apparently of opinion that smoking would relieve the strain on his mind.
"I'm no satisfied," said McMunn.
"I don't see what you have to grumble about," said Lord Dunseverick. "We've got what we came for, and we've got our clearance papers. What more do you want? You expected trouble about those papers, and there wasn't any. You ought to be pleased."
"There you have it," said McMunn. "According to all the laws of nature there ought to have been trouble. With a cargo like ours there ought to have been a lot of trouble. Instead of that the papers are handed over to us without a question."
"It's peculiar," said Ginty. "It's very peculiar, and that's a fact."
"Then there's the matter of those extra cases," said McMunn. "How many cases is there in the hold, Ginty?"
"A hundred, seventy-two."
"And the contract was for one-fifty. What's in the odd twenty-two? Tell me that."
"Pianos," said Lord Dunseverick. "Look at your clearance papers. 'Nature of Cargo—Pianos.'"
"You'd have your joke," said McMunn, "if the flames of hell were scorching the soles of your boots."
"It's peculiar," said Ginty.
"It's more than peculiar," said McMunn. "I've been in business for thirty years, and it's the first time I ever had goods given me that I didn't ask for."
"Well," said Lord Dunseverick, "if we've got an extra five hundred rifles we can't complain. There's plenty of men in Ulster ready to use them."
"Maybe you'll tell me," said McMunn, "why they wouldn't let me pay for the goods in the office this afternoon. Did anyone ever hear the like of that—a man refusing money that was due to him, and it offered?"
"It's out of the course of nature," said Ginty.
"They told you," said Lord Dunseverick, "that you could pay Von Edelstein, and he'd give you a receipt."
"Ay, Von Edelstein. And where's Von Edelstein?"
"He's coming on board this evening," said Lord Dunseverick. "But you needn't wait for him unless you like. We've got steam up. Why not slip away?"
"Because it's no my way of doing business," said McMunn, "to slip away, as you call it, without paying for what I've got I'm a man of principle."
"Talking of your principles," said Lord Dunseverick, "what did you bring on board in that basket this afternoon? It looked to me like beer."
"It was beer."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Lord Dunseverick. "Let's have a couple of bottles."
Ginty took his pipe from his mouth and grinned pleasantly. He wanted beer.
"You'll be thinking maybe," said McMunn, "that I'm going back on my temperance principles?"
"We don't think anything of the sort," said Lord Dunseverick. "We think that foreign travel has widened your principles out a bit That's what we think, isn't it, Ginty?"
"My principles are what they always were," said McMunn, "but I've some small share of commonsense. I know there's a foreigner coming on board the night, a baron and a dissipated man——"
"Come, now,'" said Lord Dunseverick, "you can't be sure that Von Edelstein is dissipated. You've never met him."
"He's a foreigner and a baron," said McMunn, "and that's enough for me, forbye that he's coming here under very suspicious circumstances. If I can get the better of him by means of strong drink and the snare of alcoholic liquors——"
"Good Lord!" said Lord Dunseverick. "You don't expect to make a German drunk with half a dozen bottles of lager beer, particularly as Ginty and I mean to drink two each."
"There's a dozen in the basket. And, under the circumstances, I consider myself justified I'm no man for tricks, but if there's any tricks to be played, I'd rather play them myself than have them played on me. Mind that now. It's the way I've always acted, and it's no a bad way."
"Gosh," said Ginty, "there's somebody coming aboard of us now. The look-out man's hailing him."
He left the cabin as he spoke.
A few minutes later Ginty entered the cabin again. He was followed by a tall man, so tall that he could not stand quite upright in the little cabin.
"It's the baron," said Ginty.
"Guten Abend," said McMunn.
He possessed some twenty more German words, and knew that "beer" was represented by the same sound as in English. The equipment seemed to him sufficient for the interview.
"I have the good fortune to speak English easily," said Von Edelstein. "Am I addressing myself to Mr. McMunn?"
"Ay," said McMunn, "you are. And this is Lord Dunseverick, a baron like yourself."
Von Edelstein bowed, and held out his hand.
"I prefer," he said, "my military title, Captain von Edelstein. I believe that Lord Dunseverick also has a military title. Should I say colonel?"
"As a matter of fact," said Lord Dunseverick, "I'm not in the Army."
"I understand," said Von Edelstein. "You are in the Volunteers, the Ulster Volunteers. But, perhaps I should say general?"
"I don't call myself that," said Lord Dunseverick.
"As a matter of fact, my rank is not officially recognized, in England, I mean."
"Ah, but here—we recognize it I assure you, general, we regard the Ulster Volunteers as a properly constituted military force."
McMunn had been groping in a locker behind him. He interrupted Von Edelstein by setting a basket on the table.
"Beer," he said.
Von Edelstein bowed, and sat down.
"Ginty," said McMunn, "get some tumblers. And now Baron——"
"Captain," said Von Edelstein.
"Well get to business. What's in them twenty-two cases that was dumped into our hold today?"
"Ah," said Von Edelstein, smiling. "A little surprise. I hope, I feel confident, a pleasant surprise, for my comrades of the Ulster Volunteer Force."
Ginty entered the cabin carrying three tumblers and a corkscrew. The beer was opened and poured out Von Edelstein raised his glass.
"To the Ulster Volunteer Force," he said, "and to the day when the pleasant little surprise we have prepared for you may prove a very unpleasant surprise for—the enemy."
He bowed and drank.
"What's in them cases?" said McMunn.
"Gentlemen," said Von Edelstein, "something that will be of great value to you—machine guns."
"We didn't order them," said McMunn, "and I'm not going to pay for them."
"I am not authorized," said Von Edelstein, "to reveal secrets of State; but I think I may trust your discretion so far as to say that one very highly placed desires that the Ulster Volunteer Force should be thoroughly equipped for war. It is his wish:——"
"Baron," said McMunn, "here's a bill drawn on my firm for the price of the rifles. I'll trouble you for a receipt, and in the matter of the contents of them cases—I don't say they're not machine guns, but I've no way of knowing at present. If it turns out that they're any use to us we may strike a bargain, but I'll no pay for a pig in a poke."
He laid his bill and a form of receipt on the table. Von Edelstein pushed them aside.
"Gentlemen," he said, "between comrades in arms there is no question of payment. It is the wish of one who is very highly placed that your army——"
"But look here," said Lord Dunseverick, "we are not comrades in arms, as you call it."
"Ah," said Von Edelstein. "Not to-day, not to-morrow perhaps. But who knows how soon? When the word is given, and some batteries of our artillery land in Belfast to support your excellent infantry——"
"What's that?" said Ginty.
"And a regiment of Prussian Guards——"
"There'll be no Prussians in Belfast," said Ginty, "for we'll not have it."
"I am afraid," said Lord Dunseverick, "that you've got some wrong idea into your head."
"But," said Von Edelstein, "you cannot fight alone. You would be—what do you call it?—you would be wiped out Even the English Army could do that. You have no artillery. You have no cavalry. What are you but——"
"Who said we were going to fight the English Army?" said Lord Dunseverick.
"If you think we're a pack of dirty rebels," said Ginty, "you're making a big mistake. We're loyal men."
"But if you are not going to fight the English," said Von Edelstein, "God in heaven, who are you going to fight?"
"Young man," said McMunn, "you're drinking beer in my ship, a thing which is clean contrary to my principles, though I'm putting up with it; but you're going beyond the beyonds when you sit here and take the name of the Almighty in vain. I'll trouble you not to swear."
Von Edelstein stared at him in blank amazement Then very slowly a look of intelligence came over his face. He turned to Lord Dunseverick.
"I think I understand," he said. "You do not quite trust me. You fear that I may be a spy in the pay of infamous Englishmen. But you are mistaken—entirely mistaken. I offer you proof of my good faith. General, be so kind as to read my commission."
He drew a folded document from his pocket, and spread it out before Lord Dunseverick.
