Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
It was finally agreed that a part at least of the responsibility for the disturbance which marred the harmony of the Dominion Day celebration at Wolf Willow upon this occasion must rest on the shoulders of Mr. Alvin P. Jones. The impressive presentation by Mr. Gilchrist of Canada's greatness and the splendour of her future appeared to stimulate Mr. Jones to unusual flights of oratory. Under ordinary circumstances Mr. Jones' oratory was characterised by such extraordinary physical vigour, if not violence, and by such a fluency of orotund and picturesque speech, that with the multitude sound passed for eloquence and platitudes on his lips achieved the dignity of profound wisdom. Building upon the foundation laid by the previous speaker, Mr. Jones proceeded to extol the grandeur of the Dominion, the wonders of her possessions, the nobility of her people, the splendour of her institutions, the glory of her future. He himself was not by birth a Canadian, but so powerful a spell had the Dominion cast over him that he had become a Canadian by adoption. Proud of his American birth and citizenship, he was even more proud of his Canadian citizenship. He saw before him a large number of American citizens who had come to throw in their lot with the Dominion of Canada. He believed they had done a wise thing, and that among the most loyal citizens of this Dominion none would be found more devoted to the material welfare and the spiritual well-being of Canada than those who came from the other side of the line. He saw a number of those who were sometimes improperly called foreigners. He said "improperly" because whatever their origin, whether Ruthenian, Swede, French, German, or whatever their race might be, here they were simply Canadians with all the rights of Canadian citizenship assured to them. He was glad to see so many of his German friends present. They represent a great nation whose achievements in every department of human activity, in learning, in industrial enterprise, in commerce, were the envy and admiration of the world (excursus here in glorification of the great German people): To these, his German fellow citizens, he would say that no matter how deep their devotion to the Vaterland (Mr. Jones pronounced it with a "v") he knew they would be loyal citizens of Canada. The German Empire had its differences and disagreements with Great Britain, the American Republic has had the same, and indeed it was possible that there were a number present who might not cherish any very passionate regard for the wealthy, complaisant, self-contained somewhat slow-going old gentleman, John Bull. But here in Canada, we were all Canadians! First, last and all the time, Canadians (great applause). Whatever might be said of other countries, their wealth, their power, their glory, Canada was good enough for him (more applause, followed by a further elaboration of Canada's vast resources, etc., etc.). Canada's future was unclouded by the political complications and entanglements of the older countries in Europe. For one hundred years they had been at peace with the Republic south of that imaginary line which delimited the boundaries, but which did not divide the hearts of these two peoples (great applause). For his part, while he rejoiced in the greatness of the British Empire he believed that Canada's first duty was to herself, to the developing here of a strong and sturdy national spirit. Canada for Canadians, Canada first, these were the motives that had guided his life both in public service and as a private citizen (loud applause). In this country there was a place for all, no matter from what country they came, a place for the Ruthenian (enumeration of the various European and Asiatic states from which potential citizens of Canada had come). Let us join hands and hearts in building up a great empire where our children, free from old-world entanglements, free to develop in our own way our own institutions (eloquent passages on freedom) in obedience to laws of our own making, defended by the strong arms and brave hearts of our own sons, aided (here the speaker permitted himself a smile of gentle humour) by the mighty wing of the American eagle (references to the Monroe Doctrine and its protection of Canada's shores) we shall abide in peace and security from all aggression and all alarm. (Thunderous and continued applause, during which the speaker resumed his seat.)
It was old McTavish who precipitated the trouble. The old Highlander belonged to a family that boasted a long line of fighting forbears. Ever since The Forty-five when the German king for the time occupying the English throne astutely diverted the martial spirit of the Scottish clans from the business of waging war against his own armies, their chief occupation, to that of fighting his continental foes, The McTavish was to be found ever in the foremost ranks of British men-of-war, joyously doing battle for his clan and for his king, who, if the truth were told, he regarded with scant loyalty. Like so many of the old timers in western Canada, this particular McTavish had been at one time a servant of the Hudson Bay Company and as such had done his part in the occupation, peaceful and otherwise, of the vast territories administered by that great trading company. In his fiery fighting soul there burned a passionate loyalty to the name and fame of the land of his birth, and a passionate pride in the Empire under whose flag the Company's ships had safely sailed the northern seas and had safely traded in these vast wild lands for nearly three hundred years. Deep as this loyalty and pride in the soul of him there lay a cold suspicion of the Yankee. He had met him in those old days of trade war, had suffered and had seen his Company suffer from his wiles, and finally had been compelled to witness with bitter but unavailing hate the steady encroachment of those rival traders upon the ancient prerogatives and preserves of his own Company, once the sole and undisputed lords of the northern half of the American continent. In the person of Mr. Alvin P. Jones, McTavish saw the representative of those ancient enemies of his, and in the oration to which he had just listened he fancied he detected a note of disloyalty to the flag, a suggestion of a break in the allegiance of Canada to the Empire, and worst of all, a hint that Canada might safely depend for protection upon something other than the naval power which had guarded the shores of his country these many years from enemy invasion. These things wrought in old McTavish an uncontrollable anger, and no sooner had the tumultuous applause died away than he was on his feet and in a high, rasping voice demanding audience.
