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Title: Nilda
Author: Edwin Doidge
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Nilda
Author: Edwin Doidge


* * *

Nilda.

A Tale of

THE GERMAN INVASION of 1912.

By

E. DOIDGE,

AUTHOR of Marion Gorrisby, The Daughters of Eve, Little Maori Waif,
Mysterious Mrs. Brown, Was She a Wicked Woman? Father and Son, &c., &c.


Published in The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate
(Parramatta, NSW: 1888-1950) commencing 3 Sep. 1910 (this text). Also
published in 21 other regional newspapers in N.S.W. in 1910 and 1911.


* * *


CHAPTER I.

"Where is Ester?"

"Reading, Ma."

"Always reading--tiresome girl! Where is Glad?"

"Playing in the garden--or was a few minutes ago."

"Tom, you will have to run to the store and get a dozen of matches;
quite forgot them in the order to-day, and your father will 'perform'
if there are no matches."

Tom took his hat, and, with some sort of muttered complaint that he had
passed the age for running messages, went out into the garden to look
for Gladys, intent upon transferring the order.

"Glad, you've got to run down to Pridham's for a box of matches."

"Who said?"

"Mater."

Tom had acquired quite recently certain big-boy forms of expressing
himself; he had not long since attained to long pants, and was actually
in service in a bank. Hence the indisposition to run messages.

"I don't believe it. Mother sent you. You've got your hat on."

"You can go without your hat, and the sooner the better. Cut now."

"I'm busy. I was put to weed this bed, and it isn't half done yet."

A few weeds on the gravelled path attested the fact that some
half-hearted attempt had been made to rid a bed of mixed flowers of the
everlasting curse that fell upon the earth some time after Adam was a
boy, and about the time Eve spoiled the unparalleled beauties of Eden.

"And it won't be half-done in a week,--you wouldn't earn your salt at
it."

"They are so hard to pull up."

"Go on, Gladdy, and I'll weed till you come back."

"I don't want to go."

"I'll give you a copper if you do," and Master Tom jingled some coins
in his trouser pocket, as befitted the big brother, dealing with a
junior sister.

"Now, I know you were told to go, and you can go, so there."

Grumblingly Tom proceeded on his errand, carelessly whistling, hands in
pocket. Crossing a vacant corner allotment, he encountered Dick Conton.
"Hullo, Dick, who won the match?"

"Oh, the Pads, easy. Our boys weren't in it. Too light by
hundred-weights."

"I ought to have been in it."

"Go on, you're a 9-stoner, and they wouldn't see yer. 'Sides, you can't
run."

"Give you a spin to the corner of Pridham's--bet you a tanner I lick
you."

The contest did not ensue, nor the rest of the journey to Pridham's.
Just at that moment came the startling cry of the newsboy, and more
than a dozen papers were already unfurled and being read in the open
further down the street.

"War declared between England and Germany! Seizure by Germany of New
Guinea and other Highlands of the Pacific! Australia to be taken. The
British Harmy--'ere yer are, sir, latest 'Star!' Full particulars!"

Tom Horton jumped for the paper boy, and parted with the copper he had
just proffered Gladys, and became possessed of the extra special 3.45
p.m. edition. Glancing at the heavily-headed cables, there it was in
black and white.


"War Declared by Germany Against England!

"Consternation in Every Capital of Europe.

"A Sudden and Unexpected Rupture in Diplomatic Relations.

"The Peace Party in England Outwitted.

"Heavy Falls of Stock on all the Continental Bourses.

"The German Embassy in London Closed, and Ambassador Recalled.

"Diplomatic intercourse of last 10 weeks between London and Berlin,
which were confidently believed to be about to end satisfactorily to
both parties, were suddenly terminated last evening, when, acting
on a message from the Emperor of Germany, the Reichstag resolved to
terminate further parleys with the British Government, and recall its
ambassador from London. Any moment it is expected that the formal
declaration of war will be made. There is unprecedented consternation
in every capital of Europe. Both in England and the Continent it was
generally believed that the German claim in the Pacific would be
satisfactorily arranged. The immediate cause of failure in negotiations
has not transpired; but it is believed that England would not go beyond
the terms offered, which were considered generous by every nation
outside Germany and Austria, and which were only secured in the British
Parliament as the last concession to the Peace Party."


"Great scott, here's news for Dad!" broke from Tom as he hastened his
steps up the street, folding the paper the better to increase his speed.

"Hullo, Tom," broke from a boy-mate across the street, "what's your
hurry? How'd the match come off to-day?"

"Blow the match--there's a mighty big match on for Australia and the
Empire. See this?" holding up the paper.

"What's up?"

But Tom, not now thinking it undignified to run in the street, did not
longer stop to explain, and was round the corner in no time.

"Has Dad come home?" he enquired of Gladys.

"You'll get Dad if you slam that gate off its hinges like that--you
know it's against the rules, Tom."

"Rules be hanged--there's going to be war!"

"War, Tom! What war?" But Tom, realising the importance of his message,
must break the burden of it to a more important audience, and quickly
ran up the steps of the house.

"Mother, listen to this," and Tom, breathless from running, as from
the unparalleled importance of the message, gasped out its contents.
By which time the whole household were assembled around him and the
half-laid tea-table; Mrs. Horton subsided into the nearest chair;
Ester, who was next in the order of the family to Gladys, listened
open-mouthed and wondering, to the message of long words, and, to her,
difficult terminology.

"Germany declared war against England!" came gaspingly from Mrs.
Horton, as she sank back to take in the dreadful news. "But what for?
What's it all about, Tom?"

"What's every war all about," frowned Tom, to cover any shortcoming as
to his knowledge of the situation. But wiser heads than his were asking
that same question, or, like him, failing to answer it. "Haven't you
been reading the papers? Something to do with New Guinea, I believe."

"Where's New Guinea?" came in a piping, scared voice from Ester.

"Where's your geography?" came snappingly from Tom. "What do you learn
at school, any way, if you don't know the names of the big islands
lying round?"

Albert, the youngster of this family group chipped in with a merry
remark. "We'll get another holiday when their big ships come to the
harbour."

"Little idiot," cried Tom, scathingly, "you are more likely to be blown
into the harbour in little bits by one of the shells."

"What's a shell--I ain't afraid of shells!"

"Oh, Tom, this is dreadful news, really," Mrs. Horton collected her
wits to say. "There may be some mistake. Those newspapers are so fond
of making sensations."

"This is not a sensation they are making--not at this end of the world,
anyway," came sagely from Master Tom. "I wonder what is keeping your
father?"

"Perhaps this scare news," Tom suggested.

Reginald Horton was employed in the city of Sydney--"something in
connection with the Exchange," people said, and at that we will in
the meantime let it go. He was a man who had plodded his way through
many winding paths of colonial life. At one time he had been a banker,
and quitted that for something promising more lucrative returns; and
ultimately became "something on the Stock Exchange." As something on
the Stock Exchange, he was in touch, and had some degree of intimacy,
with the causes of those fluctuations which occasionally cause panic in
the great Stock Exchanges of the world.

It was the sudden news from Europe which had detained Mr. Horton later
than usual in and about his office, and also on the way home. For now
in every man's mouth was the word of war between the two great Powers
of Europe, whose friendliness had never seriously been disturbed in all
the long course of European history.

In many cases there were flippant remarks as to what would happen
the Germans when they faced the British Bulldogs in their--the
Britons'--own pet province, the rolling waters, on which supremacy had
so long been conceded to them. But in wiser and more prudent minds,
there was wide regret--nay, profound sorrow--that so mad a thing,
so gigantic a misfortune, had occurred. Among these, certainly, was
Reginald Horton. Eminently a man of peace, and schooled in its arts,
educated in the arena where the pulses of great financial houses were
felt beating with national and international undertakings, and where
Credit was the giant, who lifted his little finger and pressed a button
that had greater power than any archimedian lever, while Peace held
sway, among the great nations of the world.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye as it were, the intricate and
delicate clock-work of a mighty mechanism which had been built up
between millions of people here, and millions of people there, under
the egis of the Angel of Peace and the beneficent Reign of Security,
could break and tumble into fragments in a thousand different centres
where the tentacles of the Goddess Commerce had reached out as
life-wires of a mighty living organism that worked in a myriad wheels
and wheels within wheels. Only war, the blind, insensate, unreasoning
Brute, had but to sound his first Tocsin note, and this sublime
machine, reared with such infinite pains, built up by many patient
hands and master minds, trembles and breaks.

Reginald Horton knew himself to be no more than a very small cog
in one of the minor wheels of the Chariot of Commerce, but he knew
already that the jarring note had come--had come in that dread cable,
and was even at that moment affecting, nay shaking, every great
financial centre in the world; for the British nation was, in relation
to the finances of the world, almost in the position of the keystone
of the arch built to withstand every shock of a normal nature, but
not a world-cataclysm. . . . No device or structure of man could
withstand Messianic violence in eruption; no triumph of Peace and
long-established security could stand, and withstand, the collision of
two such mighty forces as the British and German Powers.

Hence it was that fear and anxiety sat upon the brow of Reginald Horton
as he returned to his home that evening.

He was met with a fire of questions, in which there was no marked note
of anxiety save in that of Mrs. Horton.

"Is it true, do you think, Dad?" was Tom's first enquiry.

"I fear it is too true."

"Did any one expect anything of the sort?" asked his wife.

"Not immediately. It is the suddenness of it that makes one jump. But
I'm afraid that is characteristic of Germany. You will remember they
were pretty sudden when they jumped at France, when few people supposed
them ready."




CHAPTER II.--THE COMING OF NILDA.

"What exactly does 'fastidious' mean, Popp?" asked Gladys of her
father at the breakfast table next morning. Where she acquired the
colloquialism of "Poppa," which is something more American than
Australian, never transpired.

Poppa's reply was slowly, but reflectively given, as he raised his eyes
for a moment from his morning paper: "Means generally scrupulously
particular--or, say, over-particular, why do you ask?"

It was Mrs. Horton who answered.

"Oh, Glad has been reading the note we got from Mr. Summers about the
young person who is willing to come as lady-help."

"Oh," and Mr. Horton was willing at that to return to his newspaper,
for there was much in it that was of more absorbing interest than the
engaging of a help in the running of the Horton household. But however
much that might be the case, the family interest in this domestic
affair was dominant for the moment.

The Horton household had of necessity to be run on lines of reasonable
economy. But quite lately the council of economy had decided that
a departure should be made, and a lady-help installed. Prudential
motives had suggested that if a young lady of good address and some
accomplishments could be found who would give some slight assistance in
the lighter work of the house, and at the same time take the education
of the two girls in hand, with especial regard to music lessons, it
would be money well-spent. And so Mrs. Horton had been on the look-out
for a young person having such qualifications.

Under the remarkable ramifications of "domestic service" in Australia,
one of the strangest developments is surely found in this connection.
Barred from domestic service in the ordinary sense of the word, by some
sense of family pride, rendered unfit in a manner by comparatively
gentle upbringing, and really in many cases qualified for better
things, the "superior young person" is willing to go out to service
as "lady-help," who shrinks from service under any other name; though
often she does the work of the maid--a homely English phrase that
has found its vogue, very fittingly, at last in our own domestic
nomenclature.

"Her one foible is fastidiousness."

"Why does not Mr. Summers write plain English?" queried Gladys.

"It is plain English--do you take it for German?" snapped Tom, whose
"big brother" proclivities, it will already have been noticed, were
much in evidence.

"Well, then, tell us the exact meaning of 'foible,' if you know,"
protested Gladys.

The keenness of the discussion got Mr. Horton's attention off the paper.

"I'd better see this much-discussed epistle," he rather playfully
suggested, and held out his hand for it. This is how the brief note
read:--


"Clayton,

March--, 19--.

"My Dear Mrs. Horton.

You have asked me can I recommend Miss Chester to your service. I am
glad to reply that I think I can do so with confidence. I have known
Nilda since a baby. She is the daughter of one whom I used to see a
good deal of. Her general ability to fill the position of lady-help is,
to the best of my knowledge, assured. In addition she is a young lady
of very prepossessing appearance, and in disposition very winning, not
to say charming. Those who know her best say she ought to have been
born a great lady. Perhaps her one foible is fastidiousness.

"Yours very sincerely,

"JAMES SUMMERS."


"Well," said Mr. Horton, "that seems an excellent recommendation in its
way, and, coming from an old friend, leaves nothing to be desired, I
should say."

"But, Poppa," broke in Gladys, "please, do tell us just what are we to
expect from a governess whose 'foible is fastidiousness?'"

"That she will be mighty particular with you, Miss,"--brother Tom was
in a hurry to say--"and keep you in your place."

"That is easy--I wish you had some one to keep you in your place," was
Gladys' sufficiently apt reply, and she still looked toward her father
for enlightenment.

"We shall have to find the meaning by experience, I expect. It may
mean a great many things--she may be over-particular--too scrupulous,
perhaps, in regard to her dress, her appearance, her diet, her friends,
her conversation, her books, her boots--oh, or 50 other things."

"Especially about the lessons, I expect," added the ever-ready Tom, who
was not always noted for acerbity, but that was particularly noticeable
in his contribution to the breakfast table talk this morning.

Mrs. Horton said that would be an excellent trait, for she never
could bear the slipshod and unexacting, and if Miss Chester was very
particular, it was a promising feature in any one undertaking the
education of her daughters, and lending a hand in the more agreeable
work of the house.

"Then you think, dear, that I should write to engage Miss Chester?" she
finally said to her husband.

"By all means. I see no reason why you should not. Offer her the sum we
agreed upon, and a three months' engagement for a start."

The offer went out by the first post. It promised Miss Chester a
comfortable home, as a member of the family. She was to have a small
room to herself, cosily furnished. In a full and fair way, Mrs. Horton
stated as near as possible what duties were expected of her. She
was to rise at 7 o'clock in winter and 6.30 o'clock in summer; dust
breakfast-room and lay table for breakfast, assist to clear the things
after breakfast, and keep the drawing-room presentable. At 10 o'clock
commence teaching the two girls, and continue lessons till 12--five
days per week. In the afternoons the duties read light. Three times
every week she was to be at liberty to go out for a walk with the
Horton girls; but always to return in good time to lend some assistance
toward the evening meal, which was the principal one of the day. The
reference to the evenings read invitingly. It was hoped Miss Chester's
recommended musical ability would be an added cheerfulness to the
house, and tend to promote the family happiness. There were some other
details which need not be noted; but, generally speaking, Mrs. Horton's
remarks, outside the specification of duties, were such as one lady
might write to another, and presumably had their effect on the "young
person" whose "one foible was fastidiousness."

Generally speaking, the Horton family were unusually moved about the
coming of the new governess cum-lady-help. They were making a departure
in their domestic economy. And Mr. Summers' letter of recommendation
had somehow raised expectations of quite an unusual character.

If Miss Chester had not been an unusual character this story could
hardly have been written.

It was a week from the family discussion above recorded that the
stranger was to arrive. In the meantime a letter had been received from
Miss Chester concluding the engagement, and it was couched in these
terms:--


"Ardnum,

April 2nd, 19--.

"My Dear Mrs. Horton,

I am delighted in the prospect of coming to live with you in Sydney. It
will all be a very new and strange experience for me, as I have never
seen your great city, and am full of curiosity as to what it is like.
I hope you will like me, and that your daughters and I shall be great
friends. I shall try very hard to please you, and be of service to you
in every way I can. Will you be so kind as to meet me by the mail train
on Monday morning, as I shall, I am sure, be frightened out of my wits
if I am alone at Redfern station.

"Believe me, sincerely yours,

"NILDA CONSTANCE CHESTER.

"P.S.--I accept terms offered with thanks, and have carefully noted the
duties mentioned in your kind letter."


"Nilda Constance Chester. Dear me, what an uncommon name," came from
Mrs. Horton, as she now, for the first time, noted the full signature.

"Hilda is common enough," commented Tom.

"Not Hilda, but Nilda," corrected his mother.

It's quite a grand sounding name the gentle Ester thought.

Gladys, protesting that it must be Hilda surely, requested to see the
letter. It was plainly written. "Poppa, have ever you heard of Nilda?"

"Don't remember ever coming across it."

"We must ask her how she came by that name;" a remark that called forth
another snap from Tom to the effect that he supposed Miss Gladys would
want to know where Miss Chester bought her boots before she was five
minutes in the house.

Mr. Horton brought this small talk to a conclusion by issuing an edict
that he would have no impertinent questions asked of Miss Chester, who
was to be treated with every consideration and courtesy by the junior
members of the family, who were to expect as much in return. And there
was an especial word for Master Tom, who was told that he was not to be
flippant. That not only in regard to Miss Chester was it desirable that
he observe a little more decorum in speech and manner, but toward his
sisters, also; as the language and style of the street or the football
field was not edifying, it should not be cultivated in the home circle.

Tom listened in silence, with a half-offended air. Nor did he say
"Yes, sir." Australian boys seldom do. It is one of the pronounced
deficiencies in young Australia. It must be that young Australia's
education, in the matter of manner, style, filial obedience and respect
has been neglected. Only in isolated cases--rendered conspicuous by
their singularity in the Commonwealth does one hear the good old-time
"Yes, sir," or "No, sir," as from son to father. And in these few
cases, the probability is that it is more often heard in gentle Irish
families than in representatives of either English or Scotch. Whether
it comes from the relaxed parental control, or is somehow part and
parcel of those free institutions on which we boast ourselves so
complacently, the fact remains, and it is particularly noticeable to
visitors from the homeland and from foreign countries. What wonder that
they tell us that freedom is in itself very fine; but freedom run to
license--in manners as in morals--is very bad.




CHAPTER III.--ENGLAND AWAKE.

Is it not recorded in English history that the time of the Spanish
invasion--when they actually hove in sight--Drake, Hawkins and Raleigh
were playing bowls? In the chambers of memory there lurks some
indistinct picture of England's heroes thus merrily engaged in a most
healthy and engrossing pastime, scarcely exceeded save by the more
exhilarating, kingly game of golf; for to hole a ball in 2 is more
thrillingly exciting than to knock your keenest opponent's ball out of
place, and find your ball lying comfortably nearest to the jack.

When the worst comes--and Heaven forfend the worst in this most
stupendous struggle in which we are how commencing in deadly earnest
to uphold the honor, credit and stability of Great Britain as one of
the great world Powers, and the first sea Power--when the worst comes
there will surely still be Drakes, Hawkins and Raleighs who will loiter
a little in proud disregard of those who would dare to emulate the
"invincible Armada" of ever-memorable derision.

The cry of the noble Roberts. "Make ready," uttered with such vehemence
from the hour almost of Edward VII.'s accession to the end of 1909, as
in the stress of his soul, and with the war-like seer's vision, he saw
that England was keeping pace with the leading nations of Europe--one
or other of which would sooner or later find cause of action against
his country--came now to mind. "England the Unready!" Yet, in its very
unreadiness, striking the world again with its Leonine characteristic:
The Lion of Judah is not readily scared. The giant may have slumbered
when lesser mortals would have remained awake, and spent their strength
in watching and waiting. Look, he rouses him now. He is rampant, for an
unprovoked assault is made upon him. A thousand mighty Eagles seek the
Lion's lair, who had not hurt them, nor sought them harm, though his
roar had been heard when sundry of these same eagles had made excursion
into the nests of doves and pigeons, and would have torn them had no
power stayed.

It took a second, a third, nay a fourth, cable before the Commonwealth
would believe the dread thing had come to pass. "Germany had declared
war against England. The ultimatum was that England must, within 48
hours, signify her willingness to surrender the whole of her interests
in New Guinea to the German Government; and, further, that the Imperial
Government should name a day and date when she would put a period to
her occupation of Egypt, and entirely withdraw her troops, her civil
and military authorities, from that country, or other of the Sultan's
dominions."

New Guinea might be a small thing, Imperially considered; to
Australians it loomed as large as life--the life of the Commonwealth.
In the world's eye the possession of the near neighbour to the
Commonwealth, was neither here nor there; but that England, which had
remade Egypt, which had brought up out of the ashes, the mire and the
clay, a new and re-invigorated haven of the Pharaohs; that England
should be ordered to pack up and clear, at a moment's notice, at the
behest of Germany, who had no hand or part in the re-making of the
worse than desert of the stricken Egypt--the world stood still and
wondered at the incredible thing that was proposed.

The world knew that England would fight to the last man, and the last
dollar, rather than submit to the extreme demands of Germany.

About the time of the beginning of the trouble, some publicist of note
had written his hope that England would never place herself "in the
wrong" in regard to any difficulty with Germany. By common consent now,
it was admitted that England had not placed herself in the wrong, and
"thrice is he armed who hath his quarrel just."

* * * *

The cable messages? They came tumbling over each other in mad confusion!

The hour of the ultimatum had passed.

All Britain was astir and aflame.

The Mediterranean Squadron had been recalled, and was full steam for
the Channel.

Every officer of the British Navy was summoned to his post, ready for
immediate action--aye, ready.

Lord Charles Beresford, who had retired for the second time, had been
given another command, and he and Admiral Fisher had made it up, for
England now needed all her strong sons of the sea--her bull-dogs of
true British breed.

Contrary to expectations, there was no immediate evidence of invasion
of England at the expiration of the short mandatory ultimatum.

But that Germany was ready and determined to "smash the British Navy,"
and invade England with an immense army, was made clear on every hand.

Twenty great battleships of the Dreadnought, and better than the
Dreadnought class were ready for action, and these were supported by a
huge flotilla of destroyers and not less than 100 torpedo boats. True,
all these combined would not make up a combination equal to Britain's
fighting strength, inasmuch as the latter's lines of cruisers and
second and third rate ships were far more numerous than Germany (400
in all). Of Dreadnoughts England now had 19, and experts held that,
other things being equal, England's Navy must conquer within a week if
the whole forces could be brought face to face, and have it out in a
business-like way.

But there was one terrible and unknown factor that no naval, or other
authority, could pretend to reckon with, seeing it was practically a
new and unknown quantity in naval warfare. This was the "Demons de
l'Aviation."

Was it not Napoleon who once said, in discussing the possibility of an
attack on England, that he saw more than one way of getting an army of
invasion into England, but he saw no way of getting them out again.
If it was not Napoleon it was Bismarck; if it was not Bismarck it was
the great German General, Moltke. But that was before the 20th century
brought the crowning horror of war,--the possibility to drop fire, shot
and shell and destruction from the very clouds of heaven, and add new
terrors to the dark night of barbarous war. For be it understood always
the difficulty presented itself that supposing 200,000 foreign troops
could be landed on one of the unprotected, or insufficiently protected,
shores of England, the imperishable British Navy, outwitted possibly
in the first or main advance, would be on hand to cut off retreat, and
prevent reinforcements. But, with a cloud of air-ships, matters might
be very different.

That is what Germany has carefully prepared for; she does not mean to
take any chances of the Napoleonic kind. Since three to five years ago
the progress of æronautical science in Germany has been marvellous.
Well it is remembered how the Emperor greeted Count von Zeppelin as the
greatest hero of his country in 1908; and also it may be remembered how
the nation loaded him with compliments and capital when his first and
second great air-ships were destroyed.

While at first it seemed that France would lead the way in designing
and successfully floating air-warships, it has been proved that
France's efforts and accomplishments in this direction have been as
playthings compared to Germany's airships. The stories of what has been
done by German dirigibles have been read as colored by fear or inflated
by too ready imagination; but as early as 1909 Paris correspondents saw
with their own eyes--notwithstanding organised and official efforts to
keep successful flights as secret as possible--enough to impress them
with the gravest cause for uneasiness in this direction.

While marked attention began to be paid to Germany's war expenditure
and battleship-building by the eyes and ears of Britain (meaning in
particular her Press and public men), comparatively little attention
was paid to her developments in other directions. Yet, in April of
1909, it had leaked out that Germany had started systematic airship
building.

"Mr. Haldane, Secretary of State for War, stated that Germany had
constructed six dirigible air-ships, and is constructing six more."
Incidentally it was worthy of note that in the same day's cables
"Germans declare that what the British Overseas Dominions are doing for
the British Empire Austria-Hungary is doing for Germany," (so strong
did they then count the triple-alliance; but they reckoned without
their hosts in regard to Italy).

At that same time the proposal was made by a responsible British
officer that England should commence the construction of air-ships
on the two-to-one basis, but it was not adopted. Many writers, like
M. Larrison, were inclined to scoff at the idea of invasion by
air-ships, and more especially by Zeppelin balloons. But Larrison
was a Frenchman, and believed no good thing could come out of any
German Nazareth. True, it is not the primitive and cumbersome Zeppelin
that is now ready to fill the air in support of the German Emperor's
"imperishable navy"--it is rather a compromise between it and the
French dirigible--but there they are, waiting on the German coasts, in
every fortified town, a thousand air-ships, built as we now know at a
cost of £3,000,000, worked on day and night, secretly and insidiously,
in preparation for this long-premeditated invasion of the impregnable
island home of John Bull. . . . What the nations from time immemorial
had regarded as impossible of accomplishment, Emperor William has
essayed to do, and is determined to do. . . . The madness and lust
of conquest--to do the impossible--to become the New Lord of the
Seas--to wear in his Imperial diadem the exalted legend, "Conqueror of
Britannia"--"the monarch who humbled England!"

That is the brave, proud, bloody task the German Emperor, and
presumably the German people, have set themselves to accomplish, and
the wide world at this moment stands gaping and appalled, listening,
trembling for the first shock and counter-shock, for the blast and
counter-blast of the two mightiest navies which the earth has ever
produced. The sublime summit of mechanical, engineering skill,
scientific appliances, and rare ingenuity are summed up in the word
"Dreadnought." . . . Perchance, that was an unhappy name to choose.
Who knows but the very name inflamed the warlike passion of "England's
nephew," who could shake the "mailed fist" in every face but that of
England, because of that same navy; who could summon the Government
of a people, in numbers twice his own, to "volte face" on a great
European question in which they had ventured to take the side of the
weak against the strong, and, on threat of mobilization, make them bond
to Emperor William's will,--"because this is Our wish for our dear
friend and Brother Austria." . . . Despotic power is indeed a fearful
thing in the hands of an ambitious man. . . . England had not thought
it possible--especially the Quakers of England, and there are more
Quakers than wear broad grey cloth--had not believed that the sane
German nation would ever catch the madness of its "mailed fist." . . .
Yet, we might have known when left and right and centre of the
Reichstag voted the unprecedented millions, "all of a sudden," as it
were, that some new and enlarged ambition had seized the nation. . . We
now know beyond question, or doubt, that that new and enlarged ambition
was nothing less than to wrest from England the supremacy of the seas.




CHAPTER IV.--THE GENESIS OF NILDA.

What time the world believed in angel visits--however rare--that time
might Nilda Constance Chester have been born among men. I who have seen
her often with mine own eyes, have eaten and drunk with her, conversed
often with her, danced with her, aye, and sorrowed with--for to such
a gentle creature in distress sympathy flowed out as to a motherless
lamb stricken in the cold, or fallen by the way-side--flowed as of
necessity, and in a manner without merit. For, somehow, she was more
alone than any maiden I have met from side to side of wide Australia.

And if here I transgress the rules of first-class literature, and write
for a space in the first personal singular, let it be forgiven me. The
intimacy here is genuine and not feigned. Nilda is real and alive. Her
portrait? All heroines are portrayed. And here I know I shall fail, for
it is not my gift to adequately or eloquently depict female beauty.
Character, and shades of character, slip readily from my pen; but
beauty!--I had much rather present you with her photo, and, letting
that speak, pass on; yet something is required beside the picture I
have so often gazed upon, and, good as it is, does not represent her
faithfully, save in just one immobile attitude which does not best
become her. This part would I certainly skip, if it were proper. Yet
here, as best I may, I will briefly limn the face and expression of
one who has much to do with this story, improbable as that may at
this juncture appear, having regard to the large and national issues
involved, and which, up to the present moment, seem so remote to the
career of any gentle maiden who, so far as seen, is destined for no
higher place in life than governess and lady-help to a respectable
Sydney family.

Nilda Chester, at 20, was of medium height, and slender as a poplar,
her carriage graceful. Neither fair nor dark, she struck the happy
medium in complexion. Coils of thick, nut-brown hair clustered about
her head, which tresses she ever dressed so cunningly and becomingly
that any Parisian milliner might have wished to engage her, for no
matter what vogue was the hat, from the crimpy thing that a bird might
fly away with to the enormous proportions of a monster "Merry Widow"
creation 8 feet in circumference, heavily feathered, it sat upon her
with apparently equal felicity. Her eyes were large and of the softest
brown; arched her eye-brows, that are not so common now as a hundred or
two hundred years ago, judging by the master painters, who invariably
paint the grand dames and beauty damsels of the Georgian periods
with highly-arched brows. The nose, most truly Grecian. How anyone
can be described as beautiful who possesses an aquiline nasal organ,
I cannot conceive. The Roman shape of nose may be associated with
genius, heroism, great powers of daring, invention, statesmanship or
generalship, but I can not admit their association with beauty, where
regular lines are indispensable. . . . Certainly, there are varied and
distinct types of beauty. I think Mrs. Patrick Campbell very beautiful,
and her daughter, Stella, no less so. I mention these, because they
approximate to the type I am trying to describe in Nilda Chester. . .
But it was the expression that captivated more than the classic
features. Always there were--nay, are--for why should I rob the present
tense of its due?--the gentleness, the sweetness, the light that Edwin
Arnold might here have apostrophised. . . . Think of the shrew who
might be beautiful but for the vexed spirit that is within her, that
sooner or later wizens, cripples, destroys, every line of the facially
beautiful. All that the shrew is, Nilda Chester--is not.

From whence sprang so fair a lily?

I would not tell you, were it not incidental to the story. And even in
the telling, you shall read between the lines more than I shall write
down in black and white. For it is in itself a story of blackness and
whiteness, the which has lain in my desk these years, an unused secret.
Now opened only to be re-written in epitome; else you had not known
how Nilda came to enter into questions and matters that can only be
described as "national."

* * * *

Full 20 years ago there came to Sydney town a distinguished young
foreigner, who was then barely out of his teens, it is said. I am not
able to determine whether it was in a warship or a private yacht. The
leisureliness and unconstrainedness of his movements would appear to
indicate the latter. On shore, at all events, he did pretty much as he
liked, and emulated the ways of Jack ashore to his heart's content.

His name was Count von Salleberg. Perchance he had other names. Later
on he certainly had. He was thought sufficiently distinguished to be
invited to Government House; perchance he accepted a formal invitation
and never acted on it. . . . In any case he was one of a roystering
party who spent a full fortnight down the South Coast. They drank, and
they shot, and they feasted. Perhaps it was at Kiama, or mayhap while
the party painted the old coach-town of Nowra red, that something
happened. . . . A Count for lover! Why not? The days of romance are not
o'er. And love's young dream seemed possible of realisation, though
more than an ocean separated the social lives of these two. . . . I
never saw her; she died many years ago. But I am ready to believe
that she, too, was good to look upon. That she innocently listened to
fairy tales, and believed that fiction was fact; that love at first
sight could not be mistaken; that he, the gay Lothair, would bear her
far away in his fine ship to his grand home, and she would be a grand
lady--all true and square. . . . How much he meant, I know not. How
much he lied, I know not. How much he loved, I know not. How much he
broke a heart--ah, of this I know somewhat. And this: that young Count
von Salleberg said he must go to his ship and would return in two days
for his love. . . . That he never returned. . . .

That she never saw him again.

That is an old, old story, told a thousand times, witnessed times
without number; occurring and re-occurring so oft in every city,
town and hamlet that it becomes one of the most prosaic tragedies of
life. . . . Poor human nature. . . . and the woman, as usual, was left
to suffer. . . . The after years? It may not be told. . . . Only this,
that the betrayed one married while yet her honor was not called in
question. Perhaps that was her greater sin; yet would I cast no stone
of severity. Deserted, distracted, torn by fear, what else remained
to her? Be that as it may, it is said she died of a broken-heart,
while yet in the years that should have been in the prime of her
womanhood. . . . He, Donald Chester, was just an ordinary man on
the land, described as an easy going yeoman, practical, unpoetical,
phlegmatic.

So much for the part, which will suffice to explain much that follows.

* * * *

At the garden-gate two girls on the tip-toe of expectation, greatly
excited. For this change in the domestic economy of "Linden" meant so
much for them. For now they were no longer to be ordinary school-girls,
but were to have a teacher of their very own--a young lady who was to
be their especial guide, philosopher and friend. . . . There they had
been posted for well nigh half-an-hour; and at last she came. Mrs.
Horton had herself gone to Redfern station to meet her, so that she
should not feel lonely; had gone because there was really no one else
really she could send; had gone as an act of grace, but without a
thought of any condescension, for she had reason to believe that Miss
Chester was as represented--a very gentle and superior young person;
and, as will have been gathered, it was so intended to receive and
treat her.

The sprightly Gladys caught the gentle Esther by the hand, and together
they ran out into the street as the cab pulled up, and, before Mrs.
Horton could say a word of introduction, the impulsive Gladys had
seized Miss Chester by the hand, and, with a warmth of exclamation
which could not be mistaken, cried, "I'm so glad you have come at last.
We thought the cab would never get here." . . . Then, turning to her
sister, "This is Esther."

"Yes, so glad to meet you both. You are Gladys, of course?" They were
for pulling her within the gate, but the new-comer turning, said, "I
must pay the cabman."

"No, Mamma is doing that, and giving directions as to the luggage. Is
this all you have?" asked Gladys.

"Not quite all; my luggage is not extensive, but there is a box left at
the station, as it was too heavy to bring along in the cab."

"Now, come along, dears," said Mrs. Horton. "I'm sure Miss Chester must
be famished. I myself feel hungry."

"You got up so early; it was very kind of you to come yourself to
meet me," came gratefully from Miss Chester, cut short by Gladys, who
protested that she had offered to go, but Mamma would not hear of it.

"Have you laid the breakfast things?" Mrs. Horton questioned, as they
made up the steps into the house.

"Quite an hour ago, Mamma."

"Then tell Maggie to let us have some breakfast in ten minutes;" and
Esther was deputed to show the new-comer up to her room. This she did
with shyness, which meant that she found not a word to say, and could
make no conversation, just answering in little more than yes or no to
the questions the new governess asked. So unlike Gladys, who needed no
questioning to make her tongue go.

"Oh, what a cosy, delightful little room!" was the new-comer's pleased
explanation, as she stood for a moment surveying the comfortable
apartment prepared for her.

"It was Tom's," was all that Esther found to say.

"I'm afraid Master Tom will not thank me for robbing him of his room."

"He has the lumber-room, downstairs."

"The lumber-room! Poor Tom."

"Oh, but it's larger than this, and has been cleaned out."

"And where is your room?"

"Just opposite this--come and see it."

But that was postponed, for, before many minutes, Gladys came running
up with sundry of the lighter boxes, and with a word to hurry, please,
for breakfast. Then, catching sight of the hat Miss Chester had just
taken off and placed on the bed, Gladys broke out with a note of
exclamation, "Your hat is just a picture, Miss Chester. Do let me try
it on." Then, with her mob of hair flying about her shoulders, she
tried on the hat, which was adorned with two large feathers, one black
and one white, and making her way to the glass coquettishly fixed it,
and laughed at the effect, protesting she would have one just like that
when she was grown up.

"Oh, you'll have a much better one, I am sure," said Miss Chester.

"It is quite the latest style, and will knock Tom," protested Gladys.

"Knock Tom! How will it do that?"

"Oh, he says you are from the way-back among the gums, and will want
'civilising.' He is such a tease. But you won't mind him. Miss Chester,
will you?"

"Oh, that will be all right. I'm sure to like Tom, since he is one of
you."




CHAPTER V.

"Listen to this, please, Dad--'Germany's power. We know that the
German's have a law, which, when all the ships under it have been
completed, will have their navy more powerful than any at present in
existence. We know that, but we do not know the rate at which the
provisions of this Act are to be carried into execution. We now expect
that four German ships of the 1908-9 programme will be completed, not
in February, 1911, but in the autumn of 1910. I am informed, moreover,
that the construction of----'"

"Who said that?" demanded Mr. Horton across the tea-table, to which
they had just sat down, a comparatively happy family, just after the
arrival of Miss Chester.

"One of the members of the Imperial Government."

"How long ago was that?"

"In the early part of 1909," Tom discovered upon reading the
introduction to the above lines; and it was under the heading, "Did
England have fair warning to be ready for such an ordeal as a war with
the German Empire?"

Tom, full of the subject, was for reading further, but his mother,
moving at the moment at the back of his chair, quietly laid hold of the
paper, folded it, and placed it upon the couch, with a gentle reminder
that there was a time for all things; and then, addressing her remarks
particularly to Miss Chester, said, "Isn't this dreadful, this awful
war? I suppose we shall hear and talk of nothing else till the matter
is settled."

"Till the matter is settled," re-echoed Mr. Horton, contemplatively. "I
am afraid, mother, there will be vast accounts to settle before that
happens. There will be many vacant chairs, many desolate homes, much
blood and treasure spilled before we reach the end."

"It is too terrible to think of." It was Nilda who spoke, and then she
added, "I used to like the Germans, but now I am afraid I hate them. Is
there, Mr. Horton, any justification, really, for declaring war against
England?"

"Most Britishers say there is not," Mr. Horton made answer, "and,
happily for us, the independent Press of the world declare as much."

"By-the-by," said the head of the family, "it is by way of being a
rather queer coincidence, but Mr. Summers is to be with us for an hour
this evening, and he spoke of bringing a young German along with him.
So, Miss Chester," he continued with a meaning glance, remembering
what she had just remarked concerning Germans in general, "you will
perhaps relax a little to this particular German, as becomes one of the
hostesses."

"Since you put it that way, Mr. Horton, I will remember my duty to a
guest, if permitted to meet Mr.----"

"Mr. Gunsler, I think Mr. Summers called him."

* * * *

It was later in the evening when the guests arrived. Mr. Summers
introduced young Mr. Gunsler as a young gentleman recently from
Germany, with some idea of making his home in Australia, but
immediately for the purpose of introducing into the Commonwealth
certain new styles of machines.