"It is signed," he said, "as you see, by the Emperor himself. It places my services, the services of Captain von Edelstein, of the Prussian Guard, at the disposal of the Ulster Volunteer Force, as military organiser."
Lord Dunseverick glanced at the document before him. He read parts of it with close attention. He laid his finger on the signature as if to convince himself by actual touch that it really was what it seemed to be.
"You see," said Von Edelstein, "I am to be trusted. When you and I are fighting side by side against the cursed English, your enemies and ours——"
Von Edelstein was still smiling. What happened then happened in an instant Lord Dunseverick struck the German full on the mouth with his fist Von Edelstein's head went back. His hands clutched convulsively at the tablecloth. Before he had recovered, Lord Dunseverick hit him again, beat him down on the cabin sofa, and struck blow after blow at his face.
"You infernal scoundrel," he said, "do you take me for a traitor?"
"Quit it," said McMunn. "Quit it when I tell you. You cannot kill the man with your naked fists, and you'll break the furniture."
Ginty drew a long coil of rope from a locker. He tied up Von Edelstein and laid him, a helpless figure, on the table.
"It's my opinion," said McMunn, "that we'd better be getting out to sea."
"I'm thinking the same," said Ginty.
He went on deck. Soon The McMunn Brothers was under way.
Lord Dunseverick looked at the prostrate Von Edelstein.
"What are we going to do with him?" he asked.
"Drown him," said McMunn.
A trickle of blood was running down Von Edelstein's chin. He spat out some fragments of broken teeth.
"It appears," he said, "that I have made a mistake about your intentions."
"You've offered an outrageous insult to loyal men," said McMunn.
"A mistake," said Von Edelstein, "but surely excusable. I have in my pocket at the present moment—would you be so kind as to feel in my breast pocket? You'll find some papers there, and a newspaper cutting among them."
Lord Dunseverick slipped his hand into the prisoner's pocket. He drew out a number of letters and a newspaper cutting. It was a report, taken from the Belfast News Letter, of the speech which he had made at Ballymena a fortnight before. He had proclaimed the Kaiser the deliverer of Ulster. His own words stared him in the face. McMunn took the cutting and glanced at it. He thumped his fist on the table.
"I stand by every word of it," he said. "We will not have Home Rule."
"You are a curious people," said Von Edelstein. "I thought—and even now you say——"
"That speech," said McMunn, "was made for an entirely different purpose. If you thought that we wanted a German Army in Ulster, or that we meant to fire on the British flag——"
"It is exactly what I did think," said Von Edelstein.
"You're a born fool, then," said McMunn.
"Perhaps," said Lord Dunseverick, "we ought not to drown him. Suppose we take him home, and hand him over to the Ulster Provisional Government?"
"I wish you would," said Von Edelstein, "I am a student of human nature. I should greatly like to meet your Ulster Government."
"You'll maybe not like it so much when they hang you," said McMunn, "and it's what they'll do."
XI ~~ SIR TIMOTHY'S DINNER-PARTY
Mr. Courtney, the R.M., was a man of ideas, and prided himself on his sympathy with progress, the advance of thought, and similar delights. If he had been thirty years younger, and had lived in Dublin, he would have been classed among the "Intellectuals." He would then have written a gloomy play or two, several poems and an essay, published at a shilling, in a green paper cover, on the "Civilization of the Future." Being, unfortunately, fifty-five years of age, he could not write poetry or gloomy plays. Nobody can after the age of forty. Being a Resident Magistrate, he was debarred from discussing the Civilization of the Future in print. No Government allows its paid servant to write books on controversial subjects. But Mr. Courtney remained intellectually alert, and was a determined champion of the cause of progress, even amid the uncongenial society of a West of Ireland town.
The introduction of Summer Time gave Mr. Courtney a great opportunity. Almost everyone else in the neighbourhood objected to the change of the clock. Cows, it was said, disliked being milked before their accustomed hour. Dew collects in deep pools, and renders farm work impossible in the early morning. It is unreasonable to expect labourers, who have to rise early in any case, to get out of their beds before the day is properly warm. Mr. Courtney combated all these objections with arguments which struck him as sound, but irritated everybody else. When it appeared that Ireland, worse treated as usual than England, was to be fined an additional twenty-five minutes, and was to lose the proud privilege of Irish time, Mr. Courtney was more pleased than ever. He made merry over what he called the arguments of reactionary patriotism.
Sir Timothy was the principal landlord, and, socially, the most important person in the neighbourhood. Sir Timothy did not like Mr. Courtney. He was of opinion that the R.M. was inclined to take a high hand at Petty Sessions and to bully the other magistrates—Sir Timothy was himself a magistrate—who sat with him on the Bench. He also thought that Mr. Courtney was "too d——d superior" in private life. Sir Timothy had the lowest possible opinion of the progress made by civilization in his own time. The Civilization of the Future, about which Mr. Courtney talked a great deal, seemed to Sir Timothy a nasty kind of nightmare.
It was natural, almost inevitable, that Sir Timothy should take a conservative view on the subject of the new time.
"I don't see the use of playing silly tricks with the clock," he said. "You might just as well say that I'd live ten years longer if everybody agreed to say that I'm forty-eight instead of fifty-eight. I'd still be fifty-eight in reality. It's just the same with the time. We may all make up our minds to pretend it's eight o'clock when it's really seven, but it will still be seven."
Mr. Courtney smiled in a gentle, but very annoying manner.
"My dear Sir Timothy," he said, "don't you see that what is really wanted is a complete change in the habits of the population? We've been gradually slipping into wasteful ways of living. Our expenditure on artificial light———"
"I know all about that," said Sir Timothy. "If you've said it to me once, you've said it a dozen times, and last year I did alter my docks. But this year—hang it all! They're sticking another twenty-five minutes on it. If they go on at this rate, moving us back an extra half hour every May, we'll be living in the middle of the night before we die."
"I'm sorry to hear you taking up that question of the so-called Irish time," said Mr. Courtney. "Reactionary patriotism——"
Sir Timothy spluttered. Being an Irish gentleman, he hated to be accused of patriotism, which he held—following Dr. Johnson—to be the last refuge of a scoundrel.
"There's nothing patriotic about it," he said. "What I object to hasn't anything to do with any particular country. It's simply a direct insult to the sun."
"The sun," said Mr. Courtney, smiling more offensively than ever, "can take care of itself."
"It can," said Sir Timothy, "and does. It takes jolly good care not to rise in Dublin at the same time that it does in Greenwich, and what you're trying to do is to bluff it into saying it does. When you come to think of it, the sun doesn't rise here the same time it does in Dublin. We're a hundred and twenty miles west of Dublin, so the real time here——"
"We can't have a different time in every parish," said Mr. Courtney. "In the interests of international civilization——"
"I don't care a row of pins about international civilization. We're something like twenty minutes wrong already here. When you've made your silly change to summer time, and wiped out that twenty-five minutes Irish time, we shall be an hour and three quarters wrong."
"At all events," said Mr. Courtney, "you'll have to do it."
"And when you've got accustomed to it, you'll see the advantages of the change."
Sir Timothy was profoundly irritated.
"You may do as you like," he said, "I mean to stick to the proper time. The proper time, mind you, strictly according to the sun, as it rises in this neighbourhood. I haven't worked it out exactly yet, but I should say, roughly, that there'll be two hours' difference between your watch and mine."
Mr. Courtney gasped.
"Do you mean to say that you're actually going to add on two hours?
"I'm going to take off two hours," said Sir Timothy.
Mr. Courtney thought for a moment.
"You'll be adding on those two hours," he said, "not taking them off——"
"You're an extraordinarily muddle-headed man, Courtney. Can't you see that if I call it six when you say it's eight I'm taking off——"
"You're not. The way to look at it is this: A day is twenty-four hours long. You say it's twenty-six hours. Therefore, you add on."
"I don't do anything of the sort," said Sir Timothy. "Look here, the sun rises, say, at 6 a.m. You and a lot of other silly people choose to say that it rises at 8. What I'm doing—I and the sun, Courtney—mind that. The sun's with me—— What we're doing is taking off two hours."
