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The Ending Of War H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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'We shall do it yet,' said the king. And then he gasped. 'Curse that light. Why in the name of Heaven didn't we shut the barn door?' For the great door stood wide open and all the empty, lifeless yard outside and the door and six feet of the floor of the barn were in the blue glare of an inquiring searchlight.

'Shut the door, Peter,' said Pestovitch.

'No,' cried the king, too late, as Peter went forward into the light. 'Don't show yourself!' cried the king. Kurt made a step forward and plucked his brother back. For a time all five men stood still. It seemed that light would never go and then abruptly it was turned off, leaving them blinded. 'Now,' said the king uneasily, 'now shut the door.'

'Not completely,' cried Pestovitch. 'Leave a chink for us to go out by....'

It was hot work shifting those bombs, and the king worked for a time like a common man. Kurt and Abel carried the great things up and Peter brought them to the carts, and the king and Pestovitch helped him to place them among the hay. They made as little noise as they could....

'Ssh!' cried the king. 'What's that?'

But Kurt and Abel did not hear, and came blundering up the ladder with the last of the load.

'Ssh!' Peter ran forward to them with a whispered remonstrance. Now they were still.

The barn door opened a little wider, and against the dim blue light outside they saw the black shape of a man.

'Any one here?' he asked, speaking with an Italian accent.

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The king broke into a cold perspiration. Then Pestovitch answered: 'Only a poor farmer loading hay,' he said, and picked up a huge hay fork and went forward softly.

'You load your hay at a very bad time and in a very bad light,' said the man at the door, peering in. 'Have you no electric light here?'

Then suddenly he turned on an electric torch, and as he did so Pestovitch sprang forward. 'Get out of my barn!' he cried, and drove the fork full at the intruder's chest. He had a vague idea that so he might stab the man to silence. But the man shouted loudly as the prongs pierced him and drove him backward, and instantly there was a sound of feet running across the yard.

'Bombs,' cried the man upon the ground, struggling with the prongs in his hand, and as Pestovitch staggered forward into view with the force of his own thrust, he was shot through the body by one of the two new-comers.

The man on the ground was badly hurt but plucky. 'Bombs,' he repeated, and struggled up into a kneeling position and held his electric torch full upon the face of the king. 'Shoot them,' he cried, coughing and spitting blood, so that the halo of light round the king's head danced about.

For a moment in that shivering circle of light the two men saw the king kneeling up in the cart and Peter on the barn floor beside him. The old fox looked at them sideways--snared, a white-faced evil thing. And then, as with a faltering suicidal heroism, he leant forward over the bomb before him, they fired together and shot him through the head.

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The World Set Free
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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