I took the train three days later from King's Cross to Edinburgh. I went t_he Pentland Hotel in Princes Street and left there a suit-case containin_ome clean linen and a change of clothes. I had been thinking the thing out, and had come to the conclusion that I must have a base somewhere and a fres_utfit. Then in well-worn tweeds and with no more luggage than a small trenc_it-bag, I descended upon the city of Glasgow.
I walked from the station to the address which Blenkiron had given me. It wa_ hot summer evening, and the streets were filled with bareheaded women an_eary-looking artisans. As I made my way down the Dumbarton Road I was amaze_t the number of able-bodied fellows about, considering that you couldn't sti_ mile on any British front without bumping up against a Glasgow battalion.
Then I realized that there were such things as munitions and ships, and _ondered no more.
A stout and dishevelled lady at a close-mouth directed me to Mr Amos'_welling. 'Twa stairs up. Andra will be in noo, havin' his tea. He's no yi_or overtime. He's generally hame on the chap of six.' I ascended the stair_ith a sinking heart, for like all South Africans I have a horror of dirt. Th_lace was pretty filthy, but at each landing there were two doors with well- polished handles and brass plates. On one I read the name of Andrew Amos.
A man in his shirt-sleeves opened to me, a little man, without a collar, an_ith an unbuttoned waistcoat. That was all I saw of him in the dim light, bu_e held out a paw like a gorilla's and drew me in.
The sitting-room, which looked over many chimneys to a pale yellow sky agains_hich two factory stalks stood out sharply, gave me light enough to observ_im fully. He was about five feet four, broad-shouldered, and with a grea_owsy head of grizzled hair. He wore spectacles, and his face was like som_ld-fashioned Scots minister's, for he had heavy eyebrows and whiskers whic_oined each other under his jaw, while his chin and enormous upper lip wer_lean-shaven. His eyes were steely grey and very solemn, but full o_mouldering energy. His voice was enormous and would have shaken the walls i_e had not had the habit of speaking with half-closed lips. He had not a soun_ooth in his head.
A saucer full of tea and a plate which had once contained ham and eggs were o_he table. He nodded towards them and asked me if I had fed.
'Ye'll no eat onything? Well, some would offer ye a dram, but this house i_taunch teetotal. I door ye'll have to try the nearest public if ye'r_hirsty.'
I disclaimed any bodily wants, and produced my pipe, at which he started t_ill an old clay. 'Mr Brand's your name?' he asked in his gusty voice. 'I wa_xpectin' ye, but Dod! man ye're late!'
He extricated from his trousers pocket an ancient silver watch, and regarde_t with disfavour. 'The dashed thing has stoppit. What do ye make the time, M_rand?'
He proceeded to prise open the lid of his watch with the knife he had used t_ut his tobacco, and, as he examined the works, he turned the back of the cas_owards me. On the inside I saw pasted Mary Lamington's purple-and-whit_afer.
I held my watch so that he could see the same token. His keen eyes, raised fo_ second, noted it, and he shut his own with a snap and returned it to hi_ocket. His manner lost its wariness and became almost genial.
'Ye've come up to see Glasgow, Mr Brand? Well, it's a steerin' bit, an_here's honest folk bides in it, and some not so honest. They tell me ye'r_rom South Africa. That's a long gait away, but I ken something aboot Sout_frica, for I had a cousin's son oot there for his lungs. He was in a shop i_ain Street, Bloomfountain. They called him Peter Dobson. Ye would maybe min_f him.'
Then he discoursed of the Clyde. He was an incomer, he told me, from th_orders, his native place being the town of Galashiels, or, as he called it,
'Gawly'. 'I began as a powerloom tuner in Stavert's mill. Then my father dee'_nd I took up his trade of jiner. But it's no world nowadays for the sma'
independent business, so I cam to the Clyde and learned a shipwright's job. _ay say I've become a leader in the trade, for though I'm no an official o_he Union, and not likely to be, there's no man's word carries more weigh_han mine. And the Goavernment kens that, for they've sent me on commission_p and down the land to look at wuds and report on the nature of the timber.
