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A Girl Among the Anarchists by Isabel Meredith

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prejudiced in your lack of prejudice than the veriest bourgeois; that is
your strength, and it is well. Good-bye."

He grasped my proffered hand with warmth.

"Good-bye, Isabel. I knew you were not like other women; that _you_
could understand."

"I can understand," I replied, "and admire, even if I deplore. Good-bye."

Slowly I moved towards the door, my eyes fascinated by the rigid lines of
the sheet covering the dead woman; slowly I turned the handle and walked
down the mean wooden staircase into the mean suburban street.

CHAPTER XII

THE _TOCSIN'S_ LAST TOLL

As I walked home from Kosinski's in the early morning I felt profoundly
depressed. The weather had turned quite chilly and a fine drizzling rain
began to fall, promising one of those dull, wet days of which we
experience so many in the English spring. The streets were deserted but
for the milkmen going their rounds, and the tired-looking policemen
waiting to be relieved on their beats. I felt that feeling of physical
exhaustion which one experiences after being up all night, when one has
not had the opportunity for a wash and change of clothes. I was not
sleepy, but my eyes were hot and dry under their heavy eyelids, my bones
ached, my muscles felt stiff; I had the uncomfortable consciousness that
my hair was disordered and whispy, my hat awry, my skin shiny; and this
sub-consciousness of physical unattractiveness heightened the sense of
moral degradation.

I felt weary and disgusted, and it was not only, nor even principally,
the knowledge that Kosinski had gone out of my life which accounted for
this. I felt strangely numbed and dull, curiously able to look back on
that incident as if it had occurred to some one else. Every detail, every
word, was vividly stamped on my brain: I kept recurring to them as I
trudged along, but in a critical spirit, smiling every now and again as
the humour of some strangely incongruous detail flashed across my brain.

What really weighed me down was a sense of the futility, not only of
Anarchist propaganda but of things in general. What were we striving for?
Happiness, justice? And the history of the world shows that man has
striven for these since the dawn of humanity without ever getting much
nearer the goal. The few crumbs of personal happiness which one might hope
for in life were despised and rejected by men like Armitage, Kosinski, and
Bonafede, yet all three were alike powerless to bring about the larger
happiness they dreamed of.

I had acquired a keener sense of proportion since the days when I had
first climbed the breakneck ladder of Slater's Mews, and I now realised
that the great mass of toiling humanity ignored our existence, and that
the slow, patient work of the ages was hardly likely to be helped or
hindered by our efforts. I did not depreciate the value of thought, of the
effort made by the human mind to free itself from the shackles of
superstition and slavery; of that glorious unrest which spurs men on to
scrutinise the inscrutable, ever baffled yet ever returning to the
struggle, which alone raises him above the brute creation and which, after
all, constitutes the value of all philosophy quite apart from the special
creed each school may teach; and I doubted not for a moment that the yeast
of Anarchist thought was leavening the social conceptions of our day.

But I had come to see the almost ludicrous side of the Anarchist party,
especially in England, considered as a practical force in politics. Short
and Simpkins were typical figures--M'Dermott, an exceptionally good one
--of the rank and file of the English party. They used long words they
barely understood, considered that equality justified presumption, and
contempt or envy of everything they felt to be superior to themselves.
Communism, as they conceived it, amounted pretty nearly to living at other
people's expense, and they believed in revenging the wrongs of their
classes by exploiting and expropriating the bourgeois whenever such action
was possible without incurring personal risk. Of course I was not blind to
the fact that there were a few earnest and noble men among them, men who
had educated themselves, curtailing their food and sleep to do so, men of
original ideas and fine independent character, but I had found that with
the Anarchist, as with the Socialist party, and indeed all parties, such
were not those who came to the surface, or who gave the _ton_ to the
movement. Then, of course, there were noble dreamers, incorrigible
idealists, like Armitage, men whom experience could not teach nor
disappointment sour. Men gifted with eternal youth, victimised and
sacrificed by others, yet sifting and purifying the vilest waste in the
crucible of their imaginations, so that no meanness, nor the sorrow born
of the knowledge of meanness in others, ever darkens their path. Men who
live in a pure atmosphere of their own creation, whom the worldly-wise
pity as deluded fools, but who are perhaps the only really enviable people
in the world. Notable, too, were the fanatics of the Kosinski type, stern
heroic figures who seem strangely out of place in our humdrum world, whose
practical work often strikes us as useless when it is not harmful, yet
without whom the world would settle down into deadly lethargy and
stagnation. Then in England came a whole host of cranks who, without being
Anarchists in any real sense of the word, seemed drawn towards our ranks,
which they swelled and not infrequently brought into ridicule. The
"Bleeding Lamb" and his atheist opponent Gresham, the Polish Countess Vera
Voblinska with her unhappy husband who looked like an out-at-elbows mute
attached to a third-rate undertaker's business, a dress-reforming lady
disciple of Armitage, a queer figure, not more than four feet in height,
who looked like a little boy in her knickers and jersey, till you caught
sight of the short grizzled hair and wrinkled face, who confided to me
that she was "quite in love with the doctor, he was so _quaint_;" and
numerous others belonged to that class; and finally a considerable
sprinkling of the really criminal classes who seemed to find in the
Anarchist doctrine of "Fais ce que veux" that salve to their conscience
for which even the worst scoundrels seem to crave, and which, at worst,
permitted them to justify their existences in their own eyes as being the
"rotten products of a decaying society." Such were the heterogeneous
elements composing the Anarchist party with which I had set out to reform
the world.

