"Yes. You dropped the hint of it yourself, two or three years ago."
"Oh, I remember — the time the Church tried her strength against us the first time, and presently thought it wise to wait for a hopefuler season. Well, how have you arranged the fence?"
"I start twelve immensely strong wires — naked, not insulated — from a big dynamo in the cave — dynamo with no brushes except a positive and a negative one — "
"Yes, that's right."
"The wires go out from the cave and fence in a circle of level ground a hundred yards in diameter; they make twelve independent fences, ten feet apart — that is to say, twelve circles within circles — and their ends come into the cave again."
"Right; go on."
"The fences are fastened to heavy oaken posts only three feet apart, and these posts are sunk five feet in the ground."
"That is good and strong."
"Yes. The wires have no ground-connection outside of the cave. They go out from the positive brush of the dynamo; there is a ground-connection through the negative brush; the other ends of the wire return to the cave, and each is grounded independently."
"No, no, that won't do!"
"It's too expensive — uses up force for nothing. You don't want any ground-connection except the one through the negative brush. The other end of every wire must be brought back into the cave and fastened independently, and without any ground-connection. Now, then, observe the economy of it. A cavalry charge hurls itself against the fence; you are using no power, you are spending no money, for there is only one ground-connection till those horses come against the wire; the moment they touch it they form a connection with the negative brush through the ground, and drop dead. Don't you see? — you are using no energy until it is needed; your lightning is there, and ready, like the load in a gun; but it isn't costing you a cent till you touch it off. Oh, yes, the single ground-connection — "
"Of course! I don't know how I overlooked that. It's not only cheaper, but it's more effectual than the other way, for if wires break or get tangled, no harm is done."
"No, especially if we have a tell-tale in the cave and disconnect the broken wire. Well, go on. The gatlings?"
"Yes — that's arranged. In the center of the inner circle, on a spacious platform six feet high, I've grouped a battery of thirteen gatling guns, and provided plenty of ammunition."
"That's it. They command every approach, and when the Church's knights arrive, there's going to be music. The brow of the precipice over the cave — "
"I've got a wire fence there, and a gatling. They won't drop any rocks down on us."
"Well, and the glass-cylinder dynamite torpedoes?"
"That's attended to. It's the prettiest garden that was ever planted. It's a belt forty feet wide, and goes around the outer fence — distance between it and the fence one hundred yards — kind of neutral ground that space is. There isn't a single square yard of that whole belt but is equipped with a torpedo. We laid them on the surface of the ground, and sprinkled a layer of sand over them. It's an innocent looking garden, but you let a man start in to hoe it once, and you'll see."
"You tested the torpedoes?"
"Well, I was going to, but — "
"But what? Why, it's an immense oversight not to apply a — "
"Test? Yes, I know; but they're all right; I laid a few in the public road beyond our lines and they've been tested."
"Oh, that alters the case. Who did it?"
"A Church committee."
"Yes. They came to command us to make submission. You see they didn't really come to test the torpedoes; that was merely an incident."
"Did the committee make a report?"
"Yes, they made one. You could have heard it a mile."
"That was the nature of it. After that I put up some signs, for the protection of future committees, and we have had no intruders since."
"Clarence, you've done a world of work, and done it perfectly."
"We had plenty of time for it; there wasn't any occasion for hurry."
We sat silent awhile, thinking. Then my mind was made up, and I said:
"Yes, everything is ready; everything is shipshape, no detail is wanting. I know what to do now."
"So do I; sit down and wait."
"No, sir ! rise up and strike !"
"Do you mean it?"
"Yes, indeed! The de fensive isn't in my line, and the offensive is. That is, when I hold a fair hand — two-thirds as good a hand as the enemy. Oh, yes, we'll rise up and strike; that's our game."
"A hundred to one you are right. When does the performance begin?"
"Now! We'll proclaim the Republic."
"Well, that will precipitate things, sure enough!"
"It will make them buzz, I tell you! England will be a hornets' nest before noon to-morrow, if the Church's hand hasn't lost its cunning — and we know it hasn't. Now you write and I'll dictate thus:
"BE IT KNOWN UNTO ALL. Whereas the king having died
and left no heir, it becomes my duty to continue the
executive authority vested in me, until a government
shall have been created and set in motion. The
monarchy has lapsed, it no longer exists. By
consequence, all political power has reverted to its
original source, the people of the nation. With the
monarchy, its several adjuncts died also; wherefore
there is no longer a nobility, no longer a privileged
class, no longer an Established Church; all men are
become exactly equal; they are upon one common
level, and religion is free. A Republic is hereby
proclaimed, as being the natural estate of a nation
when other authority has ceased. It is the duty of
the British people to meet together immediately,
and by their votes elect representatives and deliver
into their hands the government."
I signed it "The Boss," and dated it from Merlin's Cave. Clarence said —
"Why, that tells where we are, and invites them to call right away."
"That is the idea. We strike — by the Proclamation — then it's their innings. Now have the thing set up and printed and posted, right off; that is, give the order; then, if you've got a couple of bicycles handy at the foot of the hill, ho for Merlin's Cave!"
"I shall be ready in ten minutes. What a cyclone there is going to be to-morrow when this piece of paper gets to work! . . . It's a pleasant old palace, this is; I wonder if we shall ever again — but never mind about that."