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  The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

The Turn Of The Battle-Tide

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The force which the Tsar had detached to operate against the Federation Army of the North left the headquarters at eleven o'clock, and proceeded in four main divisions by Edmonton, Chingford, Chigwell, and Romford. The aerostats, regulating their speed so as to keep touch with the land force, maintained a position two miles ahead of it at three thousand feet elevation.

Strict orders had been given to press on at the utmost speed, and to use every means to discover the Federationists, and bring them to an engagement with as little delay as possible; but they marched on hour after hour into the dusk of the early winter evening, with the sounds of battle growing fainter in their rear, without meeting with a sign of the enemy.

As it would have been the height of imprudence to have advanced in the dark into a hostile country occupied by an enemy of great but unknown strength, General Pralitzin, the Commander of the Russian force, decided to bring his men to a halt at nightfall, and therefore took up a series of positions between Cheshunt, Epping, Chipping Ongar, and Ingatestone. From these points squadrons of Cossacks scoured the country in all directions, north, east, and west, in search of the so far invisible army; and at the same time he sent mounted messengers back to headquarters to report that no enemy had been found, and to ask for further orders.

The aerostats slowed down their engines until their propellers just counteracted the force of the wind and they hung motionless at a height of a thousand feet, ranged in a semicircle about fifteen miles long over the heads of the columns.

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All this time the motions of the Russian army had been watched by the captain of the Ithuriel from an elevation of eight thousand feet, five miles to the rear. As soon as he saw them making preparations for a halt, and had noticed the disposition of the aerostats, he left the conning-tower which he had occupied nearly all day, and went into the after saloon, where he found Natas and Natasha examining a large plan of London and its environs.

"They have come to a halt at last," he said. " And if they only remain where they are for three hours longer, we have the whole army like rats in a trap, war-balloons and all. They have not seen us so far, for if they had they would certainly have sent an aerostat aloft to reconnoitre, and, of course, I must have destroyed it. The whole forty are arranged in a semicircle over the heads of the four main columns in divisions of ten."

"And what do you propose to do with them now you have got them?" said Natasha, looking up with a welcoming smile.

"Give me a cup of coffee first, for I am cold to the marrow, and then I'll tell you," replied Arnold, seating himself at the table, on which stood a coffee-urn with a spirit lamp beneath it, something after the style of a Russian samovar.

Natasha filled a cup and passed it to him, and he went on--

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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