* * * *

Even as the streets rang with war cries, and groups of idlers at every
corner had one thing in common to debate or discuss, so in every
drawing-room, bar, and cottage in the country was the all-dominant
theme on men's tongues the same--war between two nations which had
never yet sprang at each other's throats.

Strangest thing of all, that the German in our midst, even the
non-naturalised, was not yet ostracised or refused social recognition.
Here was a phase of the magnanimity which marked the Briton abroad. The
war was the act of the Emperor, or of the Reichstag, or the Government;
it was surely not the commoners' war. To some extent that was the
impression left by Mr. Gunsler.

In quite an impersonal--almost impartial--manner he discussed the
situation, yet fearlessly. He could talk, too, and though his English
was not perfect, and he paused at times for a word, ere twenty minutes,
he was the centre of the circle of listeners.

"You say, Mr. Horton, this war is unnatural, undefendable--ah,
indefensible (I thank you)? You look at it only from the Englishman's
standpoint. Let me speak to you of the German aspect--from a point
of view you may not have considered. It is unnatural, you say, for a
son of an English Princess to attack his mother's homeland. WHAT IF
OUR EMPEROR REGARDS HIMSELF AS ENGLAND'S LAWFUL SOVEREIGN? . . .
You protest; yes, yes; but listen: Was he not the eldest child of the
eldest of Queen Victoria's children? Yes."

Mr. Horton: "But that does not entitle him to succession! The daughter
of a Sovereign does not succeed where there are sons."

"Did not Queen Victoria succeed when there were possible male aspirants
to the Throne of England?"

Mr. Horton: "In any case, the claim, all claims, of the Princess Royal
were surrendered by her to succeed to the British Throne when she
married your Prince Frederick; and that applies also to her issue."

"Ah, you are speaking from the English side again. That does not
disturb my contention. You are not under the Salic law, which was the
fundamental law of the French monarchy, excluding females from the
monarchy. Therefore, in German eyes, the right of Emperor William,
Queen Victoria's eldest grandson, is good and valid."

Mr. Horton: "Make your mind easy then on that score. Britishers will
never consent to having a German monarch rule over them while they have
a Prince of their own to place upon the Throne."

But Mr. Gunsler was not to be put off. "An English Prince?" he queried.

"Yes, an English Prince!"

"Do you forget that after all they are German Princes? Think of the
Georges during the past 200 years. Did you not send for Sophia's son to
be your King, because he had in him a strain of James I.; but his right
and title was through his mother and his grandmother, Elizabeth of
Palatine? Think how German was George; likewise how utterly German his
son, who was your George II. Do you remember when Sir Robert Walpole
hastened to announce the death of his father? He said, 'I have the
honor to announce to your Majesty that your Royal father, King George
I., died at Osnaburg on Saturday last, the 10th inst.' He replied, 'Dat
is one big lie!'"

"Oh, that is right enough; we do not dispute the German blood in
the House of Guelph; but that does not make them the less rightful
occupants of the English Throne." At the same moment he shifted
uneasily in his chair, and looked to the others, as if for help, for
he did not pride himself particularly on his intimacy with English
history, which this sprig of a German seemed to have at his finger-ends.

Tom, who had listened intently, thought he saw an opportunity for a
remark; but it did not help his father's argument somehow. He ventured
to think that perhaps the disturbed and trying time of the Charleses,
of Mary, of Pretender and Protector, combined to make such an unhappy
condition of affairs as to justify the introduction of the House of
Hanover to rule over the destinies of England.

"Quite so," smiled Mr. Gunsler. "It all seemed inevitable. But a
greater House than that of Hanover is willing to take up the government
of your country, which, though not reduced to the sorry condition of
200 years ago, has, may I venture to say, still much left to be desired
in order to get stable, settled government. Your system of party
government--is it not ever a state of flux? Your Lords and Commons--are
they quite satisfactory? Has not the country these two, three years
been torn, disturbed, distressed by the dissensions between them?"

"You are quite mistaken, sir," broke in Mr. Horton, with some heat.
"The British form of government--which is the people's government, of
the people, by the people, for the people--is the highest and best
exemplification of democratic government which the world has produced;
as the British Parliament, which is the mother of all Parliaments, has
been the admiration of the modern civilised world."

Mr. Gunsler noted the warmth of feeling which accompanied this
patriotic outburst. He slightly shifted his ground. "Consider," he
said, "the place of power and authority in the world the Teuton and
the Briton combined as one Power would occupy; under one head and
authority, it could dictate its will to the world."

"Precisely," replied Mr. Horton, again in his even terms. "That appears
to be the German ambition. It was never England's."

"Yet England and her Dominions in every sea has come to be called 'a
world Power.'"

"Granted; that distinction came to it, not so much that it was desired
as deserved; and no British Sovereign has strutted about shaking a
mailed fist!"

Mr. Gunsler took no offence, apparently; rather there was an amused
smile as he meditatively observed, "William ('of immortal memory to
be') is half John Bull, and the world at large counts J.B. to be
pugnacious!"

"As you will see before this war is ended! This war on which your
people have entered as of malice prepense. This war, planned and
prepared for in cold-blood--with a coolness almost diabolic--without
immediate just cause or incentive; surely it is a thing unheard of: to
so strenuously prepare for war during several years, and then fasten on
to a nominal casus belli! . . . Oh, it makes my blood boil!"

It was clear that the atmosphere was becoming sulphurous.

Mr. Summers, who had been reclining a little apart, content to be
a listener, drew a little nearer, and, in a momentary pause which
ensued, had a mind to divert conversation into another channel; but his
host had no mind to be diverted. "I say it makes my blood boil," he
reiterated, and it was pointedly said to the young German.

"I am in the house of an Australian and a loyal subject of King George.
I am aware that it is only by your courtesy we can rationally discuss
this matter."

"Of course, of course, sir. Don't suppose I am angry with you, or riled
with anything you have said. Come now, since you have mentioned King
George, will you join us in drinking his good health?" saying which Mr.
Horton moved to the sideboard and produced glasses and decanter, for
they had not yet moved from the dining-room. "His good health," said
Mr. Gunsler, as his host named the King.

"That reminds me," remarked Mr. Horton, as he set down the glass,
"that about two years ago, just about the very time Edward the Great
died in fact, I heard an expression of opinion to the effect that the
German Emperor would not make war on England while his uncle Edward
lived, because of a real affection he entertained for him, as for his
grandmother. The upshot of events goes to indicate the truth of the
observation."

"I do not know as to that," was Mr. Gunsler's reply.

"Would you mind telling me this--when you left Germany recently, did
you gather anything which would enable you to say, or, shall I put
it, which would justify you to say, if there were German designs on
Australia?"

"I have lived in England since being in Germany," came evasively
from Mr. Gunsler, and Mr. Horton did not press the question, since
a moment's consideration told him he was not likely to get a candid
answer.

They were still standing, the three men, gathered by the table,
when Mr. Summers, lifting as by accident a book from a shelf
hard-by, drew attention to its cover. "Look here, Gunsler, at these
flags--entwined." It was marked 'Souvenir of the American Fleet's
visit to the Commonwealth of Australia, 1908.' "Look at those flags,
standing for one hundred and fifty million white men, speaking the same
language--English; having the closest bonds of commercial relationship;
the same ideals very largely, notwithstanding one is Monarchical the
other Republican. I tell you these flags bound here in peace, with
Edward on one side and Roosevelt on the other, will yet be found
together, and that before long, should circumstances warrant, firmly
welded in that blood and iron of which your noble Bismarck spoke.
Numerically, all the world knows that Britain is not a match for
Germany as matters stand at the moment. But take it from me, Emperor
William will never rule in England, even if the worst happens."

"What will be the worst?"

"The smashing of the British Navy, and with it the removal of the
policemen of the highway of the seas; then confusion--chaos--heaven
knows what!"

"Even yet, if England concedes what is demanded, the worst may be
avoided," said the German.

"Never," said Mr. Horton. "What do you take us for?"

"There are many in Germany, some in England, who believed England would
give in at the last moment and not fight."

"Some in England! I do not believe it! They are not Englishmen, I'll
bet. Can you name one?"

Deliberately--and it showed something of the man this German was,
something, too, of the marvellous methodical ways of his class and
people--Mr. Gunsler produced a pocket-book, and, under date of May
1st, 1910, were these words, taken from a printed paper:--"You are
in no position to resist us. . . . Mr. Villiers went on to point out
that Germany's available forces would be so much greater than those of
Britain that the latter would give in without entering upon a hopeless
struggle."

"Villiers! Who, then, is Villiers? Ah, but I remember, a war
correspondent."

"Yes, a very noted war correspondent," continued Mr. Gunsler.

"If he really made use of those words he ought to be tied to a
cart-tail," came bitterly from Mr. Horton. "But I should like to know
the context; I fancy we should have quite a different complexion to
that picture."

"I happen to remember the circumstances," Mr. Gunsler went on. "Mr.
Villiers was speaking at a reception tendered to him by the Canadian
Club, and said, with reference to the international outlook, that the
prospect was that Germany might attain dominance without having to
go to war. She would strengthen her armaments until she could say to
Britain, 'You are in no position to resist us!'"

"Then he ought to be shot on sight! No position to resist, eh? That
shows all Villiers knew of Britain's history and Britain's sons. When
did the boys of the bull-dog breed ever funk a fight that was forced on
them? I tell you that is just the time they can and will fight. Then
the devil in them is roused. You fellows think of the fight the British
made a few years ago in South Africa. It was no war in the ordinary
sense of the word. For one reason the enemy, gallant and plucky as they
were, would not stand up, but were ever on the move. Another thing--and
greater--the heart of England's fighting machine was never in the war!
You know it. But now--wait and you will see how England will fight
with her back to the wall! Great Cæsar, but it will be terrible! Blood
will flow like water on land and sea. For your people and ours are
of the same stock, practically, and almost of the same calibre. Grim
determination sits upon the brow of the German Eagle, and they will
never know when they are beaten; will not admit it till bruised and
blackened and battered almost out of recognition!"

"Have you not considered how impossible that is in regard to any war
between Germany and England?" quietly commented Mr. Gunsler. "All that
might happen if it were possible for British forces to invade German
territory in, say, equal numbers; but, as your troops are in the
proportion of one to 15, what chance is there?"

Mr. Horton sank back in a chair with an angry frown. It was Mr. Summers
who took up the running with this observation: "Upon my word, Gunsler,
hearing it put that way sounds very like the bully's attack on the
little fellow! But, depend upon this, there is no bully big enough to
intimidate the British Empire. The world's sympathy--save in narrow
circles where hate pre-occupies--will range on the side of the British
in this war. Your national pride will make you go through with it,
I'm afraid; but mark this, the day has gone by for ever, I believe,
when the principle 'Might is right' can any longer hold the field, or
justify the attempted sticking up of a nation, or the wholesale murder
of that nation."

"Very good, my friend," (from the German); "very good philosophy for
the nation that has collared all the picked spots of the earth's
surface, and then, being satiated, preaches 'Right is might.' But the
time has come when the German Empire must expand, as your Empire has
expanded; she has formulated her programme, and England must not stand
in the way."

"But by heaven she will, she must, stand in the way!" cried Mr. Horton,
once more rushing into the breach. "Your Government think to repeat
the humiliation of France during the Morocco trouble, when Germany
threatened to invade France unless M. Delcassie were compelled to
resign. He was shunted. You scored equally in the humiliation of Russia
during the squabble re the Balkans. In both those cases the mere
presentation of the 'mailed fist' answered the purpose. But it won't
work with John Bull, and you ought to know it."

"Perhaps we do know it, Mr. Horton, and yet must pursue."

Here the discussion was broken in upon by Master Tom, who said
the Mater wished to know when the gentlemen were coming into the
drawing-room?

"Certainly, now--with your permission, Mr. Horton,"--and Mr. Gunsler
accompanied Tom to an adjoining room.

The other two remained for a time where they were.

"Let us have a pipe," suggested Mr. Horton to his friend; "we'll smoke
the calumet of peace--at least we two can do that," agreed Mr. Summers.

"Yes, by the way, Summers, why did you bring this German fellow here?"

"He wished to come."

"Why should he wish to come here?"

"Strange to say, he wished to meet Nilda."

"He wished to meet Miss Chester! And, again, why?"

"As to that I am not quite clear. Somehow he has heard about her,
and--well, Nilda may have struck him as a fine-looking girl, which she
is, you know."

"But, she has been no length of time with us, and I fail to see
how----But it does not signify. I happen to know that Miss Chester
does not like Germans, and I like her the better for that." . . .
Then, after a pause--for Mr. Summers never rushed conversation, and
was so much at home with the Hortons that he did not need to 'make
conversation' for conversation's sake--"do I understand, Summers, there
is some mystery about our new governess?"

"Well, to be frank, there is. We say little about it; partly for her
sake. She hates to be the subject of any discussion on the matter. I
beg you will remember this. Do you remember that years ago I told you
something of her history? . . . No? . . . But I did. You were one of
a very few to whom I did mention the matter. Her mother was a distant
relative of mine; and that was how I became her ward. There was just
a trifle of property left, the interest on which was to keep Nilda,
but it has not been drawn; it accrues, and will be a dot--a small one,
certainly--when she needs it. That is also a secret--which, no doubt,
you will likewise discreetly forget that I ever mentioned. But since
you have asked, and have some right to know, there is a far deeper
secret; it concerns her birth. She passes under the name of Chester,
her mother's married name; but I have reason to believe it is not her
right name."

"Then Miss Chester is a come-by-chance!"

"It may be so. I am trusting you, you see; I will trust you all the
way, because I know you are not the man to turn dog on any young lady
who is the mere child of circumstance, or, say, of misfortune. The
story is altogether a romantic one. The real facts may never be known.
But as presented to me by Nilda's mother herself, when very near her
end, and with absolutely no purpose to serve in deceiving me, the
father of Nilda actually went through some kind of marriage service
with her mother. They lived together for a short time; then he left,
never to return. I do not know that he was ever even heard of again;
but he left some little thing behind him which seems to have indicated
that he was no ordinary kind of wayfarer, traveller, or adventurer. In
fact, that he was a young German of very high standing, 'a scion of a
noble house,' as we say of English lordlings. When I asked Mrs. Chester
what proof she had of this--pointing out the future of her child might
largely depend on this--for some reason she would not speak further on
the matter. It was better, she said, to leave it so. Now, whether or
not Nilda has some knowledge of this beyond what I possess, I cannot
say. I once thought she had; but, as I have said, she is so reluctant
to speak of it."

"Hum," speculated Mr. Horton. "It looks bad for the father, noble or
ignoble, whatever he was. You think the mother never made known to him
what had happened?"

"Again, as to that I cannot say. There were reasons, I fancy, why she
would keep silent about it. Once, long ago, there was a whispered word
that Mrs. Chester had received, through a Continental bank, a fairly
substantial amount of money. Whether she did or not, or whether she
kept it or returned it, I am unable to say. There you have the history
of Miss Chester, so far as I know it."

"It is a queer story," commented Mr. Horton. "And you, I understand,
have reared the girl as your own?"

"Since quite a little thing Nilda has been with us, and always regarded
as one of the family. She need never have sought another home; but
somehow she grew restless and desired a change. I really believe it
was the independent spirit of the girl which made her wish to be in a
way of earning her own living. Say, friend, you will not mention her
secret, even to Mrs. Horton?"

"That is safe enough, never fear."

It was but a moment or two later that the subject of this conversation
came quickly into the room, with just the most perfunctory kind of tap
upon the door.

"Uncle!" (he was not really uncle, but it was a time-honored privilege
between them), "really you must come and take that German off my hands,
or I shall have to go to my room, instanta!" This was half in play,
but apparently quite as much in earnest.

"Off your hands, Nilly? Why off your hands, which, by the way, don't
seem crushed, or reddened, or anything out of the common." This he said
as he took her hand in his over the back of his chair and held it.

"He would have me play a German piece, though I declared I did not know
it. Then he talked and talked at me--to me; and I'm sure I don't want
to monopolise either him or his conversation. . . . So I simply had to
break away. And I made an excuse that I did not know if it would be
agreeable to Mr. Horton that he should sing a German song the way, the
way things are going!" faltered Miss Chester.

"Quite right, girly; your good taste was always in evidence, I
remember."

"What does he want to sing?" demanded Mr. Horton.

"Well, he did not exactly want to sing, Mr. Horton; but Mrs. Horton
proposed it; and in looking over the music Mr. Gunsler came across
'Good Rhine Wine,' and seemed so pleased; he said if I would play it,
he would try to sing it."

"A jolly good song, too, confound him," broke enigmatically from the
master of the house, who, in years gone by had, in a rather good
baritone, given voice to this semi-bacchanalian song of the land of the
Kaisers.

"What say you, Summers, shall we have the evening pipe while he lutes
to us?"

"As you please--nay, but for Nilly's sake if you please--seeing
she does not seem anxious for any further tete-a-tete with this
good-looking follow I brought along.". . . Then, "he is rather fine
looking, don't you think, Nilly?"

"I do not think him fine at all. But I daresay he is of that opinion
himself, and I cannot bear men who think they are perfectly charming."

"Well said, Miss Chester, well said," cried Mr. Horton; "and if
you will permit to say it, I think we shall be good friends, Miss
Chester. Come along, then, let us test the vocal chords of this son of
Rhineland. Perchance I shall like his singing better than his talking."

As the three walked from the room together, Mr. Summers whispered,
"Shall we say a truce to war-talk?"

"That is also well said," agreed Mr. Horton.

And, to do him justice, Mr. Gunsler sang the 'Rhine Wine' song very
well, and another, and, before he left, had rather established himself
in the good graces of the family, especially, perhaps, with Mrs.
Horton, who said she thought Mr. Gunsler a very accomplished and
gentlemanly young man.

"And what does Miss Constance think of him," playfully questioned Mr.
Horton, very directly, to that young lady.

"He doesn't impress me," was the answer laconic.




CHAPTER VI.--WHEN THE GUNS BEGIN TO SHOOT!

It was but two days later when news arrived of the bursting of the
war-storm in real earnest. Like a clap of thunder came the word by
cable, that the German Navy, in force, had left Kiel two days gone,
and within 30 hours were expected to meet the British Navy in the
North Sea, in the first deadly conflict of big guns and clash of
arms. It was stated that the Fleet, comprised 14 Dreadnoughts and
super-Dreadnoughts, 18 cruisers, 40 torpedo boats, 20 submarines, and
a number of other vessels. One hundred mighty vessels had been counted
as the procession steamed down the Little Belt of Denmark, prior to
emerging into the sea where was to be fought the initial, and probably
bloodiest, naval battle ever waged upon the bosom of the ocean.

The morning papers, in large double column headlines, flared forth
the news of the first move of the giants in the impending struggle.
In every capital of the Commonwealth, men's minds could hold no other
thought--the war was commencing! Every editorial pen wrote war; every
linotype, typograph and monoline was running on war articles. Every
tongue talked war!

The man in the street vented every imaginable opinion.

The optimist said, "The Germans will be potted before they know where
they are! They'll be blown out of the water inside of half-a-day!"

The pessimist: "There'll be a dreadful time, and who can tell how it
will end?"

The street wit, "They'll fight, the devils, like the Kilkenny
cats--till there's nothing left of them!"

Eagerly they watched for the mid-day editions of the papers, but they
only brought confirmation of the first despatches. Later on in the day
appeared cables that the British Navy was steaming north to meet the
German Fleet. With these messages were conflicting accounts, probably
"made up" to some extent in the paper offices, of the exact strength
of the Imperial Fleet. It was gathered, however, that the Channel
Squadron was moving in a concentrated body to the attack; that with the
auxiliaries it was nearly as strong as the German Navy; though in point
of numbers fewer in the aggregate. They were placed at 12 Dreadnoughts,
20 cruisers, 33 torpedo boats, 14 submarines--79 in all.

"Twenty vessels short!" the shaky critics cried.

"All the greater the worth of the victory!" was the rejoinder of the
sanguine.

It was gathered also from the evening papers that, though the Germans
meant to meet the strength of the English Navy, it was evident they
were holding many ships in reserve. The destination of these, and
where they were moving, were left matters of conjecture. And in all
conscience conjecture was rife. Programmes of the general German plan
of attack was outlined in diagram, map, chart, etc. The most alarming
of these, as also one calling most attention, seemed to have some basis
of fact--it represented that 100,000 German troops were posted at
Heligoland and various of the handy ports along the German coast, where
were hundreds of transports awaiting word for departure, for their
embarkation was already complete.

This fact being known, it became apparent why the whole British Fleet
could not move north, however great the attacking force there might be.

It was announced that seven of the grey-hounds of the Fleet--vessels
which could steam 30 knots an hour--were patrolling the Channel, each
with "wireless" on board, and that no surprise party in force could
attempt the Channel unknown.

The Mediterranean Squadron had left Gibraltar, and would take up the
policing of the whole Channel to the North Sea, to make it impossible
for the Armada to touch the English coast, along where in the meantime
were placed, under easy steam, a swarm of the lesser vessels, including
not less than 30 of the pre-Dreadnought type.

Latest editions of the papers that night--which were issued up to 12
o'clock--contained statements that the German Fleet were emerging out
of the Kattegat into the North Sea.

On the morrow morning early people awoke with but one thought in
common, "What will the day bring forth?" In thousands of cases, where
the dailies were wont to be thrown over the garden wall or put upon the
door-step, the impatient house-keeper looked in vain for his morning
paper. Soon the streets were alive with men in slippers, and lads sans
cap, sans coats, chasing the paper boys, who were selling their sheets
at double price, and giving no change.


"Expected Encounter of the Rival Fleets at Noon To-day!

"Every British Gunboat Under Steam.

"350 War Vessels Afloat.

"Every Fortress Manned.

"Every Man at His Post.

"England is Ready."


Such were some of the poster headlines which struck the eye on opening
the broad-sheet which was filled with messages, amplified into columns.
The burden of the broad sheets may be thus epitomised:--

It was believed that the reason why the enemy's fleet had taken the
comparatively long run round Denmark, instead of taking the short-cut
by the new canal from Kiel (on the Baltic) to Brünsbuttal (only 400
miles, or 20 hours' steam to London) opening on to the North Sea, was
to not give any opening to the British Fleet for attack at once, but to
draw said Fleet away to the north as far as possible. That an attack in
force would be imperative, to intercept an attack on Edinburgh, or even
Newcastle. . . . That information of a reliable character was to hand
that a second German Fleet was on the point of leaving Wilhelmshaven,
accompanied by a huge flotilla of destroyers, submarines, and--fearful
to contemplate--overshadowed and protected by 90 ærial war-ships of
various designs, but all capable and calculated to spread death and
disaster on a universal and unprecedented scale!

That London was excited, but not agitated; all the United Kingdom
alert, anxious, but not fearful. That King George had sent a message to
his people which had touched and roused every man in the nation--"Our
Cousin Germany, without formal declaration of war, threatens invasion
of our Empire. Britannia will know what reply to make. England is
ready! And I know every man will do his duty. The hour to strike has
come. Let us strike hard, fearing none--save only God!"

Mobilisation of British army complete.

The total number of men ready for home defence, under arms and fully
equipped, was given at 290,000 men. The artillery batteries of
Salisbury, Aldershot, and elsewhere were moving to the coastlines;
the cavalry regiments were so posted as to move quickly to any
spot indicated for the landing of the enemy. Every fortification
was alive with men at the great guns: Newcastle, Hartlepool, Hull,
Colchester, and all the forts about London to Chatham and Dover were
ready to shoot; Portsmouth to Weymouth presented one long line of
fortifications; likewise Plymouth to Devonport.

Every line of railway in the Kingdom would be at the disposal of the
authorities. It was noted with satisfaction that one message stated
that beside the Regulars, the Territorials throughout the land were
hastening to place themselves at the disposal of the authorities for
the defence of the homeland.

The evening editions of the papers had it that hostilities had
commenced--that a flying scout in the Channel, between Helder and
Yarmouth, had been chased and partially disabled, but had escaped in
the direction of Borhum; that an immense fleet of mercantile ships and
vessels of every possible tonnage had been sighted off Heligoland,
outside of which lay a protecting fleet of battleships and cruisers.
This was in part accepted as confirmation of the rumour previously
circulated that the German Government had commandeered all available
commercial ships of great carrying capacity to convey the German
legions in the dash across the English Channel, to storm and break the
power of mighty Britain!

* * * *

How long the hours seemed till yet another morn should break upon
another day that must surely be yet more full of incident! Almost this
day might settle the fate of a nation! The suspense now approached an
agony. Judging by the popular feeling in every one of the Australian
capitals, the day could not pass without the most momentous issues
being, if not actually decided, so colored and balanced as to leave
its mark upon the future, for good or ill, to the British Navy and the
British Empire.

So intense had the public feeling now become that business was
practically at a standstill. Even men on large contracts, buildings,
etc., were seen to come down from their work, to scan the morning
papers, and to exchange comments and opinions on what the day would
bring forth and what the issues might be.

This eventful day was Thursday, the----day of May, 1912. The month
of May, was ever marked by great, notable, and even tragic events in
the history of the English Crown. In this case it is likely to be
long-remembered as:--


"BLACK THURSDAY, OF 1912."


As was afterwards ascertained, the morn was grey with mist and fog,
which, for four or five hours, hung thick upon the waters of the
Channel, particularly between Sheerness and Flushing. It was under
cover of this friendly fog that no fewer than nine Dreadnoughts, as
many cruisers, 12 destroyers, and a number of submarines broke into
sight in the sea, where but 100 miles of water separate England from
Holland. By keeping to the Continental coast as far as possible, they
had evaded the British scouts. Their object was now manifest--to draw
away from the central passage of crossing the British gun-boats that
remained in or about the estuary of the Thames, as the main fleet was
destined to draw the superior vessels of the navy north.

It was this second-rate fleet which got in the first destructive
work--more destructive than the first message of "Black Thursday"
gave utterance to. That message simply stated: "Surprise attack in
the morning ere the mists had cleared on three British ships of the
line off Dover. British vessels in distress after the first hour's
cannonading; overwhelmed in numbers. Rear Admiral----wired for support.
Feared those will not arrive in time. Rumoured that one ship disabled,
one run ashore, and, one captured by the enemy."

Three ships of the line put out of action in the first onset! That was
indeed disconcerting news!

The next was no less so. To meet this early repulse, a portion of the
mid-Channel Fleet was ordered south. This was exactly what the enemy
intended should take place.

The host from Emden was then put in motion. A slight breeze from the
north-east helped the flotilla--the silent armada which joined the
legion lying ready at Heligoland, which altogether numbered not a mere
100,000 men, but 160,000 men. These were to comprise the landing force,
irrespective of the escorts, which now formed up in two formidable
lines, one on either side the transports conveying the invading army.

The last message on that eventful Thursday was to the effect that the
German Armada was advancing, and would be met on the morrow by what
ships were left. . . . That a wireless from the Admiral in the North
Sea stated that the great sea fight had commenced, at a general range
of from 17 to 18 miles.

All that night every newspaper (daily) was kept open all night, so
keen and imperative was the demand for news that "war-sheets" were
issued almost every hour. One of the earliest of them told how the
first disaster to the British ships had come about. They were not met
together, but seriatim, and so over-powered. These battleships were the
Prince of Wales, The Implacable and Albemarle. The Prince of
Wales was the ship that ran ashore (near Dover).

2 p.m.--The battleships which had hastened out to strike vengeance
for this cowardly attack in the dark were Cornwallis, Queen, Albion,
Formidable, and Russell. These five ships were followed by several
destroyers and submarines. In the evening, an hour before dusk, these
ships encountered the enemy in the vicinity of where the morning
disaster occurred. They were waiting in anticipation of a return
attack. Firing began at from 13 to 15 miles. The sea was choppy. But
the marksmanship of the Germans was so faulty at the distance that
no damage was done. Better results followed from the British guns;
at least 19 or 20 shots had been placed, as proved by observations.
Finding they were still in majority, however, the German Fleet put on
steam, and were sending out their submarines when the order was given
for the British boats to slowly return, while firing, to the mouth of
the Thames.

Now, for the first time was given the names of the chief battleships
which had steamed north for the "battle royal." They were at once the
flower and pride of the British Navy:--


Dreadnought.
Lord Nelson.
Bellerophin.
Agamennon.
Superb (F.S.)
Irresistible.
Temeraire.
Bulwark.
Blenheim.
Drake.
Blake.
Surprise.


The Admiral had chosen to fly his flag from the mighty and splendid
ship Superb, improved Dreadnought, whose displacement was 18,600
tons; speed, 21 knots.

Following the battleships were 20 cruisers, several of which were
themselves giant Dreadnoughts, among them being the Invincible,
Inflexible, Indomitable, Minotaur, Good Hope, Black Prince and
Donegal.

This encounter, destined to become an historic as Trafalgar, took
place on a line of the North Sea which might roughly be drawn between
Edinburgh and mid-Denmark.

The main line of the German Fleet, extending over one mile and a half,
was encountered by the British Fleet on the right-hand of the latter,
the procession of the enemy heading down Channel.

As the rival fleets approached they slowly converged to a nearer
parallel line, so that the heavy guns became more deadly as they
passed. Heading the British vessel was the Admiral's Flagship
Superb. The order of battle, judging by the hastily-despatched
cables was, on the British side, that, the 12 first-class battleships
took the inner running; on the lee-side of every battleship steamed a
torpedo-boat, as companion, awaiting directions as to when to begin to
play out the torpedoes. Likewise, with each cruiser was an accompanying
torpedo-boat; while the submarines and destroyers were again outside
of the double line. The procession is said to have been imposing and
orderly to a degree. In the first despatches, mention was made of only
one German ship, by name The Kaiser Wilhelm, which was reported
to have Prince Henry of Prussia on board. As to the German lines,
the Flagship, in their case, was not first it seems, but midway in
the procession, which steamed in more compact order than the British
Squadrons, as the whole hundred ships seem to have occupied less length
of sea-space than the 80 ships of the British line; while in place of
being covered by their big ships the smaller craft followed in and out
almost consecutively, but three torpedo-boats were noticed, following
immediately behind the Flagship.

The weather was reported fine, but heavy clouds obscured the sun. The
wind, which was moderate, was down Channel; the battle began at 1
o'clock on the Friday following Black Thursday.




CHAPTER VII.

What time those charming, chiming bells of St. Mary's called to earlier
Mass, and drowsy citizens, turning on the pillow, bunched it up, with
the complacent half-awake reflection, "It is Sunday morning--good!--I
can dose yet an hour!"--there called at the front door of the Horton
residence a boy who had been given 6d to leave a bunch of flowers
addressed to one of the inmates. They were roses, red and white,
plucked from Mosman garden. Gathered that same morning for sure, they
were so fresh, with the dew, or maybe a spray, still resting upon the
leaves.

"Consy," called an impatient voice at her door. "Something for you!
Something good! Consy! Will you open the door? Can you guess? Oh, it's
beautiful!"

"For me? What can it be?"

"Yes, for you; it is marked 'Miss Constance Chester, Linden.'"

"Well, come right in, dear; the door is not locked," upon which the
so-called baby of Linden house broke in upon Miss Chester with the
beautiful bunch of roses. "Aren't they just lovely?"

"Very, where did you get them?--so early too!"

"A boy rang at the front door, and just left them without saying
anything; but look," and she directed attention to the neat card with
the inscription referred to.

"I wonder who sent them, so does Mamma--'Twas she who noticed the card,
and sent me straight up to you," was Ester's way of interrogation.

"I wonder," came almost simultaneously from the recipient; but, as a
matter of fact, she did not wonder long, for she spied, even as she
looked, the small initials in the corner of the card--H.G. She had not
risen; but, putting the flowers aside, gazed up at the ceiling.

"You don't seem very pleased with them," speculated Ester.

"Oh, yes, they're very nice, but----"

"Shall I place them in a vase for you?"

"Very well, dear; or you may keep them if you wish."

"Oh, thank you, Miss Chester. I'll keep them if Mamma lets me!"

On second thought Miss Chester decided it would be better not to have
this small matter debated down below, and compromised by pulling from
the bunch quite a third of the blossoms, and thus making little Ester
happy.

"Why should he pay this attention to me?" was Nilda's reflection as she
dressed that Sunday morning; and two things became apparent: that Mr.
Gunsler was a good deal taken with Miss Chester; that if it was a case
of "love at first sight," there was no indication of any reciprocity.

And this was the beginning of a vast amount of attention from the same
quarter, with which the narrative will necessarily have to deal.

"Are you coming with us to church this morning, Miss Chester?" kindly
enquired Mrs. Horton.

The Hortons were Anglicans, and for a generation, it is said,
there had been a Horton pew in St. James', the historic church of
King-street--noted externally for its gray shabbiness, internally for
much that is artistically beautiful; further noted for its High Church
practices in tone and ritual; and yet more noted for the long chapter
of dissensions, which marked the departure of its one-time popular
rector and devout pastor, and the coming of the Archdeacon who had been
made Archbishop, and would not let a kite fly into its pulpit as fully
"rubrically adorned" as some would have him be. Miss Chester had not
time to make reply before Gladys broke in with, "Oh, Mamma, do let us
go for a walk in the Gardens--it is such a lovely morning, and I'm sure
Miss Chester would rather!"

"You little heathen," chided her mother, "you mean that you would
rather. It is a beautiful morning, as you say; but only the plebeian,
the nurse-girl, thinks of going for a walk through the parks on Sunday
morning. Miss Chester has more respect for the day and her duty, I'm
sure."

Gladys, like her mother, looked to Miss Chester, whose mantling
color, but not confusion, was noticeable as she said, "I must plead
guilty--the suggestion was really mine; the Gardens, I think, are never
so delightful as in the morning hours. Since being down, I have been
there three or four times, and feel that I shall never see too much of
them. That is how I felt when I spoke to Ester of the pleasure of a
walk through the Gardens such a morning as this."

"You are right as to the attractiveness of Sydney's Botanic Gardens,
Miss Chester, but all things in their time and place. A Christian's
duty is to go to a place of worship on Sunday morning."

"Why Sunday morning; rather than Sunday evening, Mater?" inquired
Master Tom, who, in the absence of his paternal parent from the
breakfast-table, sort of took on an air of masculine independence of
thought and expression.

"If your teacher never explained that to you," said Mrs. Horton, "it
is high time he did. Both morning and evening services are good; but I
have always felt that the morning service has its special claims upon
us, as well as its peculiar blessings. Begin the day right, and it is
likely to continue right. Ought we not to give the best to God, always?
Is it not almost inconceivable that so many reputable Christians seem
in no hurry to give God praise? How little enthusiasm in some quarters
there appears to be in this particular respect. Have we so little to
thank Him for that we must leave it to the closing hours of the day
set apart for his worship? Forget not to assemble yourselves together;
and from the beginning, surely, it was ever the early service of the
Church which found the zealous worshipper--as it imparted the greater
blessing."

"I confess I had not looked upon it in just that way," admitted Nilda.

"Bet you anything," said Tom, without addressing the challenge to
anyone in particular, "that half of 'em go to show off their new gowns
and hats, and see how others are togged out."

"Silence Tom," commanded his mother, "I cannot allow you to say such
scandalous things. You ought to know better." . . . Then, to Nilda,
"Whatever may be the case in other churches--I do not wish to form
uncharitable opinions--but you will find at St. James' that it is not
so (this apropos of Master Tom's irreverent speech). There we are
taught the first essentials of reverent worship; and I feel sure that,
thanks in a large measure to the noble teachers we have had, many, very
many of the worshippers have caught up that ancient sublime spirit of
the apostolic church. 'The zeal of Thine House consumeth me.'"

"Do you not think it possible, Mrs. Horton, that some people have
greater zeal for a church, for its forms and ceremonies, its peculiar
usages, in a word its ritual, than for that practical manifestation of
Christianity which is supposed to constitute the real test of one's
religion?"

"Good enough, governess," cried Tom. "I'm with you all the way there.
Give me the real thing outside, every-day sort; and why do they set
up an Archbishop and make him Primate, and then disobey him first pop
over the matter of the clothes the parson wears? My word, I wish I was
Archbishop of Sydney!"

"A most ambitious desire, boy;" it was Mr. Horton's voice this time as
he entered the breakfast-room and was told the coffee was getting cold.
"And what would you do, Tom?"

"I'd make those beggars sit up who 'talked back' at the Bishop until he
got sick."

"Hum. And what, may I ask, is the edifying topic of conversation this
morning?" enquired the head of the house, the while he looked across at
Miss Chester.

"We were speaking of St. James' and its service, and Mrs. Horton--I
think I may venture to say--grew quite eloquent as to the beauties of
its service; but upon Master Tom, I'm afraid, these testimonies were
lost, as he seems not only low church, but rather rebellious."

"Young rebel; but what is bred in the bones; you know the quotation;
inherited instinct, I expect. Mrs. Horton hasn't told you yet, perhaps,
but it is bound to come out--I believe I was born possessed with an
anti-sacerdotal spirit. Anyway, as long as I can remember, I have
fought in my own little way against sacerdotal pretensions; and lo,
I find them now bubbling out of the mouth of the babe and suckling!
Comical, isn't it?"

"You have much to answer for, Reginald," came half-sadly from Mrs.
Horton.

"Perhaps. What do you think, Miss Constance?"

"Oh, please don't ask me about a father's responsibilities in such
very important matters," laughed Constance. "But generally speaking, I
fear Master Tom is only too typical in this respect of young Australia
generally. I mean that it seems somehow inherent in the young people of
the colonies to forget, or ignore, reverence for things spiritual."

"It is part of the upheaval, I take it. The upheaval of modern society;
its way of thought and living; its beliefs, convictions, or want of
convictions."

"Yes, want of conviction, certainly," assented Mrs. Horton. "And who is
responsible for this want of convictions?"

"Oh, that is a very large order, indeed; almost too large to take on at
breakfast time. I rather fancy it involves the whole range of modern
philosophy, astronomy, geology, biology--and many other ologies."

