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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

The Old Lion At Bay

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Whoever commanded this strange army had manifestly given orders to take no prisoners, and it was equally certain that its movements were directed by the Terrorists, for everywhere the battle-cries had been, "In the Master's name!" and "Slay, and spare not!"

The whole of the army, save the deserters, had been destroyed, and the deserters had immediately assumed the grey uniforms of those of the Terrorist army who had fallen. The Cossack captain and his forty or fifty followers were the sole remains of a body of three thousand men who had fought their way through the second army. The whole country to the north and east seemed alive with the grey soldiery, and it was only after a hundred hair-breadth escapes that they had managed to reach the protection of the lines round London.

Such was the tale of the bringer of bad tidings to the Tsar at the moment when he was looking forward to the crowning triumph of his reign. Like the good soldier that he was, he wasted no time in thinking at a moment when everything depended on instant action.

He at once despatched a war-balloon to the French and Italian headquarters with a note containing the terrible news from Harwich, and requesting Generals le Gallifet and Cosensz to lose no time in communicating with the eastern and southern ports, and in throwing out corps of observation supported by war-balloons. Evidently the American Government had played the League false at the last monument, and had allied herself with Britain.

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As soon as he had sent off this message, the Tsar ordered a fleet of forty aerostats to proceed to the north-eastward, in advance of a force of infantry and cavalry numbering three hundred thousand men, and supported by fifty batteries of field and machine guns, which he detached to stop the progress of the Federation army towards London. Before this force was in motion a reply came back from General le Gallifet to the effect that all communication with the south and east was stopped, and that an aerostat, which had been on scout duty during the night, had returned with the news that the whole country appeared to be up in arms from Portsmouth to Dover. Corps of observation and a fleet of thirty aerostats had been sent out, and three army corps were already on the march to the the south and east.

Meanwhile, the hour for the surrender of London was drawing very near, and all the while the bells were sending their mingled melody of peals and carillons up into the clear frosty air with a defiant joyousness that seemed to speak of anything but surrender. As twelve o'clock approached the guns of all the batteries on the heights were loaded and trained on different parts of the city, and the whole of the forces left after the detachment of the armies that had been sent to engage the battalions of the Federation prepared to descend upon the devoted city from all sides after the two hours' incessant bombardment that had been ordered to precede the general attack.

It had been arranged that if the city surrendered a white flag was to be hoisted on the cross of St. Paul's. Within a few minutes of twelve the Tsar ascended to the roof of the Alexandra Palace on Muswell Hill, and turned his field-glasses on the towering dome. His face and lips were bloodless with repressed but intense anxiety, but the hands that held his glasses to his eyes were as steady as though he had been watching a review of his own troops. It was the supreme moment of his victorious career. He was practically master of Europe. Only Britain held out. The relieving forces would be rent to fragments by his war-balloons, and then decimated by his troops as the legions of Germany and Austria had been. The capital of the English-speaking world lay starving at his feet, and a few minutes would see--

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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