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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 23
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 23 Post by :realiconmedia Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :1508

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 23

About nine o'clock on the appointed morning,
Repeller No. 11, much to the surprise of the spectators
on the high grounds with field-glasses and telescopes,
steamed away from Caerdaff. What this meant nobody
knew, but the naval military observers immediately
suspected that the Syndicate's vessel had concentrated
attention upon Caerdaff in order to go over to Ireland
to do some sort of mischief there. It was presumed
that the crabs accompanied her, but as they were now at
their fighting depth it was impossible to see them at
so great a distance.

But it was soon perceived that Repeller No. 11 had
no intention of running away, nor of going over to
Ireland. From slowly cruising about four or five miles
off shore, she had steamed westward until she had
reached a point which, according to the calculations of
her scientific corps, was nine marine miles from
Caerdaff. There she lay to against a strong breeze
from the east.

It was not yet ten o'clock when the officer in
charge of the starboard gun remarked to the director
that he suppose that it would not be necessary to give
the smoke signals, as had been done in the channel, as
now all the crabs were lying near them. The director
reflected a moment, and then ordered that the signals
should be given at every discharge of the gun, and that
the columns of black smoke should be shot up to their
greatest height.

At precisely ten o'clock, up rose from Repeller No.
11 two tall jets of black smoke. Up rose from the
promontory of Caerdaff, a heavy gray cloud, like an
immense balloon, and then the people on the hill-tops
and highlands felt a sharp shock of the ground and
rocks beneath them, and heard the sound of a terrible
but momentary grinding crush.

As the cloud began to settle, it was borne out to
sea by the wind, and then it was revealed that the
fortifications of Caerdaff had disappeared.

In ten minutes there was another smoke signal, and
a great cloud over the castellated structure on the
other side of the bay. The cloud passed away, leaving
a vacant space on the other side of the bay.

The second shock sent a panic through the crowd of
spectators. The next earthquake bomb might strike
among them. Down the eastern slopes ran hundreds of
them, leaving only a few of the bravest civilians, the
reporters of the press, and the naval and military men.

The next motor-bomb descended into the fishing
village, the comminuted particles of which, being
mostly of light material, floated far out to sea.

The detachment of artillerists who had been deputed
to man the guns on the heights which commanded the bay
had been ordered to fall back to the mountains as soon
as it had been seen that it was not the intention of
the repeller to send boats on shore. The most
courageous of the spectators trembled a little when the
fourth bomb was discharged, for it came farther inland,
and struck the height on which the battery had been
placed, removing all vestiges of the guns, caissons,
and the ledge of rock on which they had stood.

The motor-bombs which the repeller was now
discharging were of the largest size and greatest
power, and a dozen more of them were discharged at
intervals of a few minutes. The promontory on which
the fortifications had stood was annihilated, and
the waters of the bay swept over its foundations. Soon
afterward the head of the bay seemed madly rushing out
to sea, but quickly surged back to fill the chasm which
yawned at the spot where the village had been.

The dense clouds were now upheaved at such short
intervals that the scene of devastation was completely
shut out from the observers on the hills; but every few
minutes they felt a sickening shock, and heard a
momentary and horrible crash and hiss which seemed to
fill all the air. The instantaneous motor-bombs were
tearing up the sea-board, and grinding it to atoms.

It was not yet noon when the bombardment ceased.
No more puffs of black smoke came up from the distant
repeller, and the vast spreading mass of clouds moved
seaward, dropping down upon St. George's Channel in a
rain of stone dust. Then the repeller steamed
shoreward, and when she was within three or four miles
of the coast she ran up a large white flag in token
that her task was ended.

This sign that the bombardment had ceased was
accepted in good faith; and as some of the military and
naval men had carefully noted that each puff from
the repeller was accompanied by a shock, it was
considered certain that all the bombs which had been
discharged had acted, and that, consequently, no
further danger was to be apprehended from them. In
spite of this announcement many of the spectators would
not leave their position on the hills, but a hundred or more of
curious and courageous men ventured down into the plain.