"But the immediate question, Dadda," broke in Gladys, "is whether it
would not do us more good to take a nice walk in the Gardens this
morning and study biology----"

A very rude laugh from Tom prevented Miss Gladys completing her
sentence. "You certainly could do with a lesson in biology, I believe,"
came playfully from her father.

"But Glad doesn't know the difference between biology and botany,"
taunted Tom. Then, to Miss Constance, "Are they included in your
curriculum?" By which he probably meant the things Miss Chester was to
teach the Horton girls.

Perhaps it was in order to cover the situation that Mrs. Horton
prevented an immediate reply from the governess by strenuously
remarking--not for the first time--that it grieved her that Tom's
manner of speech left so much to be desired.

"Well, what is the difference?" demanded Gladys, not greatly distressed
by Tom's challenge. "Since you are so clever you had better tell us
yourself."

"No; Miss Chester will tell us," replied Tom.

"I will try----"

"I think it must be Tom," said Mr. Horton; "he raised the point; let us
hear your definition, boy."

"Easy," came from that confident youth. "Any fifth boy knows: botany,
the science of plants; biology, the science of life."

"Pretty good," assented the head of the house; "better put, perhaps,
to say that biology--having regard to the later developments of
physiology--centres its interest, for most of us at all events, in the
origins of life. And so, Gladdy, if you should walk in the Gardens
this fine morning, let us know in due course what you may find that
is biologically interesting. You will see the flowers in bloom, their
period of fruition, some drooping to decay, some seeding, some plants
just breaking through the earth; plant life in all stages; tell us if,
perchance, you see anything suggestive of spontaneous generation."

"Now you are joking, Dad. How should I know anything of spontaneous
generation? Do you, Miss Chester?"

"I had better make a clean breast of it, I see," said the governess.
"I'm afraid my education in science has been neglected. I really am
not much interested in science; but, by merest chance I think, I
seem to have read somewhere, or heard some person say, perhaps, that
spontaneous generation was an exploded theory."

"Good for you, governess--that is up-to-date science; isn't that so,
Dad?" almost shouted Tom.

"Practically so," assented his father. "They tried the hermetically
sealed bottle and other tests, and the best dictum of scientists
to-day, I believe, is--'life only from life.'"

"Which takes them back to God, doesn't it?" from Mrs. Horton.

"Some of them, perhaps: He is the Ultimate, the great First Cause.
That stands till disproved, so the believers say; as for the rest,
the agnostic still holds the field with the unsatisfying, yet very
persistent, 'I don't know.'"

How long this turn in the conversation might have lasted may not be
conjectured had not Mrs. Horton risen with the words, "I hope you will
accompany us to church, Miss Chester?"

"Certainly, I will come with you," was the ready response.

"Good-bye Gardens," chuckled Tom, as he made to leave the room.

His mother paused to say to her husband, "You should insist on Tom
coming too."

"What's the good, if he doesn't want to go?"

"Ah," sighed the mother, "that is how young Australia is losing its
convictions."

* * * *

The surprising thing of the morning was that on coming out of church,
directly they turned into King-street, who should they meet but Mr.
Gunsler.

"No; he had not been at the service," he replied; but it occurred to
him a few moments before that he might have the pleasure of a walk home
with the party, as he rather counted on meeting them. Mrs. Horton was
civil and sympathetic; nevertheless, she seemed to divine his wishes,
and, before they had gone many paces, she and the children were walking
a few paces ahead, followed by Mr. Gunsler walking beside Miss Chester.




CHAPTER VIII.--SMASH!!

In a way, it was what the world had been looking for--in some cases
longing for--this signal clash of two mighty modern navies. True,
the modern war-ship, fighting "with miles of water between," was at
the beginning of the century seen off the coast of Korea, when Japan
engaged the navy of Russia, and made a sudden end of it; but all
the world recognised that it was an exceedingly one-sided contest.
Up-to-date ships met the effete, rotten ships of a navy whose
generalship, or "admiralship," was equally rotten. With the inevitable
result.

But here were conditions of opposing forces vitally different. In each
were to be found the very acme of perfection in great fighting machines
of the mighty deep. On the one hand the navy of Britannia, whose fleets
for a hundred years had been the acknowledged masters of the seas; on
the other hand, the new-born fleet of the foremost Empire of Europe,
whose mission it was to wrest the proud distinction so long held by
Britannia.

Alas! The cruel madness of it! The fury and the blast of it!

By 2 o'clock on that eventful Friday, the roar of mighty cannon almost
shook the shores afar off; the flare of fire, the columns of dense
smoke, created a scene and circumstance akin only to pandemonium upon
the waters of the North Sea.

The gist of the cables on Friday night may be thus summed up: The
cannonading began, and was sustained for two hours, by only the larger
first-class battleships of the line, as, under easy steam, they
relatively proceeded north and south. It was practically a trial of
long shooting between the rival navies. British marksmanship sustained
its laurels. At the great distance of 15 to 17 miles effective shots
were placed on several of the German ships, which showed a tendency to
converge on an outward line as they steamed south.

It is believed that in this initial encounter only six or seven shots
from the enemy's guns had got home on the entire procession of the
British Fleet, and in no case had it been disastrous, and no ship was
disabled.

In the return journey, Admiral Wilson was the first to wheel to the
right, his command doing likewise, and maintaining same order as in
the original onset, but with a course set south, which must bring the
contending fleet into much nearer action if the German ships followed
in line in retracing their course. This was practically the case, with
the exception of the German Flagship, under command, it transpires,
of Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, Admiral von Holtzendorff.
Instead of maintaining a mid-position in the heart of his fleet, he
stood till his rear ships passed, signalling orders to each, and, in
this position, head on to the re-passing British line, awaited the
return of the British Admiral's Superb. And these were among the
German ships which did heroic duty on that day of fiercest battle that
ever the British bull-dog waged upon the sea:--

Dreadnoughts--Nassau, Wisphalen, Rheinland, Posen (cruiser), Blucher
(14,750 tons), Schliesen (13,200 tons), Wettin (11,830 tons), Hanover
(13,200 tons), Zaringen (11,830 tons), Dresden (cruiser), Mecklenburg
(11,830 tons), Konigsburg (cruiser), Witlessbach, Gneisenau (11,800
tons), and Mainz.

These 16 ships were evidently in the first line of battle, and came
more immediately within the cognizance of the British line, for only
of these ships did the cables make particular mention when the first
actual smash was reported.


Mecklenburg, blown up.
Nassau, sunk.
Blucher, put out of action.
Hanover, captured.
Posen, disabled.
Dresden, removed out of action, on fire.
Gneisenau, captured.


Thus were seven vessels of the German line accounted for; but what of
the British casualties?

Briefly, the conclusion of that day's messages ran:--

The British have lost three ships and two disabled; others more or
less damaged. The Blenheim sunk (with loss of 600); Drake, captured
(the only capture); cruiser Berwick, blown up (loss of 500); armored
cruisers, Black Prince and Donegal, disabled.

It appeared, from Saturday morning's cables, that this meeting of the
Admirals' was really the beginning of the intense part of the battle;
it was then that ship laid into ship; nearer and nearer they drew
together, to the end that one or other might be destroyed.

It was recorded that the handling of the Superb at this eventful
hour by the Lord High Admiral was a magnificent display on a
magnificent occasion. His ship, with one exception, represented the
most modern and powerful battleship in the British Navy--an improved
Dreadnought of 18,600 tons, 21 knots speed. Her armor-belt runs from
end to end of the water-line, made of the finest Krupp steel, hardened
by special process; 11 inches thick over the central body, six inches
thick at the bows, 4 inches at the stern, (11in. K. steel is equal in
resisting power to 30in. thickness of wrought iron). The Superb
carried 10 12-inch 58-ton guns, with an anti-torpedo armament of 16
4-inch 25-pounders, mounted on the turrets and at various points on
deck, said to be much superior to 27 12-pounders on other Dreadnoughts.
She also carried ten searchlights for torpedo service and defence.

Observing the action of the German Admiral, in pulling out of the line
of the German ships, as if to give him battle, Admiral Wilson accepted
the challenge, and thus it was that the Superb and Kaiser Wilhelm
met as giant to giant in an almost personal encounter.

Head to head they approached to within seven miles, belching forth
their shots from the front turrets and foremost side guns. As if by
common consent, these ships were practically left detached, the main
lines, on either side, keeping up the general outline of battle as
described.

To Rear-Admiral Sir Colin Keppel seems to have been deputed, as second
in command, the general order of battle.

When within six miles the Superb and Kaiser Wilhelm, under easy
steam, took parallel courses, and belched forth their broadsides. After
an hour's fearful cannonading at this comparatively easy distance,
midst the clouds of smoke it was made out that the after funnel of the
Kaiser's Flagship had been swept away, and the smoke scattered widely
from the after-deck, while two big holes were plainly discernible on
the port bow by the officers' quarters; also, it was believed the great
ship showed a distinct list to port; but every gun seemed to remain
intact, and its roar of fire undiminished.

On the Superb the damage, so far, was not serious. Two close shaves
of disaster had been missed. A heavy shot had struck the foremast just
below the lookout and search-light platform, almost severing it, but
it was held in position by the hollow-steel tripod; because of this it
looked as though the central fire control station might collapse at any
moment, and Commander Roper (who had charge of the ship) had to make
other arrangements for the central control. The other narrow escape
from serious damage was from torpedo attacks; two had exploded within
a few feet of the stern of the vessel, and others had been intercepted
which had been aimed with deadly precision. It was as the sun sank in a
western sky among a mountain of clouds, and the rain and wind ceased,
that Admiral Wilson ordered a course direct on to the Kaiser Wilhelm.

Here the cable news broke away from this most exciting naval duel, to
epitomise the general trend of the battle.

"Hell let loose, and all the dogs of war a-barking," seemed the tragic
note of that evening of fire and fury, when well nigh 200 battleships
thundered and roared, and swarms of smaller death-dealing engines of
war fumed and smoked in the tornado of man-made thunder. After fighting
in line for some time, a period of wild disorder seems to have been
brought about towards evening, when, for the most part, ship met ship
in comparatively close contact, while others sailed round about each
other.

'Beresford on the Bellerophin' provided one of the notable features
of the great fight. He had been re-called from retirement, and from
the floor of the House to the deck of this great warship, one of the
finest of the Dreadnoughts. And finely he upheld the traditions of the
British bull-dog. It was a splendid finish to a career and a character
that had but one temporary eclipse. The Bellerophin had been set
upon by two of the enemy's ships, one a medium cruiser and the other
of not much inferior calibre to Lord Beresford's boat. The contest
was thus unequal; and after three to four hours' furious fighting the
Bellorophin--a name far-famed in England's naval annals--became a
badly used boat. Caught between two fires she fought right and left,
pouring out a torrent of shot and shell; so, as the evening shadows
fell, she had not a flag left to fly; her masts were blown away; only
one funnel remained; her decks were strewn with dead and dying and
slippery with blood; more than a third of her 900 fighting men were
killed, and two-thirds of her guns were silenced. Seeing that this was
the case, the commander of the larger vessel, which, it transpired,
bore the flag and the presence of the second in command of the German
Fleet, Prince Henry (brother of the Kaiser), signalled instructions
to the commander of the other vessel which had played upon the
Bellerophin to leave the conclusion of the matter to him, so sure
was he that he had the prize at his mercy. But the sequence proved he
counted without his host--sans Beresford and the British bull-dogs of
the still unconquered Bellerophin. . . . From the cockpit came the
word--"Not more than 40 big canon shot left in the lockers!"

"Enough and to spare!" cried the 'never-say-die' commander. "At least
our engines are left to us! Put her straight on to the enemy, and fire
only from the foremost 12-inch,"--one of the pair had been put out
of action. The distance of the vessels when this order was given was
not more than three miles, and as the Bellerophin bore down upon
the 13,000 ton Schleisen, broadsides were poured out upon her, but
straight on she steamed; on as if courting certain death, for her
fire was as the last dying spurting of a monster whose strength was
spent. . . What would Beresford do? If he went down, he would not go
alone! If his ship and guns were disabled, he and his men that were
left alive were yet full of fight; and he would put Prince Henry and
his men to the supreme test. The Prince stood his ground. He must
have perceived the daring attempt, and been amazed; but he did not
run. One thing he did not know that Beresford purposed doing--if the
possibility offered. On came the externally broken and disfigured
Bellerophin. Flash-lights from the Schleisen flamed over the path
of the British vessel as darkness fell; a mile--a half-mile--of choppy
sea alone divided them; the 12-pounder steadily replied still to the
belching of the German guns, and the water about the Bellerophin
showed like a molten inferno, ploughed up and splashed by torpedo
explosions and shot and shell. Still on came the Bellerophin, till
the yells of the rival crews were heard midst the yell of the big
guns. . . . Ah, then! The daring of it! Full-speed ahead! . . . It was
the psychological moment--the supreme dash and nerve, that did it; with
the nicest calculation and finest seamanship and cunning, under cover
of the darkness, 'tween the intermittent flashes, the Bellorophin
had rammed the Schleisen--rammed her amidships--and with such
impact that the two vessels for quite the space of 15 minutes hung
together. . . . Fifteen fatal minutes for the Schleisen!

For the sequel was thus written:--"In twenty minutes after the crash,
the flag of Rear-Admiral Prince Henry of Prussia was razed, and the
proud Schleisen was a captive to the prodigious valor of a British
commander who had made the desperate onslaught, when every indication
was that he was beaten out of all hope of recovery!"

The cry of 'a Beresford--a Beresford!' rang through the lines, and to
London, ere the broken Bellorophin could tow her prize to port.

But what of the fight all along the line? It was not until Sunday
morning that decisive news came to hand. The posters were headed in
massive type, "Victory, Victory, for the British Navy!" It was a
glorious victory, truly, but hardly won. Not absolutely decisive, for a
slight majority of vessels of the enemy had escaped, and bore away with
them 13 of the British ships; but they had cleared with these while yet
the British were uncertain of victory; they had run away, perchance,
for fear they might lose all. Sooner than expected they must have
realised defeat was facing them. Far into the night the struggle raged;
but about mid-night the British ships ranged together and awaited the
dawn of the next morning. Then it was found that no less than 43 of the
79 British vessels had disappeared. Those comprised five of the great
Dreadnoughts; seven armored cruisers out of 20; 13 out of 33 torpedo
boats and half of the submarines (7) had sunk never to rise again.

Surely it was victory at a terrible cost?

But these figures included the prizes, of which, in big and little, it
was reported there were supposed to be 19.

The German losses were believed to be a total of 46. Six out of 14
Dreadnoughts, eight out of 18 cruisers, 20 out of 40 torpedo boats, 12
of the 22 submarines (which were responsible for many of the greatest
fatalities of the battle). As against 11 ships taken as prizes by the
enemy, the British had secured 15.

And of the slain?

The mere statement of the killed and wounded told of the desperate
severity of the North Sea fight. No less than 4,100 British seamen and
officers failed to be accounted for when the rolls were called. Whole
ships and their crews had simply disappeared. But, because of the
captures effected by the Germans, the total slain could not then be
stated.

The Germans were reported to have totalled between 5,000 and 6,000 men.

So much for the immediate results of the great North Sea fight.

What of the hostilities which were raging down the Channel, and nearer
the heart of the Empire?

What followed "Black Thursday?" What of the host from Emden?

Have patience, reader, for yet a little breathing space.




CHAPTER IX.--"I DO NOT WANT HIM."

"You will come in, Mr. Gunsler?" It was like the motherly, kind-hearted
Mrs. Horton, to invite the courteous semi-stranger to lunch with them;
but much as he would have preferred to accept, he made his excuses,
profusely offering his thanks.

"Then perhaps you will look in this evening for an hour; I am sure Mr.
Horton will be glad to see you."

"I shall be delighted, Mrs. Horton. Yes, certainly, I will call this
evening," and he left them at the gate.

"Did you like the service, Miss Chester?" said Mrs. Horton as they
entered. It was the first opportunity she had.

"Very much; shall we go again this evening?"

"Do you really wish to? I thought, perhaps, as Mr. Gunsler was
coming----?"

"Perhaps on that account," faltered Nilda, laughingly.

"Yet, surely, you do not dislike Mr. Gunsler?"

"There is a gulf, is there not, between liking and disliking; he
occupies some place in the gulf, and I am not curious to decide where."

"I wish someone would send me lovely bunches of morning roses," shyly
muttered Gladys. (Not letting her mother hear her, or it had brought
rebuke).

"Pardon me, dear, but he seems to be much drawn to you," observed Mrs.
Horton.

"I'm sure I do not want him, then," broke from Nilda.

"That sounds a little less gracious than yourself," said the elder
lady, who added, "In my young days that sort of attention was always
regarded as a compliment, even if one did not seriously regard them."

"I will always try to be civil to your guests, Mrs. Horton,
provided they do not pester me; when, of course, I must assert
my--individuality."

"Very well, dear; I am inclined to think you are not wanting in that
quality. Mr. Gunsler strikes me as being a very prepossessing young
gentleman."

"And he strikes me as being a very persistent German," retorted Nilda,
as she put her foot on the first step of the staircase, just as she
said which Master Tom bumped round the passage-way, breaking out with
"Hullo, I say, still the talk is German! Couldn't help hearing you,
Miss Chester! Dad and I have just been revelling in this morning's full
news of the war-sheets. . . . Glad you don't like that German spy. I'd
like to make a gun-powder plot of him, hanged if I wouldn't!"

"Silence, Tom," commanded his mother; "that is the charitable sort of
thought and expression which comes of reading war news instead of going
to church."

Then, as Nilda was half-way up the stair, he called, "Dad has some news
for you, governess,--he'll tell you when you come down."

As they met for lunch, Mr. Horton, in answer to a look of enquiry from
Nilda, said, "Oh, I got a letter this morning from your uncle (Mr.
Summers was sometimes so referred to by Miss Chester) stating that
he had sold his place in the country, and was intending in future to
reside somewhere in the city. Glad, are you not?"

"Very pleased, indeed, Mr. Horton. That is the best news I have heard
to-day."

"Hope it does not mean that we shall lose you, governess?"

"Not by any means, thank you; I am quite comfortable with you, and only
hope I shall be able to stay."

"Then I, too, am pleased; for I trust we shall often see Mr. Summers.
He has promised to look us up first opportunity--perhaps to-morrow
evening. . . And, by the way, he seems rather anxious to know do we
see much of Mr. Gunsler. I shall have to tell him we have not seen him
for--what is it, a week or a fortnight?"

"Neither," called Tom, who just entered the dining-room; "for some, at
least, of the family have seen him this morning--in fact, it was only
20 minutes or so since he left our front gate."

"At church with the family, was he?"

"No, not at the service; but we met Mr. Gunsler outside St. James,"
explained Mrs. Horton, "and he walked home with us."

"Or, begging your pardon, Mamma, to be more exact, he walked home with
Miss Chester," supplemented Gladys.

"I see," meditated Mr. Horton; "I had a notion the wind was setting in
that direction; but let us hope we shall neither lose our country or
our governess to the Germans."

"Amen," said Tom. And the conversation was successfully turned by Mrs.
Horton. "I wonder where your uncle Summers will live in Sydney? Did he
say?" she inquired of her husband.

"He mentioned that he was negotiating for a place at Hunter's Hill.
That is what he is anxious to consult me about. It happens I know the
property pretty well. It belonged to my old friend George D----, the
man who set more figures right in this city than any other I know, and
left as pretty little an estate as one could wish to find on the better
portions of the Parramatta."

"Is that where we got the nice oranges years ago, and other fruits?"
enquired Mrs. Horton.

"That's it. Such orange trees! D. assured me before he died that they
were much older than he was; he reckoned that some of them were at
least 80 years old; and their roots--showing the marvellous power roots
of even moderate sized fruit trees possess--were actually lifting big
boulders of rock, 5 to 7 tons in weight, out of place. Oh, yes," seeing
a look of incredulity on Miss Chester's face, "it's a fact. D. showed
me the boulders. I must tell Summers about those trees; I should like
to see him the owner; they are almost historical among the trees of
Sydney, and themselves reminiscent of the penal days. I must also tell
him that if he keeps as good a cellar as D. he need not be surprised if
I take a trip up the Parramatta oftener than he expects."

"I thought your friend D. belonged rather to the blue-ribboners,"
speculated Mrs. Horton, "and that he was a very strict and good man."

"So he was, a perfect martinet as to manners and morals--'strict' was
hardly the word for it; and morally as perfect a man as I ever knew;
but all that did not, and should not, prevent him keeping a good
cellar. . . . Still, now I come to think of it, I was surprised when
he took me down into it, and quenched my summer thirst with ambrosial
nectar fit for the immortals."

"Though the cellar be there, the nectar will have evaporated, I
suppose," conjectured Nilda.

"No doubt. . . . Say, I have a brilliant joke--just occurred to me--to
play off on Summers about that cellar. Remind me, somebody, when he is
here."

"Mrs. Horton, would you mind very much if I went to church this
evening?" It was Nilda who spoke, just after the evening meal had
been concluded; and, forgetting for a moment a third person who would
naturally like to have been remembered and considered under the
circumstances, freely gave assent; but a moment afterwards added--"Do
you forget that Mr. Gunsler is coming?"

"I did not forget," gently replied the girl.

"Very well, dear; but you will be home immediately after service?"

To which Miss Chester replied, "Without any delay."

She kept the compact faithfully enough as to the letter of it, if not
the spirit. Going out alone, some 20 minutes before it was necessary
to start for the King-street sanctuary, Nilda made her way to a
George-street tram, and took it for one of the remotest churches in the
suburbs of the city, so that it was 25 minutes to 10 o'clock ere she
returned home.

"Ah, truant," exclaimed Mr. Horton, "we were just holding a conference
in regard to you, and opinion was divided as to whether we should sally
forth in search of you, or wait till 10 o'clock. Now, what have you got
to say for yourself?"

"That is was very kind of you to think of me; but there was no occasion
for alarm; I am beginning to know my way about the city; and really,
with so many trams running in every direction nearly all marked
Circular Quay on return, I do not think one could easily get lost.
Could they?"

"Trams, dear," exclaimed Mrs. Horton, "but did you need to take a tram
to St. James'?"

"I did not go there to-night; I went to the Enmore Tabernacle."

There was a chorus of surprise at this confession, and a question in
every pair of eyes.

"A friend made me promise quite a while ago that some time when
opportunity offered I would go to Enmore Tabernacle to hear Mr. W., and
I found the opportunity this evening. I quite enjoyed the run there and
back, also the service."

"I should have deemed it much pleasure to lave gone with you, Miss
Chester," came courteously from Mr. Gunsler, who had risen as she
entered the room to place a chair for her.

Before she could make reply to this, Mr. Horton cut in with
"Tabernacle! Is it a Hebrew Synagogue, a Quaker's meeting place, or a
hall of Theosophy?"

Taking the proffered seat, not near the piano, where Mr. Gunsler would
have wished her to sit, almost beside him, she lifted it a little way
toward Mr. Horton, and gave him her attention.

"Have you been so long a time here, sir, and ask this question of a
stranger?" she playfully answered.

"Truly, it is so; I am in little ignorance of the matter, and curious
to know about this Tabernacle that drew you from the family circle--all
alone too--a distance of, let me see, 3, 4 or possibly five miles.
Really, an explanation is due, I think, Miss Chester?"

Even Tom, who had been yawning the last half-hour, and had been very
cross because his mother had insisted on taking from him a yellow-back,
and replacing it with a heavy tome of the Pilgrim Fathers--for the
seventh time in more than as many Sabbaths--now looked up with new
interest, and, turning down a page no further on than the 3rd chapter
of the P.F., put it on the book-shelf as he remarked, "I know a fellow
who attends there, and he's a jolly decent chap."

"Never mind your chaps; we want to hear Miss Chester--if you please
(turning again to her)."

"Certainly; I believe Tom has some doubt that I have been where I say;
so I will 'make good' if I can. But what am I to tell you; about the
church, or the pastor, or the people, or the choir, or the kind of
service?"

"Just all about it: begin where you like."

"Very well. Enmore Tabernacle is at Enmore, a few paces to the left
as you get out of the tram--it is quite handy; the preacher is Mr.
W----, M.A.; the edifice is so large (thrice enlarged, they tell me)
that almost a thousand people can meet there; the organ is one of the
largest, and I think finest, in any of the Sydney churches; and the
choir, under a capable conductor, leaves very little to be desired."

"How do they call themselves?" enquired Mr. Horton.

"Just Christians, I understand; you may see their services announced
under the headline 'Church of Christ.'"

"The followers of Christ were first called Christians at Antioch,"
remarked Mrs. Horton; "but in these days of many divisions it
seems--what shall I say?--almost egotistical for any section of the
Christian Church to, in a way, monopolise the title; don't you think
so, Miss Chester?"

"It did not so occur to me. Was there not in the days of Paul so many
divisions arising--some calling themselves by Apollos, others by
Cephas, that the great apostle corrected them, and probably counselled
them to be known by no other name than Christian."

"I rather agree with you, Miss Chester," said Mr. Horton. "Now tell us
about the service; perhaps you can give us an idea of the sermon."

"Do you really wish it?"

"I do, honestly. It is Sunday evening, and you have interested me in
the Tabernacle of these Enmore Christians."

"I will try," modestly consented Nilda; "I think the whole service
was what you would call evangelical; the sermon likewise. I confess
to forgetting the text; yet, stay, 'If ye believe Me ye will keep My
commandments.' It seemed to me that the speaker's source of power was
that he spoke from the heart--and as if to hearts that responded;
he preached as of things he had proved. I, of course, never heard
Spurgeon, but I can imagine that so he spoke to thousands of souls to
whom he had opened 'the vision glorious' of the unseen. There was no
half-suppressed doubt. Granting there was an 'if' in his text, there
were none in his discourse; nor in his heart or mind. Only the real
and living Christ, as if for the moment he had lifted the veil of that
other country, investing all the facts of the Christian redemption with
new and entrancing certainty."

Nilda paused; she had been looking absent-mindedly at the clock as she
spoke, and perhaps was feeling out for more of the discourse, when Mr.
Horton broke in with, "Well done, Miss Chester. That discourse was not
wasted on you, evidently. Tom have you any lingering doubt that Miss
Chester was at the Tabernacle?"

"None, sir."

"And you, Gladys, make a note of it, for future guidance, so that when
I ask you to tell me what the sermon was about, you may be able to
bring me some faithful reflex of it--after this manner."

Gladys said she found sermons usually so dull that it was hard to
remember what they were about an hour afterwards.

It was Mr. Gunsler who begged Miss Chester to tell them more of the
discourse, declaring again his regret that he had not been there also.

"There is only one other thing I need mention. The preacher, pausing
to look over the great congregation, said they heard in these days a
good deal about 'why men don't go to church.' That, he said, had no
application to the Tabernacle; which was a fact, for, if anything, I
really believe the men were in the majority."

"That," said Mr. Horton, "is fairly conclusive evidence that Mr. W. is
a man of parts. As for the rest, governess, I think you stand absolved
and justified." (But he did not surmise, as his better-half did, the
real reason which prompted the governess to cut out so large a part of
the evening away from the family circle).

"You are not retiring so early, surely, Miss Chester?" came from Mr.
Gunsler, when Nilda rose to say good-night.

"We keep good hours, you see," and she was gone without any
leave-taking at the door or the gate, as would have been excused her,
had she so desired; but at least Mrs. Horton understood: "I do not want
him."




CHAPTER X.--WHAT OF THE HOST FROM EMDEN?

With consummate calculation of all the great elements, as of the
smallest details in this mighty invasion of England and the capture
of the heart of the British Empire, Germany had so planned that, win
or lose with the North Sea fight, she must and would win success
in the middle and main attack. With London at her mercy--London
capitulating--what matter which Power had suffered most from the clash
of guns elsewhere?

Acting on that principle, the invasion of England was deemed a foregone
certainty of success.

It is true that the bulk of her big ships were not here to protect
the main body in their brief passage from Emden to the English coast
between Sheerness and Holliwell Point. But the surprise of the attack
was the huge flotilla of destroyers and submarines. Germany might not
well succeed in constructing big Dreadnoughts in the dark, but in the
matter of all smaller engines of destruction she had 'gone the pace'
without detection. It is true that in the middle of 1910 an alarming
word to this effect was noised abroad. Here, for instance, is a reprint
of a message sent from London to Australia on July 15:--


'German submarines.

Is there a huge secret fleet? London, Friday.--The Berlin correspondent
of the 'Standard' reiterates the story told some time ago to the effect
that Germany, under a veil of secrecy, is creating a huge fleet of
submarines.'



Not any sea-space of 12 ship lengths but hold a submarine in that
passage-way protecting the army of invasion. It was to this almost
invisible double line of 'sea-serpents' that the greatest disaster
of the invasion was attributed; aided, in a most critical hour,
by 'a flying squadron of winged demons.' But more of that in its
place. It was the morning following the sea fight. Early in the
morning the advance was perceived; the approach was headed by the
German Dreadnoughts (eight of the nine which had formed the southern
division) and other eight, accompanied by as many cruisers and lesser
war-boats. The British, so soon as the numbers went up, felt safe by
the overwhelmingly superior fleet of war-ships which awaited the attack
at the mouth of the Thames, and in wings extending north and south. In
round numbers 126 British ships were ready and waiting to give battle
to 90 Germans. The odds looked promising.

To Vice-Admiral Scott, of H.M.S. Colossus, of the very latest
George V. marvels of construction in battleships, had been accorded
the responsible task of directing the mid-Channel squadron and
principal line of home-defence. His management in repulse and attack
was said to be supreme. Fair weather and a comparatively even sea made
good conditions for the battle which was waged with the deadliest
determination on both sides. Rear-Admiral Scholhem, in H.I.M.
Empire, a monster Dreadnought, which was deemed to be unsinkable,
took command for the Germans. That evening's cables stated that the
firing commenced at 10 o'clock, and at once grew desperate, as there
was little attempt or desire for wide sparring or distant shooting. At
all costs the Germans were going straight through the cordon of British
gun-boats, and so shaped their course that they dashed into the heart
of the British lines within an hour of the commencement of the heavy
gun-practice. One of the preliminary cables stated that so terrific
was the firing that no ship manned by mortals could possibly live in
the tornado of shot and shell for many hours. A little later--not more
than six to seven hours--word came on the trembling wing of electricity
that victory was with the British. That though more German battleships
had come up to reinforce the advanced German lines, their defeat was
certain. That British marksmanship, British seamanship, and British
grit were winning all along the lines, and that London, while thrilling
with excitement and some measure of apprehension, felt sure that there
would be no landing of the German Armada. . . . After that there was an
ominous pause in the cableistic voice.

Alas, and alas, that it should ever have to be written, that in the
hour when victory seemed assured--victory that was assured under
ordinary circumstances, victory unquestionable, in so far as the
fate of the day rested between the contending navies of Britain and
Germany--was converted into failure and defeat, in the very hour when
it seemed that no mortal power could save the situation for the invader.

It was slightly before 3 o'clock when the shattered remnants of the
German ships were being smitten to death by the overwhelming power and
accuracy of the British guns concentrating in force upon, and beating
them back upon the Armada--the sea beyond was black with the number
of them--when the fatal turn of the day eventuated. It will have been
noted that no mention was made of the torpedo-boats and submarines
having been called into prominent action. For some reason those had
remained for the most part with the fleet of transports; but not alone
for their protection. It transpired that their orders were to await the
critical moment, and this moment was when the flight of air-warships
hove in sight. . . . The calmness of the day favoured their flight.
A hundred Zeppelins--none carrying less than a crew of 10 (officers
and men) and many others, came floating high over the waters of the
Channel; floating like great birds of evil chance--fearful hawks
seeking their prey. Concurrent with their advent, the sea in front of
the conquering British navy now seethed with sea-serpents. The British
destroyers were put forward, and for a space these took precedence
in the battle; and what guns were available, or suitable, were got
in readiness for training upon the aerial monsters. But England had
never fought against the sky! In an hour black death was pouring from
the very heavens! Good life, but it was frightful! No tongue nor pen
may adequately describe the deluge of destruction rained down by the
host of dirigibles. Many of these monsters were 390 feet long, having
a gas-carrying capacity of 14,300 cubic metres. In many of these
air-vessels there were three balloons, linked together, but capable of
being separated in mid-air, thus forming three independent balloons.

It should be mentioned that after a huge cordon had surrounded the
fleet of the enemy, the battle broke into absolute confusion; and proof
of the defeat remained in possession of the British in the shape of 16
battleships, and as many cruisers and destroyers as had come within
reach of the British lines, which had not pushed out to sea for the
reason given--that it was determined to concentrate and make it humanly
impossible for the enemy to break through. This very concentration
now played into the hands of the enemy, with a result unprecedented
in the annals of naval engagements. So sudden, so swift, so deadly
the dirigible attack, that even the greater number of the captured
battleships (16) were themselves engulfed in the cataclysm; apparently
this was inevitable, because to each was linked a British vessel, in
readiness to be towed to the mouth of the Thames.

Nothing that has ever been written or ever feared with regard to
explosive-dropping air-machines approached the reality now experienced.
With deadly precision these explosives rained down upon the victorious
British fleet. Noble ships, built at a cost of over £2,000,000 of
money were, in a few fearful, fatal minutes smashed and foundered. In
several cases they were sent to the bottom when the explosive itself
did not actually touch them; dropping near them a mountain of water
shot into the air--a chasm yawned in the sea; the monster ship, which
no hurricane could displace, would fall over, and so suddenly disappear
that not a man would be left to tell the tale.

Before the sun set on that awful afternoon, the most decisive victory
was converted into the most awful disaster. Out of the impregnable line
of 126 British ships no less than 35 had gone down, and 40 so utterly
disabled as to be barely able to reach the shore; and of the 35 never
more to be seen, 11 were of the most formidable ships in the British
Navy. But worse still, 22,500 men had gone down with their ships. It
was the blackest disaster ever sustained by British marines.

One of the shattered 40 was Vice Admiral Scott's ship, the mighty
Colossus, bearing with him one of the captured Dreadnoughts, with
its crew of 700 men (the rest had been slain in fight). Had the whole
of the captives survived the attack by their own people, there would
have been a proud landing of over 15,000 Germans; as it was, no more
than 3,780 men and officers were landed at Tilbury.

London was struck dumb; England was terrified; all the Empire was
thunder-struck and troubled.

Alarmist rumours spread in every quarter; the dread aerial warships
were expected every hour of that same night to appear over the great
city of London, and pour out death and destruction in wholesale manner.
There was a mad rush for every train that would take people out of the
city.

But no airship appeared that night. By the morrow the first shock had
passed, and the flame of public indignation was dominant. This feeing
was enhanced when the late morning papers made it widely known that an
ultimatum had been issued by the German Emperor that unless the city of
London yielded to the German forces within 24 hours, the city would be
destroyed! By this time it was known that the Germans claimed a victory
in the engagement in which they had been utterly routed, for not a
single British vessel had fallen captive to them; and London breathed
only one huge word of defiance.

But the most serious part yet remains to be told.

Taking full advantage of the break-up of the chief British line of
defence, and before the rally could be effected, the transports
conveying the German hosts shot through the darkness and the turmoil,
and landed every regiment--probably every man of the 200,000 troops--on
British soil!

The landing was effected between the River Crouch and the Thames.

The next series of cables told of what happened immediately after this.
Soon as the morning broke the North Sea fleet, returning as victors of
the great sea fight, fell upon the German ships that remained off the
mouth of the Thames.

The delay had been caused in part by the slow progress made with the
captive vessels (15 German battleships) and their prisoners, which,
acting under instructions received by wireless, Admiral Wilson had been
instructed on no account to lose or risk. He had also been made aware
of Scott's victory, and had deemed it unnecessary to rush matters; only
in the deep hour of darkness before the dawn had he learned, out of the
same mysterious void, of the calamity which had thrown the nation into
consternation and mourning; but he failed not to attend to his final
instructions:--'Haste, make an end of the German fleet.'

That is precisely what he was doing before the sun was an hour high
over Europe on the morning after the winged invasion; and when that
same day was over England's heart beat high once again, for Admiral
Wilson held the command of the English Channel.

But 200,000 German soldiers, with bag and baggage, were on British soil!

A high wind from the west was now blowing, and it meant something for
the safety of London.




CHAPTER XI.---COMING NEARER HOME.

"So it is all settled, uncle; you are really to live in Sydney, and
we shall see you often--how pleasant that will be." It was Nilda who
spoke, as she greeted Mr. Summers at the door, on his first visit to
the Hortons, after disposing of his country property.

"Yes, girlie, I am looking forward to a real good time; like so many
who have borne the heat and burden of the day in the back-blocks, I
am about to realise the dream of a quarter of a century--spend the
rest of my days by the lisping waters of the harbour; listen no longer
to the caw of the crow or the clatter of the magpies, but to the
soothing ripple of the sea, filling my sea-thirsty lungs every day
with life-giving ozone; and, generally speaking, earn that well-earned
rest, which--so they say--such an old pioneer, as I am, fully deserves
(ahem)."

"And you need not joke about it, uncle; you do deserve it all, and so
does aunt. How is she?"

"As well as can be expected under the circumstances."

"She is not ill?"

"Not at all, but declares that never again will she break up house,
pack and unpack, etc. etc. After 28 years it was perfectly amazing how
much the old place held. There was a sale of furniture and effects, of
course; but the 'few things we had reserved' fill 12 packing cases,
and they are now at the station, and the wife is at the Grand Central;
and I am now to see friend Horton previous to concluding about that
miniature paradise, that haven of rest, at Hunter's Hill. Has he told
you about it?"

"Oh, yes; and we tripped up that way on Sunday afternoon, just to view
it from the river, to get an idea of it. It does look a charming home."

"I am glad you like it. Is Mr. Horton in?"

"He will be in a few minutes. His usual time of returning is 4.30. Do
you intend going up the river this afternoon?"

"No. I was there this morning; but we are to see the agent, and finally
settle. But I must see Mr. Horton before we do that." Then, turning
from his own affairs, he asked Nilda about herself.

"Oh, yes, uncle, I am perfectly at home here; and they are all very
kind to me; I should think it must be on your account."

