The Seizure of the Channel Tunnel
THE SEIZURE OF THE CHANNEL TUNNEL.
A TALE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
I Little thought that it would ever have fallen to my lot to tell the saddest and strangest story that has ever come to pass in our English annals. I suppose that since the episode of the Trojan Horse, if our Homeric writers will allow that this episode is historical, there has been no stratagem in war so daring, so immoral and so triumphant as was the seizure of the International Tunnel. It so happens that I myself bore some insignificant share in the marvellous series of transactions which made up the great catastrophe, and I have collected information from friends who have been behind the scenes besides that which the public have gathered from the ordinary journals. From all these sources I put together the sad narrative which I have to tell, which may serve as a memoir, pour assieter a Vhwtoire, which some historian even now living may take in hand—the task of writing " The Decline and Fall of Great Britain."
How well I remember that sweet spring evening when I left London on my fateful journey to Dover, intending to take the express train from the latter place through to Paris, and then to proceed to Nice to meet a beloved relative who had been obliged to spend a winter in the Riviera on account of a pulmonary complaint. The weather had been extremely unsettled for the last few days in London, and the wind had charged through the tall narrow London streets as sharply as through a mountain gorge. We were now almost within the equinoctial gales, and so this was to be expected. The journey was made .without any incident to Dover. I dozed over the evening's papers, which contained one or two paragraphs which I passed unnoticed, paragraphs which afterwards acquired a sad significance. When we got to Dover, Admiral Fitzroy's storm signals were flying. One or two of us congratulated ourselves that the Tunnel had effectually removed the sea-sickness, which to me, at least, had always been the greatest discomfort and discouragement. On political and national grounds, however, I had always been an opponent of the Tunnel scheme. From my heart I had always echoed the words of the great Victorian poet:
" I say again Heaven bless the narrow seas, I wish they were a whole Atlantic broad."
The great engineering experiment had proved so successful, the financial part of the scheme had turned out so well, that many who had cavilled at the plan, seeing how successful had been the success, gave up their objections and chose to range themselves on the winning side. This, however, was not my own way of looking at things. It so happened that for years past I had been thrown into somewhat intimate relations with residents in Dover. I had not witnessed without concern the decay and collapse of what had once been a busy and prosperous port. The railway had necessarily told severely on all shipping interests. There was still a somewhat uncertain line of steamers; for various passengers, on account of the greater cheapness, preferred this route, and most of the heavy goods traffic was still carried on by water. But financially Dover was ruined. No one cared to stay long at Dover, except a few tourists and archaeologists, when there was direct uninterrupted transit between London and Paris. Dover was fast shrivelling into the insignificance of Winchelsea and Rye. There had been also a great deal of decay in the bold seafaring spirit that formerly distinguished the men of Kent. This, however, was said to be by no means peculiar to the sailors of the south coast; but, so said the students of contemporary manners, there had been a gradual decline of the old naval spirit throughout the country from the time that England from being an island had become a peninsula. I used to meditate on the changed state of things somewhat sadly as I took my favourite walk between the ancient castles of Walmer and Dover, and thought of two Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports, Wellington and Palmerston, who had warned their countrymen against the terrible possibilities of a hostile invasion.
London invaded! Why, two generations ago men had hardly listened to the great Duke, or the popular Premier, and they were not now likely to listen to small dukes, or any number of other people on the subject. With difficulty the nation had consented to the construction of a certain number of forts, but for the most part these were only serviceable on the side towards the sea, and possessed little military value in case of a land invasion. Parliament thought that even this expense involved too high a premium for our national insurance, and the forts had become little better than sham-castles which some country gentlemen have built as a kind of huge toy upon their estates. It had come to be an undisputed article in the national faith that London would never pass into hostile occupation. Yet, why, in the nature of things, should we hope that we could always preserve such wonderful immunity from the chances of war? In the old Napoleonic wars nearly every European capital had been occupied in its turn. Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Vienna, Madrid, Lisbon, Rome, Warsaw, each had experienced the bitter truth of the exclamation of Vce Victis; had known the prolonged agony and shame of crouching beneath the conqueror's hoofs. Some of us had even fondly imagined that British virtue and intrepidity had earned some kind of immunity from the disasters that had befallen foreign lands. We had long ago abandoned any kind of pretence to such conceited dreams. England and the Continent had entirely assimilated in social matters and in standards of opinion, and the subway beneath the Channel waters had virtually abolished the geographical distinction. Napoleon once claimed that there were no more Alps, and Englishmen, deceived by a more fatal eloquence than Sinon's, had consented to abrogate the English Channel.
Hoc Ithacus velit et magno mercentur Atrida.
So far from an invasion of London being an impossibility, there was for many years no more attractive subject to the students of military science than speculations respecting an invasion of England. Every Prussian officer who played the game of Kriegspiel had cut and dried a plan of operations. It was a well-known saying of the great Moltke that England was easily capable of being invaded in at least five different directions. Moltke had, however, the candour of owning that though he might easily land an army in England, he did not so easily see his way to withdrawing it. This was the great difficulty, but it was a difficulty which was effectually removed by the device of the Channel Tunnel. London had become the greatest military prize in the world, and the most accessible; the most enormous bribe ever proffered to human cupidity and ambition since Babylon the Great fell before the Mede, and it was destined to fall like Babylon, through a kind of artificial drying up of her waters. " My God, what a city for a sack ! " exclaimed Blucher, as he rode through the London streets on the occasion of the visit of the Allied Sovereigns in 1815; and when a hundred years had passed away there came such a realisation as would have satisfied the wildest dream of the Cossack or the Uhlan.
That memorable April evening when I arrived at Dover, though the wind was still exceedingly high, the rain had ceased, and there was clear moonlight, except when broken by the scudding clouds. Though a consistent opponent of the Tunnel, I could not, for that night only, forbear from congratulating m}rself on the fact of its existence. Indeed, it was a fierce gale, and the white horses were racing across the Channel. Knowing Dover well, I left my luggage in the cloak-room, intending to spend an hour or two with a dear old friend in the town, who kept rather late hours, and, indeed, would give me a welcome at any hour of the day or night. I little thought that owing to this circumstance I should be the last passenger in the last train that should run from England to France. I strolled out, for there was a touch of spring which I loved even in this high boisterous wind, which was refreshing after the hours I had passed in the close railway carriage and the close London rooms. I was making my call as much for the walk as for the call itself. As I passed through the silent, gusty streets, I looked up to the magnificent castle, even more magnificent now, through additions and alterations, than in any previous period of its existence. And yet Dover Castle had always been a matter of anxiety and regret to the few old-fashioned people who persisted in looking at the Channel Tunnel from the point of view of high politics instead of from merely economic considerations. If ever there should be a castle that should be rendered impregnable by the best modern science and skill it should have been Dover Castle. It should have been as Cronstadt, as Ehrenbreitstein, as Gibraltar. But here again the financial difficulty had stood in the way. Obviously the expense of the fortifications of Dover ought to have been thrown upon the Channel Company, whose prosperous scheme had rendered these fortifications doubly and trebly necessary. The Company in their turn would have raised their fares, including the burden in the price of their tickets, and the incidence of the taxation would have fallen on the very people, the travellers, who ought to bear it. This was almost uniformly the case in Continental countries, where fortifications were maintained on all international points of route. Something indeed was paid by the Company, not without much grumbling and some agitation, in which they met with general sympathy from the vast railway interest in England, which for years had grown exceedingly impatient under its fiscal burdens. The abrogation of Lord Campbell's useful Act, some years ago, had been followed by such an increase in the statistics of railway accidents, that for the time no further concession had seemed probable for the proprietors of the steel rails. The result had been that the Castle, though rendered a fine work of its kind, was utterly inadequate for any great emergency that would arise, for the special emergency, its raison d'etre, of a French invasion. This was sadly shown in the light of subsequent events. Going thus to call on my old friend, I turned back for a glance at Shakespeare's Cliff, near the base of which the submarine Tunnel passed into the sea. As I gazed up towards that commanding height involuntarily Shakespeare's noble lines recurred to my memory—
" This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise ; This fortress, built by Nature for herself. Against infection and the hand of war : This happy breed of men, this little world; This precious stone set in the silver sea Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house Against the envy of less happier lands ; This blessed plot, thiB earth, this realm, this England, This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land. Deiir for her reputation through the world."
