As Strangways had passed the last man, all three had swivelled. The back two had fanned out a step to have a clear field of fire. Three revolvers, ungainly with their sausage-shaped silencers, whipped out of holsters concealed among the rags. With disciplined precision the three men aimed at different points down Strangways's spine-one between the shoulders, one in the small of the back, one at the pelvis.
'Hey, hey! Take it easy, mister. You're okay. This is Idlewild, New York. You're in America now. No more troubles, see.' The man straightened up. He thought Bond was a refugee from somewhere. 'Sam, get movin'. This guy's in shock.'
"You mean the old gold brick swindle?" asked Major Smythe with a twinge of anxiety. "Hunk of lead covered with gold plating?"
‘Miss C. M. Tucker is now at the seaside, and is therefore unable personally to communicate with Mr. Inglis. She requests, however, that he will continue to direct any letters to S——, to the care of Miss Lanzun.
But while I was writing La Vendee I made a literary attempt in another direction. In 1847 and 1848 there had come upon Ireland the desolation and destruction, first of the famine, and then of the pestilence which succeeded the famine. It was my duty at that time to be travelling constantly in those parts of Ireland in which the misery and troubles thence arising were, perhaps, at their worst. The western parts of Cork, Kerry, and Clare were pre-eminently unfortunate. The efforts — I may say, the successful efforts — made by the Government to stay the hands of death will still be in the remembrance of many:— how Sir Robert Peel was instigated to repeal the Corn Laws; and how, subsequently, Lord John Russell took measures for employing the people, and supplying the country with Indian corn. The expediency of these latter measures was questioned by many. The people themselves wished, of course, to be fed without working; and the gentry, who were mainly responsible for the rates, were disposed to think that the management of affairs was taken too much out of their own hands. My mind at the time was busy with the matter, and, thinking that the Government was right, I was inclined to defend them as far as my small powers went. S. G. O. (Lord Sydney Godolphin Osborne) was at that time denouncing the Irish scheme of the Administration in the Times, using very strong language — as those who remember his style will know. I fancied then — as I still think — that I understood the country much better than he did; and I was anxious to show that the steps taken for mitigating the terrible evil of the times were the best which the Minister of the day could have adopted. In 1848 I was in London, and, full of my purpose, I presented myself to Mr. John Forster — who has since been an intimate and valued friend — but who was at that time the editor of the Examiner. I think that that portion of the literary world which understands the fabrication of newspapers will admit that neither before his time, nor since, has there been a more capable editor of a weekly newspaper. As a literary man, he was not without his faults. That which the cabman is reported to have said of him before the magistrate is quite true. He was always “an arbitrary cove.” As a critic, he belonged to the school of Bentley and Gifford — who would always bray in a literary mortar all critics who disagreed from them, as though such disagreement were a personal offence requiring personal castigation. But that very eagerness made him a good editor. Into whatever he did he put his very heart and soul. During his time the Examiner was almost all that a Liberal weekly paper should be. So to John Forster I went, and was shown into that room in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in which, some three or four years earlier, Dickens had given that reading of which there is an illustration with portraits in the second volume of his life.
Crucial to the fate of the human race at this time was the attitude of the class of technicians, the host of highly trained engineers, electricians, aeronautical experts, agricultural experts, and scientific workers in industry. These, if they could have formed a clear idea of the plight of the race, might have saved it. But they were experts who had been carefully trained in the tradition that the expert should not meddle in politics. In times of great stress, of course, they did meddle; but, because they had consistently held themselves aloof, their pronouncements were childish, and their attempts at political action disastrous. A few had, indeed, taken the trouble to study society, and had come to understand its present ills. These fought constantly to enlighten their fellows and unite them in a great effort to control the course of events. Undoubtedly, if the will for the light had been strong in this great class, which controlled throughout the world all the innumerable levers and switches and press-buttons of the material life of society, it could have overthrown the world-oligarchy in a few days, and set about organizing a sane order. But the appeal to the technicians met with a half-hearted response. Most of them shrugged their shoulders and went on with their work. A few took timid action and were promptly seized and put to torture by the rulers. The movement failed.