The Seed of Empire - Fred M. White - ebook

The Seed of Empire ebook

Fred M White

0,0

Opis

Fred M. White wrote a story on a historical basis. Belgium is just a pawn in a game of chess, in which Germany has played continuously for the last 40 years. And now England was waiting. Black Monday was overtaken. Germany violated its solemn promise to Belgium, and England was at war with Germany, and the greatest conflict in the history of the world began.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 378

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS



Contents

I. Black Monday

II. Ragged And Tough

III. A Friend In Need

IV. All For The Flag

V. Shoulder To Shoulder

VI. The Thin Brown Line

VII. “England, Home, And Beauty”

VIII. “Tipperary”

IX. “The Girl He Left Behind Him”

X. Boot And Saddle

XI. The Shadow Of Mons

XII. Fog Of War

XIII. After The Guns

XIV. By Telephone

XV. Saved!

XVI. The Lonely Farm

XVII. Back With The Guns

XVIII. Women’s Work

XIX. Something Attempted

XX. In Clover

XXI. Ginger’s Odyssey

XXII. The New Republic

XXIII. In The Vernacular

XXIV. News From The Front

XXV. Plain Words

XXVI. The Old Spirit

XXVII. Light In The Darkness

XXVIII. Back To The Front

XXIX. Sticking It

XXX. A Mystery

XXXI. To The Rescue

XXXII. “Savoy Hotel”

XXXIII. A Staggering Task

XXXIV. The Deadly Grip

XXXV. A Cheerful Tommy

XXXVI. At The Base

XXXVII. The Musketeers At Play

XXXVIII. Tommy’s Little Way

XXXIX. The End Of The Game

XL. The Red Cottage

XLI. Inside The Cottage

XLII. The Hidden Battery

XLIII. Homeward Bound

XLIV. The New London

XLV. Home, Sweet Home

XLVI. The Deeper Meaning

XLVII. Back To The Front

XLVIII. Neuve Chapelle

XLIX. The Early Morning

L. The Good Young Stuff

LI. The Day’s Work

LII. The Next Day

LIII. And After?

I. BLACK MONDAY

THE SCRAP of paper lay on the counter of Europe, and the honour of more than one great Power trembled in the balance. And accordingly the greatest nation of them all would be compelled to act. Not that she had ever hesitated; not that she would swerve one inch from the path that she had pursued for nearly a thousand years; and perhaps because of this, from the north to the south, and from the east to the west, anxious hearts were beating and anxious eyes turned towards the storm centre that hung so black and threatening over Central Europe.

Would Germany respect her word? Would she hold by the compact she had entered into so many years ago? There were those who declared that she would, that the fear of Germany was no more than the exploitation of a certain school of journalism; but there were others who knew better than that, who knew for a certainty that Belgium was merely a pawn in the game of chess that Germany had played incessantly for the last 40 years. And so England waited.

The storm had gathered all too quickly. Seven days before, outside the charmed circle of European diplomacy, not a score of people had seen a sign of the gathering tempest. All England had been looking forward to its playtime, hundreds of thousands of honest toilers in the workshops and the offices were joyfully anticipating the holiday month. Eyes were turned eagerly towards the sea and the moorland, and now it seemed as if all that was forgotten. There had been trouble threatening on the Thursday and Friday, and then Black Monday had come with the most fateful Bank Holiday since holidays had first begun. And now to all practical purposes Germany had cynically flung her honour into the melting pot, and already had broken her solemn promise to Belgium, and England was at war with Germany, and the greatest conflict in the history of the world had begun.

It was a strange, weird holiday the Londoners were spending, a combination of holiday and funeral. It was as if some great nation was suddenly in the grip of mortal plague just at the moment when work had been flung aside with no heed for the morrow, a decorous mute festival with the shadow of some dire misfortune looming behind it.

