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The Ending Of War H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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'Hang us?'

The king put his long nose into his councillor's face. 'That grinning brute WANTS to hang us,' he said. 'And hang us he will, if we give him a shadow of a chance.'

'But all their Modern State Civilisation!'

'Do you think there's any pity in that crew of Godless, Vivisecting Prigs?' cried this last king of romance. 'Do you think, Pestovitch, they understand anything of a high ambition or a splendid dream? Do you think that our gallant and sublime adventure has any appeal to them? Here am I, the last and greatest and most romantic of the Caesars, and do you think they will miss the chance of hanging me like a dog if they can, killing me like a rat in a hole? And that renegade! He who was once an anointed king! . . .

'I hate that sort of eye that laughs and keeps hard,' said the king.

'I won't sit still here and be caught like a fascinated rabbit,' said the king in conclusion. 'We must shift those bombs.'

'Risk it,' said Pestovitch. 'Leave them alone.'

'No,' said the king. 'Shift them near the frontier. Then while they watch us here--they will always watch us here now--we can buy an aeroplane abroad, and pick them up....'

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The king was in a feverish, irritable mood all that evening, but he made his plans nevertheless with infinite cunning. They must get the bombs away; there must be a couple of atomic hay lorries, the bombs could be hidden under the hay.... Pestovitch went and came, instructing trusty servants, planning and replanning.... The king and the ex-king talked very pleasantly of a number of subjects. All the while at the back of King Ferdinand Charles's mind fretted the mystery of his vanished aeroplane. There came no news of its capture, and no news of its success. At any moment all that power at the back of his visitor might crumble away and vanish....

It was past midnight, when the king, in a cloak and slouch hat that might equally have served a small farmer, or any respectable middle-class man, slipped out from an inconspicuous service gate on the eastward side of his palace into the thickly wooded gardens that sloped in a series of terraces down to the town. Pestovitch and his guard-valet Peter, both wrapped about in a similar disguise, came out among the laurels that bordered the pathway and joined him. It was a clear, warm night, but the stars seemed unusually little and remote because of the aeroplanes, each trailing a searchlight, that drove hither and thither across the blue. One great beam seemed to rest on the king for a moment as he came out of the palace; then instantly and reassuringly it had swept away. But while they were still in the palace gardens another found them and looked at them.

'They see us,' cried the king.

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The World Set Free
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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