by Alec John Dawson
PART I. THE
I. IN THE MAKING
II. AT THE
VII. A GIRL AND
VIII. A STIRRING
IX. A STEP DOWN
NIGHT IN LONDON
XIV. THE NEWS
XV. SUNDAY NIGHT
XVI. A PERSONAL
XVII. ONE STEP
XVIII. THE DEAR
XIX. THE TRAGIC
PART II. THE
I. THE FIRST
III. THE RETURN
V. MY OWN PART
VII. THE SWORD
OF THE LORD
IX. THE CITIZENS
X. SMALL FIGURES
ON A GREAT STAGE
XI. THE SPIRIT
OF THE AGE
XII. BLOOD IS
XIII. ONE SUMMER
XIV. “FOR GOD,
OUR RACE, AND
HEART AND SINGLE
ACROSS THE SEA
XVIII. THE PEACE
XIX. THE GREAT
XX. PEACE HATH
PART I. THE DESCENT
Non his juventus orta parentibus infecit aequor sanguine
I. IN THE MAKING
Such as I am, sirno great subject for a boaster, I admityou
in me a product of my time, sir, and of very worthy parents, I
assure you.EZEKIEL JOY.
As a very small lad, at home in Tarn Regis, I had but one close
chum, George Stairs, and he went off with his father to Canada, while I
was away for my first term at Elstree School. Then came Rugby, where I
had several friends, but the chief of them was Leslie Wheeler. Just why
we should have been close friends I cannot say, but I fancy it was
mainly because Leslie was such a handsome fellow, and always seemed to
cut a good figure in everything he did; while I, on the other hand,
excelled in nothing, and was not brilliant even in the expression of my
discontent, which was tolerably comprehensive. Withal, in other matters
beside discontent, I was a good deal of an extremist, and by no means
lacking in enthusiasm.
My father, too, was an enthusiast in his quiet way. His was the
enthusiasm of the student, and his work as historian and archæologist
absorbed, I must suppose, a great deal more of his interest and energy
than was ever given to his cure of souls. He was rector of Tarn Regis,
in Dorset, before I was born, and at the time of his death, to be
present at which I was called away in the middle of the last term of my
third year at Cambridge. I was to have spent four years at the
University; but, as the event proved, I never returned there after my
hurried departure, three days prior to my father's death.
The personal tie between my father and those among whom he lived and
worked was not a very close or intimate bond. His contribution to the
Cambridge History was greatly appreciated by scholars, and his
archæological research won him the respect and esteem of his peers in
that branch of study. But I cannot pretend that his loss was keenly
felt by his parishioners, with most of whom his relations had been
strictly professional rather than personal. A good man and true,
without a trace of anything sordid or self-seeking in his nature, my
father was yet singularly indifferent to everything connected with the
daily lives and welfare of his fellow creatures.
In this he was typical of a considerable section of the country
clergy of the time. I knew colleagues of his who were more pronounced
examples of the type. One in particular I call to mind (whose living
was in the gift of a Cambridge college, like my father's), who, though
a good fellow and a clean-lived gentleman, was no more a Christian than
he was a Buddhistless, upon the whole. Among scholarly folk he made
not the slightest pretence of regarding the fundamental tenets of the
Christian faith in the light of anything more serious than interesting
historical myths, notable sections in the mosaic of folk-lore, which it
was his pride and delight to study and understand.
Such men as ARand my father (and there were many like them,
and more who shared their aloofness while lacking half their virtues)
lived hard-working, studious lives, in which the common kinds of
self-indulgence played but a very small part. Honourable, kindly at
heart, gentle, rarely consciously selfish, these worthy men never gave
a thought to the current affairs of their country, to their own part as
citizens, or to the daily lives of their fellow countrymen. Indeed,
they exhibited a kind of gentle intolerance and contempt in all topical
concerns; and though they preached religion and drew stipends as
expounders of Christianity, they no more thought of prying or
interfering, as they would have said, into the actual lives and
hearts and minds of those about them, than of thrusting their hands
into their parishioners' pockets.
Stated in this bald way the thing may sound incredible, but those
whose recollections carry them back to the opening years of the century
will bear me out in saying that this was far from being either the most
distressing or the most remarkable among the outworkings of what was
then extolled as a broad spirit of tolerance. Our tolerance, our
vaunted cosmopolitanism, were far more dangerous factors of our
national life, had we but known it, than either the insularity of our
sturdy forbears or the strength of our enemies had ever been.
Even my dear mother did not, I think, feel the shock of her
bereavement so much as might have been supposed. One may say, without
disrespect, that the loss of my father gave point and justification to
my mother's attitude toward life. Kind, gentle soul that she was, my
mother was afflicted with what might be called the worrying
temperament; a disposition characteristic of that troublous time. My
memory seems to fasten upon the matter of domestic labour as
representing the crux and centre of my dear mother's grievances and
topics of lament prior to my father's death. The subject may seem to
border upon the ridiculous, as an influence upon one's general point of
view; but at that time it was really more tragic than farcical, and I
know that what was called the servant questionas such it was
gravely treated in books and papers, and even by leader-writers and
lecturersformed the basis of a great deal of my mother's
conversation, just as I am sure that it coloured her outlook upon life,
and strengthened her tendency to worry over everything, from the
wear-and-tear of house-linen to the morality of the people. All this
was incomprehensible and absurd to my father, though, had he but
thought of it, it was really more human than his own attitude; for
certainly my mother was interested and concerned in the daily lives of
her fellow creatures, though not in a cheering or illuminating manner
But, as I say, the deprecatory, worrying attitude had become second
nature with my mother long years before her widowhood, and had lined
and seamed her poor forehead and silvered her hair before my Rugby days
were over. Bereavement merely gave point to a mood already well
That I should not return to Cambridge was decided as a matter of
course within the week of my father's funeral, when we learned that the
little he had left behind him would not even pay for the dilapidations
of the rectory. There was practically nothing, when my father's affairs
were put in order, beyond my mother's little property, a recent legacy,
the investment of which in Canadian railway stocks brought in about a
hundred and fifty a year.
Thus I found myself confronted with a sufficiently serious situation
for a young man whose training so far had no more fitted him for taking
part in any particular division of the battle of life, where the prize
sought is an income, than for the administration of the planet Mars.
Rugby was better than some of the great public schools in this respect,
for a lad with definite purposes and ambitions, but its curriculum had
far less bearing upon the working life of the age than it had upon its
games and pastimes and the affairs of nations and peoples long since
passed away. Yet Rugby belonged to a group of schools that were
admittedly the best, and certainly the most outrageously costly, of the
educational establishments of the period.
I think my sister Lucy was more shocked than any one else by the
death of our father. I say shocked, because I am not certain whether or
not the word grieved would apply accurately. For one thing, Lucy had
never before seen any dead person. Neither had I, for that matter; but
Lucy was more affected by the actual presence in the house of Death,
than I was. Twice a day for years she had kissed our father's forehead.
Now and again she had sat upon the arm of his chair and stroked his
thin hair. These demonstrations were connected, I believe, with the
quest of favourspermission, money, and so forth; but doubtless
affection played a part in them.
As for Lucy's home life, a little conversation I recall on the
occasion of her driving me to the station when I was leaving for what
proved my last term at Cambridge, seems to me to throw some light. I
had but recently learned of Lucy's engagement to marry Doctor
Woodthrop, of Davenham Minster, our nearest market-town. I had found
Woodthrop a decent fellow enough, but thirty-four as against Lucy's
twenty-one, inclining ominously to corpulence, and as flatly prosaic
and unadventurous a spirit as a small country town could produce. Now,
as Lucy seemed to me to have hankerings in the direction of social
pleasures and the like, with a penchant for brilliancy and daring, I
was a little puzzled about her engagement, for Woodthrop was one who
kept a few conversational pleasantries on hand, as a man keeps old
pipes on a rack, for periodical use at suitable times.
So you are actually going to be married, Loo? I said.
Oh, well, engaged, Dick, she replied, with a little blush.
With a view, I presume. Then I suppose it follows that you are in
Why, Dick, what a cross-examiner you are! The blush increased.
Well, my dear girl, surely it's a natural assumption, is it not?
Oh, I suppose so. But
Well, I don't think in real life it's the same thing that you read
about in novels, do you, Dick?
What? Being in love?
Well, perhaps not; but I imagine it ought to be something pretty
pronounced, you know, even in such a pale reflection of the novels as
real life. I gather that it ought to be; seriously, Loo, I think it
ought to be. I suppose you do love Woodthrop, don't you?
My sister looked a little distressed, and I half-regretted having
put so direct a question. I was sufficiently the product of my day to
be terribly afraid of any kind of interference with my fellow
creatures. Our apotheosis of individual liberty had made any such
action anathema, bad form, a sin more resented in the sinner than
cowardice or dishonesty, or than any kind of wickedness which was
strictly personal and, as you might say, self-contained. Our one object
of universal reverence and respect was the personal equation.
There, Loo, I said, I didn't mean to tease you. Thus, in
accordance with my traditions, I brushed aside and apologized for my
natural interest in her well-being in the same way that my poor father
and his like brushed away all matters of topical import, and the
average man of the period brushed aside all concern with his fellow
men, all responsibility for the common weal.
No, she said, I know you didn't. And, indeed, Dick, I suppose I
don't love Herbert as well as I ought; butbut, Dick, you don't know
what it is to be a girl. You can go off to Cambridge, and presently you
will go out into the world and live your own life in your own way. But
it's different for me, Dick. A girl is not supposed to want to live her
own life; she is just part of the home, and the home. Well, Dick,
you know father's life, and motherpoor mother
Yes, I said, that's so.
Well, Dick, I'm afraid it seems pretty selfish, but I do want to
live my own way, and I do get terribly tired ofof
Of the 'servant question,' for instance.
And you think you can live your own life with Woodthrop?
Why, I think he is very kind and good, Dick, and he says there's no
reason why I shouldn't hunt, if I can manage with one mount, and we can
have friends of mine to stay, andand so on.
Yes, I see. You will be mistress of a house.
And, of course, I like him very much, Dick; he really is good.
That was how Lucy felt about her marriage. There seemed to me to be
a good deal lacking; but then I was rather given to concentrating my
attention upon flaws and gaps. And when I was next at home, at the time
of my father's death, I could not help feeling that the engagement was
something to be thankful for. A hundred and fifty a year would mean a
good deal of pinching for my mother alone, as things went then; but for
mother and Lucy together it would have been painfully short commons.
Life, even in the country, was an expensive business at that time
despite the current worship of cheapness and of free trade, as our
Quixotic fiscal policy was called. The sum total of our wants and
fancied wants had been climbing steadily, while our individual
capability in domestic and other simple matters had been on the decline
for a long while.
In the end we decided that my mother and Lucy should establish
themselves in apartments on the outskirts of Davenham Minster, which
apartments would serve my mother permanently, with the relinquishment
of a single room after Lucy's marriage. I saw them both established,
gathered my few personal belongings in a trunk and a couple of bags,
and started for London on a brilliantly fine morning toward the end of
At that time a young man went to London as a matter of course, when
launching out for himself. It was not that folk liked living in the
huge city (though, curiously enough, many did), but they gravitated
toward it because the great aim, always, and in those conditions
necessarily, was to make money. There was more money knocking about,
so people said, in London than anywhere else; so that was the place for
which one made.
I started for London with a capital of precisely eleven guineas over
and above my railway fareand left it again on the same day.
II. AT THE WATER'S EDGE
Now a little before them, there was on the left-hand of the
Meadow, and a Stile to go over into it, and that Meadow is
By-Path-Meadow.The Pilgrim's Progress.
My friend, Leslie Wheeler, had left Cambridge a few months before my
summons home, in order to enter his father's office in Moorgate Street.
His father was of the mysteriously named tribe of financial agents,
and had evidently found it a profitable calling.
As I never understood anything of even the nomenclature of finance,
I will not attempt to describe the business into which my friend had
been absorbed; but I remember that it afforded occupation for dozens of
gentlemanly young fellows, the correctness of whose coiffure and
general appearance was beyond praise. These beautifully groomed young
gentlemen sat upon high stools at desks of great brilliancy. They used
an ingenious arrangement of foolscap paper to protect their shirt-cuffs
from contact with baser things, and one of the reasons for the evident
care lavished upon the disposition of their hair may have been the fact
that they made it a point of honour to go hatless when taking the air
or out upon business during the day. Their general appearance and
deportment in the office and outside always conveyed to me the
suggestion that they were persons of some wealth and infinite leisure;
but I have been assured that they were hard-working clerks, whose
salaries, even in these simpler days, would not be deemed extravagant.
These salaries, I have been told, worked out at an average of perhaps
£120 or £130 a year.
Now London meant no more to me at that time than a place where, upon
rare occasions, one dined in splendour, went to a huge and gilded
music-hall, cultivated a bad headache, and presently sought to ease it
by eating a nightmarish supper, and eating it against time. My
allowance at Cambridge had, no doubt fortunately for my digestion,
allowed of but few excursions to the capital; but my friend Wheeler
lived within twenty miles of it, and I figured him already burgeoning
as a magnate of Moorgate Street. Therefore I had of course written to
him of my proposed descent upon the metropolis, and had been very
kindly invited to spend a week at his father's house in Weybridge
before doing anything else. Accordingly then, having reached Waterloo
by a fast train, I left most of my effects in the cloak-room there, and
taking only one bag, journeyed down to Weybridge.
My friend welcomed me in person in the hall of his father's big and
rather showy house, he having returned from the City earlier than usual
for that express purpose. I had already met his mother and two sisters
upon four separate occasions at Cambridge. Indeed, I may say that I had
almost corresponded with Leslie's second sister, Sylvia. At all events,
we had exchanged half a dozen letters, and I had even begged, and
obtained, a photograph. At Cambridge I thought I had detected in this
delicately pretty, soft-spoken girl, some sympathy and fellow-feeling
in the matter of my own crude gropings toward a philosophy of life. You
may be sure I did not phrase it in that way then. The theories upon
which my discontent with the prevailing order of things was based,
seemed to me then both strong and practical; a little ahead of my time
perhaps, but far from crude or unformed. As I see it now, my creed was
rather a protest against indifference, a demand for some measure of
activity in social economy. That my muse was socialistic seems to me
now to have been mainly accidental, but so it was, and its nutriment
had been drawn largely from such sources as Carpenter's
Civilization: its Cause and Cure, in addition to the standard works
of the Socialist leaders.
It is quite possible that one of the reasons of my continued
friendship with Leslie Wheeler was the fact that, in his agreeable
manner, he represented in person much of the butterfly indifference to
what I considered the serious problems of life, against which my
fulminations were apt to be directed. I may have clung to him
instinctively as a wholesome corrective. At all events, he submitted,
in the main good-humouredly, to my frequently personal diatribes, and,
by his very complaisance and merry indifference, supplied me again and
again with point and illustration for my sermons.
Leslie's elder sister, Marjory, was his counterpart in petticoats;
merry, frivolous, irresponsible, devoted to the chase of pleasure, and
obdurately bent upon sparing neither thought nor energy over other
interests; denying their very existence indeed, or good-humouredly
ridiculing them when they were forced upon her. She was a very handsome
girl; I was conscious of that; but, perhaps because I could not
challenge her as I did her brother, her character made no appeal to me.
But Sylvia, on the other hand, with her big, spiritual-looking eyes,
transparently fair skin, and earnest, even rapt expression; Sylvia
stirred my adolescence pretty deeply, and was assiduously draped by me
in that cloth of gold and rose-leaves which every young man is apt to
weave from out of his own inner consciousness for the persons of those
representatives of the opposite sex in whom he detects sympathy and
Mrs. Wheeler spoke in a kind and motherly way of my bereavement, and
the generosity of youth somehow prevented my appreciation of this being
dulled by the fact that, until reminded, she had forgotten whether I
had lost a father or a mother. Indeed, though not greatly interested in
other folk's affairs, I believe that while the good soul's eyes rested
upon the supposed sufferer, or his story, she was sincerely sorry about
any kind of trouble, from her pug's asthma to the annihilation of a
multitude in warfare or disaster. She had the kindest heart, and no
doubt it was rather her misfortune than her fault that she could not
clearly realize any circumstance or situation which did not impinge in
some way upon her own small circle.
I met Leslie's father for the first time at dinner that evening. One
could hardly have imagined him sparing time for visits to Cambridge. He
was a fine, soldierly-looking man, with no trace of City pallor in his
well-shaven, purple cheeks. Purple is hardly the word. The ground was
crimson, I think, and over that there was spread a delicate tracery, a
sort of netted film, of some kind of blue. The eyes had a glaze over
them, but were bright and searching. The nose was a salient feature,
having about it a strong predatory suggestion. The forehead was low,
surmounted by exquisitely smooth iron-gray hair. Mr. Wheeler was
scrupulously fine in dress, and used a single eye-glass. He gave me
hearty welcome, and I prefer to think that the apparent chilling of his
attitude to me after he had learned of my financial circumstances was
merely the creation of some morbid vein of hyper-sensitiveness in
At all events, we were all very jolly together that evening, and I
went happily to bed, after what I thought a hint of responsive pressure
in my handshake with Sylvia, and several entertaining anecdotes from
Mr. Wheeler as to the manner in which fortunes had been made in the
purlieus of Throgmorton Street. Launching oneself upon a prosperous
career in London seemed an agreeably easy process at the end of that
first evening in the Wheeler's home, and the butterfly attitude toward
life appeared upon the whole less wholly blameworthy than before. What
a graceful fellow Leslie was, and how suave and genial the father when
he sat at the head of his table toying with a glass of port! And these
were capable men, too, men of affairs. Doubtless their earnestness was
strong enough below the surface, I thoughtfor that night.
III. AN INTERLUDE
To observations which ourselves we make,
We grow more partial for th' observer's sake.
Though in no sense unfriendly or lacking in sympathy, I noticed that
Leslie Wheeler showed no inclination to be drawn into intimate
discussion of my prospects. I was not inclined to blame my friend for
this, but told myself that he probably acted upon paternal
instructions. For me, however, it was impossible to lay aside for long,
thoughts regarding my immediate future. I was aware that a nest-egg of
eleven or twelve pounds was not a very substantial barrier between
oneself and want. Mr. Wheeler told no more stories of fortunes built
out of nothing in the City, but he did take occasion to refer casually
to the fact that City men did not greatly care for the products of
public schools and universities, as employees.
I was more than half-inclined to ask why, in this case, Leslie had
been sent to Rugby and Cambridge, but decided to avoid the personal
application of his remark. It was, after all, no more than the
expression of a commonly accepted view, striking though it seems as a
comment upon the educational system of the period, when one remembers
the huge proportion of the middle and upper-class populace which was
absorbed by commercial callings of one kind or another.
There was practically no demand for physical prowess or aptitude,
outside the field of sport and games, nor even for those qualities
which are best served by a good physical training. One need not,
therefore, be greatly surprised that the public schools should have
given no physical training outside games, and that even of the most
perfunctory character, the majority qualifying as interested spectators
merely, of the prowess of the minority. But it certainly is remarkable,
that no practical business training, nor studies of a sort calculated
to be of use in later business training, should have been given in the
schools most favoured by those for whom business was a life's calling.
In this, as in so many other matters, I suppose we were guided and
directed entirely by habit and tradition; the line of least resistance.
When I talked of my prospects with handsome Leslie Wheelerhis was
his father's face, unblemished and unwornour conversation was always
three parts jocular, at all events upon his side. I was to recast
society and mould our social system anew by means of my pen, and of
journalism. I was to provide the poor blessed poor with hot-buttered
rolls and devilled kidneys for breakfast, said Leslie, and introduce
old-age pensions for every British workman who survived his
I would not be understood to suggest that this sort of facetiousness
indicated the average attitude of the period with regard to the
horrible fact that the country contained millions of people permanently
in a state of want and privation. But it was a quite possible attitude
then. Such people as my friend could never have mocked the sufferings
of an individual. But with regard to the state of affairs, the pitiful
millions, as an abstract proposition, indifference was the rule, a tone
of light cynicism was customary, and the poor we have always with us,
quoted with a deprecatory shrug, was an accepted conversational refuge,
even among such people as the clergy and charitable workers.
And this, if one comes to think of it, was inevitable. The life and
habits and general attitude of the period would have been absolutely
impossible, in conjunction with any serious face-to-face consideration
of a situation which embraced, for example, such preposterously
contradictory elements as these:
The existence of huge and growing armies of absolutely unemployed
men; the insistence of the populace, and particularly the business
people, upon the disbandment of regiments, and upon great naval and
military reductions, involving further unemployment; the voting of
considerable sums for distribution among the unemployed; violent
opposition to the mere suggestion of State aid to enable the unemployed
of England to migrate to those parts of the Empire which actually
needed their labour; the increasing difficulty of the problem which was
wrapped up in the question of What to do with our sons; the absolute
refusal of the nation to admit of universal military service; the
successive closing by tariff of one foreign market after another
against British manufactures, and the hysterical refusal of the people
to protect their own markets from what was graphically called the
dumping into them of the surplus products of other peoples.
It is a queer catalogue, with a ring of insanity about it; but these
were the merest commonplaces of life at that time, and the man who
rebelled against them was a crank. My friend Leslie's attitude was
natural enough, therefore; and, with a few exceptions, it was my own,
for, curiously enough, the political school I favoured was, root and
branch, opposed to the only possible remedies for this situation.
Liberals, Radicals, Socialists, and the majority of those who arrogated
to themselves the title of Social Reformers; these were the people who
insisted, if not upon the actual evils and sufferings indicated in this
illustrative note of social contradictions, then upon violent
opposition to their complements in the way of mitigation and relief.
And I was keenly of their number.
Many of these matters I discussed, or perhaps I should say, dilated
upon, in conversation with Sylvia, while her brother and father were in
London. We would begin with racquets in the tennis-court, and end late
for some meal, after long wanderings among the pines. And in Sylvia, as
it seemed to me, I found the most delightfully intelligent
responsiveness, as well as sympathy. My knowledge of feminine nature,
its extraordinary gifts of emotional and personal intuition, was of the
scantiest, if it had any existence at all. But my own emotional side
was active, and my mind an inchoate mass of ideals and more or less
sentimental longings for social betterment. And so, with Sylvia's
gentle acquiescence, I rearranged the world.
Much I have forgotten, and am thus spared the humiliation of
recounting. But, as an example of what I recall, I remember a
conversation which arose from our passing a miniature rifle-range which
some local residentSome pompous Jingo of retrogressive tendencies,
I called himhad erected with a view to tempting young Weybridge into
marksmanship; a tolerably forlorn prospect at that time.
Is it not pathetic, I said, in twentieth-century England, to see
such blatant attacks upon progress as that?
Sylvia nodded gravely; sweetly sympathetic understanding, as I saw
it. And, after all, why not? Understanding of my poor bubbling mind,
anyhow, andNature's furnishing of young women's minds is a mighty
subtle business, not very much more clearly understood to-day than in
the era of knight-errantry.
Sylvia nodded gravely, as I spurned the turf by the range.
Here we are surrounded by quagmires of poverty, injustice, social
anomalies, and human distress, and this poor soula rich pork-butcher,
angling for the favours of a moribund political party, I dare
saylavishes heaven knows how many pounds over an arrangement by which
young men are to be taught how to kill each other with neatness and
despatch at a distance of half a mile! It is more tragical than
farcical. It is enough to make one despair of one's fellow countrymen,
with their silly bombast about 'Empire,' and their childish waving of
flags. 'Empire,' indeed; God save the mark! And our own little country
groaning, women and children wailing, for some measure of common-sense
It is dreadful, dreadful, said Sylvia. My heart leapt out to meet
the gentle goodness of her. But still, I suppose there must be
soldiers, she added. Of course, this touched me off as a spark applied
But that is just the whole crux of the absurdity, and as long as so
unreal a notion is cherished we can never be freed from the slavery of
these huge armaments. Soldiers are only necessary if war is necessary,
and war can only be necessary while men are savages. The differences
between masters and men are far more vital and personal than the
differences between nations; yet they have long passed the crude stage
of thirsting for each other's destruction as a means of settling
quarrels. War is a relic of barbarous days. So long as armies are
maintained, unscrupulous politicians will wage war. If we, who call
ourselves the greatest nation in Christendom, would even deserve the
credit of plain honesty, we must put away savagery, and substitute
boards of arbitration for armies and navies.
Yes, I see, said Sylvia, her face alight with interest, I feel
that must be the true, the Christian view. But suppose the other
nations would not agree to arbitration?
But there is not a doubt they would. Can you suppose that any
people are so insensate as really to like war, carnage, slaughter, for
their own sake, when peaceful alternatives are offered?
No, I suppose not; and, indeed, I feel that all you say is true,
Please don't say 'Mr. Mordan,' Sylvia. Even your mother and sister
call me Dick. No, no, the other nations would be only too glad to
follow our lead, and we, as the greatest Power, should take that lead.
What could their soldiers do to a soldierless people, anyhow; and even
if we lost at the beginning, why, 'What shall it profit a man if he
gain the whole world and lose his own soul?' Of what use is the
dominion of a huge, unwieldy empire when even a tiny country like this
is so administered that a quarter of its population live always on the
verge of starvation? Let the Empire go, let Army and Navy go, let us
concentrate our energies upon the arts of peace, science, education,
the betterment of the conditions of life among the poor, the right
division of the land among those that will till it. Let us do that, and
the world would have something to thank us for, and we should soon hear
the last of these noisy, ranting idiots who are eternally waving flags
like lunatics and mouthing absurd phrases about imperialism and
patriotism, national destiny, and rubbish of that sort. Our duty is to
humanity, and not to any decayed symbols of feudalism. The talk of
patriotism and imperialism is a gigantic fraud, and the tyranny of it
makes our names hated throughout the world. We have no right to enforce
our sway upon the peace-loving farmers and the ignorant blacks of South
Africa. They rightly hate us for it, and so do the millions of India,
upon whom our yoke is held by armies of soldiers who have to be
maintained by their victims. It casts one down to think of it, just as
the sight of those ridiculous rifle-butts and the thought of the
diseased sentiment behind them depresses one.
It all seems very mad and wrong, butbut I wish you would not take
it so much to heart, said Sylvia.
That is very sweet of you, I told her; and, indeed, there is not
so much real cause to be downhearted. The last elections showed clearly
enough that the majority of our people are alive to all this. The
leaven of enlightenment is working strongly among the people, and the
old tyranny of Jingoism is dying fast. One sees it in a hundred ways.
Boer independence has as warm friends in our Parliament as on the veld.
The rising movements of internationalism, of Pan-Islam, the Swadeshi
movement, the rising toward freedom in India; all these are largely
directed from Westminster. The Jingo sentiment toward Germany, a really
progressive nation, full of natural and healthy ambitions, is being
swept away by our own statesmen; by their courteous and friendly
attitude toward the Kaiser, who delights to honour our present Minister
of War. Also, the work of disarmament has begun. The naval estimates
are being steadily pruned, and whole regiments have been finally
disbanded. And all this comes from within. So you see we have some
grounds for hopefulness. It is a great step forward, for our own
elected leaders to show the enthusiastic and determined opposition they
are showing to the old brutal pretensions of England to sway the world
by brute strength. But, forgive me! Perhaps I tire you with all
No, no, indeed you don'tDick, II think it is beautiful. Itit
seems to make everything bigger, more kind and good. It interests me,
And I knew perfectly well that I had not tired herwearisome though
the recital of it all may be now. For I knew instinctively how the
personal note told in the whole matter. I had been really heated, and
perfectly sincere, but a kind of subconscious cunning had led me to
utilize the heat of the moment in introducing between us, for example,
the use of first names. Well I knew that I was not wearying Sylvia. But
coldly recited now, I admit the rhodomontade to be exceedingly
tiresome. My excuse for it is that it serves to indicate the sort of
ideas that were abroad at the time, the sort of sentiments which were
shaping our destiny.
After all, I was an educated youth. Many of my hot statements, too,
were of fact, and not merely of opinion and feeling. It is a fact that
the sentiment called anti-British had come to be served more slavishly
in England than in any foreign land. The duration of our disastrous war
in South Africa was positively doubled, as the result of British
influence, by Boer hopes pinned upon the deliberate utterances of
British politicians. In Egypt, South Africa, India, and other parts of
the Empire, all opposition to British rule, all risings, attacks upon
our prestige, and the like, were aided, and in many cases fomented,
steered, and brought to a successful issuenot by Germans or other
foreigners, but by Englishmen, and by Englishmen who had sworn
allegiance at St. Stephens. It is no more than a bare statement of fact
to say that, in the very year of my arrival in London, the party which
ruled the State was a party whose members openly avowed and boasted of
their opposition to British dominion, and that in terms, not less, but
far more sweeping than mine in talking to Sylvia among the pines at
But if Sylvia appreciated and sympathized in the matter of my
sermonizing, the rest of the family neither approved the sermons nor
Sylvia's interest in them. I was made to feel in various ways that no
import must be attached to my attentions to Sylvia. Marjory began to
shadow her sister in the daytime, and, as she was frankly rather bored
by me, I could not but detect the parental will in this.
Then with regard to my social and political views, Mr. Wheeler
joined with his son in openly deriding them. In Leslie's case the thing
never went beyond friendly banter. Leslie had no political opinions; he
laughed joyously at the mere notion of bothering his head about such
matters for a moment. And, in his way, he represented an enormous
section of the younger generation of Englishmen in this. The father, on
the other hand, was equally typical of his class and generation. This
was how he talked to me over his port:
I tell you what it is, you know, Mordan: you're a regular
firebrand, you know; by Jove, you are; an out-and-out Socialistic
Radical: that's what you are. By gad, sir, I don't mince my words. I
consider thateropinions like yours are a danger to the country; I
do, indeed; a danger to the country, anderto theto the Empire. I
do, by gad. And as for your notions about disarmament and that, why,
even if our army reductions are justifiable, which, upon my word, I
very much doubt, it's ridiculous to suppose we can afford to cut down
our Navy. No, sir, the British Navy is Britain's safeguard, and it
ought not to be tampered with. I'm an out-and-out Imperialist myself,
anderI can tell you I have no patience with your Little
I am not at all sure whether the class Mr. Wheeler belonged to was
not almost the most dangerous class of all. The recent elections showed
this class to be a minority. Of course, this section had its strong
men, but that it also included a large number of men like Leslie's
father was a facta fact which yielded pitiful evidence of its
weakness. These men called themselves out-and-out Imperialists, and
had not a notion of even the meaning of the word they used. Still less
had they any notion of accepting any rôle which involved the bearing of
responsibilities, the discharge of civic and national duties.
Mr. Wheeler's aim in life was to make money and to enjoy himself. He
would never have exercised his right to vote if voting had involved
postponing dinner. He liked to talk of the British Empire, but he did
not even know precisely of what countries it consisted, and I think he
would cheerfully have handed Canada to France, Australia to Germany,
India to Russia, and South Africa to the Boers, if by so doing he could
have escaped the paying of income-tax.
On Sunday night, my last night at Weybridge, I walked home from
church alone with Sylvia. Marjory was in bed with a sore throat, and
whatever their notions as to my undesirability, neither Mr. nor Mrs.
Wheeler were inclined to attend evening service. Leslie was not home
from golf at Byfleet. We were late for dinner, Sylvia and I, and during
our walk she promised to write to me regularly, and I promised many
things, and suggested many things, and was only deterred from actual
declaration by the thought of the poor little sum which stood between
me and actual want.
Next morning I went up to town with Leslie and his father to open my
campaign in London. As a first step toward procuring work, I was to
present a letter of introduction from a Cambridge friend to the editor
of the Daily Gazette. After that, as Leslie said, I was to
reform England inside out.
IV. THE LAUNCHING
O Friend! I know not which way I must look
For comfort, being, as I am, opprest
To think that now our life is only drest
For show; mean handi-work of craftsman, cook,
Or groom!We must run glittering like a brook
In the open sunshine, or we are unblest;
The wealthiest man among us is the best;
No grandeur now in Nature or in book
Looking back now upon that lonely launch of mine in London, I see a
very curious and sombre picture. In the living I am sure there must
have been mitigations, and light as well as shade. In the retrospect it
seems one long disillusion. I see myself, and the few folk with whom my
relations were intimate, struggling like ants across a grimy stage, in
the midst of an inferno of noise, confusion, pointless turmoil,
squalor, and ultimate cataclysm. The whole picture is lurid, superhuman
in its chaotic gloom; but in the living, I know there were gleams of
sunlight. The tragic muddle of that period was so monstrous, that even
we who lived through it are apt in retrospect to see only the gloom and
confusion. It is natural, therefore, that those who did not live
through it should be utterly unable to discern any glimpse of relief in
the picture. And that leads to misconception.
As a fact, I found very much to admire in London when I sallied
forth from the obscure lodging I had chosen in a Bloomsbury back
street, on the morning which brought an end to my stay with the
Wheelers at Weybridge. Also, it was not given to me at that time to
recognize as such one tithe of the madness and badness of the state of
affairs. Some wholly bad features were quite good in my eyes then.
London still clung to its season, as it was called, though
motor-cars and railway facilities had entirely robbed this of its
sharply defined nineteenth-century limits. Very many people, even among
the wealthy, lived entirely in London, spending their week-ends in this
or that country or seaside resort, and devoting the last months of
summer with, in many cases, the first months of autumn, to
holiday-making on the Continent, or in Scotland, or on the English
moors or coasts.
The London season was not over when I reached town, and in the
western residential quarters the sun shone brightly upon many-coloured
awnings and beautiful decorative plants and flowers. The annual rents
paid by people who lived behind these flowers and awnings frequently
ran into thousands of pounds, with ten shillings in each pound
additional by way of rates and taxes. To live at all, in this strata,
would cost a man and his wife perhaps eighty to a hundred pounds a
week, without anything which would have been called extravagance.
Hundreds of people who lived in this way had neighbours within a
hundred yards of their front doors who never had enough to eat. Even
such people as these had to pay preposterous rents for the privilege of
huddling together in a single wretched room. But many of their wealthy
neighbours spent hundreds, and even thousands of pounds a year over
securing comfort and happiness for such domestic animals as horses,
dogs, cats, and the like. Amiable, kindly gentlefolk they were, with
tender hearts and ready sympathies. Most of them were interested in
some form of charity. Many of them specialized, and these would devote
much energy to opposing the work of other charitable specialists. Lady
So-and-so, who advocated this panacea, found herself bitterly opposed
by Sir So-and-so, who wanted all sufferers to be made to take his
nostrum in his special way. Then sometimes poor Lady So-and-so would
throw up her panacea in a huff, and concentrate her energies upon the
work of some society for converting Jews, who did not want to be
converted, or for supplying red flannel petticoats for South Sea Island
girls, who infinitely preferred cotton shifts and floral wreaths. Even
these futile charities were permitted to overlap one another to a
bewilderingly wasteful extent.
But the two saddest aspects of the whole gigantic muddle so far as
charitable work went, were undoubtedly these: The fact that much of it
went to produce a class of men and women who would not do any kind of
work because they found that by judicious sponging they could live and
obtain alcohol and tobacco in idleness; and the fact that where
charitable endeavour infringed upon vested interests, licit or illicit,
it was savagely opposed by the persons interested.
The discipline of the national schools was slack, intermittent, and
of short reach. There was positively no duty to the State which a youth
was bound to observe. Broadly, it might be said that at that time
discipline simply did not enter at all into the life of the poor of the
towns, and charity of every conceivable and inconceivable kind did
enter into it at every turn.
The police service was excellent and crime exceedingly difficult of
accomplishment. The inevitable result was the evolution in the towns of
a class of men and women, but more especially of men, who, though
compact of criminal instincts of every kind, yet committed no offence
against criminal law. They committed nothing. They simply lived,
drinking to excess when possible, determined upon one point only: that
they never would do anything which could possibly be called work. It is
obvious that among such people the sense of duty either to themselves,
to each other, or to the State, was merely non-existent.
London had long since earned the reputation of being the most
charitable city in the world. Its share in the production of an immense
loafer class formed one sad aspect of London's charity when I first
came to know the city. Another was the opposition of vested
intereststhe opposition of the individual to the welfare of the mass.
One found it everywhere. An instance I call to mind (it happened to be
brought sharply home to me) struck at the root of the terribly rapid
production of degenerates, by virtue of its relation to pauper
childrenthat is, the children to whom the State, through its boards
of guardians, stood in the light of parents, because their natural
parents were dead, or in prison, or in lunatic asylums, or hopelessly
far gone in the state of criminal inactivity which qualified so many
for all three estates.
Huge institutions were built at great expense for the accommodation
of these little unfortunates. Here they were housed in the most costly
manner, the whole work of the establishment being carried on by a
highly paid staff of servants and officials. The children were not
allowed to do anything at all, beyond the learning by rote of various
theories which there was no likelihood of their ever being able to
apply to any reality of life with which they would come in contact.
They listened to lectures on the making of dainty dishes in the best
style of French cookery, and in many cases they never saw a box of
matches. They learned to repeat poetry as parrots might, but did not
know the difference between shavings and raw coffee. They learned vague
smatterings of Roman history, but did not know how to clean their boots
or brush their hair. It was as though experts had been called upon to
devise a scheme whereby children might be reared into their teens
without knowing that they were alive or where they lived, and this with
the greatest possible outlay of money per child. Then, at a given age,
these children were put outside the massive gates of the institutions
and told to run away and become good citizens.
It followed as a matter of course that most of them fell steadily
and rapidly into the pit; the place occupied by the criminally
inactive, the public-house props. So they returned poor, heavy-laden
creatures, by way of charity, to the institutions of the rates, thus
completing the vicious circle of life forced upon them by an incredibly
wrong-headed, topsyturvy administration.
For the maintenance of this vicious circle enormous sums of public
money were required. Failing such vast expenditure, Nature unaided
would have righted matters to some extent, and the Poor Law guardians
would have become by so much the less wielders of power and influence,
dispensers of public money. Some of these Poor Law guardians gave up
more or less honest trades to take to Poor Law guardianship as a
business; and they waxed fat upon it.
Every now and again came disclosures. Guardians were shown to have
paid ten shillings a score for such and such a commodity this year, and
next year to have refused a tender for the supply of the same article
at 9s. 8d. a score, in favour of the tender of a relative or protégé of
one of their number at 109s. 8d. a score. I remember the newspapers
showing up such cases as these during the week of my arrival in London.
The public read and shrugged shoulders.
Rascally thieves, these guardians, said the Public; and
straightway forgot the whole business in the rush of its own crazy race
But, cried the Reformer to the Public, this is really your
business. It is your duty as citizens to stop this infamous traffic.
Don't you see how you yourselves are being robbed?
You must picture our British Public of the day as a flushed, excited
man, hurrying wildly along in pursuit of two phantomsmoney and
pleasure. These he desired to grasp for himself, and he was being
furiously jostled by millions of his fellows, each one of whom desired
just the same thing, and nothing else. Faintly, amidst the frantic
turmoil, came the warning voices in the wilderness:
This is your business. It is your duty as citizens, etc.
Over his shoulder, our poor possessed Public would fling his answer:
Leave me alone. I haven't time to attend to it. I'm too busy. You
mustn't interrupt me. Why the deuce don't the Government see to it? Lot
of rascals! Don't bother me. I represent commerce, and, whatever you
do, you must not in any way interfere with the Freedom of Trade.
The band of the reformers was considerable, embracing as it did the
better, braver sort of statesmen, soldiers, sailors, clergy, authors,
journalists, sociologists, and the whole brotherhood of earnest
thinkers. But the din and confusion was frightful, the pace at which
the million lived was terrific; and, after all, the cries of the
reformers all meant the same thing, the one thing the great, sweating
public was determined not to hear, and not to act on. They all meant:
Step out from your race a moment. Your duties are here. You are
passing them all by. Come to your duties.
It was like a Moslem call to prayer; but, alas! it was directed at a
people who had sloughed all pretensions to be ranked among those who
respond to such calls, to any calls which would distract them from
their objective in the pelting pursuit of money and pleasure.
But I am digressingthe one vice which, unfortunately for us, we
never indulged or condoned at the time of my arrival in London. I
wanted to give an instance of that aspect of charity and attempted
social reform which aroused the opposition of vested interests and
chartered brigands in the great money hunt. It was this: A certain
charitable lady gave some years of her life to the study of those
conditions in which, as I have said, the criminally inactive, the
hopelessly useless, were produced by authorized routine, at a ruinous
cost in money and degeneracy, and to the great profit of an
This lady then gave some further years, not to mention money,
influence, and energy, to the evolution of a scheme by which these
pauper children could really be made good and independent citizens, and
that at an all-round cost of about one-fifth of the price of the
guardians' method for converting them into human wrecks and permanent
charges upon the State. The wise practicability of this lady's system
was admitted by independent experts, and denied by nobody. But it was
swept aside and crushed, beaten down with vicious, angry thoroughness,
in one quarterthe quarter of vested interest and authority; quietly,
passively discouraged in various other quarters; and generally ignored,
as another interrupting duty call, by the rushing public.
Here, then, were three kinds of oppositionthe first active and
deadly, the other two passive and fatal, because they withheld needed
support. The reason of the first, the guardians' opposition, was
frankly and shamelessly admitted in London at the time of my arrival
there. The guardians said:
This scheme would reduce the rates. We want more rates. It would
reduce the amount of money at our disposal. We aim at increasing that.
It would divert certain streams of cash from our own channel into other
channels in other parts of the Empire. We won't have it. But their
words were far less civil and more heated than these, though the sense
of them was as I have said.
The quiet, passive opposition was that of other workers in charity
and reform. They said in effect:
Yes, the scheme is all rightan excellent scheme. But why do you
take it upon yourself to bring it forward in this direct manner? Are
you not aware of the existence of our Bnostrum for pauper children,
or our Cspecific for juvenile emigration? Your scheme, admirable as
it is, ignores both these, and therefore you must really excuse us if
we Quite so! But, of course, as co-workers in the good cause, we
wish you well, and so forth.
The opposition of the general public I have explained. It was not
really opposition. It was simply a part of the disease of the period;
the dropsical, fatty degeneration of a people. But the mere fact that
the reformers sent forth their cries and still laboured beside the
public's crowded race-course; that such people as the lady I have
mentioned existedand there were many like hershould show that
London as I found it was not all shadow and gloom, as it seems when one
looks back upon it from the clear light of better days.
The darkness, the confusion, and the din, were not easy to see and
hear through then. From this distance they are more impenetrable; but I
know the light did break through continually in places, and good men
and women held wide the windows of their consciousness to welcome it,
striving their utmost to carry it into the thick of the fight. Many
broke their hearts in the effort; but there were others, and those who
fell had successors. The heart of our race never was of the stuff that
can be broken. It was the strongest thing in all that tumultuous world
of my youth, and I recall now the outstanding figures of men already
gray and bowed by long lives of strenuous endeavour, who yet fought
without pause at this time on the side of those who strove to check the
mad, blind flight of the people.
London, as I entered it, was a battle-field; the perverse waste of
human energy and life was frightful; but it was not quite the
unredeemed chaos which it seems as we look back upon it.
Even in the red centre of the stampede (Fleet Street is within the
City boundaries) men in the race took time for the exercise of human
kindliness, when opportunity was brought close enough to them. The
letter I took to the editor of the Daily Gazette was from an old
friend of his who knew, and told him, of my exact circumstances. This
gentleman received me kindly and courteously. He and his like were
among the most furiously hurried in the race, but their handling of
great masses of diffuse information gave them, in many cases, a wide
outlook, and where, as often happened, they were well balanced as well
as honest, I think they served their age as truly as any of their
contemporaries, and with more effect than most.
This gentleman talked to me for ten minutes, during which time he
learned most of all there was to know about my little journalistic and
debating experience at Cambridge, and the general trend of my views and
purposes. I do not think he particularly desired my services; but, on
the other hand, I was not an absolute ignoramus. I had written for
publication; I had enthusiasm; and there was my Cambridge friend's
Well, Mr. Mordan, he said, turning toward a table littered deep
with papers, and cumbered with telephones and bells, I cannot offer
you anything very brilliant at the moment; but I see no reason why you
should not make a niche for yourself. We all have to do that, you
knowor drop out to make way for others. You probably know that in
Fleet Street, more perhaps than elsewhere, the race is to the swift.
There are no reserved seats. The best I can do for you now is to enter
you on the reporting staff. It is stretching a point somewhat to make
the pay fifty shillings a week for a beginning. That is the best I can
do. Would you care to take that?
Certainly, I told him; and I'm very much obliged to you for the
Right. Then you might come in to-morrow. I will arrange with the
news-editor. And now He looked up, and I took my hat. Then he
looked down again, as though seeking something on the floor. Well, I
think that's all. Of course, it rests with you to make your own place,
oror lose it. I sympathize with what you have told me of your
viewsof course. You know the policy of the paper. But you must
remember that running a newspaper is a complex business. One's methods
cannot always be direct. Life is made up of compromises, anderat
times a turn to the left is the shortest way to the righterGood
Thus I was given my chance within a few hours of my descent upon the
great roaring City. I was spared much. Even then I knew by hearsay, as
I subsequently learned for myself, that hundreds of men of far wider
experience and greater ability than mine were wearily tramping London's
pavements at that moment, longing, questing bitterly for work that
would bring them half the small salary I was to earn.
I wrote to Sylvia that night, from my little room among the
cat-infested chimney-pots of Bloomsbury; and I am sure my letter did
not suggest that London was a very gloomy place. My hopes ran high.
[Illustration: THE ROARING CITY]
V. A JOURNALIST'S EQUIPMENT
... Rapine, avarice, expense,
This is idolatry; and these we adore:
Plain living and high thinking are no more:
The homely beauty of the good old cause
Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
And pure religion breathing household laws.
Acting on the instructions I had received overnight, I presented
myself at the office of the Daily Gazette in good time on the
morning after my interview with the editor. A pert boy showed me into
the news-editor's room, after an interval of waiting, and I found
myself confronting the man who controlled my immediate destiny. He was
dictating telegrams to a shorthand writer, and, for the moment, took no
notice whatever of me. I stood at the end of his table, hat in hand,
wondering how so young-looking a man came to be occupying his chair.
He looked about my age, but was a few years older. His face was as
smooth as the head of a new axe, and had something else chopper-like
about it. He reminded me of pictures I had seen in the advertisement
pages of American magazines; pictures showing a wedge-like human face,
from the lips of which some such an assertion as It's you I
want! was supposed to be issuing. I subsequently learned that this Mr.
Charles N. Pierce had spent several years in New York, and that he was
credited with having largely increased the circulation of the Daily
Gazette since taking over his present position. He suddenly raised
the even, mechanical tone in which he dictated, and snapped out the
Right. Get on with those now, and come back in five minutes.
Then he switched his gaze on to me, like a searchlight.
Mr. Mordan, I believe?
I admitted the charge with my best smile. Mr. Pierce ignored the
smile, and said:
Accepting his cue as to brevity, I said: Yes. Corpus Christi,
He pursed his thin lips. Ah well, he said, you'll get over that.
In his way he was perfectly right; but his way was as coldly
offensive as any I had ever met with.
Well, Mr. Mordan, I've only three things to say. Reports for this
paper must be sound English; they must be live stories; they must be
short. You might ask a boy to show you the reporters' room. You'll get
your assignment presently. As a day man, you'll be here from ten to
six. That's all.
And his blade of a face descended into the heart of a sheaf of
papers. As I reached the door the blade rose again, to emit a kind of
I turned on my heel, waiting.
Do you know anything about spelling?
I tried to look pleasant, as I said I thought I was to be relied on
Well, ask my secretary for tickets for the meeting at Memorial Hall
to-day; something to do with spelling. Don't do more than thirty or
forty lines. Right.
And the blade fell once more, leaving me free to make my escape,
which I did with a considerable sense of relief. I found the secretary
a meek little clerk, with a curious hidden vein of timid facetiousness.
He supplied me with the necessary ticket and a hand-bill of
particulars. Then he said:
Mr. Pierce is quite bright and pleasant this morning.
Oh, is he? I said.
Yes, veryfor him. He's all right, you know, when you get into his
way. Of course, he's a real hustlercleverest journalist in London,
Really! I think I introduced the right note of admiration. At all
events, it seemed to please this little pale-eyed rabbit of a man, who,
as I found later, was reverentially devoted to his bullying chief, and
positively took a kind of fearful joy in being more savagely browbeaten
by Pierce than any other man in the building. A queer taste, but a
fortunate one for a man in his particular position.
For myself, I was at once repelled and gagged by Pierce's manner. I
believe the man had ability, though I think this was a good deal
overrated by himself, and by others, at his dictation; and I dare say
he was a good enough fellow at heart. His manner was aggressive and
feverish enough to be called a symptom of the disease of the period. If
the blood in his veins sang any song at all to Mr. Pierce, the refrain
of that song must have been, Hurry, hurry, hurry! He and his like
never stopped to ask Whither? or Why? They had not time. And
further, if pressed for reasons, destination, and so forth, they would
have admitted, to themselves at all events, that there could be no
other goal than success; and that success could mean no other thing
than the acquisition of money; and that the man who thought otherwise
must be a foola fool who would soon drop out altogether, to go under,
among those who were broken by the way.
My general aim and purpose in journalistic work, at the outset, was
the serving of social reform in everything that I did. As I saw it,
society was in a parlous state indeed, and needed awaking to
recognition of the fact, to the crying need for reforms in every
direction. That attitude was justifiable enough in all conscience. The
trouble was that I was at fault, first, in my diagnosis; second, in my
notions as to what kind of remedies were required; and third, as to the
application of those remedies.
Like the rest of the minority whose thoughts were not entirely
occupied by the pursuit of pleasure and personal gain, I saw that the
greatest obstacle in the path of the reformer was public indifference.
But with regard to the causes of that indifference, I was entirely
astray. I clung still to the nineteenth-century attitude, which had
been justifiable enough during a good portion of that century, but had
absolutely ceased to be justifiable before its end came. This was the
attitude of demanding the introduction of reforms from above, from the
Though I fancied myself in advance of my time in thought, when I
joined the staff of the Daily Gazette, I really was essentially
of it. Even my obscure work as reporter very soon brought me into close
contact with some of the dreadful sores which disfigured the body
social and politic at that time. But do you think they taught me
anything? No more than they taught the blindest racer after money in
all London. They moved me, moved me deeply; they stirred the very
foundations of my being; for I was far from being insensitive. But not
even in the most glaringly obvious detail did they move me in the right
direction. They merely filled me with resentment, and a passionate
desire to bring improvement, aid, betterment; a desire to force the
authorities into some action. Never once did it occur to me that the
movement must come from the people themselves.
Poverty, though frequently a dreadful complication, was far from
being at the root of all the sores. The average respectable
working-class wage-earner with a wife and family, who earned from 25s.
to 35s. or 40s. a week, would spend a quarter of that wage upon his own
drinking; thereby not alone making saving for a rainy day impossible,
but docking his family of some of the real necessities of life. But
this was accepted as a matter of course. The man wanted the beer; he
must have it. The State made absolutely no demand whatever upon such a
man. But it did for him and his, more than he did for himself and his
family. And, giving positively nothing to the State, he complainingly
demanded yet more from it.
These were respectable men. A large number of men spent a half, and
even three-quarters of their earnings in drink. The middle class spent
proportionately far less on liquor, and far more upon display of one
kind and another; they seldom denied themselves anything which they
could possibly obtain. The rich, as a class, lived in and for
indulgence, in some cases refined and subtle, in others gross; but
always indulgence. The sense of duty to the State simply did not exist
as an attribute of any class, but only here and there in individuals.
I believe I am strictly correct in saying that in half a century,
while the population increased by seventy-five per cent., lunacy had
increased by two hundred and fifty per cent.
Yet the majority rushed blindly on, paying no heed to any other
thing on earth than their own gratification, their own pursuit of the
money for the purchase of pleasure. One of the tragic fallacies of the
period was this crazy notion that not alone pleasure, but happiness,
could be bought with money, and in no other way. And the few who were
stung by the prevailing suffering and wretchedness into recognition of
our parlous state, we, for the most part, cherished my wild delusion,
and insisted that the trouble could be remedied if the State would
contract and discharge new obligations. We clamoured for more rights,
more help, more liberty, more freedom from this and that; never seeing
that our trouble was our incomplete comprehension of the rights and
privileges we had, with their corresponding obligations.
Though I knew them not, and as a Daily Gazette reporter was
little likely to meet them, there were men who strove to open the eyes
of the people to the truth, and strove most valiantly. I call to mind a
great statesman and a great general, both old men, a great pro-consul,
a great poet and writer, a great editor, and here and there politicians
with elements of greatness in them, who fought hard for the right. But
these men were lonely figures as yet, and I am bound to say of the
people's leaders generally, at the time of my journalistic enterprise,
that they were a poor, truckling, uninspired lot of sheep, with a few
clever wolves among them, who saw the people's madness and folly and
preyed upon it masterfully by every trick within the scope of their
Even those who were honourable, disinterested, and, for such a
period, unselfish, were for the most part the disciples of tradition
and the slaves of that life-sapping curse of British politics: the
party spirit, which led otherwise honourable men to oppose with all
their strength the measures of their party opponents, even in the face
of their country's dire need.
Then there was the anti-British faction, a party which spread
fast-growing shoots from out the then Government's very heart and root.
The Government's half-hearted supporters were not anti-British, but
they were not readers of the Daily Gazette; they were not, in
short, whole-hearted Government supporters. They were Whigs, as the
saying went. My party, the readers of the Gazette, the
out-and-out Government party, to whom I looked for real progress, real
social reform; they were unquestionably riddled through and through
with this extraordinary sentiment which I call anti-British, a
difficult thing to explain nowadays.
With the newly and too easily acquired rights and liberties of the
nineteenth century, with its universal spread of education, cheap
literature, and the like, there came, of course, increased knowledge, a
wider outlook. No discipline came with it, and one of its earliest
products was a nervous dread of being thought behind the time, of being
called ignorant, narrow-minded, insular. People would do anything to
avoid this. They went to the length of interlarding their speech and
writings with foreign words often in ignorance of the meaning of those
words. Broad-minded, catholic, tolerant, cosmopolitanthose were the
descriptive adjectives which all desired to earn for themselves. It
became a perfect mania, particularly with the young and clever, the
half-educated, the would-be smart folk.
But it was also the honest ambition of many very worthy people, who
truly desired broad-minded understanding and the avoidance of
prejudice. This sapped the bulldog qualities of British pluck and
persistence terribly. You can see at a glance how it would shut out a
budding Nelson or a Wellington. But its most notable effect was to be
seen among politicians, who were able to claim Fox for a precedent.
