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The Red Hand of Ulster
by George A. Birmingham
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"Gentlemen," said Moyne, "are we to attempt to hold our meeting to-morrow? Those who are in favour of doing so say 'Aye.'"

Cahoon, McNeice, Malcolmson, the Dean and Conroy voted "aye."

"The 'ayes' have it," said Moyne.

"Before we part," said Babberly, "I wish to say that I leave Belfast to-night—"

Malcolmson muttered something. Babberly held up his hand.

"No," he said. "You are wrong. I'm not afraid. I'm not taking care of my own skin. But I have lived a loyal man and I mean to die a loyal man. I decline to take part in the rebellion."

I have heard Babberly speak on various occasions and admired his eloquence. This time I recognized his sincerity. He was speaking the truth.

"I shall go back to England," he said, "and, of this you may rest assured, that I shall do what can be done in Parliament and elsewhere to save you and the men whom I must call your victims from the consequences of to-day's madness and to-morrow's crime."

He left the room. The five men who had voted "Aye" were gathered in a knot talking eagerly. I took Moyne's arm and we went out together.

"Her ladyship must be got away," he said. "And your daughter, Kilmore. She's here, isn't she? This town will be no place for women to-morrow. Luckily I have the car. You'll take them, won't you? Castle Affey will be the best place for the present."

"What are you going to do yourself?" I asked.

We passed through the door and down the flight of steps to the street. The crowd outside caught sight of us at once. Some one shouted aloud.

"More traitors!"

The news of the result of the meeting and the part we took in it had somehow reached the people already. An angry roar went up from the crowd. Those who were nearest to us cursed us. A police-officer with eight men forced a way through the crowd. At a word from their officer the men drew their batons and stood in front of us.

"I think, my lord," said the officer to Moyne, "that you'd better go back. We had the greatest difficulty in getting Mr. Babberly through, and the crowd is angrier now."

"I'm going on," said Moyne.

"I cannot be responsible," said the officer. "I haven't enough men to control this crowd. If you go on—"

Moyne pushed his way through the cordon of police. I followed him. At first the people drew back a little and let us pass into the middle of the crowd. Then one man after another began to hustle us. Moyne linked his arm in mine and helped me along. A man struck him in the face with the flat of his hand. It was a sharp slap rather than an actual blow. Moyne flushed deeply, but he neither spoke nor struck back. Then suddenly the people seemed to forget all about us. A wild cheer burst from them. Hats were flung into the air. Sticks were waved. Some one began firing shots from a revolver in rapid succession. It was a fusillade of joy, a kind of salute to McNeice who appeared at the window of the committee-room. Moyne and I pushed our way on. When we were clear of the crowd Moyne spoke to me again.

"You'd better take them at once," he said. "It's impossible to know what'll happen here to-night."

"But you?" I said.

"Oh, I shall stay."

"Don't be a fool, Moyne," I said. "You're the one of all others who ought not to stay. Don't you see that whatever way things go you're in for it? The mob thinks you're a traitor. I wouldn't trust those fellows we've just left not to kill you. And when the soldiers have shot them down and the subsequent investigation begins, the Government is bound to fix on you as a ringleader. There'll be panic to-morrow and savage vindictiveness the next day. McNeice and Malcolmson will frighten the Government and the Government will have you hanged or beheaded afterwards for causing the trouble. The English people will clamour for a victim, and you're exactly the sort of victim they'll like. Your one chance is to get out of this. Go to Castle Affey to-night, and telegraph to The Times to-morrow to say that you dissociate yourself—"

Moyne stopped me.

"Look here, Kilmore," he said. "I've heard all you have to say, and I agree with it, more or less. I don't suppose I'll be either murdered by the mob or shot by the military, but—"

"You will," I said, "if you stay here."

"Even if I am," he said, "I'll have to stay."

"In the name of goodness, why?"

"You know the way we've been talking for the last two years—our side, I mean."

I knew the way Babberly had been talking. I knew the way Lady Moyne had goaded him and others to talk, but poor Moyne hardly ever talked at all. All he ever wanted was to be left alone.

"Well, I can't exactly go back on them now when they're doing what we said they ought to do. I've got to see the thing through. After all it's my fault that those poor fellows are in this horrible mess."

He glanced back as he spoke. He was thinking of the angry crowd we had left behind us.

"So you'll take care of the ladies," he said. "Run them down to Castle Affey and make yourself as comfortable as you can. They won't be expecting you, but they'll manage some sort of dinner."

"I'm not going," I said. "I'm staying on in Belfast."

"But why should you? You've no responsibility. You've never taken any part in our—It's very good of you to think of staying. It really is. And I appreciate the spirit in which—But—"

"For goodness' sake, Moyne," I said, "don't give me credit for any kind of heroism. That noblesse oblige attitude of yours doesn't suit me a bit. It isn't in my line."

"But hang it all, Kilmore, you can't be staying here for the fun of it."

"I've often told you," I said, "that I'm writing a history of the Irish Rebellions. I naturally want to see one, and there isn't likely to be another in my time. That's my only reason for staying in Belfast."

We found Lady Moyne waiting for us when we reached the hotel. She was wearing a long cloak, and had a motor-veil tied over her head. She was evidently prepared to start at once.

"I've ordered the car," she said. "It ought to be round now. Marion's coming with me, Lord Kilmore. I think she'd be better out of Belfast for the next few days."

The news of the decision of our committee seemed to have spread with quite unexampled rapidity. We came straight from the meeting, and we found that Lady Moyne had already recognized the necessity for flight.

"I'm glad you're going," said Moyne, "and I'm glad you're taking Marion with you. But how did you know? Who told you what—?"

"That young man who's Mr. Conroy's secretary," said Lady Moyne. "I forget his name."

"Bob Power," I said.

"He came in to see Marion, and he told us."

Bob must have known beforehand what the committee's decision was to be. I realized that Conroy must have had the whole plan cut and dried; that the meeting at which Moyne presided was simply a farce. However, there was nothing to be gained by discussing that.

"I think," I said, "that Moyne ought to go with you. I don't think Belfast is particularly safe for him just now; and—"

"Moyne must stay, of course," said Lady Moyne.

"There'll be trouble afterwards," I said. "He ought not to be mixed up in it. If he clears out at once—"

Lady Moyne looked at me with an expression of wonder on her face. Her eyes opened very wide.

"Surely," she said, "you don't expect him to run away."

"Of course not," said Moyne; "of course not. And there's really no risk. I'll—"

"That's not the kind of people we are," said Lady Moyne.

"I'll join you at Castle Affey in a couple of days," said Moyne.

"Castle Affey," said Lady Moyne. "I'm not going to Castle Affey. I'm going to London."

"What for?" I said. "And how are you going to get there? There are no steamers on Sunday night."

"I'm taking possession of Mr. Conroy's yacht," said Lady Moyne. "She's lying off Bangor, and that young man, Mr. Power, said we could have her. We'll get across to Stranraer this evening, and I'll have a special train and be in London to-morrow morning."

"London!" said Moyne. "But why London? Surely Castle Affey—"

"I must see the Prime Minister early to-morrow. He must be persuaded—he must be forced if necessary—to telegraph orders to Belfast. Don't you realize? I don't blame you, I don't blame either of you for the failure of your meeting this afternoon. I'm sure you did your best. But—but what will happen here to-morrow? We can't leave the people to be shot down like dogs. After all, they're our people."

"But what can you do?" said Moyne. "The Prime Minister won't see you."

"If necessary I shall force him," said Lady Moyne. "He shall see me."

Lady Moyne is, as I have always said, a remarkable woman. Many members of her sex have been trying for years to force their way into the presence of the Prime Minister. They have hitherto failed.

"I am afraid," I said, "that Marion won't be much use to you if you're going to come into collision with the police in any way."

Lady Moyne smiled.

"I hope I shan't be reduced to those methods," she said; "but if I am I shall leave Marion at home."

I had not the slightest doubt that Lady Moyne would succeed in seeing the Prime Minister. He has probably sense enough to know that though he may resist other women successfully, he cannot possibly make head against her.

"If there is no rioting here to-night," said Lady Moyne, "I shall be in time. That young man, Mr. Power, seemed to think that everything would be quiet until to-morrow. I hope he's right."

"He's sure to be," I said. "Conroy is running the revolution and settles exactly what is to happen."

"He was very confident," said Lady Moyne. "Ah! here's Marion. Now we can start. Good-bye, Lord Kilmore. Do your best here. I'll make the best arrangement I can with the Prime Minister."



CHAPTER XX

Moyne and I dined together in the hotel. We should have got a better dinner at the club, and I wanted to go there. But Moyne was afraid of the other men's talk. It was likely that there would be some very eager talk at the club; and Moyne, whose name still figured on placards as chairman of next day's meeting would have been a butt for every kind of anxious inquiry.

We did not altogether escape talk by staying in the hotel.

Just as we were sitting down to dinner I was told that Bob Power wished to see me. Moyne wanted me to send him away; but I could not well refuse an interview to the man who was to be my son-in-law. I gave that as my excuse to Moyne. In reality I was filled with curiosity, and wanted to hear what Bob would say to us. I told the waiter to show him in. He carried no visible weapon of any kind, but he was wearing a light blue scarf round his left arm. I suppose I stared at it.

"Our nearest approach to a uniform," he said. "Something of the sort was necessary."

"But why light blue?" I asked.

"Oh, I don't know. It's a good colour, easily seen. The men are to wear orange, of course. I'm an officer."

"Captain or Colonel or Knight at Arms?" I asked.

"We haven't bothered about titles," said Bob, who did not seem to recognize the question. "We haven't had time to settle details of any sort. In fact I haven't much time now. I just dropped in to tell you that you needn't be nervous about to-night. We have our men well under control, and the police ought to be able to deal with the rabble. If they can't—if there's any sign of rioting—we step in and stop it at once."

He pulled a revolver from his coat pocket as he spoke. It gave us the necessary information about the way in which rioting was to be stopped.