"Not at all. It is on your own account. I thought they would be pleased
to have you. But what is this I hear, that you are not very kind to Mr.
Gunsler?" (This jokingly).

"Uncle, why should I be? If I were kind to him, he would become a
nuisance, I'm afraid."

"Is there anyone else, Nilda?"

"Not at present--not seriously. . . But in any case, uncle, you would
never wish me to marry a German, would you?"

"Not if you did not care for him, girlie, certainly; but I confess I
rather wished you would like Mr. Gunsler."

"Why? Please tell me why?"

"He is so genuinely interested in you; he was extremely interested in
your history----"

"My history, uncle; what is there in my history to interest a stranger?
But you have never told me my history. What history have I? Really, you
surprise me."

"Yes, but do you not remember how often you have said: 'No; better not
tell me of those too unhappy days.'"

Just then Mr. Horton arrived, and immediately, as they had an
appointment in the city at 5 o'clock, they left; and Nilda did not
see her guardian again till evening. But when Mr. Horton returned, he
informed them that Mr. Summers was the purchaser of 'The Bowery' at
what he thought was a satisfactory figure. It was, for cash, secured at
£100 less than it had been offered at.

And when evening came there was quite a party at Linden, for Mr.
Horton, as it happened, had invited a couple of intimate friends
to dinner, which was meant also for Mr. and Mrs. Summers and Mr.
Gunsler, but it was later on that they came; and, concurrent with
their arrival, came in Master Tom, breathless and excited; and well
he might be, for he brought news later than anything preceding pages
of war news contained. It had the effect of making Australia sit up.
The latest edition of the evening papers, which were published till
mid-night, contained the startling announcement that a small fleet of
German warships, which once and again had been obscurely referred to
as 'cruising in Eastern waters,' had now, it was confidently reported,
swooped down upon New Guinea, pulled down the British flag at Port
Moresby, hoisted in its place the German eagle, imprisoned all British
officials, and declared the whole island a German Protectorate! . . .
Further--but these were rather matters of conjecture than statements
of fact--it was believed the same squadron were under orders to attack
Australia, without further delay. Brisbane was reported to be in a
condition of utmost dread and apprehension, as it was realised that
within eight or ten days the Germans might be bombarding the city. . .
Brisbane authorities were wiring impatiently for the immediate dispatch
north of the Australian torpedo boats and destroyers.

This latest development was eagerly and anxiously discussed until late
that night at Linden.

"And what does our friend, Mr. Gunsler think of it now?" asked Mr.
Horton. "Did you not tell us, quite recently, that you thought no harm
would ever come to Australia, though England and Germany were at war?"

"I scarcely think I could have expressed that opinion, Mr. Horton,"
he made answer; "though I had certainly hoped that actual hostilities
would never extend to this country--and may, possibly, have said so."

"Well, Australia is going to give your people a warm reception, if I
know anything. Tell me, honestly, now, if you can, what is their game?
Do they covet this Commonwealth? Are they also going to pull down our
flags, and hoist those of the German Emperor?"

"I assure you, Mr. Horton, I am not in the confidence of his Imperial
Majesty or his Ministers--you honor me quite too much, sir, in the form
of your questions; I know absolutely no more than you do of what is, or
is not, intended."

"Quite likely; it was business brought you out, if I understand?"

"Business strictly; I am here as the servant of a company whose
interests are entirely commercial, and those interests, I need hardly
assure you, are not likely to be improved, or helped, by this most
unfortunate war, especially if Australia is brought into actual
conflict."

To which reasonable line of argument Mr. Morton raised no demur. But
turned to his friend Summers, as for his opinion.

"My opinion is, and has been for some time, that Australia is the prize
which Germany is fighting for, and intends to have."

"Good Lord! If that were really so!" broke out Mr. Horton; "and here
they are knocking at our doors, with their big guns about to be trained
upon us, and all the while we have been fondly imagining that Germany
would not have a ship to sail the seas after the British fleet had got
at them." He was now marching up and down the drawing-room, as if too
impatient to sit in a chair and quietly discuss the matter. In a lull
of the war talk, Mr. Horton turned to Tom, who, in a corner of the
room, was still devouring the newspaper articles on the latest turn
in affairs. "Go out and see if there is not a later edition on the
streets."

Meantime, Mr. Gunsler sought, unsuccessfully, to engage Miss Chester in
something like a tete-a-tete conversation. But she, too, was restless,
like the master of the house, and could not be induced to sit still,
either at the piano or elsewhere, for five minutes. When asked would
she play or sing something, she was almost cutting in her reply--"Can
you seriously ask it, Mr. Gunsler, when there seems to be tragedy in
the very air--the tragedy of war! Think of what might happen to this
country in a few days. Our fair cities at the mercy of an unscrupulous
foe! What have we ever done to Germany that we should have their
battleships sent to destroy us? What have we ever done but freely
accept their 'made in Germany' goods--why, look, this very piano is by
a German maker (a Steinway); half our toys are made by your countrymen;
and your own agency promotes further importations; while, as for your
countrymen, are there not thousands scattered over Australia who have
been made welcome to our lands, our mines, to all our resources,
equally with British people themselves!"

"Bravo, governess, bravo!" cried Mr. Horton. "There's a speech for you,
by an Australian girl! There is not a word in it that is not true--even
Gunsler must admit as much," turning to him.

"Save one word, with all due respect," replied the young foreigner,
with a noticeably heightened color.

"And what word is that?" demanded Mr. Horton.

"Unscrupulous," replied Mr. Gunsler.

"We will stand by it--it is unscrupulous."

"All war, all the ways of war, I'm afraid, are unscrupulous, if it
comes to that, friend," interposed Mr. Summers.

"Will you allow me to speak freely, as though I was no German, but
quite a disinterested, impartial critic?" asked Mr. Gunsler of his host.

"Certainly, you shall speak freely, sir; this is still a free country,
thank God, and every man in it may yet speak his mind without fear of
being apprehended on a charge of les majestie," said Mr. Horton.

"I thank you. Now, I respectfully submit to you that in all the
vast world possessions of Great Britain, in the acquisition of
them there has been apparent more or less of this very element of
unscrupulousness. Look at South Africa, how you dispossessed the Dutch.
Who invited you to possess India? Did the Egyptians ever ask Britain to
possess Egypt; Did the Maoris desire the British to take possession?
Then, your Commonwealth, it is true, was open for any white race to
come and occupy; but, I say, the rule of conquest has been largely one
of unscrupulous conquest, in the sense which I will presume you are now
using the word." He looked for some word of answer from Mr. Horton.

"England has justified her intervention and occupation in every
case you have cited. India is a standing proof of better progress,
material advancement, and better conditions of life for many millions
of down-trodden ryots, less grinding taxation, more liberty, more
security, less starvation. Africa--South Africa to-day--admits alike
in Dutch and British centres, that the hand that conquered is the
hand that gives a wider freedom, a more generous constitution than
ever before. New Zealand--well, go over there and see the Maori Chief
lording it over the white pakeha. I have myself paid tribute to the
Maori Caesar--the Chief who had the finest house in the place; he was
the wealthiest landlord, and drew a princely revenue from his ground
rents. Would Germany, think you, have established a reputation for such
even-handed justice and regard for the right of conquered races?"

"That remains to be seen. Germany's field is narrow in this respect.
Have you tried to conceive that Germany, say here in occupation of
Australia----"

"No, by Cæsar's ghost, I have not tried to conceive of so monstrous a
proposition----"

"Keep cool," said Mr. Summers, laying his hand on the arm of his
friend; "you agreed to hear Gunsler out; let him go on."

"I was about to say," resumed Gunsler, with the pleasantest insinuation
of voice and manner at his command, "that if this great new country was
governed by Germany, it is quite possible, I think, in a few years,
for an admission, quite as complimentary as that Mr. Horton has now
made regarding British rule, to be made as regards German rule. Is it
not too true that this vast country is now practically ruled by the
mob? You call it Labor, or Democracy, or Socialism; call it what you
like, it is surrounding and curtailing every department of business
and commerce by restrictions that are most irksome and crippling.
Your boasted freedom and liberty are surely here in jeopardy, if not
already jettisoned; 'freedom of contract'--is it not even now among
you an obsolete expression? Has any man, outside unionism, freedom to
work and develop a career where and how he pleases? Believe me, it is
my honest conviction that if Germany ruled this country, you would
not recognise it in one decade from now. It is the one distinctly
unpeopled part of the world; your restrictions, their professions to
the contrary, seem determined to leave it so. Your four or five million
inhabitants fail to recognise the anomaly; they are in possession of
the thinnest-peopled part of the earth, in almost juxta-position to the
great Asiatic East, where are to be found the most densely populated
portions of the globe. With an awakening Asia, how can a mere handful
expect to hold Australia very much longer?"

"Hold just there!" broke in Mr. Horton. "As to that latter contention,
it is England's problem, not Germany's. Make your mind easy as to that.
England will hold what she has got, without asking or seeking Germany's
interference. . . . Hulloa, Tom, what news now?". . . . And he took the
latest sheet from the boy's hand to skim the war news.

There was a movement among the ladies as if they would retire.
"This warlike talk, I fear, has been an infliction upon you," came
apologetically from Mr. Gunsler to the gentle ones in general. It was
Mrs. Horton who made answer for them: "Would that it were the only
infliction, Mr. Gunsler; but, alas, it is like the echo of the deadly
thing that has come to our peaceful country, which has hitherto known
no bloodshed or tumult of war."

"That, dear Madam, I lament equally with you; yet, if I may be
permitted the thought, great writers, historians and others, hold
that there is another side to war--the reverse of its inevitable
chapter of horrors--which means that there is a national elevation,
a strengthening of the national sinews, the whole fibre of the body
politic by the dread happenings of war. I do fear I express it badly;
but so it is held."

"I do not believe war can have any side that is good," replied Mrs.
Horton. "God send us a peaceful issue soon."

A note of surprise here escaped Mrs. Horton, as her husband hurriedly
rose, put down the paper he was reading, and declared he must go into
the city.

"At this time of night!" she exclaimed.

"I shall be absent perhaps two hours--do not wait for me." And with
that he left.

The little party broke up.

Somehow, Mr. Gunsler managed to have a few words with Nilda in the
hall, and for once she accompanied him to the front gate. He was
pleading with her to do him the honor of accompanying him to a
Shakespearian play on the following evening, and apparently won his
point, for he left Linden that night a happier man than he had been,
for Miss Chester, for the first time, had promised to accompany
him--alone.




CHAPTER XII.--BEARDING THE LION IN HIS DEN.

That blessed wind that veered to the north and blew gustily; that more
than friendly storm that followed the explosion of many hundred tons
of cordite and other deadly explosive; that splendid downpour of rain,
intermittent thunder and lightning, following the fearful scenes of
carnage and destruction such as the English Channel had never before
in all history recorded, gave glad respite to a nation thunder-struck
and aghast. For while in one day victory had been sounded over every
telegraph wire of the United Kingdom, and all too rapidly followed by
astounding messages--sometimes too exaggerated--of disaster to the
British Navy, the sullen night vibrated with every kind of rumour of
further impending disaster. In the earlier hours of the night fears
were rampant of the aerial invasion of London. With the German army
actually on British soil; and the apparently unassailable air-ships
threatening speedy doom to the great city, it seemed no idle threat
of the German Emperor that he would destroy London if it did not
capitulate. Yet once again man proposes, and God disposes. In the most
evil hour there were not wanting the prayers of the faithful, to Him
whom the winds and the waves obey; and early in the morning it was
told--before ever the wires and the printing presses could record--that
something fateful had occurred to the flying-demons of Germany. How had
the wild north winds sobbed the word, or was it conjecture?

What mystic 'second sight' had informed the public conscience that the
aerial monsters would not, in the immediate present, return to their
mission of destruction over London? And this respite recalled yet once
again the work of Providence in the instruction of that far off Armada,
when air-ships were undreamed of; and England thanked God, and took
fresh courage.

The rally of the fleet on the day following showed that notwithstanding
the magnitude of the disaster which had happened, Britain could still
claim to be master of the situation--on the water. Enough battleships
mustered to make it plain that--barring like accidents as had
happened--Germany could not force her way through, nor succour the
expeditionary force which had landed. In fact, Europe cried out--the
French papers especially--that the grand crisis had happened, the thing
often predicted--the invading army were in, and could not get out!
They were entrapped! But 200,000 fully-equipped Germans, probably the
best troops in the world, are not easily entrapped. They were awaiting
orders, it was stated, before marching upon the metropolis; also, it
was reported, they were throwing up solid defence works as if by magic.
Ten miles of coast-line was in their keeping. . . . It was matter
for general surprise that they paused for a day in their attack on
the heart of the Kingdom. But soon it was ascertained that they were
waiting for the support, or rather concurrent attack, of the airships.
They waited. Then news reached London and the oversea dominions, that
rather more than half of the entire air fleet had been wrecked ere the
friendly shores of the Fatherland were reached, and these included the
greater portion of the mighty Zeppelins. A wondrous wave of exultation
ran round the world; for even outsiders felt the horror of the uncanny
element which had turned honest victory into disaster.

Yet, having seen what splendid service, unparalleledly splendid
service, the fleet of air-ships had rendered the cause of Germany at
the critical moment, it was not to be expected, despite the havoc
wrought by the elements, that another raid would not be made by the
balance of the Zeppelins and smaller air-craft.

Thus it was announced, and threatened, two days after the great
disaster, that London would be put in flames and reduced to ashes if it
hesitated any longer to surrender. Then, a few hours later, came word
that 12 hours' respite alone was allowed for the answer. . . The answer
was such that William and his Ministers could little have anticipated.
In effect it was this: Unless the German Government, within 24 hours,
recalled its army then on British soil, surrendering all the leading
officers as hostages of good faith on the part of Germany, not one of
them should return to Germany; that they were already surrounded on
every side by superior numbers; that they were hopelessly cut off from
a return by sea; that the Lord High Admiral was ready at a moment's
notice to advance upon the coasts of Germany on the offensive, and
would have orders to make an end of the German Navy and cut off the
whole of the German commerce; and, lastly, a forceful reminder to the
Emperor himself that his brother was a prisoner in London, together
with thousands of German officers and sailors captured in the great
mid-Channel engagement. It was significantly added that these were
judiciously dispersed in various centres about London!

The meaning of this great stroke was easily discovered by the man in
the street. It was a great device; if Germany was bent on raining down
fire and death on the great city, it would be dealing death to its
own--and possibly to the brother of the Emperor!

Whether or not this gave pause to the invader, it was not at that
moment possible to determine, but the fact remained that for a space
of three days there was an absolute lull in the war which had begun
with such unparalleled fury. These three days were priceless days
for England; for the interval enabled the authorities to concentrate
their forces in and about London, and to make such preparations for
the defence of the city as would have been impossible had the invaders
stormed the capital on the day after the landing.

From Southend to Rochford, Rochford to Rayleigh, on to Wickford, on
to Shenfield, and away to Epping Forest earthworks had been thrown
up over all these miles in record time. The pick and shovel men--the
sappers of the army had been reinforced by tens of thousands of willing
volunteers, from members of Parliament, lawyers, doctors, to dray
and lorry men, waiters and drapers. . . . London breathed once more
freely as it read of these things, and how at every road, along which
the invading army might advance upon London, heavy artillery had been
placed; and battalions were in readiness for the approach of the German
legions, which approach was every hour expected.

But when the fifth day had come and gone, and the Germans did no
more than scour the immediate country around their entrenchments,
principally for the purpose of driving in stock, and commandeering
whatever food supplies they could lay ready hands upon, the British
Lion began to roar its impatience. "Up and at them," was the cry of the
man in the street; the provincial Press questioned the Government as to
the delay in removing the invaders, while the towns that lay exposed to
the northward clamoured for immediate hostilities.

On the morning of the sixth day after the landing, it transpired that
negotiations had been pending which, had they been successful, would
have meant a peaceful evacuation; at the same time it would have meant
an unquestioned back-down for the Germans. This they refused, and the
consequences was the order went forth for an immediate attack on the
Germans.

The mobilization of the British army was admirable. Within 24 hours of
the order the greatest British army which had ever moved at one moment,
with one object, set out to do or die;--17 brigades of Infantry, many
battalions of the flower of British troops, scores of corps, in the
pink of condition, well-drilled, fresh and eager for the fray; swarms
of militia--in all, an army of 190,000 regulars and 20,000 volunteers,
mostly called in from the counties. They were under command of Lords
Roberts and Kitchener (the latter of whom had been recently recalled
from a command which he had assumed after his retirement in 1910). The
challenge had gone forth to the German army "to come out and fight in
the open, or surrender while yet there was time." . . . Always there
is a larger element of heroism, of possible kudos, in attack than in
defence; and while it is true that the attacked were the attackers,
Britons would ever rather be the attackers than the attacked. . . .
Here was a case in which the Germans had their backs to the wall--or,
literally, the sea. Without being told, it was known that the invaders
would fight with the grimmest determination. Then entrenchments were
sufficiently outstanding to leave a wide margin of movement within
their ground; while their headquarters were so placed as to be screened
from view, and also from effective heavy gun attack from without the
entrenchments. At the same time, it was known that a large number of
heavy guns had been unshipped and placed in position. It was reported
there were not less than 200 large field-pieces, hundreds of maxims,
and for a space of not less than 7½ miles above the trenches were lines
of bayonets and rifles, calculated to do most deadly execution to any
army who would seek to dislodge them.

Hostilities began at long distances on the afternoon of the day
mentioned. Posting guns on every eminence commanding the German lines,
at distances ranging from 4 to 8 miles, the British Long Toms began
pouring heavy charges into and beyond the German trenches. It was seen
that in many trenches, earth, guns and men were blown to pieces. The
power of the explosives, the precision of the firing, the comparative
weakness of the effective fire in reply, caused enthusiasm throughout
the British lines.

This was practically the gist of the first day's cable information.

Ere the sun had risen on the morrow, it transpired that a daring
British aeroplanist had sailed high over the German encampments, and,
without mishap, roughly located their concentrations, duly reporting
to the Commanders-in-Chiefs this valuable information, which was at
once made use of. The second day witnessed a flank movement, and
concentration of the long-distance guns, on what proved to be the
headquarters of the army in one of the shielded positions. For, without
sight even of the position, the locality and range had been so well
ascertained that fearful havoc was wrought, culminating in a terrific
explosion--one of the temporary German magazine storehouses had been
exploded--with the immediate effect of arousing a wild sortie of
fully half the German army on the British position which had shelled
with such disastrous effect. This was rising ground, terminating in
an elevation of some 120 feet, a mile or two north of Hockley. While
something in the nature of a surprise, it had not been altogether out
of British reckoning that this might be the result of a successful
shelling of the German position. Hence it was that at the moment when
the enemy's advance was reported, 22,000 of the regulars were ready
behind the British artillery, with the advantage of ground and guns;
while, within an hour of the opening of the battle which ensued, as
many more troops were hurried up, the whole under command of Field
Marshall Lord Kitchener. And thus began the first pitched battle on
British soil between German and Briton, a battle which for fierceness
and bloodshed must live long in the annals of 'civilised' warfare.




CHAPTER XIII.--ENTER, A NEW CHARACTER.

"Nilda!"

"Yes, Mrs. Horton."

"Mr. Horton wished me to tell you that he is bringing with him to
dinner this evening a stranger--I think I have met him, but it was some
time ago--named Mr. Gresham. Have you heard of him?"

"I do not think so."

"Horace Gresham, he is called, and they say he is very clever. He won
a seat in the Assembly last election. I think you will like him. Mr.
Horton says he is a coming man."

"I shall be pleased to know him; but why, I wonder, should Mr. Horton
wish me to know him?"

"Perhaps because he wishes to know you--who can say?"

"Surely that is unlikely; who am I that a member of Parliament should
wish to know me?"

"Even members of Parliament get married, you know."

"Oh, is he a bachelor--really? I thought all members of Parliament
were middle-aged or old men--mostly bald, as befits grave and reverend
seigniors."

"Oh, yes, I daresay that applies generally, but Mr. Gresham is one of
the exceptions. Now, if he is heart-whole--and you likewise--who can
tell what might happen."

"Who, indeed? I am sure it is very kind of Mr. Horton, and you, too,
to take this interest in a poor country girl." . . . Then, as an
after-thought, "and one who is heart-whole."

"Ah, then, I have failed, I see," Mrs. Horton smiled, as she said this.
"I suppose nearly all mothers get to be matchmakers. My 'prentice-hand
has failed; perhaps Mr. Horton may be more successful. Which is
amusing, because I never knew my husband to attempt anything of the
kind, and I am sure he would repudiate the idea of such a thing now;
but the fact remains that he is genuinely interested in you, Nilda, and
I have heard him say you deserve a good husband."

"It is more than kind of Mr. Horton. I shall endeavour to be worthy of
his good opinion of me."

And it was noticeable that Miss Nilda that evening took rather longer
before her looking-glass than usual. A message, indeed, was sent to her
telling her dinner was served. So that the governess was the last at
table, and at least one member of the family recalled her one weakness
with her recommendation: "Miss Chester is fastidious."

The place reserved for her at table was exactly opposite the seat
occupied by Mr. Gresham.

Glad, scarcely waiting till the introduction was over, exclaimed, "I
rang twice for your benefit, Nilda, and you did not hear."

"Perhaps it is with Miss Chester as with members in the House--the bell
often rings, and we do not hear; sometimes, I fear, we do not want to
hear."

"Do they ring you up for lunch or dinner?" enquired Gladys.

"No, when they require members in the House, and we are in the lobbies
or some other part of the ramshackle structure."

"Yes; when are you going to construct a Parliament House worthy of the
parent State?" asked Mr. Horton. "The House in Macquarie-street is the
amazement of all visitors, especially if they have seen Parliament
House in Melbourne."

"I know," replied Mr. Gresham. "Compared with that Temple of Politics,
ours is a barn--with many stables--yet it is historical, you know; and
we boast so few places that we can call historical, that I fancy that
sentiment has something to do with the inclination to hang on to the
old House. Within those unpretentious walls, since 1856--I think that
was the year of the introduction of responsible government in New South
Wales--it may be said three generations of politicians, including a
few statesmen, have shaped the political destinies of this State. We
have few political heroes, yet as Father Time washes out the personal
blemishes of character, I fancy we are lifting into places of enduring
memory the names of such men as Wentworth, Cowper, Forster, Parkes,
Dalley, Robertson, and lesser lights who in those halls have lived and
breathed and left their footprints on our sands. Don't you think so?"

"Yes," agreed the host, "there's something in sentiment not unworthy of
guarding. There is also, to some extent, at least, an answer to those
who cry out that everything goes to the city of Sydney. Politicians
are frequently blamed for expending so much money in the metropolis;
yet, the fact that, for over half a century, they house themselves so
humbly, must tell in their favour. The visitor from other parts gets
rather a striking contrast--what say they? They say, looking at the two
structures, 'You provide a far more noble-looking edifice for your sick
and suffering than for your legislators!'"

"Yes." Then, turning to Miss Chester, he asked, "Do you take any
interest in politics?"

"I am afraid not too keen an interest. But please tell me, should not
the name of Sir George Dibbs be told among the 'roll of honor' you have
mentioned?"

"Possibly so. He certainly filled a good big place in the politics of
this State for a number of years. Yet he is of perhaps too recent a
date to be--what shall I say?--'canonised' among the great. He was a
man of exceptionally good intentions and few blemishes of character,
but without that power of leading and controlling men which places
politicians in the front rank. He was never a power on the platform."

"I can imagine that to be the case," said Nilda; "for once, when he was
Premier, I heard him speak, and he spoke very haltingly. Don't you get
very tired of listening to poor speeches in the House, Mr. Gresham?"

"That is when we make for the lobbies, the library, almost
anywhere--and the bell rings."

"So it is not all a bed of roses being a member of Parliament?"
suggested Mrs. Horton.

"There are many thorns among the roses."

"Particularly when you sit in the shades of Opposition," added Mr.
Horton.

"Are you an Oppositionist?" asked Nilda.

"I have the honor of belonging to the party in Opposition," he replied.

"Not for long, I trust," said Mr. Horton. "The Labor party, having
come into their own, after so long a wait, are failing to realise
expectations, and their following--I mean the public--are getting
uneasy, don't you think so?"

"With some cause. The policy of nationalising every industry is
under test. The two or three large concerns which have been forced
to surrender to Labor's dream, are not panning out according to
predictions. They tell us it is too early yet to judge the new system
by what has been seen of it. But the public are not impressed. Tobacco,
for instance, is not cheaper than under the old system, and many say it
is distinctly of worse general quality. Sugar--taken over by debentures
at such immense cost to Australia--is not cheaper, and no better in
quality; it is going to be dearer, they say, as the price must go up,
because the first balance-sheet of the national concern in sugar shows
that the present wages cannot be paid at the price."

"And I fancy," said Mr. Horton, "that that holds good in regard
to every industry where Labor agitation has affected the cost of
production. Whether, it is the boot trade or the butchering business,
if cost of production and of supply are increased, as naturally as day
follows night prices must go up. And who pays? The working classes, who
will eat meat and must wear boots, must pay; so, when all is said and
done--though there is no end to the pother--things are about as they
were."

"But we weary the ladies, I'm afraid," said Mr. Gresham, "with these
stale reflections on politics."

"No, on the contrary, we find it most interesting," assured Mrs.
Horton. "It is a relief these days to turn from the theme of war to
matters of home legislation."

During the week that followed, Nilda saw much of Mr. Gresham.




CHAPTER XIV.--THE PLOT THICKENS.

When Mr. Horton hurriedly left home at a late hour, without
explanation, to visit the city, it was supposed it had something to
do with office business. That was not so. There was a mystery about
the communication which reached him, which was not cleared up for
many days. It was not less than a message from the commander of the
Powerful, very briefly requesting his presence on the flagship,
concerning a private matter which probably interested him. Mr. Horton
was at a loss to understand what possible reason the commander of the
Powerful had to ask an interview with him; hence the secrecy he
maintained till the matter was explained. He was not very much wiser
when he had boarded the man-of-war at 11 o'clock that night, being
rowed by a waterman to the side of the great cruiser, as she lay
opposite Lady Macquarie's seat. He found no difficulty in boarding the
ship, and was at once taken to the Admiral's room. That gallant seaman
quickly explained the reason for the call.

"You are Mr. Horton, connected with the Chamber of Commerce?"

"Yes, sir."

"In that case nothing more remains to be said," and the Admiral here
intimated, as he was under instructions to almost immediately leave
the harbour, his time was fully engaged; and before daylight next
morning, the Powerful, as Mr. Horton learnt by the morning papers,
was proceeding northward--as believed to engage, with other of the
Australian squadron, the enemy upon Brisbane.

It was only when on his way home from this strange interview, as he
cogitated over the problem, that he suddenly thought of Miss Chester.
"Can it be possible," he muttered to himself; but so little did he
think it possible, that he did not formulate any theory in regard to
the governess connecting her with the matter; and, as secrecy had been
enjoined, he did not mention the matter to Mrs. Horton on his return
home, intending, however, to do so on the morrow. Opportunity did not
seem to offer in the morning, and there seemed no immediate reason for
haste. He would quietly talk it over with his wife in the evening.

It was about 8.30 that evening when Mr. Horton, suddenly remembering
the enigma of the previous night, asked where Miss Chester was.

"She has gone to the play with Mr. Gunsler," replied Mrs. Horton.

"Gone with Gunsler. I thought Nilda would have nothing to do with
Gunsler. You surprise me; when was it arranged?"

"The last evening he was here. I, too, was surprised; but he seems to
have prevailed upon her to accompany him, and when she asked my consent
I readily consented. You do not mind, dear?"

Then Mr. Horton (having the room to themselves) told his wife the
strange story of his visit to the Admiral's ship, and the purport of
the message received.

"What an extraordinary thing! A hostage in our household! What can it
mean? And you think it means Nilda?"

"I did not say so; but who else can it mean?"

"Who else?" echoed Mrs. Horton.

"I must have had only half my wits about me," he continued, "not to
have thought of Nilda, and told the Admiral about her."

"And yet, dear, what could you have said about Nilda, except that she
is our governess, and that a promising young gentleman of the city--who
happens to be a German is desirous of paying his addresses to her?"

"Which would have been of no interest to the Admiral, I expect," he
commented, "who has far weightier matters on his mind just now. They
were getting up steam, then, and are at this moment on the way north,
as the papers have it, to engage that rascally German squadron, who
threaten the peaceful shores of Australia with bombardment, robbery,
and heaven knows what. . . . I do not understand it at all . . . . but I
wish Nilda had not gone."

"She is quite safe, never fear, with Mr. Gunsler."

"You think so? Do you know I never felt quite sure of that German. But
for Summers I would not have him come to the house."

Then he read the papers; but it was only fitful reading. . . . His mind
did not concentrate. . . . About 9 o'clock he remarked, laying down the
sheet, "I think I will go to the theatre; did you say it was the Royal?"

"No, I think it is Her Majesty's; but, indeed, Reg., you need do
nothing of the kind; you would not find a seat vacant, I expect."

"I could wait outside."

"Did you see the latest, Dad?" asked Tom, coming into the room with the
very latest edition (published 7.30 p.m.).

"What is the latest?" as he again became seated with uneasy
apprehension, due not altogether to general war matters.

"The war is at our doors!" cried Tom. "We shall almost hear the guns
speak to-morrow. The German fleet have been sighted within a day's steam
of Brisbane; and the Australian squadron are full steam ahead, to
encounter them before they blow up Brisbane!"

"Let me see it, lad. Yes, here it is: 'Movements of the Fleet.
H.M. ships Powerful, Pegasus, Prometheus, Encounter, Pioneer and
Challenger, which had been preceded by two destroyers and several
torpedo boats, will meet the German fleet, it is anticipated, within 48
hours. The first mentioned vessels, save the Powerful, were ordered
north two days ago in readiness for the attack; and the Admiral, who
was delayed in our harbour by conflicting information as to the first
attack being on Sydney, is now hastening full-speed for the northern
capital. Authoritative information--which, it is alleged, has been
confirmed by intercepted 'wireless'--goes to show that Brisbane will
first be attacked. The German fleet consists of the Scharnhorst,
the flagship of the East Asiatic squadron, the cruisers Nuernberg,
Lepsig, Emden and Connoran, and it is believed these are accompanied
by two or more torpedo boats. The Scharnhorst is larger than the
Powerful, being 11,600 tons, and is believed to carry more guns;
but it is stated, on good authority, that the Australian squadron will
not hesitate to engage the invading squadron at the first possible
opportunity, if possible on the high seas, and, it is believed, with
good prospects of a successful issue. Having regard to general tonnage,
weight and calibre of guns, the opposing fleets are believed to be as
near as possible about equal.'"

"Yes," said Mr. Horton, "things are coming to a climax, certainly.
There will be things to talk about now in a few hours. . . . I wish
Nilda was here. . . ."

"Wonder who is in command of the German rag-tag," speculated Tom.

"It is mentioned, I think. . . Yes, here it is:--'The principal
officers are Chief of the fleet, Rear-Admiral------; chief of
the staff, Commander------; Admiral's staff officers, Senior
Lieutenants------and------; flag lieutenant, Lieutenant------. The
stea----'"

Mr. Horton did not finish the par. He threw down the paper. "Say,
Tom, put on your hat and overcoat. I am too anxious to stand this any
longer!"

"What, Dad, must you away to the war, too?" cried the boy.

"Not to the war, but to the theatre. You shall stand by one entrance
door, and I will see to the other. I shall not be satisfied till we
have Miss Chester home again."

* * * *

They did not see Miss Chester home again till many things had happened.

How it happened that Mr. Horton's suddenly awakened fears were
realised, must be placed among the telepathic incidents not uncommon
in many actual experiences. You are thinking of a person, and he or
she suddenly appears. You have an apprehension that something is about
to happen, and you are joked by your familiars as to the state of your
liver. . . . Full half-an-hour before Her Majesty's began to empty, Mr.
Horton awaited upon the open space, that palatially tiled and marbled
entranceway to the stalls and the dress circle; and took more note,
strange to say, of the beauties of Australian specimens of marble than
he had ever hitherto done, though in years gone by he had walked that
way many a time before. . . Master Tom was commissioned to keep a keen
look-out upon the side exit.

* * * *

Let us look within.

It was a full house, and the play was "The Merchant of Venice." In the
dress circle, 'midst the crowd of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen
in evening attire, sat side by side Mr. Gunsler and Nilda Chester.
She was dressed in an evening gown of soft cream silk that fitted her
graceful figure extremely well; but it was the head of the girl that
caught and held the eye; her hair was done in simple Grecian style, and
caught with a band about her head, which gave the finishing touch to a
toilette at once most simple and most beautiful. There was no display
of jewellery, but a simple, half-opened pale pink rose was stuck in the
band at one side. If a vote had been taken of the house as to the most
beautiful girl present, it surely would have given its vote for Nilda
Chester.

They arrived but a few minutes before the orchestra struck up; and
many were the eyes which turned to the young couple as they entered,
and with some little difficulty--and the temporary rising of three or
four gentlemen to make way--they found their reserved seats. . . . It
must not be thought that Miss Chester was unusually self-conscious;
but on the authority of one versed in feminine weaknesses, it seems
that three out of four young ladies, of the most "impressionable age"
are self-conscious; and it would not be untrue to say of Nilda at that
hour that she was quite aware that many eyes--of both sexes--were
upon her, and again and again reverted toward her. . . . She was also
conscious that not many times had she figured in the dress circle of a
fashionable theatre, and hoped, secretly within herself, that she would
not disclose to any onlooker that she was something of a novice in that
role; so she kept watch of herself. . . . Ever she was quick to learn
of others; and had besides that native latent for lady-like conduct in
the smallest details. . . . And so while her companion, proud of the
place he occupied by her side--and looking every inch the gentleman
in his modishly cut evening clothes--did most of the talking, while
waiting for the rise of the curtain.

"How divinely the orchestra play."

"Yes."

"What a fine house, and fashionable."

"I suppose so."

"I do hope you will thoroughly enjoy the play."

"Oh, yes."

"Is this piece your favourite?"

"I have not decided yet."

"Look, I really believe that old dowager in the upper box is focussing
her glass on you."

"On me? Nonsense!" And more small talk of the kind, very gently spoken,
which small talk Mr. Gunsler seemed inclined to keep up after the play
commenced; but in this he was very decidedly checked.

"Do you really wish me to enjoy the play?"

"Most certainly, Miss Chester."

"Then please not to talk to me."

"Oh, I'm sorry; but to do that, you know, is better than to listen to
old Shakespeare, even."

"It is to hear and see the dead Shakespeare in living characters we are
here, you know."

"I will try to be good; but let us exchange a word sometimes, please,
Miss Chester."

"Well, just a word, then."

More than once a word was spoken which brought no response, nor a
turn of the head. Nilda got more and more absorbed in the strange old
medieval merchant whose gold was his god, and in his daughter Jessica,
with her hard and loveless life, and in the score of other characters
with which the incomparable dramatist has built this exceedingly human
and powerful play.

Not till the first act was through did Nilda condescend to talk to her
companion, and then only of the play.

"I had not thought to see Shylock with anything but black hair," she
remarked.

"And why black?" asked her companion.

"Think, did you ever see a Jew with red hair?"

"Ah, that is true. How observant you are. Now, that did not occur to
me; you are properly critical; but I confess your hair has much more
interest for me than old Shylock's make-up."

Then the lights were down again, and the curtain up in the second
act. Nilda's white hand lightly rested on the arm of her chair. Why
was it he should for a moment cover her hand with his, as the Prince
declaimed, "Bring me the fairest creature northward born." And so it
rested, to his amazement, till "I tell thee lady, by my love,"--then,
as if only alive to the contact, Nilda hastily withdrew her hand, and
used her fan with that left hand, if as to keep it better employed, or
out of danger.

He wished she would speak, or even look at him. But not until
Gratiano's trifles in the 6th scene did she so much as speak a
syllable. Then there slipped from her a half-conscious speculation: "I
wonder is that true?"

"What was it?"


"All things that are,
Are with more pleasure chased than enjoyed."


"Youth never believes that," he rejoined.

"And Shakespeare replies--did you miss that too?--'How like a younger
or a prodigal.'"

"Oh, freely I plead guilty--there you are concerned I am indeed a
youngster, and would be very prodigal of love did you permit." This
very earnestly, as he leaned his head toward her. For his pains he got
a smart tap on the head with the fan, and was thus made to "sit up."

And as he listened now he marvelled, for truth to tell, though a
theatre-goer and not unacquainted with the great masters, there were
lines and thoughts in this play which struck him in the face.


"When you shall please to play the thieves for wives,
I'll watch as long for you then."
(And he knew not that someone was watching for him.)


"Ah" (from Nilda).

"What is it?" he whispered.

"I had forgotten that that most common saying was Shakespeare's:--


"Love is blind, and lovers cannot see,
The pretty follies that themselves commit."


"It passes for wisdom; but for myself I am not blind, for my sight is
excellent; while as to follies, you have never given me a chance to
commit any, have you, Nilda?"

"Oh, please, do not be so personal."

"I wish you were Jessica and I Lorenzo."

"I have no ducals with which to guild myself."

"Believe me, I do not seek them."

"Are you, then, so unlike your fellows? But listen."

(It was the concluding words of Gratiano before the 7th scene):


"I desire no more delight,
Than to be under sail and gone to-night."


"And now I wish I was Gratiano," protested Gunsler.

"You are too inconstant, sir. (This with well-feigned dignity and
censure). A few moments since you wished you were Lorenzo. I cannot
abide inconstancy."

"Nor would I have you other. I thought you smiled when Lorenzo pleaded:


'So are you sweet. . . But come at once;
For the close night doth play the runaway!'


Would that you could so smile on me as Jessica upon Lorenzo. And he
prepared to run away."

"What, must I hold a candle to my shame?" she playfully retorted,
quoting Jessica.

"No need of lights; the friendly night would aid us."

"My, but you are oddly dramatic to-night; don't you think you ought to
try the stage?"