To believe in the superiority of the British became vulgar, a proof
of narrow-mindedness. But, by that token, to enlarge upon the
inferiority of the British indicated a broad, tolerant spirit, and a
wide outlook upon mankind and affairs. From that to the sentiment I
have called anti-British was no more than a step. Many thoroughly good,
honourable, benevolent people took that step unwittingly, and all
unconsciously became permeated with the vicious, suicidal sentiment,
while really seeking only good. Such people were saved by their natural
goodness and sense from becoming actual and purposeful enemies of their
country. But as Little Englandersso they were calledthey managed,
with the best intentions, to do their country infinite harm.
But there were others, the naturally vicious and unscrupulous, the
morbid, the craven, the ignorant, the self-seeking; these were the
dangerous exponents of the sentiment. With them, Little Englandism
progressed in this wise: There are plenty of foreigners just as good
as the British; their rule abroad is just as good as ours. Then:
There are plenty of foreigners far better than the British; their rule
abroad is better than ours. Then: Let the people of our Empire fend
for themselves among other peoples; our business is to look after
ourselves. Then: We oppose the people of the Empire; we oppose
British rule; we oppose the British. From that to We befriend the
enemies of the British was less than a step. It was the position
openly occupied by many, in and out of Parliament.
We are for you, for the people; and devil take Flag, Empire, and
Crown! said these ranters; drunken upon liberties they never
understood, freedom they never earned, privileges they were not
qualified to hold.
There were persons among them who spat upon the Flag that protected
their worthless lives, and cut it down; sworn servants of the State who
openly proclaimed their sympathy with the State's enemies; carefully
protected, highly privileged subjects of the Crown, who impishly
slashed at England's robes, to show her nakedness to England's foes.
And these were supporters, members, protégés of the Government, and
readers of the Daily Gazette, upheld in all things by that
organ. And I, the son of an English gentleman and clergyman, graduate
of an English university, I looked to this party, the Liberal
Government of England, as the leaders of reform, of progress, of social
betterment. And so did the country; the British public. Errors of taste
and judgment we regretted. That was how we described the most ribald
outbursts of the anti-British sentiment.
It is hard to find excuse or palliation. Instinct must have told us
that the demands, the programme, of such diseased creatures, could only
aggravate the national ills instead of healing them. Yes, it would seem
so. I can only say that comparatively few among us did see it. Perhaps
disease was too general among us for the recognition of symptoms.
This then was the mental attitude with which I approached my duties
as a reporter on the staff of a London daily newspaper of old standing
and good progressive traditions. And my notion was that in every line
written for publication, the end of social reform should be served,
directly or indirectly. My idea of attaining social reformation was
that the people must be taught, urged, spurred into extracting further
gifts from the State; that the public must be shown how to make their
lives easier by getting the State to do more for them. That was as much
as my education and my expansive theorizing had done for me. Assuredly
I was a product of my age.
I had forgotten one thing, however, and that was the thing which Mr.
Charles N. Pierce began now to drill into me, by analogy, and with a
good deal more precision and directness than I had ever seen used at
Rugby or Cambridge. This one thing was that the Daily Gazette
was not a philanthropic organ, but a people's paper; and that the
people did not want instructing but interesting.
But, I pleaded, surely, for their own sakes, in their own
Damn their own sakes!
There's no 'but' about it. The public is an aggregation of
individuals. This paper must interest the individual. The individual
doesn't care a damn about the people. He cares about himself. He is
very busy making money, and when he opens his paper he wants to be
amused and interested; and he is not either interested or amused by any
instruction as to how the people may be served. He doesn't want 'em
served. He wants himself served and amused. That's your job.
I believe I had faint inclinations just then to wonder whether,
after all, there might not be something to be said for the bloated
Tories: the opponents of progress, as I always considered them. My
thoughts ran on parties, in the old-fashioned style, you see. Also I
was thinking, as a journalist, of the characteristics which
distinguished different newspapers.
I cordially hated Mr. Charles N. Pierce, but he really had more
discernment than I had, for he said:
Don't you worry about teaching the people to grab more from the
State. They'll take fast enough; they'll take quite as much as is good
for 'em, without your assistance. But, for giving, the angel Gabriel
and two advertisement canvassers wouldn't make 'em give a cent more
than they're obliged.
VI. A JOURNALIST'S SURROUNDINGS
Religion crowns the statesman and the man,
Sole source of public and of private peace.
I am bound to suppose that I must have been a tolerably tiring
person to have to do with during my first year in London. The reason of
this was that I could never concentrate my thoughts upon intimate,
personal interests, either my own or those of the people I met. My
thoughts were never of persons, but always of the people; never of
affairs, but always of tendencies, movements, issues, ultimate ends.
Probably my crude unrest would have made me tiresome to any people. It
must have been peculiarly irritating to my contemporaries at that
period, who, whatever they may have lacked, assuredly possessed in a
remarkable degree the faculty of concentration upon their own
individual affairs, their personal part in the race for personal gain.
I remember that I talked, even to the poor, overworked servant at my
lodging, rather of the prospects of her class and order than of
anything more intimate or within her narrow scope. Poor Bessie! She was
of the callously named tribe of lodging-house slaveys; and what gave
me some interest in her personality, apart from the type she
represented, was the fact that she had come from the Vale of Blackmore,
a part of Dorset which I knew very well. I even remembered, for its
exceptional picturesqueness and beauty of situation, the cottage in
which Bessie had passed her life until one year before my arrival at
the fourth-rate Bloomsbury apartments house in which she now toiled
for a living. There was little enough of the sap of her native valley
left in Bessie's cheeks now. She had acquired the London muddiness of
complexion quickly, poor child, in the semi-subterranean life she led.
I was moved to inquire as to what had led her to come to London, and
gathered that she had been anxious to see a bit o' life. Certainly
she saw life, of a kind, when she entered her horrible underground
kitchen of a morning, for, as a chance errand once showed me, its floor
was a moving carpet of black-beetles until after the gas was lighted.
In Bloomsbury, Bessie's daily work began about six o'clockthere were
four stories in the house, and coals and food and water required upon
every floorand ended some seventeen hours later. Occasionally, an
exacting lodger would make it eighteen hoursthe number of Bessie's
years in the worldbut seventeen was the normal.
The trains which every day came rushing in from the country to the
various railway termini of London were almost past counting. The rural
exodus, as it was called, was a sadly real movement then. Every one of
them brought at least one Bessie, and one of her male counterparts,
with ruddy cheeks, a tin box, and bright eyes straining to see life.
Insatiable London drew them all into its maw, and, while sapping the
roses from their cheeks, enslaved many of them under one of the
greatest curses of that day: the fascination of the streets.
So terrible a power was exercised by this unwholesome passion that
men and women became paralyzed by it, and incapable of plucking up
courage enough to enable them to leave the streets. I talked with
menpoor, sodden creatures, whose greasy black coats were buttoned to
their stubbly chins to hide the absence of collar and waistcoatwho
supported a wretched existence in the streets, between begging,
stealing, opening cab-doors, and the like, in constant dread of police
attention. Among these I found many who had refused again and again
offers of help to lead an honest, self-dependent life, for the sole
reason that these offers involved quitting the streets.
The same creeping paralysis of the streets kept men from emigration
to parts of the Empire in which independent prosperity was assured for
the willing worker. They would not leave the hiving streets, with their
chances, their flaunting vice, their incessant bustle, and their
innumerable drinking bars.
The disease did not stop at endowing the streets with fascination
for these poor, undisciplined, unmanned creatures; it implanted in them
a lively fear, hard to comprehend, but very real to them, of all places
outside the streets, with their familiar, pent noises and enclosed
I met one old gentleman, the head of an important firm of printers,
who, being impressed with the squalid wretchedness of the surroundings
in which his work-people lived, decided to shift his works into the
country. He chose the outskirts of a charmingly situated garden city,
then in course of formation. He gave his people a holiday and
entertained them at a picnic party upon the site of his proposed new
works. He set before them plans and details of pleasant cottages he
meant to build for them, with good gardens, and scores of conveniences
which they could never know in the dingy, grimy tenements for which
they paid extortionate rents in London.
There were four hundred and thirty-eight of these work-people.
Twenty-seven of them, with some hesitation, expressed their willingness
to enter into the new scheme for their benefit. The remaining four
hundred and eleven refused positively to leave their warrens in London
for this garden city, situated within an hour's run of the metropolis.
Figure to yourself the attitude of such people, where the great open
uplands of the Empire were concerned: the prairie, the veld, the bush.
Consider their relation to the elements, or to things elemental. We
went farther than Little Englandism in those days; we produced little
street and alley men by the hundred thousand; and then we bade them
exercise their rights, their imperial heritage, and rule an Empire. As
for me, I was busy in my newspaper work trying to secure more rights
for them; for men whose present freedom from all discipline and control
was their curse.
The reporters' room at the office of the Daily Gazette was
the working headquarters of five other men besides myself. One was a
Cambridge man, one had been at Oxford, one came from Cork, and the
other two were products of Scotch schools. Two of the five would have
been called gentlemen; four of them were good fellows; the fifth had
his good points, but perhaps he had been soured by a hard upbringing.
One felt that the desire for moneyadvancement, success, or whatever
you chose to call it; it all meant the one thing to Dunbarmastered
every feeling, every instinct even, in this young man, and made him
about as safe and agreeable a neighbour as a wolf might be for a kennel
A certain part of our time was devoted to waiting in the reporters'
room for what Mr. Pierce called our assignments, to this or that
reporting task. Also, we did our writing here, and a prodigious amount
of talking. The talk was largely of Fleet Street, the ruffianism of Mr.
Pierce, the fortunes of our own and other journals, the poorness of our
pay, the arduousness of our labours, the affairs of other newspaper
offices, and the like. But at other times we turned to politics, and
over our pipes and copy paper would readjust the concert of Europe and
the balance of world power. More often we dealt with local politics,
party intrigue, and scandals of Parliament; and sometimesmore
frequently since my advent, it may bewe entered gaily upon large
abstractions, and ventilated our little philosophies and views of the
By my recollection of those queer confused days, my colleagues were
cynically anarchical in their political views, unconvinced and
unconvincing Socialists, and indifferent Agnostics. I am not quite sure
that we believed in anything very thoroughlyexcept that things were
in a pretty bad way. Earnest belief in anything was not a feature of
the period. I recall one occasion when consideration of some tyrannical
act of our immediate chief, the news-editor, led our talk by way of
character and morality to questions of religion. The Daily Gazette, I should mention, was a favourite organ with the most powerful
religious communitythe Nonconformists. Campbell, one of the two
Scotch reporters, hazarded the first remark about religion, if I
remember aright: something it was to the effect that men like Pierce
had neither religion nor manners. Brown, the Cambridge man, took this
Well now, he said, that's a queer thing about religion. I'd like
you to tell me what anybody's religion is in London.
It's the capital of a Christian country, isn't it? said Dunbar.
Yes, admitted Brown. That's just it. We're officially and
politically Christian. It's a national affair. We're a Christian
people; but who knows a Christian individual? Ours is a Christian
newspaper, Christian city, Christian country, and all the rest of it.
There's no doubt about it. All England believes; but no single man I
ever meet admits that he believes. I suppose it's different up your
way, Campbell. One gathers the Scotch are religious?
H'm! I won't answer for that, growled Campbell. As a people, yes,
as you say; but as individualswell, I don't know. But my father's a
believer; I could swear to it.
Ah, yes; so's mine. But I'm not talking of fathers. I mean our
Well, I began, for my part, I'm not so sure of the fathers.
Oh, we can count you out, said Kelly, the Irishman. All parsons'
sons are atheists, as a matter of course; and bad hats at that.
Rather a severe blow at our Christianity, isn't it? said Brown.
I had no more to say on this point, not wishing to discuss my
father. But I knew perfectly well that that good, kind man had
cherished no belief whatever in many of what were judged to be the
vital dogmas of Christianity.
Well, I've just been thinking, said Campbell, and upon my soul,
Brownif I've got oneI believe you're right. I don't know any one of
our generation who believes. Every one thinks every one else believes,
and everybody is most careful not to be disrespectful about the belief
everybody else is supposed to hold. But, begad, nobody believes
himself. We all wink at each other about it; accepting the certainty of
every one else's belief, and only recognizing as a matter of course
that you and mewe've got beyond that sort of thing.
Well, I've often thought of it, said Brown. I'll write an article
about it one of these days.
Who'll you get to publish it?
H'm! Yes, that's a fact. And yet, hang it, you know, how absurd!
Who is there in this office that believes?
Echo answers, 'who?'
I happen to know that both Rainham and Baddeley go to church, said
Dunbar, naming a proprietor and a manager.
I don't see the connection, said Brown.
Because there isn't any, said Campbell. But Dunbar sees it, and
so does the British public, begad. That's the kernel of the whole
thing. That's why every one thinks every one else, except himself,
believes. Rainham and Baddeley think their wives, and sons, and
servants, and circle generally believe, and therefore would be shocked
if Rainham and Baddeley didn't go to church. And every one else thinks
the same. So they all go.
But, my dear chap, they don't all go. The parsons are always
complaining about it. The women do, but the men don'tnot as a rule, I
mean; particularly when they've got motors, and golf, and things. You
know they don't. Here's six of us here. Does any one of us ever go to
Dunbar, looking straight down over his nose, said: I dooften.
You're a fine fellow, Dunbar, sure enough, said Campbell; and I
believe you'll be a newspaper proprietor in five years. You've got your
finger on the pulse. Can you look me in the face and say you believe?
Dunbar smiled in his knowing way and wobbled. I certainly believe
it's a good thing to go to church occasionally, he said.
And I believe you'll make a fortune in Fleet Street, my son.
Well, in my humble opinion, said Kelly, the trouble with you
people in England is not so much that you don't believe; a good many
believe, in a kind of a way, like they believe in ventilation, without
troubling to act on it. They believe, but they don't think about it;
they don't care, it isn't real. The poor beggars 'ld go crazy with fear
of hell-fire, if the sort of armchair belief they have was real to 'em.
It isn't real to 'em, like business, and money, and that, or like
patriotism is in Japan.
Well, it really is a rum thing, said Brown, with an affectation of
pathos, that in all this Christian country I shouldn't know a single
believer of my generation.
It's a devilish bad thing for the country, said Campbell. And even
then, with all my fundamentally rotten sociological nostrums, I had a
vague feeling that the Scotchman was right there.
Well, then, that's why it's good to go to church, said Dunbar,
with an air of finality.
I still don't see the connection, murmured Brown.
Because it still isn't there. But, of course, it's perfectly
obvious. That's why Dunbar sees it, and why he'll presently run a
paper. Then Campbell turned to Dunbar, and added slowly, as though
speaking to a little child: You see, my dear, it's not their not going
to church that's bad; it's their not believing.
If I remember rightly, Mr. Pierce ended the conversation, through
his telephone, by assigning to Brown the task of reporting a clerical
gathering at Exeter Hall. Brown was credited with having a particularly
happy touch in the reporting of religious meetings. He certainly had an
open mind, for I remember his saying that day that he thought
Christianity was perhaps better adapted to a skittish climate like ours
than Buddhism, and that Ju-Ju worship in London would be sure to cause
friction with the County Council.
As I see it now, there was a terribly large amount of truth in the
view taken by Brown and Campbell and Kelly about belief in England, and
more particularly in London. But there were devout men of all ages who
did not happen to come within their circle of acquaintance. I met
Salvation Army officers occasionally, who were both intelligent,
self-denying, and hard-working; and I suppose that with them belief
must have been at least as powerful a motive as devotion to their Army,
their General, and the work of reclamation among the very poor. Also,
there were High Church clergymen, who toiled unceasingly among the
poor. Symbolism was a great force with them; but there must have been
real belief there. Also, there were some fine Nonconformist missions. I
recall one in West London, the work of which was a great power for good
in such infected warrens as Soho. But it certainly was not an age of
faith or of earnest beliefs. The vast majority took their Christianity,
with the national safety and integrity, for granteda thing long since
established by an earlier generation; a matter about which no modern
could spare time for thought or effort.
I believe it was on the day following this particular conversation
in the reporters' room that I met Leslie Wheeler by appointment at
Waterloo, and went down to Weybridge with him for the week-end. My
friend was in even gayer spirits than usual, and laughingly told me
that I must Work up a better Saturday face than that before we got to
I had known Leslie Wheeler since our school-days; and I remember
lying awake in the room next his own at Weybridge that night, and
wondering why in the world it was I felt so out of touch with my
high-spirited friend. During that Saturday afternoon and evening I had
been pretty much preoccupied in securing as much as possible of
Sylvia's attention. But the journey down had been made with Leslie
alone, and when his father had gone to bed, we two had spent another
half-hour together in the billiard-room, smoking and sipping whiskey
and soda. Leslie was in the vein most usual with him, of turning to
mirth all things on earth; and I was conscious, upon my side, of a
notable absence of reciprocal feeling, of friendly rapport. And I could
find no explanation for this, as I lay thinking of it in bed.
Looking backward, I see many causes which probably contributed to my
feeling of lost touch. I had only been about a month in London, but it
had been a busy month, and full of new experiences, of intimate touch
with realities of London life, sordid and otherwise. It was all very
unlike Rugby and Cambridge; very unlike the life of the big luxurious
Weybridge house, and even more unlike lichen-covered Tarn Regis. In
those days I took little stock of such mundane details as bed and
board. But these things count; I had been made to take note of them of
I paid 12s. 6d. a week for my garret, and 7s. a week for my
breakfast, 1s. for lighting, and 1s. for my bath. That left me with
28s. 6d. a week for daily lunch and dinner, clothes, boots, tobacco,
and the eternal penny outgoings of London life. The purchase of such a
trifle as a box of sweets for Sylvia made a week's margin look very
small. Already I had begun to note the expensiveness of stamps, laundry
work, omnibus fares, and such matters. My training had not been a
hopeful one, so far as small economies went. Leslie twitted me with
neglecting golf, and failing to attend the Inter-'Varsity cricket
match. He found economy, like all other things under heaven, and in
heaven for that matter, suitable subjects for the exercise of his
tireless humour. But I wondered greatly that his incessant banter
should jar upon me; that I should catch myself regarding him with a
coldly appraising eye. Indeed, it troubled me a good deal; and the more
so when I thought of Sylvia.
I flatly declined to admit that London had affected my feeling for
Sylvia. Whatever one's view, her big violet eyes were abrim with gentle
sympathy. I watched her as I sat by her side in church, and thought of
our irreverent talk at the office. Here was sincere piety, at all
events, I thought. Mediævalism never produced a sweeter devotee, a
worshipper more rapt. I could not follow her into the place of ecstasy
she reached. But, I told myself, I could admire from without, and even
reverence. Could I? Well, I was somewhat strengthened in the belief
that very Sunday night by Sylvia's father.
VII. A GIRL AND HER FAITH
If faith produce no works, I see
That faith is not a living tree.
During that Sunday at Weybridge I saw but little of my friend
Leslie. It was only by having obtained special permission from the
Daily Gazette office that I was able to remain away from town that
day. My leisure was brief, my chances few, I felt; and that seemed to
justify the devoting of every possible moment to Sylvia's company.
Sylvia's church was not the family place of worship. When Mrs.
Wheeler and Marjory attended service, it was at St. Mark's, but Sylvia
made her devotions at St. Jude's, a church famous in that district for
its high Anglicanism and stately ritual.
The incumbent of St. Jude's, his Reverence, or Father Hinton, as
Sylvia always called him, was a tall, full-bodied man, with flashing
dark eyes, and a fine, dramatic presence. I believe he was an
indefatigable worker among the poor. I know he had a keen appreciation
of the dramatic element in his priestly calling, and in the ritual of
his church, with its rich symbolism and elaborate impressiveness. Even
from my brief glimpses of the situation, I realized that this priest
(the words clergyman and vicar were discouraged at St. Jude's) played a
very important, a vital part, in the scheme of Sylvia's religion. I
think Sylvia would have said that the personality of the man was
nothing; but she would have added that his office was much, very much
She may have been right, though not entirely so, I think. But it is
certain that, in the case of Father Hinton, the dramatic personality of
the man did nothing to lessen the magnitude of his office in the minds
of such members of his flock as Sylvia. I gathered that belief in the
celibacy of the clergy was, if not an article of faith, at least a part
of piety at St. Jude's.
Before seven o'clock on Sunday morning I heard footsteps on the
gravel under my window, and, looking out, saw Sylvia, book in hand,
leaving the house. She was exquisitely dressed, the distinguishing note
of her attire being, as always in my eyes, a demure sort of richness
and picturesqueness. Never was there another saint so charming in
appearance, I thought. Her very Prayer Book, or whatever the volume
might be, had a seductive, feminine charm about its dimpled cover.
I hurried over my dressing and was out of the house by half-past
seven and on my way to St. Jude's. Breakfast was not until half-past
nine, I knew. The morning was brilliantly sunny; and life in the world,
despite its drawbacks and complexities, as seen from Fleet Street,
seemed an admirably good thing to me as I strode over a carpet of
pine-needles, and watched the slanting sun-rays turning the tree trunks
to burnished copper.
The service was barely over when I tiptoed into a seat beside the
door at St. Jude's. At this period the appurtenances of ritual in such
churches as St. Jude'sincense, candles, rich vestments, and the
likerivalled those of Rome itself. I remember that, fresh from the
dewy morning sunshine without, these symbols rather jarred upon my
senses than otherwise, with a strong hint of artificiality and
tawdriness, the suggestion of a theatre seen by daylight. But they
meant a great deal to many good folks in Weybridge, for, despite the
earliness of the hour, there were fifty or sixty women present, besides
Sylvia, and half a dozen men.
I could see Sylvia distinctly from my corner by the door, and I was
made rather uneasy by the fact that she remained in her place when
every one else had left the building. Five, ten minutes I waited, and
then walked softly up the aisle to her place. I did not perceive, until
I reached her side, that she was kneeling, or I suppose I should have
felt obliged to refrain from disturbing her. As it was, Sylvia heard
me, and, having seen who disturbed her, rose, with the gravest little
smile, and, with a curtsy to the altar, walked out before me.
I found that Sylvia generally stayed on in the church for the eight
o'clock service; and I was duly grateful when she yielded to my
solicitations and set out for a walk with me instead. I had taken a few
biscuits from the dining-room and eaten them on my way out; but I
learned later, rather to my distress, that Sylvia had not broken her
fast. I must suppose she was accustomed to such practices, for she
seemed to enjoy almost as much as I did our long ramble in the fresh
I learned a good deal during that morning walk, and the day that
followed it, the greater part of which I spent by Sylvia's side. Upon
the whole, I was perturbed and made uneasy; but I continued to assure
myself, perhaps too insistently for confidence or comfort, that Sylvia
was wholly desirable and sweet. It was perhaps unfortunate for my peace
of mind that the day was one of continuous religious exercises. The
fact tinged all our converse, and indeed supplied the motive of most of
I did not at the time realize exactly what chilled and disturbed me,
but I think now that it was what I might call the inhumanity of
Sylvia's religion. I dipped into one of her sumptuous little books at
some time during the day, and I remember this passage:
To this end spiritual writers recommend what is called a 'holy
indifference' to all created things, including things inanimate, place,
time, and the like. Try as far as possible to be indifferent to all
things. Remember that the one thing important above all others to you
is the salvation of your own soul. It is the great work of your life,
far greater than your work as parent, child, husband, wife, or friend.
It was a reputable sort of a book this, and fathered by a respected
There was singularly little of the mystic in my temperament. My
mind, as you have seen, was surcharged with crude but fervent desires
for the material betterment of my kind. I was nothing if not interested
in human well-being, material progress, mortal ills and remedies.
Approaching Sylvia's position and outlook from this level then, I
thrust my way through what I impatiently dismissed as the flummery;
by which I meant the poetry, the picturesqueness, the sacrosanct
glamour surrounding his Reverence and St. Jude's; and found, or thought
I found, that Sylvia's religion was at worst a selfish gratification of
the senses of the individual worshipper, and at best a devout and pious
ministration to the worshipper's own soul; in which the loving of one's
neighbour and caring for one another seemed to play precisely no part
True it was, as I already knew, that in the East End of London, and
elsewhere, some of the very High Church clergy were carrying on a work
of real devotion among the poor, and that with possibly a more
distinguished measure of success than attended the efforts of any other
branch of Christian service. They did not influence anything like the
number of people who were influenced by dissenting bodies, but those
who did come under their sway came without reservation.
But the point which absorbed me was the question of how this
particular aspect of religion affected Sylvia. In this, at all events,
it seemed to me a far from helpful or wholesome kind of religion.
Sylvia liked early morning services because so few people attended
them. It was almost like having the church to oneself. The supreme
feature of religious life for Sylvia had for its emblem the tinkle of
the bell at the service she always called Mass. The coming of the
Presencethat was the C Major of life for Sylvia. For the rest,
meditation, preferably in the setting provided by St. Jude's, with its
permanent aroma of incense and its dim lightsthe world shut out by
stained glassthis, with prayer, genuflections, and the ecstasy of
long thought upon the circumstances of the supreme act of Christ's life
upon earth, seemed to me to represent the sum total of Sylvia's
But, over and above what was to me the chilling negativeness of all
this, its indifference to the human welfare of all other mortals, there
was in Sylvia's religion something else, which I find myself unable,
even now, to put into words. Some indication of it, perhaps, is given
by the little passage I have quoted from one of her books. It was the
one thing positive which I found in my lady's religion; all the rest
was to me a beautiful, intricate, purely artificial negation of human
life and human interest.
This one thing positive struck into my vitals with a chill
premonition, as of something unnatural and, to me, unfathomable. It was
a sentiment which I can only call anti-human. Even as those of Sylvia's
persuasion held that the clergy should be celibate, so it seemed to me
they viewed all purely human loves, ties, emotions, sentiments, and
interests generally with a kind of jealous suspicion, as influences to
be belittled as far as possible, if not actually suppressed.
Puritanism, you say? But, no; the thing had no concern with
Puritanism, for it lacked the discipline, the self-restraint that made
Cromwell's men invincible. There was no Puritanism in the influence
which could make women indifferent to the earthly ties of love and
sentiment, to children, to the home and domesticity, while at the same
time implanting in them an almost feverish appreciation of incense,
rich vestments, gorgeous decorations, and the whole paraphernalia of
such a service as that of St. Jude's, Weybridge. This religion, or, as
I think it would be more just to say, Sylvia's conception of this
religion, did not say:
Deny yourself this or that.
Deny yourself to the rest of your kind. Deny all other mortals.
Wrap yourself in yourself, thinking only of your own soul and its
relation to its Maker and Saviour.
This was how I saw Sylvia's religion, and, though she was sweetly
kind and sympathetic to me, Dick Mordan, I was strangely chilled and
perturbed by realization of the fact that nothing human really weighed
with her, unless her own soul was human; that the people, our fellow
men and women, of whose situation and welfare I thought so much, were
far less to Sylvia than the Early Fathers and the Saints; that humanity
had even less import for her, was less real, than to me, was the
fascination of St. Jude's incense-laden atmosphere.
Sylvia's dainty person had an infinite charm for me; the personality
which animated and informed it chilled and repelled me as it might have
been a thing uncanny. When I insisted upon the dear importance of some
one of humanity's claims, the faraway gaze of her beautiful eyes, with
their light that never was on sea or land, her faintly superior
smileall this thrust me back, as might a blow, and with more baffling
And then the accidental touch of her little hand would bring me
back, with pulses fluttering, and the warm blood in my veins insisting
that sweet Sylvia was adorable; that everything would be well lost in
payment for the touch of her lips. So, moth-like, I spent that pleasant
Sabbath day, attached to Sylvia by ties over which my mind had small
control; by bonds which, if the truth were known, were not wholly
dissimilar, I believe, from the ties which drew her daily to the heavy
atmosphere of the sanctuary rails of St. Jude's.
In the evening Mr. Wheeler asked me to come and smoke a cigar with
him in his private room, and the invitation was not one to be evaded. I
was subconsciously aware that it elicited a meaning exchange of glances
between Marjory and her mother.
Well, Mordan, I hope things go well with you in Fleet Street, said
Mr. Wheeler, when his cigar was alight and we were both seated in his
luxurious little den.
Oh, tolerably, I said. Of course, I am quite an obscure person
there as yet; quite on the lowest rungs, you know.
Quite so; quite so; and from all I hear, competition is as keen
there as in the City, though the rewards arerather different, of
I nodded, and we were silent for a few moments. Then he flicked a
little cigar-ash into a tray and looked up sharply, with quite the
Moorgate Street expression, I remember thinking.
I think you are a good deal attracted by my youngest girl, Mordan?
he said; and his tone demanded a reply even more than his words.
Yes, I certainly admire her greatly, I said, more than a little
puzzled by the wording of the question; more than a little fluttered,
it may be; for it seemed to me a welcoming sort of question, and I was
keenly aware of my ineligibility as a suitor.
Exactly. That is no more than I expected to hear from you. Indeed,
I think anything less wouldwell, I shouldn't have been at all pleased
with anything less.
His complaisance quite startled me. Somehow, too, it reminded me of
my many baffled retirements of that day, before the elements in
Sylvia's character which chilled and repelled me. I was almost glad
that I had not committed myself to any warmer or more definite
declaration. Mr. Wheeler weighed his cigar with nice care.
Yes, he continued. If you had disputed the attractionthe
attachment, I should perhaps sayI should have found serious ground
for criticizing youryour behaviour to my girl. As it is, of course,
the thing is natural enough. You have been attracted; the child is
attractive; and you have paid her marked attentionswhich is what any
young man might be expected to do.
If he is going to suggest an engagement, I thought, I must be
very clear about my financial position, or want of position. Mr.
Wheeler continued thoughtfully to eye his cigar.
Yes, it is perfectly natural, he said; and you will probably
think, therefore, that what I am going to say is very unnatural and
unkind. But you must just bear in mind that I am a good deal older than
you, and, also, I am Sylvia's father.
I nodded, with a new interest.
Well, now, Mordan, let me say first that I know my girls pretty
well, and I am quite satisfied that Sylvia is not fitted to be a poor
man's wife. You would probably think her far better fitted for that
part than her sister, because Marjory is a lot more gay and frivolous.
Well, you would be wrong. They are neither of them really qualified for
the post, but Sylvia is far less so than Marjory. In point of fact she
would be wretched in it, she would fail in it; andI may say that the
fact would not make matters easier for her husband.
There did not seem to me any need for a reply, but I nodded again;
and Mr. Wheeler resumed, after a long draw at his cigar. He smoked a
very excellent, rather rich Havana.
Yes, girls are different now from the girls I sweethearted with;
and girls like mine must have money. I dare say you think Sylvia
dresses very prettily, in a simple way. My dear fellow, her laundry
bill alone would bankrupt a newspaper reporter.
I may have indicated before, that Mr. Wheeler was not a person of
any particular refinement. He had made the money which provided a
tolerably costly upbringing for his children, but his own education I
gathered had been of a much more exiguous character. There was, as I
know, a good deal of truth in what he said of the girl of the period.
Well, now, I put it to you, Mordan, whether, admitting that what I
say about Sylvia is trueand you may take it from me that it is
truewhether it would be very kind or fair on my part to allow you to
go on paying attention to her at the rate ofsay to-day's. Do you
think it would be wise or kind of me to allow it? I say nothing about
your side in the matter, becausewell, because I still have some
recollection of how a young fellow feels in such a case. But would it
be wise of me to allow it?
He was a shrewd man, this father of Sylvia, and of my old friend;
and I have no doubt that the tactics I found so disarming had served
him well before that day in the City. At the same time, instinct seemed
to forbid complete surrender on my side.
It is just consideration of the present difficulties of my position
which has made me careful to avoid seeking to commit Sylvia in any
way, I said.
It was probably an unwise remark. At all events, it struck the note
of opposition, of contumacy, which it seemed my host had been
anticipating; and he met it with a new inflection in his voice, as who
should say: Well, now to be done with explanations and the velvet
glove. Have at you! What he actually said was:
Ah, there's a deal of mischief to be done without a declaration, my
friend. But, however, I don't expect that you should share my view. I
only suggested it on the off chance becausewell, I suppose, because
that would be the easiest way out for me, as host. But I don't know
that I should have thought much of you if you had met me half-way. So
now let me do my part and get it over, for it's not very pleasant. I
have shown you my reasons, which, however they may seem to you, are
undeniable to me. Now for my wishes in the matter, as a father; I am
sure there is no need for me to say 'instructions,' so I say 'wishes.'
They are simply that for the timefor a year or two, anyhowyou
should not give me the pleasure of being your host, and that you should
not communicate in any way with Sylvia. There, now it's said, and done,
and I think we might leave it at that; for I don't think it's much more
pleasant for me than for you. I'm sure I hope we shall have many a
pleasant evening togethererafter a few years have passed. Now, what
do you sayshall we have another cigar, or go in to the ladies?
I flatter myself that, with all my shortcomings, I was never a sulky
fellow. At all events, I elected to join the ladies; but my reward was
not immediately apparent, for it seemed that Sylvia had retired for the
night. At least, we did not meet again until breakfast-time next
morning, when departure was imminent, and the week's work had, so to
VIII. A STIRRING WEEK
Ay! we would each fain drive
At random, and not steer by rule.
Weakness! and worse, weakness bestows in vain.
Winds from our side the unsuiting consort rive.
We rush by coasts where we had lief remain;
Man cannot, though he would, live chance's fool.
. . . . .
Even so we leave behind,
As, charter'd by some unknown Powers,
We stem across the sea of life by night.
The joys which were not for our use design'd;
The friends to whom we had no natural right,
The homes that were not destined to be ours.
It goes without saying that Mr. Wheeler's attitude, and my being
practically forbidden the house at Weybridge, strengthened and
sharpened my interest in Sylvia. Nothing else so fans the flame of a
young man's fancy as being forbidden all access to its object.
Accordingly, in the weeks which followed that Sunday at Weybridge, I
began an ardent correspondence with Sylvia, after inducing her to
arrange to call for letters at a certain newspaper shop not far from
It was a curious correspondence in many ways. Some of my long, wordy
epistles were indited from the reporters' room at the Daily Gazette
office, in the midst of noisy talk and the hurried production of
copy. Others, again, were produced, long afterfor my health's
sakeI should have been in bed; and these were written on a corner of
my little chest of drawers in the Bloomsbury lodging-house. I was a
great reader of the poet Swinburne at the time, and I doubt not my muse
was sufficiently passionate seeming. But, though I believe my phrases
of endearment were alliteratively emphatic, and even, as I afterwards
learned, somewhat alarming to their recipient, yet the real mainspring
of my eloquence was the difference between our respective views of
life, Sylvia's and mine.
In short, before very long my letters resolved themselves into fiery
and vehement denunciation of Sylvia's particular and chosen metier
in religion, and equally vehement special pleading on behalf of the
claims of humanity and social reform, as I saw them. I find the thing
provocative of smiles now, but I was terribly in earnest then, or
thought so, and had realized nothing of the absolute futility of
pitting temperament against temperament, reason against conviction,
argument against emotional belief.
We had some stolen meetings, too, in the evenings, I upon one side
of a low garden wall, Sylvia upon the other. Stolen meetings are apt to
be very sweet and stirring to young blood; but the sordid consideration
of the railway fare to Weybridge forbade frequent indulgence, and such
was my absorption in social questions, such my growing hatred of
Sylvia's anti-human form of religion, that even here I could not
altogether forbear from argument. Indeed, I believe I often left poor
Sylvia weary and bewildered by the apparently crushing force of my
representations, which, while quite capable of making her pretty head
to ache, left her mental and emotional attitude as completely untouched
as though I had never opened my lips.
Wrought up by means of my own eloquence, I would make my way back to
London in a hot tremor of exaltation, which I took to be love and
desire of Sylvia. And then, as like as not, I would receive a letter
from my lady-love the next day, the refrain of which would be:
How strange you are. How you muddle me! Indeed, you don't
understand; and neither, perhaps, do I understand you. It seems to me
you would drag sacred matters down to the dusty level of your
The dusty level of my politics! That was it. The affairs of the
world, of mortal men, they were as the affairs of ants to pretty
Sylvia. A lofty and soaring view, you say? Why, no; not that exactly,
for what remained of real and vital moment in her mind, to the
exclusion of all serious interest in humanity? There remained, as a
source of much gratification, what I called the daily dramatic
performance at St. Jude's; and there remained as the one study worthy
of serious devotion and interestSylvia Wheeler's own soul. She never
sought to influence the welfare of another person's soul. Indeed, as
she so often said to me, with a kind of plaintiveness which should have
softened my declamatory ardour but did not, she did not like speaking
of such matters at all; she regarded it as a kind of desecration.
No, it did not seem to me a lofty and inspiring view that Sylvia
took. On the contrary, it exercised a choking effect upon me, by reason
of what I regarded as its intense littleness and narrowness. The too
often bitter and sordid realities of the struggle of life, as I saw it
in London, had the effect upon me of making Sylvia's esoteric
exclusiveness of interest seem so petty as to be an insult to human
intelligence. I would stare out of the train windows, on my way back
from Weybridge, at the countless lights, the endless huddled roofs of
London; and, seeing in these a representation of the huge populace of
the city, I would stretch out my arms in an impotent embrace,
Yes, indeed, you are real; you are more important
than any other consideration; you are not the mere shadows she
thinks you; your service is of more moment than any miracle, or than
any nursing of one's own soul!
And so I would make my way to Fleet Street, where I forced myself to
believe I served the people by teaching them to despise patriotism, to
give nothing, but to organize and demand, and keep on demanding and
obtaining, more and more, from a State whose business it was to give,
and to ask nothing in return. I was becoming known, and smiled at
mockingly, for my earnest devotion to the extreme of the Daily
Gazette's policy, which, if it made for anything, made, I suppose,
for anti-nationalism, anti-militarism, anti-Imperialism, anti-loyalty,
and anti-everything else except State aidby which was meant the
antithesis of aid of the State.
I've got quite a good job for you this afternoon, Mordansomething
quite in your line, said Mr. Charles N. Pierce one morning. A lot of
these South African firebrands are having a luncheon at the Westminster
Palace Hotel, and that fellow John Crondall is to give an address
afterwards on 'Imperial Interests and Imperial Duties.' I'll give you
your fling on this up to half a columnthree-quarters if it's good
enough; but, be careful. A sort of contemptuous good humour will be the
best line to take. Make 'em ridiculous. And don't forget to convey the
idea of the whole business being plutocratic. You know the sort of
thing: Park Lane Israelites, scooping millions, at the expense of the
overtaxed proletariat in England. Jingoism, a sort of swell bucket-shop
businessyou know the tone. None of your heroics, mind you. It's got
to be news; but you can work in the ridicule all right.
I always think of that luncheon as one of the stepping-stones in my
life. However crude and mistaken I had been up till then, I had always
been sincere. My report of that function went against my own
convictions. The writing of it was a painful business; I knew I was
being mean and dishonest. Not that what I heard there changed my views
materially. No; I still clung to my general convictions, which fitted
the policy of the Daily Gazette. But the fact remained that in
treating that gathering as I did, on the lines laid down by my
news-editor, I knew that I was being dishonest, that I was conveying an
In this feeling, as in most of a young man's keen feelings, the
personal element played a considerable part. I was introduced to the
speaker, John Crondall, by a Cambridge man I knew, who came there on
behalf of a Conservative paper, which had recently taken a new lease of
life in new hands, and become the most powerful among the serious
organs of the Empire party. It is a curious thing, by the way, that
overwhelming as was the dominance of the anti-national party in
politics, the Imperialist party could still claim the support of the
greatest and most thoughtfully written newspapers.
John Crondall had no time to spare for more than a very few words
with so obscure a person as myself; but in two minutes he was able to
produce a deep impression upon me, as he did upon most people who met
him. John Crondall had a great deal of personal charm, but the thing
about him which bit right into my consciousness that afternoon was his
earnest sincerity. As Crewe, the man who introduced me to him, said
There isn't one particle of flummery in Crondall's whole body.
It was an obviously truthful criticism. You might agree with the man
or not, but no intelligent human being could doubt his honesty, the
reality of his convictions, the strength and sincerity of his devotion
to the cause of those convictions. It was perfectly well known then
that Crondall had played a capable third or fourth fiddle in the
maintenance, so far, of the Imperial interest in South Africa. His
masterful leader, the man who, according to report, had inspired all
his fiery earnestness in the Imperialist cause, was dead. But John
Crondall had relinquished nothing of his activity as a lieutenant, and
continued to spend a good share of his time in South Africa, while,
wherever he was, continuing to devote his energies to the same cause.
As for his material interests, Crewe assured me that Crondall knew
no more of business, South African or otherwise, than a schoolboy. He
had inherited property worth about a couple of thousand a year, and had
rather decreased than added to it. For, though he had acted as war
correspondent in the Russo-Japan war, and through one or two little
wars, in outlying parts of the British Empire, circumstances had
prevented such work being of profit to him. In the South African war he
had served as an irregular, and achieved distinction in scouting and
John Crondall's life, I gathered, had been the very opposite of my
own sheltered progress from Dorset village to school, from school to
University, and thence to my present street-bound routine in London.
His views were clearly no less opposite to that vague tumult of
resentment, protest, and aspiration which represented my own outlook
upon life. Indeed, his speech that day was an epitome of the sentiment
and opinions which I had chosen to regard with the utmost abhorrence.
With Crondall, every other consideration hinged upon and was
subservient to the Imperialist idea of devotion to the bond which
united all British possessions under one rule. The maintenance and
furtherance of that tie, the absorption of all parts into that great
whole, the subordination of all other interests to this: that I took to
be John Crondall's great end in life. By association I had come to
identify myself, and my ideals of social reform, entirely with those to
whom mere mention of the rest of the Empire, or of the ties which made
it an Empire, was as a red rag to a bull.
I have tried to explain something of the causes for this
extraordinary attitude, but I am conscious that at the present time it
cannot really be explained. It was there, however. We might interest
ourselves in talk of Germany, we might enthusiastically admire and even
model ourselves upon the conduct of a foreign people; but mention of
the outside places of our own Empire filled us with anger, resentment,
scorn, and contempt. It amounted to this: that we regarded as an enemy
the man who sought to serve the Empire. He cannot do that without
opposing us, we said in effect; as one who should say: You cannot
cultivate my garden, or repair my fences, without injuring my house and
showing yourself an enemy to my family. A strange business; but so it
Therefore, John Crondall's speech that day found me full enough of
opposition, and not at all inclined to be sympathetic. But the thing of
it was, I knew him for an honest and disinterested man; a man alight
with high inspiration and lofty motive; a man immeasurably above sordid
or selfish ends. And it was my task, first, to ridicule him; and,
second, to attach sordidness and self-interest to him. That was the
thing which made the day eventful for me.
John Crondall talked of British rule and British justice, as he had
known them in the world's far places. He drew pictures of Oriental
rule, Boer rule, Russian rule, savage rule; and, again, of the methods
and customs of foreign Powers in their colonial administration. When he
claimed this and that for British rule, and the Imperial unity which
must back it, as such, sneers came naturally to me. The anti-British
sentiment covered that. My qualms began, when he based his plea upon
the value of British administration to all concerned, the danger to
civilization, to mankind, of its being allowed to weaken.
Remember, he spoke in pictures, and in the first person; not of
imaginings, but of what he had seen: how a single anti-British speech
in London, meant a month's prolongation of bloody strife in one
country, or an added weight of cruel oppression in another. Right or
wrong, John Crondall carried you with him; for he dealt with men and
things as he had brothered and known them, before ever he let loose, in
a fiery peroration, that abstract idea of Empire patriotism which ruled
But it was not all this that made my paltry journalistic task a hard
one. It was my certainty of Crondall's lofty sincerity. From that
afternoon I date the beginning of the end of my Daily Gazette
engagement. Some men in my shoes would have moved to success from this
point; gaining from it either complete unscrupulousness, or the bold
decision which would have made them important as friends or enemies.
For my part I was simply slackened by the episode. I met John Crondall
several times again. He chaffed me in the most generous fashion over my
abominably unfair report of the luncheon gathering. He influenced me
greatly, though my opinions remained untouched, so far as I knew.
I cannot explain just how John Crondall influenced me, but I am very
conscious that he had a broadening effect on mehe enlarged my
horizon. If he had remained in London things might have gone
differently with me. One cannot tell. Among other things, I know his
influence mightily reduced the number and length of my letters to
Weybridge. In my mind I was always fighting John Crondall. It was my
crowded millions of England against his lonely, sun-browned men and
women outsidehis world interests. The war in my heart was real,
unceasing. And then there was pretty Sylvia and her little soul, and
her meditations, and her daily miracles. The pin-point, bright as it
was, became too tiny for me to concentrate upon it, when contrasted
with these other tumultuous concerns.
Then came a crowded, confused week, in which I saw John Crondall
depart by the South African boat-train from Waterloo. The first
lieutenant of his dead leader out there had cabled for Crondall to come
and hold his broad shoulders against the side of some political dam. My
eyes pricked when John Crondall wrung my hand.
You're all right, sonny, he said. Don't you suppose I have the
smallest doubt about you.
I had never given him anything but sneers and oppositionI, a
little unknown scrub of a reporter; he a man who helped to direct
policies and shape States. Here he was rushing off to the other side of
the earth at his own expense, sacrificing his own interests and
engagements at home, in the service of an Idea, an abstract Tie, a
Flag. My philosophy had seemed spacious beside, say, Sylvia's: to
secure better things for those about me, instead of for my own soul
only. But what of Crondall? As I say, my eyes pricked, even while I
framed some sentence in my mind expressing regret for his
wrong-headedness. Ah, well!
The same weekthe same daybrought me the gentlest little note of
dismissal from Sylvia. Her duty to her father, andmy ideas seemed too
much for her peace of mind; so bewildering. I am no politician, you
know; and truth to tell, these matters which seem so much to you that
you would have them drive religion from me, they seem to me so
infinitely unimportant. Forgive me!
No doubt my vanity was wounded, but I will not pretend that I was
very seriously hurt. Neither could I ponder long upon the matter,
because another letter, received by the same post, claimed my
attention. Sylvia's letter threw out a hint of better things for us in
a year or two's time. Her notion of a break between us was for the
present. There were references to later on, when you can come here
again, and we need not hide things. But my other letter made more
instant claims. It was type-written, and ran thus:
DEAR MR. MORDAN:Mr. Chas. N. Pierce directs me to inform you
after the expiration of the present month your services will no
longer be required by the editor of the Daily Gazette.
I am, Sir,
I pictured the little pale-eyed rabbit of a man typing the dictum of
his Napoleon, his hero, and wondering in his amiable way how Mr.
Mordan would be affected thereby, and how he had managed to displease
the great man. As for the editor of the Daily Gazette, I had
not seen him since the day of my engagement. But I recalled now various
recent signs of chill disapproval of my work on Mr. Pierce's part. And,
indeed, I was aware myself of a slackness in my work, a kind of
reckless, windmill-tilting tendency in my general attitude.
Meantime, there was the fact that I had recently encroached twice
upon my tiny nest-egg; once to buy a wedding present for my sister
Lucy, and once for a piece of silly extravagance.
It was quite a notable week.
IX. A STEP DOWN
Cosmopolitanism is nonsense; the cosmopolite is a cipher, worse
than a cipher; outside of nationality there is neither art, nor
truth, nor life; there is nothing.IVAN TURGENIEFF.
I have mentioned a piece of reckless extravagance; it was reckless
in view of my straightened circumstances. And the reason I mention this
apparent trifle is that it and its attendant circumstances influenced
me in my conduct after the abrupt termination of the Daily Gazette
One of my fellow knights of the reporters' room introduced me in a
certain Fleet Street wine-bar to one of the characters of that classic
highwaya man named Clement Blaine, who edited and owned a weekly
publication called The Mass. I hasten to add that this journal
had nothing whatever to do with any kind of religious observance. Its
title referred to the people, or rather, to the section of the public
which, at that time, we still described by the quaintly misleading
phrase, the working classes, as though work were a monopoly in the
hands of the manual labourer.
The Mass was a journal which had quite a vogue at that time.
This was brought about, I suppose, by the wave of anti-nationalism
which, in 1906, established the notorious administration which
subsequently became known as The Destroyers. It was maintained
largely, I fancy, by Clement Blaine's genius for getting himself quoted
in other journals of every sort and standing.
The existence of The Mass, and the popularity which it earned
by outraging every civic and national decency, stands in my mind as a
striking example of the extraordinary laxity and slackness of moral
which had grown out of our boasted tolerance, broad-mindedness, and
cosmopolitanism. We had waxed drunken upon the parrot-like asseveration
of rights, which our fathers had won for us, and we had no time to
spare for their compensating duties. This misguided apotheosis of what
we considered freedom and broad-mindedness, produced the most startling
and anomalous situations in our national life, including the almost
incredible fact that, while nominally at peace with the world, the
State was being bitterly warred against by cliques and parties among
its own subjects.
For instance, in any other State than our own, my new acquaintance,
Clement Blaine, would have been safely disposed in a convenient prison
cell, and his flamingly seditious journal would have been promptly and
effectually squashed. In England the man was free as the Prime
Minister, and a Department of State, the Post Office, was engaged in
the distribution of the journal which he devoted exclusively to
stirring up animosity against that State, and traitorous opposition to
Further, Mr. Blaine's vitriolic outpourings, his unnatural
defilement of his own nest, were gravely quoted in every newspaper in
the Kingdom, without a hint of recognition of the fact that they were
fundamentally criminal and a public offence. The sacrosanct liberty of
the subject was involved; and though Mr. Blaine would have been
forcibly restrained if he had shown any tendency to injure lamp-posts,
or to lay hands upon his own worthless life, he was given every
facility in his self-appointed task of inciting the public to all sorts
of offences against the State, and to a variety of forms of national
It was the commonest thing for a Member of Parliament, a man
solemnly sworn and consecrated to the loyal service of the Crown and
State, to fill a signed column of Clement Blaine's paper, with an
article or letter the whole avowed end of which would be the
championing of some national enemy or rival, or the advocacy of means
whereby a shrewd blow might be struck against British rule or British
prestige in some part of the world.
I recall one long and scurrilous article by a Member of Parliament,
urging rebellious natives in South Africa to take heart of grace and
pursue with ever-increasing vigour their attacks upon the small and
isolated white populace which upheld British rule in that part of the
Continent. I remember a long and venomous letter from another Member of
Parliament (a strong advocate of the State payment of members)
defending in the most ardently sympathetic manner both the action and
the sentiments of a municipal official who had torn down and destroyed
the Union Jack upon an occasion of public ceremony.
We called this sort of thing British freedom in those chaotic days;
and when our Continental rivals were not jeering at the grotesqueness
of it, they were lauding this particular form of madness to the skies,
as well they might, seeing that our insensate profligacy and
incontinence meant their gain. The cause of a foreigner, good, bad, or
indifferentthat was the cause Clement Blaine most loved to champion
in his journal. An attack upon anything British, though the author of
it might be the basest creature ever outlawed from any communitythat
was certain of ready and eager hospitality in the columns of The
I can conceive of no infamy which that journal was not ready to
condone, no offence it would not seek to justifysave and except the
crime of patriotism, loyalty, avowed love of Britain. And this obscene,
mad-dog policy, so difficult even to imagine at this time, was by
curious devious ways identified with Socialism. The Mass was
called a Socialist organ. The fact may have been a libel upon
Socialism, if not upon Socialists; but so it was.
Be it said that at Cambridge I had rather surprised the evangelical
section of my college (Corpus Christi) by the part I played in founding
a short-lived institution called the Anonymous Society, the choicest
spirits in which affected canvas shirts and abstention from the use of
neckties. As Socialists, we invited the waiters of the college to a
soirée, at which a judicious blend of revolutionary economics and
bitter beer was relied upon to provide a flow of reasonable and
inexpensive entertainment. The society lapsed after a time, chiefly
owing, if I remember rightly, to an insufficiency of funds for
refreshments. But I had remained rather a person to be reckoned with at
I regarded my meeting with Clement Blaine as something of an event,
and I very cheerfully and quite gratuitously contributed an article to
his journal dealing with some form of government subvention which I
held to be a State duty. (We wasted few words over the duties of the
citizen in those days.) It was as a result of that article that I was
invited to a Socialist soirée in which the moving spirit, at all events
in the refreshment-room, was Mr. Clement Blaine. Here I met a variety
of queer fish who called themselves Socialists. They were of both
sexes, and upon the whole they were a silly, inconsequent set. Their
views rather wearied me, despite my predisposition to favour them.
They were a kind of tepid, ineffectual anarchists, unconvinced and
wholly unconvincing. Broadly speaking, theirs was a policy of blind
reversal. They were not constructive, but they were opposed vaguely to
the existing order of things, and, particularly, to everything British.
They pinned their faith to the foreigner in all things, even though the
foreigner's whole energies might be devoted to the honest endeavour to
raise conditions in his country to a level approaching the British
standard. Any contention against the existing order, and, above all,
anything against Britain, appealed directly to these rather tawdry
In this drab, ineffective gathering, I found one point of colour,
like a red rose on a dingy white tablecloth. This was Beatrice, the
daughter of Clement Blaine. I believe the man had a wife. One figures
her as a worn household drudge. In any case, she made no appearance in
any of the places in which I met Blaine, or his handsome daughter.
Beatrice Blaine was a new type to me. One had read of such girls, but I
had never met them. And I suppose novelty always has a certain charm
for youth. One felt that Beatrice had crossed the Rubicon. Mentally, at
all events, one gathered that she had thrown her bonnet over the
Physically, materially, I have no doubt that Beatrice was perfectly
well qualified to take care of herself. But here was a very handsome
girl who was entirely without reticence or reserve. With her, many
things usually treated with respect wereall rot. Beatrice's aim in
life was pleasure, and she not merely admitted, but boasted of the
fact. She did not think much of her father's friends as individuals.
She probably objected to their dinginess. But she acclaimed herself a
thoroughgoing Socialist, I think because she believed that Socialism
meant the provision of plenty in money, dresses, pleasures, and so
forth, for all who were short of these commodities.
Perhaps I was a shade less dingy than the others. At all events,
Beatrice honoured me with her favour upon this occasion, and talked to
me of pleasure. So far as recollection serves me she connected pleasure
chiefly with theatres, restaurants, the habit of supping in public, and
the use of hansom cabs. At all events, within the week I squandered two
whole sovereigns out of my small hoard on giving this young pagan what
she called a fluffy evening. It reminded me more than a little of
certain rather frantic undergraduate excursions from Cambridge. But
Beatrice quoted luscious lines of minor poetry, and threw a certain
glamour over a quarter of the town which was a warren of tawdry
immorality; the hunting-ground of a pallid-faced battalion of alien
pimps and parasites.