The argument went on for some time. Its result was that Sir Timothy and Mr. Courtney did not speak to each other again for a fortnight Arguments, religious, political and economic, often end in this way.
During that fortnight summer time established itself, more or less, in the neighbourhood. Mr. Courtney, the local bank, the railway company, and the police observed the new time in its full intensity. The parish priest and most of the farmers took a moderate line. They sacrificed the twenty-five minutes of the original Irish time, but resisted the imposition of a whole extra hour. With them it was eight o'clock when the nine o'clock train started for Dublin. A few extremists stood out for their full rights as Irishmen, and insisted that the bank, which said it opened at 10 a.m., was really beginning business at 8.35 a.m. Sir Timothy, dragging his household with him, set up what he called actual time, and breakfasted a full two hours after the progressive party.
The practical inconvenience of these differences of opinion became obvious when Sir Timothy arrived at the Petty Sessions Court to take his seat on the Bench just as Mr. Courtney, having completed the business of the day, was going home for a rather late luncheon.
"No cases to-day?" said Sir Timothy, coldly polite.
"Oh, yes, there were, several. I've finished them off."
"But," said Sir Timothy, "it's only just the hour for beginning."
"Excuse me, it's 2 p.m."
"12 noon," said Sir Timothy.
"2 p.m.," repeated Mr. Courtney.
Sir Timothy took out his watch. The hands were together at the hour of 12. He showed it to Mr. Courtney, who grimed. Sir Timothy scowled at him and turned fiercely to a police sergeant who stood by.
"Sergeant," he said, "what time is it?"
It is not the function of the Irish police to decide great questions of State. Their business is to enforce what the higher powers, for the time being, wish the law to be. In case of any uncertainty about which power is the higher, the police occupy the uncomfortable position of neutrals. The sergeant was not quite sure whether Sir Timothy or Mr. Courtney were the more influential man. He answered cautiously.
"There's some," he said, "who do be saying that it's one o'clock at the present time. There's others—and I'm not saying they're wrong—who are of opinion that it's half-past twelve, or about that. There's them—and some of the most respectable people is with them there—that says it's 2 p.m. If I was to be put on my oath this minute, I'd find it mortal hard to say what time it was."
"By Act of Parliament," said Mr. Courtney, its 2 p.m.
"In the matter of an Act of Parliament," said the sergeant, "I wouldn't like to be contradicting your honour."
Sir Timothy turned on his heel and walked away. The victory was with Mr. Courtney, but not because he had an Act of Parliament behind him. Nobody in Ireland pays much attention to Acts of Parliament. He made his point successfully, because the police did not like to contradict him. From that day on Sir Timothy made no attempt to take his seat on the Magistrates' Bench in the Court House.
Late in the summer Sir Archibald Chesney visited the neighbourhood. Sir Archibald is, of course, a great man. He is one of the people who are supposed to govern Ireland. He does not actually do so. Nobody could. But he dispenses patronage, which, after all, is one of the most important functions of any Government. It was, for instance, in Sir Archibald's power to give Mr. Courtney a pleasant and well-paid post in Dublin, to remove him from the uncongenial atmosphere of Connaught, and set him in an office in the Lower Castle Yard. There, and in a house in Ailesbury Road—houses in Ailesbury Road are most desirable—Mr. Courtney could mingle in really intellectual society.
Mr. Courtney knew this, and invited Sir Archibald to be his guest during his stay in the neighbourhood. Sir Archibald gracefully accepted the invitation.
Then a surprising thing happened. Mr. Courtney received a very friendly letter from Sir Timothy.
"I hear," so the letter ran, "that Sir Archibald Chesney is to be with you for a few days next week. We shall be very pleased if you will bring him out to dine with us some evening. Shall we say Tuesday at 7.30? I shall not ask anyone else. Three of us will be enough for a couple of bottles of my old port."
Sir Timothy's port was very old and remarkably good. Mr. Courtney had tasted it once or twice before the days when summer time was thought of. No doubt, Sir Archibald would appreciate the port.
He might afterwards take an optimistic view of life, and feel well disposed towards Mr. Courtney. The invitation was accepted.
Sir Archibald and Mr. Courtney dressed for dinner, as gentlemen belonging to the high official classes in Ireland should and do. They put on shirts with stiff fronts and cuffs. With painful efforts they drove studs through tightly sealed buttonholes. They fastened white ties round their collars. They encased their stomachs in stiff white waistcoats. They struggled into silk-lined, silk-faced, long-tailed coats. They wrapped their necks in white silk scarves. They even put high silk hats on their heads. Their overcoats were becomingly open, for the day was warm. They took their seats in the motor. Every policeman in the village saluted them as they passed. They sped up the long, tree-lined avenue which led to Sir Timothy's house. They reached the lofty doorway, over which crouched lions upheld a shield, bearing a coat of arms.
On the lawn opposite the door Sir Timothy, his two daughters and a young man whom Mr. Courtney recognized as the police inspector, were playing tennis. It was a bright and agreeable scene. The sun shone pleasantly. Sir Timothy and the police inspector were in white flannels. The girls wore pretty cotton frocks.
Sir Archibald looked at Mr. Courtney.
"We've come the wrong day," he said, "or the wrong hour, or something."
"It is Tuesday," said Mr. Courtney, "and he certainly said 7.30."
"It's infernally awkward," said Sir Archibald, glancing at his clothes.
Sir Timothy crossed the lawn, swinging his tennis racket and smiling.
"Delighted to see you," he said. "I'd have asked you to come up for a game of tennis if I'd thought you'd have cared for it. Had an idea you'd be busy all day, and would rather dress at your own place. Hullo, you are dressed! A bit early, isn't it? But I'm delighted to see you."
Sir Archibald stepped slowly from the car. Men who undertake the task of governing Ireland must expect to find themselves looking like fools occasionally. But it is doubtful whether any turn of the political or administrative machine can make a man look as foolish as he feels when, elaborately dressed in evening clothes, he is suddenly set down on a sunny lawn in the middle of a group of people suitably attired for tennis. Sir Archibald, puzzled and annoyed, turned to Mr. Courtney with a frown.
"He said half-past seven," said Mr. Courtney.
"I'm delighted to see you now or at any time, but, as a matter of fact, it's only half-past five," said Sir Timothy.
Sir Archibald looked at his watch.
"It's—surely my watch can't have gained two hours?"
"It's half-past seven," said Mr. Courtney, firmly.
"Oh, no it isn't," said Sir Timothy. "I don't dine by Act of Parliament."
Sir Archibald frowned angrily.
"We'd better go home again," he said. "We mustn't interrupt the tennis."
He climbed stiffly into the motor.
"I suppose," he said to Mr. Courtney a few minutes later, "that this is some kind of Irish joke."
Mr. Courtney explained, elaborately and fully, Sir Timothy's peculiar views about time.
"If I'd known," said Sir Archibald, "that you were taking me to dine with a lunatic, I should not have agreed to go."
Mr. Courtney recognized that his chances of promotion to a pleasant post in Dublin had vanished. The Irish Government had no use for men who place their superiors in embarrassing positions.
XII ~~ UNITED IRELAND
"I'll say this for old MacManaway, an honester man never lived nor what he was; and I'm sorry he's gone, so I am."
The speaker was Dan Gallaher. The occasion was the morning of the auction of old MacManaway's property. The place was the yard behind the farmhouse in which MacManaway had lived, a solitary man, without wife or child, for fifty years. Dan Gallaher held the hames of a set of harness in his hand as he spoke and critically examined the leather of the traces. It was good leather, sound and well preserved. Old MacManaway while alive liked sound things and took good care of his property.
"An honester man never lived," Dan repeated "And I'm not saying that because the old man and me agreed together, for we didn't."
"How could you agree?" said James McNiece. "It wasn't to be expected that you would agree. There wasn't a stronger Protestant nor a greater Orangeman in the whole country nor old MacManaway."