"Will ye per-r-rmit me, Mr. Chair-r-rman, a few words in regar-r-d to the remarkable address to which we haf listened?" Permission was graciously granted by the chairman, surprise and complaisant delight mantling the steaming face of Mr. Alvin P. Jones, albeit at his heart there lurked a certain uneasiness, for on more than one occasion had he suffered under the merciless heckling of the little Scotchman.
"'Tis a wonderful address we haf been hearing, an eloquent address. Some of it iss true an' some of it iss lies [commotion in the audience--the smile on Mr. Alvin P. Jones's face slightly less expansive]. The speaker has told us about Canada, its great extent, its vast r-r-resources. Some of us haf known about these things while yet his mother was still sucking him [snickers of delight from the younger members of the audience and cries of, 'Go to it, Mack]. 'Tis a great Dominion whatefer and will be a gr-r-reater Dominion yet so lang as it keeps to right ways. He has told us of the mighty achievements of Cher-r-rmany. I will jist be askin' him what has Cher-r-rmany done for this country or for any country but her ainsel? She has cluttered us up wi' pot-metal, cutlery an' such things, an' cheap cloth that ye can put yer finger through, an' that will be done in a month's wear-r-ring. Musick, ye'll be sayin'! Musick! I was in Calgary not long since. They took me to what they will be callin' a music-kale [delighted roars of laughter from the audience]. A music-kale indeed! I haf hear-r-rd of cauld kale an' het kale, of kale porridge an' kale brose, but nefer haf I hear-r-rd before of a music-kale. Bless me, man, I cud make neither head nor tail o' it, and they wer-r-re no better themsel's. They had printed notes about it an' a bit man makin' a speech about it, but not one of them knew a thing about the hale hypotheck. Musick, quare musick I call it! If it is musick yer wantin', gif me Angus there wi' the pipes [wild cheers testifying to Angus's popularity] or the master-r-r himsel' an' the young lady here [this with a courteous bow to Miss Switzer] wi' their feeddles. That's what I will be callin' musick. An' lairnin'! Lairnin' that will lay sacraleegious hands upon the Sacred Word, an' tear-r-r it to bits. That like thing the Cher-r-rman lairnin' is doin', and ye can ask Mr. Rhye yonder. An' other things the Cher-r-rmans are doin' that keep us all from restin' quiet in our beds. Let them come her-r-re to us if they will. Let them come from all the countries of the ear-r-rth. We will share wi' them what we haf, provided they will be behavin' themsel's and mindin' their peeziness. But this man is sayin' somethin' more. He is tellin' us how safe we are, an' that the great Republic south o' us will be guar-r-rdin' us frae our enemies. I doubt it will be the fox guar-r-rdin' the chicken frae the weasel. Now I'll ask this gentleman what it is that has guar-r-rded these shores for the past two hundred and fifty year-r-rs? I will tell him--the Br-r-ritish Navy. What has kept the peace of Europe once an' again? The Br-r-ritish Navy. Aye, what has protected America not once or twice frae her enemies? The Br-r-ritish Navy, an' that same Br-r-ritish Navy is gude enough fer me."
The tumultuous din that followed the conclusion of the cantankerous little Highlander's speech was beyond all words, but before the chairman could get to his feet, through the uproar a voice strident with passion was demanding a hearing. "Mr. Ernest Switzer has the floor," said the chairman.