The neighbouring church chimes rang out half-past six as I approached
home, and on reaching the doorstep of the Fitzroy Square house I found my
brother Raymond just letting himself in. On seeing me he exclaimed, "Oh,
Isabel, where have you been so early?--though really your appearance
suggests the idea that you have never been to bed rather than that you
have just risen!" I confirmed his suspicion and together we entered his
study.

"Well, where have you been? Is there something new on with the
Anarchists? I have seen so little of you for the past six months that I
feel quite out of the world--your world at least."

It was a great relief to me to find my brother so conversable. We had
both been so occupied of late in our respective ways that we had had but
scant opportunity for talk or companionship. Raymond had now started
practising on his own account; he was popular with his poor patients in
the crowded slums round King's Cross, amongst whom his work chiefly lay,
and day and night he toiled in their midst. Certainly the sights he saw
there were not calculated to destroy his revolutionary longings, though
they were often such as might well have made him doubt of the ultimate
perfectibility of the human race.

"Oh, I am so glad to find you, Raymond, and I should enjoy a nice long
talk together; but you must be tired; you have, I suppose, only just come
in after working all night?"

He explained to me that he had been summoned after midnight to attend a
poor woman's confinement, and had stayed with her till past four, when,
feeling more inclined for a walk than for his bed, he had wandered off in
the direction of Highgate and had only just got home.

"By the way, Isabel," he said, "as I was coming down the Caledonian Road
I met your friend Armitage. He is a good fellow whom I have always liked,
so I stopped him and we had a chat. He explained to me that he was attired
in his new pedestrian costume, which indeed struck me as almost
pre-Adamite in its simplicity. He had been helping some of his friends to
move--to shoot the moon, I fancy, would describe the situation. He
inquired of me what I was doing, and we got talking on all sorts of
scientific and philosophic problems. It is extraordinary what an intellect
that man has. Only he lives too much in a world of his own creation; he
seems absolutely oblivious of self, and I feel sure his hygiene and
vegetarianism are simply the outcome of his desire to free himself from
all worldly cares which might impede his absolute devotion to his Cause.
He seems to have practically abandoned his practice. As we were wandering
on rather aimlessly, I suggested accompanying him home, but he did not
appear to jump at the idea, and as I know that it is not considered
etiquette amongst you folk to press inquiries as to address and so on, I
was going to drop the subject; but Armitage, after a short silence,
explained that the fact was he had not exactly got a home to go to. I
concluded that he was in for the bother of changing diggings, and made
some sympathetic remark to that effect; but he said that was not exactly
the case--that, in fact, he had given up having a fixed abode altogether.
As you can imagine, Isabel," continued my brother, "this information
somewhat staggered me. I knew through you that he had long ago given up
his Harley Street establishment and moved into more populous quarters,
where I quite supposed him still to be residing. But he calmly went on to
explain, as though it were the most natural thing in the world, that he
had been in need of a rather considerable sum of money some weeks back for
purposes of propaganda, and that, not knowing where else to obtain the
money, he had sold up all his belongings and cleared out of his lodgings
without paying his rent, 'by way of an example.' All this he explained
with the air of a man adducing an unanswerable argument, and as his manner
did not admit of remonstrance, I simply asked him what he thought of doing
now, which started him off on a long account of the opportunities for
propaganda afforded by such establishments as Rowton House, the casual
wards, and the Salvation Army Shelters. 'We want to get at the oppressed,
to rouse them from their lethargy of ages, to show them that they too have
rights, and that it is cowardly and wicked to starve in the midst of
plenty; we want to come amongst them, not as preachers and dilettantists,
but as workers like themselves, and how can this be done better than by
going in their midst and sharing their life?' I could not but feel
amazement and admiration at the enthusiasm and sincerity of this man,
mingled with sorrow at the thought that such an intellect as his should be
thus wasted. He is a man who might have done almost anything in the
scientific world, and now he seems destined to waste his life, a dreamer
of dreams, a sort of modern St. Francis in a world lacking in idealism,
and where he will be looked upon as a wandering lunatic rather than a
saint."

