And yet, after all, there seemed to be some show of discipline. I noticed that, as the crowd moved forward, men dropped out and remained picketing the doorways of the street. Women seemed to be playing a large part in the affair, peasants with shawls over their heads, many of them leading by the hand small children.
Burrows treated it all as a huge joke. “By Jove,” he cried, speaking across to me, “Durward, it’s like that play Martin Harvey used to do—what was it?—about the French Revolution, you know.”
“‘The Only Way,’” said Peroxide, in a prim strangled voice.
“That’s it—’The Only Way’—with their red flags and all. Don’t they look ruffians, some of them?”
There was a great discussion going on under our windows. All the lorries had drawn up together, and the screaming, chattering, and shouting was like the noise of a parrots’ aviary. The cold blue light had climbed now into the sky, which was thick with stars; the snow on the myriad roofs stretched like a filmy cloud as far as the eye could see. The moving, shouting crowd grew with every moment mistier.
“Oh, dear! Mr. Burrows,” said the little typist, who was not Peroxide. “Do you think I shall ever be able to get home? We’re on the other side of the river, you know. Do you think the bridges will be up? My mother will be so terribly anxious.”
“Oh, you’ll get home all right,” answered Burrows cheerfully. “Just wait until this crowd has gone by. I don’t expect there’s any fuss down by the river...”
His words were cut short by some order from one of the fellows below. Others shouted in response, and the lorries again began to move forward.
“I believe he was shouting to us,” said Bohun. “It sounded like ’Get off’ or ‘Get away.’”
“Not he!” said Burrows; “they’re too busy with their own affairs.”
Then things happened quickly. There was a sudden strange silence below; I saw a quick flame from some fire that had apparently been lit on the Fontanka Bridge; I heard the same voice call out once more sharply, and a second later I felt rather than heard a whizz like the swift flight of a bee past my ear; I was conscious that a bullet had struck the brick behind me. That bullet swung me into the Revolution....
...We were all gathered together in the office. I heard one of the Russians say in an agitated whisper, “Don’t turn on the light!... Don’t turn on the light! They can see!”
We were all in half-darkness, our faces mistily white. I could hear Peroxide breathing in a tremulous manner, as though in a moment she would break into hysteria.
“We’ll go into the inside room. We can turn the light on there,” said Burrows. We all passed into the reception-room of the office, a nice airy place with the library along one wall and bright coloured maps on the other. We stood together and considered the matter.