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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith


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When the fleet had been in the air about an hour these ten aerostats had so distributed themselves that each of them, with a little manoeuvring, could get within bowshot of two others. They also rose a little higher than the rest. The flutter of a white handkerchief was the signal agreed upon, and when this was given by the man in command of the ten, each of them suddenly put on speed, and ran up close to her nearest neighbour. A flight of arrows was discharged at the gas-holder, and then she headed away for the next nearest, and discharged a flight at her.

Considering the apparent insignificance of the means employed, the effects were absolutely miraculous. The explosion of the fulminate on striking either the hard cordage of the net or one of the steel ribs used to give the gas-holder rigidity, broke the two tubes full of liquid. Then came another far more violent explosion, which tore great rents in the envelope. The imprisoned gas rushed out in torrents and the crippled balloons began to sink, at first slowly, and then more and more rapidly, till the cars, weighted with crews, machinery, and explosives, struck the earth with a crash, and exploded, like so many huge shells, amidst the dense columns of the advancing army corps. In fifteen minutes each of the ten captured aerostats had sent two others to the earth, and then, completely masters of the position, those in charge of them began their assault on the helpless masses below them. This was kept up until the Federation troops appeared. Then they retired to the rear of the French and Italian columns, and devoted themselves to burning their stores and blowing up their ammunition trains with fire-shell.

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Assailed thus in front and rear, and demoralised by the defection of the thousands who, as soon as the battle became general, showed the red ribbon and echoed the fierce battle-cry of the Federation, the splendid force sent out by General le Gallifet was practically annihilated by midnight and by daybreak the Federationists, after fifteen hours of almost continuous fighting, had stormed all the outer positions held by the French and Italians to the south of London, the batteries of which had already been destroyed by the air-ships.

Thus, when the Ithuriel passed over London on the morning of the 7th the position of affairs was as follows: The two armies which had been detached by the Tsar and General le Gallifet to stop the advance of the Federationists had been destroyed almost to a man. Of the two fleets of war-balloons there remained twenty-two aerostats in the hands of the Terrorists, while the twenty-five sent by the Tsar against the air-ships had retired at nightfall to the depot at Muswell Hill to replenish their stock of fuel and explosives. Their ammunition-tenders, slow and unwieldy machines, adapted only for carrying large cargoes of shells, had been rammed and destroyed with ease by the air-ships during the running, or rather flying, fight of the previous afternoon.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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