"Where they do but play at love? I had much rather be in earnest;" and
once again she felt the pressure of his hand.

These words were breathed softly in her ear, but she was paying more
heed to the play than to the would-be lover. "Listen," she bade him;
"Arragon is speaking for you:"


"Still more fool I shall appear by the time I linger here."


It went to show he was not devoid of repartee when he replied:


"And Portia for you----"
Por.: "Thus hath the candle singed the moth."


Nilda: "Then flutter no more in its dangerous illumination."

Gunsler: "'Tis not a candle, but Venus bright; and I long for ever to
enjoy the light."

Nilda received this eulogium in silence; nor would she speak while
those lines of the play were running which dealt with the examination
of the mysterious caskets. It was while the critical examination of
the heiress's three mysterious treasure-troves were being continued
that she gave speech for a moment, by asking her companion which of the
three was the lucky one.

"Truth to say, I forget. But this is the fellow who scores--that I
remember--he wins sweet Portia; and now, most of all, I would be
Bassanio!"

"And would you bear to lose the pound of flesh?"

"For you, Nilda," (and his tone was of the softest and most winning,
gracious and pleading).

For answer, she (after a pause) once again said, "Listen to Bassanio":


"So may the outward shows be least themselves;
The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it, and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?"


"Let us not listen to that fellow's bad language," pleaded Gunsler;
"but make a better play ourselves."

"It would be poor comedy," suggested Nilda.

"Not by a world's length!" murmured Gunsler.

"Or, mayhap, tragedy?"

"Ah, Nilda, do not jest."

". . . . Ah, yes. 'Tis Bassanio! He has chosen the right box--the
leaden one--and finds 'the continent and summary of his fortune'--and
Portia!" This broke from Nilda in a happy little burst of pleasure.

"And Portia yields--see how readily. 'You see me, Lord Bassanio, where
I stand . . . . to wish myself much better; yet for you I would be
trebled twenty times myself!"

"Yes; it is surprising how soon she recognised her affinity."

"No sooner than I recognised. . . . Ah, me!"

"Poor fellow."

"You do but tease me;" and, saying which, Gunsler, for a brief space,
fell to listening to the play. And ever the play ran with his thoughts;
gave speech to passion; chimed in odd fashion to things that were
sinister, for he was playing a far more desperate game; and it was like
the cool iron of the man that, in these apparently idle thoughts and
idle moments, he was consummating a project, an adventure, which might
well have told a different tale upon a 'nervy' man.

Nilda suspected not--scarcely the reader suspects--the desperate play
that was on hand.

"I have engaged myself to a dear friend," quoth the actor. "Say that to
me, dear one."

"I cannot."

'Twas thus the play proceeded to the end.

As they walked out upon the landing, Nilda was handed her cloak--it had
a hood--and Gunsler put on his overcoat; they were told it was raining.

"It is raining hard," he declared, as they descended the spacious
vestibule in a crowd of people. He insisted on raising the hood.

"Do not mind, thank you," spoke Nilda. "This thing is somewhat out of
fashion. I do not need my head covered--not yet."

But he was insistent. "You must not catch cold, Miss Chester; I shall
take you straight to a cab."

"But you may find it difficult to get a cab."

"I had the sense to order one; come this way."

"Oh, Mr. Horton!" exclaimed Nilda, half concealed, and actually passing
without being recognised. "I did not know you were at the play--was it
not delightful?"

"I was not at the play, but came to see you home, Nilda. I was anxious."

"Thank you, but really that was not necessary. Mrs. Horton told you I
came with Mr. Gunsler, did she not?"

"Yes; nevertheless, I came. I will explain later on." Then, pausing for
a moment as they entered upon the footpath, he turned to speak to Mr.
Gunsler, but he was gone. . . . "That's strange; wait just here for one
minute, Nilda, while I call Tom."

Nilda, bewildered by the most curious turn of events, was not left
alone one full minute, when Mr. Gunsler returned, smiling, and with the
remark, "It's all right; come this way." And, before she realised it,
Gunsler jumped into the cab also, closed the door, and they were off.

"But," protested Nilda, "Mr. Horton asked us to wait a moment."

"What was the use of waiting; we could not ride three or four in a cab,
you know."




CHAPTER XV.--A GREAT BATTLE.

Not since Waterloo was such a terrible, strenuous, sanguinary battle
fought in Europe.

Germany had shipped the flower of her army. Every man of the 200,000
invaders was a highly-trained soldier. Every man of them was a German
egotist. Every man of them prepared to lose his life, rather than
return to the Fatherland disgraced or defeated.

For the space of ten days negotiations and parleys had continued. These
were days of respite, and of great value to the invaded. Was England
ready? It is true, in a sense, that England is never ready; never ready
for a great war in the sense that Germany is ready.

It is related of Von Roon, the Prussian War Minister, that when war
was declared with France he went home to take a few days' rest. His
work was done. The army was ready. The War Minister had nothing to
worry about. "Imagine," wrote Robert Blatchford in 1910, "the British
Minister of War's condition of mind if war were declared against us by
Germany to-day!"

And here, two years later, was the thing imagined--converted into
solemn reality.

The 'little Englanders' quailed in the presence of the enemy. The great
Englanders did not pause to shout "I told you so," but called loudly to
the Government to brook no further delay; to arise and strike terribly
while yet there was but a twentieth part of the German army to deal
with. To strike hard and relentlessly; for what quarter should be shown
to any enemy that had dared to wantonly pick a quarrel and invade the
realm of England?

And England struck with England's might. The forces for this supreme
battle were almost even, but the advantages, on the face of it, were
with the army fighting for hearth and home. It has been narrated how
the respective armies were situated; how the great guns began to play;
and, after these had done much execution and cleared the way, the close
encounter followed.

It was on the morning of the eleventh day of the German occupation.
The sun had not risen ere the battle began. Lord Roberts commanded
the right wing, Lord Kitchener the left. Under heavy cannon-fire from
every eminence which commanded the German position, the British troops
advanced. The artillery squads did splendid execution; the cavalry
forces appear to have been held in abeyance till comparatively late
in the day. These were posted between the right and left wing of the
advancing army. From the water-way by Rockford, right across country
to the Crouch River, the British lines extended, contracting as they
marched and fought. It had been intended by Lord Roberts that the outer
and northern wing should drive the main body of the enemy back toward
his (Roberts') division, but events upset this plan. The Germans,
concentrating on that wing, gave Lord Kitchener a terrible repulse.
By mid-day it was reported that 17,000 to 20,000 men lay dead or
dying on the battlefield. Only the onrush of the cavalry in a fierce
hand-to-hand encounter, averted a disaster. The day and the battle had
been all German but for a magnificent and masterly piece of strategy on
the part of Lord Roberts, conceived at the psychological moment, when
the great battle was turning in favour of the invader.

At 2 o'clock, when repulse on the other wing, had been confirmed,
Roberts ordered an immediate advance from his centre; at the same
time ordering that none of the heavy armaments remove from the points
of advantage already indicated; only the lightest field-guns were
put forward for the dash. This attack in force being perceived by
the Germans, they deflected from the northern positions, and placed
their main body and reserves in a line of battle to receive the old
war hero. A short and sharp encounter, when, lo, the order was given
to retreat!! . . . It goes to show the splendid discipline--and the
value of discipline--that though 90,000 men turned their backs on
the enemy--turned their backs who had rather been shot--turn they
did--nor questioned the reason why. . . . But not long were they left
in doubt. . . . By 3.30 of the clock, they knew who had done the
thinking for them, and sealed for ever the right and title to supreme
generalship. . . . "They flee! They run! . . . See how they run! . . .
They cannot fight to defend their own land, on their own land! . . .
After them! Down with them! The day is ours! . . . Turned and beaten
on the right, now we smash their left, and the day--and England!--is
ours." It was all so sudden, and without apparent preconception, that
German caution was lost, for that hour, in hot anticipation of victory.

This is exactly what happened. Leaving no more than 100 men to pay the
penalty of the feint, Roberts drew the Germans to the ground he had
chosen to fight upon; the ground upon which he saw them swarming in
exulting egotism and wildest fury, that ground should be the ground
of their defeat and dismay. . . Suddenly, and, lo, the British did
not run; but forming, as if by magic, into solid squares, they were
pouring destructive fire at short ranges, with deadly effect, upon the
on-rushing German legions. . . . It was all in the space of 170 acres
that the carnage was wrought.

Was ever such execution accomplished in so restricted a space? . . .
In the mad rush of supposed victory, the invaders had stormed into
a position beyond their entrenchments, and beyond reach of their
heavy armaments, but well within reach of the splendidly-posted
British artillery. These, from 10 different vantage points, rained
shot and shell upon the concentrated German troops. . . . Splendid
marksmanship--unparalleled generalship--the work of the afternoon was
completely effacing the terror of the morning.

* * * *

Imagine the condition of the British mind at this critical moment. The
fate of the British Empire hung suspended in the balance.

Scarcely less excitement was felt throughout Europe; almost it might
be written that the whole wide world was gripped with but a single
thought: Will England go down to-day, or shall it be to-morrow? . . .
Is it indeed possible that in a few hours the German Eagle will proudly
float where for a thousand years the Royal Standard of England has
flown supreme?

* * * *

In the tumult of this world-shaking contest, the writer has paused
but little to take stock of what the world said, or did in regard to
the deadly struggle. Without exaggeration, it might be truthfully
said that a dozen Empires were quaking for fear of the issue. Not
once, nor twice, nor thrice, but many times in as many weeks the
war-cloud had gathered with such impending density over all Europe
that but an accidental shot--the proverbial accidental spark--was
needed to explode every magazine of the Continent. . . . What mighty
arm held off the long-threatened Armageddon? . . Was it that England's
King and Government--still true to the traditions and stamina of an
unconquered race--practically said to every overture for intervention
or assistance, "Not yet."

In brief the international situation was this: The French Ministry
having taken a vote of its Parliament, decided that the cause of
England was the cause of France. If the British Government called for
assistance, the whole of the French army and the whole navy of the
Republic would be placed at the disposal of the British nation. In
words so noble was this done as to transcend any offer of the kind that
had ever been made by one European Power to another. These were the
concluding words of France: "We shall stand or fall together."

Knowing well what the offer meant--the most terrible war of modern
times--England's heart was moved to its core; but in effect the
answer was, "Not yet." In its amplification it meant a great deal
more: that the British, sorely pushed as it was, yet shrank from the
general conflagration. It was made clear that if Germany pursued
the war single-handed, England asked no assistance. If, as rumour
had it, Germany was urging the Austrian Government to come into
the fray, and Austria sent her fleet--now reported to number nine
first-class battleships, besides many others--then the conditions
would become so severe that Britain would be justified in also
getting assistance. . . . But, so far, Austria hesitated and held her
hand. . . . Italy, with splendid courage, had broken from the Triple
Alliance soon after the declaration of war. . . . Ominous and hopeful,
and helpful, rumours issued daily from many American sources. The gist
of them was: America would not see the ruin of the peace-preserving
British Empire. But Washington itself spoke no definite word beyond a
veiled intimation that if any other Power was brought into the field
against Britain, the American fleet would "also begin to talk."

The Press of both Holland and Belgium were strangely muzzled. The
"mailed fist" was very near them. With all but unanimous voice the
newspapers of Spain and Portugal were all for England.

Japan was not called upon, so far as the treaty went, to enlist
in hostilities against Germany, but evidence was not wanted that
her sympathies were all with England, and it was interesting, as a
diplomatic problem, that England herself was asked to determine "was
Japan under moral obligation to render assistance other than in any
theatre of the East?"




CHAPTER XVI.--NILDA MADE PRISONER.

The night was dark, and the rain fell.

For the first few minutes Mr. Gunsler kept up a lively talk on the
play, the weather, his delight that Nilda was with him, and that she
had been pleased with the play. But Nilda did not converse. Constantly
her thought recurred to Mr. Horton: "How strange that he should think
it necessary to come to take me home! I do not understand?"

"It was quite unnecessary, of course," commented her companion. But
ever he tried to divert her attention from that direction.

"I am afraid he will think it very rude the way we drove off when he
asked us to stay a few moments."

"When I see Mr. Horton I will explain; he will then be quite satisfied
we did not mean to be rude, but did the proper thing."

Now Nilda was glancing through the cab window. "I do not seem to
realise the route; are you sure cabby knows the way?"

"I am sure he does. I most carefully explained it to him."

"Really. When?"

"When I engaged him."

Down Pitt-street, along Circular Quay, they ran, and Mr. Gunsler
attempted to hold her hand and tell her how beautiful she was. "There
was no one at Her Majesty's to compare with you," he declared.

"But that is a silly thing to say; perhaps you did not look."

"I had eyes for only you." He was strangely excited, it now occurred
to Nilda, who could not, however, note his heightened color; but she
was awakened to a flood of apprehension when, in a few moments, the cab
came to a stand, and, peering out; she cried, "Mr. Gunsler, what does
this mean? We are by the water! Oh, tell me, what does it mean?"

"By the water!" (in well-affected surprise). He leaned out; then he
jumped out; he appeared to speak sharply to the cabby, who moved a
few paces further to the right. . . . They were in the vicinity of
the wharf where watermen ply, and where men of the warships land and
embark. . . . All in a minute it occurred. Two men, muffled in great
coats and wearing disguises, appeared alongside the cab. One of them
addressed Nilda: "Young lady, better not make any fuss; we won't hurt
you, but we're under engagement to row you to the other side. Come
along, please."

"How dare you? I will not come along."

"Oh, yes, you will, Miss."

"Where is Mr. Gunsler?"

"Is he the gent, as is taking care of you? He is in the boat, Missy."

Nilda was now thoroughly terrified, and, though she was no coward, she
quaked in every limb, and a great fear was upon her. As one of the men
caught hold of her hand she cried out, but it was instantly smothered
by a handkerchief which must have contained chloroform, for only an
insensible form it was they bore to the boat, in which Gunsler awaited
them.

The water was comparatively smooth; they had no light, and they rowed
quickly.

A little to the side of Lavender Bay stands a rather commodious and
substantially built house, which commands a fine view of the harbour
and city. It is close by the water's edge, and the garden grounds
extend to the water, where a little improvised jetty of stonework
facilitates a landing. As they approached thereto, an onlooker might
have seen a young man tenderly supporting a female figure; and, could
his expression have been made out, it would certainly have been seen
that he wore an anxious look. He would that she might rouse from the
swoon-like stupor, and yet he did not greatly try to arouse her. He
breathed her name gently, but there was no response. He wiped the
damp perspiration from her brow, and then, dipping his hand into
the sea water, he would sprinkle it gentry upon her face. Perchance
he feared that over-much anaesthetic had been applied; and yet he
was not desirous that she should awaken before the destination was
reached. . . . With the help of the men, the unconscious form was
lifted from the boat to the landing.

"Pay up now, and let us begone," demanded one of the fellows, who
appeared to be of a different stamp--and a better one--than the other
whose words have been noted.

"Certainly, you have done your work neatly, and here is your money,"
handing what appeared to be a roll of several notes. "Remember," laying
his hand on the shoulder of this man as he drew him a little apart,
"this is no outrage, but has been done in the cause of the Fatherland,
and for the safety of this young lady. Remember, still more, what you
have sworn."

"Never fear," looking round, "I would be willing to land a few dozen
more in these comfortable quarters at the same price. Let me know when
you have another like job."

And, silently as they came, the two men rowed back into the night.

At least one of them believed what he had been shown--something
emanating from a very high source; and this confidence betokened that
he was one of the trusted. As for the other, he troubled not whether it
was a romantic love episode, or a baser exploit; he had been well paid,
and solemnly declared wild 'orses would not draw a word of the affair
from him.

Gently, but speedily, Gunsler lifted the almost inanimate form of
the kidnapped one from the sward where for the moment she lay, and
bore her to the house. . . Very tenderly he glanced into the fair,
expressionless face; and his own expression--at least it was not that
of a ruffian; nor would he take the slightest advantage of opportunity,
not by so much as a stolen kiss. . . . He approached at a door on an
unfrequented side of the house, fairly hidden in foliage, which grew
between the house and the high fence. He knocked gently, and it was
opened by an old woman with a not unkind face and a motherly appearance
generally.

Evidently, they were expected. No surprise was shown; no fuss made. The
room into which Nilda was introduced must at one time have been used
as a cellar, but its walls were not damp nor its brick floor. It was
dry, and, apparently, not unhealthy. For furniture there was a narrow
bed, comfortably fitted, a washstand, toilette table, a wardrobe, a
decent piece of carpet on the floor, and a couple of chairs. There
was, with these, still a fair space to move about, as the room was not
less than 20ft. long by 12 or 13 feet in width. The one feature in the
apartment which was the least satisfactory, perhaps, was its limited
lighting arrangements. High up toward the ceiling was a small window,
containing but a few pains of glass, and these had not been cleaned for
many a day; the fact that bars of iron ran across the opening gave a
prison-like effect to the room.

It was 'mid such surroundings that, twenty minutes after being so
surreptitiously taken into it, Nilda opened her eyes--at first
dreamily, vaguely, wonderingly; seeing only the bending form, the not
unkindly face of Frau Heckler.

"Who are you?" she questioned, very quietly, as the German woman gently
mopped her forehead with vinegar, and in one hand she held a bottle of
smelling salts.

"I am Frau Heckler, my lady."

"I do not know you."

"Of course not; how could you? We have never met before."

Then, drawing a hand sharply across her brow, as if to clear away from
her numbed brain the cobweb left by the powerful drug, Nilda asked,
"Why are you here . . . or, rather, why am I here? . . . This is not my
home."

"If you will be pleased to allow it to be your home for a little time,
I shall do everything to make it as comfortable as I can for you, my
lady."

"Oh . . . am I in a trance? Have I met with some accident? . . Why do
you call me 'My lady?'"

"You are a lady; you are a great lady."

"Oh, this is nonsense; I must be going!" and Nilda made as if to rise
from the couch.

"Pardon, my lady--a thousand pardons, but you cannot; you must lie
still," . . . pressing her gently back. "You have been upset; you must
rest. See, here is wine--good wine from the dear Rhineland--you will
condescend to take a little, a very little?"

"No, no; I do not want it." . . . Then, suddenly remembering, with
frightened fuller consciousness: "Tell me, do I dream; or was it true?
I was at a play, was I not? Of course I was, with Mr. Gunsler. We were
driving home--home to Mr. Horton's, and were driven to the water,
somewhere, and two dreadful men seized me! They dragged me out of the
cab! . . . And I think I fainted; I remember no more! . . . And I am
here now in this strange place. What does it mean? Please tell me what
does it mean? . . . Where is Mr. Gunsler?"

"My lady, do not alarm yourself; you are quite safe."

"Will you answer my questions? Where is Mr. Gunsler?"

"I do not know."

"Where is this place? And what is it?"

"I cannot tell you, my lady."

"You mean you will not tell me? . . . I shall get up and cry aloud till
I am heard. Move aside, woman! I shall awake the neighbourhood! . . .
What! do you imagine that in our free great city of Sydney a young
woman can thus be seized by roughs and hidden away with impunity?
How dare you--how dare they? It is monstrous. They shall suffer for
this!" . . . And she moved to the door; but the door was bolted. . . .
"I am in prison."

Nilda was still attired just as she left Her Majesty's, save that her
cloak had been removed, and her rich abundant hair had been loosened
from its folds, and fell in some disorder, but still gracefully, about
her shoulders. And though fear--fear as she knew not what--paled her
cheek, and lent a tremor to her voice, she made still a striking figure
with head thrown back and figure dilating with indignation.

"What time is it, woman?"

"It has turned the hour of mid-night, my lady." Then, pleadingly,
"Please, my lady, do not make this task harder for me to bear than
it is. I am but your servant to obey in every matter--within these
walls----"

Nilda: "It is a prison. Who brought me here?"

"I do not know."

"Did Mr. Gunsler bring me here?"

"Who is Mr. Gunsler?"

"You do not know him? You do not think he brought me here? I hope he
did not. . . . And yet, and yet. . . . Oh, let me think." And she moved
to the side of the couch, and was constrained to sit down. "I think it
was Mr. Gunsler. It must have been he. Who else would do this terrible,
this wicked thing? I remember now. My friend Mr. Horton came for me;
he was anxious. Something had occurred or he would not have done that;
and he asked us to wait a moment while he looked for his son. Yes, Tom
was there also, perhaps watching for me at another door; and, before he
could rejoin us, I was hurriedly placed in the cab, and we drove off.
The mystery is clearing. It was all pre-arranged, and Mr. Horton had
heard something. I am sure he must have heard something. Don't you see
it must have been so? And this man, who was permitted to come to the
house as a friend, has contrived it all--this outrage--to spirit me
away. . . . Oh, is it not terrible? I never liked him. I never trusted
him; but I never supposed him capable of this vile thing. He is a
wicked, deceitful German."

"My dear lady, be calm; there is an explanation that will make all that
has been done honorable, let me assure you of that."

"Honorable," expostulated Nilda; "impossible. Tell me, are you also
German?"

"I am of the dear Fatherland, my lady."

"Hateful land of spies, intrigues and kidnappers," cried Nilda. "If you
are German, you also are in the plot. You knew I was to be stolen, did
you? You expected me?"

"I was told to be in readiness to receive my lady--it was enough. Now,
let me, I beg of you, assist you to disrobe, that you may rest."

"Rest! Oh, do not mock me! Think, my friends are at this moment
searching for me. They will not know what has happened me. They will
communicate with the police to help find me. They will not rest till
they find me; and you ask me to rest!"

"My lady, others search for you who have a far greater right to find
you."

"Why speak these enigmas to me? What is it you know? Who are these you
speak of? I am unknown outside my beloved Australia!"

Womanlike it was to ask three questions as it were in one; but so
mystified was she; so reluctant her strange companion to answer any
question.

"Madam is far too excited now. Another time we will talk; my first and
great command is to take such care of you, and show every consideration
for you. Let me, now, I beg you, assist you to retire." . . . Nilda
waved her off . . . "Think how much worse it might have been, dear
lady."

"How much worse did you say? . . Yes, yes; if those dreadful men had
not released me; at least you are a woman, and you seem kind; but how
do I know that I can trust you? You are a German, and you have lent
yourself to this outrage. . . . How do I know who may enter here? . . .
Shall you stay to guard me?"

"I had not thought it necessary, my lady."

"Oh, I shall be terrified if you leave me."

"Are you afraid of the dark--of the loneliness?"

"Not of these; but rather of wicked creatures who chose the darkness
for their deeds of horror--as to-night," and her eyes held a terror in
them as she looked toward the door.

"No one can possibly enter there, my lady; it is no common lock; and no
one can scale the wall that is without."

"Still, I am afraid," Nilda protested, for the shock of the thing that
had happened was upon her nerves. "I will treat with you; if you will
stay in this room with me to-night, I shall do whatever you wish."

"Certainly, my lady; it is too great an honor that I should sleep at
your feet; but that will I do right gladly;" and such was the ring of
truth in her voice and manner that Nilda believed her--though she was a
German.

"You are very beautiful, my lady," as she brushed her hair and bathed
her face and hands in tepid water, and beheld the supple limbs and soft
white skin of the maiden as she disrobed.

But Nilda was unheeding of compliments. She suffered herself to be
undressed; and so greatly, so mindful of her comfort was her strange
companion that in less time than might have been expected under the
circumstances, Nilda slept.




CHAPTER XVII.--"WHERE IS NILDA?"

"Where is Nilda?"

The question almost simultaneously escaped from two pairs of lips at
the one moment, when the door opened to admit Mr. Horton, and Mrs.
Horton realised that he was alone.

"Is she not here? Has she not arrived?" questioned Mr. Horton,
anxiously.

"No; I fully expected to see her with you."

"Come inside," he said, and he led the way into the sitting-room, and
there told of what had occurred.

"She will certainly be here in a few minutes," concluded Mrs. Horton.
"They could not have driven so fast as your cab; still, it was strange
that he disappeared so suddenly."

When twenty minutes had elapsed, and there was no sign of the return of
Nilda and Gunsler, the worst fears of what had happened took possession
of Mr. Horton. "It is no use your sitting up, wife," he said. "You will
not see Nilda to-night, or I am much mistaken; nor Gunsler. It was
cleverly, impudently done, but he has simply run off with the girl."

"He would not dare to do such a thing," cried Mrs. Horton.

"There are others in this besides Gunsler," said her husband, "and it
is something more than a mere love affair. You had better go to bed
now, and I shall go out to acquaint the police. There is no time to be
lost."

It was now about mid-night, but always the police can be found,
wide-awake and alert; and in little more than an hour half-a-dozen
police, and at least one or two detectives, were moving in different
parts of the city in search of Miss Chester.

One of the morning papers, "The Daily Telegraph," had this more or less
accurate account of the incident:--


"MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE.

Information reached the police at an early hour this morning of
the mysterious disappearance of Miss N. C. Chester, under most
extraordinary circumstances. Miss Chester, who is resident governess
in the family of a well known city gentleman, Mr. R. Horton, of the
Royal Exchange, is stated to have accompanied a gentleman friend to the
Shakespearian performance at Her Majesty's Theatre last night. It is
known that they waited till the conclusion of the performance, as Miss
Chester was actually seen leaving in the company of her friend--whose
name is withheld at the suggestion of the police authorities. They are
believed to have entered a cab waiting at or near the entrance to the
theatre, since which nothing has been seen or heard of the young lady,
and her friends are naturally very anxious concerning her. It is not
likely that this 'mystery of a hansom cab' will remain long unsolved.
A remarkable feature of the incident--though we cannot vouch for the
truth of the rumour--is that some kind of international significance
attaches to, and explains, the adventure; but this may be simply one of
the canards incidental to the troubled and excited state of the public
mind during the present crisis.


* * * *

"Can you 'phone Mr. Summers?" anxiously asked Mrs. Horton of her
husband. "He should know at once."

"Yes, I will do so, but I expect he will see this paragraph," as he
laid down the paper containing the item which the reader has just
perused.

It was, however, late that afternoon before Mr. Summers presented
himself at Lindon.

"I was away," he explained, "and it was only after lunch I got the
news. This is alarming. What do you make of it?" addressing Mr. Horton;
who enlightened him as to his call to the warship, and his belief that
Nilda had been abducted by Gunsler.

"It seems incredible; and yet," confessed the girl's guardian, "I have
possibly more reason to suspect it than you have."

"I have never questioned you closely as to Nilda's antecedents;
there did not seem much occasion," said Mr. Horton; "but seeing the
remarkable developments that have taken place, I think, perhaps, you
had better tell me all you know, or suspect, about the affair."

"You shall hear everything, friend; I have no reason to hide anything
from you."

"Tell me, did you hear, or see, anything in this man Gunsler to make
you suspect that he was interested in Miss Chester, other than as a
friend, or, let us say, admirer?"

"It was as a possible suitor that I regarded Gunsler. From the first
day he saw Nilda, he was enamoured of her; at all events he so
protested; and I think it likely. You know, I liked him. But perhaps
I was blind. I very much suspect that I was duped. Since things have
taken such a turn, I begin to suspect that I was very much duped."

"Not you alone, I fear," said Mrs. Horton, who had joined them, just as
they were waiting in the smoking-room before the evening meal. "We have
all been terribly deceived, I fear."

"How was it you first became, acquainted with the man?" asked Horton.

"It was very odd," replied Summers, "the way we became acquainted. Some
months ago I called at the Crown Studios for a dozen cabinet photos of
Nilda; they had been taken a little time previously; in the approach
to the gallery was an enlarged picture of Nilda--it was really very
well done, and I was admiring this when the man in charge said, 'Ah,
that reminds me; I promised a gentleman who gave us a sitting one day
this week to make bold to present you, or whoever called for the young
lady's photos, with his card--it is in this envelope. I shouldn't
wonder but he fell in love with the picture; she is very charming, I'm
sure.' . . . It was very irregular, I know, but the upshot of it was I
met Mr. Gunsler, and he very shortly, as you know, met Nilda here."

"Tell me," broke in Mr. Horton, "did he ever hint that he knew, or
supposed he knew, anything of Miss Chester's antecedents, or of her
people?"

"Not in so many words; but on one occasion he remarked that Nilda was
very like a German lady he knew; and as I expressed a wish to see a
picture of that lady, which he said he had in his possession, when next
I saw him he produced the picture, and, in very truth, I saw what might
be said to be a family likeness."

"Did he mention any names?"

"No."

"Or give any particulars of the family?"

"No; I did not think of asking."

"You had a good look at that photo?"

"Yes."

"Anything unusual or distinctive about it?"

"Not on the face of it. But on the mounting of it there was evidence of
a partly obscured crest. The lady was taken in what was probably Court
dress, and altogether was very distinguished-looking."

"Did not that arouse any curiosity in your mind as to possible
connections that Gunsler might wish to establish, in regard to your
ward's people? You had told me, you remember, something of the romance
of Nilda's birth?"

"I certainly ought to have pursued the subject, but somehow did
not; perhaps in part because Nilda herself always showed a marked
disinclination to have anything said, especially to strangers, about
her parentage."

"I can understand that in Nilda s case," remarked Horton. "She is
sensitive about it."

They sat mutely pondering for a few minutes.

"Putting one thing with another," said Mr. Summers, "what do you make
of the whole mystery?"

"This," answered Mr. Horton: "Gunsler came out to this country--was
sent out, in fact--to find, and at any cost secure, Miss Chester."

"That thought has been in my mind, too--I believe you are about right."

"Now, the question is, why?" continued Mr. Horton. "Foolish as it may
seem on the face of it, Nilda's disappearance takes on an international
aspect as the 'D.T.' says. Assuming our suppositions to be right, Miss
Chester is a person of such importance that the German authorities have
been prevailed upon by some person or persons, of such importance in
the Empire, that before hostilities were commenced here--that is to
say, before Sydney was attacked by the German gun-boats--Miss Chester
had to be removed, or secured, in some position of safety."

"I believe your conjectures to be just about correct," agreed Mr.
Summers; "that is a feasible supposition; the only one that seems to
fit the case. Now, the question is, where have they taken her? Do you
think it possible they have taken her away by boat, or that a railway
flight has been effected?"

"There I am at a loss to conjecture. One thing seems clear: if Nilda
is still about the city, Gunsler must keep about as close as their
captive. I only hope she is not molested or cruelly used."

"I think," said Mr. Summers, "you may make your mind easy on that
score. I feel whatever his reason may be for this extraordinary conduct
that Gunsler will behave like a gentleman toward Nilda, and will take
scrupulous care of her."

"That just reminds me," interposed Mrs. Horton, who had listened to the
conversation so far without expressing an opinion, "that I remember
on one occasion Mr. Gunsler remarked to me his fear for Nilda if
hostilities occurred here in Sydney. He seemed more concerned over
Nilda than anybody else."

"No doubt," agreed her husband; "we begin to understand now the nature
of his anxiety."

That evening the Hortons and Mr. Summers were joined for an hour before
the evening session of the House by Mr. Horace Gresham, who showed the
greatest concern about the disappearance of Miss Chester. It was on his
suggestion that messages were sent to the police of every port to watch
embarkations. He had, earlier in the day, volunteered to personally
assist in the search; but Mr. Horton's advice was that the police and
detectives wished for the present to be left with the matter in their
hands, and believed they had a certain clue as to the direction which
the fugitives had taken, and had reason to believe that Miss Chester
had not left the environs of the city.




CHAPTER XVIII.--WAR AT OUR DOORS.

By this time all Australia was aflame with the war feeling. In every
city, every town and hamlet in the Commonwealth, there was a rallying
to the standard. The peaceful Commonwealth was attacked. The Queensland
Rough Riders, the N.S. Wales Rifle Rangers, the bold Victorian
Mounted Brigade wanted to be sent to the front to do battle for the
Commonwealth. But where was the point of attack, and what could land
forces do against a naval attack?

In each of the great capitals there was now the most acute
apprehension, especially in view of the departure of the fleet
north. Melbourne, for instance, clamored for more protection; only
the destroyer Warrego, with a comparatively out-of-date armored
gun-boat, was left to second the efforts of the harbour fortifications.
Fitful messages were cabled to London that the Commonwealth was in
danger of being seized by the enemy. Demands were made for immediate
assistance! But what could be done? Since the British squadron in
Eastern waters had been recalled--due to the compact with Japan--there
was no British gun-boat nearer than the Cape of Good Hope; and every
other vessel, within call of Home waters, had been requisitioned for
the defence of the stricken heart of the Empire.

Was this the day so long forseen--the hour of England's sorest need?

Well may it be written down a crisis. War had come to the doors of the
Commonwealth. The boom of big guns, the terror of actual invasion, the
cry of the seagull along the coast seemed to echo the cry of warning
that war--dread war--was come to Australia Felix.

Developments had occurred. It was now known for certain that it had
been the intention of the invading German squadron to make the first
attack upon Sydney, but at the eleventh hour it was decided that
Brisbane should be the first port assailed. It has been explained that
on this account the flagship had been delayed in Sydney harbour longer
than would otherwise have been the case. That delay cost Australia
dearly. It was said--and believed by the public--that unpardonable
bungling had occurred in the ordering of the movements of the
Australian squadron in the initial act of defence. It was said to be
incredible that the Commander-in-Chief or the Vice-Admiral could be
misled by messages "caught from the air" as to the movements of the
invaders.

Anyway, in the event this is what occurred:

Before the Powerful could join the Commonwealth squadron, the
battle had been fought--and lost!! Just a few miles outside that long
promontory which shields the harbour of Brisbane, the opposing fleets
had come into firing line. Without hesitation, without circumlocution,
with the devil-daring precipitancy of the young tiger who had been
taunted, of the lion's cub which had been assailed, the Australian
fleet took on the enemy without the main fighting machine, and minus
the Vice-Admiral, whose place it was to lead and direct the encounter.

In addition to the vessels mentioned, which had hurried from the
south as described, H.M.S. Cambria and one of the Australian
destroyers, the Yarra, had hastened out of Brisbane harbour to join
the Australian squadron. The Parramatta (destroyer) remained in
Sydney harbour. The sea fight was practically over in three hours. The
range of at least one of the German boats proved superior to either of
the Australian vessels; and though, as it transpired, only two heavy
guns on the German flagship were used for the first 40 minutes of the
encounter, much execution was done before the home fleet could get into
effective action.

The utmost consternation was caused in Sydney and throughout the
Commonwealth, when the news was flashed down that the home fleet had
been worsted in the encounter off Brisbane waters; that one ship had
been entirely disabled, and was believed to have been captured by the
Germans, while as to the remainder, they were then seeking refuge in
Brisbane harbour, fighting while retiring before the enemy; and that
the gravest apprehensions were then felt in the northern capital as to
what next would happen.

Now, for the first time, it may be said, fear swept across the horizon
of the Australians. As with the United Kingdom itself, if our "first
line of defence" were already broken, what might happen? What might
not happen? A frenzy seized the people. Too impatient now to wait
for the news through the ordinary, and extraordinary, issues of the
newspapers, thousands and thousands crowded round the front doors of
the great newspaper offices. King-street was never found to be so
narrow; Pitt-street and its confluents by the "S.M. Herald" office saw
masses of impatient citizens devouring summaries of items posted as
they came to hand. . . . Ever it was the same kindly crowd that always
characterised the metropolis of New South Wales. Though the war fever
was in their veins, yet that courtesy and consideration for others
which ever marks the Sydney man and woman was still there (If one must
be in a crowd, it is better to be in a Sydney crowd than any crowd I
know in any quarter of the world. "Pardon me pushing your, sir." "Yes,
I know the other fellow is pushing you; it's all right.")

But what said the wires?


"The mines laid in and across the harbour, and the inner fortification,
with the half-crippled vessels of the fleet, alone lay between the
advancing German squadron and the destruction of the city of Brisbane."


The Powerful, having arrived near enough to apprehend the
situation, made a gallant attempt to turn and retrieve the fortunes
of the day. Thousands and tens of thousands of spectators drove out
to the headlands and prominences of the coast, many of them carrying
telescopes and field-glasses, to view the fray. It was seen that the
Commonwealth flagship made a determined attempt to run the blockade,
and rejoin the other members of the home fleet. But this brave attempt
was thwarted by over-powering forces.

She practically ran into easy zone fire by two of the larger German
boats, which had disengaged themselves from the squadron, and showed
their determination to thwart the obvious purpose of the Australian
Admiral. The latter engaged both the German men-of-war for upwards
of three-quarters of an hour, one on either hand. What execution was
done could not be definitely ascertained; but what looked like a
short-lived explosion on one of the German boats had been noted, and,
it is believed, one or two of her guns were put out of action. They
continued, however, to close in on the Powerful, which--caught
between two fires--seemed to be doomed, when it was noticed that the
flagship put astern once again south, either to induce the German
ships to withdraw from their fellows, and thus make the contest more
favourable to the defending boats, or because it was once again made
manifest that "discretion is the better part of valor," was not
known. Anyway, the latest news in this connection indicated that the
Powerful had shown superior steaming capacity to the German ships,
and had escaped them. This was reckoned very good business.

The cables of the next morning gave startling information. It had been
believed, and fondly hoped, that the mines and fortifications--though
realised to be weak and at best second-rate--would, with the defending
ships, be equal to the attack and repulse of the enemy.

What was the mortification on finding, in the hour of direct need, that
three of the best and biggest guns in the forts had been hopelessly
spiked, and that communications with the mines had somewhere been cut.
This diabolical act, or acts, were only discovered when the enemy
advanced over this dangerous seaway, without apparently a misgiving
that anything untoward could possibly happen. The home fleet had
retired within the danger zone, and there hauled up to face the enemy
for a last determined stand. This inner encounter was not resumed till
comparatively late in the day, when the two superior ships of the
Germans, on one of which was the Admiral, had time to join the others.
Then it transpired that only one of the series of mines which had been
looked to with such effect exploded, and that without effect, as the
upheaval was a moment late for one of the passing ships, and too early
for the succeeding boat.