I sat silent for a few minutes. I had not quite realised that poor
Armitage had come to this--a frequenter of casual wards, a homeless and
wandering lunatic; my brother was right, the world would judge him as
such. I was not, however, in the least surprised at the news.

The servants had by now come down and we had breakfast brought to the
study, and I gave Raymond an account of my night's proceedings. When I
concluded my brother said,

"Well, Isabel, you will remain almost alone at the _Tocsin_.
Kosinski is leaving, Giannoli is gone, Armitage is otherwise occupied.
Will you be able to keep it going?"

"Oh, I could keep it going," I replied. "There are still a lot of
comrades hanging on to it; new ones are constantly turning up. The work
can be done between us, there is no doubt of that. It is rather of myself
that I doubt. I begin to feel isolated in the midst of the others; I
cannot believe that people like Short and Simpkins can change Society;
they would have to begin reforming themselves, and that they are incapable
of. I can admire a man like Kosinski: I cannot exactly sympathise with
him. As to Armitage, I can only grieve that he should thus waste his life
and talents. Probably, had he thought a little more of his personal
happiness, he would have avoided falling a victim to monomania, for such
he is in part. And then--and then--it is not only of others that I doubt,
but of myself. Am I really doing any good? Can I sincerely believe that
the _Tocsin_ will help towards the regeneration of mankind? Can
mankind be regenerated? When such questions never occurred to me, or, if
they did, were answered by my brain with an unhesitating affirmative, then
it was easy to work. No difficulties could daunt me; everything seemed
easy, straightforward. But now--but now...."

"Well, then, why don't you give it up, Isabel?" "Give it up? Oh, how
could I? I have never really thought of that. Oh no; the paper must come
out. I have undertaken it. I must go on with it."

"And you an Anarchist! Why, I always thought you believed in the absolute
freedom of the individual, and here you are saying that you must go on
with a work in which you no longer feel the requisite confidence, for the
mere reason that you once, under other circumstances, started it."

"You are right, Raymond, logically right, but life is not ruled by logic,
whether we be Anarchists or Reactionaries. I feel that I could not give up
the _Tocsin_, my interests centre round it; besides, I do not say
that I have altered my ideas; I am still an Anarchist, I can honestly work
for the Cause; I only said that I doubt. I feel depressed. Who has not had
at times periods of depression and doubt?"

"Well, we shall see," replied Raymond. "I got a letter from Caroline last
night which I wanted to show you. She says she will be home in another
three months, as she has accepted a further engagement for the States now
that her tour is nearly over. When she comes home it will be a little
company for you in the house. She has friends, and she is sure to be much
sought after now, as she seems fairly on the road to becoming a celebrity
in the musical world."

I read the long letter, written in the brilliant style which
characterised everything about Caroline. She described her triumphs in the
various cities of the Argentine and Brazil, the receptions given in her
honour, the life and society of these faraway countries, with a brightness
and humour which brought home to me the whole atmosphere of the places and
people she described. Caroline had always been fond of society, and even
before leaving England had become quite a favourite in musical circles;
but her quick, bright intelligence had never allowed her to be blind to
much that was vulgar and ludicrous in her surroundings. I was truly glad
to think that we should meet again before long. The common memories and
affections of our childhood formed a solid basis for our mutual
friendship, but I could not help smiling as I read the last paragraph of
her long epistle: "I expect by now Isabel has had time to grow out of her
enthusiasm for revolutions and economics, and will feel less drawn towards
baggy-trousered democrats and unwashed philosophers than when I left.
Perhaps she may even have come round to my view of life, _i.e._, that
it is really not worth while taking things too tragically, and that it is
best to take the few good things life brings us without worrying one's
brains about humanity. Selfish, is it not? But I have generally noticed
that it is your stern moralists and humanitarians who cause the most
unhappiness in the world. Anyhow, if Isabel is less wrapped up in
Socialism and Anarchy we shall be able to have a good time when I come
home. I am sure to be asked out a good deal, and if the fashionable people
who patronise musical celebrities are not free from their foibles and
ridicules we shall anyhow be able to amuse ourselves and laugh at them up
our sleeves."