England was then the one civilized country in the world which still
welcomed upon its shores the outcast, rejected, refuse of other lands;
and, as a matter of course, when foreign capitals became positively too
hot for irreclaimable characters, they flocked into Whitechapel and
Soho, there to indulge their natural bent for every kind of criminality
known to civilization, save those involving physical risk or physical
exertion for the criminal. There were then whole quarters of the
metropolis out of which every native resident had gradually been
ousted, in which the English language was rarely heard, except during a
Tens of thousands of these unclassed, denationalized foreigners
lived and waxed fat by playing upon the foibles and pandering to the
weaknesses of the great city's native population. Others, of a higher
class, steadily ousted native labour in the various branches of
legitimate commerce. We know now, to our cost, something of the
malignant danger these foreigners represented. In indirect ways one
would have supposed their evil influence was sufficiently obvious then.
But I remember that the parties represented by such organs as the
Daily Gazette prided themselves upon their furious opposition to
any hint of precautions making for the restriction of alien
England was the land of the free, they said. Yet, while boasting
that England was the refuge of the persecuted (as well as the rejected)
of all lands, we were so wonderfully broad-minded that we upheld
anything foreign against anything British, and were intolerant only of
English sentiment, English rule, English institutions. I believe
Beatrice's conviction of the superiority of the Continent and of
foreigners generally was based upon the belief that:
On the Continent people can really enjoy themselves. There's none
of our ridiculous English puritanism, and early closing, and rubbish of
that sort there.
I am rather surprised that the crude hedonism of Beatrice should
have appealed to me, for my weaknesses had never really included mere
fleshly indulgence. But, as I have said, the girl had the charm of
novelty for me. I remember satirically assuring myself that, upon the
whole, her frank concentration upon worldly pleasure was more natural
and pleasing than Sylvia's rapt concentration upon other kinds of
self-ministration. Ours was a period of self-indulgence. Beatrice was,
after all, only a little more naïve and outspoken than the majority in
her thirst for pleasure. And she was quite charming to look upon.
Almost the first man to whom I spoke regarding my dismissal from the
staff of the Daily Gazette was Clement Blaine. I met him in
Fleet Street, and was asked in to his cupboard of an office.
You are a man who knows every one in Fleet Street, I said. I wish
you would keep an eye lifting for a journalistic billet for me.
And then I told him that I was leaving the Daily Gazette, and
spoke of the work I had done, and of my little journalistic experiences
He combed his glossy black beard with the fingers of one hand; a
white hand it was, save where cigarettes had browned the first and
second fingers; a hand that had never known physical toil, though its
owner always addressed working men as one of themselves. He wore a
fiery red necktie, and a fiery diamond on the little finger of the hand
that combed his beard. A self-indulgent life in the city was telling on
him, but Clement Blaine was still rather a fine figure of a man, in his
coarse, bold way. He had a varnished look, and, dressed for the part,
would have made a splendid stage pirate.
It's odd you should have come to me to-day, he said. Look here!
He handed me a cutting from a daily paper.
At Holloway, yesterday afternoon, an inquest was held on the
a man named Joseph Cartwright, who is said to have been a
journalist. This man was found dead upon his bed, fully
Tuesday morning. The medical evidence showed death to be due to
heart failure, and indicated alcoholism as the predisposing
verdict was returned in accordance with the medical evidence.
He was my assistant editor, said Clement Blaine, as I looked up
from my perusal of this sorry tale.
Really? I said.
Yes, a clever fellow; most accomplished journalist, but And
Mr. Blaine raised his elbow with a significant gesture, by which he
suggested the act of drinking.
Within the hour I had accepted an engagement as assistant editor of
The Mass with the magnificent sum of two pounds a week by way of
It's poor pay, said Blaine. And I only wish I could double it.
But that's all it will run to at present, andwell, of course, it
counts for something to be working for the cause as directly as we do
in The Mass.
I nodded, not without qualms. My education made it impossible for me
to accept unreservedly the most scurrilous features of the journal. But
the cause was goodI was assured of that; and I would introduce
improvements, I thought. I was still very inexperienced. Meantime, I
was not to know the carking anxiety of the out-of-work. I could still
pay my way at the Bloomsbury lodging. This was something.
Beatrice expressed herself as delighted. I was to accumulate large
sums in various vague ways, and enjoy innumerable fluffy evenings
What a queer mad jumble of a shut-in world our London was, and how
blindly self-centred we all were in our pursuit of immediate gain, in
our absolute indifference to the larger outside movements, the shaping
of national destinies, the warring of national interests! I remember
that we were quite triumphant, in our little owlish way, that year; for
the weight of socialistic and anti-national, anti-responsible feeling
had forced a time-serving Cabinet into cutting down our Navy by a
quarter at one stroke. The hurried scramblers after money and pleasure
were much gratified.
We can make defensive alliances with other Powers, they said.
Meantimeretrench, reduce, cut down, and give us more freedom in our
race. Freedom, freedomthat's the thing; and peace for the development
Undoubtedly, as a people, we were fey.
X. FACILIS DESCENSUS AVERNI
Love thou thy land, with love far-brought
From out the storied Past, and used
Within the Present, but transfused
Thro' future time by power of thought.
True love turned round on fixed poles,
Love that endures not sordid ends,
For English natures, freemen, friends,
Thy brothers and immortal souls.
But pamper not a hasty time,
Nor feed with crude imaginings
The herd, wild hearts and feeble wings
That every sophister can lime.
Deliver not the tasks of might
To weakness, neither hide the ray
From those, not blind, who wait for day,
Tho' sitting girt with doubtful light.
And now, as assistant editor of The Mass, I entered a period
of my life upon which I look back as one might who, by chance rather
than by reason of any particular fitness for survival, had won safely
through a whirlpool. The next few years were a troublous time, a stormy
era of transition, for most English people. For many besides myself the
period was a veritable maelstrom of confusion, of blind battling with
unrecognized forces, of wasted effort, neglected duty, futile
struggles, and slavish inertia.
At an early stage I learned to know Clement Blaine for a sweater of
underpaid labour, a man as grossly self-indulgent as he was
unprincipled, as much a charlatan as he was, in many ways, an
ignoramus. Yet I see now, more clearly than then, that even Clement
Blaine was not all bad. He was not even completely a charlatan. He
believed he was justified in making all the money he could, in any way
that was possible. It must be remembered, however, that at that time
most people really thought, whatever they might say, that the first and
most obvious duty in life was to make money for themselves.
Then, too, I think Blaine really believed that the sort of
anti-national, socialistic theories he advocated would make for the
happiness of the people; for the profit and benefit of the majority. He
was blinded by lack of knowledge of history and of human nature. He was
an extreme example, perhaps, but, after all, his mistaken idea that
happiness depended upon personal possession of this and that, upon
having and holding, was very generally accepted at that time. The old
saving sense of duty, love of country, national responsibility, and
pride of race, had faded and become unreal to a people feverishly bent
upon personal gain only. Nelson's famous signal and watchword was kept
alive, in inscriptions; in men's hearts and minds it no longer had any
meaning; it made no appeal. This is to speak broadly, of course, and of
the majority. We had some noble exceptions to the rule.
In looking back now upon that period, it seems to me, as I suppose
to all who lived through it, such a tragedy of confusion, of
sordidness, and of futility, that one is driven to take too sweepingly
pessimistic a view of the time. I have said a good deal of the
anti-national sentiment, because it was undoubtedly in the ascendant
then. As history shows us, this sentiment ruled; by it the ship of
state was steered; by it the defences of the Empire were cut down and
down to the ultimate breaking point. We call the administration of that
period criminally unpatriotic. As such The Destroyers must always
figure in history. But we must not forget that then, as now, we English
people had as good a Government as we deserved. The spirit of selfish
irresponsibility was not confined to Whitehall.
On the other hand, it must not be supposed that no patriotic party
existed. There was a patriotic party, and the exigencies of the time
inspired some of its leaders nobly. But the sheer weight of numbers, of
indifference, and of selfishness to which this party was opposed was
too much for it. The best method of realizing this nowadays is by the
study of the newspaper files for the early years of the century. From
these it will be seen that even the people and journals in whom devoted
patriotism survived, even the leaders who gave up their time and energy
(politics gave us such a man, the Army another, the Navy another,
literature another, and journalism gave us an editor in whom the right
fire burned brightly) to the task of warning and adjuring the public,
and seeking to awaken the nation to the lost sense of its dangers, its
duties, and its responsibilities; even these were forced by the weight
of public selfishness into using an almost apologetic tone, with
reference to the common calls of patriotism and Imperial unity.
People dismissed an obvious challenge of the national conscience
with a hurried and impatient wave of the hand. They were tired of this;
they had heard enough of the other; they were occupied with local
interests of the moment, and could not be bothered with this or that
consideration affecting the welfare of the world-wide shores of greater
outside Britain. And, accordingly, we find that the most patriotic and
public-spirited journal was obliged, for its life, to devote more
attention to a football match at the Crystal Palace than to a change of
public policy affecting the whole commercial future of a part of the
Empire twenty times greater than Britain. There were other journals,
organs of the self-centred majority, that would barely even mention an
Imperial development of that sort, and then but casually, as a matter
of no particular interest to their readers; as indeed it was.
I do not think that retrospection has coloured my view too darkly
when I say that my brief experience in Fleet Street made me feel that
the Daily Gazette party, the supporters of The Destroyers (as
naval folk had named the Government of the day) consisted of a mass of
smugly hypocritical self-seekers; and that the party I served under
Clement Blaine were a mass of blatantly frank self-seekers. Such
generalizations can never be quite just, however. There were earnest
and devoted men in every section of the community. But, as a
generalization, as indicating the typical characteristics of the
parties, I fear that my view has been proved correct.
It would be quite a mistake to suppose that in the political world
the shortcomings were all on one side. Writers like myself, even men
like Clement Blaine, had only too much justification for the contempt
they poured upon the Conservative party. Selfishness, indolence, and
the worship of the fossilized party spirit, had eaten into the very
vitals of this section of the political world. The form of madness we
called party loyalty made the best men we had willing to sacrifice
national to personal interests. So-and-so must retain his place;
loyalty to the party demands our support there and there. We must give
it, whatever the consequences. The thing is not easy to understand; but
it was so, and the strongest and best men of the day were culpable in
The farther my London experiences took me, the greater became the
mass of my shattered illusions, broken ideals, and lost hopes. I
remember my reflections during a brief visit I paid to my mother in
Dorset, when I had spent an evening talking with my sister Lucy's
husband. Doctor Woodthrop was a good fellow enough, and my sister
seemed happier with him than one would have expected, remembering that
it was rather the desire for freedom, than love, which gave her to him.
Woodthrop was popular, honest, steady-going; a fine, typical
Englishman of the period, I suppose. In politics he was as his father
before him, though the name had changed from Tory to Conservative. He
talked politics for a week at election time. I would not say that he
ever thought politics. I know that he had no knowledge, and less
interest, where the affairs of his country were concerned, when I met
and talked with him during that visit. The country's defences were
actually of far less importance in his eyes than the country's cricket
averages. As for either social reform interests in England, or the
affairs of the Empire outside England, he simply could not be induced
to give them even conversational breathing space. They were as exotic
to my sister's husband as the ethics of esoteric Buddhism. But he was a
thick and thin Conservative. To be sure, he would have said, nothing
would cause him to waver in that.
As for myself, I defended the anti-national party in its repudiation
of Imperial responsibility by arguing that the domestic needs of the
country were too urgent and great to admit of any kind of expenditure,
in money or energy, upon outside affairs. We did not recognize that
internal reform and content were absolutely incompatible with shameless
neglect of fundamental duties.
We were as sailors who should concentrate upon drying and cleaning
their cabin, seeking at all hazards to make that comfortable, while
refusing to spare time for the ship's pumps, though the water was
rising in her hold from a score of external fissures. Our
anti-nationalists and Little Englanders were little cabin-dwellers,
shirkers from the open deck, careless of the ship's hull, and masts,
and sails, busily bent only upon the enrichment of their particular
divisions among her saloons.
In the early days of my engagement as assistant editor of The
Mass, I think I may claim that I worked hard and with honest intent
to make the paper represent truly what I conceived to be the good and
helpful side of Socialism, of social progress and reform. But, if I am
to be frank, I fear I must admit that within six months of my first
engagement by Clement Blaine, I had ceased to entertain any sincere
hope or ambition in this direction. And yet I remained assistant editor
of The Mass.
The two statements doubtless redound to my discredit, and I have
little excuse to offer. The work represented bread and butter for me,
and that counted for something, of course. But I will admit that I
think I could have found some more worthy employment, and should have
done so but for Beatrice Blaine, my employer's daughter.
Time and time again my gorge rose at being obliged to play my
partvery often, as a writer, the principal partin what I knew to be
an absolutely dishonest piece of journalism. Once I remember refusing
to write a grossly malicious and untrue representation of certain
actions of John Crondall's in the Transvaal. But I am ashamed to say I
revised the proofs of the lying thing, and saw it to press, when a
hireling of Clement Blaine's had prepared it. The man was a discharged
servant of Crondall's, a convicted thief, as I afterwards learned, as
well as a most abandoned liar. But his scurrilous fabrication, after
publication in The Mass, was quoted at length by the Daily
Gazette, and by the journals of that persuasion throughout the
I hardly know how to explain my relations with Blaine's daughter. I
suppose the main point is she was beautiful, in the sense that certain
cats are beautiful. I rarely heard of my Weybridge friends now, and
never, directly, of Sylvia. My life seemed infinitely remote from that
of the luxurious Wheeler ménage. When I chanced to earn a few
guineas with my pen outside the littered office of The Mass
(where the bulk of the editorial work fell to me), the money was almost
invariably devoted to the entertainment of Beatrice. She was in several
ways not unlike a kitten, or something feline, of larger growth: the
panther, for example, in Balzac's thrilling story, A Passion in the
I have never, before or since, met any woman so totally devoid of
the moral sense as Beatrice. Yet she had a heart that was not bad;
indeed it was a tender heart. But there was no moral sense to guide and
I think of Beatrice as very much a product of that time. Her own
personal enjoyment, pleasure, indulgence; these formed alike the centre
and the limit of her thoughts and aims. And the suggestion that serious
thought or energy should be given to any other end, struck Beatrice as
necessarily insincere and absurd. As for duty, the word had no more
real application to her own life as Beatrice saw it than the counsels
of old-time chivalry for the pursuit of the Holy Grail.
Soberly considered, this is doubtless very grievous. But it must be
said that if Beatrice was singular in this, her singularity lay rather
in her frank disclosure of her attitude than in the attitude itself. I
am not sure that morally her absorption in such crude pleasures as she
knew, was a whit more culpable than the equal absorption of nine people
out of ten at that time, in money-getting, in sport, in society
functions, or in sheer idleness. The same oblivion to the sense of duty
was very generally characteristic; though in other matters, no doubt,
the moral sense was more active. In Beatrice it simply was not present
All this was tolerably clear to me even then; but I will not pretend
that it interfered much with the physical and emotional attraction
which Beatrice had for me. Apart from her my life was very drab in
colour. I had no recreations. In my time at Rugby and at Cambridge we
either practically ignored sport (so far, at all events, as actual
participation in it went), or lived for it. I had very largely ignored
it. Now, Beatrice Blaine represented, not exactly recreation,
perhapsno, not that I thinkbut gaiety. The hours I spent in her
company were the only form of gaiety that entered into my life.
My feeling for Beatrice was not serious love, not at all a grand
passion; but denying myself the occasional pleasure of ministering to
her appetite for little outings would have been a harder task for me
than the acceptation of Sylvia Wheeler's dismissal. My attentions to
Beatrice were very much those of Balzac's Provençal to his panther,
after he had overcome his first terrors.
There were times when her acceptance of gifts or compliments from
another man made me believe myself really in love with Beatrice. Then
some peculiarly distasteful aspect of my journalistic work would be
forced upon me; I would receive some striking illustration of the
hopelessly sordid character of Blaine and his circle, of the policy of
The Mass, of the general trend of my life; and, seeing Beatrice's
indifferent acceptance of all this venality, I would turn from her with
a certain sense of revulsionfor three days. After that, I would
return to handsome Beatrice, with her feline graces and her warm
colouring, as a chilly, tired man turns from his work to his fireside.
In short, as time went on, I became as indifferent to ends and aims
as the most callous among those at whose indifference to matters of
real moment I had once girded so vehemently. And I lacked their excuse.
I cut no figure at all in the race for money and pleasure; unless my
clinging to Beatrice be accounted pursuit of pleasure. Certainly it
lacked the rapt absorption which characterized the multitude really in
the race. I fear I was rapidly degenerating into a common type of Fleet
Street hack; into nothing more than Clement Blaine's assistant. And
then a quite new influence came into my life.
XI. MORNING CALLERS
A woman mixed of such fine elements
That were all virtue and religion dead
She'd make them newly, being what she was.
A sandy-haired youth-of-all-work, named Rivers, spent his days in
the box we called the front office; a kind of lobby really, by which
one entered the tolerably large and desperately untidy room in which
Blaine and myself compiled each issue of The Mass. Blaine spent
a good slice of all his days in keeping appointments, usually in Fleet
My days were spent in the main office of the paper, among the files,
the scissors and paste, the books of reference, and the three
Gargantuan waste-paper baskets. Here at different times I interviewed
men of every European nationality and every known calling, besides
innumerable followers of no recognized trade or profession. Among them
all I cannot call to mind more than two or three who, by the most
charitable stretch of imagination, could have been called gentlemen.
Most of them were obviously, and in all ways seedy, shady
charactersfurtive, wordy creatures, full of vague, involved
grievances. The greater proportion were foreigners; scallywags from the
mean streets of every Continental capital; men familiar with prisons;
men who talked of the fraternity of labour, and never did any work; men
full of windy plans for the enrichment of humanity, who themselves must
always borrow and never repaymoney, food, shelter, and the other
things for which honest folk give their labour.
If an English Cabinet Minister had offered us an explanation of any
political development we should have had small use for his contribution
in The Mass, unless as an advertisement of our importance. For
their teaching, for the text they gave us in our fulminations, we
greatly preferred the rancorous and generally scurrilous vapourings of
some unknown alien dumped upon our shores for the relief and benefit of
his own country.
We wanted no information from Admiralty Lords about the Navy, from
commanding officers about the Army, from pro-Consuls about the
Colonies, or from the Foreign Office about foreign relations. But a
deserter or a man dismissed from either of the Services, a broker
ne'er-do-well rejected as unfit by one of the Colonies, or a foreign
agitator with stories to tell of Britain's duplicity abroad; these were
all welcome fish for our net, and folk whom it was my duty to receive
with respectful attention. From their perjured lips it became my
mechanical duty to extract and publish wisdom for the use of our
readers in the guidance of their lives and the exercise of their rights
as citizens and ratepayers. I became adept at the work, and in the end
accomplished it daily without interest, and with only occasional qualms
of conscience. It was my living.
On a sunshiny morning in June, which I remember very well, the
sandy-haired Rivers brought me a visiting-card upon which I read the
name of Miss Constance Grey. In one corner of the card the words
Cape Town had been crossed out and a London address written over
I was engaged at the time with a large, pale, fat man from Stettin,
whose mission it was to show me that the socialist working men of the
Fatherland dearly loved their comrades in England, and that the paying
of taxes for the defence of these islands was a preposterously absurd
thing, for the reason that the Socialists would never allow Germany to
go to war with England or with any other country. The Destroyers, in
their truckling to Demos, had already cut down Naval and Army estimates
by more than one-half since their rise to power, and our Stettin
ambassador was priming me regarding a demand for further reductions,
prior to actual disarmament, to provide funds for the fixing of a
minimum day's pay and a maximum day's work.
The gentleman from Stettin was to provide us with material for a
special article and a leading article. His proposals were to be made a
feature. However, I thought I had gone far enough with him at this
time; and so, looking from his pendulous jowl to the card in my hand, I
told Rivers to ask the lady to wait for two minutes, and to say that I
would see her then. I remember Herr Mitmann found the occasion
opportune for the airing of what I suppose he would have called his
sense of humour. His English and his front teeth were equally badly
broken, and his taste in jokes was almost as swinishly gross as his
appearance. But I was able to be quit of him at length, and then Rivers
ushered in Miss Constance Grey.
As I rose to provide my visitor with a chair, I received the
impression that she was a young and quietly well-dressed woman, with a
notable pair of dark eyes. I thought of her as being no more than
five-and-twenty years of age and pleasant to look upon. But her eyes
were the feature that seized one's attention. They produced an
impression of light and brilliancy, of vigour, intelligence, and charm.
I called to see you at the office of the Daily Gazette, Mr.
Mordan, and this was the only address of yours they could give me, or I
should have hesitated about intruding on you in working hours. I bring
you an introduction from John Crondall.
And with that she handed me a letter in Crondall's writing, and
nodded in a friendly way when I asked permission to read it at once.
Please do, she said.
She had no particular accent, but yet her speech differed slightly
from that of the conventional Englishwoman of her classthe refined
and well-educated Englishwoman, that is. I suppose the difference was
rather one of expression, tone, and choice of phrase than a matter of
accent. I doubt if one could easily find an example of it nowadays,
increased communication having so much broadened our own colloquial
diction that many of its conventional peculiarities have disappeared.
But it existed then, and after a time I learned to place it as
characteristic of the speech of Greater Britain, as distinguished from
the English of those of us who lived always in this capital centre of
[Illustration: RIVERS USHERED IN MISS CONSTANCE GREY"]
Miss Grey had the Colonial directness and vividness of speech; a
larger, freer diction upon the whole than that of the Londoner born and
bred; more racy, less clipped and formal, but, in certain ways, more
correct. The society cliche, and the society fads of
abbreviation and accent, were missing; and in their place was an easy,
idiomatic directness, distinctly noticeable to a man like myself who
had actually never been out of England. This it was that first struck
me about Miss Grey; this and the warm brilliance of her eyes: a
graphic, moving speech, a frank, compelling gaze; both indicative, as
it seemed to me, of broadly sympathetic understanding.
I read John Crondall's kindly letter with a good deal of interest,
moved by the fact that his terse, friendly phrases recalled to me a
phase of my own life which, though no more than a couple of years past,
seemed to me wonderfully remote. I had been new to London and to Fleet
Street then, full of aspirations, of earnestness, of independent aims
and hopes; fresh from the University and the more leisured days of my
life as the son of the rector of Tarn Regis. I had had glimpses of much
that was sordid and squalid in London life, at the period John
Crondall's letter recalled, but as yet there had been no sordidness in
my own life. All that was far otherwise now, I felt. Cambridge and
Dorset were a long way from the office of The Mass. I thought of
the greasy Teuton nondescript for whom I had kept Miss Grey waiting,
and I felt colour rise in my face as I read John Crondall's letter:
I expect you have been burgeoning mightily since I left London, and
I should not be surprised to learn that you have put the Daily
Gazette and its kind definitely behind you. You remember our talks?
Tut, my dear fellow, Liberalism, Conservatism, Radicalismit's of not
the slightest consequence, and they're all much of a muchness. The
thing is to stand to one's duty as a citizen of the Empire, not as a
member of this or that little tin coterie; and if we stick honourably
to that, nothing else matters. You will like Constance Grey; that is
why I have asked her to look you up. She's sterling all through; her
father's daughter to the backbone. And he was the man of whom Talbot
said: 'Give me two Greys, and'and a couple of other men he
mentioned'and a free hand, and Whitehall could go to sleep with its
head on South Africa, and never be disturbed again.'When Crondall
quoted his dead chief, the man whose personality had dominated British
South Africa, one felt he had said his utmost.The principal thing
that takes her to London now, I believe, is detail connected with a
special series she has been engaged upon for The Times; fine
stuff, from what I have seen of it. It is marvellous the grip this one
little bit of a girl has of South African affairs.
Yes, I thought, now the fact was mentioned, I suppose she is
I hope the articles will be well read, for there's a heap of the
vitals of South Africa in them; and even if they are to cut us adrift
altogether, it's as well 'The Destroyers' should know a little about
us, and the country. Constance Grey's name and introductions will take
her anywhere in London, or I would have asked your help in that way.
I thought of Clement Blaine's friends, my own Fleet Street circle,
and shifted uncomfortably in my chair.
As it is, the boot may be rather on the other leg, and she may be
of some service to you. But in any case, I want you to know each other,
because you are a good chap, and will interest her, I know; and because
she is of the bigger Britain and will interest you. Things political
are, of course, looking pretty blue for us all, and your particular
friendsI rather hope perhaps they're not so much your friends by
noware certainly doing their level best to cut all moorings. But one
must keep pegging away. The more cutting for them, the more splicing
for us. But I do wish we could blindfold Europe until these
'Destroyers' had got enough rope, and satisfactorily hanged themselves;
for if they go much farther, their hanging will come too late to save
the situation. Well, salue!
I allowed my eyes to linger over the tail-end of the letter, while I
thought. I was sensible of a very real embarrassment. There seemed a
kind of treachery to John Crondall, a kind of unfairness to Miss Grey,
in my receiving her there at all. By this time one had no illusions
left regarding Clement Blaine and his circle, nor about The Mass. I knew that, at heart, I was ashamed, and with good reason, of my
connection with both. Still, there I was; it was my living; andI
suppose my eyes must have wandered from the letter. At all events,
evidently seeing that I had finished reading it, my visitor spoke.
I had an introduction to the editor of the Daily Gazette, so
I took advantage of being there this afternoon to see him. A nice man,
I thought, though I don't care for his paper. He remembered you as soon
as I mentioned your name, and told me youyou were here. He seemed
quite sorry you had left his paper; but I am sure I can understand the
attraction of a position in which the whole concern is more or less in
one's own hands. Mr. Delaney found me a copy of The Mass; so I
have been studying you before calling. Perhaps you have inadvertently
done so much by me, through The Timesa rather high and dry old
institution, isn't it?
Naturally I had punctuated these remarks of hers, here and there.
She had a very bright, alert way in talking, and now she added, easily,
a sentence or two to the effect that it would be a dull world if we all
held precisely the same views. She did the thing well, and in a few
minutes I found myself chatting away with her in the most friendly
manner. She managed with the utmost deftness to remove all ground for
my embarrassment regarding my position. She talked for a while of South
Africa, and the life she had lived there prior to her father's death;
but she touched no topic which contained any controversial element. It
seemed her aunt, a sister of her father's, had accompanied her to
England, and she said:
I promised my aunt, Mrs. Van Homrey, that I would induce you to
spare us an evening soon. She loves meeting friends of John Crondall.
We dine at eight, but would fix any other hour if it suited you
The end of it was I promised to dine with Miss Grey and her aunt in
South Kensington on the following evening, and, after a quarter of an
hour's very pleasant chat (twice interrupted by Rivers, who had people
in his cupboard waiting to see me) my visitor rose to take her
departure, with apologies for having trespassed upon a busy man's time.
I told her with some warmth that the loss of my time was of no
importance, and, with a thought as to the nature of my petty routine, I
repeated the assurance. She smiled:
Ah, that's just the masculine insincerity of your gallantry, she
said, unworn, I see, by working with women. John Crondall would have
sent me packing.
No doubt his time is of more valuebetter occupied.
I had a mental vision of Clement Blaine (who grew stouter and
slacker day by day) sitting drinking with Herr Mitmann of Stettin, in a
favourite bar, within fifty yards of the office.
Still the insincerity of politeness, she laughed. You forget I
have read The Mass. I find you a terribly earnest partisan; very
keenly occupied, I should say. Till to-morrow evening, then!
And she was gone, and Rivers was leading in, like a bear on a cord,
a tousled Polish Jew named Kraunski, who was teaching us how the
Metropolitan Police Force should be run, and how tyrannically its
wicked myrmidons oppressed worthy citizens of Houndsditch, like Mr.
Kraunskiquite a good Mass feature.
So I stepped back again, feeling as though Constance Grey had
carried away the pale London sunlight with her when she left my
XII. SATURDAY NIGHT IN LONDON
Corrupted freemen are the worst of slaves.DAVID GARRICK.
I remember that the evening of the day following my dinner
engagement with Miss Grey and her aunt was consecrate, by previous
arrangement, to Beatrice Blaine. I had received seven guineas a couple
of days before for a rather silly and sensational descriptive article,
the subject of which had been suggested by Beatrice. Indeed, she had
made me write it, and liked the thing when it appeared in print. It
described certain aspects of the quarter of London which stood for
pleasure in her eyes; the quarter bounded by Charing Cross and Oxford
Street, Leicester Square and Hyde Park Corner.
I think I would gladly have escaped the evening with Beatrice if I
could have done so fairly. Seeing that I could not do this, and that my
mood seemed chilly, I plunged with more than usual extravagance, and
sought to work up all the gaiety I could. I had a vague feeling that I
owed so much to Beatrice; that the occasion in some way marked a crisis
in our relations. I did not mentally call it a last extravagance, but
yet I fancy that must have been the notion at the back of my mind; from
which one may assume, I think, that Constance Grey had already begun to
exercise some influence over me.
With the seven guineas clinking in the pockets of my evening
clotheshere, at all events, was a link with University days, for
these seldom-worn garments bore the name of a Cambridge tailorI drove
to the corner of the road beside Battersea Park in which the Blaines
lived, and there picked up Beatrice, in all her vivid finery, by
appointment. She loved bright colours and daring devices in dress. That
I should come in a cab to fetch her was an integral part of her
pleasure, and, if funds could possibly be stretched to permit it, she
liked to retain the services of the same cab until I brought her back
to her own door.
We drove to a famous showy restaurant close to Piccadilly Circus,
where Beatrice accomplished the kind of entrance which delighted her
heart, with attendants fluttering about her, and a messenger posting
back to the cab for a forgotten fan, and a deal of bustle and rustle of
one sort and another. A quarter of an hour was devoted to the choice of
a menu in a dining-room which resembled the more ornate type of
music-hall, and was of about the same size. The flashing garishness of
it all delighted Beatrice, and the heat of its atmosphere suited both
her mood and her extremely décolleté toilette.
I remember beginning to speak of my previous evening's engagement
while Beatrice sipped the rather sticky champagne, which was the first
item of the meal to reach us. But a certain sense of unfitness or
disinclination stopped me after a few sentences, and I did not again
refer to my new friends; though I had been thinking a good deal of
Constance Grey and her plain-faced, plain-spoken aunt. I felt strangely
out of key with my environment in that glaring place, and the strains
of an overloud orchestra, when they came crashing through the buzz of
talk and laughter, and the clatter of glass and silver, were rather a
relief to me as a substitute for conversation. I drank a great deal of
champagne, and resented the fact that it seemed to have no stimulating
effect upon me. But Beatrice was in a purring stage of contentment, her
colour high, her passionate eyes sparkling, and low laughter ever
atremble behind her full, red lips.
After the dinner we drove to another place exactly like the
restaurant, all gilding and crimson plush, and there watched a
performance, which for dulness and banality it would be difficult to
equal anywhere. It was more silly than a peep-show at a country fair,
but it was all set in a most gorgeous and costly frame. The man who did
crude and ancient conjuring tricks was elaborately finely dressed, and
attended by monstrous footmen in liveries of Oriental splendour. What
he did was absurdly tame; the things he did it with, his accessories,
were barbarously gorgeous.
This was not one of the great Middle Class Halls, as they were
called during their first year of existence, but an old-established
haunt of those who aimed at seeing lifea great resort of ambitious
young bloods about town. Not very long before this time, a powerful
trust had been formed to confer the stuffy and inane delights of the
Hall upon that sturdily respectable suburban middle classthe
backbone of London societywhich had hitherto, to a great extent,
eschewed this particular form of dissipation. The trust amassed wealth
by striking a shrewd blow at our national character. Its entertainments
were to be all refinementfun without vulgarity; the oily
announcements were nauseating. But they answered their purpose only too
well. The great and still religious bourgeois class was securely
hooked; and then the name of Middle Class Halls was dropped, and the
programme provided in these garish palaces became simply an inexpensive
and rather amateurish imitation of those of the older halls, plus a
kind of prudish, sentimental, and even quasi-religious lubricity, which
made them altogether revolting, and infinitely deleterious.
But our choice upon this occasion had fallen upon the most famous of
the old halls. Of the performance I remember a topical song which
evoked enthusiastic applause. It was an incredibly stupid piece of
doggerel about England's position in the world; and the shiny-faced
exquisite who declaimed it strutted to and fro like a bantam cock at
each fresh roar of applause from the heated house. When he used the
word fight he waved an imaginary sword and assumed a ridiculous
posture, which he evidently connected with warlike exercises of some
kind. The song praised the GovernmentA Government er business men;
men that's got senseand told how this wonderful Government had
stopped the pouring out of poor folks' money upon flag-waving, to
devote it to poor folks' needs. It alluded to the title that
Administration had earned: The Destroyers; and acclaimed it a proud
title, because it meant the destruction of gold-laced bunkcombe, and
of vampires that were preying on the British working man.
But the chorus was the thing, and the perspiring singer played
conductor with all the airs and graces of a spangled showman in a
booth, while the huge audience yelled itself hoarse over this. I can
only recall two lines of it, and these were to the effect that:
Theymeaning the other Powers of civilizationwill never go for
England, because England's got the dibs.
It was rather a startling spectacle; that vast auditorium, in which
one saw countless flushed faces, tier on tier, gleaming through a haze
of tobacco smoke; their mouths agape as they roared out the vapid lines
of this song. I remember thinking that the doggerel might have been the
creation of my fat contributor from Stettin, Herr Mitmann, and that if
the music-hall public had reached this stage, I must have been
oversensitive in my somewhat hostile and critical attitude toward the
writings of that ponderous Teuton. I thought that for once The Mass
would almost lag behind its readers; though in the beginning I had
regarded Herr Mitmann's proposals as going beyond even our limits.
We left the hall while its roof echoed the jingling tail-piece of
another popular ditty, which tickled Beatrice's fancy hugely. In it the
singer expressed, without exaggeration and without flattery, a good
deal of the popular London attitude toward the pursuit of pleasure and
the love of pleasure resorts. I recall phrases like: Give my regards
to Leicester SquareGreet the girls in Regent StreetTell them in
Bond Street we'll soon meetand, Give them my love in the Strand.
The atmosphere reeked now of spirits, smoke, and overheated
humanity. The voice of the great audience was hoarse and rather bestial
in suggestion. The unescorted women began to make their invitations
dreadfully pressing. Doubtless my mood coloured the whole tawdry
business, but I remember finding those last few minutes distinctly
revolting, and experiencing a genuine relief when we stepped into the
But the lights were just as brilliant outside, the pavements as
thronged as the carpeted promenade, its faces almost as thickly painted
as those of the lady who wished her regards given to Leicester
Square, or the gentleman who had assured us that nobody wanted to fight
England, because England had the dibs.
Beatrice was now in feverishly high spirits. She no longer purred
contentment; rather it seemed to me she panted in avid excitement,
while pouring out a running fire of comment upon the dress and
appearance of passers-by, as we drove to another palace of gilt and
plusha sort of magnified Pullman car, with decorations that made
one's eyes ache. Here we partook of quite a complicated champagne
supper. I dare say fifty pounds was spent in that room after the
gorgeously uniformed attendants had begun their chant of Time,
gentlemen, please; time! which signified that the closing hour had
Beatrice kept up her excitementor perhaps the champagne did this
for heruntil our cab was half-way across Chelsea Bridge. Then she lay
back in her corner, and, I suppose, began to feel the grayness of the
as yet unseen dawn of a new day. But as I helped her out of the cab in
Battersea, she said she had thoroughly enjoyed her fluffy evening,
and thanked me very prettily. I returned in the cab as far as
Westminster, and there dismissed the man with the last of my seven
guineas, having decided to walk from there to my Bloomsbury lodging.
For a Socialist, my conduct was certainly peculiar. There were two
of us. We had had two meals, one of which was as totally unnecessary as
the other was overelaborate. And we had spent an hour or two in
watching an incredibly stupid and vulgar performance. And over this I
had spent a sum upon which an entire family could have been kept going
for a couple of months. But there were scores of people in London that
nightsome of them passed me in cabs and carriages, as I walked from
the Abbey toward Fleet Streetwho had been through a similar programme
and spent twice as much over it as I had. It was an extraordinarily
extravagant period; and it seemed that the less folk did in the
discharge of their national obligations as citizens, the more they
demanded, and the more they spent, in the name of pleasure.
The people who passed me, as I made my way eastward, were mostly in
evening dress, pale and raffish-looking. Many, particularly among the
couples in hansoms, were intoxicated, and making a painful muddle of
such melodies as those we had listened to at the music hall. Overeaten,
overdrunken, overexcited, overextravagant, in all ways figures of
incontinence, these noisy Londoners made their way homeward, pursued by
the advancing gray light of a Sabbath dawn in midsummer.
And Beatrice loved everything foreign, because the foreigners had
none of our stupid British Puritanism! And the British public was
mightily pleased with its Government, The Destroyers, because they
were cutting down to vanishing point expenditure upon such superfluous
vanities as national defence, in order to devote the money to improving
the conditions in which the public lived, and to the reducing of their
heavy burdens as citizens of a great Empire. Money could not possibly
be spared for such ornamentation as ships and guns and bodies of
trained men. We could not afford it!
As I passed the corner of Agar Street a drunken cabdriver, driving
two noisily intoxicated men in evening dress, brought his cab into
collision with a gaunt, wolf-eyed man who had been scouring the gutter
for scraps of food. He was one of an army prowling London's gutters at
that moment: human wolves, questing for scraps of refuse meat. The
space between each prowler was no more than a few yards. This
particular wretch was knocked down by the cab, but not hurt. Cabby and
his fares roared out drunken laughter. The horse was never checked. But
in the midst of their laughter one of the passengers threw out a coin,
upon which the human wolf pounced like a bird of prey. I saw the glint
of the coin. It was a sovereign; very likely the twentieth those men
had spent that night. For that sum, four hundred of the gaunt,
gutter-prowling wolves might have been fed and sheltered.
Entering Holborn I ran against a man I knew, named Wardle, one of
the sub-editors of a Sunday newspaper, then on his way home from Fleet
Street. Wardle was tired and sleepy, but stopped to exchange a few
words of journalistic gossip.
Rather sickening about the wind-up of the East Anglian Pageant, he
said, isn't it? Did you hear of it?
I explained that I had not been in Fleet Street that night, and had
Why, there was to be no end of a tumashi for the Saturday evening
wind-up, you know, and we were featuring it. We sent a special man up
yesterday to help the local fellow. Well, just as we'd got in about a
couple of hundred words of his introductory stuff, word came through
that the wires were interrupted, and not another blessed line did we
get. I tell you there was some tall cursing done, and some flying
around in the editorial 'fill-up' drawers. We were giving it first
placethree columns. One blessing, we found the stoppage was general.
No one else has got a line of East Anglian stuff to-night. Ours was the
last word from the submerged city of Ipswich. But it really is rather
an odd breakdown. No sign of rough weather; and, mind you there are a
number of different lines of communication. But they're all blocked,
telegraph and telephone. Our chief tried to get through viâ the
Continent, just to give us something to go on. But it was no go. Odd,
Very, I agreed, as we turned; and I added, rather inanely: One
hears a lot about East Anglian coast erosion.
Wardle yawned and grinned.
Yes, to be sure. Perhaps East Anglia is cruising down Channel by
now. Or perhaps the Kaiser's landed an army corps and taken possession.
That Mediterranean business on Tuesday was pretty pronounced cheek, you
know, and, by all accounts, the result of direct orders from Potsdam.
Only the Kaiser's bluff, I suppose, but I'm told it's taken most of the
Channel Fleet down into Spanish waters.
I smiled at the activity of Wardle's journalistic imagination, and
thought of the music-hall crowd.
Ah, well, I said, 'They'll never go for England, because
England's got the dibs'!
What ho! remarked Wardle, with another yawn. And this time he was
And so I walked home alone to my lodgings, and climbed into bed,
thinking vaguely of Constance Grey, and what she would have thought of
my night's work; this, as the long, palely glinting arms of the Sabbath
dawn thrust aside the mantle of summer night from Bloomsbury.
XIII. THE DEMONSTRATION IN HYDE PARK
Winds of the World give answer! They are whimpering to and fro
And what should they know of England who only England know?
The poor little street-bred people that vapour and fume and
They are lifting their heads in the stillness to yelp at the
As was usually the case on the day following one of Beatrice's
fluffy evenings, I descended to my never very tempting lodging-house
breakfast on that Sunday morning feeling the reverse of cheerful, and
much inclined to take the gloomiest view of everything life had to
Sunday was generally a melancholy day for me. It was my only day out
of Fleet Street, and, though I had long since taken such steps as I
thought I could afford toward transforming my bedroom into a
sitting-room, there was nothing very comfortable or homelike about it.
I had dropped the habit of churchgoing after the first few months of my
London life, without any particular thought or intention, but rather, I
think, as one kind of reflex actiona subconscious reflection of the
views and habits of those among whom I lived and worked.
Hearing a newsboy crying a special edition of some paper, I threw
up the window and bought a copy, across the area railings. It was the
paper for which Wardle worked. I found in it no particular
justification for any special issue, and, as a fact, the probability is
the appearance of this edition was merely a device to increase
circulation, suggested mainly by the fact that the ordinary issue had
been delayed by the East Anglian telegraphic breakdown. Regarding this,
I found the following item of editorial commentary:
As is explained elsewhere, a serious breakdown of telegraphic
communication has occurred between London and Harwich, Ipswich and East
Anglia generally, as a result of which our readers are robbed of
special despatches regarding last night's conclusion of the East
Anglian Pageant. It is thought that the breakdown is due to some
electrical disturbance of the atmosphere resulting in a fusion of
But as an example of the ridiculous lengths to which the national
defence cranks will go in their hatching of alarmist reports, a rumour
was actually spread in Fleet Street at an early hour this morning that
this commonplace accident to the telegraph wires was caused by an
invading German army. This ridiculous canard is reminiscent of
some of the foolish scares which frightened our forefathers a little
more than a century ago, when the Corsican terrorized Europe. But our
rumour-mongers are too far out of date for this age. It is unfortunate
that the advocates of militarism should receive parliamentary support
of any kind. The Opposition is weakly and insignificant enough in all
conscience, without courting further unpopularity by floating British
public feeling in this way, and encouraging the cranks among its
following to bring ridicule upon the country.
The absurd canard to which we have referred is maliciously
ill-timed. It will doubtless be reported on the Continent, and may
injure us there. But we trust our friends in Germany will do us the
justice of recognizing at once that this is merely the work of an
irresponsible and totally unrepresentative clique, and in no sort a
reflection of any aspect of public feeling in this country. We are able
to state with certainty that last Tuesday's regrettable incident in the
Mediterranean has been satisfactorily and definitely closed. Admiral
Blennerhaustein displayed characteristic German courtesy and generosity
in his frank acceptance of the apology sent to him from Whitehall; and
the report that our Channel Fleet had entered the Straits of Gibraltar
is incorrect. A portion of the Channel Fleet had been cruising off the
coast of the Peninsula, and is now on its way back to home waters. Our
relations with His Imperial Majesty's Government in Berlin were never
more harmonious, and such a canard as this morning's rumour of
invasion is only worthy of mention for the sake of a demonstration of
its complete absurdity. If, as was stated, the author of this puerile
invention is a Navy League supporter, who reached London in a motor-car
from Harwich soon after daylight this morning, our advice to him is to
devote the rest of the day to sleeping off the effects of an
injudicious evening in East Anglia.
Failing the East Anglian Pageant, the paper's first feature, I
noticed, consisted of a lot of generously headed particulars regarding
the big Disarmament Demonstration to be held in Hyde Park that
afternoon. It seemed that this was to be a really big thing, and I
decided to attend in the interests of The Mass. The President of
the Local Government Board and three well-known members on the
Government side of the House were to speak. The Demonstration had been
organized by the National Peace Association for Disarmament and Social
Reform, of which the Prime Minister had lately been elected President.
Delegates, both German and English, of the Anglo-German Union had
promised to deliver addresses. Among other well-known bodies who were
sending representatives I saw mention of the Anti-Imperial and Free
Tariff Society, the Independent English Guild, the Home Rule
Association, the Free Trade League, and various Republican and
Socialist bodies. The paper said some amusement was anticipated from a
suggested counter demonstration proposed by a few Navy League
enthusiasts; but that the police would take good care that no serious
interruptions were allowed.
As the Demonstration was fixed for three o'clock in the afternoon, I
decided to go up the river by steamboat to Kew after my late breakfast.
It was a gloriously fine morning, and on the river I began to feel a
little more cheerful. As we passed Battersea Park I thought of
Beatrice, who always suffered from severe depressions after her little
outings. Her spirits were affected; in my case, restaurant food,
inferior wine, and the breathing of vitiated air was paid for by
nothing worse than a headache and a morning's discomfort.
(One of the curses of the time, which seemed to grow more acute as
the habit of extravagance and the thirst for pleasure increased, was
the outrageous adulteration of all food-stuffs, and more particularly
of all alcoholic liquors, which prevailed not alone in the West End of
London, but in every city. Home products could only be obtained in
clubs and in the houses of the rich. Their quantity was insufficient to
admit of their reaching the open markets. In the cities we lived
entirely upon foreign products, and their adulteration had reached a
most amazing limit of badness.)
My thought of Beatrice was brief that morning, but I continued
during most of my little excursion to dwell upon my new friends in
South Kensington. I wondered how Constance Grey spent Sunday in London,
and whether the confinement of the town oppressed her after the
spacious freedom of the South African life she had described to me. I
remembered that I had promised to call upon her and her aunt very soon,
and wondered whether that afternoon, after the Demonstration, would be
too soon. I mentally decided that it would, but that I would go all the
And then, suddenly, as the steamer passed under Hammersmith Bridge,
a thought went through me like cold steel:
She will very soon return to that freer, wider life out there in
How I hated the place. South Africa! I had always associated it with
Imperialism, militarismempireism, as I called it in my own mind:
the strange, outside interests, which one regarded as opposing home
interests, social reform, and the like. Though I did not know that any
political party considerations influenced me one atom, I was in
reality, like nearly every one else at that time, mentally the slave
and creature of party feeling, party tradition, party prejudice. But
now I had a new cause for hating those remote uplands of Empire, those
Sitting under a tree in Kew Gardens, I had leisure in which to
browse over the matter, and, upon reflection, I was astonished that
this sudden thought of mine should have struck so shrewdly, so
violently, into my peace of mind. I tried to neutralize its effect by
reminding myself that I had met Constance Grey only twice; that she was
in many ways outside my purview; that she was the intimate friend of
people who had helped to make history, the special contributor to
The Times, with her introductions to ex-Cabinet Ministers in
England and her other relations with great people; that such a woman
could never play an intimate part in my life. Her friendliness could
not be the prelude to friendship with the assistant editor of The
Mass; it probably meant no more than a courteous deference to John
Crondall's whim, I told myself. But I would call at the South
Kensington flat, certainly; it would be boorish to refrain, andthere
was no denying I should have been mightily perturbed if any valid
reason had appeared against my going to see Constance Grey after doing
my duty by the Demonstration.
The newsboys were putting a good deal of feeling into their crying
of special editions when I reached the streets again; but I was not
inclined to waste further pence upon the Sunday News' moralizings
over the evolution of canards. I took a mess of some adulterated
pottage at a foreign restaurant in Notting Hill, as I had no wish to
return to Bloomsbury before the Demonstration. The waitereither a
Swiss or a Germanasked me:
Vad you sink, sare, of ze news from ze country?
I asked him what it was, and he handed me a fresh copy of the
Sunday News, headed: Special Edition. Noon.
By Jove! I thought; no Sunday dinner for Wardle! They couldn't
have printed this in the small hours.
But the only new matter in this issue was a short announcement,
headed in poster type, as follows:
EAST ANGLIA'S ISOLATION
RAILWAY COMMUNICATION STOPPED
STRANGE SUPPORT OF INVASION CANARD
IS THIS A TORY HOAX?
The preposterous rumour of a German invasion of England is
receiving mysterious support. We hear from a reliable source that some
Imperialist and Navy League cranks have organized a gigantic hoax by
way of opposition to the Disarmament Demonstration. If the curious
breakdown of communication with the east coast does prove to be the
work of political fanatics, we think, and hope, that these gentry may
shortly be convinced, in a manner they are never likely to forget,
that, even in this land of liberty, the crank is not allowed to
interfere with the transaction of public business.
No trains have reached Liverpool Street from the northeast this
morning, and communication cannot be established beyond Chelmsford.
Whatever the cause of this singular breakdown may be, our readers will
soon know it, for, in order finally to dispel any hint of credence
which may be attached in some quarters to the absurd invasion report,
we have already despatched two representatives in two powerful
motor-cars, northeastward from Brentwood, with instructions to return
to that point and telegraph full particulars directly they can discover
the cause of the stoppage of communication.
Further special editions will be issued when news is received from
Yes, I said to the waiter; it's a curious affair.
You believe him, sarezat Shermany do it?
Eh? No; certainly not. Do you?
Me? Oh, sare, I don' know nozzing. Vaire shstrong, sare, ze Sherman
The fellow's face annoyed me in some way. It, and his grins and
gesticulations, had a sinister seeming. My trade brought me into
contact with so many low-class aliens. I told myself I was getting
insular and prejudiced, and resumed my meal with more thought for
myself and my tendencies and affairs than for the East Anglian
business. I have wondered since what the waiter thought about while I
ate; whether he thought of England, Germany, and of myself, as
representing the British citizen. But, to be sure, for aught I know,
his thoughts may have been ordered for him from Berlin.
The Demonstration drew an enormous concourse of people to Hyde Park.
The weather being perfect, a number of people made an outing of the
occasion, and one saw whole groups of people who clearly came from
beyond Whitechapel, the Borough, Shepherd's Bush, and Islington. As had
been anticipated, a few well-dressed people endeavoured to run a
counter-demonstration under a Navy League banner; but their following
was absurdly small, and the crowd gave them nothing but ridicule and
The President of the Local Government Board received a tremendous
ovation. For some minutes after his first appearance that enormous
crowd sang, He's a jolly good fellow! with great enthusiasm. Then,
when this member of the Government at last succeeded in getting as far
as: Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, some one started the song
with the chorus containing the words: They'll never go for England,
because England's got the dibs. This spread like a line of fire in dry
grass, and in a moment the vast crowd was rocking to the jingling
rhythm of the song, the summer air quivering to the volume of its
The President of the Local Government Board had been rather
suspected of tuft-hunting recently, and his appearance in the stump
orator's rôle, and in the cause of disarmament, was wonderfully
popular. In his long career as Labour agitator, Socialist, and Radical,
he had learned to know the popular pulse remarkably well; and now he
responded cleverly to the call of the moment. His vein was that of the
heavy, broad bludgeoning sarcasm which tickles a crowd, and his theme
was not the wickedness, but the stupidity and futility of all
Jingoism, spread-eagleism, tall-talk, and gold-lace bunkcombe.
I am told my honourable friends of the opposition, he said, with
an ironical bow in the direction of the now folded Navy League banner,
have played some kind of a practical joke in the eastern counties
to-day. Well, children will be children; but I am afraid there will
have to be spankings if half that I hear is true. They have tried to
frighten you into abandoning this Demonstration with a pretended
invasion of England. Well, my friends, it does not look to me as though
their invasion had affected this Demonstration very seriously. I seem
to fancy I see quite a number of people gathered together here. (It is
estimated that over sixty thousand people were trying to hear his
words.) But all I have to say on this invasion question is just this:
If our friends from Germany have invaded East Anglia, let us be
grateful for their enterprise, and, as a nation of shopkeepers should,
let us make as much as we can out of 'em. But don't let us forget our
hospitality. If our neighbours have dropped in in a friendly way, why,
let's be sure we've something hot for supper. Perhaps a few sausages
wouldn't be taken amiss. (The laughter and applause was so continuous
here that for some moments nothing further could be heard.) No, my
friends, this invasion hoax should now be placed finally upon the
retired list. It has been on active service now since the year 1800,
and I really think it's time our spread-eagle friends gave us a change.
Let me for one moment address you in my official capacity, as your
servant and a member of the Government. This England of ours is about
as much in danger of being invaded as I am of becoming a millionaire,
and those of you
The speaker's next words never reached me, being drowned by a great
roar of laughter and applause. Just then I turned round to remonstrate
with a man who was supporting himself upon my right shoulder. I was on
the edge of the one narrow part of the crowd, against some iron
railings. As I turned I noticed a number of boys tearing along in
fan-shaped formation, and racing toward the crowd from the direction of
Marble Arch. My eyes followed the approaching boys, and I forgot the
fellow who had been plaguing me. The lads were all carrying bundles of
papers, and now, as they drew nearer, I could see and hear that they
were yelling as they ran.
Another special edition, I thought. No sort of a Sunday for poor
The President of the Local Government Board had resumed his speech,
and I could hear his clean-cut words distinctly. He had a good incisive
delivery. Across his words now the hoarse yell of an approaching
newsboy smote upon my ears:
Extry speshul! Sixpence! German Army Corps in England! Speshul!
Invashen er Sufferk! Speshulsixpence! German Army Corpssixpence!
By Jove! I thought. That's rough on our disarmament feature from
I very well remember that that precisely was my thought.
XIV. THE NEWS
He could not hear Death's rattle at the door,
He was so busy with his sottishness.
The chance of my position on the edge of the crowd nearest to Marble
Arch caused me to be among those who secured a paper, and at the
comparatively modest price of sixpence. Two minutes later, I saw a
member of the committee of the Demonstration hand over half-a-crown for
one of the same limp sheets, all warm and smeary from the press. And in
two more minutes the newsboys (there must have been fifty of them) were
racing back to Marble Arch, feverishly questing further supplies, and,
I suppose, reckoning as they ran their unaccustomed gains.
The news, mostly in poster type, was only a matter of a few lines of
comment, and a few more lines of telegraphic despatch from Brentwood:
Telegraphic communication with Chelmsford has now been cut off, but
one of our special representatives, who succeeded in obtaining a
powerful six-cylinder motor-car, has reached Brentwood, after a racing
tour to the northeastward. We publish his despatch under all possible
reserve. He is a journalist of high repute, but we venture to say with
confidence that he has evidently been imposed upon by the promoters of
the most abominably wicked hoax and fraud ever perpetrated by criminal
fanatics upon a trusting public. We have very little doubt that a
number of these rabid advocates of that spirit of militarism to which
the British public will never for one moment submit, will be cooling
their heated brains in prison cells before the night is out.
And then followed the despatch from Brentwood, which said:
Roads, railways, communication of all kinds absolutely blocked.
Coastal regions of Suffolk and South Norfolk, and possibly Essex, are
occupied by German soldiers. A cyclist from near Harwich says the
landing was effected last evening, the most elaborate preparations and
arrangements having been made beforehand. My car was fired at near
Colchester. Chelmsford is now occupied by German cavalry, cyclist and
motor corps. Have not heard of any loss of life, but whole country is
panic-stricken. Cannot send further news. Telegraph office closed to
public, being occupied in official business.