The young man's face was white and his voice shaking when he began. "Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I stand here to claim the fair play that you say is British for myself and for my race. I am a Canadian citizen. I was born in America, but my blood is German. As a Canadian citizen, as an American by birth, as a German by blood, I have been insulted to-night, and I demand the right to reply to the man who has insulted me. There are Canadians here to guard their own honour; the Americans can be trusted to protect themselves. Germany is not here to refute the slanders uttered against her, but I claim the honour to speak for that great nation, for she is a great nation. There is none greater. There is none so great in the world to-day." The young man's voice rang out with passionate conviction, his pale set face, his blue eyes flaming with rage proclaimed the intensity of his emotion. Before his flaming passion the audience was subdued into a silence tense and profound. "What has Germany done for the world? this man asks. I would like to ask in reply where he has lived for the last twenty- five years, and if during those years he has read anything beyond his local newspaper? What has Germany done for the world? Germany has shown the way to the world, even to America, in every activity of life, in industrial organisation, in scientific inquiry in the laboratory and in the practical application of science to every-day life. Where do your philosophers go for their training? To German universities where they seek to understand the philosophy of the immortal Emanuel Kant. Where in the world has social reform reached its highest achievement? In Germany. Where do you go for your models for municipal government? To Germany. Mention any department of human enterprise to-day and in that department Germany stands easily in the lead. This man asks what has kept Europe at peace all these years, and suggests the British Navy, the one constant menace to the peace of Europe and to the freedom of the seas. No, if you ask who has kept the peace of Europe I will tell you. The German Kaiser, Wilhelm II. To him and to the Empire of which he is the glorious head Europe owes its peace and the world its greatest blessings to-day."
When Switzer sat down a half a dozen men were on their feet demanding to be heard. Above the din a quiet, but penetrating voice was distinguished. "Mr. Romayne has the floor," said the Reverend Mr. Rhye, who himself was tingling with desire for utterance. Mr. Romayne's appearance and voice suggested the boredom of one who felt the whole thing to be rather a nuisance.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he began, "I must apologise for venturing to speak at all, having so recently come to this country, though I am glad to say that I have been received with such cordial kindness that I do not feel myself a stranger."
"You're all right, Jack," cried a voice. "You're right at home."
"I am at home," said Jack, "and that is one thing that makes me able to speak. Few of you can understand the feeling that comes to one who, travelling six thousand miles away from the heart of the Empire, finds himself still among his own folk and under the same old flag. Nor can I express the immense satisfaction and pride that come to me when I find here in this new world a virile young nation offering a welcome to men of all nationalities, an equal opportunity to make home and fortune for themselves, and find also these various nationalities uniting in the one purpose of building solid and secure an outpost of the Empire to which we all belong. I rise chiefly to say two things. The first is that if Germany continues in her present mind she will be at war with our country within a very short time. The young man who has just sat down assures us that Germany is a great country. Let us at once frankly grant this fact, for indeed it is a fact. Whether she is as wonderful or as great as she thinks herself to be may be doubted. But it is of importance to know that the opinion stated here to- night is the opinion held by the whole body of the German people from the Kaiser to the lowest peasant in the Empire. The universal conviction throughout that Empire is that not only is Germany the greatest nation on earth, but that it has a divine mission to confer her own peculiar quality of civilisation upon the other nations of Europe, and indeed upon the whole world. We might not quarrel with Germany for cherishing this pleasing opinion in regard to herself, but when this opinion is wrought into a purpose to dominate the whole world in order that this mission might be accomplished the thing takes on a somewhat serious aspect. Let me repeat, Germany is a great nation, marvellously organised in every department of her life, agricultural, manufacturing, educational, commercial. But to what intent? What is the purpose dominating this marvellous organisation? The purpose, Ladies and Gentlemen, is war. The supreme industry of the German nation is the manufacturing of a mighty war machine. I challenge the gentleman who has just spoken to deny either of these statements, that Germany believes that she has a definite mission to lift up the other nations of Europe to her own high level and that to fulfil this mission it is necessary that she be in a position of control." The speaker paused for a moment or two. "He cannot deny these because he knows they are true. The second thing I wish to say is that the Kaiser means war and is waiting only for the favourable moment. I believe it is correct to say that for many years after his accession to the throne he used his influence on the side of peace, but I have every reason to believe that for some years past he has cherished another purpose, the purpose of war."