So Caroline already counted on my having outgrown Anarchy and unwashed
philosophy, as she phrased it, and grown into drawing-room etiquette! But
she was wrong! I should go on with the _Tocsin_. I should still work
in the Cause; I had done so till then, and what had happened since
yesterday to alter my intentions? Nothing, or at least nothing of outward
importance. Only, since my last interview with Armitage and my parting
with Kosinski, I had begun to formulate to myself many questions which
till then I had only vaguely felt. Still I repeated to myself that I
should go on with the paper, that I should continue to lead the same life.
Of course I should! How could I do otherwise? And even if I had changed
somewhat in my ideas and my outlook on life, I certainly did not feel even
remotely attracted towards the sort of society Caroline referred to. I had
a vivid recollection of once accompanying her to an _at home_, given
in a crowded drawing-room, where the heavily-gilded Louis XV. mirrors and
Sevres vases and ornaments, with their scrolls and flourishes, all seemed
to have developed the flowing wigs which characterised the Roi Soleil, and
where the armchairs and divans were upholstered in yellow and pink satin,
and decked out with ribbon bows to resemble Watteau sheep. Oh no;
certainly I should not exchange the low living and high thinking of my
Anarchist days for such artificiality and vulgar display. Sunday was
generally a very busy day with me, almost more so than week-days, for
there were meetings to be held, literature to be sold and distributed, and
lectures and discussions to be attended. I was in the habit of rising
rather late, as very often Saturday night was an all-night sitting at the
office of the _Tocsin_, and Sunday morning was the only time I found
it convenient to pay a little attention to the toilet. But I used
generally to manage to be by twelve in some public place, and help Short
and M'Dermott to start a meeting. Short, influenced by his inherent
laziness, had succeeded in persuading the Italians that he was a great
orator, and that they could not better forward the Cause in their new
country than by carrying for him the movable platform from which he
delivered his spirited harangues; so that one or two of them were
generally present helping to form the nucleus of an audience, and ready to
lend their valid support should any drunken loafer or top-hatted
bourgeois, outraged in his feelings, attempt to disturb the proceedings.
Hyde Park was generally my destination in the afternoon, and in the
evening we used to repair in force to the hall of the Social Democrats,
there to take part in the discussion which followed the lectures, or else
some meeting in Deptford, Canning Town, or Stratford would claim my
attendance. But on this particular Sunday I felt too tired and despondent
to think of rushing out in my usual style.

I shut myself in my room and tried to rest, but I could not free myself
from the sights and thoughts which had beset me during the night. The
words of Kosinski's friend, "And this is what comes of struggling for the
higher life," still haunted me; the dead woman, staring blindly into space
rose before me, an image of the suffering forced on the weak by the
strong. Then my thoughts reverted to Giannoli. What was he doing? I had
not heard from him for over a month, and his last letter had been far from
reassuring. He hinted at some desperate enterprise he was engaged on, and
as I had no further news of him from any quarter I thought it not unlikely
that he had been arrested, and was, even then perhaps, suffering unknown
tortures in one of those dreaded Spanish prisons, where the old systems of
the Inquisition still prevail, though modern hypocrisy requires that all
should pass in silence and darkness, content on these conditions never to
push too closely its inquiries, even though some crippled victim who may
escape should rouse for a moment a spasmodic outburst of indignation in
the civilised world. And even were this not his fate, it was a sad enough
one in all conscience: to rush all over the world, wrecked in health,
driven from place to place by his wild suspicions, the offspring of a
diseased imagination; deprived of friends, for his mania of persecution
drove them off; deprived of means, for he had sacrificed his all to the
propaganda, and his health and mode of life did not permit of any settled
occupation. I felt strangely anxious about him, and this led my thoughts
back once more to Kosinski, with whom I had been brought so closely into
contact through our relations with Giannoli. I should never see him again
in all probability. He had told me he was going to Austria. He too
belonged to the _knights of death_, as an Italian comrade had named a
certain section of the Anarchists; and he was working out his inevitable
destiny. I wondered now how I had ever allowed myself to conceive of him
otherwise. I had always known it was impossible, and I felt that it was
only an impulse of rebellion against fate which had led me to speak.