That part of the sea-coast where Caerdaff had been
was a new country, about which men wandered slowly and
cautiously with sudden exclamations, of amazement and
awe. There were no longer promontories jutting out
into the sea; there were no hillocks and rocky terraces
rising inland. In a vast plain, shaven and shorn down
to a common level of scarred and pallid rock,
there lay an immense chasm two miles and a half long,
half a mile wide, and so deep that shuddering men could
stand and look down upon the rent and riven rocks upon
which had rested that portion of the Welsh coast which
had now blown out to sea.

An officer of the Royal Engineers stood on the
seaward edge of this yawning abyss; then he walked over
to the almost circular body of water which occupied the
place where the fishing village had been, and into
which the waters of the bay had flowed. When this
officer returned to London he wrote a report to the
effect that a ship canal, less than an eighth of a mile
long, leading from the newly formed lake at the head of
the bay, would make of this chasm, when filled by the
sea, the finest and most thoroughly protected inland
basin for ships of all sizes on the British coast. But
before this report received due official consideration
the idea had been suggested and elaborated in a dozen
newspapers.

Accounts and reports of all kinds describing the
destruction of Caerdaff, and of the place in which it
had stood, filled the newspapers of the world. Photo-
graphs and pictures of Caerdaff as it had been and
as it then was were produced with marvellous rapidity,
and the earthquake bomb of the American War Syndicate
was the subject of excited conversation in every
civilized country.

The British Ministry was now the calmest body of
men in Europe. The great opposition storm had died
away, the great war storm had ceased, and the wisest
British statesmen saw the unmistakable path of national
policy lying plain and open before them. There was no
longer time for arguments and struggles with opponents
or enemies, internal or external. There was even no
longer time for the discussion of measures. It was the
time for the adoption of a measure which indicated
itself, and which did not need discussion.

On the afternoon of the day of the bombardment of
Caerdaff, Repeller No. 11, accompanied by her crabs,
steamed for the English Channel. Two days afterward
there lay off the coast at Brighton, with a white flag
floating high above her, the old Tallapoosa, now
naval mistress of the world.

Near by lay a cable boat, and constant
communication by way of France was kept up between
the officers of the American Syndicate and the
repeller. In a very short time communications were
opened between the repeller and London.

When this last step became known to the public of
America, almost as much excited by the recent events as
the public of England, a great disturbance arose in
certain political circles. It was argued that the
Syndicate had no right to negotiate in any way with the
Government of England; that it had been empowered to
carry on a war; and that, if its duties in this regard
had been satisfactorily executed, it must now retire,
and allow the United States Government to attend to its
foreign relations.

But the Syndicate was firm. It had contracted to
bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion. When it
considered that this had been done, it would retire and
allow the American Government, with whom the contract
had been made, to decide whether or not it had been
properly performed.

The unmistakable path of national policy which had
shown itself to the wisest British statesmen appeared
broader and plainer when the overtures of the
American War Syndicate had been received by the British
Government. The Ministry now perceived that the
Syndicate had not waged war; it had been simply
exhibiting the uselessness of war as at present waged.
Who now could deny that it would be folly to oppose the
resources of ordinary warfare to those of what might be
called prohibitive warfare.

Another idea arose in the minds of the wisest
British statesmen. If prohibitive warfare were a good
thing for America, it would be an equally good thing
for England. More than that, it would be a better
thing if only these two countries possessed the power
of waging prohibitive warfare.

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In three days a convention of peace was concludedbetween Great Britain and the American Syndicate actingfor the United States, its provisions being madesubject to such future treaties and alliances as thegovernments of the two nations might make with eachother. In six days after the affair at Caerdaff, acommittee of the American War Syndicate was in London,making arrangements, under the favourable auspices ofthe British Government, for the formation of anAnglo-American Syndicate of War. The Atlantic Ocean now sprang into new life. Itseemed impossible to imagine whence had come themultitude of vessels which now steamed and sailed uponits surface.
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There was not the slightest doubt that the countrywould disagree with the Government, but on the latterlay the responsibility of the country's safety. There was nothing, in the opinion of the ablestnaval officers, to prevent the Syndicate's fleet fromcoming up the Thames. Instantaneous motor-bombs couldsweep away all forts and citadels, and explode anddestroy all torpedo defences, and London might lieunder the guns of the repeller. In consequence of this view of the state ofaffairs, an answer was sent to the Syndicate's note,asking that further time be given for the considerationof the situation, and suggesting that an exhibition ofthe
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