Bribery, they think it is, but Andrew Amos is not to be bribit. He'll have hi_ay about any Goavernment on earth, and tell them to their face what he think_f them. Ay, and he'll fight the case of the workingman against his oppressor, should it be the Goavernment or the fatted calves they ca' Labour Members.
Ye'll have heard tell o' the shop stewards, Mr Brand?'
I admitted I had, for I had been well coached by Blenkiron in the curren_istory of industrial disputes.
'Well, I'm a shop steward. We represent the rank and file against office- bearers that have lost the confidence o' the workingman. But I'm no socialist, and I would have ye keep mind of that. I'm yin o' the old Border radicals, an_'m not like to change. I'm for individual liberty and equal rights an_hances for all men. I'll no more bow down before a Dagon of a Goavernmen_fficial than before the Baal of a feckless Tweedside laird. I've to keep m_iews to mysel', for thae young lads are all drucken-daft with their wee book_bout Cawpital and Collectivism and a wheen long senseless words I wouldn_yle my tongue with. Them and their socialism! There's more gumption in a pag_f John Stuart Mill than in all that foreign trash. But, as I say, I've got t_eep a quiet sough, for the world is gettin' socialism now like the measles.
It all comes of a defective eddication.'
'And what does a Border radical say about the war?' I asked.
He took off his spectacles and cocked his shaggy brows at me. 'I'll tell ye, Mr Brand. All that was bad in all that I've ever wrestled with since I cam t_ears o' discretion—Tories and lairds and manufacturers and publicans and th_uld Kirk—all that was bad, I say, for there were orra bits of decency, ye'l_ind in the Germans full measure pressed down and running over. When the wa_tarted, I considered the subject calmly for three days, and then I said:
"Andra Amos, ye've found the enemy at last. The ones ye fought before were i_ manner o' speakin' just misguided friends. It's either you or the Kaise_his time, my man!"'
His eyes had lost their gravity and had taken on a sombre ferocity. 'Ay, an_'ve not wavered. I got a word early in the business as to the way I coul_erve my country best. It's not been an easy job, and there's plenty of hones_olk the day will give me a bad name. They think I'm stirrin' up the men a_ome and desertin' the cause o' the lads at the front. Man, I'm keepin' the_traight. If I didna fight their battles on a sound economic isshue, the_ould take the dorts and be at the mercy of the first blagyird that preache_evolution. Me and my like are safety-valves, if ye follow me. And dinna yo_ake ony mistake, Mr Brand. The men that are agitating for a rise in wages ar_ot for peace. They're fighting for the lads overseas as much as fo_hemselves. There's not yin in a thousand that wouldna sweat himself blind t_eat the Germans. The Goavernment has made mistakes, and maun be made to pa_or them. If it were not so, the men would feel like a moose in a trap, fo_hey would have no way to make their grievance felt. What for should the bi_an double his profits and the small man be ill set to get his ham and egg o_abbath mornin'? That's the meaning o' Labour unrest, as they call it, an_t's a good thing, says I, for if Labour didna get its leg over the traces no_nd then, the spunk o' the land would be dead in it, and Hindenburg coul_queeze it like a rotten aipple.'
I asked if he spoke for the bulk of the men.
'For ninety per cent in ony ballot. I don't say that there's not plenty o_iff-raff—the pint-and-a-dram gentry and the soft-heads that are aye readin_its of newspapers, and muddlin' their wits with foreign whigmaleeries. Bu_he average man on the Clyde, like the average man in ither places, hates jus_hree things, and that's the Germans, the profiteers, as they call them, an_he Irish. But he hates the Germans first.'
'The Irish!' I exclaimed in astonishment.
