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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

First Blood

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As they passed over they saw a series of flashes rise from one of the untouched portions of the fortress, but no bullets came anywhere near them. In fact, they must have passed through the air two or three miles astern of the flying Ariel. No soldier who ever carried a rifle could have sent a bullet within a thousand yards of an object seventy feet long travelling over a hundred miles an hour at a height of nearly four thousand feet, and so the Russians wasted their ammunition.

As soon as they had passed over the fortress, Arnold signalled for the propellers to stop, and the fan-wheels to revolve again at half speed. The air-ship stopped within three miles, and remained suspended in air over the opening mouth of the Neva Then the two after guns were trained upon the fortress, and Colston and Arnold fired them together.

The two shells struck at the same moment, one in each of two angles of the ramparts. Their impact was followed by a tremendous explosion, far greater than could be accounted for by the shells themselves.

"There goes one, if not two, of his powder magazines. Look! half the fortress is a wreck. I wonder which fired the lucky shot."

The man who a year before had been an inoffensive student of mechanics and an enthusiast dreaming of an unsolved problem, spoke of the frightful destruction of life and the havoc that he had caused by just pressing a button with his finger, as coolly and quietly as a veteran officer of artillery might have spoken of shelling a fort.

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There were two reasons for this almost miraculous change. One was to be found in the bitter hatred of Russian tyranny which he had imbibed during the last six months, and the other was the fact that the woman for whom he would have himself died a thousand deaths if necessary, was a captive in Russian chains, being led at that moment to slavery and degradation.

As soon as they had seen the effects of the last two shots, Arnold said with a grim, half-smile on his lips--

"I think it will be better if we don't show ourselves too plainly to Petersburg. It will take some time for the news of the destruction of Kronstadt to reach the city, and, of course, there will be the wildest rumours as to the agency by which it was done, so we may as well leave them to argue the matter out among themselves."

He signalled again to the engine-room, and with the united aid of her planes and fan-wheels the Ariel mounted up and up into the sky, driven only by the stern-propeller and with the force of the other engines concentrated on the lifting wheels, until a height of five thousand feet was reached.

At that height she would have looked, if she could have been seen at all, nothing, more than a little grey spot against the blue of the sky, and as they heard afterwards she passed over St. Petersburg without being noticed.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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