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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

The Eve Of Battle

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In the end, Mr. Balfour came back with a solid hundred majority behind him, and at once set to work to, if possible, make up for lost time. The moment of Fate had, however, gone by for ever. During the precious days that had been fooled away in party strife, French gold and Russian diplomacy had done their work.

The day after the Conservative Ministry returned to power, France declared war, and Russia, who had been nominally at war with Britain for over a month, suddenly took the offensive, and poured her Asiatic troops into the passes of the Hindu Kush. Two days later, the defection of Italy from the Triple Alliance told Europe how accurately Tremayne had gauged the situation in his now historic speech, and how the month of strange quietude had been spent by the controllers of the Double Alliance.

The spell was broken at last. After forty years of peace, Europe plunged into the abyss of war; and from one end of the Continent to the other nothing was heard but the tramp of vast armies as they marshalled themselves along the threatened frontiers, and concentrated at the points of attack and defence.

On all the lines of ocean traffic, steamers were hurrying homeward or to neutral ports, in the hope of reaching a place of safety before hostilities actually broke out. Great liners were racing across the Atlantic either to Britain or America with their precious freights, while those flying the French flag on the westward voyage prepared to run the gauntlet of the British cruisers as best they might.

All along the routes to India and the East the same thing was happening, and not a day passed but saw desperate races between fleet ocean greyhounds and hostile cruisers, which, as a rule, terminated in favour of the former, thanks to the superiority of private enterprise over Government contract-work in turning out ships and engines.

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In Britain the excitement was indescribable. The result of the general election had cast the final die in favour of immediate war in concert with the Triple Alliance. The defection of Italy had thoroughly awakened the popular mind to the extreme gravity of the situation, and the declaration of war by France had raised the blood of the nation to fever heat. The magic of battle had instantly quelled all party differences so far as the bulk of the people was concerned, and no one talked of anything but the war and its immediate issues. Men forgot that they belonged to parties, and only remembered that they were citizens of the same nation.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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