'Ay, the Irish,' cried the last of the old Border radicals. 'Glasgow'_tinkin' nowadays with two things, money and Irish. I mind the day when _ollowed Mr Gladstone's Home Rule policy, and used to threep about the noble, generous, warm-hearted sister nation held in a foreign bondage. My Goad! I'_ot speakin' about Ulster, which is a dour, ill-natured den, but our own fol_ll the same. But the men that will not do a hand's turn to help the war an_ake the chance of our necessities to set up a bawbee rebellion are hateful t_oad and man. We treated them like pet lambs and that's the thanks we get.
They're coming over here in thousands to tak the jobs of the lads that ar_oing their duty. I was speakin' last week to a widow woman that keeps a we_airy down the Dalmarnock Road. She has two sons, and both in the airmy, on_n the Cameronians and one a prisoner in Germany. She was telling me that sh_ould not keep goin' any more, lacking the help of the boys, though she ha_orked her fingers to the bone. "Surely it's a crool job, Mr Amos," she says,
"that the Goavernment should tak baith my laddies, and I'll maybe never se_hem again, and let the Irish gang free and tak the bread frae our mouth. A_he gasworks across the road they took on a hundred Irish last week, and ever_in o' them as young and well set up as you would ask to see. And my we_avie, him that's in Germany, had aye a weak chest, and Jimmy was troubled wi'
a bowel complaint. That's surely no justice!"… .'
He broke off and lit a match by drawing it across the seat of his trousers.
'It's time I got the gas lichtit. There's some men coming here at half-ten.'
As the gas squealed and flickered in the lighting, he sketched for me th_oming guests. 'There's Macnab and Niven, two o' my colleagues. And there'_ilkison of the Boiler-fitters, and a lad Wilkie—he's got consumption, an_rites wee bits in the papers. And there's a queer chap o' the name o'
Tombs—they tell me he comes frae Cambridge, and is a kind of a professo_here—anyway he's more stuffed wi' havers than an egg wi' meat. He telled m_e was here to get at the heart o' the workingman, and I said to him that h_ould hae to look a bit further than the sleeve o' the workin'-man's jaicket.
There's no muckle in his head, poor soul. Then there'll be Tam Norie, him tha_dits our weekly paper—Justice for All. Tam's a humorist and great on Rober_urns, but he hasna the balance o' a dwinin' teetotum … Ye'll understand, M_rand, that I keep my mouth shut in such company, and don't express my ow_iews more than is absolutely necessary. I criticize whiles, and that gives m_ name of whunstane common-sense, but I never let my tongue wag. The feck o'
the lads comin' the night are not the real workingman—they're just the frot_n the pot, but it's the froth that will be useful to you. Remember they'v_eard tell o' ye already, and ye've some sort o' reputation to keep up.'
'Will Mr Abel Gresson be here?' I asked.
'No,' he said. 'Not yet. Him and me havena yet got to the point o' payin'
visits. But the men that come will be Gresson's friends and they'll speak o_e to him. It's the best kind of introduction ye could seek.'
The knocker sounded, and Mr Amos hastened to admit the first comers. Thes_ere Macnab and Wilkie: the one a decent middle-aged man with a fresh-washe_ace and a celluloid collar, the other a round-shouldered youth, with lan_air and the large eyes and luminous skin which are the marks of phthisis.
'This is Mr Brand boys, from South Africa,' was Amos's presentation. Presentl_ame Niven, a bearded giant, and Mr Norie, the editor, a fat dirty fello_moking a rank cigar. Gilkison of the Boiler-fitters, when he arrived, prove_o be a pleasant young man in spectacles who spoke with an educated voice an_learly belonged to a slightly different social scale. Last came Tombs, th_ambridge 'professor, a lean youth with a sour mouth and eyes that reminded m_f Launcelot Wake.
'Ye'll no be a mawgnate, Mr Brand, though ye come from South Africa,' said M_orie with a great guffaw.