So far there had been no outbreak of passion or emotion, no waving of flags, no outburst of patriotism from a million throats. For the thing had gone too deep for that. Early as it was, the nation was beginning to realise the stupendous task that lay before it. It seemed almost incredible that this quiet, sombre-eyed London was the same capital that had gone into the Boer War with noise and tumult, the wagging or flags, and the loud bray of brass and cymbals. For already deep down was the feeling that this ghastly business had been inevitable from the first, and that the future of the Empire was in peril.

Some such thoughts as these were passing through the mind of Harold Bentley as he walked through the streets of London on that Black Monday, without in the least knowing where he was going and what end he had in view. Here were crowds and crowds of people wandering about more or less aimlessly and discussing the great question with bated breath. Here and there somebody laughed, and the mirth seemed to be strangely out of place–almost an outrage. Here were some carelessly and light-heartedly making their way into places of amusement; some who did not understand, and probably never would understand, the full weight of the blow that had fallen. Here and there people were gathered in groups, and at the foot of the Nelson column a Socialist orator was raving and ranting to a detached and uninterested audience, who listened to his poisonous treason with a certain stolid apathy. It was one of those amazing sights only to be seen in London; it would be impossible in any other European capital. And that, too, under the very shadow of the Englishman who did as much as or more than any son of the Empire to make Britain what she is to-day.

Bentley paused almost involuntarily. He had nothing in his pocket; he had no object in life for the moment, except to kill the time, and he paused rather cynically to listen to the frothy rubbish that came so glibly from the man’s lips. The speaker was a big man, heavy and red of face, and he spoke with the hoarseness which is always suggestive of gin and fog and the beery dissipation of the common pothouse. He was appealing for some cause, too, for there was a collecting box at his feet, and now and again some good-natured passer-by dropped a coin into it.

But it was only for a moment that Bentley listened with a smile upon his lips. Then he edged a little closer to the speaker, and his fists clenched instinctively. He was standing shoulder to shoulder now with the crowd, listening without betraying the slightest emotion, and just for a moment he felt a certain contempt for his fellow-countrymen. He did not quite realise that their attitude was one of benevolent toleration, due to the Englishman’s instinctive love of fair play and his desire to give the meanest outcast a chance.

“I tell yer it’s all in our hands,” the speaker vociferated. “It’s all in the hands of the working man. If you chaps like to put yer foot down you can stop this war now. The working man of Europe could stop anything. Do you suppose those people in the House of Commons and at Whitehall care a hang for Belgium? D’you suppose they’d lose a moment’s sleep, if Germany annexed Belgium to-morrow? Not they, my lads. Because why? Because this is a war got up by capitalists to put money in their pockets. It means millions and millions dragged out of your pockets in the way of taxation, and it will be all spent on the employers of labour, who’ll be living on the fat of the land, whilst you chaps can hardly get bread, to say nothing of beer.”

“And you wouldn’t like that, guv’nor,” a voice from the crowds jeered. “Is that wot you’re collectin’ for?”

“Ah, you can laugh,” the speaker went on. “But who’s going to do the fighting? Who’s going to lay down their lives on the blood-stained fields of Europe? Why, the working man. When he finds himself without food and wages he’ll take the shilling in sheer despair and go and fight for what he calls his country, whilst the nobs will stay at home with their champagne, wine, and their golf and their shooting. When I see the gentlemen, as they call themselves, coming forward to fight then I’ll say no more about it. But just let me know when you catch ‘em at it. Why, there’s one of ‘em there now–that chap with the blue suit as is sneering at me and you and every other honest son of toil. There he is, him in the straw hat.”

It seemed to Harold that every eye was turned upon him in an instant. For the first time he was conscious of the hot anger that filled him, conscious of the tingling in his finger-tips, and a mad desire to jump forward and dash his fist into that red, drink-sodden face, and take the consequences. Where were the police, that they permitted an outrage like this to exist at the very base of Nelson’s Column? And Harold was conscious, too, of the little knot of powerful-looking loafers–friends, no doubt, of the speaker, and potential shareholders in the collecting box at the orator’s feet.

