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0105_001E The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

Armed Neutrality

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"Certainly not, you most capable destroyer of life and property," laughed Tremayne. "Only let him off as lightly as you can. Ah, Natasha! Good morning again! I suppose Natas has taken no harm from the unceremonious way in which I had to almost throw him on board the boat. Aerial voyaging seems to agree with you, you"--

"Must not talk nonsense, my Lord of Alanmere, especially when there is sterner work in hand," interrupted Natasha, with a laugh. "What are you going to do with those two cruisers that are battering each other to pieces down there? Sink them both, or leave them to fight it out?"

"Neither, with your permission, fair lady. The British cruiser saved us by coming on the scene at the right moment, and as the Frenchman fired upon us without due cause, I want Captain Arnold to disable her in some way and hand her over a prisoner to our rescuer."

"Ah, that would be better, of course. One good turn deserves another. What are you going to do, Captain Arnold?"

"Drop a small shell under his stern and disable his propellers, if I can do so without sinking him, which I am afraid is rather doubtful," replied Arnold.

While they were talking, the Ithuriel had risen a thousand feet or so from the water, and had advanced to within about half a mile of the two cruisers, which were now manoeuvring round each other at a distance of about a thousand yards, blazing away without cessation, and waiting for some lucky shot to partially disable one or the other, and so give an opportunity for boarding, or ramming.

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In the old days, when France and Britain had last grappled in the struggle for the mastery of the sea, the two ships would have been laid alongside each other long before this. But that was not to be thought of while those terrible machine guns were able to rain their hail of death down from the tops, and the quick-firing cannon were hurling their thirty shots a minute across the intervening space of water.

The French cruiser had so far taken no notice of the sudden annihilation of her second torpedo-boat by the air-ship, but as soon as the latter made her way astern of her she seemed to scent mischief, and turned one of her three-barrelled Nordenfeldts on to her. The shots soon came singing about the Ithuriel in somewhat unpleasant proximity, and Arnold said--

"Monsieur seems to take us for a natural enemy, and if he wants fight he shall have it. If I don't disable him with this shot I'll sink him with the next."

So saying he trained one of the broadside guns on the stern of the French cruiser, and at the right moment pressed the button. The shell bored its way through the air and down into the water until it struck and exploded against the submerged rudder.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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