'Not me. I'm a working engineer,' I said. 'My father was from Scotland, an_his is my first visit to my native country, as my friend Mr Amos was tellin_ou.'
The consumptive looked at me suspiciously. 'We've got two—three of th_omrades here that the cawpitalist Government expelled from the Transvaal. I_e're our way of thinking, ye will maybe ken them.'
I said I would be overjoyed to meet them, but that at the time of the outrag_n question I had been working on a mine a thousand miles further north.
Then ensued an hour of extraordinary talk. Tombs in his sing-song namby-pamb_niversity voice was concerned to get information. He asked endless questions, chiefly of Gilkison, who was the only one who really understood his language.
I thought I had never seen anyone quite so fluent and so futile, and yet ther_as a kind of feeble violence in him like a demented sheep. He was engaged i_enting some private academic spite against society, and I thought that in _evolution he would be the class of lad I would personally conduct to th_earest lamp-post. And all the while Amos and Macnab and Niven carried o_heir own conversation about the affairs of their society, wholly imperviou_o the tornado raging around them.
It was Mr Norie, the editor, who brought me into the discussion.
'Our South African friend is very blate,' he said in his boisterous way.
'Andra, if this place of yours wasn't so damned teetotal and we had a dra_piece, we might get his tongue loosened. I want to hear what he's got to sa_bout the war. You told me this morning he was sound in the faith.'
'I said no such thing,' said Mr Amos. 'As ye ken well, Tam Norie, I don'_udge soundness on that matter as you judge it. I'm for the war myself, subject to certain conditions that I've often stated. I know nothing of M_rand's opinions, except that he's a good democrat, which is more than I ca_ay of some o' your friends.'
'Hear to Andra,' laughed Mr Norie. 'He's thinkin' the inspector in th_ocialist State would be a waur kind of awristocrat then the Duke o_uccleuch. Weel, there's maybe something in that. But about the war he'_rong. Ye ken my views, boys. This war was made by the cawpitalists, and i_as been fought by the workers, and it's the workers that maun have the endin_f it. That day's comin' very near. There are those that want to spin it ou_ill Labour is that weak it can be pit in chains for the rest o' time. That'_he manoeuvre we're out to prevent. We've got to beat the Germans, but it'_he workers that has the right to judge when the enemy's beaten and not th_awpitalists. What do you say, Mr Brand?'
Mr Norie had obviously pinned his colours to the fence, but he gave me th_hance I had been looking for. I let them have my views with a vengeance, an_hese views were that for the sake of democracy the war must be ended. _latter myself I put my case well, for I had got up every rotten argument an_ borrowed largely from Launcelot Wake's armoury. But I didn't put it to_ell, for I had a very exact notion of the impression I wanted to produce. _ust seem to be honest and in earnest, just a bit of a fanatic, bu_rincipally a hard-headed businessman who knew when the time had come to mak_ deal. Tombs kept interrupting me with imbecile questions, and I had to si_n him. At the end Mr Norie hammered with his pipe on the table.
'That'll sort ye, Andra. Ye're entertain' an angel unawares. What do ye say t_hat, my man?'
Mr Amos shook his head. 'I'll no deny there's something in it, but I'm no_onvinced that the Germans have got enough of a wheepin'.' Macnab agreed wit_im; the others were with me. Norie was for getting me to write an article fo_is paper, and the consumptive wanted me to address a meeting.
'Wull ye say a' that over again the morn's night down at our hall in Newmiln_treet? We've got a lodge meeting o' the I.W.B., and I'll make them pit ye i_he programme.' He kept his luminous eyes, like a sick dog's, fixed on me, an_ saw that I had made one ally. I told him I had come to Glasgow to learn an_ot to teach, but I would miss no chance of testifying to my faith.
'Now, boys, I'm for my bed,' said Amos, shaking the dottle from his pipe. 'M_ombs, I'll conduct ye the morn over the Brigend works, but I've had enoug_lavers for one evening. I'm a man that wants his eight hours' sleep.'
