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0105_001E The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

At Close Quarters

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If Natas noticed the effect of his words he made no sign that he did, and he went on in the same even tone as before--

"We must overtake the fleet, and either recapture the Lucifer or destroy her before she does any more mischief in Russian hands. The first thing to do is to find out what has happened, and what course they have taken. Hoist the Union Jack over a flag of truce on all three ships, and signal to Mazanoff to come alongside. We had better stop here till we get the news."

The Master's orders were at once executed, and as soon as the Ariel was floating beside the flagship he said to her captain--

"Go down and speak that cruiser lying at anchor off the harbour, and learn all you can of what has happened. Tell them freely how it happened that the Lucifer assisted the Russian, if it turns out that she did so. Say that we have no hostility to Britain at present, but rather the reverse, and that our only purpose just now is to retake the air-ship and prevent her doing any more damage. If you can get any newspapers, do so."

"I understand fully," replied Mazanoff, and a minute later his vessel was sinking rapidly down towards the cruiser.

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His reception was evidently friendly, for those on board the Ithuriel saw that he ran the Ariel close alongside the man-of-war, after the first hails had been exchanged, and conversed for some time with a group of officers across the rails of the two vessels. Then a large roll of newspapers was passed from the cruiser to the air-ship, salutes were exchanged, and the Ariel rose gracefully into the air to rejoin her consorts, followed by the envious glances of the crews of the battered warships.

Mazanoff presented his report, the facts of which were substantially those given in the St. James's Gazette telegram, and added that the British officers had confessed to him that the damage done was so great, both to the fleet and the shore fortifications, that the Sound was now practically as open as the Atlantic, and that it would be two or three weeks before even half the Allied force would be able to take the sea in fighting trim.

They added that there was not the slightest need to conceal their condition, as the Russians, who had steamed in triumph past their shattered ships and silenced forts, knew it just as well as they did. As regards the Russian fleet, it had been followed past the Skawe, and had headed out westward.

In their opinion it would consider itself strong enough, with the aid of the air-ship, to sweep the North Sea, and would probably attempt to force the Straits of Dover, as it has done the Sound, and effect a junction with the French squadrons at Brest and Cherbourg. This done, a combined attack might possibly be made upon Portsmouth, or the destruction of the Channel fleet attempted. The effects of the air-ship's shells upon both forts and ships had been so appalling that the Russians would no doubt think themselves strong enough for anything as long as they had possession of her.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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