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  ― 65 ―

V.

He walked through No. 3 yard unattended. His predecessor had never entered it on a Sunday afternoon without an escort of two soldiers. As he passed he acknowledged pleasantly the few salutes he received, and gave no sign that he noticed the majority of the enclosure's occupants declined to recognize his presence. They were waiting to see what the Ring would do.

And the Ring? Save for that murmur of the pickets the session expressed no consciousness of the visitor. The reciter finished the prayer in an even tone:

“Render unto us the rewards of them who obey thee always and God never.”

And then suddenly changing his tone from the key of religious solemnity to a simple announcement, said, “The Com'dant!”

In the same instant he saluted and smiled—smiled derisively in Captain Maconochie's face, as the latter, appalled at the abominable import of the Ritual's words, stood still, showing his distress very plainly.

“Good heavens, men! Did I hear aright? Did I hear you blaspheming your Maker so dreadfully?”

“Wot, sir?” asked Johnson. “This is the first


  ― 66 ―
degree of a Ring meetin', y'r know! We but say wot we're tol' to say. It's all in the Ritooal, sir!”

“You are in Ring Lodge now?”

“Yessir! First degree!”

“And you blaspheme like this in all your degrees?” Maconochie stammered and stuttered in his horror.

“Wud yer like to know, sir?”

“Yes.”

“Then that's jest wot yer won't get to know from me, y'r Honour!” replied Johnson, and the retort provoked a roar of laughter, half-timid, half-defiant, from the circle. Sunday or no Sunday the laughers would have been tied to the triangles by any other Commandant for that outrage, but Maconochie, albeit severely tempted, overlooked the insult.

“When do you hold your other degrees?”

“In present session, at wunst—unless yer a-goin' to break us up!” Again the fellow laughed.

“I am not going to break you up to-day——”

“Nor any other time!” exclaimed the leader.

“'Ear, 'ear!” seconded some “Fives” and “Sevens.”

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