The old fellow saw them to the door, and came back to me with the ghost of _rin in his face.
'A queer crowd, Mr Brand! Macnab didna like what ye said. He had a laddi_illed in Gallypoly, and he's no lookin' for peace this side the grave. He'_y best friend in Glasgow. He's an elder in the Gaelic kirk in the Cowcaddens, and I'm what ye call a free-thinker, but we're wonderful agreed on th_undamentals. Ye spoke your bit verra well, I must admit. Gresson will hea_ell of ye as a promising recruit.'
'It's a rotten job,' I said.
'Ay, it's a rotten job. I often feel like vomiting over it mysel'. But it's n_or us to complain. There's waur jobs oot in France for better men … A word i_our ear, Mr Brand. Could ye not look a bit more sheepish? Ye stare folk owe_traight in the een, like a Hieland sergeant-major up at Maryhill Barracks.'
And he winked slowly and grotesquely with his left eye.
He marched to a cupboard and produced a black bottle and glass. 'I'm blue- ribbon myself, but ye'll be the better of something to tak the taste out o_our mouth. There's Loch Katrine water at the pipe there … As I was saying, there's not much ill in that lot. Tombs is a black offence, but a dominie's _ominie all the world over. They may crack about their Industrial Workers an_he braw things they're going to do, but there's a wholesome dampness abou_he tinder on Clydeside. They should try Ireland.'
Supposing,' I said, 'there was a really clever man who wanted to help th_nemy. You think he could do little good by stirring up trouble in the shop_ere?'
'And if he were a shrewd fellow, he'd soon tumble to that?'
'Then if he still stayed on here he would be after bigger game— somethin_eally dangerous and damnable?'
Amos drew down his brows and looked me in the face. 'I see what ye're ettlin'
at. Ay! That would be my conclusion. I came to it weeks syne about the ma_e'll maybe meet the morn's night.'
Then from below the bed he pulled a box from which he drew a handsome flute.
'Ye'll forgive me, Mr Brand, but I aye like a tune before I go to my bed.
Macnab says his prayers, and I have a tune on the flute, and the principle i_ust the same.'
So that singular evening closed with music—very sweet and true renderings o_ld Border melodies like 'My Peggy is a young thing', and 'When the kye com_ame'. I fell asleep with a vision of Amos, his face all puckered up at th_outh and a wandering sentiment in his eye, recapturing in his dingy world th_motions of a boy.
* * * * *
The widow-woman from next door, who acted as house-keeper, cook, and genera_actotum to the establishment, brought me shaving water next morning, but _ad to go without a bath. When I entered the kitchen I found no one there, bu_hile I consumed the inevitable ham and egg, Amos arrived back for breakfast.
He brought with him the morning's paper.
'The Herald says there's been a big battle at Eepers,' he announced.
I tore open the sheet and read of the great attack of 31 July which wa_poiled by the weather. 'My God!' I cried. 'They've got St Julien and tha_irty Frezenberg ridge … and Hooge … and Sanctuary Wood. I know every inch o_he damned place… .'
'Mr Brand,' said a warning voice, 'that'll never do. If our friends last nigh_eard ye talk like that ye might as well tak the train back to London … They're speakin' about ye in the yards this morning. ye'll get a good turnou_t your meeting the night, but they're Sayin' that the polis will interfere.
That mightna be a bad thing, but I trust ye to show discretion, for ye'll no_e muckle use to onybody if they jyle ye in Duke Street. I hear Gresson wil_e there with a fraternal message from his lunatics in America … I've arrange_hat ye go down to Tam Norie this afternoon and give him a hand with his bi_aper. Tam will tell ye the whole clash o' the West country, and I look to y_o keep him off the drink. He's aye arguin' that writin' and drinkin' gan_hegither, and quotin' Robert Burns, but the creature has a wife and fiv_airns dependin' on him.'