I am not ashamed to say that the tears gathered in my eyes as I looked up towards Shakespeare's Cliff and repeated to myself Shakespeare's lines. Almost with a shudder I recalled the lines
that followed hard upon these, lines that were ominous enough—
" England, bound in with the triumphant sea, Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege Of waters, Neptune is bound in with shame, With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds ; That England who was wont to conquer others, Hath made a shameful conquest of itself."
Oh, the pity of it; Oh, the pity of it! We ourselves had filled up our moat with rubbish and rubble, we had pulled down our wall, we had demolished our fortress, we had thrown away the priceless jewel, " the precious stone set in the silver sea."
The house of my friend lay a little outside the town of Dover. I used to amuse myself in my visits to him thinking that I was going over the same ground as did David Copperfield in his visit to his aunt. My friend himself would not have been a bad pendant to Dickens' celebrated portrait. He was an old Indian colonel, who had bought for himself a pretty little place called the Bungalow. He lived with a little boy, the child of his dead daughter, whose husband was a captain in the Royal Navy. The child had both an English and an Indian nurse, but in other respects the old colonel took charge of the little creature himself. In honour of the other branch of the service, and in recognition of his maritime position the colonel had reared a tall mast in his garden, and swept the seas with a powerful nautical telescope. He had almost subsided again into the ways of old bachelordom, except that he often numbered ladies among his visitors. He was the most kindly-hearted and hospitable of men, and as he sat up very late at night, reading and making notes and extract* with great voluminousness, the house was one of the very few where I might safely call at any hour, and make sure of finding my friend at home.
The "neat-handed" Phyllis admitted me, and I entered his study. He looked up with a kindly nod, followed by a kindly grasp.
"So you have not forgotten your promise to the old man to spare him an hour or two when you should next be passing through Dover?"
" It has been a pleasure in reserve," I answered. " Something to look forward to."
" What shall it be ? " he said, pleasantly; " whisky and seltzer, or some hot coffee ? "
" The night is rather chill," I answered; " I should be glad of a cup of hot coffee."
" I suppose that, using the Tunnel, you run through to Paris so often that you are as much a Frenchman as an Englishman ? "
" Almost," I answered, " and, indeed, more so, for I was born in Paris, and by the French law I have a right to declare myself a Frenchman if I choose."
" Oh, but you must not do that," he exclaimed. " I know that it is the fashion to consider patriotism merely an enlarged kind of local prejudice, but for all that I do not think that any Englishman should under any circumstances become a Frenchman."
" You need not be alarmed," I said. " I certainly have no intention."
" We have not been at war with them for a century, but even a century is not a very long space in the life of nations. They were our chronic enemies for half a dozen centuries before our last great fight."
" And now we are all cosmopolitans together."
" I suppose so. The Tunnel has effaced all our insular angularities, although the French have been very sore with us since all our commercial treaties have been broken off. I am told that at the present time Brighton is as much French as English. The French have deserted Etretat and Dieppe to come over to the Sussex watering-places. There is a regular Anglomania, just as there was before the outbreak of the first French revolution. A friend called on me from Hastings, only yesterday, and he said that every second person on the Esplanade was jabbering French."
" I cannot say, that politically speaking, I ever liked the Tunnel. But I do not deny that it has had a humanising influence in throwing the two races together, and so promoting some of the highest aims of civilisation. As a speculation, though it has ruined the fortunes of others, ruined the fortunes of Dover, yet it has made its own fortune. Twelve and a half per cent, is something not to be sneezed at; much better than the shares of the Suez Canal, better than the shares of the Panama Canal."
" It is good for Frenchmen rather than for Englishmen," growled the colonel. " You will find that nearly the whole of the scrip is held by French capitalists. The true home of the undertaking is the Bourse and not the Royal Exchange."
" Many ships in the offing to-day," I enquired.
" No," he answered, somewhat abruptly. " There have not been many ships. There never are so many ships as there used to be ; and the Deal fishermen say that there have never been such good fish taken as before the Tunnel was made."
I could not help smiling to myself, although to some extent I sympathised with the colonel. I thought that there was as much basis, that is to say no basis at all, for the one idea as for the other. But Indian colonels seem to have a born right to be grumblers and alarmists.
The colonel ventured on another of his incontrovertible propositions : " The country is going to the dogs."
"The country," he went on to explain, "is like the Sluggards' Garden in the Proverbs. It is no longer a garden enclosed. We have broken down all its fences and defences. The wild boar may ravage it at any time. I know you do not quite go with me, but I ;^ive you proof positive of what I say, chapter and verse for it all. Look at our army and navy. The first Napoleon said that we had the best troops in the world, and professed to be grateful to providence that there were so few of them. Few as they were he found that they were too much and too many of them. Now our best officers are superannuated at the age when they would be of most use, and where shall we find disciplined veterans among our short service men."
" I think I can anticipate what you are going to say about our navy."
" I am sure you can. It has always been our pride and necessity —at least before this confounded Tunnel gave a complete bouleveraement to all our calculations—that England, though not a military, must be the first naval power of the world. The old and true doctrine was that the fleet of England ought to be a match for all the fleets of the world combined. Then we modified the doctrine, most unsafely modified it in my opinion. We contented ourselves with saying that our fleet ought to be equivalent to the fleets of any two countries in the world. It is very much a question if our naval forces are really as strong as those of France, I expect that we are very nearly a match. Some calculations make the French fleet a little stronger than ours. Other calculations make our fleet a little stronger than the French. But there can be no doubt that if any other fleet, the fleet of Italy or of Germany, or of the United States, were thrown into the scales against us, in combination with the French fleet, the preponderance would be altogether against us."
" That's bad. Let us hope that an occasion of test will never arise."
" Sooner or later it is sure to arise. There is no weaker fallacy than to suppose that because a thing has never yet happened that therefore it is never going to happen. This, most English people think, is the case with an invasion of England."
" You anticipate an invasion."
" I think it is one of the events of the future. Where it is to come from I do not guess. It might be through that tunnel just below our feet. It might be by a descent upon our coast. It might be from France or from Germany or from Russia. I cloes not follow that the French could alone use that tunnel. Any power that was in possession of the north of France might use it for a coup de main."
" The political atmosphere seems clear."
"Tolerably; but not so clear as when Lord Granville said thr.t there was absolutely nothing to do at the Foreign Office, and then came the outbreak of the Franco-German war."
" Still you admit that the sky is clear."
" I do ; but let me tell you something, which I do not understand myself, neither will you. I feel dreadfully uneasy at times. VOL. VII. H
There is something in the air. Something is going to happen. At night I feel restless. I get up and roam about the house. I have an unceasing sense of insecurity about me. I seem to be only living from day to day, and unknowing what a day might bring forth."
" Are you afraid of burglars or pirates ? Do you think that some convicts may escape from Chatham and come down upon you, or that some sea-rover Tom Jones, may anchor in the roads and send a boatload of men to sack your house."
" It is very curious that my vague apprehensions do at times take a shape more like burglary or piracy than anything else. But no such burglary or piracy against which I might bar my door, or where my gun and my man-servant would be of any use. But I expect that I am in a bad nervous state. Only, this feeling, of which I tell you, is real and intense. It may portend an illness. It may portend sudden death."
" Such unpleasant prophecies sometimes work their own accomplishment, Colonel. You should be very careful how you indulge in them."
" Last night I had a dream. It was a very singular one. Perhaps you do not believe in dreams. I am one who do. I saw two noble-looking men stand face to face. Each one was armed to the teeth. They saluted with grave composure and dignity. You might have thought that they were brothers-in-arms—friends who had met by arrangement. Suddenly each hand was laid upon the sword. The weapons crossed. The sparks flashed out. Then ensued a struggle of so terrific a kind—terrific beyond all that I could have imagined—that I awoke trembling and in dismay. I have been haunted by the uncanny memory of that dream ever since."
Was it that the sunset of life gave my old friend this mystical lore ? " And coming events cast their shadows before ? "
"Do you think that your dream portends, if it portends anything, some public or some private sorrow ? "
"I do not know. I fear one or the other, or both. As for this old England of ours, I expect that it will last my time, but I dare not say that I expect that it will last the time of my dear grandson, now lying asleep in his little cot in the next room."
I little expected that the next time that I should visit this spot there should be ravage and ruin in the modest homestead, that the old man should lie sabred on his hearth, and the little child near him, shot through the lungs.
I had to hasten away if 1 was to be in good time for the express, that was now due within three-quarters of an hour.
