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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

At Close Quarters


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"How do you come to be the bearer of it, sir? Please answer me that first."

"I am a prisoner of war. I surrendered to save the Arsenal and perhaps Petersburg from destruction under circumstances which I cannot now explain"--

"Thank you, sir, that is quite enough! A pretty story, truly! And you ask me to believe this, and to give up that priceless air-ship on such grounds as these--a story that would hardly deceive a child? You captured nine of the Tsar's war-balloons this morning, had an interview with his Majesty, got this letter from him at C├╝strin--more than five hundred miles away, and bring it here, and it is barely two in the afternoon!

"No, gentlemen, I am too old a sailor to be taken in by a yarn like that. I believe this letter to be a forgery, and I will not give the air-ship up on its authority."

"That is your last word, is it?" asked Mazanoff, white with passion, but still forcing himself to speak coolly.

"That is my last word, sir, save to tell you that if you do not haul that flag you are masquerading under down at once I will fire upon you," shouted the Admiral, tearing the Tsar's letter into fragments as he spoke.

"If I haul that flag down it will be the signal for the airships up yonder to open fire upon you, so your blood be on your own heads!" said Mazanoff, stamping thrice on the deck as he spoke. The propellers of the Ariel whirled round in a reverse direction, and she sprang swiftly back from the battleship, at the same time rising rapidly in the air.

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Before she had cleared a hundred yards, and before the flag of truce was hauled down, there was a sharp, grinding report from one of the tops of the man-of-war, and a hail of bullets from a machine gun swept across, the deck. Mazanoff heard a splintering of wood and glass, and a deep groan beside him. He looked round and saw the Professor clasp his hand to a great red wound in his breast, and fall in a heap on the deck.

This was the event of an instant. The next he had trained one of the bow-guns downwards on the centre of the deck of the Russian flagship and sent the projectile to its mark. Then quick as thought he sprang over and discharged the other gun almost at random. He saw the dazzling green flash of the explosions, then came a shaking of the atmosphere, and a roar as of a hundred thunder-claps in his ears, and he dropped senseless to the deck beside the corpse of the Professor.

 
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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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