"I shall be on patrol all night," he said. "My orders—"

"By the way," I said, "excuse my asking a stupid sort of question. But who gives you your orders? Who is Commander-in-Chief?"

"Conroy, of course. Didn't you know? He organized the whole thing. Wonderful head Conroy has. I don't wonder he became a millionaire. He has his men under perfect control. They may not look starchy when you see them in the streets, but they'll do what they're told. I thought you and Lord Moyne would be glad to know, so I dropped in to tell you. I must be off now."

He got as far as the door and then turned.

"Marion and Lady Moyne got away all right," he said. "I saw them off."

Then he left us.

"That's good news as far as it goes," I said.

"I'm not sure," said Moyne. "I'm not at all sure. If there had been a riot to-night, the ordinary sort of riot—but I don't know. It's very hard to know what to hope for."

If there had been an ordinary riot that night, and if it had been sternly and promptly suppressed, there would perhaps have been no battle next day. If, on the other hand, Conroy and Bob and the others could keep their men under control, if they could secure the peace of the city for the night, then the fighting next day was likely to be serious. As Moyne said, it was very hard to know what to hope for.

The waiter brought in our fish, and with it a message from Sir Samuel Clithering. He wanted to see Moyne. I had had enough of Clithering for one day, so I made no objection when Moyne flatly refused to see him.

I suppose a man cannot be a successful manufacturer of hosiery in the English midlands without possessing the quality of persistence. Clithering had it. He sent another message to say that his business was very important. Moyne said that he and his business might go to hell together. I hope the waiter translated this message into parliamentary language. Clithering is a Nonconformist, and therefore a man of tender conscience. I should not like him to be shocked.

The hotel cook was doing his best for us. He sent us up an entree. With it came a note from Clithering.

"I'm sending a telegram to the Prime Minister describing the condition of affairs here. May I say that you have refused to preside at the meeting to-morrow?"

Moyne showed me the note. Then he scribbled an answer on the back of it.

"You may tell the Prime Minister that if a meeting is held I shall preside. The announcements made in the papers and posters stand good."

"Do you think that's wise?" I asked.

"I think it's right," said Moyne.

It is a great pity that right things very seldom are wise. I have hardly ever met anything which could possibly be called prudent which was not also either mean or actually wrong.

Our next interruption was due to a newspaper reporter. He represented several papers, among others one in New York. He had the names of all of them printed on his card, but they did not impress Moyne. Our waiter, who was beginning to swell with a sense of his own importance, drove off that newspaper reporter. Three others, all of them representing papers of high standing, sent in their cards in quick succession. Moyne laid a sovereign on the table and told the waiter that he could have it as a tip on condition that no one got into the room while we were at dinner.

The waiter got the sovereign in the end; but he did not deserve it. While we were drinking our coffee a young man overwhelmed our waiter and forced his way into the room. There were two doors in our room, which is one of what is called a suite. As the young man entered by one, Moyne, leaving his coffee and his sovereign behind him, left by the other. He shut it with a slam and locked it.

"Lord Moyne, I presume?" said the young man.

"Lord Moyne," I said, "has just left."

"May I ask," he said, "if I have the honour of addressing Mr. McNeice?"

I explained that I was not McNeice. Then, in order to get him to go away, if possible, I added that I was not Malcolmson, or Cahoon, or Conroy, or the Dean.

"If you'll pardon my curiosity," he said, "I should like to ask—"

I saw that I should be obliged to tell him who I was in the end. I told him at once, adding that I was a person of no importance whatever, and that I had no views of any kind on what he would no doubt want to call "the situation."

"May I ask you one question?" he said. "Is Lord Moyne going to take the chair to-morrow?"

"Yes," I said, "he is. But if you're going to print what I say in any paper I won't speak another word."

"As a matter of fact," he said, "the wires are blocked. There's a man in the post office writing as hard as he can and handing one sheet after another across the counter as quick as he can write them. Nobody else can send anything."

"Clithering, I expect."

"Very likely. Seems to fancy himself a bit, whoever he is. Nobody else can get a message through."

He seemed an agreeable young man. Moyne had probably gone to bed and I did not want to spend a lonely evening.

"Have a glass of claret," I said.

He sat down and poured himself off half a tumbler-full. Then it struck him that he owed me some return for my hospitality.

"My name," he said, "is Bland. I was with Roberts' column in the Orange Free State."

"Ah!" I said. "A war correspondent."

"I did the Greek War, too," he said. "A poor affair, very. Looks to me as if you were going to do better here. But it's a curious situation."

"Very," I said, "and most unpleasant."

"From my point of view," said Bland, "it's most interesting. The usual thing is for one army to clear out of a town before the other comes in or else to surrender after a regular siege. But here—"

"I'm afraid," I said, "that our proceedings are frightfully irregular."

"None the worse for that," said Bland kindly. "But they are a bit peculiar. I've read up quite a lot of military history and I don't recollect a single case in which two hostile armies patrolled the streets of the same city without firing a shot at one another. By the way, have you been out?"

"Not since this afternoon," I said.

"It would be quite worth your while to take a stroll round," said Bland. "There's not the slightest risk and you may never have a chance of seeing anything like it again."

I quite agreed with Bland. The odds are, I suppose, thousands to one against my ever again seeing two hostile armies walking up and down opposite sides of the street. I got my hat and we went out together.

We were almost immediately stopped by a body of lancers. Their leader asked us who we were and where we were going.

"Press correspondents," said Bland, "on our way to the telegraph office."

This impressed the officer. He allowed us to go on without ordering his men to impale us. I was glad of this. I am not particularly afraid of being killed, but I would rather meet my end by a sword cut or a bullet than by a lance. I should feel like a wild pig if a lancer speared me. No one could die with dignity and self-respect if he felt like a wild pig while he was passing away.

"In ordinary wars," said Bland, "the best thing to say is that you are a doctor attached to the Ambulance Corps. But that's no use here. These fellows don't want doctors!"

Then we met a party of volunteers. They stopped us too, and challenged us very sternly. Bland gave his answer. This time it did not prove wholly satisfactory.

"Protestant or Papist?" said the officer in command.

"Neither," said Bland, "I'm a high caste Brahmin."

Fortunately I recognized the officer's voice. It was Crossan who commanded this particular regiment. It never was safe, even in the quietest times, to be flippant with Crossan. On a night like that and under the existing circumstances, Bland might very well have been knocked on the head for his joke if I had not come to his rescue.

"Crossan," I said, "don't make a fuss. Mr. Bland and I are simply taking a walk round the streets."

"If he's a Papist," said Crossan, "he'll have to go home to his bed. Them's my orders. We don't want rioting in the streets to-night."

I turned to Bland.

"What is your religion?" I asked.

"Haven't any," he said. "I haven't believed any doctrine taught by any Church since I was six years old. Will that satisfy you?"

"I was afeard," said Crossan, "that you might be a Papist. You can go on."

This shows, I think, that the charges of bigotry and intolerance brought against our Northern Protestants are quite unfounded. Crossan had no wish to persecute even a professed atheist.

We did not go very far though we were out for nearly two hours. The streets were filled with armed men and everybody we met challenged us. The police were the hardest to get rid of. They were no doubt soured by the treatment they received in Belfast. Accustomed to be regarded with awe by rural malefactors and denounced in flaming periods, of a kind highly gratifying to their self-importance, by political leaders, they could not understand a people who did not mention them in speeches but threatened their lives with paving stones. This had been their previous experience of Belfast and they were naturally suspicious of any stray wayfarers whom they met. They were not impressed when Bland said he was a newspaper reporter. They did not seem to care whether he believed or disbelieved the Apostles' Creed. One party of them actually arrested us and only a ready lie of Bland's saved us from spending an uncomfortable night. He said, to my absolute amazement, that we were officials of an exalted kind, sent down by the Local Government Board to hold a sworn inquiry into the condition of Belfast. This struck me at the time as an outrageously silly story, but it was really a rather good one to tell. The Irish police are accustomed to sworn inquiries as one of the last resorts of harassed Governments. It seemed to the sergeant quite natural that somebody should be in Belfast to hold one.

We came across McConkey with his machine gun at a street corner. He had got a new crew to pull it along. I suppose the first men were utterly exhausted. But McConkey himself was quite fresh. Enthusiasm for the weapon on which he had spent the savings of a lifetime kept him from fatigue.

The experience was immensely interesting; but I began to get tired after a time. The necessity for explaining what we were—or rather what we were not—at the end of every fifty yards, began to make me nervous. Bland's spirits kept up, but Bland is a war correspondent and accustomed to being harried by military authorities. I am not. It was a comfort to me when we ran into Bob Power's regiment outside the Ulster Hall.

"Bob," I said, "I want to get back to my hotel. I wish you'd see me safe, chaperone me, convoy me, or whatever you call the thing I want you to do."

Bland tugged at my sleeve.

"Get him to take me to the post-office," he said. "I'll have another go at getting a telegram through."

"Bob," I said, "this is my friend Mr. Bland. He's a war correspondent and he wants to get to the post-office."

My return to the hotel was simple enough. The police kept out of the way of Bob's men. The other soldiers let him and his regiment pass without challenge. Bland, faithful to his professional duties, poured out questions as we went along.

"How's it managed?" he said. "Why aren't you at each other's throats?"

"So far as we're concerned," said Bob, "there's nothing to fight about. We don't object to the soldiers or the police. We're loyal men."

"Oh, are you?" said Bland.

"Quite."

"Unless our meeting's interrupted to-morrow," I said.

"Of course," said Bob.

"That explains your position all right," said Bland. "But I don't quite understand the others. I should have thought—"

"The soldiers," said Bob, "have strict orders not to provoke a conflict. I met Henderson just now and he told me so. You remember Henderson, Lord Kilmore? The man I was talking to at the railway station. He'd only had two water biscuits to eat all day yesterday. When I met him just now he told me he'd had nothing since breakfast to-day but one bit of butterscotch. He said he wished we'd fight at once if we were going to fight and get it over."