At this point Switzer sprang to his feet and cried, "I challenge the truth of that statement. Modern European history proves it to be false, and again and again the Kaiser has prevented war. So much is this the case that the trustees of the only European fund that recognises distinguished service in the interests of peace bestowed upon the Kaiser the Nobel Prize."
"That is quite true," replied Mr. Romayne. "But let me recall to this young man's mind a few facts. In 1875 Bismarck was determined to make war upon France. He was prevented by the united action of England and Russia. Germany made the same attempt in '87 and '91. In 1905 so definite was the threat of war that France avoided it only by dismissing her war minister, Delcasse. Perhaps my young friend remembers the Casablanca incident in 1908 where again the Kaiser threatened France with war. Indeed, for the last twenty years, even while he was doubtless anxious to maintain peace, he has been rattling his sword in his scabbard and threatening war against the various nations of Europe. In most of these cases even when he wanted peace he bluffed with threats of war. Then came the Agadir incident in 1911 when once more the Kaiser bluffed. But Great Britain called his bluff that time and the great War Lord had to back down with great loss of prestige not only with his own people but with the whole of Europe. It hurt the Kaiser to think that any nation in Europe should move in any direction without his consent. Agadir taught him that he must quit bluffing or make up his mind to fight."
Again Switzer was upon his feet. "This is a slanderous falsehood," he cried. "How does this man know?"
"I happened to be there," was the quiet reply.
"How do we know?" again cried Switzer.
"Will you kindly repeat that remark?" said Mr. Romayne quietly.
"I believe this statement," shouted Switzer, "to be a slanderous falsehood."
"If you accuse me of falsehood," said Romayne even more quietly, "that is a matter of which we shall not discuss here, but later. But these statements that I have made are history. All Germany knows, all Europe knows, that at Agadir the Kaiser backed down. He was not ready to fight, and he lost prestige by it. When Italy, one of the Triple Alliance, went to war against Turkey without consulting him, this lowered still further German prestige. In the late Balkan War Germany was again humiliated. She backed the wrong horse. Her protege and pupil in war, Turkey, was absolutely beaten. These things convince me that Germany knows that her hope of dominating Europe is rapidly waning, and she believes that this hope can only be realised by war and, therefore, I repeat that the Kaiser and his people are only waiting a favourable moment to launch war upon Europe and more particularly upon the British Empire, which, along with the great American democracy, stands between her and the realisation of her dream."
"The British Empire!" cried Switzer scornfully as Romayne took his seat, "the British Empire! at the first stern blow this ramshackle empire will fall to pieces. Then Great Britain will be forced to surrender her robber hold upon these great free states which she has stolen and which she now keeps in chains." (Cries of "Never!" "Rot!" "Shut your trap!") Switzer sprang to his feet and, shaking his fist in their faces, cried: "I know what I am saying. This you will see before many months have passed."
Again Romayne rose to his feet and waited till a silence fell upon the audience. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he said solemnly, "this German officer knows what he is talking about. That Germany within a few months will make her supreme attempt to smash the British Empire I believe is certain. I am equally certain that the result of that attempt will not be what this gentleman anticipates and desires."
For some moments the silence remained unbroken. Then young Monteith sprang to his feet and led the audience in a succession of mad cheers that indicated the depth of passion to which they were stirred. After the cheering had subsided Larry rose and in a slightly querulous tone and with a humorous smile upon his face he said:
"Mr. Chairman, don't you think we are becoming unnecessarily serious? And are there not certain things on which we all agree? First that we are all Canadians, first, last and all the time. Secondly, that we greatly respect and admire our American cousins and we desire only better mutual acquaintance for our mutual good. Third, that we are loyal to and immensely proud of our Empire, and we mean to stick to it. And fourth, that Germany is a great country and has done great things for the world. As to the historical questions raised, these are not settled by discussion but by reliable historic documents. As to the prophecies made, we can accept or reject them as we choose. Personally I confess that I am unable to get up any real interest in this German war menace. I believe Germany has more sense, not to say proper Christian feeling, than to plunge herself and the world into war. I move, Mr. Chairman, that we pass to the next order of business."
"Hear! Hear!" cried some. "Go on with the programme."
"No! No!" said others. "Let's have it out."
"Mr. Chairman," said Hec Ross, rising to his feet, "this thing is better than any silly old programme, let's have it out."
But the chairman, much against his inclination, for he was a fighter, ruled otherwise. "The differences that separate us from one another here to-night are not differences that can be settled by argument. They are differences that are due partly to our history and partly to the ideals which we cherish. We shall go on with the programme."