That was all. As my eyes rose from the blurred surface of the
news-sheet the picture of the crowd absorbed me, like a
stage-spectacle. There were from forty to sixty thousand people
assembled, of all ages and classes. Among them were perhaps one
thousand, perhaps two thousand, copies of the newspaper. Some ten
thousand people were craning necks and straining eyes to read those
papers. The rest were making short, hoarse, frequently meaningless
I saw one middle-aged man, who might have been a grocer, and a
deacon in his place of worship, fold up his paper after reading it and
thrust it, for future reference, in the tail-pocket of his sombre
Sunday coat. But his neighbours in the crowd would not have that. A
number of outstretched hands suddenly surrounded him. I saw his face
pale. Give us a look! was all the sense I grasped from a score of
exclamations. The grocer's paper was in fragments on the grass ten
seconds later, and its destroyers were reaching out in other
It's abominable, I heard the grocer muttering to himself; and his
hands shook as though he had the palsy.
But in other cases the papers passed whole from hand to hand, and
their holders read the news aloud. I think the entire crowd had grasped
the gist of it inside of four minutes; and their exclamatory comments
were extraordinary, grotesque.
My God! and My Gawd! reached my ears frequently. But they were
less representative than were short, sharp bursts of laughter, harsh
and staccato, like a dog's bark, and, it may be, half-hysterical. And,
piercing these snaps of laughter, one heard the curious, contradictory
yapping of such sentences as: I sye; 'ow about them 'ot sossiges?
'Taint true, Bill, is it? Disgraceful business; perfectly
disgraceful! Wot price the Kaiser? Not arf! Anything to sell the
papers, you know! What? No. Jolly lot of rot! Johnny get yer gun,
get yer gun! Some one must be punished for this. Might have caused a
panic, you know. True? Good Lord, no! What would our Navy be doing?
Well, upon my word, I don't know. Nice business for the fish trade!
Well, if that's it, I shall take the children down to their Aunt
Rebecca's. Wot price Piccadilly an' Regent Street to-night? Come
along, my dear; let's get home out of this. Absolute bosh, my dear
boy, from beginning to enddoing business with 'em every day o' my
life! And then a hoarse snatch of song: 'They'll never go for
England'not they! What ho! 'Because England's got the dibs!'
Suddenly then, above and across the thousand-voiced small talk, came
the trained notes of the voice of the President of the Local Government
My friends, the whole story is a most transparent fraud. It's a
shameful hoax. I tell you the thing is physically and morally
impossible. It couldn't have been done in the time; and it is all a
lie, anyhow. I beg to propose a hearty vote of thanks to our chairman
The crowd had listened attentively enough to the old agitator's
comment on the news. They liked his assurances on that point. But they
were in no mood for ceremonial. Thousands were already straggling
across the grass toward Marble Arch and down to Hyde Park Corner. The
speaker's further words were drowned in a confused hubbub of applause,
cheers, laughter, shouts of Are we downhearted? raucous answers in
the negative, and cries of Never mind the chairman! and He's a jolly
In ten minutes that part of the park seemed to have been stripped
naked, and the few vehicles, tables, and little platforms which had
formed the centre of the Demonstration appeared, like the limbs of a
tree suddenly bereft of foliage, looking curiously small and bare. I am
told that restaurants and refreshment places did an enormous trade
during the next few hours. When the public-houses opened they were
besieged, and, in many cases, closed again after a few hours, sold out.
For my part, I made at once, and without thinking, for Constance
Grey's flat in South Kensington. The crowds in the streets were not
only much larger, but in many ways different from the usual run of
Sunday crowds. The people wore their Sunday clothes, but they had
doffed the Sunday manners and air. There was more of a suggestion of
Saturday night in the streets; the suggestion that a tremendous number
of people were going to enjoy a spree of some kind. A kind of noisy
hilarity, combined with a general desire for cigars, drinks, singing,
and gaiety, seemed to be ruling the people.
At the upper end of Sloane Street a German band was blaring out the
air of The Holy City, and people stood about in groups laughing and
chatting noisily. The newspaper boys had some competitors now, and the
Bank Holiday flavour of the streets was added to by a number of lads
and girls who had appeared from nowhere, with all sorts of valueless
commodities for sale, such as peacocks' feathers, paper fans, and
streamers of coloured paper.
Why these things should have been wanted I cannot say; but their
sellers knew their business very well. The demand was remarkably brisk.
Indeed, I noticed one of three young men, who walked abreast, purchase
quite a bunch of the long feathers, only to drop them beside the curb a
few moments later, whence another vendor promptly plucked them, and
sold them again. I suppose that by this time the vast majority of the
people had no doubt whatever about the news being a monstrous hoax; but
there was no blinking the fact that the public had been strongly moved.
It was with a distinct sense of relief that I learned from a servant
that Miss Grey was at homehad just come in, as a matter of fact. It
was as though I had some important business to transact with this girl
from South Africa, with her brilliant dark eyes, and alert, thoughtful
expression. I felt that it would have been serious if she should have
been away, if I had missed her. It was not until I heard her step
outside the door of the little drawing-room into which I had been
shown, that I suddenly became conscious that I had no business whatever
with Constance Grey, and that this call, on Sunday, within forty-eight
hours of my dining there, might perhaps be adjudged a piece of
A minute later, and, if I had thought again of the matter at all, I
should have known that Constance Grey wasted no time over any such
petty considerations. She entered to me with a set, grave face, taking
my hand mechanically, as though too much preoccupied for such
What do you think of the news? she said, without a word of
preliminary greeting. I felt more than a little abashed at this; for,
truth to tell, I really had given no serious thought to the news. I had
observed its reception by the public as a spectator might. But, in the
first place, I had been early warned that it was all a hoax; and then,
too, like so many of my contemporaries, I was without the citizen
feeling altogether, so far as national interests were concerned. I had
grown to regard citizenship as exclusively a matter of domestic
politics and social progress, municipal affairs, and the like. I never
gave any thought to our position as a people and a nation in relation
to foreign Powers.
Oh, well, I said, it's an extraordinary business, isn't it? I
have just come from the Demonstration in Hyde Park. It was practically
squashed by the arrival of the special editions. The people seemed
pretty considerably muddled about it, so I suppose those who arranged
it all may be said to have scored their point.
So you don't believe it?
Well, I believe it is generally admitted to be a gigantic hoax, is
But, my dear Mr. Mordan, howhow wonderful English people are!
You, your own self; what do you think about it? But forgive me
for heckling. Won't you sit down? Or will you come into the study? Aunt
is in there.
We went into the study, a cheerful, bright room, with low wicker
chairs, and a big, littered writing-table.
Mr. Mordan doesn't believe it, said Constance Grey, when I had
shaken hands with her aunt.
Doesn't he? said that strong, plain-spoken woman. Well, I fancy
there are a good many more by the same way of thinking, who'll have
their eyes opened pretty widely by this time to-morrow.
Then you take the whole thing seriously? I asked them.
Somehow, my own thoughts had become active in the presence of these
women, and were racing over everything that I had seen and heard that
day, from the moment of my chat with Wardle, before sunrise, in
I don't see any other way to take it, said Mrs. Van Homrey, with
laconic emphasis. Do you? she added.
Well, you see, I did not begin by taking your view. My first word
of it was just before dawn this morning, from a newspaper man in
Holborn; and, somehowwell, you know, the general idea seems to be
that the whole thing is an elaborate joke worked up by the Navy League,
or somebody, as a counter-stroke to the Disarmament Demonstrationto
teach us a lesson, and all that, you know.
I had to remind myself that I was addressing two ladies who were
sure to be whole-hearted supporters of the Navy League and all other
Imperialist organizations. Constance Grey seemed to me to be appraising
me. I fancied those brilliant eyes of hers were looking right into me
with grave criticism, and discovering me unworthy. My heart sickened at
the thought. I should have been more distressed had not a vague, futile
anger crept into my mind. After all, I thought, what right had this
girl from South Africa to criticize me? I was a man. I knew England
better than she did. I was a journalist of experience. Bah! My twopenny
thoughts drooped and fainted as they rose.
But perhaps you are better informed? I said, weakly. Perhaps you
have other information?
Constance Grey looked straight at me, and as I recall her gaze now,
it was almost maternal in its yearning gravity.
I think it's going to be a lesson all right, she said. What cuts
me to the heart is the fear that it may have come too late.
Never have I heard such gravity in a young woman's voice. Her words
overpowered me almost by the weight of prescient meaning she gave them.
They reached me as from some solemn sanctuary, a fount of inspiration.
We haven't any special information, said Mrs. Van Homrey. We have
only read, like every one else, that East Anglia is occupied by German
soldiers, landed last night; that the East Anglian Pageant has been
made the cloak of most elaborate preparations for weeks past; that the
Mediterranean incident last week was a deliberate scheme to draw the
Channel Fleet south; and that the whole dreadful business has succeeded
so far, likelike perfect machinery; like the thing it is: the outcome
of perfect discipline and long, deliberate planning. We have heard no
more; but the only hoaxing that I can see is done by the purblind
people who have made the public think it a hoaxand that is not
conscious hoaxing, of course; they are too bemuddled with their
disarmament farce for that.
More tragedy than farce, aunt, I'm afraid, said Constance Grey.
And then, turning to me, she said: We lunched at General Penn
Dicksee's to-day; and they have no doubt about the truth of the news.
The General has motored down to Aldershot. They will begin some attempt
at mobilizing at once, I believe. But it seemed impossible to get into
touch with headquarters. All the War Office people are away for the
week-end. In fact, they say the Minister's in Ipswich, and can't get
away. General Penn Dicksee says they have practically no material to
work with for any immediate mobilization purposes. He says that under
the present system nothing can be done in less than a week. He thinks
the most useful force will be the sailors from the Naval Barracks. But
I should suppose they would be wanted for the shipsif we have any
ships left fit for sea. The General thinks there may be a hundred
thousand German soldiers within twenty or thirty miles of London by
Yes, said Mrs. Van Homrey, it doesn't seem easy to take it any
other way than seriously; not if one's on the British side. And, for
the matter of that, if I know the Teuton, they are taking it pretty
seriously in East Anglia, andand in Berlin.
And up till now, I had been thinking of the extra Sunday work for
Wardle, and the way they had started selling peacocks' feathers and
things, in the streets!
XV. SUNDAY NIGHT IN LONDON
. . .
Ah, they cry, Destiny,
Prolong the present!
Time, stand still here!
The prompt stern Goddess
Shakes her head, frowning;
Time gives his hour-glass
Its due reversal;
Their hour is gone.
I stayed to dinner at the flat in South Kensington, and after
dinner, when I spoke of leaving, Constance Grey asked if I would care
to accompany her into Blackfriars. She wanted to call at Printing House
Square, and ascertain what further news had arrived. The implied
intimacy and friendliness of the suggestion gave me a pleasurable
thrill; it came as something of a reinstatement for me, and compensated
for much. Constance Grey's views of me had in some way become more
important to me than anything else. I was even now more concerned about
that than about the news.
We made the journey by omnibus. I suggested a cab, as in duty bound,
but, doubtless with a thought of my finances, my companion insisted
upon the cheaper way. We had some trouble to get seats, but found them
at last on a motor omnibus bound for Whitechapel. The streets were
densely crowded, and the Bank Holiday spirit which I had remarked
before was now general, and much more marked.
It reminds me exactly of 'Mafeking Night,' I said, referring to
that evening of the South African war during which London waxed drunk
upon the news of the relief of Mafeking.
Was it as bad even then? said my companion. And her question
showed me, what I might otherwise have overlooked, that a good deal of
water had passed under the bridges since South African war days. We had
been a little ashamed of our innocent rowdiness over the Mafeking
relief. We had become vastly more inconsistent and less sober since
then. I think the Middle Class Music Halls had taken their share in
the progress, by breaking down much of the staid reserve and
self-restraint of the respectable middle class. But, of course, one
sees now that the rapid growth among us of selfish irresponsibility and
repudiation of national obligations was the root cause of that change
in public behaviour which I saw clearly enough, once it had been
suggested to me by Constance Grey's question.
I saw that, among the tens of thousands of noisy promenaders of both
sexes who filled the streets, and impeded traffic at all crossings, the
class which had always been rowdily inclined was now far more rowdy,
and that its ranks were reinforced, doubled in strength, by recruits
from a class which, a few years before, had been proverbially noted for
its decorous and decent reserve. And this was Sunday Night. I learned
afterwards that the clergy had preached to practically empty churches.
A man we met in The Times office told us of this, and my
companion's comment was:
Yes, even their religion has less meaning for them than their
pleasure; and, with religion a dead letter, the spirit that won
Trafalgar and armed the Thames against Napoleon, must be dead and
The news we received at The Times office was extraordinary.
It seemed there was no longer room for the smallest doubt that a large
portion of East Anglia was actually occupied by a German army. Positive
details of information could not be obtained.
The way the coastal districts have been hermetically sealed against
communication, and the speed and thoroughness with which the occupation
has been accomplished, will remain, I believe, the most amazing episode
in the history of warfare, said the solemn graybeard, to whom I had
been presented by Constance Grey. (If he had known that I was the
assistant editor of The Mass, I doubt if this Mr. Poole-Smith
would have consented to open his mouth in my presence. But my obscurity
and his importance combined to shelter me, and I was treated with
confidence as the friend of a respected contributor.)
Already we know enough to be certain that the enemy has received
incalculably valuable assistance from within. I am afraid there will
presently be only too much evidence of the blackest kind of treachery
from British subjects, members of one or other among the anti-National
coteries. But in the meantime, we hear of extraordinary things
accomplished by aliens employed in this country, many of them in
official capacities. We have learned through the Great Eastern Railway
Company, and through one or two shipping houses, of huge consignments
of stores, and, I make very little doubt, of munitions of war. The
thing must have been in train on this side for many monthspossibly
for years. Here, for instance, is an extraordinary item, which is
hardly likely to be only coincidence: Out of one hundred postmasters
within a sixty-mile radius of Harwich, eighty-one have obtained their
positions within the last two years, and of those sixty-nine bear names
which indicate German nationality or extraction. But that is only one
small item. An analysis of the Eastern Railway employees, and of the
larger business firms between here and Ipswich, will tell a more
startling tale, unless I am greatly mistaken.
But to me, I think the part of the news we gathered which seemed
most startling was the fact that a tiny special issue of The Times, then being sold in the streets, contained none of the information
given to us, but only a cautiously worded warning to the public that
the news received from East Anglia had been grossly exaggerated, and
that no definite importance should be attached to it, until
authoritative information, which would appear in the first ordinary
issue of The Times on Monday, had been considered. It was all
worded very pompously, and vaguely, in a deprecating tone, which left
it open for the reader to conclude that The Times supported the
generally accepted hoax theory. And we found that all the daily papers
of repute and standing had issued similar bulletins to the public.
Asked about this, our grave informant stroked his whiskers, and alluded
distantly to policy decided upon in consultation with representatives
of the Crown.
For one thing, you see, London is extraordinarily full of Germans,
though we have already learned that vast numbers of them went to swell
the attendance at the East Anglian Pageant, and may now, for all we
know, be under arms. Then, too, anything in the nature of a panic on a
large scale, and that before the authorities have decided upon any
definite plan of action, would be disastrous. Unfortunately our reports
from correspondents at the various southern military depôts are all to
the effect that mobilization will be a slow business. As you know, the
regulars in England have been reduced to an almost negligible minimum,
and the mobilization of the 'Haldane Army' involves the slow process of
drawing men out of private life into the field. What is worse, it means
in many cases Edinburgh men reporting themselves at Aldershot, and
south-country men reporting themselves in the north. And then their
practical knowledge so far leaves them simply men in the street.
But the great trouble is that the Government and the official heads
of departments have been at loggerheads this long time past, and now
are far from arriving at any definite policy of procedure. Of course,
the majority of the leaders are out of town. You will understand that
every possible precaution must be taken to avoid unduly alarming the
public, or provoking panic. We hope to be able to announce something
definite in the morning. The sympathy of all the Powers will
undoubtedly be with us, for every known tenet of international law has
been outraged by this entirely unprovoked invasion.
And what do you think will be the practical effect and use of their
sympathy, Mr. Poole-Smith? asked Constance Grey.
Well, said our solemn friend, caressing his whiskers, as to its
practical effect, my dear Miss Grey, why, I am afraid that in such
bitter matters as these the practical value of sympathy, or of
international law, isercannot very easily be defined.
Quite so. Exactly as I thought. It would not make one pennyworth of
difference, Mr. Poole-Smith. The British public is on the eve of
learning the meaning of brave old Lord Roberts's teaching: that no
amount of diplomacy, of 'cordiality,' of treaties, or of anything else
in the répertoire of the disarmament party, can ever counterbalance the
uses of the rifle in the hands of disciplined men. Their
twentieth-century notions will avail us pitifully little against the
advance of the Kaiser's legions. The brotherhood of man and the sacred
arts of commerce and peace will have little in the way of reply to
machine guns. If only our people could have had even one year of
universal military training! But no; they would not even pay for the
maintenance of such defence force as they had when it took three years
to beat the Boers; and nowdidn't some man write a book called 'The
Defenceless Isles'? We live in them.
But that is not the worst, Miss Grey, said our friend. These are
now not only defenceless, but invaded isles.
Ah! How long before they become surrendered isles, Mr.
The answer to that is with a higher Power than any in Printing
House Square, Miss Grey. But, let me say this, in strict confidence,
please. You wonder, and perhaps are inclined to condemn ourwell, our
reticence about this news. Do you know my fear? It is that if, in its
present mood, suddenly, the British public, and more especially the
London public, were allowed to realize clearly both what has happened
in East Anglia, and the monumental unfitness of our authorities and
defences to meet and cope with such an emergencythat then we should
see England torn in sunder by the most terrible revolution of modern
times. We should see statesmen hanging from lamp-posts in Whitehall;
'The Destroyers' would be destroyed; the Crown would be in danger, as
well as its unworthy servants. And the Kaiser's machine-like army would
find it had invaded a ravaged inferno, occupied by an infuriated
populace hopelessly divided against itself, and already in the grip of
the deadliest kind of strife. That, I think, is a danger to be guarded
against, so far as it is possible, at all or any cost.
One could not but be impressed by this rather pompous, but sincere
and earnest man's words.
I see that very clearly, Mr. Poole-Smith, said Constance Grey.
But can the thing be done? Can the public be deluded for more than a
Not altogether, my dear young lady, not altogether. But, as we
learn early in journalism, life is made up of compromises. We hope to
school them to it, and give them the truth gradually, with as little
shock as may be.
Soon after this we left the great office, and, as we passed out into
the crowded streets, Constance Grey said to me:
Thank God, The Times managed to win clear of the syndicate's
clutches when it did. There is moral and strength of purpose there now.
I think the Press is behaving finelyif only the public can be made to
do as well. But, oh, 'The Destroyers'what a place they have cut out
for themselves in history!
But for the glorious summer weather, one could have fancied
Christmas at hand from the look of Ludgate Hill. From the Circus we
took a long look up at Paul's great dome, massive and calm against the
evening sky. But between it and us was a seething crowd, promenading at
the rate of a mile an hour, and served by two solid lines of vendors of
useless trifles and fruit, and so forth.
Crossing Ludgate Circus, as we fought our way to the steps of an
omnibus, was a band of youths linked arm in arm, and all apparently
intoxicated. There must have been forty in a line. As they advanced,
cutting all sorts of curious capers, they bawled, in something like
unison, the melancholy music-hall refrain:
They'll never go for England, because England's got the dibs.
The crowd caught up the jingle as fire licks up grass, and narrow
Fleet Street echoed to the monstrous din of their singing. I began to
feel anxious about getting Constance safely to her flat. Six out of the
fourteen people on the top of our omnibus were noticeably and noisily
Ah me, Dick, where, where is their British reserve? How I hate that
beloved word cosmopolitan!
She looked at me, and perhaps that reminded her of something.
Forgive my familiarity, she said. John Crondall spoke of you as
Dick Mordan. It's rather a way we haveout there.
I do not remember my exact reply, but it earned me the friendly
short name from her for the future; and, with England tumbling about
our ears, for aught we knew, that, somehow, made me curiously happy.
But it was none the less with a sigh of relief that I handed her in at
the outer door of the mansions in which their flat was situated. We
paused for a moment at the stairs' foot, the first moment of privacy we
had known that evening, and the last, I thought, with a recollection of
Mrs. Van Homrey waiting in the flat above.
I know I was deeply moved. My heart seemed full to bursting. Perhaps
the great news of that day affected me more than I knew. But yet it
seemed I had no words, or very few. I remember I touched the sleeve of
her dress with my finger-tips. What I said was:
You know I amyou know I am at your orders, don't you?
And she smiled, with her beautiful, sensitive mouth, while the light
of grave watching never flickered in her eyes.
Yes, Dick; and thank you! she said, as we began to mount the
Yet I was still the assistant editor of The MassClement
Blaine's right hand.
XVI. A PERSONAL REVELATION
The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree
I planted; they have torn me, and I bleed.
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
That Sunday night was not one of London's black nights that have
been so often described. The police began to be a little sharp with the
people after nine or ten o'clock, and by midnight the streets were
getting tolerably clear. For the great majority, I believe it had been
a day of more or less pleasurable excitement and amusement. For the
minority, who were better informed, it was a day and night of curious
bewilderment and restless anxiety.
I looked in at several newspaper offices on my way home from South
Kensington, but found that subordinate members of the staffs had no
information to give, and that their superiors maintained an attitude of
strict reticence. As I passed the dark windows of my own office I
thought of our feature for the coming week: the demand for
disarmament, in order that naval and military expenditure might be
diverted into labour reform channels; Herr Mitmann's voluble assurances
of the friendliness of the German people; of the ability and will of
the German Socialists to make German aggression impossible, for the
sake of their brother workers in England.
I thought of these things, and wished I could spurn under foot my
connection with The Mass. Then, sitting at the window of my
little bed-sitting-room in Bloomsbury, I looked into my petty finances.
If I left Clement Blaine I had enough to subsist upon for six or eight
weeks. It was a risky business. Then I pictured myself casually
mentioning to Constance Grey that I was no longer connected with The
Mass. I fancied that I saw the bright approval in her eyes. Before
blowing my light out, I had composed the little speech to Blaine which,
in the morning, should set a period to our connection.
And then I thought of Beatrice. It was barely twenty-four hours
since we had parted beside Battersea Park (though it seemed more like
twenty-four days), and recollection showed me Beatrice in her rather
rumpled finery, with the bleakness of the gray hour that follows such
pleasures as most appealed to her, beginning to steal over her handsome
face, sapping its warm colour, thinning and sharpening its ripe, smooth
contours. Beatrice would pout when she heard of my leaving her father.
The thought showed me her full red lips, and the little even white
teeth they so often disclosed.
The curves of Beatrice's mouth were of a kind that have twisted many
men's lives awry; and those men have thought straightness well lost for
such red lips. Yes, Beatrice was good to look upon. She had a way of
throwing her head back, and showing the smooth, round whiteness of her
throat when she laughed, that had thrilled me time and again. And how
often, and how gaily she laughed.
In the midst of a picture of Beatrice, laughing at me across a
restaurant table with a raised glass in her hand, I had a shadowy
vision of Constance Grey beside the foot of the stairs in South
Kensington. There was no laughter in her face. I had gathered, when I
dined there, that Constance did not care for wine. She had said: I
don't care for anything that makes me feel as though I couldn't work if
I wanted to. How Beatrice would have scoffed at that! And then, how
Constance would have smiled over Beatrice's idealsher fluffy
eveningsin a kind of regretful, wondering way; almost as she had
smiled when she first called me Dick, in asking what had become of
our staid English reserve; as she watched the noisy crowd in Fleet
Street, singing its silly doggerel about England's security and
And then, suddenly, my picture-making thoughts swept out across low
Essex flats to the only part of East Anglia with which I was familiar,
and gave me a vision of burning farmhouses, and terror-smitten
country-folk fleeing blindly before a hail of bullets, and the pitiless
advance of legions of fair-haired men in long coats of a kind of
roan-gray, buttoned across the chest with bright buttons arranged to
suggest the inward curve to an imaginary waist-line. The faces of the
soldiers were all the same; they all had the face of Herr Mitmann of
Stettin. And a hot wave of angry resentment and hatred of these
machine-like invaders of a peaceful unprotected countryside pulsed
through my veins. Could they darehere on English soil? My fists
clenched under the bed-clothes. If it was true, by heavens, there was
work for Englishmen toward!
My blood was hot at the thought. It was perhaps the first swelling
of a patriotic emotion I had known; the first hint of any larger
citizenship than that which claims and demands, without thought of
giving. And, immediately, it was succeeded by a sharp chill, a chill
that ushered me into one of the bitterest moments of humiliation that I
can remember. The thought accompanying that chill was this:
What can you do? What are you fit for? What boy's part, even, can
you take, though the roof were being burned over your mother's head?
What of Constance, or Beatrice? Could you strike a blow for either?
Work for Englishmen, forsooth! Yes, for those of them who have ever
learned a man's part in such work. But youyou have never had a gun in
your hand. What have you done? You have poured out for your weekly wage
so many thousands of words; words meaningwhat? Why, they have meant
what the roadside beggar means: 'Give! Give! Give!' They have urged men
to demand more from the State, and give the State nothing; to rob the
State of even its defences, for the sake of adding to their own
immediate ease. And you have ridiculed, as a survival of barbarous
times, the efforts of such men as the brave old Field Marshal who gave
his declining years to the thankless task of urging England to make
some effort of preparation to fend off just that very crisis which has
now come upon her, and found her absolutely unprepared. That is how you
have earned your right to live, a citizen of the freest country in the
world, a subject of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen. And
when you have had leisure and money to spend, you have devoted it to
overeating and drinking, and helping to fill the tills of alien
parasites in Soho. That has been your part. And now, now that the fatal
crisis has arrived, you, whose qualification is that you can wield the
pen of a begging letter-writer, who is also scurrilous and
insolentyou lie in bed and clench your useless hands, and prate of
work for Englishmen!
That was the thought that came to me with a sudden chill that night;
and I suppose I was one of the earliest among millions doomed to writhe
under the impotent shame of such a thought. I shall never forget that
night in my Bloomsbury lodging. It was my ordeal of self-revelation. I
suppose I slept a little toward morning; but I rose early with a kind
of vague longing to escape from the company of the personality my
thought had shown me in the night.
It is natural that the awakening of an individual should be a more
speedy process than the awakening of a peoplea nation. I regard my
early rising on that Monday morning as the beginning of my first real
awakening to life as an Englishman. I had still far to goI had not
even crossed the threshold as yet.
XVII. ONE STEP FORWARD
Thy trust, thy honours, these were great; the greater now thy
for thou hast proved both unready and unfit, unworthy offspring
noble sire!MERROW'S Country Tales.
Five minutes after Clement Blaine reached the office of The Mass
that morning, he had lost the services of his assistant editor, and I
felt that I had taken one step upward from a veritable quagmire of
Blaine was almost too excited about the news of the day to pay much
heed to my little speech of resignation. The morning paper to which he
subscribeda Radical journal of pronounced tonehad observed far less
reticence than most of its contemporaries, and, in its desire to lend
sensational interest to its columns, had not minimized in any way the
startling character of such intelligence as it had received.
The bloodthirsty German devils! said Blaine, the erstwhile apostle
of internationalism and the socialistic brotherhood of man. By God,
the Admiralty and the War Office ought to swing for this! Here are we
taxed out of house and home to support their wretched armies and
navies, and German soldiers marching on London, they say, with never a
sign of a hand raised to oppose 'emdamn them! Nice time you choose to
talk of leaving. By God, Mordan, you may be leaving from against a wall
with a bullet through your head, next thing you know. These German
devils don't wear kid gloves, I fancy. They're not like our tin-pot
army. Army!we haven't got onelot of gold-laced puppets!
That was how Clement Blaine was moved by the news. Last week:
Bloated armaments, huge battalions of idle men eating the heart out
of the nation through its revenues. This week, we had no army, and
because of it the Admiralty and the War Office ought to swing. In
Blaine's ravings I had my foretaste of public opinion on the crisis.
On the previous day I had listened to a prominent Member of
Parliament urging that our children should be preserved from the
contamination of contact with those who taught the practice of the
hellish art of shooting.
The leading daily papers of this Monday morning admitted the central
fact that England had been invaded during Saturday night, and even
allowed readers to assume that portions of the eastern counties were
then occupied by foreign troops. But they used the word raid in
place of invasion, and generally qualified it with such a word as
futile. The general tone was that a Power with whom we had believed
ourselves to be upon friendly terms had been guilty of rash and
provocative action toward us, which it would speedily be made to
regret. It was an insult, which would be promptly avenged; full
atonement for which would be demanded and obtained at once. It was even
suggested that some tragic misunderstanding would be found to lie at
the root of the whole business; and in any case, things were to be set
right without delay. One journal, the Standard, did go so far as
to say that the British public was likely to be forced now into
learning at great cost a lesson which had been offered daily as a free
gift since the opening of the century, and as steadily repudiated or
Two things it should teach England, said this journal; never to
invite insult and contempt by a repetition of Sunday's Disarmament
Demonstration or enunciation of its fallacious and dangerous teaching;
and the necessity for paying instant heed to the warnings of the
advocates of universal military training for purposes of home defence.
But at that time the nicknames of the The Imperialist Banner and
The Patriotic Pulpit, applied by various writers and others to this
great newspaper, were scornful names, applied with opprobrious intent;
and London was still full of people whose only comment upon this
sufficiently badly-needed warning would be: Oh, of course, the
But the policy of reticence, though I have no doubt that it did save
London from some terrible scenes of panic, was not to be tenable for
many hours. Within half an hour of noon special editions of a halfpenny
morning paper, and an evening paper belonging to the same proprietors,
were issued simultaneously with a full, sensational, and quite
unreserved statement of all the news obtainable from East Anglia. A
number of motor-cyclists had been employed in the quest of
intelligence, and one item of the news they had to tell was that
Colchester had offered resistance to the invaders, and as a result had
been shelled and burned to the ground. A number of volunteers and other
civilians had been found bearing arms, and had been tried by drum-head
court martial and shot within the hour, by order of the
Commander-in-Chief of the German forces.
Another sensational item was a copy of a proclamation issued by the
German Commander-in-Chief. This proclamation was dated from Ipswich,
and I think it struck more terror into the people than any other single
item of intelligence published during that eventful day. It was headed
with the Imperial German Arms, and announced the establishment of
German military jurisdiction in England. It announced that the penalty
of immediate death would be inflicted without any exception upon any
British subject not wearing and being entitled to wear British military
uniform who should be found:
1. Taking arms against the invaders.
2. Misleading German troops.
3. Injuring in any manner whatever any German subject.
4. Injuring any road, rail, or waterway, or means of communication.
5. Offering resistance of any kind whatsoever to the advance and
occupation of the German Army.
Then followed peremptory details of instructions as to the supplies
which every householder must furnish for the German soldiers quartered
in his neighbourhood, and an announcement as to the supreme and
inviolable authority of the German officer in command of any given
Nothing else yet published brought home to the public the
realization of what had happened as did this coldly pompous and, in the
circumstances, very brutal proclamation. And no item in it so bit into
the hearts of the bewildered Londoners who read it as did the clear
incisive statement to the effect that a British subject who wore no
military uniform would be shot like a dog if he raised a hand in the
defence of his country or his home. He must receive the invader with
open arms, and provide him food, lodging, and assistance of every kind,
or be led out and shot. There were hundreds of thousands of men in
London that day who would have given very much for the right to wear a
uniform which they had learned almost to despise of late years; a
uniform many of them had wished to abolish altogether, as the badge of
a primitive and barbarous trade, a hellish art.
We had talked glibly enough of war, of its impossibility in England,
and of the childish savagery of the appeal to arms; just as, a few
years earlier, before the naval reductions, we had talked of England's
inviolability, secured her by her unquestioned mastery of the sea. We
had written and spoken hundreds of thousands of fine words upon these
subjects; and, within the last forty-eight hours, we had demonstrated
with great energy the needlessness of armed forces for England. For and
against, about it and about, we had woven a mazy network of windy
platitudes and catch-phrases, all devised to hide the manifest and
manly duties of citizenship; all intended to justify the individual's
exclusive concentration upon his own personal pleasures and
aggrandizement, without waste of time or energy upon any claims of the
And now, in a few score of short, sharp words, in a single brief
document, peremptorily addressed to the fifty million people of these
islands, a German soldier had brought an end to all our vapourings, all
our smug, self-interested theories, and shattered the monstrous fabric
of our complaisance, as it were, with a rattle of his sword-hilt. Never
before in history had a people's vanity been so shaken by a word.
In the early afternoon an unavoidable errand took me to a
northeastern suburb. I made my return to town as one among an army of
refugees. The people had begun flocking into London from as far north
and east as Brentwood. The Great Eastern Railway was disorganized. The
northern highways leading into London were occupied by unbroken lines
of people journeying into the city for protectionafoot, in
motor-cars, on cycles, and in every kind of horse-drawn vehicle, and
carrying with them the strangest assortment of personal belongings.
At the earliest possible hour I made my way toward South Kensington.
I told myself there might be something I could do for Constance Grey.
Beyond that there was the fact that I craved another sight of her, and
I longed to hear her comment when she knew I had finished with The
A porter on the Underground Railway told me that the Southwestern
and Great Western termini were blocked by feverish crowds of well-to-do
people, struggling, with their children, for places in trains bound
south and west. Huge motor-cars of the more luxurious type whizzed past
one in the street continuously, their canopies piled high with bags,
their bodies full of women and children, their chauffeurs driving hard
toward the southern and western highways.
Outside South Kensington station I had my first sight of a Royal
Proclamation upon the subject of the invasion. Evidently the Government
realized that, prepared or unprepared, the state of affairs could no
longer be hidden from the public. The King was at Buckingham Palace
that day I knew, and it seemed to me that I read rather his Majesty's
own sentiments than those of his Cabinet in the Proclamation. I
gathered that the general public also formed this impression.
There is no need for me to reproduce a document which forms part of
our history. The King's famous reference to the GovernmentThe
DestroyersThough admittedly unprepared for such a blow, my
Government is taking prompt steps for coping in a decisive manner,
etc.; and again, the equally famous reference to the German Emperor, in
the sentence beginning: This extraordinary attack by the armed forces
of my Royal and Imperial nephew. These features of a nobly dignified
and restrained Address seemed to me to be a really direct communication
from their Sovereign to the English people. Whatever might be said of
the position of The Destroyers in Whitehall, it became evident, even
at this early stage, that the Throne was in no dangerthat the
sanctity pertaining to the person of the Monarch who, as it were in
despite of his Government, had done more for the true cause of peace
than any other in Europe, remained inviolate in the hearts of the
For the rest, the Proclamation was a brief, simple statement of the
facts, with an equally simple but very heart-stirring appeal to every
subject of the Crown to concentrate his whole energies, under proper
guidance, upon the task of repelling this dastardly and entirely
unprovoked attack upon our beloved country.
I heard many deeply significant and interesting comments from the
circle of men and women who were reading this copy of the Proclamation.
The remarks of two men I repeat here because in both cases they were
typical and representative. The first remark was from a man dressed as
a navvy, with a short clay pipe in his mouth. He said:
Oh, yus; the King's all right; Gawd bless un! No one 'ld mind
fightin' for 'im. It's 'is blighted Gov'nment wot's all bloomin'
The reply came from a young man evidently of sedentary occupationa
shop-assistant or clerk:
You're all right, too, old sport; but don't you forget the other
feller's proclamation. If you 'aven't got no uniform, your number's up
for lead pills, an' don't you forget it. A fair fight an' no favour's
all right; but I'm not on in this blooming execution act, thank you.
Edward R. I. will have to pass me, I can see.
Well, 'e won't lose much, matey, when all's said. But you're
English, anyway; that seems a pity. Why don't yer run 'ome ter yer ma,
Go it, old sport. You're a blue-blooded Tory; an Imperialist,
Not me, boy; I'm only an able-bodied man.
What ho! Got a flag in your pocket, have you? You watch the Germans
don't catch you fer sausage meat.
And then I passed on, heading for Constance Grey's flat. I reflected
that I had done my share toward forming the opinions, the mental
attitude of that young clerk or shop-assistant. The type was familiar
enough. But I had had no part nor lot in the preservation of that
navvy's simple patriotism. Rather, by a good deal, had the tendency of
all I said and wrote been toward weakening the sturdy growth, and
causing it to be deprecated as a thing archaic, an obstacle in the way
Progress! The expounding of Herr Mitmann of Stettin! That Monday was
a minor day of judgment for others beside myself.
XVIII. THE DEAR LOAF
A third of the people, then, in the event of war, would
be reduced to starvation: and the rest of the thirty-eight
would speedily be forced thither.L. COPE CORNFORD'S The
Defenceless Islands (London, 1906).
I saw Constance Grey only for a few minutes during that day. She had
passed the stage of shocked sorrow and sad fear in which I had found
her on Sunday, and was exceedingly busy in organizing a corps of
assistant nurses, women who had had some training, and were able to
provide a practical outfit of nursing requisites. She had the
countenance of the Army Medical authorities, but her nursing corps was
to consist exclusively of volunteers.
The organizing ability this girl displayed was extraordinary. She
spared five minutes for conversation, and warmed my heart with her
appreciation of my severance of The Mass connection. And then,
before I knew what had happened, she had me impressed, willingly
enough, in her service, and I was off upon an errand connected with the
volunteer nursing corps. News had arrived of some wounded refugees in
Romford, unable to proceed on their way into London; and a couple of
motor-cars, with nurses and medical comforts, were despatched at once.
Detailed news of the sacking of Colchester showed this to have been
a most extraordinarily brutal affair for the work of a civilized army.
The British regular troops at Colchester represented the whole of our
forces of the northeastern division, and included three batteries of
artillery. The regiments of this division had been reduced to three,
and for eighteen months or more these had been mere skeletons of
regiments, the bulk of the men being utilized to fill other gaps caused
by the consistently followed policy of reduction which had
characterized The Destroyers' régime.
A German spy who had been captured in Romford and brought to London,
said that the Commander-in-Chief of the German forces in England had
publicly announced to his men that the instructions received from their
Imperial master were that the pride of the British people must be
struck down to the dust; that the first blows must be crushing; that
the British people were to be smitten with terror from which recovery
should be impossible.
Be this as it may, the sacking of Colchester was a terrible
business. A number of citizens had joined the shockingly small body of
regulars in a gallant attempt at defence. The attempt was quite
hopeless; the German superiority in numbers, discipline, metal, and
material being quite overwhelming. But the German commander was greatly
angered by the resistance offered, and, as soon as he ascertained that
civilians had taken part in this, the town was first shelled and then
stormed. It was surrounded by a cordon of cavalry, andno prisoners
The town was burned to the ground, though many valuable stores were
first removed from it; and those of the inhabitants who had not already
fled were literally mown down in their native streets, without parley
or quartermen, women, and children being alike regarded as offenders
against the edict forbidding any civilian British subject, upon pain of
death, to offer any form of resistance to German troops. I myself spoke
to a man in Knightsbridge that evening who had definite news that his
nineteen-year-old daughter, a governess in the house of a Colchester
doctor, was among those shot down in the streets of the town while
endeavouring to make her escape with two children. The handful of
British regulars had been shot or cut to pieces, and the barracks and
stores taken over by the Germans.
As I left Constance Grey's flat that evening I passed a small
baker's shop, before which an angry crowd was engaged in terrifying a
small boy in a white apron, who was nervously endeavouring to put up
the window shutters. I asked what the trouble was, and was told the
baker had refused to sell his half-quartern loaves under sevenpence, or
his quartern loaves under a shilling.
It's agin the law, so it is, shouted an angry woman. I'm a
policeman's wife, an' I know what I'm talking about. I'll have the law
of the nasty mean hound, so I will, with his shillin' for a fivepenny
Long before this time, and while Britain still held on to a good
proportion of her foreign trade, it had been estimated by statisticians
that in the United Kingdom some ten to twelve million persons lived
always upon the verge of hunger. But since then the manufacturers of
protected countries, notably Germany and the United States, had, as was
inevitable in the face of our childish clinging to what we miscalled
free trade, crowded the British manufacturer out of practically every
market in the world, except those of Canada. Those also must of
necessity have been lost, but for the forbearing and enduring loyalty
of the Canadian people, who, in spite of persistent rebuffs, continued
to extend and to increase their fiscal preference for imports from the
But, immense as Canada's growth was even then, no one country could
keep the manufacturers of Britain busy; and I believe I am right in
saying that at this time the number of those who lived always on the
verge of hunger had increased to at least fifteen millions. Cases
innumerable there were in which manufacturers themselves had gone to
swell the ranks of the unemployed and insufficiently employed; the
monstrous legion of those who lived always close to the terrifying
spectre of hunger.
If the spirit of Richard Cobden walked the earth at that time, even
as his obsessions assuredly still cumbered it, it must have found food
for bitter reflection in the hundreds of empty factories, grass-grown
courtyards, and broken-windowed warehouses, which a single day's walk
would show one in the north of England.
You may be sure I thought of those things as I walked away from that
baker's shop in South Kensington. A journalist, even though he be only
the assistant of a man like Blaine, is apt to see the conditions of
life in his country fairly plainly, because he has a wider vision of
them than most men. Into Fleet Street, each day brings an endless
stream of news items, not only from all parts of the world, but from
every town and city in the kingdom. And your journalist, though he may
have scant leisure for its digestion, absorbs the whole of this mass of
intelligence each day in the process of conveying one-tenth part of it,
in tabloid form, to the public.
If one assumes for the moment that only twelve million people in
Great Britain were living on hunger's extreme edge at that time, the
picture I had of the sullen, angry crowd outside the baker's shop
remains a sufficiently sinister one. As a matter of fact, I believe
that particular baker was a shade premature, or a penny or two
excessive, in his advance of prices. But I know that by nightfall you
could not have purchased a quartern loaf for elevenpence halfpenny
within ten miles of Charing Cross. The Bakers' Society had issued its
mandates broadcast. Shop-windows were stoned that night in south and
east London; but twenty-four hours later the price of the quartern loaf
was 1s. 3d., and a man offering 1s. 2d. would go empty away.
And with the same loaf selling at one-third the price, twelve
million persons at least had lived always on the verge of hunger. I
mention the staple food only, but precisely the same conditions applied
to all other food-stuffs with the exception of dairy produce, the price
of which was quadrupled by Tuesday afternoon, and fish, the price of
which put it at once beyond the reach of all save the rich, and all
delicacies, the prices of which became prohibitive. Twelve million
persons had lived on the verge of hunger, before, under normal
conditions, and when the country's trade had been far larger and more
prosperous than of late. Now, with the necessities of life standing at
fully three times normal prices, a large number of trades employing
many thousands of work-people were suddenly shut down upon, and
rendered completely inoperative.
It must be borne in mind that we had been warned again and again
that matters would be precisely thus and not otherwise in the event of
war, and we had paid no heed whatever to the telling.
Historians have explained for us that the primary reason of the very
sudden rise to famine rates of the prices of provisions was the
persistent rumour that the effective bulk of the Channel Fleet had been
captured or destroyed on its way northward from Spanish waters. German
strategy had drawn the Fleet southward, in the first place, by means of
an international incident in the Mediterranean, which was clearly the
bait of what rumour called a death-trap. Once trapped, it was said,
German seamanship and surprise tactics had done the rest.
The crews of the Channel Fleet ships (considerably below full
strength) had been rushed out of shore barracks, in which discipline
had fallen to a terribly low ebb, to their unfamiliar shipboard
stations, at the time of the Mediterranean scare. Beset by the flower
of the German Navy, in ships manned by crews who lived afloat, it was
asserted that the Channel Fleet had been annihilated, and that the
entire force of the German Navy was concentrated upon the task of
patrolling English waters.
We know that men and horses, stores and munitions of war, were
pouring steadily and continuously into East Anglia from Germany during
this time, escorted by German cruisers and torpedo-boats, and
uninterrupted by British ships. There was yet no report of the Channel
Fleet, the ships of which were already twenty-four hours overdue at
Two things, more than any others, had influenced the British Navy
during the Administration of The Destroyers: the total cessation of
building operations, and the withdrawal of ships and men from sea
service. The reserve ships had long been unfit to put to sea, the
reserve crews had, for all practical purposes, become
landsmenlandsmen among whom want of sea-going discipline had of late
produced many mutinous outbreaks.
It had been said by the most famous admiral of the time, and said
without much exaggeration, that, within twelve months of The
Destroyers' abandonment of the traditional two-Power standard of
efficiency, the British Navy had fallen to half-Power standard. The
process was quickened, of course, by the unprecedented progress of the
German Navy during the same period. It was said that at the end of 1907
the German Government had ships of war building in every great dockyard
in the world. It is known that the entire fleet of the Kaiser class
torpedo-boats and destroyers was built and set afloat at the German
Emperor's own private expense.
Then there were the Well-borns, as they were calledvessels of no
great weight of metal, it is true, but manned, armed, officered, and
found better perhaps than any other war-ships in the world; entirely at
the instigation of the German Navy League, and out of the pockets of
the German nobility. The majority of our own wealthy classes preferred
sinking their money in German motor-cars and German pleasure resorts;
or one must assume so, for it is well known that our Navy League had
long since ceased to exert any active influence, because it was unable
to raise funds enough to pay its office expenses.
Our Navy might have had a useful reserve to draw upon in the various
auxiliary naval bodies if these had not, one by one, been abolished.
The Mercantile Marine was not in a position to lend much assistance in
this respect, for our ships at that time carried eighty-seven thousand
foreign officers and men, three parts of whom were Teutons. These facts
were presumably all well known to the heads and governing bodies of the
various trades, and, that being so, the extremely pessimistic attitude
adopted by them, directly the fact of invasion was established, is
scarcely to be wondered at.
In banking, insurance, underwriting, stock and share dealing,
manufacturing, and in every branch of shipping the lead of the bakers
were followed, and in many cases exceeded. The premiums asked in
insurance and underwriting, and the unprecedented advance in the
bank-rate, corresponding as it did with a hopeless slump in every
stock and share quoted on the Stock Exchange, from Consols to mining
shares, brought business to a standstill in London on Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday entire blocks of offices remained unopened. In business,
more perhaps than in any other walk of life, self-preservation and
self-advancement were at that time, not alone the first, but the only
fixed law. With bread at 1s. 4d. a loaf, great ship-owners in England
were cabling the masters of wheat ships in both hemispheres to remain
where they were and await orders.
This last fact I learned from Leslie Wheeler, whom I happened to
meet hurrying from the City to Waterloo, on his way down to Weybridge.
His family were leaving for Devonshire next morning, to stay with
But, bless me! I said, when he told me that friends of his father,
shipping magnates, had despatched such cable messages that morning,
surely that's a ruffianly thing to do, when the English people are
crying out for bread?
Leslie shrugged his smartly-clad shoulders. It's the English
people's own affair, he said.
Why, you see it's all a matter of insurance. All commerce is based
on insurance, in one form or another. The cost of shipping insurance
to-day is absolutely prohibitive; in other words, there isn't any. We
did have a permanent and non-fluctuating form of insurance of a kind
one time. But you Socialist chapssocial reform, Little England for
the English, and all thatyou swept that away. Wouldn't pay for it;
said it wasn't wanted. Now it's gone, and you're feeling the pinch. The
worst of it is, you make the rest of us feel it, too. I'm thankful to
say the dad's pulling out fairly well. He told me yesterday he hadn't
five hundred pounds in anything British. Wise old bird, the dad!
My friend's You Socialist chaps rather wrang my withers; its sting
not being lessened at all by my knowledge of its justice. I asked after
the welfare of the Wheeler family generally, but it was only as Leslie
was closing the door of the cab he hailed that I mentioned Sylvia.
Yes, Sylvia's all right, he said, as he waved me good-bye; but
she won't come away with the rest of usabsolutely refuses to budge.
And with that he was off, leaving me wondering about the girl who
had at one time occupied so much of my mind, but of late had had so
little of it. During the next few hours I wove quite a pretty story
round Sylvia's refusal to accompany her family. I even thought of her
as joining Constance Grey's nursing corps.
The thought of this development of Sylvia Wheeler's character
interested me so much that I wrote to her that evening, tentatively
sympathizing with her determination not to be frightened away from her
own place. The whole thing was a curious misapprehension on my part;
but Sylvia's reply (explaining that it was her particular place of
worship she refused to leave, and that she was staying with his
Reverence's sister"), though written within twenty-four hours, did not
reach me until after many daysdays such as England will never face
XIX. THE TRAGIC WEEK
England can never have an efficient army during peace, and she
therefore, accept the rebuffs and calamities which are always
store for the nation that is content to follow the breed of
who usually direct her great affairs. The day will come when
will violently and suddenly lose her former fighting renown to
an unmistakable extent that the plucky fishwives will march
Downing Street, and if they can catch its usual inmates, will
them. One party is as bad as the other, and I hope and pray
when the national misfortune of a great defeat at sea overtakes
followed by the invasion of England, that John Bull will turn
rend the jawers and talkers who prevent us from being prepared
meet invasion.From a letter written by Lord Wolsley,
ex-Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, to Lord Wemyss, and
published, and ignored by the public, in the year 1906.
It is no part of my intention to make any attempt to limp after the
historians of the Invasion. The Official History, the half-dozen of
standard military treatises, and the well-known works of Low, Forster,
Gordon, and others, have allowed few details of the Invasion to escape
unrecorded. But I confess it has always seemed to me that these writers
gave less attention to the immediate aftermath of the Invasion than
that curious period demanded. Yet here was surely a case in which
effect was of vastly more importance than cause, and aftermath than
crisis. But perhaps I take that view because I am no historian.
To the non-expert mind, the most bewildering and extraordinary
feature of that disastrous time was the amazing speed with which crisis
succeeded crisis, and events, each of themselves epoch-making in
character, crashed one upon another throughout the progress toward
Black Saturday. We know now that much of this fury of haste which was
so bewildering at the time, which certainly has no parallel in history,
was due to the perfection of Germany's long-laid plans. Major-General
Farquarson, in his Military History of the Invasion, says:
It may be doubted whether in all the history of warfare anything so
scientifically perfect as the preparations for this attack can be
found. It is safe to say that every inch of General von Füchter's
progress was mapped out in Berlin long months before it came to astound
and horrify England. The maps and plans in the possession of the German
staff were masterpieces of cartographical science and art. The German
Army knew almost to a bale of hay what provender lay between London and
the coast, and where it was stored; and certainly their knowledge of
East Anglia far exceeded that of our own authorities. The world has
never seen a quicker blow struck; it has seldom seen a blow so
crushingly severe; it has not often seen one so aggressively
unjustifiable. And, be it noted, that down to the last halter and the
least fragment of detail, the German Army was provided with every
conceivable aid to successin duplicate.
Never in any enterprise known to history was less left to chance.
The German War Office left nothing at all to chance, not even its
conceptiona certainty reallyof Britain's amazing unreadiness. And
the German Army took no risks. A soldier's business, whether he be
private or Field Marshal, is, after all, to obey orders. It would be
both foolish and unjust to blame General von Füchter. But the fact
remains that no victorious army ever risked less by generosity than the
invading German Army. Its tactics were undoubtedly ruthless; they were
the tactics necessitated by the orders of the Chief of the Army. They
were more severe, more crushing, than any that have ever been adopted
even by a punitive expedition under British colours. They were
successful. For that they were intended. Swiftness and thoroughness
were of the essence of the contract.
With regard to their humanity or morality I am not here concerned.
But it should always be remembered by critics that British apathy and
neglect made British soil a standing temptation to the invader. The
invasion was entirely unprovoked, so far as direct provocation goes.
But who shall say it was entirely undeserved, or even unforeseen, by
advisers whom the nation chose to ignore? This much is certain: Black
Saturday and the tragic events leading up to it were made possible, not
so much by the skill and forethought of the enemy, which were notable,
as by a state of affairs in England which made that day one of shame
and humiliation, as well as a day of national mourning. No just
recorder may hope to escape that fact.
In London, the gravest aspect of that tragic week was the condition
of the populace. It is supposed that over two million people flocked
into the capital during the first three days. And the prices of the
necessities of life were higher in London than anywhere else in the
country. The Government measures for relief were ill-considered and
hopelessly inadequate. But, in justice to The Destroyers, it must be
remembered that leading authorities have said that adequate measures
were impossible, from sheer lack of material.
During one dayI think it was Wednesdayhuge armies of the hungry
unemployednine-tenths of our wage-earners were unemployedwere set
to work upon entrenchments in the north of London. But there was no
sort of organization, and most of the men streamed back into the town
that night, unpaid, unfed, and sullenly resentful.
Then, like cannon shots, came the reports of the fall of York,
Bradford, Leeds, Halifax, Hull, and Huddersfield, and the apparently
wanton demolition of Norwich Cathedral. The sinking of the
Dreadnought near the Nore was known in London within the hour.
Among the half-equipped regulars who were hurried up from the
southwest, I saw dozens of men intercepted in the streets by the hungry
crowds, and hustled into leaving their fellows.
Then came Friday's awful surrender riot at Westminster, a
magnificent account of which gives Martin's big work its distinctive
value. I had left Constance Grey's flat only half an hour before the
riot began, and when I reached Trafalgar Square there was no space
between that and the Abbey in which a stone could have been dropped
without falling upon a man or a woman. There were women in that
maddened throng, and some of them, crying hoarsely in one breath for
surrender and for bread, were suckling babies.
No Englishman who witnessed it could ever forget that sight. The
Prime Minister's announcement that the surrender should be made came
too late. The panic and hunger-maddened incendiaries had been at work.
Smoke was rising already from Downing Street and the back of the
Treasury. Then came the carnage. One can well believe that not a single
unnecessary bullet was fired. Not to believe that would be to saddle
those in authority with a less than human baseness. But the question
history puts is: Who was primarily to blame for the circumstances which
led up to the tragic necessity of the firing order?
Posterity has unanimously laid the blame upon the Administration of
that day, and assuredly the task of whitewashing The Destroyers would
be no light or pleasant one. But, again, we must remind ourselves that
the essence of the British Constitution has granted to us always, for a
century past at least, as good a Government as we have deserved. The
Destroyers may have brought shame and humiliation upon England.
