Thomson passed on. It was lighter now and the streets were thronged with people. He turned once more towards the Strand and stood for a moment in Trafalgar Square. One wing of the National Gallery was gone, and the Golden Cross Hotel was in flames. Leaning against the Union Club was another fallen aeroplane. Men and women were rushing everywhere in wild excitement. He made his way down to the War Office. It seemed queer to find men at work still in their rooms. He sent Ambrose for an orderly and received a message from headquarters.
“Damage to public buildings and property not yet estimated. All dockyards and arsenals safe, principal public buildings untouched. Only seventeen dead and forty injured reported up to five minutes ago. Great damage done to enemy fleet; remainder in full retreat, many badly damaged. Zeppelin just down in Essex, four aeroplanes between here and Romford.”
Thomson threw down his revolver.
“Well,” he muttered to himself, “perhaps London will believe now that we are at war!”
“London, too, has its scars, and London is proud of them,” a great morning paper declared the next morning. “The last and gigantic effort of German ‘frightfulness’ has come and passed. London was visited before dawn this morning by a fleet of sixteen Zeppelins and forty aeroplanes. Seven of these former monsters lie stranded and wrecked in various parts of the city, two are known to have collapsed in Essex, and another is reported to have come to grief in Norfolk. Of the aeroplanes, nineteen were shot down, and of the rest so far no news has been heard. The damage to life and property, great though it may seem, is much less than was expected. Such losses as we have sustained we shall bear with pride and fortitude. We stand now more closely than ever in touch with our gallant allies. We, too, bear the marks of battle in the heart of our country.”
Thomson paused to finish his breakfast, and abandoning the leading article turned to a more particular account.
“The loss of life,” the journal went on to say, “although regrettable, is, so far as accounts have reached us, not large. There are thirty-one civilians killed, a hundred and two have been admitted into hospitals, and, curiously enough, only one person bearing arms has suffered. We regret deeply to announce the death of a very distinguished young officer, Captain Ronald Granet, a nephew of Sir Alfred Anselman. A bomb passed through the roof of his house in Sackville Street, completely shattering the apartment in which he was sitting. His servant perished with him. The other occupants of the building were, fortunately for them, away for the night.”
The paper slipped from Thomson’s fingers. He looked through the windows of his room, across the Thames. Exactly opposite to him a fallen chimney and four blackened walls, still smouldering, were there to remind him of the great tragedy. He looked down at the paper again. There was no mistake. It was the judgment of a higher Court than his!