Surprise and indignation stirred the whole public of Brisbane and the
State when the news spread forth that the mines and guns of the forts
had certainly been tampered with at the last moment; and, in something
like a panic, a court martial was held, and elicited what appeared
to be correct information, that an important office had been held by
a gunner who was a recent importation of unknown nationality (but
reputedly not German), and that he, together with an electrician, had
disappeared from their respective posts of duty at the last moment
before the German invasion.

A cry now went up all over the Commonwealth, "Beware of the traitor in
the camp!" What place could be held safe, or reasonably defended, which
was not absolutely free from the enemy within our gates, or from the
mercenary who, for dollars, would sell his honor and the lives of an
innocent and confiding people?

Later.--Brisbane is being shelled by six of the German warships! Many
of the shells fall short, as the defending vessels are still keeping
the enemy from as near an approach as would prove disastrous.

Still Later.--A truce for 12 hours was effected, to consider an
offer of the German Commandant, to spare the city of Brisbane from
destruction on payment of an indemnity of £5,000,000!




CHAPTER XIX.--IN GERMAN HANDS.

Nilda awakened.

It was morning an hour earlier; but she had fallen asleep late, and was
late in awakening. And so soon as she opened her eyes there bent over
her the benevolent face of Frau Heckler.

"'Tis the brightest of morning sunrises, and I hope it finds you
rested, sweet lady."

"But how little you see of it here--here in this strange prison--it is
a prison, is it not?"

"Oh, do not call it so, good lady--not a prison, but,"--hesitating for
a word--"what do you call it?--a harbour of refuge till this storm be
overpast."

"Yes, this storm, this storm of terror and wrong which your nation is
cruelly and unjustly creating. God will judge your nation and your
people for this great outrage!"

"Who can tell, my lady, whether this be of God's direction or not. Let
us not discuss what we cannot judge."

Nilda sat up and carefully scrutinised for the first time by daylight
the face of the woman who was thus made her guardian.

"You are quite German, are you not?"

"Yes, quite German, though my loved mother was from Alsace-Lorraine."

"Then she would not love Germany, surely; for were they not good French
provinces--torn from the side of bleeding France as part of the price
of victory, or rather, perhaps I should say, of defeat?"

"We were, I think, more German than French, even on my mother's side,
for many Germans lived there, you know, before the war of 1870."

"Perhaps," meditated Nilda, "that was all part of the great design. Are
you Germans insinuating yourselves everywhere? Tell me, were you for a
time in England?"

"I visited England on two occasions with the illustrious family who
employed me."

"And so you learned something of our language?"

"Partly so; and in part because all our family were taught--the boys
especially."

"Yes, all of deep design. I am sure."

"Let us not talk of deep design, dear lady; so young and fresh the
morning, let us bid care take flight. . . Yes, yes, you will take
breakfast. . . See, here is a light wrapper--it will suffice; and see
here the table. . . ."

This article had been introduced since mention of the furniture was
made; upon it a snowy-white cloth and dainty ware, portion, Nilda
thought, of a set of Dresden china, was set out most invitingly; and
also there was a vase of fresh-cut flowers, roses and others, which
gave a pleasant touch of home and comfort to the room.

Catching sight of these, Nilda said, "They are lovely, but----" she did
not express the thought of other roses that came to mind; it was that
thought--that they might be from the same giver--which made her turn
from them with a shudder.

Then, being pressed, she consented to breakfast, and ate a lightly
boiled egg and drank a cup of delicious coffee. She said she could not
make such coffee. Frau Heckler said there was no need that Nilda should
make anything, but if she deigned to learn, it would be her pleasure to
instruct her.

It was after Nilda had breakfasted she suffered her guardian to dress
her hair. The manner of doing so was revelation to the girl.

For a little space she sat brooding. Then came the unmistakeably
soothing effect of the soft brushing by a practiced hand.

Painful as her position, strained her every thought, and outraged her
feelings, yet Nilda was of such character she could not long remain
churlish, nor requite kindness with complaint.

She caught the hand, as for a moment it rested; "how beautifully you
do it; it is the first time, you know, since I was a little girl that
anyone has brushed my hair. You do it as one native and to the manner
born."

"I am so pleased. I thank you. It is to me a pleasure also. I had hoped
I had not forgotten how to do it."

"You are used to it--I am sure you must be; you are so gentle; you do
it as one to whom it is a pleasure."

"Even like that--it is a pleasure."

"Tell me, if you will, whose hair you used to brush?"

"There were several in years long ago; then one especially, the Lady
L----"

"Yes, the Lady----; will you not complete it?"

"She was beautiful, too; her hair was just one little shade lighter
than yours; her skin a little fairer; but her tresses were not so thick
as yours, nor quite so long----" as she held out on either hand a
specimen of Nilda's, as if to mentally measure them.

"And I suppose she had lovely dresses, jewels, carriages,
servants--everything!"

"All those, and many other things, as became a great German lady,"
replied Frau Heckler.

"And balls and parties, dinners, fetes, receptions, theatres?" queried
the girl.

"The box at the grand opera was always at her disposal--the theatres
when the patronage or the company were good."

"Was she ever presented at Court?"

"Most certainly; and had the right of private entree to the boudoir of
the Empress herself, because her near relation was a lady-in-waiting."

"Oh," sighed Nilda, "how delightful a life! You make me dream; I am
sure I am dreaming now--with these poor eyes of mine wide open! . . .
Will you not open the door please, and let the fresh air in that I
might awaken?"

"So soon as you are dressed, my lady, for fear you might take cold. The
breeze from the sea is so fresh this morning."

"Ah, you say 'the sea'--then we are by the shore? I felt it! Do you
mean the sea--the ocean--or the harbour?"

"Say, dear lady, do you like your hair dressed in the Grecian mode or
in the more common fashion."

"I do not care--what does it matter? Was ever captive so oddly placed?
I am a prisoner, and am asked shall my hair be done in Grecian, latest
Paris, or Sydney mode! I am captured and caged in four walls, and am
called my lady, and waited on as if I really were such! . . Oh, it is
too silly! . . . How long, good woman, is this farce to last?"

"Patience, little one," the motherly body replied; "call it by any
other name, than that--a marvellous escape; a timely rescue by those
whom you will soon come to know, to love, to thank. . . . Yes, yes,
it is true; when out of this unhappy embarrassment, then you will
understand--oh, yes, you will understand, and be very thankful. . . .
And in the present, will you grant me one little favour--my honored
one?"

"What in it?"

"You will promise not to be angry that I do not answer some
questions--many questions--which you desire to have answered."

"Because you cannot, or will not answer them?"

"Rather say, dear lady, because I may not."

"You are under restraint; do you not see this cannot last? It would be
better, surely, to answer all questions freely. If I am to be detained
here, think how insufferable to add elements of mystery to it all. If
I knew just why I was seized and brought to this place, what it is
proposed to do next, where it is proposed to take me, if anywhere, I
might--I do not say I would--become better reconciled to what is being
done. Do you not see?"

Just then, the dressing having been completed, a slight tapping at the
door drew Frau Heckler toward it. Some whispered word from outside
caught Nilda's ear. "Who is it?" she demanded.

"It is only Hans."

"Who is Hans?"

"He is my husband, and begs to know when he may be permitted to pay his
respects to your ladyship."

"Your husband? Is he my other gaoler, or head gaoler, of this penal
establishment, and are there any, or many, others in this extraordinary
case with myself."

"None but you, dear lady."

"If he is admitted, there will be at least some fresh air along with
him. Oh, yes, please admit."

Hans Heckler entered, having himself unlocked the door, and closed it
again as he entered. He bent graciously before Nilda as he advanced;
then looked toward his wife for some word, for he was not ready of
speech, nor did he speak English so readily as she did. Yet she did
not speak, but meeting his eye as if with a question, and half-raising
her hand toward Nilda, he looked again more directly. Then exclaimed,
"'Tis she, in very truth, and not another! Elfrida from going by 20
years!" . . . Then, recovering himself, "Much pardon, my lady, I did
forget in recollecting!"

At which paradoxical speech Nilda laughed for the first time for hours,
and prayed to know what he had forgotten in what he had recollected.

"Ah, beautiful lady, the past has many, very many, recollections. Some
happy; some not so happy; but let me count this great happiness, that
we found--what we sought."

"You have me--is that what you mean, Mr. Heckler?"

"Yes, we have found you, lady, whom we came far to seek."

"Dear me; am I then really a person of such consequence that you should
come from Germany to seek me out? When your wife told me almost as
much, I did but laugh at her. . . . Now, having told me so much, I beg
you tell me more--tell me all!"

Hans Heckler, with a deprecating look, and jerking both hands hastily
upward--whatever that might mean--faltered some broken speech which
meant to convey that in his recollections of facts there must be much
that he had need to forget. . . . And he sought, clumsily enough, poor
fellow, to turn conversation by asking Nilda did his flowers please her.

"They were yours--you gathered them, and sent them to me?"

"Truly, lady."

"Then I thank you for them--they are very sweet. Do they grow here--is
there a garden near?"

"Without the door; it is grand; for so little a garden, and so
sheltered, the flowers do grow most lovely. Some I do not yet know the
names of; perhaps you will tell me, lady."

"I shall be glad; please take me at once into the garden. I am tired of
this place."

Again Hans moved uneasily. He went to the end of the chamber where his
frau was engaged with the breakfast things, and spoke to her in German.
He was anxious, almost distressed, when he returned to Nilda.

"Your pardon, lady, but my instructions are to guard you very
zealously. For one hour in the day you are to walk in the garden with
me; but only--I do crave your pardon--on condition----"

"What is the condition?" demanded Nilda.

"That you give your faithful promise, lady, that you will make
no attempt to escape, nor make any call, or any noise to attract
attention."

"Do you not see how unreasonable that is?" continued the girl.
"There are people in Sydney, my good friends, who will be most
anxious, painfully anxious, about me. I am sure they are searching
now everywhere for me. Oh, I cannot bear to think of their anxiety.
It hurts. It is cruel to leave them in suspense. They may think I am
killed--murdered; I know not what! Cannot you understand that it is my
duty to let them know, at the earliest possible moment, that I--that I
am at least safe?"

"It is very unfortunate, lady, but that is just what they must not
know. As you say, you are safe; it is to secure this safety that much
trouble has been taken. Greater than you know. Great things have been
done for you, lady. Shall I tell you how great, lady?"

"Let it be in the garden, if you please."

"Your promise, lady?"

"If needs be, I promise; I must get out of this room, to breathe--if
but for an hour. Yes, I give you my word--for to-day. Sufficient for
the day is the promise thereof."

"It is well; a promise from one of your house is as a bond from
another."

They they went out of the door into a little garden that might have
contained a thousand square yards. A seven feet galvanised iron fence
surrounded it. Upon a balcony-verandah running round two sides of the
house there was an adequate view over this fence of a secluded nook
of water; but from the garden itself no outside view was obtainable.
And it was plain at a glance how well-selected the retreat was. The
residential portion of the house was high above the room she designated
her prison. Thick foliage screened the garden from other residences in
the direction opposite the water-way.

And it was here that Nilda walked for an hour in the garden with Hans
Heckler, but her thoughts were of many things other than the flowers
and the foliage which surrounded her.




CHAPTER XX.--FROM TERROR TO TERROR.--A SURPRISE!

It was true that the terror of the morning gave place to rejoicing in
the afternoon, with good cause; for a most signal victory had been won
by the timely strategy of Field Marshall Lord Roberts. On the height
of Hockley, on the fields by Wickford, by the stream of Rochford,
the shouts of victory went up; echoing over all the United Kingdom;
thence over all the Empire, on which the sun never sets. The Germans
were beaten in an open fight--beaten out of their boots! Hurrah for
Roberts! Hurrahs--ten thousand hurrahs, for the boys of the bull-dog
breed! . . . The slain lay in heaps. In the space of 170 acres, 19,000
dead Germans lay; and, many more thousands, wounded, shattered, maimed.
The red-cross heroes and heroines were busy as the westering sun went
down steeped in blood; busy were they rendering aid even to those who
had come to slay and destroy England!

But Germany--Germany was mad at the news of the fearful repulse of
the flower of the Imperial army. A million soldiers clamored to
be sent to the front; but the front in this case, was the English
Channel. Blessed Channel! More potent for defence purposes--given
the guardian navy--than a million men. Yet it could not be that the
mighty German Empire, having made the initial dash, having set its
hands to the plough--the overthrow of the power of England--should
cry halt, or back-down, while yet possibilities of success were
unexhausted. . . . Every newspaper in Berlin, in the Empire in fact,
save one comparatively insignificant section (that controlled by
Labor-Socialism) cried out impatiently that Germany could not withdraw
a step; could not withdraw a man; could not lessen a demand! . . . Yet,
for five days after the defeat of the German Army, no other advance was
attempted. . . . 160,000 German soldiers (approximately reckoned after
the battle recorded) entrenched themselves behind higher breast works;
40,000 had been accounted for in killed; wounded, and taken prisoners.
The total losses on the British side may now be stated: killed, 4,100,
wounded, between 5,000 and 6,000; no prisoners.

Negotiations failed during those five days for the bringing about of
peace, which negotiations were largely due to intercession of the
European Powers, backed by America. Else the British Government had not
waited these five days before beginning action on the offensive side.
England's price for peace was offered immediately after the Rochford
victory: "A profound apology from the German Emperor for the invasion
of the Realm of Britain, and an indemnity of £100,000,000!"

Germany's reply followed:--Her terms of peace: An unequivocal surrender
of the whole of New Guinea; the evacuation of Egypt; and the instant
payment of £200,000,000!

Truly has it been written, "Neither Briton nor Teuton know when they
are beaten."

This, then, was the situation between the belligerents, while yet each
Power felt strong and competent to crush the other.

Of the respective damage done, England had been sorely wounded in her
strongest arm--her navy.

Of Germany's hurt--so far as it touched her real strength (her
army)--the tens of thousands who had fallen would not so much as be
missed in the general massing of her battalions--not even if all her
legion now on English soil had been obliterated.

Yet, at this same moment, the British navy paraded the Channel with
its accustomed confidence and fearlessness. From highest officer to
cabin boy and middy, if their language could have been rendered in
the vernacular, it would have read--"Come along, sourkrout, and let's
finish this thing right out!"

During this brief space of apparent inertia, when it was commonly
supposed that Germany was really considering terms of peace, that
happened which showed that the interval was really occupied in
projecting the most astounding coup of the war. Germany suddenly threw
an army of 100,000 men into Denmark; commandeered the few available
war vessels, and every transport ship--big and little--that the Danes
possessed.

With not so much as "by your leave," or "thank you for the loan," the
mailed fist simply "high-wayed" the fleet; cut the wires--cut off, in
a word, every means of communication, and, together with a vast fleet
of their own merchantmen, made a dash for the Scottish coast! . . .
When the world heard of this, it stood aghast at the impudence, and
over-bearing arrogancy of a European war-lord in thus trespassing,
and treading down a comparatively defenceless neutral power, and, by
force of might, seizing that neutral's ships to prosecute its war with
great Britain. . . . "The end justifies the means," urged the leading
newspapers of Berlin, which goes to show that there are other Jesuits
than those of the Roman Hierarchy.

But it was only by reason of the sorest straits that the German Emperor
and his Ministers decided on this display of semi-piracy. The relief
of the now besieged German army on English soil demanded any measures,
however extraordinary, on the part of their country; and, as it was
impossible for them to effect a landing as the others had done by the
shorter cut across Channel, seeing the British navy was concentrated
in force in mid-Channel, the daring plot, as stated, was conceived,
and as daringly put into execution. . . . Strange to say, it was from
Norway--reputedly from King Haarkon--that the first word came to London
that a great, secret, silent armada was stealing out from the shores of
Denmark.

This armada was joined by every available fighting vessel which the
Emperor could spare from his shattered fleet. The cables had it that
21 or 22 fighting ships certainly accompanied this Scottish descent of
the auxiliary army. The rapidity of the whole movement was remarkable.
It was true, they were sighted by vessels travelling the northern
coasts; these, though not numerous, were again moving in the interests
of commerce, though warily, since the few days earlier re-established
confidence that the British navy held command of the Channel. But by
the time they were actually sighted by these trading vessels, they were
so near their destination as to make it certain that nothing would
prevent a landing, which took place on the 11th day after the landing
of the first invading army of 200,000 men.

For a brief period we must leave them, to record what was being done
elsewhere. So soon as the northern invasion was known to be a fact,
a resolute forward movement of army and navy took place. Half the
warships were ordered to invade the German coast, while 11 of the
best ships remaining proceeded north to encounter and smash the fleet
escorting the northern invaders. These 11 gun-boats were accompanied by
a number of cruisers and a crowd of destroyers and torpedo boats.

Fortunately, the lighter battleships were, under the circumstances,
equal to the occasion of invading the German coast, seeing the way was
practically clear; also they were the better adapted for the work,
for in many places the water-way is comparatively shallow. The first
actual bombardment was that on Heligoland, that rock-fortress which
England bartered--perhaps foolishly--for some concession in remoter
parts. Three hours' bombardment met with fierce reply. The upshot was
that every small vessel about the island was destroyed; there was
evidence that the citadel had been damaged; many men must have been
killed or injured; but the batteries of the solid fortifications were
not silenced; these continued to reply with such heat and bravery that
the English Admiral commanding decided to discontinue operations for
the present, and push on to more effective work. Which was wise enough,
for there were many less difficult places to reduce; and the open ocean
itself offered prizes which would hurt Germany more, in the immediate
present, and offer less hurt and injury to the British men and ships.

Here it should be stated that the German coast line is thoroughly
protected by powerful fortifications and an elaborate system of
mines, and 350,000 organised troops are told off for its defence on
mobilisation. The North Sea Canal, from Brunsbuttel, where two large
docks were recently constructed, to the naval base of Kiel, gives the
German fleet a means of reaching the Baltic without passing round
the Danish coast. (The canal was also lately enlarged to accommodate
Dreadnoughts). The main German base in the North Sea is Wilhelmshaven,
and, like the advanced positions at Heligoland and Borkum, all strongly
fortified.

Contrary to expectations, there was no bombardment of Kiel; but at the
port of Emden, in the space of a few hours, such a number of craft of
all denominations were sunk in the fair-way as to effectively blockade
the water passage. This, for so important a shipping centre, was
disastrous to the Germans. Other craft were set on fire by the British
attack, and the cables reported that the scene at night, after the
bombardment, was one of glory and terror. No hurt had been sustained by
the British ships as a result of the fire or the land batteries. Then
messages stated that the cruisers of the fleet, leaving the battleships
to blockade every important port on the German coast, made a rapid
buccaneering run from the vicinity of Heligoland to Flushing with rich
results. Seven large freight and passenger steamers had been captured;
and a dozen smaller ships of Germany's mercantile fleet were also made
prisoners, including several with full cargoes of wheat and meat. . . .
Germany was now still more mad; for, hot upon the demand for England's
surrender at the command of William, here was evidence that the whole
volume of German trade was now at the mercy of hated Britain. . . .
Loud and angry were the protests which now went up from the common
people. The authorities, it was contended, had greatly erred in leaving
the Channel and German ports unprotected in order to effect a landing
in Scotland. . . Worse still, for the peace, harmony and unity of the
Empire, the fast-growing socialistic element throughout the Kaiser's
dominions was turbulent and antagonistic to an alarming degree. Truth
to say, from the very inception of the war, the Socialists were
opposed to the mad ambitions of the Emperor and Government. No severer
diatribes emanated from any quarter of Europe than from this section
of the Kaiser's subjects. In every city, town and hamlet there were
noisy meetings of Socialists, at first doing no more than condemning
the war; but now--concurrent with the practical invasion by the British
navy--they clamored for a cessation of hostilities and the conclusion
of peace--almost at any price. . . For they were well aware--the poor
always are--whose shoes would soonest pinch, for already the price of
food was advancing. Germany, with the creation of her great carrying
fleets, had also created demands for outside supplies; and with these
freight fleets disabled, or removed, there began to yawn before the
eyes of all Germany the deep holes which they had dug for others--but
into which they were themselves likely to fall!

It was said--with what foundation the writer knows not--that the most
pitiable thing--and the most exasperating from some points of German
view--was the chafing of the whole mighty German army. Upwards of
3,000,000 highly trained men, yearning to fight for their country's
honor--and perhaps her life!--could do no more than look on in idle
impotency; and that they cursed the British Channel! . . . While
Britons looked to Heaven, and gave thanks.




CHAPTER XXI.--BROUGHT UP IN PARLIAMENT.

A whole week had gone by, and no tidings of Nilda Chester had been
received. The police admitted they were baffled; admitted with
humiliation that it was possible for a young lady of striking
appearance to disappear from the entrance of one of Sydney's principal
places of amusement, without leaving a trace--just as though the earth
had opened and swallowed her. The police had followed supposed clue
after clue, but only to be baffled. They confessed they were now unable
to determine whether Miss Chester was still in the State, or had been
mysteriously conveyed out of the harbour--they did not believe it
possible the departure had been by railway, but rather by some waiting
boat, which, in the shape of a pinnace, might have conveyed her to
a German ship. For now it had somehow got abroad, adding greatly to
the public interest in the case, that the missing young lady, though
claiming or advancing no pretensions whatever of this character, was
being claimed by a German house of princely standing, as a missing
member of the family, whose security it was necessary to effect
before hostilities should commence against the city of Sydney. . . .
Certainly, Mr. Horton had put out no story of that kind, and yet there
it was--in its way a remarkable evidence of the way newspapers find out
things.

So clamant did the Press now become in this "romance of the siege,"
as one journal had it, that the matter was introduced into Parliament
itself. . . . A young member of the House, it was recorded, whose
gallantry was unquestioned (it was Mr. Gresham), suggested to the
Premier that it was a case in which the Government might very properly
offer a substantial reward for information which might lead to the
discovery of the missing young lady. . . . The Premier, Mr. McG----,
whom Hansard reporters declared had not smiled for a month, declared
that the State coffers were so miserably depleted as not to justify his
making any appropriation of the kind suggested, adding, that in any
case the young lady's connections were believed to be moneyed people
who might very properly charge themselves with such a reward as the
hon. member had suggested. . . This brought a somewhat indignant reply
from Mr. Gresham--that the missing young lady practically had no near
relation, but rather stood in the position of an orphan. Born and bred
in this State, a fond and faithful child of it. Was citizenship of the
mother State, he asked, fallen to so low and indifferent a status as to
make it possible for anyone to be seized, spirited away, and deserted
in this un-British fashion? What were things coming to? . . . "To a
very bad pass," the Premier admitted, "when the mere disappearance of
an individual could scarcely claim the attention of the House, which
did not know how many days--how many hours, in fact--were to elapse
when the places which knew them to-day might know them no more for
ever."

Whereupon almost a scene occurred in the Chamber.

Many cries from the Opposition benches were heard, such as "What
pitiable weakness!" "About time we closed up, and let the Germans take
the running!" While yet another, who liked not the "secret power behind
the Treasury benches," hissed out, "Why don't you say at once that you
cannot promise to make any trifling grant for this purpose till you ask
the Caucus?"

It was the graceful Demosthenes who came, as was his wont, to the
rescue. The slim Attorney-General (the adjective here is not used in
the Boeric sense) was plainly grown more slim since he came to the
cares of office. Always a light-weight, now his classic features were
sharp, even pinched. His wavy hair, already streaked with grey; his
full, fair eye, weary as for want of sleep; his pace--even as he walked
across the Chamber, robbed of its old-time buoyancy. . . . "Get up,
Holly," whispered a partizan sitting at the back of him. . . . . And
though he spoke but four minutes, the House cheered, and once again
was won by the power of fair words. "Who is there among us, being a
father or a brother, whose tenderest sentiments will not awaken, whose
chivalry would not be touched, whose choler would not rise in such a
case of outrage as this? . . . Are we no longer mindful of our little
ones? of our weak ones? Shall it ever be said of this city that its
fair daughters, once the pride of this great metropolis of the south,
may be kidnapped from under our very eyes, and that we in craven
fear, or in fearful pre-occupation, shall tamely sit down under such
circumstances, as though we were in such sorry condition, as to tacitly
say, 'Every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost!!'" . . .
Premier Mac. looked uneasy. . . The House was evidently with the maker
of forensic speeches. . . . "The noblest Roman of them all!" cried the
stentorian voice of Miller, of Monaro.

"He has just saved the situation!" replied ruddy Donaldson, of Wynyard.

Quick in diplomacy, as apt in debate, the member for Cootamundra, did
effectively save the situation by begging the Speaker to allow him to
give notice for next evening that, with the consent of the Premier, he
would move "that a Government reward of 250 guineas be offered for such
information as would lead to the discovery of the missing young lady,
Miss C. N. Chester."

And so it came about that early the next evening, the
Attorney-General's motion was carried on the voices, the Premier
consenting.

*  *  *  *  *

All unconscious of what was being done on her behalf--and least of
all suspecting, or desiring, such publicity and public excitement
concerning her--Nilda ate and drank, and slept, as in a strange
dreamland; nevertheless slowly realising, and to some extent
unravelling the plot in which she was, in a sense, the central figure.

Little by little, won bit by bit from unwilling lips, she had gathered
together and woven into something like an intelligible story--as
foundation, if not explanation, of all that had happened to her--the
unknown past, with what now immediately concerned her immediate present
and future. This being so, she was less embarrassed as to the cause of
her detention, yet restless and weary, nay anxious, at her enforced
imprisonment, because of the anxiety which she felt assured would be
experienced by her friends.

* * * *

Every morning, for at least one hour, Nilda was permitted to walk in
the garden, and even to do a little cultivation among the flowers, when
she expressed a wish to do so. Her companion was Hans Heckler, who
never for a moment left her; so carefully was she guarded, and because
she had given her word--yet chafing under it all--she made no attempt
to escape.

By this time a certain intimacy had sprung up between the captive and
her "guardians"--as they insisted on being termed and regarded.

"Hans, tell me why do you seem specially to honor this flower?" asked
Nilda, as she pointed to a rather fine cluster of cornflowers.

"Do you not know, lady?" as he held up a spray, and regarded it
lovingly. "It is the national flower of our Fatherland." . . So
had they progressed in a week, so had friendship, even after this
constrained order, brought them somehow together, that the old man used
"our" as applying as equally to Nilda as to himself.

"This,"--exclaimed Nilda--"this common and insignificant little thing,
the national flower of your great Empire?"

"Our great Empire, lady," he corrected.

Nilda waived aside the correction. "Then that is why you have so
carefully tended them. You surprise me. We think very little of the
cornflower in Australia. Have you, then, in Germany so few flowers that
you must needs be driven to so poor a little thing to honor so highly?"

"It is little, 'tis true; but not poor, lady. Have you considered it.
Look closely into it now. Note how perfect its whiteness, now delicate
its centre of pink. Will you pull apart its petals, your fingers are
more delicate than mine. . . How, many? Yes, 15, and each is tipped
with 10 scallops; so there are 150 points to this one little flower,
not to mention the score of points in the centre. . . Oh, no, it is not
insignificant. Then, please you, note the variety; in Germany we have
greater variety; but ever as I walk and work in this strange garden,
I am pleased that the cornflower grows here; it is a bit of Germany
in a strange land. See now those bunches," as he led her a few paces
further along the path; "here are blue, purple, magenta, wine-colored
cornflowers! Dear lady, love them for your homeland's sake."

"Good Hans, pretty as they are, in contrast and variety, they are not
to be compared to the roses. Come now and let us pick a few;" and
she gathered a fragrant cloth-of-gold, a Maman Cochet from one bed,
a common cabbage rose from another, and again from a sunny side of
the high garden wall, where climbing roses had been trained by some
rose-lover long before the coming of Hans Heckler with his strange
mission of peace in the hour of peril, Nilda, with a little scissors
supplied by Hans, snipped first a red rambler from a limb high as
she could reach, a fragrant Noella-narbonnan, dark crimson, only a
dozen leaves to make a flower 10 inches in circumference; then two or
three close-set, light-shaded Countess de Bath in pink, for contrast;
and, lastly, a full white Rev. T. C. Cole. . . "Tell me now, good
Hans Heckler, do not your poor little cornflowers pale into utter
insignificance alongside those gems of our garden--of any garden in the
world, for that matter? And the rose is England's national flower."

"They are very beautiful, lady."

"And they smell good, too," said Nilda. . . . "Have Germans any sense
of smell?" queried Nilda, in the most matter of fact manner, innocent
of any suspicion of sarcasm.

"Why not, lady?"

"Why, then, did they choose the cornflower of all others--if there are
any others; but you did not answer that question, Hans?"

"Others!" in amazement. "Ah, you shall see, and be surprised. Others?
Verily, there are hundreds and thousands." Thereupon he began to
enlarge on the flora of Germany, "comprising," he declared, "quite 3,000
species of the phanerogamic family, and about----"

"The phanero--what family, Hans? I never heard of it," interrupted
Nilda.

"I think it means, in botany, the plants that have their reproductive
organs visible."

"Dear me, how learned you are in those matters, Hans."

"I ought to be, lady, for my life has been lived among plants and
flowers. In the glorious gardens of your uncle, the Duke of---- that is
to say (he had forgotten his instructions in his interest in botany)--I
was 10 years in charge as chief."

"Whom did you say was my uncle?" cried Nilda. "Am I, then, the niece of
a Duke?"

"I forget my things, lady. . . . I was about to tell you of the 4,000
cryptogamic plants."

"Four thousand crypto-grandmothers! No, please, no! I want to hear of
other things far more. Where are the gardens of the Duke of----"

"Listen, lady; one thing at a time; you did ask me to explain. Permit
me. You do not know the cryptogamics?"

"Indeed, no; bother the cryptogamics! What are cryptogamics compared
to an uncle who is an Earl--nay, a Duke? Hans! why do you tantalise
so? You have mentioned my uncle; tell me of him. At least, tell me his
name."

"Dear lady, what if he is not your uncle? Forgive an old fool's
bungling. I am a very stupid old man. Forgive it, please."

"You are not stupid, but intensely provoking. There----" and she threw
the flowers she held at Hans Heckler's feet, and, pretending greater
heat of temper than was really the case, flew to the other side of the
garden wall, which faced what she believed to be a thoroughfare, though
not a sound of any vehicle was ever heard passing that way. . . . And
as she sped along she picked a handful of Hans' choicest cornflowers,
as if out of pure cussedness; oh, yes, it was very well acted, for
one who had never in her life acted deceitfully. Extracting from her
pocket a very tiny scrap of paper already tied with a piece of cotton,
she, pretending for a moment to be tying a nosegay of the Fatherland
flower, the while Hans was gathering up the roses; and, as he was
meekly walking with these in his hands towards Nilda, she as being
still angry, looked for a moment at the white, purple and blue of the
flowers, and then, in well-affected contempt, threw them high over the
garden wall.

Hans Heckler was a very honest, simple, confiding fellow, and suspected
nothing; his one idea now was to placate his charge.

"I am truly sorry, lady, that I did offend."

"Oh, 'twas nothing. Don't mention it. I am afraid that this long
confinement has told upon my nerves. And all this strange worry, and
stranger talk, and dread uncertainty as to what will happen next--as to
what may really be happening now, while we do but moon about among the
flowers of this little garden, as if we had no larger concerns than the
bees and the butterflies! . . . . Cannot you understand, Hans?" Saying
which Nilda put her hand to her head, as if it ached.

"Yes, indeed, lady. I do well understand. Will you come in now and
rest? I will call the frau, and she shall give you a glass of wine."

"No, Hans. 'Tis hotter here. Rest! I have rested in there--if it be
rest--a hundred years! I shall grow old before my time. It is a cruel
thing to keep a girl from her friends. . . . I wonder now long?" And so
distressed did she seem that Hans was really concerned; and, entreating
her to take his arm, led her to a garden seat, and put the roses down
beside her.

Then Nilda relaxed into her softest manner, and was very gracious again
to Hans, as she replied to a fear he expressed. "Very well, Hans, I
will not tell Frau Heckler that you vexed me--indeed, I was in the
wrong; I behaved very like a naughty child; now, I will be good. You
may tell me of 'phangarics,' or 'cryptogarics,' or what you please;
and I--I shall sit as did the student sit at the foot of the august
Gamaliel, and, in reverence, listen; for you are really learned in
botany, and you have been very patient with me, Hans." . . . Whereupon
she touched his rough, brown hand, and, visibly affected, he lifted
hers to his lips, and bent over it.

"You are the most gracious lady. It is in your blood. I know it. I know
it of old. I am not mistaken."

"Yes, good Hans, pray go on."

"Some day I will tell you all. . . . But now . . . now you would know
more of the many flowers of the dear Fatherland and of gardens the most
beautiful."

"Have you seen our Botanical Gardens, Hans? They are something to talk
about. Yes, truly, they are the most beautiful gardens in the world, I
think."

Hans had not seen them.

"Then, before you go back you must see them. It is Sydney's Paradise.
The grass is the greenest and softest; the statuary so well placed;
the trees so diverse; and, best of all, the walled-walk by the blue
water--a crescent shape; divine by nature; perfected by art; and, as
you look over the wall, there is a panorama lovely as a scene in Venice
or Naples."

"Hans," cried a voice, "the hour is more than up."




CHAPTER XXII.--THE WAR--HERE AND AT HOME.

How could Brisbane possibly raise five millions to buy off the invader?

That was the cry of all who heard of the terrible demand that had been
made on the people of the northern capital, and to which the associated
banks made reply that, after consultation, they could not pay so
large an amount in cash; but with the aid of all available bullion,
and some securities which the Germans might consider good enough to
accept, the most they could offer amounted to three and three-quarter
millions. . . . The offer was refused; and but a few hours further
respite were granted. . . . Urgent messages were sent to Sydney and to
the Federal Government for advice, for assistance; but these were not
forthcoming. And thus the hour of Brisbane's panic grew to a crisis.

Generally speaking, young Australia cried, "Dare them, and d----n
them! Give them battle to the last shot and the last man!" . . . But
these cries were for the most part from afar off--away from the din
of battle and from the smell of powder. There were Utopian hopes that
help would arise from some quarter; but from where? Could magic navies
spring up out of enchanted isles? It is true that a forlorn hope was
nursed by many that New Zealand would send along what assistance she
could. But as it happened at the time of the sudden invasion, there
had been a temporary arrangement with the sister Dominion that for
a period of six months New Zealand's fleet proper should cruise in
Australian waters, while the two cruisers, and several smaller craft,
did patrol duty along the coasts of Maoriland, it could not fairly be
expected that the New Zealand Government would run the risk of leaving
their ports unprotected by gun-boats; more especially as by the implied
independence of the Australian Governments--principally the Federal
Government--which as good as told the Imperial authorities that the
Commonwealth was going to attend to its own defence, the central naval
depot was changed from where it had so long remained (Sydney) to
Auckland, and the fleet went with it.

The big guns had destructively begun to play upon Brisbane, when the
panic on the part of the people actually brought forth the ransom
which saved the city. Rich merchants unearthed their treasure, ladies
despoiled themselves of their jewels, thousands of people brought
offerings rare and grotesque in many instances, and, laden with these,
a fast boat, bearing the flag of truce, bore out to the Admiral's
vessel, which had belched a whole broadside fair into the city. It
is said that when the Admiral saw the additional peace-offerings, he
at first swore, then laughed, and ordered the discontinuance of the
bombardment of Brisbane.

Thus the first Australian city capitulated to the Germans; to the honor
of the remnant of the home-fleet, be it said, they did not surrender;
that was the remarkable part of the event--contrary reports to the
opposite effect notwithstanding. They lived to fight another day--and
they had not run away.

Remarkable as it may seem, the Germans did not remain to do further
battle with the still unconquered Australian ships. It was said at the
time that the reason for this was that the Germans were not sure of
the water; that is, they did not know the harbour sufficiently well to
manoeuvre in battle. Be this as it may, having exhausted the last penny
in tribute from the city of Brisbane, they left.

* * * *

Now, all kind of rumours flashed south--indeed, from every point of the
compass--as to what would happen next. Sydney, it was predicted, would
be the next point of attack, and a furore of excitement was evident on
every hand.

In the meantime, the reader will want to hear how matters were
proceeding at the heart of the Empire.

Goaded by the public demand to remove the enemy from British soil,
impelled by every sense of honor and the traditions of England, backed
by the individual heroism of the troops, Generals Roberts and Kitchener
had thrice stormed the Germans in their entrenched positions--with
great loss. For once again it was demonstrated that 10,000 men can hold
any reasonably fortified position against 50,000 men storming that
position. The heavy artillery, the maxims and quick-firing rifles,
behind which was the ablest generalship of the age, went to show that
it was almost impossible to dislodge the Germans from the patch of
British soil they had dared to take possession of.

Seeing that 22,000 men had fallen in these attempts, the more cautious,
the more steady-pulsed of England's public men and writers advised that
England ought not thus to sacrifice her sons; for victory must come to
them by a mere exercise of tact and patience. Every day was reducing
the supplies of the invading legion; it was only a matter of perhaps
a week when the Germans must capitulate for want of food, for the
consumption of so large an army was enormous.

But the trouble was that it seemed imperative that the British troops
must dispose of the invaders who were lodged so near the heart of the
Empire, before they could move in force to meet the northern invasion.

Here report confirmed report that the landing of the Germans in the
south of Scotland had been effected with comparatively little loss
and difficulty. They had at once established a basis, into which were
gathered very considerable supplies. Skirmishing parties had raided
the immediate country, though not without loss, for quick upon the
heels came troops from the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and all
military stations and batteries around the coast, so that, while not
in a position to storm the invaders, they held the enemy in check till
reinforcements were forthcoming.

Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener went north to meet the invader. He took
with him 20,000 Territorials, two battalions of infantry, a large
proportion of the Horse Guards, and these, with a general mobilization
of the Scottish militia, made an army of close on 80,000 men. Besides
there were 15,000 Boy Scouts--the senior cadets of the Kingdom--under
the command of General Baden-Powell.