James McNiece turned from the examination of a cart as he spoke and gave his attention to the hames. His description of the dead man's religious and political convictions was just. No one in all the Ulster border land ever held the principle of the Orange Society more firmly or opposed any form of Home Rule more bitterly than old MacManaway.
And Dan Gallaher was a Roman Catholic and a Nationalist of the extremest kind.
"They tell me," said Dan Gallaher, in a pleasant conversational tone, "that it's to be yourself, James McNiece, that's to be the head of the Orangemen in the parish now that MacManaway is gone."
James looked at him sideways out of the corners of his eyes. Dan spoke in a friendly tone, but it is never wise to give any information to "Papishes and rebels."
"The Colonel," he said, "is the Grand Master of the Orangemen in these parts."
Colonel Eden, a J.P., and the principal landlord in the parish, drove into the yard in his motor. A police sergeant slipped his pipe into his pocket, stepped forward and took the number of the Colonel's car. It has never been decided in Ireland whether motor cars may or may not be used, under the provisions of D.O.R.A., for attending auctions.
We know that the safety of the empire is compromised by driving to a race meeting. We know that the King and his Army are in no way injured by our driving to market. Attendance at an auction stands midway between pleasure and business; and the use of motors in such matters is debatable.
"It's the D.I's orders, sir," said the sergeant apologetically.
"All right," said the Colonel, "but if the D.I. expects me to fine myself at the next Petty Sessions hell be disappointed."
James McNiece and Dan Gallaher touched their hats to the Colonel.
"Morning, James," said the Colonel. "Morning, Dan. Fine day for the sale, and a good gathering of people. I don't know that I ever saw a bigger crowd at an auction."
He looked round as he spoke. The whole parish and many people from outside the parish had assembled. The yard was full of men, handling and appraising the outdoor effects. Women passed in and out of the house, poked mattresses with their fingers, felt the fabrics of sheets and curtains, examined china and kitchen utensils warily.
"There's the doctor over there," said the Colonel, "looking at the stable buckets, and who's that young fellow in the yellow leggings, James?"
"I'm not rightly sure," said James McNiece, "but I'm thinking he'll be the new D.I. from Curraghfin."
"It is him," said Dan Gallaher. "I was asking the sergeant this minute and he told me. What's more he said he was a terrible sharp young fellow."
"That won't suit you, Dan," said the Colonel. "You and your friends will have to be a bit careful before you get up another rebellion."
"It may not suit me," said Dan, "but there's others it won't suit either. Didn't I see the sergeant taking the number of your motor, Colonel, and would he be doing the like of that if the new D.I. hadn't told him?"
The Colonel laughed. As commander of a battalion of the Ulster Volunteer Force, he was fully prepared to meet Dan Gallaher on the field of battle—Dan leading the National Volunteers. He looked forward with something like pleasure to the final settlement of the Home Rule question by the ordeal of battle. In the meanwhile he and Dan Gallaher by no means hated each other, and were occasionally in full sympathy when the police or some ridiculous Government department made trouble by fussy activity.
Mr. Robinson, the auctioneer, drove up in his dogcart. He touched his hat to Colonel Eden, gave an order to his clerk and crossed the yard briskly. He twisted the cigarette he smoked into the corner of his mouth with deft movements of his lips, waved his hand to various acquaintances and looked round him with quick, cheerful glances. No man in the country was quicker to appreciate the financial worth of a crowd. He knew before a single bid was made whether people were in a mood to spend lavishly. He found himself very well satisfied with the prospect of this particular auction. The stuff he had to sell, indoors and out, was good. The farmers were enjoying a prosperous season. They had money in their pockets which they would certainly want to spend. Mr. Robinson had visions of a percentage, his share of the proceeds, running into three figures.
He began work in a corner of the yard with a cross-cut saw. The bidding rose merrily to a point slightly higher than the cost of a similar saw new in a shop. At 23/6 Mr. Robinson knocked it down to a purchaser who seemed well satisfied. A number of small articles, scythes, barrows, spades, were sold rapidly, Mr. Robinson moving round the yard from outhouse to outhouse, surrounded by an eager crowd which pressed on him. His progress was not unlike that of a queen bee at swarming time. He made—as she makes—short flights, and always at the end of them found himself in the centre of a cluster of followers.
At about half-past twelve Mr. Robinson reached his most important lot. He lit a fresh cigarette—his eighth—before putting up for sale a rick of hay.
"About four tons," said Mr. Robinson, "new meadow hay, well saved, saved with not a drop of rain. Gentlemen, I needn't tell you that this is a rare, under existing conditions, a unique opportunity. Hay—you know this better than I do—is at present unobtainable in the ordinary market Now, don't disappoint me, gentlemen. Let me have a reasonable offer. Thirty pounds. Did I hear some one say fifteen pounds? Less than four pounds a ton! Now, gentlemen, really——"
But the crowd in front of Mr. Robinson knew just as well as he did that four pounds a ton is not a reasonable offer. The bids succeeded each other rapidly. The original fifteen pounds changed to twenty pounds, then to twenty-five, rose a little more slowly to thirty pounds. At thirty-two pounds the bidding hesitated. Mr. Robinson, dropping his cigarette from his mouth, urged his clients on with gusts of eloquence. There was a short spurt The bids rose by five shillings at a time and finally stopped dead at thirty-four pounds. The hay was sold at a little over eight pounds a ton. Public interest, roused to boiling point by the sale of a whole rick of hay, cooled down a little when Mr. Robinson went on to the next lot on his list.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I am now offering the hay stored in the loft above the stable. A small lot, gentlemen, but prime hay. I offer no guarantee as to the quantity in the loft; but I should guess it at anything between ten and fifteen hundred-weight."
Several of the more important farmers drew out of the crowd which surrounded Mr. Robinson. It was not worth while bidding for so small a quantity of hay. Other members of the crowd, feeling that a breathing space had been granted them, took packets of sandwiches from their pockets and sat down in one of the outhouses to refresh themselves. Mr. Robinson viewed the diminishing group of bidders with some disappointment. He was gratified to see that the new police officer from Curraghfin, a gentleman who had not so far made a single bid, crossed the yard and took a place on the steps leading to the loft. Colonel Eden, too, appeared interested in the new lot of hay. If the inspector of police and Colonel Eden began to bid against each other the hay might realize a good price.
"Now, gentlemen," said Mr. Robinson, "shall we make a start with three pounds?"
He glanced at Colonel Eden, then at the police officer. Neither gentleman made any sign of wishing to bid. It was James McNiece who made the first offer.
"Two pounds," he said.
There was a pause.
"Two pounds," said Mr. Robinson, "two pounds. Going at two pounds. You're not going to let this hay,—more than half a ton of it—go at two pounds."
He looked appealingly at Colonel Eden and at the police officer. They were entirely unresponsive.
"And at two pounds, going——" said Mr. Robinson.
"Two-ten," said Dan Gallaher, in a quiet voice.
"Two-fifteen," said James McNiece.
Dan Gallaher, still apparently bored by the proceedings, raised the price another five shillings. James McNiece went half a crown further. Dan Gallaher, becoming slightly interested, made a jump to three pounds ten. McNiece, with an air of finality, bid four pounds. The contest began to attract attention. When the price rose to five pounds interest became lively, and those who had drawn out of the group round Mr. Robinson began to dribble back. It seemed likely that the contest was one of those, not uncommon at Irish auctions, into which personal feelings enter largely and the actual value of the article sold is little considered. There was a certain piquancy about a struggle of this kind between a prominent Orangeman like James McNiece, and Dan Gallaher, whom everyone knew to be the leader of the Sinn Fein party.
Interest developed into actual excitement when the price rose to ten pounds. A half ton of hay never is and never has been worth ten pounds. But ten pounds was by no means the final bid.
"Mr. McNiece," said Mr. Robinson, "the bid is against you."
"Guineas," said McNiece.
"Eleven," said Dan Gallaher.