Unquestionably, measures and acts of theirs produced those effects. But
who and what produced The Destroyers as a Government? The only
possible answer to that is, in the first place, the British public; in
the second place, the British people's selfish apathy and neglect,
where national duty and responsibility were concerned, and blindly
selfish absorption, in the matter of its own individual interests and
One hundred and thirty-two men, women, and children killed, and
three hundred and twenty-eight wounded; the Treasury buildings and the
official residence of the Prime Minister gutted; that was the casualty
list of the Surrender Riot at Westminster. But the figures do not
convey a tithe of the horror, the unforgettable shame and horror, of
the people's attack upon the Empire's sanctuary. The essence of the
tragedy lay in their demand for immediate and unconditional surrender;
the misery of it lay in The Destroyers' weak, delayed, terrified
response, followed almost immediately by the order to those in charge
of the firing partiesan order flung hysterically at last, the very
articulation of panic.
No one is likely to question Martin's assertion that Friday's
tragedy at Westminster must be regardednot alone as the immediate
cause of Black Saturday's national humiliation, but also as the crucial
phase, the pivot upon which the development of the whole disastrous
week turned. But the Westminster Riot at least had the saving feature
of unpremeditation. It was, upon the one side, the outcry of a wholly
undisciplined, hungry, and panic-smitten public; and, upon the other
side, the irresponsible, more than half-hysterical action of a group of
terrified and incompetent politicians. These men had been swept into
great positions, which they were totally unfitted to fill, by a tidal
wave of reactionary public feeling, and of the blind selfishness of a
decadence born of long freedom from any form of national discipline; of
liberties too easily won and but half-understood; of superficial
education as to rights, and abysmal ignorance as to duties.
But, while fully admitting the soundness of Martin's verdict, for my
part I feel that my experiences during that week left me with memories
not perhaps more shocking, but certainly more humiliating and
disgraceful to England, than the picture burnt into my mind by the
Westminster Riot. I will mention two of these.
By Wednesday a large proportion of the rich residents of Western
London had left the capital to take its chances, while they sought the
security of country homes, more particularly in the southwestern
counties. Such thoroughfares as Piccadilly, Regent Street, and Bond
Street were no longer occupied by well-dressed people with plenty of
money to spend. Their usual patrons were for the most part absent; but,
particularly at night, they were none the less very freely usedmore
crowded, indeed, than ever before. The really poor, the desperately
hungry people, had no concern whatever with the wrecking of the famous
German restaurants and beer-halls. They were not among the Regent
Street and Piccadilly promenaders.
The Londoners who filled these streets at nightthe people who
sacked the Leicester Square hotel and took part in the famous orgy
which Blackburn describes as unequalled in England since the days of
the Plague, or in Europe since the French Revolution; these people
were not at all in quest of food. They were engaged upon a mad pursuit
of pleasure and debauchery and drink. Eat, drink, and be vicious; but
above all, drink and be vicious; for this is the end of England! That
was their watchword.
I have no wish to repeat Blackburn's terrible stories of rapine and
bestiality, of the frenzy of intoxication, and the blind savagery of
these Saturnalias. In their dreadful nakedness they stand for ever in
the pages of his great book, a sinister blur, a fiery warning, writ
large across the scroll of English history. I only wish to say that
scenes I actually saw with my own eyes (one episode in trying to check
the horror of which I lost two fingers and much blood), prove beyond
all question to me that, even in its most lurid and revolting passages,
Blackburn's account is a mere record of fact, and not at all, as some
apologists have sought to show, an exaggerated or overheated version of
these lamentable events.
Regarded as an indication of the pass we had reached at this period
of our decadence, this stage of our trial by fire, the conduct of the
crowds in Western London during those dreadful nights, impressed me
more forcibly than the disaster which Martin considers the climax and
pivot of the week's tragedy.
One does not cheerfully refer to these things, but, to be truthful,
I must mention the other matter which produced upon me, personally, the
greatest sense of horror and disgrace.
Military writers have described for us most fully the circumstances
in which General Lord Wensley's command was cut and blown to pieces in
the Epping and Romford districts. Authorities are agreed that the
records of civilized warfare have nothing more horrible to tell than
the history of that ghastly butchery. As a slaughter, there was nothing
exactly like it in the Russo-Japanese warfor we know that there were
less than a hundred survivors of the whole of Lord Wensley's command.
But those who mourned the loss of these brave men had a consolation of
which nothing could rob them; the consolation which is graven in stone
upon the Epping monument; a consolation preserved as well in German as
in English history. Germany may truthfully say of the Epping shambles
that no quarter was given that day. England may say, with what pride
she may, that none was asked. The last British soldier slaughtered in
the Epping trenches had no white flag in his hand, but a broken
bayonet, and, under his knee, the Colours of his regiment.
The British soldiers in those blood-soaked trenches were badly
armed, less than half-trained, under-officered, and of a low physical
standard. But these lamentable facts had little or nothing to do with
their slaughter. There were but seven thousand of them, while the
German force has been variously estimated at between seventy thousand
and one hundred thousand horse and foot, besides artillery. One need
not stop to question who should bear the blame for the half-trained,
vilely equipped condition of these heroic victims. The far greater
question, to which the only answer can be a sad silence of remorse and
bitter humiliation, bears upon the awful needlessness of their
The circumstances have been described in fullest detail from
authentic records. The stark fact which stands out before the average
non-expert observer is that Lord Wensley was definitely promised
reinforcements to the number of twenty thousand horse and foot; that
after the Westminster Riot not a single man or horse reached him;
and he was never informed of the Government's forced decision to
And thus those half-trained boys and men laid down their lives for
England within a dozen miles of Westminster, almost twelve hours after
a weak-kneed, panic-stricken Cabinet had passed its word to the people
that England would surrender.
That, to my thinking, was the most burning feature of our disgrace;
that, as an indication of our parlous estate, is more terrible than
Martin's pivot of the tragic week.
XX. BLACK SATURDAY
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men.
In the afternoon of Black Saturday, General von Füchter, the
Commander-in-Chief of the German Army in England, took up his quarters,
with his staff, in the residence of the German Ambassador to the Court
of St. James in Carlton House Terrace, and, so men said, enjoyed the
first sleep he had had for a week. (The German Ambassador had handed in
his credentials, and been escorted out of England on the previous
Throughout the small hours of Saturday morning I was at work near
Romford as one of the volunteer bearers attached to Constance Grey's
nursing corps. That is one reason why the memory of the north of London
massacre will never leave me. One may assume that the German Army had
no wish to kill nurses, but, as evidence of the terrible character of
the onslaught on the poor defences of London, I may recall the fact
that three of our portable nursing shelters were blown to pieces; while
of Constance Grey's nurses alone five were killed and fourteen were
Myself, I had much to be thankful for, my only wound being the
ploughing of a little furrow over the biceps of my right arm by a
bullet that passed out through the back of my coat. But a circumstance
for which my gratitude was more deeply moved was the fact that
Constance Grey, despite a number of wonderfully narrow escapes, was
The actual entry of General von Füchter and his troops into London
has been so often described that nothing remains for me to say about
that. Also, I am unable to speak as an eye witness, since Constance
Grey and myself were among those who returned to London, in the rear of
the German troops, with the ambulances. The enemy's line of
communications stretched now from the Wash to London, and between
Brentwood and London there were more Germans than English. I believe
the actual number of troops which entered London behind General von
Füchter was under forty-eight thousand; but to the northward,
northeast, and northwest the huge force which really invested the
capital was spread in careful formation, and amply provided with heavy
artillery, then trained upon central London from all such points as the
Although a formal note of surrender had been conveyed to General von
Füchter at Romford, after the annihilation of our entrenched
troops, occasional shots were fired upon the enemy as they entered
London. Indeed, in the Whitechapel Road, one of the General's
aides-de-camp, riding within a few yards of his chief, was killed by a
shot from the upper windows of a provision shop. But the German
reprisals were sharp. It is said that fifty-seven lives paid the
penalty for the shooting of that aide-de-camp. Several streets of
houses in northeast London were burned.
By this time the Lord Mayor of London had been notified that serious
results would accrue if any further opposition were offered to the
German acceptance of London's surrender; and proclamations to that
effect were posted everywhere. But the great bulk of London's
inhabitants were completely cowed by hunger and terror. Practically, it
may be said that, throughout, the only resistance offered to the Army
of the invaders was that which ended so tragically in the trenches
beyond Epping and Romford, with the equally tragical defence of
Colchester, and some of the northern towns captured by the eighth
German Army Corps.
In London the people's demand from the first had been for
unconditional surrender. It was this demand which had culminated in the
Westminster Riot. The populace was so entirely undisciplined, so
completely lacking in the sort of training which makes for
self-restraint, that even if the Government had been possessed of an
efficient striking force for defensive purposes, the public would not
have permitted its proper utilization. The roar of German artillery
during Friday night and Saturday morning, with the news of the awful
massacre in the northern entrenchments, had combined to extinguish the
last vestige of desire for resistance which remained in London.
Almost all the people with money had left the capital. Those
remainingthe poor, the refugees from northward, irresponsibles,
people without a stake of any kind; these desired but the one thing:
food and safety. The German Commander-in-Chief was wise. He knew that
if time had been allowed, resistance would have been organized, even
though the British regular Army had, by continuous reductions in the
name of economy, practically ceased to exist as a striking force. And
therefore time was the one thing he had been most determined to deny
It is said that fatigue killed more German soldiers than fell to
British bullets; and the fact may well be believed when we consider the
herculean task General von Füchter had accomplished in one week. His
plan of campaign was to strike his hardest, and to keep on striking his
hardest, without pause, till he had the British Government on its knees
before him; till he had the British publicmaddened by sudden fear,
and the panic which blows of this sort must bring to a people with no
defensive organization, and no disciplinary trainingcowed and crying
The German Commander has been called inhuman, a monster, a creature
without bowels. All that is really of small importance. He was a
soldier who carried out orders. His orders were ruthless orders. The
instrument he used was a very perfect one. He carried out his orders
with the utmost precision and thoroughness; and his method was the
surest, quickest, and, perhaps, the only way of taking possession of
At noon precisely, the Lord Mayor of London was brought before the
German Commander-in-Chief in the audience chamber of the Mansion House,
and formally placed under arrest. A triple cordon of sentries and two
machine-gun parties were placed in charge of the Bank of England, and
quarters were allotted for two German regiments in the immediate
vicinity. Two machine-guns were brought into position in front of the
Stock Exchange, and all avenues leading from the heart of the City were
occupied by mixed details of cavalry and infantry, each party having
My acquaintance, Wardle, of the Sunday News, was in the
audience chamber of the Mansion House at this time, and he says that he
never saw a man look more exhausted than General von Füchter, who,
according to report, had not had an hour's sleep during the week. But
though the General's cheeks were sunken, his chin unshaven, and his
eyes blood-red, his demeanour was that of an iron manstern, brusque,
taciturn, erect, and singularly immobile.
Food was served to this man of blood and iron in the Mansion House,
while the Lord Mayor's secretary proceeded to Whitehall, with word to
the effect that the Commander-in-Chief of the German forces in England
awaited the sword and formal surrender of the British Commander, before
proceeding to take up quarters in which he would deal with peace
Forster's great work, The Surrender, gives the finest description
we have of the scene that followed. The Field Marshal in command of the
British forces had that morning been sent for by a Cabinet Council then
being held in the Prime Minister's room at the House of Commons. With
nine members of his staff, the white-haired Field Marshal rode slowly
into the City, in full uniform. His instructions were for unconditional
surrender, and a request for the immediate consideration of the details
of peace negotiations.
The Field Marshal had once been the most popular idol of the British
people, whom he had served nobly in a hundred fights. Of late years he
himself had been as completely disregarded, as the grave warnings, the
earnest appeals, which he had bravely continued to urge upon a
neglectful people. The very Government which now despatched him upon
the hardest task of his whole career, the tendering of his sword to his
country's enemy, had for long treated him with cold disfavour. The
general public, in its anti-national madness, had sneered at this great
little man, their one-time hero, as a Jingo crank.
(As an instance of the lengths to which the public madness went in
this matter, the curious will find in the British Museum copies of at
least one farcical work of fiction written and published with
considerable success, as burlesques of that very invasion which had now
occurred, of the possibility of which this loyal servant in particular
had so earnestly and so unavailingly warned his countrymen.)
Now, the blow he had so often foreshadowed had fallen; the capital
of the British Empire was actually in possession of an enemy; and the
British leader knew himself for a Commander without an Army.
He had long since given his only son to the cause of Britain's
defence. The whole of his own strenuous life had been devoted to the
same cause. His declining years had known no ease by reason of his
unceasing and thankless striving to awaken his fellow countrymen to a
sense of their military responsibilities. Now he felt that the end of
all things had come for him, in the carrying out of an order which
snapped his life's work in two, and flung it down at the feet of
England's almost unopposed conqueror.
The understanding Englishman has forgiven General von Füchter much,
by virtue of his treatment of the noble old soldier, who with
tear-blinded eyes and twitching lips tendered him the surrender of the
almost non-existent British Army. No man ever heard a speech from
General von Füchter, but the remark with which he returned our Field
Marshal's sword to him will never be forgotten in England. He said, in
rather laboured English, with a stiff, low bow:
Keep it, my lord. If your countrymen had not forgotten how to
recognize a great soldier, I could never have demanded it of you.
And the man of iron saluted the heart-broken Chief of the shattered
We prefer not to believe the report that this, the German
Commander's one act of gentleness and magnanimity in England, was
subsequently paid for by the loss of a certain Imperial decoration.
But, if the story was true, then the decoration it concerned was well
It was a grim, war-stained procession that followed General von
Füchter when, between two and three o'clock, he rode with his staff by
way of Ludgate Hill and the Strand to Carlton House Terrace. But the
cavalry rode with drawn sabres, the infantry marched with fixed
bayonets, and, though weariness showed in every line of the men's
faces, there was as yet no sign of relaxed tension.
Throughout that evening and night the baggage wagons rumbled through
London, without cessation, to the two main western encampments in Hyde
Park. The whole of Pall Mall and Park Lane were occupied by German
officers that night, few of the usual occupants of the clubs in the one
thoroughfare, or the residences in the other, being then in London.
By four o'clock General von Füchter's terms were in the hands of the
Government which had now completed its earning of the title of The
Destroyers. The Chief Commissioner of Police and the principal
municipal authorities of greater London had all been examined during
the day at the House of Commons, and were unanimous in their verdict
that any delay in the arrangement of peace and the resumption of trade,
ashore and afloat, could mean only revolution. Whole streets of shops
had been sacked and looted already by hungry mobs, who gave no thought
to the invasion or to any other matter than the question of food
supply. A great, lowering crowd of hungry men and women occupied
Westminster Bridge and the southern embankment (no German soldiers had
been seen south of the Thames) waiting for the news of the promised
conclusion of peace terms.
There is not wanting evidence that certain members of the Government
had already bitterly repented of their suicidal retrenchment and
anti-defensive attitude in the past. But repentance had come too late.
The Government stood between a hungry, terrified populace demanding
peace and food, and a mighty and victorious army whose commander,
acting upon the orders of his Government, offered peace at a terrible
price, or the absolute destruction of London. For General von Füchter's
brief memorandum of terms alluded threateningly to the fact that his
heavy artillery was so placed that he could blow the House of Commons
into the river in an hour.
At six o'clock the German terms were accepted, a provisional
declaration of peace was signed, and public proclamations to that
effect, embodying reference to the deadly perils which would be
incurred by those taking part in any kind of street disorder, were
issued to the public. As to the nature of the German terms, it must be
admitted that they were as pitiless as the German tactics throughout
the invasion, and as surely designed to accomplish their end and
object. Berlin had not forgotten the wonderful recuperative powers
which enabled France to rise so swiftly from out of the ashes of 1870.
Britain was to be far more effectually crippled.
The money indemnity demanded by General von Füchter was the largest
ever known: one thousand million pounds sterling. But it must be
remembered that the enemy already held the Bank of England. One hundred
millions, or securities representing that amount, were to be handed
over within twenty-four hours. The remaining nine hundred millions were
to be paid in nine annual instalments of one hundred millions each, the
first of which must be paid within three months. Until the last payment
was made, German troops were to occupy Glasgow, Cardiff, Portsmouth,
Devonport, Chatham, Yarmouth, Harwich, Hull, and Newcastle. The
Transvaal was to be ceded to the Boers under a German Protectorate.
Britain was to withdraw all pretensions regarding Egypt and Morocco,
and to cede to Germany, Gibraltar, Malta, Ceylon, and British West
It is not necessary for me to quote the few further details of the
most exacting demands a victor ever made upon a defeated enemy. There
can be no doubt that, in the disastrous circumstances they had been so
largely instrumental in bringing about, The Destroyers had no choice,
no alternative from their acceptance of these crushing terms.
And thus it was thatnot at the end of a long and hard-fought war,
as the result of vast misfortunes or overwhelming valour on the enemy's
side, but simply as the result of the condition of utter and lamentable
defencelessness into which a truckling Government and an undisciplined,
blindly selfish people had allowed England to lapsethe greatest,
wealthiest Power in civilization was brought to its knees in the
incredibly short space of one week, by the sudden but scientifically
devised onslaught of a single ambitious nation, ruled by a monarch
whose lack of scruples was more than balanced by his strength of
XXI. ENGLAND ASLEEP
Evil springs up, and flowers, and bears no seed,
And feeds the green earth with its swift decay,
Leaving it richer for the growth of truth.
General von Füchter and his splendidly trained troops were not the
only people in England for whom the mere fatigue of that week was
something not easily to be forgotten. My impression of its last three
days is that they brought no period of rest for any one. I know that
there were as many people in the streets by night as by day. The act of
going within doors or sitting down, seemed in some way to be a kind of
cowardice, a species of shirking, or disloyalty.
I remember Constance Grey assuring me that she had lain down for an
hour on Thursday. I can say with certainty that we were both of us on
our feet from that time until after the terms of the surrender were
made known on Saturday evening. I can also say that no thought of this
matter of physical weariness occurred to me until that period of
Saturday eveningsoon after seven o'clock it waswhen the
proclamations were posted up in Whitehall, and the special issues of
the newspapers containing the peace announcements began to be hawked.
An issue of the Standard, a single sheet, with broad black
borders, was the first press announcement to reach the public; and it
contained a grave, closely reasoned address from the most famous
statesman of the Opposition, urging upon the public the need vital of
exercising the utmost cautiousness and self-restraint.
England has been stricken to the earth, said this dignified
statement. Her condition is critical. If the injury sustained is not
to prove mortal, the utmost circumspection is required at this moment.
The immediate duty of every loyal subject is quietly to concentrate his
energies for the time upon the restoration of normal conditions. In
that way only can our suffering country be given that breathing space
which is the first step toward recuperation. For my part, I can
conceive of no better, quicker method for the individual of serving
this end than for him to make the speediest possible return to the
pursuit of his ordinary avocation in life. It is to be hoped that,
bearing in mind our urgent need, all employers of labour will do their
utmost to provide immediate occupation for their work-people. It is not
in the tragic catastrophe of the past week, but in the ordeal of this
moment, of the coming days, that the real test of England's endurance
lies. Never before was her need so great; never before has Nelson's
demand had so real and intimate a message for each and every one of us.
I pray God the response may ring true. 'England expects that every man
will do his duty!'
I must not omit my tribute to those responsible for the salient fact
that this important issue of the journal whose unwavering Imperialism
had been scoffed at in the mad times before the Invasion, was not sold,
but distributed. Employment was found for hundreds of hungry men,
women, and children in its free distribution; their wage being the
thing they most desired: bread, with soup, which, as I learned that
night, was prepared in huge coppers in the foundry of the printing
I was with Constance Grey in Trafalgar Square when the news of the
accepted terms of peace reached us. We had just secured admission into
Charing Cross Hospitalnot without considerable difficulty, for its
wards were crowdedfor two wounded nurses from Epping. Together we
read the news, and when the end was reached it seemed to me that the
light of life and energy passed suddenly out of my companion. She
seemed to suffer some bodily change and loss, to be bereft of her
spring and erectness.
Ah, well, she said, I am very tired, Dick; and, do you know, it
occurs to me I have had nothing to eat since yesterday afternoon. I
wonder can we get away from these men, anywhere?
The streets between Victoria and Hyde Park were lined by German
cavalry men, who sat motionless on their chargers, erect and soldierly,
but, in many cases, fast asleep.
We began to walk eastward, looking for some place in which we could
rest and eat. But every place seemed to be closed.
How long have you been on your feet? said Constance, as we passed
the Law Courts.
Only since Thursday evening, I said. I had a long rest in that
cart, you rememberthe one I brought the lint and bandages in.
Just then we passed a tailor's shop-window, and, in a long, narrow
strip of mirror I caught a full-length reflection of myself. I
positively turned swiftly to see who could have cast that reflection.
Four days without shaving and without a change of collar; two days
without even washing my hands or face; four days without undressing,
and eight hours' work beside the North London entrenchmentsthese
experiences had made a wild-looking savage of me, and, until that
moment, I had never thought of my appearance.
Smoke, earth, and blood had worked their will upon me. My left hand,
from which two fingers were missing, was swathed in blackened bandages.
My right coat-sleeve had been cut off by a good-natured fellow who had
bandaged the flesh wound in my arm to stop its bleeding. My eyes
glinted dully in a black face, with curious white fringes round them,
where their moisture had penetrated my skin of smoked dirt. And here
was I walking beside Constance Grey!
Then I realized, for the first time, that Constance herself bore
many traces of these last few terrible days. In some mysterious fashion
her face and collar seemed to have escaped scot free; but her dress was
torn, ragged, and stained; and the intense weariness of her expression
was something I found it hard to bear.
Just then we met Wardle of the Sunday News, and he told us of
the bread and soup distribution in the Standard office.
Something warned me that Constance had reached the limit of her
endurance, and, in another moment, she had reeled against me and almost
fallen. I took her in my arms, and Wardle walked beside me, up a flight
of stairs and into the office of the great newspaper. There I walked
into the first room I sawthe sanctum of some managerial bashaw, for
aught I knewand placed Constance comfortably in a huge easy chair of
Wardle brought some water, for Constance was in a fainting state
still; but I hurried him off again to look for bread and soup. Meantime
I lowered Constance to the floor, having just remembered that in such a
case the head should be kept low. Her face was positively
deathlylips, cheeks, all alike gray-white, save for the purple
hollows under both eyes. One moment I was taking stock of these things,
as a doctor might; the next I was on my knees and kissing the nerveless
hand at her side, all worn and bruised and stained as it was from her
ceaseless strivings of the past week. I knew then that, for me, though
I should live a hundred years and Constance should never deign to speak
to me again, there was but one woman in the world.
I am afraid Wardle found me at the same employ; but, though I
remember vaguely resenting his fresh linen and normally smart
appearance, he was a good fellow, and knew when to seem blind. All he
Here's the soup!
[Illustration: I WAS ON MY KNEES AND KISSING THE NERVELESS HAND"]
He had brought a small wash-hand basin full to the brim, and a loaf
of warm, new bread. As the steam of the hot soup reached me, I realized
that I was a very hungry animal, whatever else I might be besides. It
may have been the steam of the soup that rallied Constance. I know that
within two minutes I was feeding her with it from a cracked teacup. It
is a wonderful thing to watch the effect of a few mouthfuls of hot soup
upon an exhausted woman, whose exhaustion is due as much to lack of
food as need of rest. There was no spoon, but the teacup, though
cracked, was clean, and I found a tumbler in a luxurious little cabinet
near the chair one felt was dedicated to the Fleet Street magnate whose
room we had invaded. A tumbler is almost as convenient to drink soup
from as a cup, but requires more careful manipulation when hot. If the
side of the tumbler becomes soupy, it can easily be wiped with the
crumb of new bread.
Wardle seemed to be as sufficiently nourished as he was neatly
dressed; but he found a certain vicarious pleasure, I think, in
watching Constance and myself at the bowl. We sat on the Turkey carpet,
and used the seat of the green chair as a tablea strange meal, in
strange surroundings; but a better I never had, before or since. There
was a physical gratification, a warmth and a comfort to me, in watching
the colour flowing gradually back into Constance's face; a singularly
beautiful process of nature I thought it. Presently the door of the
room opened with a jerk, and a tallish man wearing a silk hat looked
H'm! he said brusquely. Beg pardon! And he was gone. I learned
afterwards that the room belonged to him, and that he came direct from
a conference of newspaper pundits called together at Westminster by the
Home Secretary. I do not know where he took refuge, but as for us we
went on with our soup and bread till repletion overtook us, as it
quickly does after long fasts, and renewed strength brought sighs of
Wardle, I remember saying to my journalistic friend, with absurd
earnestness, have you anything to smoke?
I haven't a thing but my pipe, he said. But wait a moment! There
used to beyes. Look here!
There was a drawer in a side-table near the great writing-table, and
one division of it was half-full of cigarettes, the other of Upman's
I will repay thee, I murmured irreverently, as I helped myself to
one of each, and lit the cigarette, having obtained permission from
Constance. It was the first tobacco I had tasted for forty-eight hours,
and I was a very regular smoker. I had not known my need till then, a
fact which will tell much to smokers.
And now? said Constance. Her eyelids were drooping heavily.
Now I am going to take you straight out to South Kensington, and
you are going to rest.
I had never used quite that tone to Constance before. I think, till
now, hers had been the guiding and directing part. Yet her influence
had never been stronger upon me than at that moment.
Well, of course, there are no cabs or omnibuses, said Wardle, but
a man told me the Underground was running trains at six o'clock.
We had a long, long wait at Blackfriars' station, but a train came
eventually, and we reached the flat in South Kensington as a
neighbouring church clock struck ten. The journey was curious and
impressive from first to last. Fleet Street had been very much alive
still when we left it; and we saw long files of baggage wagons rumbling
along between Prussian lancers. But Blackfriars was deserted, the
ticket collector slept soundly on his box; the streets in South
Kensington were silent as the grave.
London slept that night for the first time in a week. I learned
afterwards how the long lines of German sentries in Pall Mall, Park
Lane, and elsewhere slept solidly at their posts; how the Metropolitan
police slept on their beats; how thousands of men, women, and children
slept in the streets of South London, whither they had fled
panic-stricken that morning. Conquerors and conquered together, the
whole vast city slept that night as never perhaps before or since.
After a week of terror, of effort, of despair, and of debauchery, the
sorely stricken capital of the British Empire lay that night like a
city of the dead. England and her invaders were worn out.
At the flat we found Mrs. Van Homrey placidly knitting.
Well, young folk, she said cheerily; I've had all the news, and
there's nothing to be said; andthere's bath and bed waiting for you,
Conny. I shall bring you something hot in your room.
Ah, the kindly comfort of that motherly soul's words! It was but a
few hours since her Conny had stood by my side on ground that was
literally blood-soaked. Since the previous night we had both seen Death
in his most terrible guise; Death swinging his dripping scythe through
scores of lives at a stroke. We had been in England's riven heart
throughout the day of England's bitterest humiliation; and Mrs. Van
Homrey had bed and bath waiting, with something hot for Constance to
take in her room.
But, Aunty, if you could have seen
Dear child, I know it all. She patted her niece's shoulder, and I
noticed the rings and the shiny softness of her fingers. She saw at a
glanceindeed, had seen beforehand, in anticipationthe wrought-up,
exhausted condition Constance had reached. I know it all, dear, she
said soothingly. But the time has come for rest now. Nothing else is
any good till that is done with. Come, child. God will send better days
for England. First, we must rest.
So Constance turned to leave the room.
And you? she said to me.
I will see to him. You run along, my dear, said her aunt. So
Constance took my hand.
Good night, Dick. You have been very good and kind, andpatient.
There was no spare bedroom in that little flat, but the dear old
lady had actually made up a bed for me on a couch in the drawing-room,
and before she retired for the night she made me free of the bathroom,
and supplied me with towels and such like matters, and gave me cake and
cocoa; a delicious repast I thought it. And so, while crushed and
beaten London lay sleeping off its exhaustion, I slept under Constance
Grey's roof, full of gratitude, and of a kind of new hope and gladness,
very foreign, one would have said, to my gruesome experiences of the
past forty-eight hours.
England, the old victorious island kingdom, bequeathed to us by
Raleigh, Drake, Nelson; the nineteenth-century England of triumphant
commercialism; England till then inviolate for a thousand years; rich
and powerful beyond all other lands; broken now under the invader's
heelthat ancient England slept.
PART II. THE AWAKENING
Exoriare aliquis de nostris ex ossibus ultor.VIRGIL.
I. THE FIRST DAYS
The river glideth at his own sweet will.
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
. . . . .
Without Thee, what is all the morning's wealth?
Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
Dear Mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!
It is safe to say that England's exhausted sleep on the night of
Black Saturday marked the end of an era in British history. It was
followed by a curious, quiescent half-consciousness during Sunday. For
the greater part of that day I should suppose that more than half
London's populace continued its sleep.
One of the first things I realized after Monday morning's awakening
in my Bloomsbury lodging was that I must find wages and work speedily,
since I possessed no more than a very few pounds. As a fact, upon that
and several subsequent days I found plenty of work, if nothing
noticeable in the way of wages. I was second in command of one of the
food and labour bureaux which Constance Grey helped to organize, and
all the workers in these bureaux were volunteers.
Another of my first impressions after the crisis was a sense of my
actual remoteness, in normal circumstances, from Constance. Her father
had left Constance a quite sufficient income. Mrs. Van Homrey was in
her own right comfortably well-to-do. But, despite the exiguous nature
of my own resources, it was not the money question which impressed me
most in this connection, but rather the fact that, while my only
acquaintances in London were of a more or less discreditable sort,
Constance seemed to have friends everywhere, and these in almost every
case people of standing and importance. Her army friends were apt to be
generals, her political friends ex-Ministers, her journalistic friends
editors, and so forth. And IBut you have seen my record up to this
Nobody could possibly want Constance so much as I did, I thought.
But an astonishing number of persons of infinitely more consequence
than myself seemed to delight to honour her, to obtain her coöperation.
And I loved her. There was no possibility of my mistaking the fact. I
had been used to debate with myself regarding Sylvia Wheeler. There was
no room for debate where my feeling for Constance was concerned. The
hour of her breakdown in Fleet Street on Black Saturday had taught me
In the face of my circumstances just then, the idea of making any
definite disclosure of my feelings to Constance seemed impracticable.
Yet there was one intimate passage between us during that week, the
nature of which I cannot precisely define. I know I conveyed some hint
to Constance of my feeling toward her, and I was made vaguely conscious
that anything like a declaration of love would have seemed shocking to
her at that time. She held that, at such a juncture, no merely personal
interests ought to be allowed to weigh greatly with any one. The
country's call upon its subjects was all-absorbing in the eyes of this
one little bit of a girl from South Africa, as Crondall had called
her. It made me feel ashamed to realize how far short I fell (even
after the shared experiences culminating in Black Saturday) of her
personal standard of patriotism. Even now, my standing in her eyes, my
immediate personal needs, loomed nearer, larger in my mind than
England's fate. I admitted as much with some shamefacedness, and
Ah, well, Dick, I suspect that is a natural part of life lived
entirely in England, the England of the past. There was so little to
arouse the other part in one. All the surrounding influences were
against it. My life has been different. Once one has lived, in one's
own home, through a native rising, for instance, purely personal
interests never again seem quite so absorbing. The elemental things had
been so long shut out of English life. Why, do you know? And she
began to tell me of one of the schemes in which she was interested; in
connection with which I learned of a cable message she had received
that day telling that John Crondall was then on his way to England.
The least forgiving critics of The Destroyers have admitted that
they did their best and worked well during those strange weeks which
came immediately after the invasion. One reason of this was that party
feeling in politics had been scotched. The House of Commons met as one
party. There was no longer any real Opposition, unless one counted a
small section of rabid anti-Britishers, who were incapable of learning
a lesson; and even they carped but feebly, while the rest of the House
devoted its united energies to the conduct of the country's shattered
business with the single aim of restoring normal conditions. Throughout
the country two things were tacitly admitted. That the Government in
power must presently answer for its doings to the public before ceasing
to be a Government; and that the present was no time for such business
as that of a general election.
And so we had the spectacle of a Government which had entirely lost
the confidence of the electors, a Government anathematized from the
Orkneys to Land's End, carrying on its work with a unison and a
complete freedom from opposition such as had not been known before,
even by the biggest majority or the most popular Administration which
had ever sat at Westminster. For the first time, and by no effort of
our own, we obtained the rule of an Imperial Parliament devoted to no
other end than the nation's welfare. The House of Commons witnessed
many novel spectacles at that timesuch as consultations between the
leading members of the Government and the Opposition. Most of its
members learned many valuable lessons in those first weeks of the new
régime. It is to be supposed that the Surrender Riot had taught them
It must also be admitted that General, or, as he now was, General
Baron von Füchter, accomplished some fine work during this same period.
It has been said that he was but consulting the safety of his Imperial
master's armed forces; but credit may safely be given the General for
the discretion and despatch he used in distributing the huge body of
troops at his command, without hitch or friction, to the various
centres which it was his plan to occupy. His was a hand of iron, but he
used it to good purpose; and the few errors of his own men were
punished with an even more crushing severity than he showed where
British offences were concerned.
The task of garrisoning those English ports with German soldiers was
no light or easy one; no task for a light or gentle hand. In carrying
out this undertaking a very little weakness, a very small display of
indecision, might easily have meant an appalling amount of bloodshed.
As it was, the whole business was completed in a wonderfully short
while, and with remarkable smoothness. The judicial and municipal
administration of these centres was to remain English; but supreme
authority was vested in the officer commanding the German forces in
each place, and the heads of such departments as the postal and the
police, were German. No kind of public gathering or demonstration was
permissible in these towns, unless under the auspices of the German
officer in command, who in each case was given the rank of Governor of
We had learned by this time that the Channel Fleet had not been
entirely swept away. But a portion of it was destroyed, and the
remaining ships had been entrapped. It was strategy which had kept
British ships from our coasts during the fatal week of the invasion.
The Destroyers were responsible for our weak-kneed concessions to
Berlin some years earlier, in the matter of wireless telegraphy. In the
face of urgent recommendations to the contrary from experts, the
Government had yielded to German pressure in the matter of making our
own system interchangeable, and had even boasted of their diplomacy in
thus ingratiating themselves with Germany. As a consequence, the enemy
had been able to convey messages purporting to come from the British
Admiralty and ordering British commanders to keep out of home waters.
That these messages should have been conveyed in secret code form
was a mystery which subsequent investigations failed to solve. Some one
had played traitor. But the history of the invasion has shown us that
we had very many traitors among us in those days; and there came a time
when the British public showed clearly that it was weary of Commissions
of Inquiry. Where so many, if not indeed all of us, were at fault,
where the penalty was so crushing, it was felt that there were other
and more appropriate openings for official energy and public interest
than the mere apportioning of blame and punishment, however well
The issue of what was called the Invasion Budget was Parliament's
first important act, after the dispersal of the German forces in
England, and the termination of the Government distribution of food
supplies. The alterations of customs tariff were not particularly
notable. The House had agreed that revenue was the objective to be
considered, and fiscal adjustments with reference to commerce were
postponed for the time. The great change was in the income-tax. The
minimum income to be taxed was £100 instead of, as formerly, £160. The
scale ran like this: sixpence in the pound upon incomes of between £100
and £150, ninepence from that to £200, one shilling from that to £250,
one and threepence from that to £500, one and sixpence from that to
£1,000, two shillings upon all incomes of between £1,000 and £5,000,
and four shillings in the pound upon all incomes of over £5,000.
It was on the day following that of the Invasion Budget issue that I
received a letter from my sister Lucy, in Davenham Minster, telling me
of my mother's serious illness, and asking me to come to her at once.
And so, after a hurried visit to the South Kensington flat to explain
my absence to Constance, I turned my back upon London, for the first
time in a year, and journeyed down into Dorset.
II. ANCIENT LIGHTS
Then the progeny that springs
From the forests of our land,
Armed with thunder, clad with wings,
Shall a wider world command.
Regions Cæsar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway.
. . . . .
In the afternoon of a glorious summer's day, exactly three weeks
after leaving London, I stood beside the newly filled grave of my
mother in the moss-grown old churchyard of Davenham Minster.
My dear mother was not one of those whose end was hastened by the
shock of England's disaster. Doctor Wardle gave us little hope of her
recovery from the first. The immediate cause of death was pneumonia;
but I gathered that my mother had come to the end of her store of
vitality, and, it may be, of desire for life. I have sometimes thought
that her complete freedom from those domestic cares of housekeeping,
which had seemed to be the very source and fountainhead of continuous
worry for her, may actually have robbed my mother of much of her hold
upon life. In these last days I had been almost continuously beside
her, and I know that she relinquished her life without one sigh that
Standing there at the edge of her grave in the hoary churchyard of
the Minster, I was conscious of the loss of the last tie that bound me
to the shelter of youth: the cared-for, irresponsible division of a
man's life. The England of my youth was no more. Now, in the death of
my mother, it seemed as if I had stepped out of one generation into
another. I had entered a new generation, and was alone in it.
I was to sleep at my sister's house that night, but I had no wish to
go there now. Doctor Wardle's forced gravity, his cheerful condolences,
rather worried me. So it happened that I set out to walk from the
churchyard, and presently found myself upon the winding upland road
that led out of the rich Davenham valley, over the Ridgeway, and into
the hilly Tarn Regis country, where I was born.
I drank a mug of cider in the quaint little beerhouse kept by Gammer
Joy in Tarn Regis, and read again the doggerel her grandfather had
painted on its sign-board, in which the traveller was advised of the
various uses of liquor, taken in moderation, and the evil effects of
its abuse. Taken wisely, I remember, it was suggested that liquor
proved the best of lubricants for the wheels of life. Mrs. Joy looked
just as old and just as active and rosy as she had always looked for so
long as I could remember; and she hospitably insisted upon my eating a
large slab of her dough cake with my cidera very excellent comestible
The old dame's mood was cheerfully pessimisticthat is to say, she
was garrulous, and spoke cheerily of generally downward tendencies.
Thus, the new rector, by her way of it, was of a decadent modern type,
full of newfangled Papish notions as to church vestments and early
services, and neglectful of traditional responsibilities connected with
soup and coal and medical comforts. Cider was no longer what it used to
be, I gathered, since the big brewers took it in hand, and spoiled the
trade of those who had hand-presses. As for farming, Gammer Joy held
that it was not near so good a trade for master or man with land at
fifteen shillings the acre, as much of it was thereabouts, as it had
been with rents up to two or three pounds, and food twice as dear as
But there, Master Dick, said the old lady; I suppose we be all
Germans nowso they do tell me, however; an' if we be no better nor
furriners here in Darset, why I doan't know as't matters gertly wha'
cwomes to us at all. But I will say things wor different in your
feyther's time, Master Dickthat they was. Ah doan't believe he'd ha'
put up wi' this German business for a minute, that ah doan't.
I gathered that the new rector was an earnest young man and a hard
worker; but, evidently, those of Gammer Joy's generation preferred my
father's aloofness in conjunction with his regular material
dispensations, and his habit of leaving folk severely to themselves, so
far as their thoughts and feelings were concerned.
The cottagers with whom I talked that summer's evening cherished a
monumental ignorance regarding the real significance of the events
which had shaken England to its very roots since I had last seen Tarn
Regis. Gammer Joy's view seemed to be fairly typical. We had become
German; England belonged to Germany; the Radicals had sold us to the
Kaiserand so forth. But no German soldiers had been seen in Dorset.
The whole thing was shadowy, academic, a political business; suitable
enough for the discussion of Londoners, no doubt, but, after all, of
small bearing upon questions of real and intimate interest, such as the
harvest, the weather, and the rate of wages.
Sims queer, too, that us should be born again like, and become
Germans, said one man to me; but ah doan't know as it meakes much
odds to the loike o' we; though ah hev heerd as how Farmer Jupp be
thinkin' o' gettin' shut o' his shartharn bull that won the prize to
Davenham, an' doin' wi' fower men an' a b'y, in place o' sevin. Well,
o' course, us has to keep movin' wi' the times, as sayin' is; an' 'tis
trew them uplan' pastures o' Farmer Jupp's they do be mos' onusual poor
an' leery, as you med say.
Twilight already held the land in its grave embrace when I made my
way along Abbott's Lane (my father had devoted months to the task of
tracing the origin of that name) and began the ascent of Barebarrow, by
crossing which diagonally one reaches the Davenham turnpike from Tarn
Regis, a shorter route by nearly a mile than that of the road past the
mill and over the bridge. And so, presently, my feet were treading turf
which had probably been turf before the Christian era. Smooth and vast
against the sky-line, Barebarrow lay above me, like a mammoth at rest.
On its far side was our Tarn Regis giant, a famous figure cut in the
turf, and clearly visible from the tower of Davenham Minster. Long ago,
in my earliest childhood, village worthies had given me the story of
this figurehow once upon a time a giant came and slew all the Tarn
Regis flocks for his breakfast. Then he lay down to sleep behind
Barebarrow, and while he slept the enraged shepherds and work-folk
bound him with a thousand cart-ropes, and slew him with a thousand
scythes and forks and other homely implements. And then, that posterity
might know his fearsome bulk, they cut out the turf all round his form,
and eke the outline of the club beside him, and left the figure there
to commemorate their valour and the loss of their flocks. Some three
hundred feet long it was, I think, with a club the length of a tall
pine-tree. In any case, the Tarn Regis lad who would excel in feats of
strength had but to spend the night of Midsummer's Eve in the crook of
the giant's arm (as some one or two did every year), and other youths
of the countryside could never stand a chance with him.
I paused on the ledge below the barrow beside a ruined shepherd's
hut, and recalled the fact that here my father had unearthed sundry
fragments of stone and pieces of implements which the Dorchester Museum
curator had welcomed as very early British relics. They went back, I
remembered, to long before the Roman period; to days possibly more
remote than those of ancient Barebarrow himself. If you refer to a good
map you will find this spot surrounded by such indications of
immemorial antiquity as Tumuli, British Village, and the like. The
Roman encampment on the other side of Davenham Minster was modernity
itself, I thought, compared with this ancient haunt of the neolithic
forerunners of the early Briton; this resting-place of men whose doings
were a half-forgotten story many centuries before the birth of Julius
I sat down on the grassy ledge and looked out across the
lichen-covered roofs and squat, rugged church tower of Tarn Regis; and
pictures rose in my mind, pictures to some extent inspired, perhaps, by
scraps I had read of learned essays written by my father. He had loved
this ancient ground; he had been used to finger the earth hereabouts as
a man might finger his mistress's hair. I do not know what period my
twilit fancy happened upon, but it was assuredly a later one than that
of Barebarrow, for I saw shaggy warriors with huge pointless swords,
their hilts decorated with the teeth of wild beastsa Bronze Age
vision, no doubt. I saw rude chariots of war, with murderous
scythe-blades on their wheelsand, in a flash then, the figure of
Boadicea: that valiant mother of our race, erect and fearless in her
Regions Cæsar never knew,
Thy posterity shall sway!
Thy posterity shall sway! If you repeat the lines to yourself you
may see the outline of my vision. There at the foot of Barebarrow I saw
that Queen of ancient Britons at the head of her wild, shaggy legions.
The Roman Army can never withstand the shouts and clamour of so many
thousands, far less their shock and fury, said the Queen. I saw her
lead her valiant horde upon Colchester, and for me the ancient rudeness
of it all was shot through and through with glimpses of the scientific
sacking of Colchester, as I had read of it but a few weeks ago. I saw
the advance of the Roman Governor; the awful slaughter of the British;
the end of the brave Queen who could not brook defeat: the most
heart-stirring episode in English history.
Thy posterity shall sway! I recalled the solemn splendour of
another great Queen's passingthat which I had seen with my own eyes
while still a lad at Rugby: the stately gathering of the great ships at
Spithead; the end of Victoria the Good. No more than a step it seemed
from my vision of the unconquerable Boadicea. But to that other
onslaught upon Colchesterto General von Füchter's slaughter of women
and children and unarmed men in streets of houses whose ashes must be
warm yetO Lord, how far! I thought. Could it really be that a
thousand years of inviolability had been broken, ended, in those few
wild days; ended for ever?
Lights twinkled now among the nestling houses of the little place
where I was born. They made me think of torches, the clash of arms, the
spacious mediæval days when Davenham Minster supported a great
monastery, whose lordly abbot owned the land Tarn Regis stood upon.
And then the little lights grew misty and dim in my eyes as glimpses
came of my own early days; of play on that very ridge-side where I sat
now, where I had then romantically sworn friendship with George Stairs
on the eve of my departure for Elstree School, and his leaving with his
father for Canada. How had I kept my vow? Where was George Stairs now?
There was not a foot of that countryside we had not roamed together. My
eyes pricked as I looked and listened. Exactly so, I thought, the
sheep-bells had sounded below Barebarrow when I had lain listening to
them in that low-pitched back bedroom of the Rectory which I had been
proud to hear called Dick's Room, after my first experience of
Then for a space my mind was blank as the dark valley beyond the
villageuntil thoughts and pictures of recent happenings began to oust
the gentler memories, and I lived over again the mad, wild, tragic week
which culminated in the massacre of the North London trenches. But in
the light of my previous musings I saw these happenings differently,
more personally, than in the actual experience of them. It seemed now
that not my country only, but myself, had been struck down and humbled
to the dust by the soldiers of the Kaiser. I saw the broad fair faces
of the German cavalry as they had sat their horse in Whitehall on the
evening of Black Saturday. I heard again the clank of their arms, the
barking of guttural orders. Could it be that they had mastered England?
that for nine long years we were to be encircled by their garrisons?
Nine years of helotry!
A sudden coolness in the air reminded me of the lateness of the
hour, and I rose and began to cross Barebarrow.
But this ancient land was British in every blade of its grass, I
thoughtroot and crop, hill and dale, above and beneath, no single sod
of it but was British. Surely nothing could alter that. Nine years of
helotry! I heard again the confused din of the Westminster Riot; the
frantic crowd's insistent demand for surrender, for unconditional
surrender. And now the nation's word was pledged. Our heads were bowed
for nine years long.
Suddenly, then, as I descended upon the turnpike, a quite new
thought came to me. The invasion had overridden all law, all custom,
all understandings. The invasion was an act of sheer lawless brutality.
No surrender could bind a people to submission in the face of such an
outrage as that. The Germans must be driven out; the British people
must rise and cast them out, and overthrow for ever their insolent
dominion. But too many of the English people werelike myself! Well,
they must learn; we must all learn; every able-bodied man must learn;
for a blow had to be struck that should free England for ever. The
country must be awakened to realization of that need. We owed so much
to the brave ones who gave us England; so much could be demanded of us
by those that came after. The thing had got to be.
I walked fast, I remember, and singing through my head as I entered
Davenham Minster, long after my sister's supper hour, were the lines to
which I had never till then paid any sort of heed:
Regions Cæsar never knew,
Thy posterity shall sway!
III. THE RETURN TO LONDON
Oh! 'tis easy
To beget great deeds; but in the rearing of them
The threading in cold blood each mean detail,
And furze brake of half-pertinent circumstance
There lies the self-denial.
I spent but one other day in Dorset after my walk out to Tarn Regis,
and then took train in the morning for London.
I believe I have said before that Doctor Wardle, my sister's
husband, was prosperous and popular. The fact made it natural for me to
accept my mother's disposition of her tiny property, which, in a couple
of sentences, she had bequeathed solely to me. My sister had no need of
the hundred and fifty pounds a year that was derived from my mother's
little capital, which had been invested in Canadian securities and was
unaffected by England's losses. Thus I was now possessed of means
sufficient to provide me with the actual necessities of life; and,
though I had not thought of it before, realization of this came to me
while I attended to the winding up of my mother's small affairs,
bringing with it a certain sense of comfort and security.
It was with a strongly hopeful feeling, a sense almost of elation,
that I stepped from the train at Waterloo. My quiet days and nights in
Dorset had taught me something; and, particularly, I had gained much,
in conviction and in hope, from the evening spent by Barebarrow. I
cannot say that I had any definite plans, but I was awake to a genuine
sense of duty to my native land, and that was as strange a thing for me
as for a great majority of my fellow countrymen. I was convinced that a
great task awaited us all, and I determined upon the performance of my
part in it. I suppose I trusted that London would show me the
particular form that my effort should take. Meanwhile, as a convert,
the missionary feeling was strong in me.
I might have made shift to afford better quarters, perhaps, but it
was to my original lodging in Bloomsbury that I drove from Waterloo.
Some few belongings of mine were there, and I entertained a friendly
sort of feeling for my good-hearted but slatternly landlady, and for
poor, overworked Bessie, with her broad, generally smutty face, and
lingering remains of a Dorset accent. The part of London with which I
was familiar had resumed its normal aspect now, and people were going
about their ordinary avocations very much as though England never had
But in the north and east of the capital were streets of burned and
blackened houses, and the Epping and Romford districts were one
wilderness of ruins, and of graves; while across East Anglia, from the
coast to the Thames, the trail of the invaders was as the track of a
locust plague, but more terrible by reason of its blood-soaked
trenches, its innumerable shallow graves, and its charred remains of
once prosperous towns. Hundreds of ruined farmers and small landholders
were working as navvies at bridge and road and railway repairs.
A great many people had been ruined during those few nightmare days
of the invasion, and every man in England was burdened now with a scale
of taxation never before known in the country. But business had resumed
its sway, and London looked very much as ever. The need there was for a
general making good, from London to the Wash, provided a great deal of
employment, and the Government had taken such steps as it could to make
credit easy. But Consols were still as low as sixty-eight; prices had
not yet fallen to the normal level, and money was everywhere scarce.
In the middle afternoon I set out for South Kensington to see
Constance Grey, to whom I had written only once during my absence, and
then only to tell her of my mother's death. She had replied by
telegraph, a message of warm and friendly sympathy. I knew well that
she was always busy, and, like most moderns who have written
professionally, I suppose we were both bad correspondents. Now there
was much of which I wanted to talk with Constance, and it was with a
feeling of sharp disappointment that I learned from the servant at the
flat that she was not at home. Mrs. Van Homrey was in, however, and in
a few moments I was with her in the little drawing-room where I had
passed the night of London's exhausted sleep on Black Saturday.
Yes, you have just missed my niece, said Mrs. Van Homrey, after a
kindly reference to the strip of crepe on my arm. She has gone in to
Victoria Street to a 'conference of the powers' of John Crondall's
convening. Oh, didn't you know he was here again? Yes, he arrived last
week, and, as usual, is up to his neck in affairs already, and
Constance with him. I verily believe that child has discovered the
secret of perpetual motion.
At first mention of John Crondall's name my heart had warmed to its
recollection of the man, and a pleasurable thought of meeting him
again. And immediately then the warm feeling had been penetrated by a
vague sense of disquiet, when Mrs. Van Homrey spoke of his
affairsand Constance with him. But I was not then conscious of the
meaning of my momentary discomfort, though, both then and afterwards, I
read emphasis and meaning into Mrs. Van Homrey's coupling of the two
names. I asked what the conference was about, but gathered that Mrs.
Van Homrey was not very fully informed.
I know they are to meet these young Canadian preachers who are so
tremendously praised by the StandardWhat are their names,
again? Tcha! How treacherous my memory grows! You know the men I mean.
John Crondall met them the day after their arrival last week, and is
enthusiastic about them.
I felt very much out of the movement. During the few days
immediately preceding my mother's death, and since then, I had not even
seen a newspaper, and, being unusually preoccupied, not only over the
events of my stay at Davenham Minster, but by developments in my own
thoughts, I seemed to have lost touch with current affairs.
And what does John Crondall think of the outlook? I asked.
Well, I think his fear is that people in the countryoutside East
Anglia, of coursemay fail to realize all that the invasion has meant
and will mean; and that Londoners and townsfolk generally may slip back
into absorption in business and in pleasure as soon as they can afford
that again, and forget the fact that England is practically under
Germany's heel still.
The taxes will hardly allow them to do that, surely, I said.
Well, I don't know. The English are a wonderful people. The
invasion was so swift and sudden; the opposition to it was so
comparatively trifling; surrender and peace came so soon, that really I
don't know but what John is right. He generally is. You must remember
that millions of the people have not seen a German soldier. They have
had no discipline yet. Even here in London, as soon as the people spoke
decidedly, peace followed. They did not have to strike a blow. They did
not feel a blow. They were not with you and Conny, remember, at those
awful trenches. Anyhow, John thinks the danger is lest they forget
again, and regard the whole tragic business as a new proof of England's
ability to 'muddle through' anything, without any assistance from them.
Of course, England's wealth is still great, and her recuperative powers
are wonderful; but John Crondall holds that, in spite of that,
submission to nine years of German occupation and German tribute-paying
will mean the end of the British Empire.
And he feels that the people must be stirred into seeing that and
acting on it? I said, recalling my own thoughts during the night walk
Yes, I suppose that is his view. But, now I come to think of it,
why should you waste your time in talking to an old woman who can only
give you echoes? It is only half an hour since Conny started. Why not
hurry on to John Crondall's place, and join them there? He has often
spoken of you, Conny tells me.
This seemed to me too good a suggestion to neglect, and ten minutes
later I was on my way to St. James's Park by underground railway. I
bought an evening paper on my way, and read an announcement to the
effect that General Baron von Füchter, after returning to Portsmouth
from his visit to Berlin, had definitely decided that Portsmouth and
Devonport could no longer remain British naval bases, and that no
British sailors or soldiers in uniform could in future be admitted into
any of the towns in England now occupied by Germany.
IV. THE CONFERENCE
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil
Some great cause, God's new Messiah offering each the bloom or
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the
And the choice goes by for ever 'twixt that darkness and that
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.
A few seconds after his servant had shown me into the dining-room of
John Crondall's flat, the man himself entered to me with a rush, as his
manner was, both hands outstretched to welcome me.
Good man! he said. I've had fine news of you from Constance Grey,
and now you're here to confirm it. Splendid!
And then, with sudden gravity, and a glance at my coat sleeve: I
heard of your loss. I know what it means. I lost my mother when I was
in Port Arthur, and I know London looked different because of it when I
got back. It's a big wrench; one we've all got to face.
Yes. I think my mother died without regret; she was very tired.
There was a pause, and then I said:
But I may have chosen my time badly, to-day. Mrs. Van Homrey said
you had a conference. If you
Tut, tut, man! Don't talk nonsense. I was just going to say how
well you'd timed things. I don't know about a conference, but Constance
is here, and Varley, and Sir Herbert Tatehe took on the secretaryship
of the Army League, you know, after Gilbert chucked itand Winchester.
You know Winchester, the Australian rough-rider, who did such fine work
with his bushman corps in the South African warandlet me see! And
Forbes Thompson, the great rifle clubman, you know; and the
Canadian preacherssplendid fellows, by Jove! Simply splendid they
are, I can tell you. I look for great things from those two. Stairs is
English, of course, but he's been nearly all his life in British
Columbia and the Northwest, and he's got all the eternal youth, the
fire and grit and enthusiasm of the Canadian, withsomehow, something
else as wellgood. His chum, Reynolds, is an out-and-out Canadian,
born in Toronto of Canadian parents. Gad, there's solid timber in that
chap, I can tell you. But, look here! Come right in, and take a hand.