I spent a fantastic day. For two hours I sat in Norie's dirty den, while h_moked and orated, and, when he remembered his business, took down i_horthand my impressions of the Labour situation in South Africa for his rag.
They were fine breezy impressions, based on the most whole-hearted ignorance, and if they ever reached the Rand I wonder what my friends there made o_ornelius Brand, their author. I stood him dinner in an indifferent eating- house in a street off the Broomielaw, and thereafter had a drink with him in _ublic-house, and was introduced to some of his less reputable friends.
About tea-time I went back to Amos's lodgings, and spent an hour or so writin_ long letter to Mr Ivery. I described to him everybody I had met, I gav_ighly coloured views of the explosive material on the Clyde, and I deplore_he lack of clearheadedness in the progressive forces. I drew an elaborat_icture of Amos, and deduced from it that the Radicals were likely to be a ba_o true progress. 'They have switched their old militancy,' I wrote, 'on t_nother track, for with them it is a matter of conscience to be alway_ilitant.' I finished up with some very crude remarks on economics culled fro_he table-talk of the egregious Tombs. It was the kind of letter which I hope_ould establish my character in his mind as an industrious innocent.
Seven o'clock found me in Newmilns Street, where I was seized upon by Wilkie.
He had put on a clean collar for the occasion and had partially washed hi_hin face. The poor fellow had a cough that shook him like the walls of _ower-house when the dynamos are going.
He was very apologetic about Amos. 'Andra belongs to a past worrld,' he said.
'He has a big reputation in his society, and he's a fine fighter, but he ha_o kind of Vision, if ye understand me. He's an auld Gladstonian, and that'_one and damned in Scotland. He's not a Modern, Mr Brand, like you and me. Bu_onight ye'll meet one or two chaps that'll be worth your while to ken. Ye'l_aybe no go quite as far as them, but ye're on the same road. I'm hoping fo_he day when we'll have oor Councils of Workmen and Soldiers like the Russian_ll over the land and dictate our terms to the pawrasites in Pawrliament. The_ell me, too, the boys in the trenches are comin' round to our side.'
We entered the hall by a back door, and in a little waiting-room I wa_ntroduced to some of the speakers. They were a scratch lot as seen in tha_ingy place. The chairman was a shop-steward in one of the Societies, a fierc_ittle rat of a man, who spoke with a cockney accent and addressed me as
'Comrade'. But one of them roused my liveliest interest. I heard the name o_resson, and turned to find a fellow of about thirty-five, rather sprucel_ressed, with a flower in his buttonhole. 'Mr Brand,' he said, in a ric_merican voice which recalled Blenkiron's. 'Very pleased to meet you, sir. W_ave Come from remote parts of the globe to be present at this gathering.' _oticed that he had reddish hair, and small bright eyes, and a nose with _roop like a Polish Jew's.
As soon as we reached the platform I saw that there was going to be trouble.
The hall was packed to the door, and in all the front half there was the kin_f audience I expected to see—working-men of the political type who before th_ar would have thronged to party meetings. But not all the crowd at the bac_ad come to listen. Some were scallawags, some looked like better-class clerk_ut for a spree, and there was a fair quantity of khaki. There were also on_r two gentlemen not strictly sober.
The chairman began by putting his foot in it. He said we were there tonight t_rotest against the continuation of the war and to form a branch of the ne_ritish Council of Workmen and Soldiers. He told them with a fine mixture o_etaphors that we had got to take the reins into our own hands, for the me_ho were running the war had their own axes to grind and were marching t_ligarchy through the blood of the workers. He added that we had no quarre_ith Germany half as bad as we had with our own capitalists. He looked forwar_o the day when British soldiers would leap from their trenches and extend th_and of friendship to their German comrades.
'No me!' said a solemn voice. 'I'm not seekin' a bullet in my wame,'—at whic_here was laughter and cat-calls.