"Guineas," said McNiece.
The duet went on, McNiece capping Gallaher's pounds with a monotonous repetition of the word guineas until the price rose to twenty pounds. At that point McNiece faltered for a moment. The auctioneer, watching keenly, saw him turn half round and look at Colonel Eden. The Colonel nodded slightly, so slightly that no one except Mr. Robinson and McNiece himself saw the gesture.
"At twenty pounds," said Mr. Robinson, "going, and at twenty pounds——"
"Thirty," said McNiece.
The crowd of watchers gasped audibly. This was something outside of all experience. A man might willingly pay a few shillings, even a pound, too much for the sake of getting the better of an opponent; but to give thirty pounds for half a ton of hay—not even the natural enmity of an Orangeman for a Sinn Feiner would account for such recklessness.
"Guineas," said Dan Gallaher.
It was his turn to say guineas now, and he repeated the word without faltering until the price rose to fifty pounds. Mr. Robinson took off his hat and wiped the sweat from his forehead. Never in all his experience of auctions had he heard bidding like this. He lit a fresh cigarette, holding the match in fingers which trembled visibly.
"You will understand, gentlemen, that I am only selling the hay, not the barn or the stable."
"Guineas," said Dan Gallaher.
It was the last bid. As he made it Colonel Eden turned and walked out of the group round the auctioneer. James McNiece took his pipe from his pocket and filled it slowly.
"The hay is yours, Mr. Gallaher," said the auctioneer.
Dan Gallaher, having secured the hay, left the yard. He found his horse, which he had tethered to a tree, and mounted. He rode slowly down the rough lane which led from the farm. At the gate leading to the high road the police sergeant stopped him.
"If you wouldn't mind waiting a minute, Mr. Gallaher," said the sergeant, "the D.I. would like to speak to you."
"What about?" said Gallaher.
The sergeant winked ponderously.
"It might be," he said, "about the hay you're just after buying."
"If he wants it," said Gallaher, "he can have it, and I'll deliver it to him at his own home at half the price I paid for it."
The District Inspector, smiling and tapping his gaiters with a riding switch, explained in a few words that he did not want the hay and did not intend to pay for it.
"I'm taking over the contents of that loft," he said, "in the name of the Government under the provisions of D.O.R.A."
"I don't know," said Gallaher, "that you've any right to be taking over what I've bought in that kind of way, and what's more you'll not be able to do it without you show me a proper order in writing, signed by a magistrate."
"If I were you," said the D.I., "I wouldn't insist on any kind of legal trial about that hay. At present there's no evidence against you, Mr. Gallaher, except that you paid a perfectly absurd price for some hay that you didn't want, and I'm not inclined to press the matter now I've got what I wanted; but if you insist on dragging the matter into Court——"
"I do not," said Gallaher.
At ten o'clock that evening Dan Gallaher and James McNiece sat together in the private room behind the bar of Sam Twining's public-house. The house was neutral ground used by Orangemen and Nationalists alike, a convenient arrangement, indeed a necessary arrangement, for there was no other public-house nearer than Curraghfin.
"Dan," said James McNiece, "I'm an Orangeman and a Protestant and a loyalist, and what I've always said about Home Rule and always will say is this:—We'll not have it and to Hell with the rebels. But I'm telling you now I'd rather you had them, papist and rebel and all as you are, than see them swept off that way by the police. And what's more, I'm not the only one says that. The Colonel was talking to me after he heard what happened, and what he said was this—'The Government of this country,' said he, meaning the police, 'is a disgrace to civilization.'"
"Give me your hand, James McNiece," said Gallaher. "Let me shake your hand to show there's no ill feeling about the way I bid against you at the sale to-day."
McNiece laid down the glass of whisky which he was raising to his lips and stretched out his hand. Gallaher grasped it and held it.
"Tell me this now, James McNiece," he said, "for it's what I was never sure of—How many was there behind that hay?"
McNiece looked round him carefully and made sure that no third person could hear him. Neglecting no precaution he sank his voice to a whisper.
"Twenty rifles," he said, "of the latest pattern, the same as the soldiers use, and four hundred rounds of ball cartridge."
"Gosh," said Gallaher, "but we'd have done great work with them. Either your lads or mine, James McNiece, would have done great work with them. But, sure, what's the use of talking? The police has them now."
"Damn the police," said James McNiece.
XIII ~~ OLD BIDDY AND THE REBELS
The other servants—there were four of them—spoke of her as "the ould cat" or in moments of extreme exasperation "that divil Biddy O'Halloran." When they spoke to her they called her "Mrs. O'Halloran," or even "Mrs. O'Halloran, ma'am." Even Lady Devereux, though nominal mistress of the house, did not dare to call her "Biddy," She would as soon have addressed an archbishop as "Dickie," if, indeed, there is an arch-bishop whose Christian name is Richard. There is probably not a woman anywhere, however brave, who would venture to speak to Mrs. O'Halloran face to face and call her "Biddy." But a man, especially if he be young and good-looking, is in a different case. Harry Devereux called her "Biddy." He had earned the right to be familiar with his aunt's cook.
As a schoolboy Harry spent most of his holidays at his aunt's house in Dublin, and in those days Mrs. O'Halloran used to box his ears and occasionally spank him. When he grew to be a man and was called in due course to the Irish Bar, he was often at his aunt's house and still visited Mrs. O'Halloran in her kitchen. She gave up smacking him but she still called him "Master Harry," After the outbreak of war Harry Devereux became a Second Lieutenant in the Wessex Regiment. He displayed himself in his uniform to his aunt, who admired his appearance in her placid way. He also showed himself to Mrs. O'Halloran, who snubbed him sharply.
"So it's fighting you're for now, Master Harry," she said. "Well, it's what'll suit you. It's my opinion that you're never out of mischief only when you're in something worse. It is that way with you as long as I know you and that's since you were born or pretty near. It's the Germans, is it? Well, I'm sorry for them Germans if there's many like you going to be soldiers."
Harry took this as a compliment It was his hope that the Germans would be sorry for themselves when he got out to France with his platoon of Wessex men.
After dinner. Molly, the parlourmaid, her day's work ended, became sentimental. She said it was a terrible thing to think of all the fine men that would be killed, and maybe young Mr. Devereux among them. Mrs. O'Halloran checked her flow of feeling.
"Is it Master Harry be killed? Talk sense, can't you? Sure you couldn't kill the like of that one. Haven't I seen him, not once but a dozen times, climbing out on the roof of the house and playing himself to and fro among the chimneys. If that wasn't the death of him, and him not more than twelve years old at the time, is it likely the Germans would be able to kill him? The like of him is the same as fleas that you'd be squeezing with your finger and thumb or maybe drowning in a basin of water. You know well they'd be hopping over you after the same as before."
Molly sniffed. It was not wise to argue with "Ould Biddy," who had a talent for forcible speech.
Mrs. O'Halloran had the best right in the world to the free use of her tongue. She was a really good cook. She had satisfied Sir Joseph Devereux while he lived. She satisfied Lady Devereux afterwards. And Lady Devereux appreciated good cooking. Her husband dead, her three daughters safely married, she had leisure to enjoy eating and had money enough to pay for the best which the Dublin markets provided. Next to good food Lady Devereux valued peace and the absence of worry. Mrs. O'Halloran enjoyed strife and liked a strenuous life. She took all the annoyances of the household on herself, and when they proved too few for her, created unnecessary worry for herself by harassing the maids. Lady Devereux slept untroubled at night, rose late in the morning, found all things very much to her liking, and grew comfortably fat.
For eight months of the year, from October till the end of May, Lady Devereux lived in one of the fine Georgian houses which are the glory of the residential squares of Dublin. It was a corner house, rather larger than the others in the square, with more light and more air, because its position gave it a view up and down two streets as well as across the lawn which formed the centre of the square.