I'm awfully glad you came. I heard all about The Mass and that;
but, bless me, I can see in your eye that that's all past and done with
for ever. By the way, I heard last night that your Mr. Clement Blaine
had got a job after his own heart, in the pay of the Germans at
Chathaminterpreter in the passport office, or some such a thing. What
a man! Well, come along in, my dear chap, and give us the benefit of
We were leaving the room now.
I knew you'd like Constance, he said. She's the real thing, isn't
I despised myself for the hint of chill his words brought me. What
right had I to suspect or resent? And in any case John Crondall spoke
in his customary frank way, with never a hint of afterthought.
Yes, I said; she's splendid.
And such a head-piece, my boy. By Jove, she has a better head for
business thanHere we are, then.
Constance Grey was naturally the first to greet me in the big room
where John Crondall did his work and met his friends. There was welcome
in her beautiful eyes, but, obviously, Constance was very much
preoccupied. Then I was presented to Sir Morell Strachey, Sir Herbert
Tate, and Forbes Thompson, and then to the Canadian parson, the Rev.
George Stairs. I had paid no attention to the name when Crondall had
mentioned it in the other room. Now, as he named the parson again, I
looked into the man's face, and
Mordan? Why, not Dick Mordan, of Tarn Regis? said the parson.
By gad! George Stairs! I was thinking of you on the side of
Barebarrow the night before last.
And I was thinking of you, Dicky Mordan, yesterday afternoon, when
I met the present rector of Tarn Regis at a friend's house.
It was a long strong handshake that we exchanged. Sixteen years on
the young side of thirty is a considerable stretch of time, and all
that had passed since I had last seen my old Tarn Regis playmate.
Stairs introduced me to his friend, Reynolds, and I learned the
curious fact that this comrade and chum of my old friend's was also a
parson, but not of Stairs's church. Reynolds had qualified at a
theological training college in Ontario, and had been Congregational
minister in the parish of which Stairs had been vicar for the last
There was a big table in the middle of the room, littered over with
papers and writing materials. About this table we presently all found
Now look here, my friends, said John Crondall, this is no time
for ceremoniousness, apologies, and the rest of it, and I'm not going
to indulge in any. No doubt we've all of us got special interests of
our own, but there's one we all share; and it comes first with all of
us, I think. We all want the same thing for England and the Empire, and
we all want to do what we can to help. It's because of that I dismiss
the ceremonies, and don't say anything about the fear of boring you,
and all that. I don't even make exceptions of you, Stairs, or you,
Reynolds. I tell you quite frankly I want to poke and pry into your
plans. I want to know all about 'em. I've sense enough to see that you
wield a big influence. I am certain I have your sympathy in my aims.
And I want to find out how far I can make your aims help my aims. All I
know is that you have addressed three meetings, each bigger than the
last; and that your preaching is the real right thing. Now I want you
to tell us as much as you will about your plans. You know we are all
Stairs looked at Reynolds, and Reynolds nodded at Stairs.
Well, said the latter, smiling, first at Crondall, and then at me,
our plans are simplicity itself. In Canada we have not risen yet to
the cultivation of much diplomacy. We don't understand anything of your
high politics, and we don't believe in roundabout methods. For
instance, I suppose here in England you don't find parsons of one
denomination working in partnership much with parsons of another
denomination. Well, now, when I took over from my predecessor at
Kootenay, I found my friend Reynolds doing a fine work there, among the
farmers and miners, as Congregational minister. He was doing precisely
the work I wanted to do; but there was only one of him. Was I to fight
shy of him, or set to work, as it were, in opposition to him? Well,
anyhow, that didn't seem to me the way. We had our own places of
worship; but, for the rest, both desiring the one thingthe Christian
living of the folk in our districtwe worked absolutely shoulder to
shoulder. There were a few worthy folk who objected; but when Reynolds
and I came to talk it over, we decided that these had as much religion
as was good for them already, and that we could afford rather to ignore
them, if by joint working we could rope in the folk who had next to
none at allYou must forgive my slang, Miss Grey.
Constance smiled across at the parson.
You forget, Mr. Stairs, I grew up on the veld, she said.
Ah, to be sure; I suppose one is as close to the earth and the
realities there as in Canada.
Quite, said Crondall. And, anyhow, we are not doing any apologies
to-day; so please go ahead.
Well, continued George Stairs, we often talked over Old Country
affairs, Reynolds and I. Reynolds had only spent three months over here
in his life, but I fancy I learned more from him than he from me.
That's a mistake, of course, said Reynolds. He had the facts and
the knowledge. I merely supplied a fresh point of viewhome-grown
Ah, well, we found ourselves very much in agreement, anyhow, about
Home affairs and about the position of the Anglican Church in Canada;
the need there is for less exclusiveness and more direct methods. The
idea of coming Home and preaching through England, a kind of
pilgrimagethat was entirely Reynolds's own. I would have come with
him gladly, when we had our district in good going order out there.
But, you see, I had no money. My friend had a little. Then my father
died. He had been ailing for a long time, and I verily think the news
of the invasion broke his heart. He died in the same week that it
reached him, and left his two farms, with some small house property, to
My father's death meant for me a considerable break. The news from
England shocked me inexpressibly. It was such a terrible realization of
the very fears that Reynolds and myself had so often discussedthe
climax and penalty of England's mad disregard of duty; of every other
consideration except pleasure, easy living, comfort, and money-making.
This is the pivot of the whole business, that duty question,
interposed Crondall. It was your handling of that on Tuesday that
burdened you with my acquaintance. I listened to that, and I said, 'Mr.
George Stairs and you have got to meet, John Crondall!' But I didn't
mean to interrupt.
Well, as I say, I found myself rather at a parting of the ways, and
then came my good friend here, and he said, 'What about these farms and
houses of yours, Stairs? They represent an income. What are you going
to do about it?' Andwell, you see, that settled it. We just packed
our bags and came over.
And now that you are here? said John Crondall.
Well, you heard what we had to say the other afternoon?
I didevery word of it.
Well, that's what we are here for. Our aim is to take that message
to every man and woman in this country; and we believe God will give us
zest and strength enough to bring it home to themto make them feel
the truth of it. Your aim, naturally, is political and patriotic. I
don't think you can have any warmer sympathizers than Reynolds and
myself. But our part, as you see, is another one, and outside politics.
We believe the folk at Home have lost their bearings; their compasses
want adjusting. I say here what I should not venture to admit to a less
sympathetic and indulgent audience: Reynolds and myself aim at
arousing, by God's will, the sleeping sense of duty in our kinsmen here
at Home. We have no elaborate system, no finesse, no complicated issues
to consider. Our message is simply: 'You have forgotten Duty; and the
Christian life is not possible while Duty remains forgotten or
ignored.' Our purpose is just to give the message; to prove it; make it
real; make it felt.
Crondall had been looking straight at the speaker while he listened,
his face resting between his two hands, his elbows planted squarely on
the table. Now he seemed to pounce down upon Stairs's last words.
And yet you say your part is another one than ours. But why not the
same? Why not the very essence and soul of our part, Stairs?
Gadhe's right! said Sir Herbert Tate, in an undertone. Reynolds
leaned forward in his chair, his lean, keen face alight.
Why not the very soul of our part, Stairsthe essential first step
toward our end? Our part is to urge a certain specific duty on thema
duty we reckon urgent and vital to the nation. But we can't do that
unless we, or you, can first do your partrousing them to the sense of
dutyDuty itself. Man, but your part is the foundation of our
partfoundation, walls, roof, corner-stone, complete! We only give the
structure a name. Why, I give you my word, Stairs, that that address of
yours on Tuesday was the finest piece of patriotic exhortation I ever
Butit's very kind of you to say so; but I never mentioned King or
Exactly! You gave them the root of the whole matter. You cleared a
way into their hearts and heads which is open now for news of King and
country. It's as though I had to collect some money for an orphanage
from a people who'd never heard of charity. Before I see the people you
teach 'em the meaning and beauty of charitywake the charitable sense
in them. You needn't bother mentioning orphanages; but if I come along
in your rear, my chances of collecting the money are a deal rosier than
if you hadn't been there firstwhat?
I seeI see, said Stairs, slowly.
Mr. Crondall, you ought to have been a Canadian, said Reynolds, in
his dry way. His use of the Mr., even to a man who had no hesitation
in calling him plain Reynolds, was just one of the tiny points of
distinction between himself and Stairs.
Oh, Canada has taught me something; and so have South Africa and
India; and so have you and Stairs, with your mission, or pilgrimage, or
whatever it isyour Message.
Well, said Stairs, it seems to me your view of our pilgrimage is
a very kindly, and perhaps flattering one; and as I have said, your
aims as a citizen of the Empire and a lover of the Old Country could
not have warmer sympathizers than Reynolds and myself; but
Mind, I'm not trying to turn your religious teaching to any ignoble
purpose, said Crondall, quickly. I am not asking you to introduce a
single new word or thought into it for my sake.
That's so, said Reynolds, his eye upon Stairs.
Quite so, quite so, said Stairs. And, of course, I am with you in
all you hope for; but you know, Crondall, religion is perhaps a rather
different matter to a parson from what it is to you. Forgive me if I
put it clumsily, but
And now, greatly daring, I ventured upon an interruption, speaking
upon impulse, without consideration, and hearing my voice as though it
were something outside myself.
George Stairs, I saidand I fancy the thoughts of both of us went
back sixteen yearswhat was it you thought about the Congregational
minister when you took over your post at Kootenay? How did you decide
to treat him? Did you ever regret the partnership?
Now if that isn't straight out Western fashion! murmured Reynolds.
Constance beamed at me from her place beside John Crondall.
I leave it at that, said our host.
A palpable bull's-eye, said Forbes Thompson.
I hardly needed George Stairs's friendly clap on the shoulder, nor
the assurance of his:
You are right, Dick. You have shown me my way in three words.
Good, said Reynolds. Well, now I don't mind saying what I
wouldn't have said before, that among the notes we drew up nearly three
You drew up, my friend, said Stairs.
Among the notes we drew up, I say, on this question of neglected
duty, were details as to the citizen's obligations regarding the
defence of his home and native land, with special reference to the
callous neglect of Lord Roberts's campaign of warning and exhortation.
Now, Stairs, you know as well as I do, you wrote with your own hand the
passage about the Englishman's sphere of duty being as much wider than
his country as Greater Britain was wider than Great Britain. You know
Oh, you can count me in, all right, Reynolds; you know I'm not one
Well, now, my friends, I believe I see daylight. By joining hands I
really believe we are going to accomplish something for England.
Crondall looked round the table at the faces of his friends. We are
all agreed, I know, that the present danger is the danger Kipling tried
to warn us about years and years ago.
'Lest we forget!' quoted Sir Herbert quietly.
Exactly. There are so many in England who have neither seen nor
felt anything of the blow we have had.
And here I told them something of what I had seen and heard in
Dorset; how remote and unreal the whole thing was to folk there.
That's it, exactly, continued Crondall. That's one difficulty
which has just got to be overcome. Another is the danger that, among
those who did see and feel something of it, here in London, and even in
East Anglia, the habit of apathy in national matters, and the calls of
business and pleasure may mean forgetting, indifferencethe old fatal
neglect. You see, we must remember that, crushing as the blow was, it
did not actually reach so very many people. It did not force them to
get up and fight for their lives. It was all over so soon. Directly
they cried out, 'The Destroyers' answered with surrender, and so helped
to strengthen the fatal delusion they had cherished so long, that
everything is a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence.
'They'll never go for England, because England's got the dibs,'
quoted Forbes Thompson, with a nod of assent.
Yes, yes. 'Make alliances, and leave me to my business!' One knows
it all so well. But, mind you, even to the blindest of them, the
invasion has meant something.
And the income-tax will mean something to 'em, too, said Sir
Yes. But the English purse is deep, and the Englishman has long
years of money-spinning freedom from discipline behind him. Still, here
is this brutal fact of the invasion. Here we are actually condemned to
nine years of life inside a circle of German encampments on English
soil, with a hundred millions a year of tribute to pay for the right to
live in our own England. Now my notion is that the lesson must not be
lost. The teaching of the thing must be forced home. It must be burnt
into these happy-go-lucky countrymen of oursif Stairs and Reynolds
are to achieve their end, or we ours.
Our aim is to awake the sense of duty which seems to us to have
become atrophied, even among the professedly religious, said Stairs.
And ours, said Crondall, sharp as steel, is to ram home your
teaching, and to show them that the nearest duty to their hand is their
duty to the State, to the Race, to their childrenthe duty of freeing
England and throwing over German dominion.
To render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, said Reynolds.
And Stairs nodded agreement.
Now, by my way of it, Stairs and Reynolds must succeed before we
can succeed, said Crondall. That is my view, and because that is so,
you can both look to me, up till the last breath in me, for any kind of
support I can give youfor any kind of support at all. But that's not
all. Where you sow, I mean to reap. We both want substantially the same
harvestmine is part of yours. I know I can count on you all. You,
Stairs, and you, Reynolds, are going to carry your Message through
England. I propose to follow in your wake with mine. You rouse them to
the sense of duty; I show them their duty. You make them ready to do
their duty; I show it them. I'll have a lecturer. I'll get pictures.
They shall feel the invasion, and know what the German
occupation means. You shall convert them, and I'll enlist them.
Enlist them! By Jove! that's an idea, said Forbes Thompson. A
patriotic league, a league of defenders, a nation in arms.
Ah! Yes, the Liberators.
Or the Patriots, simply?
I would enrol them just as citizens, said Crondall. By that time
they should have learned the meaning of the word.
Yes, by Jove! it is good enoughjust 'The Citizens,' said Sir
And then a servant came in with a message for Forbes Thompson, and
we realized that dinner-time had come and almost gone. But we were in
no mood for separating just then, and so every one welcomed John
Crondall's invitation to dine with him at a neighbouring hotel.
V. MY OWN PART
Free men freely work;
Whoever fears God, fears to sit at ease.
E. B. BROWNING.
Constance Grey and myself were the last of John Crondall's guests to
leave him on that evening of the conference. As soon as we three were
alone, Constance turned to Crondall, and said:
You must expect to have me among your camp followers if I find Aunt
Mary can stand the travelling. I dare say there will be little things I
Things you can do! By George, I should think so! said Crondall. I
shall look to you to capture the women; and if we get the women, it
will surprise me if we don't get the men as well. Besides, don't you
fancy I have forgotten your prowess as a speaker in Cape Town and
Pretoria. You remember that meeting of your father's, when you saved
him from the wrath of Vrow Bischoff? Why, of course, I reckon on you.
We'll have special women's meetings.
And where do I come in? I asked, with an assumed lightness of tone
which was far from expressing my feeling.
Yes, said Crondall, eying me thoughtfully; I've been thinking of
As he said that, I had a swift vision of myself and my record, as
both must have appeared to a man like Crondall, whose whole life had
been spent in patriotic effort. The vision was a good corrective for
the unworthy shafts of jealousyfor that no doubt they werewhich had
come to me with John Crondall's references to Constance. I was admitted
cordially into the confidences of these people from whom, on my record,
I scarcely deserved common courtesy. It was with a distinctly chastened
mind that I gave them both some outline of the thoughts and resolutions
which had come to me during my evening beside Barebarrow, overlooking
sleepy little Tarn Regis.
It's a kind of national telepathy, said Crondall. God send it's
at work in other counties besides Dorset.
It had need be, I told them; for all those that I spoke to in
Dorset accepted the German occupation like a thing as absolutely
outside their purview as the movements of the planets.
Yes, they want a lot of stirring, I know; but I believe we shall
stir 'em all right. But about your part in the campaign. Of course, I
recognize that every one has to earn his living, just as much now as
before. But yet I know you'd like to be in this thing, Dick Mordan, and
I believe you can help it a lot. What I thought of was this: I shall
want a secretary, and want him very badly. He will be the man who will
do half my work. On the other hand, I can't pay him much, for every
cent of my income will be wanted in the campaign, and a good deal more
besides. The thing is, would you tackle it, for the sake of the cause,
for a couple of hundred a year? Of course, I should stand all running
expenses. What do you think? It's not much of an offer, but it would
keep us all together?
Constance looked expectantly at me, and I realized with a sudden
thrill the uses of even such small means as I now possessed.
Well, no, I said; I couldn't agree to that. The pupils of John
Crondall's eyes contracted sharply, and a pained, wondering look crept
into the face I loved, the vivid, expressive face of Constance Grey.
But what I would put my whole heart and soul into, would be working as
your secretary for the sake of the cause, as long as you could stand
the running expense, andand longer.
I think the next minute was the happiest I had ever known. I dare
say it seems a small enough matter, but it was the only thing of the
kind I had ever been able to do. These friends of mine had always given
so much to our country's cause. I had felt myself so far beneath them
in this. Now, as John Crondall's strong hand came down on my shoulder,
and Constance's bright eyes shone upon me in affectionate approval, my
heart swelled within me, with something of the glad pride which should
be the possession of every man, as it indubitably is of every true
citizen and patriot.
You see, I explained deprecatingly, as Crondall swayed my shoulder
affectionately to and fro in his firm grip; I have become a sort of a
minor capitalist. I have about a hundred and fifty a year coming in,
and so I'm as free as I am glad to work with you, andthere'll be two
hundred more for the campaign, you see.
God bless you, old chap! You and Constance and I, we'll move
mountainseven the great mountain of apathybetween us. Sir Herbert
offers a thousand pounds toward expenses, and Forbes Thompson and
Varley are ready to speak for us anywhere we like, and Winchester has a
pal who he says will work wonders as a kind of advance agent. I'm
pretty sure of Government help, tooor Opposition help; they'll be
governing before Christmas, you'll find. Now, we all meet here again
the day after to-morrow. We three will see each other to-morrow, I
expect. I must write a stack of letters before the midnight post.
Well, can I lend a hand? I asked.
No, not to-night, Mr. Secretary Dick, thank you! But it's late.
Will you take Constance home? I'll get my fellow to whistle up a cab.
Ten minutes earlier I should have been chilled by his implied
guardianship of Constance; but now I had that within which warmed me
through and through: the most effectual kind of protection against
chill. So all was settled, and we left John Crondall to his letters.
And, driving out to South Kensington, we talked over our hopes,
Constance and I, as partners in one cause.
This is the beginning of everything for me, Constance, I said,
when we parted in the hall below her flat.
It is going to be the beginning of very much for a good many, she
said, as she gave me her hand.
I wonder if you know how muchfor me!
I think so. I am tremendously glad about it all.
But she did not know, could not know, just how much it meant to me.
Good night, my patriotic Muse! I said.
Good night, Mr. Secretary Dick!
And so we parted on the night of my return to London.
We were dreamers, dreaming greatly, in the man-stifled town;
We yearned beyond the sky-line where the strange roads go down.
Came the Whisper, came the Vision, came the Power, with the
Till the Soul that is not man's soul was lent us to lead.
. . . . .
Follow afterfollow afterfor the harvest is sown:
By the bones about the wayside ye shall come to your own!
Never before had I known days so full, so compact of effort and
achievement, as were those of the week following the conference in John
Crondall's rooms. I could well appreciate Winchester's statement when
he said that: John Crondall is known through three Continents as a
glutton for work.
Our little circle represented Canada, South Africa, Australia, and
the Mother Country; and, while I admit that my old friend, George
Stairs, and his Canadian-born partner, Reynolds, could give points to
most people in the matter of unwearying energy, yet I am proud to
report that the member of our circle who, so to say, worked us all to a
standstill was John Crondall, an Englishman born and bred. I said as
much in the presence of them all, and when my verdict was generally
endorsed, John Crondall qualified it with the remark:
Well, I can only say that pretty nearly all I know about work I
learned in the Colonies.
And I learned later on to realize the justice of this qualification.
Colonial life does teach directness and concentration. Action of any
sort in England was at that time hedged about by innumerable
complications and cross issues and formalities, many of which we have
won clear from since then. Perhaps it was the strength of our Colonial
support which set the pace of our procedure. Whatever the cause, I know
I never worked harder, or accomplished more; and I had never been so
I think John Crondall must have interviewed from two to three
hundred prominent politicians and members of the official world during
that week. I have heard it said by men who should know, that the money
Crondall spent in cable messages to the Colonies that week was the
price of the first Imperial Parliament ever assembled in Westminster
Hall. I use these words in their true sense, their modern sense, of
course. Nominally, the House of Commons had long been the Imperial
I know that week's work established The Citizens as an
already powerful organization, with a long list of names famous in
history among its members, with a substantial banking account, and with
volunteer agents in every great centre in the kingdom. The motto and
watchword of The Citizens, as engraved upon a little bronze
medal of membership, was: For God; our Race; and Duty. The oath of
I do hereby undertake and promise to do my duty to God, to our
Race, and to the British Empire to the utmost limit of my ability,
without fear and without compromise, so help me God!
John Crondall interviewed the editors of most of the leading London
newspapers during that week, and thereby earned a discreet measure of
journalistic support for his campaign. There was a great need of
discretion here, for our papers were carefully studied in Berlin, as
well as by the German Generals commanding the various English towns now
occupied by the Kaiser's troops. It was, of course, most important that
no friction should be caused at this stage.
But it was with regard to the preaching pilgrimage of the two
Canadian parsons that Crondall's friends of the Press rendered us the
greatest possible service. Here no particular reticence was called for,
and the Press could be, and was, unreservedly helpful and generous. In
estimating the marvellous achievements of the two preachers, I do not
think enough weight has been attached to the great services rendered to
their mission by such journals as the great London daily which
published each morning a column headed, The New Evangel, and, indeed,
by all the newspapers both in London and the provinces.
We were not directly aiming, during that first week, at enrolling
members. No recruiting had been done. Yet when, at the end of the week,
a meeting of the executive committee was held at the Westminster Palace
Hotel, the founder, John Crondall, was able to submit a list of close
upon six hundred sworn members of The Citizens; and, of these, I
suppose fully five hundred were men of high standing in the world of
politics, the Services, commerce, and the professions. Among them were
three dukes, twenty-three peers, a Field Marshal, six newspaper
proprietors, eleven editors, seven of the wealthiest men in England,
and ninety-eight prominent Members of Parliament. And, as I say, no
systematic recruiting had been done.
At that meeting of the executive a great deal of important business
was transacted. John Crondall was able to announce a credit balance of
ten thousand pounds, with powers to overdraw under guarantee at the
Bank of England. A simple code of membership rules and objects was
drawn up for publication, and a short code of secret rules was formed,
by which every sworn member was to be bound. These rules stipulated for
implicit obedience to the decision and orders of the executive, and by
these every member was bound to take a certain course of rifle drill,
and to respond immediately to any call that should be made for military
service within the British Isles during a period of twelve months from
the date of enrolment. John Crondall announced that there was every
hope of The Citizens obtaining from the Government a grant of
one service rifle and one hundred rounds of ammunition for every member
who could pass a simple medical examination.
We may not actually secure this grant until after the general
election, Crondall explained; but it can be regarded as a certain
It was decided that, officially, there should be no connection
between the Canadian preachers, as every one called them, and the
propaganda of The Citizens. But it was also privately agreed
that steps should be taken to follow the Canadians throughout their
pilgrimage with lectures and addresses, and meetings at which members
could be enrolled upon the roster of The Citizens, including
volunteer instructors in rifle drill. My friend Stairs attended this
meeting with Reynolds, and, after discussion, it was agreed that, for
the present, they should not visit the towns occupied by the Germans.
The people there have their lesson before them every day and all
day long, said John Crondall. The folk we want to reach are those who
have not yet learned their lesson. My advice is to attack London first.
Enlist London on your side, and on that go to the provinces.
There was a good deal of discussion over this, and finally an offer
John Crondall made was accepted by Stairs and Reynolds, and our meeting
was brought to a close. What Crondall said was this:
To-day is Monday. There is still a great deal of detail to be
attended to. Officially, there must be no connection between Stairs and
Reynolds and The Citizens. Actually, we know the connection is
vital. Give me the rest of this week for arrangements, and I promise
that we shall all gain by it. I will not appear in the matter, and I
will see you each evening for consultation. Your pilgrimage shall begin
on Sunday, and ours within a day or so of that.
Then followed another week of tense effort. Stairs and Reynolds both
addressed minor gatherings during the week, and met John Crondall every
evening for consultation. On Wednesday the principal Imperialistic
newspaper in London appeared with a long leading article and three
columns of descriptive exposition of The New Evangel. On the same day
the papers published despatches telling of the departure from their
various homes of the Premiers, and two specially elected
representatives of all the British Colonies, who were coming to England
for an Imperial Conference at Westminster. The Government's resignation
was expected within the month, and writs for the election were to be
issued immediately afterwards.
On Wednesday evening and Thursday morning the newspapers of London
alone published one hundred and thirteen columns of matter regarding
the message and the pilgrimage of the Rev. George Stairs and the Rev.
Arthur J. Reynolds. During the latter part of the week all London was
agog over the Canadian preachers. As yet, very little had appeared in
print regarding The Citizens.
On Sunday morning at three o'clock John Crondall went into his
bedroom to sleep, and I slept in the room he had set aside for me in
his flattoo tired out to undress. Even Crondall's iron frame was
weary that night, and he admitted to me before retiring from a table at
which we had kept three typewriters busy till long after midnight, that
he had reached his limit and must rest.
I couldn't stand another hour of itunless it were necessary, you
know, was his way of putting it.
By my persuasion he kept his bed during a good slice of Sunday
morning, and lunched with me at Constance Grey's flat. He always said
that Mrs. Van Homrey was the most restful tonic London could supply to
any man. I went to the morning service at Westminster Abbey that day
with Constance, and listened to a magnificent sermon from the Bishop of
London, whose text was drawn from the sixth chapter of Exodus: And I
will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God.
The Bishop struck a strong note of hopefulness, but there was also
warning and exhortation in his discourse. He spoke of sons of our race
who had gone into far countries, and, carrying our Faith and traditions
with them, had preserved these and wrought them into a finer fabric
than the original from which they were drawn. And now, when a great
affliction had come upon the people of England, their sons of the
Greater Britain oversea were holding out kindly hands of friendship and
support. But it was not alone in the material sense that we should do
well to avail ourselves of the support offered us from the outside
places. These wandering children of the Old Land had cherished among
them a strong and simple godliness, a devout habit of Christian
morality, from which we might well draw spiritual sustenance.
You have all heard of the Canadian preachers, and I hope you will
all learn a good deal more of their Message this very afternoon at the
Albert Hall, where I am to have the honour of presiding over a meeting
which will be addressed by these Christian workers from across the
We found John Crondall a giant refreshed after his long sleep.
I definitely promise you a seat this afternoon, Mrs. Van Homrey,
he said, as we all sat down to lunch in the South Kensington flat, but
that's as much as I can promise. You and I will have to keep our feet,
Dick, and you will have to share Lady Tate's seat, Constance. If every
ticket-holder turns up this afternoon, there won't be a single vacant
seat in the whole of that great hall.
You earned your Sunday morning in, John, said Mrs. Van Homrey. Is
the Prime Minister coming?
No, he has failed me at the last, but half the members of the last
Government will be there, and I have promises from prominent
representatives of every religious denomination in England. There will
be sixty military officers above captain's rank, in uniform, and
forty-eight naval officers in uniform. There will be many scores of
bluejackets and private soldiers, a hundred training-ship lads, fifty
of the Legion of Frontiersmen, and a number of volunteers all in full
uniform. There will be a tremendous number of society people, but the
mass will be leavened, and I should say one-half the people will be
middle-class folk. For to-night, no tickets have been issued. The
attendance will depend to some extent on the success of this afternoon,
but, to judge from the newspapers and the talk one hears, I should say
it would be enormous.
Just before we left the flat Crondall told us a secret.
You know they have a volunteer choir of fifty voices? he said. It
was Stairs's idea, and he has carried it out alone. The choir consists
entirely of bluejackets, soldiers, volunteers, Red Cross nurses, and
boys from the Army bands.
VII. THE SWORD OF THE LORD
Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!
O Duty! if that name thou love
Who art a light to guide, a rod
To check the erring, and reprove;
Thou who art victory and law
When empty terrors overawe;
From vain temptations dost set free,
And calm'st the weary strife of frail humanity!
WORDSWORTH'S Ode to Duty.
I have always been glad that I was able to attend that first great
service of the Canadian preachers; and so, I think, has every one else
who was there. Other services of theirs may have been more notable in
certain respectsindeed, I know they were; but this one was the
beginning, the first wave in a great tide. And I am glad that I was
there to see that first grand wave rise upon the rock of British
I have said something of the audience, but a book might well be
devoted to its description, and, again, a sentence may serve. It was a
representative English gathering, in that it embraced a member of the
Royal Family, a little group of old men and women from an asylum for
the indigent, and members of every grade of society that comes between.
Also, it was a very large gatheringeven for the Albert Hall.
It should be remembered that not many weeks prior to this Sunday
afternoon, the people of London, maddened by hunger, fear, and
bewildered panic, had stormed Westminster to enforce their demand for
surrender, and had seen Von Füchter with his bloodstained legions take
possession of the capital of the British Empire. Fifty Londoners had
been cut down, almost in as many seconds, within two miles of the
Mansion House. In one terrible week London had passed through an age of
terror and humiliation, the end of which had been purchased in panic
and disorder by means of a greater humiliation than any. Now England
had to pay the bill. Some, in the pursuit of business and pleasure,
were already forgetting; but the majority among the great concourse of
Londoners who sat waiting in the Albert Hall that afternoon, clothed in
their Sunday best, were still shrewdly conscious of the terrible
severity of the blow which had fallen upon England.
Having found Constance her half-seat with Lady Tate, I stood beside
one of the gangways below the platform, which lead to the
dressing-rooms and other offices. Beside me was a table for Press
representatives. There, with their pencils, I noted Campbell, of the
Daily Gazette, and other men I knew, including Carew, for the
Standard, who had an assistant with him. He told me that somewhere
in the hall his paper had a special descriptive writer as well.
Looking up and down that vast building, from dome to amphitheatre, I
experienced, as it were vicariously, something of the nervousness of
stage fright. Londoners were not simple prairie folk, I thought. How
should my friend George Stairs hold that multitude? Two plain men from
Western Canada, accustomed to minister to farmers and miners, what
could they say to engage and hold these serried thousands of Londoners,
the most blasé people in England? I had never heard either of the
preachers speak in public, butI looked out over that assemblage, and
I was horribly afraid for my friends. A Church of England clergyman and
a Nonconformist minister from Canada, and I told myself they had never
had so much as an elocution lesson between them!
And then the Bishop of London appeared on the crowded platform,
followed by George Stairs and Arthur Reynolds; and a dead silence
descended upon the hall. In the forefront of the platform was a plain
table with a chair at either end of it, and a larger one in the middle.
Here the Bishop and the two preachers placed themselves. Then the
Bishop rose with right hand uplifted, and said solemnly:
May God bless to us all the Message which His two servants have
brought us from oversea; for Christ's sake, Amen.
George Stairs remained kneeling at his end of the table. But as the
Bishop resumed his seat Arthur Reynolds stepped forward, and, pitching
his voice well, said:
My friends, let us sing the British Anthem.
And at that the great organ spoke, and the choir of sailors,
soldiers, and nurses led the singing of the National Anthem. The first
bar was sung by the choir alone, but by the time the third bar was
reached thousands among the standing congregation were singing with
them, and the volume of sound was most impressive. I think that a good
many people besides myself found this solemn singing of the Anthem,
from its first line to its last, something of a revelation. It made
God Save the King a real prayer instead of a musical intimation that
hats might be felt for and carriages ordered. It struck a note which
the Canadian preachers desired to strike. They began with a National
Hymn which was a prayer for King and Country. The people were at first
startled, and then pleased, and then stirred by a departure from all
customs known to them. And that this should be so was, I apprehend, the
deliberate intention of the Canadian preachers.
Still George Stairs knelt at his end of the bare table.
As the last note of the organ accompaniment died away, Arthur
Reynolds stepped to the front.
Will you all pray, please? he said. He closed his eyes and
extended one hand.
I cannot tell you what simple magic the man used. I know those were
his words. But the compelling appeal in them was most remarkable. There
was something childlike about his simple request. I do not think any
one could have scoffed at the man. After a minute's silence, he prayed
aloud, and this is what he said:
Father in Heaven, give us strength to understand our duty and to do
it. Thou knowest that two of the least among Thy servants have crossed
the sea to give a Message to their kinsmen in England. Our kinsmen are
a great and proud people, and we, as Thou knowest, are but very simple
men. But our Message is from Thee, and with Thee all things are
possible. Father, have pity upon our weakness to-day. Open to us the
hearts of even the proudest and the greatest of our kinsmen. Do not let
them scorn us. And, O Father of all men, gentle and simple, breathe
Thou upon us that we may have a strength not of ourselves; a power
worthy of the Message we bring, which shall make its truth to shine so
that none may mistake it. For Christ's sake. Amen.
Arthur Reynolds resumed his seat, and a great Australian singer, a
prima donna of world-wide repute, stepped forward very simply and
sang as a solo the hymn beginning:
Church of the Living God,
Pillar and ground of truth,
Keep the old paths the fathers trod
In thy illumined youth.
The prayer had softened all hearts by its simplicity, its humility.
The exquisitely rendered hymn attuned all minds to thoughts of ancient,
simple piety, and the traditions which guided and inspired our race in
the past. When it was ended, and not till then, George Stairs rose from
his knees, and stepped forward to where a little temporary extension
jutted out beyond the rest of the platform. He stood there with both
hands by his side, and a Bible held in one of them. His head inclined a
little forward. It was an attitude suggestive rather of submission to
that great assembly, or to some Power above it, than of exhortation.
Watching him as he stood there, I realized what a fine figure of a man
George was, how well and surely Canadian life had developed him. His
head was massive, his hair thick and very fair; his form lithe, tall,
full of muscular elasticity.
He stood so, silent, for a full minute, till I began to catch my
breath from nervousness. Then he opened the Bible, and:
May I just read you a few verses from the Bible? he said.
There was the same directness, the same simple, almost childlike
appeal that had touched the people in Reynolds's prayer. He read some
verses from the First Book of Samuel. I remember:
'And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my
priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod
before me? And did I give unto the house of thy father all the
offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? Wherefore kick ye at
my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my
habitation; and honouredst thy sons above me to make yourselves fat
with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel, my people? Wherefore
the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house and the
house of thy father should walk before me for ever; but now the Lord
saith, be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and
them that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold the day is come,
that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, and
there shall not be an old man in my house. And thou shalt see an enemy
in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel.... And
I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that
which is in mine heart and in my mind....'
There was a pause, and then the preacher read a passage from Judges,
ending with the famous war-cry: The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon.
He looked up then, and, without reference to the Bible in his hand,
repeated several verses:
'And by thy sword thou shalt live, and shalt serve thy brother: and
it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou
shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.'
'He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.'
'For he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of
God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.'
'And take the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God.'
'Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to
send peace but a sword.' Not the peace of indolence and dishonour; not
the fatted peace of mercenary well-being; but a Sword; the Sword of the
Lord, the Sword of Duty, which creates, establishes, and safeguards the
only true peacethe peace of honourable peoples.
I remember his slow turning of leaves in his Bible, and I remember:
'Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep
His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man' the whole
duty Yes, 'but isn't Duty rather an early Victorian sort of
business, and a bit out of date, anyhow?' That was what a young
countryman of minefrom Dorset, he camesaid to me in Calgary, last
year. I told him that, according to my reading of history, it had come
down a little farther than early Victorian days. I remember I mentioned
Rorke's Drift; and he rather liked that. But, of course, I knew what he
It was in this very simple strain, without a gesture, without a
trace of dramatic appeal, that George Stairs began to address that
great gathering. Much has been said and written of the quality of
revelation which was instinct in that first address; of its compelling
force, its inspired strength, the convincing directness of it all. And
I should be the last to deny to my old friend's address any of the
praises lavished upon it by high and low. But what I would say of it is
that, even now, sufficient emphasis and import are never attached to
the most compelling quality of all in George Stairs's words: their
absolutely unaffected simplicity. I think a ten-year-old child could
have followed his every word with perfect understanding.
Nowadays we take a fair measure of simplicity for granted. Anything
less would condemn a man as a fool or a mountebank. But be it
remembered that the key-note and most striking feature of all recent
progress has been the advance toward simplicity in all things. At the
period of George Stairs's first exposition of the new evangel in the
Albert Hall, we were not greatly given to simplicity. It was scarcely
noticeable at that time even among tillers of the earth. Not to put too
fine a point upon it, we were a tinselled lot of mimes, greatly given
to apishness, and shunning naked truth as though it were the plague.
Past masters in compromise and self-delusion, we had stripped ourselves
of simplicity in every detail of life, and, from the cradle to the
grave, seemed willingly to be hedged about with every kind of
complexity. We so maltreated our physical palates that they responded
only to flavours which would have alarmed a plain-living man; and,
metaphorically, the same thing held good in every concern of our lives,
until simplicity became non-existent among us, and was forgotten. There
were men and women in that Sunday afternoon gathering at the Albert
Hall whose very pleasures were a complicated and laborious art, whose
pastimes were a strain upon the nervous system, whose leisure was quite
an arduous business.
This it was which gave such striking freshness, such compelling
strength, to the simple, forthright directness, the unaffected
earnestness and modesty of the Message brought us by the Canadian
preachers. The most bumptious and self-satisfied Cockney who ever heard
the ringing of Bow Bells, would have found resentment impossible after
George Stairs's little account of his leaving Dorset as a boy of
twelve, and picking up such education as he had, while learning how to
milk cows, bed down horses, split fire-wood, and perform chores
generally, on a Canadian farm. Even during his theological course,
vacations had found him in the harvest field.
You may guess my diffidence, then, he said, in lifting up my
voice before such a gathering as this, here in the storied heart of the
Empire, the city I have reverenced my life long as the centre of the
world's intelligence. But there is not a man or woman here to-day who
would chide a lad who came home from school with tidings of something
he had learned there. That is my case, precisely. I have been to one of
our outside schools, from my home here in this beloved island. Home and
school alike, they are all part of our family heritageyours and mine.
I only bring you your own word from another part of our own place. That
is my sole claim to stand before you to-day. Yet, when I think of it,
it satisfies me; it safeguards me from the effect of misunderstanding
or offence, so long as my hearers are of my kinBritish.
His description of Canada and the life he had lived there occupied
us for no more than ten minutes, at the outside. It has appeared in so
many books that I will not attempt to quote that little masterpiece of
illumination. But by no means every reproduction of this passage adds
the simple little statement which divided it from its successor.
That has been my life. No brilliant qualities are demanded of a man
in such a life. The one thing demanded is that he shall do his duty.
You remember that passage in Ecclesiastes'The conclusion of the whole
And then came the story of Edward Hare. That moved the people
My first curacy was in Southern Manitoba. When I was walking from
the church to the farmhouse where I lodged, after morning service, one
perfect day in June, I passed a man called Edward Hare, sitting at the
edge of a little bluff, on a rising piece of ground. I had felt drawn
toward this man. He was a Londoner, and, in his first two years, had
had a tough fight. But he had won through, and now had just succeeded
in adding a hundred and sixty acres to his little farm, which was one
of the most prosperous in the district.
'I didn't see you at church this morning, Hare,' I said, after we
had chatted a minute or two.
'No,' said he; 'I wasn't at church. I've been here by this bluff
since breakfast, andParson!' he said, with sudden emphasis, 'I shall
give up the farm. I'm going back Home.'
Well, of course, I was surprised, and pressed him for reasons.
'Well,' he said, 'I don't know as I can make much of a show of reasons;
but I'm going. Did you notice anything special about the weather,
oror that, this morning, Parson?' I told him I had only noticed that
it was a very sweet, clear, happy sort of a morning. 'That's just it,
Parson,' he said; 'sweet and clear and clean it is; and I don't believe
there's any sweeter, cleaner thing than this morning on my farmno,
not in heaven, Parson,' he said. 'And that's why I'm going back Home to
London; to Battersea; that's where I lived before I came here.'
I waited for him to tell me more, and presently he said: 'You know,
Parson, I was never what you might call a drunkard, not even at Home,
where drinking's the regular thing. But I used to get through a tidy
lot of liquor, one way and another, and most generally two or three
pints too many of a Saturday night. Then, of a Sunday morning, the job
was waiting for the pubs to open. Nobody in our street ever did much
else of a Sunday. I suppose you don't happen to have ever been down the
Falcon Road of a Sunday morning, Parson? No? Well, you see, the
street's a kind of market all Saturday night, up till long after
midnightcosters' barrows with flare-lights, gin-shops full to the
door, and all the fun of the fairall the fun of the fair. Mothers and
fathers, lads and sweethearts, babies in prams, and toddlers in blue
plush and white wool; you see them all crowding the bars up till
midnight, and they seewell, they see Battersea through a kind of a
bright gaze. Then comes Sunday, and a dry throat, and waiting for the
pubs to open. The streets are all a litter of dirty newspaper and
cabbage-stumps, and worse; and the air's kind of sick and stale.'
At that Hare stopped talking, and looked out over the prairie on
that June morning. Presently he went on again: 'Well, Parson, when I
came out here this morningI haven't tasted beer for over three
yearsI sat down and looked around; and, somehow, I thought I'd never
seen anything so fine in all my life; so sweet and clean; the air so
bright, like dew; and greenwell, look at it, far as your eye can
carry! And all this round, away to the bluff there, and the creek this
way; it's mine, every foot of it. Well, after a bit, I was looking over
there to the church, and what d'ye think I saw, all through the pretty
sunlight? I saw the Falcon Road, a pub I know there, and a streak of
sunshine running over the wire blinds into the bar, all frowsy and shut
in, with the liquor stains over everything. And outside, I saw the
pasty-faced crowd waiting to get in, and all the Sunday litter in the
road. Parson, I got the smell of it, the sick, stale smell of it, right
herein Paradise; I got the frowsy smell of it, and heard the waily
children squabbling, andI can't tell you any more of what I saw. If
you'd ever seen it, you'd know.'
And there he stopped again, until I moved. Then he said: 'Parson,
if you saw a fellow starving on a bit of land over there that wouldn't
feed a prairie-chick, and you knew of a free homestead across the
creek, where he could raise five and twenty bushels to the acre and
live like a man, would you leave him to rot on his bare patch? Not you.
That's why I'm going Hometo Battersea.'
If Hare had been a married man I might have advised him otherwise.
But he was married only to the farm he had wrought so well, and it did
not seem to me part of my business to come between a man and his
dutyas he saw it. That man came Home, and took the cheapest lodging
he could get in Battersea. He had sold his farm well. Now he took to
street preaching, and what he preached was, not religion, but the
prairie. 'Lord sake, young folk!' he used to say to the lads and girls
when they turned toward the public-houses. 'Hold on! Wait a minute! I
want to tell you something!' And he would tell them what four years'
clean work had given him in Canada.
He got into touch with various emigration agencies. The money he
had lasted him, living as he did, for five years. In that time he was
the means of sending nine hundred and twenty men and five hundred and
forty women and girls to a free and independent life in Canada. Just
before his money was exhausted, England's affliction, England's
chastisement, came upon her like God's anger in a thunderbolt. Hare had
meant to return to Canada to make another start, and earn money enough
to return to his work here. Instead of that, my friends, instead of
what he called Paradise in Manitoba, God took him straight into Heaven.
He left his body beside the North London entrenchments, where, so one
of his comrades told me, he fought like ten men for England, knowing
well that, if captured, he would be shot out of hand as a civilian
bearing arms. One may say of Edward Hare, I think, that he saw his duty
very clearlyand did it.
* * * * *
But what of us? What of you, and I, my friends? How do we stand
I never heard such questions in my life. He had been speaking
smoothly, evenly, calmly, and without gesticulation. With the
questions, his body was bent as though for a leap; his hands flung
forward. These questions left him like bullets. It was as though that
great hall had been in blackest darkness, and with a sudden movement
the speaker had switched on ten thousand electric lights. I saw men
rise to a half-erect posture. I heard women catch their breath. The air
of the place seemed all aquiver.
My friends, will you please pray with me?
He leaned forward, an appeal in every line of his figure, addressed
confidentially to each soul present. Then his right hand rose:
Please God, help me to give my Message! Please God, open London's
heart to hear my Message! Please God, give me strength to tell itnow!
For Christ's sake. Amen!
One heard a low, emphatic, and far-carrying Amen! from the lips of
London's Bishop; and I think that, too, meant something to the great
congregation of Londoners assembled there.
Immediately then, it was, while the electric thrill of his questions
and the simple prayer still held all his audience at high tension, that
George Stairs plunged into the famous declaration of the new evangel of
Duty and Simplicity. If any man in the world has learned for himself
that prayer is efficacious, that man is the Rev. George Stairs. For it
is now universally admitted that such winged words as those of his
first great exposition of the doctrine of Duty and simple living, the
doctrine which has placed the English-speaking peoples in the forefront
of Christendom, had never before thrilled an English audience.
His own words were a perfect example of the invincible virtue of
simplicity; his presence there was a glowing evidence of the force of
Duty. It is quite certain that the knowledge shown in his flashing
summary of nineteenth-century English history was not knowledge based
upon experience. But neither the poets, nor the most learned
historians, nor the most erudite of naval experts, has ever given a
picture so instantly convincing as the famous passage of his oration
which showed us, first, the British Fleet on the morning of Trafalgar;
then, Nelson going into action; then, the great sailor's dying
apotheosis of Duty; and, finally, England's reception of her dead
hero's body. The delivery of this much-quoted passage was a matter of
moments only, but from where I stood I saw streaming eyes in women's
faces, and that stiff, unwinking stare on men's faces which indicates
tense effort to restrain emotion.
And so, with a fine directness and simplicity of progress, he
carried us down through the century to its stormy close, with vivid
words of tribute for the sturdy pioneers of Victorian reform who fought
for and built the freest democracy in the world, and gave us the
triumphant enlightenment which illumined Victoria's first Jubilee.
'But isn't Duty a rather early Victorian sort of business, and out
of date, anyhow?' said my young countryman in Calgary. To the first
half of his question there can be no answer but 'Yes.' To deny it were
to slander our fathers most cruelly. But what of the question's second
half? Our fathers have no concern with the answering of that. Is Duty
'out of date,' my friends? If so, let us burn our churches. If so, let
the bishops resign their bishoprics. If so, let us lower for ever the
flag which our fathers made sacred from pole to pole. If so, let
Britain admitas well first as lastthat she has retired for ever
from her proud place among the nations, and is no more to be accounted
a Power in Christendom; for that is no place for a people with whom
Duty is out of date.
'And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my
priest, to offer upon mine altar?... But now the Lord saith, Be it far
from me, for them that honour me I will honour, and them that despise
me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold the days come that I will cut
off thine arm!'
It was almost unbearable. No one had guessed the man had such a
voice. He had recited that passage quietly. Then came the rolling
thunder of the: Behold the days come that I will cut off thine arm! A
woman in the centre of the hall cried aloud, upon a high note. The roar
of German artillery in North London never stirred Londoners as this
particular sentence of God's Word stirred them in the Albert Hall.
And then, in a voice keyed down again to calm and tender wisdom, the
words of the Scriptural poet stole out over the heads of the perturbed
people, stilling their minds once more into the right receptive vein:
'Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His
commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.'
Like balm, the stately words fell upon the people, as a light to
lighten their darkness, as an end and a solution to a situation found
intolerable. But, though calm resolve was in George Stairs's gift that
day, he suffered no complaisance; and, by this time, he held that great
assembly in the hollow of his hand. It was then he dealt with the
character of our own century, as distinguished from that of the
Victorian era. It was then his words taught me, personally, more than
all he had said besides.
I will not quote from a passage which has been incorporated in
hundreds of school-books. It is generally admitted that the end and
purpose underlying the civil and national code of our age has never
since been more admirably stated than on the day of its first
enunciation in the Albert Hall by George Stairs. His words were glowing
when he showed us how the key-note of our fathers' age had been the
claiming and establishing of rights and privileges. His words stung
like whip-thongs when he depicted our greedy, self-satisfied enjoyment
of those rights and privileges, with never a thought, either of the
various obligations pertaining to them, or of our plain duty in the
conservation for our children of all that had been won for us. Finally,
his words were living fire of incentive, red wine of stimulation, when
he urged upon us the twentieth-century watchword of Duty, and the loyal
discharge of obligations.
Theirs, an age crowned by well-won triumph, was the century of
claimant demand; ours is the century of grateful obedience. Theirs was
the age of claims; ours the age of Duty. Theirs the century of rights;
ours the century of Duty. Theirs the period of brave, insistent
constructive effort; ours the period of DutyDutyDuty!
In fighting to obtain all that they won for us, our fathers pledged
themselvesand usto be fit recipients, true freemen. For a moment,
misled by the glare of wealth and pleasure, we have played the
caitiff's part; grasped freemen's privileges, without thanks, and with
repudiation of the balancing duties and obligations without which no
rights can survive. And'Behold, the days come that I will cut off
The God of our fathers trusted them, in our behalf; and we played
traitor. So God smote England, through the arrogant war-lords of
another people. That blow, self-administered, is Heaven's last warning
to England. In truth, the blow was ours, yours and mine; we ourselves
it was who played the traitor and struck a cruel blow at Britain's
heart. Unworthy sons of valiant sires, we snatched our wages and
shirked our work; seized the reward and refused the duty. God in His
mercy gave us many warnings; but we hid our faces and pursued our
selfish ends. 'Behold, the days come'
But God stayed His hand. England lies bloody but unbroken. There
can be no more warnings. The time for warnings has gone by. There can
be no more paltering. Now is the day of final choice. Will ye be
menor helots and outcasts? Will you choose Duty, and the favour of
God's appointed way for us, of progress and of leadership; or will you
choosepleasure, swift decay, annihilation? Upon your heads be it! Our
fathers nobly did their part. Upon your choice hangs the future of our
race, the fate of your children, the destiny of God's chosen people,
who have paltered with strange gods, blasphemed the true faith, and
stepped aside from the white paththe Only Way: Duty!
He turned, raising one hand, and the notes of the great organ rose
and swelled mightily, filling the hall with the strains of the British
National Anthem. Every soul in the building stood erect, and following
the choir's lead, that great gathering sang the British hymn as it was
never sung before. As the last note throbbed into silence in the hall's
dome, George Stairs, who had knelt through the singing of the anthem,
advanced, with hand uplifted.
God helping us, as, if we choose aright, He surely will help us, do
we choose Duty, or pleasure? Choose, my kinsmen! Is it Duty, or is it
It was a severe test to put to such an assembly, to a congregation
of all classes of London society. There was a moment of silence in
which I saw George Stairs's face, white and writhen, through a mist
which seemed to cloud my vision. And then the answer came, like a long,
rolling clap of thunder:
And I saw George Stairs fall upon his knees in prayer, as the Bishop
dismissed the people with a benediction, delivered somewhat brokenly,
in a hoarse voice.
VIII. THE PREACHERS
There are who ask not if thine eye
Be on them; who in love and truth
Where no misgiving is, rely
Upon the genial sense of youth:
Glad hearts! without reproach or blot,
Who do thy work, and know it not:
O! if through confidence misplaced
They fail, thy saving arms, dread Power! around them cast.
Ode to Duty.
It was with something of a shock that I learned, while endeavouring
to make my way through a dense crowd to the Canadian preacher's
dressing-room, that my friend, George Stairs, was lying unconscious in
a fainting fit. But my anxiety was not long-lived. Several doctors had
volunteered their services, and from one of them I learned that the
fainting fit was no more than the momentary result of an exceptional
strain of excitement.
Within half an hour, Stairs and Reynolds were both resting
comfortably in a private sitting-room at a neighbouring hotel, and
there I visited them, with Constance Grey and Mrs. Van Homrey, and John
Crondall. Stairs assured us that his fainting was of no consequence,
and that he felt perfectly fit and well again.
You see it was something of an ordeal for me, a nobody from
nowhere, to face such an assembly.
Well, said John Crondall, I suppose that at this moment there is
not a man in London who is much more a somebody, and less a nobody from
You think we succeeded, then?
My dear fellow! I think your address of this afternoon was the most
important event England has known this century. Mark my words, that
great thunder of 'Duty!' that you drew from themfrom a London
audience, mindis to have more far-reaching results for the British
Empire than the acquisition of a continent.
No, no, my dear Crondall, you surely overrate the thing, said
Stairs, warm colour spreading over his pale face.
Well, you can take my deliberate assurance that in my opinion you
achieved more for your country this afternoon than it has been my good
fortune to achieve in the whole of a rather busy life.
Stairs protested, blushing like a girl. But we know now that, so far
at all events as his remarks were prophetic, John Crondall was
absolutely right; though whether or not the new evangel could have
achieved what it did without the invasion is another matter.
Myself, I believe nothing could have been more triumphantly
successful, more pregnant with great possibilities for good, than the
event of that afternoon. Yet I was assured that fully two thousand five
hundred more people crowded into the hall for the evening service than
had been there to hear Stairs's address. And I had thought the huge
place crowded in the afternoon. As before, the service began and ended
with the National Anthem; but in the evening the great assembly was
thrilled to its heart by the Australian prima donna's splendid
singing of Wordsworth's Ode to Duty in the setting specially
composed for this occasion by Doctor Elgar.
I saw very many faces that I had seen at the first service, but I
believe that there was a far greater proportion of poorer folk present
than there had been in the afternoon. The President of the
Congregational Union presided, and the address was delivered by Arthur
As with Stairs, so with Reynolds, Duty was the gist and heart of the
Message deliveredDuty, plain living, simplicity; these they both
urged to be the root of the whole matter. Both men gave substantially
the same Message, there can be no doubt of that; but there were
differences, and upon the whole I am inclined to think that Reynolds's
address was more perfectly adapted to his hearers than Stairs's would
have been if his had been given that evening. Reynolds's diction in
public speaking was not quite his conversational speech, because
nothing like slang, nothing altogether colloquial crept into it, but
its simplicity was notable; it was the diction of a frank, earnest
child. There were none of the stereotyped phrases of piety; yet I never
heard a more truly pious and deeply religious discourse.
The social and political aspects of Duty were more cursorily treated
by Reynolds than its moral and religious aspect. There was nothing
heterodox in the view put forward by this preacher from oversea. A man
may find salvation in this world and the next through love and faith,
he said in effect; but the love and faith must be of the right sort.
The redemption of the world was the world's greatest miracle; but it
did not offer mankind salvation in return for a given measure of
psalm-singing, sentimentalizing, and prayerful prostrations.
