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

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'They make nothing of us,' said Pestovitch.

The king glanced up and met a calm, round eye of light, that seemed to wink at him and vanish, leaving him blinded....

The three men went on their way. Near the little gate in the garden railings that Pestovitch had caused to be unlocked, the king paused under the shadow of an flex and looked back at the place. It was very high and narrow, a twentieth-century rendering of mediaevalism, mediaevalism in steel and bronze and sham stone and opaque glass. Against the sky it splashed a confusion of pinnacles. High up in the eastward wing were the windows of the apartments of the ex-king Egbert. One of them was brightly lit now, and against the light a little black figure stood very still and looked out upon the night.

The king snarled.

'He little knows how we slip through his fingers,' said Pestovitch.

And as he spoke they saw the ex-king stretch out his arms slowly, like one who yawns, knuckle his eyes and turn inward--no doubt to his bed.

Down through the ancient winding back streets of his capital hurried the king, and at an appointed corner a shabby atomic-automobile waited for the three. It was a hackney carriage of the lowest grade, with dinted metal panels and deflated cushions. The driver was one of the ordinary drivers of the capital, but beside him sat the young secretary of Pestovitch, who knew the way to the farm where the bombs were hidden.

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The automobile made its way through the narrow streets of the old town, which were still lit and uneasy--for the fleet of airships overhead had kept the cafes open and people abroad--over the great new bridge, and so by straggling outskirts to the country. And all through his capital the king who hoped to outdo Caesar, sat back and was very still, and no one spoke. And as they got out into the dark country they became aware of the searchlights wandering over the country-side like the uneasy ghosts of giants. The king sat forward and looked at these flitting whitenesses, and every now and then peered up to see the flying ships overhead.

'I don't like them,' said the king.

Presently one of these patches of moonlight came to rest about them and seemed to be following their automobile. The king drew back.

'The things are confoundedly noiseless,' said the king. 'It's like being stalked by lean white cats.'

He peered again. 'That fellow is watching us,' he said.

And then suddenly he gave way to panic. 'Pestovitch,' he said, clutching his minister's arm, 'they are watching us. I'm not going through with this. They are watching us. I'm going back.'

Pestovitch remonstrated. 'Tell him to go back,' said the king, and tried to open the window. For a few moments there was a grim struggle in the automobile; a gripping of wrists and a blow. 'I can't go through with it,' repeated the king, 'I can't go through with it.'

'But they'll hang us,' said Pestovitch.

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

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