Before the war Harry Devereux used to say that his aunt's house was the best in Dublin for a dance. It pained him to see its possibilities wasted. After receiving his commission he looked at the world with the eye of a soldier and gave it as his opinion that the house occupied the finest strategic position in Dublin. There was not much chance of persuade ing plump old Lady Devereux to give a ball. There seemed even less chance of her home ever being used as a fortress. But fate plays strange tricks with us and our property, especially in Ireland. It happened that Lady Devereux' house was occupied more or less by the soldiers of one army, and shot at with some vigour by the soldiers of another on Easter Monday, 1916. Oddly enough it was neither the rebels nor the soldiers who earned credit by their military operations, but old Biddy O'Halloran.
Mrs. O'Halloran always enjoyed Bank holidays greatly. She did not go out, visit picture houses or parade the streets in her best clothes. She found a deeper and more satisfying pleasure in telling the younger maids what she thought of them when they asked and obtained leave to go out for the afternoon, and in making scathing remarks about their frocks and hats as they passed through the kitchen to reach the area door. On that particular Easter Monday she was enjoying herself thoroughly. A kitchenmaid—she was new to the household or she would not have done it—had asked Lady Devereux' permission to go out for the afternoon and evening. She got what she asked for. Everybody who asked Lady Devereux for anything got it as a matter of course. The kitchenmaid ought to have made her application through Mrs. O'Halloran. It is the rule in all services that remote authorities must be approached only through the applicant's immediate superiors. Mrs. O'Halloran took her own way of impressing this on the kitchenmaid.
"I suppose now," she said, "that you'll be trapsing the streets of Dublin in the new pink blouse that you spent your last month's wages on?"
That was exactly what the kitchenmaid meant to do. Mrs. O'Halloran looked the girl over critically.
"I don't know," she said, "that I ever seen a girl that would look worse in a pink blouse than yourself. The face that's on you is the colour of a dish of mashed turnips, and the pink blouse will make it worse, if worse can be."
The kitchenmaid was a girl of some spirit She felt inclined to cry, but she pulled herself together and snorted instead.
"I suppose," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "that you'll be looking out for a young man to keep you company?"
The kitchenmaid did, in fact, hope to walk about with a young man; but she denied this.
"I'll be looking for no such thing," she said.
"It's well for you then," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "for I'm thinking you'd look a long while before you found one. It's very little sense men has, the best of them, but I never met one yet that hadn't more sense than to go after a girl like you. If you were any good for any mortal thing a man might be content to marry you in spite of your face; but the way you are, not fit to darn your own stockings, let alone sew for a man, or cook the way he could eat what you put before him, it would be a queer one that would walk the same side of the street with you, pink blouse or no pink blouse."
The kitchenmaid, though a girl of spirit, was still young. She was washing potatoes in the scullery while Mrs. O'Halloran spoke to her. Two large tears dropped from her eyes into the sink. Mrs. O'Halloran smiled.
Then Molly, the parlourmaid, flung open the kitchen door and rushed to Mrs. O'Halloran. Her face was flushed with excitement and terror. Her eyes were staring. She was panting. Her nice frilly cap was over one ear. She held her apron crumpled into a ball and clutched tightly in her hand.
"It's murdered we'll be, killed and murdered and worse! There's them in the house with guns and all sorts that'll ruin and destroy everything that's in it The mistress is dead this minute and it's me they're after now. What'll we do at all, at all?"
The kitchenmaid, stirred from her private grief by the news, left her potatoes and came to the kitchen. She and Molly clung to each other.
"It's the Sinn Feiners," she said, "and they're out for blood."
"Where's the police?" said Molly. "What good is the police that they wouldn't be here and us being murdered?"
"It's blood they want," said the kitchenmaid, "and if s blood they'll have."
"Molly," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "is there men in the house or is there not? Stop your bawling now, and tell me."
"There is, there is," said Molly, "with guns and cannons and knives. Glory be to God, but I never thought to die this way. What'll we do at all, at all? Would it be any good hiding?"
Mrs. O'Halloran, with cool deliberation, shifted the position of two pots on the kitchen range. Then she wiped her hands on her apron.
"It's your place to attend the door and not mine, Molly," she said, "but if you're afeard...."
She looked scornfully at the two girls and left the kitchen.
In the hall a young man stood just inside the door on the mat. He wore a greenish-grey uniform and carried a rifle. Across his chest was a bandolier. He looked uncomfortable, like a man who finds himself unexpectedly in a public place when wearing a fancy dress. The door was wide open. On the steps outside were two other young men. They also wore uniforms and carried rifles.
"Now what may you be wanting?" said Mrs. O'Halloran.
The man on the mat—he was really little more than a boy—fumbled in one pocket after another.
His uniform, like that of the British soldier, had a good many pockets. Finally he drew out a sheet of paper.
"This is my authority," he said, "from the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic."
He handed the paper to Mrs. O'Halloran.
"If it's a collection you're making for the Irish Language Fund," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "her ladyship gave half a crown last week to one of yees, and she'll give no more, so you can take yourselves off out of this as quick as you like."
"We are not collectors," said the young man, with dignity.
"Whether you are not, it's what you look," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "dressed up in them clothes, with your toy guns and all. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves."
The suggestion that his rifle was not a real weapon roused the spirit of the young man.
"In the name of the Irish Republic," he said, "I take possession of this house for military purposes."
"Musha, but that's fine talk," said Mrs. O'Halloran. "Will nothing do you, only military purposes?"
"We shall do no harm to the inmates or the contents of the house," said the young man.
"You will not, for you won't be let."
"But I demand free entrance to the upper storeys for myself and my men."
He turned to the two boys on the steps outside the door.
"Enter," he said, "and follow me."
"Will you wipe your boots on the mat," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "and not be carrying all the mud of the streets into the house with you. Do you think the girls that does be here has nothing to do only to be sweeping carpets and polishing floors after the likes of you?"
The army of the Irish Republic has had many crimes laid to its charge; but it has not been said that its soldiers were guilty of any needless discourtesy to the inhabitants of the houses of which they took possession. The three young men wiped their boots on Lady Devereux' doormat with elaborate cafe. Mrs. O'Halloran watched them critically.
"Is it the police you're out after with them guns?" she said. "It's a pity, so it is, to see fine young fellows like you mixing yourselves up with that foolishness. Sure they'll get you at the latter end, and you'll be had up in Court."
The leader of the little party of Sinn Feiners was not inclined to discuss the future prospects of the insurrection with Mrs. O'Halloran. He moved across the hall towards the staircase, followed by his two young men. They walked delicately, stepping carefully from one to another of the rugs which lay on the floor and avoiding the polished boards. They were courteous and considerate rebels.
"Will nothing but the front stairs suit you?" said Mrs. O'Halloran. "Cock you up, indeed, the likes of you, that never was in a lady's house before. The back stairs is good enough for me, so I'm thinking it's good enough for you. Come along with you now."
She led them past the foot of the great staircase and through a swing door covered with green baize. That door, such was the fancy of the designer of Lady Devereux' house, concealed another, a very solid door, made after the Georgian fashion, of thick mahogany. The baize-covered door had a spring on it so that it swung shut of itself. Mrs. O'Halloran held it open with one hand. With the other she turned the handle of the solid door beyond.
"Will you come along now," she said to the three young men, "and take care you don't be scratching the polish off the door with them guns you're so proud of?"
They were foolish rebels, those three. They were young and, though Irish, this was the first time they had taken part in an insurrection. They had marched forth to garrison Lady Devereux' house expecting much, hand-to-hand fighting perhaps in the hall, the tears and hysterics of terrified women, revolver shots from outraged loyalists. Anything of that sort, anything heroic they were prepared for. Old Biddy O'Halloran, with her humorous eyes and her ready tongue, took them aback. They walked through the mahogany door meekly enough.
They found themselves in a small cloak room. There was a wash-hand basin and a couple of towels in one corner. A pile of carriage rugs lay on a shelf. Some waterproof coats hung from pegs. There were three umbrellas in a stand. There was one small window which looked out on a back yard and was heavily barred. There was not the smallest sign of a staircase leading to the upper storey of the house or to anywhere else.