Sir Edward Coke, in the time of James the First, delivered a very remarkable speech on the prosecution for the Gunpowder Treason. He said, if I remember aright, that before the accomplishment of any great crime, or, indeed, of any stupendous events, there were dim whispers abroad, vague presentiments, dark intimations. How did it happen, for instance, that within an hour or two of the battle of Waterloo—when it was utterly impossible that any authentic intelligence could have come to hand—that there were confident statements that a great battle, in which the English were victorious, had been fought in Belgium. When an Emperor was killed, there was a seer who declared at the very moment he saw, in a vision, the monarch fall. What was that mournful cry that the merchantman heard, coasting along an Ionian island, that great Pan was dead ? I was sorry to hear my dear old friend speak as he had done. I was sure that he was in a state of depression, and I suspected the existence of some mental or bodily disease; but, curiously enough, just before I left town, I had a conversation with a friend which presented some striking coincidences to Colonel L.'s dispirited talk. It was a coincidence which, somehow or other, annoyed and distressed me. The two lines of remark, coming from two persons who possessed great influence over my mind, threw me into a state of melancholy cogitation for the rest of my walk to the station. At the risk of interrupting the order of my narrative—though it will subsequently be seen that it has a considerable bearing on it—I will revert to what had happened earlier in the day, just before I left London for Dover.
Having this journey to Paris on hand, I had dined at my club, at an absurdly early hour, having omitted my usual lunch. For some time I was all alone in the big dining-room. Then I perceived Jack Willoughby enter, who drew up to my table and ordered something to eat, which he positively declared was his breakfast and the first meal that he had taken that day. Willoughby was a man whom I liked very much. There was always something that was interesting and instructive in his talk. He was a man who had served for years in the army, had then sold out, and had taken to journalism as a profession. He was a quiet, reflective sort of man, singularly free from any Linge of Bohemianism, and carried military punctuality and uprightness into all the details of journalistic labours—labours which, in his case, reposed on a solid basis of thought and study. He had only finished his leader at three in the morning, had got home by five, had got to bed by six, and was now taking his breakfast in the afternoon.
" Any news, Willoughby ?" I asked him.
" Really," he answered, consciously or unconsciously repeating a mot of William Pitt's, " I cannot tell you. I have not yet had time to look at the papers."
I said something, condoling with him on his late hours, of which this was not my first experience.
" I really hardly know which is the worst," he said, " being a leader-writer at home or a war correspondent abroad."
"Not much room for war correspondents just now," I said. " The gates of the Temple of Janus are closed."
" The gates of Janus are closed," he said, " that is true. But tell me when were they ever closed for more than a year or two? I have myself a sort of idea that they will he open again before long."
" What makes you say that ? "
" There are one or two circumstances that make me uneasy. Our private letters from Paris say more than we choose to print in our public letters. There has also been, we suspect, an espionage over our letters, and over our correspondents', and over the French provincial press. We have reason to suspect that there is a great massing of troops and artillery in the northern provinces, especially the Pas-de-Calais, and that there are operations which are sedulously kept secret and of which we know nothing."
"That is very strange. Our country at least has no quarrel with France."
" I will not go so far as to say that. On one or two points the political situation has been rather strained within the last week or ten days. There is always some sort of difficulty, especially since we have ceased to have any kind of commercial treaty, and that French policy in Africa strikes at us through Turkey. But there are no difficulties that ought not to yield to an interchange of ideas, a little friendly discussion, or a reference to an arbitrator at the outside. France has differences, chronic differences, that are much more serious with Germany. Our own difficulty is, as usual, with Ireland, and we may add India, too, since the French have acquired such overwhelming influence in Egypt."
" Our peace with France has now been uninterrupted for generations, and we have fought side by side. I never liked Gambetta, but during his long dictatorship he invariably showed himself a man of progressive liberal ideas."
" And now we have a new dynasty, or rather the revival of the old. The very necessity of such a dynasty, sooner or later, is that of wars. Every European war is a civil war, and as his statesmen pointed out to the first Napoleon, the ruin of England must prove something most ruinous to France. But that did not prevent the first Napoleon from seeking our destruction. I do not think that there are any particular circumstances that call for alarm except that in my judgment the Tunnel is always a standing threat. The third Napoleon once said, though you do not find it in Les IdSes NapolSoniennes, that all France wanted was a tunnel beneath the Channel. But I look at the times simply as a student of history, and war always crops up, after a certain time, like a recurring decimal."
" And we have been at peace so long ! "
" A great deal too much stress may be laid on that argument. We have been at peace, but then how often have we been close upon war ! We hear of the railway accidents that happen, but we do not hear of those which just escape happening. Why, in our great Queen Victoria's time we were close upon war with France nearly half a dozen times. We nearly went to war on that wretched Tahiti business, on the Mehemet Ali business, on the French Colonels' business, besides the one or two more recent troubles which we all remember. Since we have had peace so long it is rather an argument that peace may be nearly coming to an end."
" A great and chivalrous nation would never have the vulgar dishonesty of committing an act of piracy or villainy such as seizing the Channel Tunnel would be."
" A great and chivalrous nation would argue that the Channel was just as much theirs as ours, and indeed that they have a larger interest in it. If they made the attempt and succeeded, any supposed attempt against public morality would be condoned. I do not say that there are not multitudes of high-toned public men in France who would look with abhorrence upon such an act. The public conscience of the country was perhaps never so keenly educated as at the present moment. All actions of this kind belong to a limited executive. When has such an executive in France, or indeed of any other country except, perhaps, our own at the present time, in the case of a political necessity, ever shown itself incapable of violence and fraud ? The seizure of the Tunnel would hardly be so bad as the seizure of the Due d'Enghien in Baden territory. It would not be worse than the occupation of Tunis or the attack upon Tripoli. It would not be so bad as the seizure of the Pyrenean forts by the first Napoleon, at the time when Spaniards and Frenchmen were actually fighting side by side. The French are forgetting the lessons of the German war, just as at the time of the German war they forgot the lessons of Leipsic and Waterloo. In case of a war breaking out between France and any nation every effort would be made to seize and occupy all the chief places of the enemy's country. It was so in Germany in the Seven Years' War, and also in the Seven Weeks' War. If the French were to seize the Tunnel, without any declaration of war at all, they would only say that their conduct was just the same as our own in seizing the Danish fleet at Copenhagen."
Such conversation had my friend and I in the smoking-room after our meal, lounging away the time till a hansom should come round from my lodgings, hard at hand, to take me to the railway station. Air. Willoughby was going beyond Charing Cross, and he took his seat beside me. He was interested in the conversation, and, moreover, he was a man whose constant habit it was, like others of his class, to formulate and ventilate his opinions, and to collect the impressions of others. Before now I had seen some humble remarks which I had offered him, served up in newspaper columns. After all we were rather early at the station, and for some little time we walked up and down on the departure platform.
It only wanted one minute and a half to the time of the starting of the train, when there was a sudden irruption on the platform, and a large party of nearly two dozen prepared to take their places in the train. My friend regarded them with his usual steady, scrutinising look.
" You are travelling with rather illustrious company, to-night, Mr. Arundel. Unless I am greatly deceived, there goes the French Ambassador." Then he walked a little further on, to steady his vision more certainly beneath the electric light. " Good gracious!" he exclaimed, " this is the first Attacks, and the second Attache, and the third Attachd, and the Secretary of Legation, and most of the members of the household. There is a complete Embassy from Albert Crate. I wonder if they have got wind of this at our office."
Just then the call was made " take your seats, gentlemen ! " A parting salutation, and I lost sight of him for ever.
It was certainly very singular that I should have had two such conversations the same day, first with my friend Willoughby, and afterwards with Colonel L. The conversation of the last had served to recall vividly every word that I had heard at the Club, in the earlier part of the day. I tried to think of something else, but most pertinaciously my thoughts reverted to each line of the argument in each case. It was odd that a thoughtful recluse like Colonel L. and an active unprejudiced man of the world like Mr. or rather Captain Willoughby, to give him his usual title, should within a few hours have adopted this pessimistic language. Involuntarily 1 hastened my pace, though I was in good time for the train, but I recognised that a weird feeling was on me, a feeling that in my absolute loneliness I was not alone. There was no mark of foot-prints in the misty highway, for those of the day had been effaced by the rain, and none in the deserted street which lay before us. Yet such is the subtle magnetic sense which human beings may possess, that there was a curious feeling on me as if of a vast crowd encompassing me on every side.