"But the police—" said Bland, still trying to get information. "I should have thought the police—"

"They tried to arrest us," I said. "In fact they did arrest us but they let us go again."

"I dare say they'd like to arrest us," said Bob, "but you see we've all got guns."

"Ah," said Bland, "and the ordinary inhabitants of the city—?"

"They're in bed," said Bob, "and we've all agreed that they'd better stay there. Nobody wants a riot."

"Thanks," said Bland. "If I can get my wire through I'll let the world know the exact position of affairs."

"If you are wiring," said Bob, "you might like to mention that there was jolly nearly being a fight at the gasworks. The military people got it into their heads that we intended to turn off the gas and plunge the town into darkness so as to be able to murder people without being caught. They took possession of the works and put a party of Royal Engineers in charge. Fairly silly idea! But some fool on our side—a fellow who's been dragging a quick-firing gun about the streets all day—"

"McConkey," I said. "I know him."

"I didn't hear his name," said Bob, "but he got it into his head that the Royal Engineers were going to turn off the gas so that the soldiers could make short work of us. He wanted to wipe out those engineers with his gun. I don't suppose he'd have hit them, but he'd certainly have tried if some one hadn't run and fetched Conroy. He settled the matter at once."

"How?" said Bland. "This story will be a scoop for me. I don't expect any one else knows it."

"He handed the gasworks over to the police," said Bob.

"But did that satisfy any one?" I asked. "I should have thought that both the original parties would have fallen upon the police."

"Not at all," said Bob. "The police are so much the weakest party in the town that it's plainly to their interest to keep the gas burning. Even the man with the machine gun saw that."

I found Moyne waiting for me when I got back to the hotel. He was very depressed and took no more than a mere sip of the whisky and soda which I ordered for him. I made an effort to cheer him a little before I went to bed.

"I don't think," I said, "that there'll be a battle to-morrow."

"I am sure there will. What's to stop it?"

"The fact is," I said, "that everybody will be too exhausted to fight. McConkey, for instance, is still hauling that field gun of his about the streets. He simply won't have strength enough left to-morrow to shoot it off. All the soldiers and all the volunteers are marching up and down. They mean to keep it up all night. I should say that you and I and three or four other sensible people who have gone to bed will have the town entirely to ourselves to-morrow."

Moyne smiled feebly.

"I wish it was all well over," he said. "I hope the Prime Minister won't be disagreeable to—. It would have been better, much better, if she'd gone to Castle Affey."

"You needn't be a bit afraid of that," I said.

This time I spoke with real assurance. No man living could be disagreeable to Lady Moyne, if she smiled at him. When she left Belfast she was so much in earnest and so anxious, that she would certainly smile her very best at the Prime Minister.

"I don't know," said Moyne. "He may hold her responsible to some extent. And she is, you know. That's the worst of it, she is. We all are."

"Not at all," I said.

"Oh, but we are," said Moyne. "I feel that. I wish to goodness we'd never—"

"What I mean is that the Prime Minister won't hold her responsible. After all, Moyne, he's a politician himself. He'll understand."

"But we said—we kept on saying—Babberly and all of us—"

Moyne was becoming morbid.

"Don't be a fool," I said. "Of course we said things. Everybody does. But we never intended to do them. Any one accustomed to politics will understand that. I expect the Prime Minister will be particularly civil to Lady Moyne. He'll see the hole she's in."



CHAPTER XXI

I went down to the club next morning at about half-past ten o'clock, hoping to see Conroy. He, so I thought, might be able to tell me what was likely to happen during the day. Moyne could tell me nothing. I left him in the hotel, desperately determined to take the chair at any meeting that might be held; but very doubtful about how he was to do it.

The streets were much less obviously martial than they had been the night before. There were no soldiers to be seen. There were only a very few volunteers, and they did not seem to be doing anything particular. The police—there were not even many of them—looked quite peaceable, as if they had no more terrific duties to perform than the regulation of traffic and the arrest of errant drunkards. I began to think that I had accidentally told Moyne the truth the night before. All our warriors seemed to be in bed, exhausted by their marching and counter-marching. I did not even see McConkey with his machine gun. This disappointed me. I thought McConkey was a man of more grit. One night's work ought not to have tired him out.

Clithering was in the club. He, at all events, was still active. Very likely he was caught the night before by some patrolling party and forced to go to bed. Unless he happened to be carrying some sort of certificate of his religious faith in his pocket, Crossan would almost certainly have put him to bed. The moment he saw me he came fussing up to me.

"I'm very glad to be able to tell you," he said, "that the troops are to be kept in barracks to-day unless they are urgently required. I'm sure you'll agree with me that's a good plan."

"It depends," I said, "on the point of view you take. It won't be at all a good plan for the police if there's any fighting."

"I telegraphed to the Prime Minister last night," said Clithering; "I sent a long, detailed message—"

"I heard about that," I said, "from one of the war correspondents, a man called Bland. You rather blocked the wires, and he couldn't get his messages through."

"It was of the utmost possible importance," said Clithering, "that the Prime Minister should thoroughly understand the situation. Our original idea was that the appearance of large bodies of troops in the streets would overawe—"

"They weren't overawing any one," I said.

"So I saw. So I saw yesterday afternoon. I telegraphed at once. I gave it as my opinion that the troops, so far from overawing, were exasperating the populace. I suggested—I'm sure you'll agree with me that the suggestion was wise—in fact I urged very strongly that the troops should be kept out of sight to-day—under arms and ready for emergencies—but out of sight. I am in great hopes that the people will settle down quietly. Now, what do you think, Lord Kilmore?"

"They'll be quite quiet," I said, "if you let them hold their meeting."

"Oh, but that's impossible," said Clithering. "I quite agree with the Prime Minister there. Any sign of weakness on the part of the Government at the present crisis would be fatal, absolutely fatal. The Belfast people must understand that they cannot be allowed to defy the law."

"Then you'd better trot out your soldiers again, all you've got."

Clithering did not seem at all pleased with this suggestion.

"We shall rely upon the police," he said, "to put a stop to the meeting. I do not anticipate that there will be any organized—"

"On the whole," I said, "I'm very glad I'm not a policeman."

"Surely," said Clithering, "the responsible leaders of the Unionist party will understand the criminal folly of—You don't anticipate—"

"I'm nothing of a prophet," I said; "but if you ask my opinion I'd say that the police will be wiped out in about ten minutes. They're a very fine body of men; but there aren't nearly enough of them. If you really want to stop the meeting you'll have to get out the soldiers, and even with them—"

"But we want to avoid bloodshed," said Clithering. "We cannot have the citizens of Belfast shot down by the military. Think of the consequences, the political consequences. A Tory Government might—but we! Besides, the horrible moral guilt."

"It's no affair of mine," I said; "but I should have thought—I dare say I am wrong. There may be no moral guilt about killing policemen."

"But they won't be killed," said Clithering. "Our one aim is to avoid bloodshed."

"You're trying the police rather high," I said. "They'll do what you tell them, of course. But I don't think it's quite fair to ask them to face ten times their own number of men all armed with magazine rifles when they have nothing but those ridiculous little carbines."

"Oh, but the police are not to have firearms," said Clithering. "Strict orders have been given—batons ought to be quite sufficient. We must avoid all risk of bloodshed."

"Good gracious!" I said. "Do you expect a handful of police with small, round sticks in their hands—Oh! go away, Clithering. You mean well, I dare say, but you're absurd."

It is very seldom that I lose my temper in this sudden way. I was sorry a moment afterwards that I had given way to my feelings. Poor Clithering looked deeply hurt. He turned from me with an expression of pained astonishment and sat down by himself in a corner. I pitied him so much that I made an effort to console him.

"I dare say it will be all right," I said. "The police will probably have sense enough to go away before they're shot. Then the meeting will be held quite peaceably. I don't know what the political consequences of that may be, but you'll get off the moral guilt, and there'll be no bloodshed."

This ought to have cheered and consoled Clithering; but it did not. It made him more nervous than ever.

"I must go at once," he said, "and see the General in command. Everything must be—"

He left the room hurriedly without finishing his sentence. This annoyed me. I wanted to know what everything must be.

The reading-room of the club is on the first floor, and the window commands an excellent view of Donegal Place, one of the principal thoroughfares of Belfast. The club stands right across the eastern end of the street, and the traffic is diverted to right and left along Royal Avenue and High Street. At the far, the western end, of Donegal Place, stands the new City Hall, with the statute of Queen Victoria in front of it. There again the traffic is split at right angles. Some of the best shops in the town lie on either side of this street. A continuous stream of trams passes up and down it, to and from the junction, which is directly under the club windows, and is the centre of the whole Belfast tramway system. It is always pleasant to stand at the reading-room window and watch the very busy and strenuous traffic of this street. As a view point on that particular morning the window was as good as possible. Donegal Place is the chief and most obvious way from the northern and eastern parts of the city to the place where the meeting was to be held.

Between eleven o'clock and twelve the volunteers began to appear in considerable numbers. I saw at once that I had been wrong in supposing that they meant to spend the day in bed. One company after another came up Royal Avenue or swung round the corner from High Street, and marched before my eyes along Donegal Place towards the scene of the meeting. Small bodies of police appeared here and there, heading in the same direction. Now and then a few mounted police trotted by, making nearly as much jangle as if they had been regular soldiers. The hour fixed for the meeting was one o'clock, but at noon the number of men in the street was so great that ordinary traffic was stopped. A long line of trams, unable to force their way along, blocked the centre of the thoroughfare. The drivers and conductors left them and went away. Crowds of women and children collected on the roofs of these trams and cheered the men as they marched along.

At half-past twelve Moyne drove along in a carriage. The Dean was beside him, and Cahoon had a seat with his back to the horses. The progress of the carriage was necessarily very slow. I could not see Moyne's face, but he sat in a hunched-up attitude suggestive of great misery. The Dean sat bolt upright, and kept taking off his hat to the crowd when cheers broke out. Cahoon, whose face I could see, seemed cheerful and confident.

