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The Great War Syndicate by Frank Stockton

Part 3 out of 3

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repeller, instead of bombarding, should send men in
boats to take possession of the evacuated
fortifications, or should attempt any mining
operations. The gunners for this battery were
stationed at a safe place to the rear, whence they
could readily reach their guns if necessary.

The next day was one of supreme importance to the
Syndicate. On this day it must make plain to the
world, not only what the motor-bomb could do, but that
the motor-bomb did what was done. Before leaving the
English Channel the director of Repeller No. 11 had
received telegraphic advices from both Europe and
America, indicating the general drift of public opinion
in regard to the recent sea-fight; and, besides these,
many English and continental papers had been brought to
him from the French coast.

From all these the director perceived that the
cause of the Syndicate had in a certain way suffered
from the manner in which the battle in the channel had
been conducted. Every newspaper urged that if the
repeller carried guns capable of throwing the bombs
which the Syndicate professed to use, there was no
reason why every ship in the British fleet should
not have been destroyed. But as the repeller had not
fired a single shot at the fleet, and as the battle had
been fought entirely by the crabs, there was every
reason to believe that if there were such things as
motor-guns, their range was very short, not as great as
that of the ordinary dynamite cannon. The great risk
run by one of the crabs in order to disable a dynamite
gun-boat seemed an additional proof of this.

It was urged that the explosions in the water might
have been produced by torpedoes; that the torpedo-boat
which had been destroyed was so near the repeller that
an ordinary shell was sufficient to accomplish the
damage that had been done.

To gainsay these assumptions was imperative on the
Syndicate's forces. To firmly establish the prestige
of the instantaneous motor was the object of the war.
Crabs were of but temporary service. Any nation could
build vessels like them, and there were many means of
destroying them. The spring armour was a complete
defence against ordinary artillery, but it was not a
defence against submarine torpedoes. The claims
of the Syndicate could be firmly based on nothing but
the powers of absolute annihilation possessed by the
instantaneous motor-bomb.

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

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.

In three days a convention of peace was concluded
between Great Britain and the American Syndicate acting
for the United States, its provisions being made
subject to such future treaties and alliances as the
governments of the two nations might make with each
other. In six days after the affair at Caerdaff, a
committee of the American War Syndicate was in London,
making arrangements, under the favourable auspices of
the British Government, for the formation of an
Anglo-American Syndicate of War.

The Atlantic Ocean now sprang into new life. It
seemed impossible to imagine whence had come the
multitude of vessels which now steamed and sailed upon
its surface. Among these, going westward, were six
crabs, and the spring-armoured vessel, once the
Tallapoosa, going home to a triumphant reception,
such as had never before been accorded to any vessel,
whether of war or peace.

The blockade of the Canadian port, which had been
effectively maintained without incident, was now
raised, and the Syndicate's vessels proceeded to an
American port.

The British ironclad, Adamant, at the conclusion
of peace was still in tow of Crab C, and off the coast
of Florida. A vessel was sent down the coast by the
Syndicate to notify Crab C of what had occurred, and to
order it to tow the Adamant to the Bermudas, and
there deliver her to the British authorities. The
vessel sent by the Syndicate, which was a fast coast-
steamer, had scarcely hove in sight of the objects of
her search when she was saluted by a ten-inch shell
from the Adamant, followed almost immediately by
two others. The commander of the Adamant had no idea
that the war was at an end, and had never failed,
during his involuntary cruise, to fire at anything
which bore the American flag, or looked like an
American craft.

Fortunately the coast steamer was not struck, and
at the top of her speed retired to a greater distance,
whence the Syndicate officer on board communicated with
the crab by smoke signals.

During the time in which Crab C had had charge of
the Adamant no communication had taken place between
the two vessels. Whenever an air-pipe had been
elevated for the purpose of using therein a speaking-
tube, a volley from a machine-gun on the Adamant was
poured upon it, and after several pipes had been shot
away the director of the crab ceased his efforts to
confer with those on the ironclad. It had been
necessary to place the outlets of the ventilating
apparatus of the crab under the forward ends of some of
the upper roof-plates.