Just as I was about to enter the town, I turned back to give a parting glance, in the moonlight, at the noble range of bills and downs in the background, and here something of a most puzzling and extraordinary kind met my view unawares. I rubbed my eyes, and could hardly believe my sight. Either my senses were impaired, which had served me faithfully, and to which I had trusted so implicitly, or I was altogether off my mental balance. Could it be possible that, indeed, I saw aright ? Far away, down a hill side, moving noiselessly on the spring grass, was a long file of men, three abreast, marching rapidly towards Dover. In another direction moved a precisely similar column, with equal promptitude and stillness. On they trooped, that spectral army. It seemed to me as if a few men were thrown in front as pickets. On the brow of the furthest hill I distinctly traced in the moonlight, or thought I traced, the head of a third column. What could these appearances be ? What could they forebode ? My first idea was to go back to the bungalow and tell my friend the colonel of this extraordinary apparition. But, on the other hand, I should certainly lose my train, and my business in Paris was of the most urgent description. I could not help thinking that my mind, and possibly my very senses were affected by the intense and disquieting attention which I had given to the vaticinations of my friends. But it had always been my object to do the duty nearest to me, and the duty nearest me now was to get to Paris as soon as I could. It was quite possible that these phenomena, if, indeed, they actually were phenomena, other than of the nature of a mirage, might be susceptible of some very easy and natural explanation. It might be an assemblage of coast-guard for night drill, or some similar arrangement of troops or of volunteers; or it was still more probable that at dawn they might be embarking even at Dover for Ireland.
Another singular circumstance came within observation that night before I reached the Channel station. I came directly beneath the telegraph wires to London, and within my field of vision were also the wires, extending westward along the south coast. To my astonishment, the wires of the first set were cut and dragged uselessly to the ground. A few hundred paces on, a very similar appearance suggested that the same thing had also happened in the Hastings and St. Leonard's direction. The first fact I was able to verify by personal observation, which, however, was not the case in the second set of wires. Much wondering, I entered the station, and showing my ticket, took my place in the carriage.
The train was rather late in starting, and for some time I sat in the carriage, still in a condition of mute wonder. I had the good luck to find by my side a bright pretty girl and fussy middle-aged lady, the rest of the second-class carriage was filled with gentlemen, two of whom were English, and two, as I thought, French. The railway tunnels which, on my frequent journeys I had to traverse oftenest, and which I liked least, were the Mont Cenis Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel. On both of these I had never been able entirely to free my mind from a sense of discomfort and danger. On several points I gave a preference to the Channel Tunnel. It was longer, indeed, and took up more time, but it was easier travelling, and had none of those stoppages which sometimes annoyingly occur on the Alpine line, and it was better lighted ; originally it was lighted by electricity all through, and the effect was exceedingly good, but now, while some portions were well lighted, other parts were left in comparative gloom. The most remarkable portion of the Tunnel was found much nearer to the English than the French end, where, a larger displacement of soil having taken place than had been calculated by the engineers, the train entered a vast glittering cavern, brilliant as any cave of travel or romance. This was illuminated in a wonderful manner by Edison lights, the latest and the most remarkable of the achievements of the great American inventor. Here, the soil being the thinnest of all between the subway and the water, rendered, however, perfectly secure by most admirable engineering and thick lining formed from the cUbris of the grey chalk, it was possible faintly to hear the boom of the Atlantic waves as the tide ran to and fro from the ocean between the confronting coasts of England and France. In this resplendent cavern tickets were on some special occasions exhibited, and there was also a siding, the only siding on the line, where carriages could occasionally be shunted.
We had passed safely through this striking bit of railway scenery, and the train had come out of the light into what seemed thick gloom, when the noise of a detonator, or fog-signal, was heard, and the train was brought suddenly to a standstill. For a moment there was perfect silence, then voices in the distance and a scream. Presently there was the explosion of another detonator. It was curious to watch the effect in our carriage. The old lady opposite became wild with fright, and showed evident signs of throwing herself out of the window.
" Oh dear, oh dear! what shall I do ? I know there's an accident. The sea is bursting in. I am sure it is. Don't you hear the waves ? "
We were not far from the cavern. And certainly at that moment the sound of the surge seemed nearer and more apparent.
Looking forward, we now saw twinkling lights. Looking backward, the glow of the cavern, the light at the end, was clear enough.
The old lady frantically endeavoured to get out, but I firmly held the door of the carriage. From the English end of the tunnel we heard a heavy firing.
" We can only die once," said the young lady, very calmly, who sat beside her. " Trust in God, madame."
Presently the carriages moved back some little distance in the direction of the cavern.
A kind of gendarme came to the door, and politely asked me if I were French, and I thought it diplomatic instantly to make my election that I would be a Frenchman. The two gentlemen who said they were English were taken out, and, as I found afterwards, were put to much disagreeable work.
A line of French soldiers in Indian file stood by the carriages, and after the train had moved a few paces more it was brought up in the cavern, and in a few minutes it was shunted to the siding on the west side. I sat still, and watched in mute amazement from the carriage window all what was next to follow.
For long hours we continued on the siding of the railway. As I have said, the broad space was brilliantly illumined by the electric light, and though the reading was more unsteady than might have been supposed, it was still possible to read a good deal. My flask was well-stored, in consequence of the thoughtful suggestion of my favourite waiter at the club, and Miss Verinder, my agreeable vis-a-vis, with the careful provision which ladies exhibit in their railway journeys, had a small supply of sandwiches and biscuits. Combining our refreshments, we made something of a meal, although we now heard heavy firing at the Euglish end, and were not sure that we might not come in for some part of it. I took out the fourth edition of the evening paper which I had brought down with me, but only read it in a mechanical and uneasy way. There were Parliamentary papers, consisting of recent dispatches that had passed between the Foreign Offices of the two Governments. There was a passage in a letter from the French minister to his Ambassador in London which made me colour with shame and resentment. The minister used the wellworn language of sympathy and suggestion on behalf of the oppressed Nationalities. He said that the French Government might venture to use on behalf of Ireland the same language that England in her time had used on behalf of Poland, and of the two Sicilies. He intimated that France was capable once more of going to war " for an idea," that idea being the liberation of subjugated Ireland. There was not a word that intimated any misgiving on the monstrous injustice of the historical parallel thus instituted. A leaded paragraph, just after the leader, intimated that attention would be drawn to this paragraph of the French Dispatch in the House of Commons on the Friday afternoon, and that a debate might be expected in the ensuing week. In another page of the paper there were telegrams relating to the state of Ireland. The military had been called out to resist an armed outbreak, which was managed on the part of the Irish in a way that showed the presence of competent military leaders and of weapons of precision, and the fight had always assumed the proportions of a pitched battle. At the time when the telegram was dispatched the contest was still raging.
After we had thus sat for what seemed an age, we had to dismount from the carriage. We stood by the side of the Tunnel just beyond the cavern where there was still some amount of room. Presently, one of the most extraordinary visions that could ever have entered human imagination passed. First, there was the heavy tramp and tread as if of an innumerable multitude. There seemed to pass armies upon armies, armies upon armies—at least, this was so to my excited imagination. Then swept by in tremendous processions bands of gaily caparisoned horsemen, as perfect in form as if upon a parade in the Champs Elysees. Then in quick march came squadron upon squadron of infantry. I heard afterwards that these last had been conveyed on the other line of rail, up to a near point, when they dismounted and formed in order. Our own train was at this point utilised to bear back men and materials on its retrograde course. Then an infinite number of trains moved slowly on. Some were merely coal trucks filled with armed men; then came carriages, first, second and third class, but, of course, all these distinctions were quite novel. Then came huge siege guns, which showed that the enemy were well acquainted with the yards of Herr Krupp, and with the resources of Woolwich Dockyard. Then came loaded vans with war materials, and also provisions and casks of wine, enough to sustain a mighty host until supplies could be gathered in from the invaded territory. The men seemed to be absolutely numberless, and their training and discipline carried to the highest point of efficiency. A feeling of chill horror, a feeling as if the Last Day were at hand, came over me, and I nearly fainted away.