At first the people were in no mood for mere amusement. They had been made to face for a brief moment the great and stern reality of war. The words and more the manner of Jack Romayne had produced a deep sense in their minds of the danger of a European conflagration, and the ominous words of the young German spoken as from intimate knowledge only served to deepen the impression made by Romayne. But the feeling was transitory, and speedily the possibility of war was dismissed as unthinkable. The bogey of a German war was familiar and therefore losing its power to disturb them. So after two or three musical numbers had been given the audience had settled back into its normal state of mind which accepted peace as the natural and permanent condition for the world.
The entertainment would have come to a perfectly proper and harmonious close had it not been for the unrestrained exuberance of Sam's humorous qualities on the one hand and the complete absence of sense of humour in Ernest Switzer on the other. The final number on the programme, which was to be a series of humorous character sketches, had been left entirely in Sam's hands and consisted of a trilogy representing the characteristics as popularly conceived of the French Canadian habitant, the humorous Irishman and the obese Teuton. Sam's early association with the vaudeville stage had given him a certain facility in the use of stage properties and theatrical paraphernalia generally, and this combined with a decided gift of mimicry enabled him to produce a really humorous if somewhat broadly burlesqued reproduction of these characters. In the presentation of his sketch Sam had reserved to the close his representation of the obese Teuton. The doings of this Teuton, while sending the audience into roars of laughter, had quite a different effect upon Switzer, who after a few moments of wrathful endurance made toward the rear of the audience.
Meantime the obese Teuton has appeared upon the stage in a famished condition demanding vociferously and plaintively from the world at large sausage. But no sausage is available. At this point a stray dog wanders upon the stage. With a cry of delight the famished Teuton seizes the unfortunate cur and joyously announcing that now sausage he will have, forthwith disappears. Immediately from the wings arise agonised canine howlings with which mingles the crashing of machinery. Gradually the howlings die into choking silence while the crash of the machinery proceeds for a few moments longer. Thereupon reappears the Teuton, ecstatic and triumphant, bearing with him a huge sausage, which he proceeds to devour with mingled lamentations over his departed "hund" and raptures over its metamorphosed condition. In the midst of this mingled lamentation and rapture is heard in the distance upon a mouth organ band the sound of the German national air. The Teuton is startled, drops his sausage upon the stage and exclaiming "Der Kronprinz," hastily beats a retreat.
At the mention of this august name Switzer disappears from the rear of the audience and makes his way to the back of the stage. In the meantime, to the accompaniment of organs and drums, appears upon the stage no less a personage than "der Kronprinz," to the reproduction of whose features Sam's peculiar facial appearance admirably lends itself. From this point the action proceeds with increased rapidity. No sooner had "der Kronprinz," who is also in a famished condition, appeared upon the stage than his eyes light upon the sausage. With a cry of delight he seizes it and proceeds ravenously to devour it. But at the first mouthful renewed howlings arise. "Der Kronprinz," in a state of intense excitement, drops his sausage and begins a wild search in the corners of the stage and in the wings for the source of the uproar. The sausage thus abandoned, aided by an invisible cord, wabbles off the stage before the eyes of the wondering and delighted audience. Thereafter "der Kronprinz" reappears with his "hund" under his arm and begins an active and distracted search for his precious sausage. Disappointed in his search for the sausage and rendered desperate by his famished condition, he seizes the wretched cur and begins gnawing at the tail and retires from the scene, accompanied by the howls of the unhappy canine and the applauding shouts of the audience.
Meantime while Sam is engaged in executing a lightning change from the role of "der Kronprinz" to that of the original obese Teuton, Switzer beside himself with rage comes upon him at the precise moment when he is engaged in tying up his shoe preparatory to making his final entry upon the stage. The posture is irresistibly inviting. The next instant the astonished audience beholds the extraordinary spectacle of the obese Teuton under the impulse of the irate Switzer's boot in rapid flight across the stage upon all fours, bearing down with terrific speed upon the rear of the unsuspecting chairman who, facing the audience and with a genial smile upon his countenance, is engaged in applauding Sam's previous performance. Making frantic but futile efforts to recover himself, Sam plunges head on with resistless impact full upon the exact spot where the legs of the parson effect a junction with the rest of his person and carries that gentleman with him clear off the stage and fairly upon the top of old McTavish, who at that moment is engaged in conversation with little Miss Haight immediately behind him. Immediately there is a terrific uproar, in which through the delighted yells of the crowd, the crashing of the overturned chairs, and the general confusion could be heard the shrieks of the little spinster and weird Scotch oaths from McTavish. After the noise had somewhat subsided and when the confusion had been reduced to a semblance of order, McTavish was discovered with his hand upon the collar of the dazed parson who in turn held the obese Teuton in a firm and wrathful grip, at which once more the whole crowd rocked with an unholy but uncontrollable joy.