A nervous and excitable woman who had trapped three young men would have made haste to lock them in. Mrs. O'Halloran was in no hurry at all. The key of the mahogany door was on the inside of the lock. She took it out deliberately.
"There you stay," she said, "the three of yous, till you've sense enough to go back to your homes, and it's your mothers will be thankful to me this day for keeping you out of mischief. Listen to me now before I lock the door."
She fitted the key into the outside of the lock and half closed the door while she spoke.
"If I hear a word out of your heads or if there's any shooting of them guns, or if you start cracking and banging on that door, or kicking up any sort of a noise that might disturb her ladyship, I'll give you neither bite nor sup, not if I have to keep you here for a week, so be good now and mind what I'm telling you."
She shut the door and turned the key in the lock.
At the head of the kitchen stairs stood Molly and the kitchenmaid.
"Will I run for the police?" said the kitchenmaid. "Sure I wouldn't be afeard to do it if Molly would come with me."
"You'll run down to the scullery," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "and you'll go on washing them potatoes, and Molly along with you. That's all the running either the one or the other of you will do this day."
"Her ladyship's bell is ringing," said Molly. "Will I not go to her? It could be she's not dead yet and might be wanting help."
"It's little help you'd give her if she was wanting it, you with your cap on your ear, instead of the top of your head, and your apron like a wrung dishclout I wonder you're not ashamed to be seen. Get along with you down to the kitchen and stay there. Anything that's wanted for her ladyship I'll do myself."
Lady Devereux was in her morning room, a pleasant sunny apartment which looked out on the square. The day was warm, but Lady Devereux was an old woman. She sat in front of a bright fire. She sat in a very deep soft chair with her feet on a footstool. She had a pile of papers and magazines on a little table beside her. She neither stirred nor looked up when Mrs. O'Halloran entered the room.
"Molly," she said, "I heard some men talking in the hall. I wish they wouldn't make so much noise."
Mrs. O'Halloran cleared her throat and coughed. Lady Devereux looked up.
"Oh," she said, "it's not Molly. It's you, Mrs. O'Halloran. Then I suppose it must be plumbers."
The inference was a natural one. Mrs. O'Halloran always dealt with plumbers when they came. She was the only person in the house who could deal with plumbers.
"Or perhaps some men about the gas," said Lady Devereux. "I hope they won't want to come in here."
The pleasant quiet life in Lady Devereux' house was occasionally broken by visits from plumbers and gas men. No one, however wealthy or easygoing, can altogether escape the evils which have grown up with our civilization.
"It's not plumbers, my lady," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "nor it isn't gas men. It's Sinn Feiners."
"Dear me, I suppose they want a subscription. My purse is on my writing table, Mrs. O'Halloran. Will five shillings be enough? I think I ought to give them something. I'm always so sorry for people who have to go round from house to house collecting."
"I have the three of them in the cloakroom downstairs and the key turned on them," said Mrs. O'Halloran.
It is quite possible that Lady Devereux might have expressed some surprise at this drastic way of treating men, presumably well-meaning men, who came to ask for money. Before she spoke again she was startled by the sound of several rifle shots fired in the street outside her house. She was not much startled, not at all alarmed. A rifle fired in the open air at some distance does not make a very terrifying sound.
"Dear me," she said, "I wonder what that is. It sounds very like somebody shooting."
Mrs. O'Halloran went over to the window and opened it. There was a narrow iron balcony outside. She stepped on to it.
"It's soldiers, my lady," she said. "They're in the square."
"I suppose it must be on account of the war," said Lady Devereux.
She had learned—before Easter, 1916, everybody had learned—to put down all irregularities to the war. Letters got lost in the post. The price of sugar rose. Men married unexpectedly, "on account of the war."
"But I don't think they ought to be allowed to shoot in the square," she added. "It might be dangerous."
It was dangerous. A bullet—it must have passed very close to Mrs. O'Halloran—buried itself in the wall of the morning room. A moment later another pierced a mirror which hung over Lady Devereux' writing table. Mrs. O'Halloran came into the room again and shut the window.
"You'd think now," she said "that them fellows were shooting at the house."
"I wish you'd go down and tell them to stop," said Lady Devereux. "Of course I know we ought to do all we can to help the soldiers, such gallant fellows, suffering so much in this terrible war. Still I do think they ought to be more careful where they shoot."
Mrs. O'Halloran went quietly down the two flights of stairs which led from the morning-room to the ground floor of the house. She had no idea of allowing herself to be hustled into any undignified haste either by rebels or troops engaged in suppressing the rebellion. When she reached the bottom of the stairs she stopped. Her attention was held by two different noises. The Sinn Feiners were battering the door of their prison with the butts of their rifles. Molly, the kitchenmaid and Lady Devereux' two other servants were shrieking on the kitchen stairs. Mrs. O'Halloran dealt with the rebels first. She opened the baize-covered door and put her mouth to the keyhole of the other.
"Will yous keep quiet or will yous not?" she said. "There's soldiers outside the house this minute waiting for the chance to shoot you, and they'll do it, too, if you don't sit down and behave yourselves. Maybe it's that you want. If it is you're going the right way about getting it. But if you've any notion of going home to your mothers with your skins whole you'll stay peaceable where you are. Can you not hear the guns?"
The three rebels stopped battering the door and listened. The rifle fire began to slacken. No more than an occasional shot was to be heard. The fighting had died down. It was too late for the prisoners to take any active part in it. They began to consider the future. They made up their minds to take the advice given them and stay quiet.
Mrs. O'Halloran went to the head of the kitchen stairs. The four maids were huddled together. Mrs. O'Halloran descended on them. She took Molly, who was nearest to her, by the shoulders and shook her violently. The housemaid and Lady Devereux' maid fled at once to the coal cellar. The kitchenmaid sat down and sobbed.
"If there's another sound out of any of yous," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "it'll be the worse for you after. Isn't it enough for one day to have three young fellows in the house trying to get shot, and soldiers outside trying to shoot them, and every sort of divilment in the way of a row going on, without having a pack of girls bellowing and bawling on the kitchen stairs? It's mighty fond you are, the whole of you, of dressing yourselves up, in pink blouses and the like" (she looked angrily at the kitchenmaid) "and running round the streets to see if you can find a man to take up with you. And now when there's men enough outside and in, nothing will do but to be screeching. But sure girls is like that, and where's the use of talking?"
Mrs. O'Halloran might have said more. She felt inclined to say a good deal more but she was interrupted by a loud knocking at the hall door.
"I dursent go to it." said Molly. "I dursent You wouldn't know who might be there nor what they might do to you."
"Nobody's asking you to go," said Mrs. O'Halloran.
She went to the door herself and opened it. A sergeant and eight men were on the steps.
"And what may you be wanting?" said Mrs. O'Halloran. "What right have you to come battering and banging at the door of her ladyship's house the same as if it was a public-house and you trying to get in after closing time? Be off out of this, now, the whole of you. I never seen such foolishness."
"My orders are to search the house," said the sergeant; "rebels have been firing on us from the roof."
"There's no rebels been firing out of this house," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "and what's more——"
"My orders," said the sergeant.
"There's no orders given in this house," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "only mine and maybe her ladyship's at odd times."
She need scarcely have mentioned Lady Devereux. An order from her was a very exceptional thing.
"Our officer——" said the sergeant "Private Beggs, go and report to the officer that we are refused admission to this house."
Private Beggs turned to obey the order. The officer in charge of the party came out of the door of a house half-way along the side of the square. Mrs. O'Halloran recognised him. It was Second Lieutenant Harry Devereux.
"Master Harry," she called, "Master Harry, come here at once. Is it you that's been raising ructions about the square? Shooting and destroying and frightening decent people into fits? Faith, I might have known it was you. If there's divilment going you'd be in it."
Harry Devereux, intensely conscious of his responsibility as commander of men in a real fight, reached the bottom of the steps which led to his aunt's door.