At the back of the carriage, perched on a kind of bar and holding on tightly to the springs, was Bland. Barefooted urchins often ride in this way, and appear to enjoy themselves until the coachman lashes backwards at them with his whip. I never saw a grown man do it before, and I should have supposed that it would be most uncomfortable. Bland, however, seemed quite cheerful, and I admired the instinct which led him to attach himself to Moyne's carriage. He made sure of being present at the outbreak of hostilities, since the meeting could neither be held nor stopped till Moyne arrived; and he had hit upon far the easiest way of getting through the crowd which thronged Donegal Place.

At a quarter to one Bob Power and his company arrived. Instead of marching to the scene of the meeting Bob halted and drew his men across the end of the street right underneath the club windows. Crossan, with another company of volunteers, joined him.

Bob and Crossan consulted together, and Bob gave an order which I could not hear. Two of his men laid down their rifles and ran along the street, one taking each side of the line of trams. They shouted to the people on the roofs of the trams as they passed them. The orders, if they were orders, were obeyed. There was a hurried stampede of women and children. They climbed down from the trams and ran along the street towards my end of it. Bob's men opened their ranks and let them go through.

One after another the shops in the streets were closed. Roller blinds and shutters covered the windows. A telegraph boy on a red bicycle rode through Bob's lines into the empty street. He stopped and dismounted, evidently puzzled by the deserted appearance of the street. Two of the volunteers seized him and took the envelope from his wallet. They sent him back to the post-office. The poor boy was so frightened that he left his bicycle behind him.

Bob gave an order and one of his men took the bicycle and rode off in the direction of the meeting. A few minutes later one of the club waiters brought the telegram to me. It was from Lady Moyne.

"Saw the Prime Minister this morning. He is taking all possible measures to avoid bloodshed. Has telegraphed instructions to the military authorities. Tell Moyne. Am sending duplicate message to him. Want to make sure of reaching him."

I glanced at my watch. It was five minutes past one; evidently too late to tell Moyne anything. Whatever was happening at the scene of the meeting had begun to happen at one o'clock. I waited.

Ten minutes later a motor car, driven at a furious pace, dashed round the corner at the far end of the street, and sped towards us. A single passenger sat beside the driver. I recognized him at once. It was Clithering. Halfway down the street he suddenly caught sight of Bob's volunteers. He clutched the driver by the arm. The car stopped abruptly, backed, turned round and sped back again. I lost sight of it as it swept round the corner.

Then followed another period of waiting in tense silence. The men beneath me—there must have been about five hundred of them—did not speak. They scarcely moved. Bob and Crossan stood in front of them, rigid, silent.

Bob's scout, the man who had mounted the telegraph boy's red bicycle, appeared in front of the Town Hall and came tearing along the street. He sprang to the ground in front of Bob and Crossan and spoke to them eagerly. They turned almost at once and gave an order. Their men lay down. I heard the rattle of their rifles on the pavement. I could see their hands fiddling with the sights, slipping along the barrels and stocks, opening and snapping shut the magazines. The men were nervous, but, except for the movements of their hands, they showed no signs of great excitement. One man, near the end of the line, deliberately unbuttoned his collar and threw it away. Another took off his coat, folded it up carefully, and laid it on the ground behind him. It struck me that it was his vest coat, a Sunday garment which he was unwilling to soil. Bob walked slowly along the line, speaking in low tones to the men. Crossan stood rigidly still a few paces in front of the line, watching the far end of the street.

Another cyclist appeared and rode towards us. One of the men fired his rifle. Crossan turned round, walked back to the man, and struck him on the head. Then he wrenched the rifle from his hands, threw it into the street, and kicked the man savagely. The man made no resistance. He got up and slowly left the ranks, walking away shamefacedly with hanging head. I do not think that Crossan had spoken to him, nor did he speak to any one else. His action explained itself. He turned his back on the men and once again stared down the empty street. Discipline was evidently to be strictly preserved in the ranks of the volunteers. There was to be no shooting until the order was given.

When Crossan's proceedings ceased to be interesting I looked round to see what had become of the cyclist. I caught sight of him in the custody of two volunteers. He was shoved through the door of the club. I could only see the top of his head, and so failed to recognize him until he entered the room and came over to me.

"Bland," I said. "How did you get here?"

"I spotted this window," said Bland, "as I rode along, and I asked them to put me in here. Is it a club?"

"Yes," I said. "What happened at the meeting?"

"Get me a whisky and soda," said Bland, "if you're a member."

I rang the bell.

"What happened?" I said. "Did they hold the meeting?"

"They were holding it," said Bland, "when I left. But it wasn't much of a meeting."

I ordered a whisky and soda from a terrified waiter.

"What about the police?" I asked.

"They ran over the police," said Bland. "I don't think they killed many. There wasn't any shooting. The whole thing was done with a rush. Damned well done. You couldn't call it a charge. The police were drawn up in the middle of an open space where four or five roads met. The men kind of flowed over them. When the place was clear again, there weren't any police. That's all. Ah! here's the whisky!"

He was evidently thirsty for he drank the whole tumbler-full at a draught.

"What about Moyne?" I said. "What did he do?"

"Oh! He stood up on the back seat of a carriage and began to make a speech. But that didn't matter."

"What did he say?"

"I don't know. I didn't stay to listen. I expect he urged them not to kill any one. But it does not matter what he said. The men with rifles, the volunteers, began to march off at once, in good order, some in one direction, some in another. In five minutes there wasn't anybody left to listen to Lord Moyne except a few corner boys. I can tell you this, Lord Kilmore, there's a man with a head on his shoulders behind this insurrection. He has those men of his holding all the most important parts of the town. I got hold of a bicycle—"

"How?" I said. "You're very wonderful, Bland. How did you get a bicycle in the middle of a battlefield?"

"Stole it," said Bland. "It belonged to a policeman, but he is probably dead, so he won't mind. I rode after two or three different parties of volunteers just to see where they were going. When I got back to the place of the meeting there was a body of cavalry trotting up. I had a sort of feeling that the battle would come this way. It ought to. This is the most important place in the town. All lines of communication meet here. Your side has brains enough to see that. The question is, will the soldiers attack them here? I chanced it. If there's any good fighting to-day it ought to be here."

I am not sure whether the General in command of the troops had the brains to recognize that the post which Bob Power held was the key to the whole situation. He did a good deal of desultory street fighting in other places, and though he made a strong show of attacking Bob Power in the end I think he was drawn into it by accident.

Bland lit a cigarette, and he and I stood at the window watching.

A crowd of men appeared at the far end of the street, running in wild disorder. They ran quite silently with bent heads and outstretched hands. Behind them, immediately behind them, came a squadron of dragoons galloping. As the fugitives turned into the street the soldiers overtook them and struck right and left with their swords. They were using the flats, not the edges of the blades. The fugitives staggered under the blows. Some of them stumbled and fell; but I do not think that any one was seriously hurt.

"Lord Moyne's audience," said Bland. "The corner boys. There's not an armed man among them."

I noticed that when he pointed it out to me. The flying men, wild with terror, rushed into the empty trams. For the moment they were safe enough. The dragoons could not get at them without dismounting. They pulled up their horses.

Bob Power gave an order. Rifles cracked all along his line. The men must have emptied their magazines before they stopped firing. The officer of the dragoons gave an order. His squadron wheeled and galloped back the way they came. Five horses lay plunging on the ground. Four men dragged themselves clear of their saddles and ran after their comrades. The other lay where he fell.

Six men detached themselves from Bob's lines and ran forward. In a few minutes they were dragging the terrified fugitives from the trams and driving them along the street. They came towards us, wailing aloud in high shrill voices, like women. Behind them came Bob's volunteers, carrying the wounded dragoon, and supporting a couple of the fugitives who had been knocked down by the soldiers. The howling men were pushed through the ranks to the rear. The volunteers closed up again in silence. Not even when the dragoons turned and galloped away did they break their silence. I have heard of soldiers going into battle with shouts and greeting moments of success with cheers. These men fired on their enemies without a shout and saw them fly without a cheer. Five minutes later a company of infantry marched into the street, extended into open order, and fired. Bob's men fired. More infantry came. They deployed along the front of the City Hall. The rifle fire from both ends of the street was rapid and continuous. It was the first time in my life that I had ever been in danger of being killed by a bullet. I confess that for a few minutes I was so nervous that I was unable to give any attention to the fighting going on in front of me. So many rifles were going off at the far end of the street that it seemed certain that not only Bland and I but every one of Bob's men must necessarily die at once. To my very great surprise I was not hit. My nervousness began to disappear. I peered out of the window and noticed that none of Bob's men were either killed or wounded.

"I suppose," I said to Bland, "that this is a regular battle. You've had some experience so you ought to know."

"Oh yes," said Bland, "it's a battle right enough—of sorts."

A bullet snicked through the window glass above my head and buried itself in the wall at the far end of the room. I looked at the volunteers again. They did not seem to be suffering. I took a glance at the soldiers at the far end of the street. The firing did not seem even to annoy them.

"There seems to me," I said, "to be very little damage done. Don't they usually kill each other in battles?"

"The shooting's damned bad," said Bland, "damned bad on both sides. I never saw worse. I wonder if they mean to shoot straight."

Bob's men, I think, were doing their best; but they were certainly making very bad practice. It did not seem to me that during the first twenty minutes they hit a single living thing except the four dragoon horses. The walls of the houses on both sides of the street were filled with bullet marks. A curious kind of shallow furrow appeared about halfway down the street. At first it seemed a mere line drawn on the ground. Then it deepened into a little trench with a ridge of dust beyond it.

"There must be a ton or two of good bullets buried there," said Bland. "They haven't sighted for the distance."

"I don't blame the volunteers," I said, "but the soldiers really ought to shoot better. A lot of money is spent on that army every year, and if they can't hit a single enemy at that distance—"

"I rather think," said Bland, "that the soldiers are firing up into the air on purpose. That bullet which came through our window is the only one which hit anything. It's shocking waste of ammunition."