Finding sleep out of the question, I got up and attempted to write an
article which I had promised to bring down to the _Tocsin_ the
following morning. The subject I had chosen was "The Right to Happiness,"
and I argued that man has a right not only to daily bread, as the
Socialists maintain, but also to happiness, consisting in the fullest
development and exercise of all his faculties, a condition only possible
when the individual shall be perfectly free, living in a harmonious
society of free men, untrammelled by artificial economic difficulties, and
by superstitions inherited from the past. Some days previously we had had
a discussion on the subject at the office of the _Tocsin_, and I had
maintained my views victoriously against the pessimistic dogmatism of a
German comrade. But now my arguments seemed hollow to myself, mere
rhetoric, and even that of third-rate quality. Happiness! Did not the mere
fact of attaining our desires deprive them of their charm? Life was an
alternating of longing and regret. I pushed paper and pen aside, and began
roaming aimlessly about the house. The large old-fashioned rooms impressed
me as strangely silent and forlorn. I wandered up to the attic which our
father had used as a laboratory, and which had always struck us children
as a mysterious apartment, where he did wonderful things with
strange-shaped instruments and bottles which we were told contained
deadly poison. His apparatus was still ranged on the shelves, thick in
dust, and the air was heavy with the pungent smell of acids. The large
drawing-rooms with their heavy hangings looked shabbier and dingier than
of old; I could not help noticing the neglected look of everything. I had
hardly entered them during the past year, and now I vaguely wondered
whether Caroline on her return would wish to have them renovated. Then I
remembered how I had received there for the first time, some four years
ago, my brother's Socialist friend, and I could not help smiling as I
recollected my excitement on that occasion. I was indeed young in those
days! I picked up a book which was lying on a table thick in dust, and sat
down listlessly in the roomy arm-chair by the fireside, which had been my
father's favourite seat. I began turning the pages of a volume, "The
Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius," and gradually I became absorbed in its
contents. Here was a man who had known how to create for himself in his
own soul an oasis of rest, not by practising a selfish indifference to,
and isolation from, public matters--not by placing his hopes in some
future paradise, the compensation of terrestrial suffering, but by rising
superior to external events, and, whilst fulfilling his duty as emperor
and man, not allowing himself to be flustered or perturbed by the
inevitable. "Abolish opinion, you have abolished this complaint, 'Some one
has harmed me.' Suppress the complaint, 'Some one has harmed me,' and the
harm itself is suppressed." What wisdom in these words!

It was a long while since I had thus enjoyed a quiet read. For several
months past my life had been a ceaseless round of feverish activity.
Looking back, it seemed to me that I had allowed myself to be strangely
preoccupied and flustered by trifles. What were these important duties
which had so absorbed me as to leave me no time for thought, for study, no
time to live my own life? How had I come to give such undue importance to
the publication of a paper which, after all, was read by a very few, and
those few for the most part already blind believers in the ideas it
advocated? Yet I told myself that the _Tocsin_ had done good work,
and could yet do much. Besides, I had undertaken it, I must go on with it;
life without an object would be intolerable. The slow hours passed, and
when night came I felt thoroughly worn out and exhausted, and soon got to
sleep.

I awoke on Monday morning with a sense of impending misfortune hovering
over me. I had taken refuge in sleep the previous night from a host of
troublesome thoughts and perplexing doubts, and I now experienced the
hateful sensation of returning consciousness, when one does not yet
recollect fully the past, yet realises vaguely the re-awakening to
suffering and action. I wanted to get to the office early that morning,
for publishing day was near at hand and there was a lot of work to be
finished. I felt that the drudgery of composing would be a relief to my
over-strained nerves; so, without waiting for breakfast and the morning
paper which I generally scanned before leaving home, I dressed rapidly and
set out for the _Tocsin_. I had not gone many yards when my attention
was attracted by the large placards pasted on the boards outside a
newspaper shop:--

"Shocking outrage in Madrid. Attempt on the life of Spanish
Prime-Minister--Many victims. Arrest of Anarchist Assassin. London Police
on scent."

Giannoli! The name flashed across my brain as I rushed into the shop and
purchased the paper. My heart thumped with excitement as, standing in the
shadow of some houses at the corner of the street, I hastily opened and
folded the sheet and ran my eyes down the long column, freely interspersed
with headlines.