I now proceed to explain some of the extraordinary occurrences that have been related. The French had suddenly made war upon us. The most extraordinary operations of war had preceded the declaration of war. Of course, we English complained bitterly, but we had to own such procedure was not uncommon in the history of warfare, and once or twice in our history we had even done something like it ourselves. We had chiefly to thank our own carelessness, and the wilful throwing away the natural securities which Providence had blessed us with, and in our fall we became the laughing stock of Europe—so good a practical joke on such an extensive scale had never yet been heard of. The scheme of a Channel Tunnel had been many years before the public before it took a practical form. So far as can be discovered, the First Napoleon was the originator of the idea ; it had been his fond aspiration—if only, if only he could for a single day have command of the English Channel! The idea of sapping and mining England, and springing upon her from a lair beneath the seas, was a splendid contingency with which his military genius toyed, but which he never regarded as being practically possible. He little thought that all the rough and hard work would be done for him by the English themselves, who would almost invite French armies to be good enough to invade them. The first deliberate sanction on the English side to the plan of a tunnel was given by the Earl of Derby of 1875. This nobleman, in both public and private life, had concentrated a good deal of attention upon himself. He was, perhaps, the only conspicuous peer who had deliberately passed over from one great political party to another without arousing any hostile criticism. It is singular that the most incautious act of any English foreign minister proceeded from one who prided himself on his habitual caution. It is probable, however, that Lord Derby looked upon the plan as one that was utterly futile, and France being still in a prostrate condition, after the German occupation, the contingency of her even taking an offensive side against England never entered his slow imagination. There seemed, indeed, to be an extraordinary apathy on the part of English statesmen on the whole subject. The instinct of many English people took alarm, and the alarmist view was forced upon the unwilling attention of the Government. For many months there was something like a real agitation on the subject, and in the first half of 1882 it seemed likely that the opposition to the scheme would prevail. The course of events subsequently took, however, an untoward direction. It was felt that a considerable hardship was imposed on the directors and pioneers of the scheme, who had been allowed to go to considerable expense before there had been an outcry against the plan.
It happened, however, that, just as the wind shifts from one quarter to another, so the popular cry drifted round very much in support of the plan. It was represented that the British public had got into one of those periodical fits of panic that have been so disreputable and ruinous to the nation. It was hardly permitted to any one to argue on the side of public security without stamping himself as an obstructive and a fanatic. The shareholders and supporters of the Company argued that it was a sheer waste of time and breath to argue with any human being who was so deficient in intellect as to conceive the possibility of the Tunnel in any degree proving detrimental to the interests of the country. In fact, many people, in order to avoid being voted fools, kept their remonstrances and apprehensions locked up in their own bosoms. The cry was also raised that the Tunnel was constructed in the best interests of humanity. We were now on the eve of approaching the glorious time of which the poet sang, "The parliament of men, the federation of the world." We were breaking through the partialities and the prejudices which had so long separated race from race and country from country. The French cries of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," seemed to find an easy admittance into England as soon as the submarine connection became an established fact. It was charged upon the disheartened opponents of the Tunnel that they were representing a brave and chivalrous race as being as bad as the Indian Thugs, or as the Assassins of the mediaeval ages. Was it possible that a brave and enlightened people would ever show themselves thus abominably cruel and perfidious ? The old-fashioned folk remembered Hazael, in the oldfashioned Book, of whom it was said that Elisha wept when he saw him: "I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel; their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children and rip up their women with child." And Hazael said," But what is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing ? " And yet Hazael did all this, and the twentieth century men did as bad as ever Hazael did in his time of tyranny and oppression. The French, with a most urbane politeness, protested against the injustice that was done them, most of them no doubt sincerely, and some with a furtive smile at the simplicity of those who on- such a vital subject could be contented with mere assurances'. No doubt the French stood in the very front of all civilised races, but there is one abiding element in all the fluctuations of humanity, and that is human nature itself. It was not unnatural that those who, in the preceding century, had paid enormous costs and tribute should long to taste the sweets of the receipts of an indemnity; that those who had seen their own capital thrice occupied within a century should be willing in the capture of London to achieve the greatest feat of arms known in modern history; and that those whose national susceptibilities hp.d been wounded both in the past and in recent events should avail themselves of the opportunity of a glorious retaliation. The higher spirits in France might condemn the conduct of the military and political leaders, and their condemnation might be re-echoed at the ultimate bar of conscience and of history; but it was not merely Gallic nature, but human nature itself, that leaped forward to the winning of the greatest prize that ever dangled before the mental vision of political and military ambition.
At the outset there had been two rival companies, and as soon as it became fatally clear that the necessary powers would be obtained one or two more companies entered the field. In fact there grew up a rage for tunnels. A tunnel was projected beneath the Bristol Channel and another beneath St. George's Channel, and from such schemes much good and hardly any evil could be anticipated. A tunnel beneath the Atlantic was simply a matter of time and money. It was also suggested that if the different competing railways could run adjunctly there might be a broad thoroughfare of some 500 kilometres, with footpaths for pedestrians and a high road for the ordinary traffic. The instinct of the shareholders prevented the development of such magnificent schemes. The two companies hastened to combine their claims, to halve their expenses, and to double their railway fares. Various schemes of security were proposed in order to make the Tunnel useless in case of war, or actually to convert it into a trap for the enemy. One of these was that all trains should be lifted by hydraulic pressure, which, by a simple mechanical device, could be arrested by the authorities at Dover. As the method of a covered gallery was eventually adopted, this device became nugatory, and two other notions were carried into effect, although their efficacy was never really tested. One was a plan for blowing up the Tunnel by dynamite, a train being laid from the subway into the private apartment of the governor of the castle, the Dover end of the train being, of course, secured under lock and key. Another plan was a scheme for letting in the waters of the Channel to flood the Tunnel. If, however, the Tunnel took as long a time to fill as one of the London Docks, it might be days or weeks before the critical operation could be effected. The apparatus could be easily employed by means of a simple key, that was to remain in the custody of the governor of the castle. This worthy official might be said to carry the safety and honour of the British nation in his breeches-pocket; an ingenious pickpocket might at any time deprive us of the great securities of our realm. The governor is reported to have valiantly shaken his keys towards the Channel in face of the French nation, and dared them to do their worst.
For a long time the Channel Railway worked with prosperous regularity and with a happy exemption from accidents. During the long dictatorship of M. Gambetta, that statesman remained true to his elevated conceptions of political morality. But, when the former dynasty was revived in France, in the opinion of many 1x>liticians, war became an inevitable necessity within a measurable number of years. One great scare will never be forgotten. An intense panic was excited one morning in London, by the rumour that the Tunnel had fallen into the hands of the French. It subsequently turned out that this was a villanous fraud, got up by a few swindling speculators on the Stock Exchange. In the course of a very few hours the rumour was exploded, but not before the funds had fallen from ninety to seventy. They had never touched a hundred after the opening of the Tunnel. Before the discovery of the fraud large purchases had been made of depreciated stock, and the offenders never received any just punishment. The state of consternation in the metropolis was most pitiable, and adumbrated the dark day that was yet to come.
There was an almost cruel simplicity about the method for achieving the destruction of England. The one thing necessary was the seizure of the English side of the Tunnel. This would imply a gaining possession of the station, the telegraphic wires, the rails, the half dozen ports—for they had been raised to that number within recent years—and also the Castle itself. These fortifications, although their cost had been very great, were simply contemptible, compared with what all travellers might have witnessed on the Continent. During various weeks past, a plan of the utmost daring and simplicity had been in progress for the capture of the fortifications of Dover. A steady stream of Frenchmen had been poured in through the Tunnel itself; indeed, into every English port, Frenchmen had been dispatched, though not in sufficient numbers to arouse suspicion. In England itself, and notably in Birmingham, large supplies of arms and ammunition had been purchased. As much of both had been carried over as could be secured from the observation of the Custom House people. These, and the purchased material, had been stored and warehoused in various towns in Kent and Sussex. There had been a great deal of vigilance on the western coast of England, and it was suspected that the Fenians might at any time make raids, such as had been the case in former years at Chester and Manchester. One dwelling-house stored with arms had, indeed, been discovered by the police at Faversham. This was attributed to the Nationalists, to use what was now the more common name of the old Irish Land League; and though foreign complicity was suspected, this was put down to the Americans. All hostile operations had been settled to come off on a certain night—the very night on which I had left London for my memorable journey to Paris. Some subsequent details have now been fully revealed. All the proceedings had been planned and conducted with consummate tact and ability. From as many as five-and-twenty different places, in the dead of night, there had stolen out bands of well-armed Frenchmen. They had even succeeded in obtaining several heavy pieces of artillery. I myself, in my hurried night walk, had seen several of these bands, converging on the doomed Castle. In some cases the French had not been able to arrive at the rendezvous indicated to them, without coming into collision here and there with a few of the military, or police, or populace. Nothing was spared by the French that would promote the secrecy and celerity of their proceedings. All those who interfered were seized and gagged, or slaughtered upon the spot. The electric wires were everywhere cut and the rails torn up. Among the misfortunes of that time, two or three terrible railway accidents are to be included, the rails having been torn up, the down trains from the metropolis rushed on to destruction. No artillery was needed for the capture of the Castle. The enemy simply knocked at the door, which was promptly opened to them. The few orderlies and sentinels were at once seized. There was a slight show of fight at the Castle, and the worthy governor was shot; it was never known what became of his famous bunch of keys. At one of the forts there was some really desperate fighting, and from this proceeded the firing to which I had listened. The Frenchmen had all the courage of a forlorn hope, and of course any number of lives would have been cheerfully sacrificed by their commanders in such a tremendous service. The audacity of their attack made it completely successful, and the French lost far 'fewer men than the English. Having taken possession of the whole material of the station, the signal was given for the French trains, loaded with men from the first corps at Calais, to proceed. As fast as the carriages were emptied, at the Dover station, they returned into France on the other line of rail, and were promptly filled once more, loaded with soldiers into England. By dawn twenty thousand men were in possession of Dover, Folkestone, Ashford and Deal, and before many hours their number was increased to a hundred and fifty thousand.