The door of the reading-room opened behind me. I turned and saw Sir Samuel Clithering. He staggered into the room and looked deadly white. For a moment I thought he must be blind. He plunged straight into a table which stood in the middle of the room in front of him.

"My God! My God!" he cried.

Then he was violently sick. He must have got into the club somehow from the back. I went over to him, intending to get him out of the room before he was sick again. He clutched my arm and held me tight.

"Stop it," he said. "Stop it. Promise them anything, anything at all; only get them to stop."

I did not quite know what Clithering wanted me to do. It seemed absurd to go down to Bob Power and offer, on behalf of the Government, to introduce amendments into the Home Rule Bill. Yet something of the sort must have been in Clithering's mind when he urged me to promise anything. He probably had some vague idea of consulting the wishes of the electorate. That is the sort of thing Clithering would think of doing in an emergency.

"It's horrible, too horrible," he said. "Oh God! Bloodshed! Bloodshed!"

"Cheer up," I said, "I don't think a single man on either side has been hit yet."

"I say," said Bland from the window, "did the soldiers get orders to fire over the people's heads?"

"Yes," said Clithering. "Strict orders. The Cabinet was unanimous. The Prime Minister telegraphed this morning."

"Rather rough on the peaceable inhabitants of the town," said Bland, "the men who have kept out of the battle. I suppose you forgot that bullets come down again somewhere."

"I was in one of the back streets," wailed Clithering, "far away—"

"Exactly," said Bland, "it's just in back streets that those things happen."

"It was a woman," said Clithering, "a girl with a baby in her arms. I did not know what had happened. I ran over to her. She and the baby—both of them. I shall never forget it. Oh!"

Then he was sick again. Clithering is a highly civilized man. I suppose one must be highly civilized if one is to keep pace with the changing fashions in stockings. It was out of what is called "Fancy Hosiery" that Clithering made most of his money. I felt very sorry for him, but his performances were making me feel sick too. I joined Bland again at the window.

"They've got a machine gun," said Bland. "Things will get brisker now."

I looked out anxiously and saw with a sense of relief that it was Bob's side which had got the new gun. McConkey and his assistants had turned up from somewhere and were dragging their weapon into position under the window of a large jeweller's shop on the left flank of Bob's firing line. This was bad enough. In street fighting at close quarters a gun of this kind is very murderous and ought to do a terrible amount of destruction. But things would have been much worse if the soldiers had had it. They, I suppose, would have known how to use it. I doubted McConkey's skill in spite of his practice on the slob lands below the Shore Road.

"The soldiers will have to shoot in earnest now," said Bland. "If that fellow can handle his gun he'll simply mow them down."

It looked at first, I am bound to say, as if McConkey had really mastered his new trade. He got his weapon into position and adjusted a belt of cartridges, working as coolly as if he were arranging the machinery of the Green Loaney Scutching Mill. He seemed to find a horrible satisfaction in what he was doing. Twice I saw him pat the muzzle of the thing as if to give it encouragement. I dare say he talked to it.

"He's damned cool," said Bland. "I've seen fellows who'd been fighting for months not half so—"

Then McConkey started his infernal machine. The effect was most surprising. Two tramcars, which were standing close to the far end of the street, simply disappeared. There was a kind of eruption of splintered wood, shattered glass and small fragments of metal. When that subsided there was no sign of there ever having been tramcars in that particular spot. McConkey evidently noticed that he had not aimed his pet quite straight. He stopped it at once.

An officer—I think it was Bob's friend Henderson—sprang to his feet at the far end of the street and ran along the line of soldiers shouting an order.

"They'll begin in earnest now," said Bland. "Why doesn't he rattle them again with the gun?"

McConkey had the best will in the world, but something had gone wrong with his gun; it was a complicated machine, and he had evidently jammed some part of it. I saw him working frenziedly with a large iron spanner in his hand; but nothing he could do produced the least effect. It would not go off.

In the meantime Henderson's soldiers stood up and stopped firing. The volunteers stopped firing too. The soldiers formed in a line. There was silence in the street for a moment, dead silence. I could hear McConkey's spanner ringing against the iron of his gun. Then Bob Power shouted.

"They're going to charge us. Up, boys, and come on! We'll meet them halfway."

"They're all gone mad together," said Bland. "You can't charge down magazine rifles. It's impossible."

"It seems to me," I said, "that if this battle is ever to be finished at all they'll have to get at each other with their fists. So far weapons have been a total failure."

Clithering crawled across the room while we were speaking and clutched me by the legs. I do not think it was fear of the bullets which made him crawl. He had been so very sick that he was too weak to walk.

"What's happening?" he said. "For God's sake tell me. Are there many killed?"

"No one yet on this side," I said. "There may be a few soldiers hit, but I don't suppose you mind about them. There's just going to be a charge. Get up and you'll be able to see it."

Clithering caught the edge of the window-sash and dragged himself to his feet. He was just in time to see Bob's men rush along the street. They did not charge in any sort of order. They simply spread out and ran as fast as they could, as fast as I ever saw men run. Some of them took their rifles with them. Others, evidently agreeing with me that they would do more destruction with their fists, left their rifles behind. They covered fifty or sixty yards, and were still going fast when they discovered that the soldiers were not waiting for them. Henderson walked alongside the leading men of the column with his ridiculously long sword in his hand. Two mounted officers brought up the rear. Two men, with their rifles sloped over their shoulders, marched briskly across the end of the street. In the middle of the column were eight stretchers carried along. Bob's men, in spite of their bad shooting, had wounded that number of their enemies. I found out afterwards that they had killed three others outright. The discipline of the British army must be remarkably good. In spite of this heavy loss the soldiers obeyed orders, and steadily refrained from trying to kill Bob's men. Their final disappearance was a crowning proof of their obedience. I watched this body of infantry march out of sight into the next street. They were not running away. They were not even retreating. They gave me the impression of having stopped the battle in a way that was quite customary because it was time for them to do something else—get some dinner perhaps.

This performance produced, as might be expected, a most disconcerting effect upon Bob's warriors. They stopped running and stared at their departing foes. Then they turned round and gaped at each other. Then they applied to Bob Power for information. They wanted to know, apparently, whether they had gained a great and glorious victory, or were to regard the departure of the enemy as some subtle kind of strategy. Bob seemed as much puzzled as every one else. Even Bland, in spite of his experience of battles in two great wars, was taken aback.

"Well, I'm damned," he said.

"Thank God, thank God!" said Clithering.

Then he crumpled up and fainted. He meant, I think, to express the relief he felt at the cessation of hostilities. He had not heard, or if he heard, had not heeded, Bland's remark. Clithering is not the type of man to thank God for any one's damnation, and he had no special dislike of Bland.

"I'm damned," said Bland again.

"I suppose," I said, "that it's rather unusual in battles to do that sort of thing—march off, I mean—without giving some sort of notice to the other side. It strikes me as rather bad form. There ought to be a rule against it."

Bob's men returned, sheepishly and dejectedly, to their original posts. Crossan was arguing with McConkey about the condition of the machine gun. The young man who had taken off his coat before the battle picked it up from the ground, brushed it carefully, and put it on. Bob Power walked along the street with a note-book in his hands. He appeared to be writing down the names of the shop-keepers whose windows were broken. He is a young man of active and energetic disposition. I suppose he felt that he must do something.

Bland stared through the window for some time. He hoped, I dare say, that the soldiers would come back, with reinforcements, perhaps with artillery. At last he gave up this idea.

"Let's have a drink," he said. "We want one."

He turned abruptly and stumbled over Clithering, who had fallen just beside him. I got hold of a waiter, the only one left in the club, and made him bring us a whisky and soda. Bland squirted the syphon into Clithering's face, and I poured small quantities of whisky into his mouth. Clithering is a rigid teetotaller, and has for years been supporting every Bill for the suppression of public houses which has been brought before Parliament. The whisky which he swallowed revived him in the most amazing way.

"Have they gone?" he asked.

"If you mean the soldiers," said Bland, "they have. I can't imagine why, but they have."

"I telegraphed to the Prime Minister," said Clithering. "It was hours and hours ago. Or was it yesterday? It was just before I saw the woman shot. I told him that—that the soldiers—they were only meant to overawe the people—not to kill them—I said the soldiers must be withdrawn to barracks—I said they must not be allowed—"

I do not know whether it was exhaustion after nervous strain or the whisky which affected Clithering. Whisky—and he had swallowed nearly a glassful—does produce striking effects upon teetotallers; so it may have been the whisky. Clithering turned slowly over on his side and went sound asleep. Bland and I carried him upstairs to a bedroom on the top storey of the club. There were, Bland said, three bullets buried in the mattress, so it was fortunate that we had not carried Clithering up earlier in the day.

"Let's get the waiter," said Bland, "if he hasn't gone away, and tell him to undress this fool!"

"It's hardly necessary to undress him, is it?"

"Better to," said Bland, "and take away his clothes. Then he'll have to stay there, and won't be able to send any more telegrams."

"It's rather a good thing he sent that last one," I said. "If he hadn't, somebody would certainly have been killed in the charge."

"I suppose that telegram accounts for it," said Bland. "I mean for the behaviour of the soldiers. Orders sent straight from Downing Street. I say, what a frightful temper the Commanding Officer must be in this minute! I wonder if I could get an interview with him."

He looked questioningly at me. I fancy he hoped that I would give him a letter of introduction to the General in command of the district.

"His language," said Bland, "would be a tremendous scoop for me. Could you—?"

"No," I said, "I couldn't. I don't know him, and even if I did—"

"Oh, well," said Bland, "it can't be helped. And, any way, I dare say I shouldn't have been able to get my telegram through. The wires are sure to be blocked."



CHAPTER XXII

I looked at my watch and found that it was three o'clock. The battle had lasted more than two hours.

"I had no idea," I said to Bland, "that fighting was such interesting work. The time has flown."

"I'm uncommonly hungry," said Bland. "Let's try and find something to eat."