“Are you speaking of me?” Harold asked.

“Well, what if I am?” the orator demanded. “Since you put it to me like that, I am.”

“It’s a lie,” Harold said hotly. “It’s as much of a lie as it is for you to call yourself a working man. You’ve never done a day’s work in your life.”

“That’s the style, Mr. Bentley,” a hoarse voice said. “Rub it into the swine. I’ll back yer up.”

II. RAGGED AND TOUGH

Harold turned a surprised glance on the speaker. He saw a little man, short and squarely built; a man with fiery red hair, and whose impudent face was deeply marked with orange freckles. His clothes were dingy and dilapidated, his toes were working through his broken boots, and to all appearance fortune had not smiled his way of late. But the impudent blue of his eyes and the audacious swaggering smile on his lips seemed to have been born there and ready to defy every misfortune that came his way. He might have been any age between 19 and 25, but in the case of the typical pariah of the London streets it is always difficult to tell. This was not the question that Harold was asking himself–he was wondering how this ragged and tough specimen of humanity knew him so well by name.

“I think I can manage all right, thank you,” he said coldly.

“Don’t you be put down, Mr. Bentley. Don’t yer let ‘im ‘ave all ‘is own way, I’ll back yer up. There’s a bloke astandin’ be’ind the Socialist, that cove with the long nose. An’ I don’t mind tellin’ yer as I’m a-dyin’ ter punch ‘im.”

Harold edged the speaker on one side. By this time some of the crowd, bent on mischief, were egging him on. The orator had ceased speaking, conscious, perhaps, that he was getting the better of the argument, for he turned sneeringly to Bentley, and demanded to know if he had any more to say.

“Only this,” Harold cried hotly, “that you are no working man. Work is a thing that loafers of your class don’t believe in. In any other country but this you would be pulled off that pedestal and drowned in the nearest fountain. Yes, I’ve a great mind to save the police the trouble of hanging you.”

The crowd tittered and then broke into a hoarse laugh. The Socialist’s face turned a deeper red.

“And what about yourself?” he asked. “You’re one of the nobs, you are, you of the nuts. Pap-fed at a public school, and then swaggering at Oxford College. Oh, I know your sort. Catch you doing anything for your country! You’ve enlisted, of course? Did it this morning, may be.”

Bentley said nothing for a moment. For it was a question he had not anticipated. He wanted to explain; he had an insane desire to tell the now interested spectators the reason why he had passed one recruiting office after another without a glance to the right or left. But the thing was impossible. He could not stand up there before that little knot of fellow-creatures and explain to them that, though the speaker’s guess as to the public school was correct, he was merely a city clerk more or less fortunate in the possession of 30s a week, and with a mother and sister entirely dependent upon him. No doubt, later on, a grateful country would do something for those who had given up everything to follow the flag, but meanwhile the call of those nearest and dearest to him drowned the trumpet call of patriotism and country. And it would have been so easy to lie to the red-faced spouter, and thus escape the jeers and sneers of those around him.

“No,” he said, “I have not enlisted. It is no business of yours, but I merely tell you the truth. My father died for his country, and if circumstances–”

He broke off abruptly and bit his lip. What a fool he was to lose his temper like this, how childish to betray these sacred confidences to callous strangers who were merely seeking a few minutes cheap recreation! He would have turned away and edged through the crowd had not the next words of the speaker arrested him. He pulled up quivering in every nerve.

“There what did I tell you? He ain’t going to fight, not he. Ain’t got pluck enough. Hiding himself behind a woman’s petticoats. Now, look here, young fellow, I’ve had enough of you; you just hop off, else I’ll come down and make you.”

The little man with the red hair by Harold’s side chuckled joyfully. The light of battle gleamed in his eyes.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.