And here the narrative may well pause for a moment to dwell with pride
and pleasure upon the part taken by the Boy Scouts. For the first
time in the history of war, the big boys of England took part--and a
very conspicuous part--in defence of their country. Recalling to mind
the words of Mrs. Hugh Dixson, of Summer Hill, who had just come back
from a year's trip to England (that was in the latter part of 1910).
Writing to a Sydney paper regarding the Boy and Girl Scout movement she
said: "It has not only spread wonderfully throughout England, but it
has invaded the countries of the continent." Mrs. Dixson believes it
is most practical. "Why," she said, "the Boy Scouts will be the best
help in war-time that England ever had." . . . And this: "Yes, people
in England are frightened of Germany. And they have precious good need
to be frightened of her, too. The fact is, they were afraid to spend
enough money on defence."

"Frightened!" Well, perhaps they needed to be alarmed; for so absolute,
so restful, so reassuring was the faith of the British people in their
"first line of defence," that all else seemed really not to matter very
much. If the foe could never land upon British soil, where was the
danger, or where the necessity of crowding the land with soldiers? It
was Lord Milner, in the course of a speech at Canterbury about the same
date, who declared that with more to lose than the others, Britain had
stopped far short of others in the work of self-protection: "She had
left the bulk of her manhood without any military training, and relied
solely on her navy. This was unfair to the navy, and, in the event of
an European struggle, would be unfair to her allies."

However that may be, the British navy in the hour of trial, never
uttered a word of complaint. So true beats the heart of the British
tar. Complain that too much was being put upon him? Complain because
Britain trusted, with sublime confidence, her life, her prestige,
her safety, to the man upon the water? Oh, no, he was proud to be so
trusted! The word "Failure" never entered the vocabulary of Jack Tar.
Little wonder that Britain was proud of and that Britons love their
navy.

Touching in the extreme were messages flashed along the ocean beds of
the general rally of the Boy Scouts. From ten thousand homes a boy went
forth--the loved boy of the house, the hope of the house, the mother's
treasure, the father's pride. Went forth to actual battle; not merely
to put up records as messengers, or merely to do smart scouting, but to
use his gun upon the enemy. And when the bands played these lads out
of the towns and villages in old England, and across the borders, the
echo of the deep emotions which overcame the mothers of Britain found
response in every far-away dependency of the Empire.

* * * *

The enemy lost little time in advancing. Three days after the landing,
it was cabled they had begun their march south, ostensibly for the
relief of their beleaguered compatriots; and it is believed their
instructions were, "No turning back nor aside; but forward, to victory
or to death!"

The rival armies were every hour approaching one another; slowly,
because of the huge impediments of war, they drew nearer. On the fifth
day the conflict began. In men, if the cadets be included, the English
were slightly in excess; in fighting capacity, the odds lay with the
Germans, seeing that in training, in physique, in equipment, this
second German army of invasion, like the first, again stood for the
flower of the great military Empire's men-at-arms.

On the fourth day--it was a race for position--the pace increased--it
was said to be one of the most rapid marches ever recorded by a
considerable army. From Lammermuir, over the Moorfoot Hills, across
Yarrow and Ettrick and Teviot, the German army came to the Cheviot
Hills, which same mark the confines of England and Scotland; deluged
many a time in long-gone years with the blood of Saxon and Celt and the
ever-brave sons of the Highlands and Lowland, before they learnt that
internecine war was race-suicide. Now a common enemy, the "Mailed Fist"
that threatened to dominate Europe, as the First Napoleon had done a
hundred years before, was upon them. . . . Had dared forth to brave the
Lion in his den!

Not less rapid was the British advance, facilitated, of course, by the
great lines of railway, all traffic being suspended to give place to
soldiers and baggage. As a matter of fact, three-fourths of the army
were two days in advance of their commissariat; for Kitchener had
roughly chosen the battle ground ere the armies were within many miles
of one another; but so well did the people of the border rally to the
succour of the army that they wanted for nothing.

Here the British and the Germans were to meet on even terms, neither
seeking nor desiring cover or breast works. Here upon another Flodden
was history to repeat itself. Not now a question of the supremacy
of Scotland or England--James IV. or Henry VIII.--but a far wider
world-wide question: Imperial Britain v. Imperial Germany. . . .
Not often has the author turned aside to recall pages of early
British history; the temptation to do so here for a brief space is
irresistible. Just 400 years ago--in 1513--James, at the head of
perhaps the largest army Scotland had assembled, invaded the kingdom
of his brother-in-law, the libertine Henry. In a sense, which may not
be considered strained, he stood then a champion of a wanton ambition
(albeit to further the claims of France), in no more favourable light
than these other Continental invaders who were now upon the borders of
English soil. . .. . And here a remarkable passage in James Grant's
"British Battles" (The Romance of War) obtrudes interestingly: "The
Scot came down in five columns, each a bow-shot apart, in perfect
silence and order. This absence of sound has been remarked by all
historians. They marched like the Germans, without talking or making
any noise." . . . What son of Scotland but saddens, even to this day,
at memory of Flodden? . . It was the folly of a King that caused the
day to be so ruinous. Had James but allowed Berthwick to fire upon
the ford, to destroy the bridge. . . . But no, it is not of that, but
this. . . . Suffice to say that King James fell mortally wounded, shot
in the head and pierced by several arrows, lying within a spear's
length of the victorious Earl of Surrey; but his body was nobly
defended by his knights and nobles till night and darkness put an end
to the carnage. . . . Not now--and, please God, never again--did Scots
and English fight save side by side.

Not now do kings ride at the head of the armies, to have their heads
riddled by bullets; but that would be the best fate for some of
them--more especially when war is largely of their making.

It was inevitable to recall Flodden; but not in the exact field of
that memorable battle did Lord Kitchener encounter the German host.
It was a little south of Flodden, and nearer Wooler. The enemy were
allowed to cross the Tweed; and between the foothills of the Cheviots
and the little river Till, there is space and freedom for dashes,
for surprises, for ambushes, for squadrons to manoeuvre, for cavalry
to play with freedom, for batteries to score. On one side was the
river, on the other side the hills; and right back of them was the
Tweed; ahead of them was--England. It was a rare place to fight to a
finish. . . . And this is what the cables said in substance of the
first day's encounter:--


"The northern army of invaders, under General Grantz, was met at 11 a.m.
by the British troops. A fierce bombardment by the fixed batteries and
companies of artillery marked the first four hours of the conflict.
Every hour the cannonading of the British forces is being added to as
fresh guns are being brought into position, outnumbering the field
pieces of the enemy. Lord Kitchener's position and distribution of
forces held to give decided advantage. In all probability the Germans
will to-morrow make a supreme dash, when a close and sanguinary
struggle is inevitable."





CHAPTER XXIII.--THE SEARCH.

A fortnight, and no news of Nilda.

Her friends, the police, the public were baffled and mystified.
Reluctantly the police authorities had to acknowledge that every clue,
or supposed clue, had failed to lead them on the right track. A rumour
that gained a good deal of credence was to the effect that Miss Chester
had been spirited away by a party of Germans who had lately been missed
from the city; that she was taken on board a German boat that had been
reported as having been sighted near the coast.

During this period one of the most frequent visitors to the home of
the Hortons was Mr. Gresham, who, notwithstanding his Parliamentary
duties and special and extended sittings of the House in view of the
alarming condition of affairs and the peril of the country, made time
to call frequently at Linden to enquire, and to formulate new plans
of investigation, for they could not sit idly by, nor rest, with the
feeling of uncertainty and apprehension as to what fate had overtaken
the girl who had so favourably impressed every one who had come to know
her.

"No news of Nilda," was daily the 'phoned message from Linden to the
Bowery. Mr. Summers, on his own account, had exhausted every possible
field of search.

Then something happened. It was in the "Evening News" that a par.
appeared to this effect:--


"Touching the strange disappearance of Miss Chester, an unexpected
development has occurred. A school girl returning to her home at Mosman
a few days ago was given a small bunch of flowers by another child
returning from school. It was not until the flowers were being removed
from a vase that the mother of the child to whom the flowers had been
given--previous to being thrown away--appeared to notice that a small
scrap of paper was attached to the stems. This, though water-logged,
is said to have contained a message to the effect, 'Nilda Chester a
prisoner here.' The message has been handed to the police. Where the
'here' may be is for the smart detective to ascertain; but the pleasing
fact remains, supposing the message to be authentic, that the police
have now something definite to work upon. Also it will be gratifying to
the friends of the missing young lady to feel assured that Miss Chester
has not been 'spirited away,' but is somewhere still in our midst, and
has thus contrived, in an ingenious manner, to make the fact known."


Post-haste came down Mr. Summers, with the par. in his pocket. Likewise
half-a-dozen copies of the paper, from as many interested friends, who
had already found their way to Linden.

"At last," cried Nilda's oldest friend, "here is news which will surely
enable us to find her."

"Let us hope so," replied Mr. Horton. "Tell me would you be certain to
recognise Nilda's writing?"

Mr. Summers thought he would.

"Then I propose we make up a party, with the concurrence of the police
officials, to search every likely place about Mosman. By the way, do
you know where Gunsler lived over there?"

(It should be mentioned that since the disappearance of Nilda nothing
whatever had been seen of Mr. Gunsler. The inference drawn from this
fact was conclusive enough).

Mr. Summers thought Gunsler had never definitely mentioned his place of
residence.

They at once set off to the office of the Chief of Police, first with
the object of seeing, if possible, the slip of paper bearing the
alleged message from Miss Chester, and getting the superintendent's
concurrence in their proposed search. In regard to the first matter,
after some little circumlocution, the insignificant scrap of paper
was produced, and the writing upon it, Mr. Summers declared, was
sufficiently like his ward's calligraphy to leave no doubt upon his
mind that it was genuine; while in the matter of assisting in the
search, this was rather discountenanced. The police, declared the
officer, were now unquestionably on the right track, and had better be
left to work out their plan without outside interference. Mr. Horton
was not content to concede to the view. A compromise was effected. That
was Friday evening, if, within 24 hours, nothing definite had been
discovered, Mr. Horton and his friends were at liberty to follow out
the trail as they thought best.

So, forced to possess their souls with what patience was possible,
they took no further active steps until the following evening, when it
transpired the police had not effected a rescue.

Mr. Horton, Mr. Summers, Tom, and Mr. Gresham met by appointment at
quite an early hour on the Sunday morning following, to spend the
whole day walking every street, alley and avenue in the pretty and
fairly populous marine suburb, which has of recent years grown into
such favour, presenting in the mass such rich splashes of color, red
and other tints, as seen from the harbour; as viewed on the spot, so
many quaint and varied designs in residences, such mossy banks, such
evidences of art and industry on the part of the thousand middle-class
who had crossed the water to make happy homes for themselves and their
little ones.

They were together at the start, but only for a little while. Gresham
and Tom took one division, Horton and Summers another. It was in the
beat of the latter two, as designed, that they came upon the tenement
of the people who had actually found Nilda's little note. "Oh, yes,
gentlemen," said the good woman of the house, "it was my little Kate
who brought the flowers home--they were, I think, only cornflowers. I
did not at the time pay any attention to them. Kate herself put them in
a little vase in her room; it was only when I came to throw them out
that I chanced to notice the piece of paper tied to the stems. . . .
And you really think it was from the missing young lady?"

"We feel quite certain of it," was Mr. Horton's answer.

"Well, how strange it all is," she remarked. "I do wish I could help
you. How dreadful for that poor young lady to be made a prisoner, and
kept perhaps in some cellar. Is it true them Germans have got her?"

"It is possible," agreed Mr. Summers; "but not for long I trust, as we
have great hopes of now coming upon her hiding place." Then he closely
questioned the good woman as to the child from whom the flowers had
been obtained by her girl Kate. The latter was called and examined,
when it transpired that she received the flowers from a little girl
not more than 8 or 9 years old, she thought, named Tilly Andrews.
She could not say where Tilly lived. This was unsatisfactory, but,
convinced they were on the right track, they set off in search of the
unknown Tilly. . . . By arrangement, they met at the top of the block,
and the four searchers then cut out the task of dividing pretty well
the whole of Mosman between them. Only those who essay the task will
rightly understand how big Mosman has grown. Again dividing forces, two
to a street, one to each side, they breathed the name of Andrews at
every tenement, big and little; but no one knew or had heard of Tilly
Andrews. From morning till evening the search lasted, till every house
in Mosman had been questioned--of course, without result, for Tilly
lived in no Mosman house; but Katie's information was nevertheless
correct, so far as it went. . . . And in the evening, tired, they began
to despair of Tilly's reality.

"Tell you what we shall have to do," concluded Mr. Gresham: "Advertise
for Tilly."

"Wonder we did not think of that before," agreed Mr. Horton. . .
That evening they wrote out two advertisements, to appear in Monday
morning's papers, enquiring for the whereabouts of one Tilly Andrews,
supposed to live at Mosman.

* * * *

That same Sunday evening, Nilda, in her silent retreat, caged like a
bird, sat writing a letter with an indelible pencil--for she had asked
in vain for pen and ink; also, she had pleaded in vain to be allowed
to write a letter, ever so short a one to her friends, to let them
know that she was safe. Not even her promise to make it undated and
without address availed. Firmly, yet not unkindly, it was impressed
upon her that this was utterly contrary to their instructions; that
to allow Nilda to do this would be to run too great a risk of being
taken from them. Representing to their captive that this would be not
only a personal blow to themselves--so devoted were they to her and
her future interests--but so possibly disastrous as almost to imperil
their lives. . . . So strenuously did they talk in this way that it was
not to be wondered at if Nilda Chester began to be impressed with the
future that might be hers. With a less evenly-balanced mind, with less
character, and less devotion to friends who stood to her as relatives,
and were dear to her, her head might have been turned. But up to this
point, at any rate, it is safe to say she would have broken cover, and
willingly fled to her friends, had it been possible. . . . To have word
reach them--without breaking her promise--was her present object.




CHAPTER XXIV.--THE BATTLE OF WOOLER.

Only half Lord Kitchener's troops were regulars; as for the balance it
was largely composed of half-drilled Territorials and volunteers from
various of the northern counties and Scotland, and the senior cadets.
As against this heterogeneous army was the absolutely homogeneous army
of Germans--every man a trained, a highly-trained soldier; every man
of them a German egotist; every man of them a fighting machine of the
highest type.

When, on the fateful morrow, the sun had scarcely risen over the waters
of the North Sea, the German host was in motion, and the English
Marshal knew what was meant. It was not to be a question any longer of
field-guns and accuracy of fire, but a hot and determined storming of
his position, and close fighting to the point of annihilation.

Without swagger, silently as those king's men at Flodden 400 years
before had come to their slaughter, so marched the Germans upon the
British. As they approached, the solid phalanxes broke into apparent
disorder, but it was only apparent; the object was to offer less
dangerous targets to the guns of the British. Thus the rush was to a
large extent in skirmishing order, firing as they came; losing men
every moment as they came; but still onward they came. Then the impact.

The situation had been forced by the enemy, because, it transpired,
the heavy guns of the British out-numbered those at the command of the
Germans. It was also, no doubt, believed by General Grantz that the
longer he delayed the greater force he would have to encounter; while
his orders were, no doubt, imperative. He had to clear the way, at all
costs, and march to the relief of his beleaguered compatriots near
London.

Amid a blaze and roar of cannon, the invading army marched on. As they
drew nearer, hundreds fell to the rifles and maxims of the British; but
within an hour the conflicting forces met. They were foot forces. It
was the fiercest onslaught of bayonet and sword. Not since Lochiel's
charge at Killycrankie was ever such a charge seen in Northern Britain.
The British lines at first stood strong, then trembled, recovered, gave
way, wavered, reconstructed--fought magnificently. But in two hours'
time they had lost the ground they had occupied in the early morn.
German and Briton were face to face, and face to face thousands of them
fell. So intermingled now were the rival forces that the batteries
ceased to play. . . . Kitchener, who rode between his companies with
hail of bullets playing upon his rear forces from the German reserve
battalion, which now occupied his lost ground, and which commanded
his right wing, gave orders to his chief of staff to concentrate his
troops, and fall back gradually to the left. Still the Germans pressed,
as if by dead weight and ruthless determination, they were cutting down
his finest troops. All his army were now engaged in deadly combat, save
his reserves. . . . Retiring to the rear of his left wing, Kitchener
rode with his orderlies to a slight eminence, where his reserves were
posted. They consisted of 2,500 cavalry and the Boy Scouts. . . .
Again surveying the battle field with his glasses, everywhere he saw
the glittering helmet and eagle of the great military Empire. . . .
They were gaining ground on the whole front of battle. . . . Every
Briton who sat his horse, and gazed in anger at the deadly fray,
had been impatient of the enforced inaction. Not a moment too soon
for them did the order come to charge. . . So soon as they were in
motion a counter charge was noticed upon the German side. They, too,
by hook or by crook, had got together cavalry regiments--yet not in
the strength of the British. Possibly, this was the reason why they
had not been put into action earlier. . . . The German commander,
seizing instantly the British Field Marshal's intent of disrupting his
advancing line on the left flank, rushed his cavalry to intercept the
British charge. . . . Here, at least, he failed; true, it was three to
two, but in less than twenty minutes the German cavalry were rendered
hors de combat--unhorsed or slain. Now a cheer went up from every
officer who saw it, echoed by every man who could hear or see above
the din and smoke of battle. The tide was turning. It was but for a
little. The German swordsman was beating the British swordsman, man to
man, dozen to dozen, hundred to hundred, thousand to thousand, legion
to legion. . . . Lord Kitchener knew it. . . . Unless he could, by
sheer manoeuvring, by generalship, redeem his position, the day was
lost. . . . Alas, he could not advance; he must retire. Fair on his
left, unknown to the enemy on rising ground a mile or two distant, had
been posted a strong battery on a craggy hill-side. . . It had been put
there "in case of the worst"--which was happening. There, too, were
the Boy Scouts. . . The order went forth to retreat. Hateful word; but
needs must when the devil drives! . . . Abandoning many of the cannon,
abandoning wounded and living, the British forces fell back with what
haste and order they could. It had certainly been disastrous but for
2200 fresh men of the cavalry, who interposed at the fateful moment and
did splendid service, cutting down right and left every advanced German
soldier who, flushed with victory, cried in derision at the retreating
lines of the British. The horsemen made the retreat possible. Not
only possible, but they saved the situation for the moment, and thus
enabled a recovery which was at once splendid and surprising. Had the
German cavalry been in existence to harry the retreating troops, the
day had been lost irrevocably. As it was the British had breathing
space, and collected at the foot of the crag on which was the masked
battery. . . . Even the Germans were grateful for the respite; six
hours had the slaughter lasted, but their lust for blood was not
satiated. . . . A pause for a drink, a bite, to many were given, and
then the battle of Wooler recommenced. But that happened which turned
the tide. Now the British were not fighting on a down grade; they had
their backs to a veritable wall, and that wall had voices and power
which spoke; shot and shell poured out of it, and 10,000 new rifles,
wielded by boyish hands, spoke too; spoke when they had not so much
as been seen; spoke as did the sniping rifles of the hidden Boers at
Spion Kop; spoke out from the rocks and the bracken; spat out round
upon round, 10,000 at a time, upon the advancing Germans, who were
hastening to complete their day of victory. The Germans were stunned,
alarmed. From 900 yards, they felt it; from 600 yards, they thinned; at
400 yards, the execution was deadly. It was as if a deadly fire poured
down upon them from an unseen enemy. Now victory looked possible for
the British, but only for a little while. Realising the set-back, the
Germans called a halt till the heavy guns were brought up.

It should here be mentioned that early in the day Lord Kitchener had
telegraphed for reinforcements. As the hours of this great battle sped
on, all England knew, till mid-day, exactly how things were going.
The reinforcements asked for were being sent. . . . That was the last
message Kitchener received. If he could hold out till these came,
he still felt the day would be his. . . . The reinforcements never
came. . . . They could not. . . . Once again John Bull was outwitted
and undone upon his own native heath.

From Newcastle, and elsewhere, troops were dispatched which ought to
have reached the battle-field ere the sun went down; but disastrous
cunning was at work to prevent this. The main line was blown up in
three separate places, and portion of the troops' train was wrecked and
many lives lost. . . . A scene of frightful carnage on the line was
at first reported, and all the United Kingdom went wild with fury and
indignation. That this should happen at so perilous a crisis! This, in
their own land, at the hands of those who had been fostered and fed by
easy-going, confiding English people!! The first accounts of the train
disaster were certainly exaggerated, but the fact remained that the
lines had been blown up in thirteen places converging on to the Wooler
district. . . . And England sadly awoke to the fact that it was not
only the newly-arrived German legions--there were close upon 400,000
of them now on British soil!--they had to contend with, but heaven
alone knew how many spies and traitors to hospitality beside. For the
cable messages now represented that crowds of men, young and old--many
not recognised as Germans--had sprung up in every neighbourhood of the
field of battle, destroying the railroads, cutting telegraph wires, and
in many cases seizing horses and all manner of conveyances and goods,
and with these were hastening to Wooler, driving before them herds of
cattle for the benefit of the "all conquering German army."

Following on this were message's, printed throughout Germany and the
Continent, that General Grantz had achieved a great victory over
the forces led by General Kitchener. Also it was at this juncture
freely published that the German Government had called upon its ally,
Austria, to come to its naval assistance on several grounds, but one
in particular was harped upon--that Britain was outraging every known
treaty by seizing all the mercantile ships trading with Germany. . . .
It is true that the British fleet had by this time wrought complete
havoc with German commerce; but equally true that no neutral nation had
lodged any formal protest in regard to what had been done.

Apparent confirmation of the appeal to Austria was found in a cable
message which stated that half-a-dozen Austrian war ships had left the
Adriatic--it was believed in pursuance of an agreement in response
to the appeal of the Kaiser's Government. . . . The reply from the
Governor of Gibraltar was that while the Rock stood no hostile navy
would pass that way, and the alternative was a world-tour through Suez,
the Red Sea, right round Africa!

But was it true that Kitchener had sustained a crushing defeat? . . .
. Not quite; it is true that he was, on the day following the battle
of Wooler, beaten back through Hedgeley Moor, passed Alnwick, and
also that he fell back by Rothbury to the River Coquet; but there
the bridges were burnt and the pursuit arrested, for by now the
reinforcements had come up. And the latest was the Germans were on
the defensive. . . . Also the wires flashed the news that all the
northern counties were up in arms. That even women and mere striplings
insisted on bearing arms, so mad were they all with the foul play that
had been wrought by the spies and German civilians, who had deserted
their posts--their situations--in thousands, to render service to the
invading German armies. . . . But of all messages, perhaps the most
exciting one--to Australians, at least--was this: "It is reported on
good authority that if any other first-class Power enters the war
against England, Japan will be heard from!" . . That was news indeed,
if it were true. And why should it not be true? Japan is where she is
in Manchuria, in Korea, to-day because of the British-Japan alliance.




CHAPTER XXV.--NILDA'S ALTERNATIVE.--"OUT INTO THE DARK."

While Nilda was writing a letter in pencil to her friends, another,
of a more sensational character, was speeding its way to her, and its
receipt threw her into a spasm of apprehension, alarm, anxiety. Here it
is, just as she read, and re-read, its steady and direct lines:--


"Dear and Honored Miss Chester,

"After the lapse of several days, I am called upon to write to you.
It is at once my duty and my pleasure to do so. I will not, at
this juncture, waste time by dwelling on what has happened to you.
Suffice to say, it will all be fully explained--and to your entire
satisfaction--when you are really safe. All that has been done was done
with regard to this end--your personal safety. This note is to impress
upon you that your immediate safety depends on your removal from your
present abode. Death and destruction may pour about the spot where you
now dwell within three days. Those who are charged with your personal
safety have also other pressing reasons for your removal from where
you now dwell--not uncomfortably, it is hoped--to another, and better,
temporary abode. . . .

"Now, this is the proposal placed before you for your most careful
consideration: It is desired of you that you place yourself
unreservedly in the hands of your guardians for removal to a place
of greater safety, previous to your embarkation to the land of the
Empire to which you, by right of birth and parentage, belong. Now, will
you give your sacred word, as a member of a most honorable family,
that you will do nothing to hinder or make more difficult--perhaps
dangerous--the duties of those charged to guard and keep you? Is it not
a reasonable request? . . . The alternative may be your unintentional
destruction--to the dismay and grief of those who have taken great
pains, and not little expense, to secure your happiness and proper
position in life. . . . It is begged of you that your reply be
forthcoming at once, when, if favourable, arrangements will be made
this evening for your removal. (It will be no more than a short journey
by water).

"Your respectful and devoted servant,

"CARL von S----."


When Nilda finished reading this letter, she bade the devoted frau call
her husband.

"Hans," demanded Nilda, "who is Carl von S----?"

"He is, lady, like ourselves, your devoted servant," replied the humble
Hans.

"You know that is unsatisfactory--it is not what I want to know. . . .
Who and what is he? Do I know him?"

"I believe you have met him, lady."

"Is he Mr. Gunsler?"

"I do not know Mr. Gunsler--that is, I do not think I know him."

"Not of that name, perhaps, Hans; but I have some reason for believing
this was written by the man I know as Gunsler."

"Is he an officer of the Imperial Hussars?" stupidly queried the not
altogether guileless Hans.

"How on earth should I know, you silly? Is Carl von S. in that
regiment?"

"He was, and a distinguished officer; he was also a trusted friend of
Count Salleberg."

"And because of the Count he came to this State as a commercial
traveller, but really to spy upon the country, and particularly on
me--is it not so?"

"Ah, lady, you will get me in great trouble if you do get me talking of
State matters--they are not for me--not for me."

"Hans, are you my friend?"

"Dear lady, I will risk my life for you! The good frau likewise. Are
we not close to the cannon's mouth now for your sweet sake? We may die
altogether, but we will never leave you nor forsake you. We have been
the servants of your house for many, many years; from little children
almost; so to the end. . . . How, then, can you doubt that we are your
good friends? . . . You will trust us, lady?" . . . And there was that
in Han's Heckler's look and speech which told Nilda that he spoke truly.

Yet was Nilda not satisfied. "Do you know," she questioned him
earnestly, "what this letter is about--what it proposes?"

"I did not read it, Lady; but if it proposes your flight from here----"

"Then you do know about it? That is just what it does propose. I
suppose it is all cut and dried between you."

"You will do it, for your own sweet sake?"

"How do I know but I shall be out of the frying-pan into the fire?"

"It is to avoid the fire, lady?"

"Now, tell me truly, Hans, like my good friend: What is the position?
What is about to happen?"

Hans once again threw up his hands--it was his way in distress; but
ever it grew harder that he should refuse Nilda's appeals. . . . "You
will never betray me, lady; but my instructions are never to talk;
only to act. Yet must I tell you this: The German fleet is coming down
the coast from Queensland, and will put Sydney into flames unless the
demands made upon it are satisfied in full. Therefore, you will see,
you must leave here."

"Where is this place, Hans?"

"It is a place of imminent danger."

"And whither would they take me?"

"To a place of greater safety."

"Seeing I am captive, and defenceless, it is for my captors to take me
where they will. . . . Yet how superbly, or how absurdly, they keep
up this pretence as to consulting me, as if my will mattered one way
or other. . . Hans, what are the other reasons mentioned why I should
leave this prison?"

"Truly, I do not know, lady."

Then Nilda fell to cogitating. Was it possible they no longer
considered it a safe hiding place? Had some trace of her whereabouts
been found? . . . From one thing and another she had inferred that she
was somewhere about Sydney Harbour, but where she had no idea. . . .
If it were contemplated to embark her upon one of the German boats,
it appeared to her there was no more convenient place than where she
was--so handy to the water. . . . Unable to decide, she talked with
Hans and then with Frau Heckler, the while both besought her to agree
to do what was asked of her. . . . She was not all unwilling, but least
willing to pledge herself to make no attempt to recover her liberty,
and join her friends. . . . This much her guardians gleaned from the
remark which escaped her, and they were uneasy. But Nilda was not
naturally irresolute, and seldom unable to make up her mind.

"I will come," was at length her decision; and the decision also meant
that she agreed to do what was demanded of her--in reason.

And so, as night fell, Nilda and her guardians walked out of the
"retreat" at Neutral Bay. In a few moments she was aboard a commodious
little motor launch, which was worked by two men who were utter
strangers to her. . . . Nilda was not well acquainted with Sydney
Harbour, but she quite realised that it was such. She recognised the
centre-rock where should stand "Australia facing the Dawn;" she knew
the fine white building, which some wag had pointed out to her as the
"wedding cake," and she resented the stricture upon the architect. "He
had the courage of his opinions, and departed from the stereotyped,"
she declared. "Is it not so? It is variety in design, in coloring,
which lends enchantment to the view; and let others say as they will,
Charles I. built better than he knew."

"This is most grand!" broke from Frau Heckler, as the launch ran
smoothly down the bay.

"Perfectly delightful," assented Nilda, "if other things were
right. . . Look back upon the thousand lights of the city; how fair a
sight! The ferry boats--what rainbow colors upon the silvery sea! Ah,
how joyous life might be here--if one were free and safe from peril!
Think, Frau, upon the cruel evil of bringing devastating war--cruel,
deadly war--upon a scene so fair; upon a people so unoffending. . . .
What have we Australians ever done that battleships should come to pour
out death and destruction upon us? . . . Oh, it is shameful! Why do not
the world's rulers, the world's people, combine to make such things
impossible?"

Hans heard the cry of appeal, of impatience, in the words, and would
fain draw Nilda's attention from the sad theme. "Tell me, lady, where
are those gardens of paradise you told me of?"

"We have left them behind us, Hans; perhaps I shall never see them
again, nor my dear friends." . . . And Nilda looked sadly back toward
the city, over which darkness crept. Then, turning her face toward the
south, she perceived they were making a course fair for the Heads.

"Hans, are we going outside into the sea?"

"A little way, lady."

"You are taking me to a German ship?"

"I wish it might be so, dear lady; but that is not the case--not yet.
We have told you truly; be assured it is to a place of greater safety;
and for a little while even a good German ship might not be the safest
place."

Soon they were out between the Heads, and their boat--a good little
sea-boat--caught the roll of the waters.

"Out into the dark!" Nilda shivered; not with the cold, though a
gentle, cool land-breeze stirred the waters. But even a brave girl,
who trusted those around her, might well experience qualms of fear.
The frau nestled nearer and drew Nilda's hand into her own. It was the
womanlike act of sympathy characteristic of her.

"They did not tell me we should put out to sea in this little boat,"
broke from Nilda, with something very like a little sob.

"Do not fear, dear; they did assure us it was quite safe," urged her
companion.

"Where do we go, frau?"

"I know not the name of the place, but it's a bay around the coast, and
the weather conditions were said to be all that could be desired."

"I had rather have gone in daylight. The night is so lonesome. The
darkness makes me afraid. There is the South Head lighthouse! . . Oh,
how rough it is. . . . We are turning south. Out into the dark. . . .
If it is a bay, there is Coogee and Bondi, and further on there is
Botany, I think. . . I wish I had not come! Frau, I feel so ill. . . .
It were as well to be blown up by German cannon as to perish miserably
on the dark waters."

Nilda struggled for a time against the mal-de-mer sensation, but it
overcame her, as indeed was the case with the poor frau,--as if again
in sheer sympathy; and it was not a little pathetic that, in her own
distress, she whispered broken words of sympathy to her mistress, who,
at the worst moment, declared it would not matter very much if the
launch did go down!

"Say not so, dear; God is good, and we shall soon be out of this
distress."

It seemed far to Nilda, but it was really a short run, for the launch
made good progress, and before 9 o'clock they turned from the sea into
other Heads--into Botany Bay--the broad bay so intimately associated
with the earliest Australian colonisation.

"Do you recognise it?" queried Frau Heckler, as she observed her charge
looking about her at the changed direction of the boat.

"Yes, this must be Botany. I have never been here, but from its general
appearance it must be so. Look, can you not see twinkling lights in
various directions?"

"I see them--but quite far off. It must be a very large bay; yet, I
think the water is less rough. We shall soon be there."

"Where do we go, Frau?"

"I know no more than that it is to a comfortable house. They called it
a palace by the sea."

"I suppose it will be all the same to me," suggested Nilda. Then,
addressing Hans: "Tell me, am I to be still kept prisoner, Hans, in
this palace by the sea?"

"Not prisoner, lady--say not that; but you are to be as carefully
guarded from every danger as before. On that point our instructions are
implicit." . . . . Then, as an after-thought, Hans added, "Seeing the
sacred promise you have given, lady, I trust it will be possible you
may enjoy some greater freedom. I am sure it will be so. But above all
things, it is imperative that you speak not with strangers."

"I wonder do I know this palace by the sea! What is it called, Hans?"

"I know it by no other name, lady."

"There must be people there," meditated Nilda, looking straight
ahead--their course was straight up the bay, speaking her thoughts
aloud, as much to herself or the wave and the wind as to her
companions: "It certainly promises an agreeable change. I shall see
some of my fellow beings--some of my own country men and women; and who
knows what may happen, besides the German invasion!"

Now they approached a little wharf, running out into the bay perhaps
a hundred feet. Not a soul was to be seen. They moved to the northern
side, and in a moment made fast to some steps leading down to the
water's edge. Before alighting, the frau produced from her handbag a
tiny roll of black material, approximating to the Spanish mantilla,
and, opening it, threw it lightly over Nilda's head.

"I do not need it, Frau."

"Permit it, my lady, I beg."

"But why--ah, need I ask? I forgot my role. Of course, I must be
disguised! . . . I am to be the mysterious lady of the palace by the
sea!" . . . Now, for the first time--seeing they were once more on
terra-firma--Nilda's spirits rose. They stepped upon the wharf, high
above the water, and Nilda looked about her. "But why disguise, good
guardian, when there's not a soul about--not even a policeman?"

"Soon, lady; look, I think above must be the palace."

"Then bear me to my palace--I had almost feared 'twere one of these!"
and she pointed to bathing sheds--one on either hand. . . . Arriving at
the top of the embankment, Nilda stood for a moment and contemplated
a really fine structure on the opposite side. There, behind beautiful
ornamental pines, stood a really fine house, possessing architectural
pretensions. Not the brilliancy of its lights, but the subdued quiet
of the place, struck her as she entered the front gate. A sweet
restfulness entered into her first impression of the place. Well-kept
lawns, neat borders--an open door. . . . Into which open door these
three souls from the sea-foam actually coolly entered . . . Still no
one was visible . . . "You will have the grace to knock," suggested
Nilda. But Hans, upon occasions, was hard of hearing. For the moment
he was stupidly gazing at a page of a pocket-book in his hand; during
which several moments Nilda turned her eyes this way and that, and the
ejaculations which escaped her were: "This vestibule of the palace is
enchanting! This," tapping the marble at her feet, "one might call
inlaid mosaic. The colored marble in the pillars is really beautiful;
the pictures are impressive, and the hat-racks and flower-stands. . .
But, in the name of all that's sane, where are the people of the
palace?"

"This way, lady," at length came from Hans, as he pocketed his little
book. He spoke in little more than a whisper, and at the same time
clutched Nilda's right arm. His wife held the other. Nilda now burst
into a laugh. "You have never been in my palace before, yet you would
show me my rooms, and take me to supper. Are you mad, Hans, or am I?"

"Go gently, lady; there is a stairway here, somewhere, which we ascend."

"Indeed; surely it would be only common manners if we asked the
inmates of the house to show us to our rooms. Are we to enter and take
possession, like a set of burglars?"

Now they had advanced to the further end of the hall, Nilda still
protesting, when Hans stopped short. "Ah, the carved stairs!
Behold the lions' heads." In the dim, religious light shed by the
impending gas-jet, Nilda noticed, on either side of the first step
of the staircase, handsomely carved lion-heads, reposed in Egyptian
sphinx-like rectitude and immobility.

It was only as they wended their way up the flight to the first floor
that Nilda recalled her position. It was not for her to ask questions
and to make any disturbance, or attract attention. . . . Yet was it
only with the greatest difficulty she kept silence. . . . Arriving at
the landing, Hans looked about him, and again consulted his note-book.

"Frau," commented Nilda, "was ever anything so droll? Has Hans got a
chart of the palace that he is considering? Where is my boudoir? Shall
I have a warm bath and go to bed, or shall it be a sponge and supper?
The latter, I think. Yes, really, I am hungry."

"Please, lady," and the frau motioned for silence, while Hans preceded
them for some 20 paces along the wide landing with rooms along one
side, but every door was closed. He made for the east wing.

Again Nilda broke out: "It is all scrupulously clean and wholesome in
the atmosphere of it,--as becomes a palace. . . . Nay, good frau, why
should I be silent, seeing there is not a soul in the palace; it is
tended by sprites of the sea, Egyptian mummies, as silent as the wooden
lions below; or mayhap, on second thought, it is worked on the most
modern science plan of electricity. Have you read of Dr. B----'s house
without servants?"

An impatient exclamation broke from Hans. He had been fumbling in one
of his pockets for something, and drew forth a small key; this he tried
in a door which would not unlock.

"As I live," said Nilda, "but this passes all! He has the keys of this
open-doored palace in his pocket!"

"It will not fit, lady!"

"Did you expect, then, simpleton, that any chance key you happened to
bring along would unlock any door of the place?"

"Your pardon, lady; the key was supplied me."

"And the chart? I begin to understand. . . . And was it also arranged
that in our procession through the palace no soul was to dare venture
in sight, on penalty of instant death by the Germans!"

But Hans was busy trying yet another door along the corridor. Again
unsuccessfully.

Now, all this occupied no more than perhaps five minutes, when lo,
a maid of the house suddenly opened a door a little further along,
and upon sight of three still, more or less, muffled figures in
the passage-way, uttered a little cry of alarm--or, possibly, only
surprise--"Holy Mother!" (in that pleasant, mother-tongue which
unmistakeably disclosed the isle of her birth). . . . "Beg pardon," she
also said.

Nilda--still in the happy mood which possessed her on entering the
"palace"--emitted a silvery little laugh, ere she cried--"One of the
sprites of the palace! Pray do not take wing. We will not hurt you. We
have come to stay in your palace, and are very hungry."

"Hungry is it--the Lord deliver us!"