It was Larry who saved the situation by appearing upon the stage and gravely announcing that this unfortunate catastrophe was due to a sudden international upheaval which as usual in such cases had come about in an absolutely unexpected manner and as a result of misunderstandings and mistakes for which no one could be held responsible. He proposed in the name of the audience votes of thanks to those who had laboured so diligently to make the Dominion Day celebration so great a success, especially to the ladies and gentlemen who had served upon the various committees, to the speakers of the evening, to those who had provided the entertainment, and last but not least to the chairman who had presided with such grace and dignity over the proceedings of the evening. The motion was carried with tumultuous applause, and after the singing of "The Maple Leaf" and the national anthem, the meeting came to a close.
After the entertainment was over Larry and his mother slowly took the trail homewards, declining many offers of a lift from their friends in cars and carriages. It was the Harvest Moon. Upon the folds of the rolling prairie, upon the round tops of the hills, upon the broad valleys, and upon the far-away peaks in the west the white light lay thick and soft like a mantle. Above the white- mantled world the concave of the sky hung blue and deep and pricked out with pale star points. About the world the night had thrown her mystic jewelled robes of white and blue, making a holy shrine, a very temple of peace for God and man. For some minutes they walked together in silence, after they had bidden good-night to the last of their friends.
"What a world it is, Mother!" said Larry, gazing about him at the beauty of the night.
"Yes, but alas, alas, that God's own children should spoil all this glory with hatred and strife! This very night in the unhappy Balkan States men are killing each other. It is too sad and too terrible to think of. Oh, if men would be content only to do justly by each other."
"Those people of the Balkan States are semi-barbarians," said Larry, "and therefore war between them is to be expected; but I cannot get myself to believe in the possibility of war between Christians, civilised nations to-day. But, Mother, for the first time in my life, listening to those two men, Romayne and Switzer, I had a feeling that war might be possible. Switzer seemed so eager for it, and so sure about it, didn't he? And Romayne, too, seemed ready to fight. But then I always remember that military men and military nations are for ever talking war."
"That is quite true, my dear," said his mother. "I too find it difficult to believe that war is possible in spite of what we have heard to-night. Our Friends at Home do not believe that war is imminent. They tell me that the feeling between Germany and Britain is steadily improving."
"And yet two years ago, Mother, in connection with the Agadir incident war might have happened any minute."
"That is true," replied his mother, "but every year of peace makes war less likely. The Friends are working and praying for a better understanding between these nations, and they are very confident that these peace delegations that are exchanging visits are doing a great deal for peace. Your Uncle Matthew, who has had a great deal to do with them, is very hopeful that a few years of peace will carry us past the danger point."
"Well, I hope so, Mother. I loathe the very thought of war," said Larry. "I think I am like you in this. I never did fight, you know; as a boy I always got out of it. Do you know, Mother, I think I would be afraid to fight."
"I hope so," replied his mother. "Fighting is no work for man, but for brute."
"But you would not be afraid, Mother. I know you would stand up to anything."
"Oh, no, no," cried his mother. "I could stand up to very little. After all, it is only God that makes strong to endure."
"But it is not quite the question of enduring, it is not the suffering, Mother. It is the killing. I don't believe I could kill a man, and yet in the Bible they were told to kill."
"But surely, Larry, we read our Bible somewhat differently these days. Surely we have advanced since the days of Abraham. We do not find our Lord and master commanding men to kill."
"But, Mother, in these present wars should not men defend their women and children from such outrages as we read about?"
"When it comes to the question of defending women and children it seems to me that the question is changed," said his mother. "As to that I can never quite make up my mind, but generally speaking we hold that it is the Cross, not the sword, that will save the world from oppression and break the tyrant's power."
"But after all, Mother," replied Larry, "it was not Smithfield that saved England's freedom, but Naseby."
