And now she was sending out her armies, marshalling her forces, pouring out her money like water, to crush a tiny folk, a nation of farmers, a sturdy, simple-minded race, one of the least amongst the peoples of the earth! He shook his head as if he had been asleep, and asked himself if the nation had suddenly gone mad with lust of blood. It was inconceivable that the England of his dreams could do this thing. He looked for her, and found her nowhere. The streets were hot all day with the tramping of armed men. filled the land with the old savage determination to fight things out to the end, even though all the world should range itself on the other side.

Lucian flung all his feelings of rage, indignation, sorrow, and infinite amazement into a passionate sonnet which appeared next morning in large type, well leaded and spaced, in the columns of a London daily newspaper that favoured the views of the peace-at-any-price party. He followed it up with others. At first there was more sorrow and surprise than anything else in these admonitions; but as the days went on their tone altered. He had endeavoured to bring the giant to his senses by an{237} appeal to certain feelings which the giant was too much engaged to feel at that moment; eliciting no response, he became troublesome, and strove to attract the giant’s attention by pricking him with pins. The giant paid small attention to this; he looked down, saw a small thing hanging about his feet with apparently mischievous intentions, and calmly pushed it away. Then Lucian began the assault in dead earnest. He could dip his pen in vitriol with the best of them, and when he realised that the giant was drunk with the lust of blood he fell upon him with fury. The vials of poetic wrath had never been emptied of such a flood of righteous anger since the days wherein Milton called for vengeance upon the murderers of the Piedmontese.

It is an ill thing to fight against the prevalent temper of a nation. Lucian soon discovered that you may kick and prick John Bull for a long time with safety to yourself, because of his good nature, his dislike of bothering about trifles, and his natural sluggishness, but that he always draws a line somewhere, and brings down a heavy fist upon the man who crosses it. He began to find people fighting shy of his company; invitations became less in number; men nodded who used to shake hands; strong things were said in newspapers; and he was warned by friends that he was carrying things too far.

‘Endeavour,’ said one man, an acquaintance of some years’ standing, for whose character and abilities he had a great regard, ‘endeavour to get some accurate sense of the position. You are blackguarding us every day with your sonorous sonnets as if we were cut-throats and thieves going out on a murdering and marauding expedition. We are nothing of the sort. We are a great nation, with a very painful sense of responsibility, engaged in a very difficult task. The war is bringing us together like brothers—out of its blood and ashes there will spring an Empire such as the world has never seen. You are belittling everything to the level of Hooliganism.’

‘What is it but Hooliganism?’ retorted Lucian. ‘The{238} most powerful nation in the world seizing one of the weakest by the throat!’

‘It is nothing of the sort,’ said the other. ‘You know it is your great curse, my dear Lucian, that you never get a clear notion of the truth. You have a trick of seeing things as you think they ought to be; you will not see them as they are. Just because the Boers happen to be numerically small, to lead a pastoral life, and to have gone into the desert like the Israelites of old, you have brought that far too powerful imagination of yours to bear upon them, and have elevated them into a class with the Swiss and the Italians, who fought for their country.’