When he mentioned the subject of eating I found that I too was very hungry. I felt, however, that it was scarcely right, certainly it was not suitable to sit down to luncheon in a club while a revolution was in full swing under the windows. People ought to be serious immediately after battles.

"Oughtn't we to be doing something?" I asked.

"Doing what?"

"Well, I don't know. Seeing after the wounded, perhaps."

Attending to wounded men is properly speaking work for women; but both Lady Moyne and Marion were in London.

"There are sure to be a few somewhere," I said. "They've been fighting all over the town, and I don't suppose the soldiers were as careful everywhere else as they were here."

"Are you a surgeon as well as a lord?" asked Bland.

"Oh no. I don't know anything about surgery. My idea—"

"Then I expect the wounded, if there are any, would rather you left them alone. Besides, a town like this must have hundreds of doctors in it. They'll all be out after the wounded by this time as keen as vultures. It isn't every day that an ordinary practitioner gets the chance of gouging out bullets. They wouldn't let you interfere with their sport even if you paid them. There won't, as a matter of fact, be nearly enough wounded to go round the profession. They'd hate to have an amateur chipping in. Let's forage about a bit and get some food."

It was not very easy to find food in the club, and the only surviving waiter was still undressing Clithering. But Bland is a good forager. He found two dressed crabs somewhere, and then came upon a game pie. I let him have the dressed crabs all to himself. He is a much younger man than I am and is a war correspondent. He ought to be able to digest anything.

I fully intended to eat three helpings of game pie, for I was very hungry; but before I had finished the first of them I was interrupted. Crossan stalked into the room. He was the last man I wanted to see. His appearance and manner are, at the best of times, tragic. Clithering had been with me, off and on, most of the day, so I had got rather tired of tragedy.

"I think it right to inform your lordship," said Crossan, "that Mr. Godfrey D'Aubigny has just been arrested in the streets."

"Good!" I said. "I hope that whoever has him won't let him go."

"He's to be tried by court martial," said Crossan, "on suspicion of being a spy."

Godfrey actually haunts me. No sooner have I achieved a moment's peace and quietness—with the greatest difficulty in the middle of a rebellion—than Godfrey breaks in on me. How he came to be in Belfast I could only dimly guess. It seemed likely that, having heard that a battle was going on, he came to the scene of it in the hope of pillage.

"I suppose," I said, "they won't actually hang him?"

"It was him, as your lordship is aware," said Crossan, "that gave the first information to the Government."

Crossan, in spite of the fact that he was a victorious general, preserved his peculiar kind of respect for my title. He did not, indeed, take off his hat when he entered the room, but that was only because soldiers, while on duty, never take off their hats.

"Don't be absurd, Crossan," I said. "You know perfectly well that he hasn't intelligence enough to give anything but wrong information to any Government. What he told the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he wrote to him was that you were smuggling."

"If your lordship doesn't care to interfere—," said Crossan.

"Can I help in any way?" said Bland.

He had been eating steadily and had finished the two crabs. I had not eaten more than three or four mouthfuls of game pie. I felt I might accept his offer.

"If you've any experience of courts martial," I said, "I haven't—and if you really don't mind trotting off—"

"Not a bit," said Bland. "In fact a court martial would be rather a scoop for me. I'm sure the public would want to know how it's run."

"I shall feel greatly obliged to you," I said. "The fact is that a nephew of mine is going to be hanged as a spy. You said you were going to hang him, didn't you, Crossan?"

"I think it likely, my lord," said Crossan.

"Of course," I said, "he richly deserves it; and so far as my own personal feelings go I should be very glad if he were hanged. But, of course, he's my nephew and people might think I'd been unkind to him if I made no effort to save him. One must consider public opinion more or less. So if you could arrange to rescue him—"

While I was speaking Clithering shambled into the room. He was wearing a suit of pyjamas not nearly big enough for him. The waiter who put him to bed was quite a small man. The pyjamas must have been his. He asked us to find his clothes for him, and said that he wanted to go to the post-office.

"I must send a telegram to the Prime Minister," he said. "I must send it at once."

Crossan eyed him very suspiciously.

"It strikes me," said Bland, "that if you're caught sending telegrams to the Prime Minister you'll be hanged too."

"They're just going to hang a nephew of mine," I explained, "for writing a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. You can see for yourself that a telegram to the Prime Minister is much worse. I really think you'd better stay where you are."

But Clithering was, unfortunately, in a mood of hysterical heroism. He said that he did not value his life, that lives were only given to men in order that they might lay them down, and that the noblest way of laying down a life was in the service of humanity.

I could see that Crossan was getting more and more suspicious every minute.

"It is in order to save the lives of others," he said, "that I want to send my telegram to the Prime Minister."

Crossan actually scowled at Clithering. I expected that he would arrest him at once. There might have been, for all I knew, a Committee of Public Safety sitting in the Town Hall. I could imagine Crossan hauling the unfortunate Clithering before it on a charge of communicating with the Prime Minister. I could imagine Clithering, heroic to the last, waving his incriminating telegram in the faces of his judges. Bland saved the situation.

"Come along, Colonel," he said. "Show me where that court martial of yours is sitting. Lord Kilmore will restrain this lunatic till we get back."

Crossan may have been pleased at being addressed as Colonel. Or he may have trusted that I would prevent any telegram being sent to the Prime Minister. At all events, he stopped scowling at Clithering and went off with Bland. I offered Clithering some of the game pie, but he refused to touch it. He sat down at a corner of the table and asked me to lend him a pencil and some paper. I did so, and he composed several long telegrams. The writing evidently soothed him. When he had finished he asked me quite calmly whether I thought he would really be hanged if he went to the post-office. I was not at all sure that he would not. Clithering sighed when he heard my opinion. Then he sat silent for a long time, evidently trying to make up his mind to the hanging.

"If I could get the telegram through first," he said at last, "I shouldn't so much mind—"

"But you wouldn't," I said; "and what is the good of throwing away your life without accomplishing anything?"

"It's terrible," said Clithering, "terrible."

It was terrible, of course; but I was beginning to get tired of Clithering. Besides, he looked very ridiculous in pyjamas which only reached halfway down his legs and arms.

"Don't you think," I said, "that it would be better for you to go back to bed? You'll be safe there, and it won't really matter much whether your telegram goes to the Prime Minister or not. A little sleep will do you all the good in the world."

"We have murdered sleep," said Clithering.

I never realized the full immensity of Clithering's fatuousness until he uttered that mangled quotation from Macbeth in the tone of an old-fashioned tragedian. I believe the man actually revelled in harrowing emotion. It would not have surprised me to hear him assure me that the "multitudinous seas" would not wash out the blood-stains from his hands. He might very well have asked for "some sweet oblivious antidote." If he had known the passages I am sure he would have quoted them.

"Do go to bed," I said.

Then Bland came in leading Godfrey with him.

"I rescued him," said Bland, "without very much difficulty."

"I call it frightful cheek," said Godfrey, "fellows like that who ought to be touching their hats to me and saying 'Sir' when they speak to me—Fancy them daring—"

This view of the matter was very characteristic of Godfrey. I really believe that he would dislike being hanged much less if the executioner were one of the small class of men whom he recognizes as his social equals.

"They gave him quite a fair trial," said Bland, "and had just condemned him when—"

"That fellow Crossan in particular," said Godfrey.

"The Colonel ran round to tell you," said Bland. "I rather fancy they wanted to get off carrying out the sentence if they could."

"A lot of fellows," said Godfrey sulkily, "who ought to be wheeling barrows! But it's very largely your fault, Excellency. You always encouraged that class. If you'd kept them in their proper places—"

"What on earth brought you to Belfast?" I said. "Why didn't you stay at home? Nobody wants you here. Why did you come?"

Godfrey looked uneasily at Bland. He evidently did not want to make his reason for coming to Belfast public property. Godfrey is usually quite shameless. I could only imagine that he had done something of a peculiarly repulsive kind.

"Well," I said, "why did you come?"

He looked at Bland again, and then nodded sideways at me.

"I suppose," I said, "that you thought there might be some assessment made by the Government of the amount of damage done in the town, and that if you started valuing things at once on your own hook, you might possibly get a job out of it."

"But is there?" said Godfrey eagerly; "for if there is—"

"So far as I know there isn't," I said.

"Anyhow it wasn't that which brought me to Belfast. The fact is, Excellency, I couldn't very well stay at home. You remember,"—here his voice sunk to a whisper—"what I told you about the Pringles."

"Your bank account?"

"No. Not that. The girl, I mean. Tottie Pringle."

"Oh yes, I remember."

"Well, old Pringle began to get offensive. He seemed to think that I ought to—you know."

"Marry her? I expect you ought."

"Excellency?" said Godfrey in genuine horror and amazement.

"By the way," said Bland, "I forgot to mention that I promised the court martial to get your nephew out of Belfast before to-morrow morning. I hope you don't mind. They wouldn't let him go on any other condition."

"Quite right," I said. "Godfrey shall start to-night."

"I don't see why I should," said Godfrey. "I don't think it's at all nice of you, Excellency, to—"

"And while we're at it," I said, "we may as well ship off Clithering. Godfrey let me introduce you to—"

I looked round and discovered that Clithering was not in the room.

"I hope to goodness," I said, "that he's not gone out to get himself hanged. He rather wanted to a few minutes ago."

"It's all right," said Bland. "I saw him going upstairs. I expect he's looking for his clothes."

"Godfrey," I said. "I'm going to offer you a great chance. Sir Samuel Clithering is in every way a very big man. In the first place he's very rich. In the next place he's on intimate terms with the Prime Minister. In fact he's been sending him telegrams every hour or so for the last two days. You go upstairs and help him to find his clothes. Then take him over to London. The Fleetwood steamer is still running. If you can get him out of Belfast and lay him down safe and sound on his own doorstep the Government will be so grateful that they'll very likely make you a stipendiary magistrate."

"But supposing he doesn't want to go?"