"Perhaps both Naseby and Smithfield," said his mother. "I am not very wise in these things."
At the door of their house they came upon Nora sitting in the moonlight. "Did you meet Ernest and Mr. Romayne?" she inquired. "They've only gone five minutes or so. They walked down with us."
"No, we did not meet them."
"You must be tired after the wild excitement of the day, Mother," said Nora. "I think you had better go at once to bed. As for me, I am going for a swim."
"That's bully; I'm with you," said Larry.
In a few minutes they were dressed in their bathing suits, and, wrapped up in their mackintosh coats, they strolled toward the little lake.
"Let's sit a few moments and take in this wonderful night," said Nora. "Larry, I want to talk to you about what we heard to-night from those two men. They made me feel that war was not only possible but near."
"It did not impress me in the very least," said Larry. "They talked as military men always talk. They've got the war bug. These men have both held commissions in their respective armies. Romayne, of course, has seen war, and they look at everything from the military point of view."
As he was speaking there came across the end of the lake the sound of voices. Over the water the still air carried the words distinctly to their ears.
"Explain what?" It was Switzer's voice they heard, loud and truculent.
"Just what you meant by the words 'slanderous falsehood' which you used to-night," replied a voice which they recognised to be Jack Romayne's.
"I meant just what I said."
"Did you mean to impugn my veracity, because--"
"Because if you did I should have to slap your face just now."
"Mein Gott! You--!"
"Not so loud," said Romayne quietly, "unless you prefer an audience."
"You schlap my face!" cried the German, in his rage losing perfect control of his accent. "Ach, if you were only in my country, we could settle this in the only way."
"Perhaps you will answer my question." Romayne's voice was low and clear and very hard. "Did you mean to call me a liar? Yes or no."
"A liar," replied the German, speaking more quietly. "No, it is not a question of veracity. It is a question of historical accuracy."
"Oh, very well. That's all."
"No, it is not all," exclaimed the German. "My God, that I should have to take insult from you! In this country of barbarians there is no way of satisfaction except by the beastly, the savage method of fists, but some day we will show you schwein of England--"
"Stop!" Romayne's voice came across the water with a sharp ring like the tap of a hammer on steel. "You cannot use your hands, I suppose? That saves you, but if you say any such words again in regard to England or Englishmen, I shall have to punish you."
"Punish me!" shouted the German. "Gott in Himmel, that I must bear this!"
"They are going to fight," said Nora in an awed and horrified voice. "Oh, Larry, do go over."
"He-l-l-o," cried Larry across the water. "That you, Switzer? Who is that with you? Come along around here, won't you?"
There was a silence of some moments and then Romayne's voice came quietly across the water. "That you, Gwynne? Rather late to come around, I think. I am off for home. Well, Switzer, that's all, I think, just now. I'll say good-night." There was no reply from Switzer.
"You won't come then?" called Larry. "Well, goodnight, both of you."
"Good-night, good-night," came from both men.
"Do you think they will fight?" said Nora.
"No, I think not. There's Switzer riding off now. What fools they are."
"And Jack Romayne is so quiet and gentlemanly," said Nora.
"Quiet, yes, and gentlemanly, yes too. But I guess he'd be what Sam calls a 'bad actor' in a fight. Oh, these men make me tired who can't have a difference of opinion but they must think of fighting."
"Oh, Larry, I don't understand you a bit," cried Nora. "Of course they want to fight when they get full of rage. I would myself."
"I believe you," said Larry. "You are a real Irish terrier. You are like father. I am a Quaker, or perhaps there's another word for it. I only hope I shall never be called on to prove just what I am. Come on, let's go in."
For a half hour they swam leisurely to and fro in the moonlit water. But before they parted for the night Nora returned to the subject which they had been discussing.
"Larry, I don't believe you are a coward. I could not believe that of you," she said passionately; "I think I would rather die."
"Well, don't believe it then. I hope to God I am not, but then one can never tell. I cannot see myself hitting a man on the bare face, and as for killing a fellow being, I would much rather die myself. Is that being a coward?"
"But if that man," breathed Nora hurriedly, for the household were asleep, "if that man mad with lust and rage were about to injure your mother or your sisters--"
"Ah," said Larry, drawing in his breath quickly, "that would be different, eh?"
"Good-night, you dear goose," said his sister, kissing him quickly. "I am not afraid for you."
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.