Two circumstances had acted materially towards the embarrassment and misery of this frightful crisis. One of these, we need hardly say, was the condition of Ireland. The perseverance and reiterations of the Home Rule party had at last succeeded in establishing what was very like Home Rule. The decentralisation of the Imperial Parliament had been going on rapidly for many years. This had been rendered necessary by the course of events. The periodic floods of talk in the House of Commons had drowned all efforts for useful legislation. The great change in our institutions had been effected by the extension of local government to the counties. It was as easy to get up a Local Board for a county as for a spic-and-span new watering-place. The parliamentary congestions had been sensibly relieved by the simplification of burdens and the action of the County Boards. The increased education and intelligence of the people had found an appropriate outlet and area in these new institutions. The new forms of local government had not at first been received in Ireland with the acceptance that might have been expected, any more than the Land Act had been first recognised as the deadly blow it became against English territorialism. In process of time the system was developed with extraordinary fulness and minuteness. Something very like an Irish Parliament sat in St. Stephen's Green, accomplishing O'Connell's aspiration, and legislated exclusively in Irish interests. If there had been any basis of soundness in the ideal of Home Rule, that state had been attained. But it appeared almost impossible, even if men had so wished, to preserve a sharp line of distinction between Home and Imperial interests. Any intention of preserving such a line of distinction was, as far as pssible, from the minds of most Irishmen. The Local Government had gradually achieved a machinery of men, means and money: a command of the ports and of warlike material. The rabbling process against landlordism had acquired a semi-legal sanction. The Irish in Ireland had communicated with the Irish in America, as friendly power with power. A revolutionary war in Ireland, with a fair prospect of success, had come within the sphere of practical politics. The English Government was at last awake to the necessities of the case. An immense number of troops, far exceeding the sum of any antecedent period, had been poured into Ireland, and it was only the presence of this commanding force that restrained the outbreak of hostilities. The drain of troops had almost denuded India and the colonies of regular troops. At home, our forces, beyond a few regiments, were limited to the militia, the volunteers, and the police. It would have been impossible to put a thoroughly equipped Army Corps into the field.
The other circumstance was that England was just then in the almost chronic state of an International Exhibition. Although the idea had originated with the Great Exhibition of 1851, in the progress of years it had fructified more in other countries than in our own. Exhibitions in Paris had become more frequent than exhibitions in London. At this time, it was felt that the idea of an exhibition should once more be resuscitated in its first home. As usual, a paean of universal peace and concord was chanted by the press both in London and Paris. It had been just the same in the opening of the exhibition of 1851. At that period the instruments of warfare had been voted obsolete and barbarous, and, indeed, despite the iron logic of facts, they had scarcely been mentioned in any subsequent exhibition without the language of regret, apology and deprecation. It was quite forgotten that what happens is the unexpected, and that the thunderbolt may fall out of the clear sky. The memory of that series of colossal wars that followed our own Great Exhibition did not hinder the same highflown auspices of universal peace. The great exhibition of 1920 was celebrated in an immense series of edifices on Muswell Hill, which boasted a Parisian Trocadero in addition to the "usual attractions." There was a confluence of all nations, and foreigners from every nation of the Continent, who usually suffer more from the mal de mer than ourselves, had availed themselves of the Tunnel. The French, however, as might naturally be expected, numbered more largely than any other nationality. At any other time their extraordinary numbers, with the number and variety of their equipments, might have excited attention and suspicion in the most lethargic Government; everything was couleur de rose, and the Prime Minister of the day, like the needy knife-grinder, was in a transport of universal philanthropy. It was thus found not impossible to assemble a considerable French force on English ground, and in sufficient numbers to effect the conquest of Dover and the seizure of the Tunnel.
The moralists and theologians had a great deal to say generally on the subject. No doubt there had been a progressive deterioration in manners throughout the country, which served to precipitate the national downfall, and which rendered our misfortunes a sharp salutary discipline, if an entirely destructive process can ever be described as simply disciplinary. There had been a steady progressive growth of luxury. It was noticed, not without ominous forecasts, that many of the old paths on which Englishmen had instinctively prided themselves, had become deserted. The old virtues of good faith, hospitality, delicate honour, loyalty, reverence for law, had become decayed. Notwithstanding the comparative collapse of republican institutions both in America and in France, the question of different forms of government, hardly veiled under the forms of political romance, were discussed with a freedom like that of the Encyclopaedists before the French Revolution. The House of Lords had never recovered from the series of staggering blows that had been dealt it by the administration of Mr. Gladstone, and subsequently by that of Mr. Chamberlain. It was noticed as one of the signs of the times that collections for charitable objects had fallen off to an unprecedented extent, and several of the great London hospitals had closed various of their wards. Indeed one of the totally unendowed, in the poorest and most necessitous neighbourhoods, had closed its portals altogether. Education had been widely spread, and for the first time the English people might be considered a fairly educated nation. Church disestablishment had not indeed come, but it was only hindered by the accident that the new scheme embraced the resumption of all the Church property that had been handed over to laymen at the time of Henry VIII. The revolutionary character of such innovations had been easily detected, and the great Whig families, whose estates were assailed, of course stood aloof from such schemes of spoliation. Personal luxury had grown to an enormous height, and the feasts of the wealthy surpassed the banquets of the Lower Empire. Such was the internal state of the country in these days of the early part of the twentieth eentury.
I now return to my own personal fortunes at t his most miserable and unhappy time. It was hopeless for me to suppose that there was any chance for me to get into France. The whole vast human tide was setting in the opposite direction. The only plan would lie to regain the English mouth of the Tunnel, and then try and get into France by means of one of the endless return carriages. My peculiar business, with which, however, it would be unnecessary to trouble the reader, would for a time be interrupted, perhaps totally annihilated by the outbreak of hostilities between the two countries. I thought that I had better return to see if I could be of any use to those who were dearest to me on earth, and, though now somewhat feeble and infirm, to strike my blow on behalf of the dear, dear country, for which one would be well content to die. My companion, the vis-a-iris in the railway carriage, Clarina Verinder, expressed herself as most anxious to return. She was going out to a governesses' home in Paris, and had nearly completed an engagement at one of the big houses near the Arch of Triumph. She was doubtful how far a French family would now engage an English governess, and she, too, felt an anxious desire to return home. Her mother lived far away in the Lake country, and it was reasonable to expect that the furthest wave of war would hardly reach thither. There occurred a lull in the succession of trains, probably from a temporary exhaustion of the rolling stock. Our own carriages had been pressed into the service, and we had been forced to dismount. In the lull of which I have spoken a mixed motley multitude passed by. Whence they had sprung it would be difficult to say. There were several ambulance carriages and waggons with the white cross denoting brothers or sisters of mercy. The rest were simply of that kind of camp followers that always gathers around an army. Presently there was the signal of another advancing train, which necessarily caused a great concentration of the mob in our cavern and all along the sides of the annealed roof of the Tunnel. I thought that some frightful accident would hardly have heen avoidable, but the train was driven with extreme slowness, and with the greatest care. Indeed it was impossible not to admire the wonderful organisation which was exhibited throughout this strange exodus of the French Imperial forces. The French genius for organisation was never so finely shown, nor on the other hand, our insular deficiency in this way, as was only too clearly shown by subsequent events. I was especially struck by the attention given to details. Not only were the usual air pumps in full activity, but some of the latest inventions, having been previously tested, were this very night for the first time brought into use in the Tunnel. In the motley crowd in the cavern I was easily able to purchase a hat and cloak for Clarina. It was her own idea that if she had these she might more rapidly effect a return homewards. I believe that in this she was right, and I offered her such help and protection as I might be able to give. I warned her how slight it could be, and that I might be bringing her into peril by my assumption of the French character. She answered very nobly that though she was thankful for my protection she did not rely upon it, and that there were unseen armies who watched over those who trusted in Providence.