Tombs followed and made a worse hash of it. He was determined to speak, as h_ould have put it, to democracy in its own language, so he said 'hell' severa_imes, loudly but without conviction. Presently he slipped into the manner o_he lecturer, and the audience grew restless. 'I propose to ask myself _uestion—' he began, and from the back of the hall came—'And a damned sull_nswer ye'll get.' After that there was no more Tombs.
I followed with extreme nervousness, and to my surprise got a fair hearing. _elt as mean as a mangy dog on a cold morning, for I hated to talk rot befor_oldiers—especially before a couple of Royal Scots Fusiliers, who, for all _new, might have been in my own brigade. My line was the plain, practical, patriotic man, just come from the colonies, who looked at things with fres_yes, and called for a new deal. I was very moderate, but to justify m_ppearance there I had to put in a wild patch or two, and I got these b_mpassioned attacks on the Ministry of Munitions. I mixed up a little mil_raise of the Germans, whom I said I had known all over the world for decen_ellows. I received little applause, but no marked dissent, and sat down wit_eep thankfulness.
The next speaker put the lid on it. I believe he was a noted agitator, who ha_lready been deported. Towards him there was no lukewarmness, for one half o_he audience cheered wildly when he rose, and the other half hissed an_roaned. He began with whirlwind abuse of the idle rich, then of the middle- classes (he called them the 'rich man's flunkeys'), and finally of th_overnment. All that was fairly well received, for it is the fashion of th_riton to run down every Government and yet to be very averse to parting fro_t. Then he started on the soldiers and slanged the officers ('gentry pups'
was his name for them), and the generals, whom he accused of idleness, o_owardice, and of habitual intoxication. He told us that our own kith and ki_ere sacrificed in every battle by leaders who had not the guts to share thei_isks. The Scots Fusiliers looked perturbed, as if they were in doubt of hi_eaning. Then he put it more plainly. 'Will any soldier deny that the men ar_he barrage to keep the officers' skins whole?'
'That's a bloody lee,' said one of the Fusilier jocks.
The man took no notice of the interruption, being carried away by the torren_f his own rhetoric, but he had not allowed for the persistence of th_nterrupter. The jock got slowly to his feet, and announced that he wante_atisfaction. 'If ye open your dirty gab to blagyird honest men, I'll come u_n the platform and wring your neck.'
At that there was a fine old row, some crying out 'Order', some 'Fair play', and some applauding. A Canadian at the back of the hall started a song, an_here was an ugly press forward. The hall seemed to be moving up from th_ack, and already men were standing in all the passages and right to the edg_f the platform. I did not like the look in the eyes of these new-comers, an_mong the crowd I saw several who were obviously plain-clothes policemen.
The chairman whispered a word to the speaker, who continued when the noise ha_emporarily died down. He kept off the army and returned to the Government, and for a little sluiced out pure anarchism. But he got his foot in it again, for he pointed to the Sinn Feiners as examples of manly independence. At that, pandemonium broke loose, and he never had another look in. There were severa_ights going on in the hall between the public and courageous supporters o_he orator.
Then Gresson advanced to the edge of the platform in a vain endeavour t_etrieve the day. I must say he did it uncommonly well. He was clearly _ractised speaker, and for a moment his appeal 'Now, boys, let's cool down _it and talk sense,' had an effect. But the mischief had been done, and th_rowd was surging round the lonely redoubt where we sat. Besides, I could se_hat for all his clever talk the meeting did not like the look of him. He wa_s mild as a turtle dove, but they wouldn't stand for it. A missile hurtle_ast my nose, and I saw a rotten cabbage envelop the baldish head of the ex- deportee. Someone reached out a long arm and grabbed a chair, and with it too_he legs from Gresson. Then the lights suddenly went out, and we retreated i_ood order by the platform door with a yelling crowd at our heels.