Christianity was something which had to be lived, not merely
contemplated. Love and faith were all-sufficient, but they must be the
true love and faith, of which Duty was the legitimate offspring. The
man who thought that any form of piety which permitted the neglect of
Duty, would win him either true peace in this life or salvation in the
next, was as pitifully misled as the man who indulged himself in a
vicious life with a view to repentance when he should be too near his
demise to care for indulgence.
But, even if one could put aside all thought of God and the life
compared with which this life is but an instant of time; even then
there would be nothing left really worth serious consideration besides
Duty. Dear friends, you who listen so kindly to the man who comes to
you from across the sea, I ask you to look about you in the streets and
among the people you know, and to tell me if the majority are really
happy. In this connection I dare not speak of the land of my birth,
because, though it is yours as truly as it is mine, and we are all
blood-brothers, yet I might be thought guilty of a vain partiality. But
I do say that I cannot think the majority of the people of England are
really happy. I do not believe the majority of Londoners are happy. I
am sure that the majority of those who spend an immense amount of money
here in the West End of London, are not one whit happier than the
average man who works hard for a few pounds a week.
If I am certain of anything in this world, I am certain that the
pursuit of pleasure never yet brought real happiness to any intelligent
human being, and never will. True, I have met some happy people in
London, even now, when England lies wounded from a cruel blowa blow
which I believe may prove the greatest blessing England ever knew. But
those happy people are not running after pleasure or concentrating
their intelligence upon their own gratification. No, no; those happy
people are strenuously, soberly striving to do the whole of their duty
as Christians and British citizens. They are happy because of that.
Oh, my dear friends, do please believe me, that, even apart from
God's will and the all-sacrificing love of His Son, there is
absolutely no real happiness in this world outside the clean, sweet way
of Duty. If you profess you love a woman, but shirk your duty by
her, of what worth is such love? Is God of less importance to you? Is
Eternity of less importance? Are King and Country, and the future of
our race and the millions who depend on us for light and guidance and
protection, of less importance? As God hears me, nothing is of
any importance, beside the one thing vital to salvation, to
happiness, to honour, to life, here and hereafter. That one thing is
The evening congregation was more demonstrative than that of the
afternoon, and though I do not think the impression produced by
Reynolds's address was deeper or stronger than that made by Stairsit
could hardly have been thatits effects were more noticeable. The
great crowd that streamed out of the hall after the Benediction had
been pronounced, testified in a hundred ways to the truth of John
Crondall's assertion that the Canadian preachers had stirred the very
depths of London's heart as no other missioners had ever stirred them.
By George Stairs's invitation, Mrs. Van Homrey, Constance, Crondall,
myself, Sir Herbert Tate, and Forbes Thompson, joined the preachers
that evening, quite informally, at their very modest supper board. It
must have been a little startling to a bon vivant like Sir
Herbert to find that the men who had stormed London, supped upon bread
and cheese and celery and cold rice pudding, and, without a hint of
apology, offered their guests the same Spartan entertainment. But it
was quite a brilliant function so far as mental activity and high
spirits were concerned. We were discussing the possibilities of the
Canadian preachers' pilgrimage, and Crondall said:
I know that some of you think I take too sanguine a view, but, mark
my words, these meetings to-day are the beginning of the greatest
religious, moral, and national revival that the British people have
ever seen. I am certain of it. Your blushes are quite beside the point,
Stairs; they are wholly irrelevant; so is your modesty. Why, my dear
fellow, you couldn't help it if you tried. You two men are the
mouthpiece of the hour. The hour having come, you could not stay its
Message if you tried, nor check the tide of its effect. I know my
London. In a matter of this kinda moral movementLondon is the
hardest place in the kingdom to move, because its bigness and variety
make it so many-sided. Having achieved what you have achieved to-day in
London, I say nothing can check your progress. My counsel is for no
more than a week in London; two days more in the west, three in the
east, and one in the south; and then a bee-line due north through
England, with a few days in all big centres.
Well, said Reynolds, whatever happens after to-night, I just want
to say what George Stairs has more than once said to me, and that is,
that to-day's success is three parts due to Mr. Crondall for every one
part due to us.
And to his secretary, said Stairs. It really is no more than bare
truth. Without you, Crondall, there would have been no Albert Hall for
And no Bishop, added Reynolds.
And no great personages.
And no columns and columns of newspaper announcements.
In point of fact, there would have been none of the splendid
organization which made to-day possible. I recognize it very clearly.
If this is to prove the beginning of a really big movement, then it is
a beginning in which The Citizens and their founder have played
a very big part. You won't find that we shall forget that; and I know
Reynolds is with me when I say that we shall leave no word unsaid, or
act undone, which could make our pilgrimage helpful to The Citizens'
campaign. I tell you, standing before that vast assembly to-day, it was
borne in upon me as I had not felt it before, that your aims and ours
are inseparable. We cannot succeed without your succeeding, nor you
without our succeeding. Our interpretation of Christianity, our
Message, is Duty and simple living, and unless the people will accept
that Message they will never achieve what you seek of them. On the
other hand, if they will answer your call they will be going a long way
toward accepting and acting upon our Message.
I am mighty thankful that has come home to you, Stairs, said
Crondall. I felt it very strongly when I first asked you to come and
talk things over. Your pilgrimage is going to wake up England, morally.
It will be our business to see that newly waked England choose the
right direction for the first outlay of its energy. The thing will go
farmuch farther than I have said, and far beyond England's immediate
need. But, of course, we mustn't lose sight of that immediate need. If
I am not greatly mistaken, one of the first achievements of this
movement will be the safe steering of the British public through the
General Election. With the New Year I hope to see a real Imperial
Parliament sitting. By that I mean a strong Government administering
England from the House of Commons, while some of its members sit in an
Imperial ChamberWestminster Halland help elected representatives of
every one of the Colonies to govern the Empire. My belief is there will
be no such thing as an Opposition in the House. Why should England
continue to waste its time and energy over pulling both ways in every
little job its legislators have to tackle? It sterilizes the efforts of
the good men, and gives innumerable openings to the fools and cranks
and obstructionists. You will find the very names of the old futile
cross-purposes of party warfare will fall into the limbo which has
swallowed up the pillory, the stocks, and Little Englandism. With
deference to the cloth present in the person of our reverend friends
here, let me quote you what to me is one of the most strikingly
interesting passages in the Bible: 'The vile person shall be no more
called liberal.' It will become clear to all men that the only
possible party, the only people who can possibly stand for progress,
movement, advance, are those who stand firm for Imperial Federation.
And then? said Constance, leaning forward, her face illumined by
her shining eyes. Crondall drew a long breath.
And thenthen Britain will have something to say to the Kaiser.
As we rose from the table, George Stairs laid his hand on Reynolds's
Deep waters these, my friend, said he, for simple parsons from
the backwoods. But our part is plain, and close at hand. Our work is to
make the writing on the wall flame till all can read and feel: Duty
first, last, and all the time. 'The conclusion of the whole matter.'
Yes, yes; that's so, said Reynolds, thoughtfully. And then he
added, as it were an afterthought: But was that remark about vile
people no more being called liberal really scriptural, I wonderI
Without a doubt, said Crondall, with a broad grin. You look up
Isaiah XXXII. 5. You will find it there, written maybe three thousand
years ago, fitting to-day's situation like a glove.
On the way out to South Kensington, where I accompanied the ladies,
I asked Constance what she thought of my old chum, George Stairs.
Why, Dick, she said, he makes me feel that an English village can
still produce the finest type of man that walks the earth. But, as
things have been, in our time, I'm glad this particular man didn't
remain in his native villagearen't you?
Yes, I agreed, with a half-sad note I could not keep out of my
voice. I suppose Colonial life has taught him a lot.
Oh, he is magnificent!
And look at John Crondall!
Ah, John is a wonderful man; Empire-taught, is John.
And I suppose the man who has never lived the outside life in the
big, open places can never
And then I think she saw what had brought the twinge of sadness to
me; for she touched my arm, her bright eyes gleamed upon me, and
You're a terribly impatient man, Dick, she said, with a smile. It
seems to me you've trekked a mighty long way from The Mass
office inhow many weeks is it?
IX. THE CITIZENS
Serene will be our days, and bright
And happy will our nature be
When love is an unerring light,
And joy its own security.
And they a blissful course may hold
Ev'n now, who, not unwisely bold,
Live in the spirit of this creed,
Yet find that other strength, according to their need.
Ode to Duty.
Charles Corbett's History of the Revival is to my mind the
most interesting book of this century. There are passages in it which
leave me marvelling afresh each time I read them, that any writer,
however gifted, could make quite so intimate a revelation, without
personal knowledge of the inside workings of the movement he describes
so perfectly. But it is a fact that Corbett never spoke with Stairs or
Reynolds, or Crondall; neither, I think, was he personally known to any
member of the executive of The Citizens. Yet I know from my own
working experience of the Revival, both in connection with the
pilgrimage of the Canadian preachers and the campaign of The
Citizens, that Corbett's descriptions are marvellously accurate and
lifelike, and that the conclusions he draws could not have been made
more correct and luminous if they had been written by the leaders of
the great joint movement themselves.
The educational authorities were certainly well advised in making
Corbett's great work the base from which the contemporary history
text-books for use in the national schools were drawn. Your modern
students, by the way, would find it hard to realize that, even at the
time of the Revival, our school-children were obliged to waste most of
the few hours a week which were devoted to historical studies, to the
wearisome memorizing of dates and genealogies connected with the Saxon
Heptarchy. As a rule they had no time left in which to learn anything
whatever of the progress of their own age, or the nineteenth-century
development of the Empire. At that time a national schoolboy destined
to earn his living as a soldier or a sailor, or a tinker or a tailor,
sometimes knew a little of the Saxon kings of England, or even a few
dates connected with the Norman Conquest, and the fact that Henry VIII.
had six wives. But he had never heard of the Reform Bill, and knew
nothing whatever of the incorporation of India, Australia, South
Africa, or Canada.
I suppose the most notable and impressive intimation received by the
British public of the fact that a great religious, moral, and social
revival had begun among them, was contained in Monday morning's
newspapers, after the first great Albert Hall services. The recognized
chief among imperialistic journals became from the beginning the organ
of the new movement. Upon that Monday morning I remember that this
journal's first leading article was devoted to the Message of the
Canadian preachers, its second to the coming of the various Colonial
delegates for the Westminster Hall Conference. For the rest, the centre
of the paper was occupied by a four-page supplement, with portraits,
describing fully, and reporting verbatim the Albert Hall services. The
opening sentences of the leading article gave the public its cue:
There can be little doubt, we think, that yesterday's services at
the Albert Hall mark the inauguration of a national movement in morals,
which, before it has gone far, is as likely to earn the name of the
Revolution as that of Revival. A religious, moral, and social
revolution is what we anticipate as the result of the mission of the
Canadian preachers. Never before has London been so stirred to its
moral and emotional depths. In such a movement the provincial centres
are not likely to prove less susceptible than the metropolis.
As a matter of fact, I had occasion to know that Mr. James
Bryanstone, the preachers' secretary (in whose name John Crondall had
carried out the whole work of organization, while I served him as
secretary and assistant) received during that Monday no fewer than
thirty-four separate telegraphic invitations from provincial centres
subsequently visited by Stairs and Reynolds. It was, as Crondall had
said: The time was ripe, and the Canadian preachers were the mouthpiece
of the hour. Their Message filled them, and England was conscious of
its need of that Message.
On Monday and Tuesday the afternoon and evening services at the
Albert Hall were repeated. Thousands of people were unable to obtain
admission upon each occasion. Some of these people were addressed by
friends of John Crondall's and The Citizens, within the
precincts of the hall. On Tuesday morning, sunrise found a great throng
of people waiting to secure places when the hall should open. On both
days members of the Royal Family were present, and on Tuesday the
Primate of England presided over the service addressed by Stairs.
During all this time, John Crondall was working night and day, and I
was busy with him in organizing the recruiting campaign of The
Citizens. The Legion of Frontiersmen, and the members of some
scores of rifle clubs, had been enrolled en bloc as members, and
applications were pouring in upon us by every post from men who had
seen service in different parts of the world, and from men able to
equip themselves either as mounted or foot riflemen. On Tuesday evening
the Canadian preachers announced that their next day services would be
held at the People's Palace, in the East End. But I fancy that, among
the packed thousands who attended The Citizens' first public
meeting at the Albert Hall on Wednesday afternoon, many came under the
impression that they were to hear the Canadian preachers.
The man of all others in England most fitted for the office,
presided over that first meeting, in full review uniform, and wearing
the sword which had been returned to him by General Baron von Füchter,
after the historic surrender at the Mansion House on Black Saturday.
The great little Field Marshal rose at three o'clock and stood for full
five minutes, waiting for the tempest of cheering which greeted him to
subside, before he could introduce John Crondall to that huge audience.
Even when the Field Marshal began to speak he could not obtain complete
silence. As one burst of cheering rumbled to its close, another would
rise from the hall's far side like approaching thunder, swelling as it
It seemed the London public was trying to make up to its erstwhile
hero for its long neglect of his brave endeavours to warn them against
the evils which had actually befallen. At last, not to waste more time,
the little Field Marshal drew his sword, and waved it above his head
till a penetrant ray of afternoon sunlight caught and transformed the
blade into a streak of living flame.
There is a stain on it! he shouted, shaking the blade. It belongs
to youto Englandand there's a stain on it; got on Black Saturday.
Now silence, for the man who's for wiping out all stains. Silence!
It was long since the little man had delivered himself of such a
roar, as that last Silence! There were one or two Indian veterans in
the hall who remembered the note. It had its effect, and John Crondall
stood, presently, before an entirely silent and eagerly expectant
multitude, when he began his explanation of the ends and aims of The
Citizens. I remember he began by saying:
I cannot pretend to be a Canadian preacherI wish I could. And
here there was another demonstration of cheering. One realized that
afternoon that the Canadians had lighted a fire in London that would
not easily be put out. No, I am a native of your own London, said
Crondall; but I admit to having learned most of the little I know in
Canada, South Africa, India, and Australia. And if there is one thing I
have learned very thoroughly in those countries, it is to love England.
She has no braver or more devoted sons and lovers within her own shores
than our kinsmen oversea. You will find we shall have fresh proofs of
that very soon. Meantime, just in passing, I want to tell you this: You
have read something in the papers of The Citizens, the
organization of Britishers who are sworn to the defence of Britain. I
am here to tell you about them. Well, in the past fortnight, I have
received two hundred and forty cable messages from representative
citizens in Canada, South Africa, Australia, India, and other parts of
the Empire, claiming membership, and promising support through thick
and thin, from thousands of our kinsfolk oversea. So, before I begin, I
give you the greeting of men of our blood from all the ends of the
earth. They are with us heart and hand, my friends, and eager to prove
it. And now I am going to tell you something about The Citizens.
But before that last sentence had left Crondall's lips, we were in
the thick of another storm of cheering. The religious character of the
Canadian preachers' meetings had been sufficient to prevent these
outbursts of popular feeling; but now the public seemed to welcome the
secular freedom of The Citizens' gathering, as an opportunity for
giving their feelings vent. I am not sure that it was John Crondall's
message from the Colonies that they cheered. They were moved, I am
sure, by a vague general approval of the idea of a combination of
citizens for British defence. But their cheering I take to have been
produced by feelings they would have been hard put to it to define in
any way. They had been deeply stirred by the teaching of the Canadian
preachers. In short, they had been seized by the fundamental tenets of
the simple faith which has since come to be known to the world as
British Christianity; and they were eager to find some way in which
they could give tangible expression to the faith that was burgeoning
within them; stirring them as young mothers are stirred, filling them
with resolves and aspirations, none the less real and deep-seated
because they were as yet incoherent and shapeless.
I am only quoting the best observers of the time in this description
of public feeling when John Crondall made his great recruiting speech
for The Citizens. The event proved my chief to have been
absolutely right in his reckoning, absolutely sound in his judgment. He
had urged from the beginning that The Citizens and the Canadian
preachers had a common aim. But you teach a general principle, he had
said to George Stairs, while we supply the particular instance. We
must reap where you sow; we must glean after you; we must follow you,
as night follows day, as accomplishment follows preparationbecause
you arouse the sense of duty, you teach the sacredness of duty, while
we give it particular direction. It's you who will make them
Citizens, my dear fellowfor what you mean by a true Christian is
what I mean by a true citizenour part is to swear them in. Or, as you
might say, you prepare, and we confirm. Those that won't come up to
your standard as Christians, won't be any use to us as Citizens.
Just how shrewdly John Crondall had gauged the matter perhaps no one
else can realize, even now, so clearly as those who played a recorder's
part in the recruiting campaign, as I did from that first day in the
Albert Hall, with Constance Grey's assistance, and, later on, with the
assistance of many other people. At a further stage, and in other
places, we made arrangements for enrolling members after every meeting.
Upon this occasion we were unable to face the task, and, instead, a
card was given to every applicant, for subsequent presentation at
The Citizens' headquarters in Victoria Street, where I spent many
busy hours, with a rapidly growing clerical staff, swearing in new
members, and booking the full details of each man's position and
capabilities, for registration on the roster.
We had no fees of any kind, but every new member was invited to
contribute according to his means to The Citizens' equipment
fund. During the twenty-four hours following that first meeting at the
Albert Hall, over twenty-seven thousand pounds was received in this way
from new members. But we enrolled many who contributed nothing; and we
enrolled a few men to whom we actually made small payments from a
special fund raised privately for that purpose. All this last-named
minority, and a certain proportion of other members, went directly into
camp training on the estates of various wealthy members, who themselves
were providing camp equipment and instructors, while, in many cases,
arranging also for employment which should make these camps as nearly
as might be self-supporting.
Among the list of people who agreed to deliver addresses at our
meetings we now included many of the most eloquent speakers, and some
of the most famous names in England. But I am not sure that any of them
ever evoked the same storms of enthusiasm, the same instant and direct
response that John Crondall earned by his simple speeches. Heart and
soul, John Crondall was absorbed in the perfection and furtherance of
the organization he had founded, and when he sought public support he
In those first days of the campaign there were times when John
Crondall was so furiously occupied, that his bed hardly knew the touch
of him, and I could not exchange a word with him outside the immediate
work of our hands. This was doubtless one reason why I took a certain
idea of mine to Constance Grey, instead of to my chief. Together, she
and I interviewed Brigadier-General Hapgood, of the Salvation Army,
and, on the next day, the venerable chief of that remarkable
organization, General Booth. The proposition we put before General
Booth was that he should join hands with us in dealing with that
section of our would-be members who described themselves as unemployed
and without resources.
For five minutes the old General stroked his beard, and offered
occasional ejaculatory interrogations. I pointed out that the converts
of the Canadian preachers (for whom the General expressed unbounded
admiration and respect) flocked to our standard, full of genuine
eagerness to carry out the gospel of duty and simple living. Suddenly,
in the middle of one of my sentences, this commander-in-chief of an
army larger than that of any monarch in Christendom made up his mind,
and stopped me with a gesture.
We will do it, he said. Yes, yes, I see what you would say. Yes,
yes, to be sure, to be sure; that is quite so. We will do it. Come and
see me again, and I will put a working plan before you. Good dayGod
And we were being shown out. It was all over in a few minutes; but
that was the beginning of the connection between the Salvation Army and
that section of The Citizens whose members lacked both means and
employment. According to a safe and conservative estimate, we are told
that the total number of sworn Citizens subsequently handled by
the Salvation Army was six hundred and seventy-five thousand. We
supplied the instructors, officers, and all equipment; the Salvation
Army carried out all the other work of control, organization, and
maintenance, and made their great farm camps so nearly self-supporting
as to be practically no burden upon The Citizens' funds. The
effect upon the men themselves was wholly admirable. Every one of them
was a genuinely unemployed worker, and the way they all took their
training was marvellous.
I think Constance Grey was as pleased as I was with the praise we
won from John Crondall over this. A little while before this time I
should have felt jealous pangs when I saw her sweet face lighten and
glow at a word of commendation from John Crondall. But my secretaryship
was teaching me many things. No other woman could ever mean to me one
tithe of all that Constance Grey meant. Of that I was very sure. To
think of such women as handsome Beatrice Blaine or Sylvia Wheeler, in a
vein of comparison, was for me like comparing the light of a candle in
a distant window with the moon herself. The mere sound of Constance's
voice thrilled me as nothing else could. But I am glad to remember now
that I no longer knew so small an emotion as jealousy where she was
John Crondall was the strongest man of all the men I knew; Constance
was the sweetest woman. Here was a natural and fitting comradeship. I
thought of my chief as the mate of the woman I loved. My heart ached at
times. But I am glad and proud that I had no jealousy.
X. SMALL FIGURES ON A GREAT STAGE
I, loving freedom and untried,
No sport of every random gust,
Yet being to myself a guide,
Too blindly have reposed my trust;
And oft, when in my heart was heard
Thy timely mandate, I deferred
The task, in smoother walks to stray,
But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may.
Ode to Duty.
It has often been said of the Canadian preachers that they conferred
the gift of eloquence upon all their converts. It is certainly a fact
that long before Stairs and Reynolds had traversed half the length of
England, disciples of theirs were winning converts to British
Christianityas the religion of Duty and simple living came to be
calledin every county in the kingdom.
In the same way, the progress of The Citizens' recruiting
campaign was made marvellously rapid and triumphant in character by
reason of the enthusiastic activity of all new adherents. During the
second of John Crondall's great meetings in Birmingham, for example, we
received telegraphic greeting from the chairmen presiding over one
hundred and ninety-eight other meetings then being held for the
furtherance of our cause in different parts of the country. And, in
many cases, those who addressed these meetings were among the most
famous public speakers in England.
In most towns we spent no more than twenty-four hours, in others no
more than twelve hours, and in some we stayed only a third of that
time. In one memorable day we addressed immense gatherings in four
different towns, and travelled one hundred and thirty miles to boot.
But in each one of those towns, as in every centre visited, we left a
properly organized committee at work, with arrangements for frequent
meetings, and the swearing in of new members.
The Canadian preachers spent only one day in many of the places they
visited. But in large centres they stayed longer, because, after the
first week of the pilgrimage, the attendances at their meetings became
unmanageably large, owing to the arrangements made by railway
companies, who ran special trains to tap the outlying parts of every
district visited. Advance agentsa hard-working band, many of whom
were well-to-do volunteersprepared the way in every detail for the
progress of both the Canadians and ourselves, and local residents
placed every possible facility at our disposal.
Never in the history of religious revivals in England has anything
been known to equal the whole-souled enthusiasm with which the new
evangel of Duty was welcomed as the basis of our twentieth-century
national life. The facts that the Canadian preachers were rarely seen
apart, and that the teaching of each was identical with that of the
other, combined with the general knowledge that one represented the
Church of England and the other a great Nonconformist body; these
things divested the pilgrimage of any suggestion of denominationalism,
and lent it the same urgent strength of appeal for members of all
sects, and members of none. This seems natural enough to us now, ours
being a Christian country. But it was regarded then as a wonderful
testimony to the virtue of the new teaching, because at that time
sectarian differences, animosities even, were very clearly marked, and
led far more naturally to opposition and hostility between the
representatives of different denominations than to anything approaching
united effort in a common cause.
It was during the day we spent in York that chance led to my
witnessing an incident which greatly affected me. My relations with my
chief, John Crondall, were not such as to call for the observance of
much ceremony between us. Accordingly, it was with no thought of
interference with his privacy that I blundered into my chief's
sitting-room to announce the number of new members we had enrolled
after the meeting. John Crondall was standing on the hearth-rug, his
right hand was resting on Constance Grey's shoulder, his lips were
touching her forehead.
For an instant I thought of retreat. But the thing seemed too
clumsy. Accordingly, having turned to close the door, with
deliberation, I advanced into the room with some awkward remark about
having thought my chief was alone, and produced my figures of the
enrolment of new members. After a few moments Constance left us,
referring to some errand she had in view. I did not look at her, and
John Crondall plunged at once into working talk. As for me, I was
acutely conscious that I had seen Crondall kiss Constance; but my chief
made no sign to show me whether or not he was aware that I had seen
Although I thought I had accustomed myself to the idea of these two
being predestined mates, I realized now that no amount of reasoning
would ever really reconcile me to the practical outworking of the idea.
Of course, my feeling about it would be described as jealousy pure and
simple. Perhaps it was; but I cherish the idea that it was some more
kindly shade of feeling. I know it brought no hint of resentment or
weakening in my affection for John Crondall; and most assuredly I
harboured no unkind thought of Constance. But I loved her; every pulse
in me throbbed love and longing at her approach. Again and again I had
demonstrated to myself my own unworthiness of such a woman; the natural
affinity between Constance and Crondall. Yet now, the sight of that
kiss was as the sound of a knell in my heart; it filled me with an
aching lament for the death ofof something which had still lived in
me, whether admitted or not, till then.
For days after that episode of the kiss I lived in hourly
expectation of a communication from John Crondall. Our relations were
so intimate that I felt certain he would not withhold his confidence
for long. But day succeeded day in our strenuous, hurried life, and no
word came to me from my chief regarding any other thing than our own
work. Indeed, I thought I detected a certain new sternness in John
Crondall's demeanour, an extra rigid concentration upon work, which
carried with it, for me, a suggestion of his being unwilling to meet
one upon any other than the working footing. I was surprised and a
little hurt about this, because of late there had been no reservations
in the confidence with which my chief treated me. Also, I could not see
any possible reason for secrecy in such a matter; it might as well be
told first as last, I thought. And I watched Constance with a brooding
eye for signs she never made, for a confidence which did not come from
either of my friends.
The thing possessed my mind, and must, I fear, have interfered
materially with my work. But after a time the idea came to me that
these two had decided to allow our joint work to take precedence of
their private happiness, and to put aside their own affairs until the
aims of The Citizens had been attained. I recalled certain
little indications I myself had received from Constance before John
Crondall's return from South Africa, to the effect that personal
feeling could have no great weight with her, while our national fate
hung in the balance. And, by dulling the edge of my expectancy, this
conclusion somehow eased the ache which had possessed me since the day
of the kiss to which chance had made me a witness. But it did not
altogether explain to me the new reserve, the hint of stiffness in John
Crondall's manner; and, rightly or wrongly, I knew when I took
Constance's hand in mine, or met the gaze of her shining eyes, that I
did so as a devout lover, and not merely as a friend.
XI. THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE
Through no disturbance of my soul
Or strong compunction in me wrought,
I supplicate for thy controul;
But in the quietness of thought:
Me this unchartered freedom tires;
I feel the weight of chance desires:
My hopes no more must change their name;
I long for a repose that ever is the same.
Ode to Duty.
From the first, the courtesy of the Press was securely enlisted in
The Citizens' favour by John Crondall. For many months the
Standard, now firmly established as the principal organ of the
reform movement, devoted an entire page each day to the progress of our
campaign and the pilgrimage of our forerunnersthe Canadian preachers.
John Crondall had gone thoroughly into the matter at the beginning with
the editor of this journal, and the key-note thus given was taken by
the Press of the whole country.
The essence of our treatment by the newspapers lay in their careful
avoidance of all matter which would be likely to earn for the movement
the hostility of Germany, or of the officers in command of the German
forces in England. Our language took on a new and special meaning in
the columns of the newspapers, where reports of our campaign were
concerned. Such adjectives as social, moral, and the like were made
to cover quite special meanings, as applied to the organization of
The Citizens. So ably was all this done, that the German
authorities regarded the whole movement as social and domestic, with a
direct bearing upon the General Election, perhaps, but none whatever
upon international politics or Anglo-German relations.
In Elberfeld's ponderous history we are given the text of a despatch
to the Kaiser in which General Baron von Füchter assured his Imperial
master that any interference with The Citizens and their
meetings would be gratuitous and impolitic:
Their aims being purely social and domestic, and those of a
quasi-religious Friendly Society, resembling something between their
'Band of Hope' and their 'Antediluvian Buffaloes.' The English have a
passion for this kind of child's play, and are absurdly impatient of
official surveillance. Their incorrigible sentimentality is soothed by
such movements as those of the Canadian preachers and The Citizens
; but even the rudiments of discipline or efficient coördination are
lacking among them. Combination against us would be impossible for
them, for this is a country of individualists, among whom the matter of
obligations to the State is absolutely not recognized. There is no
trace of military feeling among the people, and in my opinion the
invasion might safely have been attempted five, if not ten years,
before it was. The absence of any note of resentment in their
newspapers against our occupation has been quite marked since their
preoccupation with the Canadian preachers and The Citizens. The
people accept it in the most matter-of-course manner, and are already
entirely absorbed once more in their own affairs, and even in their
sports. British courage and independence have been no more than a myth
for many years pasta bubble which your Majesty's triumphantly
successful policy has burst for ever.
Another important feature, alike of our campaign and the pilgrimage
of the preachers, was their positively non-party and non-sectarian
character. John Crondall had been firm upon this point from the
beginning. I remember his saying at the first meeting of the executive
of The Citizens:
Our party government, party conflict, here in England, have sapped
the vitality of the British Empire long enough. I believe the invasion
has scotched the thing, and we must be very careful to do nothing that
might help to bring it to life again. A Radical, as such, is neither
better nor worse than a Conservative. It does not matter two pins what
becomes of the Conservative organization, or the Liberal party, as
parties. I should be delighted never to hear of either again. Our
business is the Empire's business; and we want the people of the Empire
with usthe whole lot of themas one solid party.
Accordingly, no mention of any political party was ever heard at our
meetings. We made no appeal to any given section of the community, but
only to the British public as a whole. We aimed at showing that there
could be no division in national affairs, save the division which
separates citizens and patriots from men worthy of neither name. And
that is why Maurice Hall, in his famous British Renaissance, was
able to write that:
The General Elections of the invasion year were practically
directed and decided by two forces: the influence of The Citizens
and the influence of the Canadian preachers' Duty teaching. Political
opinions and traditions, as previously understood, played no part
Of course, it seems natural enough now that the British public
should be united in matters of national and imperial import; but those
whose memories are long enough will bear me out in saying that in
previous elections nine voters in ten had been guided, not by any
question of the needs of the country or the Empire, but by their
support of this party or of that, of this colour or of that. Our
politicians had strenuously supported the preposterous faction system,
and fanned party rivalry in every way, because they recognized that it
gave them personal power and aggrandizement, which they had long placed
before any consideration of the common weal. By this they had brought
shame and disaster upon the nation, in precisely the same manner that
the same results had been produced by the same means, when these were
used by the oligarchs of the Dutch Republic, prior to the downfall of
Indeed, for some time before the invasion our politicians might have
been supposed to be modelling their lives and policy entirely upon
those of the Dutch Republic in the eighteenth century; particularly
with regard to their mercenary spoliation of the nation's defence
forces, and their insane pertinacity in clinging to the policy of
cheapness, which killed both the manufacturing and the agricultural
industries of the country, by allowing other properly protected nations
to oust our producers from all foreign markets, and to swamp our home
markets with their surplus stocks. Down to the minutest detail, the
same causes and actions had produced the same results a century earlier
in the Netherlands; and even as, first, King William of Prussia, and
then revolutionary France, had devastated the Netherlands, so had the
Kaiser's legions overrun England. It was not for lack of warning that
our politicians had blindly followed so fatal a lead. The Destroyers
were still being warned most urgently at the very time of the invasion
by public speakers, and in such lucid works as Ellis Barker's The
Rise and Decline of the Netherlands.
In spite of the emphatically non-party character of The Citizens'
campaign, John Crondall kept in close touch throughout with all his
political friends, and very many members of Parliament were among our
leading workers. My chief's idea was that, when the elections drew
near, we should cease to map out our movements in accordance with those
of the Canadian preachers, and allow them to be guided by the
exigencies of the electoral campaign; bringing all our influence to
bear wherever we saw weakness in the cause of patriotism and reform.
Already we had arrangements made for leading members of The
Citizens to address meetings throughout the elections at a good
many centres. But, before the electioneering had gone far, it became
evident that more had already been accomplished than we supposed.
Candidates who came before their constituents with any kind of party
programme were either angrily howled down or contemptuously ignored.
Old supporters of The Destroyers, who ventured upon temporizing
tactics, were peremptorily faced with demands for straight-out
declarations of policy upon the single issue of patriotic reform and
duty to the State. With a single exception, the actual members of the
Cabinet in The Destroyers' Administration refrained from any attempt
to secure reëlection.
Such an electoral campaign had never before been known in England.
Candidates who, even inadvertently, used such words as Conservative,
Radical, or Liberal, were hissed into silence. Even the word
Labour was taboo, so far as it referred to any political party.
Duty, Patriotism, Defence, Citizenship, United Empire,
British Federation, and, again, ringing loudly above all other cries,
Dutythose were the watchwords and the platforms of the invasion
year elections. The candidate who promised relief from taxation was
laughed at. The candidate who promised legislation directed toward the
citizen's defence of the citizen's hearth and home, was cheered to the
The one member of The Destroyers' Administration who sought
reëlection, found it well to assert the claims of his youth by making a
public recantation of all his previously expressed views and policy,
and seeking to outdo every one else in the direction of patriotic
reform. Though he gulled nobody, he was listened to good-humouredly,
and defeated with great ease by Abel Winchester, the Australian, who
saw years of work before him, in conjunction with Forbes Thompson, in
the supervision of village rifle corps throughout the country.
In many ways the country had never known a Parliamentary election so
constructive; in one respect it was absolutely destructive. It
destroyed all previously existing political parties. No single member
was returned as the representative of a previously existing party. The
voters of Britain had refused to consider any other than the one issue
of patriotic reform: the all-British policy, as it was called; and the
consequence was, that when Parliament assembled it was found that the
House of Commons could no longer boast possession of an Opposition.
The members of that assembly had been sent to St. Stephens to busy
themselves, in unison, with the accomplishment of a common end; and if
one among them should waste the time of the House by any form of
obstruction, he could only do so by breaking the pledges upon the
strength of which he had been elected. This fact was clearly set forth
in the Speech from the Throne, delivered by the King in person. The
business of Parliament was in full swing before its second sitting was
far advanced. Though then an aged man, the famous statesman to whom the
King had entrusted the task of forming a new Cabinet bore himself with
the vigour of early manhood, and no Prime Minister had ever faced
Parliament with so great a driving power behind him of unity,
confidence, and national sympathy. The fact that for years his name had
been most prominently associated with every movement making for unity
within the Empire; that he had striven valiantly for many years against
the anti-British forces of disintegration; this was admitted to augur
well for the success of the Conference of Colonial representatives then
holding its first sitting in historic Westminster Hall.
Meantime, the patriotic enthusiasm of the general public seemed to
have been greatly heightened by the result of the general elections. By
common consent a note of caution, of warning, took the place of the
stirring note of appeal and stimulation which had formerly
characterized every public address delivered under the auspices of
The Citizens. Almost without invitation now the cream of the
country's manhood flocked into our travelling headquarters for
enrolment on the roster of The Citizens; and: Hasten
slowlyand silently, became John Crondall's counsel to all our
The effect upon the whole public of this counsel of caution and
restraint was one of the most remarkable features of that period; and
it showed, more clearly, I think, than anything else, the amazing depth
and strength of the influence exerted by the Canadian preacher's Duty
teaching. Our relations with the Power to which we were in effect a
people in vassalage, and payers of tribute, demanded at this stage the
exercise of the most cautious restraint; and finely the people
responded to this demand. In his History of the Revival, Charles
Corbett says, with good reason:
It was the time of waiting, of cautious preparation, of enthusiasm
restrained and harnessed to prudence, which must really be regarded as
the probationary era of the Revival. It is in no sense a depreciation
of the incalculable value of the work done by the Canadian apostles of
the new faith, to say that their splendid efforts might well have
proved of no more than transitory effect, but for that stern, silent
period of repression, of rigid, self-administered discipline, which
followed the access to office of the first Free Government. That
period may be regarded as the crucible in which British Christianity
was tested and proven; in which the steel of the new patriotism was
tempered and hardened to invincible durability. The Canadian preachers
awakened the people; The Citizens set them their task; the
period of waiting schooled them in the spirit of the twentieth century,
the key-note of which is discipline, the meaning of which is Duty.
 This title, applied by the Prince of Wales in a speech
at the Guildhall to the first Parliament which met without an
Opposition, remained in use for a number of years afterwards.
I do not regard that as a statement of more than the truth; and I do
not think it would be easy to overrate, either the value of the period
or the excellence of the response to the demand it made upon them. The
only dissatisfied folk were the publicans and the theatre and
music-hall lessees. The special journals which represented the
interests of this classcaterers for public amusement and public
dissipationwere full of covert raillery against what they called the
new Puritanism. Their raillery was no more than covert, however; the
spirit of the time was too strong to permit more than that, and I do
not think it produced any effect worth mentioning.
Here again our difficulties proved real blessings in disguise. The
burden of invasion taxation was heavy; all classes felt the monetary
pinch of it, apart altogether from the humiliation of the German
occupation; and this helped very materially in the development of
common sense ideals regarding economy and simple living. Not for
nothing had John Crondall called the Canadian preachers the mouthpiece
of the hour. One saw very plainly, in every walk of life, a steadily
growing love of sobriety. The thing was perhaps most immediately
noticeable in the matter of the liquor traffic. Throughout the country,
those public-houses and hotels which were in reality only
drinking-shops were being closed up by the score, or converted into
other sorts of business premises, for lack of custom in their old
misery-breeding trade. The consumption of spirits, and of all the more
expensive wines, decreased enormously. It is true there was a slight
increase in the consumption of cider, and the falling off of beer sales
was slight. But this was because a large number of people, who had been
in the habit of taking far less wholesome and more costly beverages,
now made use of both beer and cider. It was not at all evidence that
the consumption of alcohol among the poorer classes maintained its old
level. The sales of gin, for example, fell to less than half the
amounts used in the years before the invasion.
And this was no more than one aspect of the great national progress
toward realization of the ideals of Duty and simple living.
Extravagance of every sort became, not merely unpopular, but hated and
despised, as evidence of unpatriotic feeling. In this, I think, the
women of England deserve the greater meed of gratitude and respect. The
change they wrought in domestic economy was not less than wonderful
when one realizes how speedily it was brought about, and how great was
the change. For in the years immediately preceding the invasion the
women had been sad offenders in this respect, particularly, perhaps, in
their vulgar and ostentatious extravagance in matters of dress. Now,
the placards of the British Commercial Union, exhorting the public to
Buy British Empire Goods only, became out of date almost as soon as
they were printed, their advice being no longer needed.
No more could one see the wives and daughters of England competing
with their unfortunate sisters of the demi-monde in the
extravagance of their attire. One of the first evidences of the effect
of the Canadian preachers' teaching that I can remember was the notable
access of decorum and simplicity in dress which dominated the fashion
of our clothes. In this, as in sundry other matters, I think we were
helped by the unprecedented number of Colonials who began to flock into
England at this time from Canada, South Africa, and Australia. But,
despite the general desire for economy, it is certain that from that
time on the middle-class folk at all events began to wear better
clothes and buy better commodities generallyarticles which lasted
longer, and were better worth using. The reason of this was all a part
of the same teaching, the same general tendency. Shoddy goods,
representing the surplus output of German and American firms, could no
longer be sold in England, however low the prices at which they were
offered; and shopkeepers soon found that they lost standing when they
offered such goods to the public. Thus true economy and true patriotism
were served at one and the same time.
Extravagance in eating, dress, entertainment, and the like, became
that year more disgraceful than drunkenness had been a year before in
the public eye. In the same way we attained to clearer vision and a
saner sense of proportion in very many matters of first-rate social
importance. I remember reading that the market for sixty and seventy
horse-power touring motor-cars had almost ceased to exist, while the
demand for industrial motor-vehicles, and for cars of something under
twenty horse-power, had never been so flourishing.
Before this time we had fallen into incredible extravagance in our
attitude toward all the parasitical occupations, and paid absurd
tributes of respect to many of those who waxed fat upon pandering to
our weaknesses. This passed away now, like a single night's dream, and
incidentally gave rise to a certain amount of complaining from those
who suffered by it. But the public was no more inclined to heed these
complainings than it was to fritter away its time and substance in
drinking-bars or in places of amusement. The famous Middle-class
Music-halls faded quickly into the limbo of forgotten failures, and
the most popular of public performers were thoseand they were not a
fewwho forsook grease-paint for khaki, and posturing on stages for
exercising on rifle-ranges and drill-grounds.
The word Puritanism was still a term of reproach then, by virtue
of its old associations; but, as we see things nowadays, there is room
only for gladness in admitting that the wave of feeling which swept
through the homes of England in the wake of the Canadian preachers,
The Citizens, and the organizers of the village rifle corps, was in
very truth a mighty revival of Puritanism, backed by the newly awakened
twentieth-century spirit of Imperial patriotism, with its recognition
of the duty of loyalty, not alone to country, but to race and Empire.
Yes, it was true Puritanismstern, unfaltering Puritanism; and it came
to England not a day too soon. Without it, we could never have been
purged of our insensate selfishness; without it, the loose
agglomeration of states, then called the British Empire, could never
have been welded into the State; without it, the great events of that
year would have been impossible, and the dominion of the
English-speaking peoples must, ere this, have become no more than a
matter of historical interest.
XII. BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER
Stern lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
The Godhead's most benignant grace;
Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile upon thy face:
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds,
And fragrance in thy footing treads;
Thou dost preserve the Stars from wrong;
And the most ancient Heavens, through thee, are fresh and
Ode to Duty.
I suffered no change so far as Constance Grey's demeanour to me was
concerned; but certainly John Crondall had altered since the day upon
which I had so inopportunely entered his room when Constance was with
him. At times I fancied his change was toward me personally, and I
thought it curiously unlike the man to cherish any sort of unkindness
over an accident. But then, again, at odd times, I watched him with
other men among our now considerable train, and the conclusion was
borne in upon me that the change had nothing to do with me, but was
general in its character. He was more stern, less cheery, and far more
reserved than before.
And this I thought most strange, for it seemed to me that, even
though Constance and my chief might have agreed that nothing like an
engagement between them must come till our work was done, yet the
understanding which could lead to the kiss I had seen was surely
warrant enough for a change of quite another character than this one. I
thought of it whenever I took Constance's hand in greeting her; and I
think my eyes must sometimes have told her what my heart always felt:
that in me, this right to do as Crondall had done would have seemed an
entry into Paradise, let circumstances and conditions be what they
might. And with such a thought I would recall what, to me, would never
be the least of Black Saturday's events: that once Constance Grey had
lain in my armsunconsciously, it was true; and that upon the same
occasion I had kissed her, and known in that moment that never again
could she be as other women for me.
I was often tempted to speak to Constance of the change I saw in
John Crondall, and one day in Carlisle I yielded to the temptation. At
one and the same time I both craved and dreaded definite news of the
understanding between the woman I loved and the man I liked and
respected more than any other. I wanted Constance's confidence; yet I
felt as though my life would be stripped bare by definite knowledge
that she was betrothed. So, moth-like, I hovered about the perilous
subject, with a nervous endeavour to lend natural composure to my
Do you notice any particular change in John Crondall of late? I
asked. And it seemed to me that Constance flushed slightly as she
Change? No. Has he changed?
Well, he does not seem to be nearly so happy as And there I
broke away from a dangerous comparison, and substitutedas he was
Really? But what makes you think that?
I fancy he is much more reservedless frank and more preoccupied;
not so jolly, in fact, as he always was. I have thought so for several
I am sorry, very sorry; and I do hope you are mistaken. Of course
he is overworkedwe all are; but that never hurt him before; and with
things going so splendidlyOh, I hope you are mistaken.
Perhaps so, I said. Certainly I think he has every reason to be
happyto be happy and proud; every reason.
And I stopped at that; but Constance made no sign to me; and I
wondered she did not, for we were very intimate, and she was sweetly
kind to me in those days. Indeed, once when I looked up sharply at her
with a question from some work we were engaged upon, I saw a light in
her beautiful eyes which thrilled my very heart with strange delight.
Her expression had changed instantly, and I told myself I had no sort
of business to be thrilled by a look which was obviously born of
reverie, of thoughts about John Crondall. Such a sweet light of love
her eyes held! I told myself for the hundredth time that no
consideration should ever cloud the happiness of the man who was so
fortunate as to inspire itto have won the heart which looked out
through those shining eyes.
But it must not be supposed that I had much leisure for this sort of
meditation. My feeling for Constance certainly dominated me. Indeed, it
accounted for everything of import in my lifefor my general attitude
of mind and, I make no doubt, for my being where I was and playing the
part I did play in The Citizens' campaign. But our life was not
one that admitted of emotional preoccupation of any sort. We were too
close to the working mechanism of national progress. There never was
more absorbing work than the making and enrolment of Citizens at
such a juncture in the history of one's country.
The spirit of our work, no less than that of the Canadian preachers'
teaching, was actually in the air at that time. It dominated English
life, from the mansions of the great landholders to the cottages of the
field-labourers and the tenements of the factory-hands. It affected
every least detail of the people's lives, and coloured all thought and
action in Englanda process which I am sure was strengthened by the
remarkable growth of Colonial sentiment throughout the country at this
time. The tide of emigration seemed to have been reversed by some
subtle process of nature: the strong ebb of previous years had become a
flow of immigration. Everywhere one met Canadians, Australians, South
Africans, and an unusual number of Anglo-Indians.
We've been doing pretty well of late, said one of the Canadians to
me when I commented to him upon this influx into the Old Country of her
Colonial sons; and I reckon we can most of us spare time to see things
through a bit at Home. The way our folk look at it on the other side is
this: They reckon we've got to worry through this German business
somehow and come out the right way up on the other side, and a good
deal more solid than we went in. We don't reckon there's going to be
any more 'Little Englandism' or Cobdenism after this job's once put
through; and that's a proposition we're mighty keenly interested in,
you see. We put most of our eggs into the Empire basket, away back,
while you people were still busy giving Africa to the Boers, and your
Navy to the dogs, and your markets to Germany, and your trade and
esteem to any old foreigner that happened along with a nest to feather.
I reckon that's why we're most of us here; and maybe that's why we
mostly bring our cartridge-belts along. A New South Wales chap told me
last night you couldn't get up a cricket match aboard a P. and O. or
Orient boat, not for a wagernothing but shooting competitions and the
gentle art of drill. You say 'Shun!' to the next Colonial you meet, and
listen for the click of his heels! Not that we set much store by that
business ourselves, but we learned about the Old Country taste for it
in South Africa, and it's all good practice, anyhow, and good
But, whatever the motives and causes behind their coming, it is
certain that an astonishingly large number of our oversea kinsmen were
arriving in England each week; and I believe every one of them joined
The Citizens. Their presence and the part they played in affairs
had a marked effect upon the spirit of the time. All sorts and
conditions of people, whose thoughts in the past had never strayed far
from their own parishes, now talked familiarly of people, things, and
places Colonial. The idea of our race being one big tribe, though our
homes might be hemispheres apart, seemed to me to take root for the
first time in the minds of the general public at about this period. I
spoke of it to John Crondall, and reminded him how he had urged this
idea upon us years before in Westminster with but indifferent success.
Ah, well, he said, they have come to it of their own accord now;
and that means they'll get a better grip of it than any one could ever
have given them. That's part of our national character, and not a bad
We were heading southward through Lancashire, when the news reached
us of that extension of the British Constitution which first gave us a
really Imperial Parliament. The country received the news with a
deep-seated and sober satisfaction. Perhaps the majority hardly
appreciated at once the full significance of this first great
accomplishment of the Free Government. But the published details showed
the simplest among us that by this act the congeries of scattered
nations we had called the British Empire were now truly welded into an
Imperial State. It showed us that we English, and all those stalwart
kinsmen of ours across the Atlantic and on the far side of the
Pacificnorth, south, east, and west, wherever the old flag flewwere
now actually as well as nominally subjects of one Government, and that
that Government would for the future be composed of men chosen as their
representatives by the people of every country in the Empire; men drawn
together under one historic roof by one firm purposethe service and
administration of a great Imperial State.
As I say, the realization produced deep-seated satisfaction. Of late
we had learned to take things soberly in England; but there was no room
for doubt about the effect of this news upon the public. The events of
the past half-year, the pilgrimage of the Canadian preachers, the new
devotion to Duty (which seemed almost a new religion though it was
actually but an awakening to the religion of our fathers), the influx
among us of Colonial kinsmen, and the campaign of The Citizens;
these things combined to give us a far truer and more keen appreciation
of the news than had been possible before.
Indeed, looking back upon my experience in Fleet Street, I must
suppose the whole thing would have been impossible before. I could
imagine how my Daily Gazette colleagues would have scoffed at
the Imperial Parliament's first executive act, which was the devising
of an Imperial Customs Tariff to give free trade within the Empire, and
complete protection so far as the rest of the world was concerned, with
strictly reciprocatory concessions to such nations as might choose to
offer these to us, and to no others.
Truly Crondall had said that the Canadian preachers accomplished
more than they knew. The sense of duty, individual and national, burned
in England for the first time since Nelson's day: a steady, white
flame. The acceptance by all classes of the community of the Imperial
Parliament's programme of work proved this. The public had been shown
that our duty to the whole Empire, and to our posterity, demanded this
thing. That was enough. Five years before, one year before, the country
had been shown very clearly where its duties lay; and the showing had
not moved five men in a hundred from their blind pursuit of individual
pleasure and individual gain. Army, Navy, Colonies, Imperial
prestigeall might go by the board.
But now, all that was changed. My old friend, Stairs, with Reynolds,
and their following, had given meaning and application to the teaching
of our national chastisement. Religion ruled England once more; and it
was the religion, not of professions and asseverations, but of Duty.
The House of Commons and, more even than our first Free Government, the
Imperial Parliament in Westminster Hall had behind them the absolute
confidence of a united people. If England could have been convinced at
that time that Duty demanded a barefoot pilgrimage to Palestine, I
verily believe Europe would have speedily been dissected by a
thousand-mile column of marching Britishers.
But the Canadian preachers taught a far more practical faith than
that; and, behind them, John Crondall and his workers opened the door
upon a path more urgent and direct than that of any pilgrimage; the
path to be trodden by all British citizens who respected the white
hairs of their fathers, and the innocent trust of their children; the
path of Duty to God and King and Empire; the path for all who could
hear and understand the call of our own blood.
XIII. ONE SUMMER MORNING
To humbler functions, awful Power!
I call thee: I myself commend
Unto thy guidance from this hour;
O, let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;
The confidence of reason give;
And in the light of Truth thy bondman let me live.
Ode to Duty.
Winter rushed past us like a tropical squall that year, and, before
one had noted the beautiful coming of spring, young summer was upon the
land. For me, serving as I did the founder and leader of The
Citizens, life was filled as never before. I had never even dreamed
of a life so compact of far-reaching action, of intimate relation with
I know now that the speed and strenuousness of it was telling upon
all of us. But we did not realize it then. John Crondall seemed
positively tireless. The rest of us had our moments of exhaustion, but
never, I think, of depression. Our work was too finely productive and
too richly rewarded for that. But we were thin, and a little
fine-drawn, like athletes somewhat overtrained.
Published records have analyzed our progress through the country,
the Canadian preachers' and our own; but nothing I have read, or could
tell, gives more than a pale reflection of that triumphal progress, as
we lived it. In our wake, harlots forsook harlotry to learn something
of nursing by doing the rough domestic work of hospitals; famous misers
and money-grubbers gave fortunes to The Citizens' cause, and
peers' sons left country mansions to learn defensive arts, in the
ranks; drunkards left their toping for honest work, and actresses sold
their wardrobes to provide funds for village rifle corps.
There was no light sentiment, no sort of hysteria, at the back of
these miracles. Be it remembered that the streets of English towns had
never been so orderly; public-houses and places of amusement had never
been so empty; churches and chapels had never been one-half so full.
During that year, as the records show, it became the rule in many
places for curates and deacons to hold services outside the churches
and chapels, while packed congregations attended the services held
within. And it was then that, for the first time, we saw parsons
leading the young men of their flocks to the rifle-ranges, and
competing with them there.
The lessons we learned in those days will never, I suppose, seem so
wonderful to any one else as to those of us who had lived a good slice
of our lives before the lessons came; before the need of them was felt
or understood. For God, our Race, and Duty! Conceive the stirring
wonder of the watchword, when it was no more than a month old!
The seasons rushed by us, as I said. But one short conversation
served to mark for me the coming of summer. We had reached the Surrey
hills in our homeward progress toward London. On a Saturday night we
held a huge meeting in Guildford, and very early on Sunday morning I
woke with a curiously insistent desire to be out in the open. Full of
this inclination I rose, dressed, and made my way down to the side
entrance of the hotel, where a few servants were moving about drowsily.
As I passed out under a high archway into the empty, sunny street, with
its clean Sabbath hush, Constance Grey stepped out from the front
entrance to the pavement.
I felt such a longing to be out in the open this morning, she
said, when we had exchanged greeting. It's months since I had a walk
for the walk's sake, and now I mean to climb that hill that we motored
over from Farnhamthe Hog's Back, as they call it.
We both thought it deserved some more beautiful name, when we turned
on its crest and looked back at Guildford in the hollow, shining in
summer morning haze.
Now surely that's King Arthur's Camelot, said Constance.
And then we looked out over the delectable valley toward the towers
of Charterhouse, across the roofs of two most lovable hamlets, from
which blue smoke curled in delicate spirals up from the bed of the
valley, through a nacreous mist, to somewhere near our high level.
We gazed our fill, and I only nodded when Constance murmured:
It's worth a struggle, isn't it?
I knew her thought exactly. It was part of our joint life, of the
cause we both were serving. I had been pointing to some object across
the valley, and as my hand fell it touched Constance's hand, which was
cool and fresh as a flower. Mine was moist and hot. I never was more at
a loss for words. I took her hand in mine and held it. So we stood,
hand in hand, like children, looking out over that lovely English
valley. My heart was all abrim with tenderness; but I had no words. I
had been a good deal moved by the curious instance of telepathic
sympathy or understanding which had brought me from my bed that morning
and led to our meeting.
You have given me so much, taught me so much, Constance, I said at
No, no; I am no teacher, she said. But I do think God has taught
all of us a good deal latelyall our tribeDick.
There was a rare hint of nervousness in her voice; and I felt I knew
the cause. I felt she must be thinking of John Crondall. And yet, if my
life had depended on it, I could not help saying:
It is love that taught me.
Constance drew her hand away gently.
Would not the Canadian preachers say we meant the same thing? she
said. I had my warning; but, though haltingly, the words would come,
Ah, Constance, it is love of you, I meanlove of you. Oh, yes, I
know, I hurried on now. I know. Have no fear of me. I understand. But
it is love of you, Constance, that rules every minute of my life. I
couldn't alter that if I tried; andand I would not alter it if I had
to die for it. Butyou must forgive me. Tell me you do not want me to
stop loving you, Constance. You see, I do not ask any more of you. I
understand. Butlet me go on loving you, dear heart, because that
means everything to me. It has guided me in everything I have done
since that day you came to me in The Mass office. Constance, you
do not really want me to stop loving you?
