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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

Learning The Part

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"Then the other is easily explained. Interested as you are in the question, I suppose there is no need to tell you that for several years past the Tsar has had an offer open to all the world of a million sterling for a vessel that will float in the air, and be capable of being directed in its course as a ship at sea can be directed."

"Yes, I am well aware of the fact. Pray proceed." As he said this Arnold glanced across the table at Natasha, and a swift smile and a flash from her suddenly unveiled eyes told him that she, too, was thinking of how the world's history might have been altered had the Tsar's million been paid for his invention. Then the Princess went on--

"Well, through a friend at the Russian Embassy, I have learnt that a French engineer has, so he says, perfected a balloon constructed on a new principle, which he claims will meet the conditions of the Tsar's offer.

"My friend also told me that his Majesty had decided to take an entirely disinterested opinion with regard to this invention, and asked me if I could recommend any English engineer who had made a study of aerial navigation, and who would be willing to go to Russia, superintend the trials of the war-balloon, and report as to their success or otherwise.

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"This happened a few days ago only, and as I had happened to read an article that you will remember you wrote about six months ago in the Nineteenth, or, as it is now called, the Twentieth Century, I thought of your name, and said I would try to find some one. Two days later I got news from the Circle of your invention--never mind how; you will learn that later on--and called at the Embassy to say I had found some one whose judgment could be absolutely relied upon. Now, wasn't that kind of me, to give you such a testimonial as that to his Omnipotence the Tsar of All the Russias?"

Once more Arnold bowed his acknowledgments--this time somewhat ironically, and Natasha interrupted the narrative by saying with a spice of malice in her voice--

"No doubt the Little Father will duly recognise your kindness, Princess, when he gets quite to the bottom of the matter."

"I hope he will," replied the Princess, "but that is a matter of the future--and of considerable doubt as well." Then, turning to Arnold again, she continued--

"You will now, of course, see the immense advantage there appeared to be in getting you to examine these war-balloons. They are evidently the only possible rivals to your own invention in the field, and therefore it is of the utmost importance that you should know their strength or their weakness, as the case may be.

"Well, that is all I have to say, so far. It has been decided that you shall go, if you are willing, with us to Petersburg the day after to-morrow to see the balloon, and make your report. All your expenses will be paid on the most liberal scale, for the Tsar is no niggard in spending either his own or other people's money, and you will have a handsome fee into the bargain for your trouble."

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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