At last our opportunity came and we re-entered Dover. For four-and-twenty hours we had had no sustenance except the divided contents of the flask and the biscuit bag. Dover had become suddenly transformed into a French town. The French general and his staff had taken up their abode at the Lord Warden hotel. The Mayor and Corporation had been called together, had been commanded to furnish rations for fifty thousand men, and had then been dismissed into their native obscurity. The fierce science of the requisition and the bombardment was everywhere being put into practice. I went out
to my dear old friend Colonel L 's place. Unfortunately,
on the ill-advised impulse of the moment, he had attempted resistance. He was bayonetted and his grandson was killed in a discharge of musketry; his place was sacked; his drawing-room furniture, the piano, and the pictures were tossed out on the desolated lawn and ruined flowerbeds. The contents of his cellar, which were choice but small and did not extend beyond a few dozen, had of course all been drunk, and there was evidence of further shameful deeds of violence. In Dover, externally, at least, military order seemed to prevail. But there was an almost brutal demeanour to the cowed and conquered natives. The foreign soldiery found in their almost total ignorance of our language that kicks and cuffs, liberally bestowed, materially assisted them in the explication of their ideas. I heard, indeed, of some frightful outrages that had been committed, recalling some of the worst deeds of the worst wars. It was hardly to he expected that when without fear of a provost-marshal they would exercise much self-restraint. War, I was told, could not be waged with rose-water, under which unctuous phrase every kind of inhuman atrocity was veiled. I knew what our own soldiers had done at Badajos and St. Sebastian, and we now had reason to fear that the counterpart would be found in many a peaceful district of England. Fortunately I was in no want of money, having exchanged cheques and notes the day before I left London for French and English gold. I question whether the English bank note would then have been accepted, unless at a very heavy reduction.
I do not profess to be a military critic, or to give any account of the strategy or grand tactics of the war. I could only read events by the light of nature, and from various rumours picked up what I regarded as the most reliable information. The enemy seemed to be acting on the old military motto, Frappez vite et frappez fort. Within an incredibly short time they had advanced on the north as far as Sittingbourne, on the east to Westgate-onSea, and on the west nearly to Brighton. Newhaven was in their power, and so ill-guarded were the Channel waters that French ships were pouring into Newhaven without any fear of war vessels or torpedoes. Nearly the whole of the railway from Dover to Hastings, and from Hastings to Brighton, fell without a struggle into their hands. Some little resistance was offered at the Martello towers, which had indeed been constructed with some such purpose, and which proved stronger, and did better service than could have been expected. History, as the wise Thucydides pointed out, has a perpetual tendency to recur. The progress of the French was very like the progress of the Normans after the battle of Senlac. London was the point on which all their efforts .converged. It was the heart and brain of England—the congested heart, the paralysed brain. The French soldiers pointed to London as Hannibal pointed out the fertile plains of Italy to his Carthaginians. There had been some severe fighting on the most easterly part of that long range of downs that stretches for seventy miles from Beachy Head into Hampshire. As soon as the seizure of the Tunnel had been known, the Household troops had hurried down, the Militia had been called out, the Volunteers had assembled : there was no one who could say that Englishmen did not do their duty in those mournful days. But the biggest battalions were on the French side, the longer experience, the greater science, the out-numbering hosts. Lord Beaconsfield had said truly in one of his great speeches that the resources of England would not be exhausted in a second or third campaign. But Lord Beaconsfield had taken it for granted that the sacred soil of England would be intact; that we retained the empire of the seas, and were able to supply our forces with the necessary commissariat supplies. If we only had time there was nothing which we could not achieve. The telegraph would summon our
VOL. VII. K
troops far in the west from Canada, and far in the east from India; the native troops from India would come at our bidding. But the absolutely necessary element of time was not granted to us. We are a slow and unready nation, and our confusion and irresoluteness were as marked as in the old days of the Crimean war. It would take us the losses of a first campaign before we could achieve the victories of a second. If London had only been surrounded with a ceinture of fortifications such as M. Thiers constructed around Paris, if we had had our Montmartre and Mont Valerien, London could have stood a siege until such time as we had placed all our resources on the battle-field, and England had awoke up in her majesty and might. But we had thrown away our natural defence, and there remained for us no place for repentance.
I was anxious to place Miss Verinder on some line of railway that would take her to London, or, better still—for who could say what might be happening in London—that would take her to the north without passing through town. My own mind was quite made up that I would return to my own chambers in London. I knew a good deal of the meadow paths -and byways of Kent and Sussex, and had no doubt that I could easily avoid the French outposts, and get safely into town, supposing that London was not yet invested by the time that I should arrive there. I managed quickly to make my way with my friend, who passed as my sister, from the French lines near Newhaven, and made my way to that magnificent elevation known as the Devil's Dyke, some half-dozen miles from Brighton. The place was utterly deserted. It was ordinarily a gay spot where the Sussex hounds used to meet, and where on a fine afternoon horsemen and carriages would come in great numbers from the Queen of watering-places. It was now quite deserted, but on the range of downs eastward there was a great multitude of sight-seers, and here I conjectured rightly that our men were throwing up earthworks and placing guns in position. There was a prospect of several counties, and a glimpse of the Isle of Wight; I could indicate where would be Osborne and where Windsor Castle. Was it possible that those royal seats should ever witness the profanation of a hostile intrusion ! The eastern sea was flecked with vessels, which I took to be French cruisers, and here and there a burning homestead in the southern part of the great Weald showed me that war in its most terrible earnest had begun.
I descended to the little village of Poynings, at the base of the great Dyke down, and here I succeeded, not without much difficulty and expense, in hiring a covered cart to take us through the cross roads. I had some friends who lived in an old moated castle some five-and-thirty miles from town. I knew that if our poor conveyance would take us there they would give me and my companion shelter, and put us in the way of obtaining fresh cattle in the morning. As I had anticipated, all the railways had been taken possession of by our War Office. The castle had its bridge, its portcullis, its turrets, its deep moat—but what toys they appeared in comparison with the modern machinery of war—! It was the sweet, still sunset hour when our cart came up to the door. The old house seemed " a haunt of ancient peace." It was one of the " stately homes of England." The tender shadows were falling over the broad lawns, and multitudes of deer dotted the sloping park down to the shores of the mere. The good old lady, the housekeeper, whom I had known for many years, received us kindly, and at once took Miss Verinder under her protection. She told me that the family had received the bad, the fearful news of the invasion, and had at once gone up to London, and the master had intended to send the ladies on to his estate in the Midlands. On entering the library I found lying on the floor a copy of the second edition of the Times, which had reached the Manor House on the evening of the day of publication. I knew that a groom always went over at night to the rural post town to fetch the letters and papers. The study of that copy of the Times had enabled me to realise something of the probable state of things in the metropolis.
That morning of mornings had broken fresh and calm on the doomed city. The storm of the previous night had passed away. The meteorological report presaged bright days to come. All the night mails had been duly delivered. There might have been one or two strange whispers at newspaper offices and telegraphic centres, but the morning papers had all been issued without any int imation of the woful mystery and marvel of the previous night. How was it that as the morning hours went on a gradual feeling of unhappiness and consternation stole over the minds of men ? Crowds began to collect with low and then loud murmurs in Fleet Street, and there was almost a rush to the office of the Times. By noon the second edition appeared. It differed from any previous instance of a second edition in two remarkable respects. It used bolder and more imposing type than had ever been seen before, and read—
"seizure Of The Channel Tunnel."