It was here that the plain-clothes men came in handy. They held the door whil_he ex-deportee was smuggled out by some side entrance. That class of la_ould soon cease to exist but for the protection of the law which he woul_bolish. The rest of us, having less to fear, were suffered to leak int_ewmilns Street. I found myself next to Gresson, and took his arm. There wa_omething hard in his coat pocket.
Unfortunately there was a big lamp at the point where we emerged, and ther_or our confusion were the Fusilier jocks. Both were strung to fighting pitch, and were determined to have someone's blood. Of me they took no notice, bu_resson had spoken after their ire had been roused, and was marked out as _ictim. With a howl of joy they rushed for him.
I felt his hand steal to his side-pocket. 'Let that alone, you fool,' _rowled in his ear.
'Sure, mister,' he said, and the next second we were in the thick of it.
It was like so many street fights I have seen—an immense crowd which surged u_round us, and yet left a clear ring. Gresson and I got against the wall o_he side-walk, and faced the furious soldiery. My intention was to do a_ittle as possible, but the first minute convinced me that my companion had n_dea how to use his fists, and I was mortally afraid that he would get bus_ith the gun in his pocket. It was that fear that brought me into the scrap.
The jocks were sportsmen every bit of them, and only one advanced to th_ombat. He hit Gresson a clip on the jaw with his left, and but for the wal_ould have laid him out. I saw in the lamplight the vicious gleam in th_merican's eye and the twitch of his hand to his pocket. That decided me t_nterfere and I got in front of him.
This brought the second jock into the fray. He was a broad, thickset fellow, of the adorable bandy-legged stocky type that I had seen go through th_ailway Triangle at Arras as though it were blotting-paper. He had some notio_f fighting, too, and gave me a rough time, for I had to keep edging the othe_ellow off Gresson.
'Go home, you fool,' I shouted. 'Let this gentleman alone. I don't want t_urt you.'
The only answer was a hook-hit which I just managed to guard, followed by _ighty drive with his right which I dodged so that he barked his knuckles o_he wall. I heard a yell of rage, and observed that Gresson seemed to hav_icked his assailant on the shin. I began to long for the police.
Then there was that swaying of the crowd which betokens the approach of th_orces of law and order. But they were too late to prevent trouble. In self- defence I had to take my jock seriously, and got in my blow when he ha_verreached himself and lost his balance. I never hit anyone so unwillingly i_y life. He went over like a poled ox, and measured his length on th_auseway.
I found myself explaining things politely to the constables. 'These me_bjected to this gentleman's speech at the meeting, and I had to interfere t_rotect him. No, no! I don't want to charge anybody. It was all _isunderstanding.' I helped the stricken jock to rise and offered him ten bo_or consolation.
He looked at me sullenly and spat on the ground. 'Keep your dirty money,' h_aid. 'I'll be even with ye yet, my man—you and that red-headed scab. I'l_ind the looks of ye the next time I see ye.'
Gresson was wiping the blood from his cheek with a silk handkerchief. 'I gues_'m in your debt, Mr Brand,' he said. 'You may bet I won't forget it.'
* * * * *
I returned to an anxious Amos. He heard my story in silence and his onl_omment was—'Well done the Fusiliers!'
'It might have been worse, I'll not deny,' he went on. 'Ye've established som_ind of a claim upon Gresson, which may come in handy … Speaking abou_resson, I've news for ye. He's sailing on Friday as purser in the Tobermory.
The Tobermory's a boat that wanders every month up the West Highlands as fa_s Stornoway. I've arranged for ye to take a trip on that boat, Mr Brand.'
I nodded. 'How did you find out that?' I asked.
'It took me some finding,' he said dryly, 'but I've ways and means. Now I'l_ot trouble ye with advice, for ye ken your job as well as me. But I'm goin_orth myself the morn to look after some of the Ross-shire wuds, and I'll b_n the way of getting telegrams at the Kyle. Ye'll keep that in mind. Keep i_ind, too, that I'm a great reader of the Pilgrim's Progress and that I've _ousin of the name of Ochterlony.'