The Lady of the Shroud HTML version

Book 5. A Ritual At Midnight
Rupert's Journal--Continued.
June 20, 1907.
The time has gone as quickly as work can effect since I saw my Lady. As I told the
mountaineers, Rooke, whom I had sent on the service, had made a contract for fifty
thousand Ingis-Malbron rifles, and as many tons of ammunition as the French experts
calculated to be a full supply for a year of warfare. I heard from him by our secret
telegraph code that the order had been completed, and that the goods were already on the
way. The morning after the meeting at the Flagstaff I had word that at night the vessel--
one chartered by Rooke for the purpose--would arrive at Vissarion during the night. We
were all expectation. I had always now in the Castle a signalling party, the signals being
renewed as fast as the men were sufficiently expert to proceed with their practice alone or
in groups. We hoped that every fighting-man in the country would in time become an
expert signaller. Beyond these, again, we have always a few priests. The Church of the
country is a militant Church; its priests are soldiers, its Bishops commanders. But they all
serve wherever the battle most needs them. Naturally they, as men of brains, are quicker
at learning than the average mountaineers; with the result that they learnt the code and the
signalling almost by instinct. We have now at least one such expert in each community of
them, and shortly the priests alone will be able to signal, if need be, for the nation; thus
releasing for active service the merely fighting-man. The men at present with me I took
into confidence as to the vessel's arrival, and we were all ready for work when the man
on the lookout at the Flagstaff sent word that a vessel without lights was creeping in
towards shore. We all assembled on the rocky edge of the creek, and saw her steal up the
creek and gain the shelter of the harbour. When this had been effected, we ran out the
boom which protects the opening, and after that the great armoured sliding-gates which
Uncle Roger had himself had made so as to protect the harbour in case of need.
We then came within and assisted in warping the steamer to the side of the dock.
Rooke looked fit, and was full of fire and vigour. His responsibility and the mere thought
of warlike action seemed to have renewed his youth.
When we had arranged for the unloading of the cases of arms and ammunition, I took
Rooke into the room which we call my "office," where he gave me an account of his
doings. He had not only secured the rifles and the ammunition for them, but he had
purchased from one of the small American Republics an armoured yacht which had been
especially built for war service. He grew quite enthusiastic, even excited, as he told me of
"She is the last word in naval construction--a torpedo yacht. A small cruiser, with
turbines up to date, oil-fuelled, and fully armed with the latest and most perfect weapons
and explosives of all kinds. The fastest boat afloat to-day. Built by Thorneycroft, engined