"You'll have to make him," I said.

"How?" said Godfrey. "How can I?"

"Don't be a fool, Godfrey," I said. "Nag at him. You've got more than two hours before you, and nagging is a thing you're really good at."

Bland took Godfrey by the arm and led him up to Clithering's bedroom. He locked them in together, and did not open the door again until half an hour before the steamer started. Then he took up Clithering's clothes to him. Godfrey had evidently spent the time as I advised. Clithering deserved it, of course; but he certainly looked as if he had been through a bad time when Bland let him out.

There was a meeting of the Ulster Defence Committee at seven o'clock. It was summoned, so the notice which I received informed me, in order to make arrangements for preserving the peace of the town. This, I thought, was very proper work for the committee. The Cabinet was probably making other arrangements with the same object. Between them the committee and the Government had destroyed what little peace Belfast ever had. The least they could do was to restore it.

Moyne took the chair as usual. He opened our proceedings by saying firmly and decisively, that he intended to surrender himself at once to the authorities.

"We're the only authorities there are at present," said McNeice, "so if you want to surrender—"

"We must resolve ourselves into a Provisional Government," said the Dean, who always likes to do things constitutionally.

"The police," said Moyne feebly.

"There aren't any," said McNeice.

"Wiped out," said Malcolmson.

"The General in command of the troops—" said Moyne.

"The troops are shut up in their barracks," said McNeice.

"Licked," said Malcolmson.

"Say," said Conroy, "are you dead sure you whipped them?"

"They bolted," said Malcolmson.

"I don't reckon to be a military expert," said Conroy, "but it kind of occurs to me that those troops weren't doing all they knew. I don't say but you're quite right to boost your men all you can; but we'll make a big mistake if we start figuring on having defeated the British army."

"I happen to know," I said, "that Mr. Conroy is quite right. Clithering—"

"That spaniel!" said McNeice.

"He told me," I said, "that the troops had orders to fire over our men's heads. The idea, I think, was not so much to injure as to overawe us."

"It was a damned foolish idea," said McNeice sulkily.

"You cannot," said the Dean, "overawe the men of Ulster."

This is one of the Dean's most cherished opinions. I have heard him express it a great many times. I do not know whether the Dean had actually been fighting during the afternoon. I am sure he wanted to; but he may have considered it his duty to do no more than look on. Our Dean is particularly strong on Old Testament history. I am sure he recollected that Moses sat on the top of an adjacent hill while Joshua was fighting the Amalekites.

"If you want to surrender yourself," said Conroy to Moyne, "I reckon you'll have the chance of handing yourself over to a British Admiral before long."

"Have you any reason to suppose that the Fleet—?" said Moyne.

"We're ready for them," said Malcolmson. "If the Government thinks it can force Home Rule on Ulster with the guns of the Channel Fleet, it's making a big mistake. It'll find that out before long."

"If you like, Lord Moyne," said Conroy, "we'll put you under arrest and then nobody will be able to hold you responsible afterwards for anything that happens. You'll be quite safe."

Whatever Moyne's motives may have been in wishing to surrender himself, I am perfectly sure that a desire for his own safety was not one of them. I imagine that he hoped, in a confused and troubled way, to get himself somehow on the side of law and order again. Moyne was never meant to be a rebel.

Conroy's words were insulting, intentionally so, I think. He wished to get rid of Moyne before the committee discussed the defence of Belfast against the Fleet. He may have wished to get rid of me too. He succeeded. Moyne is not nearly so thorough-going a patrician as his wife; but he has sufficient class pride to dislike being insulted by a millionaire. He got up and left the room. He looked so lonely in his dignified retirement that I felt I ought to give him such support as I could. I rose too, took his arm, and went out with him.



CHAPTER XXIII

People who organize and carry through revolutions generally begin by cutting the telegraph wires, with a view to isolating the scene of action. I cannot help thinking that this is a mistake. We kept our telegraph offices open day and night, and I am strongly of opinion that we gained rather than lost by our departure from the established ritual of revolutions. The news which came to us from England was often encouraging, and generally of some value. Nor do I think that the Government gained any advantage over us by the messages which Clithering as their agent, or Bland and others in their capacity of public entertainers, sent from Belfast to London.

When Moyne and I got back to our hotel we found two long telegrams and one short one waiting for us. The first we opened was from Lady Moyne. She had, it appeared, spent a very strenuous day. She caught the Prime Minister at breakfast in his own house, and probably spoiled his appetite. She ran other members of the Cabinet to earth at various times during the day. One unfortunate man she found playing a mixed foursome on a suburban golf links. She impressed upon him, as she had upon all his colleagues the appalling wickedness of shooting the citizens of Belfast. Every one, it appeared, agreed with her on this point. The Government's policy, so they told her and she told us, was to cow, not to kill, the misguided people who were rioting in Belfast. She besought Moyne to use all his influence to moderate the anti-Home Rule enthusiasm of Malcolmson and the Dean.

Moyne smiled in a sickly way when we came to this advice.

The other long telegram was from Babberly. I must say that Babberly at this crisis displayed immense energy and something like political genius. Having been all his life a strong Conservative, and a supporter of force as a remedy for every kind of social unpleasantness, he turned a most effective somersault and appealed suddenly to the anti-militarist feelings of the Labour Party. He succeeded—I cannot even imagine how—in organizing a mass meeting in Trafalgar Square to protest against the murder of the working-men of Belfast in the streets of their own city, by the hired mercenaries of the capitalist classes. The meeting was actually engaged in making its protest while Moyne and I were reading the telegrams. Babberly's case was really extraordinarily strong. Soldiers were shooting off guns in Belfast, and the people they fired at—or as we knew, fired over—were working-men. There was occasion for a strong and eloquent appeal to the sentiment of the solidarity of labour. Babberly was just the man to make it with the utmost possible effectiveness. I pictured him perched on the head of one of the British lions which give its quite peculiar dignity to Trafalgar Square, beseeching a crowd of confused but very angry men not to allow the beast to open its mouth or show its teeth. I could easily imagine that the news of Babberly's exertions, dribbling in during the day to the offices of harassed Ministers, might have reinforced with grave political considerations the hysterical humanitarian telegrams which Clithering was shooting off from the seat of war. A Tory Government might survive a little bloodshed. A Liberal Government convicted of having incited a soldier to shoot a working-man would be in a perilous position.

"I must say," I said, "that Babberly is infernally clever. I don't quite know where he'll find himself afterwards, but—"

"What does it matter about afterwards?" said Moyne, "if only we get out of the mess we're in, nothing that happens afterwards need trouble us in the least."

"If this meeting of his is really a success," I said, "we may feel pretty confident that there'll be no more shooting anyhow."

The next telegram, the short one, rather dashed our hopes of immediate peace. It was from Lady Moyne.

"The Channel Fleet," she said, "has been ordered to Belfast Lough. Expected to arrive to-morrow morning. Advise unconditional surrender."

Moyne is very fond of his wife, and has a sincere admiration for her abilities; but on the receipt of this telegram he lost his temper.

"What on earth," he said, "is the use of advising unconditional surrender when Conroy and Malcolmson are engaged at this moment in making plans for sinking the Fleet with rifles?"

"I quite agree with you," I said. "There's no kind of use our going to them again. But I don't expect they're relying entirely on rifles. Malcolmson always said he understood explosives. He may be laying submarine mines opposite Carrickfergus."

Lady Moyne's telegram was not the only warning we received of the approaching visit of the Channel Fleet. Our system of leaving the telegraph wires intact proved to be an excellent one. Everybody in Belfast learnt that the Fleet was coming. Everybody, so far as I could learn, received the news with joy. Bland was tremendously excited. He called on me next morning, and invited me to go with him to see the British Fleet in action. He had been up very early and found a place, so he said, from which we could have a capital view of the bombardment of the town.

"I've got two pairs of field-glasses," he said, "Zeiss prism binoculars. We'll see the whole show capitally."

"Was there much other looting last night?" I asked.

"There was none," said Bland. "I hired the glasses. I got them for five shillings. Cheap, I call it; but the optician who owned them seemed to think they'd be safer if I had them than they would be in his shop. More out of the way of shells, I expect."

Moyne refused to come with us. He still cherished the hope of being able to surrender himself during the day to some one in recognizable authority. Bland and I set out together.

We hurried along High Street, past the Albert Memorial and crossed the bridge to the south side of the river. The streets were full of volunteers, marching about, all in the highest spirits. The prospect of being shelled by the Fleet did not frighten them in the least. Having, as they believed, defeated the Army the day before, it seemed quite a simple matter to deal with the battleships.

We made our way along the quays, passed through a shipbuilding yard, deserted by its workers, and came to a long muddy embankment which stretched out on the south side of the channel leading into the harbour. On the end of this embankment was a small wooden lighthouse.

"That's our spot," said Bland. "I've got the key of the door."

I will always say for Bland that he has the true instinct of a war correspondent. From the top of our tower we saw the Fleet far out in the offing. There were not nearly so many ships as I expected. I counted seven; disagreeable looking monsters with smoke pouring out of their funnels. They were too far off for us to see much of them even with the aid of our excellent glasses; but what I did see I did not like. Fighting against men requires courage, no doubt, especially when they have magazine rifles. But men are after all flesh and blood. Fighting against vast iron machines seems to me a much more terrifying thing. I wondered whether Malcolmson were also watching the ships and whether he were any more inclined than he had been the night before to unconditional surrender.

While I was gazing out to sea, Bland tapped me on the arm and drew my attention to the fact that a company of volunteers was marching out along our muddy causeway. They were Bob Power's men and they came along whistling "The Protestant Boys," a tune which makes an excellent quick-step march. They had spades with them as well as rifles, and they set to work at once to entrench themselves.

"They're going to dispute a landing," said Bland, "but I don't see what use that is. The Fleet can shell the whole place into ruins in two hours without coming within range of their rifles—and—however we'll see. The fellow who's running this revolution—Conroy, isn't it?—may have something up his sleeve."