I was facing her now; kneeling to her, in my mind, though not in
fact. Her head was bowed toward me. Then she raised her glorious eyes,
and gave to me the full tender sweetness of them.
No, Dick, she said, quite firmly, but soft and low; I don't want
you ever to stop loving me.
Whatever else Fate brings or takes from me, I shall never lose the
lovely music of those words. That is mine for ever.
XIV. FOR GOD, OUR RACE, AND DUTY
Soldiers, prepare! Our cause is Heaven's cause;
Soldiers, prepare! Be worthy of our cause:
Prepare to meet our fathers in the sky:
Prepare, O troops that are to fall to-day!
Alfred shall smile, and make his harp rejoice;
The Norman William, and the learned Clerk,
And Lion-Heart, and black-browed Edward, with
His loyal queen shall rise, and welcome us!
We had two other meetings before finally taking train for London;
but virtually our campaign was brought to an end at Guildford. Our
peregrination ended there, but the Canadian preachers continued their
pilgrimage till long afterwards. Scores of rich men were anxious to
finance these expounders of the new teaching, and even to build them
churches. But Stairs and Reynolds were both agreed in wanting no
churches. Their mission was to the public as a whole.
When we returned to our headquarters in London, the membership of
The Citizens stood within a few hundreds of three million and a
half of able-bodied men. And still new members were being sworn in
every day. Some few of these members had contributed as much as five
thousand pounds to our funds. Very many had contributed a fifth of that
sum, and very many more had given in hundreds of pounds. There were
some who gave us pence, and they were very cordially thanked, giving as
they did from the slenderest of purses. There were women who had sold
dresses and jewels for us, hundreds of them; and there were little
children whose pocket-money had helped to swell the armament and
instruction funds. Joseph Farquharson, the well-known coal and iron
magnate, who had been famous for his Little England sentimentsa man
who had boasted of his parochialismmust have learned very much from
the invasion and the teaching of the new movement. He gave one hundred
thousand pounds to The Citizens after John Crondall's first
address in Newcastle.
When Crondall attended the famous Council at the War Office, he did
so as the founder and representative of the most formidable
organization ever known in England. He had no official standing at the
Council: he took his seat there as an unofficial commoner. Yet, in a
sense, he held the defensive strength of Britain in his hand. But
several of the Ministers and officials who formed that Council were
members of our Executive, and our relations with the Government were
already well defined and thoroughly harmonious. It was from the War
Office that we received the bronze badge which was supplied to every
sworn Citizen and bore our watchwordFor God, our Race, and
Duty; and the Government had given substantial aid in the matter of
equipment and instruction. But now John Crondall represented three
million and a half of British men, all sworn to respond instantly to
his call as President of the Executive. And every Citizen had
some trainingwas then receiving some training.
The Canadian preachers waked and inspired the people; we swore them
in, said John Crondall modestly. Their worth is the faith in them,
and their faith spells Duty. That's what makes The Citizens
The grace of God, Stairs called it; and so did many others.
Crondall bowed to that, and added a line from his favourite poet:
Then it's the grace of God in those 'Who are neither children nor
gods, but men in a world of men!' he said.
No wise man has ever doubted, so far as I know, that simple piety,
simple religion, British Christianity, was the motive force at work
behind the whole of the revival movement. Without that foundation, the
enduring results achieved must have been impossible. But this was
entirely unlike any previously known religious revival, in that it
supplied no emotional food whatever. There was no room for
sentimentality, still less for hysteria, in the acceptation of George
Stairs's message from that Stern Daughter of the Voice of God, whose
name is Duty. Tears and protestations were neither sought nor found
among converts to the faith which taught all to be up and doing in
From the records, I know that eight weeks passed after the famous
Council at the War Office before England spoke. When I say that during
that time I acted as my chief's representative in controlling an office
of over ninety clerks (all drilled men and fair shots), besides several
times traversing the length and breadth of the kingdom on special
missions, it will be understood that the period was to me a good deal
more like eight days. During that time, too, I was able to help
Constance Grey in her organization of the women helpers' branch of
The Citizens, in which over nine thousand members were enrolled.
Constance had an executive committee of twenty-five volunteer workers,
who spent money and energy ungrudgingly in helping her.
We kept in close touch with the heads of provincial committees
during the whole of that period, and several times we communicated by
means of printed circular letters, franked gratis for us by the War
Office, with every single Citizen.
Then came the day of the now historic telegram which the Post Office
was authorized to transmit to every sworn Citizen in the
Be ready! 'For God, our Race, and Duty.'
This was signed by John Crondall, and came after some days of
detailed instruction and preparation.
It has been urged by some writers that the Government was at fault
in the matter of its famous declaration of war with Germany. It has
been pointed out that for the sake of a point of etiquette, the
Government had no right to yield a single advantage to an enemy whose
conduct toward us had shown neither mercy nor courtesy. There is a good
deal to be said for this criticism; but, when all is said and done, I
believe that every Englishman is glad at heart that our Government took
this course. I believe it added strength to our fighting arm; I believe
it added weight and consequence to the first blows struck.
Be that as it may, there was no sign of hesitancy or weakness in the
action of the Government when the declaration had once been made; and
it speaks well for the deliberate thoroughness of all preparations
that, twenty-four hours after the declaration, every one of the nine
German garrisons in the kingdom was hemmed in by land and by sea. On
the land side the Germans were besieged by more than three million
armed men. Almost the whole strength of the British Navy was then
concentrated upon the patrolling of our coasts generally, and the
blockading of the German-garrisoned ports particularly. Thirty-six
hours had not passed when the German battle-ships Hohenzollern
and Kaiserin, and the cruisers Elbe and Deutschland, were totally destroyed off Portsmouth and Cardiff respectively;
Britain's only loss at that time being the Corfe Castle, almost
the smallest among the huge flotilla of armed merchantmen which had
been subsidized and fitted out by the Government that year.
I believe all the authorities had admitted that, once it was known
that our declaration had reached Berlin, the British tactics could not
have been excelled for daring, promptitude, and devastating
thoroughness. It is true that Masterman, in his well-known History
of the War, urges that much loss of life might have been spared at
Portsmouth and Devonport if more deliberate and cautious tactics had
been adopted, and the British authorities had been content to achieve
their ends a little less hurriedly. But Masterman is well answered by
the passage in General Hatfield's Introduction to Low's important work,
which tells us that:
The British plan of campaign did not admit of leisurely tactics or
great economy. Britain was striking a blow for freedom, for her very
life. Failure would have meant no ordinary loss, but mere extinction.
The loss of British life in such strongly armed centres as Portsmouth
was very great. It was the price demanded by the immediate end of
Britain's war policy, which was to bring the enemy to terms without the
terrible risks which delay would have represented, for the outlying and
comparatively defenceless portions of our own Empire. When the price is
measured and analyzed in cold blood, the objective should be as
carefully considered. The price may have been high; the result
purchased was marvellous. It should be borne in mind, too, that
Britain's military arm, while unquestionably long and strong (almost
unmanageably so, perhaps), was chiefly composed of what, despite the
excellent instructive routine of The Citizens, must, from the
technical standpoint, be called raw levies. Yet that great citizen
army, by reason of its fine patriotism, was able in less than one
hundred hours from the time of the declaration, to defeat, disarm, and
extinguish as a fighting force some three hundred thousand of the most
perfectly trained troops in the world. That was the immediate objective
of Britain's war policy; or, to be exact, the accomplishment of that in
one week was our object. It was done in four days; and, notwithstanding
the unexpected turn of events afterwards, no military man will ever
doubt that the achievement was worth the price paid. It strengthened
Britain's hand as nothing else could have strengthened it. It gave us
at the outset that unmistakable lead which, in war as in a race, is of
incalculable value to its possessors.
And, the General might have added, as so many other writers have,
that no civilized and thinking men ever went more cheerfully and
bravely to their deaths, or earned more gladly the eternal reward of
Duty accomplished, than did The Citizens, the raw levies, with
their stiffening of regulars, who fell at Portsmouth and Devonport.
They were not perfectly disciplined men, in the professional sense, or
one must suppose they would have paid some heed to General Sir Robert
Calder's repeated orders to retire. But they were British citizens of
as fine a calibre as any Nelson or Wellington knew, and they carried
the Sword of Duty that day into the camp of an enemy who, with all his
skill, had not learned, till it was written in his blood for survivors
to read, that England had awakened from her long sleep. For my part, if
retrospective power were mine, I would not raise a finger to rob those
stern converts of their glorious end.
It is easy to be wise after the event, but no Government could have
foretold the cynical policy adopted by Berlin. No one could have
guessed that the German Government would have said, in effect, that it
was perfectly indifferent to the fate of nearly three hundred thousand
of its own loyal subjects and defenders, and that Britain might starve
or keep them at her own pleasure. After all, the flower of the German
Army was in England, and only a Government to the last degree
desperate, unscrupulous, and cynical could have adopted Germany's
callous attitude at this juncture.
Britain's aim was not at all the annihilation of Germany, but the
freeing of her own soil; and it was natural that our Government should
have acted on the assumption that this could safely be demanded when we
held a great German army captive, by way of hostage. The British aim
was a sound one, and it was attained. That it did not bring about the
results anticipated was due to no fault in our Government, nor even to
any lack of foresight upon their part; but solely to the cynical
rapacity of a ruler whose ambition had made him fey, or of a Court so
far out of touch with the country which supported it as to have lost
its sense of honour.
In the meantime, though saddled with a huge army of prisoners, and
the poorer by her loss of eighteen thousand gallant citizens, Britain
had freed her shores. In an even shorter time than was occupied over
the invasion, the yoke of the invader had been torn in sunder, and not
one armed enemy was left in England. And for our lossesthe shedding
of that British blood partook of the nature of a sacrament; it was
life-giving. By that fiery jet we were baptized again. England had
found herself. Once more His people had been found worthy to bear the
Sword of the Lord. Britain that had slept, was wide-eyed and fearless
again, as in the glorious days which saw the rise of her Empire.
Throughout the land one watchword ran: For God, our Race, and Duty!
We had heard and answered to the poet's call:
Strikefor your altars and your fires;
Strikefor the green graves of your sires;
God, and your native land!
I find it easy to believe and read between the lines of the grim
official record which told us that outside Portsmouth white-haired men
smiled over the graves of their sons, and armed youths were heard
singing triumphant chants while burying their fathers.
Meantime, simple folk in the southern country lanes of Dorset and of
Hampshire (Tarn Regis yokels among them, no doubt) heard the dull,
rumbling thunder of great guns at sea, and the talk ran on naval
XV. SINGLE HEART AND SINGLE SWORD
Yea, though we sinnedand our rulers went from righteousness
Deep in all dishonour though we stained our garment's hem.
. . . . . .
Hold ye the Faiththe Faith our fathers sealed us;
Whoring not with visionsoverwise and overstale.
Except ye pay the Lord
Single heart and single sword,
Of your children in their bondage shall he ask them
The learned German, Professor Elberfeld, has told the world, in
sentences of portentous length and complication, that the petty
trader's instincts which form the most typical characteristic of the
British race came notably to the fore in our treatment of the German
prisoners of war who were held under military surveillance in the
British ports which they had garrisoned.
The learned professor notes with bitter contempt that no wines,
spirits, cigars, or other customary delicacies were supplied to our
prisoners, and that the German officers received very little more than
the rations served to their men. The professor makes no mention of one
or two other pertinent facts in this connection; as, for example, that
none of these customary delicacies were supplied to the British
troops. We may endure his reproaches with the more fortitude, I think,
when we remember that the German Government absolutely ignored our
invitation to send weekly shipments of supplies under a white flag for
the towns they had garrisoned on British soil.
It is known that the officers in command of the German forces in
England had previously maintained a very lavish and luxurious scale of
living; in the same way that, since the invasion of England,
extravagance was said to have reached unparallelled heights in Germany
itself. But the British Government which had reached depletion of our
own supplies, by assisting our prisoners to maintain a luxurious scale
of living while held as hostages, would certainly have forfeited the
confidence of the public, and justly so. Upon the whole, it is safe to
say that German sneers at British parsimony and Puritanism may fairly
be accepted as tribute, and, as such, need in no sense be resented.
As soon as we received Germany's cynical reply to Britain's demand
for a complete withdrawal of all the invasion claims, it became evident
that the war was to be a prolonged and bitter one, and that no further
purpose could be served by the original British plan of campaign,
which, as its object had been the freeing of our own soil, had been
based on the assumption that the defeat and capture of the invader's
forces would be sufficient. Troops had to be despatched at once to
South Africa, where German overlordship had aroused the combined
opposition of the Boers and the British. This opposition burst at once
into open hostility immediately the news of England's declaration of
war reached South Africa. While the Boers and the British, united in a
common cause, were carrying war into German Southwest Africa, troops
from German East Africa were said to have landed in Delagoa Bay, and to
be advancing southward.
In all this, the British cause was well served by Germany's initial
blunder; by the huge mistake which cost her four-fifths of her naval
strength at a blow. This mistake in Germany's policy was distinctly
traceable to one cause: the national arrogance which, since the
invasion, had approached near to madness; which had now led Germany
into contemptuously underrating the striking power still remaining in
the British Navy. It was true that, prior to the invasion, our Navy had
been consistently starved and impoverished by The Destroyers. It was
that, of course, which had first earned them their title. But Germany
herself, when she struck her great blow at England, hardly wounded the
British Navy at all. Her cunning had drawn our ships into a
Mediterranean impasse when they were sadly needed upon our coasts, and
her strategy had actually destroyed one British line of battle-ship,
one cruiser, and two gunboats. But that was the whole extent of the
naval damage inflicted by her at the time of the invasion. But the
lesson she gave at the same time was of incalculable value to us. The
ships she destroyed had been manned by practically untrained,
short-handed crews, hurriedly rushed out of Portsmouth barracks. Yet
German arrogance positively inspired Berlin with the impression that
the Navies of the two countries had tried conclusions, and that our
fleet had been proved practically ineffective.
Prior to the invasion our Navy had indeed reached a low ebb. Living
always in barracks, under the pernicious system gradually forced upon
the country by The Destroyers in the name of economy, our bluejackets
had fallen steadily from their one high standard of discipline and
efficiency into an incompetent, sullen, half-mutinous state, due solely
to the criminal parsimony and destructive neglect of an Administration
which aimed at peace at any price, and adopted, of all means, the
measures most calculated to provoke foreign attack. But, since the
invasion, an indescribable spirit of emulation, a veritable fury of
endeavour, had welded the British fleet into a formidable state of
First The Destroyers, actuated by a combination of panic and
remorse, and then the first Free Government, representing the convinced
feeling of the public, had lavished liberality upon the Navy since the
invasion. Increased pay, newly awakened patriotism, the general change
in the spirit of the age, all had combined to fill the Admiralty
recruiting offices with applicants. Almost all our ships had been kept
practically continuously at sea. The Destroyers' murderous policy in
naval matters had been completely reversed, and our fleet was served by
a great flotilla of magnificently armed leviathans of the Mercantile
Marine, including two of the fastest steamships in the world, all
subsidized by Government.
We know now that exact official records of these facts were filed in
the Intelligence Department at Berlin. But German arrogance prohibited
their right comprehension, and Britain's declaration of war was
instantly followed by an Imperial order which, in effect, divided the
available strength of the German Navy into eight fleets, and despatched
these to eight of the nine British ports garrisoned by German troops,
with orders of almost childish simplicity. These ports were to be
taken, and British insurrection crushed, ashore and afloat.
If the German Navy had been free of its Imperial Commander-in-Chief,
and of the insensate arrogance of his entourage, it could have struck a
terrible blow at the British Empire, while almost the whole fighting
strength of our Navy was concentrated upon the defence of England. As
it was, this fine opportunity was flung aside, and with it the greater
part of Germany's fleet. Divided into eight small squadrons, their
ships were at the mercy of our concentrated striking force. Our men
fell upon them with a Berserker fury born of humiliation silently
endured, and followed by eight or nine months of the finest sort of
sea-training which could possibly be devised.
The few crippled ships of the German fleet which survived those
terrible North Sea and Channel engagements must have borne with them
into their home waters a bitter lesson to the ruler whom they left, so
far as effective striking power was concerned, without a Navy.
Here, again, critics have said that our tactics showed an
extravagant disregard of cost, both as to men and material. But here
also the hostile critics overlook various vital considerations. The
destruction of Germany's sea-striking power at this juncture was worth
literally anything that Britain could give; not perhaps in England's
immediate interest, but in the interests of the Empire, without which
England would occupy but a very insignificant place among the powers of
Then, too, the moral of our bluejackets has to be considered. Since
the invasion and the sinking of the Dreadnought, ours had become
a Navy of Berserkers. The Duty teaching, coming after the invasion,
made running fire of our men's blood. They fought their ships as
Nelson's men fought theirs, and with the same invincible success. It
was said the Terrible's men positively courted the penalty of
mutiny in time of war by refusing to turn in, in watches, after
forty-two hours of continuous fighting. There remained work to be done,
and the Terribles refused to leave it undone.
The commander who had lessened the weight of the blow struck by
Britain's Navy, in the interests of prudence or economy, would have
shown himself blind to the significance of the new spirit with which
England's awakening had endowed her sons; the stern spirit of the
twentieth-century faith which gave us for watchword, For God, our
Race, and Duty!
With the major portion of our Navy still in fighting trim, and
twenty-five-knot liners speeding southward laden with British troops,
it speedily became evident that Germany's chance of landing further
troops in South Africa was hardly worth serious consideration, now that
her naval power was gone. On the other hand, it was known that the
enemy had already massed great bodies of troops in East and Southwest
Africa, and it became the immediate business of the British Admiralty
to see that German oversea communications should be cut off.
Further, we had to face ominous news of German preparations for
aggression in the Pacific and in the near East, with persistent rumours
of a hurriedly aggressive alliance with Russia for action in the Far
East. The attitude of Berlin itself was amazingly cynical, as it had
been from the very time of the unprovoked invasion of our shores. In
effect, the Kaiser said:
You hold a German Army as prisoners of war, and you have destroyed
my Navy; but you dare not invade my territory, and I defy you to hit
upon any other means of enforcing your demands. You can do nothing
The British demands, made directly the German troops in England were
in our hands, were, briefly, for the complete withdrawal of the whole
of claims enforced by Germany at the time of the invasion.
That, then, was the position when I returned to our London
headquarters from a journey I had undertaken for my chief in connection
with the work of drafting large numbers of Citizens back from
the camps into private life. Various questions had to be placed in
writing before every Citizen as to his attitude in the matter of
possible future calls made upon his services. I had only heard of seven
cases of men physically fit failing to express perfect readiness to
respond to any future call for active service at home or abroad, in
case of British need. Here was a shield of which I knew both sides
well. The thing impressed me more than I can tell, or most folk would
understand nowadays. I knew so well how the god of business (which
served to cover all individual pursuit of money or pleasure) would have
been invoked to prove the utter impracticability of thisone short
year before. I looked back toward my Fleet Street days, and I thanked
God for the awakening of England, which had included my own awakening.
My return to London was a matter of considerable personal interest
to me, for Constance Grey was there, having been recalled by John
Crondall from her active superintendence of nursing at Portsmouth.
XVI. HANDS ACROSS THE SEA
There is a Pride whose Father is Understanding, whose Mother is
Humility, whose Business is the Recognition and Discharge of
That is the true Pride.MERROW'S Essays of the Time.
I was impatient to reach London, but I should have been far more
impatient if I had known that Constance Grey stood waiting to meet me
on the arrival platform at Waterloo.
They told me your train at the office, she said, as I took one of
her hands in both of mine, and I could not resist coming to give you
the news. Don't say you have had it!
No, I told her. My best news is that Constance has come to meet
me, and that I am alive to appreciate the fact very keenly. Another
trifling item is that, so far as I can tell, practically every member
of The Citizens would respond to-morrow to a call for active
service in Timbuctooif the call came. I tell you, Constance, this is
not reform, it's revolution that has swept over England. We call our
membership three and a half millions; it's fifty millions, really.
They're all Citizens, every mother's son of them; and every
We were in a cab now.
But what about my news? said Constance.
Yes, tell me, do. And isn't it magnificent about the Navy? How
about those 'Terrible' fellows? Constance, do you realize how all this
must strike a man who was scribbling and fiddling about disarmament a
year ago? And do you realize who gave that man decent sanity?
Hush! It wasn't a person, it was a force; it was the revolution
that brought the change.
Ah, well, God bless you, Constance! I wish you'd give me the news.
I will, directly you give me a chance to get in a word. Well, John
is at Westminster, in consultation with the Foreign Office people, and
nothing definite has been done yet; but the great point is, to my
thinking, that the offer should ever have been made.
Why, Constance, whatever has bewitched you? I never knew you to
begin at the end of a thing before.
And indeed it was unlike Constance Grey. She was in high spirits,
and somehow this little touch of illogical weakness in her struck me as
being very charming. She laughed, and said it was due to my persistent
interruptions. And then she gave me the news.
America has offered to join hands with us.
Yes. The most generous sort of defensive alliance, practically
without conditions, and'as long as Great Britain's present need
endures.' Isn't it splendid? John Crondall regards it as the biggest
thing that has happened; but he is all against accepting the offer.
There had been vague rumours at the time of the invasion, and again,
of a more pointed sort, when Britain declared war. But every one had
said that the pro-German party and the ultra-American party were far
too strong in the United States to permit of anything beyond
expressions of good-will. But now, as I gathered from the copy of the
Evening Standard which Constance gave me:
The heart of the American people has been deeply stirred by two
considerations: Germany's unwarrantable insolence and arrogance, and
Britain's magnificent display of patriotism, ashore and afloat, in
fighting for her independence. The patriotic struggle for
independencethat is what has moved the American people to
forgetfulness of all jealousies and rivalries. The rather indiscreet
efforts of the German sections of the American public have undoubtedly
hastened this offer, and made it more generous and unqualified. The
suggestion that any foreign people could hector them out of generosity
to the nation from whose loins they sprang, finally decided the
American public; and it is fair to say that the President's offer of
alliance is an offer from the American people to the British people.
But how about the Monroe Doctrine? I said to Constance, after
running through the two-column telegram from Washington, of which this
passage formed part.
I don't know about that; but you see, Dick, this thing clearly
comes from the American people, not her politicians and diplomatists
only. That is what gives it its tremendous importance, I think.
Yes; to be sure. And why does John Crondall want the offer
Oh, he hadn't time to explain to me; but he said something about
its being necessary for the new Britain to prove herself, first; our
own unity and strength. 'We must prove our own Imperial British
alliance first,' he said.
I see; yes, I think I see that. But it is great news, as you
How much John Crondall's view had to do with the Government's
decision will never be known, but we know that England's deeply
grateful Message pointed out that, in the opinion of his Majesty's
Imperial Government, the most desirable basis for an alliance between
two great nations was one of equality and mutual respect. While in the
present case there could be nothing lacking in the affection and esteem
in which Great Britain held the United States, yet the equality could
hardly be held proven while the former Power was still at war with a
nation which had invaded its territory. The Message expressed very
feelingly the deep sense of grateful appreciation which animated his
Majesty's Imperial Government and the British people, which would
render unforgettable in this country the generous magnanimity of the
American nation. And, finally, the Message expressed the hope, which
was certainly felt by the entire public, that those happier
circumstances which should equalize the footing of the two nations in
the matter of an alliance would speedily come about.
To my thinking, our official records contain no document more moving
or more worthy of a great nation than that Message, which, as has so
frequently been pointed out, was in actual truth a Message from the
people of one nation to the people of another nationfrom the heart of
one country to the heart of another country. The Message of thanks, no
less than the generous offer itself, was an assertion of blood-kinship,
an appeal to first principles, a revelation of the underlying racial
and traditional tie which binds two great peoples together through and
beneath the whole stiff robe of artificial differences which separated
them upon the surface and in the world's eyes.
The offer stands for all time a monument to the frank generosity and
humanity of the American people. And in the hearts of both peoples
there is, in my belief, another monument to certain sturdy qualities
which have gone to the making and cementing of the British Empire. The
shape that monument takes is remembrance of the Message in which that
kindly offer was for the time declined.
The declining of the American offer has been called the expression
of a nation's pride. It was that, incidentally. First and foremostand
this, I think, is the point which should never be forgottenit was the
expression of a nation's true humility. Pride we had always with us in
England, of the right sort and the wrong sort; of the sort that adds to
a people's stature, and sometimes, of late, of the gross and senseless
sort that leads a people into decadence. But in the past year we had
learned to know and cherish that true pride which has its foundations
in the rock of Duty, and is buttressed all about and crowned by that
quality which St. Peter said earned the grace of Godhumility.
For my part, I see in that Message the ripe fruit of the Canadian
preachers' teaching; the crux and essence of the simple faith which
came to be called British Christianity. I think the spirit of it was
the spirit of the general revival in England that came to us with the
Canadian preachers; even as so much other help, spiritual and material,
came to us from our kinsmen of the greater Britain overseas, which,
before that time, we had never truly recognized as actually part, and
by far the greater part, of our State.
XVII. THE PENALTY
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
Cannot be truly followed.
It would be distinctly a work of supererogation for me to attempt to
tell the story of the Anglo-German warof all modern wars the most
remarkable in some ways, and certainly the war which has been most
exhaustively treated by modern historians. A. Low says in the
concluding chapter of his fine history:
Putting aside the fighting in South Africa, and after the initial
destruction of both the German Navy and its Army in England (as
effective forces), we must revert to the wars of more than a century
ago to find parallels for this remarkable conflict. There can be no
doubt that at the time of the invasion of England Germany's effective
fighting strength was enormous. Its growth had been very rapid; its
decline must be dated from General von Füchter's occupation of London
on Black Saturday.
At that moment everything appeared to bode well for the realization
of the Emperor's ambition to be Dictator of Europe, as the ruler of by
far the greatest Power in the Old World. From that moment the German
people, but more particularly the German official and governing class,
and her naval and military men, would appear to have imbibed of some
distillation of their Emperor's exaggerated pride, and found it too
heady an elixir for their sanity. It would ill become us to dilate at
length upon the extremes into which their arrogance and luxuriousness
led them. With regard, at all events, to the luxury and indulgence, we
ourselves had been very far from guiltless. But it may be that our
extravagance was less deadly, for the reason that it was of slower
growth. Certain it is, that before ever an English shot was fired the
fighting strength of Germany waned rapidly from the period of the
invasion. By some writers this has been attributed to the insidious
spread of Socialism. But it must be remembered that the deterioration
was far more notable in the higher than in the lower walks of life; and
most of all it was notable among the naval and military official
nobility, who swore loudest by lineage and the divine privileges of
When the German army of occupation in England was disarmed,
prisoners in barracks and camps, and the German Navy had, to all
intents and purposes, been destroyed, the Imperial German Government
adopted the extraordinary course of simply defying England to strike
further blows. Germany practically ceased to fight (no reinforcements
were ever landed in South Africa, and the German troops already engaged
there had no other choice than to continue fighting, though left
entirely without Imperial backing), but emphatically refused to
consider the extremely moderate terms offered by Britain, which, at
that time, did not even include an indemnity. But this extraordinary
policy was not so purely callous and cynical as was supposed. Like most
things in this world, it had its different component parts. There was
the cynical arrogance of the Prussian Court upon the one side; but upon
the other side there was the ominous disaffection of the lesser German
States, and the rampant, angry Socialism of the lower and middle
classes throughout the Empire, which had become steadily more and more
virulent from the time of the reactionary elections of the early part
of 1907, in which the Socialists felt that they had been tricked by the
Court party. In reality Germany had two mouthpieces. The Court defied
Britain; the people refused to back that defiance with action.
For a brief summary of the causes leading up to the strange
half-year which followed our receipt of the American offer of
assistance, I think we have nothing more lucid than this passage of
Low's important work. That the forces at work in Germany, which he
described from the vantage-point of a later date, were pretty clearly
understood, even at that time, by our Government, is proved, I think,
by the tactics we adopted throughout that troublous period.
In South Africa our troops, though amply strong, never adopted an
aggressive line. They defended our frontiers, and that defence led to
some heavy fighting. But, after the first outbreak of hostilities, our
men never carried the war into the enemy's camp. There was a
considerable party in the House of Commons which favoured an actively
aggressive policy in the matter of seizing the Mediterranean
strongholds ceded to Germany at the time of the invasion. It was even
suggested that we should land a great Citizen army in Germany
and enforce our demands at the point of the sword.
In this John Crondall rendered good service to the Government by
absolutely refusing to allow his name to be used in calling out The
Citizens for such a purpose. But, in any case, wiser counsels
prevailed without much difficulty. There was never any real danger of
our returning to the bad old days of a divided Parliament. The gospel
of Duty taught by the Canadian preachers, and the stern sentiment
behind The Citizens' watchword, had far too strong a hold upon
the country for that.
Accordingly, the Government policy had free play. No other policy
could have been more effective, more humane, or more truly direct and
economical. In effect, the outworking of it meant a strictly defensive
attitude in Africa, and in the north a naval siege of Germany.
Germany had no Navy to attack, and, because they believed England
would never risk landing an army in Germany, the purblind camarilla who
stood between the Emperor's arrogance and the realities of life assumed
that England would be powerless to carry hostilities further. Or if the
Imperial Court did not actually believe this, it was ostensibly the
Government theory, the poor sop they flung to a disaffected people
while filling their official organs with news of wonderful successes
achieved by the German forces in South Africa.
But within three months our Navy had taught the German people that
the truth lay in quite another direction. The whole strength of the
British Navy which could be spared from southern and eastern bases was
concentrated now upon the task of blocking Germany's oversea trade.
Practically no loss of life was involved, but day by day the
ocean-going vessels of Germany's mercantile marine were being
transferred to the British flag. The great oversea carrying trade,
whose growth had been the pride of Germany, was absolutely and wholly
destroyed during that half-year. The destruction of her export trade
spelt ruin for Germany's most important industries; but it was the
cutting off of her imports which finally robbed even the German Emperor
of the power to shut his eyes any longer to the fact that his Empire
had in reality ceased to exist.
The actual overthrow of monarchical government in Prussia was not
accomplished without scenes of excess and violence in the capital. But,
in justice to the German people as a whole, it should be remembered
that the revolution was carried out at remarkably small cost; that the
people displayed wonderful patience and self-control, in circumstances
of maddening difficulty, which were aggravated at every turn by the
Emperor's arbitrary edicts and arrogant obtrusion of his personal will,
and by the insolence of the official class. One must remember that for
several decades Germany had been essentially an industrial country, and
that a very large proportion of her population were at once strongly
imbued with Socialistic theories, and wholly dependent upon industrial
activity. Bearing these things in mind, one is moved to wonder that the
German people could have endured so long as they did the practically
despotic sway of a Ruler who, in the gratification of his own insensate
pride, allowed their country to be laid waste by the stoppage of trade,
and their homes to be devastated by the famine of an unemployed people
whose communications with the rest of the world were completely
That such a ruler and such a Court should have met with no worse
fate than deposition, exile, and dispersal is something of a tribute to
the temperate character of the Teutonic race. Bavaria, Württemberg,
Saxony, and the southern Grand Duchies elected to retain their
independent forms of government under hereditary rule; and to this no
objection was raised by the new Prussian Republic, in which all but one
of the northern principalities were incorporated.
Within, forty-eight hours of the election of Dr. Carl Möller to the
Presidency of the new Republic, hostilities ceased between Great
Britain and Germany, and three weeks later the Peace was signed in
London and Berlin. Even hostile critics have admitted that the British
terms were not ungenerous. The war was the result of Germany's
unprovoked invasion of our shores. The British terms were, in lieu of
indemnity, the cession of all German possessions in the African
continent to the British Crown, unreservedly. For the rest, Britain
demanded no more than a complete and unqualified withdrawal of all
German claims and pretensions in the matter of the Peace terms enforced
after the invasion by General Baron von Füchter, including, of course,
the immediate evacuation of all those points of British territory which
had been claimed in the invasion treaty, an instrument now null and
The new Republic was well advised in its grateful acceptance of
these terms, for they involved no monetary outlay, and offered no
obstacle to the new Government's task of restoration. At that early
stage, at all events, the Prussian Republic had no colonial ambitions,
and needed all its straitened financial resources for the
rehabilitation of its home life. (In the twelve months following the
declaration of war between Great Britain and Germany, the number of
Germans who emigrated reached the amazing total of 1,134,378.)
To me, one of the most interesting and significant features of the
actual conclusion of the Peacewhich added just over one million
square miles to Britain's African possessions, and left the Empire, in
certain vital respects, infinitely richer and more powerful than ever
before in its historyis not so much as mentioned in any history of
the war I have ever read, though it did figure, modestly, in the report
of the Commissioner of Police for that year. As a sidelight upon the
development of our national character since the arrival of the Canadian
preachers and the organization of The Citizens, this one brief
passage in an official record is to my mind more luminous than anything
I could possibly say, and far more precious than the fact of our
The news of the signature of the Peace was published in the early
editions of the evening papers on Saturday, 11 March. Returns show that
the custom of the public-houses and places of entertainment during the
remainder of that day was 37-1/2 per cent. below the average Saturday
returns. Divisional reports show that the streets were more empty of
traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, than on any ordinary week-day.
Police-court cases on the following Monday were 28-1/2 per cent. below
the average, and included, in the metropolitan area, only five cases of
drunkenness or disorderly conduct. All reports indicate the prevalence
throughout the metropolitan area of private indoor celebrations of the
Peace. All London churches and chapels held Thanksgiving Services on
Sunday, 12 March, and the attendances were abnormally large.
Withal, I am certain that the people of London had never before
during my life experienced a deeper sense of gladness, a more general
consciousness of rejoicing. Not for nothing has British Christianity
earned its Parisian name of New Century Puritanism. As the President
of the French Republic said in his recent speech at Lyons: It is the
'New Century Puritanism' which leads the new century's civilization,
and maintains the world's peace.
XVIII. THE PEACE
Fair is our lotO goodly is our heritage!
(Humble ye, my people, and be fearful in your mirth!)
For the Lord our God Most High
He hath made the deep as dry,
He hath smote for us a pathway to the ends of all the earth.
At a very early stage of the war with Germany, before the end of the
first month, in fact, it became evident that, our own soil having once
been freed, this was to be a maritime and not a land war. A little
later on it was made quite clear that there would be no need to draw
further upon our huge reserve force of Citizen defenders. It was
then that John Crondall concentrated his efforts upon giving permanent
national effect to our work of the previous year.
Fortunately, the Government recognized that it would be an act of
criminal wastefulness and extravagance to allow so splendid a defensive
organization as ours to lapse because its immediate purpose had been
served. Accordingly, special legislation, which was to have been
postponed for another session, was now hurried forward; and long before
the German Revolution and the conclusion of the Peace, England was
secure in the possession of that permanent organization of home defence
which, humanly speaking, has made these shores positively impregnable,
by converting Great Britain, the metropolis and centre of the Empire,
into a nation in arms. There is no need for me to enlarge now upon the
other benefits, the mental, moral, and physical advancement which this
legislation has given us. Our doctors and schoolmasters and clergymen
have given us full and ample testimony upon these points.
Prior to the passing of the National Defence Act, which guaranteed
military training as a part of the education of every healthy male
subject, the great majority of The Citizens had returned to
private life. Yet, with the exception of some few hundreds of special
cases, every one of The Citizens remained members of the
organization. And it was that fact which provided incessant employment,
not alone for John Crondall and myself, and our headquarters staff,
during the progress of the war, but for our committees throughout the
Before reëntering private life, every Citizen was personally
interviewed and given the opportunity of being resworn under conditions
of permanent membership. The new conditions applied only to home
defence, but they included specific adherence to our propaganda for the
maintenance of universal military training. They included also a
definite undertaking upon the part of every Citizen to further
our ends to the utmost of his ability, and, irrespective of State
legislation, to secure military training for his own sons, and to abide
by The Citizens' Executive in whatever steps it should take
toward linking up our organization, under Government supervision, with
the regular national defence force of the country.
It should be easy to understand that this process involved a great
deal of work. But it was work that was triumphantly rewarded, for, upon
the passage into law of the Imperial Defence Act, which superseded the
National Defence Act, after the peace had been signed, we were able to
present the Government with a nucleus consisting of a compact working
organization of more than three million British Citizens. These
Citizens were men who had undergone training and seen active
service. They were sworn supporters of universal military training, and
of a minimum of military service as a qualification for the suffrage.
All political writers have agreed that the knowledge of what was
taking place in England, with regard to our organization, greatly
strengthened the hands of the Imperial Parliament in its difficult task
of framing and placing upon the Statute Book those two great measures
which have remained the basis of politics and defence throughout the
Empire: the Imperial Defence Act and the Imperial Parliamentary
Representation Act. At the time there were not wanting critics who held
that a short reign of peace would bring opposition to legislation born
of a state of war; but if I remember rightly we heard the last of that
particular order of criticism within twelve months of the peace, it
being realized once and for all then, that the maintenance of an
adequate defence system was to be regarded, not so much as a
preparation for possible war, as the one and only means of preventing
Constance Grey worked steadily throughout the progress of the war,
and it was owing almost entirely to her efforts that the Volunteer
Nursing Corps, which she had organized under Citizens' auspices,
was placed on a permanent footing. Admirable though this organization
was as a nursing corps, its actual value to the nation went far beyond
the limits of its nominal scope. By her tireless activity, and as a
result of her own personal enthusiasm, Constance was able before the
end of the war to establish branches of her corps in every part of the
country, with a committee and headquarters in all large centres.
Meetings were held regularly at all these headquarters, every one of
which was visited in turn by Constance herself; and in the end The
Citizens' Nursing Corps, as this great league of Englishwomen was
always called, became a very potent force, an inexhaustible spring of
what the Prime Minister called the domestic patriotism of Britain.
In the earliest stage of this work of hers Constance had to cope
with a certain inertia on the part of her supporters, due to the fact
that no active service offered to maintain their enthusiasm. But
Constance's watchword was, Win mothers and sisters, and the fathers
and brothers cannot fail you. It was in that belief that she acted,
and before long the Nursing Corps might with equal justice have been
called The Women Citizens. It became a great league of domestic
patriots, and it would not be easy to overstate the value of its
influence upon the rising generation of our race.
War has always been associated in men's minds with distress and
want, and that with some reason. But after the first few months of the
Anglo-German war it became more and more clearly apparent that this
war, combined with the outworking of the first legislation of the
Imperial Parliament, was to produce the greatest commercial revival,
the greatest access of working prosperity, Britain had ever known. Two
main causes were at work here; and the first of them, undoubtedly, was
the protection afforded to our industries by Imperial preference. The
time for tinkering with half-measures had gone by, and, accordingly,
the fiscal belt with which the first really Imperial Parliament girdled
the Empire was made broad and strong. The effect of its application was
gradual, but unmistakable; its benefits grew daily more apparent as the
end of the war approached.
Factories and mills which had long lain idle in the North of England
were hastily refitted, and they added every day to the muster-roll of
hands employed. Our shipping increased by leaps and bounds, but even
then barely kept pace with the increased rate of production. The price
of the quartern loaf rose to sixpence, in place of fivepence; but the
wages of labourers on the land rose by nearly 25 per cent., and the
demand exceeded the supply. Thousands of acres of unprofitable
grass-land and of quite idle land disappeared under the plough to make
way for corn-fields. Wages rose in all classes of work; but that was
not of itself the most important advance. The momentous change was in
the demand for labour of every kind. The statistics prove that while
wages in all trades showed an average increase of 19-1/2 per cent.,
unemployment fell during the year of the Peace to a lower level than it
had ever reached since records were instituted.
In that year the cost of living among working people was 5-1/2 per
cent. higher than it had been five years previously. The total working
earnings for the year were 38-1/2 per cent. greater than in any
previous year. Since then, as we know, expenditure has fallen
considerably; but wages have never fallen, and the total earnings of
our people are still on the up grade.
Another cause of the unprecedented access of prosperity which
changed the face of industrial and agricultural England, was the fact
that some seven-tenths of the trade lost by Germany was now not only
carried in British ships, but held entirely in British hands. Germany's
world markets became Britain's markets, just as the markets of the
whole Empire became our own as the result of preference, and just as
the great oversea countries of the Empire found Britain's home markets,
with fifty million customers, exclusively their own. The British public
learned once and for all, and in one year, the truth that reformers had
sought for a decade to teach usthat the Empire was self-supporting
and self-sufficing, and that common-sense legislative and commercial
recognition of this fundamental fact spelt prosperity for British
subjects the world over.
But, as John Crondall said in the course of the Guildhall speech of
his which, as has often been said, brought the Disciplinary Regiments
into being, We cannot expect to cure in a year ills that we have
studiously fostered through the better part of a century. There was
still an unemployed class, though everything points to the conclusion
that before that first year of the Peace was ended this class had been
reduced to those elements which made it more properly called
unemployable. There were the men who had forgotten their trades and
their working habits, and there were still left some of those
melancholy products of our decadent industrial and social systemsthe
men who were determined not to work.
In a way, it is as well that these ills could not be swept aside by
the same swift, irresistible wave which gave us British Christianity,
The Citizens' watchword, Imperial Federation, and the beginning of
great prosperity. It was the continued existence of a workless class
that gave us the famous Discipline Bill. At that time the title
Disciplinary Regiments had a semidisgraceful suggestion, connected
with punishment. In view of that, I shared the feeling of many who said
that another name should be chosen. But now that the Disciplinary
Regiments have earned their honourable place as the most valuable
portion of our non-professional defence forces, every one can see the
wisdom of John Crondall's contention that not the name, but the public
estimate of that name, had to be altered. Theoretically the value and
necessity of discipline was, I suppose, always recognized. Actually,
people had come to connect the word, not with education, not with the
equipment of every true citizen, but chiefly with punishment and
At first there was considerable opposition to the law, which said,
in effect: No able-bodied man without means shall live without
employment. Indeed, for a few days there was talk of the Government
going to the country on the question. But in the end the Discipline Act
became law without this, and I know of no other single measure which
has done more for the cause of social progress. Its effects have been
far-reaching. Among other things, it was this measure which led to the
common-sense system which makes a soldier of every mechanic and artisan
employed upon Government work. It introduced the system which enables
so many men to devote a part of their time to soldiering, and the rest
to various other kinds of Government work. But, of course, its main
reason of existence is the triumphant fact that it has done away with
the loafer, as a class, and reduced the chances of genuine employment
to a minimum. Some of the best mechanics and artisans in England to-day
are men who learned their trade, along with soldiering and general good
citizenship, in one of the Disciplinary Regiments.
Despite the increase of population, the numerical strength of our
police force throughout the kingdom is 30 per cent. lower to-day than
it was before the Anglo-German war; while, as is well known, the prison
population has fallen so low as to have led to the conversion of
several large prisons into hospitals. The famous Military Training
School at Dartmoor was a convict prison up to three years after the
war. There can be no doubt that, but for the Discipline Bill, our
police force would have required strengthening and prisons enlarging,
in place of the reverse process of which we enjoy the benefit to-day.
Its promoters deserve all the credit which has been paid them for
the introduction of this famous measure; and I take the more pleasure
in admitting this by token that the chief among them has publicly
recorded his opinion that the man primarily responsible for the
introduction of the Discipline Bill was John Crondall. At the same time
it should not be forgotten that we have John Crondall's own assurance
that the Bill could never have been made law but for that opening and
awakening of the hearts and minds of the British people which followed
the spreading of the gospel of Duty by the Canadian preachers.
XIX. THE GREAT ALLIANCE
Truly ye come of the Blood; slower to bless than to ban;
Little used to lie down at the bidding of any man.
. . . . .
Deeper than speech our love, stronger than life our tether;
But we do not fall on the neck nor kiss when we come together.
. . . . .
Draw now the threefold knot firm on the ninefold bands,
And the law that ye make shall be law after the rule of your
During all this time I was constantly with John Crondall, and saw a
good deal of Constance Grey; yet the announcement that I had once
expected every day, the announcement which seemed the only natural
sequence to the kiss of which I had been an unwilling witness, never
came. Neither did any return come, in John Crondall, of his old frank
gaiety of manner. There remained always the shadow of reserve, of
gravity, and of a certain restraint, which dated in my mind from the
day of my inadvertent intrusion upon the scene between himself and
Knowing John Crondall as I knew him then, it was not possible for me
to think ill of him; but he perplexed me greatly at times. For at times
it did seem to me that I read in Constance's face, when we three were
together, a look that was almost an appeal to my chiefa
half-sorrowful, half-abashed appeal. Then I would recall that kiss, and
in my puzzlement I would think: John Crondall, if you were any other
man, I should say you
And there my thought would stop short. Of what should I accuse him?
There was the kiss, the long silence, John Crondall's stiffness, and
then this look of distress, this hint of appeal, in the face of
Constance. Well! And then my intimate knowledge of my chief would
silence me, giving me assurance that I should never be a good enough
man justly to reproach John Crondall. But it was all very puzzling, and
more, to me, loving Constance as I loved her.
You may judge, then, of my surprise when Crondall came into my room
at The Citizens' headquarters office one morning and said:
You have been the real secretary for some time, Dick, not only
mine, but The Citizens'; so there's no need for me to worry about
how you'll manage. I'm going to America.
Going to America! Whywhen?
Well, on Friday, I believe I sail. As to why, I'm afraid I mustn't
tell you about that just yet. I've undertaken a Government mission, and
I see. And how long will you be away?
Oh, not more than two or three months, I hope.
That simplified the thing somewhat. My chief's tone had suggested at
first that he was going to live in the United States. Even as it was,
however, surely, I thought, he would tell me something now about
himself and Constance. But though I made several openings, he told me
While John Crondall was away a new State Under-Secretaryship was
created. It was announced that for the future the Government would
include an Under-Secretary of State for the Civilian Defence Forces,
whose chief would be the Secretary of State for War. A few days later
came the announcement that the first to hold this appointment would be
John Crondall. I had news of this a little in advance of the public,
for my work in connection with The Citizens' organization brought
me now into frequent contact with the War Office, particularly with
regard to supplies and general arrangements for our different village
This piece of news seemed tolerably important to Constance Grey and
myself, and we talked it over with a good deal of interest and
enthusiasm. But before many weeks had passed this and every other item
of news was driven out of our minds by a piece of intelligence which,
in different ways, startled and excited the whole civilized world, for
the reason that it promised to affect materially the destiny of all the
nations of civilization. Every newspaper published some kind of an
announcement on the subject, but the first full, authoritative
statement was that contained in the great London Daily which was
now the recognized principal organ of Imperial Federation. The opening
portion of this journal's announcement read in this way:
We are able to announce, upon official authority, the completion of
a defensive and commercial Alliance between the British Empire and the
United States of America, which amounts for all practical purposes to a
political and commercial Federation of the English-speaking peoples of
Rumours have been current for some time of important negotiations
pending between London and Washington, and, as we pointed out some time
ago, Mr. John Crondall's business in Washington has been entirely with
our Ambassador there.
The exact terms of the new Alliance will probably be made public
within the next week. In the meantime, we are able to say that the
Alliance will be sufficiently comprehensive to admit United States
trade within the British Empire upon practically British termsthat is
to say, the United States will, in almost every detail, share in
Further, in the event of any foreign Power declaring war with
either the British Empire or the United States, both nations would
share equally in the conduct of subsequent hostilities, unless the war
were the direct outcome of an effort upon the part of either of the
high contracting parties in the direction of territorial expansion. The
United States will not assist the British Empire to acquire new
territory, but will share from first to last the task of defending
existing British territory against the attack of an enemy. Precisely
the same obligations will bind the British Empire in the defence of the
It would scarcely be possible to exaggerate the importance to
Christendom of this momentous achievement of diplomacy; and future
generations are little likely to forget the act or the spirit to which
this triumph may be traced: the United States' offer of assistance to
Britain during the late war.
The advantages of the Alliance to our good friends and kinsmen
across the Atlantic are obviously great, for they are at once given
free entry into a market which has four hundred and twenty millions of
customers, and is protected by the world's greatest Navy and the
world's greatest citizen defence force. Upon our side we are given free
entry into the second richest and most expansive market in the world,
with eighty million customers, and an adequate defence force. Upon a
preferential footing, such as the Alliance will secure to both
contracting Powers, the United States offer us the finest market in the
world as an extension of our own. In our own markets we shall meet the
American producer upon terms of absolute equality, to our mutual
advantage, where a couple of years ago we met him at a cruel
disadvantage, to our great loss.
We have said enough to indicate the vast and world-wide importance
of the Alliance we are able to announce. But we have left untouched its
most momentous aspect. The new Alliance is a guarantee of peace to that
half of the world which is primarily concerned; it renders a breach of
the peace in the other half of the world far more unlikely than it ever
was before. As a defensive Alliance between the English-speaking
peoples, this should represent the beginning of an era of unexampled
peace, progress, and prosperity for the whole civilized world.
Before I had half-digested this tremendous piece of news, and with
never a thought of breakfast, I found myself hurrying in a hansom to
Constance Grey's flat. In her study I found Constance, her beautiful
eyes full of shining tears, poring over the announcement.
XX. PEACE HATH HER VICTORIES
Yet I doubt not thro' the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the
I had hoped to be the bearer of the Alliance news to Constance, and
seeing how deeply she was moved by it made me the more regretful that I
had not arrived at the flat before her morning paper. Constance had
been the first to give me the news of the American offer of help at the
beginning of the war; she had been the first to give me any serious
understanding of the invasion, there in that very room of the little
South Kensington flat, on the fateful Sunday of the Disarmament
Demonstration. Now she raised her gleaming eyes to me as I entered:
A thing like this makes up for all the ills one's ever known,
Dick, she said, and dropped one hand on the paper in her lap.
Yes, it's something like a piece of news, is it not? I had hoped to
bring it you, but I might have known you would be at your paper
Oh, it's magnificent, Dick, magnificent! I have no words to tell
you how glad I am about this. I see John Crondall's hand here, don't
Yes, I said; and thought: Naturally! You see John Crondall
He was dead against any sort of an Alliance while we were under a
cloud. And he was right. The British people couldn't afford to enter
any compact upon terms of less than perfect equality and independence.
But nowwhy, Dick, it's a dream come true: the English-speaking
peoples against the world. It's Imperial Federation founded on solid
rock. No! With its roots in the beds of all the seven seas. And never a
hint of condescension, but just an honourable pact between equals of
Yes; and a couple of years ago
A couple of years ago, there were Englishmen who spat at the
There was a paper called The Mass.
Constance smiled up at me. Do you remember the Disarmament
Demonstration? she said.
Do you remember going down Fleet Street into a wretched den, to
call on the person who was assistant editor of The Mass?
The person! Come! I found him rather nice.
Ah, Constance, how sweet you were to me!
Now, there, she said, with a little smile, I think you might have
changed your tense.
But I was talking of two years ago, beforeWell, you see, I
thought of you, then, as just an unattached angel from South Africa.
And now you have learned that my angelic qualities never existed
outside your imagination. Ah, Dick, your explanations make matters much
But, no; I didn't say you were the less an angel; only that I
thought of you as unattached, thenyou see.
Constance looked down at her paper, and a silence fell between us.
The silence was intolerable to me. I was standing beside her chair, and
I cannot explain just what I felt in looking down at her. I know that
the very outline of her figure and the loose hair of her head seemed at
once intimately familiar and inexpressibly sacred and beautiful to me.
Looking down upon them caused a kind of mist to rise before my eyes. It
was as though I feared to lose possession of my faculties. That must
end, I felt, or an end would come to all reserve and loyalty to John
Crondall. And yetyet something in the curve of her cheekshe was
looking downheld me, drew me out of myself, as it might be into a
tranced state in which a man is moved to contempt of all risks.
Dear, I loved you, even then, I said; but then I thought you
So I was. She did not look at me, and her voice was very low; but
there was some quality in it which thrilled me through and through, as
I stood at her side.
But now, of course, I knowBut why have you never told me,
I am just as free now as then, Dick.
Why, Constance! But, John Crondall?
He is my friend, just as he is yours.
But Ibut he
Dick, I asked him if I might tell you, and he said, yes. John asked
me to marry him, and when I said I couldn't, he asked me to wait till
our work was done, and let him ask me again. Can't you see, Dick, how
hard it was for me? And John ishe is such a splendid man. I could not
deny him, andthat was when you came into the roomdon't you
The mist was thickening about me; it seemed my mind swam in clouds.
I only said: Yes?
Oh, Dick, I am ashamed! You know how I respect himhow I like him.
He did ask me again, before he went to America.
And nownow, you
It hurt dreadfully; but I had to say no, because
And there she stopped. She was not engaged to John Crondall. She had
refused himrefused John Crondall! Yet I knew how high he stood in her
eyes. Could it be that there was some one elsesome one in Africa? The
suggestion spelled panic. It seemed to me that I must knowthat I
could not bear to leave her without knowing.
Forgive me, Constance, I said, but is there some one else whois
there some one else? To see into her dear face, I dropped on one knee
beside her chair.
II thought there was, she said very sweetly. And as she spoke
she raised her head, and I saw her beautiful eyes, through tears. It
was there I read my happiness. I am not sure that any words could have
given it me, though I found it sweeter than anything else I had known
in my life to have her tell me afterwards in words. It was an
Why did she love him? Curious fool! be still;
Is human love the growth of human will?
John Crondall was my best man, as he has been always my best friend.
He insisted on my taking over the permanent secretaryship of The
Citizens when he went to the War Office. And since then I hope I
have not ceased to take my part in making our history; but it is true
that there is not much to tell that is not known equally well to
Assuredly peace hath her victories. Our national life has been a
daily succession of victories since we fought for and won real peace
and overcame the slavish notion that mere indolent quiescence could
ever give security. Our daily victory as a race is the triumph of race
loyalty over individual self-seeking; and I can conceive of no real
danger for the British Empire unless the day came, which God forbid,
when Englishmen forgot the gospel of our New Century Puritanismthe
Canadian preachers' teaching of Duty and simple living. And that day
can never come while our Citizens' watchword endures:
FOR GOD, OUR RACE, AND DUTY!
For me, I feel that my share of happiness, since those sombre days
of our national chastisement, since those stern, strenuous months of
England's awakening to the new life and faith of the twentieth century,
has been more, far more, than my deserts. But I think we all feel that
in these days; I hope we do. If we should ever again forget, punishment
would surely come. But it is part of my happiness to believe that, at
long last, our now really united race, our whole family, four hundred
and twenty millions strong, has truly learned the lesson which our
great patriot poet tried to teach in the wild years before discipline
came to us, in the mailed hand of our one-time enemy:
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath Whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forgetlest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forgetlest we forget!
. . . . .
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!