The Kingdom of the Blind HTML version

Chapter 36
"London, too, has its scars, and London is proud of them," a great morning paper
declared the next morning. "The last and gigantic effort of German 'frightfulness' has
come and passed. London was visited before dawn this morning by a fleet of sixteen
Zeppelins and forty aeroplanes. Seven of these former monsters lie stranded and wrecked
in various parts of the city, two are known to have collapsed in Essex, and another is
reported to have come to grief in Norfolk. Of the aeroplanes, nineteen were shot down,
and of the rest so far no news has been heard. The damage to life and property, great
though it may seem, is much less than was expected. Such losses as we have sustained we
shall bear with pride and fortitude. We stand now more closely than ever in touch with
our gallant allies. We, too, bear the marks of battle in the heart of our country."
Thomson paused to finish his breakfast, and abandoning the leading article turned to a
more particular account.
"The loss of life," the journal went on to say, "although regrettable, is, so far as accounts
have reached us, not large. There are thirty-one civilians killed, a hundred and two have
been admitted into hospitals, and, curiously enough, only one person bearing arms has
suffered. We regret deeply to announce the death of a very distinguished young officer,
Captain Ronald Granet, a nephew of Sir Alfred Anselman. A bomb passed through the
roof of his house in Sackville Street, completely shattering the apartment in which he was
sitting. His servant perished with him. The other occupants of the building were,
fortunately for them, away for the night."
The paper slipped from Thomson's fingers. He looked through the windows of his room,
across the Thames. Exactly opposite to him a fallen chimney and four blackened walls,
still smouldering, were there to remind him of the great tragedy. He looked down at the
paper again. There was no mistake. It was the judgment of a higher Court than his!
He made his way down to the War Office at a little before ten o'clock. The streets were
crowded with people and there were throngs surrounding each of the places where bombs
had been dropped. Towards the PallMall Arch the people were standing in thousands,
trying to get near the wreck of the huge Zeppelin, which completely blocked all the
traffic through St. James's Park. Thomson paused for a moment at the top of Trafalgar
Square and looked around him. The words of the newspaper were indeed true. London
had her scars, yet there was nothing in the faces of the people to show fear. If anything,
there was an atmosphere all around of greater vitality, of greater intensity. The war had
come a little nearer at last than the columns of the daily Press. It was the real thing with
which even the every-day Londoner had rubbed shoulders. From Cockspur Street to
Nelson's Monument the men were lined up in a long queue, making their way to the
recruiting office.