"On Sunday evening, at half-past six, when the fashionable crowd which
throngs the Prado at Madrid was at its thickest, and just as the Minister
Fernandez was driving by in his carriage, a man pushed his way through the
crowd, and shouting 'Long live Anarchy,' discharged at him three shots
from a revolver; the aim, however, was not precise, and one of the bullets
wounded, it is feared mortally, the secretary, Seor Esperandez, who was
seated beside his chief, whilst the Minister was shot in the arm. Several
people rushed forward to seize the miscreant, who defended himself
desperately, discharging the remaining chambers of the revolver amidst his
assailants, two of whom have sustained serious injuries. He was, however,
overcome and taken, handcuffed and bound, to the nearest police station.
On being interrogated he refused his name and all particulars as to
himself, only declaring that he attempted the life of the Minister
Fernandez on his own individual responsibility, that he had no
accomplices, and that his object was to revenge his comrades who had been
persecuted by order of the Minister. When informed that he had missed his
aim, and that Fernandez had escaped with a broken arm, whilst his
secretary was in danger of death, he expressed his regret at not having
succeeded in his object, saying that this was due to his wretched health,
which rendered his aim unsteady; but as to Seor Esperandez, he declared
that he considered him also responsible, inasmuch as he was willing to
associate himself with the oppressor of the people. Neither threats nor
persuasion could induce him to say more. The police, however, are making
active inquiries, and have ascertained so far (midnight of Sunday) that
the prisoner is an Italian Anarchist recently landed at Barcelona from
America, passing under the name of Paolo Costa. This name, however, is
considered to be false. He is a tall man, of rather distinguished
appearance. The police do not credit the idea that he has no accomplices,
and during the evening extensive arrests have been made in Madrid and
Barcelona. Over a hundred of the most noted Anarchists and Socialists in
these cities are now in prison."

Such was the brief outline of facts as given by the _Morning Post._
Of course I had not the slightest doubt as to the identity of the
prisoner; the state of weakness and ill-health which had caused him to
miss his aim was conclusive, added to the many other reasons I had for
supposing him to be Giannoli. This, then, was the deed he had been
contemplating! Only the day before I had been wondering why I had no news
of him; but a few hours previously he went forth to his death. For it
meant death, of course; of that I had no doubt. He would be garotted; I
only hoped that he might not be tortured first. I gave a hasty glance at
the other details given by the paper. A column was dedicated to the
virtues of the prime-minister. He was upheld as a model of the domestic
virtues (a few months back Continental papers had been full of a
scandalous trial in which Fernandez had been involved), and was
represented as the man who had saved Spain from ruin and disaster by his
firm repression of the revolutionary parties: by which euphonious phrase
the papers referred to the massacres of strikers which had taken place at
Barcelona and Valladolid, and the wholesale arrest and imprisonment of
Anarchists and Socialists in connection with a recent anti-clerical
movement which had convulsed the Peninsula.

These arrests had given rise to a great political trial for conspiracy
before a court-martial, which had ended in a sentence of death passed on
five of the prisoners, whilst the others were sentenced to terms of
imprisonment varying from thirty to five years. It was to revenge the
injustice and the sufferings caused by this policy that Giannoli had
attempted the life of the Spanish minister. Another paragraph caught my
eye:--

"London police hot on scent: raids and arrests."

"Our correspondent has interviewed a leading detective at Scotland Yard
who for some years past has been charged with the surveillance of
suspicious foreign Anarchists. This clever officer informs our
correspondent that he has no doubt the plot was hatched in London, and
thinks that he could name the author, an Italian Anarchist of desperate
antecedents who disappeared from London under mysterious circumstances
nearly seven months ago. London is a centre of Anarchist propaganda, and
foreign desperadoes of all nationalities flock hither to abuse the
hospitality and freedom which this government too rashly concedes them.
Englishmen will one day be roused from their fool's paradise to find that
too long have they nursed a viper in their bosom. We trust that this
lesson will not be wasted, and that the police will see to closing without
delay certain self-styled clubs and 'printing-offices' which are in
reality nothing but hotbeds of conspiracy and murder."

I hurried along as I read these last words. We were evidently once more
in for troublous times. The office of the _Tocsin_ was clearly
designated in the paragraph I have quoted; perhaps the office would be
raided; perhaps the Italian comrades who were staying there would be
arrested. I rapidly reviewed in my mind's eye the papers and letters which
were in the office, wondering whether anything incriminating would be
found; but I did not feel much perturbed on that score, as it was my
invariable custom to burn all papers of importance, and I felt certain
that nothing more compromising would be found than the Bleeding Lamb's
tract on the Seven-headed Beast, which, according to its author, would
"make the old Queen sit up a bit," and Gresham's treatise on the
persecutions of the Early Christians. I was glad to think that Kosinski
had settled to leave the country. I knew that Giannoli had left with him
much of his correspondence, and I trusted that this would not fall into
the hands of the police.