When Crab C had received her orders, she put about
the prow of the great warship, and proceeded to tow her
north-eastward, the commander of the Adamant
taking a parting crack with his heaviest stern-gun at
the vessel which had brought the order for his release.

All the way from the American coast to the Bermuda
Islands, the great Adamant blazed, thundered, and
roared, not only because her commander saw, or fancied
he saw, an American vessel, but to notify all crabs,
repellers, and any other vile invention of the enemy
that may have been recently put forth to blemish the
sacred surface of the sea, that the Adamant still
floated, with the heaviest coat of mail and the finest
and most complete armament in the world, ready to sink
anything hostile which came near enough--but not too near.

When the commander found that he was bound for the
Bermudas, he did not understand it, unless, indeed,
those islands had been captured by the enemy. But he
did not stop firing. Indeed, should he find the
Bermudas under the American flag, he would fire at that
flag and whatever carried it, as long as a shot or a
shell or a charge of powder remained to him.

But when he reached British waters, and slowly
entering St. George's harbour, saw around him the
British flag floating as proudly as it floated above
his own great ship, he confessed himself utterly
bewildered; but he ordered the men at every gun to
stand by their piece until he was boarded by a boat
from the fort, and informed of the true state of affairs.

But even then, when weary Crab C raised herself
from her fighting depth, and steamed to a dock, the
commander of the Adamant could scarcely refrain from
sending a couple of tons of iron into the beastly sea-
devil which had had the impertinence to tow him about
against his will.

No time was lost by the respective Governments of
Great Britain and the United States in ratifying the
peace made through the Syndicate, and in concluding a
military and naval alliance, the basis of which should
be the use by these two nations, and by no other
nations, of the instantaneous motor. The treaty was
made and adopted with much more despatch than generally
accompanies such agreements between nations, for both
Governments felt the importance of placing themselves,
without delay, in that position from which, by means of
their united control of paramount methods of
warfare, they might become the arbiters of peace.

The desire to evolve that power which should render
opposition useless had long led men from one warlike
invention to another. Every one who had constructed a
new kind of gun, a new kind of armour, or a new
explosive, thought that he had solved the problem, or
was on his way to do so. The inventor of the
instantaneous motor had done it.

The treaty provided that all subjects concerning
hostilities between either or both of the contracting
powers and other nations should be referred to a Joint
High Commission, appointed by the two powers; and if
war should be considered necessary, it should be
prosecuted and conducted by the Anglo-American War
Syndicate, within limitations prescribed by the High

The contract made with the new Syndicate was of the
most stringent order, and contained every provision
that ingenuity or foresight of man could invent or
suggest to make it impossible for the Syndicate to
transfer to any other nation the use of the
instantaneous motor.

Throughout all classes in sympathy with the
Administrative parties of Great Britain and the United
States there was a feeling of jubilant elation on
account of the alliance and the adoption by the two
nations of the means of prohibitive warfare. This
public sentiment acted even upon the opposition; and
the majority of army and navy officers in the two
countries felt bound to admit that the arts of war in
which they had been educated were things of the past.
Of course there were members of the army and navy in
both countries who deprecated the new state of things.
But there were also men, still living, who deprecated
the abolition of the old wooden seventy-four gun ship.

A British artillery officer conversing with a
member of the American Syndicate at a London club, said
to him:--

"Do you know that you made a great mistake in the
beginning of your operations with the motor-guns? If
you had contrived an attachment to the motor which
should have made an infernal thunder-clap and a storm
of smoke at the moment of discharge it would have saved
you a lot of money and time and trouble. The work of
the motor on the Canadian coast was terrible enough,
but people could see no connection between that
and the guns on your vessels. If you could have sooner
shown that connection you might have saved yourselves
the trouble of crossing the Atlantic. And, to prove
this, one of the most satisfactory points connected
with your work on the Welsh coast was the jet of smoke
which came from the repeller every time she discharged
a motor. If it had not been for those jets, I believe
there would be people now in the opposition who would
swear that Caerdaff had been mined, and that the
Ministry were a party to it."

