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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

The Beginning Of The End

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All regular communications with the East had been stopped for several weeks; that India was lost, was guessed by intuition rather than known as a certainty. Australia was as isolated from Britain as though it had been on another planet, and now every one of the Atlantic cables had suddenly ceased to respond to the stimulus of the electric current. No ships came from the East, or West or South. The British ports were choked with fleets of useless merchantmen, to which the markets of the world were no longer open.

Some few venturesome craft that had set out to explore the now silent ocean had never returned, and every warship that could be made fit for service was imperatively needed to meet the now inevitable attack on the shores of the English Channel and the southern portions of the North Sea. Only one messenger had arrived from the outside world since the remains of Admiral Beresford's fleet had returned from the Mediterranean, and she had come, not by land or sea, but through the air.

On the 6th of October an air-ship had been seen flying at an incredible speed across the south of England. She had reached London, and touched the ground during the night on Hampstead Heath; the next day she had descended again in the same place, taken a single man on board, and then vanished into space again. What her errand had been is well known to the reader; but outside the members of the Cabinet Council no one in England, save the King and his Ministers, knew the object of her mission.

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For fifteen days after that event the enemy across the water made no sign, although from the coast of Kent round about Deal and Dover could be seen fleets of transports and war-vessels hurrying along the French coast, and on clear days a thousand telescopes turned towards the French shore made visible the ominous clusters of moving black spots above the land, which betokened the presence of the terrible machines which had wrought such havoc on the towns and fortresses of Europe.

It was only the calm before the final outburst of the storm. The Tsar and his allies were marshalling their hosts for the invasion, and collecting transports and fleets of war-vessels to convoy them. For several days strong north-westerly gales had made the sea impassable for the war-balloons, as though to the very last the winds and waves were conspiring to defend their ancient mistress. But this could not last for ever.

Sooner or later the winds must sink or change, and then these war-hawks of the air would wing their flight across the silver streak, and Portsmouth, and Dover, and London would be as defenceless beneath their attack as Berlin, Vienna, and Hamburg had been. And after them would come the millions of the League, descending like a locust swarm upon the fields of eastern England; and after that would come the deluge.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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