. Irish Flames by John Waller
Freedom Books and Plays

FLAMES OF HATE

As he stood by the shed, he could hear voices, men’s voices, coming across the still night air. They came from Merlin. Maybe the Master had visitors, but why the shouting? He was tired now. If only Master Robbie would return, he could lie down and sleep on the damp shed floor, for tomorrow he must leave and hide himself somewhere. He knew not where, but now, he reminded himself, he too was ‘on the run’.

As the shouting continued, Con saw, as in a dream, a light from the big house. At first it flickered, and then took hold. Now, as he watched, it grew into a brighter light, engulfing the hall. Then he heard the grinding of an engine, and the roar of a lorry – the Black and Tans, Con knew, had struck again. Through the winter, they had burned houses where they suspected opposition to their authority. But why Merlin? How could they know that Martin had lain hidden there from their fury? Suddenly his heart went cold. Whatever the reason for their action, he knew that little Robbie had, for his sake alone, gone to the house, now belching flames, to fetch food and blankets. He could not stand here and watch Merlin burn before his eyes, with the boy trapped inside it.

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