THE TRIUMPH OF ENGLAND
It was the afternoon of Wednesday, September the Sixteenth. The battle had been over for twenty-four hours. The fog had thinned to a light lemon colour. It was raining.
By now the country was in possession of the main facts. Full details were not to be expected, though it is to the credit of the newspapers that, with keen enterprise, they had at once set to work to invent them, and on the whole had not done badly.
Broadly, the facts were that the Russian army, outmanoeuvered, had been practically annihilated. Of the vast force which had entered England with the other invaders there remained but a handful. These, the Grand Duke Vodkakoff among them, were prisoners in the German lines at Tottenham.
The victory had not been gained bloodlessly. Not a fifth of the German army remained. It is estimated that quite two-thirds of each army must have perished in that last charge of the Germans up the Hampstead heights, which ended in the storming of Jack Straw's Castle and the capture of the Russian general.
* * * * * * *
Prince Otto of Saxe-Pfennig lay sleeping in his tent at Tottenham. He was worn out. In addition to the strain of the battle, there had been the heavy work of seeing the interviewers, signing autograph-books, sitting to photographers, writing testimonials for patent medicines, and the thousand and one other tasks, burdensome but unavoidable, of the man who is in the public eye. Also he had caught a bad cold during the battle. A bottle of ammoniated quinine lay on the table beside him now as he slept.
* * * * * * *
As he lay there the flap of the tent was pulled softly aside. Two figures entered. Each was dressed in a flat-brimmed hat, a coloured handkerchief, a flannel shirt, football shorts, stockings, brown boots, and a whistle. Each carried a hockey-stick. One, however, wore spectacles and a look of quiet command which showed that he was the leader.
They stood looking at the prostrate general for some moments. Then the spectacled leader spoke.
The other saluted.
Scout-Master Wagstaff walked to the side of the bed, and shook the sleeper's shoulder. The Prince grunted, and rolled over on to his other side. The Scout-Master shook him again. He sat up, blinking.
As his eyes fell on the quiet, stern, spectacled figure, he leaped from the bed.
"What--what--what," he stammered. "What's the beadig of this?"
He sneezed as he spoke, and, turning to the table, poured out and drained a bumper of ammoniated quinine.
"I told the sedtry pardicularly not to let adybody id. Who are you?"
The intruder smiled quietly.
"My name is Clarence Chugwater," he said simply.
"Jugwater? Dod't doe you frob Adab. What do you want? If you're forb sub paper, I cad't see you now. Cub to-borrow bordig."
"I am from no paper."
"Thed you're wud of these photographers. I tell you, I cad't see you."
"I am no photographer."
"Thed what are you?"
The other drew himself up.
"I am England," he said with a sublime gesture.
"Igglud! How do you bead you're Igglud? Talk seds."
Clarence silenced him with a frown.
"I say I am England. I am the Chief Scout, and the Scouts are England. Prince Otto, you thought this England of ours lay prone and helpless. You were wrong. The Boy Scouts were watching and waiting. And now their time has come. Scout-Master Wagstaff, do your duty."
The Scout-Master moved forward. The Prince, bounding to the bed, thrust his hand under the pillow. Clarence's voice rang out like a trumpet.
"Cover that man!"
The Prince looked up. Two feet away Scout-Master Wagstaff was standing, catapult in hand, ready to shoot.
"He is never known to miss," said Clarence warningly.
The Prince wavered.
"He has broken more windows than any other boy of his age in South London."
The Prince sullenly withdrew his hand--empty.
"Well, whad do you wad?" he snarled.
"Resistance is useless," said Clarence. "The moment I have plotted and planned for has come. Your troops, worn out with fighting, mere shadows of themselves, have fallen an easy prey. An hour ago your camp was silently surrounded by patrols of Boy Scouts, armed with catapults and hockey-sticks. One rush and the battle was over. Your entire army, like yourself, are prisoners."
"The diggids they are!" said the Prince blankly.
"England, my England!" cried Clarence, his face shining with a holy patriotism. "England, thou art free! Thou hast risen from the ashes of the dead self. Let the nations learn from this that it is when apparently crushed that the Briton is to more than ever be feared."
"Thad's bad grabbar," said the Prince critically.
"It isn't," said Clarence with warmth.
"It is, I tell you. Id's a splid idfididive."
Clarence's eyes flashed fire.
"I don't want any of your beastly cheek," he said. "Scout-Master Wagstaff, remove your prisoner."
"All the sabe," said the Prince, "id is a splid idfididive."
Clarence pointed silently to the door.
"And you doe id is," persisted the Prince. "And id's spoiled your big sbeech. Id--"
"Come on, can't you," interrupted Scout-Master Wagstaff.
"I ab cubbing, aren't I? I was odly saying--"
"I'll give you such a whack over the shin with this hockey-stick in a minute!" said the Scout-Master warningly. "Come on!"
The Prince went.