But Nilda had no further opportunity of bantering Bridget. For both
guardians pushed to the front, and both tried at once to explain. Hans
was not successful. He spoke at best with an unmistakeable German
accent, and Biddy at once took fright. "The Lord save us; the Germans
have come and taken the house! They will kill us," and she made a
spring for another door which gave access on to the landing; but Frau
Heckler was just in time to arrest her flight. "Do not be frightened,
my good woman; we are only the lodgers who have taken a suite of rooms
upstairs; did you not know?"

"Faith, yes; I was just putting the last touch to them this
minute. . . . But they did not say it was for Germans! The mistress
said it was for an invalid lady, who must be kept very quiet, and her
attendants. Where is the invalid lady?"

The frau indicated Nilda.

"Indade, then, but she does not look it, asking her pardon." Then
the frau whispered something in the ear of Bridget which seemed to
satisfy her. "I see," she said, tapping her head, "the trouble is here;
poor young lady!" Whereupon she forgave the reference to sprites and
mummies; while, happily, Nilda was quite unconscious of the new game
she had to play, as of the new misfortune supposed to have overtaken
her.




CHAPTER XXVI.--THE BOMBARDMENT OF SYDNEY.

It was some hours earlier than expected, on the day following the
flight of Nilda from Neutral Bay, that the signals rang up that the
German boats were approaching Sydney Harbour. Some accounts had it
that Sydney was to be bombarded "without the option;" but generally
the opinion got about, founded probably on Brisbane's experience,
that the "Flying Dutchman" were out after dollars, and speculation
was rife as to how many millions would be demanded as the price for
Sydney. . . . But would Sydney yield to any such demands? That was
the vital, pressing question which had been in every man's mouth for
many days. . . . Opinions differed. . . . The daily press had its
columns teeming with opinions--opinions of experts and non-experts.
Not a few held that Sydney's defences were too weak and badly placed
that it hadn't a show of holding out for 24 hours against the
invaders. Some were for paying the price, and saving the beautiful
city from destruction; but they were in the minority. The bulk of the
people--especially the man in the street--was for making such a fight
as would show the Germans there were boys of the bull-dog breed right
here at the antipodes. . . . As to the Government and its action? . . .
A week before the arrival of the enemy, it had been given out that,
"every gun was ready, every man in his place; that Sydney would be
defended; and (comforting to read) the city would not be destroyed!"

This optimistic view, which did something to prevent panic, was said to
be founded on reliable information that the guns of the German boats
were not of sufficient range to effectively fire upon the city--save
on its outskirts, at any rate. But primarily it was based on the
assumption--

(1.) That the enemy would not be able to enter the harbour.

(2.) That the enemy's guns would not carry more than eight miles.

(3.) That the land batteries, assisted by the gun-boats, would survive
the attack, and beat the enemy off.

We shall see, in the sequence immediately following, how far these
assumptions held good.

As will have been gathered from previous chapters, the only boats
left for Sydney's defence were the Powerful and the destroyer
Parramatta. The Admiral's ship was posted immediately outside the
Heads, and the destroyer lay between the Heads.

The South Head fortification, on which so much depended for the safety
of the city, contained two powerful disappearing guns of an effective
range or 8,000 yards, and 17 or 18 other guns with a reputed range of
6,000 yards. Middle Harbour mounted 10 guns (including two disappearing
guns) with an average range of 6,000 yards.

Experts held that with the guns of the Powerful the forts were
able to defend the city--so far as the harbour was concerned--against
any attack of such a fleet as were approaching; while, if the worst
happened to the forts, the system of mines laid through the harbour
were such that no ship could survive.

Further, it was argued, that any attacking boat would have to stand
three miles out--or, say, 10 miles from the General Post Office--and at
such a distance could do no harm to the city proper.

Now, we shall see what happened, when speculation, and probabilities,
and suppositions, and opinions were things of the past; and the actual
test--the hard, grim, stern realities--faced the people.

Six German warships, in Indian file, slowly passed in view. At
Manly Beach, at 4 p.m. on a fateful Friday, tens of thousands of
spectators were gathered for a sight never before witnessed on the
shores of peaceful Australia. At the distance they were, they looked
insignificant compared with the white majestic monsters of the American
fleet that had come to us in peace and good-will. But here was the
advance-guard of a nation that was out to lay British supremacy in the
dust, or beneath those free waves so long accustomed to own it chief
of the great warriors of the waters. . . The fleet, turning inward
somewhat, seemed intent on steaming into the Heads, and came within
range, as it seemed; but no shot was fired. . . . Then it was made
out that a small boat was launched, and got away at once from the
large vessels. . . . "That," said every man to his neighbour, "is the
Admiral's message to the city to make terms, or stand the consequences!"

It was even so.

The mandate read:--


"By order of H.I.M. William, Emperor of Germany--at the discretion of
his representative, the Admiral commanding the German fleet in these
waters--it is decreed that the city of Sydney be bombarded to the point
of destruction unless these demands be immediately complied with; that
your Government, municipal or general, as the case may be, shall,
without delay, provide an indemnity of £20,000,000 (twenty millions);
upon the payment of which sum the fleet now present in these waters
shall retire without doing, or attempting, any mischief to the people
or property of your city or your State."


The time allowed was 16 hours; that is, until 10 o'clock on Saturday
morning.

It is said that the neat reply, jointly of the Mayor of the city and
the Premier of the State, met with the entire approval of the people,
and echoed both their temper and their taste.


"Our compliments to the Commandant of the German fleet, whom we would
respectfully advise to retire before he is hurt. We are not giving
away any twenty million pounds or twenty million pence. We are greatly
tempted to lay your envoy by the heels, as befits brigands who would
rob us; but seeing you have trusted their lives to us, we spare
them--to convey to you this reply of the people of Sydney in answer to
your unreasonable, unjust and preposterous demands."


Exactly at 10 o'clock next morning the bombardment of Sydney began.

Two of the enemy's ships--the largest of the fleet, one being that
of the Admiral's--lay off South Head; two others moved to a point
as near as possible to Coogee; while the other two (the vessels of
lighter draught) proceeded to Botany Bay. The first-named began the
fusillade--not directed against the city, but against the fort at South
Head chiefly. These at once began to fire in reply. It was computed
that the German boats were 8000 to 9000 yards from the Heads when
hostilities began. The interchange of shots for the first 20 minutes
appeared to do no harm on either side, the range not having been
accurately enough determined. The Germans were using explosives of the
highest grade, and firing in a line which brought the inhabitants of
Watson's Bay within range. The shells were dropping with disastrous
effects when they missed the mark and over-carried, so that a rapid
exodus took place of every resident of that populous marine suburb,
where several houses were already damaged.

The rock fortification of South Head looked good to stand and withstand
the power of the German guns, for shell after shell hit upon the
abutments of solid masonry, and did little more than shatter the
surface. . . . Unquestionably the fortress is well placed, and the
artillerymen fairly safely screened. . . . But there were master hands
and minds at the guns of the attacking fleet. . . And they knew more
than they ought to have known of the particular weakness of the South
Head fortress. . . . It was not by direct impact of shot or shell that
the fort could be destroyed. . . After half-an-hour's firing between
fort and ships, during which no particular damage was done, it was
noticed that two simultaneous shots of the two disappearing guns had
struck one of the German vessels as she paused and was about to turn.
(They fought under easy steam). One certainly seemed to pierce the hull
of the vessel, and the other carried away part of the bridge which
lay just behind the fore-turret gun. . . . Whether in consequence of
this or not, both German vessels withdrew further afield--perhaps 1500
yards. It was not solely to be outside of effective fire of the fort
that this move was made. The object apparently was to raise their own
fire--to so elevate their projectiles as, by careful calculation, to
have the explosive shells fall in to the midst of the fort. . . .
Behind the guns at South Head is a deep cutting or passage-way. Here,
from safely-constructed subterranean vaults, the ammunition is passed
up through lifts. Destroy these, and the guns became valueless. . . .
For the next 40 minutes there was a fair rain of deadly explosives
about the batteries; it seemed incredible that only two gun-boats
could drop so many shells. The range had been found. Dust and debris
flew high and wide; it could be seen from the higher parts of the
city. . . . The upshot was that the fort's fire so slackened that
only a few of the weaker guns were in play. For the time being South
Head batteries were in such a sorry mess that the two battle ships
approached the entrance to the harbour as if intent on entering. It
was here that the Powerful was brought into play. The determination
of the brave commandant was that no German ship should enter the Heads
sufficiently close to pour destructive fire upon Sydney.

Realising what had happened to the guns at South Head, the Powerful,
accompanied by the destroyer Parramatta, steamed to a position
enabling them to offer battle to the two German ships. These held off
somewhat, as if to coax the Powerful out.

But meanwhile what of the trend of events in other quarters? The two
ships which were told off to do execution at Coogee began firing at
about 11 o'clock, and kept it up with booming regularity for seven
hours. An hour later the residents of Botany Bay listened to the
thunder of the other two German ships which, entering the bay by
the most approved route, steamed into position, as if piloted by an
experienced man who was familiar with every foot of the water-way. They
approached as near to Botany as possible, and directed their fire
city-wards. . . . Could they reach the busy, thronged environs of the
city? . . . For answer there was smoke, and panic, and death in many
streets, in many private homes, in many business places. Waverley and
Woollahra, Bondi Junction and Paddington, right away to Moore Park, the
shot and shell of the enemy had wrought execution.

Thousands of inhabitants were fleeing in terror to other parts of the
city. The fine Paddington Town Hall was partly demolished, and premises
in that vicinity were aflame. Resch's magnificent brewery had been hard
hit, and thousands of pounds worth of machinery destroyed, while even
private residences about Centennial Park had been damaged.

Whether the most effective fire was from Coogee or Botany Bay could
scarcely be determined.

Later in the day one of the two gun-boats from Coogee moved to a
position off Bondi, and a new field of destruction was worked. Many of
the shots got right home.

Now hurriedly-summoned panic meetings of the portions of the city most
affected were held, and many clamoured for an effort at settlement;
some cried for capitulation at any price!

Finding they could not coax the Powerful out into the open, the
German Admiral manoeuvred somewhat to the south, to a point not remote
from the Heads, but practically out of reach of the remaining guns
which were still in play at South Head. It should be mentioned that the
larger and greater-range guns placed there are fixtures, and command
the front, the harbour entrance, and a certain angle each way; but
there are no emplacement artillery at South Head capable of sweeping
the coast south to Coogee or on to Botany, which two latter places may
be said to be undefended, except for two small fortifications, quite
obsolete, and unable to stand up against the artillery of the latest
type of battleship. These were silenced within a couple of hours.
Therefore, the position was becoming a serious one for Sydney.

The enemy, finding they could approach comparatively near the shore,
and be out of reach of the guns of the defenders, now began to rake
the area of the elite--the fashionable quarters about Rose Bay and the
Governor's residence. . . . It was a surprising thing they could place
shots at targets they could not see. (This is done by a system unknown
to the uninitiated).

There were cries of indignation that the Powerful and the
Parramatta were doing nothing while the city was being destroyed.
But what could a destroyer do when it was not a case of fighting
torpedo boats? While as to the Powerful, the contest in the open
sea against two equally powerful ships--and possibly four, if found
necessary--prompted caution.

But ere the sun wont down on that eventful day, the flag-ship did
venture forth; it was believed primarily with the object of attempting
to draw the enemy's ships somewhat into the harbour, where they could
be played upon by the guns at Middle Harbour, as well as elsewhere,
in addition to the great cruiser's guns. Whatever object was in view,
it was frustrated. On sighting the Powerful emerging through the
Heads, the two German ships made as if to withdraw a little; then a
dash was made, for the encounter. There was a fierce cannonading, and
unquestionably the Powerful would have bested either of the German
boats, but, caught between two fires, the Powerful was unequal
to the contest. With two of her funnels down, a mast in shreds, her
foremost turret guns disabled, and many casualties on the fighting
deck, she just managed to return to harbour a badly-used vessel. The
presence of a few powerful guns at North Head might have saved the
situation; but no guns were there. Why?

The Germans did not follow. They knew about the mines, and the presence
of two fine pneumatic disappearing guns on Middle Head, the latest
things of their kind.

Now darkness fell; it was fondly hoped the bombardment would at least
cease until another sun should rise. But, alas, it was not so.

Here mention should be made of other forces. The field artillery,
designed for coast defence, co-operating with the forts, and, rapidly
mobile from point to point, have a battery of 18-pounders--splendid
guns, equal to anything abroad for their class; effective up to, say,
8,000 yards; and we have also a Howitzer battery, reckoned to be a
valuable auxiliary in replying to a sea attack along the coast. These
had been stationed at points within the harbour, in the belief that the
enemy would surely effect an entrance. That they did not, caused an
alteration in the plans. It was the best piece of work in the defence,
and had it been got in earlier, might have saved vast damage. . . . The
early hours of darkness of that eventful Saturday night will never be
forgotten by the people of Sydney. The wind now gently blew from the
south, and clouds obscured the sky. What south wind that ever blew o'er
Sydney's Gardens in cool welcome was ever before charged with the smoke
and roar of battle? . . . From distances which were safe, and distances
which were not safe, spectators--who could do nought else--watched
and waited--helpless, fascinated, furious in many cases. . . . The
roar of the cannon, which scarcely made itself heard in the day-time,
now became distinct. Thousands declared they could see the course of
the shells as they winged their cruel flight up from the edge of the
deep on to the environs of the city--arched courses of destruction.
Thousands were down about the cliffs, for there was least danger there,
and saw the great guns spitting out fire, and smoke. . . . And for a
time--and a vexatious time, it was--they worked their will without hurt
to themselves. . . . But at length the field artillery got to work. It
was the surprise of the night for at least two German boats hugging
the coast near Bondi. At between 9 and 10 o'clock that night, at a
distance not estimated at much above 5,000 yards, the 18-pounders got
to work in such a position that they got some protection, and opened a
perfect rain of fire on the enemy, who were caught napping; and, after
spasmodic attempts to reply, cleared out.




CHAPTER XXVII.--VIEWED FROM THE PALACE.--THE PRICE OF NILDA.

Now, the palace, in place of being well nigh empty, was full; so soon
was it discovered that though a fairly conspicuous target, and within
comparatively easy reach, it was immune. Not even Nilda knew just why
it was immune. Not for all the wealth of Midas, not for all the tea
in China, not for all the gold of this golden Commonwealth would the
German guns have been trained upon the restful palace, 'mid the pines,
by the shore of Botany--for it was known to all the German ships that
the so-called Nilda Chester lodged there . . . till it was deemed safe
that she could be placed on board of one of them!

On the broad front balcony of the palace were gathered scores of
spectators; many of the leading residents of "Le Sands" were gathered
there, and some from the city. But there was another part of the
balcony--which practically runs right round the house--that was not
crowded. Quite a thousand square feet held but three souls; and they
had engaged the whole suite of rooms giving out upon the eastern
balcony, and half the frontage overlooking the bay. These, as will be
guessed, were Hans, Frau Heckler, and Nilda.

For two, three, nay, five hours they had remained almost in the same
position--sometimes sitting, but more often standing against the
railing; watching, as they stood, not the gentle play of waves, bearing
their fragments of seaweed--the bane of bathers--but the firing of
heavy guns upon the fair city of Sydney and its unoffending people. . .
Constant, with unhurried, fairly regular precision boomed the guns of
the two ships, possibly every shot working death or destruction.

"Oh, I cannot bear it any longer!" This cry broke from Nilda, as, with
clasped hands, she turned towards her companion--the frau. "It is too
terrible! will they never stop firing?"

What could the poor frau say? More than once she had, of her own
accord, suggested many things; they could not have many more shells
left; or they were perhaps not doing much damage; people would be sure
to remove out of the zone of fire; or--a fond last hope--wise counsels
would prevail, and some understanding would be arrived at. . . . But
none of those suggestions pacified, or satisfied, Nilda. . . . It was
privately she whispered to Hans: "Will they keep up the attack all
night, think you? I trust not. Our lady will not rest; she will be
disturbed! We hear so plainly."

"I think they will soon stop," was her husband's opinion. "The guns
will get too hot. Already they slacken fire."

During these long hours of bombardment, many rushed to and fro into and
out of the palace--news from the city, tidings of hurt, and injury, and
the meaning of the lurid lights, which were plainly discernible from
the other side of the balcony to that which Nilda and her companions
occupied. . . . More than once Nilda had requested Hans to go below
and gather what information he could, but Hans was not good at getting
information, and equally indifferent in capacity to impart it.

Now something happened which no one seems to have counted on. Who it
was who had seen and recognised Miss Chester on the balcony of the
palace did not immediately transpire. It was no one in the house.

Notwithstanding that the captive had been carefully guarded, and
only allowed out upon the balcony as described, information had
been conveyed into the city that the supposed young lady was at
Brighton-le-Sands.

Just at the moment when Nilda declared she could endure it no longer,
and ran into the room which had been assigned to her, she found that
some one was within it. Her first impulse was to fly back to her
companions, whom she had left conversing together, as stated. But as
she turned without a word, other than a murmur of startled surprise,
she struck her forehead against the sash--the lower casement of the
window (it was that clumsy kind of contrivance which some people
persuade themselves are better than the good old French casement), and
for a moment stood half-stunned.

"Miss Chester!" It was said in little more than a whisper.

"Yes."

"Do not make any noise. Thank heaven, we have found you at last! Are
you ready to fly with us at once?"

"Yes, yes! But who are you? I do not recognise you in the dark."

"I am Mr. Gresham, and Mr. Horton is below. I had provided a
rope-ladder, in case we needed to descend from the balcony."

"It is not necessary, I think. They are upon the balcony. Put this
window down for me--it works stiffly."

Then Nilda, excited as she was, held out her hand in the darkness, and
Mr. Gresham, seizing it, shook hands, but he held it. "Thank heaven!
Are you ready at once?"

"I will put on my hat, and trouble about nothing else. Now!" and she
herself opened the door on to the passage-way, and much more hurriedly
than they had ascended the lion-staircase, they descended. Nilda drew a
veil about her face, for many people were still moving about.

"Not that way!" said Gresham, as he arrested her progress out of the
main vestibule, and led her through a smoking room on to the side of
the building immediately underneath where she had lodged. There, a
few paces out on the red-gravelled walk, stood a figure which Nilda
recognised in a moment, well-coated and goggled as he was, for Mr.
Horton had that night affected the chauffeur garb. . . . Almost Nilda
ran to him, and it was as unpremeditated on his part as unexpected and
unrepulsed on hers, that he caught her in his arms; and, in a paternal
embrace, kissed her on both cheeks. . . . "Quick, now, Nilda!" he
cried, "and into the motor."

In rather less than an hour, Nilda was at home with the Hortons, and,
in spite of the clock pointing to the small hours of the morning, the
whole family, with the exception of the youngest, were gathered round
her, rejoicing that she who had been lost was found, plying Nilda with
endless questions, who in turn had many to ask. . . . But if rest and
sleep seemed foreign to their eyes that night of terror, even so it was
with Sydney's 600,000 people. . . . For who could sleep, or even think
of sleeping, with great guns knocking at their doors!

Yet, towards morning, the firing ceased.

Nor was it resumed, as everybody expected, when Sunday morning fairly
dawned. . . . Would the church bells ring? Would special services--as
had been announced--be actually held, whereat the devout would
supplicate the Almighty for help and guidance in this dread hour?

There were early Sunday morning editions of the papers--papers which
were not wont to publish on Sundays, and for once there seemed no
sacrilege in the deed.

The most surprising thing they recorded--amid a deluge of sensational
things as a result of the bombardment--was that overtures had been made
to the German Admiral for peace. If he would leave the city and the
State without further molestation, and accept a much modified amount as
indemnity, the authorities would strain every possible nerve to meet
the demands of the Germans!

This was a humiliation to thousands. It was a surrender in face of
the enemy, while yet they were unbroken! . . . It is true this Sunday
morning's newspapers recorded what, in the aggregate, was an alarming
catalogue of death and damage. In suburban property alone the estimated
damage was £200,000; 78 deaths had been caused, and many were in the
hospitals as a result of injuries sustained.

But £20,000,000! If the banks were robbed of anything like that amount,
financial disaster would overtake the whole State; for it would be
the people who would suffer. . . . But when it came to the minimum,
after three hours' negotiations, it was finally made known that twelve
millions would buy off the invaders.

It was given out about mid-day that these terms were accepted, and that
by 8 o'clock on Monday morning the indemnity would be paid, and Sydney
would once again breathe freely.

But now such clamour and discontent rent the city--and in milder degree
the State--that almost a revolution was feared. . . . The Premier had
to make a speech to the people in front of Parliament House, where the
throngs were so dense in Macquarie-street that vehicular traffic was
impossible. . . . A special sitting of Parliament was held. The State
Premier endeavoured to appease the belligerent section, by explaining
that in regard to a moiety of the amount, it was arranged with the
enemy that securities would be accepted; that no financial panic would
result by reason of the banks parting with so much cash and bullion,
as the whole sums advanced by the banks would be covered by bills
chargeable to the Government, who would be given them to repay, and the
whole amount would be raised by special war taxation!

What other of the speech there was, was lost in the yells of an angry
and incensed populace. "Coward! Traitor! Madman!" were among the cries
that rent the air, for the majority were aflame with 'fight'--and 'no
surrender!'

By this time, so agitated was the public mind, that little attention
was paid to a passing reference to the fact (as recorded in one of the
Sunday editions) that the missing young lady, Miss N. C. Chester, had
been found. Yet, hot upon the heels of this lame announcement, came
another, in which Miss Chester was made to figure very large indeed.

* * * *

Within three minutes of Nilda's flight from the palace at Brighton,
her guardians discovered they had lost their treasure. Hans and Frau
Heckler were thrown into the greatest distress. Yet, half-an-hour
later a fisherman's boat might have been seen pulling off the jetty,
with two stout rowers at the oars, and Hans at the tiller. They were
not Germans, but they were not frightened, and they worked with a
will. The power of gold was in the oars; and while Nilda was telling
of her "experiences in captivity," Hans was telling the commander of
the nearest man-o'-war he reached that his precious charge had escaped
him. This information was at once communicated by wireless to the
German Admiral. The Admiral in turn was equally prompt in his action
and decision, as became a man in his position. . . . That had occurred
which would influence him--and perhaps that alone--in reducing the
"irreducible minimum." . . So that, to the surprise of the Premier and
his Government, and all others to whom the remarkable tidings came, it
was made known, "that if the authorities would surrender to the German
Admiral an honorable young lady known among them as Nilda Constance
Chester, whose life and person were precious in the eyes of many
Germans of distinction, the claim of 12 millions would be reduced to 11
millions."

A million pounds sterling for Nilda Chester!

Not for her life, but rather for her safety; lest possible accident
happen to her!

Surely, such a thing had never happened exactly so before in the annals
of warfare. Was ever so large a price offered for a woman before? When
the fact was made public, the papers simply sparkled with the name
Chester. . . . It was a crisis for Nilda. How would she meet it?

Public opinion was strangely divided and excited. Whether the
majority were for or against the bargain, or the barter, could not be
determined. But the dissentient notes seemed the louder, or at least
most noticeable. Again the matter was referred to in Parliament, it was
said, but on this occasion the House was sitting in camera with closed
doors.

What was to be done, must be done quickly. When great guns were
speaking, little use for small tongues to be wagging.

But it befits the narrative that the writer should remove the scene
from the arena of the public and the general, to the private and
particular circle. It was on the Monday following that, at "Linden,"
the whole group of Nilda's friends were assembled in excited conclave.
In a sense Nilda was the least excited. Mr. Horton held out that it
was a preposterous demand; Nilda should not be surrendered to the
Germans for even two millions; not at any price. The fortune of war
had returned her to them; and personally he rejoiced that at the last
moment "the enemy had been euchred," as thoroughly and as sincerely as
if he had been Nilda's own father.

Mr. Summers looked further afield; he was more than half inclined to
surrender his ward; he was apparently convinced of the sincerity of
those who had sought and found Nilda, and took as a guarantee of good
faith that they were willing to pay so high a price for her whom but
yesterday they had regarded as in their safekeeping. . . . He further
urged, as evidence of their good intentions and careful regard for
Nilda, that while it had been quite possible for them to have secured
the presence of Nilda on one or other of the warships, they had
refrained from doing so, lest harm befall her while the fight was on.

Strange to say, both ladies--Mrs. Horton and Mrs. Summers--were very
much inclined to side with Mr. Summers. The element of romance appealed
to them very strongly. It was probably to miss the opportunity of her
life to refuse to go. And at such a price! Who would not be bought for
a million! When it meant taking her to her rightful home among the
great of a great nation.

"Great nation fiddlesticks! Who knows what may happen the girl? Who
would trust the word of a German, anyway? And who on earth ever heard
of a British community--a British Government--descending to barter one
of its daughters to an enemy at its gates, so as to lessen the price of
an indemnity? Our Government ought to be ashamed to even discuss such a
base proposal. What do you say, Gresham?"

Mr. Gresham had been slow to offer an opinion. It was not talked of,
but it was well understood that Mr. Gresham admired Miss Chester,
and he had been unfailing in his efforts to recover her. Now, to be
suddenly robbed of her, to hand her over to the enemy, was about the
last thing in the world he would wish to do. . . . Hence it was his was
the only voice which backed up Mr. Horton's.

"Are you at liberty to tell us just what was said by the Government
to-day?" asked Mr. Horton of the young member (who had left the House
but a few minutes previously).

"Among ourselves, certainly. The general opinion was that the proposal
ought to be accepted if Miss Chester could be prevailed upon to give
her consent. In her own interests, it was contended, she should do so.
You see, they were taking everything for granted; which means that they
had no doubt that in this matter the German Admiral was acting with
authority and in pursuance of instructions, which, I must confess,
seemed only understandable on the assumption that they attached the
highest importance to Miss Chester and her safety."

"Were there, then, no objectors--no voice raised in opposition?"
demanded Mr. Horton.

"There were a few; and others, greedy for greater concessions,
advocated fixing two millions as the price of the hostage."

"Did you speak?"

"Only briefly."

"What was it?"

"Merely to point out that in such an extraordinary case as this, it was
patent that everything depended on the young lady herself. No ransom
could be fixed, or even discussed, till it was known whether Miss
Chester herself was willing to be thus traded on."

"Which was right. It was, in fact, the only thing to say. Well, and
what was the upshot?"

"That I was deputed by the Premier to at once see Miss Chester, consult
with her on the matter, and report immediately."

"You are to go back to the House at once?"

"Yes."

It was then that all eyes turned to Nilda.

Was ever an inexperienced maiden, shy of the world, and hitherto
uninfluenced by it in any large degree, placed in such a momentous
quandary? All present felt for her; none knew just what she would do;
but he who knew her best, Mr. Summers, alone guessed what she might do.

It was Mr. Horton who, in these circumstances, asked Nilda, not without
emotion showing in his own voice, what she would do?

Nilda rose from her chair, her hands clasped; she turned toward Mr.
Horton, but, looking over his head, she gazed for a moment out of the
open window, out toward the sea--out over the borders of our own land,
towards that unknown far north, whither they would take her, if she
made the vital decision.

Then, "Dear Mr. Horton, I deeply appreciate your interest in me; your
almost paternal kindness to me. . . . But I must do my duty."

"Yes, Nilda, do your duty--that is the noblest any man or woman can at
any time do; but what is your duty here? Is is at all clear?" asked Mr.
Horton.

"My duty to my country--this Australia will always be my
country--demands of me that I should do this. Since they place so
large a value upon poor me--I can hardly realise that it is true--some
sacrifice should certainly be undertaken, even danger and risk. But I
plead no heroism; I claim none. I am not afraid. . . . On the surface
of it all, when first it was opened up to me, by little and little,
it seemed a preposterous story; but even you, dear friends, now see
that behind it all there lies--there must lie--a basis of fact which
cannot reasonably be denied. . . . I am assured I am going to those who
have the right to give me protection. True, it was an extraordinary
time to assert those rights. . . . I did not seek them; you know that.
They sought me; and I am assured that all will be explained. . . .
Therefore you will see that duty again, of a personal character, also
calls. . . ."

Then, without waiting for further word from her friends, Nilda, turning
to Mr. Gresham, who alone of the company had also risen, and stood by
her, said, "You are at liberty, Mr. Gresham, to go to the Government,
and inform them that I am ready to be surrendered to the German
Admiral!"




CHAPTER XXVIII.--THE WAR IN ENGLAND MOVES TO A SUDDEN CONCLUSION.

England was distressed, but never subdued, by the presence of nearly
400,000 German troops upon its territory.

As the narrative in previous chapters has shown, the relieving German
army from the north, pressing with might and main for the relief of the
first division of the army--practically held up behind entrenchments
by the troops under the veteran General of the British army--had on
the onset practically repulsed the troops under Lord Kitchener, who
had been grievously disappointed in not getting the reinforcements
he sorely needed. But at length these came, and a little south of
Newcastle another most determined battle was fought, which lasted for
nine hours. The limits of this narrative do not permit the details
of this last great battle being recounted, but when the day was over
there were counted 21,500 dead Germans on the battlefield, while the
wounded were estimated at no less than 29,000. On the British side the
casualties in dead and wounded were set down at about 30,000. But the
great thing was that victory was with the British. Victory now of so
unquestioned a character, that not even the most unscrupulous German
reporter or paper could possibly say otherwise. The German General,
realising the utter helplessness of his position--hemmed in on every
side, and cut off from his base--had surrendered his sword, and owned
himself and his remaining troops prisoners of the British General!

When these tidings were made known, it was at once apparent that
no power on earth could save from starvation or destruction the
beleaguered garrisons of the German main army. . . . For days they had,
as a matter of fact, been kept alive by eating horses, dogs, and a few
fish which they had been able to secure on the bit of coast-line inside
of which they had entrenched themselves.

Now was set up an agitation in London, originating chiefly with a body
of loyal Germans, but not traitors to England--merchants, wealthy
civilians and aristocrats of leisure--which speedily culminated in a
huge petition to the German Emperor and Government, to declare the war
ended, by accepting such conditions of peace as might be submitted by
Great Britain. Only thus, it was contended, could the whole beleaguered
army be saved from certain death. . . This petition was signed by
Prince Henry (brother of the Kaiser) himself, he being, of course,
still a prisoner in the Tower, whose walls had not for many generations
echoed to the footsteps of an imprisoned Prince of the blood.

This was said to be the bitterest hour that Emperor William had lived.

The upshot was due not only to the failure of the German legions on
British soil, but in a large measure to the vast amount of trouble and
intense dissatisfaction and disaffection in the German Empire itself.
The Socialists had from the first condemned the war; during its short,
sharp progress they had become more dissatisfied, until the whole
Empire was stirred with tumult and incipient rebellion; so that it
became a question whether the Hohenzollern Dynasty itself was not in
danger.

As late as December, 1910, this was cabled from London:--


"Protest by Socialists. The German Socialists strongly protested
against the army increases, and declared that the Government did
not desire peace, but was preparing for the bloodiest wars. But the
future," the Socialists added, "belongs to the League of Nations."


The beggarly, miserable contretemps which dethroned the last of the
Napoleons, faced as a white spectre ever the Palace of Potsdam. . . .
The disaffected Press broke loose; there was little possibility of
putting into execution the law of his Majesty, because of the host
who now broke it. . . . The loyalty of the military alone saved the
situation for the monarch and Throne. . . .

In the extreme hour William II. knew that Austria, however willing
to abide by the Treaty of the Triple Alliance, was powerless to help
him. . . . The clamour and threats of his vast number of commercial
subjects, who stood face to face with ruin by a prolongation of the
war, seeing that ocean trade was entirely cut off, seconded the efforts
of those petitioning the Throne for a conclusion of peace.

Then it was that the great War Lord humbled himself. He sent in great
haste a special ambassador to sue for peace at the Court of St. James.

These were the terms stipulated by the King and Parliament of Great
Britain:--


The payment of an indemnity in cash of £200,000,000. The absolute
surrender of all German interests or pretensions in New Guinea. An
undertaking not to assert any right or make any manner of interference
in Egypt, or in regard to British administration in that country. The
forfeiture to England of Heligoland. The return of such prisoners as
were in the hands of the Germans.


It was a concise and business-like demand on the part of the British
Government, and 24 hours were allowed for the answer.

It was long enough--far too long--for one section of the Germans.
Wireless messages rushed one upon another from these, that soldiers
were dying daily from sheer starvation within the camps of the Germans;
adding also to the terrors of their situation were pitiful reports
that disease, due to insanitary conditions, was rife among them, and
threatened to decimate the beleaguered German army.

In so tight a place, what, then, was there for the German Emperor or
Reichstag to do? It was reported that the latter took the initiative,
and, in a mid-night sitting, amidst scenes of anger, wild confusion
and recrimination, determined to accede to every condition of peace
proposed by Great Britain if the latter would forego the cession of
Heligoland.

Ultimately--it meant another few hours' negotiations--Heligoland was
struck out of the compact, but at the price of twenty-five millions
being added to the amount of the indemnity, with further clauses
guaranteeing no further German interference with the buffer States of
Denmark, Holland and Belgium. . . .

The world breathed easier when it was made known that the conditions of
peace had been signed between Great Britain and Germany.

Throughout the United Kingdom bonfires blazed; it was said a
thousand bands played concurrently in different parts of Britain;
the churches--Anglican, Roman, and Nonconformist--united in offering
thanksgiving to the Almighty.

Britannia had withstood the mighty shock of the long-talked of German
invasion, and was still--Great Britain!

While the mighty invader had bitten the dust, and begged to be allowed
to pay the price of that peace he had so ruthlessly disturbed.

* * * *

It now but remains to briefly as possible narrate what happened in
regard to Australia and the heroine of this war-story.

The German levy upon the city of Sydney had all been paid, and Nilda C.
Chester was among the spoils on board the flagship, with the Admiral
and his officers doing her reverence. A ship ladened with spoils; how
did they boast them of the easy victory and this modern spoiling of the
Egyptians. . . . How did they jubilate, for it had been given out that
every man, down to the cabin boys, would "stand in" in some measure
when the great spoil should be divided; so that already they imagined
themselves strutting about the streets of the Fatherland with pockets
lined with Australian gold!

Short-lived was their pleasure of anticipation.

With leisurely ease and confidence they moved round to do execution
upon Melbourne, now sanguine of uninterrupted success throughout the
Australian ports.

Soon as they reached Port Philip they were struck dumb, for a message
reached them as they entered the Heads--without a shot being fired
at them--breaking the news that terms of peace were being arranged.
Further acquainting the Admiral that the German Consul desired his
immediate presence at the Consulate, when full directions, as cabled
out to the Consul a few hours earlier, would be communicated to the
Admiral as to what was desired of him in this new development.

This was no less than an absolute order to disgorge all the millions
from Brisbane, all the millions from Sydney! What humiliation! What
tantalising renunciation! Who could endure it? The Admiral and his
senior officers at first protested. It was impossible; some great
mistake had been made; it was a hoax on the part of the enemy. Germany
surrendering and paying indemnity to Britain! It could not be! His
navy would not believe it. There would be mutiny, rather than be
dispossessed of their spoils!

But it had to be. The fullest confirmation, private and otherwise, was
soon to hand that satisfied even the German Admiral that his orders
were imperative and unmistakable.

He then disgorged.

* * * *

And what of Nilda?

Once again the opportunity was hers to return; but she did not urge it.
The special pleaders were by her side, to impress upon her that honor
and duty, and even self-interest, called her to stick by the bond she
had accepted. The price had been paid, they said, and in honor she was
bound to proceed. And now, they urged, they could do so without danger.
There were at least three--Nilda, Hans and Frau Heckler--who shook
hands and embraced with mutual and undisguised satisfaction that the
terrible war was over, and the dreadful guns would be silent. . . . The
way was open--the way of peace--and they would soon be in their beloved
Fatherland.

* * * *

Some two months later the arrival of the Southern Squadron in German
waters was duly announced; and certain society papers, both English
and Continental, noted the presence of the young and fascinating
Countess Salleberg, about whom, it was alleged, there was a most
romantic history and experience. . . . By that name she was at once
received into the top ranks of society, and in due course presented,
and received, at the Imperial Court of the Kaiser. . . . Suitors came
to her, among them a Prince, it was said, and a young politician from a
far country. . . . Who won the hand of Countess Nilda eventually it is
not for this war-story to set down. . . But in the process of time she
came once again to her beloved Sydney, and dwelt for a space with the
Hortons and the Summers. . . And so we must leave her.





AUTHOR'S FOOTNOTE.


Dear Reader,

Would you have me continue the history of Nilda in another land, the
land of the Kaiser, whither she went? . . . By my faith, I cannot.
Not now, for indeed her career has but commenced; and it would unduly
prolong the narrative. Yet would I fain wish it might be so, that you
are interested in this Australian girl whom I have attempted to type;
which word reminds me for months a veritable Typo. has been chasing
me. (In Maori legends there is a word so pronounced which is fearful
as any fiend). But this, my "Typo.," is no fiend, but the finest of
setters on a linotype--a perfect trump of a man, whose "proofs" were
the "cleanest" I have ever had the good fortune to read. Not 20 words
were altered in the whole 270 pages of an average of 250 words to the
page--a total of 67,500 words--nor did five "literals" appear to the
column of set matter. Hence, did it become a pleasure to read the
proof-sheets of "Nilda," from an editorial standpoint. This, too,
notwithstanding the "chase." The author had a start of about 100
pages; since which the cry for "copy" has come along with regular
linotype precision. . . . When it is added that these pages have been
penned "after the day's work was done," perhaps no other claim for the
reader's consideration may be mentioned. . . . As to the burden of the
story, the Invasion--from which may good Heaven defend us!--the author
has attempted to visualise, and to realise, how things might go. Since
this story commenced publication, the writer has met friends who will
not have it that war with Germany is possible. Let us hope they are
entirely right. But the "feel of it" is in the air; the portents seem
unmistakable; and where there is much smoke there is latent fire. . . .
In any case, I trust I have not wearied you, dear reader. Some other
day, perchance, we shall meet again. And, in the meantime, good-night.

Cootamundra, N.S.W.,

December 15, 1910.

THE END


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