I had now nearly reached my destination and, as I turned up the corner of
Lysander Grove, I at once realised that something unusual had taken place
at the office. The shutters were still up at Mrs. Wattles's green-grocer's
shop, and that lady herself loomed large at the entrance to the courtyard
leading to the _Tocsin_, surrounded by her chief gossips and by a
dozen or two of dirty matrons. Several windows were up in the houses
opposite and slatternly-looking women were craning out and exchanging
observations. I hurried on and, pushing my way past Mrs. Wattles, who I
could see at a glance was in liquor, and heedless of her remarks, I ran
down the narrow courtyard to the office door which I found shut. I knocked
impatiently and loudly; the door opened and I was confronted by a
detective.

What I had expected had happened. The office had been raided, and was now
in the hands of the police. In answer to my inquiring look, the detective
requested me to come in and speak to the inspector. In the ground-floor
room three or four Italian comrades were gathered together. The one-eyed
baker, Beppe, was addressing the others in a loud voice; as far as I could
gather from the few words I caught, he was relating some prison
experiences. The group looked unusually animated and jolly; the incident
evidently reminded them of their own country. As soon as they saw me enter
they interrupted their talk, and Beppe stepped forward to shake hands, but
the officer of the law interposed: "Now, you fellows, stay there; the
young lady is going to speak to the inspector." I told Beppe I should soon
be down, and he retired, pulling a wry face at the detective, and making
some observation to his friends which made them all roar with laughter.
Upstairs a scene of wild disorder greeted my eye. Four or five policemen
were turning over heaps of old papers, searching through dusty cupboards
and shelves; heaps of pie lay about the floor--evidently some one had put
a foot through the form of type ready set for the forthcoming issue of the
_Tocsin_; on the "composing surface" stood a formidable array of pint
pots, with the contents of which the men in blue had been refreshing
themselves. On a packing-case in the middle of the room sat Short, his
billycock hat set far back on his long, greasy hair, smoking a clay pipe
with imperturbable calm; whilst little M'Dermott, spry as ever, watched
the proceedings, pulling faces at the policemen behind their backs, and
"kidding" them with extraordinary tales as to the fearful explosive
qualities of certain ginger-beer bottles which were ranged on a shelf. At
the editorial table, which was generally covered with a litter of proofs
and manuscript, more or less greasy and jammy, owing to our habit of
feeding in the office, sat the inspector, going through the heaps of
papers, pamphlets, and manuscript articles which were submitted to his
scrutiny by his satellites. I took in all this at a glance, and walking
straight up to the inspector, I demanded of him an explanation of this
unwarranted invasion of the office.

His first answer was an interrogation.

"You are Isabel Meredith, are you not?"

This opened up an explanation which was brief and conclusive. The
inspector showed me a search-warrant, duly signed by a magistrate, and
another warrant for the arrest of Kosinski, and informed me that the
office had been opened to him by Short, who had represented himself as one
of the proprietors. The primary object of the search was to see if
Kosinski, who was wanted by the police in connection with the Madrid
outrage, were not on the premises, and also to see if there were no
incriminating documents or explosive materials concealed there.

"And have you found anything very alarming?" I inquired sarcastically.

"No, miss," the inspector replied in the same tone; "the most dangerous
object in this place seems to be your printer" (he pointed at Short), "and
we have kept at a fairly safe distance from _him_. Still, of course,
I have to go through all these papers; they may yet give us a clue to the
whereabouts of Kosinski or your friend Giannoli;" and here he looked me
straight in the face.

"Maybe," I simply replied with a shrug. I felt perfectly tranquil on that
score, and had but small doubt that Kosinski was by now already on his way
out of the country, as he would judge from the papers that the police
would be on his track.

"And when will this search be over?" I inquired.

"Oh, I cannot exactly tell you. It will take me some days to go all
through these papers. We shall probably be here for two or three days."

I looked around me. Everything was disorganised. The type cases had all
been emptied into a heap in the middle of the room, the forms ready locked
up had been pied, the MSS. and papers sequestered. It was utterly hopeless
to think of bringing out the _Tocsin_. The scene reminded me of my
first experience of an Anarchist printing-office after the police raid on
the _Bomb_; but now I no longer had Armitage to encourage me with his
unswerving optimism and untiring energy, nor Kosinski to urge me on with
his contempt of dilettantism and half-hearted enthusiasm. True, Short was
there, much the same as in the old days; even his dog could be heard
snarling and growling when the policemen administered to him some sly
kick; but as I looked at the squalid and lethargic figure with its sallow,
unhealthy, repulsive face, I was overcome by a feeling of almost physical
nausea. I realised fully how loathsome this gutter Iago had become to me
during the past few months, during which I had had ample opportunity to
note his pettifogging envy and jealousy, his almost simian inquisitiveness
and prying curiosity. I felt I could not work with him; his presence had
become intolerable to me. I realised that this was the _finale_, the
destined end of the _Tocsin_ and of my active revolutionary
propaganda. I had changed. Why not let the dead bury their dead?

