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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith


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Added to this their losses during the night had been something appalling. The streets were choked with their dead, and the houses into which they had retired were filled with their wounded. So they, too, were glad of a rest, and many spoke openly of returning to their lines and abandoning the assault. If they did so it might be possible to fight their way to the coast, and escape out of this huge death-trap into which they had fallen on the very eve of their confidently-anticipated victory.

So, during the whole of the 7th there was little or no hard fighting in London, but to the north and south the grey legions of the Federation fought their way mile by mile over the field of Armageddon, gradually driving in the two halves of the Russian and the Franco-Italian armies which had been faced about to oppose their progress while the other halves were making their assault on London.

As soon as news reached the Tsar that the blockade of the river had been broken, he had ordered twelve of his remaining war-balloons to destroy the ships that were swarming below London Bridge. Their fuel and cargoes of explosives had been renewed, and they rose into the air to execute the Autocrat's command just as Natasha had taken leave of Arnold on her errand of mercy. He fathomed their design at once, swung the Ithuriel rapidly round to the northward, and said to his lieutenant, who had just come on deck--

"Mr. Marston, those fellows mean mischief. Put a three minute time fuze on a couple of No. 3 fire-shell, and load the bow guns."

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The order was at once executed. He trained one of the guns himself, giving it an elevation sufficient to throw the shell over the rising balloons. As the sixtieth second of the first minute passed, he released the projectile. It soared away through the air, and burst with a terrific explosion about fifty feet over the ascending aerostats.

The rain of fire spread out far and wide, and showered down upon the gas-holders. Then came a concussion that shook the air like a thunder-clap as the escaping gas mixed with the air, took fire, and exploded. Seven of the twelve aerostats instantly collapsed and plunged back again to the earth, spending the collective force of their explosives on the slopes of Muswell Hill. Meanwhile the second gun had been loaded and fired with the same effect on the remaining five.

Arnold then ran the Ithuriel up to within a mile of Muswell Hill, and found the remaining thirteen war-balloons in the act of making off to the northward.

"Two more time-shells, quick!" he cried. "They are off to take part in the battle to the north, and must be stopped at once. Look lively, or they'll see us and rise out of range!" Almost before the words were out of his mouth one of the guns was ready. A moment later the messenger of destruction was speeding on its way, and they saw it explode fairly in the midst of the squadron. The second followed before the glare of the first explosion had passed, and this was the last shot fired in the aerial warfare between the air-ships and the war-balloons.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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