One of the battleships detached herself from her fellows and steamed rapidly into the Lough. Opposite Carrickfergus her engines were stopped, and she turned slowly in a half circle till she lay broadside on to us. I could see her distinctly, and I confess that the look of her terrified me.

"Cleared for action," said Bland.

A boat was lowered, a steam launch. In a minute or two she was speeding towards us, her white ensign trailing astern. Bob Power stood up outside his entrenchment and peered at her. As she drew closer we could see behind the shelter hood, the young officer who steered her. As she swerved this way and that, following the windings of the channel, we caught glimpses of a senior officer, seated in the stern sheets. Pushing through the calm water at high speed she threw up great waves from her bows. Her stern seemed curiously deep in the water. When she was almost abreast of our lighthouse Bob hailed her. Her engines were stopped at once. A sailor with a boathook in his hand sprang into her bow and stood there motionless while the boat glided on. I could see the young officer who steered gazing curiously at Bob's entrenchments. Then the senior officer stood up.

"An Admiral," said Bland.

He hailed Bob.

"Are you in command here?" he said.

As he spoke the launch stopped abreast of the entrenchments and lay motionless in the water.

"I am in command of this detachment," said Bob.

"Then," said the Admiral, "you are to lay down your arms at once."

"You'd better come ashore," said Bob, "and see our commanding officer if you want to make terms with us."

The Admiral flushed. He was quite close to us and we could see his face distinctly. He looked as if he wanted to say something explosive. The idea of being invited to make terms with rebels was evidently very objectionable to him. I suppose he must have had strict and binding orders from somebody. He did not say any of the things he wanted to. The launch's propeller gave a few turns in the water. Then the boat slipped up to the shore. The sailor with the boathook held her fast while the Admiral stepped out of her. Bob received him most courteously. The Admiral glared at Bob. The riflemen, crouched behind their mud bank, scowled at the Admiral. The young officer in the launch gave an order and his boat was pushed off from the shore. Bob and the Admiral walked off together towards the town.

For an hour and a half the launch lay opposite us in the middle of the channel. Occasionally, as the ebbing tide carried her down, she steamed a little and regained her position opposite the entrenchments. Bob's men, realizing that there would be no shooting till the Admiral returned, rose from their trench. They strolled about the embankment, chatted, smoked, stared at the launch, stared at the battleship from which she came, and peered at the more distant fleet which lay hull down far out towards the entrance of the lough.

"Unless Mr. Conroy has some game on that we know nothing about," said Bland, "he'd better climb down and make the best terms he can."

I think that Bland was nervous. He made that remark or others like it several times while we were waiting for the Admiral's return. I candidly confess that I was more than nervous. I was desperately frightened. I am not, I hope, a coward. I believe that I was not afraid of being killed, but I could not take my eyes off the great iron ship which lay motionless, without a sign of life about her, a black, menacing monster on the calm water of the lough. I was seized, obsessed, with a sense of her immense power. She would destroy and slay with a horrible, unemotional, scientific deliberation.

"Conroy had better surrender," said Bland. "He can't expect—"

"He won't surrender," I said; "and if he wanted to, the men would not let him."

"Damn it," said Bland. "He must. I've seen war, and I tell you he must."

At last the Admiral returned. Bob was with him, and was evidently trying to make himself agreeable. He was chatting. Occasionally he laughed. The Admiral was entirely unresponsive. When he got close enough for us to see his face I saw that he looked perplexed and miserable. I was miserable and frightened, but the Admiral looked worse.

Behind them there was an immense crowd of people; men, armed and unarmed, women, even children. It was a mere mob. There was no sign of discipline among them. Some young girls, mill-workers with shawls over their heads, pressed close on the Admiral's heels. Bob gave an order to his men, and they drew up across the end of our embankment. Bob and the Admiral passed through the line. The crowd stopped.

The launch drew to shore again. The Admiral stepped on board her, and she steamed away.

The crowd hung around the end of our embankment. Some children began chasing each other in and out among the men and women. A few girls went down to the water's edge and threw in stones, laughing at the splashes they made. Then a young man found an empty bottle and flung it far out into the channel. Fifty or sixty men and women threw stones at it, laughing when shots went wide, cheering when some well-aimed stone set the bottle rocking. Further back from the water's edge young men and girls were romping with each other, the girls crying shrilly and laughing boisterously, the men catching them round their waists or by their arms. It might have been a crowd out for enjoyment of a Bank Holiday.

The launch reached the battleship, was hoisted and stowed on board. Almost immediately a long line of signal flags fluttered from the squat mast. Smoke began to pour from the funnels. The flags were hauled down and another festoon of them was hoisted in their place. I could see an answering stream of flags fluttering from one of the ships further out.

Then, very slowly, the great steamer began to move. She went at a snail's pace, as it seemed to me, across the lough to the County Down coast. Very slowly she swept round in a wide circle and steamed back again northward. There was something terrifying in the stately deliberation with which she moved. It was as if some great beast of prey paced as a sentinel in front of his victim, so conscious of his power to seize and kill that he could afford to wait before he sprang.

The crowd behind us was silent now. The laughter and the play had ceased. Children were crowding round the women seeking for hands to hold. Some of the women, vaguely terror-stricken, looked into the faces of the men. Others had drawn a little apart from the rest of the crowd and stood in a group by themselves, staring out at the battleship. There were middle-aged women and quite young women in this group. I raised my field-glasses and scanned their faces. There was one expression on them, and only one—not fear, but hatred. Women fight sometimes in citizen armies when such things have been called into existence. But it is not their fighting power which makes them important. That is, probably, always quite inconsiderable. What makes them a force to be reckoned with in war is their faculty for hating. They hate with more concentration and intensity than men do. These women were mindful, perhaps, of the girl with the baby whom Clithering had seen shot. They realized, perhaps, the menace for husbands, lovers, and sons which lay in the guns of the black ironclad parading sluggishly before their eyes. Remembering and anticipating death, they hated the source of it with uncompromising bitterness. The men in the crowd seemed crushed into silence by mere wonder and expectation of some unknown thing. They were not, so far as I could judge, afraid. They were not excited. They simply waited to see what was to happen to them and their town.

Once more a string of flags fluttered from the ship's mast. Once more the answer came from her consorts. Then for the third time she swept round. We saw her foreshortened; then end on; then foreshortened again as her other side swung into view. At that moment—just before the whole length of her lay flat before our eyes she fired. At first I scarcely realized that she had fired. There was a small cloud of white smoke hanging over her near the bow. That was all for the moment. Then came the horrible sound of the great projectile racing through the air. Then it was past.

Some women in the crowd, a few, shrieked aloud. Some girls ran wildly towards the town, driven, I suppose, to seek shelter of some kind. Most of the crowd stood silent. Then from some young men who stood together there came a kind of moaning sound. It gathered volume. It, as it were, took shape. Voice after voice took it up. The whole crowd—many hundreds of men and women—sang together the hymn they had all been singing for months past, "O God, our help in ages past." I do not know how far back towards the town the singing spread, but it would not surprise me to hear that ten thousand voices joined in it.

Bland had his glasses raised. He was still gazing at the battleship.

"A strange answer," I said, "to make to the first shell of a bombardment."

"Yes," said Bland. "It reminds me of a profane rhyme which I used to hear:

"'There was a young lady of Zion Who sang Sunday-school songs to a lion.'

"But hers, I should say, was the more sensible proceeding of the two."

I was not sure. It is just conceivable—it seemed to me at that moment even likely—that a hymn, sung as that one was, may be the most effective answer to a big gun. There are only certain things which guns can do. When they have destroyed life and ruined buildings their power is spent. But the singing of hymns may, and sometimes does, render men for a time at least, indifferent to the loss of their lives and the ruin of their houses. Against men in the frame of mind which hymn-singing induces the biggest guns are powerless. The original singers fall, perhaps, but the spirit of their singing survives. For each voice silenced by the bursting shells ten voices take up the song.

The battleship, after firing the gun, swung round and once more slowly steamed across the lough. I waited, tense with excitement, for her to turn again. At the next turn, I felt sure, another shell would come. I was wrong. She turned, more slowly than ever as it seemed. No white smoke issued from her. Again she steamed northwards. Again, opposite Carrickfergus, close to the northern shore, she turned. Right in front of her bows the water was suddenly broken. It was as if some one had dropped a huge stone close to her. The spray of the splash must have fallen on her fore deck.

"My God!" said Bland, "they're firing at her. Look! From the hill above the town."

I could not look. My eyes were on the ship as she slowly turned. Her side came gradually into view. Then, quite suddenly and for no apparent reason, she staggered. I saw her list over heavily, right herself again, and steam on.

"Hit!" said Bland. "Hit! Hit!"

He danced beside me with excitement.

Two puffs of smoke hung over the ship's decks, one forward, one aft, and blew clear again. But this time we heard no shrieking shells. She was firing, not at the town, but at the guns on the hill which threatened and wounded her. Then her signal flags ran up again. Before the answer came from the other ships the sea was broken twice close to her. I looked to see her stagger from another blow, heel over, perhaps sink. Her speed increased. In a minute she was rushing towards us, flinging white waves from her great bows. Then she swept round once more. Fire as well as smoke poured from her funnels. She steamed eastwards down the lough. We saw her join the other ships far out. She and they lay motionless together.

The crowd behind us began to sing their hymn again.

Bland and I left our lighthouse and went back towards the town. We passed Bob and his men in their trench but they scarcely noticed us. We pushed our way through the crowd. We passed the shipbuilding yard, now full of eager people, discussing the departure of the ship, canvassing the possibility of her coming back again.

"What guns have they on the Cave Hill?" said Bland.

"I don't know," I said. "I did not know that they had any guns."

"I wonder where they got them," said Bland. "I wonder who has command of them."

I could answer, or thought I could answer, both questions. As we struggled through the crowds which thronged the quay I told Bland of the visits of the Finola to our bay and of the piles of huge packing-cases which Godfrey had shown me in the sheds behind the store.

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