At this moment the policeman who had opened the office door to me came up
bringing a letter, which he handed to the inspector.

"It is for you, miss," that functionary said, reading the address, "but I
have orders to open all correspondence. You will excuse my complying with
them."

My heart stood still. Could it be from Kosinski or Giannoli? After a
moment the inspector handed the note to me. It was from the landlord--a
notice to quit. I walked up and showed it to Short.

"Well, what will you do?" he inquired. They were the first words we had
exchanged that morning.

"I shall leave," I replied.

"And how about the paper? Do you think of starting it again?"

"No, I do not think so; not for the present at any rate."

"And the 'plant'?"

"I shall leave that too. You can look after it, you and the comrades!"

"Oh, the comrades!" sneered Short, and returned to his pipe.

I turned once more to the inspector. "I am free to leave, I suppose?" I
inquired. "I cannot see that my presence here serves any purpose."

"Oh yes, miss, you can go if you like. The presence of the printer is
sufficient for us. I understand he is one of the proprietors?"

"Oh yes, he is a proprietor," I replied, and turned on my heel. M'Dermott
came up to me.

"Well, my dear," he said, "so you are leaving. Well, I don't blame you,
nor wish you to remain. After all, it is no use trying to tinker up our
rotten system, or to prop up society with such wretched supports as our
friend here," and he pointed at Short. "What we need is to get round them
by our insidious means, and then go in for wholesale assassination!"

I could not help smiling as the little man gave vent to this bloodthirsty
sentiment in an undertone; he wrung my hand warmly, and we parted.

"What do you intend doing with those Italians who stay here?" I inquired
of the inspector as the sound of a guitar proceeding from downstairs
recalled my thoughts to them.

"I think it best to detain them here until I have finished searching the
place thoroughly; then if I find nothing to incriminate them, they will be
free. You need not worry about them, miss, they do not seem likely to
suffer from depression."

The twanging of the guitar was now accompanied by Beppe's powerful
baritone voice, whilst the others joined in the chorus:

"_Noi, profughi D'Italia...._"

I walked down the stairs.

"Good-bye, Comrades!"

"Good-bye, a rivederci!" and after giving one last look at the familiar
scene, I walked out.

As I made my way down the yard leading to the street, I encountered Mrs.
Wattles at the back door of her shop. She had now reached the maudlin
stage of intoxication. Her eyes were bleary, her mouth tremulous, her
complexion bloated and inflamed. There was something indefinite in her
appearance, suggesting the idea that her face had been boiled, and that
the features had run, losing all sharpness of outline and expression. She
fixed me with her fishy eye, and dabbing her face with the corner of her
apron began to blubber.

"S'elp me Gawd, miss," she began, "I never thought as I should come to
this! To have them narks under my very roof, abrazenin' it out! I always
knew as there was something wrong abart pore Mr. Janly, and many's the
time I've said to 'im, 'Mr. Janly, sir,' I've said, 'do take a little
something, yer look so pale.' But 'e always answered, 'No, Mrs. Wattles,
no; you've been a mother to me, Mrs. Wattles, and I know you're right, but
I can't do it. 'Ere's for 'alf a pint to drink my health, but I can't do
it.' And I dare say as it were them temp'rance scrupils like as brought
'im to 'is end."

At these tender recollections of Giannoli the good lady quite broke down.

"To think that it was I as let you that very shop two years last
Christmas, and that pore Mr. Cusings, as was sweet on you then--I've not
seen 'im lately--and now the coppers are under my very roof! It seems a
judgment on us, it really does. But I always told Wattles that if he went
on treatin' of 'is wedded wife more like a 'eathen than a Christian woman,
as a judgment would come on 'im, an' now my words is proved."

She seemed by now quite oblivious of my presence: a quivering shapeless
mass of gin-drenched humanity she collapsed on to the doorstep. And with
this for my last sight and recollection of the place which had witnessed
so much enthusiasm, so many generous hopes and aspirations, and where so
many illusions lay buried, I walked forth into the London street a sadder
if a wiser woman.

THE END

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