"Enter the house, sergeant," he said, "and search it."
Mrs. O'Halloran stood right in the middle of the doorway. The sergeant looked at her doubtfully and hesitated.
"Come up out of that, Master Harry," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "and don't be trying to hide behind the sergeant. It's no wonder you're ashamed of yourself, but I see you plain enough. Come here now till I talk to you."
The sergeant grinned. Private Beggs, who was behind his officer, laughed openly.
"Was there nowhere else in the world for you to have a battle—if a battle was what you wanted," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "only in front of your aunt's house? Many and many's the time I've smacked you for less than what you've done to-day. Isn't there bullets in her ladyship's morning-room? Isn't there a grand looking-glass in a gold frame gone to smithers with your shooting? Isn't Molly and the other girls screeching this minute down in the coal cellar, for fear you'll kill them, and now nothing will do you seemingly only to be tramping all over the house. Search it, moya, search it! But you'll not be let, Master Harry; neither you nor the sergeant nor any of the rest of you."
Second Lieutenant Harry Devereux pulled himself together and made an effort to save what was left of his dignity. He had led his men across the square under a shower of rebel bullets from the roofs of the houses. He had taken cool advantage of all possible cover. He had directed his men's fire till he drove the rebels from their shelters. No one could say of him that he was other than a gallant officer. But his heart failed him when he was face to face with his aunt's cook.
"I think we needn't search this house, sergeant," he said. "I know it."
"If you'd like to come back in an hour or two, Master Harry," said Mrs. O'Halloran, "I'll have a bit of dinner ready for you, and I wouldn't say but there might be something for the sergeant and his men. It's what her ladyship is always saying that we ought to do the best we can for the lads that's fighting for us against the Germans—so long as they behave themselves. But mind this now, sergeant, if you do look in in the course of the evening there must be no carrying on with the girls. The Lord knows they're giddy enough without you upsetting them worse."
That night, after dark, three young Sinn Feiners climbed the wall at the end of Lady Devereux' back yard and dropped into a narrow lane beyond it. A fortnight later Mrs. O'Halloran received a large parcel containing three suits of clothes, the property of Second Lieutenant Devereux, left by him in his aunt's house when he first put on his uniform. They were carefully brushed and folded, in no way the worse for having been worn by strangers for one night.
In the bottom of Mrs. O'Halloran's trunk there are three rebel uniforms. And on the top of the cupboard in her room are three rifles, made in Germany.
XIV ~~ CIVILIZED WAR
"This," said Captain Power, "is an utterly rotten war."
The rain was dripping through the roof of the shed which had been allotted to Power as a billet The mud outside was more than ankle deep. The damp inside was chilly and penetrating. Ned Waterhouse, a Second Lieutenant, the only other occupant of the shed, looked up from an old newspaper which he was trying to read.
"All wars are rotten," he said.
"Not at all," said Power; "a properly conducted war, run in a decent way by civilized men is quite agreeable, rather fun, in fact. Now the last in which I was mixed up was rather fun."
Waterhouse eyed Power suspiciously. He suspected that he was being made the victim of some kind of joke. Waterhouse was an Englishman and it was not of his own desire that he was an officer in the Hibernian light Infantry. He felt himself out of place among Irishmen whom he never quite understood. He was particularly distrustful of Captain Power. Power was an expert in the art of "pulling the legs" of innocent people. Waterhouse had several times found himself looking like a fool without knowing exactly why.
"What I call a civilized war," said Power, "is waged in fine weather for one thing, and men have a chance of keeping clean. The combatants show some regard for the other side's feelings and don't try to make things as nasty for each other as they can. The business is done in a picturesque way, with flags and drums and speeches. There are negotiations and flags of truce and mutual respect for gallant foemen—instead of this d_d coldblooded, scientific slaughter."
"No war was ever like that," said Waterhouse. "Novelists and other silly fools write about war as if it were a kind of sport. But it never was really."
"The last war I was in, was," said Power.
"I don't believe you ever were in a war before," said Waterhouse. "You're not old enough to have gone to South Africa."
"All the same I was in a war," said Power, "though I didn't actually fight. I was wounded at the time and couldn't But I was there. Our Irish war at Easter, 1916."
"That footy little rebellion," said Waterhouse.
"You may call it what you like," said Power, "but it was a much better war than this one from every point of view, except mere size. It was properly conducted on both sides."
"I suppose you want to tell a yarn about it," said Waterhouse, "and if you do I can't stop you; but you needn't suppose I'll believe a word you say."
"The truth of this narrative," said Power, "will compel belief even in the most sceptical mind. I happened to be at home at the time on sick leave, wounded in the arm. Those were the days when one got months of sick leave, before some rotten ass invented convalescent homes for officers and kept them there. I had three months' leave that time and I spent it with my people in Ballymahon."
"The whole of it?" said Waterhouse. "Good Lord!"
"You'd have spent it in the Strand Palace Hotel, I suppose, running in and out of music halls, but I prefer the simple joys of country life, though I couldn't shoot or ride properly on account of my arm. Still I could watch the sunset and listen to the birds singing, which I like. Besides, I was absolutely stoney at the time, and couldn't have stayed in London for a week. As it happened, it was a jolly good thing I was there. If I'd been in London I'd have missed that war. Perhaps I'd better begin by telling you the sort of place Ballymahon is."
"You needn't," said Waterhouse. "I spent three months in camp in County Tipperary. I know those dirty little Irish towns. Twenty public-houses. Two churches, a workhouse and a police barrack."
"In Ballymahon there is also a court house and our ancestral home. My old dad is the principal doctor in the neighbourhood. He lives on one side of the court house. The parish priest lives on the other. You must grasp these facts in order to understand the subsequent military operations. The only other thing you really must know is that Ballymahon lies in a hole with hills all round it, like the rim of a saucer. Well, on Monday afternoon, Easter Monday, the enemy, that is to say, the Sinn Feiners, marched in and took possession of the town. It was a most imposing sight, Waterhouse. There were at least eight hundred of them. Lots of them had uniforms. Most of them had flags. There were two bands and quite a lot of rifles. The cavalry——"
"You can't expect me to believe in the cavalry," said Waterhouse. ''But I say, supposing they really came, didn't the loyal inhabitants put up any kind of resistance?"
"My old dad," said Power, "was the only loyal inhabitant, except four policemen. You couldn't expect four policemen to give battle to a whole army. They shut themselves up in their barrack and stayed there. My dad, being a doctor, was of course a non-combatant I couldn't do anything with my arm in a sling, so there was no fight at all."
"I suppose the next thing they did was loot the public-houses," said Waterhouse, "and get gloriously drunk?"
"Certainly not I told you that our war was properly conducted. There was no looting in Ballymahon and I never saw a drunken man the whole time. If those Sinn Feiners had a fault it was over-respectability. I shouldn't care to be in that army myself."
"I believe that," said Waterhouse. "It's the first thing in this story that I really have believed."
"They used to march about all day in the most orderly manner, and at night there were sentries at every street corner who challenged you in Irish. Not knowing the language, I thought it better to stay indoors. But my dad used to wander about He's a sporting old bird and likes to know what's going on. Well, that state of things lasted three days and we all began to settle down comfortably for the summer. Except that there were no newspapers or letters there wasn't much to complain about. In fact, you'd hardly have known there was a war on. It wasn't the least like this beastly country where everyone destroys everything he sees, and wretched devils have to live in rabbit-holes. In Ballymahon we lived in houses with beds and chairs and looked after ourselves properly. Then one morning—it must have been Friday—news came in that a lot of soldiers were marching on the town. Some country girls saw them and came running in to tell us. I must say for the Sinn Fein commander that he kept his head. His name was O'Farrelly and he called himself a Colonel. He sent out scouts to see where the soldiers were and how many there were. Quite the proper thing to do. I didn't hear exactly what the scouts reported; but that evening O'Farrelly came round to our house to talk things over with my dad."