"Your point is well taken," said the American, "and
should it ever be necessary to discharge any more
bombs,--which I hope it may not be,--we shall take care
to show a visible and audible connection between cause
and effect."

"The devil take it, sir!" cried an old captain of
an English ship-of-the-line, who was sitting near by.
"What you are talking about is not war! We might as
well send out a Codfish Trust to settle national
disputes. In the next sea-fight we'll save ourselves
the trouble of gnawing and crunching at the sterns of
the enemy. We'll simply send a note aboard
requesting the foreigner to be so good as to send
us his rudder by bearer, which, if properly marked and
numbered, will be returned to him on the conclusion of
peace. This would do just as well as twisting it off,
and save expense. No, sir, I will not join you in a
julep! _I_ have made no alliance over new-fangled
inventions! Waiter, fetch me some rum and hot water!"

In the midst of the profound satisfaction with
which the members of the American War Syndicate
regarded the success of their labours,--labours alike
profitable to themselves and to the recently contending
nations,--and in the gratified pride with which they
received the popular and official congratulations which
were showered upon them, there was but one little
cloud, one regret.

In the course of the great Syndicate War a life had
been lost. Thomas Hutchins, while assisting in the
loading of coal on one of the repellers, was
accidentally killed by the falling of a derrick.

The Syndicate gave a generous sum to the family of
the unfortunate man, and throughout the United States
the occurrence occasioned a deep feeling of sympathetic
regret. A popular subscription was started to build a monument
to the memory of Hutchins, and contributions came, not only
from all parts of the United States, but from many
persons in Great Britain who wished to assist in the
erection of this tribute to the man who had fallen
in the contest which had been of as much benefit to
their country as to his own.

Some weeks after the conclusion of the treaty, a
public question was raised, which at first threatened
to annoy the American Government; but it proved to be
of little moment. An anti-Administration paper in
Peakville, Arkansas, asserted that in the whole of the
published treaty there was not one word in regard to
the fisheries question, the complications arising from
which had been the cause of the war. Other papers took
up the matter, and the Government then discovered that
in drawing up the treaty the fisheries business had
been entirely overlooked. There was a good deal of
surprise in official circles when this discovery was
announced; but as it was considered that the fisheries
question was one which would take care of itself, or be
readily disposed of in connection with a number of
other minor points which remained to be settled between
the two countries, it was decided to take no notice of
the implied charge of neglect, and to let the matter
drop. And as the opposition party took no real
interest in the question, but little more was said
about it.

Both countries were too well satisfied with the
general result to waste time or discussion over small
matters. Great Britain had lost some forts and some
ships; but these would have been comparatively useless
in the new system of warfare. On the other hand, she
had gained, not only the incalculable advantage of the
alliance, but a magnificent and unsurpassed landlocked
basin on the coast of Wales.

The United States had been obliged to pay an
immense sum on account of the contract with the War
Syndicate, but this was considered money so well spent,
and so much less than an ordinary war would have cost,
that only the most violent anti-Administration journals
ever alluded to it.

Reduction of military and naval forces, and gradual
disarmament, was now the policy of the allied nations.
Such forces and such vessels as might be demanded for
the future operations of the War Syndicate were
retained. A few field batteries of motor-guns were all
that would be needed on land, and a comparatively small
number of armoured ships would suffice to carry
the motor-guns that would be required at sea.

Now there would be no more mere exhibitions of the
powers of the instantaneous motor-bomb. Hereafter, if
battles must be fought, they would be battles of

This is the history of the Great Syndicate War.
Whether or not the Anglo-American Syndicate was ever
called upon to make war, it is not to be stated here.
But certain it is that after the formation of this
Syndicate all the nations of the world began to teach
English in their schools, and the Spirit of
Civilization raised her head with a confident smile.

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