The first leading article had been removed altogether, and in its place was substituted a very brief one that commenced with a narrative of facts as far as they had been ascertained, and a hightoned, courageous appeal to the nation, setting forth every argument that would encourage the people and check the infinite damage that might be caused by the evil tidings.
The next day's Times was lying unopened on the table. I tore open the enclosure, and found that the worst fears that could have been entertained were verified. There had been much heroism here displayed, much of counsel and conduct. But a panic had set in, and with truer grounds than ever panic had had before. In an hour the Funds had gone down from a hundred to forty. There had been a run upon the Bank of England and on all the banks in Lombard street. Cash payments had been suspended. Railway stock was depreciated almost to zero. Several banks had failed. Business was at a standstill ; indeed, the jewellers' shops and many others were closed. A regular stampede was taking place from the West End northwards. Various arrests had taken place. In the worst parts of the Metropolis there had been serious riots. There was really every reason why we should avoid London rather than venture into it. But what a wonderful fascination is that which London exercises over the hearts of those who, in however limited a degree, may call themselves Londoners, and to my heart this fascination came with double influence in the hour of her agony and peril.
The housekeeper made herself acquainted, through the servants, with the fact that in all probability there would be a train that would convey passengers to Reading, whence Miss Verinder might make her way northwards. One of the servants had a brother, a guard on this line, and he made no doubt that he could find him, and place the young lady under his protection. This was happily effected ; I made her borrow quite sufficient for her needs, and ultimately she reached Westmoreland. Like so many of my friends and fellow-countrymen, she dwells now " by the long wash of Australasian seas," hoping that a happier Great Britain may arise beneath the Southern Cross. I kissed her brow at parting, as she murmured a wish for that better land and happier, where there shall be no wars or rumours of wars. As I neared town, the signs of panic and confusion met me on every side. It was manifest that the civilians added to the difficulties of the military who were greatly confused by conflicting orders, and even demoralised by contradictory rumours. I had to take great care in picking my way, lest I should be pressed into active service, which I was willing enough to undertake, so soon as I should have spent a few hours in London, to see my aged mother, and adjust some most necessary private affairs. At last, I succeeded, early one sombre afternoon, in re-entering London. There was little difficulty in recognising the fact that practically it was in a state of siege. I went to the office of my company, but the door was both locked and padlocked, and an iron chain was stretched across it. Business was in a state of total stagnation. Very little, for instance, could be done at the banks, and nothing at all at the fire and life assurance offices. The churches of London, a sight unseen for years, were thronged with terrified and praying crowds. The publicans seemed to drive a roaring trade. Provisions, though they seemed plentiful, had gone up to three times their usual price. A large part of the garden produce had failed to come. No fish whatever had come from the South-eastern seaboard. I had hitherto failed to recognise fully how very artificial, to a considerable extent, was the position which London occupied in the economic system of the world. She produced little, but she was the buyer and carrier for all ; she was the world's shop and office ; but now the windows were closed, the office shut up. When the waves of invasion had passed over other countries, those lands had revived with the retrogression of the tide. Once more the corn, and vines, and fruit trees flourished. But to reduce Ixmdon to a state of siege was to shatter an exquisite piece of machinery, which could never be put together again. The artificial wealth was making itself wings, and the over-wrought, over-burdened lands, and the exhausted coal-measures, showed no probability of self-resuscitation. Many of the London streets must become as the deserted cities of Bashan, and the parks and pleasaunces of the country side might become as the lonely sheepwalks of Australia. There was a great deal of talk about the enormous reserve of bullion in the Bank of England. The women talked of the number of soldiers stationed within the Bank, and the mining trains that were constructed all around these domains sacred to Plutus. Such precautions would be useless to an invading army, and all the treasures of the Bank would go a very little way indeed towards satisfying their demands. I made my way to my solitary chambers. There was no sign of any visitor having called. My laundress, I found, had vanished, taking just a few of my valuables with her. There had been a great migration of the poorer classes. The mild opening weather had also invited a large army of vagrants into the country fields and lanes. The West End was deserted. The Court was at Balmoral. The most sinister rumours increased and multiplied as evening drew on. The tide of invasion had rolled nearly up to the suburbs. Our forces had retreated, and where there had been engagements they had been overthrown. The enemy had gained Chatham, and in a few hours they expected to gain Woolwich. It was practically our only arsenal, and, however active the forges of Birmingham might be, its loss would be simply irreparable. We had nothing to expect than that shortly their artillery would be in position on Shotover Hill, or Muswell Hill, or Richmond Hill. When I retired to my forlorn bed-chamber to rest, I was not sure that I might not be awakened by the lurid lights of fire, or by a bomb descending through the roof.
I do not know that I need continue the mournful narrative. The game of war was a kind of scholar's mate. The Queen City was taken at once, without the national troops and the national resources being brought fairly into play. The cannon of the enemy could lay the vast xmwieldy city into ruins, and decimate its inhabitants. The sufferings of the metropolis and neighbourhood became utterly intolerable. The fierce Napoleonic doctrine, that war should support war, was established. The institution of the GorvSe was applied to ourselves. Gentlemen and plebeians were everywhere compelled to raise earth works, and to dig at the trenches. Had England still continued an island there would have been no thought of submission. At any sacrifice, and at the cost of any prolongation of the war, the war would have been fought out to its bitter end. It could hardly be doubted that, under such circumstances, the triumph ultimately would have been with the islanders. It would not be too much to expect and believe that wherever the Anglo-Saxon tongue was spoken in that Greater Britain, which girdled the world, there would be abundant proffers of sympathy and assistance. But here the mightiest prize of the whole war was within the conquerors' grasp, as soon as our first line of defence was broken through; a few hours' or a few days' march had laid the vast seething mass of humanity in London an open prey to foreign guns, and the Channel Tunnel being open, all France was prepared to precipitate herself upon England, before England could gather up her scattered legions, and gain time for deliberation and action. Parliament was hastily called together at Oxford, where, after a lapse of nearly three centuries, once more the House of Lords met in Christ Church Hall, and the House of Commons m the Schools. It was felt that under the sudden and awful exigency, there was no other course than submission, though many an indignant spirit vowed that the submission should be only temporary. Most humiliating was it, that all the fair broad spaces in the west of London should be occupied by the foe. Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, the St. James' Park, the Green Park, Paddington Park, to which were added the beautiful gardens of Buckingham Palace, and the fine expanse of the Regent's Park, were occupied by the enemy, crowded with their tents, and resounding with their triumphant martial music. Every Londoner would easily be able to construct for himself the probable terms of peace on which such a host would consent to evacuate such a position. The cession of Ireland was demanded, and Ireland was to be given to an Irish Republic, following the historical precedent of the cession of Venetia to France, which was then handed over to the kingdom of Italy. It was, of course, stipulated that the Channel Tunnel should be handed over to France, and that Dover, with its castle, and forts, and small adjacent territory should be ceded. We were told that we should see how Dover was capable of being properly fortified, and were reminded how long we had held Calais; and that we still held Gibraltar. As a gratuitous insult, however, we received notice to give up Gibraltar, which, in some curious way, France was to hold " in trust " for Spain. With greater show of reason the Channel Islands, which are geographically French, and the last remains of our old Norman possessions, were reclaimed as portions of the C6tes-du-Nord. Of course, it was stipulated that there should be everlasting peace and amity between the two nations, and as a proof of it, a commercial treaty was added, which continued to England the blessings of Free Trade, and secured to France the advantages of Protection. The question of the Indemnity was ultimately approached. It was felt that five hundred millions was not too great a sum to pay for the ransom of London. Any smaller figure might justly be considered insulting to the metropolis of trade and finance. Grievous as these losses were, nevertheless these were to be calculated. But there were losses that were absolutely incalculable, in our broken credit, our collapsed commerce, our humiliated national spirit, our crushing taxation, and the forced conscription which became necessary, now that the lost country which was once Great Britain indeed, none so poor as to do her reverence, was only a third-class kingdom in the group of Continental powers.
It was the speculation of Bishop Butler, the profoundest of thinkers, that a whole nation might become insane as much as an individual. What madness can be worse than the national political suicide that voluntarily threw down our barriers of defence, and bared our own bosoms for the steel and lead of the invader.
O England! 0 my Country! Are these pages only a fragment of political romance, written by one of the least worthy but most loving of thy sons, or as in a prophetic burden, do they partake something of the tones of our merited doom, if we basely throw away that silver Shield of Sea, which the Divine